JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: on the edge.
U.S., European and Russian leaders hold separate high-level talks in an ongoing attempt to defuse the tensions wrought by Russia's aggression toward Ukraine.
Then: facing justice.
Jury selection begins in the federal hate crimes trial of the three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.
And on the front lines.
Pharmacists struggle to keep up with demand for COVID vaccines and other services amid widespread staffing shortages.
JENNIFER MORROW, New York: I felt like I was an octopus pulled in eight different directions, and one of them is having to give vaccines.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: It was a day for diplomacy on the Ukraine crisis, from Washington to Moscow and beyond, all this as more than 100,000 troops mass along the border with Ukraine.
Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin breaks Dow this busy day.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: I'm delighted to have the chancellor here today.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Across nearly 5,000 miles from the White House to the Kremlin, a day of diplomacy.
French President Emmanuel Macron met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and expressed hope that war could be averted.
Putin called the talks useful.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russian President (through translator): Some of his ideas and proposals, about which I think are too early to speak, but I think these ideas could form a basis for our further joint steps.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And new German chancellor met with President Biden and tried to present a united front.
JOE BIDEN: He has the complete trust of the United States.
Germany is one of our most important allies in the world.
There is no doubt about Germany's partnership with the United States, none.
OLAF SCHOLZ, German Chancellor (through translator): It is important that we act together, that we stand together, and that we do what is necessary together.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But the unity rhetoric doesn't match the whole reality.
Germany prevents fellow NATO members from sending German ammunition to Ukraine.
And Germany refuses to publicly threaten the German-Russian pipeline Nord Stream 2 if Russia invades Ukraine.
Germany has indefinitely paused the certification process.
The White House wants to use that pause as leverage over Russia.
Today, Biden was clear.
And Scholz switched to English to try and back him up.
JOE BIDEN: The notion that Nord Stream 2 would go forward with an invasion by the Russians is just not going to happen.
OLAF SCHOLZ: We will be united.
We will act together.
And we will take all the necessary steps, and all the necessary steps will be done by all of us together.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The U.S. and much of NATO are trying to take military steps to reinforce the alliance.
Today, American soldiers usually based in the U.S. landed in Poland to bolster 1,000 NATO troops already deployed there.
European countries are also reinforcing NATO's eastern flank with European jets and European soldiers, all an attempt to deter any war in Ukraine from expanding into NATO.
But the Russians continue to expand their military footprint on NATO and Ukraine's borders.
The Ministry of Defense released this video nearly every day of troops practicing the tactics they could use if they invaded Ukraine.
U.S. officials tell "PBS NewsHour" Russia now has nearly three-quarters of what they would need for a full invasion.
And U.S. officials say if Russian solders soldiers did invade, they could inflict catastrophic casualties, including 50,000 civilians, and cause millions to flee.
The U.S. also fears that Russian soldiers could capture Kyiv and overthrow the government in a matter of days.
JOE BIDEN: He is in a position now to be able to invade almost assuming that the ground is frozen above Kyiv.
He has the capacity to do that.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And Biden also urged Americans to leave Kyiv.
JOE BIDEN: I think it would be wise to leave the country, not -- I don't mean our -- I don't mean -- I'm not talking about our diplomatic corps.
I'm talking about Americans who are there.
I hate to see them get caught in a crossfire.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But nothing is containing Russia's military buildup, even as diplomacy continues.
President Macron heads to Kyiv tomorrow.
For the "NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: Several states moved to end COVID mask mandates in public schools.
New Jersey Democratic Governor Phil Murphy announced his state's mandate will expire one month from now.
He cited declining infections.
But Murphy said those who want to continue wearing masks are free to do so.
PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): A district reserves the right to keep something in place.
And secondly, I think most importantly, an individual, based on their own health, reserves that right.
And we cannot stigmatize a decision like that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: New Jersey is one of a dozen states with a current mask mandate for schools.
Another one, Connecticut, announced today that its requirement will end on February 28.
And Delaware said its mandate will end March 31.
We will return to this issue later in the program.
A second man will plead guilty to plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer over COVID restrictions.
In court documents filed today, Kaleb Franks said that he and five others planned to abduct Whitmer.
The FBI arrested the men in 2020, before the plot could be carried out.
Four of them still face trial.
The U.S. Supreme Court late today blocked a lower court's order rejecting a Republican-drawn map of congressional districts in Alabama.
The 5-4 action means that the new map will govern the November elections.
The lower court found the map allows for only one majority black district out of seven in a state where more than a quarter of the population is black.
In Madagascar, more than 60,000 people were homeless, with 21 dead, after a tropical cyclone struck over the weekend.
The cyclone made landfall late Saturday and weakened as it moved southwest across the island nation.
Thousands of homes and government buildings lay in ruins, along with crucial rice crops.
