February 21, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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February 21, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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02/21/2022 | 56m 41s | Video has closed captioning.
February 21, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: the edge of war?
Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin, orders troops to Eastern Ukraine, after recognizing two separatist regions as independent, further inflaming tensions and prompting Western nations to impose new sanctions.
And trouble in the.
Air as airlines grapple with ongoing pandemic disruptions, their workers must contend with yet another problem, unruly passengers.
SARA NELSON, President, Association of Flight Attendants: Flight attendants are every single day going to work and understanding that it's very likely that they're going to experience this conflict, and maybe up to and including a physical assault.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And an old story with a fresh take.
A journalist delves into newly public documents to craft a comprehensive history of the infamous Watergate scandal.
All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: Russia's President Vladimir Putin recognized as independent two separatist00:57:20 regions of Ukraine today, and hours later ordered Russian troops to hours later ordered Russian troops to conduct what the Kremlin called a peacekeeping operation in those regions.
After Putin's earlier moves, the U.S., the United Kingdom, and the European Union all announced targeted sanctions.
Nick Schifrin begins our coverage.
NICK SCHIFRIN: With the stroke of a pen, Russian President Putin claimed to redraw the map of Europe.
He recognized the self declared republics Donetsk and Luhansk that, for nearly eight years, have been partially controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
In Donetsk tonight, pro-Russian Ukrainians waved Russian flags, after Putin called Ukraine a colony with a puppet regime and warned of further fights.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russian President (through translator): We demand those who took over and retain the power in Kyiv to immediately stop combat activity.
Otherwise, the responsibility for continuing the bloodshed will lay on the shoulders of the Ukrainian regime.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And, tonight, there is worry that bloodshed is already beginning.
Putin ordered a -- quote -- "peacekeeping mission" into Donetsk and Luhansk.
President Biden imposed sanctions on anyone doing business in rebel-held areas, and a senior administration official warned of further penalties if Russia invades.
Inside rebel-held territory, with local cameramen filming, authorities have evacuated 30,000 mostly women and children and called up men, young and old, to be ready to fight Ukraine.
Russian forces are backing them up.
U.S. officials tell "PBS NewsHour" at least one-third of Russia's 150,000-plus troops on the border have already left their staging areas and moved to attack positions.
That's documented by new satellite images and new deployments of armored equipment and troops moving toward the border, including along two locations close to Kharkiv in Ukraine's east.
Independent researchers say Russian troops around Ukraine not only in the east, but also south and north in Belarus, where exercises that were supposed to end yesterday have been extended indefinitely.
These troops represent an existential threat to Ukraine, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on NBC's "Today."
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. National Security Adviser: Well, we believe that any military operation of the size, scope and magnitude of what we believe the Russians are planning will be extremely violent.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The U.S. sent the letter to the U.N. that Russia was -- quote -- "creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation."
JAKE SULLIVAN: We also have intelligence to suggest that there will be an even greater form of brutality, because this will not simply be some conventional war between two armies.
It will be a war waged by Russia on the Ukrainian people.
NICK SCHIFRIN: On Sunday, in the Black Sea port city of Odessa, those Ukrainian people wrapped themselves in the Ukrainian flag and chanted in Russian, "Russians, go home."
"NewsHour" Volodymyr Solohub was on scene.
VOLODYMYR SOLOHUB, Producer: This predominantly Russian-speaking city back in 2014 still had a strong pro-Russian elements.
Now, eight years later, and with Russian aggression looming just around the corner, they say that the choice of this city is very clear.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Oleksiy Honcharenko is a member of the Ukrainian Parliament from Odessa who favors Ukrainian unity.
OLEKSIY HONCHARENKO, Ukrainian Parliament Member: It's very important to show Putin that out Odessa is Ukraine, that Odessa is the salt and of Ukraine, and nobody waits for him here.
So, we need more sanctions now.
We need weapons now.
We need guarantees of security for Ukraine now.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Odessa resident Ori Slava (ph) moved from Western Ukraine five years ago.
VOLODYMYR SOLOHUB: Would you say that, in those five years that you have been living here, you see a change in Odessa?
WOMAN: Yes, a lot of change, and a lot of people here start to speak Ukrainian language, start to believe in Ukraine, and start to read Ukrainian history.
And they believe that Odessa will be Ukraine forever.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Nick joins me now for more.
So, Nick, a fast-developing story today.
What more do we know about what's happening on the ground?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Judy, Russian media are reporting that there are armored columns of Russian forces moving from Russia into Donetsk and Luhansk.
And there are videos on social media that are still unverified of Russian forces moving.
But there is no confirmation at -- right now that the -- by the United States that those forces are in fact moving into Donetsk and Luhansk.
But the agreement, as we reported, that Putin signed with the self-declared separate leaders does allow for Russian bases in Donetsk and Luhansk.
It allows for Russian military infrastructure in those separatist areas, and it allows for "joint protection" -- quote, unquote -- of the border, which means, Judy, Putin is still maintaining a little ambiguity.
He's laid the ground for -- the groundwork for war, but hasn't actually declared war.
