NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Morning news brief


We're working to understand the implications of a Supreme Court ruling.


The court found that former President Donald Trump is, quote, "absolutely immune from prosecution for many of his acts while president." And the court says a lot more to protect presidential power. So we brought in our colleague, Nina Totenberg, to find how it is reshaping the presidency for the future. Hi there, Nina.


INSKEEP: OK, so how does this change the scope of presidential power compared to what people thought it was before?

TOTENBERG: Well, it gives the president broad immunity from prosecution for his official acts, and the breadth of official acts is pretty sweeping. It also gives the president more powers than when it came to an actual challenge to presidential power in this case. The court's conservative majority said to Trump, basically, we're giving you almost everything you wanted, powers no other president thought they had, and even some things you didn't ask for. And I just want to point out that Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, when he voted against the second Trump impeachment, he said on the floor, look, guys, we can get him prosecuted for the bad things he's done once he leaves office, but we shouldn't be impeaching him just as he's about to leave office.

INSKEEP: OK, so here's my question. Could the court have done something else here and still satisfied the requirements of the case as they saw it?

TOTENBERG: There we're lots of things the court could have done. For example, a bunch of big Republican former Justice Department officials and former Senator John Danforth - they filed a brief that urged the court not to reinvent the wheel of presidential power that has served us well, as they put it. All you have to say is that the president has no power with respect to the electoral count and the certification of electors, because nowhere in the Constitution is he authorized to play any role in that. Instead, the court gave the president sweeping powers that he is untouchable for any official act, and that even after leaving office, he's presumptively immune from prosecution unless the government can show that he's criminally liable for a private act, which, by the way, the court made very difficult to prove.

INSKEEP: There's been an enormous reaction to this, especially on the political left, but not only on the political left. Do you think the justices realized how much resistance there would be to this?

TOTENBERG: Well, justices, by and large, aren't good politicians, but the chief has been. He either didn't realize what the blowback would be, or he didn't care. I talked to constitutional scholar Akhil Amar at Yale, whose books are required reading on the Constitution in a lot of law schools. And he's a big fan of the Chief Justices. And he said, if he had wanted to get a greater breadth of consensus, he had three liberals who would probably have voted with him. He had at least one of the conservatives, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who had a more narrow view. And he could have had a five-justice majority for a cross ideological decision. Here's what Amar said.

AKHIL AMAR: Here, his instincts failed him. He's an institutionalist. He wants to have the court. He's perceived as above politics. It was a wonderful opportunity, and he failed the test.

TOTENBERG: Instead, it was a 6-to-3 majority along ideological lines.

INSKEEP: NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. Thanks for the insights.

TOTENBERG: Thank you.


FADEL: The White House announced a proposed rule this week to protect workers across the country from heat.

INSKEEP: It wouldn't take effect for a year or more, but the move comes in a record-breaking summer of extreme temperatures.

FADEL: Alejandra Borunda from NPR's climate desk is here to explain what's in the proposal. Alejandra good morning.


FADEL: So what would this proposed rule do to help workers?

BORUNDA: It would do several things, starting with requiring employers to come up with plans to deal with heat. Like what do they do if someone gets sick? Where can people go to cool down? The second big thing - it gives workers some rights to water, shade and breaks when it's hot. The water and shade requirements kick in above 80 degrees on the heat index. That's the feels-like temperature. Then when it gets to 90, workers would get paid rest breaks, and employers would have to make sure workers aren't getting sick from heat.

FADEL: Seems pretty straightforward.

BORUNDA: Yeah. David Michaels is an epidemiologist at George Washington University and a former director of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA. He puts it this way.

DAVID MICHAELS: This is a common-sense proposal.

BORUNDA: Many employers take steps like these already, and the science is really clear that these kinds of interventions help keep workers safe.

FADEL: So who would be protected under this rule?

BORUNDA: Yeah, more than 35 million people who work both outdoors and indoors. That includes agricultural and construction workers and also people in warehouses and restaurants. Researchers know that heat is hurting and even killing workers, like postal worker Eugene Gates Jr. who died from heat stroke while delivering mail last summer in Dallas. And the Department of Labor estimates that there have been about 34,000 injuries caused by heat in the past years alone, and probably many more. Worker advocates - they've been asking for federal heat rules since the 1970s, but climate change is now making summers hotter, and that's really increasing the urgency here.

FADEL: You know, I'm listening to you, and I'm kind of surprised that water and breaks aren't something that are already required. Are there any protections in place now?

BORUNDA: I know, and there's not really at the national level. OSHA has something called the general duty clause, which requires safe workplaces, and sometimes that has been used for heat, but it's rare. And only five states have any heat protections for workers, including Oregon and California. Kristina Dahl is a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

KRISTINA DAHL: If you don't work in one of those states and you're exposed to the heat, then you are at the mercy of your employer.

