Return to Transcripts main page


Former Intel Chief Says American Democracy "Under Assault"; Behind the Scenes of Emmanuel Macron's Victory; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired May 15, 2017 - 14:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: President Trump makes his first foreign trip this week.

Can he leave the growing Comey crisis behind?

The former U.S. presidential candidate and CIA operative Evan McMullin joins us as well as professor at Princeton Bernard Haykel.

Also ahead, first stop Berlin for the new French president as he gets down to E.U. business with Chancellor Merkel and names his prime minister.

We'll have a special report on the filmmaker who got up close and personal behind the scenes of the Macron campaign.

And we imagine a world where a D-Day veteran becomes the world's oldest skydiver at 101 years old.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone. Welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Fallout from President Trump's firing of the FBI director James Comey is straining the fabric of American democracy. That was a warning from the

former U.S. intelligence chief, James Clapper, on CNN this weekend.


GEN. JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I think in many ways our institutions are under assault both externally -- and that is

the big news here is the Russian interference in our election system. And I think as well our institutions are under assault internally.


CLAPPER: Exactly.


AMANPOUR: Those are stark words. And amid growing calls by 80 percent of Americans polled, who favor an independent investigation, the majority of

Republicans in Congress remain opposed.

While this domestic crisis casts a long shadow over foreign affairs, there is a new missile test and new threats from North Korea. At the end of this

week the president leaves for his first major international trip. Ahead of that, he hosts the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates at the White

House. And tomorrow, he welcomes Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Increasingly autocratic himself, he is known for firing prosecutors on his case.

So given the political turmoil at home, is President Trump prepared for this global debut?

Joining me now are Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer and independent presidential candidate in the 2016 elections, and Bernard Haykel, professor

of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University.

Welcome to you both.

Let me start with you, professor, here in London with me.

What impact do you think this domestic crisis is having or is playing on some of the hosts that President Trump is going to meet when he travels the

world this coming week?

BERNARD HAYKEL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: I really don't think that they are concerned about what is happening domestically in the United States. Their

aim, especially when it comes to the Arabs and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, is to make this a huge success for the president.

I mean, they are setting it up so that he has a major, major foreign policy success.

Why would that be?

It's obviously not just for him; it's for them as well.

What do they see in this president?

Let's stay in Saudi Arabia.

HAYKEL: I think they see three things. First, they see that he sees eye to eye with them when it comes to Iran, that Iran is the principle source

of disruption and trouble in the Middle East. That is definitely -- they appreciate that.

They also think and they see that he has realized that you cannot defeat ISIS if you don't have the major Sunni states on your side.

And I think the third thing that they see is that he wants to improve his reputation and image when it comes to Muslims. And they are going to hand

him a major ceremony, a set of events, in which he meets with most of the major leaders of the Sunni world.

AMANPOUR: Well, let's go back to that in a moment.

Evan McMullin, you ran as an independent in the election. You have been long skeptical and you've warned for a long time about these autocratic

tendencies of the president; to wit, the firing of James Comey. You just heard what the professor said and he is steeped in knowledge of the leaders

in this part of the world.

What do you think as an American that this domestic crisis will tell the rest of the world?

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think the professor is correct. And actually, my concern about the rise of

authoritarianism through Donald Trump came from my experience serving as a CIA operative in the Middle East. And so I think leaders there have fewer

objections to certainly perhaps no objections to the kind of anti- democratic --


MCMULLIN: -- activities that Donald Trump has been involved in since he took office and even before taking office. So they are not going to let

that get in the way of the kinds of wins and positive relations that the professor was describing.

I think other parts of the world -- and I think people who seek to be free -- are disappointed by what they see in the United States. When I talk to

foreigners abroad and foreign leaders abroad, who look at what Donald Trump is doing, leaders who are not autocratic, they are very concerned about

what it means for their own countries and what it means for the cause of liberty globally.

AMANPOUR: And of course you will be moving on from the Middle East to Europe. He has got G7, he's got the NATO, he's got E.U. leaders to meet


But can I just stay on this Comey issue for a moment because it has sort of sucked up all the oxygen. It is extraordinary that the polls show that 80

percent of Americans want an independent investigation. You yourself have called for an independent commission on this issue.

What is it, though -- I mean, do you think Congress needs to step up because 80 percent of Republicans disagree and they remain opposed?

How is this going to be resolved?

MCMULLIN: That's right. So the Republicans, of course, control all of Congress and they have the White House, too. In our system of government,

there are checks and balances that prevent anyone from becoming too powerful.

