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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on the impact of the Mueller report

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including how much appetite there is among House Democrats to begin impeachment proceedings, whether the findings of the Mueller report will affect public support for President Trump, the new candidacy of Democrat Seth Moulton and Sen. Warren’s proposal to cancel student debt.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that brings us to Politics Monday with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of "Politics With Amy Walter" on WNYC Radio. And Tamara Keith of NPR, she co-hosts "NPR Politics."

    Hello to both of you. And it's Politics Monday.

    So, there was a thing called the Mueller report, Tam, that was released last week. People are still talking about it, as we just heard, but not most of the Democratic candidates in terms of wanting to move on and do something about it, going so far as to want to remove the president through impeachment.

    Elizabeth Warren is the exception, but how do you account for the collection of reaction that we're seeing among the Democrats?

  • Tamara Keith:

    And Elizabeth Warren quickly moved on to her policy proposal. She immediately returned to sort of vintage Elizabeth Warren.

    So I think what you have is a lot of Democratic candidates who are not hearing as much on the campaign trail from Democratic voters about impeachment as they are hearing about other things and voters wanting them to talk about issues, and so that is what they're doing.

    And then you get to Congress, where they are trying to figure out how to do this without seeming like it is an overtly political process. And so Democrats are — and led by Nancy Pelosi on this — are sort of saying, OK, we're going to keep investigating.

    Several have said, we don't want President Trump to get away with this or just feel like he has a blank check. But they don't want to use the word impeachment. They don't — Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to launch impeachment proceedings. She says, you can do a lot of things short of that and get the information.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And…

  • Amy Walter:

    That's what it feels like.

    It feels like a slow-moving Mueller 2.0 report that we're doing. Right? So the House is going to call up the attorney general, obviously subpoenaing Don McGahn, and bringing up Mueller, Bob Mueller, and the theory being maybe, just maybe, one of them will have this moment during the questioning that will change the tone of the debate.

    Until — unless or until that happens — and I really don't expect that anything that comes from those hearings is going to change perceptions of the report, of the president, of this investigation. I think this is sort of where we sit.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But we don't know.

  • Amy Walter:

    No, we don't know yet.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, in the meantime, we have got the presidential candidates, which Yamiche was reporting on, Tam, out there saying, the voters are not asking me about it.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Many of them. Some of them clearly are. And so I'm not calling for impeachment, and that's why we talk about Elizabeth — but why do we think that is?

    I mean, do we think people — one of the theories you're hearing is that there was so much reporting on this over the last two years that people feel, I have heard most of this already.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Imagine if the Mueller report came out, and we learned about that Trump Tower meeting for the first time that Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner had with Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. That would have been stunning.

    In fact, it was stunning about a year-and-a-half ago, when we first learned about it and saw those documents and those e-mails. So this has been trickling out slowly, which, in some ways, sort of takes the — it sort of inoculated the president, because it was like this — this very slow dribbling out of some very embarrassing or otherwise not good information about things that happened during the campaign and since then.

  • Amy Walter:

    I think that's exactly how that happened.

    And it's why opinions of this president really just have not moved even as this material comes out. I think baked into the cake is the opinion about how you see the president conducting himself in office.

    Remarkably, this is the only president who's never hit 50 percent in any Gallup poll of approval rating. He hasn't spent any time above — above water. In other words, his approval ratings have always been lower than his disapproval ratings. Just always a question for him about how close he is to 45, 46 percent or how close he is to the lower 40s.

    And when bad stuff like this comes out, you will see his numbers probably go back down to the high 30s, low 40s. Something else happens, maybe they go back up, something that's good for him, goes back up a little bit.

  • Tamara Keith:

    It's this very narrow range.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And he's been in this very narrow range ever since he won.

  • Amy Walter:

    Ever since he won.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sure.

    In other words, it's not that there's not damaging information in the Mueller report.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    People were hearing about it the whole time, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

    So let's talk about a couple of things. Seth Moulton, congressman from Massachusetts, announces he's running.

    Do we have a sense of how he fits into this picture of 19 or 20 already in there?

  • Tamara Keith:

    He seems to be sort of cut from a pretty standard Democratic candidate on gun control, climate change. His list of issues, the things that he talks about are very much down the line, middle-of-the-road Democratic ideas.

    What he is offering, he says, is a new generation of leadership. It's a similar idea to what you would hear from Pete Buttigieg or a Beto O'Rourke.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right. He's crowded in that lane there.

    The other thing that's interesting about Seth Moulton, he, like Tim Ryan, another young congressman from Ohio who announced recently that he's running for president, they were two people that tried unsuccessfully to break into the ranks of leadership.

    Tim Ryan…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Both of them, right.

  • Amy Walter:

    … challenged — officially challenged Nancy Pelosi when she was in — the minority leader.

    Seth Moulton talked about it. He was one of the folks urging someone else to run. They were both unsuccessful at that. And so it's pretty clear too that their options in the House are pretty capped out. So you're young, you're ambitious. Why not throw your hat in the ring for this?

    You're not going to win the nomination probably. But you know what? If you do a good enough job, maybe you go into a Democratic administration. It certainly opens opportunities politically that they don't have in the House.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Maybe they're running for something other than running to get…

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Very quickly, though, but, Tam, to come back to what you pointed out, Elizabeth Warren talking about student debt.

    She's basically talking about canceling student debt up to a big number. I think it's $500,000. And she's got a plan to pay for it, I mean, with a tax.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And that tax is doing a lot of heavy lifting, because it's also paying for universal child care and some other things that she's talked about on her campaign.

    She is a former law professor who taught bankruptcy law. And one thing about bankruptcy law is that it can't — that student loans are one debt that is really hard to get rid of, really hard to shed, even in bankruptcy.

    And so she is keying in on something that is a real point of pain for a lot of people, though this is certainly something that a candidate President Trump would say, well, that's socialism. You're taking money from many and giving it to others.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But appealing to younger voters, or, I mean, how do we look at this?

  • Amy Walter:

    Potentially, right.

    I mean, we know that this is something that Bernie Sanders has been talking about on the campaign trail. He would probably argue that, I have been talking about this for quite some time.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That was his brand.

  • Amy Walter:

    That was my brand, right, as well as Medicare for all.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    So he is — in many ways, what's fascinating watching the primary right now, I think we have this group of people, like Bernie Sanders, like Elizabeth Warren, who are kind of the revolutionaries here that, we want to make big structural change, vs. the folks who just want some reform, but not as sort of — some people would call it radical or, you know, real significant change.

    But either way, Bernie Sanders has sort of set the table on so many levels in this primary on policy, on some of the unwritten rules as well, where you can raise money, getting it from low-dollar donors, instead of big donors.

    Those are the sorts of things that he's helped to sort of set the ground rules. And they benefit him tremendously.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And pushing the party to the left on many of these issues.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And this goes even further than Bernie Sanders' free public college.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    This is writing off debt that already exists.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, Politics Monday. Thank you.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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