tv Newsmakers with Representative Adam Smith D-WA CSPAN March 27, 2017 12:35pm-1:11pm EDT
lower the rate of -- >> voices from the road. on c-span. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979 c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provide -- provider. >> joining us on newsmakers on this sunday is congressman adam smith, democrat from washington. he's also the ranking democrat on the house armed services committee. congressman, thanks very much for being with us. guest: appreciate it. host: joining us with the jeg is john donnelly of c.q. roll call and leo of military times. leo. leo: congressman, thanks for doing this. the big news this week was the health care debacle over in the
house. you have been focused on defense budget. i wonder with what you saw from that debate how you feel about how we're going to move ahead with the defense budget talks and whether or not there is any chance to avoid a government shutdown at this point. seems like we're at a point where nothing's going to move in the house. congressman smith: it's going to be very difficult. i theorized a couple months ago that the republicans do not have 218 republican votes for anything substantive. as paul ryan acknowledged yesterday, they have been sort of the opposition party. they have been the party of no. they are angry and they are against everything. getting 218 of them to agree on anything, i don't picture it. whether it's health care, tax reform. look at the budget. the freedom caucus is going to be upset that it doesn't balance the budget in i don't know, two years, three years. other people, other republicans are going to be upset about programs that get cut. you are going to have republicans who think they should spend more in defense.
less in defense. and meanwhile, not the president, none of them, are talking to any democrats about how they would work something that democrats could vote for. we're in for a long year. i think health care was a preview of coming attractions. >> when you heard the figure $54 billion that the president wanted to increase. what was your reaction? mr. smith: not a great deal of surprise. when you if back to what candidate trump promised in terms of the size of the military, the end strength of the army and marine corps, the number of ships he wanted to build. the number of other planes and other things he wanted to do. $54 billion isn't even close to what he promised. now, what he promised, i haven't couldn't exact -- done the exact math, it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 billion or $800 billion defense budget. with our deficit where it's at, the budget hawks in the republican caucus, we're not going to get to. the second is, democrats and
some republicans actually care about the nondefense discretionary budget. the week the president gave his speech to congress was rare disease week. he even mentioned it. and then as devastating cuts to the research that's supposed to find treatments and cures for those diseases. he wants a infrastructure plan. the budget he proposed makes massive cuts in infrastructure. my reaction was not surprised. the president has tried to make one plus one equal somewhere in the neighborhood of nine or 10 which is impossible. so how they are going to get out from under their impossible promises is anybody's guess. host: a follow-up from leo. leo: you don't see 218 votes in the house for the republicans. there's been no outreach to the democrats. are we headed torts a shutdown next month? we only have few weeks left to work out this issue of the fiscal 2017 budget. are you planning for a shutdown at this point? mr. smith: the $54 billion you
referenced was for the 2018 budget. not the 2017 budget. 2017 the numbers are already agreed to. but again, can they deliver appropriation bills. the republicans and democrats will vote for? it's possible in 2017. like i said we have pretty broad agreement on the numbers in defense and nondefense discretionary. i don't think we're headed for a shutdown at the end of april. but we could be headed for a year-long c.r. which would be devastating to the defense department as well as the rest of the discretionary budget. once we move up towards the debt ceiling, towards the 2018 budget, 2018 appropriations bills, that's where you get into a large amount of difficulty. not the 2017 will be a walk in a park, but by comparison it will be. host: sons we turn to john donnelly. john: good morning, congressman. i want to follow up a little
bit on that stuff. ask you something about the defense budget. so you think a c.r. is a good possibility. continuing resolution. give us an idea. what are the odds of that? recap for the viewers. the house has not moved any of the nondefense spending bills. when is that going to happen? there's less than two weeks working days before the april 28 date when the current continuing resolution runs out. can you give us an idea how you see this playing out and what the odds of the c.r. are? mr. smith: first of all, number one, it's not a good possibility. it's a bad possibility. i want to emphasize that. a lot of people don't understand a continuing resolution is a terrible way to run the government. and really hamstrings our agencies. including the department of defense. they can't do any new programs. they have to basically spend the money they spent last year. and not account for any changes. it really ties their hands in a way i think jeopardizes
national security and internal security. regrettably, second of all, i am not an oddsmaker, slfs has not yet called to hire me, don't know what the odds are in a percentage basis. i know what the challenges are to get there. you laid them out. and there does not seem to be much progress being made. look, there's a story that has been told in some circles but not as widely understood as it should be. the republicans who are in charge of congress are not actually legislators for the most part. i realize it's in the job title. but most of the people who got elected to the republican congress got elected in the last six years, and even more of them than that got elected on slogans. got elected on their opposition to president obama. got elected on how upset they were about the health care bill or about the president's budget or foreign policy. they don't have any idea how to write legislation. certainly president trump doesn't. health care showed us that. he had no idea what was in that
