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Biden's COVID Response Plan; Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Interview With NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 21, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: One year ago to this very day, the United States confirmed its first case of SARS-CoV-2 in the state of
AMANPOUR (voice-over): One year later, a new American president unveils the first coordinated federal response to the COVID-19. Public health
expert Devi Sridhar tells me what must be the first move.
Then: America is back. NATO allies are celebrating a return to more normal. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg joins me.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congratulations.
AMANPOUR: Now that the Democrats have taken power, what is on their agenda?
I ask senior House Congressman Adam Schiff.
DAVID KESSLER, AUTHOR, "FINDING MEANING": One of the things that President Biden does is, he knows how to bring the dead with us into the future, into
David Kessler, a leading expert on grief, tells our Michel Martin, Joe Biden's personal experience with grief could shape his presidency.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
One year ago, the United States confirmed its first case of coronavirus. So too did South Korea. America is now mourning more than 400,000 lives lost,
while, in South Korea, 1,316 deaths have been reported. Different countries, yes, but Seoul was helped by an all-of-government approach and
President Biden is now unveiling a national strategy to tackle COVID, and he's inviting congressional leaders to the White House as early as Friday
to discuss his plans.
Sources say the Trump administration had no COVID vaccine distribution plan, so Biden's team has to start from scratch.
Joining me now is Professor Devi Sridhar. She is the chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, and she's advising the British
government on how best to handle this crisis.
Professor Sridhar, welcome back to the program.
So, I want to start by asking you about what President Biden's doing, because, often, leadership kind of tends to come from the United States, or
perhaps now, with the new administration.
So what do you think a new strategy, a federal strategy, will actually mean? And what has to be done, what does he have to do to make that a
DEVI SRIDHAR, UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH: Yes.
No, it's absolutely fantastic to see President Biden acknowledging the 400,000 deaths of Americans to COVID-19 and committing not only
domestically to a plan, including face coverings, distancing, actually suppressing the virus through testing and tracing, but also to
internationalism, to rejoining the World Health Organization.
We had Tony Fauci representing the United States at the Executive Board today, as well as COVAX, the international facility for vaccine
distribution to poor countries, committing to that as well. So it's a really bright day for global health.
AMANPOUR: Can, I ask you also? There's this report which suggests that the Biden -- the Trump administration had actually no vaccine rollout plan.
What does that mean in practice for this new incoming administration? I mean, is it like starting from zero?
SRIDHAR: Well, we have seen in the United States, in contrast to Britain is, in Britain, there was a plan. The NHS had a plan of priority groups.
You start with those most at risk of death or those at risk with occupations. And then you roll that through, so that you have some kind of
prioritization process and structure, where, in the States, it's been almost a free-for-all, if your employer can buy it, you can pay for it, if
you're in a hospital that acquires it.
So it's kind of in a free-for-all situation. And I think what he will try to bring is actually a strategy similar to Britain of, what are the most
crucial groups to cover first? And how do we systematically work through the population to vaccinate as many as possible?
AMANPOUR: So, I mean, you are American. You have worked in public health over there. You know that the federal government cannot order states to do
this kind of stuff.
What can a federal response actually look like? How much pickup or take-up will that have by the states?
SRIDHAR: Well, I think what it can do is actually coordinate states and actually try to support the states that have been doing really well. We
know, for example, Massachusetts had an excellent response.
New York now is moving ahead -- so, to support those states and then support the other states as well. I mean, I think it is a challenge,
because there are Republican governors who still deny that COVID is an issue compared to flu. We know 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump.
Some of those people think it's a hoax, think it's been overexaggerated, that their jobs are at stake.
So I think it's, one, about messaging and coherent messaging, but also coordinating state action towards a single target and single goal, because
just because -- and this is the challenge you have seen -- Massachusetts did something right, it needs all its neighboring states to do it as well.
And you need a kind of federally coordinated and led response.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you? Because I did lead in with this, sort of the origin story that everybody's pointed out from the beginning. Both South
Korea and the United States recorded their first cases a year ago on the same day, and the results have been massively different.
You have done a lot of work studying how Asia responded. What lesson today can the U.S., Britain, others learn from Asia?
SRIDHAR: Well, there's two overarching lessons. And South Korea painfully paid the price of not responding quick enough to MERS, which is a very
deadly coronavirus, kills a third of people who get it, several years ago.
So, based on that, when they heard about a new coronavirus in China, they started running, Taiwan as well, given its experience with SARS, which
kills about 10 percent of people. And it's first humility in the face of an infectious virus, that you need to always be on your front foot and not
underestimate it, and, second, not to wait and watch to get all the data.
At the start, it's looking like through a fog, and you just have to move based on signals. And, in a sense, it feels like overreacting, but that's
appropriate. And so, from a broad level, I think Asia has really taught us that we need to move early, move hard, move fast, and not underestimate the
challenge of viruses coming through your population.
