Morning news brief
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The Colorado Supreme Court issued an historic ruling yesterday. It said Donald Trump is not eligible to become president again because he engaged in insurrection.
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Now, the decision bars him from the state's primary ballot. Now, right away, Trump's campaign said it would appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
MARTIN: For more on this, I'm joined by Colorado Public Radio's Bente Birkeland. Bente, good morning.
BENTE BIRKELAND, BYLINE: Hi.
MARTIN: So the ruling of this case stems from Trump's role in the January 6 events. What did the court decide exactly?
BIRKELAND: This is a case that challenges Trump's eligibility based on a provision of the U.S. Constitution - Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. And it essentially disqualifies anyone from office who's engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the government. The decision here in Colorado was close. It was 4 to 3. But the majority said, yes, Trump's actions leading up to and during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol meet that threshold of engaging in an insurrection and thereby disqualify him from running for president.
Colorado's Supreme Court justices made it clear in the decision that they understood the stakes. They said they're in uncharted territory and they didn't reach these conclusions lightly. But they said it's their solemn duty to apply the law without fear or favor and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions.
MARTIN: And what has the Trump campaign said in response?
BIRKELAND: A spokesman called it completely flawed and said they'll immediately appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, where they expect it will be overturned. Trump's campaign has long said that the lawsuit is undemocratic and that his speech was protected under the First Amendment. And we should mention that there is a Republican supermajority on the U.S. Supreme Court who may be a lot more receptive to the arguments Trump's trying to make.
MARTIN: Sure. Of course - and three of whom he appointed. But can you say a little bit more about the clause in the Constitution - Section 3 - that came into play here?
BIRKELAND: Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was ratified after the Civil War, and it was really designed to bar former Confederate leaders from holding office. It's barely been used since then, but January 6 gave it a new application. In Colorado, six unaffiliated and Republican voters filed the lawsuit, backed by a liberal group. And there have been a number of attempts by liberal organizations to use Section 3 to disqualifying Trump in states like Michigan, Minnesota. But those cases were dismissed. The courts said the states didn't have the authority to make the decision or that it required congressional action. In Colorado, this is the first time the clause has been successfully invoked against a presidential candidate to be barred from the ballot.
MARTIN: So this is heading to the Supreme Court.
BIRKELAND: Yes. And, you know, all along, election officials and legal experts have been saying that this is a question that may need to be resolved by the Supreme Court. One important note here - the Colorado justices stayed their decision until early January, and that's when Colorado's ballots are set to be finalized. So Trump's name would appear on the primary ballot if the Supreme Court appeal is still pending.
And I think it's fair to say that, politically, we can expect to hear a lot more about this. It fits into Trump's narrative that his political enemies are out to get him. And already last night, his campaign was fundraising off the ruling.
MARTIN: That is Bente Birkeland with Colorado Public Radio. Bente, thank you.
BIRKELAND: Thanks so much.
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MARTIN: Israel's military continues to launch ground and air assaults in Gaza, including in and around the southern city of Rafah. That's where hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled, seeking safety.
MARTÍNEZ: As the death toll nears 20,000, according to Gaza's health ministry, Israel is coming under intense international pressure to limit further civilian casualties. Among the Palestinians killed yesterday in the aerial campaign was another journalist. Dozens of journalists have been killed in Gaza, according to media advocates.
MARTIN: So let's go now to NPR's Carrie Kahn, who is in Tel Aviv. Carrie, good morning.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: So there is no letup in Israel's aerial campaign in Gaza. There was a communications blackout for several days. That's ongoing in some places. Could you just bring us up to date on the situation now?
KAHN: Bombing was heavy yesterday, especially in the north. And that's according to the U.N. In the early morning hours, several homes in Rafah were struck, killing at least 30 people, including a 3-year-old and a journalist, according to The Associated Press. NPR's producer Anas Baba, who is in Rafah, was able to send us interviews and photos of the bombed residences. He spoke with a survivor of the attack, Fewahd Elahdah (ph), who described waking up at 1 a.m. when the rubble fell on him.
FEWAHD ELAHDAH: (Speaking Arabic).
KAHN: He says he shot up, not knowing who to save - himself or his family. And he's in despair, and he just says, this is not a solution. Palestinian armed groups continue to fire rockets into Israel from Gaza. And according to the Israeli military, Hezbollah strikes into northern Israel from Lebanon continue, also.
MARTIN: So what are you hearing about the possibility of another cease-fire and an exchange of hostages and prisoners?
