tv Newsmakers Sen Chuck Grassley CSPAN June 25, 2018 12:21pm-12:53pm EDT
>> this week the c-span bus traveled to juneau, alaska, as part of our 50 capitals tour with the help of our cable partner g.c.i. it continues the trip across alaska by ferry to the city of paynes ahead of our stop in fairbanks. be sure to join us july 21 and 22nd when we'll feature our visit to alaska. watch alaska weekend on c-span, c-span.org or listen on the c-span radio app. >> senator charles grassley of iowa is the chairman of the very important senate judiciary committee and he's our guest on c-span "newsmakers" this week and joining me is bob cusack, editor of "the hill" and will be joined later by alanna shore of "politico." on this thursday afternoon, the house is still in progress on the immigration legislation. just with your many years
there is a good chance, at least in the senate, we are going to work on a bipartisan basis to get a bill passed. nobody wants children separated from their parents. there are things that demand you cannot hold children in housing, detention with their parents. there is more that can be done. i think there is a good chance. there was a bipartisan discussion of this. some differences of opinion. certainty we ought to get some legislation passed. we approve of what the president did but i would call that a short-term solution. the solution has to be legislative. we shouldn't be pointing our finger at the president because we're elected to legislate and this -- you bring certainty with legislative action. host: so as a point of capitol i might ask, hill has been trying to work on immigration legislation for months. unsuccessfully. for those in the administration who saw this policy as a means of moving capitol hill, do you think it was effective?
sen. grassley: the president doing what he did? is that your question? host: initial detention of eople -- senator grassley: well, i think there are a lot of things people think congressmen are supposed to know. how laws are enforced you don't know that right away. i think the public's attention was brought to it. for instance, there has been three or four months since i got the massive phone calls from iowans outraged anything the federal government is doing or isn't doing. iowans have been very on top of this. and maybe people at the grassroots of america or even in iowa don't think that they can make an impact on congress, but i think that the publicity and people understanding the problem, and also the fact that at least every senator i know don't think kids ought to be separated from their parents. t's bringing things to a head.
reporter: did you contact the white house to lobby president trump to move forward with the executive order? the press coverage was extremely negative for the white house. senator grassley: no, i did not. the only person i did that -- 12 people signed the letter because i've been looking at the case -- the flores case we talked about and decided the only way you're going to keep these children with their parents and do it with certainty is change the law. then, when i saw the house moving in that direction and saw the president endorsing one of those bills in the house of representatives, and it was similar to what we were trying to do in the senate, i thought that there was a good chance it might bring congressional action. i still hope that is ossible. the president can issue executive orders. tomorrow he can change it. a new president can come along. i think on an issue like
keeping kids with their parents ught to be law, not at the whim of the president. reporter: are you optimistic it will pass the senate? some democrats have raised concerns, indefinite keeping the kids and families together for an indefinite amount of town. senator grassley: well, the est to do is to consider the legislation and hope next week when people sit down, that is a road range of opinion. if they can get together, we will pass legislation. reporter: to move on to a different topic, criminal justice reform. there is a bit of a stalemate. the majority leader has said he is not interested in bringing up the prison built for more comprehensive package. given the party is split.
have you reached out to anyone with any offer to break this stalemate? senator grassley: always reaching out to the white house through the president's special assistant, his son-in-law, mr. kushner, going back to the first month that president was president of the united states. my very first meeting with the president included a short conversation with mr. kushner, can we work together? he feels that the best way to work together is with prison reform. i think that's 100% of a loaf of bread. that's probably a fourth of a loaf. i think we have, the thing about social justice and compassion people treated unfairly under mandatory minimum. it's so bipartisan. senator lee on one hand, senator durbin on the other hand, when you get people like that together to do something, i think that's the best hope of moving.
