JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: the wrath of winter. An unusually large storm causes freezing temperatures,
power outages and extreme weather across the U.S.
Then: getting to zero. We discuss General Motors' big push toward zero-emission vehicles
with the company's head of sustainability.
And the crackdown continues. The Chinese government uses the controversial national security law
to overhaul Hong Kong's education system.
JOHN CLANCEY, Pro-Democracy Lawyer: The courts will have to decide whether this national
security law trumps basic rights.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: The winter of 2021 is
writing itself into the record books tonight. Large swathes of the nation are seeing the
coldest weather in memory, and many thousands of homes are enduring it without power.
Amna Nawaz reports.
AMNA NAWAZ: Over 150 million Americans under winter and ice storm warnings today, as historically
low temperatures blanket much of the U.S., including areas not accustomed to extreme
STEPHANIE, Washington Resident: Our bedroom measured at 42 degrees, so it's cold in our
AMNA NAWAZ: In Seattle this weekend, almost nine inches of snow in a city that hasn't
seen that much snow since 1969. In Oklahoma, icy roads have led to fiery crashes. And,
in Nashville, home security video captures a truck sliding sideways down a residential
In Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear advised residents to limit travel.
GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): We did not make it through almost a year of a pandemic to
lose people to a snow or an ice storm. Please, don't let the next couple of days or this
week be what injures you or ultimately causes the loss of a loved one.
AMNA NAWAZ: The winter and ice storm advisories stretch from America's Gulf Coast up to New
England and span the country, and have also impacted parts of the Pacific Northwest.
Among the hardest hit so far, the state of Texas, where President Biden approved an emergency
declaration on Sunday. The deep freeze has led to ice-coated branches breaking and wreaking
havoc. And dangerously low temperatures have triggered rotating blackouts, leaving more
than two million people without power at a time.
Amid the outages, the wholesale price of electricity surged today by more 10000 percent.
SYLVESTER TURNER (D), Mayor of Houston, Texas: It is a systemwide failure across the state.
AMNA NAWAZ: In Houston today, Mayor Sylvester Turner with a grim update:
SYLVESTER TURNER: These are not rolling blackouts. These are power outages at a huge, unprecedented
If you are without power right now, it is very conceivable that you could be without
power throughout the rest of today and possibly even going into tomorrow.
AMNA NAWAZ: Officials are warning of storm conditions, travel disruption and power outages
continuing along the storm's path at least through Tuesday.
So, is the country simply in the middle of a particularly severe phase of winter weather,
or is there more to it than that? For those questions and more, we turn to Dev Niyogi.
He's a professor of geosciences and engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He is
also a committee member of Planet Texas 2050, a research initiative on the state's environmental
He joins us tonight from Indiana, where he is waiting out the storm before traveling
back to Texas.
Professor Niyogi, welcome to the "NewsHour." And thank you for making the time. I really
I want to start with Texas. Even though you're not there, you know it well. We're hearing
the phrase unprecedented a lot when people talk about this storm. Texas is no stranger
to extreme weather in the form of hurricanes and tornadoes, but when it comes to this kind
of extreme cold weather, how unusual is it?
DEV NIYOGI, University of Texas at Austin: I will tell you, Amna, this is -- we're certainly
into what you have been hearing, this word, uncharted territory again and again.
The fact that we're getting snow and we're having some cold weather in Texas is not unusual.
I mean, we have it perhaps every few years. What is really remarkable is the spread, the
extent, the severity with which this is happening. And so, certainly, by that standard, it is
an event that has been quite unprecedented in that regards.
AMNA NAWAZ: So, why are we seeing those kind of severe temperatures now?
DEV NIYOGI: Well, there are a number of theories and number of questions and options that will
And they will range from just being bad weather, this is what happens, to issues related to
La Nina, which has been inactive, to also perhaps this is the harbinger of what we have
all been talking about with regards to climate changes.
And the answer is probably going to all of the above. We often always have combination
of weather that is impacted by what is happening with the season. The season is being affected
by what is happening with the ocean. And, of course, what is happening in the season
is also a signature of what is happening in the long run.
So, it is a combination of everything that we have to understand that is where our challenge,
unfortunately, lies at this point.
AMNA NAWAZ: One of the arguments about climate change, though, is, people will say, well,
it's actually been making winters milder overall. Sol, how would it be leading to the severe
DEV NIYOGI: Great point on that. We talk about climate change and global warming sometimes
with the thinking that it means our temperatures ought to be warmer and warmer.
But one factor that we also highlight is what we will be seeing is these wild swings, both
in terms of temperature, rainfall, also in terms of the manner in which storms are coming.
