Read Full Transcript EXPAND
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here is what is coming up.
Tensions mount between allies over the mysterious disappearance of Saudi Journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. As all fingers point to Riyadh, we ask, will
President Trump term on this key partner? With me to discuss is a Presidential Historian, Michael Beschloss.
And will Congress take action, like blocking arm sales to Saudi Arabia. Senator Bob Menendez is teaming up with his Republican colleagues to demand
answers from the Saudi and from Trump. He joins me live.
Plus, a young Black man’s reluctant odyssey into guns. Our Michel Martin speaks to RJ Young about his new memoir “Let It Bang”.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
Has Jamal Khashoggi been murdered by Saudi operatives? It’s a disturbing question that has assumed the airwaves and global politics for nine days.
And it is a question that is now casting a cloud over U.S./Saudi relations.
The veteran Saudi journalist and Virginia resident walked into his own consulate in Istanbul on October 2ng and he has not been seen since.
Turkish officials believe that he was murdered there on orders of the Saudi regime. And the United States has intercepts of Saudi officials discussing
a plan to lure Khashoggi, a royal insider, turn critic (ph), back to the kingdom and then detain him. The Saudis categorically deny any involvement
in Jamal’s disappearance and that was a quote.
At the start of this week, President Trump said that he hoped the situation would “sort itself out.” But today he said that even if Riyadh, one of
American’s closest allies in the Middle East, is indeed responsible, he opposes cutting U.S. arm sales to the kingdom in retaliation. Adding,
there are other things we can do.
Keep in mind, of course, that American has billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which is also the world’s biggest oil exporter.
What is the correct course of action then for an American president to pursue in a situation like this?
In a moment, I’ll be speaking with Senator Bob Menendez, the most senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But first, an Emmy winning Presidential Historian, Michael Beschloss, is the author of nine books on the American presidency. And his latest is
“Presidents of War.” Beschloss spent the last 10 years studying how American presidents have usurp war-making powers from Congress and taking
the matter into their own hands. And Michael Beschloss joins me now from Washington.
Welcome to the program.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, look, we have a very live situation of a major crisis that could fit right into the contextual history that is your latest work. So,
given what we have just said, how should President Trump navigate what might be a necessity to hold an ally accountable?
BESCHLOSS: We’ve got a real problem, Christiane, because, you know, of all the presidents I can think of, particularly in modern times, as you know
better than anyone, when America has an alliance with another country, especially, an alliance with another country whose values may not be very
similar to ours at times, it is extremely important to run that alliance with nuance.
And as you know, President Trump may do many things. He does not do nuance well. He has very much thrown in with Saudis. This is a very close
relationship of a kind that we haven’t seen much in modern times. It’s very possible that the Saudis interpret that as licensed to do all sorts of
things that they might not do had there been a different president.
And the other thing is that, you know, remember what Trump has said over and over again in recent month, he says, “Journalists are the enemies of
the people.” That is heard in other capitals and they may react to that in ways that we do not want to see.
AMANPOUR: You know, it is incredible to hear you say that. Of course, yesterday, many of us took note of what President Trump said. I mean, sort
of off the cuff in the oval office he said and the fact that it is a journalist raises this to another level. I mean, it seemed to be defending
the notion that a journalist should be, you know, free of attack.
So, I hear what you’re saying. It’s sort of a mixed message at the moment. But, you know, some are saying that in every administration, in every era,
there are moments that sets the era, that sets the history of this moment, and particularly, in bilateral relations.
Do you think this is the moment for this administration when it comes to Saudi Arabia relations?
BESCHLOSS: I think may very well. I think the president may be compelled to, but it is not his natural instinct. If you think of other recent
presidents without even being advised to, they would say, “We are now in a different world with this alliance.” I’m not sure he would react to that
AMANPOUR: Well, let me play this soundbite from President Trump who has spoken, he says to the highest levels of the Saudi government just over the
last couple of days to try to get some clarity on what just happened. But this is what he had to say about King Salman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I’ve always found him to be fine man. We’ve had a very good relationship. I’m not happy about this. We have to see
what happens, you know. We have to see what happens. Nobody knows what happened yet. They don’t know over there but it’s a very serious situation
and it’s something we’re taking very seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, there are apparently, the president says, U.S. investigators who have gone over there. But I want to, again. put it into
this historical context that you write about. The idea of — you just mentioned the press, but certain democratic institutions fraying in the
United States, critics have said under this presidency. And you sort of alluded to the fact that that might embolden other leaders who are not
Democrats by any stretch of the imagination but more autocrats and dictators, to think, “Well, if it is happening in the U.S. maybe they will
look the other way this time.”
BESCHLOSS: Absolutely. And, you know, it’s plain for all to see that President Trump feels very comfortable with autocrats around the world,
whether it’s in Erdogan or whether it’s in the Philippines. And exhibit A would be Vladimir Putin.
Anyone who saw that display that he made in Helsinki where he was cutting Vladimir Putin every break as he has done over the last several years, one
consequence of that is going to be that other people who have alliances with the United states, whom President Trump seems to look kindly on may
think that they will be cut a break on something like this too and that may have happened with Saudi Arabia.
