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Morning news brief

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Intense airstrikes continued throughout the night as Israeli forces advance on Gaza City. That's in the north of the Gaza Strip.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

As Israel presses its military operation in Gaza, it says it will never again let Hamas control the territory. But according to former general and Israeli national security adviser Yaakov Amidror, Israel doesn't plan on taking over.

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YAAKOV AMIDROR: We don't want to stay there. This is very clear for us. We don't want to take responsibility for 2 million Palestinians.

MARTIN: But here's the problem right now, no one else seems to want to govern there. For a closer look at Israel's potential options, we called on NPR's Greg Myre, who is in Tel Aviv. Greg, good morning.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So before we talk about what might happen next, would you just bring us up to date and tell us about the latest fighting in Gaza?

MYRE: So this bombing you mentioned in northwest Gaza overnight was in and around Gaza City. It's being described as some of the heaviest bombing yet in the war. Now, the Israeli military says it carried out a significant operation against Hamas forces both above and below ground, and that's a reference to the Hamas tunnel network that Israel is trying to root out. And a substantial Israeli force is spread around northern Gaza now. And Israel's military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, summed it up this way, quote, "essentially, today, there is northern Gaza and a southern Gaza."

MARTIN: So let us assume, for the sake of this conversation, that Israel's military does drive Hamas out of Gaza, what kind of political solution would Israel seek?

MYRE: So the short answer is Israel doesn't have a clear plan right now, or at least one that it's talking about publicly. The military could stay in Gaza for an extended time, but Israelis stress they don't want to do this. Israel did have troops and settlers in Gaza for decades, but they withdrew in 2005 and don't want to repeat it. We just heard a moment ago from the former General Yaakov Amidror. Here's a bit more of what he had to say.

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AMIDROR: We cannot be the kingmakers. You cannot come from outside and determine to the Palestinians who will be their government. They have to make decision, they have to make the choice.

MARTIN: So if not Israel, and Israel says it's not going to be the decider here, what about a different Palestinian group, like the Palestinian Authority, which currently runs the West Bank?

MYRE: So the Palestinian Authority nominally leads the Palestinians in the West Bank, and it used to run Gaza as well before Hamas took over in 2007. And U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that over time, a revitalized Palestinian Authority could return to Gaza, but it really seems unrealistic at the moment. The Palestinian Authority is very weak, even in the West Bank, and it says it doesn't want to take over after Israel goes through militarily. In fact, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, who turns 88 years old next week, reportedly told the U.S. last month that I will not return to Gaza on top of an Israeli tank.

MARTIN: Greg, what about any outside players? Are there any that could step in?

MYRE: Well, Israelis are talking about the possibility of bringing in the international community, but the prospects aren't good. Egypt isn't interested. It doesn't want Gaza's chaos coming across its border. Wealthy Arab states provide money but don't want to get involved directly. The U.N. provides basic services but really isn't equipped to govern there. So right now, Michel, there's just no clear alternative.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Greg Myre in Tel Aviv. Greg, thanks so much.

MYRE: Sure thing, Michel.

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MARTIN: Former President Donald Trump is set to testify in a New York courtroom today.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, he's accused of conspiracy to falsify his property values. Trump's adult sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., testified last week.

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DONALD TRUMP JR: I'm apparently guilty of fraud for relying on my accountants to do - wait for it - accounting.

MARTÍNEZ: At stake is $250 million in penalties and a potential ban of doing business in the state of New York.

MARTIN: NPR's Andrea Bernstein has been following all of this, and she's with us now once again to tell us what to expect today. Good morning, Andrea.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So why is Donald Trump testifying?

BERNSTEIN: Even before the trial began, the judge in the case ruled that Trump and his co-defendants, including his three oldest children, are liable for persistent and repeated fraud. The Trumps, the judge found, lied over and over about their property values in order to get better loans and insurance rates and avoid paying taxes. But there are still six more causes of action to rule on, including conspiracy charges and insurance fraud, and most importantly, how much Trump will have to pay. Because this is a civil case, the New York Attorney General's office can question Trump about his knowledge of the scheme. And if he avoids answering or answers in a way the judge finds is untruthful, that can be used against him.

MARTIN: That would seem to be risky for Mr. Trump.

BERNSTEIN: Yes and already in this case, the former president was unexpectedly required to take the stand and it did not go well. This was a couple of weeks ago, during the testimony of Michael Cohen, who described how Trump would repeatedly ask him to reverse engineer property values to get the values up to where he wanted.

Outside the courtroom, Trump attacked, quote, "a person who's very partisan, sitting alongside the judge." Trump had already been fined and given a gag order for going after the judge's clerk, so the judge put Trump on the witness stand and asked Trump about that. Trump insisted he was talking about Cohen, not the clerk, but the judge found this, quote, "hollow and untrue" and "not credible," and fined Trump again. If the judge finds Trump not credible today, that could really work against him.