So, this kind of weather event, which is unprecedented in the context of how things are being spanning,
spatially, as well as in time, is exactly the kind of thing, unfortunately, that a change
in climate has -- been predicted.
Whether this is just climate change, or whether this is seasonal interactions or weather event,
that will be a topic that will be debated. But what is really important is to understand
that this is happening now.
AMNA NAWAZ: When you look at the resources, I want to ask you about what this has done
to our energy resources, because you have seen massive outages across the Pacific Northwest,
millions of people in Texas left without power as well.
Can our energy infrastructure handle these kinds of extreme events, especially if we're
to expect more of them?
DEV NIYOGI: We have to think of this as a hammer and a chisel.
And what I mean by that is that we cannot control the storms. We cannot control, whether
it's a hurricane, whether it's a heat wave, or whether it's going to be a cold snap such
But what we can control is, what can we do in terms of the infrastructure resources,
the planning, the tools that are available to the community and the cities that can take
care of it?
And that is where we are at this point, that translation into that last mile. And we are
certainly seeing right now that the energy grid has been stretched to its limit. And,
looking forward, I'm sure there's going to be tremendous opportunities to rethink what
we can do to improve the elasticity in that.
We have the science. Like, for instance, at University of Texas, we haven't doing this
Planet Texas 2050. We are preparing the world that will go into the future.
What we need is this last mile, that, what will be the tools, what could be the ways
by which we can invest into now, such that we have a better future? And it is that investment,
the manner in which we are going to look at things directly in the face and say, this
is our priority, and this is how we are going to back science into our investment.
That will be the option to go ahead now.
AMNA NAWAZ: Professor Dev Niyogi from the University of Texas at Austin, thank you so
much for your time.
DEV NIYOGI: Thank you. It's a pleasure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: Average daily COVID-19 infections in the U.S. have
fallen below 100,000 for the first time since November. The number of average daily deaths
is also dropping, even as the overall U.S. death toll nears 490,000.
And in Europe today, Germany's new border controls triggered massive backups along the
Austrian and Czech frontiers. The Germans are trying to slow the spread of variants
of the virus.
Fallout is growing in Republican ranks after former President Trump was acquitted at his
impeachment trial. Senator Richard Burr faces a censure by North Carolina party leaders
tonight for voting to convict Mr. Trump. Senator Bill Cassidy also voted to convict, and he
has already been censured by GOP leaders in Louisiana.
Meanwhile, House speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that an independent commission will investigate
the U.S. Capitol riot that led to the trial. We will be pursuing that later in the program.
In Myanmar, pressure intensified on protesters against the military coup. Police and military
trucks rolled down streets in Mandalay and Yangon in a show of force today, and troops
confronted crowds with slingshots and rubber bullets.
NAING HTOO, Bank Worker (through translator): The number of protesters reduced yesterday.
So, the junta took advantage of that and brought military vehicles onto the streets to intimidate
the people. We are taking serious care not to fall in those traps.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, the ruling junta extended the detention of ousted leader Aung
San Suu Kyi until Wednesday, when she is to have a court hearing.
The Russian government is playing down protests backing opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Last night, his supporters in various cities used cell phone flashlights and candles to
light up the evening sky, in a display of unity. The Kremlin claimed today that only
small numbers took part.
And back in this country, the federal online insurance marketplace has reopened for a new
enrollment period. Healthcare.gov will accept applications from uninsured people in most
states Through May the 15th. President Biden ordered the market to reopen after the initial
enrollment period ended in December.
And rockets struck near a U.S. base in Northern Iraq, killing one U.S.-led coalition contractor.
Five others were wounded, including one U.S. service member. They targeted an area outside
Irbil International Airport. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": General Motors on its big promises to transition to zero
emissions vehicles; the Chinese government overhauls Hong Kong's education system; Tamara
Keith and Amy Walter break down the aftermath of the impeachment vote; and much more.
One of the main causes of the carbon emissions that drive climate change is automobiles.
And General Motors made big waves in its industry recently by announcing a dramatic ramp-up
in electric vehicle production and plans to be carbon-neutral by 2040.
William Brangham talks with a senior executive at the carmaker about the challenges of meeting
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That's right, Judy.
To many, it was yet another signal that gas-powered vehicles are on their way out.
WILL FERRELL, Actor: Did you know that Norway sells way more electric cars per capita than
the U.S.? Norway. Well, I won't stand for it.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In this Super Bowl ad, GM, one of the biggest automakers in the world,
announced that, in just four years, it'll have 30 new electric car models for sale.
But there are many hurdles ahead before we get can fully electrify our transportation.
Joining me now is Dane Parker, chief sustainability officer for General Motors.
Dane Parker, great to have you on the "NewsHour."
