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Trump Blames Congress for Bad Relations with Russia; Corruption Probe Ushers in New Pakistani PM; Embryo Breakthrough Raises Ethical Questions. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 3, 2017 - 14:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: Tonight, on the program, the Republican revolt. Senator Jeff Flake tells me why he is taking on Donald Trump.

Plus, Pakistan has a new leader but for how long? The country's former ambassador to Washington joins me to discuss.

And the controversial scientific breakthrough that could change our human genes forever.

And good evening, everyone. Welcome to the program. I'm Michael Holmes in for Christiane Amanpour.

"The Washington Post" has published transcripts of contentious, private phone calls President Trump had earlier this year with the leaders of

Australia and Mexico.

To Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, quote, "I've had it. I have been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call all day.

Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous."

And to Mexico's President Enrique Pea Nieto, quote, "If you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to

meet with you guys anymore. This is the least important thing that we are talking about. But politically, this might be the most important talk


Now the release comes as Mister Trump's approval rating has now hit a new and historic low as he prepares to go on vacation from more than two weeks,

33 percent approval.

He is lashing out at Congress for passing new sanctions against Russia blaming them for bad relations. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

agreed to sign, quote, "The hope of improving our relations with the new administration has ended."

He said more than that as well. Matthew Chance is in Moscow. He joins us now.

Matthew, unusually strong comments from the Prime Minister. At least Putin had hope for a Trump presidency to change Russian-U.S. dynamic. It would

appear the hopes are dashed.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And this statement from Dmitry Medvedev, who was himself often criticized for being

an impotent figure in the Russian administration. So underline the idea that the Russians have abandon hope, all hope that Donald Trump is going to

be the U.S. president to turn around that very difficult relationship between Washington and Moscow.

I mean, look at these words. It's incredible. He said the Trump administration demonstrated complete impotence in the most humiliating

manner. The American establishment completely outplayed Trump and the sanctions basically put Trump in his place. And so this is a criticism not

just of Congress. And we've had Russian officials criticizing Congress for passing the sanctions bill. This is criticism of Donald Trump himself from

the Russian Prime Minister.

So, again, underlining that idea that the Russians are very disappointed in the, that Trump is not after all the man who is going to be able to deliver

transformational change when it comes to the relationship between Moscow and Washington.

And, again, this is quite astonishing in this kind of roller coaster relationship. Another turn, another twist in this roller coaster

relationship between these two countries.

HOLMES: And President Trump tweeting he is blaming Congress for all of this. These low points in the relationship.

Matthew, we'll leave it there. Thank you so much. Matthew Chance there in Moscow.

Well, Republican criticism of President Trump has been rare, but it is increasing. Senator Jeff Flake is a Republican. He has consistently

spoken out. His new book is "Conscience of a Conservative." He joins me now from Washington.

Senator, thanks very much for your time.

Firstly, those comments by the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that any hope of improving relations with the U.S. has ended. Mister Trump is a

quite, quote, incompetent player. His administration has demonstrated a complete impotence. And then the president saying that relations are at an

all time low in Congress. Your response?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE, U.S. SENATE REPUBLICAN: Aim for the relationship lies directly with Putin. I mean, he tries to interfere in our elections. He

invades Crimea. Messing with Ukraine. Threatening other countries. You know, it's his issue, not ours. So I think the blame know expenses issued

on our so on. I think the blame is misplaced.

HOLMES: You write in your book about the, quote, "Sugar high of populism." That you can win elections that way, but not govern. It is not a governing


Is that what is happening, though, with the Trump administration and the Republican Party?

FLAKE: Well, I do think that the party has given in. And this started happening long before President Trump came along. But this kind of, yes,

as you mentioned sugar high of populism.

[14:05:00] You know, it's easier for a politician to point to a shattered factor for example and blame the Chinese or the Mexicans for taking those

jobs, when the real answer is far more complex than that.

It's automation, it's mechanisation, it's globalization. But the way to respond to that is through job-training programs or something else, but not

to tell them that their jobs are going to come back if we just get rid of these free-trade agreements.

HOLMES: You make these warnings about popularism and the party going off course. But it has to be said there was an analysis on the 538 Web site.

That you voted for Trump policies 93.5 percent of the time, including repealing Obamacare without replacing it, and then much-criticized "skinny


You wrote about the risks of a sloppy repeal of Obamacare, but didn't you just vote for that?

FLAKE: Well, when you look at the votes that the Senate has cast since the president has been in office, in the first six months of any

administration, almost all of the Senate does is prove the president's personnel. So I voted yes, because I think the president ought to put

together his cabinet.

