Monday, August 08, 2022

PROPUBLICA - Homestake Uranium Mills

"A Uranium Ghost Town in the MakingPropublica 8/8/2022

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.  This piece was originally published in The Weekly Dispatch, a newsletter that spotlights wrongdoing around the country.

The “death map” tells the story of decades of sickness in the small northwest New Mexico communities of Murray Acres and Broadview Acres.  Turquoise arrows point to homes where residents had thyroid disease, dark blue arrows mark cases of breast cancer, and yellow arrows mean cancer claimed a life.


Neighbors built the map a decade ago after watching relatives and friends fall ill and die.  Dominating the top right corner of the map, less than half a mile from the cluster of colorful arrows, sits what residents believe is the cause of their sickness: 22.2 million tons of uranium waste left over from milling ore to supply power plants and nuclear bombs.

“We were sacrificed a long time ago,” said Candace Head-Dylla, who created the death map with her mother after Head-Dylla had her thyroid removed and her mother developed breast cancer.  Research has linked both types of illnesses to uranium exposure.

Beginning in 1958, a uranium mill owned by Homestake Mining Company of California processed and refined ore mined nearby.  The waste it left behind leaked uranium and selenium into groundwater and released the cancer-causing gas radon into the air.  State and federal regulators knew the mill was polluting groundwater almost immediately after it started operating, but years passed before they informed residents and demanded fixes.

The contamination continued to spread even after the mill closed in 1990.

The failures at Homestake are emblematic of the toxic legacy of the American uranium industry, one that has been well-documented from its boom during the Cold War until falling uranium prices and concerns over the dangers of nuclear power decimated the industry in the 1980s.  Uranium mining and milling left a trail of contamination and suffering, from miners who died of lung cancer while the federal government kept the risks secret to the largest radioactive spill in the country’s history.

But for four decades, the management of more than 250 million tons of radioactive uranium mill waste has been largely overlooked, continuing to pose a public health threat.

ProPublica found that regulators have failed to hold companies to account when they missed cleanup targets and accepted incorrect forecasts that pollution wouldn’t spread.  The federal government will eventually assume responsibility for the more than 50 defunct mills that generated this waste.

At Homestake, which was among the largest mills, the company is bulldozing a community in order to walk away.  Interviews with dozens of residents, along with radon testing and thousands of pages of company and government records, reveal a community sacrificed to build the nation's nuclear arsenal and atomic energy industry.

Time and again, Homestake and government agencies promised to clean up the area.  Time and again, they missed their deadlines while further spreading pollution in the communities.  In the 1980s, Homestake promised residents groundwater would be cleaned within a decade, locals told the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] and ProPublica.  After missing that target, the company told regulators it would complete the job around 2006, then by 2013.

In 2014, an EPA report confirmed the site posed an unacceptable cancer risk and identified radon as the greatest threat to residents’ health.  Still, the cleanup target date continued shifting, to 2017, then 2022.

Rather than finish the cleanup, Homestake’s current owner, the Toronto-based mining giant Barrick Gold, is now preparing to ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC], the independent federal agency that oversees the cleanup of uranium mills, for permission to demolish its groundwater treatment systems and hand the site and remaining waste over to the U.S. Department of Energy to monitor and maintain forever.

Before it can transfer the site to the Department of Energy, Homestake must prove that the contamination, which exceeds federal safety levels, won’t pose a risk to nearby residents or taint the drinking water of communities downstream.

Part of Homestake’s strategy: buy out nearby residents and demolish their homes.  Local real estate agents and residents say the company’s offers do not account for the region’s skyrocketing housing costs, pushing some who accept them back into debt in order to buy a new home.  Those who do sell are required to sign agreements to refrain from disparaging Homestake and absolve the company of liability, even though illnesses caused by exposure to radioactive waste can take decades to manifest.

Property records reveal the company had, by the end of 2021, purchased 574 parcels covering 14,425 acres around the mill site.  This April, Homestake staff indicated they had 123 properties left to buy.  One resident said the area was quickly becoming a “ghost town.”

Even after the community is gone, more than 15,000 people who live nearby, many of them Indigenous, will continue to rely on water threatened by Homestake’s pollution.

The company said it has produced models showing that its waste won't imperil the region's water if it walks away.  The NRC says it will only grant a groundwater cleanup exemption if that’s the case.

But while Homestake and other mining companies have polluted the region, it’s been the NRC and various other agencies that stood by as it happened.  ProPublica found the NRC has issued exemptions from groundwater cleanup standards to uranium mills around the country, only to see pollution continue to spread.  This has occurred as climate change hammers the West, making water ever scarcer.

“Groundwater moves.  Groundwater doesn’t care about regulations,” said Earle Dixon, a hydrogeologist who reviewed the government’s oversight of uranium cleanup and pollution around Homestake for the New Mexico Environment Department and the EPA.  Dixon and other researchers predict contamination at Homestake will likely spread if cleanup ends.

The company has denied that its waste caused residents’ illnesses, and judges ruled in Homestake’s favor in a case residents filed in 2004 alleging the site caused cancer.  Doctors testified that the pollution was a substantial factor contributing to residents’ cancers, but tying particular cases to a single source requires communitywide blood, urine and other testing, which hadn’t been done.

“We are proud of our work done in remediating the Homestake Uranium Mill site,” Patrick Malone, Homestake's president, said in a letter responding to questions from ProPublica.  He said Homestake was entering the final stages of cleanup because “the site is at a point where it is not technically feasible to provide additional, sustainable improvements to water quality.”

David McIntyre, an NRC spokesperson, attributed cleanup delays to the area’s complex groundwater system.  “We understand and share the concern that remediation is taking so long,” McIntyre said, adding that the agency’s priority is to protect public and environmental health rather than meet particular deadlines.

The EPA has oversight of the former mill’s cleanup under its Superfund program that aims to clean the country’s most toxic land.  The EPA regional office did not respond to questions.

Larry Carver has implored an endless stream of regulators to take action since his family moved to Murray Acres in 1964, and neighbors defer to him to tell the community’s story.  The 83-year-old leaned against his Chevrolet pickup on a blustery spring morning, peering from beneath a baseball cap at Homestake’s 10-story pile of waste.  He lamented that the community would be sacrificed so uranium waste could remain.

For Carver, arrows on a map don’t tell the full story of uranium’s impact.  His wife’s aunt and uncle owned the home closest to the waste piles.  Her aunt died of liver cancer when she was 66 years old, and her son, who grew up playing in unfenced waste ponds, died of colon cancer when he was 55 years old.  Now, Carver and his wife both have spots on their lungs, with hers recently requiring radiation treatment.

“All the houses are going to be gone.  The wells are being plugged.  The septic systems are being torn up,” Carver said.  “There will be nothing.”

Homestake Has Bought More Than 14,000 Acres Surrounding the Mill

Larry Carver, who has lived in his home since 1970, has refused to sell his property to the company.

