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Calls For White House Adviser To Resign Following Email Leak

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Calls for White House adviser Stephen Miller to resign following a leak of controversial emails. The alarming death rate among San Diego County jail inmates. San Diego State University moves forward with its Mission Valley stadium plans.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Calls for white house immigration advisor, Stephen Miller to resign following a leak of his racist emails. The latest on the alarming death rate among San Diego County jail, inmates and SDSU in the city. Agree on a sale price for the mission Valley stadium site. I'm Mark Sauer. The KPBS Roundtable starts now.

Speaker 2: 00:25 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:30 welcome to our discussion of the week stop stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS round table today. KPI, excuse me, KBB as border and immigration reporter and author Jean Guerrero, KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen and freelance journalists. Kelly Davis. Well, as president Trump endured withering testimony accusing him of a bribery screen scheme and the house impeachment inquiry this week, calls mounted for one of his top aides to resign. Stephen Miller, architect of Trump's immigration policies was called out by the Southern poverty law center for emails showing he promoted white nationalist theories and jr had been covering the story for NPRs national audience. 100 Democrats signed a letter yesterday calling for Miller to resign a start with a specific allegations against a Trump's immigration Tsar, if that's the way to characterize him.

Speaker 3: 01:18 Right. So, so the puffer, this the Southern poverty law center got its hands on about 900 emails that Stephen Miller had exchanged with the far right website, Breitbart, and essentially they show him promoting white supremacist white nationalist websites, overtly racist literature. Um, and they also reveal that Stephen Miller was shaping Breitbart coverage during the Trump campaign and while he was working as communications director for Alabama Senator Jeff sessions.

Speaker 1: 01:45 So among some of these outrageous ideas that Miller was pushing this, this book called camp of the saints has gotten some publicity.

Speaker 3: 01:53 Yeah, exactly. So I mean, I've reviewed some of these emails and to me the most revealing part was him recommending that Breitbart do a story promoting this book. And essentially this book, it's extremely racist. It talks about the end of the white world after the arrival of refugees. Um, the refugees are described in horrifically in human terms throughout. There's not a single neutral or positive description, uh, things like describing their arms as insect. Like when one quote is that the migrants arrived like a quote, single, solid mass, like some gigantic beast with a million legs. It describes him as kinky haired, swarthy skinned, long despised and teaming ants toiling for the white man's comfort. So it's just, it's just filled with these descriptions of, of migrants invading, invading and destroying the white world.

Speaker 1: 02:43 So when Stephen Miller is a, is a recommending that they look at this book, he's referring to different websites and all, how is that all received at the Breitbart news website?

Speaker 3: 02:53 So they, they took his ideas and they turned them into stories that at the time there was an editor named Julia Hahn who later became a special assistant to president Trump. And she did a story showing parallels between the book and real life alleged parallels saying that suggesting that the book was, was prophetic and that immigration would doom society would doom the United States in the way that was shown in the book. Steve Bannon, who was Breitbart's news executive at the time, um, also started talking about the book repeatedly after Miller suggested it to Breitbart, talking about how it allegedly described the quote invasion at the U S border

Speaker 1: 03:29 and remind us abandons role in the Trump campaign and briefly in the white house.

Speaker 3: 03:33 Yeah. So he was chief executive of the Trump campaign and then later became chief strategist. Um, it's a, Steve Miller was actually working for the Trump campaign before Bannon

Speaker 1: 03:43 and he wants a Miller himself. He came out of a Jeff sessions office when he was a Senator in Alabama before he became attorney general.

Speaker 3: 03:50 Yeah. He was working as communications director for sessions.

Speaker 1: 03:53 Now, uh, Miller also pushed some white supremacists, uh, websites. What's that about?

Speaker 3: 03:58 Yeah, so he just as an example, he, he promoted, um, he encouraged Breitbart to pull content from a white nationalist website that, that promotes the great replacement theory, which is this conspiracy theory that, uh, claims that white people are being systematically obliterated by people of color. It's a theory that has motivated many, uh, white terrorists shooters such as the one that we saw recently in El Paso where 22 people were killed at the Walmart. Exactly. Um, and, and it's a theory, it's, it's essentially a white genocide theory. And, and Stephen Miller was sharing links to a website that promotes this theory.

Speaker 1: 04:36 Now give us some background here and how these emails came out in the first place.

