February 23, 2023 - PBS NewsHour full episode
02/23/2023 | 56m 45s | Video has closed captioning.
February 23, 2023 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
Get extended access to 1600+ episodes, binge watch your favorite shows, and stream anytime - online or in the PBS app.
Already a WGVU member?
You may have an unactivated WGVU Passport member benefit. Check to see.
02/23/2023 | 56m 45s | Video has closed captioning.
February 23, 2023 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
GEOFF BENNETT: Good evening.
I'm Geoff Bennett.
AMNA NAWAZ: And I'm Amna Nawaz.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: an overheated wheel bearing and a warning that came too late.
Government investigators explore possible causes of the train derailment that led to a toxic chemical spill in Ohio.
GEOFF BENNETT: Ukraine's fight against Russia forges new levels of national unity and resolve, as the war approaches the one-year mark.
OLEKSANDR VILKUL, Mayor of Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine (through translator): Putin made a huge mistake.
The division that he created in the last few months will last for generations.
AMNA NAWAZ: And abortion pills become the latest battleground over reproductive rights, pending a federal judge's decision that could ban them nationwide.
(BREAK) AMNA NAWAZ: Welcome to the "NewsHour."
Federal investigators say the crew of the train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, tried to slow and stop the train after getting a critical sensor warning.
GEOFF BENNETT: But the preliminary investigation also found that warning, which came from an overheated axle, did not arrive until just moments before the train went off the track.
AMNA NAWAZ: Investigators have not determined the cause of the derailment in East Palestine, but today's report from the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, pointed to a key clue, an overheated wheel bearing that was 253 degrees hotter than the air temperature.
Investigators said that set off a sensor and audible warnings on the Norfolk Southern train.
But the temperature did not reach a level that would have required the crew to stop the train by the company's own rules until just before the accident.
JENNIFER HOMENDY, Chair, National Transportation Safety Board: The warning threshold is set by railroads.
And, again, it varies by railroad.
We're going to look at that and see if that threshold should have changed -- should change.
GEOFF BENNETT: Jennifer Homendy is chair of the NTSB.
JENNIFER HOMENDY: I will tell you that, had there been a detector earlier, it would not have -- that derailment may not have occurred.
But that's something we have to look at.
GEOFF BENNETT: The 149-car train derailed nearly three weeks ago.
Its 38 cars came off the tracks, 11 of them tank cars that dumped more than 100,000 gallons of hazardous chemicals, including vinyl chloride, which is linked to cancer.
The EPA says its tests show the air and municipal drinking water in East Palestine are safe.
Today's NTSB report also found the train was traveling 47 miles per hour before the accident, which was below the speed limit.
Residents in East Palestine remain anxious and frustrated about the aftermath.
CRYSTAL MAHONEY, East Palestine, Ohio, Resident: What goes up has to come down.
If it's attaching to this water, where's it going?
How do I protect my family from something I can't see?
GEOFF BENNETT: And they have questioned why Norfolk Southern and authorities opted for a controlled burn of the chemicals.
In its preliminary report, the NTSB said that happened because the temperature in one of the tank cars was very high and could have led to a catastrophic explosion.
The report was released as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was on the ground in East Palestine today.
He said the accident showed the need for tougher regulation from Congress and higher safety protocols from the rail industry.
PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. Secretary of Transportation: Norfolk Southern and the other freight rail companies need to stop fighting us every time we try to do a regulation.
GEOFF BENNETT: He also acknowledged he may have waited too long to travel there, saying he wanted to let the EPA and NTSB deal with the emergency first.
The federal response has become a partisan flash point.
DONALD TRUMP, Former President of the United States: We have told you loud and clear you are not forgotten.
GEOFF BENNETT: Yesterday, Donald Trump visited the area and blasted President Biden for not yet visiting East Palestine.
DONALD TRUMP: They heard I was coming.
They all came.
They weren't going to come.
They were going to leave you abandoned.
And now they're not.
GEOFF BENNETT: Today, Buttigieg pushed back, arguing that the Trump administration eased up on safety regulations too easily to satisfy the railroad companies.
PETE BUTTIGIEG: One thing he could do is express support for reversing the deregulation that happened on his watch.
GEOFF BENNETT: The NTSB said today it will carefully investigate sensors, alarms and the rules set by railroads.
It also plans to hold a rare investigative hearing in East Palestine this spring.
AMNA NAWAZ: In the day's other headlines: Across the country, from California to Maine, an unprecedented winter storm has put some 75 million Americans under winter weather alerts.
At least one person died, a Michigan firefighter who touched a downed power line.
The heavy snow and ice triggered more than 1,100 flight cancellations today and made for treacherous travel.
William Brangham reports on the impact of this large storm.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This monster storm has turned highways into skating rinks.
Potentially record-breaking snow and subzero temperatures have fallen across the Upper Midwest, forcing many to endure the worst in the dark; 900,000 residents across Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana were without power earlier today, the majority in Michigan.
Minnesota, a state accustomed to blankets of snow, is expected to break its all-time snowfall records.
There and across the Dakotas, windchills could plunge 45 degrees below zero.
This storm system covering over 2,000 miles of the country forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights in and out of the U.S., with more than 3,000 delayed.
On the West Coast, in Los Angeles County, where it's usually in the 50s this time of year, a blizzard warning goes into effect Friday, the first such warning in over three decades.
Further north, California Highway Patrol are urging those who have to drive to prepare for the worst.
MIKE SALAS, California Highway Patrol: Make sure those tires are in good working order.
But, also, you make sure you're packed warm, you have enough supplies in case you might get stranded or stuck.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In a sign of just how chaotic this weather is, while the Midwest freezes at temperatures 40 degrees below average, the mid-Atlantic and Southeast are seeing record highs, with temperatures 40 degrees above average.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.
