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Rep. Swalwell on how House Democrats intend to block Trump’s ‘worst instincts’

In the wake of Michael Cohen’s admission that he lied to Congress about his interactions with Russia, Judy Woodruff talks to Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., for his reaction and how he hopes the incoming House Democratic majority will help “fill in the gaps” for the special counsel.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now we have reaction from Capitol Hill.

    Representative Eric Swalwell is a Democrat from California. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee, to which Michael Cohen now admits he lied.

    Congressman, what's your reaction to this?

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.:

    Good evening. Judy.

    This is just one of, I think, what will be many lies that will be prosecuted by Bob Mueller. And I say that because buried beneath the Capitol at the House Intelligence Committee are pages of lies from witnesses who testified, and their transcripts sit there right now, not being able to go to Bob Mueller, despite Democratic efforts to try to release them to Bob Mueller, because Devin Nunes and the Republicans each time have voted against them.

    So, in a new Congress, those are going right to the special counsel, and I expect there will be more indictments.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, are you saying you have some sense of who else may have lied to your committee?

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.:


    If what Michael Cohen has told the special counsel now and has resulted in his plea, there's a lot of other witnesses who are in a similar position, where they weren't straight with the House Intelligence Committee. And it looks like Bob Mueller, who has the subpoena power, which we were not able to use because the Republicans blocked it, is able to find that.

    And so we hope to get those transcripts as soon as possible to the special counsel.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Congressman, what then? I mean, based on this, and based on the other developments we're seeing this week in recent days, where does your committee go next? What are the questions you next have that you want answers to?

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.:

    We want to fill in the gaps where they exist.

    We don't want to be redundant or cover areas Mueller's already covered. But that includes money laundering. Ranking member Schiff has been pretty straightforward that he believes — and I share his belief — that there's a lot of evidence that the Russians for decades have sought to do business with Donald Trump and he has sought to do business with them.

    But we were blocked from subpoenaing Deutsche Bank and other banks to see if there is a financial relationship between Russian oligarchs and the president.

    Also, that Trump Tower meeting, as was alluded to in the indictment today, that date, June 9, being put in the indictment, we know that a couple days before the meeting, Don Jr. made a phone call to Russia, and then made a call that was blocked on the cell phone transcript that we have, and then called back to Russia.

    We have strong evidence that suggests that might be communication between Donald Jr. and his father, which would give knowledge by candidate Trump of the meeting that they have so far denied he ever knew about.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let me ask you about the financial question, the money laundering allegations that you're referring to.

    To what extent can the president be held accountable, be held culpable, if there is evidence of money laundering? Because the president has said, as president, he can't be prosecuted for financial dealings.

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.:

    That's right.

    And our job is not to be prosecutors. I see our job now, with the subpoena power, is to essentially intervene where we can protect domestic and foreign policy. We see, whether it was with the Saudis and his prior financial dealings there that's driving foreign policy, or with the Russians, that if we shine a light on his prior financial transactions, we can prevent some of his worst instincts from materializing, when we weren't able to do that before.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you mean by his worst instincts?

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.:

    Well, he has put — so, typically, I think presidents govern on their values and American values.

    And we see a president who is governed by transactions, rather than by values. And those transactions have allowed, for example, with the Saudis, a U.S. resident who worked for a U.S. publication was killed on NATO soil, and we have done almost nothing to punish the country that did that.

    And we're finding out that there was a prior financial relationship with the president and the Saudis. And that seems to be dictating the foreign policy there, and also the same with Russia. He's undermining the intelligence community findings with respect to Russia.

    And we know that the president has had investments in Russia before, trademarks he has sought in Russia before, and, as this plea with Michael Cohen lays out, a mega-development deal that he was trying to do during the pendency of the campaign with the Russians.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, Congressman, you're aware President Trump has denied any impropriety when it comes to either Saudi Arabia or Russia. He's called all of this a witch-hunt, that Democrats are out to get him, and so on.

    So, it's going to take hard evidence. And there isn't that hard evidence yet, is there?

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.:

    Well, I think the indictments speak much louder than the president's denials.

    And Bob Mueller continues to rack up indictments that show that there was an eagerness and a willingness to work with the Russians, that this was occurring during the campaign, while they were also seeking business deals.

    And, by the way, when they were confronted about it by Congress and by the special counsel, the Trump team lied. And that, I think, goes to a consciousness of guilt. And that's all the more reason we should protect Bob Mueller and continue this investigation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Are you planning to call new witnesses before the committee?

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.:

    So we believe — again, we don't want to be redundant. We want to call witnesses who we were blocked from calling before.

    And a lot of those witnesses relate to testing the testimony that we have already heard. We took these witnesses at their word, and they weren't worthy of being taken at their word. So now we can contact third-party providers and vendors and subpoena their records to see if what Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr. and Michael Cohen were saying was true or not.

    And I think that's where we're really going to fill in the gaps.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I think, for the public watching this, it can be confusing at times to look at the Mueller track, what the special counsel is doing, and then separately what the House and Senate investigations are doing. How can you clarify that?

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.:

    And, Judy, I think the whole country has gotten a Ph.D. in Russian studies that none of us signed up for.

    But what we can do and our responsibility to do is to protect our democracy and protect the future. We know the Russians intend to continue to attack our democracy. We shouldn't see ourselves as prosecutors. We should see ourselves as guardians of the democracy to make sure that, when we have a presidential election in two years, that it is one that is free and fair from Russia interference or any other country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so, for people who are saying, wait a minute, why not let the Mueller investigation proceed, why do the politicians have to be involved, how do you answer it?

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.:

    It's a great question.

    So, Bob Mueller can only tell the public what he can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. And there are a lot of gaps between what he can prove, because of evidentiary reasons, and what we have learned about Trump campaign conduct.

    And, again, our job is to protect the ballot box and the integrity of our democracy. Bob Mueller's job is to look for crimes. And so where there are gaps, just as we did after the September 11 Commission, where we did all we could to make us safer in the skies with congressional commissions and reforms, we have the same duty now, knowing that an adversary wants to attack us, and we have a democracy to secure.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.:

    My pleasure. Thank you.

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