i think that the opportunity to do that when we do prison reform and sentencing reform together. elana: you have been moving fairly constantly. with you at all optimistic about this congress? senator grassley: the thing that makes me optimistic, we have high level people in the white house that thinks some of it needs to be passed and we also then i think as we build support and we're building support almost every day for it that when the white house sees this is -- i better say instead of the white house, i better say when president trump finally comes to the understanding that this is very bipartisan and that this can be a real win for him and he needs to show bipartisanship, i think that that's the key to getting it up on the floor of the nited states senate.
bob: there was a big inspector general report before your committee. you had displeasure that james comey did not show up and that he had time for media appearances but not congress. will you perhaps ask him or subpoena him to come back to the committee to respond to what these big findings from the inspector general? senator grassley: i will want to subpoena him. but in the senate rules of our committee, you have to have both senator feinstein and i agree to it and at this point i can't tell you she would agree to it. but if she will, yeah. then we will subpoena. bob: and lohr e89a lynch as well -- loretta lynch as well? senator grassley: yes. bob: when do you think a decision will be made? senator grassley: will senator feinstein said yesterday she would do it we will do it. elana: does that include compulsary process for andrew mccabe? i know he wanted immunity.
senator grassley: yeah. that involves a few steps, feinstein and mine agreeing to it. we want to do that. we are in some negotiations with her on that point. it goes to the justice department to make sure it doesn't interfere with any of their potential prosecution. and then getting before us. i think another step that's not so regular is i think we need to -- and we're working through his lawyers on this to have a conversation of what he can contribute to our oversight because if he can't contribute anything substantial there's no point in going through it. elana: but provided that conversation results in a positive outcome, you would be recommending immunity grant? senator grassley: yes. bob: on trade, we talked to a fair amount of republican senators and they're very frustrated with president trump on trade and they made the case to him personally, and i imagine you have too, that you're hurting the people you elected with your trade policy.
are you frustrated with president trump and his moves on tariffs and possibly pulling out of nafta and what's the latest? it doesn't seem like any of these arguments that republicans are making who are pro-trade are resonating with the president? senator grassley: they may not resonate with him but i can tell you on the points that we have made, particularly from agriculture states, but there's also been manufacturing and other things involved, but i have been involved more in agriculture because i was a big agriculture state, at least three meetings at the white house where these points of view have been expressed. remember this -- and it isn't just worried about this president. we know from history -- carter, reagan, george w. bush put on tariffs. then we know agriculture is the first to be hurt by it. and there's already some hurt from the uncertainty of it now
with the dramatic drop of soybean prices in the midwest and also corn prices. terrible drop in soybean prices right now. nd i think a lot of it's related to the uncertainty of this. we expressed not just to the president at the white house in at least three different meetings but over the course of a year with people that are close to him like navarro, ross, lighthizer, secretary mnuchin. all of those people. hey heard from agriculture states generally but other interests as well that it could be very harmful. now, nobody is going to be offended if the president can succeed in getting a better depeel on trade for all segments of our economy. -- deal on trade for all segments of our economy. it is a big gamble.
