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Morning News Brief


A lot of Republicans say they're just not willing to switch from promoting free trade to fighting trade wars, and that puts them at odds with a Republican president.


Indeed. President Trump appears to be on course to impose these new tariffs on steel and aluminum from other countries. His promise about tariffs sparked fears of a trade war and that other countries will retaliate by raising taxes on U.S. exports, which is how a trade war works. Trump's commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, told NBC News yesterday he denies that any of this is going to affect American consumers.


WILBUR ROSS: Retaliation isn't going to change the price of a can of beer. It isn't going to change the price of a car. It's just not going to.

MARTIN: Not all Republicans agree.

INSKEEP: So what does this mean for Republicans just as they would like to be uniting for this year's elections? NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell is in our studios. Good morning, Kelsey.


INSKEEP: Thanks for coming by. How concerned are Republicans?

SNELL: Trump really caught Congress off guard with all of this. Most of the Republicans I talked to, particularly in the Senate, said that this was kind of a ham-fisted and not very well-tailored approach to addressing the issues that Trump says he wants to address, which is that there are these cheap imports of steel and aluminum coming into the U.S. and making it difficult for the U.S. to sell its exports of aluminum and steel. So as Republicans have been responding, they say that they would have been happier with something that either had carve-outs for our trade partners, like the EU and Canada, or were more directed specifically at the countries they wanted to get to.

INSKEEP: That's the complaint, isn't it? The president, in his rhetoric, complains about China, but it's Germany that's crying foul here, and other countries like that.

SNELL: Yeah. And the EU has already said that they want to respond swiftly and are threatening tariffs on Harley Davidsons and bourbon. And that may sound random, but it is not.


SNELL: Harley Davidsons are made in the home state of House Speaker Paul Ryan, in Wisconsin. And bourbon is a Kentucky specialty. And as we all know, it is the home state of Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader.

INSKEEP: Hard to think of two more American products, either. The president sometimes does make announcements and then not really go through with things. Any chance that there won't be tariffs, after all?

SNELL: Well, as far as we can tell, he will be following through. There was this weird exchange with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press" where he wouldn't say that he was definitely going to guarantee that these tariffs would go through, but he said he had every reason to believe that the president would follow through.

MARTIN: Although, I've got to say, why were they so surprised? I mean, Donald Trump has been erratic, I think we can say, on DACA. He has flipped on guns. But in terms of trade, this is something that this man has been pretty consistent on, at least since the '80s.

SNELL: Sure. So the thing that they were surprised about is that he kind of went around the normal way of things. Which, again, shouldn't be surprising for this president. But he didn't go through the normal channels, and there really isn't an opportunity for Congress to soften the blow of this because it is more or less a unilateral decision by the White House.

INSKEEP: Took even his advisers by surprise in many cases. So I hate to pretend that we know what's coming up this week - 'cause we certainly didn't know what was coming up last week - but, lawmakers are expected to vote on a major rewrite of financial industry rules. What's going on here?

SNELL: Yeah. This one, we can pretty well assume that they will do this in the Senate. More than a dozen Democrats seem on board. It would be a huge swing from the height of the financial crisis when the Dodd-Frank regulations passed, but this is aimed at rolling back regulations just for smaller banks, banks that are sometimes known as the main stream banks - or, or main street banks. I'm sorry.

INSKEEP: So not a total rewrite.

SNELL: Not a total rewrite, just a scaling back for some of these smaller banks.

INSKEEP: Kelsey, thanks, as always.

SNELL: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Kelsey Snell.


INSKEEP: All right. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House today.

MARTIN: It is his fifth meeting with President Trump since he took office. The two leaders boast about their strong relationship, and they share something else in common. Both men are under investigation, Trump for his campaign's possible ties to Russia and Netanyahu for suspected corruption. So what is at stake politically for them as this meeting gets underway?

INSKEEP: Well, the other high-profile visitor to Washington today is NPR's Daniel Estrin...

MARTIN: Daniel.

INSKEEP: ...Who is traveling with Netanyahu and joins us in the studios. Daniel, good morning.


INSKEEP: Welcome. Good to see you. What makes this meeting meaningful?

ESTRIN: Well, it's the first meeting since Trump said he is moving the embassy to Jerusalem in May, and Netanyahu says he's going to talk to Trump about him possibly coming to Jerusalem to inaugurate that embassy. But what is at the top of the agenda is Iran. You'll remember, last month there was this major confrontation between Israeli and Iranian forces in Syria, that hunk of metal that Netanyahu held up at the Munich Security Conference...

INSKEEP: He said, this is part of a drone. Right?

ESTRIN: An Iranian drone, right. And Netanyahu says this is evidence of a deepening Iranian involvement in Syria. He's worried about the manufacturing of precision-guided missiles in Syria that could hit any city in Israel. So all of this will be on the agenda today. The Iranian nuclear deal, as well. If you thought the peace process would be at the top of the agenda, think again. It looks like it's at the very bottom of the list. The White House has been saying for a long time that its peace proposal is coming soon, but there are some problems. The Palestinians are boycotting the administration, and Jared Kushner, the top peace man, has lost his top security clearance.

