Return to Transcripts main page
Interview with New Zealand's New Prime Minister; Facebook Users Exposed; More Fallout from Mueller Indictments. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired October 31, 2017 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: A million Facebook users may have been exposed. That as the fallout continues for the Trump team as Mueller's net
closes in. Legal expert and friend of former FBI director James Comey, Benjamin Wittes joins us. Also ahead of Trumps trip to Asia, we speak live
to the youngest New Zealand Prime Minister in 150 years, Jacinda Ardern in her first international TV interview.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) (END VIDEOTAPE)
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone and welcome to the program, I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. As the White House continues to fend off
allegations of collusions with Russia, under unprecedented pressure, Big Tech is trying to come clean. Executives from Facebook, Google, and
Twitter are testifying before Congress at this hour.
Those firms are centered to Russia's digital meddling in America's 2016 election. For nearly a year now, they've refused to take responsibility
but as global anger mounts, the tech firms now appear to be trying to tackle it head on. Facebook has revealed that nearly 126 million Americans
may have seen content produced by a Kremlin-Linked 'Troll Farm'.
Apparently 29 million received direct of these messages. None the less, the company maintains that the only problem with the ads was the secrecy of
who paid for them. Meanwhile, the political fallout and legal fallout continues from the blunt instrument that the special prosecutor Robert
Mueller has used to whack the Trump campaign. Indicting two former top campaign officials and getting a guilty plea and cooperation's from a third
who had sought campaign help from Russians.
President Putin's spokesman told CNN today, the move, quote "contributes to already over the top Russia phobic hysteria" and he said the allegations
are unfounded. Ben Wittes is Editor Chief of the Lawfare Blog and he's a close friend of James Comey, the FBI director fired by President Trump
earlier this year. And he joins me now from the Brookings Institution in D.C.
Mr. Wittes, thank you for joining us. You may have heard but the White House press conference as always is continuing to fend off any allegations
and trying to minimize them. What do you think, from all of your writing and all of what you know about this in Mueller's investigation? How
serious should the White House be taking it?
BENJAMIN WITTES, AMERICAN JOURNALIST: I suspect they're taking it much for cereal - seriously internally than they are in the public face that they're
projecting outwardly. The matter is very serous. It's not everyday that the chairman of the President's campaign gets indicted for many years of
money laundering and for being an unregistered agent of a foreign power.
And it isn't everyday that a member of somebody associated with the president's campaign plead guilty t and admits correlating with a foreign
adversary power whom the president has repeatedly said he ahs nothing to do with over leaked e-mails - hacked e-mails and a reported meeting between
the candidate and the President of Russia.
So, I think the White House can say whatever it likes in public but it's a very serious matter and it got a lot more serious yesterday.
AMANPOUR: And this is not just news in America, it's obviously news around the world. We've seen the FT and it's editorial say that if these
allegations about Manafort are true and there's about 31 pages in that 12 count indictment that he's a criminal. I mean, what doe sit say about
President Trump and the people he's been surrounding himself with?
WITTES: Well at a minimum - first of all, Paul Manafort is innocent until proven guilty.
WITTES: And I do not want o assume his guilt. That said, he is somebody who's conduct plausibly supports an indictment accusing him of rowdying $75
billion through off shore bank accounts and laundering $18 million of those dollars and it says a great deal about President Trump's judgment of
character that he had this man running his campaign at a time that a lot of Manafort's associations with Victor Yanukovych, the then President of
Ukraine, were well known.
AMANPOUR: And this just drug on a little bit because would you assume, as many people have said, that it is precisely that relationship with the
former President of Ukraine that inspired, if you like, removing a certain plank about arming Ukrainian freedom fighters from the republican platform
during the convention?
WIITES: So that allegation does not appear in the indictment, and the Senate Intelligence Committee intimated recently that they had investigated
it and were close to resolving the matter. So I'm inclined to wait and see on that particular allegation. I do think the larger issue which is Paul
Manafort does not seem, at this point, to have been the right person to be running a national presidential campaign is something that President Trump
is going to have to answer for.
AMANPOUR: And let's just drug on one last question on Paul Manafort. Yesterday, we had Mr. Zeldin - Michael Zeldin, former Justice Department
official - who said that it is no accident that the indictment mentions Cypress, a well-known destination for particularly, allegedly, Russian
money laundering enterprises. Again, what does that say to you?