“A Long Time to Keep the Secret”

Saturday, April 26, 1958, was a momentous day in the towns of Grants and Milan, New Mexico.

Full-page newspaper ads announced the opening of Homestake’s new uranium mill.  A military flyover kicked off the festivities, a high school band played, and the New Mexico secretary of state unveiled a plaque commemorating the occasion.  An estimated 6,000 people, nearly three times Grants’ population at the beginning of that decade, toured the mill, the local newspaper, the Grants Beacon, reported.  Grants would be the Carrot Capital of America no more.  It was running headlong into the Atomic Age.

But the celebration was short-lived: Less than a year and a half after operations began, state and federal regulators, with the company’s help, began investigating whether contaminants were leaking from Homestake’s waste.

ProPublica found that, as with most uranium mills in the U.S., Homestake built no liner between the earth and the sandy waste left over from milling, known as tailings.  This happened even though an engineer with the New Mexico Department of Health warned the company only weeks after the mill opened that it needed to at least compact the soil underneath its waste to prevent leaks.  Without a liner, pollution seeped into aquifers that supplied drinking water.  In 1961, the same engineer wrote that groundwater samples showed radium 226, a radioactive and cancer-causing element, at levels as much as 31 times higher than naturally occur in the area, indicating “definite pollution of the shallow ground water table by the uranium mill tailings’ ponds.”

A federal report a year later identified even higher levels of radium 226 in groundwater.

Residents drank that water, fed it to livestock and applied it to crops.  They weren’t told of the issue or supplied with bottled water until the mid-1970s, neighbors said.  “A long time to keep the secret,” Carver said.

The EPA in the 1970s found elevated levels of selenium, which can damage the nervous system at high doses.  Homestake disputes what levels of contaminants are attributable to the mill versus other sources, a question regulators are currently studying.  The company confirmed in 1976 that its waste had created a plume of contamination in the groundwater but waited another decade to connect residents to an uncontaminated water system, only doing so after pressure from the EPA.

Seventeen years after pollution was first detected, Homestake began a series of ultimately unsuccessful attempts to clean the groundwater.  The company pumped contaminated water out of aquifers and evaporated it aboveground, treated it in filtration systems and dumped hundreds of millions of gallons of clean water on the waste to flush uranium out of the pile, collecting the newly contaminated water for disposal.

Homestake was still left with more polluted water than it could process, so the company irrigated crops, applying more than 3.1 billion gallons to farmland in the subdivisions.  As a result, the topsoil contained elevated levels of uranium and selenium.  The state and the NRC halted the practice, which the NRC said the company had done without its approval.

Much of the now-fallow farmland has turned to dust that’s an incessant headache for residents.  Windstorms whip it up, piling it on roadways and pushing it through the slightest cracks in homes.  Regulators have issued dozens of violation notices to the company, including for failing to fence off contaminated land and for exposing workers to high uranium levels without alerting them.

At the state level, New Mexico regulators waited until 2009, 49 years after first finding water pollution, to issue a formal warning that groundwater included substances that cause cancer and birth defects.  They waited another nine years before barring people from drilling new or replacement wells in aquifers near the cleanup effort, but the order did not require existing wells to be plugged.  A spokesperson for the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer said authorities had issued a “relatively small” number of domestic or livestock well permits in the contaminated area.  That number, the spokesperson said, is 122.

Uranium exposure is pervasive in this part of the world.

Miners who worked before 1971, when the government was the sole purchaser of uranium, are eligible for compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.  In June, President Joe Biden signed a bill postponing its expiration for two years.  But miners who worked in the industry after other uranium buyers entered the market, as well as residents of communities that were impacted by uranium extraction and processing, like those next to Homestake, still receive no benefits.  Spearheaded by the New Mexican delegation, bills pending before Congress would expand the legislation to include more miners and appropriate funds to study the health impacts of living near these sites.

Linda Evers is waiting on those reforms.  She worked in the area’s mines and mills, including Homestake, after the 1971 cutoff.  She stayed on the job through two pregnancies, removing trash from the ore until hours before she gave birth to her son.  Both her children have birth defects, and she now lives with kidney failure, cysts on her organs and a degenerative bone disease.

“You worked in a never-ending dirt storm,” Evers remembered.  “You were supplied a paper mask that was worthless in about 20 minutes.”

She also dealt with contamination at home.  For more than 15 years, Evers lived across the street from Homestake.  Her well water was so foul it stunted the plants in her garden, she said.  Evers eventually accepted the company’s buyout offer and moved to a new home farther from the waste.  A half-built greenhouse sits in her former backyard, her once-lively home stripped of its porch and part of the roof.

“I’m Just Left on the Ground to Seep”

Down the road, John Boomer doesn’t know where he’ll go if he sells to Homestake.  An artist who paints with a Southwestern palette of sand and soil, he lives in an art studio and home he shares with his partner, Maggie Billiman, a member of the Navajo Nation and fellow artist.

The consequences of uranium production are constantly on the couple’s minds.  More than 500 abandoned uranium mines pockmark the Navajo Nation, and Billiman’s father, a Navajo Code Talker in World War II, died of stomach cancer, an illness associated with downwind exposure to nuclear tests.  Boomer has written the story of uranium into lyrics, singing about the harm caused by the waste that was left behind.

Those corporate little creeps

Will cause many a widow to cry and weep

While I’m just left on the ground to seep

Homestake is working on requests to both the NRC and the EPA for groundwater cleanup waivers, arguing it’s done all it can to clean up the area.

The company excavated soil from more than 3,500 acres where wind had carried contaminants off-site.  Homestake also collected about 1.3 million pounds of uranium and 75,000 pounds of selenium by treating or evaporating more than 10 billion gallons of groundwater, according to company data.

Other uranium mines and mills polluted the area’s main drinking water aquifer upstream of Homestake.  Residents worry what will happen to contamination from those sites and from Homestake when the company halts its water treatment.

Homestake says it has built a hydrological model that shows the former mill’s contamination will stay close to the site.  (The model won’t be released until the company files its formal application for cleanup exemptions, likely in August.)

But researchers who have studied the hydrology around Homestake said the contamination will head downstream.  “Would it keep on moving? Yes, that’s nature,” said Dixon, the hydrogeologist.  The real question, he said, one that modeling can’t answer, is how quickly the pollution will migrate.

ProPublica identified sites across the West where regulators approved waivers based on modeling, only to later discover the predictions were flawed.

At a site in Wyoming called Bear Creek, the NRC found concentrations of uranium in groundwater more than 10 times higher than a model had predicted.  At a site along the banks of the Colorado River, in Rifle, Colorado, the NRC approved a cleanup plan based on groundwater modeling that predicted uranium would fall to safe levels within 10 years.  Monitoring showed concentrations remained dangerously high about a decade later, and new modeling predicted uranium levels wouldn't reach safe levels for more than a century.

