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News Brief: Sheryl Sandberg Speaks To NPR, China Responds To More Tariff Threats


Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, a person widely credited with making Facebook so profitable. But now Sandberg, along with her boss, Mark Zuckerberg, face big questions about how that company has been operating, and they are promising changes in privacy protection just before Zuckerberg attends congressional hearings, hearings about Cambridge Analytica. You know, that's the political research firm that, as Facebook disclosed this week, may have collected data on 87 million Facebook users without their permission.


All of this making a pretty interesting moment to meet her. I mean, could you feel the pressure that she and others of Facebook are facing right now?

INSKEEP: I'd say that you can. You go to Facebook's immense headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., and you go to this conference room called Only Good News, Sheryl Sandberg's personal conference room, Only Good News, but she had to address a lot of bad news, and she's trying to clamp down on the abuse of users' data.

SHERYL SANDBERG: It's going to be long. It took us a long time to get here. It's going to take a long time to find all of this. But it's also going to be ongoing because safety and security is never done. It's an arms race. You build something, someone tries to abuse it.

GREENE: You know, Steve, I've thought about - like, I use Facebook. I don't know if I was one of these 87 million users or so who were affected. I mean, are people going to find out at some point if they were included in this?

INSKEEP: Sandberg says she's going to tell you if you are, that they're going to begin on Monday, begin notifying those 87 million people, roughly, whose data may have been compromised. And they're also, for all Facebook users, going to give people a lot more options to opt out of having their data shared quite so widely.

GREENE: Well, and of course, I mean, before we started reporting on all of this Cambridge Analytica stuff, Facebook was already in the news so much because of Russia and disinformation. I mean, did you get to cover that, as well?

INSKEEP: Yeah. Yeah, Facebook has been hiring journalists. They've been trying to think about the way that they approach the news that is shared on Facebook. And Sandberg, in our conversation, acknowledged that the company does have some responsibility as a publisher when users post fake stories, which is not something that they used to admit. Let's listen.

SANDBERG: Well, we certainly know that people want accurate information, not false news on Facebook, and we take that really seriously. We also want to make sure that there's no foreign interference. We are also really taking very aggressive steps on ads transparency.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Not so long ago, Facebook insisted they were just a platform, not a publisher. People would publish what they wanted, and Facebook would almost say they had nothing to do with it and that they certainly were not responsible, in most cases, for information that people saw on the site. But circumstances have forced them to take a somewhat different approach.

GREENE: Yeah. It feels like a very different time now. All right. Steve, thanks a lot.

INSKEEP: Glad to do it.

GREENE: And you can hear much more of that conversation elsewhere in the show and online at npr.org.


GREENE: All right. So overnight, China vowed to fight the United States to the finish if it escalates its tariffs. The trade dispute has left global markets uneasy as people are wondering whether this is really turning into a trade war.

INSKEEP: And, really, you just have to ask, how many billions of dollars need to be at stake before we would call it a trade war? Because China spoke just hours after President Trump threatened to hit Chinese exports with another $100 billion in new tariffs, and that is on top of the roughly $50 billion that he already promised.

GREENE: I want to bring in NPR's Anthony Kuhn, who is in Beijing. Hi, Anthony.


GREENE: I feel like we are throwing around so many big numbers, and this is moving so quickly. Can you just remind us how we actually arrived at this moment?

KUHN: OK. Well, this started out fairly small, as a dispute over Chinese alleged dumping of steel and aluminum. And tariffs on those were not terribly damaging to either side. Then the next one was to punish China for stealing or coercing U.S. companies into giving up their intellectual property. And the Trump administration announced $50 billion worth of tariffs, and China announced exactly the same. But those haven't taken effect yet. And so now Trump has promised to double that, go up to a hundred billion. But still, it's all just talk at this point.

GREENE: So all just talk. I mean, there's an expectation there are going to be some sort of negotiations going on at some point, but for now, what happens? Where does this go? Do both sides just keep adding more numbers of tariffs?

KUHN: Yeah. Well, China really had no choice but to respond quickly after Washington's latest threats. So what it says is that if the U.S. keeps on provoking it like this, it's going to strike back resolutely. It's not saying exactly what it can do. And here's the reason why. The U.S. tariffs total $150 billion on China's exports. But the U.S. only exported $130 billion to China last year. So they can't hit them with that. They'll have to do something else. Of course, these two economies are so deeply intertwined if they want to make life difficult for each other's companies, they have a lot of ways they can do it.

