JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: a strong report.
The latest jobs numbers show the economy's unexpected resilience in the face of the Omicron variant.
We speak to the White House chief of staff about the president's economic and other domestic priorities.
Then: zero COVID.
The Chinese government continues its strict pandemic policies, with an ambitious quarantine system, to keep the virus out of the Olympics.
YANZHONG HUANG, Council on Foreign Relations: They use that to showcase the superiority of the -- its political system, the Chinese model.
And if they give up, that's tantamount to admitting that they have failed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it's Friday.
Jonathan Capehart and Gary Abernathy consider the president's nominees to the Federal Reserve Board and efforts to combat rising crime rates.
All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. labor market proved to be far stronger than expected last month, despite the Omicron surge.
Employers added 467,000 jobs, as the economy picked up momentum.
The Labor Department also said that there were a total of nearly 700,000 more jobs created in November and December than initially reported.
Wages grew by 5.7 percent last month, compared to a year ago, a good gain, but still below the rate of inflation.
And the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 4 percent, as more people returned to the job market.
President Biden took note of the big gains this afternoon.
And I spoke with Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, a short time ago.
Ron Klain, welcome to the "NewsHour."
This is a day of good news about jobs.
These are numbers the administration has to be happy about, not just last month, but November, December.
How much of this can the president take credit for?
RON KLAIN, White House Chief of Staff: Well, look, it's first and foremost an accomplishment of the American people, their resilience -- the president talked about that today -- their ability to take everything that the past few years, that the Omicron variant has thrown at them, and be back at work and fight on and help grow this economy, our business sector, our workers, everyone coming together to do this.
But I do think the president deserves a lot of credit for the policies we put in place that made this recovery possible, the Rescue Plan in March that got the economy off its back and going, buy American, made in America policies that have really restored our manufacturing strength, and the bipartisan infrastructure plan that's got a lot of Americans out there working building bridges and roads, airports, all these critical things.
So, it's been a strong economic policy that has unleashed the power, the creativity, the energy of the American people.
JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, there's already speculation that this could lead to higher-than-expected rate increases, interest rate increases, by the Federal Reserve in March.
How concerned is the White House about that?
And, as you know, the American people say they are very worried about inflation.
What can the president do about that?
RON KLAIN: Well, first of all, about the Federal Reserve decisions, we have a policy we don't comment on what the Fed does.
They do what they think is best for the nation in managing the monetary supply.
I will say, the president has sent five incredibly distinguished nominees to the Federal Reserve to the U.S. Senate.
I hope they will be confirmed shortly to add their voices -- some are continuing, some new members -- to manage the critical issues the Fed manages.
In terms of inflation, you heard the president talk today about understanding the pain the American people feel when they go to the gas pump and the grocery store and pay those higher prices.
And what he talked about today is his agenda on Capitol Hill to bring down the everyday costs Americans are facing, to cut the cost of child care, to cut the cost of prescription drugs, to cut the cost of health insurance,to cut the costs of eldercare for people taking care of elderly relatives and family members.
So, there is an agenda we have up on the Hill to really reduce the everyday prices the American people face.
I will let the Fed do its job.
We're going to do our job.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me turn you, Ron Klain, to COVID.
As we know, it does appear the number of cases of Omicron is receding.
But at the same time, the United States is now approaching 900,000 deaths from COVID, more than half of those since President Biden took office.
To what extent is that a result of the delay addressing the need for more tests on COVID, and, frankly, just understanding the seriousness of Omicron?
RON KLAIN: Well, Judy, I don't think anyone has or hasn't perished from COVID because of the lack of a test.
I think that we have people perishing from COVID because they haven't been vaccinated.
Well, we know is that vaccinated people, particularly fully vaccinated people who've been boosted, which we have made available out for many months, those people have a very, very, very small chance of severe illness or death from COVID.
The people who are dying from COVID now are overwhelmingly people who have not been vaccinated.
Now, that vaccine is available at thousands, tens of thousands of locations nationwide, free of charge, almost always without even a wait.
Same thing for booster shots.
And so we need to continue to do the work of getting more and more Americans vaccinated.
We have really made it as available as possible.
It is free.
It is safe.
It is FDA-approved.
And we need to see more Americans get vaccinated.
JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, Ron Klain, I'm sure you are aware there's been a lot of commentary, even criticism of the administration for mixed signals on boosters in the last part of last year, and mixed signals, frankly, on who's in charge when it comes to COVID policy and what the American people should do.
How do you answer that?
RON KLAIN: Well, Judy, I think that's ridiculous.
Jeff Zients has been the director of the COVID response since the early days of the transition.
And his leadership has been exceptional.
We got here, 2 percent of American -- less than two million Americans were fully vaccinated.
Now that number is over 210 million.
There were zero, zero at-home tests in America when we took over, zero.
Other countries had them.
We didn't have them at all, a year into the pandemic, none of them.
We now have hundreds of millions of tests available for people for use at home, available every single month.
