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Turning Presidential Norms Into Law; The State Of Putin's Russia. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired March 15, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, the special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenas the Trump organization over its business dealings with Russia,
say new reports. My conversation with Republican and Democrat heavyweights joining forces to create a new new-normal for this Trump era. Christine
Todd Whitman and Preet Bharara on why they believe the president's words and actions are eroding democracy.
Plus, the state of Putin's Russia from someone who knows it all too well. I'm joined by the Russian opposition political activist and the renowned
former world chess champion Gary Kasparov.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
A lot of breaking news today. The latest is from "The New York Times" has subpoenaed the Trump organization, including business documents related to
Russia. Many are now saying that this brings the investigation ever closer to the president.
This, on the heels of other major news. "The Washington Post" reported that President Trump admitted to making up facts about a trade deficit with
Canada when he met with Prime Minister Trudeau.
In any other administration, this would be bombshell news. But, today, these are just more stories in a long string of them that has created a
Trump-normal for the world, with his unpredictable, even whiplashy, management style, studied disregard for facts and outright hostility to the
Putting aside the question of legality, Trump is consistently flouting established rules of governance, otherwise known as norms.
My next guests are alarmed enough to set up a joint task force to address it, even to turn agreed rules of the road into new laws. Former New Jersey
Governor Christine Todd Whitman joins us from Arizona and the former US attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara is here with
me in New York in the studio.
Welcome. Welcome to both of you. Let me start first with you, Mr. Bharara. Can you just - let's address this new "New York Times"
investigation and report. What do you make? Because you've told journalists to be very careful about the ongoing details of this
What do you make of the latest news?
PREET BHARARA, FORMER US ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Look, it shows, like we've seen, week after week after week, that the
Mueller team means business, that they keep a tight lid on information that goes out of their office.
From the reporting that I saw just before coming on the show, it's clear that these subpoenas were issued some time ago. We're only learning about
them now for reasons that are not clear. And they're going to probe every corner and uncover every rock that they can.
AMANPOUR: But what does it mean? Everybody wants to know what does it mean for the president.
BHARARA: Look, anytime a special prosecutor is interviewing people who are very close to the president, that's a big deal. And now, if they're
probing information directly from an organization that's named Trump, that's a big deal too.
And, look, you never know. Like, the thing that you will need to remember, and I can explain from my time as United States attorney is that you look
at everything and it's not clear at the end of the day what you can connect up with a potential crime or even something to refer to the House of
But they have to look at everything. So, it's never surprising to me that they are issuing subpoenas to the Trump organization or they're talking to
Jared Kushner or they're thinking about talking to Roger Stone. Anybody who had any dealings with Russia, given the broad ambit of the special
counsel's mandate, they have to look at.
AMANPOUR: So, before we turn to the other news I mentioned about, the conversation with Prime Minister Trudeau, let me ask you, Governor Todd
Whitman, to explain to us what are norms for people who don't know what norms are, the rules of the road? Explain what they are and why you think
they need to be toughened up.
CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: Well, the norms are what we would expect of our elected leaders. In this case, this is about
we're talking about.
It's things like - we would expect that our representatives would understand the importance of the freedom of the press. We expect that our
judiciary would be free from political pressure, as would law enforcement authorities, such as the FBI and the CIA.
We would expect that those taking public office would understand the difference between participating in government and doing political work,
that there is a separation there that has to be maintained. And we would expect that people in public office are doing their job in public office
and not doing private deals on the side or using that public office while they're in it to enhance their bottom line.
These are things that we just thought of as normal, and this is normal behavior that we would expect of these people. And this didn't just start
with Donald Trump. We've seen this kind of thing before.
[15:05:03] We did have the no nepotism law passed after Jack Kennedy appointed Bobby Kennedy. And we had the special prosecutor's establishment
because of Watergate.
So, we've seen this before with other presidents. It's just that, with this administration, it's getting to a point where you've got to stop and
say, no, we have got to start to codify some of this behavior and try to put up some barriers to prevent things from getting totally out of control.
AMANPOUR: So, to both of you really, first to you, Preet, since you're here, that implies that you need support, you need Congress to do this and
to make new laws.
What expectation do you have that, particularly in this era, particular as you've seen a Congress very devoted to this president, not standing up to
some of the flouting of what you call these norms? Can you actually do anything at this time or you have to wait to the end?
