January 14, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
January 14, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: chaos and consequences. More arrests, as investigations and calls
for justice intensify in the wake of the Capitol riot that led to the president's second impeachment.
Then: willful neglect. The former governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, is charged with
criminally mishandling the deadly and destructive Flint water crisis.
And cutting ties. A growing number of businesses distance themselves from the president and
the Republican Party following last week's violent insurrection.
JUDD LEGUM, "Popular Information": This is significant that so many corporations would
do this, especially corporations, even when you look at their history, are donating 3-1,
5-1, 6-1 to Republicans.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: It is hard to keep track of all the twists and turns in Washington right
now. It feels that each day brings a new historic moment. And the coming week does not appear
to be any different.
To help us make sense of it all, our Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join me now.
So, Yamiche, I'm going to start with you.
After this terrible, terrible attack on the Capitol last week, a lot of people are wondering
about security, of course, for the inauguration.
What more can you tell us about the plans, and not only here in Washington, but in cities
around the country?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, federal officials are working very, very hard to ensure a safe
inauguration, but they're tracking a number of threats, both to the Capitol in Washington,
D.C., as well as in other cities and state capitols.
Today, Vice President Pence visited the FEMA headquarters, and, there, he met with a number
of high-ranking national security officials, including the head of the Secret Service,
the head of Homeland Security, as well as the head of the Department -- the FBI director,
And what Vice President Pence said was that he is really pushing all of these agencies
to make sure that they're confident that they can find a safe way to have an inauguration
for president-elect Biden and vice president-elect Harris.
And he said, specifically, Americans deserve a safe inauguration. He also said at some
point that this inauguration was going to be in keeping with our history and tradition.
That's really notable, given the last few days and weeks that we have lived through
here, with President Trump, of course, upending all sorts of tradition in this country.
Another thing to note is the FBI director, who said that he was confident that the FBI
would be able to find anyone who was threatening the inauguration or other cities, he has been
warning police officials around the country to be vigilant and to be in contact with the
FBI if they see any threats.
He's saying that they're tracking a number of things, including threats to Congress members'
homes, as well as threats to different buildings and state capitols.
One other thing, I spoke to a source who was familiar with the inauguration planning, and
they told me that the family members of both vice president-elect Harris and president-elect
Biden are being warned specifically to stay in their hotel rooms in D.C. unless they're
going to the inauguration.
That is a difference from the past inaugurations. They were, of course, going to be told not
to go too far because of the pandemic. But now they're being told, unless you're going
to the inauguration, stay in place, especially, as we know, the National Mall is shut down
for most of the public.
So, this is really D.C. becoming a fortress, and federal officials trying their best to
track threats, while also keeping people safe.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So different, so very different, Yamiche, from previous presidential inaugurations.
But as a reminder of just how much the incoming president has on his plate, he's not waiting
in one respect. Yamiche, we know that, tonight, he's going to make remarks. He's going to
roll out his proposal for dealing with both the economic and some of the health aspects
of the COVID pandemic.
What do we know about what he's going to disclose?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: That's right.
Amid all of these security threats, president-elect Biden said he's very focused on the COVID-19
pandemic, making that his top priority. Tonight, he's going to lay out a $1.9 trillion plan
for COVID relief, if we can put it up for people.
It's called the American Rescue Plan. And it includes $400 billion to fight COVID -- that's
to mount a national vaccine program, as well as containing and beating the virus -- $1
trillion in direct relief to Americans -- that's workers and families who are struggling, including
people who are most impacted by existing inequalities - - as well as $440 billion in relief to communities
Now, the Biden team says they don't have a specific guideline for Congress, but they
say that the need is urgent to pass this. Of course, they are going to have to juggle
that with impeachment, an impeachment trial, but the Biden team is really focusing on that.
Another thing that they're focusing on, when you look even more into this plan, is, they
want to take on COVID. They want to specifically focus on ramping up testing. They want to
ramp up vaccines. And they also want to try to get schools open. That's what part of this
money is going to. They're going to have $1,400 checks to individuals. That's increasing the
stimulus checks to $2,000 overall, because $600 were passed last time.
And there's $400 in unemployment insurance supplemental -- supplement there, and that
is adding $100 to the $300 that was enacted. And what Biden is saying tonight, and what
he is going to say tonight is that this is the most pressing concern.
Even though we have lived through the siege on the Capitol and all the other things that
are going on, he says he's laser-focused on the pandemic that is, of course, killing some
4,000 people a day.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It's something that is on the minds of everyone right now.
And to you now, Lisa.
As Yamiche mentioned, this, of course, has to pass the Congress. He can't just wave a
magic wand. But Congress has a lot on its plate, as we have mentioned, whether or not
there's going to be an impeachment trial. What does it look like right now for the Biden
COVID package and everything else they have to deal with?
LISA DESJARDINS: Well, the first thing we have to talk about is the timing of this -- this
Senate impeachment trial.
