JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: a busy first week. The Biden administration continues its flurry
of executive actions. I talk with Susan Rice, a key adviser driving the goal of equity.
Then: getting the vaccine. COVID infections and deaths in the United States dip slightly,
but the sluggish pace of inoculations remains a cause for concern.
Plus: cyber-threats. We discuss the recent massive government security breach and the
vulnerabilities the U.S. still faces with the former head of the Cybersecurity Agency.
And Rethinking College. The pandemic prompts a surge in demand for credential programs
as a less expensive alternative to traditional degrees.
GERALD CHERTAVIAN, CEO and Founder, Year Up: We have literally millions of jobs that are
going unfulfilled. And that will get worse, rather than better, as we recover from the
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Biden is moving on new fronts tonight in his latest spate of
policy actions. They include boosting COVID vaccine supplies and addressing racial equity,
this as the United States Senate geared up to put his predecessor on trial.
Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins reports.
LISA DESJARDINS: Rounding out his first full week in office, President Biden took on a
longstanding American failing, racial discrimination, signing a series of executive actions.
White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice echoed the president's commitment to
expand opportunities for Americans.
SUSAN RICE, White House Domestic Policy Adviser: These aren't feel-good policies. The evidence
is clear. Investing in equity is good for economic growth and it creates jobs for all
LISA DESJARDINS: Mr. Biden targeted four areas, housing, federal prisons, tribal sovereignty,
and harassment and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The racial problem overlaps with the health one, with communities of color hit hardest
by the coronavirus and government response. A CNN analysis of 14 states concluded that
white Americans are getting COVID vaccines at more than twice the rate of Blacks and
In the afternoon, the president announced that governors will receive 16 percent more
vaccine doses next week, a total of 10 million.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: This is going to allow millions of more Americans
to get vaccinated sooner than previously anticipated. We have got a long way to go, though.
LISA DESJARDINS: The new administration is also watching the Capitol, where the U.S.
Senate was busy, today confirming Antony Blinken as secretary of state inside.
MAN: The yeas are 78. The nays are 22. The nomination is confirmed.
LISA DESJARDINS: As, outside, Vice President Harris conducted a ceremonial swearing-in
of new Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
And committees continued moving through a stack of other Cabinet nominees, Rhode Island
Governor Gina Raimondo as commerce secretary and Alejandro Mayorkas, nominated for homeland
security secretary. He won committee approval, moving him closer to confirmation.
The Senate also worked on its own mission-critical business. Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell
dropped his demand that Democrats guarantee they would keep the filibuster rule, which
gives both parties power on most votes, this after two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin
of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, stressed they would not vote to dismantle
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We have a higher calling than endless partisan escalation.
We placed our trust in the institution itself and a common desire to do the right thing.
I'm grateful that's been reciprocated by at least a pair of our colleagues across the
LISA DESJARDINS: Now all sides expect an agreement allowing the new 50-50 Senate to fully function.
Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer:
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I'm glad we're finally able to get the Senate up and running.
My only regret is that it took so long, because we have a great deal we need to accomplish
over the next several weeks and months.
LISA DESJARDINS: And there was more news. House managers last night delivered the article
of impeachment to the Senate. As a result, senators were sworn in as jurors today for
the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky challenged the trial a unconstitutional for targeting
a president now out of office and his speech.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Who hasn't used the words fight figuratively? And are we going
to put every politician in jail, are we going to impeach every politician who has used the
words fight figuratively in a speech?
LISA DESJARDINS: Paul raised a point of order, but the Senate rejected his challenge on a
mostly party-line vote.
As impeachment moves forward, a growing recognition that it is an uphill effort. President Biden
told CNN last night he did not think there would be enough Republican votes to convict
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Yamiche Alcindor is at the White House with more on the Biden agenda.
So, hello, Yamiche.
We know the president's now been in office almost a full week. Today, he was speaking
both about the vaccine distribution challenges around the country and about equity. So, tell
us more about what he's doing on those fronts.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, President Biden is ramping up vaccine distribution around the
country. And he's also pledging to put equity and fighting systemic racism at the center
of everything he does.
On the COVID vaccine and the response he's doing, he said he's increasing weekly vaccine
supply to states, tribes and territories by 16 percent. He is also increasing the total
U.S. vaccine order by 50 percent, from 400 million doses to 600 million doses.
That means he says there is going to be enough vaccines for 300 million Americans by the
summer. Of course, the U.S. population is 329 million Americans. So, that's a big deal
The other thing is that equity, he said, is important, not just for Americans of color
and Black Americans, but for all Americans. He said that we will have a safer and more
secure and more prosperous country if we all get together and fight systemic racism.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Yamiche, we know also, separately, the president had his first phone
call today with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. What is the White House saying about
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: That's right.
