tv PBS News Hour PBS June 13, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight: >> the suggestion that i participated in any collusion, or that i was aware of any collusion with the russian government to hurt this country, which i have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie. >> woodruff: jeff sessions in the hot seat. the attorney general testifies in front of the senate over allegations of collusion with russia and defends his decision to recommend the firing of then- f.b.i. director james comey. then, north korea releases university of virginia student otto warmbier, who is in a coma, more than a year after he was sentenced to 15 years hard labor.
and, uber's c.e.o. takes a leave of absence amid a review of the company's policies and culture, which have been under fire since a recent string of controversies. all that and more, on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> bnsf railway. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: >> 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: it has been another day of high-stakes testimony before the senate intelligence committee. attorney general jeff sessions today denied any wrongdoing in his contacts with russian officials during last year's campaign, or in his conduct since becoming attorney general. he acknowledged that then-f.b.i. director james comey voiced concerns about being left alone with president trump, after a february meeting. he declined to discuss any conversation he had with the president on firing comey. and, he defended his handling of his recusal from the investigation of russian meddling in the election. sessions also said he still does not remember a meeting with the russian ambassador at a trump speech in washington last year. and he said he never meant to mislead anyone during his confirmation hearings. >> let me state this clearly.
colleagues, i have never met with or had any conversations with any russians or any foreign officials, concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election. in the u.s. further, i have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the trump campaign. i was your colleague in this body for 20 years, and the suggestion that i participated in any collusion, or that i was aware of any collusion with the russian government to hurt this country, which i have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie. >> woodruff: the attorney general also struck sparks today when he declined several times to discuss conversations he had with president trump about firing james comey or about
recusing himself in the russia matter. democrats, including martin heinrich of new mexico, were visibly frustrated. >> i'm not able to share with this committee private communications-- >> because you're invoking executive privilege? >> i'm not able to invoke executive privilege. that's the president. >> my understanding is, you took an oath, raised your right hand here today and said you would solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. and now you're not answering questions. you're impeding the investigation. >> i am protecting the president' constitutional right by not giving it away. and secondly, i am telling the truth in answering your question, in saying it's a longstanding policy of the
d.o.j. to make sure the president has the opportunity to decide these issues. >> woodruff: in a separate hearing, deputy attorney general under the regulation, special counsel mueller may be fired only for good cause, and i am required to put that cause in writing. >> do you see any reason for cause to fire mr. mueller as of this date? >> no, i do not, senator. >> and that would be your decision if that ever happened,
right? >> that's correct. >> woodruff: and we are joined now by capitol hill correspondent lisa desjardins. she was in the room for both of today's senate hearings; and, carrie johnson, justice correspondent for npr. thank you both. lisa, i'm going the start with you. you were in the room. tell us what you were seeing and what you were hearing that we couldn't see on television. >> well, it was extraordinary. we just continued. it was a rather remarkable hearing, not just because there was yet again a line going out the door and down the hallway to attend it, but i think because we saw a very serious questions from both republicans and democrats and attorney general sessions and about the role of the trump administration and trump campaign in their meetings with russia. i took away that this was a serious investigation, that senators are trying to show the american people, in particular with this very public hearing, that they're tackling this, that there are still a lot of questions left after today's hearing, as well, you easy.
>> woodruff: so carrie johnson, you cover the justice department. you've been watching this from that perspective. what did you hear new today in the testimony by the attorney general? >> for jeff sessions, the attorney general, a qualified or limited success today. he was able to defend himself with respect to some of the allegations swirling around about him. he denied he had a meeting with the russian ambassador last year at the may flower hotel. he denied he tried to lean on the f.b.i. director, fired f.b.i. director james james comd he also denied he misled congress when he testified in his confirmation hearings earlier this year that he only had a couple meetings with the russians. and he tried the clear up all of those mistakes he made i think with some success today, judy. >> woodruff: carrie, i'm sorry
you're having microphone troubles. let me go back to lisa desjardins for a minute while carrie gets the earpiece straightened out. so, lisa, i know you've been talking to these senators on the committee in the days and weeks leading up to this. for them, how crit cam was this testimony by the attorney general? is this just one more step along the long road of this investigation? >> i think the answer is it was both critical and it was just one more step along the road of this investigation. judy, i think we're at the pilot where each one of these kinds of hearings is critical. many of these senators say they're not sure where all of this is leading yet. they're still asking these first rounds of questions to see who else do they need to talk to and about which event. i think, judy, the questions remainling from today's hearing especially are did president trump directly order mr. sessions to write that memo endorsing james comey's firing, and what conversations did they
