Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Barnstorm for Republican Candidates; A Radical Change to U.S. Constitution by Ending Birth Right Citizenship; Kimberly Reed's Documentary, "Dark Money." Aired 2-3p ET

Aired October 31, 2018 - 14:00   ET



[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.

President Trump pulls out all the stops in the home stretch before the midterms. As division rips the country, we'll explore its effect on this

critical election.

Then, it is hard to talk about elections without mentioning campaign financing. Filmmaker Kimberly Reed talks to our Hari Sreenivasan about the

influence of so-called dark money.

Plus, my conversation with the writer and comedian, Hasan Minhaj. His new Netflix show "Patriot Act" weaves wit in and out of our most pressing

cultural crises.

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

As the midterm races entering the final furlong, President Trump plans to visit eight states to barnstorm for Republican candidates while cranking up

the tension with a host of controversial and bombastic claims, from deploying thousands of military forces to the southern border, he says to

defend against a caravan from Central America to vowing a radical change to the U.S. constitution by ending birth right citizenship.

The rhetoric has resumed its polarizing and bitter nature despite the recent shocking state of hate crimes across this nation. But is that

because Trump's base demands this red meat? We are going to ask that very question and find out with the author of "Wingnuts" and the former editor

in chief of "The Daily Beast" John Avlon here in the studio with me and Scott Jennings, the former assistant to President George W. Bush.

Welcome to both of you. Welcome out there to you, Scott, and here, John.

So, can I ask you then, Scott, to answer what I posed as a question, some of this hyper partisan and very sort of bombastic rhetoric as we see

ratcheting up even if, you know, as odd as that might sound, is that because the base demands it or is that just Trump's DNA?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think it's mostly his style. I mean, his rhetoric never muted no

matter what he is talking about. He tends to speak extremely about a lot of topics.

Of course, that's also not unique just to President Trump. I well remember when I was working for Mitt Romney back in the 2012 presidential campaign,

Joe Biden telling African-Americans that Mitt Romney was going to "put you all back in chains." I remember Nancy Pelosi last year saying the tax cuts

were going to be Armageddon or the apocalypse.

So, it seems to me that over the last few years we have seen a trend towards extreme rhetoric and extreme hyperbole in our politics. Trump has

kind of perfected it. He's ridden that wave but I'm not sure he invented it.

AMANPOUR: Go ahead, John.

JOHN AVLON, FORMER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": I'm not sure perfection is the word maybe to use there, Scott. But, you know, you can

point certainly to these isolated incidents with Biden and Pelosi but I think you would admit they were essential one offs. Neither party has got

anapole on virtue revise. But this is Donald Trump's brand. You can call it a disrupter, you can call it a divider but he's certainly not a uniter.

What I think is fascinating though is in this midterm, the national Republicans are realizing that Trump's play to the base style could really

be a negative for them in the crucial swing races.

AMANPOUR: Do you think so, Scott? I mean, that's a question because everybody is literally on the edge of their seat trying to figure out which

way many of these issues are going to play. How do you -- I mean, you have worked in this area for so, so long and you worked for Karl Rove, who was

one of the first of the strategists to say, "Play to your base, play to your base." How do you think this is going to play out barely six days

from now?

JENNINGS: Well, I think two things. Number one, midterm elections are base turnout elections. Democrats need to turn out their hardest core

supporters. Republicans need to do the same. For the Republican party, there's no better motivator right now than Donald Trump. So, that's

absolutely true, both parties and especially Donald Trump are trying to get base voters to turn out.

I also think geography matters a lot here. There's essentially two elections going on, there's the U.S. Senate election, which is taking place

largely in big red rural states where Donald Trump did well in 2016 and then there's the battle for the U.S. House where the real battleground is

in suburban America and among 25 districts that Republicans currently hold that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.

So, the rhetoric that Trump uses on any given day usually extremely helpful in the Senate states but sometimes not as helpful in the suburban House

districts. So, we're having one election but his impact could be positive in one front and negative on the other depending on which race you're

talking about. It really is a bifurcation of how people are reaction based on where they live and some of their personal characteristics such as their

educational attainment.

AMANPOUR: Would you then sort of agree, I sort of decode you to be saying what's conventional wisdom right now that the Democrats are very likely to

win back the House, if you listen to the current minority leader, she thinks they will win back the House, Nancy Pelosi said that last night, and

that the Senate will remain in Republican hands? Do you as a Republican operative believe that to be the truth?

JENNINGS: I do. I think the high probability is we're headed for divided government. I think Republicans could hold the House but it would be a

long shot on election night just given the numbers of retirements, the number of open seats, the amount of money Democrats have raised, some of

the districts that Republicans are trying to hold are very unfriendly territory. So, I would be shocked if the Democrats don't win the House.

In the Senate, not only do I think that Republicans will hold the Senate but I think there's a great chance they may wind up at 52 or 53 seats. So,

what does that portend for Donald Trump? It means, he's going to have a lot of headaches coming from investigations, from a Democratic controlled

House. And his achievements over the next two years are largely going to be confined to then confirming more judges with Mitch McConnell running the

U.S. Senate.

AMANPOUR: That's really interesting. And you have a load of new statistics and polling regarding this.

AVLON: Yes. So, you know, if you want to find the truth in politics, follow the money. Brand new report out by the Wesley Media Institute

looking at where the money is going and advertising spending. And it really does say a lot about the state of the race.

First of all, dramatic increase in negative ads, 61 percent over the last midterms we have seen, perhaps reflecting the tone and tenor that Donald

Trump doing. But also, look at the issues. For Democrats it's health care, overwhelmingly, health care and health care and health care, 60

percent of their ads in the Senate and House are being spent on that.

