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Week in Politics: Biden's executive actions on asylum, Trump's conviction in the polls

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now we turn to NPR senior editor and political correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thanks so much for being with us.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: The president's been criticized by the progressive wing of his own party for imposing these asylum restrictions. He knew that would happen. Why did he do it?

MONTANARO: Well, I mean, there's no denying immigration has just been a big problem for the Biden administration. I mean, only about 30% or so approve of Biden's handling of this issue. It's been a pretty hard one for him to shake. I mean - so Biden and his campaign really felt like they had to do something, especially since he's been thwarted at every attempt to work with Congress on the issue. I mean, just this past year, Biden thought he had a border security deal done that would have given Republicans a lot of what they wanted on border security in exchange for Ukraine funding, but House Republicans blocked that deal after former President Trump asked them not to sign on. He really wants this as a live issue in this election year.

SIMON: Will these executive orders take the issue out of the campaign?

MONTANARO: Probably not at all. You know, it's upset progressives Biden needs, as you said. And Republicans are certainly going to blame Biden no matter what on this issue. Biden hopes that he can at least get those who are open to voting for him to see that he's trying to do something on this issue. Remember, Biden won 51% in 2020. A lot of this election for Biden is trying to get those voters back on board.

SIMON: The prosecution rested in the trial of Hunter Biden on gun charges yesterday. A sad time for the Biden family, especially as witnesses recounted Hunter Biden's drug use and the hurt it caused those who love him. Are there political implications?

MONTANARO: I mean, it's a very emotional week, obviously, and it's never great, though, when the first family is in court with family members talking about their use of crack cocaine, especially in an election year. You know, Hunter Biden has been on the lips of conservatives and conservative media since Joe Biden was elected, since before he was elected. But I have to say it might be a little risky for Republicans to overuse this.

You know, you might remember in the 2020 campaign, Trump attacked Biden on stage for Hunter's drug use, and Biden turned it into one of his best moments - you know, really an empathetic moment - pointing out that lots of American families have dealt with a family member's struggle with addiction and that he's proud of his son for coming out the other side.

SIMON: It's been more than a week since Donald Trump was convicted on 34 felony charges. Still early, of course, but any indication if it's changing votes?

MONTANARO: I think we can say that the conviction has overall been a net negative for Trump, but really only marginally. I mean, that's what polls had showed coming in, that that was most likely. And it seems to be playing out that way so far. It's only been a week since the conviction, and we'll see if this is just a bump or something more lasting. More important is whether this moves any key groups that had been wavering about voting for Biden, in particular, younger voters who had been the most likely to say beforehand that they could be moved depending on the verdict. This election, you know, is expected to be close. Any movement on the margins could be decisive, of course.

SIMON: President Biden is in France as we speak to observe the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. In one speech, he said the heroes of that day are summoning us now.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: They're not asking us to do their job; they're asking us to do our job - to protect freedom in our time, to defend democracy, to stand up to aggression abroad and at home.

SIMON: Domenico, he didn't mention Donald Trump by name, but...

MONTANARO: Yeah. Well, this is a huge dividing line, foreign policy between Biden and Trump, very different approaches to the world. And there Biden is implicitly warning against creeping isolationism and separation from allies, something that Trump has really made a hallmark of his own foreign policy, really turning more inward. Biden is more of a traditionalist, believing that American involvement and moral leadership is very important around the world, as obviously was the case in World War II and after it.

Of course, the backdrop of all this is the war in Ukraine. You know, Biden supports more funding of the war and standing behind the country under siege from Russia. With Trump, on the other hand, you know, there are lots of questions about maybe how much territory would he encourage Ukraine to give away to Russia in order to get the war to end. This is very different approaches that we've seen from Biden and from Trump and very different ways in which allies see the approach that the United States could take, depending on who wins this election.

SIMON: NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thank you so much for being with us.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. 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.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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