tv David Priess How to Get Rid of a President CSPAN December 8, 2018 9:16pm-10:04pm EST
thinking but you do. i think we approaching these questions, there's almost no downside. so i think it's been good that they are doing that. thank you for your attention and questions. [applause] i think i'm signing books, is that right? >> yes. thank you so much for coming. books are available to register. please be torturous where they are. assigning line will start in front of me. next to the podium. >> you are watching tv. did you know you can listen on the go?
download the c-span radio app from your device store. on the weekends, click on the c-span2 button to hear everything here on booktv live. >> good evening. the barnes & noble. david priess is the author of the book of secrets, the untold story of the intelligence briefing to the americas president. he served at the cia getting presidency of bill clinton and george w. bush. as an officer, manager and daily intelligence before the state department. he writes, speaks and appears often on broadcast media at the presidency and national security. he will be the conversation tonight with chris whipple. a writer and documentary film maker. he is the author of the acclaimed bestseller, the gatekeeper. how the white house keeps us
staff is buying every presidency. he is an honor to peter at msnbc and has written pieces for the new york times and washington post. they bring us tonight, mr. preece's new book, "how to get rid of a president". the guide to moving -- removing popular or unfit chief executive. history, maneuvers and conspiracies have attempted successfully and not to remove unwanted presidents. so, without further do, 20 in dating -- welcoming david priess. [applause] >> thank you. welcome. it's too bad that the book we've come to discuss tonight is so untimely.
it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to get rid of the president these days. i should say that i met david when he was working in his previous book, the president's book of secrets, the history of the so-called pdb. essential daily brief. the cia top-secret summary of what's been happening in the world every day. i highly recommend that book as well. reached out to me because i was writing a book called the gatekeepers. we compared notes on presidential secrets. i have no idea how he found me but that's david. as you would expect summary who came out of the cia. he's resourceful, thorough and persuasive. we became friends. we're here tonight to talk about the new book. how to get read of a president
history guide to removing unpopular, unable or unfit chief executives. by the way, is not a manual on how to remove the president through the 25th amendment or impeachment in the house and commensurate in the senate. it's and said, thoroughly engrossing and entertaining history of our front relationship with our presidents and all the various ways fair and foul, that we have dealt with them and we get sick of them. the meat began, by asking you this question. you come not from academia or the white house press corps or a think tank, but from the intelligence committee. the ci a officer is not supposed to worry about removing presidents. of these not american presidents. what led you to this subject? >> former cia officer. i left a while ago.
the first book you mentioned, the secrets that i wrote, was a book about presidents behaving well. it was a story largely presidents who received this daily intelligence report, internalized it, process the information and decided how to make the top national security choices that the intelligence report helped to inform. i think that works well generally. some presidents did better than others. but overall, it works. almost felt like i need to balance that. there was a presidents behaving well. sometimes they don't. this is about presidents "breaking bad". presidents behaving bad and what we do about it. i realized inviting the first book, i learned a lot about the modern presence. i still knew almost nothing about most of our nations history.
yet, when it comes to something as momentous as potentially removing a president, you need to study all of that history. most of what we've lived there, we have gone through before as a country but most of us don't know the history. i didn't know it well enough. it'd take me back to some of my roots. i'm a political science. i got to go back and use some of that to look at the political systems in our country and see what i could apply from what i learned about systems in other countries. >> other than impeachment and conviction, and the 20th amendment, what are some of the ways that we've got rid of presidents through history? >> those two methods are addressed in the book. they are constitutional methods for getting rid of a president. a look at everything. i take removal in a very wide definition. where a and the book, the founder original design of "how to get rid of a president". it was no at the time.
