September 28, 2020 - PBS NewsHour full episode
September 28, 2020 - PBS NewsHour full episode
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: President Trump's taxes. After years of secrecy, The New York
Times reports on his finances, revealing massive losses claimed in order to not pay the government.
Then: high stakes. We examine Judge Amy Coney Barrett's record and the fight ahead for her
confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Plus: stuck at the dock. The cruise industry awaits word if it is safe to hit the seas
again, leaving many yearning for a holiday.
JENNY DAY, Cruise Fan: For normal working people, we save all year at working to
have your two-weeks or three-weeks holiday. And a cruise is just pure luxury, and it's
a luxury that normal working can't afford normally.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: Questions about federal income taxes are swirling around President Trump
The issue has surfaced repeatedly since he first began running for president in 2015.
Now a published report says that he has paid little or nothing in taxes for years in a
White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor begins our coverage.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: A blockbuster New York Times story, President Trump on defense over his
taxes, and all this just one day before his first debate with former Vice President Joe
This morning, the White House was quick to put out Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, White House Press Secretary: We have seen this play out before, where there
was a hit piece about the president's taxes just before a debate, and an inaccurate one,
at that. This is the same playbook they tried in 2016, the same playbook that the American
people rejected and will do so again.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The Times says it obtained the president's tax records from the last
two decades. It reports that the documents show he paid just $750 in federal taxes in
2016 and $750 in 2017.
And it concluded he paid no income taxes for at least 10 years. It also says, in part:
"He depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential
and often direct conflict of interests with his job as president" and that 'Mr. Trump
has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life."
In a tweet today, the president claims to have paid -- quote -- "many millions of dollars
in taxes, but was entitled to depreciation and tax credit."
And in a news conference yesterday, he dismissed The Times' findings.
DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States: It's fake news. It's totally fake news, made-up,
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The Times also reports the president faces chronic financial losses and
he faces hundreds of millions of debt coming due in the years just ahead.
The Biden campaign quickly rolled out an ad highlighting taxes paid by working Americans,
condemning the president's alleged evasion of his share.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the findings raise national security questions.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This president appears to have over $400 million in debt, 420, whatever
it is, million dollars in debt. To whom? Different countries? What is the leverage they have?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: In a phone interview with MSNBC, President Trump's former lawyer Michael
Cohen said the findings are disgraceful. He is now disbarred and serving a three-year
federal sentence for campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and lying to Congress.
MICHAEL COHEN, Former Attorney/Fixer For Donald Trump: So, if I went to jail for 36 months
on tax evasion, which probably should have been tax omission, Donald Trump should do
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Meanwhile, Biden continues to prepare for tomorrow's debate. The president's
taxes are now sure to be a main topic, as Cleveland, Ohio, hosts 2020's first presidential
debate in the general election.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So what does The Times' reporting seem to tell us about President Trump's business
practices and how they line up with what other wealthy Americans do when paying their taxes?
For that, we turn to David Cay Johnston, an investigative journalist and author who focuses
on tax issues and who has long followed President Trump's business dealings. And Peter Faber,
he's a tax attorney who often advises wealthy clients.
Hello to both of you. Thank you so much for joining us.
David Cay Johnston, you have looked at Donald Trump's businesses for a long time. What do
you make of what you are seeing in The Times' report?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, Founder, DCReport.Org: Well, the reason Donald does not want you
to see his tax returns is quite clear. He didn't pay taxes in many years.
And, secondly, there is a great deal of evidence in The Times' report Donald is not doing this
through lawful tax avoidance, but he is engaged in tax evasion. That is not a new thing for
the president. He had two civil trials for income tax fraud in the past, and he lost
them, and a judge found that he had forged a document.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And let's get to that in just a minute.
But let me bring Peter Faber in.
You have advised a number of wealthy people. How does the president's tax picture compare
to that of somebody else of great wealth and how they file their taxes?
PETER FABER, Tax Attorney: Well, Judy, it is fairly typical of a person who is in the
real estate business.
Real estate people, even though, very often, they have loads of income, have legitimate
deductions. And it is not unusual for a real estate person to have very little, and, in
many cases, no income tax liability.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David Cay Johnston, that being the case, if it is fairly common for
people in real estate not to pay a lot of taxes, whether because of depreciation or
other advantages, what makes this extraordinary in your mind?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: I agree with Peter.
If you're a big enough family in real estate and you're paying income taxes, frankly, I
would tell you, you should sue your tax lawyer for malpractice.
But Donald's businesses are primarily areas where he doesn't have that kind of depreciation,
licensing deals from overseas, for example, and his television show. And The Times' documents
show things such as the deduction of what The Times says are personal legal expenses,
what looks to be a disguised gift of about $720,000 to Ivanka Trump from her father,
rather than paying the gift tax on it, and deductions, $1.4 billion in deductions for
just two years, 2009, not a sort of steady plane over time of income tax deductions as
you write down the value of building.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Peter Faber, let me ask you about a couple of those things, number one,
a lot of depreciation when he doesn't own as much as he did at one point earlier in
his career, and then the question about how much of his business is licensing deals, rather
PETER FABER: Yes, I think The Times doesn't go into detail about how much he takes as
depreciation deductions and so on.
