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CNN'S AMANPOUR

Interview With Bellingcat Founder Eliot Higgins; Myanmar Coup; Interview With Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired February 1, 2021 - 14:00   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.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: If Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do

the same thing.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Who goes first back into the Iran nuclear deal, as Washington warns Tehran could be just weeks away from having enough

material for a nuclear weapon?

Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, joins me for an exclusive interview.

Then: democracy dying in Myanmar? After the junta stages of coup and leader Aung San Suu Kyi is detained again, the U.N.'s Tom Andrews joins me.

And pro-democracy protesters in Russia brave another harsh crackdown. Thousands are detained. Putin and other autocrats outed by Bellingcat's

online sleuthing. Founder Eliot Higgins joins us.

[14:00:01]

Plus:

EMILY RAMSHAW, CO-FOUNDER, THE 19TH: And I think there are a lot of folks who believe it's going to take a generation for women to get back on track

with the losses that we have seen.

AMANPOUR: Emily Ramshaw, co-founder of the digital news startup the 19th, talks to our Hari Sreenivasan about reporting at the intersection of

gender, politics and policy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

The warning today from the U.S. secretary of state was stark. Iran, says Antony Blinken, could be just weeks away from producing enough nuclear

material to make a weapon.

The Biden administration wants to reverse Trump's withdrawal and to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.

Here's National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Our view is that, if we can get back to diplomacy that can put Iran's nuclear program in a box, that

will create a platform upon which to build a global effort, including partners and allies in the region and in Europe and elsewhere, to take on

the other significant threats Iran poses, including on the ballistic missile issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Now, Iran as well wants the United States to come back to the deal.

However, both nations are now locked in a stalemate over who goes first. Iran says it's up to the U.S., since it was the Trump administration that

violated the terms by pulling out and imposing draconian sanctions. That was in 2018.

But the Biden team first wants Iran to stop enriching more uranium, which it did in response. Relations reached a boiling point last year after the

assassination of Iran's top general, Qasem Soleimani, and, more recently, that of its top nuclear scientist.

Joining me now for an exclusive interview from Tehran is Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

Foreign minister, welcome to the program.

Can I start by asking you about the -- I guess the warning from the U.S. that your country is now or could be just weeks away from having enough

enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon? What do you say about that?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I think that is a statement of concern that is more addressed to the public opinion than to

reality.

Iran does not seek a nuclear weapon. If we wanted to build a nuclear weapon, we could have done it some time ago. But we decided that nuclear

weapons are not -- will not augment our security and are in contradiction to our ideological views.

And that is why we never pursued nuclear weapons. But it is true that -- that the time for the United States to come back to the nuclear weapon --

to the nuclear agreement is not unlimited. The United States has a limited window of opportunity, because President Biden does not want to portray

himself as trying to take advantage of the failed policies of the former Trump administration.

AMANPOUR: As you know, President Biden, even when he was a candidate, before the election, he laid out his strategy, his foreign policy, and the

aim of getting back into the JCPOA. This is what he said.

He said in September: "I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the

United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the

nuclear deal's provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern."

There's a lot in there. Is that a deal Iran could take up?

ZARIF: Well, you see, first of all, the United States needs to establish its bona fides to come back to the nuclear deal.

The United States is not in the nuclear deal. And it's not in the nuclear deal because of its own decision to withdrawal, without taking the routes

that were available to it within the nuclear agreement.

On the other hand, Iran used the mechanisms in the nuclear agreement in order to limit its cooperation. If you read paragraph 36, we acted in

strict accordance with the -- with the nuclear agreement.

Now, the United States needs to come back into compliance, and Iran will be ready immediately to respond. The timing is not the issue. The issue is

whether the United States, whether the new administration wants to follow the old policies of the -- failed policies of the Trump administration or

not.

[14:05:11]

Now we can discuss the other issue that President Biden has brought up. The nuclear deal was negotiated based on what we could agree and what we could

not agree. This is the deal that was made. The United States has to accept what we agreed upon.

We decided not to agree upon certain things, not because we neglected them, but because the United States and its allies were not prepared to do what

was necessary. Is the United States prepared to stop selling arms to our region? If it wants to talk about our defense, we spend a seventh of Saudi

Arabia on defense, with two-and-a-half times its population.

Is the United States prepared to reduce hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons it is selling to our region? Is the United States prepared to stop

massacre of children in Yemen, in order -- if it wants to talk about the situation in Yemen?

The United States was not prepared to discuss these issues when we negotiated the nuclear deal. That is why we agreed to limit the deal. We

paid the price. You know, our restrictions on Iranian purchase of arms was extended for five years. It was -- it was just removed in October because

we did not agree on regional issues, nor did we agree on missile issues.

We have already paid the price. The nuclear deal is clear about them in 2009 -- in 2020, in October 2020, the issue of arms limitations ended,

clear. In 2023, the issue of missiles will be cleared, because, according to previous resolutions, missiles were a problem if Iran had the capability

of producing nuclear warheads.

Now, clearly, the nuclear accord will prevent us from producing nuclear warheads. So, the issue...

AMANPOUR: OK.

ZARIF: ... of missiles be immaterial, irrelevant anymore.

AMANPOUR: So, look, there's a lot out there, and it is quite complex.