The White House said that President Biden telephoned the Russian president, Vladimir
Putin, and that the two men talked about a number of issues, including an arms treaty
that's being negotiated. He also said that the U.S. really affirmed its support for Ukraine
sovereignty. They also talked about Russia -- alleged Russian interference in the 2020
election, as well as the poisoning of a Russian opposition leader, and the Russian alleged
hack on U.S. governments, as well as U.S. businesses.
That is seen as really important, because President Trump was seen as too lenient on
Russia and not being willing to really confront Vladimir Putin on a number of issues, including
meddling in the U.S. election.
So, it's seen as President Biden really taking a tougher stance on Russia, which is what
he pledged to do during the campaign.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Of course, we'd love to know more about that phone call, and I'm sure you
will be reporting on it.
Yamiche Alcindor, thank you very much.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As Lisa reported earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell backed away
from the standoff over the filibuster last night.
While Democrats do not have the votes for it now, this means filibuster reform is still
technically on the table.
So, what does all this mean?
Lisa joins me now to answer your questions.
So, Lisa, we heard you speaking about the filibuster. We want you to remind us, what
is it and why is it important?
LISA DESJARDINS: Judy, technically, a filibuster is anything that obstructs or blocks legislation,
especially in the Senate.
But, of course, most people know it as senators using their right to talk as long as they
want. They can only be cut off if 60 other senators vote for something called cloture
to end that.
So, I think, for people, the dominant reference to a filibuster is this from 1939's "Mr. Smith
Goes to Washington," where Senator Jimmy Stewart managed to win the day by talking until he
JIMMY STEWART, Actor: You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked. and I'm going to stay
right here and fight for this lost cause.
LISA DESJARDINS: Love that movie.
I just can't overstate the importance of this filibuster, because what the filibuster does
in practice in U.S. government is, it means that there is not a majority rule in the Senate,
but, instead, a supermajority rule.
Now, supporters of the filibuster say that's good because it adds stability, that the Congress
will not veer right and left due to sudden changes. But opponents say that's the problem,
that the Senate cannot really react to the need for sudden change, and that it is not
governed by majority rule.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I'm so glad you gave us a look at Jimmy Stewart again. We love that movie.
But, Lisa, I understand you got more than 200 questions about the filibuster today on
Twitter. Tell us what people are asking you.
LISA DESJARDINS: I'm happy we hit some fellow nerds' nerves.
Yes, let me go through some of the great questions.
First, I want to raise this excellent one: "When did the filibuster evolved from the
marathon 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' to the threat of the filibuster that exists now?"
This has happened over time, but we can see, really, the difference is how often the filibuster
is used now. If you look at this chart, look at the remarkable rise in the use of the filibuster.
This is the number of times each Senate in those years has voted to try and end a filibuster,
some years hardly at all. Now we're into the hundreds.
As the Senate has held more and more votes to end the filibuster, this has meant that
the filibuster has become a part of everyday life in the Senate. So, senators aren't doing
these talkathons anymore, as much as they're just sort of issuing the demand for a filibuster,
to close it, and going about their business holding those votes as if it was just a regular,
silent, everyday part of life.
Another question that we got, another excellent one: "Who has benefited more from the filibuster
over the years, Democrats or Republicans?"
We contacted the Senate Historical Office to talk about this. Now, in the early days
of the republic, everyone used the filibuster. But, in the 20th century, in particular, Southern
Democrats used the filibuster the most, and they used it to block civil rights legislation
and also legislation trying to change racist power structures.
It became part of their operation. And now we know, as it has changed, as it has shifted
in the past couple of decades, both parties have used it when they have been in the minority,
particularly when we're talking about judicial nominees, as we saw with Supreme Court nominees.
In the past -- in the past couple of years, Republicans removed the filibuster specifically
so they could get their Supreme Court nominees through.
One more question: "Has the filibuster encouraged or discouraged compromise?"
The truth is, what the filibuster has done more than anything, I think, Judy, it has
meant fewer large bills have been able to pass through Congress.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Lisa, tell us where do things stand on the filibuster, and
particularly for Democrats who are trying to move aggressively right now?
LISA DESJARDINS: Democrats do not have the votes to reform the filibuster right now.
But they are still holding out hope, some of them, that even they can't remove the filibuster,
perhaps they change is, so it's not 60 votes required, but fewer, 55 or less. That debate
will have to remain for another day.
Chuck Schumer is under a lot of pressure from progressives to pass progressive legislation.
Right now, he doesn't have the votes to do it because of the filibuster, but that debate,
as I said, will keep hanging over the Senate and especially over Democrats.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, the queen of the filibuster, Lisa Desjardins, thank you.
Let's dig deeper now into President Biden's executive actions today.
And, for that, we're joined by Susan Rice, his domestic policy adviser.
Susan Rice, so good to see you again.
Welcome back to the "NewsHour."
We heard from Yamiche Alcindor's reporting earlier in the program about the memoranda,
executive actions the president is taking around equity, a number of these similar to
what President Obama rolled out early in his administration. That was 12 years ago, and
even echoes of President Clinton.
Tell us how what is going on now is different.