AMANPOUR: But give us -- talk about the challenge right now, a year on, with the vaccines. We have got at least three that have been approved in
the West. You have got a Chinese vaccine, you have got a Russian vaccine.
And yet we're hearing that there are bottlenecks. There are -- there's not enough supply, whether it's in the United States or here in Britain. I
think Britain is number four in terms of doing well in the rollout. But there are still challenges.
As far as you know, what is the biggest challenge with getting a vaccine into the arms of those who need it?
SRIDHAR: Well, right now, in richer countries, which have access to Pfizer and Moderna, largely European countries, Britain, as well as Israel and the
United States, it's actually supply. It's getting enough of doses.
And the companies are trying to build their factories larger to produce these quickly enough. And poorer countries are being left behind. I mean,
we have heard from Dr. Tedros, the director general of the World Health Organization, that only 25 -- 25 single doses have been given in Guinea, in
a low-income context -- all low-income countries, whereas, in rich countries, it's in the tens of millions.
So it's really a supply issue. Everyone wants the vaccines and all populations are demanding them. And it's really who can pay the most and
which governments can acquire them fast enough to get them out.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to get to Dr. Tedros in a moment, but this is Britain we're talking about. It is a national health system, and they have still
got a supply backlog.
And not only that. There are still questions in people's minds. And I don't know whether the science has come to a consensus over, what does the
vaccine do? In other words, can it -- there's two big issues. What about lengthening the double dose period? And tell me what you think about that,
the Pfizer vaccine not being given 21 days, as tested, but 12 weeks later?
SRIDHAR: Yes, I mean, it's a high-risk strategy, right?
Because, right now, Britain is in a crisis situation. We had 1,800 deaths yesterday. We have thousands of deaths that are going to come in the next
few weeks and tens of thousands of cases. So, the government and the JCVI, which is a kind of expert body which reviews this, said it's better to give
more people a single dose, less effectiveness, than to give fewer people higher protection.
And they went off some of the Pfizer efficacy data and the modeling, which showed 89 percent efficacy with one dose. But now Israel, which has been
trialing the Pfizer vaccine, is saying one dose isn't as protective as they think. They think it's more like 30 percent.
So, it's really based off modeling and assessment of risk. We are in a emergency situation. And so there's no good way through it. It's trying to
assess, what is the best way in a population level to avert deaths and avert hospitalizations?
AMANPOUR: And do we know whether -- are they any closer to figuring out whether, if you get a vaccine, the transmissibility still of COVID?
SRIDHAR: Well, there's no hard data yet, but there are hints that it does seem to stop transmission.
So, the three big unknowns with vaccines currently are, do they stop infectiousness or just stop severe disease, meaning, if you get COVID, you
can still pass it on to others, but you won't become very severely ill? And that's crucial if we want to build some kind of population immunity, you
The second is how long immunity lasts. Is this going to be an annual vaccination program like flu? Or will it be every two years or every six
months? And the third is long COVID, the morbidity associated with younger people. Can this avert that as well?
And so we're studying all three of those to get that information in the next six to nine months to be able to inform how we move forward in the
AMANPOUR: And you have long been a proponent, you have written about it, of a zero COVID strategy. I guess that means eliminating it and not just
learning to live with it.
Can you point to us whether that's been successfully done? Is that -- can that happen in a place like Great Britain, with its population density, or
in the United States or elsewhere?
SRIDHAR: So, yes, there's two reasons I have been advocating this strategy, even though it might sound very difficult. And places have done
it, Australia, New Zealand, but also East Asian countries have continually suppressed and tried to eliminate, though, of course, it's been
And the reason is, first, living with this virus means living with restrictions, because it is very transmissible, we have a lot of people
susceptible, and it's highly infectious, and the hospitalization rate means your hospitals keep getting overrun, so you're forced into reactive
So, if you want to get out of lockdowns and avoid deaths and get your economy going, you really have to get rid of the virus at a national level.
That does involve border restrictions, border measures to restrict movement.
But the second is variants. So, we're now seeing new different mutations of the virus, making it more transmissible, potentially having vaccine escape.
And this means that, as long as you have the virus circulating, you're going to have different mutations coming. And then it's a matter of chance
when you get one that's really difficult to control, as we're seeing already with the English variants, as well as with Brazil having a variant,
South Africa having a variant.
And there are others out there. We're just not catching them quick enough.
AMANPOUR: So let's now talk a little bit more in-depth about how developing nations are coping.
So, we understand that there's some 39 million vaccinations that have taken place in rich countries. And, as you pointed out, only 25 -- not 25, 25,000
-- 25 single doses in one poor country alone. And that's in Guinea.
This is what the head of the World Health Organization has said about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WHO DIRECTOR GENERAL: I need to be blunt. The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure. And the price of
this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world's poorest countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Professor Sridhar, talk me through this, because, clearly, they haven't got the money and the funds are low for the developing
It looks like they might be relying on Chinese vaccines, or the ones that we just talked about in Guinea were Russian vaccines. Is there enough
supply? What needs to happen to kick-start providing these vaccines to the poorer countries?
