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Trump Campaign Director Discusses Upcoming Rally In Tulsa, Oklahoma

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Immediately after Chief Justice John Roberts issued his ruling, the president framed it as an issue worth voting on. Now, on Twitter, he referred to, quote, "these horrible and politically charged decisions" and said they were, quote, "shotgun blasts into the face" of Republicans or conservatives. "Vote Trump 2020." The president resumes campaign rallies this weekend in Tulsa, Okla. And Marc Lotter is in Tulsa and on the line. He is the director of strategic communications for the president's 2020 campaign. Mr. Lotter, welcome back to the program.

MARC LOTTER: Thanks for having me, Steve.

INSKEEP: On that tweet that I mentioned, the president used the plural - these horrible decisions. We can guess that one of the decisions is the DACA case. What other decision is he referring to that he's unhappy about?

LOTTER: Well, there have been decisions recently, including the one earlier this week with the expansion of the Civil Rights Act from 1964 that the president disagreed with. And...

INSKEEP: Oh, this is upholding gay - just so I'm clear - this is upholding gay and transgender rights in the workplace. He didn't agree with that decision.

LOTTER: Well, he says he will respect the court's decision and the court's rule. He also believes that it's very important for the future of the country that we have judges that are ruling on the laws based on how they are written and not how others might want to interpret them. And he's - definitely was in disagreement with the DACA decision, which basically was saying that it's OK for a president to create a program through executive order but not that subsequent president to remove that president - that program through executive order.

INSKEEP: If I may, I read the decision by Chief Justice John Roberts. And it didn't seem to say that. It seemed to say that a president can remove a program like that but he has to do it in a reasonable and reasoned way through a proper process. He has to do his homework. The chief justice said the president didn't do his homework.

LOTTER: Well, I would disagree in that characterization. That's the chief justice's decision. I know it was very strongly disagreed with by many of the others on the bench, the minority. And it will be something that will be revisited.

INSKEEP: Now, you talked about appointing a different kind of justice. John Roberts, was appointed by President George W. Bush, a Republican. Is the president saying that John Roberts is not the type of justice he would appoint?

LOTTER: Well, the president has put out his list during the 2016 election of the types of justices that he would nominate. He says that he will reup that list here in the 2020 cycle and add names to it. And as we know, though, from what the president has done, he has appointed justices he believes who believe in the context of the law. They believe in the law - in how it is written, not how it has been interpreted in some ways, that he's, you know, an originalist - I believe is the term that is often used.

INSKEEP: Well, now, of course, the ultimate answer here on DACA, as we were just hearing in the story, is up to Congress, where there's a wide range of views. There's a wide range of views within the Republican Party. But when we had Democratic Senator Richard Durbin on yesterday, he said it would be hard for Congress to act this year. And then he added this. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

RICHARD DURBIN: It could happen. But let me be honest with you. An election which brings more people that feel as I do on the issue would make it a lot easier. Right now, it be a death-defying act in the Senate. But we ought to try for the sake of these 700,000 young people and their families. We owe it to them to give it a try.

INSKEEP: Durbin says the election could give more support to his side. Do you in the Trump campaign intend for DACA also to be a campaign issue for your side?

LOTTER: Well, the president has made illegal immigration and immigration overall a centerpiece of his campaign, both in 2016 - he plans to do it again. The president has been very open to having a deal reached where the DREAMers can stay. And he has been open about that. It's been the Democrats who have not been able to negotiate or willing to negotiate and come up with a bill in good faith. I was in the White House during that first year when those attempts were made and abandoned. And so we will see if we can get a deal at some point. The country needs to. We need to have an answer on immigration. We also need to be able to enforce our borders and do so like so many of our other neighbors, like Canada, even Australia, that have merit-based systems that reward - and bringing in the best people here for what they can contribute, not just because they made it across the border.

INSKEEP: Just to be clear on this, is the president's position, then, that he is willing to have DACA recipients stay permanently, but he wants it as part of a larger trade? He wants something in return for that?

LOTTER: The president's been very clear that he is willing to include the discussion of DACA and the DREAMers as part of an overall immigration package. And he would like to see an overall immigration package work its way through Congress.

INSKEEP: Mr. Lotter, as you know very well, the president holds a rally where you are in Tulsa. And I'm sure you know about some of the criticism that has surrounded this. He was criticized for originally scheduling the rally today, Juneteenth, which is a regional holiday marking the end of slavery. He was also criticized for scheduling this in Tulsa, which is the site of a historic massacre of black people in 1921. Now, I want to be clear. Tulsa is also a very nice city. I've been there - great place to visit. But it does seem unusual as a choice for a presidential campaign event since Oklahoma is not in any way a swing state. Why go there?

LOTTER: Well, I think in one case, it's a state that has already entered Phase Three of reopening. It is a state that is coming back to life with people returning to work, people returning to gatherings. And it's a place that felt right to be able to celebrate a reopening of America, getting back together again, getting back to work again, getting out from hiding in the basement. And for that is the reason that we chose to come to Oklahoma here in the first. And we've also talked about going to other states, obviously, very near in the future. And that will be added to the schedule. But this was a state that was ready and able to accommodate us. And when you look at the crowds that are already out here, we've had at least 100 people out here camped out on sidewalks for days to see the president come on Saturday night. I know they're excited to be here.

INSKEEP: People in the campaign had no idea of the way that the choice of venue and the choice of date would be taken?

LOTTER: The campaign was very much aware, as we've even put out a statement. And you've heard from folks inside the campaign - that when the decision was made to come here and when the decision was made to talk about and have the original rally scheduled on Juneteenth, it was something that we knew that we could handle, that the president wants to talk about how he has worked to improve the lives of black Americans, whether it be economically, through historic investments in black colleges and universities, how he is trying to deal with the issue about racism, about police reform, how he's not going to stand up and stand for rioting and looting but that he respects the peaceful protests and the fact we need to work together to move our country forward.

INSKEEP: Mr. Lotto, we've just got a few seconds, but I want to note there's a big crowd at the rally. There is a pandemic. Oklahoma's not as bad as other states, but case numbers are rising there. And the campaign is asking people to sign waivers not to hold the campaign responsible if they get sick. If it's safe to hold a big rally, why ask people to sign waivers?

LOTTER: This is a matter of personal choice, personal freedom. We respect people to have the information to be able to make the best decision for themselves and their own personal health.

INSKEEP: Marc Lotter, it's always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.

LOTTER: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Marc Lotter is the director of strategic communications for President Trump's 2020 campaign. He's in Tulsa, where the president campaigns this weekend. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.