So, I just want to go to the enriched uranium, because you yourself, in your most recent article have said: "The Trump administration's campaign of

maximum pressure has coincided with the expansion of our stockpile of low- enriched uranium from 660 to 8,800 pounds, and the upgrading of our centrifuges from the older models to the far more powerful new models."

You know that the U.S. is concerned about that, and so are other allies. So, I want to ask you, specifically on that issue of what you have been

doing, you say under the terms of the agreement, since the U.S. pulled out, but I want you to respond to what the secretary of state has said about

this specific issue.

So, let's just play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLINKEN: If Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing. But we are a

long ways from that point.

Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts. And it would take some time, should it make the decision to do so, for it to come back into

compliance, and time for us then to assess whether it was meeting its obligations. So, we're not -- we're not there yet, to say the least.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: So, Mr. Foreign Minister, that is your counterpart in the United States now.

And there are obviously two issues there. One is the window of opportunity to negotiate and get back into this. The other is who goes first.

I mean, in America, you would call it a Mexican standoff. Both sides are glaring at each other, each side saying, you go first.

Do you see the possibility of a mechanism that can bridge that gap, whereby you go back to compliance and they go back to compliance at the same time?

Or are we going to be stuck in this who's on first for a while?

ZARIF: No, clearly, there can be a mechanism to basically either synchronize it or coordinate what can be done.

As you know, JCPOA has a mechanism built in to the deal that is the rMD- DN_Joint Commission. And the Joint Commission has a coordinator. The coordinator has two hats.

[14:10:01]

It used to be Federica Mogherini. Now, it is Josep Borrell. He has two hats. One hat is, he is the high representative of the European Union for

foreign defense policy.

The other hat is the coordinator of the Joint Commission. He can put his hat as the coordinator of the joint position and sort of choreograph the

actions that are needed to be taken by the United States and the actions that are needed to be taken by Iran.

Clearly, actions that Iran takes have always been monitored and verified by the IAEA. And we have shown that we fulfill our promises. The side that has

not been able to show that it fulfills its promises has been the United States.

And, as I said, the United States needs to prove its bona fides. We have already proven our bona fides. If we are away from the strict limitations

of the nuclear agreement, it's because the United States tried to impose a full economic war on Iran.

Now, it stops that, we will go back into full compliance. Some of those issues that you raised, the 8,000 pounds of enriched uranium, can go back

to the previous amount in less than a day, in terms of what we did previous time, shipping them out, and receiving yellowcake instead.

Some may take a few days or weeks. But it won't take any longer than it would take the United States to implement executive orders that are

necessary to put back Iran -- Iran's oil, banking, transportation, and other areas that President Trump violated back into operation.

AMANPOUR: Now, here's another issue, though, because your own Parliament has passed a law that says, this month, later this month, they reserve the

right to cease cooperating, Iran cease cooperating with the IAEA, otherwise known as the U.N. inspectors, and to ratchet up the enrichment of uranium.

Now, those would be violating your side of the deal. Is that going to happen? And what are you going to do to make -- to avoid that?

ZARIF: Those will not be violating our side of the deal.

That would be a part of reducing our commitments, because these are voluntary commitments that we made. It won't be kicking out IAEA

inspectors. It will be reducing and limiting IAEA inspectors, because, as you know, today, Iran has the strictest IAEA inspection mechanism anywhere

in the world.

We have been -- Iran has been thoroughly investigated by the IAEA time and time over. And we will be limiting that.

But there is a very easy way of addressing it. And that is for the United States to come back into compliance before that date. That date is an

important day.

AMANPOUR: And, very quickly, can I ask you about the shifting sands in the region? Because it's not the same look as it was when you negotiated this

deal. It's changed.

And you have written: "Trump further trapped the United States in the region and inflamed divisions to the point where a minor incident might

quickly spiral out of control and lead to a major war."

But -- and I want to know why you assess it like that, because most people in the region see it as, actually, Iran being boxed in by President Trump

and the Trump administration's deals between Israel and many, many Arab nations in that part, and they're all designed to counter Iran.

So, the pressure is on you, right?

ZARIF: Well, I don't think so.

I think those countries have had relations with Israel for many years, if not decades. And those relations were sort of clandestine relations. In

order to provide President Trump with an election benefit, they decided to give him that gift on the eve of the elections. And that's as far as it's -

- as it goes.

I believe they are risking their security. They won't get any security from Israel. They are risking their security by bringing Israel into the

regional security equation.

We have been clear about our intention to live in peace with our neighbors, and we have extended an arm of friendship, a hand of friendship to our

neighbors. And, unfortunately, they have refused that hand time and again, hoping, hoping to fight Iran until the last American soldier.

[14:15:10]

I guess that wish has not come true during Trump administration. It will never come true, because anybody in their right mind would mean what it

would mean for the -- would know what it would mean for the United States.

AMANPOUR: Well, we have to leave it there.

Javad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister, thank you for joining us from Tehran.

Now, tonight, President Biden is also threatening to review sanctions on Myanmar, after the country's military staged a coup. The elected leader,

the civilian Aung San Suu Kyi, is under arrest, along with other of her party members. And the junta has imposed a curfew and a state of emergency.

Aung San Suu Kyi's party won an overwhelming majority in last November's elections. And she herself was set to lead a new session of Parliament

today. But without any evidence, the military has claimed the election was rigged. Sound familiar?

