Return to Transcripts main page


Trump appoints John Bolton as national security adviser; Whistleblower behind Facebook's data controversy. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 26, 2018 - 14:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Tonight, a new team without rivals, the hawks circling at the heart of American foreign policy. What

next as President Trump picks a hardliner, John Bolton, as his national security advisers and imposes punishing new trade tariffs on China. My

conversation with the former deputy national security adviser James Jeffrey in Washington and, from Beijing, the former Australian prime minister,

Kevin Rudd.

Plus, after another weekend and more revelations, we meet the whistleblower at the center of the storm surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

Christopher Wylie joins us live.

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

The US president is surrounding himself with hawks and hardliners, while the White House continues to filter out opposing views. Enter John Bolton,

the new national security advisor to Donald Trump.

He has called in the past for bombing and regime change in North Korea and Iran. He remains a fierce defender of the Iraq war that Trump himself

calls a big mistake.

But, now he will have the ear of the president at a time of acutely difficult diplomacy with North Korea, Iran and Russia. The US has today

expelled 60 diplomats from Moscow with 14 EU member states following suit after the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy here in the United Kingdom.

All of this amid fears of an international trade war between the US and China.

What will John Bolton bring to the job? James Jeffrey, the former deputy national security advisor, joined me for Washington. And Kevin Rudd, the

former prime minister of Australia, spoke to me from Beijing.

Welcome to both of you. Ambassador Jeffrey there in Washington, big deal today, the US administration has expelled 60 Russian diplomats, the most

it' ever expelled in history. What do you make of this? And Trump is doing sort of a 180, isn't he?

JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO GEORGE W. BUSH: To some degree, Christiane. He's also closing, I believe, their consulate

in Oregon. This is a huge step not only to show the Russians that we're serious, but also to align ourselves with the European Union that has taken

a strong position on the assassination attempt in England, but also with our NATO ally, Britain.

And it's very important in, if you will, the evolution of Donald Trump towards a more confrontational position towards Vladimir Putin.

AMANPOUR: Well, do you think that is what's going to happen? I mean, is Bolton already making himself felt because he is more hard on the Russians

than Trump has been. I mean, really, this is a whole new Trump vis-a-vis Vladimir Putin or is it just a show for this particular unacceptable

alleged assassination attempt.

JEFFREY: Good question. I think under the circumstances, the evidence is so clear, the United States had no other choice. Also, you remember,

Congress passed 99-1 or 99-0 - the Senate - anti-Russian sanctions a few months ago.

So, the president knows that the US Congress is very, very angry at the Russians for many good reasons and he has to bend to that to some degree.

AMANPOUR: To you, the former prime minister of Australia there in Beijing, Kevin Rudd who knows Beijing very well and all the associations, what do

you make of this, at least the threats of a trade war. It is something that President Trump, in terms of tariffs and the like, promised his voters

that he would throw at China and people are angry about the size of the trade surplus/deficit and about the theft of intellectual property?

Does Trump have a point when he's trying to punish Beijing?

KEVIN RUDD, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: In terms of the Chinese unfair trading practices, there are a range of people, including myself,

who believe that the Chinese need to lift their game hugely against international trade standards, including on intellectual property.

But then, the question, Christiane, becomes one of the mechanism that you use to resolve these disputes. That's why we all invented the World Trade

Organization on the backs of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which goes back to 1944.

We've got a set of rules and procedures and dispute resolution mechanisms under the WTO designed for these sorts of issues. The problem is, if the

United States, under President Trump's administration walks around them and begins to act unilaterally, then there comes a point where the rules of the

overall system begin to collapse.

[14:05:11] Which is why not just China, but other states - Europeans, Australians and others - in the WTO in Geneva in the last 24 hours have

been railing against American actions, for example, on steel and aluminum so far.

AMANPOUR: So, let's now get to the heart of another matter, and that is the hardening of President Trump's America First policy, at least as far as

we can tell.

