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Democrats Criticizing Current Attorney General, Bill Bar; Politicizing the Department of Justice; Loretta Lynch, Former U.S. Attorney General, is Interviewed About Racial Injustice and America's Justice System; World Still Running Behind in Limiting Global Warning; Census Concern; Interview With Fmr. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). Aired 2-3p ET
Aired September 22, 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORETTA LYNCH, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Everyone must determine, how do I need to vote? What do I need to do? And now is the time to do it. Do I
need to get my mail-in ballot? Do it. Do it today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A rallying cry from former U.S. attorney general, Loretta Lynch, in an exclusive interview.
Then COVID gave the world a chance to fix the climate crisis. Are we wasting it? I'll ask veteran senator, Harry Reid, and teenage activist,
Alexandria Villasenor, as they unite the generations in a new documentary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANSI LO WANG, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Career officials have a flag that they may find serious errors in this data.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Our hair Sreenivasan talks to journalist, Hansi Lo Wang, about the threats to this year's census count.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
From her birth in Greensboro, North Carolina, to rising to becoming America's chief law enforcement officer, Loretta Lynch made history in 2015
as the first black woman to be U.S. attorney general. The rule of law has been central to her remarkable journey to the top. During her career, she's
tackles everything from soccer and FIFA officials, to fraud, terrorism and police violence. All of this makes her really ideally placed to navigate
this particularly turbulent time.
As American's on the streets demand racial justice, a showdown is underway over the Supreme Court and Democrats are criticizing the current attorney
general, Bill Barr, for politicizing the Department of Justice. I asked the former attorney general about the perils and pitfalls she sees ahead at
today's annual CNN's Citizen Forum.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch, welcome to the Citizen Forum.
Can I just first start by asking you about what many Americans are talking about now, and that is the passing of a great legal mind, a trailblazer,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You yourself are a female trailblazer. Just your personal reflections on that and on what it means to the country?
LORETTA LYNCH, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's a tremendous loss to the country and to the legal field. She was a leading light. So much has been
said about her. But I will have to say that one of the ways in which she was most impactful, for women lawyers in particular, was that she never
shied away from how hard it was to balance her family, her children, her profession. She never denied the fact that it was difficult, challenging,
but worth it. But she took that experience and she transposed it across the form of the law and showed how when the law works to make things unequal,
that's when we all have to step in.
So, she didn't just use her personal experience as sort of an inspiring story and try to get everyone to essentially follow her, she used it to
show that there were times when the very structure of our legal system was designed to push people out of equality and make life not only difficult
but fundamentally unfair.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you, you know, because this all comes up in the context of equality, rule of law, democracy, it also comes up in the summer
of discontent over the uprising for racial justice. This talk is about seeking justice, trying to readdress inequality in the United States. You
yourself grew up in North Carolina. You experienced racism yourself. In fact, your mother tells quite an alarming story about a particular high
school test you once took. Can you take that away and just tell us what you were confronted with?
LYNCH: I think she's actually referring to an elementary school test that I took. And after I took the standardized test, I was asked to take it again.
I took the test with everyone else in the room, and then about a few weeks later, I was pulled aside and said, you know, there was some problem with
the paper, it didn't get scored, and I had to take it again. And I took it in a room by myself, which I thought was just odd, but when you're in
fourth grade, you believe what your teacher says.
When I told my mother about this, she became more upset than I had ever seen her, really. And she reached out to friends of hers in the
administration, and they said, well, because I had scored so high on the standardized test, there was a belief that it could not have been my work.
So, they forced me to retake it, and I scored about 10 points higher without the distractions of the other kids.
And that type of unfairness truly bothered my mother. She was an educator, she was a teacher and a librarian, and that kind of overlooking of
potential talent in anyone, which was clearly based on race, particularly in North Carolina in those days, was something that went against everything
that she stood for. And to link it back up to Justice Ginsburg, you know, she also illustrated through her life what it meant to be dismissed because
of her gender.
You know, to think that Ruth Bader Ginsburg could not get a job out of law school. You know, it's unthinkable today, but it was the norm then. To
think that a young black child scoring well on a test wouldn't be celebrated at a time when schools want to have that kind of result for
their children is unthinkable now, but it was very, very common when I was young. And so, you know, we're talking about not just a justice, not just
my own experience, we're talking about what is the fundamental vision of law inequality in this country.
AMANPOUR: Your successor, Attorney General Barr, said in June, I think there is racism in the United States still, but I don't think that the law
enforcement system is systemically racist. Well, clearly this is a huge focus, certainly in the Black Lives Matter Movement and just the ability to
try to make the criminal justice system fair. What is your reaction to that statement from the attorney general?
