News Brief: Maryland Newsroom Attacked, Abortion Rights Battle, EU Migrant Summit

Jun 29, 2018
Originally published on June 29, 2018 2:20 pm
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NOEL KING, HOST:

Five people are dead and at least two others are wounded after a shooting at the offices of the Capital Gazette. That's a community newspaper in Annapolis, Md. A suspect is in custody and has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Yeah, the acting Anne Arundel County Police Chief William Krampf is calling this attack targeted. And he said that the newspaper had received threats on social media.

KING: Joining us now is Patrick Madden of member station WAMU. He's been reporting on this story for us.

Patrick, thank you for being here.

PATRICK MADDEN, BYLINE: Yes. Good morning.

KING: What do we know about what happened yesterday, Patrick?

MADDEN: Well, this shooting happened at around 3 p.m. The suspect here, Jarrod Ramos, allegedly arrived armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades and shot through the glass front door and opened fire on this newsroom. And people there were hiding under their desks. And police were there quickly, you know? Within a minute or so, they were there, and Ramos was apprehended without a fight. And so you know, this all happened yesterday. And today we're obviously learning more about this suspect and the victims who were killed.

KING: Well, let's talk about the suspect, Jarrod Ramos. What do we know about him?

MADDEN: Well, we know that he had this long-standing grudge against the newspaper stemming, I guess, from this defamation lawsuit he had filed that was tossed out by a judge for lacking merit. But he had continued to make threats against the paper on social media, and this happened as late as yesterday, the day of the attack. And he lives about 30 miles away in Laurel, Md.

KING: Do we know what Mr. Ramos accused the paper of printing about him that had him so upset?

MADDEN: This was about a column that was printed about Ramos harassing a woman online and had continued to harass her. And so that's what the article was about. And so obviously - and he had been charged in that case over the years.

KING: Now, despite all of this, the Gazette has been covering the attack on its staff themselves. I mean, they put out a paper this morning, didn't they?

MADDEN: They put out a paper. And it's difficult to imagine how hard that job was. I was reading the front page. It had a 10-person byline with the reporters.

KING: Wow.

MADDEN: I mean, this is a staff of 30 or so people. This is a newsroom that lost five of its members - and the trauma. And, you know, if you open up the paper, there are obituaries, some written by Baltimore Sun staffers. And I think most poignant, there's an editorial page - it was left intentionally blank - that just says the message, today we are speechless.

KING: I imagine there must be a lot of heartbreak in that community.

MADDEN: Yeah. I mean, you could hear it in the police chief's voice. I mean, this is a small community, a tight-knit community. You know, police would interact with these reporters on a daily basis. And so I think that what this paper meant, what these reporters - I mean, they were colleagues. They were mentors. And so I think this has been very tough on this community.

KING: WAMU's Patrick Madden, thank you so much.

MADDEN: Yes. Thank you.

KING: NPR will continue to cover this story as it develops throughout the morning on the radio and at npr.org.

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KING: The White House says President Trump has started the process of picking his nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is retiring. One big factor in the decision-making is going to be abortion.

GREENE: That's right. And Trump met last night with a group of key senators, both Republicans and Democrats. He was consulting them about this pick. It is thought that a more conservative court could one day overturn Roe v. Wade. That's the 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide.

KING: NPR's Sarah McCammon is with us now.

Good morning, Sarah.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: All right, Sarah, you've been talking to activists on both sides of the abortion debate. Where are they directing their energy right now?

MCCAMMON: Well, both sides see this as a really important moment. And for anti-abortion activists, they've been working for many years to sort of restrict - you know, incrementally restrict abortion rights. But they see this as a big opportunity. I spoke with Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life.

KRISTAN HAWKINS: Our goal in the pro-life movement has always been to make abortion illegal and unthinkable. And so we want Roe to be overturned, and we expect that.

MCCAMMON: So very clear about the goal there. Her group was out with a video the day of Justice Kennedy's resignation saying, essentially, this is our moment; we're closer than ever to overturning Roe - and urging their activists to lobby lawmakers. On the same token, abortion rights supporters are taking this very seriously. They're expressing deep concern. I've heard activists call Kennedy's departure devastating and extremely concerning because he has been the swing vote on the court and on abortion. He's ruled to uphold abortion rights in some really pivotal cases.

