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Trump's Lawyer Paid $130,000 of Own Money to Porn Star; Iranian Regime Targets Dual Nationals for Prison

Aired February 14, 2018 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Tonight, the tone flows from the top. The White House remains mired in crisis exposing a culture of both

condoning and coverups within Trump's inner circle. My conversation with a former Democratic governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm and journalist

Joshua Greene, chronicler of the often-prescient ex-White House and the now squeezed (ph) Steve Bannon.

Plus, suspicious circumstances as a prominent academic dies behind bars in Iran's most notorious prison. We hear a harrowing account of life inside

for two Iranian Americans.

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

Now, in any other time, in any other news cycle, this would have been a blockbuster, game-changing headline. The President Donald Trump's personal

lawyer says that he paid $130,000 to a porn star who says she had an affair with Trump. He denies it. Such is the new normal that today, though, it

is just another news line.

The White House is still struggling to explain why a top aide, Rob Porter, was kept on staff for months after the FBI said that he faced allegations

of abusing two ex-wives.

So, is the president, who was elected despite multiple allegations of sexual harassment, finally having his #MeToo moment?

Jennifer Granholm is the former Democratic governor of Michigan and Joshua Greene is the journalist and biographer of the former Trump strategist

Steve Bannon. Bannon has been outspoken on the #MeToo effect.

Welcome both of you. Thanks for joining me. Governor, can I start by asking you about this blockbuster headline? And just to ask you, so how

does that go down with the assembly line worker in your state in Michigan?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, FORMER DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: Right. It's a great question. I mean, the blockbuster headline of a lawyer paying off a

porn star, who now says that he's doing it out of the goodness of his heart, not that he was instructed by the president to do it, first of all,

come on! How stupid do they think we all are?

But this is, of course, in the context of this whole domestic abuse allegation inside the White House. And when you look at the women in

Michigan, especially the white, blue collar, non-college educated woman in Michigan and across the Rust Belt states, these women supported Trump when

he was elected by 61 percent. They were the backbone of how he got over the finish line.

But that number, as of now, has dropped by 18 points, meaning he's underwater with those women. Why? Because they see this kind of nonsense

happening every single day.

AMANPOUR: So, let me turn to you, Joshua. The governor said, come on, how stupid do they think we are. Well, she herself answered the question that

so many people, despite the knowledge of that famous tape and all the rest of it, that so many women, a majority of white Americans, voted for him.

Do you think - because you've written today, Joshua, about Steve Bannon, the sort of uber strategist, who believes the #MeToo moment will be a

gamechanger for this White House.

JOSHUA GREENE, JOURNALIST, STEVEN BANNON BIOGRAPHER: Yes. I mean, in the preface to my new paperback version of "Devil's Bargain", the book I wrote

about the Trump/Bannon partnership, I re-embedded with Steve Bannon.

And one of the new scenes in the book, I tell the story of Bannon watching the Golden Globe awards last month where Oprah and the actresses famously

had that kind of galvanizing moment of female empowerment that was so powerful. In fact, people were talking about Oprah for president.

Bannon had a much different reaction. I mean, he viewed this as - he told me - an existential threat not just to Trump, but to Republican majorities

in Congress because he didn't think that Republicans, especially not Trump and the senior people in the White House, were sufficiently alert to the

political threat posed by the rise of this female-driven liberal resistance.

The irony, of course, is that Bannon and Trump had a great falling out about a month ago and Bannon is in the political equivalent of Siberia.

So, it's not clear that his warnings are going to be heeded, but at least someone in Trump's orbit recognizes that this could be a real problem for

the party as soon as September and that this spousal abuse scandal, which is now entering its second week is only making that problem worse.

[14:05:11] AMANPOUR: Just quickly, to press you on that, look, Bannon also thought that Roy Moore in Alabama was going to win despite the allegations

against him. And he didn't because of the climate that that created in his state.

So, do you think Bannon actually his finger on the pulse? Or is he taking his misjudgment about Alabama to go forward with?

GREENE: No. I do think he has his finger on the pulse. And I think Alabama taught him a lesson. I think the reason he stuck with Roy Moore

was because Bannon was fixated on his grievances with Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment and saw Roy Moore as his ticket to power, as

someone he could install in the US Senate, who would be your problem for Mitch McConnell, would help give Bannon a base of power in the US Senate.

And when the charges that Moore had engaged in predatory behavior with young women came out, most Republicans abandoned him. Steve Bannon, of

course, did not because he didn't want to give up the chance to get Moore elected. In the end, that cost him.

AMANPOUR: Governor, I don't know whether you take any sustenance as a Democrat from the fact that some, including conservative Republicans in

Congress, are coming out and just about criticizing the president for this latest scandal?

