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Changes At State Department: Tillerson Out, Pompeo In; Russia And UK In Standoff Over Spy Poisoning; Building Bridges Between Church And LGBT Community. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 13, 2018 - 15:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: A dramatic shakeup as President Trump fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tonight, the former

assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland joins us on what it all means for American foreign policy at this crucial juncture.

Plus, a deadline looms for Russia to explain itself over the poisoning of a former spy in the UK. I'm joined by the former British ambassador to

Moscow, Sir Tony Brenton.

Also ahead, on the fifth anniversary of the Pope's reign, the priest who is trying to build bridges between the Catholic church and the LGBT community.

My conversation with Father James Martin.

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

Major changes today for the Trump national security team. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is out and CIA Director Mike Pompeo is taking his

place. Here's the announcement from President Trump this morning.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've worked with Mike Pompeo now for quite some time. Tremendous energy. Tremendous intellect. We're

always on the same wavelength. The relationship has been very good and that's what I need as secretary of state.

I wish Rex Tillerson well.


AMANPOUR: As for Tillerson, he announced he'll leave the post at midnight March 31 in an emotional statement this afternoon.


REX TILLERSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: At the end of the day, I'm delegating all responsibilities of the office of the secretary to deputy

secretary of state Sullivan.

My commission as secretary of state will terminate at midnight March 31.


AMANPOUR: This, as the White House frantically tries to prepare for a critical summit with North Korean President Kim Jong-un.

Meanwhile, a new crisis is brewing in England over the poisoning there of a former fuller Russian spy and we'll have more on that story in a moment.

But, first, to my guest, Victoria Nuland. She helped run the State Department under President Obama as assistant secretary for European and

Eurasian affairs where she was America's point person during Russia's invasion of Ukraine and she is now the CEO of the Center for New American

Security. Joining us now from California.

Victoria Nuland, welcome. And, I guess, first off, are you surprised and how do you think this change of personnel will shape American foreign

policy going forward?


I have to say, I think, this diplomatic shakeup is really important for the United States. Rex Tillerson had failed on virtually every measure that

one has for a secretary of state.

He had no relationship with the president and therefore no ability to influence his thinking. There is no evidence that he was out there in the

world, creating coalitions of common action to solve our toughest problems, whether it was Syria or North Korea, Afghanistan or anything else. It was

impossible to see what he was doing.

And, equally importantly, he managed to alienate or drive off most of the senior talent in his department. So, it was important that we have a

change. There was real concern out there in the world that America was evaporating on the diplomatic stage.

AMANPOUR: Well, that is an extremely clear failing grade from you as a former assistant secretary of state. But how do you account for the

following that the rest of the world leaders actually looked at Rex Tillerson as one of the pillars that kept the ship of state in the Trump

administration, along with Gen. Mattis and McMaster, at least from tipping over and capsizing? That's one thing.

Secondly, he really did believe in the Iran deal, in diplomacy with North Korea. So, despite the failings that you enumerate, do you think those

qualities are at risk right now? Or will Pompeo continue them?

NULAND: Well, it doesn't particularly matter what the secretary of state's personal views were on any issue if he can't persuade the president and if

he can't work with the president to create solutions that our allies and partners also can get behind and that are good for America.

So, to have Tillerson out there on an island virtually signaling was not actually helping America play a strong game out there in the world and

advancing peace and stability.

Obviously, what we know about Mike Pompeo is that the president trusts him, that they have established a good relationship.

[15:00:00] I would say also that Director Pompeo has been very clear that some of the things that are important, including the role that Russia

played in trying to manipulate the US election in 2016 and that they remain a concern and a problem on those issues and others.

With regard to the Iran deal, what's important now is to have a secretary of state who can go out and talk to the allies and partners who helped us

to craft the Iran deal and talk about the concerns that the president has about the gaps and the need to extend it and see if we can come up with a

common way forward that allows us to preserve the best of the deal and address the other problems that we have with Iran, whether it's on missile

proliferation, whether it's on their support of terrorism, their role in Syria.

So, somebody who is close to the president and can work with him on these issues, but can also speak for him with allies, maybe more effective than

Rex Tillerson was.

