tv Washington Journal Charlie Sykes CSPAN September 25, 2019 3:42pm-4:17pm EDT
campaign 2020. watch our live coverage of the presidential candidates on the campaign trail and make up your own mind. c-span's campaign 2020, your unfiltered view of politics. today at 4:00 p.m. eastern, president trump will be speaking to reporters at a news conference at the end of the the 74th u.n. general assembly. at united nations headquarters. watch life live coverage on c-span 3. back aboard the bus in milwaukee, wisconsin. we welcome back to the program charlie sykes. lasttime on the program, you were a contributor. now founder and editor at large for the bull work. what is the bull work? >> the bull work is an online publication. and basically kind of a success of the legal standard.
we had the core digital staff after it was shut down move over to the bull work. we're 24/7 website. we have a podcast, which i host. three daily newsletters. people ought to check it out. >> do you do most of your work out of wisconsin? >> it's based out of washington, d.c. i split my time between milwaukee and d.c., but i spend most of my time here in milwaukee, yes. >> we can talk about wisconsin politics. but i want to go to your story this morning. it's a national story in many of the papers today. the headline that trump ukraine story is a stress test talking about the systems being tested and none look ready. what are those systems? >> well, i think this is going to be one of those, whether it's a constitutional crisis or not, we don't know. we haven't seen the whistleblower report or the transcript of the conversation between the president and the ukrainian president.
but this is going to put a lot of pressure on our institutions. i break them down to five. the rule of law of republicans, pressure on joe biden himself and the presidential campaign ask then the way the media is going to handle it. one of the problems that we have is we kept the dial turned up to 11 over the last three years. the question is if this turns out to be the real thing, do we know how to calibrate our responses? are we going to be able to actually grasp the challenge here. is congress going to be able to rise to this particular challenge? is the media going to understand how to deal with all of the spin. what do we do with a president who seems increasingly emboldened to defy the law, who believe that he skated from the mueller probe and now says, look, i'm invincible. so all of the systems and the norms that we count on are going
to be under tremendous pressure if, in fact, this story turns out to be as it has been reported so far. >> nancy pelosi already under tremendous pressure. we saw comments from alexandria ocasio-cortez tweeting over the weekend calling for impeachment hearings to begin. now we saw one of her close est allies on cnn state of the union saying that this could perhaps be the crossing of the rub con can when it comes to impeachment. talk about her role in the systems here? >> yeah, and obviously, one of the institutions is going to be stressed is congress. because inaction is not an option here. again, we don't have all of the facts. we don't have all the information yet. but if it turns out to be as it has been reported, congress has to act. otherwise it becomes a constitutional nullity. in a lot of ways, if congress
does not do anything at all t will do as much damage to the separation of powers as trump's own conduct. so nancy pelosi put out a tough statement yesterday. she's made it absolutely clear she does not want to move ahead with impeachment. and perhaps that is still somewhat premature, but my colleague at the bullwork also has a piece where he recommends an alternative. that congress could establish a small select committee with the specific to investigate this ukrainian story. not any of the other issues, but specifically this. look at the whistleblower complaint. look at what the president's communications were. and then report to congress. so that may be a middle ground approach to this issue. >> by the way, phone numbers to dial in. 202-748-8000.
