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tv   Washington Week  PBS  December 10, 2021 7:30pm-8:00pm PST

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yamiche: defending democracy at home and abroad. president biden: as a global community for democracy, we have to stand up for the value that is unite us. yamiche: president biden calls on world leaders to protect democracy. president biden: i was very straightforward with no mince words. yamiche: and he threatens president putin with economic consequences to ward above a russian invasion of ukraine. meanwhile a. federal court rules that former president trump cannot assert executive privilege over white house records connected to the capitol attack. and the supreme court allows a challenge to texas' restrictive abortion law but leaves it in place for now. plus nikole hannah-jones, the creator of the 1619 project, discusses the consequences of slavery in american life and politics. next.
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announcer: this is "washington week." corporate funding is provided b- >> for 25 years, consumer cellular's goal has been to provide wireless service that helps people communicate and connect. we offer a variety of no contract plans and our u.s.-based customer service team can help find one that fits you. to learn more, visit -- consumer announcer: additional funding by the estate of arnold adams, koo and patricia yuen through the yuen foundation committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities, sandra and carl delay-magnuson. rose herschel and andy shreeves. robert and susan rosenbaum. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers from viewers like you. thank you. announcer: from washington moderator yamiche alcindor.
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yamiche: good evening and welcome to "washington week." over the last few days, president biden has been focused on threats to democracy at home and abroad. on tuesday, he held a video call with russian president vladimir putin. he warned putin not to invade ukraine and threatened him with severe economic sanctions. president biden: very clear. if in fact he invades ukraine, there will be severe consequences. yamich that comes as russian troops are gathering en masse near the ukrainian border. the standoff could be a diplomatic mine field for president biden. on thursday, president biden also kicked off a two-day virtual democracy summit with more than 100 cntries. he spoke about the importance of protecting democracy. president biden: i wanted to host this summit because here is the -- here in the united states, we know as well as anyone that renewing our democracy and strengthening our democratic institutions requires constant effort.
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yamiche: and on the domestic front, senate republicans and yes, two democrats, voted to repeal key biden-vaccine mandates. here's senate minority leader mitch mcconnell. >> president biden's absurd private sector vaccine mandate is blatant overreach. it is illegal. yamiche: joining me to discuss the latest from washington, peter baker, chief white house correspondent for "the new york times." vivian salama, national security reporter for "the wall street journal." and jake sherman, co-founder of punch bowl news. that newsletter that gets us all up in the morning. thank you all for being here. peter, i want to start with you. president biden of course had this high stakes call with the bugs -- with the russian president and talked to the president of ukraine. talk about how the white house sees this sort of relationship, especially with what's happening on the border but also can there be enough leverage to impact president putin's actual actions here? peter: yeah. that's great question. that's the $64,000 question. so president biden came to office with a theory of the case on russia. they weren't going to try to do a reset like obama tried.
