Say Yes to Rebuilding Post-Trump

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S1: I’ve had the Mueller witch hunt the Russia witch hunt. I have witch hunts every week. I say what’s the witch hunt this week. The process you’re engaging in regarding the attempted impeachment. Of. President Trump.

S2: Is out of bounds. It’s inconsistent with due process as we know it. We got to stop thinking that we can use the marquee of Queensbury rules of engagement when we’re fighting against an angry pack of rabid hyenas.

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S3: Hello and welcome to Trump cast. I’m Virginia Heffernan. So the do nothing Democrats have been doing. Hold on let me get my calculator everything. Do we recall that fresh off her Rhapsody in Blue performance with Donald Trump Nancy Pelosi hit the road for. Oh yeah. Jordan and Afghanistan. And she and Schiff and a bipartisan delegation spent last weekend just last weekend proving to presidents and kings as well as U.S. troops and diplomats that not all American leaders are insane. Then she published a beautiful elegy for her colleague Elijah Cummings. She called him her North Star and Jordan jet lagged be damned. She invited to the capital some Hong Kong leaders opposing China’s malicious crackdown on civil liberties. Oh and then do nothing. Dem Pelosi just quickly passed her drug pricing bill out of committee to be heard on the House floor with a full vote by the end of the month. That bill by the way is being named for Elijah Cummings. All the while she and Schiff have in spite of dangerous and clownish antics by grown men with DUI histories like Matt Gates Pelosi and Schiff have been pulling off an orderly conscientious disciplined impeachment inquiry and charging ever closer to impeachment itself. If that’s doing nothing I will be truly afraid of the Democrats when they decide to get down to work here to talk with me about the Democrats impeachment Syria Turkey and all else is Joyce Vance. She’s the University of Alabama law professor and MSNBC contributor. She’s been a federal prosecutor for 25 years. She was U.S. attorney in Birmingham Alabama under Obama. She’s just a polymath and fantastic and I’m so happy to have her on the show.

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S4: I will be back with Joyce in just a minute but first how about a nod to Trump’s incredible eloquent diplomatic skills.

S5: Joe seal the White House. WASHINGTON October 9 2009. His Excellency Recep Tayyip Erdogan president of the Republic of Turkey and Kara care. Mr. President.

S6: Let’s work out a deal.

S5: You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people. And I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy. And I will. I’ve already given you a little sample with respect to Pastor branch and I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don’t let the world down you could make a great deal.

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S6: General Masa line is willing to negotiate with you and he is willing to make concessions that they’ve never have made in the past.

S7: I’ve confidentially enclosing a copy of his letter to me just recently. History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way.

S5: It will look upon you for ever. As that devil is good things going to be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool.

S7: I will call you later. Sincerely Donald J Trump.

S8: Joyce I’m so glad you’re joining me on Trump cast. Let’s get right into it. What is really on your mind in this week with so much bidding for our attention.

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S9: Something that stood out to me this week was a rare moment of hope. You know we had this picture released by the president himself of Nancy Pelosi a strong leader who has patiently bided her time despite a lot of criticism. There’s no criticism that she hasn’t been swift or decisive enough and yet she was the person in a room full of men a sea full of male faces who stood up and effectively held the president accountable called him to task for his misconduct. And I think that’s a moment of hope at a point in time where a lot of people frankly have lost hope in lots of different ways for lots of different reasons that looked to me like a potential beacon of light.

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S8: Absolutely. And what’s amazing is that portrait of Pelosi that seems like it could be painted one of the few really iconic images to come out of our time she’s in blue and there are very few if any. I think there may be two female aides in the room and all the men around the table are the usual white dudes some of them looking like scolded schoolchildren.

S9: It’s even more iconic because of his lack of self-awareness about the moment in it in so many ways I think epitomizes the strength of women the strategic capabilities of the speaker of the house. And it was as you say just an iconic moment.

