PBS NewsHour full episode, Feb. 12, 2021
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff. On the "NewsHour" tonight: the defense's turn. Former President Trump's team makes its case for acquitting him, saying he does not bear responsibility for provoking an assault on the Capitol. Then: a personal account. For the first time, Senator Patty Murray discusses hiding from the violent mob that was inches away when rioters stormed the Capitol. SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA): I have had a hard time talking about this, because I don't want
those people to ever feel that they had instilled fear in me that kept me from doing what I needed to do. JUDY WOODRUFF: Plus: the future of digital freedom. The impact of Trump administration cuts to a key anti-censorship agency raise concerns about U.S. support for activists abroad. And it's Friday. David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart consider the second Trump impeachment trial and the changing federal response to the pandemic.
All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour." (BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: The defense has now rested in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Trump. His lawyers took less than three hours, arguing his cause on factual, First Amendment and constitutional grounds. Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins reports. SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): The Senate will convene as a court of impeachment. LISA DESJARDINS: With 16 hours on the clock for their turn to make their case, lawyers for former President Donald Trump felt his defense needed far less time. Right away,
they rejected the charge that Mr. Trump directly caused the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol last month. MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN, Impeachment Attorney for Donald Trump: No thinking person could seriously believe that the president's January 6 speech on the Ellipse was in any way an incitement to violence or insurrection. The suggestion is patently absurd on its face. LISA DESJARDINS: It was a sharp rebuttal to presentations from Democratic impeachment managers over the past two days that featured harrowing images of the chaos that day and the words they say incited it. DONALD TRUMP, Former President of the United States: We're going to walk down to the Capitol.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) WOMAN: Yes! MAN: Let's take the Capitol. MAN: Take the Capitol! MAN: Take it! LISA DESJARDINS: The defense team's Michael van der Veen dismissed Democrats' approach as a partisan attempt to disparage the former president and prevent him from running for office again. MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: To claim that the president in any way wished, desired, or encouraged lawless or violent behavior is a preposterous and monstrous lie.
LISA DESJARDINS: They sought to appeal to senators with legal arguments. They said Mr. Trump's remarks on January 6 represented freedom of speech, protected by the First Amendment. MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: "If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore." This is ordinary political rhetoric that is virtually indistinguishable from the language that has been used by people across the political spectrum for hundreds of years. You must reject this invitation to ignore the First Amendment. It is anti-American and would set dangerous
precedent forever. LISA DESJARDINS: The attorneys said none of Mr. Trump's words were intended to be a call to arms and that insurrectionists acted out of their own accord. MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: The fact that the attacks were apparently premeditated, as alleged by the House managers, demonstrates the ludicrousness of the incitement allegation against the president.
You can't incite what was already going to happen. DONALD TRUMP: We have come to demand that Congress... LISA DESJARDINS: The lawyers accused Democrats of cherry-picking Mr. Trump's words and deliberately overlooking a message to supporters to march to the Capitol nonviolently. DONALD TRUMP: I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol Building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard. DAVID SCHOEN, Impeachment Attorney for Donald Trump: They know it doesn't meet the standard for incitement, so they edited it down.
LISA DESJARDINS: With a video reel of their own, the defense argued the former president's incendiary words were no different from that of some Democrats. SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): Please, get up in the face of some congresspeople. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): People will do what they do. SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. LISA DESJARDINS: Another reel, running nearly 10 minutes, featured a montage of Democrats, including many of the senators watching, using the word fight, just as Mr. Trump did the
day of the Capitol assault. SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): This is the fight of our lives. SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): But we are going to make sure that this fight does not end tonight. DAVID SCHOEN: Every single one of you and every one of you. That's OK. You didn't do anything wrong. It's a word people use, but please stop the hypocrisy.
LISA DESJARDINS: Defense lawyer David Schoen spoke to Democrats in the room, including Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, but they rejected the comparison: SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Most of us who were quoted as having used the word, we were talking about fighting for health care, or fighting for cleaner air, or fighting for better schools, not fighting to interrupt the certification of the presidential election. LISA DESJARDINS: The defense team also returned to a familiar attack on the constitutionality of the trial itself, arguing the Senate holds no jurisdiction to try a former president.
MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN: This would transform the solemn impeachment process into a mechanism for asserting congressional control over which private citizens are and are not allowed to run for president. It is constitutional cancel culture. LISA DESJARDINS: The Senate, sitting as the jury, already dealt with that issue. A majority of senators agreed the trial should move forward. Ultimately, the Trump defense rested their case in significantly less time than prosecutors took, confident their arguments had resonated and that they had the votes to acquit from senators, who followed up with questions for both sides.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Senator Warnock has a question. LISA DESJARDINS: A conviction would require support from at least 17 Republicans, and has been unlikely from the start. A final vote could come as early as tomorrow. JUDY WOODRUFF: And Lisa joins us now from the Capitol, along with our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor. So, Yamiche, you have been tracking the defense very closely. Give us the core of the argument they made today and where they feel this trial stands.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, former President Trump's defense attorneys feel very confident that he will be acquitted. And one Trump adviser told me just a few minutes ago, if they had said nothing in the Senate chamber, they still feel like President Trump would have been acquitted. And that's because they believe there aren't just 17 Republican senators not willing to go against President Trump, but to go against their voters, who, many of them are Trump supporters.
That said, the defense did put on a short presentation. And they focused on saying that President Trump was the real victim here, that he was the -- what they were really being -- he was being targeted politically because of his power, saying that this was a witch-hunt, saying that there was constitutional cancel culture happening here, in some ways echoing the president's own words. What they didn't do, though, was try to litigate the 2020 election. Of course, President Trump still falsely saying that he won the election. But, just a few minutes ago, an attorney for the president also would not admit that he lost the election. So, that tells you a little bit about what's going on there. Something else that the Trump lawyers did today, they put out this video, this very long, extended video of Democrats and of reporters, media personalities, talking about fighting, talking about using the same words that now, of course, President Trump is being criticized for using.
And in that chamber, in the Senate chamber, there was really two sides of kind of reactions. There was the laughter from Democrats, who really didn't take it seriously, thought that it was a false equivalency. And then I also saw Republican senators laughing, essentially saying, yes, Democrats are being hypocritical. But just a few minutes ago, Representative Stacey Plaskett, House impeachment manager, she said that -- she pointed out that that video featured a lot of Black women and people of color. And she said, quoting the civil rights activists failing Fannie Lou Hamer, I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired, making the point that this trial is really about who we want to be as a country, and if President Trump is even acquitted, it still begs the question whether or not we as a country want white supremacy and systemic racism to continue.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Yamiche, you were also telling us that there's a dispute that has broken out between the defense team and the House managers over security video that was shown this week. Tell us about that. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: That's right.
The Trump attorneys are making the case that new video evidence that was shown during this trial, the security camera footage showing Vice President Pence running from the crowd, being evacuated, and a number of other lawmakers running for their lives, that that was not video evidence that they had gotten ahead of the trial. They were saying that that was the first time they ever saw it, when, in fact, a source told me, a senior Democratic aide is saying, that's not true, that David Schoen in particular was not telling the truth. In fact, they said that all of the evidence, including the video, was given to the Trump defense attorneys, as per the trial rules. So, that's a big, big argument going on there, with Democrats essentially saying that President Trump's lawyers are not telling the truth. JUDY WOODRUFF: And to you, Lisa, we know that the trial is now in the question phase, where senators can pose questions to each side.
Tell us where that stands. What coming out of this part of the trial? LISA DESJARDINS: That's ongoing as we speak, Judy. So far, some two dozen questions by the 100 members of the Senate, taking turns. And it's interesting, because they're asking questions that I think many Americans would have asked, very straightforward questions, some of them including asking the president's defense team, what exactly was the president doing? What did he know about what was happening at the Capitol as it was unfolding, as he was tweeting out things about Vice President Pence? Did he understand that Vice President Pence had been evacuated? An important question from Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, a Republican, said, what we know about the president suggests that he did not care that the vice -- that Vice President Pence was in danger. Interesting. The defense team has taken the approach to answer all these questions to
say: We don't know what the president was doing because Democrats have not investigated this case. And in that question from Senator Cassidy, they even said that his premise was false. They have rejected the idea that President Trump knew what was going on with Vice President Pence. But I'm curious if that will backfire. Democrats keep pounding away at that, saying: It is up to you to tell us what the president was doing. You had the ability to have him speak in his own defense. And, if not, then we have to assume that he was not, in fact, trying
to protect the U.S. Capitol. So, some really interesting questions here. And I'm particularly interested in Senator Cassidy to see how he votes in the end. He's indicated that he is still open possibly to a conviction, but we will have to see how that goes. JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you both.
We understand the questions are expected to wrap up tonight. Tomorrow, they go to closing statements, and we may well get a vote on this impeachment trial. Thank you both. And, meantime, as we have been reporting, the trial has revealed a number of new chilling details about the January 6 attack on the Capitol. And, today, we have learned even more. For the first time, Senator Patty Murray from
Washington state and the highest-ranking female Democrat in the Senate is speaking publicly about the terror she experienced that day while hiding just inches from the violent mob who she says were looking to kill. She and I spoke this morning, before the defense team presented their case. Senator, I know this is very personal for you because you were close to where the rioters ended up being in the Capitol. Take us back to that day and tell us what happened. SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA): Well, I came to the Capitol that day, as I do every day, and it was fairly loud outside.