AMANPOUR: So, let’s talk about Congress and the t presidency, because you addressed that as well in your new book. So, let’s say Congress — in a
moment we’re going to be speaking to the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
And as you know, a bipartisan group of senators have written to the president asking for very, you know, robust reaction if this is the case
with Saudi Arabia.
AMANPOUR: Now, if the president still is ambivalent about his relationship with either the king or the crowned prince, what power does Congress have
to impose the kinds of things that America usually imposes, whether it is sanctions —
BESCHLOSS: They can — yes. They can do sanctions, they can do resolutions, they have control of the money power. And that’s something
that’s gone through history.
As you were mentioning earlier, I write about that in my book, which is that the best foreign policy in this country is always when you have
members of Congress, leaders of Congress, even a president’s old power his own party challenging what he is doing.
Lyndon Johnson ran the Vietnam war, as I write about, for five years. What he lacked was leaders of his own party saying, “You cannot do this, this is
a war that is unsupported. You are dealing with a corrupt regime in Saigon.” George W. Bush, I think, would have done a better job in Iraq and
Afghanistan if his own leaders in Congress have challenged him more.
And going all the way throughout American history, as I write about, go back to 1807, that’s what the founders of this country wanted. They didn’t
want a president to be able to get us involved in a war single handedly. They have demanded that if he wanted a war, they go to Congress and get a
war resolution, a war declaration.
And the problem is that that since 1942, not a single president has gone to Congress asking for that declaration when he wanted to seek a war. Truman,
Johnson, George H.W. bush, George W. Bush, all got the nation into war, you know, varying degrees, you know, with a good idea doing it or not, but
they did it without really consulting Congress.
AMANPOUR: S| w didn’t Congress exert its legislative and constitutional prerogative?
BESCHLOSS: Because too often they were lap dogs. And they now are accustomed to a president essentially going to war a with only asking
Congress for sort of a flimsy resolution like the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which was in 1964. Johnson and Nixon used that flimsy little resolution
based on an attack, as I write about, that never took place to run the entire Vietnam war, big American tragedy for ten years. Congress was
basically lap dogs and they should have shut it down.
AMANPOUR: And I mean, just to pursue that a little bit, you just laid out how many presidents did that. You know, President Truman did not seek a
declaration of war for Korea. None of the conflicts that followed, as you mentioned, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, were declared wars.
So — I mean, you’ve said they are lap dogs. But if it is so detrimental to the United States, why does it persist?
BESCHLOSS: It persist because, for instance — you know, look at the leaders of Congress right now, if President Trump wanted to get involved in
a way, it’s very unlikely that a Republican Congress leadership would get in his way. And the result is that, nowadays, we’re in this dangerous
situation where a president can almost singlehandedly guest the United States in a major war overnight, and he may be tempted to do it for
political reasons, any modern president.
For instance, Donald Trump in 2011 and ’12 put out tweets predicting that Barack Obama would get involved in a war to get himself reelected in 2012.
Very dangerous thing for a president to think of, you know, sending Americans off to potentially die at a major war possibly for political
AMANPOUR: You know, Michael, I wanted to ask you about that because you bring it up, but we heard him say this, “That believe me, President Barack
Obama was ready to push the trigger or whatever over North Korea.” Had you ever heard of that before? I had never heard of that.
BESCHLOSS: No. And again, if you’re subjecting Donald Trump’s tweets to a lie detector test, I think it might not entirely pass all the time, and
this would be an example of that. But this is a temptation for modern presidents including him. For instance, another thing that President Trump
has said is that, “If you want to be a great president, you walk through history, the great president often times have been presidents who took the
nation onto war.” Not wrong but a very dangerous idea for any president to have.
AMANPOUR: And, you know, you talk about — well, first of all, let’s just get to another kind of war. The whole idea of a trade war. You know, very
early on in his presidency, Donald Trump actually says a trade war is good and actually easily winnable.
How do you see in the context of history that you write about what is happening right now? Because there seems toe a trade war between the
United States and China, playing tit for tat on tariffs. The IMF saying that this could have a major effect on the American people in terms of
slowing American economic growth and global growth if it slows China’s growth as well.
BESCHLOSS: No question. And it can also, as you well know, trigger is real war, a military one, nd that is one of the dangers. One of the things
I write about is that history, we’ve gotten involved in war often times on false pretenses.
1846, James Polk got us into a bit war with Mexico, claiming that there was a border incident that was actually fake. We had this huge war with
Mexico, brought us almost a million square miles to the United States but it was based on something that was counterfeit.
The sinking of the Maine off of Havana, 1989, we went to war over with Spain because of that. It turns out it was just boiler accident. So, one
thing that any president of stature we hope that he or she will always do is make sure that if we ever go into a big military conflict, it’s not
based on something that is accidental such as a trade war that in 1941 with Japan, for instance, largely led to Pearl Harbor and our entrance in World
War II. And also, let’s make sure that we never have a president fabricate some kind of incident or exaggerate some kind of incident that will cause
Americans to stampede and demand that the nation go into a major war that we really did not find essential.
