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Trump and Biden Campaigns Blitzing Key Swing States; Major Stress Test to Democracy; Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute, Contributing Editor, The Atlantic, and Heather Cox Richardson, History Professor, Boston College, are Interviewed About 2020 Presidential Election and American Politics; How Our Species is Faring During Current Existential Crises; Yuval Noah Harari, Author, "Sapiens: A Graphic History," is Interviewed About his Book, "Sapiens: The Graphic History"; Economic Impact Of COVID-19 Pandemic; Biden's Effort To Reunite Migrants Parents And Children Separated By Trump Zero Tolerance Policy. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired October 30, 2020 - 15:00:00 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)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We literally are going to change the course of this country for generations to come.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to win four more years in the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What kind of America will emerge from this election? Political scientist, Norm Ornstein, and historian, Heather Cox Richardson, discuss
this major stress test.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YUVAL NOAH HARARI, AUTHOR, "SAPIENS: A GRAPHIC HISTORY": I think there is a real danger that if we don't have a kind of global safety net, some
countries might entirely collapse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Humans have survived and succeeded because of cooperation unique to our species. But is this fraying? Some graphic lessons from Yuval Noah
Harari, the best-selling author of "Sapiens."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIDGET CAMBIA, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: The cost of incarceration is so high. Why would we imprison 50,000 people that pose no danger to the United
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Immigration rights attorney, Bridget Cambria, tells our Hari Sreenivasan how the U.S. flouts the law on asylum seekers.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Both the Trump and Biden campaigns are blitzing key swing states, each visiting three different states today alone for votes on election day. But
both are also lawyering up for a battle that might start the day after amid reports of voter suppression and intimidation, fears of violence, fears
about all the votes being counted, fears about the loser refusing that tradition, the concession speech, signaling the peaceful transfer of power.
Some 85 million people have voted early, signaling turnout could be the highest in way over a century, in a nation that is more divided than at any
time in way over a century. Norm Ornstein joins me now, he's the resident scholar at the Center Right American Enterprise Institute, also with us is
Heather Cox Richardson, she's a history professor at Boston College, and she's also behind the highly influential, "Letters from an American."
Welcome both of you to the program.
So, I want to ask you first about the stress test to democracy as we just laid it out. Norm, you've been following this for practically all your
career. The basic casting of doubt on the integrity of an American election, how can America overcome this? Do you think the fears are going
to be born out or do you think it is going to be a normal election in the end?
NORM ORNSTEIN, RESIDENT SCHOLAR, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I'm a little worried, Christiane. Let me say as a stress test, this is one like a
patient with many clogged arteries. The American election system is unique among the established democracies and not in a good way. As a general
matter, our elections are decentralized, they're underfunded, our partisan election officials make us unique in a different way, it is like having a
football match or the world cup where the referees own a part of one of the teams.
We have state legislatures that govern elections in the different states that themselves are highly partisan and often tilt the scales towards one
party or the other, thanks in part to their partisan gerrymandering, and we have a problem with turnout because our system, unlike so many others,
makes it hard for people to vote to begin with. And now, we have courts that have been stacked through the course of the Trump administration that
are themselves putting a thumb on the scales to make it harder for people to vote.
So, heading into the election, the good news is so many people that have voted early, one part of the bad news is we're seeing courts that may
disallow a number of those votes and a president, of course, who is trying to say that the votes that are cast early at the polls, and early voting or
by mail, are themselves corrupt. This is a real challenge and the only thing that could overcome it is a landslide kind of victory where there are
no questions and the votes that are disallowed won't matter so much.
AMANPOUR: Landslide, that is a high bar in order to try to get through what should be a normal democratic election in the world's biggest democracy.
Heather Cox Richardson, you've written about yourself, I'm a history professor interested in the contrast between image and reality in American
politics. I believe in the American democracy, despite its frequent failures. You also write, you know, "Letters from an American. What do you
observe, particularly, you know, in your -- amongst your students and younger people about this election as a stress test?
HEATHER COX RICHARDSON, HISTORY PROFESSOR, BOSTON COLLEGE: What Norm is concerned about it, I'm going to give you the other side, and that's that,
yes, this is a terribly stressful time in America, and, yes, democracy is being tested. But one of the things that is really remarkable about this
particular moment is how many people are recognizing that democracy is not a spectator sport, and they're showing up to vote early, they're showing up
to vote by mail, they're tracing their ballots. And more than that, they're taking back the public conversation.
And from where it has been really for a generation or maybe even two now since the Reagan administration to the present and you see people talking
about what they want from their government and what it means to be an American and how this is an inclusive country and that's what they want
back. So, for all that we're in a period that is unsettling and we're -- there are so many marks against us right now, there is also this flowering
of democracy that we really haven't seen in America since the era of World War II.
