Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Sunday Politics


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I cooperate all the time with everybody. And you know the beautiful thing? No collusion - it's all a hoax.

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: Families and friends will gather today to honor the lives of four more victims of Alabama's tornado. President Trump and first lady Melania Trump got a firsthand look at the devastation in Lee County on Friday, the president autographing Bibles at a church in Beauregard.

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN: We face a crisis - a real, serious and sustained crisis at our borders. We have tens of thousands of illegal aliens arriving at our doorstep every month.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: NPR has been shown commercial satellite imagery of renewed activity at a facility where North Korea has assembled ICBMs and satellite rockets in the past.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ: We're talking about 47 months in prison for Paul Manafort. Remember, prosecutors are asking for anywhere from 19 to 24 years - 25 years.

TRUMP: The judge, I mean, for whatever reason - I was very honored by it - also made the statement that this had nothing to do with collusion with Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yeas are 407. The nays are 23. Voting present - 1.

NANCY PELOSI: So we're busy with our legislative work, despite what we might read in the press (laughter).

BRIANNA KEILAR: A little bit of a surprise here. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio has announced he will not run for president.


That last item surprising because it runs very much counter to the trend these days. We have national political correspondent Mara Liasson with us now. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So lots of headlines there, but let's start with the Democratic primary field. It got a little bit smaller this week.

LIASSON: That's right. The Democratic primary field is still very big, but it is not continuing to grow by leaps and bounds. As a matter of fact, this week, there are four Democrats who decided not to run this week and right before it - Michael Bloomberg, Sherrod Brown, as you just mentioned, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Eric Holder, the former attorney general. And they are not going to run, but everyone I've talked to believes it is almost certain that Joe Biden, former vice president, will get into the race soon.

It's hard to make neat categories out of this very large, sprawling field of Democrats. But I think what you could say is that the centrist lane - the lane filled with people who think that they can appeal to the four most important states - Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio - got a little emptier this week.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But also in that lane is the former governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper. Mara, he raised a million dollars in his first 48 hours, which I have to say I was surprised by. Does that tell you something about where in the pecking order he is?

LIASSON: I don't know if it tells you that, but I think what it tells you is that almost every viable Democratic candidate is raising a tremendous amount of money as soon as they announce. Bernie Sanders raised about $10 million. I think what it tells you is how much enthusiasm there is in the Democratic Party.

They want to turn out to vote, as they did in November of 2018. They want to open their checkbooks. They want to turn out to see these presidential candidates. They want to win. They want to beat Donald Trump. And everyone I've talked to is expecting record-breaking turnout for the primaries next year.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, meanwhile on the Hill, Democrats were busy trying to do two things - investigate and legislate.

LIASSON: That's right. They were trying to do both of those things, trying to find the right balance. They passed HR 1, the anti-corruption bill. They also continued to investigate the Trump administration.

And they don't want the investigations to overshadow the legislation because even if it can't be passed in the Senate or signed by the president, Democrats want to lay down a marker for 2020 and say, this is what we'd do if we had control of government.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. And they're trying to get that message across, but there is something getting in the way of that, and that is more controversial comments from Representative Ilhan Omar.

LIASSON: That's right. The Democrats have a lot of internal divisions, and that is threatening to overshadow the mess - the legislative message that they want to fight. The latest was how they got tied up into knots about how to condemn comments by Ilhan Omar.

Many Jewish members of Congress - Democrats felt that she went beyond criticizing the Netanyahu government in Israel or the Trump administration's slavish support of that government, or even AIPAC's, the Jewish pro-Israeli lobby's power. Many Jewish members of Congress share her criticisms of those things, but they felt she went beyond that and revived an old anti-Semitic slur about how American Jews, people who support Israel are loyal to a foreign country.

So in the end, they came up with a resolution that condemned anti-Semitism, but also Islamophobia and other things. It got unanimous support from Democrats. But what was interesting there - it also caused splits in the Republican Party because 23 Republicans voted against that resolution despite the fact that their leadership didn't want them to do that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. And now we have a split in the Senate - right? - among the GOP.

LIASSON: That's right. This week, the Senate is going to vote on the president's declaration of a national emergency to get funding to build the wall at the border. Four Republicans are going to vote against that. That means that the resolution will pass. But in the end, the president will veto it, and there are not enough votes in Congress to override his veto.

But it shows you - the Republican opposition to the president on this issue shows you that even though Donald Trump's grip on the party is very strong, it's not complete.

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

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.