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What troubles Rep. Demings most about Trump’s responses to Mueller

After Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony, how are lawmakers reacting? Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., sits on both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees and is one of only three members of Congress to question Robert Mueller twice. Demings joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why she believes House Democrats should continue investigating and how the hearing advanced the case for impeachment.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we stay on Capitol Hill and turn now to a lawmaker who sits on both the Judiciary and the Intelligence committees. She is only one of three members of Congress today to question Robert Mueller twice.

    Her exchange in the second hearing was one of the most commented on of the day. Representative Val Demings is a Democrat from Florida. And she joins me now.

    Congresswoman Demings, thank you very much for talking with us.

    Your principal takeaway from today's testimony?

  • Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.:

    Well, I think that special counsel Mueller's testimony today just confirmed what I have known for the last four months, is that Russia interfered with our election.

    They interfered in a sweeping and systematic way, according to the report, that the president on multiple occasions attempted to interfere with the investigation into Russia's interference, that he obstructed or attempted to obstruct justice, that special counsel Mueller could not exonerate or clear the president, clear him from wrongdoing, and that, in the president's written responses, as you have already stated, that he refused to do a sit-down or in-person interview, which was extremely disappointing.

    The special counsel tried for over a year to get him to do that. But, in his written responses, that the president wasn't completely truthful in those responses.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm sure you know, or perhaps you haven't heard, but President Trump's comment on all this today was that it was a disaster for Democrats, that the special counsel, the former special counsel, had really nothing new to add, that it was a weak performance, and that, essentially, Democrats have hurt their case by bringing him before the Congress.

  • Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.:

    Well, it doesn't surprise me. Of course President Trump would say that.

    And what's also very amazing, for the president to not even comment on the part about Russia systematically interfering with our election. You would think, as opposed to attacking Democratic members of Congress or attacking special counsel Mueller, that he would at least focus on that.

    So it doesn't surprise me, especially after today, what the president is saying or is not saying.

    And, also, if I may comment too, it also pains me when other members of the committee, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle and the president try to make this a partisan issue.

    I do believe the American people do care about what happened in the 2016 election. I believe the American people do want to hold the president accountable, if he was engaged in wrongdoing. And this is not a partisan issue. This should be a bipartisan issue.

    And I tell you what. We're not going to stop until we do just that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what does that mean?

  • Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.:

    That means that we will continue our investigations.

    I know you asked the question earlier about attorney McGahn, who played a major role in the investigation. According to attorney McGahn, who the special counsel confirmed today is a very credible, was a very credible witness, the president tried on multiple times to get attorney McGahn to call Assistant Attorney General Rosenstein to fire Mueller.

    Matter of fact, the president said something to the effect Mueller has to go on multiple times, and then, to me, like a mobster, then asked the question, has it been done yet? Have you — has it been done yet?

    And so I believe that attorney McGahn's testimony about this attempted obstruction on the part of the president is extremely important to the additional work ahead of us.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you see this all leading to, Congresswoman Demings? Do you see it leading to impeachment proceedings, something short of that? How do you see the building blocks coming together?

    We heard Speaker Pelosi saying today again that the House — she is not ready for the House to take that next step.

  • Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.:

    Yes.

    And I have said before, leadership has to have the ability to see the entire field. They have to be able to see the big picture and make decisions based on that.

    I said four months ago, after reading the special counsel's report, that I believed that there was enough in the report to begin an impeachment inquiry at that time.

    So, we're going to continue our investigations. We're going to hopefully provide information for the American — additional information for the American people and other members of Congress, so we can do really what the forefathers expected us to do.

    And that is to really hold the president accountable. And I also heard my colleague before me talk about the American people being tired of this. I don't believe so. I don't — I do not believe that. I mean, that's his opinion. He's entitled to that.

    But the provision was put in our Constitution that, when additional accountability needed to be exercised, that responsibility is given to Congress to do that. And we intend to do that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you believe the case for impeachment was advanced today by Robert Mueller?

  • Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.:

    I certainly do, because, now, remember, I believe it four months ago.

    As a former police chief, a former police detective, when I saw the report, the elements of crimes on multiple occasions, the number of people who lied, the abuse of power, I believed we had enough then.

    But, certainly, listening to attorney Mueller today confirm some very special points in the case, and also, again, talk about the president not being completely truthful in his written response, I certainly believe that the ball was advanced down the field today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida, we thank you very much.

  • Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.:

    Thank you.

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