PBS NewsHour full episode November 5, 2019


WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Good evening. I’m William
Brangham. Judy Woodruff is away. On the “NewsHour” tonight: in their own words.
The U.S. House releases the testimony of two key diplomats. One revises his testimony to
clearly link military aid to Ukraine to investigation requests by the president’s lawyer. Then: degrees of isolation. The U.S. begins
the formal process of pulling out of the Paris climate accord, fueling anxieties about addressing
the climate crisis. And rejecting hate. A former white nationalist
and son of a Klansman on how he was rescued from that world view and how others can walk
away from a lethal ideology. DEREK BLACK, Former White Nationalist: Fear
is the leading driver of people joining the white nationalist movement. It’s this idea
that they’re threatened, that they are losing something, that they’re being attacked. It’s
all this stuff that’s, for the record, not real. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All that and more on tonight’s
“PBS NewsHour.” (BREAK) WILLIAM BRANGHAM: On the record. The public
phase of the impeachment inquiry escalates. Lisa Desjardins explains how a clearer picture
is now emerging of the Trump administration’s approach to Ukraine from those at the center
of the storm. LISA DESJARDINS: At the Capitol, the impeachment
battle, for now, is on paper, but no less intense, as, today, committees released transcripts
of two key witnesses. They are Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador
to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine. Both were on the
key call between Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian president in July. In the 739 pages released today, among the
headlines, Sondland revised a critical piece of testimony about whether the U.S. tied nearly
$400 million in aid money to specific demands from Ukraine. Yesterday, Sondland filed this,
saying he now remembers telling a top Ukrainian official that — quote — “Resumption of U.S.
aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the corruption statement that the U.S. wanted,”
saying Ukraine would investigate the 2016 election and the energy company which hired
the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. A second headline, Sondland added more to
his insistence that the president himself firmly didn’t want a quid pro quo. And one more key point, the continued influence
of President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani. His name appears more than 150 times in Sondland’s
testimony. Sondland was nominated by Mr. Trump to be
ambassador to the E.U. in 2017. He’s previously owned a boutique hotel chain on the West Coast
and he’s a longtime GOP donor who had given $1 million to Mr. Trump’s inaugural fund. While Ukraine is not in the European Union,
Sondland has said the president tapped him to work on the issue. He says there were — quote
— “three amigos” working on that policy, himself, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and
Volker, whose career path sharply contrasts with the other two. Volker is a three-decade diplomat who has
served under Democratic and Republican presidents. President George W. Bush named him to be U.S.
representative to NATO. And, in 2017, President Trump named him to be the special envoy helping
lead Ukraine policy. He resigned in September. Today’s transcripts show Volker arguing against
a Biden investigation and trying to win over a president who deeply distrusted Ukraine. Former Ukrainian lawmaker Serhii Lushenko,
who worked with Volker for years, said he sees a diplomat trying to straddle sharp politics
and good policy. SERHII LUSHENKO, Former Ukrainian Lawmaker:
We see that Kurt Volker was trying to maneuver to be effective as the special envoy, at the
same time to be accepted by White House. And my understanding, he decided to give what
Mr. Trump was looking for. LISA DESJARDINS: Overall, Democrats say the
transcripts only bolster their case that Mr. Trump withheld military aid and other support
for Ukraine to pressure President Zelensky into opening investigations that could benefit
him politically. But Republicans insist that Democrats have
selectively leaked and withheld information in order to malign the president. REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): What all of us want
is a fair process. LISA DESJARDINS: And the process continues.
Today, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney got a request from the investigating
committees for testimony later this week. Thus far, Cabinet officials have declined
these kinds of requests, as did two other Trump officials whose interviews were scheduled
for today. As the House remains in first stages, the
Republican leader of the Senate today stressed the possible end, that any impeachment charges
would come there for trial. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I will say I’m
pretty sure how it is likely toned. If it were today, I don’t think there’s any question
it wouldn’t lead to a removal. LISA DESJARDINS: One thing McConnell doesn’t
know, how long any trial would last. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: To help us make sense of
what these transcripts mean for the impeachment inquiry, I’m joined by our own Nick Schifrin
and Lisa Desjardins, who have been closely following this investigation. Welcome back to you both. Thank you again
for poring through all of these pages of transcripts that have come out. Lisa, let’s talk first about these changes
that Sondland made his testimony. How significant are they? What are they? LISA DESJARDINS: Let me use a prop to explain.
This is the full — Sondland’s testimony, double-sided. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s your day today. LISA DESJARDINS: This is our day today, part
of it. But, of this, it’s really these few five pages
we’re talking about, his revisions. And here’s why it’s important. It speaks to this idea
of whether there was a quid pro quo. Let’s look at exactly what he changed here.
First of all, he said that, before today, he didn’t recall any conversations where he
was tying aid to these investigations of the Bidens in 2016. His revision, however, now
he says he does remember talking with a leading Ukrainian, really the contact point for President
Zelensky. And he also said now he does remember specifically
telling the Zelensky aide that aid was unlikely unless they made a statement saying that Ukraine
would investigate 2016 and also the Bidens. So this really speaks to the idea of whether
the U.S. was demanding something from Ukraine in exchange for aid money. Gordon Sondland’s
testimony is that he personally did tell them that. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That is a pretty big revision
today to see. Nick, can you zoom out a little bit more?
