SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Hello. I’m Suzanne Malveaux, and this is the Washington Week Extra, where we pick up online where we left off on the broadcast.
So I want to start off first talking a little bit about the “extreme vetting” that we had heard before, that it sounded like there are certainly particularly predominantly Muslim countries where there would be a very hard test to get into this country, and then a preference for Christians, this religious litmus test if you will. Indira, what stuck out in your mind in terms of how hard it is to get into this country? Were there any major changes?
INDIRA LAKSHMANAN: Well, a few things jump out at me. First of all, even Donald Trump’s term “extreme vetting,” which he used very successfully with his base throughout the campaign is really a misnomer because already the system we have in place for allowing refugees into this country is very extreme. It takes two years to go through the current existing process that we had under the Obama administration for any refugee to come through. So it’s not like anyone can come willy-nilly from the battlefield in Syria and just arrive in Washington. That’s not how it works.
Moreover, Donald Trump has focused on these seven predominantly Muslim countries for this initial 90-day ban that we’re hearing about. These are countries where a really comprehensive study done by the Cato Institute looked at all terrorist attacks on American soil from 1975 to 2015 and not one single American was killed by someone who came from one of these seven countries. People have also pointed out that these seven countries are Muslim-majority countries in which Donald Trump has no business interests, whereas there were other Muslim-majority countries that have terrorism issues where he did not put them on the list, countries where he has business interests.
So I think there are a lot of questions that are going to be out there about this process. The whole idea of prioritizing Christians, a religious litmus test, is not something that we have had in our country. It’s not sort of – some people say it doesn’t comport with the Constitution. But again, Donald Trump is incorrect when he says that it was impossible for Christian Syrians to come in before. That was not at all true. If you made it through the two-year process, your religion didn’t matter. And after all, Muslim Syrians and Iraqis are the ones who are the biggest victims of ISIS in any case.
MS. MALVEAUX: I imagine that plays to his Evangelical base to check that box, if you will. And, Jeff, you have – you’re looking forward to the Supreme Court nomination coming on Thursday.
JEFF ZELENY: Well, it’s coming this week – or this coming week, excuse me, and this is really to fill the vacancy of Justice Antonin Scalia, which has been empty for almost a year. And there are three top finalists, all of whom have met with the president, and here they are: William Pryor from Alabama, Thomas Hardiman from Pittsburgh, and Neil Gorsuch from Denver. All of them are on the federal appellate bench, and all of them have one thing in common: they’re all pretty young. And they are going to be around the age of 50 or so, from 47, I think, to 52. So that is a young justice for a lifetime appointment here.
Now, I think that I am told by people inside the White House and on Capitol Hill that they do not want a tough fight over this. Of course they’re going to get a fight, but it takes 60 votes to get one of these justices confirmed. So they’re looking at people who have already been confirmed, and Hardiman and Gorsuch have been unanimously confirmed to the federal appellate bench, appointed by George W. Bush. So that is something, yes, Democrats will complain about it, but so these are viewed as more moderate. So the smart money, the leading candidate, all signs are pointing to Thomas Hardiman. He also happens to be in the same circuit as the president’s sister. She is a federal judge. We do not know if that influences it. There would be nothing wrong with that, of course; you know, he can ask anyone for advice. But that’s where it looks like it’s going. But some supporters of William Pryor think that he is actually the best mold of Scalia here, but they believe that he would have a very hard time getting appointed because even Susan Collins – another Republican senator, a moderate Republican senator – has voted against him, and he was actually named in a recess appointment back during the Bush years because he has very strict views on abortion. So they believe that Pryor is too difficult, but we’ll find out probably on Thursday, perhaps before Thursday.
MS. MALVEAUX: And any of those would meet Chuck Schumer’s definition of moderate?
MR. ZELENY: I do not think so. (Laughter.) I think Chuck Schumer obviously will vote against them, but there are so many Democrats – there are Democrats who are up in 2018 who are almost certain to vote with him. But this is going to be a fight, no question at all. Republicans started it by not allowing Merrick Garland to be – even have a hearing, so it’s going to be a fight. But I think that Republicans ultimately might win if one of these two sort of moderate-ish people are appointed.
MS. MALVEAUX: Go ahead, Robert.
ROBERT COSTA: Just to bounce off that point about the Supreme Court, I’m told from my sources – maybe you’ve heard the same – that the look matters to Trump. I mean, the president is not a lawyer. And you look at Gorsuch, you look at Hardiman, and of course Pryor too, these are sharp-looking people. And with Hardiman, his biography’s interesting because he’s from – he’s now in Pennsylvania, a little more blue-collar; went to Notre Dame, my alma mater; he’s Catholic; and he drove a taxi during law school. And I’m told Trump likes that.
MR. ZELENY: He was the first person in his family to go to college, so he does have a story that’s not exactly the elite Harvard/Yale circuit, which is, you know, most of the Supreme Court.
MS. MALVEAUX: Yeah, I heard he’s not going for the Ivy League anymore, so he’s done with that. We’ve also seen real activism that we have not seen before, and you know, lots of fights going on within the government. But some real – some protests. We saw the March on Washington for anti-abortion forces. We saw last week the big Women’s March. I had a chance to cover that and talk to many of the leaders there. What do you make, Ashley, of this resurgence? Is it a moment? Is it a movement? Are we seeing a real cohesive group of Americans coming together to make an impact here?
