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President Trump's Impeachment Trial Begins in Senate; U.S. and Russia Relationship More Strained Since Cold War; Dimitri Simes, CEO and President, The Center of the National Interest, and Evelyn Farkas, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, are Interviewed About U.S/Russia Relationship; Interview With Former Obama Speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz; Interview With Steve Inskeep. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 20, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you solemnly swear --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: In Washington, senators prepare for jury duty in President Trump's impeachment trial, while he flies off to join world leaders in
Davos, Switzerland. We ask whether Putin's Russia is making hay out of this D.C. dysfunction.
Plus, imperfect union, NPR, Steve Inskeep tells me about his new book on America's first power couple and impeachments past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Sarah Hurwitz: I would show up at major holidays, right, I'd get some friends together, we'd go to a synagogue. I was proud to be Jewish. But
that was it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Former White House speed writer, Sarah Hurwitz, says signing up for an intro to Judaism led to her own spiritual awakening.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
This is the week that President Trump's impeachment trial starts in earnest in the Senate. But when it does on Tuesday, the president himself will be
at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, joining other world leaders. From climate change to conflict in the Middle East, the global
challenges are as towering as ever.
And right up there, U.S. relations with Russia, now more strained than at any time since the Cold War. Those tensions come against a major power grab
at home by President Putin, and his proposal for the most dramatic constitutional overhaul in a decade. It would beef up the power of the
parliament and reduce the clout of the presidency. So, is this all to retain his own grip on the country when his current term ends, and what
about the opportunities Putin seems to be vacuuming up at America's expense on the world stage?
With me to discuss is Evelyn Farkas, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia and she's now running for Congress from New York. And
Dimitri Simes, who runs the Center for the National Interest, think tank that specializes in Russian affairs.
Welcome both of you to the program.
Dimitri, can I ask you first, because you were at the last big Putin sort of press conference at the end of the year, and you heard him talk about
impeachment and about what it meant to him and Russia. Does Russia -- does he consider it a problem in terms of U.S.-Russia relations or in terms of,
I guess, somebody who he considers friendly to himself, the survivability of President Trump?
DIMITRI SIMES, CEO AND PRESIDENT, THE CENTER OF THE NATIONAL INTEREST: Well, I can ask Putin about the impact of impeachment on U.S.-Russian
relations, and I actually was surprised when he said, well, impeachment, it's just something that is happening in the House. He will not be the
president, will not be removed by the Senate, at least Putin said, I don't think so. So, he expressed relative optimism regarding his ability to work
But from others in the Russian government, who, have course, here publicly and privately, exactly as you said, that the relationship is very bad, that
not much may happen before the end of Trump's first term. And even if Trump is reelected, they are skeptical that there would be fundamental changes in
AMANPOUR: So Dimitri, stand by a moment. I'm going to ask Evelyn Farkas.
So, the word from Putin's Russia is, of course, that they expect impeachment, acquittal, re-election, and that, yes, the relations between
the two countries are bad, and perhaps, you know, Russia can't expect to have a different relationship with the United States until the very end of
whatever Trump term. How do you see it, especially put your old hat on as assistant secretary?
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA: Yes. I think that Vladimir Putin must be very happy right now, because he
is seeing America divided. This process that we're undergoing right now with impeachment hearings in the Senate -- or trial, it is actually going
to probably result in the president being let off the hook and in a very partisan fashion.
And again, if you remember when President Putin, when the Russians attacked our elections in 2016, it wasn't necessarily about electing President
Trump, it was, first and foremost, about dividing us and defeating the United States, making us weak. And so far, so good for the Kremlin,
AMANPOUR: So, do you see that sort of systematic, you know, interference in the last election, 2016? Do you see it revving up? I mean, a lot of
people have said that all the signs and actually the actions are there for 2020 as well.
FARKAS: Christiane, I see it every day. I see it on my Twitter feed, because I'm still a target of these Russian bots, right, that get together
with some of the American bots and real people who get fooled by them.
So, I see that all the time, especially on the issue of Ukraine and Burisma, right. I mean, this is what the Kremlin is using right now to
discredit Vice President Biden, to discredit anyone who criticizes Trump, President Trump, right. So, they're using this hard core. They're also
attacking Burisma. You know about the hack that the Burisma, the oil company --
AMANPOUR: That Hunter Biden was on, yes.
FARKAS: -- experienced recently, right. That is very reminiscent of what they did here in the United States when they hacked -- when the Russians
hacked into the DNC computers and stole the information and released it. Now, we don't know, did they steal something, will they release something,
but I think we can expect that. That's part of the Russian play book.
AMANPOUR: Dimitri, what do you think and how do you think Russia wants to leverage its abilities and powers for this next election? And do you think
-- I mean, do you get the sense when you're there that they're at all concerned about the incredible negative publicity and all the other -- you
know, not sanctions, but all the other -- you know, the system has come after them since the 2016 election?
SIMES: Well, first of all, let me say that there's no doubt in my mind that Russia interfered in last election and they're going to do it again. I
actually said it several times on Russian TV. And quite remarkably, Russian official participants would normally ignore it and would not even try to
The best defense they provide is twofold. First, we are not really trying to change the outcome of the elections. We simply are trying to influence
American political process and everybody does it. And their second defense is, well, see what the United States is doing to us and others, and why
shouldn't we try to do the same. But I'm quite pessimistic that the interference would stop and that it would not be a major issue in our
AMANPOUR: So, what would you do, Dimitri? I mean, you know, you've talked to many candidates in the past. You counselled Trump, you know, over the
years. What would you do to advise President Trump or those around him about this danger? And do you think from your contacts that they are aware
of it and that they care about this ongoing cyber danger?
SIMES: Well, as you may know, in 2016, my advice to the campaign was to stay away from the Russians, not to have any unofficial contacts with them
whatsoever. Now, I think the administration understands how dangerous it is to have any clandestine contacts, any clandestine arrangements with
Russians. I think that they should be able to hear it every day.
