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Trump's Old Allies Turning Against Him; Broader Allegations of Collusion with Russia Over Trump Campaign; Women's Power and Complexity Front and Center in Steve McQueens' Latest Work; Steve McQueen's New Movie, "Widows"; Turning His Back on the Republican Party. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 14, 2018 - 13:00:00 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.
Even the tabloids are flipping now. We ask, is the investigation into President Trump reaching critical mass?
Then, thrills and spills with a message. "Widows," Director Steve McQueen tells me about his new film and what he thinks about being snubbed by the
Plus, why this conservative publisher and son-in-law of the late Senator John McCain abandoned the Republican Party.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Hook, line and what comes next? This week saw President Donald Trump finding old allies turning against him one after the other. Federal
prosecutors in New York revealed on Wednesday that they had struck a deal with "National Enquirer" publisher AMI. It admitted that it had paid
$150,000 of hush money to a Playboy model to conceal an affair that she claims she had with the president. An action AMI says it made in
cooperation with the Trump presidential campaign.
The revelation backed up accusations by another old Trump star war (ph), president's former attorney, Michael Cohen. Who at the same time this week
was using his day in court to claim his involvement in illegal payments was to cover up for the president's "dirty deeds."
Now, it has to be said that the president continues to not to deny all these allegations. Joining me to figure out how these bombshells fit into
the mass of accusations is author of "The Threat Matrix: The FBI of War," Garrett Graff who is in Vermont and former federal and state prosecutor,
Elie Honig, who joins us from New York.
Gentlemen, welcome to the program.
Ellie Honig, can I ask you first, how surprised have you been and what significance do you attach to the flipping, as we call it, by the "National
Enquirer" publisher AMI?
ELLIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I that was a bit of a shocker, Christiane, and I think it's a big deal. You know, the pieces are really
starting to line up here. As a general rule, when you're being investigated by the Southern District of New York where I used to work or
any prosecutor's office, when everyone around you is cooperating or has immunity, you're the one they're coming for.
And if we look at the landscape now, we see Michael Cohen, we know, has pled guilty, David Pecker has been given immunity, meaning the Southern
District can use his testimony, Weisselberg, who is the head accountant for the Trump organization has been immunized.
And yesterday's revelation about AMI, American Media Inc., which is the parent company of "The Enquirer" I think is just one more huge piece of
evidence lining up. And if you look at who's left in this transaction, the hush money payments, there's really only three people that I can identify
by looking at the public documents, that's executive one and executive two from the Trump organization as they were identified in Cohen's documents
and there's some speculation about who that could be but they're both executives of the Trump org. and then the president himself.
AMANPOUR: So, what does this mean, still with you, Ellie, is a former federal prosecutor, what does this mean? You know, we're all trying to
figure out, you know, how much closer does not just this investigation in New York but also the bigger question of Mueller and his investigation, how
does this all fit together and what should the president be thinking?
HONIG: If I'm the president, I'm looking at really sort of three main fronts. One of them is the campaign financing, which I think, at this
moment in time, is the most readily provable case. I think based on what's publicly known, it's the case that if I was a prosecutor I can most easily
go into a grand jury, give them the evidence and walk out of there with an indictment against the president. Let's put to the side whether we can
indict the president or not, that's a separate issue, but against the executives or the president.
The second one is the obstruction of justice probe, and that goes back to the firing of James Comey, the firing of Jeff Sessions, we've seen all the
tweets trying to intimidate or dissuade cooperating witnesses, trying to encourage people to stay silent and we now know that Mueller's people have
spoken with Michael Flynn, who is the chief of staff and of course inner circle within the White House and Don again as well who was legal counsel.
And then, the third front that I think is out there, and this is probably the highest stakes politically, is what we'll call the coordination with
Russia, the campaign coordination with Russia. We already know some information about the WikiLeaks hack and the coordination potentially
through Roger Stone and others close to the president. And we learned recently that Michael Cohen was involved in lying to Congress about the
Trump Tower project in Moscow, which is a hundred of millions of dollars' worth project. And so, you can start to see the president's financial and
political motivations on collusion coming into focus.
AMANPOUR: So, let me turn to Garrett Graff. As I announced, you are the author of "The Threat Matrix; Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on
So, moving from this investigation in New York to the broader allegations of collusion with Russia over the campaign, I want to ask you about what
you think it might mean for that investigation. And let us just read off a few of Cohen's quotes as he was speaking in court, the broader case that
he's talking about. "Recently," he said, "the president tweeted a statement calling me weak and he was correct but for a much different
reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own
inner voice and my own moral compass."
Well, he was talking about what he specifically was being sentenced for. But how do you think this plays in to the cooperation that Mueller says
he's giving him on the other issue, the Russia issue?
GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, "THE THREAT MATRIX; INSIDE ROBERT MUELLER'S FBI": This is been a fascinating story to watch unfold just really within the
last two weeks and to see how much more we've learned and how much further this narrative has been advanced.
To put it a little bit starkly here, prosecutors over the last 18 months have outlined two separate criminal conspiracies that helped Donald Trump
win the presidency in 2016. One was a campaign and conspiracy ran by the Russian government using military intelligence and the Facebook bots and
trolls of the internet research agency aimed to hurt Hillary Clinton and helped Donald Trump. The other was a criminal conspiracy with Michael
Cohen at the center of it involving these hush money payments meant to cover up damaging stories in the final weeks of the election.
