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How Congress narrowly avoided a shutdown; Trump's NY trial to begin on Monday

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Congress came together yesterday to avoid a government shutdown after a last-minute pivot by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, one that could cost him his job as speaker.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN MCCARTHY: You know what? If somebody wants to remove because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try. But I think this country is too important.

RASCOE: McCarthy abandoned demands from hard-line members of his own party and passed a stopgap spending bill with the help of Democrats. NPR's political reporter Ximena Bustillo joins us now. Good morning.

XIMENA BUSTILLO, BYLINE: Good morning.

RASCOE: So give us the details of this deal.

BUSTILLO: Congress passed a bill to fund the government at current funding levels but only through November 17. And this also included money for natural disaster relief that was pretty bipartisan. And it authorized the Federal Aviation Administration through the end of the year. But it doesn't include provisions to crack down on immigration issues at the U.S.-Mexico border, and those were policies that hard-line Republicans wanted but Democrats did not support. Though 90 House Republicans voted against this, all but one Democrat voted for it, helping McCarthy go to the finish line.

RASCOE: Is there any reason to think that Congress can resolve their bigger spending differences by the time this new short-term deal runs out in mid-November?

BUSTILLO: Well, Congress always does tend to wait for the last minute, as we saw last night. So it is likely we at least face another threat of a shutdown. But the big question is whether or not McCarthy is going to have to deal with a challenge to his leadership before then that could delay this process. McCarthy also told me that he is planning on working with the Senate before then to wrap it all up within 45 days. But border funding and Ukraine aid are big issues that will have to be tackled. And as of today, there's no clear path forward.

RASCOE: So what might happen in terms of Speaker McCarthy's future?

BUSTILLO: Well, House members aren't the only ones putting pressure on McCarthy. Former President Trump has been calling for spending cuts on social media, and he's gone so far as to endorse a government shutdown. And he's criticized a debt limit deal that McCarthy struck earlier this year with President Biden. He is a major factor in all of this, even if he's far from Washington right now.

RASCOE: Well, let's turn now to former President Donald Trump because he's facing a trial in New York related to his businesses. Catch us up on what's happening with that.

BUSTILLO: A trial starts on Monday after a three-year investigation launched by New York's Democratic attorney general, Letitia James, who filed a lawsuit last year claiming Trump and his executive team engaged in fraudulent business practices. This includes allegations that the value of Trump's business and market value of real estate holdings in New York state and in Florida were inflated in order to land deals, negotiate with banks and insurers. The former president tried to delay the trial but has failed. And so now this week coming up, we're going to see the start of this trial. Appearing on the witness lists are both the former president and some of his children, including Eric Trump, Don Jr. And the attorneys general team also wants to call in Ivanka Trump, his daughter. But not all may take the stand.

RASCOE: So this trial comes just days after a New York judge ruled that Trump and his associates did exaggerate Trump's net worth in order to complete deals and receive better funding. So how does that ruling tie into tomorrow's trial?

BUSTILLO: Though the judge ruled on what was probably one of the major elements of the lawsuit, there are still some claims brought forth by the attorney general's office that need to be argued at trial. And this includes that Trump and his associates filed false documents, conspired to falsify business records and committed insurance fraud. And the attorney general is seeking roughly $250 million in penalties.

RASCOE: So how have Trump and his lawyers reacted?

BUSTILLO: Trump denies all wrongdoing. Trump has called the fraud accusations ridiculous and untrue and has accused both the judge and New York attorney general, who are Democrats, of being politically motivated. And Christopher Kise, a lawyer for Trump, called the initial ruling that confirmed the fraud allegations that you just mentioned outrageous and a miscarriage of justice.

RASCOE: In the about 30 seconds left, where does this trial fit in the grand scheme of Trump's various legal troubles?

BUSTILLO: This is one of four lawsuits that the former president is facing just in New York. And though most of the trials are expected to start next year - so in the middle of the presidential election - this one's expected to wrap up by the end of this year, meaning that it will be one of the first ones to deliver a decision. These New York trials are separate from charges he's facing related to the 2020 election and the Mar-a-Lago document case. So that's important to remember.

RASCOE: That's NPR's Ximena Bustillo. Thank you so much for joining us.

BUSTILLO: 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.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.