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How America Made Trump Unstoppable; The Slow Road to Peace in Syria; Imagine a World. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 16, 2016 - 15:00:00   ET




FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: the battle for the White House looks set, Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton. "Rolling

Stone" magazine's top political commentator joins us live to try and make sense of it all.

And Russia's aims in Syria remain a mystery. A senior member of Russia's senate sheds some light on the Kremlin's motives.


ANDREI KLIMOV, SENIOR RUSSIAN LAWMAKER: We have to decrease now the number of flights, the number of military actions because we already

approach some of our goals.



PLEITGEN: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Fred Pleitgen in for Christiane tonight.

Resounding victories for America's presidential front-runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton; on the back of strong primary results the two

are ever-closer to clinching their parties' nominations.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fact is we have to bring our party together. We have to bring it together. We have

something happening that actually makes the Republican Party probably the biggest political story anywhere in the world.

Everybody's writing about it. All over Europe, all over the world they're talking about it. Millions of people are coming in to vote.


PLEITGEN: And Mr. Trump is seemingly a believer in the saying, all publicity is good publicity.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton, already eyeing the general election, took Trump on full force.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our commander in chief has to be able to defend our country, not embarrass

it; engage our allies, not alienate them; defeat our adversaries, not embolden them.


PLEITGEN: And their victories come as the second biggest political story in America comes to a head as President Obama nominates federal Judge

Merrick Garland to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Republicans, of course, control the Senate, say the issue's already settled. They are refusing to even hold hearings on the matter because, as

they say, this is, after all, an election year.

For his part Obama believes nothing less than the reputation of the Supreme Court and faith in American democracy are at stake.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To suggest that someone as qualified and respected as Merrick Garland doesn't even deserve a

hearing, let aloe an up-or-down vote to join an institution as important as our Supreme Court when two-thirds of Americans believe otherwise, that

would be unprecedented.


PLEITGEN: Well, there are many, of course, around the world who, in these days, are sort of questioning America's democratic process. My first

guest comments extensively on this very remarkable election season, Matt Taibbi from "Rolling Stone" magazine joins me now.


PLEITGEN: Matt, welcome to the program. And we have to go straight into Donald Trump because he is obviously the big phenomenon of this

election season and is literally steamrolling the GOP.

And one of the things that you have been commenting on is the fact that many senior Republicans are now trying to hop on the bandwagon.

I want to read a quote from one of your recent pieces, where you say, "The way you build a truly vicious nationalist movement is to wed a

relatively small core of belligerent idiots to a much larger group of opportunists and spineless fellow travelers, whose primary function is to

turn a blind eye to things."

Do you think that the Republican Party is self-destructing?

MATT TAIBBI, "ROLLING STONE": Yes, I do. But I also think that the Trump movement is growing exponentially right now for the reason that you

just mentioned. I know a year ago pundits all over Washington and people like me were all saying this could never happen. There just aren't enough

people out there who are dumb enough to vote for somebody like Donald Trump.

And yet now here he is, he's in full control of the nomination process and all these other people who you wouldn't think of as Trump supporters,

people like Chris Christie, who come from the Republican establishment, are now falling in line and getting behind the candidate. And so something

that started off as a kind of a fringe, extremist movement is going to start gathering steam as a more mainstream phenomenon I think now.

PLEITGEN: Well, one of the things that you also say is --


PLEITGEN: -- that you believe that the Republican Party in many ways has brought this on themselves by, in certain ways -- you could almost say

dumbing down certain issues but also making many issues that there might be compromise on into make-or-break issues.

And you say that you believe it's something that took hold during the George W. Bush years.

I want to read another quote from one of your articles, where you say, "Washington is freaking out about Trump in a way they never did about Bush.


"Because Bush was their moron while Trump is his own moron. That's really what it comes down to."

Well, explain that a little bit.

TAIBBI: Well, they're not mad at the -- the party establishment right now that's trying to desperately to coalesce and stop Trump, they're not

mad that he's stirring up nativist passions or offending minorities or instigating diplomatic problems with every country on Earth right now.