Tom Andrews is the U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar. And he's joining me now from Washington.

Tom Andrews, welcome to the program.

TOM ANDREWS, U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON MYANMAR: Thank you so much for having me.

AMANPOUR: Can I start by asking you why you think -- and you know that region so well -- that, after these years, the junta has decided to

completely reverse everything that it said it would do over the last several years and threatened with maybe more sanctions on it?

Why do you think the junta decided to do that now?

ANDREWS: Well, Christiane, that is a very, very good question.

I'm afraid I don't have the answer. I mean, let's think about this. You have a junta that wrote this constitution. It gives it enormous power,

control of key ministries, 25 percent of the Parliament. They control an enormous wealth of the country. The country's natural resource wealth goes

into their pockets.

So, they have assured themselves of significant power and very limited accountability. Twenty-four hours ago, the commander in chief said that he

intends fully to respect the constitution. And here we are 24 hours later.

It's really hard to understand. But, clearly, this is a complete outrage. And what is at stake here, of course, is a democracy and a people. And the

international community has to respond, and respond strongly.

AMANPOUR: Well, we will get to that in a minute.

But here's what Aung San Suu Kyi herself has posted -- or it's been posted on her behalf on her Facebook page of her party: "The actions of the

military are actions to put the country back to dictatorship. I urge people not to accept this, to respond and wholeheartedly to protest against the

coup by the military."

Now, that is -- that is pretty strong stuff from her. She's been very much -- I don't know how you would call it -- co-opted, or she's worked very

much with them ever since they started this power-sharing, I guess you could call it.

What do you think might transpire? She did overwhelmingly win the elections. People there do like her. She is popular there. Could there be a

confrontation on the streets, do you think?

ANDREWS: Well, there's enormous amounts of fear on the streets right now. People understand what this military is capable of.

And people are obviously very leery about what they -- what they might do. But this is extremely unpopular within the country. And it's for that

reason that civil society leaders, human rights defenders, democracy advocates have also been rounded up, have also been put into detention.

So, I think it's clear that the military is afraid of what might happen on the streets. And that, again, is precisely the reason that it's so

important for the international community to speak out and to act, because those who are champions of democracy and human rights within the country

are either terrified or they're in detention.

AMANPOUR: Tom Andrews, do you think -- we have heard from many, many of the Western democratic leaders. We have we have heard that President Biden

is threatening to review the U.S. sanctions policy, and he was very strong.

He said, it was -- it was our agreement under the Obama administration to lift sanctions based on you, the military's commitment to a democratic

process. And if you walk that back, these sanctions are potentially something to -- that we might do again.

How much do you think that would frighten the junta right now or concern them? And sort of a related question. Aung San Suu Kyi, her halo got

tarnished in the international community by what was considered her Burmese nationalism, her basically allowing the assault on the Rohingyas.

And the international community has been very angry about it. Do you think the military banked on the international community not coming to her

rescue?

[14:20:06]

ANDREWS: Well, I think what's extremely important is for the international community to keep focused on what really is at stake here. And that is the

people of this of this country. It's not about an individual leader or a political party. It's about the theft of a democracy.

That is what I think is going to be absolutely critical. The junta has always tried to convince us that it's impervious to international pressure.

And I'm sure that they will continue to sing that song.

But the fact is, they are. And we know from -- for a fact that, when sanctions have been imposed, when the junta has been hit where it hurts, in

their wallet, they have responded. The fact that we have had the gains that we have seen in Myanmar, when there's been the incremental progress in the

democracy -- in the direction of democracy, it's not because the junta woke up and says, gee, we have made a terrible mistake, let's move forward

towards human rights and democracy.

It's because of the pressure exerted by the international community. And so, notwithstanding what they say, it's really important that this pressure

be ratcheted up soon and quite vigorously.

AMANPOUR: So, as you know, the current military chief has himself been accused of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya. He's been accused of one of

the instigators of the atrocities against the Rohingya. And he's now the head of this junta, which has conducted a coup.

Are you concerned? What might unfold worse than then already has with those people, those poor beleaguered people?

ANDREWS: Well, it's a very good question.

And, of course, there are more than 600,000 rainbow living in Rakhine State in Myanmar right now. Of course, there are well over a million who

literally ran for their lives over the border into Bangladesh.

But there are ethnic minorities that are under siege throughout the country. There are a number of people and groups who are under siege

throughout Myanmar. And so I am very concerned about their safety, their security. And if the world turns its attention away from Myanmar, I think

that the implications for those people, the security of those people could be severely compromised.

And for their sake as well as the people as a whole, we have got to keep focusing our attention what's going on in the world, to the extent that

that's possible. It's one of the reasons, Christiane, of course, that they cut off communications, and why it's so difficult for us to reach people in

the country. We don't know where they are and what's going on.

So, it's incredibly important that people be released who have been imprisoned or detained and that communications be restored and we have the

eyes on these people that are very vulnerable, as you say.

AMANPOUR: I just want to try and sort of talk a little bit more about why you think this may have happened. They say -- their official reason is,

they say the election was rigged.

She won a landslide election. They won very, very little. They may have been shocked by how little they won, in terms of these parliamentary

elections. But, in 2013, as the groundwork was being laid for this move towards democracy, I spoke to then president, the military leader

attention, Thein Sein. He was visiting Washington.

