Morning News Brief: Brett Kavanaugh, Colin Kaepernick

Sep 4, 2018
Originally published on September 4, 2018 10:17 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Democrats may not have all the information they want about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but they do have about all they can read.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Yeah, hours before his confirmation hearing began, a lawyer released 42,000 pages of documents. They come from President Bush's administration, where Kavanaugh served. And this is just one stop in a career that also included time as a lawyer investigating President Clinton.

INSKEEP: So much to discuss - and NPR's Scott Detrow is here to discuss it with us.

Hi there, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What is known about these papers released last night?

DETROW: Last night, not too much other than there's a lot of pages and they've gone to the Judiciary Committee. They're not going to be public beyond that. They're confidential to the committee. Broadly, there are a lot of documents that have been turned over. Everyone can agree on that. Republicans say this is more documents than has ever been turned over before. Democrats point out, the more important thing here is that there's a lot missing. And that could tell them a lot about Kavanaugh's time in the Bush White House.

The people deciding what would be released and not were a private lawyer representing the Bush administration and the Trump White House. A hundred thousand or so pages have been withheld because of executive privilege. And beyond that, none of the paperwork from Kavanaugh's time as staff secretary in the Bush White House is being released. That's a position that's basically air traffic control for all the important decisions...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

DETROW: ...That are made in a White House.

INSKEEP: Could be anything in there. Of course, Republicans expressed concern before Kavanaugh's nomination that if he was chosen, this could be a problem...

DETROW: That's right.

INSKEEP: ...That he has a long record. But do Democrats think they've found anything that could derail the nomination?

DETROW: So far, they have not, and they've been pretty frustrated by this whole process. Kavanaugh looks, right now, like he's poised to win support from every Republican barring something unexpected happening at hearings this week. And this just has not been the high-profile fight over a swing vote on abortion rights that Democrats thought would play out in the wake of Justice Kennedy retiring. Democrats are going to try to change that this week. Expect questions focused on abortion rights, also health care and the Affordable Care Act, which they warn could be dismantled by the Supreme Court.

And finally, expect a lot of questions about whether Kavanaugh thinks presidents can be subpoenaed or charged with crimes, relevant given the Mueller investigation but also because Kavanaugh worked for Ken Starr during President Bill Clinton's impeachment but then later, as a judge, wrote legal papers saying that he questioned that approach and that he thought that presidents should be free from legal burdens during their term.

INSKEEP: So all of this is happening as the congressional campaign for the fall heats up. Democrats think they have a small chance to capture the Senate and a much larger chance to capture the House. What are they saying about their chances?

DETROW: Well, last week, I spent some time on the campaign trail with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who's very much hoping to become speaker next year. She's...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

DETROW: Two things were clear from my time on the trail with her and interviewing her. First of all, she's very confident that Democrats will regain control of the House. Second, she's very tired of all the speculation about whether or not she would have support to be speaker next year.

NANCY PELOSI: It is the least important question you could ask, with all due respect to your list of questions there.

DETROW: More than 50 Democratic candidates have said they would not vote for her. Pelosi argues that's out of 430-something candidates and that she's confident she has the votes. But more importantly, she says, that's a nonissue until after November. She wants Democrats focused on health care and oversight of the Trump administration.

INSKEEP: OK. Scott, thanks very much. That's NPR's Scott Detrow, host of the NPR Politics podcast, which will be following the Kavanaugh hearings all week long, including a new episode this afternoon.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE 1975 SONG, "UGH!")

INSKEEP: All right, Colin Kaepernick is not back on the football field but is back on screens.

GREENE: Yeah, he sure is. Nike revealed that the former 49ers quarterback will be one of the faces of its "Just Do It" anniversary campaign. The first ad shows his face and the words - believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. This ad and a clothing contract amount to an endorsement for a player who has been out of a job for over a year now. In 2016, let's remember, Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem. And that was picked up by no - he was picked up by no team the following season.

INSKEEP: To talk more about this story, we're joined by Justin Tinsley, sports and culture reporter for ESPN's The Undefeated.

Good morning.

JUSTIN TINSLEY: Good morning, guys. How you doing?

INSKEEP: OK. Thanks for joining us.

What message is Nike sending by choosing Kaepernick for this campaign?

TINSLEY: It's a very multifaceted message. Let's get the first thing out of the way. Is this a multibillion-dollar company profiting off social justice? Of course it is. There's no other way around that. The truth is the truth. But it does bring to light a very, very important conversation that the NFL is going to have to deal with now. Nike is the official team apparel designer for the entire NFL, and it's going to be so for the next 10 years. So now they have to hurry up and get this collusion case, you know, under wraps because now Nike is supporting a guy that is actively suing the NFL for blocking him from working.

So it's a lot of things that could work in their favor. And I don't think Nike's going to take too much of a financial hit. You know, a lot of people love Nike. You might see people burning their shoes on on social media, but it's nothing that you need to be concerned with from a widespread angle. And it also helps build trust between Nike and the communities that buy their product. And this is also how, you know, big-time corporations should use their influence.