AMANPOUR: It’s really very important to remember this historical context. But lest I forget and lest we forget, actually the United States currently
is back position the Saudi Arabian war in Yemen. And many in Congress don’t like that one little bit. So, there is — you know, there is war by
proxy going on, the U.S. actively supporting Saudi Arabia.
And here is Ken Buck, who is a Republican Congressman from Colorado, he wrote this in the “Wall Street Journal.” Let me quote a few. “War is
heavy responsibility, but many of America’s foreign conflicts are now started, executed and largely overseen by one man, the president. Congress
has ceded its war making authority to the executive branch. War and peace are no longer an expression of the will of the American people.” So, you
know, Representative Buck actually does have a son on active duty in the military.
So, you’ve described what Congress is doing and why. But can it regain, should it regain, how can it regain this prerogative and for it to be
something that the American people actually have a say in?
BESCHLOSS: Has to demand of the president explain every such conflict that we are in both to the House and Senate and also to the American people.
For instance, the war that you were talking about. How many Americans are aware of that, how many times has Donald Trump given an extended speech
explaining why we are enmeshed in that conflict. That is a responsibility that you have from a president.
One of the great things that Abraham Lincoln did, which I write about, is when he was waging the war against the South, it was not just, you know,
we’re legalistically trying to bring the South back into the union, although that was part of it, he lifted it to a moral plain. He said that,
“We are trying to vanquish slavery. We’re trying to carry out some of the most sacred ideal of our founders and the best presidents in history,”
Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, for most of World War II, although, I lament that (INAUDIBLE) more about the holocaust and I hate what he did
with the Japanese-Americans internment.
But the — when the war presidency is at its best, you have a president lifting the United States to a moral plain. I haven’t seen that much with
President Trump. I think he thinks that that is something that presidents should not deal with. It is always raw balance of power and I think that
could be very dangerous.
AMANPOUR: So, let’s get back to the war that started our millennia. I mean, Congress did authorize the war in Afghanistan. It was considered a
defensive, a retaliatory war for 9/11. But in the intervening, you know, 17 years, that has been invoked by both President Bush and President Obama,
a Republican and a Democrat, for dozens of incursions all over the world. I mean, that authorization is still standing.
BESCHLOSS: Right. It is a total violation of the constitution. The founders never intended anything like that. And they were — that’s what
they were absolutely worried about. They were worried that presidents of the United States would become like European monarchs.
As you know, in history, the monarchs of Europe, when they got to be unpopular, they would go to war with another country and suddenly. their
nation was united and they all loved the king. They wanted to make sure that our system was the opposite of that.
Can you imagine if the founders came back and found that we were enmeshed in a war that has gone on for 17 years, the longest war in American
history? Or that the Iraq war, whether you want to argue that round of flat, in 2004, as I write in my book, there was one poll that asked
Americans, “Why did we get involved in the Iraq war,” something like the — something like 45 percent said, “We got into the Iraq war because Saddam
Hussein was behind 9/11.” That is not the kind of country that the founders envisioned.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you — sort of end by asking you about what might happen within the United States. We’re talking mostly about the U.S.
in wars overseas. We’ve got this issue between the United States and Saudi Arabia, which could come to some kind of diplomatic crisis.
But in terms of domestically, you know, we talked about the fraying of some of the pillars of American democracy, including the press —
BESCHLOSS: Right, right.
AMANPOUR: — civil liberties, and this didn’t actually just start with Trump because — but even under President Bush, Obama, some of the
surveillance, some of the crackdown on the press —
AMANPOUR: — and all the rest of it. But it has gone to hugely — you know, huge new levels under this president. And at the same time, this
alarming poll recently said that a majority or a huge significant number of young Americans could see a sort of military strong man or woman in charge
right in the United States.
Do you see, as you look out to the future, the constitutional guardrails holding or do you see the kind of potential collapse and threat and fraying
that could have sort of a disastrous authoritarian result in the United States?
BESCHLOSS: Well, actually, I write about it in my book, you know, democracy is always in jeopardy, it has been for over 200 years. And one
of the ways that it has been most in jeopardy is in war time, because war and authoritarianism go hand-in-hand.
For instance, Woodrow Wilson who was, you know, an academic who had written so beautifully about civil liberties. Wilson was the guy who came up the
Espionage Act, which, as you know, Christiane, is still enforced, it is being used by Donald Trump today to go after journalists, keeping them from
rioting and saying what they should, trying to plug leaks.
So, if you were worried about democracy, and I think over the long run, anyone who bets against democracy in America is crazy because it is so deep
in our DNA. But we have to fight for it every single day. And any president who is — doesn’t feel as strongly about democracy, and this is
one worry about Donald Trump, I think. I don’t think he has the understanding of our history to know how important democracy is to what
this nation is.
The biggest danger would be, if you have a president in war time who is given certain powers that non-war time presidents don’t have, you know,
presidents in war time can declare martial law. They can exile, you know, certain members of our society to other places, as Franklin Roosevelt
showed with the Japanese in 1942. But Roosevelt and Wilson were people who understood civil liberties.
