PBS NewsHour full episode, Dec. 7, 2021

PBS NewsHour full episode, Dec. 7, 2021

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff. On the "NewsHour" tonight: tense talks. President Biden holds a virtual meeting with Vladimir Putin, amid rising fears over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Then: investigating the insurrection. The inquiry into the January 6 attack on the Capitol intensifies, as more Trump officials refuse to cooperate. And a history of discrimination. Many Black farmers still struggle to receive compensation

after being excluded from federal government agriculture programs. JOHNELLA HOLMES, Director, Kansas Black Farmers Association: We weren't able to pass on wealth. We weren't able to pass on a farm. And so to look at it and say, now your field is level? No. JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."

(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: President Biden has put Russian President Vladimir Putin on notice tonight that the U.S. will impose strong new sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine. The two men held a two-hour virtual summit today. It came as Russian troops have been building up along the Ukrainian border. We will focus on that high-stakes meeting right after the news summary.

China issued its own warning today that the U.S. will -- quote -- "pay a price" for a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. The Chinese gave no specifics, but they said the move violates the Olympic spirit and that there could be fallout. ZHAO LIJIAN, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman (through translator): The United States should stop bring politics into sports and stop interfering in the Beijing Winter Olympics with hurtful words and actions. Otherwise, it could harm a series of important bilateral dialogues

and cooperation for international and regional issues. JUDY WOODRUFF: Under the boycott, U.S. officials will not attend the Games in February, but American athletes will still compete. There is word that French authorities have arrested one of the suspected killers of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. News account today say that a former member of the Saudi

royal guard was detained at an airport near Paris. It's believed that Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018. The U.S. House of Representatives moved this evening to clear the way for raising the national debt ceiling. The legislation provides for a simple majority vote in the evenly divided Senate on raising the government's borrowing limit. Senate leaders in both parties agreed on the need to act to prevent a national default.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We want a simple majority, without a convoluted, risky, lengthy process, and it looks like the Republicans will help us facilitate that. So we feel very good about where we are headed on debt ceiling. It's not done until it's done, but the idea of letting Democrats carry it ourselves is what we have always said. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I believe we have reached here a solution to the debt ceiling issue that's consistent with Republican views of raising the debt ceiling for this amount at this particular time, and allows the Democrats to proudly own it, which they are happy to do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will get more of the details on this later in the program. Former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has reversed himself and now says that he will not give testimony about the U.S. Capitol assault last January. His attorney complains that a congressional panel wants to ask about matters covered by Mr. Trump's claim of executive privilege. Hawaii is under a state of emergency, as a major storm stalls over the islands, dumping more than a foot of rain. The rain has poured down cliffs onto highways, and 50-mile-an-hour

winds knocked down power lines. Still, Pearl Harbor today marked the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack that brought the U.S. into World War II. About 30 elderly survivors attended. Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are suing Facebook's parent company, Meta, for more than $150 billion.

The suit was filed in California. It alleges that posts on Facebook incited violence against the Muslim Rohingyas in mostly-Buddhist Myanmar. A major outage at Amazon Web Services disrupted access to a number of sites today. The problem was mainly focused on cloud computing services in the Eastern U.S. It affected everything from Delta Air Lines and Netflix to the Associated Press. Workers at Kellogg cereal plants have rejected a five-year contract. That announcement today

means a two-month strike continues. The company says that it will now hire permanent replacement workers. On Wall Street, stocks surged again led by tech companies. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 492 points to close at 35719. The Nasdaq rose 461 points, 3 percent. The S&P 500 jumped two percent.

And the U.S. formally returned a 3, 500-year-old clay tablet to Iraq today after it and thousands of other antiquities were looted during the 1991 Gulf War. It bears part of the Epic of Gilgamesh from the ancient Sumerian civilization. The artifact was put on display in Baghdad

at the Foreign Ministry, along with many other returned treasures. Still to come on the "NewsHour": a Hawaii military community seeks answers on how its water was contaminated with petroleum; a new film details the detention and torture of an alleged al-Qaida mastermind; and much more. President Biden's meeting today via videoconference with Russia's President Vladimir Putin was the fourth time the leaders have spoken or met this year. Russia now has more than 100,000 troops stationed on the border of Ukraine, and Mr. Biden gave Putin a -- quote -- "crystal-clear message" -- that is according to White House aides -- that Russia faces significant economic reprisals if it were to invade.

Here's Nick Schifrin. JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: Good to see you again. NICK SCHIFRIN: In a virtual meeting over a real-life standoff, Presidents Biden and Putin started with smiles, but, at the White House, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden delivered a firm warning. JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. National Security Adviser: There was no finger-wagging, but the president

was crystal clear about where the United States stands on all of these issues. NICK SCHIFRIN: Senior congressional officials tell "PBS NewsHour" the administration is threatening economic sanctions, including removing Russia from the international SWIFT banking system, freezing Russian banks' international assets and blocking their international transactions. The U.S. today also hinted any Russian invasion could threaten Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline, designed to deliver natural gas to Europe.

