TF 35: Are We F***ed?
Jennie Josephson [00:00:00] Hi. Producer Jennie here. The Talking Feds team is just back from the Texas Tribune Festival where we recorded some terrific episodes. One that's in your feed now about the latest in the endless Escher painting that is the Trump investigative landscape, but also a really strong episode coming soon about voting rights that is really just a must listen. Before that we were in San Francisco taping episodes about Russian organized crime and a really thought provoking episode about a troubling topic for me personally, The federal death penalty with a last minute guest who is sure to generate some, what's the word, interest. Go check out Harry's Twitter feed if you want to know who it is. But back to Texas. Sometimes the best episodes happen because another episode hit a snag. You think you're doing a huge weighty episode about the presidency and the next thing you know you're going for huevos rancheros at Cisco's in East Austin. Credit to Matt Miller for the recommendation. And then Joyce Vance suggests we invite Mieke Eoyang, Vice President for the Third Way's National Security Program. Mieke had a long career on Capitol Hill which turned out to be invaluable for this episode.
Jennie Josephson [00:01:19] When I walked into Cisco's that morning when my bag of microphones, it was like the Saturday Breakfast version of that famous Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks. There was Asha Rangappa at the counter, Matt and his awesome mom Debbie finishing up their breakfast, and when Harry and Joyce arrived we had a quorum for a casual no holds barred discussion that really is the ideal that drives Talking Feds. Just a bunch of regulars sitting in the back of a great breakfast joint trying to figure out what's going on in the political and legal landscape we find ourselves in. If you sometimes have the show on in the background with kids around, we did drop some F bombs so there's your one minute warning. Otherwise enjoy, and here's Harry.
Harry Litman [00:02:02] Welcome to the inaugural edition of Feds in Taquerias Talking Trash on Trump. We are here in Cisco's in Austin, the best taqueria in all of Texas. And we are here today with an unbelievable collection of estimable feds and some great migas that are arriving at the table now. But we have around the table Matt Miller, Jennie Josephson, our producer who may jump in now and now and again on this, Joyce Vance, Mieke Eoyang, Asha Rangappa, me, and Debbie Miller. And our topic today seems only fitting given the tumultuous week we have and the months we're looking forward to. Are we fucked?
Jennie Josephson [00:02:59] Oooo.
Harry Litman [00:03:00] So feds that's the only topic of the day. So there, I've broken the profanity barrier and now I've said it you guys can feel free. It's been broken. Feds, are we fucked?
Asha Rangappa [00:03:11] Are we or Trump?
Harry Litman [00:03:12] The country.
Matt Miller [00:03:14] Harry we've been fucked for at least three years now. The better question is are we about to get unfucked. And I think possibly for the first time in a while I think possibly yeah. I think everyone at this table has very strong feelings about what Trump has done to the country, what he's done to the executive branch, the way he's abused his office, and people were hopeful all through the Mueller investigation that at the end of it it would result in some kind of conclusion that would lead to at the best his removal from office. That obviously didn't happen. And you know in the last week or so I think the evidence we've seen of continued misbehavior or misconduct on his part. It's the first time I think in a while I at least have thought there's a chance that there may be some consequence for him.
Harry Litman [00:04:01] Okay. But but then how does it look for the country? Let's give the best case scenario and he really is sort of you know exiled in permanent shame and disrepute. What's the country look like then? How bitter world will the conflict have been? Does it actually augur you know peace in our time? When will this you know national nightmare truly have have passed? And that's of course if it plays out as you say and maybe others around the table think that's a little rosy.
Joyce Vance [00:04:38] So you know I view this as a really sad moment. I mean I I get that there's been a lot of jubilation this weekend with people being really happy about this news. I just don't come from that place. I just think that we're in a place of profound sadness thinking about what this president did. I see Matt, like, rolling his eyes at me but I'm sincere. What people did. We all took oaths right. The people around this table, we served the country in the Constitution. I don't think any of us would have done what we're learning about today. so I think there is a lot to come. It may have a good outcome. The political process who knows how that's going to play out Trump is very good at taking what looks like a clear political path off line. But it's not a happy moment.
Matt Miller [00:05:21] So let me just say one thing for the reason I was rolling my eyes is I've had that sadness for a long time. I didn't get sad about what he's done, when I saw this revelation this week, I've been sad about what he's done to the country and what he's done to to the executive branch. I think this was the first time in a while I felt some hope and some optimism probably too rosy. Probably probably optimism that'll be dashed as it's been dashed ever since he came onto the national stage. But at least a little bit of optimism that the abuses of power we've seen for three years will finally catch up with him.
Harry Litman [00:05:53] Okay. And then do you think. You know everyone will then say how they've been against him all the time, and the checks and balances will be restored, and what about the, you know, embittered Trump base.
