tv Amanpour on PBS PBS May 10, 2018 6:00am-6:30am PDT
. welcome to amanpour. the environmental protection agency becky sutherland joins me for an interview as a growing ethics investigation threatens the head of the agency, scott pruitt. plus, make america great again? how does europe plan to solve the iran nuclear deal now that president trump has exited and violated it. i asked brittain's top good evening, everyone, welcome to the program. i'm christiane amanpour in
london. he's under 11 federal investigations and counting yet u.s. environmental protection agency administrator scott pruitt is still on the job. critics call it one more chink in the pledge by president trump to drain the washington swamp. after all, isn't this the president who's seen a record number of officials exit already. perhaps pruitt's survival is down to his record where he's rolling back one regulation after another that was designed to protect america's air, water and land and doing it all under a pro business banner. now betsy sutherland wrote some of that regulation over more than three decades at the epa. in her fiery resignation letter last yearhe condemned, quote, the trials of misovertruths and became one of hundreds to exit the epa. the agency has predictably hit back at her. betsy sutherland joins me now from washington.
first, welcome to the program. >> thank you so much for inviting me. i'm really looking forward to this conversation. >> well, it is, we like to call it, an exclusive. we know you have written and you've done a few things in the interim since last year. why do you think first and foremost scott pruitt is on the job given, as i said, these 11 different investigations? i've got, you know, a stack of paper that sort of lists how many there are over everything from expenses, travel, security, condos, all sorts of things that are allegedly conflicts of interest. >> it's absolutely unprecedented, i can tell you, in the history of the environmental protection agency. our administrators are usually very serious, very scientific and lawyerly type people who don't have any of these ethics problems ever, so this is unprecedented. i think he's going to stay. i would be very surprised if
he's ever fired by president trump, and the reason why is unlike some of the other cabinet secretaries that have been let go, he has apparently a very wide base of support with a number of the heavy financial donors to the republican party and they have all written in and spoken highly of him and i would be surprised at this point if he's ever fired. >> but it does sort of fly in the face, don't you think, of the sort of tone, the visuals we've seen for the first year at least of this administration when there have been a lot of firings and a lot of people being pushed out and a lot of resignations. you say he won't be fired. do you think he might resign? might he have to? >> it seems like he's really convinced that this is going to be his path to future political career. he's used every minute that he's spent at epa to really do everything in his power to respond to the requests from
republican donors. and he has given them everything they want. rules that we have spent eight to ten years developing with years of scientific data collection and analysis, in one meeting he will meet with a donor and agree to repeal it. he has done that. all of those are under repeal right now. >> give me one of the major ones, for instance, that concerns you the most. >> so one of the ones is the clean water rule, which is basically telling the country what waters in the united states will receive any federal clean water act protections, and we're waiting that this month. we hope to see this month of may, according to scott pruitt, what his new proposal will be for what waters are going to be allowed to have federal water quality protections, and there's all indicatns that he is going to side with the farmersnd with the land developers and make that rule a very, very
restrictive one. so that potentially only about 30% of the waters in the entire country and only about 10% of the wetlands would have any federal water quality protection. >> before i drill down into some of these issues one by one, i do want to say to you what administrator pruitt told an ethics hearing recently in defense of himself and his conduct. >> i have nothing to hide as it relates to how i've run the agency the past 16 months. i'm not afraid to admit that there's been a learning process, and when congress or independent bodies find fault in our decision making, i want to correct that and ensure that it does not happen again. >> has there been any such corrections? >> not that i've heard from the current staff at epa, and i would say that we shouldn't have to wait for house or senate oversight committees to tell us what the basic requirements are for federal employee.
there is plenty of civil service regulations out there. he had a wonderful staff advising him from the day he entered epa who would have been experts in that kind of ethics and conflict of interest regulations and would have advised him from day one on what was legal and what was not legal, what was wasteful and what was really personal benefit only type actions by him. >> now, again, he does seem to be a larger than life character. i mean, his past is very colorful in the way it portrays on television his previous offices, the way he conducts himself in office in all sorts of different areas, but why -- why did you resign? what was the thing that pushed you over the edge? >> the real key issue was that he will not even allow the staff of epa to advise him on the background of all these rules he's agreeing to repeal.