Tell us a little bit more about Sondland. I mean, he was a supporter of the president,
as Lisa reported, a big GOP donor. And he’s been a defender of the president all along
as well. NICK SCHIFRIN: A supporter of the president,
a defender of the president, and someone who had access to the president, really the only
one we have been talking about who regularly talked to the president. He testified that he talked to the president
three times specifically about this and, in each of those times, the president didn’t
mention Vice President Biden. And Sondland was asked at one point in this story by another
diplomat, hey, this seems crazy. Is the president really withholding aid before Ukraine investigates
Biden? And so he called the president. And we saw
what he said on that phone call with the president. He said: “I asked the president an open-ended
question. ‘What do you want from Ukraine?’ He said: ‘I want nothing. I want no quid pro
quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing.’ And I said, ‘What does that mean?’ And he
said, ‘I want him to do what he ran on.'” And that was the end of the conversation.
That is what the president was saying today. There was no quid pro quo at all, because
the president told Sondland this. And not only that, that the Ukrainians didn’t
know that the president had actually withheld any of this military aid. And that’s where
the timeline that Lisa comes in is so important. One month after that phone call, we see Sondland
now admitting that he did tell the Ukrainians, and that’s why that revision and the timeline
of that revision is so important. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, Lisa, about this timeline
that Nick is talking about, that’s something else that our team noticed in these transcripts,
some interesting timing-related issues there. LISA DESJARDINS: Sondland says very specifically
that, for a long time, what he knew was, there was a general corruption investigation, we
wanted Ukraine to be less corrupt, that that was the push. But he says in his testimony — let’s look
— that, in fact, something changed, as he knew it, around August, and that that thing
that changed was that the general corruption concerned — he calls it vanilla corruption
— became concerned about 2016 and Burisma. So this idea of changing how Ukraine operates,
making it less corrupt shifted into a specific concern about these two investigations. Now,
as to the timeline that Nick is talking about, what’s amazing about all this is that that
same day that he himself, Sondland, says he told the Ukrainians, hey, we have to now get
these investigations that he says are now front and center, proof from you that you’re
doing them, that’s the same day that Vice President Pence was meeting with President
Zelensky in Poland. Now, who knows whether Mike Pence knew anything
or not, but this is the reason that conversation happened. And we see here a key aide becoming
more and more aware that someone wants these investigations front and center. And he says
this to the Ukrainians on that day. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So interesting. Nick, let’s step back again to Ambassador
Volker. He was working closely with Ukrainian officials throughout this process. What did
he say about what they were doing with regards to these corruption investigations? NICK SCHIFRIN: He makes the same distinction
that Lisa was just making that Sondland makes, between vanilla corruption and let’s just
call it not-so-vanilla corruption. So the vanilla corruption, if you will, is
what the U.S. has been going after for the last five years, right? The Obama administration,
the Trump administration, all wanted Ukraine to tackle endemic corruption. Under the Obama administration, that effort
was led by Vice President Biden, but it continued and had the same targets under the Trump administration. What changed was Rudy Giuliani. This wasn’t
vanilla. He wanted an investigation into whether Ukraine hacked into the DNC in 2016, which
the U.S. intelligence community says is not what happened. And he wanted an investigation
into Burisma, this Ukrainian company where Hunter Biden was on the board. What Volker testified today was that the Ukrainians
who were telling Giuliani this, who were kind of whispering into his ear and egging him
on, that they were self-serving, that they actually were hoping to appear important and
telling Giuliani what he thought they wanted — what he — what they thought he wanted
to hear, in order to somehow save their jobs or be seen as useful by the Trump administration. Volker testified, Vice President Biden wasn’t
corrupt, that the Ukrainians who worked with him and Hunter Biden were. The Ukrainian corruption,
that’s what everyone wanted investigated, until Giuliani stepped in. And it ended up that we had this temporary
hold on military aid. And we’re investigating this and talking about this right now. LISA DESJARDINS: It’s a picture of many outside
forces manipulating U.S. policy, not necessarily — not the diplomats, in this testimony. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Lisa Desjardins, Nick Schifrin,
thank you again for getting us up to speed on all of this. NICK SCHIFRIN: Thank you. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We want to turn now to how
the Trump administration is reacting to this latest set of transcripts. And so I am joined by our White House correspondent,
Yamiche Alcindor. Yamiche, so this is the second day of transcripts
that have come out. I know you have been tracking how the president has been reacting to this.