But what The Times does point out is that there are a lot of items that he has claimed
as business expenses that arguably are personal expenses, for example, the cost of maintaining
the Seven Springs resort in Westchester County.
The payment to Ivanka that David points out, allegedly a consulting fee of $700,000, may
well be a disguised gift. I think there are a lot. There also are apparently lump sum
deductions for legal fees. And we don't know what is in those legal fees and whether they
are, in fact, legitimate business expenses.
There's been speculation that they may include the payments to Stormy Daniels. If so, that
would not be a legitimate business expense.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the things, David Cay Johnston, that others have raised is that
$750 -- he says he's paid tens of millions in taxes in recent years.
Could both be true? Could he be -- could he have paid 750 -- $750 two years in a row and
paid tens of millions?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: President Trump did not break down what he meant by that. There are
lots of taxes, besides the facts -- there are state taxes, foreign taxes.
He paid the Philippines government over $100,000 in taxes one of the years he paid $750 to
the American government. So, if you look at all of his taxes, property taxes, payroll
taxes for employees, sure, you can come up with that kind of a number.
But the fact is that, in the majority of the years in this century, he paid no income taxes,
and some of the taxes he paid for refundable taxes. In 2005, he paid about $36 million
to something called Alternative Minimum Tax, which he got refunded in future years.
It was really a short-term zero interest loan to Uncle Sam.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Peter Faber, so many things to ask you about, but one of the things that
comes through here is, the president owes 300 million-some-odd dollars in coming years
to be paid back in the next four years.
That's a lot of money. Is it clear that he has the money to pay that back? What does
that tell you?
PETER FABER: Well, we don't know if he has the money to pay it back.
My guess is that he doesn't have a huge amount of cash, or that's not apparent from The Times
reporting. But, typically, people in business use their cash. They reinvest it. They don't
have millions and millions and hundreds of millions of dollars in cash sitting around
in a bank account.
So, my guess is, that's going to be a real problem for him in the next few years.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Peter Faber, what questions do you have?
In order to get a full picture of whether the president has paid his fair share of taxes,
what else do you need to know, do we need to know?
PETER FABER: Well, if I were an IRS agent, I'd want to know a breakdown of all the items
he's claimed in his lump sum of business expense deductions. I would like to know details about
who he paid, for what, how much and when.
There's a -- you can hide a lot of detail amidst generalities. And I agree with David.
I think the American people have a right to know the details, not just the generalities.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One other thing, Peter Faber.
Today, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa,
when he was asked about this Times report, said -- he said he's asking -- he said: "I'm
asking, how come it's taking the IRS so long to get these audits done?" He said: "I'm concerned
they're not getting their work done."
Is it common for the IRS to take years and years to do audits like this?
PETER FABER: It really shouldn't take that long. And, again, we don't know the details.
We don't know what issues have been raised.
Obviously, Mr. Trump's tax returns are more complicated than yours and mine. But, nevertheless,
it shouldn't take years and years and years to complete an audit. I was surprised to read
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David Cay Johnston, a comment about that, about the audits?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Trump can resolve all of these issues by just releasing his tax
returns. At least release your 1040s, and let's see what's going on here.
And Congress should hold hearings on how we audit the returns of wealthy people. Less
than 3 percent of people who make over a million dollars a year, including people who make
billions of dollars in a single year, are being audited these days, because we have
slashed the IRS. We have gotten rid of one-third of IRS auditors in just the last 10 years.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we're going to leave it there.
We thank both of you for helping shed some light on this massive amount of reporting
by The New York Times.
David Cay Johnston, Peter Faber, thank you both.
PETER FABER: Thank you.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: The U.S. Senate was largely silent, but, come
tomorrow, the fight over confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court begins in earnest.
The federal appeals judge faces confirmation hearings starting October 12. A full Senate
vote is set for October 29. We will focus on the fight and on Barrett's record after
the news summary.
The world is on the cusp tonight of one million deaths from COVID-19, including some 205,000
here in the United States. That comes as U.S. infections are rising again.
At the White House, Vice President Pence forecast even higher numbers, as millions of rapid
tests go out to the states next week.
MIKE PENCE, Vice President of the United States: And with this historic advance in testing
that's being distributed 150-strong around the country, Mr. President, the American people
should anticipate that cases will rise in the days ahead.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For his part, President Trump claimed again that the country is rounding
the corner on the pandemic.
But NBC News reported that Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the CDC, said that -- quote -- "We
are nowhere near the end."
And, tonight, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he has concerns about
a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. He told CNN that Dr. Scott Atlas sometimes
gives information to the president that is - - quote -- "taken either out of context or
is actually incorrect."
Suicides in the military are up 20 percent this year over last year. Air Force and Army
officials say that the stress of COVID-19 restrictions and isolations may be partly
to blame. The Army says it is looking at shortening combat deployments as one response.
In Belarus, mass protests are continuing, and so are the arrests. At least 100,000 people
marched in Minsk on Sunday, and riot police responded with tear gas. In all, 500 people
were detained over the weekend. The protesters say that President Alexander Lukashenko rigged
his reelection and must step down.