BORUNDA: And recently, Florida and Texas have actually blocked local jurisdictions from writing their own heat rules. They've been concerned that patchworks of rules are hard for employers and said if heat is such a problem, OSHA should make clear rules that apply to everybody. So OSHA is giving them a rule.

FADEL: So typically, a rule like this takes a while to come to fruition or in an election year. Will this rule even be implemented if the administration changes?

BORUNDA: It could take well over a year or longer, or under a different administration, it could stall or be pulled entirely. So at this point, up next is a public comment period, and then a lot of administrative steps. But overall, it's moving much more quickly than a normal OSHA rule, which takes on average seven years. Michaels says that signals it's a high priority.

MICHAELS: I've never seen a major OSHA proposal go through White House clearance as quickly as this proposal did.

BORUNDA: Meanwhile, millions of workers are living through another blisteringly hot summer.

FADEL: That's Alejandra Borunda with NPR's climate desk. Thank you, Alejandra.

BORUNDA: Thanks so much.


FADEL: Have you had trouble buying a car lately or picking up a prescription at the pharmacy?

INSKEEP: If so, you may have cybercriminals to thank because ransomware is becoming a global crisis.

FADEL: NPR cybersecurity correspondent Jenna McLaughlin joins us now to talk about recent trends. Good morning, Jenna.


FADEL: So can you quickly remind us what ransomware is and why it's such a problem?

MCLAUGHLIN: Absolutely. So ransomware is a type of malicious code that's designed to lock up its victims files. And that poses a couple of different problems here. First, we've got privacy. They're not just locking down the files. They're usually stealing them, threatening to leak them everywhere. There's also a disruption to a business, and it's really costly to recover from these kinds of attacks, sometimes so expensive that businesses close. You mentioned buying a car, also. So that's a good recent example. There's a software company called CDK Global, and 15,000 plus dealerships across the U.S. and Canada rely on them. Two weeks ago, they got hit by two ransomware attacks. They've been down ever since. They're hoping to get up by the Fourth of July holiday. We'll see if that happens.

FADEL: OK, 15,000 dealerships - that's a lot. But having trouble buying a car - it doesn't really sound that dire. Is this a big deal?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, it's one thing when it's an inconvenience. You can't buy a car, maybe the school is shut down, the kids can't go in, but it becomes dangerous when cybercriminals start going after critical services. That's your power, water, health care. Healthcare was actually the most targeted in 2023, and it's really only getti ng worse. Recently, a private network of hospitals, Ascension - it's 140 different hospitals. In May, they got hit by a cyberattack, and a nurse told me that, in some ways, dealing with it was worse than dealing with COVID.

FADEL: You say it's only getting worse. I mean, is that what the numbers are showing? Is this problem getting worse?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, I wouldn't blame people for feeling that way based on some of the examples that we're talking about.

FADEL: Yeah.

MCLAUGHLIN: I spoke with Kendall McKay. She studies cybercrime at Cisco. She did agree that the scale is bad. Cybercriminals are going after third parties. They know that they'll get more victims that way. But the actual techniques, maybe not. Here - take a listen.

KENDALL MCKAY: We're not seeing these actors exploit zero-day vulnerabilities. Quite the contrary - we're seeing pretty unsophisticated techniques.

MCLAUGHLIN: And Leila, for the non-cyber-nerds out there, zero day is a flaw in the code that's been there from the beginning, from day zero, that's never been previously exploited. So these hackers are not doing things like that. It's phishing, basic stuff.

FADEL: OK, so not so advanced. Is that good news? Can they be stopped?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, you know, it's kind of a boring answer, unfortunately, but people need to be using two-factor authentication, password managers, not clicking on sketchy links. That's not to say that this problem won't get harder because cybercriminals advance. They really want to get paid. And this malicious code has leaked all over the internet and amateurs are using it. Some of this is for governments to figure out. They need to identify what's critical and how to protect it. Maybe even introduce dreaded regulation.

FADEL: OK, so what about the average person, though? Where does that leave them?

MCLAUGHLIN: They need to care about this. It's getting hard for them to ignore. When thinking about making choices about healthcare, where you're spending your money, you need to think about if these companies are doing enough to protect you, if you can rely on them. Plus, these simple hacking techniques can be used against anyone.

FADEL: NPR's Jenna McLaughlin - thank you, Jenna.

MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you.


INSKEEP: We are also following the Democratic Party's deliberations over President Biden. For the first time, one Democratic member of Congress says Biden should drop his bid for a second term after his performance in a debate last week. Lloyd Doggett of Texas is telling NPR today it would be for the good of the country.

FADEL: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains supportive, but says Biden should show his fitness by doing multiple interviews. The President has scheduled one. He talks Friday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

INSKEEP: Biden has not done an interview with NPR News since December 2019, although our discussions continue with the White House. For the record, former President Trump last spoke with NPR in 2022, and invitations to both remain open. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.