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Week in politics: Biden promises gun control; House to obtain Trump's tax returns

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Biden is promising to do whatever he can on gun control before Republicans take control of the House in January.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The idea we still allow semi-automatic weapons to be purchased is sick, just sick. It has no, no social redeeming value. Zero. None.

SIMON: President spoke Thanksgiving morning on a week that has been shadowed by more mass shootings. NPR senior political editor Domenico Montanaro joins us. Domenico, thanks so much for being with us.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: It's great to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Three mass shootings in just 10 days. President Biden was blunt. But what does he have the votes to do about guns before Republicans take over the House?

MONTANARO: Well, there really aren't the votes to get a ban on weapons that can get off a lot of shots in a short amount of time passed. There was a ban in place for a decade, as we know. And Biden has been voicing support for one even when people thought it wouldn't - would be politically unpopular to do so. The Democratic-led House passed a ban in July, but it didn't have enough votes in the Senate. That hasn't changed.

It's interesting because the way Democrats in particular talk about this has evolved. You know, Republicans had been saying, you know, you don't want to politicize this. And Democrats, though, have become much bolder in how they talk about it. It used to be seen as a potential political problem to talk about gun legislation in the immediate aftermath of one of these events. But these events have become so common, and there's been so much more activism and money around trying to implement gun restrictions.

Our polling with PBS, NewsHour and Marist this year showed a majority support a ban on sale of automatic weapons like AK-47s or AR-15s. It's sharply divided, though, politically. You know, most Republicans don't want to see that. Nine in 10 Democrats and a majority of independents do want to see one. Democrats weren't shy about campaigning on this including President Biden. You know, Democrats kept control of the Senate. They didn't see huge losses in the House - so not quite the lightning rod that it has been. And a majority in AP's VoteCast survey of 94,000 voters found half of voters want to see nationwide gun policy made more strict while only about 3 in 10 want to keep gun laws the same.

SIMON: In other direction, looks like the House will get a hold of former President Trump's tax records now that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to get involved in the matter. Are we about to learn why Donald Trump has been fighting this for so long?

MONTANARO: I think about to is, like, a flexible term.

SIMON: Yeah.

MONTANARO: Who knows how long it'll be until we see them. I wouldn't be surprised if we see some leaks potentially from Democrats in the next, you know, six months to a year or so on this because I would think next year when Republicans control the House, they're going to do everything they can to stop this from being released. You know, it was always commonplace for presidents to reveal their taxes every year in an effort to be transparent with people who would vote for them. But not Trump, you know? He has always wanted to obscure the amount that he's worth, what his income is, how much he pays in taxes, what kinds of loopholes he uses.

Remember, in 2016, during that campaign, he said that he - you know, it was revealed he didn't pay taxes in some years, federal taxes, and said that makes him smart, you know? And so that's just the way he views this. He's always been very private about this, his company. He doesn't - is not very open about what it does. It's privately held. So he just really never wanted to pull back the curtain and let people in. So that's just kind of the way it's been for him. And it'd be interesting to see if we do get more information on this especially as he's running for president again in 2024.

SIMON: And finally, a number of news outlets - New York Times, CNN, Axios - report that Donald Trump dined with Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist and Holocaust denier. I don't know. What do we make of that?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, I mean, this is the kind of thing that - you know, Trump, for so long, has just been somebody who, you know, has kind of flirted with white nationalists. He's called himself a nationalist. You know, there was the - obviously what he said about Charlottesville with good people on both sides and is one of the reasons why President Biden said that he was running against Trump in the first place, was because of this cultural divide that Trump has really stoked. And he was set to have dinner with Kanye West...

SIMON: Yeah.

MONTANARO: ...Or yay (ph) - Ye, as he calls himself now, the rapper. And he brought these individuals with him to the dinner. But clearly, Trump wasn't that upset about it. He didn't put out any kind of statement, you know, saying that they shouldn't have been there in the first place. And this is, you know, just the kind of thing that we've heard him say, you know, publicly, that he would even pardon people from Jan. 6th.

SIMON: Domenico Montanaro, thanks so much.

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

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.