Now, what Michael Cohen has told us in court, under oath and presumably prosecutors have documentary corroborating evidence to back up his
testimony, is that he, as the central figure of one of those criminal conspiracies, was in contact with and attempting to gain assistance from
the central figure in the other criminal conspiracy, Russian President, Vladimir Putin. And the that these two different avenues sort of a
business collusion and election collusion are beginning to look more and more the same.
We just mentioned the fact that this Trump Tower Moscow deal could have been worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Trump organization. That
seems like an incredibly important fact for the American people to know about the context of the comments of the president was making during the
campaign in 2016 as he was trying to lessen pressure on Russia and change the U.S. stance and posture towards Russia, that the president was set to
gain financially personally from helping Russia even as Russia was helping him win the election.
AMANPOUR: OK. Let's go back to the latest specifics, and again, it's not so much about the Russia issue, it is about the filings in New York and
what the federal prosecutors there are saying. So, here again, the federal prosecutor about Cohen. As Cohen himself has now admitted with respect to
both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of individual one. Individual one is the president of the United States.
Now, to President Trump on Thursday responded, "I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the
law. It is called advice of counsel and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that, many campaign
finance lawyers have strongly stated that I did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws, if they even applied because this was not
So, the essential issue is that, you know, "I might have talked to Michael Cohen but I never directed him and if I was directing him, he should have
known better and he should have stopped me."
Ellie Honig, as a federal prosecutor formally, how does that sit in the eyes of the law?
HONIG: Let's break it down into two pieces and I think neither of them stand up, Christiane. So, first of all, the idea that Michael Cohen, my
lawyer, told me it was all fine, I'm looking at this from a prosecutor's perspective, completely contradicted by Donald Trump's own prior
statements. When he was asked back in April, "Did you know anything about these payments?' He said straight up no and now he's saying, "Michael
Cohen told me the payments were fine," you cannot reconcile those two statements and I think that tells you something about the sort validity of
There is a legal defense called advice of counsel. If you were attorney actually gives you advice that is reasonable and that you believed to be
good advice and you followed it, that can be a defense. But again, it's hard to imagine that happened here. Cohen certainly has denied it and will
And it's also just hard to believe as a matter of common sense given what we know that the president could have been told, "We're going to pay off
these women who had affairs with a decade ago. We're going to create phony corporate shells to do it. I'm going to give you fake invoices so we can
cover up and then everyone's going to lie about it but it's totally legal." So, I have a problem with that part.
Part two is this notion that these weren't campaign contributions and it was totally legal to make them. That's an issue of fact. And by the way,
just to be clear what's illegal about the contributions if they are campaign contributions, is they were far in excess of the maximum permitted
under law. Individuals are only allowed to contribute $2,700, these payments were well into the six figures.
So, the question is, was the purpose of the payments to impact the election or was it something else? John Edwards famously was tried for this and the
jury did not convict him because they found -- they did not find enough evidence that it was campaign related as opposed to trying to spare his
wife and his family humiliation and embarrassment. But here, the facts are very different. A big one for me is the timing. These affairs happened
around 10 years before. And when do they make the payments, October of 2016, right in the weeks right before the election.
Look at the use of the phony corporate shells to try to hide it, look at all the lies to try to hide it, and I think I can make a pretty strong
argument to a jury that these were in fact campaign contributions.
AMANPOUR: And Senator Rand Paul has being quoted as saying that, you know, campaign finance laws, violations or the laws themselves are just not a big
deal. Do you agree with that?
HONIG: No. There are different gradations of campaign finance violations, there are inadvertent violations, paperwork of violations that are not
crimes. But then there are excessive contributions like this or unreported contributions which absolutely are crimes, they've been prosecuted by the
Department of Justice and really, they are central to the integrity of our electoral system. And to hear a United States senator, a lawmaker, say,
:"This criminal law that's on the books, who cares," I think tells you something about the strength of that position.
AMANPOUR: Let me just play then another and get you both to comment on the back of it. Senator Orrin Hatch is also a big defender of the president.
And when he was asked this week by reporters inside Congress about all of these investigations, he was very defensive and very protective of the
president. Just listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ORRIN HATCH, U.S. SENATE REPUBLICAN: The Democrats will do anything to hurt this president, anything. And what happened before he was elected
president, you know, is one thing. But since he's been elected, the economy has done well, our country is moving ahead, we're in better shape
than we were before he became president and I think we ought to judge him on that basis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But this is not the Democrats, this is the Southern District of New York, the U.S. attorney. I mean, that's what's making
HATCH: You think he's a Republican, do you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he's an employee (ph) by this president. He's an employee (ph) by this president.
HATCH: OK. But I don't care. All I can say is he's doing a good job as president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: This is really, really interesting to break down. Let me turn to you, Garrett, for a moment on this. A couple of things, you know, "I
don't care. He's doing a good job as president," that's number one. Two, "Who is this U.S., you know, attorney? Is he a Republican?" And three, he
first started saying, "It was the Democrats."
Just break down just the, I don't know, the politics and the personal agenda around that interview.
