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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    Members of the Senate intelligence committee are expressing confusion over why Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not disclose his conversations with the president.

    Sessions won’t describe his conversations with President Donald Trump about the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Yet he says he does not have the power to invoke executive privilege, and the president has not asserted it.

    WATCH LIVE: Sessions testifies about Russia meetings in Senate hearing

    Maine independent Sen. Angus King asked a number of questions about the basis for Sessions’ refusal to answer questions.

    Sessions says the president was not asserting executive privilege and that Sessions was simply protecting Trump’s right to do so if he chooses.

    READ MORE: Sessions says he did not have third meeting with Russian ambassador

    The post Sessions refuses to disclose conversations with Trump, drawing repeated questions from senators appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Old male doctor examining a child patient by  stethoscope. Health care concept.

    Photo by Adobe Stock

    A few weeks after Jessica Jayne learned she was pregnant, she lost her job.

    It was spring 2012 and she and her husband, Tyler Jayne, lived in Eugene, Oregon, where she had been managing a secondhand retail store and he served as a part-time social worker. Her job provided benefits; his did not.

    “We were terrified,” Tyler Jayne, 33, said.

    After their son was born in January 2013, the Jaynes enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program. Doctors diagnosed their son with jaundice, which required nearly two weeks in the hospital and a light bed. The medical coverage they received under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was crucial, he said.

    “If we got a bill from the hospital for the extended stay, it would have bankrupted us,” Tyler Jayne said, adding that his 4-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter remained under the state health plan.

    For months, the Trump administration and Congress have debated the future of health care, including nearly $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, which has enrolled nearly 37 million children. By comparison, 8.4 million children have been enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program and its funding is up for reauthorization in September.

    Their household income simply can’t cover insurance for everyone in the family.

    With Medicaid’s future in question, Tyler Jayne is concerned that he and his wife will have to forgo their own health care in order to cover their children. Their household income simply can’t cover insurance for everyone in the family.

    By 2015, five percent of U.S. children lacked health insurance, an historic low, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which attributed near-universal children’s health coverage to the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. That’s down from two decades earlier when 15 percent of U.S. children were uninsured.

    Each year, the foundation measures children’s well-being in the U.S. using a composite score that reflects 16 indicators for family and community, economic, health and education. In 2015, the latest data available, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont were the three highest-ranking states overall for children’s well-being, while Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi ranked lowest.

    To better understand children’s health care, researchers analyzed four health-related indicators: low birth weight, uninsured children, the death rate for children and teens per 100,000 deaths, and teen consumption of alcohol or drugs.

    In fact, health care was where the foundation’s researchers found the biggest gains in child well-being, said Florence Gutierrez, who develops and manages the Kids Count database.

    Medicaid, Obamacare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) “have helped ensure that children have access to health care services,” Gutierrez said. “We believe these are health care programs that are working and that should be supported moving forward.”

    Joan Alker directs Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families, which released an October report with similar findings, and said improved access to health insurance for more children is a “national success story,” but cautioned that “it’s very much at risk.”

    By 2015, five percent of U.S. children lacked health insurance, an historic low.

    With millions of children benefiting from Medicaid, Alker said, children “can’t run and hide.”

    On May 4, the House approved a GOP overhaul the Affordable Care Act. When asked about the futures of CHIP or Medicaid, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office said the Senate majority leader has been a long-time supporter of CHIP in particular, adding that the program was separate from the health care bill currently under discussion.

    “He voted for SCHIP’s creation and introduced bills in the past to extend the program,” McConnell’s press secretary, Stephanie Penn, said in a statement to the NewsHour.

    Penn did not specifically address concerns from children’s advocates over Medicaid. The Congressional Budget Office last month said the House’s health care overhaul plan would leave 51 million Americans without health insurance by 2026. If the ACA remained unchanged, 28 million Americans would be uninsured in the same time period, the budget office said.

    The post What’s at stake for children’s health care? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTS16XKV

    U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on June 13, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

    For the second time in a week, the 15 senators who sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee were responsible for questioning a key figure at the center of the Russia investigations. Here is what we learned from the testimony of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who answered questions about his contacts with Russian officials, his recusal from the federal Russia probe, and his role in the firing of former FBI director James Comey.

      1. Why Sessions recused himself, exactly. The attorney general said he formally removed himself from any federal investigations involving President Donald Trump’s campaign because of a U.S. statute. The statute is 28 CFR 45.2, which disqualifies officials from participating in prosecutions if they have a personal or political relationship with a subject of the probe.Sessions: I recused myself from Russia investigation because of role on Trump campaign

        Sessions recused himself on March 2, one day after the Washington Post reported that he met with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, despite testimony indicating otherwise. “Many suggested [I recused myself] because I was a subject of the investigation, but [the statute] was the reason,” Sessions said at the hearing Tuesday.

      2. Why he still was involved in Comey’s firing, despite the recusal. Senators from both parties pressed Sessions on this point. He insisted that he recused himself from a single FBI investigation — the one into Russia’s alleged ties to Trump’s campaign — and that he did not think his recusal should block his ability to conduct oversight of the FBI and its director. “I am the attorney general,” Sessions testified. “It is my responsibility to ensure the department is running properly.”

    READ MORE: Sessions says he had concerns about Comey long before firing

      1. Sessions does not have a legal reason for refusing to discuss his conversations with the president. In the hearing, the nation’s top law enforcement officer repeatedly declined to describe any conversation with Trump which the president himself had not already made public. Sessions applied that answer universally, from any conversations about firing Comey, to whether the president asked him to leave the room so Trump could meet alone with Comey.

    Senators Martin Heinrich D-N.M., Angus King, I-Maine, and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and other Democrats focused on this issue. Some asked Sessions whether executive privilege has been invoked. No, Sessions responded. “Then what is the legal basis of your refusal?” King pressed at one point. “I am protecting the right of the president to assert [executive privilege] as he chooses,” Sessions answered, adding that he thought discussing those conversations was not appropriate. He said that was a longtime policy at the Department of Justice.

    Heinrich asked if this is a written policy. Sessions said he believed it was. But later, when Harris asked him the same question, Sessions acknowledged that he wasn’t sure. Harris also asked him if, ahead of the hearing, Sessions and his aides reviewed DOJ’s policies on his ability to answer questions under oath about conversations with a president. Sessions said they “talked about it,” but admitted that he was not familiar with details of the department’s policies. “I am unable to answer these questions,” Sessions said.

      1. Those close to the president don’t know if there are tapes. Asked by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, if he knows whether Mr. Trump recorded any of his conversations, Sessions replied simply, “I don’t know.”
      2. Questions remain, especially about the Comey firing. Sessions’ decision not to discuss communications with the president left many questions unanswered — in particular when Trump told him he wanted to fire Comey, and whether the president ordered him to write a letter recommending that action.

    1. The head of the National Security Agency answered a lot of questions behind closed doors. Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., told the hearing that on Monday night, NSA Director Michael Rogers spent two hours with the committee in closed session, and did answer the questions he had said he could not tackle in his testimony at an open session last week. Those involved his communications with the president as well as whether Rogers took notes of those communications.
    2. Meetings vs encounters. A new, potentially important word entered the Russia investigation lexicon: encounter. Sessions differentiated between his more formal meetings with Kislyak, in his Senate office and at the Republican National Convention last year, versus a more brief interaction that may or may not have happened at a VIP reception following a foreign policy speech Trump gave at a Washington, D.C., hotel in April 2016. Sessions called that last event an “encounter,” and also stressed it was so brief he doesn’t remember it. Going forward,this distinction could be useful in trying to piece together the nature of contacts in the wide-ranging Russia investigations. According to Sessions, encounters matter — but they’re not as important as a formal meeting.

    READ MORE: Read Jeff Sessions’ prepared Senate testimony on Russia

    The post What we learned at the Sessions hearing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Much of the president’s agenda is aimed at kicking the economy into higher gear and creating more jobs.

    Just four months into office, the president has made numerous claims about the jobs he’s created and the jobs he’s saved. He’s in Wisconsin tonight, and is spending a good part of his week promoting some of his
    job-creating initiatives.

    But what’s the real record on some of the president’s claims?

    William Brangham takes a look behind the numbers.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Today, the president repeated a claim he’s been making for months: His policies are creating new jobs that far surpass his predecessors.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think probably seldom has any president and administration done more or had more success so early on, including a record number of resolutions to eliminate job-killing regulations. And we see it all over the country, where jobs are starting that would never have started, ever, under any circumstance.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Earlier this month, the president claimed he helped claim more than one million new jobs.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: More than a million private sector jobs.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But that number was based on an estimate from a payroll company. The U.S. Labor Department reported far fewer jobs. This weekend, the president correctly tweeted out a lower number, 600,000.

    STEVEN RATTNER, Former Adviser to President Obama: In my 40 years of being in and around Washington and economic policy, I have never seen a president try to take credit for as many things as he has tried to take credit for on the job front.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Steve Rattner is an analyst and Wall Street financier who also headed President Obama’s Auto Industry Task Force.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the four months before President Trump’s election, the U.S. economy added about 840,000 jobs. In the four months since his inauguration, it’s added about 600,000.

    STEVEN RATTNER: The U.S. economy is like a huge battleship. It doesn’t turn fast. And so I think to judge any president by a few months of results, whether they’re good or bad, is way premature.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Veronique de Rugy, a libertarian economist at George Mason University, says giving credit to a president for job numbers, good or bad, is misleading.

    VERONIQUE DE RUGY, George Mason University: It’s wrong to be thinking about the power of the president in terms of jobs. What is important to think is how — what kind of policies can be put in place to grow the economy, and that, in theory, creates jobs.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Since he was elected, the president claims he’s persuaded numerous companies to keep and grow jobs here in the U.S., but analysts who have looked at these numbers say they’re not nearly as clear-cut as the president says.

    Take the president’s claim back in December that the heating and cooling companies United Technologies and Carrier would be keeping jobs in the U.S. and not sending them to Mexico.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I will tell you that United Technologies and Carrier stepped it up, and now they’re keeping — actually, the number is over 1,100 people, which is so great, which is so good.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: CEO Greg Hayes told CNBC that a personal phone call from the president and his business-friendly platform were important factors.

    GREGORY HAYES, CEO, United Technologies: And he simply said, “Look, Greg, I need you to re-look at the decision to close the Indianapolis factory of Carrier.” He said, “We’re going to do a lot of things in this country that is going to make it a lot more conducive to manufacturing.”

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It turned out, though, only 800 jobs were staying in the U.S., while 1,300 were in fact leaving the country.

    And those jobs that were staying came after the company received $7 million in tax incentives from the state of Indiana.

    Another example, just a few weeks before the inauguration, Ford Motor Company announced they had scrapped plans for a new billion-dollar plant in Mexico. The president hailed the decision, but Ford’s then CEO, Mark Fields, later said not moving to Mexico was mostly a business decision.

    MARK FIELDS, Former CEO, Ford Motor Company: Well, the main reason for not building the plant and canceling the plant in Mexico is just due to market demand.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For critics of the president, like Steven Rattner, these claims are P.R. stunts to give the appearance of action.

