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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.”
Here’s what’s coming up.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be repercussions for China. And he knows that.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): President Biden vows that, China’s human rights will not go unpunished. But how to deal with Xi Jinping from someone who
knows him personally. Trump’s man in Beijing, Terry Branstad, joins me.
ROBIN WRIGHT, ACTRESS/DIRECTOR: I’m not running from anyone. I’m not hiding. I’m here because I choose to be.
AMANPOUR: Award-winning actress and director Robin Wright weaves a story of grief and healing in “Land.”
DEL. STACEY PLASKETT (D-VI): If you think back and really look at the evidence that we presented, it was overwhelming.
AMANPOUR: Behind the scenes of President Trump’s Senate trial. Impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett reveals all to our Michel Martin.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
The temperature is dropping in the cold war between the U.S. and China, President Biden again criticizing Beijing for what America calls a genocide
against its Muslim Uyghur people. He’s threatening repercussions. China strongly denies these accusations. In a hyperpartisan U.S., standing up to
China appears to be one of the few points of consensus.
But what’s next as the superpowers face off?
Well, joining me now is the former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. Until last October, he was also President Trump’s ambassador to China. But when he was
first governor back in 1985, Branstad met Xi Jinping, who was on a tour of rural America as a young Communist Party official.
And now the former governor is joining me from Des Moines, Iowa.
Welcome back to the program.
Let me talk to you first as the former ambassador to China.
We are in this situation where almost every day, it seems, the U.S. and China, indeed, the E.U. and China are coming up at loggerheads against each
other. There seems to be kind of an inability to sort of — to figure out a modus vivendi. What do you think you were able to achieve under the Trump
administration with regards that relationship?
TERRY BRANSTAD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: Well, Christiane, first of all, it’s great to be on your program.
And it was a great honor to be the American ambassador to China. It was a difficult and challenging job, because China is a strategic rival of the
United States. And as you pointed out, there have been a number of abuses of human rights against the Uyghurs, against the people in Hong Kong, in
Tibet, and many other areas.
So, that’s a problem. And I’m pleased to see the Biden administration recognizes that as something. And the Congress, on basically almost
unanimous vote, passed sanctions against some of the people that have been responsible for the mistreatment of the Uyghurs and also the mistreatment
of the people in Hong Kong.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, because now you mentioned President Biden, and he has come out after a town hall with CNN saying that there will be
This is a little bit about of what he said last night, and I want to get your reaction to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Well, there will be repercussions for China. And he knows that.
What I’m doing is making clear that we, in fact, are going to continue to reassert our role as spokespersons for human rights at the U.N. and other
agencies that have an impact on their attitude. China is trying very hard to become the world leader and to get that moniker. And to be able to do
that, they have to gain the confidence of other countries.
And as long as they’re engaged in activity that is contrary to basic human rights, it’s going to be hard for them to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Ambassador, he also went on to say: I can’t talk about such a complicated matter in 10 minutes on TV. And, of course, we have to work
with China on the COVID pandemic, on climate and other such things.
After several years of being there representing the United States and seeing Xi Jinping close up, where do you think are the points of leverage?
What can the United States due to a China that doesn’t seem to care about what the rest of the world thinks?
BRANSTAD: Well, one of the things that the Congress already did was sanction some of the people involved in mistreatment of the Uyghurs and in
But what China normally does is, they retaliate. And so I think 10 minutes after Biden was sworn in, they basically retaliated with sanctions against
28 people that had been in the previous administration.
And when we closed their consulate in Houston, they retaliated by requiring us to close our consulate in Chengdu. Basically, we’re trying to get to a
situation where China recognizes they need to play by the same rules as everybody else. And we want to see fairness and reciprocity in the
relationship, something they never had before.
But we started that during the time that I was ambassador. I’m pleased to see that President Biden is at least talking a good game, but it’s a
challenge. And it’s important that we work with China when we can, but we also need to stand up to the inappropriate actions they have taken, like in
the South China Sea, or the mistreatment of the Uyghurs and the people in Hong Kong, and the squeeze they’re putting on Taiwan.
AMANPOUR: Again, China, because it has no pretensions anymore, it’s not, like, standing back. It wants to be the superpower. It wants to have the
influence in that region, and perhaps potentially take over the U.S. role as number one in the world.
So, I just wonder whether there is — whether it’s a fool’s errand to actually think you can change their behavior. And, particularly, I want to
know what you think. Were relations after the Trump administration better than when you left or before? Because it’s really in a chill, and people
have called it like — sort of almost like a Cold War atmosphere?
BRANSTAD: Well, first of all, I think we need to recognize that China wants to be rich, powerful, and respected.
And the point that I tried to make is, they can’t be respected if they don’t live by the same rules as everybody else. And they haven’t been doing
that with their abuses of human rights, with the inappropriate actions they have taken in the South China Sea, which is international water.
