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Morning news brief

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Democrats have been talking, in private conversations, in conference calls, sometimes on TV. This week, many see each other face to face as Congress returns to Washington.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

You can think of it as a tough family conversation. Four senior House Democrats said on a private call yesterday that they believe President Biden should step aside. Others support the president, like the Democratic Senators and the governor who campaigned with him in Pennsylvania yesterday. A disappointing debate triggered the discussion by raising larger questions about the president's fitness at age 81.

INSKEEP: NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith was on that trip to Pennsylvania. Tam, good morning.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: OK, we said four senior House Democrats want Biden out, but I'll just note there are hundreds of Democrats in Congress. So where does the party stand?

KEITH: The fact is that House Democrats are divided. These four members who called for Biden to step aside were on a call with leadership, their House committee chairs, and they haven't come out publicly yet.

INSKEEP: OK.

KEITH: And then there are other members firmly standing behind Biden. I know a lot of representatives will be looking for clues from top leadership, including House Speaker Jeffries, majority leader Schumer in the Senate. And they haven't shown their cards. Biden, for his part, has been working the phones, calling members of Congress and will be doing more of that today.

INSKEEP: Well, what was the president like in public yesterday in Pennsylvania?

KEITH: Well, on Friday, he said only the Lord Almighty could convince him to drop out.

INSKEEP: Right.

KEITH: Yesterday at Mount Airy Church of God and Christ, the only message he heard was stay in - don't let them tell you you're too old. The head pastor, J. Louis Felton, led worshippers in a call and response.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

J LOUIS FELTON: We did not come to beat up on you, to put you down, to criticize you, to magnify your flaws or mistakes.

(APPLAUSE)

FELTON: We come to love you. We love you, president. Come on, say we love you, President Biden.

KEITH: When the services were over, Biden lingered and shook hands, gave hugs, took a lot of selfies, grabbing the phones himself to take the pictures. And he kept doing that at every stop. He dropped in on a campaign field office in Philadelphia, and he referenced the laser eye superhero meme version of himself.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT/DEM PRES CAND JOE BIDEN: But I'll tell you what, Dark Brandon's coming back.

(CHEERING)

BIDEN: And guess what? The next 120-something days or so, they're going to get a real good look at who Donald Trump is.

(CHEERING)

KEITH: He spoke without notes there and later at a rally at a union hall in Harrisburg. That event was outside in a courtyard. It was over 90 degrees outside, and he shook hands for a good 45 minutes after delivering brief remarks. At one point during that very long, hot marathon of chatting with supporters, Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" came on the sound system. And the whole point seemed to be to show his critics that he has the stamina to beat Trump.

INSKEEP: OK, I was thinking about what the president said there in that clip that you played, saying that people are going to get a real good look of who Donald Trump is. The hope for Democrats - their hope had been to make this election effectively a referendum on the challenger, a referendum on Trump and what a danger they feel he would be for the country. Instead, the focus is on the president and his age. So where is this heading?

KEITH: Well, Biden and his team are looking to get past this news cycle from hell and move on to their playbook, which was going after Trump. In terms of Biden, you know, people often look like they are hanging on in politics until they're not. But Biden has long been someone who scoffs in the face of doubt. So in addition to those calls he's making to lawmakers, he'll be talking to foreign leaders at the NATO summit this week, trying to convince them that he can keep Trump out of office. And then on Friday, he goes to Detroit, Mich., to campaign. It is another must-win state.

INSKEEP: OK, we'll continue watching. Tamara, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Tamara Keith.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: France's far-right party fell far short in legislative elections yesterday.

INSKEEP: The party known as National Rally had been expected to dominate, maybe even get an absolute majority. Instead, it was routed by a coalition of left and center parties cobbled together only weeks ago.

FADEL: Also unexpectedly, President Emmanuel Macron's centrists came in a close second in the newly recomposed Parliament. We go to NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris to find out what's next. Hi, Eleanor.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hi.

FADEL: So what happened?

BEARDSLEY: Well, this was a huge surprise and an upset for the far right, as you've said. What happened is that the French turned out massively. There was historic participation, over 67%. Millions voted to block the far right. And this is what they called le front republicain - or the republican front - in action. People told me they became frightened in the last week, because if you'll remember, the hard-right National Rally party of Marine Le Pen was in the lead after the first round of voting.

FADEL: Right.

BEARDSLEY: I went last night to Paris' Place de la Republique, where people from the left were gathering, and this is what it sounded like when the first results were announced.