SUSAN RICE, White House Domestic Policy Adviser: Well, Judy, it's good to be with you.
I served in the Clinton administration, the Obama administration, and now the Biden administration.
And I can tell you that, while each of the previous administrations that were Democratic
worked to advance racial equity and justice, what we have seen in the last week and the
first week of the Biden presidency is something quite different and unprecedented.
President Biden on his first day in office implemented an executive order that will embed
racial justice and equity in everything the federal government does, from how it collects
data, to how it allocates resources, to how it assesses where we currently stand on matters
of civil rights and racial equity. And it will hold each agency accountable for its
results. We have never done that before.
And, today, beyond his whole-of-government, interagency commitment to ensuring that we
put justice and equity front and center for everything, he rolled out a number of additional
executive actions that will be beneficial for a wide range of Americans, combating xenophobia,
for example, against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who faced so much vitriol and animosity
and even hate crimes resulting from previous leaders' attempts to target them in the context
He instituted a very important housing regulation that will -- or -- excuse me -- order that
would lead to new housing regulations, quite likely, that would roll back what Donald Trump
did to try to prevent full implementation of the Fair Housing Act.
So, there were many actions today, combined what he did last week. But, Judy, this is
not the end of what we intend to do. This is six days in. We have a great deal more
to do on all aspects of equity and justice.
The other thing I would mention is that the...
JUDY WOODRUFF: And so...
SUSAN RICE: Sorry. Go ahead.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, I was just going to say, so, for Americans watching this, what tangible
changes are they going to see from this?
SUSAN RICE: Well, the first and most important thing, and what President Biden spent a great
deal of time today talking about, is, we don't just invest in equity and racial justice out
of moral purpose, as significant as that may be.
We do it because it benefits every single American, not just one group or another. You
know, there have been important studies that have been recently conducted by economists,
including at Citi, which have indicated that, if we can close the racial gap in income and
opportunity, all Americans stand to benefit.
We will add $5 trillion to the economy over five years and create six million new jobs
for everybody. So, this work is the business of making all Americans do better, because,
when some of us are suffering, and the gaps are so huge, it actually drags us all down.
So, what we will do that is different is to make sure that, when we have new policies
and programs, that we're thinking about how they can be beneficial broadly. So, for example,
in the president's American Rescue Plan, his COVID relief package, there are things this
there that benefit all Americans, raising unemployment benefits and extending them,
making sure that we have up to $2,000 to all those who need it.
But there are many steps in there that will benefit those at the lower-income scale and
lift half of American children out of poverty and reduce overall poverty by 30 percent.
So, this is beneficial to everybody.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you say to some conservatives, like the columnist Andrew Sullivan -- and
I'm quoting from him -- he's accusing the president in one of the things he wrote -- of
culture war aggression.
And he went on to say, the president's focus on equity, he said, "would give named identity
groups a specific advantage and treatment by the federal government over other groups."
SUSAN RICE: What I would say to that is that is a false characterization of what is going
on. We are not giving anybody an advantage. We are giving everybody an equal, level playing
field, or that's what we aim to do, because the history in this country is, there has
not been a level playing field for many Americans, not just of Black and brown Americans and
people of color, but people in rural areas who have been left behind, people in urban
and suburban areas, disabled Americans, religious minorities, LGBTQ Americans.
And the reality is, it is holding us all back. So, rather than look at this through a divisive
prism of zero sum, if it's good for them, it has to be bad for me, that's not the American
way, and that's not how we all grow and prosper.
We have to recognize that we're in this boat together. We sink or swim together. And when
we have a leak in the boat and people are at risk, it puts all of us at risk.
So, it's not about advantaging one group over another. It's making sure that we all begin
at the same place and have the chance to fulfill our God-given potential.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I ask because Andrew Sullivan went on to say, you don't unite the country
by dividing it along what he calls these deep and inflammatory issues of identity.
SUSAN RICE: Well...
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as you know, there are Republicans saying the focus on equity is
pointing a finger at Republicans, saying they are racist.
SUSAN RICE: Well, that is absolutely not the case.
And, as President Biden said today, he believes and most religions teach us that we have to
look out for one another, and that we believe that most Democrats, Republicans, and independents
believe that we are all human beings of equal dignity and equal worth, and we have to respect
But it's a bit rich, frankly, for Republicans to suggest that, by trying to lift up everybody,
we are dividing America, when we just had four years of the most divisive, vitriolic
presidency that one can imagine, and that division was a political strategy. And, thankfully,
it hasn't worked, because it is not what the American people want.
They want us to come together. They want us to value each other. They want us to find
common ground. And contrary to the notion that somehow this divides us, by recognizing
that we all have inherent dignity and worth, that we're all worthy of respect and opportunity,
we're reaching out hands to one another and lifting each other up.
That's the America that makes the American dream accessible to not just the few, but
the many. And that's what we want to be.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One very brief final question. Will there be government funds that go into
supporting these new policies?
SUSAN RICE: Yes, absolutely.
