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Week In Politics: Health Care, Southern Border

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump seemed to focus on policies this week between some provocative tweets and punch lines at rallies. NPR's senior Washington correspondent Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: The president says Republicans will be the party of health care, which means he wants Republicans in Congress to overturn what we call Obamacare - but replace it with what?

ELVING: That still seems to be the question, doesn't it? Republicans in Congress don't seem to have a plan, and they say they want to see the president's plan. And they're worried because they think they lost a lot of House seats last November because voters were anxious about losing coverage for pre-existing conditions and on some other aspects of Obamacare. But now the Trump strategy is to kill Obamacare outright in the courts and then come up with a replacement that would have to pass to fill the vacuum.

SIMON: President Trump says that he wants to - he may shut down the southern border of Mexico next week. Is he serious, and could that even be done?

ELVING: He says he's not playing games. But this is another case of an applause line that sounds great at a rally, but it doesn't match up with day-to-day reality. You can't block returning U.S. citizens. You can't block other people with a legal right to entry. And the commerce every day between these two countries affects millions of people and amounts to billions of dollars annually.

SIMON: The president mocked people seeking asylum at a rally yesterday, and we've reported a lot of those stories. These are often people fleeing crime and drug violence, women who have been beaten and raped. The president called these stories a big fat con job. Are there any political consequences for this kind of rhetoric?

ELVING: Certainly, there are millions of Americans, Scott, who find that offensive. But the president is probably less concerned about reaching those Americans and more concerned about keeping the voters he had in 2016 with the campaign style that he had in 2016.

SIMON: Keep us up to date now on the fallout from the end of the Mueller investigation. I can't read the rest of the question because it's been redacted (laughter).

ELVING: (Laughter) Scott, the attorney general has been asked to deliver the full report to the House Judiciary Committee by Tuesday. The chairman of that committee asked for that. And Attorney General William Barr says he can't do that but he'll try to get a redacted version to the Hill by mid-April - couple more weeks. But that will be far from the full report. So the showdown will continue. There will likely be subpoenas from Congress and a fight in court over enforcing them.

SIMON: President did make a change about defunding the Special Olympics.

ELVING: So it seems. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was on the Hill this week getting hammered for a budget decision to eliminate money for Special Olympics in some schools. And you know, that's a well-known sports competition for young people with disabilities. She didn't seem to have a defense or even know very much about it. But then the president, that night, told a gaggle of reporters suddenly that he had told his "people," quote, unquote, to restore the money. And - so a lot of pain and embarrassment for yet another Cabinet member for apparently no good reason.

SIMON: And finally, Ron, the administration trying to keep the heat on Venezuela.

ELVING: What has been a dire situation there keeps getting more desperate. The government of Nicolas Maduro has begun to admit some humanitarian aid. But he's also welcomed some military aircraft from Russia this week, clearly a warning to the U.S. not to get involved in a military intervention. And meanwhile, President Trump was meeting with the wife of the rival leader, Juan Guaido, and vowing he would, quote, "fix it."

SIMON: Ron Elving, senior Washington correspondent, thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.