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U.N. Diplomat Resigns from Maduro Government in Protest; Trump Confidant Gives Inside Take on the President; 5 Years of Zaatari Refugee Camp. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 27, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, as Venezuelan police and protesters clash in Caracas, a government defector tells me why he's

turning his back on President Maduro.


ISAIAS MEDINA, FORMER MINISTER COUNSELLOR, VENEZUELAN MISSION TO THE UN: That is systematically attacking protesters. That is not respecting the

constitutional right of manifestation.


AMANPOUR: And our own Paula Newton goes behind the barricades with Venezuela's resistance movement.

And a window on the White House with one of President Trump's closest friends and advocates. Chris Ruddy live here in the studio with me.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

And the situation gets worse and worse in Venezuela. Late news just in. The government has banned all protests ahead of an election to be held on

the 30th of this month.

This as anti-government protesters showed no signs of backing down. Even as things turn deadlier every day. Three more people, including a 16-year-

old boy are the latest to be killed in clashes with police on the streets.

The death toll now stands at 106 after nearly four months of protests. The opposition is against President Maduro's plans to rewrite the constitution

and to expand his powers.

The resistance is expanding its reach, too, as CNN's Paula Newton found out when she went behind the barricades to meet them.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The resistance doing battle on the streets of Caracas and upending the fierce struggle for the future

of Venezuela.

With homemade weapons and shields, they take on all comers, the National Guard, police, military, anyone standing between them and the democracy.

Their grit and determination is on display by the hour. It's a war waged block by block enforced with makeshift barricade.

(on-camera): So what you see here is the stanza coming up against the National Guard. They are taking whatever material they can. They just

took that gate across the building and they're going to continue to construct their barricades. The National Guard is insistent the barricades

have to come down.

(voice-over): Those barricades are frontlines. A way to make sure national strikes and protests get the government's attention.

Vigilantes are noble warrior. In a break from the fighting, one leader we call Junior shows us the piercing from rubber bullets and metal scraps.

Junior tells me they'll carry on, explaining the movement is more emotional than it is political.

"Yes, I'm a terrorist. If defending people's rights means being a terrorist," he tells me. "If it means defending them to the death."

(voice-over): Behind these masks are students, teachers, engineers, the faces of every day people using everything but the kitchen sink to wage


(on-camera): That was a tear gas canister.

(voice-over): Taking on an army with DIY shields.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a marble. In fact, this was a marble. You can see it went through the shield?

NEWTON: It went right through?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It went right through the shield.

NEWTON: And improvised explosives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the fireworks.


And you throw these at the National Guard and the police?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are defensive items, because they shoot at us marbles, live ammunition, metal marbles and this is our only way to defend


NEWTON: Combat here is so close to home, even Junior's mother Theresa tries to keep an eye on him.

(on-camera): And why are you here now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Looking at what's going on. Supporting him. I need to support him. He needs to fight.

NEWTON: He says he needs to fight?


NEWTON: La Resistencia is a movement that in every way challenges the notion of speaking truth to power. These combatants are done talking.

Paula Newton, CNN, Caracas.


[14:05:00] AMANPOUR: So what will happen now in the intervening moments since that protest? And the government now announcing a total ban on any

protest starting Friday in Venezuela ahead of the actual vote on Sunday.

The Trump administration has slapped sanctions on 13 Venezuelan government and military officials, but the resistance is going all the way to the top.

The attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz has become one of the few critical voices within the government.

And now the country's minister counselor, senior diplomat of the U.N. mission in New York has upped the ante by resigning and calling for the

president's immediate resignation.


MEDINA: They can do whatever they want. But know this. What I'm doing is the correct thing to do. And I assume full responsibility for it.


AMANPOUR: And he joins me now.

Isaias Medina, welcome to the program from New York.

Before I ask you why you've resigned and what you think, I want to ask you, what might happen if these resisters and protesters are determined to stay

on the streets after the government has now within the last couple of minutes announced a total ban?

MEDINA: Well, first of all, thank you, Christiane. It's an honor being here, and thank CNN for its veracity and its interest in the situation in

Venezuela. We need more friends to make Venezuelan crisis not such a foreign situation when we are close to the region.

And I must say that if the Sunday vote goes through, we are at the brink of civil war.

AMANPOUR: That is very dramatic. What do you mean by civil war?

MEDINA: I mean by any means necessary, as you have seen so far. This students in the street, of their resistance of which I pledge my total and

utmost respect and gratefulness for what they're doing. They're fighting for the constitutional right to bring the rule of law back to the country

and they will not stop. And this means that these two forces will clash limitless.

