tv KQED Newsroom PBS February 18, 2017 1:00am-1:31am PST
hello. welcome to kqed newsroom. coming up on the program, the threat of flooding at the ooville dam may have receded but there's urgent need to maintain california's aging infrastructure. on the 75th anniversary of the executive order that authorized the interment of japanese-americans, i'll talk to the lawyer who challenged the legality. and what tom has learned as a legislator and entertainer. as part of the continuing coverage of the first 100 days of the new 5d mrgs, earlier this week mime flynn resigned as national security adviser when it was revealed he discussed sanctions with a russian diplomat before donald trump took office. that leaves the critical
position vacant. meanwhile, bay area congressman eric swalwell who hits on the house intelligence committee is urging an independent bipartisan probe into russian hacking of the presidential election. kqed editor scott shaffer talked to congressman eric swalwell. >> thank you so much for coming in. >> thanks for having me. >> i want to ask you about a story that broke this morning about the national guard. there were reports that the trump administration is thinking of using the national guard in several states, including california, as a kind of deportation force. the administration denies it. but a.p. had a memo, a draft memo outlining the steps. what are you hearing about this, and what are your thoughts about it? >> i'm worried over the past few weeks, we've become less us as a country. you look at the muslim ban that was put into place just a few weeks back. our closest allies are wondering if we're going to be there for them and whether american
leadership is still going to prevail. today's report is troubling. you just can picture armies in the streets breaking up and tearing up families. so i hope it's not true. our staff is asking questions of the administration, and i'm hoping to have an answer by monday. but this would be taking us to a place we've never been before. >> what recourse would there be if this kind of policy, or even the travel ban, which is going to be reintroduced in a new executive order next week, the courts are one way to go, but there could be a huge reaction from people. >> fortunately we're not helpless. i think the president is learning there are two other branches of government. and that congress has a role to play. we authorize and fund -- >> are you sure he's getting it? sometimes he acts like a king. >> i think sometimes civics lessons could help him. but certainly he's learning that the courts have a signoff on constitutionality, and that congress funds this. so we're going to continue to assert ourselves.
but fortunately the american people are also with us. and they're going to the streets. when i went to sfo when the muslim ban was in place, i was struck by how many people told me, this is the first time they've ever gone to a political rally or cause in their life. so people are awake now. >> for many years, you were trying to give millennials involved and engaged. do you think president trump has done that for you? >> he's certainly helped. if anyone slept past the alarm clock on november 8th, they're awake now. and they understand that these issues are important. and that we can do something about it. >> let me ask you about russia. as you know, there are many allegations and charges, some of which have been substantiated by the intelligence community about russia's involvement in the election, and the campaign, the trump campaign. you're calling for an independent bipartisan commission committee to look into this. senator mccain and others are saying, no, we can do it in a committee in the senate. what's the status of that? why is it important do you think it's to do it in an independent
way? >> i'm principally focused on the future. what worries me is russia intends to do it again. they attacked us during the last election, and so i think the only way to make sure we understand how we were so vulnerable, and how we can make sure it never happens again is to have an independent commission that is depoliticized, that declassifies the facts behind the findings, and also debunks a lot of what the president has put out there. today, we learned that a republican has joined us. i talked to congressman walter jones, thanked him for getting onboard. now every democrat in the house is onboard. we have the first republican, and i hope that this motivates others to get onboard, because this is really about the future of our democracy, and it's one worth defending. >> how much confidence you have if it isn't done with an independent commission, that the senate will do a thorough job that follows all the leads? >> i admire senators mccain and graham. they've really stepped up on
this. but i'm afraid that congress is so politicized right now, that unless we took it out of congress, we really won't get to the bottom of what happened. so there's a role for us to play. on the intelligence committee, i serve as the ranking member of the cia. we're undergoing our own investigation. and there's a lot of questions also about whether there were any political, personal or financial ties between donald trump and his team and the russian government. i think the american people deserve to know that. >> what does it say to you that there are so many leaks coming out of so many agencies, including the intelligence community? trump's right, they are illegal. but they're happening on a daily, almost hourly basis. >> i was disturbed to see the president before he even took the oath, and continuously even this week just go after the patriots who serve in the intelligence community. he's really demeaned and demoralized them. and sometimes the steam just has to come out of the pot. he doesn't believe intelligence is relevant. now, as you said, the department of justice investigates leaks. they should follow the evidence