We have made tremendous progress on the booster shots.
They were approved here this fall, and almost 90 million Americans now have gotten a booster shot.
So, we have done our jobs in terms of advancing this COVID response, making the tools available for people to manage the COVID response.
We have 75 percent of adults fully vaccinated.
That last 25 percent needs to get over the finish line.
They need to take advantage of the resources we provided that these -- again, these free vaccines available within five miles of the homes of 92 percent of Americans.
We have made the vaccines available.
We have made the boosters available.
We need the American people take advantage of them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Turning you now to the Supreme Court vacancy with the departure, the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer.
You probably weren't going to get their votes anyway, a number of these Republican senators, but many of them are now out there saying, Ron Klain, that the fact that the president has said he promised he's going to choose a Black woman for this position, that it's become an affirmative action pick.
Would it have been better for the president to simply not make that promise and then appoint a Black woman?
RON KLAIN: Well, I think what would be best, Judy, would be if senators waited to see the president's nominee, to hear who she is, what her credentials are, what her qualifications are, before they say that they're going to vote against her.
That seems like the fair thing to do to, give someone a fair hearing and judge that person once she's put forward to the Senate.
The president's commitment to put a Black woman on the Supreme Court is in the same tradition of Ronald Reagan's commitment to put the very first woman on the Supreme Court back in 1981, when he nominated Sandra Day O'Connor, and, frankly, just President Trump's commitment to replace Justice Ginsburg with a woman when he put Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court.
What I know is this.
President Biden's going to select an incredibly credentialed, outstanding woman of great character, of great achievement, of great knowledge in the law.
She will come before the U.S. Senate.
And I think that she will earned a lot of votes in the Senate based on the fact that she will be incredibly well-qualified for the Supreme Court.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So many things to ask you about.
I have got two final questions.
RON KLAIN: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One has to do with Ukraine.
The president told the president of Ukraine last month, with 100,000 Russian troops on the border, that there's a distinct possibility they will invade in the month of February.
Is that still the president's view?
RON KLAIN: Well, it is certainly possible they will invade.
Those troops are massing on the border.
Obviously, only Vladimir Putin knows if he will send them across the border and when he will send them across the border.
So, we certainly want the Ukrainians to be prepared for that possibility.
We have sent more aid to them in 2021 and early 2022 than this country has since 2014.
And we have obviously done a lot of work with our allies to be prepared for that possibility.
We're deploying U.S. troops to Eastern Europe to make sure our NATO allies are secured.
We're rallying the allies around the possibility of sanctions if President Putin makes this historic and tragic mistake.
So, we are ready for whatever President Putin does.
And we certainly hope, though -- we're engaged also in active diplomacy to try to prevent this tragedy from unfolding.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, a question about you, Ron Klain.
Again, you know a number of news reports in recent weeks about the role you have played as chief of staff, such a visible role.
There are not just Republicans, but a number of Democrats, saying that it's you who has pulled the president too far to the left, that's hurt his agenda.
They say that you have harmed the president's relations with and irritated leading Democrats on the Hill, Speaker Pelosi, Senator Joe Manchin.
How much personal responsibility do you think you shoulder for where President Biden is today?
RON KLAIN: Well, I'm proud of my role working here at the White House, helping President Biden achieve the successes we have achieved.
He's passed more legislation in his first year than any president in history.
That's thanks to very close work with Speaker Pelosi, who has been an outstanding legislative leader.
We have gotten Senator Manchin's vote on the Rescue Plan, on the infrastructure bill, on every single one of the record number of federal judges that we have confirmed to the bench this year.
So I think we're producing results for the American people.
That includes the jobs report we started talking about today.
I'm proud to play a role in that.
I'm proud to work with an amazing team.
I think there's way too much focus on me.
There's a lot of incredibly talented individuals here at the White House.
They are delivering for the American people every day, along with -- obviously, with the leadership, of course, first and foremost of the president and Vice President Harris.
I think we're delivering for the American people.
I think we will be judged by our results.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, thank you very much for joining us.
RON KLAIN: Thanks for having me, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: The Republican National Committee censured two GOP members of Congress for taking part in the investigation into the January 6 assault on the Capitol.
Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are the only Republicans involved in the congressional probe.
The RNC accused them of -- quote -- "participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."
Former President Trump and his running mate are clashing over the legitimacy of the 2020 election results.
Former Vice President Mike Pence insisted today that he could not have blocked Congress from certifying the results in his role as president of the Senate.
Speaking in Florida, Pence rejected Mr. Trump's false claims to the contrary.
MIKE PENCE, Former Vice President of the United States: President Trump is wrong.
I had no right to overturn the election.
The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone.
And, frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The former vice president's remarks were his strongest rebuttal yet of Mr. Trump on the events of January 6.
That giant winter storm sweeping across the U.S. dumped more than a foot of snow across the Northeast and New England today.
Airlines were forced to cancel another 3,400 flights.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul warned that ground travel is not safe either.
KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): What is really treacherous, yes, well, this storm is throwing everything at us.
We have snow, we have freezing rain, we have sleet, we have icy roads.
Our biggest concern right now is ice on the roads.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Ice also took down trees across the South and the Central U.S., and more than 370,000 homes and businesses lost power, from Texas to New York.
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has reached 900,000.
That is based on a count by Johns Hopkins University.
It comes even as new infections are falling in 49 of the 50 states.
Also today, Austria became the first country in Europe to impose a strict vaccine mandate for most adults.
It takes effect tomorrow.
Russia denied today that it is planning to fake an attack by Ukrainian forces to justify invading Ukraine.
The Russian foreign minister called the U.S. allegation -- quote -- "an absurdity."
Meanwhile, Russia's President Vladimir Putin met with China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing.
They affirmed support for each other's agendas on Taiwan, Ukraine, and other issues.
We will get details after the news summary.
The Winter Olympics are officially under way in Beijing.
President Xi presided over a gala ceremony today.
U.S. officials and other countries boycotted over China's authoritarian policies.
The Bird's Nest stadium hosted the spectacle, but attendance was limited by COVID restrictions.
Back in this country, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives pushed through a bill to funnel billions of dollars into the U.S. semiconductor industry.
They said the measure takes on China and its repressive policies, but Republicans argued it is toothless.
They spoke on and off the floor of the House.
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): Congress will show the American people and the world with clarity of purpose and the courage of our convictions that we do not take our global leadership for granted, that we will not miss the opportunity to strengthen American industry and create jobs of the future for our workers.
REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): Pass a bill on the floor of this House that has literally no chance of checking China, holding them to account, ensuring that they no longer continue to carry out the atrocities that they're carrying out.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Senate passed its own bill last summer.
The two measures now have to be reconciled.
A Georgia man and his son convicted of chasing and murdering Ahmaud Arbery have withdrawn guilty pleas to a federal hate crime charge.
Greg McMichael gave notice of his decision last night.
His son Travis did the same today.
Earlier this week, a federal judge rejected their plea agreement.
A federal jury in New York convicted attorney Michael Avenatti today of wire fraud and identity theft.
He was accused of cheating porn star Stormy Daniels out of nearly $300,000.
The money was for writing a book about an alleged affair with former President Trump.
In Puerto Rico, more and more teachers joined growing protests for higher wages and better working conditions.
Officials said 70 percent of teachers were absent from work, and some schools had no teachers at all.
A federal control board has approved a fiscal plan that falls short of the teachers' salary demands.
And on Wall Street today, stocks turned in mixed results.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 21 points to close at 35089.
The Nasdaq rose 219 points.
The S&P 500 added 23.
For the week, the Dow gained 1 percent, the Nasdaq rose 2.4 percent, and the S&P 500 was up 1.6 percent.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": the leaders of Russia and China forge a closer bond, raising eyebrows in the U.S.; another police shooting in Minnesota prompts calls for reform; plus much more.
The presidents of Russia and China, as we reported, met today and reaffirmed their desire to have closer ties.
The meeting comes as Russian troops continue to mass on the border with Ukraine, and after weeks of intense negotiation between Russia and the U.S. and NATO.
Amna Nawaz has the story.
AMNA NAWAZ: That's right, Judy.
In a joint statement, both countries said they -- quote -- "oppose further enlargement of NATO" and called on the alliance to abandon its -- quote -- "Cold War approaches."
The statement also said that China is -- quote - - "sympathetic to" and supports the proposals put forward by Russia to create long-term, legally binding security guarantees in Europe.
So, what does this all mean?
For that, we turn to Elizabeth Wishnick.
She's a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analysis.
That's a Navy-funded think tank.
She's on leave from Montclair State University, and has written extensively about Russian-Chinese relations.
Elizabeth Wishnick, welcome to the "NewsHour."
Thanks for joining us.
So, that joint statement earlier had some thinly veiled swipes at the U.S. and its allies.
Just step back for a moment here and tell us, what is this?
What are we seeing here?
What's driving the strengthening of Russian-Chinese relations right now?
ELIZABETH WISHNICK, Center for Naval Analyses: Well, I think the strengthening of the relationship has occurred over the last several years, even prior to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.
So, we -- I think we saw this trend after the financial crisis in 2008, when Russia and China saw that there were real problems in the international order, at least in the economic order, and they hoped to gather to create some alternatives.
And so they began to expand their partnership at that time, but, certainly, there has been a deepening of the partnership over the past eight years or so.
AMNA NAWAZ: But what does all this mean, in real-world terms, especially at this moment?
For example, if Russia were to invade Ukraine, do we know what China would do?
ELIZABETH WISHNICK: Well, let's look at what China did the last time.
So, in 2014, China was in a tight spot, because China has longstanding positions supporting territorial integrity and against the splitting of territories and so forth.