AMANPOUR: This is going to be a very dangerous situation, even more dangerous.

Give me in a nutshell why you have resigned. I mean, we've heard that you are protesting the brutal repression of those resistors, of the protesters.

But what do you think you can achieve by resigning. We're just hearing that potentially another member, I think, another diplomat has resigned

elsewhere as well.

MEDINA: Yes, I'm glad I heard yesterday that the Venezuelan consul in Panama also resigned due to the same reasons. And I applaud and commend

his decision. And I hope many others do the same.

And I must say that I resigned, as a matter I said, silence is the biggest partner for impunity. And I'm a fighter against impunity, and I believe

also my grandfather for example he gave up his government not to shed one drop of blood of Venezuelans due to that crisis of power hungry situation

that happened then. And I will do everything within my power to contribute for -- to free my country and to get back into a Democratic state.

AMANPOUR: OK. So what can you do?

We've seen now you, your fellow diplomats in Panama, we've seen Luisa Ortega, essentially the country's attorney general has turned against the

government but remains within the government.

What is it -- who are you trying to appeal to? We obviously know that the protesters are on the street, but the government has remained in control.

What is your constituency?

MEDINA: Well, I think the most important message is actually through the international media to the international community. Because this is not a

situation that has gone beyond the Venezuelan concern. This is a risk to international peace and security, and should be addressed by the

international community as concern.

Perhaps equal to or even may become worse than Syria. And maybe even the next North Korea and Latin America.

AMANPOUR: You really are using incredibly dramatic language. And I want to ask you since you have come from within the government, and I must say

here, we are constantly asking the Maduro government to put out their officials to give us their view of what's going on and they do continually

decline our invitation.

Mr. Medina, what is it like within the government? Is anybody telling Mr. Maduro the truth of what's going on? Does he know what's going on? Is he

getting any honest advice?

MEDINA: I could not tell you what he's getting. But what I can tell you that it seems to be a neo-totalitarian regime as JJ Rendon has called it.

And I will go in further as an international criminal organization.

So there's a huge scheme behind what everybody sees. And I think this is my responsibility to bring awareness to the international community. That

for example as our former Venezuelan president of security counsel Diego Arria and One of my dearest mentors has said that it's not only the chaos

in Venezuela, but the terror ties that makes this a concern of an international risk to the United States and to the international community.

AMANPOUR: You talk about the international community. But Cuba hasn't really had a huge effect, even though it's tried. The Vatican has tried.

The United States has slapped sanctions on. We even hear a leaked document from Delta Airlines, they are going to be suspending their planes coming in


I mean, that makes some difference to quality of life and to movement of people who can afford to do so.

Who can help? What is going to tip the balance, do you think?

MEDINA: Well, two things. I believe the rule of law -- international rule of law will have to be discussed in the Security Council under Chapter 7 if

possible unless there are vetoes.

And if there are, I think this should be taken swiftly by the United States and the European Union to address this humanitarian intervention that is

needed as an emergency in this country. Not only due to the systematically persecution of civilians and crimes against humanity that have been

committed in the last 100 days. But it is obvious and evident that there is more than 100 people dead already and more than 450 political prisoners.

15,000 injured.

I mean, the situation right now, it's so unstable that has to be addressed under the responsibility to protect doctrine. Civilians need to be

protected. And the international community as a whole has to respond.

AMANPOUR: Isaias Medina recently resigned U.N. diplomat for Venezuela. Thank you so much indeed for joining us. And painting a very, very grim

picture of what might happen between now and this election that's been called by the government for Sunday.

Now as I said, we've reached out to the Venezuelan government for comment and we continue to wait for a response.

Now as chaos continues to reign there in Venezuela, a kind of chaos theory reigns in the White House by design.

With one tweet, President Trump bans transgender people from the military. And names a gay rights opponent to be ambassador to the Netherlands. The

first country on earth to have legalized same-sex marriage.

So what does President Trump's friend and confidante Christopher Ruddy think of his latest maneuvers? I'll ask the Newsmax chief -- next.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Donald Trump, it's hard to grapple with how much he has changed the norms of the American presidency.

Here's how "The New York Times" put it.

"Mr. Trump has crossed so many lines, discarded so many conventions, said and done so many things that other presidents would not have. He has

radically shifted the understanding of what is standard in the White House."

Few people know the president's thinking better than Chris Ruddy. He's the CEO of Newsmax media and a personal friend of the president who often

consult him and he joins me now live here in the studio.


[14:15:00] CHRIS RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX MEDIA: Thank you for inviting me.