wherever it goes. but i think the larger issue here is that you have a president that doesn't believe in intelligence. and that actually makes all of us less safe. >> last question, quickly, if you would, obamacare, the aca, is supposedly going to be repealed and replaced. what does your gut tell you about what's going to happen? >> americans want the freedom of health care. that's what the affordable care act gave them. certainly there are improvements we can make to bring down the costs. if the republicans can't expand coverage, reduce the costs and improve the care, i don't think any of us should be with it. tomorrow in hayward and union city and fremont we're bringing together community health care providers to talk about how that has given coverage to so many people in the east bay. >> if it's any indication from previous town hall meetings, you'll have a lot of people there. >> we hope. >> thank you so much. >> thank you. this weekend marks the 75th anniversary of the executive order that authorized japanese internment camps after pearl
harbor was attacked. 120,000 people of japanese ancestry, many american citizens, were forced to live in internment camps. but fred sued the government fighting the case all the way to the supreme court, and lost. decades later, with the help of pro bono lawyers, his conviction was overturned. don was one of the attorneys who helped win that reversal. he joins me now to talk about what he sees as the parallels between this case and our country's current state. don, nice to have you here. >> thank you for having me. >> to the current state of affairs in a moment, but first, take us back to 1942. why did fred, who was only 23 years old at the time, refuse to go to an internment camp? >> fred was born in oakland. he's an american citizen by birth. of the 120,000 americans of japanese ancestry you just mentioned, 70,000 were born in this country. most have never been to japan.
so like the others, fred felt he was an american citizen, had done no wrong, was loyal to this country, and should not be subject to military orders and ultimately imprisonment. that's why he fought the orders. >> fred was eventually arrested and he was imprisoned. what was his punishment? >> well, he was ultimately sentenced criminally for violating the military orders. but just to give the audience a brief overview, december 7th, 1941, japan attacked pearl harbor. within a day of that, japanese -- secret service swept through the japanese-american community and arrested community leaders. within a couple weeks thereafter, curfew was imposed on americans of japanese ancestry, including american citizens. within a few weeks after that, orders were issued to report to assembly centers in the bay area, surrounded by barbed wire and machine gun towers.
people were herded in there. they had to abandon their businesses, their homes, they lost their jobs. men, women, and children, the young and the old were all herded together in these camps. temporary. while ten american style concentration camps were being constructed from california to arkansas. by the end of 1942, almost 120,000 people were incarcerated. >> it started off as something very incremental. there was the curfew put in place where japanese-americans had to be in their homes from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. and then it became something much bigger and broader. do you see parallels between what happened then and what's happening now in our country? >> i do. what's very disturbing is the fact that when japanese-americans were rounded up and interned, the government argued that japanese-americans were committing acts of espionage and sabotage. and on that basis, fred challenged the military orders,
but the government presented that claim. the claim went all the way up to the supreme court. he lost in 1944, with the court ruling that the -- that it was a military necessity. it was a national security to round these people up. 40 years later, quite by accident, we found a secret wartime report from the fbi, the federal communications commission, the navy, army intelligence, every intelligence agencies that had issued reports had given them to the army and to the attorney general of the united states, and to the solicitor general of the united states, stating that none of the claims the army was making were correct. they were false. and in fact, the justice department lawyers sent memos to each other saying that there's no doubt that the army's claims were fabrications and intentional falsehoods. on that basis, the internment happened. paralleling it to today, what is
