Congressman Ted Lieu joined Alex Witt on Sunday to discuss the latest news about the Mueller investigation and what it means for Donald Trump. Lieu pulled no punches, laying into Trump for his refusal to implement Russian sanctions, his unhinged tweets and what he thinks the Mueller investigation is leading to.
WITT: Congressman, I know you were listening to both Richard Engel there and Kelly O'Donnell. What is your takeaway from the 37-page indictment from Robert Mueller?
LIEU: Well, my takeaway is that the Kremlin interfered in our elections, that this is serious, and the best way to respond is to first of all impose a bipartisan congressional sanctions that Congress passed last year. President Trump has yet to do that. Instead, he's launched a series of unhinged tweets this morning. To me, that's not only wildly inappropriate, it shows consciousness of guilt, which is what would a person who's guilty do. That's what a person would do, mislead, lie, and not take action against the Kremlin.
WITT: What do you think the likelihood is that these sanctions will be imposed now? There's so much publicity around it. We're all talking about it. In terms of the timeliness, must it happen now? Will it happen now?
LIEU: For a long time, the Republicans in Congress have enabled Donald Trump to get away with not imposing these sanctions. Now we're start to see some courage. We heard Trey Gowdy come forward and say America was the victim, not Democrats or Republicans. and if more Republicans step forward, then yes, we can force Donald Trump to do the right thing, which is impose these sanctions to hold Russia
WITT: So this indictment says that the Russian operation began in 2014, whether that was active or they were beginning their research about it. The President tweeted about it, of course pointing out he announced his candidacy in 2015. In one instance, he said that Adam Schiff is now starting to blame President Obama for Russian meddling in the election given the time frame. Do Democrats bear any responsibility for not just nipping this in the bud?
LIEU: Well, certainly in hindsight, I'm sure the Obama administration would have tried to do this differently. But keep in mind, Hillary Clinton is not President. Obama's not President. The President right now is Donald Trump, and he's refusing to impose bipartisan congressional sanctions to hold Russia accountable. In fact, he's refused to say anything negative about Vladimir Putin or the Kremlin. They're the ones that attacked America in 2016, and we need to make sure we have a President who not only recognizes that but takes action to stop it from happening again.
WITT: You know, the President continues to tweet that the Russian operation had no impact on the 2016 election results, but I want to listen to a narrative expert on all the messages that Russian's were spreading.
LIEU: They did have impact. That was actually resulting in behavioral change in the United States, which I think indicates there was a much deeper penetration of this narrative throughout the election cycle in the holistic information environment in ways that Facebook and Twitter and the White House are going to continue to deny, but I think it's impossible to deny that these narratives did impact how people were making decisions during the election.
WITT: Congressman, is it clear to you, did these Russian active measures affect the outcome of the election?
LIEU: That is an unknowable question, but we do know that it was a very close election. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Donald Trump only won in three swing states. If those votes had been altered or changed because of the Russian influence, that could have swung the election. We're never going to really know the answer to that. What we do know is Russia did do this massive interference in our democracy. We need to make sure that doesn't happen again.
WITT: What about the President's tweet this morning? As you read, he's taking aim at the committee hearings, the investigations, the party hatred. He says Russians are over in Moscow laughing their expletives off there. What do you make of that?
LIEU: I think that is a wildly inappropriate tweet by the President of the United States. But the best way to respond, again, is not only to hold Russia accountable by imposing bipartisan congressional sanctions, it's also to make sure that the rule of law is followed. That means we need to let Mueller's investigation continue. We already have 13 Russians that have been indicted. We need to make sure that the investigation continues to get other criminal wrongdoing and see if there are other indictments that could have Americans who conspired as well.
WITT: Do you think he's trying to turn the focus away from the election and trying to say it's all these investigations going on right now that's the most damaging part to the American democracy?
LIEU: Donald Trump is trying to blame everyone but himself. He's blamed the FBI. He blamed General McMaster, his own national security adviser, this morning. He's blaming Obama, Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and on and on. I think he needs to look at himself and be a leader and be a President. Again, he needs to impose the bipartisan congressional sanctions.
WITT: Former Watergate prosecutor told me a bit earlier this could be just the tip of the iceberg. Let's take a listen to Jill Wine-Banks.
LIEU: There's obviously someone deeply embedded in the Russian operation who is cooperating. So I don't know if they only know about this social media aspect or if they also know about the hacking of the DNC they know about the hacking of John Podesta, if they know about the work with Wikileaks to get the information out, and if they know what Russia has that's keeping Donald Trump silent. If you've ever watched the tv show "The Americans," it could be Russians who seem to be American and clearly the people who were involved here took on American personas.
WITT: Does this seem her specifically, are you talking about Americans or Russians or both. She said it could be both. But do you see this, you know, playing out in the rest of the investigation, her ideology here that there's, you know, someone deeply embedded in the Russian operation?
LIEU: That's certainly a possibility. This indictment that Mueller just put out deals with the social medias a peck of the social media aspect of the Russian operation. Now, Papadopoulos and General Flynn are cooperating with Robert Mueller. That's not related to the social media aspect. There's something else there that caused Robert Mueller to get them to plead and get them to cooperate. So there's going to be more shoes that drop in this Russia investigation. If the Russians did this on social media, you can bet that they did a lot of other things, including stealing information from the DNC, weaponizing it, and a host of other actions that they've done. so I expect to see a lot more indictments come forward.
Fingers crossed, Representative Lieu. We are ready.