tv Amanpour on PBS PBS March 16, 2018 6:00am-6:30am PDT
welcome to amanpour on pbs. tonight, the special counsel robert mueller subpoenas the trump organization over its business deals with russia say new news reports. my conversation with the republican and democrat heavyweights joining forces to create a new new normal for the trump era. christine todd whitman and preet bharara why they believe the president's words and actions are eroding democracy. plus, the state of putin's russia from someone who knows it well. i'm joined by russian opposition political activist and renown former world chess champion gary kasparov.
>> announcer: amanpour on pbs was made possible by the generous support of rosalyn. walter. good evening, everyone and welcome to the program. i'm christiane amanpour in new york. a lot of breaking news today. the latest from the "new york times" is that robert mueller has subpoenaed the trump organization, including business documents related to russia. many are now saying this brings the investigation ever closer too the president. this on the heels of other major news. the "washington post" reported that president trump admitted to making up facts about a trade deficit with canada when he met with prime minister trudeau. in any other administration, thisould be bombshell news, but today these are just more stories in a long string of them that has created a trump normal for the world.
with his unpredictable even whiplashy management style, disregard for facts and outright hostility to the free press, putting aside the question of legality, trump is consistently flouting established rules of governance otherize in known as norms. my next guests are alarmed enough to set up a joint task force to address it, even to turn agreed rules of the road into new laws. former new jersey governor christine todd whitman joins us from arizona and the former u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york, preet bharara, is here with me in new york in the studio. welcome. welcome to both of you. let me start with you, mr. bharara. let's just address this new "new york times" investigation and return. what can you make of journalists being told to be very careful of this ongoing news investigation? what do you make of the latest
news? >> it shows week after week after week that the mueller team means business, that they keep a tight lid on information that goes out of their office. from the reporting that i saw before coming on the show, it's clear these subpoenas were issued some time ago. we're only learning about them now for reasons they're not clear and they'll probe every corner and uncover every rock that they can. >> what does it mean? everybody wants to know what does it mean for the president? >> look, any time a special prosecutor is interviewing people who are very close to the president, that's a big deal and now if they're probing information directly from an organization that's named trump, that's a big deal, too. and you never know, the thing people need to remember -- and i can explain from my time as united states attorney -- is that you look at everything and it's not clear at the end of the day what you can connect up with a potential crime or something to refer to the house of representatives. but they have to look at everything. so it's never surprising to me that they are issuing subpoenas to the trump organization or talking to jared kushner or
thinking about talking to roger stone. anybody who had dealings with russia given the broad ambit of the special counsel's man date they have to look at. >> before we turn to the other news i mentioned about the conversation with prime minister trudeau, let me ask you governor todd whitman to explain to us what are norms, for people who don't know what norms are, the rules of the road. explain what they are and why you think they need to be toughened up. >> well, the norms are what we would expect of our elected leaders, in this case this is what we're talking about, it's things like we would expect that ou representat would understand the position of the freedom of t press. we'd -- we expect that our judiciary would be free from political pressure, as would law enforcement authorities such as the fbi and the cia. we would expect that those taking public office would understand the difference between participating in government and doing political work, that there is a separation there that has to be maintained and we would expect that people
in public office are doing their job in public office and not doing private deals on the side or using that public office while they're in it to enhance their bottom line. these are things we thought of as normal and this is normal behavior that we would expect of these people and it didn't just start with donald trump. we've seen this before. we did have the no nepotism law passed after jack kennedy appointed bobby kennedy and we had the special prosecutor's establishment because of watergate so we've seen this before with other presidents. it's just with this administration it's getting to a point where you have to stop and say, no, we have got to start to codify some of these -- this behavior and try to put up barriers to prevent things from getting totally out of control. >> so to both of you, first to you, preet, since you're here, that implies that you need support, you need congress to do this and to make new laws.
what expectation do you have that particularly in this era, particularly as you've seen a congress very devoted to this president, not standing up to some of the flouting of what you tually do anything at this time or do you have to wait to the end? >> that's the hope. and what you hope is that members of congress care about institutions more than they care about their party. >> but that hasn't been apparent now, has it? >> new things keep happening, new norms keep being broken and sort of in a very dramatic change -- very dramatic changes are taking place. and not all of it has to happen in congress. one of the things that the governor and i and the task force will look at is the issue of transparency in campaigns. and one of the issues that's come up, that's been talked about a lot with respect to president trump was the non-disclosure of his tax returns when he was running for office. on the state level individual states can decide they want to demand tax returns being released by a date certain before they put them on the ballot in that state and the
state of maryland has already done that. if you get a number of states to do that, that doesn't require congress but can be done on the local level. >> let me ask a former governor, christine todd whitman, what you make of california and governor jerry brown. this is not a republican governor. it's a democrat governor who doesn't like the idea. he said today we require tax returns but what would be next? five years of health records? high school report cards? will these requirements vary depending chon political party is in power. he doesn't like it at all. does he have a point? >> he does. but although my husband said when i was running he lost his last fig leaf. why not put out your tax returns. people know everything about you. i think what we're seeing with this president is what's causing people real concern is this overlap between the private donald trump organization and the public president donald trump and the presidency and where those two things are starting to comingle.