AMNA NAWAZ: As the war in Ukraine approaches the one-year mark, heavy fighting rages in the east.
The Ukrainian military says Russian forces launched more than 80 artillery barrages in the last day.
Newly released drone footage showed the scale of the destruction in the eastern city of Bakhmut.
It's a virtual ghost town of empty streets and hollowed-out buildings.
Ukrainian soldiers there say they are determined to hold their ground.
OLEH SLAVIN, Ukrainian Soldier (through translator): If we surrender Bakhmut, it will be very tough for us later on.
We can't surrender it under any circumstances, so we will hold out.
AMNA NAWAZ: Also today, the United Nations General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution calling for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine.
Fresh violence erupted along the Israel-Gaza border today hours after yesterday's Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank killed 10 Palestinians and injured over 100.
The Israeli military said Palestinian militants launched several rockets towards Southern Israel this morning.
They say Israeli fighter jets then struck a weapons manufacturing site and a military compound in Gaza.
No injuries were reported in today's attack.
In Turkey, hundreds of building contractors are under investigation for violating safety standards after this month's devastating earthquakes.
The probe comes as the combined death toll in Turkey and Syria nears 50,000 people.
Survivors are still coming to terms with their losses.
BUSHRA BARAKAT, Syrian Earthquake Survivor (through translator): We never expected this to happen.
I'm 50 years old, and I'd never seen an earthquake.
I thought for a second that the world was ending.
And, in some moments during the time, the world did end.
AMNA NAWAZ: The White Helmets organization reported today that tens of thousands of families in Northwestern Syria are still sheltering in tents and cars, for fear of another earthquake.
Back in this country, disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 16 years in prison for a rape and sexual assault case in Los Angeles.
The 70-year-old media mogul already has more than 20 years left to serve for a similar conviction in New York in 2020.
In the meantime, singer R. Kelly was sentenced to 20 years in prison for child pornography and enticement of minors for sex.
But he's able to serve most of that concurrently with a separate 30-year sentence, adding only one more year of prison.
The number of U.S. mass killings linked to extremism has spiked over the last decade.
A new report from the Anti-Defamation League said they're three times higher in the last 10 years than any other decades since the 1970s.
Between 2010 and 2020, there were 21 mass slayings motivated by extremism, compared to just a handful in previous decades.
They also found that all the extremist killings in 2022 were linked to the far right.
Many were tied to white supremacy.
Federal authorities arrested Carlos Watson, the founder of the digital start-up Ozy Media, on fraud charges today.
Prosecutors say Watson misled potential investors about the company's revenue, audience numbers and the identities of its investors.
Two of the company's other top executives pleaded guilty to fraud earlier this month.
Watson, a former host and commentator for MSNBC, CNBC and CNN, was also a frequent guest on the "NewsHour" in 2015.
The Biden administration is nominating former Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga to lead the World Bank.
If selected by the bank's board, he will replace former President Trump's appointee, David Malpass, who's stepping down early amid criticism for past comments that cast doubt on climate science.
Banga is the first Indian-born nominee for the post.
The U.S. labor market is showing more signs of resilience.
The Labor Department reported the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell to 192,000 last week.
That is down from 195,000 the previous week.
This is the sixth straight week that jobless claims were under 200,000.
And stocks edged higher on Wall Street today.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 109 points to close at 33154.
The Nasdaq rose 83 points, and the S&P 500 added 21.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": a new poll shows most Americans want compromise on raising the debt ceiling; Republican Congressman Tom Cole weighs in on the many issues facing a divided Congress; television veteran Larry Wilmore talks about what makes comedy work; plus much more.
Tomorrow is the first anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
One year on, after tens of thousands of lives lost, strong Ukrainian resistance and the U.S. led coalition funneling billions in aid to Ukraine, where does the war stand?
Wendy Sherman is the deputy secretary of state, and she joins me now.
Deputy Secretary, thank you for joining us.
As you well know, one of the chief criticisms of the U.S. and Western response to the war in Ukraine has been too little too late, that they resisted sending things like Stingers and HIMARS, even tanks, out of fear of escalation, only to provide them later on anyway.
We know President Zelenskyy is now requesting these long-range missiles, the ATACMS system.
Every expert we have spoken to says this would let him hit further-away Russian targets, keeping Ukrainians safer.
Why is the Biden administration holding this request up?
WENDY SHERMAN, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State: Well, I think -- Amna, it's great to be with you this afternoon and talk with you and talk with your viewers.
President Biden at every step along the way has listened very closely to what President Zelenskyy has asked for.
And no doubt, if I was President Zelenskyy, I would ask for everything I could possibly think of, because this is very existential for Ukraine.
These are very tough decisions.
We look at our own readiness.
We look at our own stockpiles.
But we look at what the battlefield is and what we can provide.
And, yes, at every point along the way, one has to think about escalation, not taking us to a place I don't think Ukraine or anybody else wants to be.
I think the president has made incredibly wise and steady decisions.
I think his trip to Kyiv, his speech in Poland made it clear that the American people and the world, for that matter -- 141 countries stood with Ukraine this afternoon at the United Nations.
(CROSSTALK) AMNA NAWAZ: But, on this point, if I may, on this fear of escalation, that has been there from the beginning, and all of these weapons systems were provided anyway.
So, what is the -- what's the Russian response you're trying to avoid at this point?
They have already bombed civilian targets and hospitals and so on.
WENDY SHERMAN: Without a doubt, when Vladimir Putin wasn't winning and isn't winning on the battlefield, he's decided to try to freeze people to death, to abduct children and take them to Russia and try to -- quote, unquote - - "reeducate them" as Russians, horrifying acts that I think everybody listening just is astounded that this would happen in this day and age, so many echoes of history that are profoundly horrible.