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they weren't going to troy to cozy up the way president trump did and try something called mowing the lawn. from time to time they were going to keep russia happy with a little bit of respect, have a summit, a secretary of state visit but they didn't want to spend a lot of time on russia because they weren't going to get anywhere on it and wanted to focus on other priorities overseas like china. well, guess what? it hasn't happened because president putin demands attention. it's not enough to mow the lawn when it comes to president putin. he will get in your lawn. that's the problem right now. he's getting in everybody else's lawn. now, president biden has taken a balanced middle approach. he's trying not to be too saber rattling while at the same time making some pretty straightforward warnings about what would happen if he goes -- president putin goes too far. but the question is what putin really wants to do here. because he's already taken into account whatever he thinks the united states is going to do. he already knows whether he's willing to pay the price, that president putin -- president biden can inflict. and so we're left guessing whether he really wants to
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invade which is -- still seems somewhat unlikely but not out of the question. or whether he's trying to get something else out of it. what is he trying to get out of it other than just stabilizing his neighbor? yamiche: vivian, you spent all week reporting on this and peter talking about this idea of the russian president needing attention and already gaming in out. what do you think the calculations are both on the russian side, both on the u.s. side and really what's -- what do you think is the russian president's end game here? vivian: well, vladimir putin has long believed that, you know, he has expanded russian power to make it sort of in this post-soviet era to make it a real viable global power. and the one missing element of that is really kind of maintaining ukraine and -- in his orbit and something that he is quite obsessed with and talks about it all the time. and so for him, expanding nato and -- and involves providing assistance from nato allies or any kind of aid whatever you want to call it, any kind of expansion into ukraine violates that. and so for him, this is almost an existential issue. an issue that impacts his legacy directly and so that's his
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calculation and whether or not he invades obviously we don't know. but it's not looking good. just given all the signs we've seen with the troops halving at the border with ukraine and some of his rhetoric. now for the u.s., there are different things like peter said, the biden administration has made a concerted effort to focus on china and this strategic competition. he also prides himself with his diplomatic efforts. and so he thinks that talking to putin on a video call, it's important to emphasize he did a video call with putin and did not do that with the others this week. he believes that that face-to-face interaction, that personal connection is something that he can really leverage in his favor to avoid a bad situation. and for him, he just wants to avoid a bad situation and getting sucked into a conflict in ukraine is not what he wants and trying to defuse the situation as much as possible. yamiche: and vivian, and a related question, is the democracy summit. this summit is 100 countries, the president talked about
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protecting democracy, and i also wonder if you could talk a bit about how countries see the u.s. sort of trying to lead other countries to protect democracies when they have the sort of issues that we have with our own democracy. vivian: it's a touchy issue. this is something that president biden campaigned on. he promised in his first year that he was going to convene a summit of democracies to bring the world's democracies together to kind of talk about reinvigorating that notion of democracy as he believed that that was lagging under the trump administration. he wanted to reaffirm that. but obviously there are a lot of issues at home that the u.s. -- got a lot of criticism for. everything from racial to economic inequalities. and history of slavery. i mean, the list goes on. and our adversaries throw that in our faces constantly with regard to any kind of confrontation. the chinese and the russians were not invited to participate in this week's summit. but they are the first to call the u.s. out on some of -- some of the issues that we have. the january 6 protests are a prime example of that where the chinese have repeatedly pointed to that and talked about the
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fragility of our democracy here at home. and so while the u.s. admits and president biden admits that the u.s. was not perfect, he's trying to really establish this framework where we can kind of build upon the ideals that america was built upon when it was founded 250 years ago. yamiche: yeah. and jake, the issues at home of course are right in the beat that you cover on capitol hill. there was a really great artic in the atlantic and i should say the punch bowl news was doing great reporting too. this atlantic article struck me because it talks about the chipping away at democracy and the slow -- the next january 6 is going to be slow. and it's going to be president -- former president trump sort of overthrowing an election before it even is decided. talk a bit about what you're seeing from your vantage point. jake: that story by better gelman was quite alarming i would say. listen, i was talking to a group this morning of aides from the european parliament asked me, it was striking to me, they said to me, will there ever be an
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election in america that's free and fair again? or will there be people who are always undermining or always saying unless they won the election is not fair? and this -- these are people who are political professionals in another country and i'm not sure where this person was from. but obviously from somewhere in europe. and it was striking to me. and i mean, i will say if republicans take the majority in 2022, it will be interesting to see if they see any fraud in any of the elections that they've won. so listen, i think that this is going to be a lingering problem. i think that -- if donald trump runs again, it will be interesting to see how he handles it. and i think it's -- it's scary. it's quite scary. yamiche: yeah. quite scary is definitely i think the corre way to characterize this. i also want to ask you how are lawmakers feeling what the january 6 investigation? there was a lot of news this week apparently the former chief of staff to the former president trump, he's not cooperating as much anymore. but mark short who was the former chief of staff to the vice president, he is cooperating. what are you hearing about lawmakers? from lawmakers?