MARTIN: And what's Trump's defense to all of this?

BERNSTEIN: We've got a window into his likely testimony because of a deposition he gave last April. In it, he repeatedly referred to his golf courses and developments as Mona Lisa properties, with the worth set by the beholder. For example, Mar-a-Lago, he said, could fetch over $1 billion, when he paid 18 million. The Saudis, he said, would pay big money for a golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, and so on. But one of the biggest lines of defense he kept repeating is this, he referred to what he called a worthless clause in the statements of financial condition. That is a disclaimer that says banks should do their own appraisals. So whatever he, Donald Trump, attested to, he argued, didn't matter because the banks and other parties should have checked his work.

MARTIN: Interesting, so that's the legal defense. Are there any other arguments we would expect him to make or we should expect him to make?

BERNSTEIN: In his deposition, Trump kept talking about how the attorney general should be fighting violent crime, not suing him. He said that's what's bringing values down in New York. And his legal team spent a good deal of the end of the testimony last week attacking, again, the judge's clerk. They got a gag order for that. It's a way of undermining confidence in the proceeding that could all but end Trump's ability to do business in New York and force him to fork over hundreds of millions of dollars.

MARTIN: Briefly, what's next?

BERNSTEIN: Trump's testimony is scheduled for just one day, Ivanka Trump testifies Wednesday, and then the AG rests her case. After that, defense witnesses.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Andrea Bernstein. Andrea, thank you.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

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MARTIN: The maker of the popular video game Fortnite will begin a fight today with higher stakes than you will find in one of its typical online battles.

MARTÍNEZ: Epic Games will be in federal court in San Francisco for the beginning of an antitrust case against Google. Now, Epic claims Google has a monopoly over developers because of the way it runs its app store. The online search giant says a victory for Epic would damage a business model that has delivered lower prices for customers.

MARTIN: Adi Robertson is a senior tech and policy editor for The Verge and has been following this case and is with us now to tell us more. Good morning.

ADI ROBERTSON: Good morning.

MARTIN: So could you just tell us more about how Epic Games and Google got to the point where they've ended up in court?

ROBERTSON: So Epic, as mentioned, runs Fortnite, and Fortnite is a free-to-play game. It makes a lot of its money by selling virtual currency through its app. And because of that, it pays what it has derided as a Google tax, which is a commission that Google takes on in-app purchases not just for video games but for a lot of apps, and a smaller fee for subscriptions. And so it updated its game in 2020 to add a new way of paying that offered cheaper prices to customers and didn't use Google's payment system. Google banned it from the store, and then Epic sued, saying that this was a demonstration of how Google maintains an illegal monopoly. It did the same for Apple and there was another lawsuit that went to trial in 2021.

MARTIN: Yeah, tell me about that. I'm not an expert here, but that sounded familiar. So you're reminding us that Epic sued Apple for much the same thing. How did that work out?

ROBERTSON: That ended up in what's largely considered a victory for Apple, that the judge determined that Apple had the right to run its model. It didn't have to open up its App Store, although it did have to make some changes in how it let app developers tell users about potential other ways to pay. But that case is currently going up. They're attempting to get it to the Supreme Court, so we don't know what the final outcome is going to be.

MARTIN: So how is this case different?

ROBERTSON: This case in some ways is just another sort of bite at the same apple, although it's not Apple this time. But among other things, it's going up in front of a jury, so the arguments - instead of a judge, so the arguments could be a little bit different. They could focus a little more on just trying to sway a jury about the basic monopoly arguments here. But I think that it's still in some ways an uphill battle for Epic.

MARTIN: How come? Why do you say that?

ROBERTSON: We've seen a lot of antitrust cases over the last few years. And in a lot of cases, it's been just very difficult to make the argument that prices are getting raised or that people are getting locked out, especially when the services involved are cheap or pretty free. That - a lot of these services, the tech companies involved can say, look, it's really easy to just go and switch to another website or another app store or buy another phone.

MARTIN: And this is big because - as briefly as you can, this is a big deal not just for video game fans because?

ROBERTSON: If you own a phone, and an Android phone especially, Epic's claim is that you're paying higher prices than you need to for things that you buy inside apps, that there're entire business models that have been harder because if you're selling a virtual good, like not just a video game purchase, but an e-book or an audiobook, then those things get slapped with this fee that's higher than Epic argues it should be. And so they're saying they want to open this up. Meanwhile, Google is saying that Android is a viable competitor to Apple because of this method they have.

MARTIN: That's Adi Robertson with The Verge. Adi, thank you.

ROBERTSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Michel Martin
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.