What Harmed U.S. Diplomats In Cuba? The Mystery Continues

Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, left, and Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake confer as the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere examines attacks on American diplomats in Havana, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The great mystery behind what hurt two dozen U.S. diplomatic personnel in Cuba remains unsolved, according to a Senate hearing on Tuesday. But an FBI investigation is casting doubt on a once-popular theory: that embassy staff were the victims of “sonic attacks.”

According to a report seen by the Associated Press, an FBI investigation has turned up no evidence that sound waves harmed American diplomats in Havana.

The report has not been released publicly. On Saturday, Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake confirmed to AP that the FBI had told him about the lack of evidence supporting a sonic attack theory.

Many questions surrounding the incidents remain unanswered, more than two years since symptoms were first spotted.

From December 2016 to January 2017, U.S. personnel in Cuba sought medical treatment for various symptoms, including headaches, ear pain, dizziness and hearing problems, according to Dr. Charles Rosenfarb, the State Department’s medical director.

“They associated the onset of these symptoms to their exposures with unusual sounds or auditory sensations. Various descriptions were given: ‘a high-pitched beam of sound’; an ‘incapacitating sound’; a ‘baffling sensation’ akin to driving with the windows partially open in a car; or just an intense pressure in one ear,” Rosenfarb told the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere on Tuesday.

As news of those symptoms emerged last year, hypotheses swirled. They ranged from the use of an electromagnetic weapon to a sonic device targeting personnel with sound waves that were either super-loud or inaudible.

The incident led to the sharpest rise in tensions between the U.S. and Cuba since President Obama restored diplomatic relations with the island in late 2014.

The Trump administration pulled staff from Havana, expelled Cuban diplomats and issued a Cuba travel warning.

Cuban officials denied any involvement in harming U.S. personnel and have called the sonic attack allegations “science fiction.” Canada is the only other country known to have complained that its diplomats were also affected.

Washington says Cuba should be doing more to protect diplomatic personnel.

“Cuba is a security state. The Cuban government in general has a very tight lid on everything and anything that happens in that country,” acting Assistant Secretary of State Francisco Palmieri said at Tuesday’s hearing.

A total of 24 Americans, including at least one relative of embassy personnel, reported the health problems. “Ten of the 24 patients have returned to either full- or part-time work, while others continue to receive treatment with an anticipation of return to duty,” Rosenfarb said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in an AP interview he will not return U.S. diplomats to Cuba for now, and he is not convinced the alleged attacks are over. The State Department didn’t divulge diplomatic staff numbers, but in 2017, Tillerson reportedly ordered more than half its 50 U.S. staff to leave the Havana embassy.

In addition to ongoing federal investigations, Palmieri said the State Department will set up an Accountability Review Board, which, as The Hill explains, is a special panel convened when a diplomat sustains serious injury abroad.

Also testifying before the Senate subcommittee, the State Department’s diplomatic security director Todd Brown said investigators are not ruling out various possibilities, including a “viral” attack.

“There’s viral, there’s ultrasound — there’s a range of things that the technical experts are looking at as, could this be a possibility?” Brown said.

Tom Udall, a Democratic senator from New Mexico, pressed him further: “When you say viral, you are talking about someone intentionally implanting a virus?” he asked.

“That would not be ruled out,” Brown said, “it could be a possibility.”

One potential factor for the health problems the officials said they have ruled out? “Mass hysteria.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

U.K. Embarks On A Ban Of Plastic Microbeads In Rinse-Off Products

British manufacturers can no longer make products that use the tiny bits of plastic known as microbeads.

imagehub88/Getty Images/iStockphoto

hide caption

toggle caption

imagehub88/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A ban on the manufacture of microbeads, those tiny bits of plastic used in some exfoliating cosmetic products, took effect Tuesday in the U.K. The move bars manufacturers from putting them in skin lotions, toothpastes or any other items intended to be rinsed off — and it presages a ban on the sale of such products that will take effect there in July.

Politicians and activists hailed the move, which follows a similar U.S. law signed in 2015, as a welcome step toward diminishing the amount of plastic washed into the ocean.

“The world’s seas and oceans are some of our most valuable natural assets and I am determined we act now to tackle the plastic that devastates our precious marine life,” British Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said in a statement Tuesday.

“Microbeads are entirely unnecessary when there are so many natural alternatives available, and I am delighted that from today cosmetics manufacturers will no longer be able to add this harmful plastic to their rinse-off products.”