He laid the foundations of formal military presence, but hasn't defined it.
We still don't know his final move, which, of course, is his intention, to keep us guessing.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Nick, I know you have been talking to administration officials.
What is known at this point about what the U.S. is going to do?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Yes, so, as I just reported, the executive order that President Biden has just released bans all persons (AUDIO GAP) from working or operating in the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk and gives the U.S. the authority to sanction anyone who's working there.
But a senior administration official talking to journalists just now left it ambiguous whether the movement of Russian forces from Russia into occupied Donetsk and Luhansk would actually trigger that massive group of sanctions that the U.S. and its allies have been threatening.
The senior administration official said -- quote - - "Russian forces moving into Donbass would not be a new step.
There have been Russian troops in the Donbass for eight years."
But the official did say that there would be further moves tomorrow.
They would continue to watch what Russia does.
And those moves tomorrow could include more sanctions as well, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Nick Schifrin following this story throughout.
Thank you, nick.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And today's moves by Russia's President Vladimir Putin could have far-reaching consequences.
For what those ramifications might be, we get two views.
David Kramer is the managing director for global policy at the George W. Bush Institute, a think tank.
He served as an assistant secretary of state during the Bush administration.
And Angela Stent, she worked in the State Department during the Clinton administration and served as a top U.S. intelligence officer on Russia during the George W. Bush administration.
She's now a professor at Georgetown University.
Welcome to the "NewsHour" to both of you David Kramer, to you first.
Taking today's developments together, the statement by Vladimir Putin that Russia will now recognize the independence of these two breakaway regions, and the -- what is reported to be the movement of Russian troops into that eastern region, what does it all amount to?
DAVID KRAMER, Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State: Judy, I think today may have been a fatal day for diplomacy.
Mr. Putin seems to have gone completely haywire in the past 24 hours, where he initially offered a tentative agreement to French President Macron on a meeting with President Biden.
That now seems very unlikely.
Even a meeting scheduled for this Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Blinken seems very unlikely.
Putin all of a sudden has really hit the accelerator, and I think has turned this into a really critical point.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Angela Stent, do you also see this as a fatal day for diplomacy?
ANGELA STENT, Director, Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, Georgetown University: Yes, I do, unfortunately.
We had an unusually aggressive speech by Putin.
He expressed all of the grievances that he's been expressing for the past 15 to 20 years.
And by recognizing these so-called Republicans as independent entities, by sending Russian troops in formally now -- I mean, there have been Russian troops there since 2014 -- he has raised the stakes, the likelihood of an actual war with Ukraine.
He was unrelenting in his criticism of Ukraine in this speech today, denigrated them.
We haven't quite seen anything like this.
This is much worse than what he did at the Munich Security Conference in 2015.
And it does not bode well for the future.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David Kramer, explain the significance of Putin today saying Russia now recognizes the independence of these two regions, for people who don't follow exactly what's been happening in that part of the world.
DAVID KRAMER: Well, Putin is following a plan that he followed in Georgia in 2008, with recognizing separatist regions in that area.
And Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgian territory to this day.
He now has done what he did in 2014 with the illegal annexation of Crimea, except, this time, in the case of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics, he has recognized them as independent states.
That means that the Minsk process, which was signed under duress by Ukraine and Russia, France, and Germany in 2014 and again in 2015, is essentially dead.
And that might have been one possible road map for a negotiated solution to this.
Putin, by recognizing Donetsk and Luhansk republics, has essentially killed the Minsk process.
And that's going to make finding a diplomatic solution much more complicated.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Angela Stent, pick up on that, if you will, because the reaction we're hearing not just from the United States, but from the countries who belong to NATO, is that this is going to trigger strong reactions from each one of them.
They are looking at sanctions as well.
Why is it sanction-worthy, what he has done?
ANGELA STENT: Well, because this is the -- it could be the prelude to a larger conflict.
This is the second time, if we just look at Georgia, but there are other frozen conflicts, that Russia has flouted international law, international norms.
He -- they're essentially marching into another country again, and declaring part of Ukraine independent entities.
This -- I'm glad that they're going to meet and talk about this in the United Nations.
I mean, this isn't only a problem for Europe.
It's a broader global problem, the example of doing this.
And this is why people are already talking about imposing sanctions for this violation.
You should remember that the Russian proxies who run these two entities don't control all the territory there.
And that, again, could be an excuse for the Russians, if there is more -- is more fighting there, to march further into Ukraine.
So I think this really does have very serious implications for the future of Europe.
JUDY WOODRUFF: No question.
And, David Kramer, we -- of course, there's no way to know what Vladimir Putin's next moves are.
But, based on this, is he -- when you look at the sanctions that the Biden White House is talking about today, as we heard Nick Schifrin reporting, specifically sanctions that affect individuals in those two regions, is that likely to have any deterrent effect on Mr. Putin?
DAVID KRAMER: No, not at all.
I think the U.S. and our European allies and others need to go significantly further.
That action will get no one's attention, frankly.
