PBS NewsHour full episode July 16, 2019


JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I’m Judy Woodruff. On the “NewsHour” tonight: condemnation and
words of defense, as President Trump’s attacks on four women members of Congress continue
to roil. Then: Federal prosecutors decline to charge
the New York City police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, a touchstone
case for the Black Lives Matter movement. And a desperate journey. As political instability, poverty and starvation
consume Venezuela, thousands of its people flee to neighboring Brazil in search of a
safer life. MAN (through translator): There is no justice,
and there is no food, no water. There’s no gasoline. The streets are empty and towns have turned
into ghost towns. We had to abandon our home to come here. JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight’s
“PBS NewsHour.” (BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: The firestorm over President
Trump’s racist rhetoric spread to Capitol Hill today, where a vote in the U.S. House
of Representatives is uniting Democrats and testing Republicans’ willingness to criticize
the commander in chief. Lisa Desjardins begins with how the day’s
events unfolded. LISA DESJARDINS: Two days after the president’s
initial tweets, today, Senate Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell responded. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The president is not
a racist. LISA DESJARDINS: Yet the Republican leader
didn’t exonerate the president. He choose to blame him and Democrats both. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: I think there’s been a consensus
that political rhetoric has really gotten way, way overheated. From the president, to the speaker, to freshman
members of the House, all of us have a responsibility to elevate the public discourse. Our words do matter. We all know politics is a contact sport. LISA DESJARDINS: From fellow Republican and
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a different tack, changing the subject to broader themes. REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I believe this is about
ideology. This is about socialism vs. freedom. I think this party has been very clear, we
are the party of Lincoln. This party believes in the content of the
individual. LISA DESJARDINS: Indeed, there was ideological
divide, as Democrats like Pramila Jayapal were happy to point out as well. REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Dissent is patriotic. The thing that has always made America great
is that people are willing to make it better. LISA DESJARDINS: All of this after President
Trump’s tweets on Sunday claiming that four Democratic congresswomen of color are from
other countries, that they are too critical of the U.S. and should consider going back
to where they came from. All of them are American citizens. Three were born in the United States. The president echoed some of his words again
today at the White House. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
They should love our country. They shouldn’t hate our country. LISA DESJARDINS: Meanwhile, his senior adviser,
Kellyanne Conway, touched off a different debate, as she tried to turn the table on
a reporter asking about the president’s words. KELLYANNE CONWAY, Counselor to President Trump:
What is your ethnicity? (CROSSTALK) ANDREW FEINBERG, Breakfast Media: Why is that
relevant? KELLYANNE CONWAY: Because I’m asking a question. My ancestors are from Ireland and Italy. LISA DESJARDINS: The reporter refused to answer. A few miles away, on Capitol Hill, one of
the lawmakers in the center of the storm, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of
New York, said today the GOP needs to condemn the president’s words themselves. REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): They have
targeted four congresswomen of color who are American citizens with a classic line of white
supremacy, and they are trying to pivot, and they are trying to excuse it. LISA DESJARDINS: Later, in an unusual moment… MAN: All members will suspend. LISA DESJARDINS: The House of Representatives
came to a full stop in the middle of a debate on the president’s words, and whether the
House should condemn them. The question surrounded these remarks, very
rare about a president’s actions, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): These comments from the
White House are disgraceful and disgusting, and the comments are racist. LISA DESJARDINS: House Republicans immediately
pointed to rules against maligning the president, and invoked a rare form of objection to those
words. MAN: I make a point of order the gentlewoman’s
words are unparliamentary and request the words be taken down. LISA DESJARDINS: The action is not finished
for the day. House Democrats expect to pass a resolution
condemning the president’s tweets as racist. Tonight, that may be a test for some Republicans. Mr. Trump has urged them to vote no. JUDY WOODRUFF: And Lisa joins me now. So, Lisa, you have been talking today to a
number of Republicans. How are they reacting? LISA DESJARDINS: Well, there’s a difference
between private and public life for the Republicans today. Publicly, some of them will vote with Democrats
tonight, but probably not many. Most of them will stick with the president
on this resolution to condemn him. But, privately, Judy, there is a divide among
Republicans. Some are very concerned that these remarks
may in fact push away the very voters they think they need, suburban white Americans,
who are uncomfortable with this kind of language. But there are other Republicans who say, no,
we think the president is defending something, especially in rural areas, that we think is
right. We think that there is too much talk of racism,
and we’re glad he’s pushing back. There’s a real divide opening up for Republicans. JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were telling me — and
we saw just a little bit of this on the floor of the House — as they are debating this
resolution, it’s gotten really complicated. LISA DESJARDINS: I can’t stress what a wild,
strange day this has been. But that’s right. The House voted — or Nancy Pelosi made these
remarks. Republicans objected. And the parliamentarian agreed with Republicans
that she was out of line. In order for her and those remarks to stay
on the books, the whole House had to vote. Her Democrats had to support her. That happened. Since then, Judy, we have seen an eruption
of tempers and emotion on the House floor, even as we speak, Democrats reading out everything
they think the president has ever said that is offensive, Republicans objecting. It has become a very emotional and raucous
place, the House floor. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lisa, you were also telling