LYNCH: Yes. You know, I did see that statement, and I think that it's very typical of individuals who, because their life has been one -- has had a
different path than many other people, they have not had to experience racism, they have not had to deal with systemic racism, they're not able to
see it. And, honestly, on a personal matter, that would be fine. But when you are the attorney general of the United States, when you are the leader
of the Department of Justice, the only cabinet agency named for an ideal, an a deal that is about equality, that is about recognizing that everybody
in this country does not have the same experience, I think it's -- honestly, it's tremendously sad and some missed opportunity by the attorney
general to truly understand the people whom he is supposed to, and sworn, to protect.
So, honestly, I was quite disappointed to hear that statement coming from him. Because when you sit in that chair, one of the things you learn early
on is that you have to take into account the experiences of all of the people in this great country. And the reality is, all of them do not
experience justice in the same way that Attorney General Barr did growing up where he did and how he did.
There are a number of people in this country. There are scores of people, even millions of people in this country for whom justice has not been about
pushing them forward. It has been about holding them back. And that's what the law has meant to them.
What I do find heartening, however, Christiane, is the unrest that we've seen over the past few months. Not the violence, let me be clear. The
violence that we've seen that accompanies many of these peaceful protests is not helpful. It does not advance the message of equality, and, in fact,
it gives people further ammunition to push people back and keep them apart. But when people come together and share their lived experience and talk
about how in this country, as great as it is, the justice system still is not serving them, that's an important message and it has to be heard.
AMANPOUR: And it's important to say that all the measurements and all the polls and all the investigations show that a massive proportion, more than
90 percent of the protests, have gone off peacefully and that there has not been violence. So, just to make that clear.
I want to also ask you, because we're going to talk about racism and the election, voter suppression and the like. One of the key issues for the
American people, if not the key issue in this election, is about health, it's about COVID, it's about the management of the coronavirus crisis. As
we know, 200,000 deaths-plus now in the United States. It is the worst death toll in the world.
I want to ask you, again, this is about what Attorney General Barr has said. Comparing COVID lockdowns to slavery. Let me just read this. Putting
a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest
intrusion on civil liberties in American history.
So, I want to know what your response is. Obviously, there wasn't a national lockdown in the United States. But your response to those words
and how it, you know, deals with the idea of the greater good versus individual freedoms.
LYNCH: You know, again, just a tremendous missed opportunity by the attorney general and just -- and, you know, if you want to talk about the
greatest intrusions on civil liberties, I think it's unfortunate that he places health restrictions designed to save lives and keep us safe above,
for example, the in internment of Japanese and Americans during World War II, the atrociousness of Native Americans throughout generations in this
country. I think that those would stand far and above health restrictions designed to save our lives.
And in fact, we have a way to, in fact, ensure our freedoms. Wear a mask, following the CDC guidance, and we will all be able to engage in the
freedoms that we so cherish in terms of our mobility around this country. So, I frankly put no stock in that comment, to be quite honest with you.
And I think if you are talking about the institution of slavery, I find it fascinating that the attorney general recognizes the detrimental nature of
slavery, but for some reason cannot see the badges and incidents that flow today in the form of systemic racism in our society. And, again, I think I
find it fascinating when people who have had a certain kind of background take it upon themselves to define racial issues and racism for those of us
who actually lived that experience and have probably a closer view.
And that's why I think that this, our summer of discontent, as you call it, has been so intense, the combination of those issues. I think it has shown
a light on these issues of inequality for so many people, and it has pulled people into a situation where they might have been able to say, you know,
inequality is an issue that's really limited to racial minorities, it doesn't impact me. Well, the pandemic has really put everyone at the same
level, and I think it's akin to the Civil Rights Movement when we had the exposure through the press of the horrors that were happening in the south
that really opened people's eyes to what it meant to be a marginalized person in our society.
We are seeing that same recognition again today. A lot of it is because of the police violence that we've seen, the video of George Floyd losing his
life in front of all of us, but also seeing the veil of security ripped away from so many Americans, I think, has really opened a number of
people's eyes. And that's why we're at a crossroads in this country. We have to choose what kind of a country do we want to be?
AMANPOUR: OK. So, one of the major, you know, elements of that choice is rule of law, it's shoring up democracy. And, you know, it's something that,
again, certainly from sitting here in the U.K. and watching it from overseas, people are quite -- you know, asking quite a lot of questions
about the commitment of the United States to the rule of law.
And as you know, everybody knows in the United States that Attorney General Barr has been in somewhat under the spotlight recently and accused in some
quarters of politicizing the Justice Department. You obviously held that position for a long, long time. So, let me just do a couple of the things.
Overriding the sentencing recommendations for Trump, President Trump's ally, Roger Stone, directing federal prosecutor's office to withdraw the
government case against Michael Flynn, and taking on President Trump's defense in the legal case of E. Jean Carroll who says the president
sexually assaulted her in the '90s and recently defamed her.
He says -- Attorney General Barr says, no, I'm not politicizing it. It's within my power to be the final arbiter, which it is, according to the
rules. Do you agree that it is within his power? What do you make of the way the Justice Department is being run at the moment in this regard?
