Morning News Brief Republicans on a House panel say they found no evidence the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the election. And, there's a special election in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district.
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Morning News Brief

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Morning News Brief

Morning News Brief

Morning News Brief

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Republicans on a House panel say they found no evidence the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the election. And, there's a special election in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Republicans on the House intelligence committee say they are done. They have finished their panel's Russia investigation.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yeah, they've prepared this draft report that says, among other things, that they found no evidence that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Texas Congressman Mike Conaway has been leading the investigation. Here he is on Fox News.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOX NEWS BROADCAST)

MIKE CONAWAY: Yes, the Russians tried to interfere with our election process. Yes, they had cyberattacks, active measures going on. We could find no evidence of collusion between either campaign and the Russians.

GREENE: All right, I want to bring in NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas here.

And Ryan, Conaway sounds pretty conclusive there - no evidence of collusion. But I guess it's important to point out the political context in all this.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Absolutely. Absolutely. There's been a lot of partisan fighting between Democrats and Republicans on this committee. This, of course, is the committee that had these dueling memos about alleged surveillance abuses.

GREENE: Right.

LUCAS: And so the fact that you have a Republican report coming out - this is a Republican draft report. Democrats did not have a hand in in writing it, and they certainly don't agree with the decision to shut down the investigation at this point in time. Now, Republicans say that the committee did the work that was necessary to complete the investigation. They say they interviewed 73 witnesses. They went through more than 300,000 pages of documents. There was 230 hours of testimony.

GREENE: Which sounds like a lot.

LUCAS: It does sound like a lot. But remember, this is an incredibly - incredibly - complex investigation. And, you know, you mentioned that they found no collusion. They also acknowledged that Russia interfered in the election, but not that Russia intended to help Trump win. And that's important because it contradicts the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies, who said that, indeed, the Russians wanted to help Trump beat Hillary Clinton.

GREENE: OK, so this is a draft report. Have Democrats been able to even see it yet?

LUCAS: Democrats will get this report today. As I said earlier, they're not happy with the investigation being shut down. They say that the work is not done. The committee's top Democrat, Adam Schiff, put out a statement that was really critical of the decision to wrap things up. He said that Republicans had been unwilling to conduct a serious investigation from the beginning; they've been unwilling to compel witnesses to answer questions, witnesses like White House communications director Hope Hicks, former chief strategist Steve Bannon, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

Schiff also said that Republicans were unwilling to subpoena communications or bank records that might help provide a better understanding of what exactly transpired and whether people were telling the committee the truth. Now, it's no surprise, as I said earlier, that the Republicans had their own draft. Democrats say that they are going to continue the work on their own. But, of course, they don't have the sort of subpoena powers that they would have if this were a full committee effort.

GREENE: They don't have subpoena powers to continue this investigation, but there are other investigations that are still going on here, we should say.

LUCAS: Absolutely. There's the Senate intelligence committee's investigation, which is unaffected by the shutdown of the House probe. It's continuing its work. It has more witnesses that it is calling forward that they're going to interview. They'll have a little more attention on them now. But, of course, they've always kind of been the serious player on the Hill, at least. And then, of course, there's special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. It, as well, is not impacted by the end of the House investigation. Mueller's probe is on a separate track. He's secured five guilty pleas so far. Another 14 people have been charged. That includes 13 Russians. And Mueller's team has cooperating witnesses, and they're, you know, forging right ahead.

GREENE: All right, NPR's justice reporter Ryan Lucas. Ryan, thanks.

LUCAS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: OK. So today, there is a special election in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District. This is an area that's just a little south of Pittsburgh.

MARTIN: And the winner will serve in the House of Representatives for the rest of the year. And though the district went heavily for President Trump - Donald Trump - in 2016, this is a tight one. Democrat Conor Lamb is in a dead heat with the Republican, Rick Saccone. So what is at stake in this race?

GREENE: Well, let's bring in NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Hi, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi there, David.

GREENE: So what are the issues at the heart of this race in Pennsylvania?

LIASSON: Hmm, the issues.

GREENE: (Laughter).

LIASSON: Yes, there are some actual issues - labor unions, the tax law, health care, Social Security. Those are some issues. But this really is about whether Democrats can make this a referendum on the president and his party and turn out.

GREENE: Well, the president is saying he's not worried. I mean, he won this district by - what? - like, 20 points in 2016. I mean, should he be worried?

LIASSON: Yes, he should be worried. He did brag on Saturday that Republicans have won all five special elections for House seats this term. And that is true, except the Democrats have been overperforming everywhere. And he didn't mention that Doug Jones won the Senate race in Alabama. But if Democrats turn out in big numbers, this could be disappointing for the president, especially in a white, working-class, very Trumpy district like this. And you can tell how worried Republicans are because the chairman of the state Republican Party is already calling this district a Democratic district because it has a slight Democratic registration edge, even though a Republican has won the last eight elections in this district.

