June 22, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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June 22, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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06/22/2022 | 56m 41s | Video has closed captioning.
June 22, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: pain at the pump.
President Biden asks Congress to suspend the federal gas tax temporarily, as rising prices pinch drivers nationwide.
Then: guns in America.
Senators announce a bipartisan deal on firearm safety legislation in the wake of numerous mass shootings across the country.
And crimes of war.
The International Criminal Court'S top prosecutor investigates atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.
KARIM KHAN, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court: What we have to do is make sure we put the law into action.
And the law has to have meaning for those that are in shelters, those that are feeling insecure, those that have lost loved ones.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: President Biden is calling on Congress to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax.
The president told reporters today that he knows the proposal is not a permanent solution to rising prices at the pump.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: Now, I fully understand that a gas tax holiday alone is not going to fix the problem, but it will provide families some immediate relief, just a little bit of breathing room, as we continue working to bring down prices for the long haul.
JUDY WOODRUFF: White House correspondent Laura Barron-Lopez has been reporting on the president's proposal, and she joins me now to discuss.
So, hello, Laura.
Tell us, what is the effect of this proposal expected to be and how is it you received?
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Right.
So, this proposal would go into effect for three months if Congress ultimately decides to pass it.
That's a big if right now.
And so, currently, the federal gas tax is about 18 cents and the federal diesel tax is roughly 24 cents.
And so they have haven't been touched since 1993.
They haven't been increased at all.
And, right now, the average price of gas is about $4.95.
But the reception has been lukewarm, at best, from members on the Hill, including members within Biden's own party.
Speaker Pelosi has in the past called the idea of suspending the gas tax essentially a con and she doesn't think that it's very helpful to consumers.
And I was speaking to Jason Furman, a Harvard economist and former Obama administration economic adviser today, and he said that consumers will get about a few cents back at the gas pump, but that ultimately oil companies will receive billions in profits.
And so the big question there is whether or not those oil companies then decide to lower the prices at the pump because of the profits that they're receiving.
And our colleague Lisa Desjardins has heard a lot from Democratic leadership sources today that, right now, the votes just aren't there on the Hill for this.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, ultimately, how much power does the president have to do anything about gas prices, to do anything about inflation overall?
And, do we know, is the administration planning to do any -- try to do anything else?
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: So there are a lot of other options that the administration is considering.
At the end of the day, Judy, there are a lot of limitations on President Biden and what he can ultimately do not just for gas prices, but also inflation more broadly.
One thing the White House is considering is lifting China tariffs on some household goods, bicycles, et cetera.
That's something that they're considering right now.
Another thing is that the Energy Department secretary, Jennifer Granholm, is about to meet tomorrow with oil executives.
And she's really going to push them, she said today to reporters, to try to again use the profits that they're going to ultimately get back if a gas tax holiday is implemented.
And the profits that they're getting right now, she is going to try to push them to send that back to the consumer, to lower prices at the pump.
Now, there's been a bit of a duking back and forth between oil executives and President Biden lately.
So it remains to be seen whether or not those conversations go anywhere.
But another big way that they -- there could be an impact on inflation comes down to the Federal Reserve.
And so Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell was testifying before senators today about the possibility of an interest rate raise and what impact that would have on the economy.
SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): Do you agree with perspective that, if interest rates go too high too fast, that it could drive us into a recession?
JEROME POWELL, Federal Reserve Chairman: It's certainly a possibility.
It's not our intended outcome at all.
But it's certainly a possibility.
And, frankly, the events of the last few months around the world have made it more difficult for us to achieve what we want, which is 2 percent inflation, and still a strong labor market.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: So, we heard Powell there say that a recession is a possibility, not likely.
We have heard a rosier picture from the White House, essentially.
Biden has repeated again and again that he thinks that it is not inevitable and to really try to tell the public to not be worried about it just yet.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Pretty significant acknowledgement there by the Fed chair.
So, all this is happening, Laura, the midterm elections just five months away.
Right now, we know the president's approval rating hovering, on average, about 40 percent.
What do we know about how voters might react to a gas tax suspension?
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Right.
So I was talking to Democratic pollsters today, and they say that this is really popular with voters, that, at the end of the day, they acknowledge the reality that it is marginal savings for consumers and for voters, but voters in polling and in focus groups have told veteran Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who actually worked on President Biden's presidential campaign -- she said they want to see the president do everything at his disposal, even if it is something like he did today, which is simply calling on Congress, calling on states to follow suit and also suspend their state gas taxes.
So, she said that, the more that they see him out there creating a record of attempts to try to curb inflation, to try to curb gas prices, then she said the better off it is for him, as well as Democrats heading into November.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Of course, all this happens in a political environment.
At the same time, people are watching how much everything costs.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Laura Barron-Lopez, thank you.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Whatever happens regarding the gas tax, Congress does appear poised to deliver the biggest overhaul of the nation's gun laws in nearly three decades.
It is a development few observers believed possible, even as mass shootings like those in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, shook the country.
Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins joins me now to explain what is in this bill, what's not, and where the proposal goes from here.
