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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
President Trump molls closing the border with Mexico and cuts off aid to three Central American countries. I speak to David Urban, one of the
president’s key advisers about this and about the Mueller fallout.
And I’ll also discuss that with Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney who ran the most powerful Federal Prosecutor’s Office in the country. His new
book, “Doing Justice,” is designed to put the focus back on the rule of law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Rachel Yehuda: There’s a real opportunity here to talk about the fact that there is a crisis in mental health access.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The truth about trauma with one of America’s top minds. Our Hari Sreenivasan talks to Rachel Yehuda.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in New York.
The Trump administration is doubling down on a threat to shut the southern border with Mexico, saying that will likely happen this week if Mexico
doesn’t deal with a recent surge of Central American families heading north. That influx has overwhelmed U.S. Border Patrol facilities.
But President Trump’s pushback isn’t just about stopping people coming in, it’s also about cutting off money going out. With the president announcing
on Friday that the U.S. will pull aid to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We were paying them tremendous amounts of money and we’re not paying them anymore because they haven’t done a thing
for us. They set up these caravans, in many cases, they put their worst people in the caravan, they’re not going to put their best in, they get rid
of their problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, says this move could backfire badly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTA JACOBSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MEXICO: If you like the migration crisis as it is right now, wait until you see what happens when
you cut off aid.
First of all, I think we need to understand that U.S. foreign assistance is not a gift. We extend foreign assistance because it’s in our own
interests, not just in the country’s interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Indeed, Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, was in Honduras signing an accord to address those interests and to address
migration just days before the president made his announcement on cutting off aid.
Washington Lobbyist, David Urban, is a staunch ally of the president. He was a strategist on the 2016 campaign and he sits on an advisory panel for
his bid for a second term in 2020. And David Urban been is joining us now from Washington.
Welcome to the program.
DAVID URBAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CONTINENTAL GROUP, A LOBBYING FIRM: Thanks, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, let’s just take the news as it’s happening and that is this coal to cut off aid, the announcement to cut off aid to these Central
American countries. As you heard, the president say, you know, “Why should we keep sending aid if they’re not doing anything to stop the caravans.”
But do you think — and you heard Ambassador Jacobson, are you concerned that actually it may have the opposite effect, to make it worse?
URBAN: Well, Christiane, you know, we need the governments of those three countries to be active partners with us in addressing these issues, right.
So, there’s a reason that these folks are fleeing their countries and it’s because of crime and unstable conditions in their homeland. And so, those
governments need to really focus on the root causes of what these folks are — why they’re departing and why they’re fleeing at such great risk to
And so, I think the president’s made the case and has made the decision. Is making the case now that the roughly $100 million a year that we send
these governments, they’re using to stay in power and enrich themselves rather than to really address the root causes of why the folks are feeling.
So, you know, you can you can make the argument that we should be spending more and we’ve done that, for example, United States knows how to do this,
when you have a government that wants to help. Colombia, the United States worked with Colombia and Plan Colombia, putting in billions of dollars in
helping turn around what was a narco state at the time and do a really, you know, robust economy and a great ally.
So, there’s models for doing this and — when the governments want to help. And when they’re not helping, like these three governments are, I don’t
believe that there’s a great demand in hue and cry here in Washington to keep throwing good money after bad.
Just to that point, Senator Pat Leahy, who is a Democrat, you know, recently has noted that in a “New York Times” article that he believes that
while we should be helping humanitarian causes, we shouldn’t help these governments which may be questionable remain in power.
AMANPOUR: David Urban, I understand where you’re coming from. I just wonder whether this is more about President Trump’s, you know, politics
rather than policy and sort of, you know, the transactional nature of his politics, as we’ve discussed before on this program.
Because the facts are, that in 2017, according to U.S. government stats, some $42 million were sent to these countries. But at the same time, again
according to these studies, the so-called Northern Triangle, these three —
URBAN: Right. Sure.
AMANPOUR: — Central American countries, were themselves paying 10 times as much, in the region of $5 billion to try to address the very issues that
the president and the U.S. is rightly concerned about. And even President Trump’s, you know, former Homeland Security chief and former chief of staff
has talked about how we have to actually mitigate the causes, the push causes in these countries that propel these people out.
I’m just wondering whether you think it’s going to have a negative effect and maybe there’s a better way than pulling aid.
URBAN: Look, I don’t disagree that there — that we — you know, look, there obviously needs to be a real move made to help address why these
folks undertake this arduous journey, very dangerous to themselves, their families, their children, what makes them leave. There has to be a pretty
awful existence to want to leave there.
And so, you’re correct, in that U.S. aid is an investment by the United States and the stability there. So, I wouldn’t disagree with you in terms
of — you know, you could look (ph) this both ways, Christiane, all right, that we’re — you know, we should be doing more but we would do more if the
governments maybe were more effective in those three countries, if they had a better plan.
But throwing good money after bad, I think is what this president’s worried about. We’ve been investing and investing and nothing seems to be
happening. And so, I think in order to perhaps get the government’s attention, he’s making this announcement and they’re sending a note to the
hill to reprogram some of this money. And until you see some different results or some different language coming out of those three governments, I
think this president will kind of standby where he is.
Look, again, I said, when a government wants to cooperate and have a plan in place like the Columbians did with Plan Colombia, the United States
knows how to do it, how to spend billions to help stabilize a region. So, we can do it we, just need partners who are willing to work with us.
