PBS NewsHour full episode, Feb 20, 2020


JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I’m Judy Woodruff. On the “NewsHour” tonight: prison time for
Roger Stone. President Trump’s longtime ally is sentenced to prison in a case that’s roiling
the Justice Department. Then: SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), Presidential
Candidate: If they wish now to speak out and tell their side of the story about what it
is they allege, that’s now OK with you? You’re releasing them on television tonight? JUDY WOODRUFF: A showdown in Las Vegas — the
highs and lows of last night’s bruising Democratic presidential debate. And inside Venezuela — the impact of the
country’s deteriorating economy, amid a yearlong political power struggle. NELLY LARCO, Opposition Supporter (through
translator): I never imagined that I’d see my people in Venezuela eating from the garbage.
That infuriates me. That infuriates me, because this is a rich country. JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight’s
“PBS NewsHour.” (BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: We have two lead stories tonight:
the fallout from last night’s fiery Democratic presidential debate, which we will get to
shortly, and the sentencing of one of President Trump’s closest allies, Roger Stone. A U.S. district court judge in Washington
sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison for witness tampering and lying to Congress. He
is the president’s seventh associate to face jail time for crimes stemming from investigations
into Russian interference during the 2016 election. At an event in Las Vegas this afternoon,
President Trump said he will hold off on deciding whether to pardon Stone. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
Roger has a very good chance of exoneration, in my opinion. I’m going to watch the process. I’m going
to watch it very closely. And, at some point, I will make a determination. But Roger Stone
and everybody has to be treated fairly. And this has not been a fair process. JUDY WOODRUFF: William Brangham was in the
courtroom today, and he joins me now. So, hello, William. You were there for this entire proceeding. First of all, remind us, what were the charges
against Roger Stone that he was found guilty of? WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As you touched on briefly,
he was charged with two things, lying to Congress and witness tampering. This goes back to an investigation that the
House Intelligence Committee was doing into Russian meddling and whether — what role
WikiLeaks played in the release of those Democratic e-mails during the campaign. Stone was convicted of lying to those investigators
for the House committee. He was also convicted of trying to get a witness to not testify
to those investigators. He was accused of threatening that witness and threatening the
witness’ dog, even though that witness later wrote a letter saying he didn’t feel threatened. Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the judge who sentenced
Stone today, wasn’t buying any of it. She said that this witness intimidation was — quote
— “a corrupt and unlawful campaign to tamper with a witness.” And, really, the judge all day today was very,
very critical of Roger Stone. She said — in particular, she said Stone took it upon himself
to lie, to impede, and to obstruct. To the accusation that the president and many
of his supporters have made, that this was all a prosecution based on Stone’s allegiance
to President Trump, Judge said that Stone was not prosecuted for standing up for the
president; he was prosecuted for covering up for the president. JUDY WOODRUFF: It sounds as if she had quite
an extensive statement to make. So, William, this sentencing comes in the
middle of this unusual turmoil right now in the air between the White House, the Justice
Department, the president, the attorney general, the prosecutors. All that’s in the background
as this is happening. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Right. It really is an almost
an unprecedented moment that we have happening. Just to remind viewers of what happened. The
original prosecutors on this case recommended a seven-to-nine-year-long sentence for Roger
Stone. President Trump immediately protested, said that that was harsh and unfair. The very next day, Attorney General William
Barr stepped in and overruled his prosecutors and said, yes, it is too unfair and a harsh
sentence. Those four prosecutors then quit the case. They didn’t say publicly why, but
everyone read it as a clear protest against this intervention. And today, actually, during the prosecution
— during the sentencing, you could see these four empty chairs at the prosecution’s table
where those gentlemen would have been sitting, and, instead, another U.S. attorney had to
step in into their role. And the judge tried to get to the bottom of
this. She asked U.S. attorney John Crabb several times: Who ordered you to write that memo?
Did you write that memo? Did you sign that memo? She was seemingly trying to get to the bottom
of all of this. Crabb said: In the end, I can’t discuss internal deliberations. All of that said, the judge still did decide
to sentence Stone to less than what those prosecutors originally asked. JUDY WOODRUFF: Three years, a little more
— a little more than three years. So, finally, what happens now to Roger Stone? WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Well, he’s going to go possibly
for three-and-a-half years in prison. We don’t know exactly when that might start. The looming question over all of this is whether
President Trump, as you mentioned, is going to pardon him. The president has, we know,
been toying with that idea. He’s been retweeting out FOX News hosts calling him very specifically
to do that. But we just don’t know yet. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we will continue to watch
it. William Brangham, fascinating story. Thank
you. In the day’s other news: There is word that
intelligence officials warned congressional lawmakers last week that Russia was trying
to interfere in the 2020 presidential campaign in a bid to get President Trump reelected.
