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Morning News Brief

Aug 29, 2018
Originally published on August 29, 2018 11:14 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In Florida, Democratic voters may have sent a message yesterday about the kind of candidate they are looking for this election year.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All right. So it was primary day in Florida. And in the race for governor, President Trump's favored candidate cruised to a win in the Republican primary. But it was really the Democratic primary that surprised a lot of people. Andrew Gillum was the favorite of left-wing progressives in the state, but he never led in a single poll and then ended up winning last night over former Congresswoman Gwen Graham. Here's Gillum in his victory speech last night.

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ANDREW GILLUM: Right here in the state of Florida tonight, we have shown the rest of the country that we can be the David in the situation where there's a Goliath.

GREENE: OK. Well, that says it. NPR's lead political editor Domenico Montanaro is here. Domenico, good morning.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So was this a David-and-Goliath situation? And how shocking is this victory by Andrew Gillum?

MONTANARO: I mean, it's pretty shocking. It was a big surprise. Certainly, Gillum had the support of Bernie Sanders and a lot of progressive energy on his side and a lot of late momentum. He was not expected to win. That - the favorite was Gwen Graham, who's the daughter of the former senator and governor Bob Graham. But you know, Gillum really showed - as you could hear in that clip, his kind of aspirational, working-class, hopeful message really won the day.

And you know, he's currently the mayor of Tallahassee, the state's capital. And he's dynamic and young - only 39. He'd be the state's first black governor. He campaigned on improving the state's education system, expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and repealing the state's controversial "stand your ground" gun law. And you know, he came on late, campaigned across the state. And even though he wasn't very well-known, the energy was certainly with him, and he's certainly getting a lot of attention now.

GREENE: All right. So this election year, you have both parties sort of trying to figure out which wing of the party has a better chance of being successful for them. Here you have a candidate, you know, endorsed by Bernie Sanders. What might this tell us about Democrats heading into this fall?

MONTANARO: Well, I mean, on the Republican side, the winner was Ron DeSantis, who basically staked his entire political career on how close he was to President Trump. He won decisively last night. And this really sets up an amazing race because you have a race in Florida that is everything to 2018, everything that 2018 represents. It's going to be the Bernie Sanders versus Trump race that never happened.

GREENE: Oh, that's interesting. Well, let's turn to another state, Arizona. There was the race to fill Republican Senator Jeff Flake's seat. He's retiring. How did that play out?

MONTANARO: Well, national Republicans were a little worried going into last night because of some of the back-and-forth that had happened within the primary, moving their preferred candidate Congresswoman Martha McSally a little bit to the right. But she prevailed fairly easily last night. But it was a bruising primary, so much so that Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat in the race, has taken something of a sizable lead in the average of the polls.

And this is an important place for Democrats to try to be able to have a chance to take back the Senate. They are going to need to win here. But so far, right out of the gate, McSally, a former fighter pilot, came out hotly negative against Sinema, saying that she's impressed she owns a hundred shoes but she's flown over a hundred flights. So get ready for a...

GREENE: Wow.

MONTANARO: ...Very nasty fall.

GREENE: That sets it up. How many primary days are left? Are we getting - we're getting close to them being over. Right?

MONTANARO: This was the last kind of big, major primary night. There's still one more left.

GREENE: OK. NPR's Domenico Montanaro.

Domenico, thanks a lot.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF PARAMORE SONG, "AIN'T IT FUN")

GREENE: I think you could say trade negotiations can feel a little bit like a poker game at times.

MARTIN: Yeah. NAFTA negotiations are underway in Washington, and they seem to have their share of bluffing, folding and compromising - all this among countries that are supposed to be friends - right? - the U.S., Mexico, Canada.

GREENE: Yeah.

MARTIN: As Canada's foreign minister rushed to Washington, D.C., for talks, Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, seemed to strike an optimistic note.

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PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: We will engage in a positive and constructive way, as we always have been, and look forward to ultimately signing a deal as long as it is good for Canada and good for middle-class Canadians.

MARTIN: The Trump administration says - hey, we've already got a deal with Mexico. Canada, you better hurry up and get on board.

GREENE: All right. So who has the leverage here? Who's bluffing in this really important poker game? Shawn Donnan is a senior reporter covering global trade for Bloomberg News, and he joins us in the studio.

Hey there, Shawn.

SHAWN DONNAN: Hey.

GREENE: Does this feel like a poker game? Is that what we're seeing play out in Washington right now?

DONNAN: Well, it doesn't just feel like a poker game. This feels like it's 5 a.m. in the morning. We've been up all night playing poker. Everyone's feeling tired. The coffee is brewing, and we're getting ready for that kind of last standoff.

GREENE: It is a last standoff because there's a deadline here - right? - I mean, to come up with some sort of deal. Remind us what the window is.

DONNAN: So it's kind of a fake deadline. Basically, the Trump administration's been negotiating with the outgoing administration of Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico. He leaves office December 1. And that means - and the Trump administration and both Enrique Pena Nieto and his successor, Manuel Lopez Obrador - I hope I got that right...

GREENE: Yeah.