It was a second tropical cyclone to strike Madagascar this year.
Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has again denied that she accused a Chinese official of sexual assault or that she's in danger.
She told a French newspaper that it was all - - quote -- "an enormous misunderstanding."
Meanwhile, officials at the International Olympic Committee would not say today if they believe Peng is under duress.
MARK ADAMS, Spokesperson, International Olympic Committee: We, as a sports organization, are doing everything to ensure that she is happy, and I don't think it's up for us to be able to judge in one way, just as it's not for you to judge either in one way or another, her position.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The IOC also said that its president, Thomas Bach, had dinner with Peng over the weekend.
United Nations experts say North Korea has intensified its cyber-stealing from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.
The Associated Press reports that the North stole $400 million in cryptocurrency last year.
Investigators say the funds are being used to fund North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
Back in this country, Spotify says that it will go on streaming commentator Joe Rogan's podcasts, at least for now.
That's after Rogan apologized for using racial slurs.
He was already under fire for anti-COVID vaccine comments.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told employees on Sunday that silencing Rogan is not the answer.
He said -- quote -- "Canceling voices is a slippery slope."
On Wall Street, stocks spent the day searching for direction.
The Dow Jones industrial average ended with a gain of one point to close at 35091.
The Nasdaq fell 82 points.
The S&P 500 slipped 16.
And at the Winter Olympics, a tough day for an American star.
Defending gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin skied off course early in the women's giant slalom and was disqualified.
The U.S. did win the silver medal in team figure skating, with Russia taking gold.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": states lift school mask mandates, intensifying an already heated debate; Tamara Keith and Amy Walter consider the latest political news; we examine the history of one of the nation's first majority Black farming communities; and much more.
We return to diplomatic efforts under way to defuse the Russian-generated crisis over Ukraine.
Nick Schifrin has the story.
NICK SCHIFRIN: After French President Macron's meeting with Russian President Putin today, what are the prospects for easing tensions?
And how are these talks viewed by the rest of Europe?
For that, we turn to Heather Conley, president of German Marshall Fund of the United States, which focuses on improving transatlantic relations.
She was a State Department official on European affairs during the George W. Bush administration.
Heather Conley, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
So we heard from Vladimir Putin today during his press conference with Emmanuel Macron.
And Putin said that some of Macron's ideas could represent future diplomatic steps.
Is that the sign that the prospects of a Russian invasion of Ukraine have been lessened?
HEATHER CONLEY, Former State Department Official: Nick, it's really unclear.
We're not entirely sure what proposals President Macron was bringing to Moscow.
He said in an interview before his departure for Moscow that he was looking for a so-called new balance between sovereignty and peace.
President Macron has been really investing in his personnel relationship with Vladimir Putin.
Going back to 2019, he initiated a strategic dialogue.
He also is about to run for reelection in April.
So President Macron sees a very unique opportunity here to promote a European approach to this crisis.
He has been, I think, very disturbed that the United States and Russia were seemingly to manage European affairs over his head, over European heads.
So this was a way for President Macron to about directly to Moscow, use that investment over the last several years.
But he seems to be very interested in accommodating Russia's concerns about its security guarantees.
But he walks a very delicate balance, because he also travels to Kyiv tomorrow to talk to the Ukrainian government, but he can't sell out Ukrainian sovereignty.
So, unclear what those five hours of talks produce, but it is clear that Vladimir Putin would like to tease this out.
He continues to escalate and flow forces towards the Ukraine border to apply pressure on President Zelensky and his government.
Meanwhile, he is trying to achieve some divisions within Europe and potentially some transatlantic divisions, if President Macron creates a proposal that, in fact, can't be accepted by other members of the NATO alliance.
NICK SCHIFRIN: OK, well, you suggested yourself that Macron feels like he -- the U.S. has gone over Europe's head and that he is trying to -- quote -- "accommodate" Putin.
That is not what the United States wants right now.
So is this moment a moment of transatlantic division, of Macron freelancing?
HEATHER CONLEY: Well, again, we don't have privy to that.
We know President Macron did speak with Joe Biden yesterday before his trip.
So, hopefully, there was some conversation.
We know, certainly, that the White House is very interested in de-escalation, in diplomacy.
President Biden certainly reaffirmed that after his meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
So this is certainly a moment, but, again, at what cost?
And, again, we have other European allies, particularly those allies that border Ukraine, border Belarus, that see this increased military escalation, they are very wary of potentially what President Macron is proposing.
So I think we have to be very clear-eyed about what he is able to achieve.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Macron is emphasizing talks between France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine to discuss agreements known as the Minsk Accords from 2014-2015 that focus on trying to reduce violence in Eastern Ukraine along the border.
And, today, President Putin said there was no alternative to those Minsk agreements.