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jake: i think the people who are involved are quite happy how it's going. they have 200 -- done 200 interviews, hundreds of -- thousands of documents. here's the interesting thing. the subpoenas get all the headlines. but there are dozens of people if not more who didn't get subpoenaed who worked for president trump who are cooperating because they did nothing wrong and they have information or they have just the ability to map who was talking to who in the white house. that is what should scare donald trump. not people who can fighthese subpoenas and who are going to be pains in the neck to the committee like mark meadows or other folks like that but the people who are quietly giving this committee what they need to know, what they want to know. and allowing them to build a -- a large record of what happened leading up to january 6 and on january 6. yamiche: yeah. peter, you're knotting your head jump in here. we covered the former president together. peter: we did. we sat there. and -- yamiche: we have an experience. peter: we did. and i think -- one of the things that's really interesting is even though mark meadows has
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said i'm not going to cooperate he's already given them some documents and already pretty revealing. for instance, text messages that they have in which meadows trades message with a member of congress on november -- i believe 6 before they even had declared the election for biden, talking about substituting electors in states that they wanted to challenge. and he says i love it. according to the committee. that shows how early they were already talking about finding ways to upend the system and change the result away from what the certified results really were. and i think we're learning so much more every day and every week about the quonseted effort to -- concerted effort to topple a domestic system and your visitors asking about a free and fair election are raising a scary but important point. the truth is it was a free and fair election. but now the president -- former president has convinced millions of people that it wasn't. and that's what makes it dangerous. because people have less faith in democracy. yamiche: yeah. there's another issue that's been ublg up this week that we
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had news on today and that is of course abortion. today the extreme court ruled that abortion providers in texas can challenge the state's ban on most abortions after six weeks. but the ruling leaves a lot in place as the legal process plays out. vivian, clarence thomas the only person accidenting on this and talked about -- dissenting on this and talked about how he wouldn't let this lawsuit go for but justice sowna sotomayor the court should have put an end to this madness months ago meaning the law should not have been kept in place. from your perspective and the people you talk to how is what we're seeing in the u.s. on abortion how is it viewed globally when you think about other countries like ireland and a very catholic country, they are providing abortions in most cases up until at least the first trimester. vivian: a number of latin american countries, too, which are also very catholic and they're starting to liberalize. mexico and argentina and a number of others whichre going in that direction all the while. and you're seeing much more restrictions on this issue of sort of bringing more conservative value to the abortion laws back in our
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rhetoric here in the united states. and it's very interesting because on the one hand, you know, a lot of thieves countries that are changing their laws, they are saying that in the first three months, they are making exceptions for a number of socio-economic issues such as unemployment and medical issues whereas in the united states, and especially when we're talking about places like texas, they are only allowing exceptions for pregnant woman if the health of the pregnant woman is in jeopardy or a fetal anomaly. so a lot of concern that the united states is going in one direction while the rest of the world is liberalizing these laws. but obviously this is playing out in the high court now. a very contentious issue we see protests here in d.c. now almost on a daily basis over the issue. and so it's -- continues toe a hot topic. but with the court now leaning more toward the conservative side of things, it is going to be hot topic for people who are pro abortion. yamiche: yeah. hot top and i can a topic that's concerning to so many americans
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all over the country. peter, the president put out a statement today saying that he -- was very concerned about the supreme court's decision. what are you hearing from the white house, from democrats, about their plans to push back? there is very little they can do but still moving its way through the supreme court of course. peter: really interesting. thursday the culmination -- this is the kulemin aches of decades of fighting and if you're anti-abortion this is a great thing and a moment where you might be able to finally change the law in a way that you feel is the best way for unborn. but what was going to see here if they were to overturn roe v. wade or even if they simply uphold some of these really restrictive state laws is an increased polarization in the country. they're -- not going to ban abortion across the country overnight. but what they're going to do is say red states, blue states, in effect we'll have even more of a division in the united states. some states have very, very strict bans or near bans on them and other states are very pro abortion rights. and wee going to once again bring this country to yet