WITTES: Well, so one of the impressive things about this indictment is just the degree of forensic detail that Special Counsel Mueller's team has
put together. The indictment intimate just a he amount of work in tracing these foreign transactions. And look, they are voluminous. They go
through, as you point out, countries that raise your eyebrows - the Seychelles, Cypress, and others - and the amounts of money in question are
immense. And so I think there's - the indictment is quite eye-opening, and we will see both whether it can be proven in court, but also what else this
investigation that produced this remarkable document was working on at the same time.
AMANPOUR: And just to be clear, Paul Manafort has pleaded not guilty. Not the case with George Papadopolous, the Foreign Policy Advisor, who has
plead guilty to lying to the FBI, and this is about being contacted by the Russians precisely because he was in the Trump campaign orbit. Talk to us
about that because obviously the Trump officials are saying he was just a minor person, he had nothing to do with really this campaign in any major
WITTES: Well so he may have been a minor person, but he did, according to the stipulation of fact, meet with Trump and brief him on some of his
activities which respect is meetings with the Russians. And so I think that it is an easy thing to say because he's young and he was an advisor.
Apparently not a staff member. That said, the president has said repeatedly that he had nothing to do with Russia, and here is somebody
associated with his campaign who's on a apparently a campaign of his own of contacts with people who represent the Russian government in an attempt
both to arrange a meeting with President Trump and to arrange for quote "dirt" unquote by which he means thousands of emails involving Hillary
Clinton. And so I think it's increasingly difficult for the president and his defenders to argue that there was not something very peculiar going on
in the relationship between his campaign and the Russian Federation.
AMANPOUR: What do you think Robert Mueller can reasonably expect from Manafort, Gates, Popadopolous? What are they - do you think he's trying to
flip the other two? Papadopolous has pleaded guilty. What can these three do for Mueller's investigation that the White House should be worried
WITTES: Well so we don't know yet. So Papadopolous has already flipped, and he plead guilty, and he has been a cooperating witness for some time
now. And so presumably that could mean he - it certainly means he has said what he knows. A shadow of which appears in the stipulation, but there's
presumably much more that he's told to Mueller. What else he might have done in the way of assisting Mueller in collecting information is entirely
unclear at this stage. With Manafort and Gates, they are not in a cooperative posture at this point and so the initial question would be, is
there some deal that could be reached in which they would plead guilty to a lesser set of offenses than is alleged in the indictment in exchange for
some testimony and information that they may have.
That, of course, assumes that they have information that Mueller and his team actually want or need, which they may or they may not.
AMANPOUR: So, I mean you're looking at all of this very forensically and obviously through a very scrupulous legal lens, the rest of the world wants
to know, is this going to come back to President Trump himself?
And just let's talks specifically, you're a friend of the former FBI director, James Comey, who was fired by President Trump. Do you see any
movements towards resolving an issue? Did President Trump obstruct justice for instance?
WITTES: So first of all, the rest of the world is going to have to wait, as am I by the way. I would love to know whether this is going to come
back to President Trump, but I don't know and my making up a prediction on that score is neither going to satisfy my own curiosity nor should it help
Look, what I will say is, this is a very serious investigation and these are professional who are showed yesterday how serious they are. And if I
were in the White House, that would scare me a lot.
And that said, I don't know where the facts will lead and I don't think anybody else does either at this stage, perhaps including the people in
Mueller's office, because there are a whole bunch of witnesses and potential subjects of the investigation who they have not yet had a chance
Whom they have not yet leaned on the way prosecutors can lean on (ricousatrent) witnesses and subjects and until all those I's are dotted
and all those T's are crossed, how far it goes up and in what form exactly is really kind of pointless to speculate about.
AMANPOUR: Ben Wittes of the Lawfare blog, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
WITTES: My pleasure.
AMANPOUR: And so much drama, not even a year since President Trump was elected and when we come back we go to New Zealand and the political dynamo
who took that countries labor party from historic lows to leading the new government. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joins me for her first
international television interview next.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. My next guess is New Zealand's new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. At 37 years old, she's become the
countries youngest leader in over 150 years after a remarkable rise to power and of course coming at a time when the role of woman in power and
addressing sexual behavior in politics all over the world has never been so important.
