Articles on this Page
- 05/18/17--15:20: _How this man found ...
- 05/18/17--15:25: _Once segregated, th...
- 05/18/17--15:30: _Voters want Iran’s ...
- 05/18/17--15:35: _The possible wins a...
- 05/18/17--15:40: _White House should ...
- 05/18/17--15:45: _News Wrap: Chaffetz...
- 05/18/17--15:50: _Trump rejects need ...
- 05/18/17--17:14: _Comey ‘disgusted’ b...
- 05/19/17--12:30: _If I’m healthy, do ...
- 05/19/17--13:09: _Senior White House ...
- 05/19/17--13:22: _Trump told Russian ...
- 05/19/17--13:40: _Why the U.S. wants ...
- 05/19/17--14:06: _First stop Riyadh: ...
- 05/19/17--15:00: _‘Twin Peaks’ is bac...
- 05/19/17--15:20: _To Richard Ford, wr...
- 05/19/17--15:25: _Shields and Brooks ...
- 05/19/17--15:30: _Why Confederate mon...
- 05/19/17--15:35: _How Iran’s presiden...
- 05/19/17--15:40: _James Comey felt it...
- 05/19/17--15:41: _NAACP president wil...
- 05/18/17--15:20: How this man found his calling as an early elementary teacher
- 05/18/17--15:30: Voters want Iran’s next president to make life more affordable
- 05/18/17--15:45: News Wrap: Chaffetz announces upcoming resignation
- 05/18/17--15:50: Trump rejects need for special counsel as Rosenstein briefs Senate
- 05/19/17--13:40: Why the U.S. wants to manage a complex Syria battlefield with Russia
- 05/19/17--15:25: Shields and Brooks on the barrage of Trump revelations
- 05/19/17--15:30: Why Confederate monuments are coming down
- 05/19/17--15:35: How Iran’s presidential election could bring more change
- 05/19/17--15:41: NAACP president will step down in June
JUDY WOODRUFF: A question that has been raised here: Why aren’t more men going into fields dominated by women?
Stigma is a big part of the answer, our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, reported last week.
Tonight, he focuses on one man many might want to emulate.
It’s part of our weekly series Making Sense.
HAROLD JOHNSON, Second-Grade Teacher, Lake Carolina Elementary: We already got a man outside, and I need you to be outside, especially at will linebacker.
PAUL SOLMAN: Harold Johnson coaches linebackers for the Ridge View Blazers in Columbia, South Carolina, where high school football is a rite of masculine passage.
AMOS MYLES, Football Coach, Ridge View High School: You start getting tired, then you start getting lazy in your mind-set. Now, hey, you can’t think. You have to be focused. You have to get control of your breathing.
PAUL SOLMAN: Amos Myles is the bad cop. But Harold Johnson isn’t exactly the good one.
HAROLD JOHNSON: Downhill first. We don’t ever attack lateral. We’re playing linebacker. Downhill first.
PAUL SOLMAN: Pretty much every high school football coach is a guy, of course. And men are no rarity in secondary school classrooms either.
ANGELA BAUM, National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators: It’s about 40 percent of male teachers at high school level.
PAUL SOLMAN: But in elementary school, says educator Angela Baum, the percentage is minuscule.
ANGELA BAUM: So, between 1 percent and 5 percent of early childhood teachers are male.
PAUL SOLMAN: Do you guys like having a man for your teacher?
PAUL SOLMAN: Their teacher is Harold Johnson, the linebacker coach, whose main job turns out to be running this second grade classroom, after six years teaching kindergarten.
Early education teacher is a job for which, given the labor market for men, especially in the South, qualified guys would be hired right away. Harold Johnson has taken advantage ever since college.
HAROLD JOHNSON: I just decided I wanted to be an early childhood major.
PAUL SOLMAN: Smart move, he learned, as good male gigs were proving ever harder to come by in the wake of the crash of ’08.
HAROLD JOHNSON: The dean of the colleges came in to just greet all the freshmen and stuff, and he kind of walked in, and he looked around, and he was giving his speech. He just stopped me. His speech was like, hey that guy right there is going to get a job before all you all.
And so I just laughed. And I’m looking round, like, me? And he was just like, yes, it’s you.
PAUL SOLMAN: But eight years later, coach Johnson still has surprisingly scant competition, when he attends yearly childhood conferences, for example.
HAROLD JOHNSON: Everybody looking like, hey what you doing here? You know, this isn’t P.E. or anything. And I’m just like, I know. It’s reading and how to teach kids how to read. And that’s what I’m here for, to learn that. So …
PAUL SOLMAN: And then they get embarrassed, I assume?
HAROLD JOHNSON: Yes, there’s somewhat of embarrassment and somewhat of intrigue. They’re like, what made you want to do that, or like, what made you want to teach? Same thing that made you want to teach. Like, you enjoy it.
Especially when I was a kindergarten teacher, it was definitely like, nobody could believe it. It was just like a, ahhh, kind of sympathetic kind of situation.
PAUL SOLMAN: Oh, aren’t you sweet?
HAROLD JOHNSON: Yes, aren’t you sweet?
PAUL SOLMAN: So is there something different about him? Well, he’s patient, more patient than fellow coach Amos Myles perhaps.
But even the ever so macho Myles says:
AMOS MYLES: I think patience is key. With that, you have to have patience with kids. It doesn’t matter what level you’re on.
STUDENT: I really love my country.
HAROLD JOHNSON: First of all, what was happening? Before we even got to the passage, what was happening?
PAUL SOLMAN: You don’t think there’s a difference in the patience required to be a kindergarten teacher, as opposed to, say, a TV journalist?
HAROLD JOHNSON: I personally don’t. I just feel like you got the patience for what you got patience for. You hold them to a high standard, then they will perform.
A lot of times, it’s like, oh, they’re only 5, they’re only 5. Well, that’s why you don’t have patience for them, because you treat them like they’re only 5. If you treat them like, no, you’re 5, you’re not 4 anymore, you know how to do this, then you get a better result.
So I think it’s just — the mind frame of going into it is one thing. People say patience, but I think it’s not really patience. Just, you got to teach what you want to happen.
PAUL SOLMAN: So what Johnson seems to have is a different mind frame.
HAROLD JOHNSON: I feel like that one thing people just having the wrong impression. Just, oh, they’re little kids, they’re dirty, they got snot hanging out, they don’t know how to tie their shoes, they always ask for something, always whining.
And I always tell them, OK, I’m pretty sure you have got a co-worker there always asking you for stuff, that’s always aggravating, that always, maybe not being dirty, might have snot running out their nose too.
She was too smart at that school. She don’t have any way to help her.
PAUL SOLMAN: In fact, what struck me after spending a day with Harold Johnson is that, while he’s exceptional at his job, he’s much like the best side of any of us, and his gender is a help, not a hindrance.
STUDENT: Boy teachers are more nice, and they understand more, and they’re not as mean as girl teachers.
STUDENT: Yes, exactly.
PAUL SOLMAN: They understand you better because you’re a boy and they’re men?
PAUL SOLMAN: Now, girls, in my experience, are lots of fun. So, I have two daughters. They’re a lot of fun. So why is the boy teacher more fun than the girl teacher?
STUDENT: Because boys do more awesome stuff than girls.
PAUL SOLMAN: On behalf of you girls, I do not think boys do more awesome stuff than girls.
But educator Angela Baum says male teachers do bring something different to the table, or to the floor.
ANGELA BAUM: Some experts suggest that perhaps men play with children differently than women do. So, men may be more likely to engage in what we call rough-and-tumble play. That’s that vigorous chasing, wrestling kind of play. And that’s good for young children, both young boys and young girls.
PAUL SOLMAN: There’s one last aspect of Johnson’s teaching worth mentioning, especially for a Making Sense segment. He teaches economics to second graders, including lessons in managing a work force.
HAROLD JOHNSON: We did supply and demand, and then we talked about wants and needs. We brought the materials to make something, so they had instructions. So one was a sugar cookie, one was some cocoa mix, one was a winter mix. And so they had a factory assembly line.
So, somebody got behind. And so, you know, the people at the front was finished, the people at the back were overworked, and the person in the middle was kind of slowing down. So the people at the end, they were like, well, can we get some help? I was like, no, they finished their job.
So, then they really got frustrated with the middle people. I asked them, well, how did that feel? And they was like, man, that’s hard work. There’s a lot of pressure on you.
And I was like, and imagine, you all was making sugar cookies. Imagine if you really was doing something, building a car or something. So, we talked about that.
PAUL SOLMAN: OK, one last question for those men out there who might possibly be considering if this job is for you.
How gratifying is this work?
HAROLD JOHNSON: Oh, tremendously.
I think the thing that I enjoy the most is when you see a kid have the aha moment or either change their whole perception of something. Like, I have seen boys who hated reading are running to go read first.
And so it’s just like, man, you know, I had something to do with that. Or if I can take this 180 days and make a lifetime of difference, then that’s all worth it. That’s all worth it for me.
PAUL SOLMAN: For the PBS NewsHour at Lake Carolina Elementary School in Blythewood, South Carolina, I’m economics correspondent Paul Solman.
The post How this man found his calling as an early elementary teacher appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault has a story on how a once-segregated pocket of a small Southern town is making a comeback.
It’s part of our Race Matters series.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The city’s historic African-American business district, known as the Hot Corner, helped foster commerce in a place once steeped in segregation.
Athens native Homer Wilson, who owns a popular barbershop, explains how the Hot Corner developed in the Jim Crow era.
HOMER WILSON, Owner, Wilson’s Styling Shop: It was all-black from — we call it the bottom, all the way down. We’re just black business.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What type of businesses?
HOMER WILSON: Funeral home businesses, dentists, lawyers, motels, you name it.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: That was essential for the black community, which had few other choices and could not use the then white-only businesses uptown.
Fifty-six years ago, when I was one of first two black students at the University of Georgia, I couldn’t come into Athens and go to a movie theater like this. I couldn’t even take bowling because the bowling alley was here, and it was segregated.
But after flourishing, many Hot Corner businesses moved to malls farther out during the ’70s or died. Homer Wilson held on to his family’s property, home to Wilson’s Soul Food, for three decades.
This is your place here?
Forty-one-year-old David Eduardo came knocking, in search of a place to rent for his restaurant he calls The World Famous.
DAVID EDUARDO, Owner, The World Famous: The Hot Corner is a great place to do business.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What drew you to it?
DAVID EDUARDO: The fact that there was a restaurant there before that had a strong 30-plus-year run of success was very encouraging. They a had great reputation, and we could only hope to be half as successful as they were.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So, you went to Mr. Wilson and said?
DAVID EDUARDO: And begged him for the opportunity to open up shop next door.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And what did you think about that, Mr. Wilson, the white boy coming in?
HOMER WILSON: Well, you know, he wasn’t the first one.
HOMER WILSON: So, we had a lot of great chances to rent it to a lot of people, but David was more persistent.
DAVID EDUARDO: The fact that it is so coveted is not lost on me. I know that with that space comes tremendous responsibility and history. So, we have to be good stewards for the community. I’m very, very happy that the Wilson family gave us the green light.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: A green light to gentrification, a turnoff to those who helped build this area, but the spreading of the welcome mat to people from new communities.
DAVID EDUARDO: We have cuisine from everywhere around the world, our live entertainment. On any given night, you can find hip-hop, comedy, singer-songwriters. We want to be a place for everyone, not just anyone.
HOMER WILSON: This end of town is coming back to where it used to be, where we had all this that would go on, on our corner.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Both men agree the Hot Corner, rich in history, good and bad, is a special pace.
HOMER WILSON: There is a spirit that hovers over this place makes things, people mix and mingle different down here than they do other places. This togetherness, it can work if we can learn to supply the right information to people.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Like what?
HOMER WILSON: It’s all right to be white. It’s all right to be black.
DAVID EDUARDO: Amen.
I would encourage folks to just get out of their comfort zone. Folks from all cultural backgrounds, gender, socioeconomic classes, they gravitate to this side of town. It’s a very welcoming environment, I think.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Where once people were kept from mixing, now the Hot Corner has become a hot spot for all.
In Athens, Georgia, I’m Charlayne Hunter-Gault for the PBS NewsHour.
The post Once segregated, this Georgia neighborhood finds new life by welcoming new communities appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The people of Iran go to the polls tomorrow to vote in a controlled, but still heated presidential election.
From Tehran, special correspondent Reza Sayah reports.
REZA SAYAH: It’s the closing stretch in Iran’s presidential race. And the capital, Tehran, is at fever pitch, from the streets, to sports arenas, and campaign headquarters. The candidates’ foot soldiers make a final push to win over voters.
It’s an election that will pit liberals vs. conservatives, determine domestic policy, and shape Iran’s relations with the West.
