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PBS NewsHour for December 14, 2018 - Part 1

December 18, 2018



<Date: December 14, 2018>

<Time: 18:00:00>

<Tran: 121400cb.112>

<Type: SHOW>

<Head: PBS NewsHour for December 14, 2018 - Part 1>

<Sect: News; International>

<Byline: Lisa Desjardins, John Yang, Amna Nawaz, Jeffrey Brown, William

Brangham, Mark Shields, David Brooks>

<Guest: Josh Kovner, Mark Sanford, Carlos Curbelo, Julie Rovner>

<High: A 7-year-old migrant girl dies of dehydration and exhaustion while

in U.S. custody. Mark Shields and David Brooks analyze what the latest

revelations from the Mueller investigation mean for the Trump presidency.

One remote town in Texas is now a haven for the arts. Why is enrollment in

the Affordable Care Act down? A recent investigation reveals troubling

details about the Sandy Hook shooting. Representatives Carlos Curbelo and

Mark Sanford reflect on their time in Congress.>

<Spec: Mark Sanford; Carlos Curbelo; Sandy Hook; Guns; Texas; Art; Robert

Mueller; Affordable Care Act; Health and Medicine; Michael Cohen; Michael

Flynn; White House; Immigration; Death; Children; Congress; Politics;

Donald Trump; Government>

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Good evening. I`m William Brangham. Judy Woodruff is away.

On the “NewsHour” tonight: tragedy on the border. A 7-year-old migrant girl dies of dehydration and exhaustion while in U.S. custody.

It`s Friday. Mark Shields and David Brooks analyze what the latest revelations from the Mueller investigation mean for the Trump presidency.

Plus, join Jeffrey Brown on a weird, wonderful trip to a remote town in Texas that`s now a haven for the arts.

JENNY MOORE, Director, Chinati Foundation: You`re aware of the passage of time by the sun arcing across the sky. You don`t get that in a lot of places. And I think people who are open to that experience settle into it, and they find the inspiration of that.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All that and more on tonight`s “PBS NewsHour.”


WILLIAM BRANGHAM: President Trump may have another legal problem to ponder.

Federal prosecutors in New York are reportedly investigating his inaugural committee and whether it received illegal foreign donations. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times say the inquiry is in its early stages.

Meanwhile, the president`s former attorney Michael Cohen is insisting again that candidate Trump directed hush money payments to two women before the 2016 election.

Cohen spoke in an exclusive interview with ABC News` George Stephanopoulos. He denied acting on his own, as the president has repeatedly claimed.

MICHAEL COHEN, Former Attorney/Fixer For Donald Trump: First of all, nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. He directed me, as I said in my allocution, and I said as well in the plea, he directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In response, the White House called Cohen a -- quote -- “self-admitted liar” and said he shouldn`t be taken seriously.

The president today tapped budget Chief Mick Mulvaney late today to be acting White House chief of staff. The announcement came in a tweet. Mulvaney will take over when John Kelly leaves as chief of staff at the end of the year.

The U.S. Border Patrol is defending its actions after a 7-year-old Guatemalan child died in detention this month. The girl and her father were picked up after crossing the border in New Mexico. Officials say she didn`t appear ill at first, but her temperature spiked, and she died within hours. It turned out she`d had no food or water for days.

We will have more on this as part of a broader update after the news summary.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today condemned China`s detention of two Canadian citizens. The two were picked up after Canada arrested Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou. She`s accused of violating U.S. trade sanctions on Iran.

Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis met today with their Canadian counterparts. The Canadians insisted they`re acting strictly by the book.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, Canadian Foreign Minister: In Canada, there has been, to this point, no political interference in this issue at all. For Canada, this is a question of living up to our international treaty obligations and following the rule of law in Canada.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Canadian officials have also objected to President Trump saying he might intervene in Meng`s case if it helps clinch a trade deal with China.

Separately, China announced today it will suspend $126 billion worth of tariffs on U.S. autos and auto parts. The moratorium is for 90 days, as trade talks proceed.

Israeli security forces rounded up dozens of Hamas militants in the West Bank today. It followed a series of shooting attacks on Israelis this week. The crackdown sparked battles between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians throwing rocks. Palestinian officials said a teenager was shot and killed.

U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters have captured the last Islamic State stronghold in Eastern Syria. They had battled the militant group for control of the town of Hajin for three months.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened again today to attack the Kurdish fighters that he regards as terrorists. Turkey said he also discussed the situation with President Trump by phone.

