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Trump's Narrative On Russia Stays The Same Despite Mueller Report Not Being Released

Apr 4, 2019
Originally published on April 4, 2019 6:06 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump is responding to those New York Times and Washington Post reports suggesting that some in the special counsel's office are unhappy with the attorney general's characterization of Robert Mueller's findings. And NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is here with more.

Hi, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi.

SHAPIRO: How is the president reacting to these reports? What's he saying?

KEITH: Well, he's tweeting. And he said in a tweet today, The New York Times had no legitimate sources, which would be totally illegal, concerning the Mueller report. In fact, they probably had no sources at all - exclamation point.

And he goes on, calling them fake news. But clearly, the president is bothered by this story enough that he would tweet about it.

SHAPIRO: Yeah - what about within the White House? Is there concern that the Mueller report may actually be a little more damning than Attorney General Barr described?

KEITH: Well, the posture over here, at least, is not so much concern. That - they are saying, just wait for the report; it will come. They don't think that anything in the report will overturn the principal conclusions that Attorney General Barr outlined. And the president, of course, has been going full force to sort of lay the groundwork to sort of set the principal conclusions in stone, which means that the president has been out there saying that he is completely exonerated and vindicated and the collusion delusion is over.

But we should say that, you know, Attorney General Barr, in his letter, did say that Mueller's report found no conspiracy or coordination between the Trump orbit and Russian election interference. But also, it quoted the special counsel as saying that his report concluded that the president - that the president both maybe did not commit a crime when it came to obstruction but it also did not exonerate him. That - in essence, the special counsel didn't weigh in on that.

SHAPIRO: Now, while people in the White House and the country have been waiting to see whether the Mueller report comes out this week, they have also been waiting to see whether President Trump, on a totally different front, decides to close the U.S.-Mexico border. He is going to visit that border in California tomorrow. Over the weekend, he said he would shut it down. Where does that threat stand now?

KEITH: Right. He actually said over the weekend that he would shut it down this week. Well, guess what. He is not shutting it down this week. He's hedging. One could say he is even indefinitely postponing his threat to shut the border down. He says that in the past few days since he made that threat, Mexico has done a better job of preventing migrants from entering the U.S. And it's not clear where he's getting that from, but he added this afternoon that the U.S. still needs Mexico's help, both with immigration and with illegal drugs. And then he added this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to give them a one-year warning. And if the drugs don't stop or largely stop, we're going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, in particular cars. The whole ballgame is cars. It's the ballgame game. With many countries, it's cars. And if that doesn't stop the drugs, we close the border.

KEITH: So a one-year warning, tariffs - if that doesn't do it, then they would close the border. But as far as the tariffs, it's not really clear how that would work because, really, at this point - because of free trade between - in North America, there are no Mexican cars or Canadian cars or American cars. The supply chains are integrally linked. And often, parts move back and forth across the border as the cars are being built.

The fact that the president is hedging on this isn't entirely a surprise because the economic consequences of actually closing the border would be severe and immediate, and his aides have been telling him that.

SHAPIRO: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

Thank you.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.