GRAFF: Yes. And this is, to be fair, relatively common reaction that we have seen thus far from Republicans on Capitol Hill. They are very worried
about their own base, their own voters in primary elections where Donald Trump's popularity remains very, very high and are not yet willing to turn
on him and defect.
There is this question that is a semi open one in U.S. politics about previous crimes before you become president, whether that would rise to an
impeachable offense, but these crimes, because they go to sort of cheating to win the election certainly do fall under the impeachable category. You
know, if Donald Trump had robbed a bank 20 years ago that may not necessarily end up being an impeachable case. But certainly, cheating to
win the presidency falls under that.
I think we're beginning to see Robert Mueller lay out and prosecutors lay out is a wide ranging and extensive Russian intelligence operation and
aggression against the United States that certainly poses a national security threat to the United States. And that's something that I think
the Republicans on Capitol Hill are going to have a much harder time turning their backs to even if they're willing to overlook the campaign
finance violations that the president has evidently been implicated in thus far.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, therein, you talked about, you know, various different interpretations of when a crime might have been committed or not relative
to the campaign and the presidency. There also, as you know, very differing and multiple interpretations of whether a sitting president can
be indicted. Just to get the terminology right, it appears that he has been, you know, named as an unindicted coconspirator in Michael Cohen's
crimes. Some though are saying, you know, this idea is not a hard rule and the Justice Department guidance, as we know, currently is that a sitting
president cannot be indicted.
Let us play what Democrat Adam Schiff said who's going to come in to be Committee chairman in the New Year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM SCHIFF, INCOMING CHAIRMAN, U.S. HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think the Justice Department needs to re-examine that or well see opinion Office
of Legal Counsel opinion that you cannot indict a sitting president. I don't think that the Justice Department ought to take the position and it's
certainly not one that would be required in any way by the Constitution that a president merely by being in office can be above the law, can escape
the enforcement of the law by essentially waiting out the law, by waiting out the statute of limitations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Ellie Honig, is he right?
HONIG: For the most part yes. So, there is an existing Department of Justice policy against indicting a sitting president but it is just that,
it is a policy, it is not part of our Constitution, it is not a statute embedded in law. It is something the Department of Justice has internally
decided we will or will not do.
I worked for DOJ for the Southern District for eight years and policies would come and go. They would be change, they would be revised, they would
be retracted. So, does the Department of Justice have the ability to do that, to change this policy? Sure they do. Now, is that going to happen
in this administration with Matthew Whitaker and soon to be with William Barr as the attorney general? Seems unlikely to me.
And so, people have asked, will the Southern District sort of defy that policy? The Southern District is famously independent. And politically,
to your prior question, it is it is as nonpartisan as any entity of government can be. I worked there for eight years, four of them were under
President Bush, four of them were under President Obama and it made zero difference to what we did. You will not find a more nonpartisan government
entity than the Southern District of New York.
That said, the Southern District of New York is part of the United States Department of Justice and cannot secede or just disregard the policy. So,
is that policy something that should be looked at or considered? Perhaps, but that's a political calculation for the most part.
AMANPOUR: You know, we just heard Ellie speak about being four years in -- you know, as a federal prosecutor -- eight years rather, four under a
Democrat, four under a Republican and that is not a partisan, you know, nest, if you like. What is -- just answer again people who say, "Oh, the
FBI is full of partisans and, you know, they're doing the Democrats bidding and they all against the president." What do you say after having written
the book on the whole issue?
GRAFF: Yes. Anyone who has covered or worked with the FBI over the years really, I think, can't help but laugh at the idea that the FBI is a
partisan nest of vipers and particularly a Democratic pro-Clinton deep state. The FBI is sort of anything but that, it's fiercely a political
fiercely nonpartisan and really one of the most conservative institutions in the United States. Probably in many ways, actually more conservative
and traditional than the U.S. military.
That said, I think sort of one of the things that is really important to look at is just how conservative Robert Mueller's strategy has been as a
prosecutor. Robert Mueller has a famously black and white moral compass and he is pursuing, I think, a deeply traditional and very conservative
strategy as special counsel. The charges that he has brought, almost every single person has pleaded guilty, showing the overwhelming evidence that he
is bringing and that he is not playing a lot in the gray, he is not charging a lot of marginal crimes or sort of debatable crimes, he is only
showing up to play at the times when he knows that he can win.
And I think that that's one of the things that should particularly worry the president going forward is the number of people a raid (ph) on the
other side who are providing substantial cooperation to Robert Mueller and the federal prosecutors right now in around the Trump campaign and in and
around the Trump Organization.
Prosecutors sort of used or have this saying, you know, "If you're not at the table, you're on the table." And I think one of the things that we are
beginning to see is that almost everyone is at the table right now except for the president and his family, and that should be very worrisome for
AMANPOUR: I mean, it really is a very gripping legal drama. Thanks to both of you for bringing us up-to-date after this week of dramatic turns.
Garrett Graff and also Ellie Honig, thank you so much indeed.
We turn next to a powerful movie director who takes stereotypes and turns them on their head, whether it's sexism, racism or politics. Steve McQueen
who won an Oscar for "12 Years a Slave" is putting women's power and complexity front and center in his latest work, it's the acclaimed movie,
"Widows," a slick and blistering thriller about a cohort of women who vowed to execute the heist that cost the lives of their husbands.