me — we were talking just a few minutes ago — that kind of underlying all this, you’re
seeing really a complicated reaction to what’s happening. LISA DESJARDINS: This is what I want to get
to, because, at the Capitol, it’s frustrating. We’re seeing this bouncing ball. We’re seeing this atmosphere of accusations
right now. But it’s so important to get to the greater
meaning, because, as neither side seems politically motivated to try and resolve this conversation
about race, I’m also concerned, Judy, that maybe they’re not equipped. And that’s because these two sides, as you
talk to them behind closed doors, they define racism differently. Republicans are using kind of a an earlier
definition of race, in which the intention of the person is what’s critical. Democrats are talking more and more about
what the effect of racism is. Are people affected by it? Are their lives changed? And, of course, Democrats have more people
of color. It’s not an accident that the definition is
evolving, because people of color have more power. One really quick example, I talked to John
Thune, a Republican. I asked him, is there anything you would feel
comfortable calling racism? He had to pause, and he couldn’t say that
there was. Democrats are not comfortable in how to bring
white — white Americans into the conversation about race. Republicans are not comfortable talking about
racism at all. And they are far apart on a very important
conversation. JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re bringing something that
has cultural dimensions and so much else. LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s so much more than — and
larger than politics. LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, we thank you. LISA DESJARDINS: You’re welcome. JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news:
A white police officer in New York who put a black man, Eric Garner, in a fatal choke
hold in 2014 will not face federal charges. Garner could be heard gasping “I can’t breathe”
as officer Daniel Pantaleo gripped him during an arrest. A state grand jury already declined to indict
Pantaleo, and, today, federal prosecutors said they could not prove that he willfully
violated Garner’s civil rights. Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, called the finding
an outrage, and demanded that Pantaleo be fired. GWEN CARR, Mother of Eric Garner: Five years
ago, my son said “I can’t breathe” 11 times. And, today, we can’t breathe, because they
have let us down. Officer Pantaleo and all the officers who
was involved in my son’s death that day need to be off the force. The streets of New York City is not safe with
them walking around. JUDY WOODRUFF: A senior U.S. Justice Department
official said that Attorney General William Barr himself made the decision, overruling
officials who wanted to charge Pantaleo. We will delve into the decision-making after
the news summary. As of today, federally funded family planning
clinics had to stop referring women for abortions. Federal courts allowed the Trump administration
to begin enforcing the referral ban until legal challenges are decided. The move is seen as a blow to Planned Parenthood,
but the group said it would forgo the funds for now and continue making abortion referrals. The nominee for U.S. secretary of defense
today criticized Turkey’s purchase of Russian-made air defenses. The U.S. strongly opposed the move by the
NATO ally. Mark Esper, who is currently the secretary
of the Army, told his Senate confirmation hearing that Turkey’s decision was the wrong
one. MARK ESPER, U.S. Defense Secretary Nominee:
Very disappointing. Turkey has been a longstanding NATO ally,
a very capable one, I think they were one of the original allies, if I think back to
when the alliance formed. And so it is very disheartening to see how
they have drifted over the past several years. JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, President Trump confirmed
that Turkey’s purchase from Russia means that the U.S. will not sell advanced fighter jets
to the Turks. He claimed the Obama administration created
the problem by failing to sell an American missile defense system to Turkey in the first
place. North Korea suggested today that it may lift
a 20-month moratorium on nuclear and missile tests. That came as talks have stalled on ending
the North’s nuclear program. But President Trump said again there is no
hurry about reaching an agreement. For the first time, the European Commission
will have a woman as president. The outgoing German defense minister, Ursula
von der Leyen, was confirmed today. She won a bare majority of votes in the European
Parliament, in an outcome that was met with applause after weeks of deadlock. The new leader promised to focus on climate
change and gender equality. Back in this country, the head of Facebook’s
new digital currency, Libra, faced criticism from senators in both parties. They branded the social media giant dangerous
for failing to protect users’ personal data. In turn, Facebook’s David Marcus said the
company is working to earn back people’s trust, and he insisted digital transactions will
safeguard consumers. DAVID MARCUS, Facebook Executive: We will
take the time to get this right. We expect the review of Libra to be among
the most extensive ever. We are fully committed to working with regulators,
here and around the world. And let me be clear and unambiguous. Facebook will not offer the Libra digital
currency until we have fully addressed regulators’ concerns and received appropriate approvals. JUDY WOODRUFF: Facebook says it hopes to launch
its Libra cryptocurrency in 2020. On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial
average lost 23 points to close at 27335. The Nasdaq fell 35 points, and the S&P 500
slipped 10. And NASA kicked off celebrations today for
the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, when men first landed on the moon. Crew member Michael Collins, who is now 88,
was on hand this morning at Cape Canaveral for the exact moment when he, Buzz Aldrin
and Neil Armstrong blasted off on July 16, 1969. Five days later, Armstrong became the first
human to walk on the moon. He passed away in 2012. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: what is behind
the Department of Justice decision to not charge police in the killing of Eric Garner;
on the ground in Brazil, where refugees from Venezuela search for a safer life; Colombia’s
foreign minister on how his country is grappling with Venezuela refugees and a fragile peace;
plus, much more. Five years ago, a New York man, Eric Garner’s
dying words, “I can’t breathe,” served as a rallying cry that led to national demonstrations
and gave further momentum to the Black Lives Matter movement. Tomorrow will mark the expiration of the statute
of limitations to bring federal charges. But the case lingered through several U.S.
