PBS NewsHour full episode August 07, 2018
PBS NewsHour full episode August 07, 2018 : Judy Woodruff is on vacation. On the “NewsHour” tonight: engulfed in flames. The largest fire in California’s history rages on, and more than 14,000 firefighters are trying to contain it. Rick Gates testifies how former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort avoided taxes and sought to pay back a banker with a top job in the administration. And using red flags to prevent violence: how police and families are fighting for laws to treat mental illness before it’s too late. MARA ELLIOTT, San Diego City Attorney: If there are sufficient warning signs, we can now get a gun violence restraining order. We don’t have to wait for another crime to occur. NICK SCHIFRIN: All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.” (BREAK) NICK SCHIFRIN: Wildfires up and down California are still burning out of control this evening, with no relief coming anytime soon. Wary crews are fighting the heat, the wind and the fires, ranging from a huge combination of blazes in the north to a new one spreading in the south. Smoke from the Holy Fire rose with the morning sun, and flames tore through dry brush of the Cleveland National Forest. The fire outside Los Angeles started late yesterday, and quickly tripled in size. By this morning, it had already scorched 4,000 acres. This area hasn’t burned in nearly four decades. Many residents were caught off-guard and didn’t heed the original evacuation order. TILSON SHUMATE, California: It’s an incredible sensation to be in this and to be faced with life and death. Like, we think we’re ready to die, but are we? I don’t know, man. I don’t want to go like this. Get us out of here. NICK SCHIFRIN: In California and many Western states, fire season isn’t new, but the intensity and scope of the devastation are. Hotter weather attributed to climate change drives more severe conditions that authorities say residents cannot ignore. MIKE MOHLER, Cal Fire: It can’t be white noise anymore, because this not going to change. It’s here and we’re going to have to deal with it. NICK SCHIFRIN: Deputy director of Cal Fire, Michael Mohler, says California’s wildfires are burning faster, longer and more unpredictably. August is only the middle of the fire season, and Mohler warns he expects the worst is yet to come. MIKE MOHLER: With the conditions we’re seeing right now, the weather patterns that are lining up, working with our partners from the National Weather Service, we don’t see this changing anytime soon. Our firefighters, our enforcement, first-responders are preparing for — really for this to continue. NICK SCHIFRIN: Across the state, 17 major wildfires are burning, the most devastating in the north. Overnight, the Mendocino Complex fire grew into the largest in state history, breaking a record set just eight months ago. It’s incinerated more than 290,000 acres. Fire officials say they’re focused on protecting some 11,000 threatened homes. Some have already been lost. MAN: What can you say? It makes you sick to your stomach. Everything they work for all their life gone a heartbeat. NICK SCHIFRIN: Officials admit the expanding fire season is taking a heavy toll on their resources. More than 14,000 firefighters are working in California, and the fire season is more than two months longer than it used to be. But they vow to keep fighting. MIKE MOHLER: One of the things we say in the fire service is, not only take care of yourself, but you need to take care of your fellow partner and personnel and keep an eye on them. You have to have that downtime. But I can tell you that all first-responders are in it for the long haul. It’s what we do. NICK SCHIFRIN: And there’s no end in sight. Firefighters are facing another record-breaking fire burning through Yosemite National Park. Officials today said the park will remain closed indefinitely. In the day’s other news: Rescuers in Indonesia pulled another survivor from the ruins left by Sunday’s powerful earthquake. The death toll rose to at least 105, as crews combed through debris on Lombok Island. Thousands of villagers are growing desperate for aid. MAN (through translator): Our tent accommodates six families. It’s very hot during the day and we are drenched with sweat. But the night is chilling. We need blankets, and the children also need some cold and cough medicine and milk. We also have two seniors here who have difficulty moving around and need help. NICK SCHIFRIN: The aid organization Oxfam estimates more than 20,000 people are in need of shelter. Thousands more are camping in the open air. President Trump has fired off a new warning about Iran targeted at countries that might violate newly reinstated U.S. sanctions. In a tweet today, he wrote: “Anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the United States.” The warning came as German automaker Daimler A.G. announced it would halt all business in Iran. In Japan, a prestigious