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How U.S. and China Emerges After Coronavirus Crisis; Robert Reich and Ian Bremmer are Interviewed About China and U.S.; Greece Prepares to Welcome Tourists; U.K. Death Toll Reaches 29,477; Dr. David Nott is Interviewed About Pandemic in U.K. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired May 5, 2020 - 14:00 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.
The U.S. and China clash over the or generals of coronavirus. Is a new Cold War brewing? I ask the former labor secretary, Robert Reich, and political
scientist, Ian Bremmer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DAVID NOTT, TRAUMA AND HUMANITARIAN SURGEON: There were two barrel bombs, one dropped here and one dropped over there on top of the hospital
trying to destroy it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Dr. David Nott has been saving lives in war zones fir over 25 years. Now, he`s returned to the frontline with the NHS here in London
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BHARAT RAMAMURTI, MEMBER, CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT COMMISSION: The concern is that with this much money going out the door, is it being used to help
the public interest or is it being used for political reasons?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Overseeing the money trail, Bharat Ramamurti on policing Congress` coronavirus relief fund.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I`m Christiane Amanpour working from home in London.
The war of words of the United States and China over how coronavirus started is escalating and even igniting fears of a new trade war. An
editorial in China`s "Global Times" accuses Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of lying and "spewing falsehoods." Chinese state media calls him evil. This
after Pompeo said there was enormous evidence that coronavirus emanated from a lab in Wuhan despite what U.S. intelligence says.
Meanwhile, global markets got spooked again by President Trump banging the trade drums. So, how will the two biggest economic powers emerge from this
crisis? And how will the economics of this pandemic impact ordinary workers in America and around the world?
Former labor secretary, Robert Reich, is an expert on the widening wealth gap besieging America and on China`s economy. His new book is called "The
System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix it." While political scientist, Ian Bremmer, is examining where opportunities might emerge after this crisis
and they`re both joining me.
Welcome. Welcome Secretary Reich from San Francisco. Let me ask you before turning to Ian to just tell me from your position as a former government,
you know, minister, cabinet secretary, what you make of this escalating drama of another big power in the middle of this huge health and economic
ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Well, I think it`s unfortunate. It is understandable that the United States and China would be in tension.
They have been in tension for many, many years. Will be in tension in years to come. They`re two big superpowers.
But the problem is we have, obviously, a pandemic and we also are on a brink of a global depression, maybe great depression. And to have the two
superpowers of the world at the brink of not, you know, a trade war, more of a Cold War, is really the last thing we need. I worry that the Trump
administration may be trying to deflect attention from its own shortcomings in terms of dealing with this pandemic by wanting to blame China just like
it wants to blame the World Health Organization.
AMANPOUR: Let me turn to you, Ian Bremmer, because you have written a latest newsletter focusing a lot on China. You, of course, are the founder
of Eurasia Group and, you know, you were talking about where China might fit in the aftermath or frankly currently right now given with the vacuum
of the American leadership in the world over this particular issue right now.
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, EURASIA GROUP: Yes. Clearly, there are no winners, country-wise, that comes out of the worst economic recession of
our lifetimes. Everyone would be better off if it didn`t happen. But China can take advantage of the geopolitical vacuum that is left from an absence
of American and absence from Transatlantic leadership globally.
And you see that with the fact that the Chinese economy has now restarted effectively, the supply chain is almost fully back up and functional,
they`re probably not going to contract this year while the Americans and Europeans do. And they`re incredibly important particularly the trade ties
and the credit they offer and extend to some of the poorest countries in the world. Add that to the fact that Chinese technology is competing with
the U.S. and nobody else has the tech firms, the Americans, the Chinese do, their ability to gain in strength and alignment with a lot of the
developing countries around the world is going to be very clear on the back of this crisis.
AMANPOUR: Now, you say they probably won`t contract like the rest. I mean, they did announce earlier that the first quarter for the first time in 50
years they had a real slowdown in terms of economic growth. And I just wonder, you know, I`m going to play a soundbite which has just come in from
the new nominee as director of National Intelligence who`s been questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee, John Ratcliffe is the nominee. And he
was putting China as the biggest threat for America going forward. Just take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN RATCLIFFE, NOMINEE FOR U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I`ve had that conversation with a lot of people about what I view as the
greatest threat and the greatest threat actor and I view China as the greatest threat actor right now. I mean, look at where we are with respect
to COVID-19 and the role that China plays, the race to 5G, cyber security issues, all roads lead to China there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Robert Reich, we started to talk about how all of this, all of this rhetoric from the administration is leading to, you know, what
President Trump was talking about potentially, you know, a potential another round of trade war. What does that mean, not just for the global
economy in the middle of what you predict is potentially a depression and even a great depression, but for people, ordinary people in your country,
in the United States?
REICH: Well, it doesn`t mean anything good, Christiane, because people need an economy that is up and running. There is a tremendous lack of
aggregate demand. That is, you can`t run an economy if people -- you know, if there are not customers and those customers are mostly going to be and
have to be in the United States American consumers, American consumers constitute about two third of the U.S. economy. But the other customers
have to be from outside the United States. And say what you will, China has been a very important customer.
