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tv   Washington Week  PBS  December 18, 2021 1:30am-2:01am PST

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♪ yamiche: new details on the capital attack and covid spiking again. >> the resolution is adopted. yamiche: mark meadows held in contempt of congress. >> these text messages leave no doubt. the white house knew exactly what was happening here at the capital. yamiche: and some of president biden's key policies as democrats struggle to agree. plus. >> the house is gone. there's nothing left. yamiche: deadly storms ravaged the south and the midwest as covid cases spike across the country next. ♪ >> this is "washington week." corporate funding is provided by --
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consumer cellular. additional funding is provided by -- the estate of arnold adams. the human foundation. committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. sandra and carl delay magnets and. robert and susan rosenbaum. the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again from washington, moderator yamiche alcindor. yamiche: good evening and welcome to "washington week." this week brought major developments in the january 6 investigation. they voted to hold mark meadows in criminal contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena. here's congressman betty thompson, chairman of the house committee investigating the capital attack. >> history will record that in a
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critical moment in our democracy , most people were on the side of finding the truth, of providing accountability, of strengthening our system for future generations. and history will also recall in this critical moment that some people would not. yamiche: meadows gave the committee thousands of pages of documents, including text messages he received from lawmakers, fox news hosts, and former president trump's son as the writers wrote to the capital. congressman liz cheney said, she will not, "let the facts speak. by cover. -- cover up. >> one text message said, "we are under siege here at the capital." another, "they have breached the capital." in a third, "mark, protesters
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are literally storming the capital, breaking windows and doors, rushing in. is trump going to say something?" donald trump junior texted again and again, urging action by the president, "we need an oval office address. he has to lead now. it has gone too far and gotten out of hand." yamiche: this week, senate minority leader mitch mcconnell also spoke out in favor of the committee's work. >> it was a horrendous event and i think what they're seeking to find out is something the public needs to know. yamiche: joining us now to discuss all this at more,, national politics reporter for cnn, ashley parker, white spiritually for the washington post, cynthia, and nicholas woo, congressional reporter for political. ashley, i want to go to.
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what is the impact on these text messages that this cheney read aloud, an astonishing moment. what is the impact of this and what do they reveal about mark meadows role and the role of the white house under anyway sixth? >> -- on january 6? >> i think one thing the text messages show how the run-up to the days events to mark meadows was. on january 6, as everything is going down, he is the key point of contact for people who are desperate, journalists, republican lawmakers, trump supporters, you know, everyone, the president's own son, which is frankly -- a separate issue, but very revealing look into that family dynamic, that instead of calling and texting his father, he texts the chief of staff. in a different way, he was the days. a typical chief of staff is the
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gatekeeper. but he flung open the doors wide open to anyone who had a theory, a bit of misinformation they wanted to get to the president. in those final days, we were all covering it. there was some people in trump's orbit who were uncomfortable in the run-up. in the, they wanted -- the common refrain among them became go call meadows, because he was the guy who would take the call. yamiche: go call meadows is also what fox news hosts were doing. to me, it's interesting because it reveals what fox news hosts were saying at the time and saying privately. what does this reveal for you when you look at the text messages and what they said out loud? ashley: a couple of things. first of all, these fox news hosts, they viewed themselves as on the same team as the trump white house, not as journalists covering it, but as advocates. also, what was more shocking than that, because if you watch some of those shows, that's a
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fair impression to come away with. what was shocking was how quickly the whitewashing began. we had fox news hosts who, in the context of the text, very clear saying your supporters are being violent. that is the subtext of those text. and you, mr. president, are the only ones who can call them off. despite knowing that and saying that privately, in public, sometimes as soon as hours later, they are saying something incredibly different, that it was aunt eva. it was the left -- antifa. it was the left. it was bad actors. it was political tourism. we're almost a year from the january 6 anniversary, and it's also the anniversary of the embrace of the big lie, the so-called big lie, and the whitewashing of it. and you can see the whitewashing begin almost instantly. yamiche: almost instantly is a good way to put it. nicholas, welcome to the show. you've been doing a lot of reporting on the capital.
