ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
President Trump hosted Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni at the White House today, and they took questions from reporters on everything from North Korea to Libya to domestic politics. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson was in the East Room of the White House for the news conference and joins us now. Hi, Mara.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Let's start with domestic issues. Congress returns to Washington next week. What did President Trump say about what he wants lawmakers to do?
LIASSON: He wants lawmakers to do two things, which is to pass a bill that would keep the government open. But he also wants them to pass a replacement for Obamacare. Remember; they already tried once and failed. They shelved the bill. But negotiations have been going on on Capitol Hill, and here's what the president said today about how those negotiations are going.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The plan gets better and better and better. And it's gotten really, really good. And a lot of people are liking it a lot. We have a good chance of getting it soon. I'd like to say next week, but it will be - I believe we will get it. And whether it's next week or shortly thereafter...
LIASSON: So very, very optimistic. Members of the Freedom Caucus, which are the conservatives, and the moderate Tuesday Group, which are more moderates, both of whom voted against or would have voted against the original bill - they've been working on a new measure. But we are not hearing from either end of Pennsylvania Avenue that they have come to a resolution yet of their differences or that there is legislative language that could be circulated.
LIASSON: So maybe the president is a little more optimistic than everyone else on this.
SHAPIRO: As he was last time before the...
SHAPIRO: ...Vote on the previous version failed. What about keeping the government open? What are the chances that there could be a shutdown at the end of next week?
LIASSON: Well, everybody says they do not want a shutdown. And that is their goal. The White House has been trying to put some things into the government funding bill that could give them some a-hundred-day accomplishments. And the big question is, will the White House insist on things like funding for the wall, which are absolute no-starters for Democrats?
SHAPIRO: The wall with Mexico.
LIASSON: The wall with Mexico. Now, we - they could end up passing a one-week extension that would kick the can down the road past the first 100 days and then give themselves a little more time. But I think it really depends on what either side insists has to be in that bill or not.
SHAPIRO: On international issues, one big threat facing the U.S. right now is North Korea and its growing nuclear program. Did President Trump say anything about that today?
LIASSON: Yes, he did. He was also pretty optimistic about that. He said we're in really, really good shape. He was asked whether he thought that the leader of North Korea was stable. He said, I can't say whether he is or not. But what he did say was that he was very, very confident about the ability of President Xi of China to put pressure on North Korea to solve this issue. And here's what he said.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
TRUMP: I think he's working very hard. I can say that all of the pundits out there are saying they never have seen China work like they're working right now. Many coal ships have set back. Many other things have happened. Some very unusual moves have been made over the last two or three hours.
LIASSON: So we don't know what the president meant by those things that have happened over the last two or three hours, but it shows you how much he is relying on China to solve the North Korean problem and that he's prioritizing it over trade. He said again, China is going to get a better deal on trade if they can do something about the menace of North Korea.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Mara Liasson speaking with us from the White House about the press conference today between President Trump and the Italian prime minister. Thanks a lot, Mara.
LIASSON: Thank you.
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