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What's The Path Ahead For Democrats After Mueller's Testimony?

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For more on where the Democrats go from here, we're joined now by Nadeam Elshami. He's a former chief of staff to Nancy Pelosi and joins us here in the studio.

Hi there.

NADEAM ELSHAMI: Hi. How are you?

SHAPIRO: Fine. You know, yesterday's hearing didn't produce a lot of bombshells. Do you think that, ultimately, it hurt Democrats?

ELSHAMI: I don't think so. I think the one thing that Democrats are united on is that it did not exonerate the president. And you've heard Democrats say that across the board. Whether you support immediate impeachment of the president, whether you support the process taking its time, whether you support the process not moving at all, they all believe this president obstructed justice. This president did not cooperate with the special prosecutor. And this is something that Congress, at minimum, needs to be looking at.

SHAPIRO: Do you think that it moved the needle at all on impeachment?

ELSHAMI: I don't believe so. I think the needle is exactly where it was prior to the hearing. And after the hearing - right now one of the things that Democrats are attempting to get from the administration is information about why McGahn refused to come and testify before...

SHAPIRO: White House counsel Don McGahn, yeah.

ELSHAMI: Yeah, exactly. So they went to the courts, and this is something that's moving through the courts. And so far, the courts have been pretty open to Congress' right to oversight - Congress's power.

SHAPIRO: But to return to the question of the Mueller hearing, Democrats were talking about it before it happened as though it would provide some sort of a made-for-TV moment, bring the Mueller report to life - if not a smoking gun then at least some momentum toward something. It didn't seem that way at all.

ELSHAMI: No. And I think the special prosecutor did not cooperate in that sense, right? He did not present them with that moment. What - his words do carry a lot of weight, right? The president was not exonerated. Russia interfered in our election. Those are things that he stated both in the judiciary committee and the intelligence committee. But made for a TV moment - no. He was extremely cautious; more cautious than I have ever seen him before.

SHAPIRO: Republicans have made it really clear that they want this to be over. Yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff told me that he plans to keep pushing ahead with his investigation. Do you think that the Mueller hearings make it more difficult for Democrats to convince the American people that there is more to uncover here?

ELSHAMI: No. If Democrats had not believed that there's more to uncover, whether it's in the president's finances, for example, then they would have stopped. But they believe that there's a lot more to uncover here than what was specifically looked into by former FBI Director Mueller.

SHAPIRO: I know the Democrats believe that. But when you look at the American people and what they want, having seen yesterday's hearing, are they going to be left wondering why Democrats keep hammering on this?

ELSHAMI: You know, when I was on Capitol Hill - you know, there's always been a saying - follow the money. I think that's what Democrats are doing. And I think they're going to find a lot more there where they could present their case to the American people. Look. They're not going to go to the American people with a half-baked case for why they should move forward on impeachment or not with this president. Right. Facts are going to unite the Democrats moving forward. If they have the facts on their side, they are going to move forward.

SHAPIRO: Voters tell us that the issues they are most interested in include health care, education, jobs; not Russian interference, not potential presidential obstruction. So if Democrats do keep pursuing these investigations and the discussion about impeachment continues to consume a lot of the party's energy, do you think that sends the wrong message to voters?

ELSHAMI: No, not at all because if you looked at 2018 - you mean - the issue of impeaching the president has been since the moment he came into office. In 2018, when Democrats ran, they ran on kitchen table issues and specifically health care issues and jobs. And they're continuing to do that here every day. However, you know, we are talking about this issue now of impeachment, of investigations as if they're not legislating at the same time. They're still passing legislation that's absolutely critical for the American people that's actually being stopped in the Senate.

SHAPIRO: Nadeam Elshami was chief of staff to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Thank you for joining us in the studio today.

ELSHAMI: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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