New fighting has erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan in a longstanding border conflict
in Southwestern Asia. Attacks began Sunday in Nagorno-Karabakh. It's a separatist region
inside Azerbaijan, but controlled by ethnic Armenians. Reports said that dozens of people
were killed or wounded.
Neighboring Turkey backs Azerbaijan, and its president blamed Armenia for the trouble.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkish President (through translator): I once again condemn Armenia.
Turkey will continue to stand by its friend and brethren Azerbaijan by all means and with
all its heart. It is time to bring an end to the regional crisis that started with Nagorno-Karabakh's
JUDY WOODRUFF: Russia also voiced concern and joined calls for an immediate cease-fire.
Back in this country, Northern California's Wine Country is on fire again, and more than
50,000 people around Santa Rosa and St. Helena have been told to leave. Fires broke out Sunday
in the Napa-Sonoma region, and quickly quadrupled in size, burning a winery, an inn and homes.
More than other 8,500 homes and buildings are still threatened.
President Trump's former campaign manager Brad Parscale has been hospitalized in Florida
for psychiatric evaluation. Police talked him out of his Fort Lauderdale home on Sunday,
after his wife reported he had guns and was threatening to hurt himself. Parscale was
demoted from campaign manager in July, after a series of missteps.
The Trump administration's attempt to ban TikTok from U.S. app stores is now on hold.
The ban on the Chinese-owned video-sharing app was set to take effect overnight, but
a federal judge in New York blocked it. Lawyers for TikTok argued that it would infringe on
First Amendment rights.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says tonight that the 2020 census will end on October 5.
The move announced today in a tweet comes after a federal judge ruled last week that
the count of every U.S. resident should continue through the end of next month.
And Wall Street started the week with a broad rally, helped by mergers and tech stocks.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 410 points to close at 27584. The Nasdaq rose
nearly 204 points and the S&P 500 added 53.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": Judge Amy Coney Barrett's record and the fight over
her confirmation to the Supreme Court; how the airline industry has been grounded during
the pandemic; why the cruise industry is desperate to return to sea; and much more.
It is one of the most important choices a president makes. And, in this critical moment,
the stakes are high for the future of the U.S. Supreme Court.
John Yang examines President Trump's nomination and how it comes with the election as a backdrop.
JOHN YANG: Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris led her party's criticism of
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett today.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), Vice Presidential Candidate: If nothing else, the voters should
be very clear about one thing. President Trump and his party and Judge Barrett will overturn
the Affordable Care Act, and they won't stop there.
JOHN YANG: Barrett, a Trump-nominated federal appeals court judge and former Notre Dame
law professor, says her role model is the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative
AMY CONEY BARRETT, Supreme Court Justice Nominee: I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20
years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate. His judicial philosophy is mine
too: A judge must apply the law as written.
JOHN YANG: If confirmed, Barrett would succeed the late liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
perhaps the greatest ideological shift since 1991, when Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood
Marshall. Liberals lamented the potential change.
OLIVIA RIESEN, Opposed to Amy Coney Barrett's Nomination: As someone of color, as a female,
I hope this doesn't get through, because I'd really like to see some real justice and someone
to uphold RBG's legacy.
JOHN YANG: Among her strong supporters are opponents of abortion rights.
EMILY HARRISON, Supporter of Amy Coney Barrett's Nomination: It is definitely a change from
having a liberal in the Supreme Court to having a more conservative Catholic who is able to
speak out about our beliefs in the Supreme Court.
JOHN YANG: When the Senate confirmed Barrett for the appeals court in 2017, she said the
court's Roe v. Wade decision establishing abortion rights was settled precedent, even
though she has said it was wrongly decided.
On the appeals court, she has appeared sympathetic to state laws restricting access to abortion.
If she joins the court by early November, one of the first cases Barrett would hear
would be the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act. As a law professor, Barrett wrote
in a 2017 law review article that Chief Justice John Roberts' 5-4 opinion upholding the law
pushed the act beyond its plausible meaning.
Health care has been at the center of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's opposition
Democrats hope to steer clear of the kind of questions about Barrett's religious faith
that came up in her appeals court confirmation hearing, and led some social conservatives
to brand them as anti-Catholic.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is
that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that's of concern.
JOHN YANG: Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham has set Supreme Court confirmation
hearings to begin in just two weeks.
So, who is Amy Coney Barrett and what does her record tell us about what she might be
like on the high court?
John Adams was a clerk for Judge Barrett on the federal appeals court in 2017 to 2018.
He's now in private practice in Chicago in Madison, Wisconsin. And Victoria Nourse is
a Georgetown law professor. She was chief counsel to Joe Biden when he was vice president.
Welcome to you both.
John, let me start with you.
Over the next couple of weeks, we're going to be hearing a lot about Judge Barrett's
judicial philosophy, hear her legal writings and academic writings dissected.
But you can tell us something that isn't going to come through that. What is she like as
a person? What was she like as a boss when you clerked for her?
