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Brooks and Capehart on Trump Org indictments, Supreme Court ruling on Arizona voting laws

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the Trump Organization indictments, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold two restrictive voting laws in Arizona, and the select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Land — excuse me — landmark decisions came down this week from the Supreme Court. U.S. House Speaker Pelosi finally got a committee to look at the January 6 Capitol insurrection. And criminal charges came down on the former president's family business.

    Luckily, to help us better understand it all, the analysis of Brooks and Capehart. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.

    Hello to both of you.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Hey, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Very good to see you as we head into this July 4 weekend.

    A lot to talk about. Let's start with the Supreme Court decision on voting rights.

    David, it was a decision we have been waiting for. It was a very stark division between how the justices saw this in a lopsided 6-3 decision. How did you read what you saw the from the justices?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, well, this is one of the few, relatively few, surprisingly few 6-3 along ideological decisions, but this was straight down party lines.

    I guess I have three reactions. The first is, it's always worth reminding this is an answer to a problem that doesn't exist. There is no voting fraud, or no major voting fraud. All these state rules, we don't need them. They're just in service to the Trump lie that the election was stolen.

    Second, the intent, I have every reason to believe the intent of the legislatures in all these places was to help their party, the — basically, a white Republican Party, and, therefore, they're trying to make it harder for people in the other party to vote. I imagine that's their intent.

    The impact is the crucial thing here. Is their disparate impact? And I only look at this from looking at the research. I don't look at it legally. But the research suggests the impact of all these kinds of voting changes is pretty minimal.

    Over the last 15 years — certainly not in the days of Jim Crow. It was not minimal back then. But in the last 15 years, when states have tried to make it easier to vote or make it a little less easy to vote, the impact on actual voting has not been that great. So, it doesn't strike me as catastrophic.

    But the final thing to be said is, even though the impact is incremental, it's disparate. African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, they are more likely to be hurt. Even though the effects aren't big, they're not equally shared across all groups. So, on the whole, I think the court made a mistake, but it's probably not a catastrophic one.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you see it, Jonathan?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, I don't know if I agree with David in terms of it not being catastrophic, simply because, to another point that David said, that this is a solution in search of a problem.

    As someone said to me once after I said that — pretty much the same thing on the show a few months ago, they said, that's the wrong frame, because, actually, from the Republican perspective, the problem is, too many people are voting for Democrats, and, in particular, too many people of color, i.e., Black people, are voting, and that is the problem from the Republican perspective.

    And these laws are out there. And while it might not be catastrophic in terms of the way you view it right now, David, but it's really interesting that, after African American voters, people of color, the Democratic coalition came out en masse to vote for Joe Biden, to vote for Senators Warnock and Ossoff, in Georgia, that, all of a sudden, there's a voter problem, a voter voting issue that needs to be solved.

    And that problem is that too many of those people are voting. And the idea that the Supreme Court would say, well, it's not such a big deal is really — it's just really a travesty and doesn't do anything for Chief Justice John Roberts' goal of trying to keep the Supreme Court looking like a neutral player.

    But when it comes to voting rights, Chief Justice Roberts isn't a neutral player in this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, speaking of what happened in the Georgia vote, I happen to have a rare and, very fortunately, had an interview earlier this week with former President Jimmy Carter, was in Plains on the occasion of he and his wife, Rosalynn, are about to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary.

    And I just want to run a little excerpt of that interview, because I did ask him, David, about — we didn't know at that point what the court would do, but about what's happened in Georgia, these tightening laws. Here's part of what he said.

  • Former President Jimmy Carter:

    All over the world, we have always, ever since the Carter Center was founded, tried to promote maximum involvement among the people in the election yourself, and make sure that votes were counted accurately.

    And all those things have gone by the board because of the Republican state legislature that take the position that Trump has espoused.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And he's — he's saying, in other words, the changes his own Carter Center, which has monitored elections around the world, was called on to monitor elections in Georgia.

    So, you now have a situation where what the United States used to worry about in the rest of the world is happening here, David.

  • David Brooks:

    Earlier this year, I read Ron Chernow's magnificent biography of Ulysses S. Grant. And as part of that biography, he covers the story of Reconstruction.

    He covers the story of when former slaves were given the vote and taken away. And so it's hard not to read that history and hear some echoes today. So, morally, I completely agree.

    If — given the history of America, and if you're a legislator of any party, you do not want to be on the side of disparate outcomes along racial grounds. I mean, it's just abhorrent.

    I guess I would disagree with President Carter, in that I do think the 2022 election is going to be a fair election. I don't think it's totally — we have totally trashed our system. And that's why I make the emphasis just that, when you try to discriminate against people, one of the things that's happened — and this is not making it right — they come back at you harder.

    And so you get turnout increases when people perceive the legislatures are trying to turn down — turn us away. Whether that will still be the system long term is an open question. But I think, overall, we have mail-in ballots, we have longer voting periods than we did 20, 30 years ago. I still think, as much as one can be outraged by what's happening, our election system will be fair in 2022, I imagine.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Jonathan, I was struck that, in the poll that we did that came out this week with NPR and Marist, 79 percent of the respondents said they think it's good to require people to show a government I.D. before they can vote.

