tv National Press Foundation 2019 Policy Politics Preview Part 3 CSPAN December 15, 2018 7:02pm-8:01pm EST
that is exactly what people want. they want people running for office that have never been around government, because they have become so cynical that anyone who has chosen this for career will not represent them. >> what i would say, and this was part of the last thing of having a second chance at politics after i blew myself up in 2009, is i have seen and experienced firsthand people's grace, which is a reflection of god's grace. that's an incredibly humbling journey to walk. particularly in a public venue. billionaires which i probably stuffed on their toes a number of times over the years who decided i have to go.
it was by people who are worth billions of dollars and don't live in california. announcer: watch conversations with retired members of congress tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span and c-span.org. you can also listen with the free c-span radio app. a new congress begins in january with democrats taking the majority of the house. next, a discussion on congressional oversight hosted by the national press foundation. it is an hour. >> we are going to get started. if you could take your seats, please. [indistinct chatter]
thank you. we have three experts here. they have expertise with both oversight from the executive and legislative branches. they will help draw a picture for you, literally, the nuts and bolts of oversight. from your left we have austin evers who founded american oversight in 2017 after serving in the state department on oversight and transparency issues. then we have andy right -- wright, the senior and fellow editor of just security blog. pertinent to this discussion, he served on obama's white house counsel, and was step director to the house oversight committee. then we have justin rood. , he was a senior investigator on two senate committees. he brings reporting skills to his work, having worked at abc news and cq roll call as well.
with austin. our other panelists will give us a brief overview or vision of how how oversight might work in the new congress. austin: good morning, everybody. i am the executive director of american oversight. american oversight is a nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog. we primarily use the freedom of information act, or foya, to open up the books of the government to find misconduct and corruption. we have been doing it a lot over the past year and a half since we started. we are filed 2000 different requests. i'm sure many of you know that foya is not fast. one thing i'm excited about today, is that we haven't -- have been planning for this moment for a year.
the institution of congress, doing its checks and balances, comes back into play. i can tell you more about this in detail but we have been our foya requests with what we expect congress to investigate. we want to supercharge investigations and increase the likelihood that somebody will be held accountable if we find misdeeds. with respect to the broader picture, we're expecting an oversight storm. we have republicans secretly setting the oversight hell. we have 52 investigations the democrats want to run. the end of impunity. winter is coming. -- how abouts one, this winter is coming. one, a nice picture of elijah cummings, donald trump's worst nightmare. the nuts and bolts of how that oversight will be conducted. i want to get into some details. i want to paint a picture of how you are a big part of the
accountability landscape, as are watchdogs. to think about this from the perspective of people on the inside of the executive branch. when they get a question from congress, from me, or you, they all feel the same. they have to answer those questions. it is an exciting moment, heading into 2019 that congress , will get off the sidelines. the other thing i want to talk about, are some of the details i want to talk about. when we think about congressional oversight, everybody things about subpoenas. elijah cummings has subpoena power next year. oversight is way more than a subpoena. if congress issues subpoena, it often means oversight has failed. there is the chairman's letter. for every elijah cummings headline, there are 100 hours of anonymous staffer emails. some polite, some less polite.
