May 26, 2023 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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May 26, 2023 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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05/26/2023 | 57m 46s | Video has closed captioning.
May 26, 2023 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
GEOFF BENNETT: Good evening.
I'm Geoff Bennett.
AMNA NAWAZ: And I'm Amna Nawaz in Brownsville, Texas.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: Migrants endure squalid conditions in makeshift encampments while waiting in Mexico for a chance to seek asylum under new U.S. immigration rules.
GEOFF BENNETT: The date for a potential debt default is pushed back, giving Republicans and Democrats more time to make a deal on the debt ceiling.
David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart weigh in.
AMNA NAWAZ: And a look at the man running the private Russian mercenary group that has been a deadly force in the war against Ukraine.
CANDACE RONDEAUX, Senior Director, New America: Yevgeny Prigozhin is a complex man with a complex history and very complex ambitions.
(BREAK) GEOFF BENNETT: Welcome to the "NewsHour."
Ten days now stand between the U.S. and a catastrophic default on the nation's debt.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said late today that the U.S. will likely have enough reserves to push off a potential default until June 5.
The previous deadline was June 1.
The announcement provides some breathing room for the ongoing talks.
Leigh Ann Caldwell is a Capitol correspondent for The Washington Post and joins us now with the latest.
Leigh Ann, it's always great to see you.
So this announcement from Treasury means that lawmakers now have a four additional days to arrive at a deal, pass it through both chambers of Congress, and send it to President Biden's desk.
How does this new deadline affect the ongoing negotiations?
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, The Washington Post: Hey, Geoff.
So that's right.
They do have -- there's a couple things here.
They have a few more days, because, originally, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said it will could be as early as June 1.
So, June 5 is now the definitive date.
That's something that Congress didn't have before.
While -- so it does perhaps give them a few more days.
I will say though, what Republican leadership are saying, Kevin -- Patrick McHenry, the congressman from North Carolina, who's helping McCarthy lead these negotiations, told reporters a little bit ago that now his Republican Conference, who has been skeptical about the date anyway, now has something definitive.
And so now he can urge everyone to act a little more quickly, Geoff.
GEOFF BENNETT: You mentioned the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy.
He's been saying for days now that both sides are negotiating in good faith, that progress is happening.
But one of the GOP negotiators who's actually in the room doing these talks with the White House, Congressman Garret Graves, he spoke to reporters earlier today and said there's still a ways to go.
REP. GARRET GRAVES (R-LA): There are outstanding issues.
We are not there.
But I think we have really identified where the biggest differences are.
And I think the bottom line is, it comes down to whether or not we are going to default on the American debt, we're going to default on seniors with Social Security and Medicare, or -- and have the Democrats continue to say that we're going to prioritize welfare payments for people that are refusing to work.
GEOFF BENNETT: So, in that last part there, he's referring to work requirements for some federal safety net programs.
That has emerged as a real sticking point.
What else are both sides negotiating?
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL: Well, they are all saying that there's no deal until everything's agreed to.
I will say there has been a little bit of a vibe shift from last night and this morning.
My sources are telling me that they were pretty optimistic that they were going to be able to wrap this up relatively quickly today, maybe tomorrow.
Things now -- as the day progressed, the afternoon progressed, things seem to have clamped down a little bit.
There's not as many good signs, there's not as meant much talking from the team of negotiators.
So, everything -- it could be at this crucial point where things are a little bit stuck.
They're trying to get those last final details.
But work requirements is a big one.
This is something that is extremely important to Republicans.
They are wanting additional work requirements for these social safety net programs, while Democrats are practically drawing a red line on this issue.
They say that work -- additional work requirements are just unacceptable.
So it could be really hard to work this out, Geoff.
GEOFF BENNETT: And, Leigh Ann, as you well know, reaching an agreement is really only half of the challenge here, because progressive Democrats and far right Republicans are suggesting they might not be able to vote for any sort of compromise.
Are there enough votes in the so-called middle to get this thing across the finish line?
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL: That's a great question, but the middle is where the votes have to come from.
It's long been thought that the far right, the House Freedom Caucus, is probably not going to support any sort of compromise.
The same could be said for the left as well.
And so that is the challenge that these negotiators have, is finding -- we could call it the Goldilocks method, finding the perfect center, not too hot and not too cold, but that perfect combination of things that enables the center to find 218 votes.
That's what they need.
It's going to come from Republicans.
It's going to come from Democrats.
And they just have to tweak this proposal, this legislation, in order to find it.
GEOFF BENNETT: We have got about 20 seconds left, Leigh Ann.
And we should say there is no backup plan here if they're not able to arrive at a deal.
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL: There is no backup plan.
They are going to have to arrive at a deal, and they don't have a lot of time, because after you get a deal, you have to write legislative text.
It has to go through the House of Representatives and then the Senate.
That could take some time, Geoff.
So we're still many steps away.
GEOFF BENNETT: Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post, thanks so much for your reporting and your insights.
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL: Of course.
GEOFF BENNETT: Earlier this month, a pandemic era rule that allowed for the quick expulsion of migrants at the Southern border known as Title 42 officially expired.
It marked a major shift in immigration policy and is creating ripple effects on both sides of the border, though not necessarily what many expected.
Amna is at the border now -- Amna.
AMNA NAWAZ: Geoff, here in Brownsville, Texas, authorities and organizations were preparing for a surge in migrant arrivals after the end of Title 42.
But that never happened.
So we visited both sides of the border to better understand why that is.
Under a hot morning sun...
So, how often do you make this crossing?
PRISCILLA ORTA, Lawyer For Good Government: Three times a week.