If you got a president who is not sensitive to those things, that can be a real danger.
AMANPOUR: It’s really fascinating, especially at this moment. Michael Beschloss, thank you so much. Author of “Presidents of War.”
And we are turning back now to the Khashoggi incident. Will the United States use its immense leverage over Saudi Arabia to force that country to
come clean about whatever it knows about what ever happened to Jamal Khashoggi?
Two people leading that effort are the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Bob Corker and Bob Menendez.
They have both been briefed on the administration’s classified intelligence and they are using a relatively new law, the Global Magnitsky Act, to force
Trump to investigate and consider sanctions.
22 senators in total have signed on. Senator Bob Corker says that he thinks Khashoggi is dead. The Saudis are responsible. And his action with
Menendez will hold the White House’s feet to the fire. Just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB CORKER, CHAIRMAN, U.S. SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I think it puts intense pressure upon the administration to go about this in a
diligent way and then sanction|, and we made sure we had language in there to make sure we look at the highest levels of the Saudi government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, his colleague, Bob Menendez, is the most senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he’s joining me now from the
Senator, welcome to the program.
BOB MENENDEZ, RANKING DEMOCRAT, U.S. SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: It’s good to be with you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, I mentioned that the senators have been briefed on some of what the administration and intelligence know. You have just been briefed
again. Can you please bring us up-to-date on specifically and precisely what you know about this terrible and alarming case?
MENENDEZ: Well, Christiane, I can’t speak to the intelligence itself, but I can characterize it. It is incredibly alarming. I think the Saudis have
a lot of answering to do. And my own view, is either Mr. Khashoggi has been detained and maybe some form of rendition or he has been murdered.
And in either event, we need to get to the bottom of how either his either his rendition, disappearance and/or murder took place. And that is why we
invoked for the first time, as the chairman and the ranking member, myself as the ranking member, invoke for the first time the provisions of Global
Magnitsky that lowers us to require the president to conduct an investigation and come back to the Congress with an answer.
And secondly, if the answer leads to anyone in the Saudi government or anyone else associated with the Saudi government as being the perpetrators,
then there are consequences for that, and we expect to be taken extremely seriously.
AMANPOUR: So, I’m going to ask you about the consequences in a moment and how you think President Trump is going to react, given what he said
But I just want to pick up on what you just said. You have said that given your latest briefing, you are even entertaining the possibility still that
potentially Jamal Khashoggi may be alive, may have been detained and potentially rendered back to Saudi Arabia or somewhere.
That is a new thing. Because yesterday or just before this latest briefing, your chairman, Bob Corker, said that he thinks his dead and the
Saudi denials and explanations he said are incredulous.
MENENDEZ: Well, one could come also to a conclusion that Mr. Khashoggi is no longer alive. But I’m not of the view that that is a definitive
conclusion. That is why I say it is an either/or proposition. He obviously has disappeared. He entered into the Saudi embassy in Turkey, he
did not come out. There is all types of information in the public domain about a series of vans that left there. Where they ended up, what they
did, where he is, is still an open question. He may, in fact, have been murdered but don’t know that for a fact.
AMANPOUR: I know that you don’t want to get in and you cannot get into the specifics of intelligence. However, you have seen in the public domain
reports of U.S. intercepts suggesting that conversations between Saudi officials and others talked about potentially luring Khashoggi back home
and detaining him there. Does that sound credible to you? Would I be correct if I ask you if that was the case, that you have been briefed on
MENENDEZ: I would say that those public reports are part of why I consider the circumstances alarming and why the Saudis have a lot of answering to
AMANPOUR: And you have an ally, a NATO ally, Turkey. How closely are you in touch with them as Congress, as the U.S. administration? How much faith
do you put in their extensive leaking on background of what has happened?
MENENDEZ: At a congressional level, we have not been engaged with Turkey. But the administration has supposedly been engaged with Turkey and is
engaged with Turkey. Obviously, those two countries have a core relationship, to say the least. So, it always creates caveat of concern.
But I think that it is relatively true that Mr. Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey, did not leave by any account and his whereabouts
are unknown. So, that much is factual. Also factual are the published reports about individuals from Saudi Arabia who came in on that day and
So, there is plenty to draw not only conclusions from but deep concerns from. And I think in this respect, the Turkey has some legitimate concerns
of what happened in their own country.
AMANPOUR: And it is really gruesome what they are briefing to journalists and what journalists are getting from Turkish intelligence officials. You
know, I mean, just awful, murder, dismemberment, disposal, you know, body saws, autopsy experts coming into the country. We wait to see, you know,
further official confirmation of that.
But let us know get to what you are concerned about, 22 senators, yourself included, have signed a letter. You want the administration to really do
the necessary and hold an ally accountable if it does prove to be the worst that we expect it to be.
Can I just play you what President Trump has said about how he feels about that and then we’ll talk about it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country. I know they are talking about different kinds of
sanctions. But they are spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs, like jobs and others for this country.
I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States because you know what they are going to do? They are going
to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else. So. I think that there are other ways, if it turns out to be as bad as it might
be, there are certainly other ways of handling this situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, how do you react to that and what might be the other ways?