SRIDHAR: Yes, so what we are seeing is actually China and Russia racing ahead with their vaccines. China has Sinovac, and it's trying to get WHO
emergency approval now, and actually giving millions of doses to poor countries, because Pfizer and Moderna, they just can't afford it. And
AstraZeneca as well right now has been captured by richer countries, though, at some point, they hope to move to lower-income countries.
But this is a huge moral failure. And we tried to get ahead of it as a world. COVAX was a facility set up where countries committed, saying, we
will share vaccines, we will look out for poor countries, we will have a global allocation process.
But similar to other global crises that we have seen, as soon as the vaccines became available, it was a scramble of who could pay the most
money who could acquire them. And even within countries, richer countries, like Britain, they're not enough doses. We're seeing that with the choice
to do one dose, instead of -- and to wait 12 weeks, rather than two doses within three weeks.
And so it's a really difficult situation. But we have to remember that, as long as the virus is circulating somewhere in the world, it could mutate
and come back in a form that makes us all susceptible to it, even if we have been vaccinated.
So, we should not repeat the mistakes of the past, thinking just because we vaccinate here, and we forget other parts, the problem will go away. We're
all connected into this right now across the whole planet.
AMANPOUR: Very quickly, and finally, Brazil has had the China one, you mentioned, Sinovac. And it says it's only noted about a 50 percent
effectiveness. They say it's not really good enough, but they're going to have to keep at it.
That's worrying, isn't it?
SRIDHAR: Yes, I mean, there's two worrying things happening in Brazil. One is that, that the vaccines aren't as effective as we'd hoped. But, again, a
vaccine is better than no vaccine. And we have to continue to work on that.
But the second thing in Brazil is, in Manaus, one of the communities, the looks like seroprevalence, the amount of people who've had the virus, is
around 70 to 80 percent. Yet the virus spread is not stopping. Hospitalizations are still increasing.
And what we're trying to figure out, is this because the herd immunity threshold, the number of people in the population who have to get it, is
closer to 90 percent, or is it because there's a new variant that means people can be reinfected, meaning, even if you have had it once, you could
get it again?
And so I think Brazil right now, the world is watching very carefully, especially that community, because we're all wondering, how will the
pandemic end? And that might provide some clues of how we move forward.
AMANPOUR: And, again, as you said, Biden's promises and Biden's new strategies also provides a glimmer of hope for a global public health
Devi Sridhar, thank you so much for joining us from Edinburgh.
Now, President Biden has also vowed to adopt a diplomacy first stance when it comes to foreign policy, banishing America first, using his inaugural
address to send this message to allies across the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's my message to those beyond our borders -- America has been tested and we've come out stronger
for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday's challenges but today's and tomorrow's challenges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, as I said, a departure from the America first nationalism and combative style of his predecessor, which led to tense relationships
with key allies.
One of the most important U.S.-led security organization, of course, is NATO. And I have been speaking to the NATO secretary-general, Jens
Stoltenberg, about expectations by and of the Biden administration now.
AMANPOUR: Secretary-General, welcome to the program from Brussels.
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: Thank you so much for having me, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, look, this is an important day. And I just want to get your first reaction.
The European Commission president has said, it's a new day, we're ready to engage with our oldest and most trusted ally, the United States, President
Biden has said, we want to repair alliances, meet the challenges of the future. He's already gone back into the climate accord, the Paris accords,
and to the WHO.
Can you tell me just how you're feeling about this new chapter in the transatlantic relationship?
STOLTENBERG: I have a very good feeling, because this is really a new chapter.
And President Biden has so clearly stated that he wants to rebuild alliances. I know Joe Biden as a strong supporter of NATO, the
transatlantic bond. So, I'm looking forward to working with him and I'm looking forward to welcome him to the NATO summit in Brussels later this
AMANPOUR: So, look, I need to ask you, because you were really diplomatic throughout the four years of the Trump administration.
So, I kind of want to ask you how difficult it was to keep that NATO alliance on the straight and narrow, and how difficult it was sort of with
the unpredictability of President Trump, who always claimed that he was the one that basically forced you and the other partners to up their
What was it like dealing with that? And do you accept that? Was that something President Trump got you to do?
STOLTENBERG: There's no denying that, at times, it was tough and challenging.
And I had some difficult discussions with President Trump on issues ranging from arms control, Russia, to defense spending. But what we achieved was to
keep this alliance together, to maintain the NATO alliance, a strong alliance, and that's not least because of the very strong bipartisan
support in the United States for NATO.
I saw that myself when I delivered a speech to the Congress. And NATO is a unique platform, bringing together North America and Europe. And now I know
that we need to build -- rebuild some trust, and I know that President Biden is really going to invest in strengthening the transatlantic bond.
AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you this, before we talk about specific issues. You just mentioned Russia and that.
But Charles Michel said yesterday: "We have our differences, and they will not magically disappear. America seems to have changed and how it's
perceived in Europe and the rest of the world has also changed."
