News Brief: The RNC Supports Roy Moore (Again) And Trump's Travel Ban Is A Go
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And it seems like the Republican National Committee has had some trouble figuring out exactly what to do with Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. They were supporting him before they weren't.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Right. So - confused yet?
GREENE: Yeah, yeah.
MARTIN: Last month, the RNC announced that it was severing ties with Moore after those allegations of sexual assault. Now an RNC official confirms to NPR that it is, in fact, restoring its financial support for Moore. So this decision came just hours after President Trump endorsed Roy Moore yesterday. The president also came to Moore's defense last month in the wake of those allegations, including one from a woman who claims that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 14.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He totally denies it. He says it didn't happen. And, you know, you have to listen to him also.
MARTIN: And of course, David, all this is happening exactly one week before Alabama voters go to the polls.
GREENE: Yeah, we're getting close. Let's bring in NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Hey there, Tam.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hello.
GREENE: So why the change of heart from the RNC? Why are they supporting Moore now?
KEITH: President Trump is basically the leader of the Republican Party, and so the RNC is following President Trump's lead. And there's also the matter of, Roy Moore seems like he could very well win this thing and then will be in the United States Senate. And you know, it - you never know until the voters actually vote, of course. But there has been sort of this evolution that's been happening. And Orrin Hatch - he's a Republican senator from Utah. He was traveling with the president yesterday, and reporters asked him about the president's switch, about the endorsement. And he said, I don't think he had any choice but to do that; that's the only Republican we can get down there.
GREENE: Oh, so you're saying evolution, that the Republicans - like the president, the RNC, Orrin Hatch - are basically noticing that this is a real possibility that he's going to be sitting there with them in the Senate, and they're thinking, let's not have him there having not supported him in his campaign.
KEITH: Well, and also, they - there was a time when Republicans - some - establishment Republicans thought they could push Moore aside and maybe somehow get another Republican candidate. At this point, that's not an option. And, you know, when betting, it's always safe to bet on tribalism. And essentially, what the president is saying, what Orrin Hatch is saying and what even Mitch McConnell is saying is, in the end, for Republicans, it's a binary choice. It's either a very problematic Republican or a Democrat, and President Trump has chosen this Republican who is problematic, who has been accused of assaulting teenage girls.
GREENE: All right, well, voters will finally be going to go into the polls, and then we'll see where their story goes not so long from now. I want to switch gears a little bit because we're expecting some developments this morning concerning Congressman John Conyers. He's been facing calls to resign - a growing chorus of calls to resign following allegations of sexual harassment. Are we going to get a decision from him today or what?
KEITH: So he's set to make an announcement later this morning by calling into a local talk show in Detroit. The New York Times is quoting his 29-year-old grandnephew - if that's what the relation - I don't know how you call it - saying that Conyers does not plan to run for re-election. So he would not be resigning, but he would be retiring.
GREENE: All right. NPR's Tamara Keith. Thanks, Tam. We appreciate it.
KEITH: You're welcome.
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GREENE: Pretty significant court decision - the Supreme Court is giving the Trump administration a green light on the president's travel ban.
MARTIN: Yeah. This is a temporary victory, though. The high court ruled that the ban can be fully implemented while these legal challenges proceed. This is the third version of the Trump administration's travel ban. The two previous versions were partially blocked by lower courts. So now appeals courts on both coasts, actually, are preparing to hold hearings on this newest version this week.
GREENE: And NPR's Joel Rose has been covering this.
Hey there, Joel.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hey, David.
GREENE: So it sounds like this is not an all-out endorsement of this ban from the court. So what exactly does this order say?
ROSE: Well, not much.
ROSE: The orders are pretty brief. They don't offer any reason or explanation for why the court's doing this. But we know that it will - these orders will allow the Trump administration to fully enforce this third version of the travel ban while the legal challenges play out in the lower courts. And basically, that means that the Trump administration can bar entry into the U.S. by residents of eight countries. Six of those countries are Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad and Somalia - are majority-Muslim nations. The other two are North Korea and Venezuela.
It's not a blanket ban on all travelers or immigrants, but basically, it will make it very difficult for most people from these countries to immigrate or visit the U.S. And as I said, the court didn't say exactly why it's letting the ban take effect now, but the justices did say that they expect the lower courts to issue rulings on this with appropriate dispatch.
GREENE: Appropriate dispatch - so how quickly are we going to see these lower court cases work their way through to some kind of resolution?
