'Powerhouse Politics': Billionaire Tom Steyer's campaign to impeach Trump

Activist Tom Steyer talks about his petition to impeach Trump, criticism from both sides of the aisle and a possible run for office.
20:21 | 11/08/17

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Transcript for 'Powerhouse Politics': Billionaire Tom Steyer's campaign to impeach Trump
Hello and welcome to this very special edition of the powerhouse politics podcast via BBC news political director Rick Klein. I'm Mary agrees that senior congressional correspondent. And joining us this week outlined here in studio is four podcast we have the man's got a lot of titles I. Multiple activist. An activist than. And mega donor animals of portable wacky and on Hindu residents or at your bio somehow what president drop analysts. You burns a presidential. Weeks but we have we have we thank top sire for joining us think it's my pleasure being here. So let's start on the news you'd put all a lot of money a lot of emphasis into the races particularly in Virginia. What is your beat bottom line take away from this night lot of people say well to democratic state elected democratic governor Pete wall. What's the take away from partner perspective. I don't think there's any question what Virginia said last night yes Democrats have won in Virginia in the past but they've never won by ten points. Seven at least sixteen seats in the legislature flipped last night. The highest estimate that anybody had with nine and it can't go to if there's one still. Up in the air which remain whole legislature flips its seventeen. So no one predicted the size of the victory the regret that the victory that turned out. The turnout was 10% higher than it wasn't when he thirteen the last gubernatorial race. And the fact that if you look at young people where we were doing a ton of organizing of young people people. Under forty. The spread was 39. Points. Terry McAuliffe had a five point spread from O'Neill's. Ralph Norton. Had a 39. Point spread I don't think anybody expected that we didn't expect that. The turnout was a record level for young people so I think that this was by no means a quarter and quote be quote. This was a wave election. Crossed the state. Of people saying we're rejecting this is the trump administration. We're rejecting the policies of decisiveness. And bigotry and we really want to go back traditional American values of accepting people and moving forward together. And dry lends further. From than just Virginia victories in new Jersey state legislative victories all the way out of Washington State and across the country may oral victories it was a big night for Democrats no question. Do you read it as a it is a direct repudiation referendum on president. Buildings. Ever exclusively. A referendum. On the administration but I think it's always partially that and last night there's no question. That a big part of that victory the size of that victory. The scope of that victory had to do with Americans rejecting this administration I don't think there's any question that you can look at all of the data about how people feel. About what he's doing and how he behaves himself and the kind of risk he's putting us under and they don't like it. And they went to the polls they got up and went to the polls in an usually large numbers. Because they're upset and angry and they want this country to go back to being. The kind of cooperative. Positive place that we've been for hundreds of theaters and weak they don't want a world where people are talking about. Dividing us and disliking each other and trying to go to this very very negative view of the world. And and we saw that in the numbers to a lot of voters coming I think they were voting against the president not necessarily for. The candidate what do Democrats need to do now going forward they're gonna continue this week as you call look. I think it's absolutely critical. To have a positive view of how we can move forward together to a better future to a more prosperous future to a healthier future. And I think it's really important and I don't think it's rocket science to do it. Because I think the simplest way to think about it is. In the 21 century. If this country's going to succeed. Then the people of this country have to succeed and we have to invest in the people but it's education or health care or training or food for kids in school. If you look at the trump budget. He cut every part of that. I mean I was personally offended about the idea that poor kids don't have a right to food in school was described as non essential. If you think that I poor kid. Eating lunch is non essential than your values are completely different from mine and if you think the United States can succeed. Without those kids doing well in school which they can't do if they're hungry and can't concentrate on their work that's cores. I so let's talk about your campaign against the men at the top you're you're running a ten million dollar ad campaign. Calling for the president to be impeached look let's take a quick look at it. From. A Republican congress once impeach a president for far less. And today people in congress in his own administration now it's presents a clear and present danger. Who's mentally unstable man armed with nuclear weapons. And they do nothing. Tell your member of congress that they have a responsibility to stop doing what's political and start doing what's right. You actually are both sides of the IO with things that the president not surprisingly. Not exactly big fan base that's not nice words for you called the U. Wacky and totally unhinged. The other woman in Nina let me also seeing them still coming. Let quite edited re never win elections I would say excuse me. In one week he got resoundingly. Put down. And we we had a great night I I would say that was a great tweet just couldn't have been. For more fully embracing many absolutely. But isn't out to democratic leaders are reportedly frustrated with this campaign than it's a distraction that they they want to stay focused. On what they're doing to counter the president and if this really. The best approach here. We'll let me say this I can understand why establishment politicians are offended that there agenda gets disturbed by the American people. But I think it if the American people if the American people's health and safety is at risk. And we come out and give them an opportunity to directly speak up on that. And vote and in effect the vote to say we think something should be done about it. Then I think elected officials should be attend paying attention. Could it peaked the American people and trying to do what's right and get away from their political agendas and start worrying about the health and safety the American people. But what ways that the matter be it Democrat should put themselves out there in the mid term here is that. How do you present as the candidates should that be number one item we're going in if we we we take the house the senate. We impeach or should be in this is the point I think