January 12, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
January 12, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: The pandemic persists.
Calls for new approaches to combat COVID-19 grow louder, as the number of infections and
hospitalizations climb daily.
Then: rising prices.
We speak to the president of a regional Federal Reserve bank, as inflation increases at its
fastest rate since the 1980s.
And tense talks.
Leaders from Russia and NATO meet, as the threat of an invasion hangs over Eastern Ukraine.
All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Biden administration is pressing tonight to ship more COVID-19 test
kits to schools to help keep classrooms open.
It comes amid growing criticism of test shortages, and with infections piling up nationwide.
William Brangham reports.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As cases surge and classrooms nationwide are disrupted, the White House
is vowing to do more.
JEFFREY ZIENTS, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator: So, today, we're taking additional
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The administration announced today it's sending five million COVID rapid
tests and five million lab-based PCR tests to schools every month.
JEFFREY ZIENTS: These 10 million additional tests available each month will allow schools
to double the volume of testing they were performing in November.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This comes on top of the more than $10 billion allocated for testing
in the COVID relief law, as well as the $130 billion earmarked in that law to help schools
But the fresh wave of infections is triggering another round of debates over whether schools
should remain open, enforce mask mandates, or move again to remote learning.
Nevada's Clark County School District, the fifth largest in the country, announced a
five-day pause yesterday, blaming its extreme staffing shortages on the high number of positive
And, beyond schools, the virus is still running rampant across much of the U.S., driven by
the ultra-contagious Omicron variant.
Officials believe it accounts for 98 percent of new infections.
The New York Times tracker shows average daily cases now exceed 760,000.
Over two weeks, infections are up 185 percent, with the highest rates in Northeastern states
like New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
On average, over 1,700 Americans are dying every day, up 40 percent over the last two
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says those deaths are likely from the lingering Delta
But even amidst this current surge, new data signal a possible silver lining with Omicron.
ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC Director: We are seeing early evidence that Omicron is less severe
The risk of hospitalization remains low, especially among people who are up to date on their COVID
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And President Biden's top COVID adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said today
that, while it won't be possible to wipe out this coronavirus, and likely most people will
eventually get it, it is possible for society to live with it.
ANTHONY FAUCI, Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden: We're not going to eradicate this.
We have only done that with smallpox.
We're not going to eliminate that.
That only happens with massive vaccination programs, like we did with measles and with
But we ultimately will control it.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But for hospitals dealing with this surge, the worst is far from over.
Just one example of how bad it is, in New York state, the Health Department has ordered
40 hospitals to stop elective surgeries.
Upstate, around Rochester, hospitals there are so overcapacity and so understaffed that
many are asking ambulances to take patients elsewhere.
For more on this, we turn to Dr. Robert Mayo.
He is the chief medical officer of Rochester Regional Health.
Dr. Mayo, very good to have you on the "NewsHour."
It sounds like you certainly have your hands full up there.
Could you just give us a sense of what it's like where you are right now?
ROBERT MAYO, Chief Medical Officer, Rochester Regional Health: Yes, this is a very challenging
time for our health system and the other health systems and health care providers in our region.
We have a significant surge of COVID patients in the community, as well as quite a bit of
our own staff are ill, exacerbating an understaffing problem.
And so it has stretched us quite a lot.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And for the COVID patients in your hospital right now, who are those
Are the majority of those unvaccinated patients?
ROBERT MAYO: Well, many of the patients are diagnosed at the time of admission.
They're asymptomatic, but because of admission testing, we discover they are carrying COVID.
Those who are symptomatic, and especially those seriously ill, requiring an ICU or ventilator
level of care, those are far and away unvaccinated individuals.
About 88 to 90 percent of the patients are unvaccinated.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Obviously, this has got to be a very difficult time for your employees.
And I know people are having to work lots of extra shifts.
Can you just give us a sense of what it is like for the staff at your hospitals?
What's it like for them, practically speaking, week in and week out, dealing with this?
ROBERT MAYO: Well, our staff have done an incredible job of stepping up to these demands,
but it is very wearying for them, and we certainly understand and appreciate that.
To fill needed gaps in our staffing, we have shifted a number of our employees.
So, we have individuals who step forward and say, well, I'm willing to work in this department,
even though it's not my usual assignment.
Or we also have training courses where we do rapid just-in-time training to get people
up to speed to help out.
We have even had individuals, like some of our physician's assistants and nurse practitioners,
who've been willing to work as R.N.s when needed to help fill some of the nursing gaps.
So everyone's really helping out the best they can.
And so it's very heartening to see that, but it is very challenging.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As I mentioned, that the state Health Department has asked a lot of
hospitals to delay elective surgeries.
What kinds of surgeries are being put off, and how are patients responding to those?
ROBERT MAYO: Well, that's always a challenge.
Patients anticipate their surgeries.
They prepare themselves mentally and emotionally for that.
