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(CBS Local)– “60 Minutes” has been the gold standard for newsmagazine television programs since its inception in 1968. On Sunday, September 20 the show premieres its 53rd season. Correspondent Scott Pelley has been with CBS News since 1989 and has traveled the world as a reporter for “60 Minutes” for the last two decades.

RELATED: Scott Pelley Touts Power Of Media In ‘Truth Worth Telling’: ‘There’s No Democracy Without Journalism’

Last week, Pelley’s interviewed journalist and author Bob Woodward about his new book “Rage” and his conversations with President Trump and this week Pelley chats with former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster about his career and time in the Trump administration. Pelley’s interview with McMaster will provide details about the former National Security Advisor’s battle with President Trump over pulling troops out of Afghanistan, his thoughts on climate change and the war against cyber security threats.

Photo Credit: CBS News

“It’s the most successful show in television history and I’m honored to be a part of it,” said Pelley in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “McMaster is a fascinating character. He was a Lieutenant General, a three star general and spent 33 years in the U.S. Army. When Donald Trump asked him to be National Security Advisor, this was in 2017 and he was Trump’s second National Security Advisor. He’s a bit of an iconoclast and that’s the way he was as National Security Advisor. The first thing he did when he went in as National Security Advisor is change the president’s mind about Afghanistan. The president wanted Afghanistan and McMaster thought it was important that we maintain troops there. One of the things that we talk about in the story is how the president made this commitment to McMaster, made this commitment in public and then reneged a little over a year later.”

In his “60 Minutes interview,” McMaster will address things he things were terrific about the Trump administration and other things he thought were tragic. Pelley’s conversation with McMaster will highlight McMaster’s thoughts on the President Trump’s relationship with China and terrorism in the United States.

“He [McMaster] believes that the threat of terrorism here in the United States is far greater today than it was on 9/11,” said Pelley. “One of the things you might not expect the National Security Advisor to talk about is climate change. McMaster believes it is an enormous threat to the security of the world and to the security of the United States. He talks about things like water scarcity and food scarcity in the world and how that is going to be an enormously disruptive thing as countries compete around the world for dwindling resources. President Trump is of course famous for calling climate change a hoax, but McMaster says it is not a hoax, the evidence is in and climate change will be one of the most significant threats to U.S. national security going forward.”

Pelley says one of the biggest challenges of covering the Trump administration is getting people to talk to him and the 60 Minutes team on camera. The CBS News veteran has seen fear prevent current and former White House employees from speaking out and telling the truth.

“Many agencies in previous administrations would tell you what they found,” said Pelley. “In this administration, it’s more typical I find that the agency will go to the White House and say what should we say. That’s not the way democratic societies work. It’s not the way the truth is told to the people who actually hold the power in this country.”

Watch “60 Minutes” Sunday, September 20 at 7 p.m. EST.

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Tags: 60 minutes bob woodward cbs news h r mcmaster president donald trump scott pelley national security advisor president trump climate change the president

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"Climate arsonist": Biden slams Trump’s wildfire response with a new insult

Shannon Osaka September 18, 2020 11:34AM (UTC)

This post originally appeared on Grist. Grist is a nonprofit news agency working toward a planet that doesn't burn and a future that doesn't suck. Sign up to receive Grist's top stories in your inbox.

2020 has been such a bizarre year, it's given rise to its own alarming vocabulary — "firenado," "social distancing," and "super-spreader," to name a few newly common terms. But now, as thick, choking smoke and ash ripple across the West, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is adding one more: "climate arsonist."

Delivering remarks from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, on Monday, the former vice president referred to President Trump using this eco-minded epithet. Citing the West's wildfires, flooding in the Midwest, and hurricanes on the coast, Biden warned that the effects of global warming are becoming more obvious and more dangerous — and the man whose job he wants is ignoring them.


"If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze?" Biden said. "If you give a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if more of America is underwater?"

The fires in the western U.S. over the past week and a half have torched millions of acres and put hundreds of thousands of Americans under evacuation orders — against the backdrop of the still-ongoing pandemic. The blazes have been so bad that they turned the skies over the San Francisco Bay Area a dark orange; meanwhile, air quality in parts of Oregon has been literally off the charts.

Amid the catastrophe — and even as his opponent blasted him on his environmental record — Trump continued to sing from the hymnal of climate denial. At a roundtable with California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday morning, the president dismissed any evidence of global warming.


"It'll start getting cooler, you just watch," he said, in response to a question from the state's natural resources secretary. When challenged on this statement, Trump retorted, "I don't think science knows, actually."

It was a chilling reminder of the president's unscientific claim, back in February, that one day the coronavirus would vanish. "One day, it's like a miracle, it will disappear," Trump said. (To date, there have been 6.5 million cases of the coronavirus in the United States, and almost 200,000 Americans have died.)

The president also reiterated his 2018 claims that the solution to California's fires is "raking and cleaning." "When you have years of leaves, dried leaves on the ground, it just sets it up," he said shortly after landing in Sacramento. "It's really a fuel for a fire. So they have to do something about it."


Scientists agree that thinning trees, cutting back brush, and setting controlled burns can help reduce wildfire risk — but also point out that higher temperatures driven by climate change are making fires burn hotter and faster. Stopping the catastrophic fires, according to many experts, will take both aggressive emissions cuts and better forest management.

Interestingly, the responsibility for managing nearly all of the forest land in California falls on the federal government, according to Newsom. "One thing is fundamental," the governor told Trump, "Fifty-seven percent of the land in this state is federal forest land, and 3 percent is California." (That means 95 percent of the state's total forest land is owned by the federal government, if you're keeping score at home.)


With the election now less than 50 days away, the president's comments and those of his challenger stood in sharp contrast. Biden has made climate change a centerpiece of his campaign, vowing to spend $2 trillion on a clean energy transition and produce all U.S. electricity from carbon-free sources by 2035. He has also repeatedly connected the fight against climate change with creating American jobs, embracing many aspects of activist-led push for a Green New Deal.

Trump, on the other hand, has been waging a war on environmental regulation since he was elected, dismantling Obama/Biden-era rules, as well as decades-old ones, and opening up federal lands for oil and gas drilling. Until this week, the president was also notably silent on the West's disasters, distracted by political fires in Washington over the way his administration has responded to the COVID-19 crisis and his alleged comments disparaging fallen military members.

It remains to be seen how much the current crisis in the American West will even factor into the campaign. In the 2016 debates, for instance, the presidential candidates spent only 5 minutes and 27 seconds discussing climate change — and almost all of that time was Hillary Clinton speaking.


Meanwhile, a Pew poll released in mid-August suggested that climate change wasn't among the top 10 issues that voters deemed very important. It stacked up behind concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and racial inequality, both of which have been all over the news for months. But as hurricane season approaches its usual fall peak and the whole country feels the effects of wildfire smoke — a NASA model predicts that, by Wednesday, smoke from the Western blazes will reach all the way to the East Coast — climate change's importance as a voter issue could change quickly.

Shannon Osaka

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