LYNCH: You know, I think that one of the views of the Justice Department is there is a tremendous amount of power that has rested in the office of the
attorney general and throughout the Department of Justice. And it needs to be wielded in a way that is responsible and in a way that inspires trust
and respect for the rule of law. That is so easily lost.
And I -- my fear is that while A.G. Barr may be able to look at technical rules and say, well, I'm within my rights, I'm within my power, it's not
just what one does, it's how one does it. You know, how is the Department of Justice being deployed? And if, for example, the attorney general is
going to reach into cases and have an impact, is that done across the board? I think there are a number of individuals who are languishing in
prison today would welcome the attorney general looking at their case and saying, you know, was this sentence too harsh? Were the mandatory minimums
inappropriately applied in my case? Is there a view that there should be a more moderated or modulated way of looking at these types of crimes?
But unfortunately, that's not what we are seeing. We are seeing the attorney general deploy his power in a very focused way. And, frankly, I
think there have been discussions where he's been asked, have you deployed these powers in cases where there were no connection to the president, and
I don't believe that he was able to provide examples for that.
AMANPOUR: So, elections generally determine, as you've said, the direction of the country. There is a massive -- it's more than 60 percent, according
to the latest poll, who believe the country is in the wrong direction right now. But even the election itself, the vote itself, is being undermined by
the administration. President Trump has even floated the idea of having external law enforcement monitors at various, you know, ballot boxes, et
cetera. What is your hope or your nightmare scenario about how this election goes off and how the result will be tabulated and enshrined?
LYNCH: You know, I have a great deal of faith in the American people overall. And it's not to say that our systems are perfect or that this
isn't a tremendously difficult time, perhaps one of the most difficult times in our democracy since the Civil War, when we were deciding, again,
what kind of a country did we want to be, what ideals did we want to advance?
I do think that people are focused on this election in ways in which they have not been in prior elections, and that's on every side of the political
divide. I do think that voting should be open and accessible regardless of party affiliation and regardless of who you vote for. As a country, we need
to ensure that everyone has the ability to vote easily and to vote in a way that's consistent with their beliefs.
And so, I think people are going to be focused on this election, and I believe that they are going to be energized by the issues in this election.
It has touched people's lives in ways that I have not seen, really, in generations. It's what's beyond the issue of just do you believe that black
lives matter, it's do you believe that we all have a fundamental right to equality in this country, to fairness in this country? Do we believe that
we should determine how law enforcement interacts with our citizens in this country, that we can hold people accountable, and yes, still have fairness
in the system?
And so, I have tremendous faith in people, but I do think it's vital that people understand what is at stake in this election and find a way to make
their voice heard at the polls. We have seen voter suppression, really, for generations. We've seen it since the passage of the Voting Rights Act,
Christiane. Since that act was passed, there has been a concerted effort over the years to find a test case to overturn, if not the whole Voting
Rights Act, salient portions of it.
And that's what we saw several years ago in the Shelby County v. Holder case. Opponents -- access to the ballot, had been looking for a test case
for years, and they found it in Shelby County and they were able to eliminate the preclearance requirements where the Department of Justice had
to scrutinize changes in voting in certain states to ensure that they did not impact minorities unfairly.
And as soon as the preclearance section was removed, we saw a raft of state-sanctioned efforts to limit voting, ranging from voter I.D. to
limiting access to the polls. And we see that today. We can never underestimate those who do not want change and do not want to share power
in our country, and we can never underestimate the means to which they will go to try and hold onto power. That is what politics is all about.
And I know that everyone says, I'm not political, and they're not into it, but we have to assess the impact of politics on our daily lives. Everyone
must determine, how do I need to vote? What do I need to do? And now is the time to do it. Do I need to get my mail-in ballot? Do it. Do it today. Do I
need to make sure my registration is up to date? Do it and do it today. Do I need to make sure that I have a way to get to the polls with the
pandemic? Figure it out and figure it out today. Because this is the most important thing that any American ever does, is decide the fate of our
AMANPOUR: On that note, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, thank you so much for joining us.
LYNCH: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, as Governor Gavin Newsom of California says about the wildfires ravaging his state, if you're in denial about climate change,
just come to California. New research shows that despite a fall in emissions during the global lockdowns, the world is still running behind
its already insufficient targets to limit global warming. A new season of "Earth Focus" on southern California's KCET looks at the global politics
swirling around the environment and the climate crisis. Here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five years ago, this was a place that was a couple miners. And it eventually became the hot spot of illegal gold mining in the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we've got a toxic mist of an environmental disaster, social decay and you're left sitting with what looks to be a
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't separate the climate crisis from other socioeconomic problems. The government and the countries have to be held
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, the series features activists from different generations, including my next two guests, 15-year-old, Alexandria Villasenor, became an
activist after witnessing the worst wildfire in California history in 2018. And former Nevada senator, Harry Reid, former Senate majority leader made
environment a focus of his decades-long career. And they are both joining me now.
Welcome to the program.
I'm just going to say it. You are an unlikely couple, but I'm really interested in getting your generational views of this big, big issue.
