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Week In Politics: Police Reform, DACA And John Bolton's Book


We are marking the end of another dizzying week in this country, a week in which both the White House and Congress took up efforts to reform policing...


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We need to bring law enforcement and communities closer together, not to drive them apart.


NANCY PELOSI: We all know that we need guidelines. We need to have training. We need to have database. We need all of those things.

KELLY: ...A week in which officials made attempts to acknowledge systemic racism.


PELOSI: I have sent a letter directing the clerk to remove the portraits of four previous speakers of the House who served in the Confederacy.


A week in which the president's former national security adviser, John Bolton, called into question Trump's fitness to lead...


JOHN BOLTON: I don't think he's fit for office. I don't think he has the competence to carry out the job. There really isn't any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what's good for Donald Trump's reelection.

CHANG: ...And in which the battle over who gets to read John Bolton's book escalated.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: The Justice Department yesterday filed suit to delay publication.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: President Trump recently said he wanted Bolton criminally prosecuted if he published details of conversations they had together.

KELLY: And a week that saw the Supreme Court issue rulings that will affect the lives of millions of people in cases involving LGBTQ rights and DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: The Supreme Court has blocked the Trump administration.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #4: This is the second time this week that Chief Justice Roberts ruled against the Trump administration.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: This is about their lives. It's been tugging at their hearts, and people are thrilled.

KELLY: And that summary of the news only gets us up to Thursday. So today, Friday, we're going to take these next few minutes to step back, slow down and talk through the significance of these events with David Brooks from The New York Times and Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post. Welcome to you both.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: Thanks, Mary Louise.

DAVID BROOKS: Good to be with you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Let's start with police reform. We now have the Democrats' bill, we have the president's executive order, we have Republicans in the Senate who've put forward their version of a bill - all of which, worth noting, has come together with lightning speed, not a term we often get to apply to how things work here in Washington. Let's start with a quick reaction from each of you on the substance and how likely all of this is to result in actual, meaningful change. Jonathan, you start us.

CAPEHART: Well, I like your characterization - lightning speed. The problem is it's going to hit the molasses of Washington in terms of the process. It's great that we've got something from the House Democrats, the Senate Republicans and even the White House. But once it starts going through the process and they start hashing out the actual details, that's when it's going to get bogged down. I'm hopeful simply because there are proposals on the table. What gives me a little pause is just how wide the gulf is.

KELLY: But people are so clearly energized by this issue, by this moment. I opened my front door at lunchtime today, and there was a crowd of protesters making its way down my quiet residential street holding up black lives matter posters and placards. David, what do you think? Are we looking at a moment for real change here?

BROOKS: There's a huge popular change. I was really struck by the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that they asked, what are you more worried about - police violence or looting? And by 2 to 1, the American people were more worried about police violence, and that's not the way it's been for past protests. So we're seeing lightning shifts in public opinion. I'm up a notch more pause-minded than even Jonathan. I think the ideas on the table are good ones - getting rid of chokeholds, the de-escalation training, the qualified immunity. These would all make positive good. I just have no confidence right now that Washington can do complicated compromise, let alone by July 4 when Mitch McConnell wants to get it done.

KELLY: David, let me stay with you just to zero in on the president's handling of all this. He is headed to Tulsa, Okla., for a campaign rally tomorrow, a rally that was supposed to take place today, Juneteenth, at the site of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. How do we reconcile that with what the president's administration and campaign maintain is a forward-facing position on racial inequality?

BROOKS: Yeah, he's always been out of touch with America on race. And even more so, another shocking and very good poll statistic that struck me in the past week was that if you ask people are African Americans treated unfairly by police after Eric Garner in 2014, it was still only, like, 33%. Now 58% of Americans understand that African Americans are treated unfairly by police. Trump is even further out of step on this, and I think that's one of the reasons his approvals are dropping.

KELLY: Jonathan, quick response from you.

CAPEHART: I agree 100% with David. The president has not been good when it comes to matters of race, and the idea that he would go to Tulsa even on June 20 shows just how out of step and tone deaf he is to where the country actually is right now.

KELLY: Let me turn us next to this great old-fashioned inside the Beltway kerfuffle over a tell-all memoir. I refer, of course, to John Bolton's memoir, "The Room Where It Happened." That's the title. It's supposed to publish Tuesday despite Herculean efforts by the Justice Department to block it. David, is the book worth all the fuss? What strikes you from what Bolton actually says?

BROOKS: From what we know so far, it's more a reiteration of something we knew, that Donald Trump seized the presidency as something for his own personal interests, that he doesn't understand public interest, but it's all personal interest, which is the definition of corruption. I think the one new thing I learned was this ZTE, the Chinese telecom company, that Trump offered to get involved and quash an investigation into that company, breaking the Iran embargo in order to curry favor with the Chinese. That's illegal. And so that's the one new thing I think I learned.

KELLY: Jonathan, what's your takeaway from the Bolton book?

CAPEHART: It confirms a lot of things that we already - we've already known from reporting in The New York Times and The Washington Post. I think getting it from someone who is as credible in conservative circles as Ambassador Bolton only lends credibility and weight to just how bad things are within the administration.

KELLY: Quick take from each of you on the Supreme Court and just to focus on yesterday's decision on DACA. The conventional wisdom was this ruling would go the other way. Jonathan, your response to the decision itself that we actually got.

CAPEHART: Surprising. I think a lot of the advocates were surprised. The fact that it punts the action back to the administration and the president is looking to have a round two or round three at this only highlights the need for Congress to actually do something that is permanent. And if they're not going to get police reform done by July 4, they certainly aren't going to get anything done on DACA before the election.

KELLY: David, take on the decision. It was 5 to 4 with Chief Justice Roberts siding with and writing the opinion for the liberal justices. Are we witnessing the emergence of John Roberts as the court's swing vote?

BROOKS: Well, we're witnessing the emergence of the Supreme Court being the leading branch of government. Congress is dysfunctional; White House is sort of dysfunctional. And so what the court is doing is they're taking extremely popular positions like support of DACA and the LGBT decision and they're writing them into law, at least temporarily. And the court has done that in the past. And it's - it may be legislation. It may not be judicial action, but it's - if no other branch of government is willing to act, the court is going to take the lead.

KELLY: Let me wind us up by landing here with the country in such flux, dizzying even to talk through everything that is happening and live through it, a brief parting reflection from each of you on what's happening right now and how it is affecting you - Jonathan.

CAPEHART: Well, this has been a hard month, to be honest, Mary Louise. I mean, the pain that's fueling the protests is one that I feel personally as an African American feeling the weight of not feeling safe in my own country. But there - I have seen rays of hope from visiting Black Lives Matter Plaza with Congressman Lewis to the Supreme Court decision on Title VII where equal justice under law actually now applies to me.

KELLY: So rays of hope. David, a quick last word.

BROOKS: Yeah. We're in the period of post-traumatic growth. A lot of broken systems are being exposed - institutional failure, the failure of the American identity to include everybody. It's super painful to go through this, but I'm hoping it's going to turn out to be a useful discomfort.

KELLY: My thanks to both of you. That's Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post and the "Cape Up" podcast and David Brooks of The New York Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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