AMANPOUR: That is really interesting context to put it in. And you're right, we don't often concentrate and focus on that side of it. But let me
ask you both, and I'll ask you, Norm, first, the issue of winning the popular vote, and yet not winning the -- sorry, losing the popular vote,
winning the Electoral College, and basically becoming a leader who does not have the majority, that's happened twice in the last 20 years, Norm, and
before that it was maybe once in -- you know, since the 1800s. It is happening a lot. And what does that say to people about actually being
ORNSTEIN: So, Donald Trump possess a unique challenge, at least in our lifetimes and I think going back much further, as a figure pushing us
towards autocracy and kleptocracy. But we have challenges, structural challenges in the political system here, a core one of which you've just
You know, when the framers created our constitution, gave a lot of authority to states, small ones especially. The racial population between
the smallest and the largest was about 12 to 1. Now, it is over 70 to 1, a sobering number by 2,040, 70 percent of Americans will live in just 15 of
our 50 states. 50 percent will live in only 8 of those states, and that means that the Electoral College will increasingly be skewed. The first
time we saw this happen, the winner of the popular vote losing the presidency, was 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote by half a million.
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 by just about 3 million.
I can weave a scenario, I don't think it will happen this time, but it could, where Donald Trump could lose the popular vote by 6 or 7 million and
still eke out a victory in the Electoral College. That means, increasingly, people will see their votes as not counting and the system as illegitimate.
And think about this, by 2040, 30 percent of Americans will elect 70 of our 100 senators and that 30 percent coming from the smaller and more rural
states, not representative of the diversity of the country or its economic dynamism. We have real stresses to the legitimacy of the political system
that go beyond the uniqueness of this 2020 election.
AMANPOUR: Is there any chance of it being abolished? People have talked about it. It has been attempted in the past and it's never happened.
ORNSTEIN: You know, we have a movement under way, one that would try to bypass the requirement of a constitutional amendment by getting enough
states that represent a majority of the Electoral College to pass laws saying that once they get over that majority, then they will direct their
electors to vote for the winner of the popular vote. We now have over 200 of the 270 required in states that have done this, but it gets harder and
It is not likely to change for a significant period of time, one way it could change is if in a new democratic Congress with a Democratic president
they add states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, maybe the U.S. Virgin Islands, which would change to some small degree the Electoral
College balance, they could also add many seats to the House of Representatives which hasn't been enlarged in size since 1929, since 1910,
actually, and by doing so, because the electors are chosen by state, it is one for each of the representatives, and two for the senators, they could
change the balance a little bit there. But those are long shots right now. And we're going to have to find a different way of making sure we just
don't get into a situation where people feel like they vote and their vote choices are not taken into account.
AMANPOUR: Heather, I want to read you a couple of rather troubling things. I started out by saying people are worried about violence, people are
worried whether their votes are going to be counted, how long it is, you know, permissible to count votes, when they have to be in, et cetera, et
cetera. The International Crisis Group, which is, you know, a global NGO looking around the world, not usually, you know, at the heart of democracy,
for election shenanigans, has basically said, the 2020 U.S. presidential election presents risks not seen in recent history. It is conceivable that
violence could erupt during voting or protracted ballot counts.
Again, do you foresee that? What are you hearing from students who presumably have to go out and try to brave what have been kind of threats
to election day?
RICHARDSON: Well, remember, first of all, that our students are basically locked into their rooms, so I'm not hearing a lot from students who are
concerned about what is happening on the streets. But is there going to be violence? I would say almost certainly. But let me put that into some kind
of context. First of all, Americans have violence over even things like winning the World Series, and, you know, Columbus Day or Halloween creates
parades that always create violence.
One of the things that is happening right now is the construction of a reality through the use of words, the idea on the part of Trump and his
supporters, for example, to urge the idea that there is going to be violence. And is it going to happen? Yes, I suspect there will be some.
Will it be, you know, a civil war? No. No, I really don't think that's the case.
But I think it is important to put -- point back to what Norm just said, and that is that we are -- what is the real stress for our democracy is
that we are in a moment where our mechanics don't meet the reality of democracy. It is not simply the Electoral College, but also the Senate, and
the Supreme Court, and many ways in which people feel like the government is not actually representing a majority of the American people.
Now, this has happened before, and when it does, we fix the system. And, yes, it does look like it will be difficult right now, but, for example,
the Electoral College since 1800 has not worked the way the framers set it up. It was supposed to be representational by district, and Thomas
Jefferson instituted the winner take all system, and the other framers thought this was appalling. I mean, there are many ways we could go back
and reclaim the system the way it was supposed to be and we are long overdue for constitutional amendments, which tend to happen in waves and it
has been a very long time since we had them.
So, I think we're looking at a major change in the American system, but I don't personally think it is an irretrievable kind of situation where we're
going to look at a change that will take us downhill. I think it is equally possible and perhaps even more possible in if you look at our history that
we're going to be recreating something that is newer and better.
