PBS NewsHour full episode, April 7, 2023
AMNA NAWAZ: Good evening. I'm Amna Nawaz. Geoff Bennett is on assignment. On the "NewsHour" tonight: In an unprecedented move, Tennessee Republicans expel Democratic lawmakers for violating House rules during gun control protests.
Iraq's younger generations find themselves shut out of work and the political process 20 years after the United States' invasion. ALAA AL SATTAR, Aspiring Politician (through translator): The leaders of the American invasion said that a generation of freedom will emerge that is raised on freedom and the principles of democracy. But I am one of this generation, and I find myself fighting for freedom and the right to live. AMNA NAWAZ: And Jonathan Capehart and Gary Abernathy weigh in on the criminal charges against former President Trump and how they could affect his chances for reelection.
(BREAK) AMNA NAWAZ: Good evening, and welcome to the "NewsHour." The Middle East is on edge tonight after an attack in Tel Aviv killed an Italian tourist and wounded five other Italian and British citizens. Israeli authorities said a Palestinian driver rammed a car into a group of people near a popular park.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was calling up more border police and Israeli Defense Forces to confront terror attacks. That came hours after Israeli airstrikes pounded the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, in retaliation for rocket attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Two British-Israeli sisters were also killed in a Palestinian shooting in the occupied West Bank.
Back in this country, there are more signs the economy is holding strong, in spite of a string of interest rate hikes over the past year. The Labor Department reported employers added 236,000 jobs in March, while the unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent. Average hourly raises wages rose over 4.2 percent over last year. All that has raised hopes that the Fed could pause its rate hikes soon. Two Russian news agencies are reporting jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been formally charged with espionage in Russia. TASS and Interfax also said the American journalist entered a formal denial.
Russian authorities arrested the 31-year-old last week. He is the first American journalist to be detained in Russia on spying claims since the Cold War. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is defending himself a day after ProPublica reported he's taken lavish trips for decades that were paid for by a Republican megadonor. Thomas issued a statement claiming he'd been advised by colleagues not to disclose -- quote -- "this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the court." China is retaliating against the Taiwanese president's visit to the U.S. by imposing
sanctions on the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and other U.S. and Asia-based organizations. The California library was the site of talks Wednesday between U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Tsai Ing-wen.
Tsai returned home today to a swarm of cameras and struck a defiant tone that Taiwan won't succumb to intimidation. TSAI ING-WEN, Taiwanese President (through translator): We showed the international community that, in the face of pressure and threats, Taiwan will be even more united and will absolutely not yield to suppression, nor, due to obstructions, stop exchanges with the world. AMNA NAWAZ: China also sanctioned Taiwan's U.S. envoy, prohibiting her and her family members from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.
And Christians around the world marked this Good Friday with an array of ceremonies and rituals. Pilgrims heaved a wooden cross through Jerusalem's Old City, retracing Jesus' path to crucifixion. The faithful took part in spite of violence there earlier in the week.
And, at the Vatican, Pope Francis, who was recently hospitalized, for bronchitis, presided over mass in a wheelchair. But he skipped the traditional Way of the Cross procession, citing cold weather. Still to come on the "NewsHour": the Biden administration proposes putting a stop to blanket bans on transgender athletes; Jonathan Capehart and Gary Abernathy analyze a week full of political controversy; a newly renovated CIA museum showcases the agency's triumphs and mistakes; plus much more. It was a chaotic scene at the Tennessee capitol yesterday, as two Black members of the state House of Representatives were kicked out of office by the Republican supermajority.
In response, late today, Vice President Harris traveled to Nashville to meet with Democratic lawmakers, including the ones who were expelled. Laura Barron-Lopez has our report. STATE REP.
LARRY MILLER (D-TN): Do not let this die. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Tennessee Democrats outraged. STATE REP. SAM MCKENZIE (D-TN): I am asking folks to -- who are mad to stay mad. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And committed to continuing the fight for gun reforms.
STATE REP. JUSTIN JONES (D-TN): There are thousands of us here who are demanding change. No action, no peace! PROTESTERS: No peace! LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: After two lawmakers, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, the youngest Black representatives in the House, were expelled from the state assembly yesterday. STATE REP. CAMERON SEXTON (R-Tennessee): ... 57th Representative District expelled. (BOOING) STATE REP.
JUSTIN PEARSON (D-TN): We can never normalize the tyranny of the way that these people in positions of power are operating due to white supremacy. MAN: House Resolution 64 fails. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Another lawmaker, Gloria Johnson, a white woman, was spared expulsion by one vote. STATE REP. GLORIA JOHNSON (D-TN): America is going to go, that guy is a rock star. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Representative Johnson left with no doubt about why she kept her job, while her colleagues did not.
STATE REP. GLORIA JOHNSON: It might have to do with the color of our skin. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Dubbed the Tennessee 3 by supporters, the Democrats drew the ire of the Republican supermajority last week after they led protests in support of gun restrictions on the House floor, breaking the rules of the chamber just days after a shooting at a Nashville school left six dead, including three children.
STATE REP. JUSTIN JONES: We called for you all to ban assault weapons. And you respond with an assault on democracy. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: The debate to expel the trio lasted hours and was oftentimes contentious. STATE REP. ANDREW FARMER (R-TN): Just because you don't get your way, you can't come to the well, bring your friends and throw a temper tantrum with an adolescent bullhorn.