MENENDEZ: I have no idea what the president is referring to as the other ways. This is part of an alarming trend of the Trump administration where
human rights, press freedoms in the world, the rights of citizens to speak out against their government and democracy are a low priority for the Trump
In my 26 years of doing foreign policy between the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I have never seen a lower moment in our history in
terms of the priorities that we give to individual freedoms in the world, to human rights, to democracy.
And so, I’m deeply concerned that the administration, once again, is potentially willing to overlook those violations. And not only sends a
message to Saudi Arabia that almost gives them a carte blanche. Here is a country that we should be concerned about in terms of the actions they have
already taken. They ended or temporarily cease their relationships with Canada over the question of human right discourse. They, you know,
ultimately detained the prime minister of Lebanon and held him hostage and had him resign. They have arrested a series of Saudi women who are just
speaking up for their individual rights. They are in the midst of a horrific campaign in Yemen. And the list goes on and on.
We should, be concerned at the end, about the day about the trajectory that Saudi Arabia is taking in all of these actions, many of which I believe
violate the international order. And if we let Saudi Arabia get away with it simply because they are an ally or we have some strategic interests with
it, then we send a global message that in fact if you have an alliance with us or some strategic interest with us, that we will overlook these critical
issues of human rights, democracy, freedom of the press and of individual citizens globally, I think that is something that we cannot afford to do.
AMANPOUR: So, therefore, you are known to oppose arm sales to Saudi Arabia, principally, over the war in Yemen. Your colleague, the Republican
Senator, Rand Paul, also wants to ban arm sales now because of the Khashoggi case. Do you have the capacity to do that? Can you exert as
Congress influence over those arms sales? And do you think that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should personally be sanctioned in this case?
Is there a way to stop? What are you asking for?
MENENDEZ: Well, right now, as a ranking member, there is a process of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, there is a process that arms sales have
to go before the chairman of the ranking member. And if we sign off, then they can be publicly noticed for ultimate sale.
I have not signed off on the Saudi arms sales in the last batch because of what is happening in Yemen where we are indiscriminate killing of civilians
at the end of the day. The apex of that, a horrific apex, was the killing of those children on the school bus. So I have not signed off so there is
no resolution of disapproval to bring unless there is a arms sales moving forward. And I don’t intend to sign off any time soon.
If, in fact, there comes a point in time that the administration seeks to violate the understanding that the chairman and the ranking member have an
obligation to sign off and the right to sign off before they can notice it, if they blow through that, then there will be the opportunity for a
resolution of disapproval. And I must say that at this point in time, my sense is that there is a growing sentiment in a bipartisan fashion in the
Senate that would actually disapprove of such an arms sale.
So as it relates to the Crown Prince or anybody else in leadership in Saudi Arabia, we have to see where the facts lead us. But wherever they lead us,
if the facts deduce, that in fact, they were a part of the disappearance, rendition and/or murder of Mr. Khashoggi, then they must pay the
AMANPOUR: We’ll get to the specifics of Prince Mohammed bin Salman in just a second. But first, I want to ask you this. With regard to the power of
Congress, the legislative branch, I just — you might have Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss just talking to me before you about his book
which is Presidents of War.
He actually said that it’s not just in this administration but it’s gone back several decades that Congress has turned into lap dogs. They have not
exercised their constitutional duty, either party when it comes to holding the president accountable especially in the highest endeavor which is
sending Americans to war and conducting war.
MENENDEZ: Well, look, it is true. I voted against the war in Iraq when I was in the House of Representatives. I believe that any war should
ultimately have a resolution by the Congress to authorize that military activity anywhere in the world when we’re talking about a war in and of
itself. At the end of the day, the difficulty has been that those of us who might believe that some engagement in the world is one that we want to
pursue, as we pursue al Qaeda and other elements in the world, ISIS, that to do that, we want to give a limited authorization.
There are those in the Congress, particularly here in the Senate, who want to authorize that without any limitation on the president. I am not one
who believes that giving an unfettered authorization to the president is appropriate. We have seen that the authorization that was given on the war
in Afghanistan, the pursuit after September 11, has been used far beyond anybody would have believed that that authorization was for.
So I — if I believe the cause is right and I’m willing to commit my son and daughter and America’s sons and daughters, then I want an authorization
that has the appropriate guardrails and limitations to it. And that has been a difficulty in getting an agreement here in the Senate on what the
guidelines, what are the, you know, parameters of such an authorization.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And again, why hasn’t it — why hasn’t Congress been able to do it? I mean there was a time when the Democrats controlled both
Houses of Congress when President Obama was elected. Now, it’s the Republicans. So why haven’t you done it, either party?
MENENDEZ: Because there is a disagreement on a fundamental issue which is what is the scope of the authorization given in an authorization for the
use of military force. There are those who believe that if you’re going to give an authorization to set — to let the commander-in-chief send our sons
and daughters into a war, that it should just be an authorization without any constraints.
