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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
With the Mueller report in full public view, we dig down with a heavily featured power broker, Russian-American, Dimitri Simes, is president for
The Center for National Interest, a Washington think tank.
Plus, they call her a fire cracker. New Mexico’s governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, on voters’ priorities in her state and what that says about
Democrats vying to be the 2020 presidential candidate.
And DNA may soon be as easy to alter as computer code. Author, Jamie Metzl, speaks with our Hari Sreenivasan about what happens when we tinker
with Darwin’s rules.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
President Trump says that he will fight congressional subpoenas to have his officials testify on the Hill. As House Democrats pledge to carry the
mantle of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Politicians and lawyers and investigators are still all picking over this report. And
today, we have the rare opportunity to speak with a man whose interactions with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign earned him a spot in that two-
Dimitri Simes immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union in the 1970s and he would go on to run the Center for the National Interest. It’s
a Washington think tank that specializes in Russian affairs.
In April 2016, months before the election, Candidate Donald Trump gave his first major foreign policy address at an event affiliated with Simes’ think
tank. According to the Special Counsel, it was at that event that Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak met Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law,
and told him, “We like what your candidate is saying, it’s refreshing.” It’s just one of many interactions between Simes and the Trump campaign.
So, to understand more, I’m joined now by Dimitri Simes who’s joining me from Washington.
Welcome to the program.
DIMITRI SIMES, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CENTER FOR THE NATIONAL INTEREST: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: So, look, I mean, it’s really interesting to have you to talk to tonight. Because, as I’ve said, everybody is still poring over this and we
all want to know all the details. So, here we have you. Tell me, from your perspective, just give me an overview, short, of the investigation
SIMES: Well, this was a very serious investigation, clearly, quite deliberate with a lot of people involved with many questions asked. I
think that from what I understand, several hundred people in Washington alone were interviewed. Several dozen were subpoenaed to appear before the
grand jury. Neither me nor anyone else from the Center of National Interest was one of them.
As this investigation concluded, I had a conversation with Special Counsel’s people and they were very nice, thanking me and my colleagues for
our effort and said that they were sorry that we had to go through this.
SIMES: And that they hoped that if we see each other again, it will be under more pleasant circumstances. And I told them that while it was not
my favorite form of entertainment, I understood that they were doing what they were supposed to do and they really thought they were quite
professional and responsible.
AMANPOUR: Right. So, Dimitri, you have a great way with words and a great flourish and you’ve given us an interesting perspective. Were you
interviewed? You say, “Neither me nor anybody from my think tank was, ‘interviewed or subpoenaed,'” but your conversation, I mean, was that an
interview, was the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, there? Did he ask you questions?
SIMES: Let me be very clear. I did not say or at least I did not mean to say that I was not interviewed. I obviously was interviewed. I meant that
we were not taken to the grand jury, to the next stage. We were witnesses, we are not the focus of the investigation.
No, I did not meet Mr. Mueller personally. I met one of his deputies and several attorneys and FBI agents who were on his team.
AMANPOUR: And how extensive was the interview? How many times did you sit with them or for how long? How much did — well, I mean, we know from the
report they asked you loads of questions, but how long did it take?
SIMES: Well, I would rather not discuss specifics because our understanding was that neither side would go into any details and I do
understand the investigation is over but I also do understand that there will be other investigations focusing on others.
We have absolutely no reason to think that there will be any additional interest in us. But all I can tell you is that I thought that
the interviews were extensive, deliberate, conducted in an appropriately tough manner but very professional.
AMANPOUR: So, let’s go through sort of bit by bit some of the main building blocks. You obviously had contacts with Jared Kushner and you
created a relationship of sorts with him. How did that happen, and describe to me the nature of that relationship?
SIMES: Well, I think that the first thing that needs to be said that the Mueller report makes absolutely clear that neither me nor anybody at the
Center for the National Interest either received any messages from the Russian government directed towards the campaign or brought any messages
from the campaign to the Russian government.
I think it should be stated very clearly at the outset. It’s not my impression of what the Special Counsel thought about our role, it was what
the Special Counsel said very clearly at the outset of discussing their interaction with us. And in terms of Mr. Kushner, you’re asking how I met
AMANPOUR: I’m asking you the extent and the nature of your relationship, how did that come about, you know, in those months before the election and
during the campaign?
SIMES: I went to Time Warner building, you know, where it is in New York. I entered the room, which was a dining room, said hello to Jeff Zucker,
president of CNN, who was there, a part of a small group of people invited by Time Warner for a luncheon with our chairman, Henry Kissinger.
Kissinger delivered a short talk and indicated his support of the Center and encouraged us, a people also to be involved with us.
