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Republicans Stayed Unified with Donald Trump; Israel Heads To Fourth Elections In Two Years As Coalition Government Collapses; Law Enforcement Braces For More Violence, State Capitols Come Into Focus. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired January 14, 2021 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BARBARA RES, FORMER EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I think that there are people, just aren't going to be able to take what's going on
and go along with his lies about nothing's happened, and it was a setup, and that there were people there, some Antifa and all of the other nonsense
that he said.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and in time, will certainly tell us if your assessment there, Barbara, is correct. We know you will be watching
that as we will be.
Barbara Res, thank you so much for being with us.
RES: My pleasure.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here is what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The House demonstrated that no one is above the law. Not even the president of the United States.
AMANPOUR (voice over): Next, a trial in the Senate and the big choice for Republicans. Will any vote to convict the president? We're joined by former
GOP Congressman Francis Rooney. Then --
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER: American democracy has always inspired me.
AMANPOUR: As Trump's power waned, his main global ally, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu fights for his own political life. I talked to the prime
minister's challenger, Gideon Saar. And --
AMERICAN CROWD: USA! USA!
AMANPOUR: Tracking the far-right. ProPublica reporter, A.C. Thompson tells our Hari Sreenivasan about white supremacists and the escalation of
political violence. Plus --
NNAMDI ASOMUGHA, ACTOR-PRODUCER: Life's too short to waste time and things you don't absolutely love.
AMANPOUR: From the football field to the silver screen, actor-producer Nnamdi Asomugha explains why he wanted to show a vulnerable side in his new
film, Sylvie's Love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Joe Biden will be inaugurated next Wednesday, while his predecessor, Donald Trump will soon be starting a Senate trial. The House voted to impeach
Trump yesterday making him the only president in American history to be impeached twice.
In the first Senate trial, Trump evaded conviction. But the big question is, can he do it again?
Majority leader Mitch McConnell has not ruled out voting to convict. And that would be a change from his 2019 strategy.
But Trump still clearly has a grip on the party. As evidenced, by the nearly 200 House Republicans who did not vote to impeach him. This is a
moment of reckoning for the GOP.
Francis Rooney was a Republican member of Congress until early this year, and he's joining me now from Naples, Florida.
Welcome to the program, Congressman. I mean, I wonder whether you agree first with the premise that this is, in fact, a moment of reckoning for the
FRANCIS ROONEY, FORMER REPRESENTATIVE OF FLORIDA: This is a moment of reckoning for the -- for the Republican Party, and for our country, and for
-- basically, for our constitutional rights. And we need to take stock about what happened this week for all the perspective that it deserves.
AMANPOUR: So, I guess -- I guess of the initial aim was to have some accountability. And that's what the House said this impeachment was about.
I'm going to read the article. "President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government. He
threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of
What is there, if anything, that you disagree with in that statement?
ROONEY: Well, I mean, it's -- it may be a little hyperbolic just a bit. But -- and I don't think we know yet if all of the elements of a crime, of
incitement to insurrection are proved. We may know with the Senate hearing, we may know by civil courts later, but it's clearly directionally correct.
This guy incited people to do things that were very bad and very destructive to our country, as he has many times before.
In this time, he got caught. This time, they acted on it in a very, very terrible way. And they all need to face the consequences, I think including
AMANPOUR: Well, as you know, there are a number of your party members who do believe that, that has been proved, and what the president has done is a
high crime and misdemeanor. And certainly, national security experts are calling him the spiritual leader of a movement that has incited this
insurrection. Others have called it, people who worked for him, a coup attempt that obviously didn't work.
So, you obviously believe that there should have been accountability. I don't know what you might have done, had you been in the House? Because you
didn't vote to convict. No, no, no Republicans voted to impeach last time around. Would you have done this time?
ROONEY: I probably, I would have voted for it this time, and I almost did last time. I spent a lot of time with the Speaker discussing the need to
get more evidence before they moved on impeachment, to make sure that they could build enough of a case to win.
ROONEY: I wasn't interested in just a pyrrhic victory, which is what they obtained. What Trump did with Kislyak, as you know, better than I do was
outrageous, it wasn't right. But it didn't rise to the level of impeachment. This is a different situation. I think this very well does.
AMANPOUR: Yes, of course, you're talking about that phone call with the President Zelensky of Ukraine that involved all those other people. So, you
think this does now. What do you think is going to happen in the Senate? Because now, it sort of gets more serious or, at least, the follow-up has
to happen if it is going to in the Senate. What do you think will happen?
ROONEY: Well --
AMANPOUR: And do you think the fact that only 10 House members of -- on your party voted to impeach. What does that signal for where the elected
Republicans might find themselves if this comes to the Senate?
ROONEY: Well, on the latter point, the fact that only 10 stood up, and the fact, it relates to the fact that like 140 opposed certifying the vote.