So, Lisa, let's start.
Let's start with the fact that this has several elements to it.
Tell us what's in here.
What does it look like?
LISA DESJARDINS: This is an 80-page bill.
That's not very long when you talk about how much it does, but it has some very specific elements to it.
And we want to start with that idea of, what are we talking about with guns specifically?
Let's take a look.
First of all, the title of this bill, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
In here, there are $750 million in grants that would help state and local officials and counties if they want to enforce and do more to implement things like red flag laws, crisis intervention.
That money also can be spent on mental health and veterans courts.
So it's sort of up to communities what they do with that.
This also would block boyfriends and girlfriends who have been convicted of domestic abuse from purchasing a firearm for at least five years, and it would crack down on straw purchases.
Those are the idea -- that's the idea that someone purchases a gun legally, but actually is doing it for someone else who is not able to buy it legally, and then sells it to them.
That is now -- that would be illegal under this law.
So, in there, you see sort of different kinds of provisions appealing to different sorts of people, but all of them new aspects of gun law in the United States that would pass with this law.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, Lisa, we know also this includes part of an effort that is focused on young men who are troubled who may become violent.
Tell us about what in the bill would address that.
LISA DESJARDINS: And we're going to take some time to talk about that, because that, in fact, is one of the main reasons that we're here, the shootings in Uvalde and also in Buffalo.
What do we know about those shootings?
The suspects in those shootings teenagers, people between the ages of 18 and 21, able to get a hold of an assault-style or long gun, able to use those, of course, to -- with incredibly lethal effect.
Now, here's what the bill does on that, in terms of tackling this idea of troubled youth.
There would be a new record check for anyone 18 to 21 years old who would attempt to buy a long gun.
That record check would last somewhere between three and 10 days, at least three days.
And it would look into juvenile records, mental health records for young people, which are now not part of the process at all.
Now, here's the thing, though, Judy.
Reading the bill last night, I discovered that that provision actually would sunset in 2032.
It is a temporary provision.
And that is part of the compromise here.
But this is something that people think is significant and could save lives.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lisa, we know that, while we're talking about, this is being described as the most significant gun -- or bill to address gun violence in decades.
How did we get to this point of even having it?
LISA DESJARDINS: Well, I think there are a few elements.
Some of them have to do with personalities.
The two people who really pushed this through the most were Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who, of course, is known at the forefront of this debate because he's close to Newtown, and really took up the mantle of this idea of gun reform after the Sandy Hook shootings.
But then there's John Cornyn of Texas, which has seen repeated mass shootings in his state.
The two of them got together and led this effort.
And here's what they have said in the last day about the bill that they were able to craft.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): I don't want us to pass a bill for the purpose of checking a box.
I want to make sure we actually do something useful.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): This bill will be too little for many.
It'll be too much for others.
But it isn't a box-checking exercise.
This bill is not window dressing.
This bill is going to save lives.
LISA DESJARDINS: This was a focused bill.
And it isn't just about the two aspects I mentioned above, but also some really significant aspects on health and safety.
So, let's look at those kinds of provisions as well in this bill, billions for schools and pediatricians to get mental health training, to expand mental health services for young people, also $300 million for school safety, the wide range of uses that can have.
And it's interesting, Judy.
Something that Democrats got here in this compromise, grants cannot be used to fund gun training for teachers, something that Democrats didn't want to see.
And that is, in fact, blocked in this bill Judy, so notable not just what's in this bill, but who opposed it, the National Rifle Association.
The NRA is opposed to this.
This is the first bill in decades that we have seen likely to pass Congress on guns despite NRA opposition.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Lisa, what does the timeline look like on this?
If the Senate does pass it, what are the prospects in the House?
LISA DESJARDINS: Right.
It does look actually pretty good in the House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is on board.
We expect it to go through the Senate this week and the House to take it up after it comes back from July 4 recess.
So stay tuned.
But, right now it looks pretty good.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Stay tuned, for sure.
Lisa Desjardins, thank you.
LISA DESJARDINS: You're welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: Afghanistan's Taliban leaders are appealing for help after an earthquake killed at least 1,000 people and injured 1,500.
It struck in the eastern mountains near the Pakistan border.
Officials warned that the death toll may go higher still.
We will return to this after the news summary.
In Ukraine, Russian artillery batter the city of Kharkiv in the northeast for a second day.
Officials in Kyiv said the Russians hope to divert Ukrainian troops away from fierce fighting in the Eastern Donbass region.
In the Donbass, video from Chinese state TV offered a glimpse of the devastation in Severodonetsk.
Ukrainian troops there are still holding out against a Russian siege.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell pledged today to raise interest rates enough to douse inflation without sparking a recession.
Powell told a U.S. Senate hearing that he still hopes for a so-called soft landing.
Members on both sides of the aisle pressed him about the potential downside of aggressive rate hikes.
JEROME POWELL, Federal Reserve Chairman: Of course, we're not trying to provoke and don't think that we will need to provoke a recession.
