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Harvey Weinstein Found Guilty in Criminal Court; Anne Milgram, Former Federal Prosecutor, is Interviewed About Harvey Weinstein Case; Douglas Wigdor, Attorney for Witness in the Weinstein Trial, is Interviewed About Harvey Weinstein Case; Donald Trump Visits India; Trump's 2020 Campaign Strategy; Marc Lotter, Director of Strategic Communications, Trump 2020 Campaign, is Interviewed About Trump's 2020 Campaign; Interview With Former Obama Presidential Adviser Dan Pfeiffer. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 24, 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.
Harvey Weinstein, guilty as charged, on two of the five counts. We dig into what this verdict on sexual assault means.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER: The president of the United States of America, Mr. Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: India says, namaste Trump, while the Democrats trying to replace him at home enter a critical voting phase. We talk to the president's top
campaign communications strategist, Marc Lotter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN PFEIFFER, AUTHOR, "UN-TRUMPING AMERICA: A PLAN TO MAKE AMERICAN A DEMOCRACY AGAIN: I think Democrats, we have not spent enough time, and I
think that this is fair to say to the people in the Obama administration, myself included, focused on the actual blocking and tackling work of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: President Obama's adviser, Dan Pfeiffer, on what Democrats need to do to win back the White House.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The revelations two years ago that sparked a movement have finally produced a verdict in a criminal court. Today, the former movie mogul, Harvey
Weinstein, was found guilty of committing a criminal sexual act in the first degree involving one woman, and rape in the third degree involving
The New York jury acquitted Weinstein on the more serious charges of predatory sexual assault. Weinstein is now in custody and his team is
appealing. The Manhattan District Attorney, Cy Vance, has called it a new day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CYRUS VANCE JR., MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The message is this is a big day, this is a new day. And I hope women will understand the significance
of the jury verdict today. My hope is with this verdict, survivors of sexual assault, whether it's of Mr. Weinstein, or whether it's of someone
else, will come forward and our office, and others like our office, will, I hope, be there to listen to them and to help them move forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, Weinstein still faces charges in a separate case in Los Angeles.
Let us remember that it was three journalists in October of 2017 who broke this story and sparked the #MeToo movement. First, Jodi Kantor and Megan
Twohey of "The New York Times" followed by Ronan Farrow of the "The New Yorker."
Here to break this down now is Anne Milgram, the former attorney general of New Jersey. She's joining us from New York.
Welcome to the program.
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, first and foremost, the D.A. sounds incredibly relieved to have got this verdict, even though it's two out of five. There was so much
worry leading up to it that nothing might stick. Just put it in context.
MILGRAM: So, you know, I'm a former state, local and federal prosecutor, I started my career in the Manhattan D.A.'s office and prosecuted sex crimes
cases there. And so, I would tell you that I think, you know, we might see it as outsiders as two out of five, but really this is a guilty conviction
and that is the bottom line for the prosecutors here, and actually really for the case. Harvey Weinstein has now been convicted of two very serious
counts, one is a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree, and he will be incarcerated for that.
And so, you know, there were other counts, mostly in my view to let in the testimony of additional victims in the trial. And there was an acquittal on
those three other counts, but what's really important to note is that it's a conviction and that at the end of the day, I think it really is a
landmark case in this type of criminal sexual assault prosecution, and I think the D.A. was correct to say these are really, really tough cases, and
a lot of victims don't come forward and that hopefully today will give victims hope that there's justice in the courts.
AMANPOUR: So, we're just going to put up this slate of counts and the verdicts that were delivered by the jury in New York. I guess the question
many people will want to ask is why was it guilty, for instance, in the third degree, in one of them, and not guilty in, for instance, predatory
sexual assault, rape in the first degree, predatory sexual assault, another count? What was it about the predatory sexual assault? And we know, I
think, the jurors were asking questions. Try to break it down as simply as you can for viewers who might not be acquainted with the differences there.
MILGRAM: OK. So, let's sort of break it into two buckets. The first are the charges related to Jessica Mann, that was rape in the first degree and
rape in the third degree. The jury found Weinstein guilty of rape in the third degree, not a rape in the first degree when it related to her.
And so, you see count four not guilty, that was rape in the first. Count five, rape in the third. The difference there is that the first degree
would have required force or threat of force and the third degree basically says nonconsensual for any reason. And so, it doesn't require the proving
of actual physical force or threat that she would have been hurt or injured. And so, they made a distinction there as to Weinstein's conduct.
So, that's the first point.
Now, what's important to note about the predatory sexual assault is that here, remember that a lot -- there were a number of victims that came
forward, many of whom were not permitted to testify or to have charges brought on their allegations because the statute of limitations had run.
And the statute of limitations, for many years, said there's a certain period of time in which those cases can be brought.
If they're not brought, then Harvey Weinstein could not be charged with them. So, that was true of the Annabella Sciorra charges. And if look at
both of the predatory sexual assault charges relate to -- she testified that Weinstein had assaulted her in 1993, 1994. And so, those charges would
have been out of the statute of limitations to bring separate charges against Weinstein. But the way the D.A. was able to get her testimony in a
trial and have this be a part of the case was to join that in the predatory sexual assault counts.
That requires convictions for both, that requires a finding of proof beyond a reasonable doubt for first degree sexual assault as to two victims, two
or more. And so, the first count related to victim, Miriam Haley, that was a victim that the jury did find Weinstein guilty of a criminal sexual act
in the first degree. And then to have found the predatory, they would have needed to have found him separately guilty of a first degree relationship
of Annabella Sciorra.
So, it's clear they met one of the pieces of that but not the second. And then the other account of predatory sexual assault was Jessica Mann and
Annabella Sciorra. On that, they acquitted on first degree rape so they could not have found the predatory sexual assault on that because, again,
it has to be two first degree crimes.