the next thing i would like to emphasize is that the oversight we are emphasizing will emphasize more people than donald trump, and even his cabinet and secretaries. there are many appointees who will be asked to come up and explain their work. some of these people will be 40 years old thinking about a long career. that is going to be a difficult proposition for them. how much am i going to obstruct and become infamous on behalf of this white house? all of them will leave politics afterward. the next is, if you look at the last two phases of oversight, the last is very different. you have the republicans in charge. trey gowdy, jason chaffetz, and i will throw in mark meadows as well. i think it has been defined by petulance and conspiracy theory. this is not what oversight looks like. i think a lot of the
expectations for 2019 are based on what we saw the last eight years. i don't think that will be the case. you hear the democrats coming into power, emphasizing the henry waxman era of oversight, you know back when there were , investigations into substantive issues, katrina and iraq contracting issues. i think that is true but there are things that are different. more committees have subpoena power. more committees have subcommittees on oversight. they will be able to do a lot more. the amount of oversight that this congress is primed to do is different than the last time the democrats took over. and then i think the last point i will make going into this, i think we can all make some predictions about what might happen. we can explain the nuts and bolts, but we have no idea what this white house is going to do with respect to oversight. my rhetorical question is this
why do we think the first norm , that donald trump is going to obey is a subpoena? it turns out that the power of a congressional subpoena is backed by the administration's acceptance of that authority. we don't know what happens if they issue a blanket no next year. it will be fascinating. we are going to talk about it when it happens, i'm sure but , that is unprecedented. i am excited to play a role. that's part of the reason why american oversight thinks that outsiders like the press and other litigators will be important as well. with that, i handed off. >> just a couple of points to add to those very good points that i wanted to throw into the mix as we go into this discussion, one is -- and i will try and give a little built after flavor from my experience on both ends of pennsylvania avenue here. i just wanted to suggest that first, the hand-wringing of oversight by the democrats overplaying their hand is largely overwrought for the
following reasons. one is, i think the baseline dynamics are already in play. donald trump is going to paint a target on nancy pelosi as an obstructionist a matter of the tone is polite or harder edge. i think the one exception is impeachment. i think the specter of overturning an election has a very different resonance among the public. and tone matters generally. i look back to going back to the waxman era. the waxman had a very aggressive oversight schedule during the lead-up to the 2008 election, and didn't spoil president bush's last year in office. slightly different dynamics, but i don't think the democrats are going to get hung up on that. and i don't think a freshman letter is going to have any effect on elijah cummings and
the other committee chairs in terms of policy and oversight agenda. the second point for you all out there is to really focus on follow up by committees. this goes to this not just the big headline issued subpoena refused, but all the sort of making those contacts with staff to the extent they are available , and understanding which committees are just sending out angry letters with requests that never get followed up on, and which ones are doing the spade work, setting their timers and calendars, calling up escalating , in an appropriate way so the political environment has been shaped in a more favorable way to congress and has brought you on that process. preferably a process of substance. keeping an eye on the through line of what is the legislative purpose of this investigation or does it really have much more political flavor to it.
one other point i want to make is that i really think that the smart committees, and i think they are already thinking this way, they are going to go after the third parties first. the first letters from the oversight committee are not going to be please document all of your communications regarding the firing of michael flynn in the oval. it will be to third party banks, third-party accountants telecommunication companies and , other folks who have almost none of the same legal defenses that the executive branch might have if they get into a subpoena fight and start claiming there is a separation of powers. -- powers concerns. if you look at the sex trafficking, which justin knows a lot more about, but that litigation, they tried to defend on constitution grounds and quickly lost in court. those aren't going to be the same sort of drawn-out litigations. that will happen in the matter of weeks or months rather than
months and years. that is going to be a treasure trove for this particular president and many of his other appointees who have not divested from their holdings. there is a turn of information which again will shape the playing field before they get into the direct head to head confrontations where the president might say go pound sand. similarly, the next step is these subordinate officials looking at their longer term careers. that's another group of people that are going to have a different set of incentives driving their level of incentives driving their level -- their level of cooperation when they are looking at 30 more years in the washington scene than those exiting politics shortly. the last thing, to plant a bug in your ear, not all resistance to congressional requests or subpoenas is actually stone walling. i think that is going to be hard for you all to sort out in this context this president has