For Democrats, it's tax reform. Health care is down the list and Trump's signature issues of public safety and immigration are well down the list as

well. So, Democrats really actually have a unified message on the ground in the ad spend despite the lack of a national message. Trump's core issue

playing up the base not necessarily being reflected by his own party's nominees in the districts.

AMANPOUR: And the core issue being immigration as you said?

AVLON: Yes. Well, certainly, Trump has gone down and he's trying to inflame folks on the caravan, the so-called caravan of migrants 1,000 miles

away from the border that he characterizes as an invasion.

AMANPOUR: So, I actually now want to put this to both of you, Scott and John, because, you know, we are trying to understand who is this base

because, you know, you have said, Scott, that, you know, Donald Trump didn't invent this heated rhetoric, that he's perfected it and it's been

going on for a long time.

But I think the general political atmosphere is so much more tense than it's been in anybody's recent memory that I want to ask you what you make

of what John has been saying and some of this rhetoric around the caravan.

So, look. On Monday, this week, Trump tweeted the following, "Many gang members and some very bad people are mixed into the caravan heading to our

southern border. Please go back. You will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our

country and our military is waiting for you." Now, I want to follow that up by what Robert Bowers, the alleged assassin at the Pittsburgh synagogue

shooting also posted. "Why, hello there, Hias, H-I-A-S, you like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell amongst us?"

Scott, what do you make of the word invasion used by this person who is now being held in connection with 11 murders and the president of the United

States in his cohorts?

JENNINGS: Well, I don't think it's right to blame the president of the United States for the actions of deranged individuals. I do think that his

description of the caravan as an invasion is normal for how the president would describe illegal immigration and it plays to what I think he's seeing

on television. I mean, we are seeing this video footage of thousands and thousands of people.

On the other hand, I think that Republican candidates out there who are looking at polls would tell you, in terms of intensity, if you look at the

issues that people say they care about, nothing drives Republican intensity like immigration, it's why Donald Trump won the nomination in '16. A lot

of people think it's why he's president of the United States today. That hasn't abated.

And so, the more they talk about it, the more intensity they drive with their people, the more that they believe that Republicans are going to

continue to want to vote to try to solve a problem that's gone unsolved in the United States for a very long time. So, I think all of this --

AVLON: But -- yes. But, Scott --

JENNINGS: -- is tied, frankly, not just to the current events of the caravan, this started the day Donald Trump started his presidential


AMANPOUR: But we want to get to the truth, Scott, because he may have said it and the rhetoric playing into his favor. And as I say again, we're

trying to understand this base and the connection between rhetoric and the base because many of the figures simply do not bear out any of this

invasion talk. John --


AMANPOUR: -- they have used it to their advantage though and well, successfully.

AVLON: Well, certainly Donald Trump has used this issue very effectively to inflame the base as you say. But let's just reality check this on a

couple levels. First of all, southern border crossings have been on the decline since the year since 2000. They're actually down around a third of

what they used to be. So, this is not a crisis that demands invasion-type rhetoric, it is an irritant for a lot of people in Donald Trump's base.

Second of all, the language invasion, the fact that the president used it after the shooting and after it was known that the shooter who targeted the

Tree of Life synagogue was using that language repeatedly, that to me seems either intentionally callous, cruel or both. That does not describe

culpability for the shooting in any way, shape or form, but why would you pick up that language again? That seems to be crossing a significant line.

The caravan's 1,000 miles from the border. And if you look at the language of invaders and invasion and in U.S. history as it's applied to

immigration, it's always been ugly.

AMANPOUR: And yet, John, speak to what Scott just said, the images are not favorable for those who would like to take a rational look at this. The

images are of overhead of what looks like a very, very massive group of people coming the United States. And President Trump can use those images

and people can get frightened about them.

AVLON: Very effectively. The problem is perception versus reality.


AVLON: Again, 1,000 miles away from the border is not an invasion.

AMANPOUR: And, Scott, I want to ask you because, of course, no one is blaming and accusing the president of whatever, direct inspiration or

involvement in these things. However, even he knows that the heated rhetoric that he uses is red meat and that his people like it. Because

right after the synagogue shooting he said the following at a rally and I'm going to play it.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: If you don't mind, I'm going to tone it down just a little bit. Is that OK? No? I had (INAUDIBLE) from Illinois. I

had a feeling you might say that. I know you well, I had a feeling you might say that.


AMANPOUR: So, Scott, I mean, look, this is kind of scary because potentially he has an instinct to tone it down after something as awful as

what happened in the Pittsburgh synagogue, but then he goes out and said, you know, rallies are meant to be fun and people are there to have a good

time and why don't we just let them get on with it, and immediately this divisive language starts up again.

JENNINGS: Yes. The president, I do think, has sometimes instincts that then run into what he faces at the rally crowds and I think he uses the

rallies, and I'd be interested in John's input on this, as something as a massive focus group. You know, he wrote test messages all the time at

these rallies and the better the reception he gets then you start to hear it more and more, not just at rallies but in other places.

I also think the president knows this. The immigration issue, especially in the Midwest, in the middle American states where a lot of these Senate

races are going on, it's not just playing well among Republicans. I'm coming to you tonight from Louisville. I sit in a media market that's

getting all of the ad traffic for the Indiana Senate race. I am seeing every single ad that's being run by Democrat incumbent U.S. Senator Joe

Donnelly. And in every ad, it's all about build the wall, build the wall. I buck my party to build the wall.

So, while we talk about the president talking about immigration and using this rhetoric to inflame or motivate his base, there are Democrats,

incumbent U.S. Senators running in middle America who have picked up on it and know that it is working, not just to pick off Republican votes but

potentially to pick off conservative Democrats and independents as well.


