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Politics In The News: Trump On Immigration; Clinton's Emails


Donald Trump said last night on Twitter that he will outline his immigration policy this coming Wednesday, and he'll do it in Arizona. It's a speech he has scheduled and canceled several times. Over the last couple of weeks, Trump has blurred his position on immigration. That had Trump's vice presidential pick, Mike Pence, on the defensive yesterday, when he appeared on CNN's "State Of The Union."


MIKE PENCE: Let's be very clear. Nothing has changed about Donald Trump's position on dealing with illegal immigration. He put this issue at the center of this presidential campaign in the Republican primaries. And his position and his principles have been absolutely consistent. We're going to secure the border. We're going to build a wall, have a physical barrier.

We're going to enforce the laws of this country, end sanctuary cities, implement E-Verify. And we will have a mechanism for dealing with people in this country that - you heard the word humanely again. It's going to be fair. It's going to be tough. But there'll be no path to legalization, no path to citizenship, unless people leave the country. He's said that very consistently.

MONTAGNE: And on the Democratic side, responding to new emails that showed donors to the Clinton Foundation appeared to get some access to the administration, Donna Brazile, the interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, insisted on ABC News on Sunday that they didn't indicate any wrongdoing.


DONNA BRAZILE: You know, this notion that somehow or another, someone who is a supporter, someone who's a donor, somebody who's an activist saying, I want access; I want to come into a room and I want to meet people - we often criminalize behavior that is normal. And it's - I don't see what the smoke is. I understand why it's being discussed.

MONTAGNE: And joining us this morning, as she does most Mondays, is NPR commentator and columnist Cokie Roberts. And Jonah Goldberg is in our D.C. studio. He's senior editor at the National Review and columnist for the LA Times. Thank you both.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Good morning to everybody.

JONAH GOLDBERG: It's great to be here.

MONTAGNE: All right. So, Jonah, let's start with you. We heard Mike Pence there defending Trump on immigration. But one thing Pence did not mention - and that was quite a full comment that we heard here - he did not mention that Donald Trump has often repeated promise to deport 11 million immigrants living illegally here.

GOLDBERG: Right. I mean, in a certain sense, you can say that Mike Pence was right when he said that Donald Trump's position has been consistent. It's been a consistent hot mess for a very long time. He's always actually said something about this touchback idea, which is basically saying illegal immigrants have to go back to their home countries, basically reapply. And then they can all - they - a lot of them can come back in, which, from any other Republican nominee or candidate, is generally denounced as amnesty from a lot of people on the right. The deportation force, I think, is emblematic of where - of Trump's basic problem. He's always one to...

MONTAGNE: And that, by the way, the deportation force, that's what he said - we'll create a deportation force.


MONTAGNE: Go out and deport people.

GOLDBERG: He took that as a cue from the media to make himself sound very, very tough. And so the real flip-flop here is now he says that he wants to soften, in his words. And that - and it's allowed a lot of people to actually realize that his positions on immigration are much closer to Jeb Bush's than he ever let on.

MONTAGNE: Well, Cokie, right. He mentioned himself, Donald Trump did, that there could be a certain "softening" - I'm quoting him on "Sean Hannity."

ROBERTS: Well, he said softening. He said softening and hardening and whatever. But look, the truth is Trump's - there are certainly some people on the right who are very upset about this, Ann Coulter especially. But Trump supporters, by and large, like Donald Trump, the man, and don't care that much about his policies. That, by the way, is true for most people voting for president of any party at any election. But in this case, it's particularly true because people want change. And they think that he represents change.

And they're at this point of (unintelligible) anything is better than what we have now. Now, that's probably dangerous, but that is where people's heads are who are Trump supporters. And look, you can hardly blame them. I mean, take a look at what's going on in Congress or not going on in Congress. They can't even fund the Zika virus research when we're getting more and more outbreaks of it. And both parties are at fault here. So the voters are tired of it, and they think Trump can fix it.

GOLDBERG: But, Cokie, isn't the problem for Trump that there aren't enough people who really like Trump for him to win the election, and so he is changing his positions and his persona a little bit to add on to the coalition he already has?

ROBERTS: Sure, of course.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's turn to Hillary Clinton and - what else? - emails. Last week, a judge ordered the State Department to release more of them. And if there is indeed smoke but no fire, Cokie, as Donna Brazile just suggested, what will the effect be?

ROBERTS: I think just more of the same unless there's some, you know, really outrageous thing in there, which I suspect we would have seen by now, since the FBI has gone through these emails and said there's no basis for a charge. But it just adds to this sense of her as somebody who's untrustworthy. And those numbers keep going up, not down. And, you know, it is this troubling sense of both paranoia about the media and her opposition and entitlement. And people don't like that.

MONTAGNE: Jonah, how much do you think it's working that - the new Clinton narrative that Trump's campaign is built on prejudice and paranoia?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think that the reality is - I don't think that Donald Trump personally is nearly the bigot that I think Hillary Clinton is trying to paint him as. The problem for Donald Trump is that he has opened himself up and given this ammo freely to the other side time and time and time again. And he - it's - part of it is because he's a novice to this level of politics. He doesn't do the sort of normal, you know, spadework of denouncing people early and often, of not sending these dog whistles. And he has basically just given this ammo straight on to the Clinton campaign. And the net result is - what, you know, Hillary Clinton is just trying to do is go after his temperament and make him seem unpresidential. And I think it's effective.

ROBERTS: You had one of her surrogates yesterday, David Plouffe, saying on the air that Trump is psychotic. So it's going to get really awful. You know, we haven't even hit Labor Day yet, and we're at this point. But I do think that it's fair to say that with Trump, it's more than just that he's naive about it. There are very specific dog whistles going on there.

GOLDBERG: Oh, I think that's absolutely true. I don't think that he's actually - my point is I don't think he's a devotee of this sort of hardcore racist, alt-right crowd. I think he just thinks a lot of his supporters are, and so he wants to play footsie with them, which is almost as bad.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank both of you for joining us.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Good to be with you.

MONTAGNE: All right, Jonah Goldberg, senior editor at the National Review and columnist at the LA Times. Also, NPR commentator and columnist, Cokie Roberts. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.