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News Brief: Kavanaugh Hearing Still Set For Monday, Public Health Effects Of Hurricane

Sep 20, 2018
Originally published on September 20, 2018 7:29 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Will Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, testify?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee say they've offered options. She can testify publicly. She can testify privately. She can talk with Senate staff in California where she lives. But they want her to talk promptly, pushing back on her lawyer's demand for a full FBI investigation first.

Some other news on this story - a woman who went to the same high school as Ford wrote on Facebook that she remembers the incident from the '80s. Then she spoke with NPR's Nina Totenberg and said she has no knowledge and didn't realize she would have to defend her statement.

MARTIN: All right. NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro is with us this morning. Domenico, I want to start with this Facebook post that Steve just talked about. It was written by this woman, Cristina Miranda King (ph). She went to the same high school that Christine Blasey Ford went to - Holton-Arms, a private high school out of Washington, D.C. What exactly did she say in this post?

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Well, she wrote in the post pretty definitively that, quote, "the incident did happen. Many of us heard about it in school." She described Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, who Ford also alleged was involved in the incident. She described what they were like. She talked about even having a crush on Judge at the time and asking him to the prom, but he stood her up because of drinking, she wrote.

But she later walked all of it back, writing on Twitter, I do not have firsthand knowledge of the incident, but that she maintains her support of Ford. It seems that a lot of the attention she was getting is something that she was surprised by. Nina Totenberg tracked her down and talked to her last night, where she elaborated.

MARTIN: Yeah. So let's play this. This is a clip from Nina's interview with Cristina Miranda King (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

CRISTINA KING MIRANDA: That it happened or not, I have no idea. I can't say that it did or didn't. In my post, I was, you know, empowered, and I was sure it probably did. I had no idea that I would have to now, you know, go to the specifics and defend it before 50 cable channels and have my face spread all over MSNBC news and Twitter.

MARTIN: We should also mention the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, actually reached out to her to say, do you want to come testify about this? She was getting all kinds of attention. It really speaks to the trouble - the difficulty in finding the truth of what happened so many years ago, which is why Democrats and Christine Blasey Ford are calling for an FBI investigation, right? I mean, if Republicans say they want the information, too, like everyone else, why not delay the hearing so they can get it?

MONTANARO: Well, right. And those Democrats want a shared set of facts that can provide a baseline, rather than have a he said, she said that Republicans seem to prefer. You know, Republicans believe that it would delay the process too long and that the president maintains that it's not what the FBI does. Of course, it's the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and it certainly could investigate if the White House asked it to.

MARTIN: And there's precedent for that. There's precedent, isn't there?

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, there is precedent. But if you look back at 1991, there's some question as to how thorough the investigation was of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, even though it took only a few days. So Democrats are saying, push this back. Let's wait and see. Get some kind of baseline of facts so that it's not a he said, she said.

MARTIN: So what does happen at this point? I mean, Lindsey Graham is saying, we got to move forward. It looks like Republicans have scheduled kind of a place holder committee meeting for Wednesday. They think they're going to hold a vote on this and get him confirmed.

MONTANARO: Right. They certainly do. And they - you know, you're seeing a lot of those Republicans who might've been on the fence kind of rally around and say, look; Ford needs to testify. We want to hear from her, but she needs to testify.

MARTIN: And so far, the ball's in her lawyers' courts. We haven't heard from her lawyers yet on this, again.

MONTANARO: Right. And, you know, Republicans are still hopeful that Kavanaugh's nomination will go forward, that he's confirmed quickly. And they want to do that because not only do they want to get him on the Supreme Court quickly, but they want to make sure that they get him confirmed before - or a nominee confirmed before the November elections because there is an outside chance that Democrats take back the Senate. And if they did that, then Kavanaugh's nomination, and any other potential Supreme Court nominee, would almost certainly be derailed.

MARTIN: NPR's Domenico Montanaro for us this morning. Thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: What's it going to take for North Carolina to recover from Hurricane Florence?

INSKEEP: Touring North Carolina yesterday, President Trump promised the full support of his administration.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're ready, and they're ready to do whatever we have to do to make this perfect. And that means, unfortunately, the money will be a lot, but it's going to come as fast as you need it. Going to take care of everybody.

INSKEEP: Physical damage from the storm is not the only concern here. Floodwaters remain high across much of North Carolina. Some areas saw as much as 35 inches of rain. And that water can pose risks of its own.

MARTIN: All right. We have NPR's Dan Charles in studio with us this morning to talk about these risks. Hey, Dan.

DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: Hi there.

MARTIN: So we have been hearing a lot about livestock, right? I mean, there's a lot of people who maintain livestock in the Carolinas. And waste from the livestock is dangerous in flooding. Explain.

CHARLES: Can be. This is a very heavily agricultural area - lots of chicken farms, hog farms. And hog farms have what are called lagoons. They have manure pits. And every day, the state of North Carolina comes out with a new update of how many of these manure pits have been either leaking or flooded. And yesterday, the number was up to 40 of these huge manure pits that had been sort of leaking manure into floodwaters. So you know, obviously, this is icky.

MARTIN: Right.

INSKEEP: Can we get a picture of what - we're talking about millions of creatures here, right?

CHARLES: Yeah. Yeah. Right. Right.

INSKEEP: The waste from...

CHARLES: Right. Right.

INSKEEP: ...Millions of chickens and pigs.