For example, in the COVID relief package, which we call the American Rescue Plan, there
are funds there for all Americans, but funds that will benefit people who have been left
behind as well and people of different backgrounds and races, of all backgrounds and races.
But the reality is, yes, there will be money for child tax credits, for the Earned Income
Tax Credits, for vaccines, so we can get vaccines in everybody's arms, not just those with access
to information and resources.
And the COVID crisis is a perfect illustration of the fact that we are all in this boat together.
We are not going to recover from this crisis if our essential workers, our front-line workers,
from meatpackers to restaurant workers to hospital workers, are suffering, because we
all rely on them to keep our economy afloat and to keep our lives working.
We need to get our kids all back in school. That's not a Democratic or Republican imperative.
That's a national imperative. So, this package and these resources serve us all. And we will
make those investments because they are in our shared benefit and interest.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan Rice, who is President Biden's domestic policy adviser, I know we
will want to be checking in with you as the weeks and months go by to see how these policies
Thank you so much.
SUSAN RICE: Thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: The new Biden-run Justice Department rescinded
the Trump administration's zero tolerance border policy. It led to thousands of family
Separately, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked President Biden's 100-day ban on most
deportations. The Republican attorney general in Texas had challenged the ban.
The world reached another grim marker today, 100 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. More
than 2.1 million patients have died, including 900 survivors of the Nazi Holocaust who'd
been living in Israel.
Meanwhile, more vaccination sites in the U.S. are canceling appointments because of vaccine
We will focus on the vaccine problem after the news summary.
A major storm blanketed parts of the Midwest with a foot or more of snow today. Communities
in Nebraska and Iowa were buried under 15 inches, turning roads treacherous. The snow
was expected to keep falling into the night. Last night, the system spawned a tornado north
of Birmingham, Alabama. It killed a teenage boy, injured 30 people, and crushed buildings
in its path.
In India, thousands of farmers flooded New Delhi, protesting new laws they fear will
benefit corporate farms. Leaders said that more than 10,000 tractors drove into the city,
with farmers breaking barricades and battling police. They stormed the Red Fort that dates
from the 17th century and insisted that the new laws be withdrawn.
MANJEET SINGH, Farmer (through translator): The message for the prime minister is that
it is not the Indian government. It is the farmers' government, and farmers will rule
it. We will do as we want to. You cannot force your laws on the poor according to your whims.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The protests began nearly two months ago, and had been largely peaceful.
Back in this country, the interim head of the U.S. Capitol Police apologized for the
failure to prevent the assault on the building on January 6. She said officials did not deploy
enough officers with adequate communications, despite warnings that extremists supporting
President Trump planned violence.
Widespread Internet outages hit the Northeast today. Verizon reported problems with its
service, possibly stemming from a cut fiber in New York. The disruption affected Google,
Facebook and other sites, and the many Americans now working from home.
Wall Street had a lackluster day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 23 points to
close at 30937. The Nasdaq fell about 10 points. And the S&P 500 slipped five.
And baseball Hall of Famer Henry Aaron was memorialized in Atlanta today. Teammates,
friends, and family gathered virtually and in person at the home stadium of his old team,
the Atlanta Braves. They honored the home run king's legacy on and off the field. Aaron
died Friday at 86.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": COVID infections and deaths dip slightly, but the sluggish
pace of inoculations remains a cause for concern; what is driving the protests in Russia in
response to the imprisonment of the opposition leader?; we discuss the vulnerabilities the
U.S. faces with the former head of the government's Cybersecurity Agency; and much more.
As we reported, President Biden is trying to ramp up how quickly vaccines can be given
to Americans and to increase the supply for this summer. That includes a plan to get 200
million more doses combined of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
From the outset, federal health officials have made vaccinating residents of long-term
care facilities a priority.
But, as John Yang reports, more than a month into the campaign, there are concerns about
how long that effort alone is taking.
JOHN YANG: Judy, to understand that priority, consider this. By one count, long-term care
facilities -- that's nursing homes and assisted living centers -- account for about 6 percent
of COVID cases, but 40 percent of virus-related deaths.
And now some state officials are worried that vaccination are moving on to other parts of
the population before long-term care residents are inoculated. As of today, the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention says that 2.7 million doses have been administered at long-term
care centers. That's about 11 percent of all doses nationwide.
David Grabowski is a professor of health care policy at the Harvard Medical School.
David, thanks so much for joining us.
Given this, that everyone acknowledges this is a high-risk population in high-risk locations,
the CDC says inoculating these people will save lives, is this going fast enough?
DAVID GRABOWSKI, Harvard Medical School: I don't think, John, it's actually going fast
You cited the number this the introduction right there. Roughly 40 percent of the deaths
occur in long-term care facilities. This is the population we need to protect. We need
to get this population and their caregivers vaccinated as quickly as possible.
