In Conversation: Rep. Eric Swalwell, the Russia Investigation and Democracy

In Conversation: Rep. Eric Swalwell, the Russia Investigation and Democracy


My guest today is representative Congressman
Eric Swalwell, who is both on the Judiciary Committee and also the Intelligence Committee. We’re going to be talking about what happens
if and when the Democrats take over the House with regards to the Russia investigation,
subpoenas, and various other matters. Congressman, thank you so much for being with
us. So much to talk about. You are on the House Judiciary and House Intelligence. I mean, those are pretty active places. By accident. Yes, kind of found myself in the thick of
these investigations or lack of investigations, but yes. I was a prosecutor here in Alameda County,
and that has helped me kind of understand these issues and then, as the Republicans
try to bury a lot of the evidence, unearth it and explain it to my constituents and the
American people as to what it means. Well there is sort of a cover up. Do you think that the chairman of your committee,
Devin Nunes, is covering up? Has he been involved in a cover up, would
you say, Mr. Prosecutor? Yes, he’s obstructed progress in our investigations. As I’ve said, they’ve sought to prevent
us from subpoenaing witnesses, any witness that was brought in. It was essentially a “take them as their
word” investigation where they could tell their version of the events, and we’d show
no willingness to subpoena the third-party documents like cell phone messages, bank records,
travel logs, and so from start to finish, we saw someone–Devin Nunes–who was willing
to cover for the President. So if the Democrats take over the house, you
have subpoena power. Now, what does that actually mean? Explain it to people out there. You have subpoena power. Does that mean you can actually bring people,
get documents that you otherwise couldn’t get? Yes, well, conducting investigations that
the Republicans were not willing to conduct–not just on Russia. There are still gaps on Russia. Bob Mueller, for example, can only tell the
American people what he can prove beyond reasonable doubt. There’s a lot of information that he may
not be able to prove, maybe because it’s a foreign witness that was picked up on an
intercept, but we would still want the American people to know what was being said and to
whom it was being said. We want to fill in those gaps. And then also tax cuts, right? I mean, the emoluments clause and cashing
in on access to the Oval Office. –And all the conflicts of interest. Right. But suppose the administration gets to subpoena
and says, “too bad, we’re not responding to a subpoena.” “See you in court?” Yeah, there might be a lot of, “see you
in court”, and that’s where we need to have faith in our legal system. That’s why it’s so important that we don’t
confirm a Supreme Court nominee who thinks that the President is above the law. And that is– And who might that be? Judge Kavanaugh. The American people will rely on their democracy
to function again, and it starts with lawful, Congressional investigations, and then if
the President stands on executive privilege, courts that would rule not thinking about
what it means to a particular person but what it means to a democracy. But let’s be clear, because if Kavanaugh
is on the court, there may be 5 votes that says executive privilege covers the protection
of the executive branch, not just the President, from any subpoena. That’s right. Now, hopefully he’s in the minority, and
if you look at Supreme Court precedent, like US v. Nixon, that was a unanimous decision–saying
that the President was not above the law there. So, we would hope that Brett Kavanaugh would
too separate himself from that writing he did in the Minnesota Law Review and understand
that there’s greater issues at play. Isn’t there an inherent subpoena power in
the House used, I guess, 75 years ago? This is not a quiz, but I read that the sergeant
at arms in the House, even if the President says, “we’re not going to respond to a
subpoena,” the sergeant at arms in the House has inherent power–and the courts has already
given to him–to actually find the party that is recalcitrant and even arrest and imprison
the party until that party comes up with the documents. Yeah. We hope it doesn’t come to that. But, the founders did envision an out of control,
reckless, executive, and they didn’t leave the American people helpless. They gave us the check in one of the checks,
aside from the power of the purse, to subpoena documents and witnesses. The American people can rest assured that
we will do that job. We won’t be reckless. We aren’t going to do anything just because
we can, but there’s a lot of alarming conduct that needs to be investigated. Are you going to impeach the president? You know, I think he and the country should
get an investigation that follows all the evidence and, if red lines were crossed, an
impenetrable case can be made in a bipartisan way. Not a rush to impeachment, not to lead with
impeachments, but not to look the other way if he broke the law. The day after the midterm elections, let’s
assume that the President gets rid of Sessions, puts in somebody who is a loyalist, maybe
Scott Pruitt, somebody who will do exactly what he says, and Pruitt fires Mueller. But the House is under the Democrats–what
will the House Democrats do? That would be committing an obstruction of
justice in broad daylight. I think that’s direct to articles of impeachment,
in my mind. Now, I don’t mind if he fires Sessions,
and I know some people say, “Well, Sessions protects the Mueller investigation, so we
have to–the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” I don’t look at it that way. I think Sessions should have gone when he
was dishonest with the Senate about his Russian contacts. I don’t like that he’s there. I think you have to trust that the Senate
will only confirm somebody that will protect the Mueller investigation. Actually, the best thing that they can do
is just pass a legislation that is bipartisan and already came out of the judiciary committee
of the Senate that would protect the Mueller investigation. Then it doesn’t matter who the attorney