According to The Washington Post and to The New York Times, that drove President Trump
to lash out at his then acting director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. Yesterday, the president replaced Maguire
with Richard Grenell, who is a longtime ally of the president. The coronavirus appears to be spreading at
a slower rate in China, as the number of new cases there fell for another day. In all,
the country has recorded nearly 75,000 cases and more than 2,100 deaths. Meanwhile, Japan reported its first deaths
from a quarantined cruise ship, an elderly Japanese couple. World Health Organization officials said that,
while the number of cases outside China is small, it is still a concern. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, Director General,
World Health Organization: It doesn’t mean that all the number of cases in the rest of
the world will stay the same for long. It’s only a window of opportunity, and that’s why
we say this is the time to attack the virus, while it is actually manageable. JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, South Korea reported
its first death from the virus. Workers sprayed disinfectant in the city of Daegu after dozens
of new cases were confirmed; 2.5 million residents there are now on lockdown. Germany is reeling after a shooting rampage
left nine people dead overnight. The gunman, suspected to have far-right ties, opened fire
on two hookah bars in an immigrant neighborhood near Frankfurt. He was later found dead in
his apartment. The attacks come amid a surge in extremism in Germany. Richard Pallot of Independent Television News
has our report. RICHARD PALLOT: In a small German city, homegrown
extremism rears its ugly face again, nine people shot dead, all believed to be of a
migrant background. Kadir Kose was running the bar next door to
the first attack. KADIR KOSE, Eyewitness: I heard much shoots,
and I saw a gunman running. And I was in shock. Five, six minutes later, I heard much shoots. RICHARD PALLOT: The shootings took place at
around 10:00 p.m. last night, in the city of Hanau, 20 miles to the east of Frankfurt. The gunman has been named as Tobias Rathjen.
He had shared his racist views on social media beforehand, as well as in a written manifesto
of hate, saying certain people should be exterminated. The authorities admit that they didn’t have
the suspect on their radar at all. It is the most deadly of recent right-wing attacks here
in Germany, and comes just days after a plot to blow up mosques around the country was
spoiled. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has
pledged to fight those who are trying to divide her country. “Racism is a poison,” she said. “Hate is a
poison, and this poison exists in our society, and it is responsible for far too many crimes.” The gunman killed himself and his mother in
their house as police closed in. The federal prosecutor is now investigating whether Rathjen
had accomplices or if anyone else knew about his plan. The country’s open-door policy on immigration
in recent years is still fueling anger. But, tonight, at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin,
at the place that once signified division, Germans stand unified. JUDY WOODRUFF: That report from Richard Pallot
of Independent Television News. Turkey said that two of its soldiers were
killed in a Syrian government airstrike in Idlib province today. The Turkish Defense
Ministry said more than 50 Syrian government soldiers were killed in retaliation. Syrian
forces, backed by Russia’s air force, are engaged in an offensive to recapture the region. The intensified fighting in Syria’s last rebel-held
bastion has displaced nearly a million Syrians since early December. RUQQYAH OMAR, Displaced Syrian (through translator):
We suffered a lot on the road, because displacement was difficult and there are problems. We want the whole world to see us and learn
about our conditions, the children and these camps. Turkey will either resolve our situation
or make us return to our lands. We want one of these two solutions. It is really a difficult
situation. JUDY WOODRUFF: The fresh clashes in Idlib
came a day after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to attack Syrian
forces if any more Turkish soldiers were hurt. Rival leaders in South Sudan have agreed to
form a long-delayed coalition government. The president and opposition leader met in
the capital of Juba today to discuss their power-sharing deal ahead of a deadline Saturday.
It is a major breakthrough, as the country recovers from a five-year civil war that has
claimed nearly 400,000 lives. Back in this country, the investment bank
Morgan Stanley is buying online discount broker E-Trade Financial for $13 billion. The deal
is the biggest takeover by a major U.S. bank since the 2008 financial crisis. The move
will give Morgan Stanley a bigger share of the market for online trading and over five
million more clients. And stocks closed lower on Wall Street today.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 128 points to close just under 29220. The Nasdaq
fell 66 points, and the S&P 500 slipped 13. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: analyzing
the highs and lows of last night’s contentious Democratic debate; examining the human suffering
caused by economic and political chaos inside Venezuela; California wrestles with its overwhelming
homeless crisis; and much more. Last night’s Democratic presidential debate
in Las Vegas was the most contentious matchup yet for the party’s leading contenders. As Amna Nawaz reports, it all came at a critical
moment in the campaign, with early voting under way in a dozen states, and just days
to go before the start of the Nevada caucuses. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, Presidential Candidate:
So how was your night last night? (LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: Michael Bloomberg campaigning
today in Utah, just hours after his first Democratic debate appearance in Las Vegas,
where he was the center of his rivals’ attention. SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), Presidential Candidate:
I think it is great you have got a lot of money, but I think you have got to come forward
with your tax returns. AMNA NAWAZ: The billionaire businessman entered
the race just three months ago, but his opponents made up for lost time, sharply challenging
Bloomberg’s record as a three-term mayor of New York City. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), Presidential Candidate:
Mr. Bloomberg had policies in New York City of stop and frisk, which went after African-American
and Latino people in an outrageous way. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: If I go back and look at
my time in office, the one thing that I’m really worried about, embarrassed about was
how it turned out with stop and frisk. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), Presidential Candidate:
It’s not whether he apologized or not. It’s the policy. The policy was abhorrent. AMNA NAWAZ: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth
Warren repeatedly questioned Bloomberg on allegations his company covered up reports
of sexual misconduct. SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), Presidential
Candidate: So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure
agreements, so we can hear their side of the story? (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: We have a very few nondisclosure
agreements. SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: How many is that? MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Let me finish. SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: How many is that? MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: None of them accuse me
of doing anything, other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told, and let me just… (BOOING) MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: And let me — these would
be agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet, and that is up to them.
They signed those agreements, and we will live with it. AMNA NAWAZ: Warren continued her attacks at
a campaign stop today. SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: It was my job to make
sure that America got a little closer look at Mayor Bloomberg, and came to understand
that, of all the people standing on the stage, he is the riskiest one for the Democrats. AMNA NAWAZ: Last night, others, like Vermont
Senator Bernie Sanders, confronted Bloomberg on his estimated $60 billion personal fortune. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Mike Bloomberg owns more
wealth than the bottom 125 million Americans. That’s wrong. That’s immoral. AMNA NAWAZ: Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-Democrat
who is running as a moderate alternative to Sanders, pushed back. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: What a wonderful country
we have. The best-known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses.