So, is that format a path towards de-escalation?
HEATHER CONLEY: Well, that has been a format that, unfortunately, has not produced diplomatic benefits.
In fact, if anything, the cease-fire in Eastern Ukraine, in Donbass, has been violated every day repeatedly since the Minsk agreements were formed.
There were some moments of promise, of prisoner exchanges, some humanitarian checkpoints to allow citizens to cross between the line of contact.
But, unfortunately, the Minsk agreement just hasn't produced.
If anything, the way the agreement was sequenced, meaning that the Ukrainian government has to give greater autonomy, decentralization to the occupied territories of Central Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, the Ukrainian government has to give them, basically, a vote, free or autonomy, and then, only then, can other issues be addressed -- will be addressed.
This applies enormous political pressure on the Zelensky government, pressure that he might not be able to survive.
And this is in part what the Kremlin wants, between the force accumulation its borders, the covert hybrid activities inside, and applying a great deal of diplomatic pressure on the Ukrainian government.
Vladimir Putin is hoping that this government may topple, and then he can perhaps find another candidate that would be much more supportive in Kyiv of Russia's goals and objectives for Ukraine.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Heather Conley, thank you very much.
HEATHER CONLEY: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Canada is facing protests for a second week over vaccine mandates and other COVID restrictions.
Trucks and periodic demonstrations have jammed up the country's capital city, Ottawa, often with loud and disruptive honking.
This afternoon, a judge granted a 10-day injunction, saying truckers must stop that honking.
But the larger protests and shutdown continue.
Stephanie Sy has the story.
STEPHANIE SY: From Quebec City to Toronto to Ottawa and cities in between, protesters are taking to the streets, blaring horns, waving signs and banners, and condemning Canada's COVID-19 restrictions.
PROTESTER: I'm here to denounce that the unvaccinated, for two years, have been shamed and thrown under the bus in the public space.
It goes against freedom of speech in Canada.
STEPHANIE SY: The protests are now in their 11th day.
They initially started as a convoy of cross-border truck drivers demanding an end to vaccine mandates.
On Sunday, Ottawa's mayor declared a state of emergency after the so-called Freedom Convoy paralyzed the heart of the capital city.
As of January 15, all truckers entering Canada are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID.
The U.S. has a similar mandate.
Nearly 80 percent of Canada's population is fully vaccinated.
And Canada's transport minister estimates about 90 percent of its truck drivers are.
But the protests are no longer just about truckers.
Other Canadians have joined in, directing rage at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and strict public health measures that provinces have put in place, including mask mandates and limits on gatherings.
OLIVER PRIDE, Protester: We had enough of all those mandates that have no sense, no scientific evidence.
The people are fed up.
STEPHANIE SY: Prime Minister Trudeau, who recently tested positive for COVID, has not responded publicly since last week, when he voiced concern that some of the protests have gotten out of hand.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, Canadian Prime Minister: There is always a right to protest peacefully that I and others will defend fully as part of this democracy.
There is not a right to incite violence, to perform acts of violence, or to spew hatred.
STEPHANIE SY: Hundreds of protesters have descended on Ottawa alone.
JIM WATSON, Mayor of Ottawa, Ontario: The protests have been incredibly disruptive and continue to impact the safety and well-being of our residents.
People have had the opportunity to voice their frustration against government policy, but, as the old saying goes, they have worn out their welcome.
STEPHANIE SY: The city's police chief called it a siege that he could not manage.
PETER SLOLY, Ottawa, Ontario, Police Chief: It has to stop.
And we are doing everything we can possibly do to stop it.
We need more help.
We are asking for that help.
We're starting to receive that help, but we need more to get this done.
STEPHANIE SY: Officers have begun removing the truckers' fuel supplies to try to break up the protest, after residents and businesses accused them of not doing more to restore calm.
Meanwhile, signs that the Freedom Convoy movement may be spreading.
In the last few weeks, dozens of organized Facebook groups with thousands of members have popped up in support of the Canadian truckers from around the globe.
Many voice frustration with their own countries' COVID-19 restrictions and express other right-wing populist causes.
And some are starting to plan their own rallies.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The announcements today by the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware that they will soon and masking mandates in schools make them the latest states to change their approach to COVID.
As Amna Nawaz explains, the debate around this has heated up in recent weeks.
AMNA NAWAZ: Judy, to be clear, the CDC and groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics continue to recommend masking in schools to reduce the spread of COVID.
And they say the evidence is clear.
But several states have now either rolled back their mandates or are considering doing so.
And a number of doctors have published opinion pieces arguing that masks are difficult for children to use, detrimental to their well-being, and may not prevent infections, based on the data in other studies.
