There is 'building support for impeachment': Fmr Obama Comms Director

The "This Week" powerhouse roundtable discusses the 2020 presidential race and the debate within Democratic Party over impeachment.
13:39 | 06/02/19

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Transcript for There is 'building support for impeachment': Fmr Obama Comms Director
Democrats can no more keep a promise to take us back to the 2000s or the 1990s than conservatives can keep a promise to take us back to 1950s. Let invest in hope in these places. We don't need a crime bill, we need a hope bill. Some say if we all just calm down, the Republicans will come to their senses. But our country is in a time of crisis. The time for small ideas is over. Democrats in California taking their first shots at the front-runner Joe Biden. Let's talk about it on our roundtable. Joined by Matthew dowd. Rachael bade. Lanhee Chen. Jen psaki. Matt, it's interesting to watch the footage yesterday from the democratic convention yesterday. We're heading into a new phase of this democratic race. It doesn't necessarily represent the audience. Activists are much different than somebody in New Hampshire. I think still we don't understand fully what they really want. Do they want a new Progressive? That's still unknown. I think we're in a new era, a new time, mainly because we're about to start the debates. And I think those debates are going to separate the top four, five from everybody else. The first ones this month, then July, then the ones on ABC in September. I think that's the time when somebody that's not the top tier right now can break through and come through in this. Or, Elizabeth Warren can separate herself from Bernie Sanders and how Joe Biden does. I think the debates will determine where we go. A more fundamental question, Jen, for Joe Biden, can he be the candidate of change which usually works for Democrats? It's more challenging for him, no doubt. I think, you know, he was criticized for not going to California. He made the decision to go to Ohio, and that's a strategic call. But I think for Joe Biden, I've watched a lot of his speeches, he's appealing to people, lot of it feels like the kind of speeches that John Kerry gave in 2004, he'll need to update his message and give a more forward-looking message. I think they're thinking about that internally, which is good, but right now -- they're factoring in nothing changing with the rest of field. Matt said, seeing some of the candidates rise, have been doing a lot of town halls, very fresh with the kind of questions that will come up like Pete buttigieg. They could have good moments in even a Beto O'rourke who's been off the radar. They could have good moments in the debates and I think Joe Biden has to be prepared for that. Rachael, this debate over impeachment. We saw Nancy Pelosi get drowned out there. But within her caucus she still has a lot of support. That's right, and pressure is building on her after Robert Mueller said verbally what he had written. Which is, he couldn't make a decision on obstruction and basically kicked it to congress. People saw that as referral and Pelosi is the boss. Pelosi doesn't want to go there. She's worried the senate would acquit him. There's all evidence showing they would. There's a split screen. In these swing districts, lot of attention being paid to California and you know what happened yesterday, with people saying impeach, impeach. Impeach. I was out in some of these trump districts that were held Democrats that make up Pelosi majority this week, no one was talking about Mueller and no one was bringing up impeachment. That's why she calls it a gift to Donald Trump. Is it really a gift? Does he want to be impeached? Well, I think it's a gift because it feeds into the kind of energy that the president, you know on the campaign trail, when he's out there doing events, the more he feeds off energy off the Democrats, they want to impeach me, yes, that helps his cause. Frankly, that's really in his wheelhouse. More broadly speaking, though, I think that the challenge for Democrats is, presenting an alternate vision, right, that's really what this campaign needs to be about. The more they're talking about impeachment and trump and Mueller the less opportunity they have to present -- How do they balance this out, for a lot of Democrats who read the whole report, they look at obstruction of justice, you can't send a message that a president is above the law, how do they balance out the politics versus their responsibilities as members of congress? First, both sides of the aisle, I think, should be confronting this. We have a tendency to ask the Democrats what will you do on impeachment. And we let the Republicans off the hook. Congressman Jordan said he's not concerned. As opposed to one of his members, Justin Amash. I think that's a question, too, for the Republican side of the aisle, are you unwilling to hold the Republicans accountable in any of? I think the Democrats -- if you listen to the Democrats on the campaign trail, they talk very little about impeachment, they talk about guns, which is obviously in news today, healthcare and a lot of other issues. The president should be held accountable. Impeachment is one option. Impeachment is one option. But there are many other options to hold the president accountable. A and we as congress are going to pass legislation that we tried to do over the course of the last three months and investigate. That's the way to talk about it. And is it inevitable? Is speaker Pelosi, as more events unfold, perhaps the testimony of Robert Mueller, have no choice to at least open proceedings? I think the door is still open. The perception that Pelosi has closed the door is wrong. There's certainly a building -- building support for impeachment. But I think Pelosi, also, she's gotten to where she is because she has very astute political instincts and she knows how to get rid of opponents. Her calculation is this is not the way to do it. Her position won't change. She'll still have members with her. One of the questions, will she be able to get Robert Mueller testify? Yeah, they're in a pickle. Everybody thought, after the report came out, Mueller would be the one bright spot, they would be going to war with white house. Block testimony from aides that had talked to him, documents, but everybody thought Mueller would come in. He's made it clear he doesn't want to and there's a reluctance, I