AMANPOUR: We have spoken across the satellites, but now I can get you to tell me what exactly is going on in the mind of your president.

RUDDY: Well, you really have to ask him what's going on in his mind. And I want to make clear. I have been a friend of his for a long time. I'll

always be a friend of his. But I don't speak for him and I don't speak certainly for his mind.

But what I can do and I try to interpret him as I know him, to people that don't know him. And I think I give a pretty good understanding of that.

AMANPOUR: So when did you last speak to him, for instance?

RUDDY: We chatted last week. He called me on Friday. Wanted to thank me about some Newsmax coverage we had done about the veteran's administration.

He has completely overhauling this administration. Brought in the heads of Mayo, Johns Hopkins. All the leading health firms. Reinventing the whole

VA. Nobody's talking about that. And that's the type of story I think he appreciates from Newsmax that we'll cover that one else does.

AMANPOUR: All right. So now you on Newsmax is a conservative operation?

RUDDY: Correct.

AMANPOUR: You are a conservative?


AMANPOUR: Your president faces some backlash from conservative quarters right now, and most of it over Attorney General Sessions.

So what I want to ask you is this.

Is he still considering firing, for instance, Special Counsel Mueller?

Do you think he will fire Sessions? And what are you telling him about how that's affecting, you know, the conservative base?

RUDDY: Well, I don't know what he's going to do on any of those things. I have said publicly that I think it would be a mistake to fire him -- the

special counsel.

I've also said publicly that I believe that the president's success comes from his popularity. And this is a man who I've always known has been a

unifier and that cross people together.

Now I know some people don't feel that because of the very bitter campaign that was waged and the harsh media attacks that are going on against him.

AMANPOUR: That's a two-way street, but anyway we'll get there in a second.


RUDDY: I think he can reach out. And if he passes some bipartisan legislation, not just on taxes and infrastructure. Health care, student

loans, all sorts of things he can do. And I think he can grab that center. And he's the Republican that can do it.

Remember, he was the guy that came out and called for protecting people on social security, protecting on Medicare. And I think when he's very true

to his core values, I think he brings people together.

AMANPOUR: I'm going to talk exactly to those two points that you raised, because I've got things that I want to play for you and have you respond.

But first about Sessions, how dangerous is it for him? With his conservative base to keep up his campaign against Sessions. We hear that

his aids are telling him to tone it down. That Senators have said that there could be a conservative revolt against him.

RUDDY: Well, you know, the president lets people know how he feels. It doesn't mean that he's going to necessarily act in a way that will be

harmful to his political interests.

Sessions is popular with conservatives, but Donald Trump is a lot more popular. I don't know of any Republican president in recent history had

the base so strongly and consistently. And the poll data shows this.

Over 90 percent of the people who voted for him support him still. So I know the independents have floated around, and we're hearing a little bit

of criticism on the Sessions thing. But nobody is saying that they are going to oppose the president.

AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, you've seen to this point the maneuvering in the Senate, in Congress to actually try to stave off the president's, what they

consider worst excesses. There does seem to be a push back from Republicans because they think that polls show that he is less popular than

they are for instance in their home districts. They're not afraid of him anymore.

RUDDY: Well, it is true that his popularity and approval numbers are down. But it's also true those approval numbers are not far from where Barack

Obama was at that 40 percent level. Most of his presidency during the two terms.

So considering, Christiane, this president has undergone the most negative barrage of press criticism in the history of the country. Even assurance

team study out of Harvard showed 70, 80 percent. They said it broke all historical precedents.

Now I think we all need to get beyond this. I think the president needs to hit the reset button. Not worry so much about Sessions and Mueller, worry

about making the country better by putting the legislation he said he was going to do.

AMANPOUR: Exactly.

RUDDY: And he's the guy that can do it.

AMANPOUR: So let me ask you about, because you raised health care, you raised infrastructure and the like.

So let us play President Trump on health care, several -- what we call bits of sound bites put together from January through May.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have one problem. We have to take care of the American people immediately.

We're going to take care of every single need you're going to want to have taken care of.

We're going to take care of a lot of people, great, great people from this country with their health care, their health care needs.


AMANPOUR: OK so we hear him saying that. We hear him say that he wants to take care of people. And yet the independent CBO and the others say that

if he is successful, that this will throw millions of Americans off their health plan and out of health care.

[14:20:00] RUDDY: I personally hated this health care plan. When it was promulgated by Ryan, I wrote a blog on Newsmax saying, terrible plan, the

president should distance himself.

Why? Because I don't think it's completely consistent with his vision for health care.