you'll hear from Nancy Pelosi and others say what we open agenda forward for people's lives. I privately a lot of Democrats say yeah with Lapierre president Al realistically not gonna happen so let's talk about what we want to do. Will we have gone to the extreme step of believing that the American people can hold two ideas in their heads one talk. I know that it's difficult for some people to believe that but the fact of the matter is we strongly believe that there has to be a positive vision for the country. Absolutely. And we also believe that this president is a threat to the American people and so when you say. Please don't say anything for a year because we need to run our political. You know we need our political agenda to go forward I would say they'll actually the American people are at risk and you're asking us not to tell the truth. Not to do what's right because it doesn't fit in to go the way that the political tactics are organized in Washington DC and I would say actually. The American people have a right to raise their voice and say this is absolutely critical our safety is at risk so that probably should priests seat you know come ahead. Of the political agenda of people who are running for office. What it does also take time to build an impeachment case there are these ongoing investigations Muller is clearly making some headway there. Why not take some time to let that play out in fact Nancy Pelosi with that that that very same question what tickled that. No. Believe that whatever we do have a responsibility first and foremost to unify the nation. Second while you can't go down any path about the facts and the law if that's the year perhaps it will come out. In these investigations. So does she have a point do these investigations need time to play out let Democrats focus on countering the president's agenda let Mohler do its work. But that so let's start with the question of whether the criteria for impeachment and I mean I thought it was actually really humorous I was on. The air last Friday and the president had just called on the Justice Department. To do an investigation of his. Political opponent Hillary Clinton. And said you know he didn't understand why they weren't doing it and you know he would you know really made it clear that they were gonna do better he was gonna have something to say. So there was a congressman a very Smart congressman from Southern California who was on. This show and they said to me is that obstruction of justice and he said hawks very very clear obstruction of justice. We've had is that an impeachable fetish and oh my goodness gracious that's an obvious impeachable offense. The me. But the point was but he's not for impeachment. So the question is the Muller investigation look I'm all for the Muller investigation I want him to bring everything polite. What we have gone way past the point where he has reached he's he would you know I think people look. He's robbing a liquor store in plain daylight he'd just committed an impeachable offense on the air last week. He is getting paid off like by foreign countries all the time this isn't a question of mall are having to this isn't an investigation where this isn't a prosecution. For you know in the Justice Department this is a political. Statement as he met the criteria is yet threat to the American people he's death we've seen him do it. He's definitely met the criteria and is a threat to the American people and the question is why aren't people willing to stand up and say that. I don't understand. How this plays into the the other piece of the argument is that the results from last night because. I am sure you wouldn't the a lot of Democrats are looking at the results last night in saint. Where are these people last year why didn't you have this kind of turn out what people knew you writing at present probably wasn't president yet meat you'll probably be couldn't win but. You're gonna run the same problem in the mid terms Democrats are traditionally in recent history done very poorly and its purpose they don't get that same kind of turnout. Isn't so is it important for Democrats to be against something something being in in the president yet states at this moment in terms of galvanizing parting getting people to vote. Look I don't think there's any good turnout last night was much more than people expected much more than historically is ever turned out. For governor's race in Virginia right in this is no disrespect to route north them but. As you point out this was a ballot. President trouble now so the idea honestly I find it somewhat laughable that we're going to have mid term elections in 2018 that are not about trump. Could we please not talk about trump because he's you know that's not what we're talking about we're talking about something else look. He's on the ballot traditionally. The administration. Is on the ballot in the mid term elections. And your mind behind into the idea that somehow we're not going to be talk meant that Americans aren't going to be offended about what he's doing. Actually they're highly offended the reason that our impeachment. Petition has had such great response is because Americans are really offended I think the whole idea that we need to keep the American people. Down so we can do our agenda. Is that doesn't make any sense the fact is the American people are screaming for change. Making this a litmus test for Democrats does that make it more about where the Democrats and on his unless focusing on the Republican. The opposition and remitted when is it not asking don't want to god and ask their lawmakers where they stand and what what. Are saying is to the American people is raise your voices. We need to speak up as a people we need a direct voice for the American the American people are supposed to be running with cut. I mean not to bring up an unpleasant fact it's supposed to be. I hate to break that up it's not Washington DC running the country it's the country being reflected in Washington DC. If the American people strongly believe this we're trying to give them an avenue. To raise their voice and say this is what we want we think we're at risk we want you to do something about it and if that's inconvenient. If that makes if that disturbs people's plans then so be it we think we're. Telling the truth we think everything in watch every in Washington knows we're telling the truth. We think Republicans have said much harsher things about this president sitting Republican senators in the last month of that much harsher things. About this president than we've ever said. We're just giving the American people a chance to voice their opinion that something should be done about it and it shouldn't be swept under the rug and pretend it's not happening. Why do you that's an interesting point theories and it's it's something that's not in my head watching this simple the last couple weeks. You could argue that that Jeff flake involved or perhaps it's stronger things about president states than just about any democratic senator. I've ever wondered