News Brief: U.S. And Canada Trade Negotiations, Don McGahn, Supervised Injection Sites

Aug 30, 2018
Originally published on August 30, 2018 6:37 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

More progress this morning on trade negotiations between the U.S. and Canada.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Yeah. Trade negotiators from both countries were working long hours into last night to try and hash out an agreement. This comes after President Trump ratcheted up the pressure this week, threatening to go it alone with Mexico if Canada is not ready to make a deal.

MARTIN: All right. Chris Arnold from NPR's business desk is here with us this morning. Hey, Chris.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: All right. So the president has threatened to leave Canada out in the cold if need be and just do a bilateral deal with Mexico. Can he even do that though?

ARNOLD: Well, I don't know if legally he can do it, but a lot of trade experts say it's probably not going to happen because that would just cause all kinds of pain for all three countries. Canada is our biggest trading partner. You know, we think of Canada as this nice little country to the north. But I mean, we export more to them by far than we do to China or Mexico or Germany or anybody.

And one good industry to look at here is auto manufacturing. So it's taken decades and billions of dollars, and we have these complex supply chains where a screw from Mexico ends up in a car door or something in the U.S., and then the car door gets sent to Canada and then back to Mexico to be put onto a car. And each car has a hundred examples like that. So it's super complicated. And messing that up, experts say, would cost jobs and badly hurt companies. And nobody wants that, basically.

MARTIN: All right. So what continue to be the sticking points in these talks?

ARNOLD: Well, dairy is the most famous one. The president likes to hammer on this and say that Canada is charging us 2 to 300 percent tariffs on dairy. There's also poultry and eggs. And he says it's horribly unfair and, quote, "we're not going to stand for that." The rhetoric may have been hurting more than helping. It's made it politically unpopular in Canada to make concessions on dairy. But there are signs this week that Canada is willing to compromise.

And we're also seeing signs that the U.S. has been willing to compromise. The NAFTA deal had this original - you'll remember this - this five-year sunset clause.

MARTIN: Right.

ARNOLD: Like, the whole thing disappears after five years unless we, you know. Which, if you're a business, you can't really build a factory, and you can't plan on things in the future with a five-year time horizon. So that's changed under the Mexico part of the deal. It's 16 years. There are ways to bump that back further. And we just heard yesterday that Canada and the U.S. now basically have an agreement about auto manufacturing, so maybe the sides are closer than most analysts thought.

MARTIN: I mean, this deal about the auto manufacturing seems to be something a lot of people agree is a good move.

ARNOLD: Yeah. And, I mean, look. What the analysts that I'm talking to are saying - if Canada's out, it's a disaster for everybody in the auto industry.

MARTIN: Right.

ARNOLD: If Canada's in, then on the margins, this could be a good thing for carmakers and workers, but again, on the margins. I mean, the old NAFTA versus new NAFTA, they're saying, you know, not that big a difference.

In fact, what they're saying a much bigger deal - this thing that's looming out in the future is the idea that the U.S. might impose these tariffs on autos, could be 25 percent against, you know, Germany and the rest of the world. And if that happened, there would be a trade fight. Prices would go up. Sales would go down. One estimate is it would cost the U.S. 300,000 jobs. So you know, that sort of, let's see what happens next with that, even if we do resolve NAFTA.

MARTIN: All right. OK, well, we'll see if they can reach a deal by Friday. Chris Arnold, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

ARNOLD: You're welcome. Thanks, Rachel.

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MARTIN: The revolving door of the Trump administration - more turnover there.

GREENE: Yeah. White House counsel Don McGahn is leaving in the fall, possibly as soon as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh goes through his Senate confirmation process, which is formally beginning next week. And as he so often does, President Trump announced this departure by tweeting it.

MARTIN: Right. So NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is with us now to talk about what Don McGahn's departure might mean for the White House and the president. Good morning, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: What's been the response to this news that Don McGahn is going to leave in the fall? I mean, did the president want him to go?

KEITH: This has been something that has been discussed openly for a long time. And, you know, a source close to the White House told me that despite all of the positive comments that have come from the president in the last 24 hours, that the president really couldn't stand McGahn...

MARTIN: Oh.

KEITH: ...And that he regularly and openly complained about him to White House aides. One...

MARTIN: Interesting 'cause he's had a lot of praise for McGahn in the last 24 hours or so.

KEITH: Indeed he has. And one likely source of tension for them is that McGahn as the White House counsel serves the presidency, not the president. And so that created friction points when the president would want something and McGahn would have to tell him, no.

MARTIN: I mean McGahn, also - this comes at - the timing's interesting - right? - because it was recently revealed that he gave hours and hours - 30 hours of interviews to the special counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating any Trump campaign ties to Russia. Do we know if that - those - that information that he gave the special counsel - does that have anything to do with his departure?

KEITH: Well, yesterday, President Trump was asked about that interview, and - well, the several interviews...

MARTIN: Right.

KEITH: ...And 30 hours of testimony. And president Trump said, oh, no, I said - I gave him permission to do that, and I'm not worried about anything that he said. We do everything aboveboard. That's what the president says. His outside attorney Rudy Giuliani told NPR that McGahn's departure doesn't have anything to do with that interview with Mueller's team.

