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Week In Politics: More Democratic Candidates Launch 2020 Presidential Campaigns


And we're going to turn now to Ron Elving, senior politics editor of NPR. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

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

SIMON: So do you see the governor getting through the weekend?

ELVING: It's hard to see how he can continue in politics, Scott. The visuals here are a hideous reminder at the very beginning of Black History Month of what passed for college humor not too long ago. Northam may be a changed man today. All indications are that he's been an agent of change and racial healing as a man in the military, a man of medicine in Virginia. And it just is so difficult to see how he can go on now with all these calls from all of his allies for him to step down.

SIMON: And to repeat, it was in his medical school yearbook, and this must have been some kind of ticking time bomb.

ELVING: One has to wonder why this had not surfaced before and wondered, too, if it might be connected to those controversial remarks that Sarah just referred to that he made last week with regard to abortion. That may have caused this to come to the surface in a way that in his political career heretofore - he was just elected governor in 2017 - it never did.

SIMON: Ron, they're going to be 22 people at any one time on the field in the Super Bowl tomorrow. There might be more Democrats running for president than people in the Super Bowl tomorrow. In fact, you're going to announce an exploratory committee, aren't you?

ELVING: (Laughter) I'm just going to go on a listening tour, Scott.

SIMON: All right.

ELVING: You know, Cory Booker is the latest Democrat to get in, but most of the conversation this last week was about Howard Schultz, who calls himself a longtime Democrat - lifelong Democrat - but who is talking about running as an independent.

SIMON: Try and avoid any latte jokes. He didn't exactly make a good first impression with a lot of people, did he?

ELVING: It is no joke to a lot of Democrats. They're seeing a Schultz candidacy as a spoiler, a way to split the anti-Trump vote and re-elect Trump. And most of the positive commentary about Schultz's candidacy has been coming from the other side, including the president, who sent out a tweet questioning Schultz's smarts and saying he didn't have the guts. And it just might sound like the way to goad somebody to run, especially if someone really would like to see Schultz in the race.

SIMON: Seemed clear this week more than ever that the directors of U.S. intelligence agencies see the world differently than President Trump does, doesn't it?

ELVING: Hard to believe it's the same world. The director of national intelligence, the head of the CIA, the head of the FBI all testified before a Senate committee with the Republican chairman saying that they had different views, on ISIS, on Iran, on North Korea and other issues as well, different from the president. So the president gave them a tongue lashing on Twitter and said maybe they should go back to school. Now, let us remember these are all Trump appointees. And then the president turned around and said, you know, they'd been misquoted. And even though we are dealing with a public hearing that was on TV and there are official transcripts and videotapes of what they said, the president apparently thinks that he can deny and defy all of that and create an alternative reality for his followers to inhabit.

SIMON: It's been a week since the government reopened. Negotiations don't seem to have progressed very far about keeping it open in a couple weeks, do they?

ELVING: No. If anything, the two sides have gotten even farther apart than they were before. So it's Super Bowl weekend. Here's a football metaphor. We seem to have here a case of sudden death on the opening kickoff.

SIMON: Does it seem that the president really is inclined towards declaring a national emergency soon?

ELVING: It does. He talks about it almost every day. He's preparing the ground for it. But a lot of conservatives - and I think this starts with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - are deeply concerned about it. They see this border issue - whether they see the border issue as a national emergency or not, they do see such a declaration as a bad precedent, something that a future president could use to do things that conservatives regard as radical, such as higher taxes on the ultra-rich or "Medicare-for-all."

SIMON: Another week of Roger Stone's wardrobe. Might a judge put an end to his fashion parade?

ELVING: And to his parade of TV appearances perhaps. There is a federal judge in the District of Columbia contemplating a gag order on this case. That could be a mercy for all concerned, not least Roger Stone's longtime buddy, who is now in the White House.

SIMON: Thanks so much, Ron Elving, NPR senior political editor.

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

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Ron Elving
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