Washington Week full episode, September 30, 2022
09/30/2022 | 26m 45s | Video has closed captioning.
Washington Week full episode, September 30, 2022
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09/30/2022 | 26m 45s | Video has closed captioning.
Washington Week full episode, September 30, 2022
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: A deadly and dangerous storm and a tense political climate.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida's history.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Hurricane Ian batters Florida and makes landfall again.
President Biden declares a major disaster for Florida and the state still in Ian's hat.
RON DESANTIS, Governor, Florida: You got people's lives at stake.
You got their property at stake.
We don't have time for pettiness.
We got to work together.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: But, as the midterms near, how long can partisanship be put aside.
Meanwhile, overseas, Russian President Vladimir Putin brings Ukrainian territory under Russian control illegally, and says he would defend the brazen land grab with a veiled nuclear threat.
Plus, Ginni Thomas, right-wing activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, meets with the January 6 Committee.
ROGER STONE, Ally to Donald Trump, Former President of the United States: The key thing to do is to claim victory.
No, we won.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: New stunning video of Trump ally, Roger Stone, calling for violence days before the 2020 election, next.
(BREAK) YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Good evening, and welcome to Washington Week.
This evening, millions of Americans remain impacted by one of the worst disasters in Florida's history, Hurricane Ian unleashed 150 mile per hour winds and unprecedented flooding.
And, as Ian continues its devastating path, a state of emergency has been issued in four other states, Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas.
The storm has leaders putting party politics aside at least for now.
Florida's Governor Republican Ron DeSantis, and President Biden, are keeping in touch on the state's recovery.
RON DESANTIS: He said all hands on deck that he wants to be helpful, and he said ask whatever you need, ask us.
JOE BIDEN: This is about saving people's lives, homes and businesses.
I've talked to him four or five times already.
And, it's not a matter of my disagreements with him on other items.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: But, with the midterm elections less than six weeks away, political television ads continue to air in Florida.
(VIDEO PLAYING) YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Joining me tonight in studio, all four of them, to discuss this and more.
Yasmeen Abutaleb, White House Reporter for "The Washington Post"; David Sanger, White House and National Security Correspondent for "The New York Times"; Ryan Reilly, Justice Reporter for NBC News, and Eugene Daniels, White House Correspondent and Co-Author of POLITICO Playbook.
And, some breaking news for Eugene, from 2024 to 2025, he will be the President of the White House Correspondents' Association, so, congratulations so much, Eugene.
I mean, since you're president now, of course, we're going to start with you, because why not?
EUGENE DANIELS, White House Correspondent, POLITICO, & Co-Author, POLITICO Playbook: Only fair.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: It's only fair.
So, of course, Hurricane Ian has forced President Biden and Ron DeSantis, two people who have criticized each other, to work together.
Tell me what your reporting has revealed about their efforts to try to actually respond to this hurricane, but also the political calculations here.
EUGENE DANIELS: Yes, because one thing that is really important to President Biden is to make sure he is seen as a president for all people.
We've heard him say that since he was running for the presidency.
And so, being able to put aside their kind of petty differences or the big differences that they have between each other, and the knife throwing that has been happening for months and months and will continue at some point, putting that aside is what every aid talks about when you ask them how the president feels about what's going on right now.
And, I will say that will go away at some point, right?
President Biden, at some point, is probably going to go to Florida.
He is probably going to have to talk to and be seen with the governor, and will we get a moment, like in 2012, when President Obama kind of hugged Chris Christie and a lot of people looked at that as this was the hug that launched a reelection campaign or cement to President Obama's re-election, probably not.
But, they do need to be seen as doing that.
I think from the American people, it's good to see that politicians can put aside the nastiness at some point.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: What about the political risk here for Ron DeSantis?
What do you think he risks in being seen as possibly too friendly with President Biden?
EUGENE DANIELS: This is what happened with Chris Christie, right?
One of the things that people criticized him for, something Mitt Romney was a little upset with Chris Christie about, is you have to walk this line of thanking them for the money and the resources, but also still making it clear that you don't like them.
It's an odd place to be as a governor, but that is something that he is going to have to do so far.
And you saw him say it that this isn't a time for pettiness.
This is a time for people's lives and lives and lives, livelihoods are at stake, and that's probably going to continue.
