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Russia Investigation Still Looms Over Trump Administration


President Trump is taking a victory lap of sorts after the release of strong economic numbers. Trump says the robust growth in the economy is the result of his policies. He says America has come back.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: But we've turned it all around. Once again we are the economic envy of the entire world.

CHANG: The White House is looking to leave the week on a high note after Trump's fight with his former lawyer and fallout from the special counsel investigation clouded the administration's positive outlook. Joining us to talk about all of this now is NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe. Hey, Ayesha.


CHANG: So, yeah, what a week. Let's just start with the strong economic numbers the week ended on. What did President Trump have to say about those numbers?

RASCOE: Trump says that it's the tax cuts and the repealing of regulations and his trade policies that are really behind that growth. And these were really good numbers - 4.1 percent growth in GDP for the second quarter. Trump, he gave a statement on the South Lawn of the White House really making the case that his presidency has jump-started the economy. And he argued that this is not a blip, that this is the start of rapid growth.


TRUMP: This isn't a one-time shot. I happen to think we're going to do extraordinarily well in our next report next quarter. I think it's going to be outstanding. I won't go too strong because then if it's not quite as good, you'll not let me forget it. But I think the numbers are going to be outstanding.

RASCOE: There is a real question about whether this level of growth is actually sustainable. A lot of economists say it's not. But he didn't stop with just talking about the economy. He talked about North Korea returning some of the remains of U.S. soldiers who fought in the Korean War. That's an example of North Korea following through on at least part of that agreement that was made between Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore. And so this was really a point-by-point rundown of the highlights of what Trump feels he has accomplished.

CHANG: But that's sort of a Washington tradition - right? - to talk up some good news before Congress heads home to campaign during the August recess.

RASCOE: It is. And this is right before lawmakers - they go home and try to campaign in their districts. And so this is something where typically parties in power - before they leave for recess, they want to show the work that they've done and the success that they've had so they can take that information back to voters. And so what Trump did, it kind of helps frame the message for Republicans.

And you can see that with the president when he tried to focus on those issues that matter a lot to voters. He talked about health care. And he says his administration is going to put out a new plan on health care. But he didn't offer any details, and there hasn't been any real movement on the Hill for this. So it's not clear what that new health care plan might look like.

CHANG: OK. So while Trump is trying to paint a rosy economic picture, as I said at the top of this interview, it has not been all good news for the White House this week. Let's talk about that.

RASCOE: No, it hasn't. Trump is facing heat from his former lawyer, Michael Cohen. They've fallen out, and there was this tape released earlier in the week talking about a possible payment for this Playmate story. Then you have this news that potentially Cohen is claiming that Trump knew about the meeting in Trump Tower, about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump denies that. But this battle between Cohen and Trump will probably continue to play out and maybe not put Trump in the best light. And then you have the trial of Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, next week. So it continues.

CHANG: I can barely keep up. Ayesha Rascoe is NPR's White House correspondent. Thank you, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
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