Zeinab Asgharpour wants another four years from incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.
ZEINAB ASGHARPOUR, Rouhani Campaign Volunteer (through interpreter): These last days can make a huge difference. It’s up to us to whip up excitement. If we do that, God willing, we will have good results.
REZA SAYAH: Rouhani’s government signed the historic nuclear deal with the U.S. and other world powers in 2015, the first agreement involving Washington and Tehran since Iran’s 1979 revolution. The deal lifted international sanctions, giving Iran access to global markets.
HASSAN ROUHANI, President of Iran (through interpreter): Have them tell you what they have done for the past 38 years. What I have done in the past four years is quite clear.
REZA SAYAH: But Iran’s economy is still struggling. The moderate reformer and his supporters say, let’s be patient and move forward.
HAMIDEH ASHOURI, Rouhani Supporter (through interpreter): Maybe we didn’t have an actual war, but there was a domestic struggle. We faced harsh sanctions. People suffered to survive. The last thing we want is to go backwards.
REZA SAYAH: But Rouhani supporters are nervous. There is a serious conservative challenge from hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi.
“Come this weekend, Rouhani is gone,” cries rally leader Mahdi Armaghani.
MAHDI ARMAGHANI, Ebrahim Raisi Rally Leader (through interpreter): We believe we are standing by the side of God, and God will definitely stand by us.
REZA SAYAH: Raisi is Iran’s former top prosecutor, linked to mass executions of political dissidents in 1988. He’s never been elected to office, but is backed by the clerical establishment, an important endorsement. Some say he’s being groomed to succeed Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In campaign speeches, Raisi accuses Rouhani of ignoring the poor and failing to deliver on the promised benefits of the nuclear agreement.
EBRAHIM RAISI, Presidential Candidate (through interpreter): Most of our challenges can be solved with our nation’s resources, our potential, strong leadership, our people’s revolutionary values.
REZA SAYAH: At this Raisi rally, a film taunts President Rouhani, suggesting he sold out his revolutionary values to cozy up to Washington.
MORTEZA JAVID, Raisi Supporter (through interpreter): All these sanctions are in place. We lost our dignity. There’s no doubt it’s time for change.
REZA SAYAH: Raisi’s backers are mostly conservative, devoted to Iran’s revolutionary values and deeply suspicious of the West.
MOGHADAM, Raisi Supporter: His main attention will be on us, inside the border.
REZA SAYAH: Some still chant “Death to America.”
Rouhani’s supporters want to silence those chants. They demand social and political reform and better relations with the West. They say a vote for Raisi is a return to isolation and confrontation.
HAMIDEN ASHOURI, Rouhani Supporter (through interpreter): America is bad, but it’s not all bad. If we keep fighting and beating ourselves up, nothing will ever get done.
REZA SAYAH: Tehran-based political analyst Mohammad Marandi says President Donald Trump’s aggressive tone towards Iran, coupled with some U.S. sanctions still in effect, have put Rouhani’s reelection in jeopardy.
Just this week, the Trump administration imposed new sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile program.
MOHAMMAD MARANDI, Political Analyst: They have not abided by their side of the bargain. And by doing so, they hurt President Rouhani, his credibility.
REZA SAYAH: Marandi says, no matter who wins the vote, U.S.-Iran relations will remain icy, and, he says, there is little chance of confrontation.
MOHAMMAD MARANDI: The Iranians recognize that the United States is in a very difficult position, that it cannot launch another war. I don’t think that there is any chance of military conflict.
REZA SAYAH: In Northern Tehran this week, this has been a nightly ritual, people in cars, on foot making a lot of noise for their favorite candidate.
Maybe one of the most surprising aspects this campaign is how tolerant security forces have been. People are able to gather, demonstrate, and chant slogans, even slogans that were very taboo just eight years ago.
When an estimated 25,000 Rouhani supporters packed Tehran’s main sports arena this week, the loudest cheers were for Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist candidate whose defeat in 2009 sparked mass protests by the Green Movement. The government crushed the protests, but the color green sits next to the Rouhani campaign’s purple banners, still symbolizing the demand for democratic change.
No matter who voters are supporting, their number one demand is for the next president to make life more affordable.
MOHAMMAD MARANDI: I think that the important thing for Iranians right now is the state of the economy.
REZA SAYAH: Three out of 10 young Iranians don’t have jobs. Many can’t afford to get married or buy a home. Rouhani wants more time to fix the economy.
The lifting of international sanctions increased oil sales and curbed inflation, but the billions of dollars in foreign investment President Rouhani promised have yet to arrive.
Raisi says he will fight corruption, build low-income housing, and double cash subsidies to the poor.
REZA SAYAH: Former banker and economic analyst Sadegh Samii says Iran’s economy will continue to struggle as long as U.S. sanctions continue to block Iran from the international banking system.
SADEGH SAMII, Economic Analyst: If I want to transfer $1,000 to my children to Canada through the banking system, it’s impossible. Even European banks are afraid of being fined by the U.S. Treasury if they work with Iran. Without the Western money, without the Western banking system, nothing, nothing can possibly function within this country.
REZA SAYAH: No incumbent president in Iran has failed to win a second term since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Zeinab Asgharpour and fellow Rouhani supporters roam Tehran’s streets, pleading for voters to keep that streak alive.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Reza Sayah in Tehran.
The post Voters want Iran’s next president to make life more affordable appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump, as we have been reporting, leaves tomorrow for his first overseas trip, and it’s a long, intense schedule. He will travel to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank, the Vatican for an audience with the pope, on to NATO headquarters in Brussels, and, finally, next Friday, to Sicily for a G7 meeting.
A short time ago, I spoke to two people with lengthy experience in American diplomacy and foreign affairs, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who served in the Bill Clinton administration, and Stephen Hadley, who was George W. Bush’s national security adviser.
I started by asking Secretary Albright about her expectations for the president’s ambitious trip.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, Former U.S. Secretary of State: Well, I think it’s a very complicated trip.
Just think about it, going to Saudi Arabia, meeting with a lot of Muslim leaders, as well as the leadership there, then in Israel, then meeting with President Abbas, then going to Rome, the Vatican, to meet with the pope, then going to NATO, then the G7. What could possibly go wrong?
And it is a very tiring trip. And I think the question is, what is the purpose of it in terms of showing support for what’s going on in the Middle East? And I think the question is what they want to accomplish.
But I think it has — I don’t think we should have a low bar for it, however, because there’s an awful lot that needs to be done. It’s just a very long trip.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think, Steve Hadley, that the possibilities for success are greater than the pitfalls? I’m reading a lot in the coverage of — running up to the trip that the expectation is there are many places where there could be a problem.
STEPHEN HADLEY, Former U.S. National Security Adviser: Well, yes and no. I mean, it will be the first time that the world will see President Trump as president on the world stage. It’s important that it succeeds for him and for our country that it succeeds.
I think the first part of the trip, you know, the people in the Middle East really want to have a strong relationship with this administration, want it — our policy to go in a little bit of a different direction, being a little more confrontational with Iran, being a little more aggressive against ISIS, reconnecting with the traditional allies.
And so I think Israel, Saudi, the Palestinians, they all have an interest in making this trip successful for their own purposes. And, you know, meeting with the pope, you know, is usually a win for any president.
So, I think the first half of the trip ought to go pretty well. More concerned about late in the trip, when the president’s a little tired, more problematic meeting with the E.U., meeting with NATO. G7, again, probably ought to be a little downhill because it’s with our traditional friends and allies.
So, it’s — but it’s going to be grueling. It’s a long period of time. The president hasn’t done this kind of trip as president. The days are long and the agenda. So, it’s going to be — this is not easy. But he’s someone who, you know, knows how to be in front of the camera, and is comfortable being in that position.
So, I think it will probably go pretty well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Albright, so, while the president is taking off on this trip, a lot of controversy he’s leaving behind here at home over the firing of the FBI director, the naming of a special counsel to look into the Russia — potential Russia connections between his campaign, the leaking, alleged leaking of classified information to Russian officials by the president himself.
How much does all that back home hang over a trip when a president travels?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think it definitely does hang on it.
But the other part that I think people don’t recognize often, you take press with you, and it’s American press. And I know from various times that I traveled is issues that are going on at home are asked by the American reporters.
And so it’s very hard to insulate yourself from that. And the question will be, I think he can probably be very calm in terms of talking about what the foreign policy agenda is. He may get irritated at some of the ways that the questions are asked about what’s going on at home. And then it isn’t as if the Russians are just going to be silent.
They are having a very good time kind of observing the turbulence that’s going on. And something that you ran yesterday, it was very clear that they said they looked at the turbulence of information with pleasure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Stephen Hadley, what about this question about so much smoke, controversy here at home? How much do those headlines and those — does that follow him, the president, when he travels?
STEPHEN HADLEY: As Madeleine says, it follows him, because he takes a press corps with him.
And I think, in all these trips, the press is more interested in asking the president questions about the issues that are driving the debate in Washington, and less interested in asking about the trip, which is the challenge, to try to get their message through in terms of this trip. And they will do it by what the president says, about the meetings, about the visuals, about the deliverables from — come to the trip.
But the challenge will be to get the message from the trip and the success they hope to get from this — the trip to make it back to the United States and back to the American people, over the effort by the press to make it all about what’s going on in Washington.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, one of the things — I was at a briefing at the White House today, Secretary Albright, and they are talking about, you know, how pleased they are to be bringing together so many Muslim countries to step up the fight against terrorism.
If that’s what they’re able to do with this meeting in Saudi Arabia, how significant is that?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it would be significant, but it’s not easy.
And, basically, if they have all the Muslims, there will be Sunni and Shia, which is then reflected in their relationship with Iran. Iran will be a sub-subject, no matter what, basically it’s basically — I think, whenever we have been with the Saudis, it is very clear that that is their number one nemesis.
And so the question is how the president works his way through that. I do think that what Steve said is absolutely right, is they are — the Saudis want to have a good meeting. They are about to get a very large deliverable, which is an arms sale. And then they want to be the center of new activity.
Actually, I think, Steve, they might have read our report, in terms of …
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: … we were talking about the importance of having a regional organization. They are talking, and so is the president, about doing something about that.
So they do want to make it work. But the Muslim part of this is complicated, especially since there are Muslims who believe that President Trump doesn’t like Muslims. And I — if I were a journalist, I would ask about the ban.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and which the president talked about during the campaign, but has soft-pedaled as president.
Steve Hadley, if — again, if the administration is able to pull together of something together in the way of an announcement from a group of Muslim countries that they are spending more on counterterrorism, how significant?
STEPHEN HADLEY: I think it will be significant.
And I think what the president is going to try to do — and I think one of the most important pieces of this trip, I understand he’s going to give a speech in Saudi Arabia. I think that speech will be very important.
I think what they want to do is to show that they are working with and rallying the Muslim world to be in solidarity against the extremists, to have the capabilities to cut off their money, and to really be in solidarity, and committed in a way that many Americans think Muslim countries in that region have not been committed against terrorism.
If he can come back with that message, I think that’s a win for him.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that something, though, that makes a difference in the fight against terrorism?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it would if it really has everybody working together. I do think it’s very important to get the Muslim community to recognize that ISIS is — has hijacked a religion that is a peaceful religion.
So — but I think the difficulties of writing a speech such as this one and kind of touching the bases and using the right adjectives and a number of different things that we have all been through, it is a — it’s not going to be simple.
I do think that there are possibilities here, the whole kind of Arab initiative initially on the Middle East peace process, the extent to which the president is willing to get into that. But there is nothing more dangerous than making a mistake on some of the issues, because they all have a great history, and you really do have to study it.
I think we did. And so that’s the question about how much homework the president has done.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, Steve Hadley, that is another message coming from the White House today, from a White House official, saying they have high hopes, that, yes, it’s just the beginning, but they do believe they can start to make progress on an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
STEPHEN HADLEY: I think that’s right.
And I think we shouldn’t have too exaggerated expectations of this trip. I think you ought to think about it as, it’s a debut for the president to show himself as president on the world stage, and to try to set the table now for some initiatives and strategies that will be fully developed in the weeks and months ahead that might achieve some off these objectives.
If they can do those two things, it will be a successful trip.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we will all be watching very closely.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: And I think we wish him well for the United States, for the sake of the United States and the Middle East.
STEPHEN HADLEY: Absolutely.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you, both.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Madeleine Albright, Steve Hadley.
STEPHEN HADLEY: Nice to be with you.
The post The possible wins and potential pitfalls of Trump’s first overseas trip appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We return now to the investigations into Russia’s role in last year’s election and the relationship, any relationship with the Trump campaign.
Senator Angus King of Maine attended this afternoon’s closed briefing with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. Senator King sits on the Select Committee on Intelligence. And he joins us now from Capitol Hill.