Speaker 3: 04:41 Yeah, so there was a woman named Katie McHugh who was working at Breitbart at the time. Um, editors at Breitbart had introduced Stephen Miller to her while he was working for sessions as someone who was going to influence the direction of her reporting, sort of like an editor, editorial director. Um, and what happened is that in 2017 McHugh was fired for anti-Muslim tweets after Bannon and Miller had stopped, um, after Bannon had left Breitbart and was in the white house. And she has since renounced the far right movement and decided that she was going to take her emails, share them with the Southern poverty law center and try to expose what she said was the white nationalists white nationalism that was influencing the formation of Trump's immigration policies. I spoke to MCU, she says that Miller really helps to radicalize her by pumping her with this type of information.

Speaker 4: 05:34 So I wonder, Jean, do you think, how much insight do you think these emails actually provide into the motivations behind the, the immigration policies that we've actually seen come out of the Trump administration?

Speaker 3: 05:45 Well, I think it's clear these emails provide a clear link between white supremacists, white nationalists ideologies, and the person who is forming these immigration policies, which have affected, uh, immigrants from nonwhite countries. Um, so w we can't, you know, say for sure what's in Steven Miller's head. But these emails give us very clear indication of what has been inspiring him and what, what has, because some of the policies that he has shaped come straight from a lot of these organizations. Um, and those policies like our, the Muslim ban. Exactly. Family separation. Yeah. So, so when you look at the Trump administration's immigration policies, he talks about cracking down on criminals and on rapists and people who are crossing the border illegally. But the fact is, when you actually look at Stephen Miller and what he's been designing, most of it has impacted legal immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers. So people from central America, people from mostly African countries, people under the DACA program, them as well. Yeah, exactly. Um, and so, so it, some people believe that these emails indicate that rather than being informed by wanting to crack down on criminals and, uh, law enforcement focus, in fact, the architect of immigration policies for the Trump administration is being informed by, by racial, um, motivations.

Speaker 5: 07:10 I've been surprised. I mean, I know this has been getting some news attention, but I, I've been kind of surprised that the response hasn't been more overwhelming and I think it's something like 108 hundred nine Democrats have signed a letter asking for him to be removed. And when I saw that, that's it. You know, um, why aren't Republicans being asked to respond to, to what these emails and they're still boring emails.

Speaker 3: 07:38 Exactly. Yeah. There's, to me, they're rolling them out slowly, um, because they want this to remain in the news cycle.

Speaker 1: 07:44 Yeah. I get a little overwhelmed this week with the impeachment inquiry and the [inaudible].

Speaker 3: 07:48 Exactly. Exactly. There's just so much else going on. And I think that's part of the reason we haven't seen as much of a push from journalist to get a response from, from Republican Republicans, um, on these emails. Um, but yeah, we have Jewish organizations, we have Democrats calling for his resignation saying that it is unacceptable that the person who is shaping immigration policies has likely been inspired by white supremacists and white nationalists ideology is,

Speaker 1: 08:15 and uh, is it likely at all that he'll be asked to resign by president Trump who, uh, after all still had the birther theory lie to begin with and then started his campaign bashing immigrants and hasn't taken a breath?

Speaker 3: 08:26 Yeah, I, I can't say for sure, but it doesn't look likely. I mean, Steven Miller has been instrumental in the Trump administration as far as motivating his base. Um, he was instrumental in the Trump election. Um, and he's been there from the very beginning. He's one of the few people who's stuck, who's, who's, who's remained, who's, who's been able to cling to his position in the white house amid so much turn turnover. He and the family have, have, have remained or have remained since the beginning.

Speaker 1: 08:54 All right. We'll keep that story

Speaker 5: 08:55 and more emails to come here. It's quite an amazing bit of reporting where we're going to move on. Um, Elisa CRNA was a 24 year old with a history of drug abuse when she died in jail this month. She was the 15th fatality in the San Diego County jail this year for over a decade, inmates have died behind bars here at the rate of more than one a month. The highest mortality rate by far among the large County jails in California. And Kelly, start with that case. Um, why was she in jail? What's known about how she died? Yeah, so she was very young, 24 years old. Uh, her, her parents said that she had a history of struggling with drug addiction, um, meth most recently heroin. So she had been arrested in November six on drug charges and theft charges, uh, put in the Los Colinas a women's jail. And, uh, what her family has found out is that she was going through withdrawals. She was vomiting, she was fainting. Uh, so she was putting a special observation unit. Um, it's, it's still not clear, uh, what sort of medical treatment she got. You know, a lot of experts will say that if you're, if you're vomiting, if you're, you know, there's certain symptoms of withdrawal that require a doctor's care, um, and constant monitoring. Uh, but she on November 11th was found unresponsive in her cell and, uh, yeah,

Speaker 1: 10:17 and they didn't call nine one one at any point.

Speaker 5: 10:20 They had, you know, MTS come to try to revive her, but they were unsuccessful.

