November 15, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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November 15, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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11/15/2021 | 57m 46s | Video has closed captioning.
November 15, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: the road ahead.
President Biden signs his $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law, as the path for the rest of his agenda grows more challenging.
Then: under fire.
The Pentagon faces new scrutiny for its handling of an airstrike in Syria that killed dozens of civilians.
And searching for justice.
A former inmate helps others navigate their release from prison and mentors at-risk youth still incarcerated.
INMATE: They make us feel like that we are in their shoes and that we can do bigger things with our life and we do have a future.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: Spirits were high at the White House as Democratic and Republican lawmakers joined President Biden to mark a historic legislative achievement, signing the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law.
The president praised the bipartisanship that got them here.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: The bill I'm about to sign into law is proof that, despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results.
We can do this.
(APPLAUSE) JOE BIDEN: We can deliver real results for real people, we see, in ways that really matter each and every day to each person out there, and we're taking a monumental step forward to Build Back Better as a nation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The $1.2 trillion legislation has $550 billion in new spending that will go toward public infrastructure projects across the country over the next five years, including money for roads, bridges and mass transit.
For more, I'm joined by our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor, and our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins.
So hello to so hello to both of you.
This is a moment the president has been working for, for a long time.
Yamiche, it's huge for him, and it's important for the country.
Tell us -- give us a sense of what is in this piece of legislation.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, this is a huge moment for President Biden.
Signing this bipartisan infrastructure bill into law is really something, a victory he has been looking for, that he has been wanting.
I was out on the White House lawn sort of shivering with all the other lawmakers.
And what I can tell you and was maybe not visible on camera was that there were so many lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, standing up and clapping during that event.
So, it was really a joyous event, and in a rare show of bipartisanship.
Now, breaking down what is in the bill, this is a historic bill.
As you said, it's $1.2 trillion, $550 billion of new spending.
Here's some key investments, also.
There's $110 billion for highways, bridges and roads, $66 billion for passenger and freight rail.
That, of course, includes Amtrak, the president's - - one of the president's famous ways to travel.
There's $55 billion for broadband Internet, which the White House says is important, especially during a pandemic, where so many people are relying on the Internet.
And there's $55 billion for water and wastewater to ensure clean drinking water for kids and communities.
The other thing to note, Judy, is that the president, the vice president, as well as number of Cabinet officials, the first lady, the second gentleman, they're all going to be fanning out across the country to talk about this infrastructure bill and talk about the larger Build Back Better agenda.
Now, the president tomorrow is going to kick that off.
He's going to New Hampshire.
Now, the president's going to travel to Woodstock, New Hampshire.
He's going to a Woodstock Bridge.
It's an 82-year-old structure that has been on the state's red list for needing repair since 2013.
Then he's going to travel to Detroit, and he's going to visit a General Motors factory.
It's sort of a reopening for the factory, because it's going to be retooled to specialize in building electric vehicles.
So this is really the president sort of hammering home the idea that this bill is going to have 0:06:02.830,1193:02:47.295 sort of direct impact on people, and that it's going to be, he hopes, felt pretty soon.
The other thing to note is that this Build Back Better agenda -- that's the sort of part two of this that the president was mentioning today even as he was signing the bipartisan infrastructure bill -- that bill is still sort of being negotiated.
But the White House is really hoping that the momentum from this first bill will carry that over.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And to you, Lisa.
You have read the bill.
We know it's historic in a number of categories.
Let's -- why don't you drill down on a couple of the really important ones, transportation and clean water.
LISA DESJARDINS: There is so much to say.
But these are two areas, both of which are historic in proportions in this bill, and both of which, I, most people will see in their local communities and states in the coming years.
So let's talk first about roads and bridges, traditional infrastructure, surface transportation, you call it.
So let's talk about what exactly is in that.
In total, this is new money and expected money, altogether, this bill, over $500 billion.
Almost half of this bill is for roads, rails and buses.
Now, that includes some big-ticket projects, like New York's Gateway Tunnel.
There's been a lot of problems with traffic, of course, getting into Manhattan, getting out of New York City, rails, cars.
This is something that that state and that the entire Northeast has wanted.
That will be funded in this bill.
But it's also a billion dollars for things like rural ferries in Alaska.
And, Judy, that's one reason that you saw some Republicans, like Don Young of Alaska, vote for this bill, because this bill essentially saves a critical infrastructure service for his state.
All right, let's talk about water.
Also, the most we have ever seen an investment in clean water in this country is in this bill.
So what's in it?
In terms of water, we have the largest clean water investment in history, as I said, and we will be -- they will replace lead pipes, probably not every lead pipe in this country, but it will make big gains in that area, and also tackle PFAS.
Those are chemicals that are very hard to clean up, finding more and more in places like the Great Lakes.
And this bill would tackle those problems that both need a lot of investment.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And back to you, Yamiche.
As you mentioned, despite this win, the president still has several challenges on his plate.
Surely, one of the biggest is inflation, rising rate of inflation.