But we do think it's absolutely essential that we restore price stability, really for the benefit of the labor market, as much as anything else.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Last week, the Fed raised a key rate by three-quarters-of-a-point.
That was the most in nearly three decades.
The prime minister of Sri Lanka has declared his nation's economy is in complete collapse, and he's appealing for foreign assistance.
He spoke today as the island nation faces severe shortages of food, fuel and electricity.
Inflation is running near 40 percent, and Sri Lankans have protested on a near daily basis.
Many blame government inaction.
LAKMALI MUNASINGHE, Local Councillor and Protester (through translator): Our children don't have milk powder, no fuel for our husbands to do their jobs.
We don't have gas to cook.
How can we live?
We came to tell this government, if they can't govern, then please leave.
They are all thieves.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sri Lanka has suffered from lost tourism revenue during the pandemic and from soaring commodity costs.
Back in this country, Yellowstone National Park partially reopened today after record flooding.
This morning, hundreds of vehicles waited to get in for the first time since June 13, when 10,000 visitors were evacuated.
The Old Faithful geyser was again a major attraction.
The northern part of the park is expected to remain closed until at least July.
And on Wall Street, stocks ended slightly lower as crude oil prices fell 4 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 47 points to close at 30483.
The Nasdaq fell 16 points.
The S&P 500 dropped five.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": Raphael Warnock recounts his rise to the U.S. Senate in a new memoir; Missouri becomes the latest state to use COVID relief to support underfunded schools; how guitarist and singer Molly Tuttle became a bluegrass music star; plus much more.
For a country already suffering through economic and humanitarian catastrophe, the earthquake in Afghanistan today makes an awful situation even worse.
With the Taliban government under severe international sanctions, getting aid and comfort, not to mention medical care, to the remote mountains in the east is a monumental task.
Here's Amna Nawaz.
AMNA NAWAZ: It was Afghanistan's deadliest earthquake in two decades.
Villagers there recounted the terrifying moment their homes turned to rubble.
The 6.1-magnitude quake struck this rural region in the night.
Houses made of mud, bricks, and stone crumbled in an instant.
FAISAL, Paktika Province (through translator): It was about midnight when the quake struck.
It destroyed the houses of our neighbors.
When we arrived, there were many dead and wounded.
They sent us to the hospital.
I also saw many dead bodies.
AMNA NAWAZ: The epicenter was located in the eastern part of the country near the Pakistani border.
Most of the dead were in Paktika Province.
Damaged roadways in this mountainous region have kept rescuers from reaching the area.
Residents are resorting to using their bare hands to dig through the rubble searching for survivors.
Mustafa Madatkhail is the program director for the International Medical Corps, one of several humanitarian organizations helping with the emergency response.
MUSTAFA MADATKHAIL, Afghanistan Program Director, International Medical Corps: There was a lot of injuries and deaths.
It was unable to covered by one NGO, by two NGOs, even by five, six, even by 20 NGOs.
It was difficult.
It was a mass casualty.
I'm sure that deaths and injuries will increase more and more.
AMNA NAWAZ: The few helicopters that were able to reach the quake zone evacuated the wounded for treatment and delivered much needed medical supplies and food.
But responding to a tragedy of this magnitude will be a major test for the Taliban.
Most international aid was stopped to Afghanistan after they seized power 10 months ago.
Today, Taliban leaders desperately appealed for help.
MAWLAWI SHARAFUDDIN MUSLIM, Afghan Taliban Deputy Minister of Natural Disaster (through translator): When such a big incident happens in any country, there is a need for help from other countries.
It is very difficult for us to be able to respond to this huge incident.
We ask the international community to cooperate with us and continue their support.
AMNA NAWAZ: President Biden has directed USAID and other federal government partners to assess how the U.S. will respond to the disaster.
Joining me now is Samira Sayed Rahman.
She's a communication and advocacy coordinator for the International Rescue Committee and is based in Kabul.
Samira, welcome to the "NewsHour."
And thank you for joining us.
SAMIRA SAYED RAHMAN, International Rescue Committee: Thank you for having me today.
AMNA NAWAZ: So let's just start with what we know.
What have you been able to learn about the extent of the devastation?
How many people have been injured or killed?
What do you know right now?
SAMIRA SAYED RAHMAN: What I'm hearing from the ground is that it is an absolutely devastating situation.
We have upwards of 1,000 people killed, scores more injured.
We hear that 1,800 homes have been destroyed as a result of this earthquake that took place in the middle of the night.
These areas that are most affected are some of the poorest and most remote areas in the country.
They lack the appropriate infrastructure.
People do not have the economic means to build proper housing.
And, as a result, most of these areas had mud homes that have basically been razed to the ground.
AMNA NAWAZ: And you mentioned this happened in the middle of the night, meaning people were at home sleeping when this happened.
SAMIRA SAYED RAHMAN: Yes.
People were in their in their beds, in their homes.
It was around 2:00 a.m. We felt a jolt here in Kabul, didn't think much of it.
And then, slowly, the news started to come in.
It took a while, due to the fact that telecom towers had also gone down and been damaged.
And that's also impacting some of the recovery efforts.
