tv PBS News Hour PBS July 24, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening, i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight... >> i did not collude with russia nor did i know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. >> woodruff: president trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, jared kushner, defends contacts with russian officials as he meets with the senate intelligence committee. then, i sit down with democratic national committee chair, tom perez, to talk the party's new agenda, while our politics monday team take on that, health care and the president's new communications director. plus, living in limbo-- on an isolated coast off bangladesh, hundreds of thousands of myanmar's rohingya people have relocated to escape persecution, only to face new challenges.
>> ( translated ): we came here, left our homes, rice, we came here to save our lives, if we have no peace, then it's better to die. >> woodruff: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us.
>> and the william and flora hewlett foundation, helping people build immeasurably better lives. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: and individuals. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: denial and defense. the president's son-in-law offered both today, in the russia investigation. he spoke privately, for senate staffers, and publicly, for reporters. our coverage begins with john
yang. >> yang: outside the white house west wing, jared kushner did something he rarely does: speak to reporters. >> let me be very clear: i did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign i had no improper contacts. >> yang: he dismissed the idea that his father-in-law benefited from russian meddling in the election. >> donald trump had a better message and ran a smarter campaign and that is why he won. suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him. >> yang: kushner took no questions from reporters but said he had answered all questions from senate intelligence committee investigators in a two-hour closed-door session. his 11-page prepared remarks gave the first public explanation of four meetings he had with russians during the campaign and transition.
he said he did not know the purpose of the june 9, 2016 meeting donald trump, jr. set up with russian attorney natalia veslenitskaya, campaign chairman paul manafort and others in hopes of getting dirt on hillary clinton. kushner said he arrived late and "quickly determined that my time was not well-spent." it was, he said, "a waste of our time," a judgement his brother- in-law has also expressed. >> it was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame. >> yang: less than a month after president trump won the election, on december 1, kushner and national security advisor- designate michael flynn met with russian ambassador sergei kislyak. according to kushner, the envoy said he wanted to talk about syria and "convey information from his 'generals'". kislyak "asked if there was a secure line in the transition office." told that there wasn't, kushner asked if the russians "had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use... the ambassador said that would not be possible."
on decmeber 13, kushner met with sergey gorkov, the head of a russian bank that is under u.s. sanctions, at kislyak's insistence. he said gorkov told him "he was friendly with president putin" and expressed "hopes for a better relationship in the future." kushner said he has not been in contact with gorkov since. as for the matter of kushner's original security clearance application, not including any of his foreign contacts, the president's son-in-law said it was an accident: it was submitted "prematurely" due to a miscommunication with an assistant. it's been updated at least three times. limit merchandise's abilities to lift the penalties. >> we will continue to work with the house and senate to put tough sanctions in >> we support where the legislation is now and will continue to work with the house and senate to put those tough sanctions in place.
questions raised by the russia investigation which has now entered a new phase. kushner will be back on capitol hill tomorrow for a private session with members of the kushner will be back on capitol hill tomorrow for a private session with members of the house intelligence committee. for the pbs newshour, i'm john yang. >> woodruff: we'll go deeper on this after the news summary. in the day's other news, president trump directed new criticism at his own attorney in the day's other news, president trump aimed new fire at attorney general jeff sessions over the russia probes. in a tweet, he called sessions "our beleaguered a.g." and asked why he and others are not investigating hillary clinton. last week, the president sharply criticized sessions for recusing himself in the russia matter. a diplomatic standoff between israel and jordan ended this evening. it had begun sunday, when an israeli embassy guard in amman, killed two jordanians after one
stabbed him. the jordanians said they wanted to question the guard, but israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu insisted he has diplomatic immunity and must be returned home. >> ( translated ): i assured him that we will see to bringing him back to israel. we are also holding contacts to end the incident and to bring our people back to israel. and we are doing this determinedly and responsibly. >> woodruff: later, the guard and other embassy staffers returned to israel. the dispute added to tensions over new security measures at al-aqsa mosque in jerusalem. they sparked protests on friday, and several palestinians were killed. in afghanistan, at least 24 people were killed today when a suicide car bomber rammed a bus carrying government employees. the taliban said it was behind the attack, targeting a kabul neighborhood that's home to leading politicians. at least 42 people were hurt. separately, in lahore, pakistan, a suicide bomber killed at least
