Monday, March 25, 2019

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 3/22/2019

#ReleaseTheFullMuellerReport

"Shields and Brooks on the Mueller report and what happens next" PBS NewsHour 3/22/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to analyze the impact of the Mueller report, with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif) chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, participating by phone.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And joining us now in our studio in Washington, our regular Friday news analysis team, Mark Shields and David Brooks.

Hello, gentlemen.

It looks like we have a little bit of news, although we don't know what the news is in the news.

(LAUGHTER)

Judy Woodruff:  We are waiting for more information.  We're going just on the thinnest of threads.

But, Mark, based on what we're hearing — and, of course, we just heard from two individuals who work in — have worked at the Justice Department, have been a federal prosecutor.

If it's the case there are no indictments being recommended, that's going to bring a sigh of relief from this White House, isn't it?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  I would say it is, Judy.

I mean, we know about Robert Mueller, that this has been leak-proof, and that he has a reputation for incredible thoroughness.  And I think the relief — or maybe the question will turn out to have been the indictment or whether they can indict a sitting President or not.

And, you know, I don't know, quite frankly.  But, I mean, let's be frank — 34 people have been indicted, right, six associates of the President.  Five have pleaded guilty.  I mean, we are — this is not for naught.  It's not an empty exercise, by any means.

Judy Woodruff:  David, how do you read what little bit, little bit we know?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes, the news event is, a piece of paper was handed from one office to another office.  That is what happened today.

This takes place in a political context.  And I think a lot of people — we have been talking about the Mueller report.  And some people were treating it as the messiah that was going to come and rid them of Donald Trump.

And there was an expectation that it would shift fundamentally the ball game.  Right now, there are daily allegations about Trump about this or that, bad tweets.  Republicans have stuck with him.  Democrats have opposed.  And we have been in this World War II situation.

And so the question is, does the report change that trench warfare, essentially?  And if there are no indictments, I really have trouble seeing how it does that.  No indictments on collusion, but even the ones I expected there might be were on the obstruction piece.

And this started as an obstruction investigation, after the Comey firing.  And so if there's no indictments even on obstruction, then there will be bad stuff, presumably, but we will fundamentally probably be in the same situation.

And so I think the smart money for the past month has always been shifting, as we have been saying, to the Southern District of New York and to his financial crimes.  The collusion, I have always been a skeptic, just because I don't think there was a Trump campaign.  There was no organized thing to actually do the collusion.

Judy Woodruff:  It sounds — David is saying, in essence, Mark, that, yes, there have been referrals to the Southern District of New York, but they don't appear to go to the heart of what this investigation was about.

That's the reason they were referred to the Southern District.

Mark Shields:  Yes.

I mean, remember, Bob Mueller had a pretty narrow mandate, which was Russia and Russia's involvement in this election.  So, in that sense — but, no, I do agree, Judy, that what we have, beyond being astonishingly leak-proof, is the question of what does come out.

I mean, you will recall the Starr Report coming out in all its graphic, specific, embarrassing detail.

Judy Woodruff:  About President Clinton.

Mark Shields:  About President Clinton.

And the policy has been in the past, the Department of Justice, that you do not identify anybody who is targeted, but against whom no legal action was taken.  So, we don't know what the status is of the report on the President or anybody else at this point, I mean, unlike in the Comey investigation, where he felt obliged to make his statements about Hillary Clinton, the Presidential candidate, in 2016.

Judy Woodruff:  I'm going to ask both of you to stand by, sit there and wait with me, because on the phone right now is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, congressman from California.

Congressman Schiff, obviously, we're in the very early moments, hours of having this report transmitted from the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to the office of the attorney general.

The briefings have not yet happened, I gather, at your end.  But what do you know so far?

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif):  Well, I think what we know so far is that this report is going to deal with the decisions to prosecute certain people and the decisions not to prosecute others, why the special counsel felt the evidence was sufficient as to some, but not as to others.

The important point here, though, is, this focuses predominantly on the criminal investigation.  But this investigation began as a counterintelligence investigation.  And that may be the far more significant side of the House, because that goes to the question of whether the President or anyone around him has been acting, either wittingly or unwittingly, as an agent of a foreign power.

And it's going to be very important, number one, that the report is made public, so the public understands what decisions the special counsel made and the criminal evidence.  But it's going to be even more important, potentially, that the Congress understand, if there are counterintelligence risks, that this President or those around him are acting not in the national interest, but because they have some pecuniary interest or because they're beholden or are compromised in any way.

The Congress and our committee in particular has a statutory right to know.  And we expect that the Justice Department is going to share that information with us, because they're going to have to.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, when you remind us that this investigation began as a counterintelligence investigation, what does that say about what we may or may not be seeing right now in this report?

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif):  Well, it means that what we are going to see when the report is made public — and we may have to fight the attorney general to make sure that happens — but in a very bipartisan showing on a very polarized issue, the House quite overwhelmingly said, we expect this to be made public.

That may only tell us about prosecutorial decisions that may shed very little light on the issue of compromise.  And to give you one very graphic illustration, the President during the campaign sought to consummate, which — something that would have been among the most lucrative deals of his life, and that is the building of a tower that would have required Kremlin support, at a time he was publicly espousing a new relationship with Russia and praising Vladimir Putin, whose green light might be necessary for that project.

That is obviously deeply compromising, but that may not be much of the report, because, whether it was criminal or not will go into the report, but what is essential in terms of the public safety and the security of the country is another matter entirely.

Judy Woodruff:  And, Congressman, what do you make of these early reports that this will not include any further indictments than what we have already seen?

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif):  Well, I think a couple of things.

First, that means that this office, the special counsel's office, which is essentially like an outside counsel for the Justice Department, it won't be bringing any future indictments.

That doesn't preclude either the main Justice Department or the Southern District of New York or other elements of the Justice Department from bringing indictments.  And I think it's very possible, given the number of redactions in the Mueller pleadings that suggest other investigations that are still ongoing.

But the last point that I want to make, because it addresses the conversation you were having before I came online, is this issue of, does the department share information about people not indicted?

And it's important for people to know that, during the last Congress, the Justice Department shared over 880,000 pages of discovery with the Congress in an investigation in which no one was indicted about Hillary Clinton, about Bruce Ohr, about Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, about Andy McCabe and others.