claimed he is going to take a war-like posture upon the first investigation that touches on his interests. he likes to talk in categorical terms. the fact of the matter is there , is a long and largely good faith set of disputes that to whenngress relating it relates to candor in the executive branch, where there are some good arguments on the executive branch's side, and i think you all have to, with all due respect, temper your natural inclination to be in favor of bias to get more information, which puts you generally sort of has a natural ally of congress. that won't change. but try to take seriously and get through whether or not is this a trump-driven, personality-driven blanket refusal, or is this something
that the legal councils, the keeper of the flame of the executive branch going back for 30 years and is the real driver here. if you see letters that say things like executive branch confidentiality interests are that sounds like o.l.c. developing a case. those are my opening comments. >> justin? >> hi, everybody, and thank you for having me for this panel. i want to echo a lot of what my other panelists have said. there is a lot of good insight there. before i get to that, a quick introduction. pogo is a non-partisan government watchdog that has been around. for those of you old enough to remember the $1,400 toilet seat , and the $800 hammer were findings of ours. the last few years we have been running the unite committee. we have trained a lot of staff
on the fine art of congressional oversight and best practices. we have worked with several investigators including on the hill and h.g. you should always call andy if you have any questions. i will put in a plug, and i think this is a really nerve-wracking moment in history to be asked to predict what is going to happen next. all of the panels i have seen today have said that. i do think you are going to see some big high profile conflicts. i don't think that is a big surprise, especially as investigations come closer to target trump personally or members of his family. but i also think you have to step back and look at the mueller investigation and the way the white house has handled that as kind of an interesting lesson. i think publicly there has been a lot of bluster and witch hunt language, but if you read a
recent reporting, they make a point of how they have gone out of their way to cooperate with this investigation and provide information. this is a pattern in private litigation against trump and various trump enterprises, that there is a lot of bluster going into it and quickly leads to a settlement. to say we are going to see fireworks is a no-brainer. to say it is all going to be fireworks i don't think is going to be the case. you have another issue coming up, which is the level of staffing and the level of competency in a lot of these agencies. all of your outlets have done fantastic work over the last couple of years, illustrating some of the problems and the alarms that are going aon across -- going on across the executive branch right now in terms of agencies functioning. with the democrats coming in and taking over the house, you do have an opposing party doing oversight, so you will see some
of the high profile investigations we have been talking about. right now is a real crisis time for a lot of americans for a lot of programs they rely on for a lot of agencies, and you are going to see oversight into those. please don't lose sight for those. -- lose sight of those. they are important to a lot of readers, viewers and voters. those are going to be the areas where you are likely going to see a little more fruitfulness in compromise and obtaining information. these will not necessarily be your big d.o.j. hearings on the whitaker appointment for instance, or this sort of thing. but in some of the lesser i think youncies, will see more cooperation. i would also share with you a tidbit. i came out of congressional quarterly. i was trained at c.q. and went on to government executive. so i spent a lot of time looking
through spread sheets and decimal dust to find stories. one piece of advice i got was get to know the appropriations clerks. it really is a congress within a congress. so much of what we focus on is cummings, ogr, and the powerful chairmans and what fights they getting into. you don't hear about fights in the appropriations committee. largely they don't have fights , because they control everybody's budget. the carrot stick ratio is good for them. they get a lot of good information. they are not going to be out sharing it as publicly. certainly a lot of their , oversight work goes on behind closed doors. but my experience says that when you do have a divided government, at least with one chamber, if you need to hold the executive branch to account, if you need to second check claims they are making on what is happening in a given program or something like that, a clerk can be an incredible sort of -- source of information because they can tell you quickly one way or another if it is true or
not. that is a place to consider going to and making friends if you haven't already. andy's mention of third party targets is absolutely true. i have spent some wonderful years with the subcommittee on investigations in the senate. we investigated goldman-sachs , jpmorgan and a number of , large banks. we also investigated homeland security. if i had a choice between investigating goldman-sachs and homeland security, i would gold man-sachs every day of the week. the department of the time, during the obama administration, they took talented and less talented efforts to stone wall the work that we were trying to do. that was bipartisan oversight. we were working with the democratic chairman at the time. so those third parties are wonderful in terms of cooperation for oversight. i don't recall, i don't want to speak out of school here, but others probably know better than
me when the target of those subpoenas is a publicly traded company, sometimes that information must be disclosed to investors. whoever covers the sec for the organization can become a good friend of yours. to find out how to track what is happening there. cummings and others have a good track record of put out press releases and releasing the letters the moment they send them. when waxman was chairman, we used to get complaints from the stapleton that we got copies of the letters before they did. when you are trying to track some of the less public investigations people are trying , to do credible work, start looking at those information sources from third parties. the final thing i want to add is all investigations are not created equal. i think we have certainly proved that over the last couple of years. there is an instinct in certain corners of the media to cover