Mieke Eoyang [00:06:07] Yeah I mean I I kind of want to set people's expectations a little bit here because I think this is really important that we're taking this step and we're saying this behavior is unacceptable for the present United States and the chamber that is constitutionally empowered to hold him accountable is starting that process. But I don't want people's expectations set so high that like this is going to result in him leaving office and the end of our long national nightmare. It's possible, entirely possible that we go through all this. We are treated to six to nine months of hearing more and more and more about the abuses that he's committed as Congress investigates, and we have a trial in the Senate, all to have the Senate refuse to remove him from office. Now look, I retain a glimmer of hope that there's so much frustration with Trump that this is like the tipping point we had with Saudi Arabia and Jamal Khashoggi where everybody is frustrated and then all of a sudden something happens, which by itself probably wouldn't have done the difference, but on top of all the other dry tinder out there sets the whole thing on fire. And maybe they just say I can't take this anymore I'd rather have Mike Pence as the president and like we're moving on. But I'm not confident that's going to happen yet.
Jennie Josephson [00:07:14] And is that better? Turns to Matt Miller. Is that better?
Matt Miller [00:07:19] Is what better? If that at the end of.
Jennie Josephson [00:07:21] If all of a sudden you have a Pence presidency.
Matt Miller [00:07:23] Yeah it's absolutely better. Look I disagree with Mike Pence's politics, I think he's been a coward throughout this administration, but Trump is a is a singular problem as President of United States apart from politics, apart from policies. He is singularly unfit. He's you know he is he's a demagogue in the way that Mike Pence is not. I would. It's hard to think of someone in the heart. If you look across more than 300 million Americans it actually is hard to think of someone more dangerous as president than Trump's. Absolutely Pence is better.
Joyce Vance [00:07:51] But I would put one asterisk on that Matt. I agree with you. We don't know how direct Mike Pence's role was in the Ukraine issue. You know he was over there. He met at the president's request. He made some statements in a press conference following it. We need to know if he's complicit in this whole scheme. He may have some some implications as well.
Harry Litman [00:08:11] Oh sure. Look he's a he's a cold cowardly politician like others but I agree with Matt. That you know that. I mean Trump I think is the first president never even had a political experience could actually come to the job with the sort of deep that doesn't even tried to have nods to democratic institutions or morality. I want to say one thing in support of Matt, or that I agree with which is, even if there were no one around the table is looking at removal. But what a what an important boon for the country if the god damn, that's two profanities, Senate Republicans are forced to say something to take some stand about the aberrant behavior we've been seeing for years that they've been able to duck completely. That alone would you know I think be an important moment for the democracy, not not just politically but for the broader points at stake. I'm sorry Asha I think yeah.
Asha Rangappa [00:09:07] I think that there are two variables that we just don't know how they're gonna play out and how they can impact the outcome. One is that Trump is crazy. And the more he loses control, and I've said this on this podcast before, that he will spontaneously combust as we watch. He may continue he may commit more crimes as he tries to stop impeachment from happening. And that that can be a scary prospect but in other words I think as his deterioration becomes evident, I mean I think it will because he has issues, narcissistic issues. You know these authoritarian tendencies that could alarm Republicans even more than say the underlying complaint. The other thing is that this particular issue, I mean, the difference between now and the Mueller investigation which largely concerned his activities during the campaign, is that they're taking place while he's in office. And it is leaving a huge bureaucratic paper trail which is leading to many other people, we've already seen a resignation of a State Department official. I think the trail will lead to obviously Bill Barr, to head of the Office of Legal Counsel Steve Engle. In other words there is a way in which what is happening now is a scandal along the proportions of something like Iran-Contra, less like something like Monica Lewinsky. Do you know what I'm saying in terms of having to take it seriously.
Harry Litman [00:10:38] Right or even Watergate there was the whole John Mitchell went to jail, Haldeman went to jail, Erlichman went to jail, the whole crowd was sort of cleaned out and then thereafter was in sort of permanent disrepute in the history books of the democracy. I mean you know you wonder if that's possible. You also wonder, Matt, although I don't want to get too much past you, if there is a sort of Goldwater moment, you know ahead for Trump, who's Goldwater? It obviously is not going to be I think Mitch McConnell who has stature in the Senate to actually and I don't even mean trying to talk sense to him but actually break the monolithic hold on his...
Matt Miller [00:11:22] Well, so I think there's a scale, and it goes from people who are most likely to do it at one end and it slides over to people that are less likely to do it but would have more of an impact because they're less likely. Mitt Romney is the most likely person to do it. I think he'd have less of an impact than say someone like Lamar Alexander who's been in the Senate for a long time as an institutionalist and probably doesn't care too much for Trump. Ben Sasse.
Harry Litman [00:11:44] They probably all don't care too much for Trump.
Matt Miller [00:11:46] They all don't, but some of them. But do you have your Thom Tillis and David Perdue's of the world who are absolute cowards or Tom Cotton who are never going to do anything. Lindsey Graham has kind of fallen into that category you would have thought him in the former. He's clearly a.
Joyce Vance [00:11:58] Lindsay Graham just tweeted this morning that oh it's just hearsay there's nothing to it. Nothing to see here.
