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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
The behavior modeling that we need, I get a reality check on COVID and presidential politics with global health expert, Devi Sridhar, and
Democratic congresswoman, former health secretary, Donna Shalala.
Then, insight into the struggle to hold President Trump accountable. I talk to Andrew Weissmannm, a lead prosecutor in the Mueller investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTOFER GOLDSMITH, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, HIGH GROUND VETERANS ADVOCACY: I had never seen a confederate flag or a Nazi flag in real-life until I was
stationed in Georgia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Our Hari Sreenivasan talks to army vet, Kristofer Goldsmith, about how white supremacists target soldiers.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
President Trump is officially a sick man. He has COVID and yet, he’s returned to the White House with a nervous skeleton crew. His doctor says
he’s stable and continues to do extremely well. But to say that this self- evident disregard for all COVID protocols has shocked the majority of observers would be an understatement.
His base may love this made for primetime theatrics. But here’s what a worried White House staffer says, “it’s insane he would return to the White
House and jeopardize his staff’s health when we’re still learning of new cases amongst senior staff. This place is a cesspool.” Indeed, at least 11
members of the White House are infected or working from home. And now, the top tier of the Pentagon are quarantined after a senior official tested
210,000 Americans have died of COVID. And so, the president’s Twitter view that people shouldn’t be afraid nor let the virus dominate our lives might
ring hollow among the families of the sick and the dead. And the falsehoods continue, Trump’s fake tweet this morning claimed that COVID is less lethal
than the flu. Even Facebook and Twitter bolted that one. In fact, CDC estimates show that more people in the United States have died from
coronavirus than from influenza during the past five flu seasons combined.
So, what is the takeaway here? Governments around the world are confronting pandemic fatigue as they also face dangerous new COVID spikes. With me for
a medical reality check is Professor Devi Sridhar. She is chair of the Global Public Health at Edinburgh University.
Devi Sridhar, welcome back to the program.
So, the portrait I’ve painted of what’s happening in the United States and at the White House, what is right with the picture that you see?
DEVI SRIDHAR, PROFESSOR OF GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH: Well, I think it’s easier to say what’s wrong with the picture. I think it
reveals really the three things. The first is how much COVID-19 is not just a health issue put an economic one as well as a national security one,
especially now as we’re seeing cases in very high-level security staff.
The second is, you know, the misinformation. I think, you know, everyone is very confused about the experimental therapies, the timeline of when
President Trump tested positive, when his symptoms developed, did he get oxygen, and this it just contributes to the misinformation through this
crisis over is COVID-19 a hoax, is it like the flu, instead of actually just being really straight about what’s happening and people trusting the
information they are being given.
And the third is the inequality that if you’re president or if you have access to resources, you get the best medical care, where if you’re just a
normal American or, unfortunately, one of the 30 million who do not have health insurance, you’re not going to get that kind of medical care and
your health outcomes are probably not going to be as good.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me ask you then about that because many have observed, obviously, that he’s getting a huge cocktail of all the sort of
treatments that are available, some of which have not actually, you know, had all the public trials. Some of them are just experimental. There is
obviously this link between privilege and COVID.
But, of course, the president of the United States, as many other privileged like athletes and others have been getting the best treatment
and the best therapeutics. What do you say about some of these things that he’s getting, what’s made from — I think — is it called Regeneron?
SRIDHAR: Yes. So, I think — I mean, he’s gotten a whole bunch of things from what it sounds like, Dexamethasone, remdesivir, you know. It’s — I
think the takeaway for me is, first, a lot of these aren’t actually tested and proven and Dexamethasone, which is, is actually for very severe
patients who are, you know, in critical condition, not at an early stage of disease.
And so — but it comes back to a basic point about case fatality rate, which is if you get access to medical care, the case fatality rate is very
low. If you don’t get access to medical care or it’s delayed then it’s much higher. The U.K. was losing a third of patients going into hospital in
April and May because people were coming in to such late stage. Compared that to South Korea and Germany which had under 1 percent. And South Korean
and German doctors said, because they were having people come in with milder symptoms, they could monitor them and respond more quickly unless —
until, you know, to the point they would be coming in much, much sicker.
AMANPOUR: So, from what you know, I mean, those who need oxygen are usually very sick. Doctors have said they probably have pneumonia, although
his doctor will not confirm or deny that. Dr. Fauci, as you know, the American chief infectious disease expert at the National Institute of
Health who is still on the presidential task force says this about the early departure from hospital.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The issue is that he’s still early enough in the disease that
it’s no secret that if you look at the clinical course of people, sometimes when you’re five to eight days in, you’re going to have a reversal. His
physicians — a reversal meaning, going in the wrong direction and getting into trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I mean, I know that you’re not the president’s doctor. You haven’t examined him. Fauci also says that he believes that it is the —
anyway, the Regeneron group of treatments that he’s getting which has helped him. Would you expect, you know, even with this cocktail that he’s
getting that the normal process might unfold, like it could take several days to show the worst symptoms?