have about that? did president trump indicate why he wanted mr. comey fired? as you played in the bite, mr. sessions refused to answer any communication questions about his talks with mr. trump, and that's something i think we'll see played a lot. he was never able to give a legal justification for refusing to answer. instead he basically is leaving an opening for the president the later invoke executive privilege, but he hasn't done so yet, and his attorney general hasn't answered these questions. >> woodruff: so carrie, back to you now. again, you have been following this very closely. what questions do you still have that the attorney general was not able to or did not answer today. >> the attorney general never said whether the president discussed with him in connection with firing james comey anything regarding the russia investigation. the attorney general refused to answer whether the president had brought up with him the idea of pardoning anyone in the trump campaign who may have had contact with the russians last
year, and the attorney general really didn't have a good answer for why he left james comey hanging to defend himself after the president pressured him in the oval office on the russia probe. so lots of questions remaining for jeff sessions on those topics as it relates to his interactions with president trump, and i think some of the democrats on the committee today vowed to get answers to those questions come hell or high water. >> woodruff: carrie, a quick question of clarification: you said he didn't address pardoning anyone in connection with the russia investigation. what are you referring to? >> well, he was asked questions by democrats today, jeff sessions was, about whether, you know, this investigation is early, but whether he had talked with the president at all about the president using his power, very vast power to, grant a pardon to anyone who may have engaged in wrongdoing in connection with russia in the campaign. no names were mentioned. we know that several people, including president trump's
former national security adviser michael flynn, are under investigators' crosshairs. we know that flynn, in fact, has tried to seek immunity so far without success. sexes was asked whether the idea of pardoning anybody came up, and he declined to answer that question as part of the confidential conversations he was having with the president. i want to know more about that. i think lawmakers do, too. >> woodruff: carrie johnson who covers the justice department for npr, our own lisa desjardins at the capitol. thank you both. and we turn now to our panel of former justice department officials. george terwilliger served as former deputy attorney general and acting attorney general under president george h.w. bush. walter dillinger served in the clinton administration as assistant attorney general and acting solicitor general. and, carrie cordero. she served in the justice department under presidents george w. bush and obama, where she worked on matters of national security.
now, first, one issue today was former f.b.i. director comey's testimony about a february meeting in the oval office, when everyone else left, and the president asked him to stay. democratic senator mark warner today pressed attorney general sessions on that. >> mr. comey's testimony last week was that he felt uncomfortable when the president asked everyone else to leave the room. he left the impression that you lingered, perhaps a sense that you felt uncomfortable about it as well. >> well, i would just say it this way. we were there, i was standing there, and without revealing any conversation that took place, what i do recall is, i did depart. i believe everyone else did depart, and director comey was sitting in front of the president's desk, and they were talking. so that's what i do remember. i believe it was the next day that he said something. he expressed concern about being left alone with the president, but, uh, that in itself is not problematic.
he did not tell me, at that time, any details about anything that was said that was improper. i affirmed his concern that we should follow guidelines of the department of justice and basically backed him up in his concerns. >> woodruff: so let's turn now to our three panelists. carrie cordero, i'll start with you. what do you make of that answer that he really didn't have an explanation for leaving the room, whether he thought that was unusual, leaving the oval office when the president wanted to be alone with the then-f.b.i. director, and he didn't seem terribly upset about the fact that the f.b.i. director was concerned the next day when he told him about it? >> right. these memos he's talking about, this long standing department of justice policy has to do with in recent history there was a memo that an attorney general issued that eric holder issued that restrict the contacts between
the white house and the justice department and the f.b.i. investigators on ongoing investigations. it was still an odd answer, because given the fact there was this major investigation going on that the attorney general himself knew that he was recused from, it would be unusual why would the president need to hold back the f.b.i. director about something that the attorney general couldn't be present for other than the russia investigation. in other words, anything else that the f.b.i. director and the president needed to discuss of a substantive nature, one would think the attorney general could be there for it. >> woodruff: george terwilliger, what about that? >> i don't think it's that unusual for a president to talk to an f.b.i. director alone. i think it would probably be worse asking a number of former f.b.i. directors if they ever had one-on-one conversations with the president. >> woodruff: even in the middle of this kind of an investigation? >> yes. i mean, i think in hindsight anybody that looks at it would
go, it would have been better for that not to have occurred, but the fact that the president asked and the attorney general... i mean, he's a courteous man. i think he respected the president's wishes. and more than anything, judy, what came through the me today more than an attorney general was i saw a man who said, you're not going to play political football with my integrity and said that very, very firmly even as to that question. >> woodruff: walter dellinger, what did you take away from the hearing, and what about the specific point about the president asking everybody to clear the room while he talked to james comey? >> i think what was particularly improper about that conversation was the content of it, that is the president saying, i hope you will end this investigation into general flynn. even if that was not a directive, that statement that you should end it because he's a good guy undercuts our basic notion of equal justice under