What did I miss here? AMNA NAWAZ: Sanders and Bloomberg are leading
the field in the most recent “PBS NewsHour”/NPR/Marist poll. But both were accused by former South
Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of being too polarizing to win. PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), Presidential Candidate:
Let’s put forward somebody who’s actually a Democrat. (LAUGHTER) PETE BUTTIGIEG: Look, we shouldn’t have to
choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate
who wants to buy this party out. AMNA NAWAZ: Wednesday’s debate was one of
the last chances for trailing candidates to break through before Super Tuesday on March
3, when a third of all Democratic delegates are up for grabs. JOSEPH BIDEN: I’m the only one on this stage
that has actually got anything done on health care. AMNA NAWAZ: Debate battle lines were drawn
once again on health care. SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: It’s not a plan. It’s
PowerPoint. And Amy’s plan is even less. It is like a Post-it note: Insert plan here. AMNA NAWAZ: And on immigration, of particular
interest in Nevada, where Latinos make up one in every five Democratic voters. Here’s Mayor Buttigieg addressing Senator
Klobuchar. PETE BUTTIGIEG: If you are going to run based
on your record of voting in Washington, then you have to own those votes, especially when
it comes to immigration. (APPLAUSE) SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I wish everyone was as
perfect as you, Pete. You have memorized a bunch of talking points and a bunch of things,
but I can tell you one thing. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: What the people of this
country want, they want a leader that has the heart for the immigrants of this country.
And that is me. AMNA NAWAZ: At the end of a bruising night,
a clear sign that no one is ready yet to hang up their gloves. QUESTION: Yes or no, leading person with the
delegates, should they be the nominee or not? JOSEPH BIDEN: No. Let the process work its
way out. AMNA NAWAZ: If no candidate has the majority
of delegates by convention-time in July, only Sanders said the delegate leader should become
the nominee. After trading brutal blows in last night’s
debate, some of the candidates are back out today working the crowds, fighting for those
last-minute caucus commitments, like Senator Elizabeth Warren here. The Democratic candidates will face off again
in another debate next Tuesday in South Carolina — Judy. JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you, Amna. And so, after last night’s drama-filled debate
in Las Vegas, where does this unpredictable race for the Democratic nomination stand? Michael Meehan was a longtime aide for congressional
Democrats and on Democratic campaigns, including then Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential
bid. Ian Sams most recently served during this current election cycle as the campaign
press secretary for Senator Kamala Harris. And Matthew Dowd, he was the chief strategist
on President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004. He is now a political analyst for
ABC News. And we welcome all of you to the “NewsHour.”
Thank you for being here. Let’s start out with considering this debate.
Now that we have had a day to let it sink in, how does it change the shape of this contest? Ian Sams? IAN SAMS, Former National Press Secretary,
Kamala Harris Campaign: I think that, first of all, the biggest answer — the biggest
question that was outstanding was, how many people watched it? And we saw that it was
upwards of 20 million Americans. That’s a lot of people. So, there’s no doubt that the debate will
have some sort of lasting impact on this race. Now, we are really close to voting, which
I think is why you saw so many candidates willing to go after one another last night
and really draw a stark contrast between each other, because the pressure is on. You have to make moves right now if you want
to win, especially with Bernie Sanders having a pretty commanding position atop of the field. And so I think what we saw last night was
Mayor Bloomberg probably got brought down a peg by especially Elizabeth Warren’s pretty
searing attacks on his history and record. But whether or not all the benefit goes to
her, I think, is still up in the air. JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Meehan, what changes,
if anything, as a result of last night, do you think? MICHAEL MEEHAN, Democratic Consultant: Well,
I think Michael Bloomberg getting on a stage was sort of the big news. And I think the fact Iowa and New Hampshire
didn’t actually do the winnowing process in the way that they typically have done over
the last 50 years, and so the pressure is high. People are voting in Nevada right now.
And then you have South Carolina. But I think Bloomberg is looking for a do-over,
for sure. He showed his rust. He totally has another chance. The good news for him, the
calendar work for him. He gets back on the debate stage next Tuesday. He doesn’t have
to simmer for weeks and weeks before he has a chance to do better than he’s done. JUDY WOODRUFF: Matthew Dowd, how do you see
the results of last night on this race? MATTHEW DOWD, Former George W. Bush Campaign
Strategist: Well, to me, it was the most significant debate we have had thus far because of the
timing that we’re at and the number of viewers. If you think about this, the total number
of people that are going to vote in the Democratic primaries and caucuses is right at around
20 million people. And that’s basically how many watched that. So, to me, it’s the most
crucial part of the debate. I think you basically have one through five,
the candidates that basically finished one through five in how well they did, the gap
between them is much smaller than the gap between the number five candidate and the
number six candidate, which was Bloomberg. I think his performance was bad for him. There’s
levels of bad. His was the worst level of bad in a debate for somebody that came from
the mayor of New York. And so I think he finally came out from under the air cover of his TV
ads. And I think voters wanted to see what he was like. And so as — I agree with the previous person
that said, we don’t know where, if he falls in the polls from where he’s at today, where
that’s going to go to. Will it go to Joe Biden? I thought Elizabeth Warren’s performance was
very well done. That may give her another set of oxygen in this race to have her do
well in Nevada and South Carolina. So this race is still full of many twists and turns. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I was hoping that all
three of you were going to tell me exactly where this thing stood right now, but it sounds
like still very much in flux. My question, Ian, is how much in flux is it?
