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Impeachment Inquiry Launched

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The House of Representatives looks toward the impeachment of President Trump. An investigation into San Diego County's jail system raises concern. SDG&E pushes for change, but how much could it cost customers.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 [inaudible] president Trump faces an impeachment pushed from the house of representatives. Is it strong enough to move forward an independent investigation into San Diego County jails fines, an alarming number of inmate deaths and STG proposes rate changes. How much could it cost us customers? I am Alison st John and the KPBS round table starts now.

Speaker 2: 00:30 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:30 welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Ellison st John and joining me at the KPBS round table today are Rob Nikolsky from the San Diego union Tribune, Kelly Davis correspondent for the San Diego union Tribune and former LA times Bureau chief Tony Perry. After months of debating whether to launch impeachment proceedings, democratic house speaker, Nancy Pelosi jumped off the fence this week and cold for an inquiry of president Trump's communications with the president of Ukraine. The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable fact of the president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. Therefore, today I'm announcing the house of representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. So Tony, Nancy Pelosi has been resisting calls from impeachment for so long. What is it about this latest episode with Ukraine that has made her get off the fence and actually started?

Speaker 3: 01:34 Well, her Democrats were piling up in terms of how many of them were for impeachment. So it made it harder for the speaker to say, no, no, we're not going to go there. And then of course there was a whistleblower which brought up very, uh, disturbing, uh, events. And then then there was an op ed for the Washington post written by seven freshmen who had been on the fence, who hadn't been for impeachment necessarily, and they all have military or national security backgrounds. And they said, enough is enough, this whistle blower information if true. And since then we've found out that a lot of it is true is, uh, a bridge far too far. And so let's move on it. And within a few hours, uh, Pelosi had said, we're going to begin an investigation on out impeachment to see whether there are charges to bring, it's a multistep, but this is a big step. And it could go directly to, um, suggested charges and a vote by the house of representatives.

Speaker 1: 02:38 So then of course you always have the Senate. And the reason that she's resisted it is because it's been fairly obvious the Senate would never go along with it. What makes her think that the Senate might go along with this now?

Speaker 3: 02:47 Well, she has am I, she's old enough to remember Nixon. And why was Nixon forced into resignation? Because the Republican gray Baird's came to him ultimately, and this is hurting the party. A number of us are going to lose our elections because of you. And he had some respect for the system and for his party. He had other, um, problems. Uh, but he did respect the process and his party and uh, resigned and took that helicopter that we now know. Now the question is, will Republicans start to abandon president Trump? Not so much so far. A lot of straddling, lot of, kind of, I haven't read anything yet or I have questions. A lot of backpedaling. Well, no, you're, you're old enough to have seen in patient proceedings a couple of times already. What would you say are the major differences about this? Well, of course, the, um, the, the topics that we're talking about.

Speaker 3: 03:48 Remember a bill Clinton, uh, 1998 in which he was impeached but not convicted. What were the charges? Uh, that he was impeached on, uh, lying about having had an affair with, uh, a 23 year old intern in the white house. Remember the great quote, I did not have sexual relations with that woman, miss Lewinsky. You lied about it. And also he tried to get various folks to live for him and back him up, uh, in fighting a suit by Paula Jones, a suit later filed so that the house went for those lying was the worst thing. The line. Yeah. That's obstruction of justice, et cetera. Um, cases. Nixon. I mean, we also had a situation where, uh, you could say con, you were just saying the parties reputation was at stake. The nation constitution was, and, but that's of course as we speak now, which way is this gonna cut?

Speaker 3: 04:42 And we were discussing it in the 50th, for example. Uh, is this gonna hurt Democrats? The wall street journal editorial page heavily in favor of Trump is starting to say, watch out your Democrats. Watch out. You're Democrats. You came after our man, you're gonna lose your, uh, your seats. We'll see what is an Inquirer we going to give us? We have a lot of the inflammation already. It seems like it's not information that is needed for this thing to move forward are a lot of questions. A, this whistleblower admits that he did not seek, he or she did not see these things, did not hear these things directly, but other folks in the white house told him or her about them. So I suppose those folks can be brought into a closed or open session. So that'll take a while. Although the folks on the house judiciary committee are talking about moving quickly and although again, Nancy Pelosi, she's cautious because I think she is worried that this might, um, relieve some of the pressure of folks that want to see the president held to account, but also may blow up in their faces and lose a few seats, but also a, the 20, 20 election.