And here's how that would work, Judy. Really, House Speaker Pelosi will set that timing.
As soon as she transmits the article of impeachment to the Senate, by the Senate's rules, it must
hold the trial the next day that it meets.
So, the next day that the Senate right now is scheduled to meet is January 19, the day
before inauguration. If the speaker would transmit the article that day, then the actual
impeachment trial could and would, by Senate rules, have to start the day of inauguration.
This is an idea that Senator McConnell -- I have confirmed -- has sent around to Senate
Republicans. But it really remains with Speaker Pelosi to decide the timing. And there is
also another option, that Republicans and Democrats in the Senate could agree on a different
timeline for the trial, but that doesn't look likely.
Now, all of that -- we expect the trial soon. We don't know the exact date. But all of that
is while there's another concern at the Capitol brewing, growing cases of the coronavirus
again, and some of them seemingly directly linked to last week's riots.
I want to show a picture of four members of the House who have contracted -- who are COVID-positive.
And three of these were in seclusion together with unmasked Republicans, and a fourth may
have been as well. We're still waiting for details.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, so much to follow, Lisa. It's the health of the members, as well as
what they have to do in their jobs.
But, Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor reporting on it all.
Thank you both.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. are nearing 390,000 tonight.
That includes another 3,900 deaths reported just on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, investigators from the World Health Organization arrived in Wuhan, China, today,
where the outbreak began. The lead scientist cautioned this week that their work will take
DR. PETER BEN EMBAREK, World Health Organization: I don't think we will have clear answers after
this initial mission, but we will be on the way. And, hopefully, in the coming months
that will be completed by additional missions, additional studies.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Beijing has still not said if the WHO investigators will be allowed to
Two former state health officials in Michigan were charged with involuntary manslaughter
today in the Flint water crisis. It involves nine people who died of Legionnaires' disease
from contaminated water. Former Governor Rick Snyder is facing misdemeanor counts of willful
We will get details after the news summary.
The U.S. Justice Department's inspector general says agency leaders knew their zero tolerance
border policy would separate children from parents. Today's report says that officials
implemented the policy anyway in 2018 without preparing for the consequences. It eventually
led to more than 3,000 family separations.
New York state sued New York City's police today, charging excessive use of force on
racial justice protesters last spring. State Attorney General Letitia James said it's a
LETITIA JAMES, New York Attorney General: The NYPD has continuously engaged in similar
unlawful excessive force and false arrest practices while policing large-scale protests.
And even though the NYPD knew this, they still failed to put policies and procedures in place
and to discipline officers to correct these egregious actions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mayor Bill de Blasio said he agrees on the need for reforms, but said that
a lawsuit is not the answer.
In Uganda, a presidential election went ahead today after widespread violence aimed at the
opposition. Military forces patrolled polling stations in Kampala, but voters waited in
long lines and with little social distancing, despite the pandemic.
President Yoweri Museveni has held power since 1986, and he is running for reelection.
Back in this country, president-elect Biden tapped David Norquist to be acting defense
secretary on a temporary basis. He is now the deputy secretary. The Associated Press
reports the David Norquist will serve until retired Army General Lloyd Austin is confirmed
as defense secretary by the U.S. Senate. Austin first needs a congressional waiver, because
he's been retired less than seven years.
The Trump administration is rolling back more environmental protections in its final days.
This time, it involves the northern spotted owl. The Fish and Wildlife Service said today
that millions of acres of Pacific Northwest forests will be opened to timber harvesting.
That's more than a third of the owl's habitat.
The Labor Department reports growing economic damage from the surge in COVID infections.
Some 965,000 people filed unemployment claims just last week. That's the most since August.
But in an online forum today, the chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, said that
industrial output may recover soon.
JEROME POWELL, Federal Reserve Chairman: The key thing there is, maybe we will be able
to avoid a lot of -- a lot of the damage to people's lives, what we call labor market
scarring, but what it really amounts to people losing the life they have made in the work
JUDY WOODRUFF: Powell also said again that the Fed does not expect to raise interest
rates any time soon.
And on Wall Street, stocks drifted lower, as investors waited for president-elect Biden's
economic plan. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 69 points, to close at 30991. The Nasdaq
fell 16 points, and the S&P 500 slipped 14.
And it looks as though 2020 has essentially tied 2016 for the hottest year on record.
NASA reports worldwide temperatures kept rising in 2020. That came despite the fact that greenhouse
gas emissions dropped due to the pandemic.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": the former governor of Michigan is charged with mishandling
the Flint water crisis; many businesses distance themselves from the president and the Republican
Party; the Capitol riot raises questions abut the future
of the GOP; and much more.
Let's get the details now on the Flint, Michigan story, where, today, state prosecutors filed
charges against a number of high-ranking government officials.
John Yang has our report.
JOHN YANG: It's one of the worst public health failures in recent history, the contamination
of Flint, Michigan's drinking water, blamed for at least a dozen deaths and health problems
for countless others.
