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Politics chat: Possible third indictment for Trump; VP Harris steps up on the trail

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Buckle up. It looks like a busy political week ahead with one story to rule them all. We're talking, of course, about the likely third indictment of former President Donald Trump - this after Trump was notified that he's a target of the special counsel's investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election. We're joined now by NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid. Good morning, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Good morning, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Now, a lot is still unknown, but what are you watching for as this next indictment is expected soon?

KHALID: Well, I want to be clear that we don't know when an indictment may come down. It is expected soon, in part because of what the former president himself has indicated. This would be the third indictment for Trump. And I will say it is arguably the most serious of the allegations the former president has faced, and it stands apart from some of the president's other legal woes. And, Ayesha, I say that because it is fundamentally about what happened on January 6, the former president's efforts to overturn legitimate election results and interfere with the peaceful transfer of power. I will say that there is no indication thus far, though, that any allegations against Trump have really had any effect on swaying his loyal base of supporters. I've heard that and seen that, you know, I will say in interviews I did ahead of the midterms, but also when you look at polling, Trump leads the Republican primary field by double digits.

You know, I think the more challenging aspect for Trump, particularly if he is the GOP nominee, is how he would navigate being on trial and being on the trail, meaning the campaign trail, at the same time. Already, a trial date has been set for the classified documents criminal case. That's set to begin May 20. And any additional trials in this January 6 case would likely coincide with the 2024 presidential election. And that is very politically complicated because if Trump is indeed the GOP nominee facing Joe Biden, he would be facing the very man whose election he is accused of subverting.

RASCOE: Has there been any change in how President Joe Biden is reacting to all of this?

KHALID: No. I mean, his strategy seems to be utter silence. He has not spoken up about any of the criminal charges against Trump, certainly nothing around this January 6 indictment. I will say also the Democratic Party as a whole has been fairly silent on this. You know, I think part of this is about maintaining a firewall with the Justice Department to maintain its integrity. But also, you know, I think those of us who cover politics say that much of everything has a political dimension and a political season. And Trump is running for president again, as is Biden. And it seems like the calculation, at least from the Biden team, is that singling out Trump is not worth it, which is interesting because, you know, again, the president is running for reelection, Joe Biden, and he's running on this notion of defending democracy. And he has not been shy about saying that MAGA Republicans are a danger to the country, but he is not singling out any of Trump's legal woes.

RASCOE: Well, speaking about the 2024 campaign, Asma, you've done a lot of reporting on Vice President Kamala Harris. I know she's been out on the road quite a bit. What do you see as her role in Biden's reelection campaign?

KHALID: Well, I've been working on a story specifically about the efforts to court Black and brown voters. I mean, she has a big, I will say, push over this last month and heading into the next few weeks, reaching out to different communities of specifically African American voters, Latino voters. And I went out with Harris to Indiana on Thursday, where she gave this big speech at a Black sorority convention. She's also been out at, you know, Rainbow PUSH, this large Latino conference on Monday, then the NAACP. And these are all key constituents of the Democratic Party. I was talking to Democratic pollster Terrance Woodbury about this recently, and I asked him to explain Harris's role compared to Biden's.

TERRANCE WOODBURY: It's more about who and what she represents. The message isn't that different, but I do think that there's an audience that's going to hear it better from her than they will from him.

KHALID: And, you know, I heard Harris speak the other day, and in the first part of her speech, she'll lay out what the administration has done, giving examples about, you know, capping insulin prices or appointing diverse judges to the bench. But then she shifts to what's being done on the other side with Republicans on reproductive rights and culture war issues. And I will say, in the last couple of days, you've really seen her take the lead in slamming this new guidance for how slavery ought to be taught in Florida. And what she's doing is it seems like really speaking out on some of these culture war issues in a way that is distinct from what President Biden is saying. And I will say that I think fundamentally, when you look at how President Biden is doing, that the president's poor approval rating - what I hear is it's tied to how his own base of Democrats feel about him, so Democrats know they need to energize their key base of supporters.

RASCOE: NPR's Asma Khalid, thank you so much.

KHALID: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.