general is. They may of course continue to do awful things
like separate their kids from their parents at the border or enforce these marijuana laws
cross the country, but the Mueller investigation would be in tact. Can we switch to Russia? Yeah. I’ve gotten a Phd in Russian Studies in
the last 18 months. Oh, really? I bet you have. The only debt-free education I have. But–it’s really no smiling matter, and
it’s no humorous matter because a lot of Americans are worried that there is, at this
moment, some tampering going on with regard to election machinery and maybe not every
vote is going to counted. How can we be sure that that’s not happening? If it is, what can you say to at least reassure
Americans that everything is going to be done. Just vote. That’s what I tell people, is we can’t
worry about it, because we can’t do anything about it. The Republicans have refused to fund election
security. The administration will not give directives
to counter Russian meddling in the way that would deter them, because we continue to see
it. So, the more that we talk about insecurity
of the election system, that’s actually a form of voter suppression. Think about that single mom that goes and
picks up her daughter from daycare, 6:00 on Election Day, and she wants to get her
home, and bathe her, and feed her, and get her to bed on-time, but she also wants to
go vote. If she thinks for a second that her vote may
not count because the Russians might interfere, she might not vote. I don’t think we should give much air to
that, because I think that’s what the Republicans would love is for people to just not have
confidence in our elections. But Republicans, in terms of not protecting
the election system, do you suspect or have reason to believe that they–I don’t want
to accuse them of being in cahoots with Russia–but do you think that they might actually be favorably
disposed to Russian interference in the election? Well, they’re helping Russia. Whether they intend to or not, they are helping
Russia’s interests by undermining our democracy, by not standing up to what they’re doing,
by zeroing out election security funds. And the best thing we can do is to help ourselves
by overwhelm the ballot box on election day, put in place people who would check the President,
fund election security–I wrote legislation to have an independent commission to look
at what the Russians did, how they did it, who they worked with, and what we can do to
make sure it never happens again. You also have the bill that would require
people to know or have reason to believe that there is some tampering going on to actually
alert, what, the FBI or authorities? Yeah, what a crazy idea, right? That was in 2000 that the Gore campaign was
approached with stolen Bush debate documents that a foreign national had given them, and
they did the right thing. They went to the FBI. Good people do that. We saw a lot of people who did not do that
in the Russia investigation, and I think they should be required to. And it’s amazing that they aren’t required
to right now. That’s right. There’s so much reform that will have to
take place because of what we’ve learned from the Trump campaign and Trump administration,
and those opportunities will present themselves when we’re in the majority. Right now, I don’t think I can change any
more minds. I’ll try. I try working with my Republican colleagues,
and I think we have to change seats. 23 seats, and that’s where we start to get
it right. You’ve been in the house since 2012. How many days do you get up and say, “This
is just discouraging. I’m just slogging through this, and I’m
against a formidable set of opponents who are not giving an inch and don’t care about
the public. You know, when my wife and I were at her 40-week
appointment for our son last year, we went to the doctor, and I was going to be home
that week for the birth. The doctor, when my wife told her that “my
husband is going to be back for the birth”, she said to me, you’re going to miss votes? And I said, “Well, yeah. I’m not going to miss the birth of my son.” And then the doctor said, “Well, aren’t
the Republicans trying to repeal healthcare again this week?”, and I told her, “Well,
yeah, but I’m not going to miss the birth of my son.” And then my wife said, “They’re trying
to repeal healthcare again?” And then the doctor told me, she said, “well,
how about I make a deal with you. You do your job. I’ll do mine. You go back there and make sure they don’t
take away my patients’ healthcare, and I’ll see your wife every single day and make sure
that you don’t miss the birth of your baby.” And I saw that what we do as representatives
matters. It matters. I thought you were going to say that the doctor
was going to go in–made the deal to do it– Right now? Yes, right in the cloak room. You know, whenever your wife needed it. But to be in the House, and to be in the minority,
even in the best of circumstances, is hard. But these are the, in many ways, in living
memory, among the worst of circumstances. Yeah. One of my inspirations in the House is, and
just heros in general, is John Lewis from Atlanta. He invited me down to his district, and we
did a town hall with students at Georgia State. Before the town hall, we had lunch with a
few students there, and Mr. Lewis was talking about being with Dr. King during the Civil
Rights Movement, the sense of loss when Dr. King was assassinated, but believing, “we
still have Bobby,” that Bobby Kennedy was running for President, and that was a last
hope. We talked about being in LA with Bobby at
the Ambassador Hotel when he was shot, and just the despair he felt flying back East. When he told me that story, I couldn’t help
but think, “We’ve gone through some tough times in America, and we’ve pulled ourselves
out, but that a lot of times was because we went from the town halls and town squares,
and as Dr. King called upon us to do, we marched onto the ballot boxes.” That’s what we have to do right now. The only way out is to the ballot box. Let’s talk about young people in the ballot
box, because I know that you’ve been very active with regard to that. The last midterm election, my memory tells
