PBS NewsHour full episode, Nov. 18, 2022
AMNA NAWAZ: Good evening and welcome. I'm Amna Nawaz. Judy Woodruff is away. On the "NewsHour" tonight: investigating Trump. Attorney General Merrick Garland appoints a special counsel to oversee probes into the former president's handling of classified documents and his role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Then: a controversial stance. The Biden administration declares that the Saudi crown prince should be immune from lawsuits over his role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And Searching for Justice; 25 years after passing Congress, a law that sped up the adoption process is making it difficult for parents with criminal histories to regain custody of their children. STEPHANIE JEFFCOAT, A New Way of Life: Just not even knowing what she looks like is the hardest part, because I feel I could be walking, and my daughter could walk past me, and I won't even know it is her.
AMNA NAWAZ: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour." (BREAK) AMNA NAWAZ: The Department of Justice investigations into former President Trump are entering a new phase. Attorney General Merrick Garland is appointing a special counsel to oversee two different probes, interference in the transfer of power around the counting of the Electoral College votes and the handling of classified documents at Trump's Florida home. Lisa Desjardins has more details. LISA DESJARDINS: That's right, Amna. In his announcement, the attorney general said that he's taking this step to keep the investigation separate from politics.
MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. Attorney General: Based on recent developments, including the former president's announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election and the sitting president's stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel. Such an appointment underscores the department's commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters. LISA DESJARDINS: For the task, Garland named veteran career prosecutor Jack Smith. He will determine whether to recommend criminal charges against the former president. Following this all closely is Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney and senior FBI official.
These are kind of uncharted types of investigations we're talking about, both essentially whether a former president, a sitting president harmed or risked this country while in office, just after office. But the idea of a special counsel is not entirely new. It's not an independent counsel. But how will that affect these investigations? CHUCK ROSENBERG, Former U.S. Attorney: It's not entirely new, you're right, Lisa. And you're also right these are unprecedented circumstances. Think of it this way. There has been an ongoing investigation. FBI agents and prosecutors have been working on this for quite some time now. The new special counsel, Jack Smith, is going to be hopping aboard
a moving bus. It might slow down a little bit to get him up to speed. I think I'm mixing metaphors. But it's going to move forward. And he's going to learn the case quickly. But he also has a team of people who know the facts and can get him up to speed.
LISA DESJARDINS: Former President Trump has responded to FOX Digital, saying that this is unfair and political. What can you tell us about the special counsel, Smith, and how he's handled high pressure, high stakes and power players trying to pressure investigations in the past? CHUCK ROSENBERG: It is neither unfair nor political. Jack Smith has a reputation as an outstanding prosecutor, both in the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn and as the head of the Public Integrity Section at the Department of Justice. He's handled big cases. He's handled them well and efficiently. And he will do
the same thing here. That doesn't foreshadow an outcome. His job is not to indict people, although that may happen. His job is to follow the facts and the law and make determinations about whether or not folks ought to be charged. LISA DESJARDINS: We're going to be talking a lot about those determinations, I think, many months ahead.
But, for now, can you help us, as a prosecutor? What do you think is involved in a potential case about trying to overturn or interfere in an election? How high of a bar is there for charges in that kind of case? CHUCK ROSENBERG: Well, if you're talking about that type of case, then you have to prove intent. And prosecutors will tell you that intent is always hard to prove. You have to get into someone's mind. And the way you do that is by talking to people around Mr. Trump. Who
spoke to him? Who knows what he wanted? Who knows what he thought? That means working your way up through many witnesses, essentially up a ladder. How far up you get, how far up it goes, we don't know yet. Those facts aren't in the public record. But proving intent is always a big, difficult task for federal prosecutors, not impossible, but difficult. LISA DESJARDINS: In this case, we have a lot of his own words as well that could come into play.
The attorney general felt, clearly, that a special counsel was needed here, extraordinary circumstances you and I were talking about earlier. But you disagree. Why? CHUCK ROSENBERG: I do. I think this is a case that the Department of Justice can and should do. But let me be
clear about one thing, Lisa. I think Merrick Garland is a very principled, honest, honorable man. The fact that I disagree with his decision doesn't change any of that. Here's the problem. And you alluded to this earlier. An independent counsel -- think Ken
Starr in Whitewater -- had full autonomy. A special counsel, think Bob Mueller and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election -- had a lot of independence, but not full autonomy. So we kind of toggle back and forth between too much independence, Ken Starr, and not quite enough, Bob Mueller. And so, at the end of the day, Merrick Garland still owns this decision. At the end of the day, Merrick Garland makes the final determination. In other words, I don't think he's purchasing that much distance between himself and the special counsel.
LISA DESJARDINS: But walling off just this investigative part of this? CHUCK ROSENBERG: He is. And, to be clear, Jack Smith, the special counsel, will be an independent actor up until the end, when determinations and decisions have to be made. Those decisions will rest with Merrick Garland. LISA DESJARDINS: Does this all need to happen before the presidential election year begins? We have seen the Justice Department sensitive to that in the past. CHUCK ROSENBERG: I think the best way to think about it is, the sooner the better. But a
special counsel can outlive and administration. John Durham was appointed special counsel by Bill Barr, previous administration, and is still working under the supervision of Merrick Garland. LISA DESJARDINS: And just a quick -- I think our viewers know this, but, at this point, it's clear that a former president can be charged for a crime, yes? CHUCK ROSENBERG: Absolutely. If they can prove it and the facts support it, absolutely.
