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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
From firing his attorney general to bashing the press, what if President Trump is heading this nation into a constitutional crisis and we don’t even
know it? I asked leading constitutional expert Harvard law professor, Laurence Tribe.
Also, ahead, Mexico gives shelter to the migrant caravan escaping brutality and corruption at home. My exclusive interview with the foreign minister,
Luis Videgaray on U.S. troops to the border and whether midterms will affect U.S./Mexico policy.
Plus, fighting for social justice in the Trump era. Activist educator and writer, Britney Packman sits down with our Alicia Menendez.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in New York.
President Trump firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions raises serious constitutional questions. Many see it as an attempt to undermine the probe
into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the president’s own conduct. In a feisty post-election press conference, President Trump threatened to
adopt a “war-like posture” against Democrats who are now in control of the House if they launch investigations into his financial and political
And the concerns don’t stop there, whether it’s President Trump’s claims that he can end birthright citizenship with the wave and executive order
or, as always, there’s the Second Amendment and the power of the government to regulate gun ownership, as yet another mass shooting killed at least 12
people in a California bar and there is the president’s assault on the First Amendment, trying to silence the press that he doesn’t like.
Now, with me to discuss what is a constitutional crisis and whether the United States is close to one, is Laurence Tribe, a constitutional scholar,
law professor at Harvard, whose students once included President Obama and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. He is also the co-author of the
new book “To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.” And Laurence Tribe joins me from Boston.
Professor, welcome to the program.
LAURENCE TRIBE, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Thank you. I’m glad to be here, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, with all that set up, where do you stand? Are we close to or in a constitutional crisis or are questions to that regard really
legitimately being raised right now?
TRIBE: I think the questions are not only legitimate, but urgent. Urgent even though we’ve been in a kind of a slow-motion crisis for really quite
some time with a president who lies regularly, so that if there were an external crisis, people wouldn’t know what to believe, with a president who
attacks the constitution’s basic First Amendment right of freedom of speech and of the press, with a president who basically makes up an invasion and
then uses our military as a political prop, with a president whose ascendency to the office is under legitimate doubt because it really looks
like he owed one, a big one, to Putin and that Putin helped him get there, with a president who mixes his business interests with his office in a way
that makes it hard for us to know whether his policies towards Iran or Saudi Arabia or Turkey or Russia are driven by self-interest or not and
with a president who is determined and obvious and often public ways to commit what really are technically impeachable offenses in terms of
obstructing inquiry by the justice system and by the Congress into what he did when he did it.
TRIBE: So, all of that is essentially makings of a crisis. The question is when will the pot come to a boil and will the system hold?
AMANPOUR: OK. So, you’ve led me right into the current boiling pot that everybody is talking about, which is the firing of Jeff Sessions. This is
what he said about this in his press conference. Let’s just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I could fire everybody right now but I don’t want to stop it because politically, I don’t like stopping it. It’s a
disgrace. It should have never been started because there was no crime. It is — everybody has conflicts, they all have conflicts over there that
are beyond anything that anybody has ever seen in terms of conflicts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, of course he’s talking about the Mueller probe and the —
AMANPOUR: — instinct to want to shut it down but saying that that’s not politically correct and you probably wouldn’t do it. But what do you think
might happen? And particularly, he’s within his rights to fire the attorney general, to have fired James Comey, the FBI director. Isn’t that
right? I mean, was that an abuse of power?
TRIBE: Well, it certainly is an exercise of his presidential authority, but it was an abusive exercise. It’s clear even from what he said to
Lester Holt on national television that he fired Comey to shut down the Mueller probe, that is the Comey probe, which is now the Mueller probe. He
fired Comey in order to ensure that someone who is loyal to him and who will agree not to go after someone like Michael Flynn is not in charge.
And so, even though he had the naked authority to fire Jim Comey, it was the abuse of power. Likewise, he certainly has the power to fire the
attorney general. The attorney general serves at his pleasure. But when he fires him because he would not violate the Department of Justice
regulations that required him to recuse himself, he really engages in an abuse of power.
It’s ironic to hear this president talk about conflict of interest. The biggest conflict of all arises with his assertion that he is the final
judge of whether there was conspiracy with Russia, whether there was obstruction of justice, when he keeps saying it’s all a hoax and a witch
hunt, despite all of the indictments, the guilty pleas and the convictions, he’s acting as though he is judge and jury. He is trying to become not
just commander-in-chief of the military, but commander-in-chief of all he surveys, commander-in-chief of the United States of America. That’s an
authoritarian position. And if he gets away with it, in hindsight, that will have been not only a crisis but a catastrophe.
And so, the question is, will he get away with it, given there are millions of people who seem to like his authoritarian style, who have no trouble
with his racism, with his xenophobia, with the cruelty of what he says and what he does. If he gets away with it and if the relatively spineless
Republicans in the Senate who will still control the Senate become and continue to be enablers rather than checking him, then what we have is only
the House of Representatives as a check. And it may need to rely on the Federal Judiciary to enforce its subpoenas.
