tv Washington Week PBS September 1, 2018 1:30am-2:00am PDT
robert: a legal storm looms over president trump and the nation remembers senator jonathan -- jn mccain. i'm robert costa, welcome t "washington week." president trump: our justice department and o f.b.i. have to start doing their job and doing it rightnd doing it now. robert: president trump facingmo ting legal changes rallies his supporters and says he is frustrated with his attndney generalhe head of the b.i. president trump: i want them to do their job. il get in there if have to. robert: in rapid fire tweets and interviews, the president lashed out at other targets this week, ahead of a potentially stormy season in his presidency. called the russia probe illegal.
he railed against google, social him, and books about calling them all fake. and he downplayed the cominge depart the white house counsel. president trump: don mcgahn is a really good guy. he's done an excellent job. robert: we make sense of the week. plus -- remembering senator john mccain, hisersm, love of country and his legacy. [singing "amazing grace"] announcer: this is "washington week." corporate funding is provided by -- newman's own foundation, donating all profits from newman's own products to chari t and nourishi common good. koo and patricia yuen through the yuen foundation, comtted to bridging cultural differences in our communities.
the etcs and excellence in journalism foundation. the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, from washington,mo rator, robert costa. robert:good evening. a week of stark contrast. the nationaid tribu to the late arizona senator john mccain withs powerful sce and powerful words. but politics didn't stand still. president trump continu to sh out at targets old and new and in the process heth previewd battles to come this fall. the president's fury with g attorneyeral jeff sessions, it remains, but by week's end, he says sessions was safe until after the november elections ahead of those midterms, the president is returning to his core issues -- immigration and trade. president trump: a vote for democrats in november is a vote
to erase our borders and leave innocent americans at the mercy hardened criminals. that's what will happen. we are replaci nafta with a beautiful brand new u.s.-mexico trade deal. robert: while trade disputes with canada linger, the white house is facing legal headaches -- the exit of white houseah counsel don m and ongoing special counsel investigation. joining me tonight, yamiche alcindor of "pbsrk newshour," landler of the "new york times," julie hirschfeld davis of thes "new york t and erica werner of "the washington post." mark, you've been tracking the trade developments all day.wh a change from earlier in the week when the president was uting progress with mexico, trying to rewrite the whole north american free trade agreement. now talks have stalledca with da. where does the president go from
here? mark: the canadiens will be back in washington next week to continue the negotiations so doesprocess, liket often with donald trump, despite various milestones, seems toe an endless negotiation so that continues. but i thinkhat was telling about the canadian episode these past two days is that even as the negotiators were closeted ig a room try to work out a deal, president trump was givinr an iew to bloomberg in which he had an off-the-record passage where he basically sounded off on what he aeally thoughut the kind of deal he wanted to do with the s and he said there wil be no compromises, i can't say this publicly because they'd be so insulted they'd never agree to a deal and those remarks were aked to the toronto-star, in the 11th hour ofgohis ation. and again, as always with donald trump,io the que became, who leaked it, what was the motive?
rys someoneg to blow up the talks? and in the end, the talks kind of petered out, not ending entirely but with a commitmen of trying again next week. it was the drama of donald trump and t extent in which he's always willing to make these things personal, he's willing to go at the canadians and i'm sure it will leave a sour taste in the mouths of canadian negotiators as they go back to canada and reassess this weekend. robert: erica, beyond the intrigue of the leak, what's congress doing when they watch this? the administration saysou it pursue a deal on its own with mexico and leave canada to the de for the moment but is that actual possible under nafta? erica: there is some question as technicallyhat's possible but i think it comes down to a political question more so than a legal or policy te int if congress wanted to take up a bilateral agreem at, they could find way
to do that but the reality is, they don't. republicans want nothing to do with an aeement betweenhe u.s. and mexico that leaves aside canada. nafta knits these three countries together. republicans think that's beeod go for the economy for their states. they want canada in. so they are not going to pass a bilateral agreement and the reality is that even agr trilateralment is not going to pass this year. there's just not time under fast track with the midterms but what some republicans will tell is that given the pain that trump's trade policies have exacted on farmers and others in middle america, they want to be able to show some progress and so thatnnouncement of a deal, however, kind of fleeting or perhaps nonexistent in the end is, is, in fact, progress, that they can point toit pally. robert: when we think about why the president is making these decisions, you often thinkbout the political dynamics around
