Return to Transcripts main page


President Macron Raised Climate Change on Call to Trump; White House Was Warned Flynn Was "Blackmail Risk"; South Koreans Elect Son of Refugee; The Rise of South Korea's President-Elect. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 9, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:20] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, from Paris, France's man in Washington tells me the country has dodged a bullet, but only for



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emmanuel Macron is facing an incredible challenge, because if in the coming five years, he's not responding to the concerns of

our citizens, in five years, actually, the far right may win.


AMANPOUR: Gerard Araud on his prescription for dealing with Russia, as that dilemma occupies Washington.

What the testimony of the five Justice Department officials Sally Yates tells us about Trump's hiring policy. If you knew one of your staff

members was at risk of being blackmailed by Russia, why wouldn't you act?

And imagine the world where the son of a North Korean refugee rises up to become president in South Korea.

Good evening, everyone. Welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in Paris, where President-Elect Emmanuel Macron faces the daunting task of

building a parliamentary majority for his newly re-branded party "Republique en Marche."

The fledgling party now boasts a grand total of zero members of parliament. But the former socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced today that

he'll stand for election under Macron's new party banner. He is the new president's ex-boss. And he could be just the first of a wave of high

profile defections.

Macron plans to meet with President Donald Trump during a NATO leader's meeting late this month. And he's planning to put the hard sell on the

U.S. to stay in the Paris Climate Accords. The White House is debating whether or not to withdraw from the pact.

With the Macron victory, one of the key dynamics in world affairs will be between a liberal bloc represented by Macron and Germany's Angela Merkel

and a U.S. president with an unusual affinity for Vladimir Putin's Russia.

On the frontline of these foreign policy priorities is Gerard Araud. He is the French ambassador to the United States, and he joined me tonight from



AMANPOUR: Ambassador Araud, welcome to the program. And I want to first start by asking you as France's ambassador to the United States how you

think the relationship between President Macron and President Trump will be going ahead?

GERARD ARAUD, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: There was the first phone call between now President Trump and President-elect Macron. And

everything went very well.

Actually, usually in these sort of phone calls, it's a lot of congratulations, of course. But President Macron raised the issue of

climate change, because as you know, the Americans are thinking about staying or leaving the Paris agreement. And President Macron emphasized

the importance of the Paris agreement.

There was a very good discussion. President Trump said that he was pondering on this issue, and the two men agreed to meet again in two weeks

in Brussels.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that President Trump will be persuaded to stay in the Cop21, especially when he comes here to Europe. He has the NATO

meetings and the G7, and everybody here, including apparently powerful members of his inner circle want him to stay in.

ARAUD: You know, the Paris agreement is a very flexible agreement. First, it's not legally binding in the sense of the constitutional law in the

United States. And so we do believe the United States can change in a unilateral way their own commitments.

So we do believe there is no real reason for the U.S. to get out of the Paris agreement, even if the Trump administration is changing its energy


And that's the argument that we have been raising here, and that President Macron has also alluded to.

AMANPOUR: When it comes to climate, during the campaign, Emmanuel Macron made this comment slightly sort of tongue-in-cheek. But this is what he

said to the Americans.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT-ELECT (through translator): Please, come to France, you are welcome. It's your nation. We like innovation. We

want innovative people. We want people working on climate change, energy, renewables and new technologies. France is your nation.


[14:05:05] AMANPOUR: That was a sort of a dig at the kind of anti-factual, anti-science movement in the United States.

What is your reaction to that?

ARAUD: You know, France is an open country. And a lot of Americans, you know, have been living in France, have immigrated to France or visited my


And President Macron was just, humoristic way, emphasizing that. France will remain an open, tolerant, liberal and forward-looking country.

AMANPOUR: The Russians have been interfering all over the place. You're obviously watching the hearings on Capitol Hill. You know about the

investigation into the hacking of the U.S. Democratic process and the election there. And there was a massive hack of "En Marche" documents and

e-mails just before the deadline of this election, just on Friday. It didn't work here.

What is your view of the danger posed by elements of the Russian regime?

ARAUD: Actually, I think that obviously Russia is a geopolitical problem for the European. It's not an existential threat. Russia is not the

Soviet Union. So we have to find the right balance between firmness and dialogue. We have to talk with the Russians. But we have also to be firm.