Having said that, you can look at the impeachment and those characters around Trump or, at least, on Trump's periphery who were doing whatever
they wanted and they thought it would win the president's favor. So, I obviously cannot exclude that we would have certain individuals with access
to Trump who would try to make their own private arrangements. I assume that the administration would certainly try to discourage that. It is not
in the president's interest.
AMANPOUR: How do you respond to that, Evelyn?
FARKAS: So, I think that this administration welcomes any assistance from foreign actors. The president, he's being impeached because -- not for the
Russia stuff, although that's also impeachable, but because he asked the Ukrainian president to interfere in our elections by providing dirt on Vice
President Biden. So, clearly, this president invites this kind of interference, and I don't think he would turn the Russians away.
The other issue is this communication. Sadly, I think we have clandestine communication occurring in the White House, between the president and the
Kremlin, because they're not releasing transcripts of the phone calls between the heads of state. That doesn't seem very transparent to me and
makes many others who follow Russia-U.S. relations wonder what President Trump is discussing when he has those phone calls with Vladimir Putin, and
what did he discuss in Helsinki at the summit when they sat for about two hours, right?
AMANPOUR: So, what -- put back your, you know, Pentagon hat. How should this country and the relevant departments and agencies react to all of
this? How do you protect a nation in this kind of situation?
FARKAS: Right. So, first and foremost, we're having a whole host of elections, presidential election, my own election at the congressional
level, and local elections occurring. The Russians will attack these elections if they see an opportunity to make progress in their agenda,
which again is weaken us, get rid of people who are outspoken like me against them.
And so, we need more money going -- more money and more effort overall going into fortifying campaigns, providing assistance to campaigns. That
still isn't happening.
Basically, the Senate came under so much pressure. So, Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, wasn't releasing funding, increased funding to the states
and for --
AMANPOUR: To protect against this kind of violation of --
FARKAS: To protect against hacking, right.
FARKAS: Right. And under a lot of public pressure, he finally did, because people were calling him Moscow Mitch and he didn't like it. But there's
still a huge reluctance to come up with a comprehensive plan. The White House doesn't have a cybersecurity czar anymore. I mean, it tells me that
they're passively inviting interference because they think it's not going to affect them.
Now, that's where they're wrong. Because, again, the Russians, the North Koreans, the Iranians, they will attack President Trump, they will attack
the White House if they feel it's in their interest and they can get away with it.
AMANPOUR: Again, it's so weird, because there's just so much that -- you know, just doesn't seem to compute. I mean, mixed messages of who gains
what, why and how. Dimitri, you also have heard, and I would like you to expand on this, that, you know, given the fact that Russia doesn't, Putin
doesn't expect better, warmer relations with the U.S. any time soon, and I think you said that they don't -- they know that they can't challenge the
U.S. economically, that they're planning other ways to challenge the United States. Can you explain what you mean?
SIMES: Well, let me say first that I completely agree with Evelyn, that what the Russian government wants to do is to divide America and to
encourage polarization in the American society. And I think that both the Republicans and the Democrats have to be very careful not to contribute to
this polarization process.
And it's very easy during the elections kind of to forget about the big picture. And the big picture is that if we go after each other, our
enemies, our adversaries can only welcome that. And that is true for both parties, not just for the Republicans.
Second, I'm interested to see in Moscow to what extent they realize how weak they are economically. They are acknowledging in private conversations
that their economic midgets, and I'm using their expression, the language they use themselves. But they're also saying that they're strong militarily
and in an unbound global conflict, they can still play a role and they can count.
And I think that there are different views on how we reach the state of relations with Russia, who is responsible for that, what, if anything, we
could do better. But we have to understand now that the relationship is adversarial. And while the Russians may prefer Trump, let's say, to Biden,
they certainly don't like Trump's defense budget, they don't like when Trump is using force more aggressively than the Obama administration in a
number of global conflicts.
The relationship with the Russians and the United States, it's not with one party, it is an adversarial relationship across the political spectrum.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, this is really quite worrying to hear Dimitri, you know, who is really plugged into that side --
AMANPOUR: -- talk about an adversarial relationship that involves them thinking there's some kind of military response to the United States.
AMANPOUR: How exactly does that work? Because as Dimitri says, I mean, their military budget is much less than the United States.
AMANPOUR: They're much less militarily powerful than the United States.
AMANPOUR: How are they going to respond militarily?
FARKAS: Yes. So, I think -- I agree with Dimitri here, too, because again, Russia perceives all of the United States as its adversary. The way that
they're getting at it, Christiane, is first and foremost, asymmetric means. So, attacking us through social media is part of it. But remember, the
Intelligence Community also warned us last year about the fact that Russian bots and malware are sitting on U.S. energy and water systems, right?
So, these are energy systems, water systems that are controlled by computers. The Russians can turn them off or manipulate them. Now, you say
to yourself, why would they want to do that? Because in a worst-case scenario for the Russian generals, that's how they would play war with us,
right. And we have to understand that's really dangerous, because what the Russians also don't understand is, if you play with our water and if you
play with the lives of our citizens, you're going to get a huge American backlash. You know, just 9/11, Pearl Harbor, right.
But somehow their doctrine allows them to take these asymmetric moves which are very risky, very escalatory, but they think they can prevail. They can
cause it to say, OK, Russia, we don't want a war with you, we'll back off.
AMANPOUR: Well, make that into the bigger global picture then, translate that into the global picture because we hear that -- you know, I mean, the
death of Qassem Soleimani by the American targeted killing and the idea that that might push the U.S. out of the Middle East, the idea that they've
had success in Syria, thanks to sort of a U.S. pullback over the years, even since President Obama when you were in office from Syria.
AMANPOUR: How much are they gaining in terms of filling a vacuum left by the United States, or is there no vacuum left by the United States?