AMNA NAWAZ: ... immigration attorney Priscilla Orta makes her commute from one nation to another.
It's not even 10:00 in the morning.
It's already about 85 degrees.
PRISCILLA ORTA: At least.
AMNA NAWAZ: And there's about 50 or 60 people already lined up to get into the U.S.
In Matamoros, Mexico, a crowd is already waiting for her.
PRISCILLA ORTA (through translator): How many people are from Central America, from Honduras, from Cuba?
AMNA NAWAZ: Mostly, she's here to clear up growing confusion over who is allowed to enter the U.S. and how.
PRISCILLA ORTA: I have been doing this for 12 years, and even I'm confused.
AMNA NAWAZ: Do you have a clear sense of what kind of guidance to offer them when they ask questions?
PRISCILLA ORTA: No.
And so I'm relying upon the old lawyer's trick of, I'm going to tell you the worst thing that can happen and prepare you for the worst thing.
AMNA NAWAZ: That confusion is based on a matrix of new immigration rules.
As Title 42 ended, the U.S. opened up some legal pathways, but closed others, requiring migrants to schedule an asylum interview appointment through a new app called CBP One, barring them from seeking protection in the U.S. if they didn't first seek it in a country they passed through, and banning entry for five years for anyone caught trying to cross illegally.
They also agreed to take in 30,000 migrants a month from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua, but asked Mexico to take in the same number turned away at the border.
WOMAN: I'm out here at the gateway port of entry, where we are about to return up to 100 Venezuelan migrants back into Mexico.
AMNA NAWAZ: Border crossings dropped from 10,000 a day before Title 42 was lifted to just over 4,000 a day after.
PRISCILLA ORTA (through translator): You have to wait for an appointment if you want something guaranteed.
AMNA NAWAZ: Thirty-one-year-old Carlos says he's trying.
He left Honduras eight months ago, citing police violence, and has been in Matamoros for three.
He says, every day, he logs into the app to try and get an appointment, but can't.
Three months every single day.
CARLOS, Migrant: Every day.
AMNA NAWAZ: Thirty-year-old Glennis and her 7-year-old daughter, Mariangel, have been in Matamoros six weeks after a two-month, treacherous journey from Venezuela.
GLENNIS, Venezuela Migrant (through translator): It wasn't easy, for example, as a mother, to bring my child on the journey, because she cried and said: "Mommy, why are we passing through here?"
But we didn't have any other options.
We don't have a visa or a valid passport.
AMNA NAWAZ: Gladys Canas has been running a Mexican immigration nonprofit here for 12 years.
She says the longer vulnerable populations are forced to wait, the more vulnerable they become.
GLADYS CANAS, Ayudandoles a Triunfar (through translator): As soon as they enter Mexico, migrants face different risks, detention, extortion, abuse, humiliation, loss of life, rape, human rights violations.
Matamoros isn't prepared to receive this number of people.
There isn't infrastructure.
There aren't resources.
There isn't food.
AMNA NAWAZ: As thousands more wait in Mexico to try and enter the U.S. legally, makeshift camps have ballooned in recent weeks.
We're heading now to one of the encampments that's popped up in Matamoros.
There are many.
Some people have been staying in them for months.
And, actually, we have been told there's a lot of communicable diseases, a lot of T.B., a lot of COVID, so we're going to be masking while we're there.
This sprawling complex of tarp tents and blanket shelters houses mostly Venezuelans.
There are other camps further away housing Haitians, Cubans, and more.
Here, the desperation of waiting boils over.
WOMAN (through translator): I just need you to help me.
AMNA NAWAZ: Conditions here are just really appalling.
It is impossible to describe how striking it is.
We are just a few hundreds yards from the U.S. border right now, and this is a sprawling complex now of temporary tents and housing, some 2,500 people, we're told, who are here.
And this isn't even the biggest encampment in Matamoros.
Across the border in Brownsville, Texas, Pastor Carlos Navarro has been stockpiling supplies and prepping beds at his church since well before Title 42 ended.
CARLOS NAVARRO, West Brownsville Baptist Church: Before May 11, it was real busy.
But, after that, on May 11, after seeing 1,200 people a day, we -- the next, day we only saw 25, and the next day about 40.
AMNA NAWAZ: He says the city is receiving about a few hundred a day now, but he believes they could handle many more.
CARLOS NAVARRO: Sometimes, we try to forget our roots.
Most of the people came here to the States in the same condition, and they needed help.
So, it's just a matter of empathy.
AMNA NAWAZ: But not everyone agrees.
Former Republican Congresswoman Mayra Flores represented Brownsville for five months until this year.
REP. MAYRA FLORES (R-TX): The laws are still not being enforced.
AMNA NAWAZ: Flores, who was born in Mexico to an American parent, wants to see more restrictions at the border.
REP. MAYRA FLORES: Right now, the people that are wanting to come here legally, they're being put to the side for them to wait.
And we're focused on the people that are -- have crossed here illegally.
And it's not fair for those people.
AMNA NAWAZ: The U.S. government would say the app is actually a legal process, right?
Those people are coming here legally.
REP. MAYRA FLORES: Well, that is just for these people.
What about the people that have been waiting for 10, 15 years?
I have family members, as we speak right now, that have been waiting for 10, 15 years.
Those people need to be prioritized.
AMNA NAWAZ: The next morning, Glennis and her family begin another day in the camp.
GLENNIS (through translator): The Mexican government has said they'd send us to Mexico City and then back to Venezuela.
But we don't want to go back to Venezuela.
We sold everything we had.
AMNA NAWAZ: She says she can't return home.
And, so far, she's not allowed to move forward.
