Democrats Look At How To Proceed After Mueller Report Is Released
SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:
Now that the Mueller report has been released, it's up to Congress to decide how to move forward. The House Judiciary Committee has issued subpoenas for an unredacted version of the report. Many lawmakers have called for special counsel Robert Mueller to testify. And yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress will exercise the, quote, "oversight of our democracy." For some people in the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, that means impeachment. But many party leaders, including Pelosi, have cautioned against that.
So where do the Democrats, who are now in charge of the House, go from here? We have two Democratic strategists with us to debate that. Luis Miranda was a former Democratic National Committee spokesman, and Robin Winston is former chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party.
Thanks for joining us.
LUIS MIRANDA: Thanks, Sacha.
ROBIN WINSTON: Thank you.
PFEIFFER: Luis Miranda, as a former DNC spokesperson, how would you advise the party to proceed, especially in the context of the presidential primaries beginning in less than a year?
MIRANDA: I think that voters really expect the party and the elected officials that they went out for very strongly in November of 2018 to take their responsibilities seriously. I think we all expect the candidates for president and those running for 2020 to stay focused on a variety of issues - on the economy, on health care. But if you were elected to the House of Representatives, I think you have a duty to that congressional oversight and to not really wavering on something that the Mueller report appears to make pretty clear, which is that Congress needs to take up at least the consideration of impeachment.
PFEIFFER: Just before the redacted Mueller report came out, a poll by The Washington Post and the Schar School found that 51 percent of people said the report's findings would make no difference in how they vote in the 2020 election. They just care more about other things. How, Luis, do you think that should factor into the thinking of Democrats?
MIRANDA: Well, I think that if you go by polls, they'll tell you a lot of different things at different moments. I think it's a moment to really focus on principles, and how do you restore faith and trust in our democracy and in the rule of law? And if we don't - and I'm a centrist. I think I'm much closer to the center of the party than to the far left.
But I can tell you that I think voters would see any effort to sort of whitewash this as another example of the establishment just not taking their role seriously and just politics as usual. And so we have to be very realistic about the fact that if we don't act forcefully and convincingly and do - and carry out the duty that the Office of Congress and their duty as a coequal branch of government has, I think it'll have an effect on - particularly in the primaries, but certainly later if you have a disaffected base going into 2020.
PFEIFFER: Robin Winston, you spent several years chairing the Democratic Party in Indiana. That gives you a perspective beyond Washington. What does that wider perspective make you think about what the Democrats' next move should be?
WINSTON: Well, I think it's kitchen table issues. Folks here in the Midwest are concerned about jobs, retaining jobs. You know, look at the folks in Lordstown. They're not concerned about the Mueller report. They're concerned about their mortgage and where their paycheck's going to come from because you closed down a plant that over 1,200 people relied upon for their daily income.
You know, the way that I look at approaching this is there's really three tangible things. One's a constitutional argument. One's a legal argument. And then, of course, there's a political argument. If we look back to the 2018 elections, many of the Democrats who were elected were not elected because of the Trump investigation of Mueller. I don't remember many people running those ads. What they ran ads about was affordable health care, was about doing something about our deficit and about making sure that we address the issues of immigration.
To me, I've always been a person who believes that kitchen table issues do resonate with voters. I think it'd be premature right now to talk about impeachment, mainly because we don't have the complete report.
MIRANDA: And I agree with Robin that there's three separate questions - the political one for 2020 candidates, I agree with them. They're not going to be - if they get elected to office, they're not going to be dealing with Trump's impeachment, so that's not really for them to carry. But if you were elected to the House, there's a duty there.
PFEIFFER: A question for both of you - is there something short of impeachment that you'd like to see Democrats do to satisfy people in the party who say, look - the Mueller report points to 10 separate instances of the president attempting to slow down the investigation, so he needs to be sanctioned in some way? I'm thinking of a piece Karen Tumulty wrote for The Washington Post suggesting an official censure.
WINSTON: I think that the Democrats will go ahead and have their hearings. I think that Bob Mueller will draw more people to any television show than anything recently. I believe that once he testifies and once we get the complete report that you will find that a lot of our folks will look at other actions that can be taken. Maybe censure is one of them. But one of the most stirring actions that can be taken is to defeat the president in November of '20. You know, we've got people that are out campaigning. The I word that they're hearing on the campaign trail is about immigration, not about impeachment.
MIRANDA: And I think that's right - that once Mueller presents himself at a public hearing - and certainly a private one so that they can go over some of the redacted pieces that legitimately needed to be kept away, whether it's because of ongoing cases or protecting methods and sources. But once he actually comes out, and if he sounds more like what we are reading in the report than what Barr - Attorney General Barr tried to present in his defense of Donald Trump, then I think you have more to go on for sure, absolutely. And I think that's got to be the starting point. But the report does seem to lay out that Congress has an obligation to do much more than simply look the other way.
But Robin and I are on the same page here - that our candidates in Iowa and across the country need to be focused on issues beyond Trump because if they do get elected in 2020, they're going to need to be focused on rebuilding and healing and strengthening our economy, expanding health care access. So those are definitely the issues that people should be campaigning on. But if you're in Congress right now, you need to take this report seriously.
PFEIFFER: Luis Miranda was a Democratic National Committee spokesman, and Robin Winston was chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party.
Thanks to both of you.
MIRANDA: Thank you.
WINSTON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.