And this is what he said to me about Aung San Suu Kyi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THEIN SEIN, FORMER MYANMAR PRESIDENT (through translator): As you know, for nearly two decades, Aung San Suu Kyi was in opposition to the

government. But when I met with her, we tried to reach some common ground for the interests of the people and the country.

So, there is some common ground between us. At the same time, we have different views on some issues. But we were able to agree that we will

leave those issues for later and solve our differences through negotiations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: So, Tom Andrews, common ground? She's very -- she's pro- military. Her father was the founder of the modern Burmese military.

But he's also talking about differences on some issues, and we will leave them for later. Did that raise your antenna at all? Can you, I don't know,

hazard a guess about why they would have turned against her now?

ANDREWS: I really -- it's really difficult to understand. People, of course, are speculating.

There's lots of theories about what might be going on. The commander in chief is facing a mandatory retirement this July. This could be one of his

motivations, the fact that he would no longer be in power and perhaps would find himself more vulnerable than he is now.

There's lots of speculation. But it's just really remarkable that, given all that they have to lose and given the power that they have given

themselves by the constitution that they wrote, that they have overthrown, it's incredible that this has happened.

[14:25:01]

AMANPOUR: It is. And, presumably, more information will trickle out.

But, for the moment, Tom Andrews, thank you very much, U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar.

Now, there were more and bigger protests across Russia against President Vladimir Putin this weekend. Thousands were detained in the harshest

crackdown in the country is seen in years. The arrests of opposition leader Alexei Navalny triggered these protests.

But the street';s anger is directed at corruption and authoritarianism at the very top. Now, while recuperating from Novichok poisoning in Germany

last year, Navalny teamed up with CNN and Bellingcat and others -- and that is a digital investigative platform -- to out the Russian intelligence

agent who poisoned him.

Moscow denies any involvement in that, but the story was just the latest of many extraordinary investigations by Bellingcat. Others include the

chemical attacks in Syria and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Eliot Higgins is the founder. And his new book is called "We Are Bellingcat: An Intelligence Agency for the People," reinventing reporting

for the Internet age, according to one reviewer.

Eliot Higgins is joining me now from right here in the U.K.

Welcome back to the program. And congratulations on your book and your incredible investigations.

Let me start by asking you, Eliot, if you're -- you did you expect these results, I guess? I mean, I can't -- I don't know whether you can link

them, but the fact that you outed the poisoners of Navalny, Navalny went back to jail, this triggered these protests, and suddenly, who knows what's

going to happen in Russia?

How do you analyze what's going on?

ELIOT HIGGINS, FOUNDER, BELLINGCAT: Well, I mean, it's been really shocking for us to discover, through our investigations, just how many

assassinations have been done in Russia by the FSB using these nerve agents.

We have just published a report looking at three more assassinations that involve the same FSB team that targeted Navalny. And these were actually

successful assassinations. And, really, what was shocking for us there were, these were not big political figures. These were local activists.

And the fact that the Russian government is quite frequently using this, by the looks at from the information we're finding -- and it's not just these

we're looking -- really shocks us. And we're hoping that the Russian people are seeing this and questioning why their government needs to be targeting

activist political opposition figures for assassination with what is an illegal nerve agent program.

AMANPOUR: So, talk to me a little bit more about that, because you said it's not the first that you have outed.

And, obviously, you discovered the Skripal -- the people who tried to kill the Skripals with the same Novichok.

Talk to me how -- what went -- because you use a lot of public source information. How did you do that, and lead the trail back to the Kremlin?

HIGGINS: So, we are using something called open source information, which is publicly available information.

But Russia is rather unique in that it's a police state, but it's an incredibly corrupt police state. So, you can go online, if you know the

right places to look. I'm not talking about the Dark Web. I'm talking just normal Internet forums. You find people who are brokers for information,

things like travel records, phone records.

And we basically collected that and a huge amount of other data from previously leaked databases. And we could use that information to start

identifying some of these suspects, first with the Skripal poisoning, where we identified the two GRU officers who were involved.

Later, we linked the same GRU unit to a previous nerve-agent-based assassination attempt in Bulgaria. That then connected us to -- through

their communication records, to scientists working in chemical labs in Russia, many of whom were members of the previous Novichok program that was

supposedly shut down.

But we discovered they actually moved on to supposedly making sports nutrition drinks, but clearly were still working on these nerve agents. And

we discovered after Navalny was poisoned that they had been in contact with an FSB team.

And by getting those phone records, travel records and other details, we discovered that this team had followed Navalny on 40 different incidents.

And on some of those journeys, he and his wife actually was -- fell ill in July of last year. He then fell in ill and August.

And we have discovered since then that many of these journeys of this FSB team overlap with other unusual deaths and illnesses of figures.

AMANPOUR: What would you say was your biggest scoop that put Bellingcat on the map?

I mean, obviously, in Syria, when the use of chemical weapons -- you traced that to the Assad regime, while others were trying to blame jihadis and

militants and the like. And then, of course, with the downing of MH17 over Ukraine, you traced that back to a Russian unit.

Talk to me about that. And what do you think were the most difficult things to find out, and what were the most significant things?

