Mara Liasson

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For months, public health experts have believed the first COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. happened on February 26 in the Seattle area. Now we're learning the coronavirus was killing Americans even sooner than that.

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Just like the coronavirus pandemic could permanently change daily life in America, from hand washing habits to telework, it also has the potential to transform the country's politics in profound ways.

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More than anything, this election is about President Trump.

For most incumbent presidents running for reelection, approval ratings really matter. With Trump, there are several different striking ways to look at those numbers. He's historically unpopular — the most unpopular incumbent ever to stand for reelection.

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NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson has been listening along with us and is on the line. Mara, good morning.

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Good morning.

INSKEEP: What struck your ear?

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All of Washington is focused on the expected House vote on impeachment tomorrow. President Trump was asked about it earlier today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

A foreign service officer detailed to work in the office of Vice President Pence testified behind closed doors on Thursday in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

Jennifer Williams was assigned to work on European and Russian issues with the vice president's team in the spring. She is the first person from the vice president's office to testify in the probe of whether the president withheld military aid from Ukraine while seeking a political favor.

Updated at 11 a.m. ET

Investigators in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump hoped to talk to Charles Kupperman on Monday. But the former White House official failed to show up.

President Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton, is known as a conservative foreign policy hawk. But he is turning into a key figure in the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry of Trump.

"All administrations are tempted to do bad things and have people who have bad instincts or wrong instincts," said Danielle Pletka, who oversees the conservative American Enterprise Institute's work on foreign policy and defense.

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Protests are sweeping Baghdad, Iraq, again today.

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Vice President Mike Pence is in Turkey today. He's trying to negotiate a cease-fire.

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Updated at 4:14 p.m. ET

President Trump is set to unveil an immigration plan that would vastly change who is allowed into the United States.

Trump will present the plan in a speech from the White House Rose Garden Thursday afternoon.

The new plan would focus on reducing family-based immigration to the U.S. in favor of employment-skill-based immigration.

But overall, the number of green cards issued under this plan would not change, and there would be no reduction in net immigration.

With a dramatic shake-up at the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security, President Trump has signaled that he wants to get even tougher on immigration.

But how much tougher can he get?

Trump has been frustrated with the inability of DHS to stop a surge of Central American migrant families and children from crossing the Southern border.

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We're going to continue the conversation with NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, Thanks so much for joining us.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Happy to be here.

MARTIN: What does this mean?

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President Trump delivered his second State of the Union address last night.

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His aides had forecast a call for unity, and the president did open with a call for bipartisanship and unity.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2019 STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS)

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Let's go now to NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. Hey, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi there.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the stalemate continues. What are you hearing behind closed doors?

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NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is in the studio with us to talk more about the service. And, Mara, what stood out to you?

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Keeping control of the House would validate President Trump's governing style and mean full speed ahead for Hill Republicans to move his agenda. But if the GOP loses its majority it will need to to go on defense to protect Trump.

When the Democrats lost the House in 2010, they rapidly saw President Barack Obama's legislative agenda die.

Veteran Democratic strategist Paul Begala doesn't think it's hyperbolic to say that "everything" is at stake for Democrats heading into Tuesday's elections.

"They always say it's the most important election of your life," he says, explaining that in the past two years, Democrats learned the consequences of being "completely shut out" as the GOP controlled both Congress and the White House.

If Democrats fail to take back the House and make significant gains at the state level, they'll be shut out again, without a say in legislation and judicial appointments.

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