and before we leave that ukraine story, here's how the editorial board of "the wall street journal" says it might play out. all of this is likely to play out in familiar trump era fashion with democratic congressman adam schiff making claims that turn out to be sbaj waited, the media resistance hyping impeachment, and president trump fighting back in tweets without evidence of worse behavior by trump. nothing much is likely to come of it. what do you think? >> i think it's probably accurate to a certain extent. however, the president has bisically already acknowledged that he did raise the issue of joe biden with the president elect. the president of the united states tried to influence or bully, we don't know whether he
tried to extort the head of state of another country to dig up dirt on his political opponent. if that is true, if any element of that is true, then we are in a red zone area. it's the same we become numb, but i think this is not impeachable, if it's true, if it's not impeachable, what would be? the president of the united states taking an issue of national security and using his office to try to pressure another country to help his personal political campaign. he was not encouraging the president to do something with the government of the united states. he was talking about you should work with my personal attorney rudy giuliani. donald trump is going to throw up a lot of dust. he's going to do a lot of flipping the script to make it
all about jb sqoe biden. but there are known facts in the case. they would not suggest there's any significant misconduct by joe biden or a member of his family. we can surgeonly clear this up by seeing what was the whistleblower complaint, why did the inspector general regarded as valid and if the president did not say anything that was inappropriate, he can certainly release a transcript of that phone call and then we would have the facts on the table. >> plenty of callers for you this morning. we haven't gotten to the wisconsin discussion yet, but we'll start with joe out of massachusetts, boston. a republican, go ahead. >> caller: thank you for letting me kom on the show. i'd hike to say i'm amazed -- i'm assuming he's one of the never trumpers. you guys should be so embarrassed. you and bill crystal, ever since trump has been elected, all you do is put things up in front of
him where he can't really become a president. you guys are just so unbelievable. to me, you definitely aren't asking the right questions. you should be asking booiden those questions. ask said ask him on tv, ask him what he meant when he was going to withhold a billion dollars to the ukrainians. it sounds like it's true and he's admitting it. why don't you follow that up? >> charlie sykes, we'll give you a chance to responder. >> the president is literally quite unbelievable on a regular basis. this is where you get the dust thrown up because there is the clip of joe biden saying that, skt, ukraine needs to fire the prosecutor. but again if you go back and look at what actually happened, virtually the entire free world was putting pressure, the imf, the western alliance was putting pressure saying you need to do
something about the corruption. this is not joe biden doing something that was free-lancing. and this had nothing to do with an investigation into his own operation. so again, this is the alternative reality, unfortunately, that we're living in here. and this is why i do think it is incumbent on congress to do something, to create maybe this select committee. because you can't wait for the special prosecutor, the department of justice is not going to lift a finger about this. this now is up to congress. and congress has to decide what is his constitutional responsibility. is the president above the law? do the laws apply to the president? will he ever be held accountable for his conduct? because if you do have a president of the united states who is in effect betraying the national interest of this country, colluding with a foreign country to dig up dirt on his opponent, that is a big deal. and republicans ought to recognize that as as well as democrats. >> that clip that you just
referred to of joe biden that the caller was referring to, a couple of callers had asked us to play that clip. so here is joe biden from 2018 at the council on foreign relations. >> i remember going over convincing our team, convincing them that we should be providing for loan guarantees. and i went over the 12th, 13th team and i was supposed to announce that there was another billion dollar loan guarantee. and i had gotten a commitment that they would take action against the state prosecutor, and they didn't. so they said -- they were walking out to a press conference and i said we're not going to give you the billion dollars. they said you have no authority, you're not the president. i said call him. i said i'm telling you, you're not getting a billion dollars. i said i'm going to be leaving here, and i think it was, what, six hours.
i said i'm leaving in six hours, if the prosecutor is not fired, you're not getting the son. well, he got fired and they put in place someone who was solid at the time. >> charlie sykes, on those comments and what this whole story means for joe biden and his family. >> yeah, this was not about joe biden and his family. this was the foreign policy of the united states. this was the position that virtually the entire western alliance was taking, the imf putting pressure on ukraine saying if you want to get more aid and loans, you're going to have to deal with your chronic and notorious problem of corruption. if you look at the timeline, this has nothing to do with his son. this has nothing to do with an investigation into his son or members of his family. but again, if you take that out of context, it can be made to look like undue influence. everybody needs to step back for a moment and remember that
donald trump's campaign used to be headed by paul manafort who was up to his knees in ukrainian corruption. so irony is dead in the era of trump. but for donald trump to be concerned about iranian corruption is highly ironic. and all of this is an attempt to turn the attention from the sitting president of the united states had a phone conversation that, according to the "wall street journal," included his attempt eight separate times to pressure the ukrainian president into digging up dirt on his political opponent and to work with his private attorney. this is where i think we need to focus. this is what congress needs to focus on. this is what i think that the public needs to focus on this. because i do think you have a president who has become absolutely emboldened, he believes that he can push any narrative, he believes that he will never be held accountable.
