PBS NewsHour full episode Dec 19, 2019

PBS NewsHour full episode Dec 19, 2019


JOHN YANG: Good evening. I’m John Yang. Judy Woodruff is away. On the “NewsHour” tonight: REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Our founders, when they
wrote the Constitution, they suspected that there could be a rogue president. I don’t think they suspected that we could
have a rogue president and a rogue leader in the Senate at the same time. JOHN YANG: The day after. Now that the House has impeached President
Trump, questions turn to how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may exert leverage over the trial
in the Senate. Then: coverage at a crossroads. The Affordable Care Act is back in the courts,
as the White House moves to change prescription drug rules. And taking the stage — what to watch for
as Democratic presidential hopefuls face questions in tonight’s “PBS NewsHour”/Politico debate. All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.” (BREAK) JOHN YANG: The stage is set tonight for the
next act in the impeachment drama: a Senate trial of President Trump. But there are questions about just when that
will happen. Those questions arose after House Democrats
finished their work last night, and the answers remained unclear today. The morning after the House voted to impeach
President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reassured the president’s allies. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The Senate exists
for moments like this. JOHN YANG: He slammed House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi, who has said she may delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate,
a necessary step to start the president’s trial in that chamber. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: House Democrats may be too
afraid, too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to the Senate. Mr. President, looks like the prosecutors
are getting cold feet in front of the entire country. JOHN YANG: Today, Pelosi said she wouldn’t
set the wheels in motion for a Senate trial, including naming the House managers who would
prosecute, until she got assurances that the rules would be fair. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The next thing will be
when we see the process that is set forth in the Senate. Then we will know the number of managers that
we may have to go forward and who — who we would choose. JOHN YANG: In the Oval Office, the president
blasted House Democrats. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
We think that what they did is wrong. We think that what they did is unconstitutional. And the Senate is very, very capable. We have great senators, Republican senators. JOHN YANG: The Senate is at loggerheads over
Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s request to call trial witnesses. SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Leader McConnell is
plotting the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment trial in modern
history. JOHN YANG: The president’s defenders, like
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, rejected that. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If there’s a witness
request by the president, I’m going to say no. If there’s a witness request by anybody, I’m
going to say no. I want this to end quickly. JOHN YANG: Today, the president also got support
from a fellow world leader, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russian President (through
translator): The U.S. Senate will be unlikely to remove a representative of their own party
from office on what seems to me an absolutely far-fetched reason. REP. NANCY PELOSI: Article one is adopted. JOHN YANG: Last night, as the House impeached
him, President Trump was rallying his supporters in Battle Creek, Michigan. DONALD TRUMP: This lawless, partisan impeachment
is a political suicide march for the Democrat Party. JOHN YANG: And he sparked controversy by seeming
to suggest that the late Michigan lawmaker John Dingell was looking up from hell. The president recounted a conversation with
Representative Debbie Dingell, John Dingell’s widow, about memorials after his death. DONALD TRUMP: She calls me up. It’s the nicest thing that’s ever happened. Thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down. He would be so thrilled. Thank you so much, sir. I said, that’s OK. Don’t worry about it. Maybe he’s looking up. I don’t know. (LAUGHTER) (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) JOHN YANG: Tomorrow, Congress begins a two-week
holiday recess, returning to the Capitol and any future action on impeachment in the new
year. This evening, Senate leaders McConnell and
Schumer met for an hour to talk about the impeachment trial. McConnell said they had a cordial conversation,
but remained at an impasse. Now, just what is House Speaker Pelosi trying
to do by threatening to delay the process, and what are the rules about this? Michael Conway was counsel to the House Judiciary
Committee in the impeachment inquiry of President Nixon in the 1970s. Mr. Conway, thanks so much for joining us. MICHAEL CONWAY, Former House Judiciary Committee
Counsel: My pleasure. JOHN YANG: First of all, what are the rules? What — when does — or does the speaker ever
have to transmit these articles of impeachment, or could she hold on this them forever? MICHAEL CONWAY: Well, she could hold on to
them forever, at great political risk. The Constitution says sole power only twice. It says the House has the sole power of impeachment. The Senate has the sole power of trying the
impeachment. Until she lets go of the articles of impeachment,
Nancy Pelosi can do with them what she wishes. And the U.S. Supreme Court in the early ’90s
in a case involving a federal judge that was impeached said the courts have no role whatsoever
in regulating impeachment, either in the House or the Senate. So there’s no other recourse the senators
have if Nancy Pelosi decides to hold onto the articles until there could be a negotiation
about witnesses in the trial. JOHN YANG: And help us understand the — sort
of the political calculus here. What leverage does this create by holding
on to these articles of impeachment, by not triggering the trial in the Senate against
the president? MICHAEL CONWAY: Well, you just played the
clip of — Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell have also said they want to have a very abbreviated
trial, no witnesses, no drama. Let’s get it over with. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer don’t want
to do that. There are existing rules for prior impeachments. In 1986, the Senate had a whole series of
rules you can find on Senate.gov about impeachment. And in Bill Clinton’s impeachment, they added
two new resolutions. Those provided for witnesses. There were witnesses in Bill Clinton’s impeachment. If Mitch McConnell followed the rules that
were adopted unanimously in 1999, there would be witnesses. But the Senate has absolute power to change
it. The question is, does he have 51 votes to
do that? JOHN YANG: Is there a potential downside,
or is there a risk to what House Speaker Pelosi is doing? MICHAEL CONWAY: Of course. You just heard the Republican talking point,
which is that the managers now have cold feet, that they don’t want to send the case to the
House. But I think one of the real variables here
