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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's Farewell Interview; Europe's View Ahead of May's Brexit Speech; Trump Comments Worry European Allies; Long March to Freedom
Aired January 16, 2017 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:13] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight with four more days to go, my exclusive interview with the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on
Trump and the legacy of the Obama administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: President Obama repeatedly has urged President-elect Trump not to trust Vladimir Putin. What's wrong with trying to make a new
relationship with Russia? And isn't he right that it was bad under your administration. It just was a bad relationship?
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: No. I don't think that's correct in fact. It has to have problems and it's had problems on things that Vladimir Putin
has chosen to make a problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And with the British prime minister poised finally to make her big Brexit speech, the view from Europe as Trump predicts more countries
will follow the UK out the door.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANS TIMMERMANS, VICE PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: I don't believe the European Union is going to fall apart. I think we've come out of Brexit
and 27 more countries more united than before because none of the other countries wants to follow the example of the United Kingdom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
This is the last week of the Obama presidency. Donald Trump takes over on Friday. And, today, Britain woke up to some good news from the incoming
U.S. leader. He says that he wants a new trade agreement very quickly between the U.S. and the UK and he welcomed Prime Minister Theresa May for
a visit right after his inauguration.
Speaking in the "Times" to Brexit leader turned journalist Michael Gove, Trump also poured cold water all over the EU and its survival. He
described Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel in the same breath and lambasted what he called years of disastrous U.S. foreign policy.
Secretary of State John Kerry played a key role in shaping Obama's foreign policy tirelessly flying around the globe, endlessly negotiating with
After four years on the job, Kerry has only four days left and he joined me right here in the studio for an exclusive farewell interview.
Secretary Kerry, welcome to the program.
KERRY: Thank you. Happy to be here.
AMANPOUR: We have a lot to talk about. The incoming president, your administration's legacy; but first and foremost, I want to ask you because
here we sit on a very day that Donald Trump gives an interview to a German and a British newspaper.
First and foremost he says that he's going to give a speedy new, free and fair trade deal to the UK. Is it possible? Will it happen and does it
sort of, you know, beg the question of why President Obama said the UK would be the back of a queue in a Brexit situation.
KERRY: Nobody knows yet what the rules of the world are going to between the UK and Europe. Now I agree with President Trump that the UK, we've
said this, has a special relationship with the United States and we would do everything possible and President Obama said this in order to move
We want the UK to be strong, but I'll tell you we have consistently said we want EU to be strong. We need a strong Europe and the question here is,
Christiane, does one diminish the other. And that is a very serious question and we have to look at that carefully.
AMANPOUR: Well, the president-elect actually raised that. He said that it would be a good thing. I'm paraphrasing. If more countries exited the EU,
that Britain had paved the way and that it was all about identity and everybody wanted their own self-expression. You're saying no, it wouldn't
be a good thing in terms of American national security.
KERRY: Well, we made that very clear during the course of the discussions about Brexit. Obviously, the British people voted by a small margin, but
they voted to Brexit. But we have consistently said whatever shape that takes, we need a strong EU.
Now, how do you maintain a strong EU if countries are beginning to shred away from it. And I think there are serious questions about what that does
to play into the current strategy of some countries to try to diminish --
AMANPOUR: So you think Russia then?
KERRY: Well, not just Russia primarily, but others also would be interested in seeing the diminishment of unified presence and position with
respect to a lot of issues.
For instance Ukraine, Syria, whatever it is, there are a lot of issues on the table and you have to be really thoughtful about the interconnectedness
of all of it.
AMANPOUR: Well, you say really thoughtful. You read the interview. What did you make of the interview in terms of a world view and what do you make
of Europeans who are saying they received this interview with agitation and astonishment? In other words, they are agitated and astonished by some of
the positions laid down.
[14:05:10] KERRY: Well, I thought, frankly, it was inappropriate for a president-elect of the United States to be stepping into the politics of
other countries in a quite direct manner. And he will have to speak to that.
As of Friday, you know, he's responsible for that relationship. But I think we have to be very careful about suggesting that one of the strongest
leaders in Europe and most important players with respect to where we are heading --
AMANPOUR: You're talking about Angela Merkel?
KERRY: Made one mistake or another, I don't think it's appropriate for us to be commenting on that.
AMANPOUR: You're talking about Merkel's refugee policy, which he called catastrophic.
KERRY: He did call it that. And I think that she was extremely courageous. I don't think it amounts to that characterization at all. It
has had some problems, but everybody has had some problems with this challenge and how do you respond appropriately as a big nation, as a great
nation, as the West where our values and our principles are important with respect to caring for people who are in distress, who are put into refugee
stratus. We have a great history of that.