How does this bill, if at all, affect that?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, inflation is top of mind for this White House and for President Biden, especially as you see his polling numbers starting to sink and Americans really saying that they're very, very worried about the economy, that the White House insists that this bipartisan infrastructure bill, as well as the Build Back Better Act, that it's going to help with inflation, that it's going to help bring costs down.
Now, the vast majority of experts, they agree that those bills will likely bring inflation down in the long term, but the short term is the issue.
There are a number of experts who say that this bill could actually increase inflation before it brings it down.
So, there's really sort of a real thing to watch there as Americans are worried and paying more for everything from gas to meat to Thanksgiving dinner.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, watching it across the board.
Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, thank you both.
Let's turn now to two mayors who were at the White House this afternoon and are on the front lines of the implementation of this new law.
Nan Whaley is a Democrat serving Dayton, Ohio.
And David Holt is a Republican leading Oklahoma City.
They both co-chaired the U.S. Conference of Mayors' effort to get the infrastructure bill passed.
And welcome to both of you.
It's very good to have you both here in the studio.
You're in town for the signing.
Mayor Whaley, let me start with you.
For people who haven't been following all the ins and outs of infrastructure, why is it going to make a difference?
Why is this important to your constituents in Ohio?
NAN WHALEY (D), Mayor of Dayton, Ohio: Well, across the country, and particularly in Dayton, we see that we have been trying to invest in roads, bridges, ports, and broadband.
That is really the basic of what the big word infrastructure means.
But, because we don't have federal funding and federal support, it takes a really long time, or bridges will just sit completely undone and become very dangerous.
So this is a safety issue.
It creates really good union paying jobs.
But also it makes people's ability to get to work a lot easier and not have to hit those potholes that they hate so much.
In my community, particularly, we have had the highest satisfaction rate in 40 years.
But the one thing that folks wanted a few months ago was better roads.
This will make that happen.
And those are the kind of things people see in their community every day.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Fewer potholes can be a winner.
Mayor Holt, Oklahoma City, what about your constituents?
What are you hearing from them that could make a difference here?
DAVID HOLT (R), Mayor of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Well, our taxpayers send a lot of dollars to Washington, and the one thing they want to get back our core services and core infrastructure.
And that's what this package provides.
And, specifically, in the package, I mean, 60 percent of it goes to roads and bridges.
And just as Mayor Whaley was saying, I mean, that's a huge issue in Oklahoma City.
We're a very sprawled Southwest city.
We're 620 square miles.
So it's always a struggle for us to keep up with our street resurfacing.
This will hopefully assist that.
But it's just as much of a struggle to keep up with public transit and bring that to a level that people expect.
And so the money in here for public transit is certainly appealing to us, and passenger rail.
The president is obviously known to be a big fan of Amtrak, so there's a big investment in passenger rail here.
And specifically for Oklahoma City, it promises to connect us north to Kansas, which opens up the whole Northern United States for us, and really the whole Amtrak system.
So those are some of the things, but all this stuff is hopefully stuff, programs we can tap into, whether it's the broadband, or the water infrastructure, and so on.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mayor Whaley, even people who like this, though, say it may take time to roll this out.
How long are people going to have to wait to see tangible benefits from this legislation?
NAN WHALEY: Well, it is a long-term plan, right?
It's not a year -- a year infrastructure plan.
This is over years.
But we will see.
We will see, I think, movement in the 1st of next year and some road dollars being moved pretty quickly really through what we call metropolitan planning organizations.
And so there are many projects in Dayton and communities across the country that are already on a list.
They just couldn't get the funding to get it done.
And so now that the funding will be there to rebuild roads, to make sure that we can start doing real broadband in our communities, you will start to see smaller projects at the very beginning, and then larger projects really move.
In Ohio, particularly, I think you will see, for example, the Brent Spence Bridge that connects Ohio to Kentucky that's been talked about nationally done, -- start moving really, really quickly, for example.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mayor Holt, I mean, are people -- are you bracing yourself that people are going to say, hey, wait a minute, when are we going to see something real coming out of this?
DAVID HOLT: Well, sure.
But I'm in a business where we plant trees so our grandchildren have shade.
NAN WHALEY: Right.
DAVID HOLT: I'm uncomfortable with the pace of things.
And we have got a lot of important initiatives in our city that we have passed over the last 30 years that people know it takes 10 or 15 years for those public works initiatives to finally open.
And so I think we're kind of conditioned to be ready for the wait, which is obviously going to be part of it.
But I also know, look, if anybody gets impatient, I'm going to say look, you know, when these projects weren't opening?
The last 10 years, when we were waiting on this passage.
NAN WHALEY: Right.
DAVID HOLT: Now we know it's going to happen.
It's just a matter of when.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The two of you are for it.
Obviously, the White House was very much for it, the Democratic leadership.
But, Mayor Whaley, we know most members of the Ohio Republican delegation voted against this.
I'm quoting Congressman Warren Davidson of Western Ohio.
He said, among other things: "It's pork-laden, it's not narrowly tailored, which is what we need.
It's reckless spending."
How do you answer that?
NAN WHALEY: Well, Senator Portman, an Ohio Republican, spoke today at the signing, and he really went through how the bipartisan action in the Senate happened, where we did have 69 votes for this in the Senate.