And I also understand you have been in touch with Gordon Sondland’s — this gentleman we
have been hearing about from Lisa and Nick — his attorney as well. What can you tell us about these — their
reactions to all this? YAMICHE ALCINDOR: So, the White House is essentially
saying that these two transcripts really prove that President Trump shouldn’t be a target
of an impeachment inquiry. Let me read to you what White House Press
Secretary Stephanie Grisham put out just a couple minutes ago. It says — she says in
a statement: “”Both transcripts released today show that there is even less evidence for
this illegitimate impeachment sham than previously thought. The president has done nothing wrong.” She goes on to say, essentially, that Gordon
Sondland didn’t know — Gordon Sondland being the E.U. ambassador — he didn’t know the
actual details of this — this military aid being held up from — by Ukraine. Of course, his revisions today say something
different. They say he was actually an official who was talking to Ukrainian officials about
that military aid being tied to the investigation of the Bidens — or that wanted investigation
of the Bidens. Then you have the White House pointing to
Kurt Volker, who was the U.S. envoy to Ukraine. And they say that , essentially, he said,
Ukraine — Ukrainians didn’t know that this money was being held up, so there couldn’t
be a quid pro quo. Now we know that Ukraine knew as early as
August that this was something that was holding up this money, this investigation of the Bidens
that President Trump wanted. It’s important to also point to kind of some
conflicting facts in these transcripts. It’s — these transcripts really are about both
parties being able to pick and choose what they want that makes their party look good. So here’s — if you look at kind of what Gordon
Sondland said to the investigators — I’m going to read you another exchange. It says: “I testified that it would be improper
to do that.” That’s military aid being connected to the investigation of the Bidens. The question: “And illegal, right?” “I’m not a lawyer, but I would assume so.” Then Kurt Volker, again, the U.S. envoy to
Ukraine, he says: “I was surprised.” That was when he’s talking about the call between
President Trump and the president of Ukraine. The question: “Were you troubled at all by
what you read?” “Yes.” So as the White House is essentially pointing
to these testimonies, saying, they prove our case, Democrats are pointing and saying, actually,
it proves that the president was involved in a quid pro quo. And Gordon Sondland’s attorney essentially
told me he didn’t want to go too far past what the president — what Gordon Sondland
put out. But he said, essentially, that it’s — it would be wrong for people to read into
that Gordon Sondland was really trying to correct himself and was really trying to say
that he had some sort of ulterior motive. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Yamiche, I know you have
been tracking the president since he became the president. These accumulated transcripts do give us a
window into how he runs his foreign policy. And I wonder what sense you’re getting of
the view that this reflects of the president’s policy and the impact it has on the people
enacting that policy. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: This really shows that President
Trump really takes foreign policy personally. In both transcripts, he’s heard saying that
Ukraine was filled with bad people that tried to take him down and were really trying to
hurt his 2016 presidential campaign. Democrats say that that’s a debunked claim.
But what we have essentially is the president saying, this country was trying to go after
me, and, as a result, I don’t like these people. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And, lastly, we know the
president has been railing from the get-go against this impeachment inquiry. Has he said anything recently, yesterday or
today, about these most recent developments? YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The president has been making
his case to the American public in rallies. Just yesterday, he was in Kentucky trying
to get people to support the governor there who’s up for reelection tonight. Here’s what he had to say: DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
The Bidens got rich while America was robbed. And let me tell you, the fake news will not
put it in. What is unsubstantiated? He is on tape doing
a real quid pro quo. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Yamiche, thank you very
much. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: There is no evidence of
Joe Biden doing any wrongdoing. But that’s — but that’s pretty much all we
can say about that, that there’s no evidence of what the president was just saying. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Yamiche Alcindor,
as always, thank you. In the days other news: Three American women
and six of their children have been brutally killed in an ambush in Northern Mexico. They
were members of a breakaway group from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints The attack took place Monday on a dirt road
between Chihuahua and Sonora states, about 75 miles south of the U.S. border. Amateur
video showed one of their burned vehicles. Mexican officials are investigating the possibility
that this was a case of mistaken identity, given the number of violent confrontations
among warring drug gangs in that area. President Trump spoke to the Mexican president
by phone today and offered unspecified U.S. help to ensure the perpetrators face justice. Gubernatorial and legislative elections are
taking place in four states today, and they’re seen by many as a bellwether for 2020. In
Kentucky, Republican Governor Matt Bevin will try to hold off Democratic Attorney General
®MDNM¯Andy Beshear. Mississippi’s gubernatorial race pits Republican
Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves against Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood. And, in Virginia, Republican control of the
state legislature is up for grabs, while Democrats in New Jersey’s state legislature are looking
to keep their supermajorities. Iran announced plans today to violate yet
another aspect of the 2015 nuclear pact. President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran will start injecting
uranium gas into more than 1,000 centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. That move
would make Fordow an active atomic site, rather than the research facility Iran agreed it
would be as part of the accord with world powers. HASSAN ROUHANI, Iranian President (through
translator): We are aware of their sensitiveness towards the Fordow facility and those centrifuges.
At the same time, we cannot tolerate unilateral fulfillment of our commitments and no commitment
from their side. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: President Rouhani said the
action is reversible if Europe offers relief from U.S. sanctions. The U.S. withdrew from
the nuclear pact last year. Today’s announcement came a day after Iran said it’s running twice
as many advanced centrifuges as before. That machinery is key to enriching nuclear material. Yemen’s government and separatist forces signed
a power-sharing deal today to halt months of infighting in the country’s war-torn south.
Leaders from the pro-government coalition and the separatist Southern Transitional Council
signed the Saudi-brokered pact during a ceremony in Riyadh. The deal would pave the way for
a new cabinet and allow Yemen’s exiled president to return to his country. In Southern Iraq today, security forces shot
and killed three anti-government demonstrators. At least 13 people have died in protest-related
violence across the country since yesterday. In Baghdad today, protesters massed on a bridge
to block access to key government buildings. They occupied streets and set up barricades,
but stressed it was security forces inciting the violence. MAN (through translator): They are pushing
demonstrators toward violence. The protests are peaceful. They killed protesters last
night, offended people and pushed them toward violence. Until the last second, our revolution
is peaceful, not aimed at violence. Violence generates a violent reaction. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Iraqi security forces have
killed more than 260 anti-government protesters since October 1. Back in this country, a Colorado man is in
federal custody for his role in a bomb plot that targeted a synagogue south of Denver.
Undercover FBI agents who arrested him Friday said he espoused anti-Semitic and white supremacist
beliefs. He appeared in federal court yesterday and was charged with domestic terrorism. He
could face up to 20 years in prison. We will get an inside look at the white nationalist
movement later in the program. Jury selection began today in the criminal
trial of President Trump’s longtime confidant Roger Stone. He arrived at the Washington
court this morning to face charges stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s
investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone is accused of lying
to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. He pled not guilty to those charges in January.
