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Trump Speaks Out Against Violence In Charlottesville

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

Today, President Trump condemned the violence in Charlottesville. He and the first lady both tweeted that Americans should stand against that kind of hatred. Trump later spoke about the situation from his private golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., where he's also been trying to address the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear program. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now.

Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you.

SMITH: Scott, the president tried to be evenhanded in his comments about Charlottesville this afternoon. What did he say?

HORSLEY: Well, you're right. The president studiously avoided criticizing the white nationalists, whose demonstration was the catalyst for today's events. Instead, he condemned what he called hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. He suggested this is a long-standing problem in this country, one that precedes his administration and that of his predecessor, Barack Obama. And he said what's needed now is a swift restoration of law and order. Trump praised the work of both state and local police in responding to the events today. And he said he had reached out to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to offer whatever federal assistance might be needed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We agreed that the hate and the division must stop and must stop right now. We have to come together, as Americans, with love for our nation and true affection - really, and I say this so strongly - true affection for each other.

HORSLEY: Attorney General Jeff Sessions also weighed in this afternoon, echoing the president's comments about the rule of law and condemning any message of hate and intolerance.

SMITH: Well, the president has also been dealing with international conflicts and working the phones. In the last 24 hours, he's spoken with the leaders of both France and China. And he actually rebuffed a telephone call from the president of Venezuela. Tell us about that.

HORSLEY: That's right. The U.S. has been very concerned, for some time now, about Venezuela's slide towards dictatorship and the controversial installation of a new assembly there to rewrite the country's constitution. Last evening, Trump called Venezuela a mess, a very dangerous mess. And then he volunteered that he is not ruling out a possible military response to the situation there. You can imagine that raised some eyebrows and caused some teeth-gnashing in Venezuela. The Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, requested a phone call with President Trump, and the White House responded rather pointedly, saying, Trump will, quote, "gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country."

SMITH: Wow. The administration is also hinting today about a possible trade action against China, even though Trump wants China's help in dealing with North Korea. So what is the White House planning?

HORSLEY: Well, on Monday, we expect the president to sign a memorandum setting the stage for a possible investigation by the U.S. Trade Representative into whether China has been unfairly pressuring U.S. companies to share their innovative technology. There's been a longtime complaint from many American companies that China requires them to give up their intellectual property and other proprietary information as a condition of doing business in China.

Even if there is an investigation though, it's not likely to yield any immediate results. The USTR, first, has to decide whether an investigation is warranted. And then if a probe is conducted, it could take about a year or so. What's interesting about this, though, is the timing of the announcement. Just last night, President Trump spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump is very eager to have China take a harder line with North Korea over its nuclear program.

So the question is, you know, is this trade move sort of a bargaining chip or a way to get some leverage over China? The administration is downplaying any linkage. But Trump himself has said in the past, you know, if China cooperates on North Korea, that could lead to more favorable trade terms.

SMITH: NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks, Scott.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Stacey. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stacey Vanek Smith is the co-host of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money. She's also a correspondent for Planet Money, where she covers business and economics. In this role, Smith has followed economic stories down the muddy back roads of Oklahoma to buy 100 barrels of oil; she's traveled to Pune, India, to track down the man who pitched the country's dramatic currency devaluation to the prime minister; and she's spoken with a North Korean woman who made a small fortune smuggling artificial sweetener in from China.
Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.