In France, a fourth person has died from wounds suffered in Tuesday`s mass shooting in Strasbourg. That word came as the city`s famed Christmas market, which was the scene of the attack, reopened for business amid heavy security. The suspected gunman was killed by police last night in Strasbourg.

British Prime Minister Theresa May pressed on today in her bid to rework a Brexit deal. But leaders from the European Union gave her little hope. French President Emmanuel Macron said it`s time for the British Parliament to accept the deal, or not.

The European Council`s president, Donald Tusk, underscored that point at meetings in Brussels.

DONALD TUSK, European Council President: I have no mandate to organize any further negotiations. We have to exclude any kind of reopening our negotiations on the withdrawal agreement. But, of course, we will stay here in Brussels, and I am always at Prime Minister Theresa May`s disposal.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: At one point, May had a heated exchange with European commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. He had dismissed Britain`s demands as -- quote -- “nebulous and imprecise.”

Negotiators at the U.N. climate talks in Poland agreed today to extend their meetings through Sunday. They`re trying to finalize a rule book for meeting global warming goals. Key sticking points include how to create a global market in carbon credits and whether to compensate countries that have already been damaged by climate change.

Back in this country, Wisconsin`s defeated Republican governor signed legislation that weakens the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general. Scott Walker dismissed criticism that the move was a power grab by Republicans. And he sparred, long distance, with incoming Governor Tony Evers.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), Wisconsin: These bills don`t fundamentally change the power of, not just the next governor, but any governor thereafter, going forward. They just make sure that we have transparency, accountability, that we always look to protect the taxpayers, and that we have a sense of stability going forward in state government.

TONY EVERS (D), Wisconsin Governor-Elect: This legislation was created without accountability and transparency. So what I have said all along is still true, that the will of the people was not -- was ignored.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The new laws restrict early voting and limit the new governor`s ability to enact certain administrative rules. Democrats and advocacy groups are expected to challenge the laws in court.

Also today, Michigan`s Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed bills to scale back laws on the state minimum wage and paid sick leave. Republicans passed the bills in a lame-duck session before Snyder leaves office. He, too, is being succeeded by a Democrat.

General Motors has announced it`s adding 2,700 jobs to offset planned layoffs. The automaker said last month that 3,300 factory workers would be let go when it closes four different U.S. plants. Now GM says most of those employees will be offered one of the new jobs, but some will have to relocate. President Trump and lawmakers have sharply criticized the plant closings.

And on Wall Street, weak economic figures from China and Europe sent stocks tumbling again. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 500 points to close at 24100. The Nasdaq fell 159 points, and the S&P 500 slipped 50.

Still to come on the “NewsHour”: a young child`s death draws heightened attention to the U.S.-Mexico border; a look at why enrollment in the Affordable Care Act is down; and much more.

Today, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed the death of a 7- year-old Guatemalan girl who last week was apprehended after crossing the border illegally with her father.

Amna Nawaz is here to walk us through what happened, and what this tragic story can tell us about the government`s border control policies.

Amna, what can you tell us about what happened to this poor girl?

AMNA NAWAZ: We do have details.

DHS officials earlier today held a call. They tried to answer some reporters` questions then. We know she was 7 years old. We know she was traveling from Guatemala with her father. She made that 3,000-mile-plus journey with about 163 other people. And they were apprehended on the night of December the 6th -- so this is last week -- 9:15 p.m. at a place called Antelope Wells, New Mexico, by Border Patrol agents.

So, here`s the crucial part of the timeline I want to zero in on. Let`s take a look at this. We`re now talking about the next morning, right, December the 7th. At 4:30 a.m., that`s the first time that a bus is available to transport this little girl named Jakelin Caal, by the way, with her father.

At 5:00 a.m., just before the bus leaves, the father tells agents she is sick and she is vomiting. The bus continues to move to what is the closest Border Patrol station. It`s an hour-and-a-half away. At 6:30, it arrived there. And she received medical care for the first time since arriving in the U.S. at 7:45.

And she`s no longer breathing, by the way, by the time she gets to the Border Patrol station -- 7:45, an air ambulance is called in to transport her to the closest trauma unit. That is over in El Paso.

We`re told, when she arrived there, Jakelin was dehydrated. She had swelling around her brain. She was reliant on a ventilator by that point. The next morning, December the 8th, this 7-year-old girl dies.

