PBS NewsHour full episode, March 31, 2023

PBS NewsHour full episode, March 31, 2023

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AMNA NAWAZ: Good evening. I'm Amna Nawaz. Geoff Bennett is on assignment. On the "NewsHour" tonight: Republicans rally around former President Donald Trump after his indictment over hush money payments during the 2016 campaign. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency visits a nuclear power plant on the front lines of Russia's war in Ukraine. RAFAEL GROSSI, Director General, IAEA: My goal is to protect the plant and prevent a nuclear accident with catastrophic radiological consequences, which at this moment is entirely possible.

AMNA NAWAZ: And David Brooks and Karen Tumulty weigh in on Trump's legal battles and how they could affect political divides in the United States. (BREAK) AMNA NAWAZ: Welcome to the "NewsHour." We are starting tonight with two major stories.

First, a tornado has plowed into Little Rock, Arkansas, and nearby towns with reports of heavy damage and many people injured. Amateur video captured the huge funnel cloud on the horizon. And driving, straight-line winds whipped trees and sent sheets of rain into the city.

The storm flipped cars, tore away rooftops and knocked out power to thousands. Emergency crews rushed out to search for victims and perform rescue operations. It was all part of a massive storm front that affected at least 15 states from the Great Lakes to the Deep South. Joining us now by phone is Bill Bunting. He's operations chief for the NOAA Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

Bill Bunting, welcome and thank you for joining us. What can you tell us about the strength and the scale of the storm that just hit Little Rock? BILL BUNTING, Operations Chief, Storm Prediction Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Well, at the moment, the information that we have, as you noted, suggests there was a very strong tornado touchdown across portions of the Little Rock metro. And we have received reports of a number of injuries, damage to neighborhoods, overturned vehicles, widespread power outages. Those details will become clearer as the evening progresses. And it's, unfortunately, all part of a very large weather system that extends from Eastern Iowa down into Eastern Texas and that will continue racing east overnight over a large part of the Ohio Valley.

AMNA NAWAZ: We know some 28 million people are under tornado watches this afternoon. Where is it headed next? What should they be bracing for? BILL BUNTING: Well, the storms right now are moving towards the Mississippi River Valley area. We have also got a separate area of storms approaching Chicago. And, at the moment, a tornado emergency is in effect northwest of Memphis.

So the storms remain quite dangerous, reports of very large hail, baseball-sized, destructive straight-line winds, perhaps in excess of hurricane-force, and the continued threat of tornadoes, moving east overnight, as far east of Columbus, Ohio, through Nashville, even into Northwest Alabama, so a large area affected, and, unfortunately, a really active start, early start, to our severe weather season. AMNA NAWAZ: And, Bill, briefly if you can, for the places that have already been hit, is the worst behind them? BILL BUNTING: In the areas hardest hit, likely yes. There are a few storms to the west, and that could hamper rescue and recovery operations. But the most significant threat for tornadoes, certainly in Little Rock, has shifted south and east. But folks will have to be watching out for lightning, perhaps even some hail over the next few hours.

AMNA NAWAZ: That is Bill Bunting joining us on the phone tonight, the operations chief for the NOAA Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Bill, thank you for joining us. BILL BUNTING: Thank you. AMNA NAWAZ: Our other lead story tonight, the historic indictment of Donald Trump.

That news has set off a frenzied 24 hours of reaction from some of former president's closest allies and GOP rivals. With just a few days before Trump's arraignment, Geoff Bennett has the latest from New York. GEOFF BENNETT: New York City on alert tonight for potential unrest following the indictment of Donald Trump, the first former president to be charged with a crime. Mr. Trump previously warned of potential death and destruction if charges were brought. The indictment reportedly includes more than 30 counts stemming from hush money payments allegedly paid to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign.

While the specific charges Mr. Trump faces are still sealed, political backlash was fast and fierce, Mr. Trump slamming Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg as a disgrace and dismissing the case as another witch-hunt.

JOE TACOPINA, Attorney For Donald Trump: He's ready to fight. GEOFF BENNETT: His attorney says the former president was shocked by news of the indictment, despite Mr. Trump saying on social media earlier this month he expected to be arrested in connection with the investigation. JOE TACOPINA: I have never been more angry about a charge, because, today, the rule of law in the United States of America died.

GEOFF BENNETT: Former President Trump's supporters quickly flocked to his Florida home. JOHN SKEADAS, Trump Supporter: If we don't stand up for what's right, then we're no better than Venezuela. GEOFF BENNETT: And many of his potential 2024 rivals rushed to his defense. MIKE PENCE, Former Vice President of the United States: The American people will see this for what it is. GEOFF BENNETT: Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has been critical of Mr. Trump's

role in the January 6 insurrection, said these charges go too far. MIKE PENCE: The unprecedented indictment of a former president of the United States for a campaign finance issue is an outrage. And I think it's clear to the overwhelming majority of the American people that this is nothing short of a political prosecution. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called the indictment un-American. And former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who previously said Mr. Trump should drop

out of the 2024 race if he was indicted, called the news a dark day for America, adding that, while Mr. Trump is presumed innocent, the grand jury found credible facts to support the charges. For his part, Donald Trump spent last night on the phone shoring up support among Republican allies in Congress.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This is legal voodoo. You got a misdemeanor that's been made a felony. Nobody in the history of New York City has ever been prosecuted under this theory, except for Donald J. Trump.