[14:30:00]

HIGGINS: It's not so much that it's difficult, it's just you're looking for a vast amount of data, it's basically everything that everyone has

shared online and you're looking for the way in. So, with MH17, it was quite straight forward because you had videos and photographs being shared

online, showing this book missile launch on July supposedly in Eastern Ukraine. So, we figured out where all these photographs were taken by

looking at reference imagery and satellite imagery.

Once we had the exact camera position, we could create a timeline using the shadows that were visible in these images. And from there, we're able to

trace the missile launcher to the suspected launch site, which there were photographs and videos related to that, also available for opening sources.

Then we discovered that the same missile launcher was in a convoy that travelled through Russia a few weeks before towards the Ukrainian border,

and we discovered that because local Russians had filmed these missile launchers on the road, and details on the side of one of these missile

launchers matched exactly to one that was in Ukraine.

So, what was really important there is Bellingcat was very young organization and it was basically myself and a few volunteers, we're now a

fully registered foundation of benevolence with 20 staff. But back then it was just volunteers doing this. And I think when the joint investigation

team investigation MH17 gave their press conference in 2016 where they basically agreed with everything, we've been saying for the last two years,

that was a really big moment, because we now had an authority basically saying that yes, Bellingcat was right in its investigation, I think that

was a real turning point for Bellingcat as an organization.

AMANPOUR: It's really accountability on one hand. On the other hand, it's, you know, brought you some powerful enemies and people who kind of would

rather you basically shut up and didn't do these investigations.

A tweet from the permanent deputy representative, in other words, the deputy U.N. ambassador of Russia said, the right motto for this book, your

book, would be Ex-Secretary Pompeo's confession, we lied, we cheated, we stole. Zero facts, no proofs, unsubstantiated, highly likely claimed,

obvious fakes and insults to those who disagree, my own experience, that's real, he writes, #Billingcrap.

Well, I mean, I assume you're going to respond to that how you would respond to it. But my question to you is, are you afraid? I mean, have seen

and you have investigated how, you know, some of these enemies of the Kremlin are poisoned, you know, and the like. Are you afraid for yourself?

HIGGINS: Well, I have been visited by the British police talking about my personal safety and some of my other staff members also have visited --

have visits from the police talking about this. We've targeted by Russian disinformation, you know, Sputnik and (INAUDIBLE) articles about me about

how awful I am and how I'm an amateur. We have been targeted by cyber- attacks as well. We've had our e-mails targeted repeatedly over the last several years.

And of course, now, investigating things like, you know, Russian assassin squads operating across Europe and elsewhere in the world, that's a real

threat to us. So, we have to be very careful with ourselves.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you because you're not obviously just looking in the countries that I've just mentioned but also in the United States, you

were, you know, looking at what was going on, for instance, on Capitol Hill when the mob stormed Congress on January 6th. Talk to me about the scope

and what -- well, the scope of your investigations around the world, but what you discovered from January 6th.

HIGGINS: I mean, one thing that's very interesting for me is, first of all, how many people were filming there. We've collected something around

1,000 videos so far that showed the events throughout the day. I have personally been doing a lot of research on this, looking at the activity

around the inaugural entrance, and what's kind of shocking to me is just the amount of violence that police face and how persistence it was.

This was not just a few moments that happened here and there, this was hours of violence taunting the police, yet, they didn't respond to this in

the way you kind of see them responding at other protests when they're facing this level of violence. And I think some of the information has come

out today about what they were told to do with these supporters, it's very revealing about, you know, how they were being really held back from

protecting themselves to some extent.

It's also really interesting to look at this crowd, the mix of the people who were there, it's not just Trump supporters, it's Proud Boys, it's QAnon

supporters, it's, you know, fairly mainstream Republicans who've got caught up in this crowd, but so many of them are involved directly with violence.

And I think when you really see all the footage together (INAUDIBLE) clip here all day, you really get the sense of how intense this kind of mob was.

AMANPOUR: And, of course, a lot of people look at that and feel really frightened and think that the internet age has spawned this most horrible,

you know, misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories that go around unabated. But you seem to be more optimistic and you have called

this whole age a gift and, you know, extraordinary gift. You said, the digital era is viewed as a wrecking ball smashing journalism, civility and

politics. At Bellingcat, we do not accept this cyber-miserablilism. The marvels of the internet can have an impact for the better. However,

guarding society and upholding truth are not the exclusive domain institutions anymore. It is for all of us. How?

[14:35:00]

HIGGINS: So, I think one thing I notice a lot is that you feel that in this society, you can sit back in democracy and it will just happen, things

will be OK. But what we have seen on January 6th is what happens when you are allow that to happen with the impact of social media, the tech

platforms and their involvement of basically bringing people together who are not, you know, nice people or they might be into conspiracy theories,

and how they are not challenged, because those of us who aren't worried about conspiracy theories, those who read the mainstream newspapers don't

really think about it until they're trying to break into the capitol building.

And I think we have to be a lot more aware of these kind of alternative media ecosystems, these counterfactual communities that are growing. And so

often, I think disinformation and misinformation is seen as an outside force acting on a community, often Russia. But that's not really the case.

Really, these communities are being formed out of where the instance (ph) operates. You might click on a flatter (ph) of videos for a joke on YouTube

and that get recommended another one.