AMANPOUR: And we see, obviously, that there are huge numbers of people trying to get to the United States and places like El Paso and others are
overwhelmed and the border facilities and capacity are overwhelmed. This is what President Trump said at a rally in Michigan. I just want you to
hear what he said about the asylum seekers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You have people coming up, you know, they’re all met by the lawyers, the lawyers of — and they come out, they’re all met by the
lawyers and they say, “Say the following phrase, I am very afraid for my life. I am afraid for my life.” OK. And then I look at the guy, he looks
like he just got out of the ring, he’s a heavyweight champion of the world, he’s a freshman. It’s a big fat con job, folks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, David Urban, I mean, there he is with his base or his supporters and he’s saying these things, and we’ve discussed before, they
like to hear this, the red meat and all the rest of it. But are you concerned about the effect that those words might have and do you really
not believe — I mean, we’ve just been saying, a lot of these people flee because of the violence or corruption —
AMANPOUR: — and we have so many stories of people who’ve been deported go back to an El Salvador or whatever and are killed. I mean, these are
URBAN: Well, so the facts are, you know, the law in asylum, Christiane, is pretty clear. You’re allowed to seek asylum for, you know, whatever reason
you’d like to seek asylum. You’re only granted asylum and protection under asylum if you’re fleeing and you fear that — the language is pretty clear,
I just want to read it so I’ll make — the second part, “The applicant must prove that he or she would be persecuted on account of one of five
protective grounds, race, religion, nationality, political opinion or belonging to particular social groups.”
Economic prosperity does not fall into one of those. And the president, I think, is — you know, is reflecting what he’s saying and what he’s hearing
from kind of the narratives on the border, where people are coming to United States for more opportunities because their countries they live in
are falling apart, not because they fear for persecution under one of those protected classes.
AMANPOUR: But I mean, you agree though that many of them do? I mean, I just laid out the statistics that some of them when they’re sent back
actually, you know, get killed because they’re wanted by gangs or others and it’s really dangerous for a lot of them.
URBAN: It is. It’s very dangerous. And I am very, very sympathetic and empathetic to their cause. Listen, if you or I lived one of those
countries, we’d be doing the same thing. The law is what the law is. You’re only granted asylum if you are seeking it for one of those protected
reasons, if you’re being persecuted for one of those protected reasons.
Unfortunately, that’s what the law is. And unfortunately, some folks need to be returned because they — you know, they don’t fall within those
AMANPOUR: Can just broaden it out for a moment?
AMANPOUR: I want to know from your perspective as the president’s advisor, as a, you know, key member of his advisory panel, certainly for the 2020,
kitchen cabinet or whatever we might like to call it, what do you make of the fallout from the Mueller report? I mean, we don’t need to go into it
at the moment. But —
AMANPOUR: — do you believe that it will be and should it be, should there be — you know, should the White House even want it to be released? And we
know the Democrats are going to ask for it to be released, probably heavily redacted. But shouldn’t that be the next step in order to make sure that
everybody knows what’s going on?
URBAN: Yes, absolutely. Listen, the attorney general spoke pretty clearly about this, it is confirmation hearing. And since then, I think he will
turn over things that he could turn over to the greatest extent possible under the law. There are certain things protected here like grand jury
testimony, sources and methods and people who are, you know, declamation of prosecution. So, innocent people who are maybe mentioned or brought up in
the report, but the report doesn’t recommend any further action against them, they will be protected.
And I think once those things are determined, the attorney general will release it in full. Now, there may be lots of it that’s blacked out
because of that, but that’s going to be based upon the judgment to protect the things that are protected under the law in America.
AMANPOUR: Regarding the 2020 election. I mean, the president has been able to talk and tout the economy, the very, very high employment, very low
unemployment, the way the economy is going. But I wonder what you made of the articles and the analysis, certainly over the weekend, about how GDP,
how there is a softening off? We obviously have a chart which shows that throughout 2018, certainly the last three quarters, there was a gradual
dropping off of GDP, and analysts say that that is going to continue into the next year.
That’s not going to be very helpful. Right, for the for the president’s reelection campaign?
URBAN: Look, you’re right. Look, any time the economy softens, it’s bad for incumbents in office, whether it’s the president or members of the
House or Senate or any politician anywhere around the world. If you have a softening economy and it gets to a point where people start losing their
jobs or there’s a decrease in wages, there’s stagnation, that’s going to be an issue.
But I don’t think you’re going to see that here. I think the economy that churn on. Even to 2, 2.5, 3 percent growth is something to kind of crow
about here. And I think that it will continue right up through 2020, at least the projections that I’ve seen and read this is going to continue
throughout the elections. So, I don’t think it will have a major impact.
And, Christiane, just to go back to the Mueller report. I do think the — I think the American people deserve, on both — no matter what party, you
deserve to understand to the largest extent possible what’s included in there. I think that it does exonerate the president on many, many fronts
and I think that the American people need to really understand, as fully as they can to have faith in their institutions of government, what’s in that
I think the attorney general, on the other hand, does have a responsibility under the law to protect certain points of it. So, by all means, I want to
give a fuller answer to your first question there about the report and say, we — America deserves to see it as much as possible.
The economy, I think — right, you know, James Carville had once famously said, “It’s the economy stupid,” and I subscribe to that. Well, if the
economy continues to churn along the president — you know, under the president’s plan of lower taxes, lower regulation, I think, you know, we’ll
have a pretty solid path to victory.
AMANPOUR: So, in other words, what you’re saying is, even though the graph is going down, which is nobody likes to see a graph of GDP and growth go
down, that you think the numbers will stay sufficiently high so that even the downward — they can even survive a downward turn?
