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Politics Update: Russia Investigation, The Congressional Agenda


These are busy times in Washington. Congress is going to reconvene on Monday amid many stories of sexual harassment. Republicans are rushing to rewrite the tax code before the new year, and President Trump is going to be pushing them to get that done. Meanwhile, a special counsel is investigating the president's ties to Russia. And just this morning, there is some news on that story.

We're going to talk all this through with Geoff Bennett. He's NBC's White House correspondent. He's here with us in studio. Hey, Geoff. Thanks for coming in.

GEOFF BENNETT: Sure thing. Good morning.

KING: All right. So numerous outlets this morning, Geoff, reporting that President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, may be distancing himself from the White House in this Russia investigation. Tell us what's going on there.

BENNETT: That's right. Well, we know Michael Flynn's legal team has informed President Trump's legal team that they will no longer share information as it relates to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. And so we know legal experts say that defense teams often share information and materials that they have in common while advocating for separate clients. This revelation doesn't prove that Mike Flynn is now cooperating with the special counsel investigation, but it's the clearest indication yet that he might be.

KING: And what would that mean for President Trump's lawyers?

BENNETT: Well, it - the question, I think, that we should talk about is what it means for Robert Mueller...

KING: Yeah.

BENNETT: ...Because what it does really is it gives Robert Mueller a behind-the-scenes look at the campaign, at the transition and at the early days of the Trump administration because Mike Flynn, as you know, was there for all of it. He was the central figure in President Trump's national security team. He only served for 24 days, of course. But if he is cooperating - we have to say, of course, at this point, it's speculation. We don't know for sure that he is. But if he is, he has a lot of information that he could share with the special counsel.

KING: And do we get any - have we gotten any evidence from the White House this morning, or have we got any, I suppose, whisperings from the White House this morning that President Trump's lawyers might actually be worried about this turn of events?

BENNETT: Jay Sekulow, who is one of President Trump's attorneys, says that we should not read too much into this. But, you know, as I said before, Mike Flynn was a central figure very close to the Trump campaign. And President Trump was asked about Mike Flynn just two days after he resigned back in February. Take a listen to what he had to say.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he's been treated very, very unfairly by the media.

BENNETT: Treated very unfairly by the media - one wonders what President Trump has to say about General Mike Flynn at this point.

KING: Yeah. Yeah. Well, another politician making news, obviously, is Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in the Alabama race - accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers. We only have a couple weeks left in this race. Can we make any predictions there?

BENNETT: Oh, I got out of the prediction business...

KING: Fair enough.


BENNETT: ...November 8, 2016. But we do know President Trump's wondered aloud before he left for Mar-a-Lago. The question was, you know, will you go campaign for Roy Moore there in Alabama? And he said, we'll see. I'll let you know next week. I talked to some Trump staffers about that. They're not even entirely sure if the president will actually go to Alabama and campaign alongside Roy Moore.

Talking to some Roy Moore supporters in Alabama - they say it doesn't even much matter at this point because they already view that implicit endorsement from President Trump on the South Lawn as an endorsement in and of itself. He gave Republicans cover to support Roy Moore in the sense that he said it's important to have a Republican hold that Senate seat for the great many things that President Trump wants to accomplish. At the top of that list right now, of course, is tax overhaul.

KING: Tax overhaul, right - Congress goes back to work on Monday. I assume that's at the top of their agenda?

BENNETT: Yeah. That's right. They're actually - the big four, as they're known - McConnell, Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer - they're all set to meet with President Trump at the White House on Tuesday to talk about tax reform and the end-of-year legislative agenda items. So there's a must-do list for Congress, and there's a like-to-do list for Congress as they come back to Washington and look to the end of the year. Taxes is at the very top of the would-like-to-do list.

The thing they have to do is pass some sort of government funding measure ahead of a December 8 deadline to keep the government running. And Democrats want to tie to that bill protections for DREAMers - the DACA protections that President Trump ended some months ago. They want to codify into law the protections for the roughly 800,000 young people who came to the country illegally.

KING: And I know you said you're out of the prediction business, but do you think Congress is going to get some meaningful work done now - between now and the end of the year?

BENNETT: Well, you know what's interesting about this? Republicans say on the record that they have to do something on taxes. I think Lindsey Graham said it best - not just because the Republican base wants to see something done on taxes, but the donors also want to see Republicans do something - have something to show for their control of all the levers of power here in Washington.

KING: Something does need to get done. NBC's White House correspondent Geoff Bennett, thank you so much.

BENNETT: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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