Morning news brief
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
In all of American history, a former president has been indicted only four times.
INSKEEP: And we have witnessed all four of them - all against the same man, Donald Trump, and all of them happened this year. The latest comes from a grand jury in Fulton County, Ga. District Attorney Fani Willis accuses Trump and 18 other people of a, quote, "criminal enterprise."
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FANI WILLIS: To accomplish the illegal goal of allowing Donald J. Trump to seize the presidential term of office beginning on January 20, '21.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
The indictment includes 41 counts such as conspiracy to commit election fraud, filing false statements and forgery. Others charged include Trump's attorney, identified in the papers as Rudolph William Louis Giuliani, and Trump's White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.
INSKEEP: Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler was at the courthouse when the charges were announced late last night, and he's with us early this morning. Stephen, thank you. Good morning.
STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: What is the essence of the case against Trump?
FOWLER: So the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO Act, was meant to go after the mob, but the Fulton County DA in particular has used it creatively as this narrative tool to target alleged criminal enterprises. So in this case, Steve, former President Donald Trump and his allies are accused of engaging in more than 160 different acts, not all of them explicitly illegal, that contributed to the unlawful effort of trying to undo Georgia's 2020 election results.
INSKEEP: OK. What sort of acts would be part of a racketeering crime but not an ordinary crime?
FOWLER: Well, Georgia's racketeering law does have specific explicit triggers before you can be charged, with crimes like forgery and false statements getting you a RICO violation. But then there's these other acts that are instances that show there's a broader conspiracy afoot to do illegal things. For instance, like, influencing lawmakers in other states to overturn their elections are acts that are efforts to influence lawmakers in Georgia, which is illegal here. Think of them like building blocks that make up the wall of actions to overturn the election, but not necessarily those critical, foundational, blatantly illegal things like, say, Trump calling Georgia's secretary of state to, quote, "find votes."
INSKEEP: OK. So that is the indictment we've got against Trump. And there are 18 other people named. What kinds of people are these?
FOWLER: Well, there's several big buckets and names that have popped up in the other federal investigations and conversations about 2020. In addition to Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani, there's another Trump attorney involved, Sidney Powell. All of these people were involved with multiple states. You've also got those that spoke at hearings designed to convince Georgia lawmakers to change the election results, like lawyer Ray Smith. There's also three electors who falsely claim to be official electors, like Georgia's former state Republican Party chairman David Shafer. Another big part of this case is the effort to unlawfully copy election data in a rural county, Coffee County. And there's people involved with that as well. And so notably new information - people involved in efforts to harass a particular election worker and convince her to falsely say she committed election fraud.
INSKEEP: Wow. How did the DA talk about all of this?
FOWLER: Willis is the only state-level prosecutor to investigate Trump and 2020 election interference this way. And she painted that decision as one that was her duty to ensure votes are counted fairly and accurately.
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WILLIS: The state's role in this process is essential to the functioning of our democracy.
FOWLER: She hopes to have a trial date within the next six months. But, Steve, given Trump's other legal issues and the large number of defendants, it could take longer. It's also notable what she didn't say, largely declining to respond to questions specifically about Trump and his attacks on her and her office that's been going on before these charges were even filed.
INSKEEP: Stephen Fowler with Georgia Public Broadcasting, thanks so much.
FOWLER: Thank you.
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INSKEEP: Some survivors of a fire in Maui are not satisfied with their dealings with the government so far.
FADEL: That wildfire has killed 99 people, and authorities are still searching. They're keeping the area closed while they do, and that is one source of the tension between rescuers and the wider community.
INSKEEP: NPR's Lauren Sommer is in Maui. Hey there, Lauren.
LAUREN SOMMER, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: How much of the burned area is left for authorities to search?
SOMMER: About 25% of the area has been searched for human remains now. There are about 20 search dogs combing through the rubble of buildings still. So there's a lot more to do, and that's why state officials are saying the death toll is still likely to rise. They're also in the process of IDing those remains and have been asking families who are searching for loved ones to contribute DNA samples to help in that process. As that search goes on, you know, the burned area in Lahaina is closed off even for people who live there. And the main roads into the area have also been restricted since the fire.
INSKEEP: OK. So now we're getting to the point of tension here, I think. How is that affecting the community that survived the fire?
SOMMER: It's been a big point of contention in the community. Local residents have been doing an amazing amount of heavy lifting, just organizing huge caravans of food by boat and truck. And some have had trouble getting that in. The state says it's brought in a million pounds of food. Hawaii Governor Josh Green says they've mobilized a lot of resources.
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JOSH GREEN: The recovery from this tragedy is proceeding, and it's proceeding extremely vigorously.
INSKEEP: Does the community agree with that assessment?