They may take time off work and schedule family or neighbors to help them during that initial
And so changing surgeries, even when they're elective, is very disruptive to people.
And many of the surgeries that are deemed elective are still important for individuals.
They are surgeries, like many orthopedic surgeries, that are designed to reduce pain from degenerative
Some of our cancer screening procedures are being deferred.
All of those things matter.
And so getting back to a full-service availability in health care is very important for our communities
and our nation.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One last question.
I mean, we are two years into this pandemic.
Is it your sense that this surge is driven - - is this largely just because of Omicron's
ROBERT MAYO: Oh, that's a really important question, William.
I would say it's not.
I think there are many factors that are really coming to the forefront of this pandemic now.
We have had nursing shortages and physician and other health care career shortages for
And this has been predicted for years.
And we need to do more to increase enrollment and support students, as well as to address
the many inequities that have been highlighted during the pandemic that are systemic and
important societal concerns.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Dr. Robert Mayo, chief medical officer of Rochester Regional
Health, thank you so much for being here.
ROBERT MAYO: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: Inflation surged in December at the fastest pace in
The U.S. Labor Department reports the Consumer Price Index rose 7 percent from a year earlier.
Used car prices spiked 37 percent, and clothing prices were up nearly 6 percent.
We will take a closer look after the news summary.
Senate Republicans fired back today after President Biden denounced them for stalling
voting rights legislation.
On Tuesday, the president likened opponents of the bills to Confederate President Jefferson
Davis, and he said abuse of the filibuster smacks of totalitarian states.
Today, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called it an incoherent rant.
MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): He invoked the literal Civil War, and said we are on the doorstep
Talked about domestic enemies?
Rhetoric unbecoming of a president of the United States.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The president was asked later about the criticism.
He said -- quote -- "I like Mitch McConnell.
He's a friend."
We will return to the fight over voting rights and the filibuster later in the program.
A congressional committee is asking to interview House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy about
last year's assault on the U.S. Capitol.
The panel said today that it also wants information about President Trump's actions on January
6 and about events in the days before and after.
McCarthy had no immediate response.
The state Supreme Court in Ohio threw out redistricting plans for the state legislature
Democrats had argued that the boundaries are gerrymandered to hold Republican supermajorities.
The judge ordered them redrawn within 10 days.
Just yesterday, a panel of judges in North Carolina approved new congressional and legislative
districts drawn by Republicans.
Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lay in state at the Capitol in Washington
Lawmakers paid their respects in a ceremony circumscribed by COVID protocols.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Reid a legendary leader who made the world a better place.
NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Harry truly loved his home state of Nevada.
Over his entire career, he fought tirelessly for Nevada in every possible way, for its
working families, whether preserving its natural environment or protecting its political environment,
including its coveted role in the presidential selection process.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, President Biden also visited the Capitol to pay his respects.
Reid died last month from pancreatic cancer.
He was 82.
In Kazakstan, a government crackdown has hauled in another 1,700 people in the wake of last
week's violent protests.
That brings total arrests to 12,000.
Today, people waited outside a building in Almaty that houses a large jail.
They wanted information friends and relatives, but military checkpoints kept them away.
A federal judge in New York will allow a sexual abuse lawsuit against Britain's Prince Andrew
to move forward.
American Virginia Giuffre alleges that the prince abused her when she was 17, after the
late Jeffrey Epstein arranged it.
The judge today rejected the prince's argument that the suit violates a 2009 settlement between
Giuffre and Epstein.
On Wall Street, stocks had a quiet day.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 38 points to close at 36290.
The Nasdaq rose 35 points.
The S&P 500 added 13.
The music world is mourning Ronnie Spector tonight.
The leader of the Ronettes in the 1960s died today in Los Angeles of cancer.
They were one of the leading acts of the girl group era.
Their string of hits included "Be My Baby," "Baby, I Love You," and "Walking in the Rain."
Ronnie Spector was 78 years old.
And a rat that became a hero in Cambodia for sniffing out land mines has died of natural
Over five years, the rodent, named Magawa, found more than 100 land mines and explosives
left over decades of civil war.
He was retired last year and given a gold medal.
And he deserved it for saving all those lives.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": the prospects for voting rights legislation in a divided
Congress; British Prime Minister Boris Johnson under fire for hosting a party during a COVID
lockdown; a Syrian government official faces war crimes charges for overseeing brutal prison
torture; plus much more.
The last time inflation rose 7 percent annually was back in 1982.
And the latest consumer price report shows that costs are continuing to spike for Americans
across many categories.
That is presenting real questions for the Federal Reserve, which is tasked with promoting
Mary Daly is the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
She sits on the committee that decides what to do about interest rates and economic policy.
Mary Daly, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
So I don't think there's any doubt anymore that prices are seriously rising.
What does this mean, do you believe, for American consumers?
MARY DALY, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco: So, American consumers
are feeling the pain.
I mean, there's no doubt that inflation is uncomfortably high and has been so for a while.