Some of the initial press after this ad ran was that the GM is fully phasing out gas-powered
vehicles. I mean, that's not totally the case. Can you just give us a sense, what are GM's
plans for electric vehicles?
DANE PARKER, Chief Sustainability Officer, General Motors: Sure. Thank you, William.
So, we have an aspiration to eliminate tailpipe emissions from all of our light-duty vehicles
by 2035, and to be fully carbon-neutral by 2040. So, it is a pretty aggressive plan to
shift in all of our markets and all of our segments to electric vehicles.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It is a very ambitious goal, if you can attain it.
As you well know, there are certainly challenges ahead. Consumers don't seem to be there yet
for electric vehicles. I think it's still just a percentage of the marketplace.
And we also need a huge network of charging stations to basically take the role of gas
stations for all those electric vehicles. How much of an impediment will those things
be to this rollout?
DANE PARKER: Well, those are two things that come up a lot.
And on the consumer one, I think we will find that are getting close to a tipping point.
And those who have experienced electric vehicles, almost to a person, say they wouldn't go back.
The driving experience, the technology, how quiet they are, and the acceleration, all
the elements of a great product in an electric vehicle, I think, are going to bring consumers
And we are reaching, really, I think that classic tipping point. And that's going to
Now, to your question about infrastructure, the current data that we have says more than
80 percent of charging happens at home. And there's a large number of current consumers
who are able to charge at home. And for them, this will be seamless, because the range of
these electric vehicles is going to be sufficient for the vast majority of use cases.
For those who can't is where we need help in developing that infrastructure. I think
there's plenty of momentum we can build over the next several years with those who are
able to charge easily, and give us time to build the infrastructure out for those who
are in areas either where they can't charge in their housing or their work, so that we
can get retail options available for them.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Let's talk a little bit about the challenge of battery technology.
We have seen incredible growth so far. But we have got to improve their charging, how
long they can drive these vehicles, and also securing enough lithium simply to put in all
of those batteries.
What role do you see for the federal government to help incentivize that technology?
DANE PARKER: Sure. Yes, batteries are the critical component to this transition.
And in whether it's mineral supply, like you mentioned, with lithium or cobalt, or the
production of those batteries, I think government will play an important role in incentivizing
the research and development that's needed to remove things like lithium from batteries
or like cobalt, come up with alternative technologies and alternative materials, but also to encourage
the production of those batteries in the United States, which certainly is important from
an energy security perspective and simply from a supply chain perspective.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: If GM is going to be continuing to sell, in part, gas-driven vehicles, how
will you achieve carbon neutrality by 2040?
DANE PARKER: Seventy-five percent of our footprint is tailpipe emissions.
And so if we can eliminate those in all of our light-duty vehicles by 2035 and in our
operations through the use of renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency, we get to
a point by 2035 and beyond where we're pretty close on our own.
And so the few -- the few remaining tons that we will have might relate to heating, industrial
heating, things like that, we feel like we will be able to offset with carbon credits.
But the vast majority of what we do, we will be doing by changing our products and changing
the energy footprint used to charge those products, as well as run our own operations.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Certainly, this news has been cheered by many environmental groups.
There's also been some skepticism, who point out that, for many years, GM was trying to
get the Trump administration to dial back auto emissions rules, and that that makes
them question whether or not that this -- this commitment on GM's part is for real.
I want to read you a quote from Dan Becker. He's at the Center for Biological Diversity.
This is about that carbon offset issue.
He wrote -- quote -- "Given GM's polluting track record, their promise to arrange some
offsets to sop up the pollution from gas-powered SUVs and pickups that they still plan to make
is just smoke and mirrors."
What is your reaction to that?
DANE PARKER: You know, I think there's been in various comments questions about how we
would use offsets.
And part of what we set out with our 2040 commitment was to use a science-based target
methodology to get there. That methodology doesn't allow you to use offsets in that.
And so that methodology requires you to actually reduce your direct footprint.
That's why, for us, this commitment to be carbon-neutral is a commitment to change our
products and our operational footprint exclusive of carbon credits or carbon offsets, and why
we're now spending $27 billion in these five years to do exactly that, roll out these products
faster than we ever have before.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Dane Parker, chief sustainability officer for General Motors,
thank you very much for joining us.
DANE PARKER: Thank you, William, for the time.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The lunar new year celebration has begun in China, but it comes as Hong Kong
security forces continue to prosecute those it has swept up in a wave of arrests under
the new national security law that mainland China imposed.
Even as pro-democracy members of Hong Kong's legislative body were arrested last month
when they held an informal primary election, the education curriculum is being overhauled,
and judges are facing increasing pressure to issue harsher sentences on activists.