GRANHOLM: Well, just about -

AMANPOUR: And it is just about. Because I want to know whether you think they're going far enough and what actually - can I play just what Sen. Joni

Ernst, a notoriously conservative senator, told CNN just this week about this crisis.


SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: I am extremely disappointed in this situation. Abuse is never OK. And we need to send a very clear signal that it won't

be tolerated and it won't be tolerated with our employees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the president sending that signal?

ERNST: I think he needs to send a stronger message. A stronger message.


AMANPOUR: So, I wonder how you read that. And you know that, tonight, also the vice president has said the same thing, although definitely

closing ranks around John Kelly, the chief of staff, who was Rob Porter's big backer and defender.

GRANHOLM: Right. Number one, we should not - we Americans, men and women, should not have to beg the president of the United States to say, in his

own words, that domestic violence is not acceptable. Why is it that we have to beg him?

Now, these Republicans who have come out and applaud the women, often they use language sort of in the third person that doesn't say, Donald Trump,

you should take this moment and use your Twitter feed, if nothing else, to condemn domestic abuse.

And this is why - Christiane, you ask if I take some solace in this, and I do because the data - the anecdotes that we are hearing - it's not even

anecdotes. Emily's List, which is an organization that recruits Democratic women to run for office, at this time in the last cycle, they were working

with about 9,00 women. In this cycle, 30,000 women have raised their hand to run for office. It is unprecedented. We have five women governors now.

There are 79 women who are considering running for governor of these 50 states. The wave is happening.

And just one other bit of information is that, yesterday, in the State of Florida, another Democrat flipped a Republican state seat. It was a woman.

This has happened 36 times now. There have been 36 state seats that have been flipped from Republican to Democrat since Donald Trump was elected in

special elections and two-thirds of those have been won by women.

AMANPOUR: It's really fascinating to see where this is landing.

Joshua, I want to ask you about the culture. I started by saying that the culture flows from the top. And there's been this incredible revolving

door in the White House over the last year.

But most particularly, to follow-up on what the governor just said about Donald Trump's tweets. In fact, just last week, about this latest crisis

and about #MeToo, he said, "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some

are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused. Life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as

due process?"

Now, as we have been reporting all along, at least 15 people have accused President Trump before he was president of improper conduct.

What do you make of that particular tweet? It doesn't support the #MeToo. It doesn't support women.

GREENE: I think there's two things going on. On the one hand, I do think that issues like this are problematic for Donald Trump for the very reasons

you laid out.

[14:10:00] Were he to express any kind of sympathy for the victims - or the alleged victims, in this case, of course, it would call to mind the

question of what about Donald Trump's victims and that's not a discussion he wants to have.

I think the other issue here is that Trump is serially incapable of admitting to defeat, of seeming weak, of apologizing. And so, someone who

likes stoking these cultural battles as much as Donald Trump does, I think he views it in the same light that he views the NFL kneeling scandal and

other things, as something where he can create, even exacerbate a division that will rally his base to his side and maybe deflect from some of the

more difficult questions about the managerial failures in the White House that allowed for this man Rob Porter to continue serving and handling

national security documents even after his abusive history was well known.

AMANPOUR: Governor, can I ask you just how your party plans to capitalize on this? You've spoken very eloquently about the 36 seats that have been

flipped, about the difference in polling before and after amongst women.

But there are equally loud voices in the Democratic Party which say that, actually, you need to be concentrating, if you want to win, on the bread

and butter pocketbook issues and that you don't yet have an economic message and that Donald Trump's numbers are still low, but inching upwards

on the economy.

GRANHOLM: Yes. Here's what I would say about that, is that it is both. Yes, we are about the word all. That means all citizens should feel like

they can participate in this economy.

And what Josh just said, this notion of pitting - or him looking for cultural moments to pit one group against the other, this group, the female

group, we are the largest block. You don't decide that you're going to just decide, well, all my base is going to be is white male. That is not a

winning strategy.

Democrats absolutely have to talk about fairness and about everybody having opportunity and about jobs and about being pro-American, pro-patriotic,

yes, but making sure that everybody gets a chance.

When you divide people up like he has done, it is not ultimately a winning strategy. Now, it worked in the election. We get that. But I think

people are on to him.

And the fact that he has the biggest gap - gender gap of any president in the history of the United States for the first year in office - he's 12

points under water with women, that is not going to be a successful strategy.

He can continue to go along that line. He can continue to stoke those divisions. And Democrats have got to capitalize on that and on the economy

and on the policies that he's putting forth that are not going to be allowing people, everybody to have an opportunity to succeed.

AMANPOUR: Governor Granholm, Joshua Greene, thank you both very much for joining me.

Now, while the White House does remain impaled on this week of self- inflicted scandal, the human rights situation in Iran is deteriorating as relations with the US deteriorate.