If convicted on all counts, he could face up to 20 years in prison. Stocks finished relatively flat on Wall Street
today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 30 points to a new record closing high of
27492. The Nasdaq rose a point, and the S&P 500 slipped three. And a passing to note. Acclaimed novelist Ernest J. Gaines died today.
Born in segregated Louisiana, his work largely captured black struggle and perseverance in
the pre-civil rights era South. Gaines received the MacArthur genius grant for his 1993 novel
“A Lesson Before Dying.” He also penned “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and “A
Gathering of Old Men.” Ernest Gaines was 86 years old. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: the world
watches with mounting anxiety as the U.S. formally withdraws from the Paris climate
agreement; why the governor of Oklahoma signed off on the largest single-day prisoner release
in U.S. history; when in doubt, pick C — the growing movement against standardized tests
in college admissions; and much more. The
timing is lost on no one. The president notified the rest of the world again yesterday that,
one year from now, the day after the 2020 elections, the U.S. will formally withdraw
from the Paris climate agreement. That’s the voluntary global accord signed in 2015 by
nearly 200 nations to cut greenhouse gases to slow the warming of our planet. The U.S. is the second largest carbon emitter
in the world, behind China. In fact, it was American diplomacy negotiated during President
Obama’s tenure that was crucial to getting China and India to reduce their emissions. But President Trump, who has mocked the idea
of climate change, has long maintained the agreement was a bad one, one that would stunt
America’s economic growth. So let’s look at the consequences of this
decision. Todd Stern was the chief climate negotiator
for President Obama. He’s now a senior fellow with the World Resources Institute and the
Brookings Institution. Welcome back to the “NewsHour.” TODD STERN, Former U.S. Special Envoy for
Climate Change: Thank you so much. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: President Trump said a year
ago that he was going to do this standing in front of the White House. He has spent
much of his presidency defanging President Obama’s rules that curbed emissions from U.S.
sources. So how big of a deal is it that President
Trump made this next formal step yesterday and said, we’re really out? TODD STERN: Well, look, I think it’s a big
deal. Maybe I would just give you one backward-looking
comment, which is that it was crazy for the president to do — for President Trump to
do this, right? This was the agreement that we negotiated. It was an excellent agreement
for everybody, particularly excellent for the United States. We got just about everything we wanted in
this agreement. It is — it is a completely solid agreement, supported by virtually all
of American business. I don’t think you would find five CEOs out of the Fortune 500 who
are against the Paris agreement, not to mention the military, not to mention the intel community
and so forth. And the other thing is that it protects the
American people. Right? I mean, if there’s one obligation that the president has, it’s
to take care of people, to protect people from harm. And I will tell you, whether this is in a
blue state or a red state, climate change is an equal-opportunity destroyer. And, instead,
we have walked away. So I think it’s a big deal to take the extra
step that he’s taken now. It will pull the United States all the way out of the agreement.
It has to lay over for one year, but that will be the effect, when it happens. And it
will damage the capacity of the world overall to respond to climate change, which Paris
is a big part of. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The sense that I have read
from many people who study from many people who study this is that, with the U.S. out
and its pledge to cut its emissions out, China and India, the next two big emitters on that
list, they’re really going to have to step up their pledges. Do you have any sense that that’s actually
going to happen? I mean, we know that China is making moves and great investments in green
technology, but do you have any sense that they are literally going to reduce their emissions
in a meaningful way? TODD STERN: Honestly, I think — well, the
answer is, I think that they can reduce their emissions in a meaningful way, but I think
the absence of the United States makes it that much harder. I mean, it is not — you might say, well,
they will see the U.S. is out, we have got to do much more. That’s not the way it works in a political
or a diplomatic environment. When President Xi Jinping knew that he was dealing with President
Trump all the time, and this was a tip-top priority for President Obama, and the U.S.
was going to raise this with the Chinese all the time, that put what I might call salutary
pressure, the right kind of pressure, on the Chinese, and on the Indians also with President
Modi. So it makes a big difference when the U.S.
is there, fully engaged and putting the right kind of pressure on. And by — correspondingly,
when the U.S. is not there, you see diminished focus. And I think we see diminished focus
at the top levels of the Chinese government now, for sure. I go to China every year once or twice, and
it’s not the same. It’s not the same when they know that the president of the United
States doesn’t care about this. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: There’s also — even China
and India separate, even the other so-called enlightened nations who say that they are
still in the Paris accord, they are not even meeting their agreements necessarily, their
commitments to cut emissions. So, given that, where do you get this sense
of optimism that I do hear in your voice that we will rise to this challenge? TODD STERN: Well, look, I sort of am never
exactly on the optimism or pessimism side of the scale. I try to kind of keep my eye on the sort of
sober look at it. Look, the U.S. and the world can do what we need to do. We have a huge
task to get to essentially something like net zero carbon by 2050. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Thirty years away. TODD STERN: Right. Right now, the world gets 80 percent of its
primary energy from fossil fuels, the U.S. just slightly less than that, but almost that.
It’s a huge task which has to get under way. I mean, it is under way to some extent now.
But it has to move much more quickly. The thing about climate change now is, directional
progress is not enough. Speed and scale is everything. That’s just the reality. So can
we do that? From the point of view innovation? Yes. From the point of view of policy? Yes.