AMANPOUR: Got it. So, here's the situation. Both the primary witnesses were, as you say, Jessica Mann and Miriam Haley. They, because of their
sort of "relationship" with Harvey Weinstein afterwards, letters, dinners, sexual relationship in one instance, they were very, very strongly cross
examined and there was a concern that that might sway the jury.
So, it really -- the jury really, really -- what do I want to say, believed them. I mean, they really came with a verdict of guilty, even despite this
business of this relationship after the assault.
MILGRAM: I think that's a critical point to make. And I've tried cases involving sexual assault and human trafficking cases, and the scenario we
saw here where the victims continued to have some sort of relationship with Harvey Weinstein, and as you said, in one case, a consensual sexual
relationship, it is very common and we do see it all the time in these types of matters.
It also means that the jury has to understand that even though that is the case afterward, that the individual is still a victim of a sexual assault
crime. And so, it is true exactly what you said, that the jury found those women to be credible when it came to him having -- Harvey Weinstein having
AMANPOUR: Now, let's talk about he's been remanded into custody, awaiting actual sentencing. These crimes upon which he's being convicted do carry
prison time. How much? What do you expect now? I mean, you know, how long do you think he'll get?
MILGRAM: Yes. This is a significant turn of events. So, Harvey Weinstein has been out for trial as we've seen him come and go every day. And here,
after the verdict was read, the judge remanded him without bail, meaning he's in for sentencing. And so, he faces -- on the first degree sexual
assault charges, he faces a period of time between five and 25 years. That will be up to the judge. The same judge who sat and presided over the trial
will sentence Weinstein on that. And the minimum he can get the five years.
On the second count, rape in the third degree, that's an e-felony and that would be a term of probation to four years. So, the minimum he could get is
non-incarceration and the maximum is four. My view on this is there the judge -- are two separate victims in this case and that's one important
thing to note. Weinstein was found guilty as to both of the two separate victims with which he was charged with crimes. And so, the judge, in my
view, will not merge those together, but he will see those as separate offenses for sentencing.
Which means he'll do a minimum of five plus some period of that four-year term. And, you know, it's impossible to say. Judges can vary greatly on
this. But I would think we would see somewhere between six to nine on a sentence. And again, critically, the minimum he'll do is five years.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to get to his defense, which was a very robust defense in a moment. But first, I want to ask you, you know, this is such a case,
this is such a movement. #MeToo has changed the world. Do you think that this verdict really, really puts a stake in the ground for women's rights,
for the right to be believed, for the fact that this, even a difficult case to prove, has actually drawn at least a couple of convictions?
MILGRAM: I do. And I can't say this strongly enough. I mean, having done both domestic violence and sex crime cases, what you see is both a
hesitancy in victims to come forward because it is a difficult process, and a sense of will they be believed, particularly where, as here, there's
ongoing conduct or there's ongoing communication and relationships. These are complicated cases. And unlike a lot of other types of cases that I've
tried in state and federal court, it is often he said, she said. There are two people in that room.
And so, the victims face what is a very daunting task to cooperate with the government and come forward. And here it is a little of David and Goliath,
really, you know, Harvey Weinstein was -- you know, we cannot underestimate how powerful he was. It was -- it's been reported that he took a number of
measures to try to influence the victims and try to make them not testify or to sort of hamper the prosecution of the case.
And I should also note, by the way, that I represented a witness in the case that was not called to testify at trial. But it's impossible to sort
of overstate how important, I think, a message this is for all victims of sex assault who are concerned about coming forward. And here, it's really a
vindication for all of the women who came forward against Weinstein.
AMANPOUR: And just to the point that Cy Vance, the D.A. made, he actually -- it was a very pointed comment to the defense attorneys. On the one hand
sort of complimenting them or acknowledging their very robust cross examination, but on the other hand saying, this should put an end to this
shaming of the victim. This should be a new day that never again should people who have, you know, legitimate and evidence-born cases be put on
trial in terms of people who bring cases like this. Do you think that will last? That has legs beyond this particular case?
MILGRAM: Do you know what I think does have legs? And I think that's such an important comment and it's a great question because the reason they did
it is that it has worked before. And so, this has been the M.O., the modus operandi for defense lawyers in sex crimes cases for a long time, is to
shame the victim, discredit the victim.
And look, this is the fair part of an adversarial system that, you know, when you go to trial that every defendant is entitled to a robust criminal
defense. But it has gone beyond in my estimation in some instances. And I think what is important here is not that defendants shouldn't be vigorously
defended, but what's important is that the D.A. was willing to take the case.
And I can't tell you in the face of really tough defense lawyers, going up on these cases, a lot of times prosecutors have not always rushed into the
courtroom. And I think one of the most important messages today is that, you know, it's the obligation of prosecutors to try tough cases, to bring
tough cases where they find victims to be credible and then to let the jury decide whether a crime has been committed.
AMANPOUR: Let's just point out, if I'm not mistaken, the jury was comprised of five men and four women, I think. I mean, may --
MILGRAM: That's correct.
AMANPOUR: -- have got that -- yes. OK. Good. That's right. So, that's also important. And secondly, you mentioned the defense. So, Donna Rotunno, who
is the main lead defense attorney for Harvey Weinstein, did a couple of things that raised a lot of hackles and certainly raised a lot of eyebrows.
First, she gave the interview to the "New York Times." I believe it was before the trial actually went into the courtroom, but nonetheless, and she
spoke about how, you know, she had never been assaulted, that, you know, women should not put themselves into that position. That was one issue that
people took exception to.
But then, as it went to the jury, she penned an article that everybody believes Harvey Weinstein dictated for "Newsweek," calling on the jury to
"do the right thing." How unusual is that and, you know, could she have been censured? I mean, what is the protocol around that kind of thing?
MILGRAM: Yes. I mean, it's worth noting. I mean, this has been a scorched earth defense from day one. They have litigated every single inch of this
case and it has been very hard-fought and I think it's one of the reasons why this is such a landmark victory for the prosecutors and why it's such
an important message that has been sent, because they tried essentially everything they could possibly try to get an acquittal, and that included
the last article you mentioned, which, you know, was -- it felt like an effort to try to influence potential jurors or the public.
