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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on public impeachment hearings, Bloomberg’s possible 2020 bet

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including whether open hearings could change Americans' minds about impeachment, implications for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, the potential entry of Michael Bloomberg into the Democratic race, Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s comments about standards for female politicians and more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    To set the stage for this first week of public impeachment hearings and talk about the 2020 presidential race, I'm here with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report. She's also the host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter." And Tamara Keith of NPR, she also co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    And before I turn to both of you — and welcome, by the way, Politics Monday — a little bit of late-breaking news. And we were just talking about it with Yamiche and Lisa.

    And that is the inquiry — or the filing by the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who was wanting to join the lawsuit by former White House special — National Security Adviser John Bolton, his deputy, Charles Kupperman, who were questioning their being subpoenaed to appear before Congress. He's now withdrawn that filing.

    So we can set that aside for the moment. But the drama continues in so many other pieces, as both of you know.

    And, Amy, these hearings, public hearings, starting in two days, how is this going to be different from hearings behind closed doors?

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    Right, other than the fact it's out in public.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    On cameras.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    Well, the theory row is that this could maybe change people's opinions about impeachment, which I'm very doubtful that is going to happen.

    If you go back and you look at what the public hearings did during the Nixon impeachment era, they did move public opinion pretty steadily. When the summer of 1973 started and the impeachment hearings were public, they were watched by almost everybody; 70 percent of Americans said they watched those hearings live at some point.

    And the president, Nixon, his approval ratings dropped significantly over that summer, dropped about 13 points. And interest and support for more investigation into Watergate rose.

    Let's fast-forward to now. People are much more polarized and partisan even than they were back in the 1970s. People are getting their information from so many different sources. There is not just four television stations. Obviously, people are going to go to the news sources or the Internet or social media that appeals to them.

    And so I think what we're going to see is one hearing and a lot of different interpretations of that hearing by a lot of different sources. And we're going to see them, I think, Americans, still pretty well-settled into how they feel about this.

    The one group that I'm watching for are those independent voters, who probably haven't been paying that much attention as partisans have to this process. Maybe they get moved a little bit. Right now, they are a little less supportive of impeachment than supportive of it. Maybe this pushes that, but it's going to be very hard to do that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, Tam, we may see witnesses called by the Republicans. We're waiting to see how that plays out, right?

  • Tamara Keith:

    We are waiting to see how that plays out.

    They have put in a long wish list. And the best way to describe it is a wish list that they have sent to the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee. The chairman, Adam Schiff, is the one who gets to decide ultimately. He has the ultimate power to decide who gets called.

    Now, this list the Republicans sent over includes names like Hunter Biden and the anonymous whistle-blower, who they would like to have publicly testify.

    Schiff has already made it clear that he has no interest in either of those potential witnesses. But there are some other names on that list, like Ambassador Volker, or Tim Morrison, who is a National Security Council aide — or was.

    And both of them are people who have provided closed-door depositions. In those depositions, there were some items that Republicans took some solace in. Morrison, for instance, said that, although he was concerned about the president's call with Zelensky, he didn't think that a law had been broken.

    His concerns were more about U.S. and Ukrainian relations and other things like that. So — but, in their testimony, if you read it, there are also a lot of things that are damaging to the president and that further corroborate this narrative that Democrats have built up around the call, that Democrats have been able to sort of corroborate around the call.

    And so it seems possible, at least, that Democrats would be willing to hear from those witnesses, because they are not slam-dunk great witnesses for the president.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's right.

    And you mentioned Hunter Biden and Joe Biden. We are going to talk about 2020 very quickly, Amy, but is Joe Biden in the clear here? I mean, we don't…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, certainly, Republicans do not want to let him go in the clear. And they want to still make that case in the House, which, as Tam pointed out, is not likely to happen.

    Where it could be an issue is, if impeachment passes, it goes to the Senate, and it's Republicans in charge in the Senate side, of course, and they can call witnesses there during the trial.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And one other thing. In the sort of cross-examination and the questioning that Republicans will do of these witnesses in this public hearing, in the private depositions, they were asking about Hunter and Joe Biden.

    So you can expect them to do that in public as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, for whatever reasons, a man named Mike Bloomberg has decided, maybe Joe Biden's chances don't look as good as he thought a few months ago. He is now seriously exploring getting in.

    Amy, quickly to you first. Is this going to change the race, if he gets in?

  • Amy Walter:

    If he gets in, maybe, but on the margins.

    Look, there has been conventional wisdom among — especially among Democrats inside the Beltway, elites and establishment that Joe Biden cannot win the nomination, and Elizabeth cannot win the race against Donald Trump.

    And so what is happening today is, this establishment, elite group of people saying we have got to find a way to ensure that, if it is not Joe Biden, if he collapses, because there is this assumption amongst this group that he is going to collapse, that somebody has to be there as sort of the moderate standard-bearer.

    Elizabeth Warren's positions, especially on things like Medicare for all, are way too far to the left for the swing state voters. But is Michael Bloomberg the answer that people are looking for?

    If you are Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg or any of those other candidates in that lane…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The other — in the moderate lane.

  • Amy Walter:

    … you're raising your hand and saying, you know what, I think I can pick up that slack if Joe Biden is not around.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, meanwhile, Biden, of course, is saying, I'm not week. Hey, I am go to win this thing.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

    And he is still running for president. And — though it's interesting, one of my colleagues, Scott Detrow, spoke with of Biden's allies, who said, well, you know, if Biden isn't in the race, then Michael Bloomberg would be a great option, which was slightly off-message.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Amy Walter:

    More than slightly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Slightly off-message.

    So, very quickly to Amy Klobuchar, who said, we noticed yesterday, in an interview — she was asked about Pete Buttigieg, who has done very well in the polls, with money.

    And she said, if the women on the stage: "My fellow women senators, Harris, Warren and myself, do I think we would be standing on that stage if we had the experience that he had? No, I don't. Maybe we're held to a different standard."

    Are they?

  • Amy Walter:

    For sure, women are held to a different standard.

    At the same time, I think it also shows the degree to which Iowa has become the most important state, overwhelmingly so. If Pete Buttigieg gets a foothold by doing really well in Iowa it puts Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, those others out of the mix.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Double standard?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Certainly, she is stating a fact of American politics. Women in politics tend not even to run for higher office or to run for the Senate, until they are much older, because this has been the standard.

    There is like a desire to have a great amount of experience for female candidates.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Speaking of these women, we are going to see them and the guys on stage a week from this Wednesday.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you both.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we want you to please join us, in the meantime, for special live coverage of the first public impeachment hearings. We start on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time.

    And be sure to sign up for our newsletter, which is dedicated to the topic. You can find the link to subscribe at PBS.org/NewsHour/Politics.

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