But the Federal Judiciary is being gradually Trumpified to the point where the U.S. Supreme Court is now composed of a 5-4 split in which the most
recent appointment was that of someone hand-picked by the president because of his expressed views about the sweep of presidential power. So, we are
poised to see whether our system will hold. This is kind of a stress test for the constitutional system.
AMANPOUR: Well, that’s obviously leads to the next urgent question, what will and how will it hold? You know, you just talked about the difference
between the Senate and the current makeup of the House now and of course, you remember that the Senate majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell
refused to bring legislation to the floor of the Senate that would have protected the special prosecutor, the special investigation.
TRIBE: That’s right.
AMANPOUR: That’s still the case. How does one prevent — if the president was inclined, how does one protect the special prosecutor? And can the
House, with its subpoena power and other power now and its chairmanship of all of these relevant committees, can it be a firewall against that?
TRIBE: I think the House can be a very effective though not impermeable firewall. If the House seeks to get testimony. for example, from the
president, and to use the subpoena power to get him, courts might interfere with that and in fact, it might well be that Matt Whitaker, who is now
pretending to act as the attorney general, and we can get to that later in our discussion, if Matt Whitaker says to Robert Mueller, “I’m in charge
now. I will not authorize you to issue a subpoena to the president,” then we’re at a Rubicon of sorts.
But I think if the House of Representatives uses its powers wisely, doesn’t prioritize investigation and impeachment over actually getting important
measures at least enacted by one of the two Houses so we can see where the problem is, if the House for example uses its subpoena power to ask Mueller
who probably wouldn’t need to be subpoenaed, he could simply be invited to reveal all of the non-classified information that he has discovered and to
share with him the conclusions, to share with the House the conclusions that he’s reached, then the American people can suddenly become massively
more informed than they are now.
It is ultimately going to entail great popular pressure for members of the House and Senate to take steps that will protect Mueller. They will not
succeed in passing a law that would protect him partly because, as you say, Christiane, McConnell wouldn’t let it come to the floor. And if it came to
the floor and were passed, this president would veto it.
But what they can do is lay before the American people, the full record of this arguably criminal administration, a record that will show that this
president achieved his power by improper deals in the dark with a foreign adversary.
Now, that doesn’t automatically lead to his removal, needless to say. And when millions of people support him, it may be that there is no effective
way to remove him. But as we saw, in the midterm elections, there is an effective way to make a difference, and that is through exercising the
franchise. There was a sweep across the country of new young diverse progressives elected to Congress, more than 100 women, it’s very unlikely
even with the distortions of the electoral college that Trump could survive beyond the year 2020.
AMANPOUR: So, let me —
TRIBE: It’s true that he is —
AMANPOUR: — ask you this, Professor. Professor Tribe, let me ask you. You talked about public pressure, because you outlined a lot of the
problems with the congressional oversight. What do you make of this public pressure by a major ally of President Trump and that is the Rupert Murdoch-
owned “New York Post”? Their editorial today basically said — their editorial today said, “The fear is that this is a prelude to somehow
shutting down Mueller’s investigation and possibly burying all its work. Won’t happen. The incoming Democratic House of representatives will have
full subpoena power and Mueller and his minions would surely cooperate rather than be silenced. Trump would be begging for impeachment and
risking conviction even in a Republican Senate. He would also pretty much guarantee defeat in 2020.”
So, they say, “Won’t happen.” Do you agree? I mean, that’s a pretty powerful check on the president because he relies a lot on the support of
the Post and Fox and Rupert Murdoch.
TRIBE: Well, I think the Post is being a bit too Panglossian. The idea that he has no chance of being elected in 2020 is wishful thinking. He
does have chance. He’s not very smart in a conventional sense but he is Wiley and he knows where to sink the fangs. He might well prevail in 2020.
And the idea —
AMANPOUR: No. But Professor Tribe, I think they were suggesting that if he fired Mueller or shut down the investigation, that would sink his
TRIBE: Can you imagine 67 senators, in the current Senate, voting to remove him from office? I think it would be very hard, even if he took the
foolish step of firing Mueller. But the rather more frightening thing is he doesn’t have to do that. It can be a slow-motion strangling of Mueller.
The guy he’s put in place to supervise Mueller, Matt Whitaker, who cannot legally perform that role because of the appointment’s clause of the
constitution, which really, in this circumstance, requires a Senate confirmed attorney general. The guy he put in charge is someone who has
publicly said, “We don’t have to fire him, we can just starve him out by —
AMANPOUR: Can I —
TRIBE: — losing his budget or —
AMANPOUR: Can I just —
TRIBE: — not approving his indictments.”
AMANPOUR: And can I just play that sound just so that our audience can hear him say exactly what you just said?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW WHITAKER, THEN-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FOUNDATION FOR ACCOUNTABILITY AND CIVIC TRUST: I can see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with
a recess appointment and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces the budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well there you are. I mean, laying out —
AMANPOUR: — the methodology that you just said. And we have reports that Whitaker does not plan to recuse himself as sessions did.
TRIBE: Right. He was actually in that clip that you ran, auditioning for the very job the president gave him. From the beginning, the president
said despite all the rules that would require sessions to recuse himself, that he really wanted his own, you know, Roy Cohn, his protector, to be the
attorney general of the United States.
