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News Brief: Trade Talks, Russia Meeting, 'White Lies' Preview


If you're looking to buy a live walrus from China, you might want to buy now.


Yes, indeed. That is because the latest list of U.S. tariffs is so extensive that even that walrus would be covered. The U.S. trade representative listed Chinese items that could be subject to an import tax of up to 25%. Of course, this is all in the wake of the trade war between U.S. and China. It takes a whole lot of items to add up to $300 billion though, including food, clothing, industrial equipment and an assortment of sea creatures.

INSKEEP: All of which are being covered by NPR chief economics correspondent Scott Horsley. Good morning.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK. So that is what the United States is doing, detailing this tariff announcement that was made the other day. How's China responding to that?

HORSLEY: As expected, China announced plans to retaliate with tariffs of its own on some $60 billion in U.S. exports. China can't match Trump's tariffs dollar for dollar simply because they buy less from us than we buy from them. But China has other ways to make life miserable for American companies trying to do business over there.

You know, the last 24 hours, Steve, really confirmed what White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said over the weekend, which is that both sides will pay for this trade war. Here in the U.S., investors are starting to figure out this might be more than just a bargaining tactic. The stock market fell sharply yesterday. The Dow is down more than 600 points or 2.4%, and the S&P was off by a similar amount. Overnight stocks in Asia also continued their slide.

INSKEEP: But I'm trying to think here, Scott. Just before China made its announcement that it was retaliating, the President of the United States - if I'm not mistaken about the timeline - was on Twitter saying to China, don't retaliate against us. It'll only get worse. Does that mean the United States could, well, pull out even more tariffs?

HORSLEY: They're basically slapping tariffs now on virtually everything we buy from China. Although, it's possible that Trump will back down. You know, he does sometimes react to a market downturn, for example. And the president told reporters yesterday he hasn't made a final decision on whether to impose tariffs on that last $300 billion worth of Chinese imports.

As y'all mentioned, his trade representative did begin the process of adding those tariffs. They published a list of tariff targets yesterday. It fills about 140 pages and covers some 3,800 customs categories. Some, as y'all mentioned, are kind of arcane. Others are pretty common - athletic shoes, laptop computers, ginseng, green tea - just about everything that comes on a boat across the Pacific. There will, however, be a couple of important exceptions - pharmaceuticals and rare earth that's used in manufacturing electronics.

INSKEEP: Ginseng, OK, one of the earliest things that the United States sold to China. Now, the president seems to acknowledge that Americans are going to be feeling pain. He expected more pain for U.S. farmers and spoke about it this way.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Out of the billions of dollars that we're taking in, a small portion of that will be going to our farmers because China will be retaliating, probably to a certain extent, against our farmers.

INSKEEP: When he says billions of dollars taking in, of course he's talking about the tariffs, the taxes, which are primarily paid by Americans. Who else is caught in the middle here, Scott?

HORSLEY: Well, just about everybody who buys stuff from China or tries to sell stuff to China, so that's just about all Americans. You're right. Last year's aid package didn't begin to offset the lost sales for farmers to China. And the president's essentially talking here about taxing American consumers to bail out folks who are barred from selling to China because of his tariffs.

INSKEEP: Scott, thanks so much.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Scott Horsley.


INSKEEP: All right. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the Russian city of Sochi today to meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

MARTIN: Yeah. It is Pompeo's first visit to Russia as America's top diplomat. Pompeo and Lavrov have a lot to do. They're expected to wade through a long list of disagreements which divide Russia and the United States. This includes Iran, Syria, Venezuela, arms control and Russian election interference - this is just a few of those disagreements. So can these two countries actually work together on any of this with the Mueller report looming large?

INSKEEP: Journalist Charles Maynes joins us via Skype from Moscow. Welcome to the program.

CHARLES MAYNES: Good to be with you.

INSKEEP: Isn't this meeting more than a little awkward, coming not long after the Mueller report detailed yet again how Russia worked to elect President Trump?

MAYNES: Well, that's right. And it's Mike Pompeo's first visit to Russia. And, of course, this does come after the Mueller report. If you look at the agenda they've got ahead for them, you know, Pompeo's suggesting that there's some ways that these two sides can bridge differences. For example, areas of cooperation might include anti-terrorism efforts or perhaps the crisis on the North Korean - on the Korean peninsula.

But of course, it's problems that dominate the agenda here. It's the arms control treaty you mentioned - this is the U.S. abandoning the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. There's the issue of Venezuela, where Moscow backs Nicolas Maduro, the current leader, and the U.S. backs the opposition leader, Juan Guaido. Pompeo has said that Russia should, quote, "get out of Latin America." The Russians have a very similar view of the U.S. in Ukraine, where Moscow says it's the U.S. meddling in its backyard and where the U.S. accuses Moscow of fomenting a rebellion in the east.

And of course, there's the election interference issue that you mentioned. And Pompeo says he'll raise that. So of course, there's so many issues here for them to tackle. And not least - last, but certainly not least, there's Iran.

INSKEEP: You said Pompeo says he will raise that. But it is a fair question to ask what Pompeo can say when his boss, President Trump, has already been to visit Vladimir Putin and said very publicly in a press conference, well, you know, Vladimir Putin denies it very strongly.

