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Politics Sunday: John McCain's Legacy And Trump's Week


John McCain, the war hero, senator and presidential hopeful, has died at the age of 81. McCain was a linchpin of the Senate. And to many, his death feels like the end of an era. In a rare moment of solidarity, Republicans and Democrats alike are paying heartfelt tribute to the senator. NPR's Mara Liasson is our national political correspondent and joins us now. And, Mara, I can't think of many current members of Congress who we might consider an icon. John McCain clearly was one. And remembrances, as we say, are pouring in. What has the word been from the Trump White House?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Donald Trump has tweeted. He tweeted, quote, "My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you." That was pretty perfunctory. But there was a lot of bad blood between these two men. The president was reportedly not invited to McCain's funeral. And throughout McCain's illness, Trump continued to diss him, including at a recent appearance where the president signed the McCain defense bill but refused to mention John McCain's name. Some analysts called that utterly graceless. But that's Trump fighting to the end. He never apologized for disparaging McCain for being captured in Vietnam. And history will make its comparisons between these two men. One ran for president and failed. One succeeded. One had bone spurs. The other was tortured for five years in a North Vietnamese prison. And history will be the judge of the two men.

BLOCK: It's up to the Republican governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, to fill John McCain's seat. Any sense of who he might appoint?

LIASSON: No, but that person will serve out McCain's term. In other words, there will be no special election in November.

BLOCK: Obviously, John McCain's death is looming large. This past week, we should mention, was a devastating one, legally, for President Trump. Let's talk about what happened. Why don't you review that?

LIASSON: Well, get out your scorecards because we've now had one conviction for Trump's former campaign manager. Trump's lawyer pled guilty and incriminated Trump. Two close associates to the president now have immunity deals. One is David Pecker, the head of the National Enquirer who literally kept Trump's secrets in a vault. The other is Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of The Trump Organization, and that's the one to watch. He's been given immunity, and he certainly knows everything about Trump's finances. But I think the bigger picture of all of the incredible things that happened last week - the most incredible is that his very close associates are not willing to take a bullet for him. In the end, they weren't loyal. And loyalty is what Trump values most - loyalty to him, even if he doesn't always give it in return. So Michael Cohen, Allen Weisselberg - they are not willing to go to jail for Donald Trump.

BLOCK: Speaking of loyalty, he has talked about that all the time, tweeted about it and called Paul Manafort a brave man for not breaking.

LIASSON: That's right. Brave man who didn't break. He's talked about how flipping - in other words, cooperating with the law enforcement - should be made illegal. Close your eyes, and it kind of sounds like "The Sopranos."

BLOCK: In the meantime, President Trump is taking very sharp jabs at his attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

LIASSON: Yeah, and that's nothing new. He's continued to publicly torture and humiliate Sessions. But the new wrinkle now is that two senators have publicly entertained the idea that the president could replace Sessions. In the past, Republican senators have really closed ranks around Jeff Sessions. He's a former colleague of theirs. But maybe there's now a chink in the armor.

BLOCK: That's Mara Liasson, NPR's national political correspondent. 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.