STATE REP. JUSTIN PEARSON: Is elevating our voices for justice or change a temper tantrum. There's something in the decorum of this body that says it's OK to call that a temper tantrum, to call people we disagree with on the issues, to say that all they wanted is attention. But I will tell you what. I don't personally want attention. What I want is attention on the issue of gun violence,.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Republicans resolute and largely united in their votes and condemnation for the lack of decorum. STATE REP. GINO BULSO (R-TN): He and two other representatives effectively conducted a mutiny on March the 30th of 2023 in this very chamber. STATE REP. CAMERON SEXTON: There are consequences for action.
The speaker of the statehouse last week even comparing the peaceful protests by students and Democrats to the violent January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a charge Democrats rejected. STATE REP. GLORIA JOHNSON: I know that rules sometimes have to be broken, and sometimes you have to get in good trouble. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Jones and Pearson are gone from office. But their message is now resonating far beyond the state's borders, President Biden calling their ouster shocking, undemocratic and without precedent.
And, late today, Vice President Kamala Harris traveling to Nashville to meet with the current and former Democratic lawmakers. STATE REP. JUSTIN JONES: If it can happen here in Tennessee, it's coming to your state next.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Their absence may be short lived. The Nashville Council will meet on Monday and could choose to send Jones back to the state Capitol until a special election can be held later this year. For more on what this means for the state of Tennessee, gun violence and equal representation, I'm joined by Tennessee State Representative John Ray Clemmons.
He's the House Democratic Caucus chair. Welcome to "NewsHour." STATE REP. JOHN RAY CLEMMONS (D-TN): Thank you for having me.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Yesterday, two of your caucus members, Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, were expelled from the House of Representatives. A third, Gloria Johnson, was not. Representative Johnson said that she thinks it had to do with the color of their skin. Do you agree with that assessment? STATE REP. JOHN RAY CLEMMONS: Well, I certainly understand how some might think that. And it very well may be the case.
But I don't know what's in my colleagues' heart, and I'd hate to speculate. But I think it's fair to say that my caucus lost two very strong voices yesterday. And I look forward to their imminent return to the House. And I hope their local governments reinstate them very soon. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And Republican said that they broke the rules of decorum by protesting on the floor.
Do you think that they should have faced different consequences? STATE REP. JOHN RAY CLEMMONS: Well, people break decorum or House rules on a daily basis. What they did was approached the well of the House without permission from the speaker. I think, in anyone's estimation, that is a very minor offense or breach of the House rules. Others who have served in the House in recent years who have not even been punished for anything have done far, far worse things, including several who were under a federal investigation and have been -- had criminal charges brought against them. Just this year, we had a member on the Criminal Justice Committee advocate for lynching, which is a hate crime, and he still sits on that committee with no punishment whatsoever.
And another last week committed -- has been charged with simple assault. He still sits on the House floor with no punishment whatsoever. Only three times since the Civil War have members been expelled from the state legislature. And those were very egregious crimes or conduct. So this is -- this is highly inappropriate.
It is an extraordinary action that should have never taken place. And it's truly a sad day for our democracy in the state of Tennessee. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And so what comes next for House Democrats in Tennessee? Are there any steps that your caucus can take in response to these expulsions? STATE REP. JOHN RAY CLEMMONS: You know, Justin Pearson, Justin Jones and Gloria Johnson have had the full support of our entire caucus. And we're going to continue to fight for them. We do not believe that a 75-member GOP supermajority should silence the voices of over 200,000 Tennesseans who elected to send these individuals to serve in the state legislature.
We're going to continue to fight. And, unfortunately, my colleagues across the aisle may have won two votes yesterday, but I think they lost in the world of public opinion. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And, as you said, both Representative Jones and Pearson could be reappointed to their seats and run in a special election. How can you make sure, though, that the Republican supermajority will seat them? STATE REP.
JOHN RAY CLEMMONS: Well, if the -- if their local governments reappoint them to serve in this legislative body and the papers are processed to the secretary of state's office, they better be seated in the state legislature, or we're going to have a real legal battle on our hands. I don't see any grounds for this supermajority to refuse to seat them in this General Assembly. If they would refuse to seek them, I think you would see this taken to a whole 'nother level, unfortunately. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And, Representative, as you know, this all started after the shooting at Covenant School that left six dead, including three children, and then the protests on the floor subsequently were about trying to pass more gun restrictions in the state. Where does any of that stand in terms of legislation actually passing through the Statehouse that would restrict guns? STATE REP. JOHN RAY CLEMMONS: Yes, unfortunately, our community has been devastated by the loss of those six lives at the Covenant School here in Nashville.
But that's only the latest incident of gun violence. Gun violence, it occurs every day in every community across the state of Tennessee too often. And so it is way overdue for solutions. So we're fighting for gun safety measures and a little gun sense legislation. We're talking with our colleagues across Iowa. We requested a meeting with the governor of Tennessee, who refuses to even mention the word gun since the tragedy at the Covenant School.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: You mentioned that you're talking across the aisle. I mean, have you heard from any Republicans or independents in recent days and if they're moved at all by what's transpired over the last week? STATE REP. JOHN RAY CLEMMONS: I don't question whether people were moved by that tragedy, or even gun violence in their own districts. But what we hope and we continue to get -- my colleagues have reached out and they said, hey, we're willing to work with you on something, but let's keep working. But those are just words.