Ukraine's military today is stronger than it was the last time it faced Russian invasion in 2014. Biden today told Putin the U.S. would increase military support to Ukraine just as Ukraine recently deployed hundreds of American-made Javelin missiles and Turkish-made drones that can target Russian tanks. And the administration also said President Biden told Putin that NATO's Eastern allies would receive more U.S. troops and training similar to these 2016 exercises. For weeks, Russian military drills and irregular deployments signal they're ready for escalation. Satellite images show a massive buildup along the Russian-Ukraine border. And U.S. intelligence produced a map that shows five newly deployed Russian battalion tactical groups north of Ukraine, two newly deployed groups off the Ukraine's northeast border, more troops off Ukraine's southeast, where Russia has invaded in the past, and additional tanks and artillery in Russian-annexed Crimea, for a potential of 175,000 forces.

And inside Eastern Ukraine, Russian-backed separatists maintain control of territory and vow to fight from World War I-style trenches. In the Ukrainian militaries trenches, this week, President Volodymyr Zelensky tried to reassure front-line troops he has their backs. On Monday's Armed Forces Day, Zelensky said the country faced an existential threat from a single enemy.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, Ukrainian President (through translator): Freedom is the greatest value for us. It is a symbol of our country. All of Ukraine, the servicemen of the armed forces of Ukraine who continue to fill the most important mission, to defend the freedom and sovereignty of the state from the Russian aggressor. NICK SCHIFRIN: The Kremlin said today Putin demanded -- quote -- "legally fixed guarantees" Ukraine never host U.S. missiles or join NATO, as he said recently. VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russian President (through translator): Just look how close to Russian borders is the military infrastructure of the North Atlantic Alliance. We take it more than seriously.

NICK SCHIFRIN: But, today, Sullivan said Biden rejects that request. JAKE SULLIVAN: He made no such commitments or concessions. He stands by the proposition that countries should be able to freely choose who they associate with.

NICK SCHIFRIN: To deter Russia, Biden last night and today called his counterparts in the United Kingdom France, Germany and Italy to present a united front. Olaf Scholz will be Germany's chancellor as of tomorrow. OLAF SCHOLZ, Incoming German Chancellor (through translator): Just like everyone else in Europe and in the United States, we are worried about the troop movements we are seeing on the border with Ukraine, which is why it must be absolutely clear that it would be an unacceptable situation if Ukraine was threatened. NICK SCHIFRIN: For more on all this, we turn to Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs. She joins me from Capitol Hill, where she was testifying today.

Victoria Nuland, welcome back to the "NewsHour." Let's start by talking about the path to diplomacy that President Biden laid out today. What is the off-ramp that President Putin was offered? VICTORIA NULAND, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs: Well, Nick, as you

recall, with regard to Russia's invasion of Eastern Ukraine, there is a set of agreements on the table for de-escalation called the Minsk Agreements, which essentially involves giving a special status for Donbass, having elections out there, in exchange for Russia pulling out all of its forces and returning the sovereign border to Ukraine. So those talks, which were pretty active in '15 and '16, have gone stale. So the U.S. is offering to play a diplomatic role in getting those reinvigorated. President Putin also has a number of concerns that he likes to voice about the actions of NATO being destabilizing to Russia. We're obviously prepared, as the president said to President Putin and as National Security Adviser Sullivan has said publicly, to have a conversation with Russia, along with our allies and partners, about any strategic concerns that they have. But that's a different matter than whether Russia gets a veto over Ukraine's future, which it does not.

NICK SCHIFRIN: All right, so let's talk about the first aspect of that. The Minsk Agreements signed in 2015 and 2014, as you said, calls on Kiev to allow occupied territory Donetsk and Luhansk some degree of autonomy. Kiev has resisted that. So are you saying that you will push Kiev actually to follow through on those promises it's made? VICTORIA NULAND: Again, these were agreements that were entered into by both Ukraine and Russia under the auspices of France and Germany, and they called for Donbass to be de-occupied, for all of the foreign forces and mercenaries to come out, and for Russia to return control of the border, and in the process for Ukraine to grant more self-governance to Donbass.

Now, since then, Ukraine has offered a high degree of self-governance to all of its other provinces. So Donbass would, in effect, have to catch up, and there could conceivably be some additional things. But those would have to be subject to negotiation. And it would be Kiev's sovereign decision what level of special status to offer for Donbass. NICK SCHIFRIN: And, on NATO, which you referred to, why not consider preventing Ukraine from joining NATO, since there is no momentum right now for Ukraine to gain membership? VICTORIA NULAND: Well, first of all, the NATO charter signed in 1949 says that the alliance is open to any European democracy that can meet the standards of membership.

