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Special Counsel On Russia's Election Meddling May Interview Trump


The president of the United States spent part of Monday addressing what he trusted was a supportive audience - farmers at a meeting in Nashville.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Oh, are you happy you voted for me.


TRUMP: You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.

INSKEEP: It was a campaign-style appearance, and it happens while an investigation of the 2016 election gets closer to some conclusion. Several past Trump campaign aides were indicted or pleaded guilty as a special counsel examines Russians - Russia's involvement in the election. NBC News first reported that special counsel Robert Muller is thinking of interviewing President Trump himself. NPR's Mara Liasson has been traveling with the president.

Hi, Mara.


INSKEEP: I'm just thinking, Mara, the president's staff decided against sending him out for a year-end news conference. They don't like him answering a lot of questions. What are the odds they'd willingly submit to an interview by the special counsel?

LIASSON: Well, the president's lawyers say they are cooperating with the special counsel. We don't know if Robert Mueller is, as he has been reported to be, ready to interview the president. If he is, that would mean he's probably getting to the end of his investigation, something that the president's lawyers have been predicting. But if he does want to interview the president, there probably would be a series of negotiations that would ensue about under what terms, and would it be in writing, would it be in person, et cetera.

INSKEEP: We should remember, though, whatever the president says to a federal investigator - whatever a citizen says to a federal investigator - it has to be the truth, right? It'd be a crime to lie to a federal investigator.

LIASSON: Absolutely. And that's how presidents in the past have sometimes gotten in trouble in investigations.

INSKEEP: So that is looming over the president as he begins 2018, but he is trying to get started with legislation in 2018, which he talked about a little bit in this speech to farmers. He spoke of immigration policy yesterday in Tennessee. Let's hear just a little bit of what he had to say.


TRUMP: We are going to end chain migration. We are going to end the lottery system, and we are going to build the wall.

INSKEEP: OK - chain migration, lottery system, building the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border - but this is a negotiation where he needs Democratic votes. What's in that for Democrats?

LIASSON: That's right. This is a negotiation over a deal that, presumably, would legalize the DREAMers, those young people who, in many cases, were brought here illegally as children by their parents. And what the president just did is lay out his demands for legalizing the DREAMers. Now, Democrats and Republicans both say that there is a compromise to be had, and it would presumably be some kind of a deal where the president could say he got a wall and Democrats would say he didn't get a wall, but what we don't know yet is, what does a wall mean? Is it more than just border security?

And it was interesting that Republican Senator Jim Lankford, who was at the White House last week for a Republicans-only immigration meeting, tweeted about the wall the other day where he said that there is no plan to build a 2,500-mile concrete wall. There are places where fencing or drones or more border agents would be more effective. These are all things he pointed out that Democrats have voted for in the wall. So what he's trying to say is a wall doesn't mean a big physical barrier. What we don't know is what does the president think he needs politically in terms of a wall.

INSKEEP: Of course, there's already a fence over hundreds of miles...


INSKEEP: ...Of border...

LIASSON: ...There's already a fence.

INSKEEP: ...Security measures. I want to ask about one other thing, Mara Liasson, because I want to talk about big, one-name stars in politics. Now, when I think of big, one-name stars, I think of Mara just for starters...

LIASSON: Ah, thank you.

INSKEEP: ...But there's also Oprah. What do you make of Oprah being talked about as a potential candidate?

LIASSON: Well, Oprah made a very powerful speech at the Golden Globes, and all of a sudden, Twitter was atwitter with Oprah running for president in 2020...

INSKEEP: Twitter was atwitter...

LIASSON: ...With her partner encouraged, and the president's spokesperson, the other day, said that Trump is running for re-election and he welcomes all comers. But what's interesting is back in 1999, Trump said that he wanted to run for president and his first choice for vice president would be Oprah. He said, she's great. We'll win.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) But, you know, the president can change his mind. Sometimes he...


INSKEEP: ...Does it.

LIASSON: Yes. And he does.

INSKEEP: Well, Mara, thanks very much, really appreciate it.

LIASSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's Mara, also known as NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
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