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Dual Crises For The Trump Administration

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The Trump White House tries to keep pace with an impeachment inquiry at home and a foreign policy crisis in the Middle East. Congressman Duncan Hunter fails to secure the endorsement of the San Diego County Republican Party for his reelection campaign. And a look at how California is better prepared for earthquakes 30 years after the Loma Prieta quake.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:01 Crises at home and abroad for president Trump, but white house attempts at damage control and Syria as Democrats build their case for impeachment, who is the front runner in the 50th with the incumbent facing a criminal trial, his party holds off on making an endorsement and 30 years ago, disaster struck California, how the Loma Prieta quake changed the way we prepare for earthquakes. I'm Mark Sauer. The KPBS table starts now.

Speaker 2: 00:35 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:38 welcome to our discussion of the week. Stop stories. I'm Mark sour. Joining me at the KPBS round table today. KPBS reporter Prius there. Tony Perry farmers' San Diego Bureau chief for the Los Angeles times. Michael Smollins columnist with the San Diego union Tribune and Gary Robbins who covers science and technology for the union Trivion. Well, the speaker of the house chastised the president storming out of the oval office. Each claim the other head melted down. A parade of state department officials continues describing impeachable acts in the president's scheme to shake down a foreign leader for dirt on a political opponent. Meanwhile, the president abruptly GreenLights and invasion of Northern Syria by Turkey, leaving us allies in the lurch and causing broad condemnation from Republicans. The turmoil and golfing the Donald Trump administration in Washington at large seemed to somehow accelerate this week a week. Then also Mark the passing of a leading democratic Trump critic and a marathon debate by Democrats vying to take on Trump in 2020 a lot to talk about Tony. Start with Trump's a sudden and shocking to Republicans, as I said, and Democrats alike this decision to abandon the Kurdish allies. Why the stark reaction?

Speaker 3: 01:47 Well, we've, we've done this before to the Kurds. Uh, we abandoned them in world war one where they fought for the allies. We abandoned them after world war two when they fought for the allies. And of course in, in this case, they fought on our side in both Iraq and then in Syria, 1100 dead dead. And people who know that we'll have 1100 of the Kurds dead and multiple numbers. Uh, uh, you're right, 11,000, uh, multiple numbers injured of course, on, on the battlefield. And any of us who saw what the Kurds could do in the battlefield came away impressed. These are tough discipline people and this is the oddity. They're pro American. My goodness. Uh, almost the only people in that region who are dedicated Lee pro-American. Why? Because they think will help them get their own country. 30 million Kurds split among four nations, none of which particularly like them, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria.

Speaker 3: 02:39 And the Turks really don't like them for various reasons. And Mexican military had been pushing back on the Syrian forces there at the border, keeping them from sweeping into Syria and destroying the curd, uh, encampments. There are, uh, tens of thousands of civilian Kurds living in various and towns along them mortar. It isn't just as the president of United States said, rather appallingly, just two people fighting in the sand, like children at a, a, at a school yard battle. It's women and children and they live there. And the Kurdish Peshmerga, a very tough fighting force had been protecting them with help from the United States of America. Our president makes a phone call or takes a phone call and suddenly we're moving out and the Kurds have swept across the border. Then he tries to get a, you mean the [inaudible], the Turks sweep across the border into Syria. The Americans, uh, our troops leave, uh, Trump upset and says, well, let's take all a thousand of our people out of Northern Syria and we're doing that.

Speaker 1: 03:45 Well, let me get to that. Uh, that, that phone call, he, he Trump revealed the strange letter to president or the one of, uh, of Turkey warning. He's going to destroy their AQAL, their economy if they rolled the Kurds. Of course he okayed that, as you noted. Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool. He writes, uh, everyone apparently threw that awake. We're going to serve a reports. Republican staunch Trump. Ally, Lindsey Graham, he called a he a bat. He bashed Trump over this. Um, and, uh, Trump culture, former defense secretary James Madison, call him the world's most overrated general called Nancy Polosi, a third rate politician. He blasted the Kurds. Um, this is quite a day even in Trump world.