me, in 2014, only about 16 percent of eligible young people between the ages of 18 and 29
voted. 16 percent. How do we get them to vote? How do we encourage young people to vote? Be authentic. I think, if anything, Donald Trump has just
liberated us to be ourselves. So if we believe something, just say it. Bernie Sanders connected with this generation
because they believed he was authentic. I don’t think they agreed on every single
policy item that he put out there, but if you asked them why they liked him, they trusted
him. They don’t want the polish. They want you to just tell them what you believe
in, cut through the bullshit, and tell them how you’re going to help them, so authenticity
counts with this generation. But also, you have to make them believe that
they can be a part of it, that it’s not a one way conversation. I think this Parkland generation, in many
ways, is leading us on the issue of gun violence, and one other thing is, I’ve noticed, that
you can’t just brand young people as Democrats and say that you have to be a Democrat. They are stubbornly independent, and that’s
okay. But on the issues, they’re very progressive,
and they align with us, so we have to make sure that the candidates are conveying to
them on the issues that they’re with young people. I think they can be a comparative edge this
coming fall. We had, after Parkland, our committee hosted
the steering and policy committee with congressman Mike Thompson. I had a hearing with–it was a gun violence
task force, steering and policy hearing with some of the Parkland survivors. I asked one of the students, I said, “Safety
is a very binary thing. Either you feel safe or you don’t. What would it take for you to feel safe?” And this boy, Charlie, looked down, kind of
gathered his emotions, and then looked at this row of Democratic members of Congress,
and he said, “For you guys in this building to just do something.” I think that generation wants to see action,
and it’s not just on gun violence. It’s not just a single issue or generation,
but they want to see action. Do something. That connects with them very much. Well, I’ll tell you, I’ve been teaching
for 35 years. I don’t really recall a generation that
is as committed, as dedicated to changing the world, and as committed to public service
as the present generation of students. How would you compare them to the Vietnam
generation? The big difference is that the present generation
is more cynical about politics. They don’t have the same direct experience
of successful political action as the generation that was in the Civil Rights Movement and
went through the anti-Vietnam War movement. I keep telling them over and over again, you
know, that the only way to be successful in politics is to get involved and experience
the success. But they are hugely, highly motivated. Which gets me to my last question for you,
Congressman. You are fairly young. I mean, from my standpoint, you are very young. How do we get somebody like you to, let’s
say, run for President. Mrs. Swalwell. It starts there. But– And what does Mrs. Swalwell say about Presidency? Are you thinking about running for President? I’m considering it, yes. I am. And my wife is very supportive. I think that story with the doctor, her willingness
to have me miss the birth of our son so that I could vote against healthcare repeal, shows
she’s in. She knows that we’re doing this to help
people. How about your son? 15 months old. What does he say when you say that you’re
considering? I wish I could see him more. That’s the tough part of this. He’s a beast, and we’ve got a little girl
on the way in 7 weeks, so she’s going to be born right before the midterms, so I want
to win the Congress this Fall when I have a healthy baby in November, and I’m going
to consider it. I do believe that my experience of growing
up in a family where my dad was a cop and my mom worked a number of odd jobs, they just
wanted me to be the first in the family to go to college. They chased the American Dream all over the
country. I was born in Iowa. We moved to Oregon and California and saw
their hard work added up to something, that capitalism worked for them. Today, I see that capitalism is unchecked. It only works for people on the top floor
of a building, and everyone else on every other floor who works very hard, is not getting
by, and they’re just running in place. So I think that my own experience, the sense
of justice that I have from working as a prosecutor and the work I’ve done when our democracy
was on the ropes, qualifies me to do this. But it’s a big decision, and I only want
to do it if I felt like I could make a difference. The cartoon version is that there are two
kinds of Democrats right now. There are the corporate, Wall Street democrats,
the establishment Democrats, and then there are the Democrats that really want to change
the structure of the economy and reform politics and get big money out of politics. Where on that continuum would you put yourself? I want to get rid of dirty money and dirty
maps. I want publicly financed campaigns. I want to do all we can to end Citizens United. I think we shouldn’t give up on a constitutional
amendment, but I also want to pass legislation immediately that would require every state
to have an independent commission for their congressional lines, because I think that
holds us back very much. And when it comes to the economy, I believe
that if you just give people a chance, they want to work hard. They want to do better for themselves and
look at their kids and think that they can dream bigger. Right now, most people don’t have a chance,
because they look at crumbling schools around them, infrastructure that can’t get them
to their jobs, and retirement security that is just being chipped away. So it’s not adding up for them, and that’s
why I think you see these temptations to move toward more socialist countries. What I want to do for us is make sure that
we check the unchecked capitalism that’s taking place right now and making sure that
it works like it did for my parents when they chased that dream, but that it works for every
person on every corner across this country. Congressman. Thank you, Secretary. Thank you.