hear it when I talk to my sources, about subpoenaing him. They're basically saying, they might have to. Because he's not willing to appear in public. But they don't want him -- to look like he did something wrong. They could look overaggressive. And some people frankly privately want to move on. And so this is an issue, though, because Americans overwhelming three-quarters of Americans want to see Mueller testify. They want to hear from him. When he speaks he has an impact. We saw that last week. You know, it's an issue for them. Do you think Mueller misjudged his old friend and colleague, William Barr, in the way he characterized the Mueller report? Perhaps, perhaps. It's always difficult because now the attorney general is in a different position than when he and Mueller first developed that relationship. But, look, I think the question on Mueller is, do we actually think he's going to say anything else of substance? He said the report speaks for itself. He's aware of the fact that he's restricted from revealing what might be a currently operative case, if there's grand jury information, he's probably not allowed to reveal that, either. So, what do we expect Bob Mueller is going to tell us or members of congress in moving the ball forward? It does, though, lot of Americans haven't read the report and that's having him up there at the witness stand talking about don mcgahn getting a call from the president and saying, you got to get rid of Mueller. I mean, that's -- there's a difference, you know, Democrats say there's a difference between reading the book and watching the blockbuster film. I think we saw that last week. Mueller's message was, you have everything you need, just read the report. His message was, I put it all together. Congress, do your job. Read the report. Read the report. Read the report. I think you're right, the vast majority of Americans haven't read the report. I think Bob Mueller's right. You have what you need. Now decide. I would say this is clear, easy call for Democrats. I was very surprised by how muted they were when Bob Mueller said he wasn't going to testify. They need to push on it and subpoena him if needed. There are some clear questions that can be asked that he can give yes or no answers to. He give a little bit more context. There's more that needs to be said. For him, we owe him a great deal of thanks. But his duty of the public service is not done. We can't accept it. You can't say you're letting the president of the United States off the hook and then drop the mic and go on vacation. He owes us more. This relates to impeachment as well. Democrats say they need to build the case to the public. The public is not onboard with impeachment right now. In order to do that, if they want to do that, they got to have people testifying and people in the witness chair and they haven't had any -- If I were the Democrats, George, tomorrow morning I'd be talking about gun reform. After what happened in Virginia Beach, give this break for 24 hours about Bob Mueller, we had another tragedy, we passed a bill in the house. It's time to act, Republicans, on this. In the meantime, the president is talking about tariffs and Mexico. About to relaunch his campaign as well in a come of weeks. Lanhee, I want to talk about that. He has clear sailing now. John Kasich this week said he's not going to challenge him and Larry hogan said he not going to challenge him. The economy still a strength for the president. Is he putting it at risk with these calls on tariff on China and Mexico? I think this is the big challenge for the president. Is he trading off some short-term potential gains for long-term trouble in the economy? If you think about the tariffs, an argument in short term, he gets Mexico to table on immigration. Willing to make some concessions on immigration. But in the long term, that he doesn't get the American revised trade deal. With China, he wants that short-term deal at the expense of the longer term relationship with China. What's going to happen to the economy? How much is this going to be self-inflicted? I think the president has an opportunity here to focus on some of these economic themes. But by mixing for example, immigration with trade now, I think he's putting that at jeopardy. Hitting his own voters across the midwest. Also, the stock market isn't the economy. Since he's been talking about these tariffs, 5%, 6% drop. The politics of the economy is to build on what you were saying, I mean, the imports are not just avocados, right, they are autoparts and trucks and manufacturing parts, and states like Michigan and parts of the midwest as you said, there are places in the country that could be deeply impacted by tariffs. Its a won't address the root cause issues. Maybe in the short term Mexico may come to table, I don't know, I'll be surprised, but at the same time, he's stl threatening to cut off funding to Honduras and a lot of these country where people are coming over because they're facing such terrible conditions. This is a short term gain in that regard. I think his instincts on the trade deals back in the campaign were actually right on, which is the trade deals over the last 20 years have not necessarily benefited working-class people. Whatever those trade deals were. Especially in the industrial midwest, they felt suffered under these trade deals. Helped big business but not working class. But I agree with lanhee, there doesn't seem to be real strategy here. Long-term strategy of how we put together deals. To build on that point the president just hours before he announced those tariffs had actually signaled to congress he wanted them to work on revised nafta. Bipartisan. Both Republicans and Democrats are very confused by these moves. I think the one strategy we could see from this, again, reinforcing the 2020 for trump is all about immigration, to do something at the border. He has gotten rid of leaders at the dhs, he has threatened to cut off aid to these countries. Nothing is working. Now he's trying to shift the blame to Mexico. To say it's their fault. What needed to happen he needed to do a bipartisan deal with congress. He walked away from the table on immigration when it came to a bipartisan deal. That seems like that's not going to happen any time soon. That's all we have time for today. Thank you all very much

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

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