January 22, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
January 22, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: the Biden agenda. The new president continues the flurry of
executive orders, with actions aimed at counteracting the economic damage wrought by COVID-19.
Then: minding his business. Former President Trump leaves office facing mounting debt,
devalued assets, and a scarcity of willing lenders.
TIM O'BRIEN, Executive Editor, Bloomberg View: He really runs the risk of being cash-strapped
at a time when his banks and other businesses are turning their backs on him because of
the January 6 insurrection.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it's Friday. David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart break down a historic
inauguration, the Biden administration's early actions, and a looming impeachment trial.
All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tackling the pandemic's devastating impact on the economy was top of mind for
President Biden today. He assured Americans who are struggling to make ends meet that
help is on the way.
Our White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor begins our coverage.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The president's second full day in office, and a focus on the pandemic's
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: We're in a national emergency. We need to
act like we're in a national emergency.
So, we have got to move with everything we have got. And we have got to do it together.
I don't believe Democrats or Republicans are going hungry and losing jobs. I believe Americans
are going hungry and losing their jobs.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Last week, 900,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits. Today, President
Biden signed two executive orders aimed at delivering some economic relief.
They include boosting food assistance benefits, improving the equal distribution of previously
allocated direct payments, protecting unemployed job seekers, and raising the minimum wage
for federal employees to $15 an hour.
The move comes as Biden pushes Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.
That plan would include an additional round of $1,400 stimulus checks. At a White House
briefing, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said the orders were not a substitute
for congressional legislation.
BRIAN DEESE, Director, National Economic Council: The single most important thing economically
right now is to take decisive action. The risk of undershooting far outweighs the risk
of doing too much.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: At the briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also said the Biden
administration would be taking several steps to fight domestic extremism.
They include requesting federal agencies conduct a threat assessment, building on the National
Security Council's capability to counter extremism, and coordinating parts of the government to
combat radicalization. That comes after the January 6 Capitol riot. President Trump is
facing a second impeachment trial. He is accused of inciting that attack.
The trial, though, is complicating the push for more COVID relief. Today, Speaker Nancy
Pelosi announced the House would deliver the impeachment article to the Senate on Monday.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stressed that lawmakers must balance the Biden
agenda with impeachment.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We have three essential items on our plate, one, the confirmation
of President Biden's Cabinet and other key officials, two, legislation to provide desperately
needed COVID relief, three, a second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. The Senate must and
will do all three.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: For his part, the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, had pushed
for delaying the impeachment trial until February. He said it would give the Senate more time
to give Trump due process.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): That timeline would have provided the Senate some more time
before we step up fully into the unknown of a trial, which, by the way, would have been
a substantial benefit to the incoming administration and allowed them to get more of their Cabinet
WOMAN: The nomination is confirmed.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: On the Biden Cabinet confirmation front, today, retired Army General Lloyd Austin
became the first Black secretary of defense. The Senate voted to confirm him 93-2.
Thursday, Congress agreed to exempt Austin from a rule banning recently retired military
officers from heading the department. And the Senate will vote on the confirmation of
Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary. She would be the first woman to hold that job.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Yamiche joins me now.
So, Yamiche, so much going on.
Give us, though, a little more insight into these executive actions President Biden is
taking to address the economic crisis.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, President Biden today really wanted to focus on the economic toll
to have the COVID-19 pandemic, talking specifically about Americans who have gone hungry, Americans
who have lost their jobs, Americans who have been evicted from their homes.
He said that America needed to do better and that these Americans needed the help of the
federal government. There are also a number of Biden officials today who told me that
there needs to be decisive action right now.
Now, in particular, when we look at these executive orders, one of -- in part, what
they do is increase the assistance to low-income families, nutritional assistance. And when
we look at that executive order, I want to in some ways talk to people about, what are
the facts that -- when it comes to food insecurity in this country?
So, as a result, 29 million Americans face a hunger crisis in this country; 12 million
children often don't have enough to eat. One in five Black and Latino households struggle
to secure food when they need it.
Now, the White House says that this is really just a down payment, these executive orders,
and that they need to pass -- the Congress, that is, needs to pass that $1.9 trillion
COVID relief package that Joe Biden is getting some pushback from, especially from moderates
and some Republicans.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Yamiche, just backing up, looking at this overall, here we are at
the end of the president's first few days in office. He's only -- only has a few Cabinet
members in place.
What do we know now about his priorities?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, at the end of his first week as president, Joe Biden, it's clear,
has a lot to juggle, and that the top priority for him remains COVID-19.
It is true that he only has a few Cabinet officials confirmed right now. He has two.
That's Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, as well as General Lloyd Austin,
his defense secretary, who is the first Black man to hold that position.
Now, there is Tim Kaine, just a few minutes ago said that he expects Antony Blinken -- that's
the Treasury -- that's the secretary of state nominee -- to also be confirmed today. He
also says that Alejandro Mayorkas may be confirmed as early as tomorrow. That would be the secretary
of homeland security.
The other thing to note here is that there are a lot of topics on Joe Biden's agenda.