And it did so because of the intense public interest and it did so because Congress insisted on transparency.

And, as I told them at the time, they are not getting away with a double standard.  If the Congress changes hands, as it has, we will insist on the same level of transparency as to this even more important investigation.

So the department may speak in generalities about that, but the reality is, it departs from that policy when the public interest demands it, and, here, clearly, the public interest demands it.

Judy Woodruff:  Congressman Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, thank you very much.  We appreciate your joining us.

And again I'm joined in our Washington studio by our analysts, Mark Shields and David Brooks.

David, you hear the congressman, Chairman Schiff, making a point about transparency and saying, this is paramount right now.

David Brooks:  Yes.  I think we're all uncomfortable with the idea that prosecutors dump a bunch of information on someone they decide not to charge.

That is generally the rule.  And so I understand their suspicion.  But I think Adam Schiff's argument is essentially the correct one, that there are exceptions to this case.

And when you're investigating the President of the United States over something where he may have compromised national security issues, I do making it public is the — the weight is on that side.

And once they make it public to Congress, we will all know.  And so the idea — Mueller has not leaked, but we're about to have a little fight over how much we release.  But I suspect, by the end of the day, everything will come out.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark, I don't know if you want to comment on that.

But I do want to come back to this point that Chairman Schiff made about the distinction between what's the criminal investigation and what is the investigation into counterintelligence, the Russia piece of this, which there have been a number of indictments around that so far.  But we don't know yet how many more shoes, if any, there are to drop on that.

Mark Shields:  No.  No, we don't.

And, I mean, his point, that whether the President willingly or — wittingly or unwittingly is dealing with a foreign power — I was rather struck by Mitch McConnell, who is — if anything else, he's very careful.

He made a statement today saying, when this came out, that, "Many Republicans have long believed that Russia poses a significant threat to American interests," which, is you know, sort of — I mean, he's not someone given to idle chatter.

And I don't know, but I think that's where the focus is going to turn.  And, obviously, his mention — he said main Justice — I mean, the Justice Department or the Southern District of New York as well.

Judy Woodruff:  I want to come back.  Pick up on that, David, if you want to, but I want — I do want to come back to your point earlier about how much energy and time.

And this was — Yamiche and Lisa were speaking about this earlier, how much time and energy and oxygen has been expended in Washington over the last two years-plus reflecting on this, anticipating this, wondering what's going to happen, and a lot of fingers pointed at the President.

David Brooks:  Yes, a fair investigation is worth it, even if it doesn't come with indictments.  You have to investigate things, even if just to find out what happened.

And when the President of the United States' campaign team has a meeting in the Trump Tower with Russians, that merits an investigation.  And if you come up and there's no further indictments, I think we trust Robert Mueller, and we say, well, good job, and thank you for your service.

That doesn't mean it's going to change the politics, but I do think an investigation has been done, and a sign that American institutions can actually work.

Judy Woodruff:  And again picking up on what Chairman Schiff said, Mark, about, yes, we know that — we now know, at least if we believe Michael Cohen, the President's lawyer, there were continuing efforts to try to strike a deal over a Trump Tower in Moscow into — well into the campaign in 2016.

Mark Shields:  Yes.  That's right, well into 2016, is what Michael Cohen has testified.

David Brooks:  There are decisions lawyers make, and there are decisions voters make.

Mark Shields:  That's right.

David Brooks:  And whether Michael Cohen and whether Trump was complicit or bowing down to Vladimir Putin for this reason or another, that's a decision more for voters than for lawyers, I would say.

Judy Woodruff:  At this stage, though, I think both — and both of you have said this — when we don't know any more than we know, we want to be careful about assuming.

Mark Shields:  We do.

And, I mean, whatever Robert Mueller is and has been, I mean, his career has been one of being careful, being thoughtful, of being complete, and not rushing to judgment.

So, whatever he delivers will be taken with gravitas and seriousness but any fair-minded person.  Obviously, partisans on both sides will go to their corners.

Judy Woodruff:  Yes.

Mark Shields:  But, I mean, he — I can't think of a public figure who would have been more credible in this situation.

Judy Woodruff:  You haven't seen leaks.

(CROSSTALK)

David Brooks:  And at a moment when Sean Hannity and many others have been going after Robert Mueller day after day after day…

Mark Shields:  Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

David Brooks:  … he must have felt an incredible temptation to strike back in some way, but he just…

(CROSSTALK)

David Brooks:  … and delivered the report.

Judy Woodruff:  Yes.

I'm trying to compare this with other investigations where the leaks have been at a minimum.  This may be — this may hold the record for the fewest bits of information shared with the press, with the public.

Mark Shields:  He ought to be the personnel director for any President's administration.

The people he chose were exactly like him.  They have been just as circumspect, just as discreet, and just as tight-lipped.

Judy Woodruff:  All right.

Well, it is has just literally come out in the last hour or so.  We learned at 5:00 Eastern that the report had been submitted and the Congress was notified.

And now we wait.  We wait.  We see what happens.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

Mark Shields:  Thank you.

David Brooks:  Thank you.

LOUISIANA - Red State Paradox

"Why Louisianans blame government, not corporations, for pollution problems" PBS NewsHour 3/21/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  UC Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild traveled to Louisiana, the second-poorest state, to explore why its neediest populations simultaneously rely on federal aid and reject the concept of “big government.”  As Paul Solman reports, the author and professor discovered many residents feel betrayed by their state's government for failing to protect them from toxic pollution that risks their health.

ISRAEL - Heightened Tensions

Again, Israel's over reactions is 50% of the problem in the Middle East War without end.

"With Trump’s Golan Heights move, Netanyahu may be the biggest winner" PBS NewsHour 3/21/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  President Trump announced Thursday that the U.S. will now recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a strategic 40-mile strip of land on the Syrian-Israeli border.  The decision, which Trump announced via Tweet, overturns decades of U.S. policy in the Middle East.  The Woodrow Wilson Center's Aaron David Miller joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the implications for both politics and policy.

BREXIT - On the Brink

"How ‘Brexit paralysis’ is damaging the British government" PBS NewsHour 3/21/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The political divide in the United Kingdom continues to grow fiercer as the deadline for Brexit nears.  While Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking an extension for the UK to leave the European Union, every option the country currently has on the table is likely to exacerbate the tensions that have already boiled over.  Nick Schifrin reports.