SRIDHAR: Yes. That’s what we’ve seen with COVID-19, that actually in the first week most people have mild symptoms and sometimes slightly sicker but
actually, the real turn comes as Dr. Fauci says, you know, around day seven to day nine when actually people start to have a more severe response and
then need to be admitted to the hospital for oxygen or for other kinds of support. And it’s quite a long disease from actually getting it to dying.
On average it’s about 21 days.
And so, I think right now it is too early to say, oh, he’s through the worse and he’s clear. Also, because we’ve seen in a number of people who
have recovered that they don’t fully recover. They get something called long COVID. So, they do suffer for weeks or months with fatigue or heart or
kidney or lung issues. So, I think it’s quite surprising for someone to say like, OK. It’s done and dusted. It’s over. Because that’s not what we’ve
learned about this disease over the past couple of months.
AMANPOUR: It is said that the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, has effects of long COVID. They deny it at 10 Downing Street but many around
him point to the way he’s been behaving and some of us, you know, whatever he’s exhibiting and saying that he shows classic symptoms. I guess the
question is, you know, when you’re president of the United States, it’s even more consequential if you are home and potentially have long lasting
symptoms. So, — and effects.
I asked, is this the behavior modeling we need? Tell me how would you think it does to the general population when the president goes into hospital,
comes out of hospital, apparently against doctor’s orders at the hospital, rips off his mask and goes back into a White House with a skeleton crew but
nonetheless people, including butlers and staff and many of them elderly, many of them black and Latino in fact?
SRIDHAR: It’s absolutely appalling. I think it’s shocking to watch this and to see leadership at that level be so selfish and so self centered,
which are the qualities that we’ve been trying to get away from in this pandemic. It’s about looking out for others, making sure you don’t infect
others, making sure that we all have access to good medical care. And so, I think it’s a real tragedy for the United States to have this kind
leadership right now.
And the world is watching. And unfortunately, the United States is not going to hold that position of being, you know, the preeminent country and
global health leader and in pandemic preparedness if, you know, the White House has more cases in this cluster than Taiwan, Vietnam and New Zealand
all put together.
AMANPOUR: You know, there is pandemic fatigue, as we said. It’s all over. It’s here. It’s everywhere. And a lot of people, very educated people,
people who know quite well, you know, that COVID is not a hoax, that it’s dangerous, are getting tired of it, and are saying, you know what, perhaps
it is just like the flu. Why don’t you all put it in context. Perhaps, you know, the deaths from people who don’t go to hospital for things like
cancer treatment and all the other diseases are just going to be so huge that it’s going to put — you know, put the COVID deaths in the shade by
comparison. As a public health official, how do you answer that question?
SRIDHAR: Well, I can take the concern that people are tired of restrictions and they are tired of COVID-19. I guess we all are. We’re nine
months into this pandemic. But lifting all restrictions will not give people their lives back. What it will do is result in overwhelmed health
services because a lot of people are going to show up needing care, whether it’s oxygen or whether it’s further support. If those people cannot get
that, they will get severely ill and possibly die and other health services will get strained as that burden increases.
We’re going into, you know, the winter season where any way health services are strained. Schools struggle to stay open because you can’t keep having,
you know, kids being infected in large numbers and you will have to move fully to online learning and away from in-person learning. As well as not
only the people who will die in elderly and vulnerable groups, but this long COVID, the co-morbidity in younger age groups.
So, I understand the fatigue people have. But I say, look to countries that are winning in their economies and public health and have their life back
to normal. Learn from those countries and try to understand how you can adapt that to your context rather than trying to kind of chase some kind of
pre-COVID-19 life that just doesn’t exist anywhere in the world right now.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me about that comparison, because you and colleagues have done a study, I think, of East Asian nations, you published it in the
“Lancet,” about lockdown and about easing restrictions and maintaining public health. What are they doing right that apparently western countries
are not necessarily?
SRIDHAR: So, the three things that successful countries in terms of easing lockdown — or some never went into lockdown. Taiwan and South Korea never
really had the kind of mandatory restrictions that we’ve had in western countries. But three things they’ve done is first, case findings. So,
testing, tracing, isolating those who have it. The (INAUDIBLE) to it. So, a very robust case finding and public health infrastructure.
The second is strict border measures, not to keep reimporting the virus and reseeding it, and this is something that we’ve seen a struggle with in, you
know, western countries because people want to have that movement and want to go abroad for holidays or to see families or for work purposes, and that
constant movement of people, that is not happening in East Asia or in the Pacific.
And the third is voluntary guidance. So, really clear messaging to people about avoid crowded place, you know, wear a mask if you’re inside and this
virus transmits in indoor, poorly ventilated crowded places. So, avoid those and you won’t get it. Keep your distance from others. So, rather than
all these rules of six and other kind of rules, just really simply public health messaging and people following that guidance because we don’t want
anyone exposed to this virus.
