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News Brief: Government Shutdown Averted, Duterte Invited To White House

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

One big piece of news from Washington is that Washington is still open for business this morning.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yes, good news. All right, so it's a strange kind of win for the Trump administration. We're also going to talk about a strange kind of invitation. First, that win - Congress reached a last-minute budget deal yesterday to fund the government and avoid a shutdown. That's good for Americans, unclear if you can really count that as a victory, though, for Congress. Meanwhile, to that strange invitation, President Trump made a phone call to President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.

He's an authoritarian leader who has been accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of drugs - drug suspects in the Philippines. So this call was supposed to be pretty routine. But it ended with President Trump inviting Duterte to come visit him in Washington, D.C., the administration already getting some pushback on this.

GREENE: All right, let's bring in NPR's Scott Detrow, who is often here with us early in the morning, and The Washington Post's Ishaan Tharoor. Thank you both for coming in.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Sure thing.

ISHAAN THAROOR: Good morning.

GREENE: Hey, Scott, let's start with this spending deal struck last night. The federal government's going to keep running. What exactly was in this deal? Is it actually a bipartisan deal?

DETROW: Yeah, it actually is. Democrats were needed to pass this. They were a key player in negotiations. So that's kind of rare at the moment. But I think what's not in the deal is probably the bigger story. And there's no money for President Trump's proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. He's insistent that will still happen. Here he was in Pennsylvania over the weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We need the wall. And we will build the wall as sure as you are standing there tonight. We need the wall.

GREENE: In case anyone had any doubt about his commitment to the wall.

DETROW: Yeah, but, you know, this was the first key opportunity to push for that funding. And Trump backed off and did not end up demanding that. So it's unclear when that could happen. Democrats, happy about that - they're happy about pushing back on funding cuts for a lot of things. Trump did get some wins from this deal, including a big increase in military spending.

GREENE: OK. Well, we have news then from the White House, as Rachel mentioned, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines coming for a visit. He has led this murderous anti-drug campaign, extrajudicial killings. Ishaan Tharoor, you have a story in this morning's Washington Post about this. Why does President Trump want to see him?

THAROOR: Well, it's - President Duterte, as you said, came to power last year, elected as a law-and-order populist, not unlike President Trump. And as you said, he's embarked on this astonishing killing spree, a drug war that has seen around 8,000 deaths in the past 10 months, and the riling up of vigilante death squads by the president himself.

And there are various reasons why Trump may want to reach out to Duterte, not least because Duterte was really provoked - really provoked to push towards China after he was condemned by various leaders in the West for these killings. And Trump may also see in Duterte a kind of like-minded strongman that, you know, talks tough and acts tough.

GREENE: Like-minded strongman - but you're saying there's important diplomacy going on here, that Trump might see the Philippines as very important dealing with things in Asia, like North Korea and stuff like that?

THAROOR: Well, Duterte, not unlike Trump again, has championed this kind of quote, unquote, "independent foreign policy" that has concerned a lot of people in the region. The Philippines, of course, is a historic and longstanding ally of the United States. But under Duterte, he's been cozying up a lot to China. He even went to Beijing and said, I realign myself with your ideological flow. And Trump and the White House may very genuinely want to bring the - Manila back into line. But at the same time, it's a bit questionable to see - to ask why the Philippines is that necessary in any kind of North Korean solution. There are other countries that are much more important.

MARTIN: You know, it's worth...

GREENE: OK, and...

MARTIN: Go ahead.

GREENE: Go ahead, Rachel.

MARTIN: Well, I was just going to say, it's worth noting Barack Obama was castigated for reaching out to adversaries. Remember he was given a hard time for reaching out to the Castro regime, the leadership in Iran. It is always delicate to decide, you know, do we bring these complicated leaders into the tent so we can try to convince them to move our way on one policy initiative or another.

And if you bring them in, though, then what does that mean? Are you - are you justifying their behavior? Are you giving them cover, making them legitimate? So it's going to be interesting to watch how the administration tries to frame this particular invitation at the press briefing today.

GREENE: Hey, Scott Detrow, thanks for coming in and talking about that funding with us. We appreciate you waking up early for us all the time.

DETROW: Thanks, David.

GREENE: Ishaan, stay with us if you can because there's some pretty curious news in Turkey we want to talk to you about.

MARTIN: Yeah, so Turkey - there's a few things that are happening there. Over the weekend, Turkey's government fired nearly 4,000 public officials. This is the second major purge since the constitutional referendum that granted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan broad new powers. Also, Turkish Internet users found they no longer have access to Wikipedia, which is kind of curious. And what might seem like the most puzzling of all moves, an official decree banning TV dating shows.

GREENE: TV dating shows. Ishaan, why - I mean, they're very popular, these matchmaking reality shows in Turkey, right? Why - why crack down on them?

