In This Episode
William Barr lies to Congress and angers Bob Mueller, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer decide to play along with the latest Infrastructure Week, and Democrats are in need of Senate candidates for 2020. Then Senator Bernie Sanders talks to Tommy about the Senate vote to end America’s support for the war in Yemen, and activist Ady Barkan talks to Jon about his appearance at the first-ever Congressional hearing on Medicare for All.
Transcription of Tommy’s interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders below:
Tommy Vietor [00:00:00] As a special surprise we’re bringing a little Pod Save the World to this Thursday Pod Save America. Download and subscribe now. So joining us is Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. So Senator Sanders, the Senate has voted to override the president’s veto of a resolution that would have forced President Trump to pull U.S. support for the Saudi led to civil war in Yemen. Unfortunately that vote failed. But I think it’s interesting that opposition to Trump’s Yemen policy is now bipartisan. Basically Republicans and Democrats seem to agree that Trump’s Yemen policy is bad and that his fed nominees are basically assholes. Why do you think that Yemen has become this bipartisan issue?
Sen. Bernie Sanders [00:00:38] Well first off, what happened when we passed both in theHouse and the Senate bipartisan resolutions for the first time in 45 years using the War Powers Act. This is an enormous step forward. And having the Congress reclaim its constitutional responsibility for lawmaking. You know what. We have ceded that on the Democratic administrations and Republican administrations so this is you know while I am saddened although not surprised that we couldn’t override Trump’s veto let’s not underestimate that we’re making tremendous progress in getting Congress now to accept as congressional its constitutional responsibilities. I think in terms of Yemen I wish that I could tell you that the primary reason for support was that 85,000 children have already died in that war and that the U.N. estimates that hundreds of thousands more are going to die and that millions are facing famine. I wish I could tell you that was the reason but that is only the partial reason the other reason of course was the murder in cold blood of JamalKhashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Turkey. And to see a guy a lead of Mohammed bin Salman commit an atrocious murder and dismember this guy because he was a modest critic of the regime. I think a lot of people said you know what. Maybe we should distance ourselves a little bit from this regime.
Tommy Vietor [00:02:11] Yeah that’s right. And I agree it’s an enormous step forward for Congress and thank you for for your leadership on this issue it really has been important. So is there a next step do you think Congress can take to choke off funds for these operations or otherwise force Trump out of Yemen?
Sen. Bernie Sanders [00:02:26] The answer is yes. And what I think is exciting and it’s thepoint that you made this was in truth a bipartisan effort while all the Democrats voted for it and we only had seven Republicans. I do want to say that people like Senator Mike Lee of Utah, a conservative Republican, played a very consistent and strong role on this and he is in part responsible for our success. And I think there are more Republicans who are prepared to come on board under the argument that a president does not have warmaking- the president cannot on his own put our troops in danger abroad. That is the Congress’s responsibility. So to answer your question you know this is the beginning. It’s not the end. And I think you’re going to see people like Mike Lee and Rand Paul, Chris Murphy and myself, and others work together to see where we go from here. And certainly amendments as part of the Defense Authorization Act are one vehicle, continuing to use the War Powers Act is another vehicle. As you know the United States is now it involved we have troops fighting in seven different countries. And you know there are troops in many other countries around the world and all fighting under a dubious authority.
Tommy Vietor [00:03:55] Yeah you mentioned the Khashoggi murder. You know I think Democrats this week have been very frustrated by Attorney General Barr’s refusal to reallywork with Congress and testify and then allow for oversight. I mean you know by law the White House was obligated to submit a report to Congress in February about who was responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. But they simply refused. Do you see any recourse for that kind of illegal stonewalling?
