tv Washington Week PBS April 26, 2019 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT
robert:a standoff ol r congressiooversight. i'm robert costa. welcome to "washingto week." president trump: in the history of our country, there has never been aresident that's been more transparent than me orhe t trump administration. robert: an emboldened president slam the door on congress. president trump: we're figing all the subpoenas. robert: house democts won't back down, demanding answers onu obstction and the president's financ >> the way we step up is to begin impeachment proceedings. robert: and joe biden jumps in. >> if we givdonald trump eight years in the white house, he a will forevernd fundamentally ter the character o this nation. robert: will democrats rally behind the former v.p.? or look to aew n generation? answss and analy next. announcer: this is "gton funding is provided by --
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thank you. once again, from washington, moderator robert costa. robert:what a week. in the wake of the mueller report, house democrats have kept u their investigation of president trump's conduct. they want to know more abo his interactions with advisers like former white house chnnsel don mc they want to probe whether the president's actions wereob ructive like when he urged mcgahn to seek the firing of the special counsel. it's a process some democrats say should end with mr. trump's impeachment.id prt trump: i never told don mcgahn to fire mueller. if i wantee to f mueller, i would have done it myself. it's very simple. i had the right to. robert: the president has challenged congrrss' oht authority and vowed to reject all subpoenas to current and former officials. >> we now seek the administration engaged inal stonng of the facts as an existential threat, this
administration, to ouremocracy in terms of our constitution. robert: joining me tonight o four reporters who have been on the beat all week. julie hirschfeld davis, congressional correspon the "new york times." jeff zeleny, senior washington f corresponden cnn. karoun demirjian, congressional reporter for the "the washington post," and jerry seib, executive f the "wall stree journal." julie, don mcgahn matters. he's the keystone for obstruction if the democrats move in that direction on capitol hill but will they be able toompel him to testify? julie: listen, it's an wpen questither they'll be able to compel him. there's no question they want to hear from him, if he read the mueller rort. it's clear that many of the questionsth underlyin obstruction issue were answered for mueller and his
investigative team by mcgahn. so they've issued a subpoena. they want to talk to him. we heard the president say he's not only going to try to block that, he's going to block any or thesuests that he's going to get from the congressional oversightmi cee and i think it's an open question how they're going to proceed but the democrats are not going to back down here. they really want to the hear from mcgahn. they also want to hea from mueller and other figures in this investigation but mcgahn is key s h theye a few avenues they can pursue. they could try toholdhim inon contempt ofess. they could try in various ways to enforce the subpoenas but it rekes a long time and that is a challenge that the facing. the white house has signaled they're not going to submit to any of this shey're going to have to pick and choose their spots and figure out what makes sense in terms of are they going to pursue this into a court battle? are they going to try to impose fines? are they going to potentially try to impose prison time for contempt of congress?
and their options will be limited by thet fact tis is not the only issue they want to pursue. they have to figure out where p the pressurnts are and the white house is clearly not backing down.rt rokaroun, you live and breathe the house and inside the house judiciaryommittee. you cover chairman nadler. you just heard what julie had to say. what's his strategy to build this obstruction case about the president? mcgahn's part of it. what about corey lewandowski, former campaign manager? he's mentioned in the mueller report for trying to urge the president have attorney general sessions limit the probe.at the house judiciary outlook? karoun: you saw them prepare five subpoenas for mcgahn, for hope hicks. this was the opening salvo we t were goio see and he's issued one of those which is for gahn so he's charted the macro
plan for what the full map might be but he said he could go beyond that, but what the ening targets are. if he's going to grow that number of people thate will h to go through subpoena processes, potential court battles, he'll have to move quickly to move throughnough people to get to the stage of the court battles in order to make a decision down the line if this is going to lead to inything that looks like impeachment proce because there's pressure on jerry nadler to do that from the progressive left side of the democratic party. of course leaders don't want to go there unless ty have evidence but they have to replicate much of's muell investigation into obstruction on that panel in order to make e ju call. robert: what about mcgahn? you wrote about him this week, jerry. he's sitting there watchg this, the white house possibly privilege.xecutive could he say the heck with it,
