PBS NewsHour full episode September 12, 2019

PBS NewsHour full episode September 12, 2019

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AMNA NAWAZ: Good evening. I’m Amna Nawaz. Judy Woodruff is away. On the “NewsHour” tonight: Ten take the stage. What to look for as the Democratic presidential
hopefuls face off again in tonight’s debate. Then: on the front lines. The former leader of U.S. Central Command
on the state of America’s military conflicts overseas. Plus: the pinch of the trade war. How the lobster industry is feeling the heat
as Chinese tariffs come to Maine. ANNIE TSELIKIS, Executive Director, Maine
Lobster Dealers’ Association: Our rural communities along the coast are dependent upon this fishery. That’s what is potentially very scary for
us, is thinking about this long term. AMNA NAWAZ: All that and more on tonight’s
“PBS NewsHour.” (BREAK) AMNA NAWAZ: Democrats in the U.S. House of
Representatives have taken another tentative step towards impeaching President Trump. They set out ground rules today, amid questions
about how ready they are to go further. White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor
has our report. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Today, Democrats insisted,
no matter what you call the process, the possibility of impeaching President Trump is still on
their minds. REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Some call this process
an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these
terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: In a party-line vote, the
House Judiciary Committee passed a resolution setting rules for future impeachment investigation
hearings. They allow committee staff to question witnesses
for an hour. They also let the president’s lawyers respond
to testimony only in writing. Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler says the move
was an important step to an effective impeachment investigation of President Trump. REP. JERROLD NADLER: Let me clear up any remaining
doubt: The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy. We have an obligation to respond to this threat. And we are doing so. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: But House Republicans called
the resolution a political scheme. REP. GUY RESCHENTHALER (R-PA): So which is it? Are you starting an impeachment proceeding
or not? Is this just more smoke and mirrors so you
can appease the far left? REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Will the gentleman
yield, so he can answer his question? REP. GUY RESCHENTHALER: I yield. REP. DAVID CICILLINE: So, the answer is, yes, we’re
engaged in an impeachment investigation. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: California Republican Tom
McClintock added this: REP. TOM MCCLINTOCK (R-CA): I dare you to do it. In fact, I double-dog-dare you to do it. Have the House vote on those 18 words, and
then go at it. Why won’t you do that? It’s because you want to give the illusion
of impeachment without the reality of it. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Afterwards, Nadler said
the panel would be calling former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to testify next
week. The White House has blocked some testimony
from other Trump associates. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Yamiche Alcindor. AMNA NAWAZ: The Trump administration began
enforcing a new asylum policy today, after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to take
effect nationwide. The change effectively bars most Central American
migrants at the U.S. southern border. They first have to seek asylum in a country
they passed through. Immigration activists denounced the court
order as a death sentence for thousands. And Mexico’s foreign secretary also deplored
the ruling. MARCELO EBRARD, Mexican Foreign Minister (through
translator): The court’s decision is astonishing in the impact that it is going to have, a
court of the United States. So what do we have to do? Create alternatives, so people do not have
to take on those risks. We are concerned about that. AMNA NAWAZ: President Trump tweeted that the
high court’s order was a big win. But it is also temporary, pending the ultimate
outcome of the legal battle over the policy. The Environmental Protection Agency announced
plans today to revoke an Obama era regulation on protecting wetlands and small streams. The agency said extending federal authority
beyond large bodies of water amounted to a — quote — “power grab.” Environmental groups said the move could threaten
drinking water for millions of people. In the Bahamas, meanwhile, officials cut the
number of missing in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian to 1,300. That’s roughly half the number given a day
earlier. Meanwhile, U.S. officials in Washington announced
$4 million in additional humanitarian aid for the islands, for a total of $10 million
so far. MARK GREEN, USAID Administrator: There’s a
long road ahead. I think it’s very clear that the U.S., both
private sector, charitable, for-profit and the public sector, stands with the people
of the Bahamas, and we’re there to help out. And we will be there for some time. AMNA NAWAZ: The hurricane did an estimated
$7 billion in damage across the Bahamas. Forecasters are tracking another tropical
system in the Caribbean. It could bring heavy new rain to the Bahamas
by tomorrow. Back in this country, the U.S. Department
of Education blasted Chicago’s public schools for mishandling sexual abuse claims. A department investigation found what it called
— quote — “tragic and inexcusable problems” in the nation’s third largest school district. The district has been ordered to overhaul
its system for handling student complaints to comply with federal law. Virginia’s lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax,
sued CBS today for defamation, asking for $400 million in damages. The network had aired interviews with two
women who accused Fairfax of sexual assault. He denied the allegations, and says CBS failed
to properly investigate and fact-check their stories. The network says it stands by its reporting. Initial findings in a scuba boat fire off
Southern California shows all six crew members were asleep when flames broke out early on
September 2. The National Transportation Safety Board reported
today on the blaze that killed 34 people. That came as the burned-out hulk was raised
to the water’s surface. The NTSB says it found no mechanical or electrical
problems that started the fire. The governing body of college sports is sounding
the alarm over a move in California to let student athletes hire agents and sign endorsements. State lawmakers gave final approval last night
to a bill allowing exactly that. The NCAA says it would give California schools
