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British Prime Minister, Theresa May, Under Severe Scrutiny; Another Brexit Vote Would Tear Britain Apart; Trump Faces Serious Legal Personal Issues. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 10, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Federal prosecutors crank up the pressure on President Trump, saying for the first time that he is implicated in campaign violations. I hear from a
former Republican chair of the Federal Election Commission and a former Federal prosecutor.
Then, from chaos in the White House to a meltdown in the British government. The prime minister delays a crunch Brexit vote that she was
going to lose.
Plus, the Latino evangelical who believes an immigration compromise is possible. The Reverend Samuel Rodriguez speaks to our Michel Martin.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Government crisis and dysfunction is coming to a boil on all sides of the Atlantic, in the United States, in France, and right here in the United
Kingdom, where the negotiating skills of the British prime minister, Theresa May, have been under severe scrutiny. She has been staring defeat
for her Brexit deal in the face.
And at the 11th hour May, delayed Tuesday's crucial parliamentary revote. Addressing the House of Commons, she repeated her mantra, her deal is the
only deal on the table.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: If we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow, the deal would be rejected by a significant margin. We will,
therefore, defer the vote scheduled for tomorrow and not proceed to divide the House at this time. But, Mr. Speaker, if you take a step back, it is
clear this House faces a much more fundamental question. Does this House want to deliver Brexit?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, said the government has now lost total control.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY CORBYN, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: We're in extremely serious and unprecedented situation. The government has lost control of events and is
in complete disarray. Mr. Speaker, this is a bad deal for Britain, a bad deal for our economy and a bad deal for our democracy. Our country
deserves better than this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So here to discuss is Lord Peter Hain who firmly believes the U.K. should remain inside the E.U.
Lord Hain, thank you very much for joining us to try to explain what on earth is going on.
Can you tell us how chaotic and how much of a problem this is for governance here in the U.K.?
PETER HAIN, BRITISH HOUSE OF LORDS MEMBER: It's extremely chaotic, Christiane, and it's going to get worse. I predicted for a while now that
this situation will continue to develop in a haphazard, unpredictable way. Because if you start with the remits that the prime minister was given by
her own Conservative governing party, it was an impossible straitjacket that she was bound in.
She was asked to square an impossible circle to try and keep all the benefits of European union membership without any of the obligations
because we were leaving. And that especially came to pass and came to a head over the Northern Ireland border.
For a long time, government ministers, when I as former secretary of state for Northern Island was raising this matter over two years ago, we're in
denial saying, "It's all going to be all right. On the night we are determined to keep an open border, blah, blah, blah."
When they actually come to try to square this impossible circle of satisfying their grassroots and Conservative MPs, their Brexiteers, with
the reality on the Irish border, they find they can't satisfy anybody. And so, we are where we are.
AMANPOUR: Let me then ask you because, of course, this issue of Ireland and Northern Ireland is the so-called backstop issue, that's meant to be a
kind of a compromise to keep the border open and to ensure all sorts of smooth running while delivering Brexit.
Can you explain what backstop means and why it's so impossible to get it over the hurdle in parliament?
HAIN: It means a kind of insurance policy. Because you see, Theresa May's, the prime minister's, so-called deal actually doesn't sort anything
out for the longer-term. It gets Britain through the Brexit barrier that she is absolutely determined to do in line with the referendum results of
two years ago but it doesn't deal with future trading relationships.
It leaves a completely uncertain future and an unstable future because the trading relationship between Britain and the real European Union where half
our trade is, half our trade or economy depends upon it, many, many thousands -- millions of jobs depend upon.
It's absolutely crucial to try and have a future trading relationship with the European Union at the same time as staying outside the customs union,
which is what she wants to do, and outside the single markets, which she -- what her policy wants to do, both of which are crucial to the frictionless
open trade we've enjoyed now for 40 years or more.
The -- you know that is all up in the air. And so, the backstop was the insurance policy to say what matters a bubble is to maintain peace and
stability on the island of Ireland in the way that was delivered by the Good Friday Agreement. And for that, you need this insurance policy that
Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would have the same trading relationship to simplify matters.
And that's where it's come unstuck. Because her MPs did not want this to continue forever, they thought maybe this insurance policy being a
permanent insurance policy because they could never reconcile the irreconcilable.
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, they're probably right because it is completely, as you say, practically irreconcilable. Just to point out that there's a
lot of demonstrating and chanting and protesting behind you. There have been a huge number of protests both for and against Brexit over the
weekend. And as it gets to crunch time, people's voices are being heard.
So, if this is so impossible -- I mean, I and as you rightly say, the prime minister is being forced to square an impossible circle, that seems to have
been an obvious the long. This process goes ahead. But let me ask you this because you are firmly in the remain camp and I assume that you would be
behind the sort of procedures trying to get a second vote. Is that correct?
HAIN: I'm in favor of a people's vote because I think this is such a mess and I do not believe that even those who are most strongly voted to leave
in the referendum two years ago for this mess. And I don't see any way out of this mess except a vote to the people to say it's surely, it's better to
remain after all of this.
But let me just qualify one point. We needn't have been here if the prime minister had been allowed by her party and if she had chosen to discuss
with the opposition parties, not just labor but the other opposition parties, a deal if you like to bring both sides of the referendum together
where Britain still Brexited but stayed in the single market in the customs union, that essential protection for our jobs, our trade and therefore, our
economy and prosperity, I think she would have got a deal through.