And you can see that, even though, of course, COVID-19 is his priority, he talked about
immigration this week. He put forth plans on that. He also put forth plans on, again,
economic relief, racial justice, criminal justice.
The other thing to note is that all of this is happening, Joe Biden pushing his agenda,
pushing his plans, as that impeachment trial is looming. And the Biden administration doesn't
want to talk about what they -- how they think President Trump, the former president, should
be held accountable for his role in the January 6 Capitol attack.
Instead, they're saying that to leave that up to the Congress. But they are doing something
interesting, which is that they are overhauling, for the most part, the way that this country
deals with domestic terrorism.
Today, as we laid out in the story, they're really going to be asking federal agencies
and intelligence agencies to look very deeply at radicalization in this country, white supremacy
in this country. So, that tells you where all of the things that they're juggling are
- - is heading at this point.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot on the plate, no question about it.
Yamiche Alcindor reporting on the White House.
Thank you, Yamiche.
And now we turn our attention to Capitol Hill, and to our Dan Bush, who is tracking the action
So, Dan, some late developments late this afternoon, early this evening, on the timing
for that impeachment trial.
DANIEL BUSH: That's right, Judy.
So much is fluid now. And it's been changing by the hour, but the "NewsHour" learned that
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell,
are nearing a deal to begin the trial the week of February 8.
Schumer is about to speak a little while, momentarily even, on the Senate floor to provide
more details. There's still a lot we don't know, how long will it last,whether there
will be witnesses or not. Those details are being ironed out.
Democrats do want a couple of things. We know that. They'd like to split up the days, that
is, to conduct other Senate business, confirm President Biden's nominees, take up COVID
relief while they conduct the Senate trial. Republicans have pushed back on that.
We will see where the deal ends up on that.
One thing, though, Judy. In the last couple of days, I can say that support for conviction
of President Trump, former President Trump, among Republicans has been going down. Several
Republicans have been telling me that they just think that impeaching a former president
So, there's a lot of division both about the trial when it starts, but even how it will
get under way. And we should see more details on that in the next couple of hours.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you have that impeachment trial pending, Dan.
You also have this very busy agenda on the part of the new president. What are the folks
in Congress telling you about their ability to do all of this at the same time? How confident
are they can get it all done?
DANIEL BUSH: Well, right now, all eyes are on the Senate. And that's because McConnell
and Schumer have yet to come up with an agreement for the rules for the new Senate, how to do
this power-sharing agreement in a 50/50 split.
Because of that, essentially, right now, most work is on hold, except for some confirmations.
Right now, even Republicans are technically still chairing committees, even though Democrats
are now in charge of the Senate. They have to work out how this is all going to function.
And the main sticking point is the legislative filibuster. McConnell has requested that Democrats
ensure they don't do away with it. Chuck Schumer said on the floor earlier today that that
is unacceptable and he won't accept it. Democrats want to make sure that, essentially, they
keep that option the table.
This is a difficult moment for Democrats. Mitch McConnell is essentially saying, accede
to some of our requests. Joe Biden, in his inaugural address, said to have some unity.
We will see if that happens.
JUDY WOODRUFF: No question. It's all about how they work out the majority, whether it's
51 or 60, big question to be resolved.
Dan Bush, thanks so much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: President Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act
to ramp up the nation's supply of COVID-19 vaccines amid shortages.
That comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly changed its vaccination
guidance to allow patients to mix vaccine brands for their first and second doses in
- - quote -- exceptional situations."
Meanwhile, in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Health Organization hailed a new deal with
Pfizer to supply up to 40 million doses to help inoculate people who live in poor countries.
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WHO Director General: Vaccines are giving us all hope of ending
the pandemic and getting the global economy on the road to recovery.
But we can only end the pandemic anywhere if we ended everyone. And to do that, we need
every member state, every partner and every vaccine producer on board.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Pfizer said the vaccines would be provided at an undisclosed, not-for-profit
There is word that nearly 200 National Guard members sent to Washington in the days leading
up to the inauguration have tested positive for COVID-19. Officials fear they were exposed
from working and taking rest breaks in close proximity with one another. About 26,000 troops
were deployed to protect the U.S. Capitol after the insurrection on January 6.
That comes amid outrage over news reports that U.S. Capitol Police ordered the National
Guard to leave the Capitol Building yesterday. They were temporarily relocated to rest in
a nearby parking garage while Congress was in session, but have since returned to the
Today, the acting Capitol Police chief denied that they instructed the Guard troops to vacate
the Capitol. Lawmakers demanded an investigation.
Meanwhile, first lady Dr. Jill Biden made an unscheduled stop near the Capitol to deliver
cookies and thank a group of Guardsmen for protecting her family.
Russia today welcomed President Biden's proposal to extend the two countries' last remaining
limit on their nuclear arsenals. The so-called New START treaty is set to expire on February
5. It would remain in place for five more years once the renewal is formalized.
Meanwhile, the first-ever international treaty to ban nuclear weapons went into effect today.
The United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was ratified by 61 countries,
who vowed to never develop or acquire such weapons. But it's largely symbolic, since
neither the United States, nor any of the world's other nuclear-armed nations have signed
Back in this country, the National Association of Realtors reported that home sales in 2020
soared to their highest level in 14 years. It is largely due to a surge in existing home
sales in December. Overall, yearly sales rose nearly 6.5 million. Record low mortgage rates
and remote work during the pandemic helped to drive up demand.