Harry Litman [00:12:03] Yeah.
Mieke Eoyang [00:12:03] But Lindsay Graham gets easily captured in these things.
Harry Litman [00:12:05] Mieke has the best retort to that I've ever heard.
Mieke Eoyang [00:12:08] Oh yeah. No look I mean what.
Harry Litman [00:12:10] Linda Tripp.
Mieke Eoyang [00:12:11] Right. No look, the secondhand witness thing, it's like you get secondhand witnesses all the time, right, who start these things again. Linda Tripp was not a firsthand witness to what happened.
Joyce Vance [00:12:20] It's where every public corruption case starts.
Mieke Eoyang [00:12:22] But, I would just say like if you're looking for who I think is the litmus test, we're here in Texas, I think Cornyn is the question. Right. He's up for re-election.
Harry Litman [00:12:32] Wow.
Mieke Eoyang [00:12:32] He's a traditional Republican. The question is whether or not he thinks he can survive this with or without the president, and does the president help him or hurt him? I think that's a really important person to watch. And if he doesn't break from the president because he thinks that he will go down in his re-election if he doesn't stick with him, then that gives you a really strong indication of where the caucus is for the Republicans.
Harry Litman [00:12:54] I just want to point out we have one really strong nod on my left, Debbie Miller, who if you could see her you would know immediately whom she's related to at the table, but the name also helps. Does anyone want to make her point including Debbie.
Debbie Miller [00:13:10] Yes as a Texan, I would be thrilled if John Cornyn would stand up and do what's right. But we have no hope that he will ever do that.
Matt Miller [00:13:19] I agree. I think John Cornyn would be the seventy fifth or eighth vote to convict the President not the sixty seventh.
Mieke Eoyang [00:13:25] Yeah.
Matt Miller [00:13:26] He'd go out he'd go after everyone else came along and made it happen. I wish you, I hope you're right. Boy I don't see it.
Mieke Eoyang [00:13:34] When you look at the numbers though like you you're probably going to get, right, you have to get over a certain threshold, you need at least 15 of them going together, and like even then it can't just be barely that, it's going to be at that number where it's like a significant majority. So you know. Romney, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, those guys, right, who feel like they were libertarians they can't stand this sort of overreach of the president. I think they're more likely. But it's really when you get into traditional Republicans who are Republican and deeply red before Trump walked in the door who say.
Jennie Josephson [00:14:09] Like Lindsey Graham.
Mieke Eoyang [00:14:10] Well Lindsey Graham has just. Lindsey Graham was in the house when I started. And let me just tell you Lindsey Graham is somebody who is like.
Harry Litman [00:14:18] A head case?
Mieke Eoyang [00:14:20] You know it's not just that he is like. You think he's Theon Greyjoy but he's really Reek. Like he is submissive to power no matter what that is. He was like that to Newt Gingrich, when McCain was the nominee he like cozied up to McCain. As soon as McCain was gone, he went to Trump. He tries to find the power center in the Republican Party.
[00:14:39] cross talk.
Mieke Eoyang [00:14:39] And and yes totally like become submissive to him.
Asha Rangappa [00:14:44] I thought he was going to be Snape.
Mieke Eoyang [00:14:46] Nope.
Matt Miller [00:14:46] He's gonna be what?
Jennie Josephson [00:14:47] Snape has too much gravitas.
Joyce Vance [00:14:49] Yes I thought he was going to be Snape early on and I think one of the enduring disappointing.
Harry Litman [00:14:54] And from the campaign too. I mean he's got to walk back some pretty serious stuff he said.
Joyce Vance [00:14:56] One of the enduring disappointments of this administration has been Lindsey Graham's apparent loss of his spine.
Mieke Eoyang [00:15:02] I thought Bob Barr was going to be Snape.
Matt Miller [00:15:04] Bill Barr. Bill I've made that mistake many times.
Harry Litman [00:15:08] No. Nobody comes second to me on that.
Joyce Vance [00:15:10] You know I wrote that piece in Slate During the confirmation saying the bar shouldn't be confirmed and took so much abuse from so many people.
Harry Litman [00:15:17] And you're still taking it.
Matt Miller [00:15:18] I was there with you Chuck. Chuck Rosenberg was on.
Harry Litman [00:15:22] Oh I see.
Joyce Vance [00:15:23] I thought that he should not have been confirmed.
Harry Litman [00:15:25] I see.
Asha Rangappa [00:15:25] Can we talk about Bill Barr and just what role he is playing in this whole thing.
Joyce Vance [00:15:33] And what he's doing in Italy, right? He apparently left for Italy after this broke on an unscheduled trip. Matt you know a lot about attorney general travel does that ever happen?
Matt Miller [00:15:42] I don't know if it was unscheduled, it was unannounced. So. Attorney Generals do go to Italy. I had a great trip to Rome with Eric Holder. We had a nice time. Not announcing to the press is very odd. The attorney general always announces when he goes overseas so I don't know what's going on there.