What do you think he means specifically in terms of alliances and what might be achieved in a Biden administration?
STOLTENBERG: There will be differences.
We are 30 different allies from both sides of the Atlantic, with different histories, with different political leaders. But NATO is unique in the way
that it's the only organization that brings together Canada, United States, and 28 European NATO allies.
Every day, we sit around the same table. And, therefore, we have been able to manage and tackle differences before and always unite around our core
I don't believe in America alone, as I don't believe in Europe alone. I believe in America and Europe together addressing all the very difficult
tasks and challenges we face, with the security implications of the rise of China, persistent terrorist threats, cyber, and of course, also a more
assertive Russia being responsible for aggressive actions against, for instance, Ukraine.
We can manage, we can tackle, we can address all these challenges, as long as we stand together, America and Europe, as we do in NATO.
AMANPOUR: One of the things that President Biden has said when he was campaigning and since he won the election is that he wants to try to get
back into a new nuclear deal with Iran. And Iran seems to have said that it wants to as well.
And on her first day as press secretary, Jen Psaki from the White House said the following about this issue:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has -- has made clear that he believes that through follow-on diplomacy, the United States
seek to lengthen and strengthen nuclear constraints on Iran and address other issues of concern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, how important -- I know you have said that you think it's important to get back into this nuclear agreement or arrangement with Iran,
the one that Trump pulled the U.S. out of. What are you hoping will happen over the next few weeks and months?
STOLTENBERG: I think we all should support efforts to be able to reestablish an agreement which is limiting, restricting Iran's development
of nuclear weapons, because all allies are extremely concerned about the prospect of Iran being able to produce, develop nuclear weapons, especially
combined with the fact that they're also developing more and more advanced missiles that can reach more and more of European and NATO territory.
So, the combination of missiles with their nuclear program is dangerous and has to be stopped in one way or another.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you just to comment, though, on what do you think was the effect of the U.S. pulling out of this for four years?
Because you know there's a divided country in the United States. There are many in the U.S. who think that there should never have been this deal, and
that Trump did the right thing pulling the U.S. out. Did it make the U.S. in the world more or less secure over the last four years?
STOLTENBERG: NATO allies welcomed the nuclear deal back in 2015. And the NATO allies regretted -- the European NATO allies, and also Canada, they
didn't support the U.S. withdrawal, because they don't believe -- and I agree with them -- that that does not make or didn't make the world a safer
place and actually made it easier for Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
So now, hopefully, we can have full unity in NATO about supporting efforts to try to impose restrictions on Iran's nuclear programs.
AMANPOUR: And what about unity on Afghanistan? Obviously, it's America's longest war. NATO has been there supporting the United States ever since
the 2001 intervention there.
Now Trump has called for the removal of at least half American forces. It doesn't look like President Biden is ready to commit huge numbers of extra
forces. What is NATO going to do if it's left holding the bag in Afghanistan with only a minimal American footprint?
STOLTENBERG: So, no one wants to stay longer in Afghanistan than necessary. At the same time, we are all concerned about the possibility of
Afghanistan once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.
That's a reason why I went in, to prevent that from happening, and also to preserve the gains we have made over the last decades, not least for women
and girls, their fundamental human rights.
And that's a dilemma. And that's a reason why we have to be careful when we address when and how to reduce our presence in Afghanistan. Whatever we do,
we have to do it in a coordinated way together. And there is now a peace process. It's a fragile process. There is no guarantee for success.
But we all have to support those efforts, because, at the end of the day, it has to be an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process. The Afghans have to
create peace in the unconscious themselves. And, therefore, the most important thing we can do is to support the peace process which now takes
AMANPOUR: Is there any moment in the next few days or weeks when NATO might have to make a decision about whether it's going to stay or not?
STOLTENBERG: We are faced with a very difficult dilemma, because, in the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed last year, it is stated that all
international troops should be out of Afghanistan by the 1st of May.
But this is conditions-based. So, we need to assess the situation the ground, whether the Taliban delivers what they have promised, not least to
break ties with international terrorists, including al Qaeda. We will have a defense ministerial meeting in February. That's next month.
And, of course, this will be one of the main issues. I also believe that, when heads of state and government, including President Biden, meet at the
NATO summit later this year, Afghanistan will be one of the main issues, because we have been there for close to a decade.
It is difficult to stay. But it's also risky to leave too early. We went into Afghanistan together. We should adjust our presence there together.
And when the time is right, of course, we should leave together.
AMANPOUR: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, thank you for joining me from Brussels tonight.
STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: Now, allies around the world are also wary of the big political divisions that still exist in the United States.
The Democrats now control the White House and both chambers of Congress. They have a long list of urgent priorities. But what will happen to that
when the Trump impeachment moves to the Senate for trial?
Republicans are calling for Congress to move on from impeachment and start healing. But, today, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, forcefully fired
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I don't think it's very unifying to say, oh, let's just forget it and move on. That's not how you unify.