We need to see action. And I appreciate them saying they're willing to work with us. But we spent the last two -- two weeks or so now being distracted by an expulsion that's completely baseless and undemocratic, instead of focusing on passing gun safety legislation It's truly demoralizing and an offense, quite honestly, to the victims of gun violence.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: What message does it send to other states, to the nation that Tennessee's Statehouse decided to expel two young Black representatives who were speaking on behalf of their constituents and on behalf of students who were protesting for more gun restriction? STATE REP. JOHN RAY CLEMMONS: This sends an incredibly alarming signal across the country that, if you speak up for what you believe, as a young Black man or as a lawmaker, you can be expelled from your duly elected position. That is truly alarming. And it should -- it's really beyond the pale. It should cause everyone, regardless of where you live or where you are, to rise up and take action and say, you're not going to allow this.
You're not going to allow Republicans to expel members just because they disagree with them, or don't like them perhaps, or don't like what they have to say. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And, Representative, you're meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris today. What's your message to her? STATE REP. JOHN RAY CLEMMONS: It is time we take action at both the federal level and the local level in the state of Tennessee. And I'm going to encourage her to encourage her friends in the U.S. Senate and the House to do what they can, and we will try to live up to our into the bargain as well and continue to fight here in the state of Tennessee.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Representative John Ray Clemmons, thank you so much for your time. STATE REP. JOHN RAY CLEMMONS: Thank you very much.
AMNA NAWAZ: A new change to Title IX could make broad bans on competition by transgender athletes illegal, but it does allow exceptions in particular cases. William Brangham has the details. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Amna, the proposal would mean any blanket policy prohibiting transgender athletes from competing would violate Title IX.
That's the law that prohibits sex-based discrimination by schools that receive government funding. This comes as 20 states have already passed some form of ban on trans student athletes. Kansas is the latest state to do so. On Wednesday, Republican legislators overrode a veto from Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, passing a bill that would restrict transgender students from women and girls sports from kindergarten through college. For more on this proposed rule, I'm joined by Orion Rummler.
He covers LGBTQ issues for The 19th News. Orion Rummler, so good to have you on the "NewsHour." Can you just explain what the Biden administration's proposal here would mean for schools? ORION RUMMLER, The 19th News: Yes, thank you so much, William. So, the proposed rule that came out yesterday, which is what we have been waiting for, since July 2022, it would allow schools, especially high schools and colleges, to keep trans students out of sports teams that match their gender identity if the school follows a list of guidelines that the agency goes into length about.
Some of the highlights that schools would have to follow includes the school would have to minimize harm for trans students. The school cannot be making blanket assumptions about trans students', especially trans girls, physical abilities. And schools also have to be able to prove that the exclusion is part of the genuine educational mandate, which they list, one of which would be fairness in competition. The Education Department said very clearly yesterday that these blanket bans that we're seeing, like the one in Kansas, these violate Title IX under this proposal.
But it does leave -- it does allow some exclusions. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As you were saying, suddenly, all of these states that have passed these blanket bans now suddenly could be illegal under this new proposal. What happens in that case? ORION RUMMLER: I asked the Education Department about this yesterday when they're doing a background briefing with reporters about the Title IX proposal.
And in those 20 states you mentioned, several of those 20 states, the -- those laws have been stalled in courts. But as far as enforcement goes, the Education Department would investigate, and it would talk to schools. It would seek compliance from that school.
And, usually, when the agency has to do a Title IX investigation, a school will choose to comply. But if a school does not, then the Education Department is able and willing to withhold federal funding. So that's what enforcement looks like when a school or a state has this blanket ban in effect, and they're not complying with this proposal. It would be federal funding withholding. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So what has been the reaction amongst the transgender community? I understand there's a bit of a mixed response to this.
ORION RUMMLER: Right. So, a few LGBTQ legal organizations applauded the decision full stop, and that includes National Center for Lesbian Rights. But then we saw Lambda Legal, another LGBT organization, they were more cautious. They said, obviously, this proposal is a good thing, because it says that 100 percent of these bans, they are illegal, but that they're not sure that this proposal would have would end discrimination for trans students. And then we have seen from trans advocates, especially experts who have been researching anti-LGBTQ legislation very closely, they say that this proposal is a betrayal of President Biden's promise to have the backs of trans youth.
They see this as going back on his promise, because it allows some of these exclusions, especially for competitive sports in high schools and colleges. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I want to get into some of those arguments recently. They were kind of highlighted recently in the Kansas legislature, which just, as we have mentioned, passed a blanket ban. I want to play two clips here that have people who are both against this ban and in favor of the ban. First off, this is D.C.
Hiegert of the Kansas ACLU testifying against Kansas' ban. D.C. HIEGERT, ACLU of Kansas: Proponents of this bill have said that it is about fairness, alleging it will protect cisgender girls from losing out on trophies and athletic scholarships. But in the three years the Kansas legislature -- since the Kansas legislature first introduced a bill similar to this, there has been no evidence of trans athletes causing any harm in Kansas sports.
But there is clear evidence that this bill causes harm to trans youth in our state and to girls -- and to all girls who play sports. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This is someone now who was in favor of the ban. This is Riley Gaines. She was a highly ranked NCAA swimmer.