Senator Reid, I don't think many people associate your decades-long career in politics with the climate. What is it that brought you -- or how would
you reflect on your career in politics and the climate?
FMR. SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): When we ever -- my papers to the University of Nevada, an archivist came back a few months later said, it's remarkable.
Over half of the papers deal with the environment. And so, I look back, I spent a lot of time dealing with the environment. I felt strongly from the
time I was a little boy when I watched a place that was close to my hometown of Searchlight. It was a paradise. There was water, there was lily
ponds, big trees.
After I finished college and law school and went back to look at it, it had been trashed, trees burned down. An old fort built during 1864 to protect
the mail routes to California, they had knocked down the fort. So, I have been someone since then who has been interested in the environment in many
For example, in Nevada, Nevada is the most mountainous state in the union except for Alaska. 362 separate mountain ranges. We have 32 mountains over
11,000 feet high. We have a 14,000-foot mountain. So, I am really interested in the environment, and that's why when I was elected to
Congress, we had a few thousand acres of wilderness, now we have 5 million acres of wilderness.
What is wilderness? It's leaving the land in the way it was when earth was created. No mechanized vehicles could come on that land, and I am happy I
was able to do that. I have it in Nevada. We have a mountain -- we have this called basin range which is almost a million acres of protected land
that President Obama did. We have another national monument really close to Las Vegas to keep people away from a national treasure we have there
dealing with petroglyphs. So, the environment to me has been very, very important to my -- in my career.
AMANPOUR: OK. I'm going to ask your co-star in this series, your co- activist in this series, Alexandria Villasenor. You know, what do you say to someone in Senator Reid's generation? You are a young activist and you
came at it as a young girl, and many in your generation have harsh words for us and for our, you know, forebearers in terms of how we're leaving the
earth and the climate for you. What brought you to this, an what about this cross-generational bridge?
ALEXANDRIA VILLASENOR, CLIMATE EMERGENCY ACTIVIST: My activism actually started out of my experience with the Paradise Fire back in 2018. My home
community experienced that fire. And after that, I joined Greta Thunberg in the Fridays for Future Movement, and I started a weekly climate strike in
front of the United Nation's headquarters that went from December of 2018 all the way up until the pandemic.
Now, though, looking at what's happening on the West Coast, it's even more important to be an activist, because climate change is here and the West
Coast fires have drastically exceeded what occurred in 2018. So, we are already seeing the effects of the climate crisis.
Unfortunately, the generation that will be most impacted by the climate crisis yet, we can't vote, and I'm only 15, so I have seven more years
until I can vote. So, I'm worried by the time my generation can vote, it will be too late, because we are already seeing the drastic effects of the
climate crisis. Because after decades of inaction, it's also become clear to us that older generations have become complacent, and young people have
to force the conversation about climate change. That's why it's important for us all to take these different actions to make our voices heard right
AMANPOUR: So, let me throw it back to you, Senator Reid. You know, she can't vote yet, people like her are really concerned about this. Climate
has been a big, big political issue for young people for a long time. You know, from your experience, your long and, I mean, I don't know, grizzled
experience trying to get this through politics where it actually matters, what would think -- where do you think we're headed? Because any number of
people, any number of states, any number of cities can take climate action, which they do. But without big government buying into it as well, how far
can one get to save the world for people like Alexandria?
REID: I gave speeches on and off the Senate floor. And I would say people are going to look back at us and say, what were you doing? I mean, we still
have many, many coal-fired powerplants in America. Get rid of them. We don't need coal. It's a thing of the past, yet we have a president whose --
every place he goes, he trumps -- I guess that's a play on words -- but he talks about the importance of coal. The importance of coal is just ruining
our environment. We have to get away from fossil fuels. And young people are driving this.
Alexandria, I am so proud of you and those young people who feel this more than anyone else, because you're going to feel the detriment that's taken
place in our country. What we all need to do is look at the worst fires in California. We look at the -- we have four major storms developing in the
Atlantic as we speak. That's never happened before. So, keep it up. It's up to you young folks to make sure that you don't let up or take your foot off
the gas. Push.
AMANPOUR: Well, that is really exceptional advice, and the thing is, Alexandria, that you guys have been doing that. I mean, the Greta Thunberg
school strikes for the climate, I think you were inspired by her as well. And if I'm not mistaken, you have filed a complaint with United Nations
against powerful countries that have not met their targets and their pledges. Tell me a little bit about that.
VILLASENOR: Yes, so actually, as of yesterday, it's the one-year anniversary of a complaint that I am a part of. And so, the complaint was
filed to the committee on the rights of the child by myself, Greta Thunberg, and 14 other children from all around the world. And what we're
saying is that five countries are violating our rights as children by their inaction on the climate crisis. And so, those countries are Argentina,
Brazil, Germany, Turkey and France.
