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News brief: Queen Elizabeth's legacy, EU energy challenges, special master appealed

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

King Charles III is Great Britain's new monarch; this after his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died yesterday at her Balmoral estate in Scotland. She was 96.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Queen Elizabeth was the longest serving monarch in British history. Seventy years she was on the throne. Here she is speaking a few years before she became queen in 1952.

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QUEEN ELIZABETH II: I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

MARTIN: She remained on the throne amid a period of profound change in Britain. Britain's new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, paid tribute to the queen last night.

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PRIME MINISTER LIZ TRUSS: Queen Elizabeth II was the rock on which modern Britain was built. Our country has grown and flourished under her reign.

MARTINEZ: For more, we're joined by reporter Willem Marx in London. Willem, what happens today and the rest of the week as the country now tries to move forward?

WILLEM MARX: Well, good morning, A. We will hear at some point later on, likely this afternoon British time, from the new king, Charles, in a speech, a public statement. Of course, over the course of the next few days, there'll be mourning nationally. Royal palaces will be closed. People will be mourning both privately and publicly with bells tolling, gun salutes, no doubt. We've just been speaking to some of the people outside Buckingham Palace who've come here to pay their respects, talking about this being a slightly unsettling period, wanting to give thanks to the queen for her decades of service as well, A.

MARTINEZ: British public opinion about the monarchy is always up and down, it seems, but not about the queen, was it? I mean, how is her death being received?

MARX: Well, that's right. You know, public opinion about the institution of the monarchy has indeed waxed and waned a bit. But to be clear, the popularity of the queen herself has in poll after poll for at least the last decade and a half stayed consistently high. And so as a consequence, the people we've been hearing from this morning have been overwhelmingly quite upset by her death. There are very few in Britain alive today who've outlived the queen. Obviously, she passed away yesterday at the age of 96. But that means there are not many who can remember a time before she was the British monarch. And that constancy, that stability seems to be what people are referring to this morning as having suddenly vanished.

MARTINEZ: She was on the throne 70 years. If we're having this conversation, Willem, say, in 2092, 70 years from now, how will her legacy be remembered?

MARX: It's quite a difficult one to answer in some ways. But if we look back to the Britain of the early 1950s, when she was herself crowned, and compare that period of time to now, the changes, whether economic, political, cultural, they've been really seismic. I'm not a futurologist, but it's hard to imagine that Britain 2092 or so will not be a very different place to what it is today. And if the monarchy lasts in its current form until then, it will be in no small part down to Elizabeth and, of course, her successors' efforts to modernize an institution that, as our new prime minister here in the U.K. reminded us in a brief statement outside Downing Street yesterday, it's endured for a thousand years.

MARTINEZ: Yeah. She experienced World War II, the Cold War, the invention of the internet, big social, technological and political change. How was she able to stay so relevant?

MARX: Well, in some ways, it was her ubiquity day in, day out. For decades of her life, she attended events of cultural and social significance to people here. She obviously retained a constitutional role in the country's politics. For instance, she opened Parliament every year. She had weekly meetings with the prime minister of the day. Remember, there was 15 of them, starting with Winston Churchill, ending this week with Liz Truss. And then you may remember some of her more mischievous kind of appearances, either alongside an animated Paddington Bear as recently as this summer - that went viral during her Platinum Jubilee - or alongside Daniel Craig, the actor, in a "James Bond" scene as part of the London Olympics opening in which she seemed to parachute into the main stadium from a helicopter. And time and again, those who worked with her have said that she did have a very strong and lively sense of humor, A.

MARTINEZ: That's reporter Willem Marx outside Buckingham Palace in London. Thank you very much.

MARX: Thank you.

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MARTINEZ: European Union energy ministers meet in Brussels today to look at options for getting through this winter in the midst of unprecedented Russian gas cuts and skyrocketing energy prices.

MARTIN: As the EU tries to wean itself off of Russian gas, Russian President Vladimir Putin has predicted that European solidarity will splinter in the hard months ahead.

MARTINEZ: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is in Brussels. Eleanor, what's the situation in Europe? What's happening today?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Well, as we speak, energy ministers from 27 EU nations are meeting to discuss a list of possible options for bringing prices down and getting through the winter. Europe has decreased its consumption of Russian gas from 40% to less than 10%, and its reserve tanks for the winter are nearly full. But it's still going to be a very difficult winter and not just this winter. I spoke with Francois-Regis Mouton, who's with the International Oil & Gas Producers Association in Europe. And here's what he told me.

FRANCOIS-REGIS MOUTON: Even if you boost any other alternatives from now on to 2026, 2027, Europe will not be able to supply its gas demand.

