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Amy Walter and Tamara Keith on Trump attorney FBI raid, GOP tariff fallout

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR join Lisa Desjardins to discuss the week’s political news, including President Trump’s reaction to an FBI raid on the offices of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, the Republican response to China tariffs for American farmers, and more.

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  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And what better time for Politics Monday than a day like this, where we have had breaking news even in the last few minutes?

    Joining me now to talk about everything, of course, is Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    Ladies, we were sitting, waiting to come on to the set, when we saw President Trump take to the airwaves to about the search executed by the FBI on his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

    Let's go to some tape of what the president just said.

  • President Donald Trump:

    It's a disgrace. It's, frankly, a real disgrace. It's an attack on our country in a true sense. It's an attack on what we all stand for.

    So, when I saw this and when I heard it, I heard it like you did, I said that is really now in a whole new level of unfairness.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Whole new level, those are words that we keep repeatedly saying this time with this term of office.

    Tam, the president went out of his way to criticize special counsel Mueller here and also his own attorney general. What do you think he was trying to do here? What does this mean, the president having this rather unusual defense of his own attorney?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, and he also criticized the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

    So you essentially have everyone even remotely involved with the Mueller investigation, and the interesting thing here is that it's not entirely clear that the search of Cohen is directly related to the Mueller investigation. It was a referral from Mueller's office, according to his attorney.

    But President Trump, this was a — this was a meeting with military leaders about the situation in Syria. And he opened it up. He was upset, he was clearly upset, visibly bothered by what he believes happened to Cohen.

    And the way he talked about it was, he really — he is clearly bothered by this. Cohen is someone who's worked for him for a very long time, who he's close to. He's not just his lawyer. He's his fixer.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Amy, we see this conflict just heating up again and again, the president vs. his own Justice Department.

    But, here, what do you think the president is doing, as Mueller seems to be referring this case to another prosecutor?

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    I mean, the fact that the U.S. attorney in New York was the one who conducted this raid suggests that Mueller is not making this a part of the overall final investigation. In other words, if he's doing an investigation into the Russia collusion and comes upon something that is not related, but still may have a criminal component, then you refer it to somebody, whoever that is, who can address that.

    So it suggests that this isn't as much about Mueller as it is about this is what happens when you start digging into stuff. You never know what you're going to be able to find.

    But it is going to raise the question that seems to be raised in this town every two or three weeks, maybe now every two or three hours, about, is the president getting ready to either fire someone in the Justice Department, or is this just going to be another instance where the president blows off steam, shows his anger at folks who he does not feel are protecting him adequately, but then continues to move on and not do anything about it?

  • Tamara Keith:

    And he was asked whether he was considering firing Mueller and he said the thing that he says about a lot of things that sounds very ominous, but doesn't always mean he's going to do anything at all. He said, "We will see what happens."

    Now, he has said, "We will see what happens," and people have been fired. He said that about James Comey, the FBI director. He said it about a number of people who have been fired. But he also says "We will see what happens" about a lot of things where that sort of ominous outcome never materializes.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I think we have a very clear theme here today and let's say the past week at least.

    We see a president increasingly express frustration and anger. That's not new to this president, but we see him ramping it up right now.

    And we want to talk about another subject that hits this area, tariffs. The president is obviously taking on China. Is that a risk? Who is it in Trump world of his voters that likes that idea and who is it that might be concerned about that idea?

  • Amy Walter:

    The Trump that we're seeing now that we saw on display most recently in that Cabinet meeting with his arms crossed, saying, this is a witch-hunt, is the same Trump that we saw on the campaign trail.

    He believed that Hillary Clinton should be investigated. He believed she was the one doing the wrongdoing, and that anything about what he was doing was certainly off-limits and/or there was no collusion, as the president likes to talk about.

    But what he talked a lot about on the campaign trail as well was making America great again, right, and that China is taking — making suckers of us, taking jobs from us, the trade is unfair. That has been a consistent them not just during the campaign, but really pretty much his entire time in the public spotlight.

    So, the fact that he is actually going out and encouraging tariffs on China should not be surprising. To your question, though, what do people think about this, and, among Republicans, there's not unity on this. A whole bunch of congressional Republicans would rather spend the next few months before the midterms talking about the things that they have done, tax cuts, and they would like to talk about the booming economy.

    They worry that tariffs could hurt the booming economy and take the focus off their tax cuts. Theoretically, the folks that could get harmed the most by the tariffs are people that are the strongest Trump supporters, those in red states that are very ag-dependent, agriculture-dependent, but these are also some of the president's strongest supporters.

    And I think he has a lot of rope with them. I think they're going to give him a lot of the benefit of the doubt on this. I hear it from people that I talk to in that part to have country, saying, you know what? I'm worried about commodities prices, but, at the same time, I trust that the president is going to do the right thing. He's a negotiator, he's a businessman, he knows what he's doing.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Wait and see.

  • Amy Walter:

    We're going to wait and see.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Another issue like that, CBO today, the Congressional Budget Office, Tam, you know I love their reports, came out saying that they see a sea of red ink, increased deficits, trillion-dollar deficits.

    This is happening under Republican government. How did we get here? And is there a risk, or do conservatives not vote on things like the deficit anymore?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Trillion-dollar deficits as far as I can see, which were a big talking point for the Tea Party. But now that President Trump is president of the United States, here's an amazing thing. That report came out at the White House press briefing today.

    Not a single question about it. Maybe tomorrow.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    A concern, but not a day-to-day issue right now in Washington.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Tamara Keith of NPR, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, thank you both.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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