Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Attorney General of Washington State Bob Ferguson; Interview with film director Kim Hopkins. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 28, 2018 - 14:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, he is one of a league of state officials across the United States using the courts to push back against

some of President Trump's policies. But how will the retirement of the Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy change all that. My conversation

with the Attorney General of Washington State Bob Ferguson.

Plus, chasing the American dream and the struggles of migrant families trying to live that dream. Film director Kim Hopkins joins me with her

poignant story of one such family from Cuba.

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

The Supreme Court holds a crucial place in the hearts of Americans and literally the court of last resort where the Constitution protects the most

vulnerable, where no man or woman is above the law.

But, historically speaking, the ideal of blind justice is a bit of a myth. From Dred Scott to Roe v. Wade to Bush v. Gore, the court has been a

major voice on the political issues of its day, increasingly politicized.

For the past several years, Justice Anthony Kennedy provided a swing vote between the court's conservative and liberal factions, though he was still

reliably conservative in most cases.

His retirement will impact the daily life of every American - at school, in the doctor's office and at the polls.

As Attorney General for the State of Washington, my guest, Bob Ferguson, used the courts to fight and win on LGBT rights, environmental safety and

most famously on shutting down Donald Trump's first travel ban.

He joins me now from Redding, California. Attorney General Ferguson, welcome to the program.

BOB FERGUSON, WASHINGTON STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you so much for having me on. I really appreciate it.

AMANPOUR: So, today, you wake up to news or you went to bed last night to the news of Chief Justice - Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's

imminent retirement, giving President Trump the opportunity to appoint another justice. Just tell me what you feel about that? What direction

you think it will take life in America?

FERGUSON: Well, it's hard to overstate the significance of Justice Kennedy's retirement and the potential for President Trump to appoint a

deeply conservative justice to the Supreme Court on issues of LGBTQ rights or a Roe v. Wade, issues you raised in your introduction.

These are hugely critical issues. Justice Kennedy often did play that middle role. And this new appointment will have massive repercussions for

the United States.

AMANPOUR: Did Justice Kennedy play that role enough or have we already seen a conservative tilt over the last several years? In other words, how

much more can a new justice do or will that new justice, do you think historically, have to think twice about political issues?

FERGUSON: That's a good question. I think it is more than fair to say that the court has tilted to a more conservative bent in recent years. No

question about that.

That said, Justice Kennedy has, on some significant issues, like gay rights, for example, played a decisive role in advancing those protections

for LGBTQ individuals in the United States because of his decisive votes.

So, I think it's fair to say, yes, there's been a conservative bent toward the court. We've seen that on a number of issues. But on certain high-

profile issues, Justice Kennedy did come to the other side.

I'm very worried, as are many, that that independence that he would sometimes display may be lost now with a new appointment from President


AMANPOUR: OK. So, this directly affects some of your work because you have been using courts, lower courts as well, to challenge, certainly in

the last year-and-a-half, some of the policies of this presidency.

But, also, we see the administration rushing to fill lower courts with new judges whenever there's a vacancy. How does this all - what is the

confluence of this? What is the result of this on the cases you are trying to push right now? Let's say, the travel ban. Let's say, your recent

case, along with other attorneys general, on the separation of families, which you're challenging.

FERGUSON: Well, a couple of thoughts on that. So, Washington State has filed 28 lawsuits against the Trump administration in the last year-and-a-

half or so. Many of those cases, we joined with other states as well, so it's a group effort from Democratic attorneys general like myself across

the country, but we have filed 28 lawsuits.

Nine of those cases, we had decisions from the lower courts. We won all nine of those. So, we haven't lost a case yet.

Now, some are still working their way through the appellate process. So, on one hand, I would say many of the positive decisions we've gained

challenging the Trump administration have actually come from federal judges appointed by Republican presidents.

So, it's not like it's black and white, that you can simply assume because a judge is appointed by a Republican or Democratic president that they will

have a certain orientation or vote a certain way on key issues.