AMANPOUR: That's a good optimistic point. I want to ask therefore, Norm again, because you've -- you know, you've been quite concerned particularly
as Heather just mentioned, the Supreme Court could play a role in deciding this election and now, with Amy Barrett on the court, it would be six
conservative judges, three of which are -- three of whom have been nominated and put there by the president. And you've written, if like in
2000, the justices award the presidency to Donald Trump, you say it could light the fuse that ends in a full-blown crisis over America's founding
creed. This is if there is a contestation that goes to the Supreme Court.
ORNSTEIN: And, you know, there are two ways in which this can happen, Christiane. We just had a very troubling concurring opinion in a decision
by the court, done by three justices, led by Samuel Alito, that will -- that said that they can revisit after the election, whether ballots cast in
Pennsylvania that are received after the election, but postmarked before, votes by mail, might be considered illegitimate. In other words, people who
cast legitimate votes who did it the right way, who are not getting their ballots in on time because the Postal Service, which has been sabotaged by
the Trump administration didn't get them in, might have those ballots rescinded and that could change the results in Pennsylvania which could be
And that might mean, and we may also get something close enough that we have contested slates of electors, the constitution makes it clear that
Congress is supposed to adjudicate these matters, the court intervened, I believe, completely inappropriately in Bush v. Gore in 2000, and if they do
it again, when it is pretty clear who the winner of the popular vote is and most likely the winner of the Electoral College, if all the votes that are
legitimate are counted, if the court intervenes to overturn that, I think we end up in a very, very bad situation that could lead itself to more
violence or to something worse. And we hope that doesn't happen.
I would say to viewers, watch on election eve early on, in Florida and North Carolina, a little bit later on Arizona, where we're likely to get
most of the votes counted on election night. If any one of those goes for Joe Biden, breathe a sigh of relief, because that may mean we avoided any
of these horror stories.
AMANPOUR: Heather, when you think about election day, what are you looking for on -- as Norm has pointed out, on election night, but also, you know,
there is a scenario whereby perhaps the full result, unless it goes the way Norm said, won't be known for several days thereafter because there might
be a wave in one degree -- one way on election night and then there could be another wave counterbalancing and counteracting that in the days there
after, after mail ballots are counted? What do you expect? How do you expect it to play out?
RICHARDSON: Well, curiously, I'm going to be looking at something other than the polls and something other than the charts where we're looking what
the numbers look like and the way media is calling things. I'm going to be looking at the president's tweets. I'm going to be looking at where he is
spending his time and I'm going to be looking, as Norm suggests, at what the courts are doing. Because I think that there is, as I say, an attempt
to construct a reality of what the president and his supporters would like to happen, that I suspect is really not going to happen.
So, on the one hand, I'll be looking at them and the other hand I will be looking at what happens on America's streets. Who is getting control of the
streets, that is, are they going to be Biden supporters, talking about having taken -- back control of the government or are they going to be the
alt-right that has been out there. I think we're very much in flux, as you're identifying here, as certainly as Norm is identifying here, but it
is not at all clear that the people who are going to be determining the narrative of what is happening are going to be the Trump supporters and
So, I'm interested, for example, in where Trump decides to spend that night. He knows what is going to happen, he's got internal polling, where
does he really think the weight of this election is going, versus what is he saying is going to happen.
AMANPOUR: That's a fascinating thing to process. Norm, you know, many people have asked, or those pundits and people who write about this kind of
thing, can America ever be knitted back together? This is the most polarized American climate in over a century. What do you think, let's say
if there is a Biden, and he seeks to redress some of what has happened over the last year, seeks to heal, what does he have to do, do you think, as
president? What is the first list of to do that makes, you know, significant and important change right from the get-go?
ORNSTEIN: So, Joe Biden has campaigned very much on hitting -- healing the wounds, knitting the country together, reaching out after the election,
trying to reach out to Republicans in Congress, reaching out to those white working class and religious voters who have been -- felt that they have
been left behind for whom Donald Trump because he did reach out to them resonated, and trying to make it clear that it is important that we view
this as Americans and not in a tribal way. But it is not going to be an easy thing to do, Christiane.
And Ron Brownstein, a very good analyst, has a piece in "The Atlantic," just out today, that says after this the Republican Party is headed towards
a minority status that is very reminiscent of what we saw with the (INAUDIBLE) pro-slavery movement in the 1850s, and that they're going to be
trying to cling to power even though they don't have the tools to do so. And we may be in for an explosive time.
Joe Biden may be the best person to try and help us avoid some kind of tragedy ahead that could be violence in a way that I hope we don't see
except in the scattered fashion on election day itself. But make no mistake, we're headed for turbulent times in America and if Joe Biden wins,
he's going to have a challenge ahead, but if Donald Trump wins, then all bets are off.
AMANPOUR: And, Heather, final word to you, do you feel that way as well?
