Rep Joaquin Castro; On The Road To Trump Impeachment

May 19, 2017

It’s been a topsy-turvy week for the Trump White House. The administration has been dealing with the aftermath of the firing of FBI Director James Comey. If Trump thought the dismissal of Comey would shut down investigations into his campaign’s alleged connection with Russian interference in American presidential politics, then that was a miscalculation. That firing, public humiliation of Comey and the changing story told to the public about that decision only added fuel to the fire of those looking for answers. And it resulted in the last thing Trump may have wanted; a special counsel to investigate. Also now there is more public discussion of presidential impeachment. Houston Congressman Al Green, a Democrat, called for impeachment on the floor of the House.

I rise today with a heavy heart. I rise today with a sense of responsibility and duty to the people who have elected me. A sense of duty to this country. 

A sense of duty to the Constitution of the United States of America.

I rise today, Mr. Speaker. To call for the impeachment of the president of the United States of America. For obstruction of justice. I do not do this for political purposes. Mr. Speaker, I do this because I believe in the great ideals that this country stands for liberty and justice for all.

The notion that we should have government of the people by the people for the people.

"This is about my position. This is about what I believe. And this is where I stand. I will not be moved. The President must be impeached," Green said on the floor. "For those who do not know, impeachment does not mean that the President would be found guilty. It simply means that the House of Representatives will bring charges against the President. It's similar to an indictment but not quite the same thing."

San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro, a democrat, and member of the house intelligence committee joins us to discuss the developments.

Davies:

Representative Castro you said on Monday if the evidence bears out that President Donald Trump asked then FBI Director James Comey to shut down an investigation into the former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his possible ties to Russia while he was a member of the Trump campaign that Congress would likely go down the road of impeachment now. 

Does that assessment still hold?

Rep. Castro:

It absolutely does it. I think that if ultimately the evidence bears out that the President committed obstruction of justice that's a very serious offense and I believe that ultimately the Congress would go down the road of impeachment. 

Davies:

Now we do have some confirmation that these memos exist that track his conversations with Donald Trump. We haven't seen them publicly but they we know that they do exist. So how much weight does that have as evidence bearing out that the president Trump asked FBI director Comey to shut down the investigation. 

Rep. Castro:

Well, you're right. There have been public reports media reports about these memos but nobody had seen them. And so the first and most important thing is that we get a hold of those memos if they do exist and if they contain what has been reported then obviously that's a very serious offense committed by the President. 

Davies:

But the memos are written from James Coleman's recollection. He may have written them just a few hours after the conversation. But people may say that's not actual evidence. 

Rep. Castro:

Yeah, it will be important to also bring James Comey again to testify again before Congress and hear exactly his recollection of the conversation and how exactly he went about writing those memos. But remember also that these memos by FBI agents and officers are routinely admissible in court of law. So there is well-established precedent to giving them credence. 

Davies:

Now we do have a special counsel. This week Robert Mueller a former FBI director, well respected by both parties, who will be the special counsel to look into alleged links between the 2016 presidential campaign and Russia's election hacking. So how do you receive that news. 

Rep. Castro:

I think it's a strong and positive step that was taken by the deputy attorney general to appoint the special counsel that special counsel will be able to not only investigate in fact find but also prosecute any individuals who may be responsible for having committed crimes. And as I said most of all the American people deserve an answer to the question whether any of their fellow Americans coordinator conspired with the Russians who interfered with 2016. A lot of ships. And if that's the case only a special counsel would be able to prosecute those folks. 

Davies:

We've seen special counsels before and they are not quick. They're slow, careful, methodical and I would expect nothing less of Robert Mueller. So what kind of timeline that would be reasonable with reasonable expectation of how this would proceed?

Rep. Castro: 

You're right. This investigation both by the House and Senate and then also by the special counsel is going to take some time and nobody should expect that this is just going to be a few weeks or even a few months. It's going to take quite a while to get to the bottom of what happened.

Davies:

Like two years? That's what generally we've seen in the past with special counsels before they released their findings. 

Rep. Castro: 

It's hard to say exactly. But you know if I was just making an estimate I would say over a year.

Davies:

We've seen some people like Senator Lindsey Graham saying that the appointment of the special counsel sort of makes their investigation into the Trump campaign possible connections to the Russian hacking redundant and that they may not need to proceed with the Senate investigation because now we have Robert Mueller. Do you see it that way? 