Meanwhile, stocks were mixed on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost
179 points to close at 30997. The Nasdaq rose 12 points, and the S&P 500 slipped 11.
And Henry Aaron, one of baseball's greatest all-around players, has died. The Hall of
Famer spent most of his career with the Braves in Milwaukee and then Atlanta, and held the
home run record for 33 years. He was also a passionate civil rights advocate, after
enduring rampant racism through much of his career.
Hank Aaron was 86 years old.
And we will have more on his life later
in the program.
One of the consequences of the chaos from the U.S. Capitol on January 6, a distancing
from banks and other businesses from former President Trump.
Paul Solman, for our Making Sense series, looks at the economic hit facing Mr. Trump.
DONALD TRUMP, Former President of the United States: I'm the king of debt. I'm great with
debt. Nobody knows debt better than me. I have made a fortune by using debt.
PAUL SOLMAN: In the early 1990s, Donald Trump also lost a fortune using debt. He could face
similar problems today.
TIM O'BRIEN, Executive Editor, Bloomberg View: Most of his money is tied up in real estate,
and real estate that's been hit hard by COVID-19. He has debts north of $1 billion, and a big
chunk that debt is coming due soon.
PAUL SOLMAN: Journalist Tim O'Brien has covered Trump for decades, wrote "TrumpNation" with
Trump's cooperation published in 2005.
TIM O'BRIEN: He really runs the risk of being cash-strapped at a time when his banks and
other businesses are turning their backs on him because of the January 6 insurrection.
PAUL SOLMAN: Famous hotels, famous golf courses, a $2-plus billion empire, by most estimates.
But 60 percent of Trump's wealth is held in just five buildings in San Francisco and New
York, says O'Brien.
TIM O'BRIEN: The four buildings in New York are Trump Tower, a retail space next to Trump
Tower that used to be known as NikeTown. But Nike moved out.
PAUL SOLMAN: Then there's 1290 Sixth Avenue, and he owns what once vied for tallest skyscraper
in the world, 40 Wall Street, filled with offices.
TIM O'BRIEN: He's very dependent on all of those spaces in that building being occupied,
and occupancy rates are at rock-bottom levels.
PAUL SOLMAN: At the moment, the real estate, the collateral on his debt, just isn't worth
what it used to be. And if it were less than he owes on it...
TIM O'BRIEN: It would be the same thing as a homeowner who has too much mortgage on their
home, and they have to sell the home for less than they paid for it. With him, he's got
a whole basket full of properties that are stressed like that.
PAUL SOLMAN: So the possibility is, to use the homeowner analogy, that he gets foreclosed
TIM O'BRIEN: That could happen. It really depends on the timing of when each loan comes
due. It's how strict the debt holders are about making him pay. It's whether or not
he can find other properties he could sell quickly.
PAUL SOLMAN: Or find new lenders, but, says Nancy Wallace:
NANCY WALLACE, Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley: Donald Trump has burned
a lot of bridges in commercial lending.
PAUL SOLMAN: Professor Wallace chairs the real estate group at Berkeley's Business School.
NANCY WALLACE: Given his casino failures, most large commercial lenders wouldn't work
with him because of his behavior in those bankruptcies.
PAUL SOLMAN: Even his go-to lender for decades, Deutsche Bank, has now severed ties, as have
three other banks, including Signature, on whose board his daughter Ivanka once sat.
NANCY WALLACE: Basically, they closed his accounts. I mean, forget about borrowing.
They don't even want his bank accounts.
PAUL SOLMAN: You mean a bank said, here's your money, we don't even want your deposits?
NANCY WALLACE: That's correct.
PAUL SOLMAN: Because they're afraid of what?
NANCY WALLACE: There is huge reputational risk in banking. And anything that's associated
with significant lack of transparency is too risky. And we haven't even spoken about the
PAUL SOLMAN: Yes, the Scottish assets, several prominent golf courses and hotels.
No outside loans on those properties, says reporter Martyn McLaughlin in Glasgow, but:
MARTYN MCLAUGHLIN, The Scotsman: Not a single one of Trump's companies here has ever turned
a profit. They have yet to pay a penny in corporation tax. And, cumulatively, they have
incurred losses of approximately 55 million pounds.
I have looked through some of the business that the hotels are doing. In some cases,
it's single-figure weddings over the course of a year.
PAUL SOLMAN: And thus the question now being asked by authorities in Scotland: Where did
the money come from?
MARTYN MCLAUGHLIN: There's obviously been a lot of speculation that the money is coming
from somewhere like Russia, like Azerbaijan and Georgia, and suspected foreign individuals
who may -- may be involved or have family who are involved in money-laundering.
PAUL SOLMAN: And if they determine money laundering was involved, could they take his property?
MARTYN MCLAUGHLIN: If the owner of the property can't disclose the financing, there is a mechanism
for those properties to be seized.
PAUL SOLMAN: Purely hypothetical.