So, we have had American ships, freedom of navigation, transportation going through that area consistently. And that needs to continue to demonstrate
that those are international waters, and there are a dozen or more smaller countries in Southeast Asia who also have rights to that area, as does the
rest of the world.
AMANPOUR: We have mentioned several times, and you really are in a unique position, because you really — you got to know Xi as a young Communist
Party official back in 1985, when he came to the United States and you were in your first term as governor of Iowa.
I want to know what kind of relationship you built with him back then. I realized it was — it’s not exactly a best friendship. But, nonetheless,
you had a unique opportunity, given who he is today. And what you made of him then. What kind of characteristics did you perceive in him then?
BRANSTAD: Well, in 1983, I signed a sister state with the Hebei region of China, and Governor Zhang Shuguang from Hebei came to Des Moines and signed
He invited me to bring a delegation to Hebei in ’84. I did that. And we were very well received. China was very different in those days. People
were still wearing the Mao uniforms. We rode an old steam locomotive, coal- fired steam locomotive to Shijiazhuang.
But they treated us very well. My wife was given a big bouquet of flowers. They had a band that met us there. We were there for the 35th anniversary
of the founding of the People’s Republic.
So, then, on the spring of ’85, we had a small delegation of five young men led by a county level party leader, a party secretary named Xi Jinping.
They came to Iowa. His business card said Feed Association of Shijiazhuang. We treated them very well.
There’s a picture taken behind my desk in the governor’s office on April 29. And they visited farms and factories. And we treated him so well that,
when I came back as governor after a 12-month — a 12-year sabbatical, in 2011, he had then become the vice president of China.
And we had a 45-minute meeting in the Great Hall of the People. And he had his itinerary from that ’85 trip. And he talked glowingly about how well
he’d been treated in Iowa. And he called all of the people that he had met during that time old friends.
So — and when my wife and I and our daughter and son-in-law and two grandchildren came to China and I became the ambassador — and my daughter
teaches at the International School of Beijing — he invited us to have a private dinner with he and his wife, and, actually, his daughter joined us
for that as well. So, the personal relationship was good.
The thing that has been disappointing is that the direction that China has taken under his leadership has been more giving the Communist Party more
and more control. And instead of opening up and becoming more democratic, it has gone the other direction.
AMANPOUR: I just wanted to ask you whether you were surprised by that, whether you had thought when you met him those years ago that he was maybe
a reformer or what.
AMANPOUR: Because, as you know, President Trump also had a decent relationship with him.
And he kind of jokingly said, or maybe not so jokingly, that he wished he could also have leadership in perpetuity, as Xi had given himself. And we
don’t know when, if ever, Xi is going to leave. “The New York Times” has basically said that, and others, foreign policy experts, that relationship
between the U.S. and China today, after four years of Trump, have never been worse since the 1949 Communist Party revolution.
So, are you surprised? And do you think that Xi will just simply continue with very little opposition around the world to consolidate basically his
power and become the number one superpower?
BRANSTAD: Well, we were hopeful that he’d be a reformer like his father and like Deng Xiaoping, who really started the reform and opening policy in
Unfortunately, after Xi Jinping became the supreme leader of China — and he’s got three titles. He’s the commander in chief of the People’s
Liberation Army. He is the general secretary of the Communist Party. And he is the president of China.
Now, the president of China is the weakest of the three titles. And that’s the only one that had term limits. And, of course, as you said, that’s been
eliminated. So he is in his second five-year term, and he is not prevented from going on beyond that.
I think he wants China — he wants to make China great again. They felt that they had 100 years of humiliation, and — until the communists took
over in 1949. But there’s been a lot of ups and downs in our relationship over the years. And, in fact, I would not call this nearly as bad as it was
before President Nixon went to China and began the opening up process.
But the thing that’s been disappointing, we helped them get into the WTO, and we have done a lot to invest in help China become a much more
prosperous nation. They have gone from being a Third World country to now being the second largest economic power in the world, and their economic
and political and military power continues to grow.
We need to recognize they are a strategic competitor. And America needs to protect our interests. And we also need to stand up for human rights of
other people, especially the people who have been mistreated, like the Uyghurs and the people in Hong Kong.
AMANPOUR: OK, so, Governor, let me — let me ask you to put your governor and your senior Republican Party hat back on and ask you, what do you think
China makes of President Trump basically disregarding the democratic process in the United States itself, leading to that terrible insurrection
on January 6, and even tonight has gone on the air to once again deny that he lost the election, to once again baselessly say that it was stolen?
First of all, your reaction to that, because he said it just now. And, secondly, what do Xi Jinping and the others think? Do they think, oh, well,
the United States is not somebody we have to take seriously when they talk to us about democratic principles?