Frankly, that would be an option for Russia too, if it were to change manifestly, which it has not expressed an interest in doing But we are not going to change NATO's open-door policy or more than 70 years of policy. And we are not going to give Russia a veto over the alliances of a sovereign country. We are -- those are decisions for Ukraine to make and for NATO to make, not for the Kremlin to make. NICK SCHIFRIN: Are you willing to provide any guarantees or assurances that U.S. missiles

won't be based on Ukraine, as the Kremlin is asking? VICTORIA NULAND: In 1998, and again in 2003, in the context of NATO negotiating its partnership agreement with Russia, and then renewing it again, NATO made certain assurances that we would not station substantial combat forces along Russia's borders. NATO has lived up to those agreements. I can't say that Russia has lived up to its side at the agreements. But that would obviously continue to pertain as long as Russia was prepared

to honor its side of the pact. NICK SCHIFRIN: We have talked about carrots. Let's talk about the sticks. How specific did President Biden get today in threatening further actions, such as removing Russia from the SWIFT banking system, freezing Russian banks' assets, and blocking Russian banks' access to international markets? VICTORIA NULAND: The president was crystal-clear about what Russia and the Kremlin will confront if they move aggressively on Ukraine again and about the impact on the Russian economy and on its status in the global economic system. NICK SCHIFRIN: Another one of the sticks, you said today that Germany is prepared to -- quote -- "suspend Nord Stream 2 in the event of an invasion? Has the incoming German government made that commitment? And do you think President Putin considers that important enough to be part of his calculus when it comes to what he does with Russian forces into Ukraine? VICTORIA NULAND: It is very hard to imagine that, in the context of Russia moving aggressively on Ukraine, that Europe would want to increase its dependency on Russian energy. NICK SCHIFRIN: Are you considering targeting President Putin's personal assets and/or his most senior advisers? VICTORIA NULAND: I'm not going to get into specifics here or negotiate this in public, Nick. But we have not been shy in the past about our sanctions with regard to folks close to President Putin and to things that matter to him.

NICK SCHIFRIN: On bolstering Ukraine's military, I have spoken to senior Republican officials who say the administration isn't moving fast enough specifically on the delivery of weapons. So do you believe that you need to send more and do so more quickly? VICTORIA NULAND: So, this year alone, the United States has provided more than $450 million in security assistance to Ukraine. And we are obviously open to doing more if the situation requires. NICK SCHIFRIN: And does that mean that the administration is committed to increasing the speed with which those defensive weapons would be delivered? VICTORIA NULAND: Again, there are a number of things already delivered to Ukraine that they need to be thinking about how to use in the context of self-defense. And we are talking to them about that. And we are open to other things that they may need.

NICK SCHIFRIN: And, finally, today, you said this. You said: "This is a moment of testing. Autocrats and our friends will watch closely what we do." Why is this moment so important? VICTORIA NULAND: Because President Putin may be aspiring once again to change global geography by force, to violate the sovereignty of independent territory, of an independent nation. And if the democracies stand by and allow that to happen, then it will embolden autocrats everywhere. NICK SCHIFRIN: Victoria Nuland, thank you very much.

VICTORIA NULAND: Thank you, Nick. JUDY WOODRUFF: The clock has been ticking on the next potential fiscal crisis for the U.S. government. The nation's debt ceiling could be reached, and government might not have the funds to pay its bill as soon as next week. But, as we reported, today, a breakthrough between Republicans and Democrats means they may have found a way out. For more on this. I'm joined by our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins.

Lisa, here we go again. LISA DESJARDINS: Whew. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, for a long time, for the last many months, there was a lot of bitter division over this issue of the debt ceiling. What's happened? LISA DESJARDINS: This was the problem a lot of us on Capitol Hill were the most worried about.

I'm going to take you through what's happened today. And I want to start first with the policy. Let me explain. It's an unusual solution that our leaders have come up with today. Here's what they want to do. First, they want to craft a bill that would combine a few things. It would include a block on Medicare cuts that would automatically happen without congressional action. And, with that, it would also create almost a new rule allowing for a simple majority in the Senate to pass a debt increase.

That bill is now in the House. What would happen next is, that path-clearing bill, as I call it, would need to get 60 votes in the Senate. We expect that to happen this week. That would then free up the ability of the Senate to pass a debt increase with a simple majority vote. And it would be a political way of saving face for everyone, especially

Senate Minority Leader, the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, who you remember well said Democrats will have to do this on their own, we will not help them raise the debt ceiling. And he did, however, say he wanted them to do this through reconciliation. Democrats say it's a complete reversal on his part. It's at least a five-point turn. But, clearly, the politics were on -- in Democrats' side. They stuck it out together on this. Chuck Schumer had his first stare-down with Senator McConnell over this, and he pulled out a win.

Now, I want to also talk a little bit about how this actually came about, because you and I have talked so many nights about all of the gridlock, 50/50 Senate, very difficult to get anything done. Simple. Sat down, the sit-down between Senators McConnell and Schumer day after day after day. Didn't leak it. They all -- they talked to each other. And I think Senator Schumer sensed that Senator McConnell had kind of boxed himself in. Now, Senator McConnell still has a political problem. There are Republicans I talk to who

are very unhappy with this. They wanted more of a showdown. They think the debt ceiling was one of their few pieces of leverage that they could have used to maybe have spending caps or make a bigger statement. They think this was a mistake. But now Senator McConnell has to get 10 Republicans to vote with him to clear the path for this debt ceiling. We will watch that closely. It feels likely he will get those votes. I expect him to be one of them. JUDY WOODRUFF: Very, very interesting, what is taking place. Again, the ice seems to be cracking.

LISA DESJARDINS: That's right, for now. Our lawmakers are speaking with each other about important things. That is good. JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, thank you once again.