But if his properties were seized, he'd obviously have fewer assets with which to raise cash.
And even if he holds onto to everything, says Tim O'Brien:
TIM O'BRIEN: Private equity investors, hedge funds, anyone who wants to get into distressed
real estate, they just want to wait until he has to sell the property, so they can get
PAUL SOLMAN: So, you're suggesting that the private equity community or private capital
in general basically is smelling blood in the water?
TIM O'BRIEN: They all can smell when someone else is hurting, and they're more than willing
to watch that person bleed out, until they can get something as cheaply as they possibly
PAUL SOLMAN: But he was just able to raise like a couple of hundred million dollars from
people who back him. I mean, doesn't he have a tremendous source of financing there?
TIM O'BRIEN: He can try to use those funds for non-political purposes, but it's illegal.
PAUL SOLMAN: There's a final financial specter haunting Trump, his taxes, says Wallace.
NANCY WALLACE: And given what looks to be a lot of shenanigans in terms of how he declares
assets for tax purposes and how he declares assets for borrowing purposes, there could
be a serious problem there.
PAUL SOLMAN: And the issue there is, he declares a building worth a great deal of money, so
that he can borrow a lot against it, and then, when he files his taxes, he claims that the
building is worth a lot less?
NANCY WALLACE: Yes, for the underpayment of taxes.
PAUL SOLMAN: Possibly a crime, but even if not:
NANCY WALLACE: He might have a huge tax bill, to the tune of $100 million.
PAUL SOLMAN: All this had me deeply skeptical of Trump's financial future, and left me with
one last question, which I put to Dan Alexander, author of "White House, Inc."
Why can't he just declare bankruptcy?
DAN ALEXANDER, Author, "White House, Inc.": Well, the thing is, is that Trump, his overall
portfolio, is actually solvent. He's got really valuable assets. He does have some cash that
he could use, so he can pay back these loans. The question really is whether he wants to.
PAUL SOLMAN: We asked the Trump Organization for comment, and have not gotten a response.
But, yesterday, Donald Trump's son Eric told The New York Times that the Trump Organization
remained stable, with steady cash flow and relatively low debt. Still, according to the
company's own filings, the Trump Organization revenues declined more than 35 percent last
Says Dan Alexander:
DAN ALEXANDER: So, you're either going to see new lenders or you're going to look at
a Trump Organization and Trump empire that looks much smaller come about 2024 than it
does in 2021.
And the irony of all of this is that, if he had just done what everyone told him to do
at the start, which was liquefy everything, take all that money, and stick it into the
S&P 500, he would be hundreds of millions of dollars richer today.
PAUL SOLMAN: Because the stock market is up nearly 80 percent since Donald Trump took
For the "PBS NewsHour," Paul Solman.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The confirmation of Lloyd Austin as the first black U.S. secretary is a milestone.
Nick Schifrin reports on how it also spotlights racial disparities at the highest level of
the military ranks.
GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN (RET)., U.S. Secretary of Defense: Hello, everybody.
NICK SCHIFRIN: When Lloyd Austin arrived at the Pentagon today, he broke through what's
been called the brass ceiling.
In a 40-year career, he was the first Black officer to command a division in combat, the
first Black officer to command an entire theater of war, and now the first Black secretary
COL. IRVING SMITH (RET.), Author, "Why Black Officers Still Fail": To hit every single
one of those gates is incredible. So, to me, that is much like hitting the lottery.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Irving Smith is a retired Army colonel and former West Point professor. He
says the military provides opportunity for Black enlisted troops to rise to positions
like sergeant, but to rise through the officer ranks, like four-star General Austin did,
the barriers are systemic.
He read a 1995 U.S. Army War College research project, "Why Black Officers Fail," and, in
2010, wrote a follow-up, "Why Black Officers Still Fail."
COL. IRVING SMITH: There's this thing called the good old boy network. There's a system
in the Army that is very -- it's like nepotism that exists there. And as long as that persists,
Black officers will have a very hard time making it to the senior ranks.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In 1994, Black soldiers were 27 percent of the Army, but only 11 percent
of the officers. In 2007, Black soldiers were 20 percent of the Army, but only 12 percent
of the officers.
Today, the problem persists. The Pentagon provided "PBS NewsHour" data we analyzed for
the entire military. Black service members are 16 percent of the military, but only 8
percent of its officers. White service members are 55 percent of the military, but 72 percent
of the officers.
A major problem? The lack of Black mentorship.
COL. IRVING SMITH: Most of the African American officers were coming out of historically Black
colleges, and those historically Black colleges weren't providing the mentorship up front,
whereas the West Point cadets were getting the very best officers to teach them from
And so they weren't necessarily being given the right guidance on the right assignments
NICK SCHIFRIN: That's a reference to the military's combat units, where Black service members
are 11 percent of the enlisted, but only 5 percent of the officers. White combat service
members are 64 percent of the enlisted and 78 percent of the officers.
In fact, in combat units, as the percentage of white officers rises with seniority, the
percentage of Black officers drops from 8 percent of 2nd lieutenants down to 4 percent,
for colonels. In combat support units, such as logistics, the disparity remains, but the
numbers get better. Black service members are 20 percent of the enlisted, and 10 percent
of the officers.