So clearly, by picking a guy who pleased him on television, by really volunteering the ways in which he would undermine the Mueller probe, by
picking that very guy, the way he basically picked Kavanaugh as the one person in his short list who said he didn’t think a sitting president
should be investigated or indicted, the president is basically rigging the game and stacking the deck and putting in place someone who has no
intention of recusing himself.
TRIBE: But the fact is that you know — I’m sorry, I was just going to add a little bit about why Matt Whitaker has no legal right to be in the
position that he was put in. But we can get to that whenever you want to.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, I think you said he would have to be confirmed for that position.
TRIBE: Right. That’s what Article 2, the appointments clause, suggests.
TRIBE: And the favorite justice of Donald Trump, Clarence Thomas, last year wrote an opinion explaining all of that in detail. In addition to
that, the administration is relying on the fiction that, in this case, Sessions resigned creating a vacancy and making it possible to use what’s
called the Federal Vacancy Reform Act.
But anyone can see through that. It’s clear that Sessions was fired. He didn’t really resign. And as a result, it violates both the applicable
statutes and the constitution’s arrangement for appointing principle officers of the United States for him to occupy his position.
AMANPOUR: I have only little bit of time left, Professor. I’ve only little bit of time left.
TRIBE: OK. Sure.
AMANPOUR: And I want to get to one other issue because it’s relevant to the whole immigration debate. The president talking about ending
birthright citizenship. And this is —
AMANPOUR: — what he said to a team at Axios about his executive order ability to do that, then I want to get your thoughts on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On immigration, some legal scholars believe you can get rid of the birthright citizenship without changing the constitution.
TRUMP: With an executive order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you thought about that?
TRUMP: Yes. It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what, you don’t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, what are the facts? Do you need a constitutional amendment? Can an executive order —
TRIBE: You certainly do.
AMANPOUR: Because the Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on it, right?
TRIBE: Well, it’s not exactly right. The Supreme Court did rule in the Won Kim Art Case and in Plyler v. Dough, that fundamental the 14th
Amendment guarantees that anyone born in the United States is a full citizen regardless of where their parents came from, whether their parents
were slaves, regardless of any circumstance. Birthright —
AMANPOUR: Even if the parents were not legal immigrants?
TRIBE: Absolutely. The whole point is you do not visit upon the child born here, the alleged sins or even proven sins of the parent, it’s a very
fundamental proposition. Fugitive slaves who were violating the laws as they stood at the time of Dred Scott could have children and the whole
point of the 14th Amendment’s opening language was that anyone either born or naturalized in the United States is automatically a citizen.
And it’s not only that you can’t wipe that away by executive order, if you could, you could wipe out the First Amendment by executive order, something
that this president might want to do but couldn’t do. Even with Congress’s support, you can’t just wipe out part of the constitution especially —
AMANPOUR: All right.
TRIBE: — as fundamental a part as this.
AMANPOUR: Well, that’s good to have that point on because that interview left the impression that he could do that.
AMANPOUR: And I’m glad we’re sort of at least trying to clarify it. Now, let me ask you quickly in our remaining couple of minutes about the Second
Amendment, which we all know was specifically written down by the constitution as a well-regulated militia, et cetera.
I just want to read you some of these stats, these midterm elections, about two dozen congressional candidates who backed — were backed by the NRA
were defeated according to some gun safety advocates, but another 88 candidates won and — sorry, backed by the NRA did win.
And in the wake of this yet another mass shooting in under two weeks, where do you see that going in — you know, as we enter the post midterm world?
TRIBE: It seems to me likely that the continuing drumbeat of horrifying tragic slaughter with guns, most recently in Ventura County, before that in
the temple in Pittsburgh, the litany is too painful and long to recite.
That is moving the nation’s pulse on this issue. More and more people are taking on the NRA. It used to be regarded as the third rail. You can’t
favor sensible gun control without having the NRA bury you with money to your opponent and basically kill your political chances. That’s no longer
And the Second Amendment, even as interpreted by a very conservative Supreme Court, leaves room for banning military-style weapons and doing a
number of things that would reduce, though not eliminate the terrible pattern of gun death and gun injury in the United States.
It seems to me that we have a president who is beholden, not only to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and to Russia, but to the NRA. That is not something
that will necessarily stand in the way of meaningful progress.
AMANPOUR: Well, thank you so much for walking us through the nuts and bolts, the black and white —
TRIBE: You’re welcome.
AMANPOUR: — of the constitutional process and it’s really helpful. Professor Tribe, thanks for joining us from Boston.
TRIBE: Thanks, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, trade, travel and history have defined U.S./Mexico relations for decades. A million are traded every minute between the two neighbors,
touching the lives of more American citizens, more than ties with any other country. Not to mention, that mutual investment between the U.S. and
Mexico surpasses $100 billion and there are more than a million legal border crossings between the two each day.
As a campaign ploy, President Trump focused on what he called a caravan invasion, complete with threats to deploy 15,000 troops and finally build
the whole length of that border wall. Now, that there’s divided government in the United States, I got Mexico’s take in an exclusive interview with
the foreign minister, Luis Videgaray.
