A Look At The Potential Political Implications Of Mueller's Congressional Testimony

Jul 24, 2019
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And joining us now to discuss the political implications of today's hearing is NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

Hey, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Trump originally said he wasn't sure he would watch today's hearings - seems like he did.

KEITH: Indeed, it does seem like he was watching. You know, he had said, oh, I don't know if I'm going to watch. And then he tweeted pretty much throughout, especially during the breaks. And he tweeted something like 26 times today, including several quotes from Fox News personalities. He also then came out to the microphones and commented on Robert Mueller's performance, among other things.

SHAPIRO: Let's listen to a little bit of what he said when he stepped up to the microphones this afternoon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We had a very good day today - the Republican Party, our country.

SHAPIRO: A very good day in his words - do you think it was a very good day for the president?

KEITH: You know, it really depends on how the public absorbs this hearing. Do they see what the president wants them to see, which is Robert Mueller giving a lot of one-word answers, refusing to answer other questions, saying that they were out of his purview, telling Democrats on a number of occasions that he didn't really agree with their analysis? Or do people see Robert Mueller saying that he couldn't exonerate the President on obstruction of justice, that President Trump didn't cooperate fully with the investigation, that he answered questions in a way that wasn't consistent with other evidence? And another thing that he said - that President Trump amplified Russian election interference in a way that was, quote, "problematic." President Trump, by coming out and declaring victory as he has done in other occasions - he is trying to cement his view in the mind of the public.

SHAPIRO: It's been very clear that Democrats see this as one step in a long, ongoing investigation. Republicans see this as sort of the final gasp of something that, in their view, has already gone on too long. When you look at the political takeaways from today's hearings, do you think it felt like something the American people will view as conclusive or something that leaves and raises a lot more questions?

KEITH: There were certainly a number of questions left by this hearing - questions that Democrats in the House intend to continue to follow and continue to investigate. I don't know whether - you know, this morning when we woke up, there were 94 Democrats who said that they thought that impeachment proceedings should begin.

SHAPIRO: Still a minority.

KEITH: Still a minority - and it's not clear whether that number of House members will change. You know, Democrats certainly are planning to continue pushing on election security. And that is one of the takeaways from Mueller's testimony, which is - he said - that was when he was most verbose. He said very bluntly that election interference was occurring, is occurring, is going to continue occurring and that it is a real concern.

SHAPIRO: And we do have a whole conversation about election security elsewhere in the program. But because part of your beat is covering the 2020 campaign, I also have to ask you how this is going to play into the race for the White House.

KEITH: So there were a lot of - there are 24 people running for president, and very few of them had anything to say about this so far today. There were only a couple of tweets. They were very quiet about it. And the fact is that many of these candidates - they're simply focused on running for president. Sure, if you ask them about impeachment, they will weigh in. But they have been very focused on other things, talking about what they will do for other Americans. And it's not clear that that is going to change as a result of this hearing.

SHAPIRO: Is this near the top of the list of things that voters care about right now?

KEITH: It hasn't been, no. The top of their list is health care, the economy, education. And that's what the candidates - the Democratic candidates talk about.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

Thanks for coming into the studio.

KEITH: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOARDS OF CANADA'S "LEFT SIDE DRIVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.