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Morning news brief

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The pandemic rule known as Title 42 expires next month. This rule always had an official purpose, a little different from its practical effect.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The purpose was to protect the United States from COVID. Obviously that didn't work out. But the effect was to make it easier for the U.S to expel migrants. Since 2020, officials have used the policy to remove more than 2 million people who crossed the border. Now, as it goes away, President Biden's administration wants to prevent more people from arriving illegally. So the U.S. plans a mix of new rules.

INSKEEP: Which NPR's Joel Rose is covering. Joel, good morning.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What's the replacement policy or set of policies here?

ROSE: It's a combination of expanded legal pathways and tough new enforcement measures at the border, including more deportations for migrants who cross the border illegally. The Biden administration is trying to send the message that the border is not open just because Title 42, as you say, is set to end next month.

INSKEEP: Which is, yeah, happening May 11, if I'm not mistaken. So what is the administration saying they intend that mixture of policies to be?

ROSE: Well, one of the big announcements that we got yesterday is that the U.S. is going to stand up new migrant processing centers in Latin America, starting in Guatemala and Colombia. And these are places where migrants can learn if they qualify for legal pathways to the U.S., either as refugees or under some other expanding pathways that the administration is going to roll out. And we also learned more yesterday about the enforcement end of all this. The administration says it's going to use what's called expedited removal under existing U.S. immigration law to quickly deport migrants who do not have valid asylum claims. And the administration says it is pushing ahead with a controversial rule that would make it harder to get asylum if you've crossed the border illegally after passing through Mexico or another country.

INSKEEP: OK, so they're saying we will encourage you in certain ways to seek a legal pathway, but we're going to be tougher on you if you try to cross illegally. Why would that latter part be controversial?

ROSE: Well, immigrant advocates say the second part is similar to an asylum policy that the Trump administration proposed, although the Biden White House disputes that. In general, the reaction from immigrant advocates has been pretty mixed to this announcement. There was a lot of support for the idea of adding these new refugee processing centers, but there's also a lot of disappointment that the administration is moving forward with these restrictions on asylum. Here's Eleanor Acer of the group Human Rights First on a call yesterday with reporters.

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ELEANOR ACER: Refugee resettlement or other regular pathways should never be used to justify denials of access to asylum. Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right and legal under both U.S. and international law.

ROSE: And immigrant advocates have made it clear that they are going to try to block this asylum rule in court when it goes forward.

INSKEEP: Needless to say, an irony here that immigrant advocates would accuse the administration of being too harsh, too tough, kicking out too many people, since Republican critics of the administration constantly say the opposite.

ROSE: Yeah, and we heard more of that in reaction to this plan. I mean, Republicans and immigration hard-liners were already critical of the administration's policies. They say that's encouraged the record number of migrants arriving at the border. Here's Mark Green, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, a Republican from Tennessee, speaking yesterday at a press conference.

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MARK GREEN: The more you incentivize people, the bigger the wave will be. And all the processing centers do is provide more incentive. Oh, the door's even more open.

INSKEEP: OK, bottom line - will the administration be able to prevent that big wave, to use Green's phrase?

ROSE: I think in the short run, there's wide agreement, even from the administration, that we're going to see a jump in the number of migrants crossing the border. I mean, hundreds of thousands of people in the hemisphere have left their homes, fleeing from violence, poverty and political destabilization. Many of them are now in towns and cities along the U.S.-Mexico border, and they're growing increasingly desperate to seek asylum.

INSKEEP: NPR's Joel Rose, thanks so much.

ROSE: You bet.

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INSKEEP: The writer E. Jean Carroll stuck to her story yesterday under cross-examination.

MARTIN: Carroll says Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in the dressing room of a department store in the 1990s and then defamed her when she went public. Now she's giving testimony and faced Trump's lawyers in federal court.

INSKEEP: NPR's Andrea Bernstein was in the courthouse yesterday. Andrea, good morning.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: And I guess we should note this is graphic testimony. How effective was the cross-examination of that testimony?

BERNSTEIN: Trump's lawyer, Joe Tacopina, tried to draw out flaws - that E. Jean Carroll didn't go to the police, didn't go to a doctor, didn't document the attack in her diary, couldn't remember exactly when it occurred. But Carroll, who is 79, stood by her account. After a joking encounter in a Bergdorf Goodman, Trump, quote, "shoved me so hard my head banged" and then, quote, "jammed his fingers" inside her before penetrating her with his penis. Tacopina tried to draw out inconsistencies in her behavior - why she laughed when she called her first friend, why she couldn't remember the email she sent, why she told two friends but never talked about it again. And Carroll responded, she felt ashamed and afraid she wouldn't be believed and had only been motivated to come forward many years later, after Harvey Weinstein's rapes were exposed in 2018 and the #MeToo movement was launched.

INSKEEP: I guess she would also have to talk about the defamation part of this case. She says Trump defamed her in far more recent years.

