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Morning news brief

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

With only hours to spare, Congress averted a government shutdown.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Yeah, a deal came together after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy backtracked and decided to work with Democrats to pass a short-term spending measure on Saturday.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: We're going to be adults in the room. And we're going to keep government open while we solve this problem.

MARTÍNEZ: But in choosing bipartisanship, McCarthy also put his job at risk. Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz says he plans to introduce a resolution to remove McCarthy as speaker as early as this week.

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MATT GAETZ: I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy.

FADEL: NPR political correspondent Susan Davis joins us now to discuss all this. Hi, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. OK, before we get to the drama surrounding McCarthy's job, could you spell out exactly what Congress agreed to this weekend?

DAVIS: Sure. They passed a stopgap spending measure that basically keeps the government on autopilot until November 17. There was one add-on provision that includes $16 billion in disaster relief aid to assist with things like recovery from the Hawaii fires. Notably, Leila, what it did not include was any aid for Ukraine despite very strong lobbying from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and, obviously, President Biden. The president already said publicly he believes that he has a deal with the speaker to move something separate on Ukraine. But just yesterday on CBS, the speaker said that while he might support money for Ukraine, he wanted it tied to some kind of legislation to secure the border. So it's going to be a complicated negotiation.

FADEL: OK. And as you point out, November 17, it expires. Is Congress going to be right back at a shutdown standoff?

DAVIS: Yeah, I mean, almost certainly. I mean, the thing that's important to remember here is stopgaps are easy. The underlying 12 annual spending bills, none of them have been passed by Congress yet. The House and Senate are on completely different pages. If you recall, the speaker walked away from the budget deal that he cut with the president that was signed into law in early June. And the House has been passing bills with very steep cuts to domestic spending that, you know, has no chance of survival in the Senate, would never be signed by the president.

So how the two chambers reconcile this? I can't answer for you, and neither can anyone on Capitol Hill right now, not just in terms of the spending levels, but Republicans have also put into their bills a number of provisions that they say would remove the, quote-unquote, "woke" from the government. That will also be - you know, not going to see the light of day in the Senate. So they have about a month and a half to try to reconcile some of this. But the chances that they're all resolved and they're ready to roll in November seems highly unlikely.

FADEL: And then in the meantime, McCarthy, because he worked on this deal with the Democrats, is facing a possible removal from his speakership. I mean, how realistic is it that he loses his job?

DAVIS: You know, remember, he wouldn't be in this position if he hadn't negotiated himself into this position, again, back in January. He had to agree to make it easier to remove the speaker to get the votes he needed from the far right to become speaker. Now it could be used against him. I would say most Republicans still support Kevin McCarthy. They still want him to be speaker. But the political irony here is it now puts a lot of power in Democrats' hands. If all Democrats voted in mass with just, say, five or a few more Republicans, they could remove him from the job.

I talked to Democrats all last week about this. They're very wary of adding to the chaos in Capitol Hill, but they don't really hold much regard for the speaker, especially as he has started moving forward with an impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden. And the big question is, if McCarthy needs Democrats to remain speaker, what do they want in return? And again, that's going to be a very - another very complicated negotiation for the speaker to figure out and maybe as soon as this week.

FADEL: NPR's political correspondent Susan Davis. I'm sure we'll be speaking to you again soon.

DAVIS: You bet.

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FADEL: Former President Donald Trump will appear in a New York courtroom today as his legal troubles enter the next phase.

MARTÍNEZ: Trump faces a civil trial brought on by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is demanding that the former president and his company pay the state $250 million. Already, New York Judge Arthur Engoron has found that Donald Trump and his two sons committed persistent fraud and ordered them to start taking steps to sell off large pieces of their company.

FADEL: NPR's Andrea Bernstein is at the courthouse in Lower Manhattan, and she joins us now. Hi, Andrea.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. So explain what's at issue here, what the judge already found.

BERNSTEIN: So last Tuesday, surprising, so far as I can tell, almost everyone, Judge Engoron issued a ruling that when you read it, you can practically see the steam rising. He said, based on paperwork alone, all of the defendants committed persistent and repeated fraud by lying about their property values. For example, Donald Trump lied about the size of his own triplex apartment at Trump Tower. He said it was three times as big as it actually is, worth several hundred million dollars more.

FADEL: Wow.

BERNSTEIN: And with Mar-a-Lago, the judge said Trump lied by 2,300% about the value. At one point, the judge likened Donald Trump to Chico Marx in the 1930s classic movie "Duck Soup," who said, well, who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?

FADEL: Two thousand three hundred percent - quite a lot. The judge has moved to cancel the Trump company's business certificates. What does that mean?

BERNSTEIN: So in New York, the law is clear. If you commit persistent and repeated fraud, you can't do business. So now there's a process which begins with the cancellation of the business certificates. The idea is that Trump would have to sell some of his most iconic pieces of his business, Trump Tower, golf courses, commercial buildings. The process will move in parallel with the trial. Trump has appealed. But so far, New York courts are allowing both the trial and the cancellation of the business certificates to move forward.