ROSE: Well, we've got two hearings this week. You know, an appeals court on either side of the country is going to hear this case. One in Seattle on Wednesday is hearing one challenge to the travel ban, and a court in Richmond, Va., on Friday will hear a different challenge. Critics say this is still a Muslim ban. That's what they said about the earlier two versions, that, you know, the Muslim ban is something Trump talked about during the campaign.
And that concern about discrimination against Muslims was a big reason that was cited by the lower court judges when they blocked the earlier versions and partially also blocked this third version, as well. The administration denies that there's any religious grounds for this. They say the bans are needed to protect national security, and that there was a pretty extensive review of which countries comply with U.S. security vetting procedures and that these countries are the ones that were found lacking.
GREENE: Well, this - even though it's not a full endorsement, this has to be good news for the White House.
ROSE: Sure. I mean, the White House seemed pleased. In a statement, they said they're not surprised that the Supreme Court did this because they've been arguing all along that the travel ban - this travel ban and its predecessors were legal and necessary to protect national security. Opponents, as you would expect, are pretty disappointed to get an order like this after - you know, it's been almost a year-long legal fight already.
ROSE: But they sound undeterred. I talked to Omar Jadwat with the ACLU. He's been fighting the travel ban in court since January. Here's what he had to say.
OMAR JADWAT: It's disappointing, but it's not the end of the story. We will be in court saying that the ban should ultimately be struck down.
ROSE: And Jadwat points out that the Supreme Court did not take any position on the merits in these orders. They just say that the travel ban can take effect while the legal challenges play out.
GREENE: OK, so opponents taking some comfort that the Supreme Court basically said very little - that was good news for them.
ROSE: Yeah, the less the better, in this case, I think.
GREENE: NPR's Joel Rose. Joel, we appreciate it. Thanks.
ROSE: You're welcome.
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GREENE: Rachel, almost time for skiing, and figure skating, and curling and all of those great winter sports - do you watch?
MARTIN: Do I watch?
GREENE: OK, I just...
MARTIN: Do I watch? Do you watch curling?
GREENE: I do.
MARTIN: ...Is my big question.
GREENE: No, I - no.
MARTIN: Yeah, I knew it - called you out on that.
GREENE: But skiing and figure skating, yes.
MARTIN: For sure because the 2018 Winter Games are coming, folks, just a few months out. Big question, though - it's still not clear if one country - Russia - can even compete in the games. Today, the International Olympic Committee is expected to announce whether it will allow Russia to participate at all. This is because Russian athletes were caught in a widespread doping scheme during the last Winter Games in Sochi.
GREENE: Yeah, this is a huge story because winter sports are incredibly important in Russia. And NPR's Lucian Kim is in Moscow and knows that well.
LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: Good morning.
GREENE: So what exactly is happening at this meeting today? Who is making the decision? What is the background here?
KIM: Well, the International Olympic Committee - the IOC - is meeting today in Lausanne, Switzerland. They will be discussing the findings of two commissions that were studying the extent of Russian doping. One of those commissions was looking at individual cases of Russian athletes, and already, 25 Russians have been disqualified retroactively from the Sochi Olympics. And the second commission - kind of the key commission - will be looking into whether there was a so-called institutional conspiracy in the doping.
GREENE: You say institutional conspiracy, and then that really is at the heart of what sets this apart, right? I mean, doping is a worldwide problem, but Russia's being singled out because the accusation is basically, this was state-sponsored doping, right?
KIM: Exactly. And I mean, the Russian reaction to this has been very consistent. Russian officials have said there was never any state sponsorship of doping; yes, there were some bad apples; those have been taking care of, all the problems have been solved, and now let's move on. Let's hold individuals responsible for things that they did, but there should be no such thing as collective responsibility, as they say.
GREENE: It's amazing to imagine the Winter Olympics without Russia. I mean, that's just an incredible thing to think about it.
KIM: It's - it is. And, you know, I - over the weekend, I went down to a skating rink to talk to some people, and that's exactly what one man - he was watching his kids skate. He told me - he said, you know, the Olympics without Russia are not the Olympics, they are just some kind of European championships.
MARTIN: Convenient argument.
GREENE: Yeah. Well, what are - is it just ban or no ban, or are there different possible outcomes we could get today?
KIM: Well, officials in Russia obviously have tried not to make any predictions, but President Vladimir Putin himself said recently that he only saw two options - either an outright ban, sort of a blanket ban, or the second option, which many people think is possible - individuals - Russian individual athletes competing under a neutral flag. But President Putin has made it very clear that he considers either option a humiliation, in his words, for Russia.
GREENE: All right, NPR's Lucian Kim talking to us about big news, a big decision on Russia in the Winter Olympics. He's in Moscow. Lucian, thanks.
KIM: Thank you.
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