JOHN ADAMS, Former Law Clerk For Judge Amy Coney Barrett: Professor Barrett, when I first
met her, and then Judge Barrett, was an amazing boss.
It has been downhill ever since I'm not able to spend time with her on a day-to-day basis.
She is unfailingly kind. She is courageous. And she is fair.
And she is also someone with an unrivaled sense of humanity, humility, and humor, given
all the tremendous responsibilities and accomplishments she possesses.
She is a principled jurist, who will also put the rule of law before any personal preference
or public pressure that she may receive.
JOHN YANG: On Saturday night, when she said that Justice Scalia's judicial philosophy
is her judicial philosophy, explain that. And how does it show itself when she approaches
JOHN ADAMS: Well, in two facets, she has explained the impact that Justice Scalia has had on
She has professed she is an originalist. And originalists believe that the meaning of the
law is fixed at the time it is ratified, and the meaning of the law, the original meaning,
the ordinary meaning of the law, is what controls, if it's discernible.
And she's also a textualist. She believes that she's confined by the words of the statute
that's duly enacted by our legislature.
JOHN YANG: Professor Nourse, you have said that you have -- you have challenged or questioned
the idea of textual interpretation in a justice on the Supreme Court.
What's your objections, or what's your problem with it?
VICTORIA NOURSE, Georgetown Law: Well, it sounds really banal and obvious that you follow
the rule of law.
But it is kind of, as Justice Scalia would say, a wolf in sheep's clothing. Justice Scalia
read a book call "Reading Law." And I wrote a book called "Misreading Law," because what
happens is not these fine statements that John has said.
And Judge Barrett -- I have known her and debated her as a law professor -- is a fine
woman. But I have to tell you, the philosophy is not so fine and it's not so nice for the
And why? Look at the health care cases. You don't have to believe me. One of them went
up there for what I have argued is a single word that was wrong in the statute. That is
an anti-democratic way of looking at statutes. And she's got answers that you will hear at
But I fundamentally believe, if you look at what Justice Scalia has done -- and she has
adopted his views on reading law -- you will see that he reads selectively.
JOHN YANG: John, I want to ask you, I mean, obviously, to respond to what Professor Nourse
has said, but also get your take on how you think, if Judge Barrett is confirmed, how
Justice Barrett would change the court, change the direction of the court, taking this big
ideological shift from Justice Ginsburg to potential Justice Barrett.
JOHN ADAMS: Well, John, let me begin by responding to Professor Nourse.
Textualism, as Justice Kagan has famously said, we are all textualists now. Textualism
allows judges to follow the words of the statute duly enacted by the legislature, instead of
searching for unknown purposes that could have been behind the legislature's minds or
And, in my view, textualism supports consistency and predictability in the law. It also prevents
judges from being legislatures from the bench. And it also prevents judges from imposing
their own views or their own public policy preferences into the law, because they're
constrained by the words of the statute. They can't go beyond.
And Professor Nourse does bring up the point that there are times when a statute can be
ambiguous. But, of course, there are canons of construction that can guide a judge to
identifying the ordinary meaning of the statute, and then neutrally applying the statute to
the facts at hand.
I think what you would see of a Justice Barrett is the same thing that you would see -- that
we have seen of a Judge Barrett on the Court of Appeals in what she has participated in,
over 600 decisions.
She approaches every case with an open mind and a foundational commitment that either
side might be right, and it's the law and the facts that guide the decision.
JOHN YANG: Professor Nourse, let me ask you the same question about, where do you think
this shift on the court, this new justice, if she is confirmed, how would this change
the direction and ideology of the court?
VICTORIA NOURSE: Well, I have to say, I think that this is going to be the biggest shift
since the early 1930s, before FDR attempted to pack the court, which I believe was unconstitutional,
by the way. I don't support that.
But it's tremendous, because you will have six votes. Justice Scalia's philosophy about
reading text is not traditional. It's not Blackstonian. It doesn't go back to 1787.
And it's been very hostile to laws, and that because it would have -- if she voted as Justice
Scalia did in the first health care case, as she said, we would not have Obamacare.
There was a second case. Again, Justice Scalia rewrote that one.
So, what we are going to see is a continued hostility toward the Congress. And this court
also loves the presidency. They're very interested in what Justice Scalia misquoted the Constitution,
in my view, when he said, the president has - - quote -- "all executive power."
That's not what the Constitution says.
So, I think it's a momentous appointment. I -- unfortunately, I think it's going to
be mired in a terrible politics. And I hope people will focus, as John and I have, on
these theories and what they really mean, not just the sayings. They all -- all lawyers
are happy to give you great words about the rule of law and all of that.
Look at what people have done with the philosophy, not what they say about it.
JOHN YANG: Because you -- you talk about this momentous, this big moment, short time before
the election, a fundamental shift in the balance of the court.
You worked for Joe Biden, not only in the White House, but on the Hill, when he was
on the Judiciary Committee.
What -- we're going to hear a lot in these hearings. What is fair? What's a fair line
of inquiry and what do you think is out of bounds.
VICTORIA NOURSE: I certainly think her children are out of bounds. I think her religious views
are out of bounds.