Jennie Josephson [00:15:57] Is there a return itinerary?
Matt Miller [00:16:00] That's a good question. Is there an extradition treaty with Italy? I'm pretty sure we have one.
Harry Litman [00:16:06] Do you think there's going to be a moment in the next, everyone seems to think it would be a really huge change from dynamic for anything like a move to happen. Do you think there will even be in doubt do you think there'll be a week between now and the end of next year where some kind of actual trial will be a, you know, there never was with Clinton for example no one thought for a day he was going to be removed. Is there, do you expect the same dynamic here or do you think they'll actually be some drama to this at some point?
Joyce Vance [00:16:44] We're only a week in. I suspect that there are a lot more shoes to drop off of the centipede right to quote John McCain. It's going to get worse for this president. The question is whether it will get bad enough to put pressure on these holdout Republicans. And I noticed that Trump was very quick on Twitter to try to line up, to sort of shore up his support. One of his early tweets was to my Senator, Richard Shelby, almost right after the whistleblower story broke and it's interesting to contemplate what's keeping these Republicans from commenting really if I [cough]. Excuse me. [Cough]
Harry Litman [00:17:19] Cheek. Yeah it's a good place isn't it.
Joyce Vance [00:17:21] It is it's spicy. [cough]
Matt Miller [00:17:24] It's spicy for Alabamans. For Texans it's fine.
Harry Litman [00:17:27] You call this spicy Joyce?
Joyce Vance [00:17:30] Do not start. [cough]
Matt Miller [00:17:33] Can I say one thing about that? So I think in this question about what Senate Republicans will do, I'm with everyone not having a lot of faith. But I think the most interesting dynamic this week has been how quiet a lot of them have been.
Harry Litman [00:17:45] They don't know what to say.
Matt Miller [00:17:45] People interpret it a lot times Oh look at what cowards they are they won't say anything. I actually look at that differently. The fact that they're not saying something means they don't know where to. They don't know where to go on this. They don't know.
Harry Litman [00:17:56] The White House is screaming at them to say something right?
Matt Miller [00:17:58] Presumably. And I think partly they don't know what shoe is going to drop. And I think partly the really important dynamic is the one that Asha mentioned which if you were gonna try to set a percentage on whether the president is going to be convicted and removed from office right now, but let's say you set it based on the current events at 20. You really have to factor in the chance that he does something worse, that he makes his problem worse and they have to know that. I mean when he goes out and threatens the other witnesses in the case as he did the other day, he's making the problem worse. He's increasing the chance I think that some of those that are willing to come forward and testify and make it he gets.
Harry Litman [00:18:32] ...After all after the Mueller stuff, incredibly brazen.
Matt Miller [00:18:34] And you can see him going into a death spiral.
Asha Rangappa [00:18:37] He will go into a spiral of shame. My question to you guys is, Do we think as I said before that we have this now bureaucratic paper trail people are going to be implicated. So. Will there be I think it was Preet on Twitter who said it's C.Y.A. Time and it's going to be first movers who get get the advantage. So as prosecutors want to hear your thoughts.
Joyce Vance [00:19:03] It's a slightly weird dynamic right? If this was a normal administration and some U.S. attorney was going to pick up this case, all these folks in the White House with exposure, their lawyers would be jockeying to have their client be the first person to cooperate best deal. What do you do when it's Congress and we know from.
Harry Litman [00:19:23] And there's not going to be a special counsel.
Joyce Vance [00:19:25] Well here's the deal you know we know from Ollie North and from Iran Contra. That when Congress gives people immunity that can sometimes impair a future federal prosecution. I'm not sure anybody is going to want to take that risk. So it may be that it takes a little bit longer for folks to come forward and cooperate.
Mieke Eoyang [00:19:45] I can have a different view on this and I actually think the Volcker resignation on the day that he got the subpoena is actually really instructive like we.
Harry Litman [00:19:54] Give us the facts of that for people who don't know.
Mieke Eoyang [00:19:56] Curt Volcker, who is the special representative special envoy for Ukraine, who is doing as a private citizen, he's the head of the McCain Institute, had been trying to figure out and and deal with sort of cabin the damage that Giuliani was doing. And the day that he received a subpoena from the house. He resigned. Now one of the things, and I saw this when we did investigations and had Comey testify when I was on the House Intelligence Committee, a federal executive who is a former federal executive who wants to come forward and testify to Congress the executive branch has a hard time invoking executive privilege to gag that person from testimony which says to me.
Harry Litman [00:20:35] Doesn't Stop these guys. But they legally.
Mieke Eoyang [00:20:36] But this says to me that if that Volcker wants to talk.
Harry Litman [00:20:39] Yes.