MAYNES: That's right. And so you have these mixed messages constantly coming out of the White House, from the State Department. Pompeo's been known more as a hawk, someone who's a little bit more aggressive towards Russia in his statements compared to the president. And of course, it's interesting that Donald Trump, just ahead of Pompeo's arrival, announced that he's planning to meet with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in June in Japan. That's something that the Russians have not confirmed yet, however. They say that the request hasn't formally been submitted, but President Trump said it's going to happen.

INSKEEP: Now, Pompeo's singular focus - not singular focus. He focuses on a lot of things. But he's focused a lot on Iran and on the United States' effort to impose maximum pressure on Iran to get it to give up its nuclear program, or what remains of its nuclear program after a nuclear deal from which the United States withdrew. Has Russia shown any inclination to help increase the pressure on Iran?

MAYNES: Well, not so much to increase the pressure on Iran. I think it does see Iran as a partner. First of all, in its campaign in Syria, Moscow has the lines of communication open to Tehran. Just a case in point, Lavrov, the foreign minister, was meeting with the foreign minister of Iran - this is Mr. Zarif - last week. So - and I think Russia enjoys its status as a new diplomatic power broker in the Middle East. So there's no - little reason for them to want to stoke a conflict between the U.S. and its ally in Syria.

But don't forget that Europe's position is much closer to Russia's when it comes to Iran, and it also blames the U.S. for ending the nuclear agreement. So I think it's fair to say you might see Moscow try to exploit those tensions, not least because Russia, of course, is also under U.S. sanctions and likes the idea of finding a workaround.

INSKEEP: Mr. Maynes, thanks so much.

MAYNES: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Charles Maynes connected with us via Skype from Moscow.


INSKEEP: One night in 1965, three men had just finished dinner and were standing outside a restaurant in the segregated city of Selma, Ala.

CHIP BRANTLEY, BYLINE: There would have been no way for them to know that what will happen next will change everything, that it will lead to the murder of one of these three men and radically alter the lives of the other two.

MARTIN: The man who was killed that night was Reverend James Reeb, a Unitarian minister and civil rights activist. People across the country were outraged after his murder. The case remained unsolved for 50 years until two journalists from Alabama, Andrew Beck Grace and Chip Brantley, set out to reinvestigate the case for a new NPR podcast. It is called White Lies.

INSKEEP: We just heard Chip Brantley from a bit of that podcast. And the other, Andrew Beck Grace, is in our studios. Good morning.


INSKEEP: Thanks for coming by early, really appreciate it. Will you tell us something about who James Reeb was?

GRACE: Well, James Reeb was a Unitarian minister who's living in Boston in 1965. And he, along with millions of other Americans, saw the violence that had happened in Selma during Bloody Sunday - this confrontation between state troopers and sheriff's possemen and peaceful protesters - and was outraged. Dr. King called for men of clergy - clergymen from all over the country and women too to come to Selma to assist with another voting rights march.

So James Reeb came from Boston, along with a lot of other folks, and was in the city for less than 24 hours, went to a restaurant - an integrated restaurant - with two of his colleagues and was attacked as they left by a group of men on the street. And then, basically, he died two days later in - at a hospital in Birmingham.

INSKEEP: Men were put on trial for the killing. They were acquitted. I am sorry to say that this was a common story in the South in the 1960s. There were many cases like this. What made you focus on this particular one?

GRACE: Well, there were some really interesting things about this case. The first is that when Reeb was killed, the eyes of the nation were already sort of on Selma. And so his death and the attack that led to his death became something of a flash point for the movement. And his death was protested around the nation. LBJ mentioned his name in the speech announcing the Voting Rights Act. So there was this awareness, this heightened awareness of the murder of this white man that far outweighed the awareness of the murder of so many African Americans who'd been killed during the civil rights movement as well.

INSKEEP: And did you find an opportunity, a special opportunity to look at the facts of this case anew?

GRACE: Yes. We - one of the reasons we took this story on is because we had some extra sort of special, I guess, research tools, which was an unredacted FBI file and also just reams of evidence from the National Archives. So we went down to Selma with that FBI file and with evidence that we found.

And really what we discovered that made this story so unique is that the men who were acquitted of this murder in December of 1965, they had been acquitted by this - what we came to call the counter narrative, this alternate theory of what really happened to James Reeb, that he wasn't attacked on the street that night and died by the hands of these attackers. But, instead, the movement was in need of a white martyr, and so they conspired to take this opportunity and have him die because they needed his death.

INSKEEP: You're saying there was what we now call a false flag conspiracy theory that was used to effectively get the men acquitted?

GRACE: Absolutely. Yeah.

INSKEEP: And you were able to look more closely at that because of this unredacted FBI file? Is that normal, to get an unredacted FBI?

GRACE: No. It's a very special tool to have.

INSKEEP: But you found it through ways that, I guess, maybe you won't be able to discuss here precisely.

GRACE: Not just yet.

INSKEEP: OK. That's fine. So in the days and weeks to come, we're going to learn a lot more about this murder than we know now. Is that correct?

GRACE: Yes. Absolutely.

INSKEEP: OK. Mr. Grace, thanks very much, appreciate it.

GRACE: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Andrew Beck Grace is co-host of NPR's new podcast White Lies. The first episode is available now. And there will be new episodes every Tuesday.


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