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S10: A lot of us have been surprised and interested in the exodus of people from the Republican Party. I saw Tom Nichols the academic saying he’s officially not a Republican. You know he’ll vote for any candidate who’s mentally stable and not beholden to a foreign power. And that seems to be the attitude of you know I don’t even know your party affiliation or your party affiliation before now. We really have come down to it where it’s not politics it’s crime and this has been such a late life education for so many of us.

S9: It’s really a fascinating moment and I think we’re learning you know this is a president who has tried to divide us. What we’re learning is what we have in common. And that’s the fact that we’re patriots that we’re constitutionalists that we believe in country over party and that we believe that there is a rule of law that applies to each and every one of us including the president and that the president is not entitled to use the treasury of the United States as his personal checkbook for achieving his personal financial goals that unite in the moment Republicans and Democrats or some Republicans I sort of missed the Republican Party that that I grew up with not that I agreed with their policy goals but I certainly respected their commitment to Constitution and the country. I hope that someday we’ll get back to that and we’ll be back to our partisan squabbles about things that are as mundane as as policy. Yes as opposed to squabbling about whether or not it’s legitimate for a president of the United States to approach a foreign country for aid in interfering with one of our elections.

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S10: Part of the further evidence if we needed any that this is not partisan is I haven’t heard Democrats or. Well you’ve heard Republicans but I haven’t heard Democrats talk about another possible foreign policy in Turkey and Syria. So we haven’t re-evaluated it’s like we’re waiting for a sane time where the world doesn’t feel like it’s on fire to figure out if say Turkey ought to be now excluded from NATO or other policy decisions about Syria that really worried in a sincere way. The Obama administration and you know it’s something Hillary Clinton talked a lot about. Well now we are simply decrying this as almost a war crime. I see you citing on Twitter Trump’s strange rhetoric around this region has to be what does he say. Cleaned up.

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S9: Yeah you know I mean I’m obviously not a foreign policy expert but you don’t have to be one to see the gravity of this moment the United States may have been guilty at times in our history. I’m thinking about World War Two of turning a blind eye to wartime atrocities to genocide perhaps what’s happening. It’s too early I think to understand what the fate of the Kurdish people will be as a result of this. This is the first time that I can recall at least in my time the United States green lighting what the president has called cleansing of an ethnic group of a people almost delegitimizing them and we all saw the photographs of the 35 year old woman the Kurdish activist who was pulled from her bullet riddled car who was killed by advancing Turkish forces. And whether or not the president you know rolls back this notion that he greenlit the entire Turkish operation he clearly did.

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S8: Yep I think Ellie and me style said this is the genocide he’s been hinting at or promising he’s embraced the rhetoric of it in the form of that word cleansing and cleaning up but he’s also embraced you know the heady violence like he seems now to fully have bloodlust. Lynne Cheney said it’s in response to the impeachment inquiry.

S9: Well that makes it all right doesn’t it. I mean they try to impeach you you cleanse an ethnic group.

S10: Know the Wag the Dog factor is just out of control and the fact that they own it as a Wag the Dog is something even Bill Clinton didn’t do during his impeachment.

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S9: Something that’s really interesting in this regard is that Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee represents a district that has the largest American Kurdish population. And earlier this week I saw that she had started to push back a little bit. I wonder if we won’t see Republicans who have Kurdish populations in areas that they represent beginning to push back against the president. I sure hope that they will I hope everybody in our country will stand behind this and forced the administration to stop this policy it’s a dangerous policy unfortunately it looks like a lot of the damage has been done both to the Kurds Turkey apparently broke the cease fire but also to our credibility with our friends and our allies.

S8: I notice Pete Buda judges talking about what’s going to happen the day after Trump’s out of office which is interesting. I mean first it’s it’s a liberating thought and then it’s a sobering thought because we are about to inherit a country and a world order damaged in a way that we have never seen it.

