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Morning news brief

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Many American states and one territory release their voting results on this Super Tuesday.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As a public service, we are going to tell you which ones they are. Here goes - Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado...

INSKEEP: ...Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma...

MARTIN: ...Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.

INSKEEP: Democrats and American Samoa hold caucuses. Democrats in Iowa release the results of their presidential preference caucus.

MARTIN: President Biden has few challenges on the Democratic side, while Donald Trump still has one. Nikki Haley is still appealing for votes. Nakitia Macalco (ph) of Caroline County, Va., is leaning toward the choice she made last time.

NAKITIA MACALCO: I definitely think we need a change. I supported Trump in the past. I agree with some of his policies. I definitely think he's business-minded, and I do agree with a lot of that as well. And I think our economy needs that.

INSKEEP: One of many views in this election. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea joins us now. Don, good morning.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Could this be the last day for serious competition?

GONYEA: Well, it's - you know, it's possible. It's possible. But again, you have to break it down on each side. And on the Republican side, former President Donald Trump has a commanding lead in delegates so far and in polling over former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. She has pledged to stay in the race, at least through today. But, Steve, as recently as yesterday, she was still sending announcements about supporters and staffers and states yet to come down the road. So ultimately we will see what she is all about and her campaign is all about after the polls close tonight.

INSKEEP: Well, this is very interesting. If you've got the money and if you've got the will, you can go on even if you think your odds are low. And this is something that candidates have done in primaries before. So given that, what do you think about when you hear people say that tonight could effectively be the start of the general election?

GONYEA: Well, you know, we've also certainly got President Biden facing some minor challenges, but he's won every state so far. Tonight, you know, there's the math, but there's also probability. So as far as the math goes, the earliest they can each clinch the nomination outright is later this month. For Trump, it could happen March 12. For Biden, it's a week later, though both again are already seen as likely nominees, barring some major unforeseen development. And those can happen. Voters we talked to, I should add, overwhelmingly, are already looking toward a 2020 rematch between Biden and Trump.

INSKEEP: OK, so attitudinally, people are there, but there's a question of how much the major candidates might be damaged or bumped up a little bit or bumped around a little bit before we're done. What are you looking at, Don, if you go down ballot elsewhere on the ballot?

GONYEA: That's where it gets interesting for geeks, right? In California, there's a U.S. Senate race long held by the late Senator Dianne Feinstein. The two top vote-getters today advance to the general election regardless of party. So it could be two Democrats running against one another in the fall for that seat. North Carolina has a gubernatorial race we'll be watching closely. In Alabama, redistricting - so we're watching all that.

INSKEEP: NPR's Don Gonyea, thanks for your insights. As always, really appreciate it.

GONYEA: It's a pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: The Supreme Court has ruled on the meaning of the Constitution's 14th Amendment.

MARTIN: The court ruled that Colorado may not remove Donald Trump from its primary ballot because of his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. A clause of the 14th Amendment bars people from office if they took an oath to the U.S. and then engaged in insurrection. But this raised a big question for the justices. Who decides which people are disqualified? They unanimously said that states like Colorado may not.

INSKEEP: May not do it. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is on the line. Good morning.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What does this mean for Trump?

JOHNSON: It's a pretty major victory for Donald Trump. The Supreme Court decided unanimously individual states cannot disqualify federal candidates under the Constitution's insurrection clause, and that wiped away decisions by Colorado and Maine and Illinois to yank Trump from the ballot. Those and other state challenges are now dead on arrival. Here's how Donald Trump responded yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: I think it will go a long way toward bringing our country together, which our country needs.

JOHNSON: The conservative court majority took a pretty significant step. They said Congress would have to pass a special law that would apply to Trump if lawmakers want to make clear he didn't qualify for office because of the siege on the Capitol. And it really seems unlikely this Congress will do that before the November election.

INSKEEP: You know, Carrie, you've had this experience, too. It's kind of great. You get a Supreme Court ruling, you start reading, you get what the top line is, and then you begin reading the details and the other stuff. I was talking with our colleague Nina Totenberg yesterday and realized as she was talking that while they were unanimous, these justices, they were not unanimous on everything. What did they disagree about?

JOHNSON: Yes, the three liberal justices accused this majority of overreaching and violating the principle of judicial restraint. The court majority could have just said giving states the power to disqualify a presidential candidate would create chaos, a messy patchwork in states. But instead, the majority went further and imposed new limits on which kinds of federal actors can enforce the law and how they can do that. The liberal justices - Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson - said the conservatives had, quote, "tried to insulate the court and this petitioner, Donald Trump, from future controversy." And then Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was appointed by Trump, wrote separately. She said the majority didn't need to go so far. But she also said in this volatile election season, the court should turn the temperature down, not up - maybe a reference to some of the heated language from the liberals.

