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With Congress Considering Impeachment, What's Trump's Next Move?

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And I'm Mary Louise Kelly in Washington, where we watch and wait. What will President Trump's next move be with nine days left in office, with lawmakers in Congress moving to impeach again and with possible indictments looming when he's no longer president? - a question to put to Steven Groves, who worked in the White House until June of last year as a special assistant to the president and deputy press secretary.

Mr. Groves, good to speak with you again.

STEVEN GROVES: Thanks for having me on, Mary Louise.

KELLY: What should President Trump do now?

GROVES: Well, you know, he's already signaled that there's going to be a - you know, a transition of power after the Inauguration Day. If he has...

KELLY: He hasn't conceded yet, actually. But, yes, he's acknowledged there'll be a transition. Go on.

GROVES: Well, I don't know how much more he can do until that day, Mary Louise. You go ahead and say that there's going to be a transition. And, you know, what he does between now and then - I don't know how much can be done. I don't know if there are any last-minute executive actions to be taken or if he's just going to take it easy. We know one thing for sure. He's not going to be on Twitter or other social media platforms because he's been banned. So we might not - I don't know how we're going to find out what he's doing anymore because he's not on Twitter.

KELLY: Well, if he wants to tell us what he's doing, he can walk downstairs and do a press conference, or he can do what you're doing and give an interview. But, anyway, let me ask about something specific.

GROVES: And thanks for having me on, too, by the way. I'm glad that there are platforms that still allow conservatives and Republicans on, so I do appreciate it.

KELLY: We are always delighted to have conservative voices on our air, and we are glad that you are with us. Let me ask you this. Should the president speak out to stop the plans to demonstrate at state capitals and to stop plans of armed rioters coming back to Washington bearing arms in advance of the inauguration next week?

GROVES: I think that would be a great help to the country if he did - if he can make it crystal-clear on whatever platforms are available to him that peaceful protest is permitted. Anything beyond that - any violence, any pushing of police, any confronting the police and any type of violence at all or storming government buildings is not what the Republican Party is about. It is counterproductive. It is what the antifa and BLM rioters did all summer long. We're better than that. He should send that message.

KELLY: So a clear warning delivered now, you think, would be helpful. Do you think it is likely?

GROVES: We'll have to see. You know, inauguration is a while away. It would be nice if everyone kind of tried to lower the temperature, but we hear of impeachment and invocation of the 25th Amendment and these things. It would be best for folks here in D.C., where you and I are, if the temperature gets lowered over the next 10 days and not sent to a boiling point.

KELLY: Speaking of looking ahead, there's, of course, a lot still up into the air - still up in the air as to what Congress may do next. You mentioned House leaders are calling on Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment. That would remove the president from office. And they're saying if that doesn't go anywhere, they will vote on impeachment looks like maybe on Wednesday - so far, a single article of impeachment, charging the president with inciting an insurrection. What is his defense against that charge?

GROVES: Well, the primary defense on the merits is that if you go through his speech - of course, very carefully - you see not any type of incitement to violence or any incitement to insurrection.

KELLY: He told the crowd to fight like hell.

GROVES: He also said to go down to the Capitol building and peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard. The statement - and I read the entire transcript in preparation for this show. I promise you.

KELLY: Sure, as did I. Go on.

GROVES: The statement about fighting like hell - if every politician who was in a political battle or a campaign was going to be charged for incitement to violence or insurrection by saying fight like hell, then you'd have a lot of people in cuffs right now. A general statement to, you know, go in and fight like hell - that does not an incitement to insurrection make.

KELLY: What about this? When it was clear that something truly awful was underway at the Capitol last Wednesday, we were getting reports - members of Congress calling out, telling us they were being issued gas masks. They were running for their lives. The president told his supporters, and I quote, "we love you. You're very special."

GROVES: The president's message when it became clear that what was going on in the Capitol was getting way out of hand and becoming violent could have come sooner and could have been more definitive. I think, as he has done in the past, by praising the protesters and supporters who were not engaging in violence, who were not storming the Capitol, who were not confronting police officers with violence is a perfectly OK thing to do. You can condemn the minority of people who are causing the violence, and they should be condemned, and they are getting charged with crimes. It's not, however, you know, an impeachable or terrible offense to say, you know, the supporters who are not doing that, we love you.

KELLY: There are a lot of people who I'm going to guess are going to beg to differ with that. But let me leave it there and say again how much we appreciate your coming on and fielding our questions. Thank you.

GROVES: I appreciate it a lot, Mary Louise. Thank you.

KELLY: That is former White House press secretary Steven Groves. He is now at the conservative Heritage Foundation. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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