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Interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda; Examining New Revelations About the Trump Scandal. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired December 4, 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: With this Tweet has President Trump gotten himself into legal jeopardy? Tonight we debate obstruction of
justice. And it is the Russia probe heard around the world, why Moscow poses an existential threat to The United States. And we'll hear from
Investigative Journalist Luke Harding also of the best selling collusions, thus later in the program Hamilton comes to London, my exclusive interview
with its creator and the cult hero Lin Manuel Miranda.
Welcome to the program, I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. We begin tonight with the most powerful man in the most powerful country in the
world. Has President Trump admitted to committing a crime, or tried to obstruct justice in the Michael Flynn case. It is a question an anxious
world is asking after this tweet from the President's account this weekend. Quote I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and
He's plead guilty to those lies it is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful there was nothing to hide. And what are we all
to make of this assertion by the President's lawyer John Dowd, speaking with Mike Allen of Axios this morning. The President can not obstruct
justice because he is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer. And has every right to express his view of any case.
But is this actually right? Joining me now Richard Ben Veniste who was a special prosecutor in the Watergate case, along with Chief Legal Analyst of
CNN and writer for The New Yorker Jeffrey Toobin. His new article is called Michael Flynn's Guilty Plea Sends Donald Trump's Lawyers Scrambling.
Welcome gentlemen to you both. So, let me ask you Jeff that saying he had to fire Flynn because he knew that Flynn had lied, that's new we didn't
know that the President knew that Michael Flynn had lied to the F.B.I.?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well I think it's important to draw a distinction here Christiane. We did know that he was fired the
story was because he had lied to the Vice President. What the tweet was providing new information was that he had - that the President says in the
tweet that he knew he'd lied to the F.B.I. That's a crime, it's not a crime to lie to the Vice President, but it is a crime to lie to the F.B.I.
When you just appose that knowledge with a couple of weeks later the President saying to James Comey the F.B.I. Director whom he later fired
saying to Comey go easy on - go easy on Mike Flynn. Don't - he's a good guy, don't - don't pursue him. If he says that to Comey knowing that Flynn
has committed a crime that really is potentially direct evidence of obstruction of justice saying don't investigate someone that you know has
committed a crime.
AMANPOUR: So let me drill down on the obstruction of justice issue that has captured Washington and frankly the world today, for you Richard Ben
(inaudible) Special Prosecutor with Watergate. So has you know the law that John Dowd tells Axios that the President cannot be guilty of
obstruction of justice. And I guess I want to ask you is that true or not given the facts that the Watergate articles of impeachment against Nixon in
part say that he had prevented, obstructed, and impeded the Administration of Justice and likewise the articles of impeachment against President
Clinton wrote the President obstructed justice in an effort to delay, impede, cover up, and conceal.
So, can a President obstruct justice?
RICHARD BEN VENISTE, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR WATERGATE CASE: This is eerily reminiscent of the President Nixon when he famously said it's not illegal
if the President does it. Well that's just not so, and indeed President Nixon was identified by the Grand Jury in Watergate as an unindicted co
conspirator meaning that he criminally associated himself with an ongoing obstruction of justice conspiracy.
So, it is not so that the President cannot violate the law. He certainly can and he did in Watergate. It's clear that the Watergate cover up
conspiracy involved obstruction of justice. It involved making promises of clemency to individuals in return for their silence; therefore, the
imperative piece of it, in order to criminalize the conduct, is a knowing quid pro quo, as it were, in return for something that the President wants.
BEN VENISTE: He's asking for silence or he's asking for the FBI Director to go easy on an individual.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, Ben-Veniste.
BEN-VENISTE: Of course, there's much more. The firing of Comey, the FBI Director, who is conducting the investigation, is in direct parallel to
Nixon firing Archibald Cox, who is (a) special prosecutor investigating Nixon.
AMANPOUR: So obliviously, this all leads to the question, where is this case going, Jeffery Toobin? Why would the President's lawyer have written
this stuff and given this interview?