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the house took a step to refer to the justice department, a potential criminal charge for mark meadows. what are lawmakers thinking about that charge? do they think the doj is going to act? and what does this leave mark meadows when you think about what he's facing now? nicholas: exactly. as lawmakers see it, the contempt is less about trying to put someone in jail. that's not what they are trying to do here. what they want to do is send a warning shot across the bow of anyone else who would stand up against the committee and refuse to testify in the way that meadows had. that's what we saw with bannon. he didn't come into serve his privileges. he didn't turn over documents. he didn't return emails from the committee. and so that's what happened here with meadows. although he did cooperate with the committee, there was this kind of handshake agreement with them that all fell apart over these comments on exec at a privilege. the committee sees this as a black mark on meadows legacy,
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former member of theirs, who tried to uphold subpoenas in the past and could be referred to the criminal justice department for a criminal referral. it depends on what a grand jury has to say there about that. yamiche: i would also say that matters what lawmakers has to say. even we heard from republicans and democrats talking about this as a moral issue. he also had the senate minority leader mitch mcconnell speak out in the work. how much doethis really matter? you are out on the campaign trail talking to voters. how is this landing for people who are not sort of in d.c. and who are going to be making the decision when you have gop primary candidates who won't even say joe biden is president? >> well, i think this is the most revealing work of the committee to date this week, and there is a good thing r this effort. we are in a state where many would argue we're living in a very fragile democracy.
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and many of you this work as necessary. the challenge that democrats face is that when i was in doylestown, pennsylvania this week, asking people about politics, they were more concerned about getting presents under the christmas tree. that is the challenge that democrats face in continuing to do this important work, showing that they are just as concerned for the needs of americans. yamiche: there's concern for the needs of americans, but also the gop is a party now, when you talk to some people running for office, they again won't say that president bided is the rightful president. they won't say the 2020 election wasn't rigged. where does that leave the gop? >> it's become a necessary part of campaigning in republican primaries. i was in ohio several weeks ago in the senate republican primary . almost every candidate saying the election was stolen, that the election was rigged. they view that as the path to
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victory, that they have no other choice. in order to get the republican nomination,hey have to continue this big lie. yamiche: and that's such an important point because when you look at the way republicans and conservative media personalities have tried to minimize the events of january 6, wh that overlooks and glosses over is the fact that the majority of the republican base does actually believe that the 2020 election was fraudulent even though, as we know, that's simply not the case. and they do not see president biden's victory as legitimate. there is still stop the steal merchandise beinganded out at these campaign rallies. there are ads still being run, questioning the integrity of the election. and it's become this litmus test for republicans that they are really struggling with. i think that's why a lot of people believe this is so important because absent that
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accounting for what the climate was that really allowed the events of january 6 to take place, they are not really mechanisms in place to prevent it from happening again. the problem for liz cheney, these republicans on the committee, is that the base is much more in line with former president trump and his allies and they are this handful of republicans in congress who truly want to get to the bottom of january 6. yamiche: when you think about what is going on with the gop, you think about what is going on in democrats. some democrats are spending the last few weeks of the year pushing for voting rights legislation. senator, rafael warnock called georgia voting rights the central issue confronting this congress. >> the american people have been pushing for leaders in washington to address voting rights. they are deeply worried. yamiche: ashley, i want to come to you. president biden's said voting rights is the number one most important domestic issue.
