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Upcoming Week In Politics: Supreme Court, Trump Heads To Europe


Deep underground, in a network of caves, a mission is underway in Thailand to save the lives of a group of boys and their soccer coach. We're following that story, and we will bring you updates throughout the morning.

But first, politics here at home. Tomorrow, we're expecting President Trump to announce his Supreme Court pick. And then the president heads to Europe for the annual NATO summit and later to Finland for a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. None of these things are expected to happen without controversy. Here to help us understand what to watch for is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what is the latest on the next nominee?

LIASSON: I think the choice is down to two or three judges. There's Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge and Judge Amy Coney Barrett. People say Barrett needs more experience. She's only been on the bench for less than a year. Kavanaugh has some detractors from people who think he's too close to the Bush family. Kethledge is a little less known. He has a lower profile. But I think the bottom line is that none of these three would cause any member of the conservative coalition to revolt. In other words, none of them is unacceptable because they all come from that list, that prevetted list by the Federalist Society that the president says he'll be choosing his judges from. Neil Gorsuch came from the list.

And that list has served two purposes. One, during the campaign, it showed conservatives that a candidate that didn't have any conservative bona fides would pick pro-life conservative judges. And also, it served as a kind of organizing principle. It's imposed some order on the process of picking a justice. Personnel appointments can often be chaotic and confusing in the Trump administration. But this is an exception to that rule.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. It's extremely important for him, obviously, this pick. But I want to turn now to President Trump's trip to Europe. So he'll be at the annual NATO summit on Wednesday, and that's a meeting with our longtime allies. But President Trump has set a combative tone this last week at a rally in Montana. Let's take a listen.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to tell NATO, you've got to start paying your bills. The United States is not going to take care of everything.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So, Mara, it's not just about the money for President Trump. He's questioned the value of this alliance.

LIASSON: That's right. Other presidents have asked NATO countries to pay the amount they're - they've committed to do, which is 2 percent of GDP. But President Trump has gone much farther. He's threatened to pull troops out if they don't reach the 2 percent threshold. He's also questioned the value of the alliance for national security of the United States. Otherwise, why would he be threatening to pull troops out? He's only grudgingly agreed to say he was committed to Article 5, which is the beating heart of NATO. It's the - Article 5 says that an attack on one is an attack on all. And he's also called NATO obsolete. So he has been really contemptuous of the Western alliance.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: At the same time, President Trump does not have anything negative to say about Vladimir Putin, who is viewed by many in Europe as their enemy. Here he is last week in Montana, where he, again, praised Putin.


TRUMP: President Putin is KGB and this and that. You know what? Putin's fine. He's fine. We're all fine. We're people.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what can you tell us about their upcoming meeting in Helsinki?

LIASSON: Well, one thing that the upcoming meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin is causing is our allies in NATO to be very worried that he will have a contentious meeting with them and then go off to Helsinki and heap praise on Vladimir Putin, not unlike the way he did after the contentious G-7 meeting. And then he held a summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, who he praised repeatedly.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
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