What happens, I think, that makes it so difficult in Washington, D.C., is, things get mired in partisanship; 63 percent of Americans support this infrastructure bill.
It's a huge number.
So it does have bipartisan support across the country.
What I think is frustrating for us, as mayors, to try to just keep on moving and get stuff done is that, a lot of times, when it comes to this town, everybody gets in their corners.
Now, I'm happy to see on this bill we actually saw bipartisan support, first time we have seen it in a really long time.
And so we saw people like Senator Portman or Congressman Gonzalez in Ohio vote yes for this.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mayor Holt, your party, the Republican Party, much more opposition.
Mayor Whaley is right.
The polls were showing bipartisan support, but Republican support seems to be sliding.
The entire Oklahoma delegation voted against it.
And then you have the comments from former President Trump.
He saying it's a non-infrastructure bill.
He's very sad that RINOs, Republicans in name only, were for this.
He says he's ashamed -- that Republicans who voted for it should be ashamed of themselves.
DAVID HOLT: Well, I mean, a lot did, I know not all, by any means.
But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell voted for this.
NAN WHALEY: Right.
DAVID HOLT: We had a letter from 400 mayors, bipartisan mayors across the country in all 50 states supporting this.
My state Chamber of Commerce supported this bill.
I mean, I get, as Nan said, that, like, there's politics in this city, and sort of people do things that have different motivations than just the face of the policy.
But mayors have been consistent over 10 years.
Mayors have come to that same White House in the Obama administration, in the Trump administration, and now in the Biden administration, seeking virtually the same thing, which was a major package, very similar, if not identical, to what we saw signed today.
And the politics change, but the needs don't.
The policy doesn't.
And ultimately, I'm just glad that it passed.
I don't have any grudge against anyone who voted no, but I am very grateful to the many Republicans, obviously, the many Democrats who worked together to make sure it did pass and did something that needed to be done in this country, regardless of the policy win here.
They worked together.
Republicans and Democrats worked together across these partisan lines to do something important.
And I hope that this isn't the last time that happens.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, just quickly to both of you, is this political opposition, do you think, going to affect your ability to implement this?
NAN WHALEY: I have noticed that, even when folks vote against it, they go and tell community members what came from Washington.
So I don't think it will actually affect implementation.
We saw this with the American Rescue Plan money.
As soon as it was passed, even folks that voted no came to Dayton to say what they gave to the community, which I find interesting.
We really -- we really want to make sure it gets done.
So we're fine with that.
So I don't think there will be much trouble on implementation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think there will be a problem?
DAVID HOLT: No, no.
I mean, everybody will -- these things, roads, and bridges, and transit, and passenger rail... NAN WHALEY: Everyone will be at the ribbon-cutting.
(LAUGHTER) DAVID HOLT: Everybody likes these things.
And it won't have anything to do with politics when it opens five years from now.
NAN WHALEY: No.
DAVID HOLT: They will all be there.
And that's OK. JUDY WOODRUFF: Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio, Mayor David Holt of Oklahoma City, thank you both very much.
We appreciate it.
NAN WHALEY: Thank you, Judy.
DAVID HOLT: An honor to be with you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: Longtime ally of former President Trump Steve Bannon faced criminal contempt charges in Washington.
He has refused to cooperate with a congressional investigation of the January assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Bannon entered no plea at his initial court appearance, but, outside, he declared his defiance of Congress, the president and the attorney general.
STEVE BANNON, Former White House Chief Strategist: This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden.
Joe Biden ordered Merrick Garland to prosecute me from the White House lawn when he got off Marine One.
And we're going to do -- we're going to go on the offense.
We're tired of playing defense.
We're going to go on the offense on this.
And stand by.
JUDY WOODRUFF: If convicted, Bannon faces a maximum one year in prison on each of two counts.
On the pandemic, health officials in New York City called for all adults to get booster shots, going beyond CDC guidance.
Several states have already taken that step as infections surge again.
Meanwhile, Austria ordered a lockdown for unvaccinated people through November 24.
A jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin, heard closing arguments today in the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial.
He killed two people and wounded a third during protests over racial justice last year.
Prosecutors argued that Rittenhouse triggered the confrontations.
The defense said he was chased by rioters, as the two sides made final presentations.
THOMAS BINGER, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney: When the defendant provokes the incident, he loses the right to self-defense.
You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create.
That's critical right here.
MARK RICHARDS, Attorney For Kyle Rittenhouse: They're going to get their licks in on Kyle Rittenhouse, or, as they perceive him, somebody from the other side who has been putting out their fires, causing problems for their -- for them, stopping them from wreaking havoc in Kenosha.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Earlier, the judge dismissed a misdemeanor charge against Rittenhouse for possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor.
President Biden and China';s President Xi Jinping will be meeting by videoconference tonight.
It is their first meeting since Mr. Biden took office.
And it comes amid tensions over Taiwan, human rights and COVID-19.
White House officials say they do not expect any major announcements.
The European Union widened sanctions against Belarus today for pushing migrants across E.U.
Thousands of people are camped along the Belarusian borders with Poland and Lithuania.