INSKEEP: He's lost his security clearance. He has a few other things to worry about. He's been in the news for other things, including the Russia investigation, which raises this other point that Benjamin Netanyahu has been under investigation. What exactly are the charges against him?

ESTRIN: That's right. In fact, just the day before Netanyahu left for Washington, police grilled him on a third corruption case. He's facing three different corruption cases about his ties to businessmen and different backroom deals. And his political future is really in question right now, and this was the main question that reporters in the back of the plane traveling with Netanyahu were talking about - what's going to happen? Are there going to be early elections? Now, Netanyahu has said he has done nothing wrong. His reaction to these police investigations shares a lot in common with Trump. He has questioned the motives of law enforcement. He has accused the media of a witch hunt. But I have to tell you, Steve, it was really incredible to see Netanyahu at the tarmac before boarding the plane to Washington. He he stood in front of reporters, he took a couple moments. And he just looked really radiant and confident. And he spoke about his close, personal relationship with Trump. And this is something that he's going to highlight on this trip. He he wants to look like a statesman, and he will look like like a statesman, almost like an equal to Trump.

INSKEEP: Although that close personal relationship brings to mind a bit of a difficulty that Israelis have faced in recent years. Israel is a bipartisan issue for Americans. There are Democrats as well as Republicans who support Israel. But there's a partisan divide when it comes to Israel's recent course, and you can see that in the poor relations Netanyahu had with Obama and the better relations with Trump, can't you?

ESTRIN: Israel's very worried about itself becoming a partisan issue in America.

INSKEEP: Daniel, thanks for coming by.

ESTRIN: Great to be here.

INSKEEP: Enjoy your travels. That's NPR's Daniel Estrin.


INSKEEP: OK. Last night was the Academy Awards, but maybe the first of the 90 Academy Awards to mark a new era in Hollywood.

MARTIN: Right. This was the first Oscars show in years where nobody heaped praise on Harvey Weinstein, of course, the film producer who lost his company following a long string of sexual misconduct allegations, sexual abuse. And some of the biggest awards of the night also marked historical and political moments for the stars behind movies like "Get Out."


DANIEL KALUUYA: (As Chris) Do they know I'm black?

ALLISON WILLIAMS: (As Rose) Should they?

KALUUYA: (As Chris) You might want to - you know...

WILLIAMS: (As Rose) Mom and Dad, my black boyfriend will be coming up this weekend.

MARTIN: "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."


MALAYA RIVERA DREW: (As Gabriella) So Mildred Hayes, why did you put up these billboards?

FRANCES MCDORMAND: (As Mildred) My daughter, Angela, was murdered seven months ago.

MARTIN: And the winner of the best picture, "The Shape Of Water."


MICHAEL SHANNON: (As Richard Strickland) You may think that thing looks human. Stands on two legs, right? But we're created in the Lord's image. You don't think that's what the Lord looks like, do you?

INSKEEP: NPR's Andrew Limbong stayed up late to cover the awards so that you didn't have to. Hey there, Andrew.


INSKEEP: So some of those winners clearly attack pretty topical, social messages. And the entire program was topical in a way, wasn't it, because of Me Too?

LIMBONG: Yeah. It was. You know, like you said, it was the first after the scandal broke. And, you know, the show opened with Kimmel making these, like, very vague, you know, but, you know, funny jokes about the situation at large, about men and stuff like that, but no pointed barbs at Harvey himself. Yeah. It was fine. But then a few hours into it, three women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of rape and sexual misconduct, Annabella Sciorra, Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek, stood on stage and made a statement. And you can tell by their voices, it was, like, a very, like, important moment for them to be there.

INSKEEP: Well, so that was one way that this was addressed, in that very direct way of putting victims of Harvey Weinstein, in effect, on stage. And, of course, we shouldn't just think of them as victims, but as accomplished actors. Absolutely. Absolutely. But this was not the only issue that Hollywood has been facing that gets to the question of diversity, the question of inclusiveness.

LIMBONG: Yeah. No, there's a lot of talk, lots of shout-out about immigration, and diversity, and people of color being cast and stuff like that. You know, you heard from, like Lupita Nyong'o and Kumail Nanjiani about it. Common mentioned immigration when he did his rap. But it's funny 'cause Tiffany Haddish made that joke about backstage, there being, like, still lots of white dudes. And, you know, being backstage, she's not wrong. You know, there's a lot of people, a lot of, like, you know, white faces running the shows that are there.

INSKEEP: Wait a minute. Even though it looked more diverse onstage, it wasn't more diverse?

LIMBONG: Yeah. Yeah, you know, you just, like, open your eyes and see. Jordan Peele actually made a joke backstage about how if "Get Out 2" was going to be made, it'd be in an awards show.

INSKEEP: And what does that reveal about further changes for Hollywood?

LIMBONG: Slow steps, maybe. You know? You know, we'll see how it goes from here, but they're taking measured moves towards it.

INSKEEP: Measured moves. OK. Andrew, thanks very much.

LIMBONG: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Andrew Limbong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.