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but i've been hearing from sources that the president spent most of his time talking about inflation, infrastructure, trying to get those things done, the white house saying they did talk about voting rights. what are your sources telling you? >> well, it's fascinating to cover because this is a president who not just said that this week, but really ran on restoring democracy. that was one of his key platforms. and then when he got elected, he identified four major crises. democracy was one of them. and then even as he's gone forward, there's been real debate in the democratic party. there are two parts. he has not prioritized it in the sense he did the covid relief bill first. he went to infrastructure, then he was doing his bill back better agenda. it's not just legislation. it's not democracy writ large,
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using that bully pulpit. he has given speeches and gave a speech about voting rights and democracy there. there's a question in the democratic party of how much he should use that pulpit to confront former president trump. if you look at it, trump puts out a statement nearly every single day that seemingly undermines democracy, that the election was stolen, it's not free and fair. and the president and a lot of people around him believe, by engaging with president trump, you're elevating a conspiracy theory. but others believe you need to call this out and you have a duty to do that. and he has not done that as forcefully as some people in his party would like to see. yamiche: when you talk about critics wanting the president to talk more, there are those saying you need to be pushing talking to the president about changing the filibuster. what are you hearing from lawmakers about whether or not that's realistic? the president has not been clear about whether he would back that. nicholas: this has been an
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ongoing issue for democrats in congress over the past year. in some ways, it's kind of like charlie brown and the football. they have this big lofty goal and they swing at it every time and miss it because the filibuster is the thing that stands in their way. in the 50-50 senate, you need 10 republicans to get on board with any piece of legislation to move it forward, unless you try to reform the filibuster, which is what some democrats have talked about. there was some talk about some democrats, different sources about trying to create a carveout for issues like voting rights. but that still requires a majority of democrats to get on board with that. and senator cinema has stood strong against changing the rules against the filibuster. this brings us back to square one. you have these big lofty goals, hr one, issues with passing bill back better, and any number of pocies that anyone senator in the democratic party has veto power over. yamiche: in some ways, we have
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to talk about bbb, and also agree milestone. the coronavirus has now killed over 800,000 people. more people are reported to have died in the u.s. than any other country in the world. that comes as senate democrats are struggling to make president biden's agenda reality. his key social spending bill, the bill back better act, is now delayed until at least 2022. how much of a blow is this to democrats in the white house that all of these things that you laid out are not happening right now? nicholas: for progressives, in particular, this is a big letdown. they put a lot of their credibility on the line earlier this year in letting the infrastructure bill passed in november. for months, democrats had fought over when to pass these bills. progressives insisted the infrastructure bill and build back better move at the same time. they are now separated. there's a lot of anger right now among progressive democrats that they lost all the leverage.
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i know you have these drawn out negotiations over bill back better and the individual provisions and, for that matter, planting that into an election year, where less and less legislating will get done in congress. yamiche: sabrina, where does this leave the white house? we hear the president talking to them all the time. what is actually going on? >> the president continued to have private conversations with senator joe mansion, one of the key holdouts the past week. but the talks aren't exactly going well because they simply haven't been able to move the needle. this is a continuation of negotiations that, as nicholas said, have been ongoing for months. and we are still in the very same place where manchin and sinema believe the package is too large even though this framework was already agreed upon, a handshake agreement so they can move the infrastructure bill forward. it's really the second pillar of president biden's economic
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agenda on the line. the closer you get to midterm elections, it's so much harder to pass any legislation. and this is something that democrats really had hoped, and still hope would be a major selling point for them going into the campaign season, to be able to say we did deliver on these economic parties, especially when you see the lingering impact on american families with respect to inflation, supply chain issues, and more economic strife and pressure a lot of families are under. this is something designed to reduce the cost of childcare, health care, to alleviate those concerns. there's a lot of pressure on the white house. the question is, when does president biden's say enough is enough? and can he actually force their hand on this issue? yamiche: that's a key question, can he do this? you talk about the pressure families are facing. the child tax credit, which was this monthly payment that 36
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million families were receiving, that was expiring at the end of december. this is happening while covid is spiking, while schools are closing. how much pressure are lawmakers facing? but also connect that to what you're are hearing from regular everyday americans facing these challenges? eva: many americans continuing to struggle. it's a politically difficult argument senator mansion is making to oppose -- i think he believes in the series -- spirit of the child tax credit but doesn't like the way it is implemented in this bill. this is such a difficult argument to make, especially him representing. a lot of people are depending on this benefit. it illustrates a level of disconnect from what everyday people are experiencing. yamiche: every day people are also experiencing this fear of covid. the president said we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death if you are unvaccinated. i talked to so many people this week who are scared. this is still a pandemic about