AMANPOUR: All right. Well, let's go to the Russia issue, which you are very, very familiar with. That was your brief when you were assistant

secretary. Will there not be a clashing immediately then between Pompeo and the president, given what you say, the president - Mr. Pompeo has

acknowledged the interference by the Russians and the president doesn't and doesn't say a bad word or any kind of word of accountability to Vladimir


NULAND: Well, the interesting thing now is that every member of the president's national security cabinet and his national security advisor and

Director Pompeo are concerned about the role Russia played and about Russia's role going forward.

So, the question now is whether, with the kind of trust that Pompeo and Trump appear to have between them, Pompeo can help steer the direction of

US approach on this towards looking to the future and get the president to stop equating this issue with his own legitimacy, which is what is

preventing a full whole-of-government US approach to this with our allies.

AMANPOUR: So, let's move on to the North Korea negotiations and the frantic preparation that must be going on to prepare this very important

summit, should it take place.

I spoke to another former State Department official who has been on the frontlines of negotiations with Iran and previously North Korea, Wendy

Sherman. And to your point about Rex Tillerson gutting the State Department on his watch, this is what she said about it when it comes to

these vital negotiations.


WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: This is very concerning. And quite frankly, all of the posts aren't filled at

treasury or the Pentagon or energy or in our intelligence community, all of which will be elements of this negotiation.

You have to have a strong interagency system to pull this off. You have to actually have meetings in the Situation Room to work out all the pieces of

the policy. This is an enormous undertaking.

Literally, in the Iran negotiation, there were hundreds of people in the US government who were engaged, let alone hundreds in everyone else's

government who were involved.


AMANPOUR: Victoria Nuland, does that concern you? Is there enough time to get that kind of operation up to speed?

NULAND: Well, again, we had a secretary who didn't seem to be preparing even though he favored talks. Now, we have a secretary who has - or we

will have a secretary, if Mike Pompeo is confirmed, who has the president's ear.

What's important now is to harness the experience that we already have in the career foreign service. Many American diplomats have worked on past

agreements and know the players very, very well to create common cause with your own home team, but then to start working on mapping through, as Wendy

said, the very, very complex issues that will have to be negotiated.

But, again, you're going to have to have the president's trust if you're going to be effective at helping to shape diplomacy that he now wants to


So, it's extremely important that we will now have somebody at the State Department who can harness our experience, the past American diplomats who

have been involved in this, to try to help shape this going forward rather than just ignoring all that talent.

AMANPOUR: And just finally to you, what do you make of President Trump saying that Gina Haspel, the deputy at CIA, will take over from Mike

Pompeo, particularly since she, everybody knows, was, I believe, directing one of the black sites originally after 9/11 in Thailand where there was

torture against people like Abu Zubaydah?

[15:10:03] And, indeed, her name is on the memo that calls for the destruction of some of the taping and the surveillance video of those

methods that were employed, even though many in the CIA community say that she's a good pick for this job, but what about that part of her record?

NULAND: Well, she's been at the CIA for a very long time. She does have the trust of the troops there.

I don't know her personally. I'm going to guess that all of the issues that you raise, Christiane, will come up in her confirmation hearing and

she'll have a chance to speak about her record as well as where she wants to take the department going forward.

AMANPOUR: Victoria Nuland, thank you so much for joining us on this really important day. Thanks a lot.

NULAND: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Now, as President Trump upends his foreign-policy staffing, he's weighing in also on the dramatic poisoning of a former Russian spy in

England. This is what he said about it.


TRUMP: Theresa May is going to be speaking to me today. It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia and I would certainly take that finding as



AMANPOUR: So, they have now spoken and agreed that Russia must give "unambiguous answers" about a military grade nerve agent attack in England,

which left the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in critical condition.

Russia's foreign minister today spurned the British ultimatum to give a credible response and we're now learning that another man who had gotten on

the wrong side of Russia, Nikolai Glushkov, has been found dead in his London home.

Police do not know the cause of death. And though there is no connection at the moment to the attack in Salisbury, a counterterror unit is leading

this latest investigation.