URBAN: Well, the numbers are — right. You’ve seen, right, historic highs under this administration thus far, unprecedented in consumer confidence
and optimism, the lowest at unemployment rates in decades, real wage growth across all segments of the economy. We could take a tiny hit, a little
hit, and continue to still — continue in a positive manner.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you about messaging. I wonder whether sometimes you worry about messaging.
AMANPOUR: I mean, here you on the one hand talking about, you know, the economy and how it’s been doing well and how that’s been a selling point
and other elements of this presidency. And then, we get these, you know, whiplash moments, if you like, where we have, for instance —
AMANPOUR: — this whole brouhaha about cutting funding for the Special Olympics. I mean, honestly, you can’t make this stuff up. And then when
there’s a backlash, then, of course, “No, no. We’re not cutting the funding, we’re going to keep it going.” The Grand Rapids lakes cleanup or
rather the lake cleanup project, that the funding was cut and then backlash, “No, we’re actually going to clean up the lakes.” We don’t know
what’s going to happen with health care but that’s being challenged by the president in the court.
I just wonder whether you think sometimes there are a lot of self-inflicted wounds.
URBAN: Oh, sure. Listen, Christiane, everybody could do better at what they do, right, including this administration. I think the administration
should focus on the very positive message of job growth, of unprecedented economic optimism, of all the positive things the president and this
administration are doing for the American people and less on the things that kind of divide us.
I think — look, the Special Olympics funding cut was obviously, you know, a complete debacle. It shouldn’t have happened. It’s an incredibly
popular program. I mean, it does great things for so many great people, widely, you know, hailed as being something that is very useful. And, you
know, I don’t know how that happened. It’s obviously something it’s — it was a mistake and reversed, unfortunately, by the president himself. And
he does step on his own message at times, which is not helpful.
AMANPOUR: And then, just in terms of institutions, because a lot of people are concerned about whether the institutions that also suffer from the
president’s sort of tweet silos and tweet torpedoes, you know, the important things that uphold, you know, this country and the rule of law
and all the other things that make America great can sometimes come under fierce attack.
I just wonder whether you would comment on what the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mike Mullen. Admiral Mike Mullen, told our Walter Isaacson on
this program about those institutions. Just take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE MULLEN, FORMER CHAIR, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I think, you know, over a period of what could be either years with President Trump, you know,
that the lack of a moral compass, the lack of values which gets reflected in how he speaks and how he acts, it has a great — there’s a terrific
potential to actually just sort of rip us out in the underbelly. And it will be a different country after eight years, those values and principles,
the integrity that we all feel so strongly about that have been with us forever, they are actually being plundered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What do you say to that, David Urban?
URBAN: Listen, so I have a great deal of respect for Admiral Mullen, he’s a great patriot, served our country with distinction over his entire
career. But obviously, I strongly disagree. I think our country is very strong, the institutions are very strong. This president was elected.
People knew what he stood for, how he communicated. It was clear during the primary campaign and through the general election that he was going to
be a non-conventional president, non-conventional messaging, who was going to come to Washington and break a lot of China. And he was sent here for
that expressed purpose by the American people, to be a disruptor, to disrupt the institutions, to break apart the business as usual in
Washington that have been holding this country and has stranglehold over so many years.
There are lots of folks in America that feel this president is doing a phenomenal job and like him to see to take a hammer to more, to break more
of it so that it works better for them. They feel like they weren’t being heard and they’re now heard for the first time.
So, while I respect Admiral Mullen greatly, I disagree with him that somehow the president’s tweet or tweets or his style of communication is
tearing apart our government systems here, I think that, you know, the president communicates the way he communicates so that people understand
that completely. They don’t fear for the America as an institution or as an ideal, you can’t attack those. The president can attack people who may
not be doing a great job in those institutions, and I think that’s what he does.
He expects better for America.
AMANPOUR: Just one final question. Do you think the president would be more popular, as I heard it said, if he didn’t tweet, if his Twitter feed
was taken away from him?
URBAN: You know, I think the president wouldn’t be president if he didn’t communicate the way he does. And so, it’s kind of a double-edged sword,
Christiane. I think that — I would encourage and I’ve encouraged president, I think he should tweet more about the successes that he has and
the positive stories amongst his administration. I would like to see him tweet about that more, more frequently and more often and more vocal.
I think that sometimes, as you said, he steps on his own message and it’s not helpful. So, I would never be the person to say, “Don’t tweet
because,” he wouldn’t be the president if he didn’t tweet, he wouldn’t be the president if he didn’t communicate the way he does. So, he is
definitely nontraditional in that regard and no one’s going to change it and that’s, you know, I think to a great deal of America, they enjoy it.
AMANPOUR: Always good to have you on, David Urban.
URBAN: Thanks, Christiane. Always good to be here with you.
AMANPOUR: Thank you very much for being with us today.
URBAN: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: And our next guest is no stranger to the rough and tumble of modern politics, as U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District, Preet
Bharara was one of the top prosecutors in the country. That was until he refused an order from President Trump to resign along with 45 other Obama
era U.S. attorneys and then he was fired.
He has a podcast now and a new book out, “Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law,” where he delves into
his own experience to analyze and refocus the spotlight on justice and the law in the current era.
Ad, Preet Bharara, welcome to the program. Thanks for joining me here in studio.
PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.
AMANPOUR: So, we’ve heard a lot from the from David Urban, we’ve been talking about a lot of the news and things that are going on. Let me ask
you first, because I know that, you know, professionally, you’ve had to deal with immigration fallout in the City and State of New York but also,
personally from your own background.