Those are both sides of the same coin is the power of Trump over the Republican base in the fear that he strikes in a lot of elected
Republicans, and that's a very unfortunate thing.
And, you know, we've seen so many instances of blind loyalty, unfettered, unaccountable loyalty throughout history of leaders that leads to very bad
consequences, and you've reported on many of them in the past. So, now we have this situation that needs to be redirected.
If McConnell could get a vote before the inauguration, maybe, maybe there's something there. I don't -- if you, you're past the inauguration though.
AMANPOUR: OK, because he is not bringing them back, I don't believe for this to happen then. I think most people think that if there is or when
there is a trial, it will happen in the first time of the Biden administration.
But look, you know, you mentioned overseas, and I just want to ask you this because you also were a U.S. ambassador overseas, you were ambassador to
the Vatican. What -- you've seen the reaction from America's adversaries. I mean, they're basically sitting back and having a good chuckle because
they're saying, well, forget democracy, forget preaching to us.
But more to the point, they're watching this on top of the total failure of this administration to get a grip on COVID, the total failure of law
enforcement last week to get a grip on securing the Congress, and as you know, this horrendous massive hack the U.S. intelligence believes by Russia
into at least 10 federal agencies that's been going on for the last many, many months.
I mean, these are direct threats under this administration to national security. What do you think people who you've worked with abroad must be
thinking, particularly adversaries?
ROONEY: Well, you're right, it's a broad-based series of failures that all go back to the administration's feet. I think as you mentioned, there's a
little bit of gloating the way -- the way that the president's treated some of our allies, especially our European ones. I don't blame them for
gloating just a little bit.
But I think more than that, from speaking to some of our friends in Latin America and Europe since this happened, there's a great fear that we've
fallen off the pedestal. And that we're the beacon of democracy and transparency and fairness, and we're not standing for any of that right
And so, the rest of the world says, wait a minute. You know, we've tried to follow these examples since World War II, and what are you doing over
there? What kind of riotous barbarian behavior are you perpetrating that is contrary to everything you've said for 70 years?
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, rioter's barbarian behavior -- you know that the FBI and others are looking to charge many people, they've arrested a lot.
They're talking about charging some of these radical, fanatical, people who went into the Congress with things like sedition and murder. Those are
hugely important charges to place on these particular extreme supporters of the president.
And as you mentioned yourself, I mean, how many was it? It was about 147 Republican lawmakers voted against certifying the results of a free and
fair presidential election. What does this mean for your party going forward? Does Trumpism and the hold he has on the party survive?
ROONEY: Well, yes, I've been spending a lot of time with a lot of concerned people, former ambassadors, former state department people, former Bush
people, about where do we go? You know, quo vadis here in reforming some type of Republican Party or some other party that is based on our
traditional principles. Of globalization, multinational organizations, seeking government and private sector solutions, instead of the -- instead
-- seeking private sector solutions instead of the government. And we don't have any of that right now.
And then, I don't know how many people would be pulled away from the Trump group to do that. And what will happen with the Trump group once he's out
AMANPOUR: Well, I wonder whether you consider -- I mean, there are many, many, I guess, pressure points that could affect some of these people who
want to run for office. Obviously, in America, money is the big thing. Donations, campaign --campaigning for donations is huge. And you've seen
how many big donors are laying down a marker, saying that particularly those 147 who presumably feel that they might be afraid of being primaried,
and some of them really do believe that the election was rigged.
These donors are saying, they're not going to be giving this kind of money to these people anymore. You have been, in the past, a big donor. And even
the Koch brothers, you know, they fund a lot of -- the Koch network says, "Lawmaker's actions leading up to and during last week's insurrection will
weigh heavy in our evaluation of future support."
They are reliable, you know, conservative donors. What do you say about that?
ROONEY: I don't think I've ever been prouder of corporate America than what I've seen the last two days. And I've given -- my wife and I have given
tens of millions of dollars to Republicans over the years, and I agree with them.
I don't think we want to be funding anybody that didn't stand for a peaceful transfer of power and voted to obstruct the certification of Vice
President Biden. And it's not just -- it's broad-based. It's the banks, it's the energy companies. I saw where Chevron came out today.
ConocoPhillips. It's obviously the tech companies, but it's all across corporate America.
AMANPOUR: So, if the Koch brothers and the Koch network do that and what you're saying, will that have a clarifying effect on these people? And why
do you think that -- I mean, you've obviously talked to them, and you have kind of lamented how much they are enthralled to Trump. How has he managed
this over a period of just four years?
ROONEY: I think cutting off the money will strike a great threat in the hearts of any elected official. It's the money is so predominant in the
system right now. And it's unfortunate that it -- that it does dominate everything.
So, corporate America is speaking with a united voice. I know a lot of private companies like ours will be in the same position, and that may get
someone to think twice about what they're doing.
Now, there's a few other things I think we need to do if I might. If you want to solve some of these partisanship problems, we need to deal with
redistricting and have districts where the election is the general, not the primary.