Smith says that's indicative of Black soldiers self-selecting.
COL. IRVING SMITH: I came into the Army because I was going to do five years, get out and
make a lot of money, right? I fell in love with the Army when I was in the Army, and
I found my calling when I was there.
But my parents were like, why did you go into the infantry? That was the dumbest thing you
could do. Why didn't you go in the Signal Corps, where you could learn to work satellites
and get a job at some big satellite company afterwards?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Smith says young Black soldiers who choose support roles, like Signal Corps,
limits the number of Black officers who become generals.
COL. IRVING SMITH: It's well known that the combat units, those combat arms professions
produce the senior leaders of the future.
HARRY TRUMAN, Former President of the United States: There is no justifiable reason for
NICK SCHIFRIN: The military is proud of its past efforts to fight racism. Thanks to a
President Truman executive order, the military was one of the first American institutions
to integrate. Black men have risen to its most senior ranks, Colin Powell, the first
Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and, just last summer, Air Force General C.Q. Brown,
the first Black service chief.
But, before he was confirmed, he posted a video about the racism that he experienced.
GEN. CHARLES Q. BROWN, Air Force Chief of Staff: I'm thinking about the pressure I felt
to perform error-free, especially for supervisors I perceive had expected less from me as an
ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN (RET.), Former Joints Chiefs Chairman: We can't just lay this on
a Black leader to say, go fix this. The Caucasian leaders of the services have to fix this issue,
have to really go after it.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Admiral Mike Mullen was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from
2007 to 2011. Today, he voiced rare criticism of his successors.
Do you believe that the current leadership across the military has taken this as a priority?
ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN: The current leadership of the military has not taken it as a priority,
and I think the evidence is just in the numbers. Look at the lack of senior four-stars in particular
who are Black or Hispanic.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Mullen hired Austin to be the Joint Staff director. One day, Austin told
his boss, come downstairs to take a photo Never before had so many senior Black officers
helped lead the Joint Staff.
ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN: And I said: "What's all this about?"
And one of them said, "This is history."
And every one of them had -- was doing an exceptional job for me.
NICK SCHIFRIN: To increase the percentage of Black officers, Mullen says that old boys
network has to change from the lowest ranks.
ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN: I have had this theory forever. On these promotion boards, there's
a phrase I use, ducks pick ducks. And these are dominated -- these boards are dominated
by Caucasian senior officers, typically. It's hard to break that.
And this is a long-term issue where you have to enlarge the pool there in order to expect
to be able to promote people to admiral and general.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Smith says commanders should be judged by the diversity of their staff
and the climates they create, and that ROTC programs must be improved. He's confident
that Secretary Austin can do that.
COL. IRVING SMITH: This is -- it is a great occasion not for Black America, but for America.
NICK SCHIFRIN: If the saying is, I cannot be what I cannot see, today, every young service
member can see him.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And now we turn to the first Friday analysis of the Biden administration
with Brooks and Capehart. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan
Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.
So good to see both of you. We got to spend Wednesday together virtually, but there's
nothing like Friday night. It's great to have you both.
Jonathan, I'm going to start with you.
We have had a couple of days to absorb what inauguration was. What is -- what stays with
you? What lingers?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Judy, the thing that stays with me is the mood and the tone set by President
And we talked about this on Wednesday, how the poem by Amanda Gorman and the national
anthem sung by Lady Gaga and her turning to the flag and saying the flag was still there,
just how stirring that was.
But in the days since, the thing that I keep coming back to is that I felt I was welcomed
in this country again. I had a feeling of welcome home, and that we were being led by
a person of empathy, of decency, of moral character, but also one who sees the country
as it is and wants to lead all of us, not just the 80 million people who voted him into
JUDY WOODRUFF: Goes pretty deep.
David, what about you? What stays with you?
DAVID BROOKS: Weirdly, a phrase that didn't seem too remarkable at the time, but I think
sums up Joe Biden pretty well.
He said there's this thing about life is that sometimes you need a hand and sometimes you're
called upon to lend a hand.
And that's, of course, true about life, but it's also true about the kind of family Joe
Biden grew up in, and the sort of town he grew up in, and the sort of America he envisions,
which is an interdependent America, where we help each other out and we help each other
rise and succeed.
It's a vision of America. And so, when he calls for unity, it's not like kumbaya, let's
all come together. It's an argument for a certain kind of America where people can rise
and succeed with each other's help.
And we have lived for four years with -- and more -- longer with winding and very wide
cleavages between left and right, between white and black, between rich and poor.
The country has just had these ravines opened up or stay open that are ancient. And now
you at least get the image somebody is working on the problem to bridge the ravines. And
I do think that's why it's unity for something, not just for the sake of being united.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Jonathan, he's followed up what he said on Wednesday with a -- what,
a flurry of these executive orders and statements.
Does it feel like -- I mean, what is the sense you're getting from this in terms of his priorities,
what he's trying -- what message he's trying to send to the American people? And are these
things that can do -- can make permanent change, even though they're executive orders?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, the message that he that he's been sending since that picture
was taken is that there's competence back in the Oval Office, there's action back in
the Oval Office, and that he meant what he said on the campaign trail about what he was
going to do as president and certainly what he was going to do as president on day one.