Senator King, thank you very much for joining us.
A lot of people have many questions for the deputy attorney general. What did you learn from today’s briefing?
SEN. ANGUS KING, I-Maine: Well, I think there were a couple things that we learned.
One that came out actually in his opening statement, which I think caught everybody a little bit by surprise, he said that he learned that President Trump had intended to fire Director Comey before he wrote the memo, which, of course, was then used later on by the White House and by President Trump in his letter to Director Comey as the justification for the firing.
And I — he was asked about it two or three times, as I mentioned. As I say, he mentioned it in his opening statement. And that was a little bit surprising. I mean, we knew that the White House changed the justification for the firing. President Trump changed it himself two or three days later, but, at the time, the whole argument was the firing was based upon the memo.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
SEN. ANGUS KING: Now we learn that the firing decision had been made before the memo was written.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Did he then explain, did the deputy attorney general go on to explain why he did so, why he wrote the memo?
SEN. ANGUS KING: Well, he didn’t. He wouldn’t answer questions about any details about why he wrote it, who wrote it, who contributed to it, whether there were edits.
And this was sort of second thing that came out of the meeting, because he said this may be part of Robert Mueller’s investigation. This whole — the whole firing of Comey may be part of that investigation, so, therefore, I can’t talk about it, which I think that was also somewhat surprising, that he views the scope of Robert Mueller’s investigation as pretty broad, which now apparently includes the circumstances surrounding the firing of James Comey.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, this is a subjective question, but did you get the sense from Mr. Rosenstein that he — he feels he may have done something wrong here?
SEN. ANGUS KING: No, I didn’t.
He was — he wasn’t apologetic. He was quite assertive, actually. And he stood by his memo. But then, when he was pressed about, why did you write it and how did it actually come about and who talked about it, that’s when he said, I can’t answer that question, and he said that probably 10 times, because this may be part of Robert Mueller’s FBI investigation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What does that tell you, though, Senator, about what — how much the Senate Intelligence Committee, any of these investigative committees, are going to be able to find out, if that’s going to be the answer you get as you try to get to the bottom of some of these hard questions?
SEN. ANGUS KING: Well, I don’t think that’s necessarily the answer that we’re going to get, particularly in a closed session.
By the way, I’m not sure why this session today was closed. I don’t think there was anything said that was classified. At least I didn’t hear it. And he stated himself that the opening statement that I cited wasn’t classified.
But we will be having sessions. In fact, one of the things — I talked with one of the members of the committee right after the meeting this afternoon. Our committee has to sit down with Robert Mueller and talk about how we will coordinate the two investigations. We don’t want to get in each other’s way. We don’t want to offer immunity or have them offer immunity that would compromise either one of our investigations.
But, basically, you have two investigations running in parallel. Their — the FBI is a law enforcement agency, and they’re looking at whether laws were broken in this country. We’re a fact-finding agency, and — or committee, and we will — the — as I say, the two investigations are running in the same direction, and we’re going to try to deconflict and be in touch as we move forward. And I think that’s certainly possible to do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that’s my question. How concerned are you that you’re going to able to do that, given what you’re already discovering today from Mr. Rosenstein?
SEN. ANGUS KING: Well, he was reluctant — I mean, he wasn’t answering questions because he said this may be part of this investigation.
We’re going to be talking to Director Mueller about the investigation. So I think we’re going to be able to get the information that we need. We have gotten good cooperation thus far from the FBI, from the CIA, from the NSA, from the other intelligence agencies. I don’t think this is going to be a problem.
But it’s one that it’s going to take some discussion and some work in order to be sure that we’re — we are not stepping on each other’s toes, because we’re all headed in the same direction. And, remember, this investigation, all the attention is to the Trump campaign.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
SEN. ANGUS KING: This is about a foreign government interfering in our democratic process. And let’s always remember that that’s what it is, and that’s why it’s so important.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But is it also about a potential obstruction of justice or a potential effort to stop an investigation that might be harming the president?
SEN. ANGUS KING: Well, I’m not going to — I mean, that’s going to be part of the investigation. That’s certainly what the deputy attorney general indicated today, was that the investigation at the FBI is going to undertake — or is undertaking.
It’s been going on for some time. It’s going to be very broad in scope. So, all the facts are going to be on the table. And whenever you begin an investigation, you never know exactly where it’s going to lead or what the facts are going to be.
But my goal is to get the information so that, ultimately, we can report to the American people — and hopefully a lot of our hearings will be in public, so the American people will travel this road with us — what happened, why it happened, how it happened, and, most importantly, how do we keep it from happening again?
Judy, this is not a one-off for the Russians. This is what they do. And they are going to try to continue to be involved in our democratic process here, whether it’s state election processes or national elections. And we have got to figure out how to defend ourselves.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, so just finally, Senator, today, President Trump said again that he has no business dealings with Russia, no connections with Russia. Is that in any sense reassuring to you?
SEN. ANGUS KING: Well, if that were the end of the matter, we would all have to say we’re not going to do these investigations.
But, clearly, there are — there’s information that we need to get to the bottom of. And so I’m delighted that he takes that position, and hope that he’s proven correct. In fact, if that’s true, if he is correct, then they should be falling all over themselves to help with us this investigation in order to clear the air on this.
But we have got to follow the facts in order to reassure the American people as to what went on here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, as I’m sure you know, the president today called it all a witch-hunt, said that people are after information that he said is a big waste of time.
SEN. ANGUS KING: I wouldn’t participate in a witch-hunt, Judy, nor would I participate in a whitewash.
This is a very serious matter. And it deserves serious work and consideration. And that’s what we’re going to do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Angus King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator, thank you.
SEN. ANGUS KING: Thank you, Judy.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news: The chairman of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, announced that he’s resigning from Congress at the end of June. His decision came as the committee is investigating the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia. The Utah Republican said that he wants to spend more time with his family and possibly run for governor.
One person was killed and 22 hurt in New York’s Times Square today when a car plowed into pedestrians. The driver, a 26-year-old Navy veteran, was taken into custody and underwent tests for alcohol and drugs. The car drove the wrong way up a street, and then up on the sidewalk for three blocks, and finally came to rest with two wheels in the air. Police said there’s no indication that terrorism was involved.
The founder of FOX News, Roger Ailes, died today in Palm Beach, Florida, several days after hitting his head in a fall in his home. He transformed the business and built the network into a dominant presence, but his career ended in scandal.
P.J. Tobia has our report.
MAN: Today, America lost one of its great patriotic warriors.
P.J. TOBIA: FOX News Channel announced the death of the cable network’s longtime leader.
MAN: He has dramatically and forever changed the political and the media landscape singlehandedly for the better. Neither will ever be the same again, as he was a true American original.
P.J. TOBIA: Ailes left a huge imprint on both American politics and media. He created the 24-hour FOX News network in 1996 from scratch to compete with CNN and other TV networks he saw as too liberal. Within a few short years, FOX dominated cable and helped shape politics with its fair and balanced credo.
FOX News would have an explicitly conservative take to its coverage.
NARRATOR: Fair and balanced.
P.J. TOBIA: Ailes said this in a 2004 interview with C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb:
ROGER AILES, FOX News Founder: Well, we have changed the business a little bit. I think FOX News has come on the scene and identified itself as fair and balanced. We try to do that every day. I think others, instead of trying to get more fair and balanced, probably are offended by that or worried about it.
P.J. TOBIA: Early in his career, Ailes helped launch a little-known big band singer named Mike Douglas, who became a household name with his afternoon variety show. It was there that Ailes first met Richard Nixon. Ailes offered to become Nixon’s media adviser before he ran for president a second time in 1968.
He would go on to advise and work for the winning candidacies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Mr. Bush tweeted today: “He wasn’t perfect, but Roger Ailes was my friend and I loved him. Not sure I would have been president without his great talent. Loyal help. Rest in peace.”
Ailes also served as a one-time adviser to Donald Trump. After a falling out, the two men mended fences in 2016, when Ailes jumped on the Trump bandwagon.
At FOX, Ailes reigned supreme for two decades. But after sexual harassment allegations by former anchor Gretchen Carlson became public last year, Ailes’ career and legacy began to unravel. More than 20 other women came forward with allegations. So far, 21st Century FOX has paid $45 million in relation to those charges, with more pending.
21st Century Fox corporate head Rupert Murdoch and his sons ousted Ailes last July, only hours before Mr. Trump accepted the GOP nomination. Roger Ailes was 77 years old.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Late today, the medical examiner in Palm Beach County, Florida, said that Ailes died of bleeding on the brain.
The U.S. Treasury Department is imposing new sanctions on Venezuela. They’re aimed at the chief judge and seven other members of the country’s Supreme Court. It’s retaliation for the court’s rulings against the opposition-controlled congress. The rulings have triggered ongoing protests and violence.
The Trump administration formally alerted Congress today of its plans to renegotiate NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. The president initially threatened to pull out of the 23-year-old trade pact with Mexico and Canada. He has said since that he hopes to negotiate a better deal.
Today’s announcement came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Mexican counterpart met in Washington.
REX TILLERSON, U.S. Secretary of State: Trade is an important, extremely important issue. And I think the filing of the authorities with the Congress this morning to start moving towards fast-track authority is a very positive move.
LUIS VIDEGARAY, Mexican Foreign Minister: The government of Mexico welcomes this development. We are prepared. We are ready just to work together with both the governments of the U.S. and Canada to make our trade agreement better.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The announcement sets in motion 90 days of consultations with Congress. And then negotiations begin with Mexico and Canada.
And on Wall Street, stocks rallied a minor drubbing after yesterday’s drubbing. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 56 points to close at 20663. The Nasdaq rose nearly 44, and the S&P 500 added eight.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump is rejecting the need for an independent investigator into his alleged ties with Russia. He’s also again denying any wrongdoing in connection with Russia.
He spoke out today, as a newly appointed special counsel began looking into just that.
William Brangham begins our coverage.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch-hunt.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The president’s displeasure with the naming of a special counsel was crystal-clear at his joint White House news conference with the visiting president of Colombia.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign. But I can always speak for myself and the Russians. Zero. I think it divides the country. I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In a sudden shift last night, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate Russian meddling in the election, alleged collusion with the Trump campaign and any other related matters that may arise.
Rosenstein said he acted to restore the public’s trust. That trust was certainly tested in a series of bombshell developments in recent days. First, there was the president’s sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey last week, then reports that Mr. Trump leaked classified information about the Islamic State group to Russian diplomats, and finally allegations that he urged Comey back in February to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn.
Flynn had just been fired as national security adviser for lying about his contacts with the Russians.
The president was asked directly about Comey today.
QUESTION: Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn, and also as you look …
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, no. Next question.
QUESTION: As you look back over the past six months or year, have you had any recollection where you have wondered if anything you have done has been something that might be worthy of criminal charges?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think it’s totally ridiculous. Everybody thinks so.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Democrats had for weeks pressed for an independent commission or special counsel, and most welcomed Mueller’s selection.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: Mr. Rosenstein has done the right thing. I applaud his decision for both its correctness and its courage. I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts, wherever they lead.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Most Republicans had resisted naming a special counsel, but, today, House Speaker Paul Ryan and others applauded the move.
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: The appointment of a special counsel, I think, helps assure people and the Justice Department that they are going to go do their jobs independently and thoroughly, which is what we called for all along.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-Texas: Robert Mueller is perhaps the single most qualified individual to lead such an investigation, in my view, and he’s certainly independent.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Mueller ran the FBI for 12 years, taking over just days before the 9/11 attacks, and served both Democratic and Republican presidents.
Journalist Garrett Graff is the author of a Mueller biography.
GARRETT GRAFF, Journalist: Bob Mueller’s entire history is as a tenacious prosecutor. And so he will follow the Russia investigation wherever it leads. But the good news for Donald Trump is, he’s also the only person perhaps in America who could end up declaring that there’s no there there, and having people believe that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Back at the Capitol this afternoon, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein briefed the full Senate in a closed session on the firing of Comey and the handling of the Russia investigation. Rosenstein wrote the memo that the president used as a basis to dismiss Comey.
Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill says Rosenstein acknowledged that the memo he wrote on Comey wasn’t, in fact, what triggered the firing.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, D-Mo.: He did acknowledge that he learned Comey would be removed prior to him writing his memo.
QUESTION: Say that again? He what?
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL: He knew that Comey was going to be removed prior to him writing his memo.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Republican Lindsey Graham praised the Mueller selection, but also voiced misgivings.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: You couldn’t have picked a better man to do the job.
And I think most people in that meeting are generally OK with the idea of a special counsel. But what they don’t quite understand yet is I think this has really limited what Congress can do.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All of this as new revelations surfaced about Michael Flynn. The New York Times reports the Trump transition team knew Flynn was under investigation weeks before the inauguration for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey.