CHARLES: And so the bacteria can make you sick. Downstream, it is also a risk to the environment. It can set off algae blooms, which suck all the oxygen out of the water. It can kill fish and other wildlife.

MARTIN: I mean, and it's not just feces and waste. I mean, toxic chemicals are in these floodwaters - garbage, lots of stuff.

CHARLES: There's been a lot of talk about coal ash. There are - you know, when a coal-powered plant filters the waste out of the - what's going out the smokestack, they put it all in a big pit somewhere. And just yesterday, there was a report from an environmental group saying they had discovered another pit full of coal ash that would - had been flooded and leaking into rivers. This contains things like mercury, lead.

But, you know, think about it. A flood - think of all the stuff in your garage or in your basement. I mean, there can be all...

MARTIN: I don't want to. I don't want to.

CHARLES: ...All kinds of things in this floodwater.

MARTIN: Right.

CHARLES: You know, and so the advice is basically, you know, treat floodwater like dirty water.

MARTIN: So what does that mean for people who are trying to stay safe trying to get back into their homes?

CHARLES: Well, so very simple thing. If you get exposed to floodwater, just wash yourself really well. And, you know, wash the clothes that you were in. The FDA has actual, you know, guidance. For any sort of edible food that was flooded by river water, you're basically to sort of treat it as adulterated. Don't use it.

MARTIN: Yeah.

INSKEEP: Can I just mention the physical awkwardness of the two of you as you discuss this topic?

MARTIN: Why? What are we doing?

INSKEEP: Just seems - everyone seems a little uncomfortable. But this is pretty much what journalism is in 2018. We're just...

MARTIN: Uncomfortable (laughter)?

INSKEEP: No, this grotesque topic, but it has to be discussed. It has to be said.

CHARLES: I will say, there will be a big debate about the sources of that pollution and whether some of those things should actually be in the flood plain at all, and whether they should be sort of processed in ways that aren't so vulnerable to flooding.

MARTIN: All right. It's an important topic. I'm so glad we got to it. NPR's Dan Charles. Thanks so much, Dan. We appreciate it.

CHARLES: Nice to be here.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: A white police officer in Chicago is on trial for murder this week, after he shot and killed Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old black teen back in 2014.

INSKEEP: McDonald had been walking down a street, away from police, holding a knife, and then Officer Jason Van Dyke shot him 16 times. Under pressure, the city eventually released a dashcam video. Chicago's top ranking officer was fired, and the Justice Department was called in.

MARTIN: WBEZ's Patrick Smith has been covering the trial, and he joins us now. Good morning, Patrick.

PATRICK SMITH, BYLINE: Morning.

MARTIN: So this shooting, as we noted, happened four years ago in 2014. Why has it taken so long to come to trial?

SMITH: Well, there are a couple reasons. The first is something you alluded to in the intro, which was that it took 13 months for the dashcam video of the killing to come out. It also took 13 months for any charges to be filed against Officer Van Dyke - something that a lot of people say is no coincidence. Basically, they say they were never going to file these charges until the video release forced their hand. So you've got that year delay.

And then honestly, after that, it's not that unusual for murder trials here in Cook County to move this slowly - to take three years to get to trial, although I will say, Officer Van Dyke's defense attorney has been accused of delay tactics leading up to trial, which is something he's denied.

MARTIN: So is that why the dashcam video took so long to come out?

SMITH: The dashcam video took so long to come out because the city had a policy, and say that they were sticking to that policy, that as long as there were criminal or other investigations into a shooting, they wouldn't release any material. They stuck with that until a lawsuit from an independent journalist forced them to release it to the public.

MARTIN: So this trial's happening this week. You've been watching this closely. What are the pivotal moments so far?

SMITH: Yeah. So today will be Day 4 of the prosecution's witnesses. There's some chatter that they're going to close today, although that's not something I've been able to confirm. So far, we've heard from a lot of officers who were on the scene the night that Officer Van Dyke shot and killed Laquan McDonald.

On Tuesday, we heard from the officer who was Van Dyke's partner that night. And, you know, one thing that's unique in this particular shooting case is that the dashcam video - it now shows the killing. It also largely disproves the official police narrative of what happened.

You know, police reports - Van Dyke's partner says that Laquan McDonald swung the knife and attacked them, forcing Officer Van Dyke to open fire. And what was interesting was he mostly stuck with that story when he was on the stand on Tuesday. And there was a moment when the prosecutor, who was questioning him, said, OK, I'm going to play the dashcam video for you. You stop me when you see him do those movements. The officer pushed back and said, you know, this isn't from my perspective. That's why you can't see what I'm describing.

And that gets to the other thing that's really stood out, which is that prosecutors are playing this rather gruesome video a lot. You know, jurors have seen it almost a dozen times. They saw it almost a dozen times in just the first two days.

MARTIN: And, I mean, I imagine this is something everyone is talking about - that the city has been kind of seized by this story.

SMITH: Yeah. The city is on edge. I've heard from a lot of people who are worried about what the reaction will be like if there's a not guilty verdict, although that's worries we've heard from before. And the protests when the video released were forceful, but they were peaceful.

MARTIN: OK. WBEZ's Patrick Smith on this trial. We appreciate your reporting. Thanks so much.

SMITH: Thank you.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this report, we incorrectly refer to a post written by Cristina Miranda King. Her name is Cristina King Miranda. She also goes by Cristina King. ]

(SOUNDBITE OF TAYLOR MCFERRIN'S "POSTPARTUM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.