AVLON: So, Scott, you make a -- you use the case of Joe Donnelly and Indiana and I think that's an instructive one. First of all, obviously, a

Democrat running for re-election in Vice President Pence's home state. One of the reasons Democrats have a real tough time in the Senate is simply the

map. They have a lot of Democrats running in states Donald Trump won handily.

So, can there be a blue wave big enough to keep them in? So, obviously, they are going to tack to the center, they're going to tack to the right.

And look, a lot of workers in that upper Midwest corridor, you know, of the 200 districts that's flipped from Obama to Trump, a lot of them were angry

about economic dislocation that they blame on immigration.

The question is one of responsibility. If the president goes into a rally and focus groups as you say, because he really just as interested in what

sells. The question is, does that red meat translate to the fundamental responsibilities of the office of the presidency and the obligation to have

a fidelity to the facts?

Because when you talk about the president of the United States calling, you know, asylum seekers from Honduras invaders, that goes back to earlier

language about anti-immigration movements in this country that have been some of our lowest moments, not our best.

AMANPOUR: Scott, what do you say to that before I play actually something back from the 2016 campaign because it's quite an important point, this?

JENNINGS: Yes. I think the president would say that his rhetoric today is no different than what he ran on in 2016. He would say that he has a zero-

tolerance policy for illegal immigration, that was true then and it's true now and then he hasn't changed one bit on this and that he won an election

on it and that he's well within his rights to continue to talk about it in the way he does.

I agree with you, John, these caravan members are 1,000 miles away, they are not imminently on the boarder, but I think the president believes and a

lot of supporters believe and people who are right now in the U.S. Congress believe that we have not yet done enough on border security and this is the

most recent visual example, why would these people be coming in mass to the United States if they didn't have some expectation that they could get

across our porous border? I think that's why you are seeing him use it because he thinks the argument worked before and it's not really been

solved. So, therefore, it would work again.

AMANPOUR: Yes. But, Scott, you know, I operate in the fact-based world not politically campaigning and we haven't seen one brick in two years of

President Trump's being in office put into this so-called wall. He's had a pliant Congress. He could have done it. It hasn't happened. And we know

that the net outflow is much more significant than the net inflow across that border.

But I really want to pick up what you just said. A lot of his rhetoric hasn't really changed since 2016 and that is actually quite troubling when

it comes to issues of some accused of anti-Semitic dog whistling and this and that and we this violent act in Pittsburgh. Let us play this clip, and

I would like to talk to you about it afterwards.


TRUMP: The establish has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global

special interests, they partner with these people that don't have your good in mind. It's a global power structure that is responsible for the

economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large

corporations and political entities.


AMANPOUR: So, I think we would just need to point out and break down that clip there, global power structure, you know, for robbing the working

class. This is read over pictures of very prominent Jewish Americans, George Soros, Janet Yellen, Lloyd Blankfein, and this has been criticized

when it happened two years ago and, obviously, it's still being criticized.

When do we say enough is enough, particularly in this country, because that is dog whistle language? And even in the Kavanaugh hearings, you remember

President Trump basically blamed Soros' money for encouraging protesters against Kavanaugh. I mean, this is very unseemly.

JENNINGS: Well, I think George Soros to the Republican party has become what the Koch brothers had come to the Democratic party, these are

extremely wealthy people who put a lot of money into a lot of political operations and a lot of candidates.

And so, when I hear Republicans talking about Soros-backed operations, I think about when Democrats talk about Koch-backed operations. Now, it's

taken on, you know, a different undertone because of current events. But Soros has been active in Democratic politics for a long time and he has

vexed Republicans for a long time because he has been one of the principle donors to operations that have led to some of their successes.

So, I don't see anti-Semitism and attacks on George Soros. I just see one political party that doesn't like one of the financiers of their opposition

in the exact same way that the opposite party that doesn't like ours financiers.

AMANPOUR: Look, I hear what you're saying and I can see you trying the parse that. But you know what dog whistle means and, yes, Democrats may

not like the Koch's but they don't play on their ethnicity or their religion, and I think that's what's worrying so many people about what's

going on here. Is that legitimate or do you see it just as a sort of a counterweight to the Democrats and the Koch's?

AVLON: Look, I think what Scott says is how he perceives that but if you look at the language on the social media and the recesses of the internet

around it, they hear the dog whistle loud and clear. That ad was produced by Steve Bannon, the closing weeks of the 2016 campaign, and the language

that Bannon was pushing, that of a nationalist language really did talk about, you know, globalist versus nationalist, which the president has

again embraced, secret meetings, (INAUDIBLE) to undermining U.S. sovereignty. That is the language that has replete in the history of anti-

Semitism in America and other places.

And so, the question is, folks may see it and say, "Look, this is our Koch brothers, this is our Sheldon Adelson. But the -- what -- the way it's

being received by some folks is far different. And that's why -- or I think not incidental to why George Soros received the first pipe bomb that

was sent out last week in addition to Democrat politicians and CNN.

AMANPOUR: So I guess, Scott and John, the question really is, what happens after these midterms? What happens when the votes are in and let's say

it's divided government, is there a way to walk back from this brink? Because as I say, many people see that this country is ripped apart in a

way that hasn't been for the last 50 years despite the periodic tensions that we have all within witness to. Do you think, Scott, that the Trump

Republicans -- because it is now the Republican party of Donald Trump, could change a little bit of tack going forward or do you believe that it

will continue if he loses the House?

JENNINGS: Well, I think you are going do see extreme rhetoric and even higher levels coming out of both sides and I'll tell you why. Two things.

Number one, if the Democrats take the House and they launch numerous investigations and/or impeachment proceedings against the president,

obviously, he's going to be wound up about that.