The problem for her is her party and the large members of her cabinet, there are absolutely fanatical Brexiteers would not allow her to do it.
So, that's why I think all roads now leads to people's vote and a referendum at some points in the future to rescue Britain from these
AMANPOUR: Well, I put that to one of the prime minister's backers and a member of her government, Justice Minister Rory Stewart, about a week ago
in the run up to this now postponed vote. And he told me that actually another vote would tear this country apart just listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RORY STEWART, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: If you try to ignore that and just stay in your opinion, you would have a very toxic populist policies, you'd
have the British National Party taking off, you'd have a new U.K. Independence Party, you'd have immediate push for a third referendum even
if second referendum campaign already won, which would not put Britain into a stable position in Europe again.
We cannot undo the fact the referendum happened. And I think people are underestimating in a mature democracy what would happen if for the first
time in British history, which has to try to overrule three years after it happened a major democratic led (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
So, Lord Hain, that is a Conservative party member, he's a government minister, he's not one of the fanatics in the Tory party. In fact, he was
a Remainer. But he's making this point about another referendum being divisive and giving rise to all sorts of extremists How do you respond to
HAIN: What's going on behind me, Christiane? The part -- the country is split down the middle, it was in the referendum. It wasn't as if there was
a runaway victory for the leave decision, it was 52 to 48.
And what has happened is that the Brexiteers have taken that decision, stuck it in their pockets and most of their heads and driven the prime
minister in front of them as if there was no division. The country is already split.
I do not see how giving the people a chance for a second thought, an opportunity to say, "Is this really what we wanted? Is this miss, this
loss of jobs, this loss of prosperity, this damage to our own future and that of our families," none of which which was spelled out by the Leave
Campaign by the way, they promised to a new kind of future, which was there were no problems whether it -- it would all be sunny on the up side, it was
all -- be greener on the other side, all of that stuff.
Now, we're facing reality. I think a lot of people are saying, "Come on. I really would like the opportunity to consider this again and I agree to
that -- to this extent with the earlier interview." You can simply ignore the last referendum, the people had their say in it but I think the people
should have the opportunity to have another say given the mess which I see no end to given the mess we're in and I don't see an end to it otherwise,
AMANPOUR: Well, so, can I just press you on what kind of a vote it would be? What would the question be? Is it the same question, stay in or stay
out of the European Union or is it Theresa May's deal versus no deal? What would the essential question be a second time around?
HAIN: Well, at the moment, it would be between Theresa May's deal and Remaining and for people to decide what they want, because that's the only
choices available to us. Parliament will not vote for no deal, that would be -- that means just literally severing our ties with the European Union
where half our trade is, where our cars that are manufactured here have components that are actually manufactured on the continent just in time
supply chains supplying them and keeping those jobs and the cars coming off the production line, all of that would be thrown up and into the year
through a no deal just literally going off the cliff edge.
So, I don't think parliament would ever vote for that. So, it would probably have to be between Theresa May's deal and Remain, but that's for
parliament to decide.
What I think the most important thing here is that people be given the opportunity of rescuing parliament and this government from the mess it
finds itself. There's such political stalemate over there and there's such political chaos. I don't see a way out of it other than a people's vote.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, with all of this, we see all these sort of shocks circling for a potential leadership bid if she gets into terrible trouble,
we see the E.U. looking on aghast as they're the principal negotiators, the Brexit coordinator tweeted today, "I can't follow anymore. After two years
of negotiations, to Tory government wants to delay the vote. Just keep in mind that we will never let the Irish down," again back to that backstop,
"This delay will further aggravate the uncertainty for people and business. It's time they make up their mind."
Very, very quickly because I want to get on two France. Does she have any chance of getting European wiggle room? She's about to go off to Brussels
again this week.
HAIN: She might get some warm words but this is a treaty that has been agreed between the British government and the 27 nations, remaining nations
of the European Union. You can't just abrogate a decision like that. She might get some more warm words. But I'm not sure that's going to change
any minds in the fanatics who are sticking out against any sensible way forward I'm afraid, which is why I come back to the referendum and the need
for the people to have the say, their say.
AMANPOUR: I just want to ask you because, you know, for our American viewers, you talk about fanatics, would one of those be Boris Johnson? I
mean, he's fairly well known in the United States, he's the former foreign secretary and a major hard line Brexiter. Would you call him a fanatic?
HAIN: Yes, I'm afraid I would on this issue. You see, he's never had a plan of his own, none of them ever had. They were -- they went into the
referendum, they came out of it, and two years later, they're in the same place. They don't have a plan of their own. They cannot keep the Irish
border open, maintain peace and stability on the Island of Ireland, keep our trade and jobs and our prosperity with the European Union intact.
While this (ph), they want to sever all ties with it. This is impossible. They've never had a plan of their own and that's why I think it's a form of
dogmatism and yes, fanatism, which I think he's responsible for amongst others. I think that's the reason it.
AMANPOUR: And very quickly --
HAIN: Let me them up with their own plan, they never have.
AMANPOUR: What would a Boris Johnson prime minister look like if he succeeds in a leadership coup against May?
HAIN: Well, I think pretty awful but I don't see any chance of him becoming leader. In fact, look, who knows what's going to happen in
British politics at the moment. I've been in politics for 50 years I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow let alone next week or next month.