BRANSTAD: Well, China loves to absolutely downgrade the United States and say negative things about the United States.
They even continue to say that the Wuhan virus, which has become a worldwide pandemic, came from American soldiers that came to Wuhan, or it
came from Europe. So, they have lost a lot of credibility with their propaganda and their wolf warrior approach around the world.
I think it’s important that Republicans recognize that we need to work on and focus on policies that are good for America. And I’m proud to say that
I never lost an election. I was elected governor six times, served longer than anybody else.
And I have helped build the party in this state and working to support Republicans around the country. We now have 60 percent of the legislatures.
We have 27 of the governors. We have, I think, gained 12 seats in the Congress in this last election. And I think we need to continue to focus on
policy and reinsert the Ronald Reagan 11th commandment about speaking no ill of other Republicans.
So, that’s my goal…
AMANPOUR: Well, that would be a great.
BRANSTAD: … is to try to help the party in that way.
AMANPOUR: That would be great, if it was possible.
BRANSTAD: We’re doing that in Iowa.
AMANPOUR: But there’s full-scale civil war, it seems, war within the Republican Party.
Trump has also in the last 24 hours just, I mean, literally given his — the back of his hand to Mitch McConnell, the Senate former majority leader,
now the minority leader, calling him dour, talking about his double chin, saying he was out of step, and saying that if anybody was being supported
by Mitch McConnell in future elections, Trump would go out and support the opponent.
I guess I want to ask you, if you don’t want to speak evil about anybody in the Republican Party, do you still support Donald Trump? Do you support him
when he says that the election was stolen and that he actually won? And do you support any movement that makes Trump the leader of the Republican
Party, given what’s happened?
BRANSTAD: I have always been very welcoming. I welcomed Xi Jinping to Iowa. I welcomed presidential candidates of both parties as governor, and I
want to keep the Iowa caucuses first in the nation.
And so we’re already looking at people that might want to come here and run in 2014 (sic). And they’re all welcome. We want them to come early and
often and get to know the people of Iowa, Iowans take their responsibility very seriously.
And I’m very proud of what we have been able to accomplish. And I want to work on restoring some civility and encouraging people to focus on issues,
instead of attacking each other. And I really think it’s time to restore Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment.
I think that has served as well.
BRANSTAD: And I want to be a leader that works to bring people together, and to reduce taxes and regulations, and make this country the kind of
leader that we want to be.
And we think that our alternative to what China offers is something that has appeal. And the transparency and openness of our system is so much
AMANPOUR: I need to ask you, Governor. Basically, I have been — from your perspective as a former ambassador, and seeing what the rest of the world
looks at the United States for, I spoke to the former prime minister of Australia.
And this is what she said — and it was really interesting — about January 6 and how America might want to look at it. Just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIA GILLARD, FORMER AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: What would the United States be using its voice in the world for if this had happened in another
nation, and there had been incitement, there had been a riot, there had been the potential for — well, there were deaths, and the potential for
even more violence and deaths?
What would they be saying about accountability? What would they expect that nation to do? And if you think about it like that, in some ways, I think
the question answers itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And I think she put it pretty well.
So, my final question to you is this. Do you believe that the election was stolen from Donald Trump, as he continues to say?
BRANSTAD: Well, first of all, we all condemn the violence. And the good news is, we did have a successful transition.
The vice president and the people in the Congress did their job. And we are a great country. And this was a terrible tragedy. And we want to make sure
that something like this never happens again in this country.
And I know, regardless of people’s political persuasions, they condemn it and want to make sure that we continue to respect our political system in
And I would point out, Iowa is the first in the nation. And Iowans take their responsibility very seriously. We want to keep the Iowa caucuses
first in the nation, and we want everybody that wants to be a future leader in America to come to Iowa and meet the great people and have an
opportunity to continue this great political system that we’re so proud of in America.
AMANPOUR: OK, so, Governor, I’m a little disappointed, because I asked you a direct question.
You’re a senior Republican Party leader. You talk about Iowa, which is a major front-line election state. And you won’t tell me whether you think
the election was fairly won by Joe Biden.
BRANSTAD: Well, first of all, the election is over. Joe Biden is the president. I accept that.
BRANSTAD: I think, first of all, that we want to look to the future. And we want to focus on what can be done in the interim — in the midterm
elections, and then the next election.
And that’s what we have always done. And I’m very proud to say that I have been the one that has accepted and invited people to come here, and we want
to continue to do that.
All right, well, that’s a non-answer answer. But I do have to move on. We have some great guests coming up. Thank you for your time, Governor
So, we’re going to zoom in now on trauma, on grief, resilience and recovery.