So far, it's a minority of doctors arguing this, but we're going to hear from one of them tonight who co-wrote a piece in USA Today.
Doctor Lucy McBride is an internist in Washington, D.C. She has written columns for USA Today, The Washington Post, "The Atlantic" and others.
She joins me now.
Dr. McBride, welcome to the "NewsHour."
Thanks for being here.
In your latest piece, you cite the alarming mental health crisis we have seen among kids in America, the learning loss that we also know is very real, but those, as you note in your piece, are mostly related to school closures and lockdowns and remote learning.
On masking specifically, what is the evidence you have seen that shows masking in schools is harmful for kids?
DR. LUCY MCBRIDE, Sibley Memorial Hospital: Two years of living in the pandemic have caused a lot of harm to children.
And it's difficult to quantity the losses, emotional and social toll that children have faced.
But let's also recognize that there is mounting data that our earliest readers have trouble when they don't see faces.
So children who are struggling with speech and language delay, children who are -- have English as a second language, and every child who wants to connect with peers, mentors, teachers, it is really time to think about the time that masks are not a harmless intervention.
When we have an intervention like masking as a mandate, it's imperative that we show that the benefits outweigh the risks.
Our oath in public health and medicine is first do no harm.
And at this watershed moment of the pandemic, where Omicron is starting to recede, it is really time to appropriately balance risks and harms to our lowest-risk population.
And that's children.
AMNA NAWAZ: So, let me ask you what the CDC will say, because, obviously, they point to multiple studies.
They have put out the most recent data just a few days ago that says masks work.
There are advantages to reducing the risk of transmission, to protecting people who wear the mask.
And they say, look, schools have not been hot spots in the pandemic because kids have been masking.
In counties where there was no mask mandates, they did see outbreaks.
So, isn't that enough to say to you, let's continue to keep as many kids as we can safe?
DR. LUCY MCBRIDE: Right.
And that's why my co-authors and I have dissected these studies again and again.
The CDC studies that are citing have not controlled for community vaccination rates.
And that is a huge variable.
We also see that, yes, N95 respirator-type masks certainly can protect the wearer, but the data on cloth masks is weak.
And, again, we just don't have real-world studies to show that masking kids in schools helps reduce transmission.
AMNA NAWAZ: So, let me ask you about vaccinations, then, because it is a key part of this argument.
We know that the uptake among younger kids in particular is very low.
It's only about 22 percent of kids aged 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated.
So, before schools get rid of masks or mask mandates, do you recommend that they require vaccines?
DR. LUCY MCBRIDE: I don't recommend that we tie unmasking to vaccination.
However, it's important that parents recognize the vaccines are extraordinarily safe and effective and widely available.
So, as a doctor and as a mother myself, I do recommend vaccination, particularly for children at highest risk for poor outcomes from COVID-19.
And if that child is particularly high-risk and is still hesitant about the vaccine, you can mask that child with an N95 respirator-type mask.
Remember, though, the risk of COVID-19 to most healthy children is very, very low and on par with influenza.
It's not the same virus, but the risk is similar enough.
And the risk is dropping as Omicron disease prevalence drops locally.
AMNA NAWAZ: Let me ask you about some of the concerns others have raised about the messaging about the significance of COVID among children.
Some people worry it's been underplayed to some degree.
And we spoke recently to Dr. Yvonne Maldonado.
She's a pediatric infectious disease professor at Stanford.
Here's what she had to say about that messaging.
DR. YVONNE MALDONADO, Committee on Infectious Diseases Chair, American Academy Of Pediatrics: Tens of thousands of children have been hospitalized.
More recently, with Omicron, we have been overrun with hospitalizations.
We know that there have been over 1,000 children who have died.
And, again, not to make light of that number, we know that adults have died in many higher numbers, but that is not a reason to allow children to die unnecessarily.
AMNA NAWAZ: Dr. McBride, it is absolutely true more adults have died.
Total deaths among kids zero to 17 now total over 1,200.
And it's different when you talk about child deaths.
So what would you send to Dr. Maldonado?
DR. LUCY MCBRIDE: I'm so glad you asked that question, because every death of a child is tragic, no matter what the cause.
There's no -- there's -- we should not be minimizing the trauma and loss to families who have lost a child to COVID-19.
We also know, in 2022, exactly how to protect those high-risk children.
We vaccinate them.
We boost them if they're particularly high risk, like the adolescents who have obesity or underlying cardiac conditions or who are on immune-suppressive medications, and we vaccinate the adults around them.
Protecting unvaccinated children like the under-5's is best done by vaccinating adults around them.
In other words, we need to think broadly about protecting populations.
So, as the World Health Organization says in their constitution, health is not simply the absence of disease or infirmity.
It is a state of mental, social, emotional, and physical health.
And it's not easy in these very, very complicated times to balance all of those risks.