We did not invite any guests ourselves. They were invited by Time Warner. Mr. Kushner was one of them. He was well-known to them. I was not aware
of him at all. He introduced himself. We had a conversation. It was on the aftermath of Kissinger’s presentation. And then, we discussed how at a
certain point if I’m in New York we could get together. And then, there was a follow-up on Mr. Kushner’s part and we got together.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, you’re describing a kind of editorial meeting, editorial board meeting, which is quite common and it’s regular —
regularly done at various media corporations. But you know, “The Washington Post” describes, for instance, you as the Trump campaign’s or
the Trump team’s Russia whisperer. What do you think they wanted from you?
SIMES: Well, I have not seen this particular statement by “The Washington Post.” It is entirely false and offensive. Because first of all, I was
not whispering anything to them. I was talking to them quite openly and as a rule in the presence of quite a few others, including a number of former
senior officials. So, it was — my involvement was very much an open book.
The second thing is, when you asked about what they want of me, I think it would be better to ask them. But you know, I was in your show in the past.
I wrote for the “New York Times,” for “The Washington Post” on many occasions, and I kind of think that people are looking for my expertise,
not only on Russia but on foreign relations in general.
I am the publisher and CEO of one of leading American foreign policy publications, “The National Interest,” which by far has the greatest
presence of internet in terms of any other American or international publication.
SIMES: So, I don’t think that it’s appropriate to imply that there was something unusual about the campaign being interested in talking to me.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let’s just break it down then because there was clearly something enough in interest that the Mueller investigation and the Mueller
team talked to you and mentioned you quite a lot. So, let’s just take it, you know, point by point, then. At one point, in the report, it says that
you provided bullet points on Russia for Donald Trump to use. Is that accurate?
SIMES: No, I do not remember that particular portion of the report. But I did communicate with the campaign. Some of my colleagues, people not
associated with the Center as well, provided multiple input to the speech. It was agreed that his first speech on foreign policy would be
delivered under the Center or more specifically, our magazine, “The National Interest” auspices and they were interested in our input in the
speech, in preparation of the speech, together with many other organizations in Washington.
So, from this standpoint, our involvement, my personal involvement, was perfectly appropriate and normal for Washington think tanks. And I don’t
think that the Mueller report implied anything else.
AMANPOUR: About the speech at the Mayflower, which all of us covered because it was the first major Trump candidate foreign policy speech, and
we all wanted to know what his priorities and what his focus was going to be.
We know now is that Richard Burt, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany, also, I believe, a director at CNI, the think tank, yours, helped write the
speech. And this is what he has said about it, let’s just play a little bit of — let’s just play a little bit of what Trump said in the speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I believe an easing of tensions, an improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible,
absolutely possible. Common sense says this cycle, this horrible cycle of hostility must end and ideally will end soon. Good for both countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, and obviously, I assume, that you agree with that and that was clearly, you know, part of the perspective here. But I just want to
ask you a little bit about how all this came about, because again, it says in the report that you received subsequent draft outlines from Stephen
Miller, who was a prominent Donald Trump and remains a prominent Donald Trump adviser, and that he and CNI executive director, Paul Saunders, along
with Richard Burt, spoke to Miller by phone about substantive changes to the speech.
Again, how appropriate is that, and why was that, that degree, if you will, of kind of micromanaging of this speech?
SIMES: Well, first of all, there was absolutely no micromanagement of the speech to the extent that I did not even see the final version of the
speech. So, I did not know what would be in the speech before it was delivered by Mr. Trump. And I’m sure that the same was true with Mr.
Saunders, at least that’s what I thought, and Ambassador Burt.
When you ask appropriate, I will tell you, I think that you know Washington and you do know that Washington think tanks are not only entitled but fully
expected to help to educate the candidates and to assist them in developing their programs and their statements.
It is a process with many participants and it is never assumed that if you help in this process that means that they went along with all your
recommendations and that you are responsible for speeches, which you will not have seen before they were actually delivered.
AMANPOUR: Just a very quick issue here. I mean, some think tanks avowedly partisan, others are not. Yours claims to be nonpartisan. So, I guess
what I want to know is why did you feel that you wanted to reach out and help this campaign and was it like Russia felt, you know, to make sure that
Hillary didn’t win and maybe there would be a different policy from the United States towards Russia?
SIMES: Well, let me say first, you describe me at the beginning as a Russia-American. Well, I was born in Russia. I am an American citizen
since 1980. And I think that by far, the greater part of my life, and certainly practically all my career took part in the United States. And
you know what? I think I’m entitled to be called an American who was born in Russia and that’s exactly how I feel.
And incidentally, when I appear on Russian TV, that’s always how I position myself and how I’m being introduced there. Point number one. Point number
two, if you would look at the Mueller report, you would know that we helped to arrange a couple of dinners or with a number of leading foreign policy
experts and they were chaired, they were kind of presided by senator sessions who later, of course, became attorney general sessions.