Jim Jeffrey, this idea of having John Bolton, a very polarizing, incredibly hard-line individual as his national security advisor, just a heartbeat

away from his office, maybe a couple of doors down from the president's office on a 24/7 basis, there are rumbles and sort of fears going through

the allies and probably the adversaries as to what this means for US foreign policy? What do you think, Jim Jeffrey?

JEFFREY: I think we have to wait to some degree. What we know is, and I've worked a bit with John Bolton, Bolton is brilliant, he's very good

bureaucratically and he's very hard on Russia, which is President Trump up to now has not been, and he appears to have Trump's confidence at least

from what we've seen so far. Those are all pluses.

The problem is, as national security advisor, you're not really on an equal level with the cabinet members, with Secretary Mattis at Defense, with Mike

Pompeo if he gets confirmed at State, with Nikki Haley.

You have to coordinate them and basically do the nose-to-the-grindstone work of ensuring the policies are executed. You cannot be the first

player. The only exception was Kissinger and there is no second Kissinger.

We'll see whether he can adapt himself to that, but that's crucially important for him to do the job of being the honest broker among all of

these very important players.

AMANPOUR: But, again, he's very close. He's known for his very, very hardline policies. And, for instance, where Kevin Rudd is sitting, what

are the Chinese going to think? Is sort of trade nationalism going to become the mantra of the day in the White House? Is President Trump going

to be urged by his new national security advisor to dump the Iran deal as both of them want to do? What about regime change in North Korea?

I mean, Bolton has expressed himself on both of those issues in that regard, Jim?

JEFFREY: Right. You're absolutely right. Pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal is a big mistake and I think most people recognize this. I don't

think the president does and I don't think John Bolton does.

In terms of North Korea, there is no regime change scenario. We're not going to do this militarily. Bolton will not command any divisions and

there's no way the US military will do it.

The risk is, if he thinks that there is a fantasy island, as I call it, solution to foreign policy problems where you don't have to do the hard

work, mobilize the international community and then accept compromises, then he could possibly blow up the opening that we now with North Korea's

freeze of its nuclear program and the summit with President Trump, by demanding things like a commitment to total denuclearization before any

meeting happens and the North Koreans will never do that. That's the kind of worry that I have in practical terms.

AMANPOUR: And, Kevin Rudd, you know John Bolton. You've interacted with him. And you, obviously, know China and the whole North Korean issue. Do

you have these kinds of concerns that a John Bolton could torpedo it one way or another, including ditching the Iran deal?

RUDD: Well, I know John Bolton to a limited extent. I met a couple of times in his work during the Bush administration. And he's certainly a

hawk. Let's just call a spade a spade here.

But I tend to agree with Ambassador Jeffrey. We need to actually give Ambassador Bolton time to settle in. He's in a new position. He's not

occupied this position before. And let's see how he plays the game ahead of him.

But I would say this on the question of North Korea. I would agree again with Ambassador Jeffrey, the military option, frankly, leads us to a world

of pain, much greater than we currently confront.

But, secondly, we now have, I think, a real problem in terms of the China- US relationship on North Korea. Why do I say that? I mean, up until now, China basically has accepted the American lead on North Korea, has

supported US proposals for sanctions in the UN Security Council against the North Koreans, multiple sets of sanctions getting harder and harder.

And then, you have this unilateral action by President Bush some weeks - President Trump some weeks ago when he indicated that he would have this

summit with Kim Jong-un.

[14:10:00] Now, the Chinese were blindsided by this, as were the Japanese and as were a whole bunch of American allies, in addition to those as well.

So, this leaves the Chinese out on the cold.

That's bad, particularly if the North Korean summit with President Trump itself goes bad, because we then need to ensure that China is still with

the United States in bringing future leverage together against the North Koreans, against a failed summit, if indeed the summit occurs.

If the Chinese, may well be, well, thank you, Uncle Sam. We noticed we've been left out on the cold on this. We might try some of our own bilateral

diplomacy with the North Koreans and see which way they wish to - and see what contribution we can make to this equation as well.

I don't want to see a fracturing of the US-Chinese position on North Korea. That's not helpful for anybody at this stage.