law. we shouldn't be investigating or stopping investigations because the president thinks someone is a good guy or a u.s. attorney thinks someone is a good guy. that's number one. my larger takeaway is that the attorney general seemed relatively passionate in defending his own lack of involvement with the russians and quite convincing. he showed much less concern about this extraordinary event that the russian foreign military hostile power tried to interfere in our elections. he referred to it as improper, but he didn't seem to have any energy about where that investigation should go, didn't seem to suggest that the president of the united states is concerned about what was really a foreign attack by a hostile power on the core of our democracy. >> woodruff: we have a little excerpt of that coming up, but just quickly on this point, carrie cordero, again, is there a precedent for the attorney general basically saying, it's
okay for me to remove myself from a conversation and let the president talk to the head of the f.b.i. about something sensitive? >> well, in other circumstances, if, for example, the f.b.i. director was at the white house to give a counter-terrorism briefing on some really substantive matter, sure, but there would be other aides in the room, too. that type of briefing wouldn't take place just with the president and the f.b.i. director, but those are the types of scenarios that would be more routine types of meetings between a president and an f.b.i. director. if it was some substantive type of briefing. >> woodruff: keep all this in mind, because we want to turn to's aspect of what came out in today's testimony. more than one senator asked about the firing of james comey. sessions testified that he did not talk to the f.b.i. director about his job performance before the president dismissed him. he did detail for california democrat dianne feinstein the issues he had with comey, but he declined to answer a later
question, from maine independent senator angus king. >> we had problems there. and it was my best judgment that a fresh start at the f.b.i. was the appropriate thing to do. when i said that to president, deputy rosenstein's letter dealt with a number of things, when comey declined clinton prosecution, that was really a usurpation of the authority of the federal prosecutors in the d.o.j. it was stunning, the f.b.i. is an investigative team, they don't decide prosecution policies. he also commented on the declination of the clinton prosecution.
which you should not do. the policies are historic, you don't talk about it. and there are other things that happened. it indicated a lack of discipline, caused controversy. on both sides of the aisle. i came to the conclusion that a fresh start was appropriate. >> in any of your discussions about the firing of james comey, did russia come up? >> i cannot answer that because it was a communication by the president, and if any such occurred, it would be a communication that he has not waived. >> woodruff: so the attorney general would not talk about these conversations he had with the president. >> well, to me that makes perfect sense. the privilege belongs to the president, and it wouldn't be up to a subordinate official to take it upon himself to weigh
this by answering the question at that time and place. otherwise the president loses the inability to assert or preserve that privilege. >> woodruff: and you and i were discussing this earlier, walter dillinger. we were trying to understand to what extent is there a precedent for not answering some of these questions. we heard the attorney general say... at one point he said, "i think there's even a piece of paper at the justice department that refers to privileged or cnfidential conversations between the president and the attorney general." >> you know, he was very well prepared, but he didn't bring any such piece of paper with him, and i would be surprised because i don't believe there is any privilege of refusing to answer questions from a conditional committee unless the president is going to invoke executive privilege. he didn't want to say that through a dozen it -- iterations without asserting any privilege. finally he suggested, and the committee should follow up on
this, here are the questions we want answered: did you discuss the russian investigation in connection with the firing of comey, and if the president then wants to assert executive privilege, he can do so in writing communicated to the committee. but if not, then the question ought to be answered by the attorney general. >> woodruff: carrie cordero, this gets to the heart of a lot of what we're talking about today, and this is the president has not so far exerted executive privilege, he has not said to the attorney general, you cannot answer these questions, but the attorney general said, at least on two occasions today, that he's trying to protect the president's right to later on exert executive privilege, which is a way of looking at this i think some of us haven't seen. >> right. this is the second week in a row that senior administration officials have had difficulty answering this question. dni codes director of national intelligence codes rogers last week had a similar problem where they did not seem to have been
advised by the white house counsel's office that they should exert executive privilege, and yet they were uncomfortable giving answers to questions. attorney general sessions handled it a little bit differently. he did say that he was trying to protect a potential exertion of executive privilege, but he also raised other privileges. he said maybe there are some other privileges. that reminded me more of the attorney-client privilege that sometimes the department of justice asserts, but that's when the justice department is giving legal advice to the president, and they don't then want to provide information to congress. so he was still vague and unclear about which privileges he was potentially asserting. >> woodruff: that sounded like a different question. so i'm coming back to you, george terwilliger, to ask, on just how sol sydney this ground that the attorney general stands on when he says, "i'm protecting the president's right?" >> i think it's very solid and
both democrat and republican officials have asserted that privilege over the years as recently as in the obama administration through attorney general holder. it's really quite simple i think, judy. the president has a privilege to have confidential discussions with his advisers, including cabinet officials. the cabinet officials shouldn't be the ones to decide the waive confidentiality. he doesn't know what questions he will be asked to get up there, to ask permission ahead of time, can i talk about this, can i talk about that. i think it's a very practical issue. >> woodruff: there is another important part of what came out today in today's testimony that we want the look at, and this is on the issue of the attorney general's recusing himself from the russia investigation. mr. sessions clashed at one point with oregon democratic senator ron wyden, who challenged him on whether he adhered to that recusal.