Today, nearly seven years after the Flint water crisis first emerged, prosecutors announced
41 criminal charges against nine former state and city officials.
Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud:
FADWA HAMMOUD, Michigan Solicitor General: We may never know all the names of those who
had their lives and livelihoods destroyed by this manmade crisis. And although the criminal
justice system alone cannot remedy all the suffering that every person endured, we took
our part seriously, and we hope others will do the same to ensure that this never ever,
ever happens again.
JOHN YANG: Among those charged:, former Governor Rick Snyder. He pleaded not guilty this morning
to two misdemeanor charges of willful neglect of duty. Each count carries up to a year in
prison and a $1,000 fine. His attorney called the charges wholly without merit.
Two others, including former state Health Director Nick Lyon, were each charged with
nine counts each of involuntary manslaughter, felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Both pleaded not guilty to all counts.
The indictments say they failed to protect the public health after state-appointed officials
switched the city's water supply in 2014 from Lake Huron to the Flint River in a cost-cutting
move. The more corrosive river water damaged the city's aging pipes, causing lead to leach
into the drinking water.
Ariana Hawk's son suffered from blisters and skin rashes. When we visited her home in 2019,
she told us the lingering effects included a loss of trust.
Are you angry?
ARIANA HAWK, Mother: Oh, yes. Of course I'm angry. I'm more upset and hurt than anger.
It's hurting because these are people who we trust every day. These are the people who
said that this was OK.
JOHN YANG: Tests today show Flint's water is safe to drink, but work to replace the
city's damaged pipes is still incomplete.
Flint activist Melissa Mays:
MELISSA MAYS, Flint Resident: It seems like we have been forgotten. And nobody's sitting
in jail. If I poisoned you, I would be in jail.
We're coming up on seven years of being in a prison where we can't even be safe in our
own homes. And then, of course, under COVID, we have all been locked indoors, and we're
stuck using this water.
JOHN YANG: Compounding a situation that still dominates life in this majority-Black city.
In November, the Michigan attorney general announced a $600 million fund for families
in Flint to settle civil lawsuits from the water crisis. Approval of that plan is pending
from a federal judge.
Sandra Jones is the executive director of the R.L. Jones Community Outreach Center in
Flint. It's based at the Greater Holy Temple Church of God in Christ, where her husband
is a pastor.
Sandra, what was your reaction when you heard the news today about the criminal charges
against these former officials, including the former governor?
SANDRA JONES, Executive Director, R.L. Jones Community Outreach Center: Long time overdue.
And, this time, I hope and pray that it sticks.
JOHN YANG: Two of the people, including the former health director for the state of Michigan,
were charged with involuntary manslaughter, nine counts each.
SANDRA JONES: It is what it is.
And, I mean, so many people were actually affected. These were lives. We're not talking
about property. We're talking about human life. And so I applaud her for what it is
that she's doing. She has my support.
JOHN YANG: I have to ask you.
There are some lawyers who know more about this than I do who say that it may be tough
to get convictions in some of these cases, particularly against the former Governor Rick
Snyder, because it's been so long. It's been seven years since the -- his action or inaction
that he's charged for.
Have you thought about what it might feel like, how you might feel if the former governor
and if some of these other officials are acquitted in court? Or do you think it's enough that
they have got to stand up and face these charges in court?
SANDRA JONES: No, it isn't enough that they have to face the charges in court. That's
just not enough.
How could that be enough, when you look at, right now, today, children that are 5 and
6 years old that have cognitive skill problems, children whose parents have not been able
to potty train them at the age of 3? How is it enough when you have adults who had lesions
all over their bodies, and now they have different kinds of allergies that they have got to live
with the rest of their lives?
And we really don't know what the long-term effects that lead actually has, because, after
28 days, and you have congested it, some of us don't even actually know if it's affected
us or not.
So, no, I really don't have -- I don't feel sorry for them. I just hope that she has enough
information to be able to bring these charges and to have these charges to stick.
JOHN YANG: So, you're not going to be satisfied until they're -- you get some convictions
out of this?
SANDRA JONES: Some form of penalty needs to be made.
And I'm not talking about monetary. I think that, when you know something that will create
a physical condition in a human body, and you have the ability to do something about
that, where you put money above human life, oh, yes, you need to pay for that.
I can't tell you what the penalty should be, because I'm not proficient in that area. I
can only tell you, as a human being who has worked in the cold, in the heat, in the snow,
in the rain, in all types of weather, at 73 years old -- when I started this, I was in
my 60s, and I'm 73.
And today was our water and food distribution day. When you have residents still lined up
for over a mile-and-a-half just to get four or five cases of water, because either they
have been affected by the water or they don't trust the water, someone needs to take accountability.
Michigan has had other cities since our water crisis to have been affected one way or the
other, but their water has been affected. Guess what? Those cities have been cleaned
up, cleared up, and everybody's on their way. We're the only ones still limping.
JOHN YANG: You talk about the children, the long-term effects. Your church still giving
out water and food every week.