You alluded to the effective primaries that used to be even as late as President Clinton that 75-76 percent of congressional districts were close
enough that the election counted.
Now, like less than a quarter of them, the general election that makes any difference at all.
And the other thing is I would like to return to the fairness doctrine where media has to publish both sides of political discourse and that would
maybe take care of some of these one-off media outlets that we've seen proliferate since it was ended in 1986.
AMANPOUR: Both very, very important points there. Congressman Rooney, thank you so much for joining us.
Meanwhile, one of Donald Trump's biggest allies overseas, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also fighting to stay in power. As yet,
another Netanyahu coalition collapsed and forced a fourth election that will be happening in March, a fourth election in two years, mind you.
This time, Netanyahu is facing a former close ally and Cabinet secretary. He is Gideon Saar. But Saar broke away from Likud to form his own faction,
and he's calling it, New Hope. And he's joining me now from Tel Aviv.
Gideon Saar, welcome to the program. I guess I want to ask you, why are you challenging your mentor?
GIDEON SAAR, FOUNDER, NEW HOPE PARTY: Good evening, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Good evening. Why are you challenging your hitherto close, close ally, and mentor?
SAAR: In politics, you can support someone as long as you think he's doing the right thing for the country. What happened during the last years
demonstrated totally the opposite?
What we had saw in Israel, we are now in front of the fourth election campaign within two years. It is unprecedented and this instability --
political instability also influence economic instability and social instability.
And people in Israel wants change in order to bring Israel to track once again. And there is another issue we must bring our society together again.
We have a very severe polarization, divisions in our society. And I don't think that Mr. Netanyahu will be able to unite the nation. I'm not sure if
he -- it is in his interest. And I'm sure I can do it.
So, from all these reasons, so many Israelis want to open a new page to have a new hope. And this is why I decided to establish this new party and
to challenge the -- and to compete to be the next prime minister of Israel.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to pick you up on, I'm sure I can do it. Because, as you've seen, and I said, four elections in the last two years. He pretty
much won or cobbled a coalition together, and each and every one of them, they didn't last. The last one was with, you know, Benny Gantz and that
sort of central lefty movement there.
You're coming at it from a different angle, obviously, from a very similar political angle to Benjamin Netanyahu, which is the right. What makes you
think that you have any better chance of defeating the longest-serving Israeli prime minister? What makes you think you can do it?
SAAR: You can see from the minute our party was established; you can see it in all the polls that it changed the political map. We are a center-right
party, but we do think we must have an alternative to someone who holds power for 15 years. It is a very long time. By the way, my intention is to
do the first thing, is to change the law and make limit term of maximum eight years in power.
And so many Israelis that share my views, thinks we need a change, and we thinks that we need to create a different atmosphere in our society. We
don't see someone with different views even though he is -- he is our political opponent, is our enemy, we see him as a brother with different
views. We work in order to convince the public that we are right.
But the thing today in Israel that these divisions are very dangerous to our future, because we have huge national challenges, and unity is not only
a value, it is also a national asset in terms of our national security, and we must restore it.
AMANPOUR: As you know, you talked about polls, but basically, the latest polls indicate that Netanyahu and Likud are ahead of New Hope. And I just
wanted to ask you, if it came to that, would you enter a coalition with Netanyahu and Likud?
SAAR: No, I won't. Because in a democracy, I take it seriously when I bring to the public an alternative. I intend to win, and I believe that the
majority of Israelis will create the change on March 23rd. But if you don't win in politics, you go to the opposition.
I don't intend anyhow to crawl to a government with a direction I don't believe in, and we are a strong alternative, we have more and more support
from day-to-day. And I believe we are -- we will be able to form the new government in Israel after these elections.
AMANPOUR: So, does that mean you would go into a coalition, you know, with the more left-wing and green parties, or with the Israeli-Arab parties? I
mean, you know, you're talking about potentially strange bedfellows given again your political background and your political sentiments.
I mean, you're a pro-settler party, you share many, many of the same politics as Netanyahu.
SAAR: We don't exclude center-left parties. By the way, Netanyahu always set with center-left parties, including today in his coalitions.
The issue with the Arab lease is problematic due to its views that's -- that creates gaps. We are fully support equality to all our citizens. We
have -- in my party, we have also Israeli-Arabs, and it is very important for us to respect minorities. But with the joint Arab least, it's their
position that makes cooperation in coalition very, very difficult.
But yes, we are not excluding other party -- other parties even though they are from the center-left. We will be able to create a government with all
the parties that agree to the basic principle of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. And to agree to our plans for the nation for the next
AMANPOUR: Can I turn to, obviously, the health crisis that is plaguing the whole world including your country. But Prime Minister Netanyahu is getting
some good reviews for at least rolling out the vaccine, and actually is up there, I think, it's like number one in the world for vaccinating
proportionately the population.