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another dividing point where we're just living in two different countries. yamiche: yeah. and it's definitely a topic that of course so many people feel passionate about. it's a health care topic and want to go to another health care top and we're still living through this pandemic. jake, this week we saw two democrats in the senate vote against the vaccine mandates and i should say vaccine and testing mandates targeting private businesses that president biden is supporting. we also saw republicans, some democratic governors like gretchen whitmer out there in michigan talking about these mandates being a problem. how concerned is the white house, democrats, that there could be some pushback on even from their own party on these mandates? jake: it's kind of over now because the house is not going to bring it up. but this is the -- this is the -- this almost shut the government down. i mean, remember, just a couple of weeks ago, republicans were threatening to shut down the government for -- to defund so to speak these mandates. i think this. i think that jon tester and joe manchin, the two democrats who
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voted with republicans here are aknopp list, right? joe manchin and jon tester represent states that donald trump won by 40 something points. that's kind of the dynamic there. and i think what democrats say by a large and i've talked to a lot of democrats about this, which is like the courts in their view, even a lot of them privately say the courts will strike this down. we'll have to see. that's -- that's a long way from being -- from being done. but i would say there is some unease with the private sector vaccine mandate among -- among even less conservative democrats. yamiche: yeah. well, peter, vivian, jake, thank you so much for joining us tonight. a conversation that we will have to continue. and as we continue to talk about democracy i want to turn now to talk about the politics of race and the newly released best-selling book the 1619 project and the children's book born on the water. joining me from new york, nikole hannah-jones. she is a pulitzer prize winning staff writer for "the new york times" magazine and the creator
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of the 1619 project. thank you so much, nikole, for being here. you of course write in the preface of your book the first time you came across the date 1619, talk about what the significance of that date should be for this country and what it says about what kind of country we are but also what kind of country we could be. nikole: yamiche, thanks for having me on. and before i get into that, i just have to correct something from the last panel if you don't mind. yamiche: yeah, go ahead. this is why you're on, of course. nikole: so respectfully, when jake sherman of punch bowl said -- asked the question will we ever have free and fr elections again, i just think we have to push back on that narrative. that we've only had a resemblance of free and fair elections since 1965. until 1965, with the voting rights act, we had an entire region of the country whe millions of americans had their vote violently suppressed. and were actually not able to engage in democracy. so we have not had free and fair
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elections except for the span of about five decades. and so as we're analyzing where we will be next year if republicans take back the house and the senate, i think we have to analyze that within the context of elections and democracy has always been contested in this country. a true semblance of democracy is actually quite new. and what we really will be doing is going back to our more natural state in the united states. and we should be very worried about that. because that means that our democracy may not hold. because we actually haven't had true representative democracy for very long. now, moving on to the question that you asked me, the reason the 1619 is important is because 1619 actually explains why our democracy is on the brink right now. we have this narrative of 1776 where, you know, thyrse intrepid colonists break off from the british empire because they want to have freedom and liberty. thee want to be able to vote and be able to elect their
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governance of the people, by the people and for the people of the truth is in 1776 one fifth of the population was enslaved. one fifth of the population of the 13 colonies in all 13 colonies engaged in slavery could not exercise any type of representative democracy at all. because they weren't even considered part of the body politick. but if we think about america through the prism of 1619, that's where we see these really founding tensions that our country is struggling against right now. this racial division, this polarization. even our class divisions. that is where those began and those are influencing what happens in 1776, what happens in 1865, what happens in 1965, how we get the election of donald trump and where we are in the country right now. yamiche: yeah. and as you went straight to elections and i think it's a smart place to be. because you also said that race -- race was the original wedge issue is one of the earliest wedge issues in america. can you talk a little bit about
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that and talk a little bit about how it connects to the voting rights restrictions that we're seeing. these laws that are being passed by republicans in states all over the country. nikole: sure. so i've been doing actually quite a bit of reading on how democracies die. as a matter of fact i just finished a book called how democracies die. and what those scholars argue really which i think is true, democracy in america until 1965 was predicated on exclusion. and the reason why you could have political parties that even though they may have had different beliefs that actually saw each other both as legitimate rulers is because black people and people of color were excluded from that process. so you were only ever engaging with other white people in the political process. and so what we're seeing now is really a tearing of that fiber that united us because black people, latinos, indigenous people, are now having a say in our elections and they're actually able to sway elections. as you know, a republican has not won the popular vote for the