That is what Robin Wright’s new movie is about. It is called “Land.” And it’s the first feature film that she’s directed. And, of course, she stars
in it as well. It follows a woman who’s suffering great personal loss, retreats to the beautiful, but brutal, brutal Wyoming mountains to self-
Here’s a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LAND”)
WRIGHT: I’m here in this place because I don’t want to be around people. Do you understand?
DEMIAN BICHIR, ACTOR: Yes.
WRIGHT: You’re going to be coming here to teach me? Would you mind not bringing any news of life elsewhere?
BICHIR: I can do that.
WRIGHT: Thank you.
BICHIR: What if aliens land here?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It’s receiving some very good reviews, with “The Washington Post” calling it a deceptively simple directorial debut.
Robin Wright joins me now, alongside the grief expert Dr. James Gordon, who advised on this film.
Welcome to both of you.
A deceptively simple film, because it’s not simple at all in its message.
Robin Wright first, what made you want to take this story as the first feature film that you direct?
WRIGHT: Well, mainly because it came into my lap about three years ago, when, we were all experiencing and others experiencing on another level
loss and tragedy during these random shootings that were going on almost biweekly.
And I just felt like this message was so timely about human resilience and the need for human connection to allow one to heal, and especially this
last year, what we have all been through, the disconnected nature of the pandemic.
AMANPOUR: Especially this year, yes. ‘
WRIGHT: Yes, exactly.
AMANPOUR: You see, I’m sitting here sort of curled up because I don’t want to do a spoiler alert. And the actual trauma that you have suffered is not
revealed until the very end of the film.
And so I’m not actually going to say what it is. But you do refer to shooting, the pandemics of shooting. And, clearly, there’s been a lot of
trauma suffered in the United States and around the world.
Let me just ask Dr. Gordon, who I know, and he remembered, that we have met in very traumatic situations about Gaza, and some of the victims there.
So, Dr. Gordon, what did you — what did you have to do, what was your skill needed on this film in terms of trauma and grief adviser and expert?
DR. JAMES GORDON, AUTHOR, “TRANSFORMING TRAUMA”: Well, thank you, Christiane. It’s nice to be with you again, and in these circumstances as
I think that Robin and her screenwriter, Erin Dignam, had a very deep and powerful intuitive sense of how damaging and disruptive trauma is, and also
an intuitive sense that trauma does come to all of us.
So, what I did is really to encourage them to follow their best instincts. And Robin and I did some couple hours of role-playing, and really
encouraging what she was ready to do already, is to go into the depths of suffering and loneliness, and to feel the exquisite vulnerability of Edee,
of the character, and at the same time — and I think I encouraged this as well — to look for the sources of strength that would bring her through
this terrible trauma.
And I think you see that in the film, that you have a sense that nature is going to support her and she’s going to embrace it.
And I really was there to just encourage her superb instincts about what trauma is and the fact that there is a way through. And so that — I know
that from my experience of working during and after wars and after climate- related disasters.
So — and she’s — it’s a pleasure. It’s been a — was a — has been and is a pleasure to know Robin and to work with her, because she’s so tuned in
and so sensitive to what’s actually going on inside her and inside the character.
AMANPOUR: So, Robin Wright, you are known for your sensitivity and tuning in.
And the character, if I might say, I mean, I’m not a movie reviewer, but I mean, it’s very understated, your character, but it’s so deep. I mean, it’s
just so deep, and it keeps revealing itself, as the doctor said across that landscape that’s also part of the healing.
And I guess, today, in COVID, people just want to see open spaces, land, greenery, seasons, and all of that. But if you wouldn’t mind just
describing as much as you can the trauma in the film that Edee has been through.
WRIGHT: Well, we wanted to leave it for the end, like you said, hold the mystery, and let the viewer be engaged with this one person’s journey.
That’s what this film is claiming solely. It’s one person’s experience with an unfathomable event that happened in her life. And we all deal with
healing in singular ways. And so I’d loved just this very myopic view of somebody going off the grid. And, yes, the truth is, we need each other to
get through adversity, to pull us through the other side, to see light out of the dark.
And I wanted that full circle. And that’s why Dr. Gordon was so helpful in doing role-playing with me, because we have all had trauma. We have all
experienced some form of trauma in our life, varying degrees, yes. But I wanted to understand the different phases of trauma, and how you start
peeling the onion.
And it’s fascinating how many layers there are. And he was able to pull that out of me as the character.
AMANPOUR: One of the amazing things is, you say now that, yes, we all need people to get us through, but you didn’t want anybody. I mean, you went to
literally get away off the grid, self-isolate. We don’t actually know whether you went to die quietly or whether you went to heal. We don’t
really understand until the film progresses.
And there’s an amazing scene, obviously, where you are found nearly dead by this man, Miguel, who’s also in the mountains. He’s a hunter. He notices
basically your house, no more smoke coming out of the chimney. And he comes up and essentially rescues you.
