Weekly Roundup: Tuesday, July 3 : The NPR Politics Podcast President Trump announced that he has met with at least four candidates to fill Justice Kennedy's seat on the Supreme Court. Some liberals are embracing the rally slogan "Abolish ICE," but what does that actually mean? Plus, with many primaries completed, the team takes a look at what we've learned about both parties this year. This episode: Congressional correspondent Scott Detrow, political reporter Asma Khalid, White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe, 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.
NPR logo

Weekly Roundup: Tuesday, July 3

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/625807854/625809537" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Weekly Roundup: Tuesday, July 3

Weekly Roundup: Tuesday, July 3

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/625807854/625809537" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

TYLER: Hey, this is Tyler (ph). And I'm here with my mom...

GAIL: Gail (ph).

TYLER: ...Who's helping me move out to California.

GAIL: We're passing through Seward, Neb., also known as...

TYLER: Fourth of July City, USA.

GAIL: This podcast was recorded at...

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

That's a nice mom to help you move. It's 1:27 Eastern on Tuesday, July 3.

TYLER: Things may have changed by the time you hear this.

TYLER AND GAIL: All right, here's the show.

DETROW: Hey there. It's the NPR POLITICS Podcast here with a roundup of this week's stories. And yes, that's right, you're not wrong, it is Tuesday. But we're putting this out before the holiday so you can hear it on your road trips and your plane rides and, you know, maybe to pregame the fireworks. I'm Scott Detrow. I cover Congress.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: I'm Asma Khalid. I cover national politics.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: I'm Ayesha Rascoe. I cover the White House.

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

DETROW: A lot to talk about. And we're going to pick up where we left off, and that is this big swing vote opening on the Supreme Court. We're also going to get into why a lot of progressive Democrats are calling in louder and louder voices for the abolishment of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. And with so many of the midterm primaries in the rear view, we're going to take a few minutes and take stock of what we've learned about both the Democratic and Republican parties so far. You guys ready?

RASCOE: Yes.

KHALID: Ready.

DETROW: All right. So let's start. Ayesha, it hasn't even been a week since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. The White House is moving very fast to fill that seat. What's the latest?

RASCOE: Yes. So President Trump said yesterday that he met with four candidates to fill Kennedy's seat.

LIASSON: And we also learned that, yesterday, he spoke by phone with Mike Lee, the Republican senator from Utah. The conventional wisdom is the senator really is not a top candidate. He only got a phone call. But Trump did meet with four people in person.

RASCOE: So there are a lot of meetings. And they say they're looking for someone with the intellect and the temperament and qualifications who will uphold the law and the Constitution. Of course, the question is, what does that actually mean?

DETROW: Yeah. Who are these people? What do we know about them?

RASCOE: So one of the people is Brett Kavanaugh. He serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In a prior life, I actually sat in on some of his hearings on, like, environmental law. The thing about him is that he did help write the 1998 Starr report to Congress. If you don't remember that, that kind of helped lead to the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

DETROW: An independent counsel investigating a president, that would be an interesting choice.

RASCOE: Yeah. So he's kind of known for that partially.

LIASSON: One of the interesting things about Brett Kavanaugh is he came to the conclusion after his experience in the special counsel investigation of Bill Clinton that presidents should not be distracted by these kinds of investigations. So there's a thought that maybe he would vote - if it came before him - in favor of the president not being indicted or not being subpoenaed or basically to protect the office of the presidency. And that might be one of the reasons that some people feel that he shouldn't be nominated.

RASCOE: Another person that he met with was Amy Barrett. She was a Notre Dame professor. She now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. She was nominated by President Trump, so she just kind of got on the bench.

DETROW: It was a little bit of a controversial nomination process, right?

RASCOE: It was. She got questioned a bit about her Christian faith. Some people raised concerns about whether she could separate her Christian faith from her decisions on the court.

DETROW: Right.

RASCOE: And so that - and she also once clerked for Antonin Scalia.

