News Brief: Iran Attack, Russia Probe, Uber Workplace-Misconduct Report
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep with your guide to this day's news, including news this morning of an attack in Iran's capital city of Tehran.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And as with all such attacks, the details are subject to change as we learn more. But here's the latest as of early morning U.S. time. The information comes mainly from Iranian media, which are closely linked to the state. They say multiple gunmen made it inside Iran's Parliament building. The Parliament was apparently in session at the time. Lawmakers were locked inside the building, and a number of people were killed.
INSKEEP: And as this situation continues developing, let's get some perspective from NPR's Peter Kenyon, who's on the line. He's been to Iran a number of times. Hi, Peter.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: How unusual is it to have this kind of spectacular attack in Iran?
KENYON: Oh, this is incredibly shocking for Iran. This is a country that is always calling itself the most peaceful in the region, an oasis of calm in the violent Middle East. And I think many Iranians will be shaken to think that their security forces, their vaunted security regime, could be penetrated this way at the symbolic heart of the Islamic Republic. I mean, this is at the shrine, one of the attacks, of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. So this is a blow, certainly, to the image of the security forces.
INSKEEP: Now, you're referring to reports, which are unconfirmed and subject to change here, of some kind of explosion or even a suicide explosion at this gigantic shrine on the south side of Tehran. There's also the attack on the Parliament building itself, which is ongoing as we speak, in the early morning here. How - how heavily secured is that huge Parliament building in the middle of Tehran?
KENYON: It is quite heavily secured, as are many of the public facilities there. It's just a way of life for people in Iran. They understand security procedures. And they have been going through long lines and lots of checks for years. And that's what makes this all the more surprising. And there is no word yet on who's behind this.
There have been conflicts with ISIS, Islamic State, certainly over in Syria. Iran is part of the attacking mode against ISIS there. So we will have to wait and see who claims responsibility for this. But certainly it is a very shocking day for Iran - no question about it.
INSKEEP: You raise an interesting point when you note that Iran, although it has supported terrorism through the region and defined terrorist groups through the region, also has been fighting against ISIS. And you point out security in Iran. This is not a - this is not a free country. This is not a free state. It's not a free society, and people assume they're monitored, which is one of the reasons it's been presumed to be so safe up to now.
KENYON: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, and you and I were just there for the elections. And we know how closely they like to keep an eye on the foreign press. It's not an easy thing to talk to the foreign press if you're going to say anything that is not completely pro-Islamic Republic or pro-government. So this is going to be a big wake-up call for people.
MARTIN: It'll be interesting to see how President Trump responds to this because he is no friend of Iran. Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted this this morning. Note to POTUS - condemnation of terrorism cannot be selective if it is to have meaning. Must condemn it in Tehran as well as in Europe.
INSKEEP: OK, that's NPR's Peter Kenyon here, talking with us this morning, the latest perspective on the attacks in Tehran. Peter, thanks very much.
KENYON: Thank you.
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INSKEEP: OK, we've got bright lights and hot mics on Capitol Hill for the next couple of days.
MARTIN: (Laughter) Good line. Today, four top national security officials will answer questions from the Senate intelligence committee about Russia's election meddling. One of the key questions they hope to answer is this. Did President Trump try to influence the investigation around Russia's role in the presidential election? A report from The Washington Post last night suggests that might have been the case.
INSKEEP: And that's our starting point for NPR congressional reporter Scott Detrow, who will be following the testimony and is with us once again. Hi, Scott.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: OK, who's up today?
DETROW: So we've got the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, NSA Director Mike Rogers. Then we have the acting head of the FBI, and we have the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who of course has been in the middle of this Russia investigation. He's the one who wrote the memo that President Trump used to justify firing James Comey.
INSKEEP: He's the guy who's supposed to be overseeing the Russia investigation ever since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.
DETROW: Exactly. So imagine a whole range of questions on that. There's also that NSA report that The Intercept reported earlier this week suggesting that Russian hackers may have gotten even further and tried to send malware to election officials. That will certainly come up.
INSKEEP: OK, you mentioned Dan Coats. Help me understand this. There were reports that President Trump had, at some point, gone to Dan Coats and asked him for help with the Russia investigation. Now it's being reported again. Or is there something new here in the latest reports about Dan Coats?
DETROW: Well, this is new. The last time that Coats and Rogers were on Capitol Hill, The Washington Post had reported that President Trump had asked them to say publicly, there's no evidence here about a link between the Trump campaign and Russia. This latest report, again from The Post, said that a few days after Comey made public the FBI investigation...