JEFFERY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think (John Dowd), has (tease) technical legal term, made a big mess and he's trying to dig
himself out of it. I - I - I can't answer why he did it. I think he regrets it. John Dowd is seventy-six-years old, he isn't, exactly,
familiar with Twitter and other modern technology. And, I think he'll be staying away from it, henceforth. However, I do think, I - I - I, there's
one respect where I think John Dowd is not entirely wrong, which is, it is a very much open question.
About whether a sitting president of the United States can be indicted for abstruction of justice or anything else.
TOOBIN: The - the - our, our system is set up so that the President is in a discrete legal condition. Different from other people and he has to
serve his term. And it may not be possible for him to be indicted.
TOOBIN: (In case) the Supreme Court has never resolved. However, the President can be impeached. There is no doubt about that and I think
(Rick) is exactly right to point out, that Bill Clinton was about, I'm sorry, Richard Nixon was about to be impeached for obstruction of justice.
Bill Clinton was impeached for a form of obstruction of justice. So, the idea that the President is somehow insolated from obstruction of justice,
at least as far as the House of Representatives is concerned, is clearly wrong.
AMANPOUR: Well, I wish we had more time Gentlemen. Thank you, both very much, indeed. Just very quickly to you, Richard Ben-Veniste, and I mean
like really quickly. Is this, at this point, a political matter? Does it matter who controls Congress, in terms of President Trump's future?
BEN-VENISTE: It is a political matter in terms of impeachment. In terms of the Special Council's investigation, Mr. Muller's investigation, that is
a political. It has nothing to do with politics and he will make a decision based on facts, alone, given his reputation.
AMANPOUR: Alright. Richard Ben-Veniste, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you, so much for joining us on that breaking news tonight.
And who better to talk about today's development than (James Clapper). As Director of National Intelligence under President Obama, he was (Finn's)
boss when he was hired and then fired as Director of Defense Intelligence Agency.
And he briefed the incoming president, Donald Trump, on Russia hacking the election. I began by asking (Clapper), the significance of (Flynn's)
(VIDEO CLIP BEGINS)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I think that this is a hugely important development. Obviously, Mike
Flynn is not a coffee boy. If anyone has insight into what the Trump campaign was doing and what was going on during the transition, and at
least the first 24 days of the administration, is Mike Flynn.
And having read the terms of his plea bargain, I think there's every incentive for Mike to fully cooperate with the Special Council. So, I
think there's obviously much more to come with this. I just don't think he'd be off doing these things, like so kind of rogue, all by himself. So
others, clearly, had to have been involved.
AMANPOUR: You were General Flynn's - Mike Flynn's boss and I spoke to Mike Flynn back during the Republican Convention in 2016 in Cleveland. And he
had this to say to me about why he chose to assist Donald Trump.
(VIDEO CLIP BEGINS)
MIKE FLYNN: I just saw him as a really high quality leader. He approaches problems vastly differently. And, I think that his, I think intelligent
and decision making skills and abilities are really much different.
AMANPOUR: Well let me ask you.
FLYNN: I like those. I appreciate those.
(VIDEO CLIP ENDS)
AMANPOUR: What do you make of Mike Flynn's assessment of Donald Trump and perhaps 20-20 hindsight might color that assessment?
CLAPPER: Well I guess I had a little trouble relating to that. I don't see the President in quite the same light as Mike did. I think Mike
changed a lot after he left active duty in the army.
He became somewhat of an angry man and, of course, he was engaging with any number of Republican candidates and was interested in anyone that would
listen to him, I think, he would latch onto. And as it turned out he latched onto the candidate who, at the time unlikely though it may have
been, who ended up winning.
AMANPOUR: What do you make of President Trump, in terms if you were over here looking at America from the allied or even adversary point of view?
People started to question the stability of the leader of the free world.
So when you put that in the context of what the National Security Advisor, H.R. McMastser, this weekend said, the potential for war with North Korea
is at the highest it's ever been. How does that make you feel about the stability and consistency of policy coming out of the White House?
CLAPPER: Well, I think it's -- first of all overseas I know for a fact it's a concern. In my travels since I left the government and you're
right, people do hang on his every word and every Tweet and it cause for concern in many circles, particularly among our closest allies.