So, for now, she will continue to wait.
Here in Brownsville, the streets are calm after what some described as chaos in a surge of arrivals earlier this month.
But that calm here tonight does belie a crisis that's unfolding really just across the border - - Geoff.
GEOFF BENNETT: And, Amna, I know you have been talking to U.S. officials about what you found in your reporting, including the frustration among many migrants about this new asylum app.
What are those officials telling you?
AMNA NAWAZ: That's right, Geoff.
Well, look, what we were told by a senior Customs and Border Protection official is that the U.S. is currently processing about 1,300 or 1,400 people a day total across the U.S. border.
About 300 or 400 of those are folks who arrive at ports of entry and are allowed in; 1,000 of those everyday, though, are coming in via that CBP One app, that mobile app that you just mentioned.
We're told half of those 1,000 appointments go to people who have some of the earliest registrations on that app, meaning they registered back in January or February.
The other half are randomly allocated on a day-to-day basis.
Here's what's most striking; 1,000 appointments a day is what they're handing out.
They are seeing 80,000 requests a day from across Central and Northern Mexico for people seeking appointments on the app.
And they tell me that number is steady.
The demand is not dropping.
One of the things to note is, the app is geofenced around Central and Northern Mexico, meaning migrants have already made most of the journey they're going to make towards the U.S. border before they can even access that legal pathway.
So that backup is continuing to build.
The U.S. official says they could add more appointments in the coming weeks.
Most migrants we spoke to said they will wait as long as it takes.
They want to enter the U.S. legally.
But some immigration sources tell us they're concerned that, the longer folks have to wait, the more desperate they become.
And we could see those numbers at the border behind me here start to go up in the weeks ahead -- Geoff.
GEOFF BENNETT: Amna Nawaz in Brownsville, Texas, tonight at the Southern border.
Amna, thank you.
Now to the day's other news.
Two more members of the far right Oath Keepers group were sentenced in the January 6 investigation.
Jessica Watkins of Ohio got eight years in federal prison for obstruction and conspiracy to block Congress from certifying the 2020 election results.
And Kenneth Harrelson was sentenced to four years.
As we reported yesterday, the militia's founder, Stewart Rhodes, got 18 years in prison for seditious conspiracy.
Russia's southern Belgorod region came under Ukrainian attacks today, as both sides carried out cross-border strikes.
Kyiv said its forces shot down 10 Russian missiles aimed at Ukrainian cities.
But in the central city of Dnipro, Russian fire hit a medical complex and left it in flames.
The strike killed at least two people and wounded dozens more.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin today urged newly-minted Navy and Marine Corps officers to face China's challenge in the Pacific.
Austin addressed the U.S.
Naval Academy's commencement in Annapolis, Maryland.
After the Blue Angels soared overhead, Austin spoke to more than 1,000 members of the class of 2023.
LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. Secretary of Defense: Our Navy is driving forward our historic AUKUS partnership with Australia and the U.K., bringing together three great democracies to keep the Indo-Pacific free and open and prosperous.
You will travel the globe to defend our democracy.
And you will learn that the lifeblood of the rules-based international order is actually seawater.
GEOFF BENNETT: The graduates were commissioned as ensigns in the U.S. Navy and 2nd lieutenants in the U.S. Marines.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has revoked the license of one of the country's largest drug distributors.
The company, Morris & Dickson, faces accusations it shipped highly addictive opioid pain pills for years, despite evidence the drugs were being misused.
Today's action by the DEA follows a controversial four-year delay, which federal officials blamed on the pandemic and actions by the company.
On Wall Street, tech stocks led the market higher.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 328 points to close at 33093.
The Nasdaq rose 2 percent.
The S&P 500 was up 1.3 percent.
And President Biden honored this year's NCAA Division I basketball champions today.
White House ceremonies celebrated the University of Connecticut men's team for winning their fifth title.
The president also paid tribute to the Louisiana State University women for their first championship.
And still to come on the "NewsHour": an Indiana doctor is reprimanded after providing an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim; Texas lawmakers move to impeach the state's attorney general; and the latest health guidance on protecting yourself from the sun this Memorial Day weekend.
Bribery, dereliction of duty, obstruction of justice, those are just some of the allegations against Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton after a months-long investigation led by members of his own party.
It's one of several stories around the country that Ali Rogin is following tonight.
ALI ROGIN: Geoff, Republican Ken Paxton has faced years of scandal, but now he faces 20 articles of impeachment in the final days of the legislative session.
The bipartisan members of the House committee leading the investigation voted unanimously to recommend the impeachment charges late yesterday.
STATE REP. ANDREW MURR (R-TX): The chair moves that the committee adopt the articles of impeachment against Warren Kenneth Paxton, attorney general of the state of Texas.
ALI ROGIN: Paxton has denied any wrongdoing and accused the committee of relying on hearsay and gossip and using -- quote -- "their unsubstantiated report to overturn the results of a free and fair election."
Sergio Martinez-Beltran is a politics and government reporter for NPR's The Texas Newsroom and joins me now.
Sergio, thank you so much.
Remind us all, what is Attorney General Paxton accused of doing?
SERGIO MARTINEZ-BELTRAN, The Texas Newsroom: The list is really long.
This House investigative panel came out with a report, and they also drafted 20 articles of impeachment.
Those articles include constitutional bribery, abuse of official capacity, misuse of official information, and also retaliation against former employees who reported him in 2020 to the FBI because of alleged misdeeds related to an Austin real estate investor who was being investigated by the FBI himself.
ALI ROGIN: And, Sergio, these allegations have followed him for years.
You just mentioned that the FBI has been investigating him.
