Week In Politics: Trump At The Border, Mueller Report, Jobs Numbers
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
President Trump says the country is full. It was during his visit Friday to the U.S.-Mexico border where he again called the influx of migrants there an emergency. Trip came just day after President Trump backed away from his earlier threat to close down the southern border. This week, the country saw the unusual sight of the president in retreat. NPR's Ron Elving, senior editor and correspondent of the Washington Desk, joins us now. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: Last week, the president said he'd close the border if Mexico didn't stop all illegal immigration. This week, it became a one-year warning. Possibility of car tariffs was raised. What happened?
ELVING: The president got an earful from just about everybody about the consequences of closing the busiest international border in the world. That's $1.7 billion every day in trade, something like a million people crossing the border north and south on a daily basis. Closing it is not a realistic tactic nor a credible threat. And Scott, this new ultimatum sounds much the same. When you said a one-week deadline and then change it to 52 weeks, it sends a message that you're not serious.
SIMON: Course, it wasn't the only major issue in which the president was in retreat this week. He backed off plans to vote on a Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act - now says that that can wait until after 2020's elections.
ELVING: As we said last week, there wasn't a replacement plan to vote on, nor even one in development. So this week we hear that we might see such a plan in the next year or two, but it wouldn't be voted on, as you say, until 2021. Again, this looks less like a serious negotiation on an important issue and more like a pivot to a more defensible political posture on the issue.
SIMON: We do not have the Mueller report yet. Until then, we do have the Barr letter - good reading to tide us over or not. The New York Times and The Washington Post had stories this week that say some members of the Mueller team have been frustrated by the attorney general's summary of the special counsel's report, and the Justice Department subsequently defended the Barr letter. How do you read all this back and forth?
ELVING: It's about controlling the information in the report and limiting access to that information. We know some redactions are going to happen. They're going to be related to protections for grand jury testimony and concerns about revealing national security information. But how much is really necessary, and who is to decide? The most disturbing thing we heard this week was that some of Mueller's own investigators provided summaries of their own - summaries that could be released, but which had been withheld along with the rest of the report.
And another big development this week that didn't get enough attention - Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican in the Senate, coming out to say the Mueller report should be released. Grassley is usually a backer of the president and his prerogative, so this was a pretty big deal.
SIMON: Want to ask you about the jobs report yesterday - 196,000 jobs added in March, better than the very bad numbers in February. A good economy supports the Trump agenda, doesn't it?
ELVING: It certainly does. It's the lifeblood of his presidency. So the president wants to keep pumping up that economy. He wants to lower interest rates, make other policy changes at the Federal Reserve. And to do that, he's appointed two men - Stephen Moore and Herman Cain - whose standing with the president is far higher than it is among economists. They are not like past board nominees from presidents of both parties, and both will face a fight for confirmation in the Senate.
SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thank you so much for being with us.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott.
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