PBS NewsHour full episode, March 25, 2022

PBS NewsHour full episode, March 25, 2022

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff. On the "NewsHour" tonight: a punishing stalemate. Ukrainian civilians endure Russia's onslaught, as President Biden visits U.S. troops in Poland

and Western leaders discuss reducing their dependence on Russian energy. Then: the heat beneath our feet. An increasing number of scientists and industry executives look to geothermal energy as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. AMANDA KOLKER, National Renewable Energy Laboratory: It's a really exciting time, because we are getting a lot more, I think, innovative ideas in the geothermal sector than we have for decades.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And it's Friday. David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart weigh in on the president's handling of the ongoing war in Ukraine and the contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings. All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."

(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: President Biden is in Poland today meeting with a key NATO ally that shares borders with both Ukraine and Russia. Mr. Biden ends his night in Warsaw, ahead of what the White House calls a major address tomorrow in the Polish capital. Meantime, in Ukraine, the horrific toll of a Russian airstrike on a theater in the south came into sharper and terrible focus. But our Jane Ferguson again begins our coverage with the president's visit near the front.

JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: Hey, folks, I just came by to say thanks. JANE FERGUSON: Visiting American troops in Poland, the president thanked them for defending NATO's borders, but said their mission was bigger. JOE BIDEN: Who is going to prevail? Are democracies going to prevail and the values we share, or are autocracies going to prevail? And that's really what's at stake. So what you're doing is consequential, really consequential. JANE FERGUSON: Mr. Biden also thanked his Polish hosts for welcoming more than 2.2 million

refugees, the most of any country neighboring Ukraine. JOE BIDEN: The suffering that's taking place now is at your doorstep. You're the ones who are risking, in some cases, your lives and risking all you know to try to help. JANE FERGUSON: The president also announced more natural gas exports to Europe, at least 15 billion cubic meters. The E.U. buys more than a quarter of its oil and nearly half its gas from Russia.

JOE BIDEN: Putin has issued Russia's energy resources to coerce and manipulate its neighbors. That's how he's used it. He's used the profits to drive his war machine. JANE FERGUSON: To punish the West over sanctions, President Vladimir Putin asked that Russian gas exports be paid in rubles, sending European gas prices soaring.

The E.U. called it blackmail, but member nations remain divided over a Russian oil and gas embargo. Nearly 2,000 miles away, in the southern city of Mariupol, civilians remain besieged, bombarded, and now, according to officials, starving to death, as food runs out.

For the first time, video emerged from inside a landmark theater, showing survivors in shock after a deliberate Russian airstrike. Following a week spent searching the wreckage, local officials said 300 victims died. For the first time in days, Russia agreed to two humanitarian corridors, including one from Mariupol. But inside the city, hundreds of thousands remain trapped. In this open air prison, they dig graves by the roadside.

Viktoria's stepfather was killed two weeks ago. Until now, the cold weather made the soil too hard to bury him. VIKTORIA, Mariupol Resident (through translator): When the doctor was taking our stepfather to the hospital, this guy took a seat in the car, instead of me. And they blew them up in this car. It could have been me. JANE FERGUSON: Ukraine says Russia is distributing aid in parts of the city it seized, but, for many, it's not enough to stay alive.

ALEXANDRA, Mariupol Resident: My husband didn't make it to receive humanitarian aid. He had diabetes. The scarce diet of the last days led him to coma, and he died. JANE FERGUSON: A senior U.S. defense official said today Russia is focusing its military

objectives in the eastern Donbass region. The official said Russian forces don't want to pursue Kyiv aggressively and are taking defensive positions. A Russian official suggested that was always the plan.

SERGEI RUDSKOI, Head of Russian General Staff's Main Operational Directorate (through translator): The main objectives of the first stage of the operation have generally been accomplished. The combat potential of the armed forces of Ukraine has been considerably reduced, which makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbass. JANE FERGUSON: But, for now, there are still cross-country attacks. In Kharkiv, there were explosions near a humanitarian distribution site.

To the north, the city of Chernihiv is all but cut off, losing its main road bridge in an airstrike this week. A day after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for global demonstrations, European capitals overflowed with Ukrainian flags and many Ukrainian people. OLANA, Ukrainian Refugee (through translator): Ukraine is my home, and we want to come back to our home. JUDY WOODRUFF: And Jane joins us now from Poland. Jane, so tell us more about this announcement from the Russian military. Is this a climb-down on their part? JANE FERGUSON: Judy, there is potential in that.

We have seen them coming out with all of niece statements today talking about how, first of all, the first phase of this military operation, the special military operation, as they call it -- they refuse to call it a war -- has been -- quote, unquote -- "successful" or completed by them. They have said that they have decimated or massively reduced the capabilities of the Ukrainian military. We know that's not true, that they will be moving on to phase two, which would be shoring up or supporting the Donbass region in the far east.

That's the restive separatist part of the country. Now, it is -- there is hope that this could be an indicator that Putin is trying to find some sort of off-ramp to save face. He has to answer to the Russian people for the potentially 15,000 soldiers, Russian soldiers, that are believed to have been killed in this fighting and for the fact that they couldn't take Kyiv.