AMNA NAWAZ: This is a remote part of the country.
As you mentioned, telecom towers have now been impacted.
What does this mean for what you and your organization are able to do right now or not do?
SAMIRA SAYED RAHMAN: It's very challenging.
Again, Afghanistan is currently in the midst of a horrific economic crisis and a worsening humanitarian crisis, even before this earthquake took place.
Humanitarian organizations right now are coordinating with one another, so that we can better understand the impact and the scale of the destruction that has occurred, and how best we can spread out the resources and the capacities that we have in order to reach the most number of affected people.
AMNA NAWAZ: What about the government?
As we know, this Taliban government's been in power now since August of 2021.
Do you know anything about their resources or capability to respond?
SAMIRA SAYED RAHMAN: Well, one of the areas which has been struggling quite a bit over the course of the last nine months is the health sector.
The health sector relied heavily on donor funding.
And much of that has been suspended over the course of that nine months.
I visited a hospital in Paktia, a neighboring province to the one that has been -- the two that have been affected,just a couple of weeks ago.
And this is a regional hospital that is supposed to cover Paktia, Paktika, Logar, and Khost.
They were struggling.
They were struggling.
You had three babies to an incubator.
You had hallways lined with women holding malnourished babies.
The health sector in Afghanistan is at a brink of collapse right now.
And this is only going to get worse with this catastrophe that happened.
AMNA NAWAZ: You mentioned the lack of donor funds.
That's largely because no country in the world recognizes, officially recognizes this Taliban government.
Do you worry that lack of donor aid coming in will now hinder your and other organizations' ability to respond to this latest tragedy?
SAMIRA SAYED RAHMAN: You know, a lack of funds has been the greatest issue in dealing with the humanitarian crisis over the course of the past nine months.
We are struggling to get money into the country with the banking sector and sanctions that have been put in place.
A lot of small and local NGOs that do operate in these remote areas have basically shut down and are not operational.
So a lot of the burden has fallen upon international organizations, as we do have mechanisms in order to bring funds into the country.
However, it's still not enough.
The situation is worsening by the day.
And now we have this catastrophe of this earthquake that took place that is only going to exacerbate the humanitarian aid community, as well as the public sector.
AMNA NAWAZ: That is Samira Sayed Rahman.
She's with the International Rescue Committee, joining us tonight from Kabul.
Thank you for your time.
SAMIRA SAYED RAHMAN: Thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Attorney General Merrick Garland traveled to Ukraine this week to discuss U.S. efforts to help prosecute Russian war criminals.
Ukrainian authorities say they are investigating more than 15,000 possible war crimes committed by Russia since the country invaded in February.
The U.S. and European countries are also supporting an International Criminal Court investigation.
Nick Schifrin talks to the ICC prosecutor about the pursuit of justice.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The horrors of a horrific war, more than 1,000 Ukrainians in Bucha bound and executed by Russian soldiers buried in a mass grave, a theater in Mariupol destroyed by a direct Russian strike, as hundreds of women and children hid inside, outside, their city obliterated, many residents forcibly deported into Russia.
Kyiv has already found a Russian soldier guilty of killing a Ukrainian citizen and sentenced him to life.
But Russian war crimes are widespread and include the killing, torture and rape of civilians during armed conflict.
Those are the violations set out in the 1998 Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court.
GEORGE W. BUSH, Former President of the United States: The International Criminal Court is troubling to the United States.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In 2002, President George W. Bush withdrew U.S. support.
But, today, the U.S. is aiding ICC prosecutor Karim Khan's investigation in Ukraine, where he's working with top prosecutor Iryna Venediktova.
I spoke to Khan today from The Hague.
When you opened your investigation in Ukraine on February 28, you said that there was a reasonable basis to believe alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed.
Today, almost four months later, do you also believe that possible genocide has been committed?
KARIM KHAN, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court: It's a great question, Nick, but we're at the early stages of an investigation.
Analysts, investigators, lawyers, forensic experts have been and are on the ground.
And we will in due course make determinations, but we can't put the cart before the horse.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Some of the atrocities we have seen, including Russia forcibly deporting Ukrainian children, are specifically written into the Genocide Convention, Russia trying to destroy entire Ukrainian cities.
Even if it is early in the investigation, do those kinds of acts become the basis for a genocide investigation?
KARIM KHAN: We have seen and were looking into a number of allegations, including the allegations regarding the unlawful transfer of civilians, and children in particular.
And they could give rise to legal liability on a number of grounds.
But I'm not going to start pontificating on what are theoretical possibilities.
There are real -- there is real suffering.
That's not theoretical.
There's real suffering we're seeing.
What we have to do is make sure we put the law into action.
And the law has to have meaning for those that are in shelters, those that are feeling insecure, those that have lost loved ones are -- or are today, as we speak, facing bombardments or different conduct that may constitute international crimes.
And I think that's what we're focusing on.
NICK SCHIFRIN: How difficult is it to collect evidence when the crime scene, as you have called it, is a war zone?
KARIM KHAN: Well, it's not a walk in the park.