    STEVEN RATTNER: My colleague and I recently put together a list for The New York Times of every place he had taken credit.

    And, in fact, he doesn’t deserve credit for any of them. The only jobs that he can legitimately take credit for saving were those 800 jobs at Carrier Corporation early in the administration.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In one case, the Trump administration’s claim about job creation has blurred job categories.

    SCOTT PRUITT, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator: Since the last — fourth quarter of last year until most recently, added almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Last weekend, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made this striking claim, that 50,000 new coal jobs have been created, which would mean the entire U.S. coal industry had doubled in just a few

    Months. fact-checkers quickly pointed out that the vast majority of those new jobs were not in coal, but in mining. In other interviews, Pruitt included both categories in the 50,000 number.

    SCOTT PRUITT: You know, since last — the fourth quarter of 2016, Chris, we have had almost 50,000 jobs created in the mining and — and — and coal sector alone, in fact, in the month of May, almost 7,000 jobs.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Despite these claims, many economists say that, until the president’s major economic policies on taxes, regulation and trade are in place, they can’t make a proper verdict on his job creation.

    VERONIQUE DE RUGY: If you look at the stock market, there is just a lot of excitement out there. The question is whether they’re going to be able to translate these into realities, which then turns into real economic growth that is based on something else but hope.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The White House is planning on hosting another set of CEOs later this week.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we’re going to continue to follow the jobs story.

    The post Has the president created lots of jobs? Putting Trump’s claims in context appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who has been detained in North Korea since early January 2016, bows during a news conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo on Feb. 29, 2016. Warmbier was detained for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda banner from his Pyongyang hotel and has confessed to "severe crimes" against the state, the North's official media said on Monday. Photo by Kyodo via Reuters

    Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who has been detained in North Korea since early January 2016, was released Tuesday. File photo by Kyodo via Reuters.

    An American college student who has been in a coma, according to his parents, while serving a 15-year prison term in North Korea, was released and evacuated Tuesday as the Trump administration revealed a rare exchange with the reclusive country.

    The release of Otto Warmbier came during a visit to North Korea by former NBA star Dennis Rodman, one of few people to have met both North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. But State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Rodman had nothing to do with Warmbier’s release. Rodman had told reporters before arriving in Pyongyang that the issue of Americans detained by North Korea is “not my purpose right now.”

    Instead, the administration credited the release to its diplomatic intervention. It said its special envoy on North Korean policy met with North Korean foreign ministry representatives in Norway last month. The North Koreans agreed to allow consular visits to four Americans held in the North. Such meetings are unusual because the two governments do not have diplomatic relations.

    READ MORE: North Korea sentences American student to 15 years of hard labor

    While North Korea’s move to free Warmbier could potentially provide an opening for talks on security issues, the prospects still appear bleak. International negotiations on the dispute over North Korea’s nuclear program have been in limbo for years, as the U.S. cranks up economic sanctions and North Korea won’t give up weapons it considers a guarantee against invasion.

    The detention of Americans, often sentenced to draconian prison sentences for seemingly small offenses in the totalitarian nation, has compounded tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. Three Americans remain in custody.

    Warmbier, 22, a University of Virginia undergraduate, was convicted and sentenced in a one-hour trial in North Korea’s Supreme Court in March 2016. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor for subversion after he tearfully confessed that he had tried to steal a propaganda banner.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the State Department had secured Warmbier’s release at the direction of the president. He said Warmbier, of Cincinnati, was en route to the U.S.

    Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement to The Associated Press that their son is in a coma and flying home. They said they were told their son has been in a coma since his trial — when he was last seen in public — and they had learned of this only one week ago. U.S. officials did not confirm those details. The State Department would not comment on Warmbier’s condition, citing privacy concerns. Nauert said the last consular visit to Warmbier, by Swedish diplomats, was March 2.

    READ MORE: North Korea detains University of Virginia student

    “We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime” in North Korea, Warmbier’s parents said. “We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him.”

    A White House official said Trump had instructed Tillerson to take all appropriate measures to secure the release of Americans held in North Korea. The official referred to them as “hostages.”

    The U.S. government accuses North Korea of using such detainees as political pawns. North Korea accuses Washington and South Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government.

    Following the May meeting in Oslo, North Korea urgently requested another meeting, which took place last week between the U.S. envoy on North Korea, Joseph Yun, and the North’s ambassador at the U.N. in New York. There, Yun learned about Warmbier’s “condition,” the White House official said.

    A White House official said Trump had instructed Tillerson to take all appropriate measures to secure the release of Americans held in North Korea. The official referred to them as “hostages.”

    The official, who was not authorized to speak on the record about the sequence of events and requested anonymity, said that after Tillerson consulted with Trump, Yun was dispatched to North Korea. He visited Warmbier with two doctors on Monday, and demanded his release on humanitarian grounds. Warmbier was evacuated Tuesday.

    A North Korean foreign ministry official, requesting anonymity because no formal North Korean statement had been released, said only that Warmbier was released and left the country Tuesday.

    It’s not clear if Warmbier’s release during Rodman’s visit was purely coincidental. Rodman has traveled to the isolated nation four times since 2013, attracting a lot of publicity, much of it unfavorable. In 2014, Rodman arranged a basketball game with other former NBA players and North Koreans and regaled leader Kim with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

    Rodman’s current trip is his first since Trump, his former “Celebrity Apprentice” boss, became president. He told reporters in Beijing, as he departed for Pyongyang, that he hopes his trip will “open a door” for Trump.

    North Korea poses one of the greatest national security challenges for Trump as it tries to develop a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America. He is looking to increase economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, with help from China, but has said he’s open to meeting Kim.

    In the past, North Korea has held out until senior U.S. officials or statesmen came to personally bail out detainees. A 2009 visit by former President Bill Clinton secured the freedom of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling.

    Tillerson said the State Department is continuing “to have discussions” with North Korea about the release of other three American citizens imprisoned there. They are:

    • Kim Hak Song, who was detained in early May to be investigated for committing unspecified hostile acts, North Korea has said. He worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.
    • Tony Kim, who also goes by his Korean name Kim Sang-duk, was detained April 22 at the Pyongyang airport. He had also taught at the university. He was accused of committing unspecified criminal acts intended to overthrow the government.
    • South Korean-born U.S. citizen Kim Dong Chul, who was sentenced in April 2016 to 10 years in prison with hard labor after being convicted of espionage.

    AP reporters Josh Lederman and Ken Thomas in Washington, Eric Talmadge in Pyongyang, North Korea, Daniel Sewell in Cincinnati, and video journalist Sara Gillesby in New York contributed to this report.

    The post North Korea frees American student appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: After months of complaints about the company’s culture, allegations of sexual harassment and bias, Uber announced changes at the top today.

    Even though the ride service giant is worth tens of billions of dollars, it’s in the midst of major turmoil. Now it will take new steps to change the culture, it says, and values of a company that’s become criticized for very aggressive, unethical and potentially illegal tactics.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Perhaps the biggest immediate change, Uber’s chief executive and co-founder, Travis Kalanick, will take an indefinite leave of absence.

    That comes after a personal loss, the death of his mother, but also coincides with a new report on company policy and behavior led by former Attorney General Eric Holder.

    Uber’s board of directors reportedly adopted a series of recommendations from Holder, including more oversight of leadership, new measures to increase diversity and inclusion, stricter guidelines for employee behavior, and a pledge to change Uber’s core founding values.

    Uber’s problems grew after a former engineer wrote a blog post this past winter detailing how she had been sexually harassed at the company and how her managers ignored her complaints.

    We’re joined now by Jessi Hempel. She head of editorial for Backchannel, a tech and business publishing site.

    Welcome to you.

    So, is this, first of all, a surprise that Travis Kalanick is taking a leave? And what further questions does it raise for you?

    JESSI HEMPEL, Backchannel: I would say, in fact, it can’t be a surprise at this point that Travis is taking a leave.

    Look, he’s having a hard personal time. He buried his mother on Friday. But, beyond that, the company needs it. Shareholders are worried. They’re worried that the company is going to begin the lose value.

    And as to what questions that it raises for me, I think the biggest question is, Travis is a guy who has managed, through very smart manipulation of the shares of the company, to maintain a ton of control of this company. He certainly will stay on the board.

    I want to know what it really means that he’s taking a leave. Is he actually going to be able to step back and let somebody else run the company?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, what are the core — what is the core problem at Uber that comes through the reporting up to this point and what we know from the Holder report that’s just come out?

    JESSI HEMPEL: I would point to two problems that are really highlighted by the Holder report. The first and the most egregious is a cultural problem. It starts at the top.

    This is a company that has for too long taken it for granted that people are disposable, and that the CEO’s machismo attitude has just trickled down.

    But, secondarily, this is a 14,000-per company, and Travis has been running it as if it were an eight-person start-up. So, it has none of the structures that most companies put in place the catch some of this stuff a lot earlier on.

    And that’s what you really see in the Holder report. The Holder reports asks for what at many companies this size are very basic things, like a better H.R. structure that works, or a head of diversity and inclusion that actually does that job. These are pretty basic things.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, there is always a question, of course, when you have a company that’s really built and around the image of one person, how much can you separate that person from the company and how much the company can thrive now going forward.

    JESSI HEMPEL: I mean, I think that really is the question for Uber.

    It’s a paradox of sorts. The reason why Uber has been so successful so far is also the reason why the culture is in such crisis. If you truly are able to strip Travis, not just Travis, but his values from this company, what do you have left? What are you going to rebuild it as? What is the vision going forward?

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, do you see any new steps in what you have seen so far to ensure the diversity, the better kind of leadership, the taking away the bias that’s been there?

    JESSI HEMPEL: Well, absolutely.

    I mean, this is a company that’s truly taking this seriously. Now, it’s about time. But last week, we saw that the company hired Frances Frei from Harvard Business School. She’s a renowned executive leadership expert. And she’s going to come in, and she says she has full leeway to do whatever she needs to do to improve the culture.

    But, you know, the biggest challenge for this company right now is that it has no leadership. I mean, it’s not just that it doesn’t have Travis. It’s executive ranks are incredibly thin right now. And so Uber’s first — the first thing it needs to do is simply put new leaders in place.

    And, frankly, it’s a pretty hard place to recruit skilled leaders right now. I don’t know a heck of a lot of people who want to go.


    JEFFREY BROWN: Excuse me.


    JEFFREY BROWN: How much impact has all this had on ridership and on the bottom line?

    JESSI HEMPEL: Well, it’s hard to say right now. I mean, profits — revenues continue to agree at this company, and its loss last quarter shrunk some.

    But we have also seen the competitor Lyft gain some market share in the U.S. And I have heard that advertisers are a little nervous about putting their brand next to Uber right now.

    And so I think that we’re going to start to see over the long term, over the next few months the impact that the last few months has had.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And just very briefly, Jessi, how much of all this is being watched by other companies who have been charged with a similar kind of culture in Silicon Valley?

    JESSI HEMPEL: You make a really great point.

    Uber is in the spotlight for this, but this isn’t an Uber problem. This is a problem that a lot of start-ups have that have grown to these massive valuations with many employees based on the charisma and the vision of one founder.