A lot of those executive actions and executive orders are about reversing some of the more
egregious things that President Trump did, from the Muslim ban, to pulling the United
States out of the WHO. His priorities, President Biden's priorities have been, first and foremost,
COVID, getting a handle on the pandemic.
And the first executive order he signed had to do with the coronavirus pandemic, but then
let's not forget that he's submitted a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. So, that's
let -- that's not executive action. That's legislation.
And if that gets passed by Congress, that is that is law, and relief will come to the
But I think, with the executive actions -- and, apparently, there's going to be 10 days of
this -- he's trying to show that the absence of leadership that we have seen, certainly
since Election Day, from the previous administration has been completely reversed and that he has
focused like laser beam on helping the country and helping the American people.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What's coming through to you, David?
And, I mean, and what's to keep this from just being the ping-pong, Donald Trump reverses
what Barack Obama did, Joe Biden reverses what Donald Trump did?
DAVID BROOKS: Nothing. Nothing. There could be ping-pong.
Lyndon Johnson used to say that executive orders are just paper. You can sign them,
and then, four years later, somebody can unsign them. And that's why Johnson emphasized laws,
you have got to pass laws.
But I have to say, when I think of these E.O.s, they're strong, but they're not overly ambitious.
Jonathan and I were on a couple calls during the transition with President Biden. And he
said: I do not believe in the imperial presidency.
He's a man whose life was formed in the Senate. He believes in Congress.
And so the -- if you look at these, they take actions, but they don't take actions in a
way that would alarm somebody who thinks he's taking power he doesn't actually have.
Reversing Trump policies that were -- reversing Trump executive orders, he clearly has the
right to do that. The others, they seem pretty modest, making sure there's mask-wearing within
federal property, that's reasonably limited. Raising the food stamp benefits, that's very
good policy, but quite limited.
So, I think he's threading needles here, doing stuff, but not overreaching in a way that
would alarm either members of his own party, but especially members of the other party.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about that, Jonathan? I mean, do you get the sense that -- because
you're hearing -- you're hearing some welcoming comments, but you're also hearing some pushback
from Republicans. Do you get the sense that he's going to find cooperation or a closed
JONATHAN CAPEHART: I think that President Biden has been operating under the hope that
his calls for unity and let's work together and let's make Washington work for the American
people, that there will be some people on the other side of the aisle who will join
with him in getting legislation over the finish line.
On one of those calls that David and I were on with then president-elect Biden, I asked
the question: Look, Mr. President-elect, yes, you want to work with Republicans, but what
do you say to Democrats who believe that you are naive and don't see the sucker punch that's
coming from Republicans?
And I quoted Mike Tyson to him, saying, Mike Tyson once famously said, everyone has a plan
until they're punched in the mouth. And so are you ready for the punch in the mouth that's
And he said, basically: You guys think I don't know what I'm doing. I have been around the
block for a long time. I am not afraid of a fight.
And so I think what President Biden is doing is, rhetorically, but also through actions,
giving -- showing that he wants people to come in. But time will tell. At what point
does President Biden decide, OK, enough of trying to work with these folks, now I'm going
to lower the hammer and now I'm going to show them that I know how to fight?
And I suggest to anyone -- or I would say to anyone who doubts that President Biden
has the will and the stomach for a fight that they need to make a reassessment, because
I actually believe that he is willing to fight.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, he certainly, David, has the recent example of President Obama
and what happened when he tried to work with the Congress.
I mean, what do you think he faces?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I thought Jonathan's question really got the hair on the back of his neck
going straight up, because he was angry, not at Jonathan, just angry. And...
JONATHAN CAPEHART: He was feisty, yes.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, he was feisty.
And I would say -- I would say it's worth giving it a shot, that the Republican Party
is very divided. I know many Republicans in the Senate who would like to work with him,
and they think they're issues upon which they can work for him.
There's this Problem Solvers Caucus and then a Common Sense Caucus, this bipartisan group
that did the COVID relief bill. They want to end partisan gridlock. And so I may be
naive, but I'm a little more hopeful.
And I would remind everyone, Republicans voted for $3 trillion in new federal spending over
the last 11 months. That's a lot of spending they voted for. And the problem is not over.
And I think there is some possibility.
Having said that, there's a big debate now on whether the Democrats should end the filibuster.
And I have spent my entire professional life supporting the filibuster, because I think
it forces parties to try to at least work a little across the aisle.
Nonetheless, in this crisis, in this situation, I just don't think we can afford two years
of government paralysis. So, if Republicans do go into full oppo mode, I do think Democrats
should end the filibuster.
That will be tough, because West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has sworn that he will
never vote for it. And there may be other Democrats. But we just can't have paralysis
for two more years. And taking down a Senate institution, which I believe in, in principle,
seems to be the necessary thing.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Wow. Well, we will see in the coming days what happens with that.
But we have got, what, a little over a minute or so left, but I want each of you, to ask
each of you about this impeachment trial. It looks like maybe February the 9th.
