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Impeachment Inquiries

November 15, 2019

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Shields and Brooks on public impeachment hearings, Kentucky election results

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s political news, including the impact of released impeachment inquiry transcripts, what we might learn from the upcoming public hearings, the possible entry of Michael Bloomberg into the 2020 presidential race and results from state elections in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As the impeachment inquiry continues to ramp up ahead of next week's public testimonies, the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination continues, and a former New York City mayor may throw his hat into the ring.

    To help us make sense of it all are Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Hello to both of you.

  • Mark Shields:

    Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, we had a quiet week. You know better than that. There's a lot going on.

    Mark, I think Lisa Desjardins added it up, almost 2,700 pages released this week of transcripts, testimony of former — current and former administration officials in the impeachment inquiry.

  • Mark Shields:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The president says it's a witch-hunt, it's corrupt, doesn't mean anything. Others have different views.

    What does it add up to for you?

  • Mark Shields:

    It adds up to that the hoax charge that was leveled against the inquiry, I think, has been totally rebutted and refuted.

    And I think that Republicans, quite frankly, on the committee didn't lay a glove on any of the witnesses. And it shows, more than anything else, to me, what one person standing up, the whistle-blower, did.

    It emboldened, inspired, energized people, and to his credit. And the whistle-blower's initial statement has been fortified and ratified and certified by subsequent witnesses.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What does it add up to for you?

  • David Brooks:

    Even more guilty than last week. New and improved guilt.

    I mean, we're learning the same story over and over again, but we're learning it with more evidence, strength and more underlining, that the quid pro quo really was a quid pro quo. It was not just a phone call. It was not just a few meetings. It was a concerted campaign.

    The questions remaining to me are, where did it all start? Did Donald Trump think of this conspiracy theory in his head? Did somebody else direct it to him? And so how did it get in his head?

    Second, how clear a role did Giuliani play? Will the Republicans try to throw Giuliani under the bridge — or under the bus, whatever you throw people under, and say, it wasn't Trump, it was Giuliani, and it was Giuliani serving his clients?

    And so those are still remaining. I think we have learned nothing dramatically new. It just reinforced what we already knew.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And…

  • Mark Shields:

    Yes, I would just add that we went from no quid pro quo to quid pro quo, but no felony. And…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Because the White House is acknowledging now that there was a discussion.

  • Mark Shields:

    Now that there was.

    So, the Lindsey Grahams and others of the world who said there was no quid pro quo to begin with are now saying, well, I'm not going to pay any attention to anything involved.

    There's no coherent or consistent Republican defense that has been mounted in any way, and in part because I don't think there is one.

  • David Brooks:

    Yes.

    And it's also become much more clear that there's tensions within the White House over how to handle this whole situation between Barr and Trump, between…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Attorney general.

  • David Brooks:

    … Mulvaney and Trump.

    So people with different attitudes, should we have released the transcripts? Should we have a press conference clearing the president? And Barr doesn't want to do that.

    And so you're beginning to see some tensions within the White House, as people to begin to look over their shoulder and see who's really going to take the fall here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We…

  • Mark Shields:

    Just — one thing I would just add, Judy.

    And that is, the people who have stood up, who have testified put their career at risk. Let's be very frank about it. And there have to be dozens of other people who are just as aware, just as informed, and just as alarmed who have remained silent.

    And I think it's fascinating the people who have stood up, doing so at their own risk. And it's a reminder that those who are not speaking, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those in a time of moral crisis who remain neutral. And they have to be terribly, terribly uncomfortable tonight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we will see more next week about who is willing and who isn't to come forward.

    But, David, we are going to have open public hearings starting next Wednesday.

    How does that change the dynamic? We have already seen, as you said, a lot of material. How is that going to change things, do you think?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes. Well, this is more a public education campaign. I would be very surprised if we learn much new.

    The reason you have private hearings is so you can understand the case in front of you. And then the public hearings are to educate the voters.

    And is — have any of us talked to a Trump voter who seems inclined to change their mind about Donald Trump because of what's come out so far? I certainly have not.

    And so I do not expect this to change many minds. People are locked in about this guy. Nothing has changed their minds in three years. I would be surprised if anything changed their minds next week.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    If that's the case, Mark — I mean, do you agree with David?

  • Mark Shields:

    No, I don't. I like to agree with David, but I don't on this one.

    (LAUGHTER)

    I don't think you can understand the impact until you see the face and hear the voice of the people making this case and, as I say, putting their own careers, their own professional lives at risk to do so.

    And these are people with very impressive credentials, resumes of long public service. And I think I recall — David was too young. I recall Watergate, which was 45 years ago, when, all of a sudden, there was a voice that said, yes, there is — Alexander Butterfield — there is a taping system in the White House, and the impact that had on people.

    And when John Dean said, yes, the president — I told the president there's a cancer on the presidency. And I just — I don't think you can overstate…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • David Brooks:

    Yes. Yes.

    The only thing I would say, is, when Watergate happened, if you asked Americans, do you trust the government to the right thing most of the time, 60 or 70 percent said yes. And now it's 19 percent.

    So, people don't have high views of what goes on in Washington and they are not likely to grant it legitimacy. Secondly, when — Watergate, the Democrats and Republicans differed, but they did not seem to be in different universes.

    Now they're in different universes. And the cost of admitting your own party is wrong and potentially handing power to the other party seems ruinous. And so people don't want to make that call. That's why they stick to their party, because they think the cost of their party losing is the end of their own lives. And that's a result of politicization.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Mark, all this happening, of course, as we begin an election — or we're in the middle of, but truly begin an election year.

    We're getting closer to the primaries in January. If this — if the House does vote to impeach and continues on, that would happen by the end of this year, Senate trial in early 2020.