Why is this Republican-led legislature moving now to pursue impeachment against him?
SERGIO MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: That's a great question.
This Republican legislature has stand by Paxton all these years, but then it's just now that we're seeing some Republicans starting to push back and question, honestly, Paxton's ability to serve the state.
I think the time -- the timing here, it's clear, right?
These allegations that Paxton fired four former employees for reporting him to the FBI ended up in a lawsuit.
And there's a settlement agreement, a $3.3 million settlement agreement, that the Texas legislature is responsible to fund.
And Republican lawmakers don't want to pay for that money.
They say it's too much.
And they also say that the taxpayers will be paying for Paxton's alleged wrongdoings, and that that's not fair.
And so that's where we are.
The House investigative committee decided to hire four investigators to look into the settlement and the evidence around this settlement.
And they have decided that it was all Paxton's wrongdoings, and that maybe the legislature should not pay for it.
ALI ROGIN: Now, Paxton's defenders say that this settlement is just a smokescreen and there's really something else going on here.
What does your reporting indicate?
SERGIO MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: I think that timing here is great.
We know that House Speaker Dade Phelan, he doesn't have the best relationship with Ken Paxton.
And a lot of Republicans, grassroots Republicans, in the state are truly upset at House Speaker Dade Phelan, and because they say he has not supported the priorities of the Republican Party.
Paxton, a few days ago, before the House committee came out with this -- with this notice of impeachment, had accused Phelan of being drunk on the House floor, without any proof, just a video that was heavily edited.
So I think this is where we are, right?
Paxton seems to have come out against Phelan ahead of what he knew was going to be a report that was not going to be favorable to him.
ALI ROGIN: Sergio, for those of us who haven't been following Texas politics as closely as you, how big a deal is this?
SERGIO MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Listen, this is big.
This is a big deal.
Only two public officials in Texas have been impeached.
In fact, the last one was in the 1970s.
So this is huge.
I mean, also, Ken Paxton is beloved by Republican lawmakers in the state of Texas, but also on a national level.
He has been fighting with the Biden and Obama administrations over federal spending, immigration, abortion medication.
In 2020, he tried to overturn the results of that presidential election.
So he's a big figure within the Republican Party.
And we know that, if the House were to impeach tomorrow, automatically, Ken Paxton would be suspended from his duties, pending a Senate trial and a decision in that chamber.
ALI ROGIN: And, as you mentioned, the House is expected to vote on this impeachment tomorrow.
What do you expect the outcome to be?
Are there the votes there?
SERGIO MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: The interesting thing here is that the House only needs a simple majority to impeach or to move to impeach Paxton.
And we know there's over 60 Democrats, and we also know that there are Republicans who have already said they are going to impeach Paxton.
So, from what I'm hearing and with my sourcing, it seems like Republicans, particularly this House committee who is the one moving and asking the full House to vote to impeach, they have the votes to move forward with this historic decision.
ALI ROGIN: Fascinating stuff.
Sergio Martinez-Beltran with NPR's The Texas Newsroom, thank you so much for joining us.
SERGIO MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Thanks for having me.
ALI ROGIN: We're also following a story in Indiana, where the state disciplined a doctor who made national headlines last year after she provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio.
The girl had traveled across state lines for the procedure as a result of Ohio's restrictive abortion laws in the wake of the Dobbs decision.
After an emotional and confrontational hearing yesterday, the state medical board reprimanded Dr. Caitlin Bernard for violating patient privacy standards and issued a $3,000 fine.
But they rejected harsher punishments pushed by the state's attorneys, who challenged Bernard in a number of tense exchanges.
CORY VOIGHT, Indiana Deputy Attorney General: Isn't it true that, but for the fact that you spoke to The Indy Star Reporter concerning what you viewed as a -- would be a public health emergency, that we wouldn't be sitting here today?
DR. CAITLIN BERNARD, Obstetrician-Gynecologist: No, I don't think that's correct.
I think that if the attorney general, Todd Rokita, had not chosen to make this his political stunt, we wouldn't be here today.
Brandon Smith of Indiana Public Broadcasting was in the room for all 14 hours of yesterday's proceedings.
And he joins me now.
Brandon, thank you so much.
This was, of course, a case that made national headlines.
It happened right in the wake of the Dobbs decision, President Biden weighed in on this.
Remind us what Dr. Bernard is being accused of here and what the board decided.
BRANDON SMITH, Indiana Public Broadcasting: Well, Dr. Bernard talked to an Indy Star Reporter about the case of the 10-year-old girl and mentioned in the interview that it was a 10-year-old girl from Ohio coming to Indiana for abortion.
And, after that, the attorney general, in addition to leveling accusations that he had no evidence of, ultimately decided to go to the state medical board because he said she had violated patient privacy, and he accused her of not reporting child abuse, and leveled the charge that she was unfit to practice medicine.
Now, the state medical board decided that, while none of the information that she had given to The Star Reporter actually fell under what's called protected health information under HIPAA, it -- she said enough things that it might have made it easy to identify the victim and, therefore, she had violated her privacy rights.
And so they leveled three counts under federal and state privacy laws.
But they summarily rejected the claims that she didn't report child abuse or that she was unfit to practice.
And, as you mentioned, she was given a letter of reprimand, which doesn't really impede her ability to practice at all, and the $3,000 fine.
ALI ROGIN: And we heard in the sound bite earlier, Dr. Bernard accused the board and the attorney general, Todd Rokita, of a political stunt.
They have leveled that charge against her.
What's really going on here.
BRANDON SMITH: Well, Todd Rokita is a political creature.
A lot of the decisions he makes seem to come from political motivations.