But, right now, masking children in schools, when masks are not clearly reducing transmission, is not the way to save those lives of those vulnerable children or vulnerable adults.
AMNA NAWAZ: I have a feeling this is a conversation we're going to be having for quite some time to come.
Dr. Lucy McBride, grateful to you for joining us tonight.
DR. LUCY MCBRIDE: Thank you so much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Pharmacists and pharmacy workers have gotten far less attention than other health care workers during this pandemic.
But the stress and the pressure they face has been intense.
Just weeks ago, as Omicron was surging and many staff were getting sick, major pharmacy chains and independent stores had to reduce their hours, even close down at times.
While that immediate situation has improved, staffing shortages and working conditions have been a problem throughout the pandemic.
Moreover, pharmacy technicians earn very little.
Here is some of what we heard from pharmacists themselves.
BLED TANOE, Oklahoma: Hello.
My name is Dr. Bled Tanoe.
I am a pharmacist.
I used to work for a major chain and pharmacy here in Oklahoma City.
Now I work in patient as a pharmacist.
DAVID HALE, Utah: My name is David Hale.
I'm an overnight pharmacist working for one of the large national retail chains.
And I have been a pharmacist for about seven years now.
LANNIE DUONG, California: Hello.
My name is Dr. Lannie Duong.
I'm a clinical pharmacist in California.
JENNIFER MORROW, New York: Hi.
I'm Dr. Jennifer Morrow, I'm a pharmacist.
And up until December 2021, I was working at CVS pharmacy as a pharmacy manager.
RYAN ALBANO, Delaware: My name is Ryan.
And I currently live in Delaware.
And I have been a pharmacist now since 2004, so 17 years.
We had a lot of influx of new customers, a lot more responsibilities, such as COVID testing, sanitation procedures to keep everything safe for not only ourselves, but for the public, a lot more questions from the public, a lot of -- that means a lot more phone calls.
We are also doing the vaccinations, which have become a huge challenge to try to incorporate into our normal workflow of just being a pharmacist.
BLED TANOE: Having maybe, I think, about 30 or 40 vaccines on top of your daily work with the same amount of people for my store was overwhelming.
I felt that I was not living up to the oath that I took as a pharmacist to take care of my patients, but also to take off my staff.
JENNIFER MORROW: Pharmacists are capable of every job that we have been given and even more.
We're trained to help people self-diagnose, so that they can get the right over-the-counter medication, or if it's time to go seek further medical help.
We're capable of giving all these vaccines.
I'm just not capable of doing it all at the same time.
LANNIE DUONG: The burden that we put upon ourselves as health care providers is that we want to provide the best care for our patients.
But with an increased workload, and not being adequately staffed, if we are forced to work quicker, I'm more worried that I'm going to miss something for one of my patients.
DAVID HALE: Because pharmacists are getting sick as well, we have been asked to pick up extra shifts whenever possible.
We have had pharmacists that have had to come to work while sick because they haven't been able to find anybody to cover their shift.
RYAN ALBANO: If you had a doctor working on a loved one or a family member performing surgery, would you want the phone ringing in the background while the doctor is providing surgery to your loved one?
You want that doctor having questions thrown at them, having the drive-through being rung, having e-mails pop up at you, having customers waving at you?
So it's challenging.
JENNIFER MORROW: I felt like I was an octopus pulled in eight different directions.
And one of them is having to give vaccines.
Now I'm even concerned that I might give the wrong vaccine at the wrong time.
Like, the white coat that I would wear became so heavy to put on every day, in the fear that I might be a danger to my patients, instead of that safety net that they need.
BLED TANOE: My decision to leave my old company completely was because I was afraid to harm my patients and realize that I was not coming back if I had made a mistake that I was actually monumental and I was going to hurt someone.
DAVID HALE: Just the idea of going to work, I start to feel physically ill to the stomach, back pain.
And I do believe that's from the anxiety and stress of having to go back into the fray, so to speak.
RYAN ALBANO: I think what our world right now needs as much as this vaccine to help us get through the pandemic is patience and understanding that every single one of us are being affected, your pharmacists, your pharmacy technicians, your Uber drivers, your DoorDashers, your post office workers, your doctors.
Everyone is being affected by this.
We understand your frustration, but when you come in and see someone behind the counter working for you, try to smile and be appreciative that that person's there for you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we appreciate each one of those pharmacists speaking with us.
And this note: CVS and Walgreens announced increases in pay last year for technicians, who earn around $35,000 a year or less.
And the major chains say they are trying to hire more people and offer bonuses.
But pharmacy workers say they need more significant changes in hours, working conditions and even better pay.
Jury selection began today in the federal hate crimes trial for three white men in Georgia already convicted in state court of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, who was black.