I had heard the president speak, and I was very aware that this crowd was pretty negative. And so I texted my family and said: "I'm on my way. I will let when I get safely to the Capitol." And I did. I texted them. And I said: "I'm in my office. I'm safe." That turned out to not be true. I was there because I was going to be one of the first speakers on one of the first challenges. And I was preparing myself in an office very close
to the Senate floor, when, all of a sudden, I saw -- I could see out the window the people who were protesting were no longer protesting. They were breaking through. They were angry. They were yelling. They were loud. And I still felt, well, I'm in the Capitol, I'm safe, because that's what we feel. And it wasn't long before I heard explosions, I heard yelling, and, all of a sudden, they were in the hallway outside my door. I was inches away, along with my husband, who was with me at the time. And we were really frightened. We were hearing the announcements to stay locked down.
We heard loud explosions. My husband yelled at me to get down. We were lying on the floor. And, all of a sudden, they were in the hall. They were yelling. They were yelling that they had breached the castle. They were yelling, "Kill the infidels." And we heard somebody saying: "We saw them. They're in one of these rooms." And they were pounding on our door and trying to open it. And my husband sat with his foot
against the door, praying that it would not break in. I was not safe. It was a horrific feeling, and it lasted for a long time. JUDY WOODRUFF: It had to be incredibly frightening. Senator, how close do you think they came to breaking down the door? SEN. PATTY MURRAY: Well, what I remember most vividly is that the door -- I didn't know -- even know if the door was locked. I go in and out of it, and I couldn't remember if I locked it.
And I was just -- and we had to be quiet. We didn't want them to know we were in there, where we were. And I'm just looking at my husband, and we we're just -- eye contact, and just we can see each other's eyes: Please, please let this door be locked.
And this vision of my husband just putting his foot against a door, like he might be able to hold down this incredibly loud, angry, even jubilant mob outside our door was just beyond belief. And the terror I saw in his eyes was something I have not seen, and we have been married for almost 49 years. JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you remember anything -- any of the things that they were saying or yelling when they were outside -- outside your office? SEN. PATTY MURRAY: Absolutely. They were yelling that they breached the castle, they breached the Capitol. They were yelling: "Freedom, freedom, freedom." They were yelling: "Kill the infidels."
They were -- I remember somebody saying: "Get me the map. I need the map." It sounded like they were talking on walkie-talkies to -- or phones -- I think it was walkie-talkies -- to somebody else and getting directions. So, they knew what they were looking for. And, by the way, they didn't know it was me, I don't think. It could have been anyone.
It could have been any member of Congress. I don't think it mattered whether we were Republican or Democrat, woman or man. They were in there to kill the infidels, as they were saying. And that is just an overwhelming thought to me today now, as I sit and listen in this trial, that what they were trying to do was to kill someone, not all of them, for sure, but that was some of them, enough of them. They wanted to take over our country, take over all of us using brute force. JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, why do you think they eventually left? Who do you thank for the fact that they didn't break through, that they didn't get in, and they...
SEN. PATTY MURRAY: Well, they wanted to. They wanted to. I mean, it was every intention of them. You could hear it in their commands. You could hear it in their words. I was in there well over an hour under this. I was trying to text with my staff: What should
we do? And I looked down, and my phone was running ought of power, because I had been trying to text my family. I wanted them to know all of a sudden what was going on. I was trying to text my staff. I was trying to get help. And I crawled over to where the phone was on my desk, and the power had been cut. I mean, there was just so many moments like that, that it's hard to even talk about.
I remember, one point, my staff, I believed, or I heard it on a monitor -- it's hard to remember -- said: "Put on your gas masks." And we could hear something going on throughout the Capitol. And I'm, like, where are the masks? I have been here forever. I haven't seen -- I haven't used mine or even known where it was since 9/11. And I didn't remember where it was. And I'm crawling across the floor trying to find a gas mask.
That kind of fear is horrible. I was in the Capitol on 9/11, one of the few senators that was. I was in an office looking out across the Mall towards the Pentagon. We had known that the New York towers had been hit. We were talking about it. And, all of a sudden, the window that I was looking out of, I could see the smoke rise from the Pentagon.
Officers raced in and told us to get out of there as fast as we could. And, of course, later, we learned that, but for some very brave people in a plane over Pennsylvania, we would have been hit. That's the only other time in my whole time here that I ever felt I was not safe in the Capitol, until January 6. And what happened on 9/11 is the urgency, the compassion, the sense of responsibility that members across the aisle worked with to go after terrorism is not here today. And, to me, that's really sad. And I feel less safe now because there is not a bipartisan action on the part of Congress to say this is wrong.