Just because he's now gone -- thank God -- that we -- you don't say to a president, do whatever you want in the last months of your administration.
You're going to get a -- get-out-of-jail-card free because people think we should make nice-nice and forget that people died here on January 6.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, that's clear enough, strong words.
And joining me now is the senior Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and he was one of the lead
investigators in the first Trump impeachment trial.
Welcome to the program. Welcome back from Washington.
Congressman, can I start by asking you, before we get into impeachment, about President Biden's pledge during his address, where he said he would
put his whole soul into uniting the country?
And I guess that starts with Congress, I guess, and elected leaders. And, apparently, he is having them over as soon as tomorrow. Is that a
realistic, I guess, aspiration to unite right now?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I think it's an essential aspiration.
And it is really the core of who Joe Biden is. I thought that was among the most moving parts of his address yesterday, when he talked about how
Lincoln, in signing the Emancipation Proclamation, said he put his whole soul into that. And Joe Biden was going to put his soul into healing
America and bringing us together.
So, he's, I think, taking exactly the right posture. He's putting out his hand and hoping that it will be reciprocated. That's the most that we can
all do. And so I think it's the right approach. I hope it's met with a welcome by my GOP colleagues, but only time will tell.
AMANPOUR: Well, they have already told a little bit, certainly in the Senate.
The outgoing majority leader, Mitch McConnell, basically said that in his first 24 hours on the job, he claimed that President Biden has made a lot
of -- quote -- "wrong moves," gone in the wrong direction. What do you make of that? Mitch McConnell obviously does have a history of putting up
massive roadblocks at the beginning of a Democratic president, we remember, with Obama as well.
What does that bode, do you think, for the future? And remember -- of course, we remember, he's not the majority leader right now.
SCHIFF: Well, I would hope that Mitch McConnell will recognize that we're in the midst of a national emergency, 400,000 of our fellow citizens have
died from this virus, and we need to get the country back open, but we need to get the country vaccinated.
We need to get help to families that are struggling. And it needs to be more than his mission to make Joe Biden fail. We can't go into this the way
that he and others did when Barack Obama was elected, designed to thwart any positive movement for the country.
So, I hope whatever comments he's made are not an indication that he intends to pick up where he left off at the beginning of the Obama
The circumstances are different and they are dire. Even under good circumstances you would hope that they would be an appetite to work
together for the betterment of the country. But we're in an emergency right now and we need all hands-on deck.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, because some of President Biden's most fervent supporters, former senators and the like, people who he talks to and
listens to, you know, they're concerned because they see how, you know, his supporters want to see President Trump held accountable for what happened
on January 6th. On the other hand, it collides with the beginning of an administration that wants and has said it has massive priorities, it's
going to need everybody's good will and energy.
From your perspective, I know you're in the House, nonetheless, you're a very superior elected leader, how complicated is it going to be for the
Biden agenda to have the impeachment trial begin almost immediately?
SCHIFF: Well, I think it's certainly very doable to do more than one thing at a time. In fact, we all have to do that. The Senate has to do that. It's
just the reality of the situation. I just think the speaker is exactly right. We can't have a president where a president at the end of their term
can seek to cheat in the election, can seek to cling to power then try to thwart a peaceful transition of power, and if they fail, there's no
repercussion. They either succeed and become president for life or they fail, leave office and then their party says, well, we need unity, we can't
look backwards. We can't have that kind of a president.
So, there needs to be accountability. There also needs to be moving forward and dealing with emergencies that we have, and we're going to have to do
both. I think it will be a case-by-case basis in terms of how much priority to put on accountability. Obviously, it goes well beyond the president of
the United States, who many that worked with him that may have engaged in criminal violations of the law or other misdeeds and misconduct, that needs
to be vetted, that needs to be aired. I think in order to really have meaningful unity and healing, there needs to be accountability, there needs
to be justice.
So, we're going to have to do all of the above, and it will be a challenge for Joe Biden to strike the right balance. But I do think this moment was
made for someone like Joe Biden, someone fundamentally decent. The people he's picking to make these decisions with him like Merrick Garland, also
principled, decent people. So, I think he's off to a great start.
AMANPOUR: When do you think that single article of impeachment will be sent by presumably the house speaker to the Senate? Because it hasn't been
yet. Some people are talking about potentially tomorrow. What do you know?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I only can tell you what has been publicly reported, and that is the speaker intends to transmit the article soon. I
have to imagine that there are discussions going on between both Schumer and McConnell about how soon they will be situated, how soon they could be
ready to take this up, and there's some level of coordination to make the best decision of that timing on the transmission of the article.
But ultimately, that's the House's prerogative. Once that goes over to the Senate though, it begins a very certain clock. So, I would imagine it will
be soon, and those discussions are ongoing. But I don't think people will have long to wait.
AMANPOUR: Congressman, you obviously are crucial in the House impeachment last time around. And you saw that it failed to convict in the Senate. Now,
there's more complications going on. This time 10 Republicans joined Democrats and impeached in the House, but we're not sure what might or
might not happen in the Senate.