RICHARDSON: I think he's -- I think Norm is completely right. If Trump is re-elected, we're in serious trouble. But I would say that rather than
focusing on reaching out to white working-class voters and the people who felt they have been left behind in the American economy, really since the
Reagan administration, what Biden needs to look at is the economy, the economy, the economy. Fix that in America and our extremes of wealth and
poverty and the rest of the things that we're fighting over are going to diminish significantly.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, as everybody says, and all of the scientists, you cannot think economy, economy, economy, until you get the pandemic under
control. So, that's a huge big test as well for whichever leader. And I think importantly, the economy, we have seen a big new study from Cambridge
University is the source of dissatisfaction for young people in democracies, so you're right, this election has so much at stake riding on
Norm Ornstein, Heather Cox Richardson, thank you so much indeed.
And turning now to a different kind of soul searching with someone who made his name trying to make sense of sapiens, that's us, and our human history.
Yuval Noah Harari is the blockbuster writer whose 2015 book "Sapiens" sold millions of copies, President Obama and Bill Gates loved it, along with
everyone else. Now, Harari has adapted the story into a graphic novel, opening it up to a much wider and presumably younger audience. This week, I
asked him how our species is faring during its current existential crises.
Yuval Noah Harari, welcome back to the program.
YUVAL NOAH HARARI, AUTHOR, "SAPIENS: A GRAPHIC HISTORY:" Thank you. It is good to be here.
AMANPOUR: So, we talked to you about sapiens, or sapiens, and now, we're talking to you about "Sapiens: The Graphic History." What made you want to
put this into, for want of a better word, cartoon form. It is a very deep study of human history?
HARARI: Well, the main idea is to bring science to more people, bring science and history also to people who don't normally read science books.
And it was actually also an opportunity for me to break the academic conventions and to experiment with different ways of telling history, the
history of our species. So, really, I think it was the most fun project I ever worked on, you know, like writing suddenly detective stories and
action hero movies and things like that. So, I really hope that people will enjoy it as much as I and the team enjoyed working on it.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you something, though, we're in the midst of a pandemic, as we all know, how does this book let young people or others get
to know potentially the origins of this pandemic?
HARARI: There is a section that discusses the history of infectious diseases and pandemics. Many people don't realize it maybe, but actually in
the stone age, humanity did not suffer from pandemics at all. Pandemics started only with the agricultural revolution. As long as people lived as
more mobile bands of hunters and gatherers, they had less contact, less contact with animals, they had no domesticated animals and most of our
infectious diseases they come from pigs and chickens and cows that we domesticated.
And even if some wandering band of hunters or gatherers, somebody caught a virus from a wild bat, that it could infect maybe 10 people, 20 people, not
much more than that, and it will be over. Only once people started to live in villages and towns and cities, crowded together, with all their animals,
all their sewage systems, and garbage heaps, and connected to one another with trade networks, this is when we begin to see devastating epidemics.
So, this is one of the main reasons why for most people the agricultural revolution made life worse and not better.
AMANPOUR: You know, it is so interesting, because in his witness statement, the great David Attenborough with his latest Netflix film, "A Life on Our
Planet," has said precisely the same thing, that this agricultural revolution has done what you've said, and that one really needs to
rebalance in terms of the climate and the natural habitat by going to a more sustainable diet. Do you believe that? Because obviously climate is
one of the big challenges that you address as well.
HARARI: Yes. I mean, there is a big chapter in the graphic novel about the interaction between homo sapiens and the rest of the ecosystem, and this is
what I refer to as the detective story. Because we created this fictional detective, Detective Lopez, and she goes around the world and investigates
the disappearance of most of the big animals of the planet, the mammoth and the mastodon and the cave birds and so forth, and she's on the trail of the
worst ecological serial killers in history. And, of course, she discovers that they are us, homo sapiens.
AMANPOUR: It's really fascinating. But let me also throw you back to a couple of times you've been on the program before, you were with me just as
the outbreak of the pandemic. And at one point, in the past, you've told me that we, humans, are the only social mammals who are so successful because
we're able to work together, because it's a -- you know, we've discovered a cooperative way of acting. I think you said to me -- precisely, you said,
if you look at any large-scale human achievement, whether it is flying to the moon or splitting the atom or building pyramids, this is the result of
Relate that to what you think has happened in the -- addressing the COVID pandemic. Has there been cooperation?
HARARI: On some levels yes, on some levels no. On the one hand, we see that among the scientific community, there is amazing global cooperation,
scientists and doctors all over the world sharing information, combining insights, which really now provide us with almost all the scientific
knowledge we need in order to overcome this pandemic.
Unlike previously in history, let's say during the black death, when humanity was helpless in the face of the viruses and pathogens, now, we are
much stronger than them, thanks to global scientific cooperation. On the other hand, unfortunately, we don't see this kind of cooperation on the
political level, there is a lack of global leadership, there is actually no global plan, almost a year after the outbreak of this pandemic, there is no
global plan for how to stop and overcome the epidemic, there is no global economic plan for how to deal with the enormous economic consequences, the
aftershock of this crisis, and I think that the worst is still ahead of us, certainly economic terms, and it is really alarming the lack of global
cooperation and leadership.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, the W.H.O. also says that this cannot be controlled and now, leaders are saying it is out of control in our country, certain
leaders, but never can be controlled without global cooperation. So, it's really important to hear what you're saying on that. On the other issue, of
course, and you've mentioned it, science and trust in scientists.