When I -- I was actually nominated to her court, the Seventh Circuit. I never got a
hearing. But my kids were threatened.
I think people have to be very careful now. People are so worked up because of the pandemic.
And there's just way too much enmity in this.
And Biden was one who taught me that I can really enjoy Amy Barrett's, Judge Barrett's
company, and we can have a great debate, but I can say, I think her views are dangerous.
And so I hope that we work hard to focus on the views, stay away from the kids.
JOHN YANG: John, you know the judge.
She has been placed in this situation not of her own making, the environment in which
her nomination is going to be considered. How do you think she's going to be able to
JOHN ADAMS: John, I think she's going to be able to handle it very well.
I know Judge Barrett. She is someone with amazing fortitude and poise and principle.
And she will carry those same attributes as she goes through this very difficult process.
Professor Nourse, I appreciate you saying what's out of bounds. I agree with you.
But I respectfully disagree with you that her views are dangerous. She is someone who
neutrally applies the law. And you can see that her neutral principles have been respected
by the unanimous, bipartisan support that she received as a law professor from the Notre
Dame law faculty, as well as her co-clerks.
When she clerked on the United States Supreme Court for Justice Scalia, every single one
of her co-clerks for all the justices supported her during her confirmation to the Seventh
Circuit. And it's that type of neutral application of law that will make her a great justice.
JOHN YANG: John Adams, Victoria Nourse, we're going to have to leave it there. But I think
we have gotten a sense of what we're likely to be going through for the next couple of
Thank you very much.
VICTORIA NOURSE: Thank you.
JOHN ADAMS: Thank you very much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As September comes to a close, a challenging deadline for U.S. airlines looms.
As Amna Nawaz reports, carriers across the industry are struggling to survive during
AMNA NAWAZ: Judy, U.S. airlines received about $25 billion in federal assistance earlier
this year as part of the CARES Act. And, as part of that deal, airlines promised to not
cut jobs until October.
But the industry continues to struggle, and several carriers now say they have no choice
but to furlough up to 35,000 employees this week unless they get more federal aid.
For more on this, I'm joined by Nick Calio. He's the president and CEO of Airlines for
America. That's the trade association for the country's leading passenger and cargo
Mr. Calio, welcome back to the "NewsHour," and thanks for being with us.
A lot of people look at this and say, once the airlines had the money in hand, the first
chance they got to furlough employees, they took it. So, why give them billions more now,
if they're just going to do the same thing in a few months' time?
NICHOLAS CALIO, President and CEO, Airlines For America: I would say that the facts belie
First of all, the airlines have all take -- undertaken measures to do everything they can to keep
themselves liquid and afloat and keep employees on the job, very substantial things, from
cuts in executive compensation, numbers of management, voluntary furloughs and leaves,
voluntary retirements, going to the private markets to increase liquidity.
And that first tranche of money, which was 70 percent grants and 30 percent loans, went
directly through. It was a pass-through directly to employees, who were kept on the job and
kept on the job for very good reasons.
We thought there would be an uptick in travel now, by this time. Early in the summer, it
looked like there would be. Then there was another surge, and there wasn't. And airlines
are a little bit different than most of the other industries involved.
We probably have been the hardest-hit, number one. But, number two, our employees undergo
rigorous training, retraining and recertification all the time. So, if they leave the job, you
can't just bring them back the next day and say, start up the airplane, have it take off.
AMNA NAWAZ: Mr. Calio, I'm confused, though..
You said, back then, you thought that airline traffic would be back up to somewhat normal
or near normal, something you need to sustain the industry. No single health expert we talked
to earlier this year thought it would be that way within six months.
Who were you listening to that told you things would be back to normal by then?
NICHOLAS CALIO: We did not say back to normal. I said I thought -- we thought there would
be an uptick. And there was an uptick. We never thought it would get back to normal.
In 2019, we were flying record numbers of passengers. We were flying 2.5 to 2.8 million
passengers and 58,000 tons of cargo every day. We're not going to reach those levels
for a while. But we can reach levels that make the industry sustainable.
And that's what we're hoping for. We thought we'd be back up to about 50 percent by the
end the summer. We haven't been. At one point, we were down 96 percent, in April. That's
a pre-jet age era number.
Then, right now, we're running down about 70 percent below what we were year over year.
AMNA NAWAZ: You mentioned the record traffic back in 2019.
I found a headline from August of 2019 which said, "U.S. Air Travel Demand Is Booming.
Will the Good Times Last?" If only we knew back then.
But it's worth mentioning, all of the airlines across the board had record profits, double-digit
operating margins, billions in revenue. A lot of people are wondering, shouldn't the
industry have had more of a cushion, more cash reserves to mitigate some of this pandemic
NICHOLAS CALIO: Amna, if you go back to March 1, and look at some of the financial conferences
that were occurring at the time -- this was just really a couple weeks before things really
got bad -- all of our airlines were judged to have -- quote -- "fortress balance sheets."
Those balance sheets were designed to withstand an event three times greater than 9/11. And
that did not happen. This is a once-in-a -- well, we hope it's a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,
certainly. But through no fault of our own, those balance sheets were wiped out.