none of this is privileged, it's in the mueller report, i'm going to ttify? jerry: he could. and it's not privileged anymore because the white house didn't assert prilege before the mueller investigators. they have decided not to invoke privilege so he could say that but i find it hard to believe he would, though, because i don't see don mcgahn acting asf he wants to get cross-ways with the president. he's kept his mouth shut so far. if you step back from this and look at the posture the president has taken, it's got to be sending signals ton. mcg the president could have said, after the mueller report was in, vindication is mine,'s the no collusion and walked away. instead, he's saying vengeance will be ours, we're going to goe after the peoho started this investigation and that's the tone set and i find it hard to believe donld mcgahn w go in defiance of that. i think more likely we' heading into a suborn in which
the president demands the white house defies subpoenas, democrats inongress pushing the case and both sides going to the courts to say you have to referee this.al three branches of the government on the battlefield this summer. robert: jeff, the president said the white house hasn't made a final decision on asserting privilege. is it to bndck everything send a message to mcgahn, sit tight? jeff: it seems like that and first and foremost it s is tow things down, stall things. alere's 18 months before the re-election, bas. if you look at the history of the president before he came in office, his strategy often, as many legal strategies are, to use every ability you can through lawyers and the courts to slow things down. i think first and foremost, he's trying to buy himself time. he loves a fight. he loves an opponent. one would think that he could have embraced -- he's already
tried to define the mueller report has no collusion, asou said, vindication. why not accept that and talk about t g.d.p. numbers today? because that is not the core of s.at he he is fueled by a fight. so that's part of this. but the question is how long will this go on. i don't think we know the to that. but it's conflicting his ability and constraining him from reall using this summer as a time to turn the page andn move o beyond this. people outside of washington aren't following all the ins and outs of this but they know there's a fight going on and he's in the middl of it. so he's trying to fire up the base. but we'll see how this works for him. but he has not declared victory and gone home. robert: certainly not. you mentioned the president is not moving on. he's playing to his base. he's ratcheted up this fight. if you wat the president on friday, he amplified his attacks on the probe and trained his
fi on democrats during the national rifle association's meeting.en prestrump: corruption at the highest level, a disgrace. spying, surveillance, trying for an overthrow. they tried for a coup. didn't work out so well. robert: julie, that's strong language to say the least, a coup. resident was on sean hannity'show on fox thursday night talking about this was a possible overthrow of the u.s. this is not just a president attacking the investigation. he's saying they were trying to undermine our whole country. what's the play here for the president? he already feels like he was,ot exonerated by the mueller report. why do this today? julie: i think the answer i he doesn't actually feel like he was exonerated. ieveants the public to b that he was exonerated. robert: is thatou what white aides are telling you? oulie: yes, when you talk t people at the white house, he
still feels this investigation and all the stuff that has come out since the redacted mueller report has come forward has undercut him so, yes, he may be legally exonerated but he doesn't feel vindicated by it. he feels threatened by it and as much as he likes personally and it's his personal history and history inusess, loving a fight, he also, i think, believes that it's politically important for him to fight as much as he can to be seen by voters as fighting back against democrats. they're trying to take me down, i'm notoingo let them. in that regard, having a prolonged legal fight with the democratic house of representatives over all the subpoes and oversight requests is exactly where he wants to be. karoun: it's not just a fight against democrats, right? it's a fight against them sys at this point which is where he can lose some of the republicans so it's a risky move because the whole g.o.p. has to decide to go along with him. robert: are they going along wi him on capitol hill?
