Rep. Scott Peters On Mueller, Trump; Navy SEAL Freed And Weekend Events
KPBS Midday Edition / May 31, 2019
From tariffs on Mexico to Robert Mueller in front of the cameras, San Diego Congressman Scott Peters responds to this week’s top stories from Washington. Plus, a decorated Navy SEAL facing a murder trial in the death of an Islamic State prisoner was freed from custody Thursday after a military judge cited interference by prosecutors. And the San Diego County Fair is here, plus other events around town.
Speaker 1: 00:00 From tariffs on Mexico to Robert Mueller in front of the cameras. It's been another big news week in Washington. All of this is happening while many members of Congress are back home in their districts for the memorial day break and hearing from their constituents. Democratic Congressman Scott Peters is back in San Diego and he joins us now. Congressman Peters, welcome to the program.
Speaker 2: 00:22 Thanks for having me, Maureen. Good be good to be with you.
Speaker 1: 00:24 Now we've got a lot to talk about. Let's start with the news of the day. President and Trump is threatening to impose tariffs on all Mexican products into the US until that country stops migrants from crossing through Mexico to the US. First of all, my question is, what's your take on the effectiveness of that idea and can the president do that without congressional approval?
Speaker 2: 00:48 Well, it's very alarming that he would suggest that this is a good tactic. Uh, particularly at a time when we're close to finalizing an update of the Nafta Agreement, the u s MCA. This will oppose x effectively on American consumers from food, like tomatoes and avocado to TVs to cars. It disrupts the supply chain, which is about two point $5 billion manufacturing operation shared by the two countries and really won't have anything to do with immigration. He, he suggested we have to end illegal immigration. This won't do it. Affect asylum by international law is legal immigration. Um, there's a process for it. Uh, we should deal with that separately, but this is just very counterproductive and impetuous. It seems to me,
Speaker 1: 01:31 if the president does go through with this terror threat, what effect do you think it's going to have on the San Diego economy?
Speaker 2: 01:37 Clark economies intertwine quite intertwined with Mexico. We, um, we know that one of the drivers of the economy is, is that, is that trade and that the same seadrill border crossing for instance, is the busiest land port in the, in the western hemisphere. Um, we rely on Mexico for fur trade in terms of manufacturing, in terms of tourism, retail, you know, it's not just part of our economy, it's part of our culture. So this is devastating for us. Uh, and for communities like ours are long along the border. We need to make sure that the rest of the country knows, understands that, uh, you know, as Mexico is one of the nations, um, two biggest trading partners and it's, it's tough on everyone and this is a senseless act that doesn't respond to the, to the state of purpose.
Speaker 1: 02:21 Now this week, former special counsel Robert Mueller made a statement about his report that many see as a clear signal to Congress. He says he couldn't charge the president with a crime, but that there are quote constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct. Does that mean impeachment proceedings to you?
Speaker 2: 02:40 Well, that's what he's referring to. I mean, uh, you know, he made it clear, special counsel. Mueller made it clear that he did not exonerate the president. He said if they had confidence that the president did not commit a crime, they would have said so. And in fact, there's 10 instances in the Mueller report of obstruction of justice from telling people not to lie, not to cooperate from threatening to fire people if they didn't do what the president said with respect to this environment, uh, to the investigation. And, um, 900 fed, former federal prosecutors, uh, from both parties have said that anyone else would be prosecuted and jailed for this kind of behavior.
Speaker 1: 03:16 In reference to those other investigations you were talking about right now, these congressional investigations are being stonewalled by the administration with no witnesses or documents handed over. Some legal experts say a fast track to getting those witnesses and information is to start an official impeachment inquiry. Would you support doing that? Now
Speaker 2: 03:40 we don't have to open an impeachment inquiry to get documents and witnesses. The courts have ruled just recently in fact, that I'm under Congress's basic investigatory powers, um, under our role as an oversight coequal oversight role in a coequal branch of government. We're entitled to those documents. It may lead to that point though, marine because, um, the congress doesn't give us a lot of options about what to do. I, I personally think a censure resolution is, is a weak response if in fact we've seen that the president has committed crimes while he's been in office. And that's what, um, Mr Muller was suggesting, I think pretty, pretty strongly that a, it's congress' job to find out,
Speaker 1: 04:21 but right now you're not one of the 50 or so members of Congress calling for impeachment.
