Transcript: Rep. Elijah Cummings on "Face the Nation," April 21, 2019

Cummings: Trump will be "emboldened" if Dems "do nothing"

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland that aired Sunday, April 21, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


BOB SCHIEFFER: We turn now to the Mueller report and the chairman of the House Oversight Committee Congressman Elijah Cummings. He joins us from Baltimore. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for being with us. I want to start with this: the report is out, the partisan divide seems wide or even wider than ever. What happens now? 

REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS: This document, the Mueller document, has now left us with a roadmap to go forward. I think he basically said to us as a Congress, "it's up to you to take this further with regard to obstruction and the other matters that might come up."

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well already, Mr. Chairman, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Maxine Waters, Julian Castro have said we should begin proceedings to impeach the president. Are you there yet? 

REP. CUMMINGS: I'm not- I'm not there yet, but I- I- I can foresee that possibly coming. But again the fact is is that I think we have to do- be very careful here. The American people- a- a lot of them clear- clearly still don't believe that President Trump is doing things to destroy our democracy and has done a lot of things very poorly. And so I think that we need to make sure the Congress has all the information and then we need to be able to have the public know that information so that they can see that they have a president that basically has been about the business, I think, of doing great harm not only to our country but to our democracy. 

BOB SCHIEFFER: But there is also this reality: at this point there simply are not enough votes in the Senate to remove the president even if the House does move to impeach him. So is it smart to start impeachment proceedings under those circumstances? We all know what happened in the Clinton impeachment.

REP. CUMMINGS: Yeah, but I think this is a little different than Clinton's situation. We have a- a president who here who basically was instructing government employees and non-government employees to commit crimes to tell lies and to be deceitful. He himself was on television constantly railing against our- the prosecutor and railing against just about anybody who had to do any- anything to do with this investigation. He went against the FBI agents, CIA, whoever it was that he felt could- what could- could play a role in him being indicted.

BOB SCHIEFFER: It's the numbers that we're talking about here. This is a political act, and if you do vote to impeach him and then the Senate votes not to remove him won't that look like a victory for him? 

REP. CUMMINGS: It may very well. But do you know at some time, Bob, I've got to tell you, there comes a point in life where we all have to make decisions based upon the fact that it is our watch. And, you know, history, I think even if we did not win possibly, if there were not impeachment, I think history would smile upon us for standing up for the Constitution. You know I hear a lot of people say that they're tired of hearing about the Mueller Report. Well, we don't have time to get tired because the Russians aren't getting tired. They are attacking our electoral system every single day, if not every hour. And so we- we've got to- we- we're going to have to stand up. And the other thing, Bob, is that now that we are- we know all the information that we- we- we know, we can't just allow this to go on and on. If the president- if we do nothing here what is going to happen is that the president is going to be emboldened. He's going to be emboldened because he's said, "well I got away with that." And then the people who- his aiders and abettors that is that- the Republicans in the Congress they'll say, "Oh he is pretty strong," and they'll continue to go along with him. We cannot afford that, our democracy cannot afford that.

BOB SCHIEFFER: What intrigued you most about this report? What do you think needs to be investigated now? 

REP. CUMMINGS: Oh my God, I- I think we need- we need to look at the finances of this president that- I think we need to look at what he knew, what we, with regard to the firing and of various people, we need to- to know what, why Mr. Barr gave us a- a one-sided summary which has almost no resemblance to what's actually in the report. And we also need to know something else, Bob, we know- we need to know from the- Mr. Mueller, exactly what his intentions were. Did he intend for us, as a Congress, to look at this and take some type of action or did- or did he- did he feel as if there was truly no collusion or conspiracy? We need to hear that, and then- and then we also need to hear from people like the counsel for the president and see what Mr. McGahn, who was very clearly disobeying the president in many instances and actually by disobeying him, he came to his rescue. 

BOB SCHIEFFER: Talk to me about the way the- this- this report was released. First, we get a letter that suggests the president hasn't been found guilty of- of anything and then they choose to release it on Easter weekend when most people are thinking about things other than politics. Was this some kind of a public relations plan to- to soften the blow of this thing or did it just happen this way? 

REP. CUMMINGS: No, I don't think it just happened this way. It's too many things that happened. And then don't forget he talked about the Trump campaign being spied upon, and there was so much here. But clearly this- the- Mr. Barr is acting as the defense counsel for the president of the United States. When really, Bob, he's supposed to be our lawyer, the people's lawyer. And I- and I'm appealing to Mr. Barr to please do the job that you are supposed to do. There's supposed to be some kind of independence, but he bent over backwards to give this president the benefit of the doubt. He even expressed empathy with the fact that the president, when he came in, was under pressure. Well, all presidents are under pressure and if they're not- don't expect to be under pressure- they shouldn't do the job.


BOB SCHIEFFER: What about McGahn are we- how do you feel about what he did? 

REP. CUMMINGS: You know I- I- feel pretty good about McGahn, because McGahn stood up to this president, and there- there are a lot of McGahns out there, and we need more of them to stand up. And- and Bob I'm telling you, I'm going to- I'm going to fight with everything I've got because I- as I told the president not long ago when I met with him, "I said Mr. President the greatest thing that you and I can do is leave a democracy intact for generations yet unborn."

BOB SCHIEFFER: What did he have to say to you about that? 

REP. CUMMINGS: He just smiled and put his head down and that was it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Mr. Chairman, and this will be my final question, the investigation itself, did Special Counsel Mueller do a good job?

REP. CUMMINGS: I think- I- I think he did do a good job. But I will know better once we see the report, the unredacted report- report come out. I want to say to everybody, all of my whistleblowers we need your help because the- the president and his lawyers are blocking all- every bit of information that we need to do our investigation. He has been trying to block us. I beg you, whistleblowers, come out, help us, call us.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for joining us this morning. 

REP. CUMMINGS: Thank you.