SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
It was either a really good week for President Trump or a hugely bad one. Former head of the FBI James Comey called him a liar in three hours of sworn testimony that was intense. And, Lordy, it was even folksy at times.
Mr. Trump returned the accusation. But he also claimed that Mr. Comey had somehow vindicated him in the investigation into Russian meddling. Let's find out what Ron Elving, NPR's senior political editor and senior rock on tour thinks, shall we? We're so glad, Ron, you can join us onstage here in Birmingham. Thanks so much.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: And, Scott, it's so great to be here in Birmingham with you.
SIMON: What did you get out of the Comey hearings?
ELVING: You know, I thought the most important thing that happened was that we got refocused on what the initial - initializing acts were in the entire controversy about this. And that is the Russian interference or attempted interference in our election last year. Comey talked about that quite a while.
He said that there had been something like a thousand or more than a thousand different cyber attacks last year on all kinds of different government entities not just the DNC and the RNC, not just the Hillary Clinton campaign, but hundreds and hundreds of government and non-government agencies in an attempt to discredit our election process. And that's a pretty serious matter. And he said it ought to matter to all Americans.
SIMON: What do you make of, on the one hand, Mr. Comey saying, Lordy, I hope there are tapes. And President Trump saying you'll have that answer soon and saying, look, I am willing to go on the record and talk about this.
ELVING: Presumably, the president will have that opportunity. What we do not know is whether or not tapes existed. That's been rather teased as opposed to really reported. We don't really know if there were tapes. We don't even know if there's a taping system operating in the White House right now.
The Obama people took it down. We know that there was one during the Nixon administration and previous administrations all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt. So it's conceivable that someone was taping that conversation. And, perhaps, we will someday hear that actual tape. But in the era in which we live, perhaps, even the evidence of a tape would be disputed.
SIMON: Are we in now for an anticlimax of long, careful protracted investigations?
ELVING: We're going to have several months of relative silence as the investigation goes forward in a confidential way broken only, of course, by leaks and tweets. And as far as the leaking goes, I don't expect any leaks out of Robert Mueller's team. I think that's a pretty professional outfit. And they won't be leaking. But there'll be a lot of other people who have a notion of what's going on on the inside. And when it comes to - well, let's put it this way. If you did a heat map of Washington, D.C., on the basis of leaking, the redest (ph) spot would be 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
SIMON: Since we're in Alabama, I want to ask about reports this week that Attorney General Sessions may have had another meeting with the enigmatic Russian ambassador who so many people can never seem to remember meeting, but he sure gets around. Does that affect his status, his ability to be attorney general?
ELVING: It's another murky element of his status. Apparently, there was an occasion when he was at the Mayflower Hotel. And that's one of those hotels - there's one in every city - where things just seem to happen. And...
SIMON: Right. That was the Eliot Spitzer case.
ELVING: I'm afraid it was and...
SIMON: Not that interesting, as far as we know. But go ahead, yes?
ELVING: No, another case where the initializing acts were important. But the point here is that he was at the Mayflower Hotel at the same time as a number of Russian officials. Now, were they there to meet with each other? Jeff Sessions says no.
SIMON: Does all of this just suck up a lot of oxygen in Washington, D.C., and prevent Congress from doing business or concentrating on business?
ELVING: It's not hard to prevent Congress from doing business.
ELVING: That may be the easiest assignment anyone could have. And that is actually a fairly serious matter at this point because while it's June for the rest of us, we're already heading toward the end of the year in terms of Congress. They'll be around for a few weeks in June, a few weeks in July, a few weeks in September and then we get to the end of the fiscal year.
After that, it gets much more difficult to pass anything with a bare majority in the Senate. So if you want to talk about health care or keeping the government from shutting down or lifting the debt ceiling or rewriting the tax code or all the other things they've said that they would do by the end of September, time is running out.
SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, what a pleasure to have you here on the road with us. Thanks so much.
ELVING: Thank you. What a pleasure to be here. Thank you all.
SIMON: Excuse me, Ron. That's thanks, y'all.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.