"NewsHour" special correspondent Divya Gopalan reports.
DIVYA GOPALAN: Praying for good fortune and better days. As Hong Kong people start their
Chinese new year, many will be relieved to bid farewell to the punishing Year of the
Like the rest of the world, the pandemic took away loved ones, jobs and businesses. But,
for Hong Kong it also brought one of the biggest clampdowns on freedoms and rights, the national
security law. The wide-ranging law imposed by Beijing opens the door for China's communist
government to intervene in all aspects of the autonomous territory's affairs.
The law criminalizes several categories of broadly defined offenses, which include secession,
subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign or external forces. But there is one
institution seen as the last holdout against Beijing's increasing assertive rule.
ANDREW CHEUNG, Hong Kong Chief Justice: It is my mission, as I say, to do my utmost,
to uphold the independence and impartiality of the Hong Kong judiciary.
DIVYA GOPALAN: In a ceremony in January, Andrew Cheung was sworn in as the city's top judge.
Taking the helm in unprecedented times, he admitted he has his work cut out for him.
ANDREW CHEUNG: Political pressure is just one form of pressure that judges face and
have to deal with. So, we all do our best to deal with these pressures.
DIVYA GOPALAN: It's a situation that American lawyer John Clancey is familiar with. On January
6, he was caught up in the biggest sweep yet under the national security law.
JOHN CLANCEY, Pro-Democracy Lawyer: We need to work for democracy and human rights in
DIVYA GOPALAN: Clancey was among 53 opposition activists and former lawmakers arrested for
subversion for taking part in an unofficial primary poll to choose the best democratic
candidate for the now delayed legislative council elections.
The longtime Hong Kong resident, who speaks Cantonese fluently, came to the city in 1968
as a Catholic priest when it was still a British colony. He later trained in law and is known
for his work championing democracy and human rights.
JOHN CLANCEY: There's going to be a need for the courts to deal with two conflictual things
hitting at one another.
On the one hand, we have, as I mentioned earlier, the basic law, which entrenches these basic
human rights, freedom of speech, expression, voting, standing for election. On the other
hand, there's a new national security law, which, unlike most other laws in Hong Kong,
it was drafted in China. It's very vague. It seems to be having a lot of implications
of what it could be.
The courts will have to decide whether this national security law trumps basic rights.
DIVYA GOPALAN: Beijing says the national security law is necessary to make scenes like this,
the anti-government protests of 2019, a thing of the past. Almost 100 people have been arrested
under the law since it took effect on July 1.
While most of the focus is on high-profile national security law cases, the legal system
here is being tested regularly. Almost every day, there are cases going through the city's
courts related to the 2019 protests and other demonstrations calling for democracy. Those
being prosecuted includes former protests, human rights and democracy activists and even
According to official figures, around a fifth of the 10,200 people arrested in connection
with the social unrest of 2019 have been prosecuted, and roughly 200 have been sentenced to prison.
In November, one of the top Chinese officials in Hong Kong said reforms were needed for
the city's judiciary, saying that the word patriotism needs to be included in the core
values of Hong Kong society. The details of the reforms are unclear.
But Holden Chow, a lawyer, legislative councillor and vice president of Hong Kong's biggest
pro-Beijing political party, agrees that changes are needed. He is calling for the judiciary
to set up a sentencing council.
HOLDEN CHOW, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong: Over the past two
years, we have seen the violent protests in Hong Kong. And when the rioters are brought
to the court, when their verdict is being handed down by the court, it seems that, on
many occasion, the sentence is too lenient.
I am very concerned about the impact of that is you are simply encouraging people to commit
those sort of crimes.
DIVYA GOPALAN: The majority of the front-line protesters were university and high school
students. Pro-Beijing politicians and China's state media blamed teachers and the curriculum
for the social unrest.
And so, in the latest effort to tighten the leash on the younger generation, authorities
have pushed through one of the biggest overhauls of the education system.
WOMAN: Mr. Owl, what is national security?
DIVYA GOPALAN: With teaching material that includes animation to help younger children,
the new national education curriculum brings Hong Kong classrooms in line with the communist-controlled
schools of mainland China. Teachers will be forced to warn students as young as 6 of secession,
subversion and foreign interference.
While many were expecting changes to certain subjects like liberal studies, it's come as
a shock to students who have enjoyed an education system where free thinking and open discussions
have been encouraged.
ANGEL CHOI, Student: I am a Hong Konger. And I believe my identity as a Hong Konger, and
this is very important for us to reveal the truth of what is happening in Hong Kong to
the public, not the way that the central government wants to tighten its control over us.
DIVYA GOPALAN: Regardless of which subject 16-year-old Angel and her classmates choose,
they will be exposed to the new curriculum. Almost every subject, whether it's biology,
geography, and even music, will need to incorporate the tenets of national security.