The 2.7 million vaccine doses, that sounds like a big number, but consider there are
roughly three million individuals living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
When you add their caregivers, you're up to about five million individuals that need to
Each of those individuals will need two doses. And so, yes, 2.7 is a big number, but it's
probably just about one-fourth of the way there. And so we have a long ways to go in
terms of vaccinating this population.
JOHN YANG: What are the hurdles to moving faster?
DAVID GRABOWSKI: The hurdles are large.
Unlike the general population, where you set up a vaccine clinic and the population goes
to the clinic, here, you have to bring the clinics to the long-term care facilities.
And there are 30,000 nursing homes and assisted living facilities around the country.
And so, in order to get the population vaccinated, the federal government contracted with CVS
and Walgreens. The good news is, those are big companies. And, in some states, that process
is working relatively well. But, in other states, it's going far too slow.
And in a number of parts of the country, those companies only have so much bandwidth. They
can only be in so many long-term care facilities per day. So the process, John, is just moving
JOHN YANG: You say the bandwidth is not wide enough. How do you solve that problem?
DAVID GRABOWSKI: Sure.
So, by contracting with these two companies, CVS and Walgreens, they only have so many
pharmacists and they only have the ability to be in so many nursing homes. It's actually
interesting. The state that did the best in terms of vaccinating nursing home residents
and caregivers was West Virginia.
The interesting thing about West Virginia, they opted out of the federal program, so
they didn't work with CVS and Walgreens directly. They went ahead and contracted with a series
of pharmacies in order to vaccinate residents and their caregivers. They did end up working
with Walgreens, but a bunch of other local pharmacies as well.
They got the National Guard involved. It was an all-hands-on-deck approach, John. And it
actually ended up working quite well. And they were first in the nation in terms of
vaccinating nursing home residents.
JOHN YANG: Another issue we hear a lot about is the hesitancy of the staffers, the caregivers
at these long-term care facilities to get the vaccine. How do you solve that?
DAVID GRABOWSKI: This is a huge issue.
So, the numbers we're hearing, about half of all staff aren't getting vaccinated. So
that's much lower than the number of residents. We're hearing about 80, 85 percent of residents
are choosing to get vaccinated, but far too few staff are getting vaccinated.
Some facilities, it's quite good, but some facilities, it's 20 percent, 25 percent of
staff. So, we have a long way to go there.
How do we get better? I think we need to change the narrative here. The approach to date by
the federal government has been, let's provide more staff with information. That's very necessary.
We do need to convince them that this vaccine is safe and effective. They're quite worried
about side effects. They're quite worried about safety.
But they're also quite distrustful of nursing home management and leadership. They're distrustful
of the government. It's not just the message they're hearing. It's who they're hearing
JOHN YANG: We're at a point where we're turning a page. We have a new administration coming
in, rethinking this whole thing. If you were to be advising the new Biden administration,
what would you tell them?
DAVID GRABOWSKI: I would tell them three things.
First, we need to go faster. And CVS and Walgreens are doing a great job in some parts of the
country, but it's going far too slow in others. Let's get other pharmacies involved in those
areas of the country where things are moving too slowly.
Second, we need to address the hesitancy. The rates among staff are far too low. We
need to not just provide them with information. We also need to change who is providing that
information. We need to rely on relationships, and we need to build trust with staff in terms
And then, finally, we have been flying blind. We have these national numbers on vaccine
doses. We have very little information on the ground in terms of what's happening in
JOHN YANG: David Grabowski, professor of health care policy at the Harvard Medical School,
thank you very much.
DAVID GRABOWSKI: Thanks, John.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Part of today's call between President Biden and Russia's President Vladimir
Putin centered on Russia's top opposition figure, Alexei Navalny.
Nick Schifrin reports on how Navalny is sparking protests.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The protests rolled across 5,000 miles and 100 cities from Yakutsk in
the east, where the temperature was 60 below, to Moscow in the west, a national wave of
dissent and defiance.
PROTESTER (through translator): We are here because we are fed up with the regime in this
country. Putin is a thief, and the whole system is corrupt.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Police responded with blunt force, and arrested more than 3,000 protesters.
But if their brutalness was par for the course, protesters' resistance, with their hands and
snowballs was a sign Russians have had it, and they're willing to defy their government
more than they have in many years.
They answered the call from opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Last week, in Moscow, after
a hug from his wife, he livestreamed his arrest upon arrival from Berlin, where he'd recuperated
from an attempted assassination that independent researchers say was launched by the Russian
ALEXEI NAVALNY, Russian Opposition Leader (through translator): There are 20 million
beggars in the country, and he buys a yacht for his mistress.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Navalny's call coincided with a new investigative video that crosses what
used to be red lines, Putin's love life, and what Navalny called extravagant personal corruption
in a billion-dollar palace filled with opulent rooms, and disparaging Putin as a wannabe
The video's been viewed more than 90 million times, allowing Navalny to circumvent state-run
media, and maintain massive influence. Putin almost never mentions Navalny, but, in an
online forum this week, denied Navalny's charges.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russian President (through translator): Nothing of what is listed there
as my property belongs or has ever belonged to me or my close relatives. Never.
