News Brief: Pelosi Announces Impeachment Plans, Measles, Uber Sexual Assaults

Originally published on December 6, 2019 12:02 pm
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NOEL KING, HOST:

Nancy Pelosi said there is, quote, "no choice but to act."

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

That's right. She called on the House to draft articles of impeachment against President Trump. This is what Pelosi told a CNN town hall last night.

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NANCY PELOSI: This is a very sad day, I think, for our country. It's something that I would have hoped we could have avoided. But the president's actions made it necessary.

GREENE: This means that President Trump is likely to become only the third sitting president in U.S. history to be impeached.

KING: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales is with us in studio. Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.

KING: So articles of impeachment are coming. Do you know what they might look like?

GRISALES: Well, Democrats are strategizing over this very question right now. We're told some lawmakers were preparing to work through the weekend. And Speaker Pelosi has left the door open for how broad or narrow these articles could be. We've heard evidence uncovered of bribery, obstruction of Congress and perhaps obstruction of justice. And that final article would be tied to the Mueller investigation. And that goes to the central question Democrats are facing right now - whether to focus on just the findings from the Ukraine investigation or expand that to include evidence from the Mueller probe.

KING: Another question they're facing is how quickly or not they will be able to get this done. What does the timeline for impeachment look like?

GRISALES: Yes, House lawmakers are marching towards a deadline that many had hoped for. Their last scheduled day in session before the holiday recess is December 20. Following Speaker Pelosi's directive yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee set a hearing on Monday to accept evidence in the probe that will be used to drop the articles. And we could see those by the end of next week. And in the final week of the session, the week of the 16th, we could see the floor vote on these articles. That sets up January for a potential Senate trial. And already, lawmakers there say the month is set aside for this.

KING: Oh, wow. OK, so they're expecting it. We heard Nancy Pelosi a couple minutes ago. We know where the Democrats stand. What are Republicans saying at this point?

GRISALES: Yes, they are remaining loyal to their defense of the president, saying he did nothing wrong. NPR's All Things Considered co-host Mary Louise Kelly spoke with Republican Congressman Doug Collins yesterday. He's the ranking member for the House Judiciary Committee. And here's what he told her.

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DOUG COLLINS: Let's get this out of the way. He did nothing wrong. The call did not show anything wrong. The facts have done that.

GRISALES: Collins also said that he thinks the president should defend himself in the process when the time is right and says House Democrats are presuming guilt and forcing the president to prove his innocence.

KING: Interesting that he said he thinks the president should defend himself because that's been one of the big questions as we move through this - is, will President Trump testify? What has President Trump said he expects from a Senate trial?

GRISALES: Well, President Trump is looking for redemption in a Senate trial. Over several weeks, he and other White House officials have been meeting with Senate Republicans, plotting out a potential plan there. He says he wants to put on a strong defense with a long list of witnesses - the Bidens, the whistleblower at the center of the House inquiry, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and even Speaker Pelosi. But whether you can get a majority of the Senate to agree to that remains a tall order. There seems to be little appetite for such a plan, even among a simple majority of Republicans. I talked to one key Trump ally, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. And he has warned that a long list of witnesses could let a trial drag on. Let's take a listen.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: If the participants in the trial want it extended, that's a good way to do it.

GRISALES: What is your take on that?

GRAHAM: My take is let them decide how to defend themselves. It's not my job. It's theirs.

GRISALES: So it's a hint that, despite the president's anxiousness to get to this trial phase, that plan could face its own set of obstacles.

KING: NPR's Claudia Grisales. Claudia, thanks so much.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me.

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KING: Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses in the world. But for years, it was nearly wiped out.

GREENE: It was nearly wiped out. But for some reason, the virus is now coming back. The World Health Organization says in a new report that nearly 140,000 people died from measles worldwide last year. There were measles outbreaks on every continent that year. This year's numbers appear to be even higher. All of this appears to be happening despite a safe and effective vaccine that has been used for decades. The question is, why are we backsliding?

KING: NPR's Jason Beaubien has been looking into what's going on. Hey, Jason.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

KING: So I will admit, before these numbers came out, I did not even think about measles as a major public health concern anymore.

BEAUBIEN: Yeah.

KING: I mean, I got the vaccine when I was a kid. So did basically everyone I know.

BEAUBIEN: Yeah. I mean, measles is a story of incredible progress against a disease. I mean, in the prevaccine era, it was killing, like, a million people a year and sort of in the 1980s was way up there. And it was just steadily going down. And this is one of these diseases that looked like - yeah, the trendline was going to go straight down. It's going to get wiped out. But then it just sort of bottomed out on that progress in 2016. And this year, things are worse. It was below 100,000 deaths a year in 2016. Now it's up to 140. You know, malaria, which we don't have a decent vaccine for and is a major problem, is killing 400,000. So seeing measles push back up towards that - it's - you know, it's really concerning. It's a big deal.

