Impeaching Trump 'doesn't necessarily benefit Democrats': Matthew Dowd

The "This Week" Powerhouse Roundtable debates the week in politics, including Michael Cohen's testimony on Capitol Hill.
10:54 | 03/03/19

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Transcript for Impeaching Trump 'doesn't necessarily benefit Democrats': Matthew Dowd
So they don't have anything with Russia. There is no collusion. So now they go and morph into, let's inspect every deal he has ever done. We're going to go into his finances. We're going to check his deals. We're going to check -- these people are sick. Unfortunately, you put the wrong people in a couple of positions and they leave people for a long time that shouldn't be there, and all of a sudden, they're trying to take you out with . There's a beep there for president trump. Two hours plus yesterday that his longest speech ever, perhaps the longest speech ever by an American president. Caps a tumultuous week for the president. We want to bring in our round table. Chief political analyst Matthew dowd, Sara Fagen who was a director in the George W. Bush white house. We have Tom llamas, Maggie Haberman from "The New York Times," who broke that story on Jared Kushner's security clearance, and author of the new book "If we can keep it." Real study of how we got to our polarized politics today. Great book, Michael. Let's begin with the week. Matthew, you look at the week. You look at the Cohen hearing. Seven hours on capitol hill, the collapse of the North Korea talks. Maggie's story about the security clearance which we saw congressman Nadler call an abuse of power, but one thing this screams out is president trump emerges this week with his Republican base completely intact. I mean, what we're seeing now is because we have been operating in this sort of chaotic environment for two plus years or three years if you include the campaign and everything that happened in that, I think people at this point in time, the people that are opposed to Donald Trump are solidly opposed to Donald Trump. The people that are for Donald Trump are basically solidly for Donald Trump, and all these pieces of information don't seem to change that equilibrium. I think the country is waiting to tell us and give us the story. Give us the Mueller report. Find something in an investigation that they find incredibly credible which wouldn't be Michael Cohen even though he raised dramatic concerns that I think the congress should investigate. But I think we're in this equilibrium place that's fundamentally not going to change until something the American public is presented with, where they have a conclusion. It was pretty remarkable on Wednesday, and we saw with congressman Mccarthy today, complete focus on Michael Cohen and his credibility and no concern or even defense of the president. Against the charges against the president. Are there any risks for Republicans in -- in walking in lock step behind president trump? The only risk to Matt's point is if there is some real there there. And right now, we don't have evidence of collusion. We have manafort's evidence of collusion. You have manafort's crimes, but that doesn't necessarily extend to the president. We'll see what the Mueller report says, but one would think after, you know, a year plus, 18 months, we would see something if it was directly connected to the president by this point. But I think, you know, ultimately about Cohen, you can look around the investigation labyrinth between the southern district and Mueller and the congress. Of all the things the trump white house needs to be concerned about -- and there are real concerns out there, the Cohen testimony wasn't one of them. He's just not a credible figure, and only base Democrats found him credible and they would find him credible no matter what he said at this pnt if he was criticizing Donald Trump. I guess the question will be what happens in the follow up. One of the things I wanted to bring to you is, you know, a lot of us have been hearing these reports and didn't know how much credence to give them. The Mueller report will be coming out soon and anti-climactic. One of the mysteries, the president doesn't act like a guy expecting welcome news from Robert Mueller. No, although it's hard for me to do such tea leaf reading out of Donald Trump's behavior because he forecasts negatives that aren't there either, but he absolutely is pre-spinning something. That's what that speech was largely about. It's discrediting whatever is going to be coming down the pike. Whether that's going to relate to Russia directly or some other aspect of his business, but no. He is not saying there is nothing here and there's nothing to worry about and moving on like a happy warrior. Psychically, it's hard for me to divorce that from the week he has. It may not have anything to do with what he knows is there. It might be habit too. It might be habit and this is one of the worst weeks, if not, the worst of his presidency. You had on the same day with Michael Cohen's testimony, the summit in Vietnam with the north Korean leader and that did not go well. He feels like he's fighting this two-prong front and yesterday was an attempt to get back. You covered president trump all through the campaign and a lot of what you saw this week must have been familiar to you, particularly that fuming against Michael Cohen, and for so long, they had a, you know, contentious at times relationship, but very close as I agree with Maggie, but I think any time president trump gives a long speech, and this was the longest of his presidency, two hours, he clearly is trying to make a point. So I agree with Maggie, but he was trying to wrestle back the headlines. Remember. He was in Vietnam on the cover front pages across the world, but so was Michael Cohen, and he had that failed summit in north Korea, and he was talking to his crowd. He was trying to camp them up, and by the end of it, he had