Major challenges face Ardern, including North Korea, immigration and climate change and she's joining me now from Wellington for her first
international television interview. And Prime Minister, we welcome you. Just before we went on, you said -- and you reminded me that it's been just
three months since you took, you know, the leadership of your party. And here you are, the youngest Prime Minister in 150 years. And a woman to
boot. My goodness.
Congratulations. What are the big challenges on your plate?
ARDERN: Thank you. And you've named some of them. Some of them are both international, like other nations. We of course face the challenges of
issues like climate change, but particularly acute for us is -- I mean we're of the Pacific area. Some of the islands on our backdoor step are
already feeling acutely the impacts of climate change.
But for us, domestically, we have issues around inequality, child poverty, housing and affordability. All issues that we're very keen to tackle head
on and put at the center of our government.
AMANPOUR: And I will go -- you know, step by step through some of them. But I did actually want to ask you, because, you know, it is -- it is quite
an achievement that we have yet another elected woman leader in the world right at a time when women are under -- under the microscope, from the
sexual allegations of Harvey Weinstein to the me too, to the U.K. Parliament, which has been asked by the Prime Minister to investigate
allegations there for gender pay gap.
Do you feel a specific historic moment? And will your government address these issues in your own country?
ARDERN: Certainly I feel a huge sense of responsibility, but I've had magnificent role models (inaudible) a path (ph) before me. Of course,
Jenny Shipley, our first female Prime Minister and closely followed by Helen Clark, a labor leader who led New Zealand for nine years and did a
So I'm by no means the first. We do have challenges, however, that we will tackle under my leadership, including the gender pay gap in New Zealand,
which is acute. But also issues of domestic and sexual violence, a particular issue for as well as our representation across board (ph) level
in the private sector, but also in politics as well.
We've started with a goal of making sure that within our paths (ph) -- and we have 50 percent woman represented in parliament. We've almost set that
goal this election, but we'll continue to make sure that we lead as we would have others demonstrate what we need to achieve when it comes woman's
AMANPOUR: Well that's a great example. Gender pay, it's also a really major issue. And we -- we've just read a report in the U.K. which is
showing that actual -- the gender pay gap is increasing, not decreasing. And it's now, in -- in the U.K., at a very unpleasant and -- and fairly
But there's also issues going on about women's role in the workplace. And again, before I get to North Korea and all those other international
issues, I want to play your reaction to a particularly -- I don't know, maybe an out of place question that was asked about -- to you about being a
mother and a professional.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: OK, elephant in the room is Mark Richardson. (ph) What do you want to say to him? Because we've talked about this this morning, haven't
UNKNOWN: Yes. Yes.
UNKNOWN: Yes. Can you do this job? Do you want kids? What about this whole question about, you know, work and babies and families?
ARDERN: And -- and as I said last night, I totally accept that I will be asked that question because I chose to be honest about it. I think a lot
of women face this dilemma in the workplace, no matter what their profession or job might be. They might be someone who's part time, working
multiple jobs or they might be climbing a career ladder.
They face this issue all the time. I'm not on my own, there. I decided to talk about it. It was my choice. So that means I'm happy to keep
responding to those questions. But.
UNKNOWN: You don't find this (ph) an inappropriate question?
ARDERN: For me? No. Because I opened myself up to it. But, you, for other women, it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should
have to answer that question in the workplace.
UNKNOWN: But this is.
ARDERN: It is unacceptable.
ARDERN: .unacceptable for 2017. It is a woman's decision about when they choose to have children. It should not predetermine whether or not they
are given a job or have job opportunities.
UNKNOWN: Hold on. (ph) What -- what people are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That was pretty emphatic and pretty definitive. Do you believe you've really knocked that on the head now? In your country?
ARDERN: Probably not. Certainly it is an issue that's come up for me, personally, in the role that I have in politics time and time again. But
as I said in the -- in that clip, you know, I accept that I've chosen to answer that question, so that question will keep coming.
But for other women, I do know it's an issue but it will continue to be so until we speak openly about the fact that it's a woman's decision when she
chooses to have a family. It should not be something that's raised when her future career prospects are speculated on or even if she enters into a
job, a job opportunity or an interview.