49 Comments on "In Conversation: Rep. Eric Swalwell, the Russia Investigation and Democracy"


  1. Congressman Eric Swalwell is the perfect example of the kind of people USA needs, young, dedicated, principled! And with excellent credentials!

    Reply

  2. Wish you weren't so partisan Robert. If you put both sides to the fire in this interview style, you could possibly impact the country. Unfortunately, its all skewed to one side and not raising an eyebrow to anyone on the left.

    That plus the Russian boogeyman makes your YouTube channel, Facebook and articles only pander to the extremists on the left and wont change any minds. It just reinforces the divide and pats your commie friends on the back. No growth there

    Also, great followup on 'how do we brainwash the youngest people into voting for us?' It really shows what you are really about. Elder people are apparently too smart to follow you, so great job for taking a page out of Hitler's book on indoctrinating the youth

    Reply

  3. Kakistocracy.
    Absurd situation with the lack of leadership from the top, and subpoena power is direly needed.
    Go vote. Each, and every time. We can clean up this mess, and the ongoing attempts to ignore Russian intervention.
    Vote.
    Vote.
    Vote.
    I say it thrice is true.
    Congratulations on your child! Congressman Swalwell. My 21 year-old daughter votes. Why? Even in our region? Truth works. By, for, and of the people. That's the deal.
    PS. Thank you, Robert, and Team.

    Reply

  4. If ALL of the Congress and Senate are OWNED and corrupt none of this matters. The Democrats play "the good guys". They are only slightly better than the totally sold out evil Republicans that have NO empathy for the little guy and are still living in the past. Wish us luck.

    Reply

  5. At one time, the 2 parties compromised by going to a bar together and hammering out a reasonable compromise. They didn't hate each other or try to get their constituents to hate the other party. Those times no longer exist. Now, they only care about personal enrichment and reelection and nothing else.

    Reply

  6. Eric. Stop having babies. Set an example. We are already unsustainable on our planet and global warming may wipe us out. My wages won't matter at that point. We are riding a very fun, very fast train to the edge of the cliff. I guess nobody is allowed to talk about that. They just said that the Super elites now have over 100 TRILLION dollars. More than the GDP of the WORLD. I guess they call the shots. Too bad they really have no clue.