  • Jonathan Capehart:


    And Stacey Abrams — when the Joe Manchin compromise on the For the People Act came out, one of the things in there was voter I.D. Stacey Abrams came out and said that she was fine with it.

    But that was just a one-sentence answer. The fine print of her answer is, everyone's fine with voter I.D. The problem comes in when some states demand only photo I.D. and not other forms of identification. And then, when they demand photo I.D., they then put restrictions on the kinds of photo I.D.s that can be presented.

    And so you have some — you have in some states where a student can't show their student photo I.D., but someone can just show up and show their gun permit and be able to vote. And that is the issue. That is the problem. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask people to prove who they are. The problem comes in when you start picking and choosing which pieces of identification allow you to exercise your right to vote.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So much to ask the two of you about this week.

    David, I do want to raise the indictment that New York prosecutors handed down against the Trump business and his chief financial officer.

    My question to the — to both of you is, how does this affect former President Trump's political fortunes?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I guess, for me, it would be remains to be seen still.

    I confess, if you had asked me how much corruption there was in the Trump Organization, I would have expected way worse than some undisclosed fringe benefits. And so, if that's all it is, then I would be underwhelmed.

    But that's probably not all it is. As every legal expert seems to be saying these days, they seem to have gone after this guy Allen Weisselberg as an attempt to turn him. He's been involved in Trump Organization numbers for decades. And if they can hit him really hard, which they really hit him hard on these untaxed benefits, then — and if he's facing jail time, he would be certainly the person who would know all the secrets going all the way up to the top of the Trump Organization.

    So, if this is the beginning of a turning of a set of witnesses, then it really is very perilous for Trump. If this is all there is. I would be surprised, and Trump would be relatively safe from this kind of indictment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jonathan, how perilous for former President Trump?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    In terms of his political standing, I don't think perilous at all.

    Probably the one of the truer statements ever to come out of Donald Trump's mouth came during the 2016 campaign, when he said, I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any support.

    He has shown time and time and time again that that is true. For his diehard supporters, this is just one more piece of the — quote, unquote — and not true "witch-hunt" against him. So, I don't see this hurting him in any way with his true believers.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    And the last thing I want to ask two of you about is something the president, former president, has denounced, David, and that is House Speaker Pelosi naming a select committee to investigate what happened, the insurrection at the Capitol, on January the 6th.

    As you know, she tried very hard, Democrats tried very hard to get a commission created. Republicans blocked that in the Congress, in the Senate. But now there is a select committee. She's named several members, including Republican Liz Cheney, who has been critical of the former president.

    How much can we expect to learn from an organization — I mean, from an entity like this?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, we're not going to get the dispassionate, impartial viewpoint that I think a lot of us hoped for. But we're going to get a political process, and we will probably get a majority Democratic report and a minority Republican report.

    I think a couple of things are interesting to me. One is, Liz Cheney has a really tough person. To go against her own leader and to accept this appointment from Nancy Pelosi, that shows she's just very tough. And she has decided that her — it's her oath to defend the Constitution, to look into that what happened on January 6. And more power to her.

    As to what the Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, does, I'm intrigued. Does he go — I assume he will staff his side of the committee, because, otherwise, the Republicans will be silenced. Does he go and get super hard-charging, fire-breathing right-wingers who will make FOX happy and sort of disrupt the whole works, what Elise Stefanik has become, or does he go with people who actually voted to certify the Biden election?

    I imagine he will go with the hard-chargers, and we will get something of a political theater.

    But I do think, even despite the theatrical elements that we're — seem to be destined to, I do think we will learn stuff, just from witnesses, just from the back-and-forth of politics.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What are your expectations, Jonathan, from this? Do you think we will learn very much? How do you see it playing out?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, I do think we will learn a lot.

    But the key thing that everyone one should keep in mind is that, for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is a deeply faithful person, devout Catholic, her love of the Constitution ranks up there as number two in terms of her — what she strongly believes in.

    And for her, as a member of Congress representing a district in California, as a constitutional officer, as speaker of the House, for her, her allegiance an oath to the Constitution is inviolable.

    And the fact that people stormed the Capitol on a really sacred, sacred day and sacred process for American democracy, certifying the election, it was an affront to her as an American and an affront to her as the speaker of the House.

    She wants this committee because she wants to know what happened, why it happened, so that we can all learn how to prevent it from happening again.

    And so anyone who thinks that this is only a partisan exercise doesn't really understand who she is and why she is doing it and, more importantly, why she turned to Republican Congresswoman Lynne — Lynne Cheney — Liz Cheney to be on the — be on that committee, because, also, someone from the opposite ideological spectrum from the speaker, but who also has made it clear from — since January 6 that her oath is not to a person, but to the Constitution.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And one way or another. We're going to continue to hear about January the 6th, even as we approach this national holiday, July 4.

    We thank you both. We hope you have a safe — a good and safe holiday.

    Jonathan Capehart, David Brooks, thank you both.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thanks, Judy.

  • David Brooks:

    Same to you, Judy.

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