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Week In Politics


I'm Lulu Garcia-Navarro at the studios of Houston Public Media in Texas. I've been spending some time in Houston this week, checking in on the post-hurricane recovery effort. And I'll bring you some of those stories in a few minutes. But first, we're going to catch up on the week in Washington, where the #MeToo movement battered Congress, and the Russia investigation infuriated the president.

Mara Liasson is with me from D.C. Good morning, Mara.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So this past week, the cultural reckoning continues over sexual harassment. It felled more men, most notably Senator Al Franken, after a pack of his Senate colleagues called for his resignation. Did the Democrats keep the moral high ground on this issue?

LIASSON: That's the big question. That's what they wanted to do. But it's hard to know right now because not all voters care about this issue in the same way. Democratic voters think their coalition, which includes a lot of single women, do really care about this. They want to be able to prosecute this issue against the Republicans, but Republican voters seem to be a lot more tolerant of this kind of behavior. And Democrats might have, in their effort to keep the moral high ground, taken a political risk because Al Franken's seat is now open in 2018. Minnesota is a state that Trump barely lost. And Republicans are now looking at this seat as a pickup opportunity.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So is a zero-tolerance stance for the Democrats sustainable?

LIASSON: I don't know yet. Right now the Democrats haven't decided, what is the best process to go through to adjudicate these accusations? What's due process? What is the criteria for whether you lose your job or not? There is the Ethics Committee, which is one process, which is widely considered to be inadequate. Then there's what you called the pack in Congress. A bunch of Al Franken colleagues decided he shouldn't stay. And we're hearing a lot of pushback from Democrats against that who feel he was railroaded, since the accusations against him were not the same as the ones against John Conyers or Roy Moore.

And I think you're going to hear more Democrats say that there's another option, which is what the Republicans say - let the voters decide. Al Franken could resign his seat, turn around and run for his seat in the special election and let voters decide what they think about the accusations against this. So I think Democrats just haven't figured out - they haven't finished figuring out how to deal with these kinds of situations.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Let the voters decide. Trump went all in on Roy Moore this past week. He's been campaigning for him this weekend. And the party has now followed him.

LIASSON: Pretty much. Trump went to Florida, to the Alabama media market. He at a rally in Pensacola to campaign for Moore. The RNC, which had previously stopped sending money to the Moore campaign, has turned around and begun spending money on his behalf instead. In Congress, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, said at first that Moore should be expelled. Now he is saying voters should decide. I think it just shows the iron grip that Trump has on the party and how unwilling Republicans in Congress are to break with him with the exceptions of people, like Jeff Flake or Bob Corker, who are resigning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. And Trump spent the week fuming again. His anger and frustration came out against both CNN, The Washington Post and, remarkably, the FBI. What happened?

LIASSON: That's right. Or maybe not so remarkably.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Not so remarkably. You're right.

LIASSON: That's right. Well, he's always angry and frustrated at the media, but he's particularly angry and obsessed with the Russia investigation. He called the FBI an institution whose reputation was in tatters. He's talked about the system as corrupt and rigged. Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted instead. Chris Wray, the FBI director, had to come to Congress to defend his agency and his agents.

And I think what's really significant is the chorus of Trump's supporters in Congress and elsewhere who are attacking Mueller, saying some of his team have donated money to Democrats - you've heard Republicans say that it doesn't matter if foreign powers involve themselves in each other's elections. That happens all the time. And Democrats say this is all part of Trump's push and Trump supporters' push to undermine faith in the U.S. justice system and to delegitimize Mueller's conclusions or to lay the groundwork for firing him.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thank you so much, Mara.

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

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.