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tv   Washington Journal Molly Reynolds  CSPAN  May 7, 2019 12:27pm-1:11pm EDT

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the underlying evidence? that is the story to watch today. host: molly reynolds from the brookings institution joins us to talk about this idea of contempt of congress, use of contempt by congress. good morning. guest: good morning.
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host: if no agreement happens today, what is the hurdle if they pull that trigger? guest: if the house judiciary committee approves a contempt citation and the full house also approves it, it goes onto the u.s. attorney of the district of columbia. the u.s. attorney can choose not to take that contempt citation to a grand jury to pursue prosecution. indeed, we have seen in several recent high-profile cases involving congress' contempt power, that is what the u.s. for, and in some cases it is because the executive branch is claiming executive privilege in saying that the person is the subject of the contempt citation and acting at the direction of the president, and the justice department has long maintained it does not have to prosecute those cases. host: if it goes to the judge,
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that person decides not to go forward, does it end when it comes to the use of contempt? guest: what would most likely happen is that then we would see the house of representatives pursue civil enforcement of the attorneywith which general barr did not comply. that process also makes its way through the court. that is a slow-moving process, so the george w. bush administration and the obama administration, we saw very high-profile instances of the house trying to use its civil in the caseoption of subpoena noncompliance, first with connection to the firing of some u.s. attorneys in the bush administration, then in connection with attorney general eric holder. both of those cases took a very long time to move through the courts. so if the criminal contempt avenue is closed off to
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congress, they have other options to use the courts, but those options are -- host: what does history tell us about the use of contempt, and what does it suggest about usage this time around? is onethe contempt power that congress has had available to it for quite a long time. but historically, when we see it ofd and powerful, it is more a threat than is necessary. we see the house of representatives adopting it. it is a backstop that the house can say to an individual we will threaten to hold you in contempt as a way to force negotiation. indeed, usually that is how these end up. congress and the executive branch come to some sort of negotiated agreement that is at least somewhat
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mutually agreeable to both sides. that is usually what happens with the contempt power. in this case, we are seeing the executive branch take a hard line across the board. president trump has said he is going to fight, so that kind of a cross the-board digging in is unusual.bit we will see how it turns up, the meeting, hopes that house judiciary committee -- it will be important regarding this negotiation with the attorney general. or if we end up in court. host: the topic of contempt of congress. if you want to ask questions about what you have heard and have her answer those, give us a call. 202-748-8000 for democrats, 202-748-8001 for republicans.
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202-748-8002 for independents. how does it impact them? contenthe criminal power of congress is punitive, so it does -- the criminal contempt power of commerce is punitive, so it does convey punishment on the individual. it has not used it it almost 100 years, early 20th century. that is coercive. that is meant to force someone to cooperate. the fact that the criminal contempt power is punitive is part of why we have seen it used as a threat available to congress, to try to get someone to not have to go to jail or whatever. host: one example i have heard, is that of eric holder when he was attorney general. can you fill in the blank there? guest: during the obama
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administration, there was an operation at the department of justice called fast and furious, involving gun smuggling along the southwestern border. the house of representatives told eric holder he was in contempt and pursued civil enforcement of a subpoena in conjunction with that case. to windk several years through the courts. the case bore the name of loretta lynch, who was eric holder's successor as attorney general. it was in the courts for so long, it was still in the courts when president obama left office and president trump came into office. so that began as an indication into how long these things can take to resolve if congress ends up trying to pursue civil enforcement of a noncompliance subpoena. host: the issue at hand for use of this was the mueller report in its unredacted form.
