Republican Strategist On Impeachment
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The politics of impeachment continue to be a low buzz, mostly among a very small cadre of Democratic Congress people. Now and then, that buzz breaks into a loud hum; it did this week when President Trump gave an interview to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in which he said...
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think you might want to listen. I don't - there's nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country - Norway - we have information on your opponent, oh, I think I'd want to hear it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference in our elections?
TRUMP: It's not an interference. They have information. I think I'd take it.
SIMON: Of course (laughter), Norway wasn't this country in question; it's been Russia. The president has since backtracked slightly, said he'd still look at the information but also report the encounter. Still, a U.S. president appearing to say he would accept information on a political opponent from a foreign government.
John Weaver is a Republican strategist who worked closely with John McCain and still consults with Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. Mr. Weaver, always a pleasure to have you on the show.
JOHN WEAVER: Thanks, Scott. Those pesky Norwegians.
SIMON: Yeah, I know. What do you - what are you going to do?
SIMON: In any event, sir, I - let me - a couple of quotes from your stream of consciousness on Twitter. You said impeachment must only be the beginning. What does that mean?
WEAVER: It must be the beginning of the process. We must start that now in earnest, Scott. If you look at history, at the same time with Nixon, we're further along with the public wanting impeachment of President Trump than they did of Richard Nixon. The difference is that the public, they don't know what happened in the Mueller report.
And if we take - walk back in time, Russia attacked our democracy, the Trump campaign embraced it, then they obstructed that fact, and now the president, in open, is calling for autocrats around the world to intervene in our election again in order for him to win a second term. He feels emboldened by the fact nothing has happened to him and by what appears to be a toothless Congress. And he needs to be held accountable.
SIMON: And so impeachment hearings is one way to do that, as far as you're concerned?
WEAVER: Well, it's the beginning of the process. You need to hold the hearings in primetime and lay out the narrative. Not have John Dean come, but start issuing subpoenas, enforce those subpoenas and tell the narrative on television and on programs like yours so the American people are fully informed.
SIMON: Let me be blunt about it - do you believe this is something that many Republicans should support?
WEAVER: I think all Americans should support it. Unfortunately, the Republican Party leadership has become Patty Hearst to Trump's SLA or something. I don't really know what's going on with them. It's a combination of careerism and cowardice that have forced them into this role. But regardless, if the country moves, we know politicians believe in the rule of no interest like self-interest. So if the country moves, the party is more likely to move with it.
SIMON: As I undoubtedly don't have to remind you, the last time a party impeached a president, it was President Clinton. And arguably he became even more popular because of that impeachment.
WEAVER: Well, he did. Now, he was impeached for lying about sex. We're now talking about lying and obstructing justice for an intervention in a political campaign by our most potent adversary. I mean, there is a big difference here. And quite frankly, many of those same people who held up impeaching Bill Clinton for lying under oath are now the ones who are defending Donald Trump. It's quite remarkable.
SIMON: In the half of minute we have left - so why not just convince, let's say, out-of-the-blue example, Governor Kasich to run in the Republican primary?
WEAVER: (Laughter) I try that every day, Scott.
SIMON: And he doesn't want to - doesn't want to jump off the cliff?
WEAVER: No, he's keeping his options open. Look - the party is a lot different than it was just two years ago. Eleven to 12 million people have left the party since Donald Trump became president; they became independents or they became Democrats. It's uncertain that they would return to the party. We saw the outcome of that in the midterm. And that's one of the reasons that Trump is facing such daunting general election numbers next year and probably the reason why he's put out an SOS signal to autocrats around the country. He knows that if he's not reelected, he faces indictment and possible imprisonment.
SIMON: John Weaver, thanks so much for being with us.
WEAVER: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.