We also have to send the right signals to tell the Russians that they are wrong and that we will react to their wrong acts. But, again, firmness but

also dialogue.

AMANPOUR: You are very, very adamant that had Marine Le Pen of the "National Front" won, in your words it would have been a disaster for

France and for Europe.

Just remind us all again why you believe that. And do you believe that France dodged a major bullet?

ARAUD: I think, yes. France dodged a major bullet, because the candidate of the National Front of the far right wanted France out of the EU and

France out of the euro. And it would have created major crisis, a major financial crisis, and also, of course, a major political crisis.

I belong to a generation which considers that the European Union is the best defense that we have against, you know, the old devils that the

Europeans have been facing for the last centuries. Two world wars, one genocide is enough. And so we have to work together.

And the European Union is the only way to do it. But I have to add that in a sense, Emmanuel Macron is facing an incredible challenge, because if in

the coming five years, he is not responding to the concerns of our citizens, in five years, actually, the far right may win.

AMANPOUR: That in itself speaks volumes about France right now and others looking at extreme parties. But as you look, do you think for the moment

this, whatever they call it, wave of populism, or frankly ultranationalism, has that been stopped in France now? Has France stopped that wave?

ARAUD: No, it has been stopped, but it could be a temporary stop. Again, if the president is not able to implement his policies, his policies of

reform, his policies of openness, but also the policies of protecting the French, the French citizens, the French economy. So it's a dual track.

On one side, opening our country, you know, so that in a global world, France is a global power. But the other side also, not forgetting the

citizens, which are suffering from globalization and from automation. So it's really thinking of a new way of making politics, of making economics.

So it's really a daunting challenge for our young president.

AMANPOUR: You have been very, very famous for your tweets throughout your diplomatic career. You're about to end your U.S. posting anyway. But I

want to just read you a couple of your tweets. You re-tweeted something that a reporter in America said after this election. "French annoyingly

retain the right to claim intellectual superiority over Americans." That's pretty funny.

ARAUD: Yes, I think, you know, in my Twitter account, and I ask all the audience really to follow me, I'm trying to be serious but also to add some

personal humor. Really I think it's an idiosyncratic account. It's account to the French ambassador, but it's also the account of Gerard


AMANPOUR: Ambassador Gerard Araud, thank you so much for joining us.

ARAUD: Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: Some humor despite a very serious policy challenges.

[14:10:00] Remember, climate was signed here, the historic accord in 2015. And climate change is happening before our very eyes. And with the world's

biggest polluters now committed to damage control, today President Obama here in Europe described the global shifts that we could see because of

global warming.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the oceans go up three feet and temperatures go up a degree or two, then we can manage. If

not, then what we can anticipate is not only real threats to food security, but also increases in conflict as a consequence of scarcity. Greater

refugee and migration patterns.

The strains that is placed on the political system here in Europe, I think would be just the beginning of the kinds of problems that we would see.


AMANPOUR: Now, spectacularly on Ireland's West Coast, one beach has managed to go against this tide, reclaiming a beach that it lost to a storm

33 years ago. Local villagers were stunned to see the sand return all at once after freak high tides around Isa (ph). An Easter miracle?

When we come back, Sally Yates comes out fighting in an electrifying Senate hearing on Michael Flynn. What the White House knew about their national

security adviser and when. That's next.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program from Paris tonight.

Now, it is the scandal that will not go away.

This week, more damaging revelations about the Trump campaign's ties to Moscow.

First, CNN learns that the outgoing president, Barack Obama, warned Donald Trump away from Mike Flynn. Then the former acting attorney general, Sally

Yates, tells the Senate that she told the White House in January that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russia and was at risk of blackmail.

So why did Trump's national security adviser keep his highest level security clearance for 18 more days before he was fired?

We'll ask legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin in a second.

But, first, here's a reminder of yesterday's testimony from our Pamela Brown.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former acting attorney general revealing for the first time when and why she alerted the

White House about her concerns regarding the now dismissed national security adviser Michael Flynn.

SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: We felt it was critical that we get this information to the White House. Because the vice president was

unknowingly making false statements to the public and because we believe that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians.