(CHEERING)

BEARDSLEY: People were exhilarated. It turned into a big party. There was singing and chanting. And at one point the crowd was chanting everybody detests Bardella, referring to Jordan Bardella, the young leader of the National Rally party who could have been France's next prime minister had they gotten their majority in Parliament. I met 52-year-old art teacher Cecile Pallisere chanting away. She told me she was so relieved she couldn't stop crying and hugging everyone. Here she is.

CECILE PALLISERE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: She said "France does not deserve crazy racist xenophobes like them. We are a nation made up of lots of colors and cultures and that's our richness. It's about generosity and sharing." So, Leila, that was the mood last night.

FADEL: So I'm hearing a lot of relief and excitement from voters on the left. But no one party has a majority of seats in the Parliament, so what happens now?

BEARDSLEY: Exactly. Well, back to reality, and it's a big political mess. The French Parliament is divided, as you say, into these three blocs and no one has a majority. Countries like Germany and Italy are used to coalition governments, but this is absolutely an unprecedented situation for modern France. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced he would hand in his resignation this morning - that was expected - but President Macron does not have to accept it. He may keep this prime minister and government in place just to oversee things like the Olympics starting very soon...

FADEL: Right.

BEARDSLEY: ...Which is a huge security challenge, and the government is deeply involved in that. And analysts say this next phase of forming a government could take weeks. They're referring to this period as the third round of the election, the deal making, the horse trading, the compromise needed to get a working government. And remember, this new Parliament has bigger extremes in it, not just extreme right but extreme left as well, and that could make it difficult to find a working majority.

FADEL: And what did the far right say about its defeat?

BEARDSLEY: Well, they were clearly disappointed. They thought it was going to be a question of just how big their majority would be. Here's Marine Le Pen speaking last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARINE LE PEN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: She said if there had not been this unnatural deal between President Macron and the left, we would be the majority party today. She's talking about the fact that to defeat the far right in about 300 three-way runoff races in the second round, either the centrist candidate or the leftist candidate dropped out so as not to split the vote against the far right. She said that had distorted the voting bloc to the true aspirations of the French.

Now, they got together to block the right, but the centrists and left will find it very difficult to build a government. They don't have much in common. And in fact, this left-wing coalition is so diverse - they have deep divisions - ranging from communists to ecologists. They're going to have a difficult time. Marine Le Pen reminded us that her party still has more seats than it ever has and it's the largest party in Parliament, because remember, the two other blocs are coalitions. So the French far right has hardly gone away.

FADEL: Eleanor Beardsley, thank you so much.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Boeing will plead guilty to criminal fraud as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors. That's according to an agreement announced late last night by the Justice Department.

FADEL: Prosecutors say Boeing deceived federal regulators about the safety of two 737 Max 8 jets. These are the planes that crashed a few years ago, killing 346 people.

INSKEEP: NPR transportation correspondent Joel Rose was up late reading the court filing and is now up early for us. Joel, good morning.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, from what you've read, what is Boeing agreeing to?

ROSE: The Justice Department says Boeing will plead guilty to committing fraud by misleading regulators about the safety of those two 737 Max 8 planes and the flawed flight control system that led to those two crashes back in 2018 and 2019. Under this plea deal, Boeing will pay a fine of more than $240 million and has agreed to spend upwards of 450 million on compliance and safety programs going forward. Boeing would also be under formal probation for three more years. Now, if all of this sounds familiar, it should. Boeing and prosecutors reached a similar agreement back in 2021 known as a deferred prosecution agreement.

INSKEEP: OK, apparently it was really deferred. What happened to that earlier deal?

ROSE: Yeah, Boeing agreed to pay a similar fine and it promised to make big changes around safety and compliance. In exchange, the Justice Department agreed not to prosecute the company. But the Department of Justice now says Boeing did not hold up its end of that deal and essentially gave the company a choice of taking this plea deal or fighting the felony charge in court.

There are some key differences this time around. For one, Boeing has agreed to plead guilty. That didn't happen last time. Also, this time Boeing and the DOJ have agreed that there will be an independent monitor to make sure that the company is complying for a period of three years. And under the proposal, that monitor will be appointed by the Justice Department with input from Boeing.

INSKEEP: There must be thousands of people interested in this case, not just people at Boeing, but the relatives or the hundreds of people killed in those crashes. How are people responding?