>> the question is, mr. comey said there were matters with respect to recusal that were problematic and he couldn't talk about them, what are they? >> why don't you tell me? there are none, senator wyden. there are none, i can tell you that for absolute certainty. this is a secret innnuendo being leaked out there about me. and i don't appreciate it, i try to give my best, truthful answer before any committee i appeared before. people are suggesting innuendo, that i have not been honest about matters. and i've tried to be honest. >> why did you sign a letter recommending the firing of comey when it violated your recusal? >> it did not violate my recusal. it did not violate my recusal.
that's the answer to that. the letter i signed represented my views that it been formulated for some time. >> just so i can finish-- that doesn't pass the smell test. >> woodruff: so walter dillinger, this is getting at the tug and pull all afternoon, that letter that the attorney general signed and the deputy attorney general signed criticizing the then-f.b.i. director comey as the grounds for his dismissal, was all about how he handled the hillary clinton or largely about how he handled the hillary clinton e-mail investigation. later on the president said he fired him mainly over the russia investigation, and the attorney general is basically saying, i recuse myself from the russia investigation but that's not a problem here. >> well, the attorney general makes a point that he's responsible for the entire department, and he has the make personnel decisions. now, this one's awfully close to
risk recusal issue and maybe he should have stepped aside, but to me the most interesting question that wasn't fully answered was were you aware, when you sent the letter to the president recommending that comey be fired, were you aware that the president already decided to fire him? and that question, the answer got evaded in the back-and-forth. and that will be an interesting question for someone to follow up with. >> woodruff: what is your take on this? >> well, the nut of it is, was former director comey fired because of the russia investigation? the president has said in an interview that it was, that russia is what was on his mind. and attorney general sessions is clinging to this argument that his justification, which is that it was because of the handling of the hillary clinton case, and because he didn't answer the one question which was in the context of discussing with the president the firing of the
f.b.i. director, did you also discuss the russia investigation, that was the question that really needed to be answered to tie these pieces together. >> woodruff: so we don't have the answer to the question? >> i don't think he's clinging to anything. it's very possible. i don't know the answer, but it's very possible that there could be two very different reasons on the part of the president and the attorney general and the deputy attorney general for dismissing mr. comey. indeed, i know you may have to be sort of part of the justice family to appreciate this, but what jim comey did last july in terms of usurping, as the attorney general did it, the authority of the justice department to make a prosecution decision and then the other trashing of hillary clinton that he did along with that, that is so far outside the mainstream, if the attorney general said today that he and mr. rosenstein had been talking about that for some time and the need to replace mr. comey.
the fact that that may have been or not, i don't know, convenient to the president for other reasons is something, you know, that i'm sure the senate will want to explore, but it doesn't impugn the attorney general's integrity at all. >> woodruff: but just a quick follow-up. if the russia investigation was any part of the reason for the president's firing the f.b.i. director and the attorney general attached himself to that decision, that wasn't a problem? that didn't violate his recusal? >> well, it might have if, in fact, you know, he thought that was the reason or he acted as though that were the reason, but i think walter a few minutes ago made a very good point. the recusal is as to one case out of thousands in the justice department, albeit an important one. the attorney general still has a responsibility to run the department, not the least of which is to make sure he has the right people in the top job. >> drew: very quickly, walter dillinger, what... do you think we can get to the bottom of this
question of whether his recusal was violated in some way? >> i think we will, because i think the special counsel in follow-up hearings are going to say, look, either as a president formally invoke executive privilege or answer the question about whether you knew already that the president made up his mind the fire comey, and it is extremely unusual for a president to have half a dozen conversations with an f.b.i. director directly. >> woodruff: walter dillinger, carrie cordero, george terwilliger, we thank you all. remarkable day. another remarkable day. and for more on the attorney general's testimony, i'm now joined by the tom democrat on the house intelligence committee. he is representative adam schiff of california. congressman schiff, thank you for joining us. i know you paid close attention to what was said today by the attorney general. did you come away with a better
understanding of what has happened over the last year? >> i did. what was notable to me was the degree to which the attorney general really corroborated what is the most significant of the meetings that james comey testified. he did corroborate that there was a meeting of many people in the oval office, and although he didn't say it was at the president's instruction, it was pretty clear that it was. everyone left the room except for james comey and the president. and the attorney general acknowledged that he did linger, that he was one of the last if not the last to leave the room. and also he also corroborated the fact that the following day director comey told him he was uncomfortable with something that took place in that meeting. that tells me that james comey's testimony about that meeting is far more accurate than the president's statements about that meeting, because if there wasn't something uncomfortable about it, then why did the director go the next day to the attorney general and say, don't leave me alone again with the
president. the other point i would make, judy, is the one you've been discussing, and this is we cannot accept this non-invocation of privilege as a reason to prohibit the congressmen finding out whether the attorney general wrote a memo or wrote a letter along with the deputy attorney general to provide cover or pretext for a decision they knew was made on other grounds. now, i don't know if that's the case, because he wouldn't answer, but as it goes to the very heart of whether the president sought to interfere or obstruct the russia investigation, we need the use whatever compulsory process is necessary to get those answers. >> woodruff: and we heard at the end. meeting of the hearing rather, the chairman richard burr, senator burr, asked the attorney general to go back to the white house to see if there was more of his communications with the president with anyone in the white house they can share. is that something that you think is likely to produce some answers?