AMANPOUR: And I see Ambassador Jeffrey nodding. And particularly, of course, it raises the question, if you actually want, as you describe

China's good offices or its help to add these ideas of a trade and tariff and all of this business. Ambassador, doesn't really help, does it?

JEFFREY: I think in terms of the overall approach, both for North Korea and China, I don't think Trump is doing all that badly because you can

separate out security issues and trade issue to some degree.

But what you do need is better coordination. And I was smiling when Kevin mentioned China being left out on a cold because the perfect example of

what a national security advisor should do is, when you get the offer to meet with the North Koreans, let the boss say yes, but before anybody says

anything, say how about a call to President Xi and make sure he's not blindsided.

This is exactly the kind of, again, nose-to-the-grindstone kind of detail work you have to do as a national security advisor. It's good to be able

to triangulate North Korea and China and us to try to prevent war on the peninsula or nuclear threat to the United States, but you have to do it in

a professional way.

And I think that that's what Bolton is going to have to produce on.

AMANPOUR: OK. Then, let's just talk a little bit about Bolton. Again, he is not known for his diplomacy. I mean, I don't know whether you saw, but

"The New York Times" is carrying an op-ed by a former deputy secretary of state, a former Obama administration official Antony Blinken, who reminds

all of us that it was the Republicans in Congress who basically scuppered John Bolton's confirmation when President Bush nominated him as UN

ambassador in 2005.

So worried were the Republicans in Congress about Bolton and his policies that Bush had to make him a recess appointment. I mean, it's not very

encouraging, Ambassador Jeffrey.

JEFFREY: You have a point, as does Tony Blinken. On the other hand, again, when he was up in New York, that's where I worked with him on

negotiating a very sensitive security deal with the UN Secretariat and I found him effective.

He is a guy who is in the limelight and that's what he is not going to be able to do working for the president because among the people he'll take

the limelight from is the president and he's going to watch that very carefully.

He is a hardliner. He is very tough. And that's not where the other members of the cabinet are in some cases.

AMANPOUR: Except for Pompeo is. I mean, people are actually a bit concerned that it's now an alignment of views around President Trump, which

I want to put to Kevin Rudd. This perception of an alignment of views, not just of America First, but on specific policies around President Trump now,

but also especially John Bolton - we were reminded - he has a reputation of dismissing or distancing or getting rid of people who don't agree with his

viewpoint. I mean, he has a big reputation of getting rid of the experts whose views do not align with his political views. How worried are you

about that aspect of it, Kevin Rudd?

RUDD: Well, the history of the Iraq war and decision in 2003 to invade Iraq on the grounds that there were weapons of mass destruction about to

destroy us all frankly is a sobering lesson for all of us today, particularly in the case of those who supported that action in 2003 and for

those who may continue to defend it to this day.

However, I go back to my point which is part of practical diplomacy. It is what it is. Ambassador Bolton has been appointed and he is, therefore, the

point man on this critical relationship with China and this critical question of North Korea.

And I go back to what I think Ambassador Jeffrey was pointing to before, which is Mr. Bolton's quite sharp professional skills when he is given a

task, and that is to execute, given the dimensions of the rupture in the US-China relationship at present, which is not just the trade issue we've

talked about before and the possibility of a trade war, not just a beginnings of a fracturing of the position on North Korea and not just -

what we haven't discussed tonight, which is the decision by the United States to pass the Taiwan Travel Act, which enables administration

officials now to go officially to Taiwan, we now have a US-China relationship which is looking spectacularly ragged.

[14:15:38] So, what I would strongly say is we need to give, I think, Ambassador Bolton an opportunity to demonstrate his wares. This

relationship needs to be harnessed to solve major global problems, including most critically the North Korean security question, but also to

frankly put the trade question to bed as well. Otherwise, we leave far too much damage in our wake.

But let's give the guy a bit of time to prove himself.

AMANPOUR: All right. On that note, Kevin Rudd in Beijing, Jim Jeffrey in Washington, thank you both for joining me tonight.

JEFFREY: Thank you.

