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President Trump Praises Economy As New Job Report Shows Signs Of Improvement


There is no question the nation is in the midst of one of the most wrenching moments in its history. Protesters are decrying police brutality and systemic racism. The coronavirus has killed more than 108,000 people in the U.S. And millions of people are out of work. But today's jobs report did show some signs of improvement, so President Trump took a victory lap. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Never has 13% unemployment been so thoroughly celebrated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Today is probably, if you think of it, the greatest comeback in American history. But it's not going to stop here.

KEITH: The jobs report showed people are starting to go back to work after states lifted stay-at-home orders. In the Rose Garden. With his economic team behind him gulping down water, President Trump continued on largely unscripted for nearly an hour.


TRUMP: This is a rocket ship.

KEITH: The economic news is encouraging. But it doesn't match the president's superlatives. It does. However. Come at the end of a rough week. A rough series of weeks? As November's presidential election looms, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll finds disapproval of President Trump's performance is near an all-time high, with the share strongly disapproving the highest it's ever been - 47%. Trump is losing independent voters. The poll shows him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden nationally by 7 points. And there are indications Trump is even struggling in states he won with ease in 2016.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: President Trump's not always polite.

KEITH: The Trump campaign spent $650,000 running this ad in Ohio.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: But Donald Trump. Gets it done.

KEITH: The tracking firm Advertising Analytics finds, over the past month, Trump's campaign spent more than a million dollars on TV in Ohio and Iowa, states where if things were going well, Trump wouldn't have to be trying this hard. Whit Ayres is a Republican pollster.

WHIT AYRES: Their polling must tell them something about how close Ohio currently is compared to four years ago, when the president won Ohio handily.

KEITH: The Trump campaign says public polling is notoriously wrong about President Trump and that their internal data shows him running, quote, "strong against Biden in all their key states." Back in the Rose Garden, Trump came across as eager to take a victory lap, to move on from the struggles of recent months. He credited the underlying strength of the economy before coronavirus hit.


TRUMP: And that strength let us get through this horrible pandemic - largely through. I think we're doing really well. Vaccines, by the way, had a meeting yesterday on vaccines. We're doing incredibly well.

KEITH: He congratulated his son-in-law.


TRUMP: Jared and Mike and the task force and all of the people - the admiral, the general.

KEITH: He urged all governors to reopen their states and said the death toll could have been much worse.


TRUMP: So we're at 105,000 lives. Big move closing it up.

KEITH: It's really closer to 110,000. As Trump veered from one topic to another, he repeatedly returned to the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, and his calls for law and order.


TRUMP: You have to dominate the streets. You can't let what's happening happen. It's called dominate the streets. You can't let that happen in New York where they're breaking into stores and all of the things.

KEITH: He said, there must be equal justice under the law. And then Trump took an inexplicable turn.


TRUMP: Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying, this is a great thing that's happening for our country. There's a great day for him. It's a great day for everybody. It's a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality.

KEITH: It wasn't clear what Trump meant, but later, as a reporter shouted a question about what his plan was to address systemic racism, Trump said the improving economy is the greatest thing that can happen for race relations.


TRUMP: African American community.

KEITH: That's his plan, Trump said. Tamara Keith, NPR News Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.