DONNAN: ...Is - want Pena Nieto to sign the deal. And to do that, you have to notify Congress. You have to give 90 days' notice to Congress of the signing ceremony. And basically, that 90-days deadline is Friday.

GREENE: OK. So it's getting this done before the leadership in Mexico changes. Well, let's talk about candidates. So you had President Trump saying that there was sort of a loose understanding with just Mexico. Canada comes to Washington, joins the talks. Is Canada really on the spot because you listen to, like, everyone in the United States - Republicans, Democrats, labor leaders, business leaders - they all seem to be saying, give Canada what they want, and get them in here.

DONNAN: Well, that's absolutely right. So the Trump administration has a kind of gambit here. And that is that they can force the Canadians to give in on big issues, like giving the U.S. greater access to the dairy market in Canada. The problem is that the Canadians actually don't have their own political deadlines. While President Trump has the midterm elections in mind, while the Mexicans have the change of administrations in mind, Canada doesn't face elections until well into 2019. So it's a real question of - who's got the leverage here?

GREENE: Whatever happens, if there is a new agreement, is this going to look all that different from NAFTA? Or are all the sides going to just come up with something and then present it to their people as something that may be new, may be not new but it's beneficial to them?

DONNAN: So I mean, that's the big story if you step back from this. President Trump came in promising a revolution in trade. He was going to have jobs flooding back into America. He was going to rip up existing trade agreements, things like NAFTA, that he said were terrible. Actually, what we're ending up with is something that looks like a kind of - a real NAFTA 2.0. President Trump has said he wants to rename it. He doesn't like the name NAFTA. It's got bad connotations. But you look at the details or at least the contours of the deal that they've revealed this week, and it looks a lot like NAFTA with some tweaks.

GREENE: You probably won't be hearing President Trump call it NAFTA 2.0 on the campaign trail this fall. But interesting to hear about. Shawn Donnan covers trade for Bloomberg News and joined us this morning.

Thanks so much, Shawn. We really appreciate it.

DONNAN: Thanks for having me.

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GREENE: I don't think I have to tell anyone the role that Google plays in many of our lives. If there's a question we want to answer if we're talking with family or friends and we can't think of what the name of that movie was - whatever it is, we just Google it.

MARTIN: Right. So President Trump is upset about what those searches are turning up. In statements throughout the day yesterday, the president complained about the kinds of results that pop up when someone puts the words Trump news into the Google search engine. The president claims, without evidence, that Google has it all rigged, showing only the reporting of, quote, "fake news media." The president went on to accuse Google of suppressing conservative voices. His administration says it's now going to explore ways to regulate Google. Here's Trump in the Oval Office yesterday.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook - they're really treading on very, very troubled territory. And they have to be careful. It's not fair to large portions of the population.

GREENE: All right, Hadas Gold covers the media for CNN, and she joins us.

Good morning.

HADAS GOLD: Good morning.

GREENE: So not any evidence that the president presented, this narrative about conservatives being treated unfairly by social media - is there anything new that the president has discovered? Or is he just making this accusation?

GOLD: So we did a little bit of reverse engineering and found that this tweet likely stemmed from an unscientific study done by a conservative site called PJ Media that was then later picked up by Fox Business, which we know the president enjoys watching Fox hosts. And that study - again, completely unscientific - what they did is they just sort of Googled certain phrases, like Trump. And then what they found was that they declared that all of the results tended to come - or most of the results tended to come from what a lot of people call mainstream media but what they deemed liberal media, or left-wing media. And that ranges everything from CNN to Reuters to Associated Press. And they put certain sites like InfoWars, which is known to spread conspiracy theories, more into the center-right.

So it's all about definitions here. If you believe that Reuters and The Associated Press are left-wing media, then, yes, a lot of the Google News results are going to be from those types of sites. But there's no specific evidence that Google is trying to clamp down on conservative views. But the Google algorithm is this sort of black box. They don't really open it up. We don't really know exactly how it all works. Google claims that this is not what they do. In a statement yesterday, they said that search is not used to set a political agenda and that they don't bias their results toward any political ideology. But as we've seen, tech and social media have become a big target for the president and for his supporters.

GREENE: Yeah. This came up when big tech was testifying before Congress - at least the idea of whether they could be regulated, whether there's interest in regulating these kinds of platforms, as the president brought up yesterday. Where does that stand, and what might the implications of that be?

GOLD: So it's really interesting because they're getting this pressure from both the right and the left. On the left, there's complaints that these platforms give free rein for conspiracy theories and hate speech, and they need to do more to clamp down on that. Also, there's the whole issue of Russian interference, foreign interference in elections. All these tech platforms are going to be facing even more questions on September 5. Facebook, Twitter and Google have all been invited to testify at the Senate Intelligence Committee, where I'm sure we are going to hear pressure from both conservative and more liberal senators on exactly these types of issues.

GREENE: OK. Hadas Gold is a reporter with CNN. She covers the media. We always appreciate you having on. Thanks a lot.

GOLD: Great to be here. Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ERIC LAU'S "STAR TREKKING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.