Congressman Eric Swalwell Reflects On Trump Impeachment In New Book 'Endgame: Inside The Impeachment Of Donald J. Trump'

Published: Thursday, July 23, 2020 - 1:08pm
Updated: Thursday, July 23, 2020 - 1:21pm
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STEVE GOLDSTEIN: The impeachment of President Trump was a process that ultimately ended in a way that most predicted: The Democratically-controlled House voted to impeach, while the Republican majority Senate voted to acquit. Only one Republican, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, voted to convict. Congressman Eric Swalwell of California is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and asked questions of the witnesses during impeachment proceedings. He also was part of the committee that Roger Stone, recently pardoned by the president, was convicted of lying to. Swalwell has a new book, 'Endgame: Inside the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump,' that lays out his perspectives on what happened and why. Congressman Swalwell will be in the Valley virtually [July 24] as part of a presentation by Changing Hands Bookstore. I spoke with him earlier and began by asking whether the years of the Trump administration make him believe that bipartisanship is dead or close to it.

ERIC SWALWELL: I hope it's not dead. It's on life support, that, that's certain. And yes. You know, in the book I detailed my best friend, his name's Chris, he worked for President Bush as the chief speechwriter. He clerked for Justice Roberts. We grew up on the same street as kids. But we still talk to each other. We still listen to each other's points. We never question each other's motives. And I'm also the son of two Republicans, and I married a Hoosier from southern Indiana. So my default is to want to work with Republicans constructively and, of course, to, you know, have a healthy dialogue where we disagree. But what I have seen is not that at all. What I've seen since the Russia interference campaign is an evolution of recognizing that what the president had done with Russia was wrong, fear that if you spoke out against him, that he would work to see you defeated in your primary, to now just out-and-out enabling him or just being completely silent and complicit in allowing this to continue. But I say all of that. My hope still is that the day after Donald Trump, particularly with the Never Trumpers out there, that they will have a home and that Democrats and Never Trumpers can work together to unite the country and pull us back to a place of unity.

GOLDSTEIN: So let's move on to some of the details as it relates to the Mueller report. You write about it a lot, but I want to get your reaction in the moment. And then when you had a chance, when he was actually in front of Congress discussing the report, what was your level of feeling on that? Did you want him to be someone that a lot of people said he's really not, which is a grandstander? Would that have made a difference in terms of the impact, though, to Donald Trump and to the broader public?

SWALWELL: There's a fascinating question, because it's really damned if you do, damned if you don't, right? If he's dry and cerebral about what he investigated, then he's panned as, it wasn't as exciting as it could have been. And if he's more theatric and performative, that it's panned as always trying to oversell it. And in the book I describe, you know, different, pretty respected TV anchors and personalities texting me as I sat on the dias, you know, interviewing Mueller, complaining that Mueller wasn't delivering on what was expected. And I, I remember getting a little annoyed and writing back to one of them saying, "Well, you know, what, what did you want? You know, a Tony-winning performance or did you want a prosecutor to lay out the crimes?" Because if you read what he put in the report and if you listen to what he said at the hearing, he described a criminal presidency. And so fortunately, after that was delivered, although the press had said he failed to meet the expectations game, when you counted the members of Congress who were not on board for impeachment before he testified and then those that were on board afterward, there was a dramatic uptick in support for impeachment.

GOLDSTEIN: Did you feel like when it started that there was going to be some bipartisan traction on this?

SWALWELL: I'd hoped so. And, you know, I was a little nervous because of what I saw right after the Russia details were coming out in 2016 and 2017 that they were really guided by fear of losing their own job. But when that call transcript was released between President Trump and President Zelensky, to me that was a confession that just leapt off the page where he's shaking down the Ukrainian leader, asking him to do us a favor at the same time that we're withholding aid that was already approved for them. And when we're in our closed door depositions, Republican — one Republican from Florida, as really disturbing details were being relayed by Ambassador Bill Taylor, he has his head down in his hands and he's just shaking his head in disbelief about what's being described. And I thought that person would join us. He ended up speaking out on CNN, again, just sticking his neck out a couple of millimeters, saying that he didn't like what he had heard so far. The president and his team went at him, and he decided not to run for reelection and did not ultimately go with us. And that just seemed to be, you know, the theme all the way through.

GOLDSTEIN: Is the public going to care in November?

SWALWELL: They will care. I've given a lot of thought to your question. You know, what would I do differently? Would I do it all over again with the same set of facts? What I learned throughout impeachment is that if we were to not do it because we knew the Senate would not remove, remove him, we would essentially be letting the Senate off the hook and we would fail to develop details that you would need in an investigation to send over to the Senate. So you were basically succumbing to a chicken and the egg problem. You had to investigate first in the House to send it to the Senate. The evidence that we learned during the investigation certainly warranted impeaching the president. So I don't feel any regret about what we found — and Lamar Alexander, as I put in the book, he said that, "You proved your case." And what was so frustrating about that is he still was unwilling to remove the president. I was always mindful and I think a lot of my colleagues were, too, that we did not want to lower the standard of conduct for a future president, meaning that some future president could act corruptly and then tell the public, "Well, Donald Trump did X, Y and Z and he wasn't impeached. So how can they go after me?" And so I was very mindful that we were also doing this for the future.

GOLDSTEIN: So, Congressman, four terms in the House. Why did you run for president?

SWALWELL: You know, in 2018, I was inspired that the March for Our Lives generation and the Women's March activists converged at the ballot box and sent 29 new members of Congress to win the majority in their forties and under. And I had worked on an effort called Future 40, where we had been working to elect candidates of the next generation on the issue of gun violence, student loan debt, climate. And when we had the youngest Congress ever and finally an opportunity to act on these issues, I wanted to meet that momentum in the White House. And so I was inspired to really lead our campaign around the issue of ending gun violence, recognizing that it finally had elevated to a place where you didn't have to be afraid of running on it. To be able to stand on the debate stage, wear an orange tie and an orange ribbon and talk about gun violence and ask the other candidates if they would take certain measures, you know, on ending gun violence, you know, I felt like that was where I supposed to be and I hope it moved the needle just a little bit more for that issue.

GOLDSTEIN: That is Congressman Eric Swalwell. His new book is 'Endgame: Inside the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump.' He'll be in the Valley virtually on July the 24th via Zoom for Changing Hands Bookstore. He'll be on there with Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego. That comes up at 6:30 p.m. That's Friday, July 24th. Congressman, thanks for the conversation and stay well.

SWALWELL: Of course. Thank you, Steve.

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