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Trump juggles many issues affecting approval ratings

It has been another boisterous weekend in politics for President Trump, from missile strikes in Syria to a forthcoming book by former FBI director James Comey, to legal trouble for his personal attorney. All this coupled with the retirement announcement this week by House Speaker Paul Ryan. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Hari Sreenivasan for some perspective.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    From the missile strikes in Syria to the forthcoming book from James Comey to legal troubles for his personal attorney Michael Cohen, President Trump has had yet another complicated weekend. Joining me from Santa Barbara for some perspective on these matters is NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield. Jeff, let’s start with the airstrike in Syria. Win for the president?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    When a president uses force, the initial reaction, almost alway,s is favorable. What happens later, is where the test comes in. So you have a lot of people say, well OK you’ve punished Syria for the use of chemical weapons, Now what? Do you still mean to take American forces out of Syria as you said a week ago? You have a very prominent neoconservative Eliot Cohen, a very hawkish guy, also very hostile to Trump, saying the limited nature of this strike says that you aren’t willing to confront Putin, you should’ve done much more. But, as I say, I have a feeling that the half life of these strikes, assuming it’s a one off is fairly limited. I think, as you alluded to in the introduction, there are many more issues on the table that’s going to affect the president’s approval ratings on this.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. One of those issues is a intergalactic book tour being launched by James Comey, it starts on network TV tonight. How significant is it?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    To be honest, we really not going to know the full Fullah to hear the allegedly eyebrow raising statements that we will make on the interview later tonight. What’s interesting is that his appearance and his voices, his words, which clearly are aimed mostly at Trump, have not entirely soothe the feelings of Democrats, who still point to what he did in the days just before the election, announcing the reopening of investigations into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail. They still hold him responsible for the loss of that election and in fact, it’s been suggested that his statement, well you know I saw from the polls that Hillary Clinton was likely to win and I didn’t want to didn’t want her administration to come into power under a cloud, also raises a question Is it really the FBI director’s business to gauge the political consequences of his action? There have been some fairly strong pushback against him and not just from the Trump supporters who basically want Comey sent to Devil’s Island for the rest of his life.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And the other issue that happened this week the White House is said to be more concerned about the raid on lawyer Michael Cohen’s office than anything else that’s going on with the special counsel. Why?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Because for 10 years Michael Cohen has been the go to guy for the president — not just on legal matters but all kinds of financial and personal difficulties. To get the stuff that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the feds got from his office they had to convince the Justice Department officials and a magistrate that there was probable cause to believe in criminal conduct. And in gathering up the correspondence and the tapes and the hard drives there now is that the U.S. attorney’s office years worth of information that could have effect Trump not just in the Russian collusion case but across his entire public life that was supposed to be a red line, the president warned Mueller don’t get into this, that’s a red line. And that’s why the temperature on this issue keeps rising every time I think it can’t get any hotter, it gets hotter.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Lots of the president’s supporters are saying here’s a solution — fire the attorney general, fire Rod Rosenstein get rid of Mueller, stop this train.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Except, that you also have among Republicans in the Congress the reverse message. You have an almost pleading quality to some of the statements by Senator Orrin Hatch and Lindsey Graham. Don’t fire Miller, don’t fire Rosenstein, it will be suicidal. You have Congressman Trey Gowdy who was very tough on Secretary Clinton a couple of years ago saying you know what, Mueller and the U.S. attorneys have done everything by the book, lay off. And that clash between some of the president’s most ardent supporters and the congressional leadership makes for a really sharp contrast in what they want the president to do.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right here’s NewsHour Weekend’s Jeff Greenfield on us from California. Thanks so much.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Sure.

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