tv Washington Week PBS May 11, 2019 1:30am-2:01am PDT
robert: standoff between the u.s. and china, in the white house, in congress.rt i'm ro costa. welcome to "washington week." president trump: we have a great attorney general, now the democrats are saying, wean more. robert: president trump asserts executive privilege over the mueller report, and democrats mo to hold the attorney general inontempt of congress. >> there may be some other contempt of congress issues we want to deal with at the same time. robert: republicans want to move on. >> the mueller report has been filed. d i thinkis closed it's time to move on. robert: plus -- trade diste. top u.s. and china officials negotiate as markets remain on edge. next --
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station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, from washington, moderator robert costa. ros rt:the battle tek between the white house and democrats over the release of the full mueller reportas sparked a still raging debate over power in politics, oversight and executive privilege. limany repns insist it's case closed. but there are some cracks in the g.p. side. democratic leaders are frustrated by president trump's refusal to comply with theirnd de declared that the u.s.
is in a constitutional crisis. coinin me tonight, peter baker chief white housespondent for the "new york times", laura barron-lopez national political reporter for "politico." abby phillip, white house correspondent for cnn,on and e javers, washington correspondent for cnbc. peter wrote about the
president's strategy in friday's "times." his bottom line, mr. trump is daring democrats to impeach him. the msage from the west wing, put up or shut up, impeach orve n. peter, you've written a book, "the breach," about the clinton impeachment. you've co-authored a book about ssthe impeachment pro when democrats talk about a constitutional crisis, one, are we actuall at that moment? and is this battle any different than things we've seen in the past on impeachment and the efforts to move towds there? peter: it's a great question. i don't know if we're at a constitutional crisis. we're certainly at confrontation. we may get
to a crisis if a court were to weigh in and someone were not to obey the lawful a order of court -- that would be a crisis. we're seeing what we've see pin thet on steroids. in the past we've had presidents who defied or resisted congress when they tried to subpoena things, when they tried to
solicit testimony tha the president didn't want to have. he has -- other presidents havee ed executive privilege but this one is saying we're doing it a,oss the boa'm done with this, i'm not playing your games and if you want to, com after me. robert: laura, why is speakerlo hold back on impeachment? to protect vulnerable democrats? laura: i think that's a piece of it. we know if democrats go down thisepoute, whenlicans did this under clinton, they suffered the consequences politically, the next election cycle and she doesn't want that to happen. they just got a hold of the house. they have0 seats to defend, ones that they flipped from red to blue. and that there are plenty of vulnerable democrats. i was speaking to some of them today a right now they aren't too nervous about the escdation the investigations. they still feel pretty good that pelosi is firm on no impeachment
but if this goes on for six more months, some of them said that's when they may speak out and tension could bubble up amongst democrats. robert: abby, what's the mood inside the administration? the attorney general about to be held in contempt of congress, the house judiciary committee moved that direction, yet he made jokes about it this week at a farewell ceremony for rod rosenstein, deputy attorney abby: this is part of the president's natural instinct, to push back on these things. president trump views all of the various investigations, whi are on a number of different topics, as part of the same emfort byrats to button-hole him and trap him into some kindeg of jeopardy or at the least, some political damage in the future. so i think he and the white house are pursuing a strategy of giving not even an inch on any of these things, regardless of whether the strategy is ultimately gceng to s, there is a sense in the white
house that they haven't thought through the entiretyf all these legal battles but just the mere fact of d iaypart of the strategy in and of itself, frustrating thengemocrats, mat more difficult for them to create a seamless narrative to the public. and that is what they're trying to do, evenf, down the line, some of these things -- they might not actually succeed on, because there is not actually a firm -- a brock to stand on when it comes to the legality of some of these. mov robert: the house ways and means committee, eamon, issued a subpoena on friday for the president's tax returns, an escalation for their efforts to get documents about president's finances. where does this lead?he do end up in the hands of the chairman? eamon: you feel like ultimately the democrats will get the president's tax returns at some point. the question is how many battles do they go through and if i ends up in the supreme court. ultimately, you would think the democrats will be able to get e tax returns.