And the real takeaway as well, is these are the countries that have saved their economies as well. Taiwan looks practically the same. South Korea has
had a tiny GDP drop. If you look at western countries in quarter two, I mean, the U.S. having a drop of close to 30 percent, the U.K. at 20
percent, Spain at 20 percent and even Sweden, which has very loose restrictions and light restrictions taking an 8 percent hit to its GDP. So,
I think, also this dichotomy that either you save your economy or you save health is just wrong. You’re actually seeing there’s another way through
this to save both.
AMANPOUR: Devi Sridhar, thank you so much for joining us from Edinburgh University.
Let’s turn next to the politics and the presidential election campaign amidst a catastrophic health and economic crisis with the former Clinton
administration secretary of health and human services, Donna Shalala. She is also a congresswoman from Florida where the Democratic presidential
nominee, Former Vice President Biden, held a town hall last night.
Donna Shalala, welcome back to the program.
Can I ask you to react actually to some breaking news and some investigation that CNN has done and is reporting, that the president, not
only is he back at the White House but is calling around the big pharma companies, the CEOs and allegedly pressuring them to release a vaccine
before the election. What do you make of that, and also, you know, the prospect of getting around FDA approval and asking the health and human
services secretary to stand in for FDA approval? That’s the reporting from CNN. You were once such a secretary.
REP. DONNA SHALALA (D-FL): Well, first of all, it’s outrageous. There’s just no question about it. He’s putting the health of Americans again at
high risk but also the health of people around the world. It’s totally inappropriate to pressure scientists to release the vaccine before it’s
properly tested and properly reviewed. I never overruled the FDA commissioner, and I never allowed the White House to even talk to the
I kept saying it’s a regulatory agency. We have to protect the integrity of the science. So, it’s really unacceptable. And for those companies to
buckle under pressure from the president, they know better. They know that they cannot put out a vaccine that’s not safe, and the idea that the
secretary of HHS would agree to overrule the FDA commissioner is just terrible.
AMANPOUR: Well, to be fair, the reporting says that he says that they — that he would not bend to that, but, you know, everybody is worried that
nobody stands up to President Trump. There’s a very bullish CEO at one of the pharma companies who wants to put a vaccine out. So, in any event, it
was good to get your, you know, practical reaction to that.
So, what about the behavior modeling, the idea that the president is back in the White House and has told people not to be afraid, not to let COVID
dominate their lives.
SHALALA: It’s the wrong leadership message, no question about it. First of all, we don’t know a lot about his actual infection because he has not
allowed his doctors to be transparent. We have a law in this country called HIPAA. It protects the privacy of the patient, and only the parent can
allow their doctors or their nurses to release data about their disease. And so, the president has not been transparent. He needs to be transparent
to reassure the American people, and his behavior is just ludicrous. I don’t know of any other way to put it. It’s just not what a leader should
AMANPOUR: Well, Secretary, you bring up HIPAA, of course, you were the one who created that whole protocol when you were head of health and human
services in the Clinton administration and it does obviously protect private, ordinary individuals. But, I mean, beyond what it says that the
president can authorize, isn’t there more of a mandate for the president, that they need to be transparent about — you know, about their condition,
and actually his own doctor is claiming that he can’t because of HIPAA and privacy.
SHALALA: Well, the doctor is really saying, the president of the United States will not allow me to be transparent about the course of his disease.
It’s — this is on the president. The president has to say, I want to be totally transparent, and he ought to do that to reassure the American
people of what he has, when he had it and what the course of the disease is.
Transparency is very important in leadership, particularly in a president of the United States. But there’s been a pattern of cover-up and this is
just another example. The idea that he would go out and get into his car and wave to supporters. All I could think about was the popemobile. I mean,
but he was also putting at risk those security people that had to drive him around. It’s just the height of irresponsibility, and I couldn’t be more
angry at the president and at those around him that put up with this.
AMANPOUR: So, obviously, that’s your perspective. You’re a Democrat obviously amongst other things, but his base loves it and his press
secretary for the campaign had this to say about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOGAN GIDLEY, NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY TO TRUMP CAMPAIGN: He understands what the fights are, that people have gone through. He understands now more
about the medicine, more about the information, and that makes total sense. Anybody who experiences something directly has a different level of
understanding about that experience. And so, the president is no different. He literally stared down coronavirus. It looks like he’s on the back end of
it. The two best words I’ve ever heard Dr. Conley say, he’s back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Donna Shalala, he’s back. So, some are saying, well, what about the vote? You know, see, I told you so. I can beat it. I can be, you know,
the great sort of — you know, the great destroyer of COVID. And then the other thing is the sympathy vote. Do you believe the president will garner
— I mean, let’s face it, we’re talking in the midst — no, the end of a presidential campaign, the election 28 days ago. Do you think that there
could be a sympathy vote that goes his way?