bill or what impact it had. at the absolute last minute it would look bad if it didn't pass, he insisted they pass it not knowing what was in it. so when he brought them over there to negotiate they had specific questions which he didn't have answers to and they refused to simply be boughed by his booying and -- bowed by his bullying and down it went. they have to learn real fast how to actually legislate. or we're all in a lot of trouble. the odds on that -- don't want to give you a specific percentage, but based on what i have seen, the odds of the republican majority in congress figuring out out what it takes to legislate and get things done in the next two weeks i would say are remote. >> one of the issues that's a constant refrain in the defense budget debate debate is talk about what some people are talking the readiness crisis in the u.s. military. a substantial number of, for example, the military airplanes are not in shape to fly.
john: we're told. now, you wouldn't want to have 100% of them ready to fly at any one time because that would be inefficient. there are a certain percentage that are already that way. give us an idea from your perspective how bad this problem is. it's being depicted in extremely dire terms by defense hawks. what is your sense of it? mr. smith: it's bad. it's important to explain what readiness means broadly speaking. in the defense defendant and with the help of congress, we develop a national security plan. what that means is we figure out, ok, what do we need to be ready to do militarily? whether it's north korea or russia or countering the terrorist threat, what do -- how many people do we need? what training do they need? how much equipment do we need? what's happening right now is we have so many different missions, we have had a series of c.r.s, and we haven't had
the budgeting, that they don't have the training that they need. they don't have the equipment that they need in order to either train or be ready should the mission be called. so we do have a readiness crisis. this is one of the things that worries me about president trump's budget proposal. he's talking about greatly expanding the end strength, number of people in the army or marine corps, adding all the ships. what i would prefer is that we have a military that is actually ready to do what we ask them to do. as opposed to trying to expand the mission, exspant the equipment, while not having enough money to do the training. as i said in the speech last week i would rather have an army of 400,000 people that are trained, equipped, and ready to actually perfect for the missions we ask them to do -- perform the missions that we ask them to do than one who isn't. that's the deaf information a hollow force. yes there is a readiness crisis. i'm worried in the budget
discussions that's not where the money is going. host: leo. leo: a follow up on that. you said before the c.r. would be very bad for the military. if we're already at a readiness crycy, what would a c.r. for the rest of this year do? do you see it's something that's continuing the pain? are we getting to pint where we're crippling the military? mr. smith: it would make it worse, without question. crippling is not a precise term. i would say it would further harm the readiness of our military. we still have a very capable force. they are engaged, obviously, in the fight against isis in iraq and syria. they are still engaged in afghanistan. they are engaged in the horn of africa trying to contain al-shabaab in somalia and across the sea in yemen. they are capable in accomplishing many things every day. but it is difficult because of the training limitations and where we're really at risk is
if something happens that would require us to rapidly respond with a significant size of force. that's where the lack of training puts us in jeopardy. if we were to have to confront north korea or confront iran. with some sort of military, size of military, that's where we start to have trouble. and a c.r. would only make that worse, no question. host: congressman, let me share with you norse from "the new york times" describing north korea's hacking as immense to pay for its efforts. both president obama and president trump both agreeing north korea is one of the biggest single threats we face. in light of what's been happening over the last couple weeks, the testing of these missiles and the potentially could reach japan or south korea, how concerned are you, and what should the u.s. response be? mr. smith: north korea is definitely a problem because they have nuclear weapons and
unstable and belligerent regime, and that clearly presents a challenge. they have the ongoing conflict with south carolina. so north korea is a big challenge. the one thing about north korea is the leadership there is not suicidal. they want to survive. they want their regime to survive. i think the most important thing we can do is make it clear to them that if they attack south korea in any way, if they make any effort to engage militarily, then we have the strength and the force to completely destroy their regime. and we do. along with our south korean allies and japan as well. so i think that's the main calculation that we have to make is containment. because collapsing that regime would only lead to further chaos. but right now, we have to make it clear that we have a sufficient deterrent to stop them from doing anything going forward. and that's not a great situation.