AMANPOUR: Well --
HAIN: But I think it's more likely or not -- than not that she will cling on.
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, you say you've never seen anything like this before. Across the channel in France, people are saying the same thing,
they have never seen the like of these riots, demonstrations and particularly personal attacks on the president, Macron, himself.
So, you are a centrist, yes, you are from the Labour opposition party, I don't think you are Corbynite, you are more of a Blairite, so a centrist.
What do you see for the future of centrist politics, if at all, if even Macron can be so assaulted in a matter of weeks?
HAIN: Well, I think people on the center left like me have got to understand the roots of this crisis that we're seeing in France and we're
seeing it played out in a different way here in Britain. Brexit is actually a symptom of that.
Until you start delivering an economy, which until the last couple of decades and especially since the banking crisis has stopped, until start
delivering an economy that actually delivers for the middle of our society again. Sadly, the poor have always lose -- lost out and Labour politicians
like me have tried to do something about that.
But the middle is being badly hit by this form of economics known as neoliberalism, which I think President Macron ill-advisedly didn't
challenge and he's now reaping a bitter whirlwind.
And politicians here, however Brexit goes, who think that -- all is stopped as I hope, wh think that they can just carry on as usual are going to find
political revolts and political instability of following them all the way. I think that's now true across Europe and I'm afraid it's true right in
places like the United States of America as well. We're going to learn these lessons.
AMANPOUR: And we are turning there. Lord Hain, thank you for joining us outside parliament on this very, very uncertain day.
So, while the prime minister does try to remove the U.K. from European law, her close ally, the U.S. president is facing serious legal issues on a
personal level. Federal prosecutors in New York have implicated the president in a crime alleging illegal hush payments made at Trump's
direction by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to pay off and silence two women.
They claim to have had affairs with Mr. Trump. The president denies the relationships and he continues to insist that those payments did not
violate campaign finance laws. It comes as Special Counsel Mueller drop small bombshells about the Trump campaign and its connections to Russia.
Clearly, the White House is feeling the heat. And the president has yet to announce a new chief of staff when John Kelly stands down at the end of the
month. So, to try to dissect all of this and to discuss the U.S. government's accusations is Trevor Potter. He is a form of commission and
chair of the U.S. Federal Election Commission. And also joining us, former federal prosecutor and writer for "The New Yorker." Jeffrey Toobin.
Gentlemen, Welcome to you both.
So, it does seem like there's this rolling sense of crisis across the Atlantic. It's been bubbling and boiling for a long time.
Let me first ask you Trevor Potter and given that you are a former official with the Federal election -- the Republican Election Commission. What does
this say to you now, all of what has been dropped by prosecutors, the advice that Mueller had to the prosecutors in New York and what's going on
with Trump and the payoffs to these women?
TREVOR POTTER, FORMER CHAIRMAN. U.S. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: Well, we now know that the prosecutors have a great deal of evidence, not only that
these payments occurred and, of course, President Trump for a long time maintained that they didn't, but that they were done from two sources, both
of which constitute illegal expenditures if they are campaign related. One is Michael Cohen himself, the president's personal lawyer, and the other is
the company that owns the "National Enquirer" and corporations in the U.S. are prohibited from spending money on behalf of candidates.
So, the prosecutors say the money was spent, these two women were paid in two different ways in the middle of the presidential campaign, really at
the end, in September and October of 2016. And Mr. Cohen, and this is really the important point, has pled guilty to violating the criminal laws
in doing so.
So, he says that he did these things, that they were deliberate attempts to avoid the reporting and contribution limits of the federal election laws
and he did so at the direction of President Trump.
So, that is what brings this right into the president's living room, is that his former lawyer is saying Trump organized the whole thing.
AMANPOUR: All right.
POTTER: Now, the president says, "That's not true. It's my word against his." Part of the question is, what evidence do the prosecutors have, we
know they have some tapes, we know there are other witnesses who they have interviewed. So, that's what will play out going forward.
AMANPOUR: So, before I turn to Jeffrey Toobin, how big a deal from your perspective as a Republican former official is this? How big a deal is
this for the president now?
POTTER: Well, he has the argument -- makes the argument that these were purely personal payments, they had nothing to do with the campaign. On the
facts, that seems a real stretch because they were made only in the closing days of the campaign. In one of the cases this -- one of the women had
made these charges years before, there was no payment then, suddenly it was important to get this done in a rush at the end of the campaign. But
that's his first argument.
And his second really is that, even if these things occurred it was all Cohen's fault and not his fault. So, those are fact questions. The
reality is, we have all been told that the Department of Justice has a policy of not prosecuting a sitting president.
So, the question becomes, does the department and its prosecutors wait until the end of Trump's term and then bring these charges? And of course,
a corollary question of does Congress look at this and say, "Well, the law was violated whether or not there is a criminal prosecution it at this
But it's -- at some stage, going to boil down to a question of who's telling the truth here. I'm reminded of the great Watergate line, which is
what did the president know and when did he know it.
POTTER: We now are aware that the president knew a great deal about this much earlier than he said, that he was in the middle of it. So, we'll have
to see whether any more information develops as a result of what we've already seen in court now.