It's difficult, because I have got a duty of care to staff.
But it's not impossible.
We saw effective investigations in the former Yugoslavia.
I think we have seen time and time again that there can be accountability.
Nobody believed, Nick, that, when the guns were firing in the Balkans, that Milosevic, President Milosevic or Karadzic or Mladic would ever be brought to an international court.
Nobody thought at the height of the genocide in Rwanda that the former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda and others would be brought to court.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Are you collecting evidence that you believe could lead to any kind of prosecution of President Putin himself or any senior Russian officials around him?
KARIM KHAN: All individuals have responsibilities, from a foot soldier to a general to a civilian superior.
Everybody involved in conflict that has engaged in hostilities or has responsibilities to prevent or punish, they can be held accountable.
One of the legacies, Nick, from Nuremberg was the principle that there's no statute of limitations for war crimes.
So I think we need to have the perseverance, but also we need to find new ways, innovative ways, to mobilize the law as soon as possible.
NICK SCHIFRIN: There is no statute of limitations, but there are, of course, jurisdictional questions.
You won't prosecute any crime that Ukraine's prosecutor general is prosecuting.
You visited her multiple times.
You're working closely with her.
Have you and her made any kind of decision yet about how to divide some of the prosecutions up?
KARIM KHAN: Yes, we have had many discussions.
I think Ukraine has a fantastic prosecutor general in Iryna Venediktova.
If her state piece is willing and able, they have the first right and indeed the first responsibility to investigate and prosecute crimes on their territory.
But we are -- given the scale of criminality, which is absolutely massive, whatever the level, we will move forward and we will have discussions with our Ukrainian counterparts and decide, if there is evidence, what is the best forum?
Is the best forum the ICC or is it domestic court?
For this nature, the reality, everybody has to have a role.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Let's talk about some of your coordination with the United States and the Biden administration.
Senior U.S. officials tell me that you have submitted requests for intelligence.
U.S. law prevents any administration from funding the ICC, but it doesn't prevent the U.S. from providing intelligence or people to the ICC.
In general, do you believe that the Biden administration is providing as much assistance to you in this investigation as U.S. law allows?
KARIM KHAN: We have had good communications and good meetings with the U.S. administration and, in fact, bipartisan.
If we can work together, we can get more justice than we have at the moment.
But, of course, I think there's always areas for significant improvement.
I'm not going to -- in an ideal world, I would make many suggestions, but it's not my prerogative.
There are conversations going on.
And I hope, of course, we can build trust and we can get evermore support from all state parties, including the United States.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Pursuing someone like President Putin or other senior Russian officials could be done by another crime, the crime of aggression.
The ICC, of course, does not have jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.
But do you support Ukraine using the crime of aggression, which is in its legal code, or the creation of some kind of independent tribunal to use the crime of aggression against senior Russian officials?
KARIM KHAN: In terms of other entities, other mechanisms, I think there needs to be a dose of realism.
The ICC has been here for 20 years.
It's been historically under-resourced.
It has a clear jurisdiction.
And there are some perhaps unforeseen consequences or difficulties by creating other mechanisms.
I think we should focus on mobilizing what is already here, what already exists.
But we can become rather self-indulgent in creating things that we would like.
I'd rather focus on what we have and put it into action effectively.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Karim Khan of the International Criminal Court, thank you very much.
KARIM KHAN: Thank you so much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Georgia's U.S.
Senator Raphael Warnock gained national attention in January 2021 when he won his high-profile Senate race.
But, before that, he was best known as the senior pastor at Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Senator Warnock is up for reelection this year.
And with a few months to go before voters cast their ballots, he's out with a new memo or that describes his journey to the pulpit and then to the halls of Congress.
It is titled "A Way Out of No Way."
And I spoke with him moments ago.
Senator Warnock, thank you very much for joining us.
This is part of your telling your story, the 11 of -- 11th of 12 children in your family, grew up in public housing project in Savannah, Georgia, first in your family to go to college.
I want to ask what you meant when in the title it says "A Way Out of No Way" and "The New American Story."
What did you mean by that?
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): Thank you so very much.
It's wonderful to be here with you.
So, the title of the memoir, "A Way Out of No Way," comes straight from the Black church.
And let me hasten to say that, when we say the Black church, we have never meant anything racially exclusive by that.
I'm talking about the anti-slavery church, the church that slaves built, and out of which Martin Luther King Jr. and so many others emerge, calling America to its best self.
And you're not in a Black church for long before you hear someone in the pulpit or maybe even in the pew say, our God makes a way out of no way.
It is a phrase and an expression born of suffering, quite frankly, and of oppression, but of keeping the faith over, against long odds, hoping against hope, putting one foot in front of the other, and never giving into despair, to know that, as we push our way, we may not know exactly how things will move from day to day, but, ultimately, we're going to be all right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So many stories in the book about your growing up and about your time as you made your way through life.
You became a minister after theological school.
You have clearly had your trials and tribulations.
What was it, 25 years ago, your older brother, Keith, who is a police officer, arrested, sentenced to life in prison for being involved in a drug ring.