medical school admitted today that it altered admissions scores for years in order to limit the number of female students. An internal investigation found that officials at Tokyo Medical University believed many women would later abandon medicine to become mothers. The school‘s head apologized. TETSUO YUKIOKA, Tokyo Medical University (through translator): Society is changing rapidly and we need to respond to that. Any organization that fails to utilize women will grow weak and will fail to contribute to society. NICK SCHIFRIN: The education minister says admissions procedures at all medical schools will now be reviewed. Back in this country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is out with a clearer picture of dangers posed by the Zika virus. It shows that one in seven babies born to mothers who were infected during pregnancy developed health problems ranging from birth defects to seizures. The researchers analyzed children born to infected women in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. Police in New Mexico said they found the body of a young boy at a compound near the Colorado border. That comes one day after they found 11 children 11 living in hunger and filth. Aerial video showed a trailer buried in the ground surrounded by walls of old tires and wooden pallets. Five adults have been charged with child abuse. The children range in age from 1 to 15. New York will become the first major American city to let jail inmates make phone calls for free. Currently, the calls run 50 cents for the first minute, and another nickel for each additional minute. New York’s decision comes as prison rights groups are pushing to limit private companies from making money off prisoners. The new law takes effect in nine months. There’s word there’s word that electric car maker Tesla may go private. CEO Elon Musk tweeted today that he might buy back stock at $420 a share. He said it would help Tesla focus on the long-term, rather than quarterly profits. On the broader market, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 126 points to close near 25629. The Nasdaq rose 24 points, and the S&P 500 added eight. And former Nevada Governor and Senator and Ronald Reagan confidant Paul Laxalt died Monday. He became friends with the California governor in the 1960s. Later, he chaired the Reagan presidential campaigns and served as a liaison between the Reagan White House and Congress. Paul Laxalt was 96 years old. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: the businesses partner of President Trump’s chairman cross-examined in court; fears of a crackdown in Venezuela after an apparent assassination attempt using drones; mass shootings have sparked a debate over temporarily restricting some people’s access to guns; and much more. The key witness in the trial of President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort took the stand again today and faced tough questions from Manafort’s legal team. “NewsHour”‘s William Brangham was in court today and has that. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That star witness was Rick Gates, a longtime associate of Paul Manafort’s who also worked on the Trump campaign. Gates is now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. And yesterday and today, he offered detailed testimony about Manafort’s alleged financial crimes, which involved hiding foreign income and bank fraud. The defense today sought to portray Gates as an unreliable witness, highlighting how he too allegedly hid income, lied to prosecutors and even carried on a secret extramarital affair. I’m joined now by Seth B. Waxman. He’s currently a criminal defense lawyer in private practice, but previously worked as a federal prosecutor at the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington. Welcome to the “NewsHour.” SETH B. WAXMAN, Former U.S. Solicitor General: Thank you. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, Rick Gates testified yesterday and again today, laying out really the arc of the prosecution’s case, all these alleged financial crimes that Paul Manafort allegedly carried out, bank fraud, hiding income, trying to avoid paying taxes. Thus far, last week and this week, what do you make of the prosecution’s case? SETH B. WAXMAN: Yes, I mean, it seems pretty solid at this point. You have several witnesses who have all said that this activity went on, from accountants and other experts in those sort of areas. Now you have the star witness, Mr. Gates, coming on, and kind of breathing life into the various documents and e-mails that we’re seeing. And so you have to think, at this point, the prosecution feels pretty good about where they sit. And, of course, we’re now into cross-examination of Rick Gates, where it’s really the defense‘s opportunity to kind of set this case more in their favor. And it’s really a critical time period for them. