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Why Seth Moulton thinks impeachment is the right thing to do

Democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton redoubled his support Tuesday for beginning impeachment proceedings into President Donald Trump, saying that was the right course of action despite the potential political ramifications.

In an interview with PBS NewsHour managing editor and anchor Judy Woodruff, Moulton said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s concerns about starting an impeachment inquiry were valid. But Moulton said he believes the situation rises above making political calculations.

“Maybe the politics make this tricky and I understand that. I accept that that might be the case,” he said. “But how about just doing the right thing on principle on the oath that we swore, not to protect our political party but to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?”

Moulton is one of several 2020 Democrats who have called for an impeachment investigation. House Democrats are divided on the issue, and are continuing to investigate the president while weighing next steps.

Asked how Democrats should respond to Trump’s name-calling — on Tuesday, the president called former Vice President Joe Biden a “dummy” — Moulton said it’s more important to focus on how Trump has “failed as commander in chief” and to “talk about how we are going to lead.”

Other highlights from the interview

  • On health care: Unlike many of his Democratic rivals, Moulton does not support a “Medicare for All” single-payer health care system. “I’m the only candidate in the race who actually gets a government run single-payer system because I made a commitment to continue going to the V.A. for my health care even when I was elected to Congress,” said Moulton, a former Marine who served four tours in Iraq. Instead, Moulton supports a public option plan that would compete with private sector health care.
  • On foreign policy: Moulton said that his vision for American foreign policy is focused on strengthening relationships with U.S. allies and building international coalitions. He said he wants “a Pacific version of NATO” to contain growing threats from China and North Korea. “We should be strengthening NATO to deal with the next generation of threats from Russia, which are coming through the internet, not by rolling tanks into Eastern Europe,” Moulton said.
  • On taxes: Moulton took on 2020 rival and Massachusetts Sen.Elizabeth Warren, saying her wealth tax plan is “a nice idea but it’s not going to work.” Moulton said he believes in a fair tax system and supports measures like raising the corporate rate to 25 percent, among other changes.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now our series of conversations with candidates running for the Democratic Party's nomination to take on President Trump.

    Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts is a former Marine who served four tours of duty in Iraq. He's making service and national security central elements of his campaign.

    And Representative Moulton joins me now.

    Welcome to the "NewsHour."

  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.:

    Thanks, Judy. It's good to be here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, in this crowded field of Democrats, more than 20 of you, what makes you the person to take on Donald Trump? We know there are several other candidates who as young as you are. There are several who have served in the military. What's unique?

  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.:

    Yes, I think Donald Trump is going to be more difficult to beat than many Democrats think.

    And to do so, we need to build a coalition, a coalition that includes everybody in our party, plus those independent Obama-Trump voters and even disaffected Republicans. And that's hard to do.

    But that's exactly the job that I had in Iraq. And unlike any other candidate in this race, I led troops on the ground, had to build a coalition of people from all over this country in my platoon, different religious beliefs, different political beliefs, and get them to not just vote for me, but actually to risk their lives for what we were trying to do.

    I'm also taking on Donald Trump in his job, not just as president, but as commander in chief. I think that's actually where he's weakest, and I think we need to do that if we're going to win.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's talk about something that's before the Congress right now in many ways. And we just talked to our correspondent Lisa Desjardins.

    That is the question of impeachment proceedings. You have said they should start right away. Speaker Pelosi is saying, no, let's hold off. Why is her argument wrong?

  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.:

    Well, she makes actually a very good argument on the politics, which is that maybe the politics make this tricky. And I understand that. I accept that that might be the case.

    But how about just doing the right thing on principle, on the oath that we swore, not to protect our political party, but to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?

    The principle is very clear here. I mean, half the president's campaign team is in prison. His campaign chairman is in prison. You can't read even just a page of the executive summary of the Mueller report and not say that, just by the facts, we should be having this debate in Congress and before the American people.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's talk about some of the issues, Congressman.

    As I said, you served in active duty. You have just talked about that. It gives you some credentials when it comes to national security.

    In a nutshell, what is working with the Trump administration foreign policy and what's not working?

  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.:

    Well, there's almost nothing that's working. He is putting us in tremendous danger around the globe.

    The one thing I will give him credit for is for standing up to China, because China is a serious long-term economic and national security threat to the United States. But his tactics are all wrong. Throwing around tariffs, not working with our allies, it's exactly the wrong approach.