KAHN: There have been meetings, with U.S. backing, between Israeli and Qatari officials in Europe about a cease-fire and a deal to release hostages. That's according to U.S. officials. More than 100 of the people abducted in Israel during Hamas' October 7 attack are still believed to remain captive in Gaza.
Israel's president, Isaac Herzog, says Israel is always open to negotiations. He was interviewed at an Atlantic Council event by NPR's Mary Louise Kelly. Herzog usually doesn't weigh into politics, but I just want to play you one part of that interview where Mary Louise asked him about Israel's assault in Gaza. He says, don't believe everything you see on social media.
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PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG: I say that information coming out of Gaza usually is incorrect, to say the least. It's a dire situation in Gaza. It's extremely painful. But what else can we do?
KAHN: Aid groups are increasingly worried about deteriorating infrastructure in Gaza. And UNICEF today released a report saying sanitation and water services are at the point of collapse there.
MARTIN: So if the U.N. Security Council is talking about that, especially the question of aid for the people there, why has it been so difficult?
KAHN: They've been trying to get a resolution for a couple of days, and they will try again today. They're working on language to avoid another U.S. veto. The U.S. in the past has opposed language on a cessation of hostilities and has concerns about the U.N. being in charge of monitoring of aid coming into Gaza. According to the U.N., only a fraction of what's needed for Gaza's more than 2 million residents is getting in at this time.
MARTIN: That is NPR's Carrie Kahn from Tel Aviv. Carrie, thank you.
KAHN: You're welcome.
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MARTIN: In the Democratic Republic of Congo, millions of people head to the polls today to elect their next president. The incumbent, Felix Tshisekedi, is seeking a second term.
MARTÍNEZ: The country is rich in minerals but also faces a lot of challenges, and one of them is the violence being perpetuated by more than a hundred armed groups in the east vying for control of large deposits of oil, gold and cobalt. That's a metal used in smartphones.
MARTIN: This comes after decades of conflict that has killed millions of people and led to an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the huge country, which is the second largest in Africa. In fact, many Congolese may not even be able to get to a voting station to cast a ballot.
NPR's Emmanuel Akinwotu is with us now from Lagos to tell us more. Good morning, Emmanuel.
EMMANUEL AKINWOTU, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: It just seems that so much is at stake for the Democratic Republic of Congo in this election. So just what are the most pressing issues?
AKINWOTU: President Felix Tshisekedi, he's the incumbent seeking a second term. And he's seen as the favorite even though his popularity has really waned since he took office four years ago. Many of the pretty brutal challenges that have gripped this country are now even more entrenched. You know, it's one of the most mineral-rich nations on Earth. But since independence from the Belgian colonial regime, it's never really thrived. Millions of people live in poverty, and that's gotten worse since COVID. Insecurity has worsened in the east. The humanitarian crisis, where more than 6 million people are displaced - and it really doesn't get the focus it deserves.
I spoke to Fred Bauma - he's a civil society figure in Goma, which is one of the most affected regions by the violence - just to get a sense of how people like him are feeling ahead of the vote.
FRED BAUMA: The reality is that despite billions of dollars invested in the region the last 20 or 30 years, today we have more people displaced than ever. What I hear a lot when I talk to international actors is the sort of Congo fatigue - you know, forgetting that it's about human lives.
MARTIN: So you've been telling us about just how widespread the violence still is. So given that, can elections even take place in the east of the country?
AKINWOTU: Yes. There's really profound challenges. It's really been a kind of logistical nightmare for the Electoral Commission because of security threats and also because of challenges with millions of people getting their voters' cards. You know, about a million people, apparently, who wanted to vote will not be able to. Over 40 million people have registered. The Electoral Commission has actually been heavily criticized by civil society groups. But we'll see how this plays out.
MARTIN: I understand that the U.N. Security Council has agreed to withdraw U.N. peacekeepers from the region early, in response to demands from the president. Why withdraw them when the violence is still going on?
AKINWOTU: Frankly, it's because the peacekeeping missions have failed. You know, they're deeply unpopular. There's no confidence in them on the ground anymore. There have been very high-profile scandals, sexual abuse scandals, too, and things have really gotten worse. You know, the U.S. recently said it brokered a cease-fire between the DRC and the M23 rebel group, probably the main rebel group in the country, which is widely seen as being backed by Rwanda, the neighboring country. But the cease-fire - we can only really see it as a temporary measure because a lasting resolution still seems really far away.
MARTIN: That is NPR's Emmanuel Akinwotu in Lagos. Emmanuel, thank you so much.
AKINWOTU: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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