And then he talks to you, because you have told him — I’m setting up the clip — that you really — what you do is your business and you don’t want
anybody else involved. And this is what he says to you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LAND”)
BICHIR: Have you ever killed anything?
WRIGHT: No. I fish.
BICHIR: If it’s all right, I will come back here and teach you how to trap and, in the fall, to hunt. And then you won’t see me anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, here you are accepting the kindness of a stranger. He had found you half-dead and starving. And you begin to understand how to
survive out there by what he teaches you.
So, there’s the kindness of the stranger. But there’s also the trauma that the actor Miguel also had in his real life and what he plays in terms of
his character in your film. Talk to us a little bit about that circle.
WRIGHT: Well, it was just serendipitous that he actually got to play the role of Miguel, because, like you said, Demian Bichir, the actor, had a
similar event happened to him. And he told me, when I first met him, he said: “I need to do this part. It’s going to be therapy for me, because I
know exactly who this character is, because I have been there before. And Miguel knows exactly where Edee is in her phases of grief.”
And it’s a give-and-take. That’s what he and I were talking about. I said he is her saint. He — yes, he rescued her, but you are the saint in her
life. You’re that angel that came down and gifted her. And she, in return, gifted him redemption.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask Dr. Gordon, because I mentioned a little bit the last and the vistas. But, Dr. Gordon, in all of the work that you have
done, how much has landscape, nature played a role in the healing, and it is clear that it’s the big character in this film?
GORDON: You know, I think that is one of the brilliant things about the film is that aboriginally, from the beginning of our history as humans,
nature has played a major role in the healing of trauma. And were we so- called civilized people are not rediscovering it and Edee goes to the wilderness because of her intuition that that’s where healing is going to
come from. And it does.
And there are lots of studies showing that being in nature and spending time there improves move, decreases anxiety and helps people move through
diagnosable posttraumatic disorder and certain, Edee, I’m not diagnosing her, but you could feel the weight of the trauma that she’s going through.
And nature is saving her, nature is her friend.
The other thing that’s really important, Christiane, and the question that you were asking about Miguel, and it is a wonderful connection, is that in
the beginning, Edee doesn’t want to be with people, and I that is important to respect, that when we’re traumatized sometimes there is a wrong time and
then there’s a right time for that kind of human contact that is so healing and it comes to us. It is amazing how it does come if we pay attention. And
then finally, Edee had to get very, very low, really despairing, near — as you say near-death, as many of us do before we recognize that connection
that can be healing.
And so, she does, and the beautiful tact that Miguel has as he spends time with her is so — I felt myself crying as I watched their connection.
AMANPOUR: Yes, I have to say, agree with you, his character is absolutely superb, and that restraint, you know, not wanting to leap into somebody’s
life and grab them and think that they can make it better for them. So, you have set up a beautiful next clip, because their friendship does progress,
and here is the next clip between Miguel and Edee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BICHIR: Do you ever get lonely out here?
WRIGHT: Sometimes. I know that I would be more lonely there than here. That may sound like it doesn’t make any sense but —
BICHIR: It does. It does to me. If you don’t want to talk about the past, have you thought about what you want your life to be now? Moving forward?
WRIGHT: I just want to notice more. I want to notice everything around me more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Robin Wright, that is an amazing sentiment, and I think everybody, certainly in COVID, obviously, the film was done before, but
now, I think everybody is wanting to notice more. Where did that come from in you? I mean, it is such an amazing thing to say in a conversation like
WRIGHT: I know, and again, very timely, right. And those lines were actually written later in preproduction for this very reason. We are all
addicted to our devices and especially now, this last year, this is our life through the computer. And just to open up that new prism, I think
we’re going to have to break the addiction once we get out of this pandemic, we’re going to have to adapt back to what is normalcy, and I
thought that was such a beautiful re-reminder of let’s start to notice more and be a part of nature more and all of these things that we have been
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you something, because this is obviously a departure for you, not just because it is a first feature directing job for yourself,
but, you know, it is very different from “House of Cards,” which you also directed a season, and that is pretty dark. And I guess, I am assuming, I’m
going to ask you, was it traumatic what happened in 2017 when your co-star was fired, Kevin Spacey, over sexual abuse allegations, which he denies?
But was that a trauma that you had to get over as well?
WRIGHT: I’m sure it’s a form of trauma, you know, the shock that your body goes through. And then, again, it is about adaptability, trying to find
solutions, and we shut down for a couple of months just to assess what does this mean, what is this climate that we are in right now mean, because it
was very heightened at the time. And we just had to let the storm calm, and then realized we have a huge fanbase for that show and hundreds if not
thousands of employees that worked on that show that would have been out of a job if we didn’t resume.
So, we just collectively decided we must keep this show going and hold up our head and, you know, let’s not have more people unemployed, that was
basically the reason.
