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How Trump is redefining the Republican party

Despite widespread criticism of President Trump’s performance at his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki – some of it from his allies, including Newt Gingrich, who called it “the most serious mistake of his presidency” – the president’s base in the Republican Party continues to support him. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Hari Sreenivasan for more.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    These new revelations come less than a week after Mr. Trump's private summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. To help put it all into perspective NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins us now from Santa Barbara. So Jeff, are we in the same political place now than we were before the summit happened?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    It may seem improbable but I would argue we are. You got to go back three years to the very start of Donald Trump's campaign when he insulted Mexico, he had harsh words about John McCain, the feeling was this is going to be fatal. And ever since, no matter what he said and done, everything that for other candidates or presidents might be disastrous, has not changed the reality — the majority of Americans disapprove, but huge majorities of Republicans approve. And just today we learned from a new Washington Post-ABC poll that most Republicans, by large majorities, approve of what he did in Helsinki at the summit even though most Americans in general don't. That pattern seems like it just keeps going on.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    What about when members of his own party turned against him or criticize him?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Here again, the normal situation is that when a president's own party turns against him with harsh words — that has an impact. And yet, despite the criticism from Republican congressional leaders, folks on Fox News, Former House Speaker Gingrich to say this was really a bad week… The dust clears and Trump's supporters say no, if Trump says something is true, it's true.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So is it time for us to start calling it maybe a different party then if if there is a chunk of the party that is so loyal to the president, that it actually finds that disagreement from the party leadership only strengthens the president's position?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    For now I think it's true he has totally redefined what a Republican is. Whether the issue is of free trade, tough on Russia, deficits — we're going to have a trillion dollar deficit next year, this was absolute heresy in the old Republican Party but for the Trump followers, it doesn't seem to be.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, let's talk about the other stories of significance this week that you actually follow fairly often and say sometimes it gets snowed over by how much Trump occupies the media sphere.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Yeah, I know I keep coming back to the point but it keeps happening. What was the big story of say nine days ago, the separation of children from their parents because of ICE. Or take a more subtle one, The dismembering of the Affordable Care Act. You've had the end of the individual mandate, massive cut back on subsidies to the insurance exchanges, shrinking the outreach program and Trump announced this week, this big new initiative we're gonna have association health plans to let individuals and small businesses band together. That was a signature argument of his campaign. And you know what the Independent Business Federation has said, unworkable, can't do it. And what that suggests in terms of rising premiums that have already gone up a third is going to have an enormous impact on millions of Americans. And it's almost hard to find a sentence about that in the media because of the crowding out issue.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And finally, what about this the number of stories that we're seeing about the Democratic Party and the pressure it's facing from the left?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Look, I think this has to be put in context. The idea of this suddenly happened because a young woman socialist won a congressional primary in New York. Let's remember that two years ago, a socialist named Bernie Sanders got 13 million primary votes for president. So this is not exactly a sudden lurch. The second thing to remember is, you're not seeing the left challenge centrist Democrats in competitive races. Joe Manchin is the most conservative Democrat in the Senate from West Virginia. There's no primary challenge. The celebration about Connor Lamm, a centrist Democrat winning the congressional seat in Pennsylvania tells you that by and large the Democrats are focused on trying to retake the House and the Senate. If I can mention one more thing, next week we're going to take a look at why uniquely in America, socialism has never caught on as a major political force. We'll be talking about that next week.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, we'll look forward to it NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joining us from California, thanks so much.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Thank you.

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