But as Angel is due to graduate soon, she feels it's the next generation who will be
ANGEL CHOI: If the curriculum has changed, they will just think in the way that the government
wants them to think, because they will only possess the information that is given directly
by the government.
Also, they cannot voice their opinions freely. They cannot decide whether the news is right
or wrong. And this definitely affects the future of the Hong Kong political movement.
DIVYA GOPALAN: For many in Hong Kong, with no avenue for dissent anymore and no power
to resist the changes imposed by Beijing, there is a sense that the writing is on the
Many feel, if they want a glimpse into what the Year of the Ox holds for the city, all
they have to do is look across the border.
For the "PBS NewsHour" in Hong Kong, I'm Divya Gopalan.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Although former President Trump's second impeachment trial concluded over the
weekend, many questions remain surrounding the events during and leading up to the deadly
January 6 insurrection.
And, as we reported earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her plans today to
form an outside, independent 9/11-style commission to, as she says, get to the bottom of how
Former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean chaired the 9/11 Commission, and he joins us now.
Governor Thomas Kean, welcome to the "NewsHour." Very good to see you.
We know that you and your vice chair, former Congressman Lee Hamilton sent a letter to
President Biden, to congressional leaders on Friday, urging them to consider the idea
of a commission. Some people are going to look at this and say, great idea. Other people
are going to say, oh, no, another commission.
Why is it a good idea?
THOMAS KEAN, Former Co-Chairman, 9/11 Commission: Well, look, this is the first time anything
like this has happened to our government, I suppose, since the British invaded the Capitol
The idea of a mob invading the U.S. Capitol, which is the center of democracy, not only
for us, but for the world, and doing it so publicly, is -- I was brought up to venerate
My father was elected to Congress when I was 3 years old. And in those days, the family
moved down. So, I was taken down to the Capitol with my father, and so where Webster was,
and where Clay sat, and where John Quincy Adams gave his favorite speech against slavery
and then died minutes later, and so on.
I knew Andrew Jackson, and I knew Sam Rayburn. I mean, people -- buildings were named after
them. So, the idea that a mob could invade the center of democracy while the legislators
were doing their job is so terrible, that I think, now it's behind us, we better find
out why it happened, how it happened, how security was breached, so we can make recommendations
to make sure it never, ever happens again.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you assure the American people that a commission can get to the bottom
of this, that a commission can come through with an accurate, truthful accounting of what
THOMAS KEAN: Well, I think we can do it because it has been done. The 9/11 Commission, our
report has not yet been questioned, as far as to its accuracy goes, as far as its impartiality,
as far as its bipartisanship.
And if we have done it once, we can do it again. But it does depend -- it depends on
the appointments. The people who are appointing, the people in the Congress have got to make
sure this is people who have no ambitions, who are not overly partisan, who can reach
across the aisle, who can work with each other, and who have the confidence, based on their
own records, of the American people to come out with something that is useful, proper,
and will prevent it ever happening again.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And that's a question I have, Governor Kean, because we're in a much more
politically polarized time, as you know, than it was even in 2000, after 2001 -- or 2002,
when your commission got to work.
How can -- how do we know that each side isn't going to be appointing or one side or the
other people who are so set in their views that you can't come up with a unanimous view
of what happened or reporting of what happened?
THOMAS KEAN: I think it is -- again, we're going to be dependent on our elected officials.
That's who we are in this democracy.
And I think the idea of -- I have great confidence that Nancy Pelosi, Congressman McCarthy, that
the leaders of the Senate know who these people are, because a lot of them have served within
When Lee Hamilton was appointed as my vice chair, nobody objected, because Lee Hamilton
had a record of integrity and bipartisanship, and doing what was best for the country, rather
than anything else, all his political life.
That hasn't ended. There are people I know and people you know of right now, some of
them serving in the Congress now, some of them retired from public service, some of
whom have been governors. There are a number of these people whose only bottom line is
service to the United States of America, country first, patriots. And those are the people
who have got to be appointed.
And I think we have got to call as hard as we can on the leaders of Congress to make
sure those are the people who get on the commission.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Does getting to the bottom of former President Trump's involvement in
this, role in this, is that essential to the work of a commission?
THOMAS KEAN: It's part of it, but it's not -- to me, it's not the bottom line.
You serve -- do a commission to find out the facts of how something happened. How did this
mob get created? How was it -- I mean, we don't know still whether they planned it all
ahead of time or whether some were incited on the spot. We don't know that yet.