    But there is a presidential campaign under way. And, today, or this week, the news is that, lo and behold, the former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg is looking seriously at it, filing today, apparently, in Alabama to run.

    What does this say about the race, that he's decided to get in at this late — or to seriously think about getting in at this late date?

  • Mark Shields:

    Michael Bloomberg thinks he should be president. That's what it says about the race.

    And Mike Bloomberg has always thought he should be president. There's now, in his judgment, or those around him, an opening.

    I don't think there's a craving in the country for a fiscally responsible, culturally liberal candidate. I don't recall any that won contested primaries in battleground states recently.

    He's got a great story to tell personally of great personal achievement. He's done great work on gun control and on climate. But I just — I look at the record of New York mayors in national politics. I remember the excitement that accompanied John Lindsay and the fifth-place finish in Florida.

    I remember Rudy Giuliani dying in Florida, never going to Iowa or New Hampshire, and Bill de Blasio most recently. There isn't a national craving for New York mayors.

    But maybe Mike Bloomberg will enjoy corn roast in Iowa and clam bakes in New Hampshire. I just haven't seen that side of him before.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But he does have another identity as well, doesn't he, as a multibillionaire?

  • David Brooks:

    And $65 billion, yes.

    No, I put — I give him much higher chances than I think maybe Mark does.

    I think there's anxiety about Biden. The question will be, will Michael Bloomberg take on Biden directly? I think he more or less has to.

    If there's — there's no lane there as long as Biden is strong. And so if there — I think there is going to be a direct challenge from Bloomberg to Biden. We will see how that turns out.

    I do think there's room for people who just seems like the calm voice who could take Trump without many questions asked. I think there's room for a candidate to say, hey, I'm not an ideologue. I just know how to run things.

    And I think there's some market for that. So, as long as the moderate lane is not held by a strong incumbent, then I think there's room for either Buttigieg or Bloomberg.

    Having said that, I think the happiest person tonight has to be Elizabeth Warren. And the entrant of another moderate into the race has to dilute the moderate vote. It has to make it more likely that Warren and Sanders will be the nominee.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, should Joe Biden be…

  • Mark Shields:

    I agree with David on the Elizabeth Warren part and that has the…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's she the happy…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Mark Shields:

    Well, that he's suggested that her wealth tax, which basically is popular with voters, is unconstitutional.

    So the one thing to look forward to from — you know, because we who cover politics are really fight promoters — is this, that the old maxim that all politics is local or all politics is national — all politics is personal.

    If there's anything more personal than the feud and dislike between Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg, I don't know what it would be.

    I mean, he said in the speech at that 2016 convention, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy. I mean, he just really skewered Trump and gave us a preview of what to expect.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Called him a con man.

    But should — but, Mark, should Joe Biden or the other moderates be worried about Michael Bloomberg?

  • Mark Shields:

    Sure. Sure.

    Judy, he's got $51 billion. Joe Biden has money problems. Yes. You know, after South Carolina and Nevada, we go to basically a national primary.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, money matters.

  • Mark Shields:

    And the Super Tuesday, and California, he can buy his way in, make no mistake about it.

    But, you know, is there going to be a connection point between Mike Bloomberg and Democratic voters? You know, John Lindsay was a Republican, became a Democrat. Rudy was a Democrat, became a Republican. New York mayors don't seem to really come down on one side or the other.

    And I think it hurts them.

  • David Brooks:

    He has to show he understands Iowa.

    I mean, I think Mark is right about that. And he hasn't always done that in the past. I think the way he ran the gun control campaign was foolhardy, to have a New York mayor telling people in rural America, don't own guns. I think that was a message bound to fail.

    And so — but who knows? He's not a dumb guy. And he wouldn't run unless he thought he had a real path, because he had this exact choice four years ago, and he turned it down because he saw no path.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    State and local elections across the country, a lot of places across the country this week, Mark.

    People especially looking at Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi. Do we see anything there that tells us something about next year?

  • Mark Shields:

    Yes.

    (LAUGHTER)

    Virginia is now more Democratic than the country. It's amazing. It's now — forget it. It's a blue state.

    Hillary Clinton's margin was twice as large in Virginia as it was nationally. And that was reinforced when the Democrats took over out both houses of the legislature and now hold the governorship as well.

    Kentucky, Matt Bevin, the governor, abrasive, had gratuitous fights, accused people of all sorts of things with vicious attacks — with anybody. And he lost in a state that he — no Republican should lose in.

    And to Andy Beshear's credit, he ran a very good campaign.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This is the Democrat.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Mark Shields:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you see?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I think the Bevin thing is more Bevin. The Republicans didn't quite well in all the other statewide races in Kentucky.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Kentucky, right, right.

  • David Brooks:

    And so — but, that said, what everyone's noticing about this is what we have been noticing all along.

    The suburbs are not Republican territory anymore. The classic case was in Pennsylvania, where — since I was born, the swing area of Pennsylvania was the Philadelphia suburbs, the Delaware, Montgomery, Bucks and Chester counties.

    And they seem pretty Democratic right now. Trump isn't — Republicans are doing a little better out in west, out in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. But if you want to know where all the people are, they're in the Philadelphia suburbs.

    And that looks very Democratic. And if that trend is repeated nationally, then that's just very good for Democrats.

  • Mark Shields:

    Just — and the other thing was health care.

    Andy Beshear…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Beshear, Kentucky.

  • Mark Shields:

    … guaranteeing — and the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid, think about that, Medicare for all Democrats.

    I mean, what really wins?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The message was that…

  • Mark Shields:

    They won in 2018 on preserving the Affordable Care Act, preexisting condition, and extending Medicaid coverage. And…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And this is in a red state.

  • Mark Shields:

    In a red state as well, yes, no question.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

  • Mark Shields:

    Thank you.

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