There’s also the cleanup of another Wyoming mill named Split Rock, which Homestake has compared its site to as it seeks a cleanup exemption.  Regulators granted a waiver in 2006 after the responsible company presented a model showing contamination wouldn’t reach downstream wells for 1,000 years.  “The recent data, however, have shown results that are not consistent with the model predictions,” the NRC wrote seven years later.  Nitrates, which are sometimes used in the uranium refining process, were measured in a downstream monitoring well at more than four times approved limits.

McIntyre, the NRC spokesperson, said that in those cases, “NRC staff reviewed groundwater monitoring results and verified that the levels were and remain protective of public health and safety,” adding that the agency requires models used in waiver requests be conservative in their predictions.

Leaders of communities downstream from Homestake, including the Pueblo of Acoma, fear that wishful thinking could allow pollution from the waste to taint their water.  The Acoma Reservation, about 20 miles from Homestake’s tailings, has been continuously inhabited since before 1200.  Its residents use groundwater for drinking and surface water for irrigating alfalfa and corn, but Donna Martinez, program coordinator for the pueblo’s Environment Department, said the pueblo government can’t afford to do as much air and water monitoring as staff would like.

“There are always going to be concerns with the plumes,” Martinez said.

Most days, Billiman contemplates this “poison” and whether she and Boomer might move away from it as she prays to Mother Earth and Father Sky toward Mount Taylor, one of the four sacred Diné peaks, which rises just east of the subdivisions.

“I tell her, gosh, we did this to you.  I’m sorry,” Billiman said.  “Then, we just say ‘hózho náhásdlii, hózho náhásdlii’ four times.”

“All will be beautiful again,” Boomer roughly translated.

As they prayed one recent morning, the dawn light tumbled over the mountain, illuminating the nearby Haystack Mountain, where a Diné man named Paddy Martinez discovered economically recoverable uranium in 1950 and ignited the region’s mining boom.  The light cascaded over Homestake’s tailings piles, across the valley and onto the five subdivisions.

“Doing It Right… …Right to the End”

The smell of pizza wafted through a Village of Milan government building down the road from the mill site, as about 20 locals trickled in to meet with Homestake one April evening.  They caught up while JoAnne Martinez, a community liaison for Homestake, beseeched them to tuck into the food she had set out.  A map taped to the wall showed the location of groundwater contamination, and a stack of glossy booklets celebrated the company’s reclamation project with the slogan: “Doing it right… …Right to the end.”

Tensions rose when residents spoke about the company’s offers to buy their properties.  Homestake, whose parent company Barrick had nearly $12 billion in revenue last year, pays market value based on past sales prices of comparable properties, rather than the cost to replace what residents have, which is ballooning rapidly amid the housing crunch.  Over the past five years, prices for residential properties around New Mexico have increased about 59%, while they’ve spent about half as long on the market, according to data from real estate companies Zillow and Redfin, respectively.

In the meeting, residents explained what that trend, coupled with Homestake’s offers, has meant for their own housing searches.  “It’s like you spit on me,” one resident said of the company’s proposal to buy the property where she has lived for 61 years.  Another neighbor told ProPublica she had asked a builder to assess the cost of constructing a nearly identical home and got an estimate $60,000 higher than what Homestake offered.  But Homestake didn’t budge.

Neighbors have worried about Homestake’s impact on their property value for decades.  They filed a class-action lawsuit against the company in 1983 for alleged property damages, later settling the case for what they deemed to be small payouts.  In exchange, those residents agreed to release the company from further liability.

More recently, the company has rejected residents’ requests to move the waste to a lined disposal cell, which could prevent additional groundwater contamination and radon exposure and possibly allow them to stay in their homes.  So far, cleanup has cost more than $230 million, including about $103 million that came from taxpayers through the Department of Energy.  Homestake estimates it could cost as much as $2 billion more to move the entire pile.  Buying out five subdivisions is the cheaper option.

Homestake argues capping the site and walking away is safer, citing reports that conclude moving the pile would lead to at least one workplace traffic-related death and a high likelihood of workers and residents developing cancer.  The reports used calculations from the Department of Energy, which is moving 16 million tons of uranium waste off of a site in Moab, Utah.  The department’s report found it posed far less risk to workers than later estimates for Homestake.  Department of Energy staff said they could not comment on why there are such different risks for the Homestake and Moab sites.

As more neighbors at the meeting demurred about the company’s offers, Orson Tingey, a land manager for Homestake and Barrick, explained that the company has continued to offer the same rates for properties as it did before the COVID-19 pandemic to remain consistent.  “We know that doesn’t necessarily work for everybody,” he said.

“I Don’t Even Know How You Fight It”

Jackie Langford set a radon detector on her kitchen table and shooed away her inquisitive 12-year-old, who was more interested in talking uranium policy than finishing his homework.  She recalled when her family moved in a decade ago for her husband’s job.  No one mentioned the risks posed by Homestake’s tailings pile, which looms less than a mile away.Now, as a registered nurse tending to former uranium miners, Langford knows too much about the dangers.  When it’s inhaled, radon breaks down in the lungs, releasing bursts of radiation that can damage tissue and cause cancer.  Her patients have respiratory issues as well as lung cancer.  They lose their breath simply lifting themselves out of a chair.

Radon, the radioactive gas formed as uranium decays, poses Homestake’s main cancer threat to residents, according to the EPA’s 2014 study.  It is more concentrated in outdoor air near Homestake than in a nearby community with a former uranium mill that has fully covered its waste.

It hasn’t helped that the company has struggled to control radon emanating from its larger waste pile, exceeding federal safety standards each of the last six years, according to company readings reported to the NRC.  This year, Homestake requested permission to add a new cover to the pile to reduce radon emissions, which the NRC is now reviewing.

During the pandemic Langford and her family began thinking more about Homestake’s possible impact on their respiratory health, driving them to buy a radon detector.  The gas can seep into buildings through cracks in foundations.  Indoor radon exposure is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, behind smoking.

When Langford measured levels in her home, the radon detector registered 4 picocuries per liter and rose as high as 7 pCi/L, she said — levels high enough that the EPA recommends remediation.

She brought her concerns to Homestake, but “for the longest time, they wouldn’t talk to me,” she said.  The company eventually connected her with one of their consultants, who told her not to worry because his own home tested above 4 pCi/L and the results did not concern him.  He also told Langford, as well as ProPublica, that he is not a radon expert and suggested she complete a longer-term radon test and contact people better versed on the topic.

In 2010, before Langford moved in, EPA contractors placed radon detectors in homes near Homestake and found unsafe radon levels in a dozen homes.

While independent researchers suggested the uranium waste could be a source of indoor radon, the EPA has not determined that is the case, instead identifying naturally occurring gas seeping from the soil.  The agency required Homestake to fund radon mitigation in homes but has not done any more radon testing or mitigation since.

