Return to Transcripts main page


The Op-Ed: Courageous or Unconstitutional; NY Times Op-Ed Staffers Working Against President's Whims; "City of Joy": From Pain Comes Power. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 6, 2018 - 14:00:00   ET


[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome, to the program and here's what is coming up.

The world and especially the White House is consumed with the question which senior Trump official is an anonymous. The author of the that

scathing op-ed against the president they serve.


MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Anonymous meaning gutless. Gutless editorial.


AMANPOUR: As President Trump lashes out, we ask, is the explosive article courageous or does it subvert the constitution? Also, ahead, from despair

comes dignity, from pain comes power. A new documentary, "City of Joy," tells the uplifting story of a refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo

for women who have survived rape as a weapon of war.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.

Now, a sense of siege seems to be gripping Washington after explosive exposes even from within the White House. Many of the top Trump

administration officials and cabinet secretaries have been forced to deny that they are "anonymous" after "The New York Times" published an op-ed,

unsigned but claiming to by a senior official.

The common research (ph) "quiet resistance" exists within the corridors of power, working to preserve Democratic institutions from the president's

"whims." Coming a day after the legendary Watergate journalist, Bob Woodward's new book, which paints staffers actively working against their

own president to protect national security, the latest revelations including this quote, "There were early whispers within the cabinet of

invoking the 25th amendment." Now, that's the one that would seek to remove a president from office for being mentally or physically unfit.

Unsurprisingly, members of the cabinet have come out strongly against the article and its author. Here's what Vice President Mike Pence said today.


Anyone who would write an anonymous editorial smearing this President who's provided extraordinary leadership for this country should not be working

for this administration, they ought to do the honorable thing and they ought to resign.


AMANPOUR: I'm joined now by Mark Lauder, the former press secretary to the vice president, and David Frum, who was a speechwriter for President George

W. Bush, and he is a senior editor at the Atlantic now.

Gentlemen, both, welcome to the program.



AMANPOUR: This is really an extraordinary situation. I don't anybody can point to a president. But let me ask you first, Mark Lauder, since you

were the press secretary. You just heard Mike Pence. I mean, isn't it extraordinary that he and others had to deny being anonymous?

LAUDER: Well, it is. I think it's the time where we live where information and news cycles are about 20 seconds long but it's important

for everyone to know, especially with the rampant speculation going throughout the media and out discussion in Washington, D.C. about who this

is, that the preside was not -- the vice president was not it and nor would anyone on his staff be that kind of a person.

AMANPOUR: And let me turn to you, David. I guess I want to get from both of you, I know from what Mark has just said, he's reaction to it, what is

your reaction to the substance of the commentary in that the op-ed and the fact that it was unsigned?

FRUM: The op-ed confirms and corroborates the accumulating mountain of evidence about the president's physical, moral and mental incapacity. This

is a president who is the -- this is the most scandalous president, that they had the most scandalous administration ever. And obviously, the

president's mental faculties are rapidly deteriorating.

The story in the Bob Woodward book, for example, that the president was on the verge signing a paper, tearing up the U.S., South Korean free trade

agreement. Gary Cohn, he's principle economic advisor, took the paper away and then the president, like a puppy, completely forgot that the paper had

ever existed. He never asked to see it again.

So, we are in a crisis. In the face of that, my reaction to the -- so, I appreciate the additional piece of testimony, but being anonymous means

that we are now discussing the anonymity of the writer rather than confronting the crisis that the writer has told us about and asking what to

do with -- about it.

Remember, the core of his claim is the president is being cut out of his own administration. Many of us would prefer, probably most of us, probably

most people in the administration would prefer a president -- a Mattis presidency to a Trump presidency, but that's not the way the constitution

provides. It provides -- the constitution does provide solutions for a presidency that is unfit.

AMANPOUR: So where -- what -- when I just -- I'll get to the solutions in a second. But let me ask you, Mark Lauder. Clearly, you disagree with the

substance of what was written. But does it concern you that a lot of what was written actually does bolster, and particularly in Bob Woodward's

words, and he is an unimpeachable journalist for decades and decades, bolsters what a lot of people have been saying from within the

administration and within the White House practically since this administration got off the ground.