Can you envision a day when this is just a unpleasant incident in the history of Flint,
rather than a here-and-now problem?
SANDRA JONES: No, I cannot envision that day.
And I'm going to share with you why. Because, when these people come through the line, they
come in all kind of conditions. They start lining up at our church at 4:30 a.m. in the
morning. Until I see all of the pipes in this city changed out, until I see the residents
and our lines start getting shorter and shorter and shorter, then maybe I can look up and
feel that things are going to get better.
But I don't see it today.
JOHN YANG: Sandra Jones from the Greater Holy Temple Church of God in Christ in Flint, Michigan,
talking about the ongoing problems there.
Sandra, you thank you very much.
SANDRA JONES: And thank you very much for checking with us today and still caring about
the problems that we're facing in Flint, Michigan.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Since last week's riots at the Capitol, more and more companies are cutting
ties with Donald Trump.
Also, in a matter of days, dozens of corporations suspended political contributions to the 147
members of Congress who refused to certify the election of Joe Biden.
Paul Solman looks at what's been happening behind the scenes.
It's part of his ongoing reporting for Making Sense.
PAUL SOLMAN: Judd Legum writes a political newsletter called Popular Information.
JUDD LEGUM, Founder, Popular Information: And we do a lot of work about corporate responsibility.
PAUL SOLMAN: When Republican senators said they'd challenge the Electoral College results...
JUDD LEGUM: We started pulling all of the FEC records to see what corporate PACs had
been donating to that group.
PROTESTERS: USA! USA!
PAUL SOLMAN: And then along came the riots. So, he wrote to 144 companies to ask if they
would continue to donate to the eight senators who supported President Trump's election fraud
claims, supported them even after the Capitol had been breached.
JUDD LEGUM: Because all of the 144 companies had supported one or more of those senators
in the 2020 election cycle.
PAUL SOLMAN: Results?
JUDD LEGUM: We got at first a trickle of people.
PAUL SOLMAN: Blue Cross Blue Shield, Commerce Bank, the Marriott Hotel chain announcing
they were suspending donations not just to the eight senators, but to all 147 members
of Congress who voted against certifying the election.
JUDD LEGUM: And I thought, well, this is significant, especially corporations, even when you look
at their history, are donating 3-1, 5-1, 6-1 to Republicans.
But, really, it was Marriott who I think kind of shook the corporate world. And then it
just snowballed avalanched, and now people that we never even contacted are getting in
touch, and they want to make a statement.
PAUL SOLMAN: When the trickle became a snowball, what did you think?
JUDD LEGUM: As someone who follows how these corporations operate, I really couldn't have
conceived last week that so many corporations would do this.
ACTRESSES: Happy new year!
PAUL SOLMAN: Companies like Hallmark, making of greeting cards and schmaltzy movies.
WOMAN: I have done things that I never would have imagined.
PAUL SOLMAN: One of four dozen companies suspending all political donations. But Hallmark, says
JUDD LEGUM: Demanded a refund from their home state Senator Josh Hawley. It's a powerful
signal from one of the largest employers in Kansas City saying: Your senator is no longer
acceptable to us. We don't want anything to do with him.
TOM GLOCER, Former President and CEO, Thomson Reuters: Given the sometimes anodyne statements
that you see inside Hallmark greeting cards, to come out so eloquently and so pointedly
against the administration, I thought was very courageous.
PAUL SOLMAN: Tom Glocer, the former CEO of Thomson Reuters, met with a group of CEOs
last week and again yesterday.
TOM GLOCER: The mood even in a week had gotten much firmer that the right thing to do was
to impeach and remove Trump, even with a few days remaining, and that business had an important
PAUL SOLMAN: Company after company has now broken publicly with the president, Deutsche
Bank, his biggest longtime lender. PGA of America.
TOM GLOCER: Stripe, the payment processor, says, we're not going to allow our private
service to be used to buy, let's say, Trump paraphernalia. Ditto Shopify, which provides
the e-commerce foundations for a lot of those organizations.
KEN LANGONE, Co-Founder, Home Depot: I feel betrayed.
PAUL SOLMAN: Even Ken Langone of Home Depot, a Trump supporter for years, denounced him
KEN LANGONE: Last Wednesday was a disgrace and should have never happened in this country.
And if it doesn't break every American's heart, something's wrong. It breaks my heart. For
sure, I didn't sign up for that.
MICHAEL LINDELL, CEO, MyPillow: Hello. I'm Mike Lindell, inventor of MyPillow.
TOM GLOCER: With the exception of perhaps Mr. Pillow, I would be surprised if any company
exec now thought that the best thing for his or her company was to was to support this
SHEILA KRUMHOLZ, Executive Director, Center for Responsive Politics: This is so unprecedented.
PAUL SOLMAN: And, says Sheila Krumholz, who researches money in politics:
SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: For some members of Congress, this ban on corporate PAC support will really
hit them in the wallet. It will be a very meaningful loss.