And I fundamentally disagree with that. I’m not going to vote for an authorization for the use of military force without some appropriate
constraints. [13:35:00] And there are those who join me in that. That tug is a very principled one but a consequential one in trying to come together
on an authorization. I’m willing to compromise to a degree but not to give an unfettered authorization, especially to this president.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, it is very relevant to our conversation because again the United States is the principal backer of Saudi Arabia in this
catastrophic war in Yemen. So let’s get back to why this administration, and actually the body politic all over, has been so enchanted by Crown
Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.
He came to the United States. He went to Hollywood. He met celebrities. He met Silicon Valley. He’s been to Washington. He’s been really double
and triple red carpeted. You know, people, you all look quite impressed by his calls for reform. How do you square what seems to be happening right
MENENDEZ: Well, listen, all of us applauded his calls for reform, his 2020 plan. We believe that that was a legitimate effort to move the Kingdom in
a different direction. However, that has been undermined by the actions that the Kingdom has taken in so many different ways, you know, coming to a
head now with the Khashoggi incident.
So from my perspective, that’s why I held up the arms sales as a ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, I believe that what is
happening in Yemen is a humanitarian catastrophe. There is no military victory to be achieved there. I think everybody says that. And yet, we
were giving arm sales that ultimately were being used indiscriminately in the bombings in Yemen.
So where I’ve had power, I’ve used it. I use it in holding up the arms sales. I use it by joining Senator Corker in invoking global Magnitsky.
And we will continue to use the power that we have where we can from a legislative branch to try to get the executive branch to move in a
But, you know, my aspiration for what the Crown Prince laid out as a reform was certainly something that I wanted to see. But all of the actions that
I mentioned before, what’s happened in Saudi Arabia, lead me to believe that that is less substance and more window dressing at the end of the day.
AMANPOUR: So I want to ask you about the relationship between the executive branch, the current executive branch in Saudi Arabia. But first,
I want to play a back and forth between the State Department spokesman yesterday and journalists about who is carrying out America’s business in
Saudi Arabia right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What’s the name of the ambassador in Turkey right now?
ROBERT PALLADINO, DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON: I don’t have that in front of me right now and I — Matt —
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What’s the name of the ambassador in Saudi Arabia?
PALLADINO: I see what you’re getting at. OK. We are confident in our diplomatic —
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The answer is that you don’t have an ambassador in either place, right?
PALLADINO: We —
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And in fact, the charge in Riyadh has now been nominated to be the ambassador to Yemen. So just is it correct that you do
not have ambassadors in place in either Ankara or Riyadh?
PALLADINO: But we have diplomatic staff, senior diplomatic officials —
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m sure you do.
PALLADINO: — very much in charge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So you heard all that. There are no ambassadors. How much of a problem is that, if at all, in a situation like this, an acute situation
MENENDEZ: Well, it’s a real challenge. An ambassador is the voice of the United States in that country. He speaks with the authority because he is
nominated by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and therefore has the power of the American people behind him or her. And it takes a real
consequence at the end of the day when they are interfacing with that government.
So having, to my knowledge, still, no nominees for these critical posts are really problematic in terms of pursuing American foreign policy. You can
have a Charge d’Affaires but it doesn’t have the same grab a task as an ambassador who has been nominated by a president, confirmed by the Senate
and sent to that country.
AMANPOUR: So we hear that Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been in touch with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and advisor with — I think
with the Secretary of State, with the National Security Adviser.
I guess what I want to ask you is this, do you think it would be different if the Democrats were in power? I mean I think you’d say yes. Do you
think that you will win back control of the Senate in the midterm elections? And to that particular issue, do you think it is right given
your situation that you should be running at the moment? Because as we all know there were charges, it ended in the mistrial, jury was deadlocked.
[13:40:00] But there’s a quote from Patrick Murray, polling director at Monmouth University who says, “There’s no question in anybody’s mind in New
Jersey that this race is much tighter than it should be. If you had a clean Democratic candidate running there, they should be ahead by 20
points.” What do you say, Senator, in terms of the stakes, of what’s at stake as you’ve outlined right now? Are you happy that you’re the one
running for the Democratic ticket there?
MENENDEZ: Well, listen, Christiane, I would just simply say that if you have a multimillionaire who made his millions by making a killing off of
cancer patients, who drove the price of a cancer drug in the United States that is a life or death drug for people who have multiple myeloma by over
200 percent, who was sued by the federal government for defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and the V.A. health system and for putting patients at
risk for fatal, potentially fatal side effects and settled it for $280 million, over a quarter to billion dollars and is using the money that he
made in that process in a negative false campaign, anyone would face a challenge.
Now, he spent over $20 million already, spending probably another $20 million in the general election. So anyone would face a challenge. I’m
convinced that the history that I have on behalf of the people of the State of New Jersey, I’m meeting the challenges.
I’m being able to bring a million New Jersians healthcare who didn’t have it before under the Affordable Care Act that I helped write. We’re taking
3.8 million New Jersians who have a preexisting condition and no longer can be discriminated against of being able to respond to the state’s worst
natural disaster in superstorm Sandy and brought $60 billion to the region.
And when our citizens were turned down by FEMA, got those cases reopened and got them $300 million in the state that has the highest rate of autism
in the nation, being able to pass into law with our Republican colleagues the Autism Cares Act. And so much more that they will judge that history
of decisions and judgment and that they will choose someone who will stand up to the president, not just be another vote for the president.