What did you learn from that experience?
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Well, indeed, it was one of the darkest and most difficult moments in my family's life, one that we continue to wrestle through.
He was released after 22 years of a life sentence, ironically, because of COVID and the pandemic and the overcrowding of prisons in a country where we are 6 percent of the world's population, we Americans, but we warehouse 25 percent of the world's prisoners.
And so it gave me a lens into the things that need to be corrected in our criminal justice system, the so-called war on drugs that literally hollowed out entire communities, particularly Black and brown communities.
We're seeing it play out now in rural communities with the opioid epidemic.
It gave me a kind of compassion and tender heart as a pastor as I dealt with others who were going through the same thing, and it informs my work as a legislator.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you do bring your background as a pastor to the United States Senate.
You have served now for a year-and-a-half at a time of historic gridlock in Washington, in the Senate.
Having seen it up close, do you have a formula for how to break through that gridlock?
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: These are difficult days, but I think you get up every morning, you do your work, and you try to build coalitions, and sometimes unlikely alliances with people who may not agree with you on everything, all for the sake of building what Dr. King called the beloved community.
That's our calling in a moment like this.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, one of the unlikely coming together, if you will, is just -- we have seen it just in the last day or so over gun legislation, gun control.
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It looks as if there could be an agreement in the Senate.
It's clearly not what you and many other Democrats wanted.
But is it something you could support?
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Well, what I want -- well, what I want us is to see us break the gridlock.
I mean, Columbine happened about three decades ago.
Think about that.
We have adults in America who, for them and their children, they don't remember a world, as I do, when you didn't have to teach kindergartners what to do in the case of an active shooter.
This has been our experience now, for generation-and-a-half.
Here's what the Senate cannot afford to do, to wash our hands of the issue and say we can't do anything.
So I have gotten a good look at this bill.
I have been working, and with my colleagues, and encouraging those who've been at the center of this work.
And this is a good moment.
We're going to save lives when we pass this legislation and I think lay the foundation for figuring out what else we can do for the American people together.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Another issue before the country right now, Senator, is the high cost of gasoline.
As you know, President Biden today announced a three-month suspension of the federal gas tax.
You had been asking for a suspension through the end of the year.
Is this something you can support?
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Well, in fact, I introduced the Gas Tax Relief Act back in February.
So I have been pushing for this for the better part of the year.
I'm now happy to see the president is fully on board with this.
And I can tell you that, for consumers in Georgia, hardworking families trying to work it out, this can't come soon enough.
And I hope we can get this done sooner than later.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Your race for reelection, Senator, you're up against a Georgia football legend in Herschel Walker as the Republican nominee.
It's been reported just in the past few days that he has fathered three more children than he had previously acknowledged.
He's getting a lot of attention over that.
His campaign, in turn, has turned around and accused you of being involved in a nasty custody fight with your former wife.
This has gotten down and dirty quickly, hasn't it?
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Well, I think it's going to be a long campaign.
And the people of Georgia have a stark choice to make about who they think is ready to represent them in the United States Senate.
I'm the most junior member of the U.S. Senate.
Out of 100, I'm number 100.
And yet I punch way above my weight.
We passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
I have worked with Republicans to get things that I think are good for the people of Georgia.
I have worked with my colleague in Alabama to help Georgia farmers get their goods to market.
I'm pushing now for this gas tax relief, something I have been arguing for since February.
And I'm trying to cap the cost of insulin.
I'm going to keep my eye on the ball, if you will, and on the people of Georgia.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Raphael Warnock, candidate for reelection to the Senate and the author of the new book "A Way Out of No Way."
Senator, thank you very much.
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Great to be with you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Schools across the country are getting much-needed upgrades thanks to the COVID relief package known as the American Rescue Plan.
That's true in Missouri, where the state legislature decided how to allocate the federal money just weeks before it was set to expire.
But experts say fixing systemic funding gaps in public education will require long-term, sustained investment communities.
Correspondent Gabrielle Hays has more from St. Louis.
GABRIELLE HAYS: Fourth-grader David Oliverires is one of 225 students at Pierre Laclede Junior Career Academy, a pre-K-through-seventh-grade school on St. Louis' West Side.
Soon, the classrooms he and his teacher work in the halls, they walk down will see new paint, an improvement his dad, Cory Oliverires, says is long overdue.
CORY OLIVERIRES, Parent: Funds don't seem to be or appearing to be equally disbursed throughout the St. Louis area.
I mean, you can just look at our schools.
Look at the schools on this side of town.
Look at the schools on the other side of town.
GABRIELLE HAYS: Missouri schools, like many across the country, heavily rely on local funding sources such as property taxes to fund public education.
In neighborhoods where property values are lower, often communities of color, schools like Laclede may not get as much funding as those in wealthier neighborhoods.
Missouri also ranks 49th in the nation when it comes to state funding for education, according to a state auditor report from 2021.
That lack of funding also extends to teacher pay.
Missouri is home to the lowest base salaries for teachers across the country at $25,000 a year.