And so when a resolution came up in the U.N. Security Council in March of 2014, China abstained, and instead of supporting Russia on that resolution.
So I think China will try to thread the needle carefully this time as well, should that situation arise.
And I think a war in Ukraine is not in China's interests.
They have economic ties to Ukraine and other connections to Ukraine, with the Belt and Road Initiative, their trade and transit initiative that wants to connect China to Europe.
And Ukraine is one of the hubs that it hopes to use for that.
So I think Xi Jinping is hoping that there is a peaceful outcome to this crisis.
AMNA NAWAZ: At a time of rising tension between the U.S. and Russia and NATO, what does China get from this?
What does President Xi get from showing that there's a strengthened bond between his country and Russia right now?
ELIZABETH WISHNICK: Well, apart from Russia, China doesn't really have a lot of friends in the international arena.
So, Russia is really the main partner that China has.
And so it shows that China is not isolated internationally on the -- in the U.N. Security Council.
Russia has provided some key weapon systems to China that improve China's position in the Indo-Pacific region.
And both of them, they use one another to reinforce their understanding of the global norms that they would like to see, so norms that allow more space for authoritarian states and the ability to define some of the rules of the road that they think would benefit them.
AMNA NAWAZ: So, Elizabeth, there are those that look at this moment and say that it's actually very dangerous in a lot of ways.
They say they see two autocracies who are ideologically aligned who are attempting to create a dual crisis for the U.S. that the U.S. can't really fight on two fronts against two large powers like that.
One analyst actually said it's the greatest threat the U.S. has seen since the beginning of the Cold War.
Do you see it that way?
ELIZABETH WISHNICK: I certainly see this as a precarious moment, with more than 100,000 Russian troops poised on the border with Ukraine.
But I don't know that we're going to automatically see a two-front crisis here.
I think that the comment you alluded to refers to the prospect of some Chinese action against Taiwan occurring while the world is distracted by the Russian threat to Ukraine.
And I don't see that as happening, because China has longstanding interest in what it calls the reunification of Taiwan, which it considers a renegade province.
And this is such an important interest for China, I don't see it tying it to Putin's more opaque plans for Ukraine.
China and Russia don't always walk in lockstep on all of the issues that concern them, even though they have the same interest in changing some of the rules of the international system that they feel work against them.
AMNA NAWAZ: That is Elizabeth Wishnick from the Center for Naval Analysis joining us tonight.
Thank you so much for your time.
ELIZABETH WISHNICK: Thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The city of Minneapolis is once again at the center of controversy after a young Black man was killed Wednesday by the police as they executed what is called a no-knock warrant.
This killing is raising further questions about that particular tactic and police policy more broadly.
William Brangham has our report.
And a warning: There is some very disturbing video in this report.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It was early Wednesday morning when the Minneapolis Police Department's SWAT team executed a no-knock warrant as part of a homicide investigation.
Police entered the apartment, announced their presence, and approached 22-year-old Amir Locke, who was sleeping under a blanket on a couch.
Locke didn't live in the apartment.
He was just visiting.
And he wasn't even named on the warrant.
But he had what his family says was his legal permitted handgun with him.
And when police saw it in his hands, they shot and killed him.
The whole event took just a few seconds.
Police bodycam footage was not released until late last night.
This is what it showed.
And, again, some people may want to turn away for about 10 seconds.
(SHOUTING) POLICE OFFICER: Get on the ground!
Get on the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) ground!
(GUNSHOTS) WILLIAM BRANGHAM: At a press conference last night, Minneapolis' interim police chief, Amelia Huffman, described how she interpreted the video.
AMELIA HUFFMAN, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Interim Police Chief: As they proceeded toward the back of the apartment, as you saw in the video, there was a couch.
And you can see that there's a form under a blanket or comforter that begins to rise up.
The officers were approaching.
They were giving commands to show your hands, show your hands.
And, as they got close, you can see, along with an individual emerging from under the blanket, the barrel of a gun.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Separately, Locke's distraught parents described their son today as a law-abiding citizen, a legal gun owner, and someone who had deep respect for law enforcement.
Amir's mother, Karen Wells, spoke earlier today about her heartbreak and what she wants to see happen.
KAREN WELLS, Mother of Amir Locke: I should not have to be here.
I should be able to FaceTime with my son, like I did on -- last Friday.
I should be able to tell my son that I love you and he says, I love you, too.
At the end of the day, I believe that he was executed by the MPD, and I want the police officer that murdered my son to be prosecuted and fired.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For more on this case, I'm joined by Amy Forliti.
She is a reporter for the Associated Press based in Minneapolis, and she has been following all of this closely.
Amy, thank you very much for being here.
Could you just tell us what else we ought to know, what we do and do not know about this tragedy?
AMY FORLITI, Associated Press: There are many unanswered questions still at this hour.
A development that just happened recently is, we learned that the search warrants in this case that were being executed were -- are now filed under seal in court.