And number two, the Democratic primary for president is going to begin, may have already begun in Iowa and New Hampshire and other places around the

country. I think the demand by liberal activists of their presidential candidates to use extreme rhetoric in their opposition to Trump is going to

be extremely high. That's going to get the president wound up.

I think we are going to be plunged into an immediate heated extreme war of words generated by the divided government situation in Washington and the

presidential primary almost immediately when the dust settles on this. It is not necessarily what I would hope for America but I think we should plan

for it because I think it's almost a certainty.

AMANPOUR: Well, I'm just going to give the last 45 seconds to John because I started by saying potentially the 14th Amendment, the birth right

automatic citizenship might be the next target. Do you think that's possible?

AVLON: No, that's nonsense. Paul Ryan said its nonsense. The president can't, you know, laterally rewrite the constitution, the 14th Amendment.

That's about playing to the base.

Look, going forward, all the signs speak to greater division, polarization, hyper partisanship. If the president deals with Democrats and something

like, you know, infrastructure, that would be a positive sign. But all the pressures are to greater extremes right now in American politics and it's

bad for the country.

AMANPOUR: On that, I think you two agree.


AMANPOUR: So, we end there. John Avlon --


AMANPOUR: -- and Scott Jennings, thank you both very much indeed.

Now, these races may still be up in the air but let's plunge now below the surface to look at the dark money. Invisible and influential. It is a way

of funding political campaigns like the ones happening right now but anonymously. The filmmaker, Kimberly Reed, is bringing it all to the

surface now with her new documentary called "Dark Money." It follows the dollars and cents in her home state of Montana, and here's a clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let big money use dark money in this curtain of secrecy to basically buy a legislature or buy a state or eventually ultimately, you

know, control public policy in this country. I just can't see that happening. It won't be by the people for the people. It'll be something

else, you know?


AMANPOUR: Now, the filmmaker, Kimberly Reed told our Hari Sreenivasan all about this and how Montana is trying to fight it.

HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Kimberly, thank you for joining us. First of all, let's just start with a basic understanding. What is dark


KIMBERLY REED, DIRECTOR, "DARK MONEY": Any money that comes in to an election or a policy debate where we're not sure where it's coming from.

We don't know who's behind that money. And that's really important because we can't tell why people are trying to operate in politics. We can't tell

what their motivations are, what their vested interest, what their profit motive is if we don't know who it is.

SREENIVASAN: What was a Citizens United case? How important was it?

REED: So, the Citizens United case came down in 2010. A lot of people abbreviate it and remember it as saying corporations are people and money

is speech. It really turned on the 1st Amendment and if you assume that corporations have rights of personhood and have free speech rights and if

you assume that money is speech then, therefore, corporations can't be hindered from speaking in elections, you know, they can't be kept from

spending money in elections.

SREENIVASAN: Their money is their voice?

Republican Their money is their voice. When Citizens United first passed, a lot of people were immediately up in arms that we were going to have

unlimited money in political campaigns and that is certainly has an enormous impact. What people didn't really anticipate is that money would

also become anonymous. And when you have anonymous and unlimited money being spent in elections, it really distorts our democracy.

SREENIVASAN: You spent at least six years looking at this topic in Montana. Why Montana?

REED: It's a very good case study. I think it's the best-case study. It's small enough that we could sort of tell a story that takes place in

this microcosm so that people can really wrap their heads around this story. A lot of times -- I mean, we are talking about an issue where

people are intentionally trying to hide money and the influence of money.

So, it helps to have a microcosm where we can connect all the dots and show how it all works. And I'm from there. And I think I also thought like a

Montanan thinks. I went to school learning about the influence of a couple copper barons who ran the state about 100 years ago and I think having that

skepticism towards the role of money in politics was an essential thing for me to -- you know, it's a good place to come from to understand the issue

and to maybe see how the drama was going to develop over that long period of time.

SREENIVASAN: You know, there's a clip that we want to play out where this is an investigative reporter who has been doing a lot of groundwork in the

state that you follow in the documentary and he just literally just at a whiteboard explaining how this whole cycle works. Let's take a look.


JOHN ADAMS, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: This corporation wants to influence our politics but they don't want the public to know that they're trying to

influence our politics because that could hurt their bottom line perhaps. So, they give money to a dark money group so they send out all of the

mudslinging and the postcards and the things that people hate receiving flooding their mailboxes.

This corporation is not affiliated with all of the dark money spending because they have essentially laundered it through this. And all of this

supports a candidate. When that candidate gets elected, they support the agenda of the corporation. That's the feedback loop for dark money.

Corporation, funnels money to a pack, the pack sends out postcards attacking the opponent of the candidate who they want to get elected. When

that candidate gets elected, they support the agenda of the corporation or individual. I mean, this could be done with individual money. It's

really, really scary when you think about it.


SREENIVASAN: Give me an idea of the scale that we're talking about here. How prevalent is dark money? I mean, when I hear dark, I think dark matter

in the universe, right, there's definitely out there, we don't know how much. How prevalent is dark money in politics today?

REED: I'm afraid you're right, we don't know exactly how much. There's really no way that we're ever going to know because a lot of it is just not

claimed by the groups who are spending it. But a group called Issue 1 recently, since our film came out, Issue 1 came out with a study where they

stated that since 2010 when Citizens United came out, they're kind of measuring the effects of Citizens United, that over $600 million has been

spent just by the top 15 groups who are spending that.

So, the answer, unfortunately, is we don't know. I think it's important to notice that we aren't able to tell what the effect of that spending is

until well after the elections that it was operating in, right. I mean, that money is being spent and it's getting people elected, laws are being

made, laws are being repealed. Our government is being changed.