    And I think one thing that we will see going forward is that Silicon Valley will hopefully look itself in the mirror and rethink some of the ways that it structures these start-ups to begin with.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Jessi Hempel of Backchannel, thank you. Thank you very much.

    JESSI HEMPEL: Thank you.

    The post How will Uber evolve without CEO Kalanick behind the wheel? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the release of Otto Warmbier from captivity in North Korea.

    The American college student was arrested almost 18 months ago during a trip to the reclusive nation, and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

    This morning came word suddenly that the United States had secured his release, but under apparently desperate circumstances. Warmbier is comatose, and has been for a year. An American delegation in Pyongyang petitioned for his immediate release yesterday.

    Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, reports.

    REX TILLERSON, U.S. Secretary of State: At the president’s direction, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea.

    MARGARET WARNER: The announcement came from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a Senate budget hearing. The 22-year-old University of Virginia student was finally free, after being jailed by the North’s repressive regime for 17 months.

    Anna Fifield has been reporting the story for The Washington Post.

    She spoke via Skype from Tokyo.

    ANNA FIFIELD, The Washington Post: What I have been told is that, last Monday, June the 5th, the North Koreans actually approached Americans who they talk to, and they said that Otto Warmbier was in a coma and had been in a coma for more than a year.

    And that started the ball rolling to have him medically evacuated. The North Koreans said that he came down with a case of botulism soon after his sentencing, and that he was given a sleeping pill and fell into a coma, and he didn’t wake up from that.

    MARGARET WARNER: Warmbier’s parents confirmed their son is in a coma, and had been medically evacuated.

    In a statement to the Associated Press, they also said: “We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime.”

    Warmbier was arrested after he allegedly took a propaganda poster from the wall of a Pyongyang hotel on New Year’s Eve, 2015. He’d been in North Korea as part of a tour group. In March last year, he was sentenced to 15 years hard labor.

    OTTO WARMBIER, Released North Korean Prison: I have made the worst mistake of my life.

    MARGARET WARNER: In the past, Pyongyang has used detained American citizens to try to exert leverage over the U.S.

    But Anna Fifield says, this time, the North had appeared unwilling to bargain. It didn’t respond to U.S. offers to send a high-level envoy to discuss Warmbier and three other Americans held by the North. One was arrested just last month.

    Pyongyang’s attitude changed in May. It agreed to let Swedish diplomats visit the prisoners, and with news of Warmbier’s dire condition, Pyongyang urgently requested a meeting with a top U.S. official at the U.N. last week.

    At that point, Fifield said, President Trump got involved.

    ANNA FIFIELD: Once Otto Warmbier’s condition was known, I’m told that the president did become involved, that he was informed, that he personally gave the order to do everything that they could to get Otto Warmbier out.

    MARGARET WARNER: The release comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and the regime of Kim Jong-un. Pyongyang has ramped up its nuclear and missile programs. In response, the U.S. has taken a tough tack, and recently began deploying the advanced anti-missile defense known as THAAD to South Korea.

    But Fifield says another motivation may have driven the North Koreans.

    ANNA FIFIELD: I think the North Koreans have probably realized that they did need to get rid of Otto Warmbier at some stage, that he wasn’t recovering, and they needed to hand him back.

    MARGARET WARNER: The release also coincides with former NBA player Dennis Rodman’s latest visit to Pyongyang. Fifield says she was told Rodman’s visit had nothing to with the freeing of Warmbier.

    Warmbier was flown first to an American military medical facility in Japan, then flown on to Cincinnati, near his family’s home.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Margaret Warner.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: Leaders of two Senate committees have reached agreement on new sanctions against Russia. The plan, announced last night, targets corruption, human rights abuses and weapons shipments to Syria. It also requires congressional review if a president tries to ease or end existing sanctions.

    Pentagon leaders were criticized over not finishing a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. At a Senate hearing, Defense Secretary James Mattis says he will provide details next month.

    Arizona Republican John McCain, chair of the Armed Services Committee, said it should have been done within the administration’s first 60 days.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: Unless we get a strategy from you, you’re going to get a strategy from us. The fact is, it’s not our job. It’s not our job. It’s yours.

    JAMES MATTIS, U.S. Secretary of Defense: Sir, I understand the urgency. I understand it’s my responsibility. We are not winning in Afghanistan right now. And we will correct this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Mattis had his own complaint about Congress. He said that — quote — “No enemy has hurt combat readiness more than the automatic spending cuts of recent years.”

    Verizon completed its takeover of Yahoo! today in a deal valued at $4.5 billion. Yahoo!’s news and other offerings will be folded into a new Verizon subsidiary called Oath.

    And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 92 points to close at 21328. The Nasdaq rose nearly 45 points, and the S&P 500 added 11.

    And the Golden State Warriors are celebrating their second NBA championship in three years. They captured the title last night in Oakland, California, after finishing off the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games. Golden State lost to Cleveland in last year’s finals.

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    President Donald Trump signs an executive order to impose tighter vetting of travelers entering the United States, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Picture taken in January. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    President Donald Trump signs an executive order to impose tighter vetting of travelers entering the United States, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Picture taken in January. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the Trump administration more time to file legal papers in its bid to reinstate a ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries.

    The justices agreed to a request from Acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall to address Monday’s ruling from the federal appeals court in San Francisco. That ruling said the executive order violated federal immigration law. It was the second time a federal appeals court had refused to lift a hold on the revised travel ban.

    READ MORE: Trump asks Supreme Court to reinstate travel ban

    The new briefing schedule lets the government submit its final brief on June 21, meaning the justices are not likely to act on the case until next week at the earliest. The state of Hawaii, which had challenged the ban, also gets a chance to submit additional briefs.

    Earlier this month, the government asked the high court to review a ruling from the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, which said the 90-day ban unconstitutionally discriminated against Muslims.

    READ MORE: Hawaii urges Supreme Court to keep hold on Trump travel ban

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And for more on the attorney general’s testimony, I’m now joined by the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

    He is Representative Adam Schiff of California.

    Congressman Schiff, thank you for joining us.

    I know you paid close attention to what was said today by the attorney general. Did you come away with a better understanding of what has happened over the last year?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-Calif.: I did.

    And what was notable to me was the degree to which the attorney general really corroborated what is, I think, the most significant of the meetings that James Comey testified. And that is, he did corroborate that there was a meeting of many people in the Oval Office. And although he didn’t say it was at the president’s instruction, it was pretty clear that it was.

    Everyone left the room, except for James Comey and the president. And the attorney general acknowledged that he did linger, that he was one of the last, if not the last, to leave the room, and also corroborated the fact that, the following day, Director Comey told him he was essentially uncomfortable with something that took place in that meeting.

    That tells me that James Comey’s testimony about that meeting is far more accurate than the president’s statements about that meeting, because, if there wasn’t something uncomfortable about it, then why did the director go the next day to the attorney general and say, don’t leave me alone again with the president?

    The other point I would make, Judy, is the one that you have been discussing. And that is, we cannot accept this non-invocation of privilege as a reason to prohibit the Congress from finding out whether the attorney general wrote a memo or wrote a letter along with the deputy attorney general to provide cover or pretext for a decision they knew was made on other grounds.

    Now, I don’t know if that’s the case, because he wouldn’t answer, but as it goes to the very heart of whether the president sought to interfere or obstruct the Russia investigation, we need to use whatever compulsory process is necessary to get those answers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we heard at the end of the meeting — of the hearing, rather, the chairman, Richard Burr, Senator Burr, asked the attorney general to go back to the White House to see if there’s more of his communications with the president and with anyone in the White House that they can share.

    Is that something that you think is likely to produce some answers?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, I don’t know. I would certainly hope so.

    I will say this, in light of the conversation that you just had with Walter Dellinger and Mr. Terwilliger, a couple things. First is, the questions that were asked of the attorney general were all easily anticipated, so there were no surprise questions here.

    There was no reason why the White House could not have instructed the attorney general whether they were going to invoke privilege or not. So I don’t buy the idea that the attorney general couldn’t know in advance whether he needed to invoke the privilege. They didn’t want him to. They didn’t want the optic of it. And that’s not a good reason for refusing to answer the questions.

    But, more than that, if the attorney general allowed himself to be used as a pretext to give justification for a firing that was made on other grounds, that not only violates his recusal. It also potentially violates the law or is a highly unethical practice, and we need to find out whether that’s the case.

    We don’t know, but we have an obligation in our investigation, Bob Mueller will in his, to get the answer.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, how do you get beyond his refusal to answer, though? If he’s saying these were privileged communications that I had that stand on precedent at the Department of Justice, whether they’re written down or not, how do you get through that?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, I think the process, if we’re going to live up with our institutional responsibility in Congress, is to go back to the White House and say, we want answers to these questions. Are you invoking the privilege?

    And, if they’re not, we need to bring the attorney general back before either our committee in the House or before the Senate committee and demand answers to those questions.

    If they do invoke privilege, then we may need to litigate the contours of that privilege. The privilege cannot be used as a shield to protect or hide potential impropriety or illegality. So, we may have to go to court to pierce that privilege, but we do need to get to the bottom of this. We have the powers and institution to do it, and I think we have an ethical obligation and a responsibility to the country to do it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman, were you struck by, were you surprised when the attorney general said that he had not had, had not sought any sort of briefing on attempts by the Russians to interfere in the election last year?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: I was struck by it. Certainly, during his time in the Senate and as a member of the Armed Services Committee, when we have a hostile power, Russia, interfering in our internal affairs, you would think he would have an interest in that.

    But, more than that, it was an echo of Director Comey’s testimony also that the president showed no curiosity, no interest, no concern over the Russia hack. The only element of it that concerned him was how it might impact him personally.

    That says, I think, a lot about where the president is coming from, but it was quite jarring given this was an attack on our democracy by a foreign power.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman, another thing I saw late this afternoon after the hearing concluded that the — that Senator Dick Durbin, who, of course, is in the leadership among Democrats in the Senate, was saying that the attorney general should step down based on his testimony today, his — and his performance in office.

    Are you — would you go that far?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, I would want to pursue two things before I would be prepared to go that far.

    And the first is to do whatever investigation we need to do to find out whether his testimony today about what happened or didn’t happen at the Mayflower is accurate and can be corroborated, or wasn’t accurate, in which case, we do need to consider the remedies that Dick Durbin talked about.

    But, also, we need to get answers to the questions about what went into the firing of Director Comey. And if he refuses and doesn’t have a legal basis to do so, then, again, I think we may end up where Senator Durbin is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At this point, just quickly, Congressman, are you optimistic that Congress, that your committee, the Senate committee, are eventually going to get to the bottom of this?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, you know, I certainly hope so.

    I think we have the look at this in a very nonpartisan way and try to, as best we can, divorce ourselves of the consequences. But what is at stake here is really our system of checks and balances and whether we’re going to allow an administration not to invoke privilege, but just to say it’s inconvenient for us to tell you the answers. It wouldn’t reflect well on us, so we’re going to invoke some inchoate privilege that doesn’t exist.

    We can’t tolerate that. We can’t stand for that. And at the end of the day, I don’t think Bob Mueller will, and Congress shouldn’t either.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, thank you very much.

