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Trump Offers Conflicting Statements On Mail-In Voting, USPS Funding

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump continues to offer conflicting statements about widescale voting by mail as many voters request ballots, so they don't have to line up at polling places this November. This week, the president appeared to acknowledge that blocking the funds from the U.S. Postal Service would help him politically. Yesterday, he started to backtrack. Joined now by White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez to talk about that and Kamala Harris' first few days on the campaign trail. Thanks for being with us, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Is it clear to you if President Trump is going to support additional money to help the election infrastructure before people start voting?

ORDOÑEZ: It's really not. I mean, what we do know is that it's a major hang-up in the latest round of negotiations over a coronavirus relief package. As you noted, the president acknowledged in an interview with Fox Business that the Postal Service couldn't handle mail-in voting without the additional money. And that created a bit of backlash. The president later adjusted his position. And look. The Postal Service is already having issues with delays and disruptions. And now it's warning almost every state in the country that mail-in ballots might come in too late to be counted. That's according to the Washington Post. So this really has the potential of being a very big deal.

SIMON: And, of course, let me put it this way - the president was very expansive about Joe Biden's pick for vice president, Senator Kamala Harris. What did he say?

ORDOÑEZ: He and his campaign took very sharp aim at Harris very quickly, calling her a phony and a radical, amplifying baseless conspiracy theories and more.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: ...Everybody else. I watched those debates. They were very boring, but they were debates nevertheless. And I watched, you know, pretty good parts of them. And she treated Biden worse than anybody else by far. There was nobody - including Pocahontas. Nobody treated Biden so badly as Kamala.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have an issue with a strong woman of color being in this presidential race?

TRUMP: None whatsoever.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You don't fear her as a threat.

TRUMP: No. None whatsoever. No, not at all.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, this could all serve as kind of a preview of future attacks from Trump, as well as the campaign. It's really likely to be a tough race.

SIMON: Franco, tell us about the news the president did have to announce from the Middle East.

ORDOÑEZ: Right. Israel and the United Arab Emirates are working toward normalizing ties. The two have been working together behind the scenes, but the Trump administration did help move it along, broker a deal where the two nations are now working toward normalizing diplomatic relations.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalize their diplomatic relations. They will exchange embassies and ambassadors and begin cooperation across the board and on a broad range of areas, including tourism, education, health care, trade and security.

ORDOÑEZ: Now, this deal didn't get as much attention because of all the domestic news. And I should note it's not the Middle East plan. But it is a big deal. And Trump, you know - also, this week on Friday, he kicked off his briefing noting a former FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, is pleading guilty to altering email related to the surveillance warrant for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. President Trump, as expected, is touting this as more evidence that the Russian investigation was politically motivated. And he promises more to come.

SIMON: White House correspondent Frank Ordoñez, thanks so much.

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