Trump Calls Rep. Schiff 'Treasonous;' Bernie Sanders Undergoes Heart Procedure President Trump is ramping up his rhetoric as he attacks Democratic Representative Adam Schiff who is helping lead the impeachment inquiry. Plus, Senator Bernie Sanders undergoes a heart procedure and cancels all of his campaign events indefinitely. This episode: White House correspondent Tamara Keith, political correspondent Asma Khalid, election security editor Phil Ewing, and national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Email the show at nprpolitics@npr.org. Find and support your local public radio station at npr.org/stations.
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Trump Calls Rep. Schiff 'Treasonous;' Bernie Sanders Undergoes Heart Procedure

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Trump Calls Rep. Schiff 'Treasonous;' Bernie Sanders Undergoes Heart Procedure

Trump Calls Rep. Schiff 'Treasonous;' Bernie Sanders Undergoes Heart Procedure

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/766455736/766577244" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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ANNA TELATRO: Hey, there. This is Anna Telatro (ph) from Karlsruhe, Germany. Guten tag. You asked for timestamps with very mundane things on them for your now daily podcast. Congratulations to that. So here it comes. I am doing my laundry. I am cleaning up the apartment. And most importantly, I am searching for socks (speaking German). This podcast was recorded at...

TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

3:22 pm on Wednesday, October 2.

TELATRO: Things may have changed by the time you hear this. And here is the show. But where are my socken?

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PHIL EWING, BYLINE: May I say (speaking German) for that timestamp?

KEITH: You may say (speaking German) for that timestamp.

EWING: (Speaking German).

KEITH: (Laughter) Hey, there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.

EWING: I'm Phil Ewing, national security editor.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: And I'm Mara Liasson, national political correspondent.

KEITH: And today, President Trump reacted. He reacted to being under investigation. He reacted to there being an impeachment inquiry. He has given a lot of reactions to the Democratic investigations. In particular, he has keyed in on a House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff and is using amped-up rhetoric to talk about him.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He should resign from office in disgrace. And frankly, they should look at him for treason because he is making up the words of the president of the United States - not only words, but the meaning. And it's a disgrace. It should not be allowed to happen.

KEITH: Yeah, so treasonous, he is talking about a coup. The president of the United States is turning it up to 11 in terms of the way he is dealing with talking about being the lead messenger for his response to this impeachment inquiry.

LIASSON: Right. He's pinging in the red, as we say in radio land. He's even tweet-quoted someone talking about that there will be a civil war in this country over this.

KEITH: Can we go back, Phil, to something that President Trump said about Adam Schiff, the intel chairman? He said this thing about he made up words. He lied about me in Congress. And let's just say that the president isn't the only one saying this. A lot of Republicans on the Hill are now keying in on that as sort of, like, a key talking point to defend President Trump. And it's huge in conservative media. What is he talking about?

EWING: That's right. There's a long track record of enmity here between Schiff, who's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, previously the ranking member under the old Congress, and Trump and the Trump administration. Schiff was out there for months talking about what he thought might be revealed by the Russia investigation. And in some cases, that did not prove to be correct. And so for the Trump family, not just the president, he's kind of become public enemy No. 1. You can buy a T-shirt on the Trump campaign website that depicts Adam Schiff as a clown.

More recently, the president is upset by the opening statement that Schiff gave at a hearing, in which he characterized the phone call that Trump had with the Ukrainian president, which Mara just talked about, in his own words. And he described what he said the president was saying without actually reading verbatim from the White House account of that call. For Trump, what Schiff was doing was not just representing his comments, he was falsifying a White House document or misleading people about what Trump actually said to make it worse. And that's what has made him so outraged most recently.

LIASSON: But at the heart of his frustration is that he believed that if they - the White House released the transcript - and there was a big debate about this inside the White House - for a while, all we had was the reports about the whistleblower complaint. We didn't have the transcript of the call. The president felt the call would be exculpatory. He released the call in the hopes that this would put an end to this. And it didn't. The call is short, easy to read. People have read it and said whoa, the president's asking the president of Ukraine to do him a favor, investigate Joe Biden. And today, again, in these press conferences, he said when he looked - this is totally unsubstantiated. He said this about Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff. He said when he looked at the transcript, he said, wow, he didn't do anything wrong. Of course, that's not true at all. And then he...

