Morning news brief
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Each hearing by the January 6 committee pushes responsibility closer to then-President Trump.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The committee presents more and more sworn depositions. Usually, it's by Republicans. Often, it's people who worked for the president. Sometimes it's even from people who promoted his election lies. The result yesterday was like a video documentary describing White House meetings from multiple perspectives.
INSKEEP: NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas has been following these hearings. Ryan, good morning.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: OK, the basic outline of events leading up to January 6 was known. Trump encouraged people to come to Washington, and they did, including extremist groups, and they attacked the Capitol. What do all these videos add to the understanding of what happened?
LUCAS: Well, we saw and heard a lot from Trump's last White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, yesterday. Cipollone was interviewed by the committee just on Friday. And Cipollone said he agreed that the election was not stolen. That was a message that he and other top advisers, like Attorney General Bill Barr, were also delivering to Trump. But Trump didn't want to hear it.
Instead, he was listening to a group of informal outside advisers - Sidney Powell, former Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and Rudy Giuliani. And the committee zeroed in on a December 18 meeting at the White House that devolved into a screaming match, really. The committee showed a text from White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson describing this six-hour meeting as unhinged. Powell and company were pushing these outlandish theories about election fraud. Cipollone's side was pushing back. After the meeting ended, though, in the wee hours of the morning, Trump sent out his tweet calling on supporters to come to Washington on January 6 for a wild rally.
INSKEEP: What was the importance of that one tweet?
LUCAS: Well, Democrat Jamie Raskin, who co-led this hearing yesterday along with Stephanie Murphy, they described Trump's tweet as, in essence, a call to arms. And the committee showed that after that tweet, Trump's followers were galvanized, particularly online. Here's what Raskin said.
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JAMIE RASKIN: Many shared plans and violent threats. One post encouraged others to come with body armor, knuckles, shields, bats, pepper spray - whatever it takes. All of those were used on the 6.
LUCAS: We also heard testimony from a rioter who stormed the Capitol, Stephen Ayres, a former cabinet worker - cabinet factory worker from Ohio. And he said he came to Washington because Trump asked him to. He said he marched to the Capitol, didn't have plans to, but marched to the Capitol because Trump told him to. And he said he left the Capitol after Trump tweeted, telling the rioters to go home. All of this is part of the committee trying to make its case that it's Donald Trump who is directly responsible for the events that happened on January 6.
INSKEEP: Do they have even more evidence of that than they've shown so far?
LUCAS: Well, they have another hearing scheduled for next week. It will be in prime time. And the focus of that one is going to be on the three hours or so on January 6, as violence was taking place at the Capitol, when Trump was not taking action to stop that violence.
INSKEEP: One other thing, Ryan - what did Liz Cheney say, representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, say just as everybody was getting ready to leave?
LUCAS: Well, she said that Donald Trump tried to call a witness who the public has not yet seen in the committee's hearings. She said the person didn't answer the call and instead alerted their lawyer, who then informed the committee. Cheney said the committee told the Justice Department about it, and then Cheney said this.
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LIZ CHENEY: Let me say one more time - we will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously.
LUCAS: Now, the suggestion here, of course, is that Trump was calling this committee witness to try to influence their testimony. The committee's raised concerns about potential witness tampering previously. But this time Cheney name-dropped Trump, and that sends a message, a very public message. I also, for the record, did get in touch with the Justice Department about this, and it declined to comment.
INSKEEP: NPR's Ryan Lucas. Thanks so much.
LUCAS: Thank you.
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INSKEEP: President Biden is on his way to the Middle East, and the first stop is Israel.
MARTIN: In his career, he's been to Israel 10 times. He first saw it as a senator about 50 years ago. It's enough time to see a few different areas of Mideast history, and as Biden arrives, his advisers say - says a new one is starting.
INSKEEP: NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid is in Jerusalem. Hey there, Asma.
ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hi there, Steve.
INSKEEP: So what is different about this period in history than some past ones?
KHALID: Well, you know, Steve, the White House is trying to make the case that the U.S. role in the region has actually changed rather dramatically, specifically in the last 20 years with the end of the Iraq war now and the U.S. military presence significantly smaller than it once was in the area. And, you know, really, the goal, I will say, of this trip is to keep the situation relatively stable. The foreign policy priorities of this White House are really focused elsewhere. It sees China as the overarching force to be reckoned with.
But, you know, Steve, even though I say that, I should point out that there are expectations that Russian President Vladimir Putin is making plans to visit Iran, and Biden is no doubt concerned about other countries trying to expand their influence in the region. And, you know, he's also concerned about spillover effects from Russia's war in Ukraine.
INSKEEP: Oh, my goodness. There are questions like, for example, will Saudi Arabia, a big economy, help in isolating Russia or not? So far, they generally have not. And then there's the matter of how the war in Ukraine has affected oil prices and oil production. Is Biden getting any help from Persian Gulf oil producers?