Hundreds have tried to cross illegally.
says that Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko ginned up the crisis to retaliate for earlier sanctions.
American journalist Danny Fenster is headed home from Myanmar after six months in jail on charges he spread lies about the military government.
He flew to Qatar today joined by one-time U.N.
Ambassador Bill Richardson, who won his release.
Fenster said he was relatively healthy.
DANNY FENSTER, American Journalist: I was arrested and held in captivity for no reason, so I suppose so.
But, physically, I was healthy.
I wasn't starved or beaten.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Just last Friday, Fenster was sentenced to 11 years of hard labor.
The International Space Station is keeping watch tonight for space debris.
U.S. officials say that a Russian weapons test destroyed an old satellite today, creating at least 1, 500 pieces of junk traveling at high speed.
Direct hits could endanger the station's crew of four Americans, two Russians and one German.
Back in this country, Vermont United States Senator Patrick Leahy is retiring after eight terms.
The 81-year-old Democrat is the Senate's senior member and the last of the Watergate class of 1974.
In Montpelier today, he said it's time to come home.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): I know I have been there for my state when I was needed most.
I know I have taken our best ideas and I have helped them grow.
I brought Vermont's voice to the United States Senate and Vermont's values around the world.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Leahy has been a leading liberal voice on human rights and the environment.
He's also appeared in five "Batman" movies along the way.
A 9-year-old boy has died of injuries suffered at a music festival in Houston, bringing the total number of victims to 10.
The victims were trampled in a crowd surge.
It happened during rapper Travis Scott's performance on November 5.
The nation's three largest pharmaceutical distributors went on trial today in Seattle over the opioid epidemic.
Washington state is seeking $38 billion for treatment and education, plus billions in damages.
And, in Cleveland, a federal jury heard closing arguments in a suit by two Ohio counties against three pharmacy chains.
And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained lost roughly 13 points to close at 36087.
The Nasdaq fell seven points.
The S&P 500 was virtually unchanged.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": how a former inmate helps others navigate their release from prison; Tamara Keith and Lisa Lerer weigh in on the president's infrastructure win and Steve Bannon's appearance in federal court; parents share their questions about vaccinating their children; and much more.
The Pentagon said today that it will request more information about a U.S. airstrikes in Syria that killed civilians in 2019.
A New York Times investigation describes a cover-up by the military in one of the worst incidents involving civilians in years.
Nick Schifrin reports.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In March 2019, the U.S. military and its Syrian allies attacked the remnants of ISIS in a small corner of Syria called Baghouz.
The U.S. military said it was supporting its allies on the ground, the mostly Kurdish SDF, or Syrian Defense Forces, against 200 ISIS fighters, including women and child combatants.
On March 18, 2019 U.S. aircraft heavily bombed those ISIS fighters, whom the U.S. says were threatening to overrun the SDF, and had already caused 30 casualties.
The U.S. military says it launched an investigation that initially determined the bombs had killed four civilians and wounded eight, that they were in legitimate self-defense, and proportional.
But The New York Times' investigation found that regional commanders immediately knew there were as many as 70 civilian casualties, and the Defense Department since then -- quote - - "concealed the strike."
Joining me now is one of The Times' reporters, Dave Philipps.
Dave, welcome to the "NewsHour."
We have just gone through what happened.
Your investigation, what do you believe regional commanders knew about the strike and when?
DAVE PHILIPPS, The New York Times: Here is what we know.
There was a secretive classified ground unit that called in this airstrike.
And it claimed it was a self-defense strike.
But there was another part of the U.S. military, an Air Force drone hovering overhead, and it was taking in the scene in high-definition color video.
And so people back in the command center were looking at this video.
And they didn't see really any combat.
What they saw was a very large group of what appeared to be mostly women and children essentially seeking shelter in a low-lying area.
Now, that doesn't mean that there wasn't fighting somewhere relatively nearby, but certainly not in the immediate area.
And then, without warning, they saw an F-15 fighter jet streak across and drop some very large bombs right in the middle of this crowd.
And when some of the survivors tried to stumble out of the aftermath, the jets came back through and killed them as well.
What was interesting is, immediately, when people saw in video in the command center, they were stunned and thought, that was a really bad strike.
That may have even been a war crime.
We need to report it and have it investigated.
And what people in that center found is, it was never investigated.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Who was sounding the alarm that this was a possible war crime?
What was the response?
And what has happened to that person since?
DAVE PHILIPPS: The person whose job it was to sound the alarm was a legal officer, a military lawyer in the Air Operations Command Center.
He was one of the people who saw this high-definition footage.
It was reported to him by other people as a concern.
And the regulations required that he reports it up the chain of command.
When he did that, essentially, time and time again, he was told, we're not going to do anything about this.
Don't worry about it.
Just drop it.
This officer, he is a lieutenant colonel named Dean Korsak.
He refused to drop it.
He tried to take it to the Air Force's version of the FBI.
They wouldn't do anything.
And so he eventually took it to the independent watchdog of the military, the Department of Defense inspector general, and said, you have got to do something with this.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And military officials who I talk to point out, look, we did be investigation known as a 15-6.
