tv PBS News Hour PBS May 12, 2017 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight: the white house refuses to say whether it records conversations-- as president trump keeps his battle with fired f.b.i. director james comey alive by warning him not to talk. then, one-on-one with condoleezza rice. i sit down with the former secretary of state to discuss the russia investigation, democracy and the trump white house. >> judy, i worry that this is starting to erode people's confidence in our institutions. >> woodruff: plus, in a reversal of obama-era policies, attorney general jeff sessions orders federal prosecutors to pursue harsher sentences on drug offenses, including mandatory
minimum time in prison. and it's friday. mark shields and ramesh ponnuru are here to analyze a watershed week for the trump administration. all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us.
>> the ford foundation. working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: and friends of the newshour. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: we're 113 days into the trump presidency, with more than 1,300 left until the next inauguration day.
at times, it's felt like a whirlwind, and this week may have brought the wildest ride yet. our lisa desjardins brings us up to speed. >> and now i will take your questions. >> reporter: a roller coast week for the white house ended with more turbulence-- and questions- - after reports that allies of fired f.b.i. director james comey insist he never told president trump that he was not under investigation-- the opposite of the president's version. this morning, a tweeting president trump fired out: at the white house, reporters asked press secretary sean spicer if that was meant as a message. >> that is not a threat. he's simply stating a fact. >> reporter: asked repeatedly if there are recording devices in the oval office... spicer refused to answer. >> the president has nothing to add. the back and forth and back
again this week has been dizzying. it may clear things up to look at the two core issues-- why was director comey fired? and when was that decision made? first: why here's what the president said yesterday to nbc news. >> when i decided to just do it, i said to myself, i said, "you know, this russia thing with trump and russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the democrats for having lost an election that they should have won." >> reporter: but just one day earlier-- wednesday-- vice president pence told reporters the issues were a lack of confidence and recommendations from the justice department. >> the american people have to have confidence in the federal bureau of investigation, and because of the actions that the deputy attorney general outlined to the president that were endorsed and agreed with by the attorney general, the president made the right decision at the right time. >> reporter: pence was referencing deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. his letter released tuesday centered on charges that comey mishandled the clinton investigation.
nothing about russia. the other rationale for comey's firing-- it was in the president's letter to comey-- restoring trust and confidence in the f.b.i. but that was directly countered yesterday by acting f.b.i. chief andrew mccabe. >> i can tell you also that director comey enjoyed broad support within the f.b.i. and still does to this day. >> reporter: at different times, the white house pointed to three different reasons for the comey firing. there were also varying descriptions of when and how that decision was made. here's the president in yesterday's nbc interview. >> i was going to fire comey-- my decision. i was going to fire regardless of recommendation. >> reporter: that is at odds with the previous two days of staff statements. first, press secretary spicer-- speaking off camera minutes after the comey firing-- told reporters it was a d.o.j. decision made by no one at the white house. wednesday, vice president pence pointed seven times to the justice department
recommendation. >> president trump made the right decision at the right time to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general, to ask for the termination, to support the termination of the director of the f.b.i. >> reporter: same day white house spokeswoman sarah huckabee sanders implied the justice department initiated the idea to fire comey. >> he did have a conversation with the deputy attorney general on monday where they had come to him to express their concerns. >> reporter: but one day later a change-- sanders said the president had told her he decided earlier. >> i went off of the information that i had when i answered your question. i've since had the conversation with him, right before i walked on today, and he laid it out very clearly, he'd already made that decision, he'd been thinking about it for months. >> reporter: today the president tweeted that he is a very active
president and it's not possible for his surrogates to have "perfect accuracy". press secretary spicer summed up the comey firing this way today. >> it was always going to be the president's decision, he made a decision in part based on the recommendation. and he is now focused on making sure we have a replacement at the f.b.i. >> reporter: spicer said there is no set timeline for the president to choose his new f.b.i nominee-- that it will happen when he finds the right person. for the pbs newshour, i'm lisa desjardins >> woodruff: and we are joined now from the white house by correspondent john yang. so, john, a few other threads we want to pursue right now. one the president was asked earlier this week by senator lindsey graham for a letter to certify that -- to explain what his connections are to russia. now you've seen that letter, what does it say? >> it's from his tax attorneys. they looked at the past ten years of his tax returns. they say they show no investments in russia, show no loan payments, interest payments