For you to understand the nature of these dinners where we provided our input to the campaign, first, everyone who attended these dinners with an
exception of me was a former senior official or at least a 3 or 4 star general. The dinners even included former director of National
Second, some of people who took part in the dinners actually were not Trump supporters at all. They ended up being Hillary Clinton
supporters but we invited them to take part with the clear understanding that we would not be called advisers to campaign, that people who take part
in these dinners would not describe themselves as advisers to the campaign, but we would be helping to educate the campaign.
And wait, one final point. You have asked me why wouldn’t you do it for Hillary Clinton? We have invited Hillary Clinton on a very senior level.
Unfortunately, she could not do it. But months later, we had Tim Kaine who became Hillary Clinton’s running mate, not just speaking at the Center,
being honored at the Center, delivering the foreign policy speech. And before that, he spoke twice at the center. So, we genuinely were
AMANPOUR: Okay. You know, obviously, I’ve been reading things here to you that point out that the Center did advise the campaign and you also,
obviously, arranged, for instance, at that speech, introduced Donald Trump to the — to Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. I mean, there are all
these issues that you might call perfectly normal, but nonetheless, they’ve been raised in the course of this investigation.
But I do actually, to your points right now, want to ask you then why, you know, I assume having been asked a lot by the Trump campaign, you seem to
have said to Jared Kushner that certain, you know, too close contacts would be “bad optics.”
Let me read you a paragraph from the Mueller report that got a lot of attention. “Simes,” that’s you, “raised the issue of Russian contacts with
Kushner, advised that it was bad optics for the campaign to develop hidden Russian contacts and told Kushner both that the campaign should not
highlight Russia as an issue and should handle any contacts with Russians with care.”
So, you know, unpack that for us because it seems to basically be your answer to some of the issues that people are asking you right now, about
the exceptionally close contacts with one campaign, which is the Trump campaign.
SIMES: Well, first of all, I think that the Special Counsel has described very fairly my input to the Trump campaign and my suggestion that they
should not have any secret contacts with the Russian government. And more broadly, they should be extremely careful about any contacts with Russia
during the campaign.
I myself was not even a single time in Russia since Trump became a candidate and until 2017 when he already was president. My view was that
what Trump said about the possibility of a better relationship with Russia from a — the position of strength, that it was appropriate. I did not
think that he was always describing the reasons for this interest in a better relationship appropriately.
When he talked about Putin praising him, Putin calling him brilliant, I thought it was not what the U.S. interest was about. The U.S. interest was
about in having a relationship with another great nuclear power which would allow the United States to have a normal dialogue.
And incidentally, to the extent I made a substantive input, I suggested that Russia should be described more as an adversary, that we should focus
on continuation of American alliances, both innate (ph) Europe and U.S. alliances in Asia. So, while I thought that what Trump was saying in many
respects was refreshing and constructive, but I most certainly did not agree entirely with his approach, in particular with his rhetoric.
AMANPOUR: Just very quickly, given the way everything has unfolded over the last couple of years since Donald Trump has become president, do you
have any qualms or questions? And I’m not talking about Russia because we know that Russia interfered in the election. Do you have any qualms about
that? Do you think it was the right strategy that Russia sought to help President Trump in this election?
SIMES: I’m glad that you have asked me. I was on the Russian TV this morning and I reminded them again about their interference in U.S.
elections and about the cost of this interference. I said many times on Russian TV when I was invited to be there, that I think that the Russian
interference was serious, real and came at a considerable cost. I think that the way this interference is described in the Special Counsel report
is, again, objective and well documented.
What is in dispute is why they were doing it and the Special Counsel deserves credit for saying that the Russian interference have actually
started not in 2016, not even in 2015, but in 2014 when Russia certainly was not aware of Trump running and becoming president. You could see from
their interactions with Trump, with his business organization, they were not doing Trump any favors, until the very last moment, the assumption in
Moscow, was that Hillary Clinton was very likely to win.
So, why were the Russians interfering? I cannot quote you a particular document which I can cite as a kind of explaining all of this document
coming from the Russian side. But I had numerous conversations in Moscow and I think that these conversations, the impression which I got is widely
shared by the U.S. Intelligence Community.
Impression number one, the Russians wanted to respond to what they thought American interference in the elections and to U.S. role in Ukraine in 2013,
they thought that it was a payback time and as they were doing in the own clandestine and not very effective manner.
Second, they really despise Hillary Clinton. They were not so much thinking about helping Trump but they wanted to do something to the Hillary
campaign to retaliate against her personally. She saw that she was particularly hostile to them and that kind of retaliation was a part of
AMANPOUR: OK. So, I’ve got one last question that I need to ask you on that because clearly, we know there are allegations that the Trump
administration was seeking so-called OPPO (ph), like dirt on the Hillary campaign. And in this big volume one on the Russia collusion
investigation, it says in the report that you offered Kushner details of “highly questionable connections” between Bill Clinton and the Russian
government. But in here, it’s redacted. So, you want to, you know, enlighten us?