You know, I don't agree with the decisions that she made. But again, I think what's important to note is that, you know, they tried this case,
they did not cede a single thing to the prosecution, they put the government to the test completely on it. And at the end of the day the jury
found Weinstein guilty. And so, it didn't work, ultimately, but it was absolutely a scorched earth defense.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, it's been really amazing to watch. Anne Milgram, former attorney general of New Jersey, thank you very much indeed for
MILGRAM: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And now, we're actually going to go to Douglas Wigdor who represented one of the, what they call Molineux witnesses.
You could explain it again, Douglas Wigdor. But let me ask you what your reaction is. You're standing outside the court. This was a case that you
were involved in. What's your reaction?
DOUGLAS WIGDOR, ATTORNEY FOR WITNESS IN THE WEINSTEIN TRIAL: Well, it's really pandemonium here at the courthouse. What we're not seeing is Harvey
Weinstein walk out of the courthouse because he was remanded, put into custody for being found guilty for a B felony, which carries a maximum
sentence of 25 years and another felony which carries a maximum sentence of four years. So, it's pretty clear that Harvey Weinstein is going to do
significant jail time.
And I think in large measure, what really happened here at this trial was that you had six women testify and that was just too much for the defense
to overcome and ultimately, they found in favor of both of the main victims, at least in part. And so, it's a really big victory, I think, for
all of the women, all of the sexual assault survivors who have a voice through these six women.
AMANPOUR: Douglas Wigdor, the last time we spoke it was when the case went to the jury or actually, when the prosecution and defense were making their
closing arguments. So, let me just ask you, because then you're a little bit nervous because of, you know, the idea that the two main plaintiffs had
these supposed consensual relationships with him afterwards, and et cetera, that I was just discussing with Anne Milgram.
You must be particularly pleased, and particularly since you represented a woman who was a witness. She brought her testimony not as a plaintiff, sort
of, you know, an a-list plaintiff but as a witness to testify to a pattern of behavior, Tarale Wulff.
WIGDOR: Right. You had three of those types of witnesses testify in this case, these so-called Molineux witness who really supported the two main
victims, as did Annabella Sciorra, who is another witness. But really, what I think the verdict shows is despite some of those defenses about being in
contact with Harvey Weinstein after the fact, that there were e-mails and other contacts after the fact, we, as a society, have really changed a lot
post #MeToo. And people now understand the dynamics of rape and sexual assault, that they don't occur with strangers, that sexual assault
survivors remain in contact with the predator that raped or sexually assaulted them. And this verdict today is really a testament to that exact
And while they didn't convict Harvey Weinstein of the top two counts, the predatory sexual assaults, he is convicted of a B felony, which I said,
carries a 25-year sentence. And I think this judge, who has been very by the book and very tough, but fair, I think that Harvey Weinstein is looking
at what may be ultimately a life sentence anyway.
AMANPOUR: Wow. Well, let me ask you this. You said you were going to take a civil suit against him. There's a civil case that you're going to
prosecute after this. And you said in that case you can force him to testify. Do you still plan to do that? And can you do that, I guess, while
he's in prison under the current sentence? How does that work?
WIGDOR: Yes. I mean, that's a really good question. We've had cases where we have people who aren't in prison. It's not a fun trip to go upstate to
have to take a deposition, but we will do that. While he was held accountable for two women's rape and sexual assault, I still represent
three other women who want their day in court and they plan to hold him responsible for what he did to them and for the harm that they suffered.
And, you know, while today's verdict is really a strong and powerful thing that's happened now, it's not going to undo the harm to any of the women
that have suffered. They're going to continue to have to live with what happened to them for the rest of their life and they deserve to be fairly
and adequately compensated for what -- not only what Harvey Weinstein did to them, but what we believe to be the directors of the Weinstein company,
the Weinstein company itself, and Disney, for knowing about what Harvey Weinstein was doing and turning a blind eye and we will continue to seek to
hold all of those people and those entities responsible for their actions.
AMANPOUR: Douglas Wigdor, thank you very much indeed. A really important - -
WIGDOR: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: -- day for accountability and for women who hopefully now will have the courage to bring these complaints and make them public.
And now, we go to the presidential race. Crowds roared a hearty welcome in the world's largest cricket stadium today and the world's largest democracy
as Donald Trump began his first official visit to India.
The president and the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, put their relationship front and center as they praise and hugged each other on
stage. The visit could also be seen as kind of a campaign rally of sorts as Mr. Trump goes for every possible vote in November, including Indian-
American votes. The Trump campaign is voraciously gathering data and aggressively going after voters to get the president reelected as you can
Marc Lotter is director of strategic communications for Trump 2020, and I asked him about all of this when he joined me from Trump campaign
headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
Welcome to the program.
MARC LOTTER, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, listen, your boss, the president, must be thrilled with his initial reception in India, right? He loves a big crowd, 100,000 or more at
the big stadium in, Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat Province or state. How do you think he'll be reacting?
LOTTER: Well, obviously, it was an amazing event and seeing it develop here in the U.S. overnight, it was something to behold. It does show the
strong support for the president from the Indian people, from the prime minister, and I think it was very well received, both in India and back
here in the U.S.
AMANPOUR: So, obviously, the prime minister was in the U.S., there was sort of a similar rally in Texas in September. But I just want to know from
a campaign perspective and a re-election perspective, are Indian-Americans important for the president, you know, in the re-election campaign? There
are I think about 4.5 million Indian-Americans and only about 16 percent of those, according to the Asian-American survey, voted for him last time. Is
that part of your strategy?
LOTTER: Absolutely. And this is a president who is going to go after any vote that he can get. And what we have seen not only in our relationship
with India, but also with the president's relationship with the prime minister, is that we have strong ties between the two nations. The economic
success that we're seeing here in the United States is something that is being felt by Indian-Americans.