LISA DESJARDINS: You're welcome. JUDY WOODRUFF: Also at the Capitol, new headwinds for the select committee in the House of Representatives charged with investigating January 6. It has been 11 months since the attack on the Capitol, and, since then, the House committee has issued more than 40 subpoenas. A number of those subpoenas are aimed at former Trump administration officials and allies. And, today, we got new details about who is cooperating and who is fighting back.

Josh Gerstein joins me now to bring us up to speed. He is the senior legal affairs reporter for Politico. Josh Gerstein, thank you very much for being with us again.

I think the main information we got today has to do with Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff to former President Trump. After initially saying you wouldn't cooperate, then, last week, he said he would. Now, again, he is saying he will not cooperate, not in a live interview.

What's the significance of this? JOSH GERSTEIN, Politico: Well, it's definitely a setback for the committee, because the fact that Meadows had agreed to cooperate, at least partially cooperate, served as a signal for people down the line from the Trump White House and in the Trump orbit that maybe it would be OK to cooperate with the committee, there would be no terrible repercussions. But then, really, within a matter of days, to have Meadows reverse himself and say he wouldn't testify, I think it's a problem for the committee, because people are looking for signals. By indicting Steve Bannon for not cooperating, the committee was hoping to send a signal, and now they have got sort of, I think, a confusing set of messages going out to potential witnesses. JUDY WOODRUFF: And what do you make of what his attorney is saying? Among other things, he's saying the committee doesn't appear to respect former President Trump's assertion of executive privilege. He's he's saying that the committee is asking for what he calls intensely personal communications? JOSH GERSTEIN: Yes, I mean, I don't know how Meadows his lawyers could really be surprised by the fact that the committee doesn't respect President Trump, former President Trump's assertion of executive privilege. They have said as much and they have gone to court to essentially fight back against that privilege. So, I'm not really surprised by that. I think what might have happened

here is a change of heart on Meadows' part. When he decided to cooperate, it was pretty clear that Trump was not happy with that decision. And then we had some conflict between them about Meadows' book that recently came out and some unflattering stories about President Trump that are in there, in particular, his handling of his COVID diagnosis during last year's political campaign season. So it wouldn't surprise me that Meadows has decided that, in fact, there's no way to cooperate with the committee and remain in Trump's good graces. And now he's sort of looking for a reason to do an about-face. JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, his attorney is saying that he may be prepared to sit down and -- or he may be prepared to answer questions in writing and potentially provide documents.

He's already provided some. What does that mean? I mean, how different would it be if he's saying, I will answer some questions in writing vs. doing it in person? JOSH GERSTEIN: I mean, I think it would be very different. And I'd be surprised to see the committee take him up on that option.

Generally, investigators like to have a live witness in front of them and to be able to go back and forth and do follow-up. What usually comes out if you have written questions is actually the person's attorneys response to the questions, rather than the person themselves. And, oftentimes, sort of all the detail and anything that might, in fact, be interesting is kind of ironed out of the statement before it makes it to the committee. So, like I said, I'd be surprised if they thought that that was an adequate substitute for having in person live testimony. JUDY WOODRUFF: Josh Gerstein, what do we know, if anything, about the documents that he has already turned over and what more the committee -- what more the committee wants in the way of written records? JOSH GERSTEIN: Well, it's a little bit unclear, because the committee is trying to also get Trump White House records directly from the National Archives that has custody of those records.

And, in fact, one of the complaints that Meadows' lawyers has put forward about why they no longer think that he should be testifying is that there's been an effort to secure Meadows' phone records directly from telephone companies. There may have been efforts to secure people's e-mail records or other forms of correspondence. And that's one of the explanations that they're giving for why they don't want to cooperate.

I think they may be afraid that they could be surprised at a potential deposition by things that they haven't seen or haven't expected. So I'm curious about how that will eventually be resolved. I think that the simplest way would be for him to try not to testify. But, of course, that risks criminal prosecution, just like Steve Bannon is currently being prosecuted.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that is the committee's recourse. That is something they can do, if they choose. We also received word today that the former Vice President Mike Pence's his chief of staff, Marc Short, is saying that he will cooperate with the committee. How do you read that? JOSH GERSTEIN: Well Marc Short, I put in a somewhat different category from a lot of other Trump officials. He was already someone that had been critical of President Trump's response to the events on January 6. He was someone that is seen more as being in Vice President Pence's camp. And so the

fact that he would cooperate, I don't think is really going to be taken as a signal by other Trump allies that they should go one way or the other way. I view it as a fairly unique circumstance. And given Marc Short's track record and his position and his allegiances to Pence, I'm not surprised that he would step forward and say, I will cooperate with the committee. In fact, he's told a lot of this story publicly already. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, of course, that's a reminder that Vice President Pence was the subject of much of what the mob that attacked the Capitol was there looking for.