the idea of requiring that tax returns be put out is something that's there because people think that may be a way t cut through all this mirage and see at's real and what isn't and where you need to worry about it. the thing about the task force is we're not going to agree on everything but what we're going try to come out with is a series of recommendations that either can be taken up by congress, taken up by the states, or taken up by the people. if you look at the impact that the students are having now from parkland, it was incredible what you saw yesterday of the students walking out and saying my arms are for hugging, not forguns, to have young children have to do that is mind-boggling but it's making a difference and you will see a difference in congress because they are influenced by their constituents. >> so you both have said in what you've written and talked about -- and let me just can ask you, governor whitman -- that this flouting of the norm actually is eroding workable
government, workable democracy. how do you mean? >> it's undermining people's confidence in the institutions of government and they don't -- look at any poll, people don't trust congress, they don't trust the courts and that is extremely dangerous. they don't trust law enforcement, that's dangerous. we have to get the public trust back, that's what erodes a democracy. if we lose that kind of trust and that ability to understand that we can make the difference and that we need to make the difference and we can trust our institutions and elected officials, that's when you start sliding down a slippery slope that gets us into a very bad place. there have been books written about how you lose democracies. this is one way. >> obviously one of the fundamental pillars of democracy is a free and independent press and president trump has made no secret of his disdain for the press and calling us and others fake news. so what do you make of him actually admitting that he made
up stuff to justify his trade and deficit positions to the canadian prime minister? let me read you what the "washington post" has as a transcript. "trudeau came to see me" says trump. "he's a good guy, stin, he said no, no, we have no trade deficit with u, we have none, donald, please. he's a nice guy, good looking, he comes in, donald, we have no trade deficit. i say wrong, justin, you do, i don't even know. josh, i had no idea. i just sid you're wrong. you know why? because we're so stupid and i thought they were smart. i mean, it's gobsmacking. >> it is. but we get gobsmacked every week if not everyday with respect to this president. but going back to the task force that governor whitman and i are co-chairing. it's not to say -- in reference to your comments, you read from governor brown -- that everything can be legislated. norms are norms for a reason and it's an honor system that we have with our politicians and you expect to do things that are traditional because they're good
for democracy. so with respect to his disdain for the press we have to make sure that we careful that first amendment freedoms are not eroded, that the first amendment are not amended in some terrible way or the libel laws are not amended in some terrible way the president has suggested but i don't think we can legislate having a president of the united states not be critical of the press. the tradition and the norm has been that it's not done to the degree this president has done it. presidents have had bad relationship requests the press going back to the beginning of the printing press. so it's not clear you can legislate everything but, a, if you can legislate some things, to codify some norms and have people discussing these and bring them to light and have people focus on them, the most powerful p that citens have is the power to vote. and if you draw attention to these things, they can be fixed -- it's better for these things to be fixed at the ballot box, quite frankly, i'm sure the governor would agree, than to have to institute codifications of norms that have not been
violated in 200 years. >> what do you say, though, in a very hyperpartisan atmosphere where we discuss that there's not a bipartisan feeling towards this. the obvious question is what reaction have had to this task force. we just saw this week the house intelligence committee one group of them, one political group the republicans decided to shut down the investigation independent of what the other group said or thought about it. how do you make inroads -- go ahid, governor. >> i was just going to say, don't forget, they're responding to what they hear. what they hear from their constituents and preet is right. if we can elevate what should be norms, what we should expect of normal behavior of our representatives, if people start saying this is what i want, this is how i'm going to determine my vote, that is going to influence w they act and i hear you, it's gotten extremely partisan in congress, things are looked at through that partisan political prism, not through policy. it's about how do i get another
vote in my caucus or another percentage on my reelect but if the public stands up and says that's not enough, that's not what we want, we're electing you not to represent the party but us, if we start doing that, they'll pay attention. they will and that's how things get changed in a democracy. >> it begs the question. you did rightly point out to these fantastic students who decided to take their own fate, their own future, their own safety in their hands and they're showing an activism that we haven't seen from students and young people for a very, very long time but when you say the public won't stand for it, both of you must know that actually the most support the president gets is from the very right wing news organizations as was written who enjoy boy bolstg his reputation as the middle finger to the establishment. the middle finger to these established norms that you both treasure so much and want to uphold. preet bharara, how do you fight