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you, Judy.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks after touring Waukesha County Technical College with his daughter Ivanka (L) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, U.S., June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTS16YEN

    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks after touring Waukesha County Technical College with his daughter Ivanka (L) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, U.S., June 13, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    PEWAUKEE, Wis. — The man who parlayed a run on TV’s “The Apprentice” into a winning presidential campaign said Tuesday the nation needs a stronger system of apprenticeship to match workers with millions of open jobs.

    “I love the name apprentice,” President Donald Trump declared. He said he wants every high school in America to offer apprenticeship opportunities and hands-on-learning.

    Joined in Wisconsin by daughter Ivanka Trump and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, Trump described his push to get private companies and universities to pair up and pay the cost of such arrangements.

    “It’s called earn while you learn,” Trump said at Waukesha County Technical College.

    The president toured the technical college, accompanied by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, as his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, faced questions before the Senate Intelligence Committee on potential Trump campaign ties to Russia and the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

    The White House said Trump’s push is aimed at training workers with specific skills for particular jobs that employers say they can’t fill at a time of historically low unemployment. However, the most recent budget for the federal government passed with about $90 million for apprenticeships, and Trump so far isn’t proposing to add more.

    White House to distribute $90 million for apprenticeships

    The Trump administration has said there’s a need that can be met with a change in the American attitude toward vocational education and apprenticeships. A November 2016 report by former President Barack Obama’s Commerce Department found that “apprenticeships are not fully understood in the United States, especially” by employers, who tend to use apprentices for a few, hard-to-fill positions” but not as widely as they could.

    The shortages for specifically trained workers cut across multiple job sectors beyond Trump’s beloved construction trades. There are shortages in agriculture, manufacturing, information technology and health care.

    Participants in some apprentice programs get on-the-job training while going to school, sometimes with companies footing the bill.

    READ MORE: Trump seeks pivot from Russia probe to job training

    IBM, for example, participates in a six-year program called P-TECH. Students in 60 schools across six states begin in high school, when they get a paid internship, earn an associate’s degree and get first-in-line consideration for jobs from 250 participating employers.

    It relies on funds outside the apprenticeship program — a challenge in that the Trump budget plan would cut spending overall on job training. The program uses $1.2 billion in federal funding provided under the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act passed in 2006, said P-TECH co-founder Stan Litow.

    Analysis: Today’s unemployment number fools us and President Trump, but for different reasons

    “This really demonstrates what you can do with apprenticeships with existing dollars,” Litow said.

    Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said Trump’s “rhetoric doesn’t match the reality” of budget cuts he’s proposing that would reduce federal job training funding by 40 percent from $2.7 billion to $1.6 billion.

    “If you’re really interested in promoting apprenticeship, you have to invest in that skills training,” said Mike Rosen, president of the Milwaukee chapter of the American Federation of Teachers union.

    Apprenticeships are few and far between. Of the 146 million jobs in the United States, about 0.35 percent — or slightly more than a half-million — were filled by active apprentices in 2016. Filling millions more jobs through apprenticeships would require the government to massively ramp up its efforts. “Scaling is the big issue,” said Robert Lerman, a fellow at the Urban Institute.

    Another complication: Only about half of apprentices finish their multi-year programs, Lerman said. Fewer than 50,000 people — including 11,104 in the military — completed their apprenticeships in 2016, according to Labor Department.

    READ MORE: For millions, underemployment is a new normal

    The president was attending a closed fundraiser for Walker later in the day. Wisconsin was a key part of his 2016 election triumph and Trump became the first Republican to carry the state in a presidential election since 1984.

    Trump also met on an airport tarmac in Milwaukee with four people he described as “victims” of President Barack Obama’s health care law. Trump said the health care law was “one of the greatest catastrophes that our country has signed into law and the victims are innocent hard-working Americans.” He singled out Michael and Tammy Kushman of Marinette County, Wisconsin, and Robert and Sarah Stoll of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

    Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn now to our panel of former Justice Department officials.

    George Terwilliger served as former deputy attorney general and acting attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. Walter Dellinger served in the Clinton administration as assistant attorney general and as acting solicitor general. And Carrie Cordero, she served in the Justice Department under presidents George W. Bush and President Obama, where she worked on matters of national security.

    Now, before I speak with them, one issue today was former FBI Director Comey’s testimony about a February meeting in the Oval Office, when everyone else left, and the president asked him to stay.

    Democratic Senator Mark Warner today pressed the attorney general on that. Let’s listen.

    SEN. MARK WARNER, D-Va.: Mr. Comey’s testimony last week was that he felt uncomfortable when the president asked everyone else to leave the room. He left the impression that you lingered, perhaps a sense that you felt uncomfortable about it as well.

    JEFF SESSIONS: Well, I would just say it this way. We were there. I was standing there. And without revealing any conversation that took place, what I do recall is that I did depart. I believe everyone else did depart, and Director Comey was sitting in front of the president’s desk, and they were talking.

    So, that’s what I do remember. I believe it was the next day that he said something, expressed concern about being left alone with the president. But that, in itself, is not problematic. He didn’t tell me, at that time, any details about anything that was said that was improper.

    I affirmed his concern that we should be following the proper guidelines of the Department of Justice and basically backed him up in his concerns.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s turn now to our three panelists.

    Carrie Cordero, I’m going to start with you.

    What do you make of that answer that he really didn’t have an explanation for leaving the room, whether he thought that was unusual, leaving the Oval Office when the president wanted to be alone with the then FBI director, and he didn’t seem terribly upset about the fact that the FBI director was concerned the next day when he told him about it?

    CARRIE CORDERO, Former Justice Department Official: Right.

    So, these memos that he’s talking about, this longstanding Department of Justice policy, has to do with, in recent history, there was a memo that an Attorney General Mukasey issued, that Eric Holder issued that restrict the contacts between the White House and the Justice Department and the FBI investigators on ongoing investigations.

    And so it was still an odd answer, because, given the fact that there was this major investigation going on that the attorney general himself knew that he was recused from, it would be unusual. Why would the president need to hold back the FBI director about something that the attorney general couldn’t be present for, other than the Russia investigation?

    In other words, anything else that the FBI director and the president needed to discuss of a substantive nature, one would think the attorney general could be there for it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: George Terwilliger, what about that?

    GEORGE TERWILLIGER, Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General: Well, I don’t think it’s that unusual for a president to talk to an FBI director alone.

    I think it would probably be worth asking a number of former FBI directors if they ever had one-on-one conversations with the president.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Even in this — in the middle of this kind of an investigation?


    I mean, I think, in hindsight, anybody that looks at it would go, it would have been better for that not to have occurred, but the fact that the president asked and the attorney general — I just — I mean, he’s a courteous man.

    I think he respected the president’s wishes. And more than anything, Judy, I — what came through to me today, more than an attorney general, was I saw a man who said, you’re not going to play political football with my integrity, and said that very, very firmly even as to that question.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Walter Dellinger, what did you take away from the hearing overall, and what about the specific point about the president asking everybody to clear the room while he talked to James Comey?

    WALTER DELLINGER, Former Acting Solicitor General: Well, I think what was particularly improper about that conversation was the content of it, that is, the president saying, I hope you will end this investigation into General Flynn.

    Even if that wasn’t a directive, that statement that you should end it because he’s a good guy undercuts our basic notion of equal justice under law. We shouldn’t be investigating or stopping investigations because the president thinks someone is a good guy or a U.S. attorney thinks someone is a good guy. That’s number one.

    My larger takeaway is that the attorney general seemed relatively passionate in defending his own lack of involvement with the Russians and quite convincing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He did.

    WALTER DELLINGER: He showed much less concern about this extraordinary event that the Russian, a foreign military hostile power, tried to interfere in our elections. He referred to it as improper, but he didn’t seem to have any energy about where that investigation should go, didn’t seem to suggest that the president of the United States is concerned about what was really a foreign attack by a hostile power on the core of our democracy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we have got a little excerpt of that coming up, and I want to ask you that.

    But just quickly, on this point, Carrie Cordero, again, on — is there a precedent for the attorney general basically saying, it’s OK for me to remove myself from a conversation and let the president talk to the head of the FBI about something sensitive?

    CARRIE CORDERO: Well, so, in other circumstances, if, for example, the FBI director was at the White House to give a counterterrorism briefing, on some really substantive matter, then, sure. But there would be other aides in the room, too. That type of briefing wouldn’t take place just with the president and the FBI director.

    But those are the types of scenarios that would be more routine types of meetings between a president and an FBI director, if it was some substantive type of briefing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and — and keep all that in mind, because we want to turn to another aspect of what came out in today’s testimony.

    And that is that more than one senator asked the attorney general about the firing of James Comey. The attorney general testified that he didn’t talk to the FBI director about his job performance before the president dismissed him.

    He did detail for California Democrat Dianne Feinstein the issues that he had with Comey, but he declined to answer a later question from Maine independent Senator Angus King.

    JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. Attorney General: We had problems there. And it was my best judgment that a fresh start at the FBI was the appropriate thing to do.

    And when asked, I said that to president. It’s something I had adhered to. Deputy Rosenstein’s letter dealt with a number of things. When the — Mr. Comey declined the Clinton prosecution, that was really a usurpation of the authority of the federal prosecutors in the Department of Justice.

    It was a stunning development. The FBI — the investigative team, they don’t decide prosecution policies. And that was a thunderous thing. He also commented at some length on the declination of the Clinton prosecution, which you shouldn’t normally — you shouldn’t do.

    The policies have been historic. If you decline, you decline and you don’t talk about it. There were other things that had happened that indicated to me a lack of discipline. And it caused controversy on both sides of the aisle. And I had come to the conclusion that a fresh start was appropriate.


    SEN. ANGUS KING, I-Maine: In any of your discussions about the firing of James Comey, did the question of the Russian investigation ever come up?

    JEFF SESSIONS: I cannot answer that because it was a communication by the president, or, if any such occurred, it would be a communication that he has not waived.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, a number of people, George Terwilliger, were struck by the fact that the attorney general wouldn’t talk about these conversations he had with the president.

    GEORGE TERWILLIGER: Well, to me, that makes perfect sense.

    The privilege belongs to the president, and it wouldn’t be up to a subordinate official to take it upon himself to waive it by answering the question at that time and place.

    Otherwise, the president loses the ability to assert or preserve that privilege.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you and I were discussing this earlier, Walter Dellinger.

    We were trying to understand, to what extent is there a precedent for not answering some of these questions? We heard the attorney general say — at one point, he said, I think there’s even a piece of paper at the Justice Department that refers to privileged or confidential conversations between the president and the attorney general.

    WALTER DELLINGER: You know, he was very well-prepared, but he didn’t bring any such piece of paper with him.

    And I would be surprised, because I don’t believe there is any privilege of refusing to answer questions from a congressional committee, unless the president is going to invoke executive privilege.

    And he didn’t want to say that. Through a dozen iterations of the question, he would simply say, it was confidential, without asserting any privilege. Finally, he suggested — and the committee should follow up on this — here are the questions we want answered. Did you discuss the Russian investigation in connection with the firing of Comey?

