Morning News Brief: Manchester Blast, Russia Probe, Trump Budget
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're going to start this morning with that deadly attack in Manchester. This happened at an Ariana Grande a concert, which means a lot of teenagers and kids were there.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Yeah, and apparently, children were killed, according to authorities in Manchester, England. They say in total at least 22 people lost their lives. More than 50 people were injured. This was an attack last night. This concert had just wrapped up. Crowds were leaving the Manchester Arena when this bomb went off. Police believe the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. And President Trump expressed his condolences to the victims in Manchester.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So many young, beautiful, innocent people, living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers in life.
MARTIN: NPR's Frank Langfitt is on the line from London. Hi, Frank.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: It's still early in the investigation. Things can and do often change, but what do we know right now about where the investigation is pointing?
LANGFITT: Well, right now, the cops think that there was one attacker involved at this - with this bombing at the scene, but they're trying to determine, as always, if somebody else helped him and whether he was part of a network. Right now, there's a large cordon around Manchester Arena. Next door, the Victoria train station is also shut down. Police are asking for images, footage, anything to help them kind of figure out what happened. And just a reminder for our listeners - Manchester is about two hours north of London. It's a very proud city, home of world-famous soccer teams, Manchester City and, of course, the global brand, Man United.
MARTIN: So more than 50 people were wounded. Have all the victims been identified at this point?
LANGFITT: Well, we don't know yet. What we do know overnight is that parents were still trying to find their kids. In many cases, parents had dropped off their kids at the concert, were waiting to pick them up and that's when the explosion occurred. Overnight, family members, parents were posting photos of some of the concertgoers, and some of the ages of the people who were still missing last night were 15, 17, 19. The arena seats about 21,000. It drew from around the north of England, also Scottish cities Edinburgh and Glasgow.
MARTIN: Give us the broader context here. This is the biggest terrorist attack in the U.K. since the London Tube bombings in 2005, right?
LANGFITT: It is.
MARTIN: So what happens in the U.K. after something like this? Do you see - is there increased security on the streets, more police carrying weapons?
LANGFITT: I think you generally do. I mean, you certainly see this in Paris. You see this - I spent a lot of time in Paris for the French elections. You get off the train at Gare du Nord, and you see people with assault weapons. I think we'll see a lot more police on the streets of Manchester. You certainly see more police on the streets after we had that, two months ago, the attack on the Westminster Bridge where a man drove down the sidewalk and ultimately ended up killing five people. So yes, there is a big reaction.
I think what's going to be interesting here is after the most recent attack in March, really almost by rush hour, Londoners - they're a tough bunch - they had kind of adjusted to this. They were obviously very disturbed by it. But they've felt it before. What is interesting about this is it would appear that this was targeting kids. And I cannot remember something recently like that actually happening in the United Kingdom. It's going to be very interesting today to see the reactions of people. It feels different.
MARTIN: We should also just note that there is - there's a national election happening in Great Britain and that campaigning has been suspended for today.
LANGFITT: Indeed, indeed there is.
MARTIN: NPR's Frank Langfitt giving us the latest on the investigation after that Manchester bombing. Hey, Frank, thanks so much.
LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Rachel.
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MARTIN: All right, David, we're going to switch gears now. We've got some updates on the Russia investigation.
GREENE: We do, yeah. The Washington Post is reporting that President Trump asked two of his top intelligence officials to help him out with this whole FBI investigation. He wanted them to publicly deny that there was any collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia. And also there's this - Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is taking the Fifth. He says he is not going to hand over emails and other records about his dealings with Russia to the Senate intelligence committee.
MARTIN: All right. NPR national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly is here in the studio with us this morning. Hi, Mary Louise.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.
MARTIN: What more are we learning here in this report?
KELLY: Well, The Washington Post report that David mentioned is the latest in this new trend of Trump scoops that land shortly after 5 o'clock. And this one in a nutshell goes like this - that President Trump allegedly asked his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, and the head of the National Security Agency, Mike Rogers, to come out on the record and publicly deny collusion between his campaign and Russia. The Post further reports that they refused to comply because they saw it as inappropriate. There's, of course, supposed to be this bright line. Intelligence agencies are supposed to be independent and walled off from politics. The significance, Rachel, if accurate - and I should note, the DNI and the NSA, when I reached out to them last night, they were declining comment. But the significance here would be this is one more piece of evidence that appears to point to - that President Trump and his White House may have tried to undermine, to obstruct the investigation into Russia.
