SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
President Trump has phone calls scheduled today with several world leaders, including Vladimir Putin. In just the last 24 hours, Trump has suspended all refugees from entering the United States and suspended immigration for the next three months from seven countries that have Muslim-majority populations. He's talked about negotiating a new trade agreement with the United Kingdom and blowing up an old trade deal with Mexico, all in one week. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us. Scott, thanks for being with us.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: The president signed a couple of papers at the Pentagon last night, including this executive order that puts into practice his campaign promise of extreme vetting. What does that propose to do?
HORSLEY: Well, remember, Scott, Trump's original call on the campaign trail was for a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States, and that morphed over time into extreme vetting. The order the president signed at the Pentagon is somewhere in between. He described this as a way to keep would-be terrorists from getting into the country.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.
HORSLEY: This order bars entry of all refugees for 120 days. It bars entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely. It cuts by more than half the total number of refugees the United States is expected to take in this year and gives priority to Christians from the Middle East. And it closes the door for 90 days to all visitors from seven countries with largely Muslim populations - Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan.
SIMON: It's getting quite a reaction. What's the range of reaction, as you've been able to tell?
HORSLEY: Congressional Republicans applauded the move. The GOP chairman of the House Judiciary Committee called it a sensible pause on the entry of refugees. But the order was roundly criticized by human rights groups and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley said it's contrary to our founding values and a smokescreen for religious discrimination. Others said it would make the country less safe, not more.
A number of critics noted this order was signed on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when the White House itself honored the victims of Nazi Germany. It bears noting, Scott, some of those Jewish victims sought refuge in the United States and were turned away, a chapter in our history that we now view with considerable shame.
SIMON: Trump held his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader yesterday, Prime Minister May of the United Kingdom. Always talk about the special relationship between our two countries. Now, there are some similarities in their political rise, but a lot of differences, too, aren't there?
HORSLEY: Yeah, the similarities are sort of superficial. You know, both countries are asserting their sovereignty - the U.S. after the November election, the U.K. after Brexit. They're both pulling back a bit from international cooperation. But while Trump was the architect of his America First campaign, Theresa May was sort of the reluctant inheritor of the Brexit vote, and she's trying to make it work.
But she's far more committed to the preservation of the European Union and cooperative groups like NATO than Trump appears to be. May is also more suspicious of Russia and insisted yesterday that sanctions against Russia over its meddling in Ukraine should be preserved. Trump, however, said it's too early to say what should happen to those sanctions.
SIMON: President Trump also spoke by telephone yesterday with the president of Mexico. They've kind of been barking at each other earlier in the week over Twitter. Phone call make a difference?
HORSLEY: At least they sort of papered over their differences for the moment and maybe turned down the temperature on what, you're right, was threatening to become an all-out Twitter war. Both sides said yesterday the call was constructive. But, you know, Donald Trump and Enrique Pena Nieto are still on opposite sides when it comes to that wall. They scrapped a planned meeting here in Washington next week. So this is a low point in relations with our next-door neighbor. And remember, Mexico is one of the United States' biggest trading partners, even if Trump insists the U.S. is getting played.
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TRUMP: We have a trade deficit of $60 billion with Mexico. On top of that, the border is soft and weak, drugs are pouring in, and I'm not going to let that happen.
HORSLEY: The administration did admit this week it's looking for other ways to pay for the border wall, including a possible tax on imports that would hit U.S. consumers, never mind the president's promise that Mexico would foot the bill.
SIMON: NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks so much.
HORSLEY: You're welcome.
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