Speaker 2: 04:27 I would say that I understand that oversight is important part of our job. I think it's, it's quite possible that we'll get to that point, but I think we should follow the facts.
Speaker 1: 04:35 Okay. So finally, as you probably know, a war crimes trial in San Diego against a navy seal is now in limbo, but the allegations are that he killed in a rocky prisoner and pose for a selfie with a dead Iraqi. One of the members of San Diego's congressional delegation. Your colleague Duncan Hunter is defending the actions of the navy seal that he's accused of and, and says, Hey, Duncan hunter took pictures with dead Iraqis. What's your reaction to that?
Speaker 2: 05:04 Well, I think that we should leave this to military justice. I, um, believe that, um, these are very serious allegations and it's not just the one, a victim and Saul's, there's also allegations that a chief Gallagher from a sniper's perch shot at a young girl and an old man, that he fired indiscriminately into villages without a target. Now, I'm not in a position to evaluate whether that's, that's true or not, but that's what military justice is for. And I think we should let that process play out. Uh, as for, um, you know, my colleague, Mr. Hunter, I'm astounded that anyone would do something like that. Uh, but I, I certainly don't think it bears on the, the trial that chief Gallagher deserves and that the military justice deserves.
Speaker 1: 05:44 Congressman Scott Peters represents a San Diego's 52nd congressional district. I've been speaking to him via Skype. Congressman Peters, thank you very much. Thank you, Maureen. Have a good weekend.
Speaker 1: 00:00 The wife of accused war criminal Edward Gallagher says yesterday, surprise, court ruling feels quote like a small victory on the way to a larger victory. Here's Andrea Gallagher.
Speaker 2: 00:10 I have been fighting for my husband for so long and for his freedom and sometimes felt like that was never going to happen. And then today it happened. I mean, I just feel like it's a, just a huge step in the right direction.
Speaker 1: 00:25 Gallagher was released Thursday after a hearing over allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Now it's not clear if the trial of navy seal chief Edward Gallagher accused of murdering and rocky prisoner will move forward. KPBS is military reporters. Steve Walsh was in the courtroom and he joins us now. Steve, welcome. Hi Maureen. So what was the reaction to judge Roos announcement that he was releasing Gallagher from custody?
Speaker 3: 00:50 It was surprised. Even the defense counsel was surprising.
Speaker 4: 00:54 I think that the entire day was surprising. Uh, you know, right from the beginning, just the, the way that the witnesses went, the way that the arguments went. And of course that big surprise at the end,
Speaker 3: 01:05 Gallagher was expected to remain in custody until trial. You know, Gallagher was in custody in the brig at Miramar from, it's in September 11th the reason he's in the brig is because he's accused of intimidating witnesses in the investigation and he had been tremendous amount of publicity here. President Trump intervened and tweeted out that he should be removed to less restrictive confinement. So we went from the Brigit Miramar over to the naval hospital in San Diego and that's where he's been and that's where he was expected to be until the trial began.
Speaker 1: 01:38 Let me take a step backward for a minute, Steve and remind us what Edward Gallagher is accused of.
Speaker 3: 01:44 What he's accused of is killing a wounded isis fighter in his custody and then bragging about it in text messages. Also, he's accused of killing an elderly man and a young woman with his sniper rifle. There is also a charge of posing with a corpse and then sending it out as a text message with the caption got 'em with my hunting knife.
Speaker 1: 02:03 So these charges are extremely severe. Why did the judge say Gallagher should be released?