GREENE: If there weren't so much - if there wasn't so much money at stake and there weren't markets that were responding to all of this, I mean, I guess we could pass this off as something feeling like a poker game. But it's a pretty significant one.

KUHN: It feels very much like it. And the way China sees it is that everything President Trump has done up to this point is basically a bargaining tactic to stake out a better position when they eventually sit down at the negotiating table and hammer out a deal. That's what they think is going to happen.

GREENE: Anthony, there's been talk that China has actually been trying to understand the electoral college in the United States and really go after Trump's base pretty directly. Does President Trump, does the United States have sort of an equivalent of that in China, if they wanted to?

KUHN: Not exactly. China's leadership does not face similar elections. And besides that, President Xi Jinping just abolished term limits on his presidency so no telling how many U.S. administrations he's going to outlast. But this shows that China can do what it wants. They signaled that they were going to hit agricultural states, and they did it. And, you know, soybean producers said to President Trump, please spare us. And China's vice finance minister publicly said, thank you, to U.S. soybean producers, for doing that.

GREENE: NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Beijing. Anthony, thanks a lot.

KUHN: You bet, David.


GREENE: All right. NPR is reporting this morning that a group of evangelical leaders is organizing a meeting with President Trump.

INSKEEP: Yeah. And this is extremely interesting because there are any number of analysts, commentators, journalists and others who have asked the question, how do white Christian evangelical leaders put up with the behavior of the president that so many support? Well, it turns out now that some of the white evangelicals who supported President Trump are concerned about allegations of his behavior, including the allegations of an affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels. An affair, by the way, that the president denies.

GREENE: Well, they're also worried that this could keep conservative Christian voters from turning out to vote in a midterm election year. This is all according to new reporting from our colleague Sarah McCammon, who's with us. Hi, Sarah.


GREENE: So you broke the news of this meeting. What exactly do you know about what's being planned and why it's being planned?

MCCAMMON: Well, the idea is for evangelical leaders to meet with President Trump ahead of the midterms, talk with him, get evangelicals in the room and get influential evangelical leaders energized and ready for 2018. Everyone can see that the midterms are going to be really important this fall. And a lot of white evangelical leaders say they're concerned about what all this means for the issues they care about. They see how organized and energized Democrats are, the victories they've seen in places like Virginia, Alabama, Pennsylvania.

And, as you say, this is happening at a time when President Trump faces a fresh slate of sex scandal allegations from women, including the porn star, Stormy Daniels, who says she was paid to stay quiet about an alleged affair with Trump. Trump, of course, denies that. And just yesterday, he told reporters he did not know about the $130,000 payment from his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to Daniels just before the election.

Taken together, all of it has these leaders worried that their voters won't turn out in November in the numbers needed to offset what looks like a Democratic wave. I spoke with a White House spokesperson yesterday who declined to comment on this, but my sources tell me that organizers are working with the White House to invite several hundred people to Washington, D.C., to have a sit down with the president on June 19 at Trump International Hotel.

GREENE: Wow. There's a date and a place that at least is being planned at this point. Here's my question, Sarah. I mean, are they just going to say, we're worried about our voters turning out, and keep things vague? Or are you getting the sense that some of these evangelical leaders are bluntly going to confront the president on a lot of these allegations?

MCCAMMON: I'm told it's not clear if this will come up publicly, but it's likely to be discussed in what one source described as sidebar conversations. You know, some readers I talked to say they think this will blow over, evangelicals are willing to forgive and they certainly have before. But a lot of evangelicals feel like they've gotten, to a large extent, the policy promises they wanted from Trump, that he's delivered so far and they don't want that to change if there's a big Democratic wave this fall. Democrats are energized. They want to make sure their their voters are, as well.

GREENE: Evangelicals have had kind of an uneasy relationship with this president all along. I mean, are these allegations changing that dynamic in a significant way?

MCCAMMON: It's hard to say. You know, some polling has suggested that Trump's popularity was dipping with that group even before the scandal broke. We've seen some polling kind of go up and down. I think the bigger picture is that evangelicals are really looking forward to the midterms and want to get in the room with the president and with each other and figure out how to make sure their voters turn out in November.

GREENE: NPR's Sarah McCammon. Sarah, thanks for your reporting.

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