Just go back to, I guess, 100 years ago when there was the flu epidemic and suddenly people realized that soap was a major, you know, game changer,
when it came to survivability. Talk to me about that and compare it to why 100 years later, we're hearing and we're hearing and we're seeing on the
streets the lack of trust in masks, for instance, in the politization of social distancing.
HARARI: I think that politization of science is very dangerous, but it is here to stay, we see it not only with the epidemic but also with climate
change, we see it with A.I., we'll see it more and more. This is one of the main reasons that it is so important to bring the latest scientific
findings and theories to the mass of people, not just the experts.
I still think there is cause for hope, despite everything we see around us, with conspiracy theories and fake news, still the public has better
scientific education than in any previous time in history, and also has more trust in science. Even if you think about, say, the religious
establishments, you see that in most cases, people like the pope or like the chief rabbis, they are willing to follow the recommendations of
I remember the images during Easter, for example, of an empty Vatican, when the scientific experts said, don't go to church, the pope and at least most
of the heads of the Catholic church accepted this and told people, don't come to church, we'll do it online. So, there is still a lot to be done on
this front, but I don't think that we should despair. I think that on the whole during this crisis, most people and even most governments realize
that they have to turn to science, there is no alternative.
AMANPOUR: Well, I don't know whether you remember and cast your mind that, you know, in the United States, the Christian Evangelical community, there
were one too many of these megachurches that simply did not listen to scientific advice and there were horrible incidents of -- at the time, we
didn't really call it this, but super spreader events in church.
Now, as you know, President Trump is still minimizing the effectiveness of masks. Joe Biden on the other hand repeats the science and again, we hear
that if 95 percent of the American people wear a mask, 100,000 lives could be saved in short order. Do you think the upcoming election will be a test
of whether people believed the science or the conspiracies?
HARARI: To some extent, yes. So, I think to a large extent, there -- the elections revolve around different views about the epidemic and the
handling of the epidemic. You can't put like 100 percent as your goal. But compared to previous epidemics in history, we now have far better
scientific knowledge. And we have more public trust in the authority of science simply because it really works.
AMANPOUR: You have been very clear that you think this is partly, you know, the fight for public health and the fight for life could collide with the
fight for privacy and, you know, of the government's use of surveillance technology that will just be here to stay. They've done it in your home
country of Israel. They've used as, you know, your prime minister had an emergency decree to allow the kind of technology that tracks terrorists, to
be used in the track and trace and contact tracing of patients in Israel. How is that working out?
HARARI: I think it's still one of the greatest dangers of the current crisis is that it will be kind of set up as a battle between health and
privacy in which health is almost bound to win. If we present it in in such a way you have to choose, do you want to health for privacy, then that's a
catastrophe, because it will legitimize all kinds of mass surveillance systems that will stay long after the present crisis is over.
Now, I'm not against surveillance, I think we need to use it. I think with proper surveillance and say, self-testing, we can overcome the epidemic
even better, than with something like a vaccine. But we should be very careful what -- who do we give the power to and what do we do with the
data. If you set up such a mass surveillance system to fight the epidemic, it shouldn't be in the hands of the police or the security forces or some
big corporation, it should be kept independent, until some independent health authority.
And also, whenever you increase surveillance of the population, of the individuals, you must simultaneously balance it by increasing surveillance
of the government and the big corporations.
AMANPOUR: And I want to pick up on something you talked about another warning, just earlier on, you talked about poverty, and the incredible
economic impact this pandemic is having. The World Bank says that by the end of this year, the crisis will have pushed perhaps another 100 million
or so people into extreme poverty. And that could be 150 million in extreme poverty and additional in 2021, that's supposed to find as living on less
than $1.90 a day. Put that into historical perspective, relatively speaking.
HARARI: Yes. I think there is a real danger that if we don't have a kind of global safety net, some countries might entirely collapse or at least their
economies might entirely collapse and of course, the damage will not be confined to these countries, the accounts and violence and waves of
immigration will destabilize the entire world. And this is coming on top of an ongoing threat, that automation and digitalization will completely
disrupt the global job market in coming years and COVID is accelerating it. It's accelerating the process of digitalization and automation, things that
we thought would take 10, 20 years are happening within a couple of months.
And the key is to how to retrain people to fill new jobs. Now many jobs that are disappearing during this crisis, they will simply not return even
after the crisis is over. Now, if you can retrain your workforce, that's fine. You will benefit from the future, new industries and new jobs. But
the poorest countries that are barely able to deal with this crisis, they will not have the financial and educational ability to retrain the
workforce. And this I think, in the long run is the greatest danger.