So, the reason why it were those countries, some people say, well, why not the United States? Well, the United States did not ratify the rights of the
child. And so, this complaint is also bringing attention to what countries are committed to actually upholding these rights. And so, the reason why I
think that this illegal action is very important is because it shows we are holding all these powerful countries accountable. And so, legal actions,
I'm seeing so much more young people are standing up and doing this, because they see what's happening to our planet, and it's unfair that we
are being given this.
And so, we are seeing lawsuits by children in Canada and Mexico, and now, there's even a Portuguese lawsuit by six children who have taken their
fight to the European Commission on Human Rights. So, young people are rising up and really demanding action from all different sectors of our
society. And legal actions is what remain -- is what we're focusing on with this.
AMANPOUR: You know, it is very exciting the way you put it. I just want to ask you, because I know -- I think you were born and raised in California
and now you live in New York. Is that because -- I mean, did your family move because of health and pollution issues?
VILLASENOR: Actually, so I was born and raised in Northern California, but in 2018, I ended up moving to New York City while my mom pursued her
master's. But I still go back and forth quite a bit. I was actually in California at the beginning of the pandemic. And so, my whole climate story
started because of California's wildfires. And my climate story happened in 2018 after the campfire, and it feels like we are seeing a repeat of
history with so much -- with all of these environmentally fueled climate change disasters.
And so, one thing that I have been really paying attention to, I ended up having to come to New York City, actually, the past couple weeks I ended
upcoming ko back here after being in California because I was sheltering there. But after this week's -- with the recent fires, it was more safe to
be here. And it's so upsetting because people in California, with these fires, they don't know how to keep themselves safe. We don't have enough
information with how to keep ourselves safe from -- when these disasters strike.
And so, for example, I saw people going outside without the right mask to keep out the smoke particles and that can cause health issues in the
future. If you don't keep yourself safe from this smoke, the fires are seeking people's homes. People don't know how to seal up their homes to
keep themselves safe.
AMANPOUR: Right. Right.
VILLASENOR: And so we're seeing the effects of the climate crisis, because it's not just a climate crisis. It's not -- there is just not enough public
health information. So, this is a health crisis as well, as well when it comes to climate change.
AMANPOUR: Yes. It's terrifying to see the pictures.
AMANPOUR: Sorry, Senator Reid. Go ahead.
REID: Here in Nevada, where I live, it rained for the first time in 137 days.
REID: And, usually, when it rains in that desert, you get this smell that's so stunningly unique, but not now.
In this beautiful rain, you didn't smell that desert rain. You smelled smoke. So, it really, really put a damper on enjoying a rain that we had,
the first one in 137 days.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you also, Senator Reid, about the Green New Deal, Green New Deal as proposed by the progressives in Congress and what you, I
think, have referred to or people have referred to your activism as lower- case green new deal.
In other words, you have dealt with it as a matter of practicing pragmatism. Can you explain how you managed to get the changes that you
achieved, get them through in many times a partisan political atmosphere?
REID: Well, they came about in a number of different ways.
On occasion, I had to be really hard. In fact, one time, it was 2:00 in the morning, and I was really upset. So, I woke up my negotiator on the big
omnibus bill we were going to do. And I told him, when you meet with McConnell in the morning, you tell him, I get 10 -- I get renewable tax
credits for solar, or I won't sign on a deal, and we will get no omnibus spending bill.
And we got it done that way. Sometimes, you have to throw your elbows around a little bit. Other times, you have to work with everyone else and
try to do it a different way.
But there is no single way, in my opinion, that I was able to get some things done for the environment. I'm very happy with what we have been able
to do with protecting the environment. It's just something that is important to my children, my grandchildren, and their children.
AMANPOUR: And do you think -- I mean, Vice President Biden has made the climate, with his $2 trillion proposals for it, front and center of his
election campaign, obviously, health and health care as well, COVID management.
Do you think that's going to be possible? Are we going to see -- let's say there is a President Biden ahead, perhaps a Congress that will be, I don't
know, Democratic. Do you think that it's possible to move this political ball along in an accelerated fashion?
REID: I think it's going to be a change election. I believe that Biden will be elected, a nice margin. Pelosi will build upon her margin that she
has in the House, and we're going to retake the Senate.
We're going to win Colorado, Montana, Maine, North Carolina. We have a real good shot at one seat in Georgia. We're going to win in Arizona. As we
speak, we're ahead in Iowa. We're going to pick up seats we need to have a majority in the Senate. We do that, we have got a Democratic president,
Pelosi in the House, and we have got Democratic majority in the Senate.
It's the time to do some really stunningly important things. And one of the things they're going to have to take a look at -- I don't want to get too
far into the weeds, but as to when we get rid of the filibuster.
The filibuster, it's not a question of if it's going to be gone. It's only when it's going to be gone.
AMANPOUR: But can I just ask you, since you raise filibusters, it's a little bit controversial, because, as we talk about the nomination
potentially happening very, very soon for the Supreme Court, there are some who say, maybe you removing that filibuster sort of led to this ability of
the majority just to have 50 plus one, I think it is, to get their nominee through.