to lenders from russia. they say the only income was about $12 million in 2013 for the miss universe pageant and the proceeds for a $95 million sale of a florida estate to a russian billionaire. but tax experts say that this is not conclusive, that there are many other ways that the president could have dealings with russia that are not included in this letter. >> woodruff: now, john, separately, another issue that's come up in all this back and forth we've just heard from lisa has to do with the white house press briefing, and the president had something interesting to say about that today. >> he's got an idea of his own. he said instead of a daily briefing, there should only be a briefing once every two weeks, and that he should give it. he said he thinks that's a good idea. >> woodruff: and we don't know whether that's going to take place, yet. one other story about the conflicting reports about a
dinner the president had with james comey in late january. >> that's right, in the interview with nbc's lester holt, the president said this is a dinner mr. comey asked for because he wanted to keep his job. friends of mr. comey's say that that was actually not the case from his point of view. he says that he was asked to come to the white house for dinner, and he also said -- comey said that he was asked several times by the president whether he could have his personal loyalty, whether the president would have his personal loyalty. he said all he could promise was that he would have hi his hones. >> woodruff: a lot to keep track of. john yang, we thank you. we'll get another view of the firing of f.b.i. director comey from former secretary of state condoleezza rice right after the news summary. in the day's other news: a massive cyber-attack struck major institutions and companies
in more than 70 countries. the computer systems were infected with so-called "ransomware" that demands money in exchange for unlocking data. the malware is believed to have exploited a cyberhacking tool that was used by the national security agency, that was broken into last year. the united kingdom was among the hardest hit, forcing its national health service to close dozens of hospitals and medical centers. paul davies of independent television news has this report. >> reporter: it is a sinister development. the very people we turn to when we're sick or injured, themselves under a concerted and highly sophisticated attack. hospitals and other n.h.s. organizations realizing something was wrong when someone appeared to take control of their vital computer systems. and then this message demanding immediate payment with the threat that invaluable records will be deleted if the money isn't paid. the result is chaos. at the hospitals affected
treatment has been postponed and ambulances diverted. not all hospitals have been targeted, but those that have are widespread. when emma simpson took her son seb for a check on his broken toe they joined the thousands of patients inconvenienced. >> they said, i'm really sorry, but the computer system is down. you will have to go away. you can't have any appointments, it would be dangerous to do so. we can't access any of the files. >> this doctor described the impact. >> this would be isolated. we have no access to the records, electronic prescriptions or investigations on patients. >> reporter: latest information suggests as many at 40 health trusts may now be affected. the message to patients is hardly reassuring. >> woodruff: two top security firms said most of the infected computers were in russia. the russian interior ministry reported roughly a thousand of its devices were affected.
it's still not clear who or what is behind the cyberattack. the u.s. justice department has issued a directive to federal prosecutors to seek tougher sentences for the vast majority of criminal suspects. the move is a direct reversal of the policy that was put in place under former president obama, which sought to reduce prison oercrowding. we'll have more on the impact of the new sentencing directive a little later in the program. the trump administration has unveiled its new trade deal with china. as part of the agreement, beijing will lift a 13-year ban on u.s. beef imports. it will also allow u.s. shipments of liquefied natural gas, and open the chinese market to u.s. credit card companies. chinese banks-- in turn-- will be permitted to enter the u.s. financial market, but an exact date has yet to be set. u.s. immigration agents have arrested nearly 1,400 suspected gang members across the u.s., in a massive six-week operation. the immigration and customs
enforcement agency said fewer than a third of those arrested were illegal aliens. about 1,100 people taken into custody are being held on criminal charges. last night, the agency's acting director said the crackdown is far from over. >> let me be clear that these violent criminal street gangs are the biggest threat facing our communities. today we speak about what we have done the past six weeks. i want to make sure there's no mistake we are not done. >> woodruff: the crackdown is the largest anti-gang operation in the agency's history. north korea's parliament sent a rare letter to the u.s. congress today, protesting new sanctions that the house of representatives passed earlier this month. they target the north's shipping industry, and were in response to its nuclear program. north korea called the measure a "heinous act against humanity," and said "the u.s. house of representatives should think twice."
it was not immediately clear how the letter was sent, since the u.s. and pyongyang have no formal diplomatic relations. hepatitis c infections have now nearly tripled in the u.s. that's according to a new report from the centers for disease control and prevention. researchers attribute the increase to the opioid epidemic and a spike in heroin use, from the years 2010 to 2015. the highest rates of infections were among people in their 20s who inject drugs. fiat chrysler is recalling more than a million ram pickup trucks in the u.s. to fix a software glitch. the automaker said the error could prevent side air bags and seatbelts from working during a vehicle rollover. the defect has been blamed for at least one death. and stocks were mixed on wall street today after poor showings by department stores and treasury yields. the dow jones industrial average lost nearly 23 points to close at 20,896.
