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Week In Politics: The BuzzFeed Report, Trump And Pelosi And A 2nd Summit With North Korea

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

All right. We have a lot of ground to cover today in our Friday Week In Politics chat. Truly, it is never a dull moment. So let's hop right in with Eliana Johnson of Politico and Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post. Welcome back, you two.

KAREN TUMULTY: Great to be here.

ELIANA JOHNSON: Thank you.

KELLY: All right. Let's start with where Ryan Lucas just left off and this bombshell report, if true, from BuzzFeed. Karen, you first. Of the gazillion bombshells that have dropped having to do with Trump and his personal - his former personal attorney and Russia and all the rest of it, how big a deal is this one?

TUMULTY: If it turns out to be true, it's a very, very big deal. We're now in a situation now where I think every news organization is pursuing this, but nobody has been able to confirm it. I mean, there's an old joke in journalism - the worst thing you could possibly have is a scoop that stays a scoop.

KELLY: That nobody's proven or disproven, right.

TUMULTY: Right. Obstruction of justice is a difficult crime often. And again, there's a question of whether the president can be accused of a crime while he's in office. But it is often difficult to prove because it is sort of a state-of-mind crime. You have to prove intent. So the question would be, is there in fact this corroborating evidence out there, these text messages or whatever we're talking about? That could just change the whole ball game.

KELLY: And just to be clear, we're told - BuzzFeed hangs their article on these two anonymous sources, law enforcement officials. Again, anonymous. They're not named. But they say those officials had access to documents and text messages and all kinds of other things that corroborate it. It's not just a - what they're saying. Eliana, what do you think? I mean, NPR - again, we should state - has not confirmed the BuzzFeed reporting. But BuzzFeed argues that this is a big deal because it would mark the first known example, if proven true, of the president explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his dealings with Russia.

JOHNSON: I agree with Karen that if this is true, I think it is the worst thing for the president's prospects of staying in office that has come out yet. We know that special counsel Robert Mueller was investigating obstruction of justice already, but that was for the president's firing of former FBI Director Jim Comey. And that would be a far harder thing to argue is obstruction of justice than would be the president's instructing a subordinate to lie to Congress, which is subornation of perjury and obstruction of justice. Recall - that's what Bill Clinton was impeached for in the late '90s, and that was something that Republicans by and large supported.

KELLY: And this is prompting fresh talks. Speaking of impeachment, it's prompting fresh talk on Capitol Hill.

JOHNSON: Exactly. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi already under pressure from her caucus to impeach the president. If this is true, it will be a far easier case for her - not only for her to make to her caucus but for Republicans in the Senate to go along with and convict the president of the House's charges and I think push him out of office because Republicans are previously on the record as supporting the impeachment of a Democratic president for doing the same thing.

KELLY: Let me turn you both to something we do know is true, which is that this is Day 27 of the partial government shutdown, a shutdown - the chances of which - the chances of it ever ending do not seem to be improved by this feud that we are witnessing escalating this week between the president and Nancy Pelosi. To briefly recap, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, wrote to the president suggesting he not deliver his State of the Union address this year. He wrote her back yesterday denying her a plane to travel to Afghanistan. And it seems as though things went downhill from there, Eliana.

JOHNSON: That's right. At this point, at - well, the base of both parties supports each leaders. Democrats support Pelosi, Republicans support Trump. There is frustration - there's beginning to be frustration within each party at the positions of each leaders. Many Democrats feel Nancy Pelosi shouldn't have said that building a wall is immoral, that she's boxed herself in now because any sort of compromise with the president makes her look like she's supporting something she has said is a moral abomination.

Republicans - frustrated with Trump who have said he won't compromise on anything relating to border security short of a physical barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border. So I think we do see signs that support for each leader is bubbling up, but certainly no movement yet to end this standoff.

KELLY: Karen, worth noting there is plenty of precedent for a president not to deliver a State of the Union address in Congress. You wrote a column this week, the headline of which was, "What Would Thomas Jefferson Do?"

TUMULTY: Exactly. For over a century of our history, presidents did not - not only did they not deliver the State of the Union in person, they did not even deliver speeches in person. Thomas Jefferson mailed his in. Interestingly enough, one of the big things he discussed in that 1801 State of the Union letter was the question of immigration, of citizenship. So it's - the president is constitutionally required to periodically deliver the Congress a report on the State of the Union, but the sort of television spectacle that we are all used to is not stipulated.

KELLY: Meanwhile - all right. So we have government shutdown on Day 27 and no sign that it's going to reopen. We have this feud unfolding between Trump and Pelosi. We have new bombshell reporting dropping about what the president may or may not have ordered his former personal lawyer to do. And the White House today announced that on the foreign policy front, we are maybe looking at a second summit with Kim Jong Un. So let me ask you each what your expectations for this summit might be. Karen?

TUMULTY: I think that - you know, after the first one, essentially, the talks got stalled. So I think what the president is going to be looking to do is both, in this meeting, to give some credibility to his negotiating team and also to get some more clarity from Kim Jong Un on just what exactly, for instance, he means by denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

KELLY: Right, the stated goal of what the U.S. wanted to get out of the first summit in Singapore. And we have not really seen any concrete progress of that happening from North Korea's point of view. Eliana, what do you think?

JOHNSON: I think it would be wise for the president to do all of those things. I was at the first summit. And I actually expect something of a repeat. I think the president's far more interested in the media and international spectacle of it all than he is in getting results. We really haven't seen any movement toward denuclearization from North Korea, so you wouldn't really expect the president to schedule a follow-up. But I think he wants - he likes these events for their own sake. And I think we'll see something that resembles very closely what we saw the first time around, though little movement towards denuclearization or progress diplomatically, though I'm prepared to be surprised, as with everything in the Trump presidency.

KELLY: Always ready for a surprise. That's Eliana Johnson, national political reporter for Politico, and Karen Tumulty, political columnist for The Washington Post. Thanks to you both. Happy Friday.

JOHNSON: Thanks.

TUMULTY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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