an unfair recruiting advantage, and it warns they could be banned from some competitions. The group is urging Governor Gavin Newsom
to veto the measure. And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial
average gained 45 points to close at 27182. The Nasdaq rose 24 points, and the S&P 500
added eight. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: what to watch
for as the Democratic presidential candidates go head to head in tonight’s debate; over
100 CEOs demand that lawmakers act to stem gun violence; the former head of U.S. Central
Command on America’s military conflicts abroad; and much more. Tonight may be the third debate for this 2020
field of Democratic presidential hopefuls, but it’s the first time that the 10 leading
candidates in public opinion polls are all on the stage at once. On the ground in Houston, the site of tonight’s
debate, is our own Lisa Desjardins with more on how the debate is shaping up. Lisa, talk to me. When it comes to the lineup, to the format,
what should we expect to see tonight? LISA DESJARDINS: Well, this campus of Texas
Southern University is going to see, I think, a unique debate. First of all, let’s just look at those 10
candidates leading the poll, our first time with a single debate, all of them. As you see in that lineup, there are five
senators, three women, and two Texans in the debate, but I think the focus, Amna, clearly
will be on the center of the stage. This will be first time that former Vice President
Joe Biden will be on stage with Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts. And, Amna, she clearly has been gaining the
most in polls in the last month. And I can tell you from talking to voters
here in Houston there is a sense of excitement about her that you don’t hear about Joe Biden. The Biden campaign told us today they are
going to try and make the case that, while Elizabeth has many policy ideas, the key is
to try to implement them. They are going to say that he’s the man to
carry out those ideas. Now, one other presence here, at least above
me right now, President Trump. There is an airplane — you might hear it
— circling around this debate that says “Vote Trump 2020.” So he is still present here. And it’s something, as the Democrats battle
each other, that I think that you will also hear a lot about in this debate. AMNA NAWAZ: That explains what that buzzing
sound is. You talked some of about the candidates who
are in the — closer to the middle of the stage. What about the candidates a little bit further
out? Sometimes, these debates are the best chance
for them to punch up at the other candidates, get a moment where they get known, gain some
momentum. Who needs to have a big night tonight? LISA DESJARDINS: Historically, we have seen
in September and October before a presidential election year, that is the last chance for
some kind of candidate to break out from the bottom of the pack. And I think two to watch will be New Jersey
Senator Cory Booker and also Julian Castro, the former HUD secretary and Texan. It’s interesting, Castro’s team told me he
did a lot of precipitation specifically about changes to this debate, including longer answers
the candidates will be able to give. They will be given a full minute 15 for an
answer, which is still very short, but that does change their calculations. Also, Amna, I think it’s important for the
middle of the pack, for Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, to show that they weren’t
just fads, that they can regain their momentum from the past. But I think, most of all, this is Joe Biden’s
chance to try and electrify Democrats and Elizabeth Warren’s chance to show how she
matches up against him. And, of course, Bernie Sanders needs to regain
some momentum he’s lost. AMNA NAWAZ: So, Lisa, 10 candidates on the
stage tonight. Obviously, there’s many more people still
running for president. If they didn’t qualify for the debate stage
tonight, does that mean that’s the end of the road for their campaigns? LISA DESJARDINS: No. In fact, we already know that Tom Steyer,
the billionaire philanthropist, has qualified for next month’s debate. And I want to point out, Tulsi Gabbard, a
new poll out today by Harris and No Labels places her in fourth place in New Hampshire. It’s very significant. Anecdotally, I do hear about her from voters. So, I think there are people not on the stage
tonight worth watching. AMNA NAWAZ: That’s Lisa Desjardins on the
ground for us in Houston, the site of tonight’s Democratic presidential primary debate. Thanks, Lisa. LISA DESJARDINS: You’re welcome. AMNA NAWAZ: As Congress heads back to work
following a string of deadly mass shootings this summer, pressure is building on lawmakers
to pass meaningful legislation that could reduce gun violence in this country. Today, a number of corporate leaders and CEOs
added their voices to the debate with a new campaign that’s directed at the Senate. Previous gun legislation has often died there
in the past. William Brangham has a closer look now at
this new campaign. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s right, Amna. The CEOs of 145 U.S. companies just sent a
letter to senators urging them to pass legislation to expand background checks on anyone seeking
to buy a gun and to implement a national red flag law, which would allow law enforcement
to temporarily take guns from anyone judged to be a danger to themselves or to others. The letter said, in part: “Doing nothing about
America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable.” And it’s signed by the heads of companies
like Levi Strauss, Twitter, The Gap, and Uber. Another of the signatories is Richard Edelman. He’s the CEO of Edelman, the global public
relations and communications firm. And he joins me now from New York City. Mr. Edelman, thank you very much for being
here. Why now? Why did this letter — why so many CEOs feel
the need to say this today? RICHARD EDELMAN, CEO, Edelman: We’re at a
tipping point. We had Dayton and El Paso. We have continuing gun violence in major urban
centers. And CEOs feel that they are empowered to step
forward into the void left by government, that three-quarters of people, according to
the Edelman Trust Barometer, now want CEOs to stand up and speak up on behalf of issues
of the day. And that’s a new kind of moment in corporate
world. So CEOs are doing so, with the backing of
their employees and the backing of their customers. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The reforms that you spelled
out are things, as you well know, that are currently encased in bills that are already
in the House, background checks and red flag laws. Why do you favor those particular reforms? RICHARD EDELMAN: Well, Edelman went out into
the field the last week of August and surveyed 1,000 Americans. And we found that more than 70 percent of