Josh Gerstein with Politico, thank you very much. JOSH GERSTEIN: Thank you, Judy. Take care. JUDY WOODRUFF: For decades, Black farmers have been excluded from federal farm programs, a systematic pattern of discrimination that the U.S. Department of Agriculture acknowledged

decades ago. And yet proposals to compensate farmers for past wrongs have languished in controversy and red tape. The most recent include the Biden administration's efforts to earmark such funds in its American Rescue Plan and now Build Back Better. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro begins his report in Northwest Kansas, as part of our ongoing series Race Matters.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Walking down this dirt road brings Bernard Bates back to the highest and lowest points of his 84 years. This land behind you goes back generations in your family? BERNARD BATES, Former Farmer: Yes, mm-hmm. Goes back to slavery. KARLA BATES ADAMS, Daughter of Bernard Bates: Dad was a good farmer. He was one of the best ones in Graham County.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Dating way back to the '40s, Karla Bates Adams says her father was a prolific producer here in Nicodemus, Kansas, a rare enclave of Black farmers whose ancestors settled here after they were freed from slavery. So, there was more land, that you owned different chunks of land? BERNARD BATES: North of the cemetery, there's another 80 acres. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In the early 1980s, amid the historic agricultural recession and crop disasters that hit the Midwest, many farmers fell behind on their loan payments, including Bernard Bates.

BERNARD BATES: Bugs, hail, wind and rain, freeze, and everything for three, four years in a row. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: When he approached the U.S. Department of Agriculture for relief, Karla Bates Adams says, not for the first time, he was treated differently. KARLA BATES ADAMS: We know that the white farmers were getting the assistance, and the Black farmers were not. BERNARD BATES: They were getting all kinds of loans. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The Bates then witnessed and even photographed the dismantling of their livelihood in foreclosure.

That must have been very painful to witness. BERNARD BATES: Tell me about it. KARLA BATES ADAMS: They truly took our livelihood and then left my parents to have to go on food stamps. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Their land was subsequently sold off to white farmers.

The Bates' farmstead is among millions of acres of land that Black farmers have lost over the decades. In the 1920s, 14 percent of all farmers in the United States were African American. That number is down to less than 1.5 percent today. JOHNELLA HOLMES, Director, Kansas Black Farmers Association: There are men like Bernard that would still be farming, because that's what he loves and that's what he wanted to do. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Nicodemus resident JohnElla Holmes is a retired professor and director of the Kansas Black Farmers Association. For decades, she says, they have been excluded from federal agriculture programs, like price subsidies, disaster relief, and especially loans, the financial backbone of American agriculture.

JOHNELLA HOLMES: Those loans are just -- they're just pivotal. Equipment is so expensive anymore that one single farmer, especially the small farmers, they can't afford that equipment. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In 1999 and again in 2010, Black farmers were offered limited compensation after a class-action suit. But the settlement was marred by allegations of fraudulent claims on one hand and the exclusion of possibly thousands of legitimate claimants on the other. Bernard Bates was a plaintiff. BERNARD BATES: I myself haven't got one dime, not a dime.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The Biden administration has included several billion dollars in loan forgiveness and other relief for distressed and disadvantaged farmers in its Build Back Better plan. TOM VILSACK, U.S. Agriculture Secretary: We know for a fact that socially disadvantaged producers were discriminated against by the United States Department of Agriculture. We know this. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Earlier this year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled a similar $4 billion relief plan specifically for minority farmers in the American Rescue Plan. That triggered several lawsuits on behalf of white farmers, claiming reverse discrimination, and it succeeded in suspending the program, pending the outcome of the litigation.

JON STEVENS, Farmer: If a Black farmer lived across the road, and this bill went through, I see him get his mortgage paid off, it ticks me off because that was money stolen from me given to him. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Jon Stevens is a fifth-generation farmer in Pine County, Minnesota, and is a well-known advocate of the environmentally friendlier regenerative farming. Do you think that discrimination exists today against Black farmers? JON STEVENS: As a federal system, I would say no. Now, when you go to your local office,

sure. And that would go anyway, whether it's white to Black, Black to white. Yes, there's racist people all over this country. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What are these plaintiffs not understanding? JOHNELLA HOLMES: Oh, I think they understand. I think they just don't want to acknowledge the history.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Professor Holmes says that history of discrimination has taken an enormous toll on Black farm families that is still felt today. JOHNELLA HOLMES: We weren't able to pass on wealth. We weren't able to pass on a farm. And so to look at it and say, now, your field is level? No. Bernard Bates' family were -- they were denied the opportunity to continue to farm. That didn't level the field. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Jon Stevens says white farmers are as likely today to face rejection at the USDA or at a private lender. He says the key is to persevere. JON STEVENS: I don't want to hear your victim story. So what if -- what if I discriminated

against you on something? Is that going to stop you? FRED DE SAM LAZARO: If you're the government, possibly, or you're the banker. JON STEVENS: Go to another bank. Postpone it a couple years. If you want to be a farmer, if you want to be anything, just pick your bootstraps up and forget the rest of the world and do what you need to do. ANGELA DAWSON, Farmer: Well, I made my own straps and my own boots.

(LAUGHTER) ANGELA DAWSON: And I'm pulling them up. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Angela Dawson farms just a few miles north of Stevens. Four years ago, she moved here in a career switch back to a family tradition that ended when her grandfather lost his farm.

