News brief: Mar-a-Lago search affidavit, U.N. chief in Ukraine, Tijuana violence
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
A judge in Florida is signaling that he's inclined to make more information public about the FBI search of former President Trump's home.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Yeah, the judge is giving the Justice Department one week - one week to propose redactions to the affidavit that was used to justify the search.
FADEL: We've got NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson with us. She's been following this story closely. Good morning, Carrie.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.
FADEL: So, Carrie, if the judge unseals the affidavit, that would be highly unusual. Usually the public doesn't get to see this while an investigation is underway. What's different about this case?
JOHNSON: This case involves the search of a home of a former president. That's apparently never happened before. And yesterday, one lawyer representing media group says the public interest could not be greater in this case. The magistrate judge really seemed to agree. Judge Bruce Reinhart says he's inclined to release more information about the search, but he's giving the Justice Department till next Thursday to think about what details can be made public.
FADEL: Now, the Justice Department has objected to releasing this affidavit. What's the DOJ say it's worried about?
JOHNSON: It's worried about the safety of witnesses in this case and in other investigations. There have already been threats to FBI agents listed on some of the search warrant papers and threats to this judge. DOJ national security lawyer Jay Bratt told the judge in Florida this investigation is in its early stages. He doesn't want to give anyone a road map into the prosecution strategy. And this case also involves government secrets, some highly classified material. We know the FBI collected about 11 sets of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago in the search last week. Some were labeled at the top-secret level and higher.
FADEL: OK, so how will the Justice Department go about making changes to this affidavit?
JOHNSON: Yeah, DOJ is going to get back to the drawing board in a room full of black pens to make some redactions to this search warrant affidavit. We might not see anything for a while, especially if the judge and the Justice Department disagree about the scope of those redactions. Even if we do get the document eventually, former prosecutors say it's probably going to offer minimal new information of the sort the public would be interested in. And, of course, meanwhile, the FBI is still sifting through all the boxes it took from Mar-a-Lago last week. That can take time as they figure out what's in those papers and try to confirm the classification levels of some of that material.
At this stage, of course, it's not clear whether former President Trump or anyone else will be charged with a crime. Trump's posted on social media that he wants this affidavit to be released, but he's taken no action in court, only speaking online.
FADEL: So we'll wait at least a week, if not longer, for any word on the affidavit, which, based on what you're saying, might be a lot of blacked-out words...
FADEL: ...Versus words we can read. But some other documents related to the Mar-a-Lago search did emerge last night, right?
JOHNSON: Yeah, we got a few more minor documents. In one of them, prosecutors say they're looking at possible willful retention of defense information, concealment or removal of government documents and obstruction of a federal investigation. So those are the three laws the FBI thinks may have been violated. And in another new document, we can see that prosecutors initially asked to seal all these materials because the integrity of the ongoing investigation might be compromised or that evidence might be destroyed at Mar-a-Lago.
FADEL: The former president made a bunch of claims about why he had classified government records at Mar-a-Lago. How has he been defending himself?
JOHNSON: Yeah, some of Trump's allies say the former president already declassified these materials, but there's no evidence of any paperwork backing up that claim.
FADEL: NPR's Carrie Johnson. Thanks.
JOHNSON: My pleasure.
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FADEL: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is in Ukraine, where he's calling for the Russian and Ukrainian armies to back away from a nuclear power plant over fears of a nuclear catastrophe.
INSKEEP: Guterres is also looking for access. The United Nations wants to send a fact-finding mission to a Russian prison camp. Their plan is to look into the deaths of at least 50 Ukrainians there.
FADEL: For more, we turn to NPR's Frank Langfitt in Kyiv. Hi, Frank.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.
FADEL: So, Frank, what is the state of fighting around the nuclear power plant? And what are the biggest fears here?
LANGFITT: Yeah, I mean, the shelling picked up around the plant about in the last two weeks, and both sides are blaming each other, but there's no resolution to it. Russians have been in control of the plant for - since March, I think. And they've threatened even to shut it down, which could create more risks. Ukrainians are in the middle of a counteroffensive down in the south, and they're trying to take back territory. Now, the fear is that artillery could strike, you know, spent fuel there and cause radiation leak into the atmosphere. The other thing is that you could have shelling that could cut off electricity, which is, you know, crucial to cooling reactors. You could end up with a meltdown like we saw in Fukushima, in Japan, and that could force millions to evacuate.
FADEL: Wow. Now, Russia's navy cut off commercial shipping for months in the Black Sea as well. In July, the U.N. helped cut a deal where Ukrainian ships could finally start bringing out grain. Is that working?
LANGFITT: Yeah, well, so far, at least 25 ships have left Black Sea ports with grain. I have to say, that's nothing like the normal volume. For the war, I was watching satellites very closely, and the Black Sea was actually full of ships coming in and out. But the hope here certainly is that it will help increase food supplies in parts of Africa and Asia where people are struggling for food. I mean, for instance, take Somalia. That country's been suffering from drought. There are eight areas at risk of entering famine as soon as next month. That's according to the U.N. And one thing that's good, though, is that as the grain is coming out of the Black Sea, prices are coming down. Overall, the wheat market is down more than 6% this week. That's the biggest fall since mid-July.
