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COVID-19 in Iran; Interview With Sophia Loren and Director Edoardo Ponti; Interview With Former Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired December 8, 2020 - 13:00:00   ET




Here's what's coming up.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): As vaccines roll out in the U.K., we take viewers inside an Iranian hospital for a rare report on the worst COVID outbreak in

the Middle East.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I do have an absolute right to pardon myself.

AMANPOUR: How far can a president stretch his pardon powers? Former prosecutor Preet Bharara explains the web of cases that could entangle the

Trump family.


SOPHIA LOREN, ACTRESS (through translator): As long as you live here, I make the rules.

AMANPOUR: One of Hollywood's all time greats, Sophia Loren, and her son, director Edoardo Ponti, tell me about their new film, "The Life Ahead."

And former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt speaks to our Michel Martin about the GOP's efforts to undermine this election.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Applause in the U.K. today, it's for 90-year-old Margaret Keenan, who is making history as the world's first recipient of the Pfizer/BioNTech

coronavirus vaccine. The U.S. and Europe have promised their own vaccine rollouts won't be far behind, offering millions of people light at the end

of a very, very dark tunnel.

But, in Iran, it is a very different reality. Cut off and crippled by U.S. sanctions, it's unclear when or how a vaccine will reach people there. With

limited medical equipment and little money, Iranian doctors are battling the worst outbreak in the Middle East, with over a million infected and

50,000 dead and counting, although opposition figures say the real numbers are even higher.

In a rare report, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has gone inside one of Tehran's hospitals to document what it's like on those front lines.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): A bleak winter outside, as was Tehran's summer and spring before it.

Relief is scarce. Over 750 have died from coronavirus in these corridors, another, a young woman as we arrive.

Just turning the corner marks the start of the ICU here. Two dead is a good day, four average, and nine bad, doctors say.

Iran's heroism in the pandemic a little fiercer, because they're doing it under the maximum pressure of the Trump administration sanctions. They're

as proud of what they have done with this equipment as they're angry that it's all they have.

(on camera): One of the hardest-hit countries in the Middle East by the coronavirus, their suffering, they say, so much more acute because of the

impact of sanctions led by the United States.

(voice-over): Khalif doesn't look it, but is much better.

KHALIF FARAHANI, CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: One day went to the -- for excursion outside in one of the parks, and, there, we got the coronavirus. So, I'm

better than before, very -- pain in my chest.

And sanctions, sanctions, it is cruel upon America. Cruelty, yes.

WALSH: Three hundred medical staff have died in Iran on this job, we're told, but, like all numbers here, it is at the mercy of limited testing

equipment and exhaustion.

But even in that numerical chaos, 10,000 officially died in November alone from COVID-19 and seem here to be getting younger, we're told.

"The most bitter day was when I had a 47-year-old mother of three here," he says. "She didn't respond to treatment. When she died, that was the most

terrible, bitter day for me. I could not save her. It's stuck in my memory."

And if you have lost the fight, you often head south across the city to where there is both little and plenty of space in the Behesht-e-Zahra

cemetery, economy and scale, every final home measured precisely, even as the bodies arrive.

The imams' prayers here caught in a loop of loss, reverberating into and over each other day in, day out, each of a dozen imams leading about 30

funerals a day.


A woman's scream, which would normally freeze everyone here, almost lost. Nobody wanted to talk, but the stories off-camera were similar, diabetes,

late 50s, coronavirus, the vulnerabilities that underpin the fond memories of the departed and fuel each final tender ritual.

Care is all around. These are tombs, not holes, and even the grim process of decay handled meticulously. The outside world may never see the full

picture of Iran's battle with the same enemy we have all faced or appreciate how much more crippling the deliberate tightening of sanctions

made it.


AMANPOUR: Nick Paton Walsh there in Tehran.

And to add to all these health woes, a major political crisis in Iran, after the assassination of the country's top nuclear scientist, which

Tehran blames on Israel, having U.S. backing.

We turn now, though, to the string of legal battles that President Trump is waging on the election and the lawsuits that he could soon face as a

private citizen. As his own niece says, fraud was not just the family business; it was a way of life.

Joining me now to talk about all of this and any presidential pardons, including Trump himself, is Preet Bharara, who spent years as the U.S.

attorney for the Southern District of New York, until he was fired by President Trump.

Welcome to the program, Preet Bharara. It's good to see you again.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see you. Thanks for having me.

AMANPOUR: I wonder what goes -- yes.

I wonder what goes through your mind when you see now, nearly a month or more than a month after the election, the continued legal attempts by

President Trump and the Trump campaign to overturn what happened on November 4, including legal cases in court still. They have lost just about

every single -- or 40 of them that they have presented.

Where do you think this is going? And why is it still going?

BHARARA: I think it's I think it's closer to 49. And I think, at the end of the day, it might be up to 50 losses. There's only one legal victory for

the Trump team early on in the process.