First of all, how is that going? You're also at the same time in a third wave and a -- you know, lockdown and all the rest of it. How is that going?
SAAR: Well, there is a progress in the vaccination process, and I praise the prime minister for what he had done in that respect. But it doesn't
release him from the responsibility for a huge, huge failure managing this crisis.
We are already in the third or the fourth closure already. A huge, huge crisis in our economy. And I see that very simple things that the
government should have done during this time they failed doing so.
So, for us, we are not over yet. I think we should work in order to minimize the problems and the difficulties for our citizens during the
coming months. And also for the -- for our state.
But we are really in a deep crisis and the problem is that the government was not able to stabilize the situation. They hadn't approved a new budget
from political and personal reasons that cause severe damages to Israel. All the necessary reforms that is necessary in order to restore growth was
left behind and we are, again, in an electoral campaign.
So, from all these reasons, I think the Israeli public knows there is a failure handling the coronavirus crisis.
AMANPOUR: And as you know, the United Nations and many human rights groups, not to mention, the Palestinians themselves, have complained bitterly that
they are not getting a fair shake when it comes to vaccinations as well.
And Mustafa Barghouthi who's also a physician. He's a Palestinian political leader also, wrote this in The New York Times. "The Israeli government's
decision to make the vaccine available only to Israeli citizens is not just a moral injustice, it is self-defeating. Herd immunity will not be achieved
for Israelis without vaccinating Palestinians."
I wonder if you were prime minister, you would make sure that Palestinians on the occupied West Bank and in Gaza did actually get fairly treated in
these vaccinations as well. It is part of the Oslo Accords and it is part of the Geneva Conventions for not -- for an occupying power to take care of
the medical needs of those citizens.
SAAR: Christiane, as you know, after the Oslo Accords and after our withdrawal from Gaza Strip, the vast majority of Palestinians in Judea and
Samaria and in Gaza Strip under Palestinian control, it's the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas regime to take
care of their residents.
We will -- we would like to help, but we will be able to help only after taking care to our own citizens.
AMANPOUR: Well, you've -- I guess that's a -- that's a pretty severe message to the Palestinians. Do you not think that actually -- you know,
you also close together, but it is a pandemic?
SAAR: I think -- I think it's a good -- I think it's a -- I think it's a good message.
SAAR: I think it's a good message because I said we are ready to help. We are ready to help, but we will be able to help after taking care for our
own citizens. I think that the Palestinian authority has enough money in order to pay salaries to terrorists, to murderers, to those who are getting
a reward according to the crimes they're doing against Israelis.
AMANPOUR: OK, OK. OK, this is two different issues. Sorry.
SAAR: As much it is more severe, they are getting more money. Yes, yes. But, but this -- if they have money for that, they can take care of their
residence also for their health.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Saar, these are two different issues. These are two very different issues. This is a global pandemic that, you know, everybody has
to be dealt with or not.
SAAR: No, no. It's -- yes.
AMANPOUR: Let me -- let me just move on because I have to ask you one more issue about the -- obviously, the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
SAAR: I certainly agree. I certainly agree --
AMANPOUR: I want to know whether you agree with what Benjamin Netanyahu flouted. I want to know whether you agree with what Mr. Netanyahu raised,
and that was the annexation with the U.S. approval of the West Bank settlements and parts of the West Bank. Is that something that you would do
and carry out if you became prime minister?
SAAR: I see our objective in the future to implement Israeli law on our communities in Judea and Samaria, not over the Palestinian territories --
Palestinian authority territories, but on our communities in Judea and Samaria.
SAAR: But, Mr. Netanyahu, in the context of normalization with Arab countries, agreed to suspend the issue of sovereignty in his dialogue with
the Trump administration. As a prime minister, I will respect previous commitments of an Israeli prime minister to the American administration.
AMANPOUR: All right. That's loud and clear. Including the next administration, let me just get that straight.
SAAR: Well, there is a continuation. As much as prime minister in Israel respects previous commitments of previous government, I don't see a
difference if now the administration is different. In that respect, it's a commitment.
And I hope that the next administration in Washington will continue to promote peace with other Arab countries. It is a very important issue in
order to reach peace and stability in the Middle East.
AMANPOUR: All right, Gideon Saar, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
Now, with security at an all-time high for Joe Biden's inauguration next week, the FBI warns that armed far-right protesters could hit cities across
all 50 states just as they struck the Capitol last Wednesday.
Now, hundreds of thousands of security forces are bracing for impact. Investigative reporter for ProPublica, A.C. Thompson has been tracking far-
right movements for years. And here he is, speaking to our Hari Sreenivasan, about which groups were at that capital riot, and what to look
out for in future.
HARI SREENIVASAN, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Christiane, thanks. A.C. thanks for joining us. Layout, if you will, the Venn diagram of all
the different groups that were there. Because we know that this wasn't one homogeneous group of either Trump supporters or whatever we would call the
ADAM CLAY THOMPSON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, PROPUBLICA: Right. So, it is really interesting. What you see is we see a sort of unaffiliated mass of
very hardcore Trump supporters, of people that support the MAGA, Make America Great Again movement.