Bernie Sanders is leading in a number of polls, as you all have suggested, but you do have
this bunching of other candidates and this big question mark, Mike Bloomberg and all
of his money. So, some people are already asking, does Bernie
Sanders — could he possibly be so far ahead at this point, it’s hard to catch up with
him? IAN SAMS: Well, the lead-in package, I think,
before we started having this conversation really hit the nail on the head when they
showed Vice President Biden’s comment, which was mirrored by every other candidate on stage
last night, besides Bernie Sanders, that they may be willing to go all the way to the convention,
as long as there are delegates coming into their campaigns, and as long as their campaigns
have enough cash to stay afloat, and not fold, which really changes the game in this. Bernie at this point is probably on pace to
get somewhere between 30 and 35 to 40 percent of the delegates, which is not a majority,
over the next little bit, if nothing changes. And so Bernie is ahead right now. But as long as these other candidates are
pocketing away some number of delegates, and not getting blown out completely, we could
be in a situation where they’re all willing to go to the convention and try to fight it
out there. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Michael Meehan, are — am
I hearing some of you say that literally any one of these six candidates could make it
to the nomination? MICHAEL MEEHAN: Oh, for sure, because, while
Bernie Sanders has a lead, the lead is one delegate. I mean, the Buttigieg campaign would
say, we’re tied with you in delegates as we sit here this far out. So I think that any one of the six, for various
reasons. Bloomberg didn’t have a great performance, but he doesn’t lose money because he doesn’t
need the money. Warren had a good night. She’s going to raise a bunch of money online today.
Sanders has a huge ability to continue to fund himself all the way through to Milwaukee. So those kinds of dynamics mean that the caucuses
— there’s more people who already voted in this caucus than voted last time in 2016.
And we haven’t even reached the date of the caucus yet. So there is a high level of energy
and everybody is pretty bunched in between 25 and 15 percent. It’s a small amount of
delegates that get determined by that number. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Matthew Dowd, wide open,
to an extent, and yet a lot of angst in the — among Democrats about Bernie Sanders and
the fact that he’s shown the strength that he has. MATTHEW DOWD: Yes, it’s fascinating to me. There’s angst for — there’s angst about Bernie
Sanders, but there’s angst about Joe Biden, and there’s angst about Elizabeth Warren.
And there’s angst about — there’s angst about almost every candidate in this race. I think what you have today is we have gone
from one weak front-runner, Joe Biden, to no front-runner, to another weak front-runner
in this. And I’m not a person that buys into this idea
— the idea of electability, I think, is very ethereal. It moves and shapes in the race.
I remember Bill Clinton in 1992 wasn’t electable. Barack Obama wasn’t the most electable candidate
in 2008. And Donald Trump was certainly not the most electable candidate in 2016. All went on to win the presidency. So, I think
deciding today who’s the most electable or who’s got the greatest vulnerabilities — I
think everybody thought, wow, Michael Bloomberg is going to be powerful. Then he shows up
at a debate and does awful. Then everybody’s questioning now that. And so I think there are vulnerabilities that
Bernie Sanders has, because of his self-label, his own labels on himself, but I don’t think
we really know where this race is going to go and who is the best candidate yet to beat
Donald Trump. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you do hear a lot of
discussion, Ian Sams, about the so-called divide among Democrats over — the more liberal
Democrats are in the Bernie Sanders camp, or they were in Elizabeth Warren, or maybe
they still are, and then the more moderate Democrats. I think — I’m trying to understand, to what
extent is each side saying, I’m not going to support your guy? If I’m a moderate, I’m
not going to support Bernie. And, vice versa, if I’m a Bernie supporter, I’m not going to
support anybody else out there. IAN SAMS: I don’t think there’s that high
level of division in the party. I think that all the candidates specifically
are saying, well, we will support the nominee no matter what. We have to. Donald Trump is
an existential threat to the country, and we have to get him out of there. I think, the longer this goes on, it just
depends on the tone and tenor of the race. I think last night was sharp, but I don’t
think that it was catastrophic. I think that it was people pointing out differences with
each other and why certain opponents might not make the best nominee. But, right now, you do see, like, a lot more
unity among the party and among the candidates than you do division. And I don’t think that
that’s going to go away. You think back to 2008 or 2004, which Matt and Michael were
both a part of that contest. JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. IAN SAMS: The primaries were tough and sharp,
and people hit each other, but came together at the end of the day, and then, 2008, won
the election. JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Michael Meehan, you did
hear Michael Bloomberg say last night, if Bernie Sanders is the nominee, he’s going
to lose Donald Trump. That was pretty definitive. MICHAEL MEEHAN: Well, I think we all run the
last campaign over again, and Donald Trump won by 77,000 votes in three states. And so people make the premises of their campaigns
on their ability to talk to those Midwestern states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin.
You flip 80,000 votes, someone else is in the White House. And Donald Trump is running the same play
again. He hasn’t changed his strategy a lick. So the question is, who can turn those 80,000
people in those three states? And that’s why we’re fighting over such a narrow sliver here. JUDY WOODRUFF: And we’re looking at the polls
from those three states and seeing some interesting numbers right now. But, Matthew Dowd, as somebody who has been
— has been at the center of a campaign, in the other party, but watching the Democrats
very closely, how do you see this party coming together eventually, or do you see this as
something that could be really ugly right up until the end? MATTHEW DOWD: Well, I remember very well when
I was involved in 2000 for Bush, and — when Bush and McCain ran against each other. Talk
about a bitter race that happened. The party came together because they had a — they had
a principle that they wanted to get done, which is to win the race. I think one of the benefits the Democrats
have that they have not had in a long time is, there is a unifying principle in the Democratic
Party today among all voters, every single voter, which is Donald Trump. They do not
want Donald Trump to be president for another four years. So I think, by the time the conventions comes,
they’re going to have to iron some things out, they’re going to have to work out what’s
the best way to go in this, because I think for sure we’re going to go into the convention
where nobody has the total number of delegates when they walk in, but I think Donald Trump
will help them unify the party. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s every reporter’s
dream to get to a convention where the results are a surprise. MICHAEL MEEHAN: And every operative’s nightmare. (LAUGHTER) JUDY WOODRUFF: And every operative’s nightmares.