about that of people what's behind. I'm clearly. Any democratic senator we talked to a number of on his fervent and they're not offended I'll talk. And I'm not just talking about red state senators he loses that's why is it did that some Republicans once they kind of brief three trauma feel liberated to talk on the way about the president that he and some dental. Let let me set. I don't live in Washington DC. Outside of Washington see people feel very free to say exactly what they think. Outside watching the scene where I come from people are outraged by what's going on. They're scared they feel it's completely wrong they think the big treatises on American as anything they've ever seen in their lifetime. And they want to change and we're giving them a chance to voice that outrage and so I can I don't understand you know you guys are. If you took my thing so much more sophisticated an expert in terms of you know how people in Washington think from our standpoint. We're trying to that's how yeah. Yeah I apologize but I just started her yeah. But I say look from our standpoint we believe worked trying to just tell that an important truth. They can't wait a year. And give the American people a chance to voice it and frankly I think last night was a vindication of what we're doing. And a repudiation of the idea we should sweep this under the rock. I don't think we're sweeping this under the rug I think it came out absolutely. Loud and clear last night. I think it's come out in the response to our petition I think the American people are really really upset. About the way this country is going I think the health care plan scared people really badly I think this tax plan. Is something the American people don't want at all I think what we're doing in terms of climate where weren't the only country in the world. Denying truth in science is something people find that ridiculous. So no I think that. Did you know the idea that this is business as usual that's the assumption it's business as usual are you interrupting business as usual because it's urgent that's why. You mention you don't live in Washington. But yeah rolled out that you could at some point in the future you haven't ruled out the possibility of running for California senator Dianne Feinstein senior flirting with the governorship. Do you prefer Sacramento to Washington or Washington's assessment. What I've said and what the truth is is that I think we're in a political crisis that's why we're doing this impeachment petition. That's why we have all this grassroots. Organization around the country to try and get people to join the political system to engage and to participate. I think we're in a huge crisis and I don't think people recognize that. And so when I when I was trying forgot what I should personally do. My real question is what can I do that will make a difference right now I'm working really hard between the grassroots stuff. And the impeachment campaign I believe they're not actually putting the day's work. Yeah. But not out for dvd C joined what's what's the argument against that means it's why not against the against running for something. The campaign. And even even so you do you at ease into the message indeed to people is joined right you and we saw a lot of people running for local office even. That that win this week. Doing. The reason to do it. I mean there are a lot of things I could do with it it could say why not you know whatever the reason to do it is if you feel as if if I felt as if I could do a different job from the other people who are running for. And they and that it would be differential and therefore in somewhere could actually move the ball down the field. Actually be part of the group of people getting their country back on what I would think of is a positive course if I felt that way about. In four Percy percent to C thirty people and that they and that climbers I know you're there and there have been four. You know quite a long time actually sure. I don't think I have definite date mean I know this time it it's that at some point you have to actually filers not file. But the fact of the matter is I don't feel the pressure on that because I feel as if I am working full time to try and act politically to move the ball forward and you know. Basically try and push the country to right itself and so I don't feel pressure to make a decision as I feel like we're actually being productive and last night I felt like you know what. We really are being productive we're seeing a change America is coming to the conclusion. We're going to do the right thing which we always do. The question was always not would we do the right thing but when would we do the right thing. And that its import and my point and urgency is it's really important we do it sooner than later because the cost is huge. You luck getting that question yeah I've always wondered if it is like this are two and is an art to the answer added that the this is as part of me. I think that people speaking. That I have some sort of hidden agenda planet and you write an adult what I I say to people I'm really trying to do the right thing and I'm willing to do. Almost anything. To get us back look and I don't feel better. About this I feel like. I'm incredibly. I'm incredibly lucky for having been born in this country I'm incredibly lucky to have been born interest damage it took care of me and gave me a lot of opportunities. I've had. A vary very blessed existence. And I look at the people in my family and the contributions they made in that passed to the country and I feel like. They made mocking of a my father was World War II you know that was is my grandparents great fathers were World War I. You know people had to make real sacrifices. So if I feel like this is an opportunity for me to do something or feel like giving back solemn. Of the great lock and gives that I've gotten from this country and from the people but. Great grip I'd like like that me. And so is it selfish totally I would like to think that I participated in something beautiful but I think Americans one that. And I think that we're missing that I think that that is an you know I think previous generations felt. They were part of an experiment moving the world forward moving country forward and took pride I think it's completely missing. And I think that that is actually the spirit that is push this country from the very beginning we are the pioneers. Freedom and justice. Until were on that path I don't think we're succeeding. Tops the higher we appreciate you being here are all this will be back wondering if differently. That local apple. And authors thank you thank you thank. For this edition of the special edition of powerhouse politics for their papers I'm Rick thanks to our producing team including Justin Coleman jobs after these artists under Taylor. And all the rest of the EU's for Oakland with a booking. We appreciate you listening and click on its next up.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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