And we've seen what happens when we don't do that. And so I think she's been extraordinarily courageous. I think she's been extraordinarily
important to Europe as an entity. And we, the Obama administration, have valued her leadership enormously.
AMANPOUR: Let me flip to the other side of the coin because he spoke almost in the same breath about Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin. He said
I would start by trusting them both. Your CIA chief repeatedly -- President Obama repeatedly has urged President-elect Trump not to trust
Vladimir Putin. And of course we have all the hacking and what the intelligence has found out.
In a synopsis, what is wrong with trying to make a new relationship with Russia? And isn't he right that it was bad under your administration? It
just was a bad relationship.
KERRY: No, I don't think that's correct in fact. It has had problems and it's had problems on things that Vladimir Putin has chosen to make a
problem -- Ukraine, Crimea, Syria. We've had problems. But in fact we've also found a way to do exactly what Donald Trump is talking about, work
with Russia on issues where you can work with them.
Russia was extremely involved in and supportive of and important to the Iran nuclear agreement. Russia was critical to getting chemical weapons
out of Syria.
We sat down, Sergey Lavrov and I worked in agreement to be able to help get the chemical weapons out on the instructions of both of our presidents by
the way. So we cooperated. We cooperated on humanitarian. We cooperated on the environment. We cooperated on the Paris agreement. We cooperated
on the largest marine protected area in the world.
AMANPOUR: Lots of those were at risk now under President-Elect Trump -- you mentioned Iran and you mentioned climate, two of those things he wants
-- you don't believe it?
KERRY: Well, I mean, his administration is going to have to begin at some point to speak with one voice because General Mattis and all of his
testimony and Mr. Tillerson and his testimony made it clear --
AMANPOUR: The defense and state nominee.
KERRY: Yes. So, you know, I don't know where they are at this point. I don't think you do. I don't think anybody does. But I believe -- I'll
just speak to the agreement. Without Trump --
AMANPOUR: And it's the first anniversary of the implementation of --
KERRY: Yes, it is. And the implementation is working and has worked. The Iranians by virtue of the agreement, they made have gone from 19,000
centrifuges that were enriching nuclear material down to about 5,000. They have kept the agreement.
They are limiting their enrichment to 3.67 percent. Their stockpile is limited to 300 kilograms down from 12,000 kilograms of enriched material.
So they have lived up to the agreement. And the agreement makes it safer for the world not to have a country racing towards a nuclear weapon and
have the capacity to do so.
So, you know, I think to just say we're going to move away from that is to beg for and invite the possibility of confrontation and conflict. And the
world will be more dangerous without this agreement. And it is clear I think that reasonable people have come to the conclusion that this
agreement has indeed made the region and the world safer because it's limited if countries march towards a nuclear weapon.
AMANPOUR: I want to stay in the Middle East. You did so much out of diplomacy. It basically yet another administration has not brought peace
between the Palestinians and the Israelis. So when Trump says this is going to be his priority and that his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is an
Orthodox Jew will be a great negotiator and make a peace deal.
KERRY: Well, more power to them if they can do that, Christiane. But you have to have a theory of how you're going to do that and what compromises
are going to be made to do it.
I assure you --
AMANPOUR: Were you wrong about the settlements and --
KERRY: I assure you, let me just make this so clear that when you say another administration has failed to do this, no, no.
The leaders of the two countries involved, one country and one entity, the Palestinian authority have failed to come to the table and reach agreement.
We -- you know the old saying, "You can lead a horse to water; you can't make it drink."
Now we did a lot of leading to a lot of water. But people decided they weren't ready for one reason or another to move. Now --
AMANPOUR: And one reason or another is what you described.
KERRY: And that is one of the reasons why, we, at the United Nations made the decision we made because we believe that Israel has a major choice and
the Palestinians have a major choice.
The choice we put to Israel is if you want to be a Jewish state and you want to be a democracy, you cannot be a unitary state. And right now
they're marching down the road because of the increased settlements, because of the absence of a legitimate negotiation towards that
All we're trying to do is speak as a good, good solid best friend of israel and we've done more for this government, more for Israel than any other
administration with the Iron Dome, with the $38 million --
AMANPOUR: Do you think they are ungrateful? Do you think Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ungrateful?
KERRY: No, I'm not characterizing it in any way whatsoever except to say that, you know, we speak out of a caring and concern for Israel as a
Democratic and Jewish state. And we also speak out of concern for the Palestinians, who will not be able to satisfy their aspirations ever
without the ability to be able to create a state.
