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Politics & Government

Donald Trump's Administration Has Hit The Ground Running

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In his first days in office, President Trump is doing some things that any Republican president would do. He's also doing things that only Donald Trump would do. Let's hear some of both from NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, who's covering the White House and is there this morning. Hi, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi. Good morning.

INSKEEP: What's something that any Republican president would do that he's doing?

KEITH: Well, a - later this morning, expected around 11 a.m., I can confirm from someone at the White House that Donald Trump will sign some executive orders that will fast-track the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline. Those are two controversial projects that the Obama administration essentially blocked, and now they will move ahead. This is - was a cause celebre for many Republicans, also a cause celebre for environmentalists, but moving forward under a Trump administration.

INSKEEP: I want to make sure I understand this. When you say fast-track, that means the Dakota Access pipeline, which many people protested just last December and President Obama finally stopped in one of his last acts in office, that fast-track means - what? It can go ahead or - what happens exactly?

KEITH: Well, the mechanism isn't entirely clear at this point because we don't have the language. But one possibility is that the State Department was reviewing both of these projects because of an executive order that was signed during the Bush administration saying that energy projects that crossed national borders required State Department review and approval. Well, if President Trump undoes that then that sticking point, that area were these projects got held up would go away.

INSKEEP: OK. So those executive orders are expected a little bit later today. What else is the president been doing?

KEITH: He is just wrapping up a meeting with the leaders of the big three automakers - Ford, Chrysler and GM. They were talking about jobs. He says that we're bringing jobs back to the U.S. big league. But he also told them that he wasn't singling them out. But in ways, he is not a traditional Republican because he has...

INSKEEP: He is singling them out in some ways.

KEITH: Yes, because he has been singling out businesses in a way that many Republicans wouldn't. Yesterday, his executive action withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Now, it was widely seen as dead already, but that's something that many Republicans and many in the business world supported. He also yesterday met with union leaders. And that's not seen as something that, like, a GOP president would normally do on his first working day in the office.

INSKEEP: How's this White House dealing with the media?

KEITH: Well, it got off to a very rocky start. And there is still sort of this ongoing battle feud. But yesterday, in his first official White House briefing where he took questions, press secretary Sean Spicer tried to have a bit of a reset. This came after Saturday, where he came out into the briefing room and made this very angry statement that had some clearly false statements in it about the size of the crowd of the inauguration. Then yesterday he came out, was more self-deprecating and said this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SEAN SPICER: I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts. There are certain things that we may - we may not fully understand when we come out. But our intention's never to lie to you.

KEITH: He did re-assert some of the false claims about crowd size, but he did back off some of the others.

INSKEEP: OK, he made new statements, like saying that tens of millions of people had watched worldwide on the internet. And maybe that's what he meant on Saturday. But according to fact checkers, that's also false.

KEITH: That's also false.

INSKEEP: Which also does raise a question, Tam - why is the president so focused on crowd size?

KEITH: He has been focused on crowd size since the very first day of his campaign when he rode that escalator down into Trump Tower, into the lobby and said there were thousands of people there when there were really hundreds. This is something that's very important to him. And there was a feeling that by - you know, by - with news organizations doing side-by-side shots with President Obama's aerial photos from his inauguration and Donald Trump's inauguration that showed big gaps in the crowd, that that was mocking. This is what Spicer said about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SPICER: It's not about one tweet. It's not about one picture. It's about a constant theme. It's about sitting here every time and being told no. Well, we don't think he can do that. He'll never accomplish that. He can't win that. It won't be the biggest. It's not going to be that good. The crowds aren't that big. He's not that successful. The narrative and the - the default narrative is always negative.

INSKEEP: OK...

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SPICER: And it's demoralizing.

INSKEEP: OK, demoralizing. This is a president, Tam, who ran against political correctness, said we should face truths, not worry about people's sensitivities, and a lot of his supporters have mocked what they call liberal snowflakes. Is his spokesman now suggesting that we have to be sensitive about facts if the president dislikes them?

KEITH: He's certainly suggesting that the president is sensitive to what he sees as mocking. Last night, the president met with congressional leaders. And in that meeting, he brought up his electoral win and talked about the popular vote, making a false claim that he's made before, that he would have won the popular vote if not for people who voted illegally. Again, that is false. It has been proven false. And it's just something that the president keeps coming back to, that he just can't quite get over.

INSKEEP: Why do you think that is?

KEITH: It's - I think it might go back to what Spicer was talking about, this feeling that he just can't win even though he won.

INSKEEP: OK, Tam, thanks very much. Really appreciate it.

KEITH: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.