Speaker 1: 10:24 All right. And a U and UT a watch a dog reporter, Jeff McDonald, he published a three part series examining the high death rate in the County jails. Explain to how you went about reporting that series of, what were you looking at?

Speaker 5: 10:36 Yeah, it was a big project of both Jeff and I have over the years reported on individual jail deaths and lawsuits and we kind of talked and said, um, let's try to put it all in one place. And so, um, as we started putting everything together, uh, we, we found out, you know, in, in asking the, the Sheriff's department for deaths over the last, you know, couple of decades, we noticed that there had been a significant increase under bill Gore compared to his predecessor. He's been there a little over 10 years. Um, and this has happened while, uh, the, the, so it's the one reason that, that sheriff Gore would give in the past for the high rate of deaths is he'd say, well, we book more inmates than other jail systems. Um, but actually if you look at those numbers, uh, the bookie numbers have been cut in half under Gore's tenure. So booking numbers have gone way down, deaths have have gone up, and, uh, so have, uh, lawsuit, uh, settlements and jury awards. They've, uh, quadrupled, uh, under Gore compared to his predecessor.

Speaker 1: 11:43 And in the, in the reporting in this extensive series, uh, published in the union Tribune, what were the main conclusions you came to?

Speaker 5: 11:51 Just, um, you know, there's been lapses in medical care lapses and mental health care. Uh, suicidal inmates weren't monitored. Um, uh, you know, deputy's not following policy. The policies look good on paper. You know, you could have the best policies in the world. Um, but if, if your staff isn't following them, then this is what's going to happen. You know, we found poor communication between medical staff and sworn staff. They didn't seem to be on the same page when it came to the care of certain inmates. Um, and efforts by some deputies and some medical staff to do the right thing. Those efforts being thwarted by, um, higher up.

Speaker 1: 12:31 Now what has sheriff bill Gore's response been to your stories? What's is the explanation for this high rate?

Speaker 5: 12:38 Um, he doesn't like the, the methodology we use to calculate the mortality rate. Um, but the, the approach we used is the same one used by the federal Bureau of justice, federal Bureau of justice statistics and other experts. It's commonly accepted. He said that, uh, prison realignment, which, which we now have inmates spending longer time in County jail is he blamed that. But none of our inmates, none of the, none of the inmates. Uh, now the cases we looked at involved inmates who were there because of prison realignment, otherwise be in state prison. Yeah. Um, realignment is a realignments of policy that's affecting the entire state of California, not just San Diego. Correct. Then the reason that we would be an outlier, it's, yeah. And it's actually an excuse that other jails have given a first uptake in, in jail deaths. But I'm jealous. I've gotten more money, you know, to hold these inmates and, and yeah, like I said, there's, there's, we, we looked at everybody.

Speaker 5: 13:33 None of these folks were, were there, you know, we're a longterm, uh, inmate that should've been sent to prison and, and we have a story coming out. Uh, so Gore wrote, uh, wrote an op ed for the union Tribune and he made a couple of, I mean, a couple of comments that weren't accurate. And so, um, we, we dug into those, uh, one is that other counties have city jails that kind of filter people. So they go to the city jails first before the County jails will, we looked at deaths and city jails and it, it has no impact on San Diego, still has the highest mortality rate.

Speaker 1: 14:05 Now with this high rate of deaths in the past decade, uh, how are the sheriff and County leaders? They're, they're seeking answers or the, uh, delving into this

Speaker 5: 14:12 finally, after, you know, like I said, years of reporting, um, you know, after the series came out, uh, County supervisors, uh, Nathan Fletcher and Diane Jacob called for a review of best practices. Um, and that's what they're doing. Um, that's exactly what they're doing. Or they're looking for a contractor to do simply a review, kind of a literature review of, of best practices and other jails. Um,

Speaker 1: 14:39 and you talked to some experts who, who delve into this area. They work in this area. They, they do assessments of jails and they read rather skeptical, get

Speaker 5: 14:47 the scope of work. And they said, this looks like window. Um, this is not, this is not what will solve the problem. And the initial scope of work, uh, said that the contractor, whoever's hired to do this would be barred from going into the jails. Um, that's been removed. Now it's kind of silent on whether the person could go take a look at the jails. But um, yeah, it's not going to be the, the in depth, uh, review that will will lead to change.

