The Week In Politics

May 19, 2018
Originally published on May 19, 2018 9:44 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now we're going to turn to Ron Elving, NPR senior editor and Washington correspondent, because, of course, there is a political dimension to all of this. Ron, thanks very much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: There's almost a routine, a cycle we know from these all-too-numerous and tragic events. The president addresses a grieving nation. And, of course, it's only three months since the Parkland, Fla., shooting. What did you notice in President Trump's remarks?

ELVING: He immediately put this shooting in a longer time frame, Scott. Not Parkland earlier this year, as you just said, but shootings stretching back over many years, as he said, many decades, holding it at arm's length as it were. There was neither the tone nor the kind of action-oriented rhetoric we heard from the governor of Texas, for example, Greg Abbott, who is, after all, a very conservative Republican and a Second Amendment supporter who said, we need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families. We did not hear that kind of sentiment from the president.

SIMON: And we have to get to, really, the staggering amount of news from the Mueller investigation this week - the year anniversary of his appointment as special counsel. The Senate intelligence committee released their findings. And Mr. Trump claimed there was an FBI informant that had been placed in his campaign. Help us understand all of this.

ELVING: There was an informant sent to interview a couple of Trump campaign associates, people we've known about for some time now who had some kind of ties - Carter Page, George Papadopoulos. Back in 2016, this informant, whose name has been withheld - but we do know that he is described as an academic, well-known in policy circles. He's worked for past Republican administrations and for the CIA. He was sent to check out reports that these folks had been involved in both the Trump camp and were potentially Russian intelligence assets. Now, it is part of the FBI's job to catch or at least monitor foreign agents. This may look to some as the FBI just trying to do its job. But the president is calling it part of an effort to derail his campaign in 2016.

SIMON: And, Ron, President Trump introduced new regulations on federal family planning funds this week. Is this just a concession to his base?

ELVING: It surely pleases that portion of the base that opposes abortion. The regulations here are actually rather old regulations first imposed during the Reagan administration 30 years ago and rescinded by the Obama administration. They said you can't get Title X health care funds - this is a huge source of money for various kinds of health provision - you can't get those funds for a clinic or a counseling center such as Planned Parenthood that receive this family planning fund money and also may in some other place have or in some facility the availability of abortions. So it was sometimes called a gag rule because some people felt that it was keeping people from even telling you what an abortion was or where you might be able to get one. The exact language of this particular renewal of these regulations is still being formulated. And some of the states are already talking about how they might object and go to court.

SIMON: And there was a mutiny among House Republicans this week. It sunk the farm bill, but it had almost nothing to do with the farm bill. It was over immigration. What happened?

ELVING: The House Freedom Caucus, which we've talked about quite a bit - several dozen members on the conservative side in the House on the Republican Party's side voted against the bill and demonstrated that they really do hold the balance of power in the House these days, not the House leadership. The caucus, the House Freedom Caucus, did this because they first want to have a vote, before the vote on the farm bill, on a hard-line immigration bill. And some moderate Republicans also voted against this particular farm bill because it contains tougher work rules for food stamps. And the Democrats were voting against it largely on the same basis.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.