LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
The Mueller investigation is getting closer to the president. Court filings late Friday appeared to implicate President Trump in potential wrongdoing, including two possible felonies. With control of the House of Representatives changing parties in January, that leaves Democrats with a lot of power and a choice about how they'll use it to oversee the executive branch. Joining us now to talk about that is Representative Jamie Raskin from Maryland's 8th Congressional District. He's on the oversight committee and the judiciary committee, which means he'll be among those to decide.
Welcome to the program, sir.
JAMIE RASKIN: Hey, thanks for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Before we go to Mueller, in the last 24 hours, the transcripts of former FBI Director James Comey's testimony on the Hill was released. You were actually in the room. Did you learn anything?
RASKIN: No, not really. That just felt like that the dying gasps of this wild goose chase the Republicans have been on to try to, you know, lay a glove on the special counsel and the FBI. And it's been a pretty absurd waste of time.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Comey's testimony was prompted by Republicans, who, as you note, are on the way out. Your party, I believe, has a different agenda. You've promised aggressive oversight. What will it look like given last week's court filings on Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn?
RASKIN: Well, you know, we have a constitutional responsibility, obviously, to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. And we've learned some very serious things in the last 48 hours. You know, the president, according to the filings of the U.S. attorney in New York, directed and conducted a conspiracy to violate the campaign finance laws by steering corporate money and hugely over-the-line contributions to his campaign in order to channel the money to former mistresses in order to purchase their silence.
And so these were described by the U.S. attorney as illegal campaign contributions. And if they were conducted deliberately with knowledge that they were over the limits and that they were illegal corporate contributions, those are criminal actions that were directed by the president...
RASKIN: ...With Mr. Cohen.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does that mean, though, for you? Does that mean bringing in someone like Michael Cohen to testify? Are we talking hearings?
RASKIN: Well, undoubtedly, it means hearings, you know? And, of course, that may not even be kind of the centerpiece of the whole problem. The Mueller investigation is, obviously, targeted on the Russian interference with the U.S. election in 2016. And we also learned more facts related to that. And there were some tantalizing hints and clues dropped by the special counsel about further involvement with members of Russian intelligence by Paul Manafort, also by Mr. Cohen.
So, you know, I don't think that the special counsel has completely revealed its hand at this point. But it's kind of laid forth a series of installments leading us to the big story.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So are you going to wait for the special counsel to do its work before you have people come to these hearings or are you going to do them at the same time? And what is it going to look like exactly? What's the timeline?
RASKIN: Well, you know, we're hopeful that, you know, we get some kind of complete narrative closure by the end of the year. But if we don't, no. We have an obligation to go forward to look at a whole series of allegations relating to obstruction of justice, which now seems very clear, abuse of power, Emoluments Clause violations, campaign finance violations. All of these things are, you know, violations of the rule of law.
Now, the electoral context is important, too, though, because, of course, we got elected arguing that we are going to make serious progress on the real issues that affect the American people like health care and prescription drug reform and climate change. And we're going to do that. And we're also going to defend the Constitution and the rule of law at the same time.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You bring up, actually, an important point because many of your incoming freshman class - the Democrats who moved your party to the majority - insist that priorities like health care, immigration and gun control should take precedence over a raft of inquiries of the president.
RASKIN: Well, I think they should in the sense that we have to continue to make progress for the country even as the administration is dragging us down into corruption and criminality and lawlessness. So we've got to get on the offense at the same time that we defend the Constitution and the rule of law against all of the corruption. But I think we've got the numbers. We got the size. And at least in the House of Representatives, we've got the leadership now in order to conduct both of these operations.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just a few seconds left - where do you stand on impeachment? Some in your party are saying it's on the table.
RASKIN: Well, look. Impeachment is the end of a story not the beginning of a story. And nobody should start off with that. Of course, on the Republican context, you know, all of these things are far more impeachable than anything Bill Clinton did. He was impeached by the Republicans for telling one lie about sex. We have a president here who has conducted a complete cover-up in campaign finance scheme in order to cover up his affairs. And that's really just the beginning of this story because it's really the complicity and involvement with the Russians that's the heart of the criminality attacking our democracy.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Representative Jamie Raskin from Maryland's 8th Congressional District. Thank you very much.
RASKIN: My pleasure to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.