CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript: Interview with Rep. Eric Swalwell


Date: May 19, 2019


CABRERA: OK, Boris Sanchez at the White House for us. Thank you.

Congressman, thanks for joining you us. I want to start with your Republican colleague, Justin Amash, calling for impeachment. You have a law degree. Do you agree with Amash? Are you ready to impeach the president?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): We're on the road to impeachment, it's not a road I think any of us want to go on, but now it's a bipartisan road, it looks like. And I will tell you, Ana, that Mr. Amash is someone that from the day the Russians did this, he and I worked together to put forward legislation to have an independent commission.

I believe that we should put what the Russians did and to study it out of Congress and into the hands of experts and scholars and statesperson. Every Democrat joined me when I wrote that legislation. Only two Republicans, Justin Amash was one of them. So, he showed courage very early on and so I'm not surprised that he's standing up for what's right today.

CABRERA: Just to clarify, when you say we're on the road to impeachment. Are you ready to call for impeachment at this time?

SWALWELL: Well, I'm on the judiciary committee, you know, I'm actually one of the only -- I am the only presidential candidate who would actually have to try the case on that committee. And so what I want to do is make sure that as we go down this road, that we get the full Mueller report we hear from Bob Mueller, that we hear from Don McGahn.

And that we are not doing Donald Trump justice, which if we did Donald Trump justice, we would already reach the conclusion and not rely on the facts. I still believe in the rule of law. I think the rule of law responsibly would dictate us to start having, you know, the full Mueller report and these hearings immediately, but I think that's where we ultimately end up.

CABRERA: Well, we did have hundreds of prosecutors, former federal prosecutors who came out in recent weeks saying that they see with their own eyes in the Mueller report, the redacted portion of it, that the president obstructed justice. Again, you have a law degree yourself. If he obstructed justice, what's your hesitation to say it's time to impeach?

SWALWELL: I was a prosecutor as well. And he's a double-digit obstructer by Bob Mueller's standards. And again, Ana, to me it's just I don't want to do Donald Trump justice. When this president is impeached, I want it to have the weight of the process and the order that respectfully gave him a fairer trial than he deserved.

So, I'm certainly not taking it off the table. I'm just saying I think the best thing we could do is get Bob Mueller in and see the full report, which right now, the president could just order it to be released to us. He said he's 100 percent exonerated. Well, if that's the case, he should give us 100 percent of the report.

CABRERA: I want to ask you more about your oversight responsibilities and all these different probes into the president because right now, CNN is aware of at least 21 subpoenas relating to the president. What do you say to those who argue you're overreaching, not conducting oversight?

SWALWELL: Well, we can walk and chew gum because this Congress has also passed background checks. We just passed the Equality Act last week that gives the LGBTQ community more rights, certainly at their workplace. We passed the For the People Act which updates the Voting Rights Act and has independent (inaudible) commissions in every single state so our elections are no longer rigged through gerrymandering.

So, that means that we have also have a responsibility to put a balance of power on all of these abuses of power. We can't look the other way just because there are other priorities. It's a lot of work. It's certainly more than I think you would ever see any Congress have to do with any president, but we're up for the job and making sure that this is still a country of free ideas, free markets and a free press. That is our top responsibility.

CABRERA: But what is actually being accomplished because you just listed some of the different bills and legislation the house is passing, but you as well as a lot of us know, those are dead on arrival in the Senate. And so in order to actually accomplish it, there has to be bipartisanship, right?

SWALWELL: And Ana, infrastructure there is that opportunity. You know, just last week, Speaker Pelosi, she met with the president and infrastructure and you know, whether it's greening the grid, repairing bridges and roads that need it, that is a priority and I understand there's going to be another meeting probably this week.

And so if the president wants to work with us, he will find willing parties there to create jobs and move people around. But Ana, on the issue I just want to say on background checks, there's a gun safety majority in America and, you know, brave be the senator that doesn't take that vote up if you're a Republican right now.

I was just at an event in Indiana and I had dozens of moms demand action volunteers there. In southern Indiana, this issue is one that they are truly demanding action, and senators will pay the price at the ballot box if they don't pass background checks.

[17:10:02] And so that leads me to where we're headed in the next questions because on top of investigating the president, trying to legislate, there you are on the campaign trail, you're running for president, one of 23 Democrats who have thrown their hats in the ring. Do you think there are too in Democrats in this race? Could it eventually hurt the nominee?

SWALWELL: Absolutely not. We are the "Avengers," it's not "Hunger Games." We are all I believe called because we want to save this great country, not aim so low to just beat Donald Trump. I believe if we go big on the issues, be bold with the solutions and do good in the way we govern, that every person in America will see their hard work add up to doing better and dreaming better.

That's why I came to Indiana. I was born in Iowa, married a Hoosier, was educated in the south and I'm elected in a very diverse part of California. My candidacy is in part rooted on I can add states because I know this country so well.

CABRERA: You're a father, you're a husband, over the last few weeks, and multiple states have passed incredibly restrictive abortion laws and you said you will only nominate Supreme Court justices who promise to uphold Roe versus Wade. Do you think 2020 is going to be a battle over the Supreme Court?

SWALWELL: Yes, and it must be. And I would only appoint justices that uphold the law, and also, I would fight to make sure that we put into law more protections in Congress that cement the Roe v. Wade ruling, including repealing the Hyde Amendment, which essentially only allows women of wealth and means to have abortions services while any other woman who receives government healthcare is prohibited from doing so.

And that's I think a benefit from having a young family in the White House. We get these issues that are facing young people from student debt, which I have, to having our kids safe in our schools, to a woman being able to make her own health care decisions.

CABRERA: When you talk about, yes, you believe the Supreme Court is going to be a major issue for 2020, I talk to a lot of people on the campaign back 2016, who voted for Donald Trump, because the Supreme Court was such a big issue for them. What makes you think Democrats would have the upper hand this time around?

SWALWELL: Well, it's the cost of us not recognizing how big of an issue it was in 2016, now that we have two justices on the bench who probably will not uphold the ruling in Roe v. Wade. And also, we've seen the devastating effects of money and politics because the Supreme Court said that money is speech and that corporations are people.

And so, being a president who would do all I could to get rid of the dirty money and the dirty maps (ph) that pollute our government, that is a priority for so many people because structurally, it's really poisoning our democracy.

CABRERA: Congressman Eric Swalwell, really appreciate your time, thank you.

SWALWELL: Thank you. My pleasure, Ana.