25 people, many of them police. the pakistani taliban claimed that attack. philippines president rodrigo duterte insisted today he'll continue a drug crackdown that's claimed thousands of lives. in a "state of the union" address, he called the victims "beasts and vultures" and he vowed he'd go to prison first before giving in. >> the fight will not stop until those who deal in it understand that they have to cease, they have to stop because the alternative are either jail or hell. >> woodruff: as duterte spoke, thousands of left-wing protesters marched in opposition. he met with them later, but warned he'll order police to shoot anyone who causes disturbances. the president of poland broke with his party today, and vetoed
two bills aimed at curbing the independence of judges. the legislation had triggered mass demonstrations. diana magnay, of independent television news, filed this report. >> reporter: for days and long into each night they protested in cities across poland against judicial reforms they felt might snuff out what's left of liberal democracy here. it's not a phrase the ruling law and justice party had much track with. certainly not party chairman jaroslaw kaczynski. but the man he cherry picked for president last year, andrzej duda, just broke with party ranks. >> ( translated ): poland badly needs reform of the judiciary and i fully support this reform. but i support a smart reform which would guarantee an effective functioning of the judiciary and improve the sense of justice in poland. >> reporter: cue an emergency meeting of the ruling party. no comments from the press but expect the president, who till now has signed pretty much everything that's crossed his
desk, to put his stamp on any new piece of legislation, likely some form of compromise on reforms his party says they have a mandate for. >> so far the judges in poland had no responsibility at all. we as members of parliament can be put on trial or lose our mandate or just people revolt and decide our future. so we wanted to have very equal rights for everyone. for member of the parliament from the judge to the man on the street. >> reporter: some on street today felt their president haven't gone far enough. blocking two pieces of legislation but not a three, which grants sweeping powers to the justice minster including the right to appoint the heads of lower courts. this evening another demonstration outside the presidential palace by those whose notions of law and justice are entirely different from kaczynski and his ruling party. >> woodruff: that report from diana magnay of independent television news. the parents of a critically ill
baby in britain have dropped their legal bid to keep him alive. they'd been trying to move 11- month-old charlie gard to the u.s. for experimental treatment, but british doctors argued it wouldn't work. today, the father, chris gard, said they've made their decision after new tests showed the child's muscle damage is now irreversible. >> we will have to live with the what-ifs which will haunt us for the rest of our lives. despite the way our beautiful son has been spoken about sometimes, as if he is not worthy of a chance of life, our son is an absolute warrior, and we could not be prouder of him and we will miss him terribly. >> woodruff: the case has garnered international attention with both president trump and the pope offering support to the family. back in this country, president trump called for senate republicans to begin debate on a health care bill. party leaders say they will try advancing a measure tomorrow, but it's unclear which one:
a version that repeals and replaces obamacare, or a repeal- only bill. the president said, "there's been enough talk. now is the time for action." and on wall street, the dow jones industrial average lost nearly 67 points to close at 21,513. the nasdaq rose 23 points, and the s&p 500 slipped two. still to come on the newshour: jared kushner's statement, put in context. what led to the deaths of 10 migrants in san antonio. a controversial plan to relocate ones of the world's most persecuted minorities, and much more. >> woodruff: at the start of this week, the focus of the russia investigations, on jared kushner, has exposed new details of the president son-in-law's dealings with moscow.
we breakdown what we know and the key questions that remain with nick schifrin. so, nick, you've spent today talking to a lot of people. what new dud we learn about jared kushner and his dealings with the russians? >> i think the new narrative is that this is the senior advisor to president who has questioned whether there was any influence by russia last year detailing russia influence on him and perhaps on trump policy. nobody in this administration has really done that before. you have three examples of that laid out. one is ambassador kislyak, the former russian ambassador to the united states, asking for a direct line between the trump transition team and russian generals on sir. i can't this is very unusual. kislyak could have asked the obama administration, could have used the u.s. government to do so and would be expected to do so and didn't do that. he tried to circumvent the obama administration and use kushner
to do that. secondly, sergei, the banker, shows up with two gifts, art and dirt, and many of the people i spoke to today, that metaphor of dirt is not lost on them. the idea, according to the intelligence officials i spoke to and former diplomats is to prove that russia has a connection to kushner. this is dirt from kushner's grandparents' home in belarus and to suggest kushner does hit homework. kushner is the brotherhood with businessmen with intelligence ties who keep the ties and could represent the russian government to kushner and reach out to someone close to the trump campaign or president trump himself on behalf of the russian government, again using kushner to do that. thirdly the meeting we have been talking about for a few weeks with nat nat the lawyer who
reached out to kushner, drrnlg, we have three officials trying to geto into the trump family. >> woodruff: this on top of what we learned before this is all related to what's happening in congress, the senate, even republicans coming together with democrats to impose these new sanction on russia. >> it's very clear that republicans are helping lead this effort, certainly bipartisan effort, but certainly republicans fearing the president's rhetoric on russia, responding to the president's rhetoric on russia and frankly handcuffing the president on his ability to lift sanctions on russia imposed by ukraine, eastern ukraine, crimea, as well as the 2016 elections. the first time u.s. has penalized anyone the u.s. believes was part of the campaign last year to influence the elections directly. not designed to hit ordinary