You’re right. But we will — what a story we have, and so
important to pay close attention. Ian Sams, Michael Meehan, Matthew Dowd, thank
you all. MATTHEW DOWD: Thanks, Judy. JUDY WOODRUFF: Tonight, we begin a series,
Inside Venezuela, a country in political, economic and humanitarian crisis. Venezuela was once one of the wealthiest countries
in the world, in large part due to its massive oil reserves. In 1999, Hugo Chavez became
president, and he used that oil wealth to create a socialist state. But since his death in 2013, under his successor,
President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s economy has collapsed. With support from the Pulitzer Center, special
correspondent Marcia Biggs reports. MARCIA BIGGS: This is you when you were little.
Oh, my gosh. Fifty-three-year-old Nelly Larco remembers
a Venezuela of an earlier time, one filled with birthday parties, confirmations, and
Christmas presents. GIRL: Wow. NELLY LARCO, Opposition Supporter (through
translator): Wow. (LAUGHTER) MARCIA BIGGS: It was a land of opportunity
for an immigrant like her. She moved to Venezuela from her native Ecuador when she was still
a teenager, and worked as a housekeeper. NELLY LARCO (through translator): I say this
with huge pride, because I came here working, and that’s how I earned a living, and I found
a way to improve myself. And I’m so attached to and so thankful to Venezuela. MARCIA BIGGS: This country gave her a life
and a family. Nelly’s three daughters were able to go to school, and her eldest, Marielena,
became a lawyer and a professor. But, for years, they have been struggling
to get by, living in one of the many slums surrounding the sprawling capital of Caracas. Do you have running water? NELLY LARCO (through translator): No. MARCIA BIGGS: There’s never enough water,
enough propane for cooking, enough food to eat. For more than two decades, Nelly has
watched her adopted country slip away, and, with it, her dream of a better life for her
family. NELLY LARCO (through translator): I’m very
frustrated and very angry to think that, because of a few people, we have lost Venezuela. MARCIA BIGGS: For her, the decline began with
Hugo Chavez, the former soldier who in 1999 became president, and it has continued under
his successor, Nicolas Maduro. Since 2013, the country has been in freefall
by nearly every available metric, a cratering economy, skyrocketing violence, tanking oil
production, a crippling gas shortage. Millions have already fled the country, creating
the second largest refugee crisis in the world. And for the millions who remain, including
many children, hunger has made them desperate. NELLY LARCO (through translator): What I never
imagined is that we’d reach this extent. I never imagined that I’d see my people in Venezuela
eating from the garbage. That infuriates me. That infuriates me, because this is a rich
country. MARCIA BIGGS: This time last year, Nelly,
Marielena and many others thought that Venezuela was on the precipice of change. In January, then-34-year-old Juan Guaido,
a civil engineer who’d just been elected to lead the country’s Parliament, was declared
interim president by members of the opposition, after President Maduro won a second term in
an election widely criticized as illegitimate. Guaido promised new elections, and nearly
60 countries around the world, including the U.S., threw their support behind him, as did
thousands of protesters in the streets of Venezuela, including Nelly and Marielena. NELLY LARCO (through translator): We’re the
majority, and that’s why I keep fighting. The truth is that my hopes are actually more
in God than Guaido. But we have to help him. I feel that he’s like an angel that God put
here to get out of this insanity. MARCIA BIGGS: Marielena says she thought the
protests would force Maduro’s hand. MARIELENA CARABALLO, Opposition Supporter
(through translator): I sincerely thought that taking to the streets would put pressure
on Maduro to leave the presidency, and we would somehow be able to have free elections,
which is what we want. MARCIA BIGGS: Then on April 30 came a critical
moment. Guaido called on the military to help him overthrow Maduro in a coup. JUAN GUAIDO, Opposition Leader, Venezuela
(through translator): We’re speaking to the armed forces, and, today, it is clear that
the armed forces are with the people of Venezuela and not the dictator. MARCIA BIGGS: That was the call both Nelly
and Marielena had been waiting for. MARIELENA CARABALLO (through translator):
My mother woke me up and said: “Dear, the soldiers have risen up.” Suddenly, I was totally awake, and I thought,
the moment has come. Finally, the military has found the necessary courage and it is
with the people. MARCIA BIGGS: But Guaido had miscalculated.