If we want to try to stop Mr. Putin where he is now, recognizing that he has already further invaded Ukraine through this move, then I think we have to look at hitting his circle, the immediate circle around him.
We have to start looking at the Russian financial and energy sectors, export controls and other measures, that the sanctions on Putin and his circle I think are the ones that Putin fears the most.
And so, while he hasn't launched a full-scale invasion, this looks like he's on the verge of doing so, or at least putting diplomacy to the side and resorting to force and war.
And so, in that case, I think we need to move now to try to preempt any further action and give Mr. Putin a taste of what could come if he goes even further.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And following on that, Angela Stent, the statement out of the White House today did say that these sanctions we're announcing now are separate from what we have in mind and what we would impose if there's a further military move on Ukraine.
Are those next set of sanctions, whatever we believe those to be, are they likely to have a deterrent effect on Putin?
ANGELA STENT: Yes, I'm less sure that they are unlikely to have a deterrent effect.
I think Putin and the people around him really have discounted that.
They don't care.
They really want to move ahead and restore Russia as the great power in Europe.
And I'm not sure, unless there is a full invasion of Ukraine, an attack on Kyiv, whether most of our allies would go along with the very tough sanctions, financial sanctions, sanctions on individuals that David Kramer's already talked about, and also export controls.
There's still a lot of discussion about that.
And there isn't full consensus on that.
and this may not deter Putin.
JUDY WOODRUFF: That's actually raising an interesting question, David Kramer.
If -- and we're in speculation land here -- but the Russians go into this disputed region in Eastern Ukraine, and they don't go further - - farther in for the time being, will the European -- will NATO be united in what it's prepared to do, whether it changes Putin's behavior or not?
DAVID KRAMER: Well, I think NATO is united in terms of boosting the military presence in countries like Poland, Romania and the Baltic states.
The European Union, however, I think, could wind up with some disagreements on what steps warrant sanctions by the E.U.
Keep in mind, the E.U.
needs agreement among all 27 member states.
So we may be facing a situation in which the United States will have to act unilaterally.
That's not ideal, but we shouldn't underestimate the impact U.S. sanctions have.
They are extraterritorial in nature, and they could have a significant impact.
Angela may be right that they won't deter Putin.
He seems now, for sure, to have made up his mind.
But I think we -- the United States should work with the E.U.
to the extent we can, but not settle for the lowest common denominator, do what we have to do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Angela Stent, what do you think it would take to change or to redirect what Mr. Putin has in mind right now?
And will anything have an effect on his thinking?
ANGELA STENT: Well, unfortunately, I don't really think we have many more cards to play.
I mean, there is the diplomatic card, although I agree, at this point, does it make sense for Secretary Blinken or, indeed, President Biden, to meet with Minister Lavrov and President Putin?
If Putin's mind is made up, which we -- our intelligence agencies seem to think that it is, it would be very hard to deter him.
And so it's very difficult to see what diplomatic solution could get him to climb down from a process that he's now initiated and whose end we don't really understand.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, a grim turn of events today, for sure.
Angela Stent, David Kramer, we thank you both.
DAVID KRAMER: Thank you.
ANGELA STENT: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: Iran's Foreign Ministry reported that negotiators are making headway in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
Then-President Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, and Iran has since exceeded key limits on its nuclear efforts.
Today, in Tehran, a foreign ministry spokesman acknowledged tough issues remain, but still offered an upbeat assessment SAEED KHATIBZADEH, Spokesman, Iranian Foreign Ministry (through translator): The talks have had very considerable progress, and the breadth and number of topics has decreased dramatically, but the matters that remain are in fact that hardest, most essential and most serious matters.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Iran's president, Ebrahim Raisi, demanded today that the U.S. commit to lifting major sanctions and that it promise to stick with any new agreement.
On the pandemic, new numbers today underscored the rapid retreat of the Omicron variant in the U.S. average daily infections fell to about 100,000 over the weekend.
That's down from 800,000 in mid-January.
Meanwhile, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the last virus restrictions are coming down in England.
The rest of the United Kingdom is reopening more slowly.
The government of Canada will keep emergency powers in force after weeks of protests over pandemic restrictions.
Police have ended a truckers' blockade of Central Ottawa and separate actions elsewhere.
But, in Parliament today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned there may be more protests.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, Canadian Prime Minister: Even though the blockades are lifted across border openings right now, even though things seem to be resolving very well in Ottawa, this state of emergency is not over.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Canadian police have arrested more than 190 protesters and issued 389 charges in connection with the so-called Freedom Convoy.
Northern Europe is struggling through the aftermath of its third major storm in five days.
Heavy rain and high winds swept in Sunday and killed at least two people, bringing the week's death toll to 14.
Together, the storms have left hundreds of thousands of people without power.
In Brazil, the death toll rose to 176 today from last week's mudslides and flooding disaster.
More than 110 people are still missing in Petropolis, where 10 inches of rain fell on Tuesday.
Over the weekend, rescue crews continued searching for survivors and bringing relief supplies to the site.
They also appealed for help.
GABRIEL, Firefighter (through translator): The search-and-rescue may last another 15 days, but it's not certain, depending on the weather.