FARKAS: Here's the thing, we're still the most powerful country in the world, power as defined by how much military hardware we have, how much
economic resources we have, political power. But in fluence, our influence has declined, whereas Russian influence has increased. So, the Iranians,
the Syrians will listen to the Russians because their power, their resources are sufficient, and again, their influence, they know how to use
So, unfortunately, the Russians are playing a bigger role in the Middle East because they're willing to be more reliable than we are. I mean, it is
true that President Trump's unpredictability has caused problems for our allies, including our Western European allies, who by the way, are with us
on the ground in Iran and Iraq and have been subject of these attacks by -- in the Middle East recently.
So, the Russians have used all of this to their advantage to gain influence. They can't prevail, they can't solve the war in Syria alone.
Ultimately, the U.S. will actually need to be at the table to solve it. But they can drag it out and maybe over time exhaust us, exhaust NATO and our
Western European allies, exhaust the Democrats in the Middle East and get their way. That's the Russian game.
AMANPOUR: And in the meantime, they are also strategically, you know, embracing China, America's other --
AMANPOUR: -- major strategic rival. So, Dimitri, can you translate for us and deconstruct for us what President Putin has just done at home in terms
of paving the way for this big constitutional change towards parliament and away from the presidency? I mean, he's the president. What is he actually
SIMES: Well, when he has done what he has done in his address to the Federal Assembly, I was in Washington. So, I don't have any particular
insight from private conversations in Moscow. But what I can tell you that from informed Russian observers to whom I talked by foreign or who I visit
recently in Washington, including last week, I hear that this was quite significant. That they're looking for a formula when Putin would be able to
maintain power or at least considerable influence of his presidential interment in 2024.
At the minimum, he wants to probably to demonstrate that he is not a lame duck and he is still number one and will remain number one. The details are
still being worked out, but I think that what we should expect, that there would be continuation of the Putin era well after 2024, if of course his
health, and he seems to be in good health, if his health would allow.
AMANPOUR: So, let us just play a soundbite when he described why he was doing this. We'll just play this soundbite from President Putin last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I know that the constitutional provision is being discussed in our society, that the same
person should not be president for more than two consecutive terms. I don't think this is a fundamental issue, but I agree with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It's somewhat mixed messaging, Dimitri, and indeed, Evelyn, because he's also said that people -- you know, somebody shouldn't be in
power forever and ever. And a year or two ago, two years ago, he said it would be very worrying to return to the situation we had in the mid-1980s
when state leaders stayed in power one by one until the end of their days and left office without ensuring the necessary conditions for a transition
of power. So, thanks, but I think it would be better not to return to that situation.
And yet, it looks, Evelyn, from here that he is returning to that situation, but just using different public offices to hold onto that power.
FARKAS: Yes. What I predict is he'll end up behind the scenes holding onto power. So, the person that he put into the -- appointed or said will be the
next prime minister, he's a tax guy, he's a technocrat, he's not a threat. He's 53 years old and doesn't seem to have major ambitions. So, he's not
considered a threat to Vladimir Putin.
And I think what Putin will probably do, if he can find someone else to be president who will be as obedient as Medvedev was, he'll put that person in
place. And then behind the scenes, he can control leaders. We see it in the Republic of Georgia actually, the oligarch there, Bidzina Ivanishvili. He
is still the power behind his party. So, it's doable in this kind of system where you don't have a fully-fledged civil society, full-fledged democracy.
You know, I hate to criticize Georgia in the same breath but -- because they're trying very hard, unlike in Russia. But there is a mechanism for
Putin to hold on behind the scenes so it doesn't look like Brezhnev, you know, Leonid Brezhne --
AMANPOUR: And all the others.
FARKAS: -- the old Soviet leader, you know, getting wrinkled in the public eye.
AMANPOUR: And dying and then somebody else being there.
AMANPOUR: So, Dimitri, final question to you, because people are looking at all these popular protests that are going on around the world, from Iran
and around the Middle East to wherever, Hong Kong and everywhere. And even some of them that turn out on the streets of Moscow. What impact do you
think the young people might ever have in Moscow or in Russia, because there's been a huge amount of attention on how so many young people -- I
mean, 40 percent, 40 million Russians born and raised in the age of Putin, two-thirds of Russian school children say they have no interest in
politics. What sort of -- I don't know, social movements can you imagine that could ever challenge Putin?
SIMES: Well, it obviously depends upon social conditions in Russia. In the major part of his speech to the Federal Assembly, was to -- what he is
going to do to provide different benefits to the people, old people, young people, mothers and et cetera.
I do think that Putin is still popular, but the level of his popularity does not remain the same. They think that one reason he proceeded with the
changes right now is that he's concerned about (INAUDIBLE) relations to reluctant to the parliament and that he may not have full control over the
next stage and he needs this full control for the changes in the constitution which would ensure his influence. So, I think that Putin is
clearly worried but there is no yet crisis that would be looming right now.
AMANPOUR: Really interesting. Dimitri Simes, Evelyn Farkas, thank you both very much for joining me.
Turning now to another contentious election, year 1856. An imperfect union, the co-host of NRP's Morning Edition, Steve Inskeep, tells the story of
America's first political power couple, John and Jessie Fremont. Fremont was the first ever Republican nominee, and the campaign was dominated by
immigration, race and political demagogy. Does that sound familiar?
Steve Inskeep joins me from Washington.
I can see you smiling because I've recognized a trend. How is it possible that these things just last and last and last?
STEVE INSKEEP, CO-HOST, NPR'S MORNING EDITION: That is the nature of democracy. There are politicians who have said of democracy that, in our
politics nothing is ever over. And you understand why we have new generations. We have new people entering the political system every single
time. We have the same essentially political system that we've had for centuries now.
And as a result, Christiane, what I'm able to do here by going into the years before the American Civil War, is find the backdrop to the discussion
you've just been having.