SHALALA: I actually don’t. I think if you look at the polls, the president is losing support because of his irresponsibility and because this is about
life and death, and the president has not provided the level of leadership. Your previous guest, who by the way was a former student of mine at
University of Miami, made it very clear what we expect leaders to do and how it’s possible to starve this virus and to get the economy back. We have
not had that kind of leadership from President Trump.
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, not all Republicans agree with that press secretary. Some of them agree with you and some of them are saying that
he’s being reckless. They don’t want the Republican Party to become the “stupid party.” That’s in quotes. And you’ve said that he’s alienating
potential voters and, of course, we have seen the latest polls.
So, what about Joe Biden and what about — let’s first talk about this debate that’s coming up tomorrow. It may or may not be the last debate. We
don’t know what’s going to happen. Will President Trump be able to go to another debate. But Pence and Senator Harris are meeting tomorrow, Salt
Lake City. How important is a vice presidential debate going to be? I mean, you know, historically, this one compared to others?
SHALALA: Usually, they are not important at all. In this case, because you have two older men who are running for president, it becomes a little bit
more important but the political science evidence is that the vice president doesn’t make that much difference. It will be great theater.
These are two important people in political life in the United States, and for the first time, we’re going to see Senator Harris take on Vice
President Pence, and it’s going to be just an interesting display of deep knowledge and thoughtfulness I believe by our candidate.
AMANPOUR: The Election Commission has already said that they are taking special precautions. They are going to apparently put plexiglass between
the two candidates. My previous guest told me before we went on that they should even hold it outdoors. There’s no point in having it indoors when
that can be, you know, a super spreading kind of place.
But I want to ask you about Joe Biden and your state, Florida, which is obviously critical swing state. He is — apparently, Biden, now showing a
narrow, narrow lead over Donald Trump in the state polling averages, but it’s a tough, tough state to call. Are you satisfied with their Florida
campaign particularly bringing on Cuban-Americans and the Latino vote and all the other votes that he needs to bring out?
SHALALA: I am. We will be able to do more. We are going door to door in my campaign. We are going to track voters and turn out our voters. Look,
Florida is always going to be tight. We’re always going to focus on the margins because that’s where we’re going to win, and it’s going to be
turnout that makes a difference. And we intend in South Florida, where we have to get the big vote out. Joe Biden will win South Florida by big
numbers. The question is will they be big enough?
And then we have a quarter where we have Puerto Ricans who have moved in who will vote Democratic and we will see, but I told the vice president
yesterday, I really believe that we are going to deliver Florida.
AMANPOUR: And finally, do you think his messaging is correct right now? Meaning, there are a lot of Democrats who keep saying to him, you know, all
this sort of armchair advise, get out, attack the president more. Do this. Do that. Do you think he’s running the right campaign, and is he handling
with due respect, as he has done, the president’s condition? Is that the right thing to do politically and as a human being, I guess?
SHALALA: Well, absolutely. And Joe Biden is anything as empathetic and sensitive about the fact that the president is sick. But I think once the
president gets back to the White House, as he has, all bets are off, and it’s time to go back at him on the leadership issue. This is about
leadership. This is an issue about his inept management of COVID-19. That’s what our voters tell us in Florida. It’s all about COVID and about getting
the economy back, but we can’t do that until the people in our community feel safe to get the economy back.
Look, I represent Miami Beach. Miami Beach has 90,000 residents. Last year, we had 10 million visitors. That’s our economy. It’s a tourist economy. It
has to do with conventions, with people that come on vacations, with the cruise lines that bring hundreds of thousands of people. Until everybody
receives South Florida as a safe place to come to, our economy doesn’t come back. That has to do with the management of COVID and particularly with the
management by the person that sits in the White House. Joe Biden is a very steady hand.
AMANPOUR: Congresswoman Shalala, thank you so much for joining me.
Now, my next guest, Andrew Weissmann, has a few words to say about accountability. He was one of Robert Mueller’s top deputies in the Russia
investigation. You may recall, Mueller’s report did not conclude that President Trump committed a crime, but it also did not exonerate him on
obstruction of justice. Now, Weissmann is calling out what he says were the missteps leading to that conclusion. His new book is, “Where Law Ends:
Inside the Mueller Investigation.” And he’s joining me now from New York.
Mr. Weissmann, welcome to the program.
Can I first ask you because it’s right in your bailiwick, so to speak, the Attorney General Bill Barr at first having said that he would not lockdown,
what’s been called now this super spreader event to introduce the new Supreme Court nominee to the White House and others. Now, he says he’s
tested negative but he is quarantining. Remember, he compared lockdowns to slavery. Just what do you make about his and other administration reaction
ANDREW WEISSMANN, AUTHOR, “WHERE LAW ENDS”: So, you know, that does get outside of my real expertise. I’m neither a doctor nor a scientist, but the
way in which I do think about that is as a former member of the Department of Justice you’re supposed to look at the facts, you’re supposed to look at
the law, and you’re supposed to base your decisions on that and not on politics or how something is going to play for one party or another.