And people are feeling it in their pocketbooks.
But what we are doing at the Fed is saying we understand that that's there.
We also understand more Americans have jobs now than they used to, and that it's really
time for us to start removing some of the accommodation we have been giving to the economy
and get supply and demand back in balance, so that Americans can say we have price stability
and full employment.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, today, at the White House economic adviser Brian Deese was saying the
White House expects prices to moderate by the end of this year, by the end of 2022.
Is that your sense as well?
MARY DALY: I do think that we're going to see prices moderate.
We're going to see supply chains get a little bit more back in balance.
Now, we have been saying we hope supply chains would get back in balance, and then we have
more COVID, and the supply chains are out of balance.
So, I don't want to get too hopeful, when we haven't seen the data yet.
But I do expect that, as we get past COVID, COVID recedes, the supply chains will get
back in balance, but also the Fed's withdrawing accommodation is putting some of that pressure
on supply chains -- it's easing it, because demand will just get back in balance with
So, those two things together, the easing of supply chains, the getting through COVID,
and the Fed's response to this, should all help make this a better situation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let's talk about the Fed's response.
We heard the president of the St. Louis Fed, Bill Dudley, say today that he thinks the
Fed may need to raise interest rates as many as four times this year.
What's your expectation about what the Fed should do?
MARY DALY: So I don't want us to get too far ahead on calling, the number of interest rate
increases, because we have to be data-dependent.
We're still sitting right here with Omicron.
We just saw that in the previous segment, where there is -- there are disruptions.
I'm very bullish about the strength of the economy.
I think American consumers will weather this, we will continue to add jobs, and go back
to school and get through this.
But I don't think it's appropriate really to call four or two or one.
It really is going to be, the Fed will respond as the data come in.
And we will ensure that we deliver to the American people price stability and full employment.
That's the job.
And, right now, it's a challenging one.
But we're committed to doing it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there any doubt in your mind, though, that the Fed is going to be
raising rates this year a few times?
MARY DALY: I definitely see rate increases coming as early as March even, because it
really is clear that prices have been uncomfortably high-rising at uncomfortably high rates for
And this inflation we're seeing, this -- we haven't had something since 1982, that's not
And I think every American knows it and feels it.
But, also, the Fed knows it and feels it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How much, Mary Daly, was the Fed caught off-guard by this inflation?
MARY DALY: Really, it's not about being behind the curve or even getting ahead of the curve.
It's really about watching the inflation data, seeing how long they will persist.
The thing that I think we have all been surprised about, not just Fed officials, but the entire
globe, is just how long the pandemic has lasted, even when we have vaccination rates available
- - vaccinations available.
And, as a consequence, this has just been more disruptive than we ever imagined.
And we have inflation to show for it.
But the good news -- and I think this is something that every American should know -- is, while
we were waiting to react as the Fed, five million more jobs were created since early
And we got unemployment from 6 percent to 3.9, which is very close to what I would consider
And so achieving full employment and price stability is important, because, ultimately
Americans want jobs and they want their dollar to have the same value year after year.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I'm sure you're aware of this, but there are economists out there, including
some former Fed officials, who are saying that the Fed -- the Fed has just not fully
grasped the depth of inflationary pressures.
I think I used in a Bill Dudley earlier for the name of the St. Louis Fed.
I didn't mean to do that, but former Federal Reserve governor was -- today was quoted as
saying that the Fed is guilty of what he called "Alice in Wonderland" thinking, arguing it
needs to be much more hawkish in its outlook.
MARY DALY: Well, I will be honest with you.
We get criticisms on both sides.
Some people will say we're being "Alice in Wonderland" because we're not reacting to
Others would say we're taking the punchbowl away right when the economy is strong enough
to bring four million workers who have not worked since the pandemic back into the labor
And it's never popular to be a central banker, but what's important is that you're always
in this balancing act.
We have price stability and full employment.
And I think policy is in a good place.
We are tapering our asset purchases, so that we're completed by March.
We're in a position to raise interest rates.
We're in a position to withdraw the support for the economy as it gets its own feet under
And we're in a position to respond more if we need to and less if we need to.
And that's exactly where we should be.
So I feel very good about where we are, and not like we're either behind or ahead of the
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, for ordinary Americans who are listening to this and asking and wondering,
when am I going to feel really from higher rents, higher costs for food, for clothes,
used cars, as we said, up 37 percent, what do you say to them?
MARY DALY: Well, first of all, I say I absolutely understand that this is painful.
These are not comfortable adjustments for all of us.
And, in fact, inflation is a regressive tax.
It hurts low- and moderate-income communities more than many of us.
So, those are really painful things.
And what I say to the American people is that we understand that.
We are on that.
We are withdrawing that accommodation, planning to, as we go forward into this year.
And this will be able to, more quickly than we think, probably, bring demand and supply
back into balance.