you vote them out. have an election for years later, not a given, they debated that. if you don't like him, you say, you're fired. we've done that. i think ten presidents have been removed in election where they got to the election. you have to wait until an election to it -- to get rid of him. having the party reject the candidate. having a president who wants to stay in office but the president party says, we tried this, we don't want to go with you anymore. this has happened many times history is all. not as much recently. most with had several two-term presidents in row. except the very beginning of the republican. we haven't had someone removed by their own party. rejected by the party in quite some time. george h.w. but probably was the last one to face a serious primary challenge but even that did not remove him from the ballot. those are two methods that
involve elections. if you don't want to wait until the next election? if you don't want to wait for the party to get rid of him? there's another method. it has been used and is technically a removal. it's not taking the person out of the office. it's the opposite, taking office out of the person. leave the person in office as president but remove the powers. restrict them so much, there president in name only. this is at one, good politics. this is the congress restricting with the president us and another extreme, it's sabotage from within. his own advisors doing is like taking members office desk so he can't find the. as we've seen the last few weeks, reports of us are coming out in this administration. you are undermining him from within. take a look at other methods,
there is also assassination. it has happened. we can't deny it. not a method anyone should recommend. it's an insult to our ability to pick leaders. this person shouldn't be a life much less an office. but for something slightly better than that, i call it preemptive removal. if you have a candidate who is so qualified for the office, that they look like they are destined for the office, the political opponents can look at that person and say, it's good to be a lot of trouble remove them once they are in office. the tart. let's actively remove them. create a scandal, two things beyond the normal scope of politics to make sure he never reaches office in the first place. my case that i talk about the most, and the like. it should be a name we all know. yet, andrew jackson mostly did some dirty things to keep him out of office. some would say liquid, kept out
by russian information were for in 2016 among other things. i go through all of those methods and reconcile them, where does that leave us? what options do we have four different presidents? >> in all of your research, do you have a favorite story? >> there are so many. we have had a lot of bad presidents. the funny thing for me, was owning that in the 1800s, we had a lot of presidents, all of them male, all of them white males, most of them with facial hair. we don't remember all of the names of them. i released why. a lot of them were bad. they were very good at their jobs. one example is john tyler. he became president in 1841 when the incumbent president, wendling william died. he becomes president and he did such a bad job managing his own adopted party that he becomes
the first president to have several things happen to him. it happened because henry clay, had a national bank built that he wanted past. it was according to the party. tyler himself was a part of this. he vetoed the bill which was not interesting basin policy disagreements back then. the party took a deep breath, revised the bill according to the president objections. presented the second and he became -- he voted that, too. after they wrote it for him. all hell broke loose. for things that happened, first of all, john talley was the first president to have his cabinet resigned. almost all of them except one, left him. number two, the party itself voted him out. he wasn't just not renominated, that's the third thing that happened, the party said they are not part of our party anymore. you're so bad. he was the first president who wanted to stay in office who did not get the re- nomination of his party.
he had an impeachment resolution against him. the president that was ever brought up. he was not impeached but it was a resolution dropped in the house. all of the happened because he wouldn't even agree to the things that he had agreed to. the sounds like a bad president, to me. >> was the most surprising or even shocking thing that you learned? >> something i was not prepared for and i found a journal of nervous and psychological disorders or something like that. a medical journal were some scientists had gone back and looked at the available evidence medical histories for presidents. they found in 2006, they found that more than one quarter of all u.s. presidents to that.,
had what they saw as clear evidence of one or more psychiatric disorders. most common, severe depression. that makes things if you think about it. at the white house can be a dark place even in the best of times. when things aren't the rest of times, some of the case that i write about, frequent peers, elected president. ...