them and you look at there most nt polls, disapproval of president trump is a new high according to a new poll released friday. the national poll found 60% of americans disapprove of mr. trump's job performance and 36% approve. his suppoep amonglicans remains strong at8%. yamiche, is the president not only trying to rally votes but reassure voters in theidwest and farmers and manufacturers who may not like where going on trade? yamiche: i think the president wants more time to prove his promises from the campaign trail. in city after city he reassured that they would get the jobs back and bernie sanders was making the same pitch on the trail saying nafta was adroblem it hurt america so president trump i think wgets t a deal done because people are wondering if he'll actually get the when i look at the approval
ratings, at the end of the day, republicans support him. that might smaller number of people who consider themselves republica americans are increasingly becoming independent but the fact that we've seen all these guilty verdicts and guilty pleas and trump supporters say until the president is convicted and there's concrete evidence that the president committed a crime and will be charged with it, they'll stick with him. robert: why are the voters sticking wimh julie? you've been tracking the president all week. he's railing against the media saying you can only trust me. what's the view inside ahe white housut how to handle this? julie: i think they feel they have no choice other thawhdo the president's instinct is -- to double down, increase his complaints about the justice department. yamiche isight, clearly his core supporters are staying with him but i think the biggerfo ise him and republicans in the
sidterm elections coming up what really appeals to people, not just really conservative republicans and populace who are the ones who will never dessert dessert -- desert him, was him being willing to say these trade agreements don't work,'m the one who's going to get in the there and say i won't have it anymore, i don't want to deal with the canadians. they liked that. but they are not seeing the result. what agreements will he b able to strike as an alternative iat's good for americans. and unt a see that -- until they see that, i think see more poll results where the majority of the country is dissatisfied. robert: and the mueller cloud is sanging over all of it. the n today is that news wasn't made. robert mueller didn't issue his report ando now you wonder if you're the white house or an american voter, does that report on t president's possible
obstruction of justice on his conduct wait until after the midterm elections? mark: i think to some extent this labor day milestone that mueller was going to either act by labor day or keep his silence until novem tr 9, perhapst was artificial. but to come back to the poll, the interesting nber in the poll was about the public's attitudeser towards the mue investigation. it was in the 60's -- 63%. that's suggests to me that after weeks and indeed months of president trump's daily efforts to impugn the integrity of mueller and hse ptors, calling it this week an illegal investigation, it'sle to me he hasn't made as much as he hoped in discrediting this effort and the othereumber in oll is 49% of people are in favor of impeachment proceedings, a rather high
number and a number that wou no doubt pressure the democrats if they were to take the house in the fall.bu to return to the question, because the labor day thing wast some artificial, i don't think the white house can feel they're really off the hook. on think as s this midterm is over, he's probably going to drop one or two really ngs.lematic t roger stone's been pretty open that hehinks he'll be indicted so that combined with the sults of the midterms probably will mean president trump will continue to act more and more unhinged in his tweets and his reaction. robert: mark brought up impeachment. if democrats take over the house, many ready to move in that direction but is the white house ready for the barrage of subpoenas. white house counsel don mcgahn preparing to leave. erica: that's a question that was brought up with the announcement of mcgahn's departure. welso learned that the overall office of white hse counsel is
like drastically understaffed now compared to what it was at the beginning of the administration. i believe they have 25 attorneys now compared with something like 35 when the began.istration some of those deputy positions right under mcgahn are unfilled or about to be unfilled. to would appear that a lot of people don't wan work in that office and that will become a very big problem, if democrats take over the house. not just because of the specterral prospect of impeachment but the investigations, the subpoenas. every committee in the house will be investigating one aspect or another of the administration and they have to be able to respond to thaly and cle they're not really in a position to do so. robert: the whiteouse has an attorney, specialist in impeachment, worked for president clinton in the 1990's on that issue but haven't decided who wil be white house counsel. you think about the attorney general, how long does the dramt continue the attorney general? anyone else in the cabinet would
resign if they lost the confidence like this? yamiche: i think the drama will go on until president trump feelshen fires jeff sessions, he'll get another attorney general. lindsey graham was saying sessions should keep hut job maybe that's not the case anymore. mitch mcconnell saying he has confidence in jeff sessions but president trump is blaming him for the cloud on russia and this wee there w nine tweets in the morning about the russiaio investig from president trump. it felt like he was getting more and more angry because he can't deal with this and he has someone working for him he esn't feel is loyal and loyalty is a number one priority for the president. robert: does theresident feel if he moved against sessions now, it could be construed asst ction of justice with the russia probe? yamiche: i'm not sure that's holding him back.