ASHLEY PARKER: Well, it’s an interesting question. As I was watching the Women’s March on Washington last week, one question I had that I don’t have an answer for, and it may be unanswerable, is how many of those people who came to D.C. and traveled voted? Because we know not everyone votes. And so some of this, I wonder how much of this was regretful or rueful that they wish they had done more before, such as showing up to the ballot box, and now they appeared.
And then the other question I had was, one thing a lot of people who came – the women – said some were there because they’re opposed to Donald Trump. Not all of them. Some said, we’re not opposed to Donald Trump. This isn’t about protesting him. This is about standing up for polices we believe in or protesting some of his policies, but not him as a person. So it was a very eclectic, diverse group. But if you talk to them, you were there, they had issues about climate change, health care, immigration.
And so it was this very diffuse collection, which one the one hand was incredibly powerful because you had this diverse range of people coming. But then it sort of raises the question of how does that move into sort of big group activism? If some people are there because they want to do something on climate change and the others want to make sure that refugees can come into the country, and I think it remains an open question if they can bond together for something broader, or if they’ll all go back to their small slices of causes, and perhaps be a bit less effective.
MS. MALVEAUX: One of the things that I – when – in covering the march I talked to Gloria Steinem. And I asked them a similar question, many of these people. It’s like, are you willing to work with President Trump now? For Gloria Steinem, the answer was a clear no. Michael Moore was the same way. Reverend Jessie Jackson, not so much. He said there were ways – it wasn’t an anti-Trump rally, but kind of a pro-America, pro-democracy rally. And then there were others too. The Legal Defense Fund head Sherrilyn Ifill, who said, look, on social justice issues we are going to stand firm. But if there are other things where we can work with this administration we will. But there was an open invitation.
MS. LAKSHMANAN: I totally agree with Ashley’s question, though, because I was covering the march and had the exact same question: Did all these women vote? Because what a powerful force –
MR. ZELENY: Or how many voted for Jill Stein or a third-party candidate?
MS. LAKSHMANAN: Or for Bernie Sanders and didn’t then bother to come out because they didn’t have the enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton. I saw a lot of Bernie signs.
MS. PARKER: Yeah.
MR. COSTA: And the point you made about Reverend Jackson, I spoke to Reverend Jackson a few days ago. And he does in some ways – like a lot of Democrats – they say, hey infrastructure. There are different issues out there. Maybe we could work with President Trump. But one of the takeaways he had is when he sees people going after voter fraud, like Trump’s doing, he thinks that’s really voter suppression. A lot of Democrats – the people – I was at – I walked through some of the rally this past Saturday. And a lot of the people said, look, Trump’s tone, his temperament, it just makes it impossible for us, even if he’s not as ideological as most Republicans, to work with him. So there – Trump is making some – has some barriers between his critics and building a bridge.
MS. MALVEAUX: And, Robert, talk about the – specifically some of the leaders that we’ve seen in the cities and the states around the country who are really pushing back on the sanctuary cities and the defunding of the sanctuary cities. They really don’t see any kind of way to compromise on that.
MR. COSTA: They don’t. A lot of mayors and governors even, they want to make sure they have the authority to make their decisions in their area. But Trump has this sweeping executive order. And it comes right out of that hard-right wing of the Republican Party that thinks we need to have tougher borders and they’re going to go after undocumented people throughout the country. Trump even talked during the campaign about a deportation force. And that’s kind of the ethos that’s really pushing a lot of these executive orders. And you see it with the sanctuary cities. And I don’t think Trump’s going to back down. He’s surrounded himself with some victims of crime, so-called Angel Moms, people who have children killed by undocumented people in this country. And he really is embracing that element of his campaign in his presidency.
MS. MALVEAUX: Is there anyone at the table who thinks that we are at a moment where we can unify this country? Or after this week, do we see it as more divided because of the things that he did over the last seven days?
MR. ZELENY: Look, I think it’s a pretty divided country politically, no doubt. But I think that, you know, there are also people who want to get things done. And I don’t think we know the full Donald Trump yet. I mean, his whole life’s history was – you know, he was a liberal Democrat or nothing at all for a long time. So I think he is willing to work with the Jesse Jacksons on some things. He wants to be a successful president. So to be a successful president, he can’t be a divider. The question is, you know, will people work with him on things? But, look, we’re a divided country politically more than we have been in recent memory.
MS. LAKSHMANAN: And will he be willing to work on issues and not focus on himself? The whole thing about voter fraud and his obsession with the numbers I think raises concerns about his – you know, about it being about him as opposed to being about the substance.
MS. PARKER: Because if you take away those distractions and those issues you just mentioned, a lot of what he is espousing all of America can in theory get behind. So, jobs. Putting people back to work. A good economy. Putting America first in theory, without all the sort of global ramifications that come with that, are all things people can support. But I think you’re right, that these distractions pull away. And obviously some of the more extreme hard-right stuff, like immigration, certainly hurts him with people who might be willing to consider him on other fronts.
MS. MALVEAUX: All right. We’ll all be working very hard this next week. (Laughter.) We’ll see what week two brings. Thank you, everyone, really appreciate it.
That’s it for this edition of Washington Week Extra. While you’re online, check out the Washington Week-ly News Quiz and test your knowledge of current events. I’m Suzanne Malveaux. And see you next time.