The regime hardliners there are targeting dual-nationals for imprisonment and worse.

A Canadian Iranian environmentalist, Kavous Seyed Emami, died in custody this week. Officials ruled it a suicide, but Emami's family doesn't

believe it.

The British Iranian, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, has been in prison almost two years now. The young mother was arrested while she was on a visit to

her parents.

And an Iranian-American family is experiencing the heartbreak of having not one, but two family members in custody right now. Businessman Siamak

Namazi who served two-and-a-half years of a ten-year sentence and his father, 81-year-old Baquer Namazi, who has been held for two years despite

Iran's own medical examiner saying that he should be released for proper medical attention.

It could be tantamount to a death sentence for Baquer. And his son, Babak, joined me from Dubai. Also, the Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari,

editor of "Iran Wire" join me here in the studio. He was imprisoned by Iran in the chaos of the 2009 Green Revolution.

Maziar Bahari and Babak Namazi, welcome to the program. Babak, can I ask you first out there in Dubai, what is the very latest with your father?

He's over 80 years old and he was, earlier this week, rushed back to hospital.

BABAK NAMAZI, FATHER AND BROTHER JAILED IN IRAN: Hi, Christiane. That's right. My father was again, for the second time this month, rushed to the

hospital on Sunday night.

This was the second incident that happened since he was forced to go back to Evin Prison last week. On Sunday night, he suffered from a severe

irregular heartbeat where his heartbeat had doubled, a drop in his blood pressure and severe depletion of his energy, to the point that the prison

officials decided to rush him to the hospital.

[14:15:15] AMANPOUR: And let's just make it very clear. He was put back into prison even despite the advice and the warning of, I think, the prison

doctors and those who said to the government that he shouldn't come back into prison. Isn't that correct?

NAMAZI: That's correct. It was more than that, Christiane. I mean, the government instructed my father on the last occasion, two weeks ago, when

he was in hospital, to report to the country's medical examiner's office, which is affiliated with a judiciary.

A medical panel examined my father at the medical examiner's office and they subsequently told my mom that he has - they have recommended that he

be given an extended leave of at least three months.

And that's why we were astonished, shocked really, when he was ordered to report back immediately to the prison right after the judiciary had ordered

him to go and get examined by the medical examiner's office.

AMANPOUR: I'm going to get into some of the details of it in a second. But I just want to turn first to Maziar. Obviously, Baquer Namazi is a US-

Iranian citizen. You are a Canadian-Iranian citizen. And in 2009, as we know, you were imprisoned during the so-called Green Revolution.

Describe for us a little bit why you were taken in and what political underpinnings there was.

MAZIAR BAHARI, CANADIAN-IRANIAN JOURNALIST: Well, I was arrested because of my work as a journalist and the Government of Iran wanted to teach a

lesson to a group of journalists and documentary filmmakers in Iran. And because of that, I was arrested. I was tortured, interrogated and I was

forced to confess on television.

And you have to understand that the Iranian government regards Iranian dual nationals as commodities. So, they want something in return when they

release them.

In my case, it was different because it was in the beginning. They didn't know what to do. But since - especially since 2016 when they released four

Iranian-American prisoners, hostages - sorry, January 2017, when they released Iranian-American hostages, when they released them and they

received millions of dollars, they realized that they can use this commodity to their advantage.

And because of that, I think, unfortunately, they're holding Baquer Namazi, who is more than 80 years old, my friend Siamak Namazi and many other

Iranian-Americans, Iranian-Canadians, British-Iranians because they want something in return.

AMANPOUR: You just heard the most cynical explanation for the imprisonment of dual nationals. Do you believe that that is why your father and your

brother are both imprisoned right now?

NAMAZI: Christiane, what I know with certainty is that both my father and Siamak are innocent. I also believe that them being Americans have caused

them to become targets. And that is - unfortunately, I believe, my family has become stuck in a game that is being played between Iran and the United


It's horrific to think that your family members are being used as pawns and especially with my father's health deteriorating so dangerously and so

rapidly that this kind of outlook and this kind of game can result in his death.

It really is shocking and extremely, extremely upsetting to say the least.

AMANPOUR: I mean, what do you say to either the American government - you also are an American citizen - or to whoever - are you talking to anybody

in Iran? I mean, do they understand how this might be a death sentence? Are they prepared to see an American citizen in Iranian custody?

NAMAZI: Christiane, logically, I want to think not. But if I look at all the events that have unraveled, especially for the past few months in

respect of my father where they are knowingly exposing him to danger, where they are knowingly against the advice of not only my father's physicians,

but their own medical examiner, are sending my father back to very unsafe conditions, it causes the worst fear in me that they are knowingly exposing

both my family members to a condition which would have a tragic end.