We know from intelligence reports that the initial plan was to try to decapitate the government in Kyiv and replace it with a more Russian-friendly one, that they had much broader plans and ambitions. They invaded this country from many different angles and different positions. So this -- there's a possibility that this could be an attempt to start a narrative which saves face. But don't forget, this is coming from the Russian military. We have heard no such words from Putin himself yet. JUDY WOODRUFF: So it might be too optimistic to think it is a climb-down.

So, Jane, what then are thought to be Putin's other options here? JANE FERGUSON: You're right. It could be too optimistic. We have seen word saying that this -- that they're changing tack, but we're also seeing attacks on cities.

Those could continue. Putin still has -- he may not be able to send his troops into those cities to take them over. But he still has missiles and airstrikes that he can continue to bombard cities with. President Biden has also raised again several times now the possibility that Putin could use biological or chemical weapons.

And, of course, Russia is a nuclear power. So, for now, although these words might be encouraging for some, there's still so -- there's still the other options, deadlier options, that Biden (sic) could choose to use in the coming weeks and months. JUDY WOODRUFF: So grim that -- to think what Vladimir Putin could do. Jane Ferguson joining us tonight from Poland. Thank you, Jane.

And the "NewsHour"s coverage of the Russian invasion is supported in partnership with the Pulitzer Center. President Biden's visit to Poland today spotlights that country's importance to the military and humanitarian effort in Ukraine. For more on that, we turn to Nick Schifrin. NICK SCHIFRIN: Poland has long considered itself a front-line state against Russia.

And since Russia launched its war in Ukraine, no country has become more important to Western efforts to repel Russia's invasion and to help millions of Ukrainian refugees. To talk about Poland's role, I'm joined by Stephen Mull, the former U.S. ambassador to Poland from 2012 to 2015, during Russia's first invasion of Ukraine. He is now the vice provost for global affairs at the University of Virginia. Stephen Mull, welcome to the "NewsHour."

How important has Poland become in the U.S. and NATO's efforts to respond to Russia's invasion? STEPHEN MULL, Former U.S. Ambassador to Poland: Well, good evening, Nick. It's good to be with you. Poland, of course, has always been the most strategically important country on NATO's eastern flank since it joined in 1999. But during the current invasion of Ukraine it has become central to the whole crisis, first of all because of the long border it shares with Ukraine.

It has a very uncomfortable front-row seat for the invasion going on. And it makes our Polish allies very nervous. They share a 330-mile border with Poland.

And not only that, but that Polish border is the principal conduit for the increasing numbers of weapons that the United States is sending to the Ukrainian armed forces. And, going the other way, it's the main conduit for more than two million refugees that have fled the fighting in Ukraine. So, as the conflict moves closer to the west of Ukraine, which it seems likely to do, it's going to be increasingly in a critical spot that we need to pay close attention to. NICK SCHIFRIN: So let's first consider those weapons shipments that, as you say, many of which are going through Poland into Ukraine.

Russia vows to hit, to target that weapons supply line that goes through Poland. Why is Poland willing to take the risk? STEPHEN MULL: Well, it is a big risk for our Polish allies, but they're willing to take it because they think it's probably the lesser of two evils, the other evil being next in line to be attacked by the Russians. So it is an existential security interest for Poland to make sure that the Russians are stopped and ideally removed from Ukraine. And they're willing to risk just about anything to contribute to stopping the Russian advance towards its own borders. NICK SCHIFRIN: The other part that you mentioned, of course, are the refugees flowing from Ukraine into Poland.

Human rights organizations in the past criticized Poland for not allowing enough Middle Eastern refugees, but Poland has opened its arms, society and government to these Ukrainians who are coming into the country. Why? STEPHEN MULL: Well, I think there are a couple of key differences between the refugee crisis that happened with Belarus last summer and fall and what's going on right now. The Polish government believed that those refugees from the Middle East and from Central Asia that were coming through, through Belarus primarily to the Polish border were being sent as a means of destabilizing Poland's relationship with the rest of Europe and were, in fact, being weaponized by the Belarusian authorities, probably with Russian government support. Ukrainians are fleeing from Poland and Ukraine's common adversary, Russia, which, of course, has a centuries-long history of occupying and dominating Poland. Furthermore, the Ukrainian community has been quite large in Poland over the past few years. Between a million and two million Ukrainians have become an essential part of the Polish economy even before this invasion started.

It's a community that's assimilated very well into Polish society. They're essential to the Polish economy's operations, particularly in the service sector. And, finally, Poles feel a real moral obligation to help their Ukrainian neighbors because they believe they have that common adversary and they believe that they need to help them to make sure that, when they are in trouble, others will help them too. NICK SCHIFRIN: The European Union has accused Poland's ruling party, the Law and Justice Party, of eroding judicial independence.

The Law and Justice Party has also been criticized for eroding media freedom and LGBTQ rights. Is Warsaw's democratic backsliding being papered over because of Poland's importance to the war? STEPHEN MULL: Well, those are concerns that the Biden administration definitely has had about the human rights situation in Poland. There has been some democratic backsliding in Poland. But now that this crisis has happened, it's almost as if the house next door to Poland has suddenly caught fire, and while Poland certainly needs to maybe correct the dry rot that's going on in its own house, putting out the fire next door has suddenly become a much more dangerous threat to democracy, not only in Poland, but really throughout all of Europe. So, concentrating on the most urgent emergency that's on Poland's front doorstep right now doesn't mean that we're less concerned about the other problems that you mentioned.

