News brief: Boris Johnson, review issued on Uvalde shooting, G-20 preview
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will resign. That's according to reports in the British media.
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
It comes as more than 50 government ministers, aides and conservative party officials have quit and urged Johnson to step down in the midst of one political scandal after the next. Journalists are outside 10 Downing Street waiting for a statement.
FADEL: Among them is NPR's Frank Langfitt. Hi, Frank.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.
FADEL: OK, Frank, so yesterday Johnson was insisting he would not step down. He said he had a clear mandate to keep going, despite all these calls for his resignation. Assuming these reports are correct, what's changed his mind?
LANGFITT: I think - we'll have to see what he says in the coming hours, but I think, ultimately, Leila, this came down to math. His government was collapsing in front of his eyes. More ministers were going to go. He was losing Cabinet ministers as well. And if he held on, I think he knew that the party was going to get him. He had won a no-confidence vote last month, but he had not done well. The party's 1922 Committee, which handles these issues, would have mounted another no-confidence vote as soon as they could, I think, and I think he was headed for a humiliating defeat. He realized it was game over, and it was time for him to try to find a graceful exit.
FADEL: Now, three years ago, Johnson won a landslide election for the Conservative Party. His party saw him as a winner. He looked set to rule for maybe years. What brought him here to this point?
LANGFITT: I think it all comes down to scandals that A was mentioning and not telling the truth about them. The biggest was over partying at No. 10 Downing Street and in the government during lockdown. He claimed - Boris Johnson claimed last year his government followed all the COVID social distancing rules. In fact, his staff was having party, some of them drunken.
LANGFITT: And he attended some. And I think this was a turning point for the country in their attitudes towards him. A lot of people here - this is a rule-following culture, frankly, and a lot of people had followed the rules. They hadn't gone and seen dying loved ones. They'd gone along with what Boris Johnson had told them to do. And from their perspective, they kind of felt the prime minister showed contempt for them and then lied about it. The final straw was this case of Johnson promoting an alleged sexual harasser to a position of power, saying he didn't know about it, and in fact, he did.
FADEL: What's the reaction been to these reports so far?
LANGFITT: Well, it was interesting. I was just talking to a British man who's a professor at the University of Michigan. He was here - he's here this summer with his family. And I told him why I was out here, and he said, nice. You know, there's some hope. I mean, he was very happy to hear that Johnson would finally be going. And I think for the Conservative Party and for a lot of the country, where he's no longer popular, it'll be a relief.
FADEL: So what does this mean for the country and the Conservative Party now?
LANGFITT: Well, it's really interesting. I think with the Conservative Party, what you're going to see is rushing to find a new leader. Johnson has dominated the party for a number of years. He leaves a huge vacuum. And I think we can expect a lot of candidates in a dogfight. Right now I think they're going to be rushing to get going on this. Parliament leaves for summer recess in a couple of weeks, so they're going to try to winnow the candidates as quickly as possible. I don't think they'll be able to get it done in two weeks. But it's going to be a very contentious - probably a very contentious leadership race.
FADEL: And Johnson's legacy, what do you think it'll be?
LANGFITT: Really interesting. It'll depend on what happens with Brexit. You know, he drove the Brexit campaign in 2016. Brexit has not gone well, but we have to see how that plays out. I think he will get credit for doing a great vaccine rollout that saved a lot of lives, even though he made mistakes in the beginning in not taking COVID that seriously. I think also we have to see how his speech goes.
FADEL: NPR's Frank Langfitt. Thank you so much.
LANGFITT: Great to talk, Leila.
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FADEL: A new report shows police officers missed several opportunities to stop the Uvalde school shooter.
MARTÍNEZ: Twenty-one people were killed, 19 of them children, as the armed officers at the scene failed to pull the trigger at the shooter until it was too late.
FADEL: NPR's Ashley Lopez is with us to share more of what was in this report. Good morning, Ashley.
ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Good morning.
FADEL: So, Ashley, for weeks, community members, parents, have been asking, what happened? What took so long to help these teachers and kids? So tell us who commissioned this report and why.
LOPEZ: So this is a review that was commissioned by the Texas Department of Public Safety soon after the shooting, largely in response to all that frustration that has been aimed at the police response that day. State officials asked the folks who run the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training program at Texas State University to look into what happened from the time police first got to the school to when they finally took the shooter down well over an hour later.
FADEL: And what did it find?
LOPEZ: According to the report, there was an officer with a rifle from the Uvalde Police Department who watched the gunman walk into the school that morning. The officer apparently asked his supervisor for permission to shoot the gunman, but the supervisor either did not hear them, or they responded too late. As we know, the shooter was eventually able to slip into the school because of issues mostly with locks on some of the doors in the school. Investigators say it's estimated that more than a hundred rounds were shot in about three minutes in the two classrooms where the shooting took place. And by the time those initial rounds of gunfire ended, there were seven police officers in the school. They had body armor on, and they had rifles and pistols. Investigators also found that in less than 20 minutes, law enforcement from at least seven different agencies were on the ground as well.