PAUL SOLMAN: If the ban lasts, that is. But, right now, it's fallow season for electioneering.
SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: This is January of the off election year in a midterm election cycle.
But, in 2022, when primaries are under way and the November election looms, these companies
will be asked for support.
PAUL SOLMAN: So, is it all just a P.R. move, companies seeming to have a conscience, until
they need legislators once more?
No, says ex-CEO Glocer, there's a deeper motivation.
TOM GLOCER: Businesses generally don't like to bring politics into their companies. Partly
they don't want to antagonize customers or even their own employee base.
But when the attacks go to the heart of the social fabric, the democratic norms of the
country, which would make it impossible to run a business, then I think businesspeople
reluctantly do show up.
PAUL SOLMAN: Last question for Sheila Krumholz, do you think this could be a bad thing, in
the end, by making corporations more political?
SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: Corporations are already political. They will be seeking access and
influence with members of Congress, including these objectors, as long as they have jurisdiction
through their committee assignments.
On the other hand, they're seeking to retain customers, who might be in a mood to punish
them if they go back on their pledge and begin supporting these members again.
PAUL SOLMAN: For the "PBS NewsHour," Paul Solman.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The events at the Capitol in the past week, beginning with a violent mob
and ending with the second impeachment of President Trump, have exposed deep rifts within
the Republican Party.
With Mr. Trump set to leave office next week, we discuss what's next for the GOP with Lanhee
Chen. He's a fellow at the Hoover Institution. He's also advised several Republican presidential
candidates, including Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio. And Gary Abernathy, he's an Ohio based
writer and contributing columnist to The Washington Post.
Hello to both of you. Good to see you. And welcome back to the "NewsHour."
Let me ask you first, before we talk about the future of the party, Lanhee Chen, about
what happened last week, the assault on the Capitol and then, just yesterday, the impeachment
of the president.
What's your reaction?
LANHEE CHEN, Former Policy Director, Mitt Romney Campaign: Well, it's been such a tumultuous
and heart-wrenching last week.
I mean, I think you had a clip earlier of Ken Langone, who said any American who looks
at that and doesn't find themselves affected in an emotional way, it's hard to fathom that.
And I do think that that has really driven some of the changes we have seen in opinion
even within the Republican Party, even amongst elected officials who we thought were going
to be loyal with Donald Trump to the end. That has really forced a change in thinking,
even among some whom we never expected to see that from.
So, the events of the last week truly have been consequential and important, not just
for this moment that we're in, Judy, but also for what is to come for the Republican Party
in the months and years ahead.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me try you, Gary Abernathy.
What's your reaction to what happened last week, the assault on the Capitol, and then
the impeachment of the president, second impeachment?
GARY ABERNATHY, Freelance Journalist: Well, it was -- it was a sad day. It was frightening
You know, I think a lot of Trump supporters are kind of torn right now, because they almost
feel like they have stood by him for four years, and so they have to keep standing by
him. And I think that's the wrong attitude.
I'm glad Donald Trump was president for four years. But since he lost the election, I'm
very unhappy with his behavior since then. I have called on him from the day the race
was called for Joe Biden to admit defeat, to accept it, to participate in the transition.
And he's just done none of that.
So, my dividing line with Trump is from the day the election was held, and the voters
said, we're going to go a different direction, and he needed to accept that. And so, instead,
he's played this whole, the election was stolen, and there's been fraud.
And none of these things have been proven true. And then you had thousands, tens of
thousands of people in Washington who were big supporters of his, and instead of calming
them, he helped incite what happened.
I'm not laying it all at his feet. People who stormed the Capitol are to blame for storming
the Capitol. But Donald Trump, as president, I think, had a responsibility to calm those
waters, and he went the opposite way. And so he will pay a political price for that,
as I think he should.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lanhee Chen, now that he's impeached, we're waiting to see what
happens in the Senate.
How much difference will it make for the party, for him? Clearly, if he's tried and convicted,
even after he's left office, that's a huge change in his stature. But what does it mean
that he even has to go through this?
LANHEE CHEN: Well, I think the critical question is whether, in fact, he can be convicted and
then, subsequently, if there are a majority of senators who wish to bar him from future
office. That would be an event of great consequence, obviously.
I do think, at some level, Donald Trump is going to continue to have influence. I think
that influence will diminish as his time in the presidency, as we get further from that
time, and as people are able to reflect on just how chaotic not just this post-election
period was, but really the entire term of his presidency.
And thinking about what the lasting impacts of that are on the conservative movement,
on the Republican Party, I do expect that support to erode as time goes on. There's
still going to be some percentage of Republican voters -- there's no question about it -- who
adhere to President Trump, who believe that he is the right messenger.
But, certainly, if the Senate does, indeed, vote to convict and subsequently to bar him
from office, that would be a major blow, not just to Donald Trump's political fortunes,
but also to his personal future, his ability to continue to monetize his time in the presidency,
and everything else that he might have wished to do after he left office.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Gary Abernathy, what about that? I mean, how much -- how much clout will
Donald Trump continue to have? And obviously, some -- to some degree, or maybe a large degree,
that depends on what the Senate does.
