News Brief: Trump's Asia Trip, New York City Marathon
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It wasn't long ago that President Donald Trump was asked by a reporter if he was aware of campaign contacts with Russia.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And here is how the president responded to that question back in February.
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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So you're not aware of any contacts...
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Look, look, look...
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: ...During the course of the election?
TRUMP: How many times do I have to answer this question?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you just say yes or no on it?
TRUMP: Russia is a ruse.
GREENE: According to The New York Times, court documents associated with the Russia investigation now suggest that Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, may have actually known about connections his campaign had with Russia. And for Sessions, who under oath denied any knowledge of Russian communication or connection, this could be problematic. CNN is reporting that former Trump policy adviser Carter Page apparently told Jeff Sessions he was traveling to Russia during the presidential campaign.
MARTIN: All right, we've got NPR's Scott Horsley on the line for more. Scott, some of this we knew, right? We knew that Carter Page, former campaign aide to Donald Trump, had traveled to Russia. He says it was for his own personal affairs. But now Jeff Sessions is being roped into this. How so?
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel. Carter Page testified at some length yesterday before the House Intelligence Committee. And it was a closed-door hearing, so we don't know everything that was said. But there are reports that he told the committee that he talked about his Russia travels with his then-campaign supervisor, now-Attorney General Sessions. And that would appear to contradict Sessions' own testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was not aware of any contacts between campaign officials and Russia.
MARTIN: So what does this mean for Sessions? Is he - more questions coming his way probably.
HORSLEY: Certainly more questions. There have been calls from some Senate Democrats to bring Sessions back before the judiciary committee to answer more questions. Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, penned a sharply critical letter to Sessions this week. But it is not at all clear that the Republican chairman of the judiciary committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, will heed those calls or that Sessions will in fact be asked to testify again.
MARTIN: Meanwhile, the president is packing his bags, trying to get on with business. He's going to Asia. It's a big trip. He's going a lot of places. What's the goal here?
HORSLEY: It is a big trip - five countries, two international summits. North Korea and its nuclear threat will be a big focus, at least in the early stage of the trip when he'll be in Japan and South Korea - also trade.
The president will also be attending a couple of summits in Southeast Asia. And that will be an opportunity for Donald Trump to really spell out for the first time a sort of more comprehensive vision for what the administration describes as the Indo-Pacific region. Trump of course, in his first days in office, scuttled the big Asia-Pacific trade pact that was at the heart of former President Obama's Asian agenda.
MARTIN: TPP, yeah.
So China - he's going to be in China. He's going to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping who has just solidified his grip on power in a pretty remarkable way. Well, do we know anything about how President Trump is going to approach that particular meeting?
HORSLEY: There's an interesting contrast here between President Xi who, as you say, is at the height of his powers. He's just had his policies enshrined in the party constitution along with Mao and Deng Xiaoping. And President Trump, who is being dogged by some of his lowest approval ratings and of course has his former campaign chairman now under indictment - Trump, however, will be urging Xi to use China's economic leverage to put the brakes on Kim Jong Un's nuclear threat. He'll also be trying to address what the administration sees as unfair trading practices by China and the big U.S.-China trade deficit.
MARTIN: And are they going to go golfing? And they went golfing before, right?
MARTIN: Xi Jinping came to Mar-a-Lago. There are all these photos of the two of them getting on well.
HORSLEY: Well, the president will be golfing with Japan's prime minister but probably not with Xi Jinping.
MARTIN: OK. OK. NPR's Scott Horsley - thanks so much, Scott.
HORSLEY: Good to be with you.
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MARTIN: David, it's a big weekend in New York - one of the best weekends in that city in my opinion.
GREENE: Yeah. It's one of those days when New Yorkers just come out and celebrate being New Yorkers. It's marathon day Sunday. This is an event that draws tens of thousands of runners from around the world but also so many spectators...
GREENE: ...Come out in the Big Apple to watch this. Everyone gathers along the streets to take it all in, and it's a huge deal. But from a public safety point of view, it's also a potential nightmare, especially in the wake of what happened in Lower Manhattan this past Tuesday. ISIS is now claiming responsibility for the attack on that bike path that left eight people dead. This, we should say, was the deadliest terrorist attack in New York City since 9/11.
MARTIN: So security is going to be tight - that's an understatement, I imagine - for the marathon this Sunday. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang is in New York. He's been covering all this. What's going to happen, Hansi? What kinds of security measures are going to be in place for the race?
HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Well, the organizers, the New York Road Runners, say there will be visible and behind-the-scenes security measures. New York Police - they're going to use the highest number of dump trucks filled with sand, they say, for any event in New York. And these will, hopefully, block vehicles from entering the course. They're also increasing the number of snipers on rooftops and plus a number of undercover police officers in the crowds.
And, like you said, this is very challenging because this is almost a 12-hour event with, expected, 51,000 runners and more than 2 million spectators lining the streets across all five boroughs of New York.
MARTIN: Amazing. But you are talking about ways that officials are trying to think about this particular threat of vehicles running into groups of people, which is kind of harrowing.
I imagine people you've been talking to are anxious, excited - what are people saying to you?
WANG: We spoke with some runners picking up gear for the race yesterday, and the attack on Tuesday is definitely on their minds. Some are worried that the race would be canceled because of the attack. We spoke with Connie Brucha (ph) from Freiburg, Germany. She's running the marathon for the first time. Here's what she said.
CONNIE BRUCHA: It's kind of a big deal now to show that people in New York are not afraid. They will still cheer. There will still be out on the road after this happened.
MARTIN: So - we should say, though, Hansi - ISIS is now claiming credit for this attack. There is no evidence though that this man, the suspect, was acting at the direction of ISIS.
WANG: Right. So far, law enforcement say it appears that he was a lone wolf inspired by ISIS, that he looked at propaganda videos and followed directions put out by ISIS on how to carry out an attack with a vehicle, including leaving a note about ISIS. But this investigation is still ongoing. And law enforcement say they are still looking to see if there are any direct connections to the Islamic State that he may have had in the months that he used to plan this attack allegedly.
MARTIN: All right, NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reporting there from New York this morning. Hansi, thanks so much.
WANG: You're welcome.
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MARTIN: All right, next week, the Trump administration is facing an immigration deadline that could impact hundreds of thousands of people who are here in the U.S.
GREENE: Yeah. For years, immigrants, mostly from Central America, have been granted temporary protective status that's allowed them to stay in the U.S. and not go back to home countries that are dealing with issues like civil war or natural disaster. Last May, though, the administration signaled that it would not extend the program for some 50,000 Haitians.
MARTIN: All right, NPR's Carrie Kahn has been reporting on this. She joins us now.
Good morning, Carrie.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: Do we know what the administration is going to do here, one way or the other?
KAHN: Not exactly. But as you said, last May, the administration did signal it would not extend the program for 50,000 Haitians. And as the name states, this was supposed to be a temporary program giving these immigrants temporary protective status. And the Trump administration has said that it believes that those programs now, some of which have stretched into decades with automatic renewals by past administrations, should come to an end.
These critics say the programs granted what they call backdoor immigration to hundreds of thousands of immigrants, many of whom who have, you know, established roots and communities, opened businesses - have had U.S.-born children. And in the case of the Haitians, they were granted that status after that horrible 2010 earthquake...
KAHN: ...That devastated so much of the country. And the Trump administration says conditions in Haiti are better - they're vastly improved - and it's time for the immigrants to go back. And last May, they only gave them a six-month extension instead of the regular 18. And they told Haitians that they should prepare to go home in January when those visas expire.
MARTIN: So they've been phasing this thing out. You spent some time with a woman who's been in the U.S. for several years in this program - through this program. And you went to meet her family still in Haiti. What are things like? Are things better?
KAHN: Well, the quick answer to that question is of course they're better than they were in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. But you - it's still the poorest country in the hemisphere. And are they ready to receive tens of thousands of returnees? So many on the island say no. Unemployment is just staggering there. And you still see rubble in parts of the capital. Political instability and security is still a huge problem.
The woman that I met - her name is Joana Desir, and she lives in New York City. And she's been - had - with this protective status since 2010, after the earthquake. And she - since getting it, she put herself through nursing school and is a home health care worker. And I spent time with her in New York. And here she is talking about her fear of being sent back home.
JOANA DESIR: I will always be grateful for America. But please, we are professional. We want to stay in that country.
KAHN: And what was particularly interesting to me about her was that not only will she be affected here in the United States but she supports 19 relatives back home. And I talked to many of them who said they would just be devastated without her help.
So is the government in Haiti responding to this?
KAHN: Yes. They have appealed directly to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to get the extension again. And some lawmakers in the U.S. are trying to introduce legislation that would let the immigrants stay in the U.S. permanently.
MARTIN: All right. NPR's Carrie Kahn reporting on an immigration program that President Trump is likely to end. Thanks so much for your reporting, Carrie.
KAHN: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE FIELD'S "REFLECTING LIGHTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.