ANGELA DAWSON: You have to have at least 1,000, maybe 2,000, 10,000 acres in order to really be a sustainable farmer. And that's something that I definitely didn't have access to. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So she tried to join the booming business of organic farming, whose humanely raised meat commands higher prices and therefore is feasible on a small farm. But when Dawson, who has a degree in business administration, presented her business plan with her loan application, she says the USDA agent was not convinced. ANGELA DAWSON: I was really enthusiastic about the pigs. And she said, "What are you doing here? " FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What do you think they were really asking you? ANGELA DAWSON: I felt like they were asking me, what makes me think I could do this? FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Despite an appeal, her application was rejected in a process that took 18 months, she says. Agriculture Department officials declined to comment specifically

on this case. Dawson found a new passion as lucrative as it is controversial. ANGELA DAWSON: This one is a good one. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Hemp. The plant is now legal to grow in all states, its extracts

sold for medicinal use. ANGELA DAWSON: My decision to go into hemp was driven by economics. For CBD hemp, the average farmer makes about $50,000 per acre. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Dawson's farm is now the home base of a 33-member cooperative of minority-owned farms across the U.S.

ANGELA DAWSON: This is the brain. This is the brain of the operation. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The co-op guides members growing hemp on how to monitor the crop so it meets licensing standards. ANGELA DAWSON: We use regenerative practices, but we also use technology, and we don't want people to get into farming to be poor.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Business has been great, she says, but that raised a red flag at one local bank, which closed her accounts. ANGELA DAWSON: The bank said that they thought I could be trafficking. So, the criminal image that's associated with hemp and Black people is really difficult for me to overcome. So, it's ever after, but we're still working on the happily part. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Is it something that you would like to get back? BERNARD BATES: Oh, yes. KARLA BATES ADAMS: Yes. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Also waiting for happily ever after, the Bates family, hoping, by legal action or reparation, to buy back the land and legacy that they say was unjustly confiscated.

KARLA BATES ADAMS: Bye. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Fred de Sam Lazaro in Nicodemus, Kansas. JUDY WOODRUFF: Fred's reporting is in partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. U.S. military families stationed in Hawaii and others working in and around the base there are dealing with tap water contaminated with petroleum. The cause is unknown, but investigators say a leak from a nearby fuel storage facility operated by the Navy may be to blame.

On Monday, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro issued an apology. But, as Stephanie Sy reports, there were warning signs. STEPHANIE SY: For days, active-duty soldiers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii have been distributing water to their own, thousands of military families without clean drinking water due to fuel contamination. WOMAN: I am a single duty -- or single active-duty mom to two special needs kids. STEPHANIE SY: At several town halls in the last week, resident after resident reported harrowing medical problems in their children. WOMAN: On Sunday, my children took a bath, and for 45 minutes afterwards, they complained of burning skin.

STEPHANIE SY: And in their pets. WOMAN: We made the heart-breaking choice to put my beloved dog down after a mysterious illness. STEPHANIE SY: The Navy-run water system serves some 93,000 people. About 1,000 households

reported smelling fuel in the water starting in late November. It took the Navy almost a week to acknowledge the problem. Residents like Audrey Lamagna had been smelling the fuel for days. AUDREY LAMAGNA, Navy Housing Resident: I decided, let me just fill up a cup, like a plastic cup, full of water. And what do you know? That cup smelled like fuel. STEPHANIE SY: Lamagna, a military spouse, has a baby and a 7-year-old. What went through your mind when you tested the water and you realized you had been bathing your children in it, and that there was signs of fuel in it? AUDREY LAMAGNA: I'm poisoning them, and I didn't even know. Like, how sad is that?

STEPHANIE SY: The contamination was found in the Navy-run Red Hill well, which sits close to an underground fuel storage facility built during World War II. The facility has had a history of leaks dating back to 1949, with 27,000 gallons of jet fuel accidentally released in 2014. Just two months ago, Hawaii's Department of Health fined the Navy $325,000 for violations at the facility, including failure to maintain corrosion protection of the metal tanks.

The 20 tanks have the capacity to hold 250 million gallons of fuel, and they sit above the island's most important aquifer, which supplies groundwater to 20 percent of Honolulu residents. As a precaution, civilian water authorities shut down a shaft near Red Hill that serves customers in Honolulu. Governor David Ige issued an emergency order requesting the Navy come up with a plan to empty the fuel tanks, but it's unclear he has any enforcement authority. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro apologized on Monday during a visit to the base, and announced operations were suspended at Red Hill.

CARLOS DEL TORO, U.S. Secretary of the Navy: As long as I'm secretary of the Navy, I pledge to you that we will address all the issues that you just mentioned with sincerity, transparency, with a complete dedication to try to fix this problem. STEPHANIE SY: For now, many families are finding alternate housing, including Audrey Lamagna's. They have moved to a hotel, which the Navy says they will pay for later. Does that work for you? AUDREY LAMAGNA: No, it does not, because we live paycheck to paycheck. We're on a single

income. STEPHANIE SY: The Navy says it is flushing clean water through its system, which can take up to 10 days. AUDREY LAMAGNA: Even if they were to give us the all-clear, quite frankly, I don't trust what the Navy has to say anymore. STEPHANIE SY: Joining me now to discuss the wider implications of the water contamination is the manager and chief engineer of Honolulu's Water Supply Board, Ernest Lau.