DETROW: OK.

RASCOE: And she is actually a wife and mother of seven.

DETROW: Wow.

KHALID: That's pretty impressive.

RASCOE: Very impressive.

LIASSON: Another person that the president interviewed was Amul Thapar. He's an appeals court judge on the 6th Circuit, which covers Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. The most important state in that list is Kentucky because he's a favorite of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He is - the conventional wisdom is that that's why he's on the list. He's not necessarily a top pick. Somebody else that the president met with was Raymond Kethledge, also of the 6th Circuit. He's 51 years old, a young guy. And a lot of conservatives think that he would be an originalist in the tradition of Antonin Scalia.

And one of the things that all of these potential nominees have in common is that they satisfy conservatives' criteria for people that would probably vote to undermine or overturn Roe. And this was one of the president's clearest commitments in the campaign. He said if he gets elected, he'll probably have two or even more openings on the court to fill. Turns out, he's been correct. And he said that when that happens, Roe will be returned to the states.

DETROW: And, Asma, I want to ask you about that because that's obviously hanging over everything here because Anthony Kennedy, even though he was really conservative, was repeatedly a vote to keep Roe v. Wade on the books, to not undermine abortion rights. And obviously, this is a really emotional and personal topic for people on both sides, deeply-held views.

There's an annual march where thousands and thousands of people come to Washington, D.C., every year to urge the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. But a couple polls came out over the last week that really shed some light on what the breakdown is when it comes to how many people want to see it overturned verse upheld.

KHALID: Yeah. Scott, generally speaking, in the public, if we look at some polling done by the Kaiser Family Foundation - that was before Justice Kennedy's announcement - retirement announcement was made - and then also by Quinnipiac. And they polled after that announcement. We see polling of the public that looks pretty similar. You see about - by a 2 to 1 margin, most Americans say that they would support upholding Roe.

So, I mean, within that, you can parse out the numbers. And you'll see that there is far more agreement among Democrats. And at the bottom of the list, if you look at all the breakdown of demographics, Republicans are at the bottom, right? So, I mean, you look, and I think there's about 36 percent of Republicans who would support this and 84 percent of Democrats. So it's a huge partisan divide. But what I find interesting is, when you look at the overall public, this is something that is now generally accepted.

DETROW: Now, Mara...

LIASSON: Even though people are pretty split on abortion itself - you know, do you favor it or not? - they are really overwhelmingly supportive of this law that's been on the books since 1973.

DETROW: Is that one reason why, Mara, you mentioned President Trump campaigning for office saying it would be automatically overturned once he had a couple picks? But over the last week, the White House has said we're not really talking about that just yet. No, no, no. We're not doing a case-by-case litmus test with our nominees. They've really started to downplay that idea. Is that because, you know, they're looking at these same polls and they know that - how that would go over if that became what the story was about?

LIASSON: And these nominees are not going to answer questions about how they stand on Roe. That's a time-honored tradition from both nominees who were put up by Democrats or Republicans. They don't like to talk about how they would rule specifically. But Donald Trump was the most explicit on this of any presidential candidate that I can remember where he said flat out - because he had something to prove, he had to prove to the social issue right, evangelicals and conservatives that he was one of them and that he would enact their agenda. So he went pretty far out on a limb to say, you elect me, I will appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe and return these decisions about abortion to the states.

KHALID: Mara, can I ask? So how would that even be something that's determined? Because to your point, there isn't really this litmus test. And we saw when Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch, when he was appointed, you know, and this question was sort of brought up to him, didn't he say that he would have walked out of the door if Trump had asked him?

LIASSON: Yes, but he doesn't have to ask him because this list was created by The Federalist Society who knows deeply and intimately every single thing about these people's thinking and jurisprudence. Nobody would be on that list, vetted and approved by The Federalist Society, if they weren't considered to be a reliable vote against Roe. That doesn't mean that they'd overturn it in one fell swoop but that they'd start chipping away at it. The right has been burned before.