russians. designed to send a message to russia the u.s. intelligence knows who's doing these things and will make it harder for banks and other companies -- or countries, rather, to do business with russia perhaps in the future. >> woodruff: nick, you talked to a lot of people today. any queens sens that as jared kushner says he's a babe in the woods and doesn't know american diploma circumstances that he was an unwitting figure in all this as he says he was. >> some of this is described to me as normal, whether sergei kislyak's reaching out to someone who is a neophyte, reaching out to a campaign or transition team that was brand new to washington, and some people say, look, this is what any diplomat, any country would cowith a new administration, but what is not normal is that the president has questioned his intelligence community's findings about what russia has done. what is not normal is not to report some of these meetings that were set up with russians as kushner admitted that he
failed to do initially. and what's not normal is not to report ambassador kislyak's attempt to circumvent the u.s. government and administration to try to get to the trump campaign, so that's why there is so much focus on this. >> woodruff: russian reaction to all this? >> what's interesting is their focus is on sanctions. they haven't replied to request for comment on kushner. they say the sanctions are "extremely negative," if the sanctions go forward from congress. that is their focus, they don't want the sanctions to go forward and trump himself questioned whether the sanctions should go forward in the past and, if they do, that may be one of the legacies of 2016, turning congress against russia at this point. >> woodruff: nick schifrin doing a lot of reporting on this. we thank you. >> thank you. >> woodruff: now, the latest on a human smuggling case in texas
that has left at least 10 people dead after they were packed into a sweltering tractor-trailer. and again to john yang. >> yang: the truck driver, james bradley, was charged in federal court today with knowingly transporting immigrants for financial gain. the tractor-trailer was discovered in a walmart parking lot early sunday when someone from inside the trailer approached an employee asking for water. nearly 20 others are still hospitalized. bradley says he made a stop to get the truck washed, but did not know anyone was hiding in the trailer until he parked near the store to use the bathroom. migrants described a horrific scene insides the rig and said they took turns breathing through a hole. jason buch is covering the story and reports on border and immigration issues for the "san
antonio express news." jason, thanks for joining us. today, what's the latested too and what did we learn from the truck driver's appearance in court? >> there wasn't a lot said in court this morning. he's going to be held for a bond hearing thursday. the u.s. attorney's office signed off on a complaint by immigration agents that detailed what they learned with interviews with the driver and immigrants. this jowrn from the border in an overheated container with a very limited ability to get air from one hole. >> yang: the charges are federal. what's the maximum penalty. >> most smuggling charges come with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison but because people died in this case, he faces up to life in prison or
the death penalty. we had another incident 15 years ago in which 19 people died after being abandoned in a trailer. the death penalty was overturned and the driver got 34 years. it would be difficult for the u.s. attorney's office to prove up a capital case here. >> yang: how widespread are the smuggling operations? what can you tell us about them? >> people come across the border in south texas every day. the border patrol in laredo where these folks crossed reported in the last couple of months an uptick of people using tractor-trailers t get through the border patrol checkpoint and reach cities to the north. it's been a long time since we've had a fatal incident like this involving a tractor-trailer, but certainly a number of incidents reported by roared border patrol recently of dozens packed into trailers. >> yang: some survivors say
they crossed the river on a raft and were taken farther north in the truck. how do they work in general? >> what they described is paying a smuggler in mexico to bring them across the border, most likely involved stash houses on the u.s. side, then when it was time to load the truck, it appeared people smuggled by different groups were brought to where this trailer was parked, loaded into the trailer and then driven to laredo and, in fact, each group was given a different color tape to determine who they should go with when they arrived in san antonio, and some of the immigrants described to investigators that there were black suvs waiting for them in the wal-mart parking lot when they pulled up. >> where would the suvs take them? >> some people said they were staying in san antonio. another person interviewed by the immigration agents said they were heading for minnesota. usually san antonio is a
pass-through because rear on a major highway to the border. people are usually going to major metropolitan areas or regions of the country that employ a lot of immigrant laborers, areas with large agriculture industries or construction boons young border security, immigration issues are a big topic with president trump talking about the border wall. has this incident gotten swept up in the politics of this issue? >> absolutely. our lieutenant governor was on facebook yesterday blaming this on sanctuary cities, our legislature recently passed a bill that would provide criminal penalties and fines for officials who ran what they call sanctuary cities. so the lieutenant governor was placing blame for this incident on cities and countess that don't cooperate with federal immigration officials.