I know others have questioned, as I have, his temperance, I guess the word I'd use, in -- with regard to many world problems and of course
particularly given the sensitivity of the tensions right now between North Korea and the United States. And this is a subject that requires
temperance moderation, thought, as I observed when I was there in November 14, they -- the paranoia and seize(ph) mentality in Pyongyang is palpable.
And so, if there are to be any negotiations, and clearly the North Korean's aren't in the mood for that right now, they want to be in a position of
strength where they're not being dictated to about what the terms of such a negotiation would be.
AMANPOUR: About Russia, people over here and maybe over there with you, are still trying to figure out why it is that President Trump has never
mustered a negative or any kind of comment towards Vladamir Putin, despite the evidence of Vladamir Putin's policy towards the U.S.
CLAPPER: Well to me this is the overriding issue connected -- the foreign policy issue connected with this administration and I do not understand the
singular indifference to the threat posed by Russia, both in terms of undermining our system as evidenced by their interference in our election,
not to mention the profound military threat that they pose to the United States.
Unlike North Korea, Russia does represent an existential threat to this country and I do not understand President Trump being a supplicant, more
less, to Putin give Putin's very strong anemic towards the United States, what it stands for and it's values and it's system. And to me, that
overarches all other issues. Collusion is important, but not as important as this.
AMANPOUR: And we're going to dig deeper into that. James Clapper, thank you so much for joining us from Washington.
CLAPPER: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: And on that issue of collusion, we turn now to the man who wrote the book on it, British journalist Luke Harding, who is Moscow Bureau Chief
for "The Guardian" newspaper and dove into Trumps ties to Russia, pulling it all together in a new book currently at the top of The New York Times
best seller list. It is called "Collusion." Secret meetings, dirty money and how Russia helped Donald Trump win. Luke Harding is with me now.
It seems a good day to talk about all of this and you just heard what the former Director of National Intelligence said, that the relationship that
Trump still has with Putin is one of great mystery to a lot of people including him.
LUKE HARDING, BRITISH JOURNALIST: Yes, that right. We've had a year of chaos but the only constant theme is Donald Trump being very nice to
Vladamir Putin and I think I can safely predict that Trump will never criticize Putin. We have to ask ourselves, why is that? And I think the
most simple answer is the most convincing answer, that Putin and the Kremlin have stuff which gives the leverage over Donald Trump.
AMANPOUR: OK, what stuff? Can we just start first with how Donald Trump even entered that sphere? You write about how he first went to Moscow,
when he first married Ivana Trump who was obviously Czech, part of the whole Soviet Block at that point.
HARDING:: Yes I mean I think to understand the extraordinary events of last year, you have to go back to the Cold War to the Soviet Union to
Donald Trump's marriage to a woman from Communist Czechoslovakia and also to a trip he made in the summer of 1987 with Ivana to Moscow. He was
invited by the Soviet government who paid for his expenses. We have to ask ourselves why would they do that and if you read the KGB memos from that
period, they're very keen to recruit Americans and they're looking for particular kinds of Americans who are vain, narcissistic, perhaps
corruptible and so on. And of course Trump ticks practically every single box.
AMANPOUR: When you say recruit Americans; you're not saying they recruited him as an agent or anything?
HARDING: No we can't say that. But what we can say is that there was a determined effort to kind of woo him, to cultivate him, spearheaded by
(Yuri Dubinin) who was the Soviet Ambassador who raced up to Trump Tower.
AMANPOUR: To Washington.
HARDING: Yes knocked on the door, said Mr. Trump lovely to meet you, come to Moscow, we will take care of everything and sort of dangled the prospect
of building a tower in Moscow, which never happened but of course 30 years later we now know there were secret negotiations, emails going on between
Trump's team and his lawyer, Michael Cohen sending emails to Dmitry Peskov who's Putin's press guy saying help us.
AMANPOUR: Help us?
HARDING: Help us with this (task). Meanwhile on the campaign trail, Donald Trump is saying wouldn't it be nice if we can get along with Russia
with this kind of schmoozey theme that we've seen all the way through.