Americans actually are going to be more trusting in companies that — where CEOs speak up on
behalf of gun safety, and, further, that four in five said that they would be more inclined
to buy brands where companies spoke out. So the private sector has every reason to
speak up and urge the Senate to act on behalf of all Americans. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The letter that you all
signed is addressed to the Senate, but we know that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
has said he’s not going to bring any bill to the Senate floor that the president doesn’t
back. So shouldn’t the president be getting this
letter, as well as the Senate? RICHARD EDELMAN: Again, our study was clear
that the two preeminent goals of the Gun Safety Alliance are background checks and safe storage
of guns. We are in favor of the Second Amendment right
to bear arm, but we want that gun owners conduct their business safely. And gun owners want that, too; 70 percent
of gun owners told us that they actually want these things, Republicans, a majority of them,
a big majority of Democrats. So everybody is in favor, and we think President
Trump should be the number one endorser of this legislation. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What are you and other CEOs
going to do to keep up the pressure? It’s one thing to sign a sternly worded letter
to the Senate. It’s another thing to, say, keep up lobbying
members of Congress. It’s another thing to, say, change the way
or how you donate money. Do you have a sense that CEOs will find other
ways to try to keep up the pressure? RICHARD EDELMAN: There’s no doubt that we’re
acting in a new way, talking to congressmen, also to senators, but we’re also using the
power of our employees, who are going to be our motive force. Employees want us to speak on their behalf. And it’s an urgent time for CEOs to mobilize,
in the sense, their entire supply chain of those who contribute to their businesses and
get them to write letters as well. These 145 colleagues of mine are just part
of the effort to get this legislation through. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You mentioned that this
is, in essence, good for business to take this stance, that your customers have expressed
to you that this is something they believe in, too. So is this a business decision that’s being
made, or is this being a decision that’s based on principle? RICHARD EDELMAN: This is a business decision. And it’s a business decision because the entire
focus of business now has to be employee-based. The number one trusted institution today is
my employer. And there’s new expectations of CEOs to stand
up and speak up, whether it’s about guns, LGBT, immigration, or other issues. So, in effect, in a vacuum, people are relying
on brands and on corporations to answer the call. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Can you help me understand
why it took so long for the business community en masse to come forward on this? I mean, why — after we failed to take any
action after Sandy Hook, after Las Vegas, after Parkland, why did it take so long? RICHARD EDELMAN: I think the real question
for CEOs was, well, if I take a stand on guns, then I’m going to be asked to take stands
on all sorts of issues. And I think there’s a new crop of CEOs, younger,
more socially oriented. Chip Bergh of Levi Strauss is leading the
campaign for this letter. He has called dozens of CEOs. And now you see stores following Walmart’s
lead and Kroger and others asking customers to leave their guns out of the stores. It’s now a movement. We have reached a tipping point. And change is only going to happen if business
exerts its muscle in the political process. We need to see CEOs come to Washington, speak
to their representatives, and urge them to do the right thing for the American people,
which is to get background checks and safe storage. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Richard Edelman,
thank you very much for being here. RICHARD EDELMAN: Thank you for having me. AMNA NAWAZ: Stay with us. Coming up on the “NewsHour”: how secure are
American elections ahead of the 2020 presidential race?; the trade war comes to Maine, as the
lobster industry hits rough waters; and on the “NewsHour” Bookshelf, “The Only Plane
in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11.” The United States has been at war in Afghanistan
for 18 years, and the American role in Syria continues to evolve, with no clear end in
sight. Until recently, retired General Joseph Votel
oversaw those conflicts and others as head of the U.S. military’s Middle East operations. Stephanie Sy speaks with Votel. But, first, she has an update on the conflict
in Syria. STEPHANIE SY: From the air and on the ground,
up to three million people living in Northern Syria are being boxed in, with nowhere to
go. President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are continuing
their onslaught in northwest Idlib province, the last rebel stronghold. The cease-fire announced by Assad and his
Russian backers at the end of August has been all but broken, according to Idlib resident
and civilian activist Jomah Alqasem. JOMAH ALQASEM, Humanitarian Worker: The airstrikes
in the recent offensive are more concentrated towards the rebel front lines. This is the burned by land — or what they
call the burned land strategy that the Syrian regime, Syrian army and the Russian backup
of the air is demolishing all this architecture. STEPHANIE SY: While Idlib burns, hundreds
of thousands of residents are fleeing toward Turkey, joining a bottleneck of refugees from
other parts of Syria, packed into overcrowded camps like al-Hol. The camps for the desperately displaced are
fertile ground for extremists looking for recruits. Camps across the border are also at their
breaking point. Turkey is already host to 3.6 million refugees,
having made a deal with Europe to keep them from migrating further. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is
now threatening to release the refugees unless Europe provides more aid. RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkish President (through
translator): This either happens, or we will have to open the gates. Either you will provide support, or, excuse
us, but we can only tolerate this so much. Are we going to carry this weight alone? STEPHANIE SY: Turkey is also poised for its
own conflict in Northeast Syria, against the very forces that have helped the U.S. beat
back ISIS. The Syrian Kurds are viewed by Turkey as terrorists,
threatening to carve out their own nation. Caught in a crosscurrent of dueling interests,
the U.S. agreed to help clear the northeastern border of Syrian Kurdish outposts, and begin
patrolling the border, along with Turkish forces. But Turkey’s foreign minister says the U.S.