From the point of view of paying for it? Yes. We can do all of those things. There’s one agreement that’s missing. And
that is the adequate political will around the world. And that is the most important
thing. I think, if we can — if got a new president
committed to this issue in the job, that would make a big difference. But, I mean, it’s a
complicated problem. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Todd Stern, former U.S.
climate negotiator, thank you very much. TODD STERN: Thanks so much. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Forty hundred and sixty-two
people walked out of prison in Oklahoma yesterday. It set off joyous scenes of people reuniting
with their families. It came just days after Republican Governor
Kevin Stitt signed off on the recommendation of the state’s pardon and parole board to
commute their sentences. It was the largest single-day commutation in U.S. history. Oklahoma, which has ranked as the state with
the highest incarceration rate in the country, is now looking at other criminal justice reforms. Governor Kevin Stitt joins me now. Governor, welcome to the “NewsHour.” Thank
you very much for being here. Can you just take us back yesterday? Those
looked like some really joyous celebrations going on at that prison. What was that scene
like for you? GOV. KEVIN STITT (R-OK): You know, it was
really fantastic. My wife and I were there. And just to welcome all these people across
our state, but that specific women’s prison, them leaving their past behind, and getting
a second chance on life, the joy and the tears, the family, the hugs, the reuniting with their
families, it was just an amazing feeling. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You said to them, to that
gathered group of women who had just been released, it’s up to you now to make sure
that you don’t end up back in jail. And that is certainly true. I wonder what
you think. What’s the role, if any, for the state other and agencies to help that not
be a revolving door? GOV. KEVIN STITT: Well, you know, we actually
brought reentry fairs to the prisons before they got out to make sure that, when they
do get out, they knew where they were going to be staying. So we had housing, we had education opportunities.
In a lot of cases, folks will have jobs when they get out. But also just simple stuff. Never been done
before. And I brought the Department of Public Safety to the prison, so they could have driver’s
licenses and state I.D.s when they got out, because things that we take for granted are
such an impediment to get a job or actually get into school or all the different things
that are going to be successful. So that was my challenge to them is, this
is your opportunity. There are plenty of churches, nonprofits that want to stand behind and stand
beside you to help you have a great, prosperous future. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Some Oklahomans might look
at what happened yesterday and say, those people were in prison for a reason. And help me understand how you, as a conservative
Republican in Oklahoma, came to this idea and thought that this was a good idea. GOV. KEVIN STITT: Well, these were all low-level
drug offenses. And we’re number one in the country in incarceration
rates. We have been for decades. And when I became governor, I said, this is ridiculous.
We don’t have any different issues in our state than they have in any other state. So we’re number one in something. We should
be number 50 at that. So I started going through, what is it going to take to actually start
moving the needle? And I’m so excited. We’re no longer number
one in that. And we’re going to continue to move the needle and give people second chances.
We always think about public safety, but these are folks that we were just mad at. We weren’t
really afraid of them. And I think those folks had served their time,
and it was time to give them a second chance. And Oklahomans agree with me on this. It’s
not a Republican or Democrat issue. This just makes sense for our state for sure, and I
think for our country. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I know you have argued in
the past that there’s an economic argument to this, to letting people go with these low-level
offenses. Make that economic argument to me. GOV. KEVIN STITT: Well, with these 450 folks
that we let out yesterday, we’re saving the state $12 million. I would rather use those funds for education
purposes. A lot of times, it’s — there’s some mental illness, there’s some drug addictions.
So we appropriated in the last section — or the last session $10 million to some type
of programs to help people get back on their feet. But, at the end of the day, it’s about jobs.
It’s about reuniting with their families. There’s such an utter drain on society. When
you have heavy incarceration, you have got folks in the — you have got children in foster
care. So it really is more than just the $12 million to incarcerate them. There’s so many other drags on the state and
on other resources, that I just wanted to approach it differently. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What do you say to some
of the critics of this whole movement who say, look, locking people up when they do
bad things is important, and that that serves as a deterrent to crime, and that this whole
movement is a mistake? GOV. KEVIN STITT: Well, listen, we’re going
to — we’re going to deter crime. We’re going to make sure that people are punished, and
we’re going to be a rule of law,. My state, we will obey the law. We’re going
to respect our police officers. But there’s a difference between 15 years for a simple
possession — and that was a lot of the cases that we were seeing when we looked through
the docket — vs. second chances. So we want to treat those drug addictions,
and we want to get them second chances. And so we were very diligent when we looked through
this case law. And we made sure that we didn’t let any dangerous person out. These were all
low-level drug offenders. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is this an argument that
— I know you have been part of the National Governors Association and a lot of those meetings
about this issue. Is this an argument that you make to your
fellow governors? And, if so, what is the reception that you get when you say these
things? GOV. KEVIN STITT: I mean, I don’t know specifically
what other states thing, but I think this is something that, across party lines, Republicans,
Democrats, we all think that certain people need second chances. We cannot continue to incarcerate at the levels
we have for these nonviolent drug offenses. And so that’s what we’re doing in our state,
is we’re classifying what is a violent and a nonviolent offense, and then we can have
sentencing reform off of that and make sure that we’re fair with everyone. I mean, one of the ladies that I met that
came out of prison, her name is Tess. And her mom died when she was 13. She got addicted
to drugs. She got a 15-year sentence for a simple possession. She’s been in for eight
years. She got her GED while she was in prison. Now she’s going to be able to go to college.
We reunited her with her family. Those are the stories that we need to help
people get back on their feet, when they’re not violent, when we’re not afraid of them,
and it’s a drug addiction in a lot of cases. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Governor Kevin
Stitt of Oklahoma, thank you very much for being here. GOV. KEVIN STITT: Thank you. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The college admissions scandal,
known as Varsity Blues, has cast an ugly spotlight on the world of college admissions and how
the system can be gamed. A key piece of that scandal is the way that
parents hired impostors to take admissions tests, fake scores and allow students more
time to take their college entrance exams. Once again, this scandal has led to a number
of questions about the controversial standardized tests that have long been required for college.
