President Trump Is Impeached
KPBS Roundtable / December 20, 2019
The House of Representatives approves the impeachment of President Donald Trump, Democratic presidential candidates hold a debate in Southern California, and companies cut freelance workers as a result of California's new gig economy law.
Speaker 1: 00:01 Can an impeach president win reelection. We're about to find out why voters may be the ones to make a final decision. I'm Donald Trump. The candidates come to California with an earlier primary in 2020 this week's democratic debate carries more weight and it doesn't take effect until the new year, but already a major new employment laws having consequences, including hundreds of layoffs. I'm Mark Sauer. The KPBS round table starts now.
Speaker 2: 00:33 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 00:37 welcome to our discussion of the week stop stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS round table today. Sarah Libby, managing editor of voice of San Diego. Michael Smollins, columnist with the San Diego union Tribune and KPBS border and immigration reporter max Rivlin Adler. Well, the adage about defense attorneys held forth in the house of representatives as they impeached Donald J. Trump this week for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. If you have the facts, pound the facts. If you have the law, the law favors you pound the law. If you have neither pound the table and Republicans have done a lot of table pounding and projecting Trump's favorite method of attack and the historic impeachment hearing. Republicans really mounted no defense of Trump. Instead accusing Democrats of abusing power of a massive coverup and assault on the constitution. Election interference of shattering precedents. They called for it. Adam shifts indictment and Nancy, I'm sorry. And Nancy Pelosi's expulsion. That's right. Indictment. And now the case against the president of heads towards trial in the Senate where the majority leader says he's working hand in glove with Trump and his attorneys and Michael a, it's a lot here to unpack what struck you. So this was almost a straight party line vote on impeachment this week.
Speaker 3: 01:51 Yes, it's sort of taking a step back. Wednesday impeachment day was a very historic day, yet a very predictable day. The following day. Thursday was fascinating and totally unpredictable. Polosi decided to hold onto the articles of impeachment, not sending them to the Senate to negotiate terms. So we don't know. Suddenly this whole very certain processes become a little bit uncertain at the time being the real mindblower. And Thursday though was a Christianity today coming out with a very strong editorial urging. The removal of the president, uh, the president has a lot of support among evangelicals and let's face it, like any group, not everybody, it's not a monolith, but this really I think caught a lot of attention and surprised a lot of people,
Speaker 1: 02:32 important magazine founded by Billy Graham, correct? Correct.
Speaker 3: 02:35 And they, the, the editorial said that, that uh, in no uncertain terms what he did was, were impeachable offenses and even more so I think in their view, more importantly, they were highly immoral and talked about his character a lot and also reflected back that they made similar statements about president Clinton and they felt they had to be consistent. So that was very interesting. But getting back to the actual impeachment day, uh, yes, the day start off kind of interesting. It was almost routine for such a historic thing. We knew what was going to happen. But I think after the fact, and maybe it's that, you know, everything blew up as big news does online and the big headlines, you know, you realize, or at least I did the momentousness of what just happened. It was only the third impeachment of us president the second in our lifetime, throughout the history of this country. Moreover, it was the first first-term president. So we'll see for the first time, uh, unless the Senate does something surprising. A president up for reelection after he's been impeached,
Speaker 1: 03:29 right? And the facts in this case, as I said in the open, really not disputed. Trump with health 391 million and military aid dangled a white house meeting to Ukraine's new president, attempt to get them to announce an investigation and no political rival, any block key witnesses from testifying and refuse subpoenas for documents. And here's how outgoing a representative Susan Davis, Democrat of San Diego, I put it on the floor.
Speaker 4: 03:53 Madam speaker, make no mistake. We are not impeaching this president. He is impeaching himself. If you are the president and you obstruct justice, tried to bribe a foreign leader and threaten national security, you're going to get impeached. End of story.
Speaker 1: 04:20 And Michael, why did Trump and his congressional supporters keep insisting the Democrats and the American people should be okay with it?