FADEL: I guess what I'm confused about is if all of this is already happening, why is there even a trial?

BERNSTEIN: So the judge's ruling was only for the first cause of action. There are six more. They have to do with drawing up false documents, conspiracy and lying to insurance companies. On top of that, the AG has to present evidence supporting her claim that Trump's company made $250 million in extra profits from these fraudulent representations. Now, Trump's team has argued no one was hurt, that he made money, banks made money - all good. But the judge said that's irrelevant. You're not allowed to lie or commit fraud. The judge called Trump's defense, quote, "legally preposterous."

FADEL: And so what do we expect today?

BERNSTEIN: So there'll be opening statements by assistant attorney general, Trump's lawyer and possibly lawyers for Don Jr. and Eric Trump, who are also defendants here. The first witness is Trump's former outside accountant, Donald Bender from the firm Mazars. Bender knows a lot, so that should be interesting. Allen Weisselberg and Michael Cohen, two former executives, are expected this week. And then later in the trial, Donald Trump, Eric, Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump are all on the witness list. We're not sure how long it'll go, but one guess is that it will conclude before thanksgiving.

FADEL: And Trump's there today. Will he be back tomorrow?

BERNSTEIN: As with everything involving a former and would-be president going on trial, it's uncharted. We'll know when we know.

FADEL: Andrea Bernstein, thanks so much.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: This week, NPR is bringing you stories about the search for climate solutions.

FADEL: Just this past Friday, New York City experienced major disruptions after several inches of rain led to flash flooding. This comes after a summer of brutal heat and deadly flooding and wildfires in several countries across the world.

MARTÍNEZ: Julia Simon is the climate solutions reporter on NPR's Climate Desk. And she joins us now to explain what this week is all about. Julia, when I talk to people about climate change, I often hear a lot of hopelessness. So what do you say to that?

JULIA SIMON, BYLINE: Things are really bad right now, but what if we reframe the conversation? With climate change, it's actually not like there's this meteor hurtling towards Earth and there's nothing we can do about it. Humans are driving climate change, and that means we can find the solutions to change the trajectory we're on. We actually have many solutions already. Robert Bullard, professor of urban planning at Texas Southern University, equates this moment to when our country faced past injustices.

ROBERT BULLARD: For example, slavery was an evil institution and it needed to be dismantled. I push back against any individuals or organization that will say, well, we can't do anything about this challenge. We can do something about it.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, Julia, so climate solutions, that's what this week is centered around. How do you define it?

SIMON: Broadly speaking, climate solutions are things that reduce greenhouse gases - renewable energy, solar, wind, batteries, energy efficiency. And the way we use land matters. Are we burning forests, destroying mangroves? Individuals can play a role, too, by eating less meat, for example. But we have to remind folks, solutions are not all about individuals. A lot of solutions come down to governments and companies.

MARTÍNEZ: OK, governments - would that be something like when President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act last year? That's really the most significant piece of climate policy in U.S. history. Is that what we're talking about?

SIMON: Right, right. Governments can really set the agenda for climate policy. We saw this in Brazil. The new president, Lula da Silva, is really cracking down on deforestation in the Amazon. Under his predecessor, Bolsonaro, Brazil's deforestation was surging. So some advocates see voting as a real powerful climate solution.

MARTÍNEZ: What if, though, someone's thinking, well, OK, since the planet is already warming, then we need to adapt to that? Is that considered a climate solution?

SIMON: Yes. We will need to rebuild infrastructure for rising sea levels, new rainfall patterns. Adapting to climate change doesn't mean we're giving up. Adaptation is part of the solution. If we replace coal and gas plants with renewables, we reduce greenhouse gases that warm our planet. And we also end up reducing the air pollution that is bad for our lungs. Disadvantaged communities bear the brunt of that pollution, so reducing fossil fuels would help communities of color.

MARTÍNEZ: So it sounds like there's an equity component of climate solutions.

SIMON: A hundred percent. And we have to remember that some individuals and companies are more responsible for climate change than others, so how do we hold them accountable? This summer in Montana, 16 young plaintiffs won a climate lawsuit arguing against the state's development of fossil fuels. It could have huge implications across the U.S. So accountability can be a climate solution, too.

MARTÍNEZ: Julia Simon is the climate solution reporter on NPR's Climate Desk. Julia, thanks.

SIMON: Thanks, A.

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FADEL: Before we let you go, we have one more story for you this morning. California Governor Gavin Newsom is appointing Laphonza Butler to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Dianne Feinstein. She could be sworn in as early as Wednesday. Butler is a Democratic strategist and was an advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris' 2020 presidential campaign. Butler also currently leads EMILY's List, which is a political organization that supports women who favor abortion rights. For more on this topic, listen to NPR's MORNING EDITION, or go to npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.