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Sunday Politics: Sanders 2020, Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, Security Clearances


Two speeches yesterday were given at about the same time. And it clearly wasn't a coincidence. While Senator Bernie Sanders was launching his bid for president yesterday, the current office holder, Donald Trump, gave a free-flowing two-hour-long improvisational address at an annual conservative gathering. Yes, the battle for the airwaves in advance of 2020 has begun. Here to discuss that and the latest political news is national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Good morning, Mara.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. So what did you make of Trump's speech?

LIASSON: It was very long.


LIASSON: Two hours of venting - it's kind of Fidel Castro length.


LIASSON: But it did air all of his grievances, including going all the way back to the inauguration and talking about how big his crowd was. He, once again, complained about his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, this time mocking his southern accent. The president was in a very bad mood.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. The president was in a bad mood. But yesterday, there was somebody else. Sanders declared his candidacy again for the presidency.

LIASSON: Yes. At least for yesterday, Trump's counterpoint - his counterprogramming was another septuagenarian guy from the outer boroughs of New York, Bernie Sanders from Brooklyn. And, of course, Trump is from Queens. But just by his support in the polls and his fundraising abilities, Bernie Sanders is now a top-tier candidate in the Democratic primary. The big question is, is he a victim of his own success? - because now there are a bunch of younger Democratic candidates that are also calling for Bernie Sanders' program, like universal health care and a $15 minimum wage. So the question is, what does Sanders have this time to offer that nobody else does?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Let's move on to Congress. It seems the one thing the Michael Cohen hearing has done is spawn interest in more hearings.

LIASSON: That's right. That's what oversight hearings do. It's a grinding process. It takes time. Cases are made bit by bit, one piece of evidence at a time. It's not all laid out at once like on a television show. And we learned from the hearings last week that Donald Trump may have committed campaign finance violations, insurance fraud, tax fraud, possibly before, during and after his presidential campaign. The House now wants to follow up on a number of leads that Michael Cohen gave them. They want to talk to Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer for the Trump Organization. Felix Sater, a real estate developer involved in the Trump Tower project in Moscow, is already set to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on March 14.

And Democrats have been asking for information about the president's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner's security clearance. They've wanted this information since before November. Now The New York Times is reporting that the president intervened to grant a security clearance to Kushner over the objections of his aides and intelligence agencies that vet for clearances. They - the House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings has wanted more information for some time. But now he has subpoena power. And this is what divided governments mean for the White House.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thank you 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.