INSKEEP: We are in this time of extreme politics in which a lot of people fear, not just losing an election, but that their side will lose for all
time, forever. You have Republicans concerned about the demographic change in the country. Democrats are confident that demographic change is in their
favor over time, but they are also now worried about being shoved out of power forever by a president they see as an authoritarian. So, there's a
lot of anxiety in the air.
And in the 1840s and '50s, it was similar. The United States was divided between the north and south, free states and slave states, and there was a
big demographic change going on causing the free states to be far more populous, which the south found really, really threatening.
And in my story, I trace the story of an ambitious couple, Jessie and John Fremont, as they -- he was a western explorer, she helped promote his
experiences and they ended up so famous that John ran for president in 1856 in this brutal election.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me about it because I'm fascinated. I mean, first of all, he is the first Republican nominee. So, I don't know whether everybody
knows that the Republican Party, you know, was so new right then. And then, also, his wife was so important.
Explain the dynamics between Republicans and the other party, and then the role of women. I mean, now, OK, we've seen Hillary Clinton, really powerful
first lady --
AMANPOUR: -- and then in her own right. Michelle Obama, really powerful first lady. But then it wasn't so much.
INSKEEP: Not at all. Women, of course, had gender roles that were much more limited. But the emergence of Jessie as a character and women more
generally at that time and the creation of the Republican Party are connected.
In the early years of American politics, slavery did exist in a bunch of states in the south. And if you wanted to have a national political party
that was viable, you needed to accommodate what was called the slave power. You needed to be pro-slavery or at least keep your mouth shut.
The Republican Party was founded in the 1850s on the idea that the north had become so populous that they might be able to win a presidential
election with northern votes alone, which meant they could be anti-slavery. They weren't actually for abolition at the beginning, that was considered
extreme, but they were against the expansion of slavery.
And so, they captured a lot of energy in the country in 1856 when they ran their first presidential candidate. Women had not been allowed to be in
politics up until now, but they were allowed to take on what was called a benevolent cause. And a lot of women took that opportunity, grabbed that
loophole in order to speak out against slavery. They were a big part of the anti-slavery movement. And when the Republican Party nominated John C.
Freemont as their first candidate, Jessie Fremont who was prominent herself, the daughter of a United States senator, was taken up as a kind of
symbol of their cause.
She was a southerner from a slave-owning family, whose mother had turned against slavery and had translated her views to Jessie. And in a way that
was unprecedented at the time, people would go to the Fremont House by the thousands and demand to see the candidate, they would ask him to come to
the balcony, but when he came and waved and went away again, they weren't satisfied and they would shout for Jessie to come out, too.
AMANPOUR: Let me read this passage from your book, where you say, it was no coincidence that his career began to soar a few months after they
eloped. When he was 28 and she was 17. I thought, as many others did, said one of their critics, that Jessie Benton Fremont was the better man of the
two. Well, there's a compliment in 1856 or so.
INSKEEP: Yes. The guy who said that may have actually been trying to dis John Fremont in a way by saying that his wife overshadowed him, but he was
also, in many ways, telling the truth. She was a young woman who had grown up very close to her father, in some ways you could say that she wanted to
be a man, by which I mean that she wanted to do things that were supposed to be limited to men.
She couldn't really do that, but she was able to operate through her husband. He explored the American West in the 1840s and '50s. Went out on
these dramatic expeditions, even took part in the United States conquest of California from Mexico. Was considered a huge hero.
But as an explorer, he didn't actually discover that much that was new. What he did was come back East and write these dramatic accounts of his
adventures and also make great maps, which were intended to promote the American settlement of the West. Promotion was the point, which is one of
the ways this is a really modern story. And Jessie helped him with that. She was his secretary, as he wrote, sometimes his editor, sometimes his co-
author. Occasionally, even his ghost writer. She was his political adviser, someone who had grown up around senators and even presidents and was
entirely confident, even as a young woman, telling presidents her opinion even when she knew they did not agree with that opinion.
She was a remarkable figure, who even before this campaign of 1856, had begun to develop a public profile of her own. Now, it's not unprecedented
that women in Washington in the early days of this country were influential. There were a bunch of influential women in that time. But it
was unusual that a woman would become so public and so publicly associated with her husband's policies. And when he did run for president, she was
also viciously attacked as a woman for being so forward.
AMANPOUR: Yes. That hasn't changed, has it? Let me ask you this, though. If John was the first Republican nominee, President Trump or Candidate
Trump in September 2016, just before the election, said that he might be the last Republican nominee, because of the situation of demographics that
you're just talking about now, and how, you know, immigration then and now is still obviously a major issue and used by the demagogues, really.
This is what President Trump said about why Americans should vote for him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I think this will be the last election that the Republicans have a chance of winning, because you're going to have
people flowing across the borders, you're going to have illegal immigrants coming in and they're going to be legalized and they're going to be able to
vote. And once that all happens, you can forget it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Steve, I mean, look, you know, clearly, politicians have been pointing the finger and pointing the fear at the other. It's happened
for hundreds of years. I mean, is there any way you can see a society changing, the political, you know, campaigns would be less like that in the
future or is this just something this country and many others are going to be living with?
INSKEEP: Well, let me say two seemingly contradictory things, Christiane, one is, what I said before, nothing is ever over. There will always be new
voices in the political system. There will always be people entering the political arena and they may well start with certain views that have to be
argued over again and again and again.
There is a similarity between right now and the 1850s, because there was a demographic change that people found to be threatening. In modern times, as
you know, the elite of the Republican Party tried to deal with that demographic change by shifting Republican Party policies to be more
welcoming specifically of Latinos, a huge growing population in this country.
But they found out that their electorate had a different set of concerns. And I'm sure that many people who are watching this who voted for President
Trump would say, I'm not against immigrants, but they did want was a reduction in immigration.
They did want less illegal immigration as well. They did want a wall for some kind of border security. These were things that people voted for
explicitly. It wasn't just a metaphor to them.