GARY ABERNATHY: I think that's true.
Now, I'm in the camp that agrees with scholars who say, look, the whole idea of impeachment
is to remove a president from office. And so he's going to be removed from office by
the voters in just a few days. I don't believe you can have an impeachment trial.
I think -- I don't blame the House for impeaching him. I mean, what happened was horrible. But
I think there's an emotional impeachment going on right now. I don't think you can convict
him after he's no longer in office. There's no point in that.
But let me tell you something. He still has tremendous support in the Republican Party.
Someone asked me, gee, are we going to end up with a Democrat party, a Republican Party,
and a Trump party? And I said, well, you could, but the Republican Party is going to be pretty
small, because when you look at the polls and see 80 percent, 85 percent support still
in the Republican Party for Donald Trump, that's pretty impressive.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lanhee Chen, what does the Republican Party look like with that much
support still -- I know you both are saying he may lose some of that support, but the
numbers Gary is citing are pretty impressive.
I mean, what does that -- where does that leave the Republican Party?
LANHEE CHEN: Yes, they are impressive today. I don't know how durable that support is when
the man is no longer in office.
Fundamentally, I think the challenge for the Republican Party now is this. For last several
years, it has been a party essentially supportive of whatever the president and his administration
did. And that now leaves them in a position, of course, without power in the executive
branch, without power in either branch of Congress.
And I think the Republican Party has to return to the question of what it's for, what exactly
the vision of governance for conservatives looking ahead. And I think that has to be
the basis of any electoral renaissance we're going to see for the Republican Party moving
And I tend to think that Donald Trump's appeal with the passage of time, with space from
the presidency, and everything that we have seen, I think some of that support erodes.
I think that happens naturally for a lot of politicians who are out of the spotlight in
a way that a president is constantly in the spotlight. So, I suppose that what we see
today, I don't believe, will be a reflection, necessarily, of where the party stands, let's
say, a year or two years from now, when we're in the wake of yet another midterm election.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just in literally 15 seconds, Gary Abernathy, Republican Party in some trouble
in the months, weeks -- months and years ahead because of this?
GARY ABERNATHY: Yes, but I do think it's important to remember this.
The things that Donald Trump, the things that brought him his support, those aren't going
away. I don't think Trump will be the messenger for the party four years from now, but I think
a lot of the things he stood for will be, and it will just be someone else carrying
JUDY WOODRUFF: Gary Abernathy, Lanhee Chen, thank you both very much. Good to see you.
GARY ABERNATHY: Thank you, Judy.
LANHEE CHEN: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As the days dwindle in the Trump administration, they are still issuing
rules and regulations, sanctions and designations that could have impact both abroad and at
home beyond the end of the administration.
Here now, William Brangham.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Thanks, Judy.
It is somewhat customary for a president at the end of their term to issue a slew of orders.
And Mr. Trump is no different.
But from Iran to Yemen, from China to Cuba, and on the environment, this administration
is issuing orders that could have deep, long-lasting impacts.
Our Nick Schifrin is here to help me unpack some of these.
Nick, before we get into the specifics, when you look at the overall sweep of what the
Trump administration is doing, is this just normal diplomatic business that happens at
the end of every administration, or is this different?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Longtime diplomats call the slew, as you just called it, of moves, William,
somewhat unusual because most administrations do hold off on major policy decisions as they're
heading out the door.
Senior Trump administration officials insist to me that they have been pushing these policies
for months, if not years, and are making them publicly, with the hopes that they survive
But, William, they do have political side effects. They can hamstring the Biden team
and allow politicians from the Trump administration to criticize Biden if he changes their policies.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, let's walk through some of those major ones.
Let's start with China.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Yes, perhaps the most significant moves have been on China.
Just this week, the Department of Homeland Security banned all cotton and tomato from
Xinjiang. That is the ostensibly autonomous region where Beijing systematically persecutes
the Uyghur Muslim minority, including what the U.S. calls widespread forced labor.
Earlier today, I spoke to Customs and Border Protection Executive Assistant Commissioner
BRENDA SMITH, Executive Assistant Commissioner, Customs and Border Protection: We have worked
over the last really almost two years to identify specific entities that use forced labor.
Now we believe it's at a scale that the entire region is really implicated or at high risk
of using forced labor in those production processes.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Now, because of complicated supply chains, it is nearly impossible to
actually enforce this action.
But, by doing so, it is forcing companies to examine and change their supply chains.
And that means this that decision could affect 20 percent of the world's cotton.
Now, there are also White House moves, including executive orders that would restrict Americans
from investing in certain Chinese businesses, and bans on Chinese apps.
And then there's Taiwan. For decades, the White House has restricted bilateral meanings
and the status of its diplomats that work on Taiwan as part of its relationship with
Beijing. But, last weekend, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared any restrictions -- quote
- - "null and void."