And when all of the federal government is under the control of one party, those checks and balances, especially the separation between the executive

branch and the legislative branch or Congress, are particularly important.

Right now we have a situation in which Republicans in Congress, seeing that most Republican primary voters are -- continue to support the president,

they are not supportive of more robust investigation.

That is why I'm calling on them, my organization, Standup Republic, is calling on them to lead. They need to do what is right. They need to show

the American people, including Republican voters, what the right path is instead of simply taking the easy road and doing very little.

And so Americans in general are increasingly wanting an independent investigation of some kind. I believe Republican voters will soften their

opposition to that over time, as they see that this is truly needed. I'm optimistic that that will change.

AMANPOUR: And back to the business of foreign policy, Professor Haykel, can I just play a little bit of some snippets about Saudi Arabia that the

president uttered in the past?

And can the Saudis get over the kind of rhetoric that he has been saying in public?


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It wasn't the Iraqis. You will find out who really knocked down the World Trade Center because

they have papers out there that are very secret. You might find it's the Saudis. OK? So these are people that push gays off business -- off

buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly.


AMANPOUR: I mean, you know, he is saying all of that stuff. A lot of people do say that kind of stuff.

Why should the Saudi king, the crown prince and all others receive him so warmly?

HAYKEL: Largely because they think that they were very badly treated by President Obama. And he represents a major shift against Iran and back to

the old strategic relationship that the kingdom has had with the United States since 1945.

I don't think they take seriously what he said during the campaign. And, in any event, the second clip really was about ISIS. I mean Saudis don't

push gays off buildings. That is something that ISIS does.


AMANPOUR: I think that he was probably saying that they are all -- they're pretty antigay. And we have had plenty of (INAUDIBLE) who were gay being

arrested and stuff.


HAYKEL: Yes. And that --

AMANPOUR: Anyway, that is the human rights perspective.

HAYKEL: -- and that is true throughout the Middle East, unfortunately.

But I think they think of him as bringing back a strategic relationship. And they want to support him. They will announce things like probably $40

billion in infrastructure investments in the United States, probably between $100 billion and $300 billion worth of arms procurements and


I mean, these are major, major victories in terms of jobs and job creation in the United States.

AMANPOUR: For the president.

HAYKEL: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that he is going to be able to at all advance the very lofty goal that many presidents have tried and failed at, for

instance, when he goes to Israel and meets the Israelis and the Palestinians?

HAYKEL: Well, I think this trip to the kingdom is fraught with peril in that he might push the Saudis to give a major concession to the Israelis

and then go to Jerusalem and say, look, what I got for you and not ask the Israelis for something similar because the basis of the solution to the

Arab-Israeli conflict is --


HAYKEL: -- the 2002 Arab peace initiative, which requires --


HAYKEL: -- which was Saudi led and Saudi initiated. And it requires Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. And if he gets something

from the Saudis without a quid pro quo from the Israelis, then he will tarnish and embarrass the Saudis.

For instance, another thing he could do is move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That would also be hugely embarrassing to the Saudis.

AMANPOUR: And back to you, Evan McMullin, what do you think, as your president goes forth into these very, very sensitive areas, at which a lot

is at stake?

Number one, can he be counted on not to say something or do something that might upset the apple cart?

And how important is it to the United States to get these kinds of moves from the Saudis, whether it's job, infrastructure or those kinds of


MCMULLIN: Well, I certainly don't think he can be counted on to not say something embarrassing to the country. I mean, if there is one thing we

have learned, that should be it. But I think he probably will score some wins in this way, the kinds that have been described in this conversation.

But my point is that we can't let those kinds of wins lull us into a sense of -- a sense that things are all right. We cannot compromise our ability

to choose our own leaders and to hold them accountable through our system of governance. We cannot compromise those in trade for policy wins, no

matter how important they may be.

And we shouldn't have to decide between the two. We should be able to have both. And the other thing I'll say is that it's unfortunate that, during

this trip, I would expect Donald Trump to be very weak on calling for human rights, very weak in advocating for liberty, basic human decency, the basic

human rights in these countries, where they are not respected, especially Saudi Arabia.

That is -- he is sending a message to the world, I'm concerned, that those things are no longer important to the United States and it will have a

dangerous effect.

AMANPOUR: We will watch to see. It is really fascinating, this. Evan McMullin, thanks for joining us from Washington.

Professor Bernie Haykel, thank you for being here.