So that's not something we will have immediate access to.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As we heard there, Amir Locke's mother saying she wants the police officer who shot her son to be arrested and prosecuted.
I know there's an ongoing investigation.
The state attorney general is involved.
What else is that looking into specifically?
AMY FORLITI: Well, that investigation will look into whether the officer was reasonable in his use of force, whether he perceived a threat, and, as the police chief, the interim police chief said yesterday, that the officer made a split-second decision when he saw that gun, and perceived there was a threat, and made the decision to shoot.
And so that's something that the prosecutors will be looking at very carefully as they're trying to assess whether this officer should be charged.
In Minnesota, officers are allowed to use deadly force if they have a reasonable reason to fear that their lives or the lives of others are in danger.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It seems that these no-knock warrants, where the police don't have to identify themselves until they are inside a building, seems to run headlong into the Second Amendment, which grants the right of people to have guns to defend themselves.
I mean, if the police suddenly appear in your home, and you don't realize you're in the middle of a sleep, as it seemed to be in this case, I mean, there seems to be a real conflict there.
AMY FORLITI: In fact, one gun rights group, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, released a statement saying that Amir Locke would have done what any gun owner would do in that situation.
They said he legally had a gun.
He was allowed to have it.
He was awoken from what appeared to be a deep sleep.
Someone kicked the place -- the sofa that he was on.
There was confusion, shouting all around him.
He grabbed a legal means of defense and assessed the situation.
And they say that that -- he had every right to do that and it's something any gun owner would have done in a situation like that.
Attorneys for Locke's family are saying that, unfortunately, in cases where gun owners are Black, it often ends in tragedy like this.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We have seen other instances where these no-knock warrants have turned deadly.
And I know there was a lot of talk about trying to reform that practice.
But it seems like there's certainly more to be done on this front.
AMY FORLITI: Right.
And that's another thing that has come up today.
The Minneapolis Police Department did update its policy on no-knock warrants after the may 2020 death of George Floyd.
And they updated their policy to say when they execute a no-knock warrant, they have to first announce their presence at the threshold and continue to announce their president as they are searching a residence or an apartment.
And they also have to give people time to respond to the fact that they're there.
And statewide in Minnesota, there were also some limitations and restrictions placed on no-knock warrants.
But, today, the governor and many other activists and law enforcement are saying that it's time to revisit that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This terrible tragedy is happening, of course, as you well know, in Minneapolis, where the second trial of the police officers involved in the killing of George Floyd is going forward.
There was the Daunte Wright case that just happened there.
And now this tragedy happens.
I'm curious, from your reporting, how is the community responding?
Are people worried about protests or unrest happening?
AMY FORLITI: Well, I think protests and unrest is -- they're always a possibility.
There are some protests planned.
And, by all accounts now, those are likely to be peaceful.
But activists who have spoken out already are saying that there's just this overwhelming sense of anger right now and a feeling that police are lying to the community yet again.
And they say that, in this case, because of the narrative that came out initially, when police announced that this that this killing happened, their news release called Amir Locke a suspect at first, and they gave a narrative where they said that he was pointing a gun in the direction of officers.
And when you look at the body camera video and a still image that was released alongside that, activists are looking at that and saying it doesn't look like he was pointing a gun at anyone.
Now, the police are countering that by saying that the officer who he was pointing a gun at is not in the frame of the video.
But for many people impacted by this, that just doesn't seem to be enough, and they're not buying it.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Amy Forliti of the Associated Press, thank you so much.
AMY FORLITI: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just moments ago, the mayor of Minneapolis imposed an immediate moratorium on no-knock warrants.
The Beijing Winter Olympics officially begin today, the second Games during the pandemic and hosted by the country where coronavirus originated.
China's hard-line policy on containing the virus has included vast lockdowns of millions and severe restrictions for its citizens.
Nick Schifrin reports on an Olympics in the era of COVID and how measures designed to keep athletes safe are also silencing Beijing's critics.
NICK SCHIFRIN: For the 2022 Winter Games, the Olympic mascot might just be a man in a hazmat suit.
Beijing Airport staff greet all athletes, covered head to toe and administer athletes' third COVID test in five days before they can even arrive at the ultimate sporting test.
JOANNE FIRESTEEL REID, Olympic Athlete: It's called the closed loop, and we really actually do hope it's fully closed.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Joanne Firesteel Reid and Deedra Irwin are biathletes, a combination of cross-country skiing and shooting.
Before they left, they embraced China's COVID restrictions known as the closed loop.
They sent us videos of their welcome wagon, fully space-suited, a police-escorted bus ride to their hotel, and finally seeing the slopes inside the Olympic bubble, where it all felt worth it.
DEEDRA IRWIN, Olympic Athlete: We're totally OK with getting the really obnoxious PCR tests that hurt our brains for a whole day.
(LAUGHTER) DEEDRA IRWIN: obviously, police escorts are a little different, but they're trying to keep us safe, and they're trying to keep us healthy, and that's all we can ask for.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Already, they have spent nearly three months isolated from their families.
and within their team bubble, Reid and Irwin have their own mini-bubble.