You might not look at it but someone else might do and them they might another one. And before you know it, they believe the Earth is flat. It is

one of the, you know, fast-growing movements online. It's the QAnon, it's the same with the Pizzagate conspiracy theorists. And partly that's because

people are being drawn into this by the way social media platforms and tech platforms are recommending content to them, and I think we need to really

address those issues, because once they are drawn into those communities, it is very hard to pull them out, because they see themselves in opposition

to the mainstream, because they see themselves as heroes, seekers of the truth. And those who are against them as effectively evil, and that's what

we have to address.

AMANPOUR: And much easier to get in than get out of that conspiracy mindset. Eliot Higgins, thank you so much indeed.

Turning now to a newsroom made for our times. The 19th* is a nonprofit website that covers gender, politics and policy. It's named after the 19th

Amendment which gave American women the vote in 1920, at least most of them. From child care to jobs to voter suppression, it covers the issues

that are pivotal to everybody, especially women of color and the LGBT community.

Here is the CEO and co-founder, Emily Ramshaw talking to our Hari Sreenivasan about the project amid a pandemic that's hitting women so hard.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Emily Ramshaw, thanks for joining us.

One of the first big stories that you came out with was called she-session. And that right around the time that the pandemic was coming in, people had

anecdotal stories of how this was disproportionately affecting women, but your site was one of the first places to really dive deep in on this. And

sadly, we are nowhere close to evening that out or improving that situation. It has still continued throughout the pandemic.

EMILY RAMSHAW, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, THE 19TH*: Absolutely. I mean, this is the truly like the first women-specific recession in American history. And,

you know, we can go through what some of those numbers look like, but the reality is, women were the ones who held the majority of jobs that were

lost in this pandemic, women also were the ones disproportionately affected by immediate erosion of child care and the access to in-school education.

And so, as a result, women and in particularly women of color have been hit in an extraordinary way. I mean, I think there are a lot of folks who

believe it's going to take a generation for women to get back on track with the losses that we have seen.

SREENIVASAN: And it took a generation even just to get up to this point and how fast some of the gains have been given back if you are talking

about so many women having to choose between continuing a job or trying to provide child care at home.

RAMSHAW: Absolutely. I mean, if you think about the height of this pandemic. So, you know, back in the spring, there were 12 million women who

had lost their jobs. You know, we have not even recovered half of those jobs at this point. If you look at the most recent jobs report in December,

I mean, the numbers are still really harrowing. You know, we just have not made the strides back.

I think, you know, among the Latina women, 9 percent are unemployed. I mean, these numbers are sky high. And in this moment, where we have seen

this renewed resurgence, numbers are almost as bad as they were, you know, several months ago. So, this is a harrowing moment.

SREENIVASAN: Is this because of the roles that women are playing in the workforce today? I mean, when you look at particular professions say for --

in classrooms or in nursing as a profession, probably 3 out of 4 of either of the occupations are women. But why it so disproportionate that so many

women are losing their jobs?

RAMSHAW: Right. You know, when you look at the industries that have been hardest hit, those industries tend to be powered by women. So, whether it's

the service sector, which is powered by women, you know, whether it's education, jobs and education and child care, which have been supremely

hard hit, you have seen enormous job losses in these arenas.

[14:40:00]

You know, you've also had women at the frontlines, by the way of, you know, health care, nursing. So, you know, whether they are losing their jobs on

one end or sort of thrown head-first into the fire, on the end, they're been hit super hard. But I think the flip side of this, as we all know,

that women still overwhelmingly bear the burden of both child care and elder care, the sandwich generation of trying to care for your children and

keep your parents alive, and, you know, this is -- thrown all that into full relief in this moment in history.

But as you have seen, you know, kids home from school in enormous numbers, as you have seen, you know, childcare centers I think there's some -- I saw

some statistic that like half of childcare workers have been laid off during the pandemic. That means that parents and in particular mothers have

been left to make this really difficult choice, you know, do I stay in the workforce or do I have to stay home care for my child, and so many, so many

are having to leave the workforce.

SREENIVASAN: I don't know if it's our willful ignorance of this, but there are so many more people aware of how important child care is to the

functioning of an entire economy. Like, right now, we have policymakers thinking about, OK, we need to get the children back into school, because,

guess what, if the kids aren't in school, the parents aren't going to be productive, they can't go to work, et cetera, et cetera. But it's sad that

it took a pandemic to make us realize the importance of this function in society.

RAMSHAW: Yes. You know, I would say, women have been talking about this for a very long time and, you know, folks at the highest levels of

government just haven't been listening. But the reality is, other countries are far ahead of the United States when it comes to things like paid leave.

The United States is the only country, you know, in the free world where there is no semblance of assured paid leave. You know, I think that child

care, certainly, affordable child care, access to child care has been an enormous problem for years. Child care deserts are a supremely giant

problem, the cost of child care. You talk to any parents, so many women drop out of the workforce because it is more expensive to keep their child

in child care than it is to care for them at home, they can't make up the difference in their careers.

And so, this has been a problem for generations, for decades, certainly, and it has taken this pandemic, I think, really to throw it into full

relief and front and center in the public eye.

SREENIVASAN: It is hard enough to get a new website or publication launched, but then to do it at the beginning of the pandemic, you just kind

of really seem like you wanted to up the odds against your success here, that seems to be an incredible undertaking. Tell me a little bit about what

it is like to start a new site, go out and fundraise, go out and hire the staff, do everything right around the time when corporate underwriting

could disappear to nothing, some of your funders might be hesitant.

