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Trump defends China trade policy amid economic worries

President Trump on Tuesday acknowledged that he is considering cutting taxes, but said the idea is not in response to recession fears. During an Oval Office meeting with the president of Romania, Trump touted the strength of the economy and said that he was confronting China on its trade policies because "somebody had to." Yamiche Alcindor joins John Yang to discuss the White House’s thinking.

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  • John Yang:

    President Trump continues to tout a strong economy and dismiss fears of a potential recession.

    In the Oval Office this afternoon, the president was asked if his trade policies were having a negative impact on the U.S. economy.

  • President Donald Trump:

    So I am doing this whether it's good or bad for your statement about, oh, will we fall into a recession for two months, OK? The fact is, somebody had to take China on. My life would be a lot easier if I didn't take China on. But I like that doing it because I have to do it.

  • John Yang:

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor is here.

    So the president said that the economy's doing great. But he's also thinking about ways of boosting it a little bit, and then seemed to acknowledge that his own trade policies may bring a recession, a short one.

    What's going on?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The economy has been the shining example that President Trump has been able to point to amid scandals and controversies. He's been able to say, look, even though you don't like my rhetoric or my racist tweets or maybe women alleging that I sexually assaulted them, at least the economy is doing well.

    What is happening now is there are signs the economy could be slowing, and that's making President Trump and Republicans very, very worried. And, as a result, he's essentially making the case, China made me do all this. These farmers that are frustrated in the Midwest because their markets have gone away as the trade war with China has dragged on, it's not my fault. It's that China made me do this.

    So, I think that they're — the Republican Party is really trying to find a message that is going to help them if there is a recession. Also, for Republican lawmakers, they have been able to point to the economy and say, I know I don't like President Trump's racist tweets, or maybe I don't like the fact that he separated thousands of immigrant families, but, again, the economy is doing well, so we should all just think that everything is going well.

    That's starting to crumble. So this is the president trying to really save his presidency and save face, essentially.

  • John Yang:

    Another topic that came up in this conversation in the Oval Office was his stand on background checks, gun control.

    Let's take a listen to what he said.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We have very, very strong background checks right now. But we have sort of missing areas and areas that don't complete the whole circle. And we're looking at different things.

    And I have to tell you that it is a mental problem. And I have said it 100 times. It's not the gun that pulls the trigger. It's the person that pulls the trigger.

  • John Yang:

    Immediately after El Paso and Dayton, he seemed to be saying that he expected the Senate to act or Congress to act on stricter gun control. But now he seems to be backing off?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    There's no question President Trump has completely pulled back his support for background checks.

    And it comes down to three letters, NRA. That group has had a stronghold on Republicans. They have backed President Trump.

    And now we at the "PBS NewsHour" can confirm the president called Wayne LaPierre, the head of NRA this afternoon, and told him universal background checks are completely off the table.

    That's a complete 180 from what the president was saying just two weeks ago. He said that there would be tremendous support for commonsense background checks. That's gone away now.

    And the president essentially is now using talking points from the NRA. He said that there's a slippery slope when it comes to gun legislation, and that if they start messing with guns — with background checks, Democrats might take away the Second Amendment.

    On the White House lawn just a few weeks ago, he said this isn't about the NRA or Republicans or Democrats.

    And that's just completely changed. So I think it's going to be very interesting once Congress comes back to see what the president does. But we have a pretty clear sign. And that is that the NRA is on the phone with the White House, and they are completely changing their tone.

  • John Yang:

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, thank you very much.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:


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