She testified in favor. And she was telling here about what it was like to watch and compete against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. RILEY GAINES, Former NCAA Swimmer: We watched on the side of the pool as Thomas swam to a national title in the 500 freestyle, beating out the most impressive and accomplished female swimmers in the country, including three Olympians and American record holders, whereas, previously, in the men's division, Thomas ranked 462nd, at best. The next day, Thomas and I raced in the 200 freestyle, which ultimately resulted in a tie down to the 100th of a second. Having only one trophy, the NCAA gave it to Thomas and told me I had to go home empty-handed because Thomas had to hold the trophy for photo purposes. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, that is the argument that is made by proponents of these bans, that it is somehow fundamentally unfair to have someone who went through puberty as a male now competing against females in sports.
That is their argument, right? ORION RUMMLER: Well, yes. So, most, if not all of the sport bans, they will include something about, like, fairness or protecting women's sports and the title of the bill, because a lot of these bills are focused on restricting the ability of trans girls and trans women to compete in sports. So, the focus is usually on trans girls. And I would also point out as part of this conversation that, in the Title Ian policy proposal we're talking about, the Education Department says clearly, like, you cannot make blanket assumptions about this.
Like, you cannot say that all trans girls are physically superior to cisgender girls in sports, because that's a blanket assumption. It's illegal for you to do that. So, as we're considering the fairness argument, what the Education Department is saying is that blanket assumptions about that just won't hold up.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Orion Rummler of the 19th News, thank you so much for being here. ORION RUMMLER: Thank you, William. AMNA NAWAZ: For years, advocates have argued that incarcerated people in the U.S. are overcharged for basic phone calls.
It's a less well-known issue, but essential for prisoners and their families. This winter, a new law went into effect aimed at capping the price of those calls in prison and jail. But even as prices have come down, a new report is sounding the alarm about the escalating costs of essential non-phone services for video and electronic messaging as well. Our communities correspondent in New Orleans, Roby Chavez, has been looking into all of this as part of our series Searching for Justice, And he joins me now. Roby, it's great to see you. Thanks for joining us.
So, bring us up to speed on these prices. Why does it cost so much for incarcerated people to keep in touch with their families? ROBY CHAVEZ: Well, look, Amna, it is a huge burden. Some families tell us they spend anywhere from $400 to $500 a month just to stay in touch with their incarcerated loved ones. Now, there are many issues that impact these high costs of these phone services.
Number one on that is a lot of these prisons get commissions from their phone service providers. Advocates say they're getting kickbacks, and that is what keeping these prices high. There's also a lack of competition out there.
Only a handful of providers are giving services to prisons and jails across the country. And the one thing we hear from families is, in addition to the high cost of the calls, they also are inundated with extra fees just to deposit money or open or close one of these phone accounts. But there is help on the way.
As you mentioned, federal regulations, including a law signed by President Joe Biden in January, will put a cap in place for in-state calls. Previously, there was a cap only on out-of-state calls. Back in 2018, prices in jail ranged from $10 to $15 for a 15-minute call. Today, it's a lot lower. The average is about $3 a call, but family members say it's still too much. Now, advocates warned that there are still higher prices for other communication services, like video calls, e-mail-like services and using tablets, because all of those technologies remain unregulated.
AMNA NAWAZ: And, Roby, why are these calls so important? I mean, what do we know about the connection between public safety and making sure that incarcerated people are connected to the outside world? ROBY CHAVEZ: There's a lot of research that shows that it leads to better outcomes, while people are in prison, better behavior, better health. And then, once people are released from prison, if they have these good support circles in place, then that makes reentry much more successful. And studies show that it lowers the recidivism rate. In fact, those people who had no contact with loved ones were six times more likely to end up in prison. Now, these high costs are such a burden to families, particularly in states like Louisiana, where more than 50 percent of the population is considered working poor. Those costs add up.
We spoke with one family member who told us she spends about $300 a month just so her four daughters -- her four children, rather, can speak to their grandfather, who is incarcerated. The reason that matters is, because the burden falls on these families, they then become financially unstable and are more than likely not able to help their family members once they are released from prison. And the reason that that matters is because a lot of people who are released from prison have a lot of debt, like $13,000 in fees and fines that were incurred when they were sentenced. AMNA NAWAZ: So, Roby, the prices for phone calls have been coming down. That is good news.
But what about for other services to stay connected? Are families still being overcharged on those? ROBY CHAVEZ: Yes, Amna, as we wait for those new regulations to be put in place by late next year, advocates are already warning that some of the costs have already shifted to other forms of communication and technology. In fact, a report was released last week by the Prison Policy Initiative. They warned that prison telecom companies are evading regulations and making money off of those kinds of services like text-based electronic messaging, similar to e-mail, but comes with limitations.
The cost to send those e-messages varies. It could be free to 50 cents in places like Alaska and Arkansas. At least 43 state prisons now offer some type of electronic messaging options. Again, these type of messaging, it's not like regular e-mail, because it lacks certain features, has arbitrary restrictions like character limits. And attachments like photos and videos, those all cost extra. So most advocates believe we're moving in the right direction, but there are still some gaps.
