Week In Politics

Mar 2, 2019
Originally published on March 2, 2019 8:00 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

NPR's Ron Elving, of course, was also watching the hearings. Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: What was learned? What was confirmed? What couldn't be proved?

ELVING: Cohen confirmed his role in a variety of Donald Trump's affairs, including paying hush money to women to cover up their affairs with Donald Trump. He made it clear that the money to the women came from the president. And he showed an image of a check he said came from one such transaction. We also got much more than just a glimpse into the atmosphere within the Trump Organization, the Trump family - a glimpse that seemed like at least a whole season of "The Sopranos" and which also gave the committee a long roster of other people they're going to want to talk to. But in terms of courtroom evidence, most of this narrative was not proven on Wednesday in that committee room. Cohen did say, at one point, there would be proof coming, proof that's now in the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller or other government agencies.

SIMON: Felix Sater is going to - convicted felon, FBI informant who worked with Michael Cohen, reportedly, on the Trump Tower deal - is going to be testifying. What more might he lay out?

ELVING: There's a lot of interest in the Trump Tower project in Moscow. Was it just another real estate deal? Or were there ultra-luxe condos in there meant to do double duty, converting money made in one business into hard currency no longer tainted by the nature of that business? So suspicions of money laundering have been part of the Russia story practically since it all began. And what exactly was Russian leader Vladimir Putin being offered that top unit in the tower for? So these are all things that appear to be interests and business dealings in Russia that Trump had right through the campaign year at a time when, as you may recall, he was telling American voters he had no business and no deals in that country.

SIMON: Meanwhile, the president went to Hanoi - no deal with Kim Jong Un, politically speaking - fact of life for any public figure. How does this one-two punch - a failed summit and his former fixer testifying against him, often with intimate details - affect the president?

ELVING: You know, listening to the congressman just now, it's really a one-two-three punch - Cohen, Korea and Kushner, with the third element being the story in The New York Times about Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, and how he got that permanent security clearance the congressman was talking about. Now, that allegation is going to be investigated for months to come and probably by several congressional committees. And politics aside, if it ever is, this is something that really sets the president back and distracts him from all the other things he's trying to do.

SIMON: North Korea, Venezuela, Syria, China trade talks - not a bright time for U.S. foreign policy, is it?

ELVING: We seem to be back to square one with Korea, Scott. We were blocked last week at the United Nations in the power struggle in Venezuela. And there's no end in sight there. Meanwhile, no apparent progress in the deal that Jared Kushner has been negotiating for the Middle East. So no, not many green lights for U.S. initiatives around the world just now. And quite a few lights that we do see are flashing either yellow or red.

SIMON: Thanks so much as always. NPR's senior politics correspondent, Washington desk editor and Renaissance man Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.

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