AMANPOUR: I guess that I want to ask just a last question to Dr. Gordon, because again, we just talked about COVID. You must be watching and maybe
even treating people now, but there is so much mental health and certainly young people, we hear about all over the world who — particularly the
longer it goes, having real difficult times coping.
What do you see as the end of this tunnel? How do you think this length of, I guess, trauma and self-isolation is going to affect, you know, certainly
GORDON: It is very disturbing, disorienting. Young people I know are wandering in a way that I never did and successive generations never did.
What’s going to happen to me? Where do I fit in? Is this ever going to change? So, there’s tremendous uncertainty.
I think the message, what I and my team at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine are doing is teaching basic self-care skills as widely as possible
to people all over the United States and overseas. I think what’s important — and the film was such a beautiful exemplar of this, is that people have
within them incredible strength that if they can recognize the vulnerability that’s coming to all of us, the situation is beyond our
individual control, they can recognize and accept their vulnerability, they can use some of these basic tools to put themselves back into physiological
and psychological balance and then use their imagination and intuition to make profound changes.
And I think what you see — one of the things you see with Edee is her connection to the physical world. And I love the scenes of her chopping
wood and how she gets better and better at it until it becomes a part of her. And we need to work with our bodies. This is not purely cognitive. We
need to reach out to other people. And also, part of our healing, for everyone in our society as we as for Miguel and for Edee, is reaching out
and being helpful to others, and we see that with Edee as well at the end of the film.
AMANPOUR: It is sort of the we instead of just the I. Dr. Gordon and Robin Wright, thank you so much. It’s a wonderful film. Congratulations on
Now, the former president has been acquitted, but the evidence brought forward by the nine impeachment managers is still being analyzed in the
court of public opinion. Stacey Plaskett was one of those lawyers, the delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands stood out during the trial making a
bold case against Trump. And here she takes our Michel Martin behind the scenes of that tumultuous event.
MICHEL MARTIN: Thanks, Christiane. Delegate Plaskett, thank you so much for speaking with us.
As we are speaking now, it’s under two months that people — you know, there was a mob attack on your place of work. And, you know, now, it has
become clear that had any of you actually been located by some of the people in the mob, you could have been killed. And, you know, now, a couple
of weeks after that, you are heading up impeachment inquiry.
Why do you think your presentation stood out to so many? I mean, there’s evidence by the fact that you’ve been, you know, highly sought after since
the proceedings concluded and you have been highly sought after. And I just wonder why do you it is that your presentation stood out so much?
REP. STACEY PLASKETT (D-VIRGIN ISLANDS): I am not sure, you know, because everyone was so skilled. Among the nine of us, we encompass over 100 years
of law practice. I am the only person on the team who actually as we used to say spoke Republican, because I had been in the Republican
administration. And so, I really directed my argument as well as all of us to trying to speak to all 100 senators, but also really trying to speak to
those Republicans to try and bring them over to our side.
And so, that was really a mind frame that I had when I was speaking, really trying to be very precise, surgical in the execution of the evidence that
we had that was going to bring it out to light, not only for those senators, but illuminate it for the American public in a way that it would
not be forgotten in history.
MARTIN: I was wondering what it was like for you when you are seeing this video and you’re seeing how close the attackers actually came to the floor,
to getting access to the members physically.
MARTIN: You know, that was the first time a lot of people had understood that or seen that. And I wonder what that was like for you when you saw for
the first time?
PLASKETT: Well, I think for all of the managers we were really struck by how close came but for the grace of God and the tremendous bravery of
capitol police and other law enforcement on that day who were incredibly outnumber and were actually engaged for — you know, you are talking three
or four hours in hand-to-hand combat, almost medieval-style combat to keep the individuals out.
And there were times in preparation that different managers kind of broke down thinking about this. For me, I talked on the floor of the Senate about
how looking some of the evidence really reminded me of the juxtaposition of those Americans storming the capitol to those Americans on Flight 93 who
gave — those 44 Americans who gave their lives to ensure that no one could reach the capitol, that our democracy, even the symbol, would not be
destroyed. That was very traumatic for me as well.
MARTIN: It is my understanding from just from the reporting of folks who were in the gallery that when the testimony touched on the lawmakers being
in danger that the senators were very attentive?
MARTIN: It is my understanding from the reporting that when other testimony was brought in about the other people and how they were affected,
congressional staff, the support staff, the janitorial staff, the law enforcement, that they were not so attentive, there were lots of empty
seats is my understanding, and I just have to ask, is that true since you were there and how did that strike you —
PLASKETT: Well —
MARTIN: — that they didn’t seem to be focused on that?