AMANPOUR: So as you see the developments today and everybody now asking the question was there obstruction of justice? It is news that Donald
Trump tweeted that he fired General Flynn because he lied to the FBI. We knew that he fired him because he lied to the vice president but it's news
that he lied to the FBI or at least that Trump knew that.
HARDING: Yes, that's right and I think Trump is trouble. Four of his associates have now been indicted, Flynn most recently last week and I was
reading -- Trump's lawyer saying that he crafted the Tweet and I read and I thought this is Donald Trump's voice, the exclamation mark that's the Trump
exclamation mark and I'm very skeptical about that. And of course the worry for Trump now is what Flynn going to say to Mueller about secret
dealings inside The White House, inside the campaign team and the dealings with Moscow.
AMANPOUR: And we heard both our legal experts at the beginning of the program saying there will be more and even James Clapper said, there will
be more, there's more stuff to come out. As you've really dug into this and you have gone back all the way to the late 80's with the first trip,
where do you think this is headed now?
HARDING: I would say no place good for Donald Trump, I mean I think the broad thesis of Christopher Steele, remember he's the former British
intelligence guy who wrote the famous dossier published in January is true. Not all of it true, but Steele says according to his friends about 70
percent of it is true. Essentially there was a transactional relationship between Moscow and Donald Trump with the Russians supplying Trump with
helpful intelligence in his battle with Hillary Clinton. And of course hacking those emails which were dumped out last year to damage Clinton very
successfully and this I think is what Trump is afraid of, that more of this will come out.
AMANPOUR: So you know Steele, Chris Steele, and his reputation has been impugned obviously by certain quarters. What do you know about him? Why
would he do this, what is his motive?
HARDING: I think he is kind of professional, he's credible, he spent three years in the Soviet Union as a kind of junior spy for the Brits; 22 years
in British intelligence, he essentially sent out this query to his secret sources about the relationship between Trump and Russia and he said he got
a series of hair raising replies which essentially said that the two camps are enmeshed and meanwhile we have British intelligence and other European
spy agencies telling Washington, telling the CIA, guys there are meetings going on here secret meetings and I think broadly he's credible and I think
Mueller thinks he's credible too.
AMANPOUR: Fascinating. Luke Harding, author of Collusion, thank you so much indeed for joining us. And now for something a little bit different
as we (lean) back in time to imagine a world of history through Hip-hop.
AMANPOUR: Hamilton has been the hottest ticket on Broadway since its debut in 2015 and now fans on this side of the pond will be able see the show
about losing colonies; not one of Britain's finest hours. In an exclusive interview creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda joined me here in the studio
to talk about Hamilton's first trip abroad. Also about his pride of calling Puerto Rico home and after Hurricane Maria why he's raffling off
tickets to Hamilton's London premier to fight climate change. Lin Manuel Miranda, welcome to the program.
LIN MANUEL MIRANDA, ACTOR: Thank you, thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, I mean first of all we are surrounded by all these big, big, big images of your life. What does mean to you to have done that and now
to bringing it here to England?
MIRANDA: It's really thrilling, you know this is the first international company to show, I feel like they have a real pride of ownership in the
show in representing us to London and the wider world. You know, their American accents are better than ours which is infuriating as someone who
spent eight months of the year trying to vaguely east end accent for Mary Poppins.
AMANPOUR: So of course Hamilton is all about immigrants, immigration as well right? I mean it's celebrating that arrival to the United States.
MIRANDA: Yeah, I have to say people ask me you know is it going to play well in London, they don't know our history, I didn't know much of this
history going in, what I knew about Hamilton, when I picked up Ron Sharon, amazing biography I knew he was the guy on the $10 bill. I knew he had
died in a dual and I knew his son has died in a dual a few years prior.
And then there was something about the fact that he was sort of our proto immigrant story. I mean really, came here on a scholarship to get his
education and ended up shaping the world. That to me reminded me of my father and reminded me of so many immigrants I knew growing up in my part
of New York in Northern Manhattan, you know.