the nasdaq rose five points, and the s&p 500 slipped three. for the week, both the dow and the s&p 500 lost a fraction of a percent. the nasdaq rose a fraction of a percent. still to come on the newshour: former secretary of state condoleezza rice on pivotal moments in democracy's history, amid her take on the latest twists and turns out of the trump white house, what tougher penalties could mean for crime rates, drug use and the prison population, mark shields and ramesh ponnuru analyze this tumultuous week of news, and a musician coming to terms with being unconventional. >> woodruff: now one-on-one with condoleezza rice. i sat down with the former secretary of state earlier today to discuss trump's abrupt firing of former f.b.i. director james
comey, the investigation into russia's meddling in the u.s. election, and her new book, "democracy: stories from the long road to freedom." secretary condoleezza rice, thank you for being with us. >> pleased to be with you. >> woodruff: president trump fired f.b.i. director james comey this week. you have served at the highest levels of government. do you believe what the president did at the moment of the russia investigation going on crossed any ethical lines? >> the president obviously had the authority to relieve the f.b.i. director. obviously, these are ten-year terms, so it should be rare that that happens. but i really think, at this point, we need to settle down, step back and let the investigation move forward. i have great confidence that whoever is at the f.b.i. is going to find a group of career people who are dedicated to a
thorough investigation. intelligence has all of the tools it needs, all the information. judy, i worry this is starting to erode people's confidence if our institutions, and we shouldn't have that erosion because we have institutions that can handle even disruption of this kind. but we need to find out what happened. it was a hostile act by a foreign power. we need to find out what happened and let the facts fall where they do. >> woodruff: well, the president said the investigation should go forward but he's also called it a charade and says it all stems from democrats being angry at the outcome of the election. so he himself has undermind what's going on. >> well, for whatever is said, the investigation will go forward, and it will reveal whatever happened there. so my view, and i think it's probably shared by a lot of my fellow citizens, is could we get
on with this and really find out what happened here? you know, like at vladimir putin as somewho's an eye for an eye kind of person. we questioned his legitimacy in 2012, secretary clinton did, rightly, by the way, it was quite fraudulent, so i think he's saying now, i'm going to show you i can do the same thing, and we shouldn't let him do that. we should have confidence in our institutions. let them get started, let them get finished, because we have a lot of other work to do on behalf of the american people. >> woodruff: to get to the bottom of this is going to take time, is going to take an investigation. this country needs to take seriously what president putin has done and his government. >> we absolutely need to take it seriously. as i said, it's a hostile act. but there are ways to handle hostile acts. we say to the russians. we know you did it. at the time of our choosing we, will find a way to punish that bhaimplet but we do have
confidence in our institutions. we are not russia. we ever an executive that is constrained, we have a legislature that is real, we have a press that is free. we have courts that are independent. this is not russia. and we don't have to allow him to draw that parallel. >> woodruff: separate but related question. the attorney general jeff sessions had a role in essentially signing off on the decision to fire the director of the f.b.i. at a time when the attorney general had himself recused himself from the russia investigation because of things that had happened before this. you wrote a letter of endorsement for the attorney general. any concern about that? >> i still have the highest regard for jeff sessions. look, i can't -- i don't think any of us know now what the course of eevents actually as it led to this. there seems to be a lot of confusion about what came when
from whom. let the white house speak as to why this unfolded in this way, but i have a lot of confidence in jeff sessions. >> woodruff: at the same time of all this, the president had a meeting in the office with russian foreign minister sergei lavrov and sergei kislyak, at the same time this investigation is under. >> i don't have a problem with him meeting with the russian foreign minister. president putin received secretary tillerson when he was in moscow. it would be reciprocal for the president to receive the foreign minister of russia when he's in washington. we have important things to talk to the russians about, despite their meddling in our elections. i hope they're talking about a way to eventually end this horrific humanitarian crisis in syria. in that war, the russians have more revving than we do. i hope they're talking about the fact that if kim jong un's
long-range missiles with reach alaska one day they can also reach russia. >> woodruff: what about the ambassador? >> the ambassador is always going to accompany the foreign minister. so not everything is abnormal in this situation, and that seemed to be perfectly norm. >> woodruff: the book, you write with great passion about how important it is for the united states to pursue democracy, democratic values, freedom as it pursues its foreign policy in the decade to come. why was it important to you to write this book now? >> i think i've always wanted to write this book because there is a mystery about democracy. how do people come to trust these abstract institutions, the constitution, rules, courts, elections, to carry out their concerns rather than going to the streets, how does that happen? in the united states -- you know, i grew up in birmingham, alabama. we weren't full citizens. my parents couldn't go to a