NICK SCHIFRIN: And, finally, Poland is pushing for a permanent presence of U.S. and NATO troops, who up until now have been rotating into Poland back to back. That permanent presence would go against promises that NATO made to Russia in the late 1990s. Why is Poland pushing for a more enduring, guaranteed U.S. deployment?

STEPHEN MULL: Well, they believe that since the end of the Cold War and since Poland's accession to the NATO alliance, that they, in effect, have become the front line of the NATO alliance and the key to security for the entire alliance. So they believe that that requires moving the U.S. military presence that had existed in Germany and other places to the west, required moving those troops farther to the east, where the threat most likely will originate. And, in fact, the past month, we have seen they're right. That is where the threat, primary threat to NATO is originating.

In fact, I think it's likely the increased numbers of U.S. troops we have seen in Poland are there for the foreseeable future. NICK SCHIFRIN: Ambassador Stephen Mull, thank you very much. STEPHEN MULL: Thank you. JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson has picked up crucial support.

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said that he will vote to confirm Jackson. He called her supremely qualified. Manchin has opposed President Biden on several other major issues. His vote for Jackson could be vital, if all 50 Senate Republicans oppose her. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was released from a Washington hospital today after a week-long stay.

The court had said that Thomas was treated for flu-like symptoms, but did not have COVID. His release came amid reports that his wife, Virginia Thomas, repeatedly texted former President Trump's chief of staff in an effort to overturn the 2020 election. We will focus on that after the news summary.

Also today, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked a lower court order that prevented the U.S. Navy from restricting deployments of special operations forces who refuse to get COVID-19 vaccinations; 35 sailors, mostly Navy SEALs, sued after refusing to comply with the mandate on religious grounds. Now the Navy may consider vaccination status when making assignments. Teachers in Minneapolis have reached a tentative deal to end a strike that began on March 8.

About 29,000 students have been out of school since then. Superintendent Ed Graff said that he is looking forward to getting everyone back to class on Monday. ED GRAFF, Superintendent, Minneapolis Public Schools: I know this has been a huge challenge for our students, huge challenge for our families, for staff as well. You go into this profession because you care about kids and you want to see them reach their full potential and be a part of the successes. JUDY WOODRUFF: The teachers had demanded better pay, protections for minority educators and smaller class sizes, among other things.

They are set to vote on ratifying the new agreement this weekend. The Utah state legislature voted today to override their governor's veto of a ban on transgender athletes from taking part in girls' sports. The state's ban will now take effect July 1. Utah joins 11 other states that have enacted similar laws. In Ethiopia, rebel forces in Tigray agreed today to a humanitarian cease-fire.

The central government offered a truce with the renegade province on Thursday, saying that it would allow aid to flow into Tigray. The conflict broke out in November 2020 and has left thousands of people dead and forced millions from their homes. In Antarctica, scientists are raising alarms after an ice shelf the size of New York City collapsed in the eastern part of the continent last week. This satellite image shows the ice shelf in February. And here it is after last week's collapse, the first of its kind ever recorded in the region. Scientists said that, prior to now, climate change hadn't had much impact on that area.

Meantime, climate activists staged new protests worldwide, with many also calling for peace in Ukraine. There were demonstrations across Europe. Thousands marched through the streets of Rome, and mostly teenagers chanted their way across Paris. In Berlin, crowds waved Ukraine's colors, with some linking climate to the conflict. LUISA NEUBAUER, Climate Activist (through translator): We are striking today to show our great solidarity with Ukraine, but we also see now that we are in a war that is being financed by fossil fuels. There is no such thing as an isolated crisis.

If we want to separate ourselves from the autocrats and live everywhere in peace and freedom and safety, then we need to move away from fossil fuel. JUDY WOODRUFF: Activists also marched in Indonesia, Australia, and in the U.S. European Union negotiators have agreed on landmark restrictions for big tech companies, including threats of huge fines and breakups.

The rules aim to bar Google, Amazon, Meta and others from dominating digital markets. They also include new restrictions on using personal data. The agreement still needs approval from the European Council and Parliament.

Back in this country, Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry is under pressure to resign after a criminal conviction. Leaders of both parties in the U.S. House of Representatives urged the nine-term Republican to step down today. Fortenberry was found guilty Thursday of lying about accepting campaign funds from a foreign donor. And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 153 points to close at 34861. The Nasdaq fell 22 points.

The S&P 500 added 23. Still to come on the "NewsHour": David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart weigh in on the Ketanji Brown Jackson Supreme Court confirmation hearings; a Ukrainian-American realigns her business to raise money for emergency aid; plus much more. A trove of text messages that former President Trump's top aide handed over to the January 6 Select Committee have revealed an unexpected player in the effort to overturn the 2020 election results. Lisa Desjardins explains. LISA DESJARDINS: Judy, the House select committee is looking at more than 2,000 text messages provided by former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. At issue here, 29 texts between Meadows and Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

She has long been a conservative activist. The messages reviewed by CNN, CBS, and The Washington Post show she pushed the Trump White House to fight the results of the 2020 election after it was called for Joe Biden. On November 10, she texted Meadows: "Help this great president stand firm. The majority knows Biden and the left is attempting the greatest heist of our history," in her words, per those reported texts. At the same time, Trump was appealing directly to the Supreme Court to intervene on his behalf. He tweeted on November 6: "I easily win the presidency of the United States with legal votes cast.

