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Politics In The News: President Trump Tweets; Comey To Testify


Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has been using Twitter to comment on the day's news. The past few days have been no exception. Over the weekend, the president criticized London's mayor for his response to the terror attacks there. This morning, President Trump has turned his attention to his executive order on immigration. It's been blocked by federal courts. And the administration has recently asked the Supreme Court to intervene and allow it to take effect.

Here's one of the president's tweets from this morning. Quote, "the Justice Department should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down travel ban before the Supreme Court and seek much tougher version." NPR's Geoff Bennett is back in the studio with us this morning.

Hey, Geoff.


MARTIN: Can you give us some context for why the president might be choosing this particular moment to tweet about his so-called travel ban?

BENNETT: Yeah. Well, the backdrop here is that the Trump administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court last week to essentially revive his travel ban, which as you know, targets six Muslim-majority countries. And the travel ban's been on ice because it's been blocked by lower courts that found it was discriminatory. But I'm really interested to see in what ways, if any, these latest statements from the president influence the Supreme Court's decision on this matter because the lower courts have taken Trump's previous comments into consideration affirming, in essence, that his words do matter.

And the other thing I'd point out is that, you know, the fact that these are tweets does not diminish at all the fact that these are still presidential statements. It's more or less a stated policy approach from the head and the heart of the president.

MARTIN: There's another tweet that is interesting and complicated to kind of work through. He tweets, quote, "the Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban not the watered down politically correct version they submitted to the Supreme Court," which is a little bizarre because the revised travel ban - he signed that. And now he's blaming his own Justice Department for something that he gave the greenlight to.

BENNETT: Yeah. He did sign it. It's not as if the Justice Department went rogue. You'll remember that the original travel ban was fairly clear in its intent to target Muslims. The original one actually had a carve out for Christians. So the second one was written - rewritten to be less overtly discriminatory.

But the point I'll make is what we continue to hear from law enforcement officials is that the greater threat is not about people coming from outside the country. The crisis we face is inspired violence or homegrown violence. None of this addresses that.

MARTIN: I'm going to ask you to pivot a little bit because there is a big event happening on Thursday. I use the word event because there's a whole lot of hype and anticipation about James Comey's testimony on Capitol Hill. This is, as I mentioned, happening on Thursday. He is, of course, the ousted FBI director. What do we expect to happen? Do we expect James Comey to answer any big questions?

BENNETT: Well, that's what we're waiting to hear. The stakes are fairly high because we want to hear what he has to say on all the big questions. Did Trump pressure him to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn? Did President Trump demand Comey's personal loyalty? And did any of what the president did amount to obstruction of justice?

MARTIN: There was speculation the president might invoke executive privilege to stop Comey from testifying. Is that going to happen?

BENNETT: It appears as if he won't. Senior administration officials have said as much to The New York Times. There are a few challenges on that front for the White House. First is that Comey is now a private citizen. The second thing is that, as legal experts have well pointed out, Trump has made a weak case for invoking executive privilege because he has publicly addressed his conversations with Comey both on TV and on Twitter. You remember that tweet whereabout - he said something about, you know, he better hope we don't have tapes of the conversations.


BENNETT: And then there's the issue of political optics. It's tough for the White House to say that it's done nothing wrong, has nothing to hide while it tries to keep Comey silent.

MARTIN: NPR's Geoff Bennett - he covers Congress for us. Thanks so much, Geoff.

BENNETT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Geoff Bennett is a White House reporter for NPR. He previously covered Capitol Hill and national politics for NY1 News in New York City and more than a dozen other Time Warner-owned cable news stations across the country. Prior to that role, he was an editor with NPR's Weekend Edition. Geoff regularly guest hosts C-SPAN's Washington Journal — a live, three-hour news and public affairs program. He began his journalism career at ABC News in New York after graduating from Morehouse College.
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