Do you regret that?
REID: I'm so glad you brought this up.
During Biden's -- I'm sorry -- Obama's first term, first Congress, they filibustered everything. They filibustered for the first time in the
history of the country the secretary of the defense. They made it so that the National Labor Relations Board could not have a quorum, they couldn't
have a meeting.
Biden -- I'm sorry -- Obama could not get...
REID: He could not get his Cabinet, sub-Cabinet officers built.
The D.C. Circuit, that's the most -- second most important court next to the Supreme Court, had seven vacancies. So, had I not done what had been
done times before, changed the rules with a simple majority vote, Obama would not have gotten his Cabinet officers, we wouldn't have taken care of
the D.C. Circuit, the National Labor Relations Board.
We were able to have the Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, we passed because of that. We passed the most significant change in the history of
Wall Street, in the history of the country, with the Dodd-Frank legislation.
So, I'm glad you brought it up. It was one of the most important things done for the country, and I'm glad I did it a thousand times over.
AMANPOUR: All right.
Let me ask Alexandria now, because I wanted to play a little clip from the doc. And this is about a couple of your fellow activists talking about
their specific challenges. And it's from places like Litokne Kabua, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Carl Smith in Alaska.
Here we go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LITOKNE KABUA, YOUTH CLIMATE ACTIVIST: The waves came, and then they removed the piece of land that used to be over here.
So, over here was what used to be our outside bathroom, and then it was knocked away.
CARL SMITH, YOUTH CLIMATE ACTIVIST: The permafrost is defrosting, and it's not hard enough for the waves to hit. And, usually, when the waves hit, it
just bounces off and it doesn't erode. Nowadays, it's just too soft and it's just breaking down the dirt on our land.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Alexandria, I know there is a lot of work ahead, there is a lot of bleakness out there, but there's also you and the activists. Are you
VILLASENOR: I think that optimism is definitely a main motivator behind what we do.
Young people in this past couple months during the pandemic have really come together even more than we have. We have reflected, and now we're
using social media, and we're organizing, and we're making up new ways of taking action than what's -- what we have done before.
See, we had planned to use more online organizing in this movement using different platforms. You're going to see more young people using TikTok to
their advantage like what they did with the Tulsa rally.
And so, as well, we're going online to using more education and educating each other with environmental justice and equitable solutions, continuing
to push the media accurately on the climate crisis to make sure that, when they cover disasters like the California wildfires, they mention climate
change, because that is a climate-fueled wildfire.
And so we are going to continue doing more legal actions as well. We are not going to stop until we make our voices heard.
AMANPOUR: All right.
VILLASENOR: I think that what gives me the most hope is seeing our actions and us coming together as this global movement of young people.
AMANPOUR: OK. Well, it's great to hear you say that and your commitment and your optimism.
Alexandria, thank you so much.
Senator Harry Reid, thank you very much, indeed.
And Senator Reid's documentary "The New West and the Politics of the Environment" airs next Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. Pacific time on KCET and in
October on PBS stations nationwide. That's where that'll be. You can see all the episodes of "Earth Focus" on the PBS app.
We turn now to another pressing issue, though, with long-term consequences, the United States census.
Each decade, the census attempts to count every person living in America and its five territories. That data then influences everything from voting
districts to how many Electoral College votes a state gets to where federal funding goes.
President Trump has long pushed to include a citizenship question in the census, which would effectively exclude undocumented migrants from the
count. That directive was rejected by the lower courts.
But, today, the administration has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider.
Hansi Lo Wang is a national correspondent for NPR who reports on the people, power and the money behind the census.
And here he is speaking to our Hari Sreenivasan about the importance of this 2020 count.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Christiane.
Hansi, just so we have an overall importance of the census. I mean, sometimes people say, well, why is this discussion even happening? What are
the consequences? What happens after an official census count?
HANSI LO WANG, NPR: What happens is, the country decides how it distributes, redistributes power and money for the next 10 yours,
specifically, how many seats in the U.S. House of Representatives -- there's 435 seats -- how many seats each state gets for the next decade.
That's dependent upon the latest state population counts that are determined by the U.S. census. That's number one. And then that also has a
direct impact on how many Electoral College votes each state gets for the upcoming, not the one in November, but the one after that, presidential
election, and the one after that.
Two presidential elections, the power that each voter has in determining who is the next president, that is determined by these census numbers. And
beyond that, in 2021, states have to redraw voting districts, those political maps that determine what voting districts representatives, all
the way down to school board members have -- what districts they represent for the next 10 years.
That's supposed to happen next year. That's based upon the census numbers, and money. There is a lot of money at stake here; $1.5 trillion a year are
distributed -- this is federal funding, federal tax dollars -- are distributed based in part on the population counts, and this is funding for
Medicare, for Medicaid, for other public services, including roads, schools.
It's really hard to overstate how influential these -- this set of numbers is.
SREENIVASAN: Now, it takes a long time to count every person in the United States. How long has this count been going? Where are we at in that
LO WANG: This count officially started in January.