At the same time, some cautioned that the celebrations ought to be tempered.

“Unfortunately the ban does not cover a long list of products, such as sun-cream, lipstick and paints — and of course microbeads are only one part of the huge plastic pollution problem we currently face,” Friends of the Earth’s Julian Kirby said, according to the BBC.

“It’s piecemeal,” Kirby added. “These are welcome small steps, but there’s a much bigger picture of plastic pollution from paints, from textiles, to say nothing of bottles and packaging. To tackle it properly, you need a wholesale look at waste provision policy.”

Indeed, the United Nations Environmental Programme laid bare the scale of plastic pollution in the ocean last year:

“Each year, more than 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans, wreaking havoc on marine wildlife, fisheries and tourism, and costing at least $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems. Up to 80 per cent of all litter in our oceans is made of plastic.

“According to some estimates, at the rate we are dumping items such as plastic bottles, bags and cups after a single use, by 2050 oceans will carry more plastic than fish and an estimated 99 per cent of seabirds will have ingested plastic.”

What’s more, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association said last month that much of what’s intended by the ban has already been achieved by a voluntary plan undertaken by the industry.

Because of that plan, which the group says it has pursued since 2015, “the vast majority of plastic microbeads have been removed from products and UK cosmetic manufacturers are already prepared for the ban.”

Still, both politicians and activists embraced the ban — and cast it as prelude to still more measures to combat plastic pollution.

“Microbeads in cosmetics are an avoidable part of the problem, which is why we called for a ban,” Mary Creagh, chairwoman of Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, said in a statement. “This is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Former White House Social Secretaries On The Value Of 'Treating People Well'

Lea Berman, White House social secretary for President George W. Bush, looks over flower arrangements in the State Dining Room before a state dinner for U.S. governors.

Rich Lipski/Washington Post/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Rich Lipski/Washington Post/Getty Images

Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard have organized state dinners and congressional picnics, each serving as White House social secretary for different administrations. Bernard worked for President Obama; Berman for President George W. Bush. And they’ve collaborated on a new book that uses their White House experiences to draw out lessons in how to handle crises, defuse awkward moments and manage expectations. It’s called Treating People Well: The Extraordinary Power Of Civility At Work And In Life.

The book is about “the everyday situations we find ourselves in,” Berman says. “Sometimes it’s an awkward relationship with a co-worker. Sometimes it’s just a difficult situation at home. And what we’re really saying is by treating people well in a very self-interested way, you will cause them to treat you well in return.”


Interview Highlights

On what a social secretary does

Lea Berman: The White House social secretary is responsible for every event that takes place within the grounds of the White House, with the exception of the Oval Office and the press room. So it’s hundreds of events each year, and it’s everything from a two-person lunch in the family residence to a state arrival ceremony, which can be [7,000] or 8,000 people.

On feeling impostor syndrome on the job

Jeremy Bernard: That was difficult in the sense that there was that insecurity, but the excitement of being there overran the fear, for lack of a better word. So I think that part of it was — you play the part.

Berman: What we learned very quickly being at the White House is that everyone coming there is intimidated, they’re nervous, they’re excited. But they also don’t really know what to expect, and it became so much easier for our guests if we made the first move. And there were so many times when we would watch people arrive on the state floor, particularly if it was their first time to the White House, and they look around and they realize that they share this common heritage as Americans with all the people who’ve lived in that house, and it becomes very emotional for them and they get very happy. It’s also a little volatile because people are exuberant, but the social secretaries are there to smooth and soothe.

On White House guests who overindulged

Berman: That was, unfortunately — I don’t want to say common — but not terribly unusual at holiday parties. … [At the White House], there’s one eggnog that is non-alcoholic and then there’s the other eggnog that is strong as can be. And [President Obama] … when he made remarks, would say, “Be careful of the eggnog. It’ll hit you hard later.” And sure enough, there would be someone that it would hit them, and all of a sudden, they start to feel sick, and they don’t want to get sick on someone, so the natural reaction was to aim for one of the Christmas trees. So we would talk about which trees were the most likely to get hit. And, you know, the only thing we could do is kind of play with it.

Jeremy Bernard speaks about the Japanese state dinner in the State Dining Room of the White House in 2015, on the eve of the dinner.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

On Berman’s first advice to Bernard

Berman: I told him not to do any outdoor events without a backup, and he ignored me. … He was lucky — it all worked out.

