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Week in politics: Trump's language around immigration, Colorado Supreme Court ruling

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Colorado Supreme Court entered the political fray this week by ruling 4 to 3 that former President Donald Trump is ineligible to run for office because he engaged in insurrection in his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. The decision will be appealed. That same day, Trump gave a speech in Waterloo, Iowa, in which he described immigrants as, quote, "poisoning the blood of the nation" a phrase he repeated on a talk show yesterday. NPR's national political correspondent Sarah McCammon joins us. Sarah, thanks so much for being with us.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hey, Scott.

SIMON: Let's start with that speech in which he - President Biden's campaign compared Trump's words to Adolf Hitler and Kim Jong Un. Let us note we looked this up. Hitler wrote in "Mein Kampf," all great cultures of the past perished only because the original creative race died out from blood poisoning. Chris Christie called Trump's comments disgusting. What about other Republicans?

MCCAMMON: You know, Scott, other than Christie, those running for the Republican nomination seem much more hesitant to directly criticize Trump for those words. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the focus should be on border security. And she told the Des Moines Register, quote, "that rhetoric is not helpful." Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told the Christian Broadcasting Network that Trump's words don't, quote, "move the ball forward," and added, "I would not put it in those terms."

And, you know, Scott, that's the strategy coming from many other Republicans for responding to Trump. Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan, for example, told Politico, I wouldn't use that rhetoric. Republican Thom Tillis of North Carolina called it unhelpful. And the list goes on. So Trump is continuing his pattern of using this kind of language. It was just weeks ago he described his political enemies as vermin, as you may remember. And most of his fellow Republicans are continuing their pattern of offering tepid criticism of him at most.

SIMON: About that Colorado decision that Donald Trump is guilty of insurrection, does it shake up the primaries that begin in just a few weeks?

MCCAMMON: So that decision, which is based on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, has stirred up a lot of speculation. But in reality, it may not change things much, at least in the short term. The court said that Trump should not be on the Colorado ballot. His attorneys have promised to appeal that. And the Colorado court stayed its ruling until January 4 to give the U.S. Supreme Court a chance to weigh in. Now, Colorado is set to print its primary ballot the very next day, January 5. So there's a ticking clock here. And Trump's former attorney general, Bill Barr, says he thinks the strategy just won't work against Trump as much as people think. On Thursday night, Barr told CNN's Jake Tapper that the Colorado case was wrong and untenable.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BILL BARR: I think taking these hyper-aggressive positions to try to knock Trump out of the race are counterproductive. They backfire. As you know, he feeds on grievance just like a fire feeds on oxygen. And this is going to end up as a grievance that helps them.

MCCAMMON: And however this Colorado case is resolved, Scott, will have implications for similar 14th Amendment cases in other states.

SIMON: Trump's legal team is still pushing for immunity for his tweets and actions leading up to the January 6 insurrection - hit a snag, right?

MCCAMMON: Right. On Friday, the Supreme Court said it would not be hearing that case for now. The special counsel in the case, Jack Smith, had urged the High Court to make that decision sooner rather than later. The court denied that - didn't give reasons why. So that case now goes to a federal appeals court, and there's a hearing on January 9. But the bottom line is that this immunity question may take some time to work its way through the courts as we head into this key election year.

SIMON: Meanwhile, Congress has left town. No agreement on border security as it's tied to Ukraine or Israel, or no separate agreements on support for Ukraine or Israel. Any resolution at hand?

MCCAMMON: You know, President Biden has been pushing for more funding for Israel and Ukraine, saying money's running out for Ukraine in particular. Republicans tied those negotiations to demands for tighter rules surrounding the asylum process, among other things. Congress has not reached an agreement. So that's a fight for the new year as well.

SIMON: NPR's national political correspondent Sarah McCammon, speaking with us from Norfolk. Thanks so much for being with us today, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: Thank you, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) 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.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.