Now, Sir Tony Brenton served as British ambassador to Russia when another former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko was killed again in London by

radioactive polonium. And he's joining me now from Cambridge University in England.

Sir Tony, welcome to the program. And, I guess, the first and foremost, what do you make of the death of Nikolai Glushkov?

SIR TONY BRENTON, FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, the authorities are saying that there's no connection. There are lots of

Russians living in the UK and they die from time to time.


BRENTON: On the other hand, Glushkov was linked to Berezovsky, who was an archenemy of the Russian system, and there have to be questions.

I mean, a bit of background here. There have been quite a lot of deaths of Russians who, in one way or another, are disliked by the regime in the UK

over the last decade or so.

Each of those deaths, of course, has been properly investigated. I was - the Litvinenko death, we know about, and no doubt we'll come back to.

We're dealing now with the attack on Skripal. The others, properly investigated, the conclusion was that there was nothing Russian linked to


There's now pressure actually for closer investigation, just in case there are more links that we've missed. I support that pressure and I rather

that we'll take a closer look at what's been going on.

AMANPOUR: All right. We are going to come back to your assertion that proper investigations were conducted because there are many who disagree

with that.

And Glushkov himself, speaking to "The Guardian" in 2013 said, I don't see anyone left on the list, apart from me.

Now, as you say, this still has to be investigated, but what do you make of President Trump seeming to move towards Prime Minister May's conclusion

that Russia potentially was involved in the attack on Skripal and his daughter?

BRENTON: That's very good news. I mean, just to summarize the situation here, Skripal was attacked a week ago with what turned out to be a nerve

agent which is only produced and obtainable from Russia.

So, the link was, obviously, very close. Yesterday, in the House of Commons, Theresa May announced that the Russians were very likely

responsible for this. She set a deadline for the Russians to offer answers to the questions we were putting to them about how this had all happened.

That deadline being midnight tonight UK time.

If it turns out that the Russians cannot adequately answer the questions that we put to them and that all the signs in the course of today are that

they're not going to, then we will be imposing certain measures on Russia - diplomatic sanctions, probably economic sanctions and so on.

And we will do what we can. The point being to demonstrate to the Russians that the costs of this sort of behavior are not worth the benefit.

AMANPOUR: So, would you agree - sorry to interrupt you. Would you agree that up until now the Russians have not felt that the costs are at all

punitive or at all noticeable and, therefore, this kind of activity continues?

BRENTON: Well, the world has shifted. I was closely involved with this one when I was ambassador in Russia in 2006. Alexander Litvinenko was

killed in London with a radioactive poison actually. We had exactly the same conundrum as the British authorities face now.

[15:15:05] We decided to impose sanctions which we thought would be sufficient to deter the Russians from future such action. Obviously, that

judgment, we didn't apply enough, although the political situation has changed dramatically since 2006.

We're now revisiting the issue. I'm sure that sanctions even tougher than those we imposed on the Litvinenko case will be imposed now. And the aim

has to be to demonstrate to the Russians the real costs of what they're doing.

If I can just finish off the thought that I was offering, it is that we in the UK we'll do what we can. But what we're dealing with here is an

international threat. What happened in Salisbury last week could happen in Avignon, could happen in Colorado, it could happen anywhere in the West.

We have a shared interest in demonstrating to the Russians that there are costs to this sort of behavior. And that means that, as we take our

action, we will be very much hoping and expecting that our allies will be looking to support us.

AMANPOUR: So, in that regard, I just want to bolster what you're saying about the severity of this current situation with this from Prime Minister

May in parliament yesterday.


THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of

force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom. And I will come back to this House and set out for full range of measures that we will take

in response.


AMANPOUR: I mean, it's pretty dramatic when the prime minister of one nation talked about an unlawful use of force against their state by another

state. And we will wait to see how those punitive measures that you talk about will be fleshed out and outlined.

But in the meantime, regarding the other 14 deaths, Yvette Cooper, who is from the opposition Labour Party, said today that the government ought to

review those 14 deaths. She says they have not been treated as suspicious by the UK police, but they have reportedly been identified by US

intelligence sources as potentially connected to the Russian state. What do you make of that?