The McClatchy News Service reported that, during the transition, Flynn blocked a military plan against the Islamic State that was opposed by Turkey. It was later approved after his ouster. And Reuters reports Flynn and other Trump campaign advisers had contact with Russian officials at least 18 times during the last seven months of the presidential campaign.
Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee became the latest congressional panel to ask for more documents on the ouster of Comey and his conversations with the president.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn now to our Lisa Desjardins on Capitol Hill and John Yang at the White House.
Lisa, I’m going to start with you. We were just hearing from those senators as they came out of the briefing with the deputy attorney general. What more are you hearing from that?
LISA DESJARDINS: Right, those senators emerged with one unified theme, that the deputy attorney general was a very cautious man.
And he, on many questions, actually deferred, saying he couldn’t answer them, that it was up to the new special counsel, Mueller. Now, Judy, that left Republicans, they said, with a sense of confidence that here was a deputy attorney general who was trying to remove politics and Congress from this investigation.
Democrats, however, they were frustrated. They said they’re worried that, as this goes forward, they may not get many details about what is happening with this investigation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lisa, other questions the senators were asking today?
LISA DESJARDINS: The big one. They asked repeatedly, who told Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to write that letter about why FBI Director Comey should be fired? They asked him again and again. And we’re told he didn’t answer. So it’s a question still in the air.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, John, at the White House, they were fielding questions about a new FBI director. I know I was there. The president had a session with television news anchors.
But, clearly, one of the questions on their mind is getting to the choice of this new FBI director.
JOHN YANG: That’s right.
And at a photo opportunity with the Colombian president, he repeated what he told you and the other anchors at lunch, that he expects to name a new FBI director very soon. Now, he doesn’t say exactly what that means, if that’s going to be as soon as before he leaves on his first foreign trip tomorrow afternoon.
And aides say that he’s holding this rather close to his vest, but he has indicated that Joe Lieberman is a leading candidate. Lieberman said that this is a bit of a surprise to him. He came in, spoke to the president yesterday afternoon. He said he didn’t seek this, that he had been invited, he had been invited to come speak to the president just the day before.
This wouldn’t only be something of a bipartisan selection, but sort of a pan-partisan selection. He was, of course, Al Gore’s running mate on the Democratic ticket in 2000. He ran for reelection after losing the Democratic primary as an independent in 2006, and then, 2008, sort of broke with the party, went to the Republican Convention, and endorsed John McCain against President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. Of course, Lieberman, a longtime Democratic senator from the state of Connecticut.
So, Lisa, what’s the reaction on the Hill to this talk?
LISA DESJARDINS: Right.
It’s another one of these reverse worlds. The Democrats who would have elected Lieberman as vice president told me today they’re not sure he should be FBI director. They said again and again they think it should be someone who has never held elected offices, someone outside of politics.
Republicans, on the other hand, say they love the choice of Joe Lieberman. In particular, John McCain said on the question of experience, quote to me: “Joe Lieberman has more experience than the rest of my Democratic colleagues combined, and you can quote me.”
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly to John, the White House trying to turn the focus today to the president’s overseas trip, which starts tomorrow.
JOHN YANG: This is a big trip, eight days, four nations, and sort of high stakes any time the president goes overseas, but I think for the first trip for a president, it’s always closely watched.
The planning seems to be a little ragged. They have been having a little trouble getting the details, all the details that the television networks in particular need to have in order so that they can plan, so that they can bring the pictures of that trip back to the United States.
But ready or not, he leaves tomorrow afternoon, first stop, Saudi Arabia.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will be talking about that some more in a few minutes.
John Yang at the White House, Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, thank you.
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Benjamin Wittes is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog and a vocal critic of President Trump. He is also, he says, a friend of James Comey, and he spoke with the PBS NewsHour Wednesday about a series of conversations he had with the former FBI director regarding Comey’s interactions with the president.
Wittes believes the conversations provide insight into the president’s relationship with Comey, who was fired by Mr. Trump on May 9.
In these talks, Wittes said, Comey described several interactions he had with the president, including the infamous hug that “disgusted him” and his feelings about the loyalty oath that the president allegedly requested and Comey refused to give. The White House has denied that President Trump asked for Mr. Comey’s loyalty.
“Trump fired Jim Comey because the most dangerous thing in the world, if you’re Donald Trump, is a person who tells the truth, is dogged, you can’t control, and who is as committed as Comey is to the institutional independence of an organization that has the power to investigate you,” Wittes told the NewsHour’s William Brangham.
Comey also shared concerns about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, before Rosenstein’s confirmation, calling him a “survivor.” Wittes interpreted that characterization as a sign that Rosenstein, who has served under Republican and Democratic administrations, could be susceptible to Trump’s demands for loyalty.
Wittes cautioned throughout the interview that his insights into Comey’s state of mind were only based on these conversations, and that in some cases he was drawing his own conclusions about Comey’s meanings.
PBS NewsHour’s William Brangham sat down with Wittes Wednesday to discuss the essay. Watch the conversation in the video above.
In this excerpt, Wittes says Comey was disgusted by President Trump’s attempt to show closeness:
In this excerpt, Wittes describes what he viewed as concerns by Comey over Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein:
And in this excerpt, Wittes explains why he thinks Donald Trump fired James Comey.
Video edited by Justin Scuiletti
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Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller is here to provide the answers you need on aging and retirement. His weekly column, “Ask Phil,” aims to help older Americans and their families by answering their health care and financial questions. Phil is the author of the new book, “Get What’s Yours for Medicare,” and co-author of “Get What’s Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security.” Send your questions to Phil.
Christian – Virginia: Do I really need a Medicare supplement or Medicare Advantage plan if I’m very healthy and take no prescription medicines? There’s a chance I may someday need a hip replacement, but fortunately, I do have the capital to pay my coinsurance and copayments. I’m just wondering if staying “self insured” this way is better than paying monthly premium for a benefit I’ll likely not use much.
Phil Moeller: It’s all a matter of your own risk-reward calculation.
First off, there is no law that says you have to get any part of Medicare when you turn 65. You can totally self-insure.
The downside to this is that if you later decide you do need Medicare, you will get socked with lifetime late-enrollment penalties for Part B and Part D. You also might have trouble even getting a Medicare supplement plan. And you undoubtedly will face a gap of up to six months or even more between when you want Medicare and when coverage becomes effective. So, if you wait until you get sick to apply, it might be too late to avoid really big bills.
And don’t kid yourself, health care is incredibly expensive. My wife went in last year for a one-day “outpatient” treatment and was in the hospital something like 30 hours. The bill from the hospital was nearly $110,000! I kid you not. Insurance covered all but $1,000.
Lastly, while you are healthy now, Medicare is about insuring a “future” you who is not going to be nearly so healthy. Even very healthy people face substantial medical bills in their later years.
Having said all this, it remains your choice.
Donna: I am 64 years old and have been divorced for eight and a half years after a 31-year marriage. I understand that I can’t get my full benefits until 66. Can you tell me what is the best thing to do, and how much do I get if I wait until 66? Also, can I collect on both of our benefits? For instance, if I get $1,000 for myself, will I be able to get an additional $500 from him?
Phil Moeller: As you noted, you will need to wait until age 66 to get full divorce benefits. Their exact amount will depend on how much money in benefits your former husband would have been entitled to at age 66 (whether or not he had actually filed for them by then). This figure is determined by the record of wages on which he paid Social Security payroll taxes.
Whatever that amount is, it will be reduced by 7 to 8 percent for each year you claim it prior to age 66.
You cannot claim both your full retirement benefit and your full ex-spousal benefit at the same time. Social Security will look at the size of each benefit and pay you an amount that is roughly equal to the greater of the two.
You can find out your own benefit entitlement by opening an online account with Social Security. It will show you the agency’s records for your lifetime wage earnings and provide you a rough calculation of how much money you would get in retirement at different claiming ages.
Armed with this knowledge, you can then contact Social Security and ask them to calculate what your ex-spousal benefit would be. This can take a while, and you need to be patient. Unless you are friendly with your ex and he agrees to provide you access to his Social Security records, you are dependent on the agency to gather this information for you. If your local Social Security office is like most of them, it is understaffed and overworked, and the people you deal with may not even understand the rules as well as they should.
Once you know the size of both benefits, you can begin to fashion a good claiming strategy.
If your ex-spousal benefit at age 66 is always going to be greater than your own retirement benefit, then you should just file for it and not worry about your own retirement benefit.
However, perhaps your retirement benefit already is the larger of the two, or maybe it would be if you delayed filing for it until age 70, when it reached its maximum amount. In this situation, you should consider taking advantage of another Social Security claiming rule.
Under the terms of a major change in Social Security laws enacted in 2015, anyone who turned 62 on or before the beginning of 2016 is allowed to file what’s called a “restricted” application. This applies to you. What it means is that at age 66 you can file a restricted application for just your ex-spousal benefit, while delaying the filing for your own retirement benefit.
If you did this, you could get the full value of your ex-spousal benefit for up to four years. Then, as late as age 70, you could file for your own retirement benefits. If you did this, you would get an additional payment roughly equal to the amount by which your retirement benefit exceeded your ex-spousal benefit.
Nancy – Virginia: I am currently 64 and am planning to quit my job on my birthday next year when I turn 65. Although I do not plan to collect Social Security until I am 66, I will file for Medicare before I turn 65 so that I am not penalized. My husband is five years younger than me. I was planning to drop my employer’s insurance when I resign at 65 and get added to my husband’s health insurance. Do you advise this move? To be added, it will cost approximately $100 a month.
Phil Moeller: If you like your husband’s coverage, I’d suggest you skip Medicare for now and simply have him add you to his plan. So long as you are covered by an employer plan — as the employee or the spouse — you can avoid late-enrollment penalties when you later enroll in Medicare.
If being added to your husband’s plan would cost only $100 more a month, I wonder if it makes sense to do this right away and not wait until you’re 65?
Lee: My wife filed before her full retirement age for her own benefit based on her work record. Since I have not applied for benefits, Social Security is saying that I must apply for benefits before they can make a determination on her application. Since I have not applied, do deeming rules apply in that she must apply for all the benefits she is “eligible” for, including spousal benefits? She may be eligible for spousal benefits, but since I didn’t apply, they are not available to her. I planned to apply for spousal benefits on her record and let mine benefit grow until I’m 70.
Phil Moeller: Your wife’s entitlement to her own retirement benefits is not dependent on you first filing for yours, so I am at a loss why Social Security would tell you this.
If you have not filed, she cannot be deemed, because she is only eligible for her own retirement benefit and not for her spousal benefit.
Assuming you turned 62 before the beginning of 2016, you are grandfathered under Social Security’s new rules and may file a restricted application for just a spousal benefit when you reach your full retirement age. This will permit you to delay your own retirement benefit until as late as age 70.
If you revisit this issue with Social Security, I would love to know the official source for their position that you must file before your wife can file.
Why does drawing Social Security benefits prevent seniors from making HSA contributions? Phil Moeller reports on the issue in his latest column.
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The Washington Post is reporting that a current senior White House adviser is under scrutiny as part of an investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The newspaper is citing unidentified people familiar with the investigation. The adviser under scrutiny is not named, but described as someone close to Trump.
The Post says the revelation comes as the investigation appears to be entering a more open and active phase, with investigators conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas.
Current administration officials who have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials include Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
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WASHINGTON — During his meeting with Russian officials last week, President Donald Trump said recently fired FBI Director James Comey was a “nut job” whose ouster relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a report Friday in The New York Times.
The Times cited notes from a May 10 Oval Office meeting, the day after Trump fired Comey.
Separately, The Washington Post reported Friday that the FBI investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign was moving closer to the White House. Law enforcement officials now consider a senior Trump adviser a “person of interest” in the probe, the Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The report did not name the adviser.
The developments were a blow to White House efforts to tamp down interest in the Russia investigation as Trump and his staff boarded Air Force One for Saudi Arabia, first stop on his first foreign trip as president. The details of his comments to the Russians would seem to bolster theories that Trump fired Comey in an effort to choke off the Russia investigation.
Earlier this week, the Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to take over the federal investigation in an effort to re-establish independence from the White House.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Congress Friday he stands by a memo he wrote bluntly criticizing Comey. But he made clear it was not his intention for Trump or other White House officials to use the document to justify firing Comey, which is what they have done.
In closed-door meetings with lawmakers on Thursday and Friday, Rosenstein said he wrote the memo after Trump told him one day before the May 9 firing that he wanted to dismiss Comey. Rosenstein said that though he was personally fond of Comey, “I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader.”