RAMSHAW: I will tell you, this has been the hardest year of my life, certainly, and many others. But, I think, if you had told me that a year

ago that I would be launching a startup focused on gender, politics and policy in the middle of a global pandemic, in the middle of a racial

reckoning, hopefully, a modern-day civil rights movement, you know, I'm not sure I would have taken that giant risk.

The reality is, you know, there were a lot of tearful moments at the dining room table trying to figure out if we were going to even make this happen.

But we realized pretty quickly, even as our fundraising was drying up in the winter, that this was a moment that was going to disproportionately

affect women and other marginalized people, particularly women of color, and that we had a moral obligation, honestly, to jump in head-first.

So, we are a year in, you know, amazingly, we have hundreds of thousands of people reading our site every month, tens of thousands of people

subscribing to our newsletter. More than 200,000 people have come to our events and, you know, 10,000 early members who are making this a reality

for us.

So, yes, it has been really hard, but this moment in history feels so critical and we are so grateful that we have been able to launch The 19th*

in this particular year.

SREENIVASAN: Why did you need to exist given all of the publications that exist today? Why is there not the type of focus that you are bringing to

it?

RAMSHAW: Sure. I mean, look, the reality is -- and you know this well. I mean, I think the majority of American newsrooms in the politics and policy

sphere are -- they're overwhelmingly run by men, white men, you know, you see that at the reporting level, you see that at the managerial level, and

I think a lot of reason that you have seen that is that women opt out of this industry at a particular point, because the salaries aren't high

enough, the benefits aren't good enough, and the child care reality is, you know, the news cycle is not conducive to trying to have small kids at home.

I mean, we all know that. I experienced that firsthand. I've got a 5-year- old.

And so, our vision was to see if we could create both an atmosphere where we could change the national narrative around gender, politics and policy,

around how women are presented in the news by building a newsroom that was truly representative of the nation's women, and the LGBTQ community. So,

that's what we've worked to do this last year, and, you know, I'm really proud of where we are today.

[14:45:00]

SREENIVASAN: What kinds of steps did you take to make sure that the environment that you were creating, building from scratch was not only more

productive, but also more rewarding and more humane?

RAMSHAW: We started with offering the kind of benefits that none of us had seen in any other newsrooms in America. So, you know, from the ground floor

when we were fundraising to build this, we built this into our brand and our value proposition and our budgets. Six months of fully paid family

leave for all new parents. Four months of fully paid care giver leave. So, you would not be penalized for spending the past several months of your mom

or dad's life at their lives. You know, 100 percent coverage of health care premiums, a 401(k) match. And the ability, honestly, to work completely

remotely. This is pre-COVID, to work wherever you had the best child care and elder care set up.

So, I mean, my vision is, you know, can we advance more women into news leadership and in particular, more women of color into news leadership by

giving them the support systems they need at that sort of critical sandwich general moment in their lives to get past that.

I mean, I am the child of two journalists, right. My mom was in middle to upper management as a journalistic in my, sort of, you know, formative

years, and the days were long. I mean, you know as well as anybody else what political journalism is like, you know, the need to have your body in

the chair in a newsroom, in a desk 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., that's really, really tough when you are trying to balance family, when you're trying to

take care of elderly relatives.

So, all of those things were big priority for us. And certainly, they came into full relief during the pandemic when we had folks needing to take

advantage of those leave policies, when we had colleagues whose parents, you know, died of COVID, when many of us were stuck with small children at

home, you know. If we proved that we can launch a startup like this in a pandemic with those kinds of benefits, I think those kinds of benefits are

feasible and should be instituted everywhere.

SREENIVASAN: In a way, your staff ended up contributing through their own lives and the lives of their peers to the exact type of stories you're

talking about, the challenges that they're facing in their real lives are the ones that you're helping kind of distribute to a wider audience about

what is happening.

RAMSHAW: Absolutely. And I think, you know, one other element of that is, you know, we are talking about the pandemic here, but also have had, again,

a moment of racial reckoning in this country, a summer that was -- has sparked a whole lot of really critical conversations, and we're also a

newsroom where we encourage our colleagues to bring their full lived experiences into the workplace.

And so, you know, Errin Haines on our team was the first national reporter to tell the Breonna Taylor story, and, you know, obviously, that was a

landmark moment and a really important story for this nation. We've had a lot of moments like that where we are really devoted to ensuring that we

are telling the full story.

And by the way, having a newsroom that is fully independent and says there are also things we stand for. We stand for gender equity. We stand for

racial equity. We stand for human rights.

SREENIVASAN: Why do you think that the Taylor family chose to tell her story to your publication?

RAMSHAW: I know why they chose to tell the story to our publication and said they thought that the stories of black men who were wrongfully killed

by police were getting more attention in the national media than the stories of women who were being wrongfully killed by police. And so, they

came to us and their lawyer came to us with that particular lens in mind, and I think they were right on that account. You know, that story got

picked up far and wide. It -- you know, I think in many ways Breonna Taylor's care reignited the "Say Her Name" movement. It became a flashpoint

in this just really critical point in history. And they came to us with that gender lens front and center.

