STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now let's go to Davos, Switzerland, and NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley, who's traveling with the president. Hi, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: OK. So The Times lays out a pretty specific narrative here that the president ordered Mueller fired, that the White House counsel pushed back and said, no, I'd rather resign than do that. Has there been any specific response from the president to this?
HORSLEY: Steve, White House allies are downplaying this Times report. They are understandably trying to keep the focus on what they hope will be a positive economic message from the president here in Davos today. Trump himself was asked about the report as he made his way into the conference center, and he brushed it off, calling it fake news. Now, this is not the first time Trump and his aides have denied that he tried to fire the special counsel. Just a couple of days ago, we heard Trump say he is eager to be interviewed by Robert Mueller. And, also, he said he hopes the special counsel's investigation will be fair.
INSKEEP: So not a specific response, a specific denial. Just a general claim of fake news.
HORSLEY: A typical New York Times story, the president called it.
INSKEEP: OK. So the president is set to give a speech there in Davos to the assembled world leaders and business leaders and so forth. And I guess you're in the room where it's going to happen. What's it like there, Scott?
HORSLEY: I'm in a big auditorium that seats about 1,600 people. And, you know, the organizers here delivered sort of a subtle rebuke to the president a few moments ago. There was a video playing on the screen here that seemed to take issue with the president and his policies. The narrator intoned about the importance of promoting diversity. There was even a scene of women protesting Donald Trump in pink knit hats. So kind of a subtle dig at the fellow who's about to give a big speech just about an hour from now.
INSKEEP: So that's the preliminary to the speech by the president of the United States - is video of people protesting the president of the United States?
HORSLEY: Exactly. And the president himself is supposed to give kind of a mixed message here. On the one hand, he's going to be putting out the welcome mat, encouraging some of these wealthy business people to invest in the United States and create more jobs. He'll be touting the economic policies he's been pushing from tax cuts and deregulation. But he's also going to be delivering his own sort of rebuke on trade.
And just earlier this week, of course, we saw the White House impose stiff new tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels. We expect the president to say he supports free trade but to argue that it must be fair and reciprocal. The president's aides say they believe that's the best way to shore up the international economic system that Trump himself has often seemed contemptuous of.
INSKEEP: So Scott, other than showing the video of the Women's March in the very auditorium where the president's going to speak, what kind of reception is he getting there?
HORSLEY: He has gotten a generally, at least, polite reception. The president hosted a dinner last night with European business leaders and went around the table, and many of them had kind things to say about his economic policies. And some of them talked about their own plans to invest in the U.S. He also met this morning with Paul Kagame, the chairman of the African Union.
Of course, the African Union demanded an apology a couple of weeks ago when Trump was reported to have described African countries in very crude and vulgar terms during an immigration meeting in the Oval Office. There was no talk of that today. In fact, the president just talked about trade and cooperation with Africa and said he was honored to have Kagame as a friend.
INSKEEP: And Kagame didn't have much to say?
HORSLEY: He also - he certainly didn't talk about the crude comments of the president. He also talked about fostering cooperation between the U.S. and Africa.
INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley in Davos. Thanks, Scott.
HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.