the reason for the travel ban? and what is the reason for banning muslims from entering this country? and what is the reason for banning refugees who went through an 18-month extreme vetting process, who had been issued valid visas to now be barred entry to the country? we find there isn't any factual evidence to now make that claim. and similarly, in 1942, that was the plight of japanese-americans. >> so what do you think is the likelihood of something like what happened then, so many decades ago, happening again? because society has also changed. back when the internment happened, there was very little public outcry. but now you have people stepping forward and having protests and saying this is wrong. do you think it's the same climate or a little better now in terms of public perception? >> there's no doubt it's better. i think the legacy of fred is
that this ought not ever to happen to anybody else again. if fred were alive, he would say, it's wrong to discriminate on americans on the basis of their race or religion. it's wrong to ban refugees who have already been vetted through an extreme vetting process. who are running for their lives from terrorism. to be barred entry into the country. it's wrong to discriminate against lawful american residents merely because they happen to look like the enemy. that's exactly what happened in 1942. and i think people now are beginning to realize that. that even a president should be questioned. and no one is above the law. and that kind of -- it should be subject to scrutiny and careful attention. >> the lessons of history. don, thank you so much for being with us. >> thank you for having me. it's been a tumultuous week in oroville, california, nearly
200,000 people were evacuated earlier this week after warnings that the dam could flood. heavy rains and untested emergency spillway and long-known flaws in the design of the dam created a perfect storm for the crisis. residents have now returned to their homes as crews rush to repair the damage. but more rain is on the way, and the crisis raises questions about california's vulnerable and aging infrastructure. joining me now to discuss this are kqed science editor peter miller, and president meredith and chief scientist at the pacific institute. craig, you've been out at ooville dam this week. are things out of the woods just yet? >> i think it's certainly the immediate threat has subsided. the lake level has been going down steadily and is well below the point that was the most harrowing moment in this chain of events when it actually overtopped the emergency spillway, and began that chain of erosion on the hillside, that
threatened the spillway itself. but i think it's important that we acknowledge the magnitude of the bullet we just dodged here. had that hillside continued to erode to the point where it undercut and essentially took out that retaining wall, the emergency spillway, we could have been looking at the most catastrophic dam incident in this country, since i'd say 1976. when teton dam collapsed in idaho. there are many more people and much more development downstream from this dam than there was from that one. >> another storm is expected to hit monday. how will that affect the dam? >> the water managers are pretty confident that the lake's not going to be affected that much by either the storms that pass through over the weekend, or the ones that are coming next. they think they can handle that. but again, we're in the middle of february, which is one of the big three precipitation months for california. and -- >> the season runs until april. >> we get half, that's right, we get half our precipitation between december and february. and also, i don't want to steal
too much of peter's thunder because i know he's going to want to talk about this, but we're entering this new era of intense precipitation events that they hadn't really seen with regularity when they built and designed this dam. >> we're seeing climate change, did it contribute to this storm? this season actually, one of the wettest winters we've had in 20 years. what does it look like ahead for the state of our dams and other aging infrastructure throughout the state? >> well, it's been pretty remarkable. we've had five of the driest years on record. the most severe drought we've seen. followed this year by what may turn out to be the wettest year on record in over 100 years. it's consistent with what climate scientists have been saying. our climate -- we know the climate's changing. we know humans are responsible. we know there will be very significant impacts on water resources in california, and elsewhere. and among those impacts are more extreme events. hotter and warmer and longer
droughts, wetter winters, and as craig mentioned, we worry about especially the snow pack. we get all of our rain and snow in the winter. if it falls as rain instead of snow, it's the stuff that falls, the snow melts faster because it's warmer, we have to deal with ancient infrastructure to manage that change. and that infrastructure wasn't designed for today's climate, or tomorrow's climate. it was designed for yesterday's climate. and yesterday's climate's gone. >> what do we need to do now then to maintain the dams we do have? and make sure they're safe? >> maintenance is critically an important question. a lot of these dams were built 50 years ago, are older. we don't maintain them adequately. and they're not designed for the future conditions that we know are here and coming. we need to spend more money on maintenance. >> that's right. >> we need to redesign the way we operate the system as well. it's maintenance, it's operation, it's rules, infrastructure, all those things have to be rethought.