>> well, i don't know. i would certainly hope somely say this in light of the conversation that you just had with walter dillinger and mr. terwilliger, a couple things. first, the questions they were asked of the attorney general were all easily anticipated, so there were no surprise questions here. there was no reason why the white house could not have instructed the attorney general whether they were going to invoke privilege or not. so i don't buy the idea that the attorney general couldn't know in advance whether he needed to invoke the privilege. they didn't want him to. they didn't want the optic of it. that's not a good reason for refusing to answer the questions. but more than that, if the attorney general allowed himself to be used as a pretext to give justification for a firing that was made on other grounds, that not only violates his recusal, it also potentially violates the law or is a highly unethical practice, and we need the find out whether that's the case. we don't know, but we have an obligation in our investigation.
robert mueller will in his to get the answer. >> woodruff: how to you get beyond his refusal the answer? if he's saying these were privileged communications that i had that stand on precedent at the department of justice, whether they're written down or not, how do you get through that? >> well, i think the process, if we're going to live up with our institutional responsibility in congress, is to go back to the white house and say, we want answers to these questions. are you invoking the privilege? and if they're not, we need to bring the attorney general back before either our committee in the house or before the senate committee and demand answers to those questions. if they do invoke privilege, then we may need to litigate the contours of this privilege. the privilege cannot be used as a shield to protect or hide potential impropriety or illegality. so we may have to go to court to pierce that privilege, but we do need to get to the bottom of this. we have the powers in the
institutions to do it, and i think we have an ethical obligation to the country to do it. >> woodruff: congressman, were you struck by, were you surprised when the attorney general said that he had not had, had not sought any sort of briefing on attempts by the russians to interfere in the election last year? >> i was struck by it. certainly during his time in the senate and as a member of the armed services committee, when we have a hostile power, russia, interfering in our internal affairs, you would think he would have an interest in that. but more than, that it was an echo of director comey's testimony also that the president showed no curiosity, no interest, no concern over the russia hack. the only element of it that concerned him was how it might impact him personally. that says i think a lot about where the president is coming from, but it was quite jarring given this was an take on our democracy by a foreign power. >> woodruff: congressman, another thing i saw late this afternoon after the hearing
concluded that senator dick durbin, who is in the leadership among democrats in the senate, was saying that the attorney general should step down based on his testimony today, his performance in office. are you... would you go that far? >> well, i would want the pursue two things before i would be prepared to go that far. the first is to do whatever investigation we need to do to find out whether his testimony today about what happened or didn't happen at the mayflower is accurate and can be corroborated or wasn't accurate, in which case we need to consider the remedies that dick durbin talked about. but also we need to get answers to the questions about what went into the firing of director comey, and if he refuses and doesn't have a legal basis to do so, then again i think we may end up where senator durbin is. >> woodruff: at this point, just quickly, congressman, are you optimistic that congress, that you committee, the senate
committee, are eventually going to get to the bottom of this? >> you know, i certainly hope some i think we have the look at this in a very anyone partisan way and try as best we can to divorce ourselves of the consequences, but what is at stake here is really our system of checks and balances and whether we're going to allow an administration not to invoke privilege but just to say it's inconvenient for us to tell you the answers. it wouldn't reflect well on us, so we're going to invoke some incoate privilege that doesn't exist. we can't stand for that. at the end of the day, i don't think robert mueller will, and couldn't shouldn't either. >> congressman adam schiff of california, the ranking democrat on the house intelligence committee. thank you very much. >> thank you, judy. >> woodruff: in the day's other news, leaders of two senate committees have reached
agreement on new sanctions against russia. the plan, announced last night, targets corruption, human rights abuses and weapons shipments to syria. it also requires congressional review if a president tries to ease or end existing sanctions. pentagon leaders came under fire today over not finishing a new strategy for the war in afghanistan. at a senate hearing, defense secretary james mattis said he will provide details next month. arizona republican john mccain, chair of the armed services committee, said it should have been done within the administration's first 60 days. >> unless we get a strategy from you, you're going to get a strategy from us. the fact is, it's not our job. it's not our job, it's yours. >> sir, i understand the urgency. i understand it's my responsibility. we are not winning in afghanistan right now. and we will correct this. >> woodruff: mattis had his own complaint about congress. he said that "no enemy" has hurt