karoun: they may. lindsey graham sing let's look into abuse on the senate judiciary committee. willing enough people to support him and he feels it plays to his base. ital like a around me as the flag mentality as you're heading into the ection cycle by putting everybody on the defensive. not just the democrats who havee always critical of him. but the law enforcement agencies that left a lot of bread crumbst out thert people could choose to follow either through the congressional process or other legal processes if he's not in office for a second term. that h a weakness aware of.rr and this may be a fight he wants because not only does it help him with his base, it lps him say to his supporters, what i told you about the democrats from the beginning hae been proven c. it was a conspiracy against me, a hoax, a completely trumped up thing toet me out of office and to destroy the legitimacy of my presidency.ng i'm g to prove that to you. i think that's a fight he would
like to have at this stage. robert: what's fascinating, thursday night, rod rosensttyn, dettorney general, goes to the yale club in manhattan and he showshat he, inside the department of justice, is taking shots at his own department, saying the f.b.i. mishandled things, the media mishandled things. so you had the president makings broad attn the investigation but complicated by the deputy attorney general muddyinghe waters with his own comments and "the post" has a story out friday sayingrd that acg to people inside d.o.j. rosenstein at times seemed to wa to support the president while the probe was happening. a lot of factors starting to emerge in the wake of this report. jeff: a lot of factors and the spee in new york you mentioned by rod rosenstein, itme s to me face-saving as he's going out the door. but also that excellent story in "the washington post" on friday evening about how he was trying to save his job.
the quote was, "i can land this plane"r something, mr. president. so the reality here is he's always been at least tohe me one of biggest mysteries in this whole situation. him standing behind the attorney general, william barr, the other day, without basically blinking. he sort of looked like a hostage in tha moment. but i think we'll hear more from him i'm sure afterro- rt: and the attorney general, bill barr, has used the termal "spying" to about the investigation. jeff: he started that which is why the president is talkit about now. he was delighted by that. i think the language we heard on the sean hannity interview on thsday and the n.r.a. speech, attemptedow overt coup, that is dangerous and inciteful lang tge. ink without question, the president is try to scare,ire up his base and everything else leading to 2020. we've not heard language like
that before. heard: we have not language like that. it's severe language, to say the least. and it puts democrats in a real corner and they have to make a decision. do they move toward impeachment or not. that was the debe when you watched the presidential field, when you watched what was happening in congress. the majority of americans say they oppose calls fores con to launch impeachment proceedings against the president according to a poll on iday. currently 37% of americans favor starting the process, a slight dip over the past month, while 56% say they oppose the idea. th's about t same as a month ago. how does speaker pelosi, julie, lok at that poll and the president'sguage and make a choice on impeachment? julie: i think the reasone've heard speaker pelosi talk in the way she has about impeachment, very cautiously, is because she understands both of those things. she understands that the president is sort ofti s
this trap, daring democrats to look as if they're trying to overthrow the presind that they have some sort of agenda beyond protecting the constitution a the prerogatives of the congress when a president engages in behavior that could be impeachable buthe knows theto elte is not there yet. she sees these numbers and she hass pe from progressives to go in that direction and i think she's been strategic in trying to tamp down on that and somewhat remarkably democrats have actually been following her lead on that. of course, you have people like maxine waters talking about impeachment but they've made it clear they're not agitating for others to join them yet. robert: people in the 2020 field, senator elizabeth she's clamoring for it. julie: that's the problemmo for ats. some of their presidential contenders are aggressivy talking about this. and secondly, the mueller report is so full of these crumbs that
would allow someone to potentially make the case for impeachment but don't actually present an open-and-shut case. it presents r al dilemma for them. you don't hear many democrats saying there would be no undation for us impeaching him. it's all political question. robert: and they know what s happens in tate? republican controlled senate. >> they've seen this movie before. nancy pelosi lived through this in the 1990's. the republicans in that case impeached bill clinton in the house where they controlled and did not succeed in the senate. republicans lost five seats in the house, midterm elections. newt gingrich, republican speaker of the house, lost his job. bill clinton survived and exits office with 66% job approval rating so nancy pelosi has seen this movie and it doesn't have a happy ending. >> and someone who added her
voice this weekll is y clinton. rote for "the washington post" and said she was in the 2016 elections and sat across vladimir putin and touches eve circle and she said, no impeachment. in a sense, impeachment is too easy. robert: secretary c talking about senator warren on the campaign trail. 2020, more and more becoming a cloud that's lming over all political discussions and this week was former vice president joe biden jumped in and took direct aim at president trump. he called out the president's handling of the deadly white supremacist rally in >>arlottesville. hat's when we heard the words, the president of the united states had stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation. he leads it were, quote, some very fine people on both sides. robert: on friday, mr. trump defended his response.tr
presidenp: i was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to robert e. lee, a great general. whether you like it or not, he was one of the g greaterals. robert: one of the great generals. the president defiant as ever but can biden's message about returning to traal values be compelling in this modern 2019 democratic party? >> it's almost like mirror image of make america great again. i think the p biden by doubling down on the charlottesville comments. but i think that just generally the question for biden is, is he the steward to make that happen? is he t person to carry this mantle given that he's had half aentury in public life in which he's been part of all of
thke mis and chapters that everyone wants to correct at this time. maybe the answer ishe yes,'s a faction of the party that believes that biden having been through tt is the only person to legitimately say here's what we camegh thr here's where we can go. and yet there's others, otherra geons of candidates waiting in the wings for their turn andhey appeal to the diversity of the democratic party now andaybe it's better to run someone like that. >> we have been anticipating joe biden jumping in all year but i think how he did it was so striking this week, really by taking the bull by the hor and saying this is a serious race, people focus on the matter at hand he, not the new deal, not inmates voting. this is about defeating there's atrump so strong electability argument. i thought it was a very good anl successfulut on thursday.