Speaker 3: 04:26 Well, the Republican party has been hollowed out and has become the Trump party. So they're marching in lock step. I think the bigger question is why his sort of rank and file regular people keep supporting him. And you know, I mean, there's a bit of a cult of personality, but it's more than that. He still speaks as he did in 2016 to the anger and frustration that is out there, not just among his supporters towards Washington. And now he's got sort of what he thinks is exhibit a, see how unfair and how rigged the system is. Uh, they, they believe that, uh, and I think also that, you know, uh, politics, domestic politics has often played a role in foreign policy. Never to this extent. But we've seen presidents throughout history when they're kind of in trouble at home, make a foreign trip or somehow ramp up some foreign policy action. Uh, not suggesting a wag. The dog and Wars have been started in that regard. But so, but this, I mean, to make clear, it goes beyond anything we've ever seen. I mean, you know, asking a foreign foreign powers twice to intercede in election to help them out. That's a unprecedented,
Speaker 1: 05:29 and the Washington post yesterday, they published a story quoting former Trump AIDS about his refusal to give up this crazy CrowdStrike conspiracy theory regarding Ukraine officials. Big part of the first article of impeachment here. Uh, the supposedly, uh, Ukraine officials and cahoots with Democrats to hack their own servers, released the damaging emails, blame Russia. Oh, and keep it all quiet until after the 2016 election is, uh, Trump getting played by a Putin as Nancy Pelosi is suggesting.
Speaker 3: 05:56 We all, uh, certainly some people seem to think so. There's been some reporting out that, that he, you know, he actually came to the conclusion that Ukraine was involved from Putin, uh, according to some unnamed AIDS. Now, I don't know if that's true, but you figured that the, the post, uh, you know, has confidence in their sources.
Speaker 1: 06:15 They remember his comments in Helsinki.
Speaker 3: 06:17 Well, you know, on top of that, we had Putin the other day giving a long defense of Trump and criticism of impeachment and some people said, well, wow, he's, he's using Republican talking points. I'm sort of wondering where Republican he's using his talking points. He's now representing, I mean, it's just, it's crazy. Yeah.
Speaker 1: 06:32 What's going on right now, uh, is impeachment votes are being cast. Uh, the other night, president Trump was holding campaign rally in battle Creek, Michigan. Here's some of his reaction to being impeached
Speaker 5: 06:43 by the way. It doesn't really feel like we're being impeached.
Speaker 6: 06:47 Yeah. The country is doing better than ever before. We did nothing wrong. We did nothing wrong.
Speaker 5: 06:58 And we have tremendous support in the Republican party like we've never had before.
Speaker 6: 07:02 Cool. Nobody's ever had this,
Speaker 5: 07:06 the do nothing. Democrats and they are do nothing. All they want to do is focus on this. What they could be doing are declaring their deep hatred and disdain for the American voter. This lawless, partisan preachment is a political suicide March for the Democrat party.
Speaker 3: 07:25 Okay.
Speaker 1: 07:26 All right. Actually, the democratic house has passed some 400 bills. Climate change, gun violence, lowering drug costs, voting rights. Now, new NAFTA agreement, major spending bill, et cetera. This retrenchment over impeachment and the perilous check and balance system that we've been talking about here. What does this say about the future of democracy in this place?
Speaker 3: 07:42 Well, in a sort of a bizarre way, pitchman has sort of been good for action being done because I don't, you know, they, both sides had it in their interest to show they were getting the job done while the impeachment was happening. So we saw this flurry of activity and you ticked off a whole bunch of things that Trump had some wins with the U S MCA, then the new NAFTA, as well as a, what appears to be a emerging agreement with China. Uh, so we'll see. For democracy, I think democracy is going to survive. I mean, we're being very challenged. We'll have to see what happens in the coming year and election. Um, you know, we've gone through some tough times. People I think get very shortsighted about, uh, is this the most divided the country has been and we had a civil war and we had to be able to, or argue certainly the ladder even was greater difficulty than we're having now.
Speaker 1: 08:30 And max, something you've covered a lot of, of course, is immigration. That is a key, divisive issue here.
