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Week in politics: Arizona Grand Jury indictments, aid for Israel amid Gaza protests

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We're in a presidential election year, but the 2020 election, which was won by Joe Biden comes up in a grand jury indictment in Arizona, and the first witness in the Donald Trump trial in New York City. NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: An Arizona grand jury has indicted 18 allies of Donald Trump and charges of trying to subvert the 2020 election. This includes a former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, attorneys Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman. What are the implications?

ELVING: Well, first off, if you want to take Donald Trump to court these days, you have to get in line. But this is quite a list of alleged crimes in Arizona and also a stunning list of alleged co-conspirators. Some of these are people who have managed to stay out of the public eye over the past three years - Mark Meadows, for example. Meadows is in a position to tell us a great deal about the effort to overturn the 2020 election - hasn't really been heard from in public.

So we already had criminal cases going forward in New York and Georgia and related cases in state courts elsewhere regarding the false electors plan and now this sweeping indictment in Arizona. It's important to remember that these state charges might well remain a problem for the former president even if he does succeed in getting back into the White House this fall because his presidential pardon power doesn't work at the state level.

SIMON: First witnesses this week in the New York trial of Donald Trump, while the U.S. Supreme Court heard testimony on Trump's arguments that presidents are immune from prosecution for what they do in office. What did you note in the arguments made this week?

ELVING: The court did not seem impressed with Trump's assertion of absolute immunity for any and all acts in office. And some of the conservative justices, however, seemed to push back, resisting the ruling in the appeals court that allowed no immunity at all. They seemed at least open to the idea of sorting out which acts might be immune from prosecution and which would not. They might do that themselves, or they could assign it to lower courts, which would mean more time and more appeals and more months of delay to the trials on Trump's federal charges, quite possibly delaying any such trial at that level until after the November election.

SIMON: I mean, I suppose all these trials keep the name before the public, but what's the political effect of all these simultaneous prosecutions?

ELVING: We've seen how riveting a Trump trial can be with the hush money case this past week in New York. It makes for lots of media attention, Trump can't control and fewer days for him to be out campaigning. But it's also possible Trump can turn some of these prosecutions to his benefit, casting himself as a persecuted martyr.

SIMON: Ron, demonstrations on college campuses this weekend in opposition to the war in Gaza, which whatever differences with Prime Minister Netanyahu they have, the Biden administration supports. Are there political pressures mounting on the president?

ELVING: Biden committed to Israel and its war against Hamas way back last fall after the Hamas attacks of October 7. He really doesn't have much room to maneuver there. So he will lose some younger voters and other voters on that issue. One question is how that weighs in the balance with inflation and immigration and abortion rights and other issues as well. But Biden does need to limit the Gaza damage if he can. That means preventing a wider Middle East war, restraining Israeli leader Netanyahu, and ultimately achieving a cease-fire and greatly increasing the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Difficult as all that may be, Scott, there really aren't any other means of lessening Biden's vulnerability on this front. And by the way, that vulnerability has grown immeasurably with the campus confrontations you mentioned this past week and the week before. There are indications that such clashes will be a feature of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August. And that, of course, revives the party's worst nightmares from the street battles during the Chicago Convention in 1968.

SIMON: You and I will be at that convention, won't we?

ELVING: Yes, we will, Scott, and we will be having those memories.

SIMON: OK. Thanks very much. NPR's Ron Elving.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. 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.
Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.
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