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what do you think the arguments arehe department of justice when it comes to the underlying arguments? guest: one of the areas involves the grand jury material specifically, which the justice department has said it prohibited by law from turning over to commerce. the judiciary committee response to that is that the justice department can go to a judge and ask a judge to waive that prohibition. one of the things the judiciary committee has tried to negotiate with the justice department in this case is an agreement to ask a judge to do that, and that is an area of contention. looking at the draft contempt citation that the committee released yesterday. that is one of the things to discuss. undersion as well, overall argument that the justice department has not been cooperative with the judiciary
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committee, in trying to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to go forward. host: when it comes to the crafting of the citation itself, who is involved in the crafting going forward? guest: we have seen the chair really a draft. they are scheduled to have a hearing to vote on that tomorrow. we will see if that happens. i think the outcome of this, as these nova scotia -- as these negotiations, they still need to be undertaken with the justice department. if it comes out of the judiciary committee, if they approve it, which we would expect they would because democrats have a majority on that committee, then it would go to the full house. from there, if it is approved by the house, it would proceed to the attorney's office. host: robert on our democrats line, you are on our guest that you are on our line with our guest, -- you are on our line with our guest, molly reynolds
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from the brookings institution. caller: i am tired of lawyers running our country. have you noticed that most politicians are lawyers? i think that is a problem. you need somebody who can use a shovel to run our country instead of all these lawyers. have you noticed when lawyers very them deep down instead of six feet? deep down they are pretty good people. guest: having a dispute about what the law says, what does the law require, you know, legal expertise is pretty important. again, it remains to be seen how this particular dispute will resolve itself, but it is legalnly an area, having expertise in the house of representatives, access to real high quality staff is important. line, northican
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carolina. carl, your next up. caller: thank you for c-span. america today is looking at what is going on, and it is a shame that our politicians who lead our country are doing the things they are doing in public. it makes me feel sad for america. and i hope these guys will get a grip and clean their act up because it really is a discussing -- a disgusting thing to see. guest: i think a lot of what we are seeing the house try to figure out right now, particularly house democrats, what is the best course of action going forward in response to the findings of the mueller report? there is a fair amount of debate among democrats in congress, some outside of congress about whether the right course of action is to pursue a formal impeachment proceeding, whether to just continue to do more investigative work before
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perhaps elevating it to impeachment. that certainly is one of the questions that the house judiciary committee in the broader house democratic caucus are struggling with. host: it does not appear that the house and congress is exercising contempt power before subpoenas remove any other can -- any other obstruction before the 1930's. can you expand on that? itst: as it is pointed out, has been since the early 20th century that commerce has used what we call its inherent contempt power, which is on alarm going out and finding the noncompliance witness and physically bringing him to the house of representatives. because of the challenges that congress has, enforcing compliance through the department of justice, with noncompliant witnesses, lots of
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folks have raised the question of should we bring back the inherent contempt power. i expect we will hear more calls for that. there are some folks who think -- toongress could use enforce the use of contempt power and not just imprisonment. time congresslong has tried to use it because of all the challenges the house is likely to face in using criminal contempt, or even civil enforcement of noncompliance. the person would be how old if undertaken? -- we would unclear have to see where that would actually take place. but again, i suspect that if congress indicated it was serious about reviving its
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inherent contempt power, that, like the criminal contempt power, might turn it to more of a wreck, a tool that congress could use to try to force compliance. texas, our independent line. this is from rob. hello. caller: hi. the democrats are charging headlong into a trump trap. somebody needs to tell them. i am a retired senior scientist, but my family are full of lawyers. they are demanding -- host: go ahead. thatr: the are demanding -- barr violated several laws. this is a set up trap. go to court and they can be charged with political pressure. one of my family members was a
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district attorney a long time. this is pretty clear, but you never know until you actually go to court. i have three lawyers all saying the democrats have been set up, and they are doing it to themselves. one last quick thing on trump being a russian agent. the econometric api models all indicate, his energy policies are costing russians between $160 billion and 240 billion dollars each year, namely due to low energy prices. caller.t you, thanks. guest: if congress goes to court to try to enforce noncompliance subpoena, there might be an unintended outcome. but that is something we have seen happen in some of these other civil enforcement cases of the past, that when congress had court,rt to going to
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they do not gnosis -- they do not necessarily know what the court is going to say, and they might end up setting a precedent going forward. that is among the many moving pieces here that commerce has to figure out what to do with. they are not quite sure what the courts would actually do and what that would mean going forward. host: if it did go to the court, who would argue for the house? guest: the house general counsel or someone from the house general counsel's office. brought in this congress by speaker pelosi. many people think in anticipation of some of these sites,gh-profile court not just subpoena, but also around the house of representative intervening in some other high-profile court cases, likely the texas