Now that said, you know, people say, oh, this is a president that's dictatorial and he doesn't listen to people. He comes to Washington. He

says, you and Congress have been studying this for 8, 10 years, whatever. You figured it out. They present him with a plan and he figures this is

the good plan. And he takes their advice, runs with the football.

What he didn't realize, it was a very damaged football. They didn't even get the buy in of their own House members. They didn't get the buy in of

their Senate colleagues, and the president has been fixing the mess that these guys created.

So I think the lesson here, Christiane, for the president is, don't let Congress lead.

When Donald Trump -- my experience is, when this guy leads, when he organizes something, it's done properly.

AMANPOUR: OK. So I want to ask you something because people will asked, you know, what surprised you the most about the first six months in office?

And a lot of people said a lot of things.

You said some day historians will join me in looking back in awe at how Donald Trump wielded the power of the bully pulpit like no other president.

RUDDY: That's correct.

AMANPOUR: From unscripted press (INAUDIBLE).

OK. So, you know, you say people will look back and realize, etcetera. So he, for instance, during the campaign reached out to the LGBT community,

said he would be so much better for them than Hillary Clinton would.

And now he tweets in just one fell swoop to the dismay and surprise of his own Pentagon that no more transgender in the military. Listen to what one

of the soldiers told our own Anderson Cooper last night.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have one particular friend who's in the army, and she speaks Farsi, Arabic, about five other languages. And she's been in

the war zone a couple of times and you know, back and forth. She's immensely capable. How are you going to replace that person?


AMANPOUR: I mean --

RUDDY: So here's another thing. I don't think that tweet is pretty consistent with the Donald Trump I know.

This is a guy -- doesn't have a racist bone in his body. Doesn't have a prejudice bone in his body.

He just nominated or is about to nominate Rick Cornell as ambassador of Germany. Very prominent gay Republican. Great American. Very strong on

foreign policy.

AMANPOUR: So what's going on then?

RUDDY: So I don't know completely.

You know, sometimes the president gets an idea on something or he gets some advice, and the joint chiefs came out with a statement today as you may

know saying that the actual policy regarding transgender has not changed and is not going to immediately change.

AMANPOUR: But that's what we're faced with. The president tweeting something, and then his bureaucracy, his administration having to correct

it, having doing this.

You know, I described it as chaos theory. Maybe it's deliberate, maybe it's by design, but it's keeping everybody a little off kilter.

RUDDY: It's good for the news business. But, you know, my approach is I think he should tweet. I think it's brilliant he communicates with 30

million people directly. It should be edited and reviewed. So that I think should happen. I would encourage him to do that.

But I also think that this is a process for him. You know, he's a business guy. He was a television star for 15 years. He's a New York guy. He

likes to let it hang out on his shirt sleeve. Just tell people what he thinks. It doesn't necessarily mean all of those things will become

policy. So I think he'll listen to what people are saying, he'll reflect on it, and he will adjust.

AMANPOUR: All right. Well, you have a very, very interesting interpreting role. And we will continue to call on you for interpretation of this very

unusual president.

RUDDY: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much, indeed, Chris Ruddy.

And when we come back, it's not quite happy birthday, but the world's largest Syrian refugee camp is marking an anniversary. Imagining Jordan's

Zaatari camp five years on. That's next.


[14:26:15] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we imagine a distressed anniversary.

This Friday, the Zaatari refugee camp will mark five years since it was set up as a temporary base for Syrians fleeing their brutal war. Located just

inside the border with Jordan, it's now the largest Syrian refugee camp in the world. And half a million people have passed through. At any one time

it's home to tens of thousands.

When I visited the camp earlier this year, I found a place of pain but also some hope.


AMANPOUR: This is Zaatari, a sprawling refugee city of 80,000 that has morphed from tents and top pollen to fixed abodes with electricity.

Most of these camps inhabitants fled when the war erupted in Daraa.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): At first we were moving from place to place. For fear of the bombings. Nowhere was safe for us. And

the children suffered. They were in constant fear. And whenever they heard a noise, they hid. They started to have some sort of posttraumatic


AMANPOUR: Here, some 1,000 refugees a day come dressed in their best hoping to find their own gateway to somewhere. Mindful of the Trump

administration's efforts to ban Syrian refugees. The UNHCR Paul Stromberg tells me vetting here is about as extreme as it gets.

Every day Syrians try to voluntarily head back across the border. If only Bashar al-Assad and his barrel bombs would let them.


AMANPOUR: And we are still waiting for some final resolution to that war. And that's 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 good-bye from London.