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Week in politics: Biden reaches out to older voters, Trump meets with GOP senators

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, HOST:

It's been a trying week for President Joe Biden, first as a father and then as chief diplomat at the G7 summit. Plus, the Supreme Court is in the spotlight and not just for its latest decisions. Joining me now to talk about all of this is NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea. Good morning, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Hey, Danielle.

KURTZLEBEN: So we're going to start with Hunter Biden, convicted of felony gun charges in Delaware on Tuesday. How much has this trial and then this conviction weighed on President Biden, and what has he been saying about it?

GONYEA: Boy, it has weighed on him heavily. You can see it. The president's closeness to his family - it's been on display during all of his five-plus decades in public life, right? I mean, there have been well-known and much-publicized family tragedies. This is a different kind of tragedy, though - a criminal conviction. The president has expressed his love for his son, Hunter. At the same time, he has made it clear he will not pardon him, period. And he says he'll abide by the jury's decision.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. Well, let's turn to his presidential duties. Biden was in Italy for the G7 summit, where he signed a 10-year security agreement with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. But there seemed to be some question over whether Ukraine could rely on the U.S. in the future. Tell us about that.

GONYEA: Zelenskyy hailed the agreement. It establishes a framework for continued help from America. But everybody knows it's an election year in the U.S., and it's a basic fact of life that any future U.S. administration could withdraw from this agreement, again, because it is not an official treaty. So all parties are very aware that former President Trump says loudly he's skeptical of more aid Ukraine. More broadly, other G7 nations, U.S. allies all, are very much aware of the possibility of another Trump presidency and what that could mean for U.S. leadership in the world.

KURTZLEBEN: Well, let's turn to the 2024 election. The Biden campaign is working on shoring up support from older voters who tend to support Republicans. Don, where do - what can you tell us about this push?

GONYEA: First, Republicans have long won solid support from older voters. But recent polling, including NPR's with PBS News and Marist, shows President Biden making gains there. So this week, the Biden campaign launched Seniors for Biden. I attended one such event just outside Tampa, Fla., this week. First Lady Jill Biden has a full schedule of events for and with seniors. There are even campaign-sponsored pickleball tournaments. You know, so there's that going on.

KURTZLEBEN: Well, when you've been out talking to those voters, what specific issues are they bringing up?

GONYEA: Certainly the economy. You hear Social Security a lot. But many older women cite abortion rights, and that explains a sizable gender gap among older voters as a whole. Many of these senior women say they'll vote as a way to protect reproductive freedoms. They're angry. They say, wait, wait, we already fought these battles long ago. You know, meantime, Donald Trump is also making his play to hang onto older voters. He's talking immigration, religious freedoms and crime. Both campaigns know that older voters turn out. They vote.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. Well, former President Trump spoke to congressional Republicans in Washington on Thursday. It was just before his birthday, as well. Did they have cake with their unity?

GONYEA: Cake is a detail I did not nail down. It was an early celebration of Trump's 78th birthday. That was yesterday. And anyway, in the meeting with the senators, Trump sat next to Mitch McConnell, something we haven't seen in a long time. They are not close pals, let's be clear. But they shook hands. The meeting was on Capitol Hill, not at the Capitol building. All were on their best behavior.

KURTZLEBEN: Finally, Don, we had Supreme Court rulings this week. We had one rejecting a lawsuit that challenged the FDA's rules for prescribing and dispensing the abortion pill mifepristone and one yesterday striking down a federal ban on bump stocks. But that's not the only reason the court has been in the news this week.

GONYEA: Right. The Justice Samuel Alito flag controversy has not faded completely. Now there's a new twist in the release of audiotape statements from Alito and Justice Roberts in comments to a liberal activist posing as a conservative. They were published by Rolling Stone - got big attention. Along with all of that, we still await some big end-of-term court decisions yet to come, including one on presidential immunity.

KURTZLEBEN: That's NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea. Thanks so much, Don.

GONYEA: It's my pleasure. 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.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.
You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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