So both have a huge interest in being able to move this forward. And we wish the administration coming in all the luck in the world. If they find
a different formula that will absolutely work. But I will be stunned if the Arab world at large and the Palestinians in particular because
everybody has said the parties have to arrive in an agreement. I guarantee you the Palestinians are not going to agree to less than a state based on
1967 lines with swaps. They're just not going to do that.
And finally, you are a man who has seen war. You're a young Naval officer in the Vietnam war and you've just come back from Vietnam. And you went to
the site where you were fighting.
KERRY: But I was -- I did. And when we came back to the dock in the village from which we had left, I was introduced to a man who had been part
of the other side. Part of the Vietcong. Not unusual. Not remarkable that you'd find somebody who was in the Vietcong, but quite remarkable to
be confronted with somebody who had actually been involved in the fighting that I was involved in and who -- you know, we obviously were trying to
kill each other back then. And to talk to each other and to listen to him explain how they saw things and to answer questions about that particular
incident was quite stunning.
What next for John Kerry?
KERRY: Well, I'm going to continue to be engaged in the public dialogue, but I'm also going to take some time to think and do some writing and do
some private sector business. I look forward to being in the private sector.
AMANPOUR: All right.
KERRY: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: John Kerry, secretary of state, thank you so much indeed.
KERRY: Thank you so much. Thanks, Christiane. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And when we come back, agitated and astonished, and that's just for starters as the Trump impact lands with a thud in Europe. After that
interview calling on more EU exit, I speak to the vice president of the European commission Frans Timmermans next.
[14:15:40] AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. He said it before, but he's saying it again now just before taking office.
That the UK was, quote, "smart in getting out of the European Union and that he thinks more countries will do the same."
And in the interview with the London "Times," the president-elect again called NATO obsolete and said Angela Merkel's refugee policy was
catastrophic. Germany's foreign minister Frank Steinmeier said Trump's comments were causing both astonishment and agitation in Europe. His
French Jean-Marc Ayrault said Europe had to stand up for itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEAN-MARC AYRAULT, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The best response to the interview of the American president that will be
inaugurated on the 20th of January is the unity of the Europeans because clearly there was quite a bit about Europe in this interview. And since
we're also talking about Brexit, the best way to defend Europe is not to accept Mr. Trump's invitation. It is to stay united as a block and not to
forget that the strength of the Europeans is unity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So for the view from Europe on what could be a new world order, I spoke to the vice president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Timmermans, welcome from Brussels.
TIMMERMANS: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: A lot of foreign ministers are saying that they are agitated and pretty incredulous about what Donald Trump said in his interview. How do
you react specifically to things he said about NATO and about the EU? He predicted it would fall apart.
TIMMERMANS: Well, I'm not sure I strongly believe in what he said in the sense that I don't believe the Europe Union is going to fall apart. I
think we've come out of Brexit and 27 countries more united than before because none of the other countries wants to follow the example of the
Secondly, much of what he said in the interviews this morning, he's already said or put on Twitter before so that not that many surprises. I can
assure you we'll make a success of it.
Also together with our American partners, because I strongly believe that our strategic interests run very, very deep indeed and are completely
parallel with the strategic interests of the United States.
AMANPOUR: You say that you're united. I'm sure you, the leaders are and the leaders of the 27 are. But as you know there are key elections coming
up in France, in the Netherlands, in Germany. And there is a very strong anti-EU sentiment amongst those populist candidates there.
Are you sure that the people of Europe when they head to the polls will want to stay in the EU?
TIMMERMANS: Well, what we've seen across the Western world also in the United States is a very strong anti-establishment feeling. And that is
because too many people especially in the middle classes feel left behind. And you see nationalist movements across the European Union feeding on that
The sentiment is there and it's justified because too many people were left behind, but the solution is not nationalism. The solution isolationism.
The solution is cooperation. It is talking to your friends and partners, listening to your friends and partners and finding common solutions across
AMANPOUR: A lot of what Donald Trump said in this interview he said before including NATO. Obviously, the president-elect again said that he called
it obsolete. And he stuck to that and sort of doubled down. But his nominees for secretary of defense, for secretary of state have actually
talked very positively about alliances and particularly NATO. So is that another one you are just waiting to see? Because people are kind of
panicking in vulnerable parts of Europe.
TIMMERMANS: One thing is for sure. European nations will have to take more responsibility for their own security. And that is not because Mr.