things as a horse race and to cover things as to what's the political impact on the target. there are going to be substantive oversights taking place and substantial investigations. they won't all be. sometimes you have those that are substantive and score great politically. the investigations that play the most political points are also the most substantive. that is why they score the best points. i want to encourage everyone to try to get a sense of if this is a meaningful investigation, if they are conducting it on a reasonable basis. they will release the letters and if it is a fishing expedition, it will look like a fishing expedition. if they are making tailored requests for documents and people, if they are giving reasonable time frames for production, i would encourage you to treat those more seriously. >> i will grant myself the first question, and then we will turn it over to you. you three are used to looking for acorns on the forest floor. as investigators what did you
find most interesting in the court filings on friday? >> i am going to punt on that a little bit. the document i spent the most time reading was the jim comey transcript that came out on saturday. it was really telling because it shows the other side of the investigations. it shows what trey goudy will spend his last days pursuing. and what jim jordan will pursue. what was striking about it is that there is no secret. they are asking the same questions they have been asking rhetorically, on tv, at hearings for the last two years. that framed up with the newer information from friday. that, to me suggested that the , balance of who has additional arrows in their quiver, it is really in mueller's favor. there is not some secret counter
report that you should expect jim jordan to issue sometime next year. >> ryan goodman and i wrote a piece on eight take aways from the filings on friday night and into saturday. i think obviously the screaming headline is that the prosecutors adopted michael cohen's allegation that the president directed what the prosecutors are saying are illegal and felonious campaign contributions. there was another line in that filing that also suggested that other people in the trump campaign were also involved in that effort, which sort of suggests, without saying it, that there could potentially be conspiracy liability for people other than the president related to that. there was some other elucidation about russian contacts. for congress' sake, there are questions about whether other
people were truthful in their congressional interviews, and that is all backed by 18 usc 1001, the false statements statute that we have seen so many people charged with over the last year. there are a bunch of threads that are quite significant, but i think congress, the house will probably be quite aggressive in preserving its prerogatives with respect to fidelity and truthfulness before their committees, and that includes in less formal interviews than a full-blown subpoena under oath. >> i thought andy and ryan's piece was fantastic and took most of the meat off the bones of the filings on friday. one thing that stuck out to me in the filings that i did not see coverage on, but also made sense, it was kind of the duck that didn't bark, i think was the southern district in the cohen filing makes -- we have all seen from the coverage over the last few days that every word that goes into those
filings is incredibly intentional. whether you consider them as speaking documents or not. every word i think is thoughtful. there is a passing mention to cohen setting himself up as a lobbyist, and almost immediately setting up these relationships with major corporations and getting hundreds of thousands of dollars for his unique insight into the presidency. they kind of dismissed it as well, it didn't come into anything, and most of those relationships ended and moved on. from an investigative perspective, i was thinking i would like to ask a few more questions about that before we decide there is nothing there. it seems curious behavior. >> we will open it up to you guys. if you could give us your name and organization. >> hi. thanks for taking my question. my question touches on inspectors general in so much as any of these investigations
focus on agency specific things, what kind of role you might see them play going forward, whether they have the authorities and the resources to even kind of look into these things and , generally the relationship , they have with congress and lawmakers in looking at these things. >> justin is probably the first -- you guys talk ig's all the time. >> we love ig's. ig's are great. there are a number of vacancies right now that are plaguing ig offices. there are some ig offices that are more aggressive and less aggressive. i would expect -- again when we are talking about the subpoena cannon, the cavalcade of investigations or whatever, i would suspect for committee chairs who have a lengthy list of priorities that everything they don't see any direct benefit to them will get pushed
to an ig or gao. my suspicion is ig's. that is something to watch. it is not going to play into a narrative of congress versus the white house. if you are trying to keep track of what kind of oversight is taking place look at the , referral letters going from the congressional committees to the ig's for sure. >> one other point. there is a tug of war going on between the executive branch and congress over the ig's. they have a little bit of independence, and they are well situated to play both sides against the middle a little bit. there's a question as to whether -- in the fast and furious litigation under the obama -- which i worked on -- there was a question about whether or not the white house and the justice department giving documents to the inspector general, that the inspector general then published in a report weakens the executive privilege claim these of the -- via congress.
