From Iran to immigration, NPR’s Scott Simon speaks with Anita Kumar, who is a White House correspondent for Politico, about the week in politics.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Trade wars, saber-rattling, a new immigration plan going nowhere soon and multiplying requests in subpoenas from House Democrats. A lot to sort through in politics today. We have Politico’s White House correspondent Anita Kumar in our studio. Anita, thanks so much for being with us.
ANITA KUMAR: Sure, thanks for having me.
SIMON: So Attorney General Barr asked House Speaker Pelosi if she brought her handcuffs with her. It wasn’t just being cheeky. Speaker Pelosi said nothing is off the table when it comes to Democrats trying to get the White House to comply with subpoenas. Realistically, what can the Democrats do they haven’t done short of the handcuffs?
KUMAR: Well, they have all sorts of things they can do, but the thing is they haven’t really decided what they want to do. So they can fine. They can hold someone in contempt, which just basically means that the case goes to court. But, ultimately, I think everybody thinks that this is going to get to the courts and they’re going to have to fight for everything they want to get. But, as I said, they just don’t know what that strategy is exactly, And they’re still trying to figure it out.
SIMON: What about the president’s tax returns? I guess the House Ways and Means Committee chairman said that he was consulting with their counsel on the best way to get it.
KUMAR: Right. They might actually sue for that. They’re talking about actually just suing the administration and saying that they should be able to get those. If you’ll remember, Secretary Mnuchin said he doesn’t think that Congress has a legitimate legislative purpose…
KUMAR: And they need to show that. And so that really seems like something that’s going to get to court eventually here.
SIMON: And – but if they would – if they were to defy a court order, what are the consequences then?
KUMAR: Well, you know, Congress really has to decide what they want to do. You know, I was talking to some folks that are close to the White House, Republicans, who say, so what? If we don’t respond, if we don’t – if we defy a subpoena, what are they going to do? And so they really need to decide what they’re going to do. Are they going to say, hey, judge, put this person – you know, put this person in jail, this is a crime. Or is it just a way to get it to the courts to settle the dispute?
SIMON: President Trump proudly calls himself a tariff man. He raised tariffs on China, but he lifted aluminum and steel tariffs in Canada and Mexico. He’s delaying auto tariffs with Japan. How is the tariff policy working out? Can we say?
KUMAR: Well, you know, he felt like he had a win this week with all this because this really paves the way for this agreement, this trade agreement he’s been pushing for for two years, the new, sort of, – the new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. And so people were really – people on Capitol Hill, various groups were really very happy that he lifted the tariffs because it really paves the way for that.
SIMON: The president presented new immigration proposals this week. They don’t seem to have much chance of passing in any case. Speaker Pelosi even said dead on arrival. Did he succeed in reframing the debate though?
KUMAR: Well, I think he showed what he wanted to when he gave his Rose Garden speech. He talked about the difference between Democrats and Republicans on this, and that’s what he wants to do with this. He wants to hit the campaign trail and talk about immigration and say, look; I have this plan, it’s a reasonable, commonsense plan to help American businesses and Democrats are against me. So vote for Republicans, vote me back into the – into the White House and I’ll get this done.
SIMON: There were some Republicans who weren’t comfortable with it, too, weren’t there?
KUMAR: Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said we’ll take a look at it. This is not something you generally do.
SIMON: This is not high praise.
KUMAR: When the White House comes out with something generally, the Senate majority leader might be onboard.
SIMON: On Iran, the president appeared to rebuke his national security adviser and secretary of state after they spoke about military options against Iran. There – I mean, this is a president who is in personal control.
KUMAR: Yeah, I mean we – you heard him talking about it this week and saying that – acknowledging that they’re kind of all over the place, or they seem to be all over the place and saying, hey, it’s good for us because nobody really knows what we’re doing. So he’s acting as if, you know, that’s a good thing because it’s keeping everybody on their toes. But yes, a lot of people are worried on Capitol Hill that, you know, the U.S. might be inching closer to some kind of war with Iran.
SIMON: Yeah, but every time they say something like that, the president pulls the rug out from under them.
KUMAR: He totally pulls back and says no, no it’s – you’re just misunderstanding or we’re just keeping our quiet.
SIMON: And he campaigned as a non-interventionist, didn’t he?
KUMAR: Exactly, this would be against a campaign promise if we got into another escalation overseas.
SIMON: Anita Kumar, White House correspondent and associate editor for Politico, thanks so much for dropping by today.
KUMAR: Sure, thanks for having me.
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