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Morning news brief


A proposal by Israel's right-wing government has torn Israeli society apart. And today, the government is scheduled to go ahead.


The Knesset plans to vote on cancelling some of the power of Israel's Supreme Court. And that would leave more power in the hands of the ruling coalition. President Biden has called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to slow down. Netanyahu himself was just released from the hospital after an emergency heart procedure. And Israelis who have protested for months are trying one more time.

INSKEEP: NPR's Daniel Estrin is watching them. Daniel, where are you? And what are you seeing?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: I'm camped out right in front of Israel's parliament, the Knesset. And I'm seeing hundreds, thousands of Israeli protesters with Israeli flags. They are trying to block one of the four entrances to the parliament where lawmakers are supposed to convene today and pass this bill into final law. I'm seeing police trying to drag metal barriers to try to stop them. There's a water cannon here. So it's a little bit chaotic. But I've been speaking with protesters, including protest leader Shikma Bressler.

SHIKMA BRESSLER: I think it's an historical moment for Israel. A decision will have to be taken.

ESTRIN: And that decision is whether this law will actually come into fruition. This is a law that would allow the government to hire and fire senior officials without any oversight by the judiciary. The government says, well, you know, we won elections fair and square, so we should be able to act as we see fit. The political opposition says this kind of law could lead to unchecked power for the government. I spoke to another protester, psychologist Micha Weiss (ph).

MICHA WEISS: I do hope that at the end, there will be some kind of compromise with the opposition. But it's not sure that that will happen. And if it will not happen, we will be beginning dictatorship.

ESTRIN: So now there are these feverish political negotiations behind the scenes to reach a compromise.

INSKEEP: OK, that's useful to know - that even though the Knesset has scheduled a vote, the vote is coming, that people are still talking, as they have been periodically for months. So how does this work out?

ESTRIN: Well, I've been speaking to a person involved in these behind-the-scene talks. And they say that this is a two-part deal they're trying to work out between Netanyahu's government and the opposition. The first part is that they would try to agree on sort of a less strict law. So it would restrict judicial oversight over appointing senior cabinet ministers, but the judiciary would still be able to have oversight over the appointment of key - what they call Democratic gatekeepers, like the attorney general and people that aren't supposed to be yes men, yes people, to the government.

And then, the second issue they're trying to work out is trying to delay the other raft of legislation to overhaul the judiciary that the government wants. So they're negotiating, should it be paused for three months, for 12 months? So those are the two issues that they're negotiating. It seems that Netanyahu does want to reach a compromise. He has to convince his far-right political partners, who have vowed to their supporters they are moving ahead.

INSKEEP: Yeah, let's just remember that Netanyahu came back into power in coalition with far-right parties, making it the farthest-right government in Israeli history. And you also remind us that this is just one of several changes they want to the power of the judiciary. What happens if it is passed?

ESTRIN: If it is passed, the government could, for instance, fire the attorney general - we have seen signs they may want to - and then the Supreme Court would not be able to block that. And maybe that attorney general could be replaced with someone, you know, a sort of rubber stamp for the government. But there's also a bigger security crisis, Steve, which is that military reservists are threatening not to serve in protest of this law. And so there are a lot of enemies on Israel's borders. Leaders are worried.

INSKEEP: NPR's Daniel Estrin among the protesters in Israel. Daniel, thank you so much.

ESTRIN: You are welcome.


INSKEEP: National elections in Spain yesterday failed to produce a winner, with neither major party having enough support to form a government on their own.

FADEL: The traditional conservative party, the center right, won the most votes. But they didn't do as well as expected. And a far-right party also underperformed. And that means the country faces political uncertainty. A far-right party has not ruled in Spain since the fascist leader Francisco Franco died in the 1970s.

INSKEEP: Miguel Macias is covering this from Seville. Welcome.

MIGUEL MACIAS, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: I was just reading the other day that the conservative party and the far right together would probably win. What happened?

MACIAS: Yes, most polls showed Partido Popular projected to win. And the far-right Vox party, as we mentioned, was expected to do much better. But these two together just didn't get enough seats in Parliament to ensure a coalition government. And even though the conservatives obtained quite a good result compared to the previous election four years ago, their goal was to govern. This is where this far-right Vox party comes in as a key player. It was expected to do much better than they did. And, in fact, they lost more than a third of the seats they won last time.

INSKEEP: Yeah, the expectation was for the far right to surge. Why did they fail to do so?

MACIAS: Well, most political analysts are pointing at one thing - this so-called voto util, which basically means the useful vote. Many people here were very worried about the possibility of the far right holding real national political power in Spain again. So they may have voted for an option they did not like but did better than the far-right Vox party. And that didn't help the conservatives either.