he knows that the democrats have never held him accountable, the republicans will never break with him. he understands that it's easy to manipulate the media. but this actually does matter. and i think there's a lot at stake here and there's some very, very dangerous precedence for our constitutional system if we don't take this seriously. >> connie, a democrat. good morning. connie, are you with us? you've got to stay by your phone, connie. charlie sykes joining us from wisconsin. this is thomas in wisconsin, a republican. go ahead. >> good morning, gentlemen. we knew here in southwestern wisconsin that charlie sykes was a never-trumper right from the beginning, and most of us were, too, because we were supporting scott walker for president and then we went to marco rubio and
eventually went to tread cruz who want the nomination here in wisconsin. once president trump started doing the things we wanted him to do we saw that he was the right choice and continues to do what needs to be done. charlie sykes is part of the resistance and that's to throw enough you know what against the wall and see what sticks. >> do you think donald trump wins wisconsin again in 2020? that's thomas in wisconsin. charlie sykes, same question to you. do you think president trump wins wisconsin again in 2020? >> well, thomas is probably not a fan of mine anymore. but yes, could i just point out that, you know, i was on the air here in wisconsin for more than 20 years and did support -- i did support scott walker. i would have supported marco rubio. i helped ted cruz win the primary. but at some point you have to have some principles, you have to have some standards and i have been unwilling to vendor
those to support donald trump. so will donald trump win wisconsin? i give it the caveat that i did not think he was going to win in wisconsin. i think wisconsin is going to be the battleground state. it's a microcomp of the rest of the country and the vote is divided to urban, rural, suburban. there are strong holds that are hard core republican strong holds and donald trump won wisconsin because he really flipped the northern rural parts of the state, many counties that had voted for obama twice voted for donald trump. i expect that they will do that again. so the question is will democrats turn out in big numbers in places like milwaukee and dane county. in the midterm elections they did. but it's a whole different ball game with the general election. so i think that if i knew who the democratic nominee was, i could give you a much stronger prediction. so far in the polls most of the democrats are leading donald trump, but i do think the
candidates actually matter and i do think that wisconsin is going to be very, very much in play right up until the end in 2020. >> which democratic candidates definitely win wisconsin and which definitely lose wisconsin? >> well, there's no such as definite in politics these days. i think we've learned that. there's no hard-core gold standard. i think that joe biden is the best position at the moment to win wisconsin, but then again, we're having this conversation in september of 2019, not september of 2020. i think that if the democrats move too far to the left, they run the risk of squandering some of the advantages they have here. i think that there are a lot of suburban voters in wisconsin, as there are in michigan and pennsylvania and other swing states who are open to the idea of voting for a democrat, who are appalled and disgusted by donald trump's conduct, his
character and maybe some of his policies. but if they think that the democrats pose more of a threat, they might not vote for them and they might sit out the election or they might hold their nose once again and vote for donald trump. and i'm talking about things like, you know, for example, taking away private health insurance or increasing -- massive increases in middle class taxes, open borders or the provision of free healthcare to undocumented immigrants. there are positions -- the democrats, and again we're not any different than much of the rest of the country, a lot of these positions are potential winners for the democrats but they could turn them into stone cold losers as well. >> in virginia, this is jahan, an independent as well. >> good morning. i agree with the suggestion that crystal made with the special committee, that way both republicans and democrats would be on that committee and they
can go even further and investigate biden, even though this is not about biden, but let's do it. let's make it all clear. that's what i think should be done. >> charlie sykes. >> no, that i think is the most obvious logical and low-risk strategy for democrats in congress right now and this committee ought to be bipartisan. nancy pelosi ought to invite mitch mcconnell to participate if he wants. let's get the facts on the table before we take any other steps here. and this shouldn't be all that complicated, because, number one, once we see what the ig saw with the whistle-blower report, if we get a transcript of the phone calls, that's going to be clear what happened there. and then of course i think put on the public record what we know about what happened in ukraine with the bidens, which i think is going to turn out to be the fact that there's nothing
there. but again, this can be done in a relatively short period of time. i'm not naive enough to think that it won't be caught up in the usual partisan sort of back and forth. the ball is in congress's court. nobody else is going to pick this up. >> the house intelligence committee expected to meet with the acting director of national intelligence. that's taking place thursday. also, timeline this week, something to look to, president trump expected to see and meet the president of ukraine and 16 other world leaders as he attends the u.n. general assembly meeting in new york. the white house confirming that president trump is expected to meet with the ukrainian president on wednesday. so just some markers to look to this week as this story goes on. this is shelby in bluff city, tennessee, an independent. good morning. >> caller: good morning.