That has been profoundly divisive. But the other thing to realize is that America gets past these phases and changes, and that people that we worry
about assimilating end up fitting into America just fine.
In the 1840s and '50s, John Charles Fremont, running for president, was revealed to be the illegitimate son of an immigrant, which was true, and
then the opposition press turned him into an immigrant, said he had been born outside of the United States. There were birthers in 1856.
He was also accused, in a way that can sound familiar to us, of being a member of this dangerous alien religion. We talk about Islam today -- or
some of us do -- in that way. In those days, the dangerous religion was Catholicism. And there was a great deal of paranoia that Catholics would be
used by the pope or by European forces to take over the country.
It was a very real fear in a lot of people's minds and a very big thing driving the anti-immigrant sentiment and the fear of change in the country.
But one thing about looking back in history is that we can see how our fears of the moment turn out over time. And, as we know very well, there is
a very large Catholic population in the United States today, and they fit into America just fine.
AMANPOUR: And there was a Catholic president, of course...
AMANPOUR: ... John F. Kennedy, who had to go through that as well.
Look, we're talking on the anniversary of Dr. King's birthday, a federal holiday. And we're in the middle of a presidential election, a race.
There's not a single candidate of color left in the Democratic race, and obviously not on the Republican side either.
But, but there are women. And "The New York Times" has come out and endorsed two women running for the Democratic nomination, Elizabeth Warren
and Amy Klobuchar, two senators, who will be sitting in on the impeachment trial, of course.
What does that say to you? Are you surprised? You're not just an author. You're a host of a morning newscast which is massively successful. What
does that say to you?
INSKEEP: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And did you see that coming?
INSKEEP: I didn't see the joint endorsement coming.
But it would be hard not to know about the conflict that "The Times" chose with this endorsement to illustrate. They explicitly said, let's pick
somebody that we like from the more progressive wing of the party, and let's pick somebody that we like from the more moderate or pragmatic wing
of the party.
And Amy Klobuchar, who's the moderate there, would say, I'm perfectly progressive, but that she wants to be practical and get things done.
That is a divide that the Democratic Party faces. And, as a writer, as a historian, I can say that that is a classic American political dilemma. Do
I go for the candidate who stands for my ideals or the candidate who stands for some of my ideals and I think can win?
It's not always a really clear choice, is it? In 2016, Republicans went for the most radical choice available and also won. So the radical choice can
be a winner, but you have to face that dilemma.
In doing my research about 1856, I found that one of the greatest Americans, Frederick Douglass, faced this kind of decision, whether to go
for a true anti-slavery candidate or for this new Republican Party that was sort of anti slavery, was against the expansion of slavery.
And he changed his mind and decided to go the pragmatic route.
AMANPOUR: And just very quickly, because we're running out of time, impeachments past -- as I said, these senators are going to have to take
time off the campaign trail to fulfill their jury duty, so to speak.
What should we be thinking, in light of history as well, Andrew Jackson and other presidents who've been through this process?
INSKEEP: Well, Andrew Johnson in 1868 was impeached and put on trial before the United States Senate.
And it was a nominally Republican Senate who had sort -- or president who'd sort of become a Democrat. It was a heavily Republican Senate that was
going to judge him. And there were a number of senators who had to make the difficult choice to vote against their party and keep Andrew Johnson in
Now, that doesn't mean that the right and patriotic thing to do now is automatically to keep President Trump in office. Let's set aside that
But what I think is really valuable about that moment is first that impeachment was significant. As historians have pointed out, even though
Andrew Johnson was not removed, he was limited, he was constrained by that process.
And, second, that it is a good idea for senators, however they vote, to think in the long term, to think about the long-term health of the
institutions that they are -- that they are charged with preserving for another generation.
That matters a lot more than the next election, even if they feel it differently in their particular situation.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, you're right. It was Andrew Johnson, not Jackson. I misspoke.
But what are you hoping to see or expecting to see, as a newsperson, regarding evidence? You just heard Evelyn Farkas and Dimitri Simes talking
about certain e-mails and texts that have not been released relating to this situation, the -- this impeachment trial.
And what are you looking for, as a journalist?
INSKEEP: I am just watching the statements of the handful of Republican senators who could make the difference here.
Mitch McConnell, in setting up this trial, didn't say no witnesses. He said, we will decide a little bit later on witnesses, even though he's made
his personal view clear that there just shouldn't be any witnesses.
But they're reserving the actual decision for later. And there are a few statements now from senators like Susan Collins of Maine, as evidence has
come out just in the last few days, that maybe we need to think about witnesses.
INSKEEP: Now, critics of Collins will point out that she doesn't always follow through and that sort of thing, but it seems an open question.
AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed, it does.
Steve Inskeep, thank you so much for joining us today.
INSKEEP: Delighted to be here.
AMANPOUR: Now, America is celebrating, as we said, Martin Luther King Day, which shines a light on the importance of equality and unity in these
Our next guest asks what Judaism can teach us.
Sarah Hurwitz was a White House speechwriter for President Barack Obama and then for first lady Michelle Obama. Her book, "Here All Along," is about
waking up to the faith that she was born into, as she told on Michel Martin.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Talk a little bit about how you grew up.
I mean, you were born into a family that identified as Jewish, right?
SARAH HURWITZ, AUTHOR, "HERE ALL ALONG": Right.
MARTIN: And you did all the things.
HURWITZ: Did the things.
But what was your impression of it then?
So, we went to services twice a year at the major holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We had a Hanukkah party. I went to Hebrew school.
And my impression as a kid was that it was mainly kind of boring, right? The services were long. They were a lot of Hebrew, a lot of sitting down
and standing up.
And after I had my bat mitzvah, I just thought, I just don't think there's much to see here. Right?
MARTIN: When you talked to your parents about what it was for and why you were doing these things, what did they say?
HURWITZ: I don't know if I actually inquire deeply with them about it, right?