AMANPOUR: So very very quickly because we’re really out of time. Do you think Democrats will win back the Senate?
MENENDEZ: I am hopeful that we will. Obviously, you know, we have two- thirds of the one-third of the Senate that’s up for re-election so it’s a harder map for us. But I think that our message, our positions on the
economy, on our role in the world, on health care, on the rights of women in our society are more in tune with the average American. And I think
that will hopefully win the day.
AMANPOUR: All right. Senator Bob Menendez, thank you so much for joining us this evening.
And we put the tough questions to the Senator and we will do the same seeking comment from his opponent. And we’re going to continue to dive
into many of these issues with the Ohio and Colorado Governors John Kasich and John Hickenlooper, the idea of some kind of cross-party unity arriving
after the midterms, if that’s possible. A rare bipartisan duo at a time of deep-seated animosity between the two political parties.
And when it comes to the political divide, gun culture looms large. Amnesty International says American gun violence is now “a human rights
crisis”. Mass school shootings have spot cries for bans with young voices echoing loudest.
So why did a young black man with little gun culture become an instructor on how to shoot? For RJ Young, it, was a matter of love and trying to
impress his white gun obsessed father-in-law. In his new book Let it Bang, a young black man’s reluctant odyssey into guns breaks down the
relationship between guns, race, and self-protection. And our Michel Martin sat down with RJ Young for an unusual conversation.
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: RJ, let me just set the table. You’re living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. You meet this young lady. You’re intrigued by her.
You want to get to know her better and by extension her family. And you find out that they are very — at least your dad, is very interested in
guns. When did you realize that guns are really important to this man?
RJ YOUNG, AUTHOR, LET IT BANG: We were sitting alone in his living room in recliners and he kept a bag with a firearm in it. And he went everywhere
with this bag that had a firearm in it. And I just came out with it, something I probably wouldn’t have done knowing what I know about gun
culture now. And I said why do you — why that gun and what is special about it? And he talked for an hour. He just went into revolvers and
semi-automatics and all these things that I really didn’t have a language to understand at the time, but it was clear this was very important.
And this was the thing that I decided was going [13:45:00] to link us. We were going to come to understand each other if we could. But that would
mean that I needed to do a lot of work, work that I didn’t know I was so unprepared to do.
MARTIN: What was your family’s relationship with guns growing up? What did they think about guns?
YOUNG: My relationship with guns was movies and music. My parents never kept guns in the house. Though they’re both retired military Air Force.
My mother was an officer Captain, my father was Buck Sergeant but we didn’t have guns in the house, didn’t think it was that big a deal.
MARTIN: And you decided not only to learn how to shoot, you decided to learn a lot about guns. Tell me about that.
YOUNG: When I decide to learn a lot, I decided to keep going. There were questions that were raised by myself. There were assertions that were put
forth to me by other people that I wanted to sass out and put to bed for myself. One of which was, is a good guy with a gun really that am I safer
with a gun as those who walk around with concealed carry weapons tend to say or folks who keep weapons in their homes, firearms in their homes for
the purpose of self-defense? What is it that they believe and is what they believe correct and should I believe it?
MARTIN: So you obviously went pretty deep and you also got a concealed carry permit and got yourself trained as an instructor. I think that that
shows a lot of commitment. What did you come to see about the experience of shooting?
YOUNG: For me or for —
MARTIN: For the people that you met or for the people you talk to or for you.
YOUNG: Well, for most people, it’s empowering, you know. You are at the end of something that can take a life. You’re at the end of something
that’s very very powerful and it’s all up to you. Yes, it’s tremendously empowering which, you know, is dangerous from where I’m sitting because I
don’t believe most people understand the responsibility of that power, even the folks who think they do.
MARTIN: Charles, your father-in-law, brought you into his world. I mean he took you to gun shows with him. I mean he — I think he helped you pick
your first gun, initially tried to teach you to shoot it. You weren’t very good at it at first. But you quickly realize that the experience that he’s
having with his guns is very different than the experience you’re going to have as a gun owner.
I mean did you ever talk to him about that? Did you ever get to say him, “Hey, Charles? You know, me with a gun in my truck is kind of different
than you with a gun in yours”? Did you ever get to have a conversation with him?
YOUNG: Often, often. It would come up. We were driving together and we would have a gun in the truck. It would also come up when he watched
Gunsmoke and I would ask, you know, where are the black folks? Where are the minorities?” Over time, little conversations became larger
conversations. The news would be helpful because Charles watches a lot of news and I watch it with him. I’m still seeing his daughter when Trayvon
Martin is shot. You know, I can list off pressure from Tulsa, shot with his hands in the air. He get to see and he get to see me.
MARTIN: You talk a lot about race in this book. I mean it’s in the title, right? This is a black man’s journey and your race is very fundamental to
the experience that you had. I mean how could it not be. You’ve made a powerful case in your book that for some people, this commitment to guns is
really tied up in racial grievance and a sense of fear. What I think a lot of people would call an irrational fear. But with this family, they loved
you like a son and they still love their guns. I’m just wondering how you understand it.