Sen. Bernie Sanders [00:04:22] Look you have, and I think most of us understand, you have a president now with very strong authoritarian tendencies who I think sees Congress as more of a hindrance, not as an equal branch of government who thinks that he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants to take a lie his way through it – stonewall his way through it but not work with Congress in a way that the Constitution mandates. And you know I think we’ve got to fight him every step of the way. I think you see members, committeees subpoenaing and fighting in the courts to make sure that they get the people to testify and they get the information that they need. But at the end of the day, you have a lawless president. And I think he has to be defeated. That’s the most effective way I think of addressing them.
Tommy Vietor [00:05:19] Agreed. So Senator on top of that Khashoggi murder Saudi Arabia recently announced that they have executed 105 people this year they released three minors at the time of their alleged crimes. They were reportedly tortured into making confessions. I mean I ask this with humility, because my former boss President Obama dida lot of business with Saudi Arabia. But do you think it’s time to fundamentally rethink whether the Saudis are an ally?
Sen. Bernie Sanders [00:05:43] I have thought that for a long long time, and I think if you remember my campaign against Clinton that was one of the areas where we disagreed. Look let’s be clear about what Saudi Arabia is. You have a leader there Mohammed bin Salman who most people think was actively involved in the cold blooded murder of Khashoggi. You have a guy who led when he was defense minister, same guy, of Saudi Arabia he was the one who created this war the Saudi led war in Yemen. And I don’t know if you’ve seen the recent U.N. report there estimating that if this war continues by the end of 2019, several hundred thousand people are going to be dead – civilians are going to be dead and there’s fear of widespread starvation and cholera epidemic. I mean this is the greatest humanitarian disaster on the face of the planet which was created by Mohammed bin Salman. You’ve got a government there that doesn’t treat women as second class citizens. They treat them as third class citizens. You’ve described the execution of over 30 people at the same time people who are tortured. This is a country that does not accept forone second the idea that people have a right to dissent. Now why are we allied with them and this is a country that is fomenting problems all over that region. And you know for whatever reason you know we can go on talk about this for a long time some years ago many years ago, way before Trump way, before Obama, it was decided that Saudi Arabia was a wonderful ally and Iran was our intractable enemy. And that was the way it was. AndI think it’s time to rethink that. Iran has enormous problems. You know that better than I do.But I think it is time for us to play a level handed approach – have a level handed on approach bring these people together. But certainly to answer your question yes the time is long overdue to understand that a despotic treacherous regime in Saudi Arabia should not be an unquestioned ally of the United States of America.
Tommy Vietor [00:07:51] Final question for you. It is it is the violence in Venezuela is really frightening. And you know the Trump administration seems all in on a coup. They areopenly talking about military options and intervention. How worried are you about this White House going to war Venezuela. Is there anything Congress can do to stop them?
Sen. Bernie Sanders [00:08:08] Well you know when you’re dealing with a guy like Trump you have a right to be worried about anything and everything. The idea — I mean given our history of intervention in country after country in Latin America the overthrow of – the overthrow of the government of Brazil, Guatemala, other countries. The idea that we would intervene militarily in Venezuela is literally unbelievable. It’s beyond you know it’s absurd. So yes I will do everything that I can. And again this is an issue getting back to the War Powers Act. I’m not sure where in the Constitution it says that the president of the United States has the right to send troops to Venezuela or anybody else any place else without the approval of the United States Congress. And we have got to be very vigorous you know and I know that it’s so easy to send in troops whether it’s Iraq or any place else. And then you have all of the unintended consequences which take place so I think our job in Venezuela is to demand international supervision of a free and fair election to do everything we can to prevent a horrific civil war in that country, not provoke one.
So I will do everything I can to see that U.S. troops get involved in a civil war in Venezuela.
Tommy Vietor [00:09:30] Hopefully we can tie Elliott Abrams down and not let him on an airplane anytime soon because I don’t want to see that guy down there. Senator Sanders thank you so much for all the work you’ve done on Yemen. And thanks for talking with me today I really appreciate it.
Sen. Bernie Sanders [00:09:41] Well thank you very much. Keep up the good work.