The Justice Department on Friday issued the text of Rosenstein’s opening remarks for the briefings on Capitol Hill. That was two days after Rosenstein named Mueller as a special counsel to investigate possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Trump has said he plans to nominate a new FBI director soon, and that had been expected before his departure. However the White House said there would be no announcement Friday.
The appointment of Mueller as special counsel has drawn generally favorable comments from Democrats and from some Republicans as well. But lawmakers at both congressional sessions expressed frustration that Rosenstein would say little in answer to their questions about his actions — or others’ — before Comey’s firing.
“There was considerable frustration in the room,” said Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a member of the Armed Services Committee. “This renewed my confidence that we should not have confidence in this administration. I don’t think (Rosenstein) did a lot to bolster our confidence in him today.”
The White House has struggled since Comey’s firing to explain the chain of events that led to it and who exactly made the decision. Trump has insisted at times that the decision was his alone, but he also has pointed — as recently as Thursday — to the “very strong” recommendation from Rosenstein.
Rosenstein made it abundantly clear to the lawmakers that he drafted his memo only after Trump told him of his plans to dismiss the FBI director.
“My memorandum is not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination,” he said. But he added, “I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it.”
The memo focuses on Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, particularly the FBI director’s decision to divulge details to the public at various junctures. Rosenstein denounced that as “profoundly wrong and unfair.”
House members and senators said Rosenstein in his briefings steered clear of specifics in answering questions about his appointment of Mueller but made clear the former FBI director, will have wide latitude to pursue the investigation, potentially including criminal charges.
Trump has reacted furiously to the appointment. However, at a combative news conference Thursday, he fell short in trying to resolve questions about investigations into his campaign and his first four months in office.
Asked point-blank if he’d done anything that might merit prosecution or even impeachment, Trump said no — and then added of the lingering allegations and questions: “I think it’s totally ridiculous. Everybody thinks so.”
The appointment of the special counsel indicates other believe that’s still open to question.
On Capitol Hill, Rosenstein said that he and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had “discussed the need for new leadership at the FBI” in one of their first meetings, and that he believed Comey had damaged the credibility of the bureau and the Justice Department through the Clinton case. Sessions has recused himself from the Trump-Russia probe, citing his close involvement in the Trump campaign last year.
Rosenstein denied media reports from last week that Comey had asked him for additional resources for his investigation before Trump fired him.
Associated Press writers Eileen Sullivan, Matthew Daly, Richard Lardner, Stephen Ohlemacher, Andrew Taylor, Kevin Freking and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON — The United States has proposed to Russia a plan for managing an increasingly complex battlefield in Syria’s main oil-producing region, where U.S.-backed forces fighting Islamic extremists are in conflict with Russian-backed Syrian forces.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford declined to describe the proposal in detail, but said the Russian military is eager to find ways to avoid an armed U.S.-Russian conflict in the area around Deir el-Zour on the Euphrates River.
The U.S. sees that area, from Deir el-Zour down the Euphrates River Valley to al-Qaim on the Iraqi side of the border, as the next major battleground in the evolving coalition campaign to destroy the Islamic State group.
“We have a proposal that we’re working on with the Russians right now,” Dunford said at a news conference with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. “I won’t share the details, but my sense is that the Russians are as enthusiastic as we are to de-conflict operations and ensure that we continue to take the campaign to ISIS and ensure the safety of our personnel.”
Asked whether the proposal to Russia would address the problem of a Syrian army presence in Deir el-Zour, Dunford said, “It will. It will. And we’ve talked about that as a specific area that requires” avoiding U.S.-Russian conflict.
Russia’s support for the Syrian government is a complicating factor in the battle to rid Syria of IS. That was demonstrated on Thursday when the U.S. bombed a contingent of pro-Syrian government forces in southeastern Syria that Mattis said were advancing in a threatening way toward a rebel camp near the Jordanian border where U.S. advisers were present.
Mattis told reporters those forces targeted by airstrikes were “Iranian-directed forces.”
Russia on Friday denounced the U.S. airstrike.
“Whatever the reason for the U.S. strike was, it was illegitimate and marked another flagrant violation of Syria’s sovereignty,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Cyprus.
Three years into America’s campaign, President Donald Trump is pushing for an accelerated campaign to destroy IS. He hasn’t yet announced results of a strategy review he ordered from the Pentagon in late January. But Mattis said Friday that Trump approved a recommendation for a “tactical shift” toward surrounding IS militants in their strongholds, such as the Syrian city of Raqqa, so that the foreign fighters among them cannot return to their home countries.
“By taking the time up front to surround these locations, instead of simply shoving them from one to another and actually reinforcing them as they fall back … we now take the time to surround them,” Mattis said. “And why do we do it? Because the foreign fighters are the strategic threat should they return home to Tunis, to Kuala Lumpur, to Paris, to Detroit, wherever. Those foreign fighters are a threat. So by taking the time to de-conflict, to surround and then attack, we carry out the annihilation campaign so we don’t simply transplant this problem from one location to another.”
Much fighting remains to fully expel IS from Mosul in northern Iraq, and the battle for Raqqa has barely begun.
But the follow-on battle lines are already clear. They will be drawn from Deir el-Zour, which has come under increasing U.S. aerial bombardment, to the western Iraqi city of al-Qaim. The Pentagon refers to this area as the Middle Euphrates River Valley. IS leaders and operatives have gravitated there in apparent anticipation of losing Mosul and Raqqa.
The coalition bombed an IS fighting unit and an IS vehicle near Deir el-Zour on Thursday. U.S. Central Command on Friday also mentioned five airstrikes targeting IS oil infrastructure near Abu Kamal, the Syrian city across the border from Iraq’s al-Qaim.
Post-Mosul and post-Raqqa, the intent will be to militarily squeeze this stretch of territory from each end, according to U.S. officials.
American forces would support a group of Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces driving southeast along the Euphrates from Raqqa toward Deir el-Zour, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the military details and demanded anonymity. At the same time, Iraqi government forces, also supported by U.S. advisers and airpower, would advance toward al-Qaim.
A separate U.S.-backed group of Syrian rebels would push up from the south to block IS escape routes, the U.S. officials said.
Deir el-Zour presents an especially tricky challenge because the Syrian military has a base there and the U.S. has avoided tangling with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces other than an April 7 cruise missile strike.
The overall outlook is further clouded by the Syrian government’s announcement this month of a new military push aimed at reasserting its authority in east, including in Deir el-Zour and the remote desert area near Syria’s borders with Jordan and Iraq. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said last week “the main goal” is to reach Deir el-Zour, an oil-producing region that was largely captured by IS during its great expansion of territory three years ago.
While the Middle Euphrates River Valley corridor may be the next key battleground, U.S. officials believe it will not be the last. There are other pockets of extremist control in Iraq, including Hawija, west of Kirkuk.
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On Friday, President Trump embarked on the first foreign trip of his presidency. The five-nation, five-day tour begins in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where Trump will spend a jam-packed two days.
Giant billboards bearing photos of Trump and King Salman have been erected throughout the desert city. The American flag intermixed with the Saudi flag flies in Riyadh’s streets. On the Kingdom’s official website for the visit, a countdown clock ticks on the homepage underneath the banner “Together We Prevail.” Organizers are even planning a music concert featuring a curious collaboration between Toby Keith and a famed Arabian lute player.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and purveyor of an intensely conservative form of the religion, is a surprising place for Donald Trump’s diplomatic debut and a high-stakes gamble for both nations. Saudi Arabia has prepared an extravagant and public welcoming for the embattled president.
Despite declaring that “Islam hates us” on the campaign trail and issuing an executive order that has been criticized as anti-Muslim, Saudi and more than 50 nation heads converging on Riyadh this weekend are focused on a shared enemy: Iran and ISIS.
“They are not fans of the anti-Islamic part,” says Gary Sick, a professor at Columbia University’s Middle East Institute who served on the National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan. “But they might see it as worth it for the Iran part.”
The Riyadh agenda
The staggering number of events planned in Riyadh reveals the scope of the Kingdom’s ambitions and what’s at stake for the region. Three far reaching summit meetings are planned: On Saturday, Mr. Trump will meet with King Salman, the Saudi monarch. On Sunday, Mr. Trump is to meet with leaders of the following Gulf coalition states, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Also Sunday is the trip’s cornerstone event: the Arab-Islamic American Summit where the president will meet with more than 50 leaders and high representatives across the Arab and Muslim world.
It is during the Arab-Islamic American Summit that Trump will deliver the showcase event: a hotly anticipated speech on Islam. Mr. Trump’s senior policy adviser Stephen Miller is reported to be writing the speech, according to CNN. “The speech is intended to unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies of all civilization and to demonstrate America’s commitment to our Muslim partners,” Trump’s national security adviser H.R McMaster said during a press briefing on Tuesday. With this speech, Trump will have to navigate a series of political tripwires. If the rhetoric is too soft, he risks alienating his supporters stateside; too critical and he could damage and publically embarrass a key regional ally.
“The speech is an incredibly risky move for the entire relationship,” says James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute. “ It’s not just the leaders who will be hearing this but also the people.” Before Trump utters a word of his speech, however, he is already sending a clear message to Iran by delivering it in the adversarial territory of Saudi Arabia.
“One thing that is going to be extremely obvious [to Iran] when he is addressing Islam is that he is addressing only Sunni Muslims,” Sick said. “This will not go unnoticed.”
White House officials say Trump’s speech in Riyadh will serve as an answer to the landmark address to the Islamic world that Mr. Obama gave in Cairo in 2009, but Trump is giving his speech in a drastically different Middle East. Obama delivered his Cairo speech during the convulsing power dynamics of the Arab Spring–a mass uprising that toppled strongmen in the region like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libyan leader Mummar Ghadaffi. Trump delivers his address as many democratic demands of the Arab Spring have been reversed, as Syria’s civil war continues unabated, ISIS poses an ever-increasing threat and Iran is competing to fill the power vacuums all of this has caused.
A $110 billion arms deal between the United States and Saudi Arabia is expected to be finalized this weekend and could total more than $300 billion over 10 years. How the conversations and negotiations between the United States, Saudi and the other leaders evolve could be of huge import to Yemen, where Saudi is engaged in a proxy war with Iran. The two-year conflict has plunged the already impoverished country into near-humanitarian collapse.
At the Arab-Islamic American Summit, the Saudis may also be laying the groundwork for an Arab military coalition, similar to the NATO alliance, to counter Iran’s growing power in the region. Buy-in for the concept from the United States would help bolster its executability.
“The concept would be to bring together countries who have similar interests: anti-Islamic terrorism and anti-Iran and to build on these two factors and construct a workable agreement,” Sick said. This is a tall order, he added, since some countries attending the Summit–despite a shared enemy in Iran and ISIS–are deeply distrustful of each other.
“They are prepared to pay a high price to put together a wide ranging Sunni organization that will end as a barrier to Iran,” Sick said. “ As to who will cooperate, we will have to wait and see.”
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The logging town of Twin Peaks never really existed.
Like most settings of fictional television shows, the characters exist in spaces that are in part filmed on location and in part on a Hollywood lot. The influential 1990 TV drama “Twin Peaks,” made by David Lynch and Mark Frost, which returns for a belated third season this week, is no different.
Last fall, I toured the Northwest with some friends, and decided to check in on several of the locations of one of my favorite TV shows. These locations were shot for the pilot, then redone for a soundstage in Los Angeles. This includes the waterfall that dominates the show’s opening credits.
The bucolic exteriors of the Great Northern Hotel, where much of the series takes place, atop the iconic waterfall, were shot on-location in Snoqualmie, Washington, a short drive from Seattle. From the observation deck, the mist of the 268-foot tall Snoqualmie Falls lightly sprays your face. The interiors of the hotel, including the finely finished wood paneling and furniture, were shot an hour and a half away in Poulsbo, Washington.
I visit the actual Great Northern Hotel and find that in real life it is a spa. When I ask about “Twin Peaks” inside, a worker points to a stack of brochures. (The spa clearly gets asked about this a lot.) While some scenes were filmed in California, the brochure pointed to several other filming locations nearby.
My first stop in my unofficial tour is the Double R Diner, “Home of ‘Twin Peaks’ cherry pie.”
Known to locals as Twede’s Cafe, and set in North Bend, Washington, the diner is less than a 10-minute drive from the falls.
It was built, I find, in the early 1940s, amid a growing timber industry in the mountainous area. Loggers, hunters and other locals frequented the spot in the early morning hours until location scouts immortalized the restaurant with one famous line: “You know, this is — excuse me — a damn fine cup o’ coffee!” Agent Cooper says, after sampling its hot brew.
Cooper also gushes about the diner’s pie.
Painted on one side of the decades-old building is a whole cherry pie, and another slice oozing filling alongside a steaming cup of joe.
