News Brief: House Passes Funding Extension, Pence Visits Japan, Steve Wynn Resigns

Feb 7, 2018
Originally published on February 7, 2018 7:28 am
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We have been here before, haven't we? Congress has to pass a spending bill to keep the government funded, and the deadline is midnight tomorrow.


Yes. And President Trump seemed to have a few thoughts about this. He says any bill has to include changes to immigration law.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If we don't change it, let's have a shutdown. We'll do a shutdown, and it's worth it for our country. I'd love to see a shutdown if we don't get the stuff taken care of.

GREENE: All right. So this would be the second government shutdown in less than a month. And it's worth asking, how realistic is a deal on immigration with such little time here?

MARTIN: All right. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell is in the studio with us this morning.

Hey, Kelsey.


MARTIN: I feel like we've had this conversation several times.

SNELL: Yeah.

MARTIN: All right. So let's take a close look at this because on the one hand, we've got the president saying that unless Democrats compromise on immigration, there's going to be a shutdown. But didn't immigration get separated from the budget debate at some point?

SNELL: Right. So this comment from the president seems to be completely at odds with what's happening on Capitol Hill right now.

MARTIN: OK. Explain.

SNELL: On the budget side of things, the spending side of things, the Senate seems very close to reaching a two-year budget agreement. It would allow them to set the spending levels for two years. That's a very long time in terms of the length of time we've been going between spending bills lately. They - as of yesterday, they were inches and fractions of an inch apart. And that could be coming as early as today.

MARTIN: So what does it mean then that the president's chief of staff, John Kelly, was on Capitol Hill talking about immigration? I mean, let's listen to this clip and then we'll talk on the other side.


JOHN KELLY: Again, some of them didn't hear about the program - hard to believe, but OK. Some of them were perhaps a little bit concerned about signing up when many, many people in neighborhoods signed up three times, two or three times but OK, fine. I got to say that some of them just should have probably gotten off the couch and signed up. But that doesn't really matter now because President Trump has given them this status.

MARTIN: I should clarify. He is talking there about people who were eligible to apply for DACA protections, saying there that essentially these people are lazy. They should have gotten off the couch and signed up. And it doesn't matter because President Trump has given them protections - but he hasn't.

SNELL: Yeah. Kelly and other members of the Trump administration have been on the Hill for the past couple of days talking to particularly the folks in the Senate, though I think he was coming out of a joint meeting with House and Senate leaders yesterday when he spoke here talking about a plan forward on DACA. There is an idea that this...

MARTIN: So this is separate from the budget negotiations?

SNELL: Yeah. So the Senate could be voting as early as Friday on the beginnings of an immigration bill. That's part of the agreement that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reached with Democrats, saying that if you get - separate these two issues, we will vote on immigration, and we'll keep the government open. And I promise we'll move forward. They are doing that. But Democrats say what Kelly has been talking about, this idea that the DACA recipients needed to get off the couch, really doesn't help the conversation that they are having in terms of writing policy. It creates bad will and makes people frustrated.

MARTIN: So the bottom line, you think we will be done with this drama soon? You think a deal is going to happen and all will be well in the world?

SNELL: When I left the Capitol last night, things were going well, but this is Congress. Things fall apart all the time. So I won't say definitely for sure, but it looks like things are heading in that direction.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's congressional reporter Kelsey Snell for us this morning. Thanks so much, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you.


MARTIN: All right. Vice President Mike Pence is in Asia this week. And there's a big geopolitical shadow over his plans to attend the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

GREENE: Yeah, that was clear when he was talking after a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Pence was sounding really forceful talking about the Olympics. He said, North Korea cannot be allowed to hijack the message of the Winter Games. But it was not all tough talk. Pence actually left open the possibility that he could speak with North Korean officials attending the Games, and that would be no small deal.

This would mark the highest-level talks between U.S. and North Korean leaders since the end of the Clinton administration in the year 2000. But the White House was really careful, telling everyone yesterday not to read too much into the vice president's words.

MARTIN: All right. Peter Landers is the Tokyo bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, and he's following developments on the vice president's trip. He joins us on Skype.

Hey, Peter. Thanks for being with us.

PETER LANDERS: Good morning.

MARTIN: What was Pence's message after meeting with the Japanese prime minister?