If you start a trade war or a worse trade war than we already have right in the middle of a pandemic and a depression, recession, whatever you want to
call it, you`re asking for more and more hardship on more -- for more and more people. This economy is already on the brink of a depression. We are
going to see a depression that`s really on par, very similar to the great depression of the 1930s if we are not very careful.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just play now what President Trump did just recently, say, to -- about this issue in a Fox News town hall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you considering new tariffs on China as sort of a punishment for their handling of the virus?
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, it is an ultimate punishment. I will tell you that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had experts --
TRUMP: I don`t like -- again, I don`t like to tell you what because, you know, we`re all playing a very complicated game of chess or poker, name
whatever you want to name, but it is not checkers. That I can tell you. We have a very complicated game going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Ian Bremmer, is it sort of, I don`t know, protocol or whatever to actually describe what you`re doing as chess or poker? I`m not -- I just
wonder whether you noticed the language that was being used there and how you think the Chinese will respond to that kind of description of the
"game" that`s being played.
BREMMER: The Chinese do not want a fight with the Americans. I mean, yes, their economy won`t contract this year but it`s still, even if they`re flat
or 1 percent growth, it is by far the worst crisis that Xi Jinping has experienced under in his leadership and he covered it up in the first month
and he tool blowback domestically for that.
On top of that, now you have the Americans looking like we`re loaded for bear, dragon as it were, and headed to a Cold War. This is not the time for
a Cold War. I certainly agree with the good secretary on that and the Chinese are not going to respond and escalate unless they get hit with
actual U.S. policies. It is now about what Trump says. And he has been careful because as much as he wants to blame the Chinese for coronavirus he
also doesn`t want to rip up the phase one trade deal which would lead to more tariffs that would cost the average American consumer who`s already
under massive hardship from having lost their jobs and this incredibly 20 percent of the U.S. work force in six weeks out of a job and suddenly,
everything they buy from China made 25 percent more expensive?
Trump doesn`t want to do that in the run-up to the election. But if goes from 45 percent approval to 35 to 25 over the next few months, his
willingness to beat on China and just -- no matter what the consequence and say, this is the reason for our hardship, wagging the dog, I think the
potential of that goes up and that`s a real danger for everyone.
AMANPOUR: So, in this moment of sort of, as you say, a real danger for everyone, and I don`t know if there`s a possibility right now of a
miscalculation, but clearly China is going all out, quite aggressively, on their diplomatic and propaganda pushback, not just against the accusations
and against the often rightful criticism of the initial handling of the outbreak, but also, they`re trying to show the world that they are
providing the kind of aid that the United States is not providing around the world.
I just want to play what Alex Stamos who, as you know, is the former chief security official for Facebook and now runs the Internet Observatory at
Stanford. This is what he said about China`s intentions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX STAMOS, DIRECTOR, STANFORD INTERNET OBSERVATORY: One of their goals is to erode American soft power and to build up Chinese soft power. They
are using this as an opportunity to highlight the ways that China has reacted well and the United States has reacted poorly. They`re also
highlighting the ways that China is exporting aid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, who does that influence? Who does that impress, Ian?
BREMMER: You know, I don`t actually think that`s going to impress that many folks in the sense that the actual amount of aid that Chinese are
providing is still less than the humanitarian aid that the United States is. There`s a lot of symbolism and ramping up the PR but it hasn`t amounted
to much. And frankly, in some of the cases, what they have given hasn`t even worked. The masks have been faulty, the tests have been faulty. They
have been sent back from some European countries. No.
What they`re really doing is leading by example because their economy is back up and running on the supply side while the Americans and Europeans
are still shut down and much more concerned about a second wave. The Chinese with their technology empowered surveillance state has a much more
effective capacity to crack down on pandemic. We couldn`t do that in the U.S. and your U.K. And frankly, we wouldn`t want a system like that.
But it is a problem especially when the Americans are actively abdicating their international leadership, and that`s why a lot of the weaker
economies around the world are going to end up finding themselves, for lack of a better option, more aligned with Beijing.
AMANPOUR: Secretary Reich, I want you to respond to that. I mean, it`s an interesting thing what Ian Bremmer just said, that democracies would not
respond or wouldn`t take to the kind of draconian actions that China took. But then there are others in the scientific community who said that China
did exactly what it should for a period of time once it got with the program in Wuhan to actually stamp out the virus.
What is -- you know, because we have seen all this so-called liberation protest in order to reopen the economy, but can you, from where you`re
sitting, balance the individual good and right against the greater social good, that whole social contract?
REICH: Well, the social contract is critically important here. You don`t need an authoritarian government to push the social contract and the common
good. South Korea did it very well. Australia and New Zealand, both democracies, are doing it very, very well. Germany has done it very well. I
mean, there are a lot of democratic countries that have appealed to the common good, the social contract, and have conquered, not completely
conquered the virus, but certainly has done a much, much better job than the United States.
In the United States, we have no leadership at all. It is entirely haphazard. Some states are doing better, New York City right now is doing
better than it had been doing. But other states that are under -- really under great, great risk right now, public health wise, are opening
themselves up to economic activity in ways that could seriously threaten a -- to worsen. In fact, the projections are will worsen the deaths and the
infections. So, it`s a failure of democracy in the United States. It`s not really a failure of authoritarianism.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, because it`s connected, as well, with the whole secondary -- well, a huge issue, there`s the health and the economy. You
know, I just want to read a couple of things because this is from a paper that you wrote and the quotes from various scientists, but here it is.
