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Week In Politics: The DNC, Taxes, Russia Investigation


House Republicans unveiled their proposed overhaul of the tax code Thursday. And they quietly revised it the following day to allow more income to be taxed at higher rates immediately. And we can expect more changes as the House tax writing committee really digs into the bill this week. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson will be watching it every step of the way, and she joins me now. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. So changing the tax code is a big priority for the Republicans. But then again, repealing the Affordable Care Act was also a big priority for Republicans. Will this be any easier than Obamacare?

LIASSON: They should be easier for them. Republicans are a lot more unified around the concept of cutting taxes, even if they aren't on the details - more unified than they ever were about what they wanted to do to replace Obamacare with. But as you said, the tax bill is changing. It's getting less generous to individual taxpayers and families. And you have the president wanting to end the Obamacare mandate in the tax bill. That would make it harder to pass. But that being said, Republicans do feel a sense of urgency, even desperation around passing this bill. And the president is saying he wants it on his desk by year end. That's a timetable that's been described to me as somewhere between ambitious and insane.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. I want to switch focus here a little bit because there is something happening - two big races, one in Virginia, another one in New Jersey. Those elections take place Tuesday. And the Democrats want very badly to win some governors' races.

LIASSON: They do, but they're not acting like it. In Virginia, they are getting into a circular firing squad, which is the Democrat's favorite formation. The latest polls show that the Republican of Virginia has momentum. He's been running a very Trumpian campaign. And I think if Democrats lose in Virginia, the results will be profound. It's a state that Clinton carried, a state that has no Republican statewide office holders. The Northern Virginia suburbs are home to lots of highly educated federal workers who are angry about what Trump is doing. It's a light-blue state. And I think if the Republican wins, the bloodletting among Democrats will be intense. And among Republicans, I think the takeaway will be that Trumpian white identity politics, like the ads that the Republican has been running there about Confederate statues and Central American gangs are the way to run and win.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's already been some bloodletting going on now among Democrats revolving around the former DNC chair Donna Brazile. She's stealing headlines left and right, claiming this weekend that she toyed with replacing Hillary Clinton on the ticket after Clinton collapsed from pneumonia last year.

LIASSON: Yep. Just like Virginia, this is another Democratic circular firing squad. You have Donna Brazile and now Elizabeth Warren rehashing these allegations that, somehow, Hillary Clinton stole the nomination from Bernie Sanders, which - there's really no evidence for that. She beat him by curvature of the Earth in the primaries. But this is harmful to the Democratic Party and not just in advance of those two gubernatorial races they really want to win but also because it comes at the same time as two former Republican presidents, the two Bushes, are accusing the sitting Republican President Donald Trump of being a blowhard who's destroying the Republican Party.

So we are now learning there's not just a civil war in the Republican Party. The same kind of intramural fight is going on in the Democratic Party, too, and that is music to the ears of Donald Trump, whose modus operandi is sowing divisions among his opponents. And he's been taking to Twitter to call on the FBI to investigate Clinton and the Democrats for stealing the nomination from Bernie.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He's been doing that a lot - calling on the FBI and the Department of Justice to investigate his political opponents. And just as special counsel Robert Mueller is handing down indictments concerning Trump's own campaign.

LIASSON: That's right. The president is more and more open about how frustrated he is by the checks and balances in our system and the separation of powers and the fact that the Justice Department and the FBI are supposed to be independent, at least when it comes to criminal investigations. And he gave an interview this week talking about how saddened he was, how frustrated he was that he couldn't do the things he would love to do to go after the Democrats. And this is the kind of thing that you'd see in a country like Venezuela, not in a liberal democracy like the United States where rule of law is supposed to prevail.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.