But then, you see specific entities. And a key entity, I would say, would be the proud voice, which is the sort of ultra-nationalist street fighting
group that has emerged in the last few years were a big part of this. The different militia groups like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters were on
scene, and they played a key role.
QAnon supporters, people of the conspiracy theory about around the president, and Joe Biden were there. There was a contingent of boogaloo
boys there as well, who are an armed group who believe in the overthrow of the U.S. government. And then, there were some white nationalists and white
supremacist outfits as well.
So, it was a big collection of these different groups, many of whom have different ideologies and interests. And then, a sort of buffer of kind of
average Trump supporters.
SREENIVASAN: How do their interests all overlap? How do they all set aside whatever their differences might be for a shared goal?
THOMPSON: The key thing for so many people is this belief that the election was fraudulent, that Donald Trump is the rightful president going forward,
that he should have been re-elected, that he really was re-elected, if not for massive fraud. And that what we're seeing is basically, the end of
And so, that's a really motivating force for people. If you believe that, then you will go do intense and extreme things, and I think that's what is
the uniting force there. Some of these groups, you know, would like to see basically a white homeland, a white U.S. cleansed of people of color.
Some of these groups are hardcore anti-immigration and anti-Muslim. They have different sort of key ideas. But Trump is a uniter for them, and he
has built this broad tent of pretty fringe characters over the last four years.
SREENIVASAN: Now, you have been going to so many of these militia rallies, these stop to steal rallies, you're working on a film for frontline that's
going to come out in the spring. But when you are able to spot, for example, a group of what looks like a military group walking right up the
steps of the Capitol, kind of snaking through the crowd there, how did you identify who they were?
THOMPSON: You know, so, working with my colleague, Ford Fischer, who is a videographer, he was filming for us, and films at all these events as well,
we went through that footage. We looked at the insignias that were on the body armor, and on the clothing that these guys were wearing. And we've
seen them at previous rallies.
The thing with the militia guys, the Oath Keepers, is they were broadcasting their organization with Oath Keeper patches on their gear. The
Proud Boys took a different tack. We've seen them at a lot of rallies over the past three years and usually they go out in very clear uniforms, yellow
and gold -- or gold and black are their colors. They always wear the same kind of uniform. This time they didn't do that. They wore black.
A lot of them wore orange beanies or had a little piece of orange duct tape affixed to their gear but they weren't broadcasting their membership in
that group. So, it took more work to sort of figure out that they were deeply involved. And Vice News is one of the outlets that has really looked
at them as a news organization and figured out their role in all this.
SREENIVASAN: This subset of white supremacists, white nationalists, the Department of Homeland Security has said, the FBI has said over the past
year, that this is our -- one of our primary concerns for domestic terrorism, that that's something the entire country should be on watch for.
So, I think a lot of people are wondering how is it that these groups were able to organize and show up on January 6th without triggering all the
alarms you would think the federal government has in place?
THOMPSON: Yes. So, that is a key question. That's going to be part of the post mortem that is going on for months into the future. How did this
happen? What were the intelligence failures? Where do we see the breakdown in law enforcement responsibility between Homeland Security, the FBI, the
D.C. Metro Police, the Capitol Police? Where does the culpability really lie?
Now, I'll tell you this. In the months and weeks before the election, the FBI was incredibly active. They were at -- a lot of white supremacist
extremist and antigovernment extremists, and they were very, very diligent. So, my general sense is that they're in these chat rooms. They're on the
dark web. They're getting human sources into these groups. On that end, you're seeing a lot of activity.
My question is, is that law enforcement activity being translated over to local law enforcement agencies or law enforcement agencies like the Capitol
Police and are they acting on that information?
SREENIVASAN: What is the connection between these groups and the president? When we watched the debate and when the president had an opportunity to
disavow white supremacists on stage instead of saying whatever he wanted to he said, stand back and stand by. And there was a lot made about that
phrase at the time. Did these groups perceive or do they think the president supports them?
THOMPSON: Yes. Yes. They do. And for the Proud Boys are reporting shows, and that was the group he sort of gave a shout out to during the debate,
that they have had a massive explosion in membership since then. That that mention actually has been a huge driver in their recruitment.
But if you go through the hardcore white supremacist movement, if you go to the anti-immigrant movement, if you go to groups like the Proud Boys, they
have believed for years that Trump is on their side. And if he doesn't always signal his complete support for them, well that is something he's
being forced to do and he kind of has to not always embrace their politics but they believe that he is a fellow traveler. He is a supporter.
