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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The New Hampshire primary takes place today, and it's now essentially a two-person race on the Republican side.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yeah. Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, also a former governor of South Carolina, is hoping to mount a strong enough challenge against former President Trump to keep her campaign going. We do have the most partial of partial vote counts imaginable. The northern New Hampshire town of Dixville Notch traditionally counts its ballots first, opening and closing its polls just after midnight. And all six of its votes went to Nikki Haley. Four registered Republicans and two independents voted.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben was in New Hampshire in the lead-up to the vote. Danielle, so aside from that clean sweep in Dixville Notch, how did Haley make her case in New Hampshire?

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Well, she - when I've seen her in New Hampshire, she's been attacking Trump quite a bit, emphasizing that he's the chaos candidate. And she's had a kind of new line of attack in recent days, saying that the political class is lining up behind Trump, essentially saying that given all of the endorsements he's been getting, he's the establishment candidate. But her other big line of attack is electability. She says that she could more easily defeat Biden than Trump. But really, a fact check here - in recent polls, it's not clear, really, whether she's ahead of Biden right now in head-to-heads. Trump right now also polls about even with Biden, maybe slightly ahead of him.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So what's Trump saying?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, he's first of all trying to say that Haley is, in fact, not electable. He's also arguing she's not conservative enough, and he's using the fact that New Hampshire independent voters can vote in primaries to make that case. Here he was in a recent speech in the town of Rochester.

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DONALD TRUMP: The radical left Democrats are supporting Nikki for a very simple reason - because they know she's easy to beat.

KURTZLEBEN: But to be totally clear here, Democrats cannot vote in the GOP primary in New Hampshire. Independents and Republicans can.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. And you're there in New Hampshire. So how do Trump supporters there compare to the ones in Iowa?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, Trump voters in New Hampshire were quite similar to the Trump voters in Iowa, which is to say they're super devoted. A lot of them have been with him for years. They just really didn't even consider other candidates this time around. One other difference is that New Hampshire voters tend to be a bit less socially conservative. It's just a less religious state than Iowa.

MARTÍNEZ: What about New Hampshire's undeclared voters, Danielle? How much are they in play for Nikki Haley?

KURTZLEBEN: Very much. I mean, Haley is definitely appealing to independents and more moderate-leaning voters. Here's Danielle Brown. She saw Haley in the town of Hollis last week.

DANIELLE BROWN: What's the choice? Biden or Trump? I mean, if that were the choice, it's a very difficult choice to make. So I'm praying, I'm hoping that it would be Nikki and Biden. And if that's the case, I would vote for Nikki.

KURTZLEBEN: Now, to be totally clear here, Haley is not a moderate. She is conservative. But some voters do perceive her as moderate because she simply doesn't use as harsh of rhetoric as Trump has. I mean, really, right now, the meaningful divide in the GOP is not moderate-conservative. It's Trump versus anti-Trump.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, Democrats also have a primary today. Biden is not on the ballot, even though he's the president. So there's a write-in campaign. Remind us why that's happening.

BROWN: Right. So the Democratic National Committee adopted a primary calendar last year with South Carolina as the first state. But New Hampshire wanted to still be the first in the nation. So they are still holding a primary, but no delegates will be awarded. The victory will be symbolic. But if any candidate like Marianne Williamson or Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips does well, you can bet they'll talk about it. So yes, we will see who comes out of that. But there is a write-in in campaign to get Biden to win it.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben, thanks a lot.

KURTZLEBEN: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: The Israeli military has seen its deadliest single incident so far in its war in Gaza. This morning, it confirmed the deaths of 21 soldiers near Israel's border with the Palestinian enclave.

INSKEEP: Now, with those 21 deaths, the death count for Israel's current offensive is more than 200 soldiers. Gaza's Ministry of Health says more than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, both militants and civilians. This comes at a time when Israeli forces are pushing into a section of Gaza that is crowded with displaced people who are trying to avoid the fighting.

MARTÍNEZ: Let's bring in NPR's Geoff Brumfiel in Tel Aviv. Geoff, 21 soldiers dead. What can you tell us about what happened to them?

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: Well, we don't have all the details yet, but here's what we know right now. This all happened quite close to the Israeli border with Gaza, and there appear to have been two related events. An Israeli tank was struck by a missile. And then nearby, two buildings that Israeli soldiers had rigged for demolition collapsed. Now, it's unclear whether the buildings were struck by enemy fire or whether there was an accident with the explosives. Either way, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident a disaster and is saying there'll be an investigation.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now, all this comes when Israeli forces are conducting a major offensive in Gaza. How's that going?

BRUFMIEL: Yeah, Israeli special forces and other troops are pushing into Khan Younis, a city in southern Gaza that the military describes as a home to some of Hamas' toughest fighters. But Khan Younis is also home to many, many tens of thousands of civilians who fled northern Gaza when Israel began its ground offensive. They're living in makeshift tents which barely protect them from the elements, let alone gunfire. Just minutes ago, I heard from John Kahler, a pediatrician in southern Gaza with the group MedGlobal. He told me civilians are fleeing again as the Israeli army closes in.