Only a few soldiers joined him. The vast majority remained loyal to Maduro, and then the protests
turned violent. National Guard troops moved on protesters,
ramming them with armored vehicles and opening fire. A young woman from Marielena’s school
died. Another friend from her neighborhood was wounded. For Marielena and for thousands of others
who had spent years waiting for this moment, it was a bitter disappointment and a stark
reminder of what they could lose. MARIELENA CARABALLO (through translator):
Then I said, that’s it. What are you waiting for? To be killed yourself and leave your
family without any help because they killed you? MARCIA BIGGS: So, you had all of this hope
that things would change. Did Juan Guaido fail you? MARIELENA CARABALLO (through translator):
Yes, I do think Juan Guaido failed. And I’m not sure whether it was intentional, or it
was because maybe, well, he’s a human being, too. But the truth is that all Venezuelans
have put our faith in him. MARCIA BIGGS: I met Juan Guaido at his office
in Caracas, and I put that question to him. We have spoken to some opposition supporters,
people who came out to protest, who are very, very frustrated by the process and by you
and the progress. Do you think you promised too much, too soon? JUAN GUAIDO (through translator): Certainly,
the management of expectations is something important to manage in Venezuela, especially
when we have no water, no electricity, and our children are dying of starvation. So it’s natural that we feel frustrated for
not having achieved change already, when we feel that we have the strength, that we have
the majority, that we count on international support. So, the first thing, as a leader, as the acting
president at this time, is to understand the legitimate claim of our people and do what’s
necessary to address those just claims of Venezuelans who need change in Venezuela today. MARCIA BIGGS: But how Guaido achieves that
change remains unclear. We were there last month when National Guard
troops blocked him from entering the National Assembly to be reelected speaker, while Maduro
supporters inside elected their own speaker without a formal vote. Guaido came back two days later, broke through
and was sworn in again by his own supporters. But, since then, he’s been physically blocked
from entering the Assembly to carry out Parliament’s business. Two weeks later, he snuck out of
the country, embarking on a world tour to shore up support abroad. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
Joining us in the gallery is the true and legitimate president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido. MARCIA BIGGS: He even attended the State of
the Union address. But after that warm reception, he returned
home to a cold reality. At the airport, he was mobbed by President Maduro’s supporters,
a reminder of who remains in the presidential palace and in control of the military. And in the past few months, Maduro has shown
he’s willing to adapt to keep it that way. He’s announced new parliamentary elections
this year, in an attempt to consolidate his hold on the legislature. In the wake of U.S. sanctions on his government,
including on the struggling state-run oil industry, he’s invited Russian and Chinese
companies in to help ramp up production. In another major departure from Hugo Chavez,
he’s also relaxed strict import and export controls, and even allowed U.S. dollars into
the country. That’s led to a small boom among some restaurants and stores in cities like
Caracas. A year ago, you wouldn’t have seen in a shop
like this prices listed in dollars. They were officially prohibited. But, here, you’re seeing
75 cents for a bag of rice. You’re also seeing a lot more imported food, for those who can
afford it. And yet many cannot. At this neighborhood
in Caracas, where residents typically support the government, we found people fed up with
the economic situation. WOMAN (through translator): Venezuela was
a blessed country that nowadays is terribly managed. The people in charge say they love
us. That’s a lie. They don’t love the people. MAN (through translator): It’s not like before.
That was beautiful. There was enough money. But now imagine how hard the situation it
is. MARCIA BIGGS: There, I met William Yaguaran,
a political organizer at a university in Caracas and a true believer in Chavez’s socialist
revolution. At his home, he showed me the free box of
food that comes monthly from the government. Corn flour. For William, social programs like this one
were of the many reasons he was first drawn to Chavez so many years ago. WILLIAM YAGUARAN, Government Supporter (through
translator): He did what he said he was going to do, and that’s what made him connect with
the population and the youth at that time. And that hooked me too. MARCIA BIGGS: Is Maduro doing what he said
he would do? WILLIAM YAGUARAN (through translator): He
tries, but the structure doesn’t help him. The people around him aren’t helping him. MARCIA BIGGS: But isn’t he in control of the
structure? WILLIAM YAGUARAN (through translator): Well,
now you’re asking a very difficult question. He’s in power, but the problem is, his decisions
don’t get executed. MARCIA BIGGS: In addition to corruption and
mismanagement, William also blames U.S. sanctions for hurting the economy, and says that, regardless
of who’s at fault, he could never bring himself to support the opposition. Do you think the opposition cares about the
poor people? WILLIAM YAGUARAN (through translator): No,
they have never cared. They have never cared for us at all. MARCIA BIGGS: Back at Nelly and Marielena’s,
there’s debate over how to move forward. Marielena is tired of hearing the same things from Guaido
about how they’re making progress, despite what she sees. MARIELENA CARABALLO (through translator):
Time has passed, and nothing’s happened. We’re still waiting, and we’re still hearing, we’re
doing well. MARCIA BIGGS: Millions have given up and already
left Venezuela, but Marielena says she’d miss her family too much, especially her niece.
And she’s afraid of having to start over from scratch in a new country. Her mother, Nelly, knows too well how hard
that can be. So, for her, the choice is simple, if not easy. NELLY LARCO (through translator): I’m indebted
to Venezuela, because Venezuela gave me everything. It’s given me it all: a family, my daughters.
It’s the least I can do. Staying at home, watching what’s happening
and blaming someone because he tried but couldn’t do it? No. I prefer to go out and fight by
the side of the person trying to do something. And every time Guaido calls me, or whoever
is there at the time, they can call me to go out to the streets to support democracy.
I’m going to be there. I’m going to go out. MARCIA BIGGS: For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m
Marcia Biggs in Caracas. JUDY WOODRUFF: Stay with us. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: too young
to retire, but too old to find a well-paying job — Making Sense of a fragile work force. More than half-a-million Americans are homeless
on a given night, but on the West Coast, the problem has grown worse in recent years. And, as John Yang explains, that is especially
pronounced in California. JOHN YANG: Judy, the federal government says
more than a quarter of America’s homeless are in California. While homelessness fell
in most states last year, in the Golden State, it rose 16 percent. The issue was the sole topic of Democratic
Governor Gavin Newsom’s state of the state address. GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Let’s call it what
it is. It’s a disgrace that the richest state in the richest nation, succeeding across so
many sectors, is falling so far behind to properly house, heal, and humanely treat so
many of its own people. The state of California can no longer treat
homelessness and housing insecurity as someone else’s problem, buried below other priorities
that are much easier to win or better suited for sound bites. It is our responsibility.