JOANNE FIRESTEEL REID: The only person that we can take our mask off in front of when we're indoors is our mini-bubble, so that would be my roommate, Deedra.
DEEDRA IRWIN: We really want to wanted to close our bubble, and make sure absolutely no chance of getting COVID.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The Olympics' closed bubble means wire fences separate events and the athletes' village from the rest of the city.
Inside the loop, athletes can check out anything they like, but they can never leave.
A Canadian journalist posted a photo from inside her room of packing tape blocking her exit for 30 minutes, until her airport test came back negative.
And anyone who tests positive is immediately quarantined.
KIM MEYLEMANS, Olympic Athlete: I'm not sure I can handle 14 more days NICK SCHIFRIN: Belgian skeleton athlete Kim Meylemans said she her second test came back negative, but was denied permission to isolate in the athletes' village.
KIM MEYLEMANS: We are not sure I will ever be allowed to return to the village.
And, obviously, this is very hard for me.
NICK SCHIFRIN: After the video, authorities relented, and defend their procedures as necessary.
ZHAO WEIDONG, Spokesperson, Beijing Winter Olympics Organizing Committee (through translator): We have been making effective measures, and everything is under control.
Without safe Games, there would be no Games.
NICK SCHIFRIN: It's not only inside the Games.
The country maintains one of the world's strictest testing schemes and lockdowns.
Just last month, because of a few hundred cases, 20 million Chinese were ordered to stay in their homes.
YANZHONG HUANG, Council on Foreign Relations: They simply do not want to give up what they already have achieved.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Yanzhong Huang is the Council on Foreign Relations' senior fellow for global health.
He says China sticks to the zero COVID policy not only because it's kept cases relatively low, but also for politics.
YANZHONG HUANG: They use that to showcase the superiority of the -- its political system, the Chinese model.
And if they give up, that's tantamount to admitting that they have failed, right, and their system is no better than the U.S. NICK SCHIFRIN: But the system requires harsh lockdowns.
Last month in Xi'An, a city of 13 million in Central China, this woman was refused care for two hours.
She was eight months pregnant, and miscarried.
In another video, a woman says her father had a heart attack and died when he was blocked from all of the city's hospitals.
And anyone infected, or even deemed a close contact, was forcibly bused to quarantine centers far from the city center.
YANZHONG HUANG: After Xi'An, with -- thanks to the social media, all these reports about all this dark side of the zero COVID strategy, now people, like, increasingly feel this is, like, excessive.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And China used its COVID controls to further restrict.
For nearly two years, Chinese have needed green codes on health tracking apps to travel.
Yellow or red means you can't travel.
In Beijing, the app tracks everyone's movements.
Authorities say it prevents outbreaks.
But over a secure messaging app from Beijing, human rights lawyer Wang Yu told us it's used to control critics of the Communist Party.
WANG YU, Human Rights Lawyer (through translator): From October to December, during that period of time, I was unable to apply for a health declaration, even though I didn't go to any high-risk areas.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Wang represents persecuted minorities and government critics.
In 2015, she was the first of more than 200 activists and lawyers arrested in what became known as the 709 Crackdown.
She spent more than a year in detention.
Do you think Beijing is manipulating the COVID app in order to prevent you from traveling because of the nature of your work?
WANG YU (through translator): When I encounter restrictions, I ask if there is any legal basis for these restrictions.
They immediately say, because you asked so many questions, we will change the color of your health code to yellow or red.
This is how they threaten and act against you.
Using the codes is actually how they manipulate and control.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The government has long controlled Wang and other critics' movements.
But, under COVID, it's gotten worse.
WANG YU (through translator): Because of the pandemic, people face even more restrictions on their liberty.
Even if most people do not agree with the lockdowns, they do not dare say so.
You should all know, no one has freedom of speech.
If you say something against government policy, you will be suppressed or persecuted.
NICK SCHIFRIN: For athletes who've been training all their lives, today is a dream come true.
but some of the steps that Beijing is taking to keep them safe from COVID are also used to keep its Beijing's critics silent.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we now turn to the analysis of Capehart and Abernathy.
That is Jonathan Capehart and Gary Abernathy, both columnists for The Washington Post.
David Brooks is away.
It's very good to see both of you on this Friday.
Jonathan, I want to start with some news that former Vice President Pence made today.
He made a speech.
A lot of people were watching to see what he would say.
And he -- what caught our attention is, he said President Trump is wrong to say that he could have overturned the results of the 2020 election.
He said it's time to turn -- turn to the future.
What does this say about the state of the Republican Party, when you also have, what, the Republican National Committee today censuring Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the only Republicans working on the January 6 investigative committee?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, Judy, to me, it says that the Republican Party is still undergoing a huge identity crisis.
Former Vice President Mike Pence has been saying what he said today in various forms over the last year with less heat than he did today.