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challenge, the affordable care act. the house has institutional lawyers whose job it is to argue these cases. host: if it went that far, who would be likely to argue for the attorney general? guest: someone from the justice department. i am not sure who it would be, but again, we would see an executive branch lawyer. host: let's hear from representative ted lieu. he talks about some of these contempt proceedings and what the house could do if they decide to take that route. >> let's just walk through a process of how contempt proceedings work. the attorney general has violated the law. the judiciary committee would vote. once the house voted out, it triggers a number of things. a house counsel, we go to
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litigate in court. but we have inherent content powers that courts have upheld to take action irrespective of the court. had a house they jail. i do not think we will go that far. the courts have upheld that as well. not beress' power will abdicated. we will enforce it. we can start imposing fines on that person immediately upon contempt off the house floor. we will go there if he does not cooperate. pennsylvania, democrats line, nicholas. hello. caller: thank you for c-span. nation of laws under the constitution, or we are not. these people in power, the republicans, these general attorneys refusing to show up to testifies, and refusing a
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subpoena, congress should either implement the law -- i'm sorry, i lost my train of thought. hillary clinton, bill clinton, they were investigated multiple times with whitewater, benghazi, uranium. donald trump has been investigated one time, and it was in relation to russians and our election. ather we are going to be country of laws where all people -- with all people, or we will have a dictatorship. my only other question -- i don't know why these republican senators are allowing this president and this general just openly break the law. host: thanks, caller. guest: i think that this house isof what the
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doing to uphold the rule of law is an important one. one of the challenges in orsuing contempt citations forcing individuals to comply beyondbpoenas is that the inherent contempt powers that representative lou was talking about -- that representative lew was talking causesn that clip, it the judiciary to help enforce its position of power in this area. that presents a challenge. --t of this does have other congress does have other tools beyond contempt enforcement subpoenas that it might pursue. there is language in the senate what the outlines senate can spend money on. in the senate, they have the ability to have confirmation hearings for appointees.
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it is an important tool for congressional oversight and action in this area. we talk about contempt and subpoenas, but congress has other avenues it can pursue. host: what about the avenue of censure? guest: either house of congress can adopt a resolution censuring an executive branch official. it is certainly possible that is an avenue that the house could pursue. perhaps in reference to the attorney general. unlike contempt, that does not have a sort of unitive punishment. it is just sort of very strongly worded -- a very strongly worded sentiment from the house of representatives, but it carries political value. in this case, given the current majority, it is likely we are
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saying this person has behaved inappropriately. host: in "the wall street journal," there is a piece by william mcgurn, "jerry nadler in contempt the judiciary chairman is right saying that -- the executive branch is coequal, meaning that for congress to get what it wants, it must exercise patience and engage in give-and-take. what do you think about that in light of mr. barr? guest: that is what we are seeing the house judiciary committee trying to do. oflays out a whole series negotiations that have already taken place. there is further discussion that is still happening. again, this is what we generally see happen in these cases. table, guys come to the
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former representative tom davis was quoted last week as saying -- i think it is a good way to capture it. that is just the general way these types of disagreements are perceived and we will have to see what happens in this case or not. host: we saw the justice department turned down a house ways and means committee request for trump plus tax returns. at hand in the case of tax returns is different because it is a specific statute that says the committee can access that information. but we are certainly likely to see that sort of dispute escalate as well. and the possibility of a contempt citation for secretary mnuchin. that is on the table as well. under housets
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democrats are battling with the administration over questions. the former white house counsel, todd mcgann -- there are a lot of moving parts, and we will see host: host:. this is money -- and we will see. host: this is money -- this is molly reynolds, talking about the contempt of congress. democrats, 202-748-8000. for republicans, 202-748-8001. 2.r independents 202-748-800 3, can monitor on c-span c-span.org, and our website. from new hampshire, this is
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bill, republican line. >> from new hampshire, this is barrel on the republican line. caller: yes. with the trump situation and robert mueller's report, it is clear that robert mueller proved that there was obstruction all place with trump. how can mena region block about irs commissioner from turning over his tax returns and -- how mnuchin block the irs commissioner from turning over his tax returns? it seems like he is obstructing theice and therein lies indictments for impeachment and even more so. is correct.caller
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the house ways and means committee has access to certain personal tax information. 'sat the administration argument in response to that request from the ways and means committee is that the request doesn't have a "legislative purpose." this is an important dynamic when you think about it's whole picture involving congressional oversight. congress has quite broad. , but oversights has to have an underlying legislative purpose. they have read of that standard broadly and said that lots and lots of things certify the legislative purpose standard, but often at the center of these disputes is, congress asks for testimony and then the response from the executive branch is to say that whatever congress is asking for does not meet that legislative purpose
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threshold. host: alabama's next. if you go to twitter. , one of the things trending #lockmnuchinup. caller: hello. my question is the following. isn't it incredible to you that at this time, with all the other problems we are facing, including the border, the democrats are spending all the efforts toward these two other things that are really insignificant, with what is going on? i don't blame them for fighting it because it is a trap. they are just like a bench of cap waiting for them -- bunch of