It’s — you know, it’s akin to being a scientist where you look — you really try and just have the facts guide you. So, you know, to me it’s not
that dissimilar to what I’ve seen him do in terms of running the Department of Justice.
AMANPOUR: Well, we’re going to get into that now because your book is all about that and the investigation and Bill Barr obviously plays a starring
role. But let’s start with the title. You’ve called it “Where Law Ends” and it comes from a longer quote from John Locke, “wherever law ends, tyranny
begins.” Why did you choose that title?
WEISSMANN: For two reasons. One, that quote is inscribed in the limestone walls of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. And what it’s
supposed to mean is that the rule of law is what makes — is really a crown jewel for what makes America great. When we look at so-called third world
countries where there isn’t that kind of rule of law, where you don’t go after political enemies with your Department of Justice, that is what
separates America from regimes where we try to inculcate the view of the rule of law. And what I saw for 22 months investigating the president and
then experiencing Bill Barr’s reaction to our report is something that really undermines that basic principal of American justice.
AMANPOUR: So, it’s interesting because the book is not so much an indictment of just Trump but an indictment of what you call failing
institutions, including the Department of Justice. Now, you know, you claim to be an affectionate admirer of Robert Mueller. You know, you’ve known him
for a long, long time. You’ve worked in the same sphere for long, long time, but the way you described his book is pretty devastating. You said —
sorry, his report. So afraid of overstepping his mandate that you say he erred on the side of under stepping it issuing “a mealy mouth report that
accused the president of obstruction of justice without actually saying it out loud.”
You were pushing for a tougher result, a tougher report, tougher instruction and conclusions, and again, this goes back to the Russia
investigation and what — who knew what about Russian influence into the 2016 election.
WEISSMANN: So, I do. One of the things I try to do is be fair to his judgments on — let’s just take the three big things which are subpoenaing
the president where he made the decision that he would not do that. A second is not doing a full investigation into the president’s finances as
it relates to any links with Russia. And the third, as you mentioned, is the issue of not actually saying whether the president had obstructed
And I try and walk people through what the reasoning was on each those, and then respectfully, why I disagree with those conclusions and trying to put
in historical perspective the rules we were operating under, the special council rules that have very set parameters and getting people to think
about whether those rules really should be amended if God forbid we’re in a position again where there’s an investigation of the White House.
AMANPOUR: So, you say that Mueller’s fundamental flaw was believing that a Justice Department run by his old friend, Bill Barr, would be, you know,
fair and absolutely stick to rule of law. And, you know, he then blind- sided you, we all remember that day when he came out with his four-page summary of a 448-page report, and you said, we had just been played by the
What was Robert Mueller’s reaction as you all listened and watched that, you being played as you said?
WEISSMANN: It was a real punch to the gut that Monday when we were in the office, and not only was it unexpected that Bill Barr was going to issue a
four-page letter that completely distorted what it is that we had found, but you have to add on to that the gloss that all of us felt, which was
that this was a personal friend of Director Mueller.
And so this was such a betrayal of the rule of law of the department, following the facts and the law, and not spinning and being fair to the
investigation, but also a betrayal of a friendship.
AMANPOUR: You called Barr’s behavior soul-crushing.
So, let me just ask you, what do you think should have been the conclusion, as precisely as you possibly can?
I think it — I think we should have subpoenaed the president, if he was refusing to come in and be interviewed. I think that it didn’t set a good
precedent to not have him testify if this comes up again.
Second, I think that we needed to look at his finances, at least as it relates to any Russian investments. I think “The New York Times”‘ reporting
that we just saw this past week lends credence to the idea that this is an area where people have a lot of questions and deserve answers.
And the third is, I think that we actually in our recommendation to the attorney general and in our report that went to the attorney general, I
think we should have given a conclusion as to whether we thought the president had obstructed justice.
And to put a fine point on it, I think that any reasonable prosecutor would think that the facts that we laid out would support a finding of
obstruction of justice.
AMANPOUR: So, of course, that “New York Times” reporting is about the tax records which were a huge story for a while and were very revealing.
Of course, as you can imagine, Robert Mueller has broken his silence with a statement about your book. And so has a former member of the team.
He said: “It’s not surprising that members of the special counsel’s office did not always agree, but it’s disappointing to hear criticism of our team
based on incomplete information. I stand by my decisions and by the conclusions of our investigation.”
And another former federal prosecutor wrote in “The Washington Post”: “I have no patience for Weissmann’s Monday-morning quarterbacking.”
So, tell me, how do you respond to that?
WEISSMANN: Well, the latter, I think, is a little silly. It’s not Monday- morning quarterbacking. I’m recounting what is actually the debates that were going on inside the investigation at the time.
And I think that it’s important for history to document that in a way that you have not just speculation from the outside, but someone who is there
And with respect to Director Mueller, I really do try in the book to lay out his thinking and why he did what he did, because they all came from
And, by the way, if there are additional facts that I don’t know, my job as an investigator, like a scientist, would be to revise whatever opinion
there is if for some reason there’s some fact I’m not aware of that would change these conclusions.
