News Brief: New York Terror Attack, GOP Tax Plan, NPR Executive Faces Harassment Allegations

Nov 1, 2017
Originally published on November 1, 2017 8:12 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Counterterrorism officials seem to worry about the scenario each and every day.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yeah, right. We've seen these attacks happen around Europe, terrorists plowing vehicles into groups of pedestrians. And there have been these concerns that it could happen in the U.S. Yesterday, it did. It happened on a bike path in New York City. This is right along the Hudson River, David. I've been running on this path a lot. It is - it's a gorgeous place, there's all kinds of runners and bikers. And yesterday was this beautiful day, so a lot of people were out.

And then this horrifying scene unfolds. A man in a rented pickup truck steered onto the path and then plowed into the crowds. At least eight people were killed, several others were injured. It ended when the truck slammed into a school bus not far from the World Trade Center. Ramon Cruz (ph) works nearby.

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RAMON CRUZ: I heard a loud bang. The front of the car was totaled at that point, and the guy coming out of the truck was injured.

MARTIN: Police then shot the driver of the truck. Obviously, there are a lot of questions this morning about who he is and what might have motivated him to do this.

GREEN: Well, let's bring in NPR's Hansi Lo Wang who is on the line from New York City. And, Hansi, who is the suspect, if we can start with that?

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Well, NYPD officials tell NPR his name is Sayfullo Saipov, 29 years old, and he was born in Uzbekistan, according to a law enforcement official. And we know that he's lived in Florida, Ohio and more recently in New Jersey and that he's a green card holder, according to an official in Brooklyn.

GREEN: And he was shot - is - and is still alive at this point, is that right?

WANG: Correct. As far as we know, he's in the hospital receiving medical treatment.

GREEN: OK. Well, the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, comes out and says this looks like an act of terror, which is a question that people always ask after an incident like this. What is pointing to that?

WANG: Well, New York's police commissioner, James O'Neill, said that the suspect made a statement when he got out of the truck, and O'Neill would not confirm exactly what the suspect said. But the commissioner did say that that statement plus the way that this attack was carried out - driving a large vehicle into a crowd, which ISIS has promoted and posted details instructions for online - that's why the NYPD and the mayor are calling it a terrorist event. And I just want to point out that NBC and other media outlets have reported that a note was found in the truck that shows that the suspect claims that he carried out the attack for the Islamic State, but NPR has not confirmed it at this point.

GREEN: OK. So a lot for the authorities to work through here. And as Rachel mentioned, I mean, this path is well known to many New Yorkers. It's packed with people commuting up and down in the city and also tourists. What do we know about the victims here?

WANG: We've learned that Argentina's Foreign Ministry has confirmed that five of the victims were Argentine citizens and so is one of the injured. And all of them were men from the city of Rosario - a part of a group of friends celebrating their 30th anniversary of their graduation from their university. And so we're going to learn more about their - the condition of those who are injured later today as well as where the investigation stands once NYPD will have an update later this morning.

GREEN: OK. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang with the latest on that attack in New York City yesterday. Hansi, thanks.

WANG: You're welcome.

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GREEN: OK. So this was supposed to be the day when Republicans unveiled their big tax bill.

MARTIN: Well, it was supposed to be, but we're going to have to wait one more day to hear details from the House. They've decided to delay the unveiling of this bill. Let's remember, Congress hasn't rewritten the tax code since 1986. This is a big, difficult job. There are winners and losers. Republicans don't have that much time if they're going to stick to President Trump's deadline.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want the House to pass a bill by Thanksgiving. I want all of the people standing by my side when we get ready to sign by Christmas.

MARTIN: So can they make that happen? What details still have to be worked out?

GREEN: Well, let's ask NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro. Good morning, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, there.

GREEN: So no rewriting of the tax code since 1986. It can't be easy (laughter). So what - but what's the one-day holdup here? What's happening?

MONTANARO: Well, the big holdup is how to pay for it, David. I mean, Republicans want to do all this stuff, like slash tax rates for corporations and small businesses. They want to reduce the number of tax brackets that could lower rates for many individuals. And it's not clear exactly who would fit into those brackets and if the wealthiest Americans might actually see a tax increase. There's been some talk of that. And all that costs money. Estimates have been as high as $5.5 trillion for the deficit, and the complicated budget process they're using only allows them to increase the deficit $1.5 trillion with tax cuts. So that's a $4 trillion gap that they have to make up somehow. So if you want to give away a bunch of money, you still have to pay your bills.