Sometimes, we have to call it off when it rains heavily.
I'd like to ask anyone who can help to lend a hand, because there are so many people here who are homeless and need help.
They have no place to go.
Any kind of help is welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The downpour in Petropolis was the worst there since 1932.
Back in this country, the federal hate crimes trial for the killers of Ahmaud Arbery went to a jury in Brunswick, Georgia.
In closing arguments, prosecutors alleged that the three white defendants had used racial slurs and targeted Arbery because he was Black.
The defense argued they thought he was a thief.
The three have already been convicted of Arbery's murder.
The defense has rested for three former Minneapolis police officers accused of violating George Floyd's civil rights.
The last of them, Thomas Lane, testified today that he called for an ambulance.
But he said he did not realize Floyd was in danger of dying as he lay pinned by the neck.
Closing arguments are tomorrow.
Former President Trump's new social media app called TRUTH Social launched today.
Its debut today came a year after Mr. Trump was banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
TRUTH Social quickly became the top free app in the country, but new users waited hours to gain access.
And last year's Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, was disqualified today by the state racing commission over a positive drug test.
The derby's second-place finisher, Mandaloun, was declared the official winner by Churchill Downs.
Medina Spirit had died of a heart attack in December.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": Amy Walter and Tamara Keith discuss the political fallout from the Ukraine crisis; exploring the Kennedy White House through the eyes of the first children; we remember a giant in the global health care world, the late Paul Farmer; and much more.
The number of unruly passengers on airplanes is surging.
The Federal Aviation Administration has reported nearly 500 incidents so far just this year.
Now some airlines are calling on the Justice Department for help.
Our chief Washington correspondent, Geoff Bennett, has the story.
MAN: Waited four (EXPLETIVE DELETED) hours for this plane!
GEOFF BENNETT: Over the last two years, the so-called friendly skies have often been anything but.
WOMAN: If we don't stand up, it's only going to get worse!
GEOFF BENNETT: Rowdy air travelers berating flight attendants and pulled off planes by police.
This year alone, the FAA reports that there have been 499 incidents of unruly passengers, 324 of which have been mask-related; 80 cases have been referred to the FBI for criminal review.
Earlier this month, on an American Airlines flight from L.A. to Washington, a man tried to open the plane door in mid-flight.
Court documents say a flight attendant hit him in the head with a coffee pot to subdue him.
Other passengers held the man down until they could make an emergency landing in Kansas City, Missouri.
Police have now charged 50-year-old Juan Remberto Rivas with interfering with a flight attendant.
The pilot recounted the ordeal to passenger Mouaz Moustafa.
MOUAZ MOUSTAFA, Passenger: Did he try to get at the cockpit door, or was he just trying to, like, open the door of the plane?
AMERICAN AIRLINES PILOT: He was trying to, but he couldn't get to it.
And then he tried to.
He actually tried to open the... MOUAZ MOUSTAFA: The plane door and the cockpit door?
AMERICAN AIRLINES PILOT: The plane door, yes.
MOUAZ MOUSTAFA: Both of them?
AMERICAN AIRLINES PILOT: Yes.
GEOFF BENNETT: The increased, constant threat from passengers is wearing on flight attendants.
SARA NELSON, President, Association of Flight Attendants: You're seeing a direct result on that morale.
People just can't face it every day.
GEOFF BENNETT: Sara Nelson is the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union.
She says what's happening now is unprecedented and pins it on pandemic stress and confusion over COVID protocols on planes.
How does this stack up against what happened before COVID?
SARA NELSON: These were events that would happen on our planes that were a really bad day at work.
You might experience it once or twice in the course of your entire career.
And now flight attendants are every single day going to work and understanding that it's very likely that they're going to experience this conflict, and maybe up to and including a physical assault.
GEOFF BENNETT: Airlines now asking the Justice Department to keep unruly passengers from boarding flights in the first place.
Earlier this month, Delta CEO Ed Bastian sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking for a national no-fly list that would bar that person from traveling on any commercial air carrier if convicted of an on-board disruption.
The Justice Department says it is reviewing the letter and will continue to prioritize investigations and prosecutions of those involved in airplane misconduct.
Sara Nelson says a national no-fly list is long overdue.
SARA NELSON: A banned flier list that has this due process in place and also has a communication vehicle, so that, on the day of the incident, every airline can get notified if there has been an egregious event on board one flight.
And we can avoid boarding someone onto another flight to create another problem on that airline.
GEOFF BENNETT: A move eight Republican senators say that should be up to Congress to decide.
In a new letter, they claim most unruly passenger incidents are related to the federal transportation mask mandate, writing: "Creating a federal no-fly list for unruly passengers who are skeptical of this mandate would seemingly equate them to terrorists who seek to actively take the lives of Americans and perpetrate attacks on the homeland."
Sara Nelson says the worst in-flight incidents often have nothing to do with the mask mandate.
SARA NELSON: The real problems on the planes, the ones where people are really violating the law and may end up serving time in jail when DOJ gets through the process of prosecuting them, those oftentimes have not started with a mask issue at all.