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presidency except one time in about the last 30 years. and so brown people, black people, are really swaying these elections and that's what we're seeing this extreme polarization is coming out of that. so republicans now who are the conservative party but during the 1960's it was democrats who were more the conservative party and earlier, what we're seeing is that there's always an understanding that if you cannot win the vote, you can win the vote by dividing people along racial lines. that you can separate people who should have a class interest, working class white people should have a class interest with working class black people. but you can divide those voters if you can introduce t issue of race. and that's why, you know, the propaganda campaign of critical race theory was so effective. if you may notice, none -- now that the election is over no one is talking about critical race theory anymore. because that was a very useful tool. and if we are as journalists not more savvy about understanding
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how race is used in elections, then we are going to help us get to that point where we don't have fair and free elections anymore. yamiche: yeah. and when you -- talking about free and fair electrics and also talking about sort of the political impacts of -- and consequences of slavery and racism, there's also the economic impacts of that. you talk about the fact that slavery was not just a racist system. it was really an economic system. how do you see that playing out now? how is that playing out now? especially as we live through these sort of economic struggles through this pandemic? nikole: absolutely. so what we are commonly taught to think about is slavery was about white people, white being racist against black people but slavery was trying to extract resources and capital and money out of black labor. and justifying that exploitation rough racism so justifying the fact that you could do anything to black people as long as it turned to profit including torturing them and including selling their children by saying thes people weren't really human like us.
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these people don't feel pain like us. these people are not deserving of the same treatment and rights as other people. well, we can look across our country and see that what is stopping us from having a strong social safety net? why do we have the least labor union membership of the western world? why do we -- are we the only nationhere whether you can go to the doctor when you're sick depends on whether you have a job or not? this is what makes us the outlier compared to other countries that we compare ourselves to. and the polling is very clear. white americans support for socialrograms declines if they think large numbers of black americans will benefit from them. so large numbers of white americans are hurting their own economic interests even now in a pandemic because they have this belief that black people are undeserving of aid. and so they will also deprive themselves of aid. yamiche: one last question, and you had this tumultuous relationship. but you decided to go to howard,
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what do u think is just the impact and what do you hope is the impact of a woman like you, a black woman like you taking back your power and saying i'm going to go here and i'm going to choose this and only 20 seconds left but i want to allow you to bask in that. nikole: yeah. i think that the message is these institutions are just as lucky to have us as we are to be there. and we need to stop being treated as if we should just have to take power. we do have power and bring worth and value. and institutions won't recognize that, then we take our talents elsewhere. yamiche: yeah. and jake, she mentioned you and want to -- you're still at the table. go ahead. jake: i wasn't saying that. i was relaying a question that somebody else had asked me. i wasn't questioning whether we would have free and fair elections but that was a question posed to me during a panel discussion. yamiche: got you. thank you, jake, for responding and thank you, nikole for bringing that on and for joining the broadcast. we will continue our conversation online with nikole on the washington week extra and our website, facebook and youtube and also tune in monday
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to "the pbs newshour" for a look inside two legal facilities in new york where people can now use illegal drugs. and before we go, we want to remember two legendary politicians, former senate majority leader bob dole and former congresswoman carrie week a world war ii veteran dole was one of the most influential republicans of his time and 1996 republican presidential noll ney and passed away on sunday is he age of 98. congresswoman meek started her career as a democratic florida statehouse representative. the grand daughter of enslaved people she was the first black lawmaker from florida to win a seat in congress. since reconstruction. she passed away on sunday at the age of 95. may they rest in peace. i'm yamiche alcindor. thank you for joining us. good night from washington. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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announcer: corporate funding for "washington week" is provided b. additional funding is provided by t estate of arnold adams, koo and patricia yuen through the yuen foundation, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities, sandra and carl delay-magnuson, rose herschel and andy shreeves. robert a susan rosenbaum. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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