Morning News Brief: Trump In West Virginia, Chinese Trade, Usain Bolt Retires
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And, David, the president's going on vacation today. It is August after all. But he - before he took off, he got one more campaign-style rally in - right? - this time in West Virginia.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Yeah, talking to his supporters - talking to his supporters about health care and about immigration. But he also spent a lot of time lambasting the Russia investigation. He blamed Democrats for highlighting this question about whether his campaign colluded with Russia.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They're trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us.
GREENE: OK, in the president's words, a fake story, but there is this development. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has now turned to a grand jury in Washington, D.C., as he pushes forward with that Russia investigation.
MARTIN: All right. So what does that mean? NPR's Tamara Keith is going to answer that question for us. Hey, Tam.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: Before we get to the ins and outs of this grand jury, you were at Trump's rally last night in West Virginia. I imagine a whole lot of tried-and-true Trump supporters who don't care so much about the Russia investigation.
KEITH: He sure got a lot of applause when he talked about the investigation or, as he called it, the Russia story being a total fabrication. You know, the - probably the biggest applause line of the whole section about Russia is when he said that prosecutors should really be looking at Hillary Clinton's emails and the paid Russian speeches. And then there were the chants that we all remember well of lock her up, lock her up.
KEITH: He added that there were no Russians in his campaign, which is kind of a low bar and not really what anyone was thinking, and that he didn't win because of Russia but because of people like those there in that arena.
MARTIN: Which goes over well with his base - so what can you tell us about the decision by Robert Mueller to use a grand jury? What does that signify?
KEITH: Yeah, and NPR has confirmed this. The Wall Street Journal first reported it. You know, a grand jury is something that you would expect to be employed as part of the course of an investigation like this. And so it sort of signals what we already knew, which is that Robert Mueller has a big team of lawyers, and they are using all of the investigative tools at their disposal. Ty Cobb, who is a lawyer for the president inside of the White House, says that the White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of this work, of this investigation, fairly. Jay Sekulow, who is a spokesman for the outside legal team, made the point to me that they have no reason to believe that the president himself is under investigation.
MARTIN: So this is just another tool. This is a way they can subpoena documents, call witnesses. So it's a natural extension of the investigations - is what you're saying.
KEITH: That's what I'm saying, and that's also what Preet Bharara, who's this high-profile former U.S. attorney, is saying. He tweeted, not sure why all the hyperventilating regarding the Russia grand jury. Mueller hired 16 prosecutors. Of course there would be a grand jury. This will take time.
MARTIN: Now, Bharara - a Democrat who served for Barack Obama in his administration.
MARTIN: So the president got another boost of support from West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, who made this announcement last night.
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JIM JUSTICE: Today, I'll tell you, as West Virginians, I can't help you anymore being a Democrat governor.
MARTIN: Jim Justice making a switch - how's that going to help the president?
KEITH: Yeah, and this is not the first time he's made a switch because before he was a Democrat, he was a Republican. And now he's a Republican again.
MARTIN: (Laughter) It's less dramatic.
KEITH: But this is significant in that it gives Republicans control of both the Statehouse and the legislative branch in yet another state - 26 states total.
MARTIN: All right. NPR's Tamara Keith breaking down the politics of the day for us. Thanks so much, Tam.
KEITH: You're welcome.
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MARTIN: Any day now, the White House is expected to announce an investigation into Chinese trade policies.
GREENE: And before getting to that specifically, we should remember the backdrop here. The Trump administration has really been getting frustrated that China hasn't more actively confronted North Korea over its nuclear program. Here's the view from the State Department.
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REX TILLERSON: We certainly don't blame the Chinese for the situation in North Korea. Only the North Koreans are to blame for this situation. But we do believe China has a special and unique relationship because of this significant economic activity to influence the North Korean regime in ways that no one else can.
GREENE: Maybe some diplomatic speak there from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He's sounding kind of measured. But the Trump administration does seem ready to crack down on China's trade practices. The big question is whether this is going to make China more or less likely to help out on North Korea.
MARTIN: OK. NPR's Anthony Kuhn is with us now from Beijing. Hey, Anthony.
ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.
MARTIN: What's the big complaint from the Trump administration and the U.S. more broadly when it comes to Chinese trade policy?
