DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Even going by the standards of this crazy news environment we are in, this has been quite an eventful week for President Trump.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Right. He shook up his legal team.
GREENE: Yeah. He admitted to reimbursing his lawyer Michael Cohen for $130,000 in hush money that was paid to an adult film star.
MARTIN: And today the president addresses the National Rifle Association.
GREENE: That conference is going on in Dallas, Texas. And there are 20 acres of displays of firearms and hunting accessories awaiting the president when he arrives to speak at lunchtime. Let's bring in NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe, who is covering this.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hi.
GREENE: So this is not a new thing. President Trump was at the NRA last year. But do we expect in this current environment and what we've seen with the anger, the activism after the shooting in Parkland, Fla., is his message going to be different somehow?
RASCOE: I'm not sure that his message will fundamentally be different. He may make some reference to the Parkland shooting and to the idea that we need to make sure maybe that guns do not get into the wrong hands. But ultimately, the NRA was an early backer of President Trump, and that's really stuck with him. And the White House has said that he's going to talk about support for the Second Amendment and for gun rights.
GREENE: Although at one point - I mean, his agenda has stuck close to the NRA. But there was a point when President Trump was calling out lawmakers for being afraid of the National Rifle Association, saying, quote, "they hold less power over me." So it's sort of hard to figure out exactly what his message is with this organization.
RASCOE: Well, after Parkland, he did seem like he wanted to do something big and felt like maybe he needed to shake up what had been going on to stop these mass shootings. And so he did come out and say that he supported age limits for buying long guns and - or raising age limits and also even flirted with universal background checks. But ultimately, the rhetoric was not matched up with policy. And so when they made their proposals, they were pretty much in line with what the NRA wanted.
GREENE: So one thing we're following today, there are going to be protesters outside this convention. And they seem to want to call attention to the NRA and its ties to Russia. Can you remind us about that?
RASCOE: Well, so the NRA has acknowledged that it accepts foreign donations. But it says it does not use them for election work. There have been some reports that the FBI is investigating whether a Russian banker with Kremlin ties illegally funneled money to the NRA to aid Donald Trump's campaign.
GREENE: Let me just ask you about some other White House news before I let you go. Stormy Daniels and the president's personal attorney Michael Cohen - there was that $130,000 hush payment in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair. The president's new lawyer - he goes on TV on Fox, Rudy Giuliani, says that Trump repaid Cohen, which seemed to throw the White House staff for a loop, it sounds like. So what exactly - where's the president on this right now?
RASCOE: Well - so the president followed up on Rudy Giuliani's kind of announcement or reveal by tweeting yesterday that, yes, he had reimbursed his attorney Michael Cohen. He had done it through these monthly retainer fees. He said that this arrangement or signing these nondisclosure agreements and making these payments are not unusual for rich and famous people. But it did catch the White House staff off guard. The White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says she didn't learn that President Trump had reimbursed Michael Cohen for that payment until the Giuliani interview.
GREENE: Oh, she found out about it watching television (laughter)?
RASCOE: Yes (laughter).
GREENE: So it sounds like the big central question now is whether that payment violated campaign finance law in some ways. Is that right?
RASCOE: Yes. So that's the big question. And the question is, did they do this to influence the election? And if they did, then that can open up the idea that this was an illegal campaign contribution and also that maybe it wasn't properly reported.
GREENE: OK. White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe on a very busy day for us. We appreciate it. Thanks a lot.
RASCOE: Thank you.
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