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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Former President Trump is back in court today. A grand jury indicted him for taking classified documents when he left the White House and repeatedly refusing to return them.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, Trump has been in court many times in his life. One of his strategies is delay, and his lawyers have asked to postpone this trial. What's different this time is the election calendar. He is running for president again, which means he is running to oversee the Justice Department. His former attorney general, William Barr, spoke with NPR on Friday.

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WILLIAM BARR: If Trump wins the primaries and is the nominee - which I do not think he will be, but if he is and then if he gets elected, my assumption is the case would be dropped, or he would have the case dropped. I mean, it will be a mess. It'll be a mess.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has been following the case. Carrie, so what specifically is Trump saying about justifying a delay?

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Trump is asking this judge he appointed to the bench, Aileen Cannon, to basically put off the trial until after the election because he says jury selection is going to be very difficult. And he says the legal issues here in this case are challenging. Trump is running for the White House. He says he's got a busy schedule between now and next November when he's going to be campaigning and traveling a lot around the country.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Jack Smith, the special counsel investigating Trump - what did he have to say?

JOHNSON: Yeah, the special counsel says there is no basis for postponing this trial. Jack Smith wants to select a jury this December. He says some of Trump's legal arguments are baseless and frivolous, this isn't a difficult case and that lots of defendants have busy jobs with travel and they don't get special treatment from the courts. You know, Trump has had lots of legal trouble. He often goes all the way to the Supreme Court to try to get his way. And what's left unsaid in these court papers is that putting off this trial until after the election could threaten the whole case itself. If Trump wins, he could direct his attorney general to drop the indictment or even try to pardon himself in 2025.

MARTÍNEZ: The FBI found classified documents in a bathroom, a ballroom, a storage room, all at Trump's resort, Mar-a-Lago. Will we see any of those papers in the course of this case?

JOHNSON: That's not clear at this stage. We're going to learn more in the coming weeks. What's happening now is that lawyers for Trump and his valet, Walt Nauta, are getting security clearances to be able to look at some of these documents. They've signaled in court filings they may challenge whether some of the materials should actually be considered classified. And they've also signaled there should be no secret evidence in the case, no secrets from the jury. Defense lawyers are not giving any ground here. They apparently balked at a protective order. The Justice Department tried to file yesterday to prevent classified documents it's giving to the defense from being shared, including with the defendants themselves. That order is pretty typical, according to former prosecutors. It's basically trying to make sure no one releases classified information they get in the course of all this trial preparation, including the defendants. And if they do, those people could be subject to further prosecution and contempt charges.

MARTÍNEZ: You mentioned Aileen Cannon. That's the judge that Trump appointed, the judge in this case. How is she approaching the job so far?

JOHNSON: Judge Cannon received a lot of criticism last year when she carved out an exemption for the former president to challenge a lawfully executed search warrant. And she was overruled by a very conservative appeals court, which included Trump appointees. Since then, she's proceeded pretty conventionally. A lot of people are watching her next moves. The Justice Department has not moved to recuse her based on alleged appearance of impartiality issues. And right now, I do not expect that to happen.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Carrie Johnson. Thanks for the info.

JOHNSON: My pleasure.

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MARTÍNEZ: As global temperatures rise, the relationship between the U.S. and China appears to thaw.

INSKEEP: Yeah, John Kerry is the latest high-level American official to visit Beijing. The special climate envoy met today with the ruling Communist Party's head of foreign relations. Kerry's visit is aimed at reestablishing climate change talks between the two countries that contribute the most to the problem.

MARTÍNEZ: For more on Kerry's trip, we're joined by Zack Colman, who covers climate change for Politico. Zack, U.S. and China never seem to be pals on policy, so what can we reasonably expect to come out of Kerry's visit?

ZACK COLMAN: Well, this is one area where the two countries have a common vision for what they want to do. They want to reduce emissions that are heating the planet. But we do have to set a low bar here. The relationship between the two countries were at historic, at least modern, lows. And there's a lot of work that needs to be done to repair how these two countries work together to solve this vexing issue.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, what are some of the issues that are complicating these talks?

COLMAN: I mean, these talks have been suspended since last August when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went to Taiwan as an affront to China. China, of course, considers Taiwan its territory. The U.S. sees it as more independent from China. And that was a big no-no in China, and that has frozen the talks until now. There's also just basic human rights concerns. A lot of these solar panels that are made in China are made with what we would consider forced labor from the minority Uyghur population in Xinjiang. And there is a lot of economic competition. In the year since the Pelosi visit to Taiwan, the U.S. has put hundreds of billions of dollars out the door to try to wrest a lot of this battery, semiconductor and clean energy manufacturing from China and back to the U.S.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, we've known that China and the U.S. are the two largest contributors to a rising global temperatures. And we tend to hear a lot about the United States's ambitious climate goals, but what is China doing to combat climate change?