LISA DESJARDINS: OK. Chuck Rosenberg, thank you so much for your help. CHUCK ROSENBERG: My pleasure. AMNA NAWAZ: In the day's other news: The U.S. and other nations offered an 11th-hour proposal
to rescue U.N. climate talks from failure. The focus was on compensating nations already being damaged by weather disasters. Geoff Bennett reports. GEOFF BENNETT: With climate talks nearing the end, the divisions only seemed to be widening today as world leaders pushed past their initial deadline for reaching a deal.
SAMEH SHOUKRY, President, COP 27: Today, we need to shift gears again. Time is not on our side. GEOFF BENNETT: Several climate issues are being debated at the annual United Nations summit, and questions surrounding the creation of potential loss and damage payments remain a major sticking point. The basic idea, wealthier nations, which have long polluted the most, should give money to poorer and developing nations affected by climate change. Germany's foreign minister acknowledged the harmful impacts wealthy nations can create for vulnerable countries. ANNALENA BAERBOCK, German Foreign Minister (through translator): Spending money is not an end in itself. It's about ensuring justice, climate justice, because we are currently
seeing that those who have contributed suffer the most from the current climate damage. GEOFF BENNETT: The talks were set to wrap today, but have been pushed into the weekend, as resolutions remain up in the air. A draft decision from the Egyptian presidency was released this morning outlining a potential plan. Some were immediately critical, saying it was vague and left out important priorities.
Among the key questions, whether a new fund for vulnerable nations would be tied to explicit commitments to phase out fossil fuels. The European Union surprised many overnight with this proposal, but it did not appear in the drafts being debated today. The summit brought together some of the youngest climate activists to fight for their nations, among them 10-year-old Nakeeyat Dramani Sam from Ghana. NAKEEYAT DRAMANI SAM, Climate Activist: Have a heart and do the math. It is an emergency. If all of you were to be young people like me, wouldn't you have already agreed to do what is needed to save our planet? (APPLAUSE) GEOFF BENNETT: Her speech drew a standing ovation, a glimmer of hope for leaders trying to find unity in the coming days. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Geoff Bennett.
AMNA NAWAZ: North Korea, meanwhile, shook up a summit of Pacific nations today by firing another long-range missile. It landed near Japanese waters, but had a range that could reach the entire U.S. mainland. In response, South Korean and U.S. fighter jets launched simulated aerial strikes that could target missile launchers in the North.
North Korea's actions were roundly condemned at that Asia-Pacific summit in Bangkok, Thailand, known as APEC. Vice President Kamala Harris, representing the U.S., held an emergency gathering of South Korea, Japan and others. Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine also drew the summit's attention. French President Emmanuel Macron urged the leaders to condemn Russia's invasion.
EMMANUEL MACRON, French President (through translator): This war is also a yo-yo problem, because it will create a lot of destabilization. Help us to convey the same message to Russia. Stop the war. Respect international order. Come back at the table. AMNA NAWAZ: Russia is a member of APEC, but President Vladimir Putin is not attending the summit. In Ukraine, the government said waves of Russian strikes have disabled nearly half of the energy system. The winter bombing campaign has plunged millions into darkness for hours on end. Officials also warned today that freezing temperatures are now adding to the pressure on disrupted energy networks. Back in this country, a powerful snowstorm paralyzed parts of Western and Northern New York state with at least three feet of lake effect snow. The heaviest snowfall happened
in and around Buffalo, mostly near the eastern end of Lake Erie. The city's mayor warned it's going to get worse as the weekend progresses. BYRON BROWN, Mayor of Buffalo, New York: We see how hard and how fast it's falling in South Buffalo, making driving conditions extremely hazardous, people trying to drive getting stuck. Once the storm shifts and moves to other areas of the city, we will potentially see the same thing in other parts of the city of Buffalo as well.
AMNA NAWAZ: The snow has closed schools and stopped trains and flights around Buffalo. The former Theranos CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, was sentenced today to 135 months in federal prison, more than 11 years. The penalty was imposed at a hearing in San Jose, California. Holmes had been convicted of investor fraud and conspiracy for duping investors about bogus blood testing technology. The company collapsed in 2018. There is word that Cecilia Rouse is stepping down as chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Reports today said she will leave the Biden administration come spring
and resume teaching at Princeton University. Rouse is a labor economist and the first Black woman to chair the council. Hundreds more employees are reportedly leaving Twitter. The Associated Press says that is
based on postings on an internal company messaging board. The new exodus follows an ultimatum by new owner Elon Musk to work harder for longer hours or resign with severance pay. And, on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 199 points to close at 33745. The Nasdaq rose just one point and the S&P 500 added 18. Still to come on the "NewsHour": parents with criminal histories struggle to regain custody of their children after leaving prison; migrant workers recount their abuse while building stadiums for the upcoming men's World Cup; Jonathan Capehart and Gary Abernathy weigh in on the week's political headlines; plus much more. The State Department issued a legal opinion yesterday that said Saudi Arabia's crown prince and prime minister, Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, has immunity from U.S. courts.
