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Amy Walter and Tamara Keith on James Comey’s Trump take

Tamara Keith Of NPR and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss James Comey’s book and interviews about President Trump, the legal fight to prevent prosecutors from examining files seized from Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and the challenge for Democrats to boost midterm turnout.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump might be in Florida this week, but the political drama resonated today from Washington to New York, and beyond.

    Here to discuss all that, it’s time for Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    Welcome to you both, Politics Monday.

    So, Tamara, I don’t know if you call it political drama or something else, but James Comey, the former FBI director, is making quite a tour after his book came out a few days ago. What do you make of the early — the reading and the talking?

  • Tamara Keith:

    So, I think that what stands out, especially from the interview last night that he did, which was an hour-long special on ABC, and the interviews that have been following and the reaction to it is that this is the James Comey that everyone remembers.

    This is someone who Democrats are still very mad about what he did in the lead-up to the election. Republicans still don’t like him, and they aren’t going to like what he’s saying about President Trump. And he is this remarkably polarizing figure who sort of puts himself at the center of it and says he’s doing things, that he made these decisions all out of the same sense of principle and higher purpose.

    But, wow, we are just like right back in 2016-2017 all over again.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, it is.

    It’s like we cannot let the 2016 election go. And much of that interview was a rehash of the 2016 campaign and decisions made during that campaign. So it just feels, yes, like there is a little bit of, like, oh, gosh, we can never get this out of our system.

    The other piece is, there really wasn’t anything new in here. Right? You didn’t see or hear anything from these interviews or from any of the excerpts from this book that suggests that there is a new piece of evidence that he held back in talking about publicly, or that — and I think this is very important — that he could say definitively that there is something illegals that the president has done that would put him in jeopardy.

    He also, of course, went on to say, I don’t think he should be impeached.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    So I think, if there’s anything that was new, it might have been that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He expressed some strong views about the president, said he’s not fit for office. But you’re right, nothing new.

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Very strong.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We interviewed Chuck Rosenberg a little bit earlier in the program, who has worked for James Comey. He said, I don’t think this changes the Mueller investigation in any way.

    In connection, though, Tam, with the Mueller investigation, today, in a federal courtroom, New York City, one of the president’s lawyers, Michael Cohen, was there to try to pull back some of that material that federal agents raided his offices to take last week.

    A lot of eyes were on that courtroom because Stormy Daniels, the porn — adult film star, was there in the courtroom with her lawyer. But are we — where are we in that whole drama?

  • Tamara Keith:

    It is drama. It feels like “Law & Order: Presidential Unit” or something.

    It is very much a dramatic scene. You had also a lawyer representing the president of the United States arguing that, because of attorney-client privilege, he should be able to get a first bite at the apple on all of this evidence.

    My understanding is that the judge wasn’t receptive to that argument. You also then find out that Michael Cohen, he had to name who his clients were. He says that he has three clients. One is the president. One was this big GOP donor who had to withdraw from being on the Finance Committee.

    And the other is Sean Hannity, the FOX News personality, who has since tweeted, saying, well, I never paid Cohen anything.

    It is perplexing. And if what Hannity is saying is true, that actually helps the government’s case, because the government is arguing that Cohen didn’t really function as an attorney and thus shouldn’t have attorney-client privilege.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And these are the three people whose papers were taken, the documents were taken that related to conversations.

  • Amy Walter:

    That’s right. And so now there is a debate over, is he a client or is he just somebody who talked on the phone and had conversations with Michael Cohen? What is privileged and what is not?

    But it does — it feels like a reality show and that if the writers had told you that coming out of this court date with Michael Cohen was going to be the revelation that he is advising one of the strongest supporters of the president who goes on television with a show that is very supportive of the president — I mean, in some ways, I guess it’s not shocking.

    But it really was shocking. Of all the people to say, this is my secret client…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It was. It qualified as a surprise.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Tamara Keith:

    The big reveal in this episode was kind of a surprise.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, here’s a U-turn.

    A couple of polls have come out — can’t go too many weeks without talking about polls — showing, Tam, greater enthusiasm this year to see Democrats elected than Republicans.

    Of course, a poll is always a snapshot. We always say that, but it is part of a trend we’re seeing this year?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

    And Democrats, they are — in some ways, Democratic voters, it doesn’t matter who the candidate will be. They are going to the polls in November to make a statement about President Trump, whereas Republican voters, President Trump has to convince them to go to the polls to make a statement in support of him.

    Otherwise, they’re trying to get them to talk about — to be edited about the tax legislation, trying to get voters excited about the economy, which is chugging along. But for Democrats, it’s pretty simple. It’s a protest.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, this has always been a challenge for Democrats in an off-year election, because Republicans, just the kind of voters who identify as Republican, a little bit older, more white voters, turn out to vote in midterm elections.

    The more diverse electorate, younger electorate, they vote in a presidential election. So Democrats are always trying to get those younger voters or their base voters to come out in a midterm.

    What’s happening now, Tam’s exactly right, they’re coming out, that base is coming out at a rate that Republicans haven’t seen in quite some time. So it’s not even that Republicans don’t — they haven’t faced that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    It’s not even that Republicans aren’t going to turn out to vote. They absolutely can turn out to vote. But that may not be enough because more Democrats are going to turn out than traditionally do in a midterm year.

    And then we have to wait and see what independents start to do. They have been sour on the president now pretty much universally from the beginning of his presidency. Is that going to translate into votes in the election? We would suggest yes.

    And then in all these special elections, in the midterm elections we have had thus far, the off-term elections, this Democratic enthusiasm has shown up by about eight points.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we only have seven more months to analyze all this.

  • Amy Walter:

    To analyze each and every one of them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we will have to do it every day, all day long. Love it.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You’re welcome.

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