SIMES: Well, what is not redacted, of course, is where I got this information. Clearly, the Special Counsel when they said that we were not
delivering any and I was not delivering any messages from Moscow, they made very clear they did not think that I got any information from the Russians
which relate to the campaign.
And in this particular instance, in that paragraph, they mentioned who I have alleged was my source, where I have mentioned a former very senior
intelligence official who before that was a senior national security council official. It so happens that this official have just done an
extensive interview with the “Washington Examiner” where he has fully confirmed that he was my source, that he was the one who brought this
situation to my attention. It had nothing whatsoever to do with Russia.
AMANPOUR: All right.
SIMES: It was talking to somebody who was a bona fide member of the U.S. Intelligence Community.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, Dimitri Simes, it’s been really interesting talking to you. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
SIMES: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, we turn to one of the rising Democratic stars who will help define the party’s future. Michelle Lujan Grisham became the Democrat’s
first Latina governor in the nation when she took office this January in New Mexico and quickly made national headlines when she ordered all
National Guard troops, mobilized by Trump, withdrawn from the border in her state. She said her state would not “take part” in the president’s charade
of border fear mongering.
Around the same time, she released this ad for her policy agenda with her own take on what to do with those walls.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM (D-NM): I’m Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico’s 49th in employment and 50th for schools. We got to bust through
some walls to make changes. I’ll create public and private partnerships to rebuild our infrastructure. We need more apprenticeships and skill
training. We have billions in the permanent fund to invest in schools and small businesses, and here’s what I think of Trump’s wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, Governor Lujan Grisham, that is one heck of an entrance. Thanks for joining us from Santa Fe. Let me ask you very quickly.
GRISHAM: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Let me just ask you. You used to be a congresswoman. You know all this Mueller report is being, you know, pored over in Congress and
what to do next. What is your take? What should Congress do, particularly the Democrats in charge of the House right now and how should they respond
to President Trump saying that he doesn’t want any officials going, even if they’re called?
GRISHAM: I think that the Democrats in Congress are absolutely on the right track by focusing on accountability. Look, if nothing else, Mueller
report showed a presidency in total disarray with the most outrageous, unethical behavior. These are not standards that can hold in a democracy,
and the Democrats in Congress have got to use their majority to make sure that they continue to get information that allows them to hold this
presidency and this administration accountable.
And I think governors and other elected officials, both parties, have also got to take a considerable stand to support that effort. This is a — you
know, my state’s working and implementing an ethics commission and we stand behind integrity to the highest degree. We should expect nothing less out
of the White House.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, then, because you bring up the Democrats. Clearly, we’re now seeing a field of some 22 Democratic declared
candidates. We know that former Vice President Joe Biden is going to announce tomorrow. Just give us your impression of the candidates, the
quite disparate policy, you know, focuses and what do you think the people want from a Democratic candidate in 2020?
GRISHAM: Well, I’m going to do the last part of your question first. I mean, we’re going to see what people want from these candidates as we go
through the primary process. But I think that we’re seeing clearly that there is a, you know, robust set of efforts to show that we’ve got policy
ideas, the right kind of credentials, that integrity, ethical behavior, that problem solving while most of them have, you know, specific nuances
that are different between their educational platforms and they are making sure that we’re fully engaged in a democracy by voting, what we’re going to
do, same day registration like we’re doing in New Mexico, those kinds of issues, they’re all focusing on the economy, college affordability, dealing
with health care.
And that, I think, is going to play out productively because Americans want these issues addressed, and they are not being addressed. In fact, they’re
being worsened in every way by this president.
AMANPOUR: So, bring up now — well, let’s talk now because that brings up the immigration issue —
AMANPOUR: — and the border issue because you are obviously a border state. And you have been very critical of this wall idea and of all that’s
going on and the tragedy of two children in your state who died because of, you know, all sorts of issues with detention and other. I mean, it’s
really a real live issue for you all in New Mexico.
And you have ordered the removal and the withdrawal of National Guard that have been sent from other states into your area. How big a problem is it
GRISHAM: Well, I do want to talk about the challenges at the border. New Mexico, if you will, has become an Ellis Island and we want to take that
issue seriously and we’re not going to shy away that it presents significant challenges.
But here’s the difference. I’m leading the state with great support from incredible New Mexicans who are rising to this challenge and responding to
a call for action. Unlike the president, who is fear-mongering, who’s creating tensions at the border, who will not negotiate, who will not work
with Congress, will not invest in the issues that would prevent the kind of mass migration that we’re seeing today, will not do anything about dealing
with serious problems like human trafficking and drugs coming into the United States in any number of areas, including the Post Office.
Instead, he wants to build a wall. So, he declared, he tried to declare a national emergency and tried to use our resources in order to justify that
political rhetoric. Instead, the National Guard isn’t needed, because they can’t do immigration enforcement. That is an unlawful act. And so, I was
refusing to participate in that.