GEOFF BENNETT: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy accused the Manhattan DA of weaponizing "our sacred system of justice" and said House Republicans would investigate Alvin Bragg's actions. As for reaction from the White House: JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: I have no comment on that. GEOFF BENNETT: President Biden choosing not to weigh in as he spoke to reporters this morning, the current president opting to stay out of an active criminal matter, while focusing on his own agenda. MICHAEL COHEN, Former Attorney/Fixer For Donald Trump: I decided that really my loyalty can no longer be to a man who doesn't deserve it.

GEOFF BENNETT: But the key witness, Michael Cohen, who spent hours testifying to the grand jury in recent weeks and previously pleaded guilty to federal charges connected to the hush money payments, said Mr. Trump is finally being held accountable. MICHAEL COHEN: He's seething right now. He is beyond angry. He doesn't understand accountability. And, right now, Alvin Bragg has finally put that into his lap.

GEOFF BENNETT: Donald Trump is expected to be in court for the first time Tuesday afternoon. When Donald Trump is arraigned on the 15th floor of the courthouse behind me, he will have to enter a plea on the charges. It's not clear whether he will be handcuffed during that appearance, but we know he will be photographed, fingerprinted and processed for a felony arrest.

His legal team is expected to vigorously fight these charges. But a timeline for a potential trial right now remains unclear. Meantime, we have not seen any demonstrators or protesters today. But given concerns about the potential for violence on the scale of what transpired during the January 6 insurrection, the NYPD says it's working with its law enforcement partners at every level of government to prepare accordingly -- Amna. AMNA NAWAZ: That's Geoff Bennett in New York for us tonight.

Geoff, thank you. And following all of this here is our White House correspondent, Laura Barron-Lopez. Good to see you, Laura. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: It's good to see you. AMNA NAWAZ: So, what are you hearing from people you're talking to about the initial implications of Trump's bid -- he is a current candidate for president -- and the rest of the 2024 GOP presidential field? LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: So, first off, this indictment does not legally disqualify the former President Trump running, so he is continuing to run. But I spoke to a number of GOP strategists who told me that, in the short term, they believe that this helps Trump, because, essentially, it requires all of his rivals or would-be rivals to have to respond to him, to talk about him, to define themselves in association with him.

And, now, whether or not that extends all the way through the primary into the nomination is a big question. There's a lot of time left on the board. AMNA NAWAZ: So we have heard repeatedly Mr. Trump and his Republican allies calling out

the -- what they call the weaponization of the justice system, calling all of these investigations witch-hunts. When you talk to extremism experts, in particular, what do they tell you about the implications of that kind of language? LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: So that language that you just mentioned, Amna, weaponization, has been used by Trump, as well as House GOP leaders like Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise and a number of other Republicans. They have also used words like -- quote -- "persecution, witch-hunt." And I spoke to historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat out of New York University today, and she diagnosed that victimization language. RUTH BEN-GHIAT, NYU History Professional: This is a talking point of authoritarians to try and get the public to see the forces against them as discredited, partisan hacks and thus retain their reputation for being the ones who are going to drain the swamp, which was Mussolini's slogan initially, clean up the nation, and they are the ones who stand for patriotism, and these others are just targeting them because they don't want the nation to succeed. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: So, you heard Ruth say there that those are hallmarks of authoritarian movements.

And she also said traits of authoritarian movements are attacking the press, attacking judges, attacking prosecutors. AMNA NAWAZ: What about the prospects of political violence here? We have heard Mr. Trump calling for protests for a week. We saw Geoff reporting there in New York that New York officials are ramping up their security. Mr. Trump has promised death and destruction if there was an indictment.

What should we -- what should we look for ahead? LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: So, on that security that New York P.D. is ramping up, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a big ally of Trump, a House Republican, said that she's headed to New York on Tuesday for the arraignment. She tweeted that today, saying that she's going to be going there and calling for protests, also calling it a witch-hunt in her tweet. That also comes, Amna, as FOX's Tucker Carlson, on air, as he's talking about the indictment, is telling his viewers that it's probably not a good time for them to get rid of their AR-15s. And it also comes as Trump and a number of his allies have been using dog whistle attacks, antisemitic attacks against -- when they attack DA Alvin Bragg by saying that he is backed by George Soros, who is Jewish.

And I spoke to a researcher at the Soufan Center, which tracks extremism. They track some 32 sites across the web. And they -- he told me that the violent rhetoric right now on those platforms is lukewarm compared to January 6, so it's not as intense. But they are concerned because of the fact that it can just take one bad after, the way we saw in Ohio after the Mar-a-Lago raid where there was an attack on the FBI. And so they are tracking that and very concerned about the potential for more violence. AMNA NAWAZ: Of course, we're all hoping it does not come to that.

Laura Barron-Lopez, covering all this for us, thank you. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Thank you. AMNA NAWAZ: And diving now into the legal and political fallout, I'm joined by former federal prosecutor Elie Honig and ProPublica reporter Andrea Bernstein, who has long covered the former president. Welcome to both of you, and thanks for joining us. Elie, we have to point out there's a lot we don't know yet.

But let's start with what we do know. As Geoff Bennett reported earlier, Mr. Trump is expected to be arraigned on Tuesday. There is a whole process.