And I think not only did the event in Texas, but also what we see going on here in India right now, it just shows those strong ties and I think it's a
good strong signal to the Indian-American people that they have an ally in President Trump.
AMANPOUR: As you know, there is quite a lot of angst in India right now by the Muslim minority, because of this new citizenship law that's being
pushed through that would discriminate against Muslims. So, I just want to ask you because the president was very careful in what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Your nation has always been admired around the earth as the place where millions upon millions of Hindus and Muslims
and Sikhs and Jains, Buddhist, Christians and Jews worship side by side in harmony.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: You know, he hasn't commented on this citizenship law up until now. But do you think he will bring it up? Because it's pretty
LOTTER: I do expect that that is something that they'll bring up in their private conversations. You now, one of the things that America and India
share is a strong tradition in honoring religious freedom and celebrating folks of differing faiths. And so, that is something that is expected to be
discussed in the one-on-one conversations as something that is concerning to the United States. It's something that we've heard some White House
officials also voice here recently and it would not surprise me if it came up in their direct conversations.
AMANPOUR: So, let's get to the election, the election campaign. Obviously, there are the Democratic primaries, but the president also is doing a lot
of -- you know, like he went to Nevada, he went to Las Vegas just before the caucus there. And I want to ask you something that the campaign
manager, Brad Parscale, he does quite often at these campaigns, he basically leaves -- or, at least, it seems like he leaves every rally with
a bit of a sort of data grab, you know.
He tweeted on Friday, following the rally in Las Vegas, excellent quick rally this afternoon before heading home. He said 15,079 voters identified,
73 percent from Nevada. 32 percent didn't vote in 2016. While 27 percent blacks, Latinos or non-white, 18 percent Democrat. So, what is going on?
Can you explain to us why he's doing that?
LOTTER: Well, I think twofold. Number one, it's sending a marker to the rest of the world, to the media, the diverse group and background of people
who are signing up to go to President Trump's rallies. Every time we have one of these rallies, we do come away with a large trove of data.
And what we have seen -- and it varies from location to location -- is anywhere around 17 percent to 25 percent or so did not vote in 2016. We've
seen around 25 percent are registered Democrats. And then, depending on the location, you'll have a large minority population also showing up. I think
it's sending a very strong signal and almost a welcome sign that you are not alone any longer, even if you are a member of a traditional Democrat
voting bloc. A lot of people are choosing to walk away from the Democrat Party right now. They're coming over to see President Trump and it's
something worth celebrating.
AMANPOUR: How do you get the data?
LOTTER: Well, when you sign up to go -- when you get a ticket to one of the president's rallies, you sign up. And so, you provide basic data about
that. And it's something that we're able to use with our analytics department to be able to run against the voter files that we have both
parties maintain and it gives us a good background on the folks that are there and it also allows us to tailor our messages to them going forward as
we see what kind of issues motivate those voters, we can make sure that they're also registered to vote, they get out to vote. There's an
opportunity for them to volunteer. All of those kinds of things.
It's part of the very robust and strong data operation we have in partnership with the Republican National Committee.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. And it's really caught a lot of people's eyes. I mean, as you know, Andrew Bosworth, who is a long time Facebook executive, he
wrote in his company memo, Trump got elected -- this is obviously about 2016 -- because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I've ever seen
from any advertiser, period. And Christian Science Monitor says, GOP officials say they have roughly 3,000 data points on every voter in the
country, and as you said, you know, it's the campaign and the RNC. So, what are you doing with it all?
LOTTER: Well, there's multiple things that we can do with it. We will randomly send out surveys, so to speak, to many groups so we can identify
what they're thinking right now, whether it's about a specific issue, about the upcoming election, how things are going for their state, even down the
congressional levels. Then as we get closer and closer to the election, then we're able to make sure that they know when their registration
deadlines are in their states to make sure they're registered to vote or to seek an absentee ballot. And then, obviously, as we approach early voting
and election day, we can track to see whether folks have actually -- if they will volunteer and tell us that they have voted, they plan to vote.
Because ultimately, elections are about turnout, making sure that you get your supporters to the polls.
AMANPOUR: And we understand that there's a whole new focus from your campaign on local news. Polling shows that most Americans trust local news
more than the national. And your campaign manager said that the campaign intends to train swarms of surrogates to undermine negative coverage on
Trump on local TV stations and newspapers. So, tell us what that's going to look like.
LOTTER: Well, first and foremost, it's making sure that folks who have -- who spend a lot of time in their local media markets, whether they're local
elected officials or local political commentators, have access to the current data, and the current thinking of the campaign. So, when they go
out there, they have the facts in hand.
And ultimately, to your point, we do have a big focus on local media. I started my career in local television news and we understand that, while
many people -- especially in the United States who are watching the cable outlets, may have already made up their mind based on their choices. The
folks who are watching local news are mostly concerned with what the weather is going to be like tomorrow, how to dress the kids for school, how
to -- you know, what about the traffic going into work or did their local sports teams win and what's going on in their communities.
So, it's an ability for us to reach out to folks who are not necessarily hanging on every word that comes from Washington, D.C. or through the main
media outlets in their political coverage.
AMANPOUR: Tell me a little bit, from your perspective, from the campaign perspective, of this big rownow (ph) over Russian meddling, the national --
you know, the director of National Intelligence, et cetera.
So, it appears that the president is upset that there was this briefing, it went to Congress, a briefing that the Russians were trying to meddle again
on his behalf. Why is the campaign or the White House angry about these warnings from the Intelligence Community, given the sort of disruption last
LOTTER: Well, I think, first part -- to the first part of your question and the national security adviser, the president have both said, that they
have not seen the intelligence that Russia is intending to meddle for a specific candidate.
And even -- there is another CNN report that I saw from last night where there -- many intelligence officials are saying that the person who did
that briefing probably said too much beyond what the actual intelligence was suggesting.