“Best practice would be retesting at least every other year to assure things have not gotten worse,” said Michael Murphy, who is retired from the EPA’s indoor air quality team.

ProPublica spoke with eight households the EPA monitored, and all said they were never retested or advised to retest on their own.  An EPA staffer told one resident the agency had no plans to conduct follow-up studies.

Because the EPA did not return to test, ProPublica did, placing certified indoor radon kits in nine area households.  Three returned readings that exceeded the EPA’s threshold for mitigation, while a fourth registered above the World Health Organization’s lower suggested mitigation level.  Langford’s tests averaged 6.95 pCi/L.

She immediately thought about her son.  Children are more vulnerable to radon.

Early this spring, Homestake approached Langford and her husband with an offer to purchase their home.  They wavered.  The family loved the area and knew neighbors who had sold, only to find it impossible to buy a similar property elsewhere.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” Langford said, “but at this point I don’t even know how you fight it.”

With the results from their radon testing front of mind, Langford’s husband signed Homestake’s buyout deal.  The family had made a decision.  Their health was too important to remain in their home.

How We Reported the Story

Methodology:  To report on the Homestake uranium mill’s impact on the area, ProPublica worked with residents to crowdsource indoor radon levels, home purchasing contracts and health-related documents.

Radon Testing:  Indoor radon levels were collected using Air Chek 3- to 7-day radon test kits placed in nine houses in Milan and Grants, New Mexico.  Air Chek’s devices and laboratories are included on the National Radon Proficiency Program’s approved device and analysis provider list.

Radon levels vary day to day and season to season, so ProPublica followed EPA recommendations to conduct two sequential short-term tests.  A ProPublica reporter helped install the first test at each house to ensure the testing locations adhered to EPA testing protocols.  After about five days, residents took down each test and sent the kits to Air Chek’s laboratory.  Residents immediately placed the second Air Chek 3- to 7-day test in the same location.  About five days later, residents shipped the second test to the lab.  We averaged the results of the two tests to obtain an estimated indoor radon level for each house.

Three households were only able to obtain one result.  In one case, this was because a test was not properly sealed and could not be analyzed; in another, a test had a manufacturing defect; due to a shipping delay the third arrived at the laboratory beyond the necessary time frame for testing.  For these three households, we relied on the readings from one test.  Each of the households that received only one test showed levels below the EPA and World Health Organization thresholds for radon mitigation.

Before placing the tests, we interviewed seven professionals with radon testing expertise and reviewed the EPA and American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists’ testing guidelines.  These independent experts reviewed ProPublica’s methodology and provided feedback.  After testing, ProPublica presented the results to the same experts.

We also discussed the results with residents of each household that hosted tests.

Outreach Methodology:  To interview as many households living near the mill site as possible, we mirrored community engagement efforts conducted by federal and state authorities during previous environmental health studies.  This included:

  • publishing advertisements in the Cibola Citizen and Gallup Independent
  • sending letters to every household in the area
  • following up with phone calls and text messages to numbers associated with every area household
  • door-knocking at households that did not respond to the ads, letters and phone calls


Monday, June 20, 2022

WEEKEND SPOTLIGHT - Singer Bonnie Raitt

"Singer Bonnie Raitt discusses her new album and enduring careerPBS NewsHour 6/18/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Music legend and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Bonnie Raitt is out with her twenty-first album called "Just Like That."[link]  It's her first new release in more than six years, and has landed at No. 1 on six different Billboard charts since its release.  Geoff Bennett sat down with Raitt to discuss her dynamic 50-year career and what she's learned about herself along the way.



OPINION - Capehart and Gerson 6/17/2022

"Capehart and Gerson on the Jan. 6 hearings, gun legislation, the importance of Juneteenth" PBS NewsHour 6/17/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart and Washington Post opinion columnist Michael Gerson join Amna Nawaz to discuss the week in politics, including new revelations after the third public hearing on the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and a framework for gun regulations is beginning to splinter as senators try to turn broad agreements into law.

Amna Nawaz (NewsHour):  As new revelations are reverberating across the political landscape after the third public hearing on the January 6 Capitol attack, meanwhile, a framework for new gun regulations is beginning to splinter, as senators try to turn their broad agreement into a detailed plan.

That brings us to the analysis of Capehart and Gerson.  That is Jonathan Capehart, associate editor for The Washington Post, and his colleague at The Post opinion columnist Michael Gerson.  David Brooks is away.

Welcome to you both.  Nice to see you.

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post:  Hi, Amna.

Michael Gerson, Washington Post:  Thank you.

Jonathan Capehart:  Great to see you.

Amna Nawaz:  So let's start with those talks in the Senate.

A bipartisan group of senators, we know, have been close.  They say they have a framework when it comes to gun violence prevention.  Those are led by Chris Murphy of Connecticut, of course, John Cornyn of Texas.

But, just yesterday, just yesterday, John Cornyn walked out of those talks saying this as he walked out.  He said: "It's fish or cut bait.  I don't know what they," meaning Democrats, "have in mind.  But I'm through talking."

So, Jonathan, could the talks fall apart once again?

Jonathan Capehart:  Yes.  Yes, they can.

How many weeks have I sat here on Friday saying I'm happy they're talking, it's great that they're talking, but I will believe it when I see it, when we get — when we go from talks to press conference to passage of the bill to signing?

The fact that Senator Cornyn has walked away from the table is the least surprising thing.  The announcement of the framework on Sunday was really hopeful.  And, in fact, there were a lot of things on there that Democrats thought, wow, we didn't think that they — we could get this as part of the framework.

But the fact that Senator Cornyn is saying he's done talking and it's time to fish or cut bait, well, what's the issue?  I mean, does he have a problem with the boyfriend loophole, which is what a lot of the reporting is?  Well, what's your proposal?

We have to keep in mind that it's not like Democrats haven't compromised.  If Democrats put forth all the stuff they wanted, an assault weapons ban would be in it.  So many other things would be in the framework.  But Democrats have made it clear, we need to do something.  The fact that Senator Cornyn is walking away from the table, quite sadly, more of the same.

Amna Nawaz:  So, Michael, this — Jonathan's right.  The reporting is that it's this boyfriend — closing the boyfriend loophole, keeping guns away from abusive partners, that's the sticking point for Republicans and John Cornyn.

There's a lot of stuff in here.  There's funding for school safety and mental health, background checks for states to pass and bolster red flag laws.  So what does Cornyn walking away do?

Michael Gerson:  Well, I agree with Jonathan.  This is an incremental bill.  That's the way it was designed.

And, in fact, what's in there, my fear is that it would not do enough to kind of address these issues, and then you would still have some difficult problems.

But it does matter that Mitch McConnell has at least provisionally endorsed an approach like this.  And that gives kind of permission to a group of senators, I think, who are in more purple states, and some of them running for reelection, that they may want to have something to say about, a problem, a huge moral problem.