Bernard: That was the Germany state dinner, my first state dinner … a high stakes one. I was young and foolish. But I remember thinking, “If this goes wrong, I will be the shortest term social secretary ever.” And I looked at the gate, and I thought, “That’s the gate I’ll go running out of.” …

My main advice [to my successor] was to keep it low key. It’s not about you, and you never want to do anything that will embarrass the president or first lady.

Fatma Tanis and Emily Kopp produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Sydnee Monday adapted it for the Web.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Practices Of Triple A Radio Stations Raise Questions

Created as alternatives to the hit-making monoliths of commercial radio, AAA stations have pushed artists like Lorde into the mainstream. Now, the stations are facing pressure to pick tomorrow’s hits.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A commercial radio format that started in the 1990s can still help launch a mainstream success. That format is called AAA – shorthand for adult album alternative. It has helped launch the careers of artists including Norah Jones, Adele and Arcade Fire. We’re going to hear now how the format’s unique ability to break stars is raising questions about where music discovery ends and promotion begins. Allyson McCabe begins her report with M. Ward, an artist who has benefited from AAA.

ALLYSON MCCABE, BYLINE: M. Ward’s music is a mix of several genres, including folk, country, blues and rock.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “CHINESE TRANSLATION”)

M WARD: (Singing) I sailed a wild, wild sea, climbed up the tall, tall mountain.

MCCABE: Ward says he discovered music through radio.

WARD: I grew up right outside of Los Angeles, and so we got every kind of station that you can imagine, all these different music genres.

MCCABE: Ward says he owes a lot of his success to AAA – a format that harkens back to the radio he grew up with. Trina Tombrink, who is now vice president of promotion and artist development at Sony’s RED music division, describes the early days of AAA this way.

TRINA TOMBRINK: A word that comes to mind is crunchy. A lot of people used to say it’s the Birkenstock format, the stoner format. It wasn’t as hit-oriented back then. You could actually get a record played that wasn’t necessarily your traditional radio hit.

MCCABE: Yet AAA helped break artists who went onto the mainstream, from Dave Matthews to The Black Keys to Lorde.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “ROYALS”)

LORDE: (Singing) And we’ll never be royals, royals. It don’t run in our blood.

MCCABE: “Royals” was already a hit in Lorde’s native New Zealand, but Tombrink used AAA to test market the song in the U.S.

TOMBRINK: There was always the plan that we would cross it to pop. And we also knew that there were at least two other songs on the album that were even more pop friendly.

MCCABE: “Royals” debuted on Billboard’s AAA chart within a week of its U.S. release. Less than a month later, the song crossed over to the Hot 100, eventually reaching number one. Radio consultant Paul Marszalek says this kind of leap can make a huge difference in an artist’s career.

PAUL MARSZALEK: The entire universe of the AAA audience is in the low millions. You start going to the top 40, and you’re now into tens of millions.

MCCABE: And yet because it’s positioned as a tastemaker, AAA gets a lot of attention from record labels, says Sony’s Tombrink.

TOMBRINK: There’s probably more music serviced to AAA than I would think any other format.

MCCABE: There are now more than 100 AAA stations nationwide, evenly split between commercial and noncommercial. Kevin Rutherford, a chart manager at Billboard, keeps an eye on what they’re playing and how often. He says he counts all plays equally, no matter the size of the market or the time of day.

KEVIN RUTHERFORD: So even if a song gets played once in Akron, gets played once in Los Angeles, it has the same weight – doesn’t matter whether it’s 3 a.m. or 3 p.m.

MARSZALEK: It can be a consensus by a lot of stations or it can be a couple of stations playing it really, really heavy. That’s where you sort of open the door to potential shenanigans.

MCCABE: Consultant Paul Marszalek says playing a song in the middle of the night to rack up spins that will push it up the chart is rare. But anyone with access to the monitoring data he sees can tell when a song is getting a boost.

MARSZALEK: What you can immediately see here is several stations that are not playing it any time that the sun is up. There is no audience or very little audience, a lot of overnight spins, not a great reputation, and now I know that I’ve got a record here that’s the equivalent of something that fell off the back of a truck.

MCCABE: Noncommercial stations are less likely to do that, says Jim McGuinn, program director at Minnesota Public Radio’s KCMP The Current.