Mieke Eoyang [00:20:40] Right? That's what that says to me his resignation. And so then the other thing is and I kind of disagree with Joyce on this right. The Congressional grants of immunity that were given in Iran-Contra were given to people who were actually at the center of the thing and they weren't really trying to get to the president. There were real questions about whether or not Reagan was even with it enough to have approved the stuff. So you got to be careful about at what level you're doing this. But we're talking about the bureaucrats who put stuff into the database who are witness to these things who are worried that they might be feeling facing obstruction charges but aren't part of the attempt to bring pressure to bear, those people getting testimonial immunity would encourage them to come forward and be honest with Congress as witnesses. As to what's going on.
Joyce Vance [00:21:21] I agree with that. The problem is whether Congress can give immunity that will carry over if there are subsequent criminal prosecutions. And Congress can't do that. Congress can't say here Mr. Witness we're giving you immunity from federal prosecution. So what the witnesses will have to do is hope that they get the Iran Contra result where they found out that they couldn't be prosecuted only after they were convicted and a long drawn out appellate process. That's a big risk to take.
Harry Litman [00:21:48] There's one important exception to that by the way. So first of all she's exactly right although they can make make it that the prosecution can't use any of the things that they said in testimony. But there's actually a provision in the Whistleblower Protection Act that says they can provide the whistleblower, and I think this is one grand and where they can give the whistleblower immunity the Department Justice gets to weigh in but it doesn't get to veto, and that does insulate against any criminal liability. And I see that happening.
Mieke Eoyang [00:22:21] But it's not just this whistleblower remember whistleblower protections run to people who come to Congress with allegations of wrongdoing. So it's not like this whistle stop there's only one Ppass on this that one person gets and then everyone else is screwed. People who are subpoenaed by Congress and are told You have to tell us what's going on. There are constitutional protections for that communication and so Congress is going to really push hard to protect people especially the only charge they're facing is potential obstruction for not testifying.
Joyce Vance [00:22:50] Yeah as a defense lawyer though I'm still hesitant to let my client do it because Congress can't put you in jail. But a U.S. attorney in two years can.
Matt Miller [00:22:58] Most of it by most of the witnesses we're talking about aren't going to have criminal liability here. Yeah. So it's a very small part of it.
Joyce Vance [00:23:05] I don't know they're taking stuff and putting it on the wrong system. I think the problem is we don't know the facts, they do.
Harry Litman [00:23:11] It's Washington, it's a scandal, and they will be scared.
Matt Miller [00:23:13] They will be scared but I think that's actually the key point. The thing that brings institutions down when they face scandal is when key players, key individuals, decide that their interests have diverged from the institution and they have to protect them. And sometimes protecting themselves means testifying so you're protected. Not in a legal sense but if you have the president careening around inside the bureaucracy trying to retaliate against witnesses these witnesses that say the only way to protect myself is to actually come forward and I might lead the removal of a president who can't then retaliate against me. The whistleblower has given a roadmap to Congress that the witnesses aren't named but he names multiple U.S. officials. He's going to presumably identify them to the Intelligence Committee and all of those individuals. I mean I think the thing that's going to determine how this goes, and to a large extent is whether those people are willing to come forward and talk. And we've seen political appointees in this administration so far not being willing to do so unless it was in the Mueller investigation when they were they had to do it or they were going have to go to the grand jury and president kind of authorized it. No one's been willing to come to talk to Congress. I just have the feeling it's going to be different here.
Harry Litman [00:24:21] I do too and I think actually Pelosi, I criticized this at first, I think she made a really smart move spreading the jurisdiction among many committees. There'll be some really sort of low profile staff interviews in this committee or that it won't be the klieg lights moment. It won't be like Fawn Hall. You'll just be able to go in and talk to staff or have the testimony on record and keep going then that of course will also help something they're trying to do, that's smart to do. Make it fast and focused on this charge.
Joyce Vance [00:24:48] Yeah. I sort of tend to agree with that although you know I'm not...
Harry Litman [00:24:54] There's a strong endorsement.
Joyce Vance [00:24:55] Well I say that for this reason: Congress has not been a strong focused performer. And I don't mean that as a critic of the committees or the people involved. The process is messy. It's bulky. Typically people play by the rules to some extent in this situation and this White House has said rules? No. Uh-uh. You know we're not going to show up. So I'm not positive what we see going forward on that front.
Matt Miller [00:25:23] Two quick things, one this is a different committee. Two, they're getting a lot of offers of help right now.
Joyce Vance [00:25:29] Oh really, Matt. Do tell.
Harry Litman [00:25:33] And three I just think the political landscape is different. I don't see how the White House can just you know unilaterally with every little witness try to play the same you know stalling game with meritless legal submissions.
Asha Rangappa [00:25:48] On the removal piece, I have another thread of discussion I'm interested in your takes. Do we believe that Trump has the capacity for rational evaluation of this outcome? Because. It seems to me that there comes a point where in his, if he's a normal sane rational person, that if it reaches a particular tipping point it is in his the interest to resign. Having made arrangements to be pardoned for all of his actions while in office potentially, and I know that this will make viewers mad, potentially negotiate or be able to give a pardon to his family members maybe even cut a deal with New York attorney general. And step out and then go in and create his TV empire and walk off the face of the earth or at least walk out of the Oval Office. Will he do that?