Speaker 1: 15:17 Well, wouldn't a best practice be to go into the jail on announced, do on announce visits, see what's actually going on and they're given the right,

Speaker 5: 15:23 that is what everyone has has said, you know, do a do a um, yeah. And an announced visit. Um, just cause that's, you know, that's going to give you your best view of, of, of what really goes on day to day. Cause otherwise if you have a, you know, if you've announced ahead of time, it's, you know, they could put some fresh paint on the walls, you know, make sure people are on their best behavior. So, um,

Speaker 1: 15:47 yeah, that's a completely different, any inspection that's announced or unannounced, completely a different dynamic. Bottom line question, what are these other large California counties who don't have the, the rate of death of inmates that we have? Uh, how are they maybe differently managing a medical, mental, mental health issues to get at this problem?

Speaker 5: 16:05 You know, w we only know that something went wrong when, when someone dies. Um, and, and, and usually it's, it's because policy wasn't followed, you know, so, so I think, I think the policies are the same. Everyone knows what should be done. So I think the policies are the same among these jails. It's just whether staff has receiving proper training and whether they're committed to to keeping people alive and to following, you know, the, the best practices, the best protocols.

Speaker 1: 16:34 All right. What's the timetable on that? Um, on that study that they are, go,

Speaker 5: 16:39 they, the, they, they want, uh, proposals by the beginning of December and then they want the report completed by March.

Speaker 1: 16:46 All right, well let's follow up with that and see what happens going forward. It's a great story. They have struck a deal, the offer offered by San Diego state university to buy the mission Valley stadium cipher 86 million and change was unanimously approved by city council this week. Now come the devolution details and Andrew start there with that deal. What exactly did SDSU and the city agree on?

Speaker 4: 17:08 The main difference or the main point of contention between the previous meeting the city council held and the one that happened this week was the sale price and what constitutes fair market value. So the university had offered 68 point $2 million. Initially they were taking some discounts that, uh, the city felt were unfair and unjustified and not in the spirit of measure G, which is the initiative that passed last year that enabled the sale to happen. And so the university, uh, went back, they, they took that feedback from the city council and came up with a higher offer of 86 point $2 million and a bunch of other conditions also attached to it.

Speaker 1: 17:45 And let's, uh, just for the record, what's the difference between that and the original offer by SDSU, which I should note, uh, holds the broadcasting license for KPBS.

Speaker 4: 17:53 Yeah, so a difference of about $18 million. Um, there are also asking the city to commit to a constructing funding parcel. Most of the construction of a bridge that over, um, the San Diego river at Fenton Parkway, just, uh, West of the property. And um, they're also saying they're going to index a portion of the land to inflation. So depending on when the sale closes that the, the actual final price could be closer to $87 million and a little bit more.

Speaker 1: 18:20 And this is just the purchase price of the land. What's the ballpark and the over cost overall cost of building a stadium and everything else we're talking about.

Speaker 4: 18:29 Yeah. So it's quite a big development that's going to be happening on this piece of land, which is currently just a giant surface parking lot, plus the stadium that the stadium itself, the new stadium is the only thing that has a signed construction deal. And that's about $250 million a year.

Speaker 1: 18:44 And remind us how many seats for that? It's a football stadium or soccer,

Speaker 4: 18:47 the 35,000 seats in the, in the football stadium. Uh, they, uh, are going to be, we don't have figures, uh, exact figures dead on how much, let's say the university research space, um, will be costing or, um, some of the other portions of the deal, the housing and some of the commercial space on that land is going to be public private partnerships. So the university will lease out the land to a private developer and it could end up actually making money for the university. Um, as far as how they're paying for it though, uh, the, um, the university is issuing some short term debt right now and they're going to, they expect to pay that back with the typical things that finance stadiums, ticket sales concessions, uh, donations. They're really hustling their alumni right now for donations to fund this thing. Um, and they've pledged not to use any, uh, student tuition or fees, um, to, to fund the stadium. Um, they're, they haven't exactly shown their work yet that, that it's actually a subject of litigation between the university and voice of San Diego right now. Whether the university's financial models, um, are, are subject to the public records act.

Speaker 1: 19:54 Sounds like a lot of new t-shirts we're going to have to buy here as we go along. Now, what impact ultimately does SDSU expect from this campus extension and to satellites? A site I should say just West of where we're sitting here on the main,

Speaker 4: 20:06 a few stops down on the trolley. Yeah.

Speaker 1: 20:09 Yeah. That is nice. The trolley.

