Amy Walter and Tamara Keith on Trump’s Ukraine call defense, Sanders’ heart health

Amy Walter and Tamara Keith on Trump’s Ukraine call defense, Sanders’ heart health


WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And that brings us to Politics
Monday. I’m here with Amy Walter of The Cook Political
Report and host of public radio’s “Politics With Amy Walter.” And Tamara Keith of NPR, she co-hosts the
“NPR Politics Podcast.” Welcome, you two podcasters. (LAUGHTER) WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Let’s talk about impeachment. Amy, the president, when this whole thing
first broke, said there was no quid pro quo. Then these texts come out, now a second whistle-blower
has come forward, saying it looks quite clear that there was a quid pro quo. But it seems that the president’s defense
of this whole call and this interaction with the Ukrainians hasn’t changed very much. What is he trying to do here? AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: And
his defenders, at least the few of them that are going out on television defending the
president, they’re not talking about what the president actually did or his intentions,
whether it was with Ukraine or asking the Chinese to investigate. (CROSSTALK) AMY WALTER: Right. They’re making the case that this is — we
should be looking into corruption of the Bidens, we should be looking at the 2016 campaign. It’s muddying the waters as much possible
in order to get, I think, folks who are not truly partisan or people who are just sort
of paying attention to this whole affair to say, ugh, I guess the whole thing is corrupt,
that’s just politicians, Biden over here doing his thing, Trump’s doing his thing, and then
check out, instead of focusing exclusively on what the current sitting president of the
United States is doing. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Tam, is that your sense,
that — one, that that’s what they’re doing? And, two, is that kind of thing going to work? TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Well,
the president keeps repeating the same thing. It was a perfect call. There was no pressure. He keeps repeating it, as if, if he could
just repeat it enough times, it would make it absolutely true. But the language that is in that call has
even many Republicans saying, that was improper. Now, his defenders will say, that was improper,
but not impeachable. And that is the big difference there. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Right. TAMARA KEITH: But the president seems to be
very much staying on message. Also, though, he’s intensified his rhetoric. He’s using increasingly extreme language,
words like coup and treason. He is now calling the media the corrupt media. He — and he’s been pretty transparent about
it. He says, calling you fake news wasn’t tough
enough. I needed something stronger. And at NPR, we have sort of charted this,
and his use of this language is increasing. The number of tweets is increasing. The president is lashing out as this intensifies
around him. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Amy, do think that this
does any damage to Biden’s campaign? I mean, we — it seems now that there is really
no evidence that Biden tried to get this Ukrainian prosecutor out to protect his son. But there still is the appearance that, if
you’re the point man on Ukraine for the Obama administration, it is a little dodgy to have
your son working at this gas company that had been investigated. In the end, does this hurt Biden? AMY WALTER: Well, that’s been a lot of the
chatter over the weekend, right, that Biden has not done enough to sort of push back on
this story. For somebody who’s putting the whole onus
of his campaign on, I’m the electable candidate, I’m the guy that can, as he says, beat Trump
like a drum, he has not been vocally explaining this and going after Donald Trump, pushing
back on these claims that either he or his son did something wrong. He’s put an op-ed out. He has made some — in press gaggles, made
some remarks about this, but not… (CROSSTALK) WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But he has not been the
pugilist Joe Biden that a lot of Democrats want him to be. AMY WALTER: Correct, wanted to — wanted to
see, theoretically. We just don’t know yet if it’s making that
much of a difference. The reality, I think, is, what impeachment
has done is sort of frozen the 2020 race in place. In some ways, that is good for Joe Biden,
because we were starting to see him slipping in the early states to Elizabeth Warren. She was starting to gain even in the national
polls. So to sort of freeze that momentum of hers
would be good. It’s also bad for those lower-tier candidates
trying to break through. But it’s also not clear if, because Joe Biden’s
name is — to your point, it’s in the news all the time with just the words Ukraine,
son, appearance. That might be able to get into the minds of
voters, sort of stick there. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Tam, what is your sense
about whether this really does matter out amongst voters? I mean, here in Washington, of course, everyone
is talking about it constantly. But does it matter? Does it actually move the lever in a way that
people say, I want to hear about this more than I do about health care or climate or
whatever might be on their minds? TAMARA KEITH: Yes, in terms of voters deciding
on which candidate they want to be the Democratic nominee, impeachment is kind of a nonissue. It continues to be a nonissue, because all
of the candidates agree, more or less. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And if you were for Trump,
you’re for Trump still. And if you were for someone in the blue camp,
you’re for them too. AMY WALTER: Right. TAMARA KEITH: Right. We have amazing division in this country,
which is just remarkable, so that President Trump can go out on the South Lawn of the
White House and say, Ukraine, you should investigate Joe Biden, and, China, you should investigate
Biden. He can stand out there and say something that
many people wouldn’t want to be caught in private saying, and Republicans continue to
stand behind him. And, in part, that is team sports. That’s because the Republican team — he’s
on the Republican team, and he went out there and he said these things. So, OK, I guess this is OK now. AMY WALTER: Yes, the group that I’m watching
are independent voters, who their approval ratings of Donald Trump are very low. A little over 50 percent disapprove of the
job he’s doing as president, but only about 40 percent say they want him to be impeached. So there’s a gap between those folks who say,
I really don’t like — either I don’t like him or I don’t like the way he behaves, I
don’t like how he’s serving as president. That doesn’t mean that I want to see him impeached. Where those folks go, to me, are the people
to really watch that would turn the tide one way or the other. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Right. Tam, let’s talk about the — about what happened
with Bernie Sanders last week. He has — originally, we’re told he has chest
discomfort. He goes to the hospital. He puts two stents in. And then, a few days later, it turns out they
say, well, he actually did have a heart attack. Does that matter, either the timing of how
they rolled out this news or the simple cardiac event itself? TAMARA KEITH: So there’s been a lot of criticism
of the way they handled it. The Sanders campaign has clearly been very
defensive about that criticism, and they have been coming back and saying, no, we were very
transparent. We said he had stents put in. We put Jane out, his wife. She talked. And then, once he was released, they say,
well, we said what it was. That’s three days. That is a long time to not know that the leading
fund-raiser in the Democratic field had a heart attack. And there is a big difference sort of emotionally
and in the way people feel between, had two stents put in and had a heart attack. It’s a big psychological difference, even
if it’s the same thing. AMY WALTER: Yes. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Right. Do you have any sense of how this impacts
his candidacy? AMY WALTER: Well, I think his bigger challenge
right now, beyond this, which is obviously a health challenge, but his biggest political
challenge, her name is Elizabeth Warren. And she has been really biting into his two
main core support centers that he had in 2016, liberal voters, especially white liberal voters. And until she can — until he can find a way
to get those voters back, which I don’t think they’re going to, that is a bigger challenge
for him going forward. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith,
thank you both so much. TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome. AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.

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