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S9: I mean what do you think going forward about this you know loss of prestige among our allies in strange and disturbing unity and promises to our enemies whoever the Democratic nominee ultimately is they’ll have to play for keeps both running a campaign and preparing for a transition and a restoration of the government and so it will be critical that that person compile a really good transition approach have landing teams for all of the agencies that are ready to go in and assess the damage and begin to rebuild democratic institutions. And it will be critical that that be done in a nonpartisan way. You know we’re seeing now how important the nonpartisan legacy of career federal public servants is to the ongoing stability of the country. The challenge for Democrats will be in a highly charged partisan environment should they beat Trump in 2020 to rebuild those agencies not along partisan lines but strictly along those long term career serve the best interests of the government and the people no matter who is in office. They’ll have to re adopt that model and strengthen democratic institutions that have either been stretched to the breaking or failed entirely during this presidency.

S10: Where would you start. The State Department the ethics department every time candidate says on the very first day I will do X Y Z. I mean where would you start rebuilding trust with civil servants.

S9: You know I think the problem is you have to do a lot of things simultaneously and that’s difficult. It is always a mistake I think to jump to early and act before you have your arms around a problem. So there will have to be landing teams that go into every agency to begin that process but also working groups looking at different sorts of substantive areas. The great thing about this though is that there are people that are doing foundational work for instance former Governor Christie Whitman and Preet Bharara my former colleague have a group at the Brennan Center that’s looked at democratic institutions and what we need to do to strengthen them. The Democrats. It really is incumbent upon them to select a nominee who knows how to engage in smart executive functioning who can delegate to highly qualified people and and really at the same time that they’re taking over the reins of government help to restore the institutions that are necessary for it to function.

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S8: There were some State Department people who came to a live term cast in 2017 and it was right after the inauguration and they seemed I mean they were white and shaking because aside from their own personal careers just what possibly would diplomacy look like with this president. And now we know what it looks like it looks like very weird unstable letters to brutal dictators like Taiwan strange pacts with the president of Russia. It really does look like something we’ve never seen before.

S9: You know I think Mick Mulvaney nailed it probably without meaning to when he told the assembled press that there was always politics and foreign policy and that they should get used to it. And that’s correct foreign policy is in many ways a political endeavor. But here’s here’s the distinction we use that politics become a part of foreign policy to achieve the strategic goals of the United States to ensure that the best interests of our country are looked after what’s happened in this administration is that foreign policy has become a personal tool of this president whether that’s to achieve his re-election or perhaps as there’s some evidence to suggest for his own personal financial benefit. That is a solid red line between how the world should look and how the Trump administration looks you say that Pelosi represents a beacon of hope and I’m with you on that.

S8: She’s likely to see through the impeachment but she doesn’t represent a broad enough Ray of hope that she makes me think any way that there might be an indictment in the Senate. But failing that what would that last year look like. You know McConnell saying we may see it kick to the Senate by November. What would that very last year of his presidency look like. It seems that all these investigations are unable to stop him from grooming.

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S9: He certainly looks like he’s completely Teflon coated right. Yeah. A lot of this comes down to the will of the public and the understanding of the public and I don’t think that this is anything that we don’t all understand about how our country works. As long as there are folks in elected office who feel like their constituents want them to support Trump they will support him. There are new polls out that showed that slightly more than 50 percent of the country favors impeachment and removal and removal. Exactly. It’s important to remember that those are two separate things impeachment is sort of like indictment in the house. Then comes the trial in the Senate and right now the prognosis for that is that it will be sort of a show trial that will not really engage in any real way with evidence. But you know the problem with those polls that say well slightly more than half of the country favors impeachment is that their broad brush and we don’t elect our senators and our representatives with that broad brush. They’re elected from their states and their districts. So as long as there are strong majorities often in these very highly gerrymandered districts and public opinion supports the president then it’s unlikely that we’ll see any real action in the Senate to remove Trump. I fully expect that he’ll be impeached. That means he remains in office for the last year leading into the election. And he’ll you know in many ways act like a wounded animal. We’ve seen this before he’s dangerous he’s lethal and he’s often very good and very agile he’s at his most glib he seems to have this ability to dismiss criminal conduct in a way that makes it all right with his followers. And it is I think incredibly painful for anyone with intellectual integrity anyone who understands the rule of law anyone who cares about the country to watch the little impromptu presser that he did. Ha Mark you know where he talked about how civilization approved of what he was doing and it was great that everything that happened with the Turks and the Kurds so quickly. And it’s just extraordinarily painful to watch.