But your investigation found that -- quote - - "At nearly every step threat, military made moves that concealed the strike."
Why do you write that?
DAVE PHILIPPS: When the report went to the inspector general's office, the inspector general also thought, oh, my gosh, this is a really horrendous event, and it needs to be independently investigated by criminal investigators.
That is what our rules require.
And yet it wasn't done.
The investigation that was done was an investigation done by the same unit that called in the strike.
Essentially, they are grading their own homework.
And so, maybe surprisingly, what they decided is, hey, yes, this was a mistake, but not a big deal.
It was never reported up to higher authorities.
It was never looked at independently outside of that unity.
And no one was ever disciplined for it.
NICK SCHIFRIN: You have been covering the military for 15 years now.
There have been stories for many years about the military sharing less information than in the past on deployments, sharing less incite on how the wars are going, especially in Afghanistan over the last few years.
How big of an issue is this, whether the military is sharing all of the information that the public needs to grade and understand what it's doing?
DAVE PHILIPPS: You know, what is funny is that the military during the war against ISIS said that it was creating the most humane and transparent air war ever, you know, that they were going to be extremely careful, follow all sorts of rules, and if a single civilian report was -- report a single civilian happened, they would investigate it and report it publicly.
But what we found is that they sort of did the opposite.
They used the bureaucracy to make it appear that everything was OK, even when they hadn't done any actual work to make that assertion with any accuracy.
And so, in a lot of ways the new way of waging war is a lot like the old way.
The military is not very transparent, and it is not very responsive to the public.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Dave Philipps with The New York Times, thank you very much.
DAVE PHILIPPS: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tonight, we began the first in a series of stories on the challenges many formerly incarcerated people face.
William Brangham and producer Mike Fritz have this profile of Michael Plummer, who served more than two decades in prison.
He was released a year-and-a-half ago and he now works with at-risk youth to pass on the lessons he learned.
It's part of our ongoing series Searching For Justice.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For 42 year-old Michael Plummer, the reality of his freedom still hasn't set in.
MICHAEL PLUMMER, Credible Messenger: You say, OK, is this real.
You know, am I driving this car or am I at this restaurant?
And so I'm used to being home.
But, mentally, the mind is always there.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: There is the 23 years that Plummer spent in prison for a murder he committed when he was 16.
He was released in 2020, thanks to a Washington, D.C., law that freed some longtime prisoners if their crimes were committed as juveniles.
He's now been out more than a year-and-a-half, and we have been following Plummer as he's rebuilt his life.
He reconnected with his daughter, Mayana (ph), who was just 18 months old when he was arrested, and he became a grandfather.
And he married Ramell Thompson, whom he'd dated as a teenager.
He now works two jobs, one working for Clean Decisions, a company that hires formerly incarcerated people.
MICHAEL PLUMMER: You want to get people in your corner to champion you.
So, I champion you.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And another working as what's known as a credible messenger, where he counsels young people who are in custody in Washington, D.C. ANTHONY PETTY, Credible Messenger: You always have a choice in every matter.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Plummer's partner in that job is 47-year-old Anthony Petty, whom he met in prison.
ANTHONY PETTY: This time right here, you're basically in a confined area.
Use this time to do something.
And what you do, you read, you learn.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: When Petty was released last year, after being in prison for nearly 30 years for murder, Plummer helped him land this job and trained him how to do it.
MICHAEL PLUMMER: He served a 30-year prison term.
He reformed his life while in there.
And even though he spent a lengthy time in prison, it didn't affect his mental capabilities of being stable.
And so he's able to share with the youth a world of wisdom.
ANTHONY PETTY: We went to jail when we were 16.
So, one of the most important things that I want to do with the young people is, I don't want them to go through what me and Michael went through.
That's the most important thing.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Right.
ANTHONY PETTY: And by me being around Michael in his work for the credible message work force, you know, I learned a lot of things just by being around him.
MICHAEL PLUMMER: When I was young, went down the path I went down.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Research suggests this type of mentorship can have a big impact on young adults in the justice system.
One study found that, over a two-year period, a similar credible messenger program in New York helped reduce felony re-conviction rates by more than half.
INMATE: I want to get out, go home and have a good job.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One young man in the Washington, D.C., program told me these mentors are trusted because of their own backgrounds.
INMATE: They was incarcerated once.
They ain't let the 25 years, the 35 years to life impact them on what all they got going on for the future.
But they make us feel like we are in their shoes and that we can do bigger things with our life and we do have a future and we do have a family.
ANTHONY PETTY: I know you, as a mother, you always, always worry about what your son going through and stuff like that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And Plummer and Petty often meet with parents of the young people they see, like mother Ashley Angel Darton.
ASHLEY ANGEL DARTON, Mother: To him, it's like, it's small, somebody tripping.
He doesn't take accountability for his actions.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Darton says her son has been in and out of juvenile detention.
They're trying to help her understand what he's been dealing with and how to help him.
MICHAEL PLUMMER: Support him.
But you definitely got to let him know look, man, this ain't going to be tolerated.
You got some parents, like, they don't say nothing.
ASHLEY ANGEL DARTON: It's kind of hard to try to deal with a child that you don't understand.