movie theater with me. my dad couldn't register to vote in 1952, yet i remember well and related to the book, standing, being in the car with my uncle on the way back from school, it was election day, and george wallace was about to be elected governor of alabama and my 6-year-old self knew that wasn't good for black people. there were lines and lines of black people voting. so i said, wallace can't win if all these people vote. he said, no, we are minority. he will win. i said, then why do they bother? he said, because they know one day that vote will matter. and i've always seen people around the world doing that, and i think people are attracted to it. so there is a moral case for supporting people who want the same benefits that we have. we are safer when we support democratic development as well. >> woodruff: you were one of the major advocates for rex tillerson being hired to be the
secretary of state and the president is proposing a 25% cut in the budget of the state department. are you concerned? >> well, i don't think you will see cuts of that magnitude. let's remember, the administration proposes, be but it's the congress that authorizes and appropriates. and i think you're going to have to see some rebalancing, because diplomacy is a very important part of national security. now, there are some efficiencies that the state department could achieve, i think there's no doubt about that, and i think the numbers have gone up a lot. there seem to be many more people. so maybe there are efficiencies, but when i look to the department, i look first of all at a thorn service that is -- foreign service that is already a bit stretched. bob gates said there are more people in military bands than foreign service officers. i also see programs that have just rebounded to america's benefit abroad. for instance the president's emergency plan for aids relief
and showed compassion and saved the continent from pandemic. the millennial challenge, a foreign assistance program predicated on the idea you get foreign assistance only if you're governing wisely, fighting corruption. why wouldn't you want to help countries like that? we wanted to raise the defense budget, but we want to be careful we keep our diplomatic tools in tact as well. >> woodruff: you're confident the things you just described are going to survive. >> i certainly am going to be out there arguing for them and a lot of people are. you know, in the book, i try to explain to people that democracy promotion isn't all that expensive. when we think of it, one of the regrets i have about iraq and afghanistan, people have come to think of that as democracy promotion, and that was so hard and that was the loss of life and so expensive. i would never have said to president bush, use military force to bring democracy to iraq or afghanistan. we had a security problem in
iraq and afghanistan. we used military force to bring down those governments. then we had to have a view, watt comes after, and we thought it was better to give the iraqi and afghan people a pathway to democracy. >> woodruff: but you're describing things i don't hear this administration talking about. they're talking about more troops in afghanistan 15 years after -- >> well, we may need more troops, but we also -- you know, we didn't stabilize and win the hearts and minds of ultimately the stability of germany and japan with our military forces alone. we defeated imperial japan and we defeated nazi germany, but it was the bet on a democratic germany, on a democratic japan that they would never again threaten their neighbors. that's what paid off, and now they are firm pillars of international stability. >> woodruff: last question, human rights, secretary tillerson has spoken out forcefully in the last few days about how in making decisions
about u.s. policy, national security, that human rights and american values can't be part of that conversation right now. >> well, i heard a little bit more nuanced speech from secretary tillerson on tha. i remember when i gave the speech in egypt in 2005 saying egypt had to leave the world for democracy and reform and people said how can you talk to mubarak? well, you have to talk to the egyptian or turkish president. you have to talk to people who have bad human rights records. i had to sit with muammar gadhafi, for goodness sakes. sometimes, policy, you have to deal with people who don't share your values, but with youio always better off to remember that your values and your interests are linked in the long run and that's how america's prospered. and the moral case is that we are the idea. it can't be liberate is right for us and not for them. so the language here will
matter. i saw nuance in that speech, but i do want to hear the administration say that america's always going to stand for the voiceless. that is what has made us a great power. >> woodruff: and are you hearing them say that? >> these are early days. >> woodruff: condoleezza rice, thank you very much, the book, "democracy: stories from the long road to freedom." thank you. >> thank you. >> woodruff: president trump has long put law and order at the top of his white house agenda. but today's move to seek tougher prison sentencing policies marks the biggest effort yet to dismantle his predecessor's criminal justice reform legacy. hari sreenivasan has the story. >> i have empowered our prosecutors to charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense.