I have had a hard time talking about this, because I don't want those people to ever feel that they had instilled fear in me that kept me from doing what I needed to do. And, today, when I see some members of Congress wanting to dismiss this or wanting to say put it in the past or move on, they're being instilled by fear, and that is what's motivating them. We cannot allow that to be what runs our country. We have to be a country that runs by strength,
not by fear. And I don't want to talk about this, because I don't want to show my fear. But you show your fear, you show your fear is overcome by strength, by speaking out and speaking against what happened in the Capitol. That's what I want for my country. That's what I want for my grandkids. I want a country that uses words and voices, that speaks out against this kind of brute force, that does not allow it to be what runs our democracy. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Senator, when you say your colleagues who vote not to convict, who say they don't think the president should be held responsible by conviction, what are you saying about them? SEN. PATTY MURRAY: I would say directly to them, do not let fear be what makes us do the right thing in the country for the future of our country and our democracy, whether it's fear of that brute power or it's fear of a constituency that's loud, or the fear of a president who is loud.
Speak up for our democracy now, or you may lose it forever. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Senator, why are you speaking about this today? SEN. PATTY MURRAY: Because I realized, as I listened yesterday to the House managers, and they talked about the senators being 58 steps away, that I was inches away.
And I heard and saw what many of them didn't hear until the last few days. And I realized that it's important for me to tell people what happened to me and so many others. And I know the staff that was there, the Capitol Police, so many people lived what -- through what I did whose voices have not yet been heard. We need to speak up for them. JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, soon after January the 6th, you, by name, singled out Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Josh Hawley for their role in this.
How do you view their role? Do you think they bear responsibility, some responsibility for what happened? And whether you do or not, how do you see working with them as colleagues in the Senate going forward? SEN. PATTY MURRAY: Well, I view anyone who knew this crowd's motive and incited them and did not condemn them should be held accountable. And I felt that the actions of Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley in particular did that.
I don't know. It's going to be really hard. I work across the aisle all the time. I work with Republican colleagues I respect a lot. But I can't respect someone who tries to undermine our democracy by brute force. JUDY WOODRUFF: And you believe they were part of inciting this insurrection? SEN. PATTY MURRAY: It was clear to me, through the words they used, through the actions they used, through the incitement that they used, that they knew what this crowd was capable of, and they didn't do anything to stop them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think they should stay in the Senate? Should the Senate take action against them? SEN. PATTY MURRAY: Well, I think the Senate is doing an inquiry into that. And I will respectfully wait for that inquiry to occur, and follow the advice of the senators who follow through on that. JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Patty Murray, I know everyone listening to you feels for what you went through. And we thank you so much for talking with us today and sharing your story.
Thank you, Judy. In the day's other news: The CDC offered new guidance on reopening schools during the pandemic. It found strong evidence that in person classes can safely resume with protective measures. It also said that vaccinating teachers is not a prerequisite, but they should be given priority. This evening, President Biden urged states to follow the CDC's guidance. The World Health Organization appealed for vigilance today, as new COVID infections drop worldwide. They are down for the fourth week in a row.
In Geneva, the agency's head said that it is still vital to stay alert. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WHO Director General: Complacency is as dangerous as the virus itself. Now is not the time for any country to relax measures, or for any individual to let down their guard. Every life that is lost now is all the more tragic, as vaccines are beginning to be rolled out. JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. death toll reached 480,000 today, even as daily increases in
infections and deaths have declined. The United States will begin letting some 25,000 legal asylum seekers enter the country from Mexico while their cases proceed. The Biden administration announced the change from President Trump's policy today. It takes effect next Friday, involving three border crossings and a few hundred people a day. In Myanmar, the general leading the new junta urged the public today to -- quote -- "join hands" with the military to achieve democracy. Instead, thousands of protesters confronted
police in pro-democracy demonstrations. They were the largest since the military coup nearly two weeks ago. The president of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee has resigned. Yoshiro Mori had complained that women -- quote -- "talk too much in meetings." Mori initially refused to go, but he gave way today, under pressure from the public and from Olympic sponsors.
YOSHIRO MORI, Former President, Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (through translator): My inappropriate remarks caused turmoil. I'm sincerely sorry for causing troubles to many, including organizing committees and everyone involved in this. As it has been already reported, I will resign today. I have no intention to demean women. JUDY WOODRUFF: The Tokyo Games are due to open in July, amid public opposition and the ongoing pandemic.