So, it was -- like, it was really good to work with somebody that understands where you're coming from, understands what you're going through, and they could just basically relate to everything you're doing.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: While Plummer's long time in prison in some ways made him perfect for his job, it's not the same for his personal life.
MICHAEL PLUMMER: I'm used to being an introvert, so, a lot of times, I will still be in isolation mode, even though I'm in society.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Plummer and his wife, Ramell Thompson, first met as teenagers.
They both were single parents, they fell in love, and they even talked about marriage.
But then Plummer was arrested, convicted of murder, and given a 30-year-to-life sentence.
So when you find out that he's going to go away for a long time, what was your reaction to that?
RAMELL THOMPSON, Wife of Michael Plummer: I was mad.
I was pissed off.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Pissed off at?
RAMELL THOMPSON: Just the whole situation and him just leaving.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The two lost touch while Plummer was away, but when he got out, she says she'd forgiven him.
MICHAEL PLUMMER: I don't know if I asked her out or she asked me out.
RAMELL THOMPSON: You asked me out.
MICHAEL PLUMMER: You sure?
RAMELL THOMPSON: I'm positive.
MICHAEL PLUMMER: I think you asked me out, but... RAMELL THOMPSON: No, he asked me.
MICHAEL PLUMMER: But -- but -- so... WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I'm going to go with her on this.
MICHAEL PLUMMER: Oh, OK, we go with her.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Pretty soon, they fell back in love and got married.
MICHAEL PLUMMER: There's going to be a lot of stuff to move out.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Earlier this summer, they'd just celebrated their one-year anniversary and were busy packing up their D.C. apartment for a planned move into a new house they were about to buy.
Did this process feel natural to you from where you guys started and being apart and coming back together?
MICHAEL PLUMMER: I know that, when you meet somebody again, that it's a process.
Forget about what happened 20-some years ago.
You have got to deal with the right here and now and see where it go from there.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But forgetting is not always the easiest thing in the world to do.
How's that going for you?
RAMELL THOMPSON: One year, it was kind of rough, because this is something I'm new to also, being married.
So, I'm just -- just one day at a time.
I'm still learning him.
He's still learning me.
I mean, no marriage is perfect.
We have our days.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But a few months later, the stresses on the relationship got worse.
Plummer moved out, and is now living in a separate apartment.
They didn't buy the house.
He and Thompson are now in marriage counseling.
MICHAEL PLUMMER: I don't think nobody automatically has all the answers to a relationship.
It's a trial and error.
You me going to prison, I didn't have a constant relationship with a woman.
So, with that said, I'm not going to say it's me, I'm not going to say it's her.
I'm going to say it's both of us just trying to dance around marriage and make it work between the both us.
I'm a human being, I'm a returning citizen.
And I'm going to have a normal life, the ups and downs of it.
So I think, with this going on right here, I think this is going to bring us back together in a stronger bond.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: He says this optimism and faith has been crucial to getting him to this point, and he hopes it will continue to pay off in the times ahead.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham in Washington, D.C. JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, President Biden celebrates a major legislative win on infrastructure that could be a much-needed political win at a time when his approval rating with voters has been sliding.
Here to weigh what today's signing could mean and more, Tamara Keith of NPR and Lisa Lerer of The New York Times.
Amy Walter is away.
It's so good to see both of on this Politics Monday.
Tam, let's start with the president today, a big -- a lot of happiness, big smiles at the White House on the signing of this infrastructure bill.
It does come at a tough moment for the president.
Is this likely to lift him politically?
How do you see it?
TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: It was a big bipartisan party on the South Lawn, a party that he had been eagerly hoping to have.
But in terms of items that people are going to see in their everyday lives any time soon, that's not really what this is.
This is a long-term investment.
Last week, we were asking the commerce secretary, how long until this broadband shows up?
And the answer was, well, it may not be this year or next year.
It could take some time.
And so the political benefits may not be immediate.
And, also, like, if you talk about things that Americans are acutely worried about, yes, they drive over a bridge that they have concerns about, but going to the gas station, going to the grocery store, dealing with COVID still in their lives, those are items that are more top of mind.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lisa, how do you see the political equation here for the president?
LISA LERER, The New York Times: Well, I think Tam is exactly right.
That lag in terms of when these projects will actually come to fruition is really important here.
When are you out talking to voters -- I was out a lot during the elections that we had earlier this month -- people are not saying, man, I wish I just had better infrastructure, right?
They are talking about the cost of milk, the cost of gas, about what is going on with schools, when life is going to get back to some kind of pre-COVID normal.
So I think there has been a lot of focus in Democratic circles on getting things done.
And that's really important.
They have -- the Democrats have to look like they're governing.
But it is not just getting things done to get things done.
You have to get things done that actually impact people's lives.
And I suspect that we will see Republicans really continue to drive that economic message home, to push concerns about inflation, about schools, and about crime.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It does -- it raises all kinds of questions.
And we will see where that goes.
I want to turn to something very different, and that is another story we are reporting tonight, Tam.
And that is the indictment of former President Trump's very close adviser, Steve Bannon.