against this incredible weight of partisan political press in his corner? >> you develop a consensus over time among people who are prepared to put institutions and the country before their party. and i know there's reason to be mess mistic. but you said earlier, what has been the reaction and i know the governor said this as well. the reaction has been overwhelming from people on both sides of the political aisle, democrats and republicans, liberals and conservatives have said what can we do to aid this effort? that's why it's a bipartisan task force. i've interviewed people on my podcast who have said what's more important than particular policy differences on taxes or on trade, those are important, but what's more important than tra the traditions and norms of american politics and decency and the separation of powers and checks and balances and independent judiciary and law enforcement. that's something i care about very much and i think over time a consensus can develop that's mature and responsible and reasonable and some of these things can be passed. >> of course i hope so as a
member of the free press. i hope that consensus comes back but can i just ask you very quickly, i've got very little time left, 20 seconds. preet bharara and christine todd itman, first you, mr. bharara, wh would be the first thing that you want to s redressed? the most important thing? >> five seconds? i don't want to prejudge that, we're looking at a lot of things. that's why we have the task force. to the governor. >> governor, will you lay your cards on the line? what is the most important thing right now? >> i think the independence of the judiciary and people's trust in the independence of the judiciary and law enforcement, if those two things get severely eroded, we're in real trouble. >> thank you both very much indeed for joining me, governored to whitman and preet bharara. thank you so much for being in the studio. as we said, for the first time, the trump administration has agreed to slap sanctions on russian individuals today for election med ling, including all those indicted in robert
mueller's investigation. it also joined with france, germany and the uk to denounce the chemical attacks and nerve agent attack onner sergei skri and his daughter julia. russia's foreign minister has fired back. take a listen. >> translator: we are ready to return into partnership with the european union when our european neighbors lose interest in following american russo phobic tendencies including tanks, including provocations and when they will lose interest to put up the scandalous actions that we see from the government of the united kingdom which goes far outside the norms of proprie propriety. >> also lavrov has hinted not too subtly that russia will retaliate for the diplomatic expulsions the uk has announced. today, the british prime minister theresa may doubled down when she visited salisbury, the sight of the poisoning incident. >> we do hold russia culpable
for this brazen, brazen act and despicable act that's taken place on the street of what is such a remarkable city where people come and visit and enjoy and i come down here today also to say thank you to our emergency services, to our police, health services, everybo everybody. >> so the political chaos sets the tone and scene for russia's elections this weekend. putin is unanimously expected to win another six-year term so how can the west strategize for the fourth putin administration? joining me now is gary kasparov, revered as the greatest chess champion of all time. he attempted to run for the russian presidency in 2008 and he's been warning the world about putin's moves for years and he joins me right now welcome to the program. >> thank you. >> in fact, i covered your
attempted presidential run back in 2008. i remember you being hauled with some of your supporters into the back of a police van, remind us why as an independent candidate you couldn't officially be a candidate? >> because we should stop misleading people talking about elections, it's more like a ritual to reappoint a dictator his endless rule. putin has to do it, has to pay tribute to russian constitution that he's been violating all the time to russian citizens but momportantly to the rest of the world and even ten years ago, wch many of us called vegetarian time because at that time you could spend five or ten days in jail for protesting, today it will be five or ten years. >> you call that vegetarian days? >> yes, vegetarian days so they did not let anybody who was not fully approved and vetted by the kremlin to be on the ballot. >> which is what happened to you. >> happened to many of us and these days we could see for instance that alexei navalny, the renown leader who had been working tirelessly revealing
putin's corruption, he was just expelled from the list, not given the chance to run, and boris nemtsov, another great leader, he was simply shot. >> so let's talk about -- well, first and foremost president putin remains incredibly popular. >> how do you know? >> well, how do i know? from the poll results. >> but, again -- >> are you challenging that? >> i'm not challenging things that cannot be verified because if you have one restaurant in town and all other restaurants have been burned to the ground, is this restaurant popular? >> so what do the people think then? how do we know he's not popular? >> we don't know because -- when there's polling people in this country understand if somebody is calling you, a stranger, can you imagine a russian citizen, somebody who was born in the soviet union, still remembers the kgb, what was kgb and kgb is now in power being honest with a stranger telling what he or she thinks about vladimir putin? so polling, elections and other normal terms are being used for