FADEL: Now, Frank, you've been in and out of Ukraine since before the war started, and now you're back in Kyiv. What's it like?
LANGFITT: It's really interesting. I'm looking out my window right now, Leila, and I can see - first of all, there's a ton of traffic right out in front of me. And there's a little traffic island, and they've just actually replanted it with flowers. There's, like, a tank trap, and then there's a little checkpoint, but there are no soldiers. And I got to be honest - other than that, you wouldn't know that the country was at war. Things really seem back to normal in Kyiv. There's a giant supermarket I go to next door. I remember back in May, I pretty much had it to myself. Yesterday, I was there, there was a line to buy alcohol, 40 people long.
LANGFITT: And I think what you're seeing is really two Ukraines here. You know, out in the east and in the south, cities badly damaged, villages empty, some of them rubble. Places here in central and west Ukraine, they feel mostly normal day to day.
FADEL: Now, next week, the war will reach its six-month mark. What's your sense of how things stand?
LANGFITT: It was really interesting. I spoke to a Zelenskyy insider this morning who said the U.S. HIMARS, these precision rockets, are making a big difference in destroying Russian ammo on the back lines. And on the other hand, down south, they don't seem to have enough well-trained soldiers to be able to mount the kind of counteroffensive they want and attack the Russians and push them back more.
FADEL: NPR's Frank Langfitt in Kyiv. Thank you.
LANGFITT: Good to talk, Leila.
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FADEL: Today, Mexico's president plans to address the violence in parts of the country.
INSKEEP: That violence is an apparent protest against federal law enforcement. Mexican federal police arrested the head of a drug cartel, and that is when people started setting cars on fire. They also torched businesses in the states of Jalisco and Guanajuato. In Tijuana, they set cars on fire and blocked roads. And somebody claiming to represent the cartel also issued an eerie demand for a curfew.
FADEL: Our co-host A Martinez is in Tijuana and has been following these events. Hi, A.
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
FADEL: So what's it been like there?
MARTÍNEZ: Well, last Friday, the city of Tijuana appeared to be shut down, which on a summer weekend is definitely not par for the course. Usually, streets are bustling with people bar-hopping. Citizens here apparently put a lot of stock into a curfew demand that was allegedly posted by the Jalisco Nueva Generacion Cartel. Now, the mayor, Montserrat Caballero Ramirez, publicly pushed back, said there's no curfew and told me that a glorified narco culture in Mexico is really to blame for people choosing to obey the possibility of a cartel threat instead of a clear directive from the mayor.
MONTSERRAT CABALLERO RAMIREZ: (Through interpreter) It's an unfortunate question of culture - narcos culture. The media treats cartels in a singular way, and I cannot allow a cartel to rule my citizens.
FADEL: But is that really all it is, the mayor saying it's glorified narco culture?
MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, not to the people who study this, such as Cecilia Farfan-Mendez. She's head of security research at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at UC San Diego. And she thinks the way residents reacted is very telling about who calls the shots in Tijuana.
CECILIA FARFAN-MENDEZ: The population had to follow rules from criminal groups, whether or not these were verified. And I think this aligns really well with data that we have on the perception that criminal groups have the firepower capacity to effectively confront the state. And so the quick, you know, sheltering in place instead of, like, obeying orders - in the midst of that uncertainty, it also tells you a lot about how the population perceives the effectiveness of the state, either federal or locally, in terms of their response to what is happening.
FADEL: So what happens from here?
MARTÍNEZ: Well, Mexico's president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is visiting today and is expected to discuss security concerns. Also today, a local politician from a rival party is organizing a protest to highlight what he feels was an ineffective federal and local response.
FADEL: What are the chances that more federal support would actually win the trust of residents of Tijuana?
MARTÍNEZ: Well, I spoke with 23-year-old Tijuana resident Moses Zazueta Ramirez. He's a waiter at a bakery near Friendship Park. That's the beach where the border wall extends into the Pacific Ocean. He lives near a known drug house, which happens to be next door to where the military has set up at a community center, which I can confirm. I drove past it to get a look at it myself. He says deals, drug deals, are still happening, so he's not convinced. And when things in Tijuana started to get dangerous on Friday, he decided to stay in. He didn't want to risk it. Moses was working at a bakery a couple of days ago, and I asked him about the truckload of Mexican national guard that was patrolling the area. I wanted to know if seeing them made him feel more secure.
MOSES ZAZUETA RAMIREZ: No, I don't think I'm really secure. I don't feel safe at all. But I'm from the hood, so (laughter) - I got to go.
MARTÍNEZ: Thank you. Thanks.
And, you know, for what it's worth, I'm staying at a hotel in downtown Tijuana, and yesterday, dozens of Mexican marines checked in. Every time we walk outside, there are at least a handful of armed soldiers standing guard by the door and also in the parking lot.
FADEL: Wow. Our co-host A Martinez in Tijuana. Thank you so much for your reporting.
MARTÍNEZ: Thanks, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.