SREENIVASAN: So, let's talk a little bit about the police, on kind of two fronts, one is we saw a police force that was physically overwhelmed by the
number of people that were trying to enter the capitol. Some of them seemed, for lack of a better term, complicit. They seemed to just open the
gates or open the doors. And others fought as much as they could to try to stop this from happening, right? But when you see how police handled the
events in Charlottesville, how they handled the events here, what sticks out to you?
THOMPSON: Well, I'll tell you this. The D.C. Metropolitan Police have been very impressive and have been very professional throughout the fall and
into this year with their ability to manage protest crowds without harming the protesters and while allowing them to exercise their First Amendment
rights. And so, I think we've seen a high level of sophistication, professionalism out of the local police here in D.C.
SREENIVASAN: D.C. is a protest town.
THOMPSON: It is a protest town. This is what they do. That's why it was strange to see such a lack of preparation apparently and lack of
sophistication on the part of the capitol police. They deal with protests all the time, too. And it was a stark contrast to what we've personally
witnessed and filmed with the Metropolitan Police.
SREENIVASAN: When you -- you know, there was a lot of pushback after this saying how much of this has to do with the race of the people that were
rioting, protesting, whatever you want to call it because our preparedness, our stance seemed so different over the summer for the Black Lives Matter
THOMPSON: That is going to be a key question going forward. We interviewed Rep. Andre Carson who is a congressman from the Indianapolis area who is
African-American rep and he said to us, he said, I am worried that there are empathizers and sympathizers with this Trump movement and some of the
more extreme elements of it who were working in the ranks of the capitol police that day. That is a legitimate concern that I have and it's
something we're going to find out about.
I think when we've seen police officers from around the country who showed up at the event, that is a concern. I think that when we see police leaders
and sheriff's deputies and sheriffs signal their support for the event, I think that is a concern. So, that sort of concern that there is a current
of this extremism in police and in law enforcement and may have been at the capitol.
And when you see some of these videos of the doors kind of being flung open for the rioters, it's hard not to think there was some sort of
sympathizing. That is a very deep concern.
SREENIVASAN: You saw now identified a former navy seal. You saw several ex- military. But there were also members of police departments from different parts of the country who drove in and took part in this.
THOMPSON: Right. So, we know that there was, you know, a police officer from Oakland, California, for example. We than the police union leader in
Chicago signaled his support quite vocally for the event. We know that there are sheriffs from around the country and sheriff's deputies who have
been involved in the movement and said, hey, nothing wrong happened that day. And so, that is a worrisome thing here.
I think, you know, fundamentally, sitting underneath all of this is this nearly cult-like admiration for Donald Trump. And this belief that if he
says the election was fraudulent, the election was stolen, I have been deprived of my rightful place as your president for the second term, these
people are acting on that repeated and constant messaging. And they are so skeptical of the so-called mainstream media or of traditional news sources
that when you tell them, hey, you know, all the reporting, all the audits, all the recounts show there wasn't any real significant fraud. That is not
something they want to believe. It just is not something they believe. It does not enter into their minds. And so, they feel motivated in a nearly
religious way to take these actions.
SREENIVASAN: So is there -- you know, a lot of times the conservative movement in the country throughout the past year or the last few years of
protests and so forth, if there was ever going to be a confrontation between some of these groups and police, it seemed like it would stop
because this was either the Republican Party that was the party of law and order or the president has repeatedly said he is for law and order. Is that
THOMPSON: Yes, that's a great question. That is actually something we've been exploring with our film. Because when we were going to protests a few
months ago, you would see these confrontations and you would see the Proud Boys or other groups get right up to the police line and they would want to
engage physically with the police. And then they would say, we're not going to do that. We support the police. We love you guys. We back the blue. And
it would stop.
But what you've seen week after week is that support for the police, that sort of idea that we are the pro police forces, is diminishing. And it's
gone now. It's gone. And what you see now is a sense that the police are complicit in this vast depth of the election, which we know is a fraudulent
-- that we know is not true, we know the election wasn't stolen, but there is a perception amongst many of these groups the election was stolen, the
police at all levels have become complicit with this theft.
And now, we are turning on them. We are turning on the federal government. And for a lot them, they're even turning on the GOP and the Republicans and
saying, you didn't have our back when we went into the capitol. We're done with you. We are just going to be at war with the government until we save
SREENIVASAN: Wow. So, that idea that we are with the police if that was the thing that was stopping full scale attacks and if that's gone, that does
not bode well for whatever is coming.
THOMPSON: My concern is that the law-and-order portion of the far-right is now sort of gravitating toward the really militant antigovernment seen
within the far-right, which was smaller. And that now what you may see is a much broader very hardcore antigovernment movement that is willing to use
force to go after public officials, that is willing to use force to take over state houses and other government buildings and that believes that the
use of bombs and other terrorist tactics are justified.