AMANPOUR: And what does that do essentially, politically, I guess, again, let's take the United States of course, let's talk about the, you know, the
wave of populism that 2016 brought us but also a troubling rise in authoritarianism that's creeping westward, not just in the usual suspects.
And some studies that suggest the young have a much less evolved reverence for the notion of democracy that maybe, you know, my parent's generation
and my generation have.
HARARI: A lot of people are more sympathetic or toying with the idea of dictatorships because they simply forgot the terrible lessons of the 20th
century. But partly it's because of the kind of misconception that authoritarian regimes are better at dealing with emergencies like COVID.
And people think that authoritarian regimes are better because they can make the decisions faster. You don't need to consult many people. You don't
need to compromise just one person takes all the decisions. It's very quick. And that's true, to some extent.
But the big problem is that if you take the wrong decision, and everybody takes wrong decisions sometimes, nobody is perfect, then a dictatorship is
far less capable of admitting its mistakes and trying something else. A dictator will almost never say I was wrong. He will always blame enemies or
traitors and demand even more power to overcome these enemies and traitors. So instead of correcting mistakes, the system tends to amplify them.
Democracies are much better at changing course, through elections or through some other mechanisms. You also see in cases like in the U.S., like
in Brazil, that when the President takes the wrong course of action, there are other powerful institutions, whether it's Congress, whether it's state
governors, whether it's mayors who can take a different decision, because not all power is concentrated in one place. And over the long term this
means that even in emergencies, most of the time democracies do better.
AMANPOUR: Well, yes, I was going to say, absolutely. And we've seen it actually this time, whether it's New Zealand, whether it's the Asian
democracies, whether it's the North European democracies, that must give you hope.
HARARI: Yes, generally speaking, democracies are better at nipping such things in the bud, because there is a free circulation of information.
AMANPOUR: Yuval after this interview, you are taking off on your annual 60- day retreat where you turn off all your devices, all your apps, and you disconnect, what will it mean to you this year after everything that's
HARARI: Well, this year it would be only 30 days, not 60 days, so all kinds of reasons. But I really need I think the rest and the break and the time
and space to just, you know, go inside and detoxify the mind. You know, everybody is talking about chains of infection of the virus, but they're
also chains of infectious thoughts. And you need to quarantine your mind every now and then to protect it and enable it to rehabilitate and recover.
AMANPOUR: It's such good advice. Yuval Noah Harari, thank you very much and good luck detoxifying for the next 30 days.
AMANPOUR: Yes. We all need to, we all need to detoxify. Now, Democratic nominee Joe Biden has pledged to make an effort to reunite migrant parents
and children who've been separated by the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy. Tragically, the parents of 545 children removed from
their families at the border between 2017 and 2018 cannot be found. Lawyer Bridget Cambria offers free legal services to immigrant families as part of
the organization out there, the People's Justice Center. And she sits down now with our Hari Sreenivasan to discuss why the asylum system has to
SREENIVASAN: Christiane, thanks. Bridget Cambria, thanks for joining us. We're just a few miles away from the Berks County Residential Facility.
What is that to the people who are unaware?
BRIDGET CAMBRIA, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: The Berks County Residential Center is one of three family detention centers in the United States. Its
detention centers where immigration holds families and children who are in their immigration proceedings or for the purpose of removing them. But it
is the secure detention of families and children in the United States. There are three facilities two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania.
SREENIVASAN: So what is the difference between a residential center and a jail or a prison?
CAMBRIA: I guess it depends what you consider to be a jail. I consider residential centers and ICE custody to be secured detention. And I consider
it to be a jail. It's akin to a minimum-security prison. And the reason it is, is because it's a facility where you're not free to leave. So if a
child or a parent wanted to walk out of the building, they would be stopped. It's possible they would be prosecuted by ICE for escape. Any
place where you're not free to leave is a prison.
They're under procedures daily which are akin to a prison. You wake up at 6:00 a.m., you have to be counted. You eat when you're told. You eat what
you're told. You receive medical care when someone else decides you receive medical care. So for example, a parent can't decide that their child gets
cough medicine, for example. Those decisions are made for you because they're in detention. There is no difference in my mind between a prison
and an ICE Detention Center.
SREENIVASAN: This process has been going on well, before the Trump administration, the Obama administration had the dubious title of deporter-
in-chief. What's different about this, the prosecution of how we are dealing with these people now?
CAMBRIA: I do want to make one thing really clear. My organization, Aldea, represented families both during the Obama administration and during the
Trump administration. And during the Obama administration, it was really difficult for our families. We had families and long-term detention. We had
families that suffered in these detention facilities when they talk about the kids in cages. Those have existed for a really long time.
I think that if we move forward and we move into a new administration, I believe that we're going to have to honor the mistakes that we made before.
And one of those really grave mistakes was family detention. But I'll tell you that under the Trump administration, it's gone from zero to 100 real
SREENIVASAN: How so?