Find out how it happened, and find out the facts that everybody agrees on. Once you find
out the facts, you can make the recommendations to ensure it never, ever, ever can happen
again. But you have to have the facts first in order to make those kind of recommendations.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We went back and looked at some of the reporting at the time your -- the
9/11 Commission issued its report in 2004.
And you are right. The vast majority of reaction was very positive, praised the work that you
did. There were some who said the fact that you were trying to reach a unanimous view
meant that you, in the end, had to soften the edges, in so many words.
How do you see that?
THOMAS KEAN: Well, we didn't. I don't think we softened it at all. We had a lot of debates.
We met hours and hours and hours and hours.
We got to know each other first, so Republicans and Democrats came to trust each other, had
private dinners together, in some cases, met each other's families. And then, once we had
agreed to trust each other and done the public hearings and all of that, the report came
quite naturally after that.
And we didn't -- honestly, we did not soften the edges. I mean, we said what we thought
we had to say. And I was -- I didn't know until two days before we issued the report
whether we had it unanimous or not.
And one thing we found out, by the way, we took out of the adjectives. We found out that
people were arguing not about the facts, but the adjectives. Once we removed the adjectives
in the report, then a lot of people who had questions signed on.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the end, Governor Kean, how much does a thorough report like this
matter? How much difference does it make for our country, for our people, for our system
THOMAS KEAN: Look, the 41 recommendations we made in the 9/11 Commission were the basis
for a whole redrafting of national security in this country.
And we still have not had another attack comparable to 9/11. That has kept the people safer. If
these commissions are done right, they can work. They can work for the people. And so
my sense is, if we do this right, we can make the Congress stronger, we can make national
security stronger, and we can make sure, as I say, that nobody in 10 or 20 years is saying,
how did this happen again?
It shouldn't happen. There shouldn't be a mob from the left or the right or anybody
else to disrupt the best of this democracy, which is -- which should be occurring in the
United States Congress.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Former Governor Thomas Kean of New Jersey, who I gather Speaker Nancy
Pelosi called you after she received that letter on Friday.
So, it looks as if it certainly did play into the thinking here.
THOMAS KEAN: We had a very nice call.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We so appreciate your joining us. Thank you very much.
THOMAS KEAN: Thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And for the seven Republican senators who voted to convict former President
Trump, the backlash from inside their own party has been swift and severe, as we reported,
censures for two of those senators, Louisiana's Bill Cassidy and Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey,
by state or local officials, party officials.
Tonight, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina may be the third to face that fate.
Here now to analyze the fallout from the impeachment trial and where we go from here, Amy Walter
of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.
Hello to both of you on this Monday night. It's so good to see you,
Amy, we have now had, what, 46 presidents of the United States, and one only one of
them has been impeached twice and only one of them had to go through a trial when he
was out of office. So, Donald Trump has made history in every which way here.
But in the end, after this trial that ended over the weekend in an acquittal, where are
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Right, and where is the Republican Party, right?
And this seems to be the question that we continue to grapple with or have been grappling
with really since 2015, Judy, when it seemed that so many times during Trump's first campaign,
during his time as president, that the party was going to break up over Donald Trump.
And yet, when all is said and done, the party continues to rally around him. In this case,
on the vote over the weekend to convict, the president was no different.
In some ways, as you said, this was a historic moment. This was the most bipartisan impeachment
ever in American history. So that's quite remarkable. And yet, at the same time, it
doesn't tell us anything about Trump's inability to keep a hold of the party. In fact, what
it tells us is that he still has a pretty good hold on the party.
As you pointed out, a number of those senators who voted for conviction have since been censured.
We know members of the House who voted for impeachment have also been censured, and they
have been threatened with primary races. We know that, even in a bipartisan vote, it was
still 10 votes short of a conviction.
And we also know that the seven Republicans who voted -- these are not -- who voted for
conviction -- these are not the rising stars in the party. These aren't folks who you're
going to see on the ballot in 2024 running for president. Only one of them is up for
reelection in 2022. That's Lisa Murkowski from Alaska. Two of them are retiring, Senator
Burr and Senator Toomey, Burr from North Carolina, Toomey that you pointed out from Pennsylvania,
also been censured.
The rest are either up in 2026, so they were just recently elected, reelected, or one of
them, Mitt Romney, up in 2024. So, there is no immediate repercussions for these -- most
of these senators like, there is for members of the House.
But, at the end of the day, I think what's been made very clear is that this is still
the party of Donald Trump, the local grassroots activists who are censuring these members
making it very clear where their loyalties lie and what they're expecting from other
elected officials down the road in 2022 and beyond.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tam, pick up on that, I mean, how much does this trial verdict tell
us about the hold that Donald Trump still has on his own party?
TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Well, as Amy mentioned, the local party apparatuses
are very Trumpy, if you will. They were consolidated behind President Trump.