    And if the president then wants to assert executive privilege, he can do so in writing communicated to the committee. But, if not, then the question ought to be answered by the attorney general.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Carrie Cordero, this really does get to the heart of a lot of what we’re talking about today, and that is, the president has not so far exerted executive privilege. He has not said to the attorney general, you cannot answer these questions.

    But the attorney general said, at least on two occasions today, that he’s trying to protect the president’s right to later on exert executive privilege, which is a way of looking at this, I think, some of us haven’t seen.


    So, this is the second week in a row that senior administration officials have had difficulty answering this question. DNI Coats, Director of National Intelligence Coats, and Director of NSA Rogers last week had a similar problem, where they didn’t seem to have been advised by the White House Counsel’s Office that they should exert executive privilege, and yet they were uncomfortable giving answers to questions.

    Attorney General Sessions handled it a little bit differently. He did say that he was trying to protect a potential exertion of executive privilege, but he also raised other privileges. He said maybe there are some other privileges.

    And so that reminded me a little bit more of the attorney-client-type privilege that sometimes the Department of Justice asserts, but that’s when the Justice Department is giving legal advice to the president, and they don’t then want to provide information to Congress.

    So, he was still vague and unclear about which privileges he was potentially asserting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that sounded like a different question.

    So, I’m coming back to you, George Terwilliger, to ask, on just how solid is this ground that the attorney general stands on when he says, I’m protecting the president’s right to exert executive…

    GEORGE TERWILLIGER: I think it’s very solid.

    And both Democrat and Republican officials have asserted that privilege over the years, as recently as in the Obama administration through Attorney General Holder. It’s really quite simple, I think, Judy.

    If the president has a privilege to have confidential discussions with his advisers, which include Cabinet officials, the Cabinet officials shouldn’t be the ones to decide the waive the confidentiality of those communications.

    And he doesn’t know what questions he is going to be asked before he gets up there, to ask permission ahead of time, can I talk about this, can I talk about that? So, I think it’s just a very practical issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, there is another important part of this, what came out today in today’s testimony that we want to look at.

    And that is on the attorney — on the issue of the attorney general’s recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

    Mr. Sessions clashed at one point with Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who challenged him on whether he adhered to that recusal.

    SEN. RON WYDEN, D-Ore.: The question is, Mr. Comey said that there were matters with respect to recusal that were problematic and he couldn’t talk about them. What are they?

    JEFF SESSIONS: Why don’t you tell me? There are none, Senator Wyden. There are none. I can tell you that for absolute certainty.

    This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don’t appreciate it. And I have tried to give my best and truthful answers to any committee I’ve appeared before. And it’s really — people are suggesting through innuendo that I have been not honest about matters, and I’ve tried to be honest.

    SEN. RON WYDEN: Why did you sign a letter recommending the fire — firing of Comey, when it violated your recusal?

    JEFF SESSIONS: It didn’t violate my recusal. It didn’t violate my recusal. That would be answer to that. And the letter that I signed represented my views that had been formulated for some time.

    SEN. RON WYDEN: Mr. Chairman, just if I can finish, that answer, in my view, doesn’t pass the smell test.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Walter Dellinger, this is getting at the — what you heard, the tug and pull about all afternoon, and that is that letter that the attorney general signed and the deputy attorney general signed criticizing then FBI Director Comey as the grounds for his dismissal was all about how he handled the Hillary Clinton, or largely about how he handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.

    Later on, the president said he fired him mainly over Russia, the Russia investigation. And the attorney general is basically saying, I recused myself from the Russia investigation, but that’s not a problem here.

    WALTER DELLINGER: Well, the attorney general makes the point that he’s responsible for the entire department, and he has to make personnel decisions.

    Now, this one got awfully close to his recusal issue. And maybe he should have stepped aside. But, to me, the most interesting question that wasn’t fully answered was, were you aware — when you sent the letter to the president recommending that Comey be fired, were you aware that the president had already decided to fire him?

    And that question, he — the answer got evaded in the back-and-forth. And that will be an interesting question for someone to follow up with.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is your take on this exchange?

    CARRIE CORDERO: Well, the nut of it is, is, was former Director Comey fired because of the Russia investigation? The president has said in an interview that it was, that Russia is what was on his mind.

    And Attorney General Sessions is clinging to this argument that his — his justification, which is that it was because of the handling of the Hillary Clinton case. And because he didn’t answer the one question, which was, in the context of discussing with the president the firing of the FBI director, did you also discuss the Russia investigation, that was the question that really needed to be answered to tie these pieces together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we don’t have the answer to the question?

    GEORGE TERWILLIGER: I don’t think he’s clinging to anything.

    It’s very possible — I don’t know the answer, but it’s very possible that there could be two very different reasons on the part of the president and the attorney general and the deputy attorney general for dismissing Mr. Comey.

    Indeed, I know you may have to be sort of part of the Justice family or cognoscenti to appreciate this, but what Jim Comey did last July in terms of usurping, as the attorney general put it, the authority of the Justice Department to make a prosecution decision, and then the utter trashing of Hillary Clinton that he did along with that, that is so far outside the mainstream, that the attorney general said today that he and Mr. Rosenstein had been talking about that for some time and the need to replace Mr. Comey.

    The fact that that may have been, or not, I don’t know, convenient to the president for other reasons is something, you know, that I’m sure the Senate will want to explore, but it doesn’t impugn the attorney general’s integrity at all.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But just to quickly follow up, if the Russia investigation was any part of the reason for the president’s firing the FBI director, and the attorney general was — attached himself to that decision, that wasn’t a problem? That didn’t violate his recusal?

    GEORGE TERWILLIGER: Well, it might have if, in fact, you know, he thought that was the reason or he acted as that — the reason.

    But I think Walter a few minutes ago made a very good point. The recusal is as to one case out of thousands in the Justice Department, albeit an important one. The attorney general still has a responsibility to run the department, not the least of which is to make sure he has the right people in the top jobs.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just very quickly, Walter Dellinger, what is the — what the — do you think we can get to the bottom of this question of whether the recusal was violated in some way?

    WALTER DELLINGER: I think we will, because I think the special counsel, follow-up hearings are going to say, look, either the president formally invoke executive privilege or answer the question about whether you knew already that the president made up his mind to fire Comey, and to deal with the fact that it is extremely unusual for a president to have half-a-dozen conversations with an FBI director directly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Walter Dellinger, Carrie Cordero, George Terwilliger, we thank you all.

    Remarkable day, another remarkable day.

    The post What former Justice officials heard in Sessions’ testimony appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It has been another day of high-stakes testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions today denied any wrongdoing in his contacts with Russian officials during last year’s campaign or in his conduct since becoming attorney general. He acknowledged that then FBI Director James Comey was concerned about being left alone with President Trump after a February meeting.

    He declined to discuss any conversations he had with the president on firing Comey. And he defended his handling of his recusal from the investigation into Russian meddling in the election.

    Sessions also said he still doesn’t remember a meeting with the Russian ambassador at a Trump speech in Washington last year. And he said he never meant to mislead anyone during his confirmation hearings.

    JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. Attorney General: Let me state this clearly, colleagues. I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.

    Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign. I was your colleague in this body for 20 years, at least some of you. And the suggestion that I participated in any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The attorney general also struck sparks today when he declined several times to discuss conversations he had with President Trump about firing James Comey or about recusing himself in the Russia matter.

    Democrats, including Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, were visibly frustrated.

    JEFF SESSIONS: I’m not able to share with this committee private communications

    SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH, D-N.M.: Because you’re invoking executive privilege?

    JEFF SESSIONS: I’m not able to invoke executive privilege. That’s the president’s prerogative.

    SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH: Well, my understanding is, you took an oath, you raised your right hand here today and you said that you would solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And now you’re not answering questions. You’re impeding this investigation.

    JEFF SESSIONS: I am protecting the president’ constitutional right by not giving it away before he has a chance to …


    SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH: You’re having it both ways.

    JEFF SESSIONS: And, secondly, I am telling the truth in answering your question, in saying it’s a longstanding policy of the Department of justice …


    JEFF SESSIONS: … even and to make sure the president has full opportunity to decide these issues.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, in another, separate hearing today, the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, pledged to defend special counsel Bob Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the election.

    Conservative media executive and Trump ally Christopher Ruddy told the NewsHour last night that the president has been considering firing Mueller.

    But in exchanges with Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham, Rosenstein said that he wants to put that speculation to rest.

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-Maine: If President Trump ordered you to fire the special counsel, what would you do?

    ROD ROSENSTEIN, Deputy Attorney General Nominee: Senator, I’m not going to follow any orders unless I believe those are lawful and appropriate orders. If there were good cause, I would consider it. If there were not good cause, it wouldn’t matter to me what anybody says.

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Do you know any reason for a cause to fire Mr. Mueller as of this date?

    ROD ROSENSTEIN: No, I do not, Senator.

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: And that would be your decision if that ever happened, right?

    ROD ROSENSTEIN: That’s correct.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we are joined now by our Capitol Hill correspondent, Lisa Desjardins. She was in the room for both of today’s Senate hearings. And Carrie Johnson, correspondent for NPR, she covers the Justice Department.

    Thank you both.

    Lisa, I’m going to start with you.

    You were in the room. Tell us what you were seeing and what you were hearing that we couldn’t see on television.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Well, this extraordinary week just continued.

    It was a rather remarkable hearing, and not just because there was yet again a line going out the door and down the hallway to attend it, but I think because we saw very serious questions, Judy, from both Republicans and Democrats about Attorney General Sessions and about the role of the Trump administration and Trump campaign in their meetings with Russia.

    I took away that this was a serious investigation, that senators are trying to show the American people, in particular with this very public hearing, that they’re tackling this, but there are still a lot of questions left after today’s hearing as well, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Carrie Johnson, as I said, you cover the Justice Department. You have been watching this from that perspective. What did you hear new today in the testimony by the attorney general?

    CARRIE JOHNSON, NPR: For Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, a qualified or limited success today. He was able to defend himself with respect to some of the allegations swirling around about him.

    He denied he had a meeting with the Russian ambassador last year at the Mayflower Hotel. He denied he had tried to lean on the FBI director, fired FBI Director James Comey, and he also denied that he had misled Congress when he testified in his confirmation hearings earlier this year that he only had a couple meetings with the Russians.

    And he tried to clear up all of those mistakes that he had made, I think with some success today, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Carrie, I was struck that he — sorry you’re having microphone troubles.

    All right, let me go back to Lisa Desjardins just a minute while Carrie gets the earpiece straightened out.

    So, Lisa, I know you have been talking to these senators on the committee in the days and weeks leading up to this. For them, how critical was this testimony by the attorney general? Is this just one more step along a long road of this investigation?

    LISA DESJARDINS: I think the answer that it was both critical and it is just one more step along the road of this investigation.

    Judy, I think we’re at the point where each one of these kinds of hearings is critical. And, to be honest, many of these senators say they’re not exactly sure where all of this is leading yet. They’re still asking these first rounds of questions to see who else do they need to talk to and about which event.