It’s rocking the world of higher education. And it’s the focus of John Yang’s conversation
tonight for our series on Rethinking College. It’s part of our regular education coverage,
Making the Grade. JOHN YANG: William, for years, there has been
debate how well standardized tests like the SATs and ACTs predict academic performance.
And there have been concerns about how race and economic background influence test scores. Now a record number of schools no longer require
test scores for admission, and the nine-campus University of California system is studying
whether to join them. Jeff Selingo has written several books on
higher education, including “There Is Life After College.” He is currently working on
a book on college admissions, “Who Gets In and Why.” It’s due out next year. Jeff Selingo, thanks for joining us. JEFF SELINGO, Author, “College Unbound: The
Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students”: It’s great to be here. JOHN YANG: Why is this debate or issue about
whether or not to use SATs and ACTs is coming up now? We have the Varsity Blues investigation.
Is there a rethinking now of the whole college admissions process? JEFF SELINGO: Well, I think a lot of it is
that the test scores are highly correlated with family income. If you come from a family making over $200,000,
you have a one in five chance of scoring a 1,400 or above on the sat, if you come from
a family making under $20,000, a one in 50 chance. High correlation between family income
and SAT scores. And as colleges and universities are trying
to diversify, both economically, racially and ethnically, I think they’re trying to
look for other ways of assessing students beyond just a single score on a four-hour
test. JOHN YANG: Now, there have been attempts to
try to change or tweak the tests to try to take into account those — sort of the socioeconomic
background issues. What — I mean, most recently, the adversity
score. Talk about that. JEFF SELINGO: So, the College Board tried
to come up with what they called an environmental context dashboard. It was actually separate from the SAT score.
But what it would do is give admissions officers who were reviewing applications a sense of
the type of background that the student was coming from. It looked at the neighborhood
they grew up in. hit looked at the high school that they went to. And as a result of a lot of pushback against
this by high schools and by parents, the College Board decided to do away with this a couple
of months ago. So they’re looking for ways to measure the context that students are learning
in, whether that’s from their home environment or from the high school. JOHN YANG: In the introduction, I mentioned
the University of California is looking at this now. They’re going to announce their
decision, they say, in February or March. How important is that decision going to be? JEFF SELINGO: Huge, right? The University of Chicago, highly selective
private university, obviously in Chicago, when test-optional about a year or so ago,
and there was a thinking that a lot of other highly selective name-brand colleges would
follow them. Very few, or actually none did. Most of the test-optional colleges are lower-tier
colleges. If the University of California does it, it’s going to be big news, and I
think a lot of other colleges will follow. There are a lot of students in California
who go to college everywhere around the country. A lot of them take the SAT and ACT because
the University of California requires it. If they no longer require it, I have a feeling
other colleges will follow along. JOHN YANG: I think a lot of people don’t realize
that there’s a lot of money at stake in this question. JEFF SELINGO: Huge. The College Board, a nonprofit entity, over
a billion dollars in revenue from testing. That includes A.P. testing, college, SAT and
other types of testing. So they — there’s a lot at stake in this. Colleges and universities also have a lot
at stake as well. They — the number one predictor of success in college are grades in high school
and the rigor of the high school curriculum. But a lot of colleges don’t necessarily trust
high school grades. They think there’s some grade inflation happening at private and public
high schools. So they like to use the SAT or the ACT as kind of the balance wheel against
grading. It’s something that is national and it’s something
that they trust. JOHN YANG: And it’s not just matriculating,
becoming — becoming a freshman — for incoming freshmen. There are a lot of schools that
they are — graduate schools are no longer going to require standardized tests. JEFF SELINGO: Yes, we’re seeing a lot of graduate
schools, like, move back from standardized testing for graduate programs. Again, it’s also a way to try to boost interest,
particularly at the graduate level, because a lot of students going back to graduate school
might be five, 10 years out of college. And the last thing they want to do is take a standardized
test. So it’s also a way to boost application numbers
as well. And we even see that at the undergraduate level. We do see application numbers rise
at schools that do go test-optional after they do it. JOHN YANG: How did the SATs and the ACTs become
sort of landmarks or pieces of furniture in the college admissions process? JEFF SELINGO: Well, it was really never designed
that way. When the SAT was first put into place, it
was a way to try to expand access to colleges and universities, because, at that time, most
of the elite colleges essentially took students from elite boarding schools and elite private
schools. And the SAT was a way, oh, we could trust taking a kid from a high school in North
Dakota. But it was never the high-stakes test it eventually
became. And it became a high-stakes test overall later on because more students were going
to college. And, again, we wanted to — how do we assess a high school in the middle of
Iowa and a high school in North Carolina? The other thing that happened is, the U.S.