AMANPOUR: OK. I want to ask one last question.
Were you assigned to team M, M for Manafort, Paul Manafort, the close campaign manager of President Trump. And there are some startling
revelations and, also with Alex Gibney’s film “Agents of Chaos,” which you’re in.
You say — you report some amazing detail, meetings between Manafort and the Trump operative Rick Gates and also a Russian-Ukrainian operative named
You say that Kilimnik — at least in “Agents of Chaos,” that gates gave Kilimnik internal polling in 2016 on battleground states. That an American
Trump campaign official gave it to a Russian-Ukrainian official, what do you think that was all about? What for?
WEISSMANN: So, in addition to that, Christiane, that was repeatedly given.
And in the middle of the summer of that campaign, August 2 of 2016, Konstantin Kilimnik flew from Moscow to meet with Paul Manafort. And one of
the things that we were able to piece together and recount is, Kilimnik comes and asks Paul Manafort to get Trump’s commitment when he becomes
president to allow Russia to take over half of Ukraine.
And the big question that is unanswered is why that happened, whether that was being done because Paul Manafort just had a personal financial motive,
whether there was a political motive. In other words, you do a quid pro quo, that was going on.
But what we don’t know is, we know what Russia wanted was that Russia, which was helping to have Trump elected. They wanted to have half of
Ukraine in their sphere.
But we don’t know the other side of that, which is, what was it that Paul Manafort was going to demand in exchange?
AMANPOUR: And, also, what was the internal polling data that the Trump campaign official Rick Gates gave to this Russian operative. What was that
used for? I mean, to target voters, to — what do you think?
WEISSMANN: Well, to me, the idea that you would repeatedly give polling data, internal campaign polling data, to somebody that was well-known to
have these Russian ties — and, in the Senate report, they identified him most recently as essentially a spy. That’s the vernacular.
It’s unimaginable to me that Paul Manafort, who is a very smart person, would not understand how those could be used and that he can have plausible
deniability to say, I gave it, I don’t know what they did with it.
But to close your eyes to how that could be used by the Russians seems to me a bit far-fetched for somebody who is experienced and smart.
AMANPOUR: And so let me ask you, then, you know, do you think, whatever the current national security adviser says, that they are doing their
maximum to prevent this kind of interference this time around? He says he’s basically told Putin not to do it, although the FBI director says they are
already doing it.
What do you think — I don’t know whether you have insight into that right now — but in terms of Russia’s ability to interfere now with this
WEISSMANN: There’s no question, and many people have talked about the fact that Russia is still targeting our elections.
I do not have current insight into the ways in which with the intelligence community and their wonderful, dedicated career people in the intelligence
community trying to thwart that effort.
It does not help the American effort when you have a president who is denying that it’s going on and is not sending the signals that we will take
To relate it to a case that I prosecuted, which is Enron, I remember the compliance officer at Enron saying, you can spend a lot of time on
compliance in Enron, but when the company is run by Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, it doesn’t matter what we do, because there isn’t going to be an
So this really is something that has to start at the top, in terms of sending a message about the seriousness that America will view this kind of
attack on democracy.
AMANPOUR: And just yes or no, if President Trump wins again, are you afraid of revenge? Will you all have to hire lawyers?
WEISSMANN: I talk about that in the book, that, yes, I do think that people have to worry about that.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Weissmann, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
Now, before President Trump fell ill, the biggest news on the campaign trail was his refusal to denounce white supremacy and far-right groups such
as the Proud Boys, at the first presidential debate. You recall that.
Well, our next guest is a U.S. Army vet who spent years tracking how hard these groups actually work to recruit American soldiers.
Kristofer Goldsmith joined the Army after 9/11. And he’s the founder of High Ground Veterans Advocacy.
And here he his telling our Hari Sreenivasan about the dangers white supremacist hate groups pose to democracy.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Christiane, thanks.
Chris, thanks for joining us.
When the president on the debate stage was asked to disavow white supremacy, and he only said, “Stand back, stand by,” why was that so
KRISTOFER GOLDSMITH, FOUNDER, HIGH GROUND VETERANS ADVOCACY: When the president used the phrase, “Stand by, stand by,” what that sounded like to
me, as a veteran, and what it probably sound like to — well, it did sound like to the Proud Boys, were orders to get ready to mobilize.
And I think that that’s the president’s intentions were. He’s not said that the Proud Boys should disband. He has not said that they should disavow
their support for him. He seems to be ready to call these people to action.
Whether that’s for voter suppression and voter intimidation tactics, which I imagine we will likely see from them, or if he will straight up call for
acts of violence, I think nothing is off the table for this president when it comes to retaining power.
SREENIVASAN: His contention is, the far right and groups like these are not the problem, that, from his perspective and the perspective of several
people who support him, several million people who support him, that it’s Antifa and the far left that we need to be worried about.
GOLDSMITH: One of the things that I think we need to start doing is, is stop saying Antifa, because that is an abstract term that FOX News and the
president have really weaponized.