Speaker 3: 04:23 Insults and mocking and those little performances he puts on at the rallies had one in Dallas the other night. The, these are full employment acts for people checking fact checkers. The one for fellow from CNN said there were something like 27 major errors lies in that performance that he gave, uh, there in Dallas. And this whole idea that this deal he is cut with Erdogan is a great day for civilization. Really no one who's on the ground. Uh, Nick Robertson of CNN, uh, Richard Engle of NBC. They're not seeing it like that at all. They're seeing people desperately fleeing it. Turks still bombing more deaths and violence against the Russians are now involved. Uh, the Trump invited the Russians in the Kurds. Our allies have cut a deal with the butcher of Damascus. With Assad. It's worse than it has been and it's been bad and now it's worse.

Speaker 1: 05:17 Well as I mentioned at the open, we had of course, a long, a democratic debate here, and we're going to give a a sound bite here to a few of these folks who not quite understandably and predictably unloaded on Trump. Let's hear that

Speaker 4: 05:30 we have an erratic, crazy president who knows not a damn thing about foreign policy and operates out of fear for his own reelection. This is about Donald Trump, but understand it's about the next president and the next president and the next president and the future of this country. The impeachment must go forward.

Speaker 3: 05:50 I think that the house will find them, uh, guilty of worthy of impeachment because of the emoluments clause. This a president who is enriching themselves while using the oval office to do that. And that is outrageous.

Speaker 5: 06:04 I don't really think this impeachment process is going to take very long because as a former prosecutor, I know confession when I see it and, and he did it in plain sight. He has given us the evidence and he tried to cover it up, putting it in that special server.

Speaker 1: 06:19 All right. That was of course, Joe Biden. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Camila Harris. In order there prey, I want to ask you, considering your current service in the Navy reserve, what are your colleagues in the military saying about all of us?

Speaker 6: 06:29 Yeah, so it's kind of interesting cause obviously as a military service member, you're not really supposed to be publicly talking about this. But as a reservist, a lot of us have civilian jobs where we have to publicly talk about this. And I can say that, you know, a lot of my friends are across the spectrum politically. But what was fascinating was this was the one issue that ever, it seemed to sort of unite everybody, uh, in, they were sort of appalled that this happened and they felt like it was very disloyal. And I think what's also fascinating about this is we saw retired Admiral William McRaven actually had an opinion column in the New York times yesterday. Um, we also saw Maddis sort of poking fun at Trump, um, yesterday as well. And so you're seeing what's fascinating about this administration is you're seeing more top level retired military officers speaking out against so many of the things that the commander in chief is doing. And that trickles down all the way to, you know, people of my level.

Speaker 7: 07:21 Well, I think he has a tiny [inaudible], but I think what's interesting, you know, you brought up the Republicans and this is really the first time the Republicans, I've really had, you know, almost a unified split from the president. And in a way, uh, the, you know, the, the military action, both the, the retired and the, the really, the people in the military that are, are chafing at this, uh, I think emboldens them to do that. It's not a popular thing right now. It looks really bad, uh, on TV and elsewhere and in the world diplomatically. But also just politically, I think it's, you know, in the long run is this gonna really be that big of a Fisher with the Republicans and the president. The president always, you know, he did. Anybody that crosses him, he gets, you know, he takes retaliation. But I think in a way this is a safe thing to show that they for once can, you know, oppose the president on something cause they've been his lapdog for so long and they can look tough and standing up to them on this. I don't think the public really knows it has a grid good feeling for this yet. We're all initially appalled and so forth. But you know, it's a geopolitical thing that most people don't understand that the middle East

Speaker 3: 08:21 quickly and in the long run, I'm right now, I'm with you Michael. It is not going to change the Republican in the Senate. They're going to coalesce and block or find innocent presidents, different coats from the and also impeachment. The larger matter. Most people don't care about the middle East. He will have a a Munter and it will be, I brought the troops home, but he didn't. They put 3000 more in a, in an era in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia this week and 11,000 saying, is he saying something that's a lie and you think that'll matter. He will say that. And

Speaker 1: 08:52 I know there's camels that break straws back. Um, our that breaks gambles bags or something. Let me shift to impeachment cause you brought that up here. Um, we had a number of appearances that Trump and the state department tried to block here and they came and testified. Anyway, this is closed hearings, but we're getting the statements out from a number of these state department officials all having to do with this, uh, shake down of the Ukraine. Uh, this, uh, Trump's a whistleblower and his transcript that he released and we've talked about that before on the show. Common narrative now between all these hours of testing.