And it must be at the top of our agenda. (APPLAUSE) JOHN YANG: The governor laid out a series
of proposals and asked lawmakers to work with him. Anita Chabria covers California state politics
and policy for The Los Angeles Times. She’s based in Sacramento, which is where she is
right now. Anita, thanks so much for joining us. This is not a few issue for California. The
governor himself had to deal with this when he was mayor of San Francisco. Why now? Why
is he saying this is at the top of the agenda for the next year? ANITA CHABRIA, The Los Angeles Times: I think
there’s a couple of reasons you’re seeing it happen so visibly right now. One is not just that we have the largest homeless
population in the country. It’s that we have the largest unsheltered population. So we
have more than 100,000 people actually living on our sidewalks, on our street corners, in
our parks, in places where they are visible to our voters and our residents every day. It’s a problem that’s in the rural areas,
it’s in the suburbs, it’s in front of our schools and our libraries and our grocery
stores. And so, really, you’re seeing a governor and a legislature that can’t ignore it because
it is visible every day. JOHN YANG: And he’s getting pressure on this
from the president, the president saying, if California can’t solve this, the federal
government will. ANITA CHABRIA: Absolutely. He’s getting political pressure from multiple
angles. So President Trump has been very vocal about the fact that some federal action, though
not a lot of details on that, could happen if the state doesn’t make progress. And he’s facing it — Newsom is facing pressure
from his own constituents. More than about a third of the state considers this their
top priority as an issue. And, interestingly, a poll that just came out showed that almost
40 percent of Californians fear that they or someone they know could fall into homelessness. So, it’s a real fear here that the economic
inequality, the rising housing prices, the systemic racism that we’re addressing throughout
the country are all things that are increasing homelessness for average people. JOHN YANG: You have talked about — you just
now talked about some of the pressures that are adding to this problem. What is the governor
proposing? ANITA CHABRIA: The governor is proposing a
multitude of things. Most recently, he came up with $750 million
that he’d like to put towards it as one-time funding kind of immediately. He’s asking the
legislature to fast-track that money. It would go towards rental assistance. It would go
towards stabilizing board-and-care homes, which are — help people with disabilities
or mental illness have shelter and care. It would go towards some affordable housing
things. He’s also asking the state to streamline how we can place — we can force people to
have mental health treatment, how we can place them in conservatorships. And he’s asking
for some money for affordable housing as well. One of the most interesting things that is
the big topic in the state right now is accountability. The governor is asking for accountability.
We have spent $1.5 billion or allocated $1.5 billion over the past couple years to address
homelessness, where we haven’t really tracked that money very well or seen what the results
are from it. So there’s a real big push now to make sure
that we keep track of the money we’re spending and make sure it shows results. JOHN YANG: You talked about — talking about
money, the governor called for a dedicated, sustained revenue stream. It sounds like a new tax. It could be. Is
this issue of such big concern in California that people will support new taxes to address
it? ANITA CHABRIA: I think that’s going to be
the big question. So, originally, the governor didn’t want to
have ongoing funding, precisely for that reason, to not put another burden on the general fund
and to not have to go after taxes. So, he had originally pushed for one-time funding
of $750 million. And you saw a lot of pushback from the groups
that are actually doing homeless work and from a lot of the legislators, saying, no,
we simply can’t fix this with one shot of money. And so now the question does become, what
is the appetite for people to be taxed on it? One idea that has been floated is, we
have a millionaires tax here that pays for mental health services, and perhaps extending
that tax, increasing it on our wealthiest residents. But, really, that’s going to be the debate
coming up for the next couple of months is, if you pay for it ongoing, how do you pay
for it? JOHN YANG: How much support is there in the
legislature, how much support is there among the voters for the other things he talked
about in his speech? ANITA CHABRIA: There is tremendous support
for action. So what that action is, I think people just
want to see results. Another recent poll that came out said that more than 50 percent of
people are in support of removing homeless encampments from public space. So, there’s a real desire to see people moved
from this unsheltered situation into shelters and permanent housing. I just think it’s how
we do that. The devil is going to be in the details in terms of public support. The fact is, is, we don’t have enough shelters.
We have don’t have enough affordable housing. So there is nothing we can do in the very,
very immediate sense to get people into permanent housing, because it doesn’t exist. So we’re at this strange point where we have
to make sure that we’re doing something in the short term, while really looking toward
those long-term solutions, because it’s a problem that ultimately you need a house to
solve. And we don’t have the houses. JOHN YANG: Anita Chabria of The Los Angeles
Times in Sacramento, thank you very much. ANITA CHABRIA: Thank you. JUDY WOODRUFF: Many Americans say they focus
on saving for retirement when they reach their 50s. But what happens if you lose your job
at that age? Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman,
and his producer, Diane Lincoln Estes, look at that challenge as part of our Making Sense
series Unfinished Business. PAUL SOLMAN: Every morning, 59-year-old Jaye
Crist leaves his home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and drives to work at a local
print shop. JAYE CRIST, Works Three Jobs: I’m a fulfillment
associate fulfilling individual orders, and then making sure that all the product that
is printed and needs to be distributed locally is delivered, so, like a delivery driver. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist spent his career in a higher
echelon of the printing industry than this. For almost 30 years, Crist was a manager at
printing giant RR Donnelley. JAYE CRIST: I have always supervised, always
managed. And there was part of me, like, this — I will be one of those guys that retires
here. PAUL SOLMAN: No such luck. He was laid off
in 2016, his plans derailed when the firm reorganized. Economist Richard Johnson’s work has shown
that Crist is far from alone. RICHARD JOHNSON, Urban Institute: We found
that more than half, 56 percent, of workers experience an involuntary employer-related
job separation after age 50. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist, who’d made $100,000 a
year, began looking for a comparable job. But he soon realized: JAYE CRIST: Where I had been after all those
years, with salary and benefits and things, was what I was going to get if I stayed here. But also, at the same time, I’m looking at
— I still had kids in school. I had bought a house, all the things that kind of hold
you to a place. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist is a case in point of what,
in our ostensibly booming economy, so many workers in their 50s and older face these
days, says Professor Teresa Ghilarducci. TERESA GHILARDUCCI, Economist: They’re less
mobile. Older workers are sticky to their geographical place. They have relationships
with people in the community. They have a house, for all the reasons that we all know.