JIM MCGUINN: The noncommercial stations are much more freewheeling, much more willing to take chances and play a wider variety of sounds and styles and dig a little deeper into albums and artists.

MCCABE: But they can’t afford to ignore the competition. NPR has just launched Slingshot, an effort among 18 noncommercial AAA stations to collectively raise the profile of artists they deem worthy of support. And everyone’s looking over their shoulders at which musicians are trending online. Mat Bates, program director at San Francisco’s commercial KFOG, says he has to pay attention to what’s popular.

MAT BATES: We aim to mirror the interests of our audience rather than dictate to them what they should be interested in.

MCCABE: Radio has always tread the line between new music discovery and label-driven promotion. But there are those who still cling to the idea that AAA should be more than an alternative top 40, like musician M. Ward.

WARD: My vision of music is wrapped up in those memories of you switched the dial and it becomes something else entirely.

MCCABE: For NPR News, I’m Allyson McCabe.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “RADIO CAMPAIGN”)

WARD: (Singing) And now I’m calling out your name on this radio campaign…

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

For The Men #MeToo Has Toppled, Redemption Will Take More Than An Apology

Comedian Louis C.K. performs in New York on Nov. 5, 2014. C.K. has admitted to masturbating in front of women without their consent.

Monica Schipper/Getty Images for New York Comedy Festival

hide caption

toggle caption

Monica Schipper/Getty Images for New York Comedy Festival

Dozens of powerful men, including two at NPR, have lost their jobs and reputations in the cultural reckoning that is the #MeToo movement. Clearly, there’s tremendous momentum behind it, but where does it go from here? Do those men have a shot at redemption?

For those who can afford it, redemption can be a legal process. Los Angeles attorney Andrew Brettler represents several men accused of sexual misconduct. He says, these days, such allegations are “just as bad and damaging as a conviction.”

Brettler says, in some cases, the best response may be to lay low. “Sometimes the best defense is to not do anything, is to accept the punishment or whatever decision it is that the company made and stay quiet and better yourself as a person. Make whatever apologies need to be made, privately.”

Like Brettler, Hanna Stotland spends a lot of time helping people accused of sexual misconduct. She’s a college admissions counselor, and many of her clients are men who’ve either been expelled from or left universities because of sexual misconduct allegations. “A big part of what I do is help them decide what’s the right framework for them to talk about it,” Stotland says. “This is a narrative of their crisis and recovery.”

She explains some of the reasons sexual misconduct allegations can affect a college application: “The first is that they’re scary; nobody wants to bring a predator into their community. A second reason is that there’s a perception … that this sort of misconduct as compared to any other kind of misconduct … has to do with something fundamentally, unchangeably wrong with you. And whether that’s true or not, it’s something that everybody who’s accused of this particular set of misbehavior has to cope with.”

For Stotland’s students, it’s about finding a university with “sympathetic ears.” Sometimes, that takes years, but so far all the students Stotland has worked with have been able to graduate. “It’s quite an odyssey,” she says, “but if you get everything else right, you can come back from this.”

Stotland sees a lot of parallels between her job and what’s happening in the public sphere. She believes there are lessons for her students in all the high-profile cases playing out in the media. Take comedian Louis C.K., who admitted to masturbating in front of women without their consent. Stotland says, “The most important, right thing he said was the allegations are true. That is the single most important thing that you can say. If they’re true, you need to say that they’re true.”

But she acknowledges an apology is only the beginning. After all, it was after C.K. confessed that companies severed ties with him.

Toronto-based filmmaker Attiya Khan has spent years helping victims of domestic abuse. She’s concerned that when a person is fired for sexual misconduct, they become someone else’s problem, rather than being part of a solution. “We’re getting rid of somebody, but then where do they go?” she asks.

Khan herself is a survivor of domestic violence. When she was a teenager, she had a physically abusive boyfriend. She says, “I had been coping with the trauma from his abuse for over 20 years, and so I thought that maybe it was possible that he still carried, you know, some of the weight of what he did to me. And I really wanted to hear about that. But I also, more importantly, I really wanted the opportunity to tell him exactly what he did to me in detail.”

Khan asked her ex-boyfriend if he’d be willing to sit down with her and a therapist and let her film their conversations. He agreed, and she included those videos in her 2017 film, A Better Man. The film shows Khan sitting next to her abuser, who she refers to only as Steve, and telling her story to a therapist in excruciating detail.