Back in this country, a White House press aide was suspended for a week without pay for threatening a journalist. Deputy Press Secretary T.J. Ducklo reportedly confronted a female staffer at Politico in sexist, profane terms. She had written about Ducklo's relationship with a reporter who covered the Biden campaign and transition. And on Wall Street, a modest advance put three major indexes at record closes again. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 27 points to finish at 31458. The Nasdaq rose 69 points,
and the S&P 500 added 18. Still to come on the "NewsHour": cuts to an anti-censorship agency raise concerns about U.S. support for activists abroad; David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart analyze the still under way impeachment trial; and we remember several more of the many remarkable lives lost to COVID-19. Today, a small, U.S. government-funded organization, the Open Technology Fund, received money that was frozen last year.
Referred to as OTF, it advocates for Internet freedom the kind of freedom that was cut off last week by the Myanmar military and restricted by governments, including China, which banned the BBC yesterday, and Iran. Nick Schifrin reports on how the battle over OTF's funding was a symbol of Trump administration turmoil and how this small group wages a global war. NICK SCHIFRIN: In the 21st century war between activists and authoritarians, protesters try to avoid beatings, torture, and even death with the digital shields of Dmitri Vitaliev. DMITRI VITALIEV, Co-Founder and Director, eQualitie: Enable or to empower these activists who were doing what I believe was important work around the world.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Vitaliev's work and mission? Protect Belarusian activists from government surveillance and help them defeat Internet censorship. DMITRI VITALIEV: The powers that be who surveil and censor access to the Internet grow in their capacity. We have been kind of invested in building local capacity and giving them access to new tools and new methods with which they can secure themselves, with which they can circumvent Internet censorship. NICK SCHIFRIN: Vitaliev's activism was born from his father's bravery. Vitali Vitaliev
was a journalist forced to defect from Russia after he criticized the government. They left in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell. Eastern Europe coursed with a fever for freedom, encouraged for decades by U.S. federal broadcaster Voice of America. NARRATOR: The Courier, a ship without guns, goes into battle with the greatest weapon of all, truth. NICK SCHIFRIN: VOA promoted American ideals by presenting objective news. NARRATOR: Citizens around the world are being tortured, imprisoned, and even killed for their online speech.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, VOA's digital descendent is the Open Technology Fund that promotes American ideals by maintaining Internet freedom. Its budget, only $20 million, its staff only 11, but OTF Funded the technology that became Signal, and Signal's technology now powers Facebook Messenger, Skype, and WhatsApp for more than two billion people. OTF technology is on two-thirds of the world's phones. OTF also funds Vitaliev. DMITRI VITALIEV: These type of activities, these type of projects are very much in line with the American principles, democracy, freedom of speech, human dignity. And it is in the interests, I believe, of the United States to continue to support these kind of efforts.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But then arrived Michael Pack. MICHAEL PACK, Former CEO, U.S. Agency for Global Media: That I want to clear out the problems in the agency, both the mismanagement and the bias. NICK SCHIFRIN: Last year, Pack became CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees federal broadcasters, including VOA, and funds agencies including OTF. He targeted
the very government employees he led, pushed on by President Trump. DONALD TRUMP, Former President of the United States: If you heard what's coming out of the Voice of America, it's disgusting. NICK SCHIFRIN: Pack fired senior aides, editors, and entire boards of trustees. He kicked foreign journalists out of the country and investigated journalists for being critical of President Trump. He withheld OTF's congressionally mandated budget, leaving his own soldiers on the battlefield temporarily defenseless. DMITRI VITALIEV: From one day to the next, we have to stop your funding.
LAURA CUNNINGHAM, CEO, Open Technology Fund: It's truly not clear to me what his motivations are or who these actions benefit, other than authoritarian regimes and enemies of Internet freedom and freedom of expression around the world. NICK SCHIFRIN: Laura Cunningham is the CEO of the Open Technology Fund. Pack tried to fire her and the entire OTF board, and then tried to effectively destroy OTF by barring it from federal funding. LAURA CUNNINGHAM: Removing support for OTF and removing support for those technologies, we are putting people who have risked their lives at even greater risk of being attacked and silenced by authoritarian regimes. NICK SCHIFRIN: People like Nima Fatemi. NIMA FATEMI, Founder, Kandoo: I have had to distance myself from my family quite a bit to increase their safety.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Fatemi is an Iranian-born activist. The Iranian government considers his work such a threat, it's not safe for him to tell his family back in Iran what he does. His software Kandoo is OTF-funded and protects Iranian demonstrators. He watched during the 2009 Green Revolution and last year's protests, as Iran shut down the Internet and persecuted protesters for their digital communications.