I want to play a couple soundbites from Mitch McConnell, which happened yesterday or the day before, and now, today, from Senator Lindsey Graham.
They seem to be sort of contradicting. Let's just play these.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'm hoping that he will make an announcement soon saying that an impeachment under these circumstances is unwise and
unconstitutional. If this party is going to survive, we've got to realize that Donald Trump had a consequential presidency for conservatives, that
he's going to be the strongest voice in the party.
If you're wanting to erase Donald Trump in the party, you're going to get erased.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, it's back to politics and feeling like they still have to pander to that base. And Mitch McConnell hasn't indicated which way he will
vote. There seems to be a feeling in your city, in D.C., anyway, that there may not be enough votes to convict. What are you hearing, and what will
that mean if that happens?
SCHIFF: Well, first of all, I wouldn't reach any conclusion about where the votes are. I think Mitch McConnell will have a big influence on what
many of his Republican conference members do. It's pretty clear, I think listening to Mitch McConnell, that he recognizes the president committed
impeachable offenses. That he played a vital role in inciting that mob that attacked the capitol, an attack which all of us senators witnessed in the
most graphic of terms.
Now, whether they will make the decision, OK, he's guilty but we're going to acquit nonetheless, which is just simply what happened in the last
trial, I don't know. I hope and pray that's not the case, because if the senators are not willing to convict a president who has committed the most
egregious abuse of power, I think in our history, the most flagrant attempt to end a peaceful transfer of power, it's hard to imagine that remedy
having meaning anymore.
But I will leave it to the very capable team led by Jamie Raskin to make the case. But this I think is a very different circumstance than the last
trial. The country is in a different place. And the members are in a different place. Those who voted to acquit in the last trial were warned
that if they did so, the president will do this again and he did. And I would hope that we would not see a further repetition. Because if Donald
Trump is predicted to run again, just as we predicted in the first the trial, we can easily make the case that he will seek to cheat in the next
election, he will lie about the next election, and he may very well lead another insurrection after the next election.
AMANPOUR: So, can I ask you, because one GOP congressman who did vote to impeach has told syracuse.com that he believes the capitol attack was much,
much worse than people realize. Has the American people seen all of the evidence, with all of the videos, all of the testimonials that come out or
do you know that there's more shocking evidence to emerge?
SCHIFF: Well, we certainly don't know the full story yet. I mean, a lot of it we do because it's on video and it's on audiotape, like the president's
efforts to get the Georgia secretary of state to help them cheat in the election. But we shouldn't presume that all of the American people have
seen all of the footage. And we shouldn't presume that that footage is the entire body of evidence.
You know, one thing we discovered in the last trial, much as the hearings in the House of the president's withholding of hundreds of millions of
dollars in military aid from Ukraine to extort that country in helping him cheat, as much as all of that was aired in the House, when we got to trial
in the Senate, it was quite a revelation that many of the senators were completely unfamiliar with the evidence. And as we put on the case and as
we showed them the evidence, they were quite startled to see how powerful and strong it was. Many of them lived in the Fox bubble.
And so, I don't think we want to presume that either the American people or the senators, for that matter, have seen all of the graphic evidence of
just how violent that insurrection was, how much damage was run, and how close we came to even greater disaster.
AMANPOUR: OK. Finally and quickly, has American intelligence been living in a bubble then? Because, you know, they clearly failed to apprehend or be
prepared for an act of domestic terrorism at the capitol on January 6th. And now, we're saying that this is the biggest threat going forward?
SCHIFF: No, you're absolutely right, there was a massive intelligence and security failure. We're beginning our investigation into that. We don't
know yet whether this was a failure to gather the intelligence, a failure to share it or a failure to act upon it by those who it was shared with. It
may, of course, be a combination of all three but it was a massive breakdown that we had such a devastating attack on the capitol.
And, you know, we have been urging for some time the FBI and Department of Homeland Security raise the priority to domestic terrorism to white
nationalism as it threatens the country and we're going to continue sounding the alarm and make sure that they're devoting the resources, the
time, the attention just as we did after 9/11 to the threat from international terrorism. We need to give the same priority and urgency to
AMANPOUR: And we have to leave for another day the massive Russia hack into your federal agencies, which all of your intelligence failed to
capture as well. We'll talk about that another time. Congressman Schiff, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
Now, on the night before his inauguration, President Biden led a memorial for the 400,000 Americans who have died from coronavirus, to heal, we must
remember, he said. And then on inauguration day, he paid his respects at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Arlington Cemetery. These are vital
ceremonial gestures that embrace grief and highlight the importance of remembrance. As we know, Biden's own life has been shaped by tragedy and
Now, David Kessler is an expert on death and grieving. And he's also the author of "Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief," as he lays out now
in conversation with our Michel Martin.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNNI CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. David Kessler, it's so good to see you. Thank you so much for joining us.
DAVID KESSLER, AUTHOR, "FINDING MEANING: THE SIXTH STAGE OF GRIEF": Good to be with you again.