PLASKETT: I don’t know if that is entirely true. I think that throughout the portions of myself, Eric Swalwell and Dave Cicilline and Joaquin
Castro, that section in there, senators were very attentive. I can recall senators in the Republican side shaking their head in disgust. Some welling
up with tears during those portions. I wasn’t speaking about the threat to us as individuals, I saw them doing that during my presentation. And
shockingly though, these were the same senators who did not vote to convict the president. So, that’s very telling as well.
MARTIN: What does that tell you?
PLASKETT: I had the sense afterwards. I mean, I had the Republican senators speaking with me in between presentations that we were doing a
tremendous job, that we were outlining the facts completely. How do senator — Republican senator tell me that he believed we made our case but he was
not going to vote the president. You know, some of them were relying on the justification that they could not — they did not feel that they could
indict or convict a former president, but not looking me in the eye when they were saying that.
MARTIN: Well, first of all, that — I mean, that narrative had been disposed of. I mean, that was the first vote to determine, and yes — this
is not a criminal matter, let’s just be clear. I think most people should know that by now, it is a political trial. The Senate sets its own rules.
But the Senate leadership then led by Mitch McConnell made the decision to only entertain the article of impeachment after the president had left, the
former president had left. They determine that timing.
MARTIN: And then, it was a vote on whether or not — on the constitutionality, that was the first vote.
MARTIN: So, in essence, they were engaging in a jury nullification.
PLASKETT: That is a great way of putting it. They had made a determination that they were not going to convict the president, and it did not matter
how much evidence we were going to put in front of them. You know, I heard so many people, Democrats who I know have a lot of hurt feelings and angst
and are frustrated by the process, wanting us to bring multiple witnesses.
Well, you know, if you think back and really look at the evidence that we presented, it was overwhelming. We did have witnesses, police officers,
speaking about their experience and what it meant to them. We were able to get in the statement of our brave patriotic colleague, Jaime Herrera
Beutler, as to what Kevin McCarthy told us, individuals need to also be aware that people do not come up on well of the floor of the Senate, raise
their hand and give testimony in the same way that we do in our courts. This would have been a deposition. All the senators would have seen would
And we were called that — we’re still in court battling over the subpoena and request for testimony from Don McGahn, from the first investigation of
the president that was the first impeachment. And so, it wasn’t evidence, more evidence, more witnesses that we needed, these senators had put in
their mind what they were going to do. And I think we were — you know, it is heartbreaking not to have won, it’s heartbreaking not to have shown not
only the conviction but the disqualification of President Donald Trump, but we take heart in the notion that one, this is the most bipartisan vote to
convict a president in American history. It is the one with the most majority of members of the Senate voted to convict. That has not happened
in the past previously.
And also, American history, all Americans in the world saw Donald Trump for who he was. How he recognized, encouraged and brought to himself violence.
Internalized it and utilized it for himself. Massaged it and inflamed it and then directed it at the capitol to try to stop the certification of a
presidential election, to attempt to assassinate his own vice president, the person in line to the presidency, the speaker of the house, Nancy
Pelosi, the second in line to the presidency, and all for his own personal power and gain. And I think that will disqualify him to the American voter,
it’s my belief, for rest of his purported or attempted political life.
MARTIN: I know that you been asked quite a bit in the days since the matter was concluded about the whole question of witnesses, and you just,
you know, told us that the result would have been — the result that was achieved anyway, which was statements delivered on the floor and entered
into the record, that’s the way it works. So, you have made the case several times over the last couple of days because you have been asked
about it repeatedly. But was there some sort of an agreement or a tacit agreement with the White House that you would conclude this matter
expeditiously so that you could move on the other business? Did that happen?
PLASKETT: I don’t know that happening. I was not privy to any conversation like that. We were given a green light by Speaker Pelosi that she trusts
the team. She assembled a team that she believed was more than capable when we go over to the Senate, we’re going — you know, she did the negotiation
with Senator Schumer but that we were — decision making was ours. And as you’ve heard Jamie Raskin say, the decision was his.
We believed at the end of our presentation, before the defense counsel went on that we were done, that we had presented a case. And it was not our
intention to call witnesses. We had the information about Jaime Herrera Beutler, we felt we had an obligation to try get that statement in on that
Friday night. And thus, you saw the negotiations that were going on on Saturday morning, first to call her as a witness to try and open up the
ability — that statement in the record.
Having been able to do that, we felt that we had done our job more than adequately beyond or even at the criminal level of expectation of beyond a
reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, the Senate was not going to follow that.
MARTIN: But with one day of thinking, everybody there was a witness. I mean —
PLASKETT: But they were not only witnesses —
MARTIN: You could argue that they were all witnesses. But let me just ask you this —
PLASKETT: But they weren’t just witness, they were all victims, right?
MARTIN: Right. Did you honestly think going into this that you could achieve a conviction?