>> would you support some kind of preempttive military strike against north korea? that's a very broad question. my answer is no. in general. but it depends on the circumstances. i would not support a preempletive strike against them just because -- well, actually i can't imagine a context when i would support a preempletive strike. that would be unlikely to take out the regime. it would be unlikely to take out the nuclear weapons. forget about the nuclear weapons for the moment, they have an enormous amount of artillery asmede at seoul, korea where 27 million people live that they could unleash in the blink of an eye and kill millions of people. so i don't think korea where a strike against north korea that sets off a war in that part of the world is the right approach. too many people would die, too much chaos would result. and we don't even know that ultimately it would be
successful in taking out the regime. >> do you think president trump could ask for a strike and if the that were to happen, your reaction? >> you're asking me to predict what president trump would do. and that i can't even begin to imagine. i don't know. i would hope that he and his military advisers would be smart enough to see the risk in that. but i don't know for sure. i will say i would consider it unlikely that he would choose to the go down that path. but certainly not impossible. and if it happened as i said i al it would be a closs catastrophe for us and for the globe. >> i want to shift from defense spending to defense savings. the president has said not only does he want to plus up military spending but also cut down on waste fraud and abuse. you've been one of the few advocates on capitol hill for a base closing round in recent years. you talked about that. i wonder if you feel we're
headed towards that, if you feel there's a realistic plab to get ooptsdz base closing round. >> i think there's a possibility of that. senator mccain said we need to the. i think there's growing support in the congress for it. and i really feel that if president trump who is not yet submitted his 2018 budget in full f he submitted his 2018 defense budget and in it contained a request for the authorization for a brac, i can his support for that would bring across enough republican votes along with democrats i think it could happen. i think we're at about 50/50 for the 2018 authorizing bill having that in it. no guarantees to be sure. but again, if the president decided this was something he wanted to push it would have a decent chance of success. >> shifting to the war-fighting
against the islamic state in particular. 1,000 h, by one count, civilians have died in u.s.-led coalition air strikes in iraq and syria. the u.s. military says they have not loosened the restrictions on rules of engagement that would permit more civilian casualties. and we're heading into urban fighting so that may be one explanation and there also may be the possibility that isis is using civilians as human shields. but the president has asked the pentagon to consider loosening the rules of engagement sort of taking the gloves off more. so it's not -- it's within the realm of reason that we could see this kind of awful thing on our tv screens more and more in the next few months. give us your thoughts on what this might mean in terms of the
implications for how our military efforts is received this that region. >> i'm very concerned about it. i think you outlined the issue perfectly. that they're heading into urban fighting in mosul, particularly soon in raqa and that gives rise to more civilians being placed at risk. it's a significant problem. the battle here is a hearts and minds battle. when isis was on the rise and they rolled into mosul, the reason for their success was primarily because of the contempt that sunnis had for the bagdad government. and their belief that they were not being properly represented. so they weren't willing to fight for iraq. now, since isis took over mosul and other parts of iraq and syria, they have proved to be such bar barrens that the population has turned on them. now, that's part of the reason for our success moving forward. if that shifts back around and see the coalition as being
willing to kill civilians then we run the risk of losing more sunnis back over to extremist groups. and whether it's isis or al qaeda or a new one, that is a distinct risk. that's why president obama ied to be as careful as he could in targeting the drone strikes against leaders of these terrorist groups and not kill civilians. and i am worried that president trump has asked for those restrictions to be loosened. because i've heard some of my republican colleagues and certainly some conservative think tanks who believe that's one of our great limitations that we haven't been willing to drop enough bombs in enough places and i disagree with that. i think we've got to be careful and keep the population on our side. >> along those lines your former house colleague now the director nick mull vainy called this a hard power budget but also includes nearly 30% cut in state department funding and significant potential cuts in foreign aid. what impact would that have on america's military and on our
