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tv   Full Measure With Sharyl Attkisson  ABC  January 29, 2017 10:00am-10:30am EST

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sharyl: dee kotla worked as a computer technician at the department of energy's lawrence livermore national laboratory. but kotla's 14-year career at lawrence livermore ended abruptly in 1997. what had you done? dee kotla: $4.30 of local phone calls. scott thuman: the election of president trump may be the spark that sets the populist movement on fire around the world. [applause] scott: people have called you the dutch donald trump. what do you make of that? geert wilders: well, i'm the dutch geert wilders, and i'm no donald trump. scott: he's been labeled one of europe's most controversial leaders and the similarities between geert wilders and donald trump go way beyond the notable hair
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and calls for closed borders. meindert fennema: if you don't like civil rights, then he is not dangerous. if you like civil rights, he is dangerous. sharyl: president trump's first executive order was the first step to abolish obamacare. now the debate is what to expect with trumpcare. sen. chuck schumer: mr. president, democrats don't want to make america sick again. sharyl: if people are worried they're going to be left without insurance in the meantime, what would you say? sen. chuck grassley: the scare mongers want you to believe we're going to do something with medicare. medicare is not even on the table. the second thing is, people that have insurance under the exchange and with a subsidy are going to be able to keep it.
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sharyl: welcome to "full measure." i'm sharyl attkisson. you've probably heard of the government's war on whistleblowers. it refers to heavy-handed efforts to discourage insiders from exposing waste, fraud, discrimination, and other bad practices. but what you probably didn't know is that these vendettas against truth-tellers are routinely funded with your tax dollars. you might call it a legal swindle. to explain how it works, we begin with an incredible case where the government managed to turn four dollars' worth of unauthorized phone calls into a $10 million bill for taxpayers. sharyl: dee kotla worked as a computer technician at the department of energy's lawrence livermore national laboratory, a federal research lab in northern california where scientists work to maintain the nation's nuclear weapons. but kotla's 14-year career at lawrence livermore ended abruptly in 1997. and what was the reason they gave for firing you? dee kotla: misuse of government property. sharyl: what had you done?
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dee kotla: $4.30 of local phone calls. sharyl: as it happened, she was fired over the phone calls, right after she blew the whistle against her employer in a sexual harassment case on behalf of a colleague named kim. sharyl: when you found out you were being fired in part for $4.30 of phone calls, what did you really think was happening? dee kotla: i knew they were retaliating against me for testifying for kim. it was devastating because i had worked so hard to move up and to learn and was constantly going to school to better myself. you know, and it was my security blanket. sharyl: she sued for wrongful termination and won. but if it were as simple as that, there wouldn't be much of a story. instead, dee kotla's lawsuit became one of the longest-running and most expensive whistleblower cases on record. that's because lawrence livermore lab fought her every step of the way, using hardball tactics, high-priced lawyers, and your tax dolla
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sharyl: so how long did it take for you to win a lawsuit that said they fired you wrongfully? dee kotla: two trials and eight years. sharyl: kotla won two separate trials. the first for $1 million and a second for $2 million. by the time it was all over in 2005, the case that started over $4 in phone calls had racked up $10 million in legal costs. all paid for, believe it or not, by your tax dollars. sharyl: contractors or federal agencies, when they want to retaliate against a worker, they kind of have unlimited resources to do this? dee kotla: yes. i had been told by other people that they call it, "the lab's deep pockets." doe has deep pockets. they just keep taking you back to court, back to court, back to court until you have no money and you give up. sharyl: it was kotla's outrageous and costly story that persuaded senator ed markey to take action. sen. ed markey: this case is a
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perfect example of where phone calls of $4, $4.30, triggers upwards of $10 million worth of federal government expenditures in legal fees to protect the defendants, the department of energy contractor, from this woman standing and speaking. you know, that's just plain wrong. sharyl: right after kotla's case, markey helped pass a law to take away the incentive for federal contractors to maliciously fight employees in court. it prohibits use of tax dollars to pay legal costs, when the federal contractor is at fault. yet we found a decade later, it's still happening. bruce low and mario jimenez are proof of that. in 2008, lawrence livermore, the same lab that wrongfully fired kotla, laid off hundreds of workers, including them. mario jimenez: i started in '76. so i was therefore 32 years. just short of 32 years.