What do you make of the president’s current plan, which he’s announced to cut from the Central America — to the Central American countries and
potentially shut the Mexico border? I mean, from your perspective, will that decrease the number of people coming? What will the effect of it be?
BHARARA: I think remains to be seen. I’m not an expert on immigration policy, you know, per se, but did run an office where we dealt with
immigration crimes, we dealt with narcotics trafficking, we dealt with gang violence, all the sorts of things that the president and his people say
will be reduced if you take certain actions.
And obviously, if you reduce aid to various places where people otherwise are suffering economically and otherwise and for those reasons want to come
to United States, I think common sense tells you there’s a little bit of a disconnect there.
I think also this issue about the wall, people had been debating it for a while, it doesn’t make a lot of sense either from a policy perspective when
we need to be dealing with, you know, modern methods and technologically adept methods of dealing with unlawful immigration. But separate from both
of those things, as a proud immigrant this country, I’m most concerned, in some ways, not just with the policy but with the rhetoric.
And, you know, at the beginning of the Trump administration, I think people tried to suggest that the anti-immigration talk was about illegal
immigration only, and I don’t know anybody who’s in favor of illegal immigration. But the language, you know, very quickly bleeds into, you
know, bad feelings about immigration from certain parts of the world, you know, asshole (ph) countries was something that was said. There’s been
talk by people like Steve Miller and others who advise the president closely about the kinds of people who should be coming to America. Only
people from Norway, it has been suggested, and my family comes from India.
AMANPOUR: And we have lovely pictures actually —
BHARARA: I do?
AMANPOUR: — of your family and you as a baby and your mother and father.
BHARARA: Oh, there you go.
AMANPOUR: Just tell — there you are on the far —
BHARARA: So, I’m the —
BHARARA: — little baby.
BHARARA: Much cuter back then.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, I mean —
BHARARA: And that’s a picture with my mother, her parents and her six brothers and my great grandmother and my mom and dad the day before my
father left India for the U.K. on the way to coming to America.
AMANPOUR: There’s the — there you are again.
BHARARA: There I am again.
AMANPOUR: I mean —
BHARARA: Let’s just keep that picture up the whole time.
AMANPOUR: Yes, let’s keep that picture up. But, you know, it does give us a vehicle to talk about your book and to talk about the current politics
and the current news. I mean, I know you’re not an immigration policy expert but you’ve had to deal with the fallout. You’ve just said the —
AMANPOUR: — drug trafficking and the crime and all the rest of it. What is a better way? I mean, this is not going to stop, the migration around
the world. I wonder if you’ve ever just sort of put that had on and wondered whether there’s a way to deal with this stuff, particularly with
climate change which is going to bring —
AMANPOUR: — hundreds of millions of migrants, either up north here or to Europe —
AMANPOUR: — from the Southern Hemisphere.
BHARARA: Well, as far as dealing with illegal immigration, there are various methods both law enforcement methods and sophisticated
technological means, observation at the border. And I did work in the Senate on the Judiciary Committee for four-and-a-half years and, you know,
comprehensive immigration reform was something that almost seemed within sight back in 2006 when you had a Republican president, George Bush, whose
party has not always been great on immigration issues but he felt strongly that we should have a comprehensive immigration reform bill. And John
McCain was still alive, and he was a Republican who felt strongly about that. And you had Democrats controlling the Congress.
So, you know, overall a path to citizenship for, you know, 10, 11, 12 million people who are otherwise living in the shadows, I think you have to
be smart about how you monitor employers, and we don’t talk about that so much. This sort of medieval concept of you build a wall of concrete or
steel slats or as Nancy Pelosi once say, you know, a beaded curtain or something, it doesn’t make a lot of sense in the modern era.
I think there are ways. If smart people get together on a bipartisan basis and come up with some solution, I think we’re going to have better success.
AMANPOUR: And this is not going to end until there is a bipartisan immigration reform, presumably.
BHARARA: Yes. It’s — the problems caused by gang violence and drug trafficking and some aspects of illegal immigration are felt by everyone of
the country, not just the people at the border.
AMANPOUR: And even here in the State of New York.
BHARARA: And are felt by Democrats and Republicans. And the only way to go forward on issues that are that massive, you know, infrastructure as
well, have to be on a bipartisan basis and have to be done, by the way I think also, without meanspirited terrible xenophobic rhetoric.
AMANPOUR: Let’s get to the Bob Mueller report and the fallout. So, obviously, the president says that he’s been totally exonerated. We know
what the language was, according to the attorney general, that he concluded Mueller, that a crime or conspiracy was not conducted between the Trump
administration and the Russians or that there wasn’t the evidence to conclude that, but that he was not exonerated either.
What do you make of the crime piece of it and the obstruction of justice piece of it?
BHARARA: So, on the one, as you said, again, I should just point out that we’re having this conversation in the absence of the Mueller report.
AMANPOUR: You know, I should have pointed that out because —
BHARARA: Which we know —
AMANPOUR: — we don’t actually have proper conversation until we see the whole thing.
BHARARA: Right. And we now know — I don’t know why it took a week to find out, it’s almost 400 pages that doesn’t include appendices and other
parts of the report. So, that’s a lot of material. All we have is four pages from Bill Barr, the attorney general, on the issue of whether or not
there was a conspiracy to interfere in the election and people from the Trump campaign are courted whether conspired with Russians to do that.