    Reply

  7. IMHO, if I am ever entitled to one, the problem of Professor Robert Reich, Senator Bernie Sanders, and even the new representative Erick Swalwell, or any of the other people I like, talking of public policy or political science, or any of the most outspoken of them all, more or less proactive, the problem is that it is difficult to separate definitions, like, socialism, communism, democratic, republican, libertarian, or progressive from the needs of our modern civilization, a fast paced civilization racing to survive in a new paradigm, with a new set of values more in line with the new advances in technology and science that impose a new social paradigm. This administration, stubbornly, fails to recognize that, and even mocks.

    I am starting to be a bit like Senator Bernie Sanders that repeated the same things for 30 years, and never gave up. I only started to have interest last year, but my ideas came a bit before that, while analyzing/studying insurance. I came to the simple conclusion that the complexity of our systems increased dramatically, and this way we will not have people to keep the critical systems that support us. What is happening in the US, among the political class, is a perfect example. More people like Rep. Eric Swalwell are needed.

    In other words, people need more access, be it healthcare, education, professional programs, military, whatever suits them. But they can not be so impoverished am misinformed that they miss the bus! You can call it socialism, democratic or not, or whatever, progressiveness maybe, but the point is not in the doctrine, but in why we need some of this or that doctrine.

    In this administration I do not see much doctrine, instead a provocation, something like: "if you do not like us why don't you come here a do better". As Professor Robert Reich once said in other words, and with some examples of his own, the silver lining in this administration is that it is so bad that the choices are made so clear!

    Reply

  8. I loved the doctors instructions, “ …do your job and go to a Washington to save healthcare for your child, for my patients and for America.”

    Reply

  9. Wallace Bronson
    Sterling Heights Mi.

    Dear Mr. Reich,

    I have three questions for you please,
    1. Can you please show on screen from the Constitution the monuments clause, (I’m having trouble finding it exactly)

    2. If The president is found guilty or convicted of treason can or should Mitch McConnnell and Paul Ryan also be convicted for going along with his plan to get rid of our democracy or co conspiracy?

    3. If the right democratic candidate asked you to get back into politics would you?

    Reply

  10. Representative Eric Swalwell is like nearly everyone, excluding Robert Reich. To begin with, most USians couldn't care less about the easily-hackable e-voting machines and tabulators. This topic has been raised constantly by some people only to be ignored. Russia has no control over our electronic voting machines. The threat is from within, not internationally. Does Representative Swalwell not remember the 2000 stolen election and subsequent Judicial Coup where George W Bush ended up being selected by Bush Family friends on the US Supreme Court after "voting problems/hanging chads" in Florida? Does he not remember the 2004 "election" which was stolen in both FL and OH. Even John Kerry said that the "election was probably stolen in Ohio." Russia had nothing to do with any of that. Therefore, why would anyone continue to urge people to vote on a thoroughly corrupt and rigged sham of a voting system? "Voting in masses" will accomplish nothing. The vote of the "masses" can be just as manipulated and rigged, no differently than if only a few people voted. Here's an example:
    An 11-year-old hacked a replica of Florida’s voting system in 10 minutes
    https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/8/13/17683666/florida-voting-system-hack-children

    I appreciate Robert asking about this, since to my knowledge, I've not heard one person even bring up the topic of our completely corrupt and sham of a system. Again, most people choose to live in denial about it because if they had to come to the realization that they are taking part in corruption, what's the point of voting? That right there destroys this illusion of this country being a "democracy." Shouldn't the voting system be made fair, legitimate and honest BEFORE the public votes on it?

    Reply

  11. Eric Swalwell gets 90% of his money from PAC's and large corporations. Largest contributors are Mackenzie Capital Management, real estate, and Northrop Grumman, a military contractor.
    Seeing how Robert has talked about getting the money out of politics it seems he allows himself to be hypocritical if you have a D after your name.

    https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/summary?cid=N00033508

    Reply

  12. Robert Reich, I'm reading your book The Common Good and another published in 2000 called The Roots of Nazi Psychology.

    I'm one chapter away from finishing your book and only 1 chapter into the other. MAGA has the same roots as Nazism.