And even if we find out now, after the fact, some eight years after Citizens United has been passed what the ultimate impact of that money is,

I think it just kind of underlines how important this issue is. We don't know where this money is coming from at the time during an election or a

policy debate or a judicial nomination when we should know where that money is coming from.

SREENIVASAN: And you said judicial nomination, just recently we had the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. It basically looks like it almost turned into a

campaign where it was who can spend more, who can get the message out whether to support or not --

REED: Yes.

SREENIVASAN: -- a specific nominee.

REED: Yes. And that campaign, I think you can call it a campaign, was being run primarily by 501(c)(4) dark money groups. And they were --

SREENIVASAN: Supporters of Brett Kavanaugh?

REED: Supporters of Brett Kavanaugh.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell your senator, confirm Kavanaugh.


REED: Before that, they were supporters of Neil Gorsuch and his nomination.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to say I'm 100 percent comfortable with Judge Gorsuch becoming the next Supreme Court justice.


REED: And before that, they were posing the nomination of Merritt Garland to that same seat.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He could tip the ideological balance to create the most liberal Supreme Court in 50 years.


REED: It doesn't just happen on the right. In this case, there was a lot more money that came from the political right wing. One disturbing trend

that I saw with the Kavanaugh nomination was that groups from the left sprang up. They didn't spend nearly as much money. They spent about a



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Enough is enough.


REED: It doesn't bode well that a judicial Supreme Court nomination turns into a campaign where we have two dark money groups shouting it out, it

doesn't bode well for our elections when we just have a billionaire on the right and a billionaire on the left kind of shouting at each other.

[14:30:00] I mean, the real problem with this issue is that it pulls Democratic power away from the individual voter and puts it back into the

hands of a couple billionaires who can buy all the ads up.

SREENIVASAN: In the case of Montana, we saw -- we've got a clip where the very fundamental thing that you expect to know which is who is the person

that's writing the check is just something that escapes anyone in the state. Let's take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dark money is the advertising where you don't know who's paying for the ads. Just simply got to hold these up and say, "Who's

paying for this?" Does anybody know anybody in these groups? Who's paying for this? What are they attempting to buy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a huge advocate of free speech, the right to be able to freely speak. But these groups were abusing that. They had taken

free speech and they were speaking from the darkness.

JOHN ADAMS, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: I don't know who they are. I don't know how to fight them. I don't know how to argue with them. I can't

debate them. I can't interview them. I can't pick up the phone and say, hey, what is your interest in candidate X because I don't know who they

are. We'll never know.


REED: When somebody has a profit motive and they're operating in politics and they're taking over the political dialogue from a lot of individual

citizens whose voices get drowned out, I think that that's where the real travesty of this anonymous politics comes to play.

SREENIVASAN: You mentioned earlier that the left is springing up but sometimes as you point out in this documentary, it's the right attacking

different parts of the right, that even within the party that there can be campaigns to either support you or tear you down and support your

competitor. Let's take a look at the clip.


DEBRA BONOGOFSKY (R), CANDIDATE FOR MONTANA LEGISLATURE: The way they want you to vote in the legislature, they will target you at the next primary.

Even if you a Conservative or a Republican. But if you don't vote the way they want you to vote, then they say, "Well, we're going to target you" and

that's what they do, then they send out all these mailings. They exaggerate their voting records. They don't care if they lie.

CHUCK JOHNSON, STATE BUREAU CHIEF, LEE NEWSPAPERS: These things all came in at the last minute. This election, my wife and I probably got six,

seven, eight of this, every day the last month of the campaign. Boom. Here's one on taxes and here's one on healthcare, sex ad, guns. And a lot

of these groups, nobody knows who they are. You know, they call them dark money groups and that's exactly what they are.


SREENIVASAN: How did Montana stop this?

REED: Montana stopped it I think because a couple people, they happen to be Republicans who were attacked by other Republicans. They got really

upset that this was unfair, that folks weren't playing by the rules, and that they were being ambushed. It's kind of a western, you know, response

to this being ambushed.

But the group of Republicans got together with the Democratic governor. It took a couple sessions to really push a bill through but they ended up

passing what was called the Disclose Act which called for a bunch of different ways to understand where money is coming from in politics and for

these groups who are spending it to report it immediately and make it available online. So that's sort of transparency in elections I think is -

- has really helped clean up the elections in Montana a lot.

SREENIVASAN: What's the role on a federal level for the U.S. government to figure out any semblance of a check or a balance? We have a federal

election commission, right? We have members of each party that sit there and they're supposed to write the rules of the road on how elections are


REED: Yes. And FEC which is supposed to do that. As we talk right now, it only has four of six members. One of the themes we follow in the film

is the inefficacy how the FEC is really hamstrung and unable to enforce campaign finance law.


REED: When I first got there, to the FEC, I thought that we would be able to work together on issues such as disclosure and transparency but it

didn't take long to realize that wasn't going to happen.

EDWIN BENDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FOLLOWTHEMONEY.ORG: At the federal level, there's the FEC. And then in each state, there's an agency

[14:35:00] that regulates money in state politics.

JOHNSON: In Montana, the commissioner of political practices is housed in this little house really. It's a tiny, little office. I doubt if there's

a smaller office in state government. The very legislators that are investigated by the office determine its funding so it's always been

grossly underfunded. They never have enough people. They never have enough equipment. It's sort of the forgotten stepchild of Montana



REED: The tendency of the FEC has been to polarize all of the voting issues, all of the Republican members vote in a bloc and the whole

enforcement agency has really, really been stymied. That's important because it has really let dark money get out of control. The efforts to

create specific rules on how dark money has to be disclosed in federal races has been stymied.