BHARARA: Well, that's the hope. And what you hope is that members of Congress care about institutions more than they care about their party.
That's why -
AMANPOUR: But that hasn't been apparent right now. Or has it?
BHARARA: But new things keep happening, new norms keep being broken and sort of very dramatic changes are taking place. And by the way, not all of
it has to happen in Congress.
One of the things that the governor and I and the task will look at is the issue of transparency in campaigns. And one of the issues that has come
up, has been talked about a lot with respect to President Trump was the non-disclosure of his tax returns when he was running for office.
And on the state level, individual states can decide that they want to demand tax returns being released by a date certain before they put them on
the ballot in that state. And I think the State of Maryland has already done that.
And if you get a number of states to do, that's something that doesn't require Congress. It can be done on the local level.
AMANPOUR: Well, I'm glad you asked me about that. Let me ask a former governor, Christine Todd Whitman, what you make of California and Gov.
Jerry Brown. This is not a Republican governor. It's a Democratic governor, who doesn't like this idea.
And he said, today, we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records, a certified birth certificate, high school report
cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power? So, he doesn't like it at all. Does he have a point?
WHITMAN: He does have a point. But although my husband said, when I was running, he's lost his last fig leaf. I mean, why not put out your tax
returns because people know everything about you.
I think what we're seeing with this president is - what's causing people real concern is this overlap between the private Donald Trump organization
and the public President Donald Trump and the presidency and where those two things are starting to co-mingle.
The idea of requiring that tax returns be put out is something that's there because people think that may be a way to try to get through, cut through
all this mirage and see what's real and what isn't, where you need to worry about it.
The thing about the taskforce is we're not going to agree on everything, but what we're going to try to come out with is a series of recommendations
that either can be taken up by Congress, taken up by the states or taken up by the people.
I mean, if you look at the impact that the students are having now from Parkland, it was incredible what you saw yesterday other students walking
out and saying, am I next, my arms are for hugging, not for guns.
To have young children have to do that is just mind boggling, but it's making a difference. And I do think you will see a difference in Congress
because they are influenced by their constituents.
AMANPOUR: So, you both have said in what you've written and what you've talked about - and let me just ask you, Governor Whitman, that this
flouting of the norms actually is eroding workable government, workable democracy, how do you mean?
WHITMAN: It's undermining people's confidence in the institutions of government and they don't - you can look at any poll, people don't trust
Congress, they don't trust the courts anymore and that is extremely dangerous. They don't trust law enforcement. That's dangerous.
We have to get the public trust back. That's what erodes a democracy. If we lose that kind of trust and that ability to understand that we can make
the difference and that we need to make the difference and we can trust our institutions and elected officials, that's when you start sliding down a
very slippery slope that gets us into a very bad place.
There have been books written about how you lose democracies. This is one way.
AMANPOUR: And, obviously, one of the fundamental pillars of democracy is a free and independent press. And President Trump has made no secret of his
disdain for the press, and calling us and others fake news.
So, what do you make of him actually admitting that he made up stuff to justify his trade and deficit position to the Canadian prime minister.
Let me just read you what "The Washington Post" has as transcript. "Trudeau came to see me apparently," says Trump. "He's a good guy, Justin.
He said, no, no, we have no trade deficit with you. We have none. Donald, please. He is a nice guy. Good looking. He comes in, Donald, we have no
trade deficit. I say wrong, Justin, you do. I don't even know, Josh. I had no idea. I just said you're wrong. You know why? Because we're so
stupid and I thought they were smart."
[15:10:16] I mean, it's gobsmacking.
BHARARA: It is. But we get gobsmacked every week, if not every day, with respect to this president.
But going back to the taskforce that Governor Whitman and I are co- chairing, it's not to say, in reference to your comments that you read from Governor Brown, that everything can be legislated. I mean, norms are norms
for a reason and it's sort of an honor system that we have with our politicians. And you expect them to do things that are traditional because
they're good for democracy.
So, with respect to his disdain for the press, I think we have to be careful and make sure that First Amendment freedoms are not eroded, that
the First Amendment is not amended in some terrible way, where the libel laws are not changed in some extraordinary way that the president has
But I don't think we can legislate having a president of the United States not be critical of the press. The tradition has been and the norm has been
that it's not done to the degree to which this president has done it.