I've never known my parents to have less than three jobs, you know, it's that thing of no the deal is we just have to work three times as hard and
that to me, Hamilton is the embodiment of that story which I think is the best of us; the best American story that is increasingly hard to see but is
AMANPOUR: Do you ever imagine that this tsunami of tweets and the repetition of this certain message against immigrants does have a corrosive
effect? I mean maybe some thought; well it's just him tweeting it won't make a material difference.
MIRANDA: Yeah, well listen, I think words matter and they matter in ways big and small. I can tell you one of the most devastating ones that I've
been dealing with for the past two months, you know when hurricanes hit Texas and Florida, our president will be there, anything you need we'll be
there, he was there, National Guard was there instantly.
Puerto Rico gets hit with a hurricane and he tweets a message of good luck to the governor the day it makes landfall and doesn't tweet about Puerto
Rico for a week.
AMANPOUR: And this is what you said in response.
MIRANDA: What I said that in response to was when he began attacking the people of Puerto Rico themselves saying our people are doing great but they
want everything done for themselves, you know the sort of dog whistle redirect, and then attacking the mayor of San Juan. I just, to me natural
disasters are so easy. It's like well they're no ones fault, your job is to unite us, your job is to get the help to the people that need it.
This is not a partisan issues, and I've never seen a president attack people who are already the victim of a natural disaster and so those are
the only words I had left for that.
AMANPOUR: And before we get to you actually going there and helping out, you're using Hamilton and this period up to the launch to actually auction
or raffle off some tickets right? To let some people come and the donations, the contributions will go to the Puerto Rico climate charity, is
MIRANDA: My new full time job is raising money for Puerto Rico, for relief, we are still in the humanitarian crisis, half the island is still
without power, that is something that is very easy to fall off the face of; off the front of the news but it's still happening.
AMANPOUR: Still houses without power.
MIRANDA: Yeah, still houses without power.
AMANPOUR: And they're American citizens, we do have to keep saying that.
MIRANDA: Yeah, 3.5 million American citizens. You know, but the other thing that we're doing that's related to that is my wife and I started this
Prizio Campaign, basically we raffle off two tickets three nights in London, hang out, see opening night of Hamilton, come with us to the after
party and the benefits, the raffle tickets all go to the NRDC and Ten-Ten which are both climate change organizations that are London based.
AMANPOUR: Fantastic. You developed, you wrote, you've done everything for Hamilton and you're no longer in the lead role and you haven't been for a
while. How does that feel?
MIRANDA: It does. I mean you know listen, I do have a pang every time I see one of our companies, you know when you see an incredible bur, when you
see an incandescent Eliza and you get that oh man I wish I could play opposite that, and you know I get that pang because I'm an actor as well as
a writer, at the same time I really get the joy of watching these people grow into their roles and take ownership of it.
AMANPOUR: And, are you taking it anywhere else around the world? Do you have plans?
MIRANDA: Well, yes. We have some plans. So, we have - we have this company that's opening in London. We have another company that's opening
very soon in Seattle. And then, I'm coming out of retirement January 2019 and we'll open a new company in Puerto Rico.
MIRANDA: In January 2019. This has been in the works for a long time. It's been in the works for six months before the hurricane but we announced
it recently because we want to plant a flag and say we've got to be ready, we've got to rebuild our island and time is of the essence. And, two, to
raise as much money on the island as we can.
AMANPOUR: That's wonderful.
MIRANDA: So, that's the goal.
AMANPOUR: Do you feel political? I know you're a cultural phenomenon but do you feel political? Might you go into politics?
MIRANDA: No. That's a big red line I've drawn for myself. I think the big political takeaway from Hamilton is the limit of our representative
democracy is we can elect who we put there but we can't control what they do once they're there. That's really what room where it happens which is
every politician's favorite song is about. It's - we ask our leaders to save the day but we don't get a say in what they trade away.
That's - those are the lyrics that I think really best articulate by healthy cynicism about politics.
AMANPOUR: Lin-Manuel Miranda, thank you so much.
MIRANDA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And, just a reminder that his raffle for climate change offering two tickets to Hamilton's London premier After-Party the works ends
Tuesday. And, that is it for our program tonight. Remember you can always listen to our podcasts, see us online at amanpour.com and follow me on
Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.