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Trump Spends Week In Listening Sessions, Bill Signings And Executive Orders

Mar 31, 2017
Originally published on March 31, 2017 4:52 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Seventy-one days into Donald Trump's presidency, it's safe to say things haven't gone as planned for anyone. This week dominated by headlines about Russia is just the latest proof, as NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Plan A would have had the Senate voting this week on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, but that ambitious plan crashed and burned a week ago when Republicans couldn't pull together the votes they needed to get the bill out of the House. So the Trump White House moved on to things they could control - setting up a week of listening sessions, bill signings and executive orders. It's what the Obama administration used to call governing with a pen and a phone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: My administration is putting an end to the war on coal. We're going to have clean coal, really clean coal. With today's executive action, I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy.

KEITH: That was Trump on Tuesday signing an executive order to start the process of rolling back environmental regulations. He also created an Office of American Innovation, a commission to take on the opioid crisis and signed two executive orders on trade.

But that was all overshadowed by Russia and the committees investigating its interference in the 2016 campaign and possible coordination with Trump associates, most notably the revelation Thursday that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was offering to speak to the intelligence committees under the right circumstances. He had reportedly sought immunity and, according to a statement from his lawyer, had, quote, "a story to tell."

President Trump took to Twitter to offer his support for Flynn, saying he should ask for immunity and suggesting the investigations are a witch hunt. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted the president isn't concerned about what Flynn would tell investigators.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

SEAN SPICER: I've talked to the president about this. I think what he...

MAJOR GARRETT: You have.

SPICER: Yes. And the president's very clear that he wants Mike Flynn to go and be completely open and transparent with the committee. And whatever it takes to do that, he is supportive of.

GARRETT: Even if he doesn't obtain immunity?

SPICER: He wants him to - I mean I don't - again, I want to be clear. He wants him to do what is necessary to go out there and talk to the committees of jurisdiction to get this matter behind us.

KEITH: As for getting this behind them, the White House has struggled, and big legislative achievements seem unlikely to provide relief any time soon. At first, after the failure of the health bill, Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan said they were moving on to tax reform. Then the next steps got more muddy as both talked about reviving the Obamacare repeal or maybe moving on to infrastructure, too, or instead. Thursday, Spicer struggled to describe what happens next.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

SPICER: Some things can happen sooner than others because of the legislative calendar. Some things are going to take longer because of both the legislative calendar and because of the number of individuals involved and the complexity of the situation. But there's a lot of things that can be moving at once.

KEITH: But how they move and who will support them wasn't all that clear as President Trump turned this week to Twitter to attack members of his own party for not falling in line. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.