Now, one of the big questions is, why did it take so long to get her medical attention? Here`s where a map is incredibly you useful to know where we`re talking about. That base, Antelope Wells in New Mexico, it`s in an incredibly remote part of the country. There is water on site, we`re told by DHS. We don`t know if Jakelin had any.

There is no medical staff there. And, from that base, they have to drive 95 miles to that closest Border Patrol station you see up in Lordsburg. That`s 95 miles of nothing. There`s no facilities, no towns, no medical support along the way.

DHS officials basically say, look, everyone got initially screen. She wasn`t sick at the time. Her father didn`t flag that she was unwell. They say, when they got on the bus -- and there is just one bus available to shuttle people back and forth, by the way -- they did all they could with the resources that they had.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: On this issue of resources, I mean, it does seem like a relatively small response, given that DHS knows that these people are coming in places like this.


WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is DHS saying, we need more because we know these people are arriving?

AMNA NAWAZ: Not really.

I mean, look, in terms of resources, there were four border agents there, the one bus we mentioned. That`s not unusual overnight like that. We know that they regularly handle groups this size. They say they get around 100 to 300 people at a time. And we know the numbers of children they`re encountering, those are going up.

Those have been going up. Take a look at this other graphic we can show you now. This is what we call family unit apprehensions. These are adults arriving with children. That`s been going up steadily over the last four months, the most recent numbers last month, 52,000.

That`s been going up, by the way, since 2012. And, basically, groups who track this say, when the threats changed down in Central America, so did the demographics of the group arriving here. The difference is that we, as a government, we, as a country, haven`t been doing anything to change how we`re receiving them and caring for them, even though we know that they`re coming.

If you want to understand, though, how the administration is viewing this, take a listen to how Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley responded earlier today when he was asked about Jakelin`s death.

HOGAN GIDLEY, White House Deputy Press Secretary: It`s a horrific situation. There`s no -- there`s no two ways about it.

And it`s a sad time, but it`s also senseless. It`s a needless death, and it`s 100 percent preventable. Does the administration take responsibility for a parent taking a child on a trek through Mexico to get to this country? No.

AMNA NAWAZ: So, William, they made clear, right, the responsibility is not with them for failing to provide adequate care. It`s with the parents for bringing them to the border in the first place.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Separate from this one particular tragedy, we know that there are lots of concerns about all the other young people who are being kept in U.S. custody right now.


WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Can you tell us -- you have been doing so much reporting on this -- what is the status of those other people?

AMNA NAWAZ: Yes, we should mention there`s now an investigation into this young girl`s death, led by the inspector general.

We also should mention we have now more migrant children in U.S. government care than ever before in history. It`s about 15,000. And we also know that they`re staying in our care longer. And that`s because this administration has put into place rules that prevent them and slow their release to family members, who`ve usually been coming for pretty quickly to get them.

Children now stay in our care in custody for about 60 days. And it`s in a system that`s not designed to keep children long-term. The administration requires fingerprints and background checks for people who are stepping forward.

And then they arrest a lot of those people on the basis of their immigration status.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The people who come forward to say, I would like to sponsor this child, they`re getting arrested when they volunteer to do this?

AMNA NAWAZ: That`s right, on the basis of their immigration status, even if they have no other criminal history.

We know that that`s happening again and again. And DHS said that they would do this again and again. I think the thing to focus in on here is now we know that more children will be arriving, and we`re not prepared to handle them.

And I will share with you just one story I heard from an advocate who was down on the border interviewing migrant children. She talked to a young girl from Guatemala. And she asked her, why did you make this journey? You know how dangerous it is? You know that children don`t do well on this.

The little girl said, look, back home, they were going to kill me either way, and I wasn`t going to let them decide how I died. If I died, I was going to die trying to live.

That little girl, William, was 9 years old. And she said that, if she had to make the journey again, she would.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Amna, thank you very much.

AMNA NAWAZ: Of course.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For most Americans, the enrollment period to sign up for insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act ends tomorrow.

John Yang has a look at the numbers so far.

JOHN YANG: William, the latest government figures show that, as of last Saturday, more than 4.1 million people had signed up for ACA coverage. That`s down nearly 12 percent from last year, and the number of new enrollments is down almost 20 percent, this despite stable premiums and more plans available.

Now, millions more are expected to sign up or be reenrolled by tomorrow`s deadline.

To discuss what`s going on, we`re joined by Julie Rovner, chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News.

Julie, thanks and welcome.