Speaker 3: 09:23 Yeah, I think we now know the, uh, the narrative that the two sides are going to use. I think you'll be impeached in the house. The democratically run out. They'll impeach the Republican, uh, run Senate will, uh, will not find him guilty and they will say, not that he didn't do it, but rather the process, the process, the like good defense attorneys everywhere. The process wasn't good. It was unfair. Uh, people took notes in pencil rather than pen. Uh, I heard that used once in a court here. Uh, this is, that's what it will be. And then he will run out and claim total victory. Uh, and away we go. And then we have an election next year.

Speaker 1: 10:03 But the polls, Michael Irish showing that Publix moving that way toward impeachment and removal 51%,

Speaker 7: 10:08 if you look back, it is interesting that that is the, the polling does show a slight majority now favoring impeachment and removal and removal. Um, you know, you go back to the, the, when when Nixon got into trouble with Watergate, he was impeachment and removal was like 19% support at the beginning of the Watergate hearings. That changed over time. So that shows how far ahead Trump is in that regard. The other hand, you go back to, to, uh, the, the Clinton impeachment and the public, they thought overwhelmingly he did what he was accused of doing that and that to a lesser degree, but a majority thought he obstructed justice, but Denny just didn't think this was an important enough thing to remove. Uh, what was then actually pretty popular president by today's standards. Um, so I think that that, uh, the, the Senate will be looking at that. There'll be looking at the, uh, the state chessboard, not the nationwide popular opinion on this because Trump has never been very popular.

Speaker 3: 11:01 Weaponized, uh, Twitter. He's got, uh, a whole, uh, media strategy that includes all the way from the wall street journal editorial page to people putting out podcasts in their mother's back bedroom. Uh, and they'll, they'll say the same thing over and over and over again. Those Democrats, they're awful.

Speaker 1: 11:18 Well, we'll see how many there are. That's the problem. Like we're gonna to move on and we didn't even get to the death of Elijah Cummings this week, which was unfortunate. Or Trump giving his a GSM. It's G seven summit, a business and no bid contract to his own Doral country club there in Florida. We'll save those for another show too much to talk about and keeps us in business, doesn't it? We're going to move on the 50th most, uh, mostly in East and North San Diego County is one of California's few congressional seats held by Republican trouble. Is that re that Republicans under federal indictment and neither he nor three other GOP candidates in the 50th earn the endorsement this week of the San Diego Republican

Speaker 7: 11:54 party in a pre. Let's start with uh, who's running and why nobody on the Republican side earn that endorsement.

Speaker 6: 12:01 Right. So right now we have four major candidates. I'm former Congressman Darrel Eissa, state Senator Brian Jones, former city Councilman and radio host, Carl de myo. And then of course the incumbent Dunkin Hunter. Uh, it was really fascinating to see what happened on Monday. All four of them appeared in, uh, the San Diego County, a Republican debate to try to win an official endorsement from the committee there. So the committee is made up of 49 members. Um, those are six people elected from each assembly district that touches San Diego County. Each assembly member who is Republican also gets a vote. Each state Senator that's Republican. So Brian Jones and uh, Pat Bates gets a vote and each Republican Congressman gets a vote. So they need to get a two thirds majority to get an official endorsement and nobody was able to get that. That would be 33 votes. Um, there was a photo that was obtained by the union Tribune that showed that Darryl Eissa in one of the rounds of the voting got zero votes. Carl de Mio and Dunkin Hunter or sorry, Dunkin Hunter and Brian Jones got 14 each and Carl [inaudible] got 21 so really fascinating. This is the first time that Duncan Hunter hasn't gotten an official endorsement from the party and at least according to that one round of voting, it looks like Carl DeMaio was a front runner.