McQueen came into the studios this week to discuss taking on, what for him, is a very different genre.
Steve McQueen, welcome to the program.
STEVE MCQUEEN, DIRECTOR, "WIDOWS": Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me about "Widows." It's written by Lynda La Plant, right? And it's an old, old series.
MCQUEEN: Yes. It's (INAUDIBLE) old, April 1983. Again, lying on my mother's carpet, hands propping up my head. And it was one of those that
came on TV and it was just -- it just locked in between the eyes in a way because it's people who being deemed has not been capable, people who are
being judged on their appearance. And somehow, I sort of saw myself in them. That gaze was being put on me. And these were heroes that I can
AMANPOUR: That is really interesting because that -- I was going to say, it's very out of type because it's not "12 Years a Slave," it's not
"Shame," it's not "Hunger," it's a thriller, heist. But I think the commonality is you saw it as you, you saw people who were looked at as the
MCQUEEN: Totally. I mean, I've been (ph) different because, again, it's just -- I mean, I used to project myself onto the people like Sean Connery
playing 007 or Johnny Weissmuller playing Tarzan, and, you know, with these heroes, I understood them in a way that I never understood those two
examples, and they just register with me, how they sort of, you know, insist and navigate and transcended and putting his head all these
stereotypes in order to get what they wanted.
AMANPOUR: So, let's talk about the heroes, because, frankly, it is a -- you could call it a very feminist movie. I mean, the widows are the
MCQUEEN: I don't know about feminist movie. I mean, you know, again, I'm -- feminism for me is normal, you know --
AMANPOUR: It just means equality, let's face it.
MCQUEEN: Well, that's it, exactly. So, again, it's this whole idea of feminist because majority of people all the heroes are women, it's just
hopefully entertaining, good movie whose main protagonists are women, end of story.
AMANPOUR: But very, very, very strong women in a very, very male world of heists and murder and double crossing and triple Crossing. And Viola
Davis, who is the star of your movie, Ronnie, Veronica, right.
MCQUEEN: Yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: She has given an amazing speech but she also basically said, you know, "We always feel less than, you know, we feel like the prey. We
always feel the boot of male influence and power. That's what #MeToo and Time's Up is all about. This movie is a realistic journey into women
gaining ownership of their lives.
MCQUEEN: Well, first of all, I don't -- I mean, women are strong regardless. There's no strong woman, they're just women who are always
strong. I mean, I'm not even trying to wave a flag here, just there is no differentiation for me.
Anyway, what's interesting about, for me, this movie and the narrative, I'm trying to sort of deliver in a way, is people's journeys and lives, I mean,
using these four women and each individual person is -- a certain part of their lives. I mean, you see Alice who is played Elizabeth Debicki, has a
longer journey in the picture.
AMANPOUR: She is actually amazing.
MCQUEEN: Absolutely. And, you know, we got Cynthia Erivo who, again, is extraordinary but of course, her journey, you know, is a shorter one. But
she -- at the same time, she has to sort of pull herself up from this unfortunate, you know, I kind of say environment that she finds herself in.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you. Cynthia Erivo, she plays the beauty salon who then becomes part of this group as the driver and she also runs like an
athlete. Is she actually an athlete?
MCQUEEN: I think Erivo might as well be an athlete. I mean, she could easily -- I mean, if she did what she with (ph) tomorrow I think she could
have had trials for the Olympic team in the U.K. easily. I mean, she's pretty extraordinary physically.
AMANPOUR: She really is. And also of course, you know, she's going to be playing Harriet Tubman, the great civil rights activist in the United
States. And she has had a Tony for "Color Purple," the musical, she's won a lot of awards.
But again, she may not be terribly, terribly well-known. Do you feel that your job or part of what you offer is to also promote Black actors, male or
female, in an era where they're potentially considered afterthoughts, not necessarily always the stars? I mean, that's the criticism that they
MCQUEEN: My job, if that is a job, if being a director and finding new talent, my job is to basically put them into the four (ph) the best unique
talent that I can find regardless. And Cynthia Erivo, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o are extraordinary people who I happen to work with at a
certain time they were not being exposed, and that was it. So, whoever they are, White, Black, female, whatever, I don't care. There has to be
exceptional. And these three and others who I worked before, of course, I love to work with great actors, great talents, who doesn't.
AMANPOUR: I want to play a little clip of a speech recently that Viola Davis, again, the star of your movie, "Widows," gave. Let's just listen to
what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIOLA DAVIS, ACTRESS, "WIDOWS": I was tired of singing the expansive of imagination of writers when they wrote the miss, the joy, the beauty, the
femininity of White characters. And maybe an hour into the movie you saw the obligatory Black character just kind of walking into the camera, who
had a name, didn't really have to have a name because, you know, nothing about them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That's profound.
MCQUEEN: Well, if you guys who are watching this probably haven't seen that speech, I think, please get it going, listen wherever it is you find
it, and I love this. It's one of the most extraordinary speeches about Black artists in film in Hollywood ever and how they feel.
And the whole idea to be recognized, to be visible, to be given a space on screen in a real way and a full -- you know, to show your full capacity as
a human being. Please go and see that speech if you don't -- if you haven't seen it yet.