as i believe the law requires. it means we are going to meet our responsibility to enforce the law with judgment and fairness. >> reporter: with that, u.s. attorney general jeff sessions ordered federal prosecutors across the country to revive some of the toughest practices of the decades-old "war on drugs." >> i trust our prosecutors in the field to make good judgments. they deserve to be unhandcuffed and not micro-managed from washington. if you are a drug trafficker, we will not look the other way, we will not be willfully blind to your misconduct. >> reporter: this memo reverses obama administration policies that aimed to lessen the federal prison population by not charging low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with long mandatory-minimum sentences. in 2013, then attorney general eric holder told prosecutors to leave drug quantities out of charging documents to cut down on "unduly harsh sentences" "that did not promote public
safety deterrence and rehabilitation". these directives coincided with u.s. sentencing commission changes and obama administration clemency initiatives that provided second chances for low-level federal drug offenders. that led to a sharp decline in the federal prison population. in 2013, the federal prison population sat at nearly 220,000. today, that number stands just under 190,000. in reaction to session's memo today, former attorney general holder called the move "dumb on crime." and republican senator rand paul of kentucky said these new policies will "accentuate" the injustice of unfairly incarcerating a disproportionate amount of minorities. in march, president trump created a new national commission to combat the opioid crisis. >> drug abuse has become a crippling problem throughout the united states. >> reporter: today, sessions listed the opioid epidemic and a spike in violence in big cities as reasons for this return of harsher sentences. >> drug trafficking is an inherently dangerous and violent
business. if you want to collect a drug debt, you can't file a lawsuit in court. you collect it with the barrel of a gun. >> reporter: in the memo, sessions does leave discretion up to prosecutors to avoid "unjust" sentences-- but those exceptions would need to be approved and documented. for more, we are joined by two former directors of the white house office of national drug control, known more commonly as the country's "drug czars." gil kerlikowski served as president obama's drug policy adviser from 2009 to 2014 before becoming commissioner of customs and border patrol. he retired from that post in january. and john walters served as drug czar for all eight years of george w. bush's presidency. he is the chief operating officer of the hudson institute, a conservative think tank. thank you both for joining us. john walters, starting with you, don't mandatory minimums handcuff judges, take away some of their discretion and disproportionately affect people who are poor. >> they traffic more senior
level traffickers and try to protect people from this horrible drug epidemic. i think the issue is whether or not we'll have equity across the system. some were created for two reasons, one to create equity across the system for serious offenses so some people in some places, shopping judges was not a way to avoid fair and unusual punishment. two, the sentences were used to create evidence for individuals pending conviction to help break down drug organizations. they worked. we need them now. we have the most deadly drug epidemic in the united states underway. >> sreenivasan: does this dismantle what you were trying to accomplish in your administration and slow the momentum for what seems to be a bipartisan approach and understanding toward criminal justice reform? >> in some ways it does, but let's separate the opioid epidemic. in 2009, when i took office, it
was not really on the public's radar screen. these are pills, not smuggled across the country or maferred in a garage. this is driven by our medical practices which, by the way, is governed at the state level. so try to separate out the opioid issue. the heroin issue is different, although it certainly is connected. but if you're a trafficker, a drug trafficker, i couldn't agree more with what the attorney general said because if you're a drug trafficker and indicted by the federal government, it's usually for a substantial amount of drugs, so that's important. >> gil kerlikowski, i also want to ask, what about the argument jeff sessions makes that says this takes the handcuffs off prosecutors. prosecutors have been complaining for some time that they can't use a large sentences leverage to get the proper information that they need. >> well, the large sentence can be helpful, but remember, too, there are finite resources i
the department of justice. there is finite jail space available to in the federal government. so reserving those space and ereserving those prosecutors for the most serious crimes is very important. i spent almost eight years in the administration, all but four months. i met with a number of u.s. attorneys and assistant u.s. attorneys. i didn't hear them complaining about the way they were being dealt with by what's fondly called "main justice." >> sreenivasan: john walters, i want to ask, you mentioned a heroin epidemic and gil seconded that. what about going after the distribution and the manufacture? i mean, i have to show i.d. to get a bottle of nyquil over-the-counter, yet a town in west virginia with a population over 800 can get 300,000 pills shipped to it over a few years. >> yes, i think pill mills and