Jennie Josephson [00:26:47] Oh he's gonna be with us. He's gonna be with us forever.
Asha Rangappa [00:26:48] Yeah. But will he do you know. And in my opinion I know when I posited this before. I get a lot of angry responses. That's like No way. Not until he walks out in an orange jumpsuit and I'm like You know what. Going back to what Matt said. The destruction he has wrought on our institutions and our government. I just want him out.
Joyce Vance [00:27:12] Getting him out would be a virtue.
Asha Rangappa [00:27:14] I want him out and he can do like even if it means he walks free forever even if it means his kids walk free. I would be willing to make that trade. A) Do you think he would? Or and or do you think the American public would stand for that?
Mieke Eoyang [00:27:28] I think really it's not so much about what he would do or outright what we would want and what is just and fair and like. You know makes people feel like people been held accountable for wrongdoing. It's really the first question you asked. Like what would he do and I feel like he would see it as weakness right? I don't see a scenario where he's willing to flee the White House. Even with pardons because like he just won't be able to make the kind of money that he wants to make. Look I was in Ukraine a couple of years ago...
Asha Rangappa [00:27:58] Why not? Why wouldn't he make the money he wants to make? He can create a TV empire and make more money than he's making now.
Mieke Eoyang [00:28:02] No because he's looking about what the way that he's making money now is entirely because everyone is trying to curry favor with the president. Otherwise bookings are way down and every single one of his resorts. Deutsche Bank is the only bank that will still lend to him and there's some question about what's behind that. I think that he's looking at real financial ruin the minute he leaves the White House and I think like he's probably calculated that like all the bookings at Trump hotel there's a foreign governments. The only reason that that airport near Turnberry is still alive and that Turnberry is still happening is in large part because he's funding U.S. military personnel there. Like I think he's in real trouble if he can't use the powers of the White House to direct revenue into his real estate holdings.
Asha Rangappa [00:28:45] My counterpoint to you. I think that he could like he has enough of the strong base that he can say f all y'all. And take the entire viewer base of Fox News to his own televistion station and be a disruptor on the side. Decimate the Republican Party and just say goodbye and laugh his way to the bank.
Joyce Vance [00:29:06] Totally agree with that. He's been trying to take out Fox News for the last six months. I mean why unless that's part of his future.
Matt Miller [00:29:13] I'm gonna agree with Mieke for a different reason. I think he will never cut a deal and leave. I think he will resign in no circumstance because resigning is admitting defeat.
Asha Rangappa [00:29:21] Yes.
Matt Miller [00:29:22] And he is never able to admit defeat. If he leaves it's gonna be because he's convicted by the Senate or voted out by the voters. Have a hard time seeing the war in and he will leave saying he's been treated unfairly and he will go out the door saying it was a travesty and the deep state finally got him. I have a hard time seeing him walking out on his own.
Joyce Vance [00:29:39] Do you think he'll walk out the door voluntarily if it comes down to it?
Matt Miller [00:29:44] I don't think it'll be up to him.
Harry Litman [00:29:47] You think Marshalls will come in?
Mieke Eoyang [00:29:47] I think I yes I think that people have to be like look. The constitutional process has worked its way. You've been removed from the White House and now you have to go and the real question right like. The Director of the Secret Service...
Harry Litman [00:29:57] Fake news, fake news.
Mieke Eoyang [00:29:58] He's not a loyalist, right? The director of Secret Service not a loyalist. Esper is not as committed to Trump as they think like I just think it's, that's. If the Constitutional process works well he will be escorted out of the White House. But I do not think. These...Viktor Yanukovich is going to like get on a helicopter and like flee to Moscow. He's not...the Russians are not extracting their ass out.
Jennie Josephson [00:30:26] Hi Jennie again. So as I was sitting at the table trying not to get my microphone cables covered in queso, I had so many questions. If you have questions for our feds we have an e-mail for that it's questions at Talking Feds dot com. You can always ask us questions on Twitter or Facebook but e-mail is a really simple way for me to find them. That's questions at Talking Feds dot com. OK back to breakfast.
Asha Rangappa [00:30:58] I do have a question for Mieke in terms of process.
Harry Litman [00:31:00] We're coming back in? All right. OK. So. Mieke we're lucky to have you and Matt to some degree. Sorry. So just shut up and just go I'm going to shut up now.
Jennie Josephson [00:31:17] Asha, can you grab the mice and ask the question? And then you can follow up.
Asha Rangappa [00:31:19] So my questions are What is Pelosi's strat--I mean you said that it makes sense to spread out these investigations across these committees. What advantage does that confer? Does the impeachment inquiry formally happening only from the Judiciary Committee or are they all now doing impeachment inquiry? Like it's kind of confusing they haven't been very clear on that. Second, my question is the subpoenas to Pompeo include you know taking depositions right?