They're mad that he is doing those things but he's not in their pocket. That's the problem. They used all those passions out there in the

population to get their own politicians to elected for decades. And it was a means to an end. They stoked racial resentments; they did all of these


But this time it's not a means to an end. This time it's Donald Trump who is truly an independent figure who has nothing to do with the

Republican establishment and he is out there on his own, with his own band of supporters and they can't control him. And I think -- and he's out of

pocket. That's what they're mad about.

PLEITGEN: Doesn't Donald Trump, though, actually have some valid political points?

Because I mean, one of the reasons why he has so many supporters is obviously that so many Americans are fed up with the political process,

that so many Americans feel like they're the losers of globalization, like their jobs have been outsourced, like politics doesn't care about the fact

that they are struggling to get by.

So aren't there some valid points to the things that Donald Trump says?

TAIBBI: Absolutely. He has said plenty of things that are undeniably true. And one of those things is that both parties have been susceptible

to this terrible corruption involving money and politics, which has made the people who run for president typically not independent and they're

always beholden to special interests by the time they reach the White House.

If you listen to Trump's stump speeches, he always talks about things like the inability of the government to negotiate lower drug prices with --

for Medicare. That's because no matter who it is, Democrat or Republican, has always taken a ton of money from the pharmaceutical industry before he

gets into office.

And he's right about those things. That's an absolutely true criticism. And he says it about both sides. He talks about Hillary

Clinton and he used to talk about Jeb Bush being beholden to special interests. He's right about that. They left him that political room to

make that argument. And it's undeniable.

PLEITGEN: Do you think then -- I mean, the GOP and obviously the Democrats as well, in many ways, are making it sound like Donald Trump is

inherently a dangerous person. I mean, some people are likening him to Hitler. I mean some of the stuff is really hard that's being said about


And I want to read another quote from one of your articles as well, where you say, "His solutions to most things follows the logic of Stalin:

no person, no problem. You're fired! Except as president, he'd have other people removing options, all of which are -- all of which he likes:

torture, mass deportations, the banning of 23 percent of the Earth's population from entering the United States, et cetera"

Do you really think that that's the kind of president Donald Trump would be?

Or do you think this is mostly rhetoric and he would be different if he actually then finally saw the way to the office?

TAIBBI: Well, that's the billion-dollar question. Nobody really knows what his actual intentions are should he get elected. But certainly

there's plenty of evidence to suggest that it's a real possibility that if he gets into office, he's going to try these things. I think he will try

to build a wall. And if he tries to build a wall, he probably very likely will try the mass deportation program that he's talked, which would be an

unparalleled disaster in the history of our country.

It would make the Japanese internment situation look like child's play. He very well may do things like that or worse than that. And that's

-- you just never know. That's the problem with Trump, is that every eventuality is on the table. He's been so all over the map with his

positions we have no way of accurately predicting what is going to happen if he gets elected.

PLEITGEN: The interesting thing is that, on the Democratic side, it doesn't really look that much better. Both candidates are not -- or, I

mean, if they become a candidate -- are not necessarily considered likable and neither is Hillary Clinton.

And one of the things that you talk about a lot in your articles, I think you refer to some of them as "instant messaging robots," do you think

that Hillary Clinton is also very much seen as part of that --


PLEITGEN: -- political establishment that so many people are starting to loathe in America?

TAIBBI: Well, just as an aside, I like Bernie Sanders. I've known him for a long time. I think he is likable and I also think he's not part

of the political establishment, which is why he is garnering a tremendous amount of support among young people.

But as concerns Hillary Clinton, the argument that Trump is making right now against the political establishment, against the role of money in

politics, that argument was tailor-made for Hillary Clinton. As much -- as affective as it's been against the other Republican candidates, it will be

even more so against Hillary Clinton.

I think in many ways he is dying to run against a candidate like Hillary Clinton and it will be very, very interesting to see how the battle

lines are drawn and the narrative is constructed in the media if they turn out to be the two candidates because it will, in many ways, be sort of

traditional American machine politics against this unknown, independent figure who is unique in our history. It'll be interesting to watch.

PLEITGEN: Well, and, you know, Matt, we're obviously an international channel and we have an international audience and many of them are quite

surprised at the situation in America right now, the political situation.

Is it really as charged and as divided as we're seeing or is this sort of a game and at some point cooler heads will prevail?

TAIBBI: I think if anybody around the world thinks that this isn't real and that this isn't really happening and that it's somehow some kind

of a joke and that we're all going to go back to normal sometime later in the game, they're fooling themselves.

