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The Week In Politics


We're going to start the program by reviewing some of the big political stories of a week that began with the release of former FBI Director James Comey's memoir about his interactions with President Trump and ended with the contemporaneous notes written by Director Comey going public. Meanwhile, there was another shakeup on the president's legal team, and the president's nominee for secretary of state faced some rough waters going through the confirmation process. And the Democratic National Committee announced a lawsuit alleging a conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 election and tilt it to Donald Trump.

Now, there's a lot to digest, so to help us sort through it, we're joined once again by Robert Costa. He's a national political reporter at The Washington Post. Welcome. Thanks for coming.

ROBERT COSTA: Thank you.

MARTIN: So let me start with this news that might have been overshadowed a little bit by the legal issues surrounding the president, and that is the confirmation process that secretary of state nominee Mike Pompeo is going through. It's looking as though he will get an unfavorable recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and it's worth noting that this is highly unusual. He will be the first nominee since 1925 to get an unfavorable recommendation before the full Senate vote. But he's still expected to be confirmed. So what do you make of this? What's this about?

COSTA: Highly unusual but also highly predictable that - it's a narrowly divided Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And because Senator Rand Paul, Republican from Kentucky, has decided to oppose the nomination, then the recommendation is going to be unfavorable. However, Pompeo is likely to be confirmed because red-state Democrats up for re-election this year like Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota have signaled that they will support Pompeo to try to win over Trump voters in their states.

MARTIN: So let's go to some of those legal issues. President Trump's legal team has been in the news a lot, especially since his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen - it's been made clear that he's in the middle of a federal investigation. On Thursday, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, a very aggressive Trump surrogate, joined President Trump's personal legal team. Now, you've spoken with the former mayor about this recently. What's your takeaway here?

COSTA: I'd been hearing for weeks that Giuliani was down at Mar-a-Lago, the president's Florida resort, talking through the legal issues with the president. He's a longtime friend and a former associate attorney general, former U.S. attorney. He has a familiarity with Bob Mueller - the special counsel. And the president was asking him to come on.

Giuliani's in the later stage of his career. He was reluctant to sign on. Then I got a call out of the blue. It was Giuliani saying he's decided to do it on a pro bono basis. This is in part because the president has been unable, struggling to get white-shoe attorneys to sign onto his legal team. So he's turning to Giuliani, someone he trusts.

MARTIN: OK. So speaking of Director Comey - that's been all over the news this past week - I wanted to focus on those memos. These are the redacted copies of these memos that he wrote to himself or for the record that have now been released. So at least they've made their way sort of into the public domain of these detailed interactions that Comey says he had with the president. Now, you know, he's testified about this before, but have we learned anything now that we've seen these memos for ourselves?

COSTA: We haven't learned too much from the memos. In fact, a lot of what's in the memos is in James Comey's book that just came out. What's more important about the Comey memos is what they tell us. The whole process tells us about the tension between the president, congressional Republicans and the Department of Justice. Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe, was forced by Congress to release these memos to the Hill. And you see Rosenstein trying to protect the Mueller investigation, calm down congressional Republicans who are unhappy with him in the DOJ. And this is part of that whole negotiation.

MARTIN: And finally - so the genesis of all this is this whole question of whether the 2016 elections were interfered with. Now, there's a lawsuit by the Democratic National Committee. We're going to hear from a former DNC staffer in a minute whose leaks - whose emails were leaked. But what is your take on why the DNC has launched this lawsuit now? What is your take on this?

COSTA: In part, they're looking perhaps for a settlement. You look at the Watergate scandal from the 1970s, the DNC sued back then, and they were able to get a settlement in court - a few hundred thousand dollars - about having their headquarters broken into by people connected to President Nixon. But what would also be interesting with this legal process is discovery. Will this actually go to trial? Could there be a discovery process so we could all learn more about the Russia probe and about some of these forces around the Trump campaign?

MARTIN: That's Washington Post national political reporter Robert Costa. He's also the host of PBS's Washington Week.

Robert, thanks so much.

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