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As Trump defends his fitness for office, GOP shifts focus

The new year is just days old, but already a controversial new book is making waves for suggesting some of President Trump's aides consider him unfit for the job. This comes as federal investigators look into the Clinton Foundation and as Trump has moved to open oil and gas drilling in federal waters. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The New Year is just six days old, but there’s no shortage of drama, led by that controversial book suggesting that some presidential aides consider Mr. Trump unfit for the job. The Department of Justice is looking into the Clinton Foundation, a major policy decision opened up oil and gas drilling in federal waters, and marijuana prosecutions could take place in states that have legalized its use. To help us make sense of some of that, I’m joined from Santa Barbara, California, by NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield.

    Jeff, even this morning the president taking shots at Michael Wolff, the author of “Fire and Fury,” the book that’s kind of a tell-all from the perspective of someone who was sitting around in the West Wing of the White House?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Fire and fury is not a bad way to describe what the White House mood was, although at the press conference this morning, the president was at pains to be calm and kind of almost amused by it. But I think the key is the fact that the book puts forward a very uncomfortable notion, and that is the question of the president’s fitness for office and stability. And I think it also helps explain why for instance the Department of Justice is looking at the Clinton Foundation, why the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee wants investigations of possible perjury by the author of this, of the dossier that raised questions about Trump. I think there’s a big effort on the part of the White House and Trump supporters to move the focus away from this question about whether this is a president who is, in fact, fit for office, which if Michael Wolff’s book is correct, a lot of his own top aides have questions about.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Does this book do anything to you know ding the windshield of people who already support the president.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    I don’t think so at least not publicly. Look, the fact is this issue of presidential stability is not going to gain real significant traction unless Republicans in Tower begin to raise it. And except for a couple of voices scattered voices in the Senate, this Republican Party is Trump’s party. And for now I think this book is going to be consigned by Trump’s biggest supporters to the field of fake news. It’s also why the inaccuracies in the book have already been highlighted so much by Trump supporters.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Is there a political consequence when it comes to the ability of the president to do his job, especially in terms of policy prescriptions or things and he wants to support, get behind, and try to get the party and the political machine behind him?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Here’s where I think there’s a connection to the issues you mentioned at the outset. When Jeff Sessions told prosecutors, federal prosecutors, doesn’t matter if the states have legalized pot feel free to prosecute. You had a Republican senator from Colorado where pot is legal, just go ballistic and say I’m holding up every Justice Department nomination. You have people in California, about half a dozen vulnerable House Republicans, for whom the idea of opening up oil and gas drilling in the waters is not a good political notion, and the link is this. If the policy positions help cost Republicans control of Congress, then the investigative machinery of the House goes in Democratic hands. The issue of presidential fitness, the issue of Russian collusion, now becomes issues that the majority party would be able to to prosecute. And I think under those circumstances, the Republican leaders would find it much more difficult to stand solidly behind the president.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right Jeff Greenfield joining us from Santa Barbara. Thanks so much.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    OK.

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