And, of course, then that was weaponized, leaked to the media, whether it was to harm Bernie Sanders' campaign or to sow discord in the -- in the
trust in the general election.
I mean, that's ultimately what Russia's goal issue is, is to -- to sow mistrust in the American electoral process. And one of the things that the
president, the Homeland Security Department and all of our intelligence agencies are working for, along with our state partners, is to make sure
that our election infrastructure is hardened and it is able to resist any kind of efforts to meddle in the actual counting of votes, the casting of
votes, and then the reporting of that.
AMANPOUR: You know, the president and his people have dismissed this idea that Russia might be once again intervening on his behalf.
But, you know, they're happy to jump on the other thing that you mentioned, that Russia may also be intervening to help Bernie Sanders.
So, this is President Trump just on Friday: "Democrats" -- or Saturday -- "Democrats in the great state of Nevada, which, because of the economy,
jobs, the military and vets, I will win in November, be careful of Russia, Russia, Russia. According to corrupt politician Adam shifty Schiff, they
are pushing for Bernie Sanders to win. Vote."
Well, then Adam Schiff responded: "Mr. President, I didn't say that. But if you wish to quote me, quote this. The only thing Americans despise more
than foreign actors trying to affect the vote is a president unwilling to do anything to stop it."
So, what is the president and the White House and the -- the system, the administration, doing to stop this? And does it give a wrong message if you
kind of dismiss your acting national security -- DNI guy, rather than doing something to stop this or stand up against it publicly?
LOTTER: Well, the -- the changeover with the -- with the director of national intelligence was scheduled to happen anyway. He was due to
transition out here within a week or so.
The opportunity came to have Ambassador Grenell now take that position. It is also something that will be of a temporary position. And so this was
just a normal transitionary period, where he had to leave by law by I think it was March 11 or March 12, in that time frame.
So this was the opportunity to make that change. It had nothing to do with anything else. In fact, the president and many in the White House said they
had hoped that Admiral Maguire would actually stay on in another role in government, because he's a very -- he's a very trusted source.
But what we are doing and what we have seen from the beginning is that we're -- we're hardening our infrastructure to make sure that there is
confidence in the ability to cast ballots and to count those and report those ballots.
It's been something that's been going on since the beginning of the administration, working with state officials, because, as you know,
Christian, states actually conduct the elections, not the federal government.
So there have been many meetings. There have been briefings. There have been stress tests that have been done, led by the federal government, in
conjunction with our state partners, to make sure that their infrastructure is safe and secure.
We have also warned the Russians against doing it, as you have also seen that the previous administration warned the Russians against doing this as
well. The president has taken action in sanctioning the Russians
And it's something that he has told them time and again, we're not going to tolerate, not just Russia, but any foreign actor interfering in our
AMANPOUR: OK, so let me -- let me just make a comment.
AMANPOUR: I mean, obviously, I have met Ambassador Richard Grenell when he was ambassador in Germany.
He may have a lot of credentials, but intelligence is not one of them, or running a big bureaucracy is also not one of them. You say it's a temporary
But I guess I want to ask you whether you can comment on what Axios is saying. And that is that there has been an 18-month-long attempt to
basically weed out the anti-Trumpers and put in Trump loyalists in all sorts of different government and administration positions.
Do you think that's -- A, is it true? And, B, is it wise?
LOTTER: Well, I -- I can't speak to whether it's true. Obviously, I'm on the campaign. I'm no longer in the White House.
But -- but what I can tell you is that, since day one, we have seen that, in many cases, we have had people in the permanent bureaucracy IN
government believing that their judgment is more important than that of the people who were elected to actually lead the government.
We have seen leaks of classified information. We have seen leaks of transcripts of phone calls between the president or others and world
And it undermines the ability of the duly elected president of the United States to conduct his -- his job and conduct foreign policy on behalf of
the United States of America.
So, what we are seeing is that we're -- is that a lot of that permanent bureaucracy is being moved on. And we need to make sure that we have people
in the government, whether they be in the White House or attached to the White House or in the highest levels of government, that are there to
execute the -- the decisions made by the duly elected president of the United States.
We have seen for far too long that the bureaucracy believes that their judgment is the judgment that should carry the day, when it's the American
people and their elected leaders, not bureaucrats, who actually call the shots in terms of what the official policy of the United States is.
AMANPOUR: As you have obviously seen, moderate suburban voters, to an extent, women, all people who voted for President Trump the first time
around, have been drifting away from him since 2016.
You have also seen, on the other side, Bernie Sanders make massive inroads into, obviously, Hispanics. Obviously, this is on the Democrats' side, but,
nonetheless, he has got a fervent base, like President Trump does on his side.
You know, I know that you guys want to run against Bernie Sanders. However, are you not, as a campaign strategist, impressed, concerned, whatever the
right word is, that your opposition is generating a massive amount of fever on the ground?
LOTTER: I think what we're seeing is still that there's a very divided Democrat Party right now.
And while, yes, Bernie Sanders is the leader so far in this nominating process, he's far and away short of coming up with a majority. And what
we're actually seeing -- and there's a lot of reporting that many traditional Democrats or more mainstream Democrats are very worried about
having a self-proclaimed socialist and I would argue communist sympathizer leading the Democrat Party right now.
And we have seen examples of this, in that there is still very strong support for President Trump. This president is bringing out a lot of
energy. He's bringing out a lot of new voters to -- to his campaign.
And once they get a nominee, we will -- we will be ready to take that person on. And if it's Bernie Sanders, then the Democrats are going to have
to sit there and decide how they own having a self-proclaimed socialist as the leader of their party.
AMANPOUR: Look, I know you're going to use those words, but, as you know, he calls himself a Democrat socialist. He's not a communist.
And, here, sitting in Europe, we would call it a social democrat. They are mainstream politicians. But I know what your side will do.