attorneys general in both the Obama and Trump administrations. Yamiche Alcindor looks now at why the Justice
Department decided not to file charges against the officer. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Eric Garner died after a
police officer choked him while they were arresting him for selling untaxed single cigarettes. Garner was 43 years old and had severe asthma. He said “I can’t breathe” 11 times before
he died. Cell phone video shows Garner in a choke hold,
which is prohibited by the New York City Police Department. But the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, has maintained
he didn’t use a choke hold to bring him down. Pantaleo has been on desk duty since then. Today, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District
of New York, Richard Donoghue, announced the decision. He said his team decided they could not prove
the officer willfully intended to use excessive force that led to Garner’s death. RICHARD DONOGHUE, U.S. Attorney, Eastern District
of New York: We are committed to aggressively prosecuting excessive force cases whenever
there is sufficient evidence to bring them. Mr. Garner’s death was a terrible tragedy. But having thoroughly investigated the surrounding
circumstances, the department has concluded that the available evidence wouldn’t support
federal civil rights charges against any officer. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Let’s dig in a little deeper
on this reasoning and the larger issue as to why the federal government rarely brings
charges against an officer in the line of duty. Katie Benner covers the Justice Department
for The New York Times, and joins me now. Thanks so much for being here, Katie. This decision to not charge this officer in
the death of Eric Garner essentially came down to the attorney general, Bill Barr. What more do we know about why Bill Barr did
not want to bring charges? KATIE BENNER, The New York Times: Sure. I think, if we just take a step back real
quick, when this case opened, right after Eric Garner died, you saw the Eastern District
of New York almost immediately decide that the case wasn’t going to be one they could
win. They struggled with it. Some of the prosecutors, I’m told, based on
people who worked on the case, they say that some of the prosecutors didn’t even know that
they felt that Eric Garner had acted wrongfully. Very, very soon after that, the Civil Rights
Division down here in Washington decided that there was a crime committed and they could
prosecute this case, setting off a long-running, years-long battle between these two sides. They just didn’t agree. We saw the case languish. We saw the case get caught up in the Sessions
Justice Department, where not a lot was happening because of the Russia distraction and then
Sessions’ firing. So, finally, when Bill Barr gets to the Justice
Department, when he becomes the U.S. attorney — I’m sorry — when he becomes the attorney
general, he now has to clean up this mess. He held multiple meetings with constituents
from both sides. He heard arguments from prosecutors in Brooklyn,
arguments from prosecutors in the Civil Rights Division. He reviewed the tape himself multiple times. And, ultimately, he agreed with the prosecutors
in Brooklyn, who were really worried that this wasn’t a case that they could bring before
a jury and win. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And the DOJ occasionally
looks at these local issues with officers and fatal interactions, but they rarely bring
charges. Why is it so rare for the DOJ to bring charges
in officer-involved encounters? KATIE BENNER: I think part of the reason is
because they feel that the cases are extremely difficult to win. As long as an officer is willing to say that
he had a fear, credible fear, during the altercation, as long as he’s willing to say that he felt
that he was in danger, jurors have been very sympathetic to that argument. So if it’s a case that can’t be won, or they
feel can’t be won, I think that law enforcement has been reluctant to bring those cases. And what makes the Eric Garner case unique
is that, when Eric Holder was the attorney general, he felt that the case was worth bringing
even if they didn’t win, simply because he felt that the evidence was strong. And, of course, the videos really shocked
the nation. They galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement. They made us believe that police body cameras
could help tamp down on excessive use of force. And so today’s decision, I think, is really
surprising for many people. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: You mentioned that the Eric
Garner case was unique and that it galvanized people. Millions of people watched the video of Eric
Garner dying. The rallying cry “I can’t breathe” became
a rallying cry for a lot of people talking about and protesting police brutality. Did any of that outrage factor into how this
case was handled? KATIE BENNER: Yes, I think that the — that
the outrage over the video has made this case — has allowed this case to remain in the
public interest even five years later. And I also think that a lot of the case of
hung on the video. The prosecutors studied the video minute by
minute, second by second. And what they decided after a very careful
review is that Officer Pantaleo, he let go of Eric Garner’s neck before Mr. Garner said
“I can’t breathe.” And they felt that he didn’t purposefully
put him into a choke hold, but did it only after they were falling to the ground. Now, people can dispute that interpretation,
but that’s certainly — they used the video, the prosecutors used the video to prove their
case. People might have been expecting prosecutors
to use the video to prove the case otherwise, but I do think that it also raises questions. As we ask for more police officers to wear
body cameras, we take more cell phone footage of incidents, we have to ask ourselves, how
will this be used and what kind of arguments will be made from it? YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Eric Garner’s family is
reeling from this decision. There’s also this idea that the officer might
not ever face jail time now that this has gone through. But there is this disciplinary review going
through the New York City Police Department. What consequences, if at all, might this officer
face? KATIE BENNER: You know, it’s interesting. The officer could face consequences. He could be stripped of his badge. We will — we’re waiting to see the results
of that review. Today, we saw pressure being put on Mayor
Bill de Blasio to actually fire the officer. We saw that coming not only from Eric Garner’s
mother and family. We saw that pressure coming from people like
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who put out a statement saying, Bill de Blasio, I think
that it’s now your move and you need to take care of this situation. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, this is certainly