Walk us through what happens and when we should expect more details on the indictment itself. ELIE HONIG, Former Federal Prosecutor: Sure, Amna. For all the hoopla and the circus-like atmosphere that's sure to envelop the courthouse on Tuesday, this will really be a fairly routine proceeding. Donald Trump will be led into the building, surely under tight lock and key, not handcuffed, to be clear. He will be fingerprinted.

He will be mug-shotted. The mug shot, by the way, is supposed to remain not public under New York law. Then he will come out for a court appearance. At that point, the indictment will be unsealed, meaning it will become available to us in the general public and the media.

Donald Trump will then be advised of the charges against him. He will enter a not guilty plea. The judge will then release Donald Trump on bail, what we call released on his own recognizance, meaning leave him free to go. And he just has to come back from the next court appearance. And then we will be under way. We will be into our court system under a case captioned People of the State of New York vs. Donald J. Trump.

AMNA NAWAZ: Andrea, a defense attorney for Mr. Trump, Joe Tacopina, said Mr. Trump was shocked by the indictment, also that he is -- quote -- "ready to fight." What does that say to you? ANDREA BERNSTEIN, ProPublica: Well, Trump's lawyers have been attacking a potential indictment for weeks now. They have been saying the case is weak.

They have been saying it's unprecedented. Of course, it's hard to tell because we haven't actually seen an indictment. We have seen any charges.

We haven't -- we have no indication of the evidence that the DA has put forward in this case. So, all of that is yet to be learned. We will begin learning on Tuesday, when the indictment is unsealed. But, of course, it'll take many months of the trial proceedings to -- and probably the trial itself to really understand the full dimensions of this case. AMNA NAWAZ: Elie, as Geoff reported, the security preps in New York are beginning.

We have heard some of the language from Mr. Trump and his supporters in the past. The idea of political violence in this case is not a hypothetical. We have seen what happens when some of his supporters have followed his instruction in the past. Can he be prevented from inciting violence in this case? ELIE HONIG: So there is a way, at an extreme, where a judge can impose what we call a gag order, meaning issue an official court order prohibiting a participant in a trial from speaking. That is a very high bar legally.

Now, any participant in the justice system has the right to criticize a judge or a prosecutor. It's not a great idea, but they do have that right. However, I believe there are lines here that already have been crossed in the way that Donald Trump has launched attacks, including racist attacks, including attacks not so subtly calling for violent resistance. And so I do think we could get to a point fairly quickly where the prosecutor needs to go to the judge and say: Judge, it's an extreme measure. We rarely do it. But we need a gag order in this case.

We're not there yet, but it's something the prosecutor has to be thinking about. AMNA NAWAZ: And, Andrea, you have been following this case very, very closely. We do not know the details of that indictment yet. But knowing it is related to those hush money payments involving an alleged affair with Mr. Trump, what could potential charges look like in this case? ANDREA BERNSTEIN: So the discussion has centered around falsification of business records, which, in New York, can be an E felony punishable with jail time of up to four years. Now, of course, that infrequently is applied in these kinds of white-collar cases.

But it is a felony in New York. It is a serious charge. And the allegation, and what the DEA has been looking at is, we know from Michael Cohen that he paid money to Stormy Daniels. We know from records that the prosecution in that case released that they were the -- that hush money payment was reimbursed by Donald Trump, and that Trump's company referred to it as a legal retainer, which it was not. What is being investigated is Trump's alleged role in all of this.

And by the fact that there's an indictment, it appears that the DA believes there is sufficient evidence to prove that Mr. Trump orchestrated this scheme of calling something a legal retainer that was actually, as Michael Cohen has described it, a sort of last-ditch effort, successful, as Cohen described it, to save Mr. Trump's 2016 election bid at that time. And, of course, this all came out after the "Access Hollywood" tape, just when within weeks of that. So that is the question that I think we will be seeing be laid out in these legal procedures is, what did Mr. Trump do to keep this testimony from coming forward?

And what kind of arrangements did he make? So all of that remains a question, of course. And then, before any of that happens, we certainly expect Mr. Trump's team to try to get the appeals courts in New York to throw out the indictment. So there will certainly be legal maneuvering in this case starting very quickly, I would imagine. AMNA NAWAZ: A lot to cover. A lot we don't yet know, but we thank both of you for joining us today to explain all of that.

That is Elie Honig and Andrea Bernstein. Thank you to you both. ANDREA BERNSTEIN: Thank you. AMNA NAWAZ: In the day's other headlines: President Biden spent much of the afternoon in a Mississippi Delta town leveled by a tornado last Friday. At least 13 people died in Rolling Fork, and hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged.

The president and the first lady met today with residents and first responders. Mr. Biden promised that federal teams won't leave until the area can recover. JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: This community is going to be rebuilt and rebuilt and built back better than it was before. The resilience to this community has been remarkable. And I just want you to know, as you fight through this, you're not alone. AMNA NAWAZ: The president has already approved a disaster declaration for the stricken area.

It authorizes funds for temporary housing, repairs and loans. The U.S. Justice Department filed suit today against Norfolk Southern Railroad over a February train derailment in East Palestine Ohio. The suit seeks fines for water pollution and a judgment that the company pays all costs.

The derailment left railcars strewn about and on fire.Chemicals and firefighting foam spilled into nearby creeks and rivers. The city of Minneapolis has agreed to restructure its policing nearly three years after an officer killed George Floyd. The legally binding pact limits the use of force, chemical sprays and Tasers, among other things.