Anti-fascist should be the American position. I mean, we went to war against two of them during World War II. Right now, the Proud Boys, who
President Trump lies and says he doesn’t know what they are, they’re like Mussolini’s Blackshirts and Hitler’s Brownshirts. They are thugs who want
to help support an authoritarian regime.
Now, thankfully, our democracy is still working. Our — despite the president’s disinformation about mail-in voting, our voting system is safe,
according to the national — the intelligence communities and law enforcement communities.
And we do have an opportunity to speak loudly that we are all anti-fascist.
SREENIVASAN: Why do you think that active-duty members of the military and veterans and law enforcement are being targeted by these white supremacy
GOLDSMITH: White supremacy groups and foreign disinformation campaigns target service members, veterans and people in our community because we’re
seen as community leaders.
Graphika, an organization that the Senate Intelligence Committee has relied on to review disinformation campaigns, found that service members and
veterans are looked at as community leaders. Service members and veterans are more likely to vote. They’re more likely to have leadership positions
within the community, whether that’s helping run a Scouts troop, or being firefighters or running for office.
Because we are influencers in the pre-social media sense, we’re an economically efficient target for these folks. And if a white supremacist
can convince a veteran of their racist, xenophobic ideology, that veteran might bring his group of friends along with him, might bring his family
along with them.
And, sadly, in my research, that’s what I have seen. The radicalization of individual service members and veterans has had a negative influence on
their immediate community, their family, their social circles.
SREENIVASAN: How much of this philosophy is permeating law enforcement and active military, active law enforcement and active military today?
GOLDSMITH: “Military Times” recently did a poll. And they have done this poll several years in a row. And their findings have been disturbing.
And that’s the biggest threat, according to current service members, is white supremacy in the United States. Current service members see this for
what it is. And that’s because there are bases in places where white supremacy is thriving.
I was stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia. I had never seen a Confederate Flag or a Nazi flag in real life until I was stationed in Georgia. And
that’s not to say that everyone in Georgia is a racist, but those people have a stronghold down there.
And it is something that is growing. The Proud Boys that we know of thanks to President Trump promoting them, they’re strong here in the New York
metro area, where I live.
SREENIVASAN: Without giving away too much of the methods in how you know this, you have been able to see the internal discussions of some of these
What do they talk about? What’s the chatter like?
GOLDSMITH: So, one of the things that these white supremacist organizations talk about on their private chats, which have thankfully been
leaked by anti-fascist organizers, is things like the Jewish question, which is a euphemism for Nazis and Hitler ideology, where they believe that
Jewish people are controlling everything that happens in the world.
I think that Trump, his — one of his biggest mistakes is thinking that the fascists are on his side. The real fascists are not on President Trump’s
They look at the proximity of someone like Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism, and they see President Trump as a Jewish
tool, which is offensive to even talk about. I hate to even talk about these ideologies.
But President Trump needs to get through his mind that his family is going to be threatened by these people that he thinks are his supporters.
SREENIVASAN: What do you do if someone in your circle, a family member is starting to be, I guess, a little more convinced by these groups?
Because it’s hard already in America in 2020 to have conversations with people that you have political disagreements with, but when you see this
somewhat virulent strain of ideology come in, what can you do?
GOLDSMITH: You know, one of the most terrible things about this pandemic is that it’s taken away a lot of face-to-face discussions.
And these discussions about racism and extremist ideologies are extremely difficult to have on Facebook, on Twitter, and on some of the lesser known
social media platforms like Telegram and Gab that the white supremacists have basically co-opted.
You know, these people, if you can’t talk to them face to face, it’s really not even worth trying to convert them.
What needs to be done is, if you know someone who’s expressing racist ideology, let other people know that this person is a racist. You know,
this person — if a firefighter is a racist, if a cop is a racist, they’re — they have the ability to either save or take a life, depending on their
SREENIVASAN: The FBI recently sent out a bulletin to law enforcement agencies, and it said, “Domestic violent extremists across the ideological
spectrum likely will continue to plot against government and election- related targets to express their diverse grievances involving government policies and actions.”
What are you concerned about heading into November?
GOLDSMITH: I’m concerned about President Trump inciting violence.
I think that, no matter what happens, we’re not going to know who won the election the day after Election Day. It’s going to take time to count all
the votes. And, in the meantime, President Trump has already primed his followers to believe that the election is going to be stolen from him.
And these groups who have been organizing out in the open, these fascist organizations like Proud Boys, are ready and willing to commit violence.
And, as we know, they feel like they took orders the other night.
If he tells them to hit the streets, they’re going to and they’re going to be armed. And they’re going to be willing to commit violence against
SREENIVASAN: I want to get a little bit into your story. You’re a veteran. You have gone through severe PTSD, contemplated and tried to take your own
First, I want to ask you about something else that happened in the press recently, which was — the reports first came through “The Atlantic” and
Jeffrey Goldberg, and since has been corroborated by lots of other outlets. And it was that the president had said some pretty disparaging things about
the veterans laying in Normandy and in Arlington.