But I -- I absolutely believe that we'll be combating this for a little while to come. But we need to front (ph) it and weed it out where it
AMANPOUR: You're a self-professed, a self-confessed policy geek, I want to ask you on the international agenda because President Trump is coming over
to your region, to Asia. North Korea has said again that it may make a, you know, above air nuclear test. There are obviously real tensions in
What do you expect from the Trump trip and what would you say to the president? What is the region thinking about how this is going to be
ARDERN: I think probably from at least New Zealand's perspective, the strong message we would send is that's never too late to talk. We're of
course a nation who has championed the nuclear-free movement. We are staunchly nuclear-free and continue to promote a nuclear non-proliferation.
That is a message we'll continue to send on the international stage. We're also at the same time really encouraging the use of the multi-lateral
environment to make sure that we continue that dialogue and encourage that dialogue. It's of critical importance to our region.
AMANPOUR: And can I ask you, you made a statement today -- the government made a statement today that they would consider offering climate refugee
status to certain people around the world. Tell me what exactly that means and that's really doubling down on your commitment to the environment.
ARDERN: I think that's acknowledging that we are Pacific neighbors and friends and that areas like (Kidabast) for instance is already experiencing
rising sea levels. We need to acknowledge that we are, at least we make dramatic changes on the front of seeing refugees as a result of climate
change. And so we see a duty of care there, both to champion internationally the importance of acknowledging and responding to climate
change, but also our bit.
We of course have a refugee quota around the number of UN-mandated refugees we take. We also have a number of programs already with the Pacific, we're
looking to ways to build in the responsibility we have on climate change and the way that we approach potentially climate change refugees in the
future amongst our neighbors.
AMANPOUR: And just finally on refugees, you have formed a coalition with the Nationalist Party, New Zealand First. Do you think that is going to
impact some of what you're saying about refugees and immigration? And what will your policy be?
ARDERN: We've worked very hard to build consensus. Yes you're right we are in a coalition government, we run an (M&P) system in New Zealand and
that has generated coalitional support party arrangements for a number of years. And our government is no different in that regard. We've
absolutely maintained though our commitment to doubling the refugee quota that we have in New Zealand. It was an important point of principle for
When it comes to wider immigration, New Zealand is a country that's been built off the fact that migrants who chosen to make New Zealand, I'm only a
third generation New Zealander myself. What we're tackling at the moment though is that we do have an issue with our infrastructure. We haven't had
a strong building program; we have a housing crisis so we are trying to balance now making sure we have the skills that we need that comes via
immigration whilst also being able to provide those who call New Zealand home with a decent standard of living. So to make sure that we tackle that
through some of our immigration (seedings) to make sure that we can do both; achieve both of our goals.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, thank you so much indeed for joining us from Wellington in New Zealand, thank you.
ARDERN: Thank you (any) time.
AMANPOUR: And when we come back, Washington as we've seen is grappling with the Russian political interference; while Russia itself seems to be in
a different dimension altogether. Imagine President Putin speaking out on the horrors of political repression. That's next.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: And finally tonight, with the Kremlin meddling in America and other western democracies under the microscope.
Imagine a sort of parallel universe as president Putin opened a memorial to victims of Soviet political repression. The Monday night event in Moscow
was among activities marking the Russian revolution's 100 years.
Not surprising then that actual real dissidents and independent voices aren't having any of it. They are pointing to political repression
happening right now and that's not fake news. They're reminding people of the Kremlin's crack down on any form of opposition in modern Russia today
and that Putin himself has at times defended Stalin's legacy whose political agenda included killing tens of millions of Russians in purges in
man made famines.
Still opening the memorial, Putin said, quote, "an unequivocal and clear assessment of the oppression will help to prevent it being repeated". Well
that'll be a relief to journalists, 28 have been kill since Putin first became Russia's president according to the committee to protect
journalists. Independent media has all put been stamped out.
And as Russian roulette marked Americas and those other western elections, do Putin's words mean that he allowed really challengers to his own
Presidential reelection campaign next year? Of course, he's still to declare for that election, imagine that. And that is it for our program
Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at AMANPOUR.COM and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching
and good bye from London.