MARTIN: We are speaking at such a remarkable moment. I mean, a new president has been inaugurated but not without a great deal of struggle and
even violence. And as we are speaking, you know, 400,000 people in the United States alone have died from this pandemic that we've been dealing
with for months now. So, as we are just past the inauguration of Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris, I was just wondering what comes to mind for you?
KESSLER: Hope. I have a lot of hope and meaning for the future. It's been such a dark night and it felt even darker and I pray that that saying, it's
always darkest before the dawn is what we're ready for, and then Los Angeles, as which -- as one of the epic centers. And it has been brutal to
watch what's happening to this country and touching so many lives.
MARTIN: One of the things that I think that stood out for many people as Joe Biden approached this inauguration is this was the first time that a
national leader led us in mourning for all of the lives lost. I mean, it's true that, you know, a number of religious leaders have gotten together and
tried to do this, civic leaders have gotten together to do this, but this is the first time a national leader has gathered the country to mourn for
lives lost due to this coronavirus pandemic.
And it made me wonder what role do you think grief plays in Joe Biden's life, and what role do you think it will play in how he intends to lead us?
KESSLER: Sure. Well, first of all, the 400,000 lives that have been lost, that grief has not only gone unattended but unacknowledged. And so, Joe
Biden knows grief from early in his life with the death of his wife and his daughter and to the death of his son, Beau. And I thought it was brilliant
the way one of the first things we heard Jill say, his wife, Dr. Jill, was that they know how to make a family whole and he knows how to make a
And I always say this is such a grief-illiterate society. President Biden knows how to speak grief and knows how to speak healing.
MARTIN: Could you talk a little bit more about that? What does that mean and why do you say that?
KESSLER: I don't think we know how to talk about grief. I don't think we've known how to do many times what I say our great grandparents knew how
to do, to just talk about that. One of the things that President Biden does is he knows how to bring the dead with us into the future, into the
You know, grief doesn't mean we get over it, we move on. We have to move forward in a way that honors the dead. And I think his talk is -- it's
giving us permission to have these conversations. And we're also learning grief, of course, the worse grief in the world is a loved one dying. It's
also the loss of a job. It's also the loss of a business, of so many projects. So, we're just learning how to talk about this.
MARTIN: Well, for those who don't -- who may not remember the full story, I mean, Joe Biden lost his wife and daughter and almost lost his two boys
even before he was sworn into the Senate. In fact, he was sworn -- in a car accident, it has to be said, and he was sworn into the Senate and there --
the hospital bed are the two surviving boys. And of course, subsequently, his son, Beau, died of cancer, which was a terribly, you know, traumatic
experience. What do you think he learned from that?
KESSLER: Well, it's interesting, we've had those interactions that I got into this work because my mother was dying when there was a mass shooting
in this country, the first mass shooting, which actually turned out to be one of his first orders of business after that loss of his daughter and his
So, he started his work in government, in grief through great obstacles. And I think we have to remember, he also was a single parent riding the
train home every night just to be with his boys. and Beau and Hunter have gone through enormous grief themselves. And so, when he says they know how
to put a family together and country back together and bring wholeness, it's not a slogan. It is something he has had to do in his life. More than
MARTIN: And forgive me for pointing this out, and I hope it doesn't cause you pain, the reality of it is that you and he also share the experience of
losing a child. And I, again, I'm so sorry for that loss.
KESSLER: Yes. My younger son, David, died a few years ago. And, you know, I can remember talking to President Biden when he was vice president, and,
you know, one of the things, when we go back to the degree of literacy, that he understands.
I work with so many people online these days and, obviously, I hope to work with them person again, they get stuck in the grieving fully or want to
deny it and go into the living. Joe's superpower is he knows it's a mixture of fully grieving and fully living. And so, when we talk about these deep
losses we've had, he knows how to not let them take us down but to continue on. You know, I say just like him, I know my son who loved my work as a
grief specialist would not want his death to constrict my work but rather expand it. And this president gets that. And he is all about, you know, we
have a choice. We can go through something or grow through something. And he is going to make us do that.
MARTIN: To the degree that can, would you mind telling us a bit about what it was like when you connected with then-Vice President Biden? He called
KESSLER: Yes, the phone rang one day and a voice said, we have vice President Biden on the line wanting to talk to you. And I'll tell you, he
is a kind man. He speaks in we. He is very inclusive. He talked about the grief we share. And I think that's who he is. He also was someone -- he,
you know, had read my work and said that he had been taught by his mother that if something means something to you, touches you, to reach out to that
And there's very something honorable about a man who quotes his mother often. You know, that she was such a wonderful woman who inspired him in so
many ways. And I was very moved by that call. And I was honored to talk to him about his cherished wound around the death of his son, Beau Biden.
MARTIN: We've seen a lot of anger in recent years, months and weeks, but I want to go back to what we saw at the capitol just a few weeks ago, you
know, as we are speaking now. This mob, you know, invading the capitol, trying to stop the counting of the votes and the confirmation of the
presidential election. They were angry.