And so I want to be really clear that there's a lot of people who would love to add this to the politicization of this pandemic and try to say that this is all over masks, and it's just not true.
GEOFF BENNETT: Alison Sider writes about airlines and travel for The Wall Street Journal.
ALISON SIDER, The Wall Street Journal:It's just turning out to be quite complicated to figure out how to handle these incidents that involve unruly passengers.
So, there's a lot of questions about, if there is a no-fly list, who should be on it?
What agency should oversee it?
And I think it's turning out to be very complicated.
GEOFF BENNETT: So, what does this all mean then for an industry that's trying to rebound from the pandemic?
ALISON SIDER: Airlines really want people to get back out there, especially as the Omicron variant seems to be receding.
But, yes, as flights get more crowded again, this is just another thing that the airlines, and particularly the flight attendants and the crew, have to deal with, and the airport employees.
It just makes their jobs a lot harder as they're dealing with these increased passenger numbers that it's -- even a small number of people coming back to travel are causing these disruptions.
GEOFF BENNETT: With airlines warning disruptive behavior won't fly.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Geoff Bennett.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Few presidential scandals occupy a place in America's culture like Watergate.
And, this summer, it will be 50 years since five burglars broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters, setting off a series of investigations that ultimately led to the resignation of then-President Richard Nixon.
But as historian and author Garrett Graff told me recently, the scandal we all thought we knew was actually a series of events.
That's the focus of his latest book, "Watergate: A New History."
Garrett Graff, welcome to the "NewsHour."
Congratulations on the book.
So, it has been 50 years.
A lot of books have been written.
Why did you think it's time for another one, and another one that's 800 pages' long almost?
GARRETT GRAFF, Author, "Watergate: A New History": Well, as much as Watergate has been sliced and diced over the years, it's actually been a quarter-century since anyone actually tried to lay out the full story start to finish, soup to nuts.
And, during that time, of course, we have had an enormous number of new revelations that actually really dramatically change the arc of the story that we thought we knew.
This is the first time anyone's tried to write a history of Watergate knowing the identity of Deep Throat, former FBI Deputy Director Mark Felt, outed as that famous source for Woodward and Bernstein.
The Nixon tapes have come out.
New FBI files have been declassified.
We have learned all sorts of things about some of the associated scandals with Watergate itself.
And what I found in researching this is that the Watergate story that we thought we knew isn't what actually happened.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And in connection with that, you write that it's more than one event.
It's not just a burglary.
It's a number of things.
Of course, a lot of it had to do with the war in Vietnam.
But you went on to say it was an entire mind-set, Watergate was.
What did you mean by that?
GARRETT GRAFF: Yes, the thing that we know sort of shorthand as Watergate, the moment when the five burglars are caught in the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate office complex in D.C. in June of 1972, really is just one tiny slice of the crime and criminality and abuses of power by the Nixon administration that unfolded over the course of his presidency across what end up being a dozen vaguely related scandals with some of the same players.
And by the time that burglary gets to the impeachment process in the spring of 1974, Watergate morphs into this much bigger umbrella that encompasses all of these different scandals and all of these shadowy, weird, zany players.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I was struck by this descriptive line.
You said: "It's the greatest story ever told about power in D.C., the need and the hunger for it, the drive to protect it, how it's challenged and how it flows, the best and really the worst of this capital city."
GARRETT GRAFF: Yes, and that's part of what made me so fascinated with Watergate at this moment in our politics, because what you see is this moment in -- from 1972 to 1974 where Washington works.
And what is so fascinating about the power as it unfolds in this city back then is, you see all of the different institutions come together to force Nixon from office, to investigate him, to prosecute his team in a way that none of them could do on their own.
And so it becomes this incredible story about the American system, about the checks and balances and how Article 1 of the Constitution, Article 2, Article 3 all interlock and play with things like the Justice Department and, of course, the reporters who covered that story to do something that no one of them could do on their own.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You also note how Watergate was the dividing line between old Washington and new Washington.
Explain what you meant by that.
GARRETT GRAFF: Watergate, in many ways, is the turning point, the central hinge of the 20th century in the U.S. government.
You have this moment where you have this new generation of leaders ushered into Washington.
This is a generation that reshapes the Capitol, reshapes Washington.
And then many of the parts of the investigative press that we are now used to, the Washington press corps, you see first come to that investigative mind-set in the midst of Watergate.
And then, of course, so much of the reforms, the protections around abuses of power, privacy, civil liberties in America grow up out of the worst of Watergate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How much new was there to find out?
GARRETT GRAFF: Well, one of the great maxims that sort of our whole country, I feel like, has adopted after Watergate was this idea the cover-up is worse than the crime.
And what we learn, actually with all of the accumulated knowledge of the last 50 years, is that that's actually probably not true with Watergate, with the Nixon years, that, actually, in many ways, the crimes were terrible.
There were many more of them than we knew at the time.
There were reasons to believe that Nixon even walked right up to the line of outright treason in trying to encourage the collapse of the Paris peace talks that would end the Vietnam War to keep the Vietnam War going for his own political benefit in the fall of 1968, as he was running for president.
