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Morning News Brief

Jun 8, 2018
Originally published on June 8, 2018 8:24 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The G-7 summit is one of those international meetings that is usually known for being pretty friendly.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yeah, there's always a group photo - you know, world leaders smiling side by side. Now, leaders of the largest Western economies do not always get along. There used to be episodes where the French president kept the others waiting forever for the group photo, and they do have some policy disagreements. But they typically have shared a common outlook.

GREENE: Well, today's meeting in Quebec could get awkward.

INSKEEP: Yeah. U.S. allies are not happy about President Trump imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum from their countries. Here's Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking yesterday through an interpreter.

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PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: (Through interpreter) We can show the U.S. President that his unacceptable actions are hurting his own citizens. American jobs are on the line because of his actions.

INSKEEP: President Trump tweeted his own response.

GREENE: Yeah. And I'm sure we're going to cover that with NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe who's with us.

Hi, Ayesha.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: All right. So you're headed to Canada to cover this just as the leader of Canada is saying that the United States is doing unacceptable things. I guess it could be pretty chilly up there.

RASCOE: Well, the weather is supposed to be nice, but it could be a frosty reception...

GREENE: Yeah.

RASCOE: ...For President Trump. There have already been - as you said, there have been a series of tweets going back and forth between these countries that are supposed to be allies. French President Emmanuel Macron, who, before this, he had had a bit of a bromance with President Trump. They really got along well. He tweeted that President Trump may not mind the U.S. being isolated. And these summits, they usually end with some type of, like, mutual agreement. But in this case, there's serious question about whether that will happen.

GREENE: Oh, we might not even see, like, a document that they all agree to. That might not even happen.

RASCOE: That might not happen. Macron, in his tweet, made clear that the other G-7 countries are ready to sign an agreement without the U.S. So they would do it - it'd be a G-6.

And so President Trump did fire back. He said the EU and Canada had their own massive tariffs and non-monetary trade barriers against the U.S. He finished his tweet saying, quote, "look forward to seeing them tomorrow." President Trump actually has bilateral meetings with both Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. So these meetings could be very contentious.

GREENE: So this is - we are told a lot of this disagreement is over specific steel and aluminum tariffs that the president has put on some of these countries. But does it speak to a larger disagreement?

RASCOE: So there are steel and aluminum tariffs. There may be more. The other members of the G-7 feel like this is protectionism. But it is part of this larger dynamic where the U.S. has said it's committed to free trade but it wants it to be fair. And President Trump is basically saying the status quo is not going to work anymore. There needs to be reform. The White House announced that President Trump will actually be leaving the summit a few hours early on Saturday, skipping out on the last few events.

GREENE: A bit of a snub maybe?

RASCOE: Well, you know, it's not necessarily a good sign.

GREENE: Right. And I guess it's just worth mentioning that President Trump, coming from this summit, which was supposed to be the easy summit - next week he then meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. And everything is on track with that. Right?

RASCOE: Yes. So the president is heading directly to Singapore when he leaves Canada. And the White House is saying that the U.S. and North Korea are making progress in aligning their definitions of denuclearization. We don't really know what that means, though.

GREENE: Well, we will find out - maybe - as that summit goes forward next week. NPR's Ayesha Rascoe.

Thanks, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: So last month, you might remember, the Trump administration announced what it calls a zero-tolerance policy.

INSKEEP: Yeah, the policy says that anybody crossing the U.S. border without permission won't just be detained or sent back, they will actually be prosecuted. And that is even true for people seeking asylum in the United States. If a parent should cross with a child, the family is now separated. Here's Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

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JEFF SESSIONS: If you don't want your child to be separated, then don't bring him across the border illegally.

INSKEEP: That's what he said some weeks ago. So what does this policy look like in practice?

GREENE: Well, NPR's John Burnett got a real look. He spent some time in a federal court in Alpine, Texas, and he joins us.

Hi, John.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: OK. So who exactly was in this courtroom?

BURNETT: Well, there were three Mayan women from Guatemala in their mid-20s. And they're so short, when they sat down in the courtroom, their feet barely touched the floor. They were brought in in shackles, led by these big, burly federal marshals. They'd waded across the Rio Grande about three weeks ago. And like thousands of the other Central Americans who were coming up, they say they're fleeing extortion, gangs or abusive husbands in their hometowns.

So they entered the Texas border town of Presidio and surrendered to federal agents. They're all arrested and charged with misdemeanor unlawful entry. And here's the deal - in the past, this never would have made it into court. One public defender called it the federal crime equivalent of a parking ticket. But under this new zero-tolerance policy, they're all marched into court and getting sentenced, usually for the time they've already been served in detention, which is a couple of nights or a couple of weeks.

