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Judy Woodruff talks to Chris Buskirk of American Greatness and Kent State University’s Connie Schultz about Robert Mueller’s first public statement in two years and whether it will increase momentum for impeachment, policy plans among 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and the top issues on voters’ minds.
Robert Mueller again commanded the attention in Washington today, but how are his findings reverberating across the country?
For that and more, we turn to Chris Buskirk, editor of the conservative journal and Web site American Greatness. He's in Phoenix. And Connie Schultz, she is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and journalism professor at Kent State University in Ohio. She joins us from Cleveland.
Welcome back to the program to both of you.
So, I think the two of you have been telling us for many weeks that, for all the attention the Russia investigation is getting in Washington, Americans are not bringing it up when you talk to them around the country.
Chris Buskirk, does today change that in any way?
No, not really.
Robert Mueller, I think, said it all right in his first sentence or two, when he said, I don't have anything to add other than what's in my report.
Now, the irony is, of course, is he went on to talk for another, whatever, 15, 20 minutes. But that's it. I mean, for most people, I think the report is the report. They have sort of mentally closed that section of the American political history. And now it's on to 2020.
We actually clocked it. It was nine minutes, but close.
Connie Schultz, do you think today changes anything?
I think it's time for Robert Mueller to testify.
A lot of Americans haven't been paying close enough attention to this. Most of them are not reading the Mueller report. Most of them aren't watching cable news shows, frankly. And I think having him testify will draw the attention, much as Watergate did, much as Anita Hill hearings did.
There's a long history in Congress of hearings focusing the American attention. And I think this is the time.
So, Chris Buskirk, if that were to happen, if he were to be required to testify — and we had a guest tonight, Congressman Connolly of Virginia, who said that that is something Congress can require — what would happen, do you think, in the minds of American voters?
I think — I think we would get this sort of sense of deja vu all over again, which is, OK, didn't we just end this?
Robert Mueller spent almost two years and, what, $35 million or something, hundreds of hours of interviews and all this. He issues a report, and then Congress wants him to testify, which, OK, fine.
I think that Congress may want him to do that. And I actually sort of tend to agree with Connie on this one, which is I think that might actually be helpful. But for your sort of your average voter, your average American, is this something that is going to, all of a sudden, make them think differently than they did a month ago or six months ago or a year ago?
I don't think so. This has been litigated and relitigated in public, the court of public opinion, for a very long time. People know where they stand on this.
They really — they really don't. I think most of them aren't thinking about it yet.
And I — if nothing else, Americans, as Robert Mueller has made clear, should be concerned about Russian interference with the elections. Also, we really can't emphasize strongly enough that Robert Mueller has not exonerated President Trump, and, in fact, has made it very clear that there is work to be done here in terms of peeling away everything that has happened since his presidency. And this is the way we do it.
I always look at it this way. When in doubt about what Americans know, give them more information.
Meaning Mr. Mueller testifies, and…
Even if he just reads from the report, Judy, a lot of Americans will be hearing it for the first time.
Chris Buskirk, you do now have one — granted, it's only one — Republican member of Congress, Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, who has called for an impeachment proceeding against the president.
He said he's read them all Mueller report several times, and he believes the president should be impeached based on that.
Do you — do you see Republicans you talk to, members of the public see this as something that could grow?
Well, at least for — if you're asking if it's something that could grow within the Republican ranks, the answer is an easy no.
I mean, Justin Amash is — I mean, this is not somebody that other Republicans take very seriously, and for a good reason. I mean, he is apparently unaware of the fact that he is actually a member of Congress.
If he thinks that Donald Trump is — should be impeached, he has the power to file those articles. He could write that bill, and — but he doesn't do it. What he does is, he goes on Twitter and grandstands.
And my position is this. If you really believe that, then you have a moral and a constitutional obligation to act on it. And whether it be Justin Amash or Democrats who are saying the same thing, if you think that Donald Trump should be impeached, do it.
Connie Schultz, if it's just one Republican, what difference does it make?
Well, let's start with, if you're going to criticize grandstanding on Twitter, I would expect every Republican then to be going after the president.
I think that you have one Republican, and we all know who he is because you only have one Republican. I don't know for sure what it's going to take.
Here's my thinking. If more voters start bringing pressure to bear on Republicans, something could change. If more high-end donors start bringing pressure — and I'm actually a little more optimistic about that than I was even a month ago, because you start to sense the discomfort among some lifelong Republicans who have spent all of their careers, the money that they're making from their careers, much of it, they have been investing in Republican candidates.
This president — you're not seeing a lot of Republican opposition right now in Congress because they're getting what they want from Donald Trump. They're getting the tax breaks. Look what's happening with immigration. Look at these young judges, all these young judges who are being put on the bench. They're getting a lot of what they want right now.
And I don't know, except for outside pressure brought to bear where they actually think they could lose their jobs, I don't see how it changes right now.
I want to change the subject in the little bit of time we have left, just a minute-and-a-half, quickly, to the Democratic candidates running for president.
Chris Buskirk, there are 24 of them out there. They — a number of them are talking issues. They're talking education. They're talking climate. They're talking immigration, education. And they're also talking abortion.
And I noticed tonight the Louisiana legislature has — another state passing very restrictive abortion laws, with no exception for rape or incest.
Are these issues that you see at this point sticking with voters?
Yes, I don't — I don't think they are yet. And here's why, is I think that they're too incrementalist.
And I criticize Republicans for the same thing. A lot of these policy issues may be interesting and worthwhile in and of themselves. Those things can always be debated. But if somebody wants to stand out and run for president and grab sort of the vision and the imagination of voters, they need to do something that's not merely incrementalist.
They need to do something with a big, bold plan for the country, something that — well, you know the old saying, fortune favors the bold. Some — any candidate needs to do something big if they want to win.
Connie, in just a little bit of time, do you see something sticking out there?
Yes, I think this abortion — what's happening with abortion in various states.
I agree with a growing number of Republicans who say they have overstepped. When you don't have an exception for rape or incest, you are attacking women and girls. And I think Republicans are underestimating the impact this is going to have in 2020.
Well, this is clearly a subject we're going to be bringing up — we may well be bringing up the 2020 candidates again when we talk to both of you.
Connie Schultz, Chris Buskirk, thank you both.
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