Now, Dr. Bernard also has an agenda.
She is a fierce advocate for reproductive rights and has been for a long time.
It's partly why she was at the rally where she spoke to The Indy Star Reporter about this case.
It's why she talked about this case.
She was trying to educate people about what was happening in Ohio and what could happen in Indiana.
But, ultimately, you see some of these charges that just didn't hold up that Todd Rokita leveled.
ALI ROGIN: And, as you mentioned, the board did reject that more serious charge that would have found her unfit to practice medicine.
It would have removed her medical license.
What would that have meant for abortion access in Indiana, if they had found her liable for that?
BRANDON SMITH: Yes, Caitlin Bernard is one of only two physicians who practices -- who's licensed to practice complex family planning medicine in Indiana.
So, taking away her license would have had huge consequences.
Even putting her on probation, which was briefly discussed by the board, for the violating the privacy laws, even that would have severely hindered Hoosiers' access to health care, because it would have meant she was unable to take Medicaid.
So -- and so the board did consider that when deciding not to impose probation on Dr. Bernard.
So it would have had a huge impact on the ability that people to access health care in Indiana.
ALI ROGIN: And you spoke to a number of doctors who were in the hearing room in support of Dr. Bernard.
What did they tell you about what the stakes are here and what it could have said, what it says about access to reproductive health care in Indiana in a post-Roe world?
BRANDON SMITH: Well, they echoed the fears of Dr. Bernard that this was a purely political stunt, that this was politically motivated, and that, because they were -- the attorney general was somewhat successful, that more could be coming if he disagrees with the practice of medicine that a person is performing.
It also has to do with -- this is not in a vacuum.
As you mentioned, in a post-Dobbs world, Indiana already struggles with access to maternal and infant health care.
A third of our counties don't have a hospital or pregnancy center.
And while Indiana was debating the abortion ban last year, last summer, the I.U.
Health Med School, of which Dr. Bernard is an educator, surveyed all of its students, and 80 percent of them said the abortion ban in Indiana would play a factor in their decision whether or not to practice medicine in Indiana.
So this certainly exacerbates that already existing problem.
ALI ROGIN: Very quickly, Brandon, who's on this board?
Who -- what is it comprised of?
BRANDON SMITH: It's comprised primarily of physicians.
There is one sort of patient advocate who's an attorney, which plays certainly into a lot of what the board has to deal with.
But these are all appointees of the governor.
And, in this case, as it has been for nearly 20 years in Indiana, that is a Republican.
ALI ROGIN: Brandon Smith of Indiana Public Broadcasting, thank you so much for your time.
BRANDON SMITH: Thank you for having me.
GEOFF BENNETT: The battle for Bakhmut in Eastern Ukraine has been notable for several reasons, its length, nine-plus months, it savagery - - tens of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians, mostly soldiers, have died there -- and for the man who's pressed the fight for the Kremlin, the mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.
As Stephanie Sy explains, Prigozhin and his Wagner paramilitary group are now the tip of the spear for Russia in Ukraine.
STEPHANIE SY: In Russian-occupied Bakhmut, one man has stolen the spotlight.
Days after declaring victory, Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin congratulate his fighters and orders them to leave.
YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, Wagner Group Chief (through translator): We're pulling units out of Bakhmut.
We're transferring positions, ammunition to the military, everything.
But if the military are in a tough situation, of course, we're leaving those who played a crucial part in capturing Bakhmut.
STEPHANIE SY: Prigozhin's private military group has led the fighting in the monthslong bloody battle that turned Bakhmut into a ruin.
Most of Wagner's fighters are convicted Russian criminals.
This video went viral last year of a man believed to be Prigozhin recruiting prisoners from a penal colony.
They were promised freedom for six months of front-line service, their lives treated as expendable.
Prigozhin says 20,000 Wagner mercenaries were killed in Bakhmut.
CANDACE RONDEAUX, Senior Director, New America: This is a military that is so challenged with its manpower, with its ammunition, with its supplies that it has had to turn to the use of prisoners and thrown them into what Prigozhin has called the Bakhmut meat grinder.
STEPHANIE SY: Candace Rondeaux has been writing a book on the Wagner Group.
CANDACE RONDEAUX: Yevgeny Prigozhin is a complex man with a complex history and very complex ambitions.
He served a 10-year sentence for violent crimes that he committed in St. Petersburg as a young man.
He worked in hard labor camps.
And when he came out, he kind of transformed himself into this kind of mafia entrepreneur.
STEPHANIE SY: One of his first ventures was a catering company that fed the Kremlin.
Prigozhin became known as Putin's chef.
Cooking up disinformation came next with the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm which was instrumental in Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Prigozhin has now transformed into a warlord under the auspices of Vladimir Putin.
He's used social media to accelerate his brand.
Videos show him overseeing training sites, he appeals to new recruits with ultranationalist propaganda.
YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN (through translator): Guys, sign up for Wagner Group private military company.
World War III is already nigh.
STEPHANIE SY: On the battlefield, he flaunts the coffins of dead Ukrainian soldiers.
And he brazenly calls out Russia's Ministry of Defense for the death of his fighters, hurling insults at the defense minister and chief of staff and calling them out by name.
YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN (through translator): We have a 70 percent shortage of ammunition.
Shoigu, Gerasimov, where is the ammunition?
Look at them.
STEPHANIE SY: His latest provocative proclamation, that Russia could lose the war and face a revolt.
CANDACE RONDEAUX: And when you hear Prigozhin saying there is not enough ammunition, we're not getting the help that we need, we don't have the supplies that we need, you should be hearing the voice of Putin.