Republican presidents have put people on the court that did not turn out to be as conservative as their supporters hoped. They're not going to let that happen again. That's one of the reasons that The Federalist Society has been cultivating and promoting these law professors and judges for their entire careers. And so the point is the president doesn't have to ask someone point blank, would you vote against Roe?

DETROW: Ayesha, what's the timeline going forward? When do we get this pick, and what happens over the coming days?

RASCOE: So he is going to meet with some more people. And then on Monday, he is expected to make his announcement of who he has chosen. And the White House has said that they can move fast because, as Mara said, they've had this list for, you know, for - since the campaign, even though they've added some names to it.

KHALID: So, Scott, does any of the opposition, though, that we've been hearing from some members of Congress - right? - that they would not necessarily support a justice on this issue of Roe vs. Wade, is that just an entirely moot talking point then? Because to Mara's point, these judges have largely been already vetted on this issue.

DETROW: Yeah. I think a lot of the votes are already pretty predictable. Susan Davis, our colleague who covers Congress, had a good story this morning saying, in the end, you probably really need to focus on just five senators to get a sense of what's going to happen here. And that's two Republican women who support abortion rights - Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine. You may be thinking they sound familiar. Yes, these were the same key Republican swing votes when it came to whether or not Obamacare was going to be overturned. They ended up blocking that along with John McCain.

Three Democrats to pay attention to are the three Democrats who voted for Neil Gorsuch last year - Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana. All three happened to be up for re-election next year, so they're going to get a lot of pressure in their states. So those are the lawmakers to focus on.

LIASSON: Right. And also, what's interesting is most Democrats feel that the president won't lose any Republican votes. And when you hear Susan Collins' kind of tortured interviews on this where first she says, I won't vote for anyone who would overturn Roe vs. Wade, then later she said, I don't want to vote for someone who demonstrates hostility to Roe vs. Wade.

And so the big question I think is the three Democrats, how much pressure do they feel in their own states to vote with the president, thereby breaking with the Democratic base who does care about this nomination more than they've cared about any recent Supreme Court nomination? Or do they stick with their base and vote against the president, who's very popular in their state?

DETROW: All right. We're going to shift gears here and talk about that other big thing in the news over the last few weeks, and that is, of course, immigration. I want to talk for a few minutes about a slogan that's been popping up more and more recently. You may have seen it on protesters' signs or heard Senators like Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand talking about it. And that's the idea of abolishing ICE, abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. Quick recap. What exactly is ICE? What do they do? Because one of the pushbacks has been you're focusing on the wrong agency, guys.

LIASSON: Right. ICE does two things. It tries to go after drug runners, people who do human trafficking, money laundering, bad crime across the borders. But it also is charged with deporting undocumented immigrants. In other words, it does not police the border, and it doesn't separate families. Those are other agencies that do those things.

DETROW: Mostly the Border Patrol.

LIASSON: Border Patrol, HHS. Right.

KHALID: And this was created after 9/11, is that correct?

LIASSON: Correct.

KHALID: So it was largely an edifice that was created and, you know, the argument is much the same way the Patriot Act - these were sort of these vestiges - right? - after 9/11.

DETROW: I mentioned this popping up more and more recently from Democrats. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was campaigning on this idea a lot in New York. She actually went and campaigned along the border in the final days of the race, leaving the district to drive home the point of how important this was for her campaign. Seeing it other places, too. Ayesha, the White House seems to love this. They are very aggressively pointing it out and very aggressively trying to pin Democrats to this viewpoint, whether or not they actually take it.

RASCOE: Yes. This is in line with his idea that immigration is a good issue for Republicans. And so what he's trying to do is he's trying to say, oh, look. The Democrats are for abolish ICE. And then next, they're going to be for getting rid of police officers in general. So his interpretation is that old they're against law and order. But we Republicans - we like law and order. So he feels like this is a winning argument for him. And if he can pin that to Democrats, then that will weigh them down during the midterms.