I think it's not going anywhere. I think that you have, in the minds of people who know what's going on, and I think perhaps even the mind of the

president himself, he knows they're not going anywhere. To my mind, you don't bring cases in state after state after state, in district after

district where you make, in many cases, fundamental errors, suing the wrong party, suing in the wrong court, not suing on behalf of the right party,

making basic typographical and spelling errors on the front page of filings.

These are not things you see ordinarily, and much less that you see when the cases are on behalf of the most powerful person in the United States of

America. So, I don't think they have taken it very seriously.

I think the fact that Rudy Giuliani was put in charge of it is a sign that lots of other reputable lawyers who have much more recent experience

litigating these matters, particularly election matters in court, wanted to stay away from the case.

Today is the harbor day in the American electoral system, which means that all these states have to have resolved -- if they have resolved their

matters with respect to controversies surrounding the election, it's over. And as soon as six days from now on, on December 14, the electors in the

various states will vote.

I think what the president of the United States is trying to do is to show his supporters that the election was rigged, convince them, even though

there's no evidence in court. The cases have been thrown out in state court, in federal court by Republican-appointed judges, by Democratic-

appointed judges, in the district court, in the intermediate appellate courts, and all the way up to the highest courts in various states.

So, it's a string of unmitigated losses all down the line, amounting to nothing, ultimately, as a legal matter.

AMANPOUR: So, I was going to ask you, then. You kind of answered it, but I need to ask you again, because the method to this madness, you seem to

imply, is that the president is trying to convince his supporters that the entire thing was rigged, for whatever reason, and we will go into that.

But he is still -- even as you mentioned, he's losing a lot of those -- most of the cases, he's still putting pressure. He's actually calling

officials in various different states, the latest being in Pennsylvania, to try to get them to reverse the results, try to get them to select a whole

new slate of electors that might help him out.

There comes a limit, doesn't there, to trying to overturn something, even if you want to just create disinformation or uncertainty in your own -- in

your own supporters? What do you think the real point of this is?

BHARARA: Look, I have no doubt that the president himself, in his mind, would like to overturn the election. I have no doubt that, if he had the

power to do so, he would do it.


So, I don't mean to suggest that he doesn't want it to happen, but he's trying and going through the motions. I think he understands it's a huge

uphill battle. But he absolutely wants to overturn it, because the thing that he dislikes in life more than anything else is losing.

There were reports that he called people who died in battle suckers and losers in "The Atlantic" magazine just a few weeks ago. So, he wants that

to happen. But, even if it doesn't happen, he wants to persuade his supporters that he was robbed of the election, most likely to maintain his

relevance post-presidency, and, as people have been speculating, perhaps run again in 2024, which the Constitution does not preclude.

So it's all in service to his future political standing. And it also allows him some face-saving way to explain why it is he's no longer president on

January 21 of next year.

AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you what you think it will do to the American democratic system, because of a poll by Monmouth University, which

admittedly was only, well, about 10 days after the election, it said 81 percent of Trump voters said they had little or no confidence in the

election fairness; 77 percent said Joe Biden won because of fraud.

And, in fact, here is Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia being asked about this very same issue. We're going to pay this little bit of her answer.


QUESTION: Do you believe that the election was rigged?

SEN. KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA): Look, Greg, it's very clear that there were issues in this election. There are 250 investigations open, including an

investigation into one of my opponent's organizations, for voter fraud, and we have to make sure that Georgians trust this process because of what's at

stake in this election.


AMANPOUR: So, Georgia is obviously key, key, key right now because of the run-off Senate election, which Senator Loeffler involved in come January, I

think it's the 5th.

But, again, the supporters will say, like she does, that every single case has to be investigated. And others are saying that this, kind of what you

have said -- I'm probably putting words in your mouth, but this wanton disregard for the facts, for the math, for the votes could have a lasting

impact in terms of Americans' confidence in their own democratic electoral system.

BHARARA: Yes. And I think that's a big tragedy.

And I think Donald Trump, to serve his own political purposes and his own narcissism, is feeding that story and causing people to buy into that

story. By the way, yes, Georgia is very important. The Republican governor there and the Republican secretary of state there, who both supported

Trump, voted for Trump, said they wanted Trump to win, have also said, I think to their credit, that there's a line they will not cross.

They can't do things that are illegal. And so they're suffering the brunt of criticism from Trump and his allies.

But another Trump ally, someone who's been criticized by a lot of folks, including me, is the sitting attorney general of the United States, Bill

Barr, who, after speculating that there would be fraud and there would be ballots sent in from other countries that would be fraudulent and tilt the

election in an incorrect way, he, himself, in the last week has said the Department of Justice that he leads has not found evidence of widespread

fraud that would change the result of the election.

This is a person who has gone out of his way, bent over backwards to support all sorts of frivolous theories by the president, including with

respect to the special counsel's probe, the Bob Mueller investigation.

And for him, as the chief law enforcement officer of the country and close ally of the president, to say there's nothing here and it can't change the

election is highly, highly significant, and I think deserves some attention.