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Rick Gates, as was laid out in testimony yesterday and today, he admitted to prosecutors that he was part of Manafort’s scheme, and said, I helped him do these things. Manafort was breaking the law, but so was I. And he became what we call a cooperating witness. That’s a common strategy, right? SETH B. WAXMAN: It most certainly is. In most conspiracies, you’re going to have someone on the inside of that conspiracy to tell the story. And, oftentimes, those are not the pope or Mother Teresa. You’re going to have criminals, liars, cheaters, murderers, whatever the crime may be. So those people are going to have baggage. And that’s what the prosecution does. They front all the bad stuff, so they don’t hear about it, the jury does hear about it for the first time from the defense. And the whole case from the prosecution side is corroborating that star witness, to say, look, you don’t have to just believe him for the words he says. You get to believe him because all of this other independent evidence corroborates and tells you what he says is the truth. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Given what you described as the strong case the prosecution seems to have — and, to my non-legal mind, it does seem like they have got a good deal of documentary evidence about Manafort being involved in these alleged crimes — what is your sense of why Paul Manafort didn’t plead guilty? SETH B. WAXMAN: Yes, I mean, it’s my opinion that he’s kind of playing with house money right now, that he can take a shot at this trial, even if the evidence is overwhelming. If he should happen to win, he would go on to D.C. in the fall and fight that case. And if he would win… WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s a separate prosecution that’s going on against Manafort. SETH B. WAXMAN: Correct. There’s still yet another trial separate from this. And if he were to win that one, he’s a free man. But on the other hand, if he were to lose one or either of those trials, it’s my belief that he can still walk into Manafort’s office, ask for a deal, they will give him that deal, because they need him that back to kind of be one of the top lieutenants in this potential conspiracy among the Russians and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election. So I think he’s rolling the dice. If he wins, great. If he loses, he can still get that deal. It might not be as good, but he can still get a deal. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, as we said before, the defense got their first crack at Rick Gates, and they immediately tried to undercut him and to say, you’re a liar, you’re untrustworthy. They even made the revelation, which the prosecution had not let slip, about this extramarital affair. What is your sense of how the defense is doing thus far in chipping away at the star witness? SETH B. WAXMAN: Yes, I mean, these are pretty common attacks. They’re going to go after his credibility, character assassination, anything to move the jury away from Rick Gates and closer to Paul Manafort and believing the presumption that he’s presumed innocent. How much hay they’re making out of that, it’s kind of hard to say at this point. But the difficulty for the — for the pro — the defense, rather, in this case is the collaboration. They have got these other witnesses. I’m hearing that there are e-mails today that are from Paul Manafort to Rick Gates, or vice versa, where Paul Manafort is directing Rick Gates to do certain things. I mean, that is devastating evidence for — against the defense. And it’s those kinds of uncontroverted documents — documents can’t be cross-examined — that the prosecution will be hammering all the way through closing arguments in this case. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Do you expect Paul Manafort to take the stand? If you were representing Paul Manafort, would you encourage him to do so? SETH B. WAXMAN: No. No, I don’t think so. I mean, the risks of him taking the stand are really, really high. It’s a rare case where a criminal defendant or person on trial, rather, will take the stand in his defense. I mean, I think the play here is to attack Rick Gates, make it seem like a he said/he said. And, of course, the government bears the burden of proof. And, again, it’s going to — the prosecution saying, look, wait a minute, Rick Gates is an important witness, but there’s a lot more. There’s corroboration. So I think that’s the dynamic. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Remind us again. This case came out of Robert Mueller’s investigation, which, as we all know, his primary charge being look at how Russia meddled in our election and whether or not the Trump campaign colluded in that at all. Remind us again how we got to a financial crimes prosecution. SETH B. WAXMAN: Sure. As a prosecutor is doing their investigation, they may learn background about individuals and dig into that background. So, of course, the Mueller team has uncovered all of what we’re seeing now in Alexandria. Why that’s relevant, I think it has two points. One, conspiracies don’t just drop out of the sky in March 2016. There’s a backstory there. Why did the Russians think that they could reach out to Manafort or others? It’s because maybe they had 10 years of history of engaging in wrongful conduct. So that may be a gateway or entrance into the telling that story of how the conspiracy came about, assuming it occurred, in the election. The other part of this is, I think this trial has everything to do about Russia, not the facts for the trial itself, but that this is an effort by the prosecution to get Manafort to flip. And for the reasons we discussed before, I think that is still an option the table even after conviction. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Lastly, Judge T.S. Ellis, who has been presiding over this case, has been a really interesting figure to watch over the course of the days. He’s inserted himself very aggressively. At one point, he — he’s banned the use of the term oligarch, because he argues it’s a pejorative term that’s just used to slime these Ukrainian businessmen. But there’s also times where the judge has really seemed to try to poke at the prosecution and sort of take them to task, sometimes in front of the jury. Does that happen often? And what is the impact of that kind of interjection? SETH B. WAXMAN: Yes, I mean, it does happen, depending on the demeanor of the judge and how active or proactive they want to be. Judge Ellis is clearly very active. Some people think judges are referees, they should call balls and strikes and let the players play. I kind of fall in that camp. But I’m not a judge. The judges, the man in the black robe, or woman, it is her or his realm. And he gets to do or she gets to do what they want. Where it could become problematic for a prosecutor is if the judge is kind of launching personal attacks — some of these seem to kind of get close to that — or really just lashing out at the prosecutor. Jurors — and, frankly, sometimes even myself — don’t really appreciate why the judge is so upset. And if that turns into a feeling in the jurors that the prosecution isn’t playing fair, I mean, if a jury gets that feeling, that’s where a case can go really south. So if the judge is kind of stepping into those grounds and kind of giving that impression, that’s unfair, and there should be a balanced trial to both the government and the defense. So, you hope it doesn’t kind of leave that impression that the government’s playing unfair or under the table, because that’s when it can be a real problem for the government. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Thanks for analysis, Seth Waxman. SETH B. WAXMAN: Thank you for having me. NICK SCHIFRIN: On Saturday, there were two small explosions in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. They happened while the president, Nicolas Maduro, was giving a speech to the country’s National Guard. Two commercially available drones, reportedly carrying plastic explosives, blew up over a main boulevard. Maduro was quickly rushed off stage. And his military rushed off in panic. Local residents shot this video of soldiers running through the streets. “NewsHour” producer P.J. Tobia has more on that attack, why many Venezuelans are also running from their homeland, and what they’re leaving behind. P.J. TOBIA: This is Venezuela’s border with Brazil. Every day, hundreds cross this frontier, fleeing an economy in freefall, where inflation will soon hit 1 million percent. SOLIMAR MARQUEZ, Venezuela (through translator): we really don’t have a future in Venezuela, and the salary one earns is not enough at all. The bolivar is worthless. P.J. TOBIA: The poorest make the crossing on foot. Some can’t even feed their children, and rely on this Catholic-run shelter for a hot meal. Venezuela is mired in crisis. Oil production, the country’s major source of cash, has plummeted. Armed guards stand sentry at supermarket entrances, where lines snake down the block. When shoppers are allowed in, it’s a desperate frenzy to get basic commodities. MARIANO DE ALBA, Atlantic Council: So, the situation Venezuela is really dire, because you have a country that is in the midst of an economic crisis with hyperinflation. P.J. TOBIA: Mariano de Alba was born and studied law in Venezuela. He’s now an analyst at the Atlantic Council. MARIANO DE ALBA: There is also a scarcity of food and medicine in the supermarkets. So what happens is, you have a country where the large majority of the population doesn’t have sufficient means to live. P.J. TOBIA: The political situation isn’t much better, with a fractured opposition under pressure from President Maduro, who was reelected in a controversial snap election this past May. Despite the government’s claims, Alba isn’t convinced that last weekend’s drone incident was an assassination attempt. MARIANO DE ALBA: There are two possibilities. One, either