Average Americans have seen no significant gains in their incomes for four decades adjusted for inflation. Most Americans have little or no influence
on public policy which is why the Trump tax cut did so little for them. And at the core of American system are 500 giant companies headquartered in the
U.S. but making and selling things all over the world. Half of their employees are non-American, located outside the United States. A third of
their shareholders are non-American.
Again, when you see, obviously, this crisis hitting America and the world in terms of economics, where do you see even with all these trillion,
multitrillion dollar bailouts, where do you see the average American landing up after this?
REICH: Well, that`s I think the biggest issue in terms of domestic politics and also the quality of life of people in the United States.
Because the average American is worse off clearly than the average American was six months ago. Even though there are a number of very wealthy people
in the United States that are making far more money off of this pandemic. They are selling their -- you know, they`re selling shares of stock short.
They have done that already or they`re hedging their bets, or they are big technology companies that are positioned to exert their monopoly power to
an even greater extent like Amazon.
Now, the problem is that most of the relief packages that are coming from Washington that are supposed to go to average people have not gone to
average people. Most people have not actually seen increases in their own unemployment benefits or any kind of federal help whatsoever. While the
biggest corporations and some of the wealthiest people in America have had tax cuts and bailouts and taken advantage of those bailouts coming from the
fed and the treasury and from the coronavirus legislation through Congress.
Well, this is just aggravating a widening inequality in the United States. It is making the average person in America feel like the game is even more
rigged against them. And I suspect that this is going to foment a degree of populism both on the left and the right such as we haven`t even seen yet.
And we have seen a lot of it in the United States.
AMANPOUR: And very lastly to you perhaps counterintuitively, Ian Bremmer. You did write about potential silver linings of this terrible crisis and
everybody, of course, remembers the former chief staff, Rahm Emanuel, who have said something to the effect of, don`t -- you know, don`t let a crisis
go to waste. Where do you see a silver lining?
BREMMER: Well, related to that I would say there are two point that is matter for the United States. One is that coming out of this crisis even
though the Chinese are doing better with poorer countries, the United States is going to look more powerful than its allies and that asymmetry is
growing because of the crisis, not weakening. Banks are going to be under stress but American banks are much stronger than the Europeans or the
Japanese banks. America has the overwhelming technological advantage from its companies.
And the secretary is right that those monopolies aren`t about to get broken up. No, they`re going to get stronger. You`re not going to have Elizabeth
Warren saying, break them up when you desperately need them to restart the economy, or the Europeans saying, we need our privacy, when they need them
too. So, the United States is going to look stronger coming out of this.
Secondly, is that if you have to have a crisis that reduces, takes 10 percent out of the global economy, at least the companies that are going to
do the best are those that are most advanced technologically, those that have the interest and innovating to help deal with the kind of challenges
that we`re going to experience over 10, 20 years.
If we have had a 10 percent reduction of the global economy that shut down the digital side, let`s say a massive cyber-attack from Russia and instead,
the bricks and mortar companies did much better, frankly, our ability to innovate would have been considerably more challenged.
So, look. We all know that inequality is going to grow. This is going to feel much worse for the United States and globally for the average citizen.
But there are some opportunities that come out of this crisis but I hope we won`t let lay to waste.
AMANPOUR: Well, thank you both very much. Ian Bremmer and Secretary Robert Reich, great to have your perspectives and your expertise on this.
Now, we`re going to turn to Greece. With the second oldest population in Europe and an economy that never truly recovered from the 2008 financial
meltdown, it seemed particularly at risk. But with fewer than 3,000 cases and 146 deaths, it is so far one of the success stories. Dodging a bullet
let compared to Italy and Spain and the U.K. all ravaged by the disease.
We spoke to the Greek prime minister early in April after he had enforced strict lockdown and he told us the population was complying to flatten the
curve. And now, Correspondent Nic Robertson is in Athens for an update to take the temperature as the country reemerges and prepares to welcome
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Welcome to Greece. The new normal at Athens International Airport. Thorough COVID-19 testing.
We`re negative. Everyone off our flight is getting it. It is tough love. But Greece is defying expectations. Despite an aging population and
creaking health care, it is holding off COVID-19.
And it`s no easier if you live here. Until this weekend, just to leave home, you had to register with the government, text a number one through
six, go to the pharmacy, buying groceries, exercise, all part of a hard- fast lockdown. Greece`s new post-populist but pragmatic prime minister says is working.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we feel we have reached the point where we have almost completely suppressed the epidemic, at least its first stage, and we
can -- we will gradually begin to relax.
ROBERTSON: Do you feel like you have dodged the bullet?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We feel we have dodged the first bullet, very clearly.
ROBERTSON: Putting on the mask. Putting on the protective gear because we are going to go into the ICU. How are these patients doing?
Dr. Anastasia Kotanidou leads the way.
DR. ANASTASIA KOTANIDOU, UNIVERSITY OF ATHENS: Better now.
ROBERTSON: Better? Good?