Why is enrollment down from last year?

JULIE ROVNER, Kaiser Health News: Well, there are a lot of reasons.

A big one, of course, is that Congress last year repealed what`s called the mandate penalty, so if you don`t have health insurance, you will no longer have to pay a tax penalty for not having it, although a lot of people actually don`t even know that.

The economy is better. More people have jobs. They don`t need their own health insurance. There are some smaller things. In Virginia, they`re expanding Medicaid, so you have got tens of thousands, more than 100,000 people who were getting ACA coverage who will now be able to get Medicaid.

And the Trump administration allowed these short-term plans, these alternative kinds of plans, that might be cheaper if you`re healthy. And there are some number of people who are probably going to sign up for those plans instead, so there are a lot of things that are contributing to this.

JOHN YANG: So, even though enrollment is down, that doesn`t mean necessarily that people -- that coverage is down?

JULIE ROVNER: We don`t know yet. We won`t find that out for several more months.

But, yes, enrollment is down, but some people could be getting alternate coverage.

JOHN YANG: What does this tell us about the health of the ACA?

JULIE ROVNER: Well, actually, that it`s really more resilient than a lot of people thought.

It was predicted that, when Congress got rid of the penalty for not having insurance, that the bottom would fall out of the market. And while enrollment is down, the bottom is not really falling out of the market, which is coming as a bit of a surprise to people, that they -- it seems to be more the subsidies that can help people buy insurance that are keeping people there, rather than the prospect of a tax penalty if they don`t buy it.

JOHN YANG: The bottom not falling out, does that also mean that the market is -- the marketplace is stabilizing?

JULIE ROVNER: The marketplace is stabilizing. Insurers are starting to make money. And, in fact, this year, most of them didn`t raise premiums anymore, in fact. And some are coming -- more insurers are coming into the market.

So there`s more choices at sort of less rapidly rising prices. So, yes, the market is in better shape certainly than it was last year.

JOHN YANG: And the deadline tomorrow is for the federal marketplace.

JULIE ROVNER: That`s right, for the states that use the federal marketplace. It is most of the states.

But there`s some very large states, including California and New York and Massachusetts, where the deadline is in January. So, they`re -- so, in most states, tomorrow is a deadline, but in about a half-a-dozen states and Washington, D.C., it is later. So you will still have a chance to sign up.

JOHN YANG: And, also, we won`t know final numbers for a while.

JULIE ROVNER: No, we will not know final numbers for a while.

Some millions of people will be reenrolled at some point. If they don`t come to the marketplace and choose a new plan, they will just be renewed into their old plan.

JOHN YANG: So, people who want to enroll in the federal marketplace before tomorrow`s deadline, they go to?

JULIE ROVNER: Healthcare.gov. At this point, it`s pretty crowded. They may put you in what they call a waiting room and they will call you back.

But if you get in that line, then you will be able to enroll even after the deadline.

JOHN YANG: Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, thank you very much.

JULIE ROVNER: You`re very welcome.


Coming up on the “NewsHour”: a recent investigation reveals troubling details about the Sandy Hook shooting; Representatives Carlos Curbelo and Mark Sanford reflect on their time in Congress; and how a remote Texas town transformed into an artist colony.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty children and six adults were murdered.

It was an especially tough day there today, since the school had to be evacuated this morning after receiving a bomb threat. Officials later said it wasn`t credible, but children were sent home out of caution and out of sensitivity for the anniversary.

This week, the Hartford Courant newspaper published a report about more than 1,000 documents related to the killings and the killer, Adam Lanza. The story paints an even more chilling picture than we knew, a rigid and angry individual struggling with loneliness, disdain for others and multiple psychiatric problems.

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Josh Kovner wrote some of The Courant`s coverage, and he joins us now.

Josh, thank you very, very much for being here.

This report that you have put out is just a harrowing read, detailing the extent of the troubled mind of this killer. Can you just give us a snapshot of the things that you found?

JOSH KOVNER, The Hartford Courant: It was a sense of a greater, deeper extent of his obsession and compulsive disorder, his crippling problems that he noted just living every day, his meticulous and his fascination with mass murder and gunplay, a very detailed spreadsheet that he put together. We hadn`t seen that before.

His feeling, his ambivalent sexuality, his feeling about pedophilia -- he had a soft spot about that. His feeling that, if a doctor touched him during a physical, it was tantamount to rape.