the garment is telling the truth, and this was an assassination attempt, or, two, the government is lying, as is usual, and this was a play by the government to try to strengthen their hand within the country and also to try to alleviate the attention of the ongoing economic crisis. P.J. TOBIA: On Sunday, the government claimed that it had made some arrests related to the NESTOR REVEROL, Interior Ministry of Venezuela (through translator): We have so far six terrorists and hitmen detained, various vehicles confiscated. Various raids have been executed in the capital of our country, where important evidence has been collected of criminal activity. P.J. TOBIA: Maduro has suggested that the U.S. might have had some involvement in the attack, a charge the U.S. government denied. He also blamed Juan Manuel Santos, the outgoing president of neighboring Colombia. More than a million Venezuelans have fled there. Alba says, as long as the military sides with Maduro, he will retain power. But in a country once ruled by Hugo Chavez, who came to power in a coup, that’s not a sure thing. MARIANO DE ALBA: The government cannot match the speed of hyperinflation to adjust the salaries of the members of the military. So — and it is not only that the members of the military who are suffering this, but also their families. So, over the last, I would say, six months, we have seen credible reports in the press about growing discontent within the military. P.J. TOBIA: For average Venezuelans, that discontent is already acute. And they’re voting with their feet. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m P.J. Tobia. NICK SCHIFRIN: The era of terrorism that led to 9/11 began 20 years ago today. Al-Qaida bombs obliterated U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, 250 killed, 5,000 injured. Today in Nairobi, the rebuilt U.S. Embassy hosted a candlelight vigil. Since 9/11, al-Qaida has morphed into franchises, and the deadliest is in Yemen. The “NewsHour” has reported often from that country, most recently when special correspondent Jane Ferguson crossed the dangerous front line, from land controlled by a Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia to an area held by Shia Houthi rebels by smuggling herself in. And now there is a new story from the Associated Press about that front line, that Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, is supporting al-Qaida fighters in Yemen. Jane joins me now from Beirut. Jane Ferguson, thank you very much. The U.S., of course, is supporting Saudi, its ally, and supporting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. But Saudi is cutting deals, apparently, with al-Qaida. I mean, does this mean, ironically, that the U.S. and al-Qaida are on the same side? JANE FERGUSON: To a certain extent, Nick, it does, although I’m sure neither side would like to acknowledge that inconvenient fact that they’re basically, essentially, fighting on the same side, to some extent. Now, there have been reports in the Arab media for some time now about a al-Qaida fighters showing up on the front lines in this war, but this is by far the most comprehensive report. And I can say that, when I was on the ground in Yemen and I showed any interest in going to these front lines, like going to the south and spending time trying to film the battles, I was told by Yemeni fixers and journalists there that I would have liked to have teamed up with and go that the main danger, their main concern wasn’t just the fighting on the front line, which, of course, can be dangerous, but it was the presence of al-Qaida fighters there, the present of jihadi fighters. And, you know, discussions of this had been spreading throughout Yemen, and many Yemenis had been discussing this, that there had been jihadists that had moved into these areas. And this was of note to them because the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, this Yemeni branch of al-Qaida, had not been present in places like Taiz or all up the western coast, where these front lines are. So people were really quite alarmed that they were showing up. And they were never sure, if we went there, whether or not there could be a checkpoint all of a sudden that had been set up by al-Qaida itself. And, as a result, it makes that kind of reporting very difficult. NICK SCHIFRIN: It seems to lead to the question about the U.S. strategic aims here. The question, I guess, would be, are these deals that Saudi Arabia, again, a U.S. ally, is apparently cutting with al-Qaida, does it mean that al-Qaida is actually continuing or surviving inside of Yemen? JANE FERGUSON: It does. It gives them a chance — any time that Al-Qaida fighters are given an opportunity to leave one area safely and live to fight another day, especially if they’re allowed to leave with weapons and any kind of money or loot that they have gathered, it helps them thrive. If you’re looking at strategic interests, it also serves the strategic