AMNA NAWAZ: That is our communities correspondent, Roby Chavez, joining us from New Orleans. Roby, thank you so much. And you can read more of Roby's reporting online at PBS.org/NewsHour. Over half of Iraq's 42 million people are under the age of 25, which means they grew up in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein two decades ago. But while this young population could be a driver for growth, many find themselves shut out of Iraq's oil-rich economy and its political process. Special correspondent Simona Foltyn met three young Iraqis from the predominantly Shia, Sunni and Kurdish areas, all of whom are disappointed by the promises of Democratic rule.
SIMONA FOLTYN: Alaa Al Sattar was just in third grade when the United States invaded Iraq. But, even as an 8-year-old, he understood it was a turning point for the country. ALAA AL SATTAR, Aspiring Politician (through translator): At the beginning of each class, we had to say "Long live the leader, Saddam Hussein." After the regime fell, we went to school, and the teacher insulted Saddam Hussein and said: "Do not repeat that slogan anymore.
Say, long live Iraq." SIMONA FOLTYN: We are in Baghdad's Firdos Square, the iconic place where Saddam's statue was toppled on April 9, 2003. The pictures were broadcast around the world, signaling the beginning of a new era.
But 20 years on, the generation that grew up in the shadow of the American invasion is increasingly disappointed. ALAA AL SATTAR (through translator): The leaders of the American invasion said that a generation of freedom will emerge that is raised on freedom and the principles of democracy. But I one of this generation, and I find myself fighting for freedom and the right to live.
SIMONA FOLTYN: I first met Alaa during the Tishreen or October protests which began in October. Years of accumulated anger over corruption, poor services and lack of jobs ushered in the biggest grassroots protest movement since Saddam's overthrow. Young Iraqis from across the Shiite south rose up against corrupt ruling elites. It felt like an unprecedented opportunity to reform the system.
Alaa set up a new political party called the National House designed to transcend ethno-sectarian divides. ALAA AL SATTAR (through translator): Those goals we want to achieve are the same which the Tishreen demonstration called for. We want to build one Iraqi nation. SIMONA FOLTYN: But the protests were brutally crushed.
Tahrir Square, back then the epicenter of the protests, is now empty. Alaa's political party fell apart. ALAA AL SATTAR (through translator): The authorities in different political parties managed to dismantle our party. They offered money in exchange for adopting a certain political vision. SIMONA FOLTYN: Just like the Tishreen movement, Alaa's young party lacked unity and organization. The failure of the Tishreen protest movement to achieve tangible change is a sign just how difficult it is for Iraqis to realize their aspirations in a country that is ruled not by institutions and laws, but by those with money and guns.
Though Iraq's elites are more entrenched than ever, the protest movement left a lasting imprint on popular culture and political discourse. Cafes like this are opening across town, providing new spaces for students, artists and activists. Alaa and his friends regularly meet here to discuss the latest political developments. Tonight, they debate the impact of a new electoral law on the ability of new parties to run in future elections. ALAA AL SATTAR (through translator): We always say, this is a long struggle.
We agree that the struggle should not come through weapons, but through peaceful means. We are committed to pursue this change for years to come. SIMONA FOLTYN: In other parts of Iraq too, youth are trying to organize in the face of powerful political interests. In the Western city of Fallujah, Kauther al Mohammedi leads a grassroots organization that is advocating for better services.
KAUTHER AL MOHAMMEDI, President, Suqia (through translator): Our case is to serve the society and to help them access services. Our goal is not to get government positions. SIMONA FOLTYN: A simple, yet dangerous mission. The province has seen a rise in arrests of those who dare to criticize local authorities.
It is a worrying sign that freedom of expression, the main benefit of removing Saddam, is receding. KAUTHER AL MOHAMMEDI (through translator): The more time passes the less, space we have for freedom of expression. Previously, I used to raise my voice to demand better services. But, today, I can't.
When I publish something on social media, I get threatened. SIMONA FOLTYN: Kauther worries that the latest crackdown heralds a new period of upheaval in Anbar Province, which saw some of the worst violence in the wake of the U.S. invasion. Fallujah was the site of the two battles between American troops and insurgents. The first battle began shortly after the invasion, when four American contractors were killed, their bodies hung from this bridge. The images drew indignation in the United States and prompted the launch of a counterinsurgency campaign. As was so often the case, civilians were caught in the middle.
KAUTHER AL MOHAMMEDI (through translator): River crossing was about life and death. The people in Fallujah can't go to the other side. SIMONA FOLTYN: Kauther was 13 years old back then. Many children and especially girls dropped out of school because it was simply too dangerous to get there.
Kauther had to run a gauntlet of checkpoints every day to continue her education. KAUTHER AL MOHAMMEDI (through translator): Just before my school, there was a gunman who would point the gun to my head and say: "When are you going to be done? Enough already with your studies." SIMONA FOLTYN: Women's rights regressed as a result of decades of war and hardship, prompting society to turn towards tribal and religious values. Iraq is relatively stable today, but women still struggle to reclaim their rightful place in society and politics.
KAUTHER AL MOHAMMEDI (through translator): Women used to play a role in Fallujah, but now what you will find is marginalization and exploitation and not investment. SIMONA FOLTYN: Although the 2005 constitution introduced a quota that guarantees women at least 25 percent of seats in Parliament, Kauther has no illusion about who really holds the power. KAUTHER AL MOHAMMEDI (through translator): Politicians use women in their party lists to gain more positions. Many women are refusing to run in elections, because they will find themselves reduced to just a name and a vote. SIMONA FOLTYN: It is one reason Kauther doesn't want to run for office or accept funding from political parties. But this effort to maintain her independence also limits her ability to help the most disadvantaged.