INSKEEP: In effect, they had an argument themselves over who decides, who gets to say how far you can go in interpreting the 14th Amendment. Carrie, I have to ask about yet another Supreme Court case that involves the former president. What is happening with the question of his claim of immunity?

JOHNSON: The justices are going to hear that dispute over whether Trump has absolute immunity in late April. This stems from the criminal case against Donald Trump related to January 6. Now, the justices could have speeded up the schedule and agreed to hear this issue last December when prosecutors first asked them to do so. But instead, the Supreme Court waited for a lower court to rule and then took more than two weeks to decide to hear the case. The delay leaves a huge question about whether a jury is going to have enough time to hear the evidence and deliver a verdict before the November election. It's still technically possible, but very difficult. Every day counts here, and how long the justices take to write that opinion could make or break the D.C. trial.

INSKEEP: OK, we will keep watching with suspense. Carrie, thanks so much.

JOHNSON: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: NPR's Carrie Johnson.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: The United Nations has released an investigation of the Hamas attack on Israel last October 7.

MARTIN: It is a report on sexual violence, and this is where we want to advise you that some people may find what we're about to talk about for the next few minutes disturbing. The allegations of sexual violence against the attack's perpetrators have been very contentious. The New York Times, for example, has been criticized in recent days over its reporting about it. Now, U.N. investigators offered their own view, finding, quote, "reasonable grounds to believe," unquote, that Israelis were victims of sexual violence that day.

INSKEEP: NPR's Becky Sullivan is covering this story. Becky, good morning.

BECKY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Who are the investigators, and what did they do?

SULLIVAN: Yeah. So this report was led by the United Nations special representative for sexual violence in conflict. Her name is Pramila Patten. And she had a team of about nine U.N. staff members that included a forensic expert and specialists in sexual violence investigations. And they went to Israel, and they reviewed 5,000 photos and 50 hours of video evidence. And they interviewed dozens of people, witnesses and first responders and medical staff. And in total, they don't put a number on how often this happened, but they do ultimately conclude that rapes were likely to have taken place in at least three different locations on October 7, including the site of the Nova rave. And they were also able to talk to released hostages, and they got firsthand accounts of what they say could be ongoing sexual violence by captors in Gaza. And so they called for a cease-fire to release those hostages. Hamas now has strongly rejected this report, we should say.

INSKEEP: This is a highly politicized topic. People are making very intense points having to do with the allegations of sexual violence and also pushing back against the allegations of sexual violence. Did this U.N. report address that?

SULLIVAN: Yeah, the report is very detailed about the challenges that they and other investigators have run into looking into this topic, including the lack of survivor accounts, because no survivor of sexual assault that day has publicly come forward. Here's Pramila Patten, the report's author.

PRAMILA PATTEN: On the very first day, I made a call for survivors to come forward, but we received information that a handful of them were receiving very specialized trauma treatment and were not prepared to come forward.

SULLIVAN: There's also a relative lack of physical forensic evidence due to a lot of factors that the report details, including the sheer scale of attack and Israeli officials prioritizing the identification of bodies instead of collecting evidence, that kind of thing. And so where the inaccurate stories come in is that many of these early accounts, the really kind of outlandish ones, came from soldiers or first responders who weren't trained in medicine or forensics, and so they misinterpret what they're seeing. That's what the report says. The team behind the report says, you know, they had a lot of accounts to look into. Some they weren't able to verify, and others they found were unfounded.

INSKEEP: OK, so some stories, in fact, are not credible because they're dealing with the complexity of truth here. Some of them are more credible. And in fact, isn't there some photographic evidence that can be shown here?

SULLIVAN: Yeah, I mean, they looked at 5,000, but we, NPR, myself reviewed about 20 photos taken by first responders of bodies found at the rave and in some of the small communities that were attacked that show the remains of at least 20 or so victims. And so those included women who were found in various states of undress, multiple people found with their hands tied and some with very obvious injuries like gunshot wounds to the pelvic area, which I should say, the report couldn't currently identify a pattern there, but they say it warrants future investigation.

INSKEEP: Taken in total, how does this add to what was known about that day?

SULLIVAN: Well, so this is the most comprehensive report yet on the issue of sexual violence that has been issued by an independent body outside of Israel, so that's significant. But it's still only 24 pages long, and the team of researchers was only there for about two weeks. And so, you know, what they say is that a fully fledged investigation, full team of investigators there for a long time, is what's needed. Israel hasn't fully allowed that yet. They accuse the U.N. of an anti-Israel bias.

INSKEEP: Wait a minute. So Israel accused the U.N. of bias, but the U.N. report substantiated, broadly speaking, with Israel's claims of sexual violence here.

SULLIVAN: That's right. And Israel's ambassador to the United Nations doubled down on that yesterday, saying that the five months it took for this to come out since October 7 is evidence of their shameful delay, essentially.

INSKEEP: NPR's Becky Sullivan, thanks.

SULLIVAN: 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.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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