The diner’s current owner, Kyle Twede, though, downplays the star quality of its coffee, calling it “conversational.”
“It’s kind of a little bit weaker coffee that you sit around and talk with,” he said.
But he is proud of the cherry pie, saying that the diner has been serving the same recipe for the last 12 years.
“I have never had a complaint,” Twede says. (I don’t either. It’s damn good.)
The diner is also a burger joint. But I go ahead and order a short stack and, of course, some coffee and pie.
Beyond souvenir cups and T-shirts, there’s also “Twin Peaks” memorabilia in the hallway by the restrooms, including photos of Lynch and the cast in the diner.
Twede said Frost and Lynch found the diner at a time when it was “pretty dark, pretty campy, pretty beat up.” The walls and carpet were caked “tobacco brown” from decades of patrons smoking cigarettes inside, he said.
But Twede said he figured Frost and Lynch wanted a 1940s or 1950s time frame that the run-down diner — and the surrounding businesses — brought to mind.
“Nothing’s ever been done in this town as far as restructuring the buildings. Nobody’s going to spend the money to restructure them,” Twede said. “That’s kind of why I really think he picked it.”
Once the show caught on with a national audience, the diner became an international tourist destination. For example, after a Japanese coffee company shot ads with the “Twin Peaks” cast, Twede said, the diner saw busloads of Japanese tourists come visit for five or six years afterward.
In 2000, the diner burned down. Following the fire, management reupholstered the diner’s interior in red, white and blue decor. Local patrons began to appear more regularly.
But then, about two years ago, Twede received a call. It was Lynch again, who wanted to film a new season of “Twin Peaks.”
The patriotic colors were quickly swapped back for the oranges and browns seen in the original “Twin Peaks.” Twede said it took a production crew two days to gut the building and another five to rebuild it. They shot for a week at the diner.
With interest once again rising for the show, the remodeling is permanent. The diner stocked up on new Double R Diner mugs and other merchandise, anticipating a return of “Twin Peaks” fans.
Twede, by the way, is mum on details of the show.
At the diner, I buy a colorful, hand-drawn $2 map of the area to guide me to other show locations. The map lists 24 destinations, including the sheriff’s station, Packard Mill, Ed’s Gas Farm and a murder scene, which is the show’s catalyst. It also includes several items associated with the show’s characters: Laura’s locket, James’ motorcycle and Windom’s chess set. Armed with a disposable camera, I set out to explore.
As a “Twin Peaks” fan, part of the joy of watching the show was how it crafted a mood. The unhurried establishing shots in the credits — the varied thrushvaried thrush perched on a branch, the mechanized insides of a lumber mill, the giant log — all introduce the audience to a small town steeped in Americana.
But shortly after a pair of ducks coast out of view at the end of the credits, the pilot, which aired on ABC in April 1990, juxtaposes the sequence of tranquility with sawmill manager Pete Martell discovering Laura Palmer’s body washed up alongside a river.
“She’s dead. Wrapped in plastic,” he tells authorities over the phone.
Over the course of the show’s first two seasons in the early 1990s, there are many “Lynchian” moments: shots that linger on stop lights gently swinging in the wind, close-ups of a ceiling fan above, a fascination with owls that hide in the cover of night.
“The owls are not what they seem,” a character warns FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, who’s trying to solve Palmer’s murder.
As I explore further, I realize that touring the “Twin Peaks” locations in the Northwest is to travel to towns whose populations are even smaller than the number — 51,201 — on the Twin Peaks welcome sign.
In fact, the 1991 promotional book “The Visitor’s Guide to Twin Peaks” says the sign was a typo — drop the second “1.” A population of 5,120 is closer to the size of any of the real-life Washington state towns of Snoqualmie, North Bend and Fall City.
The sign itself doesn’t exist anymore in Snoqualmie. Finding the exact spot on the country road requires a little work, but there’s a moment when Mount Si, the mountain that gives the show its name, towers in the distance, peeking through the ever-present fog.
A stone’s throw from the scenic spot is Reinig Bridge. A bloodied friend of Palmer’s, Ronette Pulaski, was seen shuffling across that bridge after witnessing the murder.
I bring all this up because, while the bend of a country road doesn’t sound miraculous enough to merit a detour from Seattle or Mount Rainier, even here the mood Lynch created for the show is on full display. (We had also listened to the soundtrack in the car as we made pit stops for “Twin Peaks” locations.)
“Twin Peaks” was a perfect combination of vision and sound. If the “Twin Peaks Theme” in the opening credits lulled viewers into a rocking chair with its folksy iconography, the corpse of Laura Palmer in the following minutes introduced a key musical cue — “Laura Palmer’s Theme” — that was often used as a foreboding presence.
In the short documentary, “Secrets From Another Place,” composer and long-time collaborator Angelo Badalamenti described how Lynch visualized Twin Peaks as a setting. As Badalamenti retells it, Lynch gives the composer a stream-of-consciousness description of the mood the show ought to evoke.
“We’re in a dark woods now, and there’s a soft wind blowing through some sycamore trees, and there’s a moon out, and there’s some animals sounds in the background, and you can hear the hoot of an owl, and you’re in the dark woods; just get me into that beautiful darkness with the soft wind,” Badalamenti recounts Lynch as saying.
Badalamenti, relying on the minor keys, says Lynch asks him to slow it down, dirge-like. Badalamenti’s piano then builds to brighter notes, as if Palmer herself is emerging from the woods. But before that feeling of innocence sets in, the notes fall back down, as if she is retreating back into the dark.
After more than two decades, when the show premiered, the road still feels untouched by human hands. The nearby power lines and trees seem to be the same as those shown when the pilot was shot. Very few cars pass while we stop to take photos. As a backdrop, the majesty of Mount Si can be felt as fog floats past its peak.
Then dread sets in. I crane my neck upward to check for owls. There are none.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, an essay by author Richard Ford.
His latest book, “Between Them,” is a memoir of his parents’ lives, and, tonight, he shares his Humble Opinion about taking note of their love.
Have a listen.
RICHARD FORD, Author, “Between Them: Remembering My Parents”: Goodness knows, there are lots of reasons to write a memoir, to render testimony, to bear witness, to make sense of a recollected life that had failed to make sense before, to turn to the mysteries of memory and improvise a continuous narrative of our own life, and, in that way, substantiate ourselves to ourselves and others.
St. Augustine told us, memory is a faculty of the soul.
Writing a memoir about my parents, Parker and Edna Ford, didn’t seem so much to be writing about myself as about them, although I was their only child, and the only one remaining to say that they’d even existed.
So, here is another reason to write a memoir: to utter what must not be erased.
I wrote about my parents because, decades after their deaths and when I was no longer young, I realized that I plainly missed them and wished, in some way, to draw them near me again. Writing about them would do that, I thought. And it is worth saying that such an emotion, missing them, is possible, and can be acted upon, even long after it might be supposed that enough time has passed for longing to subside.
My parents were wonderful parents, though, other than causing me to happen and making each other blissful for 32 years, they set little in motion and were, as most of our parents are, all but unnoticeable in the world’s disinterested eye.
And yet it’s fair to say that, because they were who and how they were, being their son seemed a privilege. And, almost mysteriously, they opened for me a world of immense possibility.
The choice to make fictional characters of my parents, which would seem to be what many novelists do, simply didn’t occur to me. Fiction’s reliance on artifice, its necessity to suspend disbelief in order to assure trust, its engrossing arbitrariness, and its foundation in the provisional, all of these orchestrations of fiction threatened to overpower my parents.
What I wanted, as their son, wasn’t for disbelief to be suspended, but for it to be abolished, and for belief in my parents and their lives to become absolute.
Facts, with their blunter, more specific hold on truth, seemed to me the better way to represent my parents as they were, and a better way for me to say that, because of how they were, not in spite of it, they merited the world’s attention. That’s worth saying, too.
Age is a winnowing process. And, sometimes, what gets sifted out as we seek to know the important consequence of lives are the actual lives themselves. Odd to think that we could, even for a moment, overlook such rudiments or take them for granted.
Memoir is for that, too, its great virtue being to remind us that, in a world cloaked in supposition, in opinion, in misdirection, and often in outright untruth, things do actually happen.
My parents’ lives did take place. And it is here, in the incontrovertible truth that facts provide, that our firmest beliefs must first take hold.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now back to the swirl of news surrounding the White House, the FBI’s Russia probe, and more, with the analysis of Shields and brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Welcome, gentlemen. So much to talk about. What a week. I don’t even know where to begin.
I will mention that CNN has just been reporting in the last few minutes that they have from several sources that White House lawyers are beginning to at least research the mechanism of impeachment. They don’t have reason to believe, the story says, that anything like that is going to happen soon, but they are looking into it.
But, David, this week, again, there is so much to talk about, but let’s talk about the appointment of a special counsel, Robert Mueller, the former FBI director, in the midst of this, all this speculation about the Russia connection. What does this do to the cloud hanging over the White House?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, it’s interesting that after a year spent campaigning against the insiders, the swamp, the Beltway establishment, that when you get a big crisis, everyone wants somebody with some experience and some credibility.
And so this appointment has been greeted I think by Republicans in Congress, by Democrats, by most of the country as a sign of, OK, fine we’re going to get some straight answers.
And it strikes me as absolutely necessary. I mean, today’s story from my newspaper that he told the Russians that he got rid of Comey to relieve pressure, we used to have a better class of criminal, where if you obstructed justice, you tried to hide it.
And he’s going around bragging on national TV and then bragging to our adversaries that he is obstructing justice. So, whether or not he’s obstructed justice, he certainly seems to be acting like he did. And that certainly justifies a special counsel.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you make of the special counsel pick?
MARK SHIELDS: I think it’s a lifesaver for Republicans. I really do.
I think — and it’s a call for congressional inquiries. We went through the Iran-Contra hearings. And Ollie North, who was one of the central figures, he was convicted of three felonies. And, in fact, that was overturned because of immunity had been given to witnesses and that that testimony had compromised his own defense, Ollie North’s own defense.
So, ever since then, there has been an apprehension, a leeriness about in any way affecting or shaping a criminal investigation, national security investigation, the kind that Robert Mueller, very respected former FBI director, 13 years, is about to launch.
So I think there will be — we won’t see Paul Manafort, we won’t see Roger Stone, we won’t see Carter Page in the public, I doubt very much. I think the hearings will go forward, but not…
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the Senate?
MARK SHIELDS: In the Senate and the House, but not with the same kind of intensity, perhaps, just passion that we have had.
And, for Republicans, it takes it off the front page, and it guarantees that there’s going to be an investigation. But there’s no timetable.
And let’s be very frank. I mean, Bob Mueller is a consensus all-American choice here. He really is. I think it’s hard to criticize him.
DAVID BROOKS: I disagree with one thing.
MARK SHIELDS: OK.
DAVID BROOKS: I don’t think it’s going to go off the front page.
MARK SHIELDS: Well, not if we continue to have the president telling the Russians something that, 16 hours earlier, his people had told the American people they did it because of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, and Comey…
JUDY WOODRUFF: With the Comey firing.
MARK SHIELDS: With the Comey firing, and then, 16 hours later, he privately tells the Russians where there’s no American press around.
DAVID BROOKS: I think what’s — a couple of things happened this week.
One is the special counsel, coupled with the Russian thing. There’s an investigation of a person of interest. But to me, the most interesting thing is that the White House staff and the people under Donald Trump, at least some portion of them, some large portion of them, seem to have turned against Donald Trump.
I have not talked to our reporters who broke this story, but if I read it correctly, some senior administration official with top-secret clearance read the readout to a reporter. That’s breaking the law.
And that is doing it in a way because you think you need to be Deep Throat, you need to undermine this guy, you need to tell — get the truth out about this guy.
And in the Nixon administration, there were a couple Deep Throats. There was a guy off in the FBI who was willing to leak. But in this administration, they seem to be in every closet and behind every desk. I’m exaggerating a little. But there are squads of Deep Throats.
And so that means this story’s not only a legal investigation. It is a dissolution of an administration.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, talking about — not only talking about what the president had to say about Comey, but also sharing the fact that the president shared intelligence with the Russians.
MARK SHIELDS: Shared intelligence with the Russians.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Which is a remarkable story, in and of itself.
MARK SHIELDS: I could not agree with you more, Judy.
And what looked like a generous offer by Vladimir Putin, that I will make available to you the minutes of the meeting, turns out really to be a veiled threat, because the revelation of the minutes of that meeting are devastating. They’re devastating to the administration.
Picking up on what David said, I don’t think there is any question that this is a body blow to this administration. I won’t say it’s dead man walking, but you cannot pass a legislative program on Capitol Hill, especially when it’s controversial, with a president who has absolutely no attention span, no clout, no credibility.