I think it was just a sense like, we're Jewish, and this is what we do. Like, we're proud of our identity. We want to be part of the Jewish
community. And I think it was a sense, we go to the synagogue twice a year, we go to the Hebrew school, we have the Hanukkah party.
Like, that's just what we do as Jews. I don't know if I ever had a deep conversation with them about what it meant for them.
MARTIN: So after your bat mitzvah.
And for those who don't know, a bat mitzvah is what?
HURWITZ: It is a coming of age ceremony whereby you become -- bar or bat mitzvah means son or daughter of the commandments. And that's when you're
sort of considered to be responsible for trying to observe Jewish law as an adult.
MARTIN: So a bat mitzvah happens when you're, what, 12 or 13, depending on your tradition.
HURWITZ: Thirteen, yes. Yes.
MARTIN: And then you went -- so you go -- you do the things. You went to college. You went to law school. You become a big-time speechwriter for
Hillary Clinton first and then for Barack Obama, then for Michelle Obama.
MARTIN: During all this time, what was your sort of sense of your spiritual life? Did you -- did you ever think about it? Because, I mean,
the Obamas talked about those things a lot.
HURWITZ: He did. He did.
And it's really funny. I had a vague sense that something was missing, right? I had a vague sense of like, gosh, it would be really nice. I would
talk to people who had a deep faith, and there was just something that they had that I didn't.
I don't know if I could articulate it clearly, but there was just something going on that I didn't have access to.
And so, for me, I would show up at the major holidays, right? I'd get some friends together. We'd go to a synagogue. I was proud to be Jewish. But
that was it.
I think, if you had said, well, what do you think about God, I would have said, atheist, or maybe agnostic, who knows. Just didn't think much about
it, because I was -- I was so busy.
And I had a lot going on that was fulfilling. And when every minute of your life in the White House, you're rushing to do something, you're scrambling,
you're thinking, you're working, there isn't a lot of space for other stuff.
MARTIN: And so then the day came when you decided to dig deeper. Just describe that.
I mean, you didn't quite get hit with a bolt of lightning.
MARTIN: It wasn't that. I mean, I'm not trying to be culturally inappropriate.
HURWITZ: No. It was...
MARTIN: But -- like, you didn't get hit with something.
HURWITZ: I know.
MARTIN: What -- what happened?
HURWITZ: People want that story, right? They're like, you had this moment of crisis, and it -- the honest-to-God truth, I was dating a guy, I broke
up with him, and I was lonely and bored and anxious.
I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands. And I happened to get an e-mail from the local Jewish community center about an intro to Judaism class. And
I swear I signed up just because I just thought, I need something to do.
MARTIN: Intro to Judaism.
HURWITZ: Intro to Judaism. It could have been an intro to photography, karate.
MARTIN: Intro to ceramics.
HURWITZ: Ceramics. I actually probably would have taken it.
HURWITZ: I just -- I don't -- but, you know, look, if it had been intro to Christianity, would I have taken it? I don't know.
But intro to Judaism, I just thought, you know, I know nothing about Judaism.
MARTIN: You know, some might say that the universe sent you there.
HURWITZ: Some might say that. I -- yes. I don't know if I would say that, but some might say it.
And I just thought, you know what? I should -- I should learn something about my heritage.
MARTIN: And so what happened?
HURWITZ: So, I went into this class. And it was a very standard class. The class itself was not unusual.
But we started studying these ancient Jewish texts about Jewish ethical wisdom about how to be a good person, different theologies, different
Jewish approaches to God, the real thinking behind all these Jewish holidays and rituals, and I was blown away.
This was so deep and edgy and wise and radical and countercultural and insightful in a way that secular society just isn't.
And I just thought, where has this been all my life? I was like, where has this been? It's like, you show up twice a year for these synagogue
services, and you do a seder, and you do the Hanukkah party, and it's fun, it can be meaningful.
But Judaism is much more than that. This is 4,000 years of people, crowdsourced wisdom from millions of people about what it means to be
human. And, suddenly, it was all there before me.
And I just thought, like, I cannot believe this has been here and I didn't know it.
MARTIN: Do you remember, what is it about that class...
MARTIN: ... that so gripped you even then, just that first meeting? Do you remember?
HURWITZ: It was -- you know, over the course of various classes, I just thought, wait a second. This -- this is extraordinary.
Like, I just remember, actually, called -- I remember calling my dad after one of the classes. We had studied a text that said, basically, build a
fence around the Torah and what -- and the Torah is Judaism's core sacred text, like the Koran or whatever.
And the idea of building a fence around it means, you know what, just be extra careful about observing a law. And I called my dad and I said, dad,
this is what you always said to us about right and wrong, about when, if something is right, you go a little further than necessary to make sure
you're doing the right thing.
And I said, this is a Jewish idea. And I think probably -- my dad had probably learned that in Hebrew school or from his parents, and we hadn't
necessarily realized like, oh, this is actually a key Jewish teaching.
I just thought, there's so many moments like that. And I just thought, OK, I need to learn more.
MARTIN: Like what else, for example?
MARTIN: One of the things you also say in the book is that you found that you didn't need Judaism to be a good person, but you did need Judaism to be
a great person.
HURWITZ: Exactly. I mean, look...
MARTIN: Give another example of that.
HURWITZ: You know, look, I -- I think I'm a good person. I don't lie, cheat or steal. I follow the letter of American law.
I try to be kind to others. That is a low bar. American law is designed to ensure that I don't physically assault people or take their property or
infringe on their rights. It is not designed to ensure that I am honest, generous, loving, kind, fair, right, that that's not -- and good. I don't
want American law doing that.
But studying Jewish law, it's like there's all this Jewish thinking about speech, about gossip, about shaming people. And studying it, I just -- I
felt busted. I thought, like -- it was like they were almost saying, like, Sarah, we saw you do this last week, and don't do it, right?
There was just so many little things about how I'm so casually cruel with my speech every day, and I don't even think about it, and...