But it's going to take most of 2022, in my judgment, to really get those things back
And the most important thing that every American can do to participate is, get vaccinated,
get boosted, and wear a mask, and get COVID behind us.
When the pandemic is behind us, our lives will be able to return to normal.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Last thing I want to ask you about is, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Federal
Reserve system, and ethics.
As you know, three top officials at the Fed have left their posts over the last few months,
after it was disclosed questionable stock trades were made.
We're now hearing from Chair Jerome Powell that there's going to be an overhaul of ethics
But how much do you think the Fed credibility has been hurt by this?
And how confident should people be that this kind of thing is not going to be seen again?
MARY DALY: Well, trust, as you know, is our most important tool, but it's something you
have to earn every single day.
You really -- we have to show up and earn the trust.
And what this has told me is that the things we have been doing, trades that some Fed officials
have made, but mostly the rules we have been living by, aren't up to the thresholds they
need to be to assure the American people that we are actually working on their behalf, because
we are working on their behalf.
And I think these trading issues have been a quite an unwelcome distraction from the
work that we need to do for the American people, because, again, we are looking at inflation,
we are looking at employment, and we are living through a pandemic.
And those are the top-of-mind things.
So, I welcome the overhaul of the rules.
I welcome getting our rules and guidance in balance with what the American people should
expect and demand.
And I am absolutely supportive of these changes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mary Daly, the president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, thank
you very much.
MARY DALY: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: On Capitol Hill, Democrats are searching for ways to push forward stalled
voting rights measures.
Lisa Desjardins joins me now to discuss where the legislation stands and what options lie
So, Lisa, let's go right to it.
The Democrats have said -- the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said he wants to move
on this in coming days.
What's the plan and what are the prospects right now?
LISA DESJARDINS: Historic and high stakes here, Judy.
And just in the past couple of hours, we have learned the beginnings of a plan from Senate
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has announced that he does plan to use a kind of fast-track
method to combine those two voting rights bills that you and I talked about earlier
in the week, combine them into one bill, and then have the House send them over to the
That will allow the voting rights package to skip over one filibuster hurdle in the
So, it's a fast-track.
However, it still leaves the underlying endgame problem.
That voting rights bill would still face a final filibuster, a 60-vote requirement in
the U.S. Senate.
And unless the rules change, Democrats don't have those kinds of votes.
Why wouldn't they change the rules?
Well, we know two Democratic senators, Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Joe Manchin
of West Virginia so far have not been able to agree to any change in the rules that allows
the voting rights package to move forward past that filibuster.
There have been, however, negotiations with those two, including today and last night.
And I spoke with independent Senator Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats, who
was in those talks.
He told me, frankly, he does think they are going to be tough to convince, those two.
ANGUS KING (I-ME): There are a lot of ideas kicking around.
They're very reluctant.
Both for different reasons are committed.
They believe that changing the filibuster rule would, in the long term, be bad for the
LISA DESJARDINS: Democrats have given themselves until Monday, so we're following...
JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead, Lisa.
LISA DESJARDINS: Yes, Judy.
No, go ahead.
JUDY WOODRUFF: No, I didn't mean to interrupt.
But we're hearing from Angus King.
But what about Republicans?
They blocked this legislation last fall.
What are their principal arguments against this?
And what are the Democrats going to do about that?
LISA DESJARDINS: Republicans say that this is a power grab by Democrat.
Senate Leader Mitch McConnell also said that, in the past, these same Democrats stood up
for the filibuster when they were in the minority.
But Democrats say this is a different case, because what's at stake here are the voting
rights and the stake -- the state of elections in this country overall.
So, what are they going to go about potential rules changes?
How can they get around the filibuster?
Here's my reporting.
Of the many options that are on the table, these are the ones that are the most under
Let's take a look quickly.
First, the first option that I know many Democrats would like is to just get rid of the 60-vote
But, honestly, Senators Manchin and Sinema are not on board.
And that, frankly, is off the table.
So, what else, option two?
A carve-out from the filibuster just for voting rights.
And, Judy, some 48 Democrats probably are on board that idea specifically.
But it doesn't seem to have enough to get over the hurdle and to have this carve-out
work, even though there was a carve-out just last year for the debt ceiling in regards
to a 60-vote threshold.
So let's talk about one more option, option three, the talking filibuster.
Everybody's seen Frank Capra's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."
The idea here would be that senators would have to be on the floor.
They would have a two-speech limit, which is the current rule.
But what this would do is, it would be two weeks and weeks potentially of debate on a
But at the end of those weeks of debate, it would end.
And the idea is, then there could be just an up-or-down majority vote on a simple piece
I talked to Senator King about that as well.
He thinks that kind of idea could elevate the debate in general.
ANGUS KING: Well, as you know, there's very little in the way of real debate in the Senate.
This would allow the American people to hear the Democrats argue for why we need to do
And they'd hear the Republicans argue for why we don't need to do it, rather than an
occasional speech from Chuck Schumer or Mitch McConnell.