That's the best way to handle these types of situations.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And, David, talking about sort of odd places to be and sort of odd places to find yourself, we have to point out that as a freshman Congressman in 2013, Republican Ron DeSantis, he opposed aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
He is now in a position where he has had to reverse the idea of aid for places that are hit by hurricanes.
What do you make of this change in stance within the governor?
DAVID SANGER, White House and National Security Correspondent, "The New York Times": Well, all politics are local.
And it sounds like there was a time for pettiness, and it was 2013, right?
You'll remember that Hurricane Sandy came up right through New York, right up through the New England states.
It was pretty devastating all the way around, and you didn't hear the same kind of we all need to work together.
You heard a, well, they should - terribly sorry that happened, but not a use for federal funds.
So, I think in some ways, it's a place to Biden and the sort of bipartisan look, because if he does show up down in Florida and I'm sure he will, and the two of them were together, it's going to be pretty clear that one of them is doing this despite the differences, and that DeSantis sort of stands out here.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And, as we play the political ads, it shows sort of in some ways that the midterms are still top of mind for people as they're running, even as they're responding to the hurricane.
What's your reporting about the White House's strategy on midterms?
And also, what do you make of these political ads running given sort of what's at stake for both of these parties?
YASMEEN ABUTALEB, White House Reporter, "The Washington Post": I mean, I think we're five or six weeks out from the midterms, which is probably why the ads are still running in Florida, and Florida has a number of very, very tight closely watched races, not least of which is Governor Ron DeSantis who everyone thinks is perhaps using this to launch a potential 2024 presidential bid.
In terms of the White House, we've seen President Biden become much more aggressive in his messaging over the last couple of weeks.
He sort of came in saying we can't attack Republicans too harshly because that'll alienate people.
But, you've seen him say, OK, well, the time has passed for that.
And, he tries to make this distinction between MAGA Republicans and the Republicans he says he can work with.
Of course, you have members of the GOP saying Biden, well, is calling us all fascists now.
But he has become much more aggressive in his messaging.
So, you've seen the president use political events to hammer home this message of Republican - MAGA Republicans pose a threat to democracy, a threat to rights like abortion, and then to use his sort of more standard presidential events to tout the infrastructure law or the Inflation Reduction Act.
But, he has become much more aggressive, and you've seen a number of Democrats across the country adopt his messaging.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And, speaking of aggressive messaging, Ryan, law and order, crime, that was part of the political ads, you told the reporters that GOP is impossibly trying to have it both ways.
Tell us a little bit about the politics of this.
I know you're be obviously has to deal with crime and national security.
RYAN REILLY, Justice Reporter, NBC News: Yes.
I mean, you've seen a lot of these Republican attacks on the FBI, which don't sort of line up with what you see Republicans trying to run on.
They're trying to make this all about law and order.
But then, at the same time, they're attacking the FBI.
They've got a number of conservatives within the FBI who are basically running to Republican Congress people and telling these stories and basically saying that they're thinking that people are being too tough on January 6 defendants.
And, a lot of these January 6 cases are pretty open and shut in terms of crimes on video.
It's not very difficult to prove many of them, a lot of the people, filmed themselves committing crimes and posted about that publicly online.
It's pretty easy layup cases they make.
And, the idea that you shouldn't charge these individuals is sort of, I think, outside of the main here, but it's what some of these people within the FBI have been saying.
And, I should - the FBI is a generally conservative leaning organization, which is something we've lost in the past six years.
Like, there is this ongoing beat against the FBI.
But, if you look at the filters that go into the FBI and you look at the backgrounds of the folks that go into there, and just generally law enforcement overall, it's a conservative leaning organization.
So, I think that's something we should keep in mind despite all these attacks that we see from Republicans.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: It's interesting that you talk about sort of the prosecutions because your Twitter feed reminds me every day just exactly how important January 6 is and what the sort of blatant crimes, frankly, were that people committed and that they're being found guilty of.
We're going to talk a little bit more about January 6 and all of that.
But, I have to also, while we're talking about what's going on stateside, there is also some stuff that are really dangerous on abroad.
President Biden is dealing with a dangerous situation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has now annexed four Ukrainian territories into Russia by holding a sham referendum to claim it was the will of the people.
Putin says he will defend the new territories with a veiled threat of nuclear force.
The actions are leading to increased fears of a full blown conflict between Russia and the West.
So, David, I'm so happy that you're at this table, because there is so much to talk about when it comes to Russia.