INSKEEP: Jim Comey, then the FBI director.
DETROW: Right. Trump allegedly asked everybody to read - leave the room except for Coats and the director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo - again, that's similar to that conversation with Comey - and vented about the FBI investigation and allegedly asked them to use their influence to try and get the FBI to step down - reaches a whole range of questions.
INSKEEP: So more details, all of this ahead of the main event tomorrow - Jim Comey, the former FBI director, testifying in public. And President Trump has been asked about this. Let's listen.
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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What message do you have to Jim Comey ahead of his testimony?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I wish him luck.
INSKEEP: I wish him luck, the president says. How is the White House preparing for this?
DETROW: They seem to be pushing this idea that Jim Comey is a partisan actor. He's someone carrying a grudge, and you can't take his testimony without that major grain of salt. And Kellyanne Conway has said things like that publicly. A PAC associated with Trump, Great America PAC, even has an ad out that sounds a whole lot like an attack ad from a campaign.
INSKEEP: Let's listen.
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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: After he testified before the U.S. Senate, Comey's own staff admitted some of his answers were flat-out wrong. James Comey, just another D.C. insider only in it for himself.
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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Payed for by Great America Alliance.
INSKEEP: Isn't this guy a Republican?
MARTIN: That's remarkable.
DETROW: He is. And I think the big question is how much President Trump himself gets in on this on Twitter or elsewhere and whether that helps his cause or hurts his cause.
INSKEEP: Last thing - Jeff Sessions, we mentioned him once. There's a report about what Jeff Sessions offered to do.
DETROW: A couple reports saying Sessions offered to resign. I think the thing you have to think about here is there's been a whole range of White House officials, from Steve Bannon to Reince Priebus to Sean Spicer, where we've heard similar reports they may be on their way out. Of course, they're all still there.
INSKEEP: Still there, and NPR's Scott Detrow is still with us. Scott, thanks very much.
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INSKEEP: Now, there's been another investigation brewing for quite some time now, this one concerning the ride-hailing service Uber.
MARTIN: Uber. So yesterday, the findings of that investigation resulted in the firing of about 20 employees, including senior executives at the company. The probe was conducted by an outside law firm. And it looked into claims of sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination, all allegedly happening at the company. Uber's management told an all-staff meeting that it will take other steps to combat what critics have said is a corporate culture that tolerates sexual harassment and other misconduct.
INSKEEP: NPR business correspondent Yuki Noguchi is covering this story. She's in the studios. Hi, Yuki.
YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: Wow, this is a whole range of different kinds of misconduct here. It starts with sexual harassment and goes right on from there.
NOGUCHI: Right. It started with the accusations of a former software engineer who blogged about her experience being sexually harassed and then having those claims basically unheeded, go unheeded. So that led Uber to investigate. And they - they solicited any claims. They got, in total, 215 claims of workplace misconduct that they investigated. And that resulted in 40 people being reprimanded or told they had to go to counseling or training and then the 20 people who lost their jobs, including the senior executives.
INSKEEP: Well, I don't know if we have every single one of the individuals nailed down. But in the main, are we talking about managers abusing people who are directly below them, subordinates? Is that what's happening here?
NOGUCHI: Yeah, that's right. There are accusations of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and also retaliation. So the names were not listed. We don't know exactly who these 20 people are. And - but it does involve, you know, a culture of sexual harassment. And, you know, I should note that this is one of two law firms that have been hired by Uber to investigate. The second one is Eric Holder, the former attorney general of the U.S. And his report is due out next week.
And that report is going to be different in that it's going to expand on this first report, these first findings, and sort of make recommendations to the company of how they can take steps to prevent this from happening, what they need to do to correct a workplace culture that's clearly gone awry.
INSKEEP: Well, this is a company effectively investigating itself, right? They've hired these law firms themselves.
NOGUCHI: Right, these are internal investigations.
INSKEEP: Are there external investigations Uber has to worry about?
NOGUCHI: Well, that is still unclear. But what is at stake for Uber is that, you know, this is an issue that is something that Silicon Valley is very concerned about, this gender disparity issue. And so it's something that's - you know, that basically Uber is a test case for at this point.
INSKEEP: Oh, meaning that there could very well be other companies - not that every company is the same - but other companies facing questions like this.
NOGUCHI: Well, that's unclear. But I think that, you know, Uber has to address this issue because of concerns that there is a bias against women.
INSKEEP: OK. Yuki, thanks very much, really appreciate it. That's NPR's Yuki Noguchi this morning on reports that Uber has fired about 20 of its own employees. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.