Mr. Lau, aloha and thank you for joining the "NewsHour." When did the Navy notify you about the contamination at the Red Hill shaft, and what was your reaction? ERNEST LAU, Manager and Chief Engineer, Honolulu Water Supply Board: Stephanie, actually, the Navy did not notify us about the drinking water contamination. Our state Department of Health notified us on Sunday evening. That was the Sunday after

Thanksgiving. But we actually got no official notification from the Navy. STEPHANIE SY: You shut down the Halawa shaft, which serves 20 percent of Honolulu's water customers. Why did you do that? Did you find contamination in water in that well? ERNEST LAU: Just to be clear, Stephanie, we have not found contamination by fuel in our drinking water in Halawa shaft.

Halawa shaft represents 20 percent of our supply capacity. So, we took that precaution of shutting it down because we saw what was happening to the Navy. From their drinking water source at Red Hill, Red Hill shaft, they actually ended up pumping fuel into their water system and delivering it to their customers. So, as a precaution -- and I do not want to put our water customers from the Board of Water Supply, the public, at risk by pumping fuel into their drinking water system. So, we shut down the shaft before we detected any amounts of fuel in the water.

STEPHANIE SY: You have been looking at this issue, I understand, since 2014, Ernie, when there was a massive leak of 27,000 gallons of fuel from one of the tanks. Does it frustrate you that not more has been done to secure this water source? ERNEST LAU: We have been working for eight years to ring the alarm bells that this facility needs to be addressed and needs to be either upgraded to double-wall tanks or completely removed. But for the last eight years, our voices haven't been heard. We have urged the regulators,

the Department of Health and the U.S. EPA and the Navy to take action to prevent a disaster that would impact heavily our drinking water resource. STEPHANIE SY: The Navy has now stopped operations at the Red Hill fuel storage tanks, which is what you had been calling for. The Hawaii congressional delegation had been calling for that. Governor Ige has said he wants to see those tanks emptied of fuel. Is that satisfactory to you?

ERNEST LAU: You know, this gives us hope that, suddenly, the key decision-makers are voicing their concerns about the facility. What remains, though, Stephanie, is actual implementation. Are they going to carry through, or is the emergency order issued by the health director for the state of Hawaii going to be enforced strictly and hold the Navy accountable? We have seen in the past letters, strongly worded letters sent from our Department of Health and EPA to the Navy, but we haven't really seen the follow-through and those regulators holding the Navy accountable. So now's the time to not do that anymore. We really need to get this thing addressed right away as soon as possible. And for the Board of Water Supply, removal -- the immediate

removal of the fuel out of Red Hill is the only real way to reduce this risk, massive risk to our drinking water aquifer. The Navy is experiencing it firsthand right now. And that's very unfortunate. And I feel so terrible for their customers having to endure this and drink the fuel-contaminated water. I do not want that to be repeated with the general public, the almost over 400,000

people that we serve water in the city of Honolulu itself. We cannot let that happen. So, I need the regulators to hold the Navy accountable. I need the Navy to step forward and not fight us anymore. We have been fighting with them for eight years to do the right thing to protect the water resource. We have always said to them, you also depend on the resource itself for Joint Base -- of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. And they have told us that, that Red Hill shaft supplies

24 percent of their supply for their base. So, now, unfortunately, we see firsthand how important clean drinking water is to our community and to the base itself. STEPHANIE SY: Ernest Lau, chief engineer with Honolulu's Water Supply Board, thank you so much for joining the "NewsHour."

ERNEST LAU: Mahalo. JUDY WOODRUFF: A new HBO documentary that debuted this week tells the story of a man once thought to be a top al-Qaida operative and of U.S. attempts to justify torture in the name of protecting Americans. Amna Nawaz recently sat down with the filmmaker, Alex Gibney. It is part of our arts and culture series, Canvas. AMNA NAWAZ: Abu Zubaydah was the first high-value detainee subjected to the CIA's program of enhanced interrogation techniques, practices denounced as torture both here in the U.S.

and around the world. After being captured in a firefight in Pakistan in 2002, Zubaydah was shuttled among so-called black sites, secret prisons run by the CIA all over the world. He has never been charged with a crime, but for the past 20 years has remained imprisoned, mostly at Guantanamo Bay, while a team of lawyers fights for his release. A new documentary called "The Forever Prisoner" explores the story of Abu Zubaydah and U.S. actions in the name of national security. The filmmaker behind it is Academy Award-winner Alex Gibney. And he joins me now.

Welcome to the "NewsHour." Thanks for being here. ALEX GIBNEY, Filmmaker, "The Forever Prisoner": Thanks. Glad to be here. AMNA NAWAZ: Abu Zubaydah is considered a high-value detainee to the U.S. Tell us a little bit about him. What did the U.S. believe that he knew that made him high-value? ALEX GIBNEY: Well, certain members of the CIA believed that he was the number three in al-Qaida. That made him a high-value detainee. Other members of the CIA actually felt he was more

of a kind of independent facilitator, which is actually what he was. He was flown to a secret site, which we now know was in Thailand, Northern Thailand. And he was interrogated, at first by FBI agents, and then later by a group from the CIA, ultimately by a gentleman named James Mitchell. AMNA NAWAZ: When the FBI's leading the questioning, is he offering them any information that's helpful? ALEX GIBNEY: He offered the FBI information that was helpful almost immediately, and it was about an impending attack, in this case on Israel, funded by people in Saudi Arabia. And the CIA was able to prevent that attack. So, immediately, he was offering valuable,

actionable intelligence through traditional rapport-building techniques, which had nothing to do with torture. AMNA NAWAZ: Then the CIA remains convinced he's withholding information. We don't exactly understand why, but they decide to ramp up the pressure.