U.S. Supreme Court should decide." Jane Mayer of "The New Yorker" has reported on Ginni Thomas, her activism, and the Supreme Court. And she joins me now. I feel right at the top, of course, we all know that the presidential election was settled law.

It was legally held, and Joe Biden was the winner. Looking at these texts that three outlets have confirmed for us, Jane, overall, what is the wife of the justice saying in these texts to the chief of staff of the president? JANE MAYER, "The New Yorker": Well, she's arguing that the 2020 election was what she calls the greatest heist in American history, and that the results that were certified were a fraud, and that it had to be stopped, and that the chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to Trump had to step in and do something to try to keep Trump in office. LISA DESJARDINS: Now, these texts don't mention Justice Thomas by name, and both Justice Thomas and Ginni Thomas have said they keep their work separate. But I do want to raise one text that people are looking at, first attacks from Chief of Staff Meadows. He wrote: "This is a fight of good against evil. Evil always looks like the victor until the king of kings triumphs."

Ginni Thomas responded: "Thank you. Needed that. This plus a conversation with my best friend just now." We do not know who that best friend was.

We know that she and her husband have referred to each other as best friend in the past. I want to ask you, first of all broadly, to get our hands around this, are there legal and ethical issues for a Supreme Court justice? What are the rules for a Supreme Court justice in this area of potential conflict of interests? JANE MAYER: Well, so, I have been reporting on this and interviewing several of the country's foremost experts on judicial ethics. And what is fascinating about this new material is that several of these ethics experts on the law said that Clarence Thomas and Ginni Thomas in these particular situations have crossed the red lines.

And what are the red lines? Well, the Supreme Court, as we know, is not bound by the judicial code of ethics that applies to all other federal judges in the lower courts. The Supreme Court sort of self-enforces its own ethics code. But it is bound by U.S. law. There is U.S. -- a U.S. statute that says that any judge and any justice has to step

aside from any case in which their spouse has an interest in the outcome of the proceedings. And what these ethics experts have said to me is that you look at these e-mails, and you can't but see that Ginni Thomas had an interest in the proceeding that was in front of Clarence Thomas, which was about whether this kind of material and more material from President Trump would ever surface and see the light of day. And that was what was the issue being argued in front of the court that Clarence Thomas sat on in January. He didn't recuse himself, even though it seems now, in looking over this material, that his wife's involvement in the plot to overturn the 2020 election stood in -- a good chance of coming out, depending on how the court ruled in that proceeding.

LISA DESJARDINS: Mark Meadows' attorney did put out a statement saying there is nothing illegal in these texts. The biggest question at this moment for now -- we will see where this goes -- this is just the beginning of the story -- is whether Justice Thomas should recuse himself going forward, especially on January 6-related cases. Just to wrap this up, where we are now, Jane, that choice is entirely up to him; is that right? JANE MAYER: Well, in the past in our history, chief justices have sometimes pressured justices to step aside. That has happened before. And, in this case, we have these judicial ethics experts, such as Stephen Gillers, a professor at NYU, who is saying that Clarence Thomas just must step aside from -- and recuse from any cases that would have to do with the January 6 uprisings and the efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

It's up to Clarence Thomas, of course, at the end of the day. But there is sort of a rising pressure, I would say, on him to recuse in these cases. LISA DESJARDINS: Well, we hope to hear from Justice Thomas in the days ahead.

And thank you for talking to us tonight, Jane Mayer of "The New Yorker." JANE MAYER: Great to be with you. JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House was again juggling major foreign and domestic priorities this week, as President Biden met with allies in Europe, while, in Washington, his Supreme Court nominee was in the hot seat.

To discuss another busy week, we turn to Brooks and Capehart. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post. Hello to both of you. JONATHAN CAPEHART: Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So good to see you here on this Friday night. A lot to talk about, Jonathan, but let's start with Ukraine. The Ukrainians more than holding their own on a number of fronts, but the Russians just keep pounding away. In general, how do you think the West is doing in standing up to what's going on? JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, I think the West is doing a good job.

I mean, they have been making it very clear -- excuse me -- they have been making it very clear that, if Putin hits a NATO nation, that NATO will hit back. The alliance has been continuing to funnel weapons and things to the Ukrainians to aid in their fight. And with the president in Brussels and also in Poland, but especially in Brussels, with those back-to-back-to-back meetings, NATO, E.U. and other meetings, the signal being sent by the president and by the West to Vladimir Putin is, we are united, we are strong, and you will have to contend not just with the Ukrainians, but with us collectively, if you go even farther than that.

And I think it's symbolic, but symbols matter in a conflict like this. JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it an effective response to what's going on, David? DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think so. I mean, if you think for where we were last week sitting here, humanity's worse off than last week.

