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Politics In The News

NOEL KING, HOST:

And it was a busy weekend here in D.C. It started late Friday afternoon with news that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired. And then this weekend, President Trump started tweeting. His main target was the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. To discuss what is going on in the White House, we've got Jonah Goldberg of the National Review with us.

Hi, Jonah.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Hey, Noel. Great to be here.

KING: So let's start with the Russia investigation. The president tweeted this weekend, the Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. And then in another tweet he again called Mueller out by name. What is the president doing, and why is he doing it now?

GOLDBERG: Well, you know, there are some things in the era of Trump that are shocking but not significant, and there are some things that are significant but not shocking.

KING: OK.

GOLDBERG: And the fact that Donald Trump wants the Mueller investigation to end, the fact that his lawyers said they want the Mueller investigation to end is one of the least shocking things that has happened. But at the same time, it's somewhat inappropriate. I mean, it's actually just plain inappropriate. And it signals the fact that Trump is no longer listening to the lawyers who said, this is being wrapped up any day now, don't worry about it, don't go after Mueller, that sends a bad signal that could be seen as obstruction. I think - you know, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman has this thesis that Donald Trump is suddenly feeling his oats and feeling confident that he knows how to do this job now, and I think that's probably right for a bunch of reasons. And if that's true then we could be seeing a whole new chapter in the era of the reality TV show that we call the Trump presidency.

KING: And what might that new chapter look like?

GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, first of all - as we've seen - you know, a lot of Cabinet secretaries are being voted off the island these days, and more may be coming in in the days ahead. There's been reporting that suggests that it's because he no longer feels he needs these people as sort of training wheels or crutches to do the job and that he feels - again, relying on Haberman and a few others - that the mistakes that he's made so far have not been because he relied on his instincts but because he was talked out of relying on his instincts. And so this could be just the sort of Trump-unplugged era that we're entering into.

KING: I want to talk about how his fellow Republicans are responding. Let's hear a bit of tape. This is Senator Lindsey Graham talking to CNN.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "STATE OF THE UNION")

LINDSEY GRAHAM: When it comes to Mr. Mueller, he is following the evidence where it takes him. And I think it's very important he be allowed to do his job without interference, and there are many Republicans who share my view.

KING: How many? Is it most of them? Most of them think the investigation should be able to continue?

GOLDBERG: I haven't taken a poll.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Fair enough.

GOLDBERG: (Laughter) And I do think that most Republicans would like Mueller just to see it play itself out. These sort of talk-radio, Fox-opinion side of things wants to see all of this end right away. And the real question is, I think if you had asked - I know if you had asked a year ago or eight months ago, your average Republican elected official would have said, absolutely, it would be a red line, cannot fire Mueller, no way, this will not stand. Lindsey Graham is saying that the question is how many - sort of like the slow-boiling frog - how many Republicans have just sort of become acclimatized to letting Trump get away with some things. And that remains to be seen.

KING: Could Trump get rid of Mueller?

GOLDBERG: I think it would spark something like a constitutional crisis, but, yeah, he can. I mean, this Andy McCabe thing, what's fascinating about it is that by Jeff Sessions firing McCabe, he may have saved Mueller. Because I think Trump was probably looking for a pretext to fire Sessions, put him in - the attorney general could then not recuse himself, and get rid of Mueller. I know it's complicated.

KING: (Laughter) And getting more so. Jonah Goldberg is senior editor of the National Review. Thank you, Jonah.

GOLDBERG: Great to be here. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.