Speaker 7: 13:17 And Michael, how important is this endorsement and what does it say about Hunter the end common important in that that the party infrastructure can certainly help a candidate. Uh, in the grand scheme of things, I don't know because if Republicans endorsed candidates have not done well down the line. Uh, but that's a, I think a, a product of the overall political dynamics and not so much the, the party infrastructure, which has been pretty well, pretty well funded and doing pretty well in terms of its discipline, so forth. But I think you've gotta look at it in the fact that there's four pretty big name Republican candidates that have support among various folks. I think that a lot of folks didn't want to endorse. I mean, they couldn't endorse Duncan Hunter. I mean, he may be in jail for all we know. And, and that would, you know, come the time of the primary and, uh, you know, there were various factions, uh, you know, the, that it was interesting that as we talked about the, that vote, I think that was an initial vote because it was one of these process of elimination where Darryl, ISO Lawson was sort of booted out of the round.

Speaker 7: 14:12 And then Carl de Mio was booted out of the subsequent rounds. And the last two, it was actually, uh, Brian Jones, a state Senator, and, and, uh, Dunkin Hunter Jones got the most votes were told, but not enough for the two thirds. So it was an interesting thing that two of the real well-funded candidates didn't even make it into that final round. And everybody's talking about, well, who actually got the most vote? Who cares? Nobody got the endorsement, will give us an update overall, a do a little step back. Who, uh, remind us who's on the democratic side here and how the primary is gonna work in this infighting and among the Republicans. That's an interesting dynamic. It is. But it happened. Um, you know, the unique thing is of course we've got the Dunkin Hunter situation and an incumbent in this district should never have any problem or serious opposition, but, uh, his legal problems that have given pause to a lot of Republicans, which is why you've got some, some people in there thinking that we could actually lose this at least for a couple.

Speaker 1: 15:02 And just to remind people, uh, pending an appeal in December, he's due to go to trial in January. Right, right.

Speaker 7: 15:06 Yeah. But anyway, our competency, ours to the Democrat, he ran against Dunkin Hunter, uh, last year in 2018 came very close to beating him in a very Republican district. Uh, he ran, he ran a good campaign, but it was more a matter of, you know, Dunkin Hunter's problems and people being concerned about that. Uh, so he's, he's, unless lightening strikes, he's almost certain to make it to the, uh, November election. We do have the top two primary with the two top locators regardless of party advance. In theory two Republicans could, but I think that the, the field is just so split up amongst some pretty well names that they, you're not going to get that kind of situation. So he's raising money. He's working hard, uh, keeping a bit of a low profile certainly than compared to the other guys. But the one thing is that he's certainly not going to be in the line of fire.

Speaker 7: 15:52 Like he will be in November and like he was last year, you said? He ran a good campaign, did seem overly careful. I thought. I kept waiting for him to become the West coast version of a Alexandro Casio quick test. And he never did that because we'll do as a whole philosophic thing. I think he'll be a little more, give us a little more juice this time are still very careful. It might depend who you run to guests. I mean, you know, I think one of the things he did smartly as he didn't get in the way, I mean the Dunkin Hunter situation was such a problem. Yeah. Sometimes it's best to, you know, to keep moving forward, but, but why, you know, if something's working for you, why you tinker with that, so to speak?

Speaker 6: 16:28 Well, I don't think an AOC strategy would really work in the 50th. That's the thing. You know, I spoke to a, and he said he's really focusing on the 60% of voters in the 50th who he believes are Democrats, independence or moderate Republicans. So he said that, you know, one tactic that all the four Republican candidates are trying to use against him is, Oh, you know, he's a sure vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the house. And he said, he said very vocally that that's not the case. That he's not 100% sure that he would vote for Nancy Pelosi. So I think socialist, I mean he would definitely say no, not at all. But of course that's what, you know, these four guys were saying that in that debate. Yeah, absolutely.