he wouldn't even let us in the room to give him a basic 101 on all the data collection, all the science and engineering that supported these rules. instead, he met with the political donor. he agreed to do the repeal, and then he directed us to do the repeal. so it was the fruitlessness of staying in the agency and having no potential way to influence his decision making. if he will not listen to you, you have no possible opportunity of changing his mind. >> so in your case, and you mentioned the health of our -- of water, america's waters, and in your case you yourself were decorated for discovering or identifying a certain -- i think a certain bacteria that could improve water standards, is that right? >> yes. we had done a lot of work on
hazardous algae blooms and the real serious public implications of those as well as the different kinds of bacteria that cause all kinds of illnesses in people. and, again, scott pruitt doesn't seem to want to hear from staff about the years of science and study behind these rules, he just simply repeals them at the request of his political donors. >> i mean, i ask you that because i'm just sort of establishing your scientific bona fide feelings and there is a backlash against you and the epa has questioned your stated reasons for resigning saying, actually, she was coming up to her retirement age and eyeing her pension and that was the reason and she's mischaracterizing everything else. >> so they do tend to attack everyone who criticizes them. they have -- actually our taxpayer funded press office at
epa attacks specific reporters that write critical articles. they attack retirees like myself who speak out. it's amazing that, again, our taxes are being used to fund this kind of discrediting campaign for anyone who speaks out and wants to have an alternative voice to scott pruitt's statement about what he's doing. >> again, just to go to the science of it. the trump administration, the epa under this administration, killed, as you said, the regulation that you had written trying to keep toxic water from coal plants out of the water supply. obviously how does that feel as a scientist, as an environmentalist over the last 40 years to see that happen? >> so it's heartbreaking for every single person on the staff today as well as the 700 scientists and engineers who have left the agency since scott pruitt arrived, and that's
because, again, in the case of most of these rules, eight to ten years went into their development where many, many data collection efforts that were all reviewed by industry and by the public and then fully and completely analyzed by scientists and engineers and economists. so all of that was then reviewed by industry and the public, and at no time did anyone find a flaw in the science behind our rules or in the procedure, the legal procedures followed to make those rules. so there's really no justification for the repeals other than the fact that his political donor asked him to do it. >> just to drill down a little bit more. the team at the epa which disagrees with what you're saying and would likely have reasons for why 700 people have left the agencies, ascribed political motives to you,
ascribed the motive of trying to sabotage the trump administration epa, but you're saying that actually you haven't heard anybody who even wants to resign. you just want to put the facts in front of the administration and hope they are enough to convince them? >> absolutely. all we want is an opportunity to speak to him and to show him all of the support for the rules that he's asking us to repeal. and, again, right now in just the first year of pruitt's administration of epa there are 66 public health and safety regulations that are in the process of being repealed. 66. and not one of those rules has the staff that worked on them for years been able to speak to him for even five minutes to explain the backing behind those rules. >> and i think in every one of those 66 it has a direct impact on the health and livelihood of individuals, so i would like to
ask you to respond because you did write something pretty definitive with capital letters where they needed to be in your mind in your resignation. and you basically said that the epa suffers from the temporary triumph of misovertruth. the truth is there is no war on coal. there is no economic crisis caused by environmental protection. and climate change is caused by man's activities. because, i mean, you know, you've said that, i want you to expand on it in light of the fact that, you know, they say -- that they're making certain changes based on a pro business agenda. >> so it's solely on a pro business agenda and it's really without any context of science or engineering. so let's just take the war on coal. right now scott pruitt is repealing two rules, one of which i worked on in the water
program which for the first time was going to make coal fired plants instead of what they're doing today is pouring it into these huge untreated ponds. the second rule is the one rule that we did in the last couple of years that asks people to actually inspect those giant holding ponds with all of that toxic wastewater. so he's even trying to repeal that one. what that means is that every community in the united states that's downstream of one of these coal-fired power plants can have one of these terrible accidents that have been known to occur every few years in which those ponds break and their communities are inundated with toxic wastes. their drinking water supplies can no longer be used. they have to go on bottled water for weeks and months while that cleanup works.