And I think that could be a powerful way of solving this problem.
LISA DESJARDINS: And, of course, though, the problem is that would open potentially a can
And one other last thing, Judy, I want to just mention, Joe Manchin, my reporting is,
isn't just having concerns about these kinds of rules changes, but he has a real problem
with the way the rule would have to change.
He thinks that sort of changing the rule in the Senate should take two-thirds vote of
the Senate, not just 50, plus one.
And that procedural hiccup for him is a really serious issue that Democrats are trying to
JUDY WOODRUFF: That's a lot to follow, the minutiae of parliamentary procedure and all
the rest of it, Lisa, so we appreciate your doing it.
But just very quickly, we know some Republicans talking about electoral count reform.
Where does that stand?
LISA DESJARDINS: There are efforts, in fact, some bipartisan efforts, to try and get an
electoral count reform going, something that would change the way we certify elections.
But I think that we're still months and months away from any real fruitful effort there.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we know Democrats are saying that's a diversion.
Republicans are saying they're serious.
We will watch.
Lisa Desjardins on top of it.
Thank you, Lisa.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is fighting for his political life.
He was forced to apologize to Parliament today, after it was revealed that he attended a cocktail
party in the garden of his official residence at the height of the COVID crisis in mid-2020,
when strict nationwide restrictions were enforced.
From the United Kingdom, special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Never before in the 2.5 years of his turbulent premiership has Boris Johnson
faced such heat over his integrity.
He headed to Parliament to explain why a cocktail party was held in the garden of 10 Downing
Street in May 2020, when Britons faced heavy fines for breaching lockdown rules.
BORIS JOHNSON, British Prime Minister: Mr. Speaker, I want to apologize.
I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices
over the last 18 months.
I know the anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives.
And I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think
that, in Downing Street itself, the rules are not being properly followed by the people
who make the rules.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Riding high in the polls, opposition leader Keir Starmer went for the
KEIR STARMER, Labor Party Leader: Well, there we have it, after months of deceit and deception,
the pathetic spectacle of a man who's run out of road.
He's finally been forced to admit what everyone knew, that, when the whole country was locked
down, he was hosting boozy parties in Downing Street.
Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MALCOLM BRABANT: In May 2020, the death rate for COVID was rising exponentially, and no
cure was in sight.
As a consequence of stringent lockdown restrictions, victims died alone in hospital, and funerals
were sparsely attended because of enforced social distancing.
At the time of the Downing Street party, Lindsay Jackson was grieving for her mother, who died
LINDSAY JACKSON, Bereaved Families For Justice: My mom was a very popular woman.
There would have been hundreds of people who wanted to say goodbye to her.
And there was seven of us.
And I couldn't even hug my brother after the funeral.
I want him gone.
I want -- I want politicians I can respect.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Analysts say that, while Johnson apologized for the public perception
of wrongdoing, he did not admit breaking the law.
BORIS JOHNSON: And when I went into that garden just after 6:00 on the 20th of May, 2020,
to thank groups of staff, before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue
working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Johnson is awaiting the outcome of a civil service investigation into the
Some elements of his governing Conservative Party are concerned that he's become a liability.
The party is lagging in the polls, and it's merciless about getting rid of prime ministers
considered to be toxic in the public consciousness.
Johnson's position has never been more precarious.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Malcolm Brabant in Brighton.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States and its NATO allies met with Russian officials today in
It's part of a whirlwind week of diplomacy across Europe, sparked by a massive Russian
troop buildup on its border with Ukraine.
The crisis comes as questions about NATO cohesion persist and about a strategic natural gas
pipeline from Russia into Europe.
Nick Schifrin reports.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In the room where it happened, the mingling was mutual.
The Russian delegation greeted all 30 NATO members, and, among NATO allies, smiles and
unity, during a meeting that was essentially 30 against one.
But the calm couldn't close the chasm.
Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko blamed NATO and its ongoing support
ALEXANDER GRUSHKO, Deputy Russian Foreign Minister (through translator): It's absolutely
imperative to end the policy of open doors and offer Russia legally binding guarantees
of further NATO's expansion eastward.
NICK SCHIFRIN: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Russian actions unified
WENDY SHERMAN, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State: I think one of the things that Russia has
done, which it probably did not expect, it has brought all of Europe, NATO and non-NATO
allies alike, together, to share the same set of principles, the same ambition, the
same hopes and the same commitment to diplomacy.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Diplomacy to solve a crisis created by 100,000 Russian troops deployed
to Ukraine's borders.
The U.S. warns, that number could double and Russia could invade.
Despite the differences, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg noted both sides discussed
future meetings, and the U.S. said the good news was, Russia didn't walk out.
WENDY SHERMAN: The Russians were not ready to commit to the series of discussions that
the secretary-general will lay out, but nor did they reject those discussions.
NICK SCHIFRIN: While NATO presents a united front, there are some differences, especially
over Russian natural gas.