BERNSTEIN: Yesterday morning, she detailed some of the things Trump has said about her, calling her a liar who is in it for political reasons or to sell books. In his cross-examination, Trump attorney Joe Tacopina brought up those same issues, suggesting she was a liar and was plotting to increase book sales for money and political ends. At one point, Tacopina tried to suggest there was an inconsistency between Carroll saying she felt ashamed and saying she felt afraid because Trump was powerful, rich, famous and, as one of her friends put it, he has 200 lawyers. But Carroll pushed back, saying, quote, "I was afraid Donald Trump would retaliate, which is exactly what he did. He has two tables full of lawyers here today."

INSKEEP: How does it affect this case at all, that it happens in the middle of a presidential campaign and involves a presidential candidate?

BERNSTEIN: So Trump earlier this week posted another social media attack on Carroll, as did his son Eric. And, of course, that's Trump's usual MO - to bully, belittle and discredit people who criticize him or try to hold him to account. We saw that in the 2016 campaign, in the White House, in the 2020 campaign. We're seeing it now in this trial. But this isn't a political campaign. We are in a federal court with tens of millions of dollars in reputational damage potentially at stake. The judge has already admonished Trump's lawyers that he could be opening himself up to additional claims if he continues to attack Carroll.

INSKEEP: Very briefly, where does this case go in days ahead?

BERNSTEIN: There will be more cross-examination. We will hear from people she confided in, from two other women who say they were assaulted in a similar manner. The jury will view the "Access Hollywood" tape where Trump boasted about grabbing women by the genitals because when you're a star, they let you do it. Videotaped testimony of Trump's deposition case could go to a jury possibly by the end of next week.

INSKEEP: NPR's Andrea Bernstein, thanks so much.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

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INSKEEP: You know, this week started with a divorce at Fox News. The network fired its biggest star, Tucker Carlson.

MARTIN: And the rest of the week has not gone any better. Viewers have deserted Fox, at least for now. And reporters have posted stories that the discovery of offensive private messages Carlson sent about colleagues may have been what pushed Fox to settle a major lawsuit.

INSKEEP: NPR's David Folkenflik joins us now. David, good morning.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what's it been like over there? I know you have many sources. What's it like over there now that Tucker Carlson is out?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you don't even have to talk to sources to notice the biggest fallout. You've seen ratings basically fall off a cliff this week for those who have been substituting for him. It was down, you know, significant chunk. It's down almost 50% in the days since his departure. And you've seen the rise concomitantly of this much smaller right-wing rival, Newsmax. They are playing up the idea that Fox has fired Tucker Carlson 'cause it's gone lib, it's gone woke, it's gone Democrat. And in some ways you've seen - you know, former Fox host Eric Bolling on Newsmax has seen his ratings go up almost fivefold. All of this is, in a way, weirdly ironic because that dynamic is what led to the panic at Fox News after the 2020 elections that led to Fox being sued for defamation.

INSKEEP: That's true. And they were saying things like, we've got to respect the audience, meaning we have to listen to people who believe false claims of election fraud. I want to figure out how this story has evolved over the last several days. We knew at the beginning that Fox had lost this huge defamation suit. Then we knew that Carlson was ousted. It wasn't exactly clear what the connection was between the two or why. So what have you learned in the days since?

FOLKENFLIK: Sure. Well, I would say litigation focuses the mind. And first thing to remember is that Tucker Carlson has been - and Fox have been sued for creating a sexist, misogynist and bigoted workplace. In the defamation lawsuit that was settled last week for three-quarters of a billion bucks, their messages emerged from Carlson to colleagues showing contempt for other colleagues and showing a sexist and bigoted outlook, according to three people I spoke with, with some knowledge of his departure from Fox. In addition, he had lost standing at the network. He had not only been contemptuous of colleagues, but lost advertisers - so huge ratings, but losing revenue because of the kinds of conspiracy theories he was wrapping his show with. And he - you know, Fox had publicly stood by him by things including a special he did called "Patriot Purge," standing up for people who had been part of the bloody siege of Congress on January 6. But at a certain point, it all was too much.

INSKEEP: Well, what does that tell you about the way that Fox operates?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think it tells you both about how Fox operates and how their controlling owners, the Murdochs, operate. They're with you until they're not. And that's true from the outset. You know, if you think of Glenn Beck, a figure who kind of got bigger than the network in his own mind, they ultimately dumped him and did fine. The ratings got better. Bill O'Reilly, a star from the outset, prime time at 8 o'clock, this same slot - you know, he was forced out in 2017 because of sexual harassment accusations that I must say he denies. Nonetheless, Fox paid a lot of money. He paid a lot of money to get out of it. They did great. They put in Tucker Carlson - even better ratings. So, you know, their belief is they'll regroup and come out fine, if not stronger.

INSKEEP: What's Carlson do next?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, we've seen this recent video that he posted a day or two ago in which he said only the truth-tellers survived and said it's really a one-party state in America. The media won't post dissenting views. Of course, we live in one of the most divisive times you could imagine. I think Carlson's signaling he intends to be on his own platform, and we'll be hearing more from him soon.

INSKEEP: David, thanks so much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's David Folkenflik. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.