Brakkton Booker

Brakkton Booker is a producer/reporter for NPR's political unit. He has spent most of the 2016 presidential cycle covering the race for the GOP nomination.

When he's not on the campaign trail, Booker produces pieces from the White House, Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court and other federal agencies for NPR News magazines including Morning Edition and All Things Considered. He previously served as the network's lead producer from the Louisville campaign headquarters of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014. Booker served in a similar capacity during the 2012 presidential campaign producing pieces from the Republican and Democratic National conventions as well as from President Obama's reelection site in Chicago.

In the summer of 2014, Booker took a break from the politics grind to report on the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Booker earned a bachelor's degree from Howard University and is was a 2015 Kiplinger Fellow. When he's not working he enjoys discovering new brands of whiskey and playing golf.

Updated at 7 p.m. EST

The Russian airliner that crashed Saturday in Egypt killing all 224 people onboard broke apart in flight, according to Russia's top aviation official.

A search team believes it has located the wreckage from the El Faro cargo ship that disappeared last month during Hurricane Joaquin, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The discovery was made Saturday afternoon at a depth of about 15,000 feet in the vicinity of the ship's last known location. The NTSB said preliminary sonar imaging of the vessel shows that it appears to be intact. It adds:

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan was easily elected to serve as the 54th House speaker Thursday, ending a tumultuous few weeks for the Republican House majority as it scrambled to find a replacement for outgoing Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.

Updated at 1:24 p.m. ET

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in a case involving millions of dollars in hush money to keep secret allegations of misconduct decades ago.

A judge set the sentencing for Feb. 29. Federal prosecutors have recommended up to six months in prison as part of a plea deal that allows him to avoid a trial. The judge, however, could sentence Hastert to a maximum of five years and fine him up to $250,000.

The Chinese government issued an angry response after a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer drew within a dozen miles of several artificial islands in the South China Sea that China and other nations claim as sovereign territory.

China's defense ministry said its own warships followed and issued warnings to the USS Lassen on Tuesday, according to Reuters, as it moved through the waters around the Spratly Islands.

Longtime NBA coach and Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has died.

He was 60 years old, and had been undergoing treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma over the past few months.

The Timberwolves organization announced Saunders' passing via Twitter Sunday afternoon.

In an election tainted by allegations of political payoffs and lack of planning, thousands of voters in Haiti took to the polls Sunday to cast ballots for presidential and parliamentary elections. This election day comes after years of delays and despite recent spates of violence during previous rounds of voting at polling sites.

Haiti, the Western hemisphere's poorest nation, boasts of having 5.8 million registered voters. Many poll watchers there expect a December runoff will be necessary because a whopping 54 candidates are vying to become the country's next president.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton made her much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill on Thursday to testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. This was a high-stakes showdown for both Clinton and the Republican lawmakers who were leading an investigation into the events surrounding the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya where four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed.

The camerawoman who drew international ire after viral videos of her kicking and tripping migrants crossing into Hungary from Serbia last month, says she plans to sue Facebook and one of the refugees she kicked.

Petra Laszlo, formerly of Hungarian Internet-based channel N1TV, told a Russian newspaper of her plans to sue Facebook for allegedly failing to take down threatening and negative pages on the social media site, according to an online translation of the Izvestia report.

Fresh off his celebrated comeback to comedy as guest host of Saturday Night Live over the weekend, comedian Tracy Morgan announced he's hitting the road on a stand-up tour.

Ahead of his meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has urged both sides to exercise restraint and called for clarity on the status of a holy site in Jerusalem that's been at the epicenter of the uptick in Israeli-Palestinian clashes in recent weeks.

Speaking from Madrid Monday, Kerry called for Israel to maintain the status quo agreement over the hilltop compound in Jerusalem that is venerated by Jews, known as the Temple Mount and the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a sacred symbol for Palestinians:

The Washington Post Managing Editor Kevin Merida is leaving his job at the end of the month and heading for ESPN, where he will become senior vice president and editor-in-chief of The Undefeated, a digital site that will explore the intersection of sports, race and culture.

The announcement was made Monday by The Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron in a memo sent to staff and later posted to the paper's website.

The Pentagon confirmed Sunday a U.S.-led coalition airstrike has killed a top al-Qaida commander in northwest Syria.

The U.S. military said Abdul Mohsen Adballah Ibrahim al Charekh, better known as Sanafi al-Nasr, was a Saudi national and the highest-ranking leader of the network that is sometimes called the Khorasan Group.

A hidden chemistry lab was unearthed by a worker doing renovations to the iconic Rotunda at the University of Virginia, and school officials say the room is directly linked to the third U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson, who helped design the building.

The "chemical hearth," which dates back to the 1820s, is thought to be one of the few remaining in the world. It featured two sources of heat for conducting experiments and a system for pulling out fumes.