isn’t doing enough. MEVLUT CAVUSOGLU, Turkish Foreign Minister
(through translator): There are some joint patrols, but other than that, the steps that
have been taken, or the steps that are said to be taken, are cosmetic steps. We are seeing that the United States want
to enter another stalling process. They are trying to get Turkey accustomed to
this stalling process. But our stance on this matter is very clear. STEPHANIE SY: The multifront war in Syria
has divided allies and diffused attention. U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet
urged the world to refocus. MICHELLE BACHELET, U.N. Human Rights Commissioner:
These figures are appalling, shameful, and deeply tragic. In a bid to take control of territories, there
appears to be little concern about taking civilian lives. Any further escalation will only result in
further loss of life and displacement of civilians who have already been forced to repeatedly
flee a situation of dire humanitarian conditions. So I appeal to all parties in the conflict
and to those many powerful states with influence to put aside political differences and halt
the carnage. STEPHANIE SY: Meanwhile, back in Idlib, Jomah
Alqasem says his fellow countrymen, women and children are losing hope. JOMAH ALQASEM: All of these humanitarian actors
that we have seen actively being involved in the Syria crisis are shrinking and decreasing
the fund that is being allocated to the Syrian response. What we are seeing is the worst humanitarian
crisis, let’s say, or part of the Syrian crisis that has been chronically occurring the last
nine years. But, unfortunately, this is the weakest response. STEPHANIE SY: According to The New York Times,
the U.S. is boosting its military response in Northeast Syria. It’s sending 150 additional forces to monitor
the border with Turkey. Joining me now to discuss this conflict in
Syria and on other fronts is retired General Joseph Votel. Until April, he led U.S. Central Command,
which oversees military operations in the Middle East. He is now a fellow at the Middle East Institute. General Votel, it’s a pleasure to have you
with us here at the “NewsHour.” Is there a solution in Syria? GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL (RET.), Former Commander, U.S.
Central Command: Well, certainly, there is. I mean, the solution is, we have to get to
a political settlement of the situation here. Military operations can only do so much, but,
ultimately, the international community has got to come together, hopefully under the
support of the United Nations, to move forward with a political solution here in Syria. STEPHANIE SY: But what role does the U.S.
play? The U.S. really isn’t involved in a place
like Idlib. It really isn’t involved in the Syrian civil
war. Beyond it wanting to contain ISIS, what role
should the administration be playing in Syria right now? GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL: Well, I think the role the United
States should be playing certainly is that we have led a 79-member coalition to address
the threat of ISIS. And we have done that very effectively. And we have used our partners on the ground
to do that. And now, in places like North and East Syria,
we are working with our partners to help stabilize these areas so we can create platform that
would allow for — allow for the international community to move forward. STEPHANIE SY: You oversaw the withdrawal of
most U.S. troops from Syria last year, after it was ordered by President Trump via Twitter. You were not informed or consulted before
that move. Had you been consulted, what would you have
said? GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL: Well, I don’t think that would
have been — as I have said, I don’t — in congressional testimony — I don’t think that
would have been my recommendation at the time. I think it’s important to remember that, in
December, at the time when that announcement was made, we were still very engaged in a
military campaign down in the Middle Euphrates Valley. We had not yet completed the defeat of the
caliphate. And so we needed to finish that. So it wouldn’t have been my advice to make
that decision at that particular juncture. STEPHANIE SY: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis
actually resigned over that decision. Six months since you have retired from Central
Command, are you seeing ramifications of that troop withdrawal? And do you think ISIS is potentially resurgent
still in Syria? GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL: Yes, I think that’s an excellent
question. I think we have always been concerned about
the resurgence of ISIS. It’s important to recognize that what we accomplished
was the defeat of the physical caliphate, the state-like entity that ISIS tried to impose,
and actually did impose for a long period of time, which we, I think, completely dismantled. But that doesn’t mean all the fighters have
gone away. What we have learned over time with these
types of organizations is that we do have to keep pressure on them. They have gone to ground. They have gone to small cells. So we have to stay after them in terms of
that. We have known that that’s going to be a requirement. And that’s a key aspect of, I think, what
we’re doing now with our partners on the ground. STEPHANIE SY: Let’s talk about Afghanistan,
troops there also under your command, troops there also promised a withdrawal. President Trump called off secret talks he
had planned with the Taliban and the Afghan government last week over the death of an
American soldier. Some 2,000 Americans soldiers have been killed
there in Afghanistan. When lawmakers and others criticize negotiations
with the Taliban because they consider them terrorists — and, mind you, yesterday was
the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — what would you say? GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL: The strategy the administration
has put in place that was announced in August of 2017 was to move towards an end state of
reconciliation between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan. And so that’s what the object of all of our
military activity and a lot of our diplomatic activity has been since then, is to create
the conditions that would bring the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan together. And through our special envoy, that’s what
a bulk of his work has been over the last year-plus, to try to do that. This will not be resolved militarily. STEPHANIE SY: What do we stand to lose as
nation if we pull out now? GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL: Well, I think we have to remember
the reason why we went to Afghanistan. We went to Afghanistan because Afghanistan