>> yang: it's a horrible incident, reminds us of the people behind these issues. jason buch, thank you very much for joining us. >> thank you. >> woodruff: stay with us, coming up on the newshour: i sit down with tom perez, the chair of the democratic national committee. our politics monday duo examines the democrats and the latest white house controversies, and a new film documents the lives of syrian activists battling isis. but first, we turn to bangladesh and the plight of the rohingya. they are an ethnic minority group seeking refuge there, many having been forced from their homes in neighboring myanmar. but, as special correspondent tania rashid found, they are hardly more welcome in bangladesh, by the tens of thousands, they are stuck in a deadly limbo. and a warning, parts of this story may disturb some viewers.
>> reporter: the island is isolated, covered in bushes, and under water half of the year. it's called thenga charr, and it lies on the coast of bangladesh. it's a hard and long-day's boat ride from the nearest port this rough spot might be the new home for the rohingya-- a group of more than 300,000 people, the u.n. calls the most persecuted minority in the world. but on a camp on the mainland, hafez, a rohingya activist says that is no place they want to go. >> ( translated ): if we go to tenga char, we will get sick. we can die. we are used to being here and we feel safe here. >> reporter: it's only a relative safety: close to half a million have fled murder and persecution by the army of myanmar to seek refuge in camps in southern bangladesh. the muslim rohingya have lived in mainly buddhist myanmar for centuries, but are viewed as illegal, ethnic bangladeshis by the myanmar government
the de facto leader of myanmar, nobel peace lauretate aung san suu chee, has denied a u.n. charge of ethnic cleansing of the rohingya's. but in the last eight months the numbers of rohingyas fleeing for their lives have surged to more than 70,000. but now, their lives are more precarious than ever before. monsoon season and a punishing cyclone damaged many 35,000 rohingya settlements. so, the bangladeshi government plans to resolve the rohingya's continued displacement by moving 60,000 of the refugees to this remote island. aid agencies like the u.n.h.c.r. and human rights watch have expressed alarm over the planned relocation. we began our journey on a sea truck from chittagong to sandwip island. we traveled first by sea truck, then by a private boat where a local fishermen agreed to take us to the island. it was a dangerous journey, as pirates are known to control these seas and take hostages for people ransom. but the island is not easy to
access. the tides are too high on the bigger ship so we had to take a small boat to take us to the island. we just made it to the island. we managed to find a muddy bog to land near, and get across to the island. the government has already moved forward with the plan of making the island more habitable by planting trees. but this local official doesn't want the rohingyas moving into his district. he thinks it will create more problems for his community. >> ( translated ): the past history the rohingya were related to the drug problem, they are linked to drugs, linked to smuggling. most of the people here, their main livelihood is fishing. the bad character and influence of the rohingya people will impact the locals here. >> reporter: but the bangladeshi government believe the rohingyas cross the border at will, with the help of smugglers and corrupt border guards. the government argues the relocation will guarantee their isolation from the rest of the population. but the island is formed by
river sediment, making it unstable, and it could be eroded in five years time. dr. ainun nishat is a leading expert on climate change in bangladesh. >> the main history of the coastal belt of bangladesh is highly vulnerable to storm surges and cyclonic weather, due to impact of climate change we believe that the frequency of climate change may not be increasing but intensity of the storm surges are definitely going to increase. so they should be, accommodated in good concrete structure, where at the time of emergency people should we can be moved to a height of 20 feet and above. >> reporter: today, about one million rohingyas live in apartheid like conditions in internment camps in rakhine state of myanmar, separated from the buddhist majority; they have
no citizenship, and need permission to marry, or to travel outside of their own villages. on october 9 of last year, rohingya militants killed nine myanmar police officers. the myanmar military then led a wide and brutal counterinsurgency campaign in retaliation where they killed more than 1,000 rohingyas, torched and burnt homes and mosques to ashes. the myanmar government calls these accusations exaggerations and denies charges of ethnic cleansing. dil nawaz is one of 70,000 rohingya's who fled to bangladesh to save her life. she was gang raped by soldiers, and witnessed her husband's murder in front of her eyes. i'm looking at a photo of her husband who was hacked to death about five months ago and this is a photograph she took shortly after she was murdered. >> ( translated ): they used a machete on my husband in front of me on the road. i saw it with my own eyes, they chopped him into pieces in front of me in a rice field. then the army came and took all the women out to the rice fields and took several women, five men took turns raping them.