there is a question as to whether ig's are inside or outside the circle of privilege. if you harm yourself by giving documents of the ig's, because that becomes tantamount to a waiver, then there is going to be an incentive not to give documents and cooperate with the ig investigations. the hill does not appreciate that. they think they should be entitled to everything that the ig contemplates. that is another line of process, in addition to the substantive investigation. they will see how ig's fare in the middle of that environment. couple of quick points on this. number one, i think you will see to the executive branch to use the ig's to buy time. it is a great answer to the press and congress saying thank you for your question. we have referred this matter to the inspector general ourselves. it makes it look like you are the cabinet secretary, and you are taking it seriously, but you don't have to answer questions. not to roll myself under the bus, but if you said with the state department did publicly about the clinton emails for
most of 2015, it usually started and ended with the inspector general is looking into this. it frees the agency from having to conduct its own internal investigation and answer those questions. >> imagine, by the way, if donald trump's narrative about the mueller investigation for the last year and a half had been i am sorry, we are not going to comment on an ongoing investigation. >> right. the other thing is, and this picks up on what andy was the ig has a bizarre role a dual reporting role. , they report to the agency head and have access to everything. you can't claim attorney-client privilege with them. you can try, but they are inside the agency according to them. but they also report to congress. the role of the ig as a conduit is very challenging for agency -- the agency, the ig and , for congress. one of the most interesting dialogue that will happen is the ig signaling to committees that
nothing is here or you should keep going. i can't tell you what it is, i seem attorney-client emails, i can tell you what i know, but there is nothing here. or they can tamp down conspiracy theories. that is actually a really important job for them as well. kind of an early warning. >> in the back. >> [indiscernible] one of the cases that democrats have highlighted they are going to look into and investigate is the zero tolerance policy and how that was rolled out. i'm curious how does that look , like in practice? does it start with bringing in the dhs secretary to discuss how it was implemented at the time, or does it start somewhere else? >> we have some livingston on this at american oversight. i think we filed five lawsuits last week to go after different elements of the big dr. c -- on
the bureaucracy on how the policy took shape. this story has a lot of chapters. sure you have secretary nielsen who could come in and answer how she was truthful to congress and the letters. but more likely, some of the more fruitful avenues will be what money was spent on this, what planning went into this. what communications happened on the ground level? this policy had to go from jeff sessions down to individual cbp officers. are there any people down there who want to be whistle blowers? are there people down there who said really awful things in their emails? it is actually exhibit a for how this administration is going to face some really intense, good faith substantive oversight. it is not going to be kristin neilsen in january satisfying the fifth or saying executive privilege. it is going to be a regional director of a cbp office who had
to figure out where to put children, in what tents? where did they get the tents? so think katrina. think iraq and afghanistan contracting, halliburton type stories. those are going to be very fruitful, and they are not going to be privileged. >> can you speak more about the lead-up to what a lot of people are thinking about the pinnacle of oversight, which is like the subpoena and maybe a blockbuster hearing that is broadcast live? you have kind of described that as not even close to the beginning, but much closer to the end. i think in general, coverage of those could be better if we knew more about how to approach the lead-up to those. >> i think all of us can do this one. to me, you want to plant the seeds now that will bear fruit at the same time. there might be ig request that
relates to the area. there might be a gao request not being counted. you might want to know about the histories, you might go to the congressional research service. it is a great thing for oversight. if you are talking about norm violations, they can tell you how it has been done forever. -- done for forever. then, you start figuring out what the org chart is and who might have touched whatever this policy is. then you start organizing how you are going to get that information. you work from there, and then you start having information disputes in various areas and avenues, and you learn about more pots of information as you are going. and you start to build that out so by the time you have the secretary sitting there, you have chapter and verse so you can lock them into the evidence. >> the congressional research service is crs if you you're not , familiar. >> i would just add to that,
that people do it a thousand different ways. one thing we emphasize strongly is your first step is to get briefings, and that could be from the agency, but it includes every interest group and private contractor and any perspective -- anybody else who has perspective into it. the downside of congressional investigations is that as much as many chairman attempt to create as much transparency as is beneficial in terms of releasing letters and things, there is a lot that happens behind closed doors that nobody talks about. you can piece a lot together by figuring out who they get those briefings from, what they are hearing, and what sort of questions they are asking. >> a couple of quick things. one, the waxman report by josh green is a wonderful book. it is a little nerdy, but there is a chapter on how waxman built the case for oversight from the minority, and then how he executed it during the very beginning of 2007. four hearings on four topics in four days. i feel like i am telling your history. it is really good, plain
english, and it talks about the letter to the subpoena. the other is the subpoena again, that is a legal instrument that is designed to sort of trigger the executive branch having to make a final decision on asserting executive privilege, or whether congress can take a vote to go to court. that is only effective if you have really built the case. but also jumping to the subpoena, one of the ways we can help people understand it, the reason it is the end of the story is there is all this theater that comes up before it. every one of these oversight investigations has two elements. number one, the merits. what happened, who did what, what money was spent, who lied, that stuff. then, there's the obstruction element, and this is where i think they did a great job of making it matter, at least in the beltway, when he wasn't getting the information he wanted.
