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Morning news brief

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The GOP presidential primary just got a little bit bigger.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

That's because Miami Mayor Francis Suarez filed paperwork late Wednesday, making his intent to run for president officially official. He'll speak this evening in California at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. Here's a preview of what we're likely to hear from Suarez, who appeared on "Fox News Sunday."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")

FRANCIS SUAREZ: We are in an incredibly disruptive moment in our history, and we need to step up as a country and understand where the dynamism is going so that we can position ourselves.

FADEL: For a look at how Suarez fits into this race and more on the campaign, we're joined by NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: OK, so Francis Suarez is probably a new name for a lot of people, so tell us about him.

MONTANARO: Well, Suarez is young, charismatic, mayor of Miami. He's 45. He's been elected twice with about 80% of the vote. He's a former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He's Cuban American, lawyer by training but seems to have been bred for politics. You know, he's a political scion. His father was also mayor of Miami some decades ago. He might have some problems in this race, though. You know, no one has ever gone from being a mayor right to winning the White House or a major party nomination. And he's also rankled Republicans because he says he did not vote for former President Trump in 2020 or Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for governor in 2018. He's had some issues with both men for their hard-line immigration policies and rhetoric. And he's called DeSantis' fight with Disney, for example, a personal vendetta.

FADEL: Interesting. OK, he's been reelected twice. What's he tried to do as mayor?

MONTANARO: One of his focuses has been public transportation, as well as trying to make Miami something of a tech hub. He's a big Bitcoin proponent, even saying he takes his salary in Bitcoin. He's stirred a lot of interest from Silicon Valley because of how he talks about tech. But the Miami mayoral position is a relatively weak one. It's kind of part-time, and Suarez has outside jobs. That's landed him in some pretty hot water. We've been talking a lot about Trump indictments lately...

FADEL: Yeah.

MONTANARO: ...But the Miami Herald reported just days ago that the FBI and SEC have opened investigations into Suarez and a developer in the city. The Herald reported that the FBI's investigation centers on $10,000 monthly payments made to Suarez from a subsidiary of the developer's main company. The paper reported that special agents from the FBI have begun questioning witnesses, focusing on whether the payments constitute bribes in exchange for securing permits or other favors from the mayor. On top of blaming the media, though, for even reporting on this, here's how Suarez defended himself in that same Fox News interview, which focused quite a bit on these allegations.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")

SUAREZ: From what I know, which is very little, it wasn't a controversial decision and no one's complained about it. This is something that the Miami Herald is complaining about.

FADEL: OK. Well, there's a lot there to learn more about this investigation as it goes forward. But Suarez getting in now makes him the 10th major Republican candidate running in the presidential primary. And we keep hearing about Trump's stronghold on the party base. So why are so many people jumping in?

MONTANARO: Yeah, it's interesting. And Trump does have a pretty firm grip on the Republican base. You know, but there are really three primaries going on, the way I see it - you know, one for the 2024 nomination, one to, frankly, be Trump's vice presidential running mate if he does win the primary, and one for 2028. I know that we don't want to talk about that probably. But remember, even if Trump wins, he can only serve four more years. And if President Biden wins reelection, he's only got four more years too. So 2028 is going to be wide open. It's going to be fascinating. And if you're a self-confident person, you might think, hey, this is my opportunity to raise my brand as a preview for four years from now.

FADEL: The long game for some. NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thanks so much.

MONTANARO: Hey, you're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: Tucker Carlson was fired from Fox News, but he's still sharing his opinions.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, he's got a new show on Twitter named "Tucker On Twitter."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TUCKER CARLSON: But what about voters? What are they learning from this spectacle? Well, mostly they're learning that they have no power at all because nobody cares about them.

MARTÍNEZ: His latest video has more than 80 million views. Fox is warning Carlson, though, to knock it off because he's still under contract with them until 2025.

FADEL: NPR's David Folkenflik joins us to talk about the battle brewing between these two conservative media powerhouses. Good morning, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Morning, Leila.

FADEL: So what are these videos that Carlson's posting on Twitter?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, they're awfully similar to the monologues that used to kick off his prime-time show on Fox News itself. On Tuesday, he did sort of a scattershot attack, but really, he was focusing mostly on the arraignment of former President Donald Trump over possession of classified materials. Carlson presented it not just as a prosecution, but a persecution, saying President Joe Biden and the Washington establishment had it in for him because of his stance against the Iraq war during the Republican presidential primaries in 2016. I think it's worth pointing out Trump really didn't come out against the invasion of Iraq until it started to turn pretty unpopular.

FADEL: OK. So, like you said, it sounds a lot like his show on Fox, and he's still under contract with Fox. So how does he get to do this?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, according to Fox, he doesn't. The specter of litigation hangs over all of this. Fox had basically fired Carlson, which is to say it canceled his show after settling this huge defamation suit for nearly $800 million over bogus claims of election fraud in the 2020 race. Carlson has also been sued, along with Fox News, for a hostile work environment by a former senior producer who alleged his show was rife with bigotry and sexism and apparently has dozens of audio recordings to make her case. Fox News itself has gone pretty quiet about those allegations at the moment.