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to face that sort of a layoff or firing? bruce low: actually, i was in shock. it was humiliating. after working with all these people for so long, you feel like it's a family, and you're basically being kicked out. sharyl: what's the job hunt been like for you since you left? bruce low: very frustrating. i was in my mid-to-late 50's. nobody's really interested in hiring anybody in their mid-to-late 50's. sharyl: 130 of the laid-off workers sued the lab for violating their employment contract. like kotla's case, their lawsuit dragged on month after month, year after year, racking up legal fees at taxpayer expense. bruce low: the lab, being that they are the large entity that they are and they do have a whole stable of attorneys. as a matter of fact, they have a whole building called "the courthouse," which is nothing but attorneys. sharyl: mario, did you get the sense that they could keep going with this forever, because they
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mario jimenez: i felt like that very much so, because you think something's gonna be happening and all of a sudden, there is an appeal or a motion that just delayed everything. i just seen that the lab just had so much firepower, that they were just stringing it out. i knew that. i've seen it before, that they were just stringing it out as long as they could, because they could. and they were, just like i say, throwing everything they could to stall the process, meaning more money that the taxpayers were gonna have to pony up. sharyl: and while the legal case is dragging on, you're getting no compensation i assume? mario jimenez: no compensation and it's just more burden on me, my mental aspect. sharyl: eventually, the lab lost a test case and agreed to pay the ex-employees more than $37 million but denied wrongdoing. attorneys costs could be $10 million more. lab officials want
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declined our interview request and refused to disclose the final bill. in a statement, a lab spokesman told us that under its federal contract, litigation costs, settlements, and judgments may be paid using laboratory funds, that's tax money, if certain conditions are met. gary gwilliam is the attorney for the laid-off workers and dee kotla. he says federal contractors sometimes use tax money like a bottomless purse, to fight and punish whistleblowers or those who dare to claim discrimination. gary gwilliam: it's well known in the field that that word is "scorched earth litigation." that means, we're going to fire you, we're going to go after you, we're going to drag you down, we're going to do everything we can to you for as long as ever, to make you so you will never bring a case against us, and that everybody else out there will know that if you bring a case against us, you're going to have to pay. sharyl: and in these cases, it's taxpayers that are helping them do it? gary gwilliam: exactly, and that's unfortunate. it's wrong. sharyl: a recent audit found the department of energy paid settlements
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lawsuits without considering whether the contractor should have paid the tab. cost to taxpayers: more than $62 million. sen. ed markey: the taxpayer is ultimately defending, in many instances, the bad guy against the good person who is standing up for public health, for public safety. and the public has a right to know, and they have a right to know who their heroes are, and these whistleblowers are heroes. sharyl: kotla says if federal contractors were spending their own money, $4 would never be allowed to turn into a $10 million legal expense. sharyl: how important do you think it is that the lab or corporations be responsible for their own alleged misbehavior, when it comes to lawsuits and legal fees, if they're using this for retaliation? dee kotla: i think they should be responsible. if they're responsible and they have to come up with the money, i think they would do a lot less retaliating ag
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think twice if it comes out of their pocket. why should they care now if you and i and everybody else is paying the bill? sharyl: neither the department of energy nor the lab would disclose the costs of the legal cases that we asked about. we also filed a freedom of information act request for the material but neither agency has properly responded. sharyl: next on "full measure," this man is being called the dutch donald trump but the comparison goes far beyond the hair. scott thuman interviews the man running to be the prime
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sharyl: those, including the media, who were shocked by donald trump's win, admittedly missed the mood of the american voter. add to that the mood of voters around the world. populism is a movement driven by people who feel alienated by governments they see as elite and out of touch. the sentiments that fueled the election of president trump are being felt in some key european elections coming this spring. scott thuman travelled to amsterdam to interview a candidate some call the dutch donald trump. president trump: from this day forward, it's going to be only america first, america first. [applause] scott: it was a mantra that made a rookie politician into a president. america's disconnected voters found a candidate to connect them to a growing demand to take their country back.