KOTANIDOU: Yes, yes.
ROBERTSON: Yes, yes. Life for some still in the balance. But ICU here at one-fifth capacity thanks, she says, to the early lockdown.
And this helped you in the hospitals?
ROBERTSON: 150 deaths, around 2,600 confirmed infections. Less than New York some days. And not a single doctor or nurse in this Athens main COVID-
19 hospital infected.
KOTANIDOU: We don`t have any infection from the staff or doctor, no.
ROBERTSON: That`s incredible.
ROBERTSON: This seems to be, dare I say, a very strong message for the United States and the United Kingdom whose track records at the moment on
this pandemic are probably some of the worst in terms of death and infection rates.
KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS, GREEK PRIME MINISTER: I think we have done it the right way. Of course, we didn`t get everything completely right. But if you
look at the numbers, you can`t argue with what we have achieved.
ROBERTSON: Mitsotakis`s challenge now, restarting the economy. Selected stores reopened Monday. Another new normal. Hair salon owner, Constantino
Sklavenitis, greets customers with a temperature check and hand sanitizer. Reopening after seven weeks, one-third capacity but longer hours.
CONSTANTINO SKLAVENITIS, OWNER, BEAUTIQUE HAIR SALON: Economically, we are definitely taking a hit. And hopefully, within two months, yes, we can go
back to norm. But normal not be what it was.
ROBERTSON: It could be a long journey. Tourism, 20 percent of the country`s economy, tentatively targeted to begin July. And that`s where
things could get tough. Imagine these beaches teeming with tourists again. Friend and potential enemy invisibly intertwined. A blade that cuts both
ways. Economic salvation or a second wave of COVID-19 suffering.
MITSOTAKIS: Ideally, we want to have more high-end tourists and where we can actually respect social distancing. We have it.
ROBERTSON: But it`s a risk.
MITSOTAKIS: It is a very tough trade-off. I`ll be very honest with you, Nic. Nobody knows exactly how to do this.
ROBERTSON: And remember our COVID-19 test at the airport? Well, the key to tourism success, the prime minister says, is a new international standard
where visitors are tested at home before they arrive.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Athens, Greece.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, here the United Kingdom has not been so successful. The death toll from the virus is a staggering 29,477 according to the British
foreign secretary. That is now the highest in Europe. This is a shocking fact.
My next guest, Dr. David Nott, is an NHS surgeon and he is a war doctor. He spent 25 years volunteering in some of the world`s most dangerous conflict
zones. Now, he`s on the frontlines here in London fighting coronavirus, which he says is even worse than operating in Syria. David Nott joins us
now from his clinic in Central London.
Dr. Nott, welcome to the program.
DR. DAVID NOTT, TRAUMA AND HUMANITARIAN SURGEON: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Can I just start by asking you the extraordinary comment and observation that you made, that fighting coronavirus right here in London
in a first world, in major metropolitan city, is worse than what you experienced doing surgery in Syria? Tell me how.
NOTT: Well, I think when you are a war surgeon and working in Syria and you are working in a hospital, you know who your enemy is, really. You know
you`re getting information about the frontlines. You know what attacks are happening. You know what patients are going to come in.
Here, what I felt was that we had an invisible enemy, really, which could strike any of us at any time. And you didn`t know if you were going to get
struck by it or not. And so, everybody, I think, that was working in that - - that is working in the national health service here takes a considerable risk, really, which is, of course, reduced by the amount of PPE that we
wear and so on.
But even still, you know, the amount of people that have died and the amount, you know, of risk that I think that we take, that`s why I said it
was sometimes I felt it was slightly more dangerous working in this environment than it was working in Syria. But of course, the -- go on.
AMANPOUR: Sorry. No, it`s OK. I want to hear what you have to say. But I was interested to hear, you mentioned PPE, because one of the reasons so
many of you doctors and many of the nurses who we have heard from and others on the medical frontlines have actually said that this is their
biggest fear and their biggest worry, that there they are willing to go to work, put themselves on the line to do their and perform the Hippocratic
oath and do their job and save lives and yet, they feel, that actually, they haven`t got all the PPE they need and they`re having to share and
they`re having to, you know, recycle and rewash and reuse the same equipment. Just tell me what you`re seeing and how that strikes you.
NOTT: Well, I have heard that. But where I work in London, and I work in a very major teaching hospital here in Central London, I have not actually
found that. I have found that I have the right FFP3 mask. I have the right visors. I do have the goggles if I want them and the hats and the screens
and the double gloves and the non-permeable gowns. I don`t -- I have never actually come to a problem.
And in fact, the way that we run it here, certainly at our hospital, is we have somebody that helps us put the PPE on. Everybody`s like a family team,
really. We look after each other so significantly that I actually haven`t found that where I`ve been working. So, I think in one respect, I had heard
it across the board, you know, from various hospitals. But certainly, I do not have that experience.
AMANPOUR: Well, I`m really glad to say or hear that you haven`t had that experience. Can I actually ask you just to go back to the war zone again
and tell me what is the risk there to, for instance, in Syria? We are hearing there`s a real risk in some of the areas, some of the areas still
held by the opposition to Bashar al-Assad, that coronavirus, COVID, has started the show up there. What are you hearing and what can one expect if
it takes hold there in that kind of environment?