KEITH: Including many Republicans...

LIASSON: Right.

KEITH: ...Who have looked at the transcript.

LIASSON: Right. And then he went up to the microphone and gave this presentation. But the point is the president really believed that the transcript would help him. The transcript has not helped him. But he keeps on talking about how the call was perfect. He can never back down.

KEITH: And just a reminder that when we say the word transcript, it is not...

LIASSON: It's not a verbatim transcript.

KEITH: ...A - even if the president says it's a verbatim transcript, it is not, you know, taken from a recording and they wrote down every single word. It was people listening to the call and typing...

LIASSON: In real time.

KEITH: ...Up notes in real time.

EWING: That's right. And this kerfuffle with the president and Schiff about Schiff's comments in the hearing is a tactical skirmish between these two. This is Trump trying to fight a rearguard action against the Democrats for a couple of news cycles. But the big-picture situation here has not changed. We heard from Schiff and the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, earlier on Wednesday in a press conference. And they said they're moving ahead toward impeachment. They're going to continue to ask for documents and testimony in their investigations. They may give a subpoena to the White House. And part of Trump's reaction on Wednesday was two Democrats saying this is real. As Schiff said, we're not fooling around here.

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ADAM SCHIFF: To say that we are concerned that the White House will attempt to stonewall our investigation, much as they have stonewalled other committees in the past, it's why I say the White House needs to understand that any action like that, that forces us to litigate or have to consider litigation, will be considered further evidence of obstruction of justice.

KEITH: That's actually a big line there.

LIASSON: Right. But what he's talking about is the separation of powers battle, the White House not wanting to turn things over or to make people available to go up and talk to the committee, and the Congress, which wants to get this information today. The president was asked is he going to cooperate because, of course, Schiff just said, as you heard, that they will consider non-cooperation to be obstruction. He said, I always cooperate.

KEITH: Well, that...

LIASSON: Now that isn't true. As a matter of fact, he's most always stonewalled, except in this case. They did a 180-degree reversal of their usual posture towards Congress, and they released the transcript. Many people inside the White House thought that was a terrible precedent because conversations between the president and a foreign leader should be kept confidential. But they felt, you know, the president thought it was exculpatory. They released the transcript. That's going to make it harder for them to argue against releasing other things down the line.

EWING: The farther we travel down this road in which Democrats are asking for things from the White House, the more likely it becomes that we may see that or something like that because we're approaching a big standoff between Congress and the executive branch about withholding that type of material.

LIASSON: And that kind of standoff, which has happened before in congressional investigations, has never been resolved by the courts because the courts feel, hey, this is a battle between two coequal branches of government.

KEITH: We are going to get some more information, some more data points, on whether cooperation is actually happening or not in the next 24 hours or so, right, Phil?

EWING: That's right. The State Department's inspector general is visiting Congress on Wednesday to talk behind closed doors with members of Congress and staff. On Thursday, House Democrats are going to begin what they've called the next phase of their impeachment inquiry. The former U.S. envoy to Ukraine for its peace negotiations, a guy named Kurt Volker, is going to come in and talk also behind closed doors with lawmakers and staff about the role that he played in the conversations between Americans and Ukrainians before that July 25 phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president. He's the first in a series of other officials - the one from the intelligence community, others from the State Department - who are also supposed to come in.

The backdrop for all this is what took place between Trump's camp and the Ukrainian president before the July 25 phone call. Did someone say to the Ukrainians, wouldn't it be nice if you were to play ball with Trump if he asked you for a favor because that would guarantee that you could continue to get the military assistance that you're expecting from the United States?

KEITH: All right, Phil, we are going to let you go. There are so many fast-moving changes in this story. I know that we will be back, and you will be back to talk about it. But right now, we are going to take a quick break. And when we come back, Bernie Sanders campaign announces they're canceling campaign events indefinitely.

And we're back. And Asma Khalid is here in the studio now. Hello, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hey, Tam.

KEITH: So we got some news from the presidential campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders this morning. What do we need to know?

KHALID: That's right. His campaign sent out an email that outlined that yesterday evening, Senator Sanders experienced, quote, "chest discomfort." He went in for a medical evaluation and some testing. And it was found that he had a blockage in one artery. And two stents were inserted into his heart. As of now, the campaign says he's conversing. He seems to be in good spirits. He's just going to be resting up over the next few days. But, Tam, I will say one thing that I found really interesting and a little unclear about sort of the status of his campaign is that they also said we are canceling his events and appearances until further notice.