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S8: I’m seeing that he probably saw was to that Ertegun didn’t surprisingly love the don’t be a fool letter that Trump threw it in the trash right through it in the trash and instantly agreed to a cease fire that then he violated.

S9: You know Andrea Mitchell had a fabulous tweet where she walked through the steps that have played out in this debacle and concluded that somebody was really good at the art of the deal but that it was Ertegun.

S8: Yes exactly. That more cloak and dagger approach and not just bullying if Trump’s major technique is to imply kind of bribes and blackmail like you’ll be a hero on the one hand or I’ll wreck your economy on the other. I think we’re seeing that as a negotiation getting to yes tactic or crime as I would call it a fix it.

S10: Actually that’s that’s the simpler word for it. Yeah you’re right.

S9: Campaign finance violations last time I checked those were all federal crimes although a federal crime is not necessary for impeachment.

S8: One of the things that’s happened to American schoolchildren and college kids is this new admiration for federal prosecutors. All of you have clarified so much for me anyway about what these offenses are what they look like and how they might be remediated or dealt with who in the Senate of the prosecutors on the Democratic side interests you in when it comes to a trial. Who will you be looking for if for no other reason than just unearthing the truth.

S9: Well I think we’ve seen some fine cross examination in the Senate by Kamala Harris. You know obviously she didn’t get to be the attorney general of the state of California without having some great skill sets in that regard. And I always appreciate that sort of a fine cross examination. I think so often in in these processes because they are are not linear you know you have five minutes here in five minutes they’re in the back and forth makes it difficult for the truth to come out. I hope that increasingly we’ll see the use of professional staff like what happened during Watergate like what we saw in the House Judiciary Committee what seems like a couple of years ago but I think was only a few weeks where we had Barry Burke doing some questioning that was very effective. Yes that’s what we need. We need less politics and more truth and justice.

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S8: I’m a Sheldon Whitehouse fan. He’s wonderful. Right. And I think he did an amazing job. I mean really astonishing job with Brett Kavanaugh. I remember he outlined with this analogy just has a nice style of making clear that he doesn’t believe someone.

S9: Kamala Harris does to former U.S. attorney in Rhode Island Senator Whitehouse definitely has all the credentials. And Amy Klobuchar does a great job. I mean there are a lot of very skilled you know lawyers and prosecutors in the Senate in the house. I think what we’ve seen on some occasions is you actually don’t have to be a lawyer to ask good common sense questions. You just have to be willing to hold the witness accountable for an answer and not let them slide out of it.

S8: And that has been in their time when truth is slippery at least as it emerges from the White House sometimes. I just want a full investigation and accounting at some point I just thought. I almost don’t care if he gets re-elected as long as we all have the facts in front of us because I know it’s maddening to the brain.

S9: It’s really hard to comprehend. And you know something I’ve been thinking about Virginia we have this moment right now where people seem to be coming together even across the political divide to condemn the president’s conduct as it relates to foreign policy involving the Turks and the Kurds but so much of his policy at home has been deeply troubling. And there doesn’t seem to be that same united defiance of it. I’m thinking about the fact that we still have migrant kids in camps separated from their families and the protest there seems to have really died down. We have civil rights violations we have for instance a DOJ that has returned to sort of an old fashioned tough on crime policy that the data shows us has failed and that there seems to be no objection to using that sort of ideology as opposed to data based approach across the board. We see that in domestic policy just failed policies. So you’re in Alabama. Yes well not at the moment at the moment I’m in D.C. but usually I’m in Alabama usually here in Alabama.

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S8: And you’ve been there for a long time and worked there and what do you see going on there often. I’m optimistic down to thinking maybe even the Senate will flip in 2020 but Alabama’s on the bubble. Do you see any shift the shift. We’ve been looking for in red states of people waking up to this catastrophic president.