a unique case, as you said, Katie Benner of The New York Times, thank
you for being — for joining us. JUDY WOODRUFF: Over the past five years, more
than four million Venezuelans have fled their country amid a deepening national crisis. This mass exodus is reshaping all of South
America in unexpected ways. The “NewsHour”‘s Amna Nawaz and producer Mike
Fritz traveled to the border of Venezuela and Brazil to meet the families making this
desperate journey. It’s the first in a series of reports done
in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center. AMNA NAWAZ: A moment of relief, marked with
a thumbs-up and a wave. That is how Jesus, Carolina, and their two
children, 19-year-old Kevin and five-year-old Sara, first greeted us, as they crossed the
border from Venezuela into Brazil. The family, who only gave their first names,
said they’d been walking and hitchhiking for more than two days. They’d run out of water, they hadn’t eaten
for more than a day, and they carried everything they now owned. So this is all they have got. Her shoes are worn, with holes in them at
the bottom. They are carrying a Bible with them as well,
and just a little bit of money, documents, and just two bags, shoes and whatever clothes
they could carry. I asked why they decided to leave Venezuela. MAN (through translator): There is no justice,
and there is no food, no water. There’s no gasoline. There’s no employment. It’s complete desolation. The streets are empty and towns have turned
into ghost towns. We had to abandon our home to come here. AMNA NAWAZ: Jesus and Carolina say, back home,
their twin babies died just days after birth. MAN (through translator): They were six days
old. It was a girl and a boy. WOMAN (through translator): Every day, kids
die in childbirth because of medical negligence. They don’t care for them in time. And many women die too. AMNA NAWAZ: Venezuela, once among South America’s
wealthiest nations, has descended into economic and political chaos. Hyperinflation, skyrocketing debt, and crippling
U.S. sanctions on its oil industry blasted the economy. And the streets and halls of power have erupted,
as President Nicolas Maduro grapples with opposition leader Juan Guaido, backed by the
U.S. and dozens of other countries, including Brazil. But Maduro clings to power, amid severe food,
medicine and fuel shortages MONICA DE BOLLE, Peterson Institute for International
Economics: Venezuela really is destabilizing the entire region. And, therefore, whatever happens to Venezuela
is going to have big consequences across the region as a whole. AMNA NAWAZ: Monica de Bolle is a Latin American
expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The cost of the crisis in the years ahead,
she says, could amount to tens of billions in international aid. Since 2014, most Venezuelan migrants have
fled to Colombia and Peru. But over the last few years, they have been
fanning out across all of South America. Earlier this year, tensions flared along Brazil’s
border with Venezuela after it was shuttered for nearly three months by President Maduro,
in an attempt to block aid from reaching Venezuela. Today, more than 100,000 Venezuelans are now
estimated to have settled in Brazil, as part of the largest migration between the two nations
in history. Up ahead, where you see those two flags, that’s
the actual international boundary between Venezuela and Brazil. And officials say they see upwards of 500
or 550 people crossing every day now, entire families, some with tiny babies, newborn babies,
in fact. Some folks, they say, have even been walking
as many as eight days before they get here. But Brazil’s government, led by far-right
president Jair Bolsonaro, has so far kept its border open to Venezuelan migrants. The president’s son, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro,
often serves as a foreign envoy for his father, who is now considering nominating him to be
Brazil’s next ambassador to the United States. We spoke in Brazil’s capital of Brasilia. Can you commit right now that Brazil is going
to continue to welcome in Venezuelan refugees as long as they’re fleeing? EDUARDO BOLSONARO, Brazilian Congressman:
By our law in Brazil here, we have to accept all the refugees, because they don’t have
an option. If they keep in Venezuela, they are going
to die. We know that the best solution, it is take
off Maduro from the power in Venezuela. AMNA NAWAZ: But Maduro has shown no signs
of leaving. So, what is Brazil prepared to do to try to
get him to leave, to force that change? EDUARDO BOLSONARO: We’re trying to change,
to do a twist with the militaries inside of Venezuela. AMNA NAWAZ: Is Brazil prepared to use military
force if necessary, if Maduro doesn’t leave? EDUARDO BOLSONARO: If Venezuela attacks Brazil,
it changes, because we need to defend ourselves. But in this first moment, we are not thinking
to use the force, the military of Brazilian forces, against the military forces of Maduro. AMNA NAWAZ: Nearly all Venezuelans entering
Brazil come through a port of entry in the Northern Brazilian state of Roraima. Once they arrive, they’re processed, given
identity cards, and then wait for a spot in one of two refugee camps in the small border
town of Pacaraima. Brazil’s army, a powerful institution here,
is running this camp, a sprawling tent city now housing about 500 men, women, and children
from Venezuela. The man in charge, Lieutenant Colonel Elton
Rodrigues. So, I saw, inside, you have entire families
crossing, right, not just adults? You have got little kids, babies too. LT. COL. ELTON RODRIGUES, Brazilian Military (through
translator): Many families come in a situation of vulnerability and with kids. The families normally are really numerous,
four, five, sometimes up to six children. And the army looks to support these families
in the best form possible. AMNA NAWAZ: Inside the camp, there’s luggage
storage, dedicated spaces for children, and filtered water available for all. Officials tell us none of the troops here
carry weapons, to reinforce the idea that this is a humanitarian mission, not a security
one. Families staying here come and go as they
please, using their identity cards for reentry. Reynalda Lara just arrived with his family,
and is filling out paperwork for those cards. He says he worked as a state police official
in Venezuela, and was targeted because he didn’t support President Maduro. REYNALDA LARA, Venezuelan Migrant (through
translator): The day that I left my homeland of Venezuela, which I love, I felt very emotional,
because I’m leaving behind my land and my values. But I had to do it because I have to find
a future for my family, and I didn’t have a future in Venezuela. AMNA NAWAZ: The chance at a better future
is what forced this family to leave Venezuela as well, their 5-month-old daughter already
severely malnourished. WOMAN (through translator): I want my daughter