Many of these details have only come out in the last couple of years.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You mentioned the criminality of Richard Nixon.
I was struck, because I have seen you say that, after all this time you spent studying Nixon, that you were taken by the similarities and the contrasts with former President Trump.
GARRETT GRAFF: Yes.
As we reckon with the abuses of the Nixon years, the scandals of the Trump administration, and, of course, the two impeachments that Donald Trump went through as president and just after his presidency, and, in many ways, the things that worked in 1972, 1973, 1974 didn't work during the Trump years.
And it's worth, I think, thinking about why that happened.
And there's a lot that we can learn about how Washington doesn't work today by going back and looking at the Nixon years.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it is quite an undertaking, quite a book, "Watergate: A New History," on the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in.
Garrett Graff, thank you very much.
GARRETT GRAFF: Judy, it's always a pleasure to talk to you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In Ukraine, President Biden is confronting the most significant foreign policy challenge since the withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer.
Geoff Bennett is back for analysis of the political consequences of Russia's actions.
GEOFF BENNETT: Judy, as we reported earlier, President Biden today reacted swiftly to Russian President Vladimir Putin declaring he would recognize the independence of two breakaway regions in Eastern Ukraine, possibly using the move as a pretext for an invasion the U.S. has warned was likely coming at any hour.
As President Biden focuses on the Ukraine crisis, he is faced with a looming political consequences at home that could have a major and long-lasting impact on Democrats' ability to maintain their power in Washington.
Here to discuss that and more, I'm joined by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.
And, Tam, I want to start with you, because National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan this morning, he warned that Russia could be prepared for a conflict even more brutal than some initial estimates.
And from the start of this Ukraine-Russia crisis, the Biden administration has been aggressively transparent in declassifying intelligence and sharing it with the American people, really trying to telegraph Putin's next steps.
What is behind that strategy?
TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: And it's not just the Biden administration.
Allies in Europe have also been releasing intelligence about what they say Putin is up to.
And part of this was to make it more difficult on Vladimir Putin, so that he couldn't get away with, for instance, a false flag operation.
The Biden administration kept coming out with intelligence, saying, no, we think that Putin is planning this, we think that they might do it this way, as a way of signaling ,no, you should not do this.
I will say that Senator Ted Cruz, Republican Senator Ted Cruz is out with a statement criticizing that strategy, saying it didn't work.
And, clearly, this is escalating in Ukraine right now.
GEOFF BENNETT: And, Amy, a question about the domestic -- potential domestic political consequences here.
I talk to White House officials.
They say that politics aren't factoring into their foreign policy decisions around Ukraine, but they are keenly aware of how President Biden's political opponents are looking to leverage whatever move he makes here.
What are the domestic political consequences he's facing as you see it?
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes, Geoff, it's a good question.
And, look, this president now comes into this crisis in very different political shape than he came into, say, the Afghanistan situation, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
When he came into office, he had a plurality of Americans who said they thought he was going to be a good commander in chief.
They trusted sort of the way he would deal with a crisis.
Once we got post-Afghanistan, those numbers dropped.
Now you have pluralities and even a majority of Americans saying they don't think he will be able to handle a crisis particularly well.
They don't think that he is doing well as a commander in chief.
So, he doesn't have the same depth, that same well of goodwill to draw from that he did earlier.
So, I think that's an important thing to understand.
And the other piece of this is, there could be a domestic impact.
Normally, things that happen overseas, they don't have an immediate impact on our domestic lives.
In this case, the cost of oil is going to potentially be significant.
The president has already warned Americans that we could see an increase in energy prices.
This is coming at a particularly perilous time too for the president and, of course, for consumers, who are already spending sending a great deal of money on gasoline.
And so it could have a just another pinch for Americans, who are already spending a great deal of money on gasoline.
And so it could have a just another pinch for Americans who are feeling that inflationary pressure in their everyday purchases.
GEOFF BENNETT: All right, let's shift our focus now to COVID and this nexus of politics and public health, because, Tam, as you know, you have got at least 11 Democratic governors and the mayor of Washington, D.C., they have started lifting mask mandates in schools or other indoor settings over the past month, while the federal government is still following the CDC guidance, which recommends indoor masking in all settings.
The CDC, as we have reported, they're expected to revise that as early as this week.
But what does this all mean for this widening gap between state and federal policy and then state and CDC policy?
What does this all say about the politics of COVID right now?
TAMARA KEITH: Oh, this is an incredibly challenging time in the pandemic and politics, because the numbers are falling really fast.
And the Biden administration, the president, the White House have repeatedly made it clear to me in public -- in public and in private to me that they are sticking with the CDC guidance.
So, whatever the CDC does, the White House will be following their lead.
But the CDC does not move at the speed of politics.
And so you have someone like Governor Murphy, who I spoke with in New Jersey.
And one important thing to point out is that Governor Murphy said he was looking at the numbers.
He says he's sick of COVID.
Everybody is sick of COVID.
You don't need a poll or a focus group to tell you that people are done.