Rep. Castro:

I disagree. I think this is an all hands on deck situation has many committees as possible they can investigate in fact find on this the better. Now remember that Lindsey Graham is running an investigation out of the Judiciary Subcommittee in the Senate. You still have the main Senate Intelligence Committee investigation going on and the House intelligence investigation going on. So even if Senator Graham were put aside his own investigation you still have those two main investigations going on in the Congress. 

Davies:

President Trump reacted to the naming of Robert Mueller as special counsel as something that "hurts our country." That's a quote. "Hurts our country." And also quote "The single greatest witch hunt in political history." What are these characterizations telling us about Donald Trump's reception of this information. 

Rep Castro:

Well, obviously I think most of the country disagrees with the president. I think his comments were hyperbolic obviously. But you know that's that's kind of his persona. So it's not a big surprise. 

Davies:

But are these investigations or are these efforts just Washington D.C. politics where the Democrats are trying to nullify the Electoral College's election of President Trump?

Rep Castro:

Know and remember this started because our intelligence agencies determined that Russia interfered with our 2016 election so the genesis for this was outside of the political world and really in the world of our intelligence agencies 

Davies:

Well, what about the argument that an impeachment of Donald Trump is really not going to overthrow the election you'll still have other Republicans who will take over the Oval Office and they will be able to still work on their agenda? 

Rep Castro:

That's right. I mean nobody is really negating the November 2016 election in terms of you know trying to somehow get Hillary Clinton installed as president. If we were to see President Trump gone remember you're still going to have a Republican president come into office looking at the Republican legislative agenda. 

Davies:

We know that they want tax reform. And also they are still the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act which is still only halfway there. Do you see the Republican legislative agenda still moving forward or are all of these investigations and the scandal going to derail that? 

Rep. Castro:

Well, one of the most unfortunate actually the most unfortunate part of all of this is that the American people want their Congress to work on things like jobs and health care and education real substantive policies. And Washington has been consumed and the Congress has been consumed by all of this rush of stuff. And when you combine that with the fact that you have a president who has no governing experience at all and has shown himself either unwilling or unable to work with the Congress. Remember for the first six weeks of his presidency he didn't work on any legislation with the Congress. It was all executive orders. And he's continued to use executive orders rather than negotiating and working even with Republicans like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell it's not even about fighting Democrats remember Republicans control every chamber of government at this point the presidency both chambers of Congress. And so part of what has stalled their legislative package it's two things. 

Number one it's a Russia thing. Secondly it's the fact that they've not been able to work together and because of that there really isn't much coming out of Congress right now. 

Davies:

It's been a period of relative calm in the world since Donald Trump has become president. We really haven't had a serious terrorist attack on American soil anywhere. 

Should we be be wondering... it's always not a question of if but when. And how will we be able to respond if we are sort of at each other's throats on this scandal?

Rep. Castro:

We always have to be vigilant watching out for protecting our homeland and the United States. Fortunately in addition to the elected officials who oversee that you also have highly trained professionals first responders people at the Department of Homeland Security and others who also from day to day are monitoring that issue or any threat. Now it's true that part of the challenge here is that President Trump has left a lot of top positions at basically every department for the federal government unfilled. And it's not simply because they haven't been confirmed by the Senate. There are just many many many slots where the president has literally not nominated anyone to take on those jobs including many jobs. The White House which is of course the nerve center for all of this. So in that sense it's quite troubling. And you know the president should with a quicker pace start to nominate people for those jobs. 

Davies: One could argue that the reason why we've had this relative calm of no terrorist attacks on American soil is because of the great intelligence agencies that we have and the men and women who work in these agencies who frequently put themselves in danger working undercover. But now we've seen that President Trump has given Russian leaders information, top intel, to them which some have argued would have a chilling effect upon us getting information from our allies and even from our own agents who were concerned about their own safety because they're worried about that leak. 

Rep. Castro:

The president from a few days ago confirmed that he shared very sensitive and highly classified information with the Russians. That really could do a few things. First it could make our allies more reluctant to share information with the United States but also the way we got that of course was through sources who are who are in those areas. And so you're putting people's lives at risk. Would you disclose certain details about that information. And so it's highly dangerous to individuals and also endangers national security because you make your alibis less willing to share sensitive intelligence information with you. So what I've said is that we need to figure out whether he's done that before and certainly hope that he will do it again.