We need to remember the context here, which is just the murder of children.

Amna Nawaz:  Right.

Michael Gerson:  And I think that Cornyn looks bad, because he's ignoring essentially the moral imperatives of our moment.

Amna Nawaz:  But Cornyn also got booed, we should say.

Today, he was speaking at a Republican convention in TexasHe brought this up, that this deal is in the works, and he got booed.  What does that tell you?

Michael Gerson:  Well, this was a pretty hardcore audience, I assume, of Texas Republicans.

But it's — there is some risk in any deal.  My concern, though, is that we were — we were moving towards a deal on criminal justice reform, for example, and it fell apart.  And I'm afraid that may happen in this case, although I think there are some — not yet.

Amna Nawaz:  All right, I want to move on to the January 6 Committee hearings, of course, because it was another big week with two more hearings, public hearings, on the books.  They now have three hearings behind them, three more, we believe, to go.

Each of you actually shared with us moments that stood out to you.  And there was a lot of information in those hearings.  I want to play for you those moments and get you to react.

Jonathan, you remembered this moment from former federal appellate Judge Michael Luttig.  He'd been advising Vice President Mike Pence that Pence couldn't do what Trump wanted him to do, which was throw out the election results.

Here's just part of what Luttig said.

J. Michael Luttig, Former Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge:  I would have laid my body across the road before I would have let the Vice President overturn the 2020 election on the basis of that historical precedent.

Amna Nawaz:  That is Judge Michael Luttig.  I apologized.  I mispronounced his name.

Why did that moment stand out to you?

Jonathan Capehart:  Judge Luttig is a giant.  He is a giant among conservative lawyers.

His reputation is sort of — I'm trying to think of the liberal equivalent.  You don't get more senior and more revered than that.  The fact that he said he would have thrown himself in the — in Vice President Pence's way to stop him from doing that was pretty incredible.

But the other thing he says that we did not show was that he had a warning, that Donald Trump and the folks who follow him present a quote, clear and present danger to our American democracy.  This is no liberal Democrat who's talking.  This is no just rank-and-file Democrat talking.

This is a tried-and-true, dyed-in-the-wool conservative jurist who is saying — ringing the alarm about this scheme that Eastman had come up with that they were trying to get Vice President Pence to go along with, and who is also saying, they're not done.  This scheme is not done.

January 6 — and he didn't say this part, but I'm saying this part.  January 6 was a rehearsal for what we could see in 2024.

Amna Nawaz:  Michael, I found it interesting.  Most of the folks who testified, most of the people we heard from more Republicans.

And you recalled this one moment that stood out to you where we heard from chief counsel to the vice president Greg Jacob.  We learned a lot about what Mike Pence was doing on January 6, how he was down in a secure location continuing to work, even as rioters outside were chanting, "Hang Mike Pence."

Here's a moment in which Greg Jacob was talking about what happened then.

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA):  Does it surprise you to see how close the mob was to the evacuation route that you took?  Forty feet is a distance from me to you, roughly.

Greg Jacob, Former Counsel to Vice President Mike Pence:  I could hear the din of the rioters in the building while we moved.  But I don't think I was aware that they were as close as that.

Rep. Pete Aguilar:  Make no mistake about the fact that the vice president's life was in danger.

Amna Nawaz:  Why did that moment stick with you?

Michael Gerson:  Because it's something we shouldn't get used to.

I mean, we had a moment with a mob intent on harm, fed and pushed by the sitting President of the United States against his most loyal lieutenant, and it was a near-run thing.  This could have been the murder of the Vice President.  I mean, how would that — how would American politics have responded to such a thing?

And one thing that came out in the hearing is that, during this, as it was happening, President Trump was tweeting pressure tweets attacking the Vice President for lacking courage, as this was happening.  And that indicates to me a reckless regard for not just his political future, but his life.

This is a President — I think we learned again, but it's the most dramatic example.  This is not just a corrupt politician.  This is an evil man, an amoral man.  And that, I think, is important as we come around to the next election, where he's the Republican front-runner.  That is a dire situation for the republic.

Amna Nawaz:  Jonathan, there was another moment that stood out to me, when we heard from communications between Trump's lawyer John Eastman sending messages — he's the one who's recommending sort of a plan for how to do this, to overturn the election results.

And the committee basically shared that he e-mailed, saying:  "I have decided I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works."

What was your reaction when you heard that?

Jonathan Capehart:  Well, I mean, my mouth was agape.

You only ask for a pardon if you know or feel that you have done something wrong.  I would never ask for a pardon, right?  Why?

Amna Nawaz:  You can say that…

(CROSSTALK)

Jonathan Capehart:  What have I done?

But Eastman knew.  He knew.  The committee showed that he knew from the beginning that what he was proposing was — this is public television.  I almost went there — was not right, was not right.

And so he pushed it, pushed it, pushed it.  And then, after January 6, he sees what happened and then says:  I want to have — give me a pardon?

It's…

Amna Nawaz:  We still have — we still have three more hearings to go, I should say.  And there's already been so much evidence laid out by the committee.

But, Michael, do you see — do you see a world in which they end the hearings, they wrap all this up, and there's no action from the Department of Justice?  Is that a possibility?

Michael Gerson:  It's a definite possibility, although the Department of Justice made some noise this week, essentially, saying, we'd like those transcripts, the ones that you have of these witnesses, because there is a parallel investigation going on with the committee and the Justice Department, and they have started stepping on another's feet a little bit.

But that does show that the DOJ is looking closely at what's happening in these hearings, which I regard as a good sign.  There's going to be tremendous pressure on Garland to do this.  But I think it's going to be a very tough choice for them, because it would set a precedent of pursuing criminal charges against former presidents that we have never really had before.

We will see.

Amna Nawaz:  Do you also think Mike Pence should testify?  We haven't heard from him.

Michael Gerson:  I would have loved to have heard him about all this.

Amna Nawaz:  Yes.

Michael Gerson:  And — but he has tried to get as far away from his actions, his own actions, as he possibly could, because he still sees a path to the presidency that doesn't exist.

Amna Nawaz:  We will see.  Three more hearings, as I say, to go.

Before we let you go, Jonathan, I do want to get your thoughts on this, because ahead this weekend, Sunday is Juneteenth.

Jonathan Capehart:  Right.

Amna Nawaz:  It is just the second time in our country's history we are marking this day as a federal holiday.

And I just wanted to ask, as the country notes this day, as we mark it together, how are you reflecting on what it means this year?

Jonathan Capehart:  Well, I'm reflecting on the fact that there are school districts and states that would make it difficult to even teach what Juneteenth is about, simply because some parents offended that the word slavery is used, that people were enslaved and worked for free and were tortured and all sorts of other things in the creation and the building of this country.