LAUDER: Well, and I have a lot of respect for Bob Woodward but I will remind that every president going back to Bill Clinton, including George W.

Bush and Barack Obama had words with -- and then disagreed with some of the conclusions and quotes that were attributed in his previous books.

But what we're also seeing is that this op-ed, even though it is unsigned and very critical and we don't know where this person works or whether he

is, in fact, or her a senior official, but it also talks about the great successes that are being achieved by this administration, they go on the

say, it wouldn't have happen -- it happened despite because of President Trump. I would argue it happened because President Trump because you're

not going to get tax cuts, deregulation and the things that's launched this strong economy under a President Hillary Clinton.

AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, of course, Democrats would say that the start of the strong economy did start, you know, under the Obama

administration and the employment curve has going up steadily since then. But be that as it may, and there has been an improvement, of course, in the

economy, the -- again, getting to the idea of how if you feel the necessity to complain and to highlight the alleged weaknesses of any commander in

chief, what is the best way to do it?

And let me play this sound bite from Senator -- former Senator and former Secretary the State, John Kerry. He spoke to the Stephen Colbert last

night about it.


JOHN KERRY, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: What should really trouble everybody and it troubles me that it doesn't trouble certain people is that members of

the United States Senate in the house who take an oath of office to defend the constitution and defend the United States of America are actually

defending their own power, defending their own positions and they are not defending the constitution or the institution of the Senate. They are

defending party and president. And that is wrong.


AMANPOUR: And he also went on to say they are more concerned about their electoral chances and their base than about speaking out. So, I want to

ask both of you about -- there's been obviously a lot of complaints that this subverts the constitutional processes.

So, David Frum, what should this person have done if they were that concerned as they seem to be about the commander in chief?

FRUM: Well, people in national security roles should serve as long as they can. People in other roles have to think very hard because in those other

roles, the presidency is creating much faster to disaster, and that's especially true in the trade agreement.

You need to make -- you need to resign and make your resignation count. Resign in groups, have people come together. And when you resign come out

and be prepared, unlike Gary Cohn with that story, to tell Bob Woodward months later about calamitous events inside the administration. Go on the

record, speak in your name, insist on testifying before congressional committee, confront the country with the danger it is in from this

incapacitated president.

And then, we have mechanisms, the 25th Amendment, the impeachment process, even the election of a Congress that will do some oversight at last, to put

some restraints on a presidency that is the most scandalous in American history.

AMANPOUR: I mean, we have seen a Republican dominated Congress really not face up to many of issues surrounding the president of the United States.

So, let me ask just ask Mark, you know, he was there, you have been there, you have been press secretary to the vice president. Have you ever in the

time that you spent within the administration seen any evidence of what we have been told for months, and more than that now, that there is sort of

despair in some quarters in the White House about this president and his agenda? Did you ever see any evidence or intuit any evidence of any kind

of resistance?

LAUDER: Absolutely not. In fact, I can deny, you know, plainly, that there were never discussions about the 25th Amendment and I have not seen

or heard of it. And I will also say, I travelled with the president just last Thursday, a week ago today, spent about an hour speaking to him on Air

Force One and we talked about the things that the American people are talking about. He wants to talk about NAFTA and getting Canada on board,

finalizing a trade agreement with the E.U., strengthening our military, confronting North Korea.

And those were the things along with the midterms that consumed our conversation, they were completely cogent, he was very engaged on that.

And so when -- in all of my interactions with him, whenever I see people saying, talking about incapacity and things, that's more wishful thinking

for overturning an outcome politically that they did not like. It's not reflective in reality.

AMANPOUR: Which we'll continue --

FRUM: You know, this is --


FRUM: We wouldn't have the volume of leaks from this administration conversation if other people in the administration felt the same way that

Mark does. This is an administration that is seething with mutual dislike and disrespect for its own chief.

AMANPOUR: It really is extraordinary. And of course, it's making waves around the world as well as world leaders try to get the real measure of

what is going on.

David Frum and Marc Lauder, thank you so much for joining us.