BEARDSLEY: So that's going to mean that some businesses won't make it. Things will have to change. But he said the good news is that high prices will encourage the development of other sources like liquefied natural gas. And he says there will hopefully be a rebalancing of the market in a few years and that the EU will no longer be dependent on Russian energy. But Europe has to survive until then.

MARTINEZ: Yes, they do. Now, what are the options the EU ministers are considering today?

BEARDSLEY: Right. So already, governments like Germany and France are spending billions to prop up consumers, but they can't do that forever. And the main things that have support from EU members are decreasing demand across the continent, across the board, industry and households. Governments are already launching campaigns to lower thermostats, turn out lights. Right now, it's voluntary, but this could become mandatory. Europe needs to cut energy consumption by 15%. Another option is taxing companies making windfall profits; for example, people making electricity without gas. Nuclear - they've had huge, unexpected profits because of inflated prices; so funneling some of those profits to consumers back to governments. And there's also talk of granting credit lines to state utility companies that have been shut out of energy futures markets because they've become too volatile because of Russia cutting the gas on and off. Now, there's also been talk of capping Russian gas prices, but so far, that has not gotten wide EU support. The thinking is it could further distort the market and discourage alternative suppliers.

MARTINEZ: Now I think it's probably fair to say that Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting that this European solidarity won't last. So what are they saying in Brussels?

BEARDSLEY: Well, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said Putin's energy blackmail and his war will fail. She said Europe will prevail. People I talk to say there's really no choice now. They say, you know, Russia cannot be allowed to win the war in Ukraine. And there's a second factor really pushing towards decarbonization and diversifying energy sources. That's climate change. It's here. Europe had a destructive summer of drought, heat waves and fires, and that's really helped convince people that the time to get off fossil fuels is now, and there's no going back. But of course, getting unity among the 27 won't be easy. If the winter's harsh, we could see rationing, blackouts and government's fear - social unrest.

MARTINEZ: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Brussels. Eleanor, thanks.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you.

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MARTINEZ: The Justice Department is appealing a court order for a special master in the investigation into former President Donald Trump's handling of classified information.

MARTIN: Prosecutors say they have serious concerns about handing government secrets to a third party, and the intelligence community has had to pause its assessment of national security risks because of the judge's broad wording in the decision.

MARTINEZ: NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is here. Carrie, remind us quickly about what the judge had ruled earlier this week.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Sure. Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed by former President Trump, had imposed a special master to review about 11,000 pages investigators took from Trump's estate in Florida. She wants the special master to sift through those papers for possible attorney-client privilege issues and executive privilege issues. The judge says the FBI can't use those pages for now in its ongoing criminal investigation into alleged obstruction and willful retention of information related to the national defense. But she had allowed the intelligence community to continue a security assessment for any potential damage from having those papers stored at Mar-a-Lago. The Justice Department says there's no executive privilege when it comes to those classified papers and that anyway, they don't belong to the former president.

MARTINEZ: Now, legal experts had predicted an appeal from the Justice Department. So what's the DOJ so worried about?

JOHNSON: Prosecutors are especially worried about giving 100 pages of classified material to a special master. They've actually asked for a stay in the judge's order just on the classified material part. They want to be able to review those classified papers freely themselves, and they don't want to give them to a third party. DOJ says it needs to determine what happened to several dozen folders. They were marked classified, but those folders were empty. They want to know what was in those folders and whether that material may have been lost or compromised in some way.

MARTINEZ: The judge said that she did not want to get in the way of the review the intelligence community is doing about possible national security risk of having these papers at a resort in Florida. And I understand there's some news about that there.

JOHNSON: Some important news. No matter what the judge says, the Justice Department says, they cannot draw a clear line between the criminal side of this investigation and the national security side. The two probes are linked. The director of national intelligence has actually paused the risk assessment because of how broadly the judge ruled in this case. And the head of the counterintelligence division at the FBI filed an affidavit yesterday saying the judge's order is causing irreparable harm to national security. He says the FBI is really the only part of the intelligence community that can investigate and recover government secrets that have been improperly retained out in the wild by using grand jury subpoenas and other tools. And both reviews are necessary, the Justice Department says, given how sensitive these papers are.

MARTINEZ: So does that mean a special master might still be named to review other papers from Mar-a-Lago?

JOHNSON: It looks like it might happen. Both sides have a deadline by midnight Friday to send a list of proposed candidates to be the special master to this judge. Of course, DOJ says it already reviewed a lot of this material for possible attorney-client privilege, found only 520 pages could relate to attorney-client privilege. And as for executive privilege, the Justice Department says that shouldn't apply here, that these papers belong to the executive branch and the executive branch needs them for this ongoing and very important criminal investigation.

MARTINEZ: NPR's Carrie Johnson. Thanks, Carrie.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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.
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