DETROW: Asma, with all the voters you talk to, do you get a sense of - I mean, there's this divide that President Trump thinks this is the greatest thing Republicans can focus on. And a lot of these Republicans running in these suburban districts are saying, like, yeah, you know, let's talk about the economy. Do you have a sense of the pros and cons of making this the centerpiece?

KHALID: I mean, it certainly plays well in certain districts like the New York 14th, right? And these are largely Democratic districts. But no doubt, I recall going to some places where President Trump did really well in 2016. And I have heard from voters who felt particularly frustrated by the Democrats' focus on immigration. So I do think it's kind of a case-by-case situation. What I, though, have found fascinating, Scott, is the degree to which this idea that you could argue is sort of a fringe idea maybe even just three weeks ago has now become far more popular. And you're hearing other Democrats talk about this.

DETROW: And be pressured on it. Where do you stand?

KHALID: Yeah, exactly, because I don't recall Kirsten Gillibrand actually even being so left on immigration before. So it's actually just phenomenal to see this sort of pressure being exerted on Democrats to become, I would argue, more progressive on immigration.

DETROW: (Unintelligible), yeah.

LIASSON: What I think is interesting is watching the pressure be resisted. And there are a lot of Democrats who say, just when we had the Republicans on the run on immigration, just when we had the Republican Party split on the family separations policy, on the DREAMer policy, when we looked at polls and showed big majorities of people agreeing with us on immigration being a good thing in general - DREAMers should have a path to citizenship. Family separation policy is wrong and offensive.

Why should we get all tangled up with talking about abolishing a agency that doesn't even do the things that we don't - the things we don't like most. But ICE - abolishing ICE became a simple bumper sticker slogan, kind of like build the wall or abolish the IRS, that basically expressed Democrats' anger at Trump's immigration policies in general.

RASCOE: Well, and - but there are people who feel like Democrats need to go bigger, and they need to stop being cautious in their wording - and that you've seen with President Trump that he leaned into some ideas that seemed really out there. But that played well with his base - and so that maybe Democrats need to lean into some ideas that maybe don't fit the standard messaging but that can get their base really motivated to get out there.

DETROW: All this stuff applies to so many things beyond immigration. And, in fact, we're going to talk all about that, getting into the tension points in both parties and where the parties are now that most of the primaries are behind us. That's coming up next. First, we're going to take a quick break.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DETROW: And we are back. And some primaries still to come. But by and large, most of the primaries are now behind us. And it's going to be a little while before the next wave of races. So we all decided that it would be a good time to hit reset and analyze where the two parties are right now. Asma, you spent a lot of time looking at the Republicans.

KHALID: Yeah. And, Scott, you've spent a lot of time looking at Democrats - right? - looking both at elected officials and sort of where the pull of the party is. And why don't we start with you? Because I'm actually really curious to see if we actually are seeing a national pull to the left in the Democratic Party that some people are talking about after the New York 14th.

DETROW: Yeah, yeah. Kelsey Snell and I spent a couple months - just every time we were out reporting on one story, we would talk to people about this big picture story as well - and put that all together this week. It's interesting because it's a dual-track situation. Like, there's no question that, nationally, the Democratic Party is being pulled to the left.

KHALID: How do you know that, Scott? Like, how do you define that?

DETROW: Yeah, one thing that I keep pointing to because I think it says a lot is that when Bernie Sanders unveiled the latest version of his bills to introduce a Medicare for all, single-payer health care system last year, every single person who's probably going to run for president as a Democrat in 2020 in the Senate co-sponsored that bill - Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris. And, you know, that was such an outlier even just a few years ago when Bernie Sanders was running for the Democratic nomination. But this time around, Democrats can't see a path to the presidential nomination unless they're on board with this, you know, big-picture, single-payer government plan. So that's just one example.

KHALID: But, Scott, progressives really haven't been winning in a lot of Democratic primaries. They're sort of the exception to the rule when we do see them win.