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trump may be the spark that sets the populist movement on fire around the world. >> [speaking another language] [applause] scott: it was just days after the inauguration that a dutch politician carried the call to all of europe. his key note, the same that launched the campaign of donald trump. >> [speaking another language] [applause] scott: people have called you the dutch donald trump. what do you make of that? geert wilders: well, i'm the dutch geert wilders, and i'm no donald trump, but there might be similarities between the movement of the people who are once again have a lot of discontent with both the former or even current administration in the united kingdom and so many administrations here in europe. scott: the similarities between geert wilders, the man running to be the netherlands prime
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minister and america's president go beyond the notable hair-do's, tweets, and almost identical slogans. his is 'make the netherlands great again.' wilders is one of europe's loudest and most popular voices calling for closed off borders, a moratorium on mosques, and even a departure from the european union. scott: so, what is the next step then in this movement for you? geert wilders: well, the next step is as it is in the united states. it is as i said, democratic , patriotic revolution. those are not too strong words. it's happening. scott: in contrasting the 'arab spring' of 2011, wilders calls this the patriotic spring. in the conservative, seaside village of voldendam, the chatter among card games is about the ill effects of immigration, stale politics, and wilders.
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them all. he says the things others do not say. scott: wilders is a semi-surprising twist in this country known as much for its openness as it is for windmills and wooden clogs. but there is little quaint in his message or his delivery. he has created a persona that has reach far beyond the netherlands. when we were there, a film group was shooting a documentary on the politician who makes for political drama. geert wilders: never trust the press, this is my first rule, the media is dominated by leftist, liberal germans. scott: alexander pechtold is a member of the dutch parliament and a political enemy of wilders. but it sounds like sometimes your voice, the voice of optimism, the voice of inclusion is being drowned out pretty loudly by the other side. alexander pechtold: the other side is screaming.
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, problems. it is, of course, more difficult to show that the solutions are not black and white, are not that simple as closing the borders or building a wall a lot of politicians promise. so, we have to take it serious what's happening in the united states, what's happening not only in the netherlands, but also in other parts of europe, france, germany, austria, and even to brexit in united kingdom is in the same pattern. scott: in other words, the floodgates have opened. scott: from last year's vote for the u.k. to leave the european union, to the resignation of italy's prime minister, rise of the right wing's marine le pen in france, and potential political demise for one-time champion of the refugees,
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germany's angela merkel in a tough reelection battle. meindert fennema is an author and columnist documenting the populist movement and its worldwide spread. speaking of that movement, what about the fact that populism has become so much stronger, so much louder all across europe? meindert fennema: the populist movement is directed against the elite for two reasons. one is that they blame the elite to have created europe and they don't want europe, they want their own national sovereignty, like the british wanted. and the second is that they blame the elite for having to, for allowing foreigners to come into the country. scott: and while he calls wilders and other strengthening leaders like him harmful. meindert fennema: if you don't like civil rights, then he is not dangerous. if you like civil rights, he is dangerous. scott: even pope francis this week warned against growing populism, comparing such movements to what was seen in germany in 1933 and the election
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scott: just as that movement grows though, so does the criticism. it gets very loud. people are going to continue to say that what you stand for is hateful or discriminatory. geert wilders: yes. well, i never care about criticism. there always will be criticism and just continue to fight for a growing amount of people that share our views. and the vote of the people at the end of the day is the only truth that matters. scott: wilders and other politicians will be put to the test very soon. elections are in the netherlands in march. france goes to the ballot box in april. all eyes will be on germany this fall. in the netherlands, the populists are winning. in france, surging. sharyl: great story. thanks. ahead on "full measure," the president's first executive order was to pave the way to kill obamacare. what's coming in trumpcare?