Where I am absolutely on the ground, unlike the Federal Government, I have Homeland Security on the ground doing communications, setting up law
enforcement support to our state police who are also there. Because having an influx of people creates a public safety challenge. We have nonprofits
and local leaders and mayors providing housing and transportation. I’ve got my Department of Health who’s providing necessary medical services. I
mean, these are folks who are dehydrated.
And I can tell you what we’re not doing, we’re not doing.
We’re not putting toddlers in cages, we are working to make sure that we are responding to a very real — very real humanitarian crisis that this
President is participating in, and helping to create by refusing to hire Border Patrol agents, having them adequately trained, keeping ports of
entry open, and allowing asylum seekers to seek asylum correctly and appropriately and providing visas on the front end and investing in the
problems in these countries who are facing horrific violence.
I expect Congress to continue to work on that, to secure the border, to invest in smart technology, and in personnel that makes a difference there.
And my state will participate in cooperate fully with those evidence based smart, reasonable national security and border security issues. And I’m
not going to treat children and their mothers as a national security threat in my state.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: You also just mentioned green energy and clean energy. New Mexico is a fossil fuel rich
state and you’re in the midst of a boom there, an oil boom. But you also have vowed to take on the issue of climate change. This is one of the
videos that you had during your campaign. Let’s just play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): You don’t see a lot of candidates for governor out here, much less one willing to claim a 26 story ladder, but
Michelle is no usual candidate. As governor, she required that New Mexico get the 50 percent clean and renewable power. She’d sell energy to other
states to create jobs here, so she’ll invest in job training and apprenticeships to teach these skills to more workers. New Mexico should
be leading on clean energy. Michelle has got the guts to be a great governor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So that puts your climate and environmental credentials out there. But since you’ve become governor, you’ve talked — you know, you’ve
continued to talk a lot about it. And you’re one of, you know, more than a dozen states that are sticking to the international climate demands from
the Paris Accord.
But you also have got a windfall from fossil fuel. And you’ve been able to invest a huge amount in education, which is a huge priority in your state.
How do you balance the desperate needs of your state, which is some of the poorest results and infrastructure in education and money that you need?
And you’re now getting it from fossil fuels right now.
GRISHAM: We are, no question about that. This is a state that’s always been right about balancing interests, making sure that we invest although I
inherited — I inherited a pretty desperate situation where we didn’t try to move the needle in any context, including supporting an all-of-the-above
energy agenda, which allows us to do responsible aggressive work to combat climate change.
So look, we are now leading the nation in carbon free. We said by 2045, our largest utility company says that they could beat that by five years.
It’s the most aggressive agenda in the country. Plus, renewable portfolio standards that only can be matched by three other states in the country and
we’re making that transition. And we make that transition by making sure that oil and gas is as clean as it can be, that they reduce their carbon
footprint that we have real teeth on our oil and gas oversight efforts. And that we’re doing methane mitigation, which creates jobs, and really
focuses on making sure that we’re reducing our greenhouse gases, and greenhouse gas emissions.
We are all working together. We are demonstrating that you can take very, very desperate and significantly challenging issues, marry them in a
productive way that allows you to make a real difference in your state. And you’re exactly right. We took $446 million in the public education and
early childhood education, because this is a state that is ready to make the kinds of changes where other governors are coming here to see how to
get things done.
AMANPOUR: And I noticed that is some bipartisan governance, it’s not —
GRISHAM: I’m very excited about that, leading the country.
AMANPOUR: Yes, that’s great. Congratulations. But it’s not a partisan thing.
GRISHAM: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: You know, I know that there are Republican governors also who are in this – in this move as well. I just want to play for you a sound
bite by the international activist now, the 16-year-old girl, Greta Thunberg, who’s just been in London with these climate protest and she
addressed the Parliament. Let’s just play this sound bite. And I want to ask you about public opinion now.
GRISHAM: Oh, thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETA THUNBERG, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: I know many of you don’t want to listen to us, you say we are just children. We are only repeating the message of
the United Climate Science. Now we probably don’t even have a future anymore. Because that future was sold so that a small number of people
could make unimaginable amount of money. It was stolen from us every time you said the sky was the limit and that you only live once. Did you hear
THUNBERG: Is my English, okay?
THUNBERG: Because I’m beginning to wonder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: She’s so impressive. And I know kids in New Mexico are getting on this bandwagon, just in the short time we have left, your reaction to
GRISHAM: Look, this is a young woman with incredible courage and charisma, exactly the kind of positive messaging, we can address climate change and
we don’t do that by ignoring it. It is real.
Every state, every community, every person, irrespective of age, must embrace the fact that this science is real, and we must pivot and the best
response to a fossil fuel industry is to immediately pivot to renewable energies, and just watch New Mexico become the clean energy state and a
state that gets the storage and the wind energy, right. And that, unequivocally, makes the kind of impact that anybody else anywhere on the
planet can also make .