I was in the Alaskan fishing village where it started, Toksook Bay, southeast coast, southeastern coast of Alaska. And it traditionally starts
in the most remote places of Alaska. That's the best time to try to find folks and make sure they're home and they can be counted.
And the count then continues on for a good part of the year. Because of the pandemic, that has been extended. This count was supposed to end, the
counting, end of July. The Trump administration then pushed it back to originally the end of October. Now it's set to end a month early because a
change the Trump administration has made at the last minute end of September.
And so it's the greater part of the year at this point because of the pandemic, because, as you said, it is a hard job trying to count every
person living in the country.
SREENIVASAN: Now, you just wrote a story recently looking at internal e- mails.
And one of the e-mails points out, from career staffers, basically, we need all the extra time that you guys extended. Don't make it shorter.
LO WANG: This is a career official saying they really need every single minute that was part of this extended schedule that the Trump
administration originally approved and asked Congress for support for. This is back in April, a month after the coronavirus pandemic was declared a
national emergency by President Trump.
President Trump publicly supported it. And for more than three months, the Census Bureau has been operating as if it had this extended schedule to
continue counting through October 31, and not have to deliver that -- those first set of results until next year, 2021.
But, at this point, Congress has not passed any laws extending that reporting deadline. And so December 31 is the deadline that the Census
Bureau has, is working towards right now to try to get those latest state population counts.
But there's this tension here that, internally, Census Bureau officials have been really concerned that this shortened time period, that this --
having to meet that December 31 deadline means that one of these -- these internal documents say fatal errors, fatal problems with the data quality,
that they could possibly produce results that would be deemed unacceptable for use, that they could be so inaccurate that researchers, local and state
governments, may file lawsuits, may raise enough concerns that it could really jeopardize all the processes that happen after the census, the
reapportioning of congressional seats, the redrawing of voting districts, as well as all the other uses of this really influential data.
SREENIVASAN: When you talk about data accuracy, it seems that there's always almost this ecosystem of academics and researchers that all rely on
But how do we double-check to make sure, how do we error-correct, so to speak, and where is that process this year?
LO WANG: Well, the Census Bureau always has these months built into their schedule. After the counting ends, the census is really not over. The
public doesn't see door-knockers anymore after the counting is finished.
But there's a lot of work happening at the Census Bureau headquarters, and as well as other processing centers. They are going through these results,
all the results that they have collected. Some of them are duplicate responses, because people may have forgotten that they already filled out
the census online and fill it out again, or maybe you have so counted in multiple households.
These are all very frequently seen scenarios that the Census Bureau tries to find and try to correct for. And the Census Bureau originally had about
between five and six months to do this, under this extended schedule that it was working under.
Right now, under the shortened schedule the Trump administration has ordered it to follow, just about three months. And the concern here is that
internally, the Census Bureau career officials have flagged that they may find serious errors in this data.
After the counting is finished, they go through these results, they might find serious problems, and not have enough time to fix them. And so we may
have to be living with a count, a set of numbers that have potentially serious errors for the next decade.
SREENIVASAN: So, how many states are on track vs. who are not? I don't know which number is bigger.
LO WANG: Right now, the latest numbers that I have seen, that you only have three states that have hit a goal mark that the Census Bureau has set,
which 99 percent of housing units enumerated. That's the goal that they have set for every state as a marker of accuracy and of quality.
And, so far, the latest numbers I have seen, only three states have hit that mark.
SREENIVASAN: Who is most affected by the undercounting?
LO WANG: Most affected are people of color, are immigrants, renters, rural residents, young children under the age of 5. These are all historically
undercounted groups that, decade after decade, the U.S. census has not had accurate numbers of.
And this is based upon the Census Bureau's own research, where they send out teams to figure out, what is the undercount for these different groups?
And it has found that there has been this persistent problem that the population numbers that the Census Bureau collects each decade
overrepresents white people and underrepresents black people, Latinx people, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, American Indians.
This is a persistent problem. And it has major implications on who gets political representation and who gets federal funding, who gets what share
of that is distributed, and whether or not that is done in a fair way, based upon the actual population of the country.
SREENIVASAN: In addition to the pandemic, we have also got in parts of the country hurricane after tropical storm after hurricane, and then another
part of the country, we have got wildfires. You have got people moving all about during this period.
We have got people who've stayed in the same place since March, and they might not have gotten their census envelope in the mail to fill out or gone
online to do it yet, right?
I mean, how does the census correct for all of that in basically an additional, what, we have just a little more than a week left?
LO WANG: This is the major challenge facing the Census Bureau right now. The time is running out, based on this current schedule.
And these are all scenarios that really are keeping a lot of Census Bureau workers up at night, because they're very -- some of them are very hard to
try to work around. One major looming issue is, in the middle of this historic hurricane season, as well as these devastating wildfires hitting
the West -- in and along the West Coast right now, these could potentially develop into showstoppers in certain areas, meaning that in-person counting
cannot take place possibly in these areas, at a time when the Census Bureau is actually about to roll out a really major part of operations.