combat readiness more than the automatic spending cuts of recent years. verizon completed its takeover of yahoo today in a dale valued at $4.5 billion. yahoo's news and other offerings will be folded into a new verizon subsidiary called oaf. on wall street today, the dow jones industrial average gained 92 points to close at 21,328. the nasdaq rose nearly 45 points, and the s&p 500 added 11. and, the golden state warriors are celebrating their second n.b.a. championship in three years. they captured the title last night in oakland, california, after finishing off the cleveland cavaliers in five games. golden state lost to cleveland in last year's finals. still to come on the newshour: an american student released from north korea, but his parents say he is in a coma. uber in turmoil: the company's c.e.o. takes a leave of absence.
behind the jobs numbers that president trump says are signs of a growing economy. and, much more. >> woodruff: now, to the release of otto warmbier from captivity in north korea. the american college student was arrested almost 18 months ago, during a trip to the reclusive nation, and he was sentenced to 15 years. this morning came word that the united states had secured his release, but under apparently desperate circumstances: warmbier is comatose, and has been for a year. an american delegation in pyongyang petitioned for his immediate release yesterday. our chief foreign affairs correspondent margaret warner reports. >> at the president's direction, the department of state has secured the release of otto warmbier from north korea. >> reporter: the announcement came from secretary of state rex
tillerson at a senate budget hearing. the 22-year-old university of virginia student was finally free, after being jailed by the north's repressive regime for 17 months. anna fifield has been reporting the story for the "washington post." she spoke via skype from tokyo. >> what i have been told is that last monday, june the 5th, the north koreans actually approached americans who they talk to, and they said that otto warmbier was in a coma and had been in a coma for more than a year. and that started the ball rolling, to have him medically evacuated. the north koreans said that he came down with a case of botulism soon after his sentencing, and that he was given a sleeping pill and fell into a coma, and he did not wake up from that. >> reporter: warmbier's parents confirmed their son is in a coma, and had been medically evacuated. in a statement to the associated press, they also said: "we want the world to know how we and our son have been
brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime." warmbier was arrested after he allegedly took a propaganda poster from the wall of a pyongyang hotel on new year's eve, 2015. he'd been in north korea as part of a tour group. in march last year, he was sentenced to 15 years hard labor. >> i've made the worse mistake of my life. >> reporter: in the past, pyongyang has used detained american citizens to try to exert leverage over the u.s. but anna fifield says, this time, the north had appeared unwilling to bargain. it didn't respond to u.s. offers to send a high level envoy to discuss warmbier and three other americans held by the north; one was arrested just last month. pyongyang's attitude changed in may. it agreed to let swedish diplomats visit the prisoners, and with news of wormbier's dire condition, pyongyang urgently requested a meeting with a top u.s. official at the u.n. last
week. at that point, fifield said, president trump got involved. >> once otto warmbier's condition was known, i'm told that the president did become involved, that he was informed. that he personally gave the order to do everything that they could to get otto warmbier out. >> reporter: the release comes at a time of heightened tensions between washington and the regime of kim jong-un. pyongyang has ramped up its nuclear and missile programs. in response, the u.s. has taken a tough tack, and recently began deploying the advanced anti- missile defense known as "thaad" to south korea. but fifield says another motivation may have driven the north koreans. >> i think the north koreans probably realized that they did need to get rid of otto warmbier at some stage, that he was not recovering, and they needed to hand him back. >> reporter: the release also coincides with former n.b.a. player dennis rodman's latest visit to pyongyang. fifield says she was told
rodman's visit had nothing to with the freeing of warmbier. warmbier was flown first to an american military medical facility in japan, before being flown on to cincinnati, near his family's home. for the pbs newshour, i'm margaret warner. >> woodruff: after months of complaints about the company's culture, allegations of sexual harassment and bias, uber announced changes at the top today. even though the ride-service giant is worth tens of billions of dollars, it's in the midst of major turmoil. now, it will take new steps to change the culture and values of a company that's become criticized for very aggressive and unethical tactics. jeffrey brown has the story. >> brown: perhaps the biggest immediate change: uber's chief executive and co-founder, travis
kalanick, will take an indefinite leave of absence. that comes after a personal loss, the death of his mother, but also coincides with a new report on company policy and behavior conducted by former attorney general eric holder. uber's board of directors reportedly adopted a series of recommendations from holder, including: more oversight of leadership; new measures to increase diversity and inclusion; stricter guidelines for employee behavior; and a pledge to change uber's core founding values. uber's problems grew after a former engineer wrote a blog post this past winter detailing how she had been sexually harassed at the company, and how her managers ignored her complaints. jessi hempel is head of editorial for back-channel, a tech and business publishing site. welcome to you. so is this first of all a surprise that travis kalanick is taking leave, and what questions does it raise for you? >> i would say it can't be a