AMANPOUR: Very, very quickly, before I move on to this issue of pardons and presidential pardons, there's obviously a lot of speculation -- and

some say it's by Barr himself -- that he may resign before the end of the administration.

Now, that's not unprecedented for Cabinet ministers. But do you think that would happen? And, if so, what would it signal?

BHARARA: I don't know. I have had a lot of criticism for Bill Barr. I think he's done himself a great disservice by looking like he was trying to

do the president's bidding, rather than be loyal to the Constitution and to the country.

I have been speculating about this myself. It could be that he sees the handwriting on the wall, and he would rather leave than be fired

ignominiously and unceremoniously by the president of the United States, like his predecessor, Jeff Sessions, was.

Or it could be he's decided he doesn't want to be a part of what will likely be a string of highly controversial, perhaps improper pardons coming

later in the term. I don't know what's going on in his mind. But it's a testament to what happens with Donald Trump.

You can go out of your way, whether you're the Republican governor of Georgia or the first senator to support you in -- like Jeff Sessions did,

or like Bill Barr, but if you do one thing that he doesn't like, you're thrown out like the trash.

AMANPOUR: So, there are people who the president wants to protect, apparently. There are all sorts of reports and rumors that there's a list

of at least 20 aides and close, obviously, family members that he might want to preemptively pardon.

How does that work? What does the Constitution say? Is it possible to preemptively pardon others? And can he pardon himself?


BHARARA: So, these are the questions that everyone is asking these days.

The pardon power is written into the Constitution. It's not in the statute. So, it has great authority. The president has almost unfettered authority

and power to pardon. He can pardon preemptively, with a couple of caveats.

The most famous example of that was President Ford, when Richard Nixon resigned, preemptively pardoned Richard Nixon for any and all crimes he

might have committed against the United States while he was in office, even though he hadn't been charged.

The limitations to it are, you cannot pardon for future conduct. In other words, a pardon issued today doesn't cover conduct of tomorrow, even if

there's not been a charge now. And a pardon only covers crimes that can be charged federally.

So, if a local district attorney or a local attorney general in any state in the country brings a case against the person who has been pardoned by

the president, that case can proceed. That case is not barred.

The last question, in some ways, is the trickiest one. Can he pardon himself? He claims the authority to do that. I think the weight of logic,

law, history, text, structure of the Constitution makes it clear that he cannot. The one time this was -- this was raised back in 1974 with Richard

Nixon, the Office of Legal Counsel within the Department of Justice wrote a very short couple of sentences saying, based on the principle that no man

can be a judge in his own case, no man can pardon himself.

And that includes the president. Not a lot of legal analysis there. But it's never been tested in the courts.


BHARARA: So, presumably, the president could issue such a pardon for himself. And then, if he gets charged later, then a court will decide if

it's valid or not.

AMANPOUR: Well, now to your former position as U.S. attorney.

As you know, there is an array of criminal and civil cases against him happening right now, whether it's the district attorney Cy Vance, reports

of allegations on insurance and bank fraud, the attorney general Letitia James, civil investigations, again, into alleged fraud, value of

properties. On personal level, there are two active defamation suits against the president by women who accuse him of sexual misconduct.

And his own niece is suing him and his siblings, two of them, for -- quote -- "cheating her out of her inheritance."


AMANPOUR: Knowing what you know, how many of these stand any chance? Do you think that there is -- what do you think when you look ahead?

BHARARA: Yes, it's hard to say.

I'm not in the business of handicapping other people's cases. People would do that with my cases, not knowing what the evidence was, not seeing what

the grand jury testimony was.

Some of them seem quite strong. It's harder to understand and know what's going on with respect to the criminal cases. So, some of the cases are

civil. That would result, even in the worst-case scenario for the president, in a financial penalty.

And some of them might carry a prison sentence. And so we know that Cy Vance, the district attorney in Manhattan, is looking at things of a

criminal nature. And that, I think, is what the president fears the most.

And that is what he will no longer have protection from in any way once he leaves office. I don't know all the material that Cy Vance has. But we do

know there's been a pattern and practice on the part of Trump and his foundation and other businesses of engaging in unseemly financial


There's, I think, a real question about his taxes. There's a real question about how he's valued his assets in trying to get loans for banks, a real

question about how he might devalue assets and income in order to get a tax break.

Those are things that we know sort of informally from various -- from various modes of reporting that he's been engaged in. And I think Cy Vance

has a serious investigation. And the president should be worried about that.

There's also still the matter of Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, who pled guilty in the Southern District of New York, my old office, in which he

said in the guilty plea that he committed a particular crime related to campaign finance violation, at the direction of and in coordination with

Individual 1, who's Donald Trump.

So, there's some jeopardy there as well.

AMANPOUR: Absolutely fascinating.

Thank you so much, Preet Bharara, for your insights.

BHARARA: Thanks, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Now to something completely different.

It has been 10 years since we last saw Sophia Loren light up the screen in a feature role. We're seeing now the 86-year-old Oscar-winning actress

bringing her star power to Netflix in the new film "The Life Ahead."