“I remember being dragged to the bed and, you know, hit more,” she says in the film.

“How do you mean ‘hit’?” the therapist asks.

“Punched … in the face.”

Khan says those conversations were a critical part of her healing process. “To have him listen to me was almost the most important thing for me. And it was part of him being accountable and taking responsibility. It was so satisfying … to have the person who hurt you sit there and listen to you and not blame you for it and admit to what they did, and to remember some of the abuse. Even though Steve didn’t remember a lot of it in our first conversations, he started to remember.”

It’s a process known as restorative justice, when victims and offenders come together, with mediation, to repair the harm that’s been done. And writer Stephanie Cassatly thinks about it a lot. In 1980, Cassatly’s mother was murdered while she was working as a cashier at a convenience store in New Orleans. Her mother’s killer spent the rest of his life at Louisiana’s Angola prison. But to Cassatly, sometimes it felt like she was also in prison.

“It was 20 years of me carrying around, you know, just this weight of revenge and accusations,” she says. “And, you know, the crime had happened but it was like it kept happening to me over and over and over again. Until I took a much deeper look at what was going on in my life and what I could do to regain power.”

Cassatly began to explore the possibility of forgiving her mother’s killer. She says, “The thought of forgiveness to me felt like I was sort of giving up a limb, and then maybe I might regret it later, or that I was letting him off the hook.”

But as she learned more about restorative justice, her definition of forgiveness changed. She says, “My working definition, basically, for forgiveness is that it no longer wishes ill or seeks revenges on the person who hurt us, and that it basically untethers us from them and enables us to have a different future from the past.” (Cassatly wrote a book about her experience called Notice of Release: A Daughter’s Journey to Forgive Her Mother’s Killer.)

When it comes to the #MeToo movement, Cassatly sees restorative justice as a possible way forward. “I think we’re in the bomb-throwing stage of it still,” she says. “We’re not even sure where this is going, and I think it’s going to take some time for us to get any resolution. And so what I’m realizing about a lot of these women is that they have to get their power back.”

She and Attiya Khan agree that’s going to take a very long time. Khan says, “A lot of men who have harmed women are coming forward very quickly after its becoming public that they’ve hurt someone, and they’re saying sorry. It needs to be more than that, and you need to make sure that the people who have been harmed want your apology. And you need to ask them, like, ‘What else is it that you need from me? How can I help you heal after I’ve wronged you?’ That’s the part that’s missing.”

The men called out by the #MeToo movement might not be there yet. After all, it takes courage to be held accountable.

Rose Friedman and Andrew Limbong edited and produced this story for broadcast. Nicole Cohen adapted it for the Web.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Shelters Reach Capacity In Cold Weather As Homeless Population Rises

A man rests on top of a subway vent grate as a tourist walks past in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds /AFP/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds /AFP/Getty Images

Homeless shelters across the country are being strained by frigid weather and a population of people who are homeless that is up for the first time since 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Despite “code blue” policies that are designed to bring more homeless people inside during freezing temperatures, shelters are reaching capacity and being forced to turn people away, says Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

“Thirty-five percent of people who are homeless are not sheltered,” she tells Here & Now’s Robin Young. “We have about 550,000 homeless people but only about 275,000 emergency beds. So this is something that causes issues when we have these kind of serious cold snaps.”

Even if there is an available bed, sometimes people face barriers to entry such as ID-requirements, health issues or if they’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Roman says.

Others would rather stay on the streets than go to a shelter because they can be dangerous places riddled with drugs, theft and bedbugs. As a result, the National Coalition for the Homeless estimates nearly 700 people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness die from hypothermia each year.

“Shelters really do need to lower their barriers, and we need to support them to do that so that there is a bed that’s appropriate for every person,” Roman says. “We just cannot be leaving people on the streets when it’s cold or when it’s not cold.”

But that’s exactly what happens across the country, and when ordinary citizens or activists try to help by opening their own homes to people who are homeless, like Greg Schiller of Elgin, Ill., they are told by city officials to shut down.

Schiller, who has worked with the suburban Chicago-area homeless community for years, says he started hosting about 10 to 15 people in his basement — setting up cots, sleeping bags and a portable toilet outside — because the main homeless shelter isn’t always open.

