Week In Politics: Mueller, 2020 Democrats, Emergency Declaration

Feb 23, 2019
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

For much of the week, cable news chyrons breathlessly touted the possible release of the Mueller report. Well, here at NPR, we don't have chyrons. We got something better, senior politics editor Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: You've got the report there, right?

ELVING: Yeah. You know, I would share if I had the goods, Scott, but we don't. And we won't for at least another week. That's according to Carrie Johnson.

But there is growing pressure on Attorney General William Barr to make more of that report available than he has to under department policy using the precedent - I'm sure you remember this - of all the information that was shared three years ago on the Hillary Clinton email investigation out of that department, which was quite extensive, especially given that she wasn't charged with any crime.

SIMON: So where do we stand, as we speak today, toward the end of February, on Cohen, Manafort, Southern District of Manhattan, et cetera?

ELVING: Next week is Michael Cohen week on Capitol Hill, as he is finally expected to testify behind closed doors to the House and Senate intelligence committees, but, hey, on Wednesday in open session for the House committee - reform and government oversight.

Well, meanwhile, Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman in 2016, is awaiting sentencing on his various federal charges. And he may also be indicted by the state of New York, where President Trump's potential promises of pardons don't work. So that could be a new front in the overall struggle to get at what happened in 2016.

SIMON: At the same time, Congress is transacting little business. There's going to be a vote on the president's emergency declaration in the House on Tuesday. Does this put Senate Republicans in the position of having to vote up or down on the wall?

ELVING: It puts them in a worse position than that because the wall is not broadly popular, but the emergency is an even bigger loser in the polls. Some 60 percent oppose that idea. It's even less popular than the shutting down of the government. So if there are enough Republican votes to pass the resolution in the Senate, Trump says he'll veto that resolution - said that on Friday - his first veto. And it's highly unlikely that both chambers could get the two-thirds to override.

But here's the bottom line. If the Congress, House and Senate, pass this resolution and send this very clear signal, as they did first on the wall and now on the emergency, that is a signal to federal courts everywhere and ultimately to the Supreme Court, which will settle the matter.

SIMON: The House is - just to remind us elections have consequences, the House is voting on gun controls bill - gun control bills next week.

ELVING: That's right. They said they would, and they're going to do it. Universal background checks for gun buyers is one of the bills they're going to vote on. These are measures with broad public support, many having arisen since the most horrific mass shootings we have seen in recent months and years.

SIMON: Senator Bernie Sanders entered the 2020 race for president this week - I think $6 million he raised within 48 hours or something. But he touched off a recurrent question about if he's really a Democrat in all ways, maybe. This week, he refused to call Nicolas Maduro a dictator.

ELVING: You know, terminology and labels are not ultimately where people live, but they can have meaning and effect when it comes to campaigns. We certainly saw that in 2016. Sanders only calls himself a Democrat when he's seeking to be the party nominee for president. The rest of the time and in Congress, he calls himself an independent. And that may be more accurate.

The phrase democratic socialist that Sanders uses a lot - that has quite a few fans, especially among younger voters, who seem to take this word socialist in stride. Older voters still remember the years when to be a socialist was to be on the wrong side of the Cold War in many people's minds. And voters of all ages will be taking part in those primaries and caucuses starting in less than a year.

SIMON: Thanks so much. Ron Elving, thanks for being with us.

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