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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Hunter Biden does not yet have a plea agreement on a gun charge.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Biden's son spent several awkward hours in court yesterday. This is a little complex, so it's worth taking a moment to run it down. Biden expected to plead guilty and avoid prison for tax and gun charges. Instead, the judge had questions about how this deal is supposed to work. Prosecutors filed the tax and gun charges during a wider investigation into Biden's business dealings. Republicans talk about those business dealings on Fox News all the time, so Biden wants assurance against future prosecution, especially if former President Trump returns to office. The judge held up the deal to clarify just how it would work and how much protection Biden would receive.

MARTÍNEZ: Republicans remain eager to connect the case to President Biden. Past investigations have failed to do that. But House Republicans have talked of trying again through an impeachment inquiry. NPR's congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins us now. Deirdre, how are House Republicans messaging this?

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: I mean, they're saying this ongoing investigation proves that there are serious allegations around Hunter Biden's business dealings, and Congress should be looking at them. Beyond Hunter's plea deal about tax and the gun charge, Republicans are focused on other allegations - allegations that Hunter Biden involved his father, who was then vice president, in some of his business dealings with foreign companies. I talked to House Oversight Chairman James Comer, who says he's more focused on the president than Hunter.

JAMES COMER: At the end of the day, I'm investigating Joe Biden. Hunter Biden's the subject of that investigation because I think the president used his son to launder all this money.

WALSH: We should say that House Republicans have not corroborated any of the allegations about any payments involving President Biden. The White House says the president was never in business with his son.

MARTÍNEZ: How are Democrats responding?

WALSH: I talked to Jerry Nadler. He's the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. He stresses that the prosecutor who's still investigating Hunter Biden was appointed by former President Trump, and he says there's no evidence linking the president to any wrongdoing. And Nadler says talk about impeaching Biden is all about the 2024 election.

JERRY NADLER: This is all, firstly, absurd and, second of all, really designed to take people's attention away from the real indictments of former President Trump.

WALSH: He's talking about indictments that former President Trump faces related to his handling of classified documents and other cases.

MARTÍNEZ: Do House Republicans agree that impeachment should be pursued?

WALSH: For now, House Republicans are pretty united on this idea that it's their responsibility to conduct oversight and investigate allegations, get testimony from witnesses and some Biden administration officials, but not all want a vote. You know, those on the far right want one and started calling for one right after Biden was elected - on impeachment. But more mainstream Republicans say the House needs to build any case using evidence first and then decide whether it actually rises to impeachment. But, you know, Speaker McCarthy has just a four-vote majority. He's facing a lot of pressure from members on the right, the Republican base and the former president to impeach.

MARTÍNEZ: What about Senate Republicans? Are they on board?

WALSH: You know, many are not. They see a chance for themselves to win back control of the Senate in 2024 and think impeachment could step on their message on the economy. I talked to Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, who says even if the House impeached, there aren't the votes to convict Biden in the Senate. He wants to spend time on other more productive things and legislating. Here's Cornyn.

JOHN CORNYN: I just think that we need to try to work out our political differences and not use tools like impeachment to try to redress our grievances.

WALSH: And the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, said impeachment should be rare. He says he understands why House Republicans may want to go down that road because they oppose the two Trump impeachments. But he says multiple impeachments are not good for the country.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Deirdre Walsh, thanks.

WALSH: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: The president of the West African nation of Niger was removed in a coup late last night, local time, despite frantic diplomatic efforts to save his government.

INSKEEP: The president was held for several hours by his own guards at his residence, and then soldiers appeared on national TV after midnight, local time, and announced the president had been deposed.

MARTÍNEZ: Emmanuel Akinwotu is NPR's Africa correspondent, joins us now from neighboring Nigeria. How have the soldiers justified this coup?

EMMANUEL AKINWOTU, BYLINE: Well, a group of 10 soldiers, they appeared on national TV last night. And one of them read a pre-prepared speech that really followed what's become a familiar blueprint for many of the recent coups we've seen in the region. He said they took over the government because of the deterioration of the security situation there - and he was referring to the Islamist insurgencies that are still raging - and, he said, because of the poor economy and poor governance. Until last night, we know the president, Mohamed Bazoum, was still being held at the presidential palace. But in a further development this morning, actually, the president posted on social media on his own account and vowed to defend the country's democracy. So responding with defiant words, but it's not clear how he could do that.