to feel safe with her family, and hope she is never lacking food. We spent three days without eating, and what
I would do is to beg, so she wouldn’t starve to death. We didn’t have any other way of sustaining
her. AMNA NAWAZ: But these soft-sided structures
offer only a temporary haven. Officials say most families stay anywhere
from a few weeks to a few months. This once-sleepy border town, with an official
population of just 12,000, is now dealing with some 14,000 Venezuelans crossing here
every month. Senator Chico Rodrigues, who represents this
state, says that is unsustainable. CHICO RODRIGUES, Brazilian Senator (through
translator): We have a population of approximately 500,000 people, and today there are almost
50,000 Venezuelans living in or passing through our capital. So there have been impacts on our health and
education systems, especially in the area of security. Roraima doesn’t have the financial conditions
or the structural organization to absorb so many Venezuelans. AMNA NAWAZ: The Brazilian army has already
begun busing Venezuelan migrants to Boa Vista, a much larger city to the south with more
economic opportunities. So we’re now 130 miles from the border, and
the army has had to put up this shelter. They have got 900 to 1,000 people arriving
every day, they said. They offer tents for people to sleep in at
night, some food and a shower, but that’s it. This is not a full-time shelter. Some, like Caesar Martinez, who lives in a
tent with his wife and son, arrived here months ago. With no job, and no plan, he says his life
today is just as uncertain as the day he arrived. CAESAR MARTINEZ, Venezuelan Migrant (through
translator): It’s been a year since I got here in Brazil, chasing a dream. Like most Venezuelans who are here, we are
trying to get a better life for our children, for our family, but we still haven’t reached
it. AMNA NAWAZ: A dream millions of his fellow
Venezuelans are now chasing in a new nation, a world away from the country they once called
home. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Amna Nawaz in
Boa Vista, Brazil. JUDY WOODRUFF: Stay with us. Coming up on the “NewsHour”: Puerto Rico is
rocked by protests, as the island’s governor faces calls to resign; Pulitzer Prize-winning
novelist Colson Whitehead on his new book, “The Nickel Boys.” But first: As we just saw, the slow-motion
collapse of Venezuela has sent shockwaves through South America and beyond, no more
so than in Venezuela’s neighbor to the west, Colombia. Almost a million-and-a-half Venezuelans have
taken refuge in Colombia, straining the country and region. On top of that, Colombia is still reckoning
with the end of its own internal conflict. It has now been three years almost since a
peace deal ended over 50 years of war between the government and rebel FARC factions. That deal set out ambitious targets for land
reform, political participation for ex-rebels, and a crackdown on drug trafficking. But most of those problems remain. More than 200,000 Colombians have been displaced
as violence continues, and the drug trade is again exploding. In August, conservative deal skeptic Ivan
Duque took office as Colombia’s new president, amid a turbulent economy, increased pressure,
as refugees continue to arrive daily from Venezuela, as well as troubled prospects for
lasting peace. His foreign minister is Carlos Holmes Trujillo. He’s here in Washington this week. And he joins me now. Minister Trujillo, thank you very much for
being with us. Colombia, a country of 49 million people,
what does it mean to have a million-and-a-half Venezuelans there? How is it affecting your country? CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO, Colombian Foreign
Minister: Thank you, Judy, for the invitation. It’s a huge challenge to us. Now, it is not a Colombian issue. It’s a regional issue that has a global impact. But, of course, to my country, it’s a real
challenge, because of the demands of resources, of the needs that we have to satisfy every
day. So that is why we are calling the international
community to support more the efforts being made by Colombia. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what — we know that, when
this initially happened, your country, Colombia, welcome the Venezuelans. But now we read there are cases of discrimination,
even violence. How long can the region absorb this crisis
next door in Venezuela? And why is it taking so long? With Colombia, the United States, so many
other countries supporting Juan Guaido, why is it taking so long to change the Maduro
government? CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO: Two things, Judy. First of all, this is a process. Dictatorship never fall from one day to the
other. So what we are doing is helping to create
conditions that allow Venezuelans to go back to freedom and democracy. And what we are very — we’re very sure about
is that we have made a lot of advances, in that — in that sense and looking for that
aim, that is to say, the change in Venezuela. Secondly, how many Venezuelans can we accept
in Colombia? It’s impossible to tell. How many Venezuelans can the region receive? It’s impossible to tell. The main point is getting more support to
doing all we can and working hard in order to help the change in Venezuela back to democracy
and freedom. JUDY WOODRUFF: What I understand, though,
now is that many are saying that they think President Maduro can simply wait out what’s
going on, they can wait out until Mr. Guaido is no longer in office. After all, Maduro has the support of the Cubans,
the Russians, the Chinese. Are these skeptics right? CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO: But they don’t have
the support of the Venezuelans. He doesn’t have the support of the Venezuelans. And the point is a change in Venezuela. The point is the support that Juan Guaido
has in Venezuela. The point is the support that Juan Guaido
has in the region, because this is a regional issue. This is not a global issue, politically, as
such. This is a regional issue that has to be solved
regionally as well. JUDY WOODRUFF: But it hasn’t worked yet. CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO: Not yet, because this
is a process. But look at this. At the beginning of the year, nobody talked
about the possibility of having an interim president being recognized by close to 60
countries. Now he’s recognized by close to 60 countries. JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about something
else. President Duque’s successor — or predecessor,
President Santos, signed his peace agreement with the FARC rebels 2016. Here we are, two-and-a-half, three years later,
only a quarter of the provisions of the — that the deal — that were part of this deal that
was signed have been implemented. We understand thousands of militants have
resumed fighting, little or no help for many people who lived in the rebel-held territory,
