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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript: Interview with Rep. Dan Kildee


Date: June 8, 2019


CABRERA: All right. Boris Sanchez at the White House, thanks.

I want to bring in Democratic congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan. He seats on the budget and ways and means committees.

Congressman, first, your reaction to this overnight deal, preventing tariffs from going into effect?

REP. DAN KILDEE (D), MICHIGAN: Well, many of us didn't think the President would ever really pull the trigger on these tariffs. He didn't define what success would look like, which is usually a signal that it was a false threat.

I think this is not good for the country in the long term. Obviously we want to do what we can to make sense of what's happening at the southern border, particularly to trying to as careful and as welcoming as we can to those seeking asylum. But threatening an ally with tariffs, which, by the way, really would be paid mostly by American companies and American consumers, threatening in a way to get them to take action, in the long term is just not the way allies treat one another.

He is a bully. And in this case, maybe he thinks he succeeded. But honestly, if he wanted to deal with this problem pour effectively, he would think about it and he would realize that cutting essential aid to Honduras, to Guatemala, to El Salvador, to help those people where they are, is the best way to deal with the problems that they are trying to flee, not forcing the Mexican government to activate its military to deal with the problem that fundamentally is a humanitarian problem.

CABRERA: I understand your point but for all flack this President has taken for his negotiating strategy, he did get Mexico to the table. They are making concessions. They are stepping up efforts to stop the flow of migrants north. Could this be considered a win for the President?

KILDEE: You know, certainly it would be a win for the people who believe that our goal should be to prevent people seeking asylum in the United States from being able to seek that asylum within the U.S. I think we are better off dealing with the problem in a more fundamental way, by supporting people in those countries with humanitarian aid, with efforts to stem violence, which they are trying the President cut -- let's keep this in mind, he cut efforts to reduce the violence in those places, doesn't want them to come to our border to seek asylum, which is very much against I think what the DNA of America is all about and then threaten Mexico into using its military to deal with this problem. Sure, he can call it a victory if those values are something that we think we should celebrate. I don't think they are.

[16:05:37] CABRERA: Let me read you what the President tweeted today.

Nervous Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat House are getting nothing done. Perhaps they could lead the way with the USMCA, the spectacular and very popular new trade deal that replaces NAFTA, the worst trade deal in the history of the USA. Great for our farmers, manufacturers and unions.

Yes, the USMCA is still on the table. I know there was concern by both Republicans and Democrats about this tariff threat impacting this deal. What is the impact now? How does that move forward?

KILDEE: Well, it's hard to say. I think there's a bit of irony here. And that many of us want to see this agreement move forward. But we are nervous about the fact that there's not much in it that requires enforcement of the changes in Mexican labor law, just to use one example.

The President sort of makes that point himself, when he said one of the concerns he had about Mexico in the context of this immigration issue is that they fail to enforce their own law, they fail to adhere to their own law. That's what we have been saying about USMCA.

But let me just take what the President said and dissect a little bit further. We are passing legislation in the House of Representatives. For example, if the President wants to do something to make our democracy stronger, he would take up, he would encourage the Senate to take up HR-1, which takes a lot of corporate money out of politics and ensures or political system works better. He would request that the Senate take up our legislation to make sure that women are paid and equal salary to men and strengthen the law that allows that to go forward. He would take up the equality act which we pass. He would take up the common sense gun legislation which we have passed.

The House of Representatives is passing a lot of legislation that the American people want us to take up. It's Donald Trump and the people who are acting like full-time employees of Donald Trump, the Republicans in the Senate that are in the way from us making progress. We have a lot that we have done. The Republicans and the President are not willing to take up those bills because he doesn't want to give Democrats a win.

CABRERA: Something House Democrats haven't done is open up

impeachment proceedings. And there have been a lot of talk about that lately. I know you haven't fully backed proceedings happening, at least not publicly, but you have said you think the President is leaving Democrats little choice. Where do you stand on this today?

KILDEE: I think he is leaving us very few options. I think we have to be really careful and deliberate about this. I'm not one who sort of started with the idea that we should impeach and then look for evidence for it. But after reading the Mueller report, especially the second phase of the Mueller report, the section that deals with obstruction, it's very clear to me that this President is trampling on the constitution. And unless our ability to provide a check on his power, to provide oversight on him can be made effective short of impeachment, I'm not sure there's going to be any choice left.

CABRERA: Are you there yet?

KILDEE: The fact that the President continuing to block -- I'm getting there fast, Ana. Again, I have been very cautious about coming to that conclusion, but if we don't see the President turn away from this policy of not allowing his own -- members of his own executive branch or cabinet members to testify before committees of Congress, not answering subpoenas, blocking every attempt for us to get information to provide the check on the presidency that the voters asked us to do when they elected a democratic majority in 2018, I have to look to the constitution. And the only tool remaining, if we are unable to provide a check in any other fashion, the only tool remaining is the tool of impeachment. And the President, despite the politics, the President may end up just taking us there in a way that gives us no other choice.

So if doesn't change, Ana, I'm afraid that's what we are going to have to do.

CABRERA: Speaker Pelosi told Democrats this week reportedly according to "Politico" that doesn't want to see President Trump impeached. She wants to see him imprisoned. You have read the Mueller report. You say it shows the President trampling on the constitution. Do you think that the President belongs behind bars?

KILDEE: You know, I never prejudge any criminal process or proceeding. I don't get into that. I will say this. The President is not above the law. And he needs to be held accountable. What Mr. Mueller did very clearly is point out that Congress has the authority to hold the President accountable. He does not believe there is the pas to indict a sitting President.

But the truth of the matter is, we have a job to do. And even if it's uncomfortable, we have to do it. We have to hold him accountable. He is not above the law. And we have to use every tool we have. What happens after he is out of the presidency, I would leave, and unless somehow we deal with it short of that, I would leave that to the law enforcement officials or have to look at that information and make their judgments?

[16:10:40] CABRERA: Congressman Dan Kildee, always good to have you with us. Thanks for taking the time.

KILDEE: Thank, Ana.