Harry Litman [00:31:49] Or have documents.
Matt Miller [00:31:51] And depositions.
Asha Rangappa [00:31:52] But I didn't know that Congress could depose people like so they just do this in private behind the scenes just like a regular court deposition.
Mieke Eoyang [00:31:59] Yes there are no procedural guidance in the Constitution on this and even on House rules it doesn't say what has to happen. There've been a variety of ways in which impeachment investigations have been conducted in the house in the past presidents typically go through judiciary. But Spiro Agnew went through a special committee. And so they were starting an investigation when he cut a deal with prosecutors to avoid prosecution. But the way that Pelosi has the setup now is that she's called on six committees to do investigations named them formally as part of an impeachment inquiry. It's very clear that this because this started with the Ukraine whistleblower.
Asha Rangappa [00:32:33] Does she need to do a resolution?
Mieke Eoyang [00:32:33] No not for the investigative stage. She just needs to say what this is. Eventually...
Harry Litman [00:32:37] There's actually a case on this from Nixon, Walter Nixon a judge who was impeached he challenged it because it was through a committee court said you whenever you want Congress.
Mieke Eoyang [00:32:46] Right exactly because there's no specific constitutional guidance so like that. Nobody can challenge that. So basically she's saying this is part of an impeachment inquiry. The Articles of Impeachment themselves will likely be presented through judiciary and voted on Judiciary and sent to the floor. But it's possible they could go straight to the floor. The inquiry itself though can be done across a range of committees depending on their jurisdiction. It's actually smart to spread it out because this is huge. The number of allegations. There's six different committees engaged as of now and that doesn't include armed services which may have some information that can gather here. But in spreading the bandwidth what you get is there are a lot more staff and counsels who can be involved in gathering the information reviewing the information taking on different pieces of this. So right it's very clear that they have issued the subpoenas to Pompeo through foreign affairs because that's the committee that oversees the State Department but they said in the letter they've consulted with Schiff on this question. So Schiff is very clearly. Sort of the strategic force behind this whole thing.
Asha Rangappa [00:33:50] Does Trump have any. Does he get to have his own lawyers and cross-examine any of these people at this stage? I saw that...
Mieke Eoyang [00:33:59] No.
Asha Rangappa [00:33:59] ...Ross Garber suggested that Clinton did in the in the House stage. So what was that. Why would this be different?
Mieke Eoyang [00:34:07] So that was different because you had an independent counsel, right, Ken Starr, who was investigating and that was part of a lot of the investigative work that was done was part of civil suits against the president where he did have the right to challenge. I've taken you know we've taken depositions in the house on specific oversight issues related to a variety of sometimes classified things. You can take those with staff or basically staff interviews. You don't have to have them as adversarial at that point. The president will be entitled to lawyers when it goes to the Senate for the trial. Right. Presided over by the Supreme Court justice. And those don't have to be politicians he's probably better off legally that they're not the impeachment managers tend to be members of the House and, conveniently for Pelosi, she has a ton of former prosecutors to choose from for that group. I think that by the time you get to trial in the Senate the president will have seen all the information that's out there provided by people but I don't know what the procedural set is at this stage. In some impeachment inquiries they will pass a resolution that sets out what the procedural powers are of the different committees. She has not done that yet. So now they're just relying on their traditional oversight powers and subpoenas and requests letters to be able to get where they are. They could try and amp that up later with a formal resolution that changes the procedural set of the committees but they haven't done that yet.
Harry Litman [00:35:34] And just to state the obvious corollary there in me it's been so frustrating in these months since the Mueller report came out. First Congress will discuss shall we call McGann and then call and then fight and and then have another skirmish one at a time at a time. And then one of the great virtues maybe the greatest of the broad span is speed you're doing things simultaneously and there's a real sense of momentum now for the Democrats and Pelosi doesn't want to lose.
Joyce Vance [00:36:03] You know I think one of the unanswered questions here is what role the Attorney General William Barr has played in all of this. It looks to me like we're now at a point where the Justice Department declined to open an investigation into the whistleblower complaint because Barr or or someone in his orbit made a decision that getting opposition research from the Ukraine, getting Ukraine to open a criminal investigation or prosecute a case against your key opponents kid and maybe your key opponent, that that was not a thing of value. That is a calling in the ultimate support from your attorney general, an attorney general who has proven time and time again, that he is not the people's attorney that he is the president's. And that I think is one of the biggest questions we need to know the facts. We need to know what happened. But Bill Barr's in Italy presumably eating lasagna. So so we just don't know.
Matt Miller [00:36:57] So I think there's something really interesting about Bill Barr here. First of all I think you're right. DOJ is role here the way they set up this catch 22 up where should this whistleblower complaint should not go to Congress. It should come to the department to investigate but oh by the way we're not even going to open an investigation. Oh but by the way even if we did open an investigation we of course can't indict the president which is the reason it supposed to go to Congress in the first place. They set up this bizarre system where the president is basically above the law. But the interesting thing to me here is the language that's been coming out of DOJ the past week about Barr. Barr has never been afraid to take a bullet for the president until now. He stood up at that press conference and completely defended the president. I think bent the law he..
