Giving the crowd ‘blue meat’ on Trump and Russia at progressive conference

Garance Franke-Ruta
Senior Politics Editor
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., at her office on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

WASHINGTON — Maxine Waters, the fiery California congresswoman, renewed her call for the impeachment of President Trump during remarks at the Center for American Progress 2017 Ideas Conference.

“It’s all about, in the final analysis, lifting those sanctions. Why do it? Putin? Why did he want to have Trump so badly? Why was he against Hillary? It’s not about public policy. It’s about oil. It’s about drilling. It’s about lifting those sanctions,” said Waters in a freewheeling speech Tuesday afternoon. “Follow the money, follow the oil. I’m convinced that if we had had the kind of investigation that we should have had by now, we would have connected those dots.”

“If it was not for the media, we would not be as far as we are now in understanding what has been going on,” she said. “The Congress of the United States has not done its job. We have not been the check and the balance on the president, on the executive.”

Her “blue meat” comments were greeted with cheers on a day where a parade of Democratic Party leaders — congressmen, governors, and members of the post-election resistance — weighed in on recent bombshell revelations about the president and his relations with Russia and the investigation into Russian meddling in election 2016.

“There is something very wrong with this picture, and I don’t know when Americans are going to get so outraged they will say to all of the elected officials, Republicans and Democrats and everybody, you’ve got to do what you know you should be doing,” Waters continued. “You’ve got to identify and lay out for the American public everything that he has done. … And in the final analysis, Maxine Waters has got to impeach him,” she said. “I know there are those who say we’re going to get ready for the next election. Well, we can’t wait that long. We don’t need to wait that long. He will have destroyed this country by then.”

Calling Donald Trump’s foreign policy tweets “improvisational” and “erratic,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the much more circumspect top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said earlier in the day that the commander in chief needed an education on how to handle classified information.

“I have to hope that someone will counsel the president just what it means to protect closely held information,” Schiff said during a panel discussion with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. and New York Times national security correspondent David Sanger.

“Could you argue that this is the kind of thing that presidents sometimes do?” asked Murphy in response to a question from Sanger about Trump’s decision to reveal classified intelligence to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. last week.

“You could argue that if you — if you believed that this White House was operating in any way other than foreign policy by improvisation,” said Murphy. “In previous times, other presidents have decided to share classified information with historical adversaries. But they only did so after consulting with intelligence agencies and having a whole of government approach to declassifying that information. It was strategic. This clearly, as far as we understand it, was not strategic.”

“Many of the president’s statements and tweets that have an impact on foreign policy, they all have an improvisational character. Some have an erratic character. We try to look for a method in this when there may be none,” added Schiff.

“When you look at some of the comments he’s made, on North Korea for example, where you’re asking, ‘Is this part of some clever ‘Art of the Deal’ strategy, of saber-rattling?” Schiff continued, “You might think that was true, if this was done in concert with other parts of the administration in a cohesive fashion. But too often it’s not, and it looks like the president has one foreign policy, the secretary of state has another and the U.N. ambassador has a third and no one is sure who to believe.”

Asked to run down the big questions and answers for the investigation, Schiff ticked off the top specific ones: “Just what active measures did the Russians deploy to interfere in our election? Was there collusion? Was there compromise? Was there blackmail? Was there the use of paid media trolls? Was there a propaganda campaign? How many of the tactics that the Russians used elsewhere in the world did they employ here?”

But he added, “As important as that is, we have to understand the broader context: The Russians hacked into our election not simply because they hated Hillary Clinton and wanted to see Donald Trump elected, as important as that was, but … because they wanted to tear down our democracy, and not our democracy alone. They obviously want to tear down the democracy in France. They’d like to see Angela Merkel gone. They’d like to see the dissolution of Europe.

“What we are engaged in is a new war of ideas. It’s not communism versus capitalism, but it is autocracy and authoritarianism against democracy and representative government. That’s really what is at stake,” said Schiff.

Former national security adviser Susan Rice called for Republicans to come together to get to the bottom of what happened during the election.

“Surely, we will often disagree,” she said. “But we sure as hell need to agree that a hostile foreign power has no business messing with our elections.

“Because here’s the truth: If we cannot find our way to put country over party, and democracy over demagoguery, even in the face of such a dangerous external threat, then we might as well hang up our leadership cleats and resign ourselves to becoming a second-rate power.”

“This is not business as usual. The president is truly creating chaos,” said Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand, D-N.Y. “On these ties to Russia, we must not stop until we have full transparency and accountability. And that means not voting for an FBI director until a special prosecutor is named.”

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