His campaign was very concerned about a primary challenge, potentially, in 2020. So, they
made sure that every state and local party operation all over the country was controlled
by President Trump. And those loyalists are still in place. And that's why you're seeing
these censures come so fast and so strongly.
What does that mean in terms of primaries? What does that mean in terms of Senate races?
I think that we can look at what Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, and Mitch
McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, how they are charting their path, trying to
sort of have it both ways, wanting the Trump base, but also trying to figure out how to
keep Republicans who were completely and totally outraged by what happened on January 6, and
didn't see that violent mob as being part of their party.
And so you had McConnell give this absolutely scorching floor speech about President Trump,
after, of course, voting to acquit and saying that it wasn't constitutional, they should
have done the trial before he left office, but, also, he held up and prevented the trial
from happening before he left office.
And with McCarthy, he was very critical of President Trump in the immediate aftermath.
But, before long, he was down at Mar-a-Lago kissing President Trump's ring, not technically,
but trying to get Trump's support to -- in primaries to get Republicans who can win in
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Amy, is there anybody in the Republican Party -- clearly, there's
somebody -- but who has enough influence in the Republican Party to counter what's going
on with those who are so loyal to Donald Trump?
AMY WALTER: Yes, we're going to learn a lot, I think, in these next couple of years, as
we watch these primaries unfold and Senate races and others.
We're going to see, for example, even this year, in a state like Virginia, where you
have a governor's race, what kind of candidate comes out of their process there. They actually
have a convention, not a primary. And what are the issues that they run on?
And Virginia is a place where,normally, historically, whichever party is in the White House at that
time loses the governor's race in Virginia. But Virginia has also gotten a lot bluer in
the last few years, and the backlash to Trump was pretty significant.
I think we're also going to have to see just how invested Donald Trump is in being with
the party in terms of its daily dealings, right? Is he really going to take all this
money that he's raised, and plow it into the local parties, plow into helping candidates
up and down the ballot?
Or is he going to use it as a way to punish those Republicans who he thinks have wronged
him, like Representative Liz Cheney from Wyoming? Or maybe he sits on it and doesn't use any
of it for any other candidate? So, there's still a lot of unknowns there.
And most important, Judy, we don't know what we're talking about in terms of the political
environment a year or two from now. I think that sets the tone more than anything else,
in terms of the kinds of candidates that become successful are the candidates that fit that
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we'd like you both to know exactly what's going to happen a year
or two in advance.
AMY WALTER: That's right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But we will wait until next week. We will wait until next week.
But, Tam, I do want to turn you both here in the minutes we have left to what's happening
with COVID relief. While the trial was going on in the Senate, the House was moving ahead
with some of President Biden's proposal on COVID relief.
How much does it matter whether he is able to get Republican votes or not, whether this
ends up being an all-Democratic measure?
TAMARA KEITH: I'm not quite sure how much it ultimately does matter.
And I -- will voters hold it against him that they didn't get Republicans, if their unemployment
benefits last, or if the COVID vaccine rollout goes well, or if their kids are actually in
I think that the big test for Biden is -- and he and his administration believe that they
need this COVID package to make this happen -- but come 2022, the question is, do you
feel better today than you did two years ago, when people are going to vote? And that's
going to depend on how they handle the pandemic.
And I think a lot is going to depend on whether people feel like their lives are back to normal.
And a big part of that is going to be the schools.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Amy, I mean, pick up on that from there, because there are those who
are saying he needs to show early on that he is going to live up to this unity promise
that he campaigned on.
AMY WALTER: Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And others are saying, look, that's -- that was never going to happen.
It's going to have to be Democrats all the way.
AMY WALTER: Well, there's another unity challenge he may have. And that's keeping Democrats
We have been spending these last few weeks focused on the divisions within the Republican
Party. But Democrats, in order to get this package through, they can't afford to lose
any senator. We have already seen some splits on issue -- within the Democratic Party on
issues like including the $15-an-hour minimum wage in this COVID package, some consternation
about the price tag on certain things.
And Pelosi in the House, Speaker Pelosi, can only afford to lose four or five votes there.
So, keeping the party united on the same page, again, it's a lot easier when you're the one
in charge, and you know that, ultimately, this is going to define your party.
At the same time, it's a real test for team Biden and Democrats in leadership to be able
to get this through. And the clock is ticking. These unemployment benefits that Tam pointed
to, this is the beginning of March, where they're really going to need to make sure
that this money is going out the door and that people are getting these checks.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And in many ways, the calendar is flying along, no question about it. That's
the serious -- that's the most serious deadline out there.
Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, next week, we will ask you about 2024, 2028.