A state investigation has found longstanding racial bias among the city's police. But the mayor said today he hopes that begins to change. JACOB FREY (D), Mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota: So I think it's clear that the murder of George Floyd was the final straw that led to this investigation. But this investigation, as has been stated repeatedly, is about a pattern practice over more than a decade. And that's why this work of embedding that culture change is so essential. AMNA NAWAZ: The Minneapolis Police Department remains under a separate federal investigation.

Pope Francis is now expected to be discharged tomorrow from the Rome hospital where he's been treated for bronchitis. The Vatican said today that the pontiff will also be in St. Peter's Square for Palm Sunday mass. Francis is 86 years old. He was hospitalized on Wednesday with breathing problems. And Ukraine today marked one year since the liberation of Bucha, the town near Kyiv where hundreds of bodies and mass graves were found.

Today, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy honored those killed during Bucha's month-long occupation. And with other European leaders joining him, he called out Moscow. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, Ukrainian President (through translator): On the streets of Bucha, the world has seen Russian evil, the evil unmasked. For more than 400 days, Ukrainian people completely focused on resisting a genocidal full-scale aggression of Russia. Ukraine is being helped by our friends, and they are here today. And we are grateful.

AMNA NAWAZ: Also today, the president of neighboring Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, said his country may host long-range Russian nuclear weapons carried on missiles. China sent nine warplanes across the median line in the Taiwan Strait today, as Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was in New York. Officials in Taipei said the Chinese conducted patrols along the line, which serves as a maritime border between the island and the mainland. Beijing had warned Tsai not to meet with Kevin McCarthy, the U.S. House speaker, when she

stops in Los Angeles next week. The latest look at Social Security and Medicare concludes they will run short of funds within 10 years. Program trustees projected today that Social Security won't be able to cover full benefits by 2033. That is one year sooner than the last estimate.

Medicare will run short of cash to pay for hospital visits and nursing homes by 2031. That's actually three years later than the previous estimate. And, on Wall Street today, stocks rallied again to close out a big month. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 415 points to close at 33274. The Nasdaq rose 208 points. The S&P 500 was up 58.

For all of March, the Dow gained 2 percent, the Nasdaq jumped more than 6.5 percent, and the S&P added 3.5 percent. Still to come on the "NewsHour": David Brooks and Karen Tumulty weigh in on the indictment of Donald Trump; Annie Lennox discusses her long career in music and her activism; South Carolina remains the heavy favorite ahead of the women's Final Four; plus much more.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant remains caught on the front line of the war in Ukraine. This week, the director general of the U.N.'s nuclear agency visited the plant in Ukraine's south to assess its stability and the damage caused by Russia's occupation. Nick Schifrin spoke to Rafael Grossi about why he's no longer calling for a denuclearized zone around the plant and how conditions could become dangerous. NICK SCHIFRIN: Across the front line, escorted by Russian military police, the world's top nuclear watchdog arrived at Europe's largest nuclear plant to try and prevent nuclear disaster. The Russians occupying this Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant gave IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi a tour.

And in a statement aired by Russian TV, Grossi thanked them. RAFAEL GROSSI, Director General, IAEA: I think it's important that we can continue our dialogue. NICK SCHIFRIN: But, earlier this month, Grossi was alarmed. RAFAEL GROSSI: This cannot go on. I am astonished by the complacency, yes, the complacency. What are we doing to prevent this from happening? NICK SCHIFRIN: This is the threat of meltdown.

Russian forces seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant more than a year ago. Ever since, it's been in the crossfire fire. Buildings have been damaged.

The electricity lines that keep the nuclear reactors cool have been cut six times, forcing the use of emergency generators. And, today, there's only one remaining power line. RAFAEL GROSSI: How are you? NICK SCHIFRIN: After meeting Grossi earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Russia's occupation of Zaporizhzhia -- quote -- "radiation blackmail." VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, Ukrainian President (through translator): Holding a nuclear power plant hostage for more than a year is the worst thing that could happen in the history of the European and global nuclear energy sector. RAFAEL GROSSI: The possibility, or the probability, should I say, of an accident or action that could impact the plant has increased. NICK SCHIFRIN: I spoke to Grossi yesterday as he left Ukraine on a train.

RAFAEL GROSSI: On both sides of the front, there is an -- there is a bigger, much larger number of troops and heavy military equipment. There are constant detonations and explosions near in the vicinity. I have to cross a mine field myself to get there, which was not the case before. At this point in time, anything is possible, attacks from outside, sabotage from inside.

NICK SCHIFRIN: What can the IAEA do if, for example, Russia were to leave the plant quickly during any kind of Ukrainian counteroffensive or if Russia were to use the plant somehow as leverage during the Ukrainian counteroffensive? RAFAEL GROSSI: This goes to the heart of what I'm trying to do. Initially, we were working towards the establishment of some sort of zone to protect the plant. With this increased level of combat and military activity, you will not find any military commander or officer that is going to tell you, I'm not going there, or I am going here or there. So what I'm focusing is on the things that shouldn't be done. For example, don't shoot at the plant. This is achievable.

