As Washington Post reporter Robert Costa sees it, members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans alike — are on the same mission during their recess.
With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi advancing an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, every member is back home taking the pulse of their voters.
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“Democratic congressmen and women are really going to have their antenna up to figure out do the voters really want (impeachment)?” Costa said Tuesday night at the Save Mart Center.
“I have been roaming the Senate hallways for the last week … trying to figure out will the Republican Party crack? Let me tell you as a reporter, what I report publicly and what they say publicly is different than the kicking legs beneath the surface. There is tension in the GOP right now. They know President Trump has all the political capital, and they’re looking ahead to 2020, and they don’t want to have a primary challenge on the right. … They’re wondering how they can really defend him if he continues to underscore that nothing was wrong with his call to (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky.”
Costa addressed the impeachment inquiry during his President’s Lecture Series talk. The series, which began four years ago, features national figures invited by Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro. It was the third appearance for Costa, who has developed a close relationship with Fresno State journalism students.
Impeachment Inquiry Puts Spotlight on California
As the impeachment fight moves ahead, “California is going to be in the spotlight,” said Costa, who is the moderator for “Washington Week” on PBS. “It’s an amazing time, not only to be an American but to be a voter in California.
“The congressman from this area (Devin Nunes) is the president’s chief spokesman on some of these really thorny impeachment issues. You have Kevin McCarthy from Bakersfield, the House minority leader, working right there with President Trump.
“And you have Adam Schiff, the chairman of Intelligence. He’s the point person for Speaker Pelosi. Another Californian, Eric Swalwell, is (on Intelligence), and Speaker Pelosi, of course. To have the leaders of both parties in the House impeachment (puts) California at the center.”
Costa also offered his analysis on the biggest names in Washington, D.C., and the 2020 presidential election:
“You have President Trump fighting for his political life. It is political war. And, for people who think President Trump is going to maybe cower here, you don’t know President Trump. This is the same Trump I’ve always covered and he’s telling people inside the White House, fight, fight, fight!”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
“Mitch McConnell is the person to watch because he has had such a transactional relationship with President Trump. The federal judiciary has been overhauled by McConnell to such an extent that it’s historic. We’ve never seen more conservative judges installed than through McConnell. But if you look at (his) career, go back to ’73, ’74, he was the chairman of the Republican Party in the Louisville area. He broke, in a sense, from (President Richard) Nixon. Not in a full dramatic way, but he told the Nixon White House during Watergate to clean house. Will he do the same with President Trump? He’s gotten so much from President Trump.”
“(She) has a challenge before her and not just in terms of angst about impeachment among moderate members of the House. She has to figure out where this is going in terms of how it’s framed. … Can she keep it just to Ukraine and Zelensky in the phone call or will she get pressured to move it to a more expanded scope?
“She’s a wily figure. She’s someone I really enjoy covering because everyone says, oh, she’s a San Francisco liberal. She’s a Baltimore operative. Her father, Tommy D’Alesandro Jr., and brother Tommy D’Alesandro III. These were mayors of Baltimore. She grew up counting votes in Baltimore, and she made a decision a week ago, it’s time (to move on impeachment).”
Minority Leader McCarthy
“I once broke that Kevin McCarthy put together a jar of Starburst candy all in President Trump’s favorite flavors. … This is not a story the (Republican Party) appreciated, as you might imagine. But it happened to be true. His people said, oh, it was a gesture of goodwill. But that story still haunts Congressman McCarthy.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
“Sen. Warren is connecting and it’s not necessarily because of her personality or her rally performances. It’s her message. … She’s a movement politician. You see her catching on and the thing I’m struck by as a reporter is how much it reminds me, in a sense, of President Trump. Not in terms of the policy ideas. But Sen. Warren is advocating radical policy change. . . . When I used to cover President Trump, it was the same message of radical change but instead of blaming the corporations, he blamed the immigrant and illegal immigration. Both of (their) candidacies were founded in this fiery populism that’s out there in the country.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden
“Don’t count out (him) out. I know some people think he may have lost his step. But he has a lot of energy on the campaign trail. I was at a historically black church in South Carolina this summer, and there is real support for him in the minority community among rank-and-file Democrats who say we want to beat President Trump. The real question facing you if you are a Democrat is, do you want to have this 2020 election be about beating President Trump? Or about forwarding a liberal agenda?”
Mayor Pete Buttigieg
“Buttigieg is 37 years old. A war veteran. He’s gay, comes from the Midwest, and is a different kind of profile. That list of things is interesting. What’s most interesting to me is not his biography or his identity. It’s that he does have a message of generational change.”
Sen. Kamala Harris
“It’s a fascinating race. She has struggled at times but I don’t count her out at all. She has a real record.”