DETROW: Yeah. I mean, there have been some big examples of that. But by and large, like you said, they are the exceptions. And that's where this dual track comes in - because especially, if you look at the key races that are going to decide whether Republicans or Democrats control the House or Senate next year, by and large, it's the moderates winning those races. It's the candidates running on platforms of governing and inclusivity and reaching out to independents - the exact stuff that that a lot of progressives dismiss as Republican-lite. That's the track record that's winning in these key suburban races they're trying to flip.

LIASSON: And it's - and look. This is all really, really good reporting. And the interesting thing is because the highest-profile progressive win in Democrat in District 14 in New York came recently, she was a giant killer because she knocked off a member of the leadership and because she's this very compelling, attractive, young Latina. And she kind of embodies all of the turmoil inside the Democratic Party - age, gender, ethnicity. And she got so much publicity and such a big platform after she won, it made you think, wow, progressives, democratic socialists are taking over the Democratic Party, when, in fact, when you look at all these races, that's just not true. The Democratic Party is still more diverse ideologically and racially, and it's still more united around big things, despite all this diversity, than the Republicans are. In other words, it's for some kind of universal health care, minimum wage. It's pro-immigrant. And that's what's so interesting about this. It seems like there's a lot of turmoil, and there is - huge generational fights. But it's a diverse party that's relatively unified ideologically.

DETROW: And, Asma, the one example that I think really jumped out to Kelsey and me the most as we've reported this - obviously most of the focus this year is on the House of Representatives, right? Because that's the one that could flip. But actually, if you look at the Senate Democratic primaries, that's what's interesting because you have this whole group of really conservative or moderate Democrats running in states where they have to play defense - states that Donald Trump won by large margins. None of them got a serious primary challenge. Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly and Heidi Heitkamp all vote for Neil Gorsuch. They don't get a primary challenge. Claire McCaskill regularly dismisses Medicare for all - no primary challenge. Bob Casey at times votes against abortion rights - no primary challenge. The party leaders said we need to be pragmatic about this. We need to go with the people who can win these states. And the progressive wing actually fell in line.

LIASSON: Yeah, that really belies this kind of myth or storyline that the Democratic Party, although the energy is on the left - and I think we're going to see much more of this in the 2020 fight for the nomination for president. But for the most part, Democrats have hewed to kind of the first commandment of politics, which is you've got to nominate someone who can win their district or state.

KHALID: But I do have a question about how you govern, Scott - right? - because you're talking about the idea that the energy is on the left, that we're hearing policy platforms that are calling for Medicare for all. And yet you're describing a situation in which, case after case Democrats are opting for these more pragmatic people. That doesn't seem to mesh with what you're describing the base wants. And then what does that mean for how you actually eventually govern?

LIASSON: They're trying to get in line to be an opposition party. Right now, they're nothing. They're going to be providing a check and balance to Donald Trump. We can have this discussion about governing when we get to 2020. But right now, they're just trying to be an effective opposition party, which means you try to win one house or both of Congress.

DETROW: And I think Nancy Pelosi would love to have that problem.

LIASSON: Yeah, yeah.

DETROW: Every time this comes up, her answer is just win, baby. We just need to win these races.

LIASSON: Right.

RASCOE: And President Trump - speaking of Nancy Pelosi - he - even though a lot of these candidates are actually moderates who, as you said, are winning, President Trump really wants to talk about Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters. He wants them to be the face of the Democratic Party. He wants to say that these people are very extreme and out there. And so that's why you shouldn't put Democrats back in charge.

DETROW: So, Asma, let's talk about your reporting now because a lot of the Democratic confidence is based on the premise that voters are getting tired of President Trump and that there is some weakness, especially in these suburban districts with high-income, high-education voters - may have voted Republican for decades. They feel like there's an opening there. Did you see any evidence of this this weakness among Republicans with the president?

