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Busy Week In Politics Capped Off By Arpaio And Gorka


A storm of breaking news overnight. We just don't mean Hurricane Harvey. Presidential pardon, another White House aide departs, a week of fiery rhetoric and explicit threats. NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Let's begin. The news overnight, President Trump has pardoned Joe Arpaio, former sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona. Not just Democrats are outraged. A tweet from Senator John McCain says POTUS' pardon of Joe Arpaio, who illegally profiled Latinos, undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law. What do you make of this pardon, Ron, the timing, its implications?

ELVING: It's no surprise, if you heard President Trump in Phoenix on Tuesday night. It is clearly a win for the hardliners in the White House, those who still remain. These are the people who have had the president's ear on issues of nationalism from the beginning of his campaign from the harsh descriptions of certain immigrants to the Muslim ban proposal and, of course, the southern border wall, which, this week, the president said he would either see the government build or he will shut the government down.

SIMON: Joe Arpaio was convicted of defying a court order against illegal detentions. And for the first time, I am reading serious opinions available in the news from legal scholars around the country saying this could be grounds for impeachment. Now, I know impeachment is mostly a political act. But do you believe that prospect has gotten any more serious?

ELVING: No doubt it has for those legal scholars and for other people who are actively seeking grounds for impeachment proceedings. It is not likely to change the calculus for the majority of Republicans in the House. And if you need to get a president impeached, you need the Republicans, who are the majority in the House of Representatives.

SIMON: Speaking of his relations, the president's relations with members of his own party, he took to Twitter to call out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan about the debt ceiling and health care. Is he alienating the very people in the Senate he needs later for legislation to defend him against investigations?

ELVING: It's going to harden the battle lines, the battle lines that are already there, especially on immigration, especially with regard to the southern border wall. And this is a sensitive time, as we approach the perfect fiscal storm this September. I'm talking about the budget resolution, the spending bills, the federal debt ceiling with the prospect of a shutdown or a credit default. While still remote, perhaps, that threat is quite real.

SIMON: Another face has been crossed out of the White House staff photo overnight. Counterterrorism Adviser Sebastian Gorka has left the building. But was he a fired man walking, if you please, for the past week or so?

ELVING: Very much this was an aftershock to the departure of Steve Bannon, who was the president's chief strategist. He's the guy who brought Seb Gorka in. Gorka was not a household name, at least not in most households. And he was part of the contingent in the White House associated with this America first attitude, a kind of ultra-nationalism. And that faction, at this point, is down. But as we saw with the pardon of Sheriff Arpaio, that faction is not yet out.

SIMON: More missiles out of North Korea were launched last night - fell in the sea. North Korea had not so much other news broken overnight. This might have been our lead story. Does President Trump, after this week, have the confidence in Congress and in other quarters of opinion, to lead the country on this and other issues?

ELVING: You know, that depends on whom you ask. There are certainly those people who will express total confidence in the president, those who have probably never had any at all. But the team around the president, the three generals - so we are increasingly talking about John Kelly, James Mattis, H.R. McMaster - that team tends to boost confidence on military matters.

SIMON: 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.