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Week In Politics: Tariffs On Mexico, Mueller's Remarks And Abortion Legislation


Friday afternoon means it is time to review the week in politics. This week, several more state governments moved to restrict access to abortion. Special Counsel Robert Mueller spoke publicly for the first time since he was appointed two years ago. And last night, President Trump made trade threats against Mexico, saying he will tax goods that cross the border into the U.S. We're going to talk about all of that with Guy Benson of Townhall and Ana Kasparian of the Young Turks Network. Welcome to both of you.


ANA KASPARIAN: Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: OK. Let's start with trade. The White House says these tariffs will start in June at 5%, increase every month, on all goods coming into the U.S. And when acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was asked last night whether President Trump understands that American businesses and consumers will pay these increased costs, here's what Mulvaney said.


MICK MULVANEY: Americans are paying for this right now. Illegal immigration comes at a cost. The American taxpayer is paying for what's going on at the border.

SHAPIRO: Guy, do you think this argument is going to hold water when Americans have to start paying more for things?

BENSON: No, not even close. This is, I think, both bad politics and perhaps even worse policy, right? The Republican Party is already splintering on this, understandably so. And this comes with the backdrop of negotiations with China over trade. I think a lot of people are more open to the idea of taking a harder line on China. Now you're opening up another sort of front in this whole fight with the neighbor to the south, a huge trading partner, while you're also trying, if you're the president, to get Congress to be convinced to pass the new NAFTA. And then...

SHAPIRO: Right, the USMCA.

BENSON: Right. And then with all of that in play, you also have what we just heard there - the response from Mulvaney trying to play down the fact that this is effectively a tax increase on U.S. consumers. It's like they're trying to figure out ways to hurt themselves on their strongest issue, the economy.

SHAPIRO: But Ana, American consumers do seem to have absorbed the tariffs on goods coming in from China without much pain. Why wouldn't the same to be true of goods coming in from Mexico?

KASPARIAN: Well, I think right now American consumers are just feeling the very tip of the iceberg, and the situation is going to become much worse if Trump continues on with this nonsensical, unnuanced approach at this trade war. So we have to keep in mind, if you look at the bigger picture, wages have remained stagnant for the vast majority of American workers, and once you put the rising cost of goods on top of that issue, American consumers are certainly going to feel that.

And I just want to quickly add that whether it has to do with Trump's wall at the border or if it has to do with who ends up paying for these tariffs, at the end of the day, Americans are paying for Trump's failed immigration policy, and it's about time that the Republican Party stands up to Trump over these failed policies. I'm really happy to hear, you know, Guy Benson come at this from a more critical perspective because the way Mulvaney is trying to spin this is absolutely ridiculous.

SHAPIRO: Well, there's actually been a lot of Republican criticism. I mean, Chuck Grassley, who's a very powerful Republican senator from Iowa, has been critical of the move. CNBC is reporting that even prominent members of the president's own administration oppose the tariffs. In another part of the program, we're going to hear from Neil Bradley of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and this is just part of what he had to say about it.

NEIL BRADLEY: The imposition of these tariffs has been - proposed by the administration would do nothing to solve the very real problem at the southern border. If anything, in weakening the economy, it might make the problem worse.

SHAPIRO: The president does have a pattern of threatening to do things because of a crisis and then declaring the crisis solved and not doing the thing he threatened. Guy, do you think that's possible in this case?

BENSON: Yes, I do because we've seen it a few different times. And to be clear, I think that there is a crisis at the border. Something needs to be done about it. I think Congress should act. I have a serious problem, as do many Republicans I'm hearing from, linking trade policy - punitive, coercive trade policy - with that problem, especially on this ludicrous accelerated timeline.


BENSON: It is - it makes no sense.

SHAPIRO: So Ana, how do you see this ending?