And switching now to Europe, President Trump backs some of the disrupters in recent elections there. But France bucked the populist anti-E.U. trend

and elected Emmanuel Macron, who sealed his first full day on the job with a warm handshake in Berlin. We look at political whirlwinds that carried

him to the Elysee Palace -- next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

He was sworn in yesterday and today the new French president named his prime minister. He is a Edouard Philippe, a 46-year-old mayor and a

relative unknown in French politics. And, significantly, he does not come from the same centrist party as Macron but rather from the center right

Republicans Party.

His appointment comes as Macron makes good on his pro-Europe campaign and makes his first official visit to Berlin for talks with the German

Chancellor Angela Merkel. More on that in just a moment with Regis Le Sommier, who's deputy editor of "Paris Match."

But first a fascinating inside look at Macron's extraordinary rise to the top, which --


AMANPOUR: -- was captured on camera by a film crew. For months, Macron allowed the team to follow him around, recording the highs and lows of his

unusual, unprecedented campaign.

The footage has been turned into a fly on the wall documentary and our senior international correspondent, Jim Bittermann, met the director in

Paris to talk about it.



JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a meteoric rise from nowhere in a presidential campaign that had drama like

no other. Now it may be coming to a screen near you, mainly because tagging along for seven months of the campaign was filmmaker Yann


YANN L'HENORET, FILMMAKER: The idea is -- was to shoot a documentary about someone who was the -- a first-timer.

I think I was lucky.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): L'Henoret promised he would move around Macron, as he puts it, "like a cat." He was allowed near-total access to the

candidate and the inner workings of the campaign and Macron quite willingly agreed to wear a radio microphone.

L'HENORET: I told him, OK, if you want to shut it down, there is a button here. You can shut it down anytime you want. He never did it in seven

months. He said, OK, I want to move everything in politics. So after I accept a new kind of documentary. I trust you.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): The result for L'Henoret and his producers was 150 hours of raw footage, which the filmmaker was able to turn around into

a nationally broadcast 90-minute documentary the day after Macron was elected.

So what does someone who spent so much time in intimate contact with the new president think of the qualities that propelled him from the political

wilderness to the top of the national hierarchy?

L'HENORET: I think he is spontaneous, which is sometimes bad. He was very calm, always very calm and very funny. Everybody was laughing because he

had to evacuate this press.

I don't think Emmanuel Macron knew all those things were going to happen. I think he adapted each time. He is strong in this kind of situation, that

he was able to adapt every time.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): That ability to adapt was no more evident than between the first and second rounds of the election, when Macron went to a

northern town to meet with union leaders and managers at a factory, which was in danger of shutting down.

While he was in his meetings with the officials, his opponent, Marine Le Pen, pulled off a surprise visit to the striking workers themselves. Here

is how Macron found out about it and drew out his agenda for the rest of the day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Has she gone? Has she gone already?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): (INAUDIBLE) left the parking lot. (INAUDIBLE) she stayed for 20 minutes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): I will never be safe. This is the way the country is nowadays. (INAUDIBLE) take the risk. (INAUDIBLE) so let's

(INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE) if you listen to the security guys you'll end up (INAUDIBLE). Maybe you're safe, but you're dead.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking French).

BITTERMANN (voice-over): That willingness to take risks is another quality the film maker saw repeatedly in the new president, also his willingness to

listen to a small group of loyalists who were there from the beginning of the campaign, all the way to the presidential palace.

And always, behind the scenes with advice and counsel, was the new first lady of France, Brigitte Macron.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking French).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking French).


BITTERMANN (voice-over): And as for the future of all of that footage L'Henoret shot, and his producers are in negotiations with Netflix to

perhaps stream a reformatted documentary on an international scale.

And with a president open to nontraditional media coverage one might even envision a continuing behind-the-scenes reality series as the new president

comes to grips with the levers of power -- Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


AMANPOUR: Well, it was extraordinary access. Let's talk about it with Regis Le Sommier, the deputy editor of "Paris Match," who is joining me now

from Paris.

Regis, that was an amazing documentary, not just because of the access but because of what they discovered about him, that he takes risks, that he is

ready everything up in the air, even at his own expense, as he said, to change France, to make a whole new reform.

Is he going to be able to carry that through now that he is actually president?

REGIS LE SOMMIER, "PARIS MATCH": Well, that is a problem -- I mean, we have seen this documentary. But you know, when it comes to Marine Le Pen

and what he did, visiting the workers at Whirlpool (ph) factory, well, he had no choice.

Marine Le Pen had made the first step -- and the question of image, she was stealing the show. so he had no choice but to go there. He made that

decision. Had he not done that and made that decision, that would be a terrible problem, leaving the field for his opponent.