We had taken all sorts of measures. We had hired 186,000 new employees in the last decade.
Their pay had gone up. Their pensions had gone up. There were a lot of good things going
on in the industry. I kept talking about it being the golden age of air travel.
So did J.D. Power, because everybody was flying. It was affordable. It was accessible like
never before in this country. And then the virus arrived, and everything changed.
AMNA NAWAZ: So, United today announced a deal with its pilots. They say they're going to
spread the reduced flying time across their 13,000 pilots, rather than have to furlough
Do you think more airlines can come up with more creative solutions like that to save
some of those jobs?
NICHOLAS CALIO: You know, we're a very really resilient industry.
And, if you look at all of A4A's members, they are all being very creative. They're
doing everything they can to keep their employees in place, because they understand the human
cost of losing your job.
And, again, it gets back to, you can't take a pilot off the job and bring him back the
next day, the same with a flight attendant, the same with our machinists, the same with
our gate agents, because of the safety issues and the recertification that has to go on.
So, we're trying to keep them on board, so that, as a recovery happens, the airlines
are there to empower the recovery, to take people where they want to go, to visit their
families, to do their business.
AMNA NAWAZ: Mr. Calio, I have to ask you.
You have a reputation in Washington, in Washington, D.C., as being a very forceful broker over
years there. You worked as a legislative affairs assistant under both Presidents H.W. and George
W. Bush. You know what it is to pull together tough deals.
The Republicans and Democrats have not been able to come together on this next round of
funding. And now there's a lot of distraction with the Supreme Court fight just weeks before
Do you think now they will be able to come together on another funding deal?
NICHOLAS CALIO: I'm hopeful. I'm not necessarily optimistic.
Times are different, I guess, now. To me, it seems, with where the speaker of the House
is coming out in terms of the number and where the president said he would go up to, that's
ample ground right in the middle. There's got to be a compromise somewhere in the middle,
because it's not just the airline industry.
There's a lot of people suffering. And, again, what happens is, when you knock people out
of their jobs, they then go on unemployment. They're not paying their taxes, federal state
or local taxes. They're not paying into Social Security or Medicare. And then they are drawing
unemployment. They're no longer spending money.
That has a ripple effect through the economy. So, viewed in that context, we believe there's
not only a political imperative here; there's an economic imperative.
So, I'm hopeful they can find a deal. There were some bright spots over the weekend and
today. We, in the airline industry, working with our labor partners, the pilots, the flight
attendants, the machinists, are doing everything we can to ask people to get to the table and
start to talk.
AMNA NAWAZ: That is Nick Calio, president and CEO of Airlines for America.
Thank you so much for your time.
NICHOLAS CALIO: Thank you for the time.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As Election Day nears, with voting already under way, the political landscape
shows no sign of settling down, so the perfect time for Politics Monday.
That means Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and the host of public radio's "Politics
With Amy Walter, and Errin Haines. She is the editor at large of The 19th. It's a nonprofit
and nonpartisan newsroom reporting on the intersection of gender and politics. Tamara
Keith is away.
Hello to both you.
So, Amy, this New York Times story about the president's taxes, reportedly, he paid very
little on a lot of -- excuse me -- on a lot of income. He says it is all fake news.
And you're telling us that, hey, it is another day of Donald Trump at the center of the news.
So, what are you thinking about this?
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes, another day of Donald Trump at the center
of the news isn't always a very good thing for Donald Trump.
This is a president who is sitting now somewhere around 42 percent, 43 percent, in terms of
his overall job approval rating. And the focus continues to be on either things that aren't
really great for him, whether it is his handling of the COVID pandemic, or, in this case, still
controversy swirling around his taxes.
Now, this isn't new information, obviously, Judy. This has been out there for quite some
time. Some of the data in here, of course, is definitely new and groundbreaking. But
in terms of voters' perception of the president, I don't know that it changes anything.
But what it does do, as I said, is, it keeps the focus on Donald Trump, instead of on other
things Donald Trump would like to be talking about, namely, his opponent and the shortcomings
of his opponent.
And this is -- so, clearly, this is a time the president, behind in the polls with low
approval ratings, needs to be on offense. He can't afford to be on his back foot right
now, and that's where he is.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Errin, how are you looking at this? It is a day of focus on the president.
It is not a day we're talking about Joe Biden.
And it is not particularly great news, even though the president says it is all fake.
ERRIN HAINES, Editor at Large, The 19th: Yes, you're right.
And aside from the specific issue of his taxes, right, because the majority of Americans are
certainly not tax attorneys, and neither are journalists, but, unlike Russia or the Ukraine,
those kinds of conversations, the issue of taxes is something that is literally a kitchen
table issue for millions of people in this country who are taxpayers.
And so kind of the surface level gist of this story is something that they are able to understand,
even if they don't have time to kind of digest the very thorough reporting of The New York
But the other thing, aside from the specific issue of taxes, is that this does kind of
hit on a recurring theme that -- the idea that the president has misled Americans about
who he is. He has portrayed himself to voters as somebody other than who he is, rich, successful,
but, most of all, to his supporters, somebody like you, right?