Foreign Minister, welcome to the program.
LUIS VIDEGARAY CASO: MEXICAN SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Thank you for having me, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Can I start by asking you, President Trump, we understand now is going to be issuing the restrictions on asylum as he promised before the
midterms, reducing the numbers who can come into the United States and restricting where those asylum requests can be processed. Firstly, what do
you expect to happen and how will that affect Mexico and particularly with the care van coming up right now?
VIDEGARAY: Well, our position on immigration has always been very clear, very consistent. We think that the most important policy element should be
treating migrants as human beings, regardless of their legal condition, they have human rights and a dignity that has to be taken care of.
Of course, we try to have a legal orderly migration process, in a region where migration flows have changed dramatically in the past 10 years.
Mexico used to be a country of origin of migrants, now it’s more of a transit country and it’s a challenge for other countries.
Our approach has always been the key element to dealing with immigration has got to be development. And we need the U.S. and we need Mexico to
invest more in development, creating job opportunities, fostering security and the wellbeing of Central America, particularly the northern triangle,
Guatemala, Honduran and El Salvador.
So, yes, we understand that political dynamics in the U.S. We don’t expect a significant change in President Trump’s priorities and policies. But our
approach, I think, remains consistent. We’ve got to face this issue as a humanitarian challenge. The caravans are a result of such a humanitarian
challenge and we need to first and foremost work together with the U.S. in investigating development of Central America.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to pick up on that, because we understand that you’ve been in discussions with the United States precisely on that, and have you
got to any agreement? Will there be a sort of a joint development plan? And I know that you want to take into consideration their issues of
security and the border, et cetera.
VIDEGARAY: We’ve been working on development efforts with the U.S. since the beginning of the Trump administration. We just had, last month, a
summit with the three presidents of Central America, it was Vice President Pence, it was — Mike Pompeo was there. And it’s very clear that we all
understand that without investing in development, this is some — this is a problem that will remain.
It is, of course, enforcement of the law in a humane and proper way, it’s part of the solution. But the core is the development challenge. So, we
have been working with the administration, with the Trump administration since the beginning towards that and I look forward to the new Mexican
administration of President-Elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to continue that strongly.
AMANPOUR: I want to play to you what President Trump said about border security. You know, he had first said that they were going to send 15,000
troops to the border. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have about 5,000, it will go up to anywhere between 10,000 to 15,000 military personnel on top of the border patrol, ICE and everybody
else at the border. Nobody is coming in. We’re not allowing people to come in.
If you look at what happened in Mexico two days ago with the roughness of these people in the second caravan that’s been forming and also, frankly,
in the first caravan, and now they have one forming in El Salvador and we are thinking very seriously immediately stopping aid to those countries.
Because frankly, they’re doing nothing for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that was in the run-up to the midterms, Mr. Foreign Minister, and there’s a lot to unpack. But first of all, the concept of
having, you know, thousands and thousands of troops on the border there between you and the United States. And what he said was potentially
cutting off aid to those Central American countries where these migrants, these refugees are coming from. What is Mexico’s reaction to that?
VIDEGARAY: Well, we have — this is a humanitarian crisis, quite frankly, and we have to address it as such. Enforcement of immigration laws and
borders, it’s only a very partial and limited solution and we need to invest a lot more in development.
We’ve had our issues with the caravan. And our country, Mexico, is a country that is very open to immigration. We have strong historical
tradition. And we’ve told the people in the caravan that they’re welcome to stay in Mexico but they need to go through the legal process. Some of
them have, a couple thousand of them are going through our refugee program, which by the way, is jointly with the U.N.
But others have decided to enter, into our country not through the proper procedure, they have not registered and we continue to tell them that they
should come to us, that they’re welcome here, that they’re welcome to stay, but they cannot be breaking the law.
And I — we don’t believe that creating barriers and putting more boots on the ground at the border is going to be the solution of this. The
solution, again, you know, this is a humanitarian crisis, we’ve got to have stronger development policies for central America and, of course, an asylum
and refugee process that works better. And this is something that we want to do with the international community led by the U.N. but also working
closely in cooperation with the U.S.
AMANPOUR: So, let us move to NAFTA now. I mean, it’s something that you were very, very involved in renegotiating this. Where does the Mexican
government stand on this? I mean, we know that, you know, the United States, I believe, is the biggest buyer of Mexico’s exports and there’s a
huge amount that comes the other way, it’s really an intertwined economy now. Are you satisfied, is Mexico satisfied with the renegotiation and the
renaming of this NAFTA?
VIDEGARAY: Yes, we are, Christiane. We think it’s a very good deal. It might not be perfect. As always when you have a successful negotiation,
there’s got to be some concessions from the three parties involved but this is definitely a win-win-win for Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. And we’re
looking forward for it to be signed on November 30 as it has been scheduled. And then it will come a congressional approval process in
Mexico, in the U.S. and Canada. But we think this is a significant achievement.