especially in the rural areas. You have got hundreds of activists who’ve
been killed. Why has this deal not been fully implemented? CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO: No, because the implementation
of the agreement doesn’t take so short. The implementation of the agreement takes
a long time, because the agreement is a very complex one to implement. The policy of President Duque is to implement
the agreement, with the changes for the future for the implementation stage, through political
consensus and institutional means. So there are a lot of advances in the implementation,
as has been registered by the verification mission of the United Nations every three
months. I’m going to New York this week in order to
receive the new report of the secretary-general that makes clarity about the advances that
have been made. JUDY WOODRUFF: But we see that President Duque
has called some of the terms of the agreement too lenient on the FARC rebels. And in many of the places where the rebels
had disarmed, the government has not yet come to the aid of the community. So, you now have these new paramilitary gangs
who are operating in these places. It is seen that any sort of peace may be farther
away than ever. CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO: No, the implementation
of the agreement is going on well. Of course, there is a lot of work to be done
still. The implementation of the agreement is in
the national development plan as a horizontal — as a horizontal base of the national development
plan. There is pluriannual budget already written
into the national development plan for 10 years to come, 11.5 billion U.S. dollars. And there are many advances in every field. Now, as far as violence is concerned, of course,
we have a problem. And there is a source of concern. Some regions of the country where the FARC
members left, we have — they have received the presence of new violent organization that
are fighting to get the sources of illegal resources that do still exist there. I’m speaking about narco-trafficking. I’m speaking about illegal mining. So the effort of the Duque administration
is great in order to face those new challenges. JUDY WOODRUFF: But it’s clearly taking longer
than anybody expected. And now you have this guerrilla group that
wasn’t a signatory to the peace accord. This is a group that’s grown larger, the ELF. It’s operating in Venezuela. It’s supporting the Maduro — or the ELN. It’s supporting the Maduro regime, paramilitary. How concerned are you about this group? CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO: That is why we are
denouncing the presence of the ELN in Venezuela. ELN has links with the Maduro regime, as that
regime has links with other terrorist organizations. We are making the denunciation internationally. And besides that, we are combating them with
the legitimate forces of the state internally in our country. JUDY WOODRUFF: So you feel, again, you’re
making progress here? CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO: We are making progress. We are making progress in the security-wise. We are making progress economically-wise. We are making progress in the political and
social situation as well. JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, finally, one
aspect of this peace agreement had to do with narco-trafficking, with the cocoa production. That production is up in Colombia. Why? CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO: Because of some bad
decisions that were taken during the negotiation of the agreement. President Duque inherited 200,000 hectares
of illicit groves. He has been fighting very strongly since the
very beginning of the administration. He’s showing very positive results. JUDY WOODRUFF: What does Colombia need to
get it under control? CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO: We — Colombia is
under control. Colombia is a very stable democracy. And Colombia is, as many countries around
the world, doing their best in order to solve the problems that we have. JUDY WOODRUFF: Foreign Minister Trujillo,
we thank you very much, CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO: Judy, thank you very
much for this opportunity. JUDY WOODRUFF: Pulitzer Prize-winning author
Colson Whitehead’s newest book is out today. It’s a work of fiction, but one based on a
brutally real place in the Jim Crow South. Jeffrey Brown sat down with Whitehead recently
in New York. It’s part of Canvas series on arts and culture. JEFFREY BROWN: It was a grim finding. In 2013, a team of archaeologists at the University
of South Florida dug up unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Arthur G. Dozier
School for Boys in Florida’s Panhandle. News reports detailed how the reform school,
which closed in 2011, had been notorious for the physical, sexual and mental abuse imposed
on its young students. The writer Colson Whitehead remembers first
hearing the stories. What was it about the story of the reform
school that grabbed you? COLSON WHITEHEAD, Author, “The Nickel Boys”:
The fact that I’d never heard of it. And if there’s one place like this, there’s
dozens and dozens. I hadn’t read a story about black kids and
Jim Crow in this particular kind of setting before. So, as an artist, there’s material there,
and just as a human being, living in America, trying to make sense of where we’re going
and where we came from. JEFFREY BROWN: Three years ago, Whitehead
won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for his novel “The Underground Railroad,”
set amid the horrors of the slave South, but imagining an alternative universe in which
the railroad, in reality a series of escape routes and safe houses, is an actual subterranean
train. His new novel, “The Nickel Boys,” is a fictional
account of the Dozier School, a segregated institution that opened in 1900, touted itself
as an enlightened center for wayward boys to avoid prison terms, but secretly coerced
labor and meted out horrific punishments in its so-called White House, allegedly leading
to the deaths of dozens, whose disappearance was unaccounted for. COLSON WHITEHEAD: I first came across the
news reports that a lot of the survivors and the survivors groups had gotten together and
were talking about what happened to them in the ’50s and ’60s were white, but the majority
of the students were black, as I started doing more research. And I thought, what’s their story? JEFFREY BROWN: How did you tackle it? Because you have real facts, many things known
about it, many things unknown still. COLSON WHITEHEAD: I had the place, a real
place, Dozier School, the facts of the campus, how discipline worked. And then I wanted to come up with my own characters. And, obviously, historians have to stick to
the facts, but, as a fiction writer, I like making things up, and I like coming up with