Today, the European Union imports nearly half its gas from Russia.
It used to import 85 percent of it via a pipeline that runs through Ukraine.
But, since 2011, Russia has used the Nord Stream 1 pipeline under the Baltic Sea to
export 55 billion cubic meters a year of natural gas.
A twin pipeline, Nord Stream 2, will double that amount.
It was completed last year, but Germany has indefinitely paused the certification.
Many in the U.S. say Nord Stream gives Russia leverage over Germany, and further cuts transit
money Russia pays to ship gas through Ukraine.
Ukraine supports a Republican bill set for vote tomorrow that would mandate sanctions.
Idaho's Jim Risch is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's top Republican.
JAMES RISCH (R-ID): It's no secret I and many other members are firmly opposed to this pipeline.
And I will continue efforts to see it and Putin's influence in NATO are stopped.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The administration says there's no need for more sanctions because Germany
can shut the pipeline down.
WENDY SHERMAN: From our perspective, it's very hard to see gas flowing through the pipeline,
for it to become operational, if Russia renews its aggression on Ukraine.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Meanwhile, in Ukraine, they're preparing for guerrilla war.
Civilians outside Kiev continue a decades-old tradition and train to become weekend warriors
And, today, the government offered its own diplomatic solution, a summit between Ukraine,
Russia, France, and Germany that would continue diplomacy born in 2019.
SERHIY NIKIFOROV, Press Secretary For Ukrainian President (through translator): We expect
that Russia will start fulfilling decisions of 2019 Paris summit and will join the process
of setting up a new meeting of the leaders on the highest level.
NICK SCHIFRIN: For more on today's meeting and whether the U.S. is in sync with allies,
we turn to Ivo Daalder.
He was U.S. ambassador to NATO during the Clinton administration and is now president
of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
Ivo Daalder, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
U.S. and European officials insist they are united.
IVO DAALDER, Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO: Yes, I think they are.
Really, the threat that Russia poses, 100,000 troops, major kinds of equipment, tanks, artillery,
exercises, including live-fire exercises that we saw just in the last few days, really has
unified the alliance in a way that we haven't seen, frankly, since the last time Russia
invaded Ukraine back in 2014, when it annexed Crimea.
You have 30 allies who know there is a real military threat and who know that the only
way to prevent the military threat from coming to the fruition is for the alliance to be
NICK SCHIFRIN: Many European countries criticized the way the Biden administration was consulting
them last year over topics like Afghanistan.
I heard this directly from European diplomats.
Is there still a concern among Europeans that the U.S. could make some kind of deal with
Russia without consultation?
IVO DAALDER: You know, there's always a concern about whether the United States' interests
and the European interests are 100 percent aligned.
We're an ocean away.
We have global interests, including a particular interest in the Indo-Pacific.
And there's kind of an understandable concern in Europe that perhaps this crisis isn't getting
the kind of attention that they'd like.
On the other hand, the Biden administration has really gone out of its way since October,
since there were the first signs of a possible military buildup and then of an actual military
buildup, to inform our allies about what was going on, sharing real intelligence of the
kind that you don't normally share with real allies, having multiple briefings, sending
the secretary of state, sending the secretary defense, sending the director for national
intelligence to Brussels to talk to the allies, to hear their concerns, and then to jointly
draw up the strategy that is now being put on display.
On the one hand, deterrence, a willingness to take some significant steps, helping Ukraine,
building up NATO forces in the east, and serious economic sanctions of the kind that few were
contemplating even a few years ago, and, on the other hand, dialogue.
And I think you heard from the secretary-general today and from allies around the table, as
Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary, said, a united NATO, but that spoke with one voice,
even though there were 30 people speaking in that voice.
NICK SCHIFRIN: We just highlighted Nord Stream 2, the pipeline from Russia to Germany.
How significant is that as a source of division between the U.S. and Germany?
IVO DAALDER: Well, it is a source of division between the United States and Germany, but,
frankly, also between Germany and some of the East European allies, particularly countries
like Poland and the Baltic states, who see this as a way for Russia to bypass them, to
bypass Ukraine, and to gain greater leverage over Europe.
But the reality is, this is bigger than a pipeline.
This is not about a pipeline.
And I'm a little concerned that we're spending too much time in Washington about a particular
What we really ought to be concerned about is a Russia that is prepared, perhaps, to
engage in the kind of military operations that we haven't seen in Europe since 1945.
This is very serious business.
And we need to make sure that Russia, if it does do so, does not succeed by changing borders
through the use of force.
It did so in 2014.
And we have got to make absolutely sure that we do everything possible to raise the cost
And that would, of course, include not using the pipeline, if that were to come about.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Senior European officials I talk to describe that the alliance is trying
to buy time, until basically it's too difficult for Russia to invade Ukraine because the ground
would be too soft.
To do that, the U.S. is talking about arms control, talking about exercises, not about
the future of NATO.