He says things that Putin isn't able to say politically about what's going on with the war.
And we certainly have seen that in bold display in recent days.
STEPHANIE SY: The Wagner Group started in 2014 as a secret arm of Russian intelligence.
Originally made up but former special forces soldiers, the group was first deployed to Ukraine in 2014 during Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, then to Syria, where Russia supports President Bashar al-Assad's government.
Wagner serves as Russia's military proxy in far-flung areas of the world.
Journalist Andrei Soldatov has reported on Russian intelligence for over two decades.
ANDREI SOLDATOV, Russian Journalist: What the military intelligence wanted to do in 2014 is to have a group of people supervised by the military intelligence, but not officially part of Russian -- of the Russian military, and to be able to send these people to Syria, to Ukraine, and to Africa, and maybe to some other regions.
STEPHANIE SY: Before the recent fighting in Ukraine, Wagner left Russian footprints across Africa, spreading Moscow's influence and feeding instability.
Researchers say there are thousands of Wagner mercenaries in about a dozen countries.
It has links to the ongoing conflict in Sudan.
The U.S. said it gave weapons to Sudan's paramilitary faction.
It has also fueled the civil war in the Central African Republic and aided the anti-Western pro Russian military junta in Mali, accused of war crimes.
The Kremlin uses Wagner as a tool, says New America's Candace Rondeaux.
CANDACE RONDEAUX: They're really important for Putin, in terms of diverting attention away from Russian activities in places where they're not supposed to be operating.
They fulfill the role of circumventing sanctions.
And they turn to the Wagner Group as the kind of enforcer and sort of mercenary service provider.
And, in exchange, they get gold, diamonds, oil, gas, things that are exportable and that can be turned into hard dollars, hard cash, which is extremely important for Russia.
STEPHANIE SY: The war in Ukraine helped Prigozhin bring the Wagner Group out of the shadows and grow it into a private military empire.
ANDREI SOLDATOV: Because of this war, and because of ambitions of -- the ambitions of Prigozhin, quite quickly, the group emerged as the most visible part of the Russian military.
Now we have billboards advertising Wagner on the streets of Russian cities, a completely unprecedented thing.
STEPHANIE SY: Despite his audacious outbursts against the Kremlin elite,Putin needs Prigozhin, at least for now.
CANDACE RONDEAUX: The thing people need to understand is that Prigozhin is always conscious of the fact, like many who are close to Putin, that he is expendable, that, at any time, Putin could decide: I don't need you anymore, that your services are no longer useful to me, or, more importantly, you're becoming a danger to me, you're becoming a threat to me.
STEPHANIE SY: Make no mistake of who is in charge, she says.
Prigozhin's power only exists at the mercy of Putin.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.
GEOFF BENNETT: It is Friday, and we turn now to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart.
That's New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Jonathan Capehart, associate editor for The Washington Post.
Great to see you both.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Hey, Geoff.
GEOFF BENNETT: So, lawmakers now have an additional four days to arrive at a deal on the debt ceiling.
The Treasury secretary said that the agency, the department won't run out of money until at least June 5, so buying more time for those debt talks.
The previous deadline, of course, was June 1.
I want to start with your assessments of where we stand now.
Starting with you, David.
DAVID BROOKS: I will stick with Biden, optimistic.
Compared to where we were a week ago when we were sitting here, and they were possibly on pause, we're in a much better place, obviously, today.
Everybody seems to be having productive talks.
And this is why it pays to be a history major.
(LAUGHTER) DAVID BROOKS: I was a history major.
And you know they have had dozens and dozens of these things every -- over the last few decades.
And, every time, they scare something out of us, and then they cut a deal, and it looks like they're probably going to do that again.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Yes.
GEOFF BENNETT: How do you see it?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Yes, I want to be that optimistic.
But I do want to just point one thing out, that the letter that the Treasury secretary put out today saying that June 5 is the date, that is the first time she has settled on a firm date.
Her letters previously were saying, please, Congress, lift the debt ceiling.
If you don't, we could possibly crash through by -- in sometime early June, the earliest, June 1.
Today's letter is June 5.
And she explains why, in terms of tax receipts that would come in on a daily basis to the Treasury.
So, it buys a little more time.
But with the president saying, hey, I'm optimistic, we might have some evidence of a -- something later tonight, that's good news, I hope.
(LAUGHTER) GEOFF BENNETT: One can hope.
There is this additional complication of far right Republicans saying that they won't support any compromise that waters down the bill that the House already passed, that bill that was unacceptable to Senate Democrats and to the White House.
How significant a threat is that, given the razor-thin margins and the fact that Kevin McCarthy can only lose four Republican votes and still have this pass?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, that's really not how democracy works.
When you cut a deal, you definitely have to give some.
I -- he sounds pretty confident.
I know Chip Roy, one of the members of the Freedom Caucus, said they weren't going to challenge his speakership.
And so that suggests that there may be some upset with the compromises he's taken, but not uproar and rage.
And so I think he will probably be able to get it.
I think, as I understand that -- they haven't announced the deal, but as I understand it, there's going to be a headline number of how much deficit reduction there's going to be, and that's likely to be a pretty big number.
And then they will punt on exactly how they're going to get there.
And so that fudginess gives McCarthy the chance to say, we're going to cut the deficit, but not make anybody unhappy because nobody knows exactly what's going to get cut.
So I suspect he will probably get it.
GEOFF BENNETT: On the Democratic side, the House minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries, says that he communicated to the White House that if they need Democratic votes to get this across the finish line -- and it appears that they will -- that Democrats don't want to compromise on their values.
And there has been this flash point over the issue of work requirements for some federal safety net programs.