to me it's more, can i fill the job. the sources i've talked tore about can jeff sessions actually wve a replacement from this president anl the senate actually confirm somebody, because the cabinet members that he ht now t are senate confirmed, none of them are likely to be an attorney general type person fo the job so he would have to go ba to the senate so i think it's about filling that job. robert: speaking of the sate, let's turn our attention to the capitol, where thereere tears and tributes today for the late senator john sidney mccain. mily, friends and colleagues paid final respects to the long-time lawmaker and former republican presidential nominee. former prisoner of war in vietnam, he was held captive for fivers yea and then ran for congress. a generational figure in american politics, he had critics and supporters on policy but on issues of character he was remembered this week for his
bipartisan and patriotic spirit. >> john mccain stood up for every value that this capitol building repre ints so its only right that today near the end of his long journey, john lies here in this greatall under this mighty dome, like otherca ame heroes before him. >> this is one of the bravest souls our nation has ever produced. >> john understood that america was, first and a foremos idea, audacious and risky, organized around, not tribe, but around ideals. robert: on saturday, thereill be a ceremony at the national cathedral for former presidents george w. bush and barack obama willer del eulogies.
so many big names at the capitol powerful to see them laying their hands on the casket. i was intrigu about the everyday people you encountered the capitol, not just a political scene but an american scene. julie: absolutely. you had clips of mitchll mccon and paul ryan, house and senate leaders and there were many dignitaries but when the ceremony ended, there was a flood andntill going o at night-fall with people sneaking in lines on e street around the capitol of ordinary people, many who had neveret john mccain. some were veterans who came wearing hats with patches, denoting their own service, and said they felt they owed it to john mccain to honor him andth e e in the room with his casket. some of them, many of them said they were democrats who never voted for him and would have thought of voting for him but felted he represe a
dying breed, a fading breed off statesman, elected official who was willing to put his country over hisar own and over himself and really inspired them in ways they don't feel inspired by the politics they see today so it was quite powerful to talk to some of these people. there was a lot of grief in that room but also a lotf inspiration. people seemed very elevated by the eerience of being under the dome, sort of looking at the casket and thinking ofhat john mccain meant to them. robert: you mentioned senator graham. who's going to fill the maverick role mccain leaves now, sometimes challenging the president. that kind of figure on the american political scene, if anyone? yamiche: you think of all the republicans that have been critical of the president both in the house and the senate and many are leaving, retiring. paul ryan, who -- wasn't a big critic of the president but who privately said he guild to thet presidnd talk to him.
he's gone. jeff flake is gon there's really a void in the senate for republicans to push back on the presi bnt if mitt romney comes to the capitol, that could be someone who was a voice during the campaign. mitt romney had that famous speech where he laid out why president trump would be bad for this country and went back and was seen dining with the president, trying to get a job. but ife comes to the capitol and he's utah's senator, h might be vocal. robert: what's your thought on aat's next in the capitol? erica: that' question senators have been asked all week and asking each other and the reality is that mccain just leaves an enormous voi and i don't think anyone fills it any time soon. it's not just a question of who will push backn trump because perhaps someone can do that. maybe it will be mitt romney b it's his very unique biography, it's h legislative ability. he is one of those old bold
legislators from that generation of ted kennedy and others. and that's why i think so many people poured out to the capitol from all over the country to pay their respects andhereas a lot of sadness in that people thatlike he is passing a something is leaving with him that won't be replaced. robert: you've been a reporter on foreign policy, national security, for a long time. a complicated legacy for senator mccain. mark: to be sure. he was an avid and defiantte suppof the iraq war, never apologized for that. he was extremely hawkish. remember the famous "bomb, bomb, bombn" i thing that probably wasn't featured that much this week. so that was on that side of the ledger. on the other side of theedr, he was a tireless traveler around the world. he had his own relationshi l with worders. probably no senator had that
kind of stature -- perhaps joe biden came close overseas. and that deepened knowledge of america's relationships and keeping with the theme oin somes leaving with john mccain, here we are in an era ere our alliances are under pressure and canada and other ng abouts are wonde their standing with us and our relationships. john mccain embodied all of the post world w ii liberal international order that the united states built. he was really a symbol of that and he worked hard at preserving and building that up,nd aga you have to ask, who picks up thatmportant work and keeps going, if not john mccain? den is certainly one but he's older now, too. so the question is who are the next generation of american states men and it's not at all clear. robert: president trump, his tensions connuedith the senator even in death for senator mccain. there was a skirmish about
