Trump would be hard to question because he's 'simply not truthful': Rep. Katie Porter

Ben Werschkul
·Senior Producer and Writer

Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) came to Washington in 2018 and quickly gained attention for using Congressional hearings to take President Trump’s appointees and American CEOs down a notch.

She got the director of the CDC to agree to pay for coronavirus testing, she stumped Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on the price of a postcard, she challenged Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg to moderate Facebook content for an hour a day, she pressed JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon about his entry-level employees, and she explained the difference between an REO (real estate owned) property and an Oreo (cookie) to HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

Carson even sent Porter a box of Oreos the following day.

Rep. Katie Porter questions Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., August 24, 2020. Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS
Rep. Katie Porter questions Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on August 24. (Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS)

But there’s one person the California Congresswoman says she isn’t eager to question: President Trump.

“I think that he would be the most difficult witness I've ever faced because he's simply not truthful,” she said in a Yahoo Finance Presents interview with Jennifer Rogers.

She went on: “He would clearly not answer my questions so I think, sadly, this is a situation where I think I've heard all I need to hear.”

Trump probably isn’t interested in talking to Porter anyway. Since the 2018 midterm election brought in new Democratic members – like Porter and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) – and handed control of the chamber over to Nancy Pelosi, the president has repeatedly belittled House Democrats, and his administration has refused to cooperate on a range of fronts.

[Read more: How back to school is going for Congress’s only single mom]

Trump and Pelosi haven’t even directly spoken to one another in nearly a year. “What’s the point?” Speaker Pelosi said in a recent podcast interview.

‘We always walk in with a game plan’

Porter, through her position on the House Financial Services committee and the House Oversight Committee, has had the opportunity to speak with Trump officials as well as figures like Dimon.

UNITED STATES - MAY 16: Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., left, installs the name plate for Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., during a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Rayburn Building titled "Oversight of Prudential Regulators: Ensuring the Safety, Soundness and Accountability of Megabanks and Other Depository Institutions," on Thursday, May 16, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Porter was elected in 2018 alongside a series of high profile additions to the Congress like Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mi.). (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In her Yahoo Finance interview, Porter gave some insights into how she prepares. “We always walk in with a game plan,” she said.

Perhaps her central rule is remembering that “it's not so much about what I asked the witness as it is what the American public gets to hear the witness say.”

She says her background as a law professor – she remains tenured at the University of California, Irvine School of Law and is currently listed as on leave – helps her question some of the most powerful men in the country as if they’re one of her students.

“Some of them didn't do the homework,” she said, referring to her 2019 exchange with HUD Secretary Carson.

She says she wants to “move the class forward learning,” so she stopped Carson and asked him, “do you know what an REO is? And he didn't. And so we needed to get on the same page, so that we could then communicate better.” (REO is a property owned by a lender.)

Porter wrote in 2007 about how “mistakes or misbehavior by mortgage servicers undermine America's homeownership policies for all families trying to buy a home.” She was also California’s independent mortgage monitor from 2012 to 2014 – appointed by Kamala Harris – to oversee $18 billion in mortgage relief payments to consumers.

Porter discussed another moment in a hearing in August that got a lot of attention, this time with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

Throughout the questioning in front of the House Oversight Committee, DeJoy said he had little knowledge of specific postage rates (Porter asked him the cost to mail a postcard and DeJoy didn’t know). He also said many of the plans for overhauling post office operations (delays and other cost-cutting measures) were in effect before he took office, and in response to questions from Porter said he had no plans to reverse them.

“Every American regardless of their party or their ideology, should feel that the people holding these positions in government are qualified to be there,” she noted.

‘There are a lot of lessons’

Porter’s style has made her a hero among Democrats while others say she is stretching House rules with certain visual aides and privately noting that her style is “definitely not built to promote a dialogue.”

Either way, the critics don’t seem to bother her and she brushed off questions about whether she’s asking “gotcha” questions.

In 2018, she defeated Republican Mimi Walters in a competitive race and became the first Democrat to represent her Orange County, Calif., district since it was created in 1983. She is up again in November and observers expect her to cruise to re-election.

Porter attended Harvard Law School – where Sen. Elizabeth Warren was one of her professors – and has also worked closely with Sen. Kamala Harris over the years in California.

LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 893 -- Pictured: (l-r) Rep. Katie Porter during an interview with host Seth Meyers on October 2, 2019 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)
Porter during an interview with Seth Meyers in October 2019 (Lloyd Bishop/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

She calls the women her “two mentors” and supported Warren during the Democratic primary and the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris ticket today.

There was one subject Porter said she’d want to question Trump about: the race to develop and produce a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I think there are a lot of lessons for us with how testing went for how we don't want vaccines to go,” Porter says. “So that would certainly be near the top of my priority list and things to ask him about.”

Ben Werschkul is a producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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