Week In Politics

Feb 16, 2019
Originally published on February 16, 2019 7:00 pm
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Going to turn now to NPR's Ron Elving. Ron, thank you for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: You heard the congressman wrestle with constitutional and congressional authority. Is there any chance that Congress will challenge this emergency declaration?

ELVING: The House might do that. The House might well do that, but the Senate isn't likely to. If they wish to, they might have included more of a preventive measure against this in the funding deal that they just passed.

And as the congressman just said, that funding deal was a compromise between the parties, between the House and Senate and then between the Congress and the president. And the numbers were basically what Trump had agreed to in December before he got so much heat in the conservative media space that he changed his mind and forced the shutdown that then lasted five weeks.

So with nothing to show for all that and the wall still not funded, the president has chosen a different kind of grand gesture, an assertion of executive power. So now the courts must decide whether the Constitution allows the president to fund something Congress has refused to fund.

SIMON: Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, of course, had said that he didn't think an emergency declaration was a great idea. When it was announced yesterday, he said he's behind it. Is it as simple as he looked at a few polls or listened to what you called the conservative media space?

ELVING: There have been signs of Mitch McConnell pushing back in recent weeks. But, look, the Senate majority leader is caught in a replay loop. He warns the president the votes aren't there for, say, total repeal of Obamacare. He warns the president about the wall. He warns the president about the shutdown and about the declaration of emergency.

And each time, Trump ignores him. And each time, McConnell takes a knee. And he does it because he simply can't resist Trump's dominance in what is now the Republican Party. Much to his chagrin, McConnell has come to embody his party's rather supine relationship to this president.

SIMON: President Trump said yesterday he expects the question of his emergency declaration to wind up at the Supreme Court. A question to be included or not on the 2020 census is already before the court, isn't it?

ELVING: Yes, that's right. Now, in the Rose Garden yesterday, Trump essentially said he expects to lose at every level in the courts until the case reaches the Supreme Court, where he hopes his own appointees can tip the balance. He hopes the same on the census question you mentioned.

That's about adding a citizenship question that was abandoned 60-something years ago. That question was shown to be depressing participation in the census and thereby defeating the constitutional purpose of having a census in the first place.

SIMON: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg back at work.

ELVING: Yes, the legend continues. She was back on the job Friday.

SIMON: Just in - I hear her doc is up for the Academy Awards, too, just in time.

ELVING: That is - that's right. And there's another movie about her career as well. She's expected to also be back next week, and her presence on the court has never been more important.

SIMON: Special counsel investigation, Sarah Sanders revealed she was interviewed. Paul Manafort, the president's former campaign chairman, has been found to repeatedly lie during his interviews.

ELVING: And the sentencing recommendation is about 20 years. Remember, he was already sentenced to prison in a related case last year. But it's clear Manafort long ago gave up on defending himself in all this. At this point, he's sending signals that he is not cooperating with the government or the Mueller investigation and relying on his hopes for a pardon from the president.

SIMON: NPR senior Washington, D.C., editor and correspondent, Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.