However, both the state and St. Louis public schools have recently approved increases to base salaries that Oliverires says were desperately needed.
CORY OLIVERIRES: These teachers are here.
The teachers are very talented.
They're not getting paid for what they're putting in.
I get emotional because I know how it is to be behind.
It's a struggle to get caught up.
GABRIELLE HAYS: Kimberly Norwood is a professor at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.
She says Missouri's lack of education funding has historical roots.
KIMBERLY NORWOOD, Washington University in St. Louis School of Law: Missouri became a state in 1821.
And, shortly thereafter, the state enacted anti-literacy laws that prevented Blacks, whether free or enslaved, from reading or writing.
GABRIELLE HAYS: Though slavery was abolished in 1865, the Supreme Court decision Plessy vs. Ferguson upheld state segregation laws decades later.
Norwood says that the ruling's separate but equal doctrine meant schools were never really equal.
KIMBERLY NORWOOD: So, those Black schools end up being overcrowded.
They didn't have the resources.
They weren't given the money.
The teachers weren't paid the same.
GABRIELLE HAYS: Nearly 60 years later, the landmark civil rights case Brown vs. Board of Education overturned the Plessy decision.
KIMBERLY NORWOOD: Missouri begins a process to end segregated schools.
We haven't gotten there yet.
So it's 2022.
GABRIELLE HAYS: For Norwood, Missouri's current funding model exacerbates the problem.
KIMBERLY NORWOOD: The amount of money that you get for education is going to depend on how much the property values are in your district.
So it's a property-rich, property-poor scenario.
PAMELA WESTBROOKS-HODGE, Missouri State Board of Education: It solidifies the cycle of poverty.
GABRIELLE HAYS: Pamela Westbrooks-Hodge is a member of the Missouri Board of Education.
And after spending years working in education and finance, she says the current funding model can have an impact on economic mobility.
PAMELA WESTBROOKS-HODGE: Because my housing values are low, I don't have the educational outcomes that perhaps I should.
I'm not as prepared.
And so what are my career opportunities?
Am I likely to go to college?
GABRIELLE HAYS: Back at Laclede, principal DaMaris White said her students are still working through barriers the pandemic made worse.
DAMARIS WHITE, Principal, Pierre Laclede Junior Career Academy: It's like now we have to catch up to where they are.
So, in order to do that, it takes funding.
We cannot educate our children the way that they need to be educated without funding.
GABRIELLE HAYS: Missouri now has an unprecedented $2 billion in COVID relief funds that will, for the most part, directly to schools.
But after decades of underfunding, districts are now trying to figure out how best to use that money and how to fill in gaps that existed before the pandemic even started.
Schools are using the money to help with everything, from addressing learning loss to hiring mental health counselors.
St. Louis Public Schools received $103 million and used what they call an equity index to distribute the funds.
That process reviews things like total enrollment and the number of students on free and reduced lunch.
Laclede is using the money to update their library and cafeteria, among other much-needed improvements.
DAMARIS WHITE: New furniture in some of the classrooms, more field trips, more field experiences for our students as well.
GABRIELLE HAYS: Students now have iPads, and their teachers stay late for new after-school programs, all things they didn't have before, all things Principal White says the extra COVID relief money made possible.
DAMARIS WHITE: To be able to have a STEM lab, after-school programming for reading and math and those interventions, and to have small group and one-on-one with the teachers has been -- it's just been great.
GABRIELLE HAYS: While the COVID relief funds are a boon, that money, says Pamela Westbrooks-Hodge, is just a temporary fix to a structural problem.
PAMELA WESTBROOKS-HODGE: I think we keep putting Band-Aids on the surface wounds that we see.
But systems thinking says keep peeling back the layers to understand root cause.
And so that's why addressing resourcing flows structurally to make them more equitable, to send more dollars in where they're needed on a sustained basis is needed.
GABRIELLE HAYS: For Professor Norwood, the question of equity is key.
Why do you think that this issue continues to linger?
KIMBERLY NORWOOD: I think we talk that talk about equity and equality, but we don't really mean it.
And if it's not good enough for your kid, it shouldn't be good enough for mine.
GABRIELLE HAYS: For Mr. Oliverires, who's put four kids through St. Louis public schools, the future of education is personal.
CORY OLIVERIRES: I had a child that came here that I had to resign from a job because of behavior problems.
They were so bad that I was here three or four times a week.
Had I not, I don't know where this child would be right now.
GABRIELLE HAYS: Today, his son David has dreams of being a movie star and a basketball player, and his daughter's Tori's (ph) outlook on her future has changed.
CORY OLIVERIRES: With the help of the staff here, we were able to get her through school, through elementary school.
She's now interested in college.
she's made a turnaround.
Without the staff here, it wouldn't have happened.
GABRIELLE HAYS: It is those dreams Mr. Oliverires says that fuel his passion for advocating for students and making sure they have the tools they need to be who they want to be.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Gabrielle Hays in St. Louis.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Few women get named to those greatest all-time guitar player lists that come out now and then.
But, as special correspondent Tom Casciato reports, there's one playing bluegrass who appears to be on her way.