AMANPOUR: It really is remarkable.
MCQUEEN: It's extraordinary.
AMANPOUR: And she is a remarkable actress and she's achieved so much. But she says it --
MCQUEEN: I mean -- could I say something? Also, the fact of the matter is, it's just sort of gay characters. You know, there's so many heads of
studios, talent agencies, whatever in Hollywood. And have you ever seen a gay character just being a gay character just being (INAUDIBLE), just
being, you know, a person who is in a romantic comedy? Have you ever seen that? But yet, you know, the powers that be are -- who actually are behind
these sorts of agencies or studios, whatever, are getting himself (ph) but they don't promote in a way who they are as human beings, why?
AMANPOUR: Well, why? Tell me why.
MCQUEEN: That's because they don't it will make money. I don't know. It's not strange, it's not odd, it's not --
AMANPOUR: Well, it is. Again, I've read that you have said that, you know, you want to expand your target audience, it was time for you to do a
thriller like this after the very focused sort of historic dramas that you've taken on in the past. Tell me more about that.
MCQUEEN: So, this one is called "Hunger," which was -- again, yes, about a hunger strike of Bobby Sands, that's historical but yes. "Shame," which
was not. It's an original story about the sex addict and this "12 Years a Slave." But to me, again, I just try to push myself, I try to do the
things which are difficult. I want to sort of take on things which are -- things that have been swept underneath the carpet.
And I think what happened with the -- with "Widows" was -- I just -- I wanted to talk about so many things which I see every day but really
through a heist. And that was the idea, it was sort of galvanize all these things but also it threads through to as a quest at the same.
AMANPOUR: So, we have a clip and the one we're going to show is where the four women are discussing or training really to be able to bolt with the
amazing -- I think it's $5 million that they plan to steal. They are undertaking the theft, the heist that the dead husband was going to do
because Viola Davis now has to pay back to the baddies what her husband stole from them. This is the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVIS: Our go date is in three days, the night of the debate. Now, all of our work is worth nothing if we don't move this money and fast. The
notebook says $5 million. That's exactly the amount of money Mulligan was accused of taking in commission kickbacks. So, over here, we have $2
million. Twenty Tupperware boxes, each box is $100,000 in $100 bills. It weighs 44 pounds. And over here, we have $2 million, 40 Tupperware boxes.
Each box has $50,000 in $50 bills. It weighs 88 pounds.
LINDA PERELLI: I feel like I'm in school.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me about it.
RAWLINGS: We got to start thinking like professionals. We're in business together. There's not going to be some cozy reunion. After this job,
we're done. We have three days to look and move like a team of men. The best thing we have going for us is being who we are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?
RAWLINGS: Because no one thinks we have the balls to pull this off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean it is really fantastic. It's not just through the eyes and the prism of race but it's also the prism of women and Me Too. We
can't help but absorb that message and what it's giving to us, actually the viewer. But I just wonder, read something that you said, Viola Davis is
like an iceberg. There's some -- there's so much depth. Watching her eat cornflakes is interesting.
MCQUEEN: Yes. When you have a great artist, again it's like those great movies, movie stars. You know, a gesture, a look, it says so much because
there is that, you know, there are some people who can actually translate humanity and Viola Davis is, you know, out there. I mean just out there
and there's just so much humanity and vulnerability to here that you see yourself through her. You're looking at a mirror. You know you recognize
AMANPOUR: So I just want to ask you whether you're upset because a lot of people were quite shocked that you didn't get nominated for the Golden
Globes. I mean you're the first black director to have won an Oscar and you were so awarded for 12 Years of Slave. What does it mean to you not to
get recognized for this one?
MCQUEEN: I don't actually think it's interesting because you're recognized last time, you're recognized this time. But nevertheless, I've made up my
mind a long time ago never to sort of be judged by other people, long time ago. That was, you know, a situation I where I have my own ruler, I have
my own sort of devices I measure myself on. Because if I had to do that in the past, I don't think I would be sitting now speaking to you. So I have
my own sort of thermometer, you know. And I say from that moment, whatever it is that you measure yourself with.
AMANPOUR: I was really very moved by the scene that comes, you know, way into the film after you realize that she suffered a tragedy. It turns out
that her son Marcus was killed by cops who pulled him over in an everyday shooting that you see in America all the time. That -- was that part of
the original series first of all? Or did you do that deliberately for our times?
MCQUEEN: So what I was trying to do was again, I just -- in the nucleus of (INAUDIBLE), the T.V. series which were these were those husbands died and
they have to attempt the last heist of these guys. So, therefore, it was up for grabs what the rest of it was. For example, placing in Chicago, the
environment of political environment and whatnot. The whole idea of Marcus and the shooting for me was the center of the film, always was center of
the film because it's about the environment these women find themselves in, you know.
AMANPOUR: It is a very small scene.
MCQUEEN: It's a very small scene but it tells us so much about the handshakes in the back room. This sort of manipulation of this sort of the
people, the population of Chicago, whatever. The things which are done, you know, behind closed doors which make up that environment, which makes
something like a Marcus, make something like a school shooting happen and happen again and again and again and again and again the environment.