    And I think, Judy, the questions remaining from today’s hearing especially are, did President Trump directly order Mr. Sessions to write that memo endorsing James Comey’s firing, and what conversations did they have about that? Did President Trump indicate why he wanted Mr. Comey fired?

    As you played in the bite, Mr. Sessions refused to answer any communication questions about his talks with Mr. Trump, and that’s something I think we’re going to see played a lot. He was never able to give a legal justification for refusing to answer. Instead, he I basically leaving an opening for the president to later invoke executive privilege, but, Judy, he hasn’t done so yet.

    And his attorney general hasn’t answered these questions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Carrie, back to you now.

    Again, you have been following this very closely. What questions do you still have that the attorney general either wasn’t able to or didn’t answer today?

    CARRIE JOHNSON: The attorney general never said whether the president discussed with him in connection with firing James Comey anything regarding the Russia investigation. The attorney general refused to answer whether the president had brought up with him the idea of pardoning anyone in the Trump campaign who may have had contacts with the Russians last year.

    And the attorney general really didn’t have a good answer for why he left James Comey hanging to defend himself after the president pressured him in the Oval Office on the Russia probe, so lots of questions remaining for Jeff Sessions on those topics as it relates to his interactions with President Trump. And I think some of the Democrats on the committee today vowed to get answers to those questions, come hell or high water.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Carrie, just a quick question of clarification. You said he didn’t address pardoning anyone in connection with the Russia investigation. What are you referring to?

    CARRIE JOHNSON: Well, he was asked questions by Democrats today, Jeff Sessions was, about whether — you know, this investigation is early, but whether he had talked with the president at all about the president using his power, very vast power, to grant a pardon to anyone who may have engaged in wrongdoing in connection with Russia in the campaign.

    No names were mentioned. We know that several people, including President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, are under investigators’ crosshairs right now. We know that Flynn, in fact, has tried to seek immunity, so far without success.

    Sessions was asked whether the idea of pardoning anybody came up, and he declined to answer that question as part of the confidential conversations he was having with the president. I want to know more about that. I think lawmakers do, too.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Carrie Johnson, as we said, who covers the Justice Department for NPR, our own Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, thank you both.

    The post What questions remain after Sessions’ Senate testimony? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Bears Ears buttes, located in Utah. The Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is one of two designations President Barack Obama made at the end of his term, granting protection to land considered to be sacred. Photo by Witold Skrypczak/Getty Images

    The Bears Ears buttes, located in Utah. The Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is one of two designations President Barack Obama made at the end of his term, granting protection to land considered to be sacred. Photo by Witold Skrypczak/Getty Images

    SALT LAKE CITY — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s recommendation to downsize a vast new national monument in Utah created optimism among opponents of 26 other monuments under review around the country and fear among conservation groups that worry he will propose shrinking or rescinding other sites in his final report due in late August.

    Along the New England coast, commercial fishermen were ecstatic to hear Monday about Zinke’s proposed reduction of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and hopeful it foreshadows a similar fate for a marine monument they oppose.

    They’re preparing to make a pitch for a full undoing of the designation when Zinke visits the area later this week.

    READ MORE: Scaling back Bears Ears monument pleases GOP, angers Western tribes

    Opponents of other sites are making similar plans after the Bears Ears decision, saying the designations often close areas to oil, gas and mineral development along with other uses.

    “It sets a precedent for the review of all the monuments,” said Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association Inc. “Under the former administration, we questioned whether this is about conservation or just control.”

    Conservation groups that were stung by the recommendation are trying to rally public support to fully preserve the monuments but expect they will have to resort to a protracted legal fight if President Donald Trump eventually downsizes or eliminates monument designations.

    They assert the 1908 Antiquities Act allows presidents to create monuments but only gives Congress the power to modify or rescind them.

    READ MORE: Interior secretary recommends scaling back Bears Ears, a protected national monument

    “It’s obvious the goal is to serve private interests over the public good,” said Kristen Boyles, a staff attorney with the environmental group Earthjustice.

    As Zinke gets ready to visit the Katahdin Wood and Waters Monument in Maine, people on both sides of the issue are dissecting his Bears Ears proposal.

    Demar Dahl, an Elko County commissioner in Nevada, said he expects Zinke will take the same shrink-but-not-rescind approach with two Nevada monuments under review— Basin and Range, and Gold Butte.

    “I don’t have the problem with things being protected that need to be protected, but when you set aside maybe 10 times more area than you need that’s when you get to the point when you need common sense to kick in,” Dahl said.

    READ MORE: Democrats urge Trump to keep protections for national monuments

    Zinke called the Bears Ears area “drop-dead gorgeous country” that merits some protection on Monday in explaining his recommendation, but said the boundaries should be more narrowly focused around key cultural sites.

    President Donald Trump ordered the monument review based on the notion that presidents increasingly are protecting areas that are too large and do not fit the law’s purpose of shielding particular historical or archaeological sites.

    National monument designations add protections for lands revered for their natural beauty and historical significance with the goal of preserving them for future generations.

    The restrictions aren’t as stringent as national parks, but some policies include limits on mining, timber cutting and recreational activities such as riding off-road vehicles.

    Many national monuments have later been declared national parks. Among them were Zion National Park in Utah and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

    The post Proposed downsizing of Bears Ears National Monument draws mixed reactions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin applauds during the State Prize awards ceremony marking the Day of Russia at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 12, 2017. REUTERS/Natalia Kolesnikova/Pool - RTS16RKB

    Russian President Vladimir Putin applauds during the State Prize awards ceremony marking the Day of Russia at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 12, 2017. REUTERS/Natalia Kolesnikova/Pool – RTS16RKB

    WASHINGTON — The Republican-led Senate voted decisively to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 election by approving a wide-ranging sanctions package that targets key sectors of Russia’s economy and individuals who carried out cyber attacks.

    Senators on Wednesday passed the bipartisan sanctions legislation 97-2, underscoring broad support among Republicans and Democrats for rebuking Russia after U.S. intelligence agencies determined Moscow had deliberately interfered in the presidential campaign. Lawmakers who backed the measure also cited Russia’s aggression in Syria and Ukraine.

    Despite Russia’s bellicosity, there’s been no forceful response from President Donald Trump. The president has instead sought to improve relations with Moscow and rejected the implication that Russian hacking of Democratic emails tipped the election his way.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brazen attack on our democracy is a flagrant demonstration of his disdain and disrespect for our nation,” Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said ahead of the vote.

    “But in the last eight months, what price has Russia paid for attacking American democracy?” McCain said.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered tepid support for the sanctions measure, telling the House Foreign Affairs Committee he agreed “with the sentiment” among lawmakers that Russia must be held accountable for its meddling in the election.

    But Tillerson urged Congress to make the sanctions legislation doesn’t tie the president’s hands and shut down promising avenues of communication between the two former Cold War foes. He asked lawmakers “to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation.”

    If the Trump administration decides to oppose the new sanctions, they could be in a bind. The sanctions measure has been attached to a bill imposing penalties on Iran that the Senate is currently debating and which also has strong bipartisan support. So the White House would have to reject stricter punishments against Iran, which it favors, in order to derail the parts of the legislation it may object to.

    Once the Iran bill is passed, the legislation moves to the House for action.

    The leaders of the Senate Banking and Foreign Relations committees announced late Monday that they’d reached an agreement on the sanctions package after intensive negotiations.

    The deal was forged amid the firestorm over investigations into Moscow’s possible collusion with members of Trump’s campaign. House and Senate committees are investigating Russia’s meddling and potential links to the Trump campaign. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is conducting a separate probe.

    The measure calls for strengthening current sanctions and imposing new ones on a broad range of people, including Russians engaged in corruption, individuals in human rights abuses and anyone supplying weapons to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Broad new sanctions would be imposed on Russia’s mining, metals, shipping and railways sectors.

    The measure would punish individuals who conduct what the senators described as “conducting malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government.” Also covered by the sanctions are people doing business with Russian intelligence and defense agencies.

    The package also would require a congressional review if a president attempts to ease or end current penalties. The review mechanism was styled after 2015 legislation pushed by Republicans and approved overwhelmingly in the Senate that gave Congress a vote on whether Obama could lift sanctions against Iran. That measure reflected Republican complaints that Obama had overstepped the power of the presidency and needed to be checked by Congress.

    Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, said the Senate has finally confronted Russia.

    “This bipartisan amendment is the sanctions regime that the Kremlin deserves for its actions,” Shaheen said.

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    Maria Rios, 20, holds her daughter Aryanna Guadalupe Sanchez-Rios, who was born with microcephaly, on May 3, 2017. Maria, a U.S. citizen, was infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus while she was living with her husband in Colima, Mexico, last year. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    Maria Rios, 20, holds her daughter Aryanna Guadalupe Sanchez-Rios, who was born with microcephaly, on May 3, 2017. Maria, a U.S. citizen, was infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus while she was living with her husband in Colima, Mexico, last year. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    LACEY, Wash. — When her daughter was born at Providence St. Peter Hospital in January, the first thing Maria Rios checked was the baby’s head.

    She’d seen the terrifying photos on the internet — infants in Brazil and in Puerto Rico whose skulls were misshapen, even collapsed, ravaged by the Zika virus that has engulfed Latin America.

    Days earlier, U.S. doctors had told Rios — a 20-year-old, first-time mother — that she was infected with Zika, likely spread by a mosquito bite at her parents’ home in Colima, Mexico, last summer.

    Rios desperately wanted them to be wrong.

    “I saw that the babies had flat heads,” she recalled. “And they had problems eating, seeing, talking, walking. They had seizures. I was just like, ‘Oh, God.’”

    But when Aryanna Guadalupe Sanchez-Rios arrived — 5 pounds, 10 ounces, with a cap of straight, dark hair — it was clear that Rios’ fears had been realized. The baby’s head was far smaller than normal — 27 centimeters instead of the typical 35 centimeters — a condition known as microcephaly. An early ultrasound of the baby’s brain showed extensive calcium deposits, more signs of Zika damage, doctors said.

    “I just want her to be OK.”

    Still, Rios refused to lose hope. To her, Aryanna’s head “wasn’t really flat,” just small, she said. Eye exams showed scarring in the center of the retinas, a likely sign of vision loss caused by the virus. But Rios is certain her baby’s wide, brown eyes already track light and motion.

    “I just want her to be OK,” Rios said.

    Despite doctors’ warnings and medical facts, the young mother remains optimistic, relying on a deep Catholic faith to build a life for her daughter. As of May 23, Aryanna was one of 72 babies born in U.S. states and Washington, D.C., with Zika-related birth defects.

    Another eight pregnancy losses have been attributed to Zika infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which updates counts regularly.

    Aryanna, who was born in late January, and the other infants are now at the center of efforts by U.S. officials to monitor the lasting effects of the devastating outbreak, even as another dangerous mosquito season begins.

    “A lot of people ask for miracles,” said Rios, who keeps a beaded bracelet with an amulet of the Blessed Virgin Mary on her daughter’s left wrist. “I feel like you have to ask deep from your heart.”

    To date, Rios is among nearly 1,900 pregnant women in U.S. states and the District of Columbia with laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infections, according to the CDC. Nearly 1,600 have completed their pregnancies.