MARTIN: Casually cruel, you would say? Really?
HURWITZ: Yes, casually cruel.
There are these moments where -- OK, an example. If we're colleagues, we get into an argument. I'm furious at you. I go out and I just tell a bunch
of friends, Michel is the worst. She's the worst. She's -- she's not smart. She's bad at her job. She's dishonest.
MARTIN: You can stop right there.
MARTIN: OK, I get it.
HURWITZ: OK, I got it. I'm so angry.
Come back the next day, we apologize. It was a misunderstanding.
I just told a bunch of people some pretty tough things about you, and maybe they tell other people, and maybe a month from now, you're applying for a
job at a company that one of those people owns. And they say, I remember something about that woman, some reputational issues.
With this thoughtless speech, I -- there's a real cruelty. Like, I have actually done real harm to your reputation, and I didn't even think about
And that was sobering to me, that ethic of being really careful with your words. Ironic that, as a speechwriter, I had not been so thoughtful about
the words I personally spoke.
So, now I still mess it up 100 times a day, but I used to mess it up 150 times a day. So I'm getting a little better.
MARTIN: But how is that different from ethics? How is that different from ethics or manners, even?
MARTIN: Tell me, what's the -- what is the difference?
HURWITZ: I think what's different is the specificity of it.
When you just say, well, speak kindly, don't gossip. OK, well what's gossip? What count -- well, what if I say something that's true, if it's
true, but it's not hurt -- I mean, like, you can really get down into the weeds here.
And I -- there's a lot of things I can say, well, that's not really gossip, or that's not really shaming.
Judaism actually doesn't let you get away with that, right? The more you study these Jewish laws, you think, oh, well, OK, this isn't really gossip.
And then they say, oh, no, yes, it is, right?
I think just don't gossip, it's just not memorable to me, whereas you study these Jewish stories, there's one very famous one about a man who goes
around saying nasty things about his rabbi. He then feels badly, goes to the rabbi, admits what he's done. And the rabbi says, OK, I'll forgive you,
but, first, you have to take a feather pillow and cut it open and scatter the feathers to the winds.
The guy thinks, this is very weird, but says, OK, does it, comes back and he says, am I forgiven? And the rabbi says, sure, but, first, you have to
gather up all those feathers.
I think about that now, right? That is a very sticky...
MARTIN: Because that's what gossip does. It spreads.
HURWITZ: You can't get it back.
MARTIN: And you can't get it back, right.
And that's just different than manners or ethics, right? That is -- it's -- it's -- it's deeper. It's more useful.
MARTIN: But, at the core -- at the core of -- for some people, particularly people who see themselves as rational...
MARTIN: ... the problem that they have, not just with Judaism, with really most faith traditions, is the idea that you are going to go someplace bad
if you don't do what the man says, right?
MARTIN: So how did you confront this whole notion of what it means to be faithful...
MARTIN: ... and to be obedient?
HURWITZ: It's interesting.
I -- I rejected that as a 12-year-old, and I even more vehemently reject it now, because I just think, once you go down that road of, there is a God
that can -- who controls everything and rewards and punishes you as you deserve, things get very hard to explain.
It's like, OK, well, what about the Holocaust? Well, but people have free will. So people did the Holocaust, not God. It's like, OK, so what is God
doing all day?
Well, it's complicated. It's like, I feel like there's a lot of mental gymnastics necessary to justify something that I just see disproven every
hour of every day. So, I actually -- I reject the idea that there is a being who rewards and punishes us as we deserve.
I mean, that is a -- that's a really tough theology. I just -- I can't buy it. I reject it. And that is not the only -- that's not -- the Jewish God
is not a man in the sky who rewards and punishes, right? There's a lot of Jewish concepts of the divine.
And once I was aware of that, then things got interesting, right? Then I felt like I could finally develop an adult spirituality.
MARTIN: Now, I could make an argument that you chose, you chose to be Jewish.
MARTIN: Maybe you didn't choose to be born into Judaism, but you chose to be Jewish, right?
I chose to be Jewish.
HURWITZ: And I think you hear a sort of old phrase the chosen people, which I have a complicated relationship with.
But I think we're very much the choosing people today. We...
MARTIN: The choosing people.
HURWITZ: The choosing people. I think we choose to be Jewish.
And I have chosen actively to be Jewish. And I think the way I relate to these ancient holidays is, I interpret them for modern times, right? You
have -- they have to be interpreted. We are an interpretive tradition, right?
Jews no more live by the original version of the Torah, which is 2,500 years old, than Americans live by the original version of the Constitution,
Both those documents allowed slavery. I'm sorry. Like, the epitome of evil, right? Treating people as property is the epitome of evil. Yet we have
reinterpreted them, we have reimagined them to get rid of something that was clearly evil.
So I think about a holiday like Hanukkah, and I think about, well, OK, what does -- what does this holiday mean, right? It has -- I think it has
lessons about being thoughtful about assimilation and not assimilation.
I think it also has lessons about having enough, right? It's like, they thought they had enough oil for one night of the temple, but it was
actually for eight nights.
And I think, sometimes, when you feel like you don't have enough in your life, it's too little, you actually realize that you do. And I think
there's a real lesson about gratitude there that is very important.
So I -- you have to interpret these for modern times.
MARTIN: And how -- and speak -- you mentioned slavery. So, how do you relate to what some would argue are the -- I don't know what word to use
respectfully -- the scars of...
HURWITZ: The difficult parts of the Torah, yes.
MARTIN: The difficult parts, I mean, the genocides.
HURWITZ: Yes. Oh, totally.
MARTIN: I mean, the fact of the matter is, the -- Daniel blowing the trumpet and bringing the walls down, that's a genocide. I mean, how do you
relate to these aspects of the texts that seem to warrant the wiping out of people because they're in your way?
HURWITZ: We -- like the Constitution, you have to reinterpret them, right?