More people have been killed. More buildings have been destroyed. So that's one reality. The second reality is, Russia is a lot worse off, economically, but particularly on the battlefield. There was a good piece by Elliot Ackerman in "The Atlantic" from Kyiv talking people who were actually doing the fighting. And they made three key points.

First, we may be leaving the tank era. The anti-tank weapons now are very powerful at destroying tanks, in the way they didn't used to be. And Russia is a tank-based military. Second, apparently, the Russian tactics, they're not a learning organization, the way we thought they were. They're so top-down. The commanders on the ground and even local -- the soldiers on the ground don't have the choice to make choices, to adapt to circumstances.

So they go from A to B, and it's very easy for the Ukrainians to raid them. And then, finally, morale. There's that famous Napoleon saying that morale is to the physical as 3-1.

And it's pretty clear by now the Ukrainians have pretty high morale. So, like I said last week, it's time to trust the policy. And we have been ramping it up. But you look at what the Russians said today, which you talked about earlier in the program, who knows where that will lead? But it certainly seems like a plausible out to me, if they want to take that out, do what they used to say we should have done in Vietnam, which is declare victory and go home. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it's hard to be patient when we're watching these kinds of pictures...

DAVID BROOKS: Absolutely. JUDY WOODRUFF: ... these stories that we're hearing. I do want to ask you both about the -- how President Biden himself is doing. And, Jonathan, there was a poll out today, the respected Ann Selzer, a Grinnell College poll. It shows disapproval, 48 percent -- by 11 points people disapprove of his handling, compared to 37 percent approve.

But when you ask people what about the specifics of the administration's policy, namely, should we be sending armed forces, 70 percent say no. That's the president's policy. Should we provide weapons? Seventy-two percent say yes. That's the president's policy. Enforce the no-fly zone; 52 percent, small majority, say no. That's the president's policy.

So there is a contradiction. JONATHAN CAPEHART: Right. JUDY WOODRUFF: What do we make of all this? JONATHAN CAPEHART: So this is what drives me crazy about public opinion polls which go beyond just tell me what you think about the president's overall job approval rating.

When you get into specific things about, how's he doing with the war, folks aren't following the war and specific policy things like we are. So I discount, how are you handling the war? What is more important are the specifics that you just pointed out, asking specific questions, troops, weapons, and other things. And it shows that the American people are with the president, and the president has his finger on the pulse of where the American people want to be with -- on the war with Ukraine.

And all of this will change if Putin does the unthinkable, chemical weapons or use a nuclear device. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. All bets are off if that happens.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. My view is, if you ask American people, what do you think of President Biden's policy toward beautiful sunsets... (LAUGHTER) DAVID BROOKS: ... 85 percent of American people will say, no, I really disapprove of President

Biden's policy toward beautiful sunsets. We live in a partisan era. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: When you attach the name Biden or Trump or Republican or Democrat to anything, and you get instant opposition. So it's nothing more than a measure of partisanship. The question is, if we were really in trouble, as Jonathan mentioned something, we get to a next step in this war, could we unify? After 9/11, if I'm remembering this correctly, George W. Bush's approval rating was like 92 percent. It was something insanely high.

Could we ever imagine that again? It's very hard to imagine that. And that means we're just not as resilient a country as we were when you could get beyond party labels. JUDY WOODRUFF: But it is -- it is notable that there is agreement with the policy, just, as you say, not when you attach President Biden's name to it. The Supreme Court confirmation hearings this week, it was almost, Jonathan, a tale of two -- it was as if two nominees were sitting there, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. To listen to the Democratic senators, you would think this was a supremely qualified woman who'd served for almost a decade on -- in the federal courts.

To listen to Republican, she's soft on crime, she tends to give lenient sentences to people who've engaged in child abuse. What did you make of the senators, of the process, of the nominee? JONATHAN CAPEHART: How much time do we have, Judy? (LAUGHTER) JONATHAN CAPEHART: I know we don't have -- don't have a lot of time. It was as if we were watching, yes, the Supreme Court nomination hearings of Ketanji Brown Jackson, but also a relitigation of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Kavanaugh on one level. Democrats doing their level best to remind people of just how qualified Judge Jackson, Judge Brown Jackson, is, how qualified, beyond qualified, she is to serve on the High Court.

And the Republicans did everything they could to tear her down, belittle her experience, call her everything but a child of God. Telling a mother that she is not just soft on crime, but is fine with people peddling in child pornography, it was just appalling. And I think that what Senator Booker, who is even more loquacious than I am, his oration that made her cry, I would have cried if my in-laws and my mother weren't also sitting in the living room as we watched this.

When I saw her wiping away the tears, I felt that in my bones, because I understood where that emotion was coming from. In the Black community, we call everyone brother and sister, that brother over there, that sister over there. And it really wasn't until watching that that I really understood what that meant. I'm about three years older than Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

I'm an only child. I don't know her. I have never met her. But watching her sit there -- so, we're looking at that picture right now -- I felt as if I was looking -- I was watching a relative go through hell. And to have Senator Booker remind her, but remind the country of why she's there, how hard she worked, how qualified she is, and to not let anyone robbed her of her joy, how important that was. She loves her country.