Remember, when President Trump was elected exactly two years ago from today, there was a lot of uncertainty in the world but people were very
concerned about Mexico and particularly very concerned about NAFTA. Exactly two years after that, we have a deal, we have a deal that protects
free trades within the region, that makes North America more competitive. And certainly, will create a lot of opportunities for Mexican jobs and
So, we are certainly happy with the outcome. And understand, however, that the process is not final. It still has to go through congressional
approval, particularly in Mexico. It’s the Senate that would have the last word.
AMANPOUR: So, what do you make now of the sort of redistribution of power in the United States, between the House and the Senate? I know you can’t
comment on the vote of the people. However, what does it mean for your bilateral relations and what might have to go through it?
And as you mentioned, you know, congressional approval of the new NAFTA deal and other such issues.
CASO: Well, I think that obviously there are some important changes after yesterday’s election or Tuesday’s election but the overall landscape,
political landscape in the U.S. remains pretty much the same. You have a very polarized nation with a divided government and it’s unlikely that
significant legislative changes will happen. So, therefore, I think the challenges in the bilateral relationship will remain.
As of the approval of the USMCA, the renegotiated NAFTA, the administration, and we work very closely with them, always knew that it
adds a successful congressional approval of the new treaty. We need bipartisan support and I think that that has always been the scenario that
was foreseen. And a lot of the provisions in the new agreement are designed towards that. So I think it’s going to be still a significant
challenge as always.
This is a major piece of trade — international trade architecture and we expect the debate, not only in the U.S. Congress but also the Mexican
Congress to be intense. But we think that there are very appealing pieces of the agreement for both sides of the aisle.
AMANPOUR: And just one last question on this issue. President Trump has portrayed all his trade negotiations, whether it’s this one, whether it’s
what he’s doing with a sort of a trade war against China, as a major victory for the United States. He also claimed that about the Canadian
piece of this renegotiated deal. Is that how you see it, a major victory for the United States? Did Mexico give up a lot in order to have a new
NAFTA deal, USMCA?
CASO: You know, Christiane, the beauty about trade, international trade is that it is not a zero-sum game. This is a trade deal where the three
parties win. Growth, jobs would be created. We would be more competitive as a region. So we think this is a big win, yes, for the U.S. but also for
Mexico and certainly for Canada. So this is a great opportunity and we look forward to seize the opportunity created by the new treaty.
AMANPOUR: And how do you foresee relations between the United States and Mexico and frankly with Central America and the rest of Latin America going
ahead? I know that the new president-elect has pledged to work with President Trump. They’ve exchanged messages. They’ve pledged to work
But it’s a different direction from the government that you’re under right now and the wider Latin American picture looks different, that there are
more populists coming up. I mean most notably recently with the new election in Brazil, how do you see all of this playing out in terms of U.S.
relations with your part of the world?
CASO: Mexico City has a very strong democracy. Our elections have consequences and it’s to be expected some changes in policy, including
foreign policy. I am not a spokesperson for the new administration but I can tell you a couple things. First, I’m personally encouraged by the good
relationship that is just started to establish between President Trump and President-elect Lopez Obrador. For Mexico, it’s very good to have a good
relationship with the U.S. government and I think that’s very encouraging.
And second, I believe that my successor (0:03:54) is a professional. He’s a very smart experienced public officer and makes him the promise he will
be in good hands. I cannot — as I say, I’m not a spokesperson of the next administration but I think that Mexico will continue to be a very active,
well-respected country in the international community.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you though because there’s a lot of focus now on Latin America with some of these new elections and people have written,
some experts have written about democracy enduring despite the bumps in the road. I mean they do look at Brazil and they look to Venezuela and they
look around and they see, you know, populist movements and illiberal so- called democracy and wonder which way is the continent going. Where do you bet on the continent going?
CASO: Well, I think that for most, parts of it, Latin America’s democracy is healthy. And [13:35:00] I have great respect for Brazilian institutions
and the strength of its democracy. They have elected a new president with new ideas but I have a lot of confidence in the strength of their
I think my position is well-known about my concern about Venezuela where I have been very vocal over the past couple of years about a significant
disruption of Venezuela’s democracy. And we’ve acted through the Organization of American States group making very clear that there’s a
problem in Venezuela and that the democratic institutions of Venezuela have been pretty much demolished by their regime.
But we’ve always also claimed that the solution for such a problem needs to come from Venezuela itself. And there’s going to be a peaceful solution
and there’s going to be a political solution. And I spent a number — a good number of days involved in negotiations between the Venezuelan
government and the opposition. Unfortunately, those efforts were not successful. But I think that other than that case and some concerns about
Nicaragua, the arrest that is going on there, the American democracy looks quite healthy, including Mexico.
AMANPOUR: So there’s all this — I talked about women and the power of women in Mexico is really sort of making huge strides now. The president-
elect — I’ll call him by his acronym, AMLO. He’s talked about gender parity in the cabinet. He’s talked about, you know, having many, many
women in the cabinet, in top post, energy, labor, social welfare, the economy. He’s picked apparently a woman to be a minister of the government
which is a very, very influential position in the administration. What do you think and how do you think that will affect the health of Mexico going
CASO: I think Mexico is at the forefront of gender parity in politics. Particularly if you look at the Mexican Congress, both the Senate and the
Lower House after a constitutional reform promoted by President Enrique Pena Nieto, you have basically house and house. And this is something that
is changing significantly, the axis and the influence of women and we’re very excited about it.