Speaker 3: 05:51 You think it might hurt Joe Biden in this? Because by talking about what president Trump said, he got to talk about what Joe Biden did and what his son did. And you think that that might hit be, he might be like a collateral damage damages. That's where I think very much so that could happen. Although, let's say it, there is no evidence at this moment that, uh, Joe Biden did anything untoward involving Ukraine is that quote with him that I've seen where he's saying, you know, I, I told them the Ukraine people, you know, if you want the, you've locked the money, a bunch of money and son of a gun using our phrasing, it happened. He was there carrying out the orders of the president of the United States and also a number of the European powers and a number of the folks on the European union, they wanted that prosecutor out because they thought he wasn't doing anything and they sent Biden over there to carry out their, uh, their wishes.

Speaker 3: 06:48 So it's been kind of turned around. The, uh, folks, uh, supporting, uh, prison and Trump have turned it around to some sort of admission that he was pulling a prosecutor, uh, away from his son that does not appear to be the case in fact has been looked into and I would imagine will be looked into as we speak by the New York times, the Washington post and all the big boys once again to see what, if anything is there. So yeah, Biden may, Trump may get a may get impeached. He may get thrown out. I don't think so. But Biden may be a collateral damage.

Speaker 1: 07:22 Kelly, so to go back to the race in the 50th, you know, we had this week, Darrell Eissa joining the race. We have, we have two other Trump supporters, Carl de Mio and Duncan Hunter. Uh, what do you think, what do you think impeachment, what kind of impact do you think impeachment will have on that race?

Speaker 3: 07:39 Well, don't be, a Hunter of course, has a series of legal problems of his own and he's a big Trump supporter. Uh, I haven't heard what I say is, but I can't imagine he isn't a Trump supporter. Carl de Mio the same. It's going to be a knife fight. A, those are three tough guys who have been in tough races before and I don't know that, uh, whether he's impeached or not plays. Also, I think by the time that election, uh, hits us, what does that March it's going to be over. It's going to be in the rear view mirror. And I think then of course all of Hunter's own legal problems will be front and center. This is going to be so many people running in that race. Is that going to split the vote up to fragment it in such a way

Speaker 1: 08:23 the way that the Democrat might be able to, or a moderate Republican, you know, or if one of them becomes a moderate Republican, maybe I don't vote

Speaker 3: 08:33 to get a Democrat. Although the fellow who ran last time did make a credible, although not

Speaker 1: 08:39 that come from the starve, just narrowly lost a Hunter. But I mean with the primary system it's gotta be him against one and they're going to portray him as a socialist. Communist is heavily Republican district. Exactly. Exactly. I live with,

Speaker 3: 08:56 I see a [inaudible] area, but younger families moving in so I would look for, I know that Carl DeMaio is running around saying he's the front runner based on some polling he claims to have. I is going to be a tough, tough to be on here. It's interesting because it is the last congressional district that is firmly Republican in San Diego County, so that would pose the time heavily invested in keeping it that way. Do you think Carl DiMillo's accusation does that perhaps ISIS should have stayed in his district because of course he declined to run for the 49 is which is now held by a Democrat, Mike Levin and called Mio saying, well, why didn't you stay in his own district and hang onto it? You know, why come for somebody else's? I suppose you can make that argument and Carl is a free to make his argument, but he's running outside.

Speaker 3: 09:40 The law allows it then it isn't as if they're living in North Dakota and running into Lavista. I mean it is close and I don't see that it, it really that's vote determinative. I mean it's how well they campaign, how much money they have to spread their message. And its, it's retail politics, the district. Well, big by district standards, you can still get around the district in your automobile in a day. So Brian Jones speaking about on the bills too, there's challenges to come for a G pride [inaudible] Christmas prison for uh, political reporters. I mean that would be fabulous. And of course Carl is not to be dismissed. Carl has a, uh, a following based on his radio show, which was I think heavily, uh, heavily, uh, watched, listened to. And of course he was on the council and made a credible running for mayor. So he's been around and he knows how to run the issues and he likes, um, uh, certain taxation issues are his issues.