News & World Report rankings, which rank colleges and universities, used it as one of their
measures of success. And once they did that, once they did that, colleges and universities
felt like, well, we have to do everything we can do to raise our SAT scores, because,
if we raise our SAT scores, we’re going to go up in the rankings. JOHN YANG: Jeff Selingo’s book next year is
“Who Gets In and Why.” Thank you very much. JEFF SELINGO: Thank you very much. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The FBI reports that hate
crimes are on the rise in this country. A number of analyses have also found a rise
in white supremacy. As we reported earlier, there was a grim reminder
of that again in Colorado this week, when we learned about an alleged white supremacist
who was arrested for plotting to blow up a local synagogue. Special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault
has been looking at that issue through the eyes of a man with a very unique perspective. It’s part of our ongoing series Race Matters
Solutions. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Meet Derek Black,
a young scholar working here at the Library of Congress on his Ph.D. thesis. What is the research, mostly? DEREK BLACK, Former White Nationalist: Looking
at older maps and a lot of the books that were printed in the early colonial period
in America. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: He’s studying how
race was used to define and divide. Oh, you mean this is at the very beginning? DEREK BLACK: Yes, yes. The very beginning
is the 1500s and 1600s. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Derek Black’s journey
to this moment was maybe more unusual than most in his field. He traced its beginnings
back to his youth, when he was brought up in a household led by his father, a dedicated
white nationalist who at one time had been a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and who
still maintains a Web site dedicated to his white nationalist views. Black was an eager student of his father’s
teaching from an early age. And, as he grew, he became one of the most vocal and prominent
young members of the movement. His story was initially captured in a book, “Rising Out
of Hatred” by Eli Saslow. Derek Black, thank you for joining us. DEREK BLACK: Thanks for having me, Charlayne. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You grew up in a family
of white nationalists. Do you remember some of the things your father
taught you about that whole life and those concepts? DEREK BLACK: Yes. He always talked about it like it was a calling,
like there was nobody in America at this point who was willing to point out what he thought
was just true, that it was completely wrong — integration was completely wrong, that
race was true and biological, and everybody wanted — really secretly wanted to live separately. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Secretly wanted to
live separately? DEREK BLACK: Yes, yes, secretly and publicly.
Like, he believed that every white person was really kind of in agreement with what
he was saying. And that gave him a lot of strength. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: When did you begin
to not want to be any part of any of this? DEREK BLACK: It was in college. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: In Florida? DEREK BLACK: In Florida. Grew up in Florida,
went to a liberal arts college in Florida called New College. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: New College. DEREK BLACK: And I showed up really with a
lot of conviction that you couldn’t change my mind, that there was nothing wrong with
my beliefs, that they were factual, all this stuff, racism, anti-Semitism, and this whole
world view that explains everything through that lens. The first thing was realizing that this campus
wouldn’t be like everywhere else I’d been, that they wouldn’t tolerate it. They wouldn’t
say, oh, you’re a white nationalist, but let’s just not talk about that, which is what every
other environment I have been in, growing up in South Florida before that, was. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So, when did it start
to change and why? How? DEREK BLACK: It was after I got outed on campus.
First, this response of condemnation. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You got outed? How
did you get outed? DEREK BLACK: Somebody Googled my name. And the response of condemnation was the first
thing. And… CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Who was condemning? DEREK BLACK: It seemed like the entire campus.
It felt like — it’s an 800-person student body. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: How was it manifest? DEREK BLACK: There was a student forum. It
was an e-mail forum, where everybody could talk about what they were feeling and what
was happening. And so I could sit there and just read post
after post on this 1,000-page message talking about how I was not welcomed here, how I didn’t
represent them, how they couldn’t understand how I could be a part of this place that they
were trying to build. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: How did that make
you feel? DEREK BLACK: It was — it was a lot more unsettling,
I think, than I thought it would be. And so seeing people who I respected saying
that what I was — I was espousing was hurting them, was hurting their lives, like, that
was a different kind of feeling from every other condemnation I had ever had. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: In the months that
followed, a Jewish friend invited Black to weekly Shabbat dinners, and Black accepted,
ready for confrontation. It never came. He never accused you of being an anti-Semite? DEREK BLACK: He didn’t. I think it was — it was definitely intentional.
I talked to him about it a lot since then, that that first dinner and the ones afterwards,
he thought it was going to be counterproductive to try to have a big debate. Like, he asked other people who were at the
dinner to — just don’t bring it up, because he’s at a Shabbat dinner, and his ideology
is anti-Semitism. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: They knew? DEREK BLACK: That alone — yes. He thought
that alone will be kind of a challenge to me. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So, after, what, two
years or more? DEREK BLACK: Yes, it was about two years. And there was one person in particular who
I met at those dinners who we started having these lengthy, quiet, in-good-faith conversations
that started out with me asking, how — where’s the misunderstanding, right? That was my first
question, and slowly realizing that, like, it’s not a misunderstanding. This is a assault
on their personhood. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: There’s a lot of speculation
these days about why there seems to be a growing population of white nationalists, white supremacists. And the argument is that they are fearful
of becoming a minority in a country where black and brown people are becoming the majority,
say, over the next 30, 40 years. Is there anything to that, as far as you can
see? DEREK BLACK: Yes, I think… CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Is it fear? DEREK BLACK: Yes, I think that fear is the
leading driver of people joining the white nationalist movement. It’s this idea that
they’re threatened, that they are losing something, that they’re being attacked. It’s all this
stuff that’s, for the record, not real. And it’s what keeps them bound up in that