KEITH: And it's not clear how long it's going to take him to recover from this, like, to be able to do the very grueling thing that is being a presidential candidate.

KHALID: And he's 78 years old. He's older than any of the candidates running for president. And look; age is a part of this.

LIASSON: This is a big deal. You know, it's very funny because age, up until now, has not been an issue or a major issue for Bernie Sanders. It just hasn't. It has been for Biden because it's been connected to his performance issues on the stump. But for Bernie, he seemed vigorous. He's been making the same speech since 1971.

KEITH: To be clear, he is not dropping out. And there are a lot of things from this statement that we just don't know. We don't know what the recovery process could be like, how long he needs to be in cardiac therapy after this is over. We don't know how long Bernie Sanders is going to be gone. What happens to a campaign when the candidate is out of pocket?

KHALID: I mean, that's a good question. We know that the campaign announced a pretty splashy ad buy yesterday - I believe it was for over a million dollars in Iowa - a TV ad buy. And as of now, they say that they are postponing that ad buy. I don't exactly know how you postpone an ad buy.

LIASSON: You can postpone an ad buy. But why would you postpone an ad buy regardless of what his health condition is? It kind of makes no sense, especially if they don't know how long he'll be off the trail. So that's a big mystery. Why would you pull an ad buy? Of course, one theory is that they didn't like the ads. They don't want to air them. But...

KEITH: I've heard that theory.

LIASSON: Yeah. But other than that - that's mystifying to me.

KEITH: And let's just give a sense of the calendar right now, Asma, because there's a debate coming up very soon.

KHALID: Yeah, we've got a debate that's coming up in less than two weeks.

LIASSON: Now Bernie Sanders is not the frontrunner. He's been overtaken in most polls by Elizabeth Warren. He's pretty much the No. 3. His support has stayed remarkably steady - not going up, not dropping too much. But I have to assume that if a candidate has a heart issue - we don't know exactly what it is - and is off the trail for some period of time, possibly including the next debate, Sanders supporters are going to start thinking who else they might want instead of him.

KHALID: But when we talk about age, Mara, what's remarkable is that Bernie Sanders is 78. But then you've got Joe Biden at 76. You've got Elizabeth Warren, who herself is 70 years old. I remember looking at these Pew surveys recently, where they asked voters what the kind of ideal age for a candidate would be. And I believe it was 3% of Democratic voters thought being in your 70s was the appropriate age.

KEITH: Well, and President Trump, we should note, is also in his 70s. He is 73.

LIASSON: Historically, Democrats have liked to choose new generation candidates. Historically, they've won with younger generation candidates - Kennedy, Obama, even Jimmy Carter wasn't that old...

KHALID: Clinton.

LIASSON: ...Clinton.

KEITH: He is now. He's 95. He's the oldest living...

LIASSON: Well, now he's the oldest ex-president. But I think that the Democratic electorate has decided this year that unless you show me you're not physically capable, I am not going to let your age affect my choice. And who would have thunk it that it was going to be Sanders, not Joe Biden, who has a history of all sorts of health issues, would be the first one to have a health incident on the campaign trail?

KHALID: And we should point out in 2016, Bernie Sanders did release a letter...

KEITH: Like, a health letter.

KHALID: Exactly. And in it, I believe it was his longtime doctor he's seen for over 20 years, there was no evidence of any heart condition...

LIASSON: But he did not release his health records. And he has not released them this time, although he has promised to do so.

KEITH: And, Mara, you nodded to this before, but there are candidates in this race - Pete Buttigieg for one, Eric Swalwell, no longer in the race - but who have tried to make age an issue, have tried to make this generational argument, the pass the torch argument. And thus far, they haven't really stuck.

LIASSON: The generational attack just has not worked.

KEITH: All right, well, we will continue watching this. But that is a wrap for today. We will be back tomorrow. Until then, keep up with all the latest updates by heading to npr.org, listening to your local public radio station or on the NPR One app. I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.

KHALID: I'm Asma Khalid. I cover the 2020 campaign.

LIASSON: And I'm Mara Liasson, national political correspondent.

KEITH: And thank you for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.

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