ON THE BORDER - Opinion From El Paso

"How residents from El Paso feel about border barriers" PBS NewsHour 3/20/2019

Question, the Border Patrol demonstration in this video shows agents shouting in English to discourage boarder crossings by people from our South.  In English?!  Really?  They should be using recorded announcements in the languages of the people attempting to cross so they can be understood.

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Amid the roiling national debate about immigration and a border wall, construction crews in El Paso, Texas, are busy replacing 20 miles of wire mesh fencing with a bollard-style structure.  Border Patrol says this kind of barrier is crucial for preventing people from crossing the border illegally.  Special correspondent Angela Kocherga talks to El Paso residents about how it affects their community.

ONE ON ONE - Preet Bharara

"Preet Bharara on how Trump is eroding faith in law enforcement" PBS NewsHour 3/20/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  President Trump often expresses disdain for law enforcement agencies investigating him.  The Southern District of New York has attracted particular ire, with Trump firing the U.S. attorney heading it in 2017.  Judy Woodruff talks to that U.S. attorney, Preet Bharara, about his new book, “Doing Justice,” how the justice system was intended to work and whether its credibility is being jeopardized.

SUPREME COURT - The Curtis Flowers Case

"In Curtis Flowers case, race could be a matter of life or death" PBS NewsHour 3/20/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Curtis Flowers has been tried six times for the murder of four people killed in a Mississippi furniture store in 1996.  The case is the subject of the second season American Public Media’s “In the Dark” podcast.  Now the Supreme Court is considering whether the district attorney prosecuting Flowers illegally made juror selections based on race.  William Brangham talks to APM’s Madeleine Baran.

WOMEN'S HEALTH - New Treatment

"Why new treatment for postpartum depression could be a ‘game-changer’" PBS NewsHour 3/20/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  For some of the many mothers who experience postpartum depression, therapy and standard antidepressants can alleviate symptoms.  But for others, those treatments are slow to provide relief.  Now the FDA has approved the first drug specifically intended to treat the illness.  Amna Nawaz talks to Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of the University of North Carolina’s perinatal psychiatry program.

MEMOIR - “The Back Channel” the Deep Hole in American Diplomacy

"Former deputy secretary of state on ‘a deep hole’ for American diplomacy" PBS NewsHour 3/19/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  William [J.] Burns, former Deputy Secretary of State and Ambassador to Russia, may have spent more time with Vladimir Putin than other American diplomat.  In his book, “The Back Channel,” Burns discusses how a “sense of grievance” underlies Putin's interactions with the U.S.  Judy Woodruff talks to Burns about a "failure of imagination" on Syria and the current state of American diplomacy.

UNIVERSITY OF WHISPERS - Assad's Prison


Wanted Dead or Alive
War Criminal Bashar al-Assad

Assad is a monster and should die by his own methods, in the 'university of whispers.'

"Silenced at ‘the university of whispers,’ an Assad prison survivor can now tell his story" PBS NewsHour 3/19/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syrian teen Omar Alshogre was arrested and jailed for participating in a protest.  He survived three years of torture in a compound referred to as “the university of whispers” because its prisoners were forbidden to speak.  After fleeing to Turkey and then Sweden, Alshogre is finally able to share his story of the Assad regime's brutal crimes.  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.

SYRIA - Collapse of the Caliphate and New Threats

We may have defeated the ISIS army but you do not defeat a religious movement with military action.

"As caliphate collapses, new ISIS threats emerge in Syria" PBS NewsHour 3/19/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  After nearly five years of fighting, a U.S.-led coalition has almost completely destroyed what's known as the territorial caliphate, the Islamic pseudo-state created in Iraq and Syria by ISIS--but that doesn’t mean the end of the terror group.  Amna Nawaz talks to special correspondent Jane Ferguson for an on-the-ground look at what war has left behind in Syria and the threat that remains.

'TRUMP OF THE TROPICS' - Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro

"How Trump and Brazil’s Bolsonaro align, both personally and politically" PBS NewsHour 3/19/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  At the White House on Tuesday, President Trump welcomed Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, in the latter’s first bilateral foreign visit.  The two leaders share many similar views, as they reiterated at a press conference, and Bolsonaro represents Brazil’s first pro-U.S. leader in decades.  Nick Schifrin reports on how the two presidents hope to align their countries on trade and politics.

BOEING 737 MAX - Disastrously Bad Decision Making

"This aviation expert says Boeing made ‘disastrously bad decision’ on training for 737 MAX" PBS NewsHour 3/18/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The recent Ethiopian Airlines crash led to the grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX planes across much of the globe.  But as new details emerge about the cause of the model’s second crash within five months, questions are being raised about how the plane's safety was approved in the first place.  John Yang talks to Jeff Wise, a pilot and author of a book about MH370 the flight that vanished in 2014.

FLOODS - The American Midwest

"Flooding devastates parts of the Midwest after huge winter storm" PBS NewsHour 3/18/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Parts of the Midwest are reeling from major flooding this week due to a massive late-winter storm.  Across Iowa and Nebraska, thousands of people had to be evacuated, roads and other infrastructure were destroyed and buildings were submerged by rising waters.  Rivers hit record levels in 41 places across the region, including 17 in Nebraska alone.  William Brangham reports.




"Roads, towns and livelihoods are washed away in Midwest floods" PBS NewsHour 3/22/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Ongoing flooding across the Midwest has left thousands of homes damaged and vast swaths of farmland underwater.  Residents and public officials alike are trying to cope with washed-out roads, lost livestock, ruined crops, and a lack of supplies.  Meanwhile, weather experts are predicting a “potentially unprecedented” flood season.  Judy Woodruff speaks to Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts for more.

NEW ZEALAND - Gun Control

NOTE:  As of now Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that the band on assault weapons is in effect.  Now THAT'S a responsive government!

"Amid shock and grief, New Zealand vows to tighten gun rules" PBS NewsHour 3/18/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The shocking massacre of 50 people attending Friday prayers at mosques in Christchurch has rocked New Zealand and the world.  Authorities have revealed that the suspected shooter purchased four of his five guns online from the country’s biggest gun supplier.  In response, New Zealand’s government is vowing stricter gun laws right away.  John Ray of Independent Television News reports.




