Republicans are about to lose a big political advantage they’ve held since 2011: majority control in the House of Representatives. Democrats will make up the majority come January, meaning they get to call the shots. We checked in with one Democrat party leader Eric Swalwell to ask how they’ll get along with a Republican Senate and President. Swalwell, of California, is on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees and has looked into alleged ties between Trump and Russia.
Sharyl: Are you for impeaching the president? Are you one of those members that is saying, "We're going to push forward on that"?
Eric Swalwell: I'm for investigating alarming conduct, and if there's an airtight case to be made and bipartisan buy in, and a red line's been crossed, we need to tell the American people why impeachment is the remedy. But I see it as an extraordinary remedy that we should proceed with caution and make sure that the American people understand why we would do that. Right now we're not there yet.
Sharyl: There are some members, some Democrats who do want to push forward on impeachment already. How can you be trying to impeach him at the same time you're trying to get cooperation?
Eric Swalwell: Well, I think we have to compartmentalize also, and I think actually to the president's credit, I've seen him be able to compartmentalize because he likes to sign things. We've seen him at the signing ceremonies putting a signature on bills that are passed. He can expect that we'll put bills before him, and I do think infrastructure, as a former developer, that is a priority for him. And I hope we can find a consensus with Republicans and the president on that.
Sharyl: There are some Democrats, as you know, who have advocated for, I guess what they call open borders, meaning, I think anybody who would want to start a caravan and come across the southern border is allowed in. What's your position on how that adds to the dialogue or the challenge here?
Eric Swalwell: Yeah. I'm for a secure border, but to make sure that we understand the root cause of why caravans come here. They're not coming here maliciously or to try and take something that we have. You have to understand that when a mom without shoes and a baby without much clothes takes a 1,000 mile journey, it's because what they're fleeing is so terrifying, and so deficient in opportunity that they have nowhere else to go.
Sharyl: I will just say for the benefit of the doubt, probably most people are, as you described. But we know for a fact some are not, and it's hard to know when we're not screening them properly. Isn't that a challenge?
Eric Swalwell: Yeah. Well, I think anyone who comes into our country, yes, of course, whether it's on a visa, or they're visiting family members, of course we want to make sure they're screened, and we want to make sure that if you commit a crime or hurt somebody that you're gone. But, as I said, for the undocumented who are here and are trying to work to create a small business or support their family, we want to make sure that we find that pathway to citizenship for them.
Sharyl: On the Russia investigation and the investigation into President Trump's alleged Russia ties, What are your conclusions so far?
Eric Swalwell: 16 is the number I think that's important when you think about the Russia investigation. It's 16 officials in the Trump family, the Trump business, and on the Trump campaign who were in contact with the Russians, and I think this is important to distinguish Russians from, say, Brits or Mexicans, or Aussies.
Sharyl: To counter point, it's not against the law to be in touch with the Russians. Happens every day. Are you certain that there aren't Democrats or campaign officials on the other side that have been in touch with Russia? In fact, I think we know there were in touch with Russia and Ukrainians. It doesn't necessarily mean there was anything amiss.
Eric Swalwell: Yeah, I am seeking to change some of the rules around this.
Swalwell is proposing a law called Duty to Report requiring federal candidates and their family to tell authorities if foreign powers offer them illicitly obtained political opposition research.
Sharyl: So Democrats climbed that hill, and took the House back over, but now you really have to govern. And there's a lot of talk about the push-me-pull-you between the more liberal or even radical members of your party and the ones that are, I think more like what you've expressed here today on immigration and other issues. How do you sort through that? That's now in your lap.
Eric Swalwell: We should understand that being in the majority in the House of Representatives does not mean that we're in a position right now where we can advance signature policy issues with President Trump and Republicans controlling the White House and the Senate. We are in a position, though, to protect what's at stake better so than we were just in the last two years.
Sharyl: What can Democrats take away from having watched the Republicans "be in power" these past few years?
Eric Swalwell: We should seek to unite where we can. Unity has always been the strength of the Democratic party, and we've seen in the last couple years that the Republicans have been at war with themselves, and they have the White House, the Senate, and the House, and here we are just days away from a government shutdown. And people ask, "How could you control all three and not be able to sort out a budget among yourselves?" I hope we remember our job in the next two years is to protect what's at stake, and that if we win the House again, and if we win the Senate and the White House, then we can advance the issues we care about. But now is not a time to be at war with each other
By the way, Swalwell says he’s looking into a Presidential run for 2020.