they took people's gold jewelry, rings and earrings, they killed some children, then they burned all the houses down, followed by the mosque. the the military went back to a buddhist area. this is why we fled to bangladesh. >> reporter: activist hafez says they have found refuge here. >> ( translated ): bangladesh is small, and overpopulated but they gave us a place to stand. this is a big thing. >> reporter: but like many other rohingya, he wants a sense of permanence. >> instead of sending us to tenga chorr, if the myanmar government could-we request that, they grant us citizenship. >> reporter: 45-year old dilbar hopes for a last-ditch political solution. >> ( translated ): if the bangladesh government and the myanmar government negotiate a deal and send us back to burma then we will be happy. if this doesn't happen, then please bomb us. we came here, left our homes, rice, we came here to save our
lives, if we have no peace, then it's better to die. our children died there, we sacrificed everything and came here for peace. if you take us to the island, it will be like killing us, slaughtering us. we are like ants, we are nothing. it won't take much to kill us. just bomb us. nobody will make a case against you because we have no ground under our feet. >> reporter: their hope: to find that safe ground one day. but for now, they remain in limbo-- not of this land, and not pushed from it. for the pbs newshour, i'm tania rashid on thenga charr island, bangladesh. >> woodruff: now to our series of conversations focusing on the road ahead for the democratic party. today, senate and house
democratic leaders left washington for a stop in berryville, virginia, estimated population of around 4,300. it was to roll out a new, more populist message, focusing on economic issues. they said it's what the party needs to win back voters. >> when you lose elections as we did in 2014 and 2016, you don't flinch. you don't blink. you look in the mirror and ask, what did we do wrong? the number one thing we did wrong is not present a strong, bold economic agenda to working americans, so that their hope for the future might return again. >> that is why today democrats are unveiling an aggressive and ambitious economic agenda, and a bold new promise to america's working families. from the heartland, these members are from the heartland, and to the suburbs and to the cities, democrats are offering a
better deal. better jobs, better wages, a better future. >> voters, constituents want us to focus on them. they want us to understand where they are. and they want us to understand that their wages are not keeping up with their cost of living. and so the more people that are able to have that conversation with the american people. we'll be in a stronger place in 2018. >> woodruff: joining me now to discuss the new agenda, and the way forward for the party, is the chairman of the democratic national committee, tom perez. welcome to the "newshour". so how did the democratic party get to the point where you have to be reintroducing yourselves to the american people, telling them what you stand for? >> we've heard across america from people that they don't know what we stand for, and i have been traveling to countries list -- traveling the country listening. what leader pelosi and senator schumer and others have been doing is telling people who we're fighting for. we're fighting for a better
future for everyone. we're fighting to address the most important issue of our time, income inequality. we're fighting and showing people we believe everyone has an opportunity to punch their ticket to middle class, healthcare is a right for you a, not a privilege for few. we're talking about what and who we're fighting for. we're fighting for the many, not the few, an economy that works for everyone. >> woodruff: is this different, tom perez, from the democrats' message before now? >> ted kennedy always fought for the common man and woman, and the democratic party, we've always been fighting for americans, whether fighting for the social security act in the '30s, fighting for medicare and medicaid and we'll be celebrating the anniversary of medicaid and medicare in a few days, fighting for good jobs. we want to underscore what we're doing and telling people how
we're going to continue that fight. donald trump attempted to hijack that message and we need to tell people exactly who's fighting for them. >> woodruff: is the reason that you need to do this is that the party have been spenting so much time criticizing donald trump. we heard about jared kushner's meeting with senate investigators on russia. have democrats spent too much time criticizing donald trump, talking about what you're against rather than whort for. >> when we have a vote on the affordable care act repeal tomorrow, it's important for us to talk about the fact that that's not a health care bill, it's a massive tax cut for wealthy people. but your point is absolutely well taken which is we can't simply be against donald trump, we have to be for the values that senator schumer, leader pelosi and all of us have been talking about. that's what i do day in and day out. democrats believe no one who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty.