Speaker 1: 17:06 But he's a little more seasoned. I mean, he's been through campaign. Any candidate has been through up the campaign is a little older and wiser and smarter and got some scars to show for it.

Speaker 7: 17:13 But I, I think that the Democrats are concerned that, uh, like they, they like him, they've got a shot in a district that they shouldn't have any right. Having a shot at. But if he's not running against Dunkin Hunter, uh, any of the other Republicans are pretty good bet to win. Anything can happen.

Speaker 1: 17:29 So we'll see what happens now. Um, the, as you say, the primary is going to be quite a bit different from the general. I mean it's all, all the focus is probably going to be on those four Republicans of battling out. What happens if just as a mechanical thing, let's say there's a conviction and you've got Duncan Hunter still on the ballot for the primary, but he's in prison or you know, out on pending appeal or something.

Speaker 7: 17:51 Well, he could get the most votes and still be on the ballot in November. That can happen. Uh, you know, there's a November deadline that, that you cannot withdraw from the ballot after that, regardless of what happens. We've had some cases where people decided they wanted to withdraw and didn't realize that and the name ended up on the ballot. I just think because it's such a high profile race and that would be such high profile news, you know, he's going to be on the ballot. He might get some sympathy votes, but he's [inaudible] he's not going to be on top two folk that are in the [inaudible]. If he is convicted, his own house has to boot. He done kicked out,

Speaker 8: 18:24 pointed out. He's not on any committees any longer. He's kind of dead Congressman walking at this point

Speaker 7: 18:29 to a degree. Yeah. Which is, you know, everybody's trying to say nice things about them from are more or less on the Republican side. Some are, uh, but they just say, look, you know, his effectiveness is an issue and the district needs some of that.

Speaker 1: 18:39 All right, lots more on that going forward. We'll leave it there for today and move on. It was known as the world series earthquake, the epicenter and the town of Loma Prieta, the entire Bay or EFL to 6.9 magnitude earthquake, including those assembled in candlestick park for game three of the world series between the giants and the Oakland A's. And this was major national story. Here's a bit of coverage from PBS news hour 30 years ago, October 18th, 1989,

Speaker 9: 19:04 begin with a look at the devastation as it unfolded yesterday. Afternoon and evening for a third generation San Franciscan report, her Spencer, Michael's of public station KQBD.

Speaker 10: 19:16 All it took was a glance at San Francisco skyline and the smoke in the air just before dusk to realize that this earthquake was having major effects for most people. The first concern was calling home and since the power had gone out at the moment of the quake, phone lines in many offices were dead at TV station. KQD technicians rigged up a bank of phones that did the smell of natural gas still hangs heavy on this city and the fear of more shaking is real. What still is hard to believe is the realization that San Francisco has experienced a major disaster and most of us survive.

Speaker 1: 20:09 Gary, that was a big quake, but we've had several large ones since they're kind of give us the the scope of that. Some of the major quakes we've had. That's a big

Speaker 8: 20:16 one. I think the thing that changed a lot is what came after the Northridge earthquake in 1994 you may remember this, this was another surprise. It was on a fault that was not known to exist. The Easter Sunday earthquake in 2010 that showed scientists that energy from one fall could really jump much further than anybody really understood that here. It sure did. And then Ridgecrest is showing that, um, one quake can actually activate a fault. That in most ways is, uh, it seems to be dead. There's a, you know, millimeters of movement. So we've gone after another after another. Fortunately, during that period of time, scientists had been putting together an early warning system started in the early 1990s. It's begun rolling out. We now have an app called my shake alert. It was kind of tested in the, uh, rich, rich, uh, crest. We should say that that's a desert community, small community East of lawsuits.

Speaker 8: 21:05 Right. Um, the whole idea there was that it would warn people in Los Angeles and only if they thought there might be damage. That was the problem. The test wasn't so good in that sense. It was limited. Now, the new app and what they're doing there, you can find out if there's been a big earthquake. If you're anywhere in um, in California and you do have this app, what it's going to do is it's going to set at 4.5. If a 4.5 is occurring, then it will send out an alert to people who have the app on their phone or some other software device that are above can cause some damage and or possibly injuries. Yes. Now the focus really isn't so much just on damage. What they're trying to do is give a warning in a situation where people might be scared. Um, that's what happened in rich [inaudible].