divirges of synthetic opioids are important. that's what was happening five or circumstances years ago. today the death rate is driven by criminally produced synthetic sentinel and heroin. this is killing more people every year than all the names on the vietnam veterans memorial. that number is accelerating. we've lost control of these organizations, and we need to be able to enforce the law. you yourself will have the author of dreamland on this program, the story of the pills and heroin coming together to create this carnage. he notes some of these gangs were parking outside drug treatment centers to give free samples of heroin to people, to readdict them or keep them from getting into treatment. those people need to go to jail. we need to find a much larger effort. we need to stop talking about there is limited resources in the federal and state system. we need to bring together public health efforts to bring people into treatment and stop the flow of this poison. it is killing more americans
than all gun and automobile accidents combined and it's accelerating. in addition to that, cocaine production out of columbia is going back to the old track days. we are in the midstov facing a perfect storm and we're not on top of it. we need law enforcement to work as we need treatment to work. >> sreenivasan: gil kerlikowski, he's pointing to the inflow of drugs from outside. the president proposed a border wall. you were the head of borders and custom. would the wall work, one he's describing? >> the border wall won't work. 17,000 people perished as a result of the pills in the united states. that's considerably more than the heroin coming into the united states. but heroin and fentanyl are very powerful painkillers coming in at our points of entry. people carry it on their persons. people try to conceal it in vehicles. if you wanted to slow that down,
you would actually not worry so much about a wall, you would actually give more resources, drug-sniffing dogs, technology, at our ports of entry, not between our ports. >> sreenivasan: john walters, i want to give you a chance to respond. >> yeah, i think, look, fentanyl is a change and now one of the driving forces in many of these deaths. but the vast majority of drugs killings americans are coming from overseas, the vast majority of those over the mexican border, the vast majority walk within six feet of a uniformed border agent. this is a significant failure of operations. we need the cooperation of mexicans. we need to do a better job. the deaths in this country will approach 100,000 per year pretty soon and it's already staggering. >> gil kerlikowski, john walters, thank you both.
>> woodruff: and now, back to the dominant story of the week-- the f.b.i. director's firing and the fallout from it-- with the analysis of shields and ponnuru. that's syndicated columnist mark shields and "national review" senior editor ramesh ponnuru. david brooks is away. and welcome, gentlemen, both of you. so, mark, any question that the president was within his authority to fire james comey? >> no. it was within his authority, judy, but this was not amateur hour, this was an incomp hencably incompetent, inept amateur week, beginning and ending with the president. other people came out with all sorts of faces. everybody associated with them is diminished, soiled, stained in some way, but this was donald trump's total miscalculation. the man who made a national
reputation by saying "you're fired" didn't have the decency to call the f.b.i. director in person and publicly humiliated him and embarrassed him by severing him, announcing it on cable television as he was speaking to f.b.i. colleagues in los angeles, and he has thus insured that this will be with -- this russian investigation is now a permanent part of our political landscape. it will affect and influence and be an outline of the 2018 election and perhaps beyond. >> woodruff: total miscalculation, ramesh? >> the administration combined two of its hall m reacting to these events with disorganized dishonesty. they began by saying that the firing was a response to the f.b.i. director's handling to have the clinton email story and the analysis of that handling by the deputy attorney general, rod roansstein, but by the end of
the week, president trump said it wasn't about those things. he made his decision before the memo and the decision was motivated by the fact that comey wasn't shutting down the russia investigation, the investigation into the administration and the campaign's ties to russia and, thus, exploded everything people have been saying in the administration's defense earlier in the week. >> woodruff: so, mark, they had given several different explanations over the course of a few days. what do you believe was behind this? >> donald trump. judy, think about this -- robert mueller was the predecessor at the f.b.i. before james comey. he was 2001 to 2013 under presidents george w. bush and president barack obama. i don't know how often they had dinner, how often they met privately, but can you imagine robert mueller being asked by george w. bush or barack obama not once, twice but three times, am i the subject of a criminal
investigation by your department, by your agency, it's unthinkable. obviously, he wants this to go away. the president wants this whole investigation to go away, and he has guaranteed the following -- james comey was enormously popular among the f.b.i. workers, he was somebody who was thoughtful and supportive of his employees and colleagues, and they liked him and he was willing to take criticism for the f.b.i. in spite of the decision he made on hillary clinton and a lot of people said it, he said the f.b.i. is going to follow up one more lead and work harder every day on this case. he guaranteed it would be more pursued by the bureau. >> woodruff: what do you see