CAMBRIA: Well, under the Obama administration, a family would enter the system and have shot. A child would have a shot to seek protection. What
we've seen under the Trump administration is policy after policy after policy. Changes made to the asylum system. I believe it's something like
more than 400 changes to the asylum system in four years. And the whole purpose of every single change that's made, every single policy you hear on
the news is to prevent people from seeking asylum. It's how do we keep kids, especially, how do we keep kids away from judges? How do we keep kids
away from courts? How do we prevent a child or parent from even filing an application under the law?
Asylum is the law in this country. We are obliged to provide access to protection for people who request it. And right now, we're flouting that
obligation. We don't care to provide it. What Trump has done in this administration is he has taken away the most vulnerable among us, their
right under the law to seek protection is targeted at families and it's targeted at children specifically. And the reason is this is that they
So if a kid gets to a judge or a parent gets to a judge, and they can file an application, they might win. And that's what's terrifying to this
administration. They don't want to have immigration laws that function in a way that provide protection to children and families fleeing from Central
America, fleeing from certain types of persecution. They want to specifically exclude those people from receiving protection. And you got to
ask your question, why? Why are we targeting kids and families with these really harsh policies?
SREENIVASAN: Look, the President has been on stage before he has repeatedly mocked asylum seekers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And the asylum program is a scam. Some of the roughest people you've ever seen, people that look like they should be fighting for the UFC. They
read a little page given by lawyers that are all over the place, you know, lawyers, they tell them what to say. You look at this guy, you say, wow,
that's a tough cookie. I am very fearful for my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: That sounds like your average client?
CAMBRIA: No. And let me tell you that immigration and asylum law is one of the most complex areas of the law. There is no one word or no magic word
that grants you protection in the United States. It's not. These are really complex cases, complex laws. That's why so many lawyers are needed. But let
me tell you, these big guys seeking protection, big guys deserve protection too if they fit under the law. But I'll tell you that that's not the
majority of clients that we see.
If you look on the border right now of Mexico where they're forcing 70,000 people to remain, those are parents and kids, those are really little kids.
Those are kids that their dad has been taken from them in ransom in Mexico, those are women and mothers who are protecting their daughters from rape or
gender-based violence. Those are the people seeking asylum.
SREENIVASAN: Why should people be led into the U.S. while they wait for their claim to be determined? Why should the government not detain someone
as the proceedings dragged on? Why should they get to enjoy the rights inside the United States in the interim?
CAMBRIA: Well, I don't believe that the United States is a country where we believe in incarcerating people that don't present a danger or flight risk.
We're not a -- we shouldn't be a country of mass detention of people who have no -- that pose no threat to the United States. What does that fund?
What does that fuel? The cost of incarceration is so high. Why would we imprison 50,000 people that pose no danger to the United States? The only
thing it does is it provides funds for private prisons. It serves no other purpose.
And throughout our history, there have been period after period after period of people seeing the United States as a beacon of hope and freedom
and safety and security and opportunity. Generation after generation, I'm sure that your family came here at some point. My family came here at some
point. We all have our immigration story. So I was it OK for us, and not for these families. This is what our country was founded on. It's also the
law. Asylum is the law of the United States.
There is nothing about people coming to the United States and seeking protection being deemed illegal. They're human beings seeking protection.
And that's actually lawful. They're lawfully applying to come to the United States of America. So if you have a group of people that are lawfully
seeking entry into the United States and they go through a lawful process, what's the purpose of detaining them, other than two things profit or
SREENIVASAN: So is the deterrence working?
CAMBRIA: I would say not. I think if you have 70,000 families on the Mexican side of the border, simply waiting for a court date, it's not doing
a really good job deterring people from coming. I think that the number one story that you hear from families in detention, and I have families in
detention right now in Texas at 18 months, babies detained 18 months with their mothers, here in the Berks County Residential Center, babies and
their parents at seven months at detention, and you talk to them about, you know, well, you're still here, are you, you know, do you want to continue
fighting? And they say, I can't go back, if I go back, I'm going to die. And you know what, I believe in America, like this is what we hear that the
United States is going to protect us.
They see the United States as a place of laws and a place of safety. And I don't think it's unreasonable for them to think that because I still
believe that that's what our country is. And I think if you talk to most Americans, they would agree with that.
SREENIVASAN: Someone who is watching this is going to say, you know what, it sounds like you're telling me the President has kept one of his campaign
promises that he has tightened the borders, there are 70,000 people less in the United States than before. And, you know, this is the process slowed
CAMBRIA: It shouldn't be the policy of the U.S. government to punish children and families who enter a lawful process. You know, when we saw
family separation, everyone got really upset because we were targeting enforcement, really, really strict enforcement policies against children.
But it's universal, that every single policy that the Trump administration has done against asylum seekers is directly targeted at children and
families. So, I mean, if your campaign promise is to torture kids, I don't know if that's a promise that I really want to agree with our follow.