>> i think that we're not sure at this point where the money is going to come from for that. when they were back at the point with having a problem with the main spillway, they said we have to replace the whole concrete giant waterslide that will cost 100 to $200 million. now we realize that's a fraction of the job ahead of us. >> so should california try to get some federal funding? what are the chances of getting federal funding for this, given it's now emerged as pretty much a center of the resistance against the trump administration? >> well, so there is a new interesting infrastructure in general. energy, transportation, roads, communication, water infrastructure nationwide. that's a nonpartisan, bipartisan issue. people understand we need to spend more money. where that money's can going to come from depends. some of it should be federal money. some of it is going to have to be local money. our water bills paid for the water services that we want. and irrigators in the central valley, some of the big water agencies, taxpayers, there's
going to have to be a conversation about how much money we have, where it comes from, and where it goes. >> we should point out the governor did make a request of the president for a disaster declaration. this was responded to, there will be federal money coming. but again, one of the reasons that that spillway was not -- some people say they never finished the job. it should be completely lined with concrete. one of the reasons it wasn't because the people who were expected to use the water, the water districts all over california who benefit from that are expected to shoulder some of these costs, and they don't necessarily always want to. >> so then how should we rethink the way we provide water and the way we move water around in this state? >> well, i would add to that. we have to rethink of the way we provide it. that's the way we manage the dams, draw down our aquifers. but we also have to rethink the way we use water. every gallon of water we don't have to use is a gallon we don't have to store or take out of an aquifer or move from the mountains to the coast or central valley.
we know that there's enormous potential to use water more efficiently in california. there are also other supply options like treated waste water, we could use much more of, capturing storm water. those have to be part of the new way of thinking about water. it's not just about dams and ak we ducts anymore. >> do you think this could be a tipping point, craig? could it be a catalyst for change? you know, we've had some bad situations come up before in 1997, when lake oroville risked flooding and levies basically failed. people were saying then, oh, something will be done. nothing was done. nothing really changed. >> as legislators and people in funding circles always say, never waste a good crisis. this clearly is a wakeup call that we need to look at the whole system. but again, you know, i think that process has already started. because of the five-plus year drought that we just weathered here, i think the state is
already in the midst of making a major transition toward improving its water security in years to come. now, flood security, of course, is a slightly different issue. >> in what way? >> well, i mean, if you take, for example, this dam. and many of the dams in california. oroville dam and others were built primarily for flood control. they're seen as big reservoirs of water supply, but they were primarily built for flood control, which means they can't fill them during the winter, they have to leave a certain amount much space in case the next big storm comes. one of the things we have to do is actually revisit the math on that. technologies is improving, the forecasts are improving. the hope is we'll be able to manage the levels in those reservoirs, we'll be able to fine-tune that a little bit so we don't have to guess how much water should be in there. >> the other piece of the puzzle is the downstream question. we have to manage the dams differently. we've also built levees and homes right behind those levees
and businesses and industry. we've learned if you can move those levees back a little bit, fewer people at risk, the rivers are able to flow, we can dump more water out of those reservoirs when we need to. flood control is managing the dams differently, but also managing the flood plains differently. i think, again, the state is moving slowly in that direction, but maybe this is a wakeup call to move faster. >> and a race against time, because the more development occurs right behind the levees we have in the floodplain, and the more it narrows down your options how to push that out. >> at least the conversation is now going on. >> i think so. >> i want to thank you both. craig and peter. >> thank you. >> for decades, tom has been a colorful presence in local and state politics. he was a president of the san francisco board of supervisors, as well as a state assembly member for six years. he's now drawing on that experience, in his solo show "mincing words" where he takes
