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What’s at stake for both sides of the Georgia race

June 19, 2017 at 6:25 PM EDT
What are the factors playing into the competitive and expensive race for a House seat in Georgia? Judy Woodruff talks to Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR about the special election face-off, a look at President Trump’s personal legal team and why Democrats are trying to bring attention to Republican efforts to craft and pass a secret health care bill.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And from Georgia to Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue, the political stakes are high this week, a perfect time for Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

And welcome to you both. A lot to talk about.

Amy, let’s talk about that 6th District race in Georgia. A lot of people are saying it is a referendum of a sort on the president. How do you see it?

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes, we’re going to read a lot into one race and overinterpret one race. But, obviously, because of the amount of money that’s been spent on it and the fact that the national media has descended on it, we don’t really have a choice.

I think there are going to be a couple of narratives that come out of this. If Democrats are able to win here on Tuesday, the message being sent is not just one about Trump, but it is saying that in Republican districts, even districts that went Republican slightly for Trump, are now in danger for Republicans.

So this probably expands the playing field for Democrats. They’re going to now try to get and try to involve themselves in many more districts that are traditionally Republican.

If a Republican wins, it says, you know what? This anger among Democrats, the enthusiasm among Democrats, while it is playing a national role, it is not translating into districts that still have a slight Republican lean. It means that Republican voters haven’t abandoned — not that they just didn’t abandon the president, but they’re not abandoning congressional Republicans at this point.

The only other person that this is a referendum on is Nancy Pelosi. There have been more ads in this district run against Nancy Pelosi, Republican Karen Handel, as well as other groups, trying to make this referendum from a liberal member from San Francisco to paint Jon Ossoff as out of touch with the suburban district. He’s running as a moderate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: She pops up, Nancy Pelosi …

AMY WALTER: In a lot of ads.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In a lot of races.

So, Tamara, what do you see are the factors at play here?

TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Well, so the president tweeted this morning in support of Karen Handel. Then he did it again this afternoon with a series of tweets also going after Jon Ossoff for not living in the district, which is a true thing. Jon Ossoff doesn’t live in the district.

Karen Handel is not running away from President Trump. He held a fund-raiser with her. Her campaign tweeted out a fund-raising e-mail today. The headline on it was, did you see what Trump just tweeted?

So she’s not separating herself from the president. She is running with President Trump. And so we will see what voters in that district think of it. It’s a very narrow victory that President Trump had in 2016 in that district, even though it was designed to be a safe Republican seat.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of interpreting going to be going on tomorrow night and into Wednesday and maybe even later.

AMY WALTER: Oh, absolutely.

We love narratives. Come on. Political narratives, it’s what we live for, Judy. We have got to keep doing this.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of narratives, what was your take, Amy, on what Jay Sekulow had to say, the president’s attorney we talked to a few minutes ago?

(CROSSTALK)

AMY WALTER: Yes.

What we heard in his interview with you that seemed to be a little bit different from what we heard over the weekend was the acknowledgment that, while Jay Sekulow said over the weekend the president’s not being investigated, what he acknowledged with you was, we don’t know for sure that he’s not being — to the best of our knowledge, I think, was the term that he used, the president is not being investigated.

But I think, as an overall take on where we’re going on Russia, I don’t think we’re moving very far. It feels like we’re kind of just running in place constantly. We know that the special counsel is doing its investigation. We know that the Senate is doing an investigation.

It’s unlikely that the Senate is going to — even the Senate itself is going to be done by the end of the year, nonetheless what Robert Mueller, counsel, is going to have by then.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you read this based on your reporting at the White House and elsewhere in this town?

TAMARA KEITH: Well, so, I have been reporting on the legal team that President Trump has assembled, which includes Jay Sekulow, who he is really the face and the voice of the legal team, but he is not necessarily the person that will be representing the president.

He is the public face because what he has actually specialized in is religious freedom cases. He’s argued extensively…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Before the Supreme Court.

TAMARA KEITH: … before the Supreme Court.

Marc Kasowitz is another attorney who is sort of the lead attorney. He doesn’t have a criminal law background. He’s basically Donald Trump’s attorney, and had been for years. But he’s someone that the president listens to, and that is why he’s a key part of the team.

And then they just brought on another lawyer who has Washington experience and has some white-collar-type experience. So the team is preparing for the president to be under investigation by the special counsel even if they aren’t saying that he is under investigation by the special counsel, even if they aren’t saying that he is under investigation by the special counsel,

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to turn both of you — there is so much to talk about, but I want to turn you now, Amy, to the — what’s going on in the Senate and the Congress over health care reform.

We know the House passed a reform bill to basically undo the Obamacare. It’s been sitting in the Senate week after week. Republicans are working behind closed doors to try to come up with a version that will be more acceptable to them.

Democrats are now in revolt, as much as they can be in the minority. Where is that going?

AMY WALTER: Yes.

It sounds like what they want to do is use a parliamentary procedure to basically slow business in the Senate to a crawl. It’s not that they can make much change to the bill itself, but they want to put a spotlight on the way that this bill is being handled, just as you pointed out, the fact that it’s being written behind doors, that Democrats aren’t part of the process, that, quite frankly, a whole bunch of Republican senators have no idea what’s in the bill.

They also want to keep the spotlight on the health care bill because the House-passed one is so unpopular. It’s not even particularly popular among Republicans voters. So, the more attention that Democrats can put on that, as well as the way that it’s being — the bill itself, as well as the way the bill is being handled, they think politically is a winner.

And, then, finally, they are saying to their own constituents, we are trying to do something about health care, but we’re not — this is the only thing that we can do, because we’re not in the majority. The only thing we can try to do is some of this procedural maneuvering.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you know about what’s happening?

(LAUGHTER)

TAMARA KEITH: What I know about what happening is that, in the Senate, the votes that were supposed to happen tonight were actually pushed off because of weather.

However, Chuck Schumer went to the floor of the Senate and did a — sort of began the process, tried to get unanimous consent to demand that there be a hearing on this bill. And the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said he objected to that. They went around and around and around.

Democrats don’t have a lot that they can do. This is happening behind closed doors, which means they can’t make an argument on substance and policy, so they’re making an argument on procedure, which is harder to make.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has said he wants to get a vote on this by the 1st of July.

AMY WALTER: That’s right. They really, really want to get this behind them, move through this process.

Remember, they can’t move ahead on the things they also want to move ahead on, like tax reform, until this is done.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And this has been held up for, as we say, a long time.

AMY WALTER: They wanted to get it done in Easter was the first deadline.

Now, there’s nothing unusual about that. It took Democrats a long time to get Obamacare through. They wanted to get it through in 2009. It took them until 2010 to finally pass it. The bigger question is, what does that bill look like and then, if implemented, how do Americans — how does it affect Americans?

TAMARA KEITH: Because this is one-sixth of the economy. This is not small stuff.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There will be a lot of reaction as the Republican Senate version emerges, which it hasn’t done yet.

TAMARA KEITH: Right.

AMY WALTER: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, Politics Monday, thank you both.

TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.

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