KHALID: So if the question is - right? - about the weakness within the president's base, I'm not seeing that. I spent the past couple of months, like you, Scott, you know, going out around the country. Specifically, I would talk to voters that made up kind of key constituencies of the president's base. So we're talking about evangelicals, veterans, white, working-class men and your kind of traditional, establishment, country-club Republicans. Among all of those people - and I spoke to about 50, 60 Republicans - only one woman told me that she regretted voting for President Trump.

DETROW: One out of 50.

KHALID: Yeah. The rest of them told me that if they had been perhaps lukewarm on the president, they now support him even more. And, Scott, that's in sync with polling we've seen. We are seeing that the president has roughly a 90 percent approval rating among Republicans. And that's phenomenally strong.

DETROW: OK. So you said you talked to, like, more than 50 voters here. Were there any different groups you ended up sorting all these voters into?

KHALID: Yeah. Right. So we looked specifically - looking at veterans, white, working-class men, country-club Republicans and evangelicals. And what I found really interesting is that their interests may not always align, but most everyone spoke to me about a little treat that they feel the president had given them. And those were different, right? So when I was in, say, the 6th District in Georgia, which is a very highly educated area, I heard a lot about the tax cuts. When I was in Ohio, I heard a lot about tariffs.

When I was, you know, in other parts of the country, I would hear a lot, say, with veterans in West Virginia - I heard about just some of the prestige that they felt the president was giving to veterans in the form, say, of the Veterans Day parade. And that was a common theme, I will say. Even though not all of these planks, you could say, of his coalition have the same interests, there is a very common feeling they have of being a victim, of being marginalized.

And they all point similarly to the fact that the media does not give him any due credit. They feel that the president has done good things. They point to the tax cuts. They point to the relationship or the negotiations with North Korea. And they say that, look, if this was a Democrat, the media would be treating this entire situation differently. And, Scott, that's what I found remarkable is that that's not a sentiment I hear from, you know, just as diehard supporters. That's something I heard from even some folks who would have said that they were lukewarm supporters of the president.

RASCOE: Asma, so his base does definitely seem to be, I guess, among Republicans growing and kind of solidifying. But does that - how does that translate in midterms? Because isn't there a question of whether they will actually get out and vote because Trump is not on the ticket? So is he going to be like - are they enthusiastic enough that they feel like they need to go out and vote for these Republicans who are not Donald Trump?

KHALID: That is an excellent question. I don't know. I mean, there were some people who told me they were not sure if they were going to vote. But I can't tell you the amount of times that they would tell me they were so enthusiastic about voting for another term for President Trump. So that is a question I just don't know the answer to.

DETROW: Mara, does any of this surprise you?

LIASSON: No, actually. We live in such a tribal moment. And the media is so divided. And most people who consume conservative media are told over and over how elites look down on them and they're disrespected. And Donald Trump has this whole kind of grievance - the ideology of grievance. So it doesn't really surprise me.

The one thing that I would watch for and I'm really curious about is when Donald Trump said, I can stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn't lose any voters. What I want to know is, could he stand in a soybean field and undermine a farmer's livelihood and still not lose that guy's support? I really think we have to translate that metaphor to the farm belt, which is total Trump country.

DETROW: I'm just picturing him wearing waders.

LIASSON: Will they forgive him? Because what we've heard is that these farmers are losing like 10, 12, 15 percent of their livelihood because of the tariffs. Will they say, look, he's just trying, his heart is in the right place, I'll take the hit for Donald Trump? Or will it depress their enthusiasm for coming out and voting for a Republican in the fall?

DETROW: Well, we saw a sneak preview of that with Harley-Davidson, huge company in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, two important states for Trump. He went around and just blamed Harley. He said, you're looking for an excuse. This is your fault, not my policies. This is Harley-Davidsons' fault. But I guess if there's not an obvious villain like Harley Davidson when you're talking about broader agricultural markets, that might be harder.

