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CNN team films in Blair County

A team from a national news network is in Blair County this week to determine whether residents who helped elect Donald Trump in 2016 have changed their minds about him because of impeachment.

If anything, CNN’s Martin Savidge is finding that the county where Trump had his biggest edge in Pennsylvania three years ago has moved even further his way, as House Democrats moved toward impeachment, according to area leaders interviewed by Savidge.

Employees of The Blair Companies interviewed for three hours Wednesday regard the impeachment hearings as a “rehashing of old issues and grudges,” and they’re tired of it, according to company CEO Phil Devorris, one of those interviewed.

The impeachment proceedings haven’t changed many minds on either side, and the Republicans who oppose it consider it a “politically charged distraction” and a “witch hunt” — a waste of Congress’s time, in the opinion of Jim Foreman, chairman of the county’s Republican Committee.

They have probably made his support more “spirited” than it would be otherwise, Foreman said.

Devorris paid attention to impeachment at the beginning, but after the first few headlines, which promised major disclosures, he turned away because it didn’t seem than anything “substantive” was forthcoming, he said.

The nation would be better served if Congress focused on governing, “as opposed to pushing someone out of office when there will be a vote in less than a year,” Devorris said.

Trump’s style hasn’t been “elegant,” but in economic matters, he’s moving in a direction that Devorris favors, especially in his efforts to make trading with China more equitable, said Devorris, who identifies as a supporter of free trade.

Such efforts should have begun two decades ago, when China’s economy was much weaker, he said.

It would have been much easier then to correct the imbalance between the ease with which China does business here versus the difficulty with which U.S. companies dousiness there, Devorris said.

China sells products in the U.S. and establishes companies here, hires people and sells goods here with no more obstacles than do domestic firms, he said.

It’s much different for U.S. firms in China, especially if there are legal disputes, he said.

He has one foreign friend whose factory in China was virtually “stolen” — taken with payment of just pennies on the dollar, he said.

There was no legal remedy, Devorris said.

There are also concerns about intellectual property theft, he said.

Blair sells products in China but tends to deal with non-Chinese companies, he said.

It has considered setting up a company itself in China, but the challenges make it seem “not worth the effort,” he said.

Blair has operations in other nations where the obstacles are fewer, he said.

The tariffs that Trump has imposed may not be the most effective way to go about equalizing the relationship, and those tariffs have been disruptive to his own business, “but I’m happy someone is at least trying,” Devorris said.

Foreman had misgivings about talking to Savidge, aware “in a time of clear partisan politics and polarized network reporting” that there are bias concerns.

“Many local people believe (CNN) to be an anti-Trump network,” he said.

But cooperation could help ensure that Blair County Republicans are at least “correctly represented,” Foreman said. “It’s exactly in that spirit that I agreed,” he stated.

He was reassured by the “professional, friendly and fair” manner that Savidge and his producer displayed — and by the tenor of a pair of prior interviews that Savidge had conducted with Trump supporters in Florida and Minnesota, Foreman said.

Blair County Chamber of Commerce CEO Joe Hurd had a similar experience.

His misgivings stemmed from an “ambush” he’d witnessed at a meeting of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington this year, when a CNN staffer — not Savidge — steered an interview that was supposed to be on workforce issues toward Trump’s controversial actions in Syria and his overall effectiveness as president, Hurd said.

He too found the Savidge team be “professional: and the interview clips from Florida and Minnesota reassuring.

Given that there are chamber business members “on opposite sides,” maintaining a balance can be difficult, Hurd said.

“I try my best to keep it civil,” he said.

Savidge’s interviews from Blair County are expected to air this afternoon.

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