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Iowa Senator Doesn't Blame Trump For Lack Of Major Legislation During 100 Days


But first we're going to get reflections from two Republicans in Congress on the president's first 100 days. Some of President Trump's biggest policy changes during his first 100 days have been from executive orders, but some of those have been blocked by federal judges, including the travel ban and an order defunding so-called sanctuary cities.

We wanted to hear more about this, so we called Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa. We wanted to get his views on this because he chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. He's held public office for nearly 60 years. He's serving his seventh term in the U.S. Senate. And I started our conversation by asking Senator Grassley about President Trump's fraught relationship with the judiciary.

CHARLES GRASSLEY: Well, the president shouldn't have any relationship with the judiciary except to nominate, as it provides in the Constitution, with the advice and consent of the United States Senate. And the judiciary should be very independent of the presidency and be willing to hold both the legislative branch and the president to being within the constitution, within the law. And the fact that he has run up against some stumbling blocks within the judiciary - he should expect that.

And the most obvious person that thought he was above the law was Nixon, and he had to resign. There's an understanding that the president isn't above the law and whatever he does as commander in chief and whatever else his responsibilities are, they have to be within the law. And when they aren't, you expect the courts to step in, and they have.

MARTIN: Well, the question, I think, arises because the president, first as a candidate and then subsequently as president, has made some rather pointed personal criticisms against specific judges. And some people feel that he has evidenced a lack of respect for the judiciary as a co-equal branch of government. Do you feel that the judiciary has acquitted itself appropriately in these matters?

GRASSLEY: I think not only the president of the United States in the instance you're talking about, but whether it's Senator Grassley or 99 other senators, we ought to keep the issues that we discuss within our responsibilities of our respective offices on policies and not personalities.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, how is President Trump doing? How would you assess his first 100 days in office?

GRASSLEY: Well, I'll divide it into three parts. I think that with major legislation he hasn't done very well. But I wouldn't blame him. I would blame the Republicans in the House of Representatives for not getting together on especially health care reform. In the Senate I think he's done very good considering the obstructions of the Democrats in the United States Senate on confirmations. We still have had sizable success there. In the area of international affairs I think that he wants to fill the vacuum left by Obama withdrawing from world leadership. In the 70 years since World War II until 10 years ago, we prevented World War III by the United States being a leader and our enemies fearing us. And I think he's trying to re-establish that.

And then what he wants to do that most politicians don't do - they run on a platform but they never stand on the platform. And I'm convinced that he wants to stand on the same platform he ran on and carry out his promises, what he can do at least through executive action of his own. I think he ought to have good marks for trying to carry out the promises of the campaign. That ought to be a shock to everybody in the United States because they don't expect politicians to do that.

MARTIN: That's Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa. He's the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was kind enough to speak to us from Capitol Hill. Senator Grassley, thank you so much for speaking with us.

GRASSLEY: Yeah, you've been very kind to me. Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.