MARTIN: There are a lot of people in the president's own party who aren't very happy about this, though. Mitch McConnell really loved working with Don McGahn, especially on judicial issues. Senator Chuck Grassley sent out the following tweet about this. I hope it's not true, he writes. You can't let this happen. Why are so many Republicans lamenting his departure?

KEITH: Well, he had a huge role in reshaping the federal judiciary. There's the Supreme Court - two nominees that he - one shepherded through, one is on the way through. And also, so far, the president and Don McGahn and the Republicans in the Senate have installed 26 appeals court judges and 33 district judges. And there are dozens of additional nominations pending, and McGahn gets credit for that. He really shepherded these through and set up sort of a clearinghouse for nominees, fielding suggestions from lawyers and politicians and conservative advocacy groups like the Federalist Society.

MARTIN: So the question now - who replaces McGahn?

KEITH: Well, and the answer is we don't know for sure, but it looks likely to be Emmet Flood. He's already working in the White House as the lawyer dealing with the Mueller investigation. And there was some understanding when he came in that he would take over for McGahn, though nothing is certain in the Trump White House until President Trump tweets it out.

MARTIN: Right. NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith for us this morning. Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome.

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MARTIN: All right. The opioid crisis has ravaged so many cities across the country. And some of them want to try something new. They want to open what are called supervised injection sites to help deal with this.

GREENE: Yeah. And so these would be these medical facilities where people could bring their own drugs and use them in a controlled setting. New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia and other cities are developing plans to put these into place. But top Trump administration officials are not having it.

MARTIN: Right. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sat down for an exclusive interview with NPR's Bobby Allyn, who also works for our member station WHYY. And Bobby is with us now. Hey, Bobby.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: So before we get to what the Justice Department and Rod Rosenstein thinks about these, can you just explain how they would work?

ALLYN: Sure. So it's a divisive idea, but it goes something like this. The opioid crisis is incredibly lethal. It's breaking records. I mean, take in this fact. Almost 200 people a day are dying from overdoses. Often, people are using opioids alone and dangerously. So cities are trying to contain this by, you know, bringing in some of those users into a space where they can get clean needles and inject with medical staff watching.

Researchers say nobody has ever died from an overdose in a supervised injection site. So the thinking is to connect some of those people with treatment. Philadelphia is one of the cities that's moving ahead with this idea. And here's the city's health commissioner. His name is Tom Farley.

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TOM FARLEY: In a crisis like this, with as many people dying as we have, it's worth a try.

MARTIN: All right. He says it's worth a try. But the Justice Department doesn't like this idea. How come? What did Rosenstein tell you?

ALLYN: Yeah. So Rosenstein - and I must say that he came out public about this for a reason, right? The timing definitely wasn't random. California recently passed a bill that's been sent to the governor's desk approving supervised injection sites. And there's a bunch of other places, almost a dozen other cities, that are considering this.

And he says, look; this is against federal law. Make no mistake about that. You know, if you try to open this, it's going to violate federal drug laws, and we will come after you, and we will marshal all of the resources of the federal government.

And that could mean something as ruthless as arresting nurses in some of these facilities, seizing the assets of the facilities. There's people even talking about mayors being held criminally culpable. I mean, this is absolutely foreshadowing a really big legal battle to come.

MARTIN: But what is the justification - just that it's essentially government-sanctioned drug use if these cities set these things up?

ALLYN: That's what Rosenstein says. I mean, he says, you know, that basically, cities would be facilitating illicit drug use. So he talks about it like a lawyer would by the letter of the law.

But he also has this kind of, like, moral hazard way of looking at it, sort of like a slippery slope kind of logic - thinking, like, what message would this send to the next generation if the federal government looks the other way while all these people are pouring into these facilities while they're injecting these dangerous opioids into their arms and the federal government does nothing? I mean, what does that say to the next generation of kids growing up in America that, oh, the federal government's OK with that? He said the Justice Department will not stand for that.

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ROD ROSENSTEIN: If you start down that road, you're really going to undermine the deterrent message that I think is so important in order to prevent people from becoming addicted in the future.

MARTIN: But as you said, Bobby, these cities are desperate. They want to try. They're like, we need to just try something. I mean, now that he's speaking out, the DOJ is saying we're going to crack down on these, we're going to shut them down if you open them, are cities just going to stop with their plans?

ALLYN: So it's interesting. The city leaders that I've talked to say they are not deterred by Rosenstein's comments. They're going to forge ahead. You know, some cities are even talking about pre-emptively suing before the DOJ can come in and crack down. In San Francisco and Philadelphia, Seattle and elsewhere, you have very different proposals, but all proposals hoping to open injection sites to try to deal with this opioid crisis that really is devastating so many communities around America right now.

MARTIN: Bobby Allyn of Philadelphia member station WHYY. Bobby, thanks so much for sharing your reporting.

ALLYN: Yup. Thanks for having me, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MECCA:83'S "2AM SAMBA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.