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The Week In Politics


This week, Hillary Clinton said Donald Trump promoted racist lies. He called her a bigot. Trump met with black and Hispanic leaders. He's softened his stance on deportations, or did he? And questions on the Clinton Foundation continue to fly, and it's still August. We're joined now by NPR's Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

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

SIMON: Trump said, early in the week, he'd be in favor of a path for legalization of people who are here illegally but haven't broken any other laws. By Friday, he said he hadn't changed. What's going on?

ELVING: This is policy formulation on the fly. Donald Trump would like to reach out to not only people of color but also to white, suburban voters who may not be on board with him at this point. But he's really gotten this particular issue into a state of murkiness. And the last thing he said was that, if anything, he's hardening his stance. But by that point in the week, it wasn't clear what stance he was talking about.

He's clearly still for a wall. He wants the wall to go from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. He wants Mexico to pay for it. And for the people here now without legal documents - no amnesty, no path to citizenship, but they may be legalizeable (ph) if they leave the country first. And as for that deportation force, well, we'll give you a speech next week and tell you more about how we feel about that. So stay tuned.

SIMON: And Hillary Clinton gave a speech this week. She said Trump is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party. She was talking about what's called the alt-right. Is this a speech that's aimed to win votes of conservatives that are - and Republicans in the middle?

ELVING: Conservatives of a sort, yes, more conventional ones, people more in the middle. Lots of conservatives are not sold on Donald Trump, and that's all different kinds of conservatives. You've got Ted Cruz folks, you've got Walker folks, Lindsey Graham folks. They say they can't vote for either Trump or Hillary. So where do they go? Well, they could go Libertarian or maybe write-in candidates. But some of them are so worried about Trump that they might consider Hillary Clinton, and that's the group she's going after.

SIMON: Hillary Clinton was criticized this week for dodging the press. No press conferences, especially during this time of questions being raised about the Clinton Foundation. She hasn't held a press conference, apparently, since the beginning of the year. Though, as our David Folkenflik has pointed out, she's done scores and scores of interviews. Anything unprecedented in what she's doing?

ELVING: Well, not unprecedented for her. She's been uncomfortable with the news media throughout her career. She regards the media largely as hostile, even actively opposed to her. And this goes back even before her husband was impeached in the late 1990s. And, you know, for presidential candidates, it's highly unusual to be this skittish about a news conference. So she does cherry-pick interviews. She goes on shows like "Jimmy Kimmel." Now, does that hurt her? Sure. But so have the press conferences that she's done in the past.

SIMON: She is ahead in most every poll, especially in states that are often called battleground states. But Peter Hart, Democratic pollster, led a focus group in Milwaukee this past week. And everyone in the group expressed reservations about her trustworthiness. They all gave her high marks for competence. But on a scale of 1 to 10 in honesty, half the participants gave her a one. No one gave her higher than a six. Is this the kind of finding that can be trouble in November?

ELVING: Of course, and it will be. It makes her vulnerable. Despite that polling advantage that you mentioned, any bad story, any adverse event overseas or some revelation at home, could really be damaging to her prospects because of that vulnerability.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us. And I suspect we'll be talking in the future, won't we?

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. I hope so. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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