GREENE: So interesting. I mean, a Democratic edge that is slight - it's been so reliably Republican. So talk about why we think Conor Lamb, the Democrat, is competitive right now.

LIASSON: Conor Lamb is competitive because instead of going to the left, the Democrats nominated someone who fits the district, like Doug Jones in Alabama or Ralph Northam in Virginia. He's conservative on guns. He doesn't support Nancy Pelosi. He personally opposes abortion. So that's one of the reasons. Also, the president is unpopular, even in this kind of district, and that's never good for his party.

GREENE: So is that why both parties are pouring so much money - I mean, millions of dollars - into this one race - because there's a feeling that it could kind of set some broader narrative for this election year?

LIASSON: Well, that's true because it won't change the dynamics in the House. This is a district like Brigadoon, that fictional Scottish town that disappeared in the mist. Because of the gerrymandering decision by the courts in Pennsylvania...

GREENE: (Laughter) It's not going to physically disappear.

LIASSON: ...This district is not going to exist. No, but this district is not going to exist in November. It's going to - the districts will have whole - all new boundaries and voters. But this is the only thing going on right now, very important to both sides. The results will be interpreted as an indicator or not of a wave. And Republicans are worried if they lose, there'll be more retirements. It'll be a test of whether Donald Trump can help Republicans when he's not on the ballot. So this race is very symbolic, and it's very psychological.

MARTIN: Also, interesting just to note that Axios reported over the weekend that President Trump has been privately attacking Saccone, calling him a bad and weak candidate - so clearly trying to lower expectations here in case they don't win.

LIASSON: Absolutely.

GREENE: Expectations important in a race at this - that could have a narrative. NPR's Mara Liasson will be watching that race tonight. Mara, thanks.

LIASSON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: All right, so last night, President Trump used an executive order to block this massive corporate acquisition.

MARTIN: Yeah. He prevented a Singapore-based chipmaker called Broadcom from buying Qualcomm, which is the biggest mobile chipmaker in the U.S. The president said the acquisition might, quote, "impair the national security of the United States."

GREENE: I don't know about all of you, but I need some of the basics here about what these companies actually do and what this acquisition is all about. NPR's Alina Selyukh is here. She covers business.

Alina, help us out here. What is this about?

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: So this was called a hostile takeover. Broadcom was aggressively pursuing Qualcomm for $117 billion.

GREENE: Wow.

SELYUKH: So macro - this would've been the biggest-ever tech acquisition. And this will sound dramatic, but it also happens to be true. The deal was about the future of mobile connections. Qualcomm and Broadcom both make computer chips, and Qualcomm specifically makes chips for hand-held computers that we call smartphones.

GREENE: Which a few of us have.

SELYUKH: And right now, the whole world is in this race to the new generation of wireless. You've probably heard terms like 3G and 4G. Well, now are in the race to 5G, which is the superpowerful connection that will drive the age of Internet-connected everything - your smart speakers, coffee makers, smart cars.

GREENE: Internet connections will never go slow. I mean, 5G just will make everything perfect.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

SELYUKH: Sounds so impressive.

GREENE: Yeah. Well, does that - does this race to 5G, is that - does that tell us something about why this takeover is being seen potentially as a national security problem?

SELYUKH: This is exactly at the heart of the deal and why it fell apart. Qualcomm is a huge industry leader in wireless. They were actually pioneers in the previous generations of wireless technology. But these days, there's a lot of competition in the world. And some of the biggest rivals are Chinese companies. And we hear a lot from American intelligence officials warning about the intentions of these Chinese companies in the U.S., their potential threats to national security. So when a Singapore-based company like Broadcom comes in with a hostile takeover and says, we want to buy your American chipmaker whether they want it or not, a lot of red flags go off. And one of them is, what if the new foreign owners cut costs and investments at Qualcomm and don't keep advancing to 5G? So then at some point, the Chinese competitors might become the only available option.

MARTIN: Ah.

GREENE: Oh, it's so interesting. It's interesting because it's sort of a competition between what is national security and what is, you know, actually getting in the way of...

SELYUKH: The state of competition in wireless.

GREENE: The state of competition, yeah. So is this the end of the deal? Could - has President Trump basically ended it?

SELYUKH: Essentially, yes. Normally, foreign purchases of American companies get reviewed by this secretive group called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. And in this case, before Trump issued his executive order, this group had already stalled the deal. They were raising a number of national security concerns. And Broadcom tried to alleviate them by saying it was going to move its corporation back to the U.S., where it does have a headquarters. But at the end of the day, CFIUS was not happy about this deal. And ultimately, the president took their lead.

GREENE: All right, NPR's Alina Selyukh talking about the biggest tech deal in history basically being blocked by President Trump. Alina, thanks. We appreciate it.

SELYUKH: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOUR TET'S "MY ANGEL ROCKS BACK AND FORTH")

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