This is a counting of people experiencing homelessness, something that was supposed to happen in late March, the first day of April, has been pushed
back because of the pandemic. And there's only one slot to do that, according to the current schedule. It's this week, for three days, just
before the census counting is supposed to end.
So, if there are any major storms, any major conditions because of wildfires, for example, that may prevent the counting of people
experiencing homelessness, that could really raise a serious, serious conundrum for the Census Bureau.
How do they reschedule that, given this very short time frame that they have?
SREENIVASAN: So what's the role of the administration been in all of this? You have been following this for several months now.
There were -- there was this sort of debate over whether or not the citizenship question should be included. It was decided that it was not
going to be included, but there's still a lawsuit pending. Explain that to us.
LO WANG: There are multiple lawsuits pending.
I have become a legal reporter on this census piece. The administration has made a number of decisions that have been challenged in the courts. Like
you mentioned, the courts have decided, the Supreme Court has decided it cannot add a question about U.S. citizenship status to the forms. That's
generated a lot of attention.
There are lawsuits over the Trump administration's decision to abandon its extended timeline for the census and to shorten it, to end counting a month
early. We will see how those play out. There are hearings scheduled for this week.
And then there are another set of lawsuits I'm tracking. And they have they have to do with a presidential memo that President Trump issued in late
July. It's a memo that has since been blocked by a three-judge court in New York. But there are other legal battles going on.
This is a memo that is calling for unauthorized immigrants to be excluded, not from the census in general, but specifically from the numbers used to
determine how many seats in the House of Representatives each state gets, what's known as the apportionment count.
And this memo is being issued despite the 14th Amendment's requirement. The 14th Amendment the Constitution requires that count include the whole
number of persons in each state.
But the Trump administration says that they want to exclude unauthorized immigrants from that number. And they are planning to appeal this ruling,
this latest ruling from the New York court, three-judge panel in New York, all the way to the Supreme Court.
So, this is going to be ongoing litigation that'll be happening in the final -- certainly the final weeks of the census counting and through the
end of the year, likely.
SREENIVASAN: So, if I'm understanding this correct, the Trump administration's argument is that you should not -- if you're not -- if
you're not a legal resident of this country, you should not count in the number of representatives from your state, you are a person, but you
shouldn't be a citizen and count towards that larger number?
LO WANG: It's a little bit more nuanced than that.
The Trump administration -- again, to be very clear, the census is still counting every person living in the country, regardless of citizenship
status, regardless of immigration status. That is still happening.
The Trump administration is making an argument that the president has discretion to determine who is included specifically in this count that
determines how many seats in the House of Representatives each state gets.
But a three judge court in New York has ruled that this has not really been a topic really for discussion, that the Constitution, the 14th Amendment,
says the whole number of persons in each state. Congress has passed laws related to that requirement set up in the Constitution to say the president
has to hand over essentially the total population, the whole number of persons in each state, as determined by the census, to Congress, so that
Congress can carry on that process for determining how many seats in Congress each state gets.
And, ultimately, the president plays a limited role in this process.
One thing I do want to point out here is that the Trump administration has said they haven't figured out a way yet how to do that, how to exclude
unauthorized immigrants from the census count. And experts that I have talked to, census experts, say there is no -- practically speaking, there
is no legal way to do that.
The reason is, because the census form does not include any question about a person's immigration status. So, the Census Bureau ultimately has to
create a set of estimates, and will have to use statistical sampling, which the Supreme Court has already ruled cannot be used when we're talking about
the count used to reapportion seats in Congress.
SREENIVASAN: So, regarding the influence of the administration, in all the documents and the e-mails that are becoming public as part of these
lawsuits, and that, really, you're one of the few people on the planet who's probably read them all, is there a direct line between the White
House and the people at the Census Bureau, any influence, any phrases that have been left out or highlighted?
LO WANG: Well, I think one thing to keep in mind here is that the Census Bureau is made up of predominantly career professionals.
But there are specific roles at the Census Bureau that are political appointments.
And what's interesting is that the Trump administration has recently appointed three new positions at the Census Bureau, including two brand-new
deputy director positions that have not been -- that didn't exist before, and have raised concerns amongst not only Democratic lawmakers, but
professional associations of statisticians, economists, demographers, all major groups of researchers to academics, who rely on this information from
the Census Bureau, and are really concerned that the administration has put in place appointees, that their qualifications are unclear.
And it's unclear exactly what their roles are. And, at this point, I haven't found any specific e-mails from these appointees. They recently
just joined over the past few months. But there are a lot of concerns surrounding what influence they may try to have on this process that is
already ongoing in the last stages of conducting this count.
SREENIVASAN: Hansi Lo Wang from NPR, thanks so much for joining us.
LO WANG: You're welcome, Hari.
AMANPOUR: Wood Kafkaesque sound too strong?
That's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.