Speaker 3: 10:39 So we'll see. It's going to be tough. It's going to be, of course, a very interesting election. But speaking of that, just to go back to the impeachment question, finally, one final question. The fact that it comes so close before an election, do you think that will affect its chances? Because people may say, well, why don't you just let us vote instead of conducting any, what you call your good government answer? That is where people really aren't involved, but they want to say something that's, that's something that is being said. Uh, you know, I, I don't like what he did, but this impeachment thing that seems kind of mean. Why don't we just have an election where we will have an election. On the other hand, you know, the, um, the Clinton mess, if you will, um, cost Republican seats, Democrats picked up five seats even as that was pending. So who knows how this goes. And I know David Brooks, God bless him, the New York times, uh, uh, columnists, uh, and PBS call a commentator, he has said, watch out what you a wish for. He wants, he doesn't like Trump any more than a lot of folks says impeachment. However, will be stopped in the Senate, is never going to get two thirds in a Republican Senate with Mitch McConnell right there. But then what happens then? Trump claims I've been vindicated,

Speaker 1: 11:54 turns it around and is reelected. Much to the chagrin of David [inaudible] does make you wonder about our us constitution as to quite how much it's threatened by all of these developments. Yeah. Yeah. We've been through some tough spots and well, I like a good political spat. I, we got through depressions and Wars. I think we'll handle this. Okay, well, it's nice to end this particular debate on a positive note. So let's move on. Uh, to San Diego County. Supervisors are calling for a review of what's happening in County jails. Following an investigation by the San Diego union Tribune that revealed 140 people have died in San Diego County jails in the last 10 years. That's roughly one death every month. Now, Kelly has been reporting on conditions in our County jails for years. And your numbers show that, um, deaths have been going up faster in the last 10 years since sheriff bill Gore was elected than they were in the 10 years prior to his election.

Speaker 1: 12:49 So, I mean, do you think that what you're seeing is a result of changes in the jails or is it more something changes in our community? Um, and it sort of really quickly before I start, um, just give, uh, some credit to Jeff McDonald and Lauren Schroder who worked on this project with team invested as a team team effort. Um, so I, I think part of me expected these now to see a decrease, um, in the 10 years under Gore vs the 10 prior years. Um, you know, jails have always held a large number of mentally ill inmates, inmates who are coming in, um, intoxicated on drugs. They're, they're detoxing, maybe they've smuggled drugs in. So there's, there's always been these, these problems. Um, but in the last 10 years there, there have been, um, just, you know, throughout the U S more research on how to better handle this difficult population.

Speaker 1: 13:43 And so there's been more training, you know, more research, more, um, equipment brought in. So, so you think that things are getting better and you'd see fewer deaths. Um, and we just didn't, we saw an increase of, of one Oh one to one 40, um, under Gore's. So, so I think it's surprising just because you think as time progresses, things should get better. And in San Diego we are so much worse than other counties from around California. How much worse are your figures suggesting? Well, we, um, we use the methodology that the Bureau, federal Bureau of justice statistics uses. They, they do reports on mortality in jails and prisons, so using the same methodology they use. We looked at the six largest jail systems in California, um, and we, uh, we can, we look at their mortality rates and their suicide rates and, and, uh, San Diego is by far ahead of, of everyone just looking at large jail system.

Speaker 1: 14:44 Okay. We actually have a graphic to show how, um, athletically, you know, the, the, the breakdown of how it's affecting different ethnic groups. Can you tell us a little bit about how it's, um, is that a factor in who is dying in the jails? Um, you know, I, I the, the sheriff will argue that, um, they book more white males and so that's why their suicide numbers are higher. Hmm. Um, I think we saw, um, you know, pretty even distribution, um, very few women die in jail adjusting. I, I not sure why that is. Why that is. That's definitely something I'd like to look into. Don't have that. You don't claim to have the answer, you know, but is there anything from your research that you feel can help explain why San Diego is so much worse than other counties? Um, you know, as we say in the story, there's no easy answer.