ALEXEI NAVALNY: He's a kind of czar, an autocrat.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In 2012, our Margaret Warner interviewed Navalny with an interpreter. That's
when Navalny started his campaign calling Putin's party the party of crooks and thieves.
Navalny predicted Putin would end up like Moammar Gadhafi.
We followed him again during his campaign for president in 2017.
ALEXEI NAVALNY (through translator): They tell us (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you, and we have
to say, oh, OK, we're very sorry. But, no, we have gathered here to say we're going to
ask these questions and we will obtain the answers.
NICK SCHIFRIN: His leadership has especially galvanized young Russians, who posted videos
this weekend removing Putin portraits.
And to discuss this moment in Russia, we turn to Masha Gessen, staff writer for "The New
Yorker" and author of 11 books.
Masha Gessen, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
Are these protests different from previous protests in Russia?
MASHA GESSEN, "The New Yorker": Yes and no.
They are bigger. They are -- it is particularly significant that they're bigger -- I mean,
they don't involve more cities than, for example, the protests in 2011-2012. But there is significant
difference in the sense that the protests in 2011-2012 took place under much safer conditions
for the protesters. They were -- quote, unquote -- "legal" in the eye of the -- in the eyes
of the state.
And the sanctions for any kind of violations that might have committed during the protests
were much lighter. In the last decade, Russia has passed a slew of laws aimed specifically
at intimidating any kind of protest.
And these protests were explicitly declared illegal by the state. So, every single person,
every one of the tens of thousands of people who came out knew that they were risking arrest.
It's part of a long wave of dissatisfaction, distrust, and kind of a slow-building refusal
to take it anymore.
NICK SCHIFRIN: How much of a threat are these protests to Putin?
We have not seen what we have seen in previous examples in Russia history, and even in 2011-2012,
which are the elites breaking from Putin. So, does that mean that these are not a threat
to the Kremlin?
MASHA GESSEN: The Putin regime is a mafia state.
Every single person in the elite is personally dependent on Putin for money and power. That's
one of the reasons, for example, that they all contributed to the building of his palace,
right? He has them in his grip at all times. So, we're not going to see the elites coalescing
against Putin. That kind of analysis is not applicable to this kind of regime.
Unfortunately, for the protesters, there's no -- there are no levers in any existing
institutions for the protesters to activate. There's no independent judiciary. There's
no parliament. There are even no elites that could rise up against Putin.
The protests, I think, are probably best, both sort of hopefully and pessimistically,
viewed as an investment in Russia's post-Putin future, which will eventually happen.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Navalny is playing what a colleague of yours called digital guerrilla war. He
is clearly popular with younger Russians and clearly able to get a viral video out there.
But the majority of Russia is older, politically inactive. Can Navalny reach out to the actual
majority of the country?
MASHA GESSEN: Russia doesn't have elections. Russia doesn't have any kind of traditional
media sphere that would allow a politician to reach out to a majority of the population.
That said, Navalny has kind of hacked that predicament. In the scorch-earthed political
environment of Russia, he has nonetheless been able to establish himself as a viable
alternative to Putin, as a different kind of politician and a different kind of politics.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And, finally, U.S.-Russia relations.
Biden and Putin spoke today. Biden's made it clear they're going to try and work together
on issues like New START, while challenging Putin on other issues, including Navalny.
But the Russians, meanwhile, continue to question Biden's legitimacy as president. Will Russia
seek to cause more disruption in the U.S., do you think, while Biden waits for his national
security team to be confirmed?
MASHA GESSEN: Joe Biden is the first president since the end of the Cold War who has not
promised, he has not postulated as a goal any kind of normalization and improvement
of relations with Russia, right?
We know that the reality of the situation is that nothing good is going to happen in
a relationship between these two countries. And Biden is not even sort of signaling that
this is an ambition of his, which I think is a good sign, just because it's good to
see the president telling the truth.
Nothing good is going to come of this relationship. Is Russia going to continue to meddle in U.S.
politics? If the U.S. lets them. I have never been of the school that Donald Trump was elected
by Russia. I think that he was elected by Americans, and Russians were able to fortuitously
sort of whip up some sentiment.
If there are things for Russians to get involved in, if there are things for Russians to whip
up, if we continue to be a divided, conflicted country, in which nearly half the population
is entirely unmoored from reality, that's fertile ground.
But that's on us. That's not on Russia.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Masha Gessen, thank you very much.
MASHA GESSEN: Thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Of the many threats facing the Biden administration, cybersecurity remains
a constant concern.
William Brangham explores how a recent massive attack is still with us.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The Russian government is believed to be behind the so-called SolarWinds
It was revealed back in December, but, since then, the number of federal agencies and companies
that were victimized by this hack have continued to grow. And that's raised concerns about
what kinds of sensitive data might have been compromised.