That said, with that caveat, the fact that President Trump has the potential now to really impact the US Supreme Court and, to your question,

deeply impact lower courts where many of our cases are initially thought has significant repercussions.

Now, we'll not change how we do our business. If we think the Trump administration is violating the law, we'll continue to file lawsuits and we

think we'll still be successful, as we have been - we haven't lost a case yet - because the Trump administration continues to violate our

Constitution and our laws in such deeply fundamental ways.

AMANPOUR: So, you say you haven't lost a case yet and you did challenge the first version of the travel ban. And that version is still not

allowed. So, you have that.

However, the Supreme Court, as we all know, this week approved and allowed the third version of the travel ban. At the same time, a lower court, the

ninth district, basically ordered the government to reunite separated families. That was a case by the ACLU.

So, on your specific issues, what are the messages to the administration, do you think?

FERGUSON: Our messages are always quite consistent. My message is no one's above the law. No one in my country is above the law. That includes

me, but it also includes the president of the United States.

And this administration, the Trump administration has over and over and over again violated the law in deeply fundamental ways and violated our

Constitution. It's why they keep suffering defeat after defeat after defeat in the courts.

Notwithstanding Hawaii's challenge on the third travel ban, the Trump administration was finally able to eke out a 5-4 positive decision from the

Supreme Court on their third version of that travel ban.

But, of course, as you mentioned, their first travel ban, which applied to folks with green cards, it applied to folks who already had travel visas,

that was shut down by the courts.

So, at the end of the day, our job is to make sure the president's accountable to the rule of law. We'll continue to do that. That's not

going to change.

That said, the potential change at the United States Supreme Court in particular, if the court really veers dramatically to the right, which now

has the potential to happen, that can have an impact on some of the litigation that we're talking about.

AMANPOUR: I just wanted to stick with the travel ban for a moment and then get to the other issue that you're fighting, which is the separation of


So, on the travel ban and the Supreme Court's decision, there's conflicting, as you know, assessments of it. So, "The Wall Street Journal"

editorial praised the Supreme Court for staying focused on the law, basically saying "five Supreme Court justices did the country a service on

Tuesday by sticking to the Constitution and rule of law on executive power rather than succumb to the temptation to rebuke an unpopular president's

dubious policy." Do you agree?

FERGUSON: Well, no. I mean, this was not my case. It was not Washington's case. But, no, I don't agree. I felt that even that third

travel ban, that third iteration of the travel ban was still unconstitutional.

I thought President Trump made it very clear what this travel ban was all about. He made it very clear in his campaign and his words after the

election of calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims coming into the United States.

Those aren't my words. Those are his words repeated over and over again that we really felt there was a religious animus, and animus towards

Muslims that really drove this policy. And we don't think that's constitutional.

Obviously, the State of Hawaii lost that case before the US Supreme Court. We think that was the wrong outcome from the United States Supreme Court,

but that is the decision from the court and we now need to live with it.

AMANPOUR: So, it's really interesting that "The Wall Street Journal" reliable backer of President Trump even calls an unpopular president's

dubious policy. It even adds that word dubious.

Now, on the other hand, a writer from "POLITICO", he happens to be a law professor at the University of Michigan, says that the Supreme Court failed

to do its duty.

And he says, when a real threat to the American constitutional order comes, when a president decides to act contrary to fundamental constitutional

values, we cannot count on the courts to save us."

Is it really that bad?

FERGUSON: Well, that is very strongly worded, right? But it's hard to escape that conclusion for this particular case. We felt the abundance was

clearly in the record on Hawaii's behalf and their challenge to the Trump administration that this was an unconstitutional policy.

It was motivated by, as I mentioned, that animus towards Muslims, that there was not evidence to support what the policy purported to try and

achieve. So, this was a high-profile case.

On the positive side, that first travel ban was shut down, right? And the second one was not able to go forward in totality either.