Speaker 4: 20:11 Yeah. So they expect that there'll be able to add 15,000 students to the university as this, um, uh, gets built out over the next 15, 20 years. Um, it's certainly going to help with their ambitions of becoming a major research university. Uh, they say it's also going to increase their economic impact on the local economy, uh, by about $3 billion up from its current five point $7 billion according to studies that are done by the university. Um, in a more qualitative sense, I think the biggest impact is just going to be that we'll have a better use of this public land right now. It's, uh, you know, right in the heart of mission Valley. Uh, it is on this, you know, transit stop, um, in a city that has an intense need for new dense transit oriented development that can house our growing population and provide new jobs for people. And so it's just going to be a much better situation just to have this land actually done something with as opposed to what it is right now, which is pretty useless frankly.

Speaker 1: 21:11 We're used to, of course 81 baseball games a year, but that's been a decade or so since that's happened. They used to be football professional football. Right. So what are the next steps in this deal? What needs to be done before it's actually finalized and demolition? Demolition must be a heck of a job in itself,

Speaker 4: 21:26 right? The city attorney's office right now is drafting a purchase and sale agreement based on the terms that uh, the university has offered and the feedback from the city council. And the mayor's office, um, the, the CSU board of trustees is set to have a meeting in January when they will vote to certify the environmental impact report of this development. Um, they could also, if the purchase and sale agreement is ready, could potentially vote on that as well. Um, the goal is to have the, uh, vote at the city council on the final deal in March. However, we have heard from the city attorney's office that this timeline, it could just be a unrealistic that, um, the city's attorney's office, their concern is mainly they want to avoid litigation and they want to have a deal that's fully compliant with measure G and the will of the voters that authorize this. So they say, you know, we can't be rushed in this. We just have to make sure that it's actually an airtight deal that will be fair to the city and the university

Speaker 1: 22:23 w anybody taking odds on what the litigation, what that might, I mean, a lot of us remember, of course the Petco park, uh, construction held up and the rusting or rebar down there as the lawsuits drag. Now

Speaker 4: 22:35 it's always a possibility. Certainly. Um, one interesting thing that I think we heard in the city council meeting this week was, um, some discontent from labor unions though the electrical, the local electrical workers union, uh, got up and was saying, listen, this isn't the deal that we were promised when during the campaign for measure G they want an agreement that would guarantee union level wages and benefits paid to the construction workers who are, who are building everything on this piece of property, including the private developments that are not actually financed by the university. Um, and that's not something that the university has set in stone and that's, they say will definitely happen. So, you know, we've seen labor unions, um, use the California environmental quality act as a, as a tool to kind of get concessions out of developers. And, um, that's something that certainly the city wants to avoid. I don't think they would like that either. But, um, ultimately it will just be a, a test of, of will and of political capital I guess.

Speaker 1: 23:34 But right now, the, um, the university, their timeline is let's play football there and 2022 that's as we sit here at the end of 2019 it does seem rather ambitious.

Speaker 4: 23:44 Well, they're, and they're, they're,

Speaker 1: 23:46 they've stated really from the beginning of this campaign that they want the football stadium ready by the 2022 NCAA season so that the Aztecs will have a new stadium to, um, to play in that season. Um, yeah, it's, I, you know, I'm not an expert on how long it takes to build a stadium. Um, it seems like a big job.

Speaker 4: 24:05 Certainly the job, they seem pretty confident in their ability to, um, to stick to that timeline as long as they do get a vote at this CSU board of trustees and the city council in the first quarter of next year.

Speaker 1: 24:16 And remind us, this was, was an odd whole process and we talked about it in the show before, but this was a massive land use issue. Decided at the ballot box. And I guess we're, we're in the midst of finding out whether that was a good idea.

Speaker 4: 24:28 Right. So, um, last year we had two measures on the ballot. Uh, one was the soccer city development, which, uh, was, uh, private investors who wanted to build a larger stadium on the property. Um, the land use overall land use of the entire property was pretty similar. So it had, um, housing. It had commercial space, the new stadium of course. Uh, and for a while SDSU and soccer city were actually working together and they had hoped that they would be soccer city, certainly hoped that they would be able to accommodate the university's ambitions of expanding its campus in their plan. However, um, that relationship fell apart ultimately. And we had the citizens group come together, write their own initiative that favored SDSU. And, um, and so they basically took a gamble on who could win the voter support, which, which side had, you know, a better reputation. And clearly it was the university. I think that, you know, we have a lot of alumni in this city. Um, and, and they really cashed in on,

Speaker 1: 25:29 all right, well we're out of time, but lots more to happen on this story as we move forward. Well, that does wrap up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests, KPBS reporter, gene Guerrero, reporter Andrew Bowen, off also of KPBS news and freelance journalists. Kelly Davis. I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us on the round table today and join us next Friday for a special round table featuring hosts of KPBS podcast and have a happy Thanksgiving. [inaudible].

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Mark Sauer hosts KPBS Roundtable, a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.