Robert Costa talks impeachment, 2020 election during President’s Lecture Series

Political reporter Robert Costa speaks to a crowd during his discussion as part of the President's Lecture Series at the Save Mart Center on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. (Larry Valenzuela/The Collegian)

For the third time in as many years, political analyst and reporter Robert Costa visited Fresno State as part of the President’s Lecture Series at the Save Mart Center at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1.

In his 30-minute lecture, Costa, a political reporter for The Washington Post and moderator of “Washington Week” on PBS, discussed topics such as impeachment, the 2020 election, the role Californian politicians have played in national politics and shared insight into his experiences as a national political reporter.

“What a month this week has been,” Costa said at the start of his discussion. “I had a whole talk I was going to give here about 2020, and in the last week, I decided to rewrite everything.” 

The major focus of Costa’s speech was the impeachment inquiry currently being pursued by members of the House of Representatives, particularly Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff, both of whom are California Democrats.

Costa addressed why many in Congress felt that U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report was long and convoluted. 

In contrast, Costa said that the transcript of Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is a much more substantial piece of evidence of abuse of power to justify pursuing an impeachment process.

“To have the leaders of both parties of the House during impeachment come from California, it is California at the center,” Costa said. 

Costa spoke about President Donald J. Trump’s manner of operating “outside the chain of command.” 

Costa said that while Trump listens to the advice from, he takes cues from Fox News political commentator Lou Dobbs. And while Trump may like and admire individuals such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, he turns to his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani when he wants to get something done.

“When I first came here in 2017, I talked to you about the Trump I knew back in 2011, 2012 and 2013,” Costa said. “Let me tell you, as a reporter, The Trump I’m covering now is a different Trump. Not in terms of his personality, but in terms of his governing.” 

Costa then looked ahead to the 2020 presidential election and offered his thoughts on not only the individual candidates and their platforms, but also the changing narrative within the Democratic and Republican parties.

While there are several frontrunners seeking the Democratic primary nod, Costa said not to count out some of the candidates who have taken more of a backseat from the media spotlight, such as Mayor Pete Buttigeig and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

“It’s a fascinating race,” Costa said. “Senator Harris, she has struggled at times, but I don’t count her out at all. She has a real record. She has a message here in California. And I don’t count out Mayor Buttigeig.”

Costa also noted the party’s rift in its objective for next year’s race. While some candidates may feel their mission is simply to unseat the incumbent President, others are focusing on furthering the party’s political philosophy in a more progressive direction.

The lecture was followed by a panel mediated by Costa consisting of four Fresno State students and faculty: Dr. Lisa Bryant, a professor of political science; Dr. James Rocha, a professor of philosophy; Omar Hernandez, president and CEO of Associated Students, Inc. and a fourth-year animal science major; and Rachel Lewis, a Smittcamp scholar and student journalist for The Collegian and the Madera Tribune.

The panel discussed topics including California, race, the economy and the role of agriculture and the way by which younger audiences consume their news content.

The evening closed with an opportunity for members of the public to ask Costa questions of their own.

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