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cats waiting for the mouse to get through. come 2020, i for one, and i have been voting independent, will be looking very much at what these democrats are doing in congress. .t is a disgrace guest: the house democrats caucus does face a challenge as to how i locate efforts, investigation versus legislation. it is important to remember that republicans control the senate. so while the house democrats have been and isis act will --tinue to pass legislation have been and i see them will continue to pass legislation that they believe is important, that many or all of those bills stall out in the senate, which control.republican i think it is also important to
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remember that while this and oversight of president trump is grabbing the there is other activity happening in the house low the headlines, on the substantive policy areas and how the president has been implementing policy in the executive ranch since 2017. things like rolling back environmental rules at the e.p.a., the policy that brought up the family separation crisis at the southwestern border. while what is in the headlines houses battle between democrats and the administration over some of these high-profile witnesses and information, congress is doing other things as well. host: this is from the draft --olution being drawn on
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being drawn up by the house and testimonyance of witnesses and production of records, correspondence, ,, saying --apers infrared the power to authorize the ynez -- the power to authorize subpoenas may be delegated to the committee chairman. that?n guest: house committees have had subpoena power for quite some time. we have seen in the past, beeral congresses that power increasingly delegated to individual committee chairman to allow them to issue subpoenas unilaterally if they so choose. in this case the house judiciary committee has been operating under an agreement this congress between chairman nadler and ranking member doug collins in which nadler will tell mr. collins if he intends to issue
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us of enough -- issued a subpoena. if collins objects, they will take it to the full committee for a vote. democrats generally will win the vote because they have the majority. but that is how the judiciary has been approaching its power to issue subpoenas. collins his point, doug responded saying -- democrats have launched a proxy war smearing their attorney general under anger actually lies with the president and the attorney general who found no conspiracy or obstruction. guest: i think there is some , that thehat idea democrats have decided that the attorney general is the person they will go after in the most high-profile way. it will be interesting to see if and when special counsel robert mueller testifies. my understanding is there are still negotiations ongoing over
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that, whether that shifts the attention away from the attorney general at all. but i do think democrats have made a choice that at least for right now, the attorney general will be the specific target of a work inheir investigation. host: could the special counsel the subpoena at this point? -- could he be subpoenaed at this point? that: i have seen suggest those conversations have been proceeding. again, as we would expect them to, with both sides coming to the table and discussing what the scope of a set of questions would the. host: to your knowledge, is he still an employee of the justice department and could the white house restrict him from testifying should he be called? guest: i don't know the answer to that question, but it is true
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that when someone is no longer a federal employee at the white -- thethe white house executive branch has less of an ability to control what they do. hasattorney general barr said several times that he would be fine with the special counsel testifying. the president i believe said over the weekend that he wouldn't want that to happen. we will just have to see how that turns out. host: baltimore, maryland on the democrats line, kevin. the democrats are starting to look weak because they keep letting them get away with all this stuff they are getting away with. i went to ask a question. since the democrats hold the purse strings, could they stop funding for some things, would it do anything? the power of the purse is one of congress's most
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important powers, and it is true try house democrats could to restrict funding for certain activities as a way of pushing back against the executive branch. at the same time, republicans control the senate and any spending bill that contains jurisdiction of language would have to get through the senate. but it is the case that. if democrats want to lay hardball, using or attempting to use the power of the purse is one avenue available to them that does not require going to the courts for enforcement. host: molly reynolds of the kansas edition joining us for this -- from the brookings institution joining us on this conversation on the power of the call the executive branch in contempt. republican line, this is gail from raleigh, north
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carolina. caller: good morning. my question is regarding the prior holder.ration and eric eric holder was held in contempt of congress for refusing to provide information and documents, for i believe it was fast and furious. these investigations continuing through the democrats, are i believe is a result of them not being happy with the results of the election. they said that we must accept the election results. said we must accept them you the results. they basically said trump did not do anything wrong. on what went on with eric holder and how congress dealt with that issue. i think the most important thing to take away from the experience with eric
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particularthis episode with the current attorney general is just how long it takes for congress to use the courts to pursue civil enforcement of noncompliance of a subpoena. it is not a fast process. so if house democrats and up going that route, they should ,xpect for it to move slowly this continual back and forth. several layers of the court to move through. with holder, the case proceeded for such a long time but there was a second attorney general and it was unresolved by the time of the president left office. that is an important lesson that we should take away from that. host: from arkansas, this is
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mike. caller: yes. i can't -- the people in this country are not standing by the rule of law rather than they are standing by the role of politics -- by the rule of politics. the house has oversight over the eventive branch though they are coequal branches of the government. if a police officer writes me a ticket and i feel to comply, there is a contempt citation issued or a warrant. i go to jail if i don't honor the warrant. general hasattorney , people in laws government are different than the people they are governing in this country.