The crown prince has been sued in the U.S. by the fiance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He was murdered in Saudi's Istanbul consulate in 2018. And U.S. intelligence believes MBS ordered the killing.
Meantime, for months, the Biden administration has been pushing Saudi Arabia to increase oil production amid high gas prices. So, should the U.S. have been tougher with Saudi Arabia? For that, we get two views. John Bellinger was the legal adviser to the State Department during the George W. Bush administration. And Gregory Stanton is a former State Department
lawyer and founder and president of Genocide Watch, a nonprofit that seeks to stop genocide and its perpetrators. 4 Welcome to you both. Thank you for being here. GREGORY STANTON, Genocide Watch: Thank you. AMNA NAWAZ: Let's jump right in.
Greg, what do you make of this call by the U.S.? Was this the right decision? GREGORY STANTON: I think the State Department got this wrong. The fact is that the law here is the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of the United States. And in the opinion they gave, they only cited customary international law. In fact, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act has a number of exceptions that have been actually passed by Congress and signed into law. The 2008 Defense Act was accompanied with an exception to allow people to sue certain governments that were declared to be terrorist states. But then, in 2016, there was another
act passed, the Justice for Victims of Terrorists Act, that specifically takes away the need for the State Department to designate a country as a terrorist country. And it makes it possible to actually sue anybody involved in murder, in torture, in hijacking, and in hostage-taking. AMNA NAWAZ: You think this should have fit under that exception? GREGORY STANTON: I think that it's very clear that MBS was responsible for the murder and for the terror -- the torture of Jamal Khashoggi.
AMNA NAWAZ: Let me bring in John on that point, then. I mean, President Biden has said -- and he did agree with the CIA assessment that MBS did order the operation that led to Khashoggi's killing. So why issue immunity in a murder case? JOHN BELLINGER III, Former Legal Adviser of the Department of State: Well, I think, for the reasons you just mentioned, this was a very uncomfortable, if not unpalatable decision for the Biden administration to have to make, given the really awful circumstances of the killing of -- for Jamal Khashoggi. But the administration was simply complying with its obligations under international law. International law recognizes that heads of state in government, like now Prime Minister bin Salman, enjoy immunity from civil suits or, in fact, from criminal prosecutions in the courts of other countries.
So, under international law, he had immunity here. And, for that reason, going back decades, every administration has asserted immunity on behalf of any foreign head of state who was sued here in the United States, often for really horrific actions. When I was legal adviser at the State Department, I had to sign an immunity determination for Pope Benedict, who was sued with respect to the clergy scandal. So this was not a favor
to Saudi Arabia. This was simply compelled by international law. AMNA NAWAZ: Greg, what do you say to that, decades of precedent here? GREGORY STANTON: I think the reason that that doesn't hold here is that MBS is not the head of state in Saudi Arabia. AMNA NAWAZ: He is prime minister, right? GREGORY STANTON: Well, they just made him prime minister. So he might be able to argue this point. But the fact is, the head of state in Saudi Arabia is the king. This is just a prince. So, the only one who would have this right under the international law would be the king.
AMNA NAWAZ: What would be the U.S. options in this case? What would you have liked to seen happen? GREGORY STANTON: What I would have liked to see is that he could be sued, and that is specifically allowed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and its exceptions. He's not being tried criminally here. This is a lawsuit to get compensation for the murder of a man, a very great man, in fact. So, for me, this is not a case where it was governed by international law at all. It was governed by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. AMNA NAWAZ: John, what about the concerns that there could be political considerations here? We know about the tensions. We know about the Biden administration asking them
to increase oil production. Could that have influenced the decision? JOHN BELLINGER III: Candidly, I think the political considerations would have gone the other way. I think the Biden administration was probably so angry with Saudi Arabia right now and really upset about this particular killing that their policy view would have been not to find immunity. But international law provides that a head of government like this, as well as a head of state, as well as foreign ministers, enjoy immunity. And, unfortunately, with respect to what Mr. Stanton said, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not apply in circumstances like this. The Supreme Court held a few years ago that the immunity of heads of state or
government is governed by international law. So, I think the Biden administration here, perhaps, in fact, looking back at things that happened during the Trump administration, said, we want to comply with international law, do what the United States regularly does, even though it's unpalatable in these circumstances. AMNA NAWAZ: Could the U.S. have not done anything? Could they not have put their... (CROSSTALK) GREGORY STANTON: Exactly. AMNA NAWAZ: OK. GREGORY STANTON: There is no requirement, under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, does the State Department have to give an opinion to the Justice Department.
AMNA NAWAZ: And that would mean that he could then still be sued; is that correct? GREGORY STANTON: That's correct. He could be. It's really up to the judge. In other words, this is a judicial decision. It didn't have to be an opinion from the State Department. And I, as I have already said, think the State Department got this wrong.
And not only that. There was a Supreme Court case in 2010 in which Justice Stevens held and the court decided unanimously that foreign officials do not qualify for sovereign immunity. And that is why this is, I think, a misapplication of law.
