Trump And The G-7 Update
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Washington D.C. finally had a victory this week, but nothing to do with legislation, programs or summit meetings. The Washington Capitals won their first Stanley Cup ever. And while the Cap fans play, President Trump is away. We're joined now by NPR's Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Hello, Scott.
SIMON: President Trump wrapped up his time at the G-7 with a press conference before he headed off to Singapore and that summit meeting with Kim Jong Un. Tell us what he said. He seemed to make - level a few more trade threats, and repeated what he wants known about Russia.
ELVING: Yes, that's right. The president showed up a little late this morning and left the summit before it was over. And before leaving, he made a statement to reporters that sounded a lot like one of his rallies in America's heartland. He said America is the piggy bank that everybody is robbing and vowed that that was going to end.
And if that message were not enough to rile the other leaders, he also said that he thought the G-7 ought to re-admit Vladimir Putin's Russia, saying he thought it would be, quote, "a real asset."
SIMON: Well, Ron, remind us why Russia was kicked out, or, I guess, technically suspended, anyway. It wasn't just for soiling the carpet.
ELVING: Russia was suspended in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea, which was one of a series of Russian aggressions against its neighbor Ukraine. That was a clear violation of international law. So the other seven countries gave Russia the boot and imposed a number of other sanctions. Then, early last year, Russia said it wasn't even interested in being in the G-8 anymore anyway.
Now Trump says he wants them back, and the new Italian premier says he could support that. But to the rest of these European leaders, that's a little bit like the skunk at the picnic has decided to invite a friend.
SIMON: Let's turn now to Mueller investigation this week. Special counsel filed new witness tampering indictments against Paul Manafort on Friday. How much does this raise the stakes in the case involving the president's old campaign manager?
ELVING: It's a substantial escalation of pressure, Scott, another turn of the screw, if you will, squeezing Manafort to cooperate in the special counsel's investigation or face conviction on serious federal charges carrying years of prison time. Manafort has thus far refused to cooperate, apparently believing he can either win in court or perhaps get a pardon from the president.
SIMON: Congress looked like they might get some kind of deal on immigration this past week. Didn't happen. What did happen?
ELVING: They had a big sit-down meeting among all the House Republicans, and they talked about a deal, but they didn't reach one. The problem is that one faction within the House Republican caucus wants to protect the DREAMers, the people in the U.S. illegally who were brought here as children. The other faction at the opposite end of the spectrum opposes anything they see as amnesty. And they want full funding for Trump's border wall with Mexico and a number of other changes to current law on legal immigration as well.
So it's not clear how much of that can get worked out, even among House Republicans, let alone with the Senate or the president.
SIMON: I have to ask, how does the director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, hold onto his job? It seems like every few hours, there's charges of some kind of new ethical infraction. Yeah. I mean, he would have been let go from a greeter position at Walmart by now.
ELVING: Quite possibly. But the president says Pruitt is doing a good job within the walls of the EPA. In other words, he likes the policies, just not the bad publicity about Pruitt's lavish use of taxpayer money and his various conflicts of interest.
SIMON: NPR's Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.