And his is diminished, to the point where there is just nothing believable that’s coming out of this White House.
DAVID BROOKS: Substantively, that’s sort of what’s happened.
We have had administrations that have had big scandals before, but the Nixon administration, by the time their scandal hit, they had a very qualified White House staff and all these agencies. Same with Clinton. Same with Reagan.
With this administration, they have imploded before they have had time to staff up. And, therefore, they do not have people in the jobs to do the normal work of administration. And at this point, who’s going to want to go into those jobs? No one is going to want to go into those jobs.
So, whatever happens to the investigation, we are looking at an administration that will be poorly staffed or un-staffed trying to run the country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, you mentioned, how do you get anything done?
Although I will say, I heard Paul Ryan talk — give a talk last night. And he said, this is all what he called white noise. He said, we’re going to focus on the business of the country. We’re going to work on getting health care done and we’re going to do tax reform done later this year.
MARK SHIELDS: And tax reform bill is? OK. And, oh, I guess it’s with the infrastructure bill.
And we are approaching Memorial Day, Judy. And if there isn’t a health care bill out of the Senate, that’s on life support, perhaps even beyond. So, then you’re a Republican and you’re running. And Paul Ryan, and he’s a lovely man, but you are running in 2018.
And now it’s going to be nothing a referendum on Donald Trump. You won’t even have a legislative program to be able to go back and talk about.
I cannot overstate how unbelievable, literally, this administration has become. I mean, it was said that George Washington was the president who could never tell a lie, and Richard Nixon was the president who could never tell the truth. Donald Trump is truly the president who can’t tell the difference.
I mean, he changes his story, as he did last week on the Russian meeting and on the firing of Jim Comey, depending upon whom he’s talking to, whether it’s NBC or whether it’s his own staff.
And picking up on David’s point about the staff, Judy, the morale is just absolutely at low ebb. You are now facing legal fees. I remember Maggie Williams, who was Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, facing over $300,000 in legal fees.
Everybody is lawyering up. You’re sitting in a meeting now. Is David talking to somebody else? It’s just distrust. It’s an awful situation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, to add a little fuel to the fire, I’m being told right now by our executive producer, Sara Just, that there is a report that the Senate Intelligence Committee chair and vice chair, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mark Warner of Virginia, are announcing that Jim Comey, the fired FBI director, has agreed to testify in open session.
I think I’m hearing that correctly. I don’t have who it’s coming from. I gather it’s coming from the Senate.
So that will be something everybody will be listening to.
DAVID BROOKS: That will be — well, we just heard Ben Wittes earlier in the program with his interpretation of what Comey thinks. To hear it directly from Comey would be a cinematic Cecil B. DeMille moment.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Wittes comments about how he — about how Comey felt about the president pulling him over, pulling into a hug.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes, and the contemporaneous notes that he obviously kept from those experiences and interactions with the president.
And remember this, Judy. Jim Comey, as FBI director, there are whole subject areas he couldn’t discuss before the Intelligence Committee. Now Donald Trump has opened up. Donald Trump has made it possible. He is no longer the FBI director.
And all he’s doing is responding to charges, unsubstantiated, according to Jim Comey, that Donald Trump has made about him. So, this is a — if in fact the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings are open and Jim Comey is there, it will be a ratings bonanza.
DAVID BROOKS: Could it be a coincidence that Donald Trump, we learned, called him a nutjob a few hours ago, and now this comes out?
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, David, this is just — as we said, the president has just taken off on this big nine-day first trip overseas. He’s going to the Middle East. He’s meeting with the leaders of so many European countries.
Does life go on in some way, respects in this country, in this city, while all this is happening?
DAVID BROOKS: In my contacts with the Trump people, compartmentalization is high. And guys are good at it. I don’t know. Maybe — but they would like to pretend this is not happening.
But, as Mark said, they can’t, in their heart of hearts, be sanguine about it, because they’re — a lot of them are leaking. A lot of them don’t know who’s going to write the memoir against each another. A lot of them are going to be under investigation. Some of them, there’s a target of interest in the White House right now, according to The Washington Post, in the Russia inquiry.
And so they can’t ignore all that. But they are trying to pretend that all is normal. And I think that’s the pretense that they are trying to pull off.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, you have been in this city for a long time, almost as long as I have.
MARK SHIELDS: Well, no, Judy.
MARK SHIELDS: But I do — I remember Hamilton, yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How does this city deal with a situation and how does the country deal with a situation like this?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, we have never had one like this.
There is — first of all, there’s no reservoir of shared experiences with this president. We have shared values. They have been through — there is no accomplishment you can point to and say, well, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. So that’s missing.
But, as far as the White House staff — and I have great sympathy for people who work in the White House. They work long hours. They miss birthday parties. They miss children’s recitals.
And what you get really is a sense that, I’m involved in something larger. There’s a sense of a psychic income. But now you have got a boss who has absolutely no loyalty, who is disparaging his staff, who is abusing his staff, according to reports in major papers.
So, this is just — this, again, saps all morale and leads to, I don’t care if I go to the meeting. In fact, I would rather not be in the meeting, instead of, please let me in the meeting.
So, I don’t see how it continues. I really don’t. Everybody who has been associated with this man has been diminished, has had his own reputation, whether it’s Rosenstein or General McMaster. Whoever it is, they are a smaller person for their association and identification with Donald Trump.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But just quickly, David, we started this conversation talking about how the appointment of Bob Mueller, Robert Mueller, as the special counsel has somewhat calmed the waters.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, but I don’t think too much.
I think this is — now there’s a reality TV show. And the people — everybody in this town, they just want — they’re going to want to write the book, going to want to leak the memo, going to want to get their own self-preservation out there. And so the reality TV show involves a public unwinding, not a private investigation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you both.
MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.
The post Shields and Brooks on the barrage of Trump revelations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: how we continue to wrestle with American history.
New Orleans is just the latest city to start taking down historical, but controversial monuments that many say celebrate slavery and the Confederacy.
William Brangham is back with that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In downtown New Orleans today, workers began removing the historic Robert E. Lee statue from his nearly 70-foot pedestal.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu:
MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU, New Orleans: And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African-Americans, or anyone else, for that matter, to drive by property that they own occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The city dismantled this statue in the broad light of day, but three others were recently taken down under cover of night with no advanced notice. Because of threats of violence, city contractors wore masks and bulletproof vests, and were guarded by police snipers.
MAN: It’s cheap. It’s low. It’s cowardly. If there ever was cowardice, this is an act of cowardice and treachery, right here. This is American history, whether you like it or not.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This all goes back to a December 2015 city council vote to take down these monuments, following an op-ed by city native and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis urging the removal of the monuments.
Many have argued it was an appropriate response to the killing of nine black church parishioners that year in Charleston, South Carolina, by avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof.
Weeks after that attack, South Carolina removed the Confederate battle flag from its state capitol. Back to today, New Orleans plans to store the statues until it finds an appropriate location for them. But their removal has angered opponents, who see this as suppressing or rewriting history in the service of political correctness.
WOMAN: Many years later, when historians or politicians declare a war unjust or immoral, does that negate the ultimate price these soldiers and families paid? Soldiers do not make policy; elected leaders do.
WOMAN: A lot of this of — people are — against it are even not from here originally and don’t understand our culture. And a lot of people even from here don’t know their history.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Last week in Baton Rouge, the Louisiana Statehouse passed HB-71, which would require a referendum before any military monument could be renamed or removed. In a show of defiance, black caucus members walked out after vote.
Meanwhile last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, torch-bearing protesters, including white nationalist Richard Spencer, marched against the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue there.
The Southern Poverty Law Center counts more than 700 Confederate monuments and statues on public lands across the country. The vast majority of those are in the South.
So, is this the right approach for dealing with the darker sides of U.S. history?
I’m joined now by two men who’ve wrestled with this very question. Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. He’s helping build a national monument to the victims of lynching in Montgomery, Alabama. And Walter Isaacson is a historian and writer and president of the Aspen Institute.
Welcome to you both.
Walter, I would like to start with you first.
You are a native of New Orleans. You were there when they are bringing Robert E. Lee down off his pedestal today. What do you make of the city’s moves?
WALTER ISAACSON, Historian: I think it’s very, very good.
As you say, these Confederate monument statues were put up not to honor the nobility of any of these people. It was put up in the 1880s, 1890s as a way to try to reassert white supremacy.
New Orleans has had a 300-year history. We have just gone through a hurricane. If you’re going to name the people we should have monuments to, it’s not Confederate generals. So, I think there is a big sigh of relief today as the last of these comes down.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Bryan Stevenson, what is your reaction to this? How does this sit with you?
BRYAN STEVENSON, Founder, Equal Justice Initiative: Well, I think it’s also very long overdue and a really important step for one of America’s great cities that wants to be open and inviting to all the people of the world.
And I think this legacy of racial inequality and segregation has really put a cloud over New Orleans. And these statues and monuments have reflected that cloud more powerfully than anything.
These totems are made of concrete and steel and bronze, but they have been screaming at African-Americans for decades. And what they have been screaming is this narrative of racial difference, this history of white supremacy.
So, I think this is long overdue. And part of that has to do with the legacy. I don’t the great evil of American slavery was involuntary servitude and forced labor. I think the real evil of American slavery was this narrative of racial difference we created, the ideology white supremacy that we made up. We said black people are different than white people. They’re not fully human.
Our courts held that black people were only three-fifths human. And our 13th Amendment dealt with involuntary servitude and forced labor, but it didn’t deal with this ideology of white supremacy.
And because of that, I don’t think slavery ended in 1865. I think it just evolved. And the proof of that was the erection of these narratives or these monuments and totems, which came after a violent resistance, as Walter said, to racial equality.
And they have been there for decades screaming that that narrative of racial difference, that resistance to the end of emancipation, to integration is something worth honoring. And I think that has to change if we’re going to be a country that makes progress in dealing with racial inequality.
WALTER ISAACSON: I would agree that it was good to have the discussion, too, Bryan, which helped this city.
When I was first asked to be on the Tricentennial Commission down here, Wynton Marsalis said, I will do it with you if we take down Robert E. Lee.
And I said, well, I never paid much attention to Robert E. Lee when you go around Lee Circle. And Wynton said, I did. We did.
And that helped us do a dialogue down here, which now is pretty complete.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But, Walter, you heard Bryan say that they were screaming, that these statues were screaming about inequality and white superiority.
There’s also a great deal of screaming, the people who are furious that these monuments are coming down. How is a mayor or a governor anywhere in the country supposed to wrestle with that very real boiling anger over these exact moves?
WALTER ISAACSON: Well, I think what happened here in New Orleans is, we spent a lot of time talking about it, and the anger, especially among local citizens, receded.
I think there’s a willingness now to put this behind. As I said, I just came from Lee Circle. There is a brass band there playing the national anthem.
I think that, once we had this catharsis of talking about it, there were people who protested the monuments coming down, but they were all outsiders who had come in from these weird groups around the country.
In New Orleans right now, it was a daytime, very peaceful thing to get this monument down, and I think the whole process of talking it through, and realizing that we don’t need to put the Confederacy on a pedestal in New Orleans, which wasn’t even part of the Civil War, really.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Bryan, one of other criticisms that has been brought up is the potential for a slippery slope here, which is, where do we stop?
I’m talking to you from Washington, D.C.. We have the Washington Monument. We have Jefferson’s Memorial. We have monuments all over the country that honor people who held slaves.
How do we — where do we draw the line as to what stays and what goes?
BRYAN STEVENSON: Well, I think it’s important to have a conversation about what we honor and why.
But I think there’s a huge difference between Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis and people who were the architects and defenders of slavery, people who were actually considered traitors and treasonous, many of whom thought should be hanged after the Civil War.
And I think it’s just a radical difference between what we see in the American South. We have states, like my state of Alabama, where Confederate Memorial Day is a state holiday, where Jefferson Davis’ birthday is a state holiday. That’s very far away from the conversations that we’re having in other parts of the country.
And I think it does matter. We talk about memorials a lot. We have a 9/11 Memorial in this country because what happened on 9/11 was significant to the nation, to its history, to its culture. And we believe in the power of memorials to say something about who we are.
That doesn’t mean that, if a nation put up a statue honoring Osama bin Laden, we would think that that is acceptable. We would be absolutely provoked by that.
And so there is a way to think about what we honor that reflects who we are, what we think is significant. The greatest person, the most influential person of the 20th century was arguably Adolf Hitler. That doesn’t mean that there should be statues of him in Germany. We would be very provoked by that.
And so I do think we have to ask hard questions. And I think, on the question of the Confederacy and the architects and defenders of white supremacy, symbols of resistance to integration, there should be no debate. We cannot move forward if we actually think there is something acceptable about honoring that legacy.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Walter, what do you make of that? Is there a slippery slope, is there a line that is clear to you as well as to what stays and what goes?
