Ron Elving

The news world is ravenously awaiting the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference.

But Attorney General William Barr's two trips to the Capitol last week strongly suggest that the version of the report he releases will only whet the appetites of many in Congress and beyond for more information.

Welcome to the nightmare of being the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president, Joe.

Two women have complained about being touched inappropriately by former Vice President Joe Biden, who has been the leading (if still undeclared) candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Biden's poll numbers, while far from overwhelming, have still been the best of the ever-widening Democratic field. So any story that even hints at a Biden scandal is going to lead the newscast and leap to the front page.

Federal judges have sentenced other former aides of Donald Trump to prison, but a filmmaker is seeking a different kind of judgment on Steve Bannon, the onetime guru who thinks he's the one who got Trump elected president.

A presidential pardon can't be stopped, blocked, vetoed or overturned. So where does this power come from? And is there any limit to it?

President Trump says he has the "absolute right" to pardon himself (though he says he wouldn't need to because he hasn't done anything wrong).

Andrew McCabe, the former acting director of the FBI, says President Trump's treatment of the bureau and its probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign was so profoundly disturbing during the spring of 2017 that Justice Department officials discussed contacting Cabinet members to initiate Trump's removal from office under the 25th Amendment.

Updated at 12:50 p.m. ET

As a rule, presidents want to have it both ways in their annual State of the Union addresses.

They want to "reach out to all Americans" with uplifting appeals to unity and bipartisanship. But they can't resist pumping up the pep rally for their party and most loyal supporters.

If that applies to all presidents in all seasons, it surely applied Tuesday night to President Trump, who has found the halfway point of his term to be fraught with political travail.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And from Don to Ron, let us bring in NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving, a man who has covered many presidents, many State of the Union addresses over the years. Welcome to the studio, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Mary Louise.

Congratulations, Stacey Abrams, you have just won the most dubious political prize in Washington!

Abrams, a former Democratic leader in the Georgia State Assembly, was named last week to respond to President Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Who would question that it's a privilege to deliver the opposition party's response to the president's State of the Union address? Well, perhaps you could start with some of the people who have actually done it.

If you've been missing the force of Chris Christie's personality since he returned to private life last year, you can now get your fix at full blast from his autobiography, Let Me Finish.

But if you are looking for introspection or deep thoughts, look elsewhere. This is a big, loud book by a man with a full head of steam, stories to tell and scores to settle.

The 400-page tome's subtitle lays out the agenda: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics.

In the late summer of 2018, The New York Times reported that St. Martin's Press had signed a seven-figure deal for a "tell-all book" about President Trump's White House.

The amount of the advance raised eyebrows because the author, Cliff Sims, had served 18 months in that White House without making much of a name for himself anywhere else.

Who was this Cliff Sims? What did he mean to Trump? And what might a book called Team of Vipers add to what had already been written and said about the snake pit at 1600?

Updated Jan. 24 at 10 p.m. ET

It was nearly midnight Wednesday when President Trump sent the tweet saying he would wait to deliver his "great" State of the Union speech until after the government is fully reopened.

When President Trump addresses the nation from the Oval Office on Tuesday night he will be sharing the space with more than a teleprompter and an array of TV cameras.

The room with the legendary shape will also be filled with ghosts. The spirit of every president in the television age will be alive in the memories of millions watching at home.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Rarely have six words meant so much, and so many different things, to so many.

They rang out in the Superdome in New Orleans in August 1988 as the vice president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, accepted the Republican nomination for president:

"Read my lips: no new taxes."

As the years pass, we edit and compress our memories of presidents and other national figures until only a few salient impressions endure. Most of what we once knew recedes into our cerebral hard disk. That may be especially true for one-term presidents, often remembered more for what turned them out of office than for what got them there.

Would this apply to the one-term president who died Friday, George H.W. Bush? His name was attached to some of the nation's top positions for more than two decades even before his namesake son won the White House twice.

Want to feel old? Consider the fact that babies who were crying in cribs while their parents agonized over Florida's protracted presidential recount in 2000 are now of voting age.

Eighteen years is a long time. Even so, when we think of that time, many of us conjure up memories as sharp as barbed wire, roll our eyes or sigh out loud when anyone mentions "Florida 2000."

That phrase is being invoked a lot in light of this year's ultra-tight Florida statewide elections.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This story was updated as of 6 p.m. Wednesday Nov. 7.

This was a midterm election in which both parties took some lumps, but could also take some satisfaction. And no one is better at taking satisfaction than President Trump.

The president began crowing long before dawn, when midterm election results were still rolling in, taking to Twitter at a moment when the tally was tilting his way.

Well it's finally here. Election Day 2018.

After what seemed like the longest and most anxiety-ridden midterm campaign in memory, today we are ready to choose the House and one-third of the Senate for the 116th Congress, not to mention the great majority of our governors and state legislators.

More than ready, apparently. Early voting has exploded this year in several states. Maybe every midterm electorate feels itself to be really special, but the 2018 iteration has the distinction of looking very, very large.

How much should we worry about Tuesday?

There is nothing more normal than the regular scheduling of midterm elections for governorships, one-third of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

We are about to have a national conversation about the word nationalist.

A word in more or less everyone's vocabulary has suddenly become a flashpoint because, well, because it was claimed by President Trump during a stump speech in Texas on Monday. That alone means people are likely to argue about it.

Imagine if President Trump, on the weekend after the upcoming midterm elections, suddenly forced out Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller.

For the record, that would be the removal of the attorney general, the deputy attorney general and the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

And imagine Trump also shut down the offices occupied by Mueller's team of prosecutors — lock, stock and barrel.

Just like that.

Impossible, you say? Unprecedented? In fact, it is neither.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh may take a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court as early as next week, but only after shattering a rule about the confirmation process that had been set in stone for decades.

It was the rule that said you stood by your judicial record but held on tight to your judicial temperament. It was understood you had a party affiliation, but it shouldn't be worn on your sleeve. And above all, you were not to antagonize anyone.

You could call this the latest in a list of Capitol Hill norms to be lost in the era of President Trump.

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