I mean, presidents have had bad relationship with the press going back to the beginning of the printing press. He takes it to an extreme.
So, it's not clear that you can legislate everything. But, A, if you can legislate some things, to codify some norms and also have people discussing
these kinds of things and bring them to light and have people focus on them, then the most powerful - the power that the citizens have is the
power to vote.
And if you draw attention to some of these things, these things can be fixed at the ballot. It's better for these things to be fixed at the
ballot box quite frankly and I'm sure the governor would agree - than by having to institute codifications of norms that have not been violated in
AMANPOUR: What do you say, though, in a very hyperpartisan atmosphere where we've sort of discussed that, actually, there's not a bipartisan
feeling towards this. And, I guess, I mean, the obvious question is, what reaction have you both bad to this taskforce?
But what do you do when - look, we just saw this week the House Intelligence Committee, one group of them, one political group, the
Republicans, decided to shut down the investigation independent of what the other group said or thought about it? How do you make inroads - yes, go
WHITMAN: Well, I was just going to say, don't forget, they're responding to what they hear. What they hear from their constituents. And Preet is
If we can elevate some of these what should be norms, what we expect as normal behavior of our representatives, if the people start saying this is
what I want, this is how I'm going to determine my vote, that is going to influence how they act.
And I hear you. It's gotten extremely partisan in Congress. Things are looked at through that partisan political prism, not through policy. It's
all about how do I get another vote in my caucus or another percentage on my reelect.
But if the public stands up and starts to say that's not enough, that's not what we want, we're electing you not to represent the party, but to
represent us, if we start doing that, they're going to pay attention. They really will and that's how things get changed in a democracy.
AMANPOUR: Well, again, it begs the question, you did rightly point out to these fantastic students who've decided to take their own fate, their own
future, their own safety in their hands, and they're really showing an activism that we haven't seen from students and young people for a very,
very long time.
But when you say the public won't stand for it, both of you must know that actually the most support that the president is from the very right wing
news organizations as was written, who enjoy bolstering his reputation as the middle finger to the establishment, the middle finger to these
established norms that you both treasure so much and want to uphold.
Preet Bharara, how do you fight against this incredible weight of partisan political press in his corner?
BHARARA: I think he developed a consensus over time among people who are prepared to put institutions and the country before their party.
And I know there's reason to be pessimistic, but you've said earlier, what has been the reaction, and I know the governor has said this as well, the
reaction has been overwhelming from people on both sides of the political aisle.
Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, have said what can we do to aid this effort. That's why it's a bipartisan task force. I've
had people come to me, and I've interviewed people in my own podcast, who've said what's more important than particular policy differences on
taxes or on trade, those are important, but what's more important than that are the traditions and the norms of American politics and decency and the
separation of powers and checks and balances and independent judiciary and also independent law enforcement. That's something I care about very much.
And I think, over time, consensus can develop that's mature, responsible and reasonable and some of these things can be passed.
AMANPOUR: Well, of course, I hope so. As a member of the free press, I hope that consensus comes back.
But can I just ask you very quickly, I've got very little time left, 20 seconds. Preet Bharara and Christine Todd Whitman, first you, Mr.
Bharara, what would be the first thing that you want to see redressed, the most important thing?
BHARARA: Five seconds, I don't prejudge that, we're looking at a lot of things. That's why we have a taskforce. To the governor.
[15:15:03] AMANPOUR: Governor, will you lay your cards on the line? What is the most important thing right now?
WHITMAN: I think the independence of the judiciary and people's trust in the independence of the judiciary and law enforcement. If those two things
get severely eroded, we are in real trouble.
AMANPOUR: All right. Thank you both very much indeed for joining me. Governor Todd Whitman and Preet Bharara, thank you so much for being in the
And as we said, for the first time, the Trump administration has agreed to slap sanctions on Russian individuals today for election meddling,
including all those indicted in Robert Mueller's investigation.
It also joined with France, Germany and the UK to denounce the chemical attack, the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in
the British city of Salisbury. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has fired back take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We are ready to return into partnership with the European Union when our European
neighbors lose interest in following American Russophobic tendencies including sanctions, including provocations and when they will lose
interest to put up with those scandalous actions which we now see from the government of the United Kingdom which goes far outside the norms of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And also, Lavrov has hinted not too subtly that Russia will retaliate for the diplomatic expulsions that the UK has already announced.
