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“Broken Doors,” Episode 1
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Doug Jones on Mueller and Trump: ‘This has never been a witch hunt’

Post columnist Jonathan Capehart says the world is breathing a sigh relief after Democrat Doug Jones's surprise victory in the Alabama Senate race. (Video: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

“Cape Up” is Jonathan’s weekly podcast talking to key figures behind the news and our culture. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

“Roy Moore was a flawed candidate that became more flawed, if that’s possible.”

Even before The Post broke the story in November 2017 about Roy Moore’s penchant for underage girls, now-Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) believes he was well on his way to winning the special election against Moore a month later. Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) vacated the seat after he was tapped by President Trump for an ill-fated tenure as Attorney General. “I actually think that we were going to win that election had the Post not broken the stories about those women,” Jones said in the latest episode of “Cape Up.” But he also said the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation added to the “incredibly tribal” atmosphere surrounding the campaign.

“It ginned up a base. It got people out to vote that I think were not gonna vote and got people out to vote,” Jones told me. When I asked whose base, Jones said, “I think more on Roy Moore's side. I think my voters were energized for a lot of reasons, and we probably saw some more get out.”

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Since arriving in the Senate on Jan. 3, 2018, Jones said he has been able to get things done, even in the minority. “We were able to secure a 14 percent increase in funding for HBCUs, who have not seen an increase in funding for five or six years,” he said, referring to historically black colleges and universities. “We’ve got some things pending in the farm bill that are very important creating rural liaisons, health-care liaisons, to try to streamline the federal government’s response to the rural health-care crisis.”

And what about those tariffs that Trump insists are good for the country? “What’s really interesting about the president’s really [being] in favor of tariffs, the subtitle to that, is basically, ‘I’m in favor of taxes,’ because tariffs are taxes,” Jones said. After explaining the impact of the steel tariffs on Alabama, the senator talked about what’s happening with his state’s farmers.

“The retaliatory tariffs that China has placed on folks has really hurt soybean farmers, poultry farmers, and they're afraid of losing markets,” Jones pointed out. “Now, everyone supports the president's goal of a better deal. Everybody would like to see a better deal. The problem we've seen is we've seen an incoherent strategy on how to get there.” He later said, “Every time you stick it to China, we get stuck back. You can call it a game of chicken or you can call it a game of poker, because every time we play a hand, they raise it. Every time they play a hand, we raise it. And that's not good. It is not helping anybody.”

Of course, we talked about the runoff Senate election in Mississippi and what it means for the Democratic Party. Despite Mike Espy’s loss, Jones is optimistic and blunt about his fellow Dems.

Here’s the problem that Democrats have, okay? The problem that Democrats have is that they measure success only with a W or a [L]. It’s either you won it or you lost it. Mike Espy came within eight points of winning a United States Senate seat. This is an African American in the state of Mississippi. Good grief, I mean no one before him in the last 20 years had come within 15 points, I think … Mike did an amazing thing. And I think one of the problems, especially for Democrats, is that we have played a short game from one race to the next, and we’ve never looked upon our success as the long ball. And we have gotta do that in the south. 
We have got to see that in this election cycle who would have dreamed just two years ago that a candidate like Andrew Gillum would have come so close in Florida. Stacey Abrams would have come so close in Georgia. Mike Espy would have come so close in Mississippi. Beto O’Rourke, even though he’s not a candidate of color, he is an unabashed liberal progressive, came so close in Texas. Things are changing. We flipped House seats in the South. We flipped legislative seats in the South. … They were talking about jobs. They were talking about the economy. They were talking about health-care issues. And they weren’t focusing on all those issues that have divided us so much. If we can continue that focus in the South on those issues, we’re gonna have some changes in the South, and the South is gonna be the leader of changes in the country.

Listen to the podcast to hear Jones talk more about the Democratic Party and what contenders for the 2020 nomination should do to battle Trump. He will also weigh in on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the culture of lying around Trump that appears to predate his presidency.

“This has never been a witch hunt,” Jones, a former federal prosecutor, declared. “I have never seen more false statements, perjury-type indictments, coming out of any investigation than I have out of this.”

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