So that's why I want to lay down within this drama all these things which kind of get to that. Also, you have a couple which, you know, the mother
is black, the father is white. Did the father have a talk with him how to talk with Marcus? Did he know about the environment that his son, a black
child, was putting himself into? Maybe wasn't aware of the color -- of the social structures around which -- what happened to his son.
AMANPOUR: So I want to ask you, you know, you are obviously very critical of the structure as we know it, life as we know, whether it's racism,
whether it's sexism, misogyny, and the unconscious biases that exist. So I just wondered whether you saw any shift in the cultural norms right now?
Because since Edward Enninful took over at Vogue Britain, since Radhika Jones has taken over Vanity Fair, you know, there's a whole new sensibility
at GQ. I see a lot of [13:35:00] black faces on the covers of magazines or Hispanic faces, diversity, and that's a good thing.
AMANPOUR: Do you feel the same way?
MCQUEEN: Asian, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I think it's fantastic because that's where we're living. I mean, you know, again, I think it's -
- if you don't change things, nothing ever changes. I mean it sounds very simple and simplistic but that's a thing. I think -- and also the fact of
the matter is that it's about being cool. I mean, you know, if it's about fashion and being hip or whatnot, I mean you have to go with it. I mean
I think Edward -- I mean I've known Edward since I was 17-years-old. And I think what he's done is magnificent. And I think, you know, again, it's
just -- listen, it's like in anything. If you're a scientist, you're not going to take a little bit of -- one part of a subject. You're going to
expand everything to get an idea of what's excellent just like in any situation.
You know, again, if you're taking one aspect of things, how can you understand the whole idea of it? How can you -- look, the whole idea of
elitism, it makes me a bit crazy in a way because, you know, I like the idea of elitism. If you want to be elite, you have to have everything to
sort of look at. You have to evaluate everything before you come to an idea.
How are we going to be excellent? The only way we're going to be excellent is actually we take everything on board and then make a judgment, not just
a bit of onboard because that's not excellent. That's just -- that's dumb. That's not intelligent. It's like it's odd.
AMANPOUR: So here's your next project which is about -- it's a photographic essay, a project, I believe around schools all over London.
Is that right?
AMANPOUR: And it come -- it stems from this picture that was taken of you in Year 3.
MCQUEEN: That's correct.
AMANPOUR: There you are with all that youth and childish innocence and promise. And you're about to expand that all over London. What is the
project? Tell me.
MCQUEEN: Well, the idea is to photograph every single Year 3 class in London. Regardless of it being state, regardless of it being religious,
regardless of whatever kind of school, school for the blind, school for the, you know, hard hearing, whatever school, every kind of school.
Because again, it's our future.
And I was interested in portraying that future of London to see how London will look like. Because I think everyone has an idea of what London is but
I don't think everyone knows what London is. That's the difference. And I really want to visualize that. I want to see that. I don't think anyone
has ever done that in the way of visualizing London and its future.
AMANPOUR: And Year 3 again is what age?
MCQUEEN: I mean look I love that age. For me, that year is a very interesting age because it's the limbo age. It's like you're coming out of
sort of from being a child into awareness. You're aware of race. You're aware of gender. You're aware of class. You're aware of so many things,
who has access.
You see this happening with children. And when they become aware, they're coming out of this sort of, I would say, utopian sort of idea as a child,
as a human. It is something which is structured has been put upon us and therefore, judgment and value take hold.
AMANPOUR: And let's not forget you won the Turner Prize, another big U.K. prize for artists. You did that as an artist before you became a director.
What is next for Steve McQueen, the film director?
MCQUEEN: Well, you know what I would love to do, I love to do? I would love -- again, as I said before, I want to do musical. That's what I want
AMANPOUR: Fantastic. Well, we'll look out for that.
AMANPOUR: Maybe Cynthia Erivo will be in it. Steve McQueen, thank you very much.
MCQUEEN: Thank you very much for having me.
AMANPOUR: Thank you. And as McQueen gets to work on that musical, our show hums along to a different tune or at least a different viewpoint now
with our next guest, Ben Domenech, co-founder of "The Federalist", a conservative online magazine.
But Domenech turned his back on the Republican Party a decade ago. He told our Alicia Menendez what happened to the party and what he fears is
threatening American democracy at large.
ALICIA MENENDEZ, CONTRIBUTOR: Ben, thank you so much for joining us.
BEN DOMENECH, CO-FOUNDER AND PUBLISHER, THE FEDERALIST: Great to be with you.
MENENDEZ: So I'm going to start big picture. How would you describe the state of conservatism in the United States today?
DOMENECH: The conservatism has been trying to figure out its way ever since the end of the Cold War where you had this fusionist alliance
between, you know, fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and anticommunist, you know sort of pro-defense conservatives. That really
broke apart over the past couple of decades.
And while you had the, you know, sort of post 9/11 war on terror [13:40:00] insulation against grip -- coming to grips with that fact. I think that
really the past couple of years have laid bare that without those sort of unifying characteristics, conservatism as a coalition doesn't have as much
strength within the Republican Party as you might expect. Instead, there's a lot of other factors that play into it.
MENENDEZ: And so when you talk about those other factors, what are they?
DOMENECH: Well, I think a lot of it has to do with sort of a culture war mindset that looks to American tradition as a guiding light for what people
want to see. And really I think that this has to do with the level of power that the baby boomer generation has had over American politics over
the past couple of decades.