turned into a land of instability that allowed an organization like al-Qaida to plot an attack
that killed 3,000 of our citizens. STEPHANIE SY: Is it not still completely unstable? GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL: I don’t know that it’s completely
unstable. There certainly is an element of instability
that is being caused by the Taliban and other terrorist groups that operate in that particular
area. But it’s in our interest, it’s in our national
interest to ensure that we try to get Afghanistan as stable as we can, and that the instability
that remains in Afghanistan doesn’t impact our other interests. STEPHANIE SY: You recently wrote a letter,
along with many other generals, more than two dozen, about the Trump administration’s
policy toward refugees. And your argument is that drawing down the
number of refugees this nation accepts could actually destabilize our allies, as well as
threaten our own national security. Can you explain that? GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL: Sure. One of the provisions I think that we addressed
in the letter was a provision for the special immigrant visa. This is a program that was set in — was put
in place a number of years ago to offer an opportunity for those who assisted us in our
military operations to come to the United States. I think what we have to remember is, many
of these Afghan citizens that served with us as interpreters not only put themselves,
but put their families at risk, in support of our national security objectives. STEPHANIE SY: Iraqis as well. GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL: And Iraqis as well. And so this is — I think this is — it’s
important for us to follow through, I think, and provide them the safety and the opportunity
to come to our country. And the special immigrant visa, the P-2 and
visa program that’s in place for Iraq, these are extraordinarily important programs. And they send a very strong message to our
partners and people that put it on the line for us that we are with you and we are going
the stay with you. We have talked about the number of refugees
in countries like Turkey, but also Lebanon, Jordan. All of these countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
have absorbed huge numbers of refugees. And this is a challenge for the international
community that we have to address. And I think the United States has to play
a role and be seen as a leader on this. So that’s what motivated me to support this
letter. STEPHANIE SY: General Joseph Votel, former
head of Central Command, thank you so much. GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL: Thank you. It’s great to be with you. AMNA NAWAZ: The 2020 elections are not far
away, but right now, the agency in charge of enforcing campaign finance laws, the Federal
Election Commission is largely unable to function. The departure of the Republican vice chair
last month leaves the commission with just three members today, a Republican, an independent,
and a Democrat, when it needs four members to have a quorum. Yesterday, Judy Woodruff sat down with the
remaining Democrat on the panel, the chair of the FEC, Ellen Weintraub. JUDY WOODRUFF: Chairman Ellen Weintraub, thank
you very much for talking with us. So, in a nutshell, what should the American
people know about what the Federal Election Commission does? ELLEN WEINTRAUB, Chair, Federal Election Commission:
Judy, the Federal Election Commission is the original follow-the-money agency. We were set up in the aftermath of Watergate
to make sure that the American people know who is funding the political campaigns that
they are seeing every day. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, normally, you’re supposed
to have, by law, six commissioners. You are down to three right now, a Democrat,
a Republican, and an independent. What does that mean in terms of what you were
able to do and what you’re not able to do? ELLEN WEINTRAUB: Well, the good news is that
we have a terrific staff, and they are continuing to come to work and do their jobs every day,
and most of the work does get done by the staff. But the decisions that the agency has to make,
those have to be made by a minimum of four commissioners. And, right now, as you pointed out, we only
have three. We have roughly 250 enforcement matters that
are in the — somewhere in the hopper, and we need commissioners present in order to
conclude those matters and make decisions, so that these things aren’t hanging over a
politician’s head, and the American people understand who has violated the law and who
hasn’t. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what’s an example of
something that’s not getting done? ELLEN WEINTRAUB: Well, we have over 30 complaints
that are sitting in the House right now that allege foreign national money being spent
in our elections. That is flatly illegal. And they are important allegations that the
commission has previously said they would prioritize. But we can’t address them right now. And we don’t know. Some of them may be completely unsubstantiated,
but some of them may be serious allegations that require investigation or sanction. JUDY WOODRUFF: So you can’t decide on whether
to investigate until you have your complement of commissioners? ELLEN WEINTRAUB: That’s right. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in connection with that,
the president said in June that he would be willing to accept information about his political
opponents even if it was given to him by a foreign government. You quickly warned — you put out a statement
that this would be illegal. Expand on that. What were you saying? ELLEN WEINTRAUB: Well, not talking about any
individual, but the rule of law is that it is absolutely illegal for anyone to accept
or receive or solicit assistance from a foreign government, for any foreign national to assist
in our elections. We have a flat ban on foreign spending in
our elections. It’s important for American citizens to know
that we are in charge of our own elections. We are the ones making the decisions. We are the ones funding the politicians. We are the ones who ultimately take responsibility
for our own government. JUDY WOODRUFF: And another point that President
Trump has been making really for a very long time, and that is claimed continued — repeated
claims of voter fraud in this country. There was a recent USA Today poll that found
four in 10 voters have little or no confidence that next year’s election in 2020 is going
to be conducted in a fair way. Should the American people trust that it will
be conducted in a fair way? ELLEN WEINTRAUB: Well, I think election administration
is being conducted throughout the country by a lot of dedicated public servants working