But let me be clear that the United States has provided billions of dollars in security assistance to Ukraine.
We want to ensure that Vladimir Putin is held back from taking the most horrible steps that he could take, even beyond the horrible steps he's already taken.
(CROSSTALK) AMNA NAWAZ: When you say the most horrible, are you talking about a tactical nuclear weapon?
Is that the worst-case scenario you're trying to avoid?
WENDY SHERMAN: Well, it's not the worst-case scenario, but the worst-case scenario would also be invading other countries as well, believing that they belong to some fantasy of what a Russian empire should look like under Vladimir Putin.
But, certainly, we don't want, the world does not want Vladimir Putin to use what is considered to be a tactical nuclear weapon.
In my own view, having dealt with the issue of nuclear weapons over many years, every single kind of nuclear weapon, even if it is -- quote unquote -- "low threshold," is a very, very great risk to the world's security.
AMNA NAWAZ: I'd like to ask you about the recent warnings to China against providing lethal aid to Russia that we have heard from U.S. officials.
What does that mean?
What, in your view, constitutes lethal aid that China is considering providing?
WENDY SHERMAN: Well, we are very concerned that lethal aid means direct assistance to provide weapons to Russia.
And the administration has told the People's Republic of China directly that if, in fact, they do provide lethal aid to Russia, that there will be consequences.
And the PRC understands what that means.
(CROSSTALK) AMNA NAWAZ: And would that be -- with China's provision of lethal aid, would that be an escalation that warrants a stronger U.S. response?
WENDY SHERMAN: I think it certainly will get a U.S. response if they provide such lethal aid.
And Vladimir Putin has been an aggressor nation.
Ukraine has been the victim here.
And the PRC should be standing with Ukraine, which is trying to uphold the principles of the U.N. charter that Xi Jinping says is so important to him.
AMNA NAWAZ: Deputy Secretary, I want to ask you about where we are as a nation, because we have some new poll numbers from "PBS NewsHour"/NPR/Marist poll that shows nearly a third of Americans think we are providing too much support to Ukraine.
And, of course, there's a big partisan divide.
That's a stronger sentiment among Republicans, 47 percent of whom think it is too much.
Does declining public support here at home make it harder to continue to fund Ukraine?
WENDY SHERMAN: Well, you're talking about a third of Americans who have said they think perhaps we're giving too much, but that means two-thirds of Americans believe that we should stand with Ukraine.
That's more than a simple majority.
So I think that's a very profound statement about the tremendous solidarity with Ukraine in this.
Look, everybody wants this to be over, no more so than the Ukrainian people, who are being frozen out of their homes, don't have electricity, civilians being killed by Iranian drones that have been given or sold to Russia.
AMNA NAWAZ: While I have you, Deputy Secretary, I want to ask you about Iran, because the International Atomic Energy Agency has said they have detected Iran has enriched uranium to 84 percent purity.
That is weapons grade.
What is the threshold for the U.S. to act to place new sanctions or to take any other kind of action?
WENDY SHERMAN: Well, I haven't seen the final assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
And I will look forward to seeing the details of the assessment that I know they're currently making and what the basis of it is.
And then I'm sure that we will have consultations with Europe and with others before deciding how to proceed.
If indeed they have enriched as a matter of policy to 84 percent, that is extremely concerning.
AMNA NAWAZ: And would that trigger some kind of U.S. action, additional sanctions or something else?
WENDY SHERMAN: Indeed, we would have to decide what that means and what consequences are appropriate.
AMNA NAWAZ: That is Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman joining us tonight.
Thank you for your time.
WENDY SHERMAN: Thank you.
AMNA NAWAZ: The nation and lawmakers are facing some critical junctures on major issues, including how to act on the debt ceiling.
Some new numbers in our "PBS NewsHour"/NPR/Marist poll give a sense of where the public is.
And our Lisa Desjardins is here to walk through some of those numbers now.
Lisa, good to see you.
LISA DESJARDINS: Great to see you.
AMNA NAWAZ: So, start with the debt ceiling here.
LISA DESJARDINS: Right.
AMNA NAWAZ: Lawmakers need to raise it, and soon.
It would be catastrophic if they don't.
Do voters feel that sense of urgency too?
LISA DESJARDINS: Some really interesting number in our poll of national Americans, everyone included here.
When we asked the people surveyed what should lawmakers do, should they raise the federal debt ceiling to deal with the deficit, look at this?
Only half of Americans said yes, though we know that that is absolutely critical to the financial stability of this country and other countries as well.
So it's one way to look at it is that Americans still aren't quite convinced of the necessity of this, which we know is a necessity.
But let's also look back in time and see how this compares to 2011, the last time we had a major debt ceiling crisis.
So, really, Americans have changed.
They now believe more that the debt ceiling must be raised.
But it's still half and half.
And you won't be surprised that is split on partisan lines, with Republicans much less likely to think the debt ceiling needs to be raised.
AMNA NAWAZ: As we often see, right?
So what do they want lawmakers to do?
Did they talk about that?
LISA DESJARDINS: Yes.
Quickly, we asked, what do you think?
Should we increase taxes or should we perhaps cut some spending?
And on this question, again, we see a real divide in America, some things Judy Woodruff was talking about in her program, in her efforts.
And, again, this was also on partisan lines, with Democrats more likely saying increase taxes and Republicans say, no, we need to cut programs.
One note, though, younger Americans say they're more likely to say we should cut taxes -- or raise taxes, rather.
AMNA NAWAZ: That is interesting, among younger Americans.
So a lot of this gets to how they see the approach to governing, right?
This idea of brinksmanship, that people should push it as far as they can, how do voters feel about that?
LISA DESJARDINS: It's always a question, right?
Why can't lawmakers just get together and figure this out?
Do Americans want them to?
We asked, should lawmakers compromise or not?