Trump was elected president of the United States. That's because the United States has been asking for that for a long time. And also, another
president would be asking for the same thing. And I think it is high time we as Europeans got our act together and that would make our alliance
And I'm a strong believer in NATO. I think NATO is indispensable for our future and the only one who would love to see NATO fall apart is Vladimir
Putin. Vladimir Putin is not serving our interest. He is serving his own interest.
AMANPOUR: And let me ask you about another sort of bombshell if you like. You remember President Obama came to Britain before the referendum and said
you will be at the back of the line in terms of a free trade deal.
President-elect Trump has said exactly the exact opposite in this interview, we will work the hardest to give you a free trade deal and very,
Does that undermine the EU?
And do you think it's possible, by the way, to make a quick free trade deal between the U.S. and the UK?
[14:20:22] TIMMERMANS: Well, first of all, we're all waiting for the United Kingdom to invoke Article 50 of the treaty. Then we can get along
with organizing this divorce.
The British people have decided to leave the European Union. It is our task to make that happen in a way that takes into account everyone's
interests. That is where the European commission is and that's what we're going to do.
Now, as far as relationships with outside countries outside blocs is concerned, that's entirely up to the British government. We at the
European commission just want this to work out in the best possible way for the EU and for the United Kingdom.
AMANPOUR: Theresa May is going to give a speech tomorrow and the pre- briefing if you like seems to be it's going to be clean and hard.
What would the EU like to hear from her speech tomorrow? And how difficult is clean and hard? Because Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of
England, has said that a hard Brexit could actually be worse for Europe than for Britain.
TIMMERMANS: Well, I don't want to go into all of that. We'll just wait for the speech and then we'll wait for the announcement or the application
of Article 50. And then we'll just get on with it. And of course, at the commission, we are there to make sure this happens in the way that is good
for the EU. That's, you know, that's our job.
And Michel Barnier is looking into that. He's doing a great job at that, and I'm sure that we will start that negotiation. But there is no point in
pre-empting these negotiations before we know what the lesser announcing Article 50 is going to contain.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, Donald Trump in his interview threw a few stones at Angela Merkel, while saying he wanted to trust her and he respected her
and admired her, he also called her refugee policy, quote, "catastrophic." And he also said that Europe, the EU, was just a vehicle for Germany and
Your reaction to that.
TIMMERMANS: Well, first of all, you know, in my -- the best of my knowledge for the last 70 years, Europe and the United States have always
agreed on one thing. And that is that European unity is in the interests of both partners. Both the United States and Europe.
Secondly, the European Union is based on balance between big and small member states. Started off with a clear understanding between archenemies
France and Germany that they would they ever want to be enemies again and we build from scratch something that is arguably the most successful peace
project in human history.
And I'm sure Europeans by in large, a great majority of Europeans want to maintain that peace project and we will. We will. There is overwhelming
support in the European population for this peace project. And I'm sure that sooner or later everyone in Washington will understand that it's in
the strategic interests of the United States to have a successful European Union, to have a European Union that is a partner based on the same values
that underpin our societies.
Based on the same values we would like to see spread across the world which is freedom, which is openness, which is diversity, which is respect for one
another, which is also a way of having a society where diversity is seen as a strength and not as a threat.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the EU Commission, thank you so much for joining me.
TIMMERMANS: It was my pleasure.
AMANPOUR: After a break, just days before taking office, Donald Trump took a Twitter swing at an American civil rights hero. On this Martin Luther
King Day, we imagine the next president taking on the African-American community. That's next.
[14:26:13] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world marching in to the future. Martin Luther King Day is a national holiday in America, which
recognizes the unique contribution of the man who had a simple but profound dream.
But this year, it's come wrapped up in a political storm as congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis has refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of
President Trump in light of suspected Russian hacking.
Donald Trump fired back that Lewis' congressional district was ridden with violence and accused him of being all talk and no action. A little rich
since Lewis has been all action all his life.
He's the last surviving speaker of Dr. King's march on Washington. And when he was just 25, his skull was fractured as he defied heavily armed
police to march for black civil rights across Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
When I spoke to Lewis last September, he told me that we all have to make good trouble. Standing up and speaking out whenever we run into injustice
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA REPRESENTATIVE: We should embrace the future and not be afraid. And I said to my colleagues in the congress and others,
when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to speak up, to speak out and do something about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now after eight years of their first black president, America remains deeply divided. There are many miles to go, but the distance
traveled is something to celebrate.
For instance right now, the number one film in America, "Hidden Figures" is about the African-American women who powered NASA from behind-the-scenes.
And with that Twitter endorsement from Donald Trump, John Lewis' graphic novels about the struggle are flying off the shelves.
That's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online @Amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.