What went through your mind when you heard that?
GOLDSMITH: I wasn’t surprised to hear those comments.
I mean, we know that the president disparages his own supporters, whether they be police officers, or military service members and veterans, or
religious groups that support him.
None of this is a surprise. And we know that not just from his words, but from his whole history and life. Never has the president, has President
Donald Trump put the nation before himself, not in office and not before office. Any time that he’s ever said that he was donating money to
veterans, like he did during the 2016 campaign, he didn’t do it until David Fahrenthold of “The Washington Post,” you know, found that there were no
receipts, that he never did donate to veterans.
It is sad that veterans are used as props by this president. And it is infuriating. I mean, I come from a family where my grandfather’s
generation, almost every one of them served in World War II. They were anti-fascists serving overseas to make sure that people across the world
didn’t have to face fascist regimes.
And to know that President Donald Trump set foot on those hallowed grounds and told General John Kelly, what was in it for your son, why did he do
this, just shows how much disrespect and disregard President Trump has for troops and vets.
SREENIVASAN: I also wonder about — and you’re kind of in a much more unique position to be able to answer this, but the type of anguish that so
many veterans are living with right now.
What goes through someone’s mind and what is seeing and hearing that the commander in chief of the forces that you fought for and with says
something like that? What does that do to your psyche?
GOLDSMITH: I struggled with PTSD from the time that I was in Iraq in 2005 and since.
And for large portions of my life, post-traumatic stress disorder defined every minute of every day. I went through years where I couldn’t sleep
without drinking alcohol. That’s something that may never go away.
It’s something that, thankfully, because I have access to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, and I get great treatment there — PTSD is
something that never really goes away.
When you’re deployed to a combat zone in your late teens or early 20s, your brain is still developing. The human body is not set. The biochemistry is
still working its way through. And when you become hard-wired for that kind of stress of any day thinking that you could be killed, of seeing your
friends get hurt, seeing your fellow Americans get killed, it makes it so that, every time that I hear “Taps,” the bugle, the song that they play at
funerals, I mean, I feel a well of emotions that is difficult to describe.
I think that everyone who’s ever heard that, especially those who have experienced a ceremony like that overseas, like I did, you get the chills.
And to have that emotion, and to know that the president of the United States is incapable of feeling that, is something that I am deeply offended
You know, the debate the other night, when Joe Biden brought up his son Beau, who served in Iraq, like I did, and then President Trump tried to
interject by using Hunter Biden, who has struggled with addiction, as a way to denigrate the Biden family, that is something that kills me inside.
I’m someone who struggled with addiction. I’m a veteran. I lost my cousin, I lost a couple guys from my unit from the same kind of brain cancer that
Beau Biden had.
And to hear the callousness live on TV, unfiltered, as President Trump tried to use addiction against the Biden family to make it so that Vice
President Biden couldn’t even talk about his son Beau is infuriating to me. And I know it is to so many other veterans, regardless of their political
SREENIVASAN: So, Kris, why is there still such strong support for the president way inside the armed forces, inside law enforcement? I mean,
because, in a way, he’s able to frame it as, you’re either with me, the law and order president, or you’re against me, you’re with the defund the
GOLDSMITH: I have to correct you on that. That’s actually a disinformation point that the Republican Party…
GOLDSMITH: … wants you to believe.
A recent poll by “Military Times” showed that Joe Biden right now has a plurality of support in this upcoming election from active-duty service
The Republican Party has done a fantastic job of convincing Americans that they are the ones who support police, that they are the ones who support
But, in fact, I mean, if you just take an academic view, and you say, all right, well, who’s been better for the budget when it comes to taking care
of military families of veterans, of ensuring that police are afforded the equipment and intelligence necessary to combat the 21st century threats
that they have been dealing with, well, it’s the Democratic Party.
I wish that Democrats would do a better job of this, but the good thing is, is that service members know what’s going on right now. Service members
recognize that racists and fascists are the greatest threat to the United States.
SREENIVASAN: Kristofer Goldsmith, thanks so much for joining us.
GOLDSMITH: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: An important warning there from Kristofer Goldsmith.
And, finally, some inspiring philosophy from the world’s greatest long distance runner. Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge is the first ever to run a marathon
in under two hours, albeit at an exhibition event that didn’t enter the books. But, of course, he has shattered world records and won all the major
titles throughout his brilliant career.
Kipchoge’s slogan, “No human is limited,” has gone viral. And he says — quote — “The reason for running one 1 hour 59 is not the performance. The
reason to run 1:59 is to tell that farmer that he is not limited, that teacher that she can produce good results in school, that engineer, well,
that he can do anything.”
No wonder he’s so beloved at home in Kenya and around the world.
And that’s it now. Remember, you can follow me and the show on Twitter. Thanks for watching “Amanpour and Company” on PBS and join us again tomorrow night.