Loren plays an Italian Holocaust survivor, Madame Rosa, who cares for children of sex workers, a life she once knew. She then takes in a troubled

young Senegalese orphan called Momo, and the powerful story is set.

In this clip, we show the beginning of their story before she and Momo built what became a beautiful bond.


LOREN: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You're already worried. You shouldn't be. I brought you a gift.

LOREN: Where did you find them?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The thief has come to apologize.

Right, Momo?

LOREN: You made me fall. If I had gotten my hands on you.


Here, go to Babu.



LOREN: Speak up!

GUEYE: Sorry!

LOREN: Sorry, Madame?

GUEYE: I don't know your name.

LOREN: The kids have always called me Madame Rosa.

GUEYE: I apologize, Madame Rosa.

LOREN: Apology not accepted.



AMANPOUR: An apology, but also then Madame Rosa takes him in.

"The Life Ahead" is directed by Loren's son, Edoardo Ponti.

And they both join me from Geneva to talk about their personal/professional collaboration.

Sophia Loren and Edoardo Ponti, welcome to the program.

The film is amazing.


AMANPOUR: And I just want to know what you make of the reaction. It's received very good reviews.


LOREN: Well, generally, an actress, when she does a picture, and the picture comes out, and she has very good reviews, she's happy, as I am now,

very, very happy, of course, yes. Yes.

But it means also working very hard, believing in what you do, and be happy about what you have done.

AMANPOUR: What is it like directing your mother? I know it's not the first time. But it's been 10 years since she did a feature film on the screen.

What is it like directing her?


Many people, as you can imagine, have asked me that question. And it's very hard to capture in words that really satisfy me. Maybe, in a few years, I

will be able to answer in a way that really satisfied me.

But what I can say is that it fulfills the deepest part of my soul to be able to experience this woman, not only as a mother, but as an actress, and

not only as an actress, but as an artist. And by artist, I really mean, my mother is 85. She's 86 now. She was 85 years old when she made the movie.

She has nothing to prove. But instead of resting under the laurels of her legacy, she decided to risk. She decided to do a role that is so demanding,

both physical with -- both physically and emotionally. And to see her at the height of her powers is really something that I'm in awe of.

And I only hope that not even at 85, but at 65, I will have the stamina that she has, honestly. It's been such a pleasure, so beautiful.

AMANPOUR: It's such a moving answer. I definitely ask the obvious questions, but your answers are very moving.

PONTI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you, Sophia Loren, what is it that made you decide to take this role, after all these years? Why this role?

LOREN: Well, I think that, when you are an actress, and you have stopped for such a long time, you try again without telling anybody that you have a

kind of -- you suffer a little bit because you are not on the screen anymore.

And then I was also reading the book of Romain Gary. And that really excited me so much, and because I was always asking myself why nobody did

the film about this. And then I started to talk about it with Edoardo. And he already knew that, by reading the book, I was going to be really

suffering a little bit not to be on the screen, because it was the right role for me.

And I did tell him that I love the story very much, and I think that we would have done something together wonderful about this story that really -

- I believed so much in it, so much.

And so we started to talk about it. And we started to think about doing the film.

AMANPOUR: And I have heard you both talk about the central theme of tolerance and the story of the other and acceptance, which was so important

for you at this time. Let's not forget it's about Momo, a young West African migrant. He's an orphan.


AMANPOUR: You, Sophia, play Madame Rosa, a Holocaust survivor.

And you both have this trauma and this survival -- this desperate desire for survival.

Edoardo, do you think it's a story that really not only is a great story, but it fits the moment that we're all living through as a world, including

your country?

PONTI: You know, what's very interesting is that Romain Gary wrote the story in the end of the 20th century, in the 1970s.


And what's amazing about it is that it could not be more current. It's amazing and it's sad, in a sense, that it's still current, that those

issues of intolerance are still with us.

But what was beautiful about the book, which really inspired the both of us, is how the story was told through the point of view of this 12-year-old

immigrant child. And we live in such silos, such ways that we are -- we're always so turned off by the thought of another if it doesn't fit exactly

our way of thinking.

And what's beautiful about this story is how it is told through the point of view of a 12-year-old child, which means that you can get to experience

life through their eyes. And when you start being able to experience life through the eyes of another, that's really the beginning of empathy.

AMANPOUR: I think you're holding hands. And one of the most dramatic, empathetic scenes is when Momo is holding hands, clasping the hands of

Madame Rosa. And you can really, really feel the connection there.

So, I want to play a little clip now. It's where she, Madame Rosa, is in the basement. And Momo comes in and he's kind of worried. Why are you

there? And she says, no, when I was in the camp, when I was in Auschwitz, I used to hide under the planks, so people, the guards wouldn't find me.

And then she talks about memory. We're going to play that little bit of the clip.


LOREN: I'm old now. Come here.

I bought it a long time ago at a market. These are mimosas. Before the war, my parents rented a house with a yard like this near Viareggio. In the

spring, the mimosa trees exploded with yellow flowers. It was so beautiful, it made me cry.

