The Impact Of The Mueller Report On The 2020 Elections
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
From the 448 pages of Robert Mueller's report are many indisputable facts. But there are also two competing narratives. First, President Trump on Thursday.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No collusion. No obstruction.
GREENE: Leading Democrats to say it is not as simple as that - far from it, in fact. Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff said the president's actions, as described in this report, are damning.
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ADAM SCHIFF: They are unquestionably dishonest, unethical, immoral and unpatriotic and should be condemned by every American.
GREENE: So two very different positions on Mueller's findings, which could shape the long lead up to the 2020 presidential election. I want to bring in two voices here. Karine Jean-Pierre is national spokesperson for the progressive advocacy group moveon.org. She's in our studio in New York. And we're joined by Republican strategist Scott Jennings, who was an adviser to President George W. Bush. He joins us from Boston.
Welcome back to you both.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
SCOTT JENNINGS: Good morning.
JEAN-PIERRE: Good morning.
GREENE: Karine, I want to start with you. Is the reality here for Democrats that this was not the game changer many of them expected ahead of the presidential election?
JEAN-PIERRE: I'll say this, David. What we learned yesterday was Trump welcomed and benefited from Russia interference. And then he proceeded to cover it up and cover it up through, you know, obstruction of the investigation, repeatedly lying to the public, to press and to Congress. And the Mueller report lays out this staggering case of abuse of power. So if Congress does not act on this report, it sets a clear and dangerous precedent, which is that the president is...
GREENE: What do you mean by act?
JEAN-PIERRE: Meaning investigate - investigate. I think what - the Mueller report really did lay out a roadmap. And he wanted - there were two things. The first thing is the president abused his power. The second thing is he wanted Congress to act. And what that means is to start investigation. But before they do that, they need to make sure they get a full, unredacted version of the Mueller report and get the underlying kind of evidence. They have to move forward.
GREENE: But with the core conclusions, though - with the core conclusions, isn't it a risk for Democrats to keep this going?
JEAN-PIERRE: No, I don't think so, David, because here's the thing - in part, Congress was - Democrats was given the House, in part, because the American people wanted Democrats to be a check and balance on this president. So what they have to do is - what Democrats have to do is to walk and chew gum, right? They have to be able to be a check on this administration because he is completely out of control - as we see from this Mueller report - but also talk about the issues. But I'll say this. What is true today was true last week. The way to beat Donald Trump is at the ballot box in 2020, so people do have to organize. And we do have to get out there and vote in 2020. But Congress has to do their constitutional duty and be a check on this administration at the same time.
GREENE: Scott Jennings, given what we've learned about this president, I mean, trying - if not in a way that broke the law - trying to, you know, stand in the way of this investigation, telling aides, at times, to not tell the truth, do congressional Republicans really want to fully embrace this president heading into this next election?
JENNINGS: Yeah. Congressional Republicans are going to look at this report, and they're going to say that the central question of the Trump presidency - central because Adam Schiff and the Democrats made it this way - has been answered. And there was no collusion with Russia. We heard for two straight years that the president was a Russian agent. The president is a traitor - I think if what they had said would have come true - that the president only won because he was working hand in hand with Russian operatives.
That turned out - that balloon popped. And so congressional Republicans feel like the Democrats have egg on their face for making these promises and that the president was exonerated on that. So yeah, I think you're going to see unity around the president. And you're going to see the Republicans urging the Congress to move on because if you look at the polling, that's what the American people want Congress to do. They want to focus on the economy, health care and other issues that are day-to-day issues for folks. So yeah, I'm looking for more party unity.
GREENE: Don't voters now see a president who at least embraced and welcomed help from a foreign government in an election, if not colluded?
JENNINGS: I think voters also see that the Russians - if you read the early pages of the report - were trying to interfere in our elections back into 2014. So what I would say is - they say, well, who was the president then? Barack Obama and his administration failed to stop Russia from interfering in the election. And then this collusion narrative, some of them are going to say, was, perhaps, invented to distract from that failure. So I think what Americans actually want to know is, can we stop the Russians in the future? And the only way to understand how to stop them in the future is to understand how we failed under the Obama administration and have Robert Mueller and his report and his people help us come up with a prescription to prevent this from happening again. That's the most important thing - is to safeguard the democracy from a future Russian incursion.
GREENE: I want to play the voices of a few voters here. Let's take a listen.
SANDRA WILLIAMSON: I do think it's important that Mueller testify. I think it's important that Trump testify under oath.
MARK WALLOCH: I think it's vindictive. I think the Democratic Party, rather than do something jointly, has put up this wall. Walls work, obviously, because nothing's getting done.
GREENE: Sandra Williamson (ph), a Democrat from Missoula, Mont., and Mark Walloch (ph), a Republican from Colorado. Karine, do the Democrats have any incentive - given, I mean, how much their voters are angry - to work with Republicans now going forward and focus on something that can bring people together, like safeguarding our elections from a foreign government?
JEAN-PIERRE: They want to do that. Matter of fact, they put together a comprehensive piece of legislation - the very first piece of legislation when Democrats took back the House. And you have Mitch McConnell, who doesn't want to move on it....
JENNINGS: That - come on...
JEAN-PIERRE: No. I didn't interrupt you...
JENNINGS: That legislation has nothing to do with Russia. It does not have anything to do with Russia. That is a canard. Come on.
JEAN-PIERRE: Hey, Scott, I did not interrupt you. You talked about Obama and said he didn't do anything to safeguard our country against the Russians, which is not true. He tried to go public. Guess who stopped him? Guess who wouldn't do it with him? Because he wanted to do it in a bipartisan way - and it was Mitch McConnell. So I didn't say anything when you said that because I...
JENNINGS: OK. If that's your argument, that is a weak commander in chief...
JENNINGS: ...If some guy can stop the commander in chief. Come on.
JEAN-PIERRE: Your commander in chief - Donald Trump is weak. He has yet to say that he wants to stop, he wants to get involved and make sure that Russia doesn't do what they did in our upcoming election. He has yet to say that. He's so self-involved. He does not want to say that.
GREENE: Well, Scott, let me give you the final word here. Let me give you the final word because Karine brought this up. Does President Trump owe the American public some kind of explanation, as he heads towards his re-election, on some of his behavior that came up in this report?
JENNINGS: Donald Trump, I think - the most important thing he owes the American people is to acknowledge that the Russians have been interfering in our elections all the way back since 2014. He has not really previously embraced that. And he needs to embrace it. He also needs to clean up the mess. And he owes the American people some kind of a commission, a task force - whatever you call it - to clean up the mess left by the previous administration to assure the American people we will not have interference in the future. Those are the most vital things that he has to do right now.
GREENE: So much more to talk about. But we're out of time. Scott Jennings - Republican strategist. And Karine Jean-Pierre, national spokesperson for moveon.org.
Thank you both, as always.
JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, David.
JENNINGS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.