Here's how Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican speaker, referred to it.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I do not think it's right that you borrow money from China to pay people to stay home that are able-bodied with no dependents on the couch.
GEOFF BENNETT: So President Biden has said that he supported work requirements for these safety net programs back in the '90s.
So why is this a nonstarter for Democrats now?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: But that was the '90s, Geoff.
That was 30 years ago.
We were talking about different work requirements then.
And I think it's insulting and offensive for the speaker of the House to talk about people who are getting federal benefits, to paint them with a broad brush, to say that they're just sitting on their couches, sitting home.
That's -- that just isn't the case.
And I do think that Democrats have been fighting a phantom, just work requirements.
We have no idea what they're talking about and what could emerge in terms of work requirements.
But if that is the one thing, the only thing where Democrats are drawing their red line, and everything else is something that they could possibly live with, I would say Democrats are in a much better position to get something over the finish line than Speaker McCarthy, as you pointed out, can only lose four Republicans.
You have got the House Freedom Caucus sending letters, saying, you better pass the -- I can never remember the name of it.
I call it the eat, pray, love bill.
(LAUGHTER) JONATHAN CAPEHART: You better pass that, and only that.
It's the speaker who has got to get this over the finish line, and he can't without Democratic votes.
DAVID BROOKS: Can I just do a little '90s nostalgia?
(LAUGHTER) DAVID BROOKS: Because I did think the Clinton welfare reforms were quite successful, in part because of welfare work environments.
And I have sort of been pushed on this issue by the evidence that, in theory, these people who are on these benefits are -- they are working hard.
They're working hard to make their family work.
They're working hard to try to get a job.
But I have been persuaded that it's really hard, once you have been out of labor force for three or four years, to get back into the labor force.
And, therefore, long term, for the good of people and for the good of the economy, work requirements actually are something that actually does benefit those who are subjected to them.
GEOFF BENNETT: Yes.
Well, this past week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Tim Scott announced their presidential campaigns, and it in many ways showcased two different Republican parties.
You have Tim Scott, who you could argue is following in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan with an ideas-focused, optimistic vision of the country, and Ron DeSantis, who is very much in the mold of Donald Trump, going all in on the cultural issues.
David, DeSantis' announcement, of course, was on Twitter Spaces.
As we have reported, it was marred by technical glitches.
But in the first 24 hours after that announcement, he raised more than $8 million for his campaign.
What did you make of his message and his unorthodox decision to announce it on Twitter with Elon Musk?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, part of his problem is that he's too Twitter-focused at all.
I mean, Twitter, as we -- as some people understand, is not real life and not real America.
And too many of his issues, the woke mind virus, those are good Twitter issues.
I don't think they're good average American issues.
Like, bread-and-butter issues are good average American.
But he is, I think, too obsessed with Twitter.
Second, his campaign has a problem, which was that he's not very good with people.
And, therefore, if you look at the early ads, if you look at why he did Twitter, it's not the normal thing a candidate does while announcing their campaign, which is like to be around other human beings.
And, third, why is he running?
I mean, there was a lot of verbiage in that announcement, but what specifically is he running to do?
You can't run for president, as Ted Kennedy learned many years ago, if you don't have a crisp answer to that question, and he didn't really have one, at least so far.
GEOFF BENNETT: And, Jonathan, following that Twitter rollout, he gave a series of interviews to conservative media.
And it's clear that he's no longer tiptoeing around Donald Trump.
He attacked Trump as fiscally irresponsible, a supporter of amnesty for undocumented immigrants.
He said Trump's COVID-19 mitigation policies - - quote -- "destroyed millions of people's lives."
And then he added this: GOV.
RON DESANTIS (R-FL), Presidential Candidate: I will tell you, I don't know what happened to Donald Trump.
This is a different guy today than when he was running in 2015 and 2016.
And I think the direction that he's going with his campaign is the wrong direction.
GEOFF BENNETT: So, this question of sharpening his attacks against Donald Trump was really just a matter of when.
What do you make of the way that he's doing it?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: With Governor DeSantis, it's great, it's real nice to have that sharp language in an interview with someone in a friendly forum.
I want to hear him say those exact words on the debate stage in August, standing next to Donald Trump, and then watch him respond to the dragon fire that's going to come back in response.
The governor is trying to show, like: Hey, I'm a -- the policy-focused, substantive person.
And that might be great in -- to get the Republican primary voter, but it's disastrous on the national level.
And I keep going back to that six-week abortion ban he signed into law in Florida.
He wants to turn America into Florida.
And folks are looking at Florida and saying, I'm not so sure about that.
GEOFF BENNETT: Well, on that point, he also talked about how he has really extended the power of the governorship in Florida in a way that has not been done before.
And he talked about his plans to flex the powers of the presidency like never before.
He said that he has studied the U.S. Constitution.
He has studied the leverage points of the Constitution and would use his knowledge to exercise the true scope of presidential power.
DAVID BROOKS: Studying the U.S. Constitution?
Nobody's thought of that before.
Well, he -- well, first, what he should run on is: I was a successful governor of Florida.
That should be his story.
And so I think he's not wrong to focus on Florida, because he's a wildly popular governor in Florida.
Whether he expands the power of the presidency, well, I have to say he would be a long line.
In my career of covering journalism, every single president I have covered has expanded the powers of the presidency, sometimes to dangerous effect.
We are supposed to be -- we're not a government of equal branches.
We're a government of Congress is supposed to be the lead branch.
And so -- but to say you want to do that, to me, is to distort the U.S. government even further than it's been distorted over the last 50 years.
