The Week In Politics: Spicer Is Out; Scaramucci Is In
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We are coming to you this weekend from Detroit from member station WDET. We came because 50 years ago, parts of this city went up in flames.
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UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #1: In a hundred places, Detroit is a fire - 100 square blocks are now under siege. And as you walk through the area, people shout from their homes, watch out for the snipers.
UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #2: Forty-three Americans died in these streets - 386 were injured, 477 buildings were damaged or destroyed. We saw stores and houses in our neighborhood that looked as if they've been hit by bombs.
MARTIN: That's from the television broadcast about what became known by some as the Detroit riots, by others as the uprisings or the rebellion. We're going to spend a good part of the program today asking why this happened, what it all meant and if there's anything the rest of the country can learn from it even now. But we will start with political news out of Washington, where it's also been a very eventful week. For that, we turn to NPR political correspondent Don Gonyea, who also happens to be a Michigan native. Welcome, Don. Thanks for joining us.
DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Thank you. I wish I were there with you but glad to be here.
MARTIN: We do, too. So let's start with the shakeup at the White House. Sean Spicer is out as White House press secretary. There's so much one could say about Sean Spicer's tenure, but let's not even get into how he was immortalized by "Saturday Night Live." But he is out, and a man named Anthony Scaramucci is in as White House communications director. He met reporters yesterday in the White House Briefing Room. I just want to play a little bit of what he had to say talking about his new boss, President Trump.
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ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: He's a genuinely wonderful human being. And I think as members of Congress get to know him better and get comfortable with him, they're going to let him lead them to the right things for the American people. So I think we're going to get the health care done.
MARTIN: OK. So what do we know about all this? Especially, what do we know about Anthony Scaramucci?
GONYEA: Well, he's the kind of New York guy that Donald Trump loves - combative, in your face. He's 53 years old. Here's his resume. An investment banker, worked a while at Goldman Sachs. It's interesting, though. Back in the campaign, he started out as a Scott Walker guy, the Wisconsin governor. Then he was a Jeb Bush guy.
He only came to Trump late, but when he did, he was all-in. He's one of those guys. He can turn on the charm, or he can punch you in the nose depending on the situation or his mood. He's has been a fierce defender of the president on cable TV. He also got CNN to retract a story about him recently, alleging ties to a Russian investment fund. Three people at CNN had to resign over it. So that scored him big points with the new boss.
MARTIN: And speaking of Russia, there have been a lot of developments in these ongoing investigations into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin's efforts to interfere in the U.S. election. And Congress has asked some people who are very close to the president to talk to them. And there are also some new reports coming out about Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As briefly as you can, can you tell us some of the important developments here on that story?
GONYEA: Yes. The Senate judiciary committee wants very much to talk to Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. Manafort and Trump Jr. are currently negotiating the terms of their appearances. Kushner is scheduled now to speak to the committee - the Senate committee on Monday. That will be behind closed doors. Now, on that other note, the reporting from The Washington Post. Sources there are citing intelligence intercepts saying that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did discuss the campaign with the Russian ambassador last year. That is something he has denied. The report says Ambassador Kislyak has told his superiors in Moscow that such discussions did take place. Again, that throws another wrinkle into that whole thing.
MARTIN: And speaking of another wrinkle, I understand that Congress has reached some sort of deal about Russian sanctions just in the last few hours.
GONYEA: That's right. It's not approved yet. The House could vote on it this week. But a bipartisan team of House and Senate negotiators reached a deal on a Russian sanctions package in response to meddling in the 2016 election and for its military aggression in Syria and Ukraine. That won't make the Trump administration happy, especially given how the president has downplayed intelligence conclusions about all of that relating to the Russians and attempts to influence the election. Just as part of that too, it's worth pointing out it also includes economic sanctions. And it imposes some economic penalties against North Korea and Iran, so Russia, North Korea and Iran.
MARTIN: OK, Don, finally - I think we have about a minute left. We're in Detroit. This city is at the heart of this country's manufacturing history which the White House was celebrating last week with something called Made in America week. There's been a lot of discussion about how important manufacturing is to the city and to the country. And I wanted to talk to you about this because you've covered both here in Detroit and nationally. Can you give us a sense of how important the whole question of the future of manufacturing is at this moment in time?
GONYEA: Absolutely. As a reporter for NPR back in Detroit, I've spent a lot of time in picket lines and covered far too many plant closing announcements. It is still a potent political issue in Detroit and in those battleground states - Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, more. It used to be 1 in 4 jobs in the country in manufacturing, now it's less than 1 in 10. Of course, a lot of that decline is due to technology and improved productivity, but that hasn't kept the shrinking manufacturing base and trade deals like NAFTA from being a big issue for Trump with those working-class voters in his base. And it remains so.
The catch now is he's now president. It's on him to get some results based on all those promises. And, you know, despite the fact that the White House says the president's making great progress, some of the things he's boasted about - saving jobs at the carrier plant in Indiana, say - haven't lived up to the initial billing.
MARTIN: That's NPR's Don Gonyea, Michigan native, joining us from our studios in Washington, D.C. Don, thank you so much for speaking with us.
GONYEA: A pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.