Brakkton Booker

Brakkton Booker is a producer/reporter for NPR's political unit. He has spent most of the 2016 presidential cycle covering the race for the GOP nomination.

When he's not on the campaign trail, Booker produces pieces from the White House, Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court and other federal agencies for NPR News magazines including Morning Edition and All Things Considered. He previously served as the network's lead producer from the Louisville campaign headquarters of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014. Booker served in a similar capacity during the 2012 presidential campaign producing pieces from the Republican and Democratic National conventions as well as from President Obama's reelection site in Chicago.

In the summer of 2014, Booker took a break from the politics grind to report on the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Booker earned a bachelor's degree from Howard University and is was a 2015 Kiplinger Fellow. When he's not working he enjoys discovering new brands of whiskey and playing golf.

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is expected to plead guilty later this month to charges that he agreed to pay $3.5 million to cover up allegations of misconduct and then lied about it to authorities, according to his lawyers.

Reporting from outside the federal courthouse in Chicago, NPR's Cheryl Corley tells our Newscast unit that the alleged wrongdoing "occurred decades ago when Hastert was a history teacher and a coach at Yorkville High School about 50 miles southwest of Chicago."

Cheryl reports that a plea agreement would allow Hastert to avoid a trial.

Six church members, including a married couple, are in custody, accused of a brutal assault on two of the couple's children that left one dead and another severely injured, according to law enforcement officials.

New Hartford, N.Y., police say Bruce and Deborah Leonard, along with four fellow churchgoers, fatally beat Lucas Leonard, 19, inside the Word of Life Church.

NPR's Joel Rose tells our Newscast Unit that police say the beatings appear to have taken place during a meeting where the brothers were to ask forgiveness for their sins.

The Mississippi River basin has gotten a report card from a group that monitors watershed health and economic impact — and the grade is D+.

The organization, America's Watershed Initiative, cited the poor condition of infrastructure such as locks and dams, and a lack of funding that could lead to water security issues.

The Taliban announced Tuesday they have withdrawn from Kunduz, the northern Afghan city that briefly fell under insurgent control last month.

The Taliban said the reason for pulling out of the city was to protect against further civilian casualties, but there are multiple reports of battles continuing outside of the city. Kunduz is also the site of a U.S.-led airstrike that hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital and killed 22 civilians.

NPR's Tom Bowman tells our Newscast Unit, Kunduz was the first major provincial capital to fall under Taliban control in 14 years.

A federal appeals court has reinstated a civil rights lawsuit against the New York Police Department that accuses police of spying on Muslims in New Jersey.

A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed a lower court's ruling last year that found police did not violate the rights of Muslims by routinely putting some people and businesses under surveillance in an effort to prevent terrorism.

NPR's Joel Rose tells our Newscast unit that the appeals court sent the case back to district court. Here's more from Joel:

In an effort to move beyond recent controversy, Planned Parenthood announced Tuesday that it will no longer accept reimbursement for any fetal tissue it provides to medical researchers.

The organization has been the subject of negative attention in recent weeks following the release of highly edited, undercover videos recorded by an anti-abortion group alleging that Planned Parenthood illegally profits from its fetal tissue donation program.

An iconic luxury ocean liner, originally designed and built in 1952 to be the fastest ship on the seas and a symbol of America's postwar strength and pride, may soon be reduced to scraps of metal.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is suing the manufacturers of an exercise band that he says failed and caused him to lose vision in his right eye in January.

In a stunning turn of events, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has withdrawn from the race to become the next speaker of the House.

McCarthy was the favorite ahead of Thursday's closed-door vote by House Republicans. He was in a three-way race for the top spot in the House with Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Daniel Webster, R-Fla.

Paper or plastic? If you're at a restaurant in the coastal city of Fort Bragg, Calif., that's what your food is likely to be served on these days.

The drought-stricken city, located about 170 miles north of San Francisco, recently declared a "stage 3" water emergency, which makes it mandatory for businesses and residents to reduce water usage.

Sometimes when a funky beat drops, you can't help but break out in dance.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls paid a swift visit to corporate offices of beleaguered airliner Air France on Tuesday, a day after two of the company's executives were mobbed by protesters and had their shirts and suit jackets ripped from their bodies.

The executives had been taking part in meetings Monday about how the company would cut 2,900 jobs when hundreds of workers stormed the Air France offices. Human resources manager Xavier Broseta and Pierre Plissonnier, head of long-haul flights, scaled a metal fence and escaped under police escort.

With the stroke of a pen, California Gov. Jerry Brown made it legal for physicians in the state to prescribe lethal doses of medications if their terminally ill patients wish to end their lives.

Brown signed the "End of Life Act" into law on Monday, and in doing so California joins four other states — Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana — where patients' right to choose doctor-assisted death is protected either by law or court order.

American Apparel, the trendy clothing company perhaps best known for its racy, sexually charged ads, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday.