my own characters and seeing how they operate in these different worlds. JEFFREY BROWN: “The Underground Railroad,”
which — your last book, which we talked about, also grounded in very harsh reality, but with
a real twist, a bit of fantasy thrown in. This is much more direct. COLSON WHITEHEAD: You pick the right tool
for the job, and sometimes fantasy is a way to open up a story and convey a universal
truth, and sometimes realism. And I grew up reading comic books and science
fiction and Stephen King, and so fantasy has always been part of my toolkit. JEFFREY BROWN: Why did you choose realism,
brutal realism in this case? COLSON WHITEHEAD: I wanted to be concise. I wanted to stay on the boys. I really wanted to focus on my two main characters,
Turner and Elwood. I think they have a compelling dynamic. And the closer I could stay to them, the closer
I would stay to the truth, it seemed. JEFFREY BROWN: The two main protagonists,
very different personalities. Right? Part of what’s going on is, they’re having
a kind of debate about how to survive. COLSON WHITEHEAD: Sure. We have Elwood, who’s a straight-A student. It’s ’63. He’s been raised reading about Martin Luther
King, the great protests, and he thinks that we can effect change in the world. Turner is an orphan, and he’s lived by his
wits, surviving any way he can. They get together at the Nickel Academy, my
version of the Dozier School. They start their debate about how to live
and how to survive in this world. JEFFREY BROWN: That makes for an interesting
sort of novel of ideas. COLSON WHITEHEAD: I was wrestling with my
own ideas about where we are as a country. I started writing in the spring of 2017, after
Trump’s election, and I found myself wondering how much progress we’re making as a country. Can I believe that the world we’re making
is a place — a better place for my kids? Or are we regressing into division and hatred? And so Elwood and Turner speak to different
parts of me. I mean, I’m having an argument with myself
through them. JEFFREY BROWN: In fact, Whitehead’s books
have long explored the world through a variety of voices and genres. COLSON WHITEHEAD: “And no matter what he did
the rest of the year, the day of the fight, he was all of them and one black body, and
he was going to knock that white boy out.” JEFFREY BROWN: Including satire, a more personal
coming of age story, zombie horror, and a nonfiction romp about poker. COLSON WHITEHEAD: If you do something once,
why do it again? I love Stanley Kubrick. JEFFREY BROWN: The director, yes. COLSON WHITEHEAD: And he would do his war
picture. He would do a science fiction. He would do his dark comedy. When I approach a zombie novel, historical
fiction, my short book about the World Series of Poker, how can these different forms allow
me to evolve as a storyteller, but also attack different parts of the world? JEFFREY BROWN: I don’t know if you started
out with some kind of sense of purpose or mission. Do you see a story that Colson Whitehead has
been writing? COLSON WHITEHEAD: It’s about race in America,
me sort of stepping back and trying to figure out how things work. And maybe it’s capitalism, and maybe it’s
race. And maybe it’s just the weird places our heart
takes us. JEFFREY BROWN: So, with “Underground Railroad,”
Pulitzer, National Book Award, more than a million copies sold. COLSON WHITEHEAD: Sure. (CROSSTALK) JEFFREY BROWN: That puts you in a different
category of writer, right? COLSON WHITEHEAD: Well, I take now like one
depressive nap a day, as opposed to two. (LAUGHTER) COLSON WHITEHEAD: You know, definitely the
year after all that great stuff happened, I was in a really good mood. I have been working for 20 years, and I have
had books that did well or were received in a nice way, and books that were ignored. And I like to appreciate “The Underground
Railroad” for what it brought to me. I know it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of
thing of a lot of things coming together. And then, when it’s done, you start the next
book. And there’s the day-to-day, page by page. Is this working? Is Elwood a good character? Is my writing improving? Am I doing things in a better way than I could
have done it 20 years ago? So, all those doubts remain. And if they weren’t there, you wouldn’t be
putting the work in. JEFFREY BROWN: All right, “The Nickel Boys.” Colson Whitehead, thank you very much. COLSON WHITEHEAD: Yes, thanks for having me. JUDY WOODRUFF: An explosive political and
corruption scandal is rocking the island of Puerto Rico. And, as William Brangham explains, it’s endangering
the future of the island’s leader, Governor Ricardo Rossello. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It’s been like this for
days, thousands of protesters in the streets of San Juan, demanding the resignation of
their governor, Ricardo Rossello. At times, they have been met with armed police
and tear gas. the crisis engulfing the governor exploded
this weekend, after a 900-page trove of text messages was leaked and published by Puerto
Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism. The texts between Governor Rossello and members
of his inner circle were repeatedly laced with misogyny, homophobia and crude jokes. Targets included political opponents and the
island’s financial oversight board. In one exchange, Governor Rossello called
a former New York City councilwoman a whore. In another, the governor’s chief financial
officer joked about dead bodies piling up after Hurricane Maria. The leak led to the resignation of two members
of his administration, but this scandal comes right on the heels of the indictment and arrest
of two other members of the governor’s Cabinet last week on fraud charges. A Justice Department investigation into federal
contracts led to charges against six people, including Education Secretary Julia Keleher,
who was arrested for allegedly steering millions to politically connected consultants. And all of this comes as President Trump and
congressional Republicans continue to hammer Puerto Rican officials for their handling
of the island’s finances both before and after Hurricane Maria. The White House issued a statement saying:
“The unfortunate events of the past week in Puerto Rico prove the president’s concerns
about mismanagement, politicization and corruption have been valid.” Puerto Rico’s finances have been controlled
by an independent oversight board since 2016, and the island is trying to restructure some
of its enormous debts. Rossello is asking Congress to send billions
of dollars in additional federal money to support ongoing hurricane disaster relief
and to support the island’s Medicaid program. And in the past few days, Representative Raul
Grijalva of Arizona has called for Rossello to resign. Grijalva is the chairman of the House Natural
Resources Committee, which oversees affairs in U.S. territories. And he joins me now. Representative, thank you very much for being
