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Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro On Mueller, Immigration Plan

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Congressman Joaquin Castro has been listening with us. He's a Democrat from Texas who sits on the House intelligence committee, which we just mentioned. That committee has tried to investigate Russian interference. And Congressman Castro joins us from San Antonio. Good morning, sir.

JOAQUIN CASTRO: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: So The New York Times reports that President Trump as long ago as June tried to fire Robert Mueller. Is that consistent with whatever you have learned while looking into the president's conduct?

CASTRO: Well, as a member of the committee, I haven't been apprised of his possible firing of Robert Mueller. But the news itself, if it's true, is very disturbing. And there is, of course, I expect an investigation going on as to his firing of James Comey. You know, we believe that - or at least I believe based on what I've seen - that he fired James Comey in part because of the Russia investigation.

And so if this news is true, then that is a red line, as Senator Warner said. And I believe that, ultimately, it could be moving him closer to impeachment. Now, that said, there are many in Congress who basically, I think, are in a very protective or defensive mode when it comes to the president. So considering that, it's a very difficult thing, even if he fired Bob Mueller for those reasons, for bad reasons to protect himself.

INSKEEP: Well, that's a question. When you say a red line, what would you do about it as a Democrat in Congress?

CASTRO: Well, I mean, Congress should investigate it. Bob Mueller should investigate it as obstruction of justice. But I think the question that you're asking fundamentally is, what's the outcome? Is there anything that changes? And the tough part about that is that many people in Congress quite honestly, instead of doing a thorough and fair investigation of the president, really are trying to protect the president. And so the ultimate answer to what happens is still up in the air.

INSKEEP: As you know, Congressman, some of your fellow members of Congress - Republicans are promoting a classified memo written by the chairman of your committee, Devin Nunes, which is purported to allege a conspiracy against President Trump and bias against President Trump at the FBI. Have you seen that classified memo?

CASTRO: I have. And there's nothing that I've seen in the behavior of the FBI or anyone in the intelligence agencies that I believe fundamentally compromises the investigations that are going on or compromises the FBI. And so I think a lot of this is still part of a distraction effort by some, including, unfortunately, the chairman of the committee, Devin Nunes, again, in an effort to protect the president instead of doing a fair and thorough investigation.

INSKEEP: But let's just be clear on this. I mean, there were these text messages between a couple of agents who it turned out were having an affair and kind of speaking in their own language and code and so forth. And some of those messages have been discussed. But you have seen the actual memo. And you said that you don't think there's anything that fundamentally compromises the FBI. But let's be specific. Is there any evidence in that memo of FBI misconduct that the public ought to see?

CASTRO: No. I haven't seen any. And bear in mind - remember that the memo itself is basically a summary or a perspective on some highly classified source material. So the memo itself is not an original document. It's based on other evidence which is highly classified. And most of the folks on the House committee, at least, have not seen that underlying information, even though they're endorsing this memo.

INSKEEP: Should the public see the memo?

CASTRO: Well, the thing is if the public sees the memo, the public really needs to see the whole thing. In other words, they would have to also see the underlying material so that people can come to a conclusion themselves. Part of the challenge with that is that you could be compromising sources and methods. That's why this has been such a thorny issue for many of us on the intelligence committee but also for the FBI.

INSKEEP: Is this a scam by the Republican Party?

CASTRO: Well, I think that it's an effort to distract. Sure.

INSKEEP: One other thing I want to ask you about, Congressman - President Trump has said that there's an immigration deal that he wants. He's specified what kind of immigration legislation he might accept. It includes, as you know, I'm sure, a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million eligible people, DACA recipients - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals - and other people who would be eligible for that status. There's also $25 billion to build a border wall and limits - greater limits to legal immigration. Could you vote for that?

CASTRO: At this point, no. But I do think it's positive that the president and the White House finally put some cards on the table. For a while, as Senator Schumer indicated, it was like negotiating against Jell-O. The president is constantly shifting his position on what he wanted to see in an immigration bill. So they finally laid some things out on the table. I see this as a first offer that we can go back and negotiate on. But in that offer, he's still holding the DREAMers hostage to a laundry list of hardline immigration requests.

INSKEEP: Congressman, there's been lots of discussion of DACA. There's been lots of discussion of funding for the wall. But there's also this limit on legal immigration. In the few seconds we have left, I'd just like to ask about that. It's been fiercely criticized on the Democratic side - reducing immigration. But is there a case to be made for it - that the United States absorbs an awful lot of immigrants, that there is some stress and pressure to that, and from time to time, it's OK to cut back somewhat?

CASTRO: I think that it's fair to look at it. I mean, you know, every decade or every few decades, I think it's fair to the United States - that the United States look at its immigration policies. But these policies have also been invaluable to the success of this country and to immigrants in the United States. So we shouldn't just change them lightly.

INSKEEP: Are you willing to make that change - to cut legal immigration to get other things that you want?

CASTRO: Well, right now I have - in looking at that whole proposal, it's not something that I could support right now. But it's certainly something that we could talk about.

INSKEEP: Congressman, thank you very much.

CASTRO: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's Joaquin Castro of Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOLD PANDA'S "COMMUNITY (FORT ROMEAU REMIX)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.