One person who's been hired to assess that damage is Christopher Krebs. He was the former
director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. He was fired by President
Trump shortly after he called the 2020 election, which he helped protect -- quote -- "the most
secure in U.S. history." He's now a partner at the Krebs Stamos Group.
Chris Krebs, great to have you back on the "NewsHour."
This hack has been described as one of the most sophisticated cyber-espionage attacks
against the U.S. in recent history. Your firm has been hired by SolarWinds, the software
company that was a victim of this intrusion and then led to subsequent intrusions.
Do you share the belief that this was the Russians behind this attack?
CHRISTOPHER KREBS, Former Director, U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency: So, certainly,
even before I was brought in by the new CEO to help them both understand the nature of
the compromise, the hack, but also how to build a leading-edge security program inside
SolarWinds, it was obvious to, I think, most of the cybersecurity vendors and companies
out there, as well as what I had heard and was hearing from the national security community,
that this was very likely, if not certainly, the -- a Russian espionage campaign tied to
what's known as the SVR, which is their intelligence, their foreign intelligence service.
And, again, it's got all the hallmarks of just quiet, patient, deliberate, very well
planned and executed. And they showed, in fact, a good deal of restraint in how they
executed, which is not always the tradecraft of some of the other Russian cyber-actors.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, so many of our federal agencies were victims of this, many companies.
Do you have a sense of what the Russians were after, what they took?
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: If it is, in fact, an espionage campaign -- again, I think that seems to be
the general consensus -- they're very likely looking for information on diplomatic negotiations,
economic negotiations, national security conversations and policy-making that the Russians would
be interested in, including things like chemical weapons and things of that nature.
So, I do believe that they were they were pecking around, looking for relevant information
to the Kremlin and the Russian government leadership. But they did so in a quiet and
deliberate way. And they had a priority list, by what I understand.
And so I think, when we get to the bottom of this one, it's certainly a very concerning
compromise at the federal government. But it may be fairly targeted in terms of how
they actually accessed and executed.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We know that the Biden administration has launched a full review of this hack.
Do you have a sense of the things that they ought to be doing that might not have been
done thus far?
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: Well, I think we're going to have to have a -- first probably something
along the lines of a national commission on the broader campaign that the Russians launched.
I suspect that there will be a number of companies that were impacted or compromised similar
to SolarWinds. We have to continue advancing the cybersecurity posture of our federal agencies.
And that's not just about buying more cybersecurity tools. We have to have modern systems in place.
We have to have a meaningful governance structure in place, where someone in a position of authority
like a national cyber director, or my old agency, CISA, is able to meaningfully engage
in direct action within the civilian agencies that, unfortunately, to this day still are
left a little bit too much on their own.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I want to turn lastly to the election.
As you well know, you worked very hard to secure this election. And by all measures,
that was a success. But the former president and many members of the GOP don't buy that.
They argue that there was widespread fraud. The former president said that this election
I'm just curious, as someone whose job was not just to secure elections infrastructure,
but also to bat down false facts, how do we, as a nation, wrestle with this ocean of misinformation?
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: So, first off, we need those that propagated the big lie that the
election was stolen, they need to own up to their lies, or they need to be held accountable.
And one way for the president is through impeachment and conviction. I think that needs to continue
moving forward for a few reasons. First is that -- I have said it before, but you don't
get mulligans in insurrection, in trying to overthrow an election. There have to be meaningful
consequences, or someone a little bit more dedicated, a little bit more competent may
be able to -- may try it again and, unfortunately, next time be successful.
We also have to send a clear message to our allies that we have governance mechanisms
here in the U.S. to ensure that our democracy is stable, and, lastly, to dictators across
the world that may try to meddle here or elsewhere that we're not going to tolerate it and that
there will be consequences.
But, beyond that, we have to continue from a transparency perspective educating the American
people on how elections actively work. And I think that's in part what happened in the
last year or so, is that some of the promoters of the big lie took advantage of the fact
that the machinery of elections is not always immediately apparent to the American people.
So, let's do something about that. I love the idea of bringing back "Schoolhouse Rock."
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: And how do we educate on civics?
And -- but beyond that, actually meaningfully investing in elections, eradicating some of
the outdated systems and truly meaningful post-election audits.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, here's to more "Schoolhouse Rock."
Christopher Krebs, former director of CISA, great to have you back on the "NewsHour."
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: Thanks, William.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One area hit by COVID is higher education.
According to our partners at USAFacts, 36 percent of households canceled plans for higher
education due to the pandemic as of last month.
But there's one area of growth, short-term programs to develop skills for the work force
Hari Sreenivasan reports in this last chapter of our series Rethinking College.
AMINA ABDOULAYE, Student: When I was in Africa, I was going to college, and the terrorists
attacked my country. And they destroyed everything.
HARI SREENIVASAN: When Amina Abdoulaye came to study in the U.S. from the West African
nation of Niger, she had a big goal, become a computer scientist, a Ph.D., no less. Only
AMINA ABDOULAYE: I didn't know anything about computers. I couldn't even use Microsoft,
the basics that even middle school people use to submit homework.