INSKEEP: OK, so if the parties on the right did not prevail, does that mean the parties on the left, the ruling socialists and others can govern?

MACIAS: Well, it's complicated. The socialists did not win enough seats either, so we need to look at the smaller parties. Some of them may hold only five seats, seven seats or even one seat. They're going to be very sought after by the left and the right. These are all regional parties - we're talking about the Catalans, the Basque - parties from other regions, all with their special interests. These smaller parties are not about to give away their support for free. They will ask for things. But overall, Steve, analysts are saying the political left has a much better chance to persuade these smaller parties to give them their support.

INSKEEP: This is particularly interesting because people were writing about the rise of the far right across Europe. Of course, a far-right party is in power in Italy. Spain was, in some minds, expected to be next. What does it mean that the conservatives and the far right had to take a step back?

MACIAS: It's a little early to tell. But one thing is for sure, Steve, we've seen far-right politicians in other European countries come back time and time again. And Vox's style - that combative, sort of toxic, with disregard for the facts - that has permeated Spanish politics now. So Vox might have done poorly in this election, but they've certainly changed the tone of public discourse in Spain.

INSKEEP: And I guess we should mention an alternative government has not formed. This isn't over. What happens now?

MACIAS: Well, we don't know. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was celebrating last night, even though he did not win the election. But he's known to be a survivor, a fighter. He leads the coalition government right now, so he knows how to line up the votes in Parliament. So he will surely try again. But remember, the conservatives still won the most votes. And so if no one can form a coalition, it's likely Spain will go to the polls again.

INSKEEP: A repeat election. Miguel, thanks so much.

MACIAS: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Reporter Miguel Macias in Seville.


INSKEEP: Our justice correspondent says we should be ready for another indictment of former President Donald Trump.

FADEL: Yeah, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination has already been indicted twice - one is state, one is federal. If it happens soon, this would be another federal indictment over his effort to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election.

INSKEEP: NPR's Carrie Johnson is following this story. Hey there, Carrie.


INSKEEP: What makes it seem like an indictment is near?

JOHNSON: Donald Trump has told us all that he received a target letter about a week ago. And that's a strong signal that the special counsel, Jack Smith, is moving toward a grand jury indictment of the former president. In order to indict, the grand jury would have to find probable cause that Trump broke the law. Now, that's a lower standard than what's needed to convict in a courtroom, but it's still a very significant step. And Trump's lawyers are suggesting a number of possible charges may be on the table, including conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and obstruction of Congress on January 6. Trump says he's, quote, "completely innocent." And he's been fundraising off this target letter for several days now.

INSKEEP: Which might be one reason that one would release such a letter, I suppose, to marshal political and financial support. Now, with each of these indictments, we have to learn or relearn about another pattern of alleged criminal conduct. What would the alleged conduct be here?

JOHNSON: You know, in some ways, Steve, this would be the most serious criminal case against Donald Trump if it goes forward. More than two years ago, we all watched rioters storm the U.S. Capitol. They beat up police officers with their fists and with flagpoles and other instruments. They stopped, at least for a little while, the certification of the 2020 presidential election. And, you know, the Justice Department and the FBI have already arrested about 1,000 people in connection with the riot.

But whether the people who spread lies about election fraud in 2020 would ever face justice has been a big and open question. And this target letter for Donald Trump is a sign special counsel Jack Smith is moving to hold the former president accountable. Grand juries here in Washington, D.C., continue to hear from witnesses and issue subpoenas for documents. So their work is not done yet.

INSKEEP: How is the former president defending himself in case after case while also campaigning for another term as president?

JOHNSON: You know, Trump has made a different decision here than others. He's making his legal problems a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. He's casting himself as someone who's been targeted for political reasons. That's even though the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to try to insulate these investigations from politics.

And Trump is going to be in and out of court for most of the next year. He has a criminal trial in Manhattan over hush money payments to the adult film star Stormy Daniels in March 2024. He now has a trial date in Florida for May 2024. Steve, that's the case that accuses Trump of hoarding classified documents at his resort in Florida and obstructing the FBI's efforts to recover those papers. Trump has pleaded not guilty in Florida. He signaled he's going to try to get those charges and some of the evidence against him there dismissed.

INSKEEP: Isn't there even another possible indictment looming?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. There's a grand jury in Georgia that's been looking into Trump's efforts to pressure state officials to find him more votes in 2020. But Georgia could also be important for another reason. If these federal cases are not wrapped up by the next election and Donald Trump wins, he could try to direct his Justice Department to get rid of these federal cases or even pardon himself. Trump would not have that same kind of power to get rid of any state cases that are happening in New York or Georgia.

INSKEEP: Carrie, thanks as always for your insights.

JOHNSON: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: That's NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. 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.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.

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