on sacramento politics and trump's presidency. >> sometimes it gets really dark. sometimes it's going to be hard to deal with. so i have a little personal mantra that i do to help me out. maybe it will help you out. every morning i get up and i say, when they go low, i get high. [ laughter ] >> political reporter marisa talked earlier with tom. >> thanks so much for joining us. >> my pleasure. >> i've had a chance to see your show in the fall. and congratulations on the extension. >> thank you. >> you know, i know you had a long career in local politics before you arrived in the state house. i was interested when i watched your show, it seemed like there were some things that surprised you in sacramento. was it the lobbyists, the other members? was it the republicans? >> frankly, i was -- i had higher hopes for democrats when i went there. and then i realized that, you know, there are these people
called dynos, and they were not killed in the asteroid catastrophe. they're alive and well in sacramento. democrats in name only. and then real republicans. you know, we have people in san francisco who are labeled republicans. >> right. >> i think they're ooh little more moderate than they would like to hear. but they were quite dyed in the wool. and there were tea party people, too. a woman i call tammy faye bakersfield, kept using the term sexual preference. i looked at my sexual orientation is gay, my sexual preference is justin trudeau. >> i like that. you talk about the republicans up there. i had a seat right behind you on the floor when i was at the chronicle. so i heard you bantering with your colleagues. and i'm curious, i know that you did have a pretty good relationship with some of those guys. do you see comedy as an important way to deal with the
current political situation? and to build bridges with people? >> absolutely. as long as it's not forced. or demeaning in any way. but i think it relaxes people a bit. and even if there's some extreme and disparate political viewpoints, it establishes a little bit of common ground. really, when you talk about 80 members, you're going to walk around with a chip on your shoulder, and a scowl on your face. you would be exhausted. so actually, the social interaction. and that plays into the fabric of the policies that finally get a job done sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. >> i'm curious what you think of our current president. is he a gift to comics? >> he is. but i'm tired of -- it's over, pal. no, it's frustrating. you've got to find some humor in it, absolutely. i think people want that right now. even though it's a dark time.
we're all hoping for some divine intervention where he's gone in one way or another. but in the meantime, talking of differences, it really is going to be time to put aside some differences with people that we can unite with. if there's issues between this community and that community, let's take a break from that. otherwise if we're not unified, we're not going to unplug this hairball of a president. >> is that what you're hearing from audiences, after the show? i know when i was there, for instance, there was a bunch of other lawmakers who came to see it. but there's also a lot of people who have no connection to politics i assume. >> i think they're curious. and then, you know, one benefit of being around for a long time is the -- people do know you. and this way you get to kind of reaffirm your relationship with them. but also, start new relationships with people who are younger. and to me, that's fun. that's a lot of fun to be able
to do that. >> anybody angry at what ne heard in your show? >> i haven't heard that. you know, maybe my accountant. i don't have an accountant. >> tammy faye bakersfield. >> nobody makes any money. some people come and not being upset, but they see the world differently. and i think they surprise themselves because they start to twitter a little bit. >> i want to know if this is sort of -- you see this as an opportunity to energize young people to enter the political sphere? >> humor is obviously a good tool. san francisco, we're very, very lucky. we have quite a few comics who have a political focus. nato green, margo gomez and a lot of bernie-its. they love to come to the show. >> it runs through march 9th, it got extended. >> we get extensions, too. >> i really appreciate you coming in.
>> president trump marks his first month in office, boasting about his successes and shifting blame for his setbacks. i'm suzanne malveaux. we examine the truth and consequences of lies, leaks and alternative facts, tonight on "washington week." >> i inherited a mess. >> president trump insists his administration is a fine-tuned machine and that reports of disarray inside the west wing are simply not true. >> the leaks are absolutely real. the news is fake. >> but less than a month in office, the national security advisor, michael flynn, is forced to resign over his conversation about u.s. sanctions with russia before the president was sworn in. >> i said i don't think he did anything wrong. if anything, he did somet