In the election in the U.S., we noticed that about a hundred of the elected representatives are going to be women. While in Mexico we have 250. Women
at the lower house which is essentially house of the — of our lower house is the same for the Senate. We think that’s not only correct in terms of –
– it’s far more a purpose but that’s a very good thing. There’s a lot of talent coming to our politics and to our Congress by having more women
interested and being active.
AMANPOUR: And I just want to close by asking you about the famous meeting you arranged back in 2016 when you find out it’s been a step between then-
candidate Trump and President Pena Nieto. Do you regret that in retrospect?
CASO: Well, if I could go back in time and always in hindsight, we’re always smarter. But I would say that it was fundamentally a good idea but
it was poorly executed. And I would look — I would love to do some things differently. I think the country was clearly angry and remains angry at
what happened that day.
But I think at the core, that opened a door for communication in what ended up being the new administration and the process of eventually getting NAFTA
renegotiated and now having the USMCA. It started with that conversation so I would do a lot of things differently on the execution of that but the
basic intuition of having an early communication and establish dialogues with the new — potentially new U.S. government certainly was correct.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, thank you so much indeed.
CASO: Thank you, Christiane. It’s always good to hear you.
AMANPOUR: So that meeting was when President Trump first started to talk about the wall right in front of the Mexican president and implied that the
Mexicans would be paying for it. They still say they will not.
Now, the fight for truth, accountability, and justice is fuel for our next guest’s fire. President Obama described Brittany Packnett as a voice to
make a difference for years to come. Pushing for police reform, she co- founded Campaign Zero, was a key face in the Black Lives Matter Movement and established Teach for America’s First Civil Rights Agenda. Brittany
spoke to our Alicia Menendez the morning after the midterms and said that if you don’t have a seat at the table, why [13:40:00] bring a folding
ALICIA MENENDEZ, CONTRIBUTOR: Brittany, thank you so much for being here.
BRITTANY PACKNETT, ACTIVIST: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
MENENDEZ: We knew going into Tuesday night that there were going to be two different verdicts on the Trump presidency delivered by two different
Americas. What’s your take on what we saw on Tuesday?
PACKNETT: My take is that there is energy out there and there is energy in places where people least expected us to see it. You know I was in
Tallahassee, Florida stumping for Andrew Gillum, pushing people to vote yes on Amendment Four, to restore rights to suddenly incarcerated Floridians.
And we were at Florida A&M University. And in a packed stadium at 10 p.m. on a Monday, young people were excited about making their voices heard.
They were excited about changing the course of history. And they were not looking for some kind of instantaneous fix. They were looking to do their
And I think that’s energy that we can’t ignore. Whether some races will work out the way we want or not, we can’t ignore the fact that there is
energy everywhere in the pockets and places that we keep ignoring —
MENENDEZ: But as much as those — right. And as much as there’s an energy from those sides, there’s also energy from the other side.
MENENDEZ: And I wonder stepping back and looking at it through the lens of demographic change, you feel that is in some ways inevitable of the people
who have always had power, of course, want to guard their power
PACKNETT: I would say that I also believe though that the conversation we’re having now is not just about who has power and who doesn’t have power
but actually how do we redefine power. Is power elected office? Is power having the most of demographic? Or is it actually making sure that the
right voices and the right people are showing up at the right times to ensure that all people can be heard from?
I think the young people and the marginalized people are trying to redefine power or trying to say that we can have a Congress that looks very
different, right. We can have Muslim women in Congress and Native American women in Congress and black women in Congress. And women, period, actually
showing up in these spaces and will broaden out the conversation that’s happening on the legislative level at the very least.
So yes, people who have always had traditional power will always try to protect it. But I’m not interested in taking away somebody’s power, I’m
interested in redefining power so that we can figure out how we all share it. Power is not actually some kind of finite source. It’s not like oil,
It is more like the air. I’m breathing, you’re breathing but there’s not any less air for us to breathe as we both do it. Just like if we share
power with one another instead of trying to hoard power from one another, we actually can create a space and a place where we can all live equally
MENENDEZ: For someone like you who put a lot of time and a lot of effort into some of these races, particularly the race in Florida with Andrew
Gillum, the race in Georgia with Stacey Abrams, there is in Texas with Beto O’Rourke. All members of marginalized communities at the top of the
ticket. Part of what you wanted to see was their ability to win to send a message more broadly about leadership. And yet, where we’re sitting today,
none of them have been able to claim victory in those races.
PACKNETT: Not yet. I do think that there was a clear lesson to progressives across this country that we want to make sure that our party
apparatus is that our government institutions better reflect our communities. So I think if people like to Lauren Underwood rising to
victory when I think of people like Mandela Barnes who’s the new lieutenant governor in Wisconsin, places where we didn’t even remember people of color
live let alone could win statewide office, that matters greatly.