INSKEEP: Well, that's interesting that you mention that when you talk about people who buy their product. If I think about one of those Venn diagrams, where they have the circles that sort of overlap - I mean, there's people who watch the NFL, some of whom are very mad about the kneeling in protest, and you have people who buy Nike products. Those circles don't totally intersect. There's lots of...

TINSLEY: (Laughter) No.

INSKEEP: ...People, probably, who are not NFL fans who are nevertheless spending money on Nike.

TINSLEY: Oh, absolutely. Like, they're not going to take a drastic hit from the bottom line. And at the end of the day, Nike - again, this is an internationally known multibillion-dollar company. They've done the math in the bottom line, probably hundreds of times over. And they know the benefit that can come from this. And at the end of the day, you want to be on the right side of history as well because, when we look back on this era of sports activism, Nike is going to have, you know, probably the three most recognizable names in that arena. One being, obviously, Colin Kaepernick, who has been signed to Nike since 2011 - this wasn't just something that Nike just signed him two months ago trying to, you know, jump on that bandwagon. But it's Colin Kaepernick, it's Serena Williams and of course, LeBron James. And that goes a long way with the legacy of a company.

INSKEEP: Where does his case against the NFL stand?

TINSLEY: Well, now it's going to trial, which is, you know, not necessarily the most opportune thing for the NFL because that means this issue is, again, going to be a storyline over the course of the season. So now - if this comes out as to where the NFL is found out to be actively colluding to keep Colin Kaepernick out of the league, we're looking at, potentially, the biggest sports-related legal case since Curt Flood in baseball, which basically introduced free agency.

INSKEEP: Wow. Justin Tinsley, thanks very much.

TINSLEY: Thank you. Thank you so much.

INSKEEP: He's with The Undefeated, and he joined us via Skype.

(SOUNDBITE OF KELLY ROWLAND SONG, "MOTIVATION (FEAT. LIL WAYNE)"

INSKEEP: In sadness - and in some anger - crowds gathered outside the shell, the remnants of Brazil's National Museum in Rio de Janeiro yesterday.

GREENE: Yeah, fire gutted the 200-year-old building on Sunday night. This once-sprawling palace had held millions of artifacts, ranging from the remnants of lost Amazonian cultures to one of the oldest sets of human remains. There were no fatalities, but the cultural loss here is just immense. Some researchers lost decades of work, and now blame is turning to the government of Brazil.

INSKEEP: NPR's Philip Reeves is based in Rio de Janeiro, and he's on the line.

Hi, Philip.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Hi.

INSKEEP: What was it like to be standing outside the remnants of that museum yesterday?

REEVES: It was very sad. People were weeping. People were consoling each other with hugs. People were just staring at the wreckage in disbelief. I got to about 100 feet in front of the building. And the facade is still in place. It, you know, used to be a wonderful old imperial palace, 200 years old. And that's mostly intact. But you can look through the windows. And when you look through the windows, you see only detritus, ashes, wreckage. It's a pretty awful scene.

And as you mentioned, people are sad. They're struggling to understand this. And they're angry. They're angry about the fact that it appears that the government, through negligence, has allowed the building to get into a dire state. Funding has been cut in recent years because of the financial crisis in Brazil. It's federally funded because the museum is part of the Federal University of Rio. And you know, it got into such a bad state that, last year, a room containing a dinosaur skeleton was infested with termites. And it only reopened, Steve, after a crowdfunding campaign. That's how serious it is.

INSKEEP: And this is in an environment where people are asking about the effectiveness of their government. And now it becomes a question not only of the effectiveness of maintaining this building but the effectiveness of the fire department response. Right?

REEVES: Yes. And the fire brigade has said that some of the fire hydrants, when they arrived on scene, didn't work. So they had to go to a lake - there is actually a lake in the park in which the museum is located - and use water from there. But there's real attention - I mean, particular attention - on the state of the building. It's pretty dilapidated. It didn't have sprinklers. It didn't have fire doors reportedly. And that's made people pretty angry.

And you know, one of the things that's a - I was talking to the people there, and they were telling me that they think this is a sign that science in Brazil is seriously undervalued by the government and by society as a whole and that this tragedy reflects that. They want answers now. Renata Santos, for example - she works in the museum's botany department - is among many of the people there who now are asking questions about exactly why did this disaster happen.

RENATA SANTOS: I think the blame is on the government because everybody knew that we had poor conditions.

INSKEEP: OK. That's meaningful. We don't know from an investigation - that could take a while - exactly how a fire started, how it spread. But she's pretty sure the government is to blame. What are the political effects of something like this?

REEVES: Well, this is pretty significant because there's an election next month. Brazil's been going through a recession, a massive corruption scandal that's engulfed a host of top politicians. People here are very worried about the heightened level of violence in some areas. And so people in Brazil, to an unusual degree, are very disillusioned with establishment politicians. This humiliating and painful episode, the loss of so many treasures, seems to - likely, at any rate, to deepen that sentiment. And all eyes are going to be on whether this will help the controversial front-runner candidate from the far right.

INSKEEP: NPR's Philip Reeves is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Philip, thanks very much.

REEVES: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF KINACK'S "HARD TRAVEL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.