Speaker 8: 21:49 Rich crashed out. A lot of people here in San Diego County were very startled by the shaking from that. They didn't know where it happened and if more was coming. So the whole idea here is to warn people broadly, not just in one area. In one circumstance. Tony, you're about to say something. How much warning? Scared people. I'm one of them. All right. We've had Compton too. Unless the day are so rich grass there in California, are we getting closer to the big one? It's impossible to know. Someone else asked me that a lot. Well a lot of it is background noise. I mean we're moving constantly. The earth never stops moving. So we've had a lot of a 2.5 2.8 out say near Bracho Springs. We had something closer to the coast that could be just background noise. What reached crests did is not really clear yet. Um, it's, you know, it seems to have started something on the um, uh, the Garlock fault.

Speaker 8: 22:41 But it also may be redistricting energy on the Southern San Andres fault. So it's spreading out and it's just, they don't know what's going to happen. And the scientists are saying exactly that. These big quakes, several things have happened. We've done a lot of new construction is as much better retrofitting in many areas and bridges. And we've seen that a lot around San Diego. We got a lot of rid, a lot of the masonry buildings building cause they're so much stronger. Um, freeway codes and bridges are much stronger partly in due to UC San Diego. They have that big shake table out there in Scripps ranch. So our design is better. But I would point out that, um, the limits of what a, the scientists know are really there. I remember in the early 1990s, Tom Heaton of Caltech telling me that he thought that, um, skyscrapers might collapse in Los Angeles under some circumstances and a lot of people at the time said, no, that couldn't happen.

Speaker 8: 23:32 And now that we know that under certain circumstances that could happen. So we've been lucky here. We have been lucky, particularly in San Diego. Yeah. But you know what this says to me with Ridgecrest seeming to start the garlic fault, what does it start? Does it have any effect on the Rose Canyon fault right here in downtown San Diego? They don't know yet. That's a fault. That doesn't move a lot. But San Diego state has been investigating that very fall for a long time. And they keep finding out that actually he goes off more and more frequently than they understood. So a tail could wag the dog at some phone. My God, it could. It could. Now. Um, the other thing I wanted to ask about was they've, they've studied that w the quakes themselves, they're getting far more sensitive and we're having way more quakes, a little tiny ones than we ever dreamed, right?

Speaker 8: 24:15 I mean by exponentially we're doing a better job at sensing what actually happens. So the a sensor network that's put together by Cal tech, UC San Diego, San Diego state is involved there. It's so dense now after what happened at Loma Prieta. Then after Northridge, they really pushed forward putting sensors everywhere and they have them. But we also now have these, these are sensors, uh, the my shake alert, those on the radio, you're pointing to the app on your phone? Yes, I am the um, the um, so, uh, more, almost 700,000 people have signed up for the my shake app. And so that's 700,000, um, sensors additionally to what exists. And a couple of seconds left here. What can individuals do? Homes, apartments, residences to prepare a couple of different things. Make sure you understand drop cover, hold on very simply. If we begin shaking, drop, cover your head as best you can and reach for something to hold onto.

Speaker 8: 25:08 That has worked very well. The training that the state and scientists have done on that is very, very good. Do you have the sensors? You know what I'm doing? I tell people take a box that you might get from the shopping center, put it in the back of your car and each time you go to your car, put it in an earthquake supply. Water matches a piece of clothing. Be ready. It will be filled. Alright we're out of time but we'll have more on this as we go along on all these stories and that does wrap up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guest Prius or either of KPBS news, former Los Angeles times reporter Tony Perry, Michael Smollens and Gary Robbins, both of the San Diego union Tribune. And a reminder, all the stories that we discussed today are available on our website kpbs.org take some time cause there's a lot there and a lot to read about. I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today and join us again next Friday on the round table. [inaudible].

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KPBS Roundtable

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.