Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen on the Election

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s tell-all memoir, “The Room Where It Happened,” hits shelves today. Once the dust settles, what will this country’s relationship with the rest of the world look like? To answer that question, Christiane speaks with another person who sat in “The Room Where it Happened” during a different presidency.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: I guess, you know, you’ve been on the cutting edge of foreign policy for so long. What do you see and what do you expect if there was to be a second Trump administration?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, if that were to take place, then I think we would not recognize America as a democracy. I think President Trump is taking us down the road to tyranny, to one-man rule, to try and replicate what he sees as a positive in Moscow with President Putin or in Turkey with President Erdogan, or over in China or North Korea. I think he wants to have one-man rule, and it’s not the rule of law but just the opposite. It’s the law of rule, where he only can make decisions. And he said quite, you know, publicly on multiple occasions, I’m above the law. The law doesn’t apply to me. I’m the chief law enforcement officer. I am the commander in chief. Nothing I do is illegal because I do it. And so, if you take away an obligation to run for reelection, now, he has absolute authority to do whatever he wants because he feels he’s not even bound by the law. And so, I see a very dictatorial absolutist type of rule in the country, and again, I don’t think we’ll be a democracy at that point.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, that is really dramatic. You don’t think America will be a democracy, he’s leading us down the road to tyranny, one-man rule is what you’ve just said. I guess I want to ask you, but I almost know the answer. Are the institutions in America not strong enough to prevent that? But of course, that comes in the wake of the attorney general, you know, firing a U.S. attorney in New York, it comes in the wake of this — you know, of the, Republican Senate basically all the time dancing to President Trump’s tune. But is there a limit, do you think, that the institutions will no longer tolerate? For instance, the military stood up and said no to what was happening — you know, you remember, course, with the photo op and clearing the peaceful American protesters from outside the White House.

COHEN: Well, he is doing his best to really tear down these institutions, to politicize them in a way that they’d bend to his rule. He’s tried to politicize the Justice Department. He has, in fact, politicized the Attorney General’s Office. He’s tried to politicize the judiciary. He hasn’t done it yet, but you may recall he likes to call the judiciary my judges. He wants to call the military my generals. And so, he has done his best to delegitimize those institutions.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane speaks with former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen about America’s relationship with the rest of the world and sociologist Clifford Stott about his work advising the UK government on how to reduce the risk of civil unrest in the wake of the pandemic. Michel Martin speaks with former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper about the “dark side” of police culture and how to fix it.