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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Outside the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., demonstrators had a message for former President Donald Trump. It was quite similar to what Trump used to say about Hillary Clinton.

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Lock him up. Lock him up. Lock him up.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Inside the building, Trump pleaded not guilty to four felony charges stemming from his effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Prosecutors say he conspired to spread lies to create an atmosphere of mistrust and anger that culminated in the Capitol riot.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson spent all day at that courthouse. She's on the line now to tell us more about it. Carrie, of the three indictments Trump has received this year, this one is widely viewed as the most serious. Did that come across in yesterday's arraignment?

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: It really did, A. The special counsel investigation puts Trump at the center of overlapping conspiracies to defraud the government he once led to pressure state election officials and his own vice president to try to stop the vote certification and to deprive Americans of the right to have their votes counted in 2020. And even with all of Donald Trump's legal problems, it felt like a big moment to hear the clerk read out the case, the United States of America v. Donald J. Trump. Five people who waited overnight outside the courthouse actually got to witness history from inside the room yesterday.

MARTÍNEZ: So take us in. Take us inside that room. What happened?

JOHNSON: Yeah, the magistrate judge, Moxila Upadhyaya, gave Donald Trump a roadmap. She read the four charges against him and accepted his plea of not guilty. And she released the former president with minimal conditions. Basically, don't commit a new crime and don't talk to people you think might be witnesses in this case without going through their lawyers. The judge also reminded Trump he can't bribe or threaten or retaliate against people, and she set his next court date for the end of the month, August 28.

MARTÍNEZ: How did Trump react when the judge was speaking to him in the court and then when he was outside the court?

JOHNSON: Yeah, inside the courtroom, the former president seemed to be somber and to respect the judge. But on the way to D.C. yesterday, he disparaged prosecutors and wrote to supporters, quote, "I am being arrested for you." Then after the court hearing, Trump made some remarks at the airport.

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DONALD TRUMP: This was never supposed to happen in America. This is the persecution of the person that's leading by very, very substantial numbers in the Republican primary and leading Biden by a lot. So if you can't beat him, you persecute him, or you prosecute him.

JOHNSON: And of course, A, the Justice Department says it's acting independent of the current president, Joe Biden, and Attorney General Merrick Garland named a special counsel in this case to try to insulate it from any politics.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Do we know anything more about Donald Trump's strategy?

JOHNSON: His strategy is going to be delay. The special counsel prosecutor is asking for a speedy trial, so Trump is treated like any other defendant. But Trump's lawyer, John Lauro, says that's a bit absurd. He says there's a lot of evidence to review, paper and electronic records. He's going to need months to sift through all that. And Trump's lawyer says a fair trial is more important than a fast one. The judge responded she could guarantee Trump would receive a fair trial in this case. She said they should prepare to learn a trial date at that next hearing, August 28.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thanks.

JOHNSON: My pleasure.

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MARTÍNEZ: Large swaths of the country are in the middle of a heat wave. But how hot is the job market?

FADEL: We'll get a temperature check this morning when the Labor Department delivers its monthly report on hiring and unemployment. There are signs that hot weather may have put a damper on some kinds of jobs - at outdoor restaurants, for example. But forecasters don't think the overall job market cooled off very much.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Scott Horsley is here. Air conditioners have been working overtime, I think, everywhere. What about workers, Scott?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, A. We continue to see strong demand for workers. Forecasters think employers added about 200,000 jobs in July. That would be roughly in line with what we saw in June. Now, Homebase, which makes scheduling software that a lot of restaurants and other small businesses use, says it did see a drop in restaurant traffic in places like Birmingham and San Antonio and Phoenix last month, where it's been super hot. You know, when the mercury is up over 100 degrees, a lot of people just want to stay home and sit by the fan, so that may have affected restaurant hiring in those areas. There's also been some weakness in manufacturing, but overall, the job market is still quite strong. There are a lot of openings. Layoffs are rare. Worries about a recession have receded somewhat. And you are hearing more optimistic talk now about prospects for a soft landing.

MARTÍNEZ: What about wages? What's happening with wages?

HORSLEY: They're still going up, although not as fast as they had been. The good news is inflation has also cooled. So economist Nick Bunker, who's with the Indeed job search website, says even with smaller pay raises, workers are finally coming out ahead.

NICK BUNKER: There are some signs that employers need to dole out fewer raises to retain workers or hire new workers. But at the same time, prices are slowing down, so workers are seeing more purchasing power for every hour that they work.