NOTT: Well, you have, you know, about 2 million people on the border in refugee camps. And not only that, you`ve got 3 million, 4 million people
within the northeast of Syria. And I was speaking to one of my colleagues about two hours ago just to get an update of what was going on there. And I
mean, they are extremely scared of the coronavirus happening because they don`t have -- they have had some tests. They have got about 40 or 50 tests
for 3 million people so far.
One person has been diagnosed as having coronavirus. And that test took two weeks to come back. And by the time the test was back, the patient
unfortunately died. So, it is in fact now in Northern Syria. The big problem, of course, is that it`s been abandoned by the world, really. And
not only that, I understand that -- I thought that there was going to be a cease-fire. But I have heard over the last few days now that the war
started again in Southern Idlib and bombing has started again and so on to make the situation more intolerable for those people.
So, in fact, I think that, you know, they`re in a very -- we can go in, nobody can get the PPE in to help them or nobody can -- has an idea,
really, there`s no great leadership going on around the world to help these people and in many places like refugee camps around the world or other
conflict zones. These people are really, really struggling, I think, and will struggle very hard if the coronavirus hits. Because as it hit in the
United Kingdom, my feeling is that treatment really is not an option in these places because the amount of ventilators that you need, the results
that you have on ventilation are not that good.
The amount of oxygen that`s required in these places, again, we don`t have piped oxygen. We just have some oxygen concentrators. They don`t work on
And I think that treatment is not an option. The most important thing one can do in all these areas, refugee camps around the world or conflict zones
or fragile states, really is prevention. What we need to do is prevent this virus from really hitting them hard.
And that, I think, is the most important thing that anybody can do. And so that`s what I actually think about this whole situation in all these very
AMANPOUR: But I wonder how one prevents it. Look, the U.N. says there`s some 30 million refugees in camps around the world, crowded into these
conditions you have just been talking about.
You mentioned that the call for a global cease-fire by the secretary- general has not been honored, certainly, we know, in Libya, you just mentioned in Syria. We also understand that the Assad regime has prevented
testing getting through to -- deliberately getting through to any of the opposition-held areas.
And so I just you to tell us, because, throughout these wars in whether it`s Yemen or Libya or Syria and elsewhere, actually hospitals and health
facilities have been targeted. That has been targeted by whether it`s Russian or Saudi or whoever it is, including the actors on the ground.
Just tell me what you saw when you were there in that regard.
I mean, there is no doubt that hospitals, health care workers, ambulances have all been directly targeted by the warring factions. The age of
impunity, as David Miliband has said, is there.
People can do things, what they want, and nobody holds anybody to account. And that is the big issue that`s going on at the moment. I mean, I think 50
hospitals in 2019 going into 2020 have been actively targeted by the Russian and Syrian regimes and blown up.
And there are -- there`s documented evidence that this is happening. And, of course, that then leaves you with a very small amount of health care to
provide for millions and millions of people.
So I have always tried to fly the flag constantly for these people and tried to say, well, let`s get a humanitarian negotiating team to go in and
try and discuss with the warring factions to say, look, most of the patients are being targeted are, in fact, civilians. They`re not the
fighting people. It`s just civilians.
Ninety percent of all the injuries I saw in Syria during the war and during now is all to do with civilians. And you have got the problem now of
coronavirus with civilians again.
So, there needs to be somebody, there needs to be a strong leader in this world that really puts his -- puts his mark down and says, look, President
Assad, enough is enough. And you need to protect your own civilians. And you -- and all the warring parties in Libya, in Yemen, somebody needs to be
strong and say, we need a proper world leader really that will contain this.
But we don`t have one, unfortunately.
AMANPOUR: And I even just received, just before going on the air, a sort of a desperate e-mail from Somalia.
In many of these areas, I wanted to say broken, failed states, but certainly really fragile states, there`s a real fear about what might
I want to ask you about the mental toll that it takes on somebody in a war zone. You yourself have spoken about the mental toll of going to Syria and
Yemen and to so many of these places for so long under war, and the PTSD that you have suffered.
So I just want to talk about that and what you`re seeing, if at all, because we have heard stories of so many of the front-line workers, whether
they`re here in the United States or elsewhere, medical workers, really having a hard time with the emotional impact of this calamity that they`re
having to cope with the best they can.
NOTT: Yes, I mean, it doesn`t actually hit you when you`re doing it.
And you know this too, I`m sure. When it hits you is when you`re home in the evenings and when you have done a very long day at work. And, of
course, the problem is here, with the coronavirus, it`s so virulent and it`s so deadly that, of course, you can`t -- when people are dying with
this virus, you can`t talk.
Their family members can`t come in. Often, we spend a lot time talking to family members, about their loved ones, about how it`s going to -- the
death, unfortunately, that will ensue.
And we spend a long time talking to people and trying to get them through this.
Here, you haven`t got that. You have got a telephone conversation with somebody which lasts for a few minutes. And there`s a huge amount of stress
involved on both parties. The stress involved of a doctor trying to be sympathetic to the family takes a huge toll.