it seems to me the president is using the usual business tactics of negotiating, start with an extreme position and bring people to the brink. if he goes over the brink, i think it could be catastrophic. if he doesn't go over the brink, i think it can be a big win for america. but i can't predict the outcome. host: you posted on your twitter feed you recently had a chance to sit down with your former govern which is our country's ambassador to china. what did you learn from him about the chinese reaction to the tariffs? senator grassley: we agreed we will have a private conversation so i won't go into detail because we didn't even allow staff to take notes. it was -- in a sense confidential but five or six people were in on it besides just the governor. and i think -- i can tell you what we talked about. i don't want to tell you what was said. although some of the things i said about trade i expressed so i can tell you what i
expressed. but generally we talked about russia, the leadership of russia. i'm sorry. i shouldn't have said russia. china. the leadership of china. china's involvement with north korea and sanctions and things of that nature. and just generally getting a feel from him being there all the time how we might think that china's going to react to some of these things we're doing. i think it kind of boils down to the united states being the biggest economy. china being the second biggest economy in the world. they have a different political system than we do. one person here maybe can decide whether or not they are going to cave or not cave. and a lot of uncertainties. final line. as it deals with trade, that's the only part that i would give you a sumation of. host: you just described the president's negotiating
strategy. at a time when it seems like we need china for our north korean developments, does it make sense to be having trade and tariff issues with that country? senator grassley: i don't know how to answer that since last night in duluth, minnesota, the president referred to president xi as a friend of mine. it's just difficult to see through exactly what the president knows that we might not know in these telephone he has with the leader of another country. you get the feeling that he feels that he's in the driver's seat but you kind of got to take his word for it and there's a certain amount of uncertainty doing it. host: we are at the halfway point. elana: pivot back to d.o.j. for a moment. the campaign manager made some waves this week when he called for the firing of the attorney general. separately there's a lot of
conservative discontent with the deputy attorney general in his response to oversight requests. you said in the past, mr. president, i don't have time to confirm any new attorney generals. i have into of judicial nominees. you made it clear that you support the a.g. staying in his job. do you continue to have confidence in the a.g. and deputy a.g.? senator grassley: yes. with senator sessions -- now attorney general sessions, the only real differences i have and i kind of resent as hard as i worked on sentencing reform that he does not support my efforts because i told him a year ago in march, i said, you can be tough on crime. i'm tough on crime. but there's also some unfairness in it. we got to have compassion and social justice when there's unfairness. so all we're doing in sentencing reform, we are not opening the prison gates. we're just allowing people to have another bite at the apple with the judge and the attorney
, the prosecutor, and see -- let a judge look at this. maybe these mandatory minute mums are unfair -- minimums are unfair to this specific person. maybe the sentence of 20 years ought to be reduced to 15 or 10. but nobody's getting out of prison the next day as a result of our legislation. unlike what everybody's bragging about that passed the house of representatives, if that passes the senate, signed by the president, 6,000 people are going to walk the next day, i'm led to believe. see? so when law enforcement people, particularly association of assistant u.s. attorneys, which are the main people against my sentencing reform bill, that's what they want you to believe, that this bill passes, you go before a judge, you are going to get out right away. what about the bill that passed the house? that guts their argument against my bill.
elana: the a.g. and deputy a.g., you continue to have confidence? senator grassley: yes. bob: you're known for investigations of both administrations and strong oversight which i know has rubbed the administrations the wrong way. there are some republicans, including some on capitol hill, and the vice president who have said, it's time for robert mueller wrap up his probe. is it time for robert mueller wrap up his investigation? senator grassley: i hope the president reads in the paper about it and i think i had an opportunity to tell him over the phone but i don't want to say for sure if i said it this way. but i said, it seems to me like you're winning. like they haven't found any basis for collusion and that's the charge. that there was collusion between his campaign and russia. and so just let it play out. and the less you say about it, the stronger your presidency's going to be. so i got faith in mueller.
let it play out. i would like to have him speed it up though. [laughter] bob: do you think it will be better if he comes out before the election or should the election timing not matter? obviously it got comey into some trouble. senator grassley: i think mueller will be the type of a person professionally, he either gets this done by labor or else it will come in november, december, january. and i don't think he should do it during -- for sure don't do t during the month of october. elana: to pivot to another high profile, scott pruitt, administrator of e.p.a. you said you don't like how he has handled ethanol. and he has allegations of misuse of government resources and overspending. do you have concerns beyond ethanol?
senator grassley: it does not sound very good. a lot of questions are being raised but i think i ought to wait to say he should resign based upon ethics until all of the investigations are done. but there's things that are very disturbing, particularly when he asked people to help a franchise. host: we have about five minutes less. bob: speaking of nominees. blue slips. there are concerns among democrats that republicans will do away with the process which give some states power. sherrod brown got on this issue. what will be the future of blue slips? senator grassley: i think i moved that in my being four years of the committee. that they have been done away with and they'll continue and they ought to continue and i'm
the 19th chairman of the committee since blue slips started 100 years ago. d only two chairmen have had absolute blue chip -- blue slips have to be concerned or we don't have a hearing. others have had exceptions. i'm one of those that has an exception. in all but five cases have i not had blue slips returned. so we have 42 judges through the senate. have 40 judges on the calendar of the senate. we have about 40 working their way through my committee. number of k of the times, very rare that a blue slip isn't returned.