I would give up all my memories just to keep this one.


AMANPOUR: So, it's really very affecting, that.

Can I ask you, because -- is Momo an actor? I mean, how did you find the young man? And how did he become relaxed enough to play opposite the great

Sophia Loren?


PONTI: Yes, he was -- he's not an actor. And now he is an actor.

But when I met him, he was not an actor. He was just a young, young Senegalese boy who had arrived in Italy four years prior. So, he had

learned Italian, but he was still learning.

And he was -- we cast a very wide net when I was casting Momo. And I really wanted somebody who was a true immigrant, of course, and somebody who was

Muslim. It was very important for me that those two things fit very much the authenticity and the DNA of the character.

And when I met Ibra -- and I had met 350 children, but the moment I met him, I knew that he was right for the role, not only because he has the

heart and the soul of Momo, but also because he has such an amazing work ethic, such a hard worker.

The hardest thing for Momo was to be mean to the character of my mother in the beginning.


PONTI: And when we were rehearsing, he was having a really hard time.

But he has such great instincts that, one day, he walks up to my mother, and he says: "Sophia, it's so hard for me to be rude to you. When I get

home, it always breaks my heart. So can you give me the permission to be mean with you?"

And my mother was taken aback. And she said: "Of course you can."


PONTI: "You know, it's only acting. I'm not going to get offended."

And from that moment on, he could not have been more mean. He was absolutely amazing.

AMANPOUR: Yes, you were both pretty mean to each other at the beginning.

LOREN: Yes. Yes. Yes.

AMANPOUR: Sophia Loren, how do you put somebody like Momo, the real -- the real person, and others of your co-stars at ease?

LOREN: It's very hard, because, if you don't like your partner, then it's harder.

But we were really friends, because I liked him a lot. He's a very -- he was -- he is a very smart guy and very willing to please people that he

loves. And this is -- this was our friendship from the beginning, absolutely.

I remember, when I met him for the first time, and when he looked at me, and he was crying.


LOREN: And, you know, just to tell the story, I feel very moved because it was enchanted to meet me. And from then on, he was my friend. Absolutely.

Forever, forever.

AMANPOUR: I want to talk to you just a little about some of your great roles. And particular, "Two Women" that you did with the great director,

Victoria De Sica. I'm going to play a little clip from that film and then we'll just talk a little bit about it.


LOREN (through translator): You know what they did to us, those bastards that you command? You know what they had the courage to do? In a holy

church? In front of the Virgin Mary? Tell me, do you now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Peace. Peace.

LOREN (through translator): Yes, peace. Beautiful peace. You've ruined my little daughter forever. Now, she's worse than dead. No. I'm not mad. I'm

not mad. Look at her. Look at her and don't tell me I am mad.


AMANPOUR: It is a really brutal and terrifying scene where you confront the commander whose troops, the Moroccan troops, under his command had

raped you both in a church and you did win the Oscar for that. Tell me about working with that director. What was it like? It was formative in

your life, I think.

LOREN: It was not hard. Because when I met De Sica, for me, it was for life because he started to speak with me. He started to tell me what an

actress should have done when she has the right role to do. And it was, for me, that day, it was forever. So, I really left De Sica the day that he was

not with us anymore. He was my teacher. He really taught me everything if know something about acting, I really owe it to him because he was a

wonderful teacher. Wonderful. Wonderful.

AMANPOUR: And you know, the role you play in the "The Life Ahead" the role you played in "Two Women," it sorts of mirrors a little bit of your own

life. You grew up in the shadow of World War II, deep poverty to an unwed mother. How did that part of your life I guess motivate you or set you on

the journey for a completely different life that you have had now, glamour and fame and artistic prowess?

LOREN: Well, it was desperation of the time with we were living. It was the suffering. It was things that I never thought it would exist, bombing

and dead people and war. And that gave me a kind of positive strength in a way that I said to myself, but I want to fight. I like to fight. I really -

- I don't think that I can live my life like I'm living it now. I think I'm learning so many things by the destroying of everything that I'm living


And I became -- I started to have a very strong character within myself. But always in a very nice way against -- for other people, for myself, for

my family, for everybody. And I really was working hard on myself to try to believe the damages that people are doing -- were doing to us and it was

not right. It was not something that I could accept even though I was very, very young. I was 6, 7 years old.

AMANPOUR: Sophia, which is your favorite film?

LOREN: Well, I cannot say. Because I think it is all of them. Because that is how I learned to be on the screen. It is something that it is impossible

to tell. It is impossible to feel. You take this one or the --

PONTI: "Special Day."

LOREN: -- "Special Day." And then "Two Women." they are all films that are in my heart. All films that it was a pleasure for me to do. It was -- and

each it was a kind of easy to do. Because when you do dramatic films, you are so much in it that you really suffer.

I mean, it's a continues suffering. And with your soul, with everything, with your body, with everything. And I've been given many beautiful,

wonderful stories but of course, this -- the last one is always the best for me because I had a wonderful time because I was not working for a

little -- little months, I was not working. And it was a pleasure for me to go back and on the set.