is, how is President Trump going to react to this? He’s already reacted to the issue that he’s
been impeached. He believes — and you just heard his words
— that he — the Senate will, he says, exonerate him. That won’t happen, but they can find him not
guilty, acquit him. If the trial is prolonged, and he doesn’t
get that day, he may actually put some pressure on McConnell to come to some agreement about
witnesses. And he’s famously said he himself wants to
call Representative Schiff and others as witnesses in the trial. JOHN YANG: This idea of withholding the articles
from the Senate, it was floated by professor — Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe. He got — the idea was that you essentially
indict the president, you charged him with these articles of impeachment, and you never
give him the opportunity to — for the acquittal in the Senate. Is that viable? MICHAEL CONWAY: Well, it may be viable, but
the public may not think it’s fair. In Robert Mueller’s report, he put a footnote
that’s — where he said that he couldn’t take any action and recommend whether there should
be criminal charges. And he said that that would be decided in
impeachment. And one of his rationales was, the president
had no opportunity to vindicate himself. And so I think, if the president really had
no opportunity to vindicate himself, there was never a trial, I think that would backfire
on the Democrats. One other thing to think about, the Democrats
have been in court. They have a hearing on January 3 on two lawsuits
in the court of appeals in Washington, one for Don McGahn to testify, one for the grand
jury material. Their whole rationale is, it’s part of an
impeachment inquiry. So, what are the Democrats going to say on
January 3? Is the impeachment inquiry still going on? Or is it over? JOHN YANG: And also help us. We’re going to be — people are going to be
hearing a lot of terms they haven’t heard before. We heard Speaker Pelosi talking about appointing
House managers. MICHAEL CONWAY: Right. JOHN YANG: Who are the House managers, and
why is that important? MICHAEL CONWAY: The House managers are essentially
the prosecutors. They’re very important. They’re members of Congress. They will go to the Senate. They will serve as the prosecutors in the
trial. And I believe a lot of Democrats would like
to have the designation and the status of being a House manager, but it’s really a job. It’s not an honorary position. They’re going to have to present the evidence
in the trial, whether they’re witnesses or not. And the fact that they may not subpoena new
witnesses, they can still bring the witnesses who appeared before the Intelligence Committee,
Ambassador Yovanovitch, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, and others. So they better be skilled prosecutors, skilled
questioners. And I think Nancy Pelosi understands that. JOHN YANG: And you also said that the speaker
and also Senator Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, want to slow this process down. They seem to be racing to get the impeachment
done in the House, but why would they want to slow things down now? MICHAEL CONWAY: Well, they want a set of ground
rules. They want witnesses. And I think some Republican members of the
Senate are going to be under some political pressure here. If Senator Schumer asks that these four witnesses
or others — he wants John Bolton, he wants Chief of Staff Mulvaney to be witnesses and
two others. They can ask Chief Justice Roberts, who will
be presiding over the Senate trial, to subpoena them. And the rules provide for subpoenas in the
Senate. That can be overruled. Chief Justice Roberts, in a normal trial,
what he says goes, but not in the Senate. The Senate, by a majority vote, can overrule
him. But let’s take Republican senators up for
reelection in hotly contested states like Colorado or Maine. The question is going to be, do you want witnesses
or not? A recent poll shows that 71 percent of the
American public want the witnesses to testify. So they’re going to have a tough vote. And whether Mitch McConnell can keep his 53
Republicans in line will be the question. JOHN YANG: Michael Conway, a lot of issues
we’re going to be talking about for weeks to come. (LAUGHTER) JOHN YANG: Thanks a lot. MICHAEL CONWAY: You’re more than welcome. Thank you. JOHN YANG: In the day’s other news: The House
approved one of President Trump’s top priorities less than 24 hours after impeaching him. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement modernizes
NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. It won overwhelming bipartisan support, plus
the backing of labor unions and business. REP. RICHARD NEAL (D-MA): Trade agreements can
achieve broad bipartisan support if they empower workers, protect patients, provide access
to affordable health care and improve our shared environment. I’m proud of what we did here, 14 months of
negotiating. REP. KEVIN BRADY (R-TX): It’s not a perfect agreement. No trade agreements are. And we will continue to work to improve the
areas that we think can be in future agreements. But, in any event, American workers have a
major victory in USMCA. And I’m proud to support it. JOHN YANG: The Republican-led Senate is expected
to take up the trade agreement next year. Today, the Senate moved to fund the federal
government for the rest of the fiscal year, and avert a partial shutdown this weekend. The package totals some $1.4 trillion, with
major increases for both domestic and defense programs. It also includes another $1.4 billion for
a southern border wall. The package already passed the House and now
goes to President Trump for his signature. One of President Trump’s biggest allies in
the Congress, Republican Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, said today he won’t
run for reelection. Instead, he said he’s open to taking a job
in the Trump campaign or in the White House. Meadows helped found the conservative Freedom
Caucus. He is the 25th House Republican to say he
is not seeking another term. In Britain, Conservative Prime Minister Boris
Johnson and his new majority in Parliament laid out their agenda, headlined by leaving
the European Union on January 31. Lawmakers gathered in the House of Lords for
Parliament’s official opening and the queen’s speech, which spells out the government’s
priorities. Later, Johnson spoke in the House of Commons,
and said that British people expect action. BORIS JOHNSON, British Prime Minister: If
there was one resounding lesson of this election campaign, one message I heard in every corner
of these islands, it’s not just that the British people want their government to get Brexit
done, though they do. They want to move politics on. JOHN YANG: The Tory agenda also includes a
new immigration system and increased spending on Britain’s National Health Service, after
10 years of a funding squeeze. There is a breakthrough in Lebanon’s political
stalemate. College Professor Hassan Diab was tapped today
to be prime minister, backed by Hezbollah, the Shiite militia allied with Iran. The former education minister arrived at the
presidential palace and said he would consult both politicians and protest leaders to form
a new government. Protesters are demanding that political elites
give way and enact economic reforms. Police across India detained more than 1,200