foreign policy? >> well, he was correct. it is a hard power budget and it's a budget that shows complete and total contempt for soft power. i think that's very unfortunate. i've been on the armed services committee for 0 years and i've worked very -- 20 years and i've worked closely with military leaders and men and women who serve. they all know how important diplomacy and development are to our foreign policy tools. they don't want to have to go fight everywhere. if we use diplomacy and development as a way to keep things calm and under control, that reduces it. general madice has the best quote. if you cut the state department, if you cut development you'd better give me five more divisions because that's what we're going to need to the protect ourselves. we need a balance here. yes, we need to have a strong military to confront the challenges we nace and to deterrent but we also need strong diplomacy and
strong development to build the relationships in the world that we need to stop problems before thai arise. >> -- they arise. >> you've made it clear your concerns with the president. but you've been a supporter of the defense secretary. the narrative has been that he will be in there and able to talk to the president about things like rules of engagement and the importance of the money for the state department. are you seeing those results so far? do you feel like he has the president's ar? >> you're a little off in what the narrative was. thank goodness that the general is there because maybe he can offer some sort of a counter balance to steve bannon at the time michael flynn. i was never personally so cocky as to say oh, secretary will be able to take care of all of this. as i have pointed out directly in talking to him was it's great that he is there but he's across the river. steve bannon is across the
hall. and not -- that creates an imbalance. i was always worried about the degree to which secretary mattice was going to be able to have the influence and the positive influence that i think he could have. and now we've seen stories in the last week the republicans are dissatisfied with the secretary, what's he doing trying to appoint these people who aren't trump loyalists at the department of defense. so i'm worried that's not going well. i am happy that general mcmaster took over as national security advisor for general flynn. i think he's got a more sensible approach to these issues and hopefully between the two of them they can start to have some influence in a more positive direction. >> you mentioned steve bannon's name a number of times in the past 25 minutes. what's your biggest concern about him? >> oh, gosh. i've been given too long answers already. my biggest concern about him on the national security side is he wants a clash of civilizations. he basically public states that
islam is not a religion. it is an ideology of oppression. and basically the world ain't big enough for the both of us. and i think that's incredibly dangerous. i represent a lot of muslims. they do not support groups like deash and these violent creamist groups like al qaeda. -- extremist groups like al qaeda. we need allies. and i don't think -- i know steve bannon does not agree with that. so he's pushing us towards on the conflict national security front. and then i'm also worried about the fact that at breitbart and elsewhere they've shown support national security front. and for far right governments in eastern europe and western europe and he seems to have a certain affinity for authoritative -- authoritarian governments like in russia. i could go on. but i don't want to give a long answer. i think he is a poisonous influence in the white house that could cause all kinds of
calamities for our country. also one of the ones that seems to think that our existing alliances aren't worth much. and i've been worried about that as well. >> poisonous is a pretty strong word. >> yeah, it is. president trump i think it's fair, accurate, and nonpartisan to say, has an uneasy relationship with the truth. i want to ask you what implications that has for national security. we talked about north korea. say the president has to try to rally americans for military action in north korea that may be necessary and he has to rally allies and north korea has to gauge where he's going. what impact -- what are the implications of his -- of questions about his credibility on national security? >> it's -- i think our allies are very, very concerned about
it. look, i think we saw it in health care. people focus on a lot of the eets about him claiming that president obama had him wiretapped and a whole bunch of things that are obviously not troupe. more worrisome to me is the -- even after the health care bill went down he said -- he called it the best possible result. in his mind, the best possible result is now obamacare will completely fail and then we'll be able to the replace it with this beautiful plan which he went back to talking about. doesn't exist. ok this he doesn't have it. if it existed we would have seen it sometime last week. so doesn't exist. i worry when ability to recognize the truth crosses over into policy problems. like it did in hk. it certainly could do that in national security as well.