We just saw in Buffalo African-Americans targeted by someone who was a believer in the Great Replacement conspiracy.  Juneteenth gives us an opportunity to talk about this nation's foundational wound that we still refuse to talk about, that we still refuse to confront.

And so we're in a moment in this country where Juneteenth, if a lot of these folks get their way, very well just might be a marker on the calendar with no explanation about what it means and why it's important that we commemorate that holiday.

Amna Nawaz:  Let's hope we don't waste that opportunity.

Thank you for that.

Jonathan Capehart.  Michael Gerson, thank you so much for being here.  Good to see you.

Jonathan Capehart:  Thanks, Amna.



EUROPEAN UNION - Membership of Ukraine

"What European Union membership would mean for war-torn UkrainePBS NewsHour 6/17/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The European Union's executive arm on Friday recommended putting Ukraine on a path to membership.  This comes as the U.S. and Europe pledged earlier this week to support Ukraine militarily.  Jeremy Shapiro, research director of the European Council on Foreign Relations who was on the State Department's policy planning staff during the Obama administration, joins John Yang to discuss.



CLIMATE CHANGE - Record Heat Wave in U.S.

"Record heat wave in the U.S. raises public health concernsPBS NewsHour 6/17/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  More than 100 million Americans this week were under some sort of heat advisory, and were warned to stay indoors if possible.  From Texas to California, a massive heat wave has set record temperatures, raising concerns about how hot is too hot.  W. Larry Kenney, a professor of physiology and kinesiology at Penn State, joins William Brangham for more on how extreme temperatures impact the body.



2022 NBA PLAYOFFS - Golden State Warriors

"How the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry built a dynastyPBS NewsHour 6/17/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  After a two-year absence from the playoffs the Golden State Warriors are back on top of the NBA.  With their fourth title in the last eight years, they are staking a new claim on the reach and influence of their dynasty.  They were led once again by Step Curry, widely considered the best pure shooter ever seen in the league.  NBA writer Michael Lee of The Washington Post joins Amna Nawaz to discuss.



MARCH TO THEOCRACY - Anti-Abortion Terrorists Laid the Groundwork

"theocracy (noun)" government or political rule by priests or clergy as representatives of God - Merriam-Webster Unabridged

"How anti-abortion activists laid the groundwork for rollback of Roe v WadePBS NewsHour 6/16/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Last month, a leaked draft opinion showed that the Supreme Court may soon overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 case that provided a right to abortion across the country.  That decision is not yet final, but as special correspondent Cat Wise reports, the work by abortion-rights opponents to arrive at this moment has been decades in the making.



JOURNALISTS - Murder of Indigenous Activist

"‘Outrage and heartbreak’ after murder of journalist, Indigenous activist in the AmazonPBS NewsHour 6/16/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The desperate search for an Indigenous rights advocate and renowned journalist in a remote area of the Amazon in Brazil has apparently come to a grim conclusion.  Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips disappeared 10 days ago, and now there are murder suspects in custody.  Stephanie Sy reports, and speaks to journalist Andrew Downie to discuss.



LOUISIANA - Post Hurricane Ida

"Coastal Louisiana struggles with housing crisis after Hurricane IdaPBS NewsHour 6/15/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The Atlantic hurricane season started June 1, but people in southeast Louisiana are still recovering after being hit last year by one of the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the state.  Communities correspondent Roby Chavez went back to visit the rural, coastal areas where Hurricane Ida’s 150 mile-per-hour winds left behind a housing crisis.



UK and ASYLUM SEEKERS - Rwandan Seekers

The UK made the wrong choice.

"UK tries to press ahead with controversial plan to deport asylum seekers to RwandaPBS NewsHour 6/15/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  In the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party is facing criticism for its new migration deal with Rwanda.  As part of a new resettlement scheme, migrants who arrive illegally on British shores would be flown 4,000 miles away to Rwanda for resettling.  Zoe Gardner of the Joint Council for Welfare of Immigrants, an organization among those representing deportees, joins Amna Nawaz to discuss.



PBS CANVAS - Transformation of a Sculptor

"How a sculptor transformed his life’s work after accidentPBS NewsHour 6/14/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  What happens to an artist when one of the very tools he uses -- his hands -- are changed in an instant?  Jeffrey Brown visited a sculptor in New York's Hudson Valley, who has had to pivot on how he does his art and the art itself.  The story is part of our coverage of the intersection of medicine and arts, and our ongoing arts and culture series, "CANVAS."



FAR-RIGHT PHOBIA - Targeting LGBTQ Community

IMHO:  It's ye old 'I might like it' syndrome.

"Why far-right groups are increasingly targeting the LGBTQ communityPBS NewsHour 6/14/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  There have been several recent incidents where far-right, white supremacist groups have targeted LGBTQ people, including last weekend at a pride event in Idaho and a during a drag story hour at a library in California.  J.M. Berger, a writer and researcher who focuses on extremist ideologies and has written four books on the topic, joins William Brangham to discuss.



U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE - Ukraine, Biden in Saudi Arabia, China

"Secretary of State Blinken on the war in Ukraine, Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia and China’s aggressionPBS NewsHour 6/14/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The challenges for U.S. foreign policy at this fraught moment in history are many, from Russia's invasion of Ukraine and energy production and human rights in the Middle East to competition with China and Iran's nuclear program.  All of those issues are being tackled by America's top diplomat at the State Department.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken joins Judy Woodruff to discuss in more detail.



THE LIGHTS ON BROADWAY - 75th Tony Awards

"Broadway honors its best at the 75th Tony AwardsPBS NewsHour 6/13/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Broadway attempted to stage a big comeback during Sunday’s 75th annual Tony Award, with some very familiar works being honored as well as innovations showcasing inclusion.  Nicole Ellis has a look for our arts and culture series, "CANVAS."



SNAIL-PACE GUN CONTROL - The Continued Opposition to Gun Control

Do not expect the GOP to allow ANY menaingful action on Gun Control, they are a paid and brain-washed subsiduary of the NRA.   #StandAgainstNRA

"Congress moves forward on gun safety legislation with a focus on mental healthPBS NewsHour 6/13/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  After weeks of mounting pressure to see action on guns, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have come to an agreement on a framework for gun legislation.  NewsHour's political correspondent Lisa Desjardins has the details.

 

 

"‘Teachers are not okay’ after school shootingsPBS NewsHour 6/14/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Teachers from around the country told our team of producers they have long been frustrated with the larger public response to shootings and school safety and many have been particularly angry about the way this has long played out in Washington [DC] and state capitals.  Tragically, the shooting in Uvalde reinforced and exacerbated many of these concerns.  Here's what some of them had to say.

 

 

"What the nation’s largest teachers union thinks about gun violence in schoolsPBS NewsHour 6/14/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  If Congress approves a bipartisan agreement on guns and school safety, it would provide new resources to try and prevent shootings like the massacre in Uvalde.  That would likely mean new money for mental health care, violence prevention and training for educators.  But many educators want to see more action.  Becky Pringle, National Education Association president, joins Stephanie Sy to discuss.