FADEL: Wow. So many resources. Somebody spotting him before he even got into the school that was armed and might have been able to intercept. Why did it take so long?
LOPEZ: Right. So investigators say there were multiple mistakes made by police. For one, they say any reasonable police officer would have found reason to engage the shooter as he approached the school with or without a go-ahead from a supervisor.
LOPEZ: Another big mistake, experts say, is that police lost momentum when they got to those classrooms that were under fire. They say when gunfire started up again, two teams of officers who were near the classrooms actually retreated from the doors when they were being shot at. Experts say in a situation like this, ideally officers would have gone in there and then returned fire on the attacker. Investigators say it should have been their first priority to save the lives of any victims or potential victims, even at risk to their own lives. CNN recently aired an interview with Andre Reyes, who was a teacher in the classroom where all the students died. When asked, he said he felt like law enforcement forgot about them.
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ARNIE REYES: If they would have gone in before, some of them probably would have made it.
LOPEZ: Investigators wrote that police early on had all the resources, guns and manpower they needed. They wrote they believed the door to the first classroom was actually unlocked that whole time, but the police never checked.
FADEL: Wow. So what did investigators have to say about what Arnie Reyes said? Did these mistakes actually cost lives that day?
LOPEZ: You know, this is kind of an impossible question to answer definitively. But investigators wrote that if some things had happened differently, the shooter could have been taken down earlier, and some victims might have been able to get medical care sooner. According to the report, dispatchers received numerous 911 from a child in one of those classrooms. The child said a lot of children and a teacher had died, but they also said there were still a lot of people alive.
FADEL: NPR's Ashley Lopez. Thank you for your reporting.
LOPEZ: Yeah. Thank you, Leila.
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FADEL: The island of Bali, in Indonesia, may be the scene of some awkward diplomatic encounters this week.
MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, foreign ministers of the Group of 20 are gathering, and it includes Russia, China and the U.S., and they're making plans for a summit later this year. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is leading the U.S. delegation.
FADEL: NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen joins us now to talk about his plans. Good morning.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Good morning.
FADEL: So what is Blinken hoping to get out of these meetings?
KELEMEN: Well, for one, to avoid those awkward encounters with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. You know, the U.S. wants to keep the world focused and united against Russia's aggression in Ukraine and to isolate Russia diplomatically. Lavrov, of course, comes with different motives. But this is a group that's supposed to come together to tackle global issues like food and energy security. And the war in Ukraine is making matters worse on both of those fronts. So the U.S. and its close partners in the G-20 want to make that point, and Blinken also doesn't want countries like China, for instance, coming to Russia's aid.
FADEL: OK, so Blinken may be trying to avoid Lavrov, but he will be meeting China's top diplomat. Have U.S. officials said anything about that?
KELEMEN: Yeah, so the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, says he expects the two men to have candid talks about Ukraine. But of course, there's much more at stake. Here's how he described Blinken's goals when he briefed us ahead of the trip.
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DANIEL KRITENBRINK: Our top priority in the secretary's meeting with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is to underscore our commitment to intense diplomacy and maintaining open lines of communication with the People's Republic of China. We have often stated that our goal is to manage responsibly the intense competition between the United States and the PRC.
KELEMEN: One big topic, of course, is the economic relationship. The Biden administration is considering lifting tariffs on China to ease inflation at home, but there are still lots of concerns about China's trade practices and, of course, its human rights record.
FADEL: And China is likely to push back on that, right?
KELEMEN: Yeah. I mean, Chinese officials often complain about U.S. tariffs and sanctions. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman this week accused Blinken of having a Cold War mentality, and when asked about Blinken's comments that China is trying to undermine the rules-based order, the spokesman said, "these are a bunch of rules made by a handful of countries to serve the selfish interests of the U.S." That was a quote. So setting the stage for quite a testy meeting.
FADEL: Now, Indonesia is hosting this gathering, and as we mentioned, the foreign ministers are planning for a summit later this year. How much will the war in Ukraine overshadow all the work they want to do?
KELEMEN: Probably a lot. You know, this is a group that includes Western nations that have been imposing sanctions on Russia, as well as countries that are doing even more business with Russia right now - you know, think about India, South Africa and, of course, China. Blinken will be meeting his Indian counterpart as well. U.S. officials seem determined, really, to make the case that everyone needs to pressure Russia to end this war, to lift a blockade on Ukrainian ports so that the rest of the world doesn't suffer with food insecurity. That's the same message really coming from other members, like Germany's foreign minister, who says she wants to make sure that Russia doesn't use this meeting as a platform. She says it's in everyone's interest to ensure that countries adhere to international law.
FADEL: NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen. Thank you so much.
KELEMEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.