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Sunday Politics

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

If Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's death is confirmed, it would be a welcome boost for a White House that's been under pressure from the impeachment inquiry for over a month. Joining us now is NPR's senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro.

Good morning.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. A welcome boost, but how big a boost could this be for President Trump?

MONTANARO: Well, I mean, obviously, it's a big moment for the world overall if this is, in fact, true. The president himself obviously has needed some kind of good political news. I mean, he himself had been eager to sort of get this news out. He was tweeting this tease last night, saying something very big has just happened, you know, meaning we were all going to tune in. And remember, he was facing criticism for the Syria withdrawal.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: A lot, and from Republicans.

MONTANARO: Absolutely. And, you know, he's going to be able to use this to justify those moves and say, you know, everything is going well; look at how he's conducting his presidency. And we should remember, foreign policy has been one of the worst - he's had his worst ratings for his presidency on foreign policy and how he's handled things like terrorism.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Let's turn to the impeachment inquiry. Tomorrow, Charles Kupperman, the acting national security adviser, is scheduled to testify, but it's unclear if he'll show up on Capitol Hill. The White House has, again, invoked constitutional immunity to keep him from complying. He's asked a federal judge to weigh in. What's going on?

MONTANARO: Well, look. Democrats want to talk to Kupperman because he worked pretty closely with President Trump and with Bolton, and they're trying to draw this direct line more closely to President Trump. I mean, we heard already from Ambassador William Taylor in - one of the top diplomats in the Ukrainian embassy, who noted that President Trump is the one who ordered this link between withholding military aid and these conspiracy theory investigations in Ukraine.

But what Kupperman and his attorneys did was they went to court to say, we don't know what to do here, exactly. The White House is invoking constitutional immunity, which is even higher than executive privilege. And we - we're facing this subpoena from Congress. So what do we do? And they want the court to decide.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So if the judge rules, yes, Kupperman, you got to go, then that's obviously a blow to the White House. But is his testimony really the warm-up for the eventual testimony from his previous boss John Bolton?

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, I think there are a lot of different people who potentially are going to testify. There's a big slate of people this week that Democrats and Republicans in these committees are bringing up on Capitol Hill for these depositions. And yeah, I think that Ambassador Bolton is somebody who Democrats see as key and important here because, remember, he's pretty well-known. He's a - been a conservative hawk for a long time, and he has a lot of credibility among Republicans. He's somebody who - that they saw on Fox News for years. And the fact that he was behind the scenes, apparently - and according to other witnesses - saying that the process here was wrong and mishandled - if he were to do that in front of Congress, under oath and potentially in public at some point, that could be a blow to this White House, for sure.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thank you so much.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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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