>> through incapacitation by severe depression. >> fascinating. fast forward a little bit and talk about our current president. i have often said he's not the first president to come into office thinking he is the smartest guy in the room. most presidents get over that. but not all. has a been any other president in our history quite like donald trump quick. >> it depends on what you mean like. [laughter] we did have a president who is many of the things that donald trump is being called in the discourse now racist, stubbor
racist, stubborn, difficult to get along with, walking to his allies and enemies it was andrew johnson succeeding lincoln is a president in the first to be impeached no doubt due to some of those very traits. obstinate and would barely take yes for an answer also nixon in terms of giving the power of the presidency with obstruction of power or abuse of power. there is no one who quite has the same disregard richard nixon certainly challenge the institutions of the united states government but here is a man who served in world war ii and vice president for eight years and a distinguished senator. he still loved the united states even if he was willing to manipulate things for his own benefit. and that same level of service
that you see them presidents are different in the background of this president. >> it seems in recent history only two presidents have failed to win reelection and each with carter and george h.w. bush had some primary challengers who laid before the general election but donald trump is not likely to have that challenge. therefore is he the prohibitive favorite to win reelection in 2020 quick. >> let's go back to your premise. it does seem now like it is unlikely he would not be the republican nominee again but remember a few months before richard nixon resigned predictions were it could not happen. so we are foolish if we have high confidence of any judgment about what will happen in a year and a half from now. it's hard to imagine a primary
challenger but certainly there are many people and former republicans who disagree strongly enough there could be a challenge on that front. there is also the idea he is a stronger candidate now than he was before if he was the presumptive leader in the 2020 race and what the democrats would run on in 2016 we told you what a disaster he could be in here are the things he would be unfit to do. now we have three years as president and look at what he is actually done look at the behaviors. you could run against that instead of an idea they can run against actions so that may pull differently that he is the presumptive winner it is still unlikely to see a strong primary challenger to
unseat him but then go again go back to george h.w. bush 19821 year after the highest popularity ratings in us history after the first goal for now suddenly do not to a disastrous economy relatively stagnant - - stagnant had a strong challenger from pat buchanan. >> we haven't mentioned the wildcard of the mueller investigation and likely that he will come back with something for us to deal with. obviously we don't know what mueller will come back to bite with those republican games in the senate is there any scenario that you can imagine trump being convicted for high crimes and misdemeanors clicks to make yes it is unlikely though but impeachment is such a high bar impeachment itself the majority vote in the house january 4th when congress
takes effect you have an impeachment resolution chances are it would pass but what politicians have seem to learn from the bill clinton process if you impeach the president in the house and go through the senate and they failed to convict that is a win for the president because clinton's popularity numbers went up that is not the way the founders intended it or other presidents have seen at the impeachment itself is supposed to be a slap across the face. >> but clinton's one - - clinton balance the budget. >> they are definitely different it's hard to imagine any conviction in the senate the way it is proposed after the election but i go back to nixon when people said months before the resignation there is no way the party will turn on richard nixon and i write in the book he was really in impeached president. i didn't get to impeachment
but he would not have resigned if that was not about to happen and it was he left office before it could happen so i do keep low confidence in predictions of what could happen in six or 12 months. mostly because of what you started with with a special counsel investigation. there is so much integrity in the person of bob mueller and overall with a special counsel investigation that if credible evidence comes up with crimes of conspiracy related to the election itself or obstruction of justice, then that will turn some heads. once the tide starts turning it is amazing how fast the first follower creates the effect with a two thirds so i will not rule that out right now it's hard to imagine but ask me again in a year. >> one last question. as a cia officer you used to give daily briefings to robert
mueller. tell us about that. what is he like every morning for more than a year i got to take intelligence materials to bob mueller as fbi director. it was not a good time because that meant getting up at 1:00 o'clock in the morning every day to prepare the briefing and work on it and getting ready to answer questions you think your customer would ask you as we call them. i briefed him for more than a year and never got to the point i got through a whole week or even a whole day without having a question he was that good to pick apart the details of the analysis to breakdown the logic where is the evidence to back up that assertion cracks at first i was bringing back five or six questions a day that by the end i was much better maybe 90 percent at predicting what
he would ask getting to know him but i could never keep up with him. with a strategic and tactical level beyond most people had the opportunity to work with. the other thing that i noticed despite some claims he is showboating to get attention through this process. that is not the man i got to know there were many opportunities even after 911 when the fbi was under assault people are very talking very seriously about breaking the fbi up into two or more organizations he could have easily gone to the press talk about those briefings to make the fbi look really good but he never dead. i never saw him do that once. that is integrity and what we have seen in this investigation so far. >> on that hopeful note let's go to questions.