The Trump administration, frankly, had already been pushing the boundaries on those restrictions.
But the State Department basically decided to blow them up, rather than rewrite them.
The implication, Pompeo, of course, gets to criticize the Biden team for being soft on
China if they go back to the old restrictions. And the Biden officials who I have talked
to have said that they will respect traditional guidelines on Taiwan, although, William, I
should say that members of that team have long promised to confront Beijing and support
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: A lot of moves on that front alone.
But let's also shift to the Middle East. We know Iran that has been a preoccupation of
the Trump administration, and, since the election, it sounds like that has not changed a bit.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Yes, the Trump administration has sanctioned more than two dozen Iranian
entities since the election. That's on top of 1,500 sanctions since 2017.
The most significant rhetorical flourish was Pompeo tying Iran to al-Qaida.
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. Secretary of State: Al-Qaida has centralized its leadership inside of Tehran.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Now, that is an analytical conclusion that former intelligence officials
tell me is more of an opinion than a provable fact.
But perhaps the most controversial decision made has been about Yemen, where a war has
killed hundreds of thousands of people. A Saudi-led coalition have been trying to unseat
Houthi rebels who took control of the Capitol back in 2014. They are backed by Iran.
Now, this weekend, Pompeo declared the Houthis a terrorist organization. That decision was
quickly and widely condemned by humanitarians, who say it will only make the world's worst
humanitarian crisis worse.
Take a listen just this morning to World Food Program head and former Republican Governor
David Beasley briefing the Security Council.
DAVID BEASLEY, Executive Director, World Food Program: It's going to be catastrophic. It
literally is going to be a death sentence to hundreds of thousands, if not millions
of innocent people in Yemen. It needs to be reevaluated, and, quite frankly, it needs
to be reversed.
NICK SCHIFRIN: All of this has been happening as Iran has taken major steps to advance its
nuclear program just in the last few weeks, including enriching uranium to 20 percent.
Now, critics of these moves, William, once again describe them as an attempt to tie Biden's
hands ahead of promised diplomacy with Iran. Administration officials say they're finally
making policy decisions they have been pushing for months.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Nick, the secretary of state also put Cuba back on the list of state sponsors
of terrorism. What's the rationale for that? And what does that mean for the Biden administration?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Yes, you will recall Obama visited Havana, normalized relations, and
removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The Trump administration spent four years undoing that effort, leading to last weekend's
announcement. The State Department cited Cuba's harboring of rebel leaders from Colombia,
as well as some American fugitives, and its support for Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.
But the administration had already imposed many of the restrictions on Cuba that come
with being a state sponsor of terrorism, William, so there's no large practical impact. Critics
say, once again, it's designed to be a bit of a spoiler for the Biden administration.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And these changes, these last-minute changes, also echo what the Trump
administration has been doing on the environmental front as well.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Yes.
Very quickly, William, we have seen a lot of push on environmental regulations from
the Trump administration in the last four years.
These new regulations follow that pattern, governing everything from greenhouse gas emissions,
safety of chemicals, migratory birds, who gets to profit off federal lands.
Not only are some of these last-minute moves controversial, of course, the Arctic drilling,
but, also, critics say that the way some of these moves have been made will make them
very difficult for the Biden administration to undo.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Nick Schifrin, thanks for keeping us abreast of all this.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, we turn to civil rights activist Ruby Bridges, who writes
her own story in a new children's book, hoping adult ears will listen too in these fractured
Telling her story is special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who followed in Bridge's
footsteps when, 60 years ago this past weekend, Charlayne, along with Hamilton Holmes, desegregated
the University of Georgia.
This is part of our Race Matters Solutions series and our arts and culture series, Canvas.
BARACK OBAMA, Former President of the United States: If it hadn't been for you guys, I
might not be here, and we wouldn't be looking at this together.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Ruby Bridges' name is synonymous with civil rights trailblazing,
immortalized in this Norman Rockwell painting entitled "The Problem We All Live With."
Bridges' historic moment came when she became the first Black child to desegregate an all-white
elementary school in New Orleans at 6 years old. She had to be escorted by federal marshals
as she walked past loud and unruly protesters and into the William Frantz Elementary School.
Now, 60 years later, Bridges has written to and for children the same age of her younger
self. She describes it as a call to action and contains historical photos of her pioneering
time. Pioneering history is still being made and remembered, including a photo illustration
that went viral after the election of vice president-elect Kamala Harris walking alongside
the shadow of Ruby Bridges.
Ruby Bridges, first, on behalf of my generation of civil rights pioneers, let me just say
thank you for paving our way.
Now, you have written other books, but this one is specifically aimed at readers who may
be as young as you were when you first took those historic steps, when you were 6 years
old into the elementary school there.
Why did you do this book? And do you see similarities between then and now in some ways?
RUBY BRIDGES, Author, "This Is Your Time": Absolutely.