Well, most Americans are paying way more than $750 in their federal income tax. And so I
think that that is kind of disconnected from the narrative that he pushes to people.
Now, whether or not, for his supporters, that is going to be enough, like, one story, even
though The New York Times has said there is going to be more reporting on this issue,
whether one story is enough of a counterweight to his years in public life, his many seasons
on "The Apprentice," and his four years in office, given them many of the things that
they voted for, that is really unclear.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
ERRIN HAINES: But it is almost certainly going to be among the first questions in this debate.
And it is something that is going to be in the conversation for voters to at least think
about, as they are already voting in states across the country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For sure. And I do want to ask you about the debate in just a moment.
But, Amy, I want to come back to something that the president, I'm sure, we're sure,
was hoping would be a positive for him, and that's his choice of Judge Amy Coney Barrett
to the Supreme Court to fill the Ruth Bader Ginsburg seat.
Is this something that is likely to excite his conservative base, win him some votes
of women, where we see the president is trailing Joe Biden? Or could it have the opposite effect
and energize more of the Democrats?
AMY WALTER: Right.
I mean, you're right, Judy. This is the day that we were supposed to be talking about
a really successful rollout for the president this weekend of his Supreme Court nominee.
This would be his third appointee to the Supreme Court, definitely something he wanted to be
able to go into the debates talking about. And, of course, that has been drowned out.
I also do wonder, to your point about, who does it excite, if it doesn't end up being
just a wash, that, while it may excite some conservative Republicans, I don't know that
- - those folks were already on Donald Trump's side. There was -- there has definitely been
some erosion of support for Donald Trump among some groups of voters that he had won over
But among those sort of evangelical, white voters, that level of support for him, at
least that we have seen recently, has been pretty solid and pretty consistent.
Instead, what we don't really know about is a backlash to this among Democrats.
And it's pretty clear that Democrats are about as fired up as we have seen them, certainly
in recent years. We know we're going to hit historic turnout.
And so I think, at the end of the day, what we end up finding out is, both sides have
incredible turnout. But the problem for the president is, his base is simply smaller than
Joe Biden. The other thing -- than Joe Biden's base and coalition.
The other thing we know, Judy, is, every time that -- over the course of his entire presidency,
every time the president has found an issue that motivates his base, his base sticks together
and they're supportive of it, but we find, it doesn't just have an equal reaction among
people who don't like him.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
AMY WALTER: It has an equal and even stronger reaction among the other side.
His strong disapproval rating among Democrats or those who say that they did approve of
the job he is doing as president has always been significantly higher than those who say
they love him.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Errin, what about that?
What about the people you talk to in terms of whether this does the president more harm
ERRIN HAINES: Well, there are certainly Democratic women, Black women who were thrilled at the
prospect of a Joe Biden victory equaling a Black woman finally being the next person
to be nominated and possibly confirmed to the Supreme Court.
And so they're very energized. They were already motivated to vote in this election around
the issue of systemic racism, the pandemic, and other issues.
But the Supreme Court is definitely something that I'm hearing is also very much on the
ballot for them. Ruth Bader Ginsburg's legacy, her legacy is looming large for Democratic
women. I mean, you have seen kind of the public grieving for her, which could translate politically
at the polls, as I said, early voting already under way.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
ERRIN HAINES: And (AUDIO GAP) folks are saying they are going to the polls with Justice Ginsburg
on their minds as they do that.
But there are conservative women who are hailing this choice, maybe not as vocal, maybe not
as visible as some of the enthusiasm and energy that we're seeing on the other side. And maybe
they are celebrating or approving of this choice, even as it may not be kind of the
top priority for them, when you think about issues, like, frankly, the pandemic, issues
like child care, issues of the economy, that may be a little higher on the hierarchy of
needs in this kind of chaotic election season that really is the intersection of everything.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.
ERRIN HAINES: But I do think this has a potential to have an effect on both sides.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, a little less than a minute.
I want each one of you to tell me what you think each man has to do tomorrow night at
the debate tomorrow night.
AMY WALTER: Donald Trump has to come out on the offensive.
We know that that's where he likes to be anyway. But, again, a sitting president a month out
from an election coming from behind, he needs to come in early and often, put Biden where
he hasn't been very often in this race, back on his heels.
For Joe Biden, just be steady and project the sense that he has throughout the campaign
of being a unity candidate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Errin, what does each one have to do for you?
ERRIN HAINES: Yes, frankly, President Trump is going to have to focus on how he has delivered
for his supporters and for the American people.
And Joe Biden is going to have to focus on how he believes the president has not and
how he will do that instead.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, I have written all this down.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We're going to come and we're going to ask you next time what happened.
Errin Haines, Amy Walter, thank you both.
AMY WALTER: You're welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Cruise ship companies are waiting to learn this Wednesday from the Centers for
Disease Control whether their billion-dollar vessels can soon set sail again.
They have been prohibited from cruising since the start of the pandemic, and hundreds of
the luxury floating vessels, part hotel, cabaret, buffet, and amusement park, float at anchor
But, in Britain, these boats cruising to nowhere have become quite the attraction.