But saying flat out that Donald Trump is wrong, and that he had -- and that Vice President - - then-Vice President Pence had no ability, no power whatsoever to overturn the will of the American people is the clearest break we have seen between the two.
And it says to me that the former vice president has decided: Whether I run for president or not, I can't win over Donald Trump.
I can't win over his people.
And so right now the focus is stay in the party and do everything I can to shore up that side of the party.
And it's that side of the party, Adam Kinzinger, Liz Cheney, both Republican members of Congress, who today were censured by the national party, but that is the fight.
It's the Pences, the Cheneys, the Kinzingers, and I'm sure a whole lot of other unnamed folks vs. Donald Trump and all of those people within the Republican Party who are taking it down a very dangerous road, not just for the party, but for the country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Gary Abernathy, an identity crisis, as Jonathan said?
GARY ABERNATHY: I agree with most of what Jonathan said.
I think that that's right.
There's been a lot of talk lately about, what does the Republican Party stand for?
And I wrote a piece last week saying it doesn't really need to figure that out this year, except that it needs to spend 2022 divorcing itself from Donald Trump slowly, but surely.
I think Pence -- I have always admired Pence for saying what he's always said.
And he said it again very strongly today.
I think the party's wrong to try to discipline Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.
I just think that's a mistake.
So I think that the party is slowly, but surely trying to -- there are more and more people.
I think -- I disagree with Jonathan on one thing.
I think Pence does have a chance to peel away some folks.
I mean, people have to give Mike Pence a lot of credit for the role he played in helping elect Donald Trump, in the successes that Trump had as president.
But, yes, there's no doubt the Republican Party is trying to figure out what it is and what it's going to be going forward.
And I think, as time goes by, it will come to the conclusion, painfully for a lot of people, that it can be the party of Trumpism, but not with Trump.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But just quickly to both of you, so this -- Jonathan, this doesn't put an end to questions about what the Republican Party is going to do with Donald Trump?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Oh, no.
And the fact that there are still arguments over -- within the party over whether -- over what to call the January 6 insurrection just goes to show, just in high relief, what this identity crisis is.
You have the Kinzingers, the Cheneys -- and the Cheneys in particular who are making it clear that what happened on January 6 was an affront to the Constitution and an affront to American democracy, and that a functioning national party should have no -- shouldn't give it any quarter, should not give it any - - anyone who subscribes to that any comfort.
And the fact that we are even having this conversation just goes to show how far gone the Republican Party is.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Gary Abernathy, turning to something else we were watching this past week, a few weeks ago, President Biden nominated three economists to join the Federal Reserve Board, and this at the same time there's so much attention to who he may appoint to the Supreme Court to succeed Stephen -- Justice Stephen Breyer.
Of course, the president has said it will be a Black woman.
He did appoint three economists.
We're going to remind you who they are.
Sarah Bloom Raskin is one.
Lisa Cook is another, Philip Jefferson.
Again, they're all economists with a string of credentials to their names.
But Republicans in the Senate, Gary, have gone after all three of them, questioned their qualifications, and especially gone after Lisa Cook and questioned whether she has the credentials to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board.
What does it say about the ability of a president to argue, I want diversity on the Federal Reserve?
GARY ABERNATHY: Well, I think it's OK to go question people.
These are high-profile positions.
And it's fine to ask tough questions.
I don't think that that necessarily implies or insinuates anything, other than differences, political, ideological differences, that Republicans tend to have with whoever President Biden is going to nominate.
But, Judy, I'd like to see us get back to the place where partisanship is OK when it comes to when you win elections.
When you win elections, you also win the right to do certain things.
You win the right to make appointments to boards and to the courts of people who you want.
And I'd like to see us get back to the day where the opposition party respects that and says, even though that's not who we would appoint, that's not who I would like to see there, I respect the fact that you have won the right to make the appointment of whoever you want.
And I'd like to see us get back to where we don't have to worry, gee, is this a 50/50 Senate when it comes to approving appointments, because you respect the process, you respect the fact that Joe Biden won this election, so he can make the appointments that he wants.
And I'd like to see -- when a Republican is president again someday, I'd like to see Democrats say, we know you're going to appoint conservatives to these boards and to the courts, but you know what, you won, we're going to respect that and we're going to vote for that person.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Jonathan, that's not where we are.
We are watching just a lot of criticism of these three nominees and, as we said, especially Lisa Cook.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Yes.
Why is it, Judy, that whenever a person of color is nominated to one of these prominent positions, the immediate first question is, are they qualified, or their qualifications are questioned, when that person of color, in particularly Lisa Cook, are overwhelmingly qualified?
It is galling.
And it is ridiculous.
And these questions to start to morph from, are they qualified to serve in these positions to questioning their humanity.
I mean, in Lisa Cook, we're talking about somebody with a BA from Spelman, a BA from Oxford, a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, the Obama White House Council of Economic Advisers.