JOHN KAHLER: The IDF forces are there. The civilians are moving along the roads out. It's a massive evacuation.

BRUFMIEL: Now, there are also reports that facilities operated by the United Nations and the Palestinian Red Crescent were struck overnight. But it's difficult to get details because there's a communications blackout. It's unclear whether the telecom system is being disrupted by Israeli forces or whether fighting has cut the line. Either way, it's very difficult to know what's happening right now.

MARTÍNEZ: Is there any chance at all for maybe a pause or an end to the fighting?

BRUFMIEL: You know, the Israeli military has said in the near term that they actually expect fighting in Khan Younis to intensify as they try and reach their goal of eradicating Hamas and freeing the hostages taken on October 7. But this military campaign is facing increasing pressure from within Israel, and a lot of that pressure is coming from the hostages' families. They want another cease-fire that will allow their loved ones to go free. I spoke to a mother of a hostage. Her name was Anit Ohel. And she said it's taking too long to get her son home.

ANIT OHEL: As a mother, I'm not a politician. For me, for a mother, every day is too much time.

BRUFMIEL: And other families are starting to apply real pressure to the government. They've set up protest camps outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's homes in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And yesterday, they stormed the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, demanding action. Now, partially in response to this pressure, the Israeli government has reportedly floated a deal that would see hostages released in exchange for a prolonged cease-fire. But NPR hasn't been able to confirm that deal is on the table. And even if it is, it remains to be seen whether Hamas would accept it.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Geoff Brumfiel in Tel Aviv. Geoff, thanks.

BRUFMIEL: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: Jury selection is scheduled to begin today in a Michigan case that could set a precedent over whether a parent can be held criminally responsible for the actions of their child.

INSKEEP: About two years ago, a student at Oxford High School in Michigan opened fire. Here are some numbers that define this incident. The student was 15 years old. He killed four fellow students. He wounded six other students and one teacher. The teenager was charged, and so were his parents, with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter.

MARTÍNEZ: WDET's Quinn Klinefelter has been following the case. Quinn, the shooter in this case pleaded guilty. He was sentenced recently to life without parole. So why did prosecutors charge his parents, as well?

QUINN KLINEFELTER, BYLINE: Well, the parents are Jennifer and James Crumbley, and they're being tried separately. Jennifer's trial is first. But they both face, as you mentioned, charges of involuntary manslaughter. In essence, prosecutors say the Crumbleys could have stopped the massacre if they had taken certain steps a reasonable person would have done. The prosecution alleges the Crumbleys were grossly negligent by ignoring their son's pleas for mental health counseling and instead buying him a handgun as an early Christmas present. The Crumbleys also refused to take their son home from Oxford High the day of the murders, even after school officials said they found drawings he'd made of a person shot by the same kind of gun they'd gifted him with phrases like, help me and blood everywhere. The prosecution says the Crumbleys did not even mention their son might have access to a gun, let alone request that the school check to see if he had it with him.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so the Crumbleys are being accused of a lot. How are they responding?

KLINEFELTER: Defense attorneys argue the Crumbleys' son pulled the trigger, not the parents. And the Crumbleys had no way of knowing that he planned a mass shooting. And they say evidence that their son wanted mental help comes from text messages to his friend, not something that the parents would've seen.

MARTÍNEZ: But isn't one of the key arguments from prosecutors is that access to the weapon used in the shooting - it's all about that?

KLINEFELTER: Yeah. The prosecution claims the Crumbleys did not adequately secure the gun so their son could not gain access to it. But when the son, Ethan Crumbley, pleaded guilty to the killings in 2022, prosecutors specifically questioned him about that.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Is it true in November the 30, 2021, when you obtained the firearm, it was not kept in a locked container or a safe?

ETHAN CRUMBLEY: Yes. It was not locked.

KLINEFELTER: Crumbley may not make that assertion publicly again, however. His court-appointed attorneys appealed his life without parole sentence and advised him not to testify in either of his parents' trials.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, we're hearing from legal experts who say this case could actually set a national precedent. In what way?

KLINEFELTER: Well, typically, parents are not charged. This case, however, involves a mass school shooting and severe charges of involuntary manslaughter. We did see another instance of a parent being charged in Illinois, where last year, a father pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges after his son killed people during a Fourth of July parade. That case revolved around how the son obtained a license for a gun, not the kind of involuntary manslaughter charges made against the Crumbleys.

MARTÍNEZ: One other thing, Quinn - the Crumbley parents - they're being tried separately. Why separately?

KLINEFELTER: Because the couple requested it. They had presented a united front until recently, and they waited several days initially before turning themselves in to the authorities. Now, their attorneys argue in court filings that new evidence has come to light that would pit one parent against the other. And if either is convicted, they could face a maximum of 15 years in prison.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Quinn Klinefelter from WDET in Detroit. Quinn, thank you.

KLINEFELTER: You're welcome. 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.

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