SREENIVASAN: What are some of the circumstances that people are fleeing Central or South America, you had a 12-year-old boy that was a client of
yours, what did he see?
CAMBRIA: It's really important to understand the history of Central America to know why people are fleeing. Central America in the 80s and 90s went
through various civil wars, really violence, Guatemala went through a genocide. And that doesn't sort of correct itself one or even two
generations later. And what happened in Central America is the conflicts morphed from a civil war into an area -- into a zone where you have really
dangerous transnational criminal organizations, which are the gangs, the MS-13, or the Mara 18, who really dominate communities within El Salvador,
Honduras, and Guatemala.
And you're talking about the young man, who we represent. He fled El Salvador with his mother because his father was murdered on the street
outside his house. And he saw his father and his father had been shot about 18 times. And what was important about his father was he was a really high
ranking official in El Salvador and his job was to confront the gangs. So obviously following the death of his dad, life became very dangerous for he
and his mother. So they decided to come to the United States. They came in 2017. And they enter the United States near El Paso.
And at that time in El Paso, the Trump administration was piloting a project to separate children from their parents. And this young boy and his
mother enter the United States with nothing but her wedding ring and a Bible and her son. And they took all three things from her. And this young
man, who with his mother requested protection from a border officer, he was 12 years old, he was handcuffed, and he was taken by force from his mother
and put into a vehicle. At the same time, his mother was handcuffed and put into a separate vehicle.
They were taken to separate facilities. The young man was taken from Texas, flown all the way to New York where he was detained. The mother remained in
detention in El Paso never knowing where her son was, and being restricted from having communication from him. And when I say restricted, it's not for
want of trying, she asked every single person, where is my son, and nobody would tell her where and nobody would connect her with a phone call.
And if you read the transcripts of her criminal case, she's in a courtroom with dozens of other parents. And the judge presiding, asks everyone in the
room who had their children taken from them. And the record reflects that everyone raises their hand. And he tries to talk to this mother and ask
her, well, you know, do you know you're in a criminal courtroom right now, like, what can I do for you, and she says, I can't say another word until
you tell me where my son is. I don't know where he is. And the judge says, I'm sorry, I can't help you.
And he acts -- he asked the government, where is her son? He said, I don't know. And we went out to El Paso, got her out of custody and reunited her
with her son. But she was the only parents in that facility at that time that was reunited with her child, every other parent that she met in that
facility was removed without their child. And those are the 545 children that are now here, that the government cannot find their parents.
SREENIVASAN: How do you lose parents? How do you, I mean, how does that even happen? I mean, this sort of resurfaced in the headlines. But how can
545 kids not know where their parents are or inversely, how can parents not be clamoring for their child?
CAMBRIA: Cruelty is the answer. What they did to those families at that time, and going into July of 2018 was insanely cruel, debilitating. Why
can't they find 545 parents because they didn't care to write down their information, they didn't care to link a child with their parent, which is
as simple as writing down a number. They didn't care if those children found their parents ever again. They didn't care if those parents found
The idea was never to put them back together. The idea was to punish them so that there would be wonderful, huge news articles that would serve as a
deterrent factor to everyone else back in those countries. These children, not just the 545, but the thousands upon thousands of children that were
separated from their parents were a political message and nothing more. And we sacrifice their lives and their well-being to send a message, by the
way, a message that didn't work. And we destroyed their lives in the process. Those children will never be OK. Their parents will never be OK.
They will suffer for the rest of their lives because of what we did to them.
And why can't they find them because they didn't care in the beginning to figure out how to put them back together, that was never the purpose. The
purpose was to punish those families.
SREENIVASAN: You know, there are members of the government that have said, look, basically any good parent would want their child back. Wouldn't they
know that their child is still here? Wouldn't they be banging on the door, so to speak and say, I know who my daughter is, I know who my son is. Here
I am, give them back.
CAMBRIA: How do they know that those parents are alive? They were fleeing persecution. How do they know that those parents were alive? Also, how did
those parents know how to communicate with the United States government? The largest portion of people targeted, and zero tolerance were indigenous
Guatemalans, many of whom don't speak Spanish. They speak in indigenous dialect. They live in the mountains of Guatemala and the most rural of
communities to say why don't they have the faculties to knock on the door of the United States is insulting. The question is, why don't you know
where they are? And the question is, God willing that they're still alive.
SREENIVASAN: Bridget Cambria thanks so much for joining us.
CAMBRIA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: The story is not just inhumane, it's unhuman.
And finally, though we do end the week with a rainbow, symbolically anyway, as Taiwan marks yet another landmark for LGBTQ rights in Asia with to same
sex couples becoming the first military officers to tie the knot during the Army's annual mass wedding. The women join the ceremony to celebrate their
commitment and also to encourage others to do the same. In 2019, Taiwan was the first and it remains the only country in Asia to legalize same sex
And that is it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.