world, where they can’t look out and see that the threat is not real, that they are not
in danger, that the world is fine. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Derek and his father
have reconciled, but have also stuck to their own positions. How do you begin to reach people who have
those views, to get them, in a way, on the path that you took… DEREK BLACK: Right. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: … if that’s possible? DEREK BLACK: I think it’s never going to be
as easy as trying to argue somebody into a new world view. Looking back on my experience, I think what
happened was, it took place through discussion and debate. Like, that’s what I felt was really
convincing me was, what are my ideas and why are they wrong? But looking back on it, it was the fact that
I was in a different community. And so you can’t force that to happen, but it’s also
not quite as hard as we might think. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: When you look at this
toxic atmosphere in our country today, in particular in our country, but it seems to
be all over the world in so many other places too, are you at all hopeful that we can ever
be united we stand ever again, if we ever did stand united? DEREK BLACK: Right. I mean, I — I find it difficult to move forward
and be engaged without having some sort of hope, because I think that you can see hope
in every individual person who comes to a new understanding or thinks about things or
changes. And so that’s always my advice to other people
who are at a loss for what should we do, is just start with one person that you have a
connection with. And that’s the most important and powerful thing you can possibly do. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, Derek Black,
thank you for joining us. And I wish you all the best with your studies
and with everything that you’re engaged in. DEREK BLACK: Thanks so much for having me. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Actor Edward Norton has
starred in movies such as “Everyone Says I Love You,” “Primal Fear,” “The Grand Budapest
Hotel,” and “Birdman.” But, as Jeffrey Brown discovered at the Toronto
Film Festival, his newest film, in which he both stars and directs, is his most personal
yet. This report is part of our ongoing coverage
of arts and culture, Canvas. JEFFREY BROWN: In the film, “Motherless Brooklyn”
Edward Norton plays Lionel Essrog, a small-time detective thrown into some very big doings. The story is based on the 1999 novel by Jonathan
Lethem. EDWARD NORTON, Actor/Director: I got hold
of it and was immediately grabbed by this character. The core of Jonathan’s book is
much less the plot than it is this emotional intimacy he creates between you and this character
and his incredible mind. JEFFREY BROWN: Lionel is familiar in some
ways, extraordinary in another. He has a form of Tourette’s syndrome, a kind of verbal tic
which causes him to fixate on words and yell them out, often at the most inappropriate
moments. ACTRESS: They haven’t even submitted plans,
just milked until it really is a slum. EDWARD NORTON: Slamming for the slumlords,
Bailey. Despite this being a very debilitating thing
in functioning in the world, inside his mind, it’s this constant kind of beautiful game
of almost jazz. JEFFREY BROWN: And what was that like taking
it on as an actor? EDWARD NORTON: That’s a nourishing meal as
an actor, to take on the empathy that you feel, the nuance, the beauty and the pain,
all of it. It becomes a rich challenge. JEFFREY BROWN: Norton is best known for acclaimed
performances in small, tightly wound film such as “American History X” and the cult
hit “Fight Club,” as well as the commercial blockbuster “The Incredible Hulk.” But he’s recently chosen to be very selective
in his projects. EDWARD NORTON: Working less as an actor becomes
a better and better thing, because, at a certain point, I get tired of seeing the same people
too many times myself. And I think about how people I really respect and admire their work… JEFFREY BROWN: Who are you thinking of? EDWARD NORTON: Well, Daniel Day-Lewis or Sean
Penn. Sometimes, people say like, oh, we wish we
saw you in more. And I always say like, why? Why? Because is it — part of the reason you
like what you like is when it’s withheld from you for longer, I think. JEFFREY BROWN: In the new film, he’s done
it all, written the screenplay, starred and directed a cast of top actors. And he’s opened up Lethem’s book to set the
action against big social change in New York in the 1950s, as a character based on real
life New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, played here by Alec Baldwin, plots
and connives to carve up and shape the city. Moses, known as the master builder, never
held elected office, but wielded an autocratic clout. ALEC BALDWIN, Actor: Palaces of culture where
hellish slums used to be you. EDWARD NORTON: It all sounds pretty grand,
I guess, unless you happen to be one of the people whose house is in the way right now. I was fascinated by those things. I felt — I
feel even still that many people really don’t have a clear view of what the truth of how
modern New York that we live in now came to be what it is, in many of its dysfunctions. JEFFREY BROWN: Right, gentrification, the
loss of neighborhoods. EDWARD NORTON: When we tell our stories about
how America works to ourselves, we don’t say, these things get decided by, like, autocratic,
imperial forces who were racist and never held public office. We say, that’s not how
power works in America. Power is with the people. We make these decisions. And that’s not true in modern New York. JEFFREY BROWN: Norton thinks movies, especially
the film noir style of “Motherless Brooklyn,” can offer a challenge. EDWARD NORTON: Good noir, good noir cinema
is kind of a tradition of saying, hey, under our sunny narrative, there’s stuff going on.
If you peel back the corner, there’s stuff going on in the shadows that ain’t quite everything
we’re saying it is. And I like that. JEFFREY BROWN: This is clearly a passion project,
one that took Norton years to pull off. EDWARD NORTON: It’s hard to get these kinds
of movies made at the scale that I made this. JEFFREY BROWN: You mean hard in Hollywood? EDWARD NORTON: Hard. Yes, it’s hard. It’s
hard. JEFFREY BROWN: Because? EDWARD NORTON: These kinds of movies aren’t
getting made so much anymore. That just means you have to sort of persevere and figure it
out. When I was coming of age, like, a movie like
“Reds” had a huge impact on me. Warren Beatty wrote, produced, directed and starred in a
three-hour-and-15-minute film about American socialists, with documentary interviews with
the real people from the time. And I remember Warren telling me that people
told him, this is going to end your career. At a certain point, you kind of go, I have
been doing this for a while. I have got the musculature. I have got — I know what I want
to say, and go — what am I waiting — why wouldn’t you do this? Why wouldn’t you try to do what people who
have inspired you have done in the past, and go for something that has scope to it and
says things that you care about? JEFFREY BROWN: The film “Motherless Brooklyn”
is now playing around the country. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Jeffrey Brown
at the Toronto International Film Festival. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And that’s the “NewsHour”
for tonight. I’m William Brangham. Join us online and again here tomorrow evening.
For all of us at the “PBS NewsHour,” thank you. See you soon.

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