thank you. i would like to send mrs. nancy pelosi -- to really push impeachment. what can we lose at this point? we've done lost so much with mr. trump. he is not reliable, he is not competent, he is a liar, and everybody that believes in him, they better take their blinders off, because i think he has some major misfires or screws loose. >> that's shelby. charlie sykes, go ahead. >> well, there's two ways of looking at impeachment. number one is the political dynamic, and the second is constitutional. the political dynamic is what i think nancy pelosi is focused
on, which is that this might backfire on democrats. she's concerned about members of her caucus or in the swing seats. she also knows that it's not ultimately going to result from his removal from office, because whatever the house does, the senate is not going to convict and remove him. because we know how republicans are reluctant to break with donald trump at all. but then there's the question of is the president above the law. when the mueller report came out, it was very clear that the position was the department of justice says a sitting president cannot be indicted. so if congress will not investigate potential illegal actions by the president, then literally the man sitting in the oval office is above the law. and i don't think that that is consistent with our constitutional understanding. so whether you're talking about the corruption, whether you're talking about the obstruction of justice or whether you're
talking about all of this, it has to be on the table. because again, as i said a little bit earlier, if congress does absolutely nothing, then it renders itself a constitutional nullity and i think that that will have negative consequences going forward. >> this is bill in pennsylvania, a republican. good morning. >> caller: good morning, john. charles, i don't know who you're trying to kid. i'm wondering who you're going to vote for in the election. i'm sure it's going to be joe biden if he gets the nomination, but he's not. warren is. here's what i have to say. this story -- the story is the democrats trying to get ahead of joe biden's messy family affairs, including hunter biden on a major drug binge that included him getting hooked up with beau biden's ex-wife and
running around china and the ukraine posing as some type of energy expert, making millions of dollars on the biden name and the democrats are trying to get ahead of this story because it's damaging, very damaging for joe biden. this whole idea that trump saying, hey, we need this investigated is some type of crime, listen, charles, we don't believe you or bill crystal anymore. >> that's bill in pennsylvania. to the caller's discussion about the biden family history, here is one of the papers focusing on hunter biden's dealings. this is the washington "times" today saying that those dealings are helping his father's rivals in this campaign. charlie sykes. >> yeah, i mean, the caller
threw up a lot of things that i don't know are substantiated whatsoever. i haven't decided who i'm going to vote for. but what i find amazing, though, is that anyone who supports donald trump purports to be concerned about corruption, concerned about sleaze. this notion that, yes, we have to be concerned about joe biden because of these possible conflicts of interest, i mean, could you look in the mirror and look at what's going on with the president? and again, i do think that these issues have been well reported by people who have talked to the prosecutors, who have talked to officials in ukraine, and they say there's nothing here. there was no crime committed in the ukraine. there was nothing improper that was done. now, hunter biden was paid money to be on the board of directors of this company. did he pay all of the taxes he needed to pay in the united states? that's an american issue and that's legitimate to look into.
but i think what's truly interesting is the way in which we have this projection where we have the incredibly swampy nature of the trump administration, and yet somehow we're now supposed to be focused on all of this. look, i would feel better if we had a consistent standard. if you hated lying and you hated corruption and you applied to it trump and biden equally -- but obviously what we're seeing is it's all tribal. we're going to swallow everything that donald trump does, we're going to swallow the obstruction, the contempt for the rule of law, the self-dealing, all of the lie, we're going to swallow that but then we're going to pretend to be indignant about somebody else. at some point this fever will break and we'll recognize that if you have ethical standards, they ought to apply across the board. but that is not the case in american politics, right now, is it? >> wendy in pennsylvania is
next, a democrat. good morning. >> caller: good morning. joe biden isn't the thing with ukraine. that's a diversion. he needs to look at manafort and what he did in their elections. that was blueprint for 2016 election. >> anything else, wendy? >> caller: all that lobbying that he was doing over there. well, read the indictment of paul manafort and all those lobbyists who were talking to all the congresspeople. who were those congresspeople? and maybe some of them were republicans and they all know that donald trump is ill legitimate and if they admit that, then they lose all their judges that they worked so hard to get. >> charlie sykes, back to paul manafort. >> this is the world-crushing irony, that donald trump who once had paul manafort as the
chairman of his campaign is now trying to make an issue of ukrainian corruption. paul manafort was one of the most corrupt political operators of our time in knee-deep in the worst aspects of american and ukrainian politics. so there is that irony there. but to the point about legitimacy and everything, this is where i think that everybody needs to take a deep breath and step back. donald trump is right now the president of the united states. he won that election. now, you may not be happy about it, but there's not ever going to be a scenario in which he's declared illegitimate and the federal judges removed from their positions. none of this is ever going to happen. i don't know if that was the caller's suggestion. but i do think that we need to at a certain point focus on what are the facts, what do we know and what can be done about this. and folks, if the story turns
out to be a nothing booger, then let's find out about it. let's look at the whistle-blower report and see the transcript. donald trump came out yesterday and said yeah, i did talk to the president of ukraine about going after one of my political opponents. again, there seems to be this notion that if you admit something in public that makes it okay. it is still a breath-taking statement. if there's nothing wrong, let's lay everything out on the table and then let's make a judgment. but i think we're at the point now where many republicans have simply given the president an absolute blank check and he is abusing it. he is going to take it and i think that there's something always dangerous about taking somebody in power and saying you can do whatever you like, there will be no consequences, we will not hold you accountable, and no matter how e egregious your conduct is, we will find to way
to make it about the other guy. there's something toxics and dangerous about that. >> charlie sykes is joining us in the bus in milwaukee, wisconsin today as part of our battleground tour in the cspan bus. this is tim out of greene bay, republican. go ahead. >> caller: good morning, gentlemen, thank you for your time. i want to go back to the topic of wisconsin and being the battleground state. i agree with charlie sykes and i think wisconsin will be a battleground state, if not the battleground state. mr. sykes has been identified as a never-trumper, but i also believe that of the six of the ten members of congress from wisconsin, a few of the republican members have distanced themselves from trump during their time in this congress, and i think that's going to hurt the republican base in wisconsin over time.
