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Week In Politics


A week of transcripts and no-shows in the impeachment inquiry, and another candidate may enter the Democratic race for president. This one has a long resume and billions of dollars at his fingertips. NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us, this week from San Antonio, where he's been with our friends from Texas Public Radio. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

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

SIMON: We have the first public hearings in the impeachment process coming up this week. What should we look for?

ELVING: Well, first, we should look for our local NPR station.

SIMON: (Laughter).

ELVING: Starting Wednesday morning, we'll be covering these hearings gavel to gavel, just as we covered the Watergate hearings back when NPR was young in...

SIMON: Yeah.

ELVING: ...Summer of 1973. And...

SIMON: The beginning.

ELVING: And...

SIMON: That's when I started listening, yeah.

ELVING: There you go. And speaking of Watergate, those hearings were able to elevate that scandal beyond the initial stories of campaign skulduggery to expose the abuse of power at the highest levels and to expose it to a national audience. And that's what the House Democrats believe they can do with these open hearings.

SIMON: But public hearings sometimes just leave the public uninterested and unmoved, don't they?

ELVING: You're right. There's no guarantee. In the late 1980s, there were joint House and Senate hearings into a scandal involving the Ronald Reagan White House. They were selling arms to Iran for a profit that went to secretly finance rebels in Central America. And the Democrats of that era thought they could tarnish Reagan's halo and get a leg up on the next election, but the live hearings backfired and made a hero out of a guy named Oliver North, who went on to a career in Republican politics and conservative broadcasting.

SIMON: John Bolton's attorney suggested this week the former national security adviser might know things about this Ukraine affair that haven't even been discussed in closed-door testimonies. Does that mean he wants to testify? I'm sure they'd find time for him. Is - are his lawyers trying to get some kind of guarantee? What's going on?

ELVING: They would find time for him, indeed. You have to wonder why someone tells the world how much they know but won't say what it is - they can't tell. Doesn't he want a court to order him? Is that it? He wants a court to tell him to spill the beans. But on the other hand, maybe that is just a play for delay that gets him off the griddle for now. What's his motive at this point? He doesn't seem to have much relationship with the president anymore.

SIMON: Yeah.

ELVING: But what about his relationships with Fox News and the wider conservative world?

SIMON: Michael Bloomberg has filed papers to run in Alabama's Democratic presidential primary. Course, he used to be a Republican. He was mayor of New York. He is 77 years old. He would be entering much later and closer to the primaries than any other candidate. Can you figure out a strategy?

ELVING: Not sure anyone can at this moment. He clearly doesn't think there's an obvious winner in the current crop of Democrats. But it's as hard as ever to imagine Mike Bloomberg emerging from Iowa and New Hampshire, let alone Nevada or South Carolina. And that's where the race begins. You can't be nominated by the state of New York. But surely, the Democrats would rather have him in the primaries than running as a third-party or independent candidate next fall. At that point, he would split the anti-Trump vote and quite possibly guarantee a second term for the president.

SIMON: Let me ask you about how Republicans responded to the welter of news this week and revelations about what's in the transcripts of testimony offering - that was offered, the loss (ph) of testimony this week about quid pro quo, or quos, for aid to Ukraine. But little change registered among Republicans in Congress.

ELVING: That's right. They will resist in the House, of course, and do whatever they can to disrupt these open hearings. But it's really the Senate where the Republicans are in charge. And they had this big pep rally at the White House this week, celebrating all the federal judges they've confirmed under President Trump. But the subtext of that rally was a show of unity against impeachment.

SIMON: Are they listening, or are they getting girded for the battle and listening only for ways that they can try and be in opposition?

ELVING: I think there was a great deal to having that group of people get together and have, you know, the sense of camaraderie and the sense of solidarity and show that they've already accomplished a lot of their agenda and that they need to stick together to accomplish the rest.

SIMON: NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving, thanks so much.

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

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.