AMNA NAWAZ: John, at the end of the day, what does this mean, then? If he is now shielded from any kind of suit, what does this mean for any accountability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi? JOHN BELLINGER III: Well, this is really the concern. When someone can't be sued, then the argument is, the person has impunity or there's not accountability. It doesn't mean that at all. And, in fact, the Biden administration went to great pains to state in their legal brief that we condemn the killing, it was wrong, it was heinous, but simply observing international law here, Mohammed bin Salman had immunity in these courts, but there would be other ways to hold him accountable, just not in the courts of the United States, if the U.S. is going to comply with our longstanding obligations under
international law, and act the way we always have, which is to recognize the immunity of foreign heads of state, as we expect, candidly, other states to treat our head of state in their courts. AMNA NAWAZ: It's certainly another layer on a very complicated relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Gregory Stanton, John Bellinger, thank you both so much for being here. JOHN BELLINGER III: Thank you.
GREGORY STANTON: Nice to be with you. AMNA NAWAZ: The men's World Cup begins in Qatar this Sunday, but controversies, from human rights concerns to onerous press restrictions, have shadowed the event. To host the Cup, the tiny Gulf nation went on a stadium-building spree, bringing in thousands upon thousands of migrant laborers. But there have been numerous stories about the largely South Asian work force being mistreated, and more than three dozen have died on the job. We partnered with independent filmmakers Fat Rat Films to hear from some of those workers about their experience with rampant abuse, low pay and squalid living conditions.
As the men's World Cup kicks off in Qatar, many of the workers behind the games are now thousands of miles away, back in their home countries without the money they say they're owed, young men like Anish and Narayan, farmworkers from Nepal, who went to Qatar to build stadiums, in the hope of building better lives for themselves. ANISH ADHIKARI, Nepali Migrant Worker (through translator): We can't earn money here, so we have to go abroad. NARAYAN PRASAD SIGDEL, Nepali Migrant Worker (through translator): I could earn almost double of what I earn here. That is why I went. AMNA NAWAZ: The promise of good wages, a few years of hard work to support family and start a nest egg is a seductive one for young Nepalis. But to secure the job, they must first pay agents a hefty recruitment fee, illegal under Qatari law, but common practice. It's a fee they could only afford by taking out massive
loans. NARAYAN PRASAD SIGDEL (through translator): This is normal. Everyone pays this. People say free visa, free ticket. In reality, this does not happen. Almost all people from Nepal pay a recruitment fee. AMNA NAWAZ: Anish borrowed 200,000 Nepali rupees, just over $1,500, more than a year's salary in Nepal.
ANISH ADHIKARI (through translator): We were told that all our expenses would be reimbursed as soon as we arrived. They told us not to worry. This was all a lie. MAN: The winner is Qatar. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) AMNA NAWAZ: Since Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup 12 years ago, there have been numerous reports of worker exploitation, substandard living conditions, and worker deaths on construction sites. The small Gulf state relies on immigrant labor for its work force. And, in 2017, it pledged reform of working conditions. A commitment to the International Labor Organization, the adoption of minimum wage, and a system of monitoring labor practices were welcomed by the head of FIFA, Gianni Infantino.
GIANNI INFANTINO, President, FIFA: In a very short time, the progress, in terms of human rights, is already groundbreaking. AMNA NAWAZ: But now an explosive report from Equidem, a human rights organization, alleges that the changes were only surface-deep. Mustafa Qadri, cadre the CEO of Equidem, explains that, in reality, immigrant workers were still being subjected to systemic abuse by the companies and officials in Qatar. MUSTAFA QADRI, Chief Executive Officer, Equidem: We interviewed nearly 1,000 workers over an 18-month period. there's a very clear picture that emerges. Workers who have built these stadiums for the World Cup have been subjected to forced labor practices, and some of the biggest companies in those projects actively hid those workers from the monitoring process.
It's really clear that this is a tournament built on the back of forced labor. AMNA NAWAZ: A Qatari government spokesman called Equidem's report -- quote -- "a completely unbalanced picture of the significant progress vs. the inevitable challenges that remain." But what Anish was served at dinnertime didn't feel like progress. ANISH ADHIKARI (through translator): Sometimes, the company gave us rotten food. The fish would smell disgusting. It used to give us diarrhea.
AMNA NAWAZ: Even something as basic as getting adequate water in the desert heat was a challenge. ANISH ADHIKARI (through translator): It got up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. We didn't get the water we needed. The water we got was almost 90 percent ice. We asked why they did that and told them it was impossible to drink water like that. They said they froze it because, if they provided normal water, the workers would drink more.
AMNA NAWAZ: The only time there was adequate water, they say, was when an inspection was due. ANISH ADHIKARI (through translator): The company was only nervous when FIFA came to inspect. AMNA NAWAZ: As part of the 2017 reforms, regular spot checks by FIFA officials were performed to ensure compliance with high standards and worker welfare. The idea was to create a space where workers could talk directly to FIFA.
But workers say that the company made sure they never got that chance. ANISH ADHIKARI (through translator): They would ring the fire alarm on purpose. When all the workers gathered at the assembly point, they would turn off the alarm, make everyone get on buses and drive us away from the stadium. The company would tell FIFA that we had all gone for lunch. AMNA NAWAZ: The systems created in 2017 to hold the companies to account on their treatment were being purposefully evaded. But, still, even two months ago, the head of Qatar's Supreme Committee overseeing the games hailed the protections in place at an annual global affairs forum.
