A Recap Of A Busy Week For President Trump
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
President Trump is in Florida again this weekend. He has stood by his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, over allegations Mr. Sessions deceived a Senate committee when he denied meeting with any Russian official during last year's campaign, although he met with Russia's ambassador to the United States. And early this morning, the president posted tweets that accuse the Obama administration of wiretapping his phones in Trump Tower during last year's election. There is no evidence of this. NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: What do we know about these tweets today? By the way, we noticed tap is spelled with two Ps.
ELVING: Yes, in at least one instance. We know these are coming from the president. It's a series of tweets from the president's Twitter account at dawn this morning, and there's no reason to doubt it is coming from the president himself, who is in Florida at Mar-a-Lago. It is not clear, however, where the president is getting this notion, but he says, he, quote, "just found out," unquote.
And we don't know yet quite where it's coming from, but it appears perhaps to be a response to a narrative that's been in breitbart.com, the right-wing website that was previously published by Steve Bannon, the president's senior adviser. And there you will find a narrative about how the Obama administration was so intent on thwarting Donald Trump last fall that they had much of the intelligence community doing everything it could to gather skullduggery information about Donald Trump and that that would have included, according to Donald Trump, wiretapping his phones. But there does not seem to be any direct evidence of that, as you said.
SIMON: Well, let's go on to other events of the week. Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, announced he'll recuse himself from, quote, "any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States." He also said he'll answer questions from Senate Democrats in writings - writing, rather - about his meetings with the Russian ambassador. Will that put this to rest?
ELVING: No, this will not be put to rest any time soon. Those written questions from the committee are going to have to be answered and going to have to be parsed. And, of course, now we have taken all of this to another level because of the president accusing his predecessor of conducting some sort of campaign against him, which is clearly in response to the whole Sessions matter and previous to that, of course, the Michael Flynn matter. He was the national security adviser who was forced to resign by the president after it was revealed that he had had contacts with the Russian ambassador that he had mischaracterized.
So it's not going to go away as a larger issue - the whole Russia connection. And, clearly, it's bothering the president because last night he tweeted out a bunch of pictures of Chuck Schumer meeting Vladimir Putin and Nancy Pelosi at a meeting with a bunch of Russians and, you know, saying that these people are hypocrites and that they had contacts with the Russians. So it's not going away.
But there is a moment of relief that at least Jeff Sessions has recused himself from, in some sense or another, overseeing the investigation into all of this by the Department of Justice, by the FBI, if there is going to be such an investigation. So now that'll be conducted by a deputy of his who's coming up for a confirmation hearing this very week on Tuesday. His name is Rod Rosenstein, and he is a longtime U.S. attorney. And he is a respected figure and perhaps the best man for this job. We'll see how things go on Tuesday.
SIMON: We should explain. Both Senator Schumer and Representative Pelosi said there's nothing secret about those meetings. That's why there were pictures.
ELVING: That's why there are pictures of them all laughing and that sort of thing.
SIMON: President got good reviews for his remarks on Tuesday. Political analysts, who can sound like theater critics, said that he looked presidential. Does any jump he'd get in the polls get undone when the president undertakes one of these tweets storms?
ELVING: It's conceivable. It's hard to know exactly what makes the polls go up and down. And, of course, we've all learned to take the grain - take the polls with a grain or two of salt. And we know, however, that this is a barometer of a president's power. So members of Congress who are waiting for instructions on a lot of issues from the president are watching those polls, as well. He did get a little boost from this, but not as much as he would have gotten if it could have remained the focus of the news for the rest of the week, which, of course, it did not.
SIMON: I - do you expect a re-drafted travel ban to be issued this week?
ELVING: Yes. And I think they want to hang tough on what they had ordered before, and they want to accomplish what they were trying to accomplish before and really block refugees. But they're also going to be a little more careful this time around with how they treat green card holders - that's legal permanent residents - so that they don't get hung up. And they may also be a little more inclined to give warnings to the enforcement people so that they know what's coming. So all of this will probably be handled a good deal better, and that will probably fly with the federal courts. We'll see what's in the order, and we'll see how the courts respond.
SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving - thanks so much for being with us, Ron.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott.
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