protesters today, after a ban on demonstrations against a new citizenship law. At least three people died in the protests. The police crackdown intensified as thousands
took to the streets. They are protesting a law that favors non-Muslim
migrants, saying it’s part of a push to make India a Hindu state. A plague of wildfires in Australia shows no
sign of ending. Scores of fires were burning today, putting
new pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to act on climate change as he vacationed
in Hawaii. Alex Thomson of Independent Television News
reports. ALEX THOMSON: The Fire Service said, we can’t
put them out. And they haven’t, six weeks now, and record
temperatures across Australia twice in the past week. Two more people killed today. That’s eight now. Close on a thousand homes destroyed, and we
are barely into the fire season. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, Premier of New South Wales:
New South Wales will be in a state of emergency from today for the next seven days. ALEX THOMSON: The Australian government insists
Mr. Morrison is receiving hourly updates on the fire crisis, and his deputy is in place
handling the situation. In the east, hectares turn to ash hour by
hour. In the interior now, indigenous leaders in
Australia say their ancient homelands are becoming uninhabitable. MAN: We want to be listened to. We want a future. LISA MUMFORD, Australia: Our bushfire season
is creeping into spring and winter. We are living in a dangerous climate, and
it is time for our prime minister to get out of the pocket of the coal and gas lobby groups
and to start thinking about the future of Australians. ALEX THOMSON: Australian fire chiefs want
a summit with the prime minister to address the climate emergency. He’s declined to meet. Sydney wreathed today in bushfire smog. The economic cost for Australia mounts daily. JOHN YANG: That report from Alex Thomson of
Independent Television News. In this country, the Pentagon said today it
finished a review of Saudi Arabian military trainees in the United States and found no
additional threats. Nearly two weeks ago, a Saudi officer killed
three American sailors at the Naval air station in Pensacola, Florida. Some 850 other Saudis have been grounded ever
since, pending the security review. Prosecutors in California have finished reviewing
a spate of horse fatalities at Santa Anita Race Track. They found no evidence of animal cruelty or
other crimes. In all, 49 horses died at Santa Anita in the
12 months ending last June. The report says that was more than the national
average, but fewer than in some other recent years. General Motors is recalling more than 900,000
pickup trucks and cars, nearly all of them in the United States. It involves problems with brakes and battery
cables. The affected vehicles are Chevrolet Silverados
and GMC Sierras from the last two model years, plus Cadillac CT6 sedans from 2019. And on Wall Street, upbeat earnings reports
pushed stocks higher. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 137
points to close near 28377. The Nasdaq rose 59 points, and the S&P 500
added 14. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: uncertainty
returns for the Affordable Care Act, and the president moves to rewrite the rules on prescription
drugs; and on the ground in California for tonight’s “PBS NewsHour”/Politico Democratic
debate. Since its creation, there has been no letup
in the fight over Obamacare. As William Brangham reports, a federal appeals
court has likely ensured it will be an issue in the 2020 campaign and beyond. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s right, John. A federal appeals court struck down the individual
insurance mandate. It was a key part of the Affordable Care Act. But the court avoided making a broader decision
on whether, in the absence of the individual mandate, the entire law should be invalidated. Instead, the judges kicked it back to a lower
court in Texas to look at that question again. Most observers believe Obamacare will eventually
make its way back to the Supreme Court for a third time, but likely not before the coming
presidential election. Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News is here
to help us understand what this all means. So, what does all of this mean? The court says, OK, the mandate is a no-go. What does this mean? JULIE ROVNER, Kaiser Health News: Well, what
it means now for people who are covered under the federal health law is not very much, because
everybody says that it will continue to be enforced until this is resolved. Basically, what it does, though is, as you
say, it creates a lot more uncertainty for the law. It is possible that the law could be struck
down in part or in its entirety. What the judge basically found — that the
lower court judge had found is that, when Congress changed the law in the 2017 tax bill,
it reduced the penalty for not having insurance to zero. What the Republican attorneys general who
brought the suit argued was that, without that penalty, it was no longer a tax and,
therefore, it was no longer constitutional, because that’s how it was found constitutional
in 2012, and, therefore, this part is unconstitutional. The lower court judge said, if this part is
unconstitutional, the whole law is unconstitutional, too. This court said, we’re not sure about that. You go back, lower court judge, and do a more
careful review of what might be allowed to stay and what would have to go. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Remind us again just that
— this obviously cast a huge cloud of uncertainty over the law itself, but it’s not just the
20 million people who rely on getting their insurance directly through the ACA, right? JULIE ROVNER: That’s right. The ACA has touched all parts of the U.S.
health care system. Yes, it’s directly responsible for about 20
million people who buy their own insurance through the marketplaces or who get the expanded
Medicaid coverage. But it also creates a lot of new benefits
for people on Medicare, for people on Medicaid. For people with private insurance, now their
adult children can stay on their health plans, they can get free preventive care. So there are lots of pieces of the health
law that are now embedded into the health system. If you tried to take it away, you could make
a big mess. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So we’re waiting to see
what this court in Texas does. Meanwhile, the attorney general of California
is part of this multistate sort of protection effort to try to keep the ACA intact. They’re trying to push this through the Supreme
Court quickly. Right? Explain what is going on in that. JULIE ROVNER: That’s right. This is Attorney General Xavier Becerra from
California, who said last night that he planned to go straight to the Supreme Court. It’s not a sure thing that the Supreme Court
would take this case at this point, because it hasn’t finished in the lower courts. But what he’s going to argue is that this
uncertainty is untenable and that the court really does need to take it up right away. And it is possible for the court to take it
up right away, perhaps as soon as before the election, although that would seem to be kind
of a long shot. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So the idea, is, though,
if they think that they have a better shot in the Supreme Court now, because is Supreme
Court thus for has, for the most part, upheld the ACA? JULIE ROVNER: Well, there are the four, you