political campaigns in the free world should not apply to russia. >> okay, so you and many, many others like you believe that this political exercise is a sham and a pr stunt. >> it is a sham. if he's popular, why not run a normal campaign? why not allow people like navalny to be on the ballot and why not be part of a debate? for his entire political life, vladimir putin has not participated in a single debate. >> what does it mean now that the sort of -- i mean this lashing out by russia, they have been accused by the uk, the u.s. supports it and you know president trump and the united states administration has not really spoken out about russia. but this latest poisoning with a very powerful, very special nerve agent, has been laid at the foot of the kremlin. i mean, how do you explain that in 2018? what is president putin's strategy? what is his aim? >> again, it's a dictator's strategy, let me emphasize and
he knows that if we -- paraphrasing thomas jefferson who said that true freedom must be refreshed from time to time by the blood of patriots and tyrants. putin knows a foundation of every dictatorship must be refreshed by blood and fear. and i think it's a message. i think maybe it's connected to the mueller investigation. it's a message to all russians who might be thinking of testifying that it's not only you but also your family. dictators and mafia bosses don't do things -- don't kill people for just fun. it's a message and don't forget, the second order of another russian who was -- berezovsky -- >> you're talking about gushkov? >> yes. >> but they haven't said it was a murder yet. >> he was strangled. all of a sudden -- but, again, it's important. putin is facing the ritual on march 1 and he has to reinforce his authority. russian elite expected the sanctions to be lifted at
trump's election, after putin invested so heavily in trump and russian president, government-controlled press kept talking about a new era in relations. it didn't happen, now there's the mueller investigation. failure in syria when the russian paramilitary had been decimated by the u.s. and kurdish forces. putin needs to show he's still in charge and i always said dictators now ask why, why not? 10 years ago they killed litvinenko, it was a nuclear attack on the uk. three british administrations decided to hush up the investigation. >> so you fault the british for not stopping this and holding them accountable from the beginning? >> it's almost like an invitation to a dictator to move forward because he has to show his strength. at the end of the day the least of what putin would not do is -- we heard all the time, no it looks bad, he won't send troops to ukraine, not crimea, not carpet bomb aleppo. he did it because he saw no retribution and now we've reached a point where the free world is paying attention.
obviously the trump adminion is doing very little. >> were you surprised they backed the investigation for the first time -- the administration did give the go ahead to congressionally approved sanctions which were approved months ago? >> again, with a six-week delay, the list is very, very short. the five entities mentioned, at least two are redundant but what's important basically the administration recognized indictments so it's a step in a right direction but always trump is doing everything in his power to slow down and minimize the damage for -- >> so you're an insider. you go there, you just returned, i believe, from russia. or you're not allowed back? >> no, i can go back but that would be a one-way trip. >> okay. >> i left russia five years ago. >> fine, fine, i got that wrong. so there's a reason why you didn't go back. are you still in the know who? do you have people who tell you things? do you know as a former activist or continuing activist what's going on?
what is at the heart of this mueller investigation? >> look, we do regular forums, free russia forum and we have many actors in russia. tomorrow in new york we're on putin conference, putin.com, anybody can watch it live so we have experts from different countries talking about past and different and future of putin's dictatorship and right now again i could see that putin desper e desperately needs to reinforce his status of global leader. he knows that his one mistake, the mafia boss, a dictator cannot afford, he has to show his strength and so far things are not looked good. >> so you are the world chess champion. >> i was, yes. >> forever people will consider you that, gary. you famously played against ai and all of these thing, strategy is your game, patience is your game. what does the west do to confront in a logical strategic successful way against a president who is committed to
the western institution and what you've been drying? >> first you have to recognize you are a kind of war, hybrid war, you name it. but you have an enemy that is doing everything its in power to weaken you and create a division and to spread the chaos. second is this -- you should stop saying the choices are appeasement or war. between appeasement and war there is the vast area of deterrence and you have to make sure that those who follow putin's orders will pay the ultimate price, russian oligarchs and a long list of people in are so far quite comfortable working for putin but keeping their money, not in china, not iran, not venezuela but in this country, in europe. follow the money. >> so you're saying prime minister may who called it an unlawful attack on a sovereign state, this gas attack, expelled 23 diplomats, that's not good enough? >> because she's still treating putin's russia as a state but
they don't care about national interests. go after people who could make the difference. make them choose between following putin's criminal orders and their money, families, all in the free world. by the way, conveniently within the reach of theresa may, american administration and european governments. >> it's incredible as we wait for this weekend's election or rerubber stamping, we'll see what happens in the future. >> but definitely more to come. >> gary kasparov, thank you so much for joining us tonight. >> thank you. that's it for our program tonight. thanks for watching amanpour on pbs. join us again tomorrow night.