The made-in-the-U.S.A. clothing chain announced it had reached an agreement with 95 percent of its secured lenders to put in place what it is calling "a comprehensive transformation strategy to revitalize the business and brand." The company says it will keep production and operations in the U.S.

The U.S. airstrike this weekend that hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 22 civilians, was requested by Afghan forces, according to the top U.S. general in Afghanistan.

Gen. John Campbell, addressing reporters Monday at the Pentagon, said Afghan forces advised they were taking fire from Taliban insurgents and asked for U.S. air support. Campbell said he wanted to correct initial reports suggesting U.S forces were under threat and that the strike was carried out on their behalf.

The Pew Research Center released a new study Thursday that examines just how much technology is embedded in the romantic relationships of teenagers. Half of the more than 1,000 teens ages 13 to 17 said they have let someone know they have feelings for them on social media sites such as Facebook, researchers found.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Tesla unveiled its much-anticipated Model X on Tuesday night after nearly two years of delays.

CEO Elon Musk took the wraps off the all-electric SUV at an event near the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. As an added bonus, he gave keys to a handful of lucky customers who can now call themselves owners of one of the most sought-after vehicles.

Let's go over some of the vitals.

Hundreds of Taliban militants stormed the Afghan city of Kunduz early Monday, reportedly taking control of a hospital, freeing hundreds of prisoners and advancing towards the city's airport.

A former prison worker who helped two convicted murders escape from a maximum-security prison in upstate New York was sentenced Monday to up to seven years behind bars.

Under the terms of a plea deal, Joyce Mitchell, 51, faces a minimum sentence of 2 years and 4 months in prison. She pleaded guilty to charges stemming from her role in providing convicted killers Richard Matt and David Sweat with tools such as hacksaws, drill bits and lighted eyeglasses ahead of their June 6 prison break.

German prosecutors announced Monday that they have begun a criminal investigation of Martin Winterkorn, the former Volkswagen CEO who stepped down last week amid a widening scandal involving the automaker's use of technology that cheats emissions tests.

The investigation will focus on whether fraud was committed through the sale of diesel-powered vehicles that claimed to be eco-friendly by highlighting manipulated emissions data. It also aims to find out who had knowledge of and was responsible for the emissions-rigging.

Senate Democrats today blocked a Republican plan to keep the federal government open beyond next week. Their objection was that it also denied federal funds to Planned Parenthood.

With only days left before an Oct. 1 shutdown, the short-term measure that would fund the government through mid-December fell well short of the 60 votes needed advance, 47 to 52.

President Obama is set to have a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

It's not clear exactly when the two leaders would meet, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the encounter would happen Monday when Putin is scheduled to deliver remarks at the U.N.

The White House confirmed the meeting would take place, but did not specify when.

According to a senior administration official:

Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who spent five days in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is once again being accused of hampering the processing of marriage forms, according to new court filings.

The court documents, filed by the American Civil Liberty Union attorneys who are representing couples who sued Davis, state that she is not complying with a court order that prohibits her from interfering with deputy clerks when they issue licenses to eligible couples. Davis' actions "render their validity questionable at best," the documents say.

European Union officials will forge ahead with a controversial plan to begin labeling products produced in Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.

The publication, citing an Army Radio interview with an unnamed European Union official, said the EU has set the start date for the beginning of October.

A new survey shows a majority of Americans, regardless of race, agree that race relations have worsened nationally in the past year — but on questions of equality, opinions were split between white and African-American respondents.

According to a PBS Newshour/Marist Poll, a racial divide still persists on how Americans view a variety of issues, including whether blacks and whites have equal opportunities of getting hired for a job, receiving a quality education and earning equal pay for equal work.

A friend of the white man accused of killing nine black churchgoers in June was arrested by the FBI Thursday, according to the Columbia, S.C., newspaper The State.

Joey Meek has stated he was a friend of Dylann Roof, the man who allegedly shot a small group of people gathered for Bible study at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17. The State reports:

Crews continue to search for two people who have been missing since Monday when two separate flash floods swept through parts of southern Utah and killed more than a dozen people.

The two missing include an adult hiker and a 6-year-old boy.

Searchers recovered two bodies in Zion National Park on Wednesday and continued to search for a missing hiker there.

In nearby Hildale, Utah, Mayor Phillip Barlow named the missing six-year-old as Tyson Lewis Black.

Much of America's political focus has understandably been on the 2016 presidential race. There is, however, a more immediate problem on the horizon.

Congress has two weeks to pass a measure to keep the government funded beyond Sept. 30. If no agreement is reached, federal agencies could be shuttered again — the second time in three years.


Taco Bell wants to change its reputation — and the key is booze.

On Tuesday, Taco Bell announced it is launching a new concept that "redefines fast food experience." The first of these "experiences" will open in Chicago next week, and another one will follow later this month in San Francisco.

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