LIASSON: It might be harder. And also, we don't know what those attacks on Harley-Davidson have gotten him. In other words, it certainly hasn't changed Harley-Davidsons' behavior. They already made motorcycles in different parts of the world before Donald Trump was elected.

KHALID: And to Mara's point, the big question is the folks who work in factories that manufacture Harley-Davidson motorcycles, you know, whose side will they take, the president's or their company's?

DETROW: All right. Well, we've been talking about big-picture looks at the Republican Party that Asma wrote and a big-picture look at the Democratic Party that Kelsey Snell and I wrote. Both those stories will be online soon at nprpolitics.org. We're going to take one more quick break and come back with the one thing we just can't let go this week, politics or nonpolitics.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DETROW: And we are back. And we're going to end the show like we do every week with the one thing we can't let go, politics or otherwise. Ayesha, you are up first.

RASCOE: This week, something happened that I just found so fascinating. In France, there's this guy - this gangster - Redoine Faid, I believe. And he was in - he was in jail, supposed to be in prison for 25 years. But he escaped. And it was like a helicopter escape.

DETROW: In real life.

RASCOE: In real life. So I thought it was fake, but then I looked it up. And this really happened. So apparently, it was this elaborate scheme where these gangsters working with to break out Faid - that they hijacked a helicopter from a training school. They flew it in on the one part of the prison that didn't have the anti-aircraft netting.

They used smoke bombs and then these like cutter things to cut through where Faid just happened to be visiting with his brother in the visitors' section. And they had like guns, but they didn't shoot anybody. And the prisoners were like clapping as Faid went away and got on the helicopter and flew off. And he's like - there's a massive manhunt for him now.

DETROW: I don't know what he did, but you can't not root for him once this starts.

RASCOE: Well, so he's accused - so apparently, he's been in the game for a very long time. He's like done bank heists and all this stuff. So he was in prison for something serious.

DETROW: So I probably shouldn't root for him, but still.

RASCOE: Yes.

LIASSON: I think he's escaped before. I think this is not his first escape.

RASCOE: Yes. This is not his first escape. The other escape, he likes snuck in explosives or something. But he did say - so he says that he was inspired by Hollywood, like, heist movies and like Michael Mann and "Heat"...

DETROW: Yeah.

RASCOE: ...And that he is also inspired by "Scarface."

DETROW: OK.

KHALID: He's been going back a while like John Dillinger.

DETROW: There's a little bit of "The Rock" and there's a little bit of the beginning of "Air Force One" in this escape.

RASCOE: I mean, it's just insane. So I have theories on this that I won't get into for legal reasons, but I think it's crazy that this man was able to like get in a helicopter and fly away. And he's still on the run.

DETROW: And nobody tracked the helicopter?

RASCOE: Well, he - they landed the helicopter, burned it - like burned all the insides. Then they like hijacked or like stole two cars. They've abandoned those. And now he's on the run. He did break out before, like years ago. And he was on the run for maybe like six weeks before he got caught again. So we'll see what happens. But it's pretty crazy.

DETROW: And this is why I'm not a police commissioner because I would say like, you know what? You put in the effort. Good for you.

KHALID: Just let him go.

RASCOE: I mean, if you can pull that off, you know, it's pretty impressive.

DETROW: Mara? (Laughter)

LIASSON: My Can't Let It Go this week is about Amy Barrett, who we talked about earlier in the show. She's one of the people that Trump is considering for a Supreme Court seat. And what I can't let go is that she and her husband were the members of a group called People of Praise - mostly Catholics. And as part of this group - it's a devotional group - people swear a lifelong oath of loyalty called a covenant to one another. But what I can't let go is that they are assigned a personal adviser. And those advisers, if they're men, are called heads. But the female advisers are called handmaids. So what I'm imagining and the image I can't get out of my head is that if she is nominated and there are hearings, you're going to see a lot of protesters in red capes and white bonnets milling around in the back of the hearing room.

RASCOE: Because of "The Handmaid's Tale."