He has said quite clearly, and I believe that Bill Barr wouldn’t misrepresent this, that there’s not enough evidence to charge a crime, to
state a crime on that. It would still be useful, I think, for Congress and the rest of us, and I’ll come back when it comes out, to see what Bob
Mueller found. And clearly, he found, you know, some things to write about if it’s a 400-page report.
With respect to the other aspect of the investigation, obstruction, Bob Mueller, as you pointed out, said something quite different. In one case
he said no crime, the other case he said, “I’m not saying there was a crime but I’m not saying there wasn’t a crime.” And maybe he felt that the
stakes were so high, the issue is so fraught, the consequences so, you know, magnified that he didn’t want to be the person to make that decision
and wanted to give it to Congress.
AMANPOUR: I mean, is there a precedent for that? I mean, when you have a special counsel, I mean, let’s look at some of the others that have taken
place. Were you surprised? I mean, you’re a prosecutor, he’s a prosecutor, you know —
BHARARA: Yes. This doesn’t happen that often in America. I was surprised because I thought that the special counsel’s job was to either state that a
crime had been committed or a crime had not been committed. But it may be that he felt — and, you know, there’s a little bit of a model for this
with Leon Jaworski back in Watergate in 1974 where, you know, sort of a roadmap of information was given to Congress from which they decided to
pursue articles of impeachment.
So, maybe Bob Mueller thought that, you know, it shouldn’t be left to one man. I don’t know. We’re speculating. And I’d like to see the language
in his report that indicates more specifically why he didn’t come up with a determination on the criminal conduct of the president relating to
But one thing is very clear, he had to have found that there were various instances, pieces of proof that favored the idea of an obstruction charge.
At the end of the day, there may have been other mitigating facts and counterproof. But you don’t say — I’ve done many, many of these cases
where, you know, it’s a close question. The fact of a close question is by definition saying that there’s, you know, substantial evidence in favor of
a crime, maybe not getting over you over the threshold, and I think it’s important for people to see that.
AMANPOUR: What about the Southern District of New York? I think you’ve been quoted as saying perhaps the president has more to worry about some of
the investigations that are going on, you know, in terms —
AMANPOUR: — of campaign and other kind of finance questions. Maybe more to worry about with that than with the Mueller report.
BHARARA: Yes. I mean, again, and I don’t want to get –
AMANPOUR: Again, it’s speculation.
BHARARA: It’s speculation.
BHARARA: And, you know, a lot of people thought and were disappointed, you know, thought they were going to be, you know, criminal charges announced
by Bob Mueller and are disappointed that it didn’t work out their way.
And as I say in the book repeatedly, you don’t prejudge an investigation. So, the fact of the Southern District is investigating, as we have done,
you know, for 200 something years, sometimes it leads to a criminal case, sometimes it doesn’t.
What I do know about them and as I described in great length through a number of stories, is that they are aggressive, they are independent, they
are fearless, they’ll take where it felt — they’ll take cases to wherever the facts and the law allow them to go. They won’t go beyond it, but they
won’t be afraid, you know, to be strong if the facts warrant it.
AMANPOUR: You heard David Urban and most people think that if the whole Mueller report comes out it will be very heavily redacted. I mean, from
your experience, how redacted should it — should something like that be?
BHARARA: So, again, this is a different from the ordinary case. You know, there are memos that were written in my office before I would make a
decision on whether or not to proceed with a criminal case and I almost always went with the recommendations of the career prosecutors in the
office. You don’t make that public because it’s a binary decision, you charge, you don’t charge and then when you don’t charge, you keep your
This is different because you’re talking about the president of the United States and you’re talking about an investigation that went at not just
criminality but on what the Russians did with respect to interfering with the election in 2016. You have a president who uniquely, different from
you or me or any other person in the United States of America, has the benefit of an opinion by the Department of Justice that says, “He cannot be
In light of his special circumstance, when he cannot be prosecuted and there’s a huge public interest in understanding what the president did or
did not do and there’s a mechanism for accountability in the Congress, again, unique to him, you and I are not subject to that, you know, the
traditional garden variety rule that applies to an ordinary person that you don’t make something public doesn’t — I don’t think it fits here.
I think the president should be subjected to scrutiny by the Congress, depending on what the report says, and the Congress should have access to
it. And — but for certain classified bits of information, possibly some sensitive grand jury information, most of the report should become public
in my view.
AMANPOUR: You have written this book “Doing Justice.” We have it here.
BHARARA: I have.
AMANPOUR: You were fired.
BHARARA: I was.
AMANPOUR: By the way, it’s the president’s right to fire you.
AMANPOUR: I mean you don’t think there’s any obstruction of justice, sort of conundrum in that?
BHARARA: No, I’ve never realized there’s been anything nefarious but I want the record to be clear that the president was firing me because I was
in a unique position because he invited me to Trump Tower, shook my hand, asked me to stay. That’s an extraordinary thing. He asked me to stay on
in that position before he picked his Secretary of State.
So in light of that circumstance, and my not being aware of anything that changed between the time of that meeting when he was president-elect and
the time of my being asked to resign, in March, I didn’t think any circumstances had changed. Maybe there’s a nefarious reason.
He absolutely had the right to do it. I’m not bitter about it at all. I don’t even spend any time talking about it in the book. We have bigger
things to worry about.
AMANPOUR: Well, to that point, you have made it quite clear that you actually don’t really mention President Trump in the book. This is about
issues but, of course, it’s happening at this time.