elana: i'm hoping to use my last question on a fun one. you sometimes have some complaints about the history channel on your twitter feed. very recently the history channel reached out and said, would you like to collaborate with you on some kind of episode or some kind of themed project. any contact with the history channel? senator grassley: yes. i think we wanted to do that and we ran into this situation ith the house -- senate -- capitol ethics people that it would be promoting a profit-making organization and we couldn't do it. so i have gone to #realhistorychannel and once a week you'll find history on my twitter and instagram. host: we have a minute left. bob: how often do you talk to president trump? senator grassley: well, i would say it would average at least twice a month.
sometimes his initiating a phone call to me. very seldom do i initiate a phone call to him. most of the meetings are either small or large group meetings that i'm invited to the white house. it's things like on a saturday morning, the white house calls and said, president wants to talk to you. so i'm getting ready to go out and do something on the farm. take the call. it went on for 24 minutes. as an example. host: as we close here. two quick questions for you. the supreme court is winding down. are you anticipating any resignations you're prefairing for in your committee? senator grassley: all i can say is the usual rumors are still out there, there may be a resignation but i can't -- i have not had any confirmation whatsoever and i want to tell you, i'm trying to get some sort of confirmation and i can't give it. host: this week canada
legalized marijuana. do you anticipate the united states following suit at any point? senator grassley: not during my lifetime. host: that's it for our time. senator grassley, thank you for being our guest on "newsmakers." thank you. "newsmakers" is back after senator grassley who declares the judiciary committee. we covered a lot of territory in that interview. i am going to ask you a reverse order. you asked questions about blue slips. probably means nothing to people watching. what is that process about? bob: that's a process where the home state senator has the ability to send an objection letter, a blue slip. there's judicial nominations such a polarizing fight and senator grassley was defending his ute yuste of it recognizing that other senators from the home states should have some power. but there has been some concern that has been expressed by a number of democrats that their power to use their so-called blue slip has been lessened and it could be completely
eliminated and just like other rules of the senate where we've seen nominations, you don't need 60 votes anymore. you need 50. this could be the next one. of course, president trump just today, again, asked for the filibuster to end. that's not going to happen anytime soon. elana: to be clear about the senator's answer, he wasn't wrong when he said he has protected the blue slip. where's drawn the line and his predecessor didn't was circuit court nominees. if one state from that circuit smits a blue slip senator grassley doesn't recognize it. if it's for one state he recognizes it. there is historical precedent for that. host: we did some follow-up on the hearing of the inspector general's report. what did you learn from senator grassley's remarks and what he thinks is next in the process? elana? elana: it seems to his openness to a subpoena of james comey and loretta lynch as well as his openness to the immunity
request from andrew mccabe was a step ahead. so far all we have seen is that he wanted comey and lynch in there. and he was considering mccabe's request but he gave us far more definitive stances on those three individuals. bob: i think he has a good relationship with the ranking member, dianne feinstein. they worked together on a number of issues. he's saying it's up to her, basically. he wants to move forward but the rules of the committee has got to be a bipartisan request. and i would imagine, because as we all know, republicans and democrats have been upset with james comey, that i would think she would agree but clearly she hasn't yet. elana: a major portion of the i.g. report is that james comey used personal email during the hillary clinton investigation. i would be surprised if senator feinstein doesn't agree to that. host: so on his advice to the president on the mueller investigation, the president continues to tweet and call it a twitch hunt -- excuse me --
witch-hunt. it doesn't like his counsel is going very far with the president. elana: no, it does not. however, it's important to remember that the president can't justify mueller. he has to go through rod rosenstein and he said he has confidence in. host: very definitively. elana: seeing him as a potential probe, i think there is a slim to zero stance. mueller moving after labor day is a big one. bob: it's a big one. i think it's interesting it would look political no matter what and some say he should end the investigation when it should end. shouldn't take politics into account. but so he's basically saying either before labor day or after the mid term election. otherwise he's saying it would look quite political. i think that's one to watch. that if we don't see anything
by labor day maybe we won't see anything until after the mid term. elana: if we may see something, all bets are off calling for mueller's job. host: why were you interested in how he and the president talked? what's your takeaway? bob: i was interested members getting calls. that's the exception to the rule. trump likes to talk to people, likes to engage. certainly whether it's bad press or good press, he wants to talk about it with members. certainly mostly republicans. he has a bit of a friendship with senator manchin. he has been at the white house. trump looks like he will campaign against manchin in west virginia where trump is very popular. but i found it interesting. grassley is in the middle of the fights. he's making recommendations on mueller. he's expressing major concern about his trade policies. not getting very far on either one. but grassley would be one that i figure that trump would talk to a fair amount.