What do you expect from that, Jonathan?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Judy, I expect the trial to be brief, meaning not 20-something days.
I would -- I wouldn't be surprised if that Friday after the trial starts, which I believe
it might be the 8th or the 9th of February, that we could be talking about a potential
We're talking about one article of impeachment, and we all witnessed what they're going to
be talking about with our own eyes. So, I don't expect the trial itself to last very
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David, you want to go on the record of whether you expect conviction
DAVID BROOKS: No. No, I do not.
DAVID BROOKS: I would like to know if it's even constitutional. The Constitution really
says it's -- the impeachment is about removal from office. It's not clear to me that they
have the ability to remove somebody who's already been removed by voters.
But, if it does happen, I hope it's short. Presidents only get one 100-day period. And
they have got to use every day of that 100-day period. And so I hope it does not become a
JUDY WOODRUFF: February, a big month, coming up, just like January, but hopefully different,
certainly, in a lot of respects.
Thank you both, David Brooks, Jonathan Capehart.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Thanks, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So good to see you both.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: You too.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As we reported, one of America's greatest athletes, Henry Aaron, died today
at the age of 86.
I was privileged to know him a little. A few years ago, he and his wife, Billye, accepted
my invitation to a press dinner here in Washington, where they were mobbed by admirers, and he
received the longest standing ovation I think I have ever heard.
He couldn't have been more gracious. It was typical of this man who, as Jeffrey Brown
reports, endured blatant racism through much of his life.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ANNOUNCER: And another standing ovation.
JEFFREY BROWN: Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium April 8, 1974. Henry "Hank" Aaron steps into
the batter's box, one home run away from passing Babe Ruth for the all-time record.
ANNOUNCER: Seems to hit more to right and right center than to left.
ANNOUNCER: There's a long drive. Ball's hit deep, deep. It is gone!
JEFFREY BROWN: The moment a capstone to a career that had already
cemented Hank Aaron as one of baseball's best ever.
HANK AARON, Former Major League Baseball Player: I felt great. I felt I had -- the world was
lifted off my shoulders.
JEFFREY BROWN: A great moment in all of sports history, but also one tinged with the bitterness
of American history, as racism chased Aaron as he chased the record that would hold up
for 33 years.
HANK AARON: I got threatening letters about kidnapping and things like this, vicious,
the racist letters. I had to slip out the back of the ballpark with escorts and things
It was terrible, terrible. It was bad times for me.
JEFFREY BROWN: His perseverance and grace throughout would gain him widespread admiration,
and he became a trailblazer and inspiration for Black athletes who followed.
Aaron was born in Jim Crow era Mobile, Alabama, during the Great Depression. He played his
early baseball in the segregated Negro Leagues, and, at 20 years old, joined the Milwaukee
Braves. He followed the team to Atlanta, and in 21 one years with the franchise, Hammerin'
Hank became one of the game's most fearsome hitters.
In all, Aaron slugged 755 home runs and amassed 3,000 hits. He was an All-Star for 21 straight
seasons and won an MVP award and a World Series. In 1982, he was inducted the Baseball Hall
Today, tributes to Aaron today poured in. Former President Barack Obama called him "one
of the strongest people I have ever met."
We reach Dave Roberts, manager of the world champion Los Angeles Dodgers, by phone. He
had this to say:
DAVE ROBERTS, Manager, Los Angeles Dodgers: For me, even more so as a man of color, just
to kind of think about how he handled the adversities and the personal hate towards
him as he approached that home run record. And he always handled it with grace, dignity.
And there was never any resentfulness when he was talking to current players or peers
JEFFREY BROWN: Hank Aaron died today at 86 years old.
And joining me now is Howard Bryant. He's a sports writer and author of "The Last Hero:
A Life of Henry Aaron."
Thanks for joining us again.
Let's start with the player first. I mean, we always talk about the home runs, but he
was one of the all-time greats in every way, right?
HOWARD BRYANT, Author, "The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron": No question.
Let me just give you one example of how good Henry Aaron is or was as a player. When he
came into the Big Leagues in 1954, his goal, his mission as a young prayer was to break
Stan Musial's all-time National League hits record of 3,630.
By the time his career started to move forward, he began realizing that the team, the Atlanta
Braves, or the Milwaukee Braves at the time, needed more offense, and so he decided to
hit more home runs.
And so, one day, I said to him, were you so good that you were able to choose which all-time
record you wanted to break? And he sort of laughed about it. But it is really is true
that he had so much ability as a hitter that he started his career trying to break one
all-time unreachable record, and ended up breaking another one.
JEFFREY BROWN: It is, though, impossible to talk about the achievement without looking
at all the evil that he went through.
I was reading about a 20th anniversary after he broke the home run record when he told
a reporter, "It really led to turning me off of baseball," all that he went through. "It
really made me see a clear picture of what the country is about."
Talk a little bit about that, what he did experience.
HOWARD BRYANT: What he experienced is the American story. He experienced what America
tells you to do, which is to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. It tells you to work
hard and not complain.
It tells you to give the best of your ability. And Henry did all those things. And when he
got to the top, what did he receive? He received people trying to kill him, which undermined
everything about this meritocracy that we have been told to believe in.
