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The Latest In Politics

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

NPR’s Ron Elving joins us now, this week from San Francisco.

Ron, thanks very much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: A lot of people would be struck by the fact, today, that President Obama issues a statement. He doesn't laud Castro as a statesman but says he extends his hand in friendship to the Cuban people and extends condolences to the Castro family. Donald Trump wrote on Twitter, Fidel Castro is dead! - exclamation point.

What does this tell us?

ELVING: The president-elect has a firm grasp on the essence of the situation. And it should simplify matters for his new administration considerably when it comes to the Cuba relationship. You know, Castro's officially been out of power for a decade but still an enormous symbolic burden on reform and on relations with the U.S. So Donald Trump, for years, as a businessman was an advocate for building up a relationship with Cuba economically and beyond. And it was only in the late stages of the campaign that he took the opposite point of view. So this should really free him to go back.

SIMON: What do you make of the appointments that we've learned about this week and policy discussions that we've seen and heard?

ELVING: I think what we've learned is that the Trump train of thought rarely runs on a single track. The way that the new president's mind works - he likes to go in different directions at once. And he likes to bring opposites into the frame. So we had, in the first week, appointments that were all white males, mainly hard-liners, especially on national security matters. And then the second group, we had a much more diverse cast, including some of his foremost former critics, people like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. And right now, he's trying decide on secretary of state. And two of the leading candidates are Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Two more different people are hard to imagine.

SIMON: Yeah. What have you discerned about policy ideas and positions so far in an incoming Trump administration?

ELVING: This is what would, I would think, give a lot of Cuba advocates some hope because Donald Trump does seem to be pretty heterodox when it comes to his own policies. The wall may be a fence in some places, we're learning. Mexico may not foot the bill. Immigration policy may be more nuanced. We may listen to quite a number of generals when it comes to the Middle East. And the president-elect has said he does not want to initiate any further investigation or prosecution of Hillary Clinton.

SIMON: Friday's Washington Post - I want to ask your before we go - the Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig made the argument that the Electoral College electors could acknowledge Hillary Clinton's lead in the popular vote when they meet next month - it's expected to be about 2 million votes - and actually choose her to be the next president over Donald Trump. Is this a movement in any sense or just a couple of people speaking out?

ELVING: That is a movement in the sense that millions of people have signed petitions to this effect. And the professor certainly has a point. If the electors whose states do not legally bind them were to see things as he does, they could prefer the winner of the national popular vote. But let's remember, it's a slate of electors who are going to their state capital because of the vote in their state. They may not be push-button partisans, but they are people who are willing to do this for the Republican Party in the year of Trump. So while there may be reason to think they should prefer the popular vote winner, there is little reason to think that more than a handful will do so.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.