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Trump Supporters React To Helsinki Comments


I want to turn now to NPR political reporter Sarah McCammon, who has been covering the White House for us. Hey, Sarah.


GREENE: I want to talk about the bigger picture here. Tell me what you heard there from a Republican congressman and the position that the president has his party in at this moment given the events in Helsinki and what we've seen the last few days.

MCCAMMON: Well, we've been hearing, of course, a lot of concern from Republicans and Democrats about the president's initial comments in Helsinki. And Congressman Davidson, you know, said that to some extent this is about parsing words. I mean, I would just note that, again, both Republicans and Democrats have had to parse these words, including the president's own director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, who issued a statement right after that Helsinki press conference, you know, saying basically that the intelligence community would continue to do its job and in an unvarnished way. So, you know, you can talk about the politics of it, but the reality is that whatever the president's words are send a message to the international community and a message that's closely watched by global leaders.

GREENE: Were you hearing what I was hearing, the congressman basically saying he likes a lot of what this president has done, but sometimes it is a matter of staying out of his own way to let the policies speak for themselves?

MCCAMMON: Sure enough, and we've seen this a lot where, you know, the president sort of has to walk something back or his White House has to clean something up. That happened this week in a big way.

GREENE: NPR's Sarah McCammon; Sarah, thanks a lot.

MCCAMMON: Thank you.


All right. How are Trump voters reacting to the president's comments in Helsinki and the criticism that followed? Syeda Hasan of member station KUT went to Burnet County, Texas, to talk to some Trump supporters.

SYEDA HASAN, BYLINE: Compared to other central Texas counties, Burnet is a Trump stronghold. Located in the hill country northwest of Austin, the county has a population of about 47,000, made up almost entirely of white residents. In the 2016 presidential election, more than 76 percent of Burnet County residents voted for Donald Trump.

CARL SMITH: He's smart. He knows how to negotiate.

HASAN: Carl Smith has been living in Burnet County a few years now. He moved here from Houston. I met Smith at a shopping center near downtown. He says he and his wife have been watching the developments on Trump and Russia closely.

SMITH: We watch Fox News every day. And I think the news media, they are out for Trump.

HASAN: Smith says he sees Trump as a strong leader who would protect the U.S. against foreign interference. And despite reports from U.S. intelligence, he doesn't think the Russian president had anything to do with Trump's 2016 win.

SMITH: If anything, he would want to get Hillary Clinton elected because she - she's a chump.

HASAN: Other Trump voters I spoke with were more reticent. Don Osborne has lived in Burnet about 15 years. Like many of his neighbors, Osborne supported Trump in 2016, but he says it was more of a vote against Hillary Clinton.

DON OSBORNE: I don't know if I'd like him as sitting down having lunch with him, but I think he's done some things to shake up the system. And it needs to be shaken up - and done a lot of things that other presidents haven't had the guts to do.

HASAN: I asked Osborne how he felt about the president's remarks, his subsequent backtracking and the fact that some political leaders have gone so far as to call Trump's actions treasonous.

OSBORNE: I don't think so. I just think it's just an unfortunate comment made without thinking about what he's saying. That's all.

HASAN: Almost two years out from the election, Osborne said he now considers himself a steadfast Trump supporter. Still, Burnet County isn't a monolith. Twenty-seven-year-old Lance McClinton says he didn't vote in the 2016 presidential election, though his family members did.

LANCE MCCLINTON: My father was really afraid of Hillary getting presidency because he thought she was going to do away with guns, and we weren't going to be able to protect ourselves. And with Trump now, he just says - you know, I feel like everything he says is ridiculous and does ridiculous, but he still gets away with a lot of craziness.

HASAN: McClinton says if Russia did interfere with the election in 2016, maybe it was out of fear.

MCCLINTON: They could have, you know, felt exactly like my dad and been afraid of Hillary getting presidency, you know? And so they may have manipulated whatever to make sure that that didn't happen.

HASAN: He says all the new developments have been a little too much to keep up with. McClinton has decided to try and unplug from the non-stop news cycle.

For NPR News, I'm Syeda Hasan in Burnet County, Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF JORGE MENDEZ'S "MOMENTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Syeda Hasan
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