AMANPOUR: Governor —
GRISHAM: . where young people are helping us get it done.
AMANPOUR: They are, they are leading the charge. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Thank you so much for joining us from Santa Fe tonight.
Now, while the Democrats jostle to try and shape the future of their party, the world of science is shaking up something even bigger, and that is the
future of humanity. DNA is becoming a commodity one that can be written and hacked like a piece of IT.
The futurist Jamie Metzl says, “Genetic engineering now threatens the very things that make us human.” In his new book, “Hacking Darwin,” he warns it
could be harnessed for good or descend into a new form of a kind of an arms race. And he sat down to discuss this with Hari Sreenivasan.
HARI SREENIVASAN, ANCHOR, PBS NEWSHOUR: Right now, when you are pregnant, there are screening tools available to figure out if there’s a horrible
disease or hardship that you’re about to face. You have a tool in the book where you look forward .
JAMIE METZL, FUTURIST AND AUTHOR: Right.
SREENIVASAN: .and into a fertility clinic 25 years from now.
SREENIVASAN: Can you kind of look lay out the scenarios? Help our audience explain what that could look like.
METZL: Right now, most people who are pregnant in the United States have non-invasive prenatal testing to learn more about the embryo that they are
carrying. And if there are significant problems, those parents — those mothers are often faced with a very difficult choice. And the choice is to
carry that embryo to term or to abort.
And whatever anybody’s views are on the politics of abortion, that’s an extremely painful, excruciating decision for parents. But we are moving
increasingly toward using a technology that already exists for pre- implantation genetic screening.
So rather than having to make that determination, once the mother is already pregnant, let’s say you have 15, fertilized eggs, also called
zygotes, and you can screen all of those, and you can figure out which are the ones, which are perhaps carrying deadly diseases, and not implant
And then going forward into the future, because we’re going to have so much more information, so much more understanding about our own complex
genomics. The choices that we’re going to make, that we will make in the context of decisions made at fertility clinics, is not just about disease
states, but about all kinds of traits.
And then beyond that, and certainly within that 25-year timeframe, we’re also going to be able to do something that we already can do, but not well,
which is make a relatively small number of gene edits on these pre- implanted embryos, either to eliminate risks, or perhaps to provide enhancements.
SREENIVASAN: So let’s talk about that. There’s that “eliminate risk quotient” that I don’t think most people have a problem with.
SREENIVASAN: But then there’s this enhancement idea where people do have a problem with.
SREENIVASAN: But when you can start to say — selectively say, “Well, I want to go ahead and if I had figured out the gene combinations for
longevity or for height, or for IQ, and personality.”
SREENIVASAN: “Well, I’d like to engineer my kid to give them an edge or at least make them baseline,” if that’s what everyone else is doing.
METZL: And a lot of people if you ask them, how do you feel about genetic engineering, will say exactly what you’ve said. They’ll say,
“Well, I’m comfortable with therapeutic applications and I’m not comfortable with enhancements.”
But when you push them, when you say, “Help me draw the line between where a therapy ends and enhancement begins,” it’s really, really difficult
because there’s a gray area in many, many circumstances.
Let’s say, somebody — it looks like a child is going to be three feet tall. People would say, “Well, that’s really short. It’s hard to live if
you’re three feet tall. There’s a lot of discrimination, there are health issues.” Does it make sense to use some kind of genetic engineering to
make sure that you have a child that is taller than three feet tall?
And I think, people would say, “Well, maybe that sounds right, because being three feet tall, that’s a difficult way to live.” Although — but
not everybody would say that. And then you say, “Four feet tall.” Are we going to define like a specific height where that’s below that height; that
is a therapeutic application and beyond that height is an enhancement? And you can go to many, many traits, but different societies will have
In some societies will very legitimately say, “We only want to address the most dangerous genetic diseases,” and that will be fine. But other
societies will say, “Hey, we recognize that there are benefits to be had, that we think – we think as this society, that maybe it’s better to have a
higher average IQ among our population. We think that will make us more competitive. We think that will help us have new innovations that will
make life better for everybody.” And so, there’s no right or wrong answer, but these will be real choices.
SREENIVASAN: Once you start describing kind of the aggregate impact of what these tiny genetic modifications can do, I think that gets very scary
for people to say, “Well, this is, you know, what I read about in college Nietzsche in the Ubermensch. This is a world like, it was described in the
SREENIVASAN: All of a sudden, we have a society of haves and have nots, based on whether you had access to this technology. Is this more likely
than not going to be equally distributed to all parts of the world at the same time, right. So we’re going to have a class or a country or a county
of people that would have this access. And then a generation later, they’re perfect, you know, six foot tall, have every advantage, higher IQ.