What were you trying to do with this book? What about justice? How is it done? All these questions that people have had, obviously, in relation to
this investigation. But in general, in this country, has the idea of justice been weakened as well?
BHARARA: Yes, that’s my concern. I think that we spend all this time talking about Trump and following the daily news cycle. But sometimes,
it’s important to take a step back and think about how justice is done, how fairness is accomplished, how to keep an open mind, how to withstand bias
that everyone has.
By the way, those lessons and the stories that I tell are not just about being a prosecutor. They also apply certainly to your profession, being a
journalist. They apply in medicine. They apply in business environments. They apply in university environments.
Every day, people sit in judgment of other folks. Every day people have to make decisions, people have to engage in moral reasoning, people have to
figure out what the truth is, whether you’re talking about a tennis match or you’re talking about a criminal prosecution.
So I thought based on my experience overseeing this large office, the Southern District, which is much in the news now for a number of years that
I had some stories to tell. And at this time when — again, it’s not about the president. But impliedly, almost everything you talk about with the
rule of law or decency or integrity necessarily implicates the president and his attitude towards public life.
When people use phrases like alternative facts and say things like truth isn’t truth on behalf of the president, it brings you back to first
principles I think. And that’s important to talk about.
AMANPOUR: So I was really shocked actually and chilled by there are all these podcasts and this one has an advertisement for this new series, the
Diane Lockhart, The Good Fight. And they describe her as struggling to keep the resistance in a world where lawyers win by having the best stories
rather than having the best facts.
And I figured I would put that to you since you are — you’ve been in that world. Are we at that point? Are we at a point, and I think you address
it in your book, where the institutions that have upheld this country are at risk or weakening? And can they, by themselves, survive? Or does it
depend on who the people are in charge?
BHARARA: The guiding theme of the book and the guiding theme of my time at the U.S. attorney’s office was to make sure people understood that we are a
nation of laws, as I said, not of men, but it’s not sufficient to have good laws.
You can write very good laws. You can have a very good constitution. lots of repressive regimes have nice sounding constitutions, as you are aware
more than anyone else on the planet perhaps. And that even in this country when you have a decently drafted constitution or criminal law, it’s the
Do they have integrity? Do they have a sense of justice? Do they have proportionality? Do they have perspective? Do they have judgment?
That matters a tremendous amount. And to your point about stories versus fact, obviously the bread and butter of finding truth is facts and it is
evidence-based. But the people whom you’re trying to persuade, they’re human beings, too.
And so I have an entire chapter on trials and how trials work. And I say that prosecutors, obviously, they build their cases on facts, but if you
don’t weave them together into a story, into a narrative, then you’re not going to make an impression on the jury.
Just like you, you’re in the business of collecting facts. But if you just listed them in bullet point fashion, no one is going to pay much attention
to them. There has to be a narrative. There has to be a story.
And your story needs to be better than the defense story can sometimes the defense story can obfuscate because they don’t have to rely on facts. And
so I give a number of examples where we were concerned, not with the facts that we had but whether or not we were telling the right story,
consistent with the facts so that people would be able to find the truth.
AMANPOUR: There’s one story that you talk about and it’s about a prisoner at Sing Sing in New York State. And something came up that you wanted to
reinvestigate or he was wrongly incarcerated. What was it? And then you were very clear about what you said about exoneration versus the original
BHARARA: Well, true exoneration, the kind that the president sometimes jokes about. I wanted people to understand that the job of prosecutors,
the job of making force you uphold the rule of law. It’s not about putting people in prison. It’s about doing the right thing in the right way for
the right reasons, which was the mantra in my old office going back generations.
And sometimes the job is not to send someone to prison. Sometimes the job is to exonerate someone even if they’ve been prosecuted by some other
And so I tell the story, one of the most inspiring to me during my time as U.S. attorney. An investigator, John O’Malley has been an NYPD city police
department cop for a long time.
He got an unsolicited letter from a gentleman who said he was in prison for a crime he hadn’t committed. Although, he had been committed in trial. He
had a defense lawyer. He’s appealed, he’s rejected. He spent 17 years.
And there was something very special about John, the investigator. And I like to tell the stories of special people, unsung heroes, names you don’t
know, whose names were not on the indictments, although mine was.
And he essentially reinvestigated the case because the case sounded familiar to him and it reminded him of something that some other people he
had prosecuted told him about. And he believed that they had confessed to the crime. So he thought there was a good chance the wrong person was in
Long story short, it’s longer in the book, he reinvestigated, visited the other people who confessed, reconfirmed the story. Went to visit this
gentleman Eric in prison and working really hard around the clock got him exonerated along with five other people who spent 17 years of their lives
And it allowed me to say in a way that wasn’t just lip service that the good people in prosecutors’ offices need to run just as fast to exonerate
the innocent as they do to convict the guilty.
AMANPOUR: Yes, that’s exactly the sentence that stuck with me. I think it’s really important in these times as well. Preet Bharara, thank you so
much for joining us.
BHARARA: Thank you, Christiane. Great to be here.
AMANPOUR: Author of “Doing Justice”.
As we mentioned earlier, tomorrow marks the Democrats’ deadline for the Justice Department to release the full Mueller report to Congress. And
I’ll be in Washington speaking to the former FBI Director James Comey on this program. That will be tomorrow.
But next tonight, reflections on mental health. U.S. suicide rates are the highest in 50 years. And they show a steady increase since the turn of the
Last month, three prominent suicides received national attention. Two teenagers who survived last year’s Parkland school shootings and the father
of a child who was killed in the Sandy Hook School massacre in 2012. They all took their own lives and all within days of each other.