KHALID: You know, the White House is acknowledging that energy security is certainly on the agenda for this trip. The president will be meeting with leaders from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar - all members of OPEC. And for months, officials have been quietly trying to make the case to these partners to increase their supply of oil. The White House notes that there has been some increases now, and they would certainly welcome more. But I should point out, Steve, that every analyst that I have spoken to has extremely low expectations that this trip is going to fix the price pressures Americans have been feeling at the pump, at least in the short term.
You know, I think it's also important, though, to mention another impact of the war in Ukraine is global grain supplies. Middle Eastern importers have been hit hard by the cut to exports of wheat and sunflower oil. And that's one thing on the agenda here in Jerusalem. Tomorrow, President Biden and the prime minister of Israel will meet virtually with leaders from the UAE and India to talk about food security issues.
INSKEEP: Let's zoom in to where you are - Jerusalem, an area with its own conflicts, to say the least. What is the president doing and saying regarding that?
KHALID: Well, he's going to underscore the fact that the U.S. continues to be deeply invested in Israel's security. In fact, shortly after he arrives today, he'll receive a briefing on Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, which the U.S. has helped supply. He'll also go, though, to the West Bank on this trip and meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. There will be some sort of announcement of support for the Palestinian people. And I do expect that President Biden will speak in broad terms about his longstanding support for a two-state solution. But really, the politics on the ground here do not support that sort of compromise right now.
INSKEEP: And then he gets on a plane, and he flies to Saudi Arabia.
KHALID: That's right. And Biden will meet with the Saudi royal family, including the crown prince, who U.S. intelligence says approved of the operation to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. And, Steve, we don't know much yet about what that encounter will look like, but we'll - I'll be, I think, certainly, watching to see what kind of enduring image comes from that meeting and how or what President Biden will do to acknowledge the concerns from human rights groups who have been seeking accountability for what happened.
INSKEEP: NPR's Asma Khalid is in Jerusalem. Asma, safe travels.
KHALID: Thank you, Steve.
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INSKEEP: All right. Authorities in Uvalde, Texas, have released a graphic video that shows police doing absolutely nothing.
MARTIN: It's security video from inside the school on the day of the mass shooting there. It shows every minute of police standing around while a gunman controlled a nearby classroom that was full of children. The Austin American-Statesman obtained the video.
INSKEEP: NPR's Adrian Florido has been watching that video. He's been covering the shooting in Uvalde for some time. Good morning.
ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What's the video show?
FLORIDO: Well, Steve, I think it's important to note what it doesn't show. What we don't see in this video is victims. This is mostly video from the security camera inside that school hallway, along with some video from outside the school. And so what we see is the gunman entering through a side door and then walking down that school hallway to a classroom door and shooting at it before disappearing inside. And at that point, we just hear gunfire coming from inside the classroom from several - for several minutes.
The Austin American-Statesman, which obtained this video, edited out audio of children screaming before publishing it. We also see, within about three minutes, the first police officers arriving and approaching that classroom door but then running to take cover as the gunman shoots through the door. And then, really, Steve, the next hour or so, we just see more police officers showing up, pointing their guns toward the classroom, gathering equipment, walking back and forth for more than an hour before they finally do storm that classroom.
INSKEEP: And, of course, we've heard many times since then that normal police procedure would be to storm the classroom immediately. How does the video change your understanding of what happened or didn't happen?
FLORIDO: You know, there's no huge new revelations in this video because a lot of what we know happened had been reported before this video was released yesterday. But it is the first visual evidence we have of the bungled police response, essentially in its entirety. And it's hard to watch because this delay goes on for so long, while we know that there were children calling 911 inside that classroom, a teacher bleeding to death. Ultimately, she did bleed to death. And as this video goes on, as these police officers check their phones, apply hand sanitizer, it really drives home how much more could have been done much sooner to kill the gunman and possibly save some of those victims.
INSKEEP: How are people in Uvalde responding?
FLORIDO: I'm hearing mixed reaction. Last night I spoke with a man who was standing on the side of the road carrying a sign that said, in part, that Uvalde police are cowards. This man had his face covered, and he asked me not to use his name because it's a small town, and he fears police retaliation. But here's what he said.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Since the beginning of this, they've said they did everything they could. They were waiting for things. The stories just changed and changed. And the video today shows exactly what they didn't do, and that was protect those kids' lives.
FLORIDO: Now, this man, along with others I spoke with, have said this video is important because many people no longer trust police or public officials to tell them the truth about what happened that day. But other people here are upset by the video and specifically the fact that it was published. The video published showed the gunman shooting at the classroom door. Kimberly Rubio, whose daughter Lexi was killed, wrote on Facebook that the world saw in that video a person shooting at a door, but she saw and heard the man who was murdering her 10-year-old daughter.
INSKEEP: NPR's Adrian Florido in Uvalde. Thanks so much.
FLORIDO: Thanks, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.