I mean, the Torah clearly says an eye for an eye. That's -- that's the clear meaning. However, 2,000 years ago, ancient rabbis said, no, no, no,
no, this actually means that, if you put out someone's eye, you have to monetarily compensate them.
That's not what the text says. They reinterpreted it, right?
We don't -- it says to stone people for working on Shabbat. We got -- we don't do that, right?
You have to reinterpret these texts. And that -- just like with our Constitution. We have reinterpreted it to outlaw slavery, to allow women to
vote. We continue to do this.
Now I'm right here getting to a real problem. These are human systems. It took us a long time to outlaw slavery. That evil went on for a really,
really long time.
So, if you're going to try to make me say, well, this is a perfect system and it's foolproof, and it's -- no, it's not, right? These rely on us using
our human hearts and minds to interpret these documents in a kind and loving and decent way.
But, to me, I think that the core ideals of America have a lot to do with equality, with liberty, with freedom, things like that. And if the -- if
our laws aren't being interpreted with those -- in light of those core ideals, we are failing, and we need to reinterpret our documents.
Same thing with Judaism.
MARTIN: How has your life changed since you have been kind of on this path?
Gosh, having developed an adult spirituality with -- through Judaism, I am so much more open and grateful and joyful and filled with kind of wonder
and awe in my daily life.
I know this sounds sort of cheesy or weird, but, like, I just -- I'm just more -- I'm just more grateful for small things. I know this is silly.
Like, I -- I was in a hotel room the other night, and I just thought, this is such a lovely hotel room. It is quiet. It is so clean and beautiful.
And I just felt such a sense of delight and, like, gratitude for the incredible privilege, which, you know...
MARTIN: And how is that Jewish?
HURWITZ: So, you know, how is it uniquely and specifically Jewish? It isn't.
MARTIN: No. No, it isn't.
HURWITZ: Every traditional urges -- but I think...
MARTIN: How is that connected to your faith?
HURWITZ: Yes, how is that connected to my faith?
Judaism places a huge premium on gratitude, which, you know, now it's like, everyone's got the gratitude journal, and we're all into gratitude.
OK, for centuries, traditionally observant Jews, the first words they say when they wake up in the morning are modeh ani, or modah ani, depending on
your gender, which means, I'm thankful. That's literally the first words out of your mouth when you wake up in the morning.
The first words of the morning prayers are, I'm thankful. And you're basically saying a prayer of gratitude for your life, of gratitude for your
existence, which I just think understanding that emphasis, to me, I try to feel a lot more gratitude for my daily existence.
MARTIN: You have talked about the fact that you always identified as Jewish, even when you were not practicing or observing in the way that you
-- you do now.
What do you make of President Trump's executive order on anti-Semitism?
MARTIN: I mean, it's caused a huge reaction.
HURWITZ: Yes, it has.
MARTIN: Some favorable, much of it not.
What is your take on it, as a person who worked at that level?
To be honest, my first reaction at seeing this gets so much news and attention was just a sense of dismay, because I think, so often, what I'm
seeing in the news is this narrative that, when Judaism -- the sort of narrative in the news about Judaism is, Israel plus anti-Semitism equals
And this executive order dealt with both, right? It dealt with anti- Semitism and with kind of anti-Zionism, and is that anti-Semitism?
So I just felt a sense of like, oh, here we go again, another -- you know, this is another kind of mark in which -- another moment in which that
equation is kind of playing out in the media.
So, I just -- I felt a little bit of just dismay, like, oh, we're doing this again.
I mean, I think the order is actually really complicated, to be honest. Like, I think it's -- I think why it's complicated -- and this is something
that I haven't really heard a lot of people talking about -- is, Judaism, we're not a race. We're not a nationality. We're not an ethnicity.
Jews are of every race, ethnicity and nationality. That is just a fact. Nor is Judaism just a religion, right? I can reject every tenet of Jewish
religion, and I'm still Jewish.
So, OK, what is it? It's a peoplehood which you are either born into or you choose to become part of through conversion. There's no legal category for
And so I think we kind of have this -- this clumsy thing where we're trying to kind of find the right category for Judaism, and it's just -- it's not
So, I think -- and I just -- I'm a little frustrated with the divisiveness of the debates around these things. But, at the same time, I also
understand that, when this is coming from an administration with a president who has been repeating anti-Semitic sentiments, people are
And I can understand the kind of vehemence of the response, though it's complicated.
MARTIN: Have you shared your book with the Obamas?
HURWITZ: I have. I did send it to the...
MARTIN: What did they say?
HURWITZ: When -- so, I haven't talked to them about the book yet.
But when my book came out, Mrs. Obama sent the most beautiful tweet. Like, every time I read it, I start crying. I mean, it was just so kind and
And back when I first told her at the end of the administration that I wanted to write this book, she was just so excited, right? She was so
proud. And I just think she saw my passion about it. And she was like, go. Do it. This is great.
MARTIN: Sarah Hurwitz, thank you so much for talking to us.
HURWITZ: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, as we said, of course, it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday that honors the slain civil rights activists.
This year, schoolchildren paid tribute to his legacy in a speech contest, in which they were asked the question, what would Dr. King's vision for
2020 America be if he were alive today?
One fifth-grader from Dallas, Texas, Colin Harris, wowed the judges with his message of love and freedom and equality.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN HARRIS, FOLEY & LARDNER MLK JR. ORATORY COMPETITION WINNER: Dr. King's vision for society would have been for us to move forward and allow
people to live their lives, despite their racial backgrounds.
In order to meet that vision, we would have to listen to one another, have compassion for each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Oh, and who doesn't want to listen to more from Colin showing wisdom beyond his years, or maybe because of his years?
Colin says, the only way to move forward is by listening to each other, a message that we could all apply to our lives today.
So, in the words of the famous Stevie Wonder song written especially for him 39 years ago, we say, happy birthday, Dr. King.
And that is it for now. Thanks for watching, and goodbye from New York.