Speaker 1: 15:38 The, we looked at a lot of specific cases and what went wrong in those cases. Um, and it ranges everything from, it ranges from folks not getting the medication that they need, uh, warning signs that an inmate was suicidal. Um, lots of cases where, uh, an inmate with serious mental illness, um, ended up dying from, uh, a disease that should be treatable. Um, uh, pneumonia, stomach ulcers, diabetes. So there's the question of whether their requests for help were unanswered or were they not be able, were they not able to articulate what was going on with them? Um, so, uh, you know, and then there's some, some things that could have been fixed sooner. Like the jails were very slow to add a metal grates to the, the second three of the jails have two levels and people were, were jumping over, um, and, and harming or committing suicide that way. And the jails were surprisingly slow to add. You know, a simple fencing are great that would have prevented that. And I think even now, not all the second levels have have that fencing.

Speaker 3: 16:48 Philly, I've been here a long time. I was cynical as any other, uh, journalists. Uh, it doesn't, it takes a lot to shock me. And I found your reporting, uh, so detailed and shocking. And I'm saying in San Diego County, how does this happen? Any thought, and you mentioned the department of justice, any thought of bringing them in for an audit? When the San Diego police department in 2014, 15 had problems. They voluntarily said, DOJ Jay, send the folks in, audit us, what are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? Are we gonna is it going to be all internal? Couple of supervisors thinking about it and the sheriff looking at some things. I mean any thought of bringing the DOJ and have the, an outside hard nose look,

Speaker 1: 17:31 I think, you know, the, the, the supervisor said there they're going to work with the sheriff on finding out what best practices are. Um, that doesn't give me a lot of confidence. I do think there needs to be an outside review, uh, back in, um, helped me with this I think, but also 2005, I think there were a spate of, of officers involved. We led the nation there for, with the Sheriff's department and they brought in the office of independent review from Los Angeles. A highly respected, uh, entity that is still around. Um, so why not bring in those guys and, and just so you know, we could get, yeah, we can get these outside eyes. Um, I know the Sheriff's department has, has done, has had some consultants come in. I had to Sue to get one of those consultant reports. Um, and those reports which we're going to be writing about, um, were very critical and had a lot of recommendations that, um, were not, uh, uh, addressed are there, they're being addressed.

Speaker 1: 18:33 But you know, when you've got, um, when you've got an issue like this and behind the scenes and you know, we got some documents that shows that, that, that they did think this was a problem. They didn't know this was a problem. They just won't admit it. Publicly. Putting suggests though that only really two of the supervisors have gotten their hands on this thing. That's a good bite. People are dying here and hundreds and millions of dollars. The supervisors are the ones that are signing off. They, they see these, these settlements. I have, um, bill Gore is very well liked, well respected. Um, he wouldn't talk to us for this story. I'd love to sit down and just have a chat with him on this. I'm, I'm, I'm, you know, and there are, there are at least a dozen pending lawsuits and some of these lawsuits are bad, are really bad costing the County millions of dollars.

Speaker 1: 19:27 The County, I'd say over the next two or three years we'll be paying out millions more. So the sheriff has been elected sheriff three times. Do you think that uh, his future could have depend on whether he addresses this more effectively? No, no, no. In San Diego, San Diego, I don't think people really know what their sheriff does and um, unfortunately I don't think a lot of people care about what happens to inmates, but they should know that the County is self insured. So this money that's paid that's going to these lawsuits is, is taxpayer money. So there's, there's a direct, there's an impact on this, right? I, yeah, I hope have an interview. Yeah. If, if the UT will allow me, I'm, I would love to, to continue reporting this because there are many more stories to tell. Your reporting has been really phenomenal. Yes. Yeah. So we need to move on to the next topic here. Uh, San Diego gas. And electric has just been granted a rate increase that will affect all our electricity bills. But the power company is also proposing to change the rate structure in two key ways. First to get rid of higher prices and summer months and secondly to impose a bigger minimum basic bill that everybody would have to pay however much electricity they use. So now, Rob, you've been