Our next guest, Rachel Yehuda is the director of the Traumatic Stress Studies at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine. And she calls
America’s suicide crisis an epidemic telling our Hari Sreenivasan that much more mental health resources are needed.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CONTRIBUTOR: So just so we have kind of a baseline understanding, what is PTSD?
RACHEL YEHUDA, VICE CHAIR, MOUNT SINAI DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY: PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a condition that occur —
that can occur following traumatic exposure. And it’s characterized by a lot of different kinds of symptoms.
There are certainly reminders of the trauma that can prove very distressing. People have memories when they don’t want to have them. They
can have flashbacks. They can have nightmares.
They go to great lengths to avoid any reminder of the traumatic experience. They change the way that they view the world. They can become depressed
and start to get all sorts of ideas about that the world isn’t safe or their whole belief system is shattered.
And then there are some real physiological symptoms like not being able to sleep or concentrate or feeling hyper-vigilant or irritable and angry.
SREENIVASAN: What’s the connection between surviving trauma and suicide?
YEHUDA: The connection is that many people who survive trauma, especially the ones who developed post-traumatic stress disorder, are at increased
risk for suicidality. And so there is a link that is becoming much more appreciated that exposure to traumatic events and especially having PTSD
following those events will increase the likelihood that the trauma survivor will make a suicide attempt or may even have a successful suicide.
SREENIVASAN: Do we have kind of numbers yet on that?
YEHUDA: Well, we know that the rate of suicidality is increased by about 28 percent if you have PTSD. We know that depending on the type of trauma
that someone has been exposed to, there’s an increased risk of suicide attempts.
So for example, somebody has been exposed to rape or interpersonal violence, there’s like a 22 percent and 23 percent chance that they will
make an attempt at some time during their lives. Among adolescents who are exposed to trauma, the rate is even higher. And among adolescents who are
exposed to school shootings, the prevalence of PTSD is very high in the 70s.
SREENIVASAN: Seventy percent of the kids that are exposed to the trauma in a school shooting?
YEHUDA: Yes, according to some studies. So that’s a really high percent.
SREENIVASAN: Now, how does that manifest itself? Do these kids come out as depressed? Do they come out as — with suicidal ideation right away?
Is it onset slowly? Are there warning signs that we can pick up on?
YEHUDA: Sometimes, suicidal ideation is something that happens over time as people are attempting to cope with the symptoms of a trauma and are not
being very successful at it. The idea of suicide comes up as a possible way to deal with one’s problems.
So I don’t think that is something that happens right away. I think that it takes time. Most people who are exposed to a trauma are told, and it’s
correct to be told this, that with the passage of time, you’ll feel better.
And that’s generally true with the passage of time, a lot of the symptoms of PTSD do get better. Certainly, if there’s mental health treatment. But
even sometimes if there’s really good social support, that can reduce some of the edge off of PTSD symptoms.
But in a case where somebody is not getting better, the symptoms of PTSD themselves can really work in concert to increase this idea that things
might be better if my life was over. And so this can happen when you feel like the PTSD is causing you to be very isolated from other people and you
are left all alone to cope and the burden is very difficult for you.
It can occur when you realize that you’re a burden to your family because you’re not alone and that a lot of people are trying very, very hard to
help you. But nonetheless, your pain is very great, and so this idea that you might be able to release your family of the burden of having to care
for you again.
Remember, PTSD changes the way you think. So it’s not necessarily the correct idea —
SREENIVASAN: You aren’t thinking clearly.
YEHUDA: They’re not thinking clearly. But in some internal logic, there is this idea. Another very common thing is that people feel very angry
You hear this from a lot of people, particularly combat veterans and rape victims. They are angry. And they feel that there’s a monster inside of
them that somehow needs to be shut down and maybe suicide is the way because if you don’t shut down this angry monster within, maybe the
irritability will come out and hurt people that you love.
So there are all these reasons that people might have. Now, of course, if you talk to someone externally, they’ll be able to tell you that the
reasons aren’t so logical.
SREENIVASAN: Are there different groups of people that are more likely to experience not just trauma but suicidal ideation, for example, police
officers might be an at-risk community, veterans might be.
YEHUDA: Police officers are at very high risk for suicide. We know that this is the case. And the questions we have to ask about that is whether
there are appropriate ways that people who are in crisis with occupational hazards like being a policeman or being an EMT or being a firefighter,
whether there is an adequate amount of resources that can deal with problems that can be detected earlier on or whether the cultures promote a
suppression of talking about those problems.
And it’s just an obligation that we have to make sure that there are places that people can go when they are feeling in trouble so that it doesn’t
compound so that they feel that suicide is the only way out.
SREENIVASAN: You are also pointing out very chemical and physiological changes that are happening in the brain. It’s maybe 20, 30 years ago we
were just describing it, oh, it is somebody is feeling this way. But at this point, science has figured out how our brain actually changes with
YEHUDA: Science has figured out how our brain changes in response to trauma exposure and also when people have PTSD. And these
changes are real. And they should be very validating to people that have the disorder.
But what’s more important is that if you can understand what is going wrong, you can maybe try to figure out how to make it right. And so
scientists have really been working very hard to figure out how to reverse the symptoms.
It’s really very important to let people know that treatment can make it better. Finding treatment might be very difficult because I think there’s
a real opportunity here to talk about the fact that there is a crisis in mental health access.
But if we could deal with that crisis, if we could make mental health more available to the people that need it, then we might be able to do something
about what, to me, seems like a real epidemic of suicide.