In 2012, blogger Sattar Beheshti criticized the regime. The cyber-police unit arrested him. He died in custody. NIMA FATEMI: I think, like, secure communication is the step zero of any change in any society. NICK SCHIFRIN: But he too was cut off when Pack froze OTF's funding. MICHAEL PACK: America must reassert itself in the new global war of ideas. NICK SCHIFRIN: Pack argues OTF was mismanaged and revitalized an alternate Internet freedom organization.
But his real motivation, according to a dozen interviews conducted by "PBS NewsHour," might be this group. The Falun Gong opposes the Chinese Communist Party. To circumvent Beijing's Great Firewall, it funded technology called UltraSurf. It was backed by an unusual consortium of Pack and Trump allies. OTF's predecessor declined to
provide funding, and UltraSurf refused to submit to OTF vetting. But, in November, Pack signed a contract to fund UltraSurf with up to $2 million... MAN: In this episode, we sit down with Michael Pack. NICK SCHIFRIN: ... and just a few days later gave an on-camera interview to the Falun Gong-backed
Epoch Times. MAN: Michael Pack, such a pleasure to have you on "American Thought Leaders." MICHAEL PACK: Thank you for having me on. NICK SCHIFRIN: But Pack's era at USAGM is ending ignominiously. Last month, in the space
of three weeks, whistle-blowers accused Pack of propaganda, D.C.'s attorney general accused him of illegally funneling money, and then he resigned under pressure from the Biden transition team. But the wounds he inflicted will take time to heal. LAURA CUNNINGHAM: We are seeing the Chinese government and the Russian government flooding markets to monitor and co-opt the public and civil society. So, this is not just about removing critical tools. It's also about strengthening the hand
of our adversaries. NICK SCHIFRIN: Those adversaries are watching, trying to censor and control. Campaigners urge the U.S. to continue the fight for Internet freedom, so activists, and not authoritarians,
can hold the future in their hands. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin. JUDY WOODRUFF: And at the end of another busy week in Washington, from the Senate's second impeachment trial of Donald Trump to the Biden administration's COVID response, we turn now to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post. So good to see both of you this Friday, as always.
Let's start by talking about the thing that's consumed so much of our week, David, and that is the impeachment trial. It looks as if it's almost over. We have heard from the prosecution, the House. We have heard managers. We have heard from the defense. I guess the question period is finished now.
What do you make of it? DAVID BROOKS: Well, last week on the program, I was sort of pooh-poohing it. My head was very much in the COVID relief bill. And I was like, let's get this impeachment out of the way as fast as we can so we can work on what we need to be worked on. And I think I was wrong about that. I was struck by how moved I was, how freshly angered, how much I learned, how much it really grabbed the nation's attention. If all the impeachment did was bring us that Patty Murray interview, it would have been worth it. There were so many moments, especially that interview, where the reality that they
and the reality of what our country is facing and faced very closely was brought to life. And any occasion to really lay out the threats, the internal threats to this country is a good thing. So, I was gripped, and I think the country was gripped. JUDY WOODRUFF: Jonathan, what did you make of the last four days? JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, unlike David, I long said that this Senate impeachment trial had to happen, it needed to happen, if only to send a signal that you cannot incite an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and not face any kind of consequences. The very first day, when they were arguing over whether the trial itself was constitutional, and the House impeachment managers played that, I believe, it was 11-minute or a 13-minute video that took us back to that day, to January 6, I remember watching it live on January 6, and being angry and being hurt and being sad about what was happening to my country. Watching it again, I started to cry, because I was -- like David, I was taken back to that day. And to see it all put together over 13 minutes, some of the video being footage I'd never seen before, and, really, the one piece was seeing -- we had all seen the video of the police officer screaming in agony as he was being crushed in the doorway. What made
me cry was seeing what was happening that made him scream. And I think that -- I agree with David. The nation needed to see this. I think the nation needs to see Donald Trump convicted, but, at a bare minimum, from this day, this week forward, Donald Trump's name can never be written about or said without anyone thinking about the horror that happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. JUDY WOODRUFF: David, do you think the managers, the House managers, made the link, that, in -- that they proved their case that the president incited this riot? DAVID BROOKS: I think they did.