whether or not the flag was at ouse.staff at the white what did this week reveal about the president and how he handles these kind of things? w julit i found striking was not only the fact tha john mccain made it clear that he didn't want president trump tot take p the celebrations of his death and life and legacy t president trump seeme to have no interest in taking part in that, himself. generally we've seen presidents who embrace it as a key part of theirhe role, the nation is grieving, when the nation is reflecting on what it means to be an american, the president is leading that and wants to be in that conversation. president trump had no ierest in bei in that conversation althoughy ultimat he issued a proclamation to keep the flag lowered and sd he respects the senator's service. he couldn't bringimself to praise john mccain at all this week and that is really quite something and one of the tngs that both elected officials,
cabinet members and ordinary people in tapitol today look around and see and wonder, you know, if that's the politics of the future, whereas johnin mc read of politics is the politics of the past. mark: there w an extraordinary moment in the bloomberg interview where he declined to say whether he thought john mccain would be a better presidentra than obama. erica: apparently sarah sanders was glaring at him. mark: and he said i think i'm going to give sarah a nervous breakdown. yamiche: there are also republicans on social media thae attacking john mccain after he died so you have to almost think out in the country there are people are at least echoing and repeati some of the things that president trump is saying. and echoing his behavior. so we have a country,lso, when you have someone who maybe you didn't agree with but who was a certified hero -- five years in capture isom nothing you can
just dust up. that's not something you can are about. and people online were still attacking him so not only was th president somewhat problematic in his responses, there are americans out there that are problematic, too.th roberte's a difference in how people approach these issues. you talked about president think-- i continue to back to that moment in 2016 where the president, then as a candidate, went after senator mccain, about his service in vietna and it raised alarms then but it didn't destroy his candidacynd that was a time i really thought, if trump could survive that, then torms truly have changed. mark: i think that might have been the first moment where trump's politicalin ibility started to become clear to people. erica: weisll said, thi the end of him. he said, i like people who weren't captured and everyone said, there's no way he can survive this and that was first of a trillion things like that. julie: i think it also speaks to how personally threatened he
felt by john mccain. e fact of john mccain and his biography, the fact that he's a war hero.in mc represented, i think, to him, all the things he wanted to define himself as against and this was a way of sort of tryinh to cut w the establishment and i'm not part of that and i don't want any part of that. i think it w also partly a response to the fact that there was a portion of the republican basehat really loved sarah palin and didn't love john mccain, when he was running for president, and that was the segment of the electorate donald ump knew he had to lock down and ride to victory, which is what he did. robert: when you think about the teions between the president and senatorccain, there's a moment tomorrow with president bush and president obama delivering eulogies, historic to see presidents cing together like that. i yamichgine president trump sitting in the white house watching these two presidents who will be celebrated for what
they say. people will be talking about barack obama's words. people will beaying president bush gave himself a beautiful eulogy andou have president trump who wants to be celebrated like obama and president bush and he'll be alone, isolated, stewg. ihink sarah sanders wants to make sure he white house aides are hoping he puts his phone down but i would watch his twitter feed tomorrow because that will be a tough moment f the president. mark: and the largeness of spirit that it took for john mccain to ask the two leaders onesefeated him to be the who eulogized him. when you think about donald trump in thatontext, the gap, the chasm between them is so great. robert: we'll miss seeing senator mccain in the hallways. if you're a reporter, he was someone you alwd s wan talk to. thanks for joining us and thank for being here. our conversatn will continue
online on the "washington week extra." you can find that friday after 10:00 and all week long at pbs.org/washingtonweek. i'm robert costa, thanks for joining us. enjoy the labor day weekend. aptioning performed by t national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org.] announcer: funding for "washington week" is provided by -- newman's own foundation, donating a profits from newman's own's food products to charity and nourishing the common good. the ethics and excellence in journalism foundation. koo and patricia yuen through the yuen foundation, committed to bridging cultural durferences inommunities. the corporation for publicdc brting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ ♪
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