at the state and local level. And they are, I’m sure, going to do their
darndest to make sure that the election is carried out properly. But there are a lot of risks that we know
about right now. We know that foreign governments are trying
to attack our elections. We know that people have difficulty voting
sometimes. There is one scholar who looked at every election
between 2000 and 2014, over a billion votes, and found only 31 credible possibilities of
voter fraud. Now, the problem with talking about voter
fraud, when it is unsubstantiated, is that there is a risk that measures will be adopted
that will make it harder, that will impose obstacles on legitimate American citizens
exercising their right to vote. Right now, if we get over 60 percent participation
in any election, that’s considered good turnout. And we need to have more people participating,
civically engaged and making their choices, so that the government represents them. JUDY WOODRUFF: Coming back to the Federal
Election Commission, again, you only have three commissioners. You need six. You need four to have a quorum. You don’t — you don’t have that. I assume you have made the case to the White
House, we need these appointments. What’s the response you get? ELLEN WEINTRAUB: Well, I don’t want to talk
about any communications that I have had. But I have publicly stated, and I will take
this opportunity to state again, that we need to get new commissioners on board. It needn’t take very long. It could happen very quickly. If the president and the Senate are motivated,
we could get new nominees nominated and confirmed in fairly short order. The vice chairman, who recently resigned,
when he was originally nominated, he was confirmed 12 days later. So we could get back up to speed very quickly,
and we should. JUDY WOODRUFF: Ellen Weintraub, chair of the
Federal Election Commission, thank you very much. ELLEN WEINTRAUB: Thank you, Judy. AMNA NAWAZ: Even with trade negotiations set
to resume next month, the trade and tariff wars between President Trump and the Chinese
government are not expected to end any time soon. Among the industries where the tariffs are
clawing away at profits is the lobster business. Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports
from New England on the unusual twists of this story, part of our regular series Making
Sense. DAVE LALIBERTE, Lobsterman: See the claw growing
back right here? PAUL SOLMAN: Oh, that’s a little new claw. DAVE LALIBERTE: This one and that one. PAUL SOLMAN: Oh, that is soft, and… DAVE LALIBERTE: Yes, it kind of feels like
a gummy bear. PAUL SOLMAN: Out on Casco Bay off Portland,
Maine, with Dave LaLiberte, hauling lobster traps. That’s the smallest lobster I have ever seen. Snaring mostly throwbacks. DAVE LALIBERTE: In order for us to keep a
lobster, it’s got to be three and a quarter inches across the back. That’s called the carapace. So, there we go. We have got a keeper. PAUL SOLMAN: Lobstering is a $1.5 billion
fishery helping keep the state of Maine’s economy afloat. DAVE LALIBERTE: One, two, three, push. PAUL SOLMAN: But last July: WOMAN: China in fact did retaliate with its
own tariffs immediately after the U.S.’ move. PAUL SOLMAN: The profit-trusty crustaceans
became a target of the trade war. WOMAN: Described as the largest trade war
in economic history. PAUL SOLMAN: A 25 percent retaliatory Chinese
tariff on the auspiciously red and dragon-like foodstuff that, over the past decade, has
become a Sino sensation. YANG NING, Auspicious Garden Restaurant (through
translator): Lobster is a top-quality food product that we are using as the main selling
point in our buffet, because our guests are used to thinking that eating lobster should
be something that they should pay a lot of money for. PAUL SOLMAN: But not, it seems, an extra 25
percent. So, lobstermen like Dave LaLiberte are becoming
desperate, no? No. DAVE LALIBERTE: Right now, the boat price
is around $4 a pound. That was the price in 2018, as well as 2017. PAUL SOLMAN: The tariff was put in a year
ago. No effect? DAVE LALIBERTE: We haven’t seen an effect
on the boat price yet. PAUL SOLMAN: But how can this be? China had been taking an ever-bigger chunk
of the local lobster catch, snapping up nearly half of Maine’s exports. And that’s the economic puzzle that brought
me to Casco Bay: How can the price of lobsters not have dropped, given suddenly drastically
lower demand? STEPHANIE NADEAU, The Lobster Company: Lobstermen
aren’t really being affected by this, because Canada is buying our U.S. lobsters, tagging
them as Canadian, and shipping them. PAUL SOLMAN: And that, says Stephanie Nadeau,
a wholesaler who buys at the dock and sells to the world, is the answer to the puzzle. And here they are. China’s still getting its lobsters, even those
from Maine, but not from American wholesalers. So, you mean that Canada gets the business
that the United States used to get? STEPHANIE NADEAU: Yes. PAUL SOLMAN: Period? STEPHANIE NADEAU: Period. DAVE KASELAUSKAS, Lobsterman: Here’s a Canadian
lobster, and here is the American lobster, each costing $4. PAUL SOLMAN: Dave Kaselauskas once taught
chemistry, felt trapped in the classroom, switched to lobstering 52 years ago. But, as we found out, he’s still a teacher
to the core. DAVE KASELAUSKAS: This one goes over, still
$4. This one now has a 25 percent tariff imposed
by the Chinese government. PAUL SOLMAN: Right. DAVE KASELAUSKAS: And so that is going to
cost an extra dollar. Which one are you going to buy? They’re identical. Both are Homarus americanus. Both are from the Gulf of Maine. PAUL SOLMAN: And why can us lobsters get into
China via Canada tariff-free? Because Canada is not in a trade war, and
happens to have its own liberal trade rules. STEPHANIE NADEAU: and the way they write their
certificates is, it only has to come from the North Atlantic fishing region. It doesn’t distinguish between country of
origin. PAUL SOLMAN: But, on the flip side, any lobster
shipped by an American wholesaler from the U.S. to China, even one caught in Canadian
waters, is stamped product of the USA, thereby triggering the tariff. STEPHANIE NADEAU: There’s no way out for a
U.S. lobster dealer. And you have given every advantage to Canadian
lobster dealers. It’s insurmountable. PAUL SOLMAN: So China’s retaliatory tariffs
benefit the Canadian industry, already growing as the Gulf of Maine warms, pushing lobsters
north. But so what? ANNIE TSELIKIS, Executive Director, Maine
Lobster Dealers’ Association: In the lobster industry, everything is connected. PAUL SOLMAN: Annie Tselikis runs the Maine
Lobster Dealers’ Association. You represent wholesalers, the middlemen. Historically, neither customers nor suppliers