know, liberal justices who they clearly would have and then John Roberts, of course, is
the one who has upheld the law twice now. He was the deciding vote in the 2012 case,
who said that, because it’s a tax, that it’s constitutional. So I think they’re betting that maybe they
would get the four liberals and John Roberts. And who knows, if they wait a couple of years,
what the court will look like. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One of the reasons we love
talking to you is because the policy so well, but you also know the politics of all of this. This certainly seems to force this right back
into the presidential election. How do you think this shakes out? Is this a positive for the Republicans or
the Democrats, or both? JULIE ROVNER: It’s a little bit of a draw. Had the judge agreed fully with the lower
court judge and said that the entire law is unconstitutional, then I think the Republicans
would have had a big problem, even though it wouldn’t have taken effect until it goes
to the Supreme Court. That would have been a much easier case for
the Democrats to make that Republicans are trying to get rid of this law. They can still make that case, to some extent,
but this is a little bit muddier. I think it will still be an issue going into
the general election, though, regardless of whether the Supreme Court has this case before
it this year. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We certainly are seeing
the Democrats debating not just the protection of the Affordable Care Act, but the expansion
thereof. Let’s turn to another issue, which is this
— the concern over the high cost of prescription drugs. The HHS secretary just announced that they
are going to start allowing states and some pharmacies and some other groups to import
drugs from Canada. What is this? What’s the proposal and what’s the idea? JULIE ROVNER: This is a 20-year fight. And it’s been bipartisan the whole time. Republicans — some Republicans have wanted
to do it. Some Democrats wanted to do it. The idea is to basically import other countries’
price controls. You get cheaper drugs from countries that
have price controls. Bipartisan commissioners of the Food and Drug
Administration have said, not safe. We don’t really know where these drugs come
from. If you go into a pharmacy in Canada and buy
drugs, it’s going to be safe. But if you’re importing it through the mail,
you don’t really know what you’re getting. This is the first time in administration has
said, we’re going to see if we can try this. But it’s very early. It’s not clear whether Canada would go along
with this and allow their drugs to be… WILLIAM BRANGHAM: They not so eager, necessarily,
to be our drugstore. (LAUGHTER) JULIE ROVNER: They are not. They don’t have enough drugs to supply the
United States. So it — but it’s definitely one of those
issues that both sides are trying to court voters on. And drug prices are a big political issue
going into 2020. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is it a function of simply
courting voters? Or is this, realistically, going to be meaning
cheaper drugs for people soon? JULIE ROVNER: If you could make it work, but,
obviously, there are not enough drugs in Canada to supply the United States. We’re a much larger country. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So I have heard. Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, thank
you. JULIE ROVNER: Thank you. JOHN YANG: The “PBS NewsHour”/Politico Democratic
debate starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. For a preview, let’s go out to the debate
site and three of tonight’s moderators, “NewsHour” anchor Judy Woodruff, senior national correspondent
Amna Nawaz, and White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor. Judy, after a lot of preparation, a lot of
hard work, the big night is here at last. JUDY WOODRUFF: It is here at last, John. We are so glad to be here at Loyola Marymount
University in Los Angeles. We are — and, by the way, there will be a
third moderator tonight, Tim Alberta of Politico. He will be joining us, along with Amna and
Yamiche. But, John, tonight we’re — first of all,
we’re glad it’s happening, because there was a labor dispute. We’re happy to report that’s been resolved. We can also say that the rules tonight are
pretty straightforward. The candidates will have a 1:15 to answer
the questions, about 45 seconds for follow-ups and so on, so pretty typical in terms of how
the debate goes. But there are some differences tonight. Amna, this is the first debate with just seven
of the Democratic candidates. AMNA NAWAZ: Just seven, right? (LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: That’s still a lot of candidates,
but, yes, it is the smallest debate stage so far. That has caused some controversy, as you know,
because there were some questions raised by Senator Cory Booker, who is not on the stage
tonight, about some of the rules to qualify. And — but it is also raising some controversy,
because it is the whitest stage to so far, just one person of color, despite a historically
diverse candidate field for the Democrats. But it’s worth noting it’s the last chance
in this calendar year for the candidates to make their case to some of these early Democratic
primary voters. They have a lot at stake tonight. JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s right, and that one
candidate of color being Andrew Yang… AMNA NAWAZ: That’s right. JUDY WOODRUFF: … who is among the seven. So, Yamiche, the fact that the debate is here
in California, that’s a first. We don’t usually see these Democratic or Republican
primary debates, for that matter, out here. And it has to do with when their primary is. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: That’s right, Judy. And then the date that California is going
to be voting actually got moved up in the process. So, there are a lot of candidates eying California,
looking at the delegates. I have been talking to some aides close to
Joe Biden. He might actually lose Iowa, New Hampshire,
which would be a big deal, because he is the former vice president, he had a lot of name
recognition. But his aides tell me, we’re looking for more
diverse states. And they’re looking at Nevada and California. They see this as a state that represents the
future of the Democratic Party. It’s one of the states that has a majority
people of color living in it. So this is a very important state. So, Democrats — and this is why, in some
cases, we’re now here today. JUDY WOODRUFF: And it reminds us that every
one of these debates has been important. They have held them in Georgia. They have been in different parts of the country. The fact that — I think it says something
to the country that the debates are being held everywhere, the Democratic Party very
much wanting to speak to American voters. Amna, we’re not going to share — or Yamiche
— what our questions are tonight. (LAUGHTER) (CROSSTALK) JUDY WOODRUFF: But I think it’s fair to say
that we have spent a good bit of time looking at what the issues are and where the candidates
stand on these important issues. AMNA NAWAZ: Absolutely. I think it’s fair to say that tonight will
feature a range of topics, just like all the other debate stages have so far. And we know polling shows there are a lot