BRENTON: I dealt very closely with the UK police on the Litvinenko case. I have total confidence in their professionalism and determination to

uncover the truth.

The implication of a lot of the stories that have gone around about these 14 deaths is that there's been some sort of government coverup.

We do not have political control of our police in that way. They investigated properly and I'm sure reached conclusions on the basis of the

circumstances for each death.

Now, that may be different from the conclusions that they draw pulling all of the deaths together. So, I support a further investigation and we'll

see what happens.

AMANPOUR: It really is a dramatic day. Sir, Tony Brenton, thank you so much for joining us on this part of the picture. Thanks a lot for being

with us.

And now, from Britain, we switch gears and we go to the Vatican because five years ago today, this man stepped out onto that famous balcony and

emerged as Pope Francis.

The Argentinian Pope immediately broke the mold and captivated the world. He shunned the fancy papal apartment and indeed the big car and he devoted

himself to the poor and the marginalized of our world.

But all these years later, has he met all those expectations and fulfilled all those hopes that he raised?

Here to discuss is Father James Martin, no stranger to breaking the mold himself. His call for Catholics to be more accepting and more

compassionate towards the LGBT community has been met with both cheers and jeers and he lays it all out in his book, "Building A Bridge". And Father

James Martin joins me now.

So, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: What a day! Five years ago, this dramatic event happened in the Vatican and really the whole world, Catholics and non-Catholics, were swept

up by him, by this person. Has he, as I asked, met the important expectations that he raised?

MARTIN: I think the important ones, yes, which is to turn the church more towards the poor. I think he said in an interview with American magazine,

he felt the church was too focused on issues like abortion, homosexuality, same sex marriage, which are important, but he wanted to move us more

towards direct contact with the poor.

He is a pope of mercy. He is a pope of gestures. And I think people love him. And I think the proof is in the pudding. I think he has made -

AMANPOUR: So, the proof is in the pudding. And the pudding, according to the polls, say that 58 percent of American Catholics say Pope Francis

represents change for the better. Now, that is a 10-point drop from four years ago. What do you attribute that drop to? Where are the areas that

he has failed people's hopes, do you think?

MARTIN: Well, I would say the honeymoon is over, basically. At the beginning, he was exciting because, as you said, he moved out of the papal

apartment, he didn't wear the shoes, he took the name Francis.

[15:20:05] I think you see the opposition to him hardening. I think people realized that a pope who is talking about the sermon and meeting people

where they are upends their expectations of a pope who will be more focused on rules. And so, I think you're saying people who are particularly

traditionalists who are more disappointed.

AMANPOUR: Traditionalists within the Catholic Church probably don't like some of his more progressive policies. But on the other hand, moderates

and progressives, and a lot of ordinary men and women think that he hasn't gone far enough, for instance, on the sexual abuse scandal.

We know that Cardinal Pell, the third highest ranking official, is on leave of absence in Australia and may be facing trial on charges of historical

sexual offenses. People were furious in Chile. There was an uproar when the pope recently went there and appeared to protect the Chilean bishop

who's accused of protecting a pedophile priest.

And then, when Cardinal Law died, I mean he was the subject of the film "Spotlight", again accused of shuffling priests around and no

accountability for their misdeeds and their sexual abuse. And the pope goes and says a benediction at his funeral.

There are a lot of people, including victims, who don't believe this pope has done the accountability that he needs to in that regard.

MARTIN: That's true. There are a lot of people who feel that way. And I think that's one of the areas that he really needs to improve upon. I

think one of the most important areas would be in his up Papal Commission to really hold bishops accountable. You talked about that in Latin

America. And that's kind of the missing link.

You have priests removed immediately, but what do you do with bishops? And I think he's struggling with that.

AMANPOUR: Why though?

MARTIN: I don't know. That's a good question. I'm not sure. Some people have said that there's too much for him to deal with. He is dealing with

all sorts of other things. This is a very difficult topic. He is trying to listen to both the bishops and the priests and the victims.

But, honestly, the answer is you may not hear this from Jesuits very much, but I don't know. I don't know why it's taking him so long.