"How social media platforms reacted to viral video of New Zealand shootings" PBS NewsHour 3/18/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Amid the many questions swirling around the New Zealand mosque shootings is whether Facebook and other digital platforms acted swiftly enough to stop video footage of the attacks from circulating.  These social media giants are already facing scrutiny for enabling users to perpetuate false stories and hate speech.  Judy Woodruff talks to The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Dwoskin for more.

AMERICAN POLITICS - The Mueller Report

#ReleaseTheFullMullerReport the American people need to know the details if we are to have any confidence in our federal government.  If ANYTHING remains hidden/redacted there will be suspicion that the Trump Administration is hiding something.  Like why did a Trump appointee decide there was no obstruction of justice?  Also, reminder that this investigation was about Russia, not Trump.

"How Congress could respond to the Mueller report" PBS NewsHour 3/24/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  A nearly two-year investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election “does not exonerate” President Trump, Attorney General William Barr said in a summary of the Mueller report on Sunday, as Democrats consider whether there is enough evidence to impeach the President.  NewsHour politics correspondent Lisa Desjardins joins Hari Sreenivasan for a look at what Congress may do next.




"Republicans ‘very excited’ after release of Mueller summary" PBS NewsHour 3/24/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The Republican establishment on Sunday felt a sense of vindication following the release of a Justice Department summary on the Mueller report.  NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.  She joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss reactions from both sides of the political aisle.




"How much of the Mueller report should be made public?" PBS NewsHour 3/24/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation did not find evidence that President Trump conspired with Russia during the 2016 Presidential campaign, according to a summary released by the Justice Department on Sunday.  Bob Bauer, a professor at NYU's School of Law and former White House counsel to President Obama, joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss how much of the full report should be made public.

Friday, March 22, 2019

PICS OF THE WEEK - Cute to Profane















TRUMP IMMIGRATION - Customs and Border Protection Not Following Policies

"Questions surface over asylum seekers’ screening" by Kate Morrissey, San Diego Union-Tribune 3/22/2019

NOTE:  This was copied from the e-newspaper, therefore no link to article.


Customs and Border Protection officers have not consistently followed policies intended to protect Central American asylum seekers who are likely to be harmed in Mexico from returning there under the “Remain in Mexico” program, according to documents obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The program, known officially as Migrant Protection Protocols, sends certain migrants who ask for asylum at the southern border back to Mexico while they wait for their immigration court cases.

If migrants tell CBP officials that they are also afraid of going back to Mexico, CBP is supposed to send them for interviews with asylum officers who work under a separate agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to an agency memo [PDF]Those officials are specially trained to weigh a person’s story about fear of returning against specific legal standards and definitions.

CBP documents detailing questions asked of individual asylum seekers who were returned to Mexico as part of the MPP program show that some migrants who expressed fear of being in Mexico were returned to Tijuana without talking to USCIS asylum officers.

Others returned under the program said that they had not been able to express their fear to CBP officials during processing because of the way CBP officials conducted their intake interviews.

The majority of those who spoke with the Union-Tribune after they had been returned under the program said they were afraid to be in Mexico, but few had been referred for the additional screening to determine whether they should be part of the program.

Juan Carlos, a Salvadoran man who came to the port of entry with his wife and three children, the youngest of whom is 10 months old, said that when he told the CBP official that he and his family were afraid to return to Mexico, the official asked how long they’d been there already.  Juan Carlos responded three months.

“He said, ‘Well, they haven’t done anything to you yet,’” Juan Carlos recalled in Spanish.

While the document given to Juan Carlos is a summary of the questions and answers of their conversation rather than a full transcript, it does indicate that Juan Carlos said that he did not feel safe in Mexico and that he had a fear of being removed from the United States.

He was not given the opportunity to talk to an asylum officer about his fears.

“We’re human beings,” Juan Carlos said.  “No one wants to die, not an American, not a Salvadoran, not a Nicaraguan.  We’re looking for protection, for help.”

Karen, a 28-year-old woman from Honduras who came with her three children, similarly told CBP that she was afraid of being in Mexico.  She had fled her country because of domestic violence and said she was afraid that the man who had abused her would find her in Mexico.  He’d already been able to find her when she tried to change cities within her country, and she’d heard that he again knew her whereabouts.

(While there has been recent debate about whether claims of fear based on domestic violence should count for asylum, some survivors have been able to win their asylum cases and stay in the U.S.)

As she told her story to the CBP officer, documents show, Karen explained that she had been afraid to be in Mexico.

Instead of referring her for an interview with an asylum officer, the CBP officer asked, “Did anybody harm you or your children in Mexico?”

Karen responded, “No.”

“Did anybody threaten to harm you or your children in Mexico?” the CBP officer continued.

“No,” Karen said again.

Karen was returned to Mexico without being interviewed by an asylum officer.  She said she cried when she found out she was going back to Tijuana.

Two Salvadoran men who were returned under the program said they weren’t asked if they were afraid to go back to Mexico.  They said they weren’t able to bring up the topic on their own.

“They don’t let you express yourself,” the 18-year-old said.  “They only ask their questions and nothing more.”

“They don’t let you talk,” the 29-year-old agreed.  “We worried about them punishing us if we spoke out of turn.”

DHS officials said that a question at the end of CBP interviews asking if the asylum seeker has anything else he or she would like to say should serve as an opportunity for people to discuss such concerns.

Being interviewed by USCIS asylum officers is no guarantee that someone who expresses fear of being in Mexico will be kept out of the program.  The Department of Homeland Security opted to use a higher legal standard for a person’s claim of fear in implementing MPP than the one used during credible fear interviews, the initial step in the asylum process if the person is not returned to Mexico.

Under the MPP standard, the official has to determine that it is “more likely than not” that the migrant will be persecuted or tortured in Mexico in order to prevent his or her return.

Gelin, a 29-year-old woman from Honduras who came with her 13-year-old son, was evaluated by an asylum officer after explaining to CBP that she had been robbed in Mexico two weeks before asking for asylum.  She, too, was returned.

When asked about cases of those who had been sent back without referral to USCIS, officials with the CBP and DHS maintained that CBP officers refer migrants to asylum officers.

“Everyone’s trained to take very seriously our commitments under international treaties,” said a senior DHS official speaking on background.  “We will never send someone back to a country where it’s more likely than not that they will be harmed or tortured.”