All right, Marc Lotter, thank you very much, indeed, for joining me.
LOTTER: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, carrying on this theme, our next guest says the very idea of American democracy is under threat.
Dan Pfeiffer was senior adviser to President Obama and now co-host of the political podcast "Pod Save America." He discusses his new book, "Un-
Trumping America: A Plan to Make America a Democracy Again," with our Michel Martin.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anybody who knows your work knows that you have a great sense of humor, if people share your sense
DAN PFEIFFER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: That's right.
MARTIN: ... and that you love to laugh, but, actually, what you're saying in this book is no joking matter.
MARTIN: I mean, it's actually a very dire message. You're saying that democracy is actually at stake. Why do you say that?
PFEIFFER: Well, I take it from my experiences, not just since the 2016 election, but in the decade I worked for President Obama.
And when you step back and look at what is going on, it seems very clear that we have these two discordant trends in American politics. One is,
nationally, we have a growing, diverse, younger, progressive majority in this country, the people who gave Hillary Clinton three million more votes
than Donald Trump.
But, at the same time, all of our governing structures, the Senate, the Supreme Court, state legislatures, who can vote and what how they can vote,
is -- are rules set up and governed by a shrinking, aging, almost entirely white minority.
And if -- if we do not win this election in 2020, but also, once we win it, take on that fact, we're going to be playing on this conservative playing
field for decades to come.
And I think that we're sometimes overly sanguine about the health of our democracy: It's always been fine, so it will always be fine.
But I think it's an unsustainable situation, if you have millions of more people picking one path for the country, and a small minority deciding what
the policies are in this country. And, on huge issues like health care, and, most importantly, climate change, that -- you -- that is where the
fabric of the country can be torn apart.
MARTIN: And you say in the book that you were actually -- you were radicalized by the 2016 election.
MARTIN: I mean, you're really clear about that.
But what you say is that a lot of people think that the Trump election is the result of some kind of weird constellation of fluky events...
MARTIN: ... James Comey, the former FBI director, deciding to reopen an investigation that had been closed, like the Russian meddling...
MARTIN: ... the Obama administration not doing enough about that meddling...
MARTIN: ... Trump being a reality star.
So a lot of people think that this is kind of a fluke. And what you're saying is, actually, it isn't.
PFEIFFER: There is -- I think there is this view, as you point out, among a lot of people in politics, and even in the country, I think, because you
-- you want to aspire to the more hopeful thing, and it's easier to think, this is an accident, and, because it's an accident or aberration, we will
return to normal.
But if you look at the history of the Republican Party, right, racial grievance politics, what is at the core of the Trump message, the core of
what I call Trumpism, has been there for a very long time. And it was accelerated with the election of our first African-American president.
And then that racial grievance was weaponized. And so I think Trump is definitely the most absurd, ridiculous version of what was going to happen,
but the Republican Party has been on an inexorable path towards a authoritarian, white nationalist leader.
Like, that is where we have been. And I think -- sometimes, I think we should almost be grateful that the one we ended up with is one who is
easily distracted, is not interested in details, is incapable of pulling the levers of power as strategically as he otherwise might, because the one
that really scares me, if we don't take some of the steps I talk about in this book, is the Republican who comes next, who probably is not going to
spend his entire morning in a Twitter fight with Debra Messing, right?
He will actually be doing things that would lock in Republican power, even more so, for decades to come.
MARTIN: I want to go back to sort of the question of how the country got to the point that it is.
MARTIN: I mean, in part, is this not a failure of the Democrats?
I mean, the fact is, you identify the fact that Republicans have made it a 30-year project to dominate state legislatures...
MARTIN: ... to dominate -- which -- which who are in charge of redistricting, to -- it's like a -- it's like a 30-year-long view of
They have voters who are more reliable in midterm elections, who vote consistently no matter what. And what are midterms about? They're about
judges and taxes, right?
MARTIN: So, isn't this in part a failure of the Democrats?
PFEIFFER: Oh, absolutely.
PFEIFFER: We can talk long-term failures and specific failures, right?
And I think the long-term challenge is -- part of it is bad luck, too, right? It was very unfortunate that the 2010 election fell at a time of 10
percent unemployment, right after a -- there was a bipartisan effort to bail out the banks, right?
That was -- like, that was -- that -- when we look back to how we got Trump, everything that has happened in the -- in this tumultuous decade,
you can go back to that moment.
And then what happened is, they burned the bridge behind them, because they -- the new governors of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, all -- Florida -
- all cut early voting, put in voter I.D., did all these things to lock in their power. And that was very problematic.
I think Democrats, we have not spent enough time -- and I think this is fair to say of the people in the Obama administration, myself included --
focused on the actual blocking and tackling work of politics, of building sustainable political power from the ground up.
MARTIN: Which is weird, since President Obama was a community organizer.
So, you would think, if there was anybody who was well-positioned to understand the importance of organizing, the importance of bottom-up, not
MARTIN: ... it would have been him. So what happened?
PFEIFFER: I think, to his credit, he built up a massive, unprecedented volunteer network. And he kept organizations going to keep them active and
What I think -- where we ran into problems, obviously...
MARTIN: He didn't turn them into Democrats, though, right?
PFEIFFER: Yes, that is a -- that is -- that -- that...
MARTIN: And so why is that? Because he was too cool? I mean, why? I mean, why?
I mean, we -- like, no one campaigned harder for Hillary Clinton in 2016. No one was willing to go anywhere -- was more willing to go anywhere for
anyone in 2010 and 2014 than Obama.
He fell on the wrong end of a massive shift in American politics, I think somewhat catalyzed by his election, right? Like, you think about the seats
he was -- if we take the 2014 election, right, we're defending seats in Alaska, Louisiana, Arkansas. We were holding those seats in borrowed time,
And I think -- and I write -- and I have a chapter in the book about things the Democratic Party can do to change our structure in, like, how we think
-- how we fund things, how we think about things, in order to make it more -- to give us a better chance to turn the -- quote, unquote -- "Obama
coalition" into a Democratic coalition.