But that's also extremely important for just because of a couple of trends that have happened in the last couple of election cycles. One is all of

this campaigning is moving online. It's moving to Facebook ads. It's moving to Twitter ads. It's moving to a form of campaigning that is much

harder to track and requires a lot of immediate attention. As soon as possible.

The second issue is the role of foreign money in our elections. We have heard a little bit about that with the Mueller investigation and there's --

there have been hints of the role of Russian oligarch money and we don't -- we can't really state anything clearly about that but I think it's a

question what the role of foreign money in our elections is and where it's coming from. And if we don't have the ability to track that, in a perfect

vehicle to avoid tracking, is a dark money group. If we don't have that, I think our democracy is really imperiled.

SREENIVASAN: All right. Kimberly Reed, thanks so much.

REED: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: So now that we know a little bit more about the darkness of that dark money and the complexity around trying to open up the oxygen to it,

let us check in with my last guest who is using his razor wit and outside/inside status to fire up debate around some of these pressing


Hasan Minhaj cut his comedy teeth on "The Daily Show" ferociously self- identifying as an Indian-American Muslim in these fractious times. Last year, he made waves headlining for the White House correspondents' dinner

where he took on the media's role in the age of Trump. Here's a little bit of that speech.


HASAN MINHAJ, COMEDIAN, PATRIOT ACT: You guys have to be more perfect now more than ever because you are how the president gets his news. Not from

advisers. Not from experts. Not from intelligence agencies. You guys. So that's why you got to be on your A-game. You got to be twice as good.

You can't make any mistakes because when one of you messes up, he blames your entire group. And now you know what it feels like to be a minority.


AMANPOUR: So maybe they'll be getting the news from Hasan soon in his new Netflix series "Patriot Act". It expands and sharpens these themes in a

stand-up format. The series dropped this week and I asked Hasan Minhaj how he'll stand out in a somewhat crowded field and what he's trying to say for

our times.

Hasan Minhaj, welcome to the program.

MINHAJ: Thanks for having me.

AMANPOUR: First and foremost, Patriot Act.



MINHAJ: The title?


MINHAJ: OK. I get that question a lot.

AMANPOUR: Because that has some quite risky connotation --


AMANPOUR: -- because it was the post-9/11 George W. Bush essentially surveillance net.

MINHAJ: Yes, yes. Well, for me, what I thought was really interesting about it is two reasons. I thought one it's an interesting throwback. If

you know, you know. And obviously, certain people know it. They're like, "You brought that to Netflix?"

But then the other thing that I thought was really, really interesting was currently, I think not only in America but in the world, there is this

claiming of what it means to be a patriotic citizen of your respective country. And I thought it would be really interesting for someone like me,

a guy named Hasan Minhaj who's an Indian-American Muslim, who's all of those things all at once, sort of reclaiming that title. I just thought it

would be really interesting.

AMANPOUR: Well, actually it is. And the fact that you talk about the hyphens and you live between the hyphens.


AMANPOUR: You just said, I'm an Indian-American Muslim.

MINHAJ: American Muslim, yes.

AMANPOUR: Which one has precedence? Which one is dominant?

MINHAJ: All of them are important to me. And that's sort of the thing that I sort of bring to each headline piece is my perspective given those

[14:40:00] things. And so sometimes, a lot of these stories are a little bit complicated for me.

AMANPOUR: Two of the episodes have dropped already on Netflix.

MINHAJ: Correct, correct.

AMANPOUR: You've got an unprecedented 32-episode commitment.

MINHAJ: Right.

AMANPOUR: And you took on something that is really counterintuitive. It was the Saudi Arabian story.


AMANPOUR: And you focused on the Crown Prince MBS who's now known all over the world. Thanks to what? The brutal murder of one of our colleagues

Jamal Khashoggi.


AMANPOUR: Why did you choose that?

MINHAJ: For me, it was one of those things where again our relationship with Saudi Arabia and I mean that both as an Indian, as an American and a

Muslim, has always been extremely complicated. And it's unfortunate that the death of a journalist, this brutal murder was the thing that brought it

to the light. Because just so you know, we have had this complicated -- we have been taking Saudi Arabia to sword prom since FDR.

AMANPOUR: To sword prom. I love that.


AMANPOUR: And it does seem to be like everybody says to us now, "Well, we don't know whether we should sanction them or we have to thread the



AMANPOUR: You talked about the Jamal Khashoggi murder in excruciating detail.


AMANPOUR: And you put out some sort of sound about Prince MBS's reaction to that which I'm going to play.


MINHAJ: Here's the crazy part. MBS was shocked by all of the anger over the killing of one journalist. According to "Wall Street Journal" on a

phone call with Jared Kushner, MBS asked, "Why the outrage?" And frankly, MBS's confusion is completely understandable. He's been getting away with

autocratic [bleep] like this for years with almost no blowback from the international community.


AMANPOUR: You know, it's comedy. You do comedy.


AMANPOUR: This again is the brutal murder of one of our colleagues.


AMANPOUR: And you're trying to thread the needle, right, between --


AMANPOUR: -- what's really out there --


AMANPOUR: -- and doing it with a comic tone.


AMANPOUR: It's tough.

MINHAJ: It can be. Yes, it can be very tough. You have to pick and choose your spots and you have to say, OK, where can I be sort of funny or

interesting? Look. I think being funny is just the conduit to say what really is happening. Some of my favorite comedians of all times, the

Richard Pryor's, the David Chappelle's, they will have these incredibly serious monologues in their specials and I really wanted to bring that to

the political satire space.

AMANPOUR: Well, since I've just interviewed Dave Chappelle, I wonder what it is that you take from him because while you're focusing on basically

being an American Muslim -


AMANPOUR: -- he obviously has the voice of American black community.

MINHAJ: Correct.