it's either what he wants to believe or it's fake news. that's what he says. and that is no way -- well, no way to run anything. certainly no way to run the most powerful country on the face of the earth. >> to go back to something you said earlier. when you talk to your republican colleagues in the house who had met with the president was it your sense that he did not fully understand or have an idea of what was in this legislation? or could talk in detail about it? >> that would be the understatement of the morning. yes. that was my sense. >> what did they tell you? >> pretty much that. look, you know, we've seen the reports and what those meetings were like. he didn't talk to them about the specific of it. he said vote for it. so, yes. i'm concerned about that. i'm also concerned about -- not only does the president have an unhealthy relationship with the truth. he has an unhealthy desire to constantly blow his own horn
about how great he is. that's fine, i mean, people can debate that and decide for themselves. but you want to talk about actual policy things, you don't want to get into a speech about all the great things he's accomplished and everything he's done. can we focus now on what we're actually trying to accomplish here. and we learned again in the health care debate, no. at least from that one we couldn't. i hope he'll learn. there's been a lot of commentary this week that most presidents struggle in their first 100 days. then they learn. i've seen very little evidence that president trump is of the opinion that he has anything to learn. so if he feels that way it bodes poorly that he is going to change his behavior in a more positive direction. >> we have a few minutes left. we'll turn back to leo. >> i want to ask one nontrump question here. we've seen a scandal in the marine corps lately with the sharing of nude photos of some marines by marines and of other
marines. that of the marines, by the marines. the story was broken in recent weeks by "the warhorse," and this is an issue we have in the ranks of quite a few years now. several of your colleagues have called this indicative of a cultural problem in the military, misogyny and sex and that is unchecked where he is issue? this bad actors? or indicative of something such -- much greater? like i agree that it is indicative of a problem in the culture. if you look at how widespread this was. this is something that all need to of the service confront. this was pretty comprehensive, not the first time we have seen something like this. go back to the air force base. numerous other examples. i think the military really needs to confront this cultural
problem, cultural problem of abuse. certainly, sexism as part of it. but we have had several instances of hazing going to far, leading to deaths in the military. is a cultural problem of abuse in the military the needs to be confronted. bad is an just a few actors. it's a bigger problem than that. i think we need to have a hearing in the house. to discuss this issue. to figure out the plan for how they will begin to change the for changingrocess the culture. >> another investigation underway with regard to russia. from your vantage point, as you look at the information and follow the process, where do you think it is going to lead? biggest things for people to understand is how comprehensive the russian effort is today's -- destabilize
liberal democracies. they are on a mission to make the world safe for authoritarian dictatorships. they are attending to undermine liberal democracies wherever they can, using ciber as a primary tool. this is happening in dozens of countries. a verysman schiff wrote good article outlining exactly what russia is doing. i think this is a threat to one of the most core values of america and that is representative democracy and freedom, something that we ought to stand for. as far as what happened here in the u.s., that is part of the larger whole. were there people from the trump campaign involved in this? i really don't know. i think that is what they are going to investigate. what i hope they find, what i hope we figure out is a way to confront the russian friend, -- threat. understand it and confront it,
it is a great threat. >> we will turn to john donnelly from cq roll call. >> we have asked you to be in oddsmakers -- and oddsmakers a few times as money. what do you think about the final four? [laughter] >> i can go there. >> gonzaga's, doing very well. but continuing on the russian team, what are the chances that there can be some sort of independent commission created? we have seen some questions raised over the past week as to whether the house intelligence committee in particular is capable of doing an independent look. do you foresee this at all as a possibility on an independent panel? >> i've been very disappointed in chairman knew me as in the past couple of weeks.
his trip to the white house without briefing the committee to say -- i don't understand the reporting on this. thathe chairman said was conversations by trump and his associates may have been picked as a result of surveillance of other people. that's all he said. well, sure. but he didn't say that they were picked up. at what's he doing up there the white house trying to defend the president instead of informing his committee? het was clear evidence that is not qualified to lead a truly effective intent -- independent investigation. odds of a special prosecutor being appointed in whatever? publicans control the lever of power, levers of power. they have made it clear that they will do everything they can to not find answers to this. they will try to focus on the
leaks, as they say, but the fact that a foreign power, russia, interfered in our election and may have done so with the collusion of campaign officials? it's an enormous scandal, enormous threat to our democracy. other than senator graham and senator mccain, i haven't seen any republicans, none in the house that have shown a willingness to try to answer the question, so i'm very skeptical that they will get to the answers in this. >> congressman smith is the ranking democrat on the house armed services committee. thank you for being with us here newsmakers. and thanks to john donnelly and leo shane for your insightful >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 179, c-span was created as a
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