And here's what they told us, those we surveyed; 70 percent said, yes, we want our lawmakers to compromise, only 28 percent saying stand on principle.
Here's where we want to bring out that partisan divide, though, because, obviously, we have divided government.
Republicans, far fewer believe in compromise, 44 percent of Republicans, not a majority, but a significant amount, still telling us they believe stand in principle.
What's interesting here, Amna, is that Democrats overwhelmingly say compromise, and yet we hear from the White House language about things not being negotiable.
So we kind of have sort of cross-purposes here between voters and sometimes their parties.
AMNA NAWAZ: We asked about a lot of other issues people talk about, things like minimum wage, how they feel about some of the investigations that House Republicans are now leading.
What did folks say about that?
LISA DESJARDINS: Yes, let's get into that, average daily life.
Now, right now, three states in this country have $15-an-hour minimum wages.
Most voters want that to change; 64 percent of Americans, about two-thirds, say, yes, it's time to raise the minimum wage.
And let's look at younger Americans in particular.
Look at that; 71 percent Gen Z, millennials.
So, there, you're talking about 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds, roughly.
They say, yes, let's raise the minimum wage.
That was certainly the highest we saw for any generational group.
But I want to say it's interesting.
Across incomes, whether you make more or less than $50,000, two-thirds of Americans say, yes, raise the national minimum wage.
So something I think we're going to hear more about.
A different kind of issue, Republicans talk a lot about investigations.
We asked people, do you think that there should be more about Hunter Biden's laptop, the investigation into him?
; 57 percent of Americans said yes.
And I will say, notably, about a third of Democrats even say, yes, they'd like more on that investigation.
AMNA NAWAZ: So, a lot of this is about a moment in time, asking people how they feel right now.
Did you pull out any trends that you think are worth noting in this?
LISA DESJARDINS: Right.
Polls are polls.
All these, we're not sure what they mean in the long run, but people are changing in a few areas.
I saw really change -- changing numbers, especially from lower-income Americans and non-college-educated Americans.
President Biden picked up in both of those groups.
And, among Republicans, so did President Trump.
Those groups that are core voters were deciding in the past couple of months, and they decided for people who've been in office or in office now.
AMNA NAWAZ: Fascinating look at who we are in our new "PBS NewsHour"/NPR/Marist poll.
Lisa Desjardins, thanks for breaking it down.
LISA DESJARDINS: You're welcome.
GEOFF BENNETT: Every second, the U.S. falls about $43,000 deeper into debt.
Lawmakers will need to raise the country's borrowing limit in the coming months to avoid a catastrophic financial fallout both here at home and around the world.
Many Republicans say it's time to take a hard look at federal government spending.
Republican Congressman Tom Cole is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and chair of the House Rules Committee.
And he joins us now from Norman, Oklahoma.
Thanks for being with us.
REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): Hey.
Great to be with you.
GEOFF BENNETT: And the U.S. faces a default as early as this summer if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling.
What's the latest on the negotiations between House Republicans and the White House?
Has there been any movement on this?
REP. TOM COLE: Well, obviously, I think the president and Speaker McCarthy had a good first meeting.
I think each side are having quiet talks in terms of what's acceptable.
Both sides have said the default is not the appropriate measurement.
Both sides have ruled, at least for this immediate agreement, Social Security and Medicare off the table.
So, I think there's enough common basis.
And, look, normally when you're in a situation like this in divided government, you try to change the trajectory of the spending.
And that's what we'd like to do.
But, at the end of the day, we need to get to an agreement.
And I think we will.
GEOFF BENNETT: Let's talk about entitlements, because Social Security and Medicare, in particular, Social Security, as you know, without a change in policy, its reserves will run dry by 2034.
You have proposed establishing a commission to look at solutions.
What reforms, in your view, seem workable and seem practical?
REP. TOM COLE: Well, first of all, I think you have to agree on the process before you worry about the reforms.
And, actually, my proposal was bipartisan, when I originally put it out there.
This is something former Representative John Delaney and I worked on together.
And we said, hey, when's the last time we actually confronted this problem, and how do we solve it?
And we went back and looked at the '83 commission chaired by Alan Greenspan at the time during the Reagan presidency, but a framework agreed upon by President Reagan, Democratic Speaker Tip O'Neill, Republican Majority Leader in the Senate Howard Baker.
And they arrived at a solution.
And guess what?
Everybody had to give a little bit.
There were some reforms.
There was some additional revenue.
But, at the end of the day, they extended the life of the system by almost a half-a-century.
And it was at that point within two months of having an across-the-board cut similar to what we will face in 2033.
So we decided we should go back and do basically the same thing.
It's not that hard to figure out.
It's a math problem with Social Security.
And Congress, 60 days legislative, days to vote up or down, no amendments, just you either want to save Social Security, you're willing to make some trade-offs, or you're not.
So I think that's the way to go.
Now, in terms of specifics, personally, I have a lot of different suggestions.
I do think we're living longer.
Raising the age makes a little bit of sense to me.
I do think we ought to look seriously at what countries like Norway do.
And that is invest in the private sector, not all of it.
But I think the main idea is to save the system.
GEOFF BENNETT: How raising taxes?
Is that on the table?
REP. TOM COLE: Sure.
Revenue would have to be on the table.
The last time they did this, they increased the amount of your revenue that was subject to taxation.
That doesn't raise the tax, but increases the tax base, something I noticed Senator Warren suggested recently.
And you also -- we made a minor tweak in the amount of money both the individual and the employer put into it.
And, finally, the last time we did this, we also made part of Social Security, depending on your income level, taxable, update to 85 percent.
So, yes, I think revenue is part of it, simply because we're living a lot longer.
But reforms are part of it too.
And that's where I think the commission would be likely to come to a sort of trade-off between the two, something that both sides could find acceptable.