And in this case, these women all had sons. They were 8 and 9 years old when they left Guatemala. One woman testified they thought having the kids with them would actually ensure they would not be detained. They thought they'd be allowed to walk free and to await their day in immigration court, but it had the reverse effect.

GREENE: OK. Had the reverse effect because they're now going through this legal process separated from their kids - where are their sons now?

BURNETT: So their children were taken from them by federal immigration agents and sent to a shelter for foster kids in the Bronx, N.Y.

GREENE: Wow.

BURNETT: That's about 2,000 miles away from here.

GREENE: Yeah.

BURNETT: And they haven't been able to talk to their sons for three weeks. They didn't even know where they were until their their day of trial, which was on Wednesday. It really - this sheds a light on the chaotic application of zero tolerance. I've been talking to Border Patrol agents and people who work in federal courts down here. And they said they were blindsided by this new policy of a hundred percent prosecution.

I mean, just consider the numbers. Agents arrested more than 50,000 unauthorized immigrants last month. And they say they're not set up to try every illegal crosser, much less find places to put them all. I mean, yesterday we learned they're sending 1,600 immigration detainees to federal prison cells. The children's shelters are 95 percent full. And there's just no policy to handle all these people right now.

GREENE: Well, this policy, however it's implemented - I mean, the argument, as we heard from the attorney general, is this is a policy of deterrence, you know, that the Trump administration hopes this will deter migrants from crossing.

BURNETT: Right.

GREENE: Is that working?

BURNETT: Well, it's too early to say, David. I mean, as I said, the apprehension numbers are huge - 50,000 arrests last month, the most since Trump went to the White House. And he was furious. He wants to choke the flow. And that's why this extreme policy of family separation and a hundred percent prosecution. So - I mean, will it get to the people who were fleeing Central America? Will they change their minds? We'll just have to see.

INSKEEP: But we should keep in mind, we don't know that this chaos is intentional. But we do know from past reporting that Stephen Miller, a big voice in the White House on these immigration and other issues, is a believer in that kind of chaos, the shock value of imposing a policy in a way that gets people upset.

GREENE: Yeah. But a policy that - it obviously affects lives as we were hearing from you, John.

NPR's John Burnett, we really appreciate it. Thanks, John.

BURNETT: You bet.

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GREENE: All right. So Steve, a bunch of executives from major oil companies are getting together this weekend. And the venue seems a little surprising. It's the Vatican.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Yeah, that's where they'll be starting today. And then tomorrow, Pope Francis meets with several CEOs. He's expected to push them to take steps to address climate change.

GREENE: All right, let's get the details now from Joshua McElwee. He's the Vatican correspondent for the newspaper the National Catholic Reporter. He's with us on Skype.

Hi there, Joshua.

JOSHUA MCELWEE: Yeah, hi. How are you?

GREENE: Good. Thank you. So who exactly is on the guest list here?

MCELWEE: Well, we don't know too much. The Vatican is being kind of typically tight-lipped about what this is about and who will be coming. But as far as we can tell, it's the CEOs of Exxon Mobil, BP, the former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and even Larry Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock. So it seems that they're really calling the leaders of the industry to Rome to meet with the pope and to meet with Vatican officials.

GREENE: I mean, I'm sure you cover a lot of meetings that the pope holds. Is this unusual? And if so, how did it come about?

MCELWEE: Well, it really looks like a Pope Francis style of event. Five years ago, he was elected as pope and has really tried to take a new strategy of engagement with the outside world. And three years ago, he wrote an encyclical, kind of the highest form of teaching in the church, on environmental issues - basically warning that if climate change continued unabated, we'd wind up with a world of ruin, in his words.

And so for the past three years, the Vatican has really been trying to push the pope's message. And this seems like an extraordinary event to do so among those - in the leaders of the oil industry to try to convince them maybe to change their methods and even talk about transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

GREENE: Is there an expectation that this could really have an effect on what these oil executives do? Or is this a case of, you know, when the pope invites you to his house, you politely accept no matter what?

MCELWEE: I think there's a little bit of that here. And I also bet that these executives are coming hoping to make their own points with the pope, maybe try to convince him to tone down his rhetoric or to be more friendly to the oil industry. But we'll have to see what happens. It's supposed to wrap up tomorrow, Saturday. And perhaps there will be some sort of statement. Or perhaps - who knows? - maybe the oil executives will announce that they're closing up shop and moving to solar.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Well, I don't know if I would expect that. But who knows, right?

INSKEEP: They may go for that all-of-the-above energy policy, as they say.

GREENE: That's right. All right, Joshua McElwee is the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

Thanks a lot, Joshua. We appreciate the time this morning.

MCELWEE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF NOHIDEA.'S "SINCERELY, YOURS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.