WALTER ISAACSON: You know, William, all slopes are slippery. That’s why you try to find a moral footing.
Bryan got it right. You say, what was the purpose of this memorial? We have a memorial in this city right behind me — look over my shoulder — to Andrew Jackson. That’s because it was put up in 1840. In the square where Jackson’s statue is, that’s where he mustered the troops to win the Battle of New Orleans. So, that memorial is there to honor that.
He was a bad slave owner. He had a lot wrong with him. But you have to say, is this a symbol of white supremacy and Confederacy and traitorousness, or is it because he won the Battle of New Orleans?
People who say things are slippery slopes, of course they are slippery slopes. That’s why you have moral arguments to say, where do I put my footing, where do I try to draw the line?
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Walter Isaacson, Bryan Stephenson, thank you both very much.
BRYAN STEVENSON: Thank you.
WALTER ISAACSON: Thanks.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Voters in Iran went to the polls today in a tightly controlled, but still hotly contested presidential election. Poll closing times were extended by several hours, as tens of millions headed to the 63,000 polling places throughout the country. Officials reported turnout of around 70 percent, and vote-counting has now begun early Saturday morning there.
NPR’s Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep has been reporting all week from Iran, and I spoke with him earlier today.
I began by asking him where he was at that moment and to remind us who the main contenders are.
STEVE INSKEEP, NPR: I am in Hosseinieh Ershad, which is a very famous mosque here in Tehran.
It’s got special significant in this city. And it’s also tonight a polling place. The people are behind me are in line waiting to vote. And if you were to follow this line, it would go out the door, down the steps, around the corner, all the way down to block and off into the darkness.
And as I have been driving around the city tonight, Judy, I have seen lines like this all over the city. Mosques are polling places. Buses are polling places. There’s a lot of enthusiasm at this moment for one or both of the two main candidates for president, Hassan Rouhani, the incumbent, and Ebrahim Raisi.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you wrote today, Steve, for NPR that this election has in a way come down to a referendum on the incumbent, Mr. Rouhani.
What did you mean by that?
STEVE INSKEEP: Well, it’s true in America too, isn’t it? When a president runs for reelection, it’s really about the president and whether people are satisfied with the job that he’s done.
And that’s especially true in this case because Hassan Rouhani has been such a different figure. He’s not a radical. He’s not an outsider. He’s been a member of Iran’s clerical establishment for decades.
But he ran in 2013 on a promise to begin to open Iran up to the world, to improve relations with other countries, and also to bring freedom at home. He’s been through four dramatic years in which he made a nuclear deal that included the United States, along with other world powers, a profound change in relations, at least on that one issue, with the United States.
And there’s been some small signs of opening here in Iran as well, although there are other people who are frustrated that more has not happened, as well as people frustrated about the state of the economy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But he has also faced what I’m reading is a pretty stiff challenge from the conservative cleric who’s running against him.
STEVE INSKEEP: They’re both clerics. They’re both from the same world. They both at different times have been close to the guy who holds the most power in Iran, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is not up for reelection, by the way. He’s not elected by the people.
But the president is. Rouhani was someone who was close to the supreme leader and then positioned himself as a more moderate figure who could try to change the rut that Iran had gotten itself in, the isolation that Iran had gotten itself in. And that’s how he won election.
And now Ebrahim Raisi is a figure who has positioned himself as very close to the supreme leader and he’s seen as far more conservative, although I should add he has been also very populist in the way that he’s campaigned, hammering President Rouhani for the state of the economy, making promises to improve things for people here by taking steps such as increasing the cash payments, the small cash payments that are given to each Iranian.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And how much are attitudes towards the United States, the U.S., and the nuclear deal part of this election?
STEVE INSKEEP: It is a part of the election, but only a part.
Voters who support Rouhani, when I have interviewed them over the last several days in different cities here in Iran, one of the things they say again and again that they want is better relations with the world, and the nuclear deal is part of that.
The nuclear deal is also part of this campaign in a negative way for President Rouhani, because he made what were seen as extravagant promises, that if Iran would only make the nuclear deal happen, economic sanctions would be lifted and Iran’s economy, which has been struggling, would improve.
Economists are impressed with a lot of the things that he’s done, but the unemployment rate remains very, very high. The economy has not created jobs rapidly enough for a very large, very young, very rapidly growing and pretty well-educated population.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Steve you mentioned the supreme leader a moment ago. How much does this election really matter in the theocracy that Iran is?
STEVE INSKEEP: You know, it matters. It doesn’t matter totally.
Rouhani’s election in 2013 brought some change, brought a nuclear deal, brought more openness. And I have felt it in multiple visits to Iran over the last four years. It’s a little more open each time. People are a little more fearless each time, even though it’s also true that many people have to be extremely careful about what they say or what they write.
There is more openness. There is a tiny bit more freedom than there used to be. And Rouhani’s election in 2013 can be seen as the reason for that. So, you could argue that this election too might bring change to this country which has been a pretty big dramatic story over the last several decades.
JUDY WOODRUFF: NPR’s Steve Inskeep at a busy polling place in Tehran, thank you.
STEVE INSKEEP: Thank you.
The post How Iran’s presidential election could bring more change appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We take a closer look now at James Comey’s final months at the FBI through the lens of a friend.
William Brangham sat down with Benjamin Wittes, editor in chief of Lawfare.com, to gain some insight into the former FBI director’s dealings with the president during that volatile period of time.
William began by asking Wittes about the nature of his relationship with Comey.
BENJAMIN WITTES, Editor-in-Chief, Lawfare: Well, it’s really simple.
We’re friends. We have been friends for a long time. And contrary to a sort of mythology that has developed, I’m not among his closest friends by any means, or one of his sort of intimate advisers.
So, I am in no sense talking at his behest. I’m talking about it because I read The New York Times story the other day that the president had asked for a loyalty oath from him.
And that story put, in frankly, sharply menacing terms a set of comments and anecdotes that he had told me. And I saw them, in light of that story, very differently than the way I had seen them before.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Sharply menacing?
BENJAMIN WITTES: Yes, I think so.
And so I thought about it overnight on Thursday night, and I decided that the public should know about what he had told me. He really spent an enormous amount of energy in the period in which both he and Trump were in office trying to protect the FBI from political interference from the White House.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You described Comey’s concerns as — quote — “improper contacts and interferences from a group of people he, Comey, didn’t regard as honorable.”
What gave you that sense that he didn’t view these people as honorable people?
BENJAMIN WITTES: It was written on every line in his face. It was evident in the disapproving tone that he took when he described them.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Including the president?
BENJAMIN WITTES: Oh, very much so.
The color of wallpaper was that these were not honorable people, and that protecting the FBI from them was his day job.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You write about the famous hug, when Comey was asked to come with a bunch of different law enforcement agents to the White House soon after the inauguration.
BENJAMIN WITTES: Yes.
So, Comey really didn’t want to go that meeting. And there were a lot of Democrats who kind of blame him for Trump. So, he was particularly sensitive to the idea of a sort of show of intimacy or closeness with Trump.
That said, he didn’t feel that he could say no to an invitation from the president, particularly one that went generally to law enforcement senior officials. He really wanted to kind of blend in and not be singled out. And he’s 6’8”. So, when you’re…
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Kind of tough to do that.
BENJAMIN WITTES: And when you’re 6’8”, it’s really hard to blend in. And he stands in the part of the room that is as far from Trump as I is physically possible to be, and also against blue drapes.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: He chose that spot?
BENJAMIN WITTES: He chose that spot because it was — almost like a chameleon.
And then, at the end, right at the end, Trump singles him out in a fashion that he regarded as sort of calculated to maximally drive home this sensitivity of Democratic voters.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He’s become more famous than me.
BENJAMIN WITTES: And he extends his hand kind of preemptively, and Trump grabs the hand and kind of pulls him into a hug, but the hug is entirely one-sided. And Comey was just completely disgusted by the episode.
He thought it was an intentional attempt to compromise him in public, in a way that would sow and emphasize concerns that half of the electorate had about him and the bureau.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You also recount a story of when Rod Rosenstein, who is now the deputy attorney general, was being nominated or about to have his hearings.
Can you explain?
BENJAMIN WITTES: Rod Rosenstein is a respected career prosecutor who’s been in government a long time, and served in both the Bush and Obama administrations.
And I was rather surprised at how unenthusiastic Comey was that there was going to be a Senate-confirmed deputy attorney general. And what he specifically said was — and I will never forget it — he said, “Rod is a survivor.”
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Meaning he’s lived through Democratic and Republican administrations.
BENJAMIN WITTES: Yes.
And, you know, you don’t get to survive that long without making some compromises. And so he said, “I have — so, I have concerns.”
And I think what he was thinking at that moment was that: If I was asked to give a loyalty oath, and the president has done these things to undermine me and to sort of bring me into the fold, what was he asked to do?
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What do you make of the criticism that many people have made about Comey, that, if all of these things were happening to you, if you were asked for a loyalty oath, if the president had approached you about dropping the Flynn investigation, if you felt like they were treading uncomfortably on your territory, why not blow the whistle? Why not quit? Why not raise more hell about this, if it was so bad?
BENJAMIN WITTES: Well, so, first of all, one possibility is that it wasn’t so bad, that it was — and I actually think there’s some evidence of this — that this was a situation that he thought he was going to have to manage, but that he could handle that.
And I think he thought he had it under control. And, look, each individual one of these incidents is an egregious impropriety, but they are much, much worse in light of the fact that we know that, when he didn’t get the loyalty oath from Comey, and these efforts to kind of bring him into the fold failed, that he then turned around and fired him.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But, in the end, why do you think Trump fired Comey?
BENJAMIN WITTES: Trump fired Jim Comey because the most dangerous thing in the world, if you are Donald Trump, is a person who tells the truth, is dogged, you can’t control, and who is as committed as Comey is to the institutional independence of an organization that has the power to investigate you.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Benjamin Wittes, thank you very much.
BENJAMIN WITTES: Thanks for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch William’s extended interview with Benjamin Wittes online at PBS.org/NewsHour.
The post James Comey felt it was his job to protect the FBI from Trump, says friend appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — NAACP President Cornell William Brooks will not be returning as the leader of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization after his contract expires this summer, officials said Friday.
Brooks has been the NAACP’s leader since 2014 but will not be kept on past June 30, the end of his current term. NAACP Board Chairman Leon W. Russell and Vice Chair Derrick Johnson will lead the organization until a new president is selected.
Russell and Johnson announced what they described as a “transformational, system-wide refresh and strategic re-envisioning” for the NAACP in a Friday evening conference call with reporters.
“We understand and appreciate the historic model of protest, but at this point in time we believe as an organization we need to retool to become better advocates, better at educating the public, better at involving them in our operation” and better at legislation and litigation, Russell said.
Russell, who was made the Baltimore-based organization’s board chairman in February, praised Brooks’ leadership and said the NAACP remained at the forefront of civil rights activism in the United States.
“However, modern-day civil rights issues facing the NAACP, like education reform, voting rights and access to affordable health care, still persist and demand our continued action,” he said.
A national search for a new leader was expected to begin this summer.
In addition, the NAACP planned to embark on a “listening tour” this summer to solicit input on how the organization should reinvent itself.
Brooks, the NAACP’s 18th national president, replaced interim leader Lorraine Miller. Miller had served in that position since Benjamin Jealous ended his five-year tenure in 2013.
Brooks, a minister, is originally from Georgetown, South Carolina. It was not immediately known what his future plans were.
The NAACP found itself battling for attention from black youth with groups like Black Lives Matter, which rose to prominence behind street-level protests after the killings of African-American men and women by police, including 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Catherine Flowers, founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise, an organization that advocates for poor and black people living in rural areas, said she wasn’t surprised at the coming change.
“I would like to see more of a grassroots effort” by the NAACP, she said. “Clearly, on a national level we’re at a crisis and it calls for a new kind of leadership.”
Brooks also has his fans. Ernest L. Johnson Sr., president of the NAACP Louisiana State Conference, invited Brooks to visit Baton Rouge less than a week after a white police officer shot and killed a black man during a struggle outside a convenience store last year. Videos of Alton Sterling’s July 5 shooting quickly spread on social media, setting off nightly protests in Louisiana’s capital.
Johnson said Brooks met with Sterling’s relatives. During a rally outside Baton Rouge’s City Hall, he said he was tired of victims of police shootings being treated as “hashtag tragedies” instead of human beings mourned by their families.
“He brought some young energy to this 108-year-old organization,” Johnson said. “He’s very energetic. Whenever we needed him in the state of Louisiana, he came to Louisiana.”
Associated Press writers Corey Williams in Detroit and Michael Kunzelman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, contributed to this report.