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FBI Interviews Hillary Clinton: Key Step Toward Closure Of Private Email Server Probe

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The presidential candidates don't seem to be taking the Fourth of July weekend off. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton spent over three hours with the FBI, and Donald Trump was busy tweeting about it. Another person who doesn't have the weekend off, NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: This FBI interview with Hillary Clinton was long anticipated. Obviously, we don't know what she said. But what does it signify about this whole investigation into her use of the private email server?

LIASSON: It signifies that the investigation is probably coming to a close. She spent three and a half hours with the FBI. Mostly the conversation focused on how she handled classified information on her private server. The FBI has to decide whether she broke any laws with that. She did give an interview later yesterday to NBC where she also talked about that impromptu meeting on an airport tarmac between her husband and Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She said she learned about that on the news. Both Lynch and Bill Clinton have said they would never do that again.

Now, our own Carrie Johnson tells us that we should have a decision to indict or not indict in the next couple of weeks, and Carrie's sources say an indictment is unlikely. But that meeting between Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton, however innocent it may have been, created a real appearance problem and gave more ammunition to Donald Trump and Clinton's opponents to say that there's a corrupt deal, the Obama Justice Department will never indict Hillary Clinton. And Trump himself says he plans to put her in jail if he is the president.

MARTIN: So let's turn to Donald Trump. We've seen him try to make this pivot - right? - giving these teleprompter, more traditional campaign speeches. He gave one this past week. But then yesterday he was back on Twitter. He tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton with what seemed to be a Star of David with dollar bills, calling her the most corrupt candidate ever. That tweet was deleted, the star replaced with a circle, but clearly no sign that he's going to tamp down his Twitter self in the remaining months of the campaign.

LIASSON: No, no sign at all. There really are two Trumps, one who is now willing to read from a teleprompter - last week he gave a big speech about trade deals and why they're hurting the American economy, so he has a powerful, populist message. But then he goes to a rally or he tweets, he gets into a spat with the Chamber of Commerce or talks about how terrorists dream of a Clinton administration or he tweets out, as you just described, Hillary Clinton's picture over a Jewish star. Now, Trump himself suggests that these two approaches are what his campaign is about. He has said that he feels he has a mandate from the voters to be provocative.

MARTIN: Let's talk about a recent poll showing that two-thirds of America or more have an unfavorable view of Trump, but he is neck and neck with Hillary Clinton. So how does that make sense?

LIASSON: That's a really good question. She's only ahead of him by a couple of points nationally and in most of the battleground states. So the question is if he's so unpopular, why is the gap between them so small? And there are a couple of theories for that, for why so many people who say he's unqualified are still planning to vote for him. One is that America is so tribal, so partisan, so polarized that any Republican or Democrat automatically gets 40 or 45 percent of the vote.

Then there are people who want to blow up the system. They're so sick of the status quo that they don't care if they think he's unqualified. Then there's Hillary Clinton's own low ceiling. She is seen as dishonest and untrustworthy by big majorities. Trump beats her on honesty and trustworthiness by a 2-to-1 margin.

MARTIN: NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks so much and happy Fourth of July.

LIASSON: Thank you, you too. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.