LAUDER: Thank you.

FRUM: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And now, we turn from trouble at the top of the pyramid in Washington to the grassroots movement in Africa, bringing together women

who survived horrific violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The documentary, "City of Joy" is about a community center in a country that's dubbed to be the worst place on earth to be a woman. Hundreds of

thousands of women have been raped and tortured since relentless wars broke out in the late 90s.

The center gives traumatized victims the chance to rediscover themselves and hopefully, the joys of life despite their unspeakable atrocities. It

was set up by a doctor, Denis Mukwege, founder of the Panzi Hospital where many of these women are treated along with Congolese activist, Christine

Schuler Deschryver, and the American playwright, Eve Ensler. She's the authors of "The Vagina Monologues" whose work and performances have helped

to fund the project.

I met them here in New York ahead of the documentary's premier. And as you would expect, some of the content is tough to watch in here.

Eve, Christine, welcome to the program.



ENSLER: We're happy to be here.

AMANPOUR: What is it that brought you two very different people but with a common cause, obviously, together? How did you even meet? Eve, how did

you find Christine or vice versa?

ENSLER: You tell the story because it's funny. She didn't want to be my friend.

SCHULER DESCHRYVER: No. I didn't want to meet her. Because in 2007, she was interviewed Dr. Mukwege, the director of the Panzi Hospital. And when

he came back, he just told me, "I met this amazing woman. Her name is Eve Ensler, she's a (INAUDIBLE) like you and you have to meet her."

AMANPOUR: A little bit like you. I see you're doing the international symbol for crazy.

SCHULER DESCHRYVER: That's what he did. And then, I didn't know who she was. And then, by the time he told me that she was a celebrity, I was

like, "No, thank you," because I had enough of celebrities who have come to Congo. I expect that they were (INAUDIBLE) over misery and then they left

us, you know, just with business cards, so I refused.

And then, one day, you know, it was a Sunday, I was at the hospital and they brought me two little children. They arrived when I was there, and

the one was three and the other one was four, they were raped. So, you know, those moments where you don't know with who you can share, you know,

the tears and because all of my friends they just wanted me to give up.

So, I don't know, I took this piece of paper that she sent, you know, with her phone number and e-mail and I called her. She was in IET (ph). And I

told her, you now, "For the first time of my life I can kill." And she told me, "I'm coming," and she came.

AMANPOUR: Tell me the heart of what "City of Joy" is, the place and the dark.

ENSLER: Well, I think once Christine and I started to work together and we complete fell in love the minute we met each other. It was instant. We

have -- our were totally missions aligned.

And we spent weeks and weeks talking to women, interviewing women in the Congo and asking them what they wanted, "What do you need?" And what they

needed was a place, a revolutionary center where they could be healed, where they could be safe, where they could be trained and where they could

turn their pain to power, where they could become essentially the leaders in Congo.

AMANPOUR: And these were women who had suffered rape?

ENSLER: Every woman at "City of Joy" has been through sexual abuse or some kind of violence and very severe violence.

AMANPOUR: And why Congo? I mean, in all of the reading, and I have been to Congo several time, what is it about that place? And obviously, it's

one of the poorest, if not the poorest countries in the world despite its massive natural resources, but it's also one of the most violent places to

be a woman. What is it about the Congo, Christine?

SCHULER DESCHRYVER: But I think it wasn't like this before. This is something that was brought, you know, with the war. As you know, the war

we had in Congo, it was like an African world war with, I think, nine countries were involved.

And because it was an economic war, so they wanted to plunder Congo. So, they had to use the rape as a weapon of war, you know, to terrorize the

population for them to leave their villages, so they come and be there and plunder and plunder the whole thing.

ENSLER: I also want to say, I think if you want to look at where colonialism, racism, capitalism and misogyny has come together in the most

fiery cauldron anywhere in the world it's the Congo. But remember, it's outside agents operating on the Congolese. The Congolese -- if you listen

to Jane in the film, they didn't know rape in their community before the war.

AMANPOUR: So, you just mention Jane, she's one of the people who figure very prominently in your documentary. You follow several woman -- women, a

class of women who, for want of better word, graduate from the "City of Joy," which is the center of safety, a center of empowerment for them. But

this is what Jane says about what she suffered.