So basically what we see is the inside version of --


LE SOMMIER: -- a critical moment during the campaign.

Now will he deliver?

We don't know. A new prime minister was nominated today, Edouard Philippe. Edouard Philippe backed one of Macron's opponents during the campaign. He

was behind Fillon.

But when you think about it, back then, Edouard Philippe was a man, the mayor of Le Havre and who has been -- who is known for being somebody close

to the people. Edouard Philippe himself said Macron is able to deliver magnificent speeches. But can he connect to the people?

Even his prime minister made that criticism during the campaign. So it is now up in the air. We'll see what comes next.

AMANPOUR: Well, now he's the prime minister, he's going to have to help deliver.

So what does one do?

He is the youngest president. And yet it is true that he had a youth deficit. The youth did not come out for him in the kinds of numbers that

one would have hoped.

What does he have to do now?

He's called for reform. He even talked with Angela Merkel today and we've just had a press conference between them both. They want a frank and

direct, constructive relationship. They need reform. And they need to do all sorts of things between Europe and France to make it work for him here.

Do you think that that is going to happen?

LE SOMMIER: Well, I think going to Berlin was a smart choice because that was part of what he said during the campaign. He is a pro-European and

there were not many -- let's put it that way -- not many candidates that were for more Europe or for a different kind of Europe.

You take Melenchon, who was the far left; you take Le Pen, who is the extreme right. Even Fillon had reservation about this entity that is very

administrative-driven. And Macron was the only one to say we have to back Europe. So his first political move going towards Berlin is perfectly

normal, I think. Now that comes at a critical time because the leadership of Germany is in danger in Europe. And there is danger on the currency,

the euro, as well.

Everything is really fragile right now, especially after the Brexit. So I think what Macron did, he made this step, going very early to Berlin, in

order to strengthen what is the traditional pillar of the European Union, which is the close relation between Germany and France.

AMANPOUR: And obviously you know the new French president meets Angela Merkel, whose party swept the local elections over the weekend and did much

better than they expected in Germany.

So the question is, people are still looking at this populist wave.

Do you think it has crested?

Or do you think -- because they talk about young people not just in France but in the rest of Europe as still being fairly driven to the extremes.

LE SOMMIER: Well, you know, what -- choosing somebody from the Right as a prime minister I think is a smart move. But what might end up happening is

the Right is going to blow up between more conservative elements and more center rights, who are going to back Macron.

Now that said, will this be enough to carry him a majority in parliament in one month?

The legislative elections are happening in one month. And talk about the youth. Talk about also other segments of the population that did not back

Macron on the first round of the election. You have to consider that France was split in four parties and three of them, the traditional right

behind Fillon, Melenchon with the extreme left, the populist left, let's put it that way, and the populist right behind Marine Le Pen.

These people did not back Macron. And that vote carried 60 percent of the whole electorate. So he needs to be actually move something. He needs to

put France in action or put his words in action first and make maybe bold decision.

But as of now we don't really know where he is going to bring the country. He is picking elements to the Right. He's picking elements to the Left.

And we'll see where that comes out. But still, no major move has been done. The first target is the election in one month.

AMANPOUR: And we're going to watch then. He has certainly been bold up until now. We'll see whether it carries through.

Regis Le Sommier, thank you so much.

And when we come back, we cross from France's youngest president to imagining the world's oldest skydiver 73 years after he landed in France on

Normandy on D-Day. He has now gone up in the air and down in history. That's next.





AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine spending your 101st year on Earth being dropped from 15,000 feet above it. Verdun Hayes (ph) broke the world

record for oldest human skydiver this weekend, as four generations of his family glided through the skies above Devon in England.

A total of 10 relatives joined him up in the air to raise money for the British Legion. A veteran of World War II's D-Day Verdun (ph) had received

France's highest civilian award, the Legion d'Honneur, for his bravery during the war.

And that courage certainly stuck with him into old age. He may have stormed onto those Normandy beaches in 1944, but Mr. Hayes first took to

the skies only last year when he was 100 years old, breaking the British record for oldest skydiver.

As if that wasn't enough for this thrill seeker, now at 101 years and 38 days, he has reached new heights for the elderly adrenaline junkies all

over the world. Upon landing, he summed up the experience pretty succinctly.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you feeling?

VERDUN HAYES, WORLD'S OLDEST SKYDIVER: Oh, absolutely over the moon, what a jump! Absolutely.


AMANPOUR: Over the moon, flat on his back, safely back on Earth.

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

Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.