HORSLEY: A, average wages in June were up 4.4% from a year ago, while prices during that period were up just 3%. So we'll find out later this morning what happened to wages in July.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, you know, and unemployment has been really low. Is that going to continue?

HORSLEY: Yeah, the unemployment rate in June was just 3.6%, near a half-century low. It's been hovering around that level for over a year now. The unemployment rate for African Americans hit a record low in April but then ticked up a bit the last two months, so that's something to keep an eye on. More encouraging, we have seen more people coming into the workforce in recent months, especially people in their prime working years between 25 and 54. The share of people in that age group who are now either working or looking for work is the highest it's been in over two decades. So we'll want to see if that trend continued in July. If so, it would be a good sign. The more people who are in the workforce, the more the economy can grow without putting upward pressure on inflation.

MARTÍNEZ: Anything else we should maybe be watching for in today's report?

HORSLEY: Well, you know, this is a jobs report, but it also contains some interesting information about people taking time off from work. July is traditionally a peak month for workers to take vacation, but that pattern was disrupted during the pandemic when a lot of people were nervous about travel or maybe weren't working at all. Bunker thinks today's report could show an uptick in the number of people who had jobs in July, but told the Labor Department they were on vacation the week that the survey was done.

BUNKER: Which I think would be one sign of sort of the normalization of life in the U.S. post-COVID. But also it would be a sign that demand for travel, leisure, hospitality was relatively strong in July.

HORSLEY: And, you know, that could be good for jobs in, say, the airline or hotel industry. Leisure and hospitality is an industry that has seen a lot of hiring in recent years, but it's still not quite back to where it was before the pandemic struck.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Scott Horsley, thanks for - pardon the pun - your work on this.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

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MARTÍNEZ: Vladimir Putin's fiercest critic inside Russia is set to be sentenced on extremism charges today. A Russian court is expected to deliver a verdict in the latest trial of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

FADEL: Prosecutors are asking for Navalny to serve an additional 20 years in prison on charges his supporters call absurd. Navalny says he expects his sentence will be grim.

MARTÍNEZ: Joining us to talk about this case is NPR's Charles Maynes, who's in Moscow. Charles, this trial unfolded behind closed doors. What can you tell us about it?

CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: Yeah, you know, Navalny's latest trial is taking place under really unusual circumstances, even by Russian standards. Judges moved the trial from Moscow to inside the very prison where Navalny is already serving a nine-year sentence on fraud and embezzlement charges. Navalny now faces a slew of new anti-extremism-related charges tied to his work with the now defunct Anti-Corruption Foundation. He's accused retroactively, I might add, of financing and inciting extremist activities, as well as supposedly rehabilitating Nazi ideology. Navalny's supporters call those charges and the circumstances of the trial patently political. They say this is really about the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin in particular trying to silence Navalny over the long haul.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, the trial happens against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and also a wider crackdown on dissent in Russia. How has Navalny responded to those events?

MAYNES: Well, some feel the arrest of Navalny and pressure against his foundation - several of his members of his team are also in jail on these extremism charges - was really an attempt to weed out political opponents ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, which, as you say, has since seen this crackdown against any form of dissent. And yet even from prison, much of it spent in an isolation cell, Navalny has remained an important, if not leading, voice against the war, mostly through statements on social media delivered through his lawyers. And despite this closed trial, Navalny's used the platform - again, we read but don't hear his statements - to rail against the war, saying it left Russia floundering, in his words, a pool of mud and blood. How many Russians will see that is debatable, but the message is out there, or has been. You know, these new charges come with harsher prison conditions, meaning that the line of communication may well grow dimmer.

MARTÍNEZ: And Navalny doesn't sound hopeful. I mean, he's - looks like he's expecting the worst. What's he saying?

MAYNES: Well, yesterday, Navalny issued a statement saying he understands that he will get a, quote, "Stalinist sentence." That's a reference to repressions under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. But Navalny was quick to tell supporters this is done not to intimidate me, but to intimidate you. In other words, by imprisoning hundreds, the Kremlin is trying to intimidate millions. So he's using this moment to call on Russians to resist through acts small and big - clearly understands that not everyone is like him, a man who, after all, was nearly poisoned to death, lived to tell the tale after recuperating abroad and then chose to return to Russia and almost certain imprisonment. And this has really been a hallmark of Navalny's style throughout his ordeals. You know, he's not given in to despair, but argues Russians will eventually realize what he calls the beautiful Russia of the future. Yet given the harsh treatment he's already received and which looks only likely to get worse, the concern is whether Navalny will be around to see it.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Charles Maynes in Moscow. Charles, thank you.

MAYNES: Thank you. 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.
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.
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