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Week in politics: Jury selection in Trump trial, House vote and Speaker Johnson

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And, of course, as we just heard, Speaker Johnson has tried to divide and conquer the multiple aid packages floating through Congress. NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

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

SIMON: What can we expect from the vote today?

ELVING: The day is still young, and we don't want to get ahead of the story. But as it looks now, there might actually be a ray of hope to be glimpsed here in a larger sense beyond this issue. Speaker Johnson is apparently operating under the idea that there are national interests for the United States that are more important than the partisan instincts that now dominate Congress. We may see a significant bill pass the House with huge majorities, such as we saw on the rule yesterday, and in defiance of that hard core who insist that they alone speak for the people. There are many other issues that could be addressed more successfully with that kind of cooperation.

SIMON: Of course, another big story this week - Israel's strike on Iran and a more muted response to Iran's attack on Israel, although missiles in both attacks were intercepted. Has this been, in a way, encouraging news for President Biden, who has been trying to deescalate tensions in the region?

ELVING: Yes, a kind of a diplomatic victory in a highly tentative sense - highly tentative - only if this moment of forbearance lasts for a while. Diplomatic victories can be as fleeting as the battlefield kind, so - it's better, though, than where we might have been this morning had the Iranian attacks been more successful in the first place or if the response from Israel had been more heavy-handed. So we tend to put Biden's name up front on such things and say, he's the president - big victory for him. But this involved a great number of people in the administration and contacts with a number of other countries who had to cooperate on the quiet.

SIMON: Donald Trump's hush money trial is set to start next week after jury selection this week, and that process raises a question. How does the criminal justice system appoint a jury of peers when the defendant is a former president of the United States and already the presumptive nominee of his party for president again?

ELVING: Yeah, a big question. A big part of the American Revolution was the idea that all citizens would be of equal rank and equally subject under the law. That's what that all-created-equal language was meant to convey, so no lords, no dukes, no barons. And the jury system was devoted to that kind of equality as a fundamental principle. Still, as you say, this is the first time a former president has been in the dock on a criminal charge. So it's no surprise that jury selection was arduous. Trump himself may have hoped it would prove impossible to get a jury. But for now at least, opening statements in the trial proper are set for Monday.

SIMON: Impeachment charges against Homeland Secretary Mayorkas fizzled out - whole thing was over in a matter of hours. Before the week runs out, what was all of that about?

ELVING: It was no secret that Trump felt burned by his two impeachments while he was president and was eager to see something similar happen to Joe Biden. He's been urging House Republicans to impeach Biden since they became the majority party in the House last year. And they did form a special committee to look for impeachable offenses and gather evidence. They talked a lot about how Biden's son, Hunter, and another relative made money as international lobbyists while Biden was vice president. But as for benefits blowing back to Biden or impeachable offenses, we're still waiting.

Meanwhile, of course, the border situation is a mess. And Alejandro Mayorkas' Department of Homeland Security has jurisdiction. So after one failed attempt, the House did manage to impeach Mayorkas by a narrow margin. And now the real problem may be the immigration laws, which were last overhauled in 1986. And there was a serious effort in the Senate last winter, and they did do a bipartisan reform bill there, taking a chance to actually do something about the border. But the House rejected that out of hand. And here is Mayorkas, and there was a need to impeach someone. And so all that went together.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.

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.