You know, yesterday, he was actually confident that the military would come to his aid, but they never did. There's been no apparent armed resistance to this coup so far. You know, Niger - it's important to keep in mind - has been a key Western ally in a region where some of its neighbors have weakened or severed Western ties. And the U.S. has a military base there with over a thousand troops, as does France with a larger force. But even though it's had Western military support, insecurity has actually gotten worse. And we'll have to see now how the military approaches these ties.

MARTÍNEZ: You said Niger, a strong Western ally. How has the West responded?

AKINWOTU: Well, as you'd imagine, the U.S. has condemned the coup in strong terms. They've demanded the president's release. Secretary Blinken, who actually visited Niger in March, said he spoke to the president yesterday to offer support and said U.S. support for Niger crucially depends on the continuation of democratic governance, in his own words. So, you know, there were really pretty urgent, maybe frantic diplomatic efforts last night to avert this outcome, which have obviously failed, in the regional bloc of West African countries called ECOWAS. They sent a delegation to Niamey, but, obviously, that didn't work. Now we'll have to see how they all respond. Crucially, the challenge is that when juntas, when military leaders have launched coups in this region and then been isolated by the West, Russia has been there waiting in the wings to exploit this. And we've seen that in countries like Mali.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, I mean, this region has really been impacted by instability. And we've seen Wagner mercenaries there become more active. So what does this all do to that?

AKINWOTU: Yeah, the potential destabilization could be really severe. You know, it's key to keep in mind, Niger is this large, landlocked country in a fragile region. Most of the people there live in poverty. And like neighbors Mali, Burkina Faso, it's been overwhelmed by multiple Islamist insurgencies for years now. It's one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. And the situation in all of these countries is getting worse.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Emmanuel Akinwotu, thank you very much.

AKINWOTU: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: New York City has received over 90,000 migrants and asylum-seekers in the last year.

INSKEEP: That is a lot to absorb, according to the leader of the nation's most populous city. Mayor Eric Adams has been saying the city can't handle so many and recently announced several changes, which amount to an historic shift in how New York City treats immigration.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Jasmine Garsd has been covering this story. Tell us about New York's response to - what? - tens of thousands of immigrants that have landed in the city.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Sure. Well, two big things. Mayor Eric Adams has said the city will be handing out flyers at the U.S.-Mexico border dissuading people from coming to New York. And also, the city has announced that single migrants can only stay in New York shelters for 60 days. I spoke to Professor Elora Mukherjee. She teaches immigration law at Columbia University, and she says this is a big departure from New York's historic stance as a beacon for immigrants.

ELORA MUKHERJEE: For at least 40 years, New York City has provided a right to shelter to all people, regardless of their immigration status, who need a place to stay for the night. And the recent changes announced by the mayor are devastating.

MARTÍNEZ: Devastating. All right, so tell us what it looks like there.

GARSD: Sure. The city has been scrambling. It just announced a center for migrants in Queens in the parking lot of a psychiatric hospital. I spent the last few weeks at another one of these new sites for migrants. This one is for migrant men. It's located in Brooklyn, and it can serve around 1,400 people. I spoke to dozens of people there who told me conditions are dire - two bathrooms per 80 or 90 people, meals that are sometimes in such bad condition, folks get sick. I did reach out to the city with these allegations, and they did not respond. I met a young Colombian man named Davey (ph). He asked that his last name be withheld because he was worried about retaliation, and here's what he had to say.

DAVEY: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: And what he's saying is, "I understand enough English to know the security guards are insulting us. They treat us like animals." And this is something I heard widespread complaints about, people saying they've been physically harassed and insulted by security guards. So as a result of all this, there's a number of migrants and asylum-seekers who are now just sleeping on nearby streets.

MARTÍNEZ: Mayor Eric Adams has, over and over again, asked the federal government for help. What kind of help is he asking for?

GARSD: Well, first, financial assistance. The mayor has said New York cannot pay for all this alone. But also he and New York Governor Kathy Hochul have urged the federal government to expedite giving these folks legal work permits. And every single migrant I spoke to told me, I just want to work. I want to move on with my life. I don't want to live in a shelter. But the thing is, the soonest an asylum-seeker can get a work permit is six months after they apply for asylum. And applying for asylum can take years. So this is pushing a lot of people into an underground economy. For example, an overwhelming number of folks I met out there, they work in food delivery, and several have gotten injured or had their bike stolen or a chunk of their wages taken. And, you know, they're not in a situation where they feel they can ask for help. So this lends itself to a lot of exploitation.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Jasmine Garsd, thanks for bringing us this story.

GARSD: Thank you. 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.

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

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