And, every week, we're like, here is possibly a new nuclear threat.
I'm a little worried.
How concerned is the Biden administration and your sources when you talk to them about these actions by President Putin?
DAVID SANGER: Well, they're concerned.
They're more concerned than they were at the beginning of the war.
At the beginning of the war, we went into this thinking, OK, Putin has got all kinds of normal Military options ahead of him to take over Ukraine, and, of course, he couldn't take over Ukraine.
And then, he is having a hard time holding the territory down in the south and the east.
And, that's why people are worried more now than they were before, because if he can't rely on his conventional Military force, if he has been humiliated by the fact that they're being run out, he is going to have to think more about what are his other options, and they are a few fold, obviously, unconventional weapons, sabotage.
We're still trying to figure out who it was who was responsible for sabotaging the Nord Stream One and Two pipelines this week.
But, there is - there are some good theories out about why it may play to Russia's interest.
We're not certain that, in fact, they were responsible.
There are chemical weapons or biological weapons.
But, what Putin keeps coming back to is saying we have nuclear weapons and don't forget about it.
And today, what did he say?
He said, well, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they were the American decision.
You were the ones who first used nuclear weapons, and you set a precedent doing it.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Wow.
I also want to ask you, in response to what Russia has been saying, Ukraine is now saying, hey, NATO, please let us in.
They've been saying that for a while.
I wonder what you make of the sort of ability, possibly, the potential for Ukraine to possibly be let into you into NATO, especially when I was looking today, there was a reminder that Finland and Sweden, their applications are moving through.
DAVID SANGER: Their applications are not only moving through, they're moving through fast.
And, I saw the President of Finland, when he was here earlier this week, and he thinks that they probably could well be in by the end of the year, maybe the beginning of next.
But, Finland and Sweden were easy cases, right?
They were established democracies and so forth.
Ukraine has always been a hard case.
It's a hard case, in part, because there is still a lot of corruption.
They were pretty nascent democracy, but also because once they're in, all the other NATO members know that they are then committed to direct conflict with Russia, because nobody is accepting that these four provinces are now Russian territory.
Only the Russians were saying that.
You notice really nobody is lined up behind them.
And so, if the rule here is let's stay out of direct conflict between the United States and NATO and Russia, once they were in NATO, you are in direct conflict, and I think no one is really ready to take that step yet.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Yes.
Well, the other thing that Yasmeen you've been reporting on is that the White House and the Biden administration, they have new sanctions out because of what Russia has done here.
What's your sense of why they think these sanctions are going to be different given the fact that we have seen the Biden administration put sanctions on Russia in the past?
YASMEEN ABUTALEB: I think they've - this round really targeted a number of individuals, a number of people close to Putin.
They've said they think individually targeted sanctions can be effective.
I don't know that it's going to make a huge difference in the overall picture of the war and the economic picture in Russia and across Europe.
But, I think they're trying to send a signal to Russia.
And, Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan today said, the point of the sanctions is basically to just keep reducing Russia's ability to carry out a war like this and to carry out other conflicts, invade other neighbors and just make it very hard for them.
They also targeted companies that have helped with Russia's Military supply.
And then, of course, they said that the U.S. was sending a warning in - with support from G7 countries, which was anyone that aided Russia or supported them in their annexation, was going to face severe consequences.
So, I think this is more symbolic.
This was obviously a move with little modern precedent from Vladimir Putin.
And, I think you saw them targeting members of the Russian Military who have been accused of human rights violations and torturing prisoners of war.
And, I think they're just trying to reduce Russia's capability to carry out the war as best as they can.
DAVID SANGER: We're kind of sanctioned out at this point.
I mean-- YAMICHE ALCINDOR: David, jump in here.
DAVID SANGER: Yes.
I mean, the sanctions are very interesting.
I think the most effective ones are the export controls which are making it hard for the Russian Military that build new equipment.
It is going to make it hard for consumer electronics to be made and sold in Russia.
But, the fact of the matter is that most of the sanctions are coming from the Western democracies, China, India, many other nations, Southeast Asia, they're really sort of hanging out on the sidelines.
And, if you're really going to isolate Russia, it's got to be everyone in.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Yes.
The other thing, of course, that's going on here is that there are political storms brewing in this country.
This week, the Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack postponed its public hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
But, on Thursday, Ginni Thomas, a right-wing activist and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, testified before the Committee behind closed doors for more than four hours.
