Impeachment won’t interfere with Democrats’ economic agenda, Rep. Ro Khanna says
Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat representing California’s Silicon Valley in the U.S. House of Representatives, said he doesn’t think impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump will interfere with Democrats’ economic agenda once President-elect Biden takes office.
“Having accountability, I think, will help this country actually heal. And then we have the rest of the time to pursue President Biden’s agenda,” Khanna said in an interview with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio.
Part of that agenda will likely include continued scrutiny of Big Tech and the antitrust violations alleged against companies including Google and Facebook in several lawsuits last year.
But Khanna said breaking up the massive companies, as some have called for, isn’t necessarily the answer.
“I think that we need to see better regulation and enforcement of antitrust,” he said. “Now, in certain cases like Facebook, where they’ve acquired WhatsApp and Instagram, perhaps the unwinding is justifiable, and that will have to be a case-specific inquiry and investigation.”
The following is an edited transcript of the interview.
David Brancaccio: Separate from whether the president deserves impeachment, to what extent could this and a Senate trial slow down Congress’ ability to enact other policies in those crucial early months of the new administration?
Ro Khanna: I don’t think it will slow it down. The Senate trial itself is just a few days. So having accountability, I think, will help this country actually heal. And then we have the rest of the time to pursue President Biden’s agenda.
Brancaccio: You don’t think it could poison potential relationships across the aisle in a way that might have been more productive for getting the Biden agenda off to a vigorous start?
Khanna: I don’t, because I think the types of Republicans who are gettable, the people like Sen. [Ben] Sasse [of Nebraska], Sen. [Mitt] Romney [of Utah], are also the ones who are appalled by this president’s behavior and believe he should be held accountable. I mean, this is something that moderate Republicans also share. And we’re never going to get the Republicans who voted to overturn the Electoral College. So I think President Biden will still be able to put together strong coalitions.
On Twitter and Parler
Brancaccio: The American Civil Liberties Union does not like Twitter turning off the outgoing president’s Twitter account; too much power over speech, private company, they think. What do you think?
Khanna: Well, first of all we look at the First Amendment, the Brandenburg standard: Speech is protected unless it incites imminent violence. And in this case, you had the president repeatedly inciting imminent violence. So I believe a ban on an account is appropriate. Now, it should be consistently applied. I mean, [Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei has incited violence from his account as well. And I think that the permanent ban should apply left or right, to any person on those platforms who is inciting violence.
Brancaccio: Do you think this stance that Twitter has taken is going to cost other social media companies because so many supporters of the president are outraged?
Khanna: I don’t. I mean, I’m sure they will lose some following, but it’s fine if more social media sites emerge. And I think competition is healthy. I actually had no problem with Parler emerging if they were to actually enforce their own community standards. The problem I had with Parler is not that they had right-wing theories or conservative voices. The problem I had is that they’re not taking down content while assassination plots are being planned and attacks on the Capitol are being planned.
On breaking up Big Tech
Brancaccio: Now you’ve taught law. You know antitrust law in particular, I understand, and you represent a good piece of Silicon Valley there. Are you expecting, during this new administration, the breakup of big digital companies?
Khanna: I don’t think we will see the breakup of all digital companies. I think that we need to see better regulation and enforcement of antitrust.
There are three principles I would argue for: One is people should have a duty to sell fairly to competitors, so they shouldn’t be able to block competitors from access to their platforms. Two, we need to limit mergers. And three, we need to have companies not be able to abuse their dominance by charging excessive fees. Now, in certain cases like Facebook where they’ve acquired WhatsApp and Instagram, perhaps the unwinding is justifiable, and that will have to be a case-specific inquiry and investigation.
On Congress’s pay-as-you-go budget rule
Brancaccio: Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed to ease some of the rules in the House requiring any new spending to be offset by less spending elsewhere. Are you pleased with how far that exemption went?
Khanna: I am pleased, in light of the circumstances. It exempts climate change legislation; it exempts any legislation concerning COVID. We have an economic crisis. It would make no sense to require balanced budgets at a time where we have COVID. You never get everything you want in Congress, but I think [House Rules Committee] Chairman [James] McGovern was able to get the entire caucus behind it, which is no easy task.