and i just wanted to get mr. sykes's thought on that. thank you for your time. >> well, i guess i would disagree with that. i think long-term, having republicans who are willing to show that they are independent and that they're not simply toties is in the interest of the republican party. look, there will come a time when donald trump is not around. there will be a post-trump era and those that kept their heads and maintained a sense of integrity i think are going to be better off for it. wisconsin has got a very strong congressional delegation. most of them have been, i would say, supportive of the president's conservative policies, but they have been willing to criticize the president on occasion and i don't think there's anything wrong with that. >> what do you think about that term, never-trumper. ? >> i'm sorry? >> what do you think about the term never-trumper? >> oh, i don't have a problem
with it. i mean, i think i probably called myself that at a certain point and the reality is that i am never going to vote for donald trump. i am never going to think that donald trump is fit to be the president of the united states. i may support some of the things that he does in terms of his policies, but i do think that this country is greater and better and more decent than to deserve donald trump as the president of the united states. >> to hudson, wisconsin. this is calvin, a republican. good morning. >> caller: good morning. i was wondering, if a crime was committed there, would it not be right to investigate it or for trump just to ask about it and to inquire about it, would that be wrong? and you know what the problem is, they just don't think they can beat trump so they want to find some way to take him out without having to beat him in the polls.
manafort, he keeps on backing up manafort, but he doesn't want anything related to joe biden. you know, he says he supported ted cruz, but what issue is different than what ted cruz did? that's just a scam, a pretense to give him some credibility that he's a republican or a conservative. he mentioned his conduct and his character. what was wrong with his conduct and character since being in office? i would think you would go to the issues. what did he do that this man, sykes, disagrees with that he has him all siekd out about. >> charlie sykes. >> well, where do you want to start? as a conservative, when i was on the radio i probably had paul ryan on my show 1,000 times, 100 times, to talk about the deficit and the debt. i remember the tea party movement concerned about that and now we have trillion dollar
a year deficits. let's start with that. we used to believe in free trade rather than the kind of protectionist trade wars that we have right now. i'm old enough to remember when republicans did not kiss up to thuggish dictators and try to appease people like vladimir putin and kim jong-un. i also remember when we said that things like character mattered, when it was bill clinton, as opposed to now donald trump, who has told, what -- who lies as frequently as most politicians even speak. and i guess that's the objection. this is a man -- look, you can say that you like his judges, but don't make the case that donald trump is a man of good character. because you know that he's not. and i guess the question is, can we distinguish and say we support that policy, but we're going to draw the line here, we actually believe in fiscal prudence so we object to the trillion dollar a year deficit. where are republicans on that?
where were republicans on free fray trade and where were republicans against standing up against some of tdictators of the world? those are things that republicans ought to be able to say we're not getting on that particular train. >> charlie sykes is editor at large of the bull work. you can see that at the bullwork.com. we appreciate your time this morning, as always, when you stop by the washington journal. >> thank you very much. >> with the general assembly in new york city, the president wrapping up his meetings with world leaders with a news conference this afternoon, which should get under way shortly. president trump has already met today with the ukrainian president. we expect to hear more today about the release of the memorandum on the transcript of the phone call between president trump and president
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