We accompany her as she visits slums on the outskirts of Fallujah, where many women widowed by wars struggle to make a living. KAUTHER AL MOHAMMEDI (through translator): I do not know what I can offer them in terms of donations. This case requires state intervention, but these women are not a priority for the government. SIMONA FOLTYN: Neglect, authoritarianism and corruption, these are the byproducts of the U.S. invasion that afflict Iraq's youth across the country, even in semiautonomous Kurdistan. The oil-rich northern region has been spared much of the turmoil that has rocked Iraq over the past two decades and is often hailed as an enclave of stability and prosperity.
But little of that has translated into opportunities for its youth. ALAN OSMAN, Laborer (through translator): There are very few opportunities for everyone, including the workers and the, business owners. SIMONA FOLTYN: Alan is 19 years old.
He dropped out of ninth grade and has worked as a daily laborer since. Stable jobs are reserved for those with connections to the two ruling families, the Barzanis and the Talabanis, whose political parties are all-powerful. ALAN OSMAN (through translator): Even studying is pointless in this country. That is why I quit. I have watched many people, including my sisters and my brother, graduate with degrees like the English language, journalism, and accounting, but they still couldn't find any jobs. SIMONA FOLTYN: This lack of hope is pushing youth in two dangerous directions.
One is migration. Last year, Alan was one of thousands of young Kurds who tried, but failed to reach Europe via Belarus. Although he is still paying back thousands of dollars he borrowed to pay smugglers, he is ready to risk it all again. ALAN OSMAN (through translator): If life is good here, I won't leave. But if things do not get better, I will have no choice but to try again. SIMONA FOLTYN: But it is the effect that second could be of concern for internal stability.
Many youth like Alan are increasingly drawn to ultraconservative interpretations of Islam as a solution for the region's governance problems. Alan thinks the region would be better off under Islamic law. ALAN OSMAN (through translator): If the country was ruled by the Koran and the word of the Prophet Mohammed, everything would get better. SIMONA FOLTYN: From Shia to Sunni to Kurdish areas of the country, much of the post-2003 generation feels Iraq's elites have failed them, eroding the legitimacy of the political system that the United States helped install.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Simona Foltyn in Iraq. AMNA NAWAZ: It has been a historic week in politics, with former President Trump appearing in court and two members of the Tennessee state legislature being expelled from office. For more on that, we turn now to the analysis of Capehart and Abernathy. That's Jonathan Capehart, associate editor for The Washington Post, and his fellow Post colleague Gary Abernathy. David Brooks is away tonight. Welcome to you both.
Good to see you. JONATHAN CAPEHART: Hi, Amna. GARY ABERNATHY: Thank you.
AMNA NAWAZ: Quite a week. We saw former President Donald Trump enter a not guilty plea in a Manhattan court, go to Florida, deliver a fiery speech. He is running for president. He is raising money off of this, millions so far. And he has widened the gap, Jonathan, from his next closest potential contender. Are these criminal charges going to propel him to the GOP nomination? JONATHAN CAPEHART: Yes.
Yes. And I say that with confidence. I can see Gary nodding in agreement. And I say that because I have seen this movie before.
In 2016, when everyone -- everyone was saying, there's no way this guy can win, I started watching his poll numbers, particularly when he attacked now the late Senator John McCain, when he said what he -- the horrific things he said about John McCain, and then his numbers went up within the Republican primary base, a party that loved the military and loves strength. And yet they sided with a guy who attacked a war hero and a former prisoner of war. And so now that he's got one -- been indicted by one jurisdiction, there might be others coming down the road, they're circling the wagons around him, because, for the Republican primary base, he is their guy. He is their avatar for all of their grievances and upset with the government. I don't see how anyone takes the nomination away from him.
AMNA NAWAZ: Gary, only Asa Hutchinson, only Asa Hutchinson, the former Arkansas governor who's also now declared he will run, has said that Trump has been indicted, he should step aside, we don't need this distraction. GARY ABERNATHY: Yes. AMNA NAWAZ: Why is he the only one? GARY ABERNATHY: Well, I think some of it is because there are real questions about this indictment. I thought Ruth Marcus had a really good column this week in The Post talking about -- and she's no -- obviously, no Trump fan -- what a high-wire act this indictment is. It's kind of -- it's very flimsy.
And I think that some of the circling the wagons around Trump is because this does seem like a rather politicized indictment. I mean, it's -- if I'm Joe Biden, I'm thinking, I beat Trump two years ago. I'm the president of the United States.
What's everybody talking about? We're talking about Donald Trump. AMNA NAWAZ: Right. GARY ABERNATHY: And now, with the New York indictment, with possible indictments coming out of Georgia, with a January 6 investigation ongoing, he's guaranteed to be top-of-mind conversation for the next couple of years, not just because he's running for president, but because of these indictments.