And I think that every day the doctors and nurses around the world are struggling with getting their -- coping with their own stress. And the big
problem is, when they go home, sometimes -- most of us live on our own now, because we have sent our families away because we didn`t want to infect
So we feel almost quite alone in this situation. And some days, I don`t speak to anybody. I have a mask on my face, which I have on when I`m
operating, I can`t really hear anybody when I`m operating, because you can`t speak under this mask. It hurts your nose and face.
And it`s very, very stressful. And I think the problem is, is that it`s not the problem at the moment, it`s going to be three or four months down the
line, when, suddenly, people will become extremely depressed, as is what happens to me sometimes when I come back from a war zone.
I`m elated when I come back, because I have survived, but then it hits me about 10 days, two weeks, a month later, and what really happened. And what
you really, really saw really starts to affect you. You start to develop post-traumatic stress. You start seeing things. You can`t sleep.
And I have a -- I am sure that there`s going to be a massive amount of post-traumatic stress, not only for the doctors and nurses and all the
health care workers, the physiotherapists, and so on, but also for the families involved in all this at the end of the day.
There`s going to be a huge amount of mental health care required, I think, at the end of this.
AMANPOUR: Well, I just want to sort of emphasize what you`re saying.
Of course, everybody was quite touched and taken by the American doctor who committed suicide. And you have been asked to sort of make a video PSA, if
you like, an appeal to help NHS workers hear about the mental trauma.
Let`s just play a little bit of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NOTT: When I go to a war zone or a catastrophe area, then I have to put a different head on my shoulders, one that allows me to think in a different
What you`re going to do something completely different to what your normal NHS life was like, and some of the decisions that you have to make will
also be extremely difficult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, the decisions that -- we have heard the terrible sort of triaging decisions that people have to make, who`s going to get a
ventilator, who`s not, in the -- just being slammed by so many patients.
Do you think there is enough care for people like yourself and the others with you who are on the front lines?
NOTT: That`s a very good question, because I think that nobody has been through a mass casualty event like what we have had in this country.
I think the Second World War was the last time we faced anything like this. And some people are saying this is the worst pandemic ever for -- ever in
anybody`s lifetime over 100 years, and we`re all facing it.
And I think what we`re doing is, we`re learning all the time. We`re learning about how to cope with this pandemic. And I think at the moment
that, at the end of the day, there will be a lot of learning that will come about.
And I think that, certainly, from the NHS point of view, from the U.K. point of view, we have a lot of backup support. We have incredible
psychiatrists and psychologists and health care teams and mental health teams that will help us. I have no doubt about that.
But there will be a lot required.
Well, Dr. Nott, thank you very, very much for your unique perspective.
And, of course, we wish the doctor the best of luck as he continues his lifesaving work on the front lines of this crisis and when he goes back to
the war zones.
And now, as the U.S. Treasury begins bailing out businesses across America, it is important to know which companies are getting that money and how it`s
Bharat Ramamurti was the first person named to the congressional oversight commission tasked with policing coronavirus and the corporate relief loans.
He joined contributor Sheelah Kolhatkar to discuss his new role.
SHEELAH KOLHATKAR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CONTRIBUTOR: Bharat Ramamurti, thank you so much for joining us.
BHARAT RAMAMURTI, CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT COMMISSION MEMBER: Sure. Thanks for having me on.
KOLHATKAR: Thirty million Americans have filed for unemployment protection in the last six weeks. That`s 18 percent of the U.S. labor force.
But, at the same time, in the month of April, the stock market went up 13 percent, its highest monthly performance since 1987. What does this say to
RAMAMURTI: Well, it says a lot about the kinds of safety nets that we have in the American government.
So, the program that I and the other members of the Oversight Commission are responsible for overseeing is a program that operates through the
Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve.
And it uses about $500 billion of taxpayer money to support what could be up to $5 trillion in lending to big and medium-sized corporations through
the Federal Reserve.
And so the fact that Congress can operate through the Federal Reserve like that creates an incredible safety net for medium-sized and big
corporations. And the result of that is that you have this trillions of dollars that is being funneled into the hands of corporate executives and
corporate boards, and basically saying to them, you decide how best to use this money.
And if you look back historically at the types of decisions that corporate executives and corporate boards have made over the last 10 or 20 years,
they tend to favor corporate executives and corporate shareholders.
And so I think it`s no surprise that, if the Fed is promising trillions of dollars in taxpayer-subsidized lending into the hands of corporate
executives and corporate boards, that the reaction of the stock market is very positive.
KOLHATKAR: So, you could basically see a large company taking this taxpayer-backstopped loan from the Federal Reserve, laying off or
furloughing workers, telling them to go file for unemployment, also subsidized by the taxpayer, and then using this loan money to pay very
large executive salaries, to buy back its own stock.
So, what is your role in terms of making sure that this does not happen?
RAMAMURTI: The commission that I`m part of is a five-member commission. And what makes it unique is that all five members are appointed by
We are the only oversight body in the legislation that Congress recently passed to respond to the coronavirus crisis that is free from interference
and tampering by the president and by the executive branch.
And, as a result of that, I think we have the opportunity to perform very robust bipartisan oversight of how this money is being used.
The other unique thing about this commission is that our statutory goal is to examine, how is this program affecting the financial well-being of
American families? In other words, it`s not just to look for waste, fraud and abuse, just the kind of oversight you see from other oversight bodies.