I mean it's incredibly bizarre that we've had three presidents all born in the same year. Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all born in
the same year and all showing sort of different aspects of, frankly from my perspective, the failures of the baby boomer generation. Right now, if
you're a baby boomer, you're someone who looks back at the times that you were a child in the 1950s and 1960s and you worry, your extreme concern
that your grandchildren are not going to have a life that was better than your own.
And because of that, it has this animating force of nostalgia for a time when jobs were more secure when you could come out of high school and have
a job that would give you everything that you wanted in life really for the next several decades. And unfortunately, the Republican Party has embraced
along with the elite of the Democratic Party a view of the benefits of globalization that really left out a lot of the people who felt sort of the
negative effects of it in certain respects.
MENENDEZ: And in this landscape of American conservatism, where do you situate yourself?
DOMENECH: Oh, I don't situate myself. I left the Republican Party in 2006 over the Iraq War and I haven't voted for Republicans since I voted for my
late father-in-law John McCain for the presidency. So I don't consider myself a conservative. I think it's more that I'm observing it more from
the outside. I have more extreme views than that because I'm very libertarian.
MENENDEZ: Do you believe that President Trump represents a brand of conservatism?
DOMENECH: I think that President Trump is a transitional figure. It's a question of whether he's going to be a transformational one. In terms of
figuring out the post-Cold War brand of conservatism, something that previously included a lot of suburban moderate Republicans. That's
something that I think Trump is sort of testing in a significant way.
You know, maybe this is not the coalition that we want going forward. Maybe we want a coalition that can reach into union households that also
supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary in the Midwest. I mean one of the interesting dynamics of this midterm is that Trump and his phenomenon
has essentially turned Ohio which used to be a swing state into a red state.
Now, it's also turned a number of other states that Republicans have previously wanted to target from purple states into blue. I would argue
that Virginia is a blue state. I would argue that Virginia is a blue state. I would argue that Colorado is at best a purple state. We'll see
how Cory Gardner does there in his re-election. He's sort of advocating an approach to politics that tests what conservatives wanted as their
coalition and says no, we're going to do it this way instead.
MENENDEZ: How do you think Democrats, as they are positioned to take over the House, how do they govern?
DOMENECH: It's going to be impossible. I mean the reality is that we're - - all we're going to see for the next two years is going to be investigations and confirmations, confirmations in the Senate of the
judicial pool of people that President Trump and his allies are continuing to push through. And then in the House, we're going to see just all sorts
of investigations, subpoenas, et cetera of every member of the Trump administration. There's not going to be a lot of governance.
The one interesting factor is going to be how President Trump approaches divided government. We saw this sort of crazy meeting this week about --
with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in the White House, the sort of on-air debate between them. I think that's very much how President is going to
approach things. I don't think he likes the idea of backroom deals. I think he wants to have everything sort of out.
MENENDEZ: Because reality television is a medium he understands.
DOMENECH: Exactly. And he loves it.
MENENDEZ: Is that good governance?
DOMENECH: I don't think it's necessarily good governance but I don't think that backroom deals have served people all that well either. You know in
the sense that a lot of those deals end up in a situation where the people don't actually get what they want. K Street gets what they want and you
have all sorts of different goodies larded together in a bill that doesn't necessarily serve the American people all that well. So is it different?
Yes. Is it better? [13:45:00] Maybe, maybe not. We'll see.
MENENDEZ: You often write about global elites. How do you define that?
DOMENECH: People who are in charge. I mean it's a simplistic way but I guess there's -- unfortunately, there's this malleable definition that
people have between elite and elitism. I don't object to elitism in all sorts of different respects. But when it comes to the leadership class
that we have, both in America and at a global level, I am concerned along with a lot of the people on the right and the left that we've reached a
point where we are essentially credentialing our elites, that they are earning it in the form of proving their ability to lead in different
I mean George H.W. Bush's passage is a good example of this just recently. This is someone who came to the presidency with one of the best resumes
that you could possibly have in terms of the level of experience that he had had leading up to that presidency. I worry that the class of global
elites that we have today include a lot of people who simply aren't ready for the job. And I would include President Obama's foreign policy circle
in that number of people who, from my perspective, were woefully ill- equipped for the situation that was in front of them. And frankly, I have an objection to a lot of the people who are around President Trump who I
think qualified with the same measure.
MENENDEZ: But your argument is bigger than government officials?
MENENDEZ: I want to read something you wrote. The implicit motto of the global elites today is no escape. No escape valve from a permanently
politicized life where the only legitimate perspective is their monopolistic, secularized, authoritarian friendly, no gods but science
view. When we do not view each other as legitimate, particularly when decisions are not coming from the people or properly elected officials but
from some other force, it leads to resentment, escalation, and eventually something much worse. What is that other force?
DOMENECH: I -- well, I think that in this sense, I'm talking there about the elites of Silicon Valley. In response to what we've seen from -- let
me take a step back. The president is fond of using this term enemy of the people when it comes to the "fake news media". Now, I don't approve of
that. I don't think that Jim Acosta is an enemy of the American people. I find him a little bit ludicrous personally but I just think that the press
as an entity is not the enemy of the American people.