HARI SREENIVASAN: A big obstacle, especially since she also didn't speak English.
But Amina has always had a strategy for getting what she wants. She takes things one step
at a time.
AMINA ABDOULAYE: This year, I will learn English. Next year, I will do my GED. Next year, I
will start college.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In just four years, Abdoulaye is already working here, Wall Street. She's
enrolled in a program called Year Up, and interning at the financial information firm
S&P Global, all that without a single day of college.
Short-term credentials have been around for decades. But in this economic environment,
with skyrocketing traditional college costs now beyond the reach of many, they're having
In just a few months, Abdoulaye began working towards a certificate in U.X., or user experience,
design. That certificate can be applied toward a degree in the future. But, in the meantime,
it will help her escape minimum wage jobs.
AMINA ABDOULAYE: And actually allow me to even have a good job, and then I can pay for
more education to get more skills done. If only I started with college, I would have
to wait four years to even have entry-level job in corporate America.
GERALD CHERTAVIAN, CEO and Founder, Year Up: She needs to have economic stability, right?
HARI SREENIVASAN: That's why Gerald Chertavian, the founder and CEO of Year Up, made short-term
credentials a key part of his program to give low-income young people a leg up in the job
As the U.S. economy looks beyond the pandemic, he says, students like Abdoulaye will be desperately
needed to fix a fundamental supply and demand problem in the U.S.
GERALD CHERTAVIAN: On the supply side, we have five million young adults who are out
of school, out of work, and don't have more than a high school degree. And on the demand
side, we have literally millions of jobs for, let's say technical jobs, jobs that are -- require
a certain level of skills, that are going unfulfilled, and that will get worse, rather
than better, as we recover from the pandemic.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The pandemic destroyed millions of American jobs for all ages.
A third of adults say that, if they lost their job, they would need more education to get
a new one. And given that lower-income workers have been hit the hardest, they will need
to get them quickly, cheaply, and in skills tied directly to available jobs.
Schools like Columbus State Community College had been working to ramp up shorter-term credential
programs for years. Then came COVID-19.
Cheryl Hay is Columbus State's executive director of the Office of Talent Strategy.
CHERYL HAY, Columbus State Community College: It's going to become a cornerstone for us,
because it's about equity and opportunity.
Not everyone can stop what they're doing to go to class full time during the day. And,
so, shorter programming that kind of helps them stair-step a little at a time is where
we really meet the need.
HARI SREENIVASAN: About 36 million people have completed some college coursework, but
didn't finish, often leaving their efforts completely unrecognized once they drop out.
But now even big tech wants to drive part of the solution.
PATRICIA RAMOS, Santa Monica College: We actually co-created the certificate with Amazon.
HARI SREENIVASAN: After just four classes at Santa Monica College, a student like Sofia
Baca can earn an industry-recognized certificate in cloud computing skills.
SOFIA BACA, College Student: Even if I'm not completed with the four classes, I know that
there are employers who are willing to hire me as I'm finishing the program.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Those jobs often come with paychecks between $50,000 and $80,000 per
Patricia Ramos is the school's dean of work force and economic development. She says too
few un- or under-employed workers realize how quickly they can retrain in today's high-tech
PATRICIA RAMOS: Not everybody is going to need bachelor's degrees and master's degree
and graduate degrees. I think that industries like tech are changing so quickly, right?
They say every six months, and now it's even faster.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Google recently developed its own short-term career certificates they
say will be viewed internally, as the equivalent of a four-year degree.
So, could short-term credentials really replace college?
For some perspective, I called Jane Oates, the president of WorkingNation and a former
Obama administration official in the Department of Labor.
JANE OATES, President, WorkingNation: If people get the right ones, if they get valuable industry-recognized
credentials, they can get a job pretty quickly.
HARI SREENIVASAN: How does that change the landscape when it comes to people starting
to see their neighbor saying, wait a minute, I went to school for four years, and this
person over here just went for six months, and we're kind of at the same job?
JANE OATES: Well, I think the pandemic could set post-secondary education on its ear, because
people are really going to look at, is it worth it for me to go for a two-year or a
four-year degree, or do these quick credentials that are industry-recognized, get me a quicker
bang for my buck?
HARI SREENIVASAN: But, she warns, there are thousands of certificates out there. Not all
were created equal.
JANE OATES: People have been scammed in the past. So, people should be very careful when
they're selecting a program. Make sure that that credential is recognized by other employers.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Amina Abdoulaye will soon graduate the Year Up program and is already
working towards two certificates.
AMINA ABDOULAYE: Every day, I said, I deserve to work in corporate America, I deserve to
have skills, I deserve to add value, I deserve to do something better for my life.
HARI SREENIVASAN: She will keep repeating that, she says, one credential at a time,
until she makes it.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Hari Sreenivasan in New York.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Such an important series. Thank you.
And that's the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Judy Woodruff.
Thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.