hearings with congressional affairs staffers, and why can't i have these documents? what does next week mean? you said that two weeks ago. that is part of the story. if you jump to a subpoena, you are essentially taking away your opportunity to build to that, and that theater matters. it can help amp up the why you should care about these merits. why aren't they telling you the truth? what are they hiding? >> one other thing. this is obvious, but like you guys help set these agendas. for example, one of those first four hearings was the deplorable conditions of walter reed. that was one of my first hearing as a congressional staffer. i went and interviewed all those witnesses and figured outs who -- out who were the best sort of demonstration or personifications of the problems and helped get them out there. the same thing with warlord inc, which was a supply line chain investigation that our committee ran when i was staff director.
that had george miller on a plane handed me the article and saying wow, this sounds really bad, let's look into that. we took it seriously and followed the threads, and sure enough, there was a whole lot there. sometimes you will be in on the ground floor. that creates some weird ethics kind of dynamics for you in being invested in it. but if you want to know the truth, and these committees have the ability maybe to pry out more information than you are able to get with your resources, that can be really helpful for you covering it as well. >> i just want to add one thing to this which is the calculus , that underlines the assumption of the effect of a subpoena, a lot of the dynamics and rules of political physics are upside down at the moment. i think a lot of the assumptions that that whole kind of work flow is based on and approach are really up for question. what i mean by that is everybody
is familiar with the cover-up is worse than the crime, that kind of assumption. the power of the threat of a subpoena is that you are going to appear to be in continued non-compliance. you are hiding information. therefore, there is an assumption that a reasonable person could make, the moderate voter or the person in the middle saying i don't really know, i'm wearing this they seem , to be asking the question, and they are not cooperating, and they look bad. what we have seen change over the last couple of years is people don't speak to the middle anymore or worry about what the middle is thinking. they worry about what their base is thinking. the problem when you have playing communication that moves toward the base and away from the middle, it is that conflict suddenly becomes good. this fight over access, it is no longer a question on who looks bad. it is how you can use this to rile up your base. in those cases the white house , has been very successful in taking what in other cases could , look very bad to other administrations in terms of not
complying to requests for information and things like that, because it plays well with the voters they are counting on for support. how that will play out and not just a few high-profile examples we have seen so far, but largely in oversight over the next two years, i think is a huge open question and could change political calculus. >> i am liz, i work for alaska public media. is oversight even effective in an era where people don't -- where they might prefer a conspiracy theory to actual facts? say you have a great oversight hearing and you get to this aha moment, but the public just said what they have said before, which is i prefer this set of facts, or i prefer this conspiracy theory. what is the point of oversight? how do you get people to care about facts?
>> well, then what is the point of journalism? >> exactly. >> if it's doesn't matter let's , all go home and watch netflix. i don't know. >> that is the same question that -- we are saying no, don't believe this believe bright line , facts. do we just hope that the american public comes to their senses and starts believing in fact again? >> please don't slip into that. -- slip into denial. yes. are there dynamics now with media ecosystems that are segregated from one another and a base driven politics that are blunting the effect of discloses that might have had a bigger effect before about fact? sure. but i don't think they matter. i don't think that the fundamental laws of politics have changed. gravity is still gravity. if you go back and listen to the slow burn podcast, which is a
-- does a nice job of transporting us back to the real time experience of watergate rather than the baked in the cake of the all the president's men version, people were behaving politically then. gerald ford, before he was the great bipartisan forgiver, he was the minority leader who was leaking to the whitehouse during congressional investigations. i think this is more like stages of grief for people in the president's party rather than the road to damascus moment where it is like aha he is the person. it is bargaining, denial and all these other phases. facts will still matter. they may not just have the same salience at that moment. >> i would add i think the return of checks and balances gives facts a chance to matter in a way they haven't the last couple of years. every day is a new headline. right now it is all i can do to , keep up.
foya, which is what i do, but also congressional investigations operate at a lag. so they come back. a headline pops up today. their investigator is working quietly for six months, and out comes an interim report. those creates accountability moments. it is a venue where you can ask follow up questions. and things we have all forgotten about return. it is a new dynamic. i think it is a really important dynamic for this administration because they have thrived on the churn. count me optimistic that they haven't figured this part out. but again, all that is true. you are not talking about moving 100% of people. you are talking about moving the margins. if you are going to lie in front of congress, it shouldn't be a good look for you. >> >> next? rather.