In about the 45 seconds we have left, do you believe that those topics the U.S. is talking
about will be enough to buy enough time for the invasion not to happen?
IVO DAALDER: Well, we don't know.
We don't know what it is in Putin's mind.
Frankly, other than Putin, I don't think anybody really knows what is in his mind and whether
he's going to use force.
But it's the right strategy, is to say, listen, there are serious issues of security here.
We need to get back to a serious arms control dialogue on nuclear missiles, on conventional
forces, on transparency of exercises, notification of troop movements, of the kinds of things
we did together in the 1990s.
We need to go back to that and create a European security environment in which everyone feels
secure, and the question of whether a country belongs to NATO or not is truly secondary.
So, it makes sense to put this on the table.
The question is, will Putin bite, or will he decide that military force is the only
We will have to wait and see.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Ivo Daalder, thank you very much.
IVO DAALDER: My pleasure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tomorrow, in a German courtroom, a verdict will be rendered in the world's
first trial against a high-ranking former officer in the Syrian regime for crimes against
Anwar Raslan was in charge of interrogations in a government prison while working for the
Syrian secret police.
He stands accused of overseeing mass torture, rape and killings at the start of Syria's
ongoing civil war.
From our partners at Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, reporter Luna
Watfa and special correspondent Adithya Sambamurthy have the story.
And a warning to our viewers: This story contains graphic images from inside Syrian prisons.
ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Hussein Ghrer is getting ready for his day in court.
Ghrer is a plaintiff in the trial against Anwar Raslan, a high-ranking officer of the
Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, for crimes against humanity.
HUSSEIN GHRER, Plaintiff (through translator): It's something we have been waiting for, for
a very long time.
We thought it was never going to happen.
But then, when it happened, you tell yourself, it's a dream, it can't possibly be true.
ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: In Syria, Ghrer blogged about his support of Syria's wave of the Arab
Spring, which began in March 2011, and has led to nearly 11 years of civil war.
For his support of the demonstrations, Ghrer says he was imprisoned and tortured at Al-Khatib,
one of the largest in a labyrinth of government prison complexes in Syria.
HUSSEIN GHRER (through translator): For me, the psychological torture was worst.
The psychological torment is in waiting for the next session of torture.
As a detainee, I was always waiting for the next torture session, asking all sorts of
being between life and death.
It was a difficult situation.
ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Ghrer was imprisoned for about 3.5 years.
After his release in 2015, he fled to Germany, joining nearly a million Syrians who were
granted political asylum by then-Chancellor Angela Merkel's government.
And that created the conditions for this historic trial to take place in a German courtroom
Most participants in this landmark trial, from the 2016 joint plaintiffs to key witnesses
and Anwar Raslan himself, arrived in Germany as refugees in the last six years.
Patrick Kroker is co-counsel to Hussein Ghrer and 13 other plaintiffs in this case who allege
being detained and tortured at Al-Khatib when Anwar Raslan lead the interrogations unit
PATRICK KROKER, Attorney, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights: I mean,
each and every story is very different, but there are some very common elements to them.
It was really more about, yes, breaking the physical and psychological existence of the
person by harming them, beating them with objects, hanging them on the wall, electrocuting
ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Raslan, whose face cannot be shown due to German privacy laws, is charged
with at least 4,000 counts of torture, at least 30 counts of murder, 26 counts of bodily
harm, two counts of hostage-taking, and three counts of sexual violence, from the time he
was in charge of interrogations at the Al-Khatib prison.
The defense claims that Raslan had no real power to stop the abuses at Al-Khatib.
Raslan says he did what he could to help civilians detained under his watch, and that he defected
and fled Syria as soon as he could.
Kroker says he had initially hoped that a case of this magnitude would be referred by
the U.N. Security Council to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
PATRICK KROKER: In 2015, it became clear that the political chances of there being such
a referral to the court aren't there anymore, simply because Russia vetoed any attempt to
refer this in the U.N. Security Council.
And then China went along with that.
So, at that point in time, it became clear no international court for Syria, at least
at this point.
ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: So the prosecutors used a legal principle called universal jurisdiction
to try the case in a German court instead.
Universal jurisdiction states that countries have a duty to prosecute war crimes, genocide,
and crimes against humanity even if the accused are not their citizens and the crimes were
not committed on their soil.
Germany's embrace of universal jurisdiction grew out of the Nuremberg trials at the end
of the Second World War.
Allied judges tried prominent Nazi leaders for their roles in planning and executing
the Holocaust and other war crimes.
The tribunals created the legal definition of genocide and laid the foundation for contemporary
international human rights law; 21st century Germany has adopted a very expansive definition
of universal jurisdiction, giving prosecutors and judges a lot of leeway in trying such
To meet the threshold of crimes against humanity, prosecutors have submitted evidence and testimony
to the court that details the industrial scale of torture employed inside Syrian government
These include some 30,000 images smuggled out of Syria by a former military photographer
A forensic examination of these images shows that detainees were beaten with blunt and
sharp objects, shot, and exposed to electric shocks and burns.