SREENIVASAN: The CDC says that basically, suicides are up since the turn of the century. Why is that?
YEHUDA: Yes, they are up about 30 percent since the turn of the century. And they’ve been gradually increasing a little bit every year. Nobody
knows why that is.
I think that it’s alarming. But, look, there are a lot of contributors. In 2016, for example, there were about 44,000 suicides, completed suicides
in this country. About half of them, more than half of them, 22,000-plus use firearms.
SREENIVASAN: So the largest number of (INAUDIBLE) in America is from firearms and I think suicides, right?
YEHUDA: Yes. And so we have to really think about whether it’s easier to die by suicide. We have to think about other means that people use. We
have to think about whether we’re making help available to people who are just starting to talk a little bit more about death without expressing
overt suicidal intentions but just statements like, I’d be better off dead or I bet death would be painless.
SREENIVASAN: So if someone says that to you, what should be the alarm bell? What should be the response?
YEHUDA: the response should be to talk more about that. And not to directly challenge it by saying, oh, no, that’s a ridiculous idea, but by
inquiring about what is going on to make you say that.
Are you doing OK? That statement suggests that something is wrong, that you’re not feeling very well, that you are depressed. Is that something
you would like to discuss further with me? Do you need support?
I’m here to listen. I can help you hold whatever burden you’re carrying. Do you want me to help you get mental health treatment? Do you want me to
help support you in some way possible?
The idea is to rally around the person who is expressing those thoughts and to take them seriously.
SREENIVASAN: Does that make a difference?
YEHUDA: Yes. I believe that makes a huge difference. But I think that people are very afraid to talk about suicide because they think that just
bringing it up might give somebody the idea.
YEHUDA: Maybe somebody says I’m sad and you say, well, are you feeling like you might want to kill yourself? And then they weren’t thinking about
it and you just put the idea in their head but that’s not how it works.
What happens is that people might first contemplate suicidal ideation, low- grade things without having a plan or without thinking about how they might do it. But they might start out thinking pain is very bad, I’d be better
off dead. If I were dead, I wouldn’t feel this pain.
And then they would graduate to another level of how they might do it. Should I begin to stockpile pills, for example, or something like that?
So if you begin to have a conversation with somebody at an early phase, then you can kind of work with that and see whether these symptoms escalate
and then really help the person get mental health treatment, community support, social support.
When people feel that they’re not alone, this can be enormously helpful. When people feel that you truly care about them and that they’re not a
burden to you and that you will help them, this makes an enormous difference.
SREENIVASAN: How much of this has to do with our ability to be resilient? Because there are going to be people that say, you know what, lots of
people experience trauma. Some of them get through it. Some of them, it makes them stronger.
And then other people, they sort of take this other path., right. So we have no uniform response to how we all deal with the
challenges that we face, right?
YEHUDA: But it’s not binary. And that’s really important. It’s — every person PTSD has some spark of resilience in them. And what we want to be
able to do is find that spark and fan that flame so that the resilient side sort of out shadows, the light gets bigger than the dark.
And I think that it’s a constant struggle for people to go to their light side and not go to their dark side. But the fact is that when you have
been through something as troubling as a school shooting or some interpersonal violence or rape or combat or anything like that, you are
struggling for that light.
And that — it’s not binary of some people get it, some people don’t. Even people that may not meet full criteria for PTSD can be very affected by the
traumatic events that have occurred to them.
So this idea of resilience is a life-long process. It’s a struggle that we have to wellness, to recovery. Ultimately, it involves being able to talk
about what happened, being able to go down to the deepest fears about you as a person.
A lot of people have survival guilt, guilt about how they could let themselves be victimized. They blame themselves. They feel helpless.
They feel terrible about themselves.
And these are deep, dark secrets that they hold very tightly inside of them. And they need to be released. They need to come out and then
eventually people can work towards the next step which is finding meaning and purpose in their trauma and in their suffering. And then they can
cross over to a side where maybe they can find more resilience than pain.
SREENIVASAN: Have we collectively made it more acceptable? Because I think different cultures treat it differently. Some places place a lot of
shame on it, say that’s just not an option, that should never be a way out, right.
But somewhere in the United States right now, when we hear of someone taking their own life, we say, well — it’s not that we’re collectively
outraged and say that’s unacceptable.
YEHUDA: We’re not as outraged as we used to be. And I think that suicide is less stigmatized. I think that there’s a positive aspect towards that,
I think understanding that it’s part of either a mental illness or a very deep existential struggle, I think is more humanizing. But we want to stop
short of glamorizing it, too. So we want to stop short of letting people know that it’s an acceptable statement to make if it’s satisfied with what
is going on in the world.
It’s understandable but it’s tragic. And I think this idea of the pain that people leave behind in the aftermath of these events is something that
the families struggle with for a lifetime. It haunts them for a lifetime.
SREENIVASAN: In the wake of the suicides by the two children who survived Parkland and the father who lost a child who was murdered at Sandy Hook,
are there longer-term implications for these communities or even generationally?
YEHUDA: Yes. I think that these events do reverberate. But I think that what the Parkland children tried very hard to do was use the adversity to
try to effect change. I think change is hard to effect but that’s the right idea. And that is something that we should also take as our mandate
following these kinds of tragedies.
SREENIVASAN: Thanks so much for joining us.
AMANPOUR: It’s a really important issue and an important reminder to all our viewers that if you or someone you know is in crisis or needs help,
please refer them to your national suicide hotline.
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.