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who is vaccinated and who's not. that comes down to politics. republicans are more unlikely to be vaccinated than democrats. how is the white house thinking about cutting through that? what is their strategy? ashley: one of the -- for months, when you try to get to the bottom of why they think his own eight think he is not performing well politically, they say they believe it's covid. and it's frustrating to have to tell your political fortunes to something to some extent is out of your control. what they can control is they can make at home testing more readily available and cheaper. that would be a huge thing. that's something important to them. he is stressing very clearly that the best thing you can do is not just get vaccinated but get your booster shots. but the white house talked about the idea that the people who have taken the most precautions, the ones who are vast, the ones who are masked are still the ones who are the most scared and are behaving almost as if it's
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march 2020. the people who aren't of asked or boosted, it's like a different country. there is a little element of actual science. they need to get the test, two to five euros vaccinated. and then there's social science, convincing another set of people it is safe to go out and live your life and get the economy back to normal. yamiche: that schism is the story of this entire pandemic. and nicholas, i was looking at this statistic and it stopped me in my tracks. 60% of gop adults have been vaccinated. 91% of adults were democrats who have been vaccinated. is this spike in cases, hospitalizations going up, does that change the calculation at all, especially when it comes to messaging to their constituents? nicholas: to a certain degree. that's a really striking statistic. yamiche: according to the new york times. nicholas: it really goes to show the partisan divide. it's something you see every
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day. most of the senate is vaccinated. every house democrat is vaccinated. that number drops to maybe half, maybe a little more house republicans right now based on reports cnn has done a little while ago. this plays out how series members take covid, staff take covid, and masking around the house. marjorie taylor green has backed up enough fines for not wearing masks in the chamber, it stretches into $100,000 or something. so it's part of the ongoing partisan battle of something that should not necessarily be a partisan issue. >> i think when i talk to pollsters, one recurring theme of the views are just baked into the cake. those partisan divides that have been there since the outset, first around mass masking, now around vaccine mandates, that's
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just not changing. so that's one of the challenges for the white house is while they are encouraging vaccines and booster shots, there's only so much that they are able to break through. i think one thing that is interesting, one thing i was hearing from why has aids with respect to omicron, they do believe the pandemic is in a new phase and they are not trying to downplay the new variant. but they are emphasizing this is not the pre-vaccine pandemic of last year, so they had been avoiding any talk of lockdowns or reinstating some of those harsher restrictions. the white house hasn't even called on states to reimpose mask mandates. they simply encourage people to wear masks because i think they recognize in the polling, there's a lot of fatigue in the american public. people who are vaccinated feel they did their part already. people who are unvaccinated, it remains unclear if this is going to move the needle. you are starting to see the white house try to change the mindset a little bit around the
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pandemic to say the virus isn't actually going to go away. it's more about figuring out how to live with the virus and to make sure people are taking precautions and getting vaccinated so they can protect themselves. yamiche: and eva, what are you hearing out in the country? are people as fatigued as we think they are? i can say i'm certainly fatigued, just livg through this pandemic and continuing to enter a third-year. it's sort of mind-boggling. eva: i would say undoubtedly, peop are absolutely exhausted. the pandemic is still with us. i will say that a lot of americans voted for president biden because he took the pandemic so seriously. and so this is an area where the white house really projects strength. this is an area where i think president biden feels comfortable in getting out front because that -- this is an area where many americans were turned off by the way the former president was dismissing the pandemic. so i think to the extent they
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can get out in front, they can show that they have control over this variant, that they can message directly to americans that they are on top of it, i think they feel strong doing that. yamiche: ashley, 30 seconds, it's the end of the year. president biden does have a long list of accomplishments that people are looking at voting rights, covid, immigration, things that are still frustrating. how is the white house feeling? ashley: again, they would argue they have a long list of accomplishments and they sort of think they've accomplished the things and there is an inherent lag time until results kick in. and they're hoping it kicks in well before the summer for midterms. yamiche: when i talk to white house sources, they definitely feel they have accomplishments to talk about. but they feel pressure from critics. thank you for all your reporting and two in monday to the pbs newshour, one of the nation's
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top scientists reflects on his legacy as he steps down from leading the national institutes of health. and before we go, my heart goes out to the communities hit by the tornadoes and storms. the destruction is devastating. i hope those impacted get all the help they need. we will continue our conversation about the impact of the deadly storms and the challenges facing president biden on the "washington week" extra. find it on our website, facebook, and youtube. thank you for joining us. i'm yamiche alcindor. thank you for watching. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] ♪
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>> corporate funding for washingtonweek is provided by -- >> for 25 years, consumer cellular has been offering no contract where this plans designed to help people do more of what they like. every u.s.-based customer service team can help find the plan that fits you. to learn more, visit >> additional funding is provided by the estate of arnold adams. the yuen foundation. rose herschel and industries. robert and susan rosenbaum. the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ >>
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announcer: major funding for "tell me more with kelly corrigan" is provided by the penner family foundation along with support from the gordon and llura gund foundation. we had done probably three moments of silence during that season. it was like every couple of weeks, you know, let's take a bow and stay silent, and not actually try to solve the problem. and so i just felt like, you know, i do have a platform. i should probably say something. and i've been an advocate ever since. ♪ ♪ corrigan, voice-over: one life can hold a lot--
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playing soccer in the streets of cairo,


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