>> brin with the new orleans advocate. there has been at least a narrative of a conflict in the democratic house conference about whether to purse legislation or oversight. i am curious, for those people who have worked on the knifed -- on the inside of oversight, how time consuming it is in terms of staff resources, committee time and member time oversight actually is, whether it is a false choice or real choice. if it focuses on oversight that it eats into hearings on other matters. also, how much is this is going to be farmed out to outside oversight groups who are going to fight foya battles. judicial watch type organizations? >> we can all give our interpretations here. my suspicion is that is a little bit more posturing than substantive. it is kind of like a reporter saying do you want me to make phone calls or write a story in
-- story? and your job is to do both. their authority to do investigations and oversight works stems from their authority to do legislation. it is simply two sides of the same coin. the idea you should run off and do legislation without doing any asinine.ing is andy has a more pragmatic take. it doesn't pass a last test to me in terms of a subs tyson debate on what the house is substantiveally -- debate on what the house is going to do. >> it is largely a false choice. i don't want to say 100%. there are trade-offs on time about which committee hearing you are going to go to. but the staffs that are oversight focused aren't really the legislative side of the policy, although hopefully they were communicating with each other about what they are learning. i don't think that is lilly a choice. even if we got more members intimately involved in the oversight investigations that they serve on, not just the
chair and the staff, that would be good, and i don't think it would harm the legislative output of the congress. >> it feels like we are talking about the first 30 days when we are having this discussion. the house democrats have said they are going to push for hr1, which is the grab back for -- grab bag for ethics reform and campaign finance reform and all sorts of things to show they have a positive good government agenda. i wouldn't be surprised if the oversight letters wait until that vote happens, and then that bill goes and lives on in the senate or not. but then, what is their next big legislative push? i am not hearing it. so there is going to be space on their docket for oversight. then the other part of this false question is which investigation do you choose? or rich two or three echo this is where my point on the oversight landscape in congress is very different now than it was in 2007. there are more committees who will be staffed up to do
oversight than in 2007. if you take the list of 52 subpoenas or 60 subpoenas that elijah cummings says he wishes he could have sent over the last two years, and you overlaid those on dustin jurisdictions. 60 becomes 10 for each committee, and then you are picking three to four each, and it doesn't look like a free-for-all. judiciary, energy and commerce, and natural resources, and oversight, and appropriations, and armed services, they can all do just a little oversight. it is going to be a lot compared to what it has been. >> the second half of that question. what is the interface between outside groups that do outside oversight and foya litigation
and trying to pry out all these documents and congressional oversight. it appeared from the outside over the last several years, on the republican side, and judicial watch and some of the other groups, they appear to be coordinating with committees and sort of working in tandem to farm out some of the work on that. how does that interface work between outside oversight groups who are going to go ahead and litigate and pull up documents and show whether or not there is smoke coming from something and then the committee's actual time and their resources? >> from my perspective, and i think this varies on different committees and chambers. i welcomed the information that outside watchdog groups would give, but i wouldn't share anything we were doing with them that was not publicly facing. i felt it was not our job to share. we were running an investigation on behalf of the american people. we welcomed the information, but i wasn't going to coordinate
affirmatively in that kind of a way. that is me. >> we would never -- and i'm not -- i'm not familiar with a relationship between any committee or organization where they act as a subsidiary or farm out work or anything like that. psi and thed for homeland security committee, we would talk to advocacy groups from all sides. if they had something interesting to pursue, we might try to pursue it. but there wasn't any kind of special relationship with anyone. as far as andy's point about sharing information that you have gleaned through an investigation, at least on the senate side, and i am sure there is some equivalent on the house side, there are very strict rules about sharing information outside of a formal act of congress that people take pretty seriously. >> i can tell you how american oversight does it. we deliberately called our plan the parallel investigations
initiative where we are not coordinating, not taking suggestions from, not trying to push an agenda on congress. we are trying to pursue things that on our own, as part of one lever of accountability and transparency, and we have been prioritizing things that we think congress will investigate because we think those are the best chances of being held accountable. if we start yelling about an issue no one cares about, then nothing is going to happen. there's enough in this administration where we focus on interests that overlap, it will make a difference. i can't speak to how they coordinate it or not. i will point to two things which are kind of are contradictory. number one, when isa came in in 2011 as the chairman of the oversight committee, he change the mission statement of the committee to affirmatively say they would work with outside watch dogs. i don't know what that meant in practice.