I'm -- I think they erred in being prosecutorial. And they did cherry-pick in their video. I think the Republican defense was reasonably effective in showing how they picked parts of the Trump January 6 speech in which he seemed to send people to Capitol, but not the parts where he said do it peacefully. But I think the thing they really proved, first, they gripped us, as Jonathan I have been talking about. But it wasn't about January 6. In my view, if it was only a speech on January 6, it would have -- would not have been incitement. But, as they said very compellingly and very persuasively, it was months, it was months, and, in some ways, it was years. And so it was the month of the stop the steal campaign
that riled people up, that brought people to Washington, that sent people off in a direction that was clearly violent. And so I do think they compellingly made the case. Will Republicans vote their way, enough of them? No, probably not. It would not shock me, though. I would say there's a 10 percent
chance that Mitch McConnell votes to convicted. It would not completely shock me if we had some unsuspect -- some unexpected conviction votes. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Jonathan, what did you -- do you think the managers made their case? And then let's talk about the defense. They just -- essentially just rejected the entire
case. JONATHAN CAPEHART: Yes, I think the House impeachment managers, they made their case. They used all the time -- well, not of all the time, but six or so hours, to methodically spell out, make the case, argue the case intricately, videos, tweets, what have you. We all -- we all watched it.
What I found disappointing is that Donald Trump's defense didn't even bother to go literally toe to toe with the House impeachment managers, to spend the time it would take to argue an effective case. I wouldn't agree with their case, but at least I would expect them to spend as much time as possible to argue the case, to rebut the Democrats, and to do so in a serious way. You cannot do that in the two-and-a-half-hours that they used to argue in defense of Donald Trump. That's all they used. They had 16 hours, and only use a fraction of it. I mean, I -- earlier, when I was talking to Alex, our producer, about this, I said Donald Trump was not well-served. And you know where I stand on what I think should happen to him, but I don't think he was well-served. He could have -- his team could have done a better job with the really
flimsy defense that they had. JUDY WOODRUFF: David, do you think the defense took the managers' case seriously? DAVID BROOKS: Well, you go to the trial with the evidence you got. So, I don't know if they had 16 hours of material. First, in their defense, they think that this is -- we shouldn't be having this because you can only throw out a president who's already sitting. So, if that's going to be the core of their case, which, really, it is, then what's the point of arguing the rest of the case? But I don't think they have much. I mean, they -- the video, they -- I thought they
did an above average job of correcting the cherry-picking, as I say. I don't think what more could have been said. And so I have trouble blaming them. There's just not a lot of evidence on their side.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Jonathan, I mean, because it did come across as if they just dismissed it, and it was -- that it wasn't -- that it was as if the defense didn't even want to acknowledge that the managers' case was a case. JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, and I hear you on that point, because, yes, maybe that was it. They didn't take it seriously. But the one thing that I -- that did come through loud and clear to me, and that is perhaps maybe they didn't take the case seriously because their client doesn't take the case seriously. Some of the language that was used by the attorneys took me back to some presidential rallies. We heard the -- we heard the phrase witch-hunt within the first two to five minutes, a constitutional cancel culture, a lot of buzzwords and things that you could hear coming out of Donald Trump's mouth.
And so I started paying attention to the president -- to Donald Trump's lawyers, in the way that I used to pay attention to his officials and other people who were close to him, because they -- when those officials were in the Briefing Room or at press conferences, they were never really talking to us, the American people. They were never really talking to the journalists in the room. They were talking to a then president of the United States, who was watching television, watching them, critiquing them, and who was prepared to rip into them if they did not say words and phrases that he wanted to hear come across the television.
And that's what we saw today over two-and-a-half-hours, at least, in the defense team'S trying to rebut the case of the House impeachment managers. And the same thing that was -- the same thing was happening during the Q&A period as well. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David, what is Donald Trump's hold on the party, his supporters coming out of this trial? Do you think it changes as a result? DAVID BROOKS: In my view, the party going into this episode was 50/50; 50 was -- they were primarily just Republicans and 50 was primarily Trumpers. As the weeks have gone by in this whole episode, especially after January 6, Republican Party I.D. is plummeting. People are leaving, are de-registering from the party. The party approval rating has dropped to about 38 percent, which is now, I think, about 12 points lower than where the Democrats are.
And so it's clearly having an effect. And you saw Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador, came out today -- or with a Politico interview, very strongly criticizing Donald Trump, and saying he will not be part of the 2024 picture. And she is no dummy. And I think she sees that he will not be the figure that he was.
He's not going to go away clearly. But the part of the party that's a Trump part is going to be a shrinking part of the party. The question is, does it have veto power over everybody else? And that may remain the case, but it's clearly a shrinking part of the party, and the party itself is shrinking. JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the extent that's going on, Jonathan, how much does that help, or does it help Joe Biden, who's trying to get his administration under way, trying to get his arms around this vaccine distribution crisis and everything else? JONATHAN CAPEHART: I think, unfortunately, the Nikki Haley wing of the Republican Party doesn't seem to be sitting anywhere on Capitol Hill in any kind of numbers that would make it possible for those senators who are sitting as the jury to follow her lead. I think it's important to see what Senator Mitch McConnell does, as David mentioned earlier. But I do think, when it comes to President Biden, what's been interesting this week is seeing that, while, at one end of Pennsylvania -- or one side of Pennsylvania -- of the Capitol, in the Senate, they're doing the trial, but, over in the House, the committees are doing the work of marking up President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill and getting it
ready to -- for debate and for passage and to head over to the Senate. That's why they were working on the reconciliation process, to get that in place. I think President Biden has been about work. He is doing the work. He's been very good about not coming anywhere close to commenting at all substantively about what's happening with the Senate impeachment trial.