as a fallout, ramesh? >> i think this may be a beginning of an effort by the administration to push a lot of congressional republicans somewhere they don't want to go. the prevailing line from republicans, even those well disposed towards president trump has been, of course, the f.b.i. and, of course, the congressional intense committee investigations need to continue. what is coming out of trump world right now is, no, these investigations are an attempt to cast doubt on the legitimacy of trump's presidency. it's a taxpayer funded charade. if you believe that, it needs to end. is that something congressional republicans will want to accept? i don't think that's something they'll want to try to sell the american people. >> woodruff: how do you see i? >> under tremendous pressure. the committees have to perform. any foot dragging, the administration will be seen as hiding something, that there is somethig to hide. the president boasting that
three times you exculpated me and i'm firing you. i think it puts pressure there. i think it guarantees any appropriations by an investigating agency will be fast lined and racial. nobody wants to be seen on that other side. judy, there are 241 republican house seats right now. in 2018, they're all on the ballot. 175 of those members of the 241 have never run for reelection with a republican president in the white house. they're used to being on the offensive in the term elections, running against the repeal obamacare, against the administration. they're going to have to decide a lot of them. we're looking at losing three dozen house seats by historical standards. they are going to have to decide to establish daylight from this
toxic administration. this administration this week was so absolutely misleading, dishonest in its handling of this that the white house at this point doesn't believe its own leaks. it is that bad and it's really reached that point. so if you are a republican, you cannot be seen as the side of trying to slow this down, cover it up, hide things. >> you do have to wonder whether the senate is capable of confirming anybody to the f.b.i. director position. if that person doesn't have a common administrative record of independence and integrity, i think it's going to be hard for them to get the requisite votes. >> there is a near senate margin and i think you will be looking for people like silverman and people respected across the aisle. >> woodruff: what about mark's larger point here that this is really a turning point for this administration in terms of how congress sees the administration. we don't know yet about the
public. we haven't seen any public opinion polls yet, significant ones, but what about the congress? >> i do think that this story is a topic of consuming interest in washington, d.c. i don't know that it is in the country at large, but i do think this is running the risk of isolating this president politically. there's a reason why congressional republicans have not felt it was in their interest to just say these investigations are all legitimate. there's a reason why the administration's first instinct was to come up with a pre-text for dismissing comey and not tie it to the russian investigation. so i think it's going to be really hard for them to sustain this, particularly when you consider that president trump remains somebody who, for this early in his presidency, is pretty unpopular. >> you mean because now it's out in the open that the rationale was russia. >> that's right, and because trump seems inclined to want to push this argument further and seems to want his surrogates to be making this argument.
>> so, mark, have we learned something new about the president in all of this? is this the coming together of everything that we already believed? i mean, how do you see this moment? >> well, you see the president thinks and acts in very short time frames. judy, if you wanted to get rid of the f.b.i. director, there is an established way of doing these things. you get a mutual friend to go to him and say, the president wants your resignation, and we'll do it on your terms and we'll exchange letters and there will be a rose garden ceremony and we'll introduce your successor and you will leave well. it's not donald trump. either he's scared, anxious or whatever, but he had to do it in a hurry, and he did it in his way. he did it to the point where he's totally discredited if not disabled his own press secretary, and he's totally discredited or partially discredited mike pence, his vice president, whose reputation
is based on his honest necessary and decency. not on his imagination and great vision, but he's a solid guy. he gets caught in a total lie, pretending that rod rosenstein, two weeks on the job of being deputy attorney general, somehow barreled into the white house and said, mr. president, you've got to do it. rod rosenstein, a reputation of bipartisan respect as being a straight shooter. he's been used as a pawn in this thing. he was advanced as the reason when he knew he wasn't the reason and now he's got to prove his independence if he he's going to be in charge of this investigation. so he's not going to be -- no pressure can be applied to him as it appears to be. again, it's going to be down to the debtorment of the white house. >> i've seen some analysis this week, ramesh, that people are watching moderate republicans, especially in the senate, to see how they react.
