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Trump Declares He's Cleared From Mueller Investigation

Dec 10, 2018
Originally published on December 10, 2018 9:44 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All right, we just heard about the legal implications of the recent Mueller filing, so let's talk about the political implications with NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Let's start off with Democrats. What do they do with this new information from the Mueller probe?

LIASSON: Well, that's what they are wrestling with right now. Democrats want to keep the right balance. They say they want to exercise oversight. They want to investigate the president and his administration in a non-showboaty (ph) way. They want to put legislation front and center. Some Democrats want to impeach the president, but most Democrats don't. And Jerry Nadler, Democrat from New York who's going to be the new chair of the House Judiciary Committee that would move articles of impeachment if there were any, was on CNN yesterday. And here's what he had to say about the latest allegations about Trump ordering Cohen to make those hush money payments.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JERRY NADLER: They would be impeachable offenses. Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question.

LIASSON: So what he's saying is just because these offenses might be impeachable doesn't mean that Democrats should move to impeach the president. Impeachment is a political process. It means it's a political decision. And impeachment doesn't mean removal.

MARTIN: Right.

LIASSON: If Democrats impeach the president in the House, they would need to convince more than 34 Republicans in the Senate to remove the president, and that isn't going to happen. Democrats are also worried about the risk of a political backlash to their own prospects in 2020 if they did impeach the president. We've seen this happen before when Bill Clinton was impeached - so a lot of concerns from Democrats about moving forward with impeachment.

MARTIN: What about Republicans? Let's listen to a little bit of Senator Rand Paul. He was on NBC's "Meet The Press." And this is how he was describing the campaign finance violations, talking about them as just a minor crime. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

RAND PAUL: We should not have special prosecutors going after one person. And if we get this way, and if we're going to prosecute people and put them in jail for campaign finance violations, we're going to become a banana republic...

CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you - let me...

PAUL: ...Where they have every president gets prosecuted, and everybody gets thrown in jail when they're done with office.

MARTIN: He sees it as a slippery slope. Is this view representative among Republicans right now?

LIASSON: I think to a certain extent it is. He's kind of describing the allegations like a speeding ticket or something like that and pretty minor. But other Republicans are nervous because they don't know what else Mueller knows. They also don't know what Donald Trump is going to do. And they're also worried about other things. They're worried about the economy, which seems to be softening. They're worried about the 2020 election. So they're waiting and seeing what's going to happen, but a lot of nervousness among Republicans, too.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, what's the word out of the White House?

LIASSON: Well, it's interesting. The president has talked a lot more about the Russian part of the investigation. He keeps on saying, no collusion, no collusion. He doesn't talk that much about these allegations about Michael Cohen and the hush money payments. But he has viewed these problems in general as first and foremost a political problem, not a legal problem. He believes his base will stick with him through thick and thin regardless of what other facts emerge. He has been working hard to discredit the Mueller investigation and Mueller himself so that whatever Mueller comes up with in the end he can dismiss as just a partisan witch hunt.

But in the meantime, he is working to reshape his staff. He's gotten rid of his chief of staff, John Kelly. He hasn't yet found someone to replace him, but he's clearly getting ready for a different phase of his presidency, much more political. The legal cloud hasn't gone away. As a matter of fact, it's getting bigger. And he's got the election - re-election coming up.

MARTIN: 2020 on the horizon - NPR's Mara Liasson, thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.