Look at the poll numbers recently that were taken during these last primaries. We saw in all of these states fantastic numbers of people

favoring the outright ban of Muslims coming into the United States, 67 percent in some places, 68 percent in a couple of other states.

Those are incredible numbers. We're talking about 23 percent of the world's population that we're planning somehow on blocking from entering

the United States. That would be an incredible program to try to enact and a huge plurality of people in this country are in favor of it. That should

tell people around the world an awful lot about the level of discourse in this country. It's degenerated to that point.

PLEITGEN: Matt Taibbi, we will continue to watch closely. Thank you very much for joining us today.

And after a break we will turn to the biggest foreign policy issue facing the next president: Syria and of course the fight against ISIS.

Is Russia's withdrawal from there real?

And is there finally a chance for peace?

A top official from Moscow -- next.




PLEITGEN: Welcome back to the program.

Another day, another stumbling block in the slow road to an attempted peace in Syria as indirect talks enter their third day in Geneva, Syrian

government slammed calls by the opposition to meet face-to-face and also rejected alleged plans by the Syrian Kurds to declare a federal system in

large parts of the north of that country.

Meanwhile, Russian warplanes pounded ISIS targets west of Palmyra just as the next round of jets withdrew from the country.

So what exactly are Russia's goals in Syria?

Senior Russian lawmaker Andrei Klimov joined me from Moscow.



PLEITGEN: Andrei Klimov, thank you for joining us tonight.

Sir, the first question is, the world is still trying to see what it makes of the Russian troop withdrawal from Syria.

Can you tell us exactly whether or not your jets, even after this withdrawal, will still continue to fly combat missions there, your jets and

your helicopters, because there are also reports that, only yesterday, even after the withdrawal began, that your jets flew combat missions against


KLIMOV: We never said that we stop immediately all our military operations in Syria. But we're speaking about withdrawing the majority of

our troops, of our air force from the territory of Syria. That's true.

And the situation depends upon really the results of political talks from one side and behavior of terrorist organizations on the territory of

Syria, of course.

PLEITGEN: So in the next coming weeks, in the next coming months, what do you think that Russia's military operations in Syria are going look


We have heard of the president saying policing the cease-fire, for instance, is one of the things.

Do you think that we'll still see a lot of bombings.

Do you think we'll see a lot of helicopter missions?

What are we to expect from the Russian Federation?

KLIMOV: It seems to me we do not need now a lot of our aircrafts or helicopters in this area but, of course, we will have enough forces to have

enough information from our satellites, from other technical instruments and certainly we will still keep some people, some military people in our

military bases to be there and to keep some of our special equipment on the territory of Syria.

PLEITGEN: I know you're not going to go into detail about this but in a ball park, what would that mean?

How many jets, what, in terms of ground observers, in terms of ground forces generally?

KLIMOV: Look, I am sure that it's very clear for me that we have to decrease now the number of flights, the number of military actions because

we're already approach some of our goals. We destroy almost 2,000 terrorists who came there from Russia. We destroyed a lot of places of

their staffs and their hard weapons and we do not need so many aircrafts and helicopters on the territory of Syria now.

PLEITGEN: What do you hope comes out of these negotiations that are going on in Geneva right now?

And where do you stand on the figure of Bashar al-Assad?

Is there a scenario where Russia would be willing to let him go to make him stand down?

KLIMOV: Honestly, we have the same position as we had it, let's say, in 2009 when we paid attention not to the military solution but to the

peaceful solution, to negotiations. We stress that we're speaking not about personal life of, let's say, Mr. Assad or somebody else. We're

speaking about Syrian people. We have to give them a possibility to establish their own government, based on their own constitution and their

own view to have their state, Syria, in their own hands.

We do not want to accept attempts to have a kind of manipulation of this territory, of some political groups on the territory from abroad, from

the third countries. This is not acceptable.

PLEITGEN: One of the things that your foreign minister has also said is that he says believes that the Kurds should play a strong role in the

negotiation process.

Where does Russia stand in terms of possible Kurdish autonomy and also the Kurds being part of the negotiation process on the future of Syria?

KLIMOV: As it seems to me it is not possible to give orders or kind of orders to another country what kind of political structure do they have

to have or what kind of administration structure they have to have.