And then here’s a whole country or a continent that doesn’t have it.
METZL: Yes, well, I’m really sensitive to this issue. I come from Kansas City. The reason I come from Kansas City, is that my father and
grandparents were resettled there after the war, as survivors of the Holocaust and victims of Nazism. And what the Nazis saw themselves as
doing was applying Darwin’s principles.
And so for me, as a child, in many ways of the Holocaust – victims of the Holocaust, I’m very, very mindful that what I’m talking about could be
interpreted as a form of eugenics. And that’s really a big deal.
But on the other hand, when you talk to people and you say, “Would you, if you could choose from 15 of your pre-implanted embryos and you knew that
two of them were going to have some kind of heritable genetic disease that was going to ensure that they die before they were 10 years old? Would you
choose to implant those embryos?”
And most people say “no,” and that’s — whatever the word is, that’s a form of eugenics. So we are going to have to make choices. If you are worried
about genetic inequality in the future, the best thing that you can do is worry about inequality now.
Because if this is the we – the we who lives, the way we do, where we’re perfectly okay for people to be born with very little opportunity, or
people who are born in places like the Central African Republic, who is in effect have brain damage, because their mothers are malnourished. And so,
their chances of success in life are so much lower than our kids. If we’re okay with that now, how can we expect that we’re going to be different in
SREENIVASAN: Are governments anywhere close to creating sound policy around this, given that not everybody even understands the underlying
METZL: So some governments are doing better, some governments are doing worse, and some governments are doing nothing. When I look around the
world, I would say the United Kingdom is probably the best jurisdiction in the world where they’re addressing these issues very thoughtfully. They
have national forums on issues like mitochondrial transfer, they have a very effective body called the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority
that oversees many of these issues.
The Houses of Parliament have had full body votes in both Houses on issues like mitochondrial transfer, and they have a National Health Service, which
allows rational decisions to be made on a national level.
METZL: Here in the United States, the FDA is certainly an excellent and world-class agency, but we don’t have that level of level of
government-wide buy in, let alone population-wide buy in. We don’t have as informed of a public on these issues, and that certainly creates a danger.
And then there are some countries that have nothing. And the danger is that certainly in countries like ours, we need to do a lot more. But as
these technologies become more widespread and become to be seen as more beneficial, even if they don’t prove to be, people will go to where they
can get these benefits, if they perceive them as benefits.
SREENIVASAN: It seems like to me, there’s three groups that are likely to abuse this. One is dictators who want to create an army of super strong
whatever people. Another is rogue scientists who don’t really care for the ethical standards. And we’re starting to see a little bit of that now.
Three is parents looking for an edge.
METZL: So let me quickly dispel the first two and focus on the third. So I have advised the U.S. military on this. And I’ve talked to them as they
brought a group of futurist thinkers together. And my feeling is the real competitive edge isn’t just super soldiers. I mean, maybe that would be
would be possible, but it’s kind of a waste. It’s competitive societies. I mean, that’s the end in which leads to your second point of dictators.
That if I was thinking — I’ve written a sci-fi novel, “Genesis Code,” about this about, if I were a country, let’s just call it China. And my
goal was to be highly competitive in the future, and I wanted to use these technologies, what might I do?
So what I would do is first have a national genetic engineering program focusing on embryo selection made with a small amount of gene editing.
Then I would sort people into categories based on their super capabilities based on their genetic profiles, but not just military, or sports. It
could be business, it could be engineering, it could be math, it could be all sorts of things, and then put them into the equivalent of Olympic
sports schools, but in all these different disciplines, and then see who does the best and have a pyramid of these people who are having a genetic
likelihood of being great at something, and then get a number of superstars in those areas and invest huge resources in building national champions.
So that rogue scientists, we’ve seen that in China last year, He Jiankui, who is certainly a rogue scientist, doing extremely irresponsible work, in
my view, of genetically engineering, what became these two to Chinese girls. But they won’t have the incentive to do — to make these kinds of
changes on a population-wide scale. So they’re going to need some kind of mechanism behind them, which leads to your third category, which is
Everybody would agree that the kind of state sponsored eugenics of Nazism or what happened in the United States is wrong. But this is going to be
very different. Parents are going to demand these services, particularly once they see, if and when they see that there are benefits to be had, and
these benefits would be reducing the roughly 3 percent risk that parents now have that their children will have some kind of harmful genetic
abnormality, and that will be a big driver. But also conferring certain kinds of advantages.
I have a friend in Korea, his 11-year-old daughter has 12 tutors coming to the house every week. In Korea, they had to pass a national law closing
their cram schools at 10:00 p.m. because people were having their seven and eight-year-old kids going to these cram schools seven days a week past
midnight to prepare for college entrance exams that they were going to take a decade in the future.