I've departed from the president in terms of Russia sanctions. I've supported him when he has done things like name Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme

Court, or a tackled regulation.

So I will agree with this president when I think he is right and opposed him when I think he is wrong. I think he has been wrong on free-trade.

He's talked about NAFTA. In the campaign, talking about getting rid of it. I'm glad that that's moved to renegotiation. I hope we simply modernize

and move ahead.

But like any Republican or Democratic presidents, myself and I supposed other senators, we'll keep our franchise and not be a rubber stamp.

HOLMES: You also write, quote, "We observed the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively all but saying someone should do

something without seeming to realize that someone is asked."

What are you suggesting should be done? What are you doing?

FLAKE: Well with regard to separation of powers and making sure that we each provide a check on the other, I think Congress needs to step up to the

plate. I think a lot of us had a problem with the timing and the rationale for the firing of Jim Comey.

I know that myself and others have spoken out recently, when it's been talked about that the AG might go, and that that might be some kind of

precursor to getting rid of the special counsel.

I think the Congress needs to stand up for the institutions of government. When somebody degrades our intelligence agencies and says that they are

simply wrong about Russian interference, for example, in the election. I think we need to stand up and say that is not right.

HOLMES: It is interesting that you put this book out at a time when you are up for re-election. Are you taking a risk by doing that, or are you

flying in some ways to the antipathy among Republicans towards Donald Trump.

And it is interesting. We should point out according to a new poll out today, your approval ratings are around 18 percent among Arizonians. Sorry

to point that out.

Could this work in your favor?

FLAKE: Anybody who was an incumbent in an off years are going to have poor numbers like this. I think John McCain's when he was in my position a year

out from his election was something like a 30 percent approval, 56 on disapproval and he ended up winning by double digits in both the primary

and the general.

So you run election or campaigns for a reason. Having said that, I think we've got to accomplish something as a Congress, or the people will blame

us and say that, hey, they can't get their act together.

So in terms of writing a book, it certainly would have been easier to do it after I was safely re-elected, but I felt it was important to speak out

now. You can always find an excuse not to do what you think you should. I felt that this was important now. It might have election consequences, but

I'll deal with those. I think it was important to speak up.

HOLMES: What's been the reaction from your fellow Republicans. We are seeing more members of the party speak out against the president or at

least some of his policies. You know, the transgender issue; the military ban tweeted out this past week; the immigration ban is another.

I'm pushing back on the president's views on Russia's sanction. But what are they saying to you about what you have written?

FLAKE: I think some of that happens being willing, more willing to depart from the president's agenda. As you know, the years go on or as you've

move further away from the election. So that happens as a matter of course.

But if you look in history, in my own case, when President Bush was elected in 2001, that's the year I came to the House of Representatives and I

opposed his signature initiative, "No Child Left Behind" and then the "Prescription Drug Benefit." I voted against. But I was with him on most

things. And that's the way I think most senators treat their jobs.

Their voters expect them not to be rubberstamped, but to exercise their own franchise.

Mr. Trump, of course, continues to play to his base which has been incredibly loyal all along.

It was interesting the latest Quinnipiac Poll as we pointed out has his approval down to 33 percent. Mr. Trump's a massive 61 percent disapproval.

Bad news for Republicans who are facing re-election.

[14:10:32] Do you see more Republicans in Congress distancing themselves from this president. Is there going to be a Republican revolt of sort.

No, I think it will be issue by issue on tax policy. I think Donald Trump, what he has outlined at least is pretty general Republican orthodoxy, lower

the rates and broaden the base.

I think his instincts there are pretty good. So I think you will find most Republican supporting him on that. On the immigration thing, for example,

that was put out, you know, in the 744 bill, the so-called bipartisan or Gang of Eight bill that we did before.

I supported this way to deal with the merit-based system that they have outlined here. But we didn't cut the numbers in half. And so I would

certainly oppose cutting the number of illegal immigrants in half, and I think a lot of my colleagues would as well. So it will depend on the issue

with the president comes forward with. We will support him when we think he is right and opposed him when we think he is wrong.

HOLMES: All right. Republican Senator Jeff Flake. You got the book out. Thanks so much for being with us on the program.

FLAKE: Thanks for having me on.

HOLMES: All right, after the break, we get the latest on the political turmoil in Pakistan. But, first, a story that caught our eye in

remembering Afghanistan.

You may remember last month we told you about six Afghan girls who captured the world's imagination, overcoming visa restrictions and getting to attend

a robotics tournament in the U.S.

The captain of that team, 14-year-old Fatemah Qaderyan spoke passionately of her parent's support.

Well, on Tuesday evening, tragedy struck Fatemah's family. The father among those killed by ISIS suicide bombers while worshiping in Herat,

Afghanistan. 36 other people were killed.