He refused to cooperate with the House special committee looking into the attack on the Capitol back in January.
We saw -- we aired earlier his -- some of his reaction.
He is going on offense, he says, and he specifically singled out the president, Speaker Pelosi, and the attorney general.
How do you -- how does one weigh the advantages for the committee of going after this prosecution, getting to the bottom of it, something so important to members of -- some members of Congress, but, on the other hand, the potential for retaliation?
TAMARA KEITH: Well, and, certainly, Steve Bannon is going to fight this.
He is a podcast host.
He is someone whose brand is built around being loyal to former President Trump, who really has nothing to lose in fighting this fight.
And so he is going to fight this fight, and seems to have very little incentive to cooperate, even though he was -- he had meetings very near the White House the night before the insurrection.
It was -- on his podcast, he talked about, things are going it to be wild.
In terms of will going after this compel him to testify, will that change things materially, it's not clear that it will.
The United States is currently in a situation where we have different sets of facts depending on your politics.
And this being as politicized -- I mean, it was already politicized.
That isn't really going to change.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Democrats, as we said, Lisa, are -- say they are determined.
They say this is important for the country, for our democracy to get to the bottom of what happened.
But the Republicans, many Republicans are looking at it as purely political.
LISA LERER: That is exactly right.
And it is not clear that this will help Democrats all that much when it comes to the midterm elections, that Americans are that focused on -- remain that focused on January 6, particularly when they are facing the kind of pocketbook issues we were talking about earlier.
I also think that -- but I do think today was a victory for the investigation.
It was a victory for Congress.
If there hadn't been consequences for Bannon refusing to comply with the subpoena, that would have really crippled this investigation.
And part of what we are seeing here is an effort by Republicans to just run out the clock.
Republicans very feel confident about their chances in these midterms, particularly in the House.
And they have made very clear in their words and actions that they have no intention of continuing this investigation, even though it is really important for the functioning of our democracy to sort of understand what happened on that day.
That is not something that is on the Republican agenda.
So they feel they can just run out the clock, they can take control of the House and they can basically push this thing aside.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A message from a number -- a growing number of Republicans is, we want to look ahead.
We don't want to look back.
That has all kinds of implications.
But the last thing I do want to ask you both about is Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, as we reported, longest serving member of the United States Senate, finishing eight terms.
He's not running again.
He's 81 years old, just for a moment about his legacy.
TAMARA KEITH: Yes.
And, sometimes, retirements are about politics, and, sometimes, retirements are just retirements.
You know, this is not an important part of his political legacy, but, to me, what stands out about Senator Leahy is all of the times I have seen him at events, at inauguration, or State of the Union or any of these events, where he has his camera.
He has like a nice lens, and he's taking pictures.
He's been in the Senate this long and has been part of the Washington establishment this long, and yet he marveled at the functioning of our government enough to continue to be a tourist, if you will, in Washington.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Not all the senior members of the Senate, Lisa, are saying they're going to retire.
We're thinking of Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
But what about Senator Leahy and the legacy he's going to leave after he leaves next year?
LISA LERER: Well, I do think this is a bit of a moment for the Democratic Party, a moment that's perhaps some in the party would argue is overdue, but will come, where you have a party where they have senior members that are octogenarians, septuagenarians.
That's most of the leadership in Congress is in their 70s and their 80s.
And so this is a thing that is going to happen to this party, that a younger generation will eventually have to take the reins.
And it's not clear who is going to rise up in this moment.
But I think this is the beginning of what we're going to see happen in this party over the next several years.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we should point out he has a year left, but he has announced.
And we will see what happens in the state of Vermont.
TAMARA KEITH: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Very good to have both of you.
Tamara Keith, Lisa Lerer, thank you both.
TAMARA KEITH: You're welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now let's return to questions about younger children getting the COVID vaccine.
And to do that, I would like to introduce Nicole Ellis, the "NewsHour"s new digital anchor and correspondent.
Nicole anchors live coverage on our streaming platforms, and will report for both the broadcast and our Web site.
She just finished speaking with parents about the questions they have about the vaccine.
And, Nicole, welcome.
NICOLE ELLIS: I'm happy to be here, Judy.
I talked to parents all across the country, and, in some cases, their kids too.
And one of the things they were most concerned about was when they'd be able to take the vaccine, and whether or not it's safe for their kids.
So, I want to introduce you to one mom in Yorktown Heights, New York.
Let's take a look.
CHILD: Hi, Nicole.
FARYAL KHAN-THOMPSON, Mother: Hi, Nicole.
Thanks for taking our question.
We are interested in knowing if there have been any developments regarding the COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 5 years of age.
And, additionally, for kids that are getting the vaccine now, are there any side effects that have been seen or that we can expect for kids?
NICOLE ELLIS: Her second question gets to one of the main underlying concerns of most parents, which is, is the vaccine safe?
And the short answer is yes.
But, just like adults, kids are going to have some of the same discomforts.
And according to the CDC, that includes soreness at the injection site as you're getting injected, as well as some redness and some swelling.
And that includes some potentially nausea or pain or aches and a fever in the days that follow.