What's unacceptable is to do nothing, which is exactly what, honestly, the administration right now is proposing.
It's what the last administration proposed.
But -- so Republicans and Democrats have tried to avoid the problem by saying we're not going to touch it.
If you don't touch it, it's going to go insolvent, we will have a 22 percent across-the-board cut.
That's not something I'm interested in doing to people in their 70s, 80s and 90s.
GEOFF BENNETT: Looking at this latest NPR/"PBS NewsHour"/Marist poll on the debt ceiling and how to pay down the national debt, half of those polled, 50 percent, say they favored mostly cutting programs and services, but almost as many, 46 percent, said they prefer to see taxes and fees raised.
In looking at the federal debt, entitlements make up half of the debt.
The other part of it is defense spending.
And there are Republicans and Democrats who say they don't want to touch the Pentagon budget.
So what then is left?
REP. TOM COLE: You said the -- well, you set the defense budget based on the threats in the world.
And I would suggest people ought to look at Ukraine, look at what China's doing, understand how dangerous the world is today.
Now, again, the real driver here is entitlements.
It's not defense.
Defense is -- the discretionary budget of the United States is 30 percent of all spending; 60 percent is Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.
Throw in interest on the debt and the federal pension system, you're at 70 percent.
The remaining 30 percent, defense is 15 percent.
So, our problem is, people want to try and balance the budget on either 30 percent of the spending, including defense, or 15 percent.
That's not doable.
You have to look at entitlements.
And that's both a revenue and a reform issue, in my mind.
GEOFF BENNETT: And you're hoping to get recommendations from this panel within the next year?
REP. TOM COLE: If my legislation passed, that's what we did.
And, again, when people put brand-new things on the table and argue over the programs, it really slows you down.
And the first thing you need to do is agree on a process.
By the way, President Biden actually voted for this in 1983.
He voted for both the process and the final solution.
So I'm mystified now as to why he doesn't find this acceptable.
GEOFF BENNETT: And, lastly, the House speaker appears to have given FOX host Tucker Carlson exclusive access to some 40,000 hours of previously unreleased surveillance camera footage from January 6.
Was that something that he discussed with you and other House Republican leaders in advance?
And what do you make of that decision?
REP. TOM COLE: I have not heard about this until I read about it in the last day or so in the media.
Look, I'm for people having access to most of this information.
If there's something sensitive, probably, we should sit down in a bipartisan way and say, OK, this affects the safety of the House.
But, at the end of the day, you're -- you're just better off sharing information, letting people draw their own conclusions.
That was the view of the founders on the First Amendment.
I think it's worked out pretty well for 240-odd years.
Let's just stick with that.
GEOFF BENNETT: So, then should other news outlets have access to the same material, beyond Tucker Carlson, a known conspiracy theorist and liar?
REP. TOM COLE: In my personal opinion, yes -- in my personal opinion, yes, they should.
But, again, I don't get to make that decision.
I will note the Democrats obviously made selective parts of this available to people that they wanted to, I just think you're better off avoiding that.
Put it out there, let anybody who wants to have a look do so and make whatever case they want to make.
The American people are pretty smart.
They will figure it out.
GEOFF BENNETT: Congressman Tom Cole, always enjoy speaking with you, sir.
REP. TOM COLE: Hey, my pleasure.
Thanks for having me.
AMNA NAWAZ: With abortion banned or severely restricted in 18 U.S. states, abortion pills have now become the new battleground for the anti-abortion movement.
In a story co-produced with the "PBS NewsHour," Kaiser Health News correspondent Sarah Varney reports on a new lawsuit brought by a conservative Christian anti-abortion group that could end access to the medication nationwide.
SARAH VARNEY: At Whole Woman's Health in Alexandria, Virginia, clinic manager Shaelin Nauta is struggling to find appointments for women coming for abortion care from nearby states.
SHAELIN NAUTA, Clinic Manager, Whole Woman's Health of Alexandria: We're kind of in this half-circle around the East Coast of states, including West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and many others, that have either completely banned abortion access or very much restricted it.
SARAH VARNEY: Many patients come here for medication abortion, which involves taking two pills.
The first is mifepristone, which blocks the hormone progesterone and halts the pregnancy.
The second is misoprostol, which induces a miscarriage medication.
SHAELIN NAUTA: Medication abortion is very common.
I would say about everyday that we see patients, we see about 10 to 15 patients who have a medication abortion.
SARAH VARNEY: Medication abortion can be taken up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy.
About five million women in the U.S. and millions more across the world have safely used the drugs.
They now account for more than half of all abortions in this country and are also used by OB-GYNs to manage early miscarriages.
Misoprostol was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1988 to treat gastric ulcers, but misoprostol, which was approved in 2000 to end early pregnancy, is now being targeted by anti-abortion advocates.
A lawsuit under way in this federal courthouse in Amarillo, Texas, could force the FDA to remove mifepristone from the market entirely.
That would affect every state across the country, including those where abortion remains illegal.
DENISE HARLE, Senior Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom: We are living in a post-Roe America.
SARAH VARNEY: The lawsuit was filed by an anti-abortion group represented by Denise Harle of the Christian legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom.
Harle claims the FDA's safety review of mifepristone was flawed.
DENISE HARLE: The FDA has one job, which is just to protect Americans from dangerous drugs.
It's caused great harm to women and girls.
It's extremely dangerous.
And we're asking the court to remove that chemical drug regimen until and unless the FDA actually goes through the proper testing that it's required to do.
SARAH VARNEY: Twelve leading medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, say these claims are untrue.
Decades of research show the risk of major complications from taking abortion pills is less than 0.4 percent.
They are safer than commonly used drugs like Tylenol or Viagra.
At Whole Woman's Health Alliance, CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller says medication abortion gives women more control over their health care.
