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Politics & Government

California Rep. Karen Bass On What She Expects From Mueller's Testimony

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now let's turn to one of the members of Congress who will question Mueller tomorrow. California Congresswoman Karen Bass is a Democrat and serves on the House Judiciary Committee. She's also chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and joins us from the Hill.

Welcome.

KAREN BASS: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Given that he said he won't stray from the public information in the report - and the Justice Department reiterated that, warning him yesterday to stick to what's in the report - are you actually hoping to elicit new information from Mueller tomorrow?

BASS: Well, we actually are. And I think that it was unfortunate what came from the Justice Department yesterday because that, to me, I viewed it as just an attempt to intimidate Mueller. He doesn't even work for the Justice Department anymore, so what was the - what could be the purpose of a memo like that except...

SHAPIRO: He requested that guidance.

BASS: ...For to intimidate him.

SHAPIRO: I mean, he said he wanted guidance from the Justice Department. The memo said it was in response to his request.

BASS: Yes, but I do believe that's where they are coming from. And I think the president has been pretty clear about that as well. But let me just tell you that I am hoping that he provides a little more context to the report. But even if he just confirms what is in the report, I think the charges of obstruction of justice are devastating in and of themselves.

And then our concern has been that the American public probably has not read the report, especially because you had Attorney General Barr come out and sent the signal to the American public that there is no reason to read this report because the report completely exonerates the president, which is a complete lie.

SHAPIRO: This is interesting. So what I hear you saying is that even if Mueller doesn't go beyond what's in the report, there is value just in getting kind of the TV moment where he will reiterate and say on camera what he's already said in writing.

BASS: Yeah. And, I mean, I don't see it so much as a TV moment. But I do think that the American public needs to hear from his voice what is in this report. So I think what you will find from the Democrats that we will be very disciplined, very organized. We're clear about what it is we're doing in terms of Volume II and obstruction of justice. I don't know what my Republican colleagues will do, but I won't be surprised to see a little bit of theater coming from their side.

SHAPIRO: I just want to be clear because you've referred to Volume II. If listeners have not read the Mueller report, Volume I is about collusion. Volume II is about obstruction of justice. You're going to be asking about obstruction of justice. What specifically are you going to ask Robert Mueller?

BASS: Well, we're going to have a meeting of judiciary today. And we'll be given our parts as to what we will focus on. I will tell you that my particular interest is on hearing what the White House counsel McGahn has to say in the report and to have Mueller confirm or deny or correct or provide context. Essentially, the White House counsel McGahn was told to fire Mueller. And then he was told to cover it up. And so I think that type of information really has not gotten out in the public space. And knowing that this is exactly what is in the Mueller report and having him confirm it, I do think there's a lot of value to that.

SHAPIRO: You have said that you do not, as of now, support an impeachment inquiry into the president. Is there anything you might hear tomorrow that you think might change your mind?

BASS: I'm hoping that he will provide additional information that might bring better clarity. But let me just say that I would love to see the president impeached, and I would love to see him evicted. If we move toward impeachment, I believe that the Democrats all need to be on the same page. And at this point in time, we have four or five committees that are all involved in either investigation or oversight. And when that process has been completed, when our leadership is on the same page and the committee chairs are on the same page, if the decision is to move forward with impeachment, I will be there 100% percent.

But as of right now, I believe this is too early in the process. All of us want this to be over. I'd like it to be over, too. But I want it to be successful.

SHAPIRO: Do you think that with four or five committees digging into this, it's a misplaced focus by the Democrats?

BASS: You know, the fact of the matter is the Democrats have been focused on multiple issues. Unfortunately, Trump and Mueller, the investigation has sucked up all the oxygen and is certainly dominating the airways. But if you want to look and see what we did, we passed minimum wage. We raised the minimum wage for the American public. Of course, it still has to go through the Senate. We have passed gun reform. So Democrats are well equipped to do multiple things at the same time.

SHAPIRO: Congresswoman Karen Bass, thank you for joining us.

BASS: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: She's a Democrat from Southern California and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.