COLMAN: Well, China has a goal to install 1,200 gigawatts of wind and solar by 2030, and they're projected to hit that next year. And for context, that's about six times as much as the U.S. has installed. So they are an enormous installer of renewable energy, and they're an enormous producer of it as well. So they have put more renewable energy onto the marketplace than any other country as well. So they do a lot there, but they are backsliding on coal, and coal is the biggest contributor to climate change. It is dirty. It is heating the planet. And if China cannot ditch coal faster, then we are not going to hit our temperature targets to keep the world from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celcius by 2050.

MARTÍNEZ: Where do the United States and China have common ground when it comes to climate change? Does that exist anywhere?

COLMAN: It does. I mean, both countries want to improve air quality for their citizens, and you do that by getting rid of dirtier fuels. Both countries are seeing these devastating impacts from climate change, especially heat waves, which are hitting not only the U.S. but also China right now. Drought is a problem in China, just as it is in the U.S. So both countries see an economic advantage to transition to cleaner fuels and also a human health advantage.

MARTÍNEZ: Zack Colman reports on climate change for Politico. Zack, thanks for the information.

COLMAN: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: The European Union is offering hundreds of millions of dollars to the Tunisian government. Now, it's meant to help the country's failing economy. In exchange, though, Tunisia has to help stem illegal migration to Europe.

INSKEEP: Of which there's been a lot. So far this year, according to Italy, some 75,000 people arrived in smuggler's boats. Thousands of others have died trying to make the journey across the Mediterranean, and many started in Tunisia. The deal means the European Union will be helping to fund a government that has undermined Tunisia's once-hopeful young democracy.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Ruth Sherlock covers the region, joins us now from the U.K. Ruth, tell us more about this deal between the EU and Tunisia. What is being offered?

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Hi. Yeah, well, EU leaders were just there, including the Dutch and Italian prime ministers on Sunday, to try to move this forward. And what the EU is dangling is this prospect of as much as a billion dollars in financial aid. Most of that is dependent on Tunisia agreeing to reforms imposed by the IMF. But like you said, you know, the other big piece about this is migration. So the EU, especially Italy, where lots of migrants arrive, is desperate to stop the smugglers' boats that keep coming across the Mediterranean Sea. Even more boats are setting off from Tunisia these days than from Libya. And the EU wants to strengthen the Tunisian Coast Guard and encourage Tunisia to also send home migrants that arrive there trying to get to Europe.

MARTÍNEZ: Tell us why, though, the nature of the Tunisian government is bringing out critics of this deal.

SHERLOCK: Well, so part of it is that Tunisia's president, Kais Saied, has done a lot to unravel Tunisia's democracy that formed after the Arab Spring revolution in 2011. He was elected on a promise to fix the economy, but he since then centralized power to himself, weakened the mandate of parliament, jailed prominent opponents and critics like Monica Marks, a Tunisian expert and assistant professor at New York University in Abu Dhabi. Well, she told me that in dealing with Saied, the EU is sacrificing its principles.

MONICA MARKS: The most important thing about this deal is it symbolically says we in the EU are willing to use our taxpayers' money to achieve our priority in Tunisia, which is stopping migration as much as possible, no matter the cost, no matter how much you violate human rights.

SHERLOCK: She says the deal comes across as a pat on the back for Saied.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, speaking of human rights, one of those concerns over human rights is that in recent months have been attacks against Black Tunisians and migrants from other parts of Africa. What's driving that?

SHERLOCK: Well, Monica Marks and others say Saied has fuelled racist sentiment in Tunisia. He denies any allegations of racism, but he's given speeches that cite the conspiracy theory also sometimes used by white nationalists in Europe and the U.S. and rooted in antisemitism. It's known as the, quote, "great replacement" and basically alleges this conspiracy - that there's a conspiracy to overwhelm the country with Black Africans. So this was followed by a wave of attacks in Tunisia in recent months. And Black Tunisians and migrants have been robbed and attacked and evicted from their homes. And so the irony, experts say, is that actually this may be one of the causes for the increase in illegal migration across the Mediterranean as people try to flee Tunisia. And there's this concern that actually in backing Kais Saied's government, that plan may actually backfire, and there may actually be more migration to Europe.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Ruth Sherlock in the U.K. Ruth, thanks.

SHERLOCK: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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A Martínez
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.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.