Or another very important commitment, don't use the plant as a military base. So, what I want is everybody to agree with me. Agreeing with each other at this point is impossible. NICK SCHIFRIN: Aren't the Russians already using the plant as a military base? RAFAEL GROSSI: Well, I am talking to them. And I am sure that, if we get to some form of agreement between them and me, and on the other side with Ukraine and myself, we are going to be able to avoid this.

NICK SCHIFRIN: The Russians have troops inside the plant of Zaporizhzhia. Is that correct? RAFAEL GROSSI: There are security forces. And if we get to an agreement, this will also be addressed. So, I'm trying to be very prudent here, because I don't want to put anybody in a difficulty or to point fingers.

My goal here is to protect the plant. That is my goal, to prevent a nuclear accident with catastrophic radiological consequences, which, at this moment, is entirely possible. NICK SCHIFRIN: Ukrainian officials are disappointed the IAEA has failed to evict Russian troops or prevented Russians from abusing the Ukrainian workers. Have the Russians killed anyone at the plant? Have they tortured anyone? Have they threatened anyone? Last September, we spoke to one of the 4,600 Ukrainian workers that continue to operate the plant, down from 11,000.

He agreed to speak to us if we kept him anonymous. MAN (through translator): Yes, there is official information about injured employees, about the victims. Some served in the armed forces of Ukraine before. Some openly demonstrated their pro-Ukrainian position. This was enough for the Russians to trap those people in the basement and torture them over several weeks.

RAFAEL GROSSI: One of the pillars of nuclear safety is that the staff should be able to work without pressure, without unnecessary stress. NICK SCHIFRIN: And are they today able to work without pressure, without stress? RAFAEL GROSSI: No, there is a lot of pressure. There is a lot of pressure. And I would say, even without them being subjected to a specific act of pressure, the whole situation is not sustainable. NICK SCHIFRIN: Rafael Grossi, director general of the IAEA, thank you very much.

RAFAEL GROSSI: I thank you very much. AMNA NAWAZ: To delve further into the political implications of former President Trump's indictment, we turn now to the analysis of Brooks and Tumulty. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Karen Tumulty, columnist for The Washington Post. Jonathan Capehart is away this week. Welcome to you both.

It's good to see you. KAREN TUMULTY: Great to be here. DAVID BROOKS: Good to see you. AMNA NAWAZ: Let's begin with the biggest story. Mr. Trump has been indicted.

Republican allies now have been continuing his lines of attacking the prosecutor -- attacking the prosecution and the prosecutor, using some antisemitic dog whistles, also some racist undertones to a lot of that. David, they could say: You know what, innocent until proven guilty. We believe in the justice system. But they're not saying that. Why not? DAVID BROOKS: Well, I guess -- well, first, it's just a grave moment, and I'm struck by they're not -- they are not being struck by the gravity of the moment of a former president being indicted.

There was a good piece in persuasion in an online site that I enjoy looking at Trump's rhetoric over the last seven years. And, if we recall, when he came down the escalator, and even that first convention speech and the inauguration, American carnage, it was mostly economic. Those people have betrayed you. But then it ramps up, and it changes and it changes. And then, last July -- or July 2020, he was at Mount Rushmore, if you may remember. Then, finally, it's getting apocalyptic.

And now it's entered full, we're in the final battle. That's the rhetoric that is being used now. And that has taken the populism and ratcheted it up to militaristic levels. And, right now, it's helping him.

I mean, as the indictments have been talked about, his poll numbers are surging. And as we saw, every other Republican candidate, they can't attack Trump now. They got to rally around the guy. And so you just have this sense of this upward rising tide of bile in the body politic. KAREN TUMULTY: And you're right about the rhetoric.

Yes, he has always sort of had really over-the-top rhetoric. But when he ran in 2016, he was a miracle worker. It was: "I alone can fix it." Now he says: "I am your retribution."

You're right. The language is biblical, and it appeals, I think, not just to his evangelical base, but to QAnon conspiracy theorists. And we are now at an absolutely different level. AMNA NAWAZ: Meanwhile, Democrats' reaction so far, I want to ask you about that. President Biden was asked about this and stayed away, said, no comment, absolutely. Is that the right approach for Dems right now? KAREN TUMULTY: Absolutely, because if they are going to make the argument that the process should be allowed to work, they have got to stay away from the process as much as they can, you know, not the same is happening with a lot of their talking heads on television.

But I think Democratic elected officials need to stay clear of this. AMNA NAWAZ: David, it's obviously a worrying moment. It's an unprecedented moment. Our democracy is being redefined and tested in new ways. But if you are a Republican weighing a 2024 bid right now, and there is all this uncertainty ahead, what do you do? DAVID BROOKS: I think you have to take a second look.

Just his numbers did not look dominating three or four months ago now, and they do look dominating now, right now. And so you have to think, well, that's a pretty steep hill to climb. I'm also -- I just have to say I'm one of these people who wish the Georgia case had gone first. AMNA NAWAZ: Why is that? DAVID BROOKS: Because trying to steal an election is a crime I can understand, or the Washington investigation. Trying to incite an insurrection, that's a crime I can understand. Falsifying business records, it looks a lot more complicated and a lot less sure.

And we will see what the indictment holds. I won't prejudge that. But the most similar case I'm aware of is the John Edwards case from -- I don't know how long ago that was. That was a little while ago. And they couldn't get a conviction in his case.

