'Climatic and anticlimactic at the same time': Rick Klein on Mueller report

The "This Week" Powerhouse Roundtable debates the week in politics, including the release of the Mueller report and the latest in the 2020 presidential election.
12:10 | 04/21/19

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Transcript for 'Climatic and anticlimactic at the same time': Rick Klein on Mueller report
Klein, NPR white house reporter ayesha Rascoe. Republican strategist and ABC news contributor Sara Fagen. And democratic strategist and ABC news contributor Stephanie cutter. Welcome, everyone. Happy Easter. And Rick, I'm going to start with you, the trump team is claiming complete vindication. Democrats are saying, not so fast. They want more investigation. Does this leave the country exactly where we were before completely divided? This moment was climatic and anti-climatic at the same time. In the political class I think it's fair to say no one's mind was changed about president trump. That doesn't mean that there aren't really serious things that are raised in the Mueller report. But it does mean that as a practical political matter this wasn't a game-changer. Ayesha, the picture that the Mueller report paints of the west wing, it's not really a glowing one. "The Washington post" put it this way, the vivid portrait that emerges from the Mueller's 448-page report is one of a presidency plagued by paranoia, insecuring and scheming of trump spasms. You cover the white house every day. Is that the sense you get? Well, I think what that report showed in very vivid imagery how this is white house where you have a president that's oftentimes disconnected from his staff. Oftentimes you'll talk to people and it's like, we don't know what he's talking about. We don't know what's going on. What will have the long-term implications is this idea the president tells people to do things and they don't necessarily do them. He likes to push boundaries. So far he's been confined. But what happens when someone does something that he's asking them to do, some of this has come up with the department of homeland security, when he's asking them to do something that may not be legal, what happens when they follow through on that? Sara, the report lays out several instances directing aides to do things they didn't follow through on. Kind of a blessing in disguise in this case. What does this tell you about the white house? Well, you know, I think for all the chatter about some of the trump staff going into the administration, perhaps people not being qualified or perhaps him not having the best team, they actually turn out to be a great team for Donald Trump. They know him well. As Bob Mueller pointed out in that report, which is the president was very frustrated with this investigation and believe it was never true and never should have been conducted, and he had a staff particularly in don mcgahn who knew he was lashing out. And didn't act on that. As a result of that -- They know when to ignore him and not to? Like any relationship, you know web somebody is frustrated and they're venting versus when they're serious. I read this. I think Bob Mueller to his credit while that wasn't his job to psychoanalyze the president, he took that into account. The people closest to trump knew when trump was lashing out and angry and upset about something he read because he felt it was unfair and unjustified. And don mcgahn served the president actually quite well in this regard. And Stephanie, senator Elizabeth Warren as you heard now calling for impeachment. Do you think many others will follow, do you think that will happen? Do you think it should happen as we approach 2020? I think that there will be more that call for impeachment proceedings. But I think by and large most Democrats are looking for Democrats to do their job. What does that mean? They got to continue investigating and get the facts. A big piece of that is getting Bob Mueller to testify before the house. I think that this debate, you know we all think about this moment, as a static debate, what should Democrats do and what should Democrats do not do? If I think Bob Mueller comes and testifies to the country, even -- he could just read the report, I think that's a big moment. A big moment not only for Democrats but Republicans. All the questions this morning have all been about what Democrats should do. What should Republicans do? Is the country exhausted by this? Absolutely. I go across the country -- people aren't even tracking the Mueller report. They're exhausted. It's not coming up on the campaign trail. We all realized that. However, I was struck by something a freshman Democrat said over the past couple of days. Abby, a new member from northern Virginia, swing district, she said, is it divisive? Absolutely. It's divisive to start impeachment proceedings. Does that mean we shouldn't do our job? No, we need to do our job. The question, how does that all flow? Remember, there was a year between of investigation before impeachment proceedings started on Richard Nixon. Democrats have some more investigating to. They asked for his tax returns. Why is he so cozy with Russia? He invited Russian interference in this election, why? We need to get to the bottom of that. Rick, on that same vein, this wasn't the report that many Democrats were hoping for and congress is continuing to push forward for investigations, but I was struck by the focus of the democratic address this week by representative Debbie dingle, she talked about health care and she talked about jobs, I think the message was pretty clear in that, let's move on and let's not get into the trump accusations again and