However, the most powerful media entities in the country today are not the newspapers, they're not the T.V. networks, they're not CNN, they're not
"The New York Times", they are Silicon Valley. Facebook and Google are the most powerful media entities in America today. And they are if you're not
MENENDEZ: In which way do you mean that?
DOMENECH: I mean that they are the forces that spread news. They spread it more widely. Facebook functions essentially as a replacement for the
entirety of local media in America. And having sat down with these individuals, having talked to them, the fact is that if they're not the
enemy of the American people, they are the enemy of free thought. They do not believe in free thought taking precedence over the negative P.R. that
they might receive for expanding upon it.
Google's partnership with China should be one of the biggest concerns that we have as a country today because it shows their willingness to bend the
need to authoritarian regimes, secular regimes that want to stamp out free thought that has, just this past week, jailed Protestant pastors, have
reached out in ways that are extremely dangerous and concerning. And the fact that we have an American company that's willing to engage in this type
of behavior, to assist them in this type of regime should be of the utmost concern to us.
MENENDEZ: So do you think regulation then is the answer?
DOMENECH: I don't think that regulation is necessarily the answer because I think that will always be chasing the tail there. I think my big concern
about them is that in this current environment, they've wanted to have it both ways. They've wanted to pretend like they're not members of the
media, that they're simply platforms, whatever that means for all of this different talk, and that they don't have to deal with any of the
consequences of it. They don't have to deal with the consequences of death threats that are posted on their platforms, of all the negative effects
that they have had when it comes to their willingness to be -- to look the other way when they're being used by foreign entities to mess with our
This is something that I think should be at the center of the American conversation. The unfortunate situation is that because of the way the
2016 election played out, this can't be something that is as bipartisan as it should be. Now, maybe that's changing --
MENENDEZ: Do you think that they're responsible for some of the tribalism [13:50:00] we're seeing today?
DOMENECH: Unquestionably. I mean the assumption -- look, these are engineers. They're not people who are social scientists. They didn't
necessarily expect the products that they were creating to have this kind of impact on people's lives but they have had this impact. They have
worked on the whole conversation that we're having in America today. They're having extremely negative consequences, measurable negative
MENENDEZ: So if not regulation, then how do you fix it?
DOMENECH: I'm not sure that there's an easy fix because I think it's proper -- I think is profoundly cultural. I think that at the end of the
day, these are a group of people who didn't realize who they were having in the room. I mean I've had conversations with Mark Zuckerberg about this.
And I think that the fact of the matter is that he really didn't know what was going on in terms of his own creation in this last election.
In the same way, I think that he's only right now coming to grips with the effect that it's had on the way that people really live their lives. And
that's a hard thing to do when you create something that's enormously popular, that lots of people get involved in, that they use the platform
every day, that they go to as their home page. You don't necessarily want to think about all the different negative aspects of what's being done and
how it's being used, how it's having an impact on people's lives.
MENENDEZ: It strikes me that when I ask you about governance, when I ask you about the role of global elites, when I ask you about tech, a lot of
your answers go back to this fundamental question of culture.
MENENDEZ: What then?
DOMENECH: Well, I think all politics is downstream from culture. I think that the culture of a country is -- particularly, the culture of our
representative democracy is far more important than any of the different levers that we can pull knobs that we can turn. Getting back to sort of
the question that you asked before about global elites, to a certain extent, I think the answer is we're always going to have elites. We need
to have a better classism.
I think that it's actually a very good thing that within this past midterm election -- let's just consider two people as an example. You had the
election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez here in New York who is -- someone who comes from the more Bernie Sanders School of American democratic socialism,
who wants to push the envelope in a lot of different respects when it comes to policy. She's a charismatic figure who can use social media to great
effect. I think her presence in the U.S. Congress is a good thing.
I also think it's a good thing that we have someone like Dan Crenshaw from Texas who became more notable because of the fact that Saturday Night Live
made fun of him. But here's someone who is an actual veteran of the wars that we've been fighting around the world for the last 17 years who's
coming to the Congress with the potential to grow into someone who can change the path of American foreign policy going forward.
We need to rid ourselves of a generation of leadership that has redistributed to themselves more than any other generation that has worked
our conversation with a form of false nostalgia that has engaged in a lot of behavior that I think we can in retrospect sort of deem unwise at best.
And from my perspective, that's something that needs to happen sooner rather than later.
MENENDEZ: When you look at France, the protests, Macron, I think some would call capitulation.
MENENDEZ: You have Brexit outright failing. Where does that leave the state of European politics?
DOMENECH: I think the real threat here is that Europe's flux disarray, what have you, is happening at a moment in which there is not a clear
guiding light of American foreign policy to show what our attitude is going to be towards this entire problem. Now, I understand the appeal of a lot
of these different populist, nationalist sentiments and a lot of these countries. Frankly, they have more history there than they do here. But I
do think that there's a real lacking of a clear American vision of what we want Europe to look like going forward and that's dangerous.
I mean the whole point here is that we as a force for foreign policy engagement in the world have time and again had these relationships prevent
the need for greater military presence or investment in various parts of the world. The lack of that is something that I think is very concerning.
MENENDEZ: Ben, thank you so much.
DOMENECH: Great to be with you.
AMANPOUR: And that's it for now. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at amanpour.com. And you can follow me on
Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.