HASSAN AL-THAWADI, Secretary-General, Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy: We launched worker welfare forums within the Supreme Committee for the construction companies that were involved in the Supreme Committee. And these were set up to ensure that workers had a safe environment, where they can raise their concerns and grievances without any fear of reprisal. AMNA NAWAZ: Even when Anish and Narayan could complain, they say their concerns were ignored.
And they knew that complaining meant they could lose their jobs. ANISH ADHIKARI (through translator): One day, many of us went to make a complaint. We got a bit loud. Later, they called all of us to the camp and said, if we did this again, they would send us back home.
NARAYAN PRASAD SIGDEL (through translator): If the foreman complained about the workers, they could get fired. If workers reacted about anything, instead, the workers were changed. Because of this, workers did not protest at all. ANISH ADHIKARI (through translator): They used to punish us for complaining. They used to make us sign the warning letter learning. We were in a situation where we had to tolerate things as they were.
AMNA NAWAZ: Quitting was not an option. Anish and Narayan were trapped in their situation by the 36 percent interest on their recruitment fee loan and unpaid wages. ANISH ADHIKARI (through translator): I desperately wanted to go home in those moments, but then I would remember my family's situation. Apart from the loan I took to pay the recruitment fee, my family had other debts.
We were around $5,300 in debt. I could not even think of coming back to Nepal. AMNA NAWAZ: Eventually, they did go back. They had to. Anish had his work permit taken away when he tried to switch jobs. Narayan was deported, he says under false COVID-related pretenses. Neither, they say, were we're paid what they were owed, about $4,000 for Anish
and about $1,700 for Narayan. ANISH ADHIKARI (through translator): I had expected to earn $9,000 in these three years, but I earned a third of it. NARAYAN PRASAD SIGDEL (through translator): Not only me. There are thousands of workers like me who are not getting what they are owed. There are many of us.
MUSTAFA QADRI: Narayan and Anish are not alone. There are thousands other workers like them, each owed thousands of dollars. We estimate, in total, up to about half-a-billion dollars of money. Those lives could be transformed if Qatar and FIFA compensated those workers who made the tournament possible. AMNA NAWAZ: The teams taking part in the World Cup will share an estimated $440 million between them. Equidem is calling for FIFA to set aside the same amount as a fund to reimburse the migrant workers who've made it all possible.
The stages are set for one of the world's biggest tournaments to kick off. The hope is that those who helped to build them won't be left behind. In our ongoing series Searching for Justice, we have documented the challenges many face after incarceration, things like getting an I.D. and housing and a job. But many formerly incarcerated people also lose their rights as parents. And some argue that situation was made worse by a law called the Adoption and Safe Families Act that was signed into law 25 years ago tomorrow.
Geoff Bennett is back now with this report. GEOFF BENNETT: A full-time student, Fidel Chagolla rises early each morning to cook breakfast for his father in their San Bernardino apartment, checking to see how he's feeling after dialysis. FIDEL CHAGOLLA, Starting Over, Inc.: How much do they take out from you last time? GEOFF BENNETT: Then, two days a week, he drives 20 minutes to Riverside to try to connect with formerly incarcerated people leaving the parole office. FIDEL CHAGOLLA: Could I give me one of these right here? You said you're on parole, right? A lot of people, like, are still trying to survive. They're still trying to survive.
They're still trying to provide for their families and better their lives. Really do is look for a place that he can move into. GEOFF BENNETT: He works at Starting Over, Inc., a Riverside nonprofit that helps people
navigate housing, employment and getting their records expunged. But for Chagolla, who himself spent six years incarcerated as a juvenile for attempted murder and nearly 10 in state prison for kidnapping, there's a hole in the center of his very busy life, his daughter Zoe, who was removed from his care. FIDEL CHAGOLLA: She should be here. I wasn't given the opportunity. It was just pretty
much based off of like, OK, you have violent felonies. Even if they don't have nothing to do with caring for a child, we don't think you deserve to raise your child. GEOFF BENNETT: Zoe was born in 2016, when Fidel was 39 years old. At that point, he'd been out of prison for six years and off parole for four years and had managed to find steady work, housing and a car. But, during childbirth, Zoe's mother tested positive for opioids and had previously lost parental rights to her other children. Those two facts triggered the involvement of state child welfare agents, who then looked at Fidel's criminal record and, because of federal and state laws, decided he wasn't fit to be Zoe's father. His rights were terminated, and, in
2019, Zoe was adopted. FIDEL CHAGOLLA: What I didn't understand was, because of my history of violence when I was a youth in my adolescence, and because of my daughter's mom having other children in the system, that was an automatic way for them to put my daughter on a fast-track adoption. GEOFF BENNETT: Over in nearby Anaheim, most mornings, Stephanie Jeffcoat gets her 13-year-old daughter ready for school before commuting to Los Angeles for her job at A New Way of Life, another reentry organization.
