Sen. Murray On Trump Obstruction Reports And Health Care Overhaul

Jun 15, 2017
Originally published on June 22, 2017 1:47 pm
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's a fair guess that President Trump woke up this morning watching cable TV news. We know this, first, because he often does and second, because cable news today is repeating a story to which the president has already responded this morning. The Washington Post has news about Robert Mueller, the special counsel examining Russian interference in the election. The Post reports, Mueller is at least asking questions about whether the president attempted obstruction of justice in that investigation.

A short time ago, the president responded on Twitter, quote, "they made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice," unquote. Joining us now is Patty Murray. She's a Democratic senator from Washington state. Senator, welcome back to the program.

PATTY MURRAY: Well, nice to talk to you this morning.

INSKEEP: What do you make of the report that Robert Mueller is asking if the president tried, by talking with intelligence officials and others, to impede the investigation of Russian interference?

MURRAY: Well, I don't know the facts. Only Mueller knows the facts, and he is going after them. And I think at the end of the day, what we want - American people - is to know the truth and to know the facts. The bottom line we have to remember is whether and how Russia interjected itself into our elections. We cannot allow that in the future, and we need to restore confidence here in this country.

That's what Mueller is doing, is going after the facts so that we all can know them. And I think if we - he is very well-respected, by the way, by both Democrats and Republicans. Let him do his job. Let him reach his conclusions. And then we, as American public, can reach our conclusions.

INSKEEP: Is it your expectation that if there is something involving the president, that Mueller - something criminal involving the president or allegedly criminal - that Mueller's action would not be to go for an indictment, but to hand it over to Congress?

MURRAY: I do not know. I think it's important to let the investigation continue. Let Mueller get the facts. And that decision, if it needs to come, will be down the road.

INSKEEP: Of course, if there were going to be an impeachment proceeding, it would start in the House of Representatives, controlled, as is the Senate, by Republicans. We had Dave Schweikert, Republican of Arizona, on the program today and we asked him, can you - if this comes to you, can you judge this matter on the facts rather than the politics? And he said yes. Do you believe Republicans in Congress can judge this matter on the facts rather than the politics, should it come to that?

MURRAY: I think it's imperative that we all do. Impeaching a president is one of the most serious decisions that we would be asked to make. If it came out of the House of Representatives, it would come to the Senate. Each of us would be considered a jurist listening to the case. And like any jurist in this country on any case, we have to listen to the facts and come to a conclusion.

INSKEEP: One other thing before we move on, Senator. Does the president make a fair point in that tweet that I read, that there are all these awkward contacts and unanswered questions and strange meetings, but still no evidence, no clear evidence that the president colluded with Russia during the investigation or that he's compromised in any way? They're just questions.

MURRAY: (Laughter) That - those are the questions that Mueller has been designated to ask and to follow and to bring the facts forward. And that's what he has a responsibility to do. It's what he's been asked to do by the Department of Justice, and he needs to follow that through.

INSKEEP: Senator Murray, I want to ask about the health care legislation that you and the Senate may soon vote on. We don't know. Republicans are privately working out an adjustment to the House-passed American Health Care Act, which is repealing and replacing Obamacare. Now, President Trump said the other day something in private, something in public. He said in public he wanted to improve the House legislation. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I really appreciate what you're doing to come out with a bill that's going to be a phenomenal bill for the people of our country - generous, kind, with heart. That's what I'm saying.

INSKEEP: And he reportedly added privately the House bill was a mean bill. He wants to make it better and more generous. Can you agree with the president on that much? He'd like to make this bill more generous.

MURRAY: Look, I would say to any Republican listening to the president who has pushed this on them to know that he's not going to be there for them at the end of the day when this bill is shown to take away millions of people's health care, to put the decisions back into insurance companies' pockets about who gets insurance or how much they get or what is covered. And you won't know. When family's health care cost rises, they will own this.

And I'm glad he thinks the House bill is mean. That's not what he told Republicans to begin with. But I do know that the Senate plan is being written in secret by 13 men in a closed room. No one else is invited in. We don't know what is in it. We will see it at the very last minute before we vote on it. And that is not how you write a bill that gets better than the House.

INSKEEP: In just a few seconds, Senator, I should point out that the current system under the Affordable Care Act, the health care exchanges have been described as collapsing. Whether that's the right word or not, there are many areas of this country where there's just one insurer now on the exchanges and talk of some areas where there may be none. Is passing nothing, changing nothing an acceptable outcome?

MURRAY: Look, I will tell you this. I know why the insurance companies are telling us they are not offering insurance in many of these markets. It's the instability that has been caused by what this Republican administration has been doing to sabotage the system. Having said that, every one of us wants to improve on the health care system in this country. But you don't do it by taking millions of people off of health insurance, telling them there is no safety net there - if they have a child with a disability, if they are a senior citizen in a nursing home...

INSKEEP: Senator...

MURRAY: ...If they have been diagnosed with cancer with very expensive costs. That's not how you improve the system.

INSKEEP: Senator Patty Murray of Washington, thanks very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.