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone, to the program.

While the world threats over nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, there is already a nuclear armed states threatened by political upheaval.

Pakistan has a new interim Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who took over after a shock decision, Friday, by the Supreme Court to toss Nawaz

Sharif, out of office on corruption allegations.

Sharif's brother is widely expected to take over within months if he is elected to parliament first. All of this raising questions of nepotism,

stability, and the role of Pakistan's all-powerful military establishment.

Husain Haqqani once served as Nawaz Sharif's spokesman and also as Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. He joined me earlier from Washington.


[14:15:19] HOLMES: Mr. Ambassador, thanks for your time.

Nawaz Sharif's brother, Shehbaz Sharif, he's been tapped to take over as prime minister. But Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who has been sworn in on an

interim basis, he has indicated he is not a benchwarmer. He is talking already about what he's going to do.

What if he decides to stay?

HUSAIN HAQQANI, AUTHOR, "PAKISTAN BETWEEN MOSQUE AND MILITARY": Well, I don't think that that decision will be his. After all, Mr. Nawaz Sharif

does control the Pakistan assembly, which is the leading party in Parliament as of now.

So I think it will be a joint decision between them. Mr. Abbasi is quite a capable person and he might actually help the party get rid of any

association of pain with the Sharif family.

Back in the 90s, you were a special assistant then spokesperson for Nawaz Sharif.

Are you surprise to see where your former boss has ended up at the moment?

I'm not surprised at all. That's why I left being with him in 1993, within three years.

Look, Mr. Sharif started his political career backed by the military, backed by the Pakistani into services intelligence. There were allegations

of financial wrongdoing even then.

The fact of the matter is that right now he hasn't really been punished for financial wrongdoing. He has been punished for breaking ties with a

powerful military and the intelligence service.

So I am not at all astounded by the outcome. It will only a matter of time before his former benefactors decided to turn him, turn on him because he's

done on them.

HOLMES: Which raises the whole question of where the power lies in Pakistan.

One thing, if Shehbaz Sharif does take over as prime minister, it does continue that Sharif political family dominance in Pakistan. And Shehbaz

is currently the chief minister as you mentioned of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province.

There were suggestions some could take over that position.

The country's leading newspaper "Dawn" called this a nepotistic disgrace. Why is the family so dominant?

HAQQANI: Well, because members of the family do not trust anybody other than themselves to lead while they are happy to have others work with them.

The same is happening in the other major political party, the Partisan People's Party.

Pakistanis have ended up opting for either dynastic Democratic politics or the Pakistani military has been doing. Pakistan has not really evolved as

a full-fledged democracy with intra-party democracy, within political parties and then the political parties feel constantly pressured by the

military and intelligence services so they are reluctant to share power. The leaders are reluctant to share powers with people other than their own

family because they wonder what at what point will the military and the intelligence service turn these people against them.

It's basically a vicious circle which does not acknowledge normal democratic norms or the principles of rule of law.

HOLMES: And to that very point, you tweeted in reaction to the news of Nawaz Sharif's dismissal last week, quote -- I'll read it out.

"Pakistan stays faithful to its 70 year tradition. No PM ever removed by voters, only by judges, generals, bureaucrats or assassins. And so in that

case, given all of that, can Pakistan even be called a democracy at this point.

HAQQANI: Pakistan can at best be called a partial democracy. It's a democracy in the sense that it elects parliaments. It elects leaders.

It's not a democracy in the sense that leaders are actually voted out as well.

Then within the dump of a government, a lot of decisions are taken by the military and the intelligence services who manipulate the media and

basically create uproar over things that may not actually survive the test of law in any other country.

And the Supreme Court is now an increasing player instead of the ministry stating coups. Now all that has to happen is a telephone conversation

between generals and judges and that result in a Supreme Court outcome. The process is not yet transparent.

HOLMES: There has been a lot of focus of late of course on the nuclear ambitions of North Korea, also Iran. But Pakistan's already a nuclear


Are there any consequences here for regional stability?

HAQQANI: On the one hand, there is positive news, which is that the Pakistani nuclear program has a very strong command and control system

essentially in the hands of the Pakistani military with very little involvement of the civilians in the manner in which a decision are

executed. So all the politics that swirls around the democratic process and semi-democratic process does not affect that.

On the other hand, the negative side is that the Pakistani military does not allow open debate about Pakistan's options in terms of good relations

with neighbors.