democrats believe healthcare is a right for all and not a privilege for a few. the secretary of education ought to believe in public education. when i was labor secretary, i was fighting for overtime and retirement security and fighting for people having the skills to compete. they fought our efforts at making sure anyone had a 401k or i.r.a. could get the advice we need. what we have to do a better job of as democrats is tell folks what we have been fighting for and what they have been fighting against. >> woodruff: how does this fit into the debate i have been hearing? on the one hand you hear centrist democrats saying the party didn't pay enough attention to the middle america, working-class americans, spent too much time on what they called identity politics. then, on the other hand, you've got the more progressive wing of the party saying, no, no, the
party forgot about its base and minorities, about black, hispanic voters. you're hearing two different critiques. how does what you're saying the party is arguing now, how does it fit into that argument? >> i think it's a false choice to suggest you do one or the other. as dr. king said, the best civil rights is a good job. what good is a seat at the counter if you can't afford to buy a hamburger? economic opportunity for everyone is what we have been talking about. what we have to do a better job of as democrats is talk about that in every zip code. a big part of what we're doing with the democratic party is we're building a 12-month-a-year organizing presence in every zip code. we have to talk to folks in rural america, urban america, suburban america because the opioid epidemic is touching all of those communities and we need to tell them that we are the party that's trying to make sure that we retain access to healthcare. we're the party that's making sure that you have the skills to
compete not only for today's jobs but for the dynamic economy and the jobs that will be coming tomorrow. that's what democrats have been fighting for, and i think that message resonates in every zip code across the country. everyone wants good public education. doesn't matter where you live. that's what we're fighting for. >> former president obama said he was partly to blame for the fact the party didn't so as much as it should have been done, could have been doing at the state level, at the local level. is the party now going to be working actively to reviewed and be more present in localcies? >> absolutely. we changed our mission statement. our mission is no longer just to elect the president of the united states, our mission is to elect democrats up and down, in the house and senate. we helped two candidates in oklahoma two weeks ago that won elections in districts donald
trump won. we have to be a 12-month-a year party. you can't just show up every fourth october and call that org organizing. we have to organize everywhere, every year i want the question we were discussing a minute ago, how much of what people are hearing from democrats is anti-donald trump. how do you both do this, the positive things you're talking about, and remain this relentless, anti-trump machine that many people think the democrats are. >> well, we can't match trump tweet for tweet because distracting donald frequently out there. i'm sure at the g-20, everyone was talking about john podesta's tweets. when you have this misnamed voter integrity commission which is a voter suppression commission, we can't allow all of the relentless conflict and chaos that emanates from this administration to take our eye off the ball.
that's what today was about with leader pelosi and senator schumer. it's about telling the american people we are the party that's fighting for a better future for folks, for everyone. we're the party that's going to make sure that you get the good job that pays a decent wage that allows you to have dignity, and we have to do that. that's exactly what i do everywhere i go, judy, because it is so important to tell people what we stand for and who we stand with. >> tom perez, the chairman of the democratic party. thank you very much. >> pleasure to be with you. >> woodruff: one clear challenge facing democrats and republicans-- staying on message when the president can so quickly stir up a new controversy. will a shake-up in the white house communication's team change all that?
our politics monday duo is here to weigh in: amy walter of the "cook political report" and tamara keith of npr. you both were sitting here as i was talking to tom perez. tam, what do you make of the democrats' effort now? you hear him saying we're trying to get back to business here, to appeal to voters where they are. >> yes. there was a struggle when i covered the clinton campaign that they had which he was sort of getting at a bit which is the thing that they would want to talk about issues, policy, they would want to have an affirmative message and then donald trump would do something and they would slip back into being the opposition to the other person who is running for president. and democrats, i think, struggle with that now in, you know, are they the resistance or for something. and today was an effort to sort of begin talking about what they are for. at the same time they're also
talking about -- >> woodruff: and can they do this? >> yeah, i think that's very doable. the biggest challenge for democrats, i think we discussed this the last time, is that they're the out party so they don't set the agenda. the republicans set the agenda. they have to respond to an agenda that's being set by the republican party. the other question is not so much about the message. they can put together a big messaging strategy, but the messenger matters. in 2016, it was clear the messenger wasn't seen as credible. how many issues did hillary clinton go through? it's not the campaign didn't have a plan. >> it was a million words. 's not they didn't have a plan for the economy, it's that the messenger wasn't seen as an effective or believable messenger. i think the challenge for democrats going into the med-term election is finding candidates who fit the districts, who have a message that fits their specific area,