AMANPOUR: I mean, listening to that, you actually can't even believe that that can happen to people. How common is that, Christine?

SCHULER DESCHRYVER: I think, unfortunately, it often happens. And I have to say, the level of violence, the level of brutality, I think -- I don't

know if you find that in other countries. And it is also prove that it's a way to terrorize people like -- it goes beyond the imagination.

AMANPOUR: You spoke about how the Dr. Mukwege got you together. So, he basically said in Congo, the fact that we have no memory means we tend to

repeat history. So, that goes to the impunity that you're talking about, Eve.

So what is it that your work, that the "City of Joy" can do to make a dent in this culture of impunity and to empower women who are not looking for

aid, are they, they're not looking for handouts, they want to come together to change their r reality?

ENSLER: I would say that one of the wonderful things about "City of Joy: is that it's owned, directed, operated and determined d by the women of

Congo and the people of Congo. And I would say that what's happening there is grassroots women who have been on the frontlines of the worst violence,

are being transformed through love, through healing, through knowing their rights, through self-defense, through amazing programs to become leaders in

their own communities.

When they go home, they literally are becoming the spokespeople, the leaders, the people who are determining so much for other women and men in

their communities. And what I believe is that we have enough women eventually in the Congo who have taken back their power, who have a vision

of the future, we will have a real radical change in the Congo.

AMANPOUR: I want to the play this final observation from Jane, a woman whose story is so horrendous, like so many of the others, that she

graduates from this class of "City of Joy," and this is what she says about what she gained.




AMANPOUR: How important is that idea of accepting herself and what's happened to her so that she can go back into the community without shame,

but to be able to, you know, do what you say they want to do, rise up?

SCHULER DESCHRYVER: Well, I think it's a whole process. Because, you know, most of the women when they are raped, the family, they don't want

them and they don't want them anymore. And like Eve said, you know, "City of Joy," everything is about love and about revalue women because when they

come they feel they are ugly, they smell bad, they -- you know. But when they are at "City of Joy" and it's part of our program just to tell them

how beautiful they are and that there's a life after the rape.

Like Jane, she - you know, she doesn't have a vagina anymore. But every morning when she wakes up, she's just happy to be alive and to help others.

Now, she has a mission, "I need to be there for others. I'm so happy to be alive. I'm so happy, you know, not to have the -- all these sexual

diseases." Because we do have other girls who have HIV and things, she's like, "Oh, my God. I'm still very happy I don't have all this."

AMANPOUR: Even though she's been so brutalized?

ENSLER: I think when you meet Jane you'll understand what true (INAUDIBLE) is. What --


ENSLER: Like (INAUDIBLE). Like a kind of -- I see her as close to God is one can get, you know. And I mean, she's somebody who's gone through the

worst violence. She's had over, I think, 10 or 12 operations. She's -- her body --


ENSLER: Eleven operations. Her body has been desecrated. And yet, her spirit, her love for the other women, her care for other women has

literally lifted her and guided her to another place.

AMANPOUR: Is this what you hop the documentary will do, to spread that story? What was the reason for making the documentary?

SCHULER DESCHRYVER: I think it was -- first of all, it -- I think it's very important for people not to forget that there's still a war going on,

you know, a silent war because nobody is talking about what's going on in Congo anymore. Most of the people, they think that the war is over.

And also, not to always to -- just to -- for people to see what's negative. Because I think "City of Joy" is a positive film. And it shows, you know,

when -- you empowered. Because we don't need -- we don't assist people, we just empower them for them to take their own destinies. That's the way you

-- that's the only way you can that community.

ENSLER: And I just want to say that if it's true and I believe it's probably an underestimation that one out of three women on the planet have

been raped or beaten, which is a billion women, it means a lot of women, most of us have either had that experience or witnessed that experience.

There are many, many women on the planet who need to know and need to go through a process where they can take that pain and transform that pain

into their greatest power, to turn that poison into medicine. And I think when you see women who have been through the worst violations, and not in a

phony, fakey, sentimental way saying, "I'm happy and I forgive," it's not like that. It's really a deep, deep process of going into the pain, facing

that pain, reckoning with that pain and coming out on the other side.