AMANPOUR: So, Jeffrey, any more information? What do you expect to come out more and what do you think as Trevor just mention, yes, it's
problematic depending on, you know, where the truth is, he suggested that, you know, the Congress has a choice as to whether to, you know, prosecute,
you know, the difference between political and what the Justice Department thinks? What do you think Congress will do, particularly in the House
where they now will be taking over the chairmanship of all of these committees?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN, CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think -- you know, Trevor made a very important point, which is that under Department of
Justice policy the president can't be prosecuted while he's in office. So, the issue is not going to be criminal prosecution of President Trump, it's
going to be impeachment. Will Congress take some action against the president while he is in office?
And I think the answer currently is not yet. There is not enough evidence yet for it to persuade the Democrats that it is worth proceeding here
because, you know, as your viewers may know, our system for removal of presidents is you have to get a majority in the House of Representatives
and then two-thirds, 67 votes in the Senate. There is no way there are 67 votes in the Senate.
And as there was Republicans discovered when they had an unsuccessful effort to remove President Clinton from office in 1998, the public doesn't
like impeachment efforts that go nowhere. You either have to kill the king or don't attack him.
And the Democrat I've spoken to, Nancy Pelosi, who will presumably be the new speaker, Jerrold Nadler who will be the new chairman of the Judiciary
Committee, they say, "We are not proceeding with impeachment unless we can really have a strong belief that the Senate is going to really -- going to
remove him from office and we are nowhere near that at that -- at this point."
So, I think there will be investigations from the House of Representatives but removal from office is really not on the agenda based on the evidence
we know now.
AMANPOUR: So, you mentioned Jerrold Nadler, we do have a soundbite regarding, you know, what you just said. Let's just play and he's fleshing
out some details on this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERROLD NADLER, INCOMING CHAIRMAN OF HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You don't necessarily launch an impeachment against the president because he
committed an impeachable offense. There are several things you have to look at. One, were there impeachable offenses committed? How many? Et
cetera. And secondly, how important were they? Do they rise to the gravity where you should undertake an impeachment? An impeachment is an
attempt to, in effect, overturn or change the results of the last election. You should do it only for a very serious situations. So, that's always the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Can I just turn to Trevor for the moment because, I mean, that's what -- that's sort of him saying what he believes will be the perspective
of the new committee that he's on.
But, Trevor, Rudy Giuliani, who's the president's personal lawyer, he's comparing these allegations are, you know, against the case of John Edwards
who ran for president for the Democrats. He allegedly simply paid hush money to keep -- cover up an affair but he was never convicted of that
case. And Giuliani says, "Well, that goes to prove that no crime was committed, no violation of campaign finance laws occurred." Do you agree?
POTTER: I think there are enormous differences between the two cases. There's obviously an attempt here to say, "Oh, well, it's all just election
law. It's very complicated." Rand Paul said, "Well, the FEC. is said there's no problem with paying hush money," that's not accurate.
What happened with Edwards happened more than a year before the election. The primaries hadn't even started yet. There were no signed agreements for
hush money. The woman involved was not threatening to go public. He had had an affair with her, they had had a child and the money was being sought
to raise the child, how was the woman literally put food on the table. She had been a campaign photographer and had no other resources.
So, I think the situations are very different than here happening the month before the election with agreements that explicitly say, "We'll give you
this money and you won't talk to the press," at a time when all the evidence indicates they were threatening to talk to the press and in
saying, "If you don't get us the money within the next X days, we're going ahead and revealing this all publicly at the worst possible time for the
So, I think the situations are quite different, the evidence here plus there are tapes here which they weren't there, there appeared to be other
witnesses here and the person of the officials of the "National Enquirer" newspaper who have been interviewed by the prosecutors. So, there's much
I think you're still left with the reality though that if the prosecutors are right, if Cohen is right. if the other evidence is there and the
president violated the law, he did so before he became president. So, he may be vulnerable to criminal charges but that is different than the
question of whether it rises to an impeachable offense.
The prosecutors argue that one of the things this evidence tells us is the election itself was fraud because the American public was hoodwinked. It
was denied information that arguably would have been really important for them to know right after we'd had all the other scandals with the Hollywood
tapes and so forth if the president had these two affairs with women and had paid them hush money.
So, the prosecutors say that this went to the heart of our system because it was hiding information from voters that was relevant to them in making a
decision. Again, and that is different than Congress deciding that President Trump acts constitute high crimes and misdemeanors. And I think
a fair question is, does that include things that he did before he became president? Then you have to weigh against that, the fact that these
involve the campaign, which made him president.
AMANPOUR: OK. Jeffrey, your reaction.?
TOOBIN: Well, I think that's -- Trevor is exactly right. I mean, the reason this is such a big deal is that on the eve of the election, when two
women were about to come forward to allege extramarital affairs with Donald Trump, something that would have been a huge bombshell affecting the
outcome of the election almost without doubt, this money was paid to shut them up. That certainly is a campaign expense by any rational
So, the guilt of the vial -- the guilt seems fairly straightforward. What's very complicated is whether it's an impeachable offense, because
that is a much more a political question than a legal question. And as Jerrold Nadler said, you know, you don't -- just because there's a
technical violation of the law you don't impeach someone because that's such a major step. We've never removed a president in all of American
history. Bill Clinton was impeached, Andrew Johnson was impeached, Richard Nixon was forced to resign but we have never impeached and removed a
So, it's obviously a very big deal. And I think the Democrats are waiting to hear everything from Robert Mueller before they make a real decision.
All of these interim disclosures, you know, fit -- fill in the political situation but no Democrat is going to do anything until we hear everything
that Robert Mueller, the special counsel.