When I also think about the amazing victory of Amendment Four last night in Florida, the fact that it’s 1.5 million Floridians will now have their
right to vote back, that matters greatly. Not just because they won but because of how they won. Because they won with grassroots organizing
because it was the voices from the most marginalized communities leading the fight, because it was formerly incarcerated people themselves who got
out there and said, “We’re going to make sure that our voices are never silenced again.” And hopefully, that will start a trend across the
MENENDEZ: Let’s stick with Amendment Four, one of several victories we saw for voting rights. We also saw in Michigan changes that would allow for
automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, an independent commission for redistricting. But on the other side of the ledger, we saw
lots of voters in Georgia complaining of challenges to being able to vote. We saw it in advance of election day what seemed like systemic efforts to
make sure that people were not able to vote.
Where does that leave us? Can we heal the divides that we have currently in our country if we don’t take on the systemic issues of our democracy?
PACKNETT: Well, we have to take on the systemic issues of our democracy. That’s why Amendment Four matter so much. It is the largest restoration of
voting rights since the Voting Rights Act. That is not minor. And I’m hoping that that starts a trend so that it’s not just 1.5 million people in
Florida but the 6.1 million people across this country who are formally incarcerated, who currently don’t have the right to vote will see that come
back to them.
But it’s [13:45:00] also the reason why on the morning after the election, Stacey Abrams is still fighting. She’s saying, “I will not concede until
every vote is counted and I want to see what every vote says.” What does it mean to actually have someone like Brian Kemp run his own election? How
do we go and correct for those things, not just in Georgia, but across the country?
There are so many ways that people try to suppress the votes of marginalized people. And that to me is an indicator not just how — not
just of how important the vote is but of just how powerful they know marginalized people to be. They know that we are triumphing. They know
that we can be victorious when we come together and we put our mind to it. And that is a threat to the status quo.
So we have to tackle that in a systemic way but also at the grass — in the grassroots way that says, you know, let’s take care of Georgia, let’s take
care of Florida, let’s take care of Michigan, and let’s keep tackling this thing until we’ve taken care of the entire country.
MENENDEZ: Does the Democratic party need to do some soul-searching over where it is and what it takes to win?
PACKNETT: I think it absolutely does. I think that that process has already started. And I know a lot of young organizers and activists and
political operatives of color who have been pushing the party from the inside and the outside to make sure that that soul-searching really results
in something substantive. That that soul-searching results in a party that fully reflects not just our values but our communities.
That we are not only putting up candidates that look like us, that looks like more of us, but that their chiefs of staff and their legislative
directors also are coming from our communities. And that those folks are staying proximate to what’s happening in our neighborhoods. It’s one thing
to have representative diversity. It’s another thing to pursue equity because we’re actually being informed in our agenda by the people.
MENENDEZ: One of the big narratives coming out of 2016 was about white men and more specifically white women support of Donald Trump already in the
exit poll numbers. We’re seeing white women again showing up for Republicans. Are you interested in persuading white women to vote for
PACKNETT: I’m interested in white women persuading one another to vote for Progressives. I think that there is a conversation that we should be
having amongst our own people about what it means to possess a marginalized identity as a woman and what it means to vote in our own interests. But
that doesn’t mean that we let white men off the hook, right. That doesn’t mean that we somehow expect them to behave in a certain way simply because
they do not possess a marginalized identity.
We should be pushing everyone toward accountability and mutual responsibility in creating an equitable society. That is all of our
responsibility as citizens. Yes, people vote in their own interests but what if, what if I went to the ballot box and also voted in the interest of
children? What if I went to the ballot box and also voted in the interest of immigrants? What if I went to the ballot box and also voted in the
interest of people who are incarcerated?
What if I showed up for people who are not allowed to show up at the ballot box and made sure that my voice was standing equally alongside theirs as I
cast my vote? What would our country look like then? What if we just stop doing the things that we know cause harm to people and try to do the things
MENENDEZ: And I know you don’t want to let white men off the hook but I do have to ask the question about white women. You said on Positive America
on HBO, “Your whiteness will not save you from what the patriarchy has in store for you.” What does that mean?
PACKNETT: I mean I think we can look unfortunately to Christine Blasey Ford and see exactly what it means. When Dr. Ford decided to speak her
truth and open the door frankly for lots of other women to speak their truth about what they had experienced from Brett Kavanaugh, what they knew
to be true of his character when it came to how he treated women, when it came to his habits of sexual harassment and beyond, we saw exactly how
white men rallied around one another, how white men closed ranks around Brett Kavanaugh and said, “We have been planning on placing him on the
court for decades and you will not interrupt that process.”
And still we find that white women are showing up for a party that does not value them, that does not value their healthcare, that does not value their
wellbeing, that does not devalue — that does not value their autonomy and their independence and their own brilliance. And so there are examples
throughout history, and the most recent one is those Kavanaugh hearings where we saw a lot of white women daringly and courageously stand up and
speak their truth. And they were shut down quickly and abrasively.
MENENDEZ: What do you say to those who say, “Yes, but the allegations against Brett Kavanagh were simply allegations”?
PACKNETT: They are allegations at this point. However, we know a couple of things. We know that there was not a full investigation not just of
what happened to Dr. Ford, what happened to numerous other women who came forward. And I personally don’t want to live in a country where on the
highest court in our land, one-third of the men on the bench are accused of sexual assault or harassment.