You know, I've heard it said, you know, that the root of anger is fear. But -- and you can say, well, these folks are fearful of, you know, changes in
our lives. But, gee, you know, how are we supposed to feel about someone who are fearful of losing something they didn't deserve to begin with,
which is their white superiority? I mean, how are we supposed to deal with that?
KESSLER: Right. Well, certainly, those who invaded the capitol, they have to be held accountable. There's no excuse for that. That's not about
understanding why they did it. There's other people who have been fed such bad information that would never storm the capitol and just don't
understand what's happening. They're being told their fears, their problems are caused by that person, by that group. We have to connect with one
You know, when you meet someone and you get to know them, you can understand they're not your enemy but there are people in power who give us
bad information to purposely throw that off and further their agenda. Versus the agenda of these United States.
MARTIN: So, going forward, you know, how do you think the country will be marked by this experience? And how do we as a country, as you kind of put
it, find meaning in what has happened? I mean, I take it you feel that President Biden has what it takes as a leader but -- and will be deeply
useful in guiding us through it. So -- but apart from him, you know, what else do you think? How do you think the country will be marked by this
period and how should we make sense of it?
KESSLER: Well, that's the part that I'm so glad he is there because we do know grief must be witnessed. And as he says so eloquently, we have to
remember to heal. And that's been true about our history of this country always. We have to remember to heal.
This country needed a ritual. We've been starved for rituals with not being able to go to funerals or seeing loved ones. So, you know, I remember even
there was talk about, well, should we cancel the inauguration? He got the importance of seeing a ritual and seeing that transfer of power wins, and
that we can go through this and end up with posttraumatic stress, but President Biden understands posttraumatic growth is a possibility that we
should walk together towards.
MARTIN: What can the rest of us do?
KESSLER: Well, we can talk about our differences. We can share. We cannot say, I don't like what you saw so I'm walking the other way. But we can
listen not to respond but to hear, to be curious about the other. And I think we've lost some of that in our country.
And President Biden knows empathy and knows how to listen and knows how to listen to understand. And I think we see that in him and will continue to
see it even more.
MARTIN: When you and I first spoke in March, there were just over 1,000 deaths in this country. And now, we're over 400,000. And I just wonder, are
we at a point where we're numb, that we're just accepting this?
KESSLER: It hope not. And when I saw the memorial President Biden stood and really talked with his vice president, Kamala Harris, about these are
brothers, fathers, sisters, children, he is personalizing it. The moment of silence at the inauguration -- by the way, the first national moment of
silence we have had at 400,000 people, heartbreaking, overdue and so important.
MARTIN: I want to ask how you are. I mean, you are in -- you're in Los Angeles, which is now one of the epicenters of this crisis. I mean, a
tremendous death toll there and a lot of economic pain as well and a lot of anger, you know, frankly, over, you know, all of that. I just wonder how
are you doing? How are your neighbors doing? What are you learning from this?
KESSLER: It's been enormously hard to be in the epicenter of the pain. I talk every day in online groups to people who have lost their loved ones to
this terrible tragedy. There's thousands and thousands of them that we meet throughout the week. I was in one of our largest hospitals here in Los
Angeles just a few weeks ago. I had, luckily, a couple of stents put in my heart and doing well now. But seeing the doctors and the nurses, how weary
they are and how in pain they are, and I've been doing lectures for hospitals around the country that their staffs have never dealt with these
kinds of deaths. And it is beyond what we've comprehended in our past.
And I think, you know, when I see that pain up close, I wish I could take that for anyone who's not sure if they should wear a mask or if this is
real, I wish they could spend the day with me and see this world that I'm in and see the pain.
MARTIN: What do you think the other side of this might be like? I mean, at some point, this will end. What do you think the other side of this is
going to be like?
KESSLER: Well, that's so important to keep in mind. As I've study meaning and finding meaning after great losses, what is so important to know is
this pain will end. There will be an after this. The question is, what are we going to do after this? Are we going to be a better society? A kinder
society? A more tolerant society? That's my hope and my prayer, that our after this is even more peaceful and that we get the lessons.
MARTIN: David Kessler, thank you so much for talking with us today.
KESSLER: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Hopefully, we will get the lesson. And finally, of course, as we've been saying, fighting coronavirus and the grief it causes is priority
number one for the new administration. But President Joe Biden has made another key promise, and that is to "defend the truth and defeat the lies."
Lies which were a hallmark of the Trump years and especially the so-called big lie that happened after the election and all the way up to January 6th.
The new press secretary, Jen Psaki, drove the point home in her first White House briefing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There will be times when we see things differently in this room, I mean, among all of us. That's OK. That's
part of our democracy. And rebuilding trust with the American people will be central to our focus in the press office and in the White House every
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: For those of us determined to report the truth, these are indeed welcome words. And the youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, said yesterday
at the inauguration, "while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated." Of course, that's only if we all remain
And that's it for now. Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.