what i have since heard from people on that staff is that they all wish that judicial watch had coordinated more with them because they were often out on their own really pushing on issues. so i think doggedly pursuing everyone's own kind of selfish interests is probably the best method. if a group like mine dredges up an email that elijah's cummings' group didn't get, let's have a hearing on that. if they got something in a foya -- that they have a case that they didn't get something in a foya case that we should have gotten, great, we will go to court. it is about coordination any more than how does the press coordinate with congress if you are trying to get information. the last thing i will do, at american oversight we have tried to create a road man of different committee priorities through reading their letters, reading their press statements. we talked to them privately, and i have not gotten even a ray of
daylight between what they have said publicly and what they say privately. they seem to be pretty open about what their plans are. >> last question? nick? you guys can arm wrestle. >> i guess i was wondering if there were any blind spots in oversight that we need to be paying attention to in the press. you mentioned earlier there was a headline of about 52 investigations that are likely in the coming years. but what is number 53 through 100? >> i will probably sound pogos point here, which is the oversight that gets headlines , even on page is only a piece 12, of it. there is a lot of good government reform that could happen. heck, i would love to see congress take up foya reform. how can we get agencies to
provide more information? why do we have to sue to get documents? that is never going to be a front page story. there is a lot of oversight work that can get done that won't get a headline because it doesn't reflect poorly on a political appointee. >> i was going to say one thing the congress generally does a poor job of paying attention to are its own misdeeds. so ongoing issues of harassment i think is going to be one. congressional cyber security, congress' own cyber security. ask some good questions about that, friends. it is a great area to look into. anything about congress' own operations are rife. one that is frustrating is voting security and voting integrity. those are issues that even now there are debates on capital hill as to whether or not they have the proper jurisdiction
over these issues, which for a lot of people seems crazy. , >> we will let sam have the last question. >> sorry if it is somewhat similar, but i was wondering what each of you might feel might be a dark horse area? there are so many stories about the administration in the area of oversight, something you feel that could potentially be a major thread that hasn't necessarily gotten the most attention over the last few years? >> i have one that i can throw out. we have been mostly talking about scandal oversight, who did something wrong. every time elijah cummings talks about his oversight agenda, he talks about a proactive agenda. prescription drug pricing is the one he keeps throwing out. publicly he thinks that he could work with the president on that issue. that is a really great example. not all oversight is scandal. not all oversight is trying to make someone look bad, except maybe the drug companies in this
case. those two are not going to have the same resonance with the news alert on your phone. elijah cummings has testimony by pfizer and merck. but how he is angling that oversight plan to catch the attention of the administration to find common ground is interesting. certainly not part of the discussion should they do tax , returns or this or that? there is whole proactive positive agenda too. >> i would throw into that the hurricanes and fema response. there is a long history of bipartisan oversight on that. so little was done in the -- done after the devastating hurricanes, puerto rico versus houston, and those questions versus equity. there is a ton of documents there. that is one thing that could
change the shape of the public discussion when you start bringing victims in front of congress to talk about their experiences, and we talk about why the federal, state or local officials didn't get the job done. >> i am going to change the question slightly and suggest two committees to pay attention to that often get lost. they are bumblebees and a congress that is notorious for not being able to do anything in a bipartisan way. house energy and commerce is a powerful committee with broad jurisdiction that has very intentionally built a culture and practices about doing their oversight work in a bipartisan way. they released a report on cyber security. they have been releasing findings on the opioid crisis that informed the house bill that are phenomenal. my old shop, the permanent subcommittee on investigations , again, has preserved a tradition of working on a bipartisan basis through multiple chairmen and ranking members, and they do excellent
work. whether it is back page, whether it is financial crisis. it is important. it is very rarely on whatever today's headline was but it can , move billions of dollars and have a major impact on our society. >> so three oversight experts. their contact information is in your packet. make sure you take advantage of them. thank you justin, andy, and austin. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its captioning content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org.] c-span's washington journal's live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. sunday morning, bbc washington correspondent gary o'donoghue and elegy coups and discuss up people in britain and france. we will about the 50th anniversary of the apollo eight mission and the first-ever orbit
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