She was asked to meet with the Committee about her multiple conversations with White House aides, Trump allies, and state Republican election officials, in support of overturning the 2020 election results.
The Committee has been also given new video of Trump ally, Roger Stone, in the days surrounding the 2020 election.
Stone is heard advocating for violence and sharing his plan to overturn the election results.
ROGER STONE: The election will not be normal.
Oh, is it the California results?
Sorry, we're not accepting that.
We are challenging them in court.
If you'd like to show up in the Electoral College, Armed Guards will throw them out.
I'm the president.
I'm challenging all of it.
And, the judges, we're going to are judges I appointed.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: So, Ryan, clearly, you're at the table for this entire section.
I want to start with Ginni Thomas, because Bennie Thompson has said that she told the Committee, we know very few details of what she told the Committee, but he made clear that she still believes the 2020 election was stolen.
What more do we know about what she said?
And, what's the significance of the fact that she is even still saying that?
RYAN REILLY: Yes.
I think that this was one of those cases where the DOJ and the congressional investigations sort of depart in some ways, because there is not enough evidence right now for you to really run a criminal investigation necessarily against Ginni Thomas.
And, I would say, if they were going to go that route, if they are going to potentially pursue something along those lines, if you're going after the way with the Supreme Court Justice, you're going to want to dot your i's, cross your t's, double check your math, so on and so forth before you go down that line.
I think that this is because of her position, is really why she is coming to focus by the Committee here.
She has the ear of one of the Supreme Court Justices, what were they talking about?
The - what they've claimed is that there is sort of a wall in their relationship that they don't talk about any of these things.
But, I don't know, that's going to have to be for folks to decide whether or not husband and wife can absolutely bar anything, these ongoing, major things that they're talking about completely.
But, this doesn't really get into the realm of criminality, necessarily.
I think that it's certainly damaging politically, and doesn't look great, certainly for a Supreme Court Justice's wife to be involved in all of these efforts to overturn an ongoing election.
But, it doesn't rise quite to the level of criminality yet, which is why it's something you see the Committee pursuing more aggressively at this moment, than you see DOJ.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: It doesn't look great, is one way to put it to Eugene.
It doesn't look great.
There are other people who say Roger Stone sitting on a couch, saying maybe we just get violent to steal the 2020 election.
Maybe, that doesn't look great, either.
EUGENE DANIELS: I mean, the thing I think that's so interesting about Ginni Thomas is that she kind of goes against all the stereotypes that a lot of us at D.C. have, of who would believe that the election was stolen, people that would kind of be like, yes, do what happened on January 6.
This is someone who we would say is well educated, someone who has the most connections that you could possibly have, texting the Chief of Staff at the time her husband is a Supreme Court justice.
And so, I think them bringing her in is a reminder to everyone that, no, the thought that someone can believe these lies and these conspiracy theories, it goes beyond socioeconomic status or education.
It's something that's deeper, and it will - and you look at Roger Stone as another example, this isn't leaving the Republican Party anytime soon, when these types of folks who have all this power and this influence are also believing and pushing these.
RYAN REILLY: You know that - I think - so many people in D.C.
I think Republicans just don't actually believe this stuff, right?
And, there is this mix of people.
But, Ginni Thomas is someone who actually believes this stuff, right?
She is on those Facebook boards.
She is reading that nonsense online.
She actually dyed in the wool believes this stuff as opposed to a lot of Republicans who are just saying this because this is what they need to do to play to their base.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And, - right.
I ask you - you also had a scoop this week on the Oath Keepers trial because there is so much January 6 stuff going on.
Tell us about your scoop and tell us about how all of this is somewhat connected?
RYAN REILLY: Yes.
So, there is - there is a woman named Kellye SoRelle, and she is the General Counsel for the Oath Keepers.
She is only recently been charged, within the past month, in fact, in connection with January 6, faces four different charges, was on the grounds of the Capitol that day with the head of the Oath Keepers Stewart Rhodes.
What's also interesting about Kellye SoRelle is that she is actually - she is - was involved in the lawyers for Trump during the 2020 election.
And, she was in Detroit working for the Trump campaign during this - during that time.
And, she developed contacts within the White House.
And so, I've been talking to her for a while and we scooped this week.
I ended up calling up Andrew Giuliani, and it turned out that, yes, they were in communication right after the 2020 election.
