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Inside Trump (Jan 9th, 2018)

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PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SPEECH TO FARMERS

On Monday, President Trump spoke to the American Farm Bureau Federation in Nashville, Tennessee, and promised to end what he termed a "regulatory assault" on the agricultural industry. During the 36-minute address, which received an enthusiastic response in the room, Trump also touted the recent Republican tax overhaul, which he vowed would mean more money "for our farmers and our middle class," and his rollback of former President Obama's "Waters of the United States" rule. (This placed additional regulatory hurdles on how farms could make use of federally protected small waterways.)

Though Trump has kept a number of campaign pledges to farmers - such as easing environmental regulations on the dairy, livestock and grain industries - his focus on tighter immigration controls could mean fewer available farmworkers, and his 2017 budget proposal outlines steep cuts in federal insurance subsidies to farms. The President did little to address these concerns during the speech, though he did recognize the importance of protecting farms against the risk of bad harvests. (He also touted, to applause, the elimination of the estate tax, which he deemed a "death tax.") Trump did not discuss the Agricultural Act of 2014, known as the "Farm Bill," which allocates federal dollars for food and agricultural programs. It's set to expire in 2018.

As well, many in the industry remain concerned about Trump's opposition to international trade pacts. Trump pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have meant an additional $4.4 billion per year for the agricultural industry. Addressing concerns that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) may be similarly threatened, the President promised his audience that negotiations are ongoing and his team is “working very hard to get a better deal.” 

Trump also used the occasion to tout his plan to expand rural access to high-speed internet, vowing "those towers are going to go up and you’re going to have great, great broadband." (Though the order clears regulatory hurdles and asks the executive branch to “use all viable tools” to encourage the expansion of rural broadband service, it does not appear to allocate any funds to make this happen more quickly.) In one widely-shared exchange, the President joked with the crowd “Oh, are you happy you voted for me. You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege."

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THE LATEST: MUELLER-TRUMP INTERVIEW COULD HAPPEN

Though no formal request has yet been made, the New York Times reported that special counsel Robert Mueller does intend to interview President Trump, based on accounts from two people with knowledge of the discussion. Mueller apparently first signaled his intention to speak with the President directly in December. (The negotiations were first revealed publicly by NBC News on Monday.)

Lawyers for the President - including Ty Cobb, who is leading the response to the probe - have been pledging Trump's cooperation with the investigation, though there have also been attempts to negotiate for alternatives to a traditional interview. (For example, allowing the President to respond to written questions, rather than appearing in person.) Should Trump outright refuse to speak with Mueller, the special counsel would have the option to obtain a grand jury subpoena for his testimony. The President could theoretically also cite his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and refuse to answer questions, but politically, this could prove a risky maneuver. 

The Washington Post claims that Mueller will push for "open-ended, face-to-face questioning without clear parameters."

According to the Times' unnamed sources, Mueller is particularly interested in asking Trump about the firing of James Comey as FBI Director and Michael Flynn as national security adviser, believing that this line of inquiry will reveal whether or not he attempted to obstruct justice.

NPR points out that a number of past presidents have spoken with grand juries and special counsels about active investigations. In August 1998, Bill Clinton testified before a grand jury about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and was later charged with lying in his statements. In 2004, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald interviewed George W. Bush in the Oval Office as part of an investigation into the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

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