And especially, you know, the director was my son. And every time I was on, I had the feeling that I'm going embrace it and, wow, something like that,

but of course I never did that.

AMANPOUR: All right.

LOREN: But my Neapolitan feeling gave me this kind of wanting to, wanting to. But I cut myself. But -- so -- but anyway, when we shooting, we did

really the silence on the set. It was like a church. It was so beautiful, so beautiful, that I said to myself but I never told him, I said, I'm not

going stop now. I want to do another film. When this is finished, I would go on and on and on forever.

AMANPOUR: That's brilliant. Sophia Loren and Edoardo Ponti, thank you so much for joining me.

PONTI: Thank you so much, Christiane. Thank you. Bye-bye.

LOREN: Thank you. Thank you so much. I'm sorry it's short. I think it's short. Ciao.

PONTI: Ciao, thank you.


And yes, we could have gone on. Back to the United States. Donald Trump's impact on the Republican Party will be studied for decades to come. History

will not only look at who joined the GOP in the Trump era, but also who left it. Steve Schmidt is one of them.

For decades, a communications strategist working for President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain among others. Schmidt now denounces the party

he once loved. He's a co-founder of the Lincoln Project, the politically action committee formed in 2019 by group of Republicans to defeat Trump in

this 2020 election. Here he is now talking to our Michel Martin about what's next for the project, for the party and for preserving American


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Steve Schmidt, thank you so much for talking with us.

STEVE SCHMIDT, CO-FOUNDER, THE LINCOLN PROJECT: It is great to be with you. Thank you.

MARTIN: Politically party isn't everything to most people. But to a politically consultant, to a politically strategist, it is. I mean, it's

your livelihood, it's your identity, it's your community, you know, in some cases, it is your family. So, I'm thinking that when you -- the decision to

leave a party for a political consultant or a strategist, seems like -- that's kind of like a divorce. I mean, it is traumatic. It is big. So, what

was the point at which you said to yourself, I can't do this anymore? I can't be here anymore? Do you remember it?

SCHMIDT: After the McCain campaign, I warned as loudly, as vociferously as I could about this rising danger of the know-nothing movement in the party.

The populism, the nationalism. I had my first public fight with Donald Trump in 2012 when Wolf Blitzer asked him to respond to comments I made

about him and the racist birther nonsense that was coming out of his mouth.

And so, by the time we get to the immoral act of the caging of the children, which is the final breaking straw for me, I left the party. But

I've never viewed the party as having supremacy over the country. The party is a vehicle to advance policies and ideas in the great debate over the

future of the country that's been going on since the beginning.

And so, I left with a clean conscience. It wasn't a particularly hard decision for me. But I knew by that time that I just couldn't be a member

of a party that had descended into an autocratic cult of personality and had warped completely from anything that I could recognize in my service to

it over my career.

MARTIN: So, was it -- but was it a slow walk or was it kind of a fast sprint from that to the Lincoln Project? You know, was there sort of a

moment when you said, it is not enough for us to just leave, we have to kind of proactively take a stand and start working to end this? How did

that happen?

SCHMIDT: Well, Reed Galen, Rick Wilson, John Weaver and I started having these conversations in 2018. We just didn't figure that we could launch

this effectively in the late summer, early fall of 2018. But we always felt that there would need to be a political organization made up of vestibule

Republicans to fight Trump and Trumpism.

So, when we founded the organization before the election, what drove us most acutely was we watched the Democratic debates. And the name you never

heard in the debates was Trump. In fact, you would see some Democratic candidate after the debate go on television and log the fact that it was a

successful debate because, in fact, Donald Trump's name wasn't mentioned, and it terrified us. Because we had a point of view, and that point of view

was this election was about Trump.


The second issue in this election was Trump. And the next 300 issues after that, Trump. And that was before COVID. And so, we thought in our view of

the campaign was there needed to be an institution out there, an organization that could frame the race and take the fight to Donald Trump.

MARTIN: And why do you see that? Talk a little bit more about that. Why do you say it was all about Trump?

SCHMIDT: We believe we have always seen him clearly. He is an autocratic leader. He is undemocratic. He has assaulted America's most vital

institutions relentlessly, not just as president but as a candidate. And I think that this month, this past month of November of 2020, we will look

back at this as a historic month, not because Joe Biden was elected, though that is history. This was the month that American democracy was poisoned

deliberately and intentionally.

Democracy exists because of faith and belief in the eyes of the people about the legitimacy of the system and it requires the parties that compete

against each other where it is in America's federal system or a British parliamentary system, it requires the people who compete in that system to

acknowledge sometimes you lose an election.

And so, in one month's time, every day, like a political Exxon Valdez, like a political Deepwater Horizon we watch the numbers rise. Day after day.

More and more Republicans believing a fair and legitimate election was stolen. We saw the propaganda networks. We saw the conspiracy theorists and

we watched that number rise.