AMY HAGSTROM MILLER, President and CEO, Whole Woman's Health: When you have medication abortion, part of the process happens at home.
And a lot of people like that.
They think it's less invasive.
It involves cramping and bleeding and passing of the pregnancy, very similar to a miscarriage.
And people can be at home with their loved ones and can sort of schedule the passing of the pregnancy around their work schedule or their childcare schedule.
SARAH VARNEY: But, here in Texas, the lawsuit wants to put a stop to that.
The Alliance Defending Freedom makes a number of claims, including that the FDA used the wrong process to approve the drug.
DENISE HARLE: The FDA also pushed the drugs through a certain special provision that's supposed to be only for treating illnesses and only for lifesaving drugs.
The regulatory process was not followed.
SARAH VARNEY: In fact, mifepristone's approval was investigated in 2008 by the Government Accountability Office, which found that the process was consistent with FDA regulations.
I. GLENN COHEN, Harvard Law School: It's hard to think of a drug that has been under more scrutiny than mifepristone.
SARAH VARNEY: I. Glenn Cohen, Harvard Law School professor, is one of 19 FDA scholars who filed an amicus brief in support of the agency.
I. GLENN COHEN: We don't think there's a problem here statutorily or medically, but it'd be very dangerous to allow a single judge sitting in Amarillo to essentially order a drug that's used by many women in America off the market all of a sudden just because he believes a particular argument that's being made.
SARAH VARNEY: But arguments unsupported by medical and legal consensus have found favor in Texas courtrooms.
By filing its lawsuit in Amarillo, the Alliance Defending Freedom was almost guaranteed to draw Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee who worked in the conservative Christian legal movement.
ELIZABETH SEPPER, University of Texas at Austin: It's part of a trend of conservative legal movement actors trying to get before Judge Kacsmaryk.
SARAH VARNEY: Elizabeth Sepper is a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
ELIZABETH SEPPER: He has made statements in opposition to reproductive rights, linking up reproduction to the feminist movement and making anti-feminist statements.
SARAH VARNEY: So, why now?
Why is the conservative Christian legal movement striking now with these cases?
ELIZABETH SEPPER: Prior to Dobbs, the right to abortion would have stood in the way of this lawsuit.
But now the conservative legal movement feels empowered to go after medication abortion, but to then extend their aims beyond abortion, to contraception, to PrEP, medication to prevent HIV.
SARAH VARNEY: Federal judges in Texas have ruled that a religious objector can block a federal program from providing birth control to teens, and emergency room doctors must equally weigh the life of a pregnant woman and her fetus.
ELIZABETH SEPPER: It's all part and parcel of a claim to restrict reproductive health care consistent with conservative religious beliefs.
SARAH VARNEY: Denise Harle of the Alliance Defending Freedom said the FDA needs to study whether mifepristone can be safely administered.
But she says no scientific data would be enough.
But it's fair to say, given your -- the beliefs of your organization, that you would not want to see this drug back on the market, though?
DENISE HARLE: Oh, I would not want to see this drug back on the market.
I think -- I think chemical abortion does great harms to women and their unborn children.
We certainly shouldn't be putting their health in danger, no matter what.
And that's what this lawsuit is really about.
SARAH VARNEY: Back in Alexandria, Virginia, Whole Woman's Health CEO Hagstrom Miller is bracing for a ruling that takes mifepristone off the market.
AMY HAGSTROM MILLER: I think people know that what happens in Texas doesn't stay in Texas.
Some of the most progressive states in the country will face restrictions if this -- if this lawsuit is successful.
SARAH VARNEY: If that's the case, her clinics and OB-GYNs across the country will be forced to use only misoprostol for miscarriages and early abortion care.
While taking the two pills together is 99.6 percent effective and terminating early pregnancy, misoprostol alone, although still extremely safe, is about 80 percent effective.
AMY HAGSTROM MILLER: There's more cramping, there's more bleeding, there's nausea, there's diarrhea, and that matters, right?
That matters to pregnant people.
People should have access to the highest level of medical care and should be able to have the best research and the best science.
SARAH VARNEY: Clinic manager Shaelin Nauta says her biggest concern is that women will think they have no options.
SHAELIN NAUTA: This will absolutely have an impact on the misinformation and on what people believe to be true.
Finding out that that is banned could really turn a lot of people away from not only having a medication abortion, but abortion care in general.
SARAH VARNEY: A decision in the case could come as soon as this Friday.
For the "PBS NewsHour" and Kaiser Health News, I'm Sarah Varney in Amarillo, Texas.
GEOFF BENNETT: Continuing our series ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion, Ukrainians' loyalties have sometimes been described as divided between those who speak Russian and Ukrainian, between those who want to maintain historical ties with Moscow and those who see a future in the E.U.
But Nick Schifrin reports that, in war, Ukraine is crafting a new united union.
He tells that story through three Russian-speaking cities and three Ukrainian mayors, starting in the south.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In the first days of the war, Kryvyi Rih Mayor How Oleksandr Vilkul got a phone call.
The Russian official who'd assumed he would betray his country said, open the city gates.
Vilkul said: "Go (EXPLETIVE DELETED) yourself."
We met Vilkul last summer at a shelter for Ukrainians fleeing occupied territory.
Before the full-scale invasion, he was a central figure in Ukraine's pro-Russian political party.
He once ran for president backed by pro-Russian politicians.
OLEKSANDR VILKUL, Mayor of Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine (through translator): Listen, I have never been pro-Russia.
I have been sanctioned by Russia since 2018.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Vilkul has long denied supporting Russia, but, on Ukrainian TV, he routinely called the 2014 revolution that overthrew a pro-Russian president a coup.
One of the revolution's leaders fought him in a studio.