SREENIVASAN: What do you think the Biden administration has to do? How quickly do they need to move in order to hear the concerns of so many women

and people of color who voted for the Biden administration, who think that family leave is important, who think that child care is important? What

kinds of steps does the administration have to take?

RAMSHAW: You know, I think there are going to be a lot of people who are looking to hold this administration accountable because, you know, they

have been very adamant and very clear in their demands and what is needed this moment in history. And so, I think, you know, you've already seen it.

If this rescue plan of Biden's comes to be, you know, you will see conversations around increasing the minimum wage, which would

disproportionately affect women who are in those low wage jobs, you know. Bolstering child care, you know, instituting expanded paid leave, you know,

providing rent relief. So many of those things, you know, directly affect women and hit women of color hardest of all.

And so, I do think you're going to see a lot of demands, a lot of attention spent in these particular areas and a lot of really high expectations that

given his potential in this moment with both chambers of Congress and also with executive orders that he can take pretty serious and swift action.

[14:50:00]

SREENIVASAN: Have you spoken to members of the administration or the comms team, so to speak? I mean, they are primarily women-led and you have the

Biden administration come in, already say, look. Look at the number of female nominees for cabinet positions, that's certainly a massive reversal

from what it was in the last four years.

How do you make sure that it's not just a numerical checklist and that make sure that the voice of these women and people of color are represented in

the administration in a more forceful way?

RAMSHAW: Yes. So, we've been really front and center and reporting on and sort of providing, I think, a level of accountability for, you know, OK,

this is what you said you're going to do, who are these people who are in the administration and what are their roles? We had a live event a couple

of weeks ago where we interviewed the four women who are leading the Biden/Harris comms team. It was a fascinating conversation just to hear

from them both in the standpoint of the work that they are intending to do and how they're trying to rebuild trust with the American public.

You know, what is it like being women in these particular roles, and particularly, having, you know, small kids. And so, that was a fascinating

conversation that -- if you're viewers haven't seen it, I'd encourage them to. You know, I think the people who are on the really frontend of Biden's

health care initiatives, many of them are women, you know, many of the top officials who are nominated are women. You know, the deputy health director

who he has nominated is -- would be the -- I believe, the first transgender official in these appointed offices.

And so, we are keeping a very close eye on those conversations. But this isn't just about having women in appointed positions in an administration,

it's about normalizing it, it's about making sure you're not just asking the questions about, what's like to be a woman in this particular role, but

normalizing that leadership and asking them the same tough questions and accountability driven questions that you would ask a man in that role.

SREENIVASAN: One of the things that we have also seen in this time is the effect of misinformation and disinformation, and we can see as it comes

vaccine (INAUDIBLE), for example, there is still a pretty massive inequity in terms of who is getting the vaccines and also, who has access to good

information about the vaccines to make up their own minds. What kinds of things are you doing as a newsroom or as reporters, what kind of story,

ideas are you talking about around this?

RAMSHAW: Absolutely. So, I think, you know, one other thing in this arena that's really important to recognize is that women tend to be the ones who

are making medical decision, health care decision for their households and families, and women are also subject to really specific misinformation and

disinformation. I mean, we've written a lot about the different ways that women can fall prey to this misinformation even on places like Pinterest.

And so, we are focusing pretty seriously on telling the stories of women at the forefront of vaccine research, of people who are doing the work to

target of this information. We're going to be hosting a really specific symposium aimed at women and misinformation and how we sort of battle that

as a nation.

So, I think, we are paying very close attention to that line of storytelling. And also, specifically, the ways that communities of color

may not be getting the full story or are, you know, concerned about vaccine science and the ways that they have been marginalized in health care in the

past, you know, we're talking to folks about the way that the Latinx community has been targeted for misinformation in Spanish. So, lots of

conversations, again, you know, for us to, the asterisk speaks about people who have been left out of our democracy. And this is a moment when,

candidly, we can't afford for anyone to be left out.

SREENIVASAN: Where is that gap in terms of people left out? How far have we come? How far do we have yet to go?

RAMSHAW: Look, I mean, it's interesting, when we think about of The 19th* itself, you know, we're named for the 19th Amendment. But the reality is,

the 19th Amendment gave white women the right to vote, and it was another four decades well into the civil rights movement before any women of color

had access to the votes. And even then -- you know, from then, basically to the present day, we continue to see voter suppression that has hit

communities of color the hardest.

You know, we also write a lot about the gaps that have kept trans Americans from getting access to the polls. Issues around, you know, IDs and, you

know, making sure that you're able to access the polls with your true name and your identity.

And so, I think, this is all a work in progress, this asterisk in our logo, which is what the center of what 19th does is, you know, democracy still is

only available for some of us, and we need to work really darn hard and in particular in this moment in history to ensure that we are leveling the

playing field and bringing more people to the table.

SREENIVASAN: Emily Ramshaw of The 19th*, thanks so much for joining us.

RAMSHAW: So happy to be here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Really hard work that must continue. And that is it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:55:00]

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: By jingo, we're off to the races as the new week start and a big rally. The NASDAQ is up more than 2.5 percent

and the broad-based market, the SMP is up, the 30 dial (ph) stocks industrials there at more than 1 percent, given back (ph) just a bit but a

good rally.

The main events of the day. High ho silver prices are surging. Retail traders have a new asset to argue about. Vaccine makers are --

[15:00:00]

END