CBP said that it could not comment on specific cases but said that it “processes each case individually and with integrity.”

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has begun ramping up the MPP program, which began as a pilot at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in late January and sent back single adults from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who had asked for asylum through the port.  It later expanded to include families from those countries and then people from those countries who asked for asylum after crossing the border illegally.

Last week, U.S. officials announced that the program is also now operational at the port of entry between Calexico and Mexicali.  According to the officials, 240 migrants had been returned through the program through March 12.

Court hearings also began last week for those enrolled in the program.  So far, eight returnees have told judges that they are afraid to go back to Mexico.

A woman who had her first hearing on Thursday told Immigration Judge Scott Simpson that she wanted to come back as soon as possible because she was scared of spending more time in Mexico.

“I have problems being in Mexico,” she said.  “I was kidnapped, and I was going through a very difficult time.”

“You were kidnapped in Mexico?” Simpson repeated.

“Yes,” the woman said.

Simpson asked the government attorney what would happen to her, and the attorney assured him that the woman would be referred to an asylum officer for further questioning.

Those who said they were afraid to go back were held in custody at the port of entry overnight before their interviews were conducted, according to Ian Philabaum from Innovation Law Lab, an organization that has been working with several asylum seekers in a class-action lawsuit over the legality of the Remain in Mexico program.  Philabaum had not yet heard whether any of them had received decisions about where they would be released.

Philabaum said that many of the asylum seekers told him that they felt intimidated during their initial conversations with CBP officers.  Several who spoke to the Union-Tribune described the officers’ behavior as “rude” and said they felt nervous while they were questioned.

Carolina Martin Ramos, an immigration attorney and former asylum officer, said she’d also observed issues with CBP’s questioning when she recently worked in Guatemala supporting deported parents who were separated from their children at the border by the Trump administration.  From her interviews, she said it seemed as though CBP officers had started doing “mini asylum interviews.”

Sometimes the officer would tell the migrants that they didn’t have valid claims, she said.

“That wasn’t for them to determine,” Martin Ramos said.

Similar lines of questioning appear in many of the CBP documents obtained by the Union-Tribune.

“Have you or your children ever been persecuted because of your political party, religion, race, nationality, or participation in a particular social group?” an officer asked one of the MPP returnees, per CBP documents.

Many seeking asylum may not understand what those terms mean, Martin Ramos said.  The woman who was asked this particular question told the CBP officer that she had a sixth-grade education.

Other questions to returnees documented by CBP included whether the person received any legal advice prior to asking for asylum.

“Knowing about asylum shouldn’t change the case,” Martin Ramos said.  “It sounds like the government is trying to make a case against activists and attorneys who tried to help.”

When asked about the lines of questioning by its officers, CBP said, “Responses may open a line of questioning not readily apparent to a CBP officer and lead to additional questions clarifying the relevance of a prior response.  Additionally, prior questions and answers to oral statements are often validated and documented in written format on sworn statements.”

Volunteer attorneys working with Al Otro Lado, a legal services organization in Tijuana, have stood in the El Chaparral plaza every morning for months trying to prepare asylum seekers before they’re taken in to the San Ysidro Port of Entry for processing.

The organization recently filed a complaint with Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights after Mexican immigration officials blocked access to asylum seekers preparing to enter the port.  According to Al Otro Lado, officials threatened volunteers with deportation if they didn’t comply.

“The targeted harassment of volunteers providing humanitarian aid and legal orientation to migrants to asylum seekers trapped in Tijuana is a coordinated effort between the U.S. and Mexican governments to trample the human rights of refugees,” said Nicole Ramos, an attorney with Al Otro Lado.  “Unfortunately, most of the names of the migrants murdered in Mexico as a result these policies and shameful practices will never be known.”

Two attorneys with the group recently had their passports flagged and were blocked from entering Mexico, and Ramos appeared on a list of advocates, attorneys and journalists maintained by the U.S. to investigate people who had interacted with the migrant caravan that arrived in Tijuana in November.

A federal judge in Northern California will hear arguments today on a motion for a preliminary block on the Remain in Mexico program brought by several returnees and advocacy groups.

In fiscal 2017, the most recent year with government data available, immigration judges granted asylum in 20 percent of the cases that came before them.  They denied asylum in 34 percent of those cases, and the remaining 46 percent of cases were closed without a decision on the asylum merits, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

The agency changed the way that it calculates asylum grant rates in fiscal 2017.  Under the previous method, which only looked at cases in which immigration judges made a decision on the asylum merits and is still used by organizations like Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse of Syracuse University, judges granted asylum in 38 percent of cases and denied asylum in 62 percent of cases in fiscal 2017.  In fiscal 2018, TRAC’s calculated denial rate rose to 65 percent, meaning 35 percent were granted asylum.

Monday, March 18, 2019

LAST WEEK TONIGHT - Public Shaming


John Oliver talks about the power of public shaming, good and bad.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 3/15/2019

"Shields and Brooks on New Zealand massacre, 2020 Democrats’ ideology" PBS NewsHour 3/15/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to analyze the week's news, including hate and tragedy in New Zealand, President Trump’s aggressive and “reckless” rhetoric and the latest updates from the field of 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And with that, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you.

We're going to get to politic in just a moment.

But, David, I want to start with this terrible massacre at two mosques in New Zealand.  We just talked to our guests it.

What does it say about — I was going to say about where we are in terms of tone.  What does it say about us as a human race right now?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Well, we're seeing a culture cry in pain and rage and alienation, a culture that's divided, that is isolated, where people are lonely, committing suicide at high rates.

And one of the things some lonely people with existential angst do is, they turn into fanatics.  And that's been the case all through history.  And we're just at a moment of just cultural pain.  And you get these horrific outbreaks.

Some of it is gentle, relatively gentle, screaming at each about politics.  Some of it is really bad, the suicide and the murder rate, the opioid rate.  And some of it is horrific, which is these mass shootings that we see across Western society.

And it's just the definition of our cultural moment.  And the thing that Kathleen Belew said, I think, is worth repeating, that it's a movement.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

David Brooks:  And it used to be a movement or even a terror army was a group of people who had some internal structure and internal structure and institutions.

But now they're radically decentralized webs organized by the Internet.  And so, just because they have never met anybody — each other doesn't mean they're all part of one thing.  And they are part of one series of fanatical ideas.