AMANPOUR: So let's just ask you follow up on that, Jeffrey. Robert Mueller did over the weekend, you know, on the Friday and last week all his
recommendations about Manafort and Flynn and Cohen and jail time and deals and all the rest of it. What do you - where is that in this sort of - the
road forward right now? How significant is all of that as we stand right now?
TOOBIN: Well, it is significant because a lot of the developments we're talking about, the facts we're learning come out of these court filings,
but what we have not seen is Robert Mueller's comprehensive picture of what really went on here. What was the nature of the relationship between the
Trump campaign and Russian interest? Was there a conspiracy to affect the outcome of the election? You know, how should we view the firing of FBI
Director, James Comey? Was that an act of obstruction of justice by the President of the United States?
Those are the core questions that Mueller is investigating, and we haven't heard his comprehensive answer to that. And until we do, I don't think any
Democrat in a position of power is going to make a determination -
TOOBIN: - about whether to proceed on impeachment.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, you know, we learned today that the accused Russian spy, Maria Butina, appears to have reached a plea deal with prosecutors, so
that, of course, is, you know, she's accused of infiltrating Republican circles to advance Russian interest. So Trevor - Trevor Potter, what all
of us wants to know which is more significant or serious? Is it the Russian? Is the campaign finance violations, the allegations thereof? But
I want to ask you what you make of sort of a broader indictment of the president and his methods by people who actually work for him and who he
appointed as cabinet secretaries?
For instance, this is Secretary of State Tillerson - former Secretary of State speaking at this weekend saying, "so often the president would say
here's what I want to do and here's how I want to do it. And I would have to say to him, Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you
can't do it that way. It violates the law."
Discuss, Trevor Potter.
POTTER: Well, we have a person here who we know from his entire business career was used to getting what he wanted and did not, surrounded himself
by people like Cohen who tried to make that possible. I don't think he's used to being told that he can't do something because it's illegal, and
that's what Tillerson was saying. You look at these payments to these women, and it's pretty clear in Cohen's account that Trump said, "do this.
Make it happen." And we don't know whether he was flat out told it was illegal and said I don't care, but what we do know is that these laws were
broken, Cohen says at his direction.
So I think through all of this, what we learn is that - probably what we knew on election day, which is we have a president who does what he wants,
and even his supporters are now saying, "well, he may not understand how government works and he may not be accomplishing everything, but at least
he's connecting with a segment of the American people," which is a way of ignoring the information that has come out since the election, and it's not
just these illegal payments of hush money with corporate money and so forth. The Russian side itself, it came out quite awhile ago.
There - contrary to everything that the White House and president had said, there was a meeting with senior campaign officials and Russians that the
emails to that said we have dirt on Hillary Clinton that will help your campaign, and the president's son said, "great, bring it on." So we've
known this. We've known that there were meetings that occurred, and I think the president's reaction was to say, anyone would have taken that
meeting. I think that's not true. The candidates that I've been associated with, someone like John McCain would have said, "Call the FBI.
This is wrong."
POTTER: So there is a division. Maybe it's a partisan division. Maybe it's just some people don't want to face what we already know or have made
the decision that, painful as it is, there's nothing we can do about it at this stage.
AMANPOUR: So let me ask you the final question, Jeffrey, you know, Robert Mueller's successor, James Comey, the former FBI Director, has said that
Americans should, quote, "Use every breath we have to make sure the lies stop on January 20, 2021," which is the next presidential inauguration day.
I mean on the spectrum of extraordinary comments by former officials, where do you place that one?
TOOBIN: Well, James Comey, since he's been fired by Donald Trump has come out as a unspoken -- as an outspoken opponent of the president and someone
who believes the president is a threat to the rule of law.
Comey, himself, is in a peculiar situation because Hillary Clinton supporters can't stand the guy either, because on the eve of the election
he disclosed an investigation of Hillary Clinton that may have cost her the election.
So, he is an unusual figure in American life, but we are certainly at a moment where the number of people who believe the president is involved --
was involved in very serious, actually criminal wrongdoing is very high.
It is not high enough to get him removed from at office at this point, but we are very much mid-scandal, not at the end of the scandal and I, for one,
certainly have no idea how it's going turn out.
AMANPOUR: Yes, and everybody is guessing. We have had a bipartisan discussion, Jeffrey Toobin and Trevor Potter, thank you so much for joining
us this evening.
So, sticking with the White House, turning to immigration and looking through the filter of religion with our next guess, the Reverend Samuel
Rodrigez. He's Puerto Rican, he gave his first sermon at just 16 and he quickly rose to prominence among Christian evangelicals.
Now, as his Latino community and his church diverge over the actions of President Trump, he talks to our Michel Martin about the hot button issue
of immigration and why he hopes for some compromise in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MICHEL MARTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, thank you so much for talking with us. Is it my understanding that, at least within the
last sort of five or 10 years, that you had a belief that the evangelical movement on the whole was embracing the idea of immigration reform? Would
that be accurate?
REVEREND SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ, CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST: Yes, I've been advocating for immigration reform for years. And I mean close to 20 years. I worked
with George W. Bush on it, I worked with President Obama eight years on it and now I'm working with President Trump.
To be honest, in the beginning, the white evangelical community was the stanches group opposing immigration reform. There was a meeting where I
had my white evangelical brothers and sisters around me, we were praying, and one of them actually, at the end of the meeting, said, hey Samuel, why
don't you tell you people to go back home.