JANUARY 6th HEARINGS - Insurrection Hearing Updates 06/13/2022

"Testimony of Trump aides sheds light on former president’s false voter fraud claimsPBS NewsHour 6/13/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  For nearly a year, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has worked mostly behind closed doors, gathering more than 140,000 documents and talking to more than 1,000 witnesses.  On Monday, the committee shared new details from some of former President Trump's inner circle about the spread of the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen.  Amna Nawaz reports.

 

 

"What stands out from Day 2 of Jan. 6 committee hearingsPBS NewsHour 6/13/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  With the second day of Jan. 6 committee hearings complete, we get two perspectives on the day's events.  Ben Ginsberg one of Monday's witnesses and a longtime Republican elections attorney who has worked with the RNC and multiple presidential campaigns, and Cynthia Miller-Idriss who runs American University's Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab, join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

 

 

"Jan. 6 committee examines how Trump pressured Pence to overturn the 2020 electionPBS NewsHour 6/16/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The Jan. 6 committee held its third public hearing Thursday afternoon.  The focus was on the role of former Vice President Mike Pence during the counting of the Electoral College votes, and public and private efforts led by former President Trump and his allies to pressure Pence to throw out the results.  NewsHour's Lisa Desjardins and Laura Barrón-López join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

 

 

"Rep. Adam Schiff on Trump’s role in the Capitol insurrection, Ginni Thomas testimonyPBS NewsHour 6/16/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol on Thursday spelled out how former President Trump repeatedly pushed Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election.  Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who is one of seven Democrats on the committee investigating the insurrection, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

 

 

"What we learned on Day 3 of the Jan. 6 committee hearingsPBS NewsHour 6/16/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The Jan. 6 committee heard a third day of testimony Thursday as it sought to link former President Trump to the Capitol attack and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.  Garrett Graff author of "Watergate: A New History," and Ned Foley who directs Ohio State University's election law program, join Judy Woodruff to discuss.



AMERICAN ECONOMY - Markets and Fed Response

"Markets plunge amid fears of sharply higher interest ratesPBS NewsHour 6/13/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Wall Street has gone into meltdown mode over inflation fears and the possibility that higher interest rates are imminent.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ and the S&P 500 all fell significantly.  It is now officially a bear market, down more than 20 percent from its January high.  Julia Coronado, MacroPolicy Perspectives president and former Fed economist, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

 

 

"Federal Reserve implements highest interest rate hike in decades to combat inflationPBS NewsHour 6/15/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The Federal Reserve on Wednesday ramped up its efforts to fight inflation with a notable interest rate hike.  Officials voted to raise rates by three-quarters of a point, a jump higher than expected just a week ago.  Fed chair Jerome Powell acknowledged the ongoing rate hikes might slow growth later this year, as the Fed projected unemployment would rise to 4 percent by 2024.  Paul Solman reports.



Monday, May 16, 2022

OPINION - Capehart and Abernathy 5/13/2022

"Capehart and Abernathy on COVID deaths, pandemic funding and Jan. 6 subpoenasPBS NewsHour 5/13/2022

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart and Washington Post columnist Gary Abernathy join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the U.S. marks a million deaths from COVID-19, Congress reached an impasse on pandemic funding, and the Jan. 6 committee issued subpoenas for five Republican lawmakers.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  As the United States marks one million deaths from the pandemic, President Biden has asked Congress to approve new money to fight future coronavirus variants.  That spending has been stalled for weeks.

Meanwhile, Congress' January 6 Committee issued subpoenas to five Republican lawmakers.

And that brings us to the analysis of Capehart and Abernathy.  That is Jonathan Capehart, associate editor for The Washington Post, and Gary Abernathy, a Washington Post columnist.  David Brooks is away tonight.

Hello to both of you on this Friday night.

Jonathan Capehart (Washington Post):  Judy.

Gary Abernathy (Washington Post):  Hi, Judy.

Judy Woodruff:  Very good to see you.

The subject is grim, you won't be surprised to know.

But I want — I do want to start, Jonathan, by asking you about where we are on COVID.  Here we are at a million deaths.  We are all incredibly sobered by that.  We're hearing from the experts that there could be another, what, 100 million infections — or — I'm sorry — yes, 100 million infections coming.

And the administration is saying, we need between $10 million and $20 million — billion dollars — to deal with COVID.  Are there good arguments against that?

Jonathan Capehart:  No.  No.

Can we just pause for a moment and understand we have lost one million Americans?  I don't know what the particular folks on Capitol Hill, what other evidence they need to see for why that funding needs to be — needs to be passed.  Think about just how much pain and death and agony the American people have suffered, not just the one million people who died, but their families and loved ones and colleagues.

There's going to be another variant.  For the United States not to be — to do everything possible to be prepared for that moment, to do everything possible to forestall another 100 million infections, that's — that would be dereliction of duty.

In March 2020, we had no vaccines.  We didn't know what this was.  Everything was shut down just to try to stop this virus, this thing from spreading around.  We know so much more two years later.  We have got vaccines.  We have got boosters.

Why on earth would we not do everything possible to ensure that we don't go back to those to those horrible days two years ago?

Judy Woodruff:  Gary, what is the argument?  Republicans are resisting this funding.  What are the good arguments not to give it?

Gary Abernathy:  Well, it's hard to come up with good arguments not to offer a lifesaving vaccine.

But when you talk about what happened two years ago and how it happened, you have got to remember, we took a one-size-fits-all approach to fighting this thing nationwide.  And I know communities that got a tremendous influx of COVID money and couldn't find out — couldn't figure out how to spend it all.

I mean, it was kind of a, let's just throw a lot of money out there.  And this is not a Republican or Democrat criticism.  Donald Trump was a part of this.  Donald Trump was approving these things too.  Republicans and Democrats did this.

And now some people are kind of starting to say, well, wait a minute, where's our priority list?  Where's this on President Biden's list of priorities?  Is it — is it above Ukraine?  Is it above helping more — with more money for Ukraine?  Is it more important than the Build Back Better program?  Is it more important than forgiving student loans?

Maybe.  To me, I think providing these vaccines is.  But, at some point, we get to a point where this money doesn't exist.  We don't have this money to spend really.  And so I think people are asking — are asking the President, hey, come up with priorities.  And I think he does have a plan that says, OK, now we're going to prioritize people.

We're going to provide vaccines maybe to just the most at-risk people, people 60 and over, people with immune issues.

Judy Woodruff:  What about the argument, Jonathan, that some of this money was spent, and it's not clear where it went, or it went in other directions?

Jonathan Capehart:  Sure.  Sure.

But that's not an argument to do nothing.  You do better the next time.  But the idea that, because some money went somewhere it shouldn't — it shouldn't have gone, that we shouldn't prepare and protect against a future variant, I think, is ridiculous.