MARTIN: I understand that.
So we're going to talk about your solutions in a minute.
PFEIFFER: Yes. Yes. Yes.
MARTIN: But I still want to get to the roots of how this happened.
MARTIN: And one of the grievances that down-ballot politicians had about him, including even members of Congress had about President Obama, is that
he just wasn't interested in that level of politics.
And is that fair or unfair?
PFEIFFER: I don't think that's fair. I don't think that's fair.
MARTIN: You think that's fair.
PFEIFFER: I think we, like...
MARTIN: But you do admit that the DNC was very focused, the Democratic National Committee, was just very focused on presidential years?
MARTIN: And that's not where the action is.
PFEIFFER: And that has -- that has been true for 30 years.
MARTIN: So, whose fault is that?
PFEIFFER: That is a -- it is a structural problem in the DNC, which is, the DNC chair is elected on the presidential cycle.
And, therefore, the president -- they -- they're on a four-year term, when you have someone in the White House. Their -- their main job is to either
win the White House if there's a Republican the White House, or defend the White House if there's a Democrat in the White House.
MARTIN: OK, but don't the Republicans have the same problem? But, somehow, they still have all these statehouses, right?
PFEIFFER: Well, they -- yes, that is the -- they do have -- they have a similar problem.
PFEIFFER: But they don't lack in resources, right?
One of the things that really exacerbated the problems in the Obama administration was, the Citizens United ruling happens in early 2010, right
before that election. And we were operating, not only on parity with Republicans in terms of funding.
Obama had developed this grassroots network that far outstripped anything the Republicans had. And so, as soon as 2010 comes in, now we have no
ability to catch up, because you now have the Chamber of Commerce being able to spend unlimited amounts of money, the Koch brothers be able to not
just build infrastructure, which they were doing, and we also have lacked for a long time, but to do actual electioneering, where you were trying to
MARTIN: So, back in the day, you're saying that Democrats had the advantage of people, and Republicans had the advantage of capital.
And now what you're saying is, what, that Republicans...
MARTIN: It's like capital on steroids, is that what you're saying? It's money on steroids. Right.
What I'm saying that we -- is that Republicans always had more money -- had more money than Democrats, but not that much more money. And we were able
to -- and Obama was the first Democrat to actually make it up by being able to raise money, $5, $10, from people time and again throughout an election
That -- we had that for one election, 2008. A year -- a year after Obama takes office, we -- the campaign finance laws are fundamentally changed in
the most devastating way possible. And Republican -- and now you can buy an election.
And Democrats, frankly, do not have enough people who are, A, willing and, B, able to invest at the level the Republicans can.
MARTIN: And catch up.
So, again, you paint a very dire picture in this -- in this book, if you're a Democrat, or if you are a person who generally is interested in what sort
of Democrats care about and progressive sort of issues.
MARTIN: So -- so, let's talk about that. Like, what's the answer here?
I mean, you make some provocative suggestions in the book.
PFEIFFER: Yes. Yes.
MARTIN: I mean, one of the things you talk about is, you say that the consultants have too much power in the party.
MARTIN: I'm sure that's not going to make some of your friends happy.
PFEIFFER: No, I know.
MARTIN: But there it is.
PFEIFFER: The book has only been out for a day, and I have heard from some of them.
You say, boycott FOX. That's interesting. How come?
Well, I think we -- there has been this debate in the Democratic Party about, do we -- how do we reach FOX viewers, right, and -- which is really
a proxy for a conversation about, how do we reach some number of Republican voters or -- who may be open to being persuaded to come to our side?
And I feel like the debate around how to reach -- quote, unquote -- "FOX viewers" is wrapped around the axle of this idea about whether we should go
And we just -- I think we just have to understand -- and this is from the experience of someone who was at the brunt force end of the FOX situation
for six years in the White House -- is, FOX is an organ of the Republican Party. That was definitely true when Obama was president. It's even more
true now that many of their hosts are actual policy advisers to the president, and now picking the people who get pardons.
So, I think Democrats should not be supporting FOX. And when we go on FOX, and we -- or Democrats to a town hall on FOX, like a lot of our
presidential candidates did this time, we are buying into the false premise that FOX is journalism during the day and opinion at night.
And if you -- if you read any of the books about Roger Ailes, about what's going on at FOX, it is very clear that the -- quote, unquote --
"journalism" is a way to feed the propaganda in.
The first people who brought to the national forefront the false conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was educated in a madrassa was "FOX & Friends,"
which is their morning show, which airs at the same time as "The Today Show," "GMA," CBS.
And that is not Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck. That is what people turn on and they expect news. And it is pumping that stuff in. And so we should...
MARTIN: So, candidates like Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, say...
PFEIFFER: I think that was a mistake.
MARTIN: Look, just stop it?
PFEIFFER: I think -- I understand, from their own individual campaign perspectives, why they did it, because they're not really communicating
with FOX viewers in the Democratic primary.
What they're doing is, they're showing Democratic voters that they can go on FOX and do a good job and that -- all of those candidates did. Bernie
Sanders, who sort of led this trend, he crushed his FOX performance. He got the -- the audience cheering for Medicare for all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: Now, of those, how many are willing to transition to what the senator says, a government-run system?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PFEIFFER: It caused, I think, Bret Baier was the host's head to almost explode sitting there.
As a Democrat, I enjoyed watching that. But, ultimately, FOX was then able to go to advertisers and say, see, we're not white supremacist opinion
shows. Bernie Sanders comes on.
I think we're helping create funding streams for what I think is a pretty dangerous set of propaganda coming from that network.
MARTIN: You say, reform the courts, which, of course, critics call packing the court.
PFEIFFER: Because I -- like, I think there are two elements of this.