Now, I didn't even bring up the issue of immigration, I was just seated there and out of the blue, tell your people, like if I were Moses, to --
for your people to go back home. And I was blown away and then Pew and other research studies validated the idea that the stanches group opposing
immigration reform were white evangelicals.
Now, move the clock forward in 2018, different story. Evangelicals are now supporting immigration reform in a way that protects the border, stops
illegal immigration but deals with those that are currently here in a way that's compassionate and in a way that integrates them into the collective
of the American experience.
MARTIN: So, what's going on?
RODRIGUEZ: It's a new day.
MARTIN: So, what's going on with President Trump though? Why is it that you don't seem to be able to move him on this issue?
RODRIGUEZ: And listen, and we've -- and as you all know, we've had conversations, I gave -- and we've had conversations with the White House,
with the president, I handed in to the president, to the president himself, in his hands, a proposal that I do believe will solve this issue. I think
this is doable. Matter of fact, I know it's doable. There's a new proposal that I'm giving to president and you're one of the first ones to
This proposal is a bit edgy and controversial, it is. I take away the issue of citizenship and perpetuity. Let me explain. So, I sit down with
Republican leadership, I ask them, what in the world's going on? Why would you not -- what is it? Every single time we have a chance to pass some
immigration reform and in private conversations, off-line they would say, Pastor Sam, we have great angst that we are in essence legalizing 10
million Democratic voters.
Now, imagine the election we just had for midterms. And in many of the elections, just two, three, four, five, seven, 10,000 votes determined the
outcome. So, 10 million new Democratic voters, this would, in essence, seal the deal in -- for multiple generations or election cycles for a
Republicans have told me, Pastor Sam, the issue is citizenship. So, if we can remove citizenship from the table, if we can provide legal status for
those that are currently here undocumented, that are not involved in nefarious activity, that are not dependent on government welfare
entitlement, but good hard working, god fearing individuals, right, who have raised their children here, but we remove citizenship, I believe
that's the deal breaker and President Trump if -- I'm not saying he will, or he would, I am speculating, based on conversations, anecdotally and
directly, I believe the president may very well sign a piece of legislation that will bring forth comprehensive immigration reform if we remove the
citizenship component from any sort of deal (ph).
MARTIN: And so, Pastor Sam, tell me why this is acceptable to you. I mean as a - as a person of Puerto Rican heritage, you've always been a citizen,
your parents are citizen. You know, why - why do you feel that it is for you to trade away the citizenship rights of other people?
RODRIGUEZ: Oh, I'm not trading away absolutely anything. I've been advocating, my record is known and my kids are Mexiricans (ph), my
grandkids. So I'm - I've started preaching in the front of Mexico, Tamaulipas.
MARTIN: OK, but you just said that you are willing to broker a deal where people would not get citizenship.
RODRIGUEZ: That's right, because I asked them - because I asked them. I surveyed them. So I got together in Tucson, Arizona. We had over 1,300
individuals from Arizona, intentionally, so we recruited to make sure we had undocumented leaders and followers in that meeting.
And I asked them, I said, "What do we have to do?" Here's what they're telling me on the Hill from those are opposing immigration reform, is the
issue of citizenship. And this is why, they believe it's the rule of law. You came in here illegally, there has to - there has to be a price to pay.
Now if you're not willing to go back to your country of origin, they're saying, "How in the world can we, somewhere down the road, grant
citizenship to people who came in here illegally when there are those that are willing to come here legally?" It's just not right, it's just not
So the response was, "Hey, Pastor Sam, we just want legal status. Citizenship is not the number one thing we're fighting for. We just - we
just want to come out of the shadows." So my point is, I'm not surrendering anything. I am for their own sake. I want these wonderful,
god-fearing people who are blessing to our nation and not a curse, I want them to come out of the shadows.
But the only way to do this, to get across this line, is to address the issue of coming here illegally. There's a price that has to be paid. What
is that price? If they remove citizenship from the parents, not the children, mind you, not the children.
MARTIN: OK, that was going to be my question.
RODRIGUEZ: So the children - the children would receive citizenship. I don't care if they came in here illegally, the kids should not pay for the
sins of their parents. So does - the kids receive citizenship immediately, the parents do not, and it's the price they have to pay for coming here
But they're legal. They have a permanent green card, they could travel around the world, the they could enjoy this wonderful thing called the
American experience as pass this heritage from one generation to the other.
MARTIN: And how does that - how does that address the problem, Pastor Sam, because it seems to me that the line is so long now? A lot of these people
are never going to see citizenship anyway. So how is that - how is that addressing the issue?
RODIGUEZ: But it's just a political issue. It's - the moral issue's what I'm fighting for. I'm fighting for these people coming out of the shadows.
I'm fighting for an end of this unbelievable hyper-rhetoric where they - where it's always immigrant, immigrant, immigrant.
I want to remind the audience, the immigrant community is a blessed community. Yes, there are some bad apples in every single, you know,
group, so we can't just paint, collectively, the immigrant community as this group engaged in nefarious activities, or in rapes or in murders.
My goodness, I know this community first hand. As a Puerto Rican, you know, I'm not technically an immigrant. But as a Puerto Rican, I can tell
you first hand, as a pastor of undocumented individuals, some of the most hardworking, god-fearing, most beautiful people on the plant are those that
are currently undocumented in America.
