For all the discord between Democrats and President Trump, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen sounded a few cautious notes of agreement during an interview on The Exchange.
On Trump's missile attacks in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons, Shaheen affirmed her support.
"I hope it made it clear to Assad that he should not use chemical weapons. I hope it made it clear to the Russians that we will take action if we see that kind of activity going on, that kind of horrific attack. Hopefully it made it clear to the Iranians, as well, and to the rest of the world, as well. I think it also sends a message to places like North Korea and China about our intentions."
Shaheen said she also considered it a "positive" sign that the President does not right now support putting "boots on the ground in Syria" -- that is, in addition to the troops that are already there advising local forces in the fight against ISIS. But, she said, Trump must deliver a broader strategy that involves the departure of Assad at some point from Syria.
"But in order to make that happen, we’ve clearly got to get some of the other players there, like Russia and Iran, to agree with that. And they’re not there yet."
Shaheen also said she hopes Democrats can find common ground with the President on reining in the cost of prescription drugs -- something Trump has indicated he'd like to pursue.
Stark differences remain.
Shaheen insisted that Trump's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, is outside the mainstream. Gorsuch was approved after Republicans voted to change the Senate's filibuster rules, and he has since been sworn in as the newest Supreme Court justice.
Exchange listener Michael asked Shaheen about her own vote to change filibuster rules in 2013. Some have blamed that move by Democrats for helping to pave the way for the recent filibuster-rule change on Supreme Court nominees.
You've publicly denounced the Republican decision to change the Senate rules regarding Supreme Court nominees. How did you vote when the senate changed the rules regarding federal judge appointees in 2013 under Harry Reid?
Given the important role that federal judges play, as witnessed by the injunction decisions that have put President Trump's executive actions on pause, do you see a fundamental difference between that 2013 action and the latest Republican rule change? Is your opposition primarily due to the Republicans' handling of President Obama's nominee?
"We had 79 filibusters of President Obama’s nominees for judicial appointments and other appointments," Shaheen said. "And what we agreed to was keeping the filibuster on the Supreme Court because that is a court that affects so many things in our country, and appointments are lifetime appointments. I thought at the time it made sense to keep the filibuster on the Supreme Court. I still think it makes sense but obviously that’s not the way the Senate voted."
We asked Senator Shaheen about the characterization of Gorsuch as an extreme choice, given his high rating with the American Bar Association, which found him to be well qualified based on integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament.
"I agree he meets all of those qualifications but the question for me was, is this going to be somebody who continues the Supreme Court’s move to the extreme on issues like right to privacy, on issues of corporations vs. individuals, on the issue of money in politics? And the answer to that is, yes, he’s going to continue that march, that activism, on the part of the Supreme Court, and I don’t think that's good for America."
Shaheen also called for greater transparency in the investigation into Russia's interference in the U.S. presidential election and possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign.
"We need an independent investigation to look at what Russia did in our elections, to look at any potential ties to the Trump campaign at the time, to look at what else happened during that period," Shaheen said.
"It’s not just about trying to change the outcome of the election. It’s about creating uncertainty and confusion and undermining our people’s belief that our democracy works -- and that is something we should all be outraged about and something we should want to find out how to address because we cannot allow this to continue.... We have got to get to the bottom of this."
For the full interview with Senator Shaheen, listen here.