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sharyl: president trump's first executive order was the first step to repeal obamacare. now the debate is what to expect under trumpcare. the senate's top democrat, chuck schumer, raised concerns this week. sen. chuck schumer: but scrap the whole thing and go back? a chaotic marketplace, inconsistent coverage, skyrocketing premiums? no way. back to 40 million uninsured americans, back to discriminating against women and americans with preexisting conditions? no way. mr. president, democrats don't want to make america sick again. sharyl: there is no firm plan yet for what comes next. to get some answers, we sat with a senior republican senator, charles grassley, and asked him to tell us in general terms about the new path after obamacare. sen. chuck grassley: selling insurance across state lines, more emphasis on health savings accounts, greater transparency of pricing by hospitals and
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doctors, keeping children on their parents' insurance, maybe to the age of 26. it's basically to give everybody in america access to health lowernce, to continue income people to be able to afford it, and to be able to have no government involvement in the doctor patient relation. sharyl: are you confident when we look back in a year or two we'll have something like that? sen. chuck grassley: absolutely because that's the results of the election. but more important than being the result of the election, it's a result of the failure of obamacare. it's a failure of something that was done in a partisan way in washington but if done in bipartisan way in the early years of the obama
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success today. sharyl: if the fix is done in a partisan way without democrats on board, which today looks like the way it is going can that , succeed? sen. chuck grassley: the only thing that can go without democrats on board is repeal. the replacement has to be done in a bipartisan way because the 60 votes are going to be required in the united states senate so it's going to have to , be bipartisan and that's what's going to make it more reasonable and a greater future than what obamacare has. and remember, it took three years for obamacare to be phased in, so it's going to take three years for its replacement to be phased in. sharyl: if people are worried they're going to be left without insurance in the meantime what would you say? sen. chuck grassley: there's two things that people don't have to worry about. number one, is the scare mongers want you to believe we're going to do something with medicare when we do something to obamacare.
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medicare is not even on the table. that might be on the table sometime down the road because you have to do something to medicare or in 15 years nobody , is going to have medicare and medicare should be improved and maintained. the second thing is, the phase-in of the new program means that you're going to phase out what you have now. so people that have insurance under the exchange with a subsidy are going to be able to keep it. sharyl: after a republican summit meeting this week, the pressure is on. senator lamar alexander, head of an influential health panel, wants congress to have a plan to repeal and replace obamacare by march. sharyl: when we return we share , some of your comments. and a look at our cover story for next week: big banks, the big bailouts we paid for, and
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sharyl: thanks to all of you who take the time to write to us on social media. the issue of obamacare and what will replace it always generates lots of comments. lisa writes, "the g.o.p. had seven years to come up with a replacement but they were too busy obstructing everything obama tried to do. so what is this plan? why can't we all have the same plan those congress members have?" on the topic of sanctuary cities, our cover story last week, katalina says, "these sanctuary cities should not have existed in the first place. our executive branch has purposefully not been enforcing immigration law, themselves violating federal law, and in essence granting amnesty to foreign lawbreakers without the consent of congress." next week on "full measure," the unfinished business from the 2008 financial crisis. big banks have paid
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billions of dollars to settle state and federal fraud investigations, yet not one top bank executive was prosecuted. citigroup played a major role in crashing the u.s. market. it ended up getting a $45 billion taxpayer bailout to survive and eventually paid $7 billion to settle federal and state complaints. but to this day, the justice department hasn't charged any top bank executive with a crime. this is the story of how systems intended to hold people accountable failed and bowen claims even helped cover for them. not much has happened in terms of, from what i can see, to the actual people at citigroup who were allegedly responsible for this behavior. richard bowen: i think that would be very accurate. sharyl: what some call the "immaculate corruption" next week on "full measure." until then, thanks for watching, i'm sharyl attkisson.
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"government matters" with francis rose. >> coming up, president trump institutes a federal hire freeze.how solid is it and is the freeze already starting to thaw. a series of tweets get one national park service in trouble. is this normal or par for the course with federal transitions? the federal beat round table takes a look. and the government is spending $100 billion a year that it doesn't need to. "government matters" starts right now. >> thanks for watching the weekend edition of "government matters" featuring the latest topics that matter to the business of government like technology, defense,

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