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Week In Politics: Donald Trump Visits Mexico

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're getting a better sense of what Hillary Clinton told the FBI about the private e-mail server she used when she was secretary of state. The FBI has released documents related to its investigation today. They paint a picture of someone who relied heavily on her staff and others to figure out how to handle classified information and comply with State Department rules on email use. Also, Donald Trump has returned to square one of his immigration proposals, if he ever left. Joining us to talk about Clinton, Trump and the rest of the week in politics are our Friday regular commentators, E J Dionne of The Washington Post and The Brookings Institution. Hi there.

E J DIONNE, BYLINE: Good to be here.

SHAPIRO: And David Brooks of The New York Times. Good to have you back.

DAVID BROOKS, BYLINE: Good to be here.

SHAPIRO: So let's start with Clinton. We know that more of her emails will keep being released in the weeks leading up to the November election. E J, how big of a political problem do you think this is for her?

DIONNE: Well, if you look at today's release from everything we know so far, the bad news is that we are talking about this at all. I mean, the last thing she wants is to have us talking about this instead of Trump or perhaps, even once in a while, some of her actual proposals. The good news about this particular release is it appears to confirm how she's characterized all of this. She said to the FBI it appears what she said in public. It looks like she was trying to follow what the - what people in the State Department told her to do about this. And the other good news is that this was all made public and was not just given to the Republicans to cherry pick stuff they released. And that's one thing...

SHAPIRO: And leak (laughter).

DIONNE: And leak - in part. And so I'm sure that, even though the Clinton folks would rather not be talking about this, they're happy that everything came out - or at least as far as we can tell everything came out.

SHAPIRO: You know, today, the Clinton camp said this shows why the Justice Department chose not to prosecute Hillary Clinton. And, David, I wonder whether you think people will buy that argument.

BROOKS: I think so. I don't think there's anything in this report that alters our view particularly - at least from what we know so far. Though it is - it is striking to me that it underlines something that's going on because her popularity ratings continue to suffer and go way down. And that's why Donald Trump is somehow still within single digits of her. I think her campaign finds - faces an interesting dilemma. Should she campaign more or less? She's campaigning in a sort of a low-key manner, sort of in the manner of a small poetry magazine.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

BROOKS: But should she go even lower-profile? And that may be the right answer because her - the more attention she gives to the country, the less people seem to like her.

SHAPIRO: You know, E J, you said something interesting as we were emailing today - that it seems in this campaign the person who gets the less attention each week is the person who wins the week.

DIONNE: Well, let's not underrate a small poetry magazine. It might receive higher favorable ratings than either of these candidates. But it's been - it's been a pretty consistent pattern. The person who's out on the firing line and campaigning and saying things is - ends up getting into trouble, particularly Trump but Hillary also. So being a bit underground may be in her interest. The other thing is it's very clear she has been out raising a lot of money. And she raised - I think the number was $143 million, which puts her in very good shape to broaden the campaign map. And also, she's been doing a lot of debate prep. And I think this is classic Hillary Clinton. She knows the next big thing is the debate. That could be decisive, the very first debate. And she is going to do as much homework as she has to do.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk about Donald Trump. You know, most presidential campaigns, each of the candidates does an overseas trip. And this year, it had not happened until this week, when Donald Trump announced this last-minute day trip to Mexico where he met President Enrique Pena Nieto and talked about a key part of his campaign - the wall that he wants to build between the two countries.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: We did discuss the wall. We didn't discuss payment of the wall. That'll be for a later date. This was a very preliminary meeting. I think it was an excellent meeting. And we are - I think we're very well on our way. A lot of the things I said are very strong, but we have to be strong. We have to say what's happening.

SHAPIRO: Later, the Mexican president tweeted that they did discuss the wall, and he said Mexico would not pay for it. That evening, Trump went to Arizona, where he doubled down on his toughest immigration proposals.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: I am going to create a new special deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice, just like Hillary Clinton has evaded justice, OK?

SHAPIRO: And then he went on to say maybe they'll deport Hillary Clinton. David, this seems like a lot of travel without a lot of movement on the subject of immigration.

BROOKS: You, no, it is the definition of putting lipstick on a pig. For a few hours, he did seem a little more moderate, and there was a lot of trial balloons. But when it comes time to utter a complicated thought, well - or at least a complicated sentence - he reverts to his core belief, which, I think, is a sincere belief - he's incapable of being phony - which is that America's besieged by a lot of dangerous immigrants. And that was the tone of the speech. The substance, even in that deportation task force, deporting dangerous criminals - that actually is our policy right now. And so in substance, I think we can see where - whoever's elected president, we can see where immigration policy is going. We're going to have more border enforcement. We're going to basically legalize the people who are here, and we're going to have a more skills-based system. So substantively you can see where immigration policy is headed. But in tone, he continues to hurt himself with anybody not in the core anti-immigrant groups.

SHAPIRO: E J, I saw one journalist describe this as the meeting of the unpopular in Mexico City. President Pena Nieto has approval ratings close to 20 percent. Did anyone gain from this?

DIONNE: I don't think so. I think his approval ratings are going to go down further. You know, I just want to pause on something. Can you imagine Barack Obama making - saying, even in jest in 2008, that - let's deport John McCain or George W. Bush? And when - when Trump said that, it really struck me that he runs so many stop signs all the time that he doesn't even - even get all the tickets from the press in the commentary world that he probably should. This was a day of political whiplash, almost like we've never seen before. Here is Trump trying to look, in quotes, "presidential" down with the president in Mexico. And then he comes back and gives this absolutely vicious speech when he gets to the United States. And the Clinton campaign, I think, really called him out on something, which is he said again in the speech that Mexico would pay for the wall, but somehow didn't have the guts, or whatever it was, to bring that up with the president of Mexico.

SHAPIRO: They used the favorite Trump word - he choked.

DIONNE: Yes, and that is - I think that is something that people will actually remember out of this very strange day.

SHAPIRO: It seems odd to me that Trump gave this speech in Arizona, which has voted Republican in 15 of the last 16 presidential races. And Hillary Clinton's campaign bought advertising in Arizona. At the same time, you have Tim Kaine campaigning in Georgia, a Clinton campaign office opening in Utah. David, do you see this as just political jujitsu trying to psych out the Republicans, or an actually changing map?

BROOKS: I do think it's a changing map. Georgia - a lot of the states that we think of as Republican now look very much up in the air. I have to say, though, to me, the striking polling thing of the week is that he's narrowing it, that he's - he's gained maybe three or four points nationally. And so I don't know what that is all about because he hasn't had a great week, but the idea that this is going to be a runaway landslide looks a little less likely this week than it did, say, two or three weeks ago.

SHAPIRO: Last word, E J.

DIONNE: I think the race has returned to normal after the double bounce that Clinton got out of the Democratic convention and then all of Trump's mistakes, including going after the Gold Star family. But it is significant that it did go back to normal. But as of this moment, the map is bigger, and Clinton is competitive in some states that people didn't expect her to be.

SHAPIRO: E J Dionne of The Washington Post and The Brookings Institution, thank you.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

SHAPIRO: And David Brooks of The New York Times, thanks, as always.

BROOKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.