The expression of surprise and concern from a psychiatrist who interviewed him when he was 14. The psychiatrist seemed to be saying, what are you doing being homebound -- with homebound instruction? You`re not in school? This is a catastrophe for you. You need to be in the mainstream.

And Adam was -- his remarks, as captured in that report, were, as you said, rigid, robotic. He was asked about friends. He said, “What culture are you talking about?”

What 14-year-old would say that? He said outright that he had scorn for humanity, he had no use for relationships. He hated fat people. So, it was the extent of the darkness and a dark world view.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It really is, the whole thing, a harrowing chronicle that you have reported.

After these kinds of tragedies, we, as a society, always look for the red flags that could have been missed, what people might have noticed to say, you know what, this really is a danger, this person really is a potential danger.

And I think it`s important to say, too, that we know that many people who suffer from mental illness, the vast majority of them never will become violent.

JOSH KOVNER: Absolutely.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But in the case of this young man, were there warning signs, looking back now, that could have tipped people off to what was coming?

JOSH KOVNER: Well, some of the signs could have tipped people off to -- and motivated them to get him more help, maybe an in-patient situation, coupled by meaningful outpatient.

And things have grown up in the mental health field since -- in the last six years, peer advocacy, people helping people who have been through it, trauma-informed therapy. They used to tiptoe around trauma. Now they confront it directly. If he had any trauma from the divorce of his parents, some of these things could have been addressed.

But, through no fault of anyone`s own, schools, counselors, parents, psychiatrists operate in silos, and one doesn`t always talk with the other. And he existed between them, among them. And nobody nailed the whole picture. And maybe that`s impossible, but that could be something to aspire to, is better communication among good-intentioned, smart people who are trying to help youngsters.

Everyone has to communicate.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Some in the Newtown community, as you know, are distressed that you guys put out this report in the way that you did and when you did.

And I know you and your colleagues talked a lot about this and thought talked a lot about this and thought about this long and hard. Can you explain why you felt this was important to do?

JOSH KOVNER: Hopefully, there`s some recognition and prevention aspects of this, once you get beyond the emotional core.

And I -- my heart goes out to those parents. They have -- you know, they have been very brave. They have done a lot of good things, brought a lot of value to that -- added value to that community and to the gun debate.

And -- but once you get beyond and start to reach out to the wider audience, there was some fairly positive feedback about providing some kind of a road map for -- perhaps to prevent the next Adam Lanza. You know, hopefully, we have created a body of knowledge about this shooter, and the next one won`t come up the same way he did.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Josh Kovner of The Hartford Courant, thank you very much.

JOSH KOVNER: You`re more than welcome.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: On Capitol Hill this month, dozens of lawmakers are packing up their offices, including more than 70 House Republicans who are either retiring or were voted out in this year`s midterm elections.

Our Lisa Desjardins sat down with a pair of those departing members, two very different types of Republicans, whose seats will now both be blue.

Mark Sanford represents Charleston, South Carolina. He`s a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus. And Carlos Curbelo is a moderate who represents Southern Florida.

LISA DESJARDINS: You have both broken with the Republican president.

I`m interested from both of you, who have been opposed and also been attacked by this president, how, privately, do other members of the Republican Conference here in Congress see this president? What are they saying in private?

REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R), Florida: If you`re committed to the truth, if you`re committed to being sincere, that means you`re going to disagree with people.

And, sometimes, it means you`re going to disagree with the president of your own party. Now, the problem is, these days, that`s viewed as unacceptable. You either have to 100 percent with someone, or you`re an enemy.

And we`re seeing that across our politics, by the way, not just in the Republican Party, not just with this president. And that`s very dangerous.

REP. MARK SANFORD (R), South Carolina: It is as polarized as I have ever seen it.

I have been involved in politics for a while in South Carolina, a long while. And it is polarized as I have ever seen it. What he said about one camp vs. the other camp is real and dangerous.

And so, when an issue is hot or popular, you can`t push politicians away from the microphone. But when it`s not -- and this is one of those times that would fit in that category -- people are reticent about speaking out.

LISA DESJARDINS: Is there a courage issue with Republicans speaking up for what they think the truth is?

REP. CARLOS CURBELO: I think there`s a courage issue in the Congress. People are more and more risk-averse. People more and more are in this for career, not for service.

So they treat this as a job that they have to protect, no matter what. And I think that distorts your ability to make sound decisions. It certainly makes it harder for you to be sincere and honest and transparent about what you think, about what you feel.

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