>> it all started with what is going on with president trump right now after that disastrous trip to europe. >> which one quick. >> the most recent. >> in my mind i immediately conjured up helsinki to paris. >> there is an expectation that a change things. if he could have shown a larger section of the american people what happened in this trip over the previous two helsinki or show that in october 2016 i'm not sure
everybody would have been surprised because of what he said and did on the campaign trail but there would be more outrage than there is now because we have become desensitized the expectations are that something will happen almost any day domestically or overseas that will be outside the norm of presidential behavior. when you have an expectatio expectation, when you think you will turn on the television or open the newspaper or twitter and see something outrageous actually seeing it does not shock you anymore. you may say it does but at the emotional level it does not it is more what you expect to see. when that happens, there is almost a set of outrage that piles together and roll overs each other to smooth out those peaks and valleys that becomes the new norm and that is what i have seen progress all
commentators and analysts pointing out all the reasons this is unprecedented. i did not see protest. i did not see people marching outside the white house with the signs. i think that is the new norm is the acceptance does that mean complacency or we just give up and don't care anymore because we cannot affect it clicks for years is a long time we will not get upset every little thing that changes but instead we will vote november 2020 if it comes to that. i don't know which that is maybe reliable pulling because some people don't know where they are but that is a big unknown to me. >> they have a saying in this country that no one is above the law. so not only this president so how come if you can be found
guilty of a crime you cannot be indicted quick. >> if no man is above the law how is it possible people the president cannot be held accountable for crimes quick. >> there is some dissension on that. the national security and legal attorneys i have talked to about these issues tell me that that is not decided it is a policy guidance from the department of justice it is an opinion for federal crimes cannot be indicted but that is not necessarily the final word. but dad is not the same to mean he cannot be held accountable. there are two ways they would be held accountable and one is through a trial after he leaves office and then a trial can begin another way is you
cannot have a criminal trial during the presidencies so take that is settled if not you can have the impeachment of the house and conviction in the senate that takes the place of that then they have standards of evidence? no. nothing says how they should do it they use that quasi- language that has been interpreted ever since andrew johnson impeachment to run it like a trial the chief justice of the supreme court and then makes rules about everything and how it is done. to me that is less of an issue there are still methods to hold the president accountable it bothers most people at a fundamental level to hear he can commit a crime and we cannot do anything about it? there are things but just not the same way as anybody else.
>> i am curious, based on your study of this sort of history does your faith increase what is your take away from the 19th century history books and without renewed speculation general kelly maybe on the way out. what does that mean with the chief of staff and more broadly with the strong chief of staff change to change the likelihood has a strength in the office of the presidency quick. >> come back to the chief of staff the first about optimism
there is no way you could read those vignettes about the 19th century president and not be depressed because some did pretty bad things and did not seem up to the job. it is hard to look at that as an american citizen say we've got this right. we find the best candidate and we select them and raise flags. it doesn't work the way the founders intended all the time that they also knew that. they knew the system was there. but it is depressing i admit there are stories from the 18 hundreds to research for the first time to make you feel pretty bad about democracy. but yet the constitutional convention was an experiment they did not know how this would turn out and didn't have any good role models what they
looked at was role models and what they didn't want to emulate and we will build in the safeguards and see how it works out. guess what? we had a civil war and we survived as a country we thrived as a country despite all that and may be because of that and what has taught us generation to generation what really matters that all men are created equal maybe we are stronger because of those moments that helps me leaving feeling optimistic because you
can easily look at everything on the nightly news to say this is too dark or a bad place to be chief of staff. >> so my basis of the white house chief every president learned sometimes the hard way you cannot govern effectively with and most importantly tell you what you don't want to hear. every president before trump has figure that out it took jimmy carter two and a half years that took bill clinton a year and a half to figure out he needed the on panetta to help him govern. so right now presumably that
this is a bad marriage falling apart between trump and kelly i think it is a watershed moment for this presidency and the opportunity for the moderates if there are any to try to write a different narrative and it is an opportunity for trump to reach out and find his own equivalent of james baker the third or panetta somebody with experience that is grounded enough to close the door to tell trump what he doesn't want to hear. so that trump probably has no desire. but if you were smart mike
pompeo seems to be able to tell trump stuff that he does not like maybe there are people that in my mind and i have been very critical of kelly as you know and i have gone so far to say he defended this country as white house chief of staff to tell trump know. you cannot trash the fbi. you cannot go into a room with vladimir putin for two and half hours without a notetaker there is stuff you cannot do nobody is ever in a position to tell donald trump he desperately needs that kind of person and a long-winded answer i apologize but to give
you an example from history, james a-letter baker walked into reagan's office one day and said social security reform is a third rail of politics you don't want to touch it you will be electrocuted try cutting taxes were focusing on the economy like a laser and the rest is history by don't think trump wants that type of chief. >> one of the stories that i write there is a whole chapter called underlined that one of the people that was accused of this is not an opponent of the president who had legislation to box them in but his own chief of staff that remove some of the powers of the president and that was nixon's chief of staff and rights he
would get orders and nixon would say do this or do that. >> it turned out with the brookings institution like let's bomb damascus syria. or fire half of the people at that agency i don't like what they tell me so he would write it down then give it pocket detail and not pass the order on he writes of the diary i did this because i do president nixon really didn't want this done and we had an understanding i would come back and tell him i wasn't doing these things and he would be grateful but that's not the story many times nixon came back and said why haven't you fired everybody?
