MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
And we begin this hour with news of relief to many Americans suffering for different reasons. There's the disaster relief bill that has been making its way through Congress. President Trump says he'll sign it, even though it doesn't contain any of the border funding that he wanted. And then there's the $16 billion aid program designed to help farmers hurt by the trade war with China. The president announced all of this at the White House this afternoon. NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith was there, and now she's here to help us untangle it all. Hey there, Tam.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hello.
KELLY: So is the aid package to farmers connected to the disaster aid bill? Is this timing a coincidence?
KEITH: It is a coincidence. In fact, the president was asked about the disaster bill at the end of this event, with - to talk about aid for farmers. But they are connected in one way, which is that the president wants to help farmers. And a lot of farmers, a lot of farm states have been really affected by various natural disasters including funding - including flooding. And then they've also been very severely affected by the trade war with China and the tariffs, the retaliatory tariffs that came along with that, and that is where the $16 billion comes in.
KELLY: OK. Well, let's zoom in on this $16 billion program for farmers, which follows a separate bailout last year; that one was for $12 billion. Is what the president is telegraphing here is that they are settling in for a long trade war with China?
KEITH: He even said that he doesn't have to have a deal with China, that he would be OK if they didn't have a deal. Now, I don't think he really would be OK if there wasn't a deal, and certainly, farmers wouldn't be OK. But the president is trying to project that it's all going to be fine, and that he is taking care of a very important constituency - that is farmers - who are being hurt by the tariffs.
Now, how would this work? The money would come from tariffs that the president has implemented or put in on a bunch of Chinese products. That brings money into the Treasury, though the president says it's coming from China. Almost all economists, including one that works for the White House, say it's the other way around, that it's coming from U.S. consumers. Some of that money, a relatively small share of it, would then go to farmers who've been affected by the retaliatory tariffs.
KELLY: Well, and explain why this money is going just to farmers. Not to be unsympathetic to their plight and how they've been affected by all this, but there are a lot of industries that have been hit hard by the tariffs.
KEITH: Well, President Trump has long been very focused on farmers and farm states, in part because he feels - and I think there's some reality to it - that they were an important part of his election win in 2016. And because of that, he says that - and it's true - that China has particularly targeted things like soybean farmers or corn, crops that are in states that the president pays a lot of attention to. Here he was.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They've been very, very brave. They've been very patriotic. But China has openly stated they're going to use the farmer. The reason is because I got the farmers' votes. You look at a map, it's all red, meaning Republican, meaning Trump. It's all red in the middle states, as you know. It's got a little blue here and a little blue there. So farmer - so if you look at - I guess China's probably - they're definitely a smart player. They went out and they said, we're going to attack the farmers, and they did.
KELLY: Tam, I do want to ask about the timing of this because this - the president about to sign legislation passed by Congress, including by Democrats in Congress, comes just a day after he said he wasn't going to work with Congress so long as congressional Democrats were investigating him and his administration.
KEITH: He seems willing to work on some things, like this disaster bill; he wants them to ratify the USMCA trade agreement. But he's also gotten into some name-calling and very personal comments about Nancy Pelosi. He is not over this impeachment talk.
KELLY: All right. That is NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Thank you.
KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.