and then the question is, what's in them, and is there anything politically damaging. the president has made the lculation that whatever heat he's taking now is worth taking because whatever's in the returns will be worse.d we'll f out. the president has had a remarkable ability to roll through all sorts of t thingst might have been devastating politically to any other politician. he may be able to roll through this one, too, even if the returns come out. robert: they're holding people in contempt. secretary mnuchin held in contempt about the returns. don mcgahn, executive counsel, could be held in contempt. could impeachment proceedings, if they moved in that direction, help houseemrats compel testimony and get documents? peter: yeah, so the argument is on the part of some ofru's allies is that the congress doesn't have a legitimate legislative purpose fe of the things they're trying to do.
what are they trying to pass here. they were to formally open an impeachment inquiry, there's little argument against it because that's squarely in the four corners of their power under the constitution and courts have made clear in the past that congressursuing peachment has a greater call for overcoming things likeri executivelege. now, it's one of these things where the president may get something he may not really want. th dog chasing the car, he may push them so far in resisting on the suoenas that the decide to go for an impeachment inquiry to strengthen tanir and suddenly he's in a different place. he may think that's a political winner but once you open that, you don't know where it leads. eamon: isn't this a president fight?es to this is a president who thrives with a political foil. if it's the opponent in the general election, the democrats now, if he can be out there punching someone in the nose
rhetorically, he thrives rallies his base. to some extent, whether you dey, the idea of fighting helps him, doesn't it? abby: and there's the risk for democrats in the fatigue of all of this. the mueller investigation took two years. getting to the point of impeachment will take time and the proceeding wilon take a time. there is the risk here, and i think the republicans and the president are bking on it, that the public will get so tired of all of this, they will tune it outnd it will become less important to them. steve bannon t used k a lot about throwing things out there so that people can't focus on any one thing and i think that -- presiden trump has become kind of a mode of operating. not so much perhaps a strategy but simply a way being and operating, that he is always doing so much that people have to focus on that no one can pay attention to one thing at a time. robert: what do we hear from special counsel mueller? laura: right now, we aren't
sure. it looks like the may 15 marker will come and go and he'll most likely not testify on that day. negotiations, democrats are ongoing,ey're still they're still trying to find a way for him to come and testify but there's no set it could take much longer than we think. but i want to go back to what abby saidow about thrg all these things out there and the fatigue the democrats may face. on the campaign trail, whether you're ohe with 2020 democrats running or in vulnerable house seats, they're mueller,ng abo they're not talking about impeachment, they're asking about healthcare, they're asking about prescription drug costsd so they really aren't focused on this and if it continues, maybe they will start to be worried about it. peter: that's one difference with bill clinton, right they approached impeachment similarly but clinton didn't talk about this stuff, he didn't want to bring it up. eamon: he didn't fight, fight, fight. he did school uniforms and small stuff. peter: he said i'm focused on
the things you're talking about on the campaign trail and he went up in the polls during impeachment, successfulst tegy. trump has taken the other way. he likes to fight, he wants the gument. he h a powerful argument saying mueller didn't charge me, therefore you guysre just party- partisans. it's more complicated than that. robert: it's more than an argument, it's a fight. you have the president's personal attorney, rudy o giuliani, goir to thein uk urging them to investigate joe biden and others. this is a white house fighting across the board. abby: and very much trying to use the strategiesve they bel were used against them in 2016. in the white house's i vie president trump's view, that they were under investigation
and hurt by theseo efforts t criminalize them after the campaign and i think they want to basically take thatnd throw it against joe biden and also do what they did with hillary clinton by trying to frame whoary clinton as someone was corrupt, framing joe biden in that same way. this is going to be a really ugly fight, especially since at this early stage, this is how we're starting out. robert: the democrats aren't the only peoplehe debating path forward. donald trump sharply considered richard burr, republican senate intelligence committee chairman after was reported that burr issued aubena to donald ump jr. president trump: my son was ftally exonerated by mueller whonkly does not like donald trump, me. robert: theca republed committee wants the younger mr. trump to answer questions about the earlier testimony
about the trump tower project. why is chairman burr holding firm while so manye republicans saying, move on, including senate majority leader, mitch mcconnell, who said, case closed. laura: burr has been known for being independent and trying to maintain this bipartisanship on the senate intel committee which is a house with hllse inence which totally fell apart in partisanship. so as you mentioned, they seem to bieve or are thinking that don jr. may have lied to them when he testified before so that's why they and took this step. robert: take me through majority leader mitch mcconnell's thinking here. he goes to the floor and says case closed but on tuesday at the senate lunch privately, he doesn't go after senator burr, he says let the process play out.