And what's interesting is how they wink and nod to each other through their statements in their Internet or through their statements in their manifestos.  And so they're quoting — this guy was quoting somebody — the guy in the Pittsburgh synagogue.  And that's just a scary form of movement.

Judy Woodruff:  For them, it's all of a piece, Mark, even though they don't have a leader.

As David said, Kathleen Belew was saying a moment ago, this is — they're all about eliminating everybody who isn't white.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Yes.  No, I agree, and I was struck by Kathleen Belew's remark that it's a white power movement and a social groundswell.

And I can't help but think that the amplification and strengthening of this institution or this movement has occurred through the Internet.  The idea that if somebody held those beliefs in the past, there was almost a sense of isolation, because they were so widely unacceptable to most people.

But now you get ratification, you get validation, because you can talk to people, whether it's somebody who is going after Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston or the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh or in New Zealand yesterday going after Muslims at prayer.

And it truly is — it's worldwide in its movement.  And it's obviously not based on anything other than that sense of anger, resentment, alienation, and hostility.

David Brooks:  It should be pointed out the tendency to go after houses of worship is not an accident.

Mark Shields:  No.

David Brooks:  It is a form of anti-religion.  It's faith or a movement of hatred.

And this has not been the first time in history that we have had this, and so you get these war — moral wars.  Somebody pointed out that, when the printing press was first created, people thought it would herald in an age of peace, because we could all talk to each other through the written word.  And we got hundreds of years of religious war.

And so open communication can have these horrifically negative effects.  And Ryan O'Lieber (ph) said back in the '50s that existential anxiety, if you don't know what your moral purpose is, you turn into a fanatic, because this sort of white or black or any kind of racial power movement gives you a very clean moral logic.  You know what your purpose is in the universe.  And you have a clear enemy you can go kill who are inhuman.

And so it cures all your existential anxiety, because suddenly everything is literally black and white.

Judy Woodruff:  But you don't really right now, Mark, have an effort to condemn it, to say this is wrong.

I mean, it's on the margins.

Mark Shields:  No, we all know it's wrong.  I mean, it is.

I mean, but how do you confront something that is almost subterranean?  I mean, it's not something that we run into, most of us, in our carpool or daily.

There was just one moment yesterday on Capitol Hill, when the most powerful Democrat in the country quoted the most popular Republican President of the last century.

And I would just like to read it.  And it just said, thanks to the — quoting this President:  "Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we're a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, always leading the world to the next frontier.  If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world will soon be lost" — Ronald Reagan's last speech to the American people.

(CROSSTALK)

Judy Woodruff:  Nancy Pelosi.

Mark Shields:  And it was quoted by Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, at the luncheon for the Irish Prime Minister yesterday, Donald Trump sitting there as she said this.

But, I mean, wow.  I mean, it's just one of those moments you say, we are not who we were.

David Brooks:  Yes.

And it's an assertion that what joins us across race is more important than what divides us.

Mark Shields:  Yes, exactly.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, we're talking about — you made the segue to President Trump.

And I was going to ask this in the context, David, of the 12 Republicans yesterday in the Senate who went against the President on his emergency declaration on the border.

But what has come up in the last day or so is a comment the President made in an interview with Breitbart News, the right-wing Web site.  And he said — and he was condemning Democrats and saying they were the left.  He said it's tough.

But he went on to say: "I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, support of the Bikers for Trump.  I have the tough people.  But they don't play it tough, until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad."

I'm contrasting that with what President Reagan said.

David Brooks:  Yes, again, he left out the Brownshirts.  It is classic authoritarianism.  It's almost Mussolini-like.

I happen to think it's compensation.  As a friend told me, a friend of Donald Trump's told me that he's terribly afraid of confrontation in person.  He will do it over the Internet, but he won't do it in person.  And so he needs to project toughness.

And he admires toughness in the Saudis and Putin, in the North Koreans.  And that's his highest virtue, but it's something of a blustery front, which is typical of bullies.

Mark Shields:  Reckless beyond belief.  I just — I can't believe it.  Words matter, especially the words of a President.

And he's not talking to Breitbart or any particular group.  Whenever the President speaks, he's speaking to all of us and for all of us.  And this was criminally reckless.  It was almost sanctioning, if not condoning, any act of violence by one of his supporters, armed supporters, against a political critic, a political opponent, saying, I understand it.

I contrast — I just contrast it with the words of a Reagan or a Kennedy or any other President.

NEW ZEALAND - The Terror Attack

"New Zealand mosque suspect embraced white supremacy, previous acts of hate" PBS NewsHour 3/15/2019

Shooter's manifesto said Trump "Symbol of renewed white identity."  Just think about that and Trump's lack of total condemnation of white supremacy.

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Christchurch, New Zealand’s second-largest city, was the site of horrific carnage Friday, as a gunman stormed two mosques during Friday prayers, killing at least 49 people and injuring dozens more.  Police arrested the alleged shooter, who cited other mass killings as inspiration.  Amna Nawaz reports on what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called one of the country’s “darkest days.”




"Why alleged New Zealand mosque killer represents a broader ‘social movement’" PBS NewsHour 3/15/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Deadly terror attacks in New Zealand Friday caused global shock, but the extreme anti-immigrant, white supremacist ideology of the suspected Australian gunman is not new.  Judy Woodruff talks to Humera Khan of Muflehun a nonprofit fighting hate and extremism, University of Chicago’s Kathleen Belew, and Matthew Knott of the Sydney Morning Herald about the scope of this malignant "social movement."




REMINDER:  The internet, especially social media, allows the spreading of ideas good AND bad.

"The role of media and technology after terror attacks" PBS NewsHour 3/16/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The gunman accused of killing 49 people at two New Zealand mosques Friday live-streamed the attack, emailed his manifesto to media outlets, and shared his racist and hateful messages online.  Charlie Warzel opinion writer-at-large for The New York Times and Joan Donovan of Harvard University, join Hari Sreenivasan to discuss changing technology and the media's role and responsibilities.

NEWSHOUR IMHO - Our New Dangerous Data Economy

"The dangers of our ‘new data economy,’ and how to avoid them" PBS NewsHour 3/14/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Roger McNamee was an early investor in Facebook and still holds a stake in the social media giant--but he’s also become a vocal critic of its practices, especially around how it handles user data.  McNamee offers his humble opinion on why as consumers, we need to stop being passive and take control of how we share our personal information.

