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Week In Politics: John Kelly And Rob Porter


We're going to go through some of the bits and pieces of this political week with NPR senior editor and correspondent of the Washington desk, Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott. And let me just say I'd be willing to give up my time for the congresswoman to share the contents of the...

SIMON: (Laughter) All right. Well, maybe she'll call back while we're on the air. You obviously heard Representative Speier. And Congressman Mark Sanford, a Republican from South Carolina, criticized the president on his decision about the memo. Are there political consequences for the president?

ELVING: It's one more weight that Republicans are going to need to carry - for the president, one more thing they're going to need to explain, one more time they're going to have to deny that the president has anything to hide. Now, some Republicans don't seem to have any problem with any of that. There are others, though, who may be experiencing a fatigue factor, especially if other troubling issues arise, and the weight keeps getting heavier.

SIMON: Overnight, a second White House aide resigned over allegations of domestic abuse. That's David Sorenson, a speechwriter. Put that together with Rob Porter, with a number of other names we could mention. Does this become a political burden to the White House? And I hate to put spousal abuse just in those terms. But there are practical political questions to be raised.

ELVING: Yes. And at the same time, no - not with those who have decided to look the other way. It won't be a problem for those people. But for those who do look at what's happening, they're going to see patterns here, including a pattern of excuses being made and people being allowed to work in sensitive jobs without proper security clearances. And that is a national security issue, alongside the more basic issue of abuse.

SIMON: John Kelly, the White House chief of staff - he was supposed to be the general - pardon me for mixing military metaphors - who would calm the stormy seas. He finds himself at the center of the Rob Porter scandal. Is he long for his White House job? Can you tell?

ELVING: You know, the bringer of calm in this case now seems to be caught up in the chaos. And we should note, though, that this isn't the first time that a Kelly resignation has been rumored. He's apparently been willing to fall on his sword before, but it's never come to that. This time might be a little different. It doesn't make you feel too confident to have the White House leaking the names of three people who may replace you.

SIMON: And what about President Trump's defense of Rob Porter? Is there a political price to be paid for that?

ELVING: People are noticing, again, I think, a pattern here. It's consistent the way the president relates to these kinds of stories, the way he has handled other allegations about sexual harassment and abuse in the past - his defense of Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, and his defense of one-time campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in his own campaign or of various personalities who had to leave Fox News such as Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly. The list goes on and on. And, of course, it includes the president's own behavior with women, which he has treated in much the same way.

SIMON: Ron, Rachel Brand, No. 3 at the Justice Department, has announced she will leave to take a well-paid, high-profile position at Wal-Mart. She won't just be a greeter (laughter) but will be earning millions of dollars, one assumes, with her special counsel. But do you read anything else into her decision?

ELVING: You know, she had other opportunities in the private sector when she took this job some months ago. So why leave now? She could've multiplied her paycheck many times over previous to this. But NPR's justice reporter Carrie Johnson makes it pretty clear this morning in your show it's a terribly uncomfortable time to be at the Department of Justice and especially to be at risk of becoming the No. 2, which would mean taking over supervision of the Russia investigation.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving - I want it understood that if, by the way, Representative Speier had decided to share the contents of that memo with us, we would've made room for you elsewhere in the show.

ELVING: Very kind of you, Scott. Thank you.

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

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