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Week In Politics: A Deal To End The Shutdown And Roger Stone's Indictment


News cameras captured the FBI's arrest of longtime Trump associate Roger Stone at his home in Florida this morning. A crowd chanting lock him up met Stone at the courtroom steps after his indictment.


ROGER STONE: There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself.


But by late afternoon, all eyes were on the White House Rose Garden. There, President Trump announced he would sign a stopgap bill to fund the government and continue negotiations over increasing funding for border security even though it did not include money for his border wall.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They keep drugs out, and they dramatically increase efficiency by allowing us to patrol far larger areas with far fewer people. It's just common sense. Walls work.

CORNISH: We're going to talk about this now with our regular week in politics team. I'm joined by E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution. Hey there, E.J.

E J DIONNE, BYLINE: Good to see you, Audie.

CORNISH: And David Brooks of The New York Times, welcome to the studio.


CORNISH: So the president once said he'd own the shutdown. He did. How did he handle it? Who wants to go first?

DIONNE: He capitulated. This is remarkable. He said, I'm shutting the government down because I want a wall. And there is no wall here. He is taking the deal he could have gotten a month ago without any shutdown at all, without any of the damage that happened and without any of the damage to his poll numbers, which really have been tanking. And I think it was very important that Democrats stand up here because they were saying, we'll negotiate anything, but we will not negotiate under pressure like this. And I think it's a great victory for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, but particularly for Nancy Pelosi.

CORNISH: Although let me jump in here for a second because the speaker was asked today, look; did we all just witness a failed power play by the president? Here's what she had to say.


NANCY PELOSI: The point is today we have come to a way to go forward to debate the best ways to protect our border. I don't see this as any power play.

CORNISH: David Brooks, she's taking the high road there.

BROOKS: (Laughter) Yeah.

CORNISH: What do you think of that response?

BROOKS: I don't know anybody who doesn't think it's a massive defeat for the president. I'm a Mets fan. I know what losing looks like. And this is taking it to a new level. You know, his approvals - the latest poll I saw, 34 percent approval, the lowest ever - Mitch McConnell like - acting like he wasn't in the same universe as Donald Trump, most Republicans feeling that way.

On the way over to the studio, I turned on "The Sean Hannity Show" to see where - how his folks reacting, and Hannity was trying to defend the deal. But his callers were having none of it. They said they were depressed and down. And so it's possible Trump's ratings will go even lower because he's sort of offended the middle, and now he's sort of offended at least a piece of his base.

DIONNE: Ann Coulter, who was one of the people who pushed him to this strategy, basically said that now he's more of a wimp than George H.W. Bush, which is really negative in the light of the far-right. Breitbart's headline was "Very Disappointed." I think there is just no question that it's a capitulation. And what's really difficult for Trump is the lesson here is, stand up to him, and you can win. That doesn't bode well for him going forward.

CORNISH: Right. This also comes after the back and forth over the State of the Union with the House speaker saying basically, no, you can't come while the government is shut down. And we'll see if that goes forward. Given that this is a stopgap, given this debate will go on for another few weeks, will we be in the same place three weeks from now?

BROOKS: I really find hard to believe that Trump is going to do anything but capitulate again in three weeks. I just don't see why he set this up so he has - in another three weeks, he's got to say, I'm sorry; it's not going to happen again.

CORNISH: But he said he might pull other levers. Haven't his people talked about...

BROOKS: He might do the emergency thing.

CORNISH: ...Emergency declaration?

BROOKS: And then it would go to the courts and then maybe to the Supreme Court. But his political standing will not be better in three weeks. Republican support will not be better in three weeks. The people willing to stand with him will not be better in three weeks. It's just the function of these things that you - people who shut down the government always have a great first move because it seems so bold. They never have a second or third or fourth move. And I - there's still going to be no second or third or fourth move for him.

DIONNE: I was with a group with Pelosi today. And one of the things that she said is that they are going to look at legislation to ban shutdowns in the future. And I think this would be a very good thing for all sides of our politics. Essentially if you don't have a bill, you continue funding it the previous year - or the current year. So you just can't use this tactic anymore. This was very painful. It was very dangerous. You looked at what was happening with the airlines. We should argue about politics in other ways. That's why I think this is so important. It may actually be the shutdown that will end all shutdowns. But maybe that's wishful thinking.

BROOKS: That's what Woodrow Wilson said.

DIONNE: (Laughter).

CORNISH: Now, coming back to the Justice Department news of the day - special counsel Mueller's indictment of Roger Stone. Stone's basically been accused of lying to the House Intelligence Committee. The background to this is there's always been scrutiny of Stone over what he did or didn't know about the source, content, timing of the 2016 DNC email hack which was traced back to Russian intelligence according to U.S. security officials.

So the question is, how does this add to the president's troubles, right? You now have the majority in charge. Adam Schiff, head of House Intelligence, already is, like, you know, I've got some ideas and more questions about this person who, you know, Mueller is saying lied to us - David?

BROOKS: Well, Stone has been a famous sleazeball and self-admitted sleazeball since the Nixon days. He doesn't hide that fact. Even I was surprised by the audaciousness of his lying. One of the things he lied about - he said he had no text or email contact ever with a certain radio host. On the day he said that to a congressional committee, he just exchanged 30 texts with the guy. And so that's just audacious lying.

I actually think in terms of the whole overall picture, it shows that Trump surrounds himself with very bad people. But it also suggests there's probably no collusion. If there was a direct channel between the Trump campaign and the Russians, why would they be having Donald - Roger Stone begging a radio host for information? They wouldn't be doing that. They'd actually have a channel. And so to me, in a weird way, this suggests there probably was no direct channel or collusion.

DIONNE: See; it's funny. I read this very differently. Perhaps not surprisingly, I think that the lies that Roger Stone was telling - you know, for example, something from the Mueller report - after the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, senior Trump official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases. It was very clear that the Trump campaign wanted this information, and it was widely known that this information had been stolen by the Russians.

So I think this is actually another step toward the collusion story. And we also - we obviously already have mountains of evidence about various meetings that Trump officials had with Russian officials. So I think this is one more step in that direction. The question that we'll have to answer is, what did Trump know about all of this? It's very hard for me to think even Trump would - you know, who can be disengaged - would not know anything about what was going on.

CORNISH: David, I'm going to give the last word to you. Looking at the whole of the day in Trump today politically, does this bode well for the next two years?

BROOKS: People who are on his side were saying that if he loses this showdown with Pelosi, it would end his presidency. That's a little overdramatic. But it's hard to see a lot of people wanting to walk up any hills with him at the moment, and I include even my Republican friends.

CORNISH: E.J., for you, do you see something hopeful maybe for Democrats?

DIONNE: Well, oh, - well, I see something hopeful for the country - I mean, putting aside it is clearly a victory for Pelosi. But I think it says that when we go about governing ourselves, we ought to have real debates about things like border security, but we should do them in an absolutely normal way. And this was a victory for normal, small-d, democratic politics.

CORNISH: E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution, thank you.

DIONNE: Thank you.

CORNISH: David Brooks of The New York Times, thank you so much.

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