we would have prevented that if just those two rules have been allowed to be in place. >> betsy sutherland, thank you so much. thank you very much for joining us. and now we move from those domestic fears to foreign policy fears. just one day after busting out of the iran nuclear deal, the u.s. president is moving forward with plans to try t make a nuclear deal with north korea. after meeting with the leader, kim jong-un, secretary of state mike pompeo left pyongyang with three american detainees and apparently a time and a place set for the summit. the big question looms, how can the american president put off a bigger and better deal with a nuclear armed north korea after becoming the only party to violate the iran nuclear agreement. the iaea reiterated that iran is complying. they burned copies of the deal
and the american flag. with no deal and a consensus that the jpeoa contains the agreement, i asked the top u.k. minister at the top office what happens next. minister burt, welcome to the program. >> thank you. >> i don't know whether you feel, but apparently the fate of the iran nuclear deal is hinging on the europeans, that the u.s. is in violation and if iran is going to stay, you've got to pull some rabbit out of a hat. do you see it that way? >> i think we see it less than pulling a rabbit out of the hat, it's staying the course. we all feel very firmly that the nuclear concern was dealt with with jtpoa. we know other things are out
there and everyone knows that. the concerns we all share, but we felt it could be dealt with by dealing with the jtpoa which in our view and the view of the atomic energy agency is being satisfied and complied with. so it's more staying the course than pulling a rabbit out of the hat. we think we've got to move on. we've got a different situation. >> how do you actually move on? because already the secretary of the treasury has said that they are immediately going to enact and revoke licenses of some of the biggest companies that deal with iran, boeing and airbus and that affects brittain and other countries. how do you, a, you, go on with tec tens of billions of dollars wiped off the slate and to convince iran that somehow you can, you, europeans, mitigate this effect of sanctions on
them? >> it's a very serious question and it comes from secretary johnson saying to the united states, don't whatever you do make the conditions that you're going to operate under so onerous that the rest of us can't fulfill the obligations that we have under the jtpoa. it works two ways. it works in relation to containing the nuclear threat. i think what we're seeing with the americans is, look, you must handle it yourself as you wish, but we want to continue to be able to be free to operate. now i suspect in that space there's quite a lot of discussion to be had because no one is naive enough to believe it's the american banks and american financial systems that do something there isn't an effect elsewhere. this is something clearly we've got to engage on. as they were saying today, we want the united states to come forward and say what's its next
steps in relationship with how it deals with the other issues sunding iran beyond just the reimposition of sanctions. iran will have to make some changes as well, there's no doubt about that. >> like what? >> well, they've got to address the issues that are fundamental, the future of the agreement, but we know that will come in time, but also ballistic missile issues, iranian activity in the region. none of this is being ignored just because it's not negotiable. it doesn't mean it's not discussible. that's clearly up front in those of the region. we take notes of that. >> clearly your prime minister, your foreign secretary, the president of france, chancellor of germany, practically everyone who had a hand in negotiating the deal tried to prevail upon donald trump not to violate it and pull the united states out. you were not listened to. >> no, it's clear. as i've been saying on the radio this morning, on this particular
issue because of the president's determination, which he set out during his campaign and i always repeated many times. he does not see this as the agreement to resolving things in iran and the region. we do. we have differences of opinion. we want to continue to fulfill our obligations in relation to the deal. >> there are many thoughtful american foreign policy experts trying to digest what has happened. one leading person has written that president trump violates and withdraws u.s. from the nuclear deal based on either ignorance of the technical details of the deal or a willingness t basically bring down the iranian regime or a willingness to expunge any record of president obama's foreign policy? and i ask you because i want to know how an ally deals with an administration that is potentially making decisions like this even after their own keogh figures alls, cabinet
level officials say the following. this is mike pompeo in his confirmation hearing. >> do you have any evidence to dispute the iaea assessment that iran is in full compliance with the jcpoa. >> with the information i've been provided i see no evidence that they are not in compliance today. >> right. that's his view. it's secretary mattis's view and pretty much everyone's view that they are in compliance. how do you deal with an administration, therefore, that is operating on a different reality level, maybe on a political level, ideological level but not on a technical level in this regard? >> well, clearly we would agree with the view expressed by secretary pompeo in that interview in the senate. that's our view as well. i suppose the honest answer to your question is we aare dealin with an administration that