We're against that. But, of course, as it seems to me as an expert, as a private expert if you like, for Syrian people, federation may be the

best way out of this problem.

But if we can have this federation, it means that it may be not just autonomy for one ethnic group but for different ethnic group. But it is

very difficult to accept by acting government because the constitution, the acting constitution of Syria cannot realize that directly. This is also

the thing which they have to discuss during these negotiations in contact group.

PLEITGEN: You've already said that you don't feel that the Russians would have -- or want to get involved --


PLEITGEN: -- in the questions around Bashar al-Assad. But at the same time, Russia does have very longstanding ties to Syria, very

longstanding military cooperation, military ties, also ties to the state structure.

What sort of Syrian state do you want to see come out of these negotiations?

KLIMOV: Syria is -- for us it's a neighboring country. We're really very close. We're not Russian done from the other side of the ocean.

We're too close to Syria. That is why political stability in this area, including Syria, is very sensitive, very important for my country.

And of course we're speaking not about this or that personality. We're speaking about possibility to have Syria as a country free from any

kind of civil wars, a country where we can have a very fruitful cooperation and we're not speaking about only cooperation between Russians and Syrian

people but about international cooperation (INAUDIBLE) for Syria and, of course, we would like to destroy, totally destroy the military

infrastructure of terrorists, their groups, including, of course, ISIL terrorist infrastructure.

PLEITGEN: There were some who had suggested that because of the many economic problems that your country currently has -- sanctions, oil prices

-- that it was simply not possible for Russia to sustain a military campaign at the level that it was for financial reasons.

What do you say for that?

KLIMOV: Well, that's wrong, of course, because honestly we even did not increase our military budget for this operation. I can tell you that

when we gave permission to Mr. Putin to implement our military forces, we at that time already mentioned that this is not forever.

And we now have some goals which we mentioned when we gave that permission and that's enough. So this is not the economical reason or

financial reason. The only reason is that we already achieved our goals. And that's it.

PLEITGEN: Andrei Klimov, thank you very much for joining us.

KLIMOV: My pleasure.


PLEITGEN: And coming up, the all-female race car team rallying against prejudice. Meet the Speed Sisters next.




PLEITGEN: And now finally tonight, imagine a world where race around the track is also a rally against prejudice. Ladies and gentlemen, meet

the Speed Sisters. The Middle East's first all-female rally team from the Palestinian territories.

Defying all stereotypes in their customized cars and going head-to- head with male teams across the West Bank and beyond. Their adventures on and off the track are the subject of a new documentary by Canadian director

Amber Fares. We sat down with her --


PLEITGEN: -- and the team's manager, Maysoon Jayyusi.




MAYSOON JAYYUSI, TEAM MANAGER, SPEED SISTERS: The ladies in the team are strong and independent and they have their goal to be a racer.

(INAUDIBLE) challenge but we work hard and we're up for it.

AMBER FARES, FILM DIRECTOR: The thing that I respect about them is that they really want to push the boundaries in terms of what is acceptable

to do for women. Race car driving is a male-dominated sport all over the world. They gave us something that definitely surprised me in terms of the

amount of support and encouragement the other male racers gave them.

And I think that has a lot do with the situation that they're living under. They're living under occupation and their lives are very hard.

They don't make a cent from doing this. There's no cash prizes. They do it for the absolute thrill and love of the sport.

JAYYUSI: We feel more freedom when we are controlling our cars and the moves and speed on it. The situation in the land, it reflects on us

because we want to -- we didn't want to give up.

It was hard, it was dangerous. It's time that you feel that some of our team get injured but because we are strong like next day (INAUDIBLE)

came to my store and we start laughing about what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

FARES: They use humor a lot because of the absurdity of the situation that they're living under, and so much of it is out of their control that

they laugh. They use humor as a mechanism to get through it. And I think you see that a lot in the film.

JAYYUSI: This is a tough for a woman to do this sport. So if you feel proud and we feel more powerful and we hope we will continue and

encourage another woman to come to race with us, not just in Pakistan, in all Middle East.


PLEITGEN: Certainly fast and certainly furious. Well, that's it for our program tonight. And remember you can now also listen to the podcast.

You can see us online at, of course, and you can follow me on both Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for watching tonight and goodbye from