BROWN: Sally Yates testifying to a Senate judiciary subcommittee that she spoke to the White House on three different occasions about Flynn.

The first two visits happened in the White House, where she said Flynn lied to Vice President Pence about conversations he had with the Russian

ambassador, and that the vice president maybe unintentionally disseminating that information to the American people.

YATES: We felt like the vice president was entitled to know that the information he had been given and that he was relaying to the American

public wasn't true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what you're saying is that General Flynn lied to the vice president?

YATES: That's certainly how it appeared, yes, because the vice president went out and made statements about General Flynn's conduct that he said

were based on what General Flynn had told him. And we knew that that just flat wasn't true.

BROWN: And she said her biggest concern was that the Russians would use that as leverage over Flynn.

YATES: Not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information. And that created a compromise

situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.

BROWN: Yates said she first alerted White House Counsel Don McGahn to her concerns in late January. Two days after the FBI interviewed Flynn and 18

days before Flynn was fired following a bombshell "Washington Post" report that revealed the Justice Department's warning to the White House.

YATES: We told them that we were giving them all of this information so that they could take action. The action that they deemed appropriate.

BROWN: Yates' testimony contradicting the White House assertion that she merely gave a heads up.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The acting attorney general informed the White House Counsel that they wanted to give, quote, "a heads

up" to us on some comments that may have seemed in conflict with what the - - he had sent the vice president in particular.

BROWN (on-camera): Sally Yates said the third time she talked to White House Counsel Don McGahn was when she called him to tell him that he could

come look at the classified material. That caused so much concern among her and other Department of Justice official. It's unclear she said if

that ever happened, because the same day she made that offer, she was fired by President Trump for refusing to back his travel ban.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


AMANPOUR: So CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins us now from New York.

Jeffrey, there is just so much wrong with all of this on the face of it.

First and foremost, you know, in what reality can they explain that it took 18 days after being warned not just about what Flynn said to the Russians,

but the fact that the Russians also most likely had that information, and they still didn't fire him?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the story, Christiane, is actually worse than what you're suggesting. Because you're making it sound

after 18 days the Trump administration made a considered judgment that it was time to fire Michael Flynn. That's not what happened.

What happened was "The Washington Post" reported publicly in their newspaper that Flynn had effectively lied to the vice president. So it was

"The Washington Post" that forced the Trump administration's hand.

If "The Washington Post" had not run that story, I think it is entirely possible that Michael Flynn would be the national security adviser even


So there was a complete absence of curiosity in the Trump administration about this bombshell disclosure that we heard just yesterday.

AMANPOUR: Listen, you're absolutely right. And let's score one for the press. The much vilified press probably saved this administration some

very serious compromising action down the road. So let's score one for the press there and put that right out there, because it's really important.

And it's good that you've raised it and also the senators did in the testimony. But can I again then just play this sound bite because even

right around that time, President Trump, even afterwards, continued to praise Flynn and take exception to the quote, unquote "leaking of the

material to the press."

Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The information was provided by -- who I don't know -- Sally Yates, and I was a little surprised because

I said, it doesn't sound like he did anything wrong there. But he did something wrong with respect to the vice president and I thought that was

not acceptable.


AMANPOUR: Honestly, it beggars belief. I mean, you know, we understand that he got the information. That there had been these conversations that

the Russians probably had it all. Could have blackmailed him. And the president is still saying that he doesn't think he did anything wrong

except mislead or lie to Pence.

TOOBIN: And over and over again since then, Donald Trump has gone out of his way to say nice things about Mike Flynn. That he doesn't think Mike

Flynn is a bad guy, that he --

AMANPOUR: So what's going on, Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: Well, say here. This is where we have to sort of step back and see the big picture here. Is that we know there has been, all the American

intelligence agencies said there was a concerted effort by the Russian government to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. That is at least

as far as we can tell beyond dispute.

What is also clear is that there were a series of overtures from people affiliated with the Trump campaign towards the Russian government. His

campaign chairman Paul Manafort; his son-in-law Jarred Kushner; his future attorney general Jeff Sessions; Carter Page, the foreign policy adviser.