surprise at this point that travis is taking a leave. he's having a hard personnel time. he buried his mother on friday. but beyond that, the company needs it. shareholders are worried. they're worried that the company is going to begin the lose value, and as to what questions it raises for me, i think the biggest question is travis is a gay who has managed through very smart manipulation of the shares of the company to maintain a ton of control of this company. he certainly will stay on the board. i want to know what it means that he's taking a leave? is he going to be able to step become and let somebody else run the company? >> brown: also, what's the core problem at uber that comes through the reporting up to this point and what we know from the holder report that's just come out? >> i would point to two problems that are really highlighted by the holder report. the first and the most egregious is a cultural problem. it starts at the top. this is a company that has for too long taken it for granted that people are disposable and that the c.e.o.'s machismo
attitude has just trickled down. the second, this is a 14,000-per company, and travis has been running it as if it is an eight-person start-up. so it has none of the structures that most companies put in place the catch this stir a lot earlier on. that's what you see in the holder report. the holder reports asking for what at many companies are very basic things, like a better rhr structure that works, or a head of diversity and include that actually does that job. these are pretty basic things. >> brown: there is always a question, of course, when you have a company that's really built and around the image of one person, how much can you separate that person from the company and how much the company can thrive now going forward. >> i mean, i think that really is the question for uber. it's a paradox of sorts. the reason why uber has been so successful so far is also the reason why the culture is in such crisis. if you truly are able to strip travis, not just travis, but his
values from this company, what do you have left? what are you going to rebuild it as? what is the vision going forward? >> woodruff: do you see any new steps in what you've seen so far to ensure the diversity, the better kind of leadership, the taking away the bias that's been there? >> well, absolutely. i mean, this is a company that's truly taking this seriously. it's about time. but last week we saw that the company hired francis fray from harvard business school. she's a renowned executive leadership expert, and she's going to come in and she says she has full leeway to do whatever she needs to do to improve the culture. but, you know, the biggest challenge for this company right now is that it has no leadership. i mean, it's not just that it doesn't have travis, it's executive ranks are incredibly thin right now. so uber's first... the first thing it needs to do is simply put new leaders in place, and frankly, it's a pretty hard place to recruit leaders right
now. there's not a heck of a lot of people that want to go. >> brown: how much impact has all this had on ridership and on the bottom line? >> well, it's hard to say right now. i mean, profits - revenues continue to agree at this company, and its loss last quarter that are u.k. some, but we've seen the competitor lyft gain market share in the u.s., and i've heard that advertisers are a little nervous about putting their brand next to uber right now. so i think we'll start the see over the long term, over the next few months the impact that the last few months has had. >> brown: very briefly, how much of all this is being watched by other companies who have been charged with a similar culture in silicon valley? > you make a really great point. uber is in a spotlight, but this isn't an uber problem. this is a problem a lot of start-ups have that have grun to these massive valuations with many employees based on the
charisma and vision of one founder. i think one thing that we'll see going forward is that silicon valley will hopefully look itself in the mir already and rethink some of the ways that it structures these start-ups to begin with. >> brown: jessi hempel of back channel, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: much of the president's agenda is aimed at kicking the economy into higher gear and creating more jobs. just four months into office, the president has made numerous claims about the jobs he's created, and the jobs he's saved. he's in wisconsin tonight, and is spending a good part of his week promoting some of his job- creating initiatives. but what's the real record on some of the claims to date? william brangham takes a look behind the numbers. >> brangham: today the president repeated a claim he's been making for months. his policies are creating new jobs that far surpass his
predecessors. >> i think probably sell demeanor has any president and administration done more or had more success so early on, including a record number of resolutions to eliminate job-killing regulations. and we see it all over the country where jobs are starting that would never have started ever under any circumstance. >> brangham: earlier this month the president claimed he helped claim more than one million new jobs. >> more than a million private sector jobs. >> but that number was based on a estimate from a payroll company the u.s. labor department reported far fewer jobs. this weekend the president correctly tweeted out a lower number, 600,000. >> in my 40 years of being in and around washington and economic policy, i have never seen a president try to take credit for as many things as he has tried the take credit for on the job front. >> brangham: steve radner also headed president obama's