[14:20:17] Mixed Pakistanis belief that India is an eternal enemy of Pakistan. There is no doubt that India and Pakistan have several disputes

to settle. But other nations have those two. They do not always tell their people that they will forever fight their enemy. And that really

means that Pakistan will continue to have a strong nuclear program, only directed towards India, but with consequences like a leakage off some of

those technological means with which nuclear weapons have been acquired by Pakistan to other countries.

We must remember that both North Korea and Iran have benefited from Pakistani technology in terms of developing their respective nuclear


HOLMES: Indeed. Hussein Haqqani, former Pakistan Ambassador to the United States. Appreciate your time. Thank you.

HAQQANI: Pleasure being here.


HOLMES: And from political chaos to an environmental rejuvenation.

Bees, an essential part of the global ecosystem are buzzing once more in the United States, where a new report has shown that a decline caused by

colony collapse has been countered by bee keepers with colonies growing 3 percent since April 2016.

Some good news there.

And when we come back, while many are waxing lyrical about a new scientific breakthrough, we imagine what changing our genes could mean for humanity

down the line. That's coming up next.


HOLMES: And finally tonight, imagine a world where our genes are engineered to perfection. Removing any defect, big or small.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

With a new scientific breakthrough, repairing a genetic defect is prompting huge debate about medical ethics.

For more on that, I'm joined by bioethicist Dr. Sarah Chan. She is in Edinburgh, England.

HOLMES: Thanks for being with us. For the layman, what has been achieved here?

DR. SARAH CHAN, BIOETHICIST: So this new study is not the first time that gene editing has been used in human embryos. And it's not the first time

that genes to do with health have been modified. But what it has done is help us to understand a lot more about the uncertainties that we face when

using gene editing in human embryos.

So the study looked particularly at what we call of target effect which is where that gene editing mechanism works in places that we won't expect at

all or won't intended. And at what we call mosaicism, which is when it doesn't worked in all cells. It doesn't work the same way in all cells.

And what the scientist in this study were able to achieve is show that they could reduce mosaicism significantly by performing a gene editing procedure

at an earlier stage.

HOLMES: So this was on a heart condition. What other sorts of hereditary illness potentially could be helped in this way.

CHAN: Well, we know of many, many diseases that have an inheritable component that caused by genetic, genetic problems. Just to name a few --

cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, Huntington disease. The list goes on and on.

So the potential eventually still being able to use gene editing to correct these diseases is huge. But at best we're still a long way from that


[14:25:12] HOLMES: Yes, the question with something like this is always going to be what could go wrong here? Either with the procedure itself or

tweaking or misuse of the procedure, intended or unintended consequences. Where could it end?

CHAN: Well, I supposed risk is always a concern when it comes to new technologies. And that's exactly why this study is so exciting because

they've taken two of the major areas that we were uncertain about. And, you know, I wouldn't say it is a complete certainty but certainly our

understanding of those areas has advanced.

And, you know, as far as the risk of what might go wrong, we know very well what the risks will be. What the harms will be if we don't pursue this,

which is that people who currently suffer from genetic disease will continue to suffer from it and will continue to worry about the children

suffering from it. There's a very real risk of not doing it.

HOLMES: Yes, and as we said it's a long way off. I mean, if all those ethical questions are answered when could this practically be put into

practice. And that is a big if when it comes to ethical questions.

CHAN: Well, look, I don't want to speculate because science by its nature is not certain. We don't have all the answers. If we did, we wouldn't do

the research.

So, you know, I think trying to guess the timeframe really doesn't make sense. It could be sooner. It could be later. But I will say I hope this

will one day achieve, which is better help for everybody in an equitable way, in a safe way, in a way that everybody can access and that's something

we should all hope for.

HOLMES: You know, there's been a lot of talk over the years. I supposed of design of babies. You can pick the sex and so on and so forth. And

while, obviously, there could be some remarkable pluses to this, does it sort of give ammunition to those who, you know, fight against the idea of a

designer babies and so on.

CHAN: So two things on that point. The first is that, in fact, what the study has shown is that so-called designer babies will be even harder

perhaps to achieve than we had thought. So what the study showed was that you can repair perhaps we should say a faulty gene. You can repair a

faulty gene, but it's a very long way from being able to insert any kind of gene that you want.

And, you know, the second thing to say is that the people for whom this technology is being developed, people who the scientist are trying to help,

the people who are waiting and hoping that one day this technology may get their fruit. I'm not the ones who want to create designer babies

(INAUDIBLE). There are people who just want to have healthy, happy children.

HOLMES: Dr. Sarah Chan in Edinburgh, Scotland. Thanks so much.

CHAN: Thank you.

HOLMES: And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcast, see us online at and you can follow me on

Twitter @HolmesCNN.

Thanks for watching, everyone. Goodbye for now from Atlanta.