And, frankly, while each one of these involves shameful acts by Trump, no doubt about it, I don't think any of them are probably going to result in criminal guilty findings in any case. And yet that's all we're going to be talking about. (CROSSTALK) AMNA NAWAZ: Because we hear this a lot, so I want to just pull this out of it. When you say it's politicized, what do you mean by that, the indictment itself? GARY ABERNATHY: Well, I mean, everybody seems to agree that there's just -- there's not much there.
I mean, you're taking -- for the first time, you're taking what are misdemeanor charges and trying to, as they say, bootstrap them into felonies by someone who campaigned on, hey, I'm the toughest on Trump, kind of I'm going to get Trump. That's what seems political about it. AMNA NAWAZ: I want to play for you just a couple of sound bites.
I will get you in just a second, Jonathan, I see you wanting to jump in. (LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: But we had a chance earlier today to listen in to a focus group of Republican voters. It was led by Republican strategist Sarah Longwell's group.
Here is just a snippet of what a couple of those voters had to say. It's Bobby from Texas and Katie from Michigan. Take a listen. BOBBY, Texas: There's bigger charges that are out there that somebody could be arrested for. Now, if one of us probably did it, yes, I could understand.
But somebody at that level of authority like Trump was, I don't feel like it's necessary for that kind of situation. KATIE, Michigan: He's a politician. Politicians do bad things. Everybody has skeletons in their closet. There's so many other people, Hillary and Obama and Biden and Hunter and all these other things, that -- it's like there's such a fuel to hate Trump so much. AMNA NAWAZ: Jonathan, what does this say to you about how this investigation -- you mentioned other investigations -- how any of this will resonate with voters? JONATHAN CAPEHART: I mean, I'm sorry.
I'm just bracing myself after -- after listening to that, because especially the young man who said, when you're at that level, maybe this shouldn't happen. This is about accountability. And I disagree with you, Gary, that the charges brought by the grand jury are flimsy, that this is a politicized case, that, basically, what you're arguing is that this isn't worth doing. And I argue and a lot of other people argue that just because you were a former president of the United States does not give you a pass on following the law. And, fine, you don't like Alvin Bragg's case against Donald Trump.
Then I cannot wait to hear what you have to say when Fani Willis in Georgia presents, if she does, an indictment against people in the administration and maybe possibly Donald Trump himself, or what you say about Jack Smith and potential indictments there on the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case, but also the January 6 insurrection. At some point, this man has to be held accountable for things that we saw him do with our own eyes. AMNA NAWAZ: Gary, this idea we heard from Bobby that, at that level, it shouldn't happen, that seems to say people think, well, some people should be above the law. GARY ABERNATHY: Well, and they shouldn't be.
But prosecutors decide all the time, is this a case I can win? And, again, legal experts seem kind of across the board to agree, this is a tough one to win. And do you bring a case like that against a president? You have to weigh everything. You have to be honest about the political environment, the reaction this is going to bring, and say, OK, if I have got a winnable case, I got to bring it.
But if I have got a case that most people are saying there's not much here, you got to question bringing it. AMNA NAWAZ: We have to move on. We're going to be coming back to this for several months, I promise you. (LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: I do want to ask you about what we just reported on in Tennessee, because it was a big and unprecedented move, Republicans in the Statehouse there voting to expel two Democratic lawmakers, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, both Black men. They voted on a third you see there in the middle, Gloria Johnson, who's a white woman, but they did not expel her.
They were expelled for breaking decorum by taking part in a protest calling for gun safety reform after six people were killed in a Nashville school. Jonathan, what message does that expulsion send? JONATHAN CAPEHART: I'm going to use some tart language right now. I think the message that the Tennessee legislature sent to the state, to their constituents, to those young people who were demonstrating for their own lives, basically said to them: We don't give a damn about you. Those young people came out to their state capitol asking for help days after a school was added to the list of schools that have had to suffer mass shootings. Representative Gloria Johnson was in a school shooting.
She knows why those young people are there. And so, for the Tennessee leg -- the House of Representatives to strip Jones and Pearson of their seats, they're basically saying to Jones and Pearson's constituents: We don't care about you either. Those people in their districts have no representative in the state legislature. So, I'm sorry. What should those folks think? They should think that the people who are there in the state capitol supposed -- who are supposed to be there fighting for all of them, they just don't give a damn about them.
GARY ABERNATHY: I'm not sure I would have voted to expel them, but I'm not sure it's so outrageous to do it. No one's complaining, I don't think, about the other -- the regular folks who were there protesting. When the legislators go down and protest with them, there's a decorum in the House or in any state legislature or in Congress. I don't like it when people shout out during a State of the Union address and break that decorum. And when folks go down and participate against their own body, against their fellow members too, with the regular citizens that are protesting, I think that crosses a line that you say, as a leader, you have crossed the line against your fellow legislators in what you're doing. JONATHAN CAPEHART: Expulsion.
Expulsion. Gary, how about a slap on the wrist, censure, dock their pay, their debit card at the concession stand? I don't know. But to remove them from office, that is so extreme. And we are in a time now where some other Republicans in other state legislatures will copy what was done in Tennessee. GARY ABERNATHY: I do think you have a line that you say, we expect this from our fellow members.