PLASKETT: Oh, absolutely. I don’t enter any fight without thinking I’m going to win, or else you’re not going to give your all. And so, I think
all of us, all of us, you know, when people would say, oh, who are the 17 that you are going after? We were going after 100 senators. It was our
intention to speak to all of the senators to try and muster up in them the courage and their duty to their country along with the full force of the
evidence of that attempted coup of our government on January 6th to get them to convict and then to convict and then to disqualify Donald Trump.
MARTIN: What did you think when you heard Mitch McConnell after the matter was concluded and he gave the speech on the floor, this very forceful
indictment of the president’s conduct? He basically made your case. He said that the president — the former president was for all intents and purposes
morally and practically responsible, that was your case. So, what went through your mind when he was giving that speech?
PLASKETT: I felt it was disingenuous. I thought that it showed his complete lack of honor. I was enraged. I thought that it was the height of
hypocrisy and I thought that he — this is a man who is more interested in personal gain and power and attempting to retain the minority leader and
potentially the majority leader than he is in the future of our country, because it is not only about convicting Donald Trump, it’s about sending a
message that our country will not stand for individuals who betray their oath of office, who attempt to disturb the peaceful transfer of power for
their personal gain. It’s about what the founders of this nation who the Republicans believe so wholeheartedly in would have wanted us to do.
MARTIN: You served in the Justice Department as a political appointee in a Republican administration, the administration of George W. Bush. Do you
mind if I ask, were you a registered Republican at that time?
PLASKETT: Yes, I was.
MARTIN: You were. So, what — why did you register as a Republican at that time? Why did you choose the Republican Party? What made you change? What
made you leave it at that time? Well (INAUDIBLE) these events.
PLASKETT: Well, you know, I’m a follower. You know, I recall when I was asked by the White House in applying for the political appointee position
what type of Republican was I? You know, was I a Rockefeller Republican or, you know, what type, and I said that I was a Malcolm X Republican. That I
believed in, you know, small business. I believed in entrepreneurship. I believed in the power of education. I believed in the power of state
government and what it can do for individuals. I believe, you know, in those type of values, and the individuals that I worked with.
Listen, I worked with Robert Mueller. You know, Chris Wray was the chief of staff on the team that I worked with, with Larry Thompson. You know, I
recall Larry Thompson arguing with the White House about the University of Michigan case on affirmative action during that time. And there was
dialogue and back and forth and negotiation which allowed the White House to take a position, that did in some ways support affirmative action.
I was placed in charge of the RICO case going after the tobacco companies. Those were the type of Republicans that I worked with at that time. And I
left the Republican Party because I saw the party moving away from that. I went back to the party that I believed would allow exchanges. You know, I’m
considered a moderate Democrat, because the Democrats allow free thought and differences of opinions to be a part of the party.
MARTIN: What about the former president? What should happen next? I mean, do you think that the Justice Department should pursue available charges?
PLASKETT: Yes. Well, you know, I do not pretend to or I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to say what the Justice Department should or
should not do, what they should or should not proceed in. I believe that they will look very carefully at criminal charges, the civil rights
charges. You know, I look at individuals who have been nominated. I think that Kristen Clarke who has been nominated to be the head of the Civil
Rights Division is one of the most brilliant young black women lawyers of our time.
I’m sure individuals like her, Letitia James in New York, the attorney general and Fulton County’s attorney general, as well as the District of
Columbia, just looking at incitement to violence, will take deliberate — will deliberate on it with full measure and whatever decisions they come up
with, you know, I’m they will have our full support.
MARTIN: There is a question of at what point did you pursue these charges, and what is the benefit and the cost? Now, you know, that you have lived
through this and you heard all the arguments, what do you think about that?
PLASKETT: You know, I have been ask this question before and my response is, is that I think we’re at the same place in our country — you know,
history repeats itself, and we’re immediately after the civil war where legislators had to make a decision what to do about seditionists and
traders, individuals who attempted to seed (ph) themselves from the union.
And the decision there was made to, you know, let’s shake like gentlemen and let them go back., And these individuals and their soldiers and those
with them went back to the south and began to terrorize African-Americans and others, continue to the, you know, 19th Amendment to — well, I’m
sorry, the 13th Amendment to build their own wealth, right, utilizing black people and chain gangs to do what needed to be done to grow their own
economy. There was no reckoning. There was no accountability.
And so, I am concerned that should we not engage in an appropriate reckoning in this instance, that it would embolden those individuals. Do I
care that they feel putout and they feel defensive? I couldn’t careless that they feel defensive. What they have to be is accountable for their
actions and for those things that fly in the face of our American values and American law.
MARTIN: Delegate Stacey Plaskett, thank you so much for speaking with us today.
PLASKETT: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: What an amazing conversation. That is it for now. Thank you for watching “Amanpour and Company” on PBS and join us again tomorrow night.