of early voters out there who still haven’t made up their minds. And we don’t know what issue might be the
one that helps them to make up their mind about which one of these candidates they might
back when voting starts. Remember, those Iowa caucuses are not that
far away. JUDY WOODRUFF: They are not, starting February
the 3rd. And just quickly, Yamiche, in fact, the fact
that we don’t know what issue is going to affect how the voters make up their minds
means that we have had to go through, sift through a lot of suggestions from viewers
and followers of these candidates, which is a healthy thing. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: It’s a very healthy thing. And it also shows that there are a lot of
Democratic candidates and — that are still really trying to make their case and introduce
themselves to a lot of voters. A lot of voters I talk to say, we really want
to see something get down to three or four people. We want to try to figure out what the differences
are, because they agree on a lot of things, frankly. So it was really hard to kind of whittle down
that list, but we got that list. Of course, we can’t share it, but it is a
good list. JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. (LAUGHTER) JUDY WOODRUFF: Fingers crossed. Yamiche, Amna, we’re so excited that, tonight,
the debate is happening. To all of you, it’s 8:00 Eastern tonight. You can watch it on your local public television
station. Check your listings. And, of course, you can follow it online. I’m Judy Woodruff. We will see you tonight. JOHN YANG: A growing number of working Americans
are saving early and living frugally in order to retire young. Economics correspondent Paul Solman has our
encore look at the so-called FIRE movement. It’s part of our series Making Sense. PAUL SOLMAN: Pete Adeney almost always leaves
his Longmont, Colorado, home on two wheels, instead of four. It’s a lot cheaper. For seven years, Pete, AKA Mr. Money Mustache,
has been preaching parsimony on his popular blog. And he sure practices what he preaches. How much do you spend a year? PETE ADENEY, Mr. Money Mustache: We don’t
budget, but it seems to always end up around $25,000 to $27,000 per year for the family
of three. PAUL SOLMAN: Plus health insurance in the
low 30s. Adeney and his followers, known as Mustachians,
are key players in the F.I.R.E., or FIRE, movement: Financial Independence Retire Early. And we do mean early. Adeney and his wife left their engineering
jobs in 2005. PETE ADENEY: So, we were 30 at the time. PAUL SOLMAN: Mark and Sina Ebersole no longer
have to work either. And how old are you? MARK EBERSOLE, Early Retiree: Thirty-seven. SINA EBERSOLE, Early Retiree: Thirty-five. PAUL SOLMAN: Michael and Ellen Robinson, both
38, stopped working full-time two years ago. MICHAEL ROBINSON, UncommonDream.com: I had
this concept that saving as much as we could as early as we could would allow compound
interest more time to do the work. PAUL SOLMAN: How do they all do it? Adeney saved 50 to 75 percent of his income
over nine years as an engineer. PETE ADENEY: We just did a little bit less
than most people of our income level, and that was enough to save it. The U.S. tradition is to spend pretty much
everything we earn. We only have like a 3 percent savings rate. You just don’t do that, and you always have
a choice. PAUL SOLMAN: How much did you wind up saving? PETE ADENEY: Today, it would be about $1.1
million or a little bit less. That was what we decided was enough to live
on forever. PAUL SOLMAN: On his blog, Adeney espouses
the so-called 4 percent rule: If you salt away and invest 25 times your annual spending,
you can then withdraw 4 percent of your savings each year of retirement. But isn’t the market risky? PETE ADENEY: Put the money in the broad economy
through index funds, where you own thousands of companies, very conservative, and it’s
going to fluctuate just because the stock market fluctuates. But if you’re just taking a small amount each
year, you don’t care at all about that. Like, the stock market crashes, you’re still
taking your little 4 percent. Your — the stock market goes up, you’re still
only taking 4 percent, so that averages out over time. PAUL SOLMAN: Don’t spend money on things you
don’t actually need, he says. And don’t drive so much. PETE ADENEY: That’s my biggest winning secret
to a wealthy life, is just get out of the car a little bit. Driving is way, way more expensive than what
most people think. Most people think about gasoline as the cost
of driving. Really, it’s about five times higher than
that. So pretend gas is $15 a gallon. Then you’re starting to get an estimate of
how expensive driving really is to you. PAUL SOLMAN: Due to depreciation, maintenance,
insurance. Adeney saves so much because he’s also a do-it-yourselfer. Take his house. PETE ADENEY: The one that we live in now,
I built almost entirely from scratch. PAUL SOLMAN: So you put in your own plumbing? PETE ADENEY: Yes. PAUL SOLMAN: You did your own flooring? PETE ADENEY: Yes, that’s part of a house. PAUL SOLMAN: You did your own electricity? PETE ADENEY: I would do my own heart surgery
if it was safe. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: Last year, Adeney renovated a
dilapidated building on Longmont’s main street to create a co-working space for fellow Mustachians,
and added a tiny house conference room. PETE ADENEY: It was just $3,000 in materials,
partially from Craigslist, and then we get a dedicated office that’s year-round, insulated. PAUL SOLMAN: On top of the tiny house, nourishment
that costs even less. PETE ADENEY: I’m not an apple expert, but
I just call these delicious free apples. PAUL SOLMAN: Delicious free. (LAUGHTER) PETE ADENEY: So, cheers. PAUL SOLMAN: Cheers. ELLEN ROBINSON, UncommonDream.com: One of
the ways we save money is by only shopping at thrift stores. PAUL SOLMAN: Adeney has acolytes aplenty;
38-year-old retired teacher Ellen Robinson’s trick? Don’t buy new anything. ELLEN ROBINSON: This is from the loft, and
you can buy that for closer to $8, instead of buying it for $50. PAUL SOLMAN: As for the furniture in the home
Ellen shares with husband Michael and their two young children? ELLEN ROBINSON: Pretty much all hand-me-downs. The couch was a hand-me-down from my grandparents. These pieces of furniture right here were
hand-me-downs from when the office that Michael worked in had to downsize. The lamp, a friend from my work gave that
to me. PAUL SOLMAN: The coffee table? ELLEN ROBINSON: This is something I bought
at a resale shop. PAUL SOLMAN: By now, it will not surprise
you that the family car is also secondhand. ELLEN ROBINSON: We bought this 2007 Prius
used for $8,000 about four years ago. And it’s pushing about 195,000 miles, but
it still works just fine for our family. PAUL SOLMAN: One common feature of the fire
movement, credit cards used strategically. ELLEN ROBINSON: So, we get 6 percent on groceries
if we use this card, so 6 percent back, 3 percent on gas, and 3 percent on department
stores. PAUL SOLMAN: Michael, a former salesman who
still enjoys putting in one to two days a week as a consultant, says the family could
spend less than the $44,500 they spent last year. MICHAEL ROBINSON: There’s some cushion in
our budget. We’re not down to the bone right now, by any
means. PAUL SOLMAN: Do you feel at all deprived? ELLEN ROBINSON: No, I do not feel deprived. Do you feel deprived? MICHAEL ROBINSON: No, we don’t. ELLEN ROBINSON: I am not above the temptation. If I walk into the mall, I am just as drawn