turned that into a campaign I agree with Maggie. He may possibly be worried about something, but he's trying to wrestle back those headlines. Your book explains the polarization, and talk about the risk I brought up with Sara Fagen, and reaching impeachment which congressman Nadler seemed at times to be sensitive to in the interview today. He was quite sensitive to it, and I think he said the right thing. I think he said that, you know, they can't get too far out in front of public opinion when it comes to the issue of impeachment. They can't see two Republicans like they are trying to nullify the results of the last election. He denied to you that it was political, but there is nothing wrong with being a little bit political about this. This is politics. It's okay to be a little bit political. Yes, they have to follow the rule of law, and they have to do the right thing according to the law, and if the president obstructed justice merely obstructing justice, forget about obstruction of justice sometimes when we talk about obstruction of justice is a real thing and an impeachable offense. He's right, and they can't get too far out in front of public opinion on this. They have to bring public opinion on this along if that's where they are going to go. It was stunning to me to listen to the congressman say that he has absolutely obstructed justice when congress has had but a few hearings. He has made up his mind already, and the Democrats are going to look for as long as they are able, until they find something that they -- that they view as obstruction of justice. That is not -- that is not the honest way to approach it. It's already under way. One could make that argument, but you could make that argument that the majority of the country has made up their mind about the president, and you could make the point that Republicans have made up their mind. I think the problem for the Republicans in this is we ran a test case of what it's like to be running with this president in 2018. At the same level of approval ratings he has today, and that test case -- It's kind of climbing a little bit. 46% in the new poll. Which is where he was -- which is where he was right before the midterms which is where he was on inauguration day, and when the elections were held in November, 2018, Democrats had an historic election advantage. They won by 10 million votes and so if we run this out, the problem for the president isn't what his number is. The problem is he is un -- he has not convinced the majority of the country to support him. And we learn the investigations. You had this piece about the security clearances this week in Jared Kushner, and it's remarkable, this video of the president during your interview saying I didn't get involved. Bring us inside within that. Do you think he knows what you are talking about, and exactly what he's saying and all the details and knowing how much vulnerability he could have in the future? It's always hard to know exactly how aware he is of sort of future dangers, right? I mean, he tends to sort of exist in increments of time and says what he has to say. I asked him the question because we had been pursuing this tip that there was a memo, a Kelly memo -- Chief of staff? Correct. That he was directed or ordered to give this clearance to Jared Kushner by the president. Again, within the president's authority, and so when I asked the question, I thought he was going to say yes, and I thought I was going to go back and write a story about how this clearance had come about. They have the right to do it. Instead, he said no, and I don't think I have the authority to do that, and I was surprised and I'm not usually surprised in these discussions with him, but I was there because I thought he was just going to lean into what he could do. I don't know what the language was between him and John Kelly. I don't know what the specifics of the conversation were. I think only the two of them do. Could it be a situation where he said, just deal with it? And John Kelly took that as an order or did John Kelly press him and say, is this an order and he said, yes? I don't know. It seems to be he followed through on the documented requests starting tomorrow. A lot of this information is either going to get locked up in the courts or we'll see it trickling out over the next Over the next few years possibly. What I got from the Nadler interview is what is the north star? If it's no longer the Mueller report or obstruction of justice, is anything big enough to take down the president? I don't know about that, but when you lay out everything they had there, the emoluments violations, looking at his tax returns, and potential abuse of power, obstruction of justice, it seems like we have quite a year ahead. I don't think it's benefit -- it doesn't necessarily benefit Democrats to impeach the president politically. I think that's one of the questions I wanted to get to. We're running over time now, but is it possible we're seeing an emerging democratic strategy that you simply keep on doing the investigations and never reach the actual question of whether to open up the proceedings? That depends on the evidence, but I think it's much better for the Democrats, if they don't get to the final stage. What is the point of that? The point is just politics and, you know, if they have direct evidence to implicate the president or someone around him, they should -- they should go there, but for them to go down a road where they have no end game, it seems like it's very disruptive to the country. I think if you have a president who has broken the law as Michael Cohen alleges -- we don't know that, but he says that, and a president who has obstructed justice, which it seems he has done on national television, in front of our faces and on Twitter, there is a point to bringing all that out.

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

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