William Brangham has the story.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Judy, last month, Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan were sentenced in a Georgia state court to life in prison for chasing down and murdering Arbery.
This federal trial will look at whether the killings were racially motivated, which wasn't addressed in the state case.
The Justice Department has charged the three men with hate crimes and attempting kidnapping.
Deval Patrick used to prosecute these types of cases as the former assistant attorney general for civil rights under Bill Clinton.
He is also the former governor of Massachusetts and now co-chairs American Bridge 21st Century, which is a Democratic Party organization.
Deval Patrick, very good to you have back on the "NewsHour."
So, the DOJ is prosecuting this as a hate crime.
And is it my understanding that the prosecutors then have to prove that these defendants had racist beliefs in their heart when they committed this murder?
DEVAL PATRICK (D-MA): That motivated the murder.
And there is evidence of this in this case.
And that, in itself, has been deemed a federal interest, deserving of punishment.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, is it your sense that, if the state prosecutors had introduced a potential racist motivation for this killing, that the Department of Justice might not have been interested in pursuing this?
DEVAL PATRICK: You know, it is such an interesting question and I will bet it is the very kind of question that the department struggled with, because, to some extent, the racial animus in the state trial, which was a straight prosecution for murder, is not relevant.
It is additional color, but it doesn't make it -- it is not outcome-determinative, if you will, William.
These are difficult cases in that sense.
But they are important ones to bring, because of, as I was saying earlier, the federal interest expressed in this legislation to punish racially motivated criminal behavior.
And that is what this was.
There was evidence of it available to state prosecutors.
But they made a judgment not to use it because they -- well, I am informing -- because it wasn't necessary to prove the case that was before the state court and jury.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But help me understand the concerns some viewers might have, which is, these three men have been prosecuted for murder.
They are all going to go away for life in prison.
So, what is the -- what is the important of bringing a separate case that may not add anything to their prison time?
DEVAL PATRICK: Well, it is not just about adding to their prison time, although, sometimes, it is, in this case, apparently not.
But it is also making it clear that we are going to care about and we are going to enforce that federal interest in racially motivated violence.
And that has been an issue in this country for a long, long time.
Getting these laws on the books was a struggle for a long, long time.
And you can imagine how the situations go.
Sometimes -- let's just suppose that the decision had gone the other way in the state court, and the defendants had been acquitted.
Will they then be arguing that the federal prosecution shouldn't go forward?
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You prosecuted a bunch of these cases when you were in the Department of Justice.
Are these tough cases to prove, to prove the motivating intent behind a crime?
DEVAL PATRICK: Yes.
Beyond the fact that there is intention, a lot of times, the juries don't want to hear about the racism behind it.
That has been true for a long, long time.
You -- let's just deal with the consequences, not let's deal with the reasons for the motivation.
And that's been a blind spot, if you will, for a long time in this country.
These cases are really hard.
They aren't -- at least when I was there and I think still today, they aren't pursued lightly.
They aren't pursued often.
And there is a difference to state courts to see whether state authorities are going to take the action, and federal authorities don't have to bring a case that is quite as close.
For example, William, I can understand in this case why it is the federal prosecutor tried to reach a plea agreement.
I can understand it.
I can also understand why Mr. Arbery's mother said no.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This was a plea agreement that they had -- that the men had said, we will plead guilty and admit that we had racial animus in our minds and hearts when we committed the crime.
The judge threw out that plea.
DEVAL PATRICK: Correct.
Very, very unusual, William, to have the defendants not just agree to the plea, but agree to admit to the racial animus.
As I understand it, the counsel for the family at least initially indicated a willingness to support the deal.
But when Mrs. Arbery learned that they would be serving their term in a federal prison, which is not a comfortable place, but a lot better facility than the state facility, she said no.
And the judge accepted that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Deval Patrick, former Massachusetts governor and former member of the Department of Justice, thank you so much for joining us.
DEVAL PATRICK: Thank you, William.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As the Republican Party prepares for the midterm elections this year, the January 6 assault on the Capitol and the subsequent investigation continue to loom large.
The Republican National Committee issued a stunning rebuke of two of its own last week, censuring Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for their work on the congressional committee investigating the Capitol attack.
The censure resolution referred to the events as -- quote -- "ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."
The RNC later said that they were not defending those who violently stormed the Capitol, but the comment still sparked outcry from some in the party, including Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who wrote: "We must not legitimize those actions which resulted in loss of life, and we must learn from that horrible event."
Here to help us understand the political effect of all this and more, I'm joined by our Politics Monday duo.
That's Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.
Hello to both of you.
Very good to have you, the two of you back together again.
Tam, I'm going to start with you and what the RNC had done at this, its last meeting.
What are the political consequences of making this statement, issuing the censure?
What kind of effect could this have on Republican candidates running for office this year?
TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Well, at the very least, that statement was political malpractice or communications malpractice.
They used a phrase that can be used against them.
Now, whether that phrase will continue to be salient in November, it is not clear at this point.
But it is part of this broader thing that is happening, where they censured two Republican members, the only two Republican members of the January 6 commission -- or committee -- at the same time that they also did this resolution.
And it's in line with this idea that, if you are against Trump, then you're not a real Republican.
And former President Trump, anyone who criticizes him, he calls them a RINO, Republican in name only, which really speaks to the idea that, to be Republican, you have to be loyal to President Trump.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Amy, where does that leave Republican candidates across the board this year?
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: At some point, you can't -- I mean, you can, but it is not very politically smart for a Republican up for election this year to criticize Donald Trump or to in any way get on his radar, because he will want retribution for that.
So, what we will see is something like what we saw this weekend from Senator Marco Rubio.
He is up for reelection this year.
He was asked about these very comments, Judy, over the weekend.
And what you saw him do was to say, well, of course, somebody like Mike Pence shouldn't have been able to overturn the election because I don't want to see somebody like Kamala Harris, nor should other Republicans want to see someone like Kamala Harris making sure that Joe Biden wins reelection.
We don't want to empower a vice president, because that would mean empowering the other side.
Also saying, of course, legitimate discourse is different from what happened with violent attacks, but that wasn't everybody who was there on January 6, and then bringing it back to Democrats.
But let's remember this January 6 commission is illegitimate, is a political sideshow.
So, doing everything they can to put -- Republicans, that is, to walk this tightrope, not saying, I agree with Donald Trump, but being able to instead put the onus on Democrats, try not to focus so much on Trump and the 2020 election, try to make it a lot more about Democrats and about delegitimizing the January 6 commission, in and of itself.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And when it comes to that January 6 Committee, Tam, we have watched them for weeks, for months now trying to get information, trying to get people to cooperate.
And then we learn -- it seems we learn something every other day about former President Trump's efforts to stymie this, that he has been tearing up -- we had seen reporting of this, but now we see even more detail about how the former president just ripped up documents that could be important for the investigation that they're doing.
TAMARA KEITH: Document preservation was never a priority for the Trump administration.
One might argue that destroying documents and using private phones for the public's business was part of the system of operation in the Trump White House.
They were reminded repeatedly, reprimanded for not staying in line with the Presidential Records Act.
And they kept doing it.
And so, in some ways, what we are hearing from the January 6 Committee about documents taped back together is confirmation of something that was reported very early in the Trump presidency about his tendency to just tear up documents.
We also know that, when he was in business, he didn't use e-mail.
He tried not to have a paper trail.
And so there is sort of par for the course for Trump.
The thing that I would say that is more detrimental to the committee's work is that there are people close to Trump who are absolutely refusing to cooperate, either refusing to testify or taking the Fifth to protect themselves.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The committee is plowing ahead, Amy, but it seems, as we said, almost every other day, there is news that they're not getting cooperation where they need it.
AMY WALTER: That's fair.
But they also have gotten a lot of information.
They have texts.
They have documents.
They do have a lot of people who have come either because they were subpoenaed or willingly came in and gave testimony.
So, when you listen to what some of the committee members are saying, at least on the record, is, we have got a lot of stuff here, there is a lot we can do with it.
But, at the end of the day, when it comes to things like the reservation of records or whether there was any criminal behavior on the part of the former president, that's something that has to be referred to the DOJ.
And, of course, we have another case going on, Judy, down in Atlanta in Fulton County, where a special grand jury there... JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
AMY WALTER: ... is looking into those allegations about the president really pushing on the secretary of state and other officers, election officers in that state, to -- quote, unquote - - "find" some votes for Donald Trump after the election was over.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And some very serious legal consequences... AMY WALTER: Correct.
JUDY WOODRUFF: ... depending on what happens there.
Just very quickly to both of you.
Tam, President Biden, some commentators are saying that, with the start of a new year, with good jobs numbers and a few other pieces of news, maybe there is an opportunity for the president to get a political reset and improve his fortunes?
TAMARA KEITH: The thing is, you get a couple of small wins, even small ones, and you start to have a winning record.
And, in particular, that job reports that came out on Friday was very good news for President Biden.
It included revisions of previous months that had caused everyone to say, oh, gosh, the recovery is lagging, when, in fact, it turns out job growth was strong.
And there has been something of a decoupling of job growth and jobs and the economy from the Omicron variant, which is different from previous waves of the coronavirus.
So that is good news for President Biden.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Amy, precedent for a president being able to turn his fortunes around?
AMY WALTER: Well, Judy, the polling is -- and the precedent in polling is not that good for President Biden, at least in modern times.