wter: this a reminder of the old days on capitol hill where yo had the independent committee chairman who was able to do whate wants. this is the case where the overt message from leadership is, this is over, it's done, move on, and one chairman out there saying i stil qhave a fewstions and i want them answered. abby: and he's not running for re-election which gives him power. robert: but senator tillis is up in 2020 and he's not echoing burr but is rallying behind president trump and donald trump jr. abby: if you're running for re-election in dona party, you have to be clear of where you stand on this issue of donald trump jr.'s subpoena. it is not one of tho where the president and his allies will look the other way if people are suddenly saying it's ok for this to happen.
perhaps theep only eon to that might be mitch mcconnell, but it's friday. i don't want to sayhat's going to happen next week. robert: i don't what to say happens next hour. abby: exactly. the president has been known to lash out at peoplehef doesn't believe they're loyal enough. robert: and senator tillis has a primary foe. abby: this is where i hurts the most for republicans, when they're at risk of being primary. is is about republican party politics with the president at 90% approval. you cannoto against the president. you will face a challenge in the primary. the presint has been willing to back primary challengers in other races. they're not going to stick wit the incumbent every time. oubert: you can feel the heat between the white and congress this week. senate republicans, house democrats. and trade talks between the u.s.
and china continued on friday without a deal. the trump administration raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of goods. president trump sounded optimistic on twitter writing that his relationship with chinese president jinping xi remains strong andhat tariffs could be removed. for now, reuters reports it take three or four months for american shoppers to feel the pinch bu the tariffs could affect products from handbag to electronics to clothing. it is estimated tif t could cost the average u.s. family $760 a year. peter, trade has been a signature issue for the president. i think back toour january interview with the president, he's talking about tariffs, eve with a deal with china, he wants tariffs to be part of it. he's pushing jinping xi to the brink. how does this play out? peter: they felt the chinese had backed off of something agreed
to during t talks, that they had agreement on changes that would be made. the chinese were saying it would require us to change laws and we're not tilling to dot. trump people flipped out and he's playing hard poker, he raised the bet. he's making the case this is good for americans, better than if we get a deal. which seems to misunderstood thesens are the ameri paying the tariffs, not the chinese paying the tariffs. it may be three or four months until the effect is seen. so far, it looks like a lot of eamericans who l trump have been willing to give him a break, thinking he's on our side, we know there may be short-term pai but that's a short-term situation that may not last. peter: does it affect the 2020 map,aura, if people in the midwest feel pain on the tariffs? laura: i think it could. there was a stuch in m done by ucla and berkley that said th t impact ose tariffs is felt the most in republican
leaning counties in the mwest sof they decide that they don't want to put up with thi ymore after sticking with trump a little bit, that could not only hurt his chances in 2020 but also down bhelot wh it's the senate or house campaigns. robert: what aut the market, eamon? at cnbc you're tracking it and talkingith investors and white house officials. they took a dip early but ended positively on friday because of themism from administration. eamon: we came in this morning at 6:00 a.m., futures wereor up thisng and all week long leading up to the tariffs, theow debate was much the dow would be down but the dow went up.'t we dnow why. robert: liu he, vice premier of china is still here.t presidnping xi sending a letter to president trump, hoping for engagement. there are tea leaves. eamon: the question is where do we go from here. talks continued through mid
morning and then they stopped. we saw the chinese leave the room. the question g is where do w from here? i talked to steven mnuchin, treasury secretary, late this afternn, and asked i there were meetings planned but he said not now. as we sit here now, we don't know when the next round of talks is, who goes to whose capitol. the talks said this will go on but we don't have ain date cer to look forward to. so now markets have no certainty about whe this will go and maybe that's the way markets like itar because theyd to it today. abby: it's not clear when president trump and president xi will engage. in t past they've needed to do that to push past log jams in these conversations and they. didn between yesterday and today, they didn't actually have a convertion beyondhe letter that the president received from
president jinping xi so i think that to me is a signal that the president and the u.s. side is not yet ready to engage with china. they kind of want china to sit out there and sitn i these tariffs for a little bit longer. they're trying to up the pressure so that jinping xi believes that he has no choice but to take some really tough steps and as peter points out, the chinese would have to change their laws. that's a pretty major step. there are rea reasons why they may not want to do that so it puts a lot of press on that government to act and that's what presint trump is hoping will make the difference. robert: let's stay with that for a sond. take us inside of china. jinping xi, like president trump, ahead of state, facing his own internal pressur within his communist party from the chinese people. what's the dynamic over in china as they deal with president trump? peter: it's not the same kind of system, right? they don't have a democracy but they havere economicures.