And when you have an FBI detail, and you have kidnapping threats to your family just because
you're swinging a baseball bat, it makes you look at things in a very different way. He
always told me: This was supposed to be the happiest moment of my life, and it never turned
out to be that way.
And that's really telling. It's a real indictment. I think people recognized over time that America
caught up to Henry, but he was far, far ahead of it back in 1974.
JEFFREY BROWN: And yet he persevered. He went on to a career afterwards.
What was he like as a person that allowed him to do what he did, even after his career?
HOWARD BRYANT: Well, I think he had an enormous amount of confidence in himself, an enormous
amount of pride.
He understood that his ability was affording him a life that was never going to be available
to so many other African-Americans. And he felt he had a responsibility to use that talent.
One of my favorite stories with Henry was, I remember being in his House, and we were
talking, and he was telling me about how he did not want to move to Atlanta when the Milwaukee
Braves moved to Atlanta after the 1965 season, because he knew what racism was down there.
He knew what Jim Crow was all about.
And he ended up having a meeting Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young and Martin Luther King Jr.
And they told him -- when he said: I don't think I'm doing my part for this movement,
I'm just a player.
And Dr. King said: You're as important to this movement as we are. You do the things
that you do. We need you as much as the rest of the country needs us.
And I remember him telling me that he couldn't imagine what life would have been like had
he not gone to Atlanta. That put him right in the center of the civil rights movement,
and it's centered him as a person.
JEFFREY BROWN: I wonder what he would have - - what he was thinking of where the game
I mean, he talked a lot about lamenting that more Blacks weren't going into baseball, the
openings for managers still were fairly limited. Where are we now? What do you think he thought?
HOWARD BRYANT: He felt all of those things. You're absolutely right. But I know he was
far more concerned about where the country was at.
I talked to him three weeks ago to wish him a happy new year. One of the things he wanted
to talk about was, one, surviving the Trump era, and then also the fact how proud he was
of Georgia, that his state -- and he was very - - he and his wife, Billye, very, very deep
into Democratic politics there -- that they saw some history and that they were in the
center of change.
I'm personally happy that he got to see this thing through.
JEFFREY BROWN: He saw history, he made history, the life and legacy of Henry "Hank" Aaron.
Howard Bryant, thank you very much.
HOWARD BRYANT: My pleasure. Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As we passed the grim milestone this week of more than 400,000 Americans who
have died from COVID-19, we take this moment to remember another five of the extraordinary
James Glica-Hernandez was drawn to the stage and became a fixture on the regional theater
scene in California's Central Valley. As musical director of the Woodland Opera House for over
two decades, he mentored generations of young performers.
Friends described him as bold and unapologetic and someone who inspired people to live authentically.
A self-described family man, James was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He was 61.
Maude Jones was known for her soft voice and positive attitude. Her daughter said the 64-year-old
loved working as a teacher's aide for elementary school students with disabilities in Gwinnett
County, Georgia. Maude was born in Liberia and moved to the U.S. in her 20s, but always
maintained close ties to her homeland and culture. Faith also played a big part in Maude's
life. Her family said she never missed her church's Sunday service or Wednesday Bible
Richard Means spent his life fighting for free and fair elections in his home state
of Illinois. Born in Champaign, Richard settled in Chicago and represented local, state, and
national candidates from all parties as a top election lawyer. He was irreverent and
fearless, his wife said, and he advocated for many progressive causes outside of the
courtroom. Richard loved his grandchildren, cooking and architecture. He was 78.
If you were friends with Virginia Roberts, you were friends for life, her daughter said.
The New Jersey native loved her community of Lake Parsippany, where she lived in the
same cottage for 55 years and raised four children. She also rescued and cared for many
animals. Virginia worked most of her life, retiring just three years ago from her job
as a school bus aide. She was 84.
Louis Ayala loved cutting hair. It was his job for 75 years. He started young, as a teenager,
working at a neighborhood barbershop in Fort Worth, Texas. He went on to own his own shop
on the city's main street. His nephew said he was a quiet and stoic man who would make
house visits if customers couldn't make it into his shop. An avid golfer, Louis advocated
for the redevelopment of an inner-city golf course, a dream that came true in 2017. Louis
was 90 years old.
And our thanks to all the family members who shared these stories with us. Our hearts go
out to you, as they do to everyone who's lost a loved one in this pandemic.
And a correction before we go.
Yesterday, we mistakenly showed an image of damage from a volcanic eruption when we were
discussing nuclear weapons. We regret the error.
And don't forget to tune into "Washington Week" tonight, when "NewsHour"'s Amna Nawaz
leads a discussion of President Biden's first days and the Democrats' plans to impeach the
And before we go, it is hard to believe, but tomorrow marks one year since the death of
one of our two beloved founding fathers, Jim Lehrer. Every day, we think of him, and we
do our best to live out his journalistic ethics.
We send our love to his wife, Kate, to their daughters Jamie, Lucy, and Amanda, and their
And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Judy Woodruff.
Join us online, and again here on Monday evening.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," have a good, safe weekend. Thank you, and good night.
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