KUHN: The main issue at stake here, Rachel, is the rules under which American companies have gone to China in recent decades to make everything from cars to cell phones to sneakers. And the rule is that when these companies go over there, they're supposed to pick a Chinese partner and enter into a joint venture. And one of the things that does is it helps the Chinese to get proprietary technology from these American companies. And this has become an increasingly big beef for U.S. companies. They feel it's unfair. And so this suggests that, you know, the rules of the past few decades, under which China has made a lot of money, and the U.S. consumers have benefited a lot, are coming loose. And it's a big deal.
MARTIN: So then how does the administration propose fixing that?
KUHN: Well, they're going to initiate an investigation under something called Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. And if it's found to be unfair, then they could slap tariffs on a lot of Chinese exports to the U.S. And China could retaliate against American exports. And if things go badly, it could lead to a trade war conceivably.
MARTIN: And then American consumers suffer presumably?
KUHN: Both sides suffer.
MARTIN: So on the one hand, the administration is taking this harder line on China on trade, but it still needs China in a big way when it comes to North Korea. So how might this trade move affect the Chinese willingness to help on North Korea?
KUHN: Well, it appears that the Trump administration was sort of holding back on the trade issue in hopes of getting Beijing to help out more on North Korea. But it hasn't happened. And so now they're starting to move on this investigation. Of course, if there's friction on trade, that may make it even less likely that China will want to help. And China just - has already criticized for the U.S. trying to link these two unrelated issues to get leverage on them.
MARTIN: NPR's Anthony Kuhn will keep covering it. Thanks so much, Anthony.
KUHN: You bet.
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MARTIN: Big sporting news now - one of the world's greatest athletes is about to compete for the final time.
GREENE: Yeah, you're right. This really feels like quite a moment in sports. Jamaica's Usain Bolt says he is going to be running his last individual race tomorrow. He's going to be competing in the event that he has just dominated for so many years, the 100-meter race. And he'll do it at the World Championships in London. Whether or not he finishes first, he will be ending a career that includes eight Olympic gold medals. Here's what he said last year in Rio after winning one of those medals.
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USAIN BOLT: Over the years, I started making goals because I started getting better. And I just continue running and pushing myself working out until - here I am.
GREENE: So he also has one more relay event that's coming up next week before he retires for good.
MARTIN: OK. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us now, as we look back on what was really an amazing career, Tom. You, I understand, have gotten to witness some of this greatness. You have watched Bolt run. What's it like to see that?
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Very quick.
MARTIN: Sure, it's a short experience.
GOLDMAN: In fact, I added up his winning times of all nine Olympic finals that I saw in Beijing, London and Rio. And it came out to right at three and a half minutes. So that's quite a legacy to have in that short amount of time. It was mesmerizing, especially his coming out moment - the first 100-meter win at the 2008 games. If you remember, he was behind at first, and then he surged at about the 30, 40 meter mark and left everyone in the dust. I purposely never took pictures during Bolt's races. I just wanted to see every second, and there weren't many.
MARTIN: So you have seen all nine of his gold medal races, I understand. But I thought he only had eight.
GOLDMAN: Yes, he did win nine. But earlier this year, one of the golds was stripped - the 2008 4X100-relay race. One of his Jamaican teammates tested positive for a banned drug when his urine sample was reanalyzed last year. So just eight golds, but that's pretty darn good.
MARTIN: Is that going to taint his legacy at all?
GOLDMAN: You know, I don't think so. There will always be those who say that there had to be doping since he was so dominant. But those people were in the minority. He did what he did without a major doping cloud hanging over him. His defenders will say that's because he was clean. You know, Rachel, though, there is a pretty valid physical explanation for what he has done. He's a once-in-a-generation athlete. He's huge for a sprinter - 6'5". He's got this enormous stride, and his rate of stride is quick like his smaller, more compact competitors. So that's a devastating combination. Former Olympic sprinter Ato Boldon describes Bolt as a big tractor wheel that gets fully rolling about halfway through a 100-meter race.
MARTIN: Is he going to stay retired? I mean, there's all this speculation - is he really going to quit now?
GOLDMAN: I think he will. He says that, you know, he - some of his athletic idols stayed too long in their sports and ended up getting beaten by people they shouldn't have lost to. Their legacies were tarnished. He sure doesn't want his tarnished, as well.
MARTIN: You know, what I'm going to remember? That smile - that guy's got a great, great smile.
GREENE: Yeah, he really does.
GOLDMAN: Don't you know it.
MARTIN: NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks so much, Tom.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF LOW IN THE SKY'S "FAX MN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.