Like Fidel, she has a full-time job, her own car and apartment and is working towards her bachelor's at Cal State Fullerton. Her faith is a big part of her life, and she recently published a book of poetry. But, only a few years ago, Jeffcoat was homeless and battling meth addiction. In 2016, she gave birth to a daughter, who was placed in foster care after Jeffcoat's positive drug test. STEPHANIE JEFFCOAT, A New Way of Life: After giving birth and having her taken, it just caused me to fall deeper into my addiction. And so, from 2016 until 2018, I spent probably four times in and out of jail. I was constantly
getting arrested for multiple things, such as petty theft and possession of a controlled substance. GEOFF BENNETT: While in jail for six months, a judge terminated her parental rights, and her infant daughter was adopted, she says, without her knowledge. STEPHANIE JEFFCOAT: Just not even knowing what she looks like is the hardest part, because I feel I could be walking, and my daughter could walk past me, and I won't even know it is her.
(APPLAUSE) BILL CLINTON, Former President of the United States: Thank you. GEOFF BENNETT: Twenty-five years ago, then-President Clinton signed into law the Adoption and Safe Families Act, known as ASFA, with overwhelming bipartisan support, a response to too many children languishing for too long in foster care. BILL CLINTON: The new law will help us to speed children out of foster care and to permanent families by setting meaningful time limits for child welfare decisions. GEOFF BENNETT: Using federal funds, that law incentivized state child welfare agencies to move children into adoption more quickly, including a provision that said, if a child spends 15 of the previous 22 months in foster care, agents must move to terminate parental rights, with some exceptions. For young children, that timeline could move even faster. The law did what it was designed to do, in prompting state agencies to speed up their timelines. Yet, 25 years later, many
argue it also incentivized the breaking up of Black, brown and poor families in need of help. VONYA QUARLES, Founder, Starting Over, Inc.: Democrats like Bill Clinton didn't want to appear soft on crime. And so this is a horrific collateral consequence of incarceration. GEOFF BENNETT: Vonya Quarles is the founder of Starting Over, Inc., which recently welcomed families to its parking lot in Riverside for a Halloween trunk or treat. WOMAN: Hi. What's your name?
GEOFF BENNETT: Quarles is a lawyer and, for many years, struggled with addiction and incarceration, as well as with child protective services, which she refers to as the family regulation system. VONYA QUARLES: I was in foster care for years. My mother was incarcerated. My son was in foster care, my oldest son. Three of my children were adopted out while I was going in and
out of jail and prison and addiction. And then I had to fight to get my grandchildren out of the foster care system because of a criminal conviction. GEOFF BENNETT: When state child welfare agents remove a child from a parent's care, they typically create a plan for reunification, requiring things like parenting classes, regular drug tests, stable housing and employment.
But Quarles says ASFA pushes too quickly to terminate parents' rights and that it disproportionately hurts the poor and people coming out of incarceration, amplifying disparities. VONYA QUARLES: We recognize, at least most of us recognize that the criminal justice system has racial bias inherent in it. And then to look at criminal convictions as a bar or a barrier to family preservation, then you will see how we are actually making the issue worse. GEOFF BENNETT: She argues that, rather than pushing to terminate rights, child welfare agencies should offer more help to struggling parents to keep families together. VONYA QUARLES: And it's not about family preservation at all. But it could be. It could trigger income assistance, housing assistance, substance use disorder treatment, mental health services, the things that matter and will allow a child to remain with their parents.
GEOFF BENNETT: Last year, outgoing California Congresswoman Karen Bass introduced legislation to reform ASFA, but the bill didn't even get a hearing and committee. PROTESTER: What do we want? PROTESTERS: Our children! PROTESTER: When do we want them? PROTESTERS: Now! GEOFF BENNETT: In lieu of federal reform, organizations like Starting Over, Inc. and A New Way Of Life are pushing for changes at the state level. BOBBIE BUTTS, Starting Over, Inc.: I'm glad it bought us some more time, so now we have
a court date in December. GEOFF BENNETT: While also educating parents to give them the best chance of retaining their rights as parents. ALLENDA CAMPBELL, Mother: OK, so the two prongs were the change in circumstances.
GEOFF BENNETT: On the day we visited, Starting Over, Inc. employee Bobbie Butts met with Allenda Campbell, a mother of four fighting for custody of her youngest after getting out of jail and finding sobriety. ALLENDA CAMPBELL: I'm here because I need help. They give me answers to go to court with. They -- when I'm crying or I feel defeated, I can pick myself back up, and not give up,
and not resort to my old life. BOBBIE BUTTS: And so their phone number is... GEOFF BENNETT: Butts managed to reunite with her children after they were placed in foster care in 2011 following her arrest. BOBBIE BUTTS: I tell my parents, don't miss a drug test. If you test dirty, let them know you need more help. They're expecting us not to tell them the truth, right? They're expecting us not to ask for the help that we really need.
GEOFF BENNETT: As for Fidel Chagolla, he didn't give up on being a father even after losing his rights as one. He says he's kept in touch with Zoe's adoptive family and provided diapers, clothing, strollers, and toys,anything she needed. His daughter's adoptive family only speaks Spanish, while Fidel only speaks English, but he hopes in time he can strengthen his bond with Zoe, who knows him as Tio, or Uncle. FIDEL CHAGOLLA: A lot of people give up. I refuse to give up, because I have no options. I got to try to do whatever I can and have whatever kind of relationship I can with my child. GEOFF BENNETT: It's a burden he and other formerly incarcerated parents are hoping to ease for future families.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Geoff Bennett. AMNA NAWAZ: Democrats have held the Senate, but Republicans clinched the House this week, setting off a seismic shift within that chamber's leadership. To discuss that and more, we turn to the analysis of Capehart and Abernathy. That is Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart and his Post colleague Gary Abernathy. David Brooks is away tonight. And welcome to you both.