And, finally, all of the research that's gone into creating a vaccine for adults and for children from 5 to 11 will play a role in creating a vaccine for children under 5.
So, while we may not have exact dates for when that will happen, we do know that there is a body of work that will propel that pace at which we have a vaccine for children under 5 to happen at a much faster rate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Nicole, you were telling us there were also questions about dosage and about in the case of a child who is just about to turn a year older, and parents trying to decide what to do.
NICOLE ELLIS: That's right.
A lot of parents want to know how the dosage works and whether or not, if their kid is at the cusp, let's say 11, 11-and-a-half years old, whether or not they should just wait for their child to get the full vaccine dose.
And I got some help from Dr. Payal Patel, an infectious diseases physician, to understand a little bit more how that works and give parents the right answer.
Let's hear what she has to say.
DR. PAYAL PATEL, Infectious Diseases Physician, University of Michigan: The reason that the doses come out the way that they do for the younger population is that they are getting as much medicine as you truly need, which is actually less than the adult dose, but is still just as effective.
So, the earlier the better.
All the research has been done to give the right dose to the right age groups.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Nicole, you told us, overall, there is a message for parents who just can't decide whether this is the right thing to do for their child or not.
NICOLE ELLIS: That's right, Judy.
But to answer that big question of whether or not it's worth it, it's important to think through the severity of the risks here.
And researchers and physicians like Dr. Patel all point out that the risk of the consequences for parents and for their children if they don't take the vaccine and if they contract COVID far outweigh the side effects or potential risks associated with the vaccine itself.
So, that's the biggest consideration a lot of parents are making.
And everyone that I have spoken to, both in the science world and who are practicing physicians, have pointed out that, while children may not be experiencing the most severe cases, they are still being hospitalized because of this virus.
And while it may seem like it's not necessarily as risky for kids or that they may just be OK, it's not worth finding out after they have contracted COVID and experiencing those consequences vs. navigating the consequences of taking the vaccine itself, or, rather, the side effects of taking the vaccine itself.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we know how seriously parents take these decisions, of course, about their children's health.
So this is all really helpful.
Nicole Ellis, welcome again.
And thank you.
NICOLE ELLIS: Thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch Nicole's full conversation with Dr. Patel about kids and vaccines on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.
For the last decade, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Andrea Elliott has been following Dasani, a child who grew up in homeless shelters and foster care in Brooklyn, New York.
And Andrea Elliott's new book, "Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City," expands on her 2013 New York Times profile of Dasani and asks readers to question their views about poverty and opportunity in America.
Tonight, she offers us her Brief But Spectacular take on seeing the unseen.
ANDREA ELLIOTT, Author, "Invisible Child": We tend to love this romantic story about poverty, which is that it's something you escape, that, if you work hard enough, that if you are talented enough, and maybe with a little bit of luck, you can make it.
For every kid who makes it out, there are so many more who are just as capable, just as talented, just as willing, but who face barriers that are much greater than their own talent and willpower.
And we don't ask ourselves why so many of those kids don't make it out.
We just tend to celebrate the one who did, because it lets us off the hook, in a sense.
And yet it is the path that I believe most represents what poor kids have to struggle with in this country.
I will never forget the first moment I saw Dasani and her family.
They were walking out of the shelter in a single file line with Chanel, her mother, at the front of the line.
They just exuded this togetherness as a family, this strength, this unity.
And over the next near-decade that I continued to follow her, I watched that family get broken apart.
I watched her survive things I never imagined on that first day meeting her that I would witness.
One of the first things she said to me was: "My name is Dasani, like the water."
Her mother named her for the bottled water because she wanted Dasani to have a better life.
And that bottle symbolized this other America, the people who could afford to pay for water.
Her grandmother Joanie named Dasani's mother Chanel after the fancy perfume, which she spotted in a magazine, at a time when that was the closest you could get to this other life.
To watch the Dasani grow up was heartbreaking and wildly inspiring.
It is an incredibly high-wire act to survive deep poverty.
It requires all kinds of small miracles of genius to just get through the day.
It's really important to reach past the labels that are given to a kid like Dasani, homeless, foster kid, poor.
Those labels are an invitation to delve deep into history.
Her great-grandfather fought in World War II when the military was segregated, returned with three Bronze Service Stars into redlined Brooklyn, unable to get a mortgage, unable to work in his chosen profession, and wound up earning about $200,000 less than he should have earned over the course of his lifetime, unable to buy a home, which is so critical to family wealth.
That road was cut off for Dasani's family.
For many years, I would describe my work as an attempt to understand.
It's almost a trope that journalists reach for.
That's how we explain our work.
The root of the word understand is understandan, which means to stand in the midst of.
I think, if I did anything in this decade with Dasani, it was to stand in the midst of her life.
And that was the greatest privilege of mine.
My name is Andrea Elliott, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on seeing the unseen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Very powerful.
And you can watch all our Brief But Spectacular episodes at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.
And for on the "NewsHour" online: Grammy Award-winning artist and animal rights activist Moby spoke with William Brangham about the connection between climate change and the steady consumption of animal products.
You can find that on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.
And that's the "NewsHour" for tonight.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
Join us online and again here tomorrow evening.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.