and that they're believable, that they're authentic. >> woodruff: they are saying they are recruiting more people to run at the congressional level. >> they are. >> woodruff: you heard tom perez talk about the state and local races, too. >> it's always the challenge and the good and the bad. you have tons of candidates on the democratic side either running or talking about running, means big primaries and you don't know who's going to come out of a primary, potentially the candidate who doesn't fit as the right messenger for that district. >> woodruff: meaning? meaning you get somebody in a district that fits that district really well but loses in a 10 or eight-way primary to a democratic candidate and there is not much the party with do about that. >> woodruff: but they're going to try, tam? because right now tom perez cited this poll that shows most people think all the democrats stand are or mostly what they stand for is being against
donald trump. >> and they think pretty loudly against donald trump, but, you know what? us the a long way out from that mid-term election, and there's a lot of time to actually hear a message. we don't even know who the candidates are at this point, and the candidates do matter, as amy says. >> woodruff: speaking of donald trump, amy walter, he chose a new communications director late last week as press secretary and communications director sean spicer has now left the white house. anthony scar moochie out on all the weekend talk shows saying he loves this president and that they're going to have a new approach and they're going to be positive. >> the new approach is a lot like the older approach which is let donald trump be donald trump. you're not going to manage trump. i'm not going to micromanage his twitter account. what works best is when donald trump works in the mode he likes to operate in as he did in the 2016 campaign. the challenge, of course, with
any communications shakeup at the white house is that we know there is one communications director at the white house and his name is donald j. trump. doesn't matter who else gets a title at the white house. if you think what's been workingt the white house has been effective or what they're doing at the white house has been effective, then you're going to think that's okay, but the fact is their legislative agenda is stalled, that hasn't been working, letting donald trump be donald trump hasn't helped with his approval ratings -- they're stuck somewhere at 40% -- as we dissed it's not helping in the elections, democrats are energized, republicans are not so much energized. the strategy is to keep doing things the way we have been, but six months in it hasn't been particularly effective. >> woodruff: how does this look to someone who covers the white house all the time, tam? >> it looks like there's a new person who, as you said, he talks about loving donald trump,
about, you know -- he definitely would be someone who is a salesman for the president's message, but if you look at the sunday show appearances, you had sarah huckabee sanders, the new press secretary, saying one thing. you had scaramucci saying another thing, and you had the president of the united states tweeting something somewhere in between. >> woodruff: and we're still trying to figure this out. one of the things going on in the tweeting, amy, is the president continuing to criticize or to say to republicans, you've got to come on board with healthcare, they were tweeting about it a few minutes ago. >> they were tweeting about it and he stood in the white house today and put an ultimatum in front of his party and said you are either with me or you're not, and the marker has been put republicans tomorrow is are they going to defy the president, after he told them this will be in defiance of me? >> woodruff: he said there
will be consequence ifs you don't support this. >> meanwhile, he was talking about members of his own party as "they" as if they weren't part of the same team. and he was highly critical of senators saying if you don't do this, then you're breaking a promise and there are consequences. and he made a tiny little aside sort of indicating he wanted voters to call their senators or get in touch or make it painful for their senators, which is a turn. it's the president publicly advocating for a peace of legislation. >> woodruff: and quickly, he's also putting pressure on his own attorney general, saying our beleaguered a.g. if you're jeff sessions, what are you thinking now? >> as with many people in the trump administration, if you work for him, you have to know your job is always precarious. there is no ultimate loyalty if you work there, and it's never clear whether you're safe or not safe with this president in your job at the white house.
>> and sessions was at lunch at the white house today and did not see the president. >> woodruff: we'll leave it at that. "politics monday," tamera keith, amy walter, thank you both. >> you're welcome. >> woodruff: the battle to dislodge isis from its makeshift capital, raqqa, is intensifying, as u.s. backed militia press the offensive. but for years, a group of citizen journalists have documented life inside the city. their work started when the uprising began in 2011 against syria's president, bashar al assad; and it continues today under even more deadly and dangerous circumstances. jeffrey brown has their story. >> brown: they call themselves" raqqa is being slaughtered silently" and last year the committee to protect journalists awarded the group its
international press freedom award. their story is now told in a documentary titled, "city of ghosts" and joining me is the film's director, matthew heineman and abdal-aziz al- hamza, one of the group's members. welcome to both of you. >> thank you. >> brown: aziz i want to-- you and your friends and colleagues, you are not fighters, you were not journalists before all of this started. in your own words, what are you? how do you describe yourselves? >> so before the syrian revolution before all what happened in syria, i was a normal teenager who was studying biochemistry so i had nothing to do with politic even like my family had like no political background so i was as any college student anywhere. >> brown: and then when this started, you and your friends felt you had to document it. >> yes, so like the way how the syrian regime and isis prevented the international media organizations to come and cover what's going on it was like kind of a duty to cover the atrocities of both of them.