So how this will play out - obviously, the big fight will be in the U.S. Senate for the confirmation battle for President Trump's nominee, whoever that ends up being. He has been talking to senators, several of the ones who are likely to get a lot of focus. Those would be Republicans who have supported abortion rights in the past, Democrats from red states. And probably all 100 senators will be getting a lot of calls because this is such a big issue.

KING: The goal of abortion opponents is to reshape the court. If they are successful, how might this play out in the courts?

MCCAMMON: Well, it would likely come through a challenge to a state law. The court would have to have a reason to reconsider Roe.

KING: OK.

MCCAMMON: Abortion opponents have been hoping for a test case. For example, in Iowa, a law passed this year banning abortion after a heartbeat can be detected - so really early, before a lot of women know they're pregnant. Other states have passed 15-week abortion bans. So one of those could end up in front of the court. There's no guarantee that with a Trump nominee they would overturn Roe. But that is certainly the goal of abortion rights opponents.

KING: And if they are successful - if they're able to overturn or seriously erode Roe, what happens then?

MCCAMMON: Well then, basically, the law goes back to the states, as it was pre-Roe. Abortion opponents are downplaying the idea that abortion would automatically be illegal. It'd be decided state by state. But abortion rights advocates point out that quite a few states already have laws on the books, some of them from before Roe, that could ban abortion altogether or in most cases if (inaudible) were suddenly overturned.

KING: NPR's Sarah McCammon. Thanks, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: Thank you.

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KING: European Union leaders say they have a deal this morning on migration. That's been a major concern of the member countries as thousands of people continue to stream into Europe.

GREENE: Yeah, it sounds like it's a deal that did not come easy. They were working throughout the night to overcome concerns that were raised by Italy, which is, of course, a major point of entry for migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

KING: We're joined now by NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson. She's been covering this for us.

Hi, Soraya.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So what does this deal actually accomplish for Europe?

NELSON: Well, it's a big win for those who advocate European unity, like Chancellor Angela Merkel or French President Emmanuel Macron. But it also gives a win to those people that - or those countries, I should say, that would like to see a harder line on migration. But in the end, this plan is more about intention and expressing solidarity rather than any kind of firm actions.

KING: Things did look quite tenuous for a while because of Italy. Italy, of course, says it is a major port of entry for migrants. You've got this new Italian prime minister who's a populist. He's in power in large part because of voter fears over migration. Did he get what he wanted out of this?

NELSON: Well, yes and no. I mean, he was able to make a statement and show that Italy really has a lot of concerns because a lot of these migrants end up on Italian shores. But it was, I think, also excused a bit that he was a newcomer because what he did in terms of threatening to veto the summit's agenda, basically scuttling everything, migration, you know, aside. You know, they forgave him that because he was a newcomer. But he didn't get - I mean, in the end, this plan does not really identify specific things that are going to help the Italians because everything is sort of voluntary or talks about things that should be happening or expresses solidarity. But it doesn't really firmly say this must happen.

KING: Oh, that's interesting. There's not a lot of specifics.

NELSON: Yes. I mean, there are specifics about what should happen. But everything is sort of on a voluntary basis because as the EU - or the advocates of having some sort of EU migration policy saw in the past, actually telling member states to do something about it ends up with a lot of rebellion.

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NELSON: And this is why the cases have ended up in court over the past few years.

KING: All right, how does Angela Merkel feel about all this? Her political career, in many ways, depended on this summit. Her interior minister has been threatening to take action that would collapse her government over the issue of migration.

NELSON: Well, she sounded a lot happier this morning very early, when the meeting ended, than she did in the German Parliament yesterday, where she uncharacteristically snapped at her far-right hecklers there. But she also says that it's going to take a lot more to actually make something happen, that they're not agreed on a common asylum policy yet, that two more points remain. But she thinks that leaders will continue to bridge their differences here in the EU.

KING: All right, so she's remaining optimistic. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, thank you so much.

NELSON: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEEB'S "ROOFTOPS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.