Speaker 4: 20:48 covering [inaudible] for many, many years. And talk to us a little bit about why this season at the first changed the season. Getting rid of the seasonal differences, um, will help. Well, it's a proposal from STG nee to the California public utilities commission. They can't do anything without the California public utilities commissions approval. And the way it's a seasonal pricing works is that the, um, since we have higher demand in the summertime because people are running their air conditioners and it's hot, then the pricing is higher in the summer than it is in the winter. So this is something to do with climate change in a way. We're adapting I guess. So. Um, but the, the, the, there's five summer months they run from June through October. And to give you an idea, uh, the peak price story and time of use during the summertime is 46 cents a kilowatt hour.

Speaker 4: 21:38 Now compare that to the wintertime prices, which is the remaining seven months of the year. That's 26 cents per kilowatt hour at its peak. And so naturally since it's going to be more expensive than the summertime, you're going to run more, uh, electricity in the summertime. You're going to have a higher bill in the summer. So what STG is suggesting is that they kind of even things out, it should be stated that you're not going to be saving any money in the long run, but there is this volatility between the summer months and the winter months. So what they're suggesting is you pay $7 more per week. I'm sorry, seven you get $7 savings in the summertime. Your bill goes down $7. But then during the winter months when the prices less expensive, it's raised by 6 cents. So it's R, I'm sorry, $6. So it's a, it's a wash and in some ways you're just kind of moving the furniture around.

Speaker 4: 22:32 What happened to the incentive to try to get people to use power in a way that, uh, you know, would help us use sustainable energy more? I mean, isn't this supposed to be encouraging people to conserve energy? Well, that, that's what, that's one of the reasons why they've got seasonal pricing. All right. That's why the a U T public utilities commission has this. Why would they stop that now? Well, because of the price volatility. Like last summer especially, we had a very, we had a sweltering summer and under tiered rates that gets complicated. You got time of use rates and or tiered rates. They have something that's called a high usage charge. And if you go over four times what your allotment is, then the price really spikes. And last year a lot of people paid a lot more money for, um, uh, for the, for their electricity.

Speaker 4: 23:18 The, the, the winners under this proposal, if they do get rid of the seasonal rates and who would be the losers? Um, I th I guess the winners would be, and, and also in, in, uh, in STGs SDSU needs defense, the utility reform network turn has said they like the idea of, of, uh, of, of CI or getting rid or [inaudible] even now, yeah, exactly. For seasonal rates, but I think that there's, there's, uh, there is opposition there from, from people saying it's really not gonna make any changes. You're not getting lower rates, you're just, you're just adjusting the volatility, community based plan that Kevin Faulkner and others are pushing. Is that right?

Speaker 1: 24:04 We're all going to be dancing? Or

Speaker 4: 24:05 were these kind of complexities be available under a different ownership? Well, CCAs, which we're talking about community choice aggregation, that city of San Diego, a number of other cities have signed up for how these things, whether it's rates, whether you know any other proposals and things that the CPC give SDG the permission to do. How that affects CCAs is complicated because what ends up happening with a CCA, the CCA only takes care of one aspect of the entire top down utility budget. So when you look at your FTE genie bill, you'll see some that says electricity generation and that's a decent chunk of what your bill is. Electricity generation is something that CCA takes over. They purchased the power. Now the other two legs of that stool, transmission and distribution, that doesn't, that, that doesn't fall under the rubric of a, of a, of a CCA. So for various programs, for example, um, like FDG has electric vehicle charging programs that they're spending a lot of money on and that the CPC wants the utilities to spend a lot of money on. That's basically not electricity generation.

Speaker 1: 25:21 So basically this is a very complex issue and what we do know is that our rates are going to go up and that also the minimum rate is going to go up if this proposal is run at a time. But essentially, um, it's not the surprise, I guess that um, the rates are changing, but you've written two, three and I have very good articles about all the changes, so. Okay, thank you so much. So that wraps up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. And thank you so much to Rob Nikolsky from the San Diego union Tribune correspondent for the UT L Kelly Davis and former LA times reporter Tony Perry for joining me.

Speaker 2: 26:08 [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.