Asha Rangappa [00:37:37] You mean the Mueller press confrence.
Matt Miller [00:37:38] The Mueller press conference.
Harry Litman [00:37:39] Talking about the report.
Matt Miller [00:37:40] At the time of the report. He announced that investigation into the origins of the FBI probe. He has been time and time again taking the president's side. And I think he took them, he obviously took the president's side here. But the message from the department has been. Eh, Bill Barr didn't have anything to do with this. People down below, the Criminal Division made the decision on prosecution. It was OLC that made the decision about the fact that this whistleblower complaints shouldn't go to Congress. He was generally aware but wasn't involved. It's the first time we've seen Bill Barr show some knowledge that this is a real problem and he doesn't want to be anywhere near it. And I think that's a pretty big difference from the way they've treated things in the past.
Asha Rangappa [00:38:20] And let's remember in the complaint I think this ties a few loose ends together the investigation into the origins of the Russia probe which I had always thought meant you know going back and making sure that the FBI did everything by the book. Appears to be connected to this whole Scooby Rudy scheme. [laughter] To try to go to Ukraine and pin the entire...
Joyce Vance [00:38:51] It was a 400 pound guy on a bed in Ukraine.
Asha Rangappa [00:38:56] Exactly. Footnote 9 in the complaint says that Giuliani claimed that he was going to Ukraine to gather information to provide to Barr's investigation into the origins of the Russia probe that's currently being handled by John Durham who is also the Connecticut U.S. Attorney is kind of involved. So do they. Did they know this? Were they authorizing Giuliani to do this? Is that what the or the spying on the spies or whatever was about? I mean it is shady as f.
Joyce Vance [00:39:28] So there is...
Matt Miller [00:39:29] Shady as fuck I think is what' you're trying to say. [laughter]
Joyce Vance [00:39:33] There is a buried question here that's, I think, just speculation at this point. But it's clear that John Durham the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut, highly regarded, who was tasked with taking a look at this. Who is I feel certain running a grand jury investigation in addition to just talking to witnesses. And you have that happening on the one hand, you have Rudy Giuliani apparently tasked with at best a parallel investigation. If there is any bleed over of internal DOJ investigation, and by the way it wouldn't be the first time that Rudy had good FBI sources right? I mean we heard a lot about that during the Clinton e-mail investigation. If that's going on it's an abuse of DOJ process. There could arguably be criminal conduct. The problem I think of this administration is every door that they open leads to a new investigation and now we have to investigate the investigators who were investigating the investigators. It's a mess it's time for Trump to go.
Harry Litman [00:40:29] Yeah. And Giuliani is in a very interesting position because in some ways he's the ultimate loyalist even to the point, unlike Barr of like lunacy. And we've seen we've seen him wig out on TV but they have the most leverage over him. Well he's a private citizen who went completely up river on his own and nobody in the State Department is going to back this version than he was some kind of emissary and they're going to really be able to peel him off in terms of jeopardy. There's going to come a time where his arch loyalty is really starkly pitted against his personal interests.
Matt Miller [00:41:02] Quick question for the prosecutors that maybe is is a way to end this. Could Rudy Giuliani do an interview with investigators on the Hill either behind closed doors or in public without making a false statement?
Joyce Vance [00:41:15] No.
Harry Litman [00:41:17] That's a good two two words or fewer I think to end the thing. I'm going with fuck no.
Asha Rangappa [00:41:26] Fruity G. Hard pass from Mieke.
Mieke Eoyang [00:41:31] I'm not a former prosecutor. I just think like Rudy is very clearly lost it. So I don't even know. The problem is I don't know that he brings any credibility to his testimony because he's so all over the place he contradicts himself within a minute. So like how do you even know what's true?
Harry Litman [00:41:46] Although if he's looking at the pokey, you know.
Mieke Eoyang [00:41:50] The pokey?
Harry Litman [00:41:50] You didn't answer the question you posed did you?
Matt Miller [00:41:52] I thought the fact I posed it meant it was rhetorical on my part.
Harry Litman [00:41:56] OK. Well I mean I think at this point we're all kind of having to roll out of here with the queso and biscuits and beans and salsa we've been devouring over the course of this extremely fun 45 minutes. Thank you very much Matt, Jennie, Joyce, Mieke, Asha and Debbie. And thank you Cisco's. It lived up to its reputation.
Jennie Josephson [00:42:24] It will surprise no one that after the episode ended the feds just kept talking.
Feds [00:42:33] Crosstalk.
Jennie Josephson [00:42:33] When right up to the point where Matt's mom drove everybody back to the festival. Special thanks again to Cisco's. If you're in Austin and you just want a fantastic breakfast, they were so gracious and friendly. And they got really cool art and memorabilia and of course the food is incredible. Especially the queso. Talk to you again soon.