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Discussing Ethics In Politics, Pelosi Attends Forum With San Diego Rep. Mike Levin

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, came to Oceanside on Monday afternoon for a discussion with U.S. House Rep. Mike Levin, D-Oceanside, on campaign finance and ethics reform.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 And Oceanside political forum got some high profile buzz Monday with a visit from house speaker Nancy Pelosi, the speaker attended the meeting with Oceanside Congressman Mike Levin build as a community meeting. The topics at the event ranged from campaign finance reform to climate change, but even though the house only last week voted to approve and impeachment inquiry against president Trump, that was not the focus of Pelosi's remarks in Oceanside journey me by Skype is UC San Diego political science professor Thad [inaudible] who moderated the event and Thad. Welcome. Thanks for having me. Maureen, did you expect that much of the conversation at this forum would be about impeachment?

Speaker 2: 00:43 Well, I knew that would be the topic on everyone's mind for the questioning afterwards during forum, a speaker Pelosi and representative Leben really focused on campaign finance reform and redistricting and ethics and all the provisions of this bill. Though the speaker did make sure to get in and note, uh, that soliciting foreign interference in U S elections was actually already against the law.

Speaker 1: 01:05 Now, KPBS reporter Shalina chat, Lani did manage to get Pelosi to say a few words about the impeachment inquiry and why white house witnesses are not testifying.

Speaker 3: 01:16 Any of the people who do not respond to a request from Congress, uh, maybe engaging in obstruction of justice so they're not making their case any clear. They all have the opportunity to present information that might be favorable to them. So if they don't show up, we wonder why they didn't show up. If this is their chance to give their best side of the story.

Speaker 1: 01:39 That speaker Nancy Pelosi in Oceanside yesterday, and as you mentioned that she did seem to touch on the subject of impeachment when she spoke about that legislation, which tightens the rules against foreign interference in elections. Tell us about that.

Speaker 2: 01:54 Well, I think one of the issues that came up was that this bill, I think, believe has a provision that says, if you find out about foreign interference in elections, you actually have to affirmatively report that. And so on. Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have made the case that even with the collusion with Russia, there was no, the Mueller report found evidence that the Trump campaign was aware of it and didn't report it to the FBI, to the CIA, any relevant authorities. I think they were trying to use this conversation about this legislation to make the point that that was wrong. And if you pass our bill, it'll be illegal. But then pivot very quickly to Ukraine, which I think has gathered much more steam. Uh, and, and it's clearly driven the impeachment discussion and make the point that what happened in Ukraine, at least as they charge, was already unlawful.

Speaker 1: 02:41 That as you were preparing your questions for this forum, what did you want to hear from the speaker?

Speaker 2: 02:47 Well, I wanted to hear really what her vision was with this set of reforms. So this HR one is a big, a Christmas tree of a bill that has every thing in it that's political reformers have asked for for generation. So I wanted to hear what her overall vision was and also with, with both her and Mike Levin. Okay. The house is controlled by Democrats. You've passed this out of the house already. It's sitting on Mitch McConnell's desk in the Senate. What's your strategy for advancing this? Are there, are there places where you can find bipartisan compromise now? Is there a longterm strategy for from moving this set of ideas forward

Speaker 1: 03:23 now? Did she address that issue? I heard a lot of talk about the fact that the Congress that you'd democratic Congress has passed a large number of bills that are now sitting on of Senate leader Mitch McConnell's desk in the Senate. But I didn't hear any strategies. Did you?

Speaker 2: 03:41 Yeah, I think Mitch McConnell's desk has become a talking point for Democrats to try to make the argument that at the same time that they're moving forward with an impeachment inquiry. They're also passing lots of legislation and hundreds of bills that have been passed by the house are waiting there. And so I think, look, realistically in this session, nothing's going to happen. We aren't, we aren't going to see these bills move to and, and so the, so the question is who's going to control the Senate and the Senate's agenda next session? So I think really she was using this to, to lay out the case that this is not a do nothing Congress, that they're passing lots of things, that this is a do nothing Senate. And if you don't like that, maybe you should change, change the hands of the Senate. I think that was, that was the focus of her, of her strategy yesterday.

Speaker 1: 04:23 Now this political forum in Oceanside was streamed live on CNN. Did you know that was going to happen? Ah, no I didn't. I didn't know that until you told me. Okay. Well it gave me a chance to watch. And one thing I was impressed with was the energy and the depth of knowledge speaker Polosi displayed. Did she come across that way with you?

Speaker 2: 04:42 Absolutely. Shit. You know, I hadn't seen her in person before. Right. You just see clips of her on, uh, you know, in the news media. And I think she was clearly very much at home talking about getting into the weeds of this legislation and then pulling back and talking about what her vision was for America, why this was going to make the political system a fair place for her children and why, uh, and, and everyone's children and why getting reformed could unleash all of the other policies that she, she and my club and talked about climate change. They talked about gun control. Uh, they, they talked about a range of policy issues. And the idea was that that the advancing reform will unlock progress on all these policy issues. So I thought she was, you know, she came across not as a striking partisan but fairly moderate. So there's a reason she speaker and I think she showed that, uh, in this form.

Speaker 1: 05:30 And what political reason do you think is behind Pelosi being at this meeting with Mike Levin?

Speaker 2: 05:35 You know, I think she is outworking to defend her caucus in the, in the seats where they're most vulnerable. So this is a district, uh, you know, Mike Levin won a big victory at 13 percentage point victory in, in 2018. But because it's still a district where there are more registered, at least as that last election, there are more registered Republicans than Democrats. This is a deeply purple district and the speaker, like all good legislative leaders is out on essentially, you know, on the campaign trail working to shore up support for her most vulnerable members to make sure that the house, the Democrats back in 2018 she wants to keep it. She wants to keep the gabble after the 2020 elections and not turn it over two years later like she did, uh, like she had to in 2010

Speaker 1: 06:21 then. What were some of the other big takeaways you had from this forum?

Speaker 2: 06:24 Well, I think the conversation on impeachment is really the most that's clear. Clearly the historic moment that we're in American politics. And I think that phase of the impeachment that we moved into last week, uh, that speaker Pelosi decided to move into is really the most interesting thing. She is taking a gamble by calling Republicans bluff. Uh, Republicans have been talking about the process, talking about how the [inaudible] doesn't have, didn't have a public vote, didn't have public hearings, and they weren't allowed to call their witnesses. So she's essentially saying, okay, I'll give you the vote, I'll give you the public hearings, I'll give you, I'll let you call witnesses. And now you've got to make a substantive defense and the president. So she's doing that. But she's taking a risk that these hearings will turn up new information that'll further move public support that she's always governed by towards impeachment and create that groundswell that would need to be created for, for any Republicans to, to flip and support this in the Senate. So she's taking a big gamble that these hearings can actually be, be lively, be entertaining in this 24 hour news cycle and advance her cause. And, and she was defending that decision after this forum.

Speaker 1: 07:30 I've been speaking with UC San Diego political science professor Thad Cassar that thanks a lot. Thanks for having me.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.