AMANPOUR: Are you that underrepresented? Is it important to have him be his voice for the community?


AMANPOUR: You be your voice for the community?

MINHAJ: Absolutely. I think it's one of those things where -- and you can see it in the audience whenever you watch my shows live or if you're

actually in attendance at the tapings. The most gratifying thing that I felt is when people say, "Thank you". Yes, I felt that way but I've never

been able to distill it in such a funny, potent way.

That's the beauty of comedy. You know, the world is very complicated and nuanced. What we do is actually reductive. We boil the world down into

philosophical espresso that's funny. That's our job.

AMANPOUR: What do you think you bring that makes you stand out in a field of comedians who have been offered positions and then had them axed?

MINHAJ: Right.

AMANPOUR: One of your chief colleagues, these head writers, said that you want to get away from doing the daily Trump.

MINHAJ: Yes. Yes. I think what's happening right now in America, Trump is just a symptom of a larger problem. And I think talking about the

larger issues that are at stake -- so for example, our first episode's on affirmative action but affirmative action is something that's present in

America but a lot of countries around the world have these programs or initiatives.

And it is a larger conversation on meritocracy. Who gets what and why? That to me is so potent of the now and it's going to last a year from now

or two years from now. And even if people disagree or don't believe what I'm saying, I'm saying, hey, look, we took all this evidence, here it is in

23 minutes and it's really funny. Take it. You can make your choice on it.

AMANPOUR: You started -- I believe you started on "The Daily Show."

MINHAJ: Correct.

AMANPOUR: Is that right?


AMANPOUR: I mean it's a pretty high bar, right?

MINHAJ: That was my break.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And you had Halal things considered.

MINHAJ: Right, yes, yes

AMANPOUR: And brown corner?

MINHAJ: Brown and town.

AMANPOUR: Brown and town, there you go.

MINHAJ: Yes, yes.

AMANPOUR: So I mean you started being very self-deprecating and just shining that or putting the dagger in the sort of places.

MINHAJ: Sure, sure.

AMANPOUR: What were you -- I mean when you were there, were you the only Muslim comedian?

MINHAJ: At the time, so Aasif Mandvi have been -- sort of was transitioning out and then I sort of came in. It was sort of WWE style.

He tagged out, I came in. But it was one of those things where look, again, I have always tried to say what's beautiful about comedy is an art

form. It is your perspective that is the most powerful thing. If you can add that, that's amazing.

AMANPOUR: It is not easy being Muslim in America. Although, weirdly of all the Western --

MINHAJ: Why do you say that, Christiane?

AMANPOUR: Because I know --

MINHAJ: It's not easy? OK. [14:45:00]

AMANPOUR: No. I mean look, it's not easy because -- but weirdly, of all the Western nations, Muslims are the most integrated in this country.


AMANPOUR: Where I come from, Europe and other places, they're still very very much siloed. But for some reason, there's a much bigger tolerance and

yet there's also spikes of hatred and hate crimes. We are now talking in the wake of really dramatic hate crimes, whether it was the pipe bombs that

was sent to political opponents, members of the press, whether it was the slaughter of innocents in a Synagogue in Pittsburgh --

MINHAJ: Correct.

AMANPOUR: -- the killing of two American, African-Americans in a Kroger Store, all in the last week alone --


AMANPOUR: You have your own experience with that. Tell me what it was like for you and your family in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

MINHAJ: Right. You know, for my family coming out of September 11, it really was one of those life-changing moments for me where you go from, oh,

you're an American. Maybe you're not understood. People don't understand your identity or just because the shade of melanin you have. They're like,

"I don't know what you are but I'm indifferent towards you." To then, on September 12, sort of being public enemy number one of the United States.

That really, really was -- really complicated my relationship with America.

AMANPOUR: Have you even been actively and consciously a Muslim before that?

MINHAJ: Sure. I mean I have grown up as a Muslim, yes. And I'm a practicing Muslim now. I'm proud to be Muslim. But it's one of those

things where it really sort of solidified my understanding of, oh, you're an insider but you're also an outsider. And I didn't know until later that

that actually could be my, you know, Marvel superpower.

AMANPOUR: In one of your acts, Homecoming King, you talk about something that you saw right after 9/11. We're going to play that.


MINHAJ: I hear (INAUDIBLE) outside. We run outside and all the windows on the camera are smashed in. I looked back in the middle of the street, my

dad's in the middle of the road sweeping glass out of the road like he works at like a hate crime barbershop. We got customers. We got to clean

this up. Then, brown Mr. Miagi, just like not saying a word, I run up to him. Dad, why aren't you saying something? Say something. He looks at me

and he goes, "Hasan, these things happen and these things will continue to happen. That's the price we pay for being here."


AMANPOUR: You described it as your American dream tax.


AMANPOUR: What is that?

MINHAJ: Yes. The American dream tax is something that I think a lot of immigrants feel. That it's -- especially if you're first generation or

child of first-generation immigrants that, "Hey, you're coming to a new place so it's not yours." So what you do is you pay this American dream

tax for being there. That's your cost of entry.

And if you endorse some racism, well, hey, that's part of the game. As long as you don't die that, hey, it's OK, that's the tax you pay for being

here. And for me, that part of my show is really the cognitive framework I bring to a lot of what I do in my art is it's the difference of pragmatism

and optimism.

AMANPOUR: So are you speaking to your community or are you speaking to the general American population?

MINHAJ: I'm speaking to both. You know, I think the thing that is really powerful about comedy is being able to speak to something that a lot of

people experience and then to have people who may have not experienced that go, " Oh, I've never thought of it that way before." But I think the

underlying feeling is the same. We have all felt like outsiders at some point or we have all felt like we haven't been accepted at some point.

