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Week In Politics: Trump's First Veto, Yemen And The Spread Of Far-Right Hate Speech


President Trump has held White House ceremonies to sign bills today for the first time. He spoke from the Oval Office as he vetoed a bill.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I have to, in particular, thank the Republican, strong, wonderful people, the Republican senators that were on our side and on the side of border security and on the side of doing what they have to to keep our nation safe. They were very courageous yesterday, and I appreciate that very much.


This week, a dozen Senate Republicans joined Democrats voting to overturn President Trump's declaration of an emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border. The Democratically controlled House already approved the measure late last month. There are not enough votes to override President Trump's veto, and the emergency is still being challenged in court, so it's unclear how this will all turn out. We're going to talk about the politics of this moment and other issues from the week in politics. Our Friday guests today are E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution, and Mary Katharine Ham of CNN.

Good to have you both here in the studio.

E J DIONNE, BYLINE: Great to be with you.

MARY KATHARINE HAM: Thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: So after two years of supporting President Trump's policies, a dozen Republicans in the Senate and about as many in the House opposed the emergency declaration on the border. Mary Katharine, how significant a political statement do you think this is?

HAM: Well, I think it matters. I agree with Senator Thom Tillis of two weeks ago, who wrote in The Washington Post that it's intellectually consistent to object to executive overreach in both the Obama administration and the Trump administration. I think it's a useful rebuke. Obviously, they will not have enough to push back on this after he vetoes, and we will get, probably, some more clarification from the courts, which will be helpful, on executive authority in general. But, yeah, in the end, I think it's a message. And it's extraordinary that 12 did cross over. There are several who I wish had crossed over, as well.

SHAPIRO: You mentioned Tillis of two weeks ago. Tillis ultimately did side with the president in his vote. But that number - 12 Senate Republicans - E.J., was higher than people expected. What does that say?

DIONNE: Well, first of all, I'm glad Mary Katharine mentioned Thom Tillis. Aaron Blake, in The Washington Post, called it a flip-flop for the ages. I don't think anyone has ever written as strong a piece as he wrote promising to vote one way and then vote the other way. And I think that puts the 12 in context. Yes, at some level, it is a big deal that 12 bucked Trump. But the fact is the vast majority of the party still gave him a veto-proof majority. Trump was right in what he said about that.

And that means that the Republican Party is still not willing to challenge him on something that I suspect the vast majority of them know in their hearts they shouldn't have voted for it. The one that surprised me most was Ben Sasse, the...

SHAPIRO: Of Nebraska.

DIONNE: ...From Nebraska, who has been, over time, from the very beginning of Trump's candidacy, a staunch critic of Trump. He campaigned for every Republican except Trump in Iowa back in 2016. And his statement was vacuous. It made no real sense. And it's worth noting that Tillis and Sasse are both on the ballot in 2020.

SHAPIRO: And yet, it does seem like something changed this week because this was actually the second time in one week that the Senate voted to oppose the president. On yesterday, they voted to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. This morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about it at the State Department.


MIKE POMPEO: The senators who voted aye say they want to end the bombing in Yemen and support human rights, but we really need to think about whose human rights.

SHAPIRO: Mary Katharine, do you think President Trump is actually trying to persuade lawmakers to back him up? Is there a risk of his power eroding here?

HAM: Yeah. Often, he is not making that attempt, or he's making it clumsily. And Congress should guard its powers jealously. I know it's an old-school idea, but they should do this. They should rebuke him at times, and he should make the argument not only to Congress but to the American people. Any president should, specifically when it comes to things like military force.

SHAPIRO: And, despite the cascade of tweets, that's not something you see him doing.

HAM: (Laughter) Not in a real, strategic way.

SHAPIRO: E.J., you wanted to jump in?

DIONNE: Yeah. No. I just wanted to say that when you - the Yemen thing was important because it was really a strong foreign policy statement. But the real story here is elections have consequences. For the first two years of Trump, Republicans were really only looking over their right shoulders worrying about primary challenges. I think suddenly some of them are saying, wait a minute, a large part of the country has gone the other way, and maybe we should at least think about occasionally bucking the president.

SHAPIRO: I want to ask you both about the biggest story we're following today, the shootings in New Zealand that killed dozens of Muslim worshippers at mosques in the city of Christchurch. This ethos of hate has crossed borders. We know that the alleged New Zealand shooter was inspired by similar acts in the U.S. and Norway. This is something that Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League spoke about on Morning Edition earlier today.


JONATHAN GREENBLATT: We've got a big problem on our hands, and we need to recognize that social media allows white supremacy, much like other forms of hate, to travel across borders. And we've got to recognize it for the global terror threat that it really is.

SHAPIRO: Global terror threat. You know, the U.S. has invested so much in stopping Islamist extremism. Is it time to treat white supremacist terrorism the same way, E.J.?

DIONNE: I think the answer is yes. The FBI reported that in 2017 and 2018, they arrested more domestic terrorism suspects than those inspired by Islamic extremism. And Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, a Democrat who's chair of the Homeland Security Committee, wrote to law enforcement to ask him for an account of this domestic terrorism. This is also a real challenge to social media, as your story earlier suggested. The Washington Post media critic Margaret Sullivan wrote something very powerful today.

She said, yes, there are tough issues involving free speech and the free flow of information. But she added that as violence grows more and more viral, tech companies need to deal with the crisis that they have helped create. And she added they must figure out ways to be responsible global citizens, as well as profit-making machines. I think it's very scary, and we've got to take account of it.

SHAPIRO: Mary Katharine, what do you think dealing with a crisis like this looks like?

HAM: Well, we may know more actual data and information from the FBI soon, since Congress is requesting this, which will be helpful. But, look. There is this issue where you run straight into the First Amendment when you're talking about social media, or even when you're talking about domestic terrorism in general. Because going after someone who says something bad on the Internet is not actually a charge. Like, we shouldn't surveil mosques, and we shouldn't surveil that we've made various mistakes on these fronts in the past fighting terrorism.

One of the options people have suggested is adding a domestic terrorism federal charge. But again, the reason people have been hesitant to do that is because it comes with this baggage of, like, what line are we crossing in trying to fight this? So a lot of your options are countering violent extremism in very soft-power ways, but that's sort of what our liberties require.

DIONNE: No. I agree very much that we do have to worry about the First Amendment. But we also have to worry about using social media as a display for an event like this. There is something really hideous about what happened...

HAM: There are things the companies themselves can do to make sure that that doesn't happen.

SHAPIRO: In our last minute, I want to ask you about a story that everyone's been discussing this week, the college admissions scandal - dozens of people charged with various kinds of fraud trying to get underachieving kids into elite schools. And it seems to just underscore a feeling a lot of Americans have today, that the deck is stacked in favor of people with privilege. Briefly, E.J.?

DIONNE: It is. There is no question when you look at the admissions of all these elite schools - and I was lucky enough to go to one of them - they are. More privileged kids get to go. And I think this scandal underscores imperfections in the admissions process. And, boy, that's the most diplomatic thing I've ever said on this air.


SHAPIRO: Mary Katharine, I'm going to give you the last word.

HAM: Yeah. I think I'm very proud of my state school education, which was not bought. And, look, I think it does underscore some real issues with the college admissions process, and I hope that it will lead to some rethinking of how the entire process works in college, as a public good in general.

SHAPIRO: Mary Katharine Ham and E.J. Dionne, thank you both so much.

DIONNE: Great to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.