What is also clear is that there were a series of overtures of people affiliated with the Trump campaign towards the Russian government. His

son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser. And Michael Flynn, of course, who went to Moscow and sat next to

Vladimir Putin for $35,000 at a Russian -- at a television celebration.

All of these efforts on behalf of improving relations towards Vladimir Putin on behalf of the Trump candidacy.

What we don't know is whether there was any coordination between the two, between the Russian efforts and all of these Trump administration

overtures. But that's sort of the big picture here.

AMANPOUR: Yes, the big picture. But I'm still staggered by a Justice Department official talking to the legal counsel of the White House, going

over there with the classified information, and telling him -- I mean, you're a legal person. You're a former prosecutor. What should that legal

counsel have done?

TOOBIN: Well, he should have asked for an immediate investigation and he should have asked for Mike Flynn's resignation immediately, because think

about it. You know, there is no more central figure in the American government in terms of the intelligence operations, in terms of our foreign

policy than the national security adviser.

He is the person who coordinates for the president all the information from the Defense Department, from the CIA, from the State Department. That is

the fulcrum of American foreign and security policy.

The idea that that person was vulnerable to blackmail from the Russians sounds like something from (INAUDIBLE) novel, but is in fact something that

actually happened and the Trump administration did nothing about it until, as we said, "The Washington Post" forced their hand.

AMANPOUR: All right, give me a two-word answer. Immunity, will Flynn get it? And has the White House given the papers and documents and things that

the Senate wants in order to conduct some kind of investigation?

TOOBIN: Well, you've got to give me three words -- I don't know. The investigation is moving slowly. It may yet proceed. But it is certainly

still at a very early stage.

AMANPOUR: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much. This story is not going away.

Up next, we imagine another new president entering the fray, as South Korea's liberal candidate breaks ten years of conservative rule.

How the child of refugees from the north became the South's new leader, after this.


AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we imagine another incredible journey 9,000 kilometers away from France. And that is the rise of South Korea's

President-elect Moon Jae-in.

He was born to North Korean refugees, and once arrested for taking part in pro-democracy protests. Now he ascends to the presidency and our Paula

Hancocks has this report on his remarkable story.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The man of the hour, Moon Jae-in was all smiles Tuesday night, clearly enjoying the

crowds and the moment.


MOON JAE-IN, SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT (through translator): From tomorrow, I will be the president for all the people.


HANCOCKS: Rewind to the 1970s, Moon was a Special Forces commando, not by choice but as punishment for fighting for democracy against a then

dictatorship. His former Colonel (INAUDIBLE) tells me Moon was thin with big scared eyes on first glance, but soon proved he was mentally tough,

supporting diplomacy with North Korea at a time when such talk could brand you a traitor.

"He told me we should punish the leader, but talk to the North Korean people. I was in shock. I told him don't talk rubbish and he not repeat

this to anyone else."

At the age of 64, Moon's opinions remain the same. The issue of North Korea is deeply personal for him. The son of North Korean refugees, his

parents fled south during the Korean War. He accompanied his mother to North Korea in 2004 for a rare family reunion so she could meet her sister

for the first time in decades. He's pro-engagement, pro-dialogue, but against North Korea's nuclear program.


MOON (through translator): To get rid of the North's nuclear weapons, to prevent further nuclear provocations, try lateral cooperation between South

Korea, the U.S. and China is needed.


HANCOCKS: The question is, how would President Moon get on with U.S. President Donald Trump? A former human rights lawyer versus a businessman.

A long-time politician versus a political novice.

"The president should not be a warmaker but a peacemaker," Moon said recently.

Moon organized the last summit between North and South Korea in 2007, while he was chief-of-staff to the last liberal president. He supports economic

integration with the north. His critics say he's soft on Pyongyang and some comments he would be willing to visit North Korea.

(on-camera): Many voters are simply happy to see a fresh start for the country with former President Park Geun-hye in jail, on trial for


For those who supported Moon throughout, they say that it's not just the national security, it's about his pledges for boosting the economy, for

creating jobs and also promises to clean up politics, business and pollution.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


AMANPOUR: New leadership from all corners of the globe, promising all sorts of solutions to the challenges they face at home.

That is it for our program tonight. And, remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from Paris.