You know, back in March, I was sitting in front of my television on lockdown because
of the virus, like everybody else, and witnessed this young man's brutal death, Mr. Floyd,
right in front of my face, like so many people did.
And I was so disturbed by it and didn't know how to react or what to do. I felt like I'd
been spending so many years talking to kids across the country. And I knew that they were
watching this as well and probably wondering what was going on.
The majority of my time, I talked to kids and explained to them that racism has no place
in the minds and hearts of our kids across the country. And yet they were witnessing
this. I was very moved by what I saw after his death. I saw young people take to the
streets. And I felt like the torch had been passed and that now they had a cause to get
When Dr. King was assassinated, I felt like we should have picked that torch up and kept
it moving. Even my own experience after going into the school, it was something that happened.
No one talked about it in my community, in my neighborhood. It was swept under the rug,
and life went on.
I'm happy now to see that, all of a sudden, activism is cool again. And it should have
been from 1960 until today. We didn't do a very good job of passing those lessons on
to that generation.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Let's talk about teenagers and others in their 20s, the big demonstrations
that are going on, multiracial, multigenerational, led by a lot of young people.
But there are deep divisions. From politics, even to wearing masks, there are divisions.
How do you explain that?
RUBY BRIDGES: We cannot be a hopeless people. We have to be hopeful.
And we do have a lot of work to do. I mean, we all saw that. This last election showed
us just how divided this country really is. After President Obama was elected, it seemed
that racism really raised its ugly head again.
I think having a Black man elected as president just riled that element up all over again.
Probably, they felt like, oh, we cannot have this happen. And yet it did.
And so all we needed is for someone to come along and add fuel to that fire. And I think
that that's why we are so divided today.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: One of the things that you say in the book is you believe that
racism is -- let me read this -- "a grownup disease."
You're talking to the children now, the young people. You say: "We adults must stop using
you, our kids, to spread it. It's we adults who passed racism on in so many ways."
I hear people all the time saying, well, I want to do something about this, but I don't
know what to do.
RUBY BRIDGES: We all know that none of our kids are born knowing anything about disliking
the child sitting next to them.
Our babies don't come into the world knowing anything about racism or disliking someone
because of the color of their skin. It is learned behavior. And I believe that, if it
can be taught, it can be taught not to -- not to be that way.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You mentioned your children. You had four Black boys, and your
eldest was involved in an unsolved murder.
What is your advice to mothers like yourself and also to those protesting the murders of
Black men especially, but also Black women?
RUBY BRIDGES: That is a parent's worst nightmare. My son's murder was never solved. We do know
that the people that actually took his life looked exactly like him.
You know, there are so many parents out there, like myself, who have lost children my son's
age or even babies by gun violence, which is very -- very disheartening. That is an
issue that we have to deal with as well.
Whether it's the murders, like the murder that happened with my son, or murders like
George Floyd, if you are passionate about that, then you need to do something about
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: I'm very impressed with your passion and moved by it.
And I imagine there might be a part of your book that is a favorite of yours. Is there
any place that you could share with us?
RUBY BRIDGES: Yes, I have it right here. I will definitely do that.
"When I think about how great this country could be, America, land of the free, home
of the brave, I think about what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said about being great. Everybody
can be great because everybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace. Really,
it is that love and grace for one another that will heal this world."
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, Ruby Bridges, it's been such a pleasure to see you once
again. You are a hero for all time, in the best of times, and it will always be your
Thank you for joining us.
RUBY BRIDGES: Thank you. It's such a pleasure to see you again.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you, Ruby Bridges, and thank you, Charlayne.
Words to live by.
As we just heard about young people being key to the future, we have a special inauguration
event planned tonight at 7:00 p.m.
"We the Young People" is a "PBS NewsHour" Student Reporting Labs event focusing on the
issues that Gen Z cares about and how they view this very contentious moment in America.
It's hosted by our Amna Nawaz, and features students, teachers, teen fact-checkers, also
our Yamiche Alcindor.
Here is a preview.
STUDENT: More Americans voted in the 2020 election than ever before.
STUDENT: But the aftermath magnified how deeply divided our country is.
STUDENT: Our democracy is being severely tested.
MAN: Stormed the Capitol Building. They are marching.
STUDENT: We are seeing the very real and deadly consequences of misinformation.
STUDENT: And distrust in our institutions.
STUDENT: We are learning that we can't take our democracy for granted.
STUDENT: Despite the violence, our government continues to do its work.
STUDENT: And now we want to see our country heal.
STUDENT: I voted because I care about are in danger.
STUDENT: I voted because I want to make a better future for the next generation and
STUDENT: As we continue to confront the pandemic, racial injustice and economic crisis, we must
remember what's important to us.
STUDENT: We, the people.
STUDENTS: We, the young people...
STUDENT: ... of the United States...
STUDENT: ... want a better future together.
JUDY WOODRUFF: That's 7:00 Eastern on our Web site and on YouTube.
And that's 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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