Speaker 3: 02:10 Well in part it's because of of what we were in court yesterday all about, which is the whole idea of the defense says that it's been spied on. There's a motion to dismiss. In this case,
Speaker 1: 02:23 the judge said Gallagher should be released as a remedy for prosecutors interfering with his sixth amendment right to counsel. Now, the defense has argued for quite some time that the prosecutors in a way infiltrated the defense and their ability to defend their client. Can you tell us more about that? Sure, sure.
Speaker 3: 02:42 What was on the table is this motion to dismiss and that is for prosecutorial misconduct. Basically, the defense is saying that the prosecutors were spying on them. They placed an email, a tracker in the, in emails to a the defense and one reporter call Paul Ryan with Navy Times. They were trying to find the source of hundreds of pages of leaked documents. The defense is calling all of this spying.
Speaker 1: 03:05 What are the prosecutors have to say in response to these claims?
Speaker 3: 03:08 Well, they've been pretty quiet about this. These are defense emotions. But we did hear testimony yesterday where, uh, expert witnesses kind of drill down into exactly what these email trackers were. What we've found is they can track the Ip address, the name dates, and a few other elements, uh, of, of what's going on in the email. Now the, the judge is saying that he was not aware that this tracker was put on email, sent to defense, and to, to navy times, uh, prosecutors. Again, they'd seem just obsess over the of these leaks, which are hundreds of pages of documents that went out to the New York Times, the Uti and to navy times. We found out yesterday that NCS and the US Attorney's office, we're basically conducting a criminal investigation into these leaks. But all of that was halted as of May 10th when the judge got wind of what was going on.
Speaker 1: 03:56 And at first the defense said that the judge might have been aware of it and they asked that he agree cues himself. That's not something that they're asking for anymore,
Speaker 3: 04:05 right? They, they actually withdrew that motion first. So first they had to make sure that the judge was still going to be the judge in this case. Um, they now agree with the judge that he was not aware to the extent that they were being tracked. So coming up today they'll have to decide whether or not prosecutors should step down because of this or overall they could agree to the motion to dismiss and all of this could be thrown out.
Speaker 1: 04:28 What effect do you think of dismissal would have on the military's effort to prosecute war crimes?
Speaker 3: 04:34 You've already had several generals and, and um, and retired admirals. Talk about, uh, the impact of a pardon and this would be much the same thing. We have to keep in mind. We have not really heard the prosecutor's case in this. We have seven navy seals who are set to testify in this case. The allegations are incredibly severe that Gallagher killed or wounded teenage prisoner in his custody shot two people with a sniper rifle and members of his own units are the ones who turned him in. But we've really not seen any of that because the trial hasn't really gotten underway.
Speaker 1: 05:08 And so we'll have to see what happens. Today. I've been speaking with KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh. Thank you so much. Thanks, Maria.
Speaker 5: 05:16 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh get ready for Krispy Kreme cheeseburgers and mini donuts. The San Diego County Fair opens today. Also. This weekend is a new fiddler on the roof and a look at music through the lens of autism here with details as KPBS arts editor, Nita Garren and Nina. Welcome. Hello. There's a new fiddler on the roof in town. What's different about it?
Speaker 2: 00:26 Okay, purists are really worried. Um, they're afraid it's going to be different. And I'm here to say it's not that different. It's still the same story and you get the songs where they need to be. The main difference is that in the very beginning and at the very end, there's a framing device that really brings home the idea that the Jewish experience was a struggle then and continues to be today. But I'm not going to tell you what that device is because it's really, really powerful if you see it in person.
Speaker 1: 00:53 When this version first opened on Broadway in 2016 there was a lot of talk about the choreography. Why is that?