YOUNG: I think how I understand it for them is I’m not going to tell Charles who believed this and I think still believes this. It is not get
to protect his family in the best way he thinks he can. And I’m not going to tell anybody, Charles or otherwise, that that’s not a good reason to
have guns. And that’s one way of making peace with it.
MARTIN: You’ve made a point in your book. Let me talk about that, that African-American women in particular and African-Americans were broadly are
showing a greater interest in firearms. Why is that? Why in your experience is that?
YOUNG: Fear. Fear. Black women, black men are more afraid say than they were three years ago. Because they are being accosted more often with hate
speech, with rhetoric that puts them in a state of fear. And when we are afraid, we usually take steps to make sure that we no longer feel afraid.
And for many black folks that means I need a gun, [13:50:00] and I need to keep it close, and I need to know how to use it. Because there are people
who will feel empowered to tell me I don’t live in their country anymore.
MARTIN: I’m going to read a passage from your book. If I’ve learned anything during my odyssey into guns and their role in our country is that
we are in a literal arms race, ramped up by the radicalized fear peddle to us by damn near every institutionalized force in the land. Gun culture in
America is inherently racist because white people historically fear black men with guns. I cited fact, history, story, and policy to prove this
point. And yet I live as a black man in a country where too many people are so afraid of being called racist, they won’t confront their own racism
around guns, around their social economic or constitutional privilege.
You’ve trained yourself. You’ve learned to shoot. You have guns yourself. And you say yet now you are still afraid. In fact, more afraid. Why?
YOUNG: Well, the more I learned, the more I know, the more I don’t believe other people do. I don’t feel better knowing that there are more people
with guns who don’t practice. You know, I had to go look that up. I had to go find that knowledge. I don’t feel better knowing that the response
to hatred is to prepare for violence. So when I say a little arms race, more black people are buying guns, more white people have been buying guns.
I was told at my NRA instructor certification that I was teaching them to shoot back.
YOUNG: Them. Now, I didn’t go as far as to ask them. I’m still dumbfounded by that comment but I assumed them was black people being me.
So yes, I’m afraid. I’m afraid to go outside. I’m afraid to get pulled over. I’m afraid to walk in my own city sometimes.
MARTIN: And where does this end up, RJ? I mean where — you say that we are in a literal arms race and not with some foreign power. We’re in a
literal arms race with ourselves is what I hear you saying. Where does this end up?
YOUNG: Hopefully, with conversations like this, black, black, it’s really hard to have this conversation if I have a gun on my waist and you have a
gun on yours. There’s no talking in the way that we need to talk if you’re afraid the person across you is going to hurt you.
MARTIN: Well, some argue — at least the argument of the people who believe in expansive gun ownership, let’s put it that way, their argument
is the opposite. It actually makes it more essential that we talk because now we’re all equal. What do you say to that?
YOUNG: I say I’m a black man who has been targeted more often than many white folks are targeted. And I would say that my experience and my story
would say that’s not true. Now, do I have a fact to point that out? No. But I also have fear and what I’ve chosen to do with my fear is to continue
to stand in it, is to lean in, is to walk around in my Jordans and my beads and my hair and believe that people will see me when I speak to them and
say, “Hey. That’s RJ,” and not, “That’s a black man who’s going to try to hurt me.”
Or vice versa. “See, my buddy Jason, and not a six foot five, 300-pound white guy who’s going to try to hurt me,” that people will stand in there
for just a little bit longer, ask a vulnerable question, and hopefully get to know a person.
MARTIN: To that end though, and spoiler alert, your relationship with Lizzie and with her family by extension, it ended. And what does it say
that you are in this deeply intimate relationship with this woman whom you evidently love deeply and who loved you and whose family loved you and
embraced you but somehow you couldn’t make it work? Do you have hope that this divide that we are now living in can be bridged at some point?
YOUNG: Yes. Yes.
YOUNG: I was in an interracial marriage. Nobody died. You know we didn’t — we don’t want to hurt each other. The hurt was not something we
attempted to do. It happened and it will happen again for someone else if it’s not happening already.
But I have a hope because people who don’t look alike fall in love. It’s a thing that they do. People who don’t look alike become friends forever.
[13:55:00] That’s what we do. And I believe that when push comes to shove, those friends will matter more than the guns they have, the violence they
And you hear those stories about a lot — I know I hear those stories a lot about how folks would say, “No, that’s not a black person. That’s not a
white person. That’s John. That’s Jenny.” And sometimes if that rears up and you have to be in an uncomfortable spot and you have to make a
decision. And that is the part that I’m not sure about my country.
MARTIN: RJ Young, thanks so much for talking with us.
YOUNG: Thank you, Michel.
Rare insight there into the complex web of fear and race in the U.S. gun culture.
Tomorrow on the show, I’ll be joined by the Hollywood star Keira Knightly. The British actress tells me about her role as a revolutionary french writer and the parallels with her own campaigning for women rights.
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching “Amanpour and Company” on PBS and join us again tomorrow night.