LIASSON: Because of "The Handmaid's Tale." I think that this is just a piece of trivia about a potential nominee that's made for this moment.

DETROW: So I'm going to go next. It's a holiday coming up. The holidays are about traditions. And sometimes you have organic traditions that have been going on for a long time. And sometimes you have to force that tradition and kind of make it a thing, and that's what I'm doing right here. Morning Edition has a wonderful annual tradition of the reading of the Declaration of Independence. And a couple years ago, I thought we should have our own tradition here on the podcast of a reading of an equally important Independence Day document.

And that document, I don't think any of you have been around for this in the previous years where I have forced this on everybody, but that document is the climactic speech from the 1996 hit film "Independence Day" in which President Thomas Whitmore at Area 51 gets up on the back of a truck and gives an inspiring speech through a megaphone. And I think we should all do it, guys. I have parts for everybody.

LIASSON: Here. Hand it out. Let's go.

DETROW: Ayesha, here's your part.

LIASSON: I'm looking forward to this.

DETROW: Mara, here's your part.

KHALID: I got my part.

DETROW: Asma, you've got your part. And, Asma, I know we've talked about the millennial generation, so of course you support this because - big breakout hit.

KHALID: Of course I do.

RASCOE: Who's doing the last part? Because that's the best. Are you doing the last part?

DETROW: I gave it to myself, sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

RASCOE: Of course.

DETROW: Now I'm embarrassed I gave myself the last line.

KHALID: No. It's OK.

DETROW: All right. Because I start it out, too. All right. Everybody ready?

KHALID: We're ready.

RASCOE: Ready.

DETROW: All right. Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world, and you will be launching the largest aerial battle in this history of mankind. Mankind, that word should have new meaning for all of us today.

KHALID: We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it's fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom - not from tyranny, oppression or persecution, but from annihilation.

RASCOE: We're fighting for our right to live, to exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday but as the day when the world declared in one voice...

LIASSON: We will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight. We're going to live on. We're going to survive.

DETROW: We can all do the end.

ALL: Today, we celebrate our Independence Day.

LIASSON: I wanted to say, Sam I am. I do not like green eggs and ham.

DETROW: The third annual reading of Thomas Whitmore's speech. And, Asma, if you can - if you can top that, go ahead. But you are next. What can you let go or not let go?

KHALID: So what I can not let go is legit the Fourth of July, the Declaration of Independence. But it's a little bit more solemn and a real rah-rah patriotic moment for me. Not nearly as funny as yours, Scott.

DETROW: You're shaming me for making fun of it. She's like, I'm going to talk about the actual cause for the season.

KHALID: No. So what I will say is, you know, on July 4, 1776, you had the second Continental Congress who voted to approve the Declaration of Independence. And now, all these years later, I just think it's something that we all take for granted. My family is from South Asia, and India and Pakistan were not free. They did not declare themselves free from the British Empire until 1947. So my grandparents were born subjects of the British Empire.

And to me, every Fourth of July, it is actually my absolute favorite holiday. I'm just sort of blown away by the idea that this simple document, in essence, kind of just untethered us to the British Empire. So there you go. And every year, there's a whole bunch of places. I know that in Boston, actually, the old statehouse balcony - they read the Independence outloud. They've been doing this since 1776. I have never gone before, but you will catch me there tomorrow. I intend to go and check it out in real life.

DETROW: That'll be fun. You should send pictures.

KHALID: I will.

DETROW: All right. And on that inspiring note from Asma, that is a wrap for today. We will be back the next time there is a headline. A quick note - I will actually not be back for a while. I'm going to take some time off to hang out with my baby. So I look forward to listening to everybody on the podcast. And I'll talk to you again at the end of August. I'm Scott Detrow. I cover Congress.

KHALID: I'm Asma Khalid, political reporter.

RASCOE: I'm Ayesha Rascoe. I cover the White House.

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

DETROW: Thank you for listening to the NPR POLITICS Podcast.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.