KING: Do we know why this is happening? As we've both said, there is a vaccine.

BEAUBIEN: Right. There is a very effective vaccine. It's been around for 50 years. The issue is that measles as a virus is a super spreader. If you're not vaccinated, this will get you. If it's out there, it'll spread to you. I talked to Robert Linkins. He's the head of vaccine-preventable diseases over at the CDC. And he says that this resurgence of measles is showing that there are these problems in basic health care delivery systems globally.

ROBERT LINKINS: Measles is the canary in the coal mine. It indicates that there are problems in a community with other vaccine-preventable disease coverage. And in many respects, it's a it's a signal that we've got to pay more attention to where measles is occurring.

BEAUBIEN: You know, there's two issues. One is that just simply delivering it in some parts of the world - sort of infrastructure problems is part of it. And then there's these anti-vaccination movements that have really cut into the progress against measles.

KING: Where are the anti-vaccination people - where are they coming from?

BEAUBIEN: Well, it really is different in different places. Some of it is a growing skepticism about anything related to the government.

KING: Huh.

BEAUBIEN: And that's part of it. And that's going on on some - you know, in social media. Then you've had some scandals in different parts of the world. In Samoa, we've got a big outbreak going on right at the moment. They've shut down the schools. There was two children who died after a vaccine was improperly mixed. So that really cuts into people's confidence. But overall, this is a very effective vaccine. This is something that can be dealt with. You know, and unfortunately, we're moving in the wrong direction right now.

KING: NPR's Jason Beaubien. Jason, thanks so much.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

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KING: OK. Before we get into this next story, we have a warning. We're going to be talking about sexual assault. And if you're listening with your kids, it might be better to listen later on.

GREENE: That's right. OK. So for years, both passengers and drivers have been complaining to Uber that they've been sexually assaulted during an Uber ride. We would hear anecdotal stories. Now for the first time, the ridesharing company is revealing the scale of those complaints in the United States. And just before we go on, we do want to note here that Uber is one of NPR's financial supporters.

KING: NPR's tech correspondent Shannon Bond has been following all this. She's with us in the studio. Hi, Shannon.

SHANNON BOND, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.

KING: So the numbers here are horrifying.

BOND: Yeah, they're really shocking. The company received 5,981 allegations of sexual assault in the U.S. over two years - in 2017 and 2018. Now, most of those claims were about unwanted touching of the mouth, breasts, buttocks, genitals. More troubling, there were 235 reports of rape last year alone. That's more than four a week...

KING: Wow.

BOND: ...Right? And in all of these claims of sexual assault, the victims aren't just passengers. They're also drivers. Passengers were actually accused of sexual assault in nearly half of the reports. But at the same time, this is also a company that operates at a huge scale. People in the U.S. took 2.3 billion rides using Uber in those two years. So that means that, actually, for more than 99.9% of the rides, there were no safety problems.

KING: Why, Shannon, did Uber come out and voluntarily release this data? It reflects negatively on the company to some extent.

BOND: Yeah, it does. And Uber says it's releasing this data to be more accountable. I spoke with Tony West. He's Uber's top lawyer.

TONY WEST: People have a right to know. And we know that it's very important if we're going to consistently and continually raise the bar on safety. We have to be willing to share this information with the public.

BOND: So ride-hailing apps have been dealing with complaints and lawsuits from victims of sexual assault for years. And it's not just Uber. It's competitors around the world - Lyft here in the U.S., Didi in China, Ola in India. And there have been some really terrible cases. I mean, in China, there were these two cases of women being killed by their Didi drivers. And one of them was also raped. Uber has settled lawsuits with victims here in the U.S. It was also in a really egregious case. It was sued by a woman in India who was raped by her driver. She then accused Uber executives of obtaining her medical records in an attempt to discredit her. So they have a really spotty history on this.

KING: Can you draw any kind of comparison between Uber and regular taxi cabs? Like, is this a problem with ride-sharing companies?

BOND: Right. So that was the first question I had when looking at all of these numbers. And there's really no good answer to that question. There aren't national statistics about sexual assaults and sexual violence in U.S. taxis each year or even, you know, other forms of transportation. Taxis are typically regulated by individual cities. They may collect some data, but that's kind of inconsistent and doesn't really match the Uber data. And it's also important to understand that when we're looking at these numbers from Uber, it's - this is not a complete picture. It includes the five most serious categories of sexual assault, like rape and unwanted touching, but not other types of misconduct like masturbation.

KING: And just quickly, what is Uber saying it's going to do about this?

BOND: Well, they've added safety features already. And they say they want to add more, like recording rides with audio or video. They want to start sharing the names of drivers who have been banned for serious safety violations with other ride-hailing companies. You know, that would prevent them from just switching over. But that raises some really serious questions about privacy and fairness, as well, that they're going to have to balance against safety.

KING: NPR's Shannon Bond. Shannon, thanks so much.

BOND: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.