Speaker 7: 08:34 Yeah, it's a, it's a huge issue, but one that has kind of taken a back seat to these impeachment hearings, right? As the Republicans get bogged down and, uh, defending Trump, the rhetoric moves away from the wall, things that Trump would like to kind of focus on heading into 2020. It'll be interesting to see if that, uh, kind of gaze returns back towards, um, you know, what he would to as like the scorch of immigration, things like that where we've really moved away from it. And in fact, he's been nothing but complimentary to the Mexican president, especially as they ratify this trade deal.
Speaker 1: 09:06 And, uh, I wanted to talk about, uh, you alluded to that earlier, Michael, on this whole issue of witnesses here. Uh, it should be noted, president bill Clinton when he was impeached December in 1998 some of us were around then. He had apologized her lying about an affair. He didn't interfere with house managers. They plan to produce new witnesses and testimony trial. It took about five weeks. Uh, let's talk about this trial. And the Senate. McConnell wants no witnesses. Uh, Chuck Schumer, the Democrat minority leader, uh, wants at least four men with direct knowledge of the Ukraine scandal. And it's just going to be negotiated. We're going to see a real trial or what
Speaker 3: 09:41 we'll see. You know, like I said to Pelosi did throw a curve ball into things. Uh, we thought, uh, things were just gonna move along to the kind of trial, quote unquote that you're talking about. My guess is that, that I, I think they've got to move forward. She can't hold onto them forever. I think that, uh, the, you know, it's, it is McConnell's house and they'll get their way,
Speaker 1: 10:03 but a political ramification to all of it.
Speaker 3: 10:05 Right? Well, yeah, but I mean there's risk on both sides. Uh, he wants it over quickly to get it moved on. Uh, Pelosi wanted an expedited process or things to move fast, you know, now I think she's, you know, trying to raise Trump's anxiety over the holidays frankly, but the longer this drags out, the more it might hurt some of the, the swing district, uh, incumbents that I think they would like to move on from impeachment to healthcare and the other things that people care about. Then, uh, then have to talk about,
Speaker 1: 10:33 well, the end of the first week in January, we'll see how that all plays out. What we're going to move on to a related topic now. Seven Democrats, roughly half of those, still seeking to replace Donald Trump next year, squared off in Los Angeles for another debate Thursday night. It was a notably a white group, former vice president, Joe Biden, senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Amy Columbus, Shar of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts South bend, mayor Pete Buddha, judge California billionaire Tom Stier and tech entrepreneur, Andrew Yang. He's up in New York and max debate here in, uh, California. First of all, it kind of highlights that we've got the early primary this year and California is kind of in the spotlight where, you know, it didn't, um, you know, wasn't that way when we were back in the June primary days.
Speaker 7: 11:15 Yeah, it's really for a forefronted California with a, it has a massive amount of delegates. It has put it on the map in terms of, uh, candidates coming to California. You've seen, uh, Sanders, this is his third trip this year to San Diego. Um, it will were since he announced his candidacy in February. On top of that, you've seen large rallies in Los Angeles. Uh, Warren has been here quite a few times. Buddha judge did a rally last month in San Diego, so usually California was this afterthought or you know, basically if California was in play, then something had seriously, uh, gotten drawn out and the democratic, uh, you know, even last, uh, last time around the associated press called the election for the primary for Clinton on the day before the California primary, uh, you know, and that kind of showed voters who, you know, had been engaged in California, the need to move up the, the, um, primary to get their voices heard
Speaker 1: 12:14 because as we'll talk about a lot on this show, there's other issues on that primary. And of course, that's the big, the big draw. Now, Bernie Sanders in sannyasi dura today, Friday. What's the focus of their alley here?
Speaker 7: 12:25 He's calling it his immigration rally. He has a fairly, you know, in line with Bernie, a progressive agenda that he's trying to push here. This includes, um, reinstating DACA and expanding it and includes decriminalizing border crossing, um, which is actually held by quite a few members of the democratic candidates. Um, he's calling for, uh, this is a step beyond all the other candidates, a temporary moratorium on deportations until he could look at the entire system while in office. So, um, you know, as kind of the, uh, the Vanguard of, uh, this policy here, uh, he's the first one holding a rally along this California border here, um, to actually highlight these issues.