We have a very specific mission, which is to ask the broader question, how are the decisions that the Treasury and the Fed making actually affecting
the well-being of American families, the 30 million workers that have been laid off, the families that are struggling with reduced hours or reduced
pay, the families that are struggling to balance child care, while -- and the lack of school, while trying to maintain employment?
Those are the families that we`re supposed to be focused on. And that`s the kind of oversight that we`re supposed to be doing.
KOLHATKAR: Clearly, this kind of oversight is really important during a crisis like this.
Yet we have had many indications from the president that he is not really interested in having his actions at this moment being closely monitored.
He`s already fired one of the inspectors general. He`s appointed a White House lawyer to fill another crucial role.
And he recently said, when he was asked about this: I will be the oversight.
What went through your mind when you heard that comment?
RAMAMURTI: Well, I think that any time you`re talking about literally trillions of dollars in taxpayer money going out the door in relatively
short order, it`s critically important to have a variety of different robust oversight mechanisms for that.
And, as I said before, the key to our Oversight Commission is that it`s independent. It is free from tampering by the executive branch. And the
concern is that, with this much money going out the door, is it being used to help the public interest, or is it being used for political reasons?
Are politically connected companies or industries getting more generous support than other industries or other types of companies?
That`s the kind of corruption that, I think, can undermine support, broad public support for these type of economic recovery programs.
And that`s why I think that there should be broad bipartisan support, whether you`re a Democrat or Republican or independent. You should want
robust oversight of this money, because we need to support a broad-based economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
We are looking at 20 percent unemployment. The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that unemployment, as things stand, will be 10 percent even
at the end of next year.
And so it`s probably critically important that the money that we have already allocated be put to best use. And that`s the role of this Oversight
KOLHATKAR: Your commission doesn`t have subpoena power.
What are the potential ramifications if a company misuses this taxpayer money?
RAMAMURTI: Well, I think step one is making sure that we know the identity of the companies that are getting the money.
Believe it or not, as of a couple of weeks ago, the Federal Reserve had not committed to disclosing the names of the companies that were getting
taxpayer-backed loans through the Fed or the terms on which they were getting that support.
I pushed for robust disclosure of that information. And, thankfully, the Federal Reserve announced a few days ago that they would publish the names
of the companies that are getting support every 30 days. So, that`s step one, is knowing the identity of these companies.
Step two, as you said, is, what do these companies do after they get taxpayer-backed support? And that`s going to take a lot of staff work and a
lot of oversight to monitor what could end up being thousands of companies who are getting taxpayer-backed support through the Federal Reserve.
And the critical question is going to be, are these companies using the money to retain their work force or rehire workers, or are they going to
use that money to provide executive compensation and shareholder bonuses, shareholder buybacks and dividends?
That is going to be a critical factor in whether this money is used ultimately to benefit the financial well-being of American families, or
whether, instead, it`s used to support a narrow slice of the wealthiest families.
KOLHATKAR: It sounds though, like public shaming is the main tool available to the commission in terms of encouraging appropriate behavior on
behalf of these companies.
RAMAMURTI: Your -- that is one tool, to be totally honest, and there are a few others.
And the other thing is that we can work in cooperation with other oversight bodies that do have subpoena power. We can work with state attorneys
general. We can work with federal law enforcement authorities if there is a case for a civil or criminal complaint because of the way that companies
are using this money.
Another critical oversight issue is that Congress said specifically in the bill that this money could not be used to support foreign companies. And it
could not be used to support companies that are owned by members of Congress, members of the executive branch or their families.
So there may be potential violations of those rules as well that we will have to carefully monitor.
KOLHATKAR: It sounds like you`re going to need an investigative team to do that, vast staff to go probing into how these companies are spending this
What kind of staff do you have? What resources do you have available to do this?
RAMAMURTI: Well, at the moment, we have only got four out of the five members of the commission in place. We`re still missing the chair of the
Once the chair is named by Congress, I think we can get to work hiring staff. This was modeled after the 2008 OVERSIGHT COMMISSION that then
Professor Elizabeth Warren chaired. That commission had dozens of staff members, as you said, digging into the details of what was going on at the
Treasury Department at that time.
I hope and assume that we will have a similar level of staffing for this commission. But we haven`t gotten to that point yet, because we`re still
lacking a chair for the commission.
KOLHATKAR: The commission you`re serving on is bipartisan.
You have been very vocal so far in requesting that some conditions be put on some of this Fed-administered money, such as restrictions on stock
buybacks and executive compensation. But, already, one of your fellow members, Pat Toomey, the Republican senator, has said, well, this is not
our job to impose these conditions. The Fed`s role is to comply with the statute.
If Congress had wanted those restrictions in place, it would have been in the statute.
What are your thoughts about this?
RAMAMURTI: Well, respectfully to my colleague, there is a lot of discretion in the law.
And almost every day, the Treasury and the Fed are making decisions about how to use this money that go beyond the exact restrictions and direction
that Congress gave them in the law.
Just the other day, the Federal Reserve announced a series of changes to what it calls its Main Street lending facility. And those changes to the
size of the loan, the maximum loan amount, to the types of companies that are eligible to get that money, to what companies can do with the money,
all of those changes that the Federal Reserve announced weren`t specifically spelled out in the law.