MEMORIAM - Sen. Birch Bayh 1928-2019

"Remembering former Sen. Birch Bayh, champion of Title IX" PBS NewsHour 3/14/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Former Sen. Birch Bayh, who served three terms as an Indiana Democrat, died Thursday at his home in Maryland.  Bayh was the primary architect of Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in colleges; and the 25th Amendment, which empowers Presidents to fill Vice Presidential vacancies and outlines a procedure for declaring sitting Presidents unfit.  John Yang remembers the influential legislator.

AMERICAN BUSINESS - PopUp Business School

"This free program trains people how to start a business —but without debt" PBS NewsHour 3/14/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  It’s commonly believed that you need money to start a company, but a pair of British entrepreneurs are spreading a different message.  Through their initiative PopUp Business School, Alan Donegan and his team train people with little capital, but a lot of ideas, how to turn their entrepreneurial visions into reality.  Paul Solman reports on how the free program encourages aspiring innovators.

TRUMP'S WALL - The Push-Back

"With blocked emergency declaration, Senate delivers Trump a ‘stunning rebuke’" PBS NewsHour 3/14/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The Senate defied President Trump on Thursday, with 12 Republicans helping form a decisive majority to block his declaration of a national emergency over immigration.  But the 59-41 vote wasn't a large enough majority to overturn a veto, and Trump vowed immediately to use one--the first of his Presidency.  Judy Woodruff talks to Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor about the "stunning rebuke."

AMERICA'S LONGEST WAR - Afghanistan After 20yrs

"The brutal push for peace in Afghanistan after almost 20 years of war" PBS NewsHour 3/13/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The highest level of talks yet between the U.S. and the Taliban concluded Tuesday in Qatar.  With videographer Sebastian Rich's exclusive footage of American and Afghan operations in southern Afghanistan; Nick Schifrin reports on how both sides are trying to use battlefield gains to force peacemaking concessions, and gets insight from Nader Nadery a Senior Adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

BROKEN REGULATION - Lurking Danger, Asbestos

"The stunning truth about asbestos use in the U.S." PBS NewsHour 3/13/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Asbestos is no longer ubiquitous in building materials, and since it's proven to cause cancer, many Americans likely assumed the substance had been banned entirely.  But not only is asbestos a naturally occurring mineral, it is also still used to make some household products.  Science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports on "broken" U.S. regulation and why we continue to import the carcinogen.

MANAFORT - Additional Charges

The Trump Investigations saga.

"After Manafort’s 2nd federal sentencing, NY prosecutor announces additional charges" PBS NewsHour 3/13/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was sentenced Wednesday to three-and-a-half more years in prison for federal crimes related to foreign lobbying and witness tampering.  After the hearing, a New York prosecutor revealed new state-level charges for Manafort, too.  William Brangham, who was in the courthouse, reports, and Amna Nawaz talks to former Federal Prosecutor Jessica Roth for analysis.

ARROGANT RICH - Bribing Children Into College

"How a bombshell bribery scandal illuminates the ‘corruption’ of college admissions" PBS NewsHour 3/12/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Scandal has ensnared some of the nation’s top colleges, as prosecutors allege that wealthy parents conspired to help their kids cheat on college admissions tests and funnel bribes to college athletic coaches to secure admission into elite schools.  William Brangham talks to Jeffrey Selingo, who covers higher education, about the stunning charges federal prosecutors brought on Tuesday.




"Explosive cheating scandal illuminates hidden inequities of college admissions" PBS NewsHour 3/14/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  An explosive scandal around bribery and cheating in college admissions has prompted new questions about access, race and inequality in elite higher education.  Judy Woodruff explores some of them with Daniel Golden, senior editor at ProPublica and author of a book on the unfairness of college admissions; and Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, an organization focused on racial justice.

BRITAIN - Brexit, You Bought It and You Own It

"With May’s plan defeated, could a no-deal Brexit be ‘ruinous’ for the UK?" PBS NewsHour 3/12/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Britain's Parliament soundly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s revised Brexit plan.  May had secured some concessions from the European Union over the most contentious parts of the agreement, but they weren’t enough for opponents.  With less than three weeks until the scheduled date for Brexit, the UK’s trajectory remains unclear.  Judy Woodruff talks to special correspondent Ryan Chilcote.




"‘Political meltdown’ grips UK after Theresa May’s Brexit defeat" PBS NewsHour 3/12/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The United Kingdom continues to face political turmoil over Brexit, as Prime Minister Theresa May failed to find enough support in Parliament for her amended agreement with the European Union.  Judy Woodruff talks to Sir Peter Westmacott, former British Ambassador to the U.S., about the most likely courses of action now, May’s “extremely fragile” majority and why Brexit matters across the globe.




"Parliament wants to delay Brexit, as May vows 3rd vote on proposed deal" PBS NewsHour 3/14/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The United Kingdom's political crisis over how to exit the European Union continues.  This week, Parliament rejected the option to leave without an agreement, and on Thursday, it voted to delay Brexit for three months.  If the EU grants the extension, will it offer Prime Minister Theresa May a "lifeline?"  Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin talks to Peter Spiegel of the Financial Times.

NEWSHOUR BOOKSHELF - "Black Leopard, Red Wolf"

"Author Marlon James on never outgrowing the magical" PBS NewsHour 3/11/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Marlon James is best known for writing literary fiction, including “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” which won the prestigious Man Booker Prize.  But his latest book, “Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” draws on a lifelong love of comics and fantasy.  James sits down with Jeffrey Brown to discuss why he still seeks "a sword and some sorcery" and the importance of seeing oneself reflected in narrative.

TRUMPONOMICS - 2020 Budget

IMHO:  Economic growth for the rich and powerful, and continued stagnation for the lower and middle class. (aka, screw the common people)

"How Trump’s proposed 2020 budget hinges on significant economic growth" PBS NewsHour 3/11/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The White House has released President Trump’s proposed 2020 budget.  The record $4.7 trillion plan calls for increased military spending and $8.6 billion for Trump’s controversial border wall, along with significant cuts to domestic programs.  Judy Woodruff talks to the President’s Chief Economic Adviser, Larry Kudlow, about his priorities and why “growth solves a lot of problems” for the economy.