AMANPOUR: Did you imagine or is it just, you know, a par for the course that after this experience on, you know, the 12th of September --


AMANPOUR: -- 2001, you would have seen this again let's say in 2017 when President Trump was inaugurated and immediately there was the Muslim ban.


AMANPOUR: What did you think about that? How did your family internalize it? And I think you had again a personal experience because your mom was

caught outside, right?

MINHAJ: Yes, right. So she was traveling at the time. It's one of those things where look, these unfortunate events do flare up and it really does

affect you. You think to yourself, have we made progress? I thought we were able to work past this sometimes. You're like I guess not. Comedy's

the only way I have been able to really talk about it.

AMANPOUR: And what did your family -- how did you sort of kick into gear when this Muslim ban was announced? I mean you had to get your mom home,


MINHAJ: Right. So she was in India but it was one of those things where, you know, I really thought to myself, we can't guarantee that she's going

to be able to come back. Of course, she was able to come back. But can you imagine had she been visiting my grandmother in, say, Syria or Iraq or

one of many countries that are part of that ban?

AMANPOUR: She might not have been able to get back.

MINHAJ: Sure, Iran. Yes, totally.

AMANPOUR: What you do is obviously the intersection of comedy, journalism, politics, [14:50:00] the lot.


AMANPOUR: What gets your goat the most right now about the political atmosphere we're living in? Right now, this minute.

MINHAJ: I think there's two things. I think the disagreement on what objective reality is really, really hard. It is really hard to have a

conversation. Look, I grew up. I was a -- in high school, I was a speech and debate kid, I was a forensics kid. And when you're debating, there is

objective reality that you agree upon and then you're on one side of the issue, I'm on the other. But if we can't agree on what objective reality

is, no debate is possible.

And then I think the second is just the death of nuance. That's really hard -- you know, something can be awful and amazing all at once.

AMANPOUR: There's a lot of debate in every walk of life now about where the Me Too Movement is and within not just female circles but obviously

men, you know, looking at this.

MINHAJ: Right.

AMANPOUR: Some people think there's just a backlash going on that people are angry about the Me Too Movement and wondering, you know, what this

means going forward. So if it's Louis C.K. who did what he did, unconsensually, exhibited himself sexually to these women as he's being

accused of and as he admitted and he comes back, how should he -- I mean I don't believe that necessarily one should be banished for life or punished

for life or have a life sentence.

MINHAJ: Right.

AMANPOUR: But when he came back, he didn't really acknowledge it. He didn't really apologize.

MINHAJ: Yes, right.

AMANPOUR: And so his first outing was a negative one in terms of the broader community's understanding.


AMANPOUR: Apparently, not in the comedy club because he got a standing ovation.

MINHAJ: Right. Stand-up comedy is one of the rawest, purest art forms. So I would hope that it gets addressed in some capacity, that the artist

address. And this is the -- like it is the ultimate platform to have that discussion. And so I would certainly hope that they address it through

their art.

Someone told me this. One of our writers on the show, I remember asking -- we were just having this debate and I was -- we were sort of riffing back

and forth about this whole sort of philosophical debate. How do we engage with people that have had otherwise questionable decisions they've made in

the past into the varying degrees to which we publicly adjudicate those things? She said something that stuck with me for a long time. She said,

"Why do they deserve a second chance when other women haven't been given a first?"

And so I'm more interested in playing offense. This actually goes back to what my dad taught me, to be pragmatic about the American dream. What

about all those other dreams that we can co-sign?

Give me the Go Fund Me link because I will drop the paper for it. That to me is far more interesting than taking up our mental and Twitter space on

where do we fall on them? Are they canceled? Are they not? Where are the other pilots that we can green light right now?

And someone give me the hyperlink so I can send some money right now so we can get those pilots on air. That's far more interesting to me. Wouldn't

you agree? I don't know.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And I also -- you know, you brought up social media and all the Twitter and all the rest of it. I mean, clearly, we are living in

a moment where certainly this suspect in the Pittsburgh Synagogue slaughter is believed to have been radicalized by just being on social media to a

great extent. This is the initial findings.

I mean this technology, this freedom of speech leveler that we all thought was just such a great outlet for everybody --


AMANPOUR: -- where do you come down on that? Because there is again a mounting backlash against them. I mean it's an abuse of the use of this

technology, even the great techno CEOs and founders are having a real hard time trying to rein back in the monster that they have created.

MINHAJ: Cynicism and idealism is very popular especially on the internet. I do think there's -- you know I've gotten some advice from other

comedians. This is something that -- a piece of advice that I got from a mentor of mine who I really really appreciate.

He said there's a lot of heat that's being generated right now. A lot of noise. There's this many scripted shows on television. There's this many

tweets per minute. So many hours of content are being uploaded every day on YouTube, every minute, every second. A lot of heat, not a lot of light.

And when people see light, truth, like really powerful stuff, a beautiful song, or a poem, or a joke that hallucinates truth, light, it really is

beautiful. And that's my job. I aspire to do that for the rest of my career.

AMANPOUR: Hasan Minhaj, Patriot Act on Netflix, thank you so much.

MINHAJ: Thank you so much.

AMANPOUR: So we back that. We want more light, less heat. And, of course, some do say that comedy is the best remedy for these troubled times

and, of course, this climate of division and suspicion. Hasan Minhaj, Patriot Act just dropped on Netflix.

Tune in tomorrow when I'll be joined by the Democratic Senator from Virginia Mark Warner. He serves as vice chair of the Senate Intelligence

Committee. We'll get his thoughts on next week's midterm elections and we will also talk to a former Trump official.

That's it for our program. [14:55:00] Thanks for watching.

Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Goodbye from New York.