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Week In Politics: Trump's Trip, Russia, Health Care


President Donald Trump had his long-awaited face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin at last week's G-20 summit. Just how the issue of Russian meddling in the November election was addressed is subject to interpretation. And in this country, Congress comes back from recess with health care legislation still looming. So much politics to talk about, so little time - so let's turn to NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, A.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So before we get to Putin-Trump, let's look at the G-20 meeting and what all the countries got out of it.

LIASSON: Well, the big theme of this meeting was how isolated and separate the United States is from the rest of the G-20, the rest of the big economies. It's like there's a G-19, and then there's the U.S., particularly on climate, trade and immigration. The biggest difference at this meeting was climate. The other 19 leaders agreed that continuing to enact the Paris Agreement on climate change was important. They called the agreement irreversible. Of course, Donald Trump has pulled the U.S. out of that agreement. So the Europeans and others are going to move forward without the U.S.

MARTÍNEZ: It's almost like a G-1 then, on the other end of things.


MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. All right. Now to the main event, the president's meeting with Mr. Putin. Now, word has it that Mr. Trump did, in fact, bring up Russian interference in the presidential election.

LIASSON: Yes, he did. Initially, the White House said he brought it up and pressed it. The Russians, however, had a different account. They said the president accepted Putin's denials that the Russians didn't interfere. Now President Trump himself has weighed in with his own readout of the meeting. In tweets this morning, he says he did press Putin and that Putin denied it. Then he said, I expressed my opinion on this, which we assume is his skepticism that the Russians did interfere, which contradicts the unanimous, unambiguous assessment of the U.S. intelligence committee.

So his readout sounds a lot closer to the Russian readout. And President Trump went even further, tweeting that he and Putin were going to set up a cybersecurity unit, presumably to stop this from happening again. But that was met with derision by members of his own party. Marco Rubio tweeted this morning. He said, partnering with Putin on a cybersecurity unit is akin to partnering with Assad on a chemical weapons unit.

MARTÍNEZ: Now on to health care now. A wrangling in the Senate continues. What can we expect this coming week? Everyone's back in town.

LIASSON: Everyone's back in town, and it doesn't seem like the Republicans are any closer to the 50 votes they need to pass health care. This is exactly why the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, wanted a vote before members went home on the July Fourth recess. He wanted to avoid what appears to have happened, which is members went home.

They got an earful of opposition from constituents about the Medicaid cuts in the bill, about 22 million fewer people having insurance and the fact that the bill includes almost exactly as much in tax cuts, mostly for the rich, as it does in Medicaid cuts. So now Mitch McConnell is warning Republicans. He's saying, look, if we do not pass this, we will have no choice but to sit down and negotiate with Democrats, horror of horrors.

MARTÍNEZ: And stabilize Obamacare, right? That's the...

LIASSON: And stabilize Obamacare or negotiate something else, yeah.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. So let me ask then. Would it be the worst thing in the world if the GOP were forced to work with Democrats on health care?

LIASSON: (Laughter).

MARTÍNEZ: I mean, it sounds like it could spur maybe better relations between the two if they actually have to work on a project together.

LIASSON: Well, look. Lots of ordinary voters would like the two sides to sit down and negotiate. But if you are on the Republican side and you are going to sit down with Democrats, as Mitch McConnell has said very clearly, then Republicans are not going to get tax cuts, entitlement reform and deficit reduction - and there's a lot of that in this bill - because Democrats don't want any of those things. Their goal is to fix Obamacare.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Mara Liasson. Thanks so much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. 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.