Now, again, I'm not -- I don't think I would have voted to expel them either. I'm not entirely disagreeing with you on this one, Jonathan, but.. JONATHAN CAPEHART: It's the "I don't think" part. GARY ABERNATHY: But I don't it's completely outrageous, Amna, what they did. I think it's obviously within their rules to do it.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: We have seen this before, though, at the federal level, when the late -- now late John Lewis, after a school -- after a mass shooting, went to the well of the House of Representatives, flanked by fellow members of Congress, Democrats, and led a sit-in on the House floor. And did the Republican speaker of the House -- I mean, there was a lot of upset. They could have been arrested, but they weren't, because there was judgment.
There was real leadership in the speaker at the time. AMNA NAWAZ: We are going to have to leave it there. But I guarantee you we will be talking about this again. I'm sure we will.
I thank you both for joining in the conversation, Gary Abernathy, Jonathan Capehart. GARY ABERNATHY: Thank you. JONATHAN CAPEHART: Thanks, Amna.
AMNA NAWAZ: Thank you. As the CIA marks its 75th anniversary, it gave us a rare peek into its newly renovated museum. The space is for its own officers. It's not open to the public, and it displays mementos from some of the agency's most clandestine operations. Nick Schifrin got a tour for our arts and culture series, Canvas.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In a working hallway in one of the world's most clandestine buildings, the new CIA Museum begins with one of the U.S.' single worst intelligence failures. JANELLE NEISES, Deputy Director CIA Museum: The attacks on Pearl Harbor are definitely something our organization can look at and say, we need to make sure this never happens again. NICK SCHIFRIN: Janelle Neises is the CIA Museum's deputy director.
She shows us CIA artifacts, Osama bin Laden's gun and a model of his Pakistan home where the CIA hunted and found him. The CIA hopes the museum helps officers find lessons from past mistakes. JANELLE NEISES: When the CIA looks back at Curveball, I think it really was that turning point of looking at the other things, making sure you stay away from tunnel vision and that you really don't focus in on one possibility. COLIN POWELL, Former U.S. Secretary of State: Every statement I make is backed up by sources,
solid sources. NICK SCHIFRIN: Twenty years ago, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, with CIA Director George Tenet behind him, used intelligence that came in part from an asset known as Curveball to make the case for war in Iraq. COLIN POWELL: They can produce anthrax and botulinum toxin. In fact, they can produce enough dry biological agent in a single month to kill thousands upon thousands of people. NICK SCHIFRIN: Curveball and his claimed intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, or WMD, proved false.
JANELLE NEISES: It is a lesson and always look to the other sides, what are the other possibilities, and make sure that, again, you are speaking truth to power. If you know something, say something to your managers, or say something, in this case, to the president. NICK SCHIFRIN: The president is known as the CIA's first customer, who receives a daily brief, once called the President's Intelligence Checklist. It got that name under President Kennedy, after another notorious failure, CIA-funded and trained Cuban rebels who failed spectacularly, to overthrow Fidel Castro. They landed at the Bay of Pigs, which wasn't the original plan Kennedy approved.
JANELLE NEISES: He wanted to change a plan that we had spent months, almost a year planning, and then gave us less than a week to kind of reassess and operate very differently. And we should have said something. Telling the president this isn't going to work is obviously not an easy thing for a CIA officer to do.
But the American people depend on us to do that, because we're the ones with the information, with the intelligence. NICK SCHIFRIN: And the museum ends with a more recent failure, the August 6, 2001, President's Daily Brief, or PDB, just five weeks before 9/11, titled "Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.." JANELLE NEISES: Sometimes when we notice things, maybe we need to push them sooner. ROBERT BYER, Director, CIA Museum: We need to make sure our officers don't forget the lessons of the past, because, if so, they're just going to repeat them. NICK SCHIFRIN: Robert Byer is the museum's director.
He says acknowledging failures is the only way to learn from the past. ROBERT BYER: When you look at the failures of CIA and then understand what you need to do in order to build upon that, you get incredible success stories. For instance, Red Cell analysis was accelerated after the WMD issue.
And what that leads to is, when you get to the raid at Abbottabad, we show President Obama all the different possible permutations of who could possibly be at Abbottabad. NICK SCHIFRIN: It is not only about lessons learned. There's the gadgets that inspired James Bond, an Arctic suit, boots, a helmet, and instructions for a 1962 operation called Cold Feet, when a low-flying plane picked up CIA agents who had stolen Soviet research in the Arctic. That was a real-life escape copied for the end of Bond's "Thunderball." Real spy work is, of course, not as glamorous.
This building used to be an annex in downtown D.C., and it used to be known as the PICL Factory for that President's Intelligence Checklist, or PICL. This is actually commemorative from the day Kennedy was assassinated, with a poem that Kennedy read to reassure the public during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when he managed to apply the lessons of his own past failures. ROBERT BYER: This can't be just history for history's sake. This has to be history to improve today's and tomorrow's operations.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Many CIA stories remain secret, like the still-undisclosed messages coded into the ceiling. But it's an attempt to study the past to try and improve the future. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin in Langley, Virginia.
AMNA NAWAZ: Some late-breaking news tonight. A federal judge in Texas has halted the FDA's approval of the abortion pill mifepristone, while a legal challenge filed by anti-abortion groups proceeds. The drug, when used with a second pill, is the most common method of abortion in the U.S.
The Biden administration has one week to appeal. We will have much more on this ruling tomorrow on "PBS News Weekend." And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Amna Nawaz.
Thank you for joining us, and have a great weekend.