Representative Eric Sawalwell joined me this morning, for what I hope will be the first of many visits. Other would-be nominees who have already been guests here include his House colleague Tim Ryan and his former colleague Representative John Delaney who retired from Congress to spend his full time seeking the nomination. More to follow. (Lots more.)
HH: Before I go, I get to walk with Eric Swalwell. Eric is running for president. He is a Democratic member of Congress from California’s 13th Congressional District, a pretty good one, I know, because my brother-in-law and sister-in-law live in Pleasanton, which he represents. Congressman Swalwell, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show. Thank you for joining me.
ES: Well, thank you, Hugh, for having me on.
HH: In the 2016 cycle, I did 170 interviews with Republican would-be nominees. Secretary Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry both told me last year on long interviews on the show they wished they’d done conservative media in their cycles when they ran for president. Do you intend to do conservative media, Congressman Swalwell?
ES: You know, if I want my parents and my in-laws to see me or hear me on the radio, I’d better. And I actually have, and that’s because I do think you know, it’s a forum that we need to talk to, and you know, can’t dismiss. And I think Fox has told me that no Democrat has gone on Tucker Carlson’s show more than I have in the last four years, and so I intend to keep that spirit going.
HH: Bravo. I hope you encourage all your colleagues, because to me, it’s crazy if you can find responsible hosts who are not there to ambush you, and I don’t do ambush questions, although the first two questions I ask every guest are kind of an ambush. This goes back 19 years. It’s a tradition. It’s not for Eric Swalwell only. Are you ready for the first two questions?
ES: Sure. Bring it on.
HH: Was Alger Hiss a communist spy?
HH: Oh, there you go. That’s one right. Have you read The Looming Tower?
ES: No, I have not.
HH: Okay, I would recommend strongly before…
HH: …because it is, I think, the, it’s written by Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker. It’s not a conservative book. It’s just a great book.
ES: Yup, yup.
HH: Now you’re on the Intel Committee, are you not, Congressman Swalwell?
ES: I am, and also the Judiciary Committee.
HH: Any evidence have you seen of collusion between the President himself and Russia?
ES: I’ve seen an eagerness and a willingness to collude. And where we wanted to fill in, you know, whether that materialized, we were not able to pursue that. And that would have been through looking at financial transactions, looking at telecommunication logs, and interviews with witnesses who refused to answer questions when we asked, you know, what was the President’s knowledge or, you know, what conversations did the President have with Russians he knew, Russians who visited the United States, or Russians he met with when he was in Moscow. So we were stymied in a number of ways, and I think we will get those answers in the next two years if Bob Mueller doesn’t get them first.
HH: Well, Bob Woodward came on this show when he wrote Fear, and he said he looked very hard for evidence of collusion between Russia and the President, and he could find none. Have you, I know what you’re saying, that some questions weren’t answered. But of all the questions you did have answered, did you hear any that indicated actual collusion between the President and Russia?
ES: Well, you know, I’ll put my prosecutor hat back on, which was you know, I wanted to look at the documents or have the witnesses confronted who could answer those questions for you. You know, I saw probable cause to pursue that just based on the eagerness to take meetings with the Russians, the unwillingness to, you know, stop them as they were making, you know, various approaches, the number of emails that I saw with people contacting senior campaign officials. They’re not public, yet, but I hope they will be public when we release what the Republicans blocked, of so many people who contacted the campaign saying we want to connect Donald Trump to Putin. And no one said no. No one forwarded this on to the FBI. And it was, just as I say, it was, where prior campaigns would see Russia as an adversary, this campaign did not.
HH: Now you are a former prosecutor. That’s actually in your favor. But I have represented accused wrongfully before very aggressive prosecutors before. So my defense counsel response is so you haven’t got any evidence. You’ve got suspicions and probable cause, but you haven’t got any evidence.
ES: I want to probe further where the evidence is. As I said, if I was putting this in front of a judge, I would say there’s probable cause to go further. But where I wanted to get bank records, where I wanted to get cell phone communications, where I wanted to, you know, confront witnesses, we were blocked, or witnesses would just outright refuse to answer, or Jared Kushner, for example, he was told by a Republican member of the Intel Committee you don’t have to answer the Democrats’ questions. This is a voluntary interview. And he got up and left. I mean, he, you know, I guess, you know, he realized he wasn’t under subpoena and just got up and left. And so you know, this was a very take them at their word investigation, and I don’t think any of these individuals are worthy of being taken at their word.
HH: Will you accept the report from Bob Mueller? I’m going to.
ES: Yes, yeah.
HH: Whatever Bob Mueller says, I’m going to read, and I’m going to accept as factual what he asserts at factual.