Speaker 2: 00:59 Yeah, that's the main reason to go see it. So the original version was done by Jerome Robbins, who's a ballet dancer, um, and worked on Broadway. This version is buy whole fish Schachter and he really wasn't a Broadway person and he made the dance way more gritty, more of the, um, Israeli folk dancing element in there. And it's just authentic. Like you really do think that the people living in the Stedelijk in 1905 would move like this.
Speaker 1: 01:26 Can you remind us what fiddler on the roof is about? I mean, there's more to it than if I were a rich man, right?
Speaker 2: 01:32 Yeah. I mean it's about family and tradition and that's why people love it so much. The basic story is about the poor Milkman Tevya who's trying to hold together these traditions in the face of a lot of change and he has to deal with that through his oldest daughters. We're going to listen to a song from the show, but you wanted to tell us why you're picking this particular song. Yeah, I'm picking Tevyes dream because I grew up with fiddler on the roof. It was part of my childhood. I loved this musical, but this part to me was so scary. I had nightmares about it. And this version that's touring does the most creative and kind of funny version.
Speaker 1: 02:10 This is Tevye. His dream from the 2016 Broadway cast of fiddler on the roof
Speaker 3: 02:15 from beyond the [inaudible]. What is this about the bottom Mary in my husband. Would you do this to your friends and neighbors? Have you know, consideration for a woman's feeling. [inaudible] Golden Barbie log ins to what total stranger. How can you let them talk and take my place and my house cabby, my keys and my clothes pants.
Speaker 2: 02:59 Fiddler on the roof plays through Sunday at the civic theater. Well, it's that time of year, Nina. The San Diego County Fair starts this afternoon. Now I know you focus on the arts and we will get to that, but first can we discuss the fair food? Yeah, I'll start with the healthy option. This year's theme is based on the yellow brick road. So there's going to be a lot of green things and there's an over the rainbow summer salad, so I'm just going to tell you that that's available. Um, but also this year you get deep fried creme Brulee. You have pizza on a waffle. Um, another new thing is a buffalo chicken Shimmy Chonga with flaming hot cheeto dust. Of course you can still get your Krispy Kreme cheeseburgers or um, a fried chicken sandwich with Krispy Kreme donuts topped with fruity pebbles and pizza and a waffle doesn't sound, I know none of it sounds that bad. Okay, so now let's get to the fair concerts. What are some highlights? There's a lot of country pop and Latin music. Um, and also your classics that you always get at the fair. Neil Sedaka, Toby Keith, smokey Robinson. There's going to be, um, the violinist who also dances, Lindsey sterling and the pop star pit bull. Um, some of the concerts are free with admission and then some you have to pay. All the details are online. Let's listen to some smokey Robinson. This is cruising
Speaker 3: 04:25 [inaudible].
Speaker 2: 04:48 Now there are also some popular festivals and events coming up at the fair this year. There's a festival or event pretty much every day. Yeah, some of the more popular ones or the Wine Festival, the Gospel Festival. There's also an Lgbtq art show. There's beer tastings, film festivals. There's really so much happening. It's almost overwhelming, but it's all laid out very nicely on their website. The San Diego County Fair opens today, runs through July 4th the mainly Mozart Festival begins this weekend with an event called music and the mind tell us about that. So this is an event that's going to Cather musicians, researchers, doctors, therapists, and they're going to explore the role that music plays in the brain. And the main draw is that autism advocate temple Grandin will be part of panels and she's going to be delivering a keynote address. You mentioned Temple Grandin, but there's also going to be a performance by Derek power of a cine. Who is he? He's a British musician who happens to be related to Camilla Parker Bowles. He is blind and he also has autism, but he's a music savant. And he can remember every song ever heard and he
Speaker 1: 05:58 can play them and he can also switch to play them in the style of the composer.
Speaker 3: 06:03 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 06:26 mainly Mozart's music and the mind happens this weekend at venues throughout the county. And you can find more arts events and kpbs.org/. Arts I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor, Nina Garrett. Nina, thanks. Thanks. Have a good weekend.