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News Brief: Trump Calls Troops, Brexit Summit, Black Friday


What does President Trump have to say to members of the U.S. military?


The president has been criticized for failing to visit U.S. troops in war zones. He did call some troops on Thanksgiving Day, speaking to members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the Coast Guard. It was a chance to shine a spotlight on Americans who serve. It was also a chance for the president to shine a light on himself.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're doing better than anybody thought even possible. We have a very powerful border now. We're winning, and you're winning, and I appreciate - we're totally getting better. We'll be stronger than ever before. We're doing an excellent job.

MARTIN: Reporters with the president in Florida also asked him a question on Thanksgiving Day.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What are you most thankful for, Mr. President?

TRUMP: For having a great family and for having made a tremendous difference in this country. I've made a tremendous difference in the country.

INSKEEP: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is with us. She is also co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. Tamara, good day-after-Thanksgiving.


INSKEEP: Is it normal that a president of the United States would take a non-political function, like, calling the troops, marking Thanksgiving, and use it for a political speech to promote his own agenda?

KEITH: It is not normal for other presidents to do that. But President Trump has proven that he does a lot of things that are not normal. So, you know, last year, he went to a Boy Scout Jamboree in front of 30,000 Boy Scouts and was supposed to just give a nice, tame speech and instead gave a political speech that was even bawdy at times. So the president has...

INSKEEP: Didn't the Boy Scouts end up having to apologize for the tone of the event? Was that the one where that happened?

KEITH: Yeah. That was that one.


KEITH: And it also upset some members of his Cabinet who are former Boy Scouts and also now former members of his Cabinet. You know, the call started out normal enough. I mean, it was a little different because it was from a speakerphone in Mar a Lago, which is this gilded summer - or winter or White House, as President Trump calls it. But it made a turn very quickly after the prepared remarks, when he first went to an Air Force brigadier general who is in Afghanistan and the president asked him a couple of questions. And then the president started talking about the Southern border and said, you know, well, I know what you want. I don't even have to ask you what you want. And it immediately turned political.

INSKEEP: The president also made a false claim about the border. He said he had temporarily closed the border with Mexico. Apparently, there is an underlying fact there somewhere. Apparently, one port of entry had some lanes of traffic that were shut for a few hours a few days ago. But it does raise the question could the president, all by himself, close the border?

KEITH: The president could, according to AP's reporting, at least temporarily do it, invoking national security powers. But odds are, it wouldn't last very long. And also it's important to note that, you know, for all the talk of security at the border, as you know, having done a lot of reporting there, it's also this great area of commerce where people go back and forth on a regular basis just to do their shopping.

INSKEEP: I guess we have to give the president a certain amount of credit for message discipline. He continues, in all settings, repeating a handful of phrases that he thinks is good for him and good for his political agenda. But does anybody at the White House see a downside to doing this at nonpolitical functions?

KEITH: They see downsides to lots of things, including some of the tweets. But there is little that they can do to keep President Trump on script. President Trump doesn't want to be on script.

INSKEEP: OK. Tamara, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

KEITH: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: Hope you get a little rest this weekend. That's NPR's Tamara Keith.


INSKEEP: This is a working weekend for European Union leaders.

MARTIN: Right. They are holding a summit in Brussels on Sunday to approve a withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU. British Prime Minister Theresa May is sounding sort of optimistic about this, despite resistance within her own country to the deal.


UNITED KINGDOM THERESA MAY: The British people want this to be settled. They want a good deal that sets us on course for a brighter future. That deal is within our grasp, and I am determined to deliver it.

INSKEEP: That is the way she now heads to Brussels, and NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is covering the story. She'll be in Brussels for the event. Hi there, Soraya.


INSKEEP: So we've heard some of the divided opinions in Britain about this deal. How much do Europeans like it?

NELSON: Well, they seem to like it more than they've liked some of the other things that they've heard from the prime minister. And in fact, yesterday, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Union, sent out a draft statement that sort of looks at what the relationship, or at least a discussion of what the relationship is going to look like post-Brexit, once the transition period is over. And so that was actually a good sign.

INSKEEP: And I guess we should mention they haven't actually figured out what post-Brexit would look like after this transition period is over. What they've agreed on here is a transition period, right?

NELSON: Yes. I mean, that's the big document, the 500-plus page document that they're going to be looking at or voting on Sunday if all goes according to plan. And that's basically going to allow the U.K. to stay in the EU's single market. It allows them to basically continue being part of the EU but also negotiating their own new trade deals all the way through December 2020. And at that point, that's when the U.K. would leave.

This document also addresses security ties and this very sensitive border issue between Ireland, which is in the EU, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. So that's one document. But then this other statement - I mean, the fact that they're looking beyond 2020 at this point, that's something that they weren't really doing a few months ago.