AMANPOUR: So, let's be clear. Your father used to work UNICEF. He was a diplomat. Your brother is an economist and he has been an analyst for many

years. What are the charges against them?

NAMAZI: We're not provided - no one has really provided with a fair and transparent means of understanding of what's going on.

[14:20:04] My brother and father were never really made aware of what the charges are, the whole process, including the initial trial and the

subsequent appeals has been clouded and under the very dark and secret proceedings.

They've never had a chance to really understand the charges against them and to present a reasonable defense. They were denied access to legal

counsel. They were denied access to the information and the allegations against them.

The Revolutionary Guards had over a year to prepare whatever nonsense it is that they prepared against my family. All the time, they had no

opportunity to be able to confront these allegations. And then, finally, a trial of a very short few hours and subsequently the guilty convictions.

So, really, we don't know what's going on until today. We never understood what the allegations are, what the charges are and why it is that my family

has ended to become part of this as pawns.

AMANPOUR: Maziar, you're listening to this. You went through your own similar situation. Give us a sense of the politics around what's happening

right now.

BAHARI: Well, it's sad that they are not only pawns in the conflict between Iran and the West, Iran and the United States or the United

Kingdom, they're also pawns in the conflict within different groups inside Iran.

On one hand, you have President Rouhani's government, which is pro- rapprochement to a certain extent, pragmatic and wants to have better relations with the West.

On the other hand, you have the Revolutionary Guards, people around Ayatollah Khamenei, whose survival depends in chaos and a thriving chaos

and they thrive in sanctions. So, they want to sabotage President Rouhani's diplomatic moves as much as possible.

AMANPOUR: And this comes at a time when the American administration of Donald Trump is putting double the pressure on Iran. They don't like the

rapprochement, even the nuclear deal that President Obama and the rest of the world powers negotiated with them.

How much more does that complicate? Whose hands does that play into?

BAHARI: Well, it complicates the matter to a certain extent because Iranian people who are poor, 30 percent - at least 30 percent of the

Iranians live under poverty line.

So, Iranians are desperate. And as you saw, they came to the street in the beginning of this year over Christmas and they protested against this

government, which has been a failure for the past 39 years.

By the way, on Sunday, it was the 39th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution.

So, Iranians, they want to hear from the president of the United States. It doesn't matter if that is Donald Trump, Barack Obama or whoever. They

want to hear the support of the president of the United States.

AMANPOUR: For the people?

BAHARI: For the people. For the people's demand for change in the country. They want to hear from the president of the United States.

And when Donald Trump voiced his support for the people of Iran, that complicated the situation to a certain extent.

And, unfortunately, it has complicated the situation for dual national prisoners. Why? Because the Iranian government doesn't want to be

presented as a weak government. They do not want to lose faith. There are dozens of them whom we don't know.

One of them "committed suicide" on Saturday - last Saturday.

AMANPOUR: That was a Canadian-Iranian.

BAHARI: That was a Canadian-Iranian who was arrested less than a month ago on charges of espionage. He was an environmentalist.

Even if - I can't just imagine how can an environmentalist be a spy. And he "committed suicide" in prison. He's the third person who has committed

suicide in prison in the last -

AMANPOUR: Do you think he may have been killed?

BAHARI: - three months. That is the theory that the government, that the judiciary - Iranian judiciary - and the Revolutionary Guards are killing

dissidents inside prisons and pretend that they have committed suicide in order to scare many other activists and many other dissidents.

AMANPOUR: Babak, I just wonder whether there's any line that you have that's productive or at least hopeful with the Trump administration? Is

there any third party like the Swiss authorities used to represent America's interest in Iran?

NAMAZI: I've obviously been very engaged with the Trump administration since they took office. In fact, just last week, I was in Washington and

New York City where I met with very high-level administration officials both in the White House as well as in New York as well as with UN


[14:25:02] I'm confident there are a number of measures, an array of measures being taken, and I do believe that my family's situation is a

priority. And I know everyone's trying, but I'm desperate for the US government to redouble, re-triple, really do everything it can. We are the


And I also implore the Iranians. I'm begging them. It's enough. It really is enough. Who puts an 81-year-old man in solitary confinement for

three or four weeks. I mean, what kind of treatment is that?

So, obviously, I'm highly desperate and I really need both the Iranian government and the US government to find a way to resolve this.

AMANPOUR: Well, Babak Namazi, thank you so much for joining us with that heartfelt plea from Dubai; and Maziar Bahari, for your experience and

explaining also the heightened political climate that we find ourselves in. Thank you both.

BAHARI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: A dramatic violation of human rights there. And you might remember Maziar's story was turned into a film, "Rosewater", a few years

ago, directed by "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart.

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

Twitter. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.