have liked the middlemen, right? ANNIE TSELIKIS: Our fishermen go out fishing
every day, they come back and they bring in their lobsters. They’re not the ones that are marketing and
promoting their lobsters. So, we really need this industry to work at
its greatest potential. And for us, that also means having our valuable
export markets accessible for this product that is so important to the state of Maine. STEPHANIE NADEAU: In this particular product,
you have to have a middleman, because someone has to be responsible for the life support
system to get them to where they’re going. You can’t just take them out of the ocean
and ship them. They will die. They have to be kept in this very cold room
and packed under temperature control. We have developed packaging methods, how we
keep our lobster tanks, how we handle our lobsters, over 15 years. PAUL SOLMAN: And it’s that unique skill that’s
now, at least for the moment, obsolete. STEPHANIE NADEAU: Worthless. PAUL SOLMAN: Worthless. STEPHANIE NADEAU: Worthless, yes. That’s tough to take. PAUL SOLMAN: So what’s an American lobster
seller to do? The president recently tweeted an edict: “Our
great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative
to China.” And, by the way, this is just what Maine Coast
Lobster in York, one of the state’s largest wholesalers, has been trying to do. SHEILA ADAMS, Vice President, Maine Coast
Lobster: We did find growth in Taiwan, and Korea, and Malaysia. We’re starting to see some growth in the Middle
East. PAUL SOLMAN: Vice president Sheila Adams. SHEILA ADAMS: We had two choices when the
tariffs came out. We could retract, knowing that that business
is going to go away, or we could say, let’s go for it. So we had to look to other countries, as well
as continuing to expand our domestic business. PAUL SOLMAN: So how do you whet the appetite
of American consumers for more lobster? SHEILA ADAMS: So, a promotion that you will
see done is, lobsters are great for tailgating. Grilling a lobster or steaming up a lobster
in a big parking lot before a game, you’re going to have a lot of friends coming to see
your tailgate party. PAUL SOLMAN: And that’s a double entendre,
tailgate, lobster tail, no? (LAUGHTER) SHEILA ADAMS: I didn’t think of that, but
I’ll use it. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: But smaller players like Stephanie
Nadeau cannot. STEPHANIE NADEAU: There’s no untapped market
we’re missing. PAUL SOLMAN: So what are you doing? STEPHANIE NADEAU: Selling less lobsters, making
less money. PAUL SOLMAN: As a result, she’s laid off half
of the 14 people in her wholesale operation. ANNIE TSELIKIS: Our rural communities along
the coast are dependent upon this fishery. That’s what is potentially very scary for
us, is thinking about this long term. PAUL SOLMAN: And, by the way, says lobsterman
Kaselauskas: DAVE KASELAUSKAS: My bait bill last year was
$32,000. This year, it’s going to exceed $50,000. PAUL SOLMAN: Because the price of herring
has gone up. So shellfishermen too are now starting to
feel a substantial pinch. DAVE KASELAUSKAS: We’re not achieving anywhere
near our profit margin this year as we did last year and the year before. PAUL SOLMAN: You mean your costs are going
up. DAVE KASELAUSKAS: Correct. PAUL SOLMAN: So the fact that the price is
the same at the wharf is misleading, because you need to be charging more just to stay
even? DAVE KASELAUSKAS: Absolutely. My dealer is trying to supplement our income
by giving us a higher price, but he can’t because of the tariffs. PAUL SOLMAN: Right. And, hey, even 18-year lobster vet Dave LaLiberte
is trying to escape the vagaries of the now volatile lobster trade. DAVE LALIBERTE: Slide that out. That’s it. Our primary business is tourism. PAUL SOLMAN: Really? DAVE LALIBERTE: Yes, taking the passengers
out. I don’t think we’re necessarily making a lot
more money than a commercial lobstermen. We’re just diversifying a little bit. PAUL SOLMAN: Just in case Canada takes the
opportunity to further build up its lobster industry, and take the Chinese market away
permanently from the United States. This is business and economics correspondent
Paul Solman reporting from Maine. AMNA NAWAZ: Everyone alive at the time remembers
where they were on September 11, 2001. While the events of the day are seared into
our nation’s collective memory, details of what the victims, survivors and emergency
responders experienced have faded over time. But a powerful new book, “The Only Plane in
the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11,” seeks to serve as a reminder to future generations
of that moment in time that forever changed America. And the author, Garrett Graff, joins me here
now. Welcome to the “NewsHour.” GARRETT GRAFF, Author, “The Only Plane in
the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11”: Thanks for having me. AMNA NAWAZ: So, we call you the author. You worked with your colleague Jenny Pachucki
in gathering many of these stories, but it’s an oral history. It’s a compilation of people’s memories of
that day. A lot of them have been told before. So, I’m curious, even in putting this together
now, did you discover new details from that day? GARRETT GRAFF: Yes, it was a day that was
so dramatic, and it was so hard for us to wrap our minds around that day, that, as I
explored the stories through this book, the book totals 480 Americans coast to coast,
morning to night, I was amazed at sort of some of the stories that I had sort of heard
about over the years, but largely overlooked. I mean, it was a day that was so hard for
us to understand in real time that even, with 18 years, it’s hard to capture in a single
volume. AMNA NAWAZ: Eighteen years later, why do you
think this kind of storytelling matters, going back into the details of all those events
that day? GARRETT GRAFF: Yes, I actually think that’s
the most important way to tell the story now, which is, this is the 18th anniversary now. And so you have American service men and women
who were born after 9/11 being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight the wars spawned
by 9/11, even though they actually have no emotional connection or understanding of that
day. And so my goal with this book was to tell
9/11, not the facts of the day, which are all familiar to us. But what we lose as time goes on is the fear
and the chaos and the confusion of what it was like to live that day. We now know when we tell the 9/11 story when
the attacks began and when they ended. And that’s — for those of us who sort of
lived that day, none of us knew that at the time. We didn’t know when the attacks began. We didn’t know when the attacks were over. And the fear and the confusion of that day
