Politics In The News: Stormy Daniels, Trump Staff Changes
NOEL KING, HOST:
President Trump and the White House have not said much about one of the most talked about stories here in Washington. Now, that's claims by an adult film actress named Stormy Daniels that she had an affair with Trump in 2006. In the past, the president has, through spokespeople, denied that he had a relationship with Daniels. And then last night in an interview with Anderson Cooper on "60 Minutes," Daniels spoke publicly about the alleged relationship for the first time. In doing so, she broke a nondisclosure agreement.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "60 MINUTES")
ANDERSON COOPER: The president watches "60 Minutes." If he's watching tonight, what would you say to him?
STORMY DANIELS: He knows I'm telling the truth.
KING: The president, as we've said, has not yet responded to the claims made in that interview. It was also a busy weekend for the president. He shook up the legal team that's representing him in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. And there are signs that there may be more staffing changes in the White House in the week ahead. NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith is here to talk through all of this.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.
KING: All right, let's start with the big news. You did reach out to the White House last night. Did they tell you anything about this interview was Stormy Daniels?
KEITH: It was radio silence - no response from the White House about this Stormy Daniels interview, no tweets from the president yet. What we did get was a tweet from a spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump. And she simply asked that the media not use the name of their child, who would have been a baby at the time that this alleged affair occurred.
KING: Which is a fairly standard practice.
KEITH: That is. It is a relatively standard practice that the minor children of presidents are basically left alone and allowed to be children.
KING: This interview - these claims by Stormy Daniels are not the only ones out there. Late last week, a former Playboy Playmate, Karen McDougal, talked on television about what she called a long-running affair with Trump. Is this hurting Trump with his base? Are people appalled by this?
KEITH: You know, there is a very important part of the president's base - white evangelical Protestants. And according to polling that has been done recently from the Pew Research Center, March 7 through the 14th - so, you know, the Stormy Daniels story was definitely out there - his standing has actually improved in recent weeks among white evangelicals. 78 percent approve today. The reality is that President Trump was elected after the "Access Hollywood" tape, after various, you know - people knew. People knew that this is what they might be getting. And evangelical leaders have essentially said as much, that unless he does something new inside the White House, they see it as old news.
KING: I suppose it'll be interesting to see if anything changes after this interview last night. But let me switch gears a little and ask you about these rumors of more staffing changes at the White House. Chris Ruddy, who's the CEO of Newsmax and a friend of Donald Trump's, was on ABC's "This Week." What did he say there?
KEITH: Yeah. So Chris Ruddy - another important thing to know about him is that he is a member of Mar-a-Lago, which is the president's private club in Florida where President Trump spent the weekend. And Ruddy, on ABC, said that he's expecting more changes to come.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: He did say that he's expecting to make one or two major changes to his government very soon. And that's going to be it. Now, other White House sources, not the president, tell me the Veterans Affairs secretary, David Shulkin, is likely to depart the cabinet very soon.
KEITH: Now, interestingly, the White House did not rush out to deny this, or they did not respond to requests - for questions about whether the president still has confidence in Shulkin. And we should just say that in the last three weeks, there have been three major departures from the Trump administration - the national security adviser, the top economic adviser and also the secretary of state.
KING: And there were also this weekend reportedly some shake-ups to the president's legal team. Tell us about those.
KEITH: Yeah. So John Dowd, who was leading the president's legal team dealing with the Mueller probe, late last week resigned. And then there was a new lawyer who was supposed to come on, Joe diGenova and his wife Victoria Toensing. And now it has been announced that they are not coming on board after all because of conflicts of interest that came up because Toensing represents a couple of people who have been interviewed by Mueller's team.
KING: Last question in the couple seconds we have left - the big story this weekend - the other big story was these gun control marches across the country. You think they're likely to have any impact on potential legislation out of Washington?
KEITH: On potential legislation out of Washington - certainly what the president and the White House said is, hey, look, we just passed this big spending bill; it has a couple of gun-related things in it. Mission accomplished, more or less. So it's not clear that there's much of a political appetite on the right, and Republicans do currently control Congress.
KING: NPR's Tamara Keith. Thanks, Tam.
KEITH: You're welcome.
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