to all those things as anybody else. But I just have a dialogue in my head about
the decision to very intentionally not, buy those things, and also just very intentionally
not going to the mall. PAUL SOLMAN: Restaurant visits are rare. Instead, the retired Robinsons spend their
ample free time cooking and eating at home with their kids. But wait a second. Aren’t there many Americans who simply don’t
earn enough to save anything, let alone the amounts Pete Adeney promotes? PETE ADENEY: I’m sure there are, but I also
would say that almost everybody can do better. And the lower your income level, the greater
the benefit is of figuring out where your money is going. So the median income is $60,000 or whatever
in the U.S. for a household. And what’s the bestselling vehicle? A $30,000-plus F-150 pickup truck. That’s the problem. We all scale everything up just a bit more
than we can afford. PAUL SOLMAN: But clearly not everyone can
do what Adeney has done. Even in retirement, he has earned enough from
his blog that he doesn’t need to stick to his $25,000-a-year budget. But he does, because, he argues, cutting consumption
isn’t just about cost-saving. PETE ADENEY: I would say it’s immoral to drive
like a six-wheel diesel pickup truck, compared to riding a bike or just picking the most
practical car for whatever your needs are. PAUL SOLMAN: Immoral because it’s polluting
the atmosphere? PETE ADENEY: Yes, it’s because of your effect
on other people and other living things. So, like, you’re going to consume a lot more
metal and a lot more fossil fuels just to carry your tiny self around. PAUL SOLMAN: Adeney does have followers who
can’t afford to stash away at Mustachian levels. Michelle Jackson turned out for a pop-up business
school held at Mr. Mustache’s co-working space to learn how to earn more, so she could save
more and retire early-ish. MICHELLE JACKSON, MichelleIsMoneyHungry.com:
There are many people who would like to attain that, but maybe they have to pay off debt
first in order to get to the point to invest and focus on those kinds of things. PAUL SOLMAN: How much do you owe right now? MICHELLE JACKSON: The amount that I’m focused
on now, minus the students loans, is about $11,000. PAUL SOLMAN: And even for debt-free higher
earners like Mark and Sina Ebersole, becoming financially independent began as a heavy lift. SINA EBERSOLE: It was pretty hard at the beginning
for me, paring it down, and saving, saving, saving, saving. That was a very foreign concept for me. PAUL SOLMAN: Did you like it? SINA EBERSOLE: No. It felt a little bit like, are we wasting
away our good years? PAUL SOLMAN: Ten years later, the former dance
instructor is grateful that she and Mark, an engineer, work only when they want to. SINA EBERSOLE: We’re working on opening a
ballroom dance hall. MARK EBERSOLE: It’s kind of like a dance — ballroom
dance studio, but more social-focused. PAUL SOLMAN: Ellen Robinson relishes the reward
of scrimping that drives the FIRE men and women seeking financial independence. ELLEN ROBINSON: So, it’s not necessarily about
not working, but it’s the freedom that comes with not having to work. Right now, my kids are 4 and 2, and I’m home
with them all day everyday, and not worrying about whether or not we can buy our groceries. PAUL SOLMAN: As for Mr. Money Mustache himself: PETE ADENEY: The goal is just to live a happy
existence and maybe leave the world better than when you started. So I have done small businesses like carpentry,
and a lot of dad work has been my biggest occupation, a bit of writing, some music. So, I still have, if I’m lucky, another 55
years of retirement to go. And I will let you know how that turns out. PAUL SOLMAN: And for as long as I can, I will
be all ears. This is economics correspondent Paul Solman
at Mr. Money Mustache headquarters in Longmont, Colorado. JOHN YANG: We are just more than an hour away
from the “PBS NewsHour”/Politico debate, which starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on PBS stations. For a preview, “NewsHour” political correspondent
Lisa Desjardins is in Los Angeles with a roundtable of guests. And, Lisa, it seems like I was just talking
to you from the Capitol about the impeachment vote, and now you’re out there. Could you just not — you just couldn’t wait
to get out of town after last night? (LAUGHTER) LISA DESJARDINS: Well, you can’t accuse “PBS
NewsHour” of being on just one coast. We hit both coasts within just 12 hours. And I think, John, as our viewers know, that’s
just how the news is these days. You’re the same way. How many topics are you covering in a single
show? We have to travel. And the stories are moving faster than we
can, almost. JOHN YANG: Absolutely. But you keep up with them, Lisa. That’s the difference between you and me. You keep up with them. LISA DESJARDINS: We try. JOHN YANG: And, sometimes, you keep ahead
of them. (LAUGHTER) LISA DESJARDINS: We try. But I’m also very fortunate. To help us through this debate tonight, we
have an esteemed panel. They will be with me now, also through the
entire debate. Let me introduce our wonderful anchor of “NewsHour
West,” Stephanie Sy, next to her, friend of “NewsHour” Amy Walter, of course, of Politics
Monday and The Cook Political Report. Next to her, we have Ryan Lizza of Politico,
and, of course, Laura Barron-Lopez also, national political correspondent for Politico. Ladies and gentlemen, I have a question for
you. With all of this news, how do any of these
candidates stand out, get any attention tonight? Stephanie, what could happen here that could
get some voters’ attention? STEPHANIE SY: You know, I think a lot of voters
are actually paying attention to these debates, because a lot of them are undecided. So, I think, really, for these candidates
to stand out, it has to be about policy, and it has to be about personality. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves. The first of the voting is less than two months
away. There are still so many people that don’t
know who they’re voting for. So, I think the candidates that really resonate
are the ones that can connect on a deeper level. You know, I think they want to get to know
people. We did a poll, PBS/NPR/Marist, last week that
showed most Democratic voters care about most about the candidate that can beat President
Trump, vs. the candidate that they identify with policy-wise. So I know a lot of the Democratic voters I
spoke to recently, they are picturing which are these candidates looks presidential and
they can picture on a debate stage, if there is a debate, with President Trump. AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: With
President Trump, yes. That’s a good point. LISA DESJARDINS: Amy, I saw you nodding about
that. You know these elections in and out. We’re 46 days, as Stephanie alluded to, from
the Iowa caucuses. AMY WALTER: Right. LISA DESJARDINS: Believe it or not, people,
we’re there. AMY WALTER: And it’s the… LISA DESJARDINS: Where it where is the voter
mind-set, the undecided voter mind-set now? AMY WALTER: Well, the undecided voter mind-set,
of course, is thinking about holiday shopping. (LAUGHTER) AMY WALTER: Which I have not done yet. Sorry, everyone on my list. LISA DESJARDINS: Come on. (LAUGHTER) AMY WALTER: I know. It’s still — so, this is both — it’s a good