It's part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.
TOM CASCIATO: Molly Tuttle is at the top of her profession.
Her profession is bluegrass guitar picker, the first woman named International Bluegrass Music Association's guitar player of the year.
She was drawn to this traditional American art form from the cradle, but the story of how she got from here to here is not entirely traditional.
Start with the title song of her most recent album, "Crooked Tree".
MOLLY TUTTLE, Musician: I wrote that song with my friend Melody Walker.
We had seen a quote by Tom Waits.
It kind of said like, when they chop down the trees in a forest, the crooked trees are the ones left standing.
Melody grew up having scoliosis and had to wear back brace all through school.
And, for me, I lost my hair to alopecia when I was 3 years old.
I always felt like I looked way different than other kids.
I got teased for it.
When I stood on stage, that was something that made me feel good about myself.
So I had this hat that I would always wear.
And I would, like, pull it down really low over my face.
TOM CASCIATO: She learned to play stringed instruments from her dad, Jack Tuttle, who taught at the local music shop in Palo Alto, California, the town where Molly also attended high school.
MOLLY TUTTLE: When I transitioned to Palo Alto High, it was like a clean break, where I could be whoever I wanted, basically.
And that's when I started wearing wigs, which was a huge relief, because I didn't get those comments and, like, the whispers or people staring at me anymore.
But it made me feel like I was keeping an even bigger secret, because now people -- well, at least I felt like people couldn't tell as much that I had alopecia.
TOM CASCIATO: Folks could tell she was becoming quite a musician, performing with her father and brothers, with their friend A.J.
MOLLY TUTTLE: It was called The Tuttles with A.J.
Lee, which is not the most catchy band name in the world.
(LAUGHTER) TOM CASCIATO: She honed her craft jamming at bluegrass festivals, where, at least once, she found herself honing her feminism as well.
MOLLY TUTTLE: And how a bluegrass jam works is usually, like, you just pass around solos in a circle, basically.
And so I joined this jam, and I knew most of the people in the jam, but there was one guy that I had never met before.
And it was kind of going around.
When it gets to me, he leans over me and points to the banjo player on my left and says, you take the solo.
When you're a woman in music, a lot of times, you're second-guessing yourself.
Well, was -- are they treating me like this because I'm a woman?
But, in that instance I was like, OK, I know this was real.
I'm not making this up.
TOM CASCIATO: Did you read music growing up?
MOLLY TUTTLE: No, not at all.
(LAUGHTER) MOLLY TUTTLE: I learned by ear, and I didn't know anything about what chords were called.
And that was a struggle when I got to music college.
They kind of rank you in different areas, like music theory, reading.
And I ranked so low.
I got like all the lowest rankings on everything.
It was like one to five, and I was like one, one, one, one, one.
TOM CASCIATO: What she did know at Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music was how to write, play and sing a song.
Professionally, she was on her way.
But she says always performing in a wig was nagging at her.
MOLLY TUTTLE: I decided, like, I can't, like, keep this a secret from my fans anymore.
I want to talk about it openly.
It's Alopecia Awareness Month, so I thought I would start off with a reveal, taking off my wig.
TOM CASCIATO: Nowadays, you can find her raising funds for the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
Meanwhile, the fellow who skipped her solo at that long-ago bluegrass jam might want to listen to this.
Fellow musicians marvel.
KETCH SECOR, Musician: It's pretty unparalleled.
It's like the fretboard is a road that she's been driving down her whole life.
TOM CASCIATO: One of her frequent collaborators is Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor.
KETCH SECOR: And like, if I had to pick a surgeon, I'd say, give me one with a hand like Molly Tuttle's.
TOM CASCIATO: she's also taken unexpected turns for an artist known for bluegrass.
On an album she did of cover tunes, she included the Rolling Stones' psychedelic classic "She's a Rainbow."
MOLLY TUTTLE: Like, out of context, to me, that sounds kind of like a feminist empowerment song.
And I loved the piano part.
I instantly wanted to learn it on a guitar.
I felt like that was what I wanted to do with the cover album, was take these songs and flip them around and take them from a totally different perspective.
And, that one, I instantly knew that I felt like I could bring my own voice and take on.
TOM CASCIATO: And even when it feels like she's going old-school, there's often a twist.
"San Francisco Blues" might have the sound and feel of a classic country waltz, but its theme is utterly contemporary, how expensive it's become to live in the Bay Area.
MOLLY TUTTLE: It is crazy.
Like, when I go back to Palo Alto, my mom is like, well, like, none of the grocery stores can find people to live or to work there, because no one who works at a grocery store can live anywhere near Palo Alto.
Like, our favorite restaurants and places from when I was a kid are all going out of business, because, if you work at a restaurant, you have to live like hours away from Palo Alto.
You can't afford to live anywhere near there.
Same with San Francisco.
TOM CASCIATO: It is music traditional, yet somehow current.
Maybe that's the fruit you should expect from a crooked tree.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Tom Casciato.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Molly Tuttle, she's like a breath of fresh air.
And that is 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.