on the “NewsHour.” As I said… REP. RAUL GRIJALVA (D-AZ): Thank you for the invitation. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: … you called on the governor
to resign. He doesn’t seem, according how he appeared
today, that he is going to resign. Do you still want him to go, and why? REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: Well, I think, as I said earlier,
my personal opinion, that he should resign, it’s just that. It’s going to be the people of Puerto Rico
that elected him that help him make that decision. And I think you have reached a very, very
critical and delicate point right now, as the committee that I chair looks at the PROMESA
Act and how to reform that to provide better support for the people of Puerto Rico, as
look at that Medicaid funding and making sure that it arrives and provides relief to the
people of Puerto Rico, as we work with PREPA and make sure that utility company is running
efficiently and accountable — in an accountable way. As we look at all those reforms that need
to happen, I think you reach the point where you’re feeding a narrative. And the narrative that we have heard from
the Trump administration and others: We can’t trust those people. They’re not deserving of support. And we saw that through the whole relief right
after the hurricane, how long and how much the people in Puerto Rico suffered because
of that, 4,500-plus deaths. And so the list goes on. And I think, for him, as governor, if he stands
in the way at this point — and I believe he does — of his country and the citizens
of the United States that live on that island, if they — if they’re going to be withheld
in terms of support that they need, we don’t want to jeopardize any mechanism to bring
that relief to the people of Puerto Rico. And, right now, I think the central government
of Puerto Rico needs to examine itself. I really believe the governor needs to examine
himself as to what is the common good. And I think the common good sometimes is going
to have to be the consideration of stepping aside. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I appreciate what you have
to say, that it’s really for the voters in Puerto Rico to decide Rossello’s fate. REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: Exactly. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But it doesn’t seem like
he wants to go. And if he doesn’t, doesn’t that stand in the
way of you persuading your fellow colleagues to grant the aid that all of Puerto Ricans
say they desperately need? REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: Well, I think it complicates
it in this way. It complicates it, in that you’re going to
see more demand for oversight, more controls on the part of the federal government of the
relief and the assistance going to Puerto Rico. You’re going to see more restrictions and
more strings to any support that goes there. And I think that’s going to complicate it,
because, if we’re dealing with credibility here, it’s going to be hard to convince Republicans
and Democrats that the central government of Puerto Rico is prepared and the agencies
are prepared to effectively, in an accountable, ethical and non-corrupt way, deal with the
relief that the people need. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You heard — I read a bit
of the president’s statement, which is, he’s saying, in effect, you see? My criticism all along was right. The government in Puerto Rico cannot be trusted
to manage their finances. Does the president have a point? REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: I don’t think — I don’t think
he does. He’s been saying this from the beginning. But it does feed his narrative. And the adage about people in glass houses
certainly applies here, but the point being that I think it feeds that narrative and it
feeds the narrative about control. It feeds the narrative about people not being
able to take care of themselves. And the responsibility for giving volume to
that narrative, and giving justification to Trump, unfortunately, falls squarely in the
hands of this governor. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As you know — I would like
to switch gears just for a moment — much of Washington has been consumed with… REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: Yes. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: … the president’s racist
attack on four of your colleagues, all women of color. What have you been saying to your colleagues
about how you, as Democrats, ought to respond? REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: I think we need to respond
with a level of determination. I’m a first-generation American. And through whatever factors, here I am, a
member of Congress, chairing a committee here. Who would have — my family wouldn’t have
thought it and my parents would have dreamed of this. But here I am. And I respect that, and I love that. But I think what I’m telling people, it’s
about determination, because I think the — what we seen and what we have heard from this president
at the highest level is to encourage a division based on race in this country. And that is what wrong, and it is anti-American. And we have to be determined that, if we want
to go in a different direction, we have to rid ourselves and cleanse ourselves of this
particular malignancy that we have right now, which is divide our country based on race
and hate. That is — and I’m talking about determination. I’m talking about the things that probably
are going to get worse before they get better. But, at the end of the day, in this participatory
democracy of ours, we get a chance to vote as citizens. And we have an opportunity to turn this around
and provide a whole different direction for this country, and take us out of the morass
that we’re in right now, which is very painful to watch and certainly, for me and many sons
and daughters of immigrants in this country, very painful to feel. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Representative
Raul Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, thank you very much for your time. REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: Thank you. JUDY WOODRUFF: And an update to our lead story
tonight. This evening, the House of Representatives
voted 240-187 on a resolution condemning President Trump’s remarks about four Democratic congresswomen
of color as racist. Four Republicans and one independent joined
the Democrats in condemning the president’s language. The president had tweeted that the women should
go back to the countries from which they came. All of them are American citizens, and three
are American-born. Mr. Trump has insisted that his comments were
not racist. And that’s the “NewsHour” for tonight. I’m Judy Woodruff. Join us online and again here tomorrow evening. For all of us at the “PBS NewsHour,” thank
you, and we’ll see you soon.

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