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In Davos, Trump hails U.S. ‘economic boom,’ downplays climate crisis

As his Senate impeachment trial begins, President Trump is meeting with other world leaders, economic scholars and business moguls in Davos, Switzerland, as part of the World Economic Forum. In an address there, Trump hailed a U.S. economic "boom" and said the outlook is strong for a trade deal with Europe. But not all attendees shared his optimism. Special correspondent Ryan Chilcote reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    While the impeachment trial dominates the spotlight in Washington, the president turns his focus to touting the American economy.

    He flew to Europe for the annual meeting of the world's business and economic elite.

    "NewsHour" special correspondent Ryan Chilcote reports from Davos, Switzerland.

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    High in the Alps and 10 months away from the election, the president took his campaign to Davos, Switzerland.

  • Question:

    Mr. President, with your trial now getting under way, why is it better to be here in Davos than in Washington, D.C.?

  • President Donald Trump:

    Well, we're here meeting with world leaders, the biggest, most important people in the world.

    And we're bringing back tremendous business to the United States. And they're all here to see. The other is just a hoax. It's the witch-hunt that has been going on for years. And it's — frankly, it's disgraceful.

    But we look forward to being here.

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    President Trump addressed just over 1,000 of the World Economic Forum's delegates.

  • President Donald Trump:

    When I spoke at this forum two years ago, I told you that we had launched the great American comeback. Today, I'm proud to declare that the United States is in the midst of an economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen before.

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    Mr. Trump spent most of his speech touting his administration's economic achievements, arguing they're bringing about a blue-collar revolution.

  • President Donald Trump:

    In just three years in my administration, 3.5 million people have joined the work force; 10 million people have been lifted off welfare in less than three years.

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    Before the president arrived today, news crews were already on the prowl, but not for him.

    Making her second appearance at the World Economic Forum, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg stole some of the limelight today, warning participants, not much has changed since she addressed them last year.

  • Greta Thunberg:

    Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else.

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    In his speech, President Trump appeared to take aim at the 17-year-old.

  • President Donald Trump:

    To embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    This is the 50th year the world's rich and powerful have gathered for the World Economic Forum in Davos. Most of them, by definition, are globalists, supporters of free trade.

    Today, the president met and discussed trade with three of them from Pakistan, Switzerland and the European Union, with whom the president said he's confident he can strike another deal.

    If he doesn't, he said he will look at slapping tariffs on European cars.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We expect to be able to make a deal with Europe.

    The European Union, we met with, as you know. And we had a very good talk. But if we're unable to make a deal, we will have to do something, because we have been treated very badly as a country for many, many years on trade.

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    The United States' trade truce with China last week relieved many here, but they find the prospect of more trade wars unsettling.

    Some, like Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, also disagreed with the president's portrayal of the economy.

  • Joseph Stiglitz:

    While the unemployment rate is low, the employment rate, the fraction of the working age population that is actually working, is much lower than here in Europe.

    So, the mischaracterization of the state of the American economy and how well the typical American is doing was very strong, stark. And given all that, it's not a surprise.

    I have been going to Davos for 25 years. This was the most lukewarm reception to a major public figure that I have ever seen.

  • Ryan Chilcote:

    And in an unusual twist today, a local newspaper reported, Swiss officials had uncovered an apparent spying operation by two Russians posing as plumbers in Davos, who they suspect intended to bug the forum. Russia called the allegations absurd.

    When the president returns to the World Economic Forum tomorrow, reminders of his troubles back home won't be far away. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, who the president is accused of trying to pressure into providing dirt on former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden, will also be here.

    Ryan Chilcote, for the "PBS NewsHour," in Davos, Switzerland.

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