SREENIVASAN: You've been going to a lot of these marches and rallies for more than a year now. You've been investigating the space for several
years. What happened on the 6th caught a lot of Americans by surprise but there have actually been protests like this at state capitols throughout
THOMPSON: Yes. The thing that you see, when you look back at 2020 and you bring it up to January 6th is that you see this was something that was
building over months. You start with January 2020 in Virginia and you had 20,000-armed people show up at the Virginia State House. They did not enter
the state house. No one was hurt. But that was a quite menacing show of force.
You can look at other events that happened throughout the year. The Idaho State House in Boise was stormed. The Oregon State House in Salem was
stormed. There was a whole group of armed men who went into the state capitol in Michigan while legislators were there. These men all -- almost
all of them had AR-15 rifles and really, really scared the state lawmakers. And then there was the plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer, that the
FBI alleges in Michigan. And there have been so many threats against elections officials, public health officials, other state leaders and local
We have seen an unprecedented wave of militant, antigovernment action over 12 months. And I worry that that is not ending and particularly at state
and local level, we will see a lot more public leaders targeted.
SREENIVASAN: What happens in the Biden administration? I mean, on the one hand you're going to have a president who is not going to be saying stand
back and stand by or give tacit permission. On the other hand, you have a president who faces a massive threat by a number of people who find him
THOMPSON: Right. I talked to a far-right leader yesterday and I posed that question to him. And he said, you know, I think it's possible that people
just go home. And they go back to their jobs. And they're angry but they don't do anything. He said, now, if we see hardcore gun restrictions coming
down, if we see gun control laws coming that are significant, he said, at that point, I think you will see more resistance.
But he also said, I can't predict. And this was a person who associated with Tim McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was part of the militia when
Tim McVeigh was around. He said, so, it's always possible that someone will go out and take that sort of drastic action. It is really hard to predict.
But I think we have to be -- we want to be vigilant but not paranoid over the next year for the potential for a real, dramatic attack on the federal
SREENIVASAN: A.C. Thompson of "Pro Publica" also working on a film for frontline about this very topic, thanks so much for joining us.
THOMPSON: Thank you, Hari.
AMANPOUR: And that is really, really critical perspective and insight there.
Now, football fans might recognize my next guest who is now also a rising star in Hollywood. He's playing the lead in Amazon's latest period romance
called "Sylvie's Love." Nnamdi Asomugha is a former NFL quarterback and he has played with teams like the Oakland Raiders. He took up acting 13 years
ago. And now, he is playing Robert Holloway, an up-and-coming saxophone player who falls in love with Sylvie of the film's title. Take a look at
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NNAMDI ASOMUGHA, ACTOR, "SYLVIE'S LOVE": Last night was such a mistake, why are you so bent out of shape with me dancing with somebody else?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because, mistake or not, when a girl is kissed by a guy, she'd like to think she is the only girl that guy has been kissing.
So, you carrying on with what's her face doesn't make me feel very special.
ASOMUGHA: Well, the only reason I was carrying on with her in the first place is because of you telling me this is all a big mistake. That doesn't
make me feel very special either. As a matter of fact, it made me feel pretty ordinary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you're not ordinary to me. In fact, I think you're one of the most extraordinary people I've ever met.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The film is that rare thing, a story of black characters doing everyday things like falling in love. And Nnamdi Asomugha is joining me now
Welcome to the program.
ASOMUGHA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: I want to know how you felt about doing a romantic lead. It wasn't something you were necessarily going for, right?
ASOMUGHA: It wasn't. And I just want to start -- I debated even saying this, but I just want to start by saying, in college and my first two years
in the NFL, if anyone ever asked me what do I want to do when I'm done playing football, I would say what Christiane Amanpour is doing, and I'm
You know, I love to travel so much and I really, really wanted to be an international correspondent. It's not a joke. But you were that
inspiration. So, this is full circle.
ASOMUGHA: Anyway, yes.
AMANPOUR: You know, I really appreciate that. That's so nice of you and I really enjoyed the film. Now, romantic lead, Nnamdi.
ASOMUGHA: Romantic lead. So, I did not envision romantic lead at all. I had never seen a script about playing the romantic guy and, you know, coming
from football, it is not necessarily what your next thing, it's not the thing that's on your mind to do next but the script was just so rich and so
full and it was just a story that needed to be told in such a beautiful way and I said, let me jump in and try to work it out.
AMANPOUR: And look, we said, I said in the lead up to you, that it is extraordinary because of its ordinariness. You don't often see films of
African-Americans just doing ordinary things. They are always couched in either, whatever, crime, adventure, civil rights, whatever it might be.
Talk to me about that aspect of this film.
ASOMUGHA: Yes, you know, there's a saying there are no new ideas, just new perspectives. And this was a romantic film that, you know, a lot of us have
seen these romantic films, but there is a generation and a culture that has not seen themselves on film in this way and on screen. And I think it is a
testament to our writer and director, Eugene Ashe, who just, you know, you can tell in his writing that he's been greatly influenced by the women in
his life and just in his spirit, you can tell that.