so we decided first with our mobile phones to film the demonstrations, at our own we developed our skills to document what the human rights violations against the people and as you >> brown: so, matthew, many stories are told about syria, why was this the one you wanted to tell? >> you know i was really fascinated by this war of ideas, this war of propaganda, this information war between isis on one hand and r.b.s.s. on the other. isis uses these slick, almost hollywood style videos to disseminate fear across the world and to attract followers and proclaim a safe-haven, a paradise for muslims. r.b.s.s. and the work of aziz and his colleagues totally counter that and show the extraordinarily awful human rights violations that they're committing almost on a daily basis. and, you know, that's what initially drew me to the film, but the film became much more than that to me, it became, ultimately it became a story of them fleeing, being forced to
flee from syria to turkey and turkey to europe. it became an immigrant story, it became a story of rising nationalism in europe, it became a story about trauma, and the cumulative effects of trauma, so it became much more than that. >> brown: alright let's take a look at a clip that shows a little bit of the work of your group. >> we are made up to have two groups, the internal in raqqa and made up of 17 correspondents. the internal group's mission is to film, photograph and deliver urgent news. >> the primary mission of the e term group is to communicate with the group inside.
rashidy, go to the door, a girl is going to bring you stuff. she is >> brown: so, aziz, the film mostly, necessarily spends its time with you and your colleagues who are outside raqqa, but those who are inside, who we just saw, how are they able to do their work? and what kind of dangers do they face? >> so, they are like in every second and every moment they are like in a dangerous and a risky situation. so, they could be killed by isis, the airstrikes, the shelling, but they are like risking their lives daily to show the reality of what's going on. >> brown: matthew, you and i talked about your last film
which was really around the border area in the u.s. and the way you told that story, sort of embedding yourself into the violence, this is a little different. tell me how you made this film. >> yeah, so this was a different experience for me. i was forced to- wasn't able to go to raqqa, i would be killed instantly. so i started filming them in turkey after they were forced to flee, after some of the members of their group were killed. and the sort of through-line of the film is basically me with them as they are escaping from safehouse to safehouse, ultimately landing in europe. you know, i think these issues of isis and syria are so often relegated to headlines and to stats and i really wanted to put a human face to this topic. >> brown: what is the situation now, of course the battle for raqqa is going on, and we read about airstrikes, civilians being hurt, what's the situation for your colleagues?
>> people of raqqa, so they are like besieged by isis and it's like, it's the supported militias by us was able to control many areas in the countryside and right now the clash is in the city. isis, so the people of raqqa are suffering not only by isis, but the airstrikes of the international coalition, at the same time the russians are still bombing the city with the syrian regime. so, everyone's like bombing the city the locals are like besieged between all these sides, the condition is the city, the surfaces are like so bad, everything is getting expensive day after day, people are missing like many things for their necessary lives, and many people were trying to flee the city, but the landmines, so it's a horrible situation. >> brown: i mean, with the outcome in raqqa still so uncertain, do you know whether you'll be able to return or to what kind of city you'll be able to return to? >> i hope that like one day i will be able to return to raqqa, to my city, so that's the reason why i started this group with my colleagues. so to fight for our city, to be able one day to be back and lead the rest of our lives in raqqa and syria. so i don't want to be like a
fugitive any more, so i want to >> brown: and matthew, what do you hope people take from this, from your film? >> bombs are not going to fix isis, this ground war that we're fighting is not going to end isis, isis is an idea and we have to fight this idea with the same tools that they're using. and so i think, you know, we as a global community, we as the united states, we as journalists have to figure out ways to combat isis's ideology, isis's extremist ideology, not just with guns and bombs, but with words, with campaigns like the amazing work that this group is doing. >> brown: alright, the new film is "city of ghosts." matthew heineman and abdal-aziz al-hamza, thank you both very much. >> thank you.
>> woodruff: and a news update before we go. israel says it will remove metal detectors from the site's entrance that have caused anger among muslims. it's part of a compromise to diffuse the security crisis there. on the newshour online, one health care frustration many americans share is the lack of transparency when it comes to the costs of various medical tests and treatments. one woman shares her odyssey of trying to track down answers, plus we get two reactions from health care experts. all that and more is on our web site, pbs.org/newshour. and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. join us online and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you and see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial
literacy in the 21st century. >> supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at macfound.org >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
occasion of president trump's first six months in office. we talk to do shannon pettypiece of bloomberg news and dan balz of "the washington post." >> it's a shock a day, jeff, be a pivot or more settledngo whitehouse or to a more date pace or to a president it is more predictable or presidential in that sense. this is just one more day in a six month rollercoaster that we've been witnessing and experiencing as a country under