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Republicans Are Unified Behind Trump, Rutledge Says


Let's talk now in our studios with NPR political reporter Scott Detrow, with us through the morning, and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Republican from that state, welcome to the program.

LESLIE RUTLEDGE: Thank you. Thanks for having me on.

INSKEEP: Thanks for coming by. And you're speaking on Tuesday night...

RUTLEDGE: I am - Tuesday in the 8 o'clock hour.

INSKEEP: We will look forward to that. Now, we just heard from Paul Ryan, who's backing Donald Trump but clearly has many reservations. How unified is your party?

RUTLEDGE: We are extraordinarily unified. And I believe that when we come out of Cleveland at the end of this week - that you are going to see a party ready to win, ready to get America back to work. And this - you know, a party who is unified behind our candidate for president, Donald Trump, as well as our vice presidential candidate, Gov. Mike Pence. I think that, you know, this talk of dysfunction in the party is dissipating quickly.

INSKEEP: The word I was thinking of was not dysfunction. It was pain. This seems to be a painful moment for a lot of Republicans.

RUTLEDGE: I don't think so. When we look at Hillary Clinton - and what Republicans don't want are four more years of failed policies of Barack Obama. Secretary Clinton has shown time and again her dishonesty and trustworthiness. What we heard the speaker talking about - were how Americans are frustrated about, you know, not having jobs, being in poverty - in a clip that you all just played. And that's what people are frustrated with. They're frustrated with all this regulation that we have seen out of this administration.

INSKEEP: Let me ask you about the shootings in Baton Rouge, La., which we're also covering throughout the morning. We'll remind people, of course - as attorney general, you're a law enforcement official. What have these shootings done to law enforcement officials - the law enforcement community?

RUTLEDGE: Well, it's a reminder. You know, our hearts and souls go out to our officers everywhere and particularly in Baton Rouge at this time. And, you know, it's important that leaders stand up and shut this sort of negativity toward our law enforcement down. I am the chief law enforcement officer of Arkansas. And the men and women in blue do so much for our communities every day.

We can't simply thank them enough. And to go out, to leave their homes, their spouses, their children - not know whether or not they're going to see their mom or dad when they - that night - is, you know, incredible. And so we need to lift these members of law enforcement up. We need to tell these individuals who are targeting law enforcement - negativity toward law enforcement - to shut it down.

INSKEEP: And let me ask about Donald Trump's response to this. He sent out a number of tweets yesterday afternoon, including one which called the country, quote, "a divided crime scene" and said it's only going to get worse, exclamation point. Is that a useful response?

RUTLEDGE: Well, I think the response for me is that, again, we need to call on leaders to shut down this sort of negativity toward our law enforcement and to really - to recognize the role of law enforcement. Gov. Pence probably said it best when he said, you know, law enforcement are part of the - you know, this is an attack on the foundation of a free and safe society. And that's...

INSKEEP: I'm just curious. Forgive me for interrupting. I'm so sorry. I've just got about a minute left. Was that a useful response by Donald Trump - do you think?

RUTLEDGE: Well, what is not a useful response are the media attacking a presidential candidate at a time when we have individuals who are inciting this sort of violence and attacking law enforcement because, you know, here we are in Cleveland. And there's so many good officers who have come in from around the country - our, you know, law enforcement agencies working together. And we need to encourage more individuals to step up into that role and to keep us safe.

INSKEEP: Scott Detrow?

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Yeah, I think you're going to see a big focus on that. Again, the theme of tonight is kind of law and order - make America safe again. That's certainly going to be a theme you're going to hear from speaker after speaker tonight, including senators like Tom Cotton from Arkansas, Joni Ernst from Iowa.

INSKEEP: Attorney General Rutledge - got about 20 seconds here. You want to preview what you're going to say on Tuesday night?

RUTLEDGE: Well, being from Arkansas, I'm going to talk about how Arkansans know Hillary Clinton. We don't want to back in Arkansas. We don't want her back in the White House.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) OK. All right. That's Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Thanks very much for coming by...

RUTLEDGE: Thank you.

INSKEEP: ...This morning - really appreciate it. She's one of many guests we expect to hear throughout the week as we broadcast from Cleveland, which is the scene of the Republican National Convention. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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