And he really wanted to honor the generation before him, his parents, his aunts, his uncles, and sort of tell a story that they hadn't seen. I think
it is important to do that especially when you're telling a love story that can focus on the interpersonal issues and not the societal issues. This is
the civil rights era, but we're just talking about the love, we're talking about two people meeting each other and starting a family, and it was
AMANPOUR: And again, that just simple tale is actually what makes it so powerful. Of course, you are a saxophone player and it is a story of your
rise through the ranks and getting your career on the way and also, as you say, making a family. Tell me, you actually learned to play the saxophone,
right? This isn't somebody sort of whatever lip syncing.
ASOMUGHA: I did learn to play the saxophone. You know, I had been saying for the last few weeks that -- and a friend of mine called me out on this
actually, but I had been saying, I think I'm a glutton for criticism. You know, like I go from one career where everyone is sort of watching me with
the microscope and then another career where the microscope is probably even bigger and my friend said, no, I just think you like a challenge. And
I think that's what it was.
To be able to learn the saxophone, you know, all I needed to do was really play it for a couple months to just get fingering down, but I fell in love
with it and I really wanted it to be deep in the character. So, I worked on it for over a year and learned it and it was a part of my life in a really
AMANPOUR: I mean, over a year, it really does speak to the amount of preparation you do. And I've read, you talk about preparation, and I wonder
if that comes from your sports and football background.
ASOMUGHA: Oh, without a doubt. You know, especially in football, the preparation is not on game day. You have a full week. It's not like
baseball or basketball or anything where you're playing every other day. You have a full week to prepare for your opponent and I think just coming
into the NFL and not really knowing what I was doing and starting to go through that preparation process and having it pay off on game day, I
think, something happened. I started to realize that the preparation is probably the most important part of the process and that's just something
I've been able to transfer over into acting and producing, just making sure that you're prepared so that in the moment you can throw it away and fully
live in the circumstance.
AMANPOUR: And again, of course, it revolves around this unbelievable music and this beautiful period and the clothes and just very lush, the actual
look of the film. But you also -- it is very clear that your character is vulnerable and essentially wants to be -- you know, it's a very clear that
the black male figure who is putting his vulnerability out on the line there.
ASOMUGHA: Yes. I mean, how often do we see that? And not just even on screen. I can just say it, you know, as a black man myself. We don't see it
very often in the community, especially those that came before us. They weren't teaching us, it's OK to show your emotions. It is OK to cry. It's
OK to tell people how you're feeling. And then also, coming from sports, you definitely don't hear that.
So, that was a -- it was a big thing for us to put in in terms of his character just so that we can show the younger generations and even the
older generations that as black men, as men in general, this is OK. It's OK to tell people how you feel. You know, we should remove that stigma. It is
OK to be emotional. And hopefully, that came across.
AMANPOUR: Oh, it really did and it's actually very moving. Now, I don't know whether many people know but you are married to Carrie Washington and
she is obviously your biggest supporter. She tweeted the proudest wifey tweet, "Sylvie's Love" is out now. Hus is amazing. Tessa Thompson, co-star
is amazing. On Amazon now.
What is it like, A, to have, you know, a powerhouse movie couple living under the same roof but also sort of along with that, do you feel like
black actors, black stories, you know, sort of black artistic community is getting ahead in a way that perhaps wasn't the case a year ago and beyond?
ASOMUGHA: Yes, well, it allows me to stay off of Twitter and Instagram because like she is my biggest supporter so she can handle all of that.
But, you know, outside of that, absolutely. I think, you know, I'll just say it from my experience, which is, you know, a few years in this business
even from when I started the amount of projects that are out there that center around black stories, or not even black stories but black characters
or black directors or black producers or whatever it may be, that number has just grown tremendously. And that's in the few years I've been in the
Now, if I talked to someone that was working back in the '90s, they may say, we went through the same surge and it is just a cycle and will ebb and
flow. You know, I don't know. But to me it has been very positive and I think there is something special happening in the community.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you a final question because I know you campaigned for Joe Biden. And obviously, we've seen everything that we've
seen over the last week and it's been really horrendous. Not to mention what happened in May with the killing of George Floyd. It's just been all
of a piece.
Where do you see hope starting this new year?
ASOMUGHA: Oh, I mean, I see -- I tend to be the optimist, first of all. So, people don't always want to hear because I am trying to find the silver
lining in everything. But, you know, I'm hopeful that the new administration can sort of restore, you know, dignity and respect and just
this ability to be empathetic toward each other in this country.
You know, I have a lot of family and friends that are living in other countries that sort of look at us and are scratching their heads like, what
happened, you know, you guys were the ones that we looked toward. And it's become so combative, you know, visually for us to see you guys. And that
type of stuff hurts, you know. And I do believe that this new administration can change that and I'm hopeful for that and I'll continue
to work as much as I can to make that possible for this country.
AMANPOUR: Nnamdi Asomugha, thank you so much indeed and silver linings are so important.
That's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.