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when is the rule of law. will of the constitution outweigh the politics? mangled.twisted and they have got are not the ones we abide by. thank you so much. i am a c-span junkie. thank you so much. guest: the challenge here is that in our system of separated powers and checks and balances, there are various branches and they have the ability to check the other branches but that power is not unlimited. data mentioned before, congress has the ability to oversee the executive branch, but their oversight has to have a purpose.ve the executive branch has the ability to exert executive privilege to protect that communications -- protect certain communications by the president, but that privilege is
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not unlimited. so all these tensions between the branches have to get worked out, and sometimes that happens in the courts, sometimes it happens quite slowly. the other thing i will say is that at the end of the day, a lot of these decisions are political, because they are made by elected representatives who come to washington with different goals and purposes. they have to figure out. , as beingwant to do our elected representatives. host: and many cases, do these cases get settled out? guest: often what we see is that congress and the executive branch are able to come to some mutually acceptable agreement. congress will get some but not all the information it wants,
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the executive branch will have to give up some stuff but be able to keep some information protected, that sort of thing. whether that is what ultimately happens in this case remains to be seen, but that is how these things usually play out. host: and both sides will declare themselves winners. guest: [laughter] both sides will find a way to say that they are getting what they want. host: in indiana on the democrats line, hello. caller: hello. i think this thing has reached the saturation point, and the byt election, 2020, will be popular vote, and not the electoral college. and i think all of this will be settled. . i think they can relax because i think the decision will be made because we are tired of this thing. it is not going on much longer. guest: i think the question of whether what is happening with the aftermath of the mueller report and the russian investigation, whether that is still an issue -- whether that
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is a salient issue for voters and will be in 2020, that is a good one. we have seen reporting that suggests that when i of congress go back to their districts, that kind of questions they were getting from constituents were not really about robert mueller, --y were about how square about health care and other issues. where this takes us a year and 15 months from now when we are in the throes of the elections will be seen but that is an important thing to keep in mind. host: tom from lancaster, california. republican line. caller: good morning, molly. you guys lobby congress? that is my first question and, with eric holder, american citizens were killed with those guns that he armed the drug cartels with.
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when are we going to have the hearing which congress had to go to the courts with, because they are coequal branches of government? this is all just political grandstanding because they didn't accept mueller's saying. guest: so i am not a lobbyist, and i don't lobby congress. on the question of how does congress choose what to have hearings on, that is the prerogative of whichever party is in the majority. right now we see in the house hearings happening on the mueller report. but lots and lots of other hearings are happening on other big policy problems that matter to americans. other things beyond just what is getting headlines. host: as you watch this, what is the most interesting to you about this whole process as it is playing out? guest: for me the most interesting thing will be to see does this end up like other
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disputes in the past, where the two sides are able to reach some agreement, or will we end up big,a number of high-profile court fights as a result of president trump really digging in and deciding that he will fight all the subpoenas? host: molly reynolds with the brookings institution, in your >> secretary of state mike mom payo. the house is in recess until :00 eastern time returning for general speeches. at 4, considering three bills dealing with foreign affairs, including two that would reaffirm the u.s. commitment to taiwan. any votes will be held after 6:30 eastern. you can can watch live coverage when the house returns here on c-span.
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[applause] >> thank you, ambassador, i know you are enjoying your time here tremendously, are you doing an outstanding job. it's great to see so many friends, too. who thought i could come this far north and know this many people. it is heartening to me. i grew up in southern california about four minutes from disneyland which claims to be the happiest place on earth by trademark. you-all have work to do here. get the trademark. thanks for being here. thanks to foreign -- to the foreign ministers. i understand we have the mayor here.
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