And so they can’t move to get a better job. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist also faced another hurdle
shared with Americans turning his age, 59, 400 of us every single minute. JAYE CRIST: A lot of companies don’t want
to hire somebody who’s 50-plus and needs — you know, has a salary expectation that’s above
what they’re willing to pay. So they can easily say it’s because of salary or wage. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist only found the job at local
H&H Printing after about a year of looking. JAYE CRIST: Had to take a heck of a cut in
pay, but I was happy about it. It’s hourly. It’s about $40,000 a year. PAUL SOLMAN: That’s not unusual, says Richard
Johnson. RICHARD JOHNSON: Almost all workers who lose
a job at older ages end up making much less on the new job than they did on the old job.
We found that only 10 percent of people earned as much on the new job as on the old job,
and, on average, they tended to earn only about half as much. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist’s printing job doesn’t
pay enough, so he also works nights, from 7:30 to 2:00 a.m., at Planet Fitness for $12
an hour. JAYE CRIST: If it’s your front counter service,
and you’re checking people in, and you’re helping them — you know, helping them with
their memberships. So it’s about four-and-a-half-hours of sleep during the week that I’m getting. PAUL SOLMAN: Half-a-night’s sleep, and then
back to H&H Printing. JAYE CRIST: If I wanted to lay down right
now and fall asleep, it would be easy. PAUL SOLMAN: But he can’t, not even on Sundays,
when Crist heads to a third job at a local brewery. JAYE CRIST: It’s nice to get, you know, a
little bit of cash for tips, because it’s just a minimum wage job otherwise, because
then you have a little extra money, and you’re not waiting, you know, between paychecks,
and having to manage all of that. PAUL SOLMAN: With three jobs, plus a $14,000-a-year
pension from RR Donnelly, Crist still brings in barely 70 percent of his previous income. JAYE CRIST: Can I manage to continue to work
this many hours, these many — this many jobs? My mind says I can, I will, I have to. If
I start thinking I can’t or it’s too hard, then, mentally, I don’t — I wouldn’t — you
wouldn’t be able to manage it. So, so long as I’m, you know — stay healthy
and can manage it, and — I will have to. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist’s younger daughter is in
college. His wife’s depression and anxiety have worsened since his layoff, preventing
her from working. JAYE CRIST: I see my wife and her — you know,
the depression and the physical things that she’s gone through. And so there’s that part of it, too, just
the economics of, you know, care, medicine these days is just — it’s outrageous. It’s
like we’re — you — so, I try not to think about that, because that almost would put
you over the edge. You just do whatever you got to do to keep everything else afloat.
But… PAUL SOLMAN: So, many older workers are struggling
to do just that, says Ghilarducci. TERESA GHILARDUCCI: When you look at real
lives, and you see the turmoil in their work life between, let’s say, 59 to 63, and their
health, there’s a lot of shocks that are going on with their spouse and with themselves,
because they’re interdependent. PAUL SOLMAN: Which raises the stakes for workers
like Jaye Crist to stay healthy. JAYE CRIST: I was unloading off of one of
the trucks and fell onto my shoulder and back. Thank God I didn’t break anything, I didn’t,
you know, tear anything, I didn’t cut anything. I didn’t lose any days of work. And it wasn’t
you know — it was — I was just lucky as hell. And then I thought, man, that’s all
it would’ve taken. PAUL SOLMAN: Traditional retirement, as for
so many once-secure older Americans, is out of the question. JAYE CRIST: I pretty much blew through all
of the 401(k) stuff I had. So, at this point, here’s, there’s like really
no savings. I mean, this — the house, and still paying a mortgage on it is — that’s
what I have. It’s frustrating that, you know, in my mind, somebody who’s done the things
you kind of were told as a kid and as you were growing up you needed to do, you know,
stay at a job, work, learn, you know, be helpful, get promotions, do right by people. And then you find yourself at this point in
your career, like, going, that doesn’t mean (EXPLETIVE DELETED). PAUL SOLMAN: Crist now understands what he
didn’t when he was in the manager’s seat. JAYE CRIST: I had to lay off an entire family,
a husband, and wife and daughter. And I — prior to that, I kept telling them, you guys need
to try to do something. You need to try to find something. Now I find myself in that situation, like,
going, that’s that wasn’t really helpful to be able to say those things, because you can’t
just go out, find another job. And I was the guy who laid them off. And at least I’m not
that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) anymore. PAUL SOLMAN: No, he’s not. Jaye Crist works
more, is paid less. And now that a third of the work force is 50-plus, there figure to
be many more like him. For the “PBS NewsHour,” this is Paul Solman. JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot to think about there. And that’s the “NewsHour” for tonight. I’m
Judy Woodruff. Join us online and again here tomorrow evening
with analysis of the week in politics Mark Shields and David Brooks. For all of us at
the “PBS NewsHour,” thank you, and we will see you soon.

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