But the political reality is this ship will never sale unless there is a great compromise, and in the spirit of Daniel Webster and John Calhoun and
that sort of thing, back from the 1800s, we need to offer a great piece of compromise, and that is the citizenship component.
MARTIN: There was a moment in which, in fact, I recall that you would do a lot of events and conversations with a person who is very prominent in the
evangelical movement at one time, Richard Land who was the head of the Southern Baptist Conventions Ethics and Public Policy Commission. Do you
think that relationship kind of moved the conversation forward?
RODRIGUEZ: So I began touring the country at different cities, speaking to white evangelicals, telling them, "Hey, we are not a curse. We are your
greatest blessing. We are the fasting growing demographic in the Southern Baptist, the Assemblies of God, the Church of God, the Four Square, and so
So I would say, "Try to deport us, try to deport Latinos, or immigrants, and you're deporting the future of American evangelicalism. You are
deporting your own future." This is the most Christian group. Out of - out of 10 people that come to Jesus, that convert everyday, 6.9 are of
Latino descent. It's the growth of the church. So you're deporting the growth of the church.
Once that conversation took place, we saw changes. But in full disclosure, Richard Land - Richard Land - I'm a Latino, right, speaking to a white
audience, I'm advocating for my community. But when Richard Land took the podium and he spoke on behalf of immigrants, to me, that was quintessential
MARTIN: But wouldn't it also be fair to say that there were political calculations involved as well as demographic calculations, that you adhere
to a certain set of conservative social ideas that are also shared by white evangelicals? There's a lot of compatibility around those views - around
abortion rights, for example, around same-sex marriage rights.
Do you think that was part of it, too? That -
RODRIGUEZ: Well -
MARTIN: - years ago where people would have said, "well, you know what? These folks are allies in things that we agree with," and that - was I that
kind of a deal?
RODRIGUEZ: Well, no - well, there's compatibility that I can't deny on issues, for example, of life. I believe every single life is sacred,
creating in the image of God, indeed, religious liberty, of course. I even have a personal belief about limited government. God over man, men over
With that being said, I never sat down with Richard Land or with White evangelical leaders to deliberate a more (ph) strategy of lets get
comprehensive immigration reform passed because in order to do so, we're going to elect Republican candidates. That's never been part of the
strategy. It's always been independent, but yes. I can't deny the fact that there is - there's a lot of coalescing around issues of life and
religious liberty where it behooves white evangelistic - as a matter fact, that's why I don't get it. I don't get why Republicans are not like the
staunchest supporters of immigration reform.
Like 30 percent close to - 29.7 - 30 percent of Latinos still voted for President Trump in spite of all the tweet and rhetoric. Now -
MARTIN: Yes, tell me why (ph). Why is that? Why do you think that -
RODIRIGUEZ: Holy cow, 30 percent! More than Romney! Why? Because of the faith ethos, because of the faith. It's all about the faith ethos meaning
- what does that mean, the faith ethos? It's about life and religious liberty. So when Hillary Clinton in her last debate talked about abortion
in the ninth month I got texts and emails, but I was bombarded with text. I just shifted my vote. I can't vote. That's extreme. Abortion in the
ninth month? The moment Hillary Clinton endorsed that, she lost a measurable portion of the Latino electorate, enough to switch Pennsylvania
and Florida over to the R in Donald Trump -
MARTIN: OK, so let's talk about Trump. Let's talk more about Trump, and sorry to cut you off, but preachers or the one group of people -
MARTIN: - who never get edited, so you know, I have to move one (ph). So on the one hand like a lot of other evangelicals, you agree with him on
certain things. On the other hand, he has - it's not just rhetoric, but policies that you find deeply hurtful and demeaning to people that you care
MARTIN: How did you - first of all, I wanted to ask how did you decide t speak at his inauguration? Was that a difficult decision for you?
RODRIGUEZ: No, it was easy as Sunday morning. In the words of Lionel Ritchie, easy as Sunday - it was easy as Sunday morning. It really was.
I'm going to tell you why. If Obama would have invited me, I would have done the same thing. And if - so to me, George Bush, Obama, Donald Trump,
to me there's a continuum - a continuum where I advocate for what I believe policies that are critical to the collective American community and to
Latinos and the people of faith, and then I walk away from Washington, D.C. I don't drink the ideological Kool-Aid. I don't. I don't drink the
partisan Kool-Aid. So, I did -
MARTIN: So it was an occasion of state and you felt that you were there to lift up your own words if -
RODRIGUEZ: No, to be - no, no. Not my words. Quite the opposite. The opposite drove me. You know, 1.1 billion people watching around the world
and I have a chance to preach the gospel to 1.1 billion people and lift up the name of my lord and savior, Jesus. Hey, the answer is yes, yes, and
MARTIN: How did you decide what you were going to pray at the inauguration?
RODRIGUEZ: It's going to seem interesting. I'm going to tell you we prayed and fasted about it. I know it's going to seem awkward to some of
your audience, but I prayed and fasted. I had people around the country, and I wanted to reconcile the country. So I really believe the lord, the
holy spirit drove me to Mathew Chapter 5. Let us be light. Blessed are those. The poor, the marginalized, the hurting, the suffering, those that
are persecuted for my name's sake. And that message of unity and reconciliation, that was the message the holy spirit placed in my heart.