RUDD: Good to be with you.

AMANPOUR: So, while we wait really for that big unknown, we're turning now to the ongoing Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal engulfing Facebook,

President Trump's campaign and Brexit too.

In new reports over the weekend, another whistleblower and former Brexit campaigner said the official leave campaign broke the law by coordinating


The man at the center of all of this is the former Cambridge Analytica employee and the crucial link between all of these organizations and

campaigns, Christopher Wylie, who's now telling all to the authorities and joining me here in the studio. Welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: It has been yet another weekend of revelations, but I want to start first since we were just talking about John Bolton, former UN

Ambassador, now to be President Trump's national security advisor, you were the first to reveal that he too had a super PAC many years ago that used

Cambridge Analytica. Is that correct?

WYLIE: Yes. So, the Bolton PAC was actually one of the first clients of Cambridge Analytica to use and exploit the algorithms that were developed

using the misappropriated Facebook data. And he spent $0.5 million on that program where we deployed advertising online and looked at essentially how

to make Americans more militaristic in their views.

AMANPOUR: More militaristic, what do you mean?

WYLIE: The purpose of the PAC, as I understood it and as I understood the project, was to really - to make Americans more conscious of national

security issues and, more generally, the thesis of the PAC was that America and Americans have become too limp-wristed as it were and that, in order

for America to maintain its place in the world, John Bolton and his PAC wanted Americans to feel more militaristic in their world views.

AMANPOUR: Well, we have just been talking with the ambassador and the former prime minister about the potential views of a John Bolton as a

national security adviser.

So, it is really interesting to hear you say that because he, obviously, as everybody knows, has a great love of the use of the military.

WYLIE: Yes. And it's ironic that John Bolton's PAC used Cambridge Analytica, whose parent company SCL Group is a military contractor.

AMANPOUR: So, just to get this straight, it was in 2014 which is before the Trump campaign, before Brexit, so you're saying it had nothing to do

with those political campaigns, the Bolton PAC. It was just this issue.

And you say their contract describes the services as "behavioral, microtargeting with psychographic messaging."


AMANPOUR: What does that mean?

WYLIE: So, Cambridge Analytica uses the term behavioral microtargeting to - as its term to describe the modeling that predicts personality traits in

the target audience.

So, the Facebook data was taken and combined with survey data that asked questions about personality trait, psychological disposition. Those models

were then combined - that survey data and that Facebook data was then combined, so that we could predict personality traits and psychological

disposition in the target voters, so that we could figure out ways to exploit mental vulnerabilities and target messaging at underlying

psychological disposition.

AMANPOUR: It really is extraordinary. And, of course, we have to say at this point that Bolton's PAC, the super PAC, says that it had no idea that

Facebook data was misappropriate.

[14:20:00] WYLIE: That's actually not true because if you look at the documentation of the project, it made very clear that the source of a lot

of this data was from Facebook apps that were harvesting data of millions of Americans.

AMANPOUR: We're going to put that to him, obviously, if you say. You say that the tactics and messaging used by super PAC were designed to exploit

people's mental vulnerabilities. Do you mean in terms of trying to engage and see who is more militaristic, encourage others? What is mental


WYLIE: A mental vulnerability is where you - no one is perfect, right? And so - I'm the first person to admit that. And when you look at

different psychological dispositions, people are more prone to believe certain things or thinking a certain way, and that when you profile people

and you look for, for example, people who are more prone to conspiratorial thinking or people who are more prone to highly anxious responses or highly

disgusted responses, for example, if you know that this person looks like a type of person who is more prone to believe in conspiracies, that gives you

the ability to target messaging to exploit that disposition.

AMANPOUR: So, in other words, you are revealing here a whole new layer of this microtargeting, not just to win elections or influence election, but

to actually, I mean, let me put it in this way, to influence foreign policy, for instance.


AMANPOUR: To influence military policy.

WYLIE: One of the things that the Bolton PAC was interested in is that you can lobby in Washington, you can buy expensive dinners, you can put

pressure on senators and congressmen all you want, but really at the end of the day what talks is voters, right.