From Weymouth in Southern England, special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.
MALCOLM BRABANT: For the British, COVID signaled, goodbye, West Indies, hello, Weymouth, not
just for potential passengers, but also the ships themselves.
JENNY DAY, Cruise Fan: It's a crying shame. It's quite sad to see them all out there,
knowing people are missing holidays. And will they ever get back to normal?
MALCOLM BRABANT: Jenny Day has come to see a ship that once transported her to the Norwegian
fjords. She's anxious to regain her sea legs.
JENNY DAY: For normal working people, we save all year at working to have your two-weeks
or three-weeks holiday. And a cruise is just pure luxury, and it's a luxury that normal
working can't afford normally.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Fifty miles to the east is a boat in demand. The cruise ships' bind is
a bonus for skipper Paul Derham.
PAUL DERHAM, Captain: The moral of the story is try to take every opportunity.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Normally, the Mudeford Ferry serves an intercoastal waterway, but, this
summer, the so-called ghost ships have been an irresistible diversion.
PAUL DERHAM: We first advertised it when we came out of lockdown. We were a bit slow.
And I made an announcement to the passengers, anybody want to go and see any cruise ships
that are out in the bay?
And a load of hands went up. And we have been inundated with phone calls wanting to see
the cruise ships.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Derham spent three decades on a cruise ship bridge. The Aurora was his
PAUL DERHAM: I have been everywhere from Mumbai to Melbourne. Now I'm back in Mudeford. And
to see my old ship, it gives a few pangs, I suppose.
MALCOLM BRABANT: The pain is far more acute for the world's 60 cruise operators.
When this commercial was shot last year, a record 30 million passengers were carried
on 350 ships, making this a $150 billion global business.
ACTRESS: Welcome aboard.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Before coronavirus struck, the cruise industry was enjoying a boom period.
The shipyards couldn't build them fast enough. And the industry was really confident about
getting new clientele from China and South Asia. But now?
ALEX DOWNES, Cruise Ship Consultant: I think it would be naive not to acknowledge that
a couple of companies have gone under during this time, and there's a risk that a couple
more may do so.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Speaking from Belgrade in Serbia, Captain Alex Downes, an independent
ALEX DOWNES: It's important to note that ships are still being purchased, ships are still
being built, contracts are still being signed.
And I think that's a real indicator that the cruise industry has a lot of self-confidence
in its ability to restart.
MALCOLM BRABANT: There were small steps in Italy last month, as passengers boarded a
ship for the first time since lockdown, after the government lifted its ban on cruising.
This ship didn't stray beyond Italian waters.
In Hungary, cruises along the River Danube have resumed. This liner cruises at three-quarters
capacity. And cleaning protocols on board have been intensified.
Kilian Weber from Switzerland was one of the first aboard.
KILIAN WEBER, Cruise Passenger: I don't think they booked the boat, like, fully. I think
there's still some cabins that they left open, so that it's safer. And then we have to wear
masks when moving. So it seems like it's a safe experience.
MALCOLM BRABANT: When the pandemic began, cruise ships earned a reputation as incubators
for the disease. Nevertheless, on the Mudeford Ferry, enthusiasm for cruising was abundant.
LOUISE GALLAGHER, Health Worker: Now I have seen these ships, it's given me the inspiration
to try that type of thing once the pandemic is over.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Louise Gallagher works in Britain's National Health Service, and is
hyperconscious of the risks.
LOUISE GALLAGHER: Personally, I don't fear the virus as much, because I think I would
probably only receive minor symptoms. But I am worried about what I may pass on to others,
more vulnerable people.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Jody Carter drove 200 miles just to catch a glimpse of the ship that gave
her such a memorable holiday five years ago.
JODY CARTER, Visitor: I just hope that something happens soon that sort of makes them be able
to go again, because I know passengers get the experience and joy that I got out of it.
MALCOLM BRABANT: American operators are hoping that the Centers for Disease Control will
lift the ban on cruising. They're promising to improve hygiene and to test all passengers
and crew before boarding.
Other measures are inevitable, says Alex Downes.
ALEX DOWNES: On existing ships, we will see some modifications, much like we see ashore,
with regards to social distancing and barriers.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Not everyone swoons about cruising. The ghost ships have upset environmentalists
concerned about emissions, damage to the seabed, and light pollution at night.
PAUL DERHAM: Perhaps they should do cruises to nowhere. I can see countries don't want
2,000 people walking down their high street who've come from wherever. Perhaps they could
do cruises to Norwegian fjords and not actually land anywhere.
MALCOLM BRABANT: But cruising still has an allure for the skipper.
PAUL DERHAM: I think I'd like to split my time halfway between the Mudeford Ferry and
have the winter on the Aurora in somewhere warm. That would be ideal.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Given the ghost ship's uncertain future, that remains something of a fantasy.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Malcolm Brabant in Poole Bay.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Malcolm always finds these fascinating stories.
Thank you, Malcolm.
And on the "NewsHour" online, join us tomorrow for special coverage of the first presidential
debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
You can read more about all of the ways to watch and participate on our Web site. That's
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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