It is still my message. It's the reason why I sat down over dinner at the white with the president and vice president, and I sat down next to Ivanka
and Jared, and Jared looked at me and said, "Pastor Sam, what's in your heart?" I said, "do you really want to know?" He said yes. I said racial
reconciliation. He said, "all right, how do you do it?" And I went, "let's begin with prison reform, justice reform. There are people of color
suffering right now in jail when other kids not of color, white kids that got off because they had the right attorneys, and young men of color are
now in jail in a disproportionate manner. We need sentencing reform. We need justice reform."
That began a conversation as you well know is now emerging us at first steps at (ph). I mean, think about that. That's now what peace - coming
out of the White House that will impact communities of color, but more important African Americans or better yet, more significantly African
MARTIN: As you know, there were many people who declined to participate in the inauguration. There are many people who continue to resign from or
decline to participate in certain of these councils that are put forward by the White House because they don't want their presence to be seen as an
endorsement of this president's behavior or his policies. Do you have that concern ever? No.
[13:50:00] RODRIGUEZ: No, because I was there for President Obama when I disagreed with a great number of his policies, as you well know, and so,
how about that? So, to me presence is everything. Remember Dr. King? Dr. King -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he would tell us, listen, you have to
be present even with the people you disagree with.
Matter of fact, that's when you should really be present. A conversation can change a heart. I want to be there -- I want to be there where a
conversation can be filled with the grace and love of god, where someone's heart will change. I believe in that.
MARTIN: Is what -- when something happens like, for example, that the people who are being called the caravan, when tear gas was fired at them,
because there were a few of these people who were rushing the border, what is your response to an event like that? What do you do?
RODRIGUEZ: Everyone stood privy to the fact that I was very disappointed with the engagement of strategies and tactics engaged by wonderful people
in our border patrol. I actually have them in my church and my campuses in Los Angeles, border patrol agents, one of them is one of my key leaders
So, I understand, they do a great job in protecting our border and I appreciate their services, however, tear gas, and there were kids there and
I understand some of the kids were used intentionally by those that were in the beginning of that group, attempting to come in here illegally, I get
that, but man, we can do better. We can do better.
And by the way, it's not a caravan of seven, 10,000 people attempting to invade America and of Much Malo hombres, the vast majority of people are
just desperate people looking for a better day.
It should break your heart -- it should break the heart of every American. I have no problem when American's say, these people are trying to come in
here illegally, they can't come in here illegally. I respect that, but I want to hear the following likewise, but we are hurting with them. We need
to address their need. We should do something to help them, because they are people created in the image of god.
Oh my god, what would I do if I would be in their same -- in similar situations.
MARTIN: But why do you keep saying people who are attempting to come here illegally, because it's my understanding that if you present yourself for
asylum, that the interpretation of the current law is that, you're not illegal until you have been demonstrated to have not met the conditions for
asylum, so why do you keep using tha term?
RODRIGUEZ: I hear you. There's two groups of them. There is a group that was explicit in saying, if we are not accepted through the legal port of
entry, then we're going to come in here illegally. I'm addressing that group.
The group of individuals attempting to come in here legally, via the conduit of a port of entry, apply for asylum, there is a process in place.
There is a legal system in place, if they are engaging or attempting to engage that system that's already in place, god bless them. More power to
Go, go. Go, through the process that's already in place, but what I call illegal are those that are attempting to come in here illegally, who stated
explicitly on Univision and other networks, if they don't permit me to come in here, if they reject me here, I'm going to try to come in here
illegally. And we want people to come here legally.
MARTIN: It just seems to me that the New Testament is very clear about welcoming the stranger. How is it that have espoused a certain set of
faith principles can be so hostile toward people who are fleeing for their lives. And since you are a person who has a foot in both worlds, how do
you understand this disconnect and how this issue is viewed?
RODRIGUEZ: There is a group that really says, our great angst, our consternation, the imperative that provisty (ph) acid reflux regarding this
issue is the illegal entry. We want people to come here legally.
But then there's another group and I these people suffer from this monochromatic myopic way of thinking, where they believe that being an
American is a western European presentation of the American definition and that's not what makes you an American.
The color of your skin, your pigmentation does not make you American. And what makes you an American is an adherence to the Constitution, The Bill of
Rights, Declaration of Independence, a Covenant, mind you, where you embrace these values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
What makes you an American is either you're born here or your naturalized here or you're a son of an -- you're a child of an American who believes in
this great idea that we have rights that only god gave us and only god can take them away.
MARTIN: So, how do you change that? How do you change it if somebody deeply believes that they are right and deeply believes that immigrants are
a threat to the character of the country that they love? What are you going to do to change that belief?
RODRIGUEZ: When you wake up in the morning, if you see yourself primarily as a Republican or a Democrat, you have issues. You should see yourself
primarily as a Christian, a child of god. And if you're a Christian, first and foremost, then you will live out that Christian heritage as outlined by
Jesus and then we will have compassionate world view, one that reconciles the rule of law with compassion, Romans 13 with Matthew 25.
Otherwise, then we're just Sunday Christians and we're not living out our faith every single days of our lives.
[13:55:00] MARTIN: That's the Reverend Samuel Rodriguez. Pastor Sam, thank you so much for talking with us.
RODRIGUEZ: Thank you for having me.
(END VIDEO TAPE0
AMANPOUR: An impassion plea for sensible immigrant's rights there. But that's it for us, for now. Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.