It's obviously not the same, but it's a little similar. And so I -- it makes it so much easier for people to say, oh, this is just a political witch-hunt, because it's not like the big, clear crime that we actually have visual evidence for. AMNA NAWAZ: Karen, we know most Republicans, even before this indictment, but when there was a potential indictment looming, most Republicans said they wanted him to be president again. Does this make him stronger? Does it make it tougher for President Biden's reelection campaign? KAREN TUMULTY: I think, in the short term, this is going to help Donald Trump, primarily because the Republican base is going to rally around him. But, from here on, beyond that, nobody can predict.

And if this case does fall apart in court, that helps Trump enormously. But the fact is, for people to hear over and over again about hush money to a porn star, in the long run, I think is pretty corrosive. AMNA NAWAZ: I want to ask you about the bigger moment for our nation, because I went back and I read President Ford's remarks when he delivered the pardon for Richard Nixon. And, at the time, his argument was, the country had already been through bitter controversy and a divisive debate.

And he said that, in a trial: "Ugly passions would again be aroused and our people would again be polarized in their opinions, and the credibility of our free institutions of government would again be challenged at home and abroad." David, is the same true today? DAVID BROOKS: Well, I thought Gerald Ford made the right call. I thought it was a brave call.

It cost him the presidency, basically. And I'm glad Richard Nixon did not step trial -- stand trial. Am I -- do I think that, therefore, we should not stand -- put Donald Trump on trial? No, I do not think that. But you go back. I do a lot of reading of political biography, especially from the '70s, for some reason. It was a grim period.

But the political establishment was in way better shape than it is now. There actually were people who could go into Nixon and say, you have got to resign. KAREN TUMULTY: There were Republicans... DAVID BROOKS: There were Republicans.

KAREN TUMULTY: ... who could go into Nixon and say, you have to resign. AMNA NAWAZ: What do you make of this moment, then, given that historical context and what the nation has been through? We are a different nation today, it's fair to say. KAREN TUMULTY: Well, I think the polarization in the country is entirely deeper and more corrosive than it was then. I think Ford does this to ward off an indictment. And you're right. History has been very kind to him.

But the electorate in 1976 was not. The country at that moment was not with Gerald Ford. AMNA NAWAZ: I do want to ask you both in the few minutes we have left about another big story this week which involves a fellow journalist overseas, of course, Russia this week arresting The Wall Street Journal reporter and American citizen Evan Gershkovich, accusing him of spying for the United States.

This is the first time that has happened since 1986. And, of course, we are thinking about our friends and colleagues at The Wall Street Journal and Evan's family. But, David, in this moment, is this a clear escalation from Russia? DAVID BROOKS: For sure.

They -- we all have covered places from foreign lands, sometimes not nice countries. And it's an attempt first to crack down on press coverage of Russia. And, second, it may be just hostage-taking for more trades. And so it just -- it's what happens as Putin gets more and more extreme and more and more isolated.

AMNA NAWAZ: Karen, how do you look at it? KAREN TUMULTY: It also speaks to the way he is treating dissidents and critics in the country. It is appalling, because there is absolutely no evidence of espionage. But I do think that he made a calculation that the whole Brittney Griner, the basketball player, situation really worked out in their favor. They released her, and they got a really bad guy back. So I just don't know how the Biden administration handles this, but I think all of us need to keep attention this and to continue to demand as loud as we can that he be released, because there is no evidence of espionage. AMNA NAWAZ: Knowing now this is a tactic, though, do you think American journalists should remain in Russia? KAREN TUMULTY: That is such a tough call.

And I certainly don't want to see my colleagues endangered, as important as it is to get the truth out. AMNA NAWAZ: It's an impossible call? DAVID BROOKS: Yes. AMNA NAWAZ: What do you think? DAVID BROOKS: I -- if I was a bureau chief in Moscow, it's just so hard.

I think it'd be an individual-by-individual case. It's like going to a war zone at this point, which is a sad statement. It's a big story in Moscow.

It's just a gigantic story. It'd be unconceivable we wouldn't be able to cover it. But it's dangerous.

AMNA NAWAZ: Sad statement, but a true statement. And, of course, we're thinking of Evan Gershkovich and his family. David Brooks, Karen Tumulty, thank you so much to both of you. KAREN TUMULTY: Thank you. DAVID BROOKS: Thank you. AMNA NAWAZ: Tonight, PBS will broadcast the ceremony for the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, awarded this year to Joni Mitchell.

Mitchell, who's used a wheelchair since she suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015, surprised the crowd and took to the stage to sing a Gershwin standard, "Summertime." (SINGING) AMNA NAWAZ: Right before that show, I talked to another musical legend, Annie Lennox, as she prepared to honor Mitchell. It's part of our arts and culture series, Canvas. (SINGING) AMNA NAWAZ: Annie Lennox first sang these lyrics for the debut single released in the early 1980s by the Eurythmics, the Scottish British pop duo of Lennox and Dave Stewart.

That song, it was announced just recently, has been streamed over one billion times on Spotify. ANNIE LENNOX, Musician and Activist: Now, I hadn't been here ever before today. AMNA NAWAZ: I met up with Lennox at the Library of Congress and asked her about the staying power of her music. I noticed you shared this, people covering "Sweet Dreams."

ANNIE LENNOX: Yes. AMNA NAWAZ: And I saw those three young kids who did a fantastic cover. ANNIE LENNOX: Yes. (SINGING) AMNA NAWAZ: What's that like for you to see? ANNIE LENNOX: It's wonderful.