The Caesar photos form an important part of the evidence, not only in the case against
Anwar Raslan, but in future cases to come.
The next trial in Germany is due to start a week from today, and criminal complaints
against high-ranking members of the Syrian government have been filed in four European
countries that allow universal jurisdiction.
Prosecuting these cases has created a need for authorities to work more closely with
Syrian refugee communities.
In this workshop in Berlin, Syrians now living in eight countries across Europe are being
instructed by Professor Thomas Wenzel on how to collect evidence that would hold up in
court and how to encourage potential witnesses to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement.
All of the workshop participants used to be legal professionals in Syria.
THOMAS WENZEL, Professor, Medical University of Vienna (through translator): You see, this
is a scar of an African patient.
It's not the greatest picture, but you can tell from the ruler placed next to it exactly
that it is six centimeters.
You wouldn't be able to do this by simply taking a picture.
This kind of basic documentation is useful in court.
ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Workshop organizer Usahma Felix Darrah believes the trial in Koblenz
has been a watershed moment, and that it is paving the way for Syrians to play a crucial
part in the quest for justice through national courts in Europe.
USAHMA FELIX DARRAH, Executive Manager, Friends of the Syrian People: You have to see how
much hope really rests on this kind of work.
This is the only type of justice, semblance of justice that many Syrians have seen, in
nine years of a very, very bitter war.
The war is still ongoing, and we have Syrians who are actually playing a role in making
Our plan is, of course, to document testimonies of survivors, of victims, and of witnesses,
and to systematize those in a manner that can be usable in a court of law.
THOMAS WENZEL (through translator): When speaking with a witness, we always need to ask, was
a doctor there?
If a doctor stands by when someone is being tortured, and says, stop, now you need to
take a break, and now you can continue, that doctor is classed as a torturer.
ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Even advocates say that it's too early to determine if these efforts
are scalable, and whether European courts using universal jurisdiction will become a
routine alternative to international tribunals in prosecuting war crimes cases.
But, back in Koblenz, Hussein Ghrer is clear that, under the circumstances, this process
is the best way forward.
He's on his way to court to give his closing statement in the case against Anwar Raslan.
HUSSEIN GHRER (through translator): I feel nervous.
It's the first time ever that there's a case against a member of the Syrian regime, and
it's unusual that a plaintiff like me gets to give a closing statement in front of the
Inshallah, I can deliver my message inside.
ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: The state prosecutor has called for a life sentence for Anwar Raslan,
with no possibility of parole after 15 years.
Should Raslan be found guilty, it would set a precedent, marking the first time in history
that a high-ranking officer of a government that is still in power is convicted of crimes
For Reveal and "PBS NewsHour," I'm Adithya Sambamurthy in Koblenz, Germany.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Rebecca Hall has been on screen and acting since age 10.
But in her new film, "Passing," she steps into the director role for the first time.
Tonight, as part of our arts and culture series, Canvas, she shares her Brief But Spectacular
take on "Passing" and on her own racial identity.
REBECCA HALL, Actor/Director: I grew up with an American mother.
And while I was growing up, there was a lot of mystery surrounding her heritage.
Her father was, I suppose the cleanest way of putting it, was racially ambiguous.
I always looked at my mother, and I always felt that I was looking at a woman who was
When I would ask her about this, she would not have a clear way of answering me.
Somewhere along this journey of asking questions, somebody gave me a book called "Passing,"
and it was the first time that I had heard that word, that it was something that Black
people did during Jim Crow in America, that they passed for many things, passed white,
After reading the book, it was clear to me that the mystery and the enigmas within my
own family were because my grandfather had spent his life passing white.
"Passing" is a novel that was written in 1929 by Nella Larsen at the height of the Harlem
Before I read the novel, I didn't have language or context for what my grandfather did.
After reading the novel, I had, I think for the first time, a true understanding of that
The erasing of history, the erasing of the stories of your family that get passed on
for generation to generation is -- it's a hard decision to decide to erase that, and
not tell your children those stories.
And reading the book gave me a greater understanding of how hard that choice must've been for him.
It also gave me a framework for thinking about my own racial identity.
"Passing" is my directorial debut and also my debut as a screenwriter.
Everything in this film is passing for something, and that includes the film itself.
It has its own performance.
It has its own dialogue of cinema.
I think that my engagement with this book, to bring it into the culture, is, in a way,
my way of honoring my ancestors.
It is not lost on me that the systems of white supremacy that forced, encouraged my grandfather
to pass as white are also the systems that I now benefit from as a white-presenting person.
There are privileges that come with looking how I look.
I cannot choose how I present, but I can choose to honor that history.
I'm Rebecca Hall, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on "Passing."
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch all of our Brief But Spectacular videos online at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.
And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
Join us online and again here tomorrow evening.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.
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