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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

I'm looking at a photo on NPR's website this morning. It shows a house near Wellman, Iowa, that looks as if it exploded. I mean, most of it are in bits all over the ground. Now, imagine similar scenes in other states. Tornadoes killed 32 people. And we're following the aftermath on this Monday.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We are also preparing for events tomorrow in a New York City courtroom. Former President Trump makes a court appearance after his indictment. He was investigated for covering up a payment to an adult film star. We do not know the exact charges that he faces, which has not stopped anyone from talking about them.

MARTÍNEZ: For more on what lawmakers of both parties have to say about this, we're joined now by NPR congressional reporter Barbara Sprunt. Barbara, it's going to be a historic week. That's one word we can use for this. What do we know about what to look for so far?

BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: Well, the question on everyone's mind is, what is in that official indictment? It remains under seal until Trump appears before the judge tomorrow. The exact arrangements for Trump aren't public yet. Typically, someone indicted would go through the regular booking process. So think fingerprinting, taking a mugshot. Obviously, it's a bit different with a former president who has a Secret Service detail.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So what's the response been from Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill?

SPRUNT: Well, frankly, I suspect there's some relief from Republican lawmakers that Congress is on recess this week and next because no doubt there would be a lot of questions on their reactions as this whole thing unfolds. But House Republican leadership is squarely behind Trump. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has called the indictment an unprecedented abuse of power. Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan has called it, quote, "outrageous" in a one-word statement that he put out. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia will actually be in Manhattan tomorrow for what she said will be a peaceful protest. Much of what we heard over the weekend from Republican lawmakers is skepticism at the strength of the case and concerns that it's politically motivated. Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, a Republican who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial in 2021, said this on Fox News Sunday.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOX NEWS BROADCAST)

BILL CASSIDY: No one should be above the law, but no one should be a target of the law.

SPRUNT: And this is actually very similar to what West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said, as well. He appeared on three of the Sunday shows this weekend. Here he is on CNN's "State Of The Union."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "STATE OF THE UNION")

JOE MANCHIN: It's a very sad time for America to go through what we're going through now. And, you know, people being divided and they think that the justice might be biased. We have to make sure that we wait and see what comes out next week.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Thing is, though, one Republican has taken a different stance against Donald Trump. And that's former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who called on Trump to drop out of the presidential race now that he's been indicted.

SPRUNT: That's right. Hutchinson made news of his own when he announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. He told ABC's "This Week" he knows Trump won't drop out but thinks he should.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")

ASA HUTCHINSON: I've always said that people don't have to step aside from public office if they're under investigation, but if it reaches the point of criminal charges that have to be answered, the office is always more important than a person.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Now, what about Donald Trump himself? What has he said?

SPRUNT: His spokesperson has said Trump will deliver remarks at Mar-a-Lago Tuesday evening, and anyone who's subscribed to Trump emails knows he's been very active in communicating with his base. He's called this a politically charged sham indictment. But so far, the indictment has been rather lucrative for him. Within minutes of it being handed down, Trump's team began fundraising off of it. And within two days, they raised over $5 million.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR congressional reporter Barbara Sprunt. Barbara, thanks.

SPRUNT: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: While more Republicans are seeking the White House, President Biden has yet to announce his bid to keep it.

INSKEEP: Biden is promoting his record today in Minnesota. It's a state that he won in 2020 and would need again in 2024. And he is talking of federal investments in the new energy economy.

MARTÍNEZ: White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez will be traveling with the president. Franco, so what's in Minnesota for President Biden, and where else is he going?

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Well, A, he'll be visiting an engine and alternative power manufacturer just north of Minneapolis. You know, the company is going to announce $1 billion in investments towards low to zero carbon engines. The idea, really, is to help decarbonize U.S. truck fleets. But, you know, as you note, the trip is actually part of a three week tour that Biden and top aides are doing to highlight some of the investments his administration has done in some of these issues - manufacturing, supply chains and creating jobs. I mean, really, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and nearly a dozen members of the cabinet are really fanning out across the country, going to more than 20 states, including battleground states like Georgia, Pennsylvania and Nevada, to get this message out.

MARTÍNEZ: Another thing is the Biden administration has struggled with economic uncertainty. How does that play into this visit?

ORDOÑEZ: It's a really big part. I mean, the economy continues to dominate as the most important issue facing the country. And polls show that most Americans really do not yet feel the impacts of all the spending packages that have been turned into law. There's really been so much focus on concerns about inflation. And this is an effort to kind of counter that. The administration wants to show what they're doing and have done and the impacts it's having. And it's very, very important for Biden to kind of improve those perceptions about the economy and hone his political message ahead of the 2024 election.

MARTÍNEZ: The thing is, though now we're all going to be focused on Donald Trump. So how hard will it be to get that message across for Biden when the attention is going to be in New York?