AMNA NAWAZ: Yes. ANNIE LENNOX: Oh, I love it. I think that's the thing is, there's so many ways to do songs.

One song can have so many different interpretations. And it's the fact that "Sweet Dreams" has become this -- it's almost like "Happy Birthday." (LAUGHTER) ANNIE LENNOX: Do you know what I mean? Hi, everybody. AMNA NAWAZ: Her almost-five-decade career has taken Lennox far from her working class roots in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Yet, through intense years recording and touring, success at every industry level and, more recently, dedicating herself to humanitarian causes, she insists she has always remained the same Annie, the girl who wants heard a Joni Mitchell album that changed her life. You said you didn't even think that you would ever be a singer or a songwriter or a performer had it not been for Joni Mitchell. ANNIE LENNOX: Joni had a huge impact on me. There was a point in my life when I was very young, I came down to London to study classical music. I was a flute player, and I played piano.

And it didn't work out. I went to the Royal Academy of Music. And I knew from the very first day that I stepped in the building that it wasn't right for me.

I shared this basement flat apartment, and I didn't have any money, but they -- with their money, they bought albums and were very proud of the L.P.s that they bought. AMNA NAWAZ: Yes. ANNIE LENNOX: So he came in with a Joni Mitchell album, which I think was probably "Court and Spark."

It was something else. And what I identified with was this extraordinary lyrical aspect, this poetic aspect of visual painting, but in sound and in word. It sort of made everything come together.

AMNA NAWAZ: She showed you this path was possible? ANNIE LENNOX: Yes. That was life-changing. That encounter with her music changed my life. AMNA NAWAZ: Is there one song or one lyric or anything that really sits with you? Or is it just the whole story? ANNIE LENNOX: No, I mean... (singing): Love came to my door with a sleeping roll and a madman's soul. I thought for sure I'd seen him walking up a river in the dark looking for a woman to court and spark.

I mean, who writes this? Who writes this? AMNA NAWAZ: Last year, Lennox got the recognition her fans and the music industry said she deserved. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and reunited for a rare performance at the ceremony with Dave Stewart. Is that something you ever dreamed of happening? ANNIE LENNOX: When you're someone in the public eye, as a performer, people love you and they hate you or they feel indifferent. So, actually, really, in a way, you can't think too much about what other people feel. Or, if you're getting this incredible award, it's meaningful, but it's not. AMNA NAWAZ: The Lennox-Stewart partnership first began with The Tourists.

They broke up in 1980. The duo then became the Eurythmics, together until 1990. They churned out seven albums in just eight years, sold over 75 million records worldwide, and racked up awards, including a Grammy in 1987. ANNIE LENNOX: It was exhausting. It was exhausting.

But we were on a roll. I think it came from that hunger to have the ability to make music, because we were really, really obsessed with music-making. And so we were totally focused on that.

And these are the days really leading up to, for me, personally, when I actually had the privilege of having children. So, as a woman, that changes everything. And it's very different if you're a man and you have children and you're a musician. You're on the road. AMNA NAWAZ: How did you manage that balance? ANNIE LENNOX: I had help.

I had very wonderful people helping me. And that was great, because my -- I have asked my kids over and over, did you -- has it damaged you? Do you feel damaged? AMNA NAWAZ: You asked them that? ANNIE LENNOX: Yes, whether being an artist and a mother was a damaging thing. And they say: "No, it's was great fun." (LAUGHTER) ANNIE LENNOX: "You were -- that was -- we were glad that you were who you are." AMNA NAWAZ: Lennox went solo in 1992, producing hit after hit, "Walking on Broken Glass, "Why," "Precious," across six studio albums.

She was named best British female artist a record six times, with a singular sound and a style all her own, minimalist, powerful, and explicitly androgynous. Were you intentional about that, or was that... ANNIE LENNOX: Yes. No, it's interesting. AMNA NAWAZ: Was that just you being you? ANNIE LENNOX: That's an interesting question, isn't it? If you are a creative person, then you're always kind of looking outside the box. So it's partly decision.

But it's also something intuitive. It just happens to be who you are. I'm comfortable in the clothes I choose to wear. If I'm not comfortable, I'm not comfortable.

AMNA NAWAZ: Very few people reach the level of voice and platform that you have in your career, and fewer people still use it to then deliver other messages, other causes and other missions that you put your voice behind. And you founded an entire NGO, a global NGO, called The Circle, specifically to promote female empowerment around the world. ANNIE LENNOX: Yes. Yes. AMNA NAWAZ: Why is that important for you? ANNIE LENNOX: You see, I was really very fortunate, because, through Comic Relief, this incredible organization in the U.K., I had the opportunity to be sent to make little film pieces on their

behalf, going to projects in Africa at that time. So I saw an aspect of the world that people don't get to see. And I saw the disparity of rights for women and girls. I saw that young girls not getting education, not getting aspects to education, young girls becoming pregnant because they have been raped or abused. AMNA NAWAZ: Part of her mission now is to use her power and voice to change that for the next generation of women and girls.

MAN: This one is for a 1986 claim to "When Tomorrow Comes." ANNIE LENNOX: Oh, my goodness. AMNA NAWAZ: During her visit to the Library of Congress in Washington, Lennox was presented with papers to copyright her song "When Tomorrow Comes," one of many hits from her musical journey and, with Joni Mitchell looking on, paid tribute to the woman who showed her this path was possible. And you can watch "Joni Mitchell: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize For Popular Song" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight and on the PBS.org Web site and the PBS app. Check your local listings. Tonight, the Final Four games in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament get under way in Dallas.