    We should actually be building coalitions in the Pacific. I talked about a Pacific version of NATO to help contain the rise of China and North Korea. We should be strengthening the Iran deal, not pulling out of it and starting a war. We should be strengthening NATO to deal with the next generation of threats from Russia, which is — which are coming through the Internet, not by rolling tanks into Eastern Europe.

    Trump is doing none of these things. He's just disparaging our allies and, frankly, cozying up to our enemies all around the globe.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Veterans. You have talked, of course, about veterans. You're a veteran yourself.

    President Trump says that he, more than any other president, would take care of America's veterans.

  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.:

    Well, he's failed to do so. He's failed to do so. I mean, we still have historic rates of veteran suicide.

    President Trump thinks that patriotism is hugging the flag. That's not true. Patriotism is fighting for what the flag stands for. And this is a man who dodged the draft, let someone else go in his place when it was turn to serve the country. I think that's wrong.

    And I think it's a good thing that, unlike any other candidate in this race, the first time that I have to make a decision involving the lives of young Americans and live with the consequences of that decision won't be when I'm sitting in the Situation Room in the White House. I have made those decisions before, and I can talk with credibility about our national security and making the hard choices about when we go to war and when we do not.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Some domestic issues. Health care. You are for the so-called public option…

  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … whereas many of your fellow candidates say they favor a government-run, single-payer health care system.

    What's wrong with their idea?

  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.:

    Well, I'm the only candidate in the race who actually gets a government-run single-payer system, because I made a commitment to keep going to the VA for my health care even when I was elected to Congress.

    And I have seen the good, the bad, the ugly of that system. That's why I'm with President Obama and his plan that, admittedly, wasn't passed. Congress changed this when they passed Obamacare. But his plan was to have a public option that would compete with private sector health care plans.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The original plan.

  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.:

    That was the original plan. That's what we should have today.

    I know it because I see it firsthand at the VA. There are some things the VA does well. They negotiate prescription drug prices, which Medicare doesn't. But I also had surgery at the VA a few years ago and was literally sent home that afternoon with the wrong medications.

    That's not the health care that everybody in America deserves.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The economy.

    The other Bay State, Massachusetts, candidate in the race, Elizabeth Warren, has talked about what she calls a wealth tax, a special tax on people who have assets over $50 million, an annual tax. Do you agree with her about that?

  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.:

    It's a nice idea, but it's not going to work. It's been tried other places in the world. You can't enforce it.

    What we need to do is enforce the tax system to make it fair. Right now, almost every American is paying more taxes than Amazon, Netflix, Delta Air Lines combined. There are true inequities in our tax system.

    What we need to do is make sure that everybody's paying their fair share, not pit the poor vs. the wealthy or anything like that, but just make sure that everybody's on an equal playing field, and, if you do hard work for a living, you're going to pay the same taxes as someone who's just trading money on Wall Street.

    Right now, that's not the case. That's what we need to fix.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But Senator Warren argues, you need to raise this money in order to do some of the great things that Democrats want to do for…


  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.:

    Oh, I agree with that.

    But the difference is that I'm not going to put forward a tax system that's not going to work. And her system has been proven ineffective in other countries around the world. I do like the idea of it, but it's just not going to work.

    What will work is raising the corporate rate back up to 25 percent. I'm for that. It's raising the rate on investment money, so that the capital gains tax is comparable with what you make in a payroll tax, so that, if you're doing hard work, you're going to pay the same rate as people who are trading money. That's basic fairness. That's what we need in the system.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Something else.

    We know President Trump is known for putting labels on people he doesn't like. Today and recently, he has called Joe Biden — he called him 1 percent Joe. He called him sleepy Joe. And I think today he called him weak mentally. Today, Joe Biden turned around and called the president an existential threat.

    Do you think that Democrats have to come up with a way to label the president, or can Democrats be above the fray?

  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.:

    No, I think that's kind of a waste of time.

    I mean, this is the dirty politics that the president plays. We need to talk about what we're going to do for the country. We need to put the president in his place, sure. You can't ignore him. I mean, he's the commander in chief of the United States, and he's a real threat to our country. That's true.

    But let's talk about how we are going to lead. Let's talk about how President Trump has failed in his policies, about how he promised a tax cut for the middle class, but just gave it to the rich, how he promised to take care of veterans, but he's failed at the VA, how he promised to give health care to everybody, but his administration has just spent years trying to take it away.

    Let's focus on where he's failed as president, where he's failed as commander in chief, and then talk about our vision for the country. That's what I'm doing in this campaign.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Seth Moulton, looking to win the Democratic nomination, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.:

    Thanks, Judy.

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