In an interview airing on Thursday evening's All Things Considered, NPR congressional correspondents Susan Davis and Kelsey Snell spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after the classified briefing congressional leaders received today from law enforcement and intelligence officials.
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Excerpts of the interview are available below and can be cited with attribution. A full transcript will be made available after the interview has aired. Audio clips are available upon request, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When asked about his confidence in the investigations:
"There are two investigations going on that I think will give us the answers to the questions that youraise: the IG investigation in the Justice Department and the Mueller investigation. I support both of them and I don't really have anything to add to this subject based upon the gang of eight briefing that we had today, which was classified."
On how Trump could help in the midterms: While talking about getting judges on the bench and other conservative accomplishments, McConnell said he wished that the president be more on message:
"Well, obviously we'd like to see him talking about what we're sitting here talking about more of the time. And I think many of us have urged him to do that and we hope he will."
About Supreme Court vacancies and how soon they would be filled:
Davis: "If there were to be a vacancy on the court this summer, is that a vacancy that you would seek to fill before the election?"
McConnell: "Well, it would be a top priority and this Congress runs until the end of the year. And it would be a top priority and we would certainly move to confirm, if a vacancy occurred."
Davis: "Why doesn't the Merrick Garland standard apply there?"
McConnell: "There isn't a presidential election this year. There's a congressional election."
Davis: "But you can make the same argument that voters should have a say in who controls the Senate before that decision is made?"
McConnell: "You could. It would be a very foolish argument. The presidential campaign was raging when the nomination occurred."
"If the House passes a bill that the president indicates he would sign, then I'd be willing to consider it again, even though I gave the Senate every opportunity without any restrictions, wide open for amendment and we couldn't pass anything. So, I'm not going to do that again, I can tell you that."
About North Korea:
"I don't see any whiplash here. I think the president did exactly the right thing because they were playing with us. And there's been a pattern of that going back a couple of generations. So the president did exactly the right thing in canceling the meeting."
His outlook on the midterms:
"The record of presidential parties two years into a new administration is not pretty. You had the Clinton example, where they lost the house - he lost the House and Senate two years in. TheObama example, they lost the house, almost lost the Senate two years in.
And if you look statistically back through the history of the country, most off-year elections and particularly off-year elections two years into the administration have not been pretty. So I think it's best not to deny the obvious.
We do have a good map but of course the Democrats had a terrific map in 2016. There were 24 of us up and only 10 of them. It was widely predicted they were going to take the Senate. They didn't.
So I wouldn't rely on the map exclusively but it is a good map."
On this administration's accomplishments:
"You know, I would remind those in America who are right of center that this has been a fabulous year and a half.
"I've now been in the Senate three decades. This is the best year and a half for right of center policies since I've been here. Everything from tax relief to repealing the individual mandate to the 15 uses of the Congressional Review Act, we mentioned the courts, comprehensive tax reform. If you are a right of center person, there hasn't been a better period than this."