time and a difficult time for these candidates, not just the deluge of news, but people are
literally traveling everywhere and getting their focus on family and holidays. But, look, this is the last time that these
presidential candidates are going to have a national audience before we hit the Iowa
debate in the middle of — in the middle of January, which is only a couple weeks before
the Iowa caucuses. And the other thing, Lisa, as you very well
know, a lot of the folks who are sitting on the stage may be spending some of their January,
a lot of their January, stuck in Washington at an impeachment trial. And so the fact that this may be the last
time for a while that we will see all of them together — and I think Stephanie makes a
good point. As they’re all — these are the top — these
are the top candidates all in one place. The fact that it’s a smaller field means that
we could probably get more of a robust discussion than you could get with 10 or 12 candidates
on stage. LISA DESJARDINS: And let’s look at this small
field tonight, the smallest field we have seen on stage, seven candidates tonight. That’s down from 10 in the last one. Let’s look at the lineup that we have got. These candidates will be on stage in order,
roughly, by their polling, with the highest-polling candidates in the center. That is former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont
Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. They will be flanked by the other candidates
who met the tougher qualifications for this debate, going left to right, Andrew Yang. Then we have got former Indiana Mayor Pete
Buttigieg, then, on the other side, another senator, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and another
businessman, Tom Steyer. Ryan Lizza… RYAN LIZZA, Politico: Yes. LISA DESJARDINS: … what lineups are you
interested in looking at? Who will engage with each other, do you think,
tonight? RYAN LIZZA: Yes. LISA DESJARDINS: What are the important points
of differentiating that we could see? RYAN LIZZA: Yes, you have a real dogfight
in the two early states, with those four candidates in the center basically being bunched up very
close to each other. You could make a case for any of those four
winning Iowa, winning New Hampshire. I remember covering the 2004 primary, and
John Kerry, who went on — went on to win Iowa, was at about 3 percent in one poll at
this point in 2003. So, I will be looking for how — the two candidates
on the left ideologically, not on the stage left, Warren and Sanders, do they start to
differentiate themselves a little bit? They have had this kind of funny nonaggression
pact between the two of them. So I will be looking for that. Does Biden, the national front-runner, take
some incoming? Do people feel like they need to start dragging
him down? Bernie Sanders, who’s back in second place
nationally, he has not really been the subject of much criticism on these debate stages. Does he start to take some fire? And then, finally, Pete Buttigieg, who has
been the aggressor in the last couple of debates, is a very gifted debater, a very gifted communicator. Where does he — he’s going to — if the past
is any — is predictable, he will go after someone tonight. Will it be Biden? Will it be Sanders? Will he continue on his sort of jihad against
Warren? So, those are the main things looking at. AMY WALTER: Yes. LISA DESJARDINS: Laura, do you agree? Or does Pete Buttigieg have too much to lose
now, now that he’s obviously — he’s right near the top in Iowa, he’s trying to regain
momentum? LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, Politico: I think he still
needs to differentiate himself or still draw those contrasts, potentially maybe with Biden,
right, because they pull from each other. Well, they have — they’re trying to carry
the same message forward. They’re trying to both carry this moderate
mantle all the way through. What I’m waiting for is to see if Buttigieg
and Warren get into it, because, in the last month, they have started to attack each other
more directly, warren specifically, who Lizza mentioned the nonaggression pact. Warren also had this rule that she wouldn’t
specifically attack Democrats by name. She would draw subtle contrasts. She changed that this last month by directly
naming Buttigieg and Biden. And so whether or not, if she’s attacked on
the debate stage, she decides to very directly draw those contrasts — I don’t necessarily
think she and Sanders are going to go after each other. She has sworn consistently that she will not
go after Sanders directly at all. LISA DESJARDINS: Yes, Amy. AMY WALTER: Well, I just want to bring up
something that Stephanie talked about earlier, this idea about who can beat President Trump,
right? Who’s the strongest candidate there? If you look at the polling we have seen come
in, in this last week, really, as impeachment is coming to a vote, what you find is that
the president’s job approval rating has actually ticked up a bit. Now, it’s still not great. He’s still averaging… LISA DESJARDINS: Clinton’s rose a lot during
impeachment. AMY WALTER: This one — this — he went from
averaging about 41 percent to averaging 43 percent. So this is very minor. But, again, if you’re… LISA DESJARDINS: It’s not going down. AMY WALTER: If you’re making the case that
the most important thing for those folks on the stage to prove is that they can beat a
candidate who is a president in a good economy, another poll that came out this week showed
that the president’s handling of the economy, job approval on the economy, highest it’s
been it since going back to the beginning of the year. So I think this case to be made about — for
these candidates tonight, the case to be made about, look, he’s going to be tough to beat,
this is a sitting president, sitting presidents are difficult to beat — it’s difficult to
beat sitting presidents when people feel like that president is doing a good job on the
economy. Optimism about the economy is as strong as
it’s been in about 10 or 15 years, maybe a little bit longer. Who’s going to be the one to be able to have
the discipline and the strength to go one-on-one with him? LISA DESJARDINS: Another difference about
tonight’s debate, not only will it have the fewest number of candidates on stage, but
this is the “PBS NewsHour”/Politico debate. And we know Judy Woodruff has said that she
wants this to be about substance. Now, I think you hear that a lot, but, to
me, that means issues. And we — and I’m wondering, Stephanie. You have been talking to a lot of voters. How do you think voters feel the economy,
especially Democratic voters, climate change — where are these issues? What issues do voters care about right now? STEPHANIE SY: Well, I think the economy is
always tops with all voters. If we’re going to look at what is unique to
Democratic voters, climate change, especially in California, factors very high on that list. But my question is, how do these candidates
differentiate themselves on that issue? Several of the candidates on stage have adopted
the basic Green New Deal policies. And so is that a place where they’re going
to be able to differentiate themselves? One of my questions is, as we all know, even
if the Democrats are able to win the White House and both houses of Congress, we’re looking