Well, today, the British Prime Minister Theresa May doubled down when she visited Salisbury, the site of the poisoning incident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: We do hold Russia culpable for this brazen, brazen act and despicable act that's taken place on the
streets of what is such a remarkable city where people come and visit and enjoy.
And I've come down here today to say thank you to our emergency services, to our police, to our health services, to everybody at Porton Down and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, the political chaos sets the tone and the scene for Russia's elections this weekend. Putin is unanimously expected to win another six-
year term. So, how can the West strategize for the fourth Putin administration?
Joining me now is Garry Kasparov, revered as the greatest chess player of all time. He attempted once to run for the Russian presidency. That was
back in 2008 and he's been warning that the world - he's been warning the world about Putin's moves for years and he joins me right now.
Welcome to the program. In fact, I covered your attempted presidential run back in 2008. I remember you being hauled with some of your supporters
into the back of a police van. Just remind us why, as an independent candidate, you couldn't officially be a candidate?
GARRY KASPAROV, PUTIN CRITIC: Because we should stop misleading people talking about elections. It's more like a ritual to reappoint a dictator,
his endless rule.
Putin has to do it. He has to pay tribute to Russian constitution that he has been violating all the time, to Russian citizens, but, most
importantly, to the rest of the world.
And even 10 years ago, which many of us called vegetarian time because, at that time, you could spend 5 or 10 days in jail for protesting. Today, it
will be 5 or 10 years.
AMANPOUR: And you call that vegetarian?
KASPAROV: Yes, that was vegetarian days. So, they did not let anybody, anybody who was not fully approved and vetted by Kremlin to be on the
AMANPOUR: Which is what happened to you?
KASPAROV: Happened to many of us. And these days, we could see, for instance, that Alexei Navalny, he is the renowned leader who has been
working tirelessly, revealing Putin's corruption, he's expelled from the list. He was not given a chance to run. And Boris Nemtsov, another great
leader, he was simply shot.
AMANPOUR: So, let's talk about, first and foremost, President Putin remains incredibly popular.
KASPAROV: How do you know?
AMANPOUR: Well, how do I know? From the poll results that we keep - are you challenging that?
KASPAROV: Yes. I'm not challenging things that cannot be verified because if you have one restaurant in town and all other restaurants being burned
to the ground, is that restaurant popular?
AMANPOUR: All right. So, what do the people think then? How do you know that he is not popular?
KASPAROV: We don't know because, imagine - when you said polling, people in this country, they understand, if somebody is calling you a stranger,
can you imagine a Russian citizen, somebody who was born in the Soviet Union, still remember that KGB - what was KGB and KGB now is in power,
being honest with the stranger telling what he or she thinks about Vladimir Putin?
So, polling, elections and other normal terms that are being used for political campaigns in the free world should not apply to Russia.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, you and many, many others like you believe that this political exercise is a sham and a PR stunt.
KASPAROV: If he is popular, why not to run a normal campaign? Why not allow people like Navalny to be on the ballot and why not to be part of a
debate? For his entire political life, Vladimir Putin has not participated in a single debate.
[15:20:08] AMANPOUR: What does it mean now that these sort of - I mean, this lashing out by Russia. They have been accused by the UK. The US
supports it. And you know President Trump and this administration has not really spoken out about Russia, but this latest poisoning with a very
powerful, very special nerve agent has been laid at the foot of the Kremlin.
I mean, how do you explain that in 2018. What is President Putin's strategy? What is his aim?
KASPAROV: Again, it's a dictator's strategy. He won't emphasize. And he knows that, if we're paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson who said that the tree
of freedom must be refreshed from time to time by the blood of patriots and tyrants. Putin knows that the foundation of every dictatorship must be
refreshed by blood and fear.
And I think it's a message. I think maybe it's connected also to Mueller investigation. It's a message to all Russians who might be thinking of
testifying that it's not only you, but also your family.
Dictators and the mafia bosses, they don't do things just - they don't kill people for just out of fun. It's a message. And then, don't forget, there
was a second murder of another Russian who was an affiliate of Berezovsky.
AMANPOUR: You're talking about Glushkov.
KASPAROV: Glushkov, yes.
AMANPOUR: But they haven't said it was a murder yet.