LANDERS: It was a tough message that Vice President Pence delivered. He mentioned, as you said, that he doesn't think North Korea should be allowed to hijack the Olympic Games. And he said that the U.S. will soon unveil the toughest - what he called the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever. And this is coming just two days before the opening ceremony. So clearly he's rejecting any suggestion that this Olympic Games would be a reason to start talking or to ease on the U.S. sanctions.

MARTIN: He's got carrot and stick going on here at the same time because he's left open the possibility of direct talks with North Korea.

LANDERS: That was when he stopped in Alaska on the way to Japan and South Korea. He didn't completely rule it out, but it's hard to imagine that that's something the U.S. would aggressively pursue at the Games. We just learned this afternoon - Japan time and South Korea time - that North Korea will send the sister of Kim Jong Un to the Olympic Games in Pyongyang. So they'll have a really high-level delegation of North Koreans there. And I suppose it's possible that they could bump into each other.

MARTIN: In the hallway. That would be interesting. So there is so much high symbolism to the Olympics, right? And the U.S. is trying to capitalize on that in its own way. Vice President Mike Pence is bringing a high-profile guest of his own. Talk about what that means to have the father of Otto Warmbier there.

LANDERS: The U.S. says that this is sending a message that they are not going to let North Korea get away with human rights violations. And I think it could actually pour cold water on any suggestion that Vice President Pence would have a formal meeting, at least, with any North Korean leaders who are present at the Games because he'll have the father - will have the father of someone who, as the U.S. sees it, was killed by the North Korean regime right next to him. So I think it's sending a strong message there from the U.S. side.

MARTIN: Wall Street Journal Tokyo Bureau Chief Peter Landers. He joined us on Skype this morning. Thanks so much for your time.

LANDERS: You bet.


MARTIN: All right. Let's go to Las Vegas, where Steve Wynn is stepping down as CEO of Wynn Resorts.

GREENE: Yeah. Rachel, the casino and hotel owner says he is leaving after, quote, "an avalanche of negative publicity." We should remember this follows a report in The Wall Street Journal last month in which dozens of people accused Wynn of sexual harassment and assault. And we should also remember Wynn has already resigned as the Republican Party's finance chair.

MARTIN: NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Las Vegas. Hey, Leila


MARTIN: First, just walk us through the allegations that got us to this point with Wynn.

FADEL: Well, he's accused of decades of sexual misconduct that came to light in this explosive investigative report in The Wall Street Journal. And that includes an incident in which a manicurist at his hotel said that she was forced to have sex with him, and that ended in a reported $7.5 million settlement. Now, as you said, Wynn has denied all of these accusations, but he did step down as finance chair for the Republican Party. He's under investigation by two to Gaming Control Boards in Massachusetts and here in Nevada. And now he's stepping down as CEO of this publicly-traded company as stock prices drop.

MARTIN: If this was going on for decades, Leila, I mean, this is something we've asked these cases have been coming up, but why are these allegations coming out now? Just people, women, have been emboldened by the Me Too movement in general?

FADEL: Yeah. I mean, this is coming out in an environment where women are empowered to speak up against powerful men. And that's a really terrifying thing to do, but they're doing it at a time that people are actually listening. And so in this case, he is a really powerful man here in Las Vegas. He's the reason the Strip looks the way it does. He built the Bellagio, the Mirage, Treasure Island. And so speaking up against him is a pretty terrifying thing.

And powerful men can intimidate people into silence. The Las Vegas Review Journal recently reported that they actually killed a story 20 years ago on allegations against Wynn after Wynn attorneys got involved and they put the accusers through lie detector tests.

MARTIN: Wow. So this is also a reminder that it's women in all industries - right? - who are subjected to this kind of abuse and misconduct. We hear a lot about high-profile women in the media or in Hollywood, finance, but what does this story say about the protection of women who work in the service industries around the Las Vegas Strip? I mean, is there a renewed effort to try to address what these women face day in and day out?

FADEL: Well, like you said, women face disparities here, economic disparities, power dynamics. They're bartenders. They're cocktail waitresses. They're housekeepers. And they're vulnerable, and that's clear. And so in many report - harassment studies have shown the majority have had harassment at the hands of guests. And so people are looking at what can be done to protect them, including the Culinary Union that represents them asking for a panic button in the next contract negotiation.

MARTIN: A panic button so if a woman is in trouble, she can press this thing and immediately someone is there to help, some kind of security?

FADEL: That's right.

MARTIN: NPR's Leila Fadel from Las Vegas this morning. Thanks so much, Leila.

FADEL: Thank you.

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