INSKEEP: So the British are trying to withdraw from the European Union. And now we are reminded of the reality that because Britain has been so involved in Europe over the years, over the centuries, they actually own a little piece of Europe, which has become a problem here.

NELSON: Yes. That would be Gibraltar, (laughter), which is basically part of the Iberian Peninsula and...

INSKEEP: It's down there at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, right?

NELSON: Exactly. Yes. And the U.K. controls it but Spain lays claim to it. And that's now become a major sticking point in what was supposed to be a rubber-stamping type of summit on Sunday.

INSKEEP: In what way is it a sticking point?

NELSON: Well, the Spanish are now saying that they really want to have direct talks between the U.K. and Madrid when it comes to any decisions concerning Gibraltar. And this is something that they actually want put into the document - that is the big document and the little document, the political declaration. And that's something that they're trying to negotiate or work out today in a frenzy before Sunday's summit comes around.

INSKEEP: I guess the underlying issue here is that Spain sees this as occupied territory. The British grabbed it years ago as part of a war, part of conflicts in Europe, and the Spanish ultimately want it back.

NELSON: Yes. That is - and they certainly want to have a say in what happens to it.

INSKEEP: OK. Soraya, thanks very much for the update. Really appreciate it.

NELSON: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson.


INSKEEP: OK. One of our producers here told us at 4:43 a.m. Eastern time that she had already bought a present for someone on this Black Friday.

MARTIN: Lena is on it, man. She is ahead of the curve. And she is not alone. More than 70 percent of Americans are expected to shop on Black Friday this year. That's according to the National Retail Federation. And today is the biggest day, with millions planning to shop Black Friday sales.

INSKEEP: NPR's retail correspondent Alina Selyukh joins us now to catch us. Hey there, Alina.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Hi. Good morning.

INSKEEP: Are you shopping already?

SELYUKH: I will be heading out to a Wal-Mart. I'm here in Delaware, and I'm going to be at least hanging out with other people shopping.

INSKEEP: OK. You're going to be working. You're going to be listening to people as they shop.

SELYUKH: Exactly. That's my plan.

INSKEEP: Are people shopping more than in the past? Is 70 a big number, 70 percent?

SELYUKH: You know, this year, Americans are feeling very good about spending money. As you know, consumer confidence is at its highest since the early 2000s. We are seeing all kinds of willingness to spend reflecting in all these holiday shopping surveys that come out around this time. Consumers say they plan to spend an average of more than a thousand dollars on gifts this year.

That is more than last year. They're playing to put more of the purchases on credit cards, feeling optimistic that they're able to pay them off later. You know, in the markets, we're seeing some jitters and a downturn. But on the consumer side, people are not feeling that yet. They are ready for the holiday shopping madness.

INSKEEP: OK. So which stores, companies, brands are grabbing attention here, and in what way? Are there huge offers that are getting attention?

SELYUKH: Yeah. You know, every year it's sort of a repeat in terms of categories of products that go on big sales. And I actually like to think of it more, what sales are worth it? Not all discounts are created equal. I spoke with Kimberly Palmer. She's a personal finance expert from the website NerdWallet, and they carefully study these deals. And here's what she told me. Generally, electronics and video games, they are a good deal on Friday. These are typically the big attraction that gets you to the doorbuster sale, and they are pretty expensive. You know, things like laptops, gaming consoles, they are a good deal on Black Friday.

Toys, price-wise, actually get cheaper closer to Christmas, she says, but you've got to be careful if you want to get the trendiest stuff because the trendy toys do sell out, especially on Cyber Monday. Clothes and home goods are trickier. They're not such a great deal on Black Friday. And then TVs are usually a major point that gets people shopping this weekend. But Palmer says sometimes you have to be really careful because the stores will try to sell you a stripped-down version of that TVs made specially for the Black Friday offer. So you've got to know that you're getting exactly what you want when you're shopping today.

INSKEEP: Is Black Friday shopping like every other kind of shopping, meaning that increasing numbers of people do it without ever leaving the house?

SELYUKH: Right. The new Thanksgiving pastime of couch-shopping on your smartphone. I saw a few people doing that yesterday. You know, Adobe, they track online spending. They're saying that this year $1 out of $6 will be spent online. It is the fastest-growing category. People are still shopping in stores, but it is the fastest-growing category. I'll give you an example. Appliances this year are expected to be a big seller. You know, smaller ones - stand mixers, vacuums. But even bigger stuff, like washers and fridges. And one of the reasons is because, you know, people are feeling very confident to shop for big stuff on the Internet now. So that's kind of an interesting possibility for the second chapter for holiday shopping, which is holiday returns.

INSKEEP: OK. All right, Alina. Thanks for the update. Really appreciate it.

SELYUKH: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Alina Selyukh. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.

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