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Democratic Lawmaker Reacts To Letter Summarizing Mueller Report

Mar 24, 2019
Originally published on March 24, 2019 5:43 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now we're going to hear from a lawmaker about this news and what comes next from his point of view. Representative Joaquin Castro is with us now from San Antonio. He's a Democrat from Texas. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own investigation. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

JOAQUIN CASTRO: Yeah. Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Any initial reaction to the report's findings?

CASTRO: Well, first, I'm glad that special counsel Mueller undertook the investigation, that he spent so much time and investigatory effort on it, obviously, and that he's presented his report. Unfortunately, the limited statement that we received from the attorney general leaves open a lot of questions. For example, why was there a finding by the special counsel on no collusion but not a determination on obstruction of justice?

I think we need more information on how that conclusion was reached, the fact that there would be - not be a determination on obstruction and then, more specifically, how the attorney general and Rod Rosenstein then took what the special counsel did on obstruction and made their own determination that there was not enough information or evidence to charge the president with obstruction.

So we have those questions to answer. But, also, in the back of my mind, part of what keeps bothering me is the idea that a presidential candidate can get onstage and beg a foreign country to find his opponent's emails and basically make them public. I think that sets - and that there be no consequence for that at all at the same time that at least one of his kids can go meet with agents of a foreign government, open to finding dirt on his opponent, that his longtime associate, Roger Stone, can meet with WikiLeaks that was dumping all of this information.

So all of these things really beg the question - how much in the future can somebody get away with as a presidential candidate in engaging or calling upon foreign actors, foreign countries to interfere with our elections and there be no consequence to that at all?

MARTIN: I'm interested that you raise that because one of the questions I was going to ask you is if, as an American, you're in any way relieved that there was not a finding of coordination or collusion with a hostile foreign power. And it sounds to me as though you're not.

CASTRO: Well, I mean, you're right. I think we should hope that a president or presidential candidate and his or her team didn't collude. But, like I said, I think somebody in the future can get up there on the stump out in the open and say, please, Iran, China, North Korea or Russia, find this information on my opponent's voicemails or emails or phone calls. And what the special counsel seems to be saying is that that is not any kind of conduct that's going to be punished.

MARTIN: Or could it be that the argument is that that was what took place during the course of a campaign, and the voters rendered their judgment on whether that was - that the voting booth was the place to hold the president or the then-candidate Trump accountable for that conduct? And if they chose...

CASTRO: Well, I think you're right...

MARTIN: ...Not to do so, then that's asked and answered.

CASTRO: I think you're right. I think that's implied in the idea that it's not criminal conduct. But I just also think that that's a very bad place for us to be in terms of our American democracy, that you've opened the door now for candidates to openly invite foreign governments to do these kinds of things and that there's not going to be any consequence at all for the candidate. And it's not necessarily just a president. It could be somebody running for governor or senator or U.S. Congress who does this and that there's just not going to be any consequence at all.

MARTIN: So let's talk about where this goes next. Is there any point to continuing all these House investigations now that the special counsel says that has not found evidence of collusion, as we've all discussed that there are a number of separate investigations by House committees...

CASTRO: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...And one by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Is there any point to continuing these?

CASTRO: Yeah. I mean, my initial reaction is that the investigations will continue. Of course, that'll be a decision that's left up to the chairs of the different committees in both the House and the Senate, you know? So that ultimately will be their decision. But most of all, we've got to hear from the principal people involved in the Mueller report. We should hear from Bob Mueller about the process that he went through in coming to these findings, how he didn't come to a finding on obstruction of justice.

We should also hear from the attorney general and Rod Rosenstein on how they took Bob Mueller's work on obstruction or his evidence presented on obstruction and then made the determination that it was not something that should - that the president should be charged with - that. So I still see a lot of work to do in getting, for the American people, an answer to those questions.

MARTIN: And apart from that, though, apart from digging into the details of the process that the special counsel followed and that the attorney general followed in determining what to make public, what's your priority for these investigations going forward? And has that changed in any way?

CASTRO: Well, I mean, I think it's still a little too early to say, right? We just got - we got an abbreviated statement today. Congress is going to keep pressing for a - to see a larger part of the report. So I feel like I have to see a little bit more to fully answer that question.

MARTIN: And, finally, Congressman, as we've heard, the president is very angry. He says that this was a huge waste of money and a huge waste of time. Has it been?

CASTRO: No, not at all. We know for certain there was no dispute among the intelligence agencies that Russia interfered with our 2016 elections. And I think it's absolutely - was absolutely appropriate to ask the question whether any Americans helped them achieve those means in interfering with the election. So this has been an incredibly important investigation that was undertaken by the special counsel.

MARTIN: That was Representative Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from Texas. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee, and he was kind enough to join us from San Antonio. Congressman, thanks so much for talking to us.

CASTRO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.