We haven't seen a president substantially improve his standing with voters between January and November of an election year.
But this president has two challenges.
One is to get his base more motivated and more engaged.
And I think the January 6 Committee, as well as the Supreme Court nomination, that can potentially help to motivate his base.
And then the big challenge is independent voters.
They were much more receptive to the president.
They were much -- they saw him in a much better light earlier in his presidency in that spring and summer, when things were going better.
But now, between inflation and COVID and the economy, they have really soured on him.
Those things need to be able to turn around in order for him to win those voters back or for Democrats to win those voters back in 2022 midterms.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Those independent voters, we just keep watching them.
AMY WALTER: We do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both, Politics Monday.
TAMARA KEITH: You're welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The wave of migration across the United States in the mid-1800s included people looking to live in open spaces, with land to grow crops and the opportunity to have a better life.
After the Civil War, that included freed slaves and their families.
Fred de Sam Lazaro has the story we have one Kansas town that was established as a result.
It's part of our Black History Month coverage and our ongoing series Race Matters.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The Kansas plains are filled with the lore of pioneers who, in the mid-1800s, laid the foundation of what would become America's breadbasket.
Less well-known is the smaller wave of newcomers for whom the journey meant something more.
ANGELA BATES, Historian: It really represents African American experience in the West, leaving war-torn, volatile Jim Crow South, and coming to experience real freedom.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Historian Angela Bates' ancestors were among an exodus of freed slaves who left the South in the years following the Civil War.
Nicodemus was one of several all-Black settlements that sprung up across the U.S. ANGELA BATES: It was a dream before even Martin Luther King was born.
And so it was a dream that actually became a reality.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Despite grinding poverty and a harsh climate, Bates says, they forged a community here.
It was a hard life building a town here, right?
ANGELA BATES: It was for any pioneer, no matter what color you were.
But for the African American that had endured slavery, I would say it was easier.
They had a choice.
And so, even though the hardships of living in holes in the ground, which were called dugouts, that was better than living in an environment where you had no choice.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: By the early 1880s, Nicodemus had a population of about 500.
It had a bank, a post office, and several businesses, and was poised for more growth, anticipating that the railroad would soon come through, the equivalent in those days of a town being hooked up to the Internet for the first time.
Alas, the railroad decided to lay its rails a few miles to the south of this town.
ANGELA BATES: As soon as the railroad bypasses your town, your economic viability is definitely in question.
And then Nicodemus started to decline.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That was the fate of other all-Black towns, most absorbed into larger municipalities or simply abandoned as residents migrated in search of work.
For those who stayed on here in the decades that followed, life was a struggle, as it was for Black farmers across the country, who were largely excluded from critical government lending and price support programs.
So, all this prairie land, all this farmland here was Black-owned at one point?
JOHNELLA HOLMES, Director, Kansas Black Farmers Association: At one point, all of it.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And now?
JOHNELLA HOLMES: Maybe about 10 percent of it.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: JohnElla Holmes is director of the Kansas Black Farmers Association.
JOHNELLA HOLMES: Most of them that had to give up their land and their farm, they didn't walk away with a nest egg.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What is the condition of Black farmers today?
JOHNELLA HOLMES: Dismal.
They're still losing acres.
They're still walking away from their farming.
The parents are no longer encouraging the children to go ahead and assume the debt and continue to farm.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Much of Nicodemus lies in ruin today, but, for Holmes and others who call themselves descendants, there's something special about this place.
That's why Holmes moved back after retiring from her job at Kansas State University.
ANGELA BATES: Both my parents grew up here.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Angela Bates grew up in Pasadena, California, but, like her parents, felt the tug.
ANGELA BATES: And so, when they moved away, they always came back, because this is home, home being our own all-Black town.
And very proud of that.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In the '90s, Bates led a campaign that successfully designated Nicodemus as a national historic site, memorializing the little-known Black pioneer experience.
As schoolchildren come on field trips and others gather for annual homecoming days held in the summer, they get a different take on Black history.
ANGELA BATES: Too often, we look at slavery, and, as we look back, we -- all we see are the atrocities.
But out of that came great things.
It created greatness in people and tenacity in people.
And so what they were doing out here on the isolated high plains of Kansas was phenomenal.
I'm proud of that legacy.
It runs in my veins and it just makes me feel that the world needs to know the story.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Out of a history defined by struggle, Bates says she wants to create a future that can inspire hope.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Fred de Sam Lazaro in Nicodemus, Kansas.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Such important history.
And Fred's reporting is a partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.
And on the "NewsHour" online: Nearly six months after a mass evacuation of Afghans into the United States and elsewhere, many local organizations are stretching their resources to provide jobs, housing, food and other needs for the thousands of evacuees in need.
You can read about how they're meeting those challenges at 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.