KASPAROV: We don't know. All of a sudden - but, again, it's important. Putin now is facing this March 18, this ritual, and he has to reinforce his
Russia really expected the sanctions to be lifted after Trump's election, after Putin invested so heavily in Trump and Russian press - government-
controlled press kept talking about a new era in relations. It didn't happen now with the Mueller investigation.
Failure in Syria when the Russian paramilitary had been decimated by US and Kurdish forces. Putin needs to show that he's still in charge. And I
always say, dictators never ask why, why not.
Twelve years ago, they killed Litvinenko. It was a nuclear attack on the UK. Three British administrations decided to sort hush up the
AMANPOUR: So, you fought the British for actually not stopping this and holding them accountable from the beginning?
KASPAROV: It's almost like an invitation to a dictator just to move forward because he has to show his friends. At the end of the day, the
list of what Putin would not do is we heard it all the time, no, no it looks bad, he will not do this, he will send troops to Ukraine, not annex
Crimea, not kill people abroad, not carpet bomb Aleppo.
He did it because he saw no retribution. And now, (INAUDIBLE) the free world now is actually paying attention. Obviously, Trump administration is
doing very little and little that Trump can do.
AMANPOUR: Were you surprised that they backed the investigation? For the first time, the administration did give the go ahead to congressionally-
approved sanctions, which were approved months ago?
KASPAROV: OK. It was a six weeks delay. And the list is very, very short. It's a small fish. Out of five mentioned there, at least two are
redundant. But what's important, basically, the administration recognized indictments.
So, it's a step in the right direction. But, obviously, Trump is doing absolutely everything in his power just to slow down and to minimize the
damage for -
AMANPOUR: So, you're an Insider. You go there. You've just returned, I believe, from Russia. No? Or you're not allowed back?
KASPAROV: No, no, I can go back.
KASPAROV: But that will be a one-way trip.
KASPAROV: I left Russia five years ago. Five years ago -
AMANPOUR: OK. So, there is a reason why didn't go back. Are you still in the know? Do you have people who tell you things? I mean, do you know, as
a former activist or a continuing activist, what's going on? What is at the heart of this Mueller investigation?
KASPAROV: Look, we do regular forums, free Russia forum and we have many activists from Russia. By the way, tomorrow, here in New York, we're on
Putin Con Conference, putin.com. Anybody can watch it live.
So, we sought experts from different countries, talk about the past and present and future of Putin's dictatorship.
And right now, again, I can see that Putin desperately needs to reinforce his status as the global leader. He knows there is one mistake the mafia
boss, a dictator cannot afford to look weak. So, he has to show his strength and so far things are not looking good.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, you are the world chess champion.
KASPAROV: I was, yes.
AMANPOUR: (INAUDIBLE), Gary. You famously played against AI and all of these kinds of stuff. Strategy is your game. Patience is your game. What
does the West do to confront in a logical, strategic, successful way against a president who is committed to the weakening of western
institutions and what you've just been describing?
KASPAROV: First, you have to recognize that you are at kind of a war, hybrid war, you name it, but you have an enemy that just is doing
absolutely everything in his power to weaken you and to create a division and to spread the chaos.
Second is this. You should stop saying that the choices are appeasement or war. Between appeasement and war, there is the vast area of - gray area of
[15:25:09] And you have to make sure those who are following Putin's order will pray price, ultimate price. Russian oligarchs and a long list of
people that are so far - they're quite comfortable working for Putin, but keeping their money, not in China, not in Iran, not Venezuela, but in this
country, in Europe. Follow the money.
AMANPOUR: So, you're saying that Prime Minister May who called it an unlawful attack on a sovereign state, this nerve gas attack, never agent
attack, expelled 23 diplomats. That's not good enough?
KASPAROV: It's because she's still treating Putin's Russia as a state, but they don't care what national interest. Go after people who could actually
make the difference. Make them choose between following Putin's criminal orders and their fortunes, money, families that are all in the free world.
By the way, conveniently within the reach of Theresa May, American administrations and European governments.
AMANPOUR: It's incredible as we wait for this weekend's election or re- rubberstamping. We'll see what happens in the future.
KASPAROV: Yes. But there's definitely more to come.
AMANPOUR: Gary Kasparov, thank you so much for joining us.
KASPAROV: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And that is it for our program tonight. And, remember, you can always listen to our podcast. You can see us online at Amanpour.com and
follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from New York.