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Trump Needs To Return To Make America Great Message, Rep. Gosar Says

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

President Trump heads to Phoenix, Ariz., today. It is his first trip out West since he was elected. Previous rallies have served as opportunities for the president to reconnect with his most loyal supporters. And this gathering comes after what was a pretty rough week for the president. He drew fire from Democrats and those within his own party for the comments he had made about the racial violence in Charlottesville. And to get some perspective now on how Republicans might move forward after that, we're joined on the phone by Republican Congressman Paul Gosar. He represents parts of western Arizona.

Congressman, thank you for speaking with us.

PAUL GOSAR: Thanks for having me on, Ailsa.

CHANG: These rallies have often been an opportunity for the president to energize his base. But after Charlottesville, do you want to hear a different message from the president?

GOSAR: I think he's been on point in regards to what people expected of him. I...

CHANG: How so?

GOSAR: Well, I mean, President Trump was elected as a disruptor. We've gotten into a war of words. I didn't realize that words are what hurt us. You know, we should have - be able to have a dialogue.

CHANG: But how do we have that conversation? I mean, on one hand, many of the people who go to Trump's rallies enjoy it when President Trump goes off script and is provocative, but how do we balance what his base loves about him and having a more robust conversation as you say? Because words are powerful.

GOSAR: Well, words are powerful, but, you know, we jump all over a gentleman that is not a career politician. You know, so many people expect politicians to be perfect and we're not. And we need to lower the tempers in regards to where things are at.

CHANG: Do you think to lower the tempers that this is a moment that President Trump should seize to strike a more conciliatory tone?

GOSAR: I don't know that he needs to be conciliatory at all. I think that he needs to get back to the message of what made America great again, the rule of law, his accomplishment of getting Gorsuch moved through the Senate around the Supreme Court, looking at the changes he's made in the regulatory burdens that, frankly, didn't follow, you know, legal precedent and order.

CHANG: You mentioned the rule of law. There's been some talk of a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona county sheriff who was recently convicted of defying a judge's order to stop racial profiling of Latinos. Do you want to see that happen, a pardon for Arpaio?

GOSAR: You know, that's the prerogative of the president. Sheriff Arpaio did a wonderful job when he was in office. There were problems. No one's perfect.

CHANG: But do you think if President Trump were to pardon Arpaio now, barely over a week after what's happened in Charlottesville, that that would be a particularly inflammatory decision?

GOSAR: I don't because I think the rational person is going, well, you know, they always had it in for Joe Arpaio. He's a very, very popular sheriff. You know, when you cross paths with the Justice Department then, frankly, President Obama, you're not going to win. And I think that's what the outcome was on this aspect.

CHANG: The mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton, actually requested that President Trump not come to Phoenix because he was fearful that his appearance would inflame emotions. Do you have any concerns about the president's visit?

GOSAR: I actually think it's very sad that a mayor would actually say that. I think it says...

CHANG: But does he have a fair point that there could be safety concerns?

GOSAR: I don't think he's got a fair point. For a president that was elected by the people of the United States, I think it's absolutely disrespectful not to have a president come to a town like Phoenix. If people are so unwilling not to have that dialogue, that's problematic.

CHANG: But is President...

GOSAR: That's absolutely problematic.

CHANG: ...Is President Trump doing enough to ease racial tensions in the country after the events in Charlottesville?

GOSAR: Well, I mean, from the standpoint is that he expects no tolerance for racial bigotry. I mean, he said that.

CHANG: Do you think the president's response since Charlottesville - has it made it harder for Republicans to come together and move forward and govern this country?

GOSAR: If that is what causes problems, then shame on us. My parents always taught, me get a stiff upper lip. You may not like some of the circumstances, but that doesn't mean you stop.

CHANG: Republican Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona. Thank you very much for joining us.

GOSAR: Thank you, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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