was similar for everyone in America, whether you were a school child or the president of
the United States. AMNA NAWAZ: And the details that people remember
from that day, it’s just — it’s so powerful, the way they’re unpacked here. I want to pull out a couple of examples, because
there are voices of several first responders in particular woven throughout the entire
story. We know the bravery they showed that day. But what you have revealed in here is what
they were thinking in that moment of chaos. There’s one quote from there from Captain
Jay Jonas of the Fire Department of New York, as he’s awaiting orders in the North Tower’s
ground floor lobby. And he says this. He says: “One of the firemen from Rescue 1
looked up and said, ‘We may not live through today.’ We looked at him and we looked at each other,
and we said, ‘You’re right.’ We took the time to shake each other’s hands
and wish each other good luck.” This idea of the fear and the uncertainty,
that’s woven throughout the entire story, throughout all the voices you talked to. GARRETT GRAFF: Absolutely. And one of the things that really I worked
to capture that day, because they were parts of the stories that jumped out at me looking
back, was the sensory experience of 9/11. I mean, we all remember the sights of that
day. We all watched that day unfold in real time
on TV, I mean, some of us for much of the day. What we never knew, what we have forgotten
are the tastes of the day, the sounds of the day, the smells of the day. I mean, every one of the volunteer firefighters
who responds to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the crash of Flight 93 talks about what
the smell of that crash — it sort of sticks with them. The firefighters and the first responders
in Lower Manhattan talk about what the taste of the dust from the collapse felt like in
their mouth. I mean, one of the firefighters describes
it as like having a wool sock in your mouth. And then, of course, the thing that we sort
of all remember from across the country is the profound quiet that settles over the country
in the course of that afternoon, as schools let out early, businesses close, and all of
the planes are grounded. And, suddenly, you walk outside and you realize
that you don’t hear any planes. AMNA NAWAZ: In some of those moments, too,
people reveal in their retelling incredibly intimate moments, their last moments with
their loved ones in some cases. There’s one story that you feature from a
woman named Beverly Eckert, who’s on the phone with her husband, Sean Rooney, who is trapped
in the South Tower above the 98th floor. And she’s sharing this story in such painful
detail. She writes: “I could tell it was getting harder
for him to breathe. I asked if it hurt. He paused for a moment. And then he said, ‘No.’ He loved me enough to lie. As the smoke got thicker, he kept whispering,
‘I love you,’ over and over.” She shares the moment then too when she hears
him gasp as the floor fell out from underneath him. She says: “I called his name in the phone
over and over.” Did it surprise you that people were willing
to share these incredibly painful, intimate moments in this way? GARRETT GRAFF: It’s actually remarkable. The book is a mix of my own original interviews
and then some incredible archival work done by places like the 9/11 Memorial StoryCorps,
which is where Beverly Eckert’s story comes from, the Flight 93 National Memorial, the
Pentagon Historian’s Office, that had the good sense that these were stories that needed
to be preserved for history and went out in the months and years after 9/11 to capture
these stories. And the experience that I had interviewing
a couple of hundred people for this book myself is, every single person wanted to talk. Every single person that I approached, as
a stranger asking them to tell about the worst day of their lives, was excited to share their
story, as painful as it was, that they wanted to make sure it was remembered. And the way that people — the perspective
that people sort of brought to their experience — I tell the story, one of the main characters
in the book, Will Jimeno, the Port Authority police officer who is actually trapped under
the collapse of both towers. He’s one of only two people that day to be
rescued from underneath the towers. But when he goes out and speaks to groups
today, he talks about: Look, I had 220 floors of the Twin Towers fall on me. We all have our World Trade Centers in our
lives. We all have the challenges that we think are
insurmountable. And it’s about sort of how you react as a
human that determines the path of your life. AMNA NAWAZ: There is this idea of luck, that
whether or not you lived or died that day was almost arbitrary. Was that something people shared with you
over and over? GARRETT GRAFF: It was — it was the theme,
perhaps more than anything, that stood out to me as I was working on this book, was the
way that the random life decisions, the types of things that we make 1,000 times a day without
thinking, ended up literally determining life or death that day. Michael Lomonaco, the chef at Windows on the
World in the North Tower, would have been normally at his kitchen by 8:30 that Tuesday
morning, except, that day, of all days, he decided to stop and get a new pair of glasses
at LensCrafters in the basement of the World Trade Center, and missed the last elevator
up to the top. And 72 of his colleagues died, and he didn’t. Joseph Lott, another one of the stories that
I tell, was supposed to be attending a conference at Windows on the World that day. And at breakfast in the lobby of the Marriott
Hotel at the base of the World Trade Center that day, one of his colleagues who was headed
to the conference too gave him a new tie that she had bought on vacation and thought he
would like. And he is like: “This is a really nice gift. I’m going to go back to my hotel room and
change shirts, so that I can wear this tie to the conference that day.” And he goes back to his room, changes his
shirt. His colleagues go on to the conference. And he lived, and they didn’t. AMNA NAWAZ: Garrett Graff, the book is a stunning
compilation of some incredibly powerful stories. The book is “The Only Plane in the Sky.” Garrett Graff, thanks very much. GARRETT GRAFF: Thanks for sharing the stories. AMNA NAWAZ: On the “NewsHour” online right
now, we have a guide for what to watch for in the Democratic debate in Houston. Plus, we will have more analysis after the
debate tonight. Find that on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour. And that’s the “NewsHour” for tonight. I’m Amna Nawaz. Join us online and again here tomorrow evening. For all of us at the “PBS NewsHour,” thank
you, and we’ll see you soon.

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