twice a month, that's a decent amount. host: the senator really has been working the trade issue pretty hard it sounded like from his description for quite a long time. the influence -- the influence of state senators where the president is popular on the trade pop is i and your observation where that's all going? elana: well, i think we could see an effort to check the president's use of a particular type of tariff than the 232. that's the law that applies to national security-related tariffs. we had a big standoff quite recently in the senate of whether there would be an actual vote. i think republicans stepped back from that brink only because they wanted to discuss a consensus position on what to do. now, the china tariffs, we discussed china a bit, are totally separate. i think there's actually fair strong support within the g.o.p. for that move. host: well, we're out of time. thanks so much for your questions to senator grassley. thanks so much for being here.
[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c., and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> the c-span bus is traveling across the country on our 50 capitals tour. the bus is on its 38th stop in juneau, alaska, asking folks what's the most important issue in alaska. >> and what i think is the most important issue facing alaska right now is we are in the middle of a budget crisis. we're used to having a lot of oil money come in. as a result of lower oil
prices, we aren't getting that revenue we are used to. there are other revenue streams that need to happen but it doesn't seem to be happening very fast. i think there's political reasons why people are afraid, worried about implementing taxes but without additional revenue coming in, the alaskans are facing a lot of crisis in a lot of areas. one is the opioid and substance abuse crisis. the more our economy goes down, the more and more people get upset and aren't living their lives in a way that they're happy with and so they end up getting kind of destitute and turning to self-medicating and that's a big crisis too. >> i think the most important issue is child hunger and taking care of children. it's all linked to poverty. there was -- we were at 40% of child hunger. you know, food insecurity for children in the state a few years ago. we went down and now we're going way back up. we have to stop giving all our money to the oil companies and
start spending it on children for the future. >> one of our big issues here in the state is the tourism industry. it is a huge chunk of our economy and it's growing by leaps and bounds. we're very concerned about the ability to promote juneau and promote the state at a nation-wide level especially since tourism is such a bright spot in our economy. >> as far as i can see from what i've been here a week in alaska and one of the big social service issues i see here in alaska is homelessness and trying to combat it seems to be an issue with the city since a lot of them are not actually seeking help. the ones that are seem to be moving from place to place looking for the different type aid they can get. it seems like one of the big issues is that homelessness and how we can combat it and fight it here in the state.
>> i'm the executive director of the alaska council for administrators and from our perspective, the most important thing in alaska is to give a long-term sustainable fiscal plan in place for our state which has ongoing revenue outside of our nonrenewable resources. really, primarily because we need to stabilize education across the state. our educators need to feel that their funding, which is a constitutional duty in alaska, is stable so they can stabilize their schools and most important, i think for all of us, is to educate our students and the best way to do that is a stable school. >> be sure to join us july 21 and 22 when we'll feature our visit to alaska. watch "alaska weekend" on c-span, c-span.org, and listen on the free c-span radio app.