AMANPOUR: Particularly, in this moment, the #MeToo movement and particularly since that issue was one that had the popularity and the

belief in the Catholic church plummeting for all those years before he came into that role.

MARTIN: It's very mysterious because he does meet, we heard, every Friday with victims. So, it's not as if he is deaf to their cries and he knows

what's going on. He was the archbishop of Buenos Aires. But it may be the Vatican bureaucracy, it may be something that he's holding back in doing.

But, as I said, I think it is kind of mysterious.

AMANPOUR: Well, I will say that one victim has told "NPR Radio" that, "I was very hopeful in the beginning when he first came to office, but I think

the time has gone. I found myself becoming more and more disillusioned. All the words are of no use and the promises of no use, if we don't see

real change."

MARTIN: Yes. I don't know if I'd say that. I don't think all hope is gone. I mean, I think he is a very dedicated and faithful person. He is a

loving person. He wants to do his best. I'm not sure what's taking so long.

AMANPOUR: So, let's turn to your personal situation because you yourself have come across and come really almost to blows, verbally anyway, with the

traditionalists in the church. You've written this book, "Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a

Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity". You were due to give a talk in New Jersey, tell me what happened?

MARTIN: It was moved off of church grounds because of protests from what I would call online hate groups. And that's not the first time it has

happened. This is a one in a series of talks that has been canceled. Ironically, the talk was on Jesus.

AMANPOUR: So, give us a little bit more context to this. What is it? Is it sort of traditionalist ginning up protests? Do you feel like the

majority of Catholic churchgoers don't feel compassionate?

MARTIN: Well, I think the majority of Catholic churchgoers are very compassionate towards LGBT people. Many of them have them in their

families. They are in their parishes. They are part of the church already.

I think you have people who are terrified with the idea that LGBT people are part of the church. And that's the kind of a sort of very small

traditionalist mindset that really is ginning up the opposition. And there is a lot of hatred and homophobia in the church. And we really need to

confront that.

AMANPOUR: And let's not forget, it's actually across religions. I mean, many of the major established - all the Abrahamic faiths anyway have a real

area that just don't believe in LGBT rights.

MARTIN: Well, I think that's true. And also, I think in this country, unfortunately, it's OK to hate again and it's OK to do personal

vilification and slander and lies and things like that.

And you see these on these sites and that's what happens. And I have been the victim of that unfortunately, but more and more victimized are the LGBT


AMANPOUR: Right. And you refuse to be victimized. You just went and had your talk somewhere else, but they did run you off that particular piece of

property. What do you think building a bridge, how do you think this could change this dynamic at this moment?

MARTIN: I think by listening to LGBT people. I think what I'm calling for on the book is for bishops and priests and church leaders to just listen to

them. That's basically the point of the book. Treat them with, as the catechism says, respect, compassion and sensitivity.

[15:25:00] But the irony is that, even that is too much for some people. The idea that we would listen to people, who feel marginalized, which is

exactly what Jesus did - Jesus went out to people who are excluded and felt marginalized, encountered them, listened to them and, as Pope Francis says,

accompanied them.

And that that should be so terrifying to people really - it was a little shocking to me.

AMANPOUR: I just want to play a very short snippet of what Pope Francis said about this issue when he was asked about how he felt towards the gay



POPE FRANCIS (through translator): If a person is gay and seeks god and has goodwill, who am I to judge him?


AMANPOUR: Well, as somebody said, the five words that shook the world and shook the Catholic Church, but he is, obviously, facing a massive tsunami

from the traditionalist wing.

MARTIN: Yes. I mean, the five words, who am I to judge, which initially was related to gay priests and someone pushed in the next day and he said

now it's gay everybody basically. He said to a friend of mine, homophobia has no place in my ministry. But a lot of the traditionalists think it's

their place to judge.

But, again, Jesus tells us, judge not. And so, it's very hard for me to sort of understand why people would have such a big problem with just

listening to people.

AMANPOUR: Well, if they read your book, "Building A Bridge". Thank you so much indeed, Father James Martin.

MARTIN: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And on this incredible day with so much upheaval all over the place, that is it for our program tonight. Remember you can always listen

to our podcast and see us online at And, of course, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from

New York.