Update at 6:13 p.m. ET: Deadly Attack At Israeli Bus Station

Israeli police say at least 10 people are wounded and another two are dead, after an attacker opened fire at a bus station in the southern city of Beersheba Sunday. An Israeli soldier and the gunman, an Arab attacker, according to the AP, were killed.

NPR's Emily Harris, reporting from Jerusalem, tells our Newscast unit:

It's not every day you can plop down two bucks and walk away with some "junk" that is worth a fortune. But that's what happened when a collector purchased an old-timey photo from a Fresno, Calif., antiques shop.

It turns out, the infamous outlaw Billy the Kid is in the photo, apparently taking part in a leisurely game of croquet.

The image could be worth up to $5 million.

For the third time this decade, millions of Americans will not see an annual cost-of-living increase next year, the Obama administration announced Thursday.

The news by the Social Security Administration confirms a move that was already widely expected. It cited a drop in consumer prices over the past year as the main factor for not triggering the automatic increase.

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is expected to plead guilty later this month to charges that he agreed to pay $3.5 million to cover up allegations of misconduct and then lied about it to authorities, according to his lawyers.

Reporting from outside the federal courthouse in Chicago, NPR's Cheryl Corley tells our Newscast unit that the alleged wrongdoing "occurred decades ago when Hastert was a history teacher and a coach at Yorkville High School about 50 miles southwest of Chicago."

Cheryl reports that a plea agreement would allow Hastert to avoid a trial.

Six church members, including a married couple, are in custody, accused of a brutal assault on two of the couple's children that left one dead and another severely injured, according to law enforcement officials.

New Hartford, N.Y., police say Bruce and Deborah Leonard, along with four fellow churchgoers, fatally beat Lucas Leonard, 19, inside the Word of Life Church.

NPR's Joel Rose tells our Newscast Unit that police say the beatings appear to have taken place during a meeting where the brothers were to ask forgiveness for their sins.

The Mississippi River basin has gotten a report card from a group that monitors watershed health and economic impact — and the grade is D+.

The organization, America's Watershed Initiative, cited the poor condition of infrastructure such as locks and dams, and a lack of funding that could lead to water security issues.

The Taliban announced Tuesday they have withdrawn from Kunduz, the northern Afghan city that briefly fell under insurgent control last month.

The Taliban said the reason for pulling out of the city was to protect against further civilian casualties, but there are multiple reports of battles continuing outside of the city. Kunduz is also the site of a U.S.-led airstrike that hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital and killed 22 civilians.

NPR's Tom Bowman tells our Newscast Unit, Kunduz was the first major provincial capital to fall under Taliban control in 14 years.

A federal appeals court has reinstated a civil rights lawsuit against the New York Police Department that accuses police of spying on Muslims in New Jersey.

A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed a lower court's ruling last year that found police did not violate the rights of Muslims by routinely putting some people and businesses under surveillance in an effort to prevent terrorism.

NPR's Joel Rose tells our Newscast unit that the appeals court sent the case back to district court. Here's more from Joel:

In an effort to move beyond recent controversy, Planned Parenthood announced Tuesday that it will no longer accept reimbursement for any fetal tissue it provides to medical researchers.

The organization has been the subject of negative attention in recent weeks following the release of highly edited, undercover videos recorded by an anti-abortion group alleging that Planned Parenthood illegally profits from its fetal tissue donation program.

In a move lawmakers hope will drive more Californians to the polls, Gov. Jerry Brown approved legislation that automatically registers citizens to vote when they obtain or renew driver's licenses or state identification cards.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is suing the manufacturers of an exercise band that he says failed and caused him to lose vision in his right eye in January.

In a stunning turn of events, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has withdrawn from the race to become the next speaker of the House.

McCarthy was the favorite ahead of Thursday's closed-door vote by House Republicans. He was in a three-way race for the top spot in the House with Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Daniel Webster, R-Fla.

Paper or plastic? If you're at a restaurant in the coastal city of Fort Bragg, Calif., that's what your food is likely to be served on these days.

The drought-stricken city, located about 170 miles north of San Francisco, recently declared a "stage 3" water emergency, which makes it mandatory for businesses and residents to reduce water usage.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls paid a swift visit to corporate offices of beleaguered airliner Air France on Tuesday, a day after two of the company's executives were mobbed by protesters and had their shirts and suit jackets ripped from their bodies.

The executives had been taking part in meetings Monday about how the company would cut 2,900 jobs when hundreds of workers stormed the Air France offices. Human resources manager Xavier Broseta and Pierre Plissonnier, head of long-haul flights, scaled a metal fence and escaped under police escort.

With the stroke of a pen, California Gov. Jerry Brown made it legal for physicians in the state to prescribe lethal doses of medications if their terminally ill patients wish to end their lives.

Brown signed the "End of Life Act" into law on Monday, and in doing so California joins four other states — Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana — where patients' right to choose doctor-assisted death is protected either by law or court order.

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