Speaker 1: 13:07 Well, I want to get a sound bite and from last night's a debate, Friday night or Thursday night, I should say, for, for listening, uh, folks here, um, the a child separation issue. Max, you've covered that quite a bit. Uh, I came up here, South bend, mayor Pete, Buddha, judge, hear what he had to say.
Speaker 8: 13:25 Are you committing as president to financial compensation for those thousands of children? Yes. And they should have a fast track to citizenship because what the United States did under this president to them was wrong. And we have a moral obligation to make, right? What was broken,
Speaker 1: 13:43 no, max, we touched on this a little bit earlier. How's this all gonna play out as the campaign heats up in the, uh, election year coming up?
Speaker 7: 13:51 Um, so in terms of, you know, basic immigration policies, you've seen this left word ship shift as you've seen the entire, um, political dynamic between, um, you know, the, the democratic candidates, um, whether immigration becomes kind of a vital, um, topic will remain to be seen. One thing that's propelled Bernie Sanders, at least in California, he was at the top of the, uh, KQBD NPR poll this week. Um, just a few points ahead of Warren and, uh, by it. And so really showing that California is unsettled. That being said, he has really strong Latino support. He's pulling in the most voters of any candidate. So as much as immigration is kind of a top line concern for Latinos in California, he'll continue to ride that support. Um, that's why he's holding the immigration rally in San Diego today. And then tomorrow he's going to Los Angeles with um, Alexandria Casteo Cortez who is, you know, his most prominent surrogate at this point. So it should be interesting to watch whether that momentum for Bernie will be able to continue. But California is definitely very fluid at the and should
Speaker 3: 14:52 be the focus of a lot of attention because I don't think the primary will be settled by the time of super Tuesday.
Speaker 1: 14:58 And Michael, you cover Elizabeth Warren's rally at the waterfront this fall. People are to judge, was here for a fundraiser slash rally at the house of blues. What's the impact of these candidates come into San Diego having to compete in California since we're no longer, as I say this late after thought and it's a tough state to, to run a big camp.
Speaker 3: 15:16 It is. And max hit on a lot of this kinds of things they're doing. They had always come to raise money and they would hold sort of an obligatory public event here and there and so forth. But you're seeing campaign structure and money being spent. I mean it's an expensive place and that will be interesting because you know, a lower finance candidate can do a lot of retail in Iowa and New Hampshire. But now with Texas and California and all these other States coming right on the heels of that, they can't just wait for that moment. So you're, you're seeing just a lot more, like I said, infant campaign infrastructure and attention as we've
Speaker 1: 15:51 and Sarah much has been written since the 20 1818 midterms about the importance of women voters in many places. How big a factor are women going to play in the primaries? And then as we get onto the general election later,
Speaker 9: 16:02 I think women will always be a hugely important constituency. Um, but it's also important to remember that women aren't universally democratic voters. You know, white women especially were really critical a voting block for president Trump.
Speaker 1: 16:15 But as we saw in the midterms, a lot of that shifted in the suburbs among women and in certain places. We had the special election recently and Kentucky saw that again and in urban suburbs though a lot of that state is rural.
Speaker 9: 16:26 Yeah. I think women are motivated not just by issues that obviously directly impact them, like abortion, but I think the issues like child separation are something that play especially heavily with women. And so that will be at the forefront of women voters minds
Speaker 1: 16:40 in a woman candidate this year didn't work out for the Democrats in 2016 obviously, but we're still looking for that first woman president.
Speaker 9: 16:48 There's still a few in the mix.
Speaker 1: 16:49 There are. I thought Amy Klobuchar, I must say, and watching the debate last night, she was a very strong candidate.
Speaker 3: 16:54 The woman gets 3 million more votes in 2016 as we know. But that question we haven't checked. That doesn't count.
Speaker 1: 17:02 No, it doesn't count. When it gets down to this quirk quirk of a, of the electoral college, Michael's almost a given the Democrat will win California next November a wasn't always the case, right? What's the voter registration breakdown these days?