But he said his decision wasn't based on those politics, but, rather, based on the sheer numbers, that the cases are falling every single day in his state.
They were hit early with Omicron.
And so those cases have been falling for about more than a month now.
And so what he did, though, and what many of these governors have done is, they have set a date that is a little ways off.
In New Jersey, it's early March.
So, it's not immediate.
They are waiting for the numbers to fall further.
They have set a date.
They have identified an off-ramp.
It's entirely possible that the CDC guidance will actually catch up with these Democratic governors by the time all of their policies go into effect.
The experts I talk to, though, say the most important thing is figuring out and projecting forward what the on-ramp would be if, unfortunately, there is another variant that causes concern, or if the boosters wane in their effectiveness, that politicians were not so great a year ago at saying that things may change, and that, this time around, they need to be clear with the public that, even though we may be moving into something that feels like a really nice phase, that may not be the end of the story.
GEOFF BENNETT: And, Amy, in the couple of minutes we have left, to Tam's point, Democrats say they are following public health guidance and making these recommendations.
But it's also helpful politically too.
I mean, I think Democrats learned that lesson after they lost the gubernatorial election in Virginia, in part over COVID protocols and masking in schools, and not necessarily the substance of the policy, but just really the way that they talked about it, Democrats talked about it.
AMY WALTER: That's right.
I mean, the big difference, of course, between governors and the president is, most of these governors are up for reelection this year.
Obviously, the president is not.
And I think there also is a reason for the administration to feel a little snakebit about calling for the end of mask mandate or getting ahead of the CDC.
We all remember July of 2021, when the president went out on the lawn of the White House, saying we're independent -- we have independence now from COVID, we're moving forward.
I went back and looked at some of that content of that speech.
And it was really much like, we're past this now.
We're going to live our lives.
Kids are going to go back to school.
Well, obviously, that didn't happen that way.
And so if you are going to go get ahead of the CDC, the administration has to be thinking, boy, we don't want to have to go and backtrack again, much like we did in July.
GEOFF BENNETT: Yes, it's a good point.
Three years into this pandemic, I think politicians have learned not to predict where things will head next.
AMY WALTER: Yes.
GEOFF BENNETT: Tamara Keith and Amy Walter, our thanks to you both.
TAMARA KEITH: You're welcome.
AMY WALTER: You're welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: On this Presidents' Day, we take a different look at the White House during the Kennedy years.
A new exhibition, First Children, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, shows how the young residents navigated their new home and how mother and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy tried to protect them from a press and public anxious to see them.
Special correspondent Jared Bowen of GBH Boston takes us there for our arts and culture series, Canvas.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, Former President of the United States: I call upon him further to abandon this course of world domination.
JARED BOWEN: In the early 1960s, when global tensions were boiling over and the president found himself on the precipice of nuclear war, there was always hope in the White House emanating directly from its youngest and most cherubic residents.
ALAN PRICE, Director, JFK Library and Museum: To see the children, it's humanizing of the presidency and the administration.
I think it reassures people that we are all human beings, that our children matter in the end.
JARED BOWEN: That, according to JFK library and museum director Alan Price, is one of myriad reasons the Kennedy White House captivated the American public.
What's been most striking to you seeing this collection of images of the children?
ALAN PRICE: Well, it's just so exciting to bring out a piece of our collection that we don't ordinarily get to bring out.
JARED BOWEN: In its newest exhibition, the library and museum has focused on the first children.
Caroline Kennedy was three when her father took office, and John Jr. was all of two months, a perfect complement to their parents' own youthful allure.
ALAN PRICE: America was obsessed with them.
You have got to remember, long before Instagram and TikTok, there were magazines, and America loved to have magazines in their home.
And these children were on the covers.
JARED BOWEN: Because, says curator Janice Hodson, a sizable portion of the American public suddenly had a White House to which they could connect.
JANICE HODSON, Curator, JFK Library and Museum: Forty percent of the eligible voters were people under 40.
These people were World War II veterans, as was President Kennedy.
They had young families, so they closely identified with the Kennedy family.
JARED BOWEN: They flooded the White House with gifts, rocking chairs from a shop in North Carolina, sparkling piggy banks from California makers, dolls from world leaders.
JANICE HODSON: These gifts kind of got out of control.
I mean, there was a -- the White House requested a ban on sending pets, because a lot of people sent pets, sometimes through the mail.
(LAUGHTER) JARED BOWEN: Then came the commercialization of the children, paper dolls and comic books, and something that earned the indignation of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, comic Vaughn Meader's Grammy-winning parody of the family.
WOMAN: I should like to ask a question about... MAN: Would you identify yourself, please?
WOMAN: I'm your wife.
(LAUGHTER) JANICE HODSON: It's very mild by today's standards, but, for the time, it was considered going a step too far.
JARED BOWEN: The public's appetite for all things Kennedy grew so voracious, Jackie Kennedy began to shut it down, heeding Eleanor Roosevelt's personal warning that life inside the -- quote, unquote -- "fish bowl" could be difficult.
So Kennedy allowed the release only of basic information, like the children's heights, but not much more.
