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Is there an effort to undermine the Mueller investigation?

A once-unlikely victory for Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones made headlines during a busy week in politics. The race came as the GOP moves closer to passing the most significant tax bill in decades, and amid a continued probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Another remarkable week in the political universe, a once-unimaginable upset in a Senate race in Alabama. The likelihood of the most significant tax bill in decades, and possible signs that the investigation of Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election may be reaching a crisis point. Joining me now from San Diego to help make sense of it all is NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield.

    Jeff, we saw lots of columns from the left saying this is the beginning of a wave, that this could be the moment that they have been waiting for in 2018. Looking back at the election that happened in Alabama. Too soon?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Well it’s often too soon. You know reporter political reporters are Olympic competitors in the long jump but it is true presidents’ parties almost always lose seats in the midterm. A president with low approval ratings magnifies that and Trump is at historically low first year approval ratings. But first, Moore was uniquely vulnerable and was outspent massively. That’s not going to happen to many Republicans in 18. If you look at the Senate in particular, Democrats would say, well we got the surprise when we just need two seats to take the Senate and Nevada and Arizona look possible. But as I’ve said here before they have to defend 10 Senate seats in states Trump won, five of them deeply red states.

    So that’s the concern for Democrats. Republicans have to be concerned with the fact that there are five seats they should have won back in 2010, 2012, but lost because they nominated fringe candidates. And if Steve Bannon is still on his feet after Alabama and intends to run primaries against almost every incumbent Republican, that’s bad news for them.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You noted before that the contrasts here between an unpopular president and actually what’s happening not just in Congress but, through government.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    As Yogi Berra probably didn’t say, it’s deja vu all over again. I mean here you have a president just lost a seat in the Senate that he campaigned for despite what he said, he’s at an all time low in the polls. So is the Congress, and yet they’re on the verge of passing the most significant tax change in decades. And that’s because the commitment of the Republicans to the to the tax cut as kind of article one of their cannon is so strong, and their need to pass something is so strong, that even though every analysis said, you know, this tax bill just doesn’t make a lot of sense the Republicans in Congress said we are going by our core beliefs.

    So he continues, he and the Republicans continue to do massive changes despite what would seem to be very heavy political winds blowing at them in terms of unpopularity.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    One of those political wins is the Russia investigation and just in the past couple of weeks, really, we’ve seen almost a concerted effort on the part of Trump supporters and the Trump administration to push back against this. We have members of one of them is Adam Schiff saying listen there’s a good chance this could be scuttled by the end of the year. Today this morning John Cornyn said there are no such plans but it’s a different phase that we’re entering.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    I think it’s a good cop bad cop strategy. The Trump White House and his lawyers say no no we have no plans to fire Robert Mueller. We’re cooperating. But you’ve got this drumbeat not just from the Fox News opinion people who have now accelerated their argument, not just against Mueller, they’re now saying the FBI is corrupt that they’re trying a coup. And they found these texts from a couple of FBI investigators that suggests a hostility to Trump and they are pointing to that as signs that the entire process is corrupt. And what I think is going on is not that they’re on the verge of firing Mueller, although with the president you never know, but that there once again they are trying to lay down a predicate that whatever Mueller comes up with can’t be trusted.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And finally Jeff you’re joining us from San Diego. Not your usual Santa Barbara perch. I’m assuming this has something to do with the fires?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Yeah it has been surreal to wake up in this beautiful community and find yourself covered with ash and finding yourself unable to breathe very well. It has been quite a shock and I don’t mean to make this public policy but you know with climate change we’re being told this may be the new normal.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right Jeff Greenfield joining us from San Diego tonight. Thanks so much.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Thank you.

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