GREEN: But, Domenico, isn't this a reality that has just been staring the Republican Party in the face? It's not like it's a surprise. I mean, they're talking about big tax cuts, but this is the party of deficit hawks. They had to know that they would have to, you know, all but completely pay for these tax cuts by taking away some tax breaks. Isn't that just the math?

MONTANARO: Absolutely. And this is what Republicans are supposed to be good at. You know, this is something House Speaker Paul Ryan has been deeply involved with. You know, but there's still a lot of sticking points here, you know, including some of those popular tax breaks we alluded to. You know, Republicans are considering limiting the amount of money you and I can put into our 401(k)'s, for example, possibly doing away with a popular deduction for mortgage interest. And a major piece of this, doing away with a state and local tax deduction break, that would affect people in the highest cost-of-living states, like New York, New Jersey, California. Members in those states are up in arms over this. Yet, Republicans still think they're on track to unveil it tomorrow and to start marking it up in committee on Monday.

GREEN: Well, that sounds encouraging for Republicans, if it's just a matter of one day to work out the final details and get to markup soon. Or is this a sign that there's some serious trouble?

MONTANARO: Well, maybe and maybe - maybe, it's just spin. Maybe they're really getting there. We know that staffers worked through the night on this, and all of these things we talked about is just in the House. You have a whole other set of math problems in the Senate. Like, with health care, Republicans can only lose two votes. So far, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul - they've said that they won't vote for anything that increases the deficit. That brings that margin right down to it. And that means they can't lose anyone else. Some are already wavering, other Republicans hearing the details. That would mean Republicans would have to pick up a Democrat or two maybe. And that is no easy task.

GREEN: All right. NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thanks as always.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

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GREEN: And we have news this morning from our own newsroom. NPR yesterday placed its chief news executive on leave. Michael Oreskes has been accused of sexual harassment. The allegations are from during his tenure at The New York Times nearly 20 years ago. The allegations from two women were first reported by The Washington Post. Now, NPR's David Folkenflik is reporting that Oreskes was also warned against inappropriate conduct more recently at NPR. And David is on the line. And, David, if you could start by taking us back to these allegations from the 1990s.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Yeah. Well, as you say, nearly two decades ago, two women offering separate accounts of strikingly similar incidents. They went to talk to Mike Oreskes - then the Washington bureau chief of The Times. They went to talk about career advancement, job opportunity at the newspaper. At various points during that or at separate points during those separate conversations, according to these two women who are not named by The Post, Oreskes pressed against them, forcibly kissed them in an unwanted move and put his tongue in his mouth as he did so. They said they, you know, told The Post in various ways they were kind of scarred by it. And that's what NPR was first informed about, apparently, a little bit earlier this month.

GREEN: OK. So those are allegations from the '90s. You have been reporting on an allegation against Oreskes that involves his time here at NPR more recently. What exactly do we know?

FOLKENFLIK: So this is two years ago, October 2015, a much junior employee at that time - 26 years old Rebecca Hersher. She's currently a reporter and producer on the science desk. At that time, she was working for Weekend All Things Considered. She said she took him up on a more universal offer for colleagues to come talk to him about their opportunities at a time that she was thinking of leaving the network so she could grow and become a reporter. She said that invitation for meeting quickly turned into a long dinner and a dinner that was hijacked by conversation not about her career but about her personal life, his personal life. He referred to having a sex girlfriend - indicated the first woman apparently with whom he had sex. He talked to her at various points and said, you know, it's surprising to me that any man, any boyfriend, could keep up with you, this according to her account. And she said she was really thrown by it. I talked to her last night on the record. It was striking that she was willing to do so. Here's one of the things she told me.

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REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: Went to the train station, and I called my best friend, and I cried on the phone with her. And then I went home, and I cried to my boyfriend. It felt very - it undercut my confidence in a way that was surprising to me.

FOLKENFLIK: So this was an instance perhaps less physical than what occurred two decades ago but no less meaningful to the woman who was subject to this target. I must say, Oreskes himself has not responded repeated efforts for comment.

GREEN: OK. So we haven't heard from Oreskes yet. How has NPR responded to this?

FOLKENFLIK: NPR initially took her complaint, which came within days, and rebuked him formally, formally reprimanded him and, according to my sources, notified top management here, however, didn't take any action until learning, just in recent days, of these earlier accusations saying now there's a pattern and then only taking action, as far as we know, yesterday when The Washington Post published what it found out.

GREEN: OK. And as we mentioned, Oreskes has now been put on leave at this point. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. David, thanks very much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHAELEH'S "THE MIST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.