This man that you mentioned, James Mitchell, becomes much more central to this operation. I just want to play a quick clip here. Here is how you introduce him in the film. ALEX GIBNEY: Mitchell was the inventor of EITs, the acronym for what the CIA called enhanced interrogation techniques, and what the rest of the world called torture. JAMES MITCHELL, Former CIA Contractor: If my boss tells me it's legal, especially if the president has approved it, I'm not going to get into the nuances about what some guy in the basement or what some journalist thinks about it, because they're free to trade places with me any time they think they can do a better job of protecting Americans. AMNA NAWAZ: Alex, how does that man, how does James Mitchell end up at the black site run by the CIA where Abu Zubaydah is being interrogated? What's his background in interrogations? ALEX GIBNEY: That's a really good question. He had absolutely zero background in interrogation, none. He had never interrogated anybody in

his life. However, he did have a distinguished career as a psychologist who had been spending time at the so-called Air Force SERE school. SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. So he had observed and was part of a school to learn people -- to teach people how to resist torture. But he had never himself done any interrogations. AMNA NAWAZ: Despite this, Mitchell submits a list to the CIA. These are suggested techniques that they should be considering.

That list includes things like slapping detainees, walling, which is basically shoving them up against a wall, stress positions, cramped confinement, sleep deprivation, water-boarding. To most of us laymen, it sounds like torture, but, of course, the U.S. is a signatory to the Geneva Convention Against Torture. DOJ signs off on all of this. How does that happen?

ALEX GIBNEY: Well, that's part of the story of "The Forever Prisoner." It happens through a kind of excruciating legal exercise, in which they use the rationale or the rationalization that, because we do these things to our own people, how bad could it actually be? Because, indeed, we do water-board some of our soldiers to show them what might be in store for them if they're captured by a terrible regime. But those are exercises. Furthermore, these techniques almost always result, not in people telling you what is the truth, but they tell you exactly what it is that they think you want to hear.

AMNA NAWAZ: So, the Department of Justice essentially gives the green light to James Mitchell and a team of CIA interrogators who are holding Abu Zubaydah. What happens next? What does that mean for his interrogations? ALEX GIBNEY: It means that they engage in these techniques, including water-boarding. And he's water-boarded 83 times in the course of a few weeks. And, indeed, at one point, he dies. He literally stops breathing, and he has to be revived, brought back. And, at one point, James Mitchell, who, after all, was kind of the architect

of these techniques, even appeals to the CIA and says, we have -- we have water-boarded him consistently, and he's undergone enormous pain. We don't think that it's worth doing it anymore. And the CIA insists they continue. And they continue to water-board him over and over and over again. AMNA NAWAZ: You know, people will look at this story. They will have followed the news

over the last 20 years, to have known about the techniques and say, in times of war, in the name of national security, the U.S. has always and probably will always do ugly and horrific things. What would you say to them? ALEX GIBNEY: I would say two things. Number one, these techniques are immoral. I would say, number two, they do not yield the truth. They're undependable. They tend to yield what the interrogators want to hear. The CIA thought he was the number three in

al-Qaida, which he wasn't. But, ultimately, he says, yes, I'm the number three in al-Qaida. So, you would have to ask yourself, if you're in the intelligence business, what do you want, the truth or somebody to tell you what you want to hear? AMNA NAWAZ: Meanwhile, the man at the center of all of this, Abu Zubaydah, we do not hear from. What does the future hold for him? ALEX GIBNEY: That's a good question. He is in Guantanamo. He's never been charged with a crime. He's never been permitted to challenge his detention. And one of the things we discovered as part of doing this documentary

was a cable -- or a series of cables back and forth from the black site in Thailand to the CIA in Langley. And the CIA assures the people who are doing the interrogation, who are afraid that Abu Zubaydah may someday tell what happened to him, rest assured -- and this is a direct quote -- "He will remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life." And so far, that's been the case, though, interestingly, his name has recently surfaced in the Supreme Court, and a certain number of justices wondered, how is it possible that somebody could be held for 20 years without the ability to challenge their detention? AMNA NAWAZ: The documentary is "The Forever Prisoner." It debuts on HBO and HBO Max. Alex Gibney, thanks so much for being here.

ALEX GIBNEY: Thank you. JUDY WOODRUFF: And a news update before we go. Australian government officials will not attend the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, joining a U.S. diplomat boycott announced earlier this week. Australia's prime minister says that China has not responded to his country's concerns over alleged human right abuses. Like American athletes, Australian athletes will still compete in the Games.

On the "NewsHour" online right now, watch the U.S. Navy's full commemoration ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. The secretary of the Navy kicked gave a keynote address at the ceremony in Hawaii. And, separately, President Biden observed

the anniversary by visiting the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. You can see all of the day's events at PBS.org/NewsHour. Eighty years. And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Judy Woodruff. Join us online and again here tomorrow evening. For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.

2021-12-10 01:56

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