A busy week, a busy Friday evening. And I want to start with the news just today. Jonathan, you have the attorney general of the United States appointing a special counsel to investigate a former president. It's an extraordinary moment. And I wonder, as you watch the way he did it and the person he appointed, what does all this say to you about how the Department of Justice is viewing this? JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, one, this is huge news. Two, to your question how the Justice Department is viewing this, they view this as a significant -- well, significant cases that needs to be looked into by a significant person in American life, in American political life, a former president who just announced he's seeking the Republican nomination for the next presidential cycle, which the attorney general said was the -- was the thing that happened that necessitated this move.
AMNA NAWAZ: Right. JONATHAN CAPEHART: And I think it should say to the American people, one, and I think also the attorney general also announced, yes, we have been investigating, but we're taking this so seriously that we're giving it to a special counsel, who is quite literally out of the Justice Department mean. He's over at The Hague, if memory serves. And this person will be in charge of running the rest of the investigation. It is an attempt by the Justice Department, by the attorney
general to give the American people confidence that the investigations are being done fairly and being done impartially, in that no favor is being given or taken away from Donald Trump. AMNA NAWAZ: Gary, as part of this work, they're going to determine if there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges. If there are criminal charges, do you think former President Trump should still run for office? GARY ABERNATHY, The Washington Post: Well, Amna, Merrick Garland has been under tremendous pressure to do more, to take a more aggressive stance in these investigations by a lot of folks on the left. And this is an escalation of that.
The only thing, I feel bad for the American people, frankly, because, much like the Mueller investigation, we're in now for day after day of headlines, and commentary, and speculation, and breaking news, and leaks about what the special -- what the special counsel is investigating and which direction it's going and what it means for us all. And that's too bad, not to say this wasn't a proper step, Amna, but it would be nice if the prosecutor could do his work and then announce later what he's found, without all the speculation and headlines in between. But we know from Mueller and the Russia report how this is going to play out.
We know that The Post reported just a couple of days ago that Justice doesn't really think that Trump had these unclassified documents -- or these classified documents -- I'm sorry -- at Mar-a-Lago because of any interest in trying to profit from them or any nefarious reason, other than he thinks they're his. Well, he's wrong. But that's not a real strong legal case, I think, to make against him, and the same with January 6 investigation. We have seen an awful lot of things come out of the January 6 Committee, nothing that really seems to rise to the level of criminality.
But people will disagree about that. We will see what comes out with it. But should he keep running if he's charged? I don't know. But if there's a way to bring Trump's base back to him just at a moment when it seems like maybe they had reason to separate, this is the type of thing that seems to do just that. AMNA NAWAZ: Jonathan, I see you scribbling furiously. JONATHAN CAPEHART: Yes.
(LAUGHTER) JONATHAN CAPEHART: Gary said people disagree. I'm going to disagree. AMNA NAWAZ: Please. JONATHAN CAPEHART: One, I know that our that our paper said that investigators think that President Trump took the papers not for any monetary advancement, but because he just wanted to have them. It's still illegal. Those papers did not belong to him. They do not belong to him. They belong to the American people, which is why there are laws against taking classified material. To your point -- to the point about leaks happening, this is not a bad day for the American people because a special counsel was appointed. This is a fantastic day, because it tells
the American people that the gears of justice are grinding on Donald Trump, in the sense that he is not above the law. He is at some -- is being held accountable through the special counsel process. And if the special counsel says there's no -- we don't have enough to indict him, well, at least the American people will know and the evidence will be laid out whether -- the reasons why or why not. The one thing that's different between this special counsel and what happened with Robert Mueller is that we have an attorney general who, when he gets this gets this report, he's not going to hold on to it, recast it in a way that mischaracterizes what the report actually says, and then releases it long after the narrative has been baked, and it's almost impossible to tell the American people or even show the American people what really happened.
AMNA NAWAZ: Gary, when you look at Republican leadership, though -- and you have talked about there being more leaders willing to break with President Trump, especially recently. You're coming off the midterms, right, where Republicans did recapture the House, but really underperformed, failed to get to the Senate, largely because of Trump-backed candidates. Do you think Republicans continue to stand by him, as this probe now moves forward? GARY ABERNATHY: I don't think Republican leader so much will coalesce back around him, Amna. I could be wrong. I have been wrong about that before. But I think that what I'm talking about are the grassroots Republicans out there in Trump land, Trump world, across the country, who are looking at DeSantis, looking at other candidates who might be good alternatives now, especially based on the performance of the midterms, in part, but also, in the part, on Trump bizarrely attacking Ron DeSantis, calling him DeSanctimonious the other -- a few days before the election, which just seemed strange.
But now it just seems like, any time Trump comes under attack, the base kind of wraps themselves back around him again to -- like a wall of protection. And this is exactly the type of thing that could cause that. We will see if it's -- to what degree that may happen.