But that was a different time, before Russia's total war to -- quote -- "liberate Russian speakers from Ukraine's Nazi government."
OLEKSANDR VILKUL (through translator): Russia mistakenly believed that those people in Ukraine who speak Russian or those who are Orthodox, it means that they love Russia.
Putin made a huge mistake.
The division that he created in the last few months will last for generations.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And so what's the future of the relationship between the people of the city, this region, many of whom speak Russian, and Russia?
OLEKSANDR VILKUL (through translator): Does it matter which language we speak?
With Russia, we don't have a common past.
We just have a divided future.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In Kyiv, the city cut in two a statue of a Soviet pilot and dismantled a Soviet general.
The subway station currently named for Russian author Leo Tolstoy will soon be called Place of Ukrainian Heroes.
Ukrainians trace their identity back to the 10th century.
But for more than 300 years, the Russian Empire and especially the Soviet Union undermined any distinct Ukrainian character.
Ukraine gained independence in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, and it is now breaking with its Russian and Soviet past, a process that started to accelerate in 2014 during Russia's initial invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.
When I was here in 2014, I got the sense that some residents of this city had sentiments toward Ukraine and some toward Russia.
What are the sentiments of the residents of Kharkiv today?
IHOR TEREKHOV, Mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine (through translator): 2014 and today are two different eras, as if a whole generation has passed.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Ihor Terekhov is the mayor of Kharkiv.
We also met him last summer.
He says residents once proud of their Russian or Soviet heritage are now proud to be Ukrainian and horrified by the destruction and crimes that Russia has inflicted.
IHOR TEREKHOV (through translator): Yes, there were times when people wanted to be friends with Russia.
Now what they have done here has changed people's perceptions 180 degrees, and what Putin did was, he turned the people of Kharkiv against him and against Russia.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Three hundred miles south, Odessa is Southern Ukraine's largest city.
It was founded in the late 18th century by one of Russia's greatest rulers, Catherine the Great, and was one of the Russian empire's most important ports.
And Gennadiy Trukhanov was a senior member of the same main political party with pro-Russian sentiments.
But immediately after last February's full-scale invasion, he posed a rhetorical question in response to Putin's claimed defense of Odessa's Russian speakers: "Who the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are you planning to defend here?"
GENNADIY TRUKHANOV, Mayor of Odessa, Ukraine (through translator): Today, Odessa has changed because we see what is happening in our country, how our Ukrainian cities are being destroyed.
And we clearly understand who's doing that, Russian soldiers.
SERHII PLOKHII, Harvard University: People got together, no matter what languages they speak, because they realized that Russia brings destruction.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Serhii Plokhii is a professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard.
SERHII PLOKHII: What we certainly witness today is an extremely important moment in the birth of a new Ukrainian nation and really formation of a new type of Ukrainian state.
NICK SCHIFRIN: A hundred and sixty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the Soldiers' Cemetery at Gettysburg, as read by an actor.
ACTOR: "We here highly resolve that these deaths shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom."
NICK SCHIFRIN: On New Year's Day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy echoed Lincoln.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, Ukrainian President (through translator): On February 24, we woke up to become a different people, a different Ukraine.
The first rockets became a wakeup call.
And we finally realized who was who, what our friends are capable of, what our enemies are capable of, but, most importantly, what we are capable.
SERHII PLOKHII: Ukraine was born as an independent state in December of 1991, but the question was that there was a state that still had to acquire a nation.
What we see today is, that nation has been formed.
It wasn't fighting for one particular language.
It wasn't fighting for one particular religion.
It was fighting for freedom.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And Ukrainian soldiers are giving their lives today so that a new nation might live.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin in Kyiv.
GEOFF BENNETT: Your favorite TV comedies likely owe a lot to Larry Wilmore, as the creator or guiding force behind some of the most popular and most impactful sitcoms and comedy shows over the last 30 years, starting in the 1990s as a writer on hit shows like "In Living Color" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," to creating an executive producing "The Bernie Mac Show," which earned him an Emmy for writing, from there consulting on "The Office," before executive producing "Black-ish."
In 2015, Wilmore hosted his own late-night talk show, "The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore," which ran for two seasons on Comedy Central.
Now he's tapping into his experience in late night for a prime-time comedy that ABC recently announced.
I spoke with Larry Wilmore earlier about how his work has challenged traditional notions of politics, race and comedy, in the process, helping to shape the broader cultural conversation.
It's part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.
It's great to speak with you.
LARRY WILMORE, Comedian and Writer: Hey, great to speak to you too.
Thanks for having me on.
GEOFF BENNETT: Well, let's start at the beginning, because before you were a writer and producer, you were a stand-up comic.
What drew you to it?
LARRY WILMORE: Stand-up comedy offered the opportunity to create something, because you have to write an act, right?
And even though it's scary at first, it was one of the best decisions I ever made, because you find out kind of who you are.
You have to make strangers laugh all the time.
Many times, they're drunk.
And it was really just diving headfirst into that to really try to get kind of control of my career to a certain point in that time.
GEOFF BENNETT: Wilmore credits as his comedy influences Johnny Carson, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Monty Python, and Flip Wilson.
FLIP WILSON, Comedian: Don't touch me.
LARRY WILMORE: He so funny to me.
FLIP WILSON: Don't touch me.
You don't know me that well.
(LAUGHTER) LARRY WILMORE: And I just wanted to be him.
And I used to make my parents laugh.
I would do Geraldine and I will do impressions, "You better watch it, fool!"
doing stuff like that.
(LAUGHTER) GEOFF BENNETT: Ultimately, though, you abandoned the stand-up comic route because you felt like you couldn't find a lane for yourself.
Tell me more about that.
LARRY WILMORE: That's true, Geoff.
So what happened was, I did a lot of what you might call a hodgepodge kind of stand-up act.