interests of the Saudis and the UAE who are on the ground there, certainly the Emiratis on the ground there, that they don’t have to use their own fighters to fight al-Qaida, and instead they potentially get the recruitment of many battle-hardened and extremely strong fighters from al-Qaida basically joining up with the various militias that they can then fight against the Houthis. And for the coalition, the real enemy here are the Houthis, the Iran-backed Shia militias in the north. For the United States, it’s difficult to see a strategic benefit here. It’s difficult to see why al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula being allowed to survive in those areas — this is the franchise of al-Qaida that is considered by the United States to be the most deadly and the most determined to strike against the United States on its own soil — that they would be allowed to thrive, move around the country. So it’s difficult to see the U.S. strategic gain there. However, it is also perhaps a reflection of a pivot in U.S. strategy that is very much so focused on fighting Iran. And the United States, this White House, this Trump White House certainly sees the Houthis in the north that are backed by Iran, certainly allied with Iran, they see them very much so as a symbol of Iranian expansion. And, therefore, they see it as the United States’ strategic interest to go after them. NICK SCHIFRIN: You know better than anyone that the fighting in Yemen continues. Tens of thousands have died. Much of the fighting is focused on Hodeidah. What’s the situation in that key port city today? JANE FERGUSON: The situation is that the ground offensive that was launched back in June appears to have stopped, essentially, in terms of the coalition troops trying to enter the city. There have been ongoing airstrikes, however, and the aid agencies have continued to call for an end to those and to call for an end to the fighting. Let’s not forget that this — the reason that this city is so strategically important is because that is where the vast majority of Yemen’s food is coming in to. Eight million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine. They are in pre-famine conditions, as the U.N. says. If the fighting does enter that city, and the port stops being able to bring in those food supplies, then Yemen could very easily tip into a massive famine. So, it’s very important. It’s an extremely delicate part of this war right now. The United Nations envoy, the special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, did announce recently that there are planned peace talks for next month in Geneva. But it’s not clear yet whether there will be a full-scale cease-fire in order for those peace talks to take place. NICK SCHIFRIN: Jane, very quickly in the time we have left, just we have been talking about Saudi Arabia. There’s a new spat between Saudi Arabia and a surprising, perhaps, other country, Canada. What can you tell us about that? JANE FERGUSON: It certainly is surprising, Nick. And it has surprised a lot of people, because it has exploded so quickly. On Friday, the Canadian government tweeted its concerns about the arrest, the recent arrest in Saudi Arabia of civil rights activists and women’s rights activists, saying that they were concerned and called them — called for their release. The Saudis responded very quickly by expelling the Canadian ambassador. And since then, we have also seen the implication — or basically the sanctions have been put in place against Canada. So, this is a huge escalation in just a matter of days between the two countries. It’s also a reflection of how sensitive the Saudis are at the moment to international criticism about human rights. NICK SCHIFRIN: Jane Ferguson, joining us from Beirut, thank you very much. JANE FERGUSON: Thank you. NICK SCHIFRIN: And stay with us. Coming up on the “NewsHour”: tensions rising in Chicago after a deadly weekend; an unpublished Hemingway story made public; and young people bringing fresh produce to an urban food desert. Last February’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was just the latest example of a school shooting with prior concerns for the shooter’s mental health. Some states have so-called red flag laws that allow a judge to temporarily remove a mentally ill person’s access to guns. As John Ferrugia of Rocky Mountain PBS reports, it’s not easy to balance the rights of the mentally ill with the need for public safety. JOHN FERRUGIA: Those who knew Matthew Riehl knew he was mentally ill, but never imagined him to be a killer. Last New Year’s Eve in a Denver suburb, after he called 911 claiming that his roommate verbally assaulted him, Riehl spun out of control, barricaded himself in his room with guns, and was judged by deputies to be a threat to himself and to others. That is Colorado’s standard for forcing involuntary mental health treatment. But when they tried to take him into custody: MAN: Open the door.