a big country with a lot of workers. and a lot of you can't simply say, let's move hundreds of billions of dollars over the course of 10 years without consequences. they face enormousss pe to make sure there's employment. we're seeing a lot of the world defying president trump. china saying, wait a sond, on this trade deal. we see the north f koreansing off missiles again. iran doing something that have our people workep. the venezuelan coup, the failure of the overthr that happened this week. a lot of things on the map right now and i think all of these a independent but play into each other a little bit because they see people standing up to trump d not necessarily paying a price. robert: the chinese have about a million to two million muslims in camps ove in china.
why isn't the administration, based on your source, bringing up this issue with the chinese as the talks continue? mon: this is administration that has said we're not going to lecture other countries aboutht human r we're going to negotiate in a real politic way in terms of representing american interests and they've not raised that issue to a level of prominenc for american interests. this is a president who calls himself tariff-man for a reason. tariffs are simple and the president believes an effective, unilateral, diplomatic,conomic tool to use to apply pressure to get the deal he wants. it's very appealing toim. he feels he wants to leave these in place each -- even if they do get a deal because ultimately it ll reset u.s. trade relationships around the world and benefit his core voters ahead of 2020. robert: another current to pay attentio to, as the u.s. faces challenges with north korea. its dicg-tor, kim j, launched short-range ballistic
missile tests this weekend and the u.s. seized a cargo ship carrying coal for violating sanctions.is his situation with north korea, the missile tests, a reminder fromeghen and from the chinese, in a sense, that the u.s. and china need to work on north korea together? these issues are coupled in some way, perhaps? laura: i think they might be. i think we're seeing the ramifications of the failed summit, we're seeing trump trying to grapple wit these issues and even though trump appears to be not too concerned about what's gog on, i think that we're hearing more and more from lawmakers, a bit of uneasiness about what happened this week. robert: is t white house uneasy? abby: i think president trump, even today, tellingnpolitico" in interview that he's not too worried about chairman kim is doi t withse ballistic missiles. he'sly significa downplaying
the step even though he spent about a year talking aut how th absence of these kinds of tests were a sign of progres these talks. the failure of these talks to succeed really might be a harbinger of a failure president trump's overall approach, not just in north korea, but with china, with, irith venezuela. he cannot always use his personelationships with other leaders to resolve all of the underlying problems and that's been the bedrock o strategy with north korea and it hasn't worked. eamon: i wases in hanoi for that summit and when it fell apart, it fell apart quickly and you elcould feel the l of chaos there at the end as the u.s. left ely. when y talk to white house officials, they say, we walked away from a b potentially deal and more importantly, north korea has been put in a box. they haven't been launching missiles, they haven't been steps, they'reve talking to us. so all that's good and the fact
that we didn't get there on the deal, that means we'll come back and dry again. now if they're back into awh phe e they're launching missiles, retesting, that takes oithat talking away and it will make the administration nervous about north korea. the question is what can they do about it? robert: thanks, everybody, appreciate you being here on a friday. our conversation continues on "washingtoweek extra." we will discuss more foreign policy and how it's being tested for president trump and debated inside his administration. watch it on our website, facebook, or youtube starting at 8:30 p.m. to all the moms out there, happy mother's day. i'm robert cos, good night. announcer: corporate funding is provided by -->>
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