ORDOÑEZ: So much so. I mean, of course, attention is going to be on Trump, and it's going to be really, really high. We just heard Barbara talking all about that. Everyone wants every detail about the arrest. But for this trip, the White House is really focused on local attention and local headlines and Democrats actually see an opportunity. Celinda Lake, who was a pollster on Biden's campaign, told me that, you know, Trump is always going to make some noise and create drama. And she kind of described this, you know, split-screen-like opportunity for Biden to really emphasize the contrast between himself governing and Trump being arraigned.

CELINDA LAKE: Ironically, the noisier the environment is, the more important it is to get out the alternative in terms of what this administration is doing and what it's going to continue to do.

ORDOÑEZ: And, A, it's not that Democrats aren't concerned about Trump, you know, and the attention that it's getting. But they also point to Trump's track record when he is the focal point of the national narrative. And if you look at the last few elections, Democrats have generally benefited when he is the focal point of so much attention.

MARTÍNEZ: The thing with Biden, though, is that he still has not made his reelection official. Seems like everyone's been waiting for a while. So what's the holdup?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, Biden says he intends to run, but you're right. He has yet to make it official. But he's taking all the steps. He's visiting battleground states on what is the single most important issue for reelection. He's also tacked to the center on a bunch of issues that Republicans will likely attack him on as the campaign season kicks in, things like getting tougher on crime, as well as immigration. You know, there's obviously a lot of anxiousness about this. But ultimately, it's going to be up to him to make it official.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Franco Ordoñez. Franco, thanks.

ORDOÑEZ: Thanks, A.

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MARTÍNEZ: Louisiana State University won the NCAA women's basketball championship last night.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Picture this - confetti was raining down on her team as LSU coach Kim Mulkey danced on stage with her grandchildren while she was wearing a pink and gold, tiger-striped sequin outfit. Certainly better than a man's ugly tie. The women's tournament received unprecedented national attention, arguably more than the men's tournament has.

MARTÍNEZ: She's a champ. She can do whatever she wants.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

MARTÍNEZ: We turn now to Rachel Bachman of The Wall Street Journal, who's in Dallas. She was at the game yesterday. Rachel, I mean, thrilling win for LSU yesterday. What were some of those highlights?

RACHEL BACHMAN: Well, of course, all eyes were on Caitlin Clark, Iowa's sensational long shooting guard. She had 30 points, which is actually kind of an off night compared with recent ones. But it was LSU, which is not usually a great outside shooting team that shot 65% from three-point range. Jasmine Carson came off the bench to score 22 points. And overall, the 102 points that LSU scored was an NCAA women's tournament record.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, there was one thing that seemed to stir a lot of post-game debate, and it was this thing between LSU's Angel Reese and Iowa's Caitlin Clark. So tell us more about that.

BACHMAN: Yeah. So as the game was ending, Reese waved her hand in front of her face, kind of a taunt that the wrestler John Cena does, as she directed the gesture at Clark. And some people thought they said that the move lacked class, especially, you know, given the stakes of the moment. But Clark had done the same gesture earlier in the tournament. And I think it's relevant to ask whether there's a double standard here. You know, Reese has said she's from Baltimore, where, she says, you hoop outside and talk trash. And I think casual sports fans who tuned into the game aren't used to seeing women be so raucous. But of course, that's part of the culture of basketball.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. And there was little to no reaction when Clark did the same move, as you say. Now, the women's tournament has gotten a lot of attention this time around. How is it being received by fans?

BACHMAN: Well, longtime fans of women's basketball are thrilled it's getting so much attention. And really here in Dallas, it was very big-time feel to the game - you know, tickets being sold were over face value, huge throngs of fans who drove hours to be there. In fact, Taylor Swift was also here in Dallas. And one ticket reseller said that championship game tickets were going for more than the concert tickets. So it had a very big-time feel.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. You think it's maybe a new era for women's sports? I mean, more people watched this tournament on an average for ESPN than any other tournament.

BACHMAN: Yeah, you know, I would call it a new high watermark that's kind of part of a larger flood of women's sports, from the WNBA to the National Women's Soccer League to volleyball, gymnastics. We're just seeing a steady climb of TV ratings, you know, team valuations and pro sports and also just awareness of the quality and excitement of these teams and leagues.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. There is one more NCAA final. That's the men's tonight, San Diego State vs. UConn. What will you be looking for there?

BACHMAN: Well, the big news is the newcomer, San Diego State. It's not from these - one of these super rich athletic conferences.

MARTÍNEZ: The blue bloods, yeah.

BACHMAN: And it's never won a title. And Connecticut, of course, has won four times. So it's more of a blue blood. But in a way, they're both underdogs. This is a tournament that's had a ton of upsets. All the favorites are long gone. UConn is a 4 seed. San Diego State's a 5 seed. So, you know, for people who like to root for the underdogs, this is kind of the ideal final.

MARTÍNEZ: Rachel Bachman from The Wall Street Journal. Rachel, thanks.

BACHMAN: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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