one was deluding himself or justifying why is it i'm taking on some of these responsibilities as an unelected official as chief of staff? because i think the president really ones that you just not smart enough to tell me deep down. that is dangerous. that ethical slippery slope of knowing you think you know better than the elected president of the united states and what he wants can lead you to take memos off the desk so you cannot sign them and not allow the president to do his job and that is where we seem to be. bob woodward's book fear that reported some of these cases and that anonymous op-ed there is resistance within the senior leadership trying to redirect some of those misguided impulses that we are protecting you don't worry about it.
but after that what president will trust a chief of staff in the future and that makes it harder for those in the future that don't have the quirks that this president does. >> with the mueller investigation basically the american people have been hearing silence of what's going on with more speculation from the news media. shared that he used as a barometer how people should feel with the direction and how the investigation is going quick. >> we have been impressed with the special counsel's office that has a spokesperson and in washington dc where everybody
talks as much as possible the spokesperson has gone the record wants to report someone was trying to smear bob mueller with sexual harassment allegations that did not happen so he referred the case to the fbi otherwise that's a pretty good job if you can get it you are the spokesperson but never say anything publicly but that reflects the van and the mission because if there were leaks coming from inside this investigation or to lay the groundwork that would not let the facts lead the way if there is a rightful prosecution against anyone in the united states so it is positive for the investigation if i take your question right you also ask does that influence how we react?
because there has been a narrative going on with no collusion but it is a counter knew it on --dash to say this is the truth bob mueller is not out there saying hold on we are establishing by investigation he's not responding at all and there is some truth to that to set that expectation people are hearing no collusion more often may be conspiracy but we are working on it i would like to think there is enough interest in the special counsel that people will get over that expectation when there is that result but when it comes out there will be a lot of receptivity to it. >> first of all thank you for speaking out and your earlier
book so mister tromp as a president in terms of his election has conveyed about the state of our union right now and how it is some people are able to be dismissive it will be extraordinarily divisive because irrespective of his behavior and disrespect for certain washington institutions he is reflecting sentiment of people who have been overlooked so i think of him less of a personality and like a messenger and i am just
curious because whatever may happen it will speak even louder. so what is being said about this country but there is some truth in terms of what he has conveyed standing in front of tens of thousands of people and to embrace what is said with social media and the role of the press today with the cable outlets he has been very good very good for the new york times very good for cnn and msnbc.
with high crimes and misdemeanors. what is that message to take away from where we are quick. >> trumpet is the cause. there is a false sense and the times we are living through and then in 1800 that were bloodied but some of the things that were said read out from those elections when john adams with those satanic rituals sacrificing lives at monticello. but i found that we had some
pretty bad elections 1876 almost a second civil war because they democrat was elected and a dispute over which to include from southern states and at the end of the day by a very narrow margin by the electoral commission congress created suddenly rutherford b hayes is president now many people calling for violence many are saying you have to fight for this income remove you at the point of a gun and basically said no the institutions are more important than any one victory. that tells us we have had very strong societal divisions that they are different now that the social media environment and the fact there isn't one
objective new source everybody has an opinion and maybe on the margins now make their way into the president's tweet or out of his mouth that is different i would like to think to amplify those voices to bring out the worst of us but not in our hearts but i'm scared i could be convinced otherwise finally there is no way to have any impeachment trial so then we would get really ugly that the clinton impeachment trial was largely because it wasn't known but it
was pretty clear it would be the exception from the beginning there was some uncertainty so it didn't get to that level where it would be real conflict because they didn't get to an actual trial and resigned before that could happen. so the divisions are there they are not going away there are other issues with the establishment and the police of nationalism and other issues are there but when we have a national discussion rather than a treat storm because if we let the weight of those ideas come to the fore rather than our reactions i hope we get to that place.
>> we are great to be here with tucker. >> so i did stay up late and i was into your book because what i find out about your writing is you pick it up quickly and you don't think about it as onerous and you just have to plow through. there are very few books you could read all at once and i did. so i have the first question looking at the cover art