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Politics Chat: Police Out-Numbered Demonstrators At 'Justice For J6' Rally

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Now to the Capitol. Yesterday in Washington, D.C., metal fences around the Capitol building, hundreds of law enforcement and not a lot of demonstrators.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE COLLINS: I urge - no, I demand that the federal government begin trying those accused - the J6 political prisoners being detained immediately, especially those being held for nonviolent crimes.

(CHEERING)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is Mike Collins, who's competing in a Republican primary to run for a congressional seat in Georgia. He spoke at the far-right rally held in Washington, D.C., to support people accused of participating in the January 6 insurrection. Joining me now to talk about this, among other things, is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Looks like that event was a bit of a fizzle.

LIASSON: Well, not a lot of people showed up, just a couple hundred demonstrators. At times, journalists and police outnumbered them. But they were there, as you heard, to protest the treatment of people arrested in the Capitol riot on January 6. But unlike that event, there were no big-name Republican speakers this time. That doesn't mean the Republican Party has stopped pushing the same approach that President Trump did which led to the storming of the Capitol, which is that elections that Republicans don't win are stolen. And instead, we're seeing - that's a false claim, of course. Instead, we're seeing lawmakers in Republican-dominated states, like Georgia and Texas, pass laws that make it harder for Republicans to lose a close race - laws that limit voter turnout in Democratic areas or laws that allow Republicans to take partisan control of vote counting, make it easier for Republicans to disqualify results they don't like.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And not just after the election - we saw the leading GOP candidate in California's gubernatorial recall launch a preemptive strike on the results.

LIASSON: That's right. Larry Elder, who was the leading recall alternative to Gavin Newsom, did acknowledge that Newsom won. But leading up to the recall, he said that, if he lost, it was going to be because of fraud, just like Donald Trump said in 2020. Donald Trump said the same things about the California recall. And this is in a state that's overwhelmingly Democratic. But I think this playbook shows more than anything else how the party is still a Trump party. He is the undisputed leader of the Republican Party. It's one of the reasons why you saw Anthony Gonzalez, this young Ohio congressman, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the insurrection - he decided not to run for another term. He didn't want to face a primary against a Trump-anointed opponent. He said Trump is a cancer for the country. And so Trump has a rock-solid hold on his party at least in primaries. We have to see if these Trump-blessed candidates can win general elections.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, let's turn now to the Biden White House and a bit of diplomatic cleanup necessary for a long-time friend, France, over a deal to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. Ambassadors have been recalled, Mara. I mean, that's a big deal.

LIASSON: That's right. But the big policy change behind this - and I was at the White House Wednesday when President Biden announced this - was a pivot to Asia. This is changing doctrine. This is the pivot to Asia that President Obama wanted to do and couldn't. The U.S. and Australia and the United Kingdom have decided that it's important to beef up their security in the Indo-Pacific to push back against Chinese threats. And to do that, Australia needed nuclear-powered submarine technology from the U.S. Now, in this announcement, Biden never mentioned China once, but that's what this was all about.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And instead of waiting for a big reaction from China, it was France that had the reaction.

LIASSON: France had the reaction. China didn't like this one bit, but France was infuriated. They said this was a stab in the back. They were - had this $66 billion contract to build conventional submarines for Australia, and Australia decided that wasn't good enough. They needed nuclear power technology. But it does raise the question, why wasn't France informed? Why didn't Australia tell Paris months ago about their decision to drop the contract? Could an alternative defense sale for France been arranged - maybe a new role for France in this new U.S.-U.K.-Australian defense pact? And it raises a lot of questions. It's kind of like Afghanistan. We get the big policy change - get out of Afghanistan, pivot to Asia - but in both cases, wasn't there a better way to execute the policy shift, especially for an administration that was supposed to be experienced and competent in foreign policy? So now you get this big rift with an ally. It might die down, but it was yet another bungled policy shift by the Biden administration.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let me just briefly ask you about that because we also heard the Defense Department have to apologize over a horrific drone strike that left 10 innocent Afghan civilians dead.

LIASSON: Right. That was just horrific. It was a mistake. Drone strikes have caused civilian casualties all during the American presence in Afghanistan, but it raises questions about this over-the-horizon strategy that Biden says he's going to use to prevent terrorism in Afghanistan. If you're over the horizon and you don't have anyone telling you if your targets are legitimate, how are you going to do that?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you very much.

LIASSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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