ES: Yes, but I also do not believe that Bob, just based on the limited press reporting on what he’s done and the indictments he’s put out, I don’t believe he’s pursuing potential money laundering of the Trump Organization with Russia. I think he’s staying narrowly within his mandate. If he sees no crimes like I think he saw with Paul Manifort, he would obviously refer that out or pursue him. But I don’t think he is looking at the Deutsche Bank records or the other records that could show us that. And I think that’s one line of inquiry that we will pursue, just based on the Trump family’s own statements that they had millions of dollars pouring in from the Russians.
HH: Now do you think you’ll be voting in favor of articles of impeachment in the coming Congress, Eric Swalwell?
ES: I hope not. I really hope not, because I think that’s bad for democracy. I’d rather see Donald Trump impeached at the ballot box by the voters. I don’t want to make him a martyr. And I also just think you know, it, impeachment is almost like going through a bankruptcy. It’s just a very hard thing to come out of. But no one is above the law, and you know, we have to take our job seriously. And if there is evidence, I think we should have an airtight case, seek bipartisan buy-in, and be able to explain to the American people why this, you know, extraordinary measure is necessary.
HH: Now let’s switch to the shutdown. I know the President took the mantle on when he shut it down, but I believe it’s being kept shut by Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer, because they won’t compromise. Do you think we need border security, Eric Swalwell?
ES: Yes. Yeah, absolutely.
HH: Does that include border barriers of some sort?
ES: Yes, it does, but I think where the barriers between the Republicans and the Democrats, or the Republicans, or the Democrats and President Trump right now is I don’t think he’s going to get his 2,000 mile structural wall. And he hasn’t been able to articulate just exactly where he thinks you know, a wall is needed. And he’s certainly shown no way that Mexico would pay for it. So what he promised the voters in 2016, he’s not going to get. But more border patrol agents? Yes. Security measures where there are gaps and vulnerabilities? Making sure people aren’t overstaying their visas? Using drone technology to identify people getting close? I’m all for that.
HH: What about fencing, though? I have been a proponent of double-layered fencing ever since it worked so dramatically around Yuma. And it seems to me that if the Speaker and the Minority Leader came back with $3 billion dollars for border barriers wherever appropriate, we’d be done, and these 800,000 feds could go back to work. Don’t you think?
ES: Yeah, if he could articulate that, yes. I’m open to that. But you know, a wall, which he does not want to come off of, is not going to be supported by Democrats, and I think it’s just because of the symbolism of a wall between, you know, two allied nations, I don’t think is a good thing.
HH: Well, we’ve got fences and walls in different places. I go through the Tijuana border a lot, because we support an orphanage down there. But I’m just curious, will you go to the leadership and say make an offer that’s reasonable?
ES: Yeah, and I think by putting forward a bill that 100 Democratic and Republican senators voted for already, I think that’s pretty reasonable. You know, what we put forward yesterday was exactly what Mitch McConnell passed with 100 votes, Republicans and Democrats. And you know, the President seems to be the one, I think, isolated here.
HH: Well, but he turned it down. He is the president.
HH: We need a compromise.
ES: We do.
HH: Every one of the 17 previous shutdowns have concluded with a compromise. Should the Speaker and the Minority Leader compromise?
ES: Yeah, I think if it’s a matter of dollars spent, yes, you could see movement. But I don’t believe, you know, a structural wall as the President has described is going to really earn any Democratic votes.
HH: Now we’re running low on time. I hope you’ll come back early and often, Congressman. It’s great to talk to you.
ES: I will. I will.
HH: What makes you different from the 30 other Democrats who want your party’s nomination? You’re 38 years old. You’re a prosecutor. You’ve got a little head’s up, because you were born in Iowa, raised in Iowa. That’s kind of a little advantage people don’t know about. But what makes you different from this parade of candidates?
ES: Well, first, I believe in the promise of America, which is if you work hard, that means you should do better for yourself and dream bigger for your kids, because I lived it, the son of a cop and a mom who still works today and worked a number of odd jobs. But I don’t think that’s being fulfilled everywhere, and I grew up in a town called Dublin, right next to your family in Pleasanton. And they will recall that 20 years ago when I was growing up, it was called Scrublin, because the schools weren’t that great, and we didn’t have any high-end employers. And because we invested in schools and we invested in attracting high-end employers, we turned the fortunes of that city around. And I think if you made those investments across America, you could connect the disconnected. So just by growing up and knowing want and knowing grit, I saw that if you invested and believe in people, you could change their lives. But I also, just by being a prosecutor and being on the Intelligence Committee, I have, you know, I think stood up for our democracy when it’s been on the ropes. And I also believe that the future of our country is forward, and it’s really going to take new energy and ideas to get us there. So that’s why I’m considering it, and if I make that announcement, I do promise to come back and you know, take the full Hugh Hewitt vetting.
HH: Oh, well, we love that. We love that, Congressman. Great to make your acquaintance. Have a great 2019. I look forward to your announcement when it comes, and to talking to you again soon in the near future. Thank you for joining me.
ES: Sounds good. All right. Thank you, Hugh. Bye.
End of interview.