Speaker 3: 17:16 Good. Well, this used to be Reagan country. Listen, you know, really not that long ago in orange County being the Republican party about four low, 40% Democrat, it's risen over time. Uh, Republicans are down in the 26, 27%. Actually, they'd been surpassed. Uh, actually I think they're a little lower surpassed by the, uh, people that have no party preference. It's very interesting. Over the last 10 years. Um, you know, the democratic registration has only risen by about a point. The Republicans have dropped about 10 points. The NPPs, those are now called ah ha, that's gained 10 or so points. Not all from the Republican party, but it's really been a surge. You know, interestingly, San Diego had been a hotbed of the reform party of the independent party kind of movement or independent voter movement. Uh, we do have the independent voter project here, uh, that a former legislator Steve piece has been, uh, had a hand in creating. So that's sort of the trend. But as we know, these people still hold onto their political philosophies. In a lot of cases they are Republican and democratic leading. They just don't want to be affiliated
Speaker 1: 18:15 as well. We'll see how that plays out. Then we should note those independents can vote in the democratic party primary this time around. Well, we turn now to the specter of unintended consequences. California AB five. It's a law designed to protect gig workers among them, truckers and strippers and freelance journalists. I'm all in the same breath there. It was championed by a San Diego assembly woman, Lorena Gonzales, more about her in a moment. But the law was intended to prevent companies from wrongly classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees in order to avoid worker protection such as health insurance benefits, paid sick days. Uh, and Sarah explained the news this week, apparently a AB five is going to cause a couple of hundred layoffs amongst some freelance journalists, right?
Speaker 9: 18:58 Yeah, I would say it's actually not an unintended consequence, but an intended one of this law, which was to ensure that companies are following a, what is already established labor law and also to make sure that people have these protections in place, that they're not being exploited. So the website's a network. SB nation announced that it was cutting ties with a lot of it's California based freelancers and would instead be hiring part time and full time workers, which is, you know, precisely what the law is set out to do.
Speaker 1: 19:28 And the law is, as we said, there was controversial because it did meant to stop employers from exploiting gig workers as you say. But, uh, we should note in this case here, they do a fail. I mentioned the federal class action suits. It accused the company of systemically shortchanging writers and editors and classifying them this contract.
Speaker 9: 19:45 Yeah. So that website in particular has been criticized for years for exploiting workers and underpaying them. And so it's kind of interesting now in the wake of the last week to see people rising up to defend them, um, from having these arrangements.
Speaker 1: 20:00 And we should point out that boxes, this overall company of this website you're talking about has denied those assertions. Well, how's the public distinguish, you know, the crying poor mouth by companies versus serious impacts on a business model?
Speaker 9: 20:12 I think the public and even some lawmakers to be Frank, are still incredibly confused about what the law actually does. So, um, the law actually just codified a Supreme court ruling and then it added a bunch of carve outs for people, like you said, including doctors and freelance workers. Now obviously the freelance journalists don't like the carve out that the law, um, kind of spelled out. They also filed suit this week. That was, you know, there's been a lot of news this week about the law. Um, and so they're contending that this 35 article cap is, you know, unfairly singling them out. They think the law should be overturned for that reason.
Speaker 1: 20:49 And along those lines, some of the big ride sharing companies are vying to fight AB five, get it overturned at the ballot box next year. It's tough to do, right?
Speaker 9: 20:56 It's, it's very tough to do, but it is being attacked on all kinds of fronts. You have these challenges in court. Um, Republican lawmakers have also floated, um, a constitutional amendment that of course heads a very high bar to pass. And then you'll see it tried to be overturned at the ballot box as well, where these gig economy companies, DoorDash and Uber are pumping tens of millions of dollars into that effort.
Speaker 1: 21:20 All right, let's circle back to Laura Lorena Gonzalez here. Uh, and we've got a um, sound bite from her about what she says, her view of AB FI's intent. And then, then I want to hear your take on what she's been saying about it.
Speaker 10: 21:32 If you're a good worker, if you're a truck driver, if you're a janitor and you're working for the company, you're doing the basic work for that company, you are their employee and you actually deserve everything that any of us in any other job get the right to minimum wage, the right to overtime, the right to paid sick days, paid family leave, unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, the right to, to have laws that protect us from harassment and discrimination and of course the right to organize.