GEOFF BENNETT: And what was your assessment of Tim Scott's announcement this past week and the endorsement from John Thune, the number two Republican in the Senate?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Sure.
He's going to apply the -- occupy the happy warrior lane.
It's just a matter of whether the Republican Party faithful want a happy warrior, or they want the warrior, Donald Trump.
And, right now, if you look at the polling, it's clear who they want.
DAVID BROOKS: I thought the Thune presence was significant, because he is -- he's a conservative Republican in the pre-Trump mold, and it's a signal, his presence was a signal that the - - that -- what we think of as the mainstream non-Republican Party, they're moving to Scott.
And that could be significant if DeSantis continues to wane.
There really is a lane for a non-Trump somewhere.
GEOFF BENNETT: Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: And Scott, right now, people don't appreciate it, but I think he's actually the most likely to be the -- that person.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Great.
GEOFF BENNETT: And the Thune endorsement was quite a signal to the Republican establishment and the donor class.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Yes.
GEOFF BENNETT: David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, have a great long Memorial Day holiday weekend.
(LAUGHTER) JONATHAN CAPEHART: Thanks, Geoff.
GEOFF BENNETT: As we mentioned, Memorial Day weekend is here, which means many Americans will be spending more time in the sun.
Experts are using the holiday as a moment to remind people about preventing sunburns and, in more severe cases, skin cancer.
Stephanie Sy is back with what folks need to know.
STEPHANIE SY: Geoff, the American Skin Cancer Society estimates that over 97,000 cases of invasive melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, will be diagnosed this year alone.
Here to share some advice on staying safe in the sun is dermatologist and assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Ade Adamson.
Dr. Adamson, thank you so much, and happy Memorial Day to you.
First of all, who is most at risk of skin cancer?
DR. ADE ADAMSON, University of Texas at Austin: People that identify as non-Hispanic white, people that have lighter skin are the folks that are at the highest risk of developing melanoma, although anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, can develop melanoma.
STEPHANIE SY: Yes, you know, I kind of grew up as a person of color not thinking I needed to wear all that much sunscreen.
But the latest research doesn't necessarily bear out that people that look like you and I are any safer from skin cancer; is that correct?
DR. ADE ADAMSON: That's correct.
So, as I said, people of color can develop skin cancer, or melanoma, but it's usually not in places that get a lot of sun.
And, therefore, U.V.
protective behaviors for skin cancer prevention and people of darker skin types is not necessarily the same as people that are white in the United States.
STEPHANIE SY: How much does sunscreen reduce the risk of skin cancer for those who are more susceptible to it?
DR. ADE ADAMSON: So, sunscreen has been shown to reduce skin cancer.
Now, there are two general categories of skin cancer.
There's melanoma and there's non-melanoma skin cancer, which are basal cells and squamous cell carcinomas.
Well, melanoma represents only 1 percent of the amount of skin cancer that's out there.
The other 99 percent are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.
And both are caused in part by sun exposure, although non-melanoma skin cancer is more associated with the sun than is melanoma.
STEPHANIE SY: What are common mistakes that people make when using a sunscreen.
DR. ADE ADAMSON: One common mistake is that people leave their sunscreen in their cars or out in the sun.
And if the sunscreen heats up too much, it'll become less effective.
And one way to combat that, say, at the beach is to put your sunscreen in the cooler.
And I think that has two effects.
One, it protects it against the heat.
And, two, when you need to reapply after a couple of hours, and it's hot, it'll feel good going on the skin.
STEPHANIE SY: There has been more attention in recent years, Doctor, on the amount of chemicals, though, in sunscreens, not only out of concern for the environment, some of those chemicals, but our health.
Does using the wrong type of sunscreen pose a health risk?
DR. ADE ADAMSON: So, the short answer is no.
There haven't been any studies that have shown that using sunscreen is harmful to your health.
Now, there have been some studies in mice or rats giving them megadoses of some of the active ingredients in certain sunscreens, and that causing some endocrine disruption.
But those doses don't come close to the amount that people wear with usual types of sunscreen.
And what I would say about the environmental impact of sunscreen is that that too is from data that was done in a lab where they exposed coral reef to some active ingredients in sunscreens and showed that it did affect the coral.
But what's causing coral to die is global warming, not sunscreen.
STEPHANIE SY: And just to clarify, if somebody wanted to be extra safe, not to expose themselves to too many chemicals, there are other types of sunscreens, right, with particular ingredients that have fewer chemicals?
DR. ADE ADAMSON: So, there are two general types of sunscreens.
They're ones that have active ingredients with chemical sunscreens and then the physical sunscreens.
Now, physical sunscreens have two important ingredients in them called titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
And those types of sunscreens, those active ingredients don't get in -- don't absorb into the body, as do chemical sunscreens, which are basically all the other active ingredients.
Avobenzone and oxybenzone are two types of chemical sunscreens.
So, if you want to be extra, extra safe, you could stick with sunscreens that have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
And all you need to do was flip the back -- to the back of the bottle and check for those two chemical names.
STEPHANIE SY: But, either way, it sounds like wear it as we head into the summer season.
Dr. Ade Adamson with the University of Texas at Austin, thank you so much.
DR. ADE ADAMSON: Thank you so much for having me.
GEOFF BENNETT: Tune in for "Washington Week" later tonight, with our own Lisa Desjardins moderating this evening.
And don't forget to watch "PBS News Weekend" tomorrow for a look at the mental health services available to expectant and new mothers.
And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight.
I'm Geoff Bennett.
AMNA NAWAZ: And I'm Amna Nawaz in Brownsville, Texas.
On behalf of the entire "NewsHour" team, thank you for joining us.