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N.H. Stop Is First Trump Campaign Rally Since Mass Shootings In Texas, Ohio


There's the Donald Trump who sits in the Oval Office, and there's the Donald Trump who draws big crowds to rallies. And often, the two send different messages. That was on display last night during the president's rally in New Hampshire - the first since the recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. Speaking to a crowd of more than 10,000 in Manchester, President Trump appeared to walk back his earlier call for Congress to pass background check laws in response to gun violence. Instead, he focused on mental illness.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are working very hard to make sure we keep guns out of the hands of insane people and those who are mentally sick and shouldn't have guns.


TRUMP: But people have to remember, however, that there is a mental illness problem that has to be dealt with. It's not the gun that pulls the trigger, it's the person holding the gun.


MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith was traveling with the president. She was at that rally and joins us this morning. Hi, Tam.


MARTIN: So after those - the shootings in Ohio and Texas, there was all this talk in Washington about passing universal background checks and red flag laws, and that included the president. So what changed his mind?

KEITH: President Trump does this. This is not the first time that, after a mass shooting, he has come out with what seems like a pretty strong position in favor of some sort of gun control, only to then sort of back away from that position that he's taken. And that appears to be what's happening here.

As you say, he had tweeted out immediately after the shootings that he wanted strong background checks. He also endorsed those red flag laws. But when reporters, including me, pressed him on it yesterday, he really didn't want to engage on the idea of background checks and kept coming back to mental illness, even going so far as to suggest building new facilities for those in need or, really, mental institutions, bringing back these institutions that went away decades ago.

MARTIN: The president also spent a lot of time last night talking about the economy. Let's listen to what he had to say.


TRUMP: See, the bottom line is, I know you like me, and this room is a love fest. I know that. But you have no choice but to vote for me because you have 401(k)s down the tubes. Everything's going to be down the tubes. So whether you love me or hate me, you got to vote for me.

MARTIN: Wow. Sort of an ultimatum, right?

KEITH: It's quite a pitch. So, you know, his frequent - his supporters have frequently said - I don't know how many times I've heard them say this - you know, President Trump should just focus on the economy. It's his strongest asset, they say. Well, this week, he finally is focusing on the economy. And it happens to be a week when there are troubling signs for the economy...

MARTIN: Right, it was sort of a bad week.

KEITH: ...Or stock market. Yeah, I mean, the stock market has been bad. He's talking about 401(k)s. Most people don't want to look at their 401(k)s this week. And economists are saying that Trump's trade wars are part of this, that they're actually hurting the economy and causing uncertainty.

MARTIN: And lastly, Tamara, just briefly, President Trump weighed in on the situation in Israel. They banned Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, two Democratic congresswoman who've been critical of Israel. This happened after Trump tweeted that Israel would look weak if they let them in. Now, it looks like Tlaib will be allowed to visit her grandmother. But this illustrates the extent to which these two men, Trump and Netanyahu, really rely on each other, right?

KEITH: It absolutely does. And there are so many examples of their political fortunes and faiths being linked to each other.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Tamara Keith. We appreciate it, Tam.

KEITH: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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