She's interviewing for a job she's always wanted. And yet we had people there just trashing her in ways. We work so hard, as African Americans, to get to these spots and to stay in these spots. And to have to jump through these hoops and be questioned by people who aren't even at our level, but yet that's what we have to do to get in the tent, get a seat at the table, and then to keep that seat. JUDY WOODRUFF: What did you make of it? DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, I'm so moved by that. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: We have a group of Republican senators who are not really senators. They're cable TV hosts. And they use these hearings as an occasion to drag up whatever issue is popular with Tucker.

And so whether it's what is a woman or whatever it's going to be, they're going to ask her about that. They're not going to ask her about judicial philosophy. They're not going to ask about temperament. They're just going to ask about whatever the issue of the moment is. And it reached its apogee with Ted Cruz, who I spoke about nicely last week.

(LAUGHTER) DAVID BROOKS: Going back to being a schmuck this week. JUDY WOODRUFF: We don't remember that. (LAUGHTER) DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

He makes a big kerfuffle, and then leans back and checks out how he's doing on Twitter. It's like the perfect cycle of Narcissus. And so these are not hearings.

On the child pornography issue, Andy McCarthy, who's a conservative writer for "National Review" who happened to be a prosecutor for 20 years, says her position that there should not be mandatory minimums for people who simply possess some child pornography is absolutely the right position. And this is the standard position because, some people are -- they're stupid, and they do something terrible, but they shouldn't get a five-year minimum, because they're not fundamentally criminals. And so this is McCarthy's case.

And that's her case. But Hawley, Josh Hawley, treats her like she's soft on child abuse. And so that's just a distortion of the record.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we let that sink in, as we turn finally to the interview that Lisa Desjardins just had with Jane Mayer. And that is connected to the Supreme Court, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, Ginni Thomas, new information, texts that she shared with the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, urging the White House to overturn -- work to overturn the election. JONATHAN CAPEHART: Overturn a free and fair election. And this revelation comes after she granted that interview where she said that she was at the January 6 rally. She was at the rally. I think that the January 6 Committee needs to call her in, have her come in and testify about these things.

And I say that because, yes, she's married to Justice Thomas, but it's not Justice Thomas who's sending these text messages. It's not Justice Thomas who was at the January 6 rally. So we need to remember that the spouse is not the -- is not the principal.

But the spouse should be called in. Ginni Thomas should be called in to explain, what are these text messages? What's this about? Jane Mayer is the preeminent expert on this. And when she said that she talked to folks who said that Ginni Thomas and Justice Thomas crossed a line, I want to know how far that line -- how far over that line they have gone. JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it? DAVID BROOKS: Yes, there are codes of decorum that hold up the legitimacy of our system. And in the Trump area, we have seen those codes be trashed. And I would say Ginni Thomas trashed those codes, just how a justice's wife should behave, or a husband, whatever it is, because it implicates.

Did it go over the line? I want to -- Jane is the expert on all this, but I would want to ask Jane, you can't -- when your spouse has an interest, you have got to recuse. But does that word interest, does that mean financial interest or psychological interest? Because, in this case, it seems to me Thomas has a psychological interest. But we all have psychological interests on right to life cases, on civil rights cases. So there's a lot of interests. So, I would want to ask Jane that question about whether it really went over the line.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that's a question we don't have the chance to ask. (CROSSTALK) (LAUGHTER) JUDY WOODRUFF: We're going to have to wait a few days to look at that. But we will try to figure it out in the next few days.

David Brooks, Jonathan Capehart, so much to think about this week. Thank you both. JONATHAN CAPEHART: Thanks, Judy. JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

As we reported President Biden and the European Union today announced plans to enable Europe to become less dependent on Russian oil and gas, but those efforts will take a lot more money and time to execute. For now, the Russian invasion is raised much larger questions over our dependence on fossil fuels and the need to develop cleaner renewable energy. Science correspondent Miles O'Brien reports on why geothermal energy is attracting new interest.

MILES O'BRIEN: There's a lot of heat beneath our feet, and that's pretty obvious here, near the Salton Sea in California's Imperial Valley. BILLY THOMAS, Berkshire Hathaway Energy: These are really world-renowned mud pots that occur naturally. MILES O'BRIEN: Hot water and carbon dioxide create mini-volcanoes at the Davis-Schrimpf mud pots. BILLY THOMAS: They just come up in different areas.

They all go dormant and just come up somewhere else. MILES O'BRIEN: They sit right in the middle of one of the largest geothermal generation fields in the world. It's renewable, sustainable and carbon-free, so exploring new ways to tap into this resource is now a very hot field. What are we seeing here? BILLY THOMAS: So, here, we're looking at some of our production wells for the Region 1 facility. MILES O'BRIEN: Billy Thomas is a senior geoscientist at Berkshire Hathaway's CalEnergy project.

He showed me some of the 25 wells and 10 power plants which together generate 345 megawatts, enough to power more than 300,000 homes. But, he says, they are only scratching the subsurface. BILLY THOMAS: This field is a perfect example of field that has a lot of potential. There's about 5,000 gallons per minute flowing through here. MILES O'BRIEN: Geothermal heat comes from the molten core of our planet, which, at more than 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, is as hot as the surface of the sun.