She's on the Federal Reserve board in Chicago.
I mean, this is someone who is eminently qualified.
And yet, when we're talking about someone's qualifications, it's all focused on her.
And I don't think -- it is not coincidental that she is Black.
And it's not coincidental that she's also a Black woman who's being put through this.
And I just have to say, as an American, and certainly as an African American, it pains me to see someone who worked so hard, who's given so much to the people and the institutions she's worked with, but also to her country, to then have to sit before members of the Senate who question who she is, what she's done, and what value she -- she brings.
How these folks, anyone who sits before these confirmation hearings, is able to sit through that and not just lose it to defend themselves and defend where they come from and who they are is a testament to why they should be confirmed to the positions that they have been nominated to.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The last thing I want to turn both of you to, and that is a subject in the news this past week, rising violent crime in the country, especially homicide.
In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams had President Biden come and meet with him and talk to him about what's going on and what to do about it.
Here is just an excerpt of what President Biden had to say when he was in New York City this week.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: Mayor Adams, you and I agree.
The answer is not to abandon our streets.
That's not the answer.
The answer is to come together, police and communities building trust and making us all safer.
The answer is not to defund the police.
It is to give you the tools, the training, the funding to be partners, to be protectors, and community needs you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see, Gary, the -- how this discussion has evolved?
Because, after the death of George Floyd, a lot of conversation about the need for police reform.
Of course, Mayor Adams is coming at it from a different -- with a different approach.
Where are we headed on this -- on these issues - - on this issue?
GARY ABERNATHY: I thought President Biden said the right thing yesterday when he said, we don't need to defund the police.
But I also thought it was kind of sad that he had to say it.
I think it's unfortunate when a president - - and presidents may rule here when it comes to this, is setting the tone.
And you need to say, you know what?
We support our police departments.
When someone calls 911, we want someone to come.
And the fact that there were members of his party calling a couple of years ago for defunding the police, both in Congress and at the city level, and he has to come out and say -- and, to his credit -- I mean, to be fair, I have never heard President -- President Biden's always said, we don't need to defund the police.
But it's a shame he's in the position he has to do that.
He also talked a lot about gun control.
I don't think guns are the problem.
People using the guns are the problem.
A gun has never gotten up and walked out and killed anyone.
So, gun violence, it's the people who would use guns for violence, Judy.
And we need to look at the root cause of that.
We know we have a drug problem.
I was looking at an article just a little while ago about record number of fentanyl coming across our border.
We need to shut that down.
That leads to gun violence.
So I'm glad President Biden said what he said yesterday.
Again, I think it's unfortunate that he has to be a guy saying, we shouldn't defund the police, because that should be obvious.
Of course, we shouldn't defund police.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jonathan, just -- I know it's a big subject.
Just 30 seconds left to talk about how this debate has shifted.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: It shifted in that, one, on defunding the police, no one serious out there wants to defund the police.
I think what President Biden and certainly Mayor Eric Adams are trying to do, they are trying to walk this line of support supporting the police, but also supporting communities who have serious concerns about how the police do their jobs in terms of protecting the community.
I think the two of them want to make the police and the community partners.
And in a lot of places around the country, they are.
But, as we have seen, especially tonight in Minneapolis, with William Brangham's report, there are serious issues.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It's such a big subject.
And I know we're going to be coming back to it.
Thank you both, Jonathan Capehart, Gary Abernathy.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Thanks, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Have a good weekend.
GARY ABERNATHY: You too.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For 30 years, Dr. Joel Shamaskin was a primary care physician in Rochester, New York.
Then he received a life-changing diagnosis.
Tonight, he offers his Brief But Spectacular take on living with ALS.
DR. JOEL SHAMASKIN, Retired Primary Care Physician: The first winter after I was diagnosed with ALS, I was admiring the snow-covered pines near our home, and recall wondering how many more times I get to enjoy that.
But, as seasons pass and years pass, I realized I wasn't dying from ALS.
I was living with it.
I'm a retired primary care physician.
I was, unfortunately, forced to retire early because of my ALS diagnosis six years ago.
People inevitably lose the ability to walk, move, eat, speak, and breathe.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure.
Shortly after my diagnosis, I knew I wanted to get involved in the ALS community.
I liken ALS advocacy to a long-distance relay, where they know they're working for the same goal.
After my diagnosis, I could feel myself internalizing the identity of a disabled person.
I look at people in wheelchairs and I feel this connection to them.
And I think about the things that I know my grandchildren get out of seeing me with a physical limitation.
I know that their watching me gives them a respect for people who have physical differences.
So, even though I can't run around with them, I'm giving them something that's less tangible.
After I'm gone, I think that the way I have lived is what I want my kids and wife and family to remember.
My name is Joel Shamaskin, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on living with ALS.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Shamaskin, what a gift not just to people with disabilities, but to all of us.
And that's the "NewsHour" for tonight.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
Join us online and here again on Monday evening.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and have a good weekend.