NPR’s Ari Shapiro speaks with Jason Johnson, politics editor at The Root, and Susan Shelley of the Orange County Register about the political fight over the border and President Trump’s visit to Iraq.


The border is where we will begin our conversation about the week in politics. Our guests today are Jason Johnson, politics editor at The Root. Thanks for being here in the studio.

JASON JOHNSON: Glad to be here.

SHAPIRO: And joining us from NPR West in Culver City is Susan Shelley, columnist at the Orange County Register. Welcome to you.

SUSAN SHELLEY: Thank you very much.

SHAPIRO: So two big events related to the border this week – first there was the death of a second child in U.S. custody, as we just heard about from Joel. And then the fight over border funding has kept parts of the federal government closed for a full week now. Susan, why do you think President Trump and the Democrats in Congress haven’t been able to strike a deal?

SHELLEY: Well, certainly there are political uses for the issue that they have both exploited in campaigns, and we’ve seen that. We’ve seen it work for them in polling, in fundraising. And sometimes you just have to wonder if they really want to solve it or if they prefer to have the fight.

SHAPIRO: I mean, it doesn’t even look like they’re negotiating at the moment.

SHELLEY: Right now they’re not, but the president is ratcheting up his demands and ratcheting up the pressure. And of course there was this arrest today in Bakersfield of a suspect in the murder of a police officer who was working overtime on Christmas. The suspect had been arrested twice before for DUI. He was stopped for DUI, and the sheriff of Stanislaus County today an hour ago gave a press conference and flatly blamed the sanctuary law. So this is a concern in security in – at many levels.

SHAPIRO: Jason, politicians listen to their constituents, to their bases. Do you think that Americans, voters care enough about this situation to compel the people in power to strike a deal?

JOHNSON: They do, and they gave their answer in the midterm elections, in the big blue wave. I mean, the president spent and large numbers of Republicans spent six or seven weeks saying there’s this terrible caravan coming; we’ve got to make sure that we have this wall. And they lost seats in border states. They lost seats in the West.

So the Democrats who are coming into office seem to believe that, OK, standing up against this wall will work for us. Republicans think – seem to think that this is a last-minute deal that they have to do to show that they can still fulfill some campaign promises before Democrats come in. I don’t see this ending anytime soon. The president of the United States has absolutely no leverage. But what’s likely to happen is there’s going to be a clean CR that Nancy Pelosi passes.

SHAPIRO: Continuing resolution – a funding bill.

JOHNSON: Yes, Nancy’s going to pass a continuing resolution. Mitch McConnell will somehow explain it to the president that this is just a short-term loss and part of a long-term victory. And I think we’ll hopefully have the government back up and running by the end of January. But there is no way in which any funding for this wall is going to come about. The Democrats wont let it happen.

SHAPIRO: Despite the shutdown, despite the holidays or perhaps because of the holidays, the president also made a surprise visit this week to Iraq, his first time visiting a war zone since he took office almost two years ago. And it stood out in a couple of ways. Let’s listen to some of what he said there.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know, when you think about it, you’re fighting for borders in other countries. And they don’t want to fight – the Democrats – for the border of our country – doesn’t make a lot of…