News Brief: Trump's Deal With Democrats, Hurricane Irma

Sep 7, 2017
Originally published on September 7, 2017 8:18 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So there is a whole lot that President Trump wants from Congress - Hurricane Harvey relief, a fix for DACA, maybe a border wall.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

That is all true, Rachel. But first, there's a small matter of avoiding a government shutdown. The president needs Congress to raise the debt ceiling. And that led to quite the meeting yesterday at the White House with leading Republicans and Democrats.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We had a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

MARTIN: Nancy and Chuck - not exactly the names you'd expect to hear the president talking positively about.

KELLY: No, I think that's pretty much got to be a first. And - there's more - it apparently wasn't just a very good meeting.

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TRUMP: We essentially came to a deal, and I think the deal will be very good.

KELLY: A deal with top Democrats - that is not a headline we get to report every day.

MARTIN: Nope.

KELLY: And - no. As you might expect, that is a development that not many Republicans are thrilled with.

MARTIN: All right, NPR's Mara Liasson was traveling with the president yesterday. She joins us now on the line. Mara, what the heck happened during this meeting?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, the president had the Republican and Democratic leadership over to the White House. Republicans were actually there; you'd hardly know that by his comments. But the Democrats made an offer, Harvey funding plus a three-month extension on the debt ceiling and a three-month measure to keep the government running until mid-December.

Republicans didn't like that deal at all. Earlier in the day, Paul Ryan had called it ridiculous and disgraceful. Republicans wanted a much longer hike in the debt limit so that their members didn't have to vote on this unpopular item more than once before the next election. But the next thing you know, the president said to the Democrats, you've got a deal.

MARTIN: And he said it - I mean, in the moment - in real time. He was just sitting there in front of leadership of his own party, making a deal with the opposition. So clearly, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan - not so happy in this moment.

LIASSON: Not so happy. They were blindsided. One member who was traveling with the president on Air Force One said he gasped when he heard this. But it sounds like the guy who wrote "The Art Of The Deal" wanted a deal, almost any deal. And he didn't really care who he made it with.

MARTIN: So what does all this mean for DACA, the fix that Congress is supposed to push through and a tax overhaul?

LIASSON: Right. Well, Republicans think this gives Democrats more leverage in the DACA debate. The president said he wants DACA turned into legislation. He thinks he can get it. Yesterday on Air Force One, he said, Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen. And so do I.

On taxes, the Republicans feel that the president also gave the Democrats more leverage because they're under tremendous pressure now to finish the tax reform debate, the tax cut debate, by mid-December because that's when all of these big must-past issues come back - the debt ceiling, government funding - and that Democrats are going to have more leverage in tax reform because they know that all these other issues have to be revisited in December and the window is now very short.

MARTIN: I mean, we should just say it was kind of a secret fear of Republicans that President Trump might turn out to be someone who would make deals with Democrats. And they wouldn't be so happy about that.

LIASSON: Right. We don't know if this is the beginning of some new kind of triangulation, but we do know it comes after weeks of the president attacking members of his own party, including Mitch McConnell.

MARTIN: So meanwhile, the Russia investigations are continuing. And a revelation - Facebook says that during the presidential campaign, it sold political ads to a Russian firm targeting certain voters. What can you...

LIASSON: Right. This is something...

MARTIN: ...Tell us about that?

LIASSON: This is something the intelligence committees are very interested in. Facebook apparently sold ads to a Russian company who was targeting voters. The big question is, how did they know which voters to target? Did the Trump campaign help them? Also, today Donald Trump Jr. is going to be interviewed behind closed doors by the Senate judiciary committee staff. And of course, they're going to be interested in talking to him about that June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russian lawyer.

MARTIN: Yeah.

KELLY: And key question there, behind closed doors, so we wait to see...

LIASSON: Right. We're not going to hear anything about that testimony.

KELLY: Who next - will we get to see him behind open doors?

MARTIN: Behind open doors - in front of open doors.

KELLY: Will we actually get to hear what he says at some point?

MARTIN: Yeah.

KELLY: That may be in the works.

MARTIN: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson - thanks so much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you.

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MARTIN: Now to Hurricane Irma, which has already left horrific damage in its path as it crosses the Caribbean.

KELLY: Several people have died. And then there's the physical destruction. Nearly every building on the island of Barbuda has serious damage. Hundreds of people there are now homeless. Puerto Rico, meanwhile, managed to escape a direct hit. But heavy rains, strong winds have knocked out a lot of that island's power. And Irma now is headed towards the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

MARTIN: And we've already got parts of Florida under mandatory evacuation orders as Irma gets ready to arrive there possibly this weekend. So we've got NPR's Greg Allen on the line from Miami, also The Associated Press' Danica Coto, who is on the line from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Danica, I want to start with you. You're there in Puerto Rico. Can you just give us a sense of the damage that this storm has caused to date?