autoindustry task force. according to the bureau of labor statistics, if the four months before president trump's election, the u.s. economy added about 840,000 jobs. in the four months since, it's added about 600,000. >> the u.s. economy is like a huge battleship. it doesn't turn fast. and so i think to judge any president by a few months of results, whether they're good or bad, is way premature. >> brangham: a libertarian economist at george mason university says giving credit to a president for job numbers, good or bad, is misleading. >> it's wrong to be thinking about the power of the president in terms of jobs. what is important to think is how, what kind of policies can be put in place to grow the economy, and that in theory creates jobs. >> brangham: since he was elected, the president claims he's persuaded numerous companies the keep and agree jobs here in the u.s., but analysts who looked at these
numbers say they're in the nearly as clear cut as the president says. take the president's claim back in december that the heating and cooling companies, united technology and carrier, would be keeping jobs in the u.s. and not sending them to mexico. > i will tell you that united technologies and carrier stepped it up, and now they're keeping actually the number is over 1,100 people, which is so great, which is so good. >> brangham: c.e.o. greg hayes told cnbc that a personal phone call and his platform are important factors. >> he said, look, greg, i need you to relook at the decision to close the indianapolis factory of carrier. we'll this a lot of things in this country that make it more conducive to manufacturing. >> brangham: it turned out that only 800 jobs are staying in the u.s. and 1,300 are leaving the country. those jobs that are saying came after the company received $7 million in tax incentives from
the state of indiana. another example, just a few weeks before the inauguration, ford motor company announced they scrapped plans for a new billion dollar planted in mexico. the president hailed the decision, but ford's c.e.o. said not moving to mexico was mostly a business decision. >> the main reason for not building the plant and canceling the plant in mexico is just due the market demand. >> brangham: for critics of the president like steven rattner, these claims are p.r. stunts to give the appearance of action. >> we put together a list of every place he took credit and, in fact, he doesn't deserve credit for any of them. the only jobs he can legitimately take credit for saving are those 800 jobs at charter corporation early in the administration. >> brangham: in one class the trump administration's claim about job creation has blurred job categories. >> the fourth quarter of last year until most recently, we add almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector.
>> brangham: last weekend scott pruitt made this striking claim: 50,000 new coal jobs have been createed, which would mean the entire u.s. coal industry doubled in just a few months. fact checkers quickly pointed out that the vast majority of those new jobs were not in coal but in mining. in other interview, pruitt included both categories in the 50,000 number. >> you know, since the fourth quarter of 2016, chris, we've had almost 50,000 jobs created in the mining and cool sector alone. in fact, in the non-of may, almost 7,000 jobs. >> brangham: despite these claim, many economists say until the president's major economic policies on taxes, regulation and trade are in place, they can't make a proper verdict on his job creation. >> if you look at the stock market, there is a lot of excitement out there. the question is whether they're going to be able to translate these into realities which then turns into real economic growth that's based on something else. >> brangham: the white house
is planning on hosting another set of c.e.o.s later this week. for the pbs "newshour," i'm william brangham. >> woodruff: and we're going to continue to follow the jobs story. on the newshour online right now: in a social experiment, one well-known poet writes short, vapid poems, and tests the public response's by using instagram. just how popular are they? all that and more is on our website, www.pbs.org/newshour. and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday, an exclusive conversation with the newly named united states poet laureate. i'm judy woodruff. join us online, and again right here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you and we'll see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> bnsf railway. >> the ford foundation. working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide.
>> carnegie corporation of new york. supporting innovations in education, democratic engagement, and the advancement of international peace and security. at carnegie.org. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and individuals. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
. >> rose: welcome to the program, we begin this evening with a former prime minister of qatar hamad bin jassim bin jaber al thani. he talks about the efforts of some gulf countries to isolate qatar. >> a sovereignty of qatar is the most important thing for us. and the integrity. and that we will defend until the last minute. the problem that all these allegations or all these talks about qatar, they have no solid base. >> rose: we continue with david leonhardt. the pulitzer prize winning columnist of the new york tiemsz. >> i would argue the most important things we don't know, it is possible that we don't know there are largely innocent explanations for a lot of it. but i do think there are two damaging things we do know. one, he was not honest when he testified before. he can argue well i didn't understand the question but i think any f r