    Of those with confirmed Zika infections, 1 in 10 women in at least 44 states have had a baby with brain damage or other serious defects, a recent CDC analysis showed.

    Three-month-old Aryanna Guadalupe Sanchez-Rios rests on her mother’s lap on May 3, 2017. Rios was born with Zika-induced microcephaly, a condition in which the head is smaller than average. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    Three-month-old Aryanna Guadalupe Sanchez-Rios rests on her mother’s lap on May 3, 2017. Rios was born with Zika-induced microcephaly, a condition in which the head is smaller than average. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    Rios was tested twice for Zika and told that she was free of infection. But days before Aryanna was born, a third test came back positive.

    “A doctor told me, ‘You have Zika. That’s why your baby has microcephaly,’” Rios recalled. “She could have said it a little bit nicer.”

    After birth, Aryanna tested positive for the virus, too.

    The news was devastating for Rios, a U.S. citizen who had been living with her husband and her parents in Colima, a city of more than 700,000 on the Pacific coast of Mexico. She had returned to the U.S. last fall to stay with family in Lacey, 90 minutes south of Seattle.

    “I said, ‘How could that be possible?’ I didn’t have any symptoms,” said Rios.

    She found out only later that 4 of every 5 people infected with the Zika virus show no signs of the disease.

    “There’s been a definite learning curve in public health. This is the first mosquito-borne disease that has been anything like this.”

    Even now, she finds it hard to believe that anything’s wrong. When Aryanna wakes from a nap, sleepy and warm, Rios swaddles her in a pink polka-dotted blanket and cradles her on the couch.

    “Hi, Stinky! Hi, pretty girl!” she croons, kissing Aryanna’s chubby cheek. “I look at her like a normal baby.”

    Rios and Aryanna are enrolled in the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry, where state and local health departments are tracking women and infants with laboratory evidence of infection.

    Even in Washington, a low-risk state where the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes that spread Zika aren’t found, 18 pregnant women have been identified with lab evidence of the virus since last year, said Hanna Oltean, an epidemiologist tracking Washington’s cases. All appear to have acquired the virus through travel, though Zika can be transmitted through sex as well.

    Of those local women, three have delivered babies with microcephaly, including Rios.

    “There’s been a definite learning curve in public health,” Oltean said. “This is the first mosquito-borne disease that has been anything like this.”

    Maria Rios, 20, watches over her baby, Aryanna Guadalupe Sanchez-Rios, on May 4, 2017. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    Maria Rios, 20, watches over her baby, Aryanna Guadalupe Sanchez-Rios, on May 4, 2017. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    Dr. Hannah Tully, a pediatric neurologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, examined Aryanna five weeks after birth and again this month. An expert in microcephaly, Tully has seen many children with the disorder, but Zika is different, she said. The damage appears to be greater than that typically found when microcephaly is caused by other conditions, including infections and premature birth.

    “Zika triggers this catastrophe of inflammation and cell death,” Tully said.

    Scientists now know that Zika, a once-obscure virus, targets and attacks neural stem cells in the developing fetal brain. Babies born with congenital Zika syndrome often have severe microcephaly, diminished brain tissue and eye damage, as well as restricted joint movement and rigid muscle tone. Recent research suggests they also might suffer hearing problems and seizure disorders, such as epilepsy.

    “It’s critically important that these babies be evaluated early,” said Dr. Margaret Honein, chief of the CDC’s birth defects branch. “We don’t yet know the full range of health problems these babies might have.”

    “It’s critically important that these babies be evaluated early. We don’t yet know the full range of health problems these babies might have.”

    It’s a crucial question, Honein added. Every week, another 30 to 40 cases are added to the pregnancy registry.

    The full costs aren’t clear, either. In September, Congress allocated about $1.1 billion in emergency funding to federal agencies for the Zika crisis. CDC has already spent about $300 million in redirected funds and has designated about $394 million more, according to an agency spokeswoman.

    The White House budget released in May proposes establishing an emergency fund to pay for responses to emerging outbreaks like Zika. But it also would cut $1.3 billion from the CDC and $838 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, where scientists are working on a vaccine to prevent Zika infection.

    And none of that funding covers what it may take to raise children like Aryanna.

    One new estimate led by researchers at Yale University and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health pegs the medical and other expenses for a Zika-affected child at $4.1 million over a lifetime. Previous CDC estimates have been as high as $10 million.

    The thought scares Rios, who shares a modest, two-bedroom apartment with her sister and brother-in-law. Aryanna’s condition means Rios can’t return to her former job as a receptionist for a packaging firm, so she relies on family for rent, food, diapers, clothes and transportation.

    Jessica Rios holds niece Aryanna Guadalupe Sanchez-Rios as a technician measures her skull at Seattle Children’s Hospital in Seattle, WA., on May 5, 2017.  At 3 months, her head is still smaller than average. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    Jessica Rios holds niece Aryanna Guadalupe Sanchez-Rios as a technician measures her skull at Seattle Children’s Hospital in Seattle, WA., on May 5, 2017. At 3 months, her head is still smaller than average. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    That assistance is precarious, too. Rios’ sister, Jessica Rios, 21, has been providing rides to medical appointments in Seattle. But her car broke down in May, forcing Maria Rios to scramble for last-minute transportation.

    Rios gets formula from the federal Women, Infants and Children’s program, WIC, and Aryanna’s medical care is covered by Medicaid, the state and federal program for poor and disabled people. Rios has applied for Social Security disability benefits, but the process is long and the assistance hasn’t come through.

    “Where would I get $4 million?”

    “Where would I get $4 million?’” she said.

    Rios was born in Auburn, Wash., and raised there until age 15, when she moved with her parents to Mexico to help take care of her ailing grandmother. She returned at 18 to finish high school. That’s when she met her husband, Julio Sanchez, 26, who was working in the U.S. as a landscaper on a temporary visa.

    The pair dated, fell in love and married in September 2015. They moved to Colima three months later, in December, after his visa expired, just after the first three cases of Zika infection were reported in Mexico.

    Rios discovered she was pregnant in April 2016; doctors initially thought she had a cyst on an ovary. Sudden bleeding put Rios on bed rest for five months, and she spent that time worried more about miscarriage than any mosquito-borne virus.

    Even when an ultrasound at six months showed that the baby’s head lagged in development by two weeks, doctors weren’t concerned.

    “They said, ‘Oh, don’t worry,’” Rios recalled. “In Colima, I didn’t see anybody alarmed about Zika.”

    In February, Mexican health officials reported that Colima is now one of four states in the country with the highest incidence of Zika infections, with 189 cases confirmed in pregnant women from 2015 through March 2. Rios wanted to give birth in the U.S. to ensure that her daughter would be a citizen and to receive proper care, even though it meant leaving her husband behind. She texts him constantly, sending photos of Aryanna in a flower-print onesie and Minnie Mouse pajamas.”

    Jessica Rios holds niece Aryanna Guadalupe Sanchez-Rios as she naps between exams at Seattle Children’s Hospital in Seattle, WA., on May 5, 2017. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    Jessica Rios holds niece Aryanna Guadalupe Sanchez-Rios as she naps between exams at Seattle Children’s Hospital in Seattle, WA., on May 5, 2017. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

    “I just hope he gets some sort of permission to be in the U.S.,” Rios said. But, with a new president opposed to immigration in the White House, she said, she doubts that will happen soon.

    Her husband met Aryanna in April, when Rios traveled with the baby back to Colima.

    “He didn’t even know what Zika was,” Rios recalled. “I said, ‘Look it up.’”

    Rios’ parents, both in their early 40s, couldn’t hide their concern for their daughter and their first grandchild.

    The family drove straight from the airport with the baby to a church in Talpa de Allende, where Rios’ father walked on his knees from the back to the altar, a gesture of faith aimed at keeping Aryanna safe from harm.

    The family drove straight from the airport with the baby to a church in Talpa de Allende, where Rios’ father walked on his knees from the back to the altar, a gesture of faith aimed at keeping Aryanna safe from harm.

    “My mom just keeps telling me, ‘Everything’s going to be fine,’” Rios said.

    Sometimes, Rios is not so sure. Her days revolve around Aryanna, who receives weekly visits from a public health nurse and a physical therapist and has doctors’ appointments lined up six months in advance.

    The baby endured a nine-hour round of medical tests on a recent Friday, including neurological and eye exams and an MRI. Aryanna was patient while a technician measured her head – 33.2 centimeters. At 3 months, it was still smaller than a typical newborn measurement of 35 centimeters.

    But the child screamed in outrage as Dr. Michelle Trager Cabrera, a pediatric ophthalmologist, shined a bright light and peered deeply into her dark eyes.

    “There’s a chance her vision could be quite impaired,” concluded Cabrera, who saw scarring on the baby’s retinas.

    “I just want to know if she could wear glasses?” Rios asked.

    “This is a relatively new problem that we don’t understand well,” Cabrera said, adding gently: “I don’t think glasses are going to help.”

    That news worried Rios. So did the results of the MRI, which confirmed Aryanna had brain damage from the effects of the Zika infection, Rios said.

    At the hospital, Rios asked her sister to watch the baby for a minute and stepped outdoors into a hospital atrium. She sat down at a table, placed her head in her hands and started to cry.

    “I try to be strong for her,” Rios said, between sobs. “I’m really scared. It’s hard.”

    The worst thing about Zika, she said, is that no one, not even the doctors, can tell her what’s next.

    “I still have my hope,” she said. “I’m trying everything for my girl to be OK.”

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    U.S. Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) holds a town hall meeting with constituents at Clover Hill Assembly of God in Midlothian, Virginia, U.S., May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Chet Strange - RTS15X86

    U.S. Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) holds a town hall meeting with constituents at Clover Hill Assembly of God in Midlothian, Virginia. Brat has been concerned that security for members is “nothing near what it needs to be.” Photo by Chet Strange/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Whatever the motive of the shooter at a congressional baseball practice, some Republicans say that in the era of President Donald Trump, they’re being threatened like never before.

    They point to a virulent backlash against Trump that they say has gone beyond the bounds of moderate political dissent and — subtly or not — advocates violence.

    “I’ve been saying, ‘What is it going to take for this to get some visibility,'” said Charlie Kirk, a young conservative activist. “And now here we are.”

    During a news conference at the shooting scene Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, declined to comment about whether America’s political climate could be a factor. But he said, “There’s too much, I believe, raw discourse that’s pulling people apart.”

    The gunman, identified as James T. Hodgkinson, opened fire Wednesday on Republican lawmakers and associates practicing baseball in a Virginia suburb outside Washington. A top House Republican, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, was critically wounded, as were several other people. Trump said the gunman had been killed.

    Police haven’t stated a motive. But Hodgkinson’s strong anti-Republican stances and background as a former volunteer on Bernie Sanders campaign only added to suggestions that the shooting was politically motivated.

    Such an assessment could be premature. Some initially attributed the 2011 shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords to intense partisanship, though that did not appear to be what motivated the gunman.

    But prominent Republicans, including Trump’s children, have long been unsettled by the rage against the president. Daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump said in a recent television interview that she did not expect the “viciousness” and “ferocity” of her father’s critics.