And, arguably, there's even more excitement and anticipation around these games than the men's Final Four. Jeffrey Brown looks at why that is. JEFFREY BROWN: There may not be a more anticipated matchup than tonight's big game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and defending champions South Carolina Gamecocks. South Carolina is undefeated and coached by Dawn Staley.

That game also features the current national player of the year, Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, going against last year's national player of the year, forward Aliyah Boston. The other match tonight pits LSU vs. Virginia Tech. Ratings for the women's tournament are way up this year, 73 percent higher than a year ago during the Sweet 16. And an Iowa game last weekend at higher ratings than any NBA game on ESPN this season. Christine Brennan of USA Today joins us once again to talk about the games, the players and this moment.

Christine, welcome back. So let's start with that marquee matchup and marquee stars in that matchup. CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA Today: Yes, I don't think we have ever seen a more anticipated women's basketball game ever. This is that big of a deal. And its time has certainly come.

And it's Iowa with Caitlin Clark, who is one of the great stars, the player of the year, just a magician on the court with her threes from the logo and just hitting every shot and winning as in the last second, and Iowa, a team that has been together for a long time, and her passes as well, not just, of course, her shooting, against the formidable South Carolina Gamecocks. Dawn Staley is their coach, three-time Olympic gold medalist herself, one of the greatest coaches ever in the college game, And won last year. They haven't lost in over a year. And she has got not only Aliyah Boston, and a great, great supporting cast, but people in the bench who can come in, just waves and waves, as one coach said, of players that she can bring in. And that's going to be tough for Iowa, just because you have got just so many great stars on the South Carolina bench as well. But if anyone can pull it off, it would be Iowa, the way we have watched them play.

But it's going to have to be Caitlin Clark, really one of her finest hours, against a team that is very, very deserving, South Carolina, of that number one ranking. JEFFREY BROWN: The other game gets less attention, but one storyline of course, Virginia Tech. It's their first time in the Final Four. And, of course, there are plenty of stars in that game too. CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Well, there are, and the coaches as well with Kenny Brooks.

He's only the third Black male to be coaching in the women's Final Four. And that's historic and the diversity there as well. That's for Virginia Tech.

And then Kim Mulkey for LSU. And she's only in her second year at LSU after winning three national titles with Baylor and a long career there. And that game should be physical and also excellent, overshadowed only because of the brilliance of the Iowa-South Carolina matchup. JEFFREY BROWN: What about this moment for the women's game? What are you seeing? What are you feeling? CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Yes, Jeff, this reminds me of the 1999 women's World Cup in soccer in the Rose Bowl July 10, 1999. I was there covering that.

That whole week leading up to it, it was Mia Hamm. It was Julie Foudy. It was Briana Scurry, Brandi Chastain, of course, with the penalty kick, whipping off her shirt. The nation absolutely riveted, the cover of "TIME," "Newsweek," people on "Sports Illustrated." No story ever has done that. That was in '99.

Now here we are just nine months after the 50th anniversary of Title IX. And I think we're seeing the same kind of thing. It's not just about girls and moms and dads cheering for this team and young women. It's about men. It's about hard-bitten male sports writers who I have known forever who are -- who are tweeting about this, talking about it, writing about it in a way I never would have imagined.

When you get the guys, when you get those, I hate to it, but sexist guys, call and say, you know what, the best game of both the men's and women's Final Four is actually this game, the women's, I don't know that I ever thought I would hear those words. But this is the ticket that anyone, male or female, would want to go to that Iowa South-Carolina game. JEFFREY BROWN: You know, I do want to ask you. We talked about this earlier in the week with the -- on the men's side, the NIL, the name, image likeness rule, which allows compensation for student athletes, the impact it's having on the men's side. But it's clearly now having an impact on the women athletes as well, right? CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Oh, for sure. And, of course, we're seeing it throughout the Olympic sports, gymnastics and others, but basketball.

For example, Caitlin Clark, she's going to have a decision to make. Does she want to go to the WNBA or does she want to stay at Iowa? Well, my guess is she will stay at Iowa, because the money that she can make from all those companies, national and, of course, in Iowa, where she is just the queen of the world, why wouldn't she stay in college and then make those hundreds of thousands of dollars? We saw it with the Miami players. We see it over and over again with these athletes on the women's side, who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars, just like the men, deservedly so, because they truly are the stars of their sport.

JEFFREY BROWN: OK, a lot of us are looking forward to this. Christine Brennan, thank you very much. CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Jeff, thank you. AMNA NAWAZ: Going to be some great games. Can't wait to watch.

Remember, there is much more online, including our conversation with drag performers on how a ban on their public performances in Tennessee will impact them. And be sure to tune in to "Washington Week" later, hosted by our own Lisa Desjardins tonight, right here on PBS, for more analysis of the indictment of former President Trump. And watch "PBS News Weekend" with John Yang tomorrow for a look at the FDA's decision to allow over-the-counter sales of Narcan to counter opioid overdoses. And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Amna Nawaz. On behalf of the entire "NewsHour" team, thank you for joining us.

2023-04-02 13:36

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