But it's hard to disagree with the assessment of the individual you read to me that this was a high-profile case, it was an important one and I'm

deeply disappointed by the outcome.

I mean, in my state of Washington State, for example, the front page of "The Seattle Times", our local newspaper, has a picture of a woman - she

was not far from me in Seattle and she's married to a man from one of the countries that's affected by the travel ban. She's saying she may

literally have to leave the United States to be with him, to be with her husband.

Those are the type of real life personal impacts that are going to happen as a result of this travel ban.

AMANPOUR: And let's get back to the case that you are contesting right now and the idea around this zero-tolerance policy and the separation of


So, this ACLU case that we were talking about where the courts were ordering the government to reunite separated families, the judge writes

that the Trump administration does a better job of tracking the property of criminal detainees than it does tracking migrant children separated from

their parents.

So, I spoke at the height of all of this last week to the mayor of El Paso and he told me, as he was on a mission to inspect those detention centers,

he was quite concerned about figuring out how to get these kids back. This is what he told me.


DEE MARGO, EL PASO, TEXAS MAYOR: Christiane, we've been given no information regarding the children where they are. All we know is they're

being distributed throughout the United States, which was a surprise to some of us.

We heard about them being placed in Michigan. We heard about them being placed in New York, Rhode Island, elsewhere. That's the reason we came

together as a group of mayors to say enough is enough. This is ridiculous. This is not what we're about as a nation.


AMANPOUR: So, that was a few days ago. Do you think there's any progress in trying to figure out how to connect children to their families? And do

you know anything about what's happening to those children in there?

We can't get any specific information. Reporters can't go in there to do a proper job of figuring out what's happening to the most vulnerable.

FERGUSON: Yes, it's complete chaos, I think is the word to use. And to the point raised to your question, we're not talking about property here,

right? We're talking about someone's children. Oh, my god, my wife and I have 10 year-old twins.

I cannot imagine what it'd be like to be separated from them for such a long period of time, even being separated from a short time would be

traumatic for any parent or young child.

So, it's clearly a very chaotic situation. And it's worth pointing out, we talked about that first travel ban earlier in this interview, that first

travel ban, of course, when it came out created a deeply chaotic situation as well.

That executive order was signed without much thought. It was thrown out there. It wasn't thought through and the repercussions were disastrous.

We're seeing the exact same thing here with the zero-tolerance policy and separating parents from their children.

So, it's, frankly, typical, unfortunately, of how this administration works on issues that have such dramatic impacts on people and their lives.

AMANPOUR: So, very briefly, you have called - your lawsuit calls this policy "cruel" and "unlawful" and we've certainly heard some really

horrendous things happening to those kids.

The president signed that executive order ordering the administration's policy of separating children to be ended. Does that solve the problem?

FERGUSON: The executive order, no. The executive order, it was really a publicity stunt. It was for press conference purposes, but, no, it does

not solve the problem. And I'll give you one specific reason why it doesn't solve the problem.

About 2,500 children have already been separated from their parents before that executive order was signed. Nothing in that executive order at all

grandfathers in or protects or ensures those 2,500 children will be reunited with their families, nothing. It's silent on that. That's


And we think the executive order itself is filled with so many caveats to be absolutely meaningless moving forward as well.

Third, this Trump administration has demonstrated repeatedly that they're willing to go back on previous statements, back on previous policies day to

day, Twitter to Twitter. And so, there are deep problems with the executive order, there are deep problems with this policy overall, but the

impact is real. Parents are being separated from their children and that harm is dramatic and needs to be stopped right away.

AMANPOUR: And your case continues. Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington State, thanks so much for joining us this evening.

Now, border control, of course, as we've been discussing, is one of the hottest topics in politics today, especially after thousands of families,

as we just said, were separated at the US-Mexico border.

Now, my next guest has made a film, which goes beyond the headlines, focusing on the lives and stories of the people, who are trying to make it

in America.