I did political humor.
I did impressions.
I did social commentary.
I did things like that.
And, at that time, I thought Hollywood was only interested in one type of Black comedian.
And Robert Townsend kind of lampooned that in "Hollywood Shuffle," where he said, we need somebody more urban.
They would use those kind of terms, kind of somebody Murphonic, like Eddie Murphy, that type of thing.
(LAUGHTER) GEOFF BENNETT: Murphonic.
LARRY WILMORE: Sorry, you know?
Very -- yes.
And I felt like -- I felt like, if I needed - - if I wanted to have a space in Hollywood, I would have to create that space for myself.
I was very influenced by what Spike Lee had done in film at the time, what Keenen Ivory Wayans had done with "In Living Color" and that kind of stuff.
And so I thought, if I start writing and producing, I can maybe create a space for my type of voice.
And so that's what I did at that time.
ACTOR: Yo, yo, yo, all you bad bargain hunters out there.
Welcome to the "Homeboy Shopping Network."
GEOFF BENNETT: You mentioned "In Living Color."
You were a writer on that show.
It was really a seminal moment in culture.
It launched the careers of people like Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier, the Wayans brothers.
What was that experience like?
LARRY WILMORE: The amount of talent that went through, it was really kind of surreal, because, in those days, if you worked on "In Living Color," people went crazy.
Like, they'd say, so what do you?
I would go, oh, I'm a -- I write for television.
And they didn't seem that impressed, then go, what shows you write for?
I write for "In Living Color."
"In Living Color," oh, my God!
Like, people, the energy they had for that show, it was so interesting, and I think because we were pushing boundaries at that time that weren't -- hadn't really been pushed before, especially in race and culture.
And people were so excited to see that on their television.
So, I will forever be grateful for that experience.
GEOFF BENNETT: What was it about the '90s?
Because I'm convinced that the '90s were sort of this high point in cultural creation, but Black cultural creation in particular, from TV, to fashion, to music, to movies, just across the board.
What was it about that time?
LARRY WILMORE: I think a lot of Black culture was finding its voice during that time, after not having a voice for a long time, because many -- like, if you talk about Black shows on television, many of them were created and run by white people.
And those were good shows, but they just had a different voice to them, a different gaze, as I like to call it.
And when more Black creators had an opportunity to create things, so much creativity just poured out.
And I think the audiences were grateful to see all these different voices on TV with all these things that they had to offer.
So, a lot of it, I think, Geoff was the energy that was coming out of that.
It was kind of a joyous energy of hey, we get to be -- we get to be on this show now, yes.
QUINTA BRUNSON, Actress and Writer: I do want to thank Larry Wilmore for teaching me to write television as well as he did.
GEOFF BENNETT: Larry Wilmore has inspired and mentored the next generation of comedians and creators, including Quinta Brunson, star and creator of the hit award-winning sitcom "Abbott Elementary" on ABC.
LARRY WILMORE: I had Quinta on "The Nightly Show" back in the day, back in 2015.
And I immediately said, oh, wow, she's got a toolbox.
I saw in Quinta just this ability to keep expanding what her skill set is and to do it at such a high level, because she started off making, like, little videos, I think, for Facebook and that kind of stuff and was at BuzzFeed, and she kept increasing, like, her skill set of what she does.
And she does it so fast.
I mean, she is like -- she is, like, at the top of her game as a show runner, creator and actor.
That's crazy, Geoff, when you think about it, in that short amount of time, and she's crushing it too.
So I'm so proud of her.
I was so surprised when she called me out.
I was like, what?
Then I started -- like, tears are really down.
It was -- it was a very cool moment.
ISSA RAE, Actress: What the hell?
What are you doing there?
ACTOR: I don't know.
It's your fantasy.
I have always been your what-if guy.
ACTRESS: What are you doing?
GEOFF BENNETT: And he's worked with Issa Rae, co-creating her breakout show, "Insecure," for HBO.
What about Issa Rae in the early days signaled success to you?
LARRY WILMORE: There was nothing in premium cable quite like that at that time, a show from a Black woman's point of view that was a little different.
She was kind of the underdog.
And Issa had a very interesting quality, where you really wanted to be her friend.
She was kind of like that girl next door type of thing, very empathetic.
There's -- she has all these kinds of -- I call them quiet qualities, but they're very interesting.
You can't take your eyes off of her.
There's something going on.
And she's so nice.
And she's so funny and really so smart.
I saw so much potential in her at that time.
So it was a joy figuring that show out.
GEOFF BENNETT: You seem to be really intentional about mentoring younger artists.
LARRY WILMORE: Yes, I enjoy it a lot.
I think I come from a family of teachers all around in my family.
And it kind of frees you up to take the attention off of yourself.
And I learn a lot from mentoring too.
It's, honestly, not just a one-way street.
But it is important for me.
And I think it's because of the time I came up in.
If I can help somebody to get to that door also, then I like doing it.
I always used to joke.
I said, if I get my foot in the door, I'm just going to keep that door open and say, come on, everybody.
Come on through and fit as many people in as you can.
So it's kind of that philosophy too, yes.
GEOFF BENNETT: Larry Wilmore, it's a real privilege to speak with you.
Thanks for your time.
LARRY WILMORE: The pleasure is all mine.
Stick around for the whole hour, you guys.
It's "PBS NewsHour," not half-hour, OK?
(LAUGHTER) GEOFF BENNETT: We will be hard-pressed to find a better seal of approval than that one.
AMNA NAWAZ: The whole hour.
(LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: You need to watch the whole hour.
What a great interview.
GEOFF BENNETT: Thank you.
And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight.
I'm Geoff Bennett.
AMNA NAWAZ: And Amna Nawaz.
On behalf of the entire "NewsHour" team, thank you for joining us.