again. I think the answer for Democrats may not necessarily be not only move on but move to the side this whole issue. Impeachment-light. An whole series of investigations. I think chairman Schiff, yeah, there's probably enough. If you want to impeach the president, there's high crimes and misdemeanors. You can pursue that. And short of that, lots you can do inside the confines of the Mueller report and other things around there. By the way, I think 2020 candidates would like to see that handled on capitol hill. It takes the pressure off of them. They're not being asked about it. They want to have a good answer. I think it's helpful for them to say the process is working its way through. When it's a functional matter we know this is going to be litigated in in next year's election not in impeachment. How much focus do you think there will be on this? In terms of this report. As always, voters are focused on those bread and butter issues -- the economy, health care. That's what Democrats have been talking about on the trail. They haven't necessarily been leading with, we're going to impeach the president. I think that there's a case for people that are very adamant about wanting to see some type of justice when it comes to the president, those Democrats who are like, why should we let this just slide? We should be more aggressive. So I think that's why you see Elizabeth Warren coming out and saying, look, this rises to the level of impeachment. Let's at least look at this because there's this need I think on the democratic side to put up a fight. Among some. I think for a lot of average Americans they're probably going to be focused on those pocketbook issues. Stephanie, let's move on the Democrats. The trump campaign raised $1 million from supporters after the Mueller report. They also raised more than $30 million in first quarter, as much as Bernie Sanders and kamala Harris the top two fund-raisers. Is that a bad sign for Democrats? Well, yes. Quite simply. It's also a sign of power of the incumbency. I've been on the other side trying to re-elect a president. That power of incumbency can't be underestimated in a presidential campaign. He's got the time and the resources to put together a campaign. He doesn't have to go through a primary. As of today, we have 18 people running. When Biden gets in, we'll have 19 people running. You know, that's a loft money being split. So, you know, the challenging party going through a primary, it's much more difficult than the power of the incumbency. I think raising money off of the Mueller report, he's got a very active base. And he stokes it, every single day. We've seen it. He's trying to destroy Mueller's credibility. Even after the report comes out. That has an impact on his base. It has an impact on our base, too. Should Biden be the face of the democratic party? I would argue -- Go ahead. You can go. I would argue that if Democrats were smart they would nominate someone like Joe Biden. The reality is Donald Trump -- Stephanie's smiling. What strikes me as a Republican operative is, how quick many Democrats dismiss this idea and say Joe Biden is not the future of the democratic party. But I look at it quite differently, which is Donald Trump is actually in the strongest position he's ever been to be re-elected. He as a very strong economy and he was just exonerated from the underlying charge of this Russian conspiracy. Many of Donald Trump supporters and even people who are swing supporters, look at this and say, he was unfairly treated in this process. He is strongly positioned to be re-elected. The democratic party going and talking about medicare for all, free college education, free health care, taxes on everybody, to pay for all of these things, that is not a winning message. Joe Biden is a sensible, middle-class individual who people respect and like. I want to ask our two reporters here to talk about lessons learned. What lessons did the Republicans and Democrats learn from the past two years? I think that's very hard to say because I think in D.C., do people really learn lessons? But I think -- Or they might learn the wrong ones. They learn the wrong ones. But I think -- and what's interesting, and this kind of goes off of what was just being said is, when Donald Trump came into office, he came into the office as the outsider with not sensible ideas, but we're going to have a wall and Mexico's going to pay for it. Now it's the reverse. He's the incumbent, trust me. All these Democrats have these wild ideas, do we want to trust them? I think what we saw with president trump is that things that look very kind of wild and outrageous to the kind of D.C. Establishment can quickly become the norm. If they are sold in the right way. I think that Democrats even though they're looking at these bold ideas that may be what they need to get the attention of voters. And for Republicans, these last two years have tracked president trump's hijacking and complete takeover of the Republican party. Mitt Romney notwithstanding. Republicans are still behind him. They're going to be in with him for better or for worse in 2020. For Democrats, their expectations around Mueller were unrealistic. They were hoping that Mueller would kind of be a get out of jail free card. This would get the hard work done for them. The whole political environment created president trump. It's going to take politics to oust him. If Democrats want to defeat him, they'll have to do it by grinding out over the course of the campaign. Okay, thanks to all of you and have a great day today.

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

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