I think it is the right thing to do, because, in the end, the American people want to know, what are you doing to make sure that the eviction moratorium doesn't expire and that unemployment insurance doesn't expire? And if he were to be out there commenting politically about what's happening in the Senate impeachment trial, and ignoring the serious crisis that is facing the American people, he would -- he would face hell from the voters, and he would deserve it. But that's not what's happening. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David, a little less than a minute, but how do you think Joe Biden is doing so far with regard to vaccines and everything else he's working on? DAVID BROOKS: He's doing well, though I would say the people I speak to who seem to know what they're talking about are a little more nervous these days about getting enough vaccines in the arms in time. I think the distribution problems are really haunting a lot of people. I think they have
-- there's -- the supply is lower. They're worried about the variations, obviously. But the thing I think that has them most worried is the public's unwillingness to take the vaccine. In some surveys, 25 percent or 33 percent of Americans say they will never take the vaccine. And that obviously doesn't get us to herd immunity. So, I think the administration is doing what it can, but there just needs to be a much bigger public information campaign about the safety of the vaccine, and especially to teachers.
We can go back to schools tomorrow and be safe with the right precautions, but teachers are understandably worried. And their unions and their leaders and, frankly, the administration is not informing them of what we know scientifically to be true. JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of worry about that. You're right. The vaccine is -- we have it, but we don't have enough of it, and we don't
have it in enough arms, and, as you say, a lot of people still not willing to take it. David Brooks, Jonathan Capehart, both of you, stay safe. Thank you very much. JONATHAN CAPEHART: Thanks, Judy. You too. And now, as we do every Friday, we take a moment to share the stories of five extraordinary individuals who have fallen victim to COVID-19 in this country. Brandon McCray found a niche in music as a young boy, his brother said. He played the
guitar, violin and bass, but was best known for his skills as a gospel saxophonist. He taught music and recorded an album in the 1990s. Brandon was a devoted Christian, his brother said, and played at many church events, including funerals, adding that the music had a way of encouraging families in their time of need. Brandon was 52 years old. Lorintha Umtuch was an ambitious, driven woman, her daughter told us. She went back to school
in her 40s and received a degree in political science. Lorintha spent more than two decades as a tribal court judge on reservations around the West Coast. She was the first woman from the Yakama Nation to serve as mayor of Toppenish, a city in Washington state. The 73-year-old was an active member of the Baha'i faith and was passionate about teaching it to children, her daughter said.
Seventy-eight-year-old Shabbir Hamdani loved to interact with people, his son told us, and that's exactly what he did for about 40 years as a cab driver. A native of India, he moved to England, and then to the U.S., landing in the Dallas area in the 1980s. He was adventurous, gregarious and outgoing, his son said. For the last few years, Shabbir
was volunteering at the information booth at the Dallas Airport, where his son said he enjoyed answering travelers' questions. Abel and Aida Busque came to the United States from the Philippines in the 1970s and settled in Detroit. They were pioneers and worked incredibly hard, their son told us, Abel in financial services, and Aida as an OB-GYN nurse. Their children often saw them as a single, complementary entity. Abel was stricter and sometimes stern. Aida was soft and giving, their son said. Both 73 years old, the Busques
died about a week apart, just months before their 50th wedding anniversary. It was a kind of beautiful poetry, their son told us, like they couldn't bear to be apart from each other. And we thank all the family members who shared these stories with us. Our hearts go out to you, as they do to everyone who's lost a loved one in this pandemic.
And a news update before we go tonight. The Senate unanimously voted has now to present Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman with the Congressional Gold Medal for his valor on January the 6th. Before the trial wrapped up for the evening, the full Senate stood to recognize Goodman with a standing ovation.
And that is the "NewsHour" for now. Watch our gavel-to-gavel coverage of the second impeachment trial of former President Trump starting again tomorrow morning at 10:00 Eastern. You can check your local PBS station. And you can also find it online, on our Web site and on social channels. And tune in tonight to "Washington Week" here on PBS. Jonathan Karl of ABC News is guest-hosting this evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff. For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," have a good, safe weekend. Thank you, and good night.