There should be some places where the people who occupy those seats should be above reproach. There should be some places like the Supreme Court of
the United States where there is not even a hint or a whiff of that kind of impropriety. [13:50:00] Sure those are just accusations, however, there
were plenty of other folks that the GOP could have put forward who wouldn’t have had those kinds of accusations against them.
This is somebody though that we know believes two things. One, that Roe vs. Wade should be overturned which again is not in the interest of all
women, white women included. And two, that a sitting president can’t be indicted and how convenient for Donald Trump. So I’m convinced that there
were lots of reasons why they wanted to see Brett Kavanaugh through to the end. And Dr. Ford was the glitch in their system. She was the glitch in
their plan. And her whiteness didn’t save her from what patriarchy had for her.
MENENDEZ: One of the conversations that have long been had in Democratic circles was this idea that black women consistently deliver margins of
victory for Democratic candidates but they are not invested in as candidates themselves. There are those who believe that Democrats should
clear the field in certain cases in order to allow for black women to run, especially in Democratic safe districts. But I wonder if this election
where black women played by their own set of rules ran for seats that nobody thought they could win, either one like a Lauren Underwood or came
within striking distance like a Stacey Abrams if that changes that piece of the narrative?
PACKNETT: Yes. Well, I’m hoping that it does. I’m hoping that it at least continues to open a door. You know Shirley Chisholm who is kind of
all of our godmother is in this political space as a black woman. She said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
I think this new generation of black women is saying, “We’ll bring a folding chair to their table but we’ll also work on building our own table
and making sure that our table is a place where all people can state and sub and dine and experience life as we all deserve.” That’s why I’m
excited about Lauren Underwood. That’s why I’m excited about Ayanna Pressley. That’s why I’m excited about Rachel Rollins who’s the new
district attorney over in Boston. Like it matters that black women are looking at every seat as a possible place for us to be sitting, not just at
the tables where we haven’t previously been invited.
MENENDEZ: You come from a family that is very political. You have been an activist basically since you were a child. You became known to the greater
public during your time in Ferguson. You now teach a class at Harvard. What, when you look at this election, do you see as being the fingerprints
of activism on this election? And what does this election mean for activism in return?
PACKNETT: In a traditional sense, we think about the power of the people always in kind of traditional political front works. Are you running for
office? How many people are showing up to vote? How many people are donating to their party or candidates of choice?
We have to recognize that if all politics are personal, then it is not just about when we show up at the voting booth that we make our politics and our
values known. It is also about when we show up in the street. It is also about when we show up at city council hearings. It is also about when we
hold our election — our elected officials accountable.
Last night in my study group at Harvard, we were talking about power and we invited Kim Foxx who’s the first African-American woman to hold the state’s
attorney seat in Cook County, Chicago, Illinois. And I asked her. I said, “You know as someone who is trying to drive toward equity, even in a
prosecutor seat, what can the people be doing to actually equip you to do that?” And she said, “Look, get organized, right. Hold me accountable.
Make sure that I’m hearing about the things and the trends and the inequities present in the system that I run that I might not even know
So here’s an elected official asking us to play our part as citizens, not just on Election Day but every day. So you don’t ever have to go out in
the street to have an activist heart and an activist mindset because all that means is that you’re ready to tell the truth out loud and in public
and hold decision-makers accountable to working toward the will of the people.
MENENDEZ: I want to ask you about saying the truth out loud in public because I think for a lot of people that’s a very scary thing to do. And
for me as someone who’s consumed a lot of your content online, one of the things I’m struck by is your incredible clarity and intentionality. And
I’ve often wondered, is that innate or is that learned?
PACKNETT: It’s probably a bit of both. I come from a faith background. Both my parents are community leaders and activists but they’re also both
ministers and educators in their own right. And so I was raised to understand that Jesus not only loved everybody but wants everybody to be
free. So I was raised with a liberation theology that says, “I don’t get to give up hope because God didn’t give up on me even when I was in my most
But I also think that I’ve learned it from the great examples throughout history. There’s been a full-color photograph of Harriet Tubman that’s
been circulating in the last few days and it is so incredibly striking. It was taken in 1911 in Mount Auburn at her home and here she is this aged
woman sitting in a chair kind of hunched over. But you can look into her eyes and start to think about all of the people that she went back and
rescued from their own enslavement.
And you know, she didn’t go back one day. She didn’t go back two days. She didn’t go back three days. She went back [13:55:00] over and over and
over again. She took every single chance she had to make sure that people got free. And if Harriet can keep doing it, then I don’t have any excuse.
And so I just think that that’s our responsibility. That’s a moral code that I was raised with. That’s something that I’ve learned from great
leaders in the past. And I’m hopeful that if people get anything from listening to me, they know that they have power within their own grasp and
that they can seize that power and actually influence the world in a good way.
MENENDEZ: Brittany, thank you so much.
PACKNETT: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: A much-needed message of hope and activism. A reminder that there should be no room for moral complacency.
That is it for our program.
Thanks for watching and join us again tomorrow.