    Donald Trump Jr. is among those arguing that “liberal hate speech” leads to violence. He tweeted support for a comment by conservative political consultant Harlan Hill: “Events like today are EXACTLY why we took issue with NY elites glorifying the assassination of our President.”

    He was referring to a New York City production of “Julius Caesar” that portrays the assassinated title character looking like Trump in a business suit. That came on the heels of comedian Kathy Griffin posing with a bloodied rendering of Trump’s head.

    In both cases, there were consequences: lost sponsorships for the theatrical production and CNN dropping Griffin as host of its New Year’s Eve special, despite her apology.

    Kirk has been chronicling threats that get little attention outside conservative media.

    John Griffin, a media arts and animation professor at the Art Institute of Washington, for example, commented on Facebook about the Republican health care plan, saying: “They should be lined up and shot. That’s not hyperbole; blood is on their hands.”

    When Kirk tweeted about the professor’s threat, the University of Georgia chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists, a student group at the Athens campus, wrote, “This is absolutely outrageous! House Republicans should NOT be shot! They should be guillotined.”

    Griffin later apologized on Facebook for using “inappropriate” language, but said it spoke to “the fear so many feel right now in this country.” Neither he nor the student group immediately responded to a request for comment Wednesday.

    Democrats, in turn, point to Trump’s rough language — he has urged on fights at his rallies — as justification for their own. And on Wednesday, House Democratic leader James Clyburn of South Carolina said plenty of Democrats have experienced the level of hatred as Republicans.

    “I’m not a Republican. And I’ve had all kinds of threats against me and my family,” he said. “It’s got nothing to do with partisan politics.”

    Ben Shapiro, a conservative writer and radio show host, says the violent rhetoric from all viewpoints contributes to “worse politics in general.” But he warns it is a mistake to say that atmospherics causes any one act of violence.

    “Yes, that sort of rage culture is destroying the country,” he said. What happened at the ballfield is “a symptom, but it’s not the chief symptom.”

    This year, lawmakers, particularly Republicans, have experienced rowdy, overflowing town halls that they say border on dangerous.

    Rep. Dave Brat, a Virginia Republican, said he has been concerned that security for members is “nothing near what it needs to be.” He said town halls now often include “a thousand people screaming, and it only takes one person off the reservation” to cause a problem.

    AP writers Jonathan Lemire in New York and Alan Fram in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post After shooting, some in GOP say threats of violence have increased under Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan walks through National Statuary Hall after making a statement at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTS173N1

    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan walks through National Statuary Hall after making a statement at the Capitol Building on June 14, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

    WASHINGTON — In an emotional speech on the House floor Wednesday, hours after a gunman opened fire on the Republican congressional baseball team, Speaker Paul Ryan called for a political detente.

    “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” Ryan said. “For all the noise and all the fury, we are one family,” he said, and added, “we are being tested right now.”

    Ryan’s speech received a standing ovation from House Republicans and Democrats — a rare event in a chamber where both parties remain deeply divided over everything from health care and immigration to government spending and gun control.

    But the surface-level bipartisanship belied political tensions over the shooting that emerged within hours of the attack, which injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, two Capitol Hill police officers, a congressional aide and a lobbyist. The lone gunman, James T. Hodgkinson, died later Wednesday of gunshot wounds sustained during the attack, officials said.

    If Ryan is right that the shooting represented a test, the earliest signs suggested that members of both parties will have difficulty setting their long-term differences aside.

    That became clear as House lawmakers gathered at the Capitol for a security briefing roughly four hours after the shooting took place at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.

    The atmosphere was unusually tense, as lawmakers who had witnessed the attack described a chaotic shootout between the gunman and members of Scalise’s security detail.

    Some House members who participated in the practice arrived on Capitol Hill still wearing their red baseball uniforms, without having had time to change.

    Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), catcher on the Republican Congressional Baseball Team, speaks with the media at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTS172QX

    Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), catcher on the Republican Congressional Baseball Team, speaks with the media at the Capitol after the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

    The shootout “went on and on and on,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., who was on the field and said he hid on the ground in the third-base dugout when the shooting started. “My back was turned to” the gunman, Fleischmann said. “I could have been his first victim.”

    “I’m shaken up,” Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., who left the field shortly before the shooting started, told reporters. “My colleagues were targeted today by somebody who wanted to kill them.”

    Duncan said the shooter approached him in the parking lot as he was preparing to drive to the Capitol, and asked who the players on the field were. Duncan said he told Hodgkinson that they were members of Congress.

    “He asked me if this team was the Republican or Democrat team,” Duncan said. “I responded that it was the Republican team, and he proceeded to shoot Republicans. Take that for what it’s worth.”

    READ MORE: Eyewitness video captures congressional baseball shooting

    At first other lawmakers declined to say if they also believed the shooting had been politically motivated. But as the closed-door security briefing started, news reports began circulating that Hodgkinson’s Facebook page was filled with posts criticizing President Donald Trump, and praising progressive Democratic policies.

    By the time House members emerged from the private security meeting around noon, evidence of Hodgkinson’s allegiance to Senator Bernie Sanders — which apparently included volunteering on his 2016 presidential campaign — was bouncing across social media, and the topic of politics and last year’s election was impossible to ignore.

    “The presidential campaign we just went through has coarsened and made more angry the [political] debate,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. There are “people who may take that tone as some sort of justification to act out.”

    Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said the meeting had produced a “clear consensus that the tonality of our public discourse has deteriorated, and that it’s incumbent upon the leadership of the country to try to restore a sense of dignity.”

    U.S. Capitol Police keep watch on Capitol Hill following a shooting in nearby Alexandria, in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTS172IQ

    U.S. Capitol Police keep watch on Capitol Hill following the shooting in Alexandria on June 14, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

    Mr. Trump offered a measured response to the shooting in an appearance at the White House Wednesday. “We are stronger when we are unified, and when we work together for the common good,” he said.

    Yet as the day wore on, neither Republicans nor Democrats offered up new ideas on bridging the political divide, and the parties’ differences on gun control in particular became clearer than ever.

    On the left, Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe called for tougher gun laws in response to the shooting. On the right, Republicans signaled they were not interested in being drawn into a discussion about gun violence.

    “Now is not the time to talk policy.” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said. “I don’t see this as a gun control issue. The default to that would be a missed opportunity.”

    Instead, the shooting sparked a debate among House members about their own security, and the safety of their staffs. One lawmaker, Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., said he planned to carry a gun at public events in the future.

    Veteran lawmakers said the shooting might bring the parties together, at least temporarily. “People come together” in moments of crisis, said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. But “it may not be lasting.”

    The post House Speaker Ryan calls for unity, but shooting reveals stark political divide appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The FBI says it’s investigating the social media presence and motives of the Illinois man suspected in a shooting that injured Rep. Steve Scalise and several others.

    The FBI on Wednesday confirmed the gunman’s identity as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois. Officials say they’re investigating Hodgkinson’s whereabouts, associates, web postings and “potential motivations.”

    The FBI held a briefing on the shooting at 5:30 p.m. EDT. Watch in the player above.

    Authorities are searching his home in Illinois.

    The FBI says five people overall were taken to hospitals with gunshot wounds, including the shooter, Scalise, a Capitol Police officer, a congressional staffer and a lobbyist. Another congressman suffered minor injuries. Hodgksinson later died.

    Meanwhile, the Capitol Police says one of its officers is in good condition after having been shot in the ankle and another was treated and released with a minor injury.

    The post WATCH: FBI confirms identity of shooter at congressional baseball practice appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Screen image of Tracy K. Smith by PBS NewsHour

    Tracy K. Smith was named the newest U.S. poet laureate. Screen image by PBS NewsHour.

    Tracy K. Smith, the nation’s newest poet laureate, says writing is not just about expressing emotion but also about the choices you make when putting words on the page.

    The 45-year-old Princeton University professor, who was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts, was appointed as the U.S. poet laureate on Wednesday. The Library of Congress says the duties of a poet laureate are to “raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry,” but beyond that, how they do it is up to them.

    “I think the responsibility really is to just help raise the awareness of poetry and its value in our culture,” Smith told NPR. “To me that means talking to people — getting off the usual path of literary festivals and university reading series and talking to people who might not even yet be readers of poetry.”

    Smith’s fourth book of poetry, “Wade in the Water,” will be published in 2018. In an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Jeff Brown, Smith read two of her poems: “I will tell you the truth about this, I will tell you all about it” and “Wade in the Water.”

    Watch Smith read both poems below.

    I will tell you the truth about this, I will tell you all about it

    Excellent sir, my son went in the 54th regiment

    Sir, my husband who is in Company K, 22nd regiment, U.S. colored troops
    And now in the Macon Hospital at Portsmouth with a wound in his arm
    Has not received any pay since last May
    And then only $13.

    Sir, we the members of Company D, of the 55th Massachusetts volunteers
    Call the attention of your excellency to our case.
    For instant, look and see that we never was freed yet.
    Run right out of slavery in to soldiery and we hadn’t nothing at all.
    And our wives and mothers, most all of them is a perishing all about.
    And we all are perishing ourself.
    I am willing to be a soldier and serve my time faithful like a man.
    But I think it is hard to be put off in such doggish manner as that.

    Will you see that the colored men fighting now are fairly treated?
    You ought to do this and do it at once.
    Not let the thing run along. Need it quickly and manfully.
    We poor oppressed ones appeal to you and ask fair play.

    So please, if you can do any good for us, do it in the name of God.
    Excuse my boldness, but please, your reply will settle the matter
    And will be appreciated by a colored man
    And who is willing to sacrifice his son in the cause of freedom and humanity.

    I have nothing more to say.
    Hoping that you will lend a listening ear.
    To a humble soldier.
    I will close, your for Christ’s sake.
    I shall have to send this without a stamp.
    For I h’ain’t money enough to buy a stamp.

    This poem was included in “Lines in Long Array: A Civil War Commemoration, Poems and Photographs, Past and Present,” released in 2013.

    Wade in the Water

    One of the women greeted me.
    I love you, she said.
    She didn’t Know me,
    but I believed her,
    And a terrible new ache
    Rolled over in my chest,
    Like in a room where the drapes
    Have been swept back.
    I love you,
    I love you, as she continued
    Down the hall past other strangers,
    Each feeling pierced suddenly
    By pillars of heavy light.
    I love you, throughout
    The performance, in every
    Handclap, every stomp.
    I love you in the rusted iron
    Chains someone was made
    To drag until love let them be
    Unclasped and left empty
    In the center of the ring.
    I love you in the water
    Where they pretended to wade,
    Singing that old blood-deep song
    That dragged us to those banks
    And cast us in. I love you,
    The angles of it scraping at
    Each throat, shouldering past
    The swirling dust motes
    In those beams of light
    That whatever we now knew
    We could let ourselves feel, knew
    To climb. O Woods—O
    Dogs—O Tree—O Gun—
    O Girl, run—O
    Miraculous Many Gone—
    O Lord—O Lord—O
    Lord—Is this love the
    trouble you promised?

    Videos by Andrew Bossone and Matthew Ehrichs of the PBS NewsHour.

    The post Watch new U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith read two of her poems appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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