As the heat radiates up, it gradually cools. Here, they drilled wells between 2,000 feet and two miles deep, where the temperature is only about 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Very salty, very hot water, called brine, along with steam, race upward.

The steam spins turbines, producing electricity, and the brine is injected back into the ground, where it is reheated by the earth, replenishing the reservoir. Is this kind of managed well more or less infinitely sustainable? BILLY THOMAS: So, yes, we have had the benefit here of actually operating for some of these fields up to 40 years, and we really have a very robust reservoir, where we don't see a lot of the decline. So we really have a good system set in place right now to really make this a sustainable renewable baseload energy. MILES O'BRIEN: Baseload, meaning 24/7/365, steady production that wind and solar cannot provide. Geothermal is an emerging dark horse in the race to a stable zero-carbon electrical grid, AMANDA KOLKER, National Renewable Energy Laboratory: The last couple of decades have seen about a 25 percent growth worldwide. MILES O'BRIEN: Geologist Amanda Kolker is program manager for geothermal technologies at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

AMANDA KOLKER: The technology that we're using today really hasn't changed substantially. There have been little, incremental kind of optimization improvements. It's a really exciting time, because we are getting a lot more, I think, innovative ideas in the geothermal sector than we have for decades.

JIM TURNER, Controlled Thermal Resources: So this area is highly fractured underneath. MILES O'BRIEN: One of the surprising innovations, geothermal wells can also be a great source of minerals. JIM TURNER: So, we just drilled two wells. MILES O'BRIEN: Jim Turner is chief operating officer of the U.S. division of Australia-based

Controlled Thermal Resources. He walked me through the 50-megawatt geothermal power plant the company is building in the Imperial Valley. The salty brine rising from the wells contains almost the entire periodic table of elements, and Turner says the rocketing demand for electric cars has made it profitable to extract and sell lithium. Do you have any projections on how much lithium you might be able to produce? JIM TURNER: We will produce about 20,000 metric tons a year of lithium product. MILES O'BRIEN: That would be about 8 percent of the current global production, four times more than the U.S. provides today. That's a nice bonus, isn't it? JIM TURNER: It is.

It is a very good bonus. In the past, it just didn't have enough value to warrant the cost of money to develop, build a plant and operate it to be able to sell the lithium compounds. MILES O'BRIEN: The rock beneath is naturally fractured and permeable. This is the end of the famous San Andreas Fault. AMANDA KOLKER: The types of resources that you need to produce power are not available everywhere within drillable depths.

It's just, at this stage, not economic to produce steam from extremely deep wells. MILES O'BRIEN: But that could be changing at the FORGE project in Utah. Here, the Department of Energy is piloting a technique called Enhanced Geothermal Systems, or EGS. The plan is to drill two deep wells into low-permeable hot rock, fracture the rock in between the wells to create a reservoir, and then pump water into the cracks.

It returns to the surface piping hot. The notion is making for some strange bedfellows. Oil and gas industry veterans are now drilling for hot rock, instead of black gold. CINDY TAFF, COO, Sage Geosystems: What we want to prove is a single well EGS system. MILES O'BRIEN: Petroleum engineer Cindy Taff is a 35-year veteran of the oil business.

Now she is chief operating officer of Houston-based Sage Geosystems. The company is hoping to reduce the cost of EGS. Near McAllen, Texas, they are testing a single well alternative for harvesting heat from hot dry rock. They drill down and then horizontally, from here fracturing the sedimentary rock in between.

Cold water is pumped down through the cracks. Now hot enough to generate power, the water heads up to the turbine in a concentric pipe in the very same well. CINDY TAFF: The oil and gas industry has fracked in sedimentary rock for years, and we know how to mitigate induced seismicity. And, quite frankly, the rock is so soft, you usually don't get to induced seismicity in sedimentary rock. MILES O'BRIEN: Still, the well is ringed by seismic monitoring sites.

Geothermal fracking has triggered earthquakes in the past. This one in South Korea in 2017 made news, causing 135 injuries. AMANDA KOLKER: We don't need stimulation for most geothermal. Where we do, do stimulation, I think we can be smart about avoiding zones of seismic risk. MILES O'BRIEN: The shale fracking boom has driven a lot of innovation in the drilling business. In Houston, a small company called Particle Drilling is partnering with a big player, NOV, to help push drilling technology into a geothermal era.

The bit they are developing fires 12 million ball bearings a minute out of four nozzles. Jim Schiller is CEO of Particle. JOHN SCHILLER, CEO, Particle Drilling: It obliterates the rock. What you get out are some very fine cuttings and every once in a while a bigger piece. What we envision was always a three-to-five-time improvement. As we have combined our bits between NOV and Particle and all, we're seeing that.

MILES O'BRIEN: Tony Pink is chief technology officer of NOV. He says it costs about $100,000 a day to run a typical drilling rig. TONY PINK, Chief Technology Officer, NOV: We're at that tipping point now.