The real question is, does Fox want to go to war with a figure who's so popular among its audience? Fox says, look, he's still under contract until the beginning of 2025, which puts him after the 2024 race. And we're paying him, so he's got to shut up. Fox has had real consequences by firing him however. It's lost about a third of its viewers in prime time. MSNBC, for the first time in almost two years, beat Fox in prime-time viewers last week, and that's a real blow to Fox.

FADEL: OK, so that's Fox's perspective. But clearly, Carlson doesn't see what he's doing as wrong since he's posting the videos. How does he justify it?

CARLSON: Well, lawyers claim that Fox has sought to hurt his reputation by leaking damaging things publicly and have claimed that they've already violated his contract. They also say it's the First Amendment right to speak. Let's not forget, Elon Musk, the controlling owner of Twitter, says Carlson's videos are a model for people on the right and left. It's not compensated directly by Twitter and it's not exclusive to Twitter. In the meantime, it's fascinating to see Carlson not only take shots at the establishment and others among conservatives, but at former U.S. House speaker Paul Ryan twice in his video last night - Ryan, of course, a corporate director of parent company, Fox Corp.

FADEL: OK. So where does this fight between Fox and Carlson go from here?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, if you take literally what's playing out, it looks like it's headed to court. Neither side should want that. They've both been damaged by all these revelations in that earlier defamation suit I mentioned. But Carlson really wants a voice in this upcoming presidential cycle and to keep the influence he's built over the years. And Fox really wants to sideline him and get their viewers back onside. The question is, who gives up first or who gives up enough to come to terms before this actually goes to court?

FADEL: NPR's David Folkenflik, thank you.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: Pakistan and India are preparing for a cyclone that's expected to make landfall today.

MARTÍNEZ: The cyclone has been dubbed Biparjoy, the word for disaster in Bengali, and that's exactly what officials are preparing for. Authorities are still evacuating tens of thousands of people from coastal areas, sending them to schools and government buildings that have been converted into shelters. They're removing billboards that could turn into deadly projectiles.

FADEL: On the line with us to tell us more is NPR's Diaa Hadid. Hi, Diaa.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: So, Diaa, where are you right now? Are you in a safe place?

HADID: Yeah, I'm in the Pakistani city of Hyderabad. It's about two hours inland. And even here, though, we can see the first impacts of the cyclone. We were on the road when the winds picked up, and large palm trees were swaying hard. A cloud picked up dust, it enveloped the road and nearby bazaars. And squinting through, we could see shepherds barreling down the sides of the roads with their flocks of goats, getting them to safety. And the trash pile by roadsides was whipping up, sending plastic bags and bottles careering. And this is all two hours from the coast.

FADEL: Wow. So if you're seeing that type of weather where you are, what's the situation in coastal areas?

HADID: Well, NASA describes this as a severe cyclonic storm with a sustained wind speed of more than 80 miles an hour. And it's likely to land around the India-Pakistan border. And on both sides, authorities are evacuating tens of thousands of people and livestock. But the big fear is the impact it might have on the Pakistani port city of Karachi, which has a population around 20 million people. It's low lying. A lot of the drains are blocked. In the past, heavy rains have caused severe floods, just sending main roads underwater and inundating the ground floors of homes. And there's tangles of power lines everywhere. So in previous floods, a lot of victims died by electrocution. And there's also open sewers. And as they spill over, diseases like diarrhea and typhoid are likely to spread. So the minister of climate change, Sherry Rehman, she urged residents to trust the government, to secure pets and livestock and even make sure solar panels were screwed onto rooftops properly. But she said she understood people's fears.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHERRY REHMAN: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: And basically, she said it's natural to panic, but be prepared.

FADEL: Diaa, I suppose last year's devastating floods in Pakistan in particular are framing how people respond this time, right?

HADID: Yeah. Yeah. Those summer floods last year left a third of Pakistan underwater at its peak. It killed more than 1,500 people, and it decimated the wheat and cotton crops that this country relies on. Even a year on, thousands of people are still homeless. And so this is a country that's quite vulnerable to these events which are being made more extreme by climate change.

FADEL: You mention climate change. Is there a sense of the role it's played in how severe this cyclone is going to be?

HADID: Yeah, it appears so. We've been speaking to folks here who say these sorts of cyclones were actually rare until about a decade ago. And NASA notes unusually warm waters helped fuel the cyclone's intensification, and warm sea surface temperatures have contributed to the cyclone's long lifespan. And for many Pakistanis, these events feel relentless. The country's experiencing extreme floods, droughts and now cyclones. And its poorest people are struggling to cope and recover from these incidents. Environmental activists say Pakistan is a classic example of how the people who've contributed least to global warming are facing some of the harshest impacts of it.

FADEL: NPR's Diaa Hadid, thank you so much and stay safe.

HADID: Thank you, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
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.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
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