So, part of what the Oversight Commission is going to do is make sure that, where there are specific rules and the law, that those rules are being
followed. But another part of what the Oversight Commission has to do is, where the Treasury and the Fed have broad discretion to decide what to do
with the money, we have to ask the Treasury and the Fed, why are you making those decisions, and what is the ultimate impact of those decisions on the
financial well-being of American families?
That`s why I`m focused on this question about what companies end up doing with the money that we`re giving to them.
KOLHATKAR: You recently expressed some concerns about changes that had been made that seemed to benefit the oil and gas industry.
Can you explain those a little bit?
So, the purpose of this money is to help companies and workers who have been put in a tough position because of the coronavirus crisis and its
effect on the economy.
What it`s not supposed to do is bail out companies that were already in rough shape before coronavirus. And, in many cases, the oil and gas
industry was in very rough shape, was already deeply indebted before the coronavirus crisis hit.
And the concern I have is that certain changes that the Federal Reserve announced the other day, while seemingly technical, lined up almost exactly
with the exact requests that the oil and gas industry had been making to the Federal Reserve.
And, in that sense, we could end up seeing taxpayer-backed loans to oil and gas companies to help them out of a crisis that predated the coronavirus
crisis. And, again, the question that that raises is, is that a good use of the taxpayer money? And is that consistent with the intention of this money
as Congress laid out in the law?
KOLHATKAR: But we don`t want those companies to collapse. I mean, they do employ a lot of people. And, certainly, their argument would be, well, we
want to survive this crisis so we can retain our work force.
RAMAMURTI: Yet, again, the key problem there is, even if you think that the role of this money is to help corporations, regardless of whether they
were in good shape or bad shape before the coronavirus crisis -- and I agree, obviously, all of these companies employ workers and it`s important
that we provide aid to workers -- the issue is that, despite all of the changes that the Federal Reserve announced the other day to make this money
more accessible to the oil and gas industry, one change that they didn`t make is to add any requirement the companies that receive this money
returned workers on payroll or even make an effort to rehire workers that they may have already laid off.
And so I have deep sympathy for the people who work in that industry. If we`re going to provide money to those companies, I agree it should go to
help the workers. My concern is that we seem to be helping the corporations and their creditors, which, in many cases, are banks, rather than the
people who are actually employed by those companies.
KOLHATKAR: I remember, when the CARES Act passed, Democrats in particular made a big deal about how they were going to impose restrictions on how
companies spend the money and that they weren`t going to let corporations use stimulus money to buy back their own shares or pay enormous executive
However, as time has gone on, we have learned that some of the fine print does actually leave a lot of wiggle room.
Were they misrepresenting the situation when this legislation passed back in March?
RAMAMURTI: I think the issue is that, when you`re responding to a crisis, it makes sense to give the agencies that are responsible for administering
the money some flexibility in determining how to use it.
The question, though, is, why are the -- those agencies subsequently making the decisions that they`re making? And are those decisions intended to
support the broader public interest, or are they intended to support particular industries or particularly wealthy individuals?
So I think that the issue here is not what Congress did. The issue is, what are the Fed and the Treasury doing with the authority that Congress
rightfully gave to them? And the Treasury and the Fed have broad authority to make changes to how these programs operate.
And my hope is that they are responsive to the concerns that the Oversight Commission and other advocates and experts are making. And let me just give
you an example. The Federal Reserve announced that it was going to provide lending to state and local governments. And, initially, they said that that
program would only be available to very, very large cities and counties.
And the result was that the 35 cities in America with the highest proportion of black residents were not eligible for that Fed lending
I raised some concerns about it. Several other people raised concerns about it, and the Federal Reserve went back and they revised those terms, so that
much smaller cities would now be eligible, including cities like Atlanta and Detroit and Baltimore, that weren`t previously eligible for that
So it shows that the Federal Reserve is willing to be responsive to some of the criticisms and some of the attempts to improve the operation of its
My hope is that they will also be responsive when it comes to some of the concerns that have been raised about how the money for big business is
being handed out.
KOLHATKAR: Bharat Ramamurti, thanks so much for joining us.
RAMAMURTI: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, accountability is everything.
And, finally, we spoke earlier of the quick and effective response taken by Greece. Other success stories are instructive too.
Here`s a look at them and their leaders.
In the Pacific region, Taiwan and Hong Kong acted early and fast and are now reopening. And New Zealand, which also locked down quickly, is now the
first country to claim it has eliminated the virus. In Europe, Denmark and Norway also quickly locked down and guaranteed workers salaries, while
Germany and Iceland added massive testing.
And this is South Korea`s new hero, the chief medical officer and architect of the nation`s test, trace and isolate strategy that`s become the envy of
the whole world.
None of those leaders said, so what, as their nation`s death toll mounted, or sought to play down the virus and call it a hoax, or, indeed, boasted
about shaking hands with COVID-19 victims on a hospital visit.
Instead, each of these leaders communicated tough stay-at-home/stay-alive messages, combined with empathy, calm, competence, and hard work, and
always, always favoring science over politics.
And that is it for now. Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.