MARTIN: All right. So let's focus in on Michael Flynn, former national security adviser. He's now invoking the Fifth Amendment. The committee had tried to subpoena some documents. He says he's not going to provide them. He's not cooperating on that front. So what does it mean for the Senate intelligence committee's investigation? Is there another way to get that information?
KELLY: There may be another way to get that information. I mean, what we have here is Mike Flynn's legal troubles continuing to accumulate. His attorneys wrote to senators yesterday - I've got a copy of the letter here in front of me - saying he plans to take the Fifth, that's he's exercising his right not to incriminate himself in what his lawyers say is this escalating public frenzy against him. So in this instance, he's refusing to hand over documents to the committee. The committee still wants these documents, and they have options. The ball's in their court now. They could refer the matter to the Justice Department and ask for a criminal prosecution of Michael Flynn. They could go down a civil path. They could take this to a federal court and ask for a civil judgment that would compel Flynn to testify. Or they could try to get these documents from other sources. Do copies reside at the White House and other intelligence agencies? Where else can they get them from?
MARTIN: All right. So another facet of this - another interesting testimony happening. CIA - former CIA Director John Brennan is supposed to testify at the House intelligence committee today. What do members want to hear from him?
KELLY: He's set to testify today - his first public testimony since he left the CIA back in January. And they're - among the many questions they'll want to put to him is is their actual intelligence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia? Is there any proof? Now, whether Brennan can answer that in a public session, that's a tricky one.
GREENE: You know, it's not just Brennan testifying today. Dan Coats, one of the officials who Trump reportedly went to and said, help me out with this FBI investigation - the director of national intelligence - he is going to be testifying today at a Senate Armed Services Committee.
KELLY: Busy day on the Hill, yeah.
GREENE: Yeah, so a lot to look forward to as this day goes on.
MARTIN: National security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly up first with us this morning. Thanks, Mary Louise.
KELLY: You're welcome.
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MARTIN: And with President Trump overseas, the White House is still pushing ahead with the business of government.
GREENE: Yeah. The White House's budget proposal for 2018 is coming out today. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney calls it a, quote, "taxpayer first" budget.
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MICK MULVANEY: We are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs.
GREENE: So less money for programs like Medicaid, food stamps and disability payments, and more money for the military, Border Patrol and veterans.
MARTIN: All right. Let's get into some of the details of this with NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Good morning, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: All right. This sounds pretty close to what the White House put forward in their budget outline earlier this year, no?
HORLSLEY: That's right, although that earlier budget a couple of months ago covered only a relatively narrow slice of government spending with so-called discretionary spending that Congress has to authorize every year. This looks at the larger pie.
MARTIN: All right, so the larger pie, when you think about it, entitlements account for most government spending. So what does this budget do on that front?
HORLSLEY: Well, it doesn't touch the two big entitlements - Medicare and Social Security retirement. The president promised during the campaign he was going to leave those as they are. However, this budget does call for deep cuts in Social Security disability, also food stamps, as you mentioned, and it would cut hundreds of billions of dollars over a decade in Medicaid.
MARTIN: Didn't we hear about these Medicaid cuts when the House passed the AHCA? I mean, also didn't some senators say, no way, I'm not going to let you do that, that that wasn't politically tenable for them?
HORLSLEY: That's right. And this is a reminder that this budget is really just a White House wish list. Ultimately, it's up to Congress to control government spending, and there is some skepticism of the Medicaid cuts in the Republicans' Obamacare repeal bill. Some Republicans - some moderate Republicans are wary of it and even some very conservative Republican senators, like Tom Cotton, who represent states such as Arkansas where the Medicaid expansion has helped an awful lot of previously uninsured people. So there will be some careful looks at this from Republicans and certainly Democrats in Congress.
MARTIN: A fundamental tenet of conservatism since the dawn of time it seems - I could be exaggerating here - has been to deal with the deficit - right? - to get the deficit under control, to get spending under control. So does the administration think that - with this - these cuts, what does it do for the deficit?
HORLSLEY: The administration says they can eliminate the deficit within a decade with these cuts and a very rosy forecast of economic growth. This budget assumes that growth ramps up to 3 percent in a few years and stays there for the better part of a decade. Critics say that is overly optimistic at a time when we already have relatively low unemployment and 10,000 baby boomers hitting retirement age today and every day.
MARTIN: We have them, the ol' baby boomers. NPR's Scott Horsley. Thank you so much this morning, Scott.
HORLSLEY: You're welcome.
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