[14:15:05] But her setting is Kehoe Beach, a remote fishing village in Cuba, where she explores a young mother's dream of escaping the endless

cycle of poverty, in search of an often-flawed and indeed vanishing American dream.

Director Kim Hopkins joined me here in the studio to talk about her documentary, which is called "Voices of The Sea".

Kim Hopkins, welcome to the program.

KIM HOPKINGS, DIRECTOR, "VOICES OF THE SEA": Thank you very much for having me on.

AMANPOUR: You know what I first want to ask you? I am used to Cuba documentaries being done by mostly Americans or Cubans. You are English

from Yorkshire. What first drew you to this project? What was it that made you want to do it?

HOPKINS: Well, in the late 90s, I was involved in starting the documentary department in the Cuban Film School and I got to know Cuba for what Cuba

really is.

AMANPOUR: So, the authorities were very clear about what you all could show about Cuba?

HOPKINS: Yes, very much so.

AMANPOUR: So, is it slightly subversive to have done what you did? First of all, it's not in Havana. Most documentaries are Havana based. It's out

in a fishing village. It's a very different look at Cuba than we usually get.

HOPKINS: I was looking to do a kind of Hemingway trope, kind of "The Old Man And The Sea". So, I was looking for my Santiago, what Hemingway might

have been preoccupied with if he had written "The Old Man Of The Sea" today.

AMANPOUR: And I must say, as we're speaking, we can see some beautiful pictures of sunsets and Peter, the main character, the fisherman, on the

sea. And it's absolutely right. It's "The Old Man Of The Sea" and the sea rather of Hemingway.

HOPKINS: So that was kind of my initial intention. That was the project I submitted to the Cuban authorities. Once I got on the ground, once I got

into the fishing village, I saw things that - what was happening the kind of migration issues with the Cubans, which have been kind of compounded by

Obama that made an announcement in late 2014 of the new relationship between the US and Cuba and that started an exodus of particularly poor

Cubans trying to get out of the country.

AMANPOUR: So, tell me about the family that you focused on, the wife, young woman named Mariela, the husband slightly older, his name is Peter,

he's a fisherman, and we see certainly from the very beginning that it is not easy that sometimes he can't even catch his daily bread, for instance,

much less be able to sell and make some money off it. And she, we can see, kind of is thinking about leaving and they have four kids.

So, we're going to show our first clip that I want to talk to you about because, again, in the context of a couple discussing whether they should

leave, you see the argument between Mariela and Peter.


AMANPOUR: I mean, it is incredibly poignant, isn't it? I called it an argument, but it's a discussion of what to do. And these families -

certainly, this one - seems to be stuck in limbo and you hear throughout that the government is just not providing for the poorest of the poor.

HOPKINS: Yes, I think Peter is just pragmatic. And I think you can see the elephant in the room in that particular scene.

AMANPOUR: The elephant being.

HOPKINS: The elephant being the American Dream. And I think Mariela is of a different generation. She has dream. She's also slightly more formally

educated than Peter. So, that kind of gives her drive. And, of course, she has four children, who are not getting a very good education.

AMANPOUR: She even talked about having already to pull the oldest out and she may have to pull the others out. I mean, it is actually tragic.


AMANPOUR: And you have this unbelievable cellphone video, which we're going to play, of this ramshackle boat, people packed into it and

surrounded by man-eating sharks. I don't know, sharks in any event. Let's just play it and we'll just talk about it afterwards.


[14:20:] AMANPOUR: I mean, there is so much to unpick there. I mean, you saw the American flag, their dream, probably also because of the Coast

Guard and all the rest of it, who they're going to run into.

You saw the sharks, you saw that huge wound and Michelle sitting in the bottom of the boat. Eventually, Michelle does get there, but just how did

you get that footage?

HOPKINS: Oh, Michelle is Peter's next-door neighbor and best friend and he trusted us with the information that he was going to leave and he was going

to take his wife.

