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Politics chat: Trump's next hearing; Democrats and Republicans in campaign mode

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Tomorrow here in Washington, we may find out exactly when one of the cases involving former President Donald Trump will go to trial. We're talking about the January 6 criminal case brought by special counsel Jack Smith. And we're going to talk with NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith about that and more right now. Good morning, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning, Ayesha.

RASCOE: So Smith had asked the court to start the trial this coming January. Trump asked for April 2026 - right? - so a bit of a difference there.

KEITH: Oh, a big difference. Smith has argued that the public deserves a speedy trial and resolution. Trump's team says there are so many documents and so much testimony they need to go through that they need more time - like, until a year and a half after the election, more time. But let's also be very clear about what's going on here. Former President Trump is running to retake the Oval Office while simultaneously being prosecuted at both the federal and state level for his extraordinary efforts to cling to power. And then there are the other cases involving classified documents and hush money payments to an adult film actress. There are 91 counts in all. And Trump is facing a traffic jam of court dates, bumping up against primaries and caucuses and debates and rallies. This past week, there was the GOP debate and the former president going in for a mug shot with helicopters following him the whole way. It was completely bonkers. Get used to it. There's going to be a lot of that sort of thing in the 2024 election cycle.

And it's also worth pointing out that Trump remains the prohibitive front-runner in the GOP primary despite losing in 2020 and despite the four indictments. And part of that is that he has just conditioned Republican primary voters not to trust the justice system, the press, any number of other institutions in the United States. And as much as this legal filing and court dates and all of these things are big news on CNN and MSNBC, on Fox News and Newsmax, it is not as big a story. These stories are hitting very differently in the bubbles in which we all reside.

RASCOE: Trump is featured in a new campaign ad from President Biden, but not for his legal troubles. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD, "THESE GUYS")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Reproductive health care decisions are among the most personal a woman will ever make. They are choices that should be made by you and your doctor. And the last people who should be involved are these guys.

DONALD TRUMP: First of all, I'm the one that got rid of Roe v. Wade.

KEITH: These guys. This ad is being targeted online to women voters in swing states. And it is part of a $25 million ad spending commitment from the Biden campaign over the next four months. If you look at the ads that they've put out so far, it gives you a great preview of what they think will be the Biden reelection campaign themes, highlighting the improved economy and arguing President Biden's policies will keep helping middle-class Americans and then saying Republicans are extreme and out of line with the American mainstream. So you can bet this will not be the last time that Biden and Democrats will draw attention to abortion access. It's an issue that they expect will continue to be quite salient for voters. And they point to the recent Ohio special election and the Wisconsin state Supreme Court race earlier this year. On the Republican side, this debate this past week made it clear that the party hasn't really settled on a post-Roe position. Some of the candidates were arguing that it should be a state issue and that states should be free to have restrictive bans or not. And others argued in favor of a national abortion ban, but they didn't agree on when it should be. Some talked about six weeks. Others talked about 15 weeks. And that is something that certainly is not going to be resolved until the party settles on a nominee and likely not even then.

RASCOE: And even though there's not a presidential nominee yet, the GOP is in full campaign mode. Here's a bit of an ad from the Republican National Committee.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD, "BANK YOUR VOTE")

RONNA MCDANIEL: When Republicans vote early, we win.

MIKE PENCE: You could bank your vote by casting your ballot before Election Day.

FRANCIS SUAREZ: Either early, in person or by mail.

TRUMP: Go to bankyourvote.com to sign up and commit to voting early.

RASCOE: Now, this is happening at the same time while Republican-led legislatures like in North Carolina are moving to restrict voting.

KEITH: Yeah. And it's notable President Trump was in that ad, too. This is all about trying to get out the vote and not leaving votes on the table, as they did in 2020 by turning their voters off of this really useful tool, voting early.

RASCOE: That's NPR White House correspondent and NPR Politics Podcast host Tamara Keith. Tam, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome, Ayesha. 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.
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.