elected the president of the united states and in the u.s. system the word of the president of the united states, the decision is the president of the united states, it's what becomes the policy of the united states. a friend of an ally will do what it can to put information in front of the president so that when he's making the decision he has the information available and he makes a decision based on that and whatever other things are part of his own political judgment. the rest of us then have to work with that. that is the system we have. all we can do is if we disagree, we say we disagree. if we're in agreement in which there are a number of different parties, we carry on with that agreement because we think that's right. there are times that we agree with the president of the united states and his judgment and times when we disagree, but he's not our president. we're not working to his system. others have to work with that. others in the u.s. administration have to work with that. we don't, but we have to work
with the judgments and decisions that he makes. >> so i understand that. you somewhat make it sound like it's an academic exercise and it's up to the internal dynamics of the system, but in this case it's a global potential threat and global u.n. enshrined deal that's being tossed in the air. to that point, since you actually want to preserve it, i'd like to just raise with you the iranian's concern. as you know, the supreme leaders today were scathing about what happened and about your, the european's ability, to salvage this. this is what a leading analyst in iran told me about europe and the deal just last night. just listen if you would. >> not only did he hue mill lee eight europe, but he presented them as infect actual and no significance so the europeans have a vested interest in showing that they do matter in international issues. if they r08d over and abide by trump's demands, then i don't
think any international body or regional player is going to take europe seriously. >> he's right, isn't he? >> well, who's rolling over? until a few days ago there were plenty of questions out there saying what will europe do if the president makes the decision that he has and there were plenty of people saying, well, the europeans can't possibly stick with jtpoa if the americans make a different decision. we have, we are, no one is rolling over. we have our own foreign policy, our own analysis. yes, i was giving you an analysis a little while ago but i don't in any way suggest or pretent this is something you have to analyze. i think if you don't analyze you're not doing your job. i'm well aware of the impact and effects is if you sign up to a deal, you sign up for the deal. if you walk away, you raise all sorts of questions. that's why the united kingdom
has not done so. there's no rolling over. the solution is clear, we see ththe area as incredibly dangers at the moment, very febrile, we don't want anything else to make the region worse. we have to continue to work and what can we now do to ease the tensions, to look at the things that have caused the united states to do what it's done. how can everybody meet those challenges? how can we descale attentions in the area? because unless we do, then the region is heading for something even worse and the united kingdom's voice will be clear and strong in trying to urge all parties to restrain, to look at the knock on effects of what they're doing, to consider what's happened next, what's the next step, not take decisions sole ri in isolation. this is a longer process. there's much more to do. it needs strength and careful
analysis as we move forward. >> exactly on that point, my final question will be what will you and your other european counterparts tell the foreign minister who negotiated this deal with you all and with secretary kerry when you meet next week? what can you tell him so that iran continues to stand by this deal with the faith, the good faith? >> well, some of that will have to be worked out through next week. some conversations will take place. we don't know what the circumstances will be next week. we can absolutely assure in relationship to good faith. we can talk about the importance of compliance right away through with the deal. we can also talk about the other issues that surround it which are not part of the deal but are obviously a concern in the region and say how important they are, but i think this would be part of a continuing conversation about how tensions and concerns can be descaled and
how some of the activities can be recognized. what can be done to ease those concerns for others and the good faith is the united kingdom and other partners to the deal, it's very important in this process, and i think that will be made clear as well. i think in some ways even before those conversations and next week. >> worrying days and weeks ahead. thank you for joining the pleasure. thank you. difficult conversations ahead for sure. that is it for our program tonight. thanks for watching "amanpour" on pbs and join us again tomorrow night.