And if you can rile up voters and make them more militaristic, you don't need to lobby senators because the lobbying bubbles up.

AMANPOUR: Has it had an impact, this particular PAC?

WYLIE: Well, John Bolton is now the national security adviser and Donald Trump is president.

AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you about something that I was fascinated the way you described this microtargeting. You compared it to reaching voters of

old in the town square versus?

WYLIE: Versus - so, when you think about what is democracy, right, and how democracy has evolved, it used to be that if you are a candidate or you

wanted your voice heard, you would stand in a town square, ring your bell and people would gather and you would talk to them about your ideas.

The fundamental fact of that scenario is that everybody is hearing exactly the same thing. You are saying the same thing to everybody and there is a

common understanding of the reality of that situation.

The difference is here that we are able to understand and get to know every single person in that town square, understand how they tick and then go and

individually whisper something in each of their ears and that this person hears one thing and this person hears another thing and this person hears

another thing and, fundamentally, you start a erode a common understanding of, first of all, what you're actually saying and what you're proposing and

then also more broadly the common reality of what this election is about.

AMANPOUR: So, we know that this weekend, the revelations were by a different whistleblower and it was alleging that Brexit vote leave, the

official campaign, had by far overspent and you have turned it improper and potentially illegal.

So, that is a major thing. Obviously, they are all busy denying it. Let me just read you what they say. They basically deny it. But in the past,

Dominic Cummings, who was the head of the Vote Leave Campaign has said this on Aggregate IQ, which is the whole sort of other name that was linked to

Cambridge Analytica. He said it right after the referendum.

Without a doubt, the Vote Leave Campaign owes a great deal of success to the work of Aggregate IQ. We couldn't have done it without them. Now,

that's subsequently been deleted. So, he's kind of admitting that it was vital.

WYLIE: They played a pivotal role. Forty percent of Vote Leave spending went to Aggregate IQ, which was set up during my time at Cambridge

Analytica to support Cambridge Analytica projects.

During the time of the referendum, all of its clients were Cambridge Analytica clients, right? Although this company has a different name, it

is so closely linked to Cambridge Analytica.

And the concern here is that this company was used to funnel money that allowed Vote Leave to massively overspend, potentially one of the largest

breaches of electoral spending limits in British history, or at least modern British history, and that's deeply concerning because Brexit was won

by less than 2 percent of the vote.

AMANPOUR: And that's so crucial to remember because it was less than 2 percent. But let me ask you think, the head of Cambridge Analytica, after

all your revelations, the other one, Nix was suspended.

WYLIE: Suspended, yes.

[14:25:00] AMANPOUR: The new guy says Christopher Wylie was a part-time contractor who left in July 2014 and has no direct knowledge of our work or

practices since that day.

He was at the company for less than a year after which he was made the subject of restraining undertakings to prevent his misuse of the company's

intellectual property while attempting to set up a rival one of his own.

WYLIE: Well, let me clarify some of these points here. So, first of all, I was research director at SCL Group before Cambridge Analytica even

existed. They're using a bit of weasel words here because when I started Cambridge Analytica didn't exist, right?

Secondly, I did not sign any intellectual property license. I did not sign any of the contracts that they're trying to force on me. So, I contest the

claim that I took any IP that they developed because I never licensed any IP to them in the first place.

And thirdly, the July date that they referencing is when I handed my noticing. It isn't when I finished working.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you very briefly because we've got 30 seconds left. You were fundamental to Cambridge Analytica. Why you are coming out and

sort of bringing the house of cards down?

WYLIE: Because when you look at the impact that this firm has had on the 2016 political cycle electing Trump and then being involved in Brexit both

directly and then through a related company AIQ, I felt compelled to tell people about some of the unlawful activities of this company because it has

had such a huge impact on the political cycle.

AMANPOUR: It's really extraordinary. I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more in the days and weeks to come. And hardball tactics being played to try to

deny all this by those who you've outed.

Christopher Wylie, thank you so much indeed.

WYLIE: Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: Appreciate it. And that is it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.