when you take it all together, though, the last three months or so, i'm not sure successful. but the vice president was able w do something that i don't know thatve seen before, to pull trump into the conversation. usuall o it's theer way around. so the rollout continued when the president was talking abouto chesville and even republicans find that -- many republicans find his defense of that bizarre and unacceptable. robert: you mentioned the allenges facing vice president biden and there are certainly many challenges. he's faced critic over his conduct with women and his role in the anita hill hearings during the confirmation of supreme court jusce clarence thomas. the former veep calle professor hill this week before announcing his bid but she told the "new york times" that he was left deeply unsatisfied and not convinced that mr. biden truly accepts the harm he caused her. how dres the vicedent deal with this? his history of statements and actions on capito hill, the
question about his conduct,oes it haunt him? or can he overcome it? julie: i think it can be overcome potentially but i think it will continue to hang over him and as you saw from my colleague's piece in the "times," anita hill i not satisfied with his explanations. a lot of other women who werelv in at the time still harbor a lot of anger about -- not just about what happened but about biden's handling of it and what we saw on friday on his interview when he was asked about this on "the view" is he, for whatever reason, is not willing to make airect, "i'm sorry, i apologize," not to the women who feelav he may crossed a line, not to anita hill directly. robert: why not? julie: i don't know why. robert: when you talk to top democrats, what is the sense of his thinking? julie: i think that if he
apologizes, a traditional straight-up apo that makes him vulnerable, a weakness trump uld seek to exploit and he doesn't want to show weakness but also think he genuinely feels, if you listen to him, that he didn't do anything wrong so it's all about, i'm sorryf you felt offended. >> i think he thinks he mishandled anita hill's moment but that he didn't do anything to abuse her himself. i think the key for former vice president biden is asf j suggested, he has to establish and maintain the idea that he's the mt electable democrat, th being the center left, not the far left, is the ticket to defeating trump that wins you the voters in michigan and wisconsin and ohio and pennsylvania, that donald trump has stolen from us and we need back. robert: he's got a real base, jerry. i was down in south carolina at a historically black chuh in
charleston, asking older black voters who they support -- biden, biden, biden. he has aegacy, seen as a supporter of president obama. >> and having the support of african americans in the primary is not a bad thing to have, for sure. and across t t party,re's a deep reservoir of affection for joe biden and a lot of moderate voters who don't get heardas frm much early in the primary season but who come to the polls at the end. we'll see. there are big obstacles. robert: a generation gap could confront him, as well. >> it wil confront him. if you look at the age range from 37 -- pete buttigieg. joe biden would represent someot change but the barack obama variety of change. i think that is his challenge
here. but when it comes time to pick a president, will democrats go for someone who's experienced and wise o someone who's new? we don't know the answer to that westion yet. robert: and w't know for some time but we will keep covering it all. thanks, everybody, for being coming up on the "washington week extra," we will talk about theshe the people" event which hosted several presidential candidates. join u for that o our website, on facebook or youtube starting at 8:30 p.m eve friday night and all weekend long. i'm robert costa, have a great weekend. announcer: corporate funding is provid by --
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