And when I asked this friend, I said, “If you could select your pre- implanted embryos to give about a 15 percent IQ boost to your kids, would you do it?” And he looked at me like I was some kind of idiot? And I
said, “How about everybody that you know, would they do it?” And again, he looked at me like I was — it was like, obviously, who wouldn’t do that?
And so, I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m just saying some people and parents are going to want to do this. And some parents and maybe
countries won’t. But there will be real consequences for those decisions.
SREENIVASAN: One of the things you keep coming back to is pre-implanted embryos, which leads me to ask, will we just be having sex for pleasure,
not for procreation?
METZL: Absolutely, I’ve written a number of articles on the end of procreative sex. And I believe that whatever the year, 30 years from now,
20 years from now, conceiving of a child through sex will seem as dangerous to people as not vaccinating your children is today. Because when you
think about it, not vaccinating your children that’s very natural. Like, nature didn’t invent vaccines, we developed them.
METZL: And again, conceiving of a child through good old fashioned sex is very natural, it’s actually been a great strategy for our
species and for all sexually reproducing species. But there are dangers associated with sexual reproduction. And we are going to be able to reduce
and in some cases, eliminate many of those dangers, and that will be a choice.
And so right now, people are carrying diseases that won’t exist 20 years from now or 30 years from now, just like when you see somebody with polio –
– if you see a child with polio, what do you think? You don’t think, “Wow, that’s terrible fate that that kid has polio,” you think, “Well, something
went wrong because kids aren’t supposed to have polio.”
And there’ll be lots of genetic diseases and disorders that in the future, if you see somebody with that thing, you say, “Wait, where did the system
break down?” Because humans, in large part, aren’t getting those diseases anymore.
SREENIVASAN: You know, there’s going to be someone who’ll say, for example, who lives with a family member who has Down syndrome, that’s going
to say, “Listen, that person is an incredible human being and they’ve grown up with these challenges.” And the way that we’re designing these systems
in the future, aren’t we valuing that person’s life less than in a way that — you know, compared to a much more perfect or normalized person without
any of the possibility of getting that, right?
METZL: It’s such a valid and it’s such an important question. And I’ve spoken with lots of Down’s family – families in preparation of this of this
book. And certainly, for any child that exists with Down syndrome, they have the absolute right to be given every opportunity to thrive like
everybody else. And many parents with Down syndrome, feel that their children are true blessings, greater blessings, than other children and
they are they are right.
So I would hate for people to feel that that what I’m just talking about in the book and elsewhere, is any way, denigrating people with Down syndrome
or other disorders. We have to flip the question, because the question that parents are going to be asking is, if you have 15 pre-implanted
embryos, and you could pick to implant, any one of them, you have all of this information.
And you know, let’s say, that two of those embryos have Down syndrome. Would you, if it was a choice, would you affirmatively choose to implant
the embryo with Down syndrome?
When Down syndrome — we know — we know all the high functioning children with Down syndrome, but there are lots of health risks associated with Down
syndrome. The lifespan of people with Down syndrome is on average less than then everybody else.
When I frame the question that way, to Down parents, it’s a different kind of conversation. But I’m really mindful that I — because if I’m saying,
or if the implication of what I’m writing about is that we are going to have less incidents of Down syndrome in the future, which is just a fact,
it’s already happening. What does that mean? What’s the message to people who already have Down syndrome, and we just really need to be incredibly
sensitive on those issues.
SREENIVASAN: Who owns our genes? And one of the things .
SREENIVASAN: . is underlying all of this is that we all have to be screened, we all have to have it in a lab, et cetera, et cetera. Who owns,
I guess the parts of me that make me who I am, and how do I have some autonomy in giving that away?
METZL: So the easy answer, but it’s too easy is, obviously, you own your genes and no one can take them from you. And yet, we have 10 million
people who’ve done their cheek swabs and signed a little form and sent their genetic material to companies, in many cases, with no protection, and
that these companies are then selling your genetic information to big pharma, and that’s a real issue.
People don’t recognize that your genetic information is more valuable to you than your bank information or your credit card information. Because in
the United States, we have Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which protects you against discrimination in your health insurance, but not in
your life insurance.
So imagine if you sent in your cheek swab and your life insurance company buys it. And they know more than you know about when you may die, whether
you’re likely to have a long life or a short life. That’s really valuable information.
And so, a country like China, that has very poor privacy protections, could conceivably have a tremendous advantage in accessing these big data pools.
And so, there’s a conflict between the personal need for privacy and the societal need for this information to be shared.
METZL: The reason why I’ve written this book is that we need to begin imagining where we’re going because we have huge decisions that we’re
going to need to make now. And we’re really going to need — to think deeply about who are we? What are our values? How are those values
expressed in the decisions that we are making today that will in many ways determine how these technologies play out in the future?
SREENIVASAN: All right, Jamie Metzl, thanks so much for joining us.
METZL: My pleasure.
AMANPOUR: Provocative indeed.
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.