“We have two main homeless shelters, and then we have a crisis center that’s for typically for women and children,” he tells Young. “The main shelter — and I believe it’s because of their funding and their insurance — they’ve got some restrictions that will prohibit people from entering,” such as residency requirements, intoxication and mental illness.

City officials told Schiller it was unlawful to create a makeshift homeless shelter inside his home, claiming it was a zoning and public safety issue, Schiller says. The two sides are now working together to combat the issue.

“They do realize that there is a gap, and subsequently because of this gap people are being left out on the street, and they want me to work with them for that change,” he says.

Despite the current strength of the U.S. economy, homelessness is rising in places with inflated housing prices, especially in big cities on the West Coast, Roman says.

“Homelessness is really driven by the cost of affordable housing primarily, and housing costs are way up relative to incomes for poor people,” she says.

Schiller says he will continue working with city officials to help ensure people aren’t left out in the cold. He says it’s important to be patient with people who are homeless in order to help them recover.

“Meet them where they’re at and stay with them,” he says. “Develop a relationship with them — a real relationship. Take a vested interest in that individual and walk them, however slowly they need to go, toward recovery.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Steve Bannon Out At Breitbart News

Former White House political strategist Steve K. Bannon has stepped down from Breitbart News Network, where he served as Executive Chairman since 2012.

Making the announcement that had been widely rumored and anticipated since Trump was quoted in a book critical of President Trump, Breitbart CEO Larry Solov said, “Steve is a valued part of our legacy, and we will always be grateful for his contributions, and what he has helped us to accomplish.”

“I’m proud of what the Breitbart team has accomplished in so short a period of time in building out a world-class news platform,” said Bannon.

This story will be updated.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Trump Calls For 'Bill Of Love' Allowing DACA Recipients To Remain

President Trump says he is prepared to “take the heat” for a compromise immigration deal.

Evan Vucci/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump told a bipartisan group of lawmakers that he wants a bill to allow young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally to remain, saying such a measure should be “a bipartisan bill of love,” and that “we can do it.”

Trump also said he was open to a larger measure overhauling immigration laws, but that it made most sense to first settle the Obama-era Deferred Action On Childhood Arrivals issue, also known as DACA. Authority allowing for the so-called DREAMers covered by the measure to remain in the country expires March 5.

The president met with lawmakers for nearly an hour, and the session was unusual in that a small pool of reporters was allowed to remain for the duration, an apparent effort to rebut one of the premises of the best-selling book Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House, which portrays the president as in over his head and possibly mentally unfit for office.

Trump talked about how the current system in Congress doesn’t lend itself to getting anything done. The president said there was so much anger and hostility in Congress that lawmakers should consider bringing back earmarks, the pork-barrel spending that GOP leaders outlawed, seen by many as one of the prime components of the “swamp” Trump campaigned against.

As to what sort of immigration legislation he would approve, Trump said he was reliant on lawmakers, and that even if they produced legislation he wasn’t “in love with,” he’d still support it. He also said he would take the heat for both Republicans and Democrats if they get criticism over a compromise immigration measure, adding that his “whole life has been heat,” and that to a certain extent he prefers it that way.

In remarks afterward, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, threw cold water on the idea of a standalone DACA bill, saying Democrats have “little faith” that the measure will win approval unless it is attached to a must-pass bill. Schumer wants DACA legislation attached to a spending bill needed to keep the government open.

The conservative Club for Growth immediately criticized the possibility of again allowing special-interest earmarks.

“If Republicans bring back earmarks, then it virtually guarantees that they will lose the House,” said the the group’s president, David McIntosh. Earmarks are an issue John McCain campaigned on and against as the Republican nominee in the 2008 presidential election. He largely won the argument in Washington, leading to the practice’s retirement.

The president also addressed the issue of a border wall with Mexico, saying the U.S. needs one “in certain areas obviously that aren’t protected by nature” and where existing fences are in bad shape and need to be fixed or rebuilt.

But Trump also said, “There are large areas where you don’t need a wall.”

And on the potential presidential candidacy of Oprah Winfrey, Trump said, “Yeah, I’ll beat Oprah. Oprah would be a lot of fun. I know her very well. You know I did one of her last shows.”

He added, “I like Oprah; I don’t think she’s gonna run.”

Speaking of one of her last shows, this was Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. on Winfrey’s show in 2009:

YouTube

Let’s block ads! (Why?)