Also, this idea of more money for Ukraine, I wrote down politics, because folks are playing politics with money for Ukraine.  And it's clear why that money is needed.  Again, it's for Ukraine, but it's really for the fight for democracy.  So the same firefight — some of the same folks who are who are complaining about the COVID money are some of the same people who are complaining or stalling funding for Ukraine.

This — when — to bring it back to COVID funding, the administration and basically Washington [DC] cannot not do anything, cannot not prepare for what's to come.

Judy Woodruff:  Gary, how much of this is politics, and how much of it is based on a real, legitimate argument?

Gary Abernathy:  In Washington, there's politics?

Judy Woodruff:  Hello.

(LAUGHTER)

Judy Woodruff:  I know.  I know.  What kind of a question…

Gary Abernathy:  Yes, right.  All of it.

But even on Ukraine, the Associated Press a couple of weeks ago — and PBS highlighted it, I think — talked about there comes — there's coming a point where, how much can we — how much can we give?  I mean, everybody wants to help Ukraine.  It's the most worthy cause, but we're depleting our own resources.

There's real questions now about our ability to defend ourselves against a North Korea or an Iran if something were to happen, because there's only a limited supply of these things.  So, people are starting to now take a look and say, look, we'd love to do it all, but we have to start prioritizing and figuring out, because, really, this is money that just doesn't exist.

Judy Woodruff:  And, of course, Ukraine, we don't know how long that's going to go.

Gary Abernathy:  Right.

Judy Woodruff:  I mean, the predictions are, it could be months, even years, is what we were hearing this week.

The January 6 Committee, they have issued more subpoenas, Jonathan, this time to five House Republicans.  One of them is the minority leader, Kevin McCarthy.  He's indicated he's not particularly excited about going.

(LAUGHTER)

Judy Woodruff:  But what does this lead to, I mean, these high-profile — well, asking for their own membership to come and testify?

Jonathan Capehart:  So, let's keep something in mind here.  When someone is subpoenaed, that's an extraordinary step.  And when that person is a sitting member of Congress in an investigation into an attack on the Capitol, an attack on American democracy, that is a serious step.

But it's not the first step.  The first step was asking House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and some of the others to come in voluntarily and do their duty as a member of Congress, but also as a patriot, to come in and talk about what they know, and to help fill in the gaps, to help that committee and the American people, by extension, to understand what happened on that day as a means of trying to prevent it from happening again.

They refused.  And so the fact that they're being subpoenaed, yes, it's an extraordinary step.  I think it 100 percent should have been done.  It needs to be done.  The attack on the Capitol was an attack on the American people, an attack on our democracy.  And we need answers.

Judy Woodruff:  How do you look on these subpoenas?

Gary Abernathy:  Yes, I agree 100 percent that we need answers, that what happened on January 6 was one of the most horrible things in our nation's history.

And I think we have already had a lot of answers.  I think answers are coming in many ways, including through law enforcement with the people who are charged.  One thing that I know a lot of people are worried about is conflating the peaceful rally that day with the riot.

In other words, there's a lot of talk about, well, who did — did you know, did you help plan this rally?  Did you help?  And planning the rally was perfectly fine, OK?  It's the 100 — a few hundred that broke off and actually invaded the Capitol that are being prosecuted.

But I think the committee does risk some partisan suspicions if it doesn't — it depends on what it finds.  I think that people have already made up their mind about whether this committee is going to uncover anything, without a bombshell revelation.

If this committee comes up with and says, you know what, here's a bombshell revelation about what was really behind this and what the intent was, and it kind of rocks the whole world, both sides of the aisle, that's going to be one thing.

But, short of that, I think people have kind of already settled on their talking points and what they're going to come out with at the end of the day, when this thing eventually wraps up.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, you do have committee members saying there is eye-popping, big information to come from what they have discovered.

Jonathan Capehart:  And I hope it's eye-popping.

But I also hope that the information, even if it's stuff that we already know, even if it's stuff that we have read about, that we have listened to with some of these — these audio — the audio recordings that we have listened to, that we not become numb to the seriousness of the information that we're getting, and that it is important that an investigative body with subpoena power and the ability to write a report, to put on hearings for the American people to see, to bring in witnesses, to show them what people were doing, what people were saying, how this thing got planned.

And, yes, we need to know how the rally got organized, and then how all — how some of these people went to the Capitol and ransacked the Capitol and tried to attack our democracy.  I don't want us to lose sight of the fact that, even if we have read some of this stuff on the front page of The Washington Post, or we have watched news reports here at "PBS NewsHour," that it's not important.

Judy Woodruff:  The fact that it's almost a year and — a year-and-a-half later.

Jonathan Capehart:  Yes.

Gary Abernathy:  Well, here's what we do know.

The rally happened.  And what we know is bad enough.  Donald Trump stood up at a rally and said, if you don't fight for your country, you're not going to have a country, and basically pointed them to the Capitol, where his own vice President was overseeing the count of electoral votes in a constitutional process to certify this election for Joe Biden.

I mean, that's bad enough.  How much more do we need to — how much more bad things do we need to come out to say — for enough people to say, Trump's responsible for what happened?

Jonathan Capehart:  It would be helpful if House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy would tell the American people what he told the President in those moments.

It would be helpful if Jim Jordan, who wants to become the next — I think Judiciary Committee chair in the House, what he said to the President when he talked to him probably multiple times that day.  That's important for us to know.

This is not a partisan issue.  This should be a patriotism issue.  Our country was under attack.  And it could happen again, which is why that commission, that select committee is in place to do this report.

Judy Woodruff:  And his point is that there's maybe culpability on the part of some of these members.

Gary Abernathy:  Yes.

And, again, there's a fine line.  And, again, you're talking about your fellow members of Congress.  There's a fine line between saying things to try to — we know a lot of those conversations that were happening, through what's been leaked, were to try to get Trump to take action to calm things down, to put an end to this thing.

And who knows what they said to try to appeal to him and his ego to make that happen.  But would it be interesting?  Yes.  I just think that a lot of it's being found out in other ways.  And the committee just needs to be careful when it comes to subpoenaing members of Congress.

Republicans are going to control Congress, very likely, very likely, after November.  And what goes around comes around.  And you just got to be careful how you treat your fellow members of Congress.

Jonathan Capehart:  They have already said that, if they come into power in the House, that there are going to be investigations galore.

Gary Abernathy:  Yes.

Jonathan Capehart:  The White House is already preparing for that moment.

Gary Abernathy:  And that's not — we need to back off from those vendettas.

(LAUGHTER)

Jonathan Capehart:  Gary.

Judy Woodruff:  On this Friday night, all right, we thank you both.

Gary Abernathy:  Yes.

Judy Woodruff:  Jonathan Capehart, Gary Abernathy, thank you very much, both of you.

Jonathan Capehart:  Thanks, Judy.  Thank you.