KASPARIAN: I don't know how this is going to end because, as we've seen over and over again, Donald Trump is quite a bit of a wild card, and he is the type of person who has thin skin, a big ego and will retaliate against anyone who tries to go against him on any of these policies.

Let me give you one specific example. Larry Kudlow, his own economic adviser, in an interview on Fox News, admitted that American consumers are going to absorb the cost of these tariffs. And Kudlow was apparently met with viciousness by Trump as a result of conceding the obvious. And he did so so sheepishly because he knew how Trump would react. I don't know how this is going to end. Right now it doesn't look like it's going to end well.

SHAPIRO: Let's turn away from tariffs and talk about special counsel Robert Mueller's final statement as he resigned from that position. And I'm curious whether both of you think this statement on Wednesday changes the political dynamic for Democrats on the question of impeachment. Several Democratic presidential candidates said Wednesday that they think their party has a constitutional obligation to start impeachment proceedings. One of them was Senator Kamala Harris.


KAMALA HARRIS: We must put country before party on a fundamental interest that is about the integrity of our democracy.

SHAPIRO: But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still urging her party to go slowly.


NANCY PELOSI: Many constituents want to impeach the president, but we want to do what is right and what gets results - what gets results.

SHAPIRO: Ana, do you think Pelosi can continue to resist the pressure from within her own party?

KASPARIAN: I think that she will certainly try to continue to resist. And it's hilarious because on one hand, she argues that she resists Donald Trump and his policies, but in reality, she's resisting doing something incredibly important about a constitutional crisis. She's worried that this will hurt the Democratic Party, and she's using what happened to Bill Clinton as an example of that. But the reality is, Bill Clinton's, you know, impeachment situation was very different from what we're dealing with with Trump.

Now, do I think that the Senate is going to, you know, actually do the right thing considering that it's completely dominated by Republicans right now? No, I don't think they'll do the right thing. But it doesn't matter. To allow someone to break the law, to obstruct justice with no consequences, is absolutely unacceptable whether it's a Democrat or Republican president.

SHAPIRO: Guy, do you think this is a turning point for Democrats?

BENSON: I do because between Justin Amash coming out - the Republican from Michigan being the lone Republican to endorse impeachment proceedings beginning - and then Mueller's statement, which you called his final statement - that's what he hopes. I think we might hear from him again because there are questions I would like for him to answer. He might get subpoenaed. There does seem to be a sense of momentum behind this notion of kicking off the impeachment process.


BENSON: I think Nancy Pelosi's political judgment here - she's very smart on these things, tactically. I think she's right. I think the polls show by double digits the American people are opposed to impeachment. But whether she can call off the dogs that are getting louder and louder within her party - I think that remains to be seen.

SHAPIRO: And finally, I want to ask about Louisiana being the latest state to pass a strict antiabortion law. Ana, do you think we've seen the return of the culture wars here?

KASPARIAN: Absolutely. We've been embroiled in the culture wars for quite some time now. And this nonsense about how, you know, the right wing is doing this to save children is just so incredibly hypocritical especially when you consider the large number of children who are food insecure right now. We have 12 million children who are food insecure, 40 million Americans overall. We have 40 million Americans living in poverty. One in six children living in poverty. It's just unacceptable. We have so many real issues that we need to face right now that actually do harm the lives of children, but we just keep ignoring them.

SHAPIRO: Guy, with the last 30 seconds, I'm going to give you the final word.

BENSON: Well, many believe that abortion ends the lives of children, so that's a significant point. From the pro-life perspective within the movement, what I think is interesting about Louisiana's heartbeat law is that it was passed with this broad and diverse coalition, including many Democrats and signed by a Democratic governor. I think it's likely to be struck down, but that is an interesting and, I think, encouraging thing to many pro-lifers.

SHAPIRO: Guy Benson of Townhall and Ana Kasparian of the Young Turks Network, thank you both, and have a great weekend.

KASPARIAN: Thank you so much.

BENSON: You, too. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.