First, I think that, if Democrats have power in the Senate and in the White House and the House, we should add two Supreme Court justices, because,
right now, Mitch McConnell has already packed the courts. The voters gave that Supreme Court appointment to Barack Obama.
He held it. And it didn't matter that it was the year of the election. If it had been two years before the election, he would have done the same
thing. If a Democrat is elected in 2020, and a Supreme Court justice decides to retire on the way home from the inauguration, and Republicans
control the Senate, Mitch McConnell will hold that seat for four years.
And we treat it as if it's this revolutionary thing. You're going to change the number of Supreme Court justices. It has happened six or so times in
American history. We did it once several times in like a 20-year period.
We even once changed the number of Supreme Court justices because Andrew Johnson, who was president, had been impeached, and they -- and the
Congress did not think that this impeached president, who should have been removed, but wasn't, should be able to add justices before he leaves.
And so we have done it response to a political crisis, which is exactly what we're living in right now. And if we do everything else in my book, we
change the voting laws, we fix the DNC, we fix the Democratic Party, we're winning elections, we get rid of the filibuster, we have power in the
Senate, we do all of those things, but we don't address the court, there is going to be this conservative veto on progressive policies that lives
decades past Donald Trump.
That's -- the statistic that keeps me up at night is that Brett Kavanaugh, put on the court by Donald Trump last year, who is the one who really
tipped the balance in the strongest way, particularly on issues of reproductive rights, Brett Kavanaugh, when he is the same age that Ruth
Bader Ginsburg is today, my daughter will be 32.
She turns 2 in May. So, just think about that. We have this president who got three million fewer votes, was impeached, tried to interfere in the '20
election, and he is going to have this stamp on our policy that will last three decades after he is gone.
MARTIN: One of your other provocative proposals, which has actually gotten a lot more attention during this campaign, is abolish the Electoral
MARTIN: I don't think we need to sort of get into the weeds of that.
But you can already see that ads are already being run about this on the other side.
MARTIN: So, the question really comes is, you have laid down a long list of ways in which you say that these are structural advantages designed --
that have been enhanced in recent years...
MARTIN: ... in order to advantage one political party over the other, and it also has the additional factor of advantaging, frankly, white people
over people of color, who are kind of growing as a -- in number here.
MARTIN: How do you make these arguments without kind of a, I don't know, what's the right word, of like pressing on the sore that has already
stimulated a lot of this feeling to begin with, I mean, this sense of racial grievance, as you put it, the sense of white people are being
I mean, it seems that, in most of these proposals that you make, those are exactly the kinds of things that stimulate that kind of, like, oh, we're
PFEIFFER: I think we're...
MARTIN: ... voted off the island, you know?
PFEIFFER: I think Democrats are often too reticent generally about things that could be perceived by anyone as increasing our political power, right?
We all agree D.C. should be a state. That is the most -- it is the moral thing to do. It makes zero sense that it is not a state. Yet we -- we have
not tried to do it. And that's because we -- we're afraid we're going to get criticized for it.
I think the reason I lay these things out, I want Democrats to adopt them. And part of it is, we should not reverse-engineer our positions from what
we think could offend a hypothetical white Trump voter in Wisconsin.
Like, that -- when we do that, we are playing not to lose. We have to go out and make the full-throated argument to every voter, and, no, actually
not -- that's the -- I said it the wrong way.
Not every voter, every American, because you could change the politics of all these issues if you got the 40 percent of Americans who don't vote to
vote. And so -- and the way in which we do that is by raising the stakes and trying to invite them into our political process, and be the ones who
are advocating changing our political process to bring them into it.
And we -- and you have to explain why -- why Republicans don't want them to vote. What -- like, what policies do they want to keep in place, what power
do they want to hold onto themselves, and what changes you would make if you had that power.
And so I think we have to make a full-throated argument. Some of these -- some of the ideas in here can be done in two seconds in the United States -
- if we have power, if we just have 50 votes in the Senate and the White House. Some of them are going to take a long time.
But the reason I want people to make the arguments for them now is, we want to -- I really think Democrats need to be the democracy party. We need to
be the ones who are fighting for the majority of Americans against this minority that is funded by billionaires and Wall Street, who are holding
political power for themselves.
And we have to take that on aggressively. And, if we do that, I think that is both the right thing to do and a winning political argument.
MARTIN: So, let's talk about 2020.
MARTIN: Because, as I said, on the one hand, this book has a very dire message.
I mean, you say that, really, democratic norms, in your view, are at stake here yet.
MARTIN: On the other hand, recent successes, from a Democratic perspective, in 2018.
How do you see 2020?
PFEIFFER: I think we should go into it fully aware that Trump has a lot of advantages he did not have in 2016.
PFEIFFER: Incumbency. Incumbents usually win.
He -- he won without the backing of the Republican money machine last time. He's going to have every dollar he needs and more.
MARTIN: He still does. He has already, right?
PFEIFFER: Yes. Right.
And it's not just him. The Koch brothers and all these other groups are going to spend money to protect the Republican agenda. And he has a
structural Electoral College advantage.
Having said all of those things, this is an incredibly winnable election. It is going to come down to a couple hundred thousand votes in three or
four states, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, maybe Arizona.
And Democrats have to win three of those four. And, if they do, they win. So it is there for the taking.
We have to unite as a party. Our candidate -- our nominee has to run a very smart campaign that communicates a strong message. And we have to work our
We do those things, we can win this race. And I am worried that -- it's been a rough couple weeks for Democrats. Our primary feels messy. We
couldn't count votes in Iowa. Trump gets acquitted.
And it just feels dark. And you can actually see in the polls where fewer and fewer Democrats think we're going to win.
And we should know it's going to be hard, and it's going to be close, but we have to know that we absolutely can win. And if people don't think that
we can win, they may not do the work now to ensure we can.
MARTIN: Dan Pfeiffer, thanks so much for talking with us.
PFEIFFER: This was -- this was such an interesting conversation.
MARTIN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And that's it, though.
Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.