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Politics Chat: Biden to campaign in key cities on Labor Day

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

And now we're joined by NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Mara, you were listening in on that conversation. What did you make of White House press secretary's response on whether the president's message on MAGA Republicans was received?

LIASSON: I think that when Karine Jean-Pierre said we have to use this moment, what I heard was an administration trying to use this moment to frame the election as a choice, not a referendum. Midterm elections are usually a referendum on the party in power. That's the Democrats. But Joe Biden tried on Thursday night to make the election into a choice between him and the part of the Republican Party that he calls MAGA Republicans. Not all Republicans, but what he says - it's the extreme part of the Republican Party that doesn't condone - that condones political violence, that doesn't accept election results unless they win, that are a threat to democracy.

And, sometimes, this week, it seemed like Joe Biden and Donald Trump were running against each other again. You had Trump give that speech in Pennsylvania where he called the president the enemy of the state. You had Biden's speech also in Pennsylvania on Thursday. And I think that the best thing that Democrats feel they can do is to paint the other side as extreme and to make this election as a choice. And, you know, at some moments this week, it almost seemed as if Trump was helping Biden make his case. Before Biden's speech, Trump went on a radio interview and said that if he becomes the president again, he will issue full pardons for the January 6 insurrectionists and that he is already financially supporting some of them.

RASCOE: OK. We need to talk about the documents the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago. A federal judge on Friday unsealed a more detailed inventory of materials recovered from former President Donald Trump's Florida home and included a mix of secret and top-secret documents. How worried do we need to be about who else might have seen these materials?

LIASSON: We don't know who else has seen these materials. We know that they were marked top secret. We also know that there were empty folders that were marked classified. We don't know what was in that folders - what were in that folders. We also know that the documents were not stored carefully. They were described as being haphazardly stuffed into boxes, intermingled with Trump's personal effects. You know, Trump called the government's bluff. He wanted this accounting made public. Now it has been, and so far, it has seemed more damning for him. We don't know whether Trump will be indicted or convicted. But so far, everything we've learned about the search at Mar-a-Lago has hurt his case, not helped it.

RASCOE: We know President Biden is heading to Pittsburgh and Milwaukee for Labor Day events. Those cities are in key midterm states. And this really kicks off the fall campaign season, right?

LIASSON: That's right. And it's been an unusual campaign season because Democrats had all but given up on avoiding a wipe out. But now they think things are looking a little bit better for them. Biden signed into law a big piece of legislation. Pandemic seems to be easing. Inflation seems to be easing a little bit. The Supreme Court decision overturning Roe has energized Democrats. And more importantly, there's a bunch of Senate candidates, Republican Senate candidates who have not been as appealing to voters as Republicans had hoped. Democrats have been able to paint those candidates as too extreme. And now Democrats see the possibility of winning Senate seats or hanging on to governor's mansions in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. That's why Biden is going to be visiting those states this week.

RASCOE: OK. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: You're welcome.

RASCOE: You're listening to NPR News. 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.