DANICA COTO: Yes. Good morning. I mean, the storm has been devastating for the northeast Caribbean. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told the French radio, France Info, that at least eight people and 23 - eight people have died, and 23 people have been injured in St. Martin and St. Barts. At this point, it's hard to get a clear idea of the extent of the devastation. At daybreak, you know, officials will go out. And officials have said that this number could grow. And - as well, damage was reported in the neighboring Dutch Caribbean island of St. Maarten.

MARTIN: I mean, last night on cable TV, the leader of the island of Barbuda was saying that - I mean, their island had just been totally destroyed. He said 95 percent of the structures had been ruined. And that island had been without communication for several hours. I mean, how are things looking just - you're in San Juan right now. So what are things looking like in Puerto Rico?

COTO: Correct. Well, I think Puerto Rico was spared the devastation that was seen elsewhere, especially in Barbuda. You know, 60 percent of people are homeless there. Roads, telecommunication systems were destroyed. You know, the recovery could take months, possibly years. And a 2-year-old child also died in Barbuda.

So compare that to Puerto Rico - here, I think the main concern is power outages. There's more than 1 million people without power, and that represents about 68 percent of the power company's customers. The power company director has not said when exactly power will come back. He expects to go out - crews expect to go out today and assess the damage.

One of the main focuses is on the tiny island of Culebra, which lies just northeast of Puerto Rico and is very popular with tourists. And that island was hit with wind gusts of up to 110 miles per hour. So again, you know, at daybreak, we'll get a better sense...

MARTIN: Yeah.

COTO: ...Of the extent of the damage.

MARTIN: Right. I want to move to Greg Allen, who is in Florida covering all of this. Greg, so - the governor there, Rick Scott, said several times yesterday, everyone needs to get out. I mean, there was a mandatory evacuation for the Keys, for some parts of southern Florida. But he just said, you can't take any risks. Let's listen to this tape.

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RICK SCOTT: We are being very aggressive in our preparation for this storm. And every Floridian should take this seriously and be aggressive to protect their family. Possessions can be replaced; your family cannot.

MARTIN: So what's it been like in Miami?

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Well, I think there's a lot of anxiety here, Rachel. And it's kind of based around the fact that people just know this is going to be the - possibly the big one. I think it's fueled somewhat by Harvey, seeing what happened to Houston. But over the weekend, people started getting ready here, which is very early.

By Tuesday, we saw gasoline lines and lines outside retailers selling propane. You can't find water or batteries in any of the stores here, although we'll probably get some more shipments before the - Irma hits. But this thing about complacency that we've often heard about in the past - you know, we haven't been hit by a major hurricane here in many years - it didn't happen this year. People are taking it very seriously. We have these mandatory evacuations in Miami-Dade County, Broward, in the Florida Keys, as you say.

MARTIN: Are people heeding those?

ALLEN: We will see today in Miami-Dade County. But my sense is yes. The people I've talked to when I was out doing my interviews were already - were boarding their houses and getting ready to leave. Many people are getting out, so we'll see how they take the evacuation order today.

MARTIN: What do we know about the latest information on exactly what the path is of the hurricane? What part of the state is likely to be most affected?

ALLEN: Well, we know - the meteorologists tell us over and over again not to focus on the individual path because we have to get ready no matter what.

MARTIN: Yeah.

ALLEN: And that's true. It's still 180-mile-per-hour winds in this Category 5 storm. It's potentially going to bring a 17-foot storm surge - or a large storm surge when it comes. We don't know how big it will be. But it - well, the track - right now, it's heading west, and it will turn to the north sometime probably around Saturday. And where that turn comes is what's going to really be key for what parts of the state get affected.

What we're seeing from many of the models, that it would come right up the center of the state. So that's where it could - so we all have to be ready and be concerned about that.

MARTIN: Have you boarded up your windows? Have you bought your water?

ALLEN: I'm pretty much prepared. I think we'll probably put our shutters up today. We've - a lot of - most of my neighbors have the shutters up already. So yes, we're going to be ready by Friday, I think, for sure and probably by the end of the day today.

MARTIN: All right, NPR's Greg Allen in Miami. We also heard from the AP's Danica Coto reporting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Hurricane Irma has already struck Puerto Rico and much of the Caribbean. It is leaning now towards South Florida. We will be covering it all.

Thanks to both of you this morning.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

COTO: Thank you.

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