S9: Well I’m not sure that it’s fair to say that Alabama is on the bubble. Alabama is a strongly Republican state. Doug Jones was the first Democrat to be elected statewide in decades and that was a quirky election although he’s a very good candidate and might well have won an election without Roy Moore’s unsavory past having come to light. Here’s the bottom line. People in Alabama are good people they love their kids. They want to see their kids get a good education. They want good jobs. They want to be able to support their families. They want to have a good life and a better life in the next generation. And in that sense we’re all very much alike. We want to get to that result in different ways. But what we need to get there and what I think the country is missing at the moment is a shared set of facts. And that’s the real damage that this administration has done to the extent that it’s been able to perpetuate this notion that there are no facts or that real facts are fake news and convince people of that. It’s been really detrimental to those folks to the extent that you see some people voting against their own self-interest right. People who are harmed by Trump’s tax cuts which benefit the wealthy who have somehow been sold the bill of goods that will benefit them personally. And I think as we see more of a return to common sense and to truth and to facts then we’ll see people begin to vote their own self-interest again. But we’re not there frankly we’re very much a country divided. And I’m old enough to remember you know when your choices at night were ABC CBS and NBC and although you might interpret facts differently there was a common shared narrative. We don’t have that any longer and it’s so important for us to restore that sort of a common set of facts that we based our decision making on.

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S8: Absolutely. I think I’m with Elizabeth Warren that starting with Facebook to address our kind of poisoned information streams is the way to go. It is astounding that Mark Zuckerberg has said he’ll continue to let life stand on the platform which is where vast numbers of Americans especially older Americans get their news.

S9: So I’ll push back on that a little bit with my lawyer hat on and say that the First Amendment applies to government efforts to control speech not to private ones. And and there you know Zuckerberg is operating in almost a lawless zone and if anyone has missed the mark here. It’s Congress which has failed to legislate in this regard. I was part of a project three years ago now that had been ongoing before that that was trying to envision what some sort of regulation in this space might look like and in fact what we have is sort of a Wild West where it’s up to the nut Giants where it’s up to Facebook and Twitter and Google and everyone else to decide whether and how they want to regulate speech.

S8: That’s sobering that Facebook can’t just be done away with in a moment by the next president. I’m from New Hampshire. I think about New Hampshire it’s I think about Alabamans and I think about. I’m not on Facebook so I don’t see it but just if the disinformation as we’ve been told continues on that card. What giant massive civilization of a platform with 2 billion users. It really is going to be very very difficult for Americans to keep their heads clear going into 2020.

S9: Yeah I mean that’s absolutely right. I think it was Justice Brandeis who said that sunlight is the best disinfectant meaning that you know the way you deal with falsehood is by putting out the truth. You would think that a platform like Facebook and someone with the sort of background that Zuckerberg has that they could find a way to do that with the tremendous resources at their disposal. They haven’t done that yet. It’s a difficult situation. And you know so without getting on a soapbox I’ll just say that this is paradigmatic of a number of issues that we see whereas so much of our public square discourse becomes part of cyberspace. They’re just new issues that we’re encountering we haven’t thought those through in in a leadership way and one of the challenges for the next administration will be to begin to think about expressly First Amendment in cyberspace crime manipulation of the vote in cyberspace. Those are fresh challenges that we haven’t met yet.

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S11: My guest has been a University of Alabama Law Professor Joyce Vance. You can catch her on MSNBC and Twitter. Thank you so much for joining me Joyce. Thanks for having me. I’ve enjoyed it. That’s it for today’s show. What do you think. Stare into the abyss of Twitter. You know people say it’s a stressful I try to think of it as a pond. Sure there’s like fungus and weird param ECM parrot missy. But there’s also like turtles and goldfish carp. I’m at page 88. The show is at real. Trump cast our show was produced by Melissa Kaplan and is engineered by Merritt Jacob John De Domenico.

S12: Is our voice of Donald Trump. Find him on Twitter at Johnny D. Twenty three. I’m Virginia Heffernan. Thanks for listening to Trump cast.