Phillips Tells Chuck Todd Minnesotans are Focused on Kitchen Table Issues, Not Impeachment
Phillips: “I just completed a 36-city tour of my district just last week, and I asked people all around my district, what do you want me focusing on? And they said infrastructure, reducing prescription drug pricing, health care.”
Washington, DC, May 24, 2019
Last night, Congressman Dean Phillips (MN-03) appeared on Meet The Press Daily with Chuck Todd to discuss what he’s hearing from Minnesotans on impeachment. Phillips recently concluded a tour of all 36 cities in Minnesota’s Third Congressional District where infrastructure and health care were listed as top concerns – not impeachment.
CHUCK TODD: Now I want to talk to one Democrat who's not there yet. Joining me now is Minnesota Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips. He won in a swing district, took over a Republican seat, won a Republican seat in 2018. So, Congressman, welcome to the show.
REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN): Good to be with you, Chuck.
TODD: You heard Congressman Moulton there. Why not? Why is it in your mind not the time?
PHILLIPS: Well, a couple of reasons, Chuck. I just completed a 36 tour, a 36-city tour of my district just last week and I asked people all around my district, what do you want me focusing on? And they said infrastructure, reducing prescription drug pricing, health care.
Impeachment was not the focus that my constituents asked me to be focused on right now. With that said, as Seth said, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We have committees assigned to provide oversight over the executive branch. I think they're doing that. I like how we're doing it.
We're being methodical. We're being principled. We're also being patient. Our patience is it's getting close to the end to be forthright. But we can do both. But I can tell you, when we take an oath of office to the Constitution, we also take an oath to the people of this country and that should be the determinant of how we proceed, what is in the best interest of the country. And I'm just simply not there yet.
TODD: You know, it's funny, I keep saying what would Madison say? What would he be arguing under these circumstances? And I don't think it's an easy call. Right. You have the way our process worked. We have a more direct election of a president, whether we want to call it that or not than we did over 200-odd years ago and at the same time there was this belief that Congress is Article One for a reason.
So, what do you think the founders would have wanted, wait for the election or deal with what you have to deal with, with what's in front of you?
PHILLIPS: Well, some of who -- some of those who participated in the constitutional convention argue that it is the election itself that should be the judge and jury of our presidents and we do have an election coming up in 18 months. I would like to see 150 million people serve as judge and jury.
That said, I wish, I hope we continue our legal proceedings. I think we need to ascertain more facts and if those facts indeed lead us to clear evidence of criminal activity and obstruction, then we absolutely should proceed. But we're not there yet. And I want to be cautious and methodical. I think that's in the best interest of the country, Chuck, and that's what most people are --
TODD: What makes it not there -- define not there yet. Is it because there's not one thing? Is it he's yet to defy a court order? Is it, what is the not there -- because I hear that phrase but it's a very undefined phrase? OK. Then what is there? Like when do we know when we're there?
PHILLIPS: Well, first and foremost, we're doing exactly what we should be doing, which is deliberate. This is a deliberative body. I respect the opinions of all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. There hasn't been at least a court order that hasn't been violated yet. If that happens, that surely will move the needle in my case and I'm sure many others.
We're just about to receive documents that we've been asking for, for some time. We have not yet seen testimony from people that I believe should be providing that testimony to our committees.
If those things don't happen, and we cannot ascertain the fact, by all means that may be our last option to proceed with impeachment.
But again, back to what's in the best interest of the country, most polls indicate that 60 percent of the country is opposed to impeachment right now. We should be paying attention to what most people are talking about.
Now by the way, there's what cable news is talking about and then there's what people --
TODD: I know.
PHILLIPS: -- are talking about in cul-de-sacs and sometimes it's a little bit different.
TODD: No, I know, social media, cable news can be in one place.
TODD: And as what we are finding out with the polls and Joe Biden, perhaps the rest of the Democratic Party is in another.
But let me, let me ask you this, you talked about the polls, is there a risk of looking like you're only avoiding impeachment because of politics, that it's about -- that in fact you're making the investigation process more politicalized by being afraid of essentially the constitutional nuclear option?
PHILLIPS: Chuck, in fact just the opposite. If I was looking at this through a political lens, I would have called for an impeachment months ago. I'm looking at this through an American lens and I'm talking with my Republican colleagues, my Democratic colleagues, I'm talking about -- talking with libertarians and Republicans and Democrats in my home district.
And I'm having these conversations every day. And I'm simply doing what I think is in the best interest of this country. I'm not saying no to impeachment. I think we have more to do.
And by the way, I think our leadership in the Democratic Party has been quite thoughtful so far, methodical, principled, and patient. In fact, I know some think too patient. I still have a little bit left but not a whole left in the tank, I can tell you that.
TODD: Speaking of losing patience, apparently Justin Amash, a Republican from Michigan, he has some more thoughts on this. I want to put up one comment he made. He said, "Some of the president's actions were inherently corrupt, other actions were corrupt, and therefore impeachable, because the president took them to serve his own interest."
Does Justin Amash's announcement basically endorsing the idea that the president should be the subject of an impeachment inquiry? Does that make it easier for you, harder? Is that the type of patience, that you think that this is what patience leads to as you get more people coming forward?
PHILLIPS: Well, I respect Mr. Amash's courage because it certainly takes courage to be the only one in the Republican conference that has come to that conclusion. I certainly believe from experience in my heart that others have come to that conclusion privately.
But as I've said, we don't take an oath to our party. We take an oath to our country and to the Constitution. I'm surprised that there are not more Republicans who see it the same way. But again --
TODD: But you don't see it that way yet, in fairness.
PHILLIPS: Well, I'm seeing it -- I'm seeing it a little bit differently every day. And as I've said, my patience is running out. And look, I want what's in the best interest of this country. I'd like to think everybody here wants the same thing. There's a lot about this presidency that is remarkable, and not in a positive way.
Now in the Constitution provides a mechanism for impeachment. It does not demand or require it. Based on the facts that I know right now, we may learn things in the coming days or weeks that will push me over the edge but think it is in our best interest to be methodical.
And most importantly, to remember that there may be a storm brewing on cable news and on Twitter and whatnot, but in neighborhoods throughout this country people want us focused on the things that we were sent here to do.
And Chuck, to remind you, and you well know, we passed a lot of bills here in the House the last four months and many of them are sitting on Mr. McConnell's desk in the Senate. We are doing that work. We are going to continue to do that work and that's what we're set to do.
TODD: Do you think the talk -- do you think the investigations and talk of impeachment have overshadowed that work?
PHILLIPS: In the news they've absolutely overshadowed that work. Because the fact is, we have done a lot and we're going to be doing a lot, and we can continue to do a lot as long as we proceed down this path.
TODD: All right.
PHILLIPS: If we proceed with impeachment, it will suck the remaining air out of this room and that's going to be complicated and distractive, I believe.
TODD: Congressman Dean Phillips, thank you.