And so, if we take the particle drilling technology or drill bit technology and make that jump from 60 foot an hour to 80 to 100, then we move that economic needle that you get geothermal anywhere. MILES O'BRIEN: Geothermal anywhere, it's an enticing prospect. The path to zero carbon may well take us on a journey toward the center of the Earth.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Miles O'Brien in Houston. JUDY WOODRUFF: Since Russia invaded Ukraine one month ago, people around the world have been seeking innovate ways to support the Ukrainian people as they face the horrors of war. PBS Wisconsin's Marisa Wojcik reports on how one artisan's fund-raising effort has garnered much more traction than she thought possible. CHRISTIANA GORCHYNSKY TRAPANI, Owner, Door County Candle Co: I was -- I remember, I was sitting and watching the news, and I was so mad and I was hurt, and I was upset, and I was feeling helpless.

MARISA WOJCIK: Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani wanted to take action, as she saw images of Russian forces brutally attack Ukraine and its people. CHRISTIANA GORCHYNSKY TRAPANI: And I was talking to my family, and I was like, I need to do something with this anger. MARISA WOJCIK: As a second-generation Ukrainian, her mission was personal, to raise money for Ukrainians on the front lines.

CHRISTIANA GORCHYNSKY TRAPANI: I knew I wanted to do something to help. And so I figured, well, I know how to make candles. We have a candle company. Let's use this. MARISA WOJCIK: Owner of a small artisan shop in Northeast Wisconsin called Door County Candle Co., she began making candles with blue and gold wax, the colors of the Ukrainian

flag. CHRISTIANA GORCHYNSKY TRAPANI: I wrote a post on Facebook, and I was like -- I just did a little preview, that I'm going to be launching a fund-raiser tomorrow. Stay tuned, woke up. And we're like, oh, my God, 1,000. OK, 2,000, OK, 3,000.

MARISA WOJCIK: In a matter of two weeks, the orders reached 20,000. CHRISTIANA GORCHYNSKY TRAPANI: That's like what we typically would sell in a year. MARISA WOJCIK: Twenty thousand candles to be made in this small shop by hand. CHRISTIANA GORCHYNSKY TRAPANI: I think I cry every day just hearing, like, the stories, and I could cry now. It just -- it means so much, and it means that so many people want to help.

And so many people were feeling helpless, and just didn't know how to help. MARISA WOJCIK: Moved by the news and Christiana's energy, volunteers in the community have turned out in support, including Christiana's father. GEORGE GORCHYNSKY, Father of Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani: I have to be here. I have to help. MARISA WOJCIK: When he's not doing 12-hour shifts as an E.R. Physician, he's doing 12-hour shifts helping his daughter.

GEORGE GORCHYNSKY: I'm first-generation Ukrainian. And my parents immigrated from Ukraine right after World War II. And I was raised Ukrainian. In fact, I spoke Ukrainian until first grade. MARISA WOJCIK: He and Christiana's mother passed the language onto their children.

CHRISTIANA GORCHYNSKY TRAPANI: It was my first language. I learned Ukrainian before I learned English. And that's how I talk to my grandparents, only in Ukrainian. And it's kept me really close to my culture and my heritage.

MARISA WOJCIK: When she heard the news of the Russian invasion, Christiana's maternal grandmother flash backed to life in Ukraine during World War II. CHRISTIANA GORCHYNSKY TRAPANI: We were sitting with her. And she just started to cry and shake and just relive war when she was a kid.

And I never thought that something like that could happen in 2022. GEORGE GORCHYNSKY: It's just heartbreaking. It's an absolute catastrophe, what's going on. It's World War II all over again. That's what it is.

And, in fact, my wife's mom has memories of things that happened during the war and as a child when she was there. And it's just brought tears to her eyes. She's just -- she's in total disbelief. She's at home right now here, and she's stickering bags and doing things. She's 82 years old, and she's helping out as well.

So it's all hands on deck. MARISA WOJCIK: All of the profits made from selling the Ukraine candle are being donated to a Ukrainian nonprofit. CHRISTIANA GORCHYNSKY TRAPANI: It's called Razom for Ukraine.

So, it's helping provide, like, bandages and tourniquets and medical supplies to those that are in Ukraine and need it most. And so our first donation was for $125,000. A lot of tears were flowing after that. It was just incredible. That's the first of many donation installments that we're ever going to make. I really thought we'd only sell like 100.

I really didn't think we'd sell more. GEORGE GORCHYNSKY: We still laugh, me and Christina. I said, if I could sell 300 candles, I'd be so happy.

Well, that ship has sailed. (LAUGHTER) GEORGE GORCHYNSKY: We're so proud of her. It's -- we never expected this kind of a response, never.

MARISA WOJCIK: The outpour of support eclipses any expectations Christiana could have imagined. GEORGE GORCHYNSKY: A lot of good comes out of evil in many ways. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Glory to Ukraine. Glory to its heroes. CHRISTIANA GORCHYNSKY TRAPANI: We're just saying we're standing with Ukraine and providing light in the darkness. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) MARISA WOJCIK: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Marisa Wojcik in Door County, Wisconsin.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So heartening to see this. And tune into PBS this weekend for a conversation about democracy and the legacy of Benjamin Franklin. I spoke with filmmaker Ken Burns, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and the ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns.

Check your local PBS listings for times. And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Judy Woodruff. Join us online and again here on Monday evening. For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and have a good weekend.

2022-03-28 16:33

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