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White House Under Fire Over Rob Porter


The president started his day by signing a spending bill that could keep the government safe from shutdown threats for more than a year. And after another serious tumble on Wall Street on Thursday, the markets opened higher this morning. These developments could give the Trump administration a break from what had been a very tough news cycle. And let's bring in NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So President Trump was tweeting before 9 a.m. Washington time this morning with this - (reading) just signed bill. Our military will now be stronger than ever before. We love and need our military and gave them everything and more - first time this has happened in a long time. Also means jobs, jobs, jobs.

That sounds very exuberant. Does this mean - I mean, the spending bill was - you know, in the Senate, at least, it was a bipartisan deal. Is this contentious moment over?

HORSLEY: It could be, but there are no guarantees. Congress still has to pass another spending authorization in just six weeks from now. And in the meantime, the Senate at least - and perhaps the House - will be wrestling with the thorny issue of immigration. So there's plenty of room for more contention ahead.

GREENE: Contentions still coming - yeah, and a lot of those difficult questions about immigration have not been worked out yet. Well, the stock market is up this morning. And I know it's a long day still ahead, but yesterday, it plunged another thousand points and the White House spokesman, Raj Shah, repeated the administration's message after yesterday that the overall economy is still doing OK.


RAJ SHAH: Well, the president, like the rest of the White House, is concerned about long-term economic indicators and factors. And the fundamentals, in terms of the long term, are very strong.

GREENE: Very strong - that seems to be what the White House wants to continue stressing even amid this turmoil on Wall Street.

HORSLEY: And there are certainly strong signals, especially about the labor market. A week ago, we got a very solid jobs report, showing unemployment hovering at a 17-year low, the strongest wage gains in nearly nine years. All of those things are good for workers. But it's precisely that good news that is spooking investors who are worried the Federal Reserve might step in and try to hit the brakes by raising interest rates more sharply. And those interest rate fears are maybe only exacerbated by this new budget deal that's going to add hundreds of billions of dollars to the federal deficit on top of the tax cut which cut into government revenues.

GREENE: And that was what some of the conservatives, especially in the House, were very worried about with this budget deal. Let me just turn to another topic that the White House spokesman was really grilled about at yesterday's briefing, and that's how the White House has been dealing with these allegations of domestic violence against one of the president's top aides, Rob Porter. Can you just remind us who he is and what he's accused of here?

HORSLEY: He was the staff secretary, which is a very important role. He controlled the paperwork going to the president's desk. But it wasn't a very public role. Porter operated mostly behind the scenes until about a week ago when the British newspaper the Daily Mail published a story saying Porter had begun a romantic relationship with Hope Hicks, the tabloid-friendly White House communications director. So suddenly, the low-key staff secretary was in the spotlight, and a few days later, the Daily Mail followed up with a story saying two of Porter's ex-wives had accused him of domestic violence.

GREENE: And how is the White House responding to all this?

HORSLEY: Well, at first, we saw a vigorous defense of Porter. The chief of staff, John Kelly, called him a man of true integrity. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president still had full confidence in his abilities and performance. But once a photograph surfaced showing one of Porter's ex-wives with a black eye, the White House started to change its tune. And by yesterday morning, Porter was out the door. He'd cleaned out his desk, and Kelly had issued a new statement saying domestic violence has no place in our society.

GREENE: OK. NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley - covering a lot of topics for us this morning, Scott. Thanks.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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