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Week In Politics


One week ago today, a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and killed 22 people. Hours later, another mass shooting, this time in Dayton, Ohio. That one left nine people dead. For years, Americans have been asking their political leaders to do something about gun violence. This time, will anything change? With us now to talk about that and more of the week in politics is NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Good morning, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Sacha.

PFEIFFER: Ron, we heard this week that President Trump now says he would support what he calls meaningful background checks. And Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said that when the Senate returns from recess in September, gun laws will be front and center. That's how he put it. Do you believe there's actually going to be a real breakthrough this time? And are we actually going to have legislation, or even a debate about legislation, on guns?

ELVING: The president says he wants to do something on what he calls intelligent background checks. That's what he said Friday before heading off for vacation at one of his golf resorts. That statement would hold out hope, except we've heard this before. On face value, that sounds promising. Democrats will say we've heard it several times from the president. He's even talked about restricting assault weapons. That was 18 months ago after the high school shooting in Florida. But every time the president has talked this way, he's reversed himself. That would come after he's talked to the NRA and some of his Republican Party in Congress, as he's been doing this week. In the past, nothing gets done.

The key person to watch is the man you mentioned, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate. He says he'll bring it all to the floor in September for a debate or what he calls a discussion. But he did not say he would bring the Senate back from its five-week vacation early, nor did he commit to bringing the bill to the floor that the House passed months ago on these issues. And he did not say he himself had experienced any change of heart regarding gun reforms of any kind. So there may be a sea change coming on guns, Sacha, but we haven't seen it yet.

PFEIFFER: And I'm sure this was a topic happening this weekend at the Iowa State Fair, where most of the Democratic presidential candidates are. They're hoping to make an impression at the first-in-the-nation caucus. How, Ron, would you assess the Democratic contest right now?

ELVING: Yes, they all go to the state fair. There seems to be a certain legitimacy that's conferred by posing for pictures with a cow made entirely of butter. The state fair is the unofficial starting gun, as you say, for the Iowa caucuses six months away.

Right now, it's mostly a test of who can be the biggest anti-Trump or who's calling him a racist or who's not calling him a white nationalist or who is or isn't calling for his impeachment. The typical Iowan would probably rather talk about different plans for health care or tariffs on China and China's lack of purchases of some of their products, but talking about Trump gets headlines and brings the cameras.

PFEIFFER: And China, as you mentioned - the U.S. has again escalated its trade war with China. The Trump administration labeled China a currency manipulator. That's after China devalued its currency. And that came right after new tariffs the president announced last week. All that has the stock market bouncing around. How is this affecting the presidential race?

ELVING: What's been a cloud on the horizon is becoming a real shadow over the race and, indeed, over the economy as a whole. The tariff battle has escalated to affect currency valuations. There's no end in sight. Other countries around the world are reacting to it as well. Farmers are hurting, including and maybe especially in Iowa and environs. Economists warn that a projected - protracted trade war will not only end these 10 years of economic expansion but bring on a recession, possibly in the election year.

PFEIFFER: That's NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thank you.

ELVING: Thank you, Sacha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.