Speaker 1: 22:06 So that's kind of been her take a all along, right?
Speaker 9: 22:09 Yeah. So she has argued that a lot of the anger about this law is misplaced and that it's actually the employers who are responsible for a lot of this anger. So there's nothing in the law that says you can't set your own hours that says you can't work from home. So a lot of these luxuries that people like freelancers really enjoy. Um, there's nothing in the law that says you can't do that. It's employers who could choose to say, you have to work a set number of hours.
Speaker 1: 22:34 We can work it out. The beetle said max.
Speaker 7: 22:36 Yeah. As somebody who very recently was a freelance journalist in California, I could tell you, you know, the status quo before the bill was this Supreme state Supreme court decision, you know, the legislators had to act on this. Uh, I was being denied work by, you know, the employers saying, well, we don't want to get sued. And so, you know, people viewing this as kind of a be all end all as opposed to, Hey, this was a bill to an address, a ruling, and we could kind of work through this together. I think the anger that's being flared up, uh, you know, frankly, I'm a little suspicious as who's exactly behind this because we know there's a lot of money coming in against AB [inaudible] from people like door dash Lyft and Uber, like, you know, millions and millions of dollars.
Speaker 1: 23:16 Well, Gonzalez a herself, you and fellow journalists had voice of San Diego. You made her one of your candidates for voice of the year first. Tell us what that means and give us for the record who won that? Yeah, yeah.
Speaker 9: 23:26 So we put this package out, uh, every year that kind of recognizes the people who have started the biggest conversations. So it's not really an honor, a validation of their position so much as it is just reflecting who got us talking. And as you can see from the conversations, absolutely from the conversation we just had, uh, Lorena is absolutely, um, top of mind. Uh, our overall voice of the year went to Hassan hakatha who's the director of SANDAG. You might not be a household name, but absolutely. Yeah. But all of these conversations that we've been having locally about transit, about highways, about bike lanes, about how we get to the airport, um, about how we're going to address climate change. You know, all of those have been started in a way by him and what he's set out to do with that agency
Speaker 1: 24:14 in Lorena Gonzalez got made some enemies as she's a, in the cross ears. That'll be a big year for her in Sacramento. Uh, some, uh, aspirations for her down the road.
Speaker 9: 24:24 Oh, absolutely. She's already, uh, stated that she's running for secretary of state in 2022. Uh, when that position is open, but you know, she's been a big endorser of Elizabeth Warren. So, you know, I guess there's a universe in which a president Warren could tap her for a cabinet position, but she's certainly got, you know, aspirations for higher office.
Speaker 1: 24:42 That's right. I think she introduced her. Did she not at that Warren relative.
Speaker 3: 24:45 Yes. And I think that day was the day they formerly announced her endorsement. So did I get that, that big impact?
Speaker 1: 24:49 Well, yeah. We've got a few seconds left here, but I wanted to ask how are we going to see some more of those kinds of endorsements? Notable Californians as we get closer to the primary, they're going to pick their horses.
Speaker 3: 24:57 The, the, the governor Gavin Newsome was at the debate last night and of course he was, he had backed a, I believe Kamala Harris correct out. Yeah. And, uh, so his endorsement in California is going to be a big deal and said, I'm playing it pretty close to the vest. He's got a lot of friends on the stage. I think he said. So, uh, uh, that'll be surely wonder why the Maribel LA got the attorney general and he's pro wine seller. Of course, he made that very clear. So, you know, maybe that's shipping has had, but as a former, you know, a wine entrepreneur himself, he didn't,
Speaker 1: 25:26 well, fortunately we have all sorts of time to chew on this as we get into 2020, whether that does wrap up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. And I'd like to thank my guests, Sarah Libby of voice of San Diego, Michael Smollins of the San Diego union Tribune and max reel and Adler of KPBS news. And I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today on the round table. And please tune in next week for a special year, end top stories of 2019 and have a very safe and very Merry holiday.