    My question is… can we really get back to the common good in this cult like environment? 30% of our country is deaf, dumb, and blind to reality. I am afraid that when/if the Democrats win the house and/or Senate Trump will start to unleash his worst instincts and compell his followers to aggression/violence when he is pushed against. Kavanaugh is about to be confirmed and is one who will attempt to keep the president safe from impeachment. The third branch of government is now damaged by the political climate. Where can we go from here?

    Reply

  13. i have bone to pick with Ms Pelosi say impeachment is NOT in her plan maybe we need to get a diffrent
    planner

    Reply

  14. "The parkland generation is leading on the issue of gun violence"?

    The parkland generation is terrifyingly naive and in my eyes, insidious. Their rallying cries are eerily identical to that of the temperance movement in the 1920's that lead the people on the issue of alcoholism.

    The anti-gunners policy ideas (banning high capacity magazines, bump stocks, and ar-15's), if they are implemented will backfire quite spectacularly.

    Reply

  15. Little Bob likes to portray himself as an intellectual. In truth, he merely spouts the party line using multi-syllabic vocabulary.

    Reply

  16. So full of shit. Still sore because you're queen isn't President. Trump's President! The Democrats are such liars.
    Trump 2020!

    Reply

  17. 2:40 fella said it with a straight face, Kavanaugh as just one example of a current sitting judge. Like what you do when you are a jock moron/impress your friends/having no clue is one thing, but the BS, aggression, partisanship he showed when before everyone and the Senate, that is Kavanaugh as he is today. https://www.democracynow.org/2018/10/3/mental_health_experts_demand_psychological_assessment

    Reply

  18. By "protect our Democracy" Reich means "Run organized smear campaigns against anyone the left doesn't like, register illegals, felons, and the dead to vote, use the mainstream media and social media as anti-American propaganda outlets, utilize support from foreign interests like Soros, the Saudis, the Iranians, and the Chinese, pay agitators aka "protesters" to attack Americans at political rallies and in congress, brainwash students in public schools and colleges to hate America and love communism, and all while trying to tell us that jobs and a good economy are bad for us, while not quite being able to explain why the Russians want us to have jobs, secure borders, lower taxes, good economy, etc, or why hordes of people are leaving the socialist utopia of Kalifornia in droves.

    Reply

  19. I've come to the point where I actually get excited to see Mr. Reich's videos. They give me hope we'll get past this madness. Well done.

    Reply

  20. There needs to be redundant vote counting for national stage referendums. The results need to be overseen by both the normal State/Local official, a Federal officer, and the voter themselves. As it stands, you touch the screen, or check the box, and you never see what happens to YOUR vote, and only the local official office knows what happened, and sends the numbers up. A literal receipt should be given to the voter, with a transaction number, for you to keep after you cast your ballet, and you have TWO officials looking over each other's shoulders and answering your questions about the veracity of your vote being tallied. If there is a discrepancy, all three can be investigated: The Federeal count, the Local count, and YOUR individual count.
    https://electionrunner.com/support/kb/voters/how-to-allow-voters-to-download-a-ballot-receipt/

    Reply

  21. you have to ask your self why will the reds will not protect the voting system from fraud.
    there has never been true democracy in America, the math says whoever gets the most votes becomes president in a Democracy but its nothing of the sort and money counts if your poor theres no chance of becoming president, its a broken system.

    Reply

  22. Swalwel wants to confiscate guns, people like him will cause a civil war and an armed internal conflict. When you ask yourself "Can Syria happen here?" this guy is why it can happen.

    Reply

  23. We just need the Senate and we can fill the federal courts with patriotic Judges who read the constitution and not write it. Kavanaugh is a good start.

    Reply

  24. It's really to bad we don't punish traitors anymore. We would have a hell of a lot of job openings if we did.

    Reply

  25. Swallowswell just threatened nukes against Americans who refuse to give up their natural God given Constitutionally described right to self defense. He is a leftist whackjob who should be exiled to North Korea or some other place he'll feel right at home.

    Reply

  26. I hope this clown does run for president. Destroying a candidate who insinuated that he would be in favor of using nuclear weapons against American citizens? That would be even easier than defeating Hillary! I even have a slogan for you,

    Swalwell – Cortez 2020……
    because America could use a good laugh.

    Reply

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