at probably whoever is president getting through one major piece of legislation. Obama chose to do health care. He wasn’t able to deliver cap and trade. So, I think, for a lot of California voters,
climate change is their number one issue. But when I was going around talking to voters
in the last few days, they all still talk about how expensive their health care is. And we — and that is going to be a major
issue, I think, that we will see delineated between these candidates, is that question
of the private option vs. Medicare for all. I still think that is a major fissure among
these candidates. RYAN LIZZA: Yes. Yes. LISA DESJARDINS: Ryan Lizza, we were talking
about this earlier. Talk a little bit more about Elizabeth Warren
and sort of the needle she is trying to thread right now. RYAN LIZZA: Yes, I completely agree with that. I mean, health care is always at the top of
issue polls of Democrats. It has been for the last couple of years,
and so health care, health care, health care. I know a lot of people who watch these debates
have — some reporters have been frustrated by huge chunks of time spent on health care,
but that is the issue that Democrats say they care about. And I think, if you look at the arc of these
debates from the summer until November, you started with this sort of consensus on Medicare
for all. That looked like the — where it was the sweet
spot in the Democratic primary. And, slowly, the arguments from the more moderate
candidates has started to resonate. The polls of single-payer among Democrats,
not just the broader public, has started to look a lot more favorable for the — Pete
Buttigieg-Biden version of Medicare for all, Medicare for… LISA DESJARDINS: Which — describe. Explain that to viewers. RYAN LIZZA: Right. So, the Bernie option would be, everyone would
go into Medicare, which is right now just for adults over 65, right? Warren adopted that strategy — or that policy
early in the campaign, famously said, I’m with Bernie. She struggled a little bit to put out a plan
detailing how she would pay for it. She did that. But then she added a little bit of a wrinkle
recently, where she said, in the first year, if she was president, she would just have
a public option. In other words, anyone who wanted to buy into
Medicare could do that. But in the third year as president, she would
do a full single-payer plan, transition to everyone in America would be in the Medicare
program. She’s now, on the campaign trail, started
to talk about that, started to talk about the public option, started to talk about choice. Sounds a little bit more where Pete Buttigieg
has been. I would be surprised if that difference didn’t
come up tonight, where — if Warren — Warren is likely to be challenged tonight on whether
that’s a shift or not. LISA DESJARDINS: This is the kind of substance
I’m talking about, everyone. This is awesome. (LAUGHTER) LISA DESJARDINS: There is also an issue that
is about what America looks like that I want to talk to you about, Laura Barron-Lopez. The candidates on this stage will not reflect
really what America looks like. There will be only one person of color on
this stage, Andrew Yang. Now, the moderators, however, that’s where
you will actually see more people of color, on the moderators, the four moderators. What does that mean for Democrats? Is that a potential problem for the party,
for the candidate they select? And what do we know about why that may be? LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. So, compared to July’s presidential debate,
it is a striking visual difference, which was that that was the most diverse presidential
debate in history. Five months later, today’s debate, the majority
of the candidates on stage are white. And so, in my reporting this past week, one
thing I heard a lot from Democrats, especially Democrats of color, whether it’s House members
back in Washington or ones that are local electeds across the country, is that there’s
the — they started to reflect a bit more on how Democrats got to this point. And there’s a bit of a fear that some Democrats
have, which is, what if Barack Obama wasn’t just the first black candidate — or black
man to be elected to the presidency, but what if he was the only person who is not white
to make it through that door for years to come, and whether or not the nominating process
leads to that. There’s been a debate that’s flared up about
whether or not Iowa and New Hampshire should continue to go first anymore in the nominating
process, and how that potentially favors white candidates because of the fact that those
states are 90 percent white, both of them. And the first diverse state is Nevada, third
— that goes third. So it also raises question about California’s
placement, right? LISA DESJARDINS: Right. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Which is that California
moved their primary up to be Super Tuesday, and how much impact does that have? Latinos are the biggest ethnic group in California. And that is a place where I think a candidate
like Bernie Sanders is very strong. And he could potentially win a state here
because he’s doing so well with voters like this. LISA DESJARDINS: Stephanie. STEPHANIE SY: You know, talking to voters
in California, one thing we have to remember is the absence of Senator Kamala Harris on
that stage. LISA DESJARDINS: Right. RYAN LIZZA: Yes. STEPHANIE SY: Now, Senator Kamala Harris is
somebody who ostensibly would have appealed to the diverse electorates we would see in
a state like Nevada or California. She never had a boatload of support here in
California. Sanders does have the edge among Latino voters
in California and elsewhere. And we have to talk about the importance of
these candidates that are on the stage tonight talking to African-American issues. African-Americans, as we know, are so important
within the Democratic electorate. None of these candidates are going to be able
to make it to the nomination without that support. Obviously, we’re seeing that Vice President
Biden has a lot of African-American support in the crucial state of South Carolina. But I would like to listen to whether they
are going to speak to issues that are important to those voters. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And that’s — that’s something
that… LISA DESJARDINS: In California. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, quickly, something
that Deval Patrick, who is, along with Cory Booker, they’re the only two black candidates
still left in this race. And I spoke to him this past week. And he said the big question that he has for
this debate stage is whether or not issues that are important to black and brown voters
will be raised by the white candidates. LISA DESJARDINS: OK. Thank you all. The smallest debate field in the nation’s
most populous state — the debate starts in about an hour. Our preshow starts in a half-hour. We’re looking forward to it. It will be a good night — back to you, John. JOHN YANG: Lisa, terrific analysis and the
sort of stuff we’re going to be looking forward to from you and your guests all night long. As you just said, remember, the pre-debate
show at 7:30 Eastern, the debate itself at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on PBS stations. And for now, that is the “NewsHour” for tonight. I’m John Yang. Join us online and again here tomorrow evening. For all of us at the “PBS NewsHour,” thanks and see you soon.

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