ROSE: Yeah, the family members of the crash victims hate this deal. They say this is once again a sweetheart deal for Boeing, just like that earlier agreement, and that no other criminal defendant would get a friendly offer like this from the government. Family members were hoping to see even bigger fines, as well as personal accountability for Boeing's leaders. Lawyers for those family members are already urging a federal judge to reject this plea deal. They also want the judge to appoint his own monitor. They say Boeing should not be involved in selecting that monitor because, the families argue, that's exactly the kind of self-regulation that led to the two crashes in the first place.

INSKEEP: When you say that they want the judge to do this or that, I guess that means the judge still has to sign off on this?

ROSE: That's right. The Justice Department says the formal agreement will be filed with the court within days. The judge could accept it or reject it. There could be a hearing on that in Texas as soon as this month. You know, it's important to note this deal only covers events leading up to those Max crashes in 2018 and 2019. It does not say anything about the door plug panel that blew out of an almost-new Boeing 737 Max 9 jet back in January of this year in mid-air. Boeing is still under enormous scrutiny for its quality control and manufacturing processes because of that incident, including a push for tougher regulation from the FAA. And federal law enforcement is looking separately at that incident as well.

INSKEEP: Joel, thanks so much.

ROSE: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Joel Rose.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: Hurricane Beryl made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast.

INSKEEP: The season's first hurricane surprised forecasters ever since it formed in the Atlantic late last month, first that it came so early, then that it became so strong. It was a Category 5 storm as it pounded the Caribbean. It then weakened but has regained strength while approaching the Texas coast. It now has 80 mph winds.

FADEL: NPR's Greg Allen is right there in Corpus Christi and joins us now. Hi, Greg.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: So what's happening with the hurricane?

ALLEN: Beryl came ashore this morning near Matagorda Bay on the Texas coast. That's about a hundred miles south of Galveston. And as you say, it's carrying 80 mph winds and moving about 10 mph. Now, along with the winds, the most immediate impact is the storm surge.

FADEL: And what areas are most likely to be impacted?

ALLEN: Well, the first concern is of course going to be for a Matagorda Bay, where it came ashore. Forecasters say that area could receive as much as seven feet of storm surge. Some communities around there ordered mandatory evacuations for residents, with the concern that with the flooding, emergency services wouldn't be available for those who need help.

As Beryl strengthened, the National Hurricane Center extended concerns about storm surge and flooding into Galveston and the Houston area. Galveston could see a six-foot storm surge, which could be made worse if it arrives this morning during high tide. And add to that the forecast that Beryl will bring 5 to 10 inches of rain, with accumulations up to 15 inches in some areas, it begins to raise memories of Hurricane Harvey seven years ago, which, you know, as you remember, caused severe flooding in Houston.

FADEL: Yeah.

ALLEN: Beryl's a lot weaker. It's not as wet, moving faster. But flooding does remain a concern.

FADEL: And did you see signs of people preparing and taking Beryl seriously?

ALLEN: Yes. In Corpus Christi, Aransas Pass and Rockport, communities we visited yesterday, we saw homes boarded up, businesses closed and indications that some people had evacuated. At a marina in Rockport, boat owners were busy all day retying their boats and trying to protect them from the wind and storm surge. I talked to Bill Krenik (ph) when he was at work on his 35-foot sailboat.

BILL KRENIK: What I do, I double up my lines. I put fenders up high because the storm surge will come in and the boat will raise up, and then the lines will get slack and they'll rub the pilings.

ALLEN: Just a few weeks ago, folks here say the remains of Tropical Storm Alberto caused significant flooding in Rockport. They're concerned that this could be a lot worse this time.

FADEL: And now that Beryl has come ashore, what's expected?

ALLEN: Well, a big question now is, you know, how fast Beryl moves and how much rain it drops on inland areas. Inland flooding caused by rain from hurricanes, tropical storms and even just depressions claim more lives many years than wind and storm surge. So flash flooding will be a concern as Beryl moves through Houston, into east Texas and, later in the day, into Oklahoma and Arkansas.

FADEL: And it's really early to be talking about hurricanes. Is this a sign there will be more to come?

ALLEN: Right, well, you know, Beryl has broken all kinds of records as it emerged as the earliest Category 5 hurricane ever recorded. Forecasters say there are a number of factors suggesting this is going to be a very active hurricane season. The biggest one, of course, is the warm ocean temperatures in the Gulf and the Atlantic. Researchers say those warm ocean temperatures are directly related to climate change and something that we might expect to be dealing with as we look forward here.

FADEL: NPR's Greg Allen in Corpus Christi. Thank you, Greg.

ALLEN: You're welcome. 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.

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