Now, we sit in a place where a president of the United States who's been defeated is talking about doing a rally at noon on January 20th. In the

whole history of the country, no one has ever questioned the American idea and ideal. The fight in the country has been about who gets to participate

in it. We've never had a moment around the question of who's in charge, the people or the leader, where so many people have now said, not the people,

it is the leader. And it is really alarming.

MARTIN: So, I take it -- well, I mean, that's one thing that kind of explains my next question, which is the tone of your ads was really in your

face. I mean, the tone of the Lincoln Project's ads was very much in your face. Very much directed at Donald Trump. Is it because that's kind of the

language that you live in, that's kind of your kind of natural -- your first tongue anyway or is it because you really felt that you had to take

the fight to him and make it about him?

SCHMIDT: We believe very strongly the pro-democracy side cannot be the gentle side in the debate. It needs to be a fierce debate. We had a

psychological profile of Donald Trump. We had psychological profiles of Donald Trump's team. We analyzed the organization. We understood the

fissures in it. We knew where the factions were. And we did everything we could to antagonize him, to destabilize him, to make Donald Trump turn face

and attack us as opposed to Joe Biden.

We did everything we could to cause chaos within his organization. And we believe our messaging combined with our psychological profiles of him and

the dynamics of his organization effectively allowed us to cut him. And we take some pride because I think that we're one of the first groups that

really hurt him over the last five years politically by turning and attacking him.

MARTIN: And this where sort of the next question is, what effect do you think you had? I mean, as I'm sure you know, there's been a very lively

debate about this over the last couple of weeks, I mean, since the election has been over. But by one survey, so maybe 8 million of Biden's 81 million

votes came from self-described conservatives and maybe 3 million from Republicans. So, that's not, you know, small.

On the other hand, you have the kind of progressive critique, you know, from the AOCs, Representative Alexander Ocasio-Cortez and sort of other

progressives who say that, you know, the 60, 70 million that you spent is a lot of Benjamins for an outcome that isn't as decisive as a lot of people

would like, especially when you look down ballot and you saw that only two Republican senators lost their seats because they were also a target. So,

how do you assess the effectiveness that you think you had?


SCHMIDT: Well, I'll give you a couple of examples. We ran one ad that was called flag of treason. That was treatment of the confederate flag that was

20 years overdue in the country. We know from the leaders of (INAUDIBLE), the marine corps, the army and the navy, that that ad was instrumental in

bringing down the confederate flag in those institutions, and it boxed Donald Trump into supporting the confederate flag in a way that had caused

him a lot of difficulty with suburban white women and independent white males in the suburbs. And you can look at the demographics of the Georgia

victory show a place where the impact of that worked.

Look, when Donald Trump went to his Tulsa rally, he spent a half hour at that rally talking about how he was drinking water and about his walk down

the West Point Ramp. And he spent the next month, as everybody remembers, taking the man, woman, TV camera dimension test. Every one of those things

was in response to ads that we did.

There's two finite commodities in the campaigns. One is time. One is money. The coalition that elected Joe Biden is a large, broad and fragile

coalition. What we all have in common is the belief in democracy, right, if not, in policy. We have in common is the idea that the American people

should decide the future of the country.

And so, the idea that there are progressive groups that are entitled to the money that we spent isn't something that we really particularly understand.

What we would say, we represent millions of people, right, who follow the Lincoln Project, the half million people who donated to the Lincoln

Project, who played a role in delivering a victory to Joe Biden by turning out millions of people who in past elections have voted for Republicans.

We both shaped the narrative of the national discussion. We also turned-out Republicans above what Steve Bannon called the Bannon line. It's this idea

that if you could peel off 4 percent of Republicans that it would be impossible for Donald Trump to win.

If the coalition, and this is not the Obama coalition, this is not a progressive coalition that elected Joe Biden, it's a different coalition,

if it falls apart and you look at the structural advantages that Republicans have in presidential elections through the Electoral College,

it means that you could wind up with President Tucker Carlson in 2024. Nobody should want to see is that.

MARTIN: I still want to understand your analysis of what happened in your party, your former party, in your view, that allowed Donald Trump to take

over the party to make it his party? I mean, there have been a number of people not as well-known as yourself. I'm thinking about somebody like, you

know, the conservative Wisconsin talk radio host, you know, Charlie Sykes, who was one of the first after the 2016 election to come out and say, you

know, part of this is my fault because I ignored the fringe elements. I ignored the racism. I thought it was not important. I didn't think it was a

big deal and I'm part of the problem here. What part of this do you own? And how do you understand the fact that a Donald Trump has gotten to where

he has?

SCHMIDT: Look, I always considered myself a (INAUDIBLE). I fought in the party to outreach the gay Americans, the black Americans, the Hispanic

Americans. No one is going to find examples of racial demagoguery in my career. I'm the guy who wouldn't allow the McCain campaign to run

(INAUDIBLE) ads because they were racially toxic.