Fishermen go quite a lot because they become the helmsman of boats, so they get a free ride. It usually costs around US$400, which is an awful lot of

money for a Cuban.

And once we found out that Michelle was going to attempt this journey, we quickly realized that we would never get the consensus of the other 20 that

were also going to go on this journey.

So, we procured a kind of domestic camera on the island and trained Michelle how to film. Keeping it wide, not zooming in and out like your

mum does and make sure that he filmed himself.

We thought they may get intercepted. And if they did, to jettison the camera, keep hold of the SD card, the recording material, and try and hide

it somewhere and that's exactly what they did.

When we got the material back, we expected minutes. And Michelle actually came back with about four hours of amazing visceral material of their

entire journey.

AMANPOUR: You can't help, but compare and think about what's happening across the Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy, boats adrift now.

Various different countries either saying no or saying yes.

You can't help also in a different way to compare it to what's happening in the US-Mexico border.

It is incredible that your film has landed right in this moment and it also deals with family separation and the dilemma of what to do as a family.

HOPKINS: I mean, I was really interested in that kind of emotional journey. As you can see from that last clip, the actual physical journey

is dramatic and dangerous.

But what I was interested in was kind of putting a kind of face to the migrants. What is the emotional toll on families to make such a decision

like this?

AMANPOUR: The other real dilemma for families like Peter and Mariela and many others in a place like Cuba is that, yes, they probably want a better

life, they're fed up, they have no more faith in the revolution and the promise of the Castros.

They're worried about what happens in the United States. But they're also worried about the erosion of their culture, their community, their friends,

everything they know back at home. Just going to play this clip where Peter is talking about being the only beach man left.


AMANPOUR: So, speak to me about the love these people have for their country, benighted as it may be in terms of meeting their needs.

HOPKINS: I mean, Peter, he lost many of his closest friends. He lost family members. He was in danger of losing his wife. He had only just

lost - Mariela had just lost her brother, who reached America. He eventually - he is a fisherman and he ended up in Phoenix, Arizona in the


And he - basically, he swapped a widescreen television and a second-hand car for community and family.

AMANPOUR: So, he left community and family for that second-hand car and widescreen television.

HOPKINS: Yes. And Peter wasn't buying that. He just didn't think that was a good deal.

AMANPOUR: So interesting. I wonder what the people coming across into Arizona and New Mexico and Texas and all these frontier states right now

from Central America, what they know about what they're going to and whether they think they're going to find the American dream or is it going

to be a bit of a letdown?

[14:25:00] HOPKINS: I think what happens in Cuba is Roilan, Mariela's brother, he had made 20 previous attempts. He arrived there on the 21st

attempt. I think to get on the phone back to the family in Cuba and say, after 21 attempts, that it's actually not quite panning out is a very

difficult thing to do.

I think pride gets in the way. And I think they tell the Cubans that are still in Cuba that things are better than it really is. And that kind of

myth just kind of spreads around the country. It just perpetuates the American dream.

AMANPOUR: What do you want people to take away from this when they've sat through the film?

HOPKINS: Maybe a slightly unfashionable thing to say, but I think that sometimes, for some economic migrants in certain circumstances, it's maybe

not always the best thing to do. And, I guess, that's the kind of another choice that people should think about.

AMANPOUR: That is so important that you just say that because, right now, the politicians are saying, economic migrants, you go back if you're in

legitimate fear of persecution or war or all the other terrible things that could get you refugee or asylum status. It's hard to say what you've said.


AMANPOUR: But they're going have to be making those decisions, if not the governments will.

HOPKINS: As I said, it's an unfashionable thing to say, but it's what I witnessed.

AMANPOUR: And you just told it beautifully. That is the most spectacular visual certainly in that - in your film. And really, really interesting

relationships too.

Kim Hopkins, thank you very much indeed.

HOPKINS: Thank you so much.

AMANPOUR: And that's it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.