JANICE HODSON: At one point, she says to Pierre Salinger, the president's press secretary, no more information.
If the media asks, what do they want for their birthdays, what do they want for Christmas?, tell them Mrs. Kennedy does not want to give out that information.
JARED BOWEN: She defied even more public sentiment when she assembled a school within the White House for Caroline and the children of staff members.
As the battle for civil rights and desegregation raged across the country, Jackie Kennedy settled the matter, at least on Pennsylvania Avenue.
JANICE HODSON: The White House school did integrate.
And that child was Avery Hatcher, who was the son of Andrew Hatcher, assistant press secretary, who was the highest-ranking African-American in the Kennedy Cabinet.
A lot of the children draw President Kennedy as they kind of knew him, as a family friend.
So it's President Kennedy walking to the pool for a swim.
Or Avery Hatcher shows a press conference, and his father is like a stick figure next to the lectern.
JARED BOWEN: As challenging as life in the White House could be, it also provided routine and togetherness, a place where the president could always finger-paint with his son, and have breakfast with his daughter.
JANICE HODSON: Jacqueline Kennedy did state, after the assassination, that this was a point in their lives when she felt they were very close, because they were all together in the same place as a family.
And she kind of reflected on these as being some of their best years.
JARED BOWEN: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jared Bowen in Boston.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, remembering a giant in the world of public health.
Dr. Paul Farmer, a physician, anthropologist and founder of a leading global health organization, died today.
He was known worldwide for improving health care access in developing countries.
The group he co-founded, Partners In Health, said that Farmer died in his sleep.
Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro, who has long covered Farmer, has this remembrance.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: From prominent voices in global health today, shocked reaction to the passing of an iconic figure.
"Paul Farmer was brilliant, passionate, kind, and humble," former President Bill Clinton said.
"He touched millions of lives, advanced global health equity, and fundamentally changed the way health care is delivered in the most impoverished places on Earth."
Farmer came to prominence in the early 2000s, working in Haiti's remote central region amid a raging HIV epidemic.
He argued that patients here deserved the same expensive antiretroviral drugs that were available in rich countries.
He spoke to the "NewsHour" in 2003.
DR. PAUL FARMER, Co-Founder, Partners In Health: One of the biggest myths we're dealing about are about therapy for HIV, right?
HIV, it can't be done in a place like this, people don't have the right -- they don't have a concept of time, they don't have wristwatches, the medications have to be refrigerated, it's not cost-effective, it's not anything you could initiate in a really poor country.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: His advocacy is credited with helping shift that perception.
In 2003, the George W. Bush administration created its so called PEPFAR program.
It brought the lifesaving drugs to millions of patients in developing nations.
Today, the non profit he co-founded, Partners In Health, is one of the largest in the world.
In the past year alone, it's provided over two million women's health checkups and nearly three million outpatient visits to clinics in regions from Africa to Europe and Latin America.
DR. PAUL FARMER: I'm sure you all read our piece in "The British Medical Journal" last year.
(LAUGHTER) DR. PAUL FARMER: I mean, no one would ever miss that.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: A prolific writer and author, Farmer was never afraid of criticizing colleagues or the systems in which they worked.
DR. PAUL FARMER: Instead of collaboration, there was competition where it wasn't warranted, right?
Public health is full of it.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Farmer's work inspired countless doctors around the globe, including Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at the New York University School of Medicine.
She's also a senior fellow and editor for public health at Kaiser Health News.
DR. CELINE GOUNDER, Infectious Disease and Public Health Specialist: He viewed health holistically and through a lens of justice.
I think what makes Paul's loss in this moment so devastating to so many of us is, he is precisely the kind of leader we need in public health at this moment.
And I really hope that so many of us who were touched by him and his mentorship and his teachings will bring his life, his spirit to our work in the years to come as we continue to fight this pandemic.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In recent months, Farmer connected his decades of work on health inequities to the pandemic.
He spoke to Jeffrey Brown last year.
DR. PAUL FARMER: There's this confusion that happens at the beginning of many epidemics, the idea that, if it's really a novel pathogen and no one is immune, that it's going to be some sort of great leveler.
There really are almost no examples in which that's the case.
These diseases are never levelers in that sense.
They always look for weaknesses in society.
They invade these cracks and fissures.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Paul Farmer is survived by his wife, Didi Bertrand Farmer, and three children.
He was 62.
For the "PBS NewsHour," this is Fred de Sam Lazaro.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And there was an outpouring of tributes today for Paul Farmer, calling him brilliant, generous and a giant.
We mourn him.
An update on the deepening Russia-Ukraine crisis.
The United Nations Security Council will now meet later tonight to discuss the situation, after the U.S., Britain and France called for an emergency meeting.
And on a lighter note, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum celebrated Presidents' Day today by releasing the first ever complete set of presidential bobbleheads.
The Milwaukee-based museum was inspired to create the set after the 2020 Democratic National Convention was disrupted by the pandemic.
You can see the bobbleheads on our Instagram account.
And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
Join us online and again here tomorrow evening.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.