THAROOR: Well, part of this - there's clearly an element here that's part of the right-wing, religious nationalism of Erdogan's ruling party, that they are a conservative, Islamic - Islamic-aligned party. And these dating shows, of course, upset their idea of family values. But there's been a lot of pushback on these shows from the left as well. Feminists are up in arms about it as well. So it's not entirely a kind of ideological issue. The bigger picture here is that Erdogan and his government over the past year have been shutting down all sorts of things, from TV shows to medical facilities to hospitals to universities.

It goes - the list goes on and on, and it's quite staggering the extent of the purge. And you're seeing here a government that, you know - as you mentioned, the constitutional referendum - there was this hope that once Erdogan amassed greater powers, he would act more of a Democrat, act more of a kind of benign, magnanimous figure. But that's clearly not the case.

GREENE: Doesn't seem like that's happening so far. So is this all about him just showing who's in charge of the country?

THAROOR: Yes, there's that. I think there's also legitimate concerns about these shows that you shouldn't necessarily discount. And there's been a big petition campaign in the country against these shows. It's garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures, I believe. So it's not entirely a megalomaniacal agenda here. But...

GREENE: (Laughter) Not entirely megalomaniacal, but, I mean - and I guess it's - I mean, Donald Trump - I mean, we talked about his relationship, bringing Duterte of the Philippines to the White House. He's had some good things to say about Erdogan, despite what we're seeing in Turkey.

THAROOR: That's correct. He is - was the first Western leader to congratulate Erdogan on the referendum, even while the European Union was calling for an investigation into the vote, which had a lot of irregularities with it. And at the same time, you know, Donald Trump has invited other strongmen to the White House, including Egyptian President el-Sisi.

MARTIN: So those invitations continue because President Trump is going to be seeing Erdogan. He invited President Erdogan to the White House May 16. So again, we're going to see how he walks this line. The U.S. absolutely needs Turkey in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. And so that's why the administration's making this calculation - better to bring him in than leave him out in the cold.

GREENE: Ishaan Tharoor of The Washington Post, thanks for chatting this morning.

THAROOR: Thank you.

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GREENE: So Rachel, in France, we're going to see people out on the streets, both celebrating, protesting, a lot of reasons to be out there today.

MARTIN: Yeah. So it's International Workers' Day all across Europe. It is also the day that the National Front, which is France's far-right party - it's the day that this organization holds its annual celebration. So naturally, protests are planned. Of course, we're just a week out from France's presidential runoff, which is pitting Marine Le Pen of the National Front against center - left-of-center Emmanuel Macron.

GREENE: OK, and NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is covering that campaign and is in France. Hey, Eleanor.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, guys, how are you?

GREENE: We're good. How are things there? I mean, you're having hundreds of protests planned around the country. As you're talking to people, what exactly is motivating them?

BEARDSLEY: Well, first of all, this, as you said, is the International Workers' Day. So the first tradition today is that you offer a lily of the valley, a little piece of lily of the valley to someone. So there's flower sales all over the streets.

GREENE: That sounds so lovely.

BEARDSLEY: It is. It really is. And then you also have - it's a traditional day for workers - not so much to protest, but just to go out and march in the streets. And this year, the unions are, of course, calling on people to come out and march and reject Marine Le Pen, far right leader Marine Le Pen. However, they're not exactly endorsing her opponent, Emmanuel Macron. In fact, part of - half the unions do not support him. You know, he's - he says he's progressive, centrist. He supports the European Union. They say he is too capitalist, too free-market. And they can't support him.

And so this year, there are a lot of people who don't want to support either candidate. And that's worrying because while Macron has an advantage - that's worrying to people who don't want to see Le Pen in power - if there's a big abstention rate, or people cast what are known as blank ballots, that could really help Le Pen. And I spoke with 65-year-old Parisian Philippe Gibert (ph) about this year's race. And here's what he said.

PHILIPPE GIBERT: I'm afraid because for the first time, we have to consider that the extreme right party could be at the power. That's frighten (ph) me. We still have hope that Macron will be the next president. But we cannot avoid to consider that Le Pen has a chance.

GREENE: Eleanor, Marine Le Pen has a chance, that man is saying.

BEARDSLEY: Yes.

GREENE: I mean, Marine Le Pen is making a real appeal to a lot of French voters right now.

BEARDSLEY: Yes, she absolutely is. She's also softening some of her harder stances. You know, as it turns out, the French actually like the euro currency. And she's toned that down. She says, we're not going to leave it immediately. This will be something in the future, and we'll let, you know, multinational companies still use it, you know. And this weekend, she made an alliance with a center - very small patriotic party, but considered part of the political mainstream. This is big because it's the first time she's gotten support from a mainstream party. She looks more centrist, more palatable to a lot of voters.

GREENE: And more like she might have a chance, even though the polls don't suggest that so much so at this moment. That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in France. Eleanor, thanks.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.