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Week In Politics: More Impeachment Hearings As Trump Heads To NATO Summit


President Trump will be at the NATO summit in London next week, just as the House Judiciary Committee opens its impeachment hearings. NPR's White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe joins us. Ayesha, thanks so much for being with us this week.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: A NATO summit while impeachment hearings proceed in Washington. The president's lawyers have been invited to participate in the House Judiciary Committee hearings - not likely, though, is it?

RASCOE: Well, it's really not clear at this point whether they will participate or not. But clearly, the White House has resisted cooperating with the impeachment inquiry in general. They've ordered current and former officials not to testify and haven't complied with document requests. And generally, they've argued that the proceedings were a sham, and while saying that the president is being treated unfairly.

SIMON: Do you expect, Ayesha, that the president will be at least a little distracted by impeachment while he's at the NATO summit?

RASCOE: It's possible. President Trump will almost certainly face questions about impeachment at some point during the trip. And unlike other presidents, Trump hasn't been shy about engaging in domestic politics or even kind of launching partisan attacks while overseas.

SIMON: And British domestic politics - Boris Johnson also has a lot on his agenda, obviously, between trying to negotiate a Brexit, forthcoming elections and, of course, yesterday's tragic attacks on the London Bridge.

RASCOE: Yes. And even though Johnson and Trump have been aligned in the past, Johnson has made clear that he does not want Trump commenting on the election. And the White House has said that President Trump will abide by that request.

SIMON: And then France's President Macron has been questioning the health of NATO. President Erdogan of Turkey calls him - in response, wonders if he's brain-dead. I wonder if they're going to stand next to each other in that photo the world leaders always pose for at the NATO summits.

RASCOE: They may not. Right now, look; it's not unusual for there to be these frustrations within NATO and kind of sniping between leaders, but this dispute gets at this bigger issue about the future of NATO. What Macron was complaining about was that the U.S. has become really unpredictable and that Turkey's incursion into Syria without the backing of other allies really raised concerns and tensions about what NATO would be called on to do, say, if Turkey was attacked in response. So he - so Macron was saying that NATO may be experiencing brain death. And Erdogan, in response, is saying that it's Macron who may be brain-dead.

SIMON: Just before the NATO summit, the president renewed his call for other NATO member states to increase their defense budgets and move to cut the U.S. contribution. What effect is that going to have?

RASCOE: Well, so this probably won't have a huge impact because what he's talking - what the U.S. is reportedly looking at cutting is the contribution to helping maintain NATO headquarters and things like that, so to the collective budget, but not the common defense of allies. But it is meant to likely send a message that Trump will bring up again and again in London, and it's that he wants Europe to pay more on defense and just to shoulder more of the burden in general. NATO has its target of each member spending 2% of GDP on defense by 2024, and most countries haven't met that goal.

SIMON: Russia will come up?

RASCOE: Yes. A senior administration official said that Russian aggression will be discussed. He said the threats posed by Russia - or the official said that the threats posed by Russia remain an issue of deep, deep concern for alliance members.

SIMON: NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, thanks so much for being with us.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.