DEADLY CRASH - Boeing 737 MAX 8

"After 2nd deadly crash, questions raised about the safety of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 planes" PBS NewsHour 3/11/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Investigators are combing the debris from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa Sunday, killing all 157 people aboard.  The plane’s black box recorders have been found, but many questions remain about this second crash of a Boeing 737 MAX-8 within a few months.  Neil Connery of Independent Television News and science correspondent Miles O’Brien report.




"It’s impossible to call Boeing 737 MAX 8 safe, says this aviation expert" PBS NewsHour 3/12/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  U.S. aviation experts have convened at the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 amid growing global concern about the safety of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 jet.  Although dozens of countries have grounded the planes, the FAA says they're safe.  John Yang reports and discusses with Mary Schiavo, a former Transportation Department Inspector General who represents the victims of airline accidents.




"What new information led FAA to ground Boeing’s 737 MAX jets?" PBS NewsHour 3/13/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Boeing’s 737 MAX jetliners are grounded across much of the globe -- including the U.S.  [This was] Days after other nations banned the plane from flying in their airspace, the FAA, which had as recently as Tuesday night insisted the plane was safe, said new information about Sunday's Ethiopian Airlines crash led it to change course.  John Yang reports, and Judy Woodruff talks to Miles O’Brien for analysis.

Monday, March 11, 2019

GREAT LAKES - Cost of City Water

"Water costs balloon in cities along the Great Lakes" PBS NewsHour 3/9/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The Great Lakes are an indispensable source of drinking water for more than 48 million people in the U.S. and Canada.  But in six large cities on the shorelines, residents are facing a cost crisis.  WBEZ reporter Maria Ines Zamudio discusses the findings of a nine-month investigation by American Public Media, Great Lakes Today, and NPR with Hari Sreenivasan.

OPINION - Shields and Gerson 3/8/2019

"Shields and Gerson on Democrats’ bigotry resolution, Trump investigations" PBS NewsHour 3/8/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson join Judy Woodruff to analyze the week in politics, including the House Democrats' resolution condemning hate and bigotry, congressional investigations of President Trump and the field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  A vote in the House of Representatives to condemn bigotry, and the 2020 Democratic presidential field comes into a little better focus, just two of the stories shaping our week, and topics for analysis by Shields and Gerson.

That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.  David Brooks is away.

Hello to both of you.

So, Mark, let's talk about this anti-bigotry resolution the House passed yesterday.  It was originally they were looking at talking just about anti-Semitism, but they decided to do something bigger than that, passed overwhelmingly.

What do you make of this approach by Democrats?  What were they dealing with here?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  They're dealing with a problem within their own caucus, which is the diversity.  It's the strength of the Democratic Party, and it's also a problem.

It was a challenge for Nancy Pelosi to deal with it.  And this is a — it was a major controversy that had to be confronted.  And confront it, they did, albeit in public, in sort of difficult and painful fashion.

Judy Woodruff:  Controversy, Michael, of course, was a series of statements by the Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.  The Democrats were feeling pressure that they had to say something.

And, as we said, initially, it was going to be accusing — or not naming her, but it was going to say anti-Semitism is something to be condemned, words to that effect.  Was it equally effective for them to do what they finally did, or not?

Michael Gerson, Washington Post:  Well, there is an insurgent wing of the Democratic Party, progressive insurgent wing, very savvy with social media, very energetic highly active.  Those are all good things.

They picked exactly the wrong issue in this matter.  What we're talking about is an anti-Semitic trope that was familiar from the middle of the 20th century.  And because the Holocaust is a special category of wrong, anti-Semitism is a special category of hate.

And I think the Democrats lost some ground by not being able to say something obvious because of these divisions within their own party.  It was a defeat for Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi.

Judy Woodruff:  Lost some ground how?  You mean the leadership of the party?

Michael Gerson:  They were pushed back on an issue where they — I think Nancy Pelosi was clearly right in the way that she wanted to approach this.

Mark Shields:  I guess I disagree with Michael in this sense.

I think there's no question that — on what he says on the Holocaust and the truth of anti-Semitism.  I don't think criticism of Israeli policy, under the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, a man who has just collaborated with a racist, a racist coalition in order to hold on to power, while he's indicted, on the witch-hunt, as he calls it, by a weak attorney general, as he calls it, because he's facing political defeat, I don't think criticism on that should be confused with anti-Semitism.

And there's been a divergence.  Jewish American voters have been the most loyal of Democratic voters.  They voted 4-1 for the Democrats in 2018.  And there's been a divergence with Israeli — for Jewish Israelis.

Right now, Donald Trump is the most popular of any country in the world in Israel, only second to the Philippines.

Judy Woodruff:  Most popular leader.

Mark Shields:  Most popular leader [in Israel].

And there's a divergence.  American Jewish voters do not feel that way about him.  And the fact is, if we're going to talk about anti-Semitism, I think you have got to say, this administration has been guilty, not simply as charged.

I mean, the closing argument they made in this campaign, Judy, was a charge of international money.  And they put up the images of Janet Yellen and Lloyd Blankfein, and George Soros, did Donald Trump.

This isn't — I'm not in any way defending or rationalizing what I think the congresswoman from Minnesota has said rashly, but I do think that this — there has to be clearly the difference between anti-Semitism and critical — criticism of the Netanyahu regime.

Michael Gerson:  Well, I just say that, when you talk of dual loyalty of Jewish citizens of the United States, that's not criticism of Netanyahu.

And that's what we're talking about here.  That's why this could have been a very clear voice and act of the new Democratic House.  And, instead, I think that message got blunted in a process that the speaker lost.

Mark Shields:  Well, I guess I think the speaker had a — didn't seek this fight, didn't want it.

And, certainly, it's not something the Democrats — the Democrats had to confront it.  There's no question about it.  But, I mean, we're talking about a President, Judy — let's be very blunt about it — who, when the white supremacists marched through the streets of Charlotte with torches, saying, "Jews will not replace us," said there's good people on both sides.

I mean, so this is — if you want to see anti-Semitism…

Michael Gerson:  And we should condemn him too.  I'm for that.

(CROSSTALK)

Judy Woodruff:  But, Michael, your point is that the Democrats needed to say something strong.

(CROSSTALK)

Michael Gerson:  Yes, in reaction to a specific charge that was made and with a specific history.

But I think they did what they could.