The Republican Party became the party of Fox News. It became an entertainment party. It became a reality show, right. Year by year the

freaks rose. The number of people who are out there as entertainers, not policy leaders, policy was stripped away from the party until it became at

Fox (ph).

Really what it is, it's an organized conspiracy to maintain power for politically self-interest, and that is evidenced by the platform. You know,

when the platform became in its final form in 2020 was essentially an oath of obedience and loyalty to Donald Trump, it shattered any ideas, any

notion that the party stood for actual issues, ideas, public policies for the public good. And that's a tragedy in a country that has a two-party



What we have now, right, this has become, through omission or commission, and there is more than enough commission in it and a hell of a lot of

omission. It has become America's first autocratic party. Now, what I would also say this to my progressive friends, to think carefully about the

condescension, about the (INAUDIBLE), about the indifference that lot of people fear in this country from those massiveness (ph). We have 40 percent

of this country doesn't have $400 cash available. That is destabilizing our democracy.

FDR and there is a lot of analysts who will look back and say, well, his new deal programs didn't particularly work economically. And they are

probably right in the analysis. But they worked politically.

And not from a vote share but in a macro sense because they sustained faith and belief in democracy, in the eyes of the people at a moment where all

over the world in the 1930s fascism, extremism and nationalism was rising as the antidote to academic depression. Faith, hope and belief, right. And

we're going to be a pro-democracy organization both here domestically and globally, right, fighting this era of autocracy and democratic (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN: So, what's your goal now?

SCHMIDT: We will oppose Trumpism. We have a view of Trumpism. It is a rooted ideology, an autocratic ideology. The fascistic markers that's

comprised by an amalgam of extremist groups, conspiracy theorist groups, militia groups, white nationalist groups, nationalist groups, proto-fascist

groups like the Proud Boys.

We've seen dozens and dozens and dozens of members of Congress and U.S. senators refuse to acknowledge reality and acknowledge the results of a

legitimate election poisoning American democracy. And so, we're going to fight for American democracy as part of the coalition in defense of it.

MARTIN: How do you get people to care about that?

SCHMIDT: There is only two ways to win a fight. You can bring your opponent to submission or your opponent can bring you to exhaustion.

Submission, think Germany and Japan in 1945. Exhaustion, think of the United States and Vietnam in 1975. We cannot become exhausted in this fight

or we will lose the country and American democracy. We have to bring the forces that Trump has let loose to submission.

What I would say to Congresswoman AOC, is we have to bury this together, all of us. The militia groups, the people who storm the Michigan capitol,

right, the sentiment that it is OK to arrest and kidnap governors and try them in basements, the idea on Fox News that a kid who picked up his AR-15

and shot three people in Wisconsin looking for trouble as some sort of national hero. We need the forces that Trump has whipped up to recede, to

shrink, and we have to beat them at the ballot box or we will lose the country.

Trumpism wasn't repudiated in one election. We've had America's greatest conman in history. One of its greatest demagogues in history assume the

power of presidency and he vandalized the country politically. It is polity. He works for self-interest. He poisoned the public good. He's a

consequential president. It will take us a long, long, long time to recover from this as a country, both in spirit, physically, from a disease, from a

pandemic and from our animosity towards each other that he has stoked.

MARTIN: Steve Schmidt, thank you so much for talking with us today and I do hope we'll talk again.

SCHMIDT: Thank you so much for having me.

AMANPOUR: Steve Schmidt pulling no punches there.

And finally, tonight, talk about the triumph of hope over reason, the legendary air force officer, Chuck Yeager, beat the naysayers who insisted

it could not be done safely by becoming the first to break the sound barrier. That was in 1947. Known as the fastest man alive. The test pilot

who brought us the sonic boom has died at the age of 97.

Yeager's extraordinarily feats were immortalized by the writer, Tom Wolfe, in "The Right Stuff" which was then turned into an instantly classic movie.

Watch that movie again and see if you can actually spot the real Yeager, a small cameo role as a bar tender in one of the scenes. His widow, Victoria,

tweeted that his legacy of strength, adventure and patriotism will be remembered forever.

And that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our pod cast and across social media. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right. Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. And here is the-elect, Joe Biden.


JOE BIDEN, U.S PRESIDENT-ELECT: One of the toughest years we face as a nation. More than 285,000 dead Americans because of COVID-19 and counting.

Last week, COVID-19 was the number one cause of death in America for black and Latino and native Americans were nearly three times is likely to die

from it. COVID-19 is a mass casualty.

For families and friends left behind, there's a gaping hole in your heart that can never be fully healed. As a country, we've been living with this

pandemic for so long. We're at risk of becoming numb to its toll on all of us. You know, we're resigned to feel that there's nothing we can do, and we

can't trust one another, that we must accept death, pain and sorrow.

We're in the midst of this deadly pandemic that has infected almost 15 million Americans, 1 out of every 22 people in our country often with

devastating consequences to the health. And at this very moment, what is the outgoing administration asking the Supreme Court to do in the United

States Supreme Court? To repeal the entirety of the Affordable Care Act when we need it the most.