SOMMER: I mean, walking around Lahaina, it's easy to see. Cell service is very weak and spotty. Some communities there are still lacking power and drinkable water, so many residents have been eager to do day trips to the rest of Maui, you know, to get supplies and connectivity. The most direct road has been restricted to residents since officials - they want to keep it open for trucks and emergency vehicles. Yesterday, officials announced a new system. Local residents had to come to a park to get a placard for their car. But when producer Jonaki Mehta and I walked up, they had called it off.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We are taking that. We are canceling that. We are no longer doing the place cards.
SOMMER: They were told more than 1,000 people had showed up. It totally overwhelmed the site, so they canceled the system altogether. And that's where we met Alex Calma. He lost his house in the fire. He's been staying with his parents, and his uncle is missing, and they're really fearing the worst.
ALEX CALMA: We want to find my uncle, but we want to go to the hospital.
SOMMER: His family is hoping to find any information at hospitals, but he's worried about leaving the area since the checkpoint rules to get back in have changed several times already. And he was really hoping that placard would help.
INSKEEP: How are authorities explaining their various changes in who they let in and who they let out and how?
SOMMER: Yeah, I mean, they say residents have been able to use a checkpoint on the north side of Maui, which involves this very long car trip on a windy road. So there's a lot of frustration. Maui County Councilwoman Tamara Paltin - she was there in the park. We met her there, and she says state officials are making decisions that aren't always what the local community needs.
TAMARA PALTIN: You know, what I would like to see more of is more communication with us and more listening to us.
SOMMER: You know, emergency situations are always hard to manage, and recovery efforts - you know, you can't always see them. They're not always visible. But it's almost a week from when this fire started, and many residents in Lahaina are feeling they're having to do so much of this themselves.
INSKEEP: NPR's Lauren Sommer, thanks for your work.
SOMMER: Thank you.
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INSKEEP: We have a story now of the Louisiana State Penitentiary.
FADEL: It's known as Angola, after the plantation that operated there in the 1800s. And even after slavery formally ended, convicts worked there under conditions a lot like slavery. Today, the prison has a history of human rights abuses and medical neglect. And this week, a federal judge will hear about conditions affecting juveniles being held there temporarily. Teenagers as young as 15 years old say they're being placed in solitary confinement, denied services and subjected to unbearable heat at Angola. Their detention there was supposed to end in April, but they're still there.
INSKEEP: Reporter Bobbi-Jeanne Misick is with the Verite News service in New Orleans. She's been following this story. Good morning to you.
BOBBI-JEANNE MISICK, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: Why are people as young as 15 at Angola in the first place?
MISICK: Well, the state started sending the kids there last fall because they needed to renovate a facility and make more space. There was overcrowding. And there was also some violent escapes from a youth detention center in southeast Louisiana. So the move to Angola was supposed to be temporary, but they missed that April deadline. Now, attorneys filed a motion asking federal Judge Shelly Dick to order the state to stop sending youth to Angola prison and to release the ones who are currently there to adequate juvenile facilities. So I should say the updated facility is now set to be ready in October.
INSKEEP: October, but not April. You mentioned attorneys filing a motion on behalf of the young people. What are they saying?
MISICK: Well, they're saying teenagers as young as 15 are being held in a unit formerly reserved for death row. They've complained that some cell blocks are lacking air conditioning. Temperatures in Louisiana have been near 100 degrees this summer, with heat indexes reaching as high as 120 degrees.
MISICK: They're also saying that Juvenile Justice guards have placed a whole cell block under solitary confinement, only allowing these youths out for eight minutes a day, while handcuffed and shackled, to shower. And kids say they're not getting the educational and mental health services that the state is required to provide them. The case has even caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice, which issued a statement of interest ahead of the hearing.
INSKEEP: I'm kind of stuck on eight minutes a day, but I'll try to go on here. You said that there's a hearing in federal court this week. What happens?
MISICK: Well, I spoke with David Utter. He's the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. He said there will be expert testimony speaking to the dangers of exposing young people to things like solitary confinement and extreme heat. The hearing is expected to last multiple days this week.
INSKEEP: How does the state justify its conduct?
MISICK: Well, so the official position from the governor and the office of the Juvenile Justice is to not comment on the case as it's ongoing. But in legal filings, the state's position is that these kids are getting the specialized educational programs and mental health care that they need. They say the areas where the teens are kept are air-conditioned and the facility is being run like any Juvenile Justice center in the state. It just so happens to be on the campus of a maximum-security prison.
INSKEEP: A lot of disputes about the facts. We'll hear what comes out of the hearing. Bobbi-Jeanne Misick from Verite News in New Orleans, thanks so much.
MISICK: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.