So, that's pretty close connection in terms of the overlap between this legal effort, so-called "legal effort to overturn the election" versus this actual violent overthrow of the election.
She is sort of that grip that puts those two things together.
We're going to find out a lot more in this upcoming trial from the next five weeks about those connections between the Oath Keepers and the White House.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Yasmeen, how is the president trying to just navigate all of this?
He clearly wants the DOJ to remain independent.
But, this is obviously part of all the midterms.
It's what everyone is talking about.
Threats to democracy in polls are - our voters are saying that that's a key concern of theirs.
What are you hearing?
YASMEEN ABUTALEB: I mean, I think he is very careful to not get anywhere near the DOJ piece of it.
The investigation, he has made very clear, it's an independent agency.
But, you have seen him use the January 6 hearings in his messaging, and you saw him really ramp up his rhetoric about the threats he believes Republicans posted democracy, pointing to some of the evidence revealed in the January 6 hearings.
I don't think he can ignore it.
And, I know from talking to people in the White House that he started to feel in the spring, it would just be irresponsible if he didn't address this, if he didn't address this extremist wing of the Republican Party that now he believes has really become the mainstream of the Republican Party, or at least taken it over.
Donald Trump is still the leader of the party.
He still very much has a hold on it.
And, this election denying January 6 mentality is part of the mainstream Republican Party right now.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And, Eugene, what do we know about the next January 6 Committee hearing?
Bennie Thompson says there is not going to be any witnesses with it.
There is going to be significant information.
It's not going to be next week, he says.
What else do we know?
EUGENE DANIELS: Yes.
I mean, the thing that they've said is it's going to be overarching.
It's not going to be as specific as some of these other hearings that we've seen, because that's kind of it.
They are very good at keeping things secret, which is really annoying to all of us when we're trying to do our jobs.
But, I think they're running out of time to - for this last hearing.
They're running against the wall, which is, the midterms and the possible flip from the House.
Republicans are not going to investigate January 6 in the same way.
And so, they have to put a bow on this in some way.
We talked to folks behind that Committee.
They say that is something they're going to end up doing.
This is kind of their last ditch effort in that.
DAVID SANGER: No closer they get to the midterm elections the more political this effort looks.
What was most effective was when they had the witnesses, they had Republicans who were in the room or Trump aides were in the room testifying.
That was pretty effective.
Not having them there is a harder trick.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And, Ryan, last question to you, which is, there is obviously all this back and forth with the classified docs, that is still moving through.
What's the latest there?
RYAN REILLY: Sure.
Actually, just tonight, DOJ has asked the appeals court to expedite their appeal because the Trump appointed judge, Aileen Cannon, has really sort of given everything that Trump has wanted, and then more in terms of what - how this investigation is handed.
Even though Donald Trump asked for the special master, she gave him the special master.
Donald Trump said, hey, I'd like these two people to be special - one of these two people to be special masters, she gave it to him.
Then, when that special master actually tried to do his job and tries to hold Donald Trump's feet to the fire, potentially, when he is making all these out of court statements about FBI planting evidence at his Mar-a-Lago potentially, and all the judge asked to do was say, OK, is this less accurate?
The judge who was in charge - the judge shut down the special master in that thing.
So, I think DOJ doesn't like the way this is going, wants to expedite the court, because before essentially the appeals court, which included two Trump appointed judges, sort of smacked down what that ruling said.
So, I think that they're going to go back and say, Hey, let's speed this up, because I think they're going to get a good ruling from the appeals court there again.
So, DOJ really wants to put the pedal to the metal and get that, I think, overturned more broadly soon.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And, a quick question in 10 seconds.
Is this backfiring?
Is this special master backfiring on Trump?
RYAN REILLY: Yes, absolutely.
If the special master is allowed to do their job, it will backfire.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: OK. Well, Ryan, with that quick answer.
It was so nice to have you all around the table.
I'm so happy to be here with all of our friends and all of our guests.
So, thank you for all for coming here.
Thank you for sharing your reporting.
And, don't forget all of you at home to watch PBS News Weekend on Saturday.
Anchor Geoff Bennett gets the latest on hurricane Ian and the recovery from the storm.
And finally, my heart of course is with all of those impacted by the storm, including those in my native state of Florida.
Thank you for joining us.
I'm Yamiche Alcindor.
Goodnight from Washington.
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