AMY WALTER: We're going to...
JUDY WOODRUFF: We won't let you off the hook.
TAMARA KEITH: Too soon.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you both, Amy Walter, Tamara Keith.
Finally tonight, a new four-part series, "The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our
Song," premieres on PBS tomorrow night.
It's a sweeping history of religion, politics, and culture.
Jeffrey Brown has a preview for our arts and culture series, Canvas.
JEFFREY BROWN: In the time of slavery, it was a source of strength and survival. In
the 20th century, it would spearhead a drive toward political and economic equality.
HENRY LOUIS GATES JR., Harvard University: The church is the oldest, the most continuous
and most important institution ever created by the African American people.
JEFFREY BROWN: Henry Louis Gates Jr., the noted Harvard scholar and host of PBS' "Finding
Your Roots," has been telling aspects of the African American story for decades.
This, he says in his new series and companion book, may be the most important of all.
HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.: It was a laboratory for the formation both of the identity of
a New World African people. After all, there were 50 ethnic groups represented in the slave
trade from Africa to North America, and they had to forge and form into one new people,
the first truly Pan-African people.
And, secondly, it was a laboratory for the creation of Black culture. It's where people
learned to read and write, because it was illegal to read and write. So, through the
King James Bible, people would memorize passages and repeat those passages.
JEFFREY BROWN: There's a kind of tension from the beginning in the story you're telling
about -- around Christianity being the religion of the enslavers and then becoming the religion
of the enslaved, but also a means towards their liberation.
HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.: Absolutely. African Americans created a form of Christianity with
a liberating God and its center, a redemptive force for a nation whose original sin was
What Black people did was take the forms of Christianity available to them and refashion
them in their own image.
JEFFREY BROWN: The story, through several centuries, is told by leading cultural figures,
pastors and historians.
WOMAN: What enslaved people did in this new context where they attempted to merge and
fuse these different worlds that they lived in.
JEFFREY BROWN: At every point, the sacred mixes with the secular. You can see it in
the struggle for legal rights and political power, from Richard Allen, founder of the
African Methodist Episcopal Church, the country's first independent Black denomination, to Reverend
Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., Civil Rights Leader: Nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, today, Pastor Raphael Warnock, now a U.S. senator from Georgia.
HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.: He is the most recent example. Politics and religion have inextricably
been intertwined in the history of the Black church.
I think that they internalized and fashioned a form of Christianity that allowed them to
believe that, by and by, as Black people say, by and by, we would be free and we would be
able to progress within American society.
JEFFREY BROWN: Central to that experience, music, from early spirituals to the popularization
of gospel and its influence on so many Black musicians, like Aretha Franklin, who started
out in the church.
HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.: The body of the spirituals is one of the great gifts to the collective
corpus of world literature. You can't beat it.
I mean, I'm old-school. I like the new church music. I do my best to appreciate it. But
I -- you can't beat the spirituals.
(singing): Ezekiel saw the wheel way up the middle of the air. Ezekiel saw the wheel way
in the middle of the air.
They did that over and over.
JEFFREY BROWN: Gates doesn't shy from pointing to the Black church's own failures and discrimination,
including homophobia and sexism. The series highlights the critical, often undertold role
HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.: The backbone of the church has been Black women almost from the
very beginning. But their role has been suppressed.
One of my favorite examples in the story we tell us of
Jarena Lee. And Jarena Lee goes to Richard Allen and says: "I have been called to preach."
And he says: "I don't think so."
HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.: He says: "There's no role for women in the pulpit."
She just stands up in her pew and delivers a sermon. And it blows everybody's mind. And
Richard Allen says: "You know what, I guess maybe you were called to preach."
JEFFREY BROWN: In our time, as many young people move away from organized religion and
protesters again demand justice, the church faces a new challenge of relevance and vitality.
There was a very moving moment in there to me when Reverend Traci Blackmon is telling
you about going into the streets in Ferguson during the protests, and she talks about holding
a prayer vigil. And she says that, halfway through, some of the young people said, "That's
HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.: Well, I love that story.
This is what she said in response -- and I quote -- "The Ferguson uprising was church."
And I think that what we're seeing is that, in each historical period in Black history,
the church has been refashioned not only in the broader image of Black people, but in
the image of Black people at that specific time and place across generations.
And despite all the trials and tribulations that Black people have had to suffer, the
church has survived, it's grown, it's morphed, it's transformed, and we're still here.
JEFFREY BROWN: "The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song."
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So looking forward to watching that.
And we have more online, where you can find the stories of two more women who played vital
roles in both the Black church, as well as the fight for civil rights in America.
That's on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.
And that's the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Judy Woodruff.
Join us online and again here tomorrow evening.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.