AMNA NAWAZ: We will see. We will see. I want to get to Congress now, because there's a lot of shifts going on there right now. And, Jonathan, as we move into this next Congress, you have got a lot of activity on the Democratic side. You have Speaker Pelosi stepping down, a huge generational shift, right, Hakeem Jeffries
announcing his bid for leadership. Yesterday, as Pelosi was addressing her colleagues, she said this: "For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic Caucus that I so deeply respect. I'm grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility." At the same time, Jonathan, Republicans are now taking control. We have a divided Congress. What is ahead? Is it gridlock? Is there a possibility for shared goals? JONATHAN CAPEHART: There's a -- there's always a possibility for shared goals.
(LAUGHTER) JONATHAN CAPEHART: Whether that will happen remains to be seen. And I don't think I -- no. Let me deal with Speaker Pelosi first. I agree with President Biden when he said that she was -- quote -- "the most consequential speaker in history." And there's no denying that if you look at what she has been able to do as speaker of the House, most notably getting the Affordable Care Act passed through the House without a single Republican vote. Every time I have interviewed Speaker Pelosi and I'm talking to her about the machinations of the House and whether something is going to -- whether she's going to be able to get something over the finish line, she will always say: I got the ACA through without a single Republican vote.
That is -- that is a huge accomplishment. And I think millions of Americans are very happy that she was able to do that. The other thing I want to note is that Speaker Pelosi, while she says it's time -- the hour has come for the next generation, she's been bringing that next generation along since 2018, in the sense that, remember, she promised, when Democrats retook the House, that she would stay for a finite period of time. But what did she do? Katherine Clark was assistant speaker. Hakeem Jeffries was in the leadership. Pete Aguilar, I believe, was deputy whip to Whip Clyburn. The old three and the new three
have been working together for years now. And the fact that each one of them today or late yesterday announced that they were running for leadership positions, each one, Jeffries for Pelosi, Clark for Hoyer, Aguilar for Clyburn, shows that this is a -- for Democrats in disarray -- we're always like, Democrats are in disarray. This is probably going to be one of the smoothest transitions of power within the Democratic Caucus perhaps ever. AMNA NAWAZ: Yes. JONATHAN CAPEHART: I will leave -- I will leave Gary to talk about what's happened over on the other side. AMNA NAWAZ: I do talk about the Republican transition.
(LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: Let's talk about that, Gary, right? You have got some Republicans, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, saying, our priority is to investigate. We want to look into Hunter Biden. We want to look into the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago. You have other new members coming in and saying, you know what? That's not my priority. I was elected to fix inflation, gas prices, and so on. How does a leader, any leader, maybe Kevin McCarthy, likely Kevin McCarthy, how do you herd everyone the same direction in that caucus? GARY ABERNATHY: Yes, it's not easy, Amna and Jonathan. Republicans got elected because they campaigned on how bad inflation was, how high gas prices were, that we need to address the Southern border. And one of the first things they do is hold a press conference and talk about the Hunter Biden hearing, investigation opening.
You know what? That's a legitimate investigation, in my opinion. And there are some other legitimate investigations. But keep in mind that's not why you got returned to control of the House, as narrow as it's going to be. So focus, at least publicly, on the things that you campaigned on, that you're going to tackle those things, because, if you don't, you're not going to be there for very long. It's going to be a very short time before the Democrats are returned back to power.
So, hopefully, one -- one item I think of agreement that they could look at and start working on together would be the immigration problem, Amna. I think that both sides have a stake in fixing that. And, certainly, we have a humanitarian reason to fix that for the people coming across the border.
I think that, if people would get serious, including the president, and say, you know what, we do need to tighten our security at the Southern border, we need to do something that's some kind of a path to citizenship for folks who are already here, let's get serious for the first time in 15 or 20 years and sit down -- and it's going to take compromise on both sides. I think that's an area that's worth trying to say, can we bring both sides together and do something about the immigration issue? AMNA NAWAZ: I think there's a lot of consensus on both sides. Immigration absolutely needs to be fixed.
I want to come to both of you quickly, though, before we go, just to end this week, if you would like to say something about a man who has sat at this table, your colleague the late Michael Gerson. I know you both know him, know his work. And I'd like to give you each an opportunity to say something. Jonathan.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: So, Amna, I -- I didn't know Michael personally. The most time I spent with him was at this -- was at this desk. But I did get to know him through his writing. And in going back and reading some of his writing, I came away believing writing was a calling for him, and his writing called us to higher ideals. He always talked to our -- what we have in common, even if we are
on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum. He had conviction, passion, compassion. And that is what I'm going to miss the most, his voice.
AMNA NAWAZ: Now, Gary, what about you? GARY ABERNATHY: Yes. No, I would agree 100 percent with Jonathan. Michael was a guy who wrote with empathy and deep intelligence. I consider my -- he was an evangelical Christian, and I consider myself
one too. And even when I didn't -- there were disagreements about how evangelicals dealt with Trump and so on, this is a guy who wrote very personally. He wrote with great empathy and great -- when you came away reading him, whether you agreed with what he was writing or not, you came away thinking, there's something deep and thoughtful there to think about. It's a voice we're going to miss. AMNA NAWAZ: We will, indeed.
And I can't think of a better note on which to end this conversation and the week. My thanks to both of you, Gary Abernathy and Jonathan Capehart. JONATHAN CAPEHART: Thanks, Amna. AMNA NAWAZ: And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Amna Nawaz. For all of us here at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you for joining us, please stay safe, and have a great weekend.