what is their calculus? what do they look for as they decide how to respond to this and what the to do? >> well, i think that they are going to be nervous. they're not going to want to go out on a limb and defend the administration, particularly when the line for the administration keeps changing, and you go out on the limb, the administration might saw that limb out right from behind you. the political pressures on them are going to be intense. they're going to want to look for ways to get out from those political pressures, and it could be the end result is it strengthens the case for a special prosecutor and independent commission or select committee of congress. >> woodruff: mark, i think you said three dozen republican -- >> this president will be under 40% favorable. ramesh's point is a good one that bears reflection on, the idea, judy, that the "wall
street journal" editorial page leads its endorsement of firing comey by quoting the president had reacted to the attorney general's initiative in doing it. they're supporting donald trump, and they've got egg all over them. they've got poultry farm on their face. to have him say, how about being accused of being a show boat by trump? now that is tantamount to being called ugly by a frog. donald trump has never been a shrinking violet before. i didn't know grandstanding was a mortal sin in his lexicon. >> woodruff: where do you look for this to go in the days to come? >> i think i would look for the congressional reactions. i don't think a lot of people have been very vocal in response to president trump's tweeting about tapes -- >> woodruff: we don't know whether there is a recording system in the white house. >> right, but the question is do they try to ride this out or
start criticizing the president? >> woodruff: mark? i think it's going to be every man and woman for him or herself and they're going to realize that their fate, fortune and future is not going to be well served being tied to this president. >> woodruff: a week that won't be forgotten soon. mark shields, ramesh ponnuru, thank you. >> woodruff: next, another in our occasional series, "my music," giving artists a chance to talk about their work. tonight, singer-songwriter alynda segarra of the band hurray for the riff raff, who performed recently at washington d.c.'s 9:30 club. segarra was just 17 years old when she left her home in the bronx in what she said was a search for american music. now 30, she's returned to her roots in new york with a new album exploring her puerto rican heritage.
♪ >> the people who have gotten me through my life are the weirdoes and the poets. ♪ cause every day is a reminder the rebellious women and the activists. ♪ and it's getting lonely yeah out of the bottom of a well >> they were considered the riff raff by people in power and they're the ones that make history. i am alynda segarra, the lead singer of hurray for the riff raff. ♪ my path was really unconventional. i knew i was doing bad in school.
and i dropped out and i ended up running away. and it was really hard on my family. ♪ and i traveled by hitchhiking with friends and riding freight trains because woody guthrie rode freight trains and playing music on the street in new orleans because i needed to do something to make money. the new album, "the navigator," is about a young girl growing up in a very big city. ♪ and she is based off of me, but she's a little bit more of a superhero than i am. it's me realizing what i lost when i ran away from home. realizing what shame did to me
and really trying to get in touch with what it means to be a puerto rican woman. what that means musically. ♪ my path of running away, i look back on it now and i'm like, "i could have been killed." ♪ and a lot of the journey was me realizing that there were odds stacked against me. ♪ and deciding to be okay with not being rich. saying, "i want to make music. i will play in coffee shops. i'll play in houses. i'll play in these tiny places that only 10 people will come.
♪ i'm going to do it because i believe in art and i believe in what i'm doing." ♪ ♪ ready for the world >> woodruff: great music. and online, we want you to take a look around-- all the way around-- a massive landfill outside new dehli, india. explore our 360 video that let's you adjust your view to see how one of the world's fastest growing economies is dealing with an overwhelming trash problem. you can find that and more at pbs.org/newshour. altogether, robert costa is and different subject altogether, robert costa is
gearing up for "washington week" this evening. robert, what's on tap? >> reporter: judy, tonight we're going to delve behind the scenes of president trump's explosive decision to fire f.b.i. director james comey. our roundtable of reporters will have the latest on why this story continues to reverberate around washington and how it may impact ongoing investigations into russia's meddling in last year's election. that's coming up on "washington week." judy? >> woodruff: tomorrow on pbs newshour weekend: continuing coverage of the reactions to president trump's decision to fire f.b.i. director james comey, plus how a small african nation became a prized location for military bases. >> the ceremony illustrated just how many other nations have a military presence in france, italy and japan. now, add china to the list. to protect its economic interest in the region, china is building its first overseas military base here. on track to be completed this
year. that's chinese navy frigate in the harbor. the base seven miles north of where the americans are. >> woodruff: that's tomorrow on pbs newshour weekend. and we'll be back, right here, on monday. that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. have a great weekend. thank you and see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> supporting social entrepreneurs and their solutions to the world's most pressing problems-- skollfoundation.org. >> and the william and flora hewlett foundation, helping people build immeasurably better lives. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and friends of the newshour.
hello and welcome to kqed "newsroom." i'm thuy vu. the top law enforcement officer in contra costa county tells us why he's against legislation to make california a sanctuary state. plus the golden state warriors pursuing another championship. and we'll hear from iranian-american comedian maz jobrani about fighting prejudice with punch lines. first, on tuesday, president trump fired fbi director james comey. comey was leading the investigation into possible collusion between donald trump aides and russian officials. kevin mccarthy responded swiftly to the news. on wedneswe