And I think if women around the world had six months where they could put their children aside for a second, where they could put all their concerns

aside a second and they get to focus just on their trauma and just on what they've been through and going through a journey and a process where they

could get their energy and their sexuality and their power back, this planet would change overnight.

AMANPOUR: Absolutely.

ENSLER: Imagine that, a billion women going through a process.

AMANPOUR: And of course, you tapped into that with "Vagina Monologues," you know, very early. I'm going to that in a second. But I want to ask

you Christine, because you do actually have a fascinating story and a fascinating history.

Your father comes from an very aristocratic Flemish family. He left, Adrian, his name was -- is, and went to Congo and met and married, from

what I have read, an illiterate Congolese girl. And you are one of the five children that your father had and mother had. How did that go down in

the White aristocratic, you know, Europe?

SCHULER DESCHRYVER: First of all, it was, my father arrived in Congo, he was nine years old, as a child. And as you said, he met my mother who was

a tea cutter in the plantation of my grandparents. He fell in love with her. And of course, they refused my father, you know, because they were

extremely racist. So, my father had to leave the house. And -- because he had to make a choice. And he choose the -- my poor mother.

And so, since I was a little child -- that's how I became an activist, because I saw my mother suffering just because she was Black. Because my

mother is the nicest person you can meet. And I refuse to see that and to accept it.

And so, I think it helped me. I'm very -- I have to say that I'm very happy because it helped me to become the woman I am, the activist I am.

AMANPOUR: And Eve, you've transformed a lot of people's pain to power with "Vagina Monologues." It started in 1996, and we're going to play iconic

opening part of it.


ENSLER: I bet that you're worried. I was worried, that's why I began this piece. I was worried about vaginas. I was worried what we think about

vaginas and I was even more worried that we don't think about them. I was worried about my own vagina, it needed a context, a community, a culture of

other vaginas.

There is so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them. Like the Bermuda Triangle, nobody ever reports back from there.


AMANPOUR: I mean, that still brings a smile, it's still really radically funny and it's still very painful and it's political. Is it still relevant

today, you know, it empowered so many, some people say, suburban women to get in touch with their vaginas, with their femininity, with their rights.

ENSLER: You know, it's so funny that you ask that because every year I say to our team (INAUDIBLE), "Isn't this the last year of "The Vagina

Monologues," you know, it's been 20 years. And they go, "No."

I really would like to believe that the play is outdated. I dream of the day people will say, "We don't need this play anymore. There's no more

violence against women. Every woman loves her vagina and knows where her clitoris is. That we know what we look like, we know what we love, we know

what feels good, we know how to look at ourselves and touch ourselves and teach other people to do the same thing. We know that we have is value, we

know there's no shame."

I'm sad to say it, I think we have a long way to go. Because as we move forward as women. as feminists, patriarchy is so persistent, so insistent,

so insidious, it will just move over here and it will push us back from this direction. And so, I think now, I mean, we're just looking at

Kavanaugh and we're looking at a man who could literally reverse the rights that we have struggled for, for how many years. Like it's all --

AMANPOUR: You're talking about Trump's supreme court justice nominee?



ENSLER: Exactly. I mean, and we look how many rights under Trump have been pushed back and how easily it happens because they're always in the

wings waiting, not so much in the wings, they're still center stage.

So, I think, until that, I think the "The Vagina Monologues" will be relevant. And I think, each generation grows up. And you know, it's funny

you think, OK, the play has reached this pocket of people, but then you realize it hasn't reached this pocket of people, and there's new

generations growing up who -- you know, whose mother haven't been able to say the word vagina yet to them, and they're learning how to do that.

AMANPOUR: Still making waves.


AMANPOUR: Well, it's great to hear from you. Eve Ensler and Christine Schuler Deschryver, thank you so much for joining me.


ENSLER: Thank you. Great to be here.

AMANPOUR: And their documentary "City of Joy" premiers on Netflix this Friday.

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


Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.