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Mike Pompeo in Cairo, Egypt to Set Trump's Administration's Middle East Policy; "BlacKkKlansman" by Spike Lee, Focuses on Terror at Home; The Link Between Credit Cards And Mass Shooting. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 10, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
The Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is in Cairo today talking up America's Middle East leadership role. A hundred days after Saudi Arabia's brutal
murder of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, I speak to Al-Qaeda expert and Khashoggi's friend, Lawrence Wright, and the former FBI, Ali Soufan.
Plus, a Black police officers infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan. It is award season and Director Spike Lee joins me to talk about "BlacKkKlansman."
And could credit card companies help stop mass shootings? Our Walter Isaacson drills down with "New York Times" columnist, Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has chosen Cairo, Egypt to set the table for the Trump administration's Middle East policy. And at the same time,
deliver a strong rebuke to President Obama's policy for the region, which was also delivered in Cairo nearly a decade ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: When America retreats, chaos often follows. When we neglect our friends, resentment builds. And when we
partner with our enemies, they advance.
The good news. The good news is this, the age of self-inflicted American shame is over and so are the policies that produce so much needless
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, harsh words as he seeks to roll back the Obama days including engaging Iran on that nuclear deal. But today's speech was
overshadowed perhaps even undermined by America's own retreat from Syria at the insistence of President Trump, which could leave Iran and its allies in
a stronger position in the region.
And while Secretary Pompeo laid out his detailed case against Iran's "deadly ambitions," he failed to call out major human rights abuses by
America's own allies, either his host country Egypt or more conspicuously Saudi Arabia, a critical American partner in the coalition against Iran.
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi 100 days ago focused global attention on the authoritarian rule of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
And joining me now from Washington to discuss all of this are two perfectly placed guests, Jamal Khashoggi's friend and the author, Lawrence Wright,
and Ali Soufan, the former FBI special agent and CEO of the "Soufan Group." The two go way back thanks to Wright's Pulitzer Prize winning book, "The
Looming Tower," widely considered the definitive account of the events that led up to 9/11 and it's now a popular TV drama on "Hulu" including the key
role played by Ali Soufan who made his name in real life investigating Al- Qaeda plots and interrogating Al-Qaeda suspects.
Soufan and Wright are both attending a bipartisan event in Congress today marking 100 days since Jamal's murder. And they're joining me now from
LAWRENCE WRIGHT, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING AUTHOR, "THE LOOMING TOWER": Thank you, Christiane.
ALI SOUFAN, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, we're going to get to the specifics of the event that is being hosted in Congress behind you, a bipartisan event. But to that end
and given the unbelievable murder, the dismemberment, the savage treatment of a journalist working for an American newspaper by an allied government,
what did you make of the focus of Secretary Pompei's speech in Cairo today?
Larry, you were a friend of Jamal's, you first.
WRIGHT: Well, what I was thinking when I was reading through Pompeo's speech is how much faith Jamal had in American policy much more than I do
sometimes. He believed that America needed to have a strong presence in the Middle East. And yet, what -- our presence has been so wavering. I
don't think we've ever had a more volatile and uncertain policy in the region than we do right now and I don't think that the secretary's speech
has changed any of that.
AMANPOUR: And, Ali, I mean, you have been right at the heart of the sort of geopolitics of all of this inside the FBI and outside doing your
security work, what do you make of Secretary Pompeo, I mean, kind of departing with traditional American speech in foreign lands never once
mentioning human rights, never once mentioning political pluralism and tolerance, only mentioning democracy once and that in relation to "Iraq's
SOUFAN: It's a sad day. And frankly, you know, I agree actually with one thing the secretary said today that, one, America retreat, chaos follows,
and that's very true. And we are basically witnessing when America tweets also chaos follows, and that's unfortunate what we see today in the Middle
East, with the president's tweet about Syria that resulted with Secretary Mattis leaving.
I think there's a lot of confusion in the region this is why Secretary Pompeo went to the Middle East to tell our allies and friends and partners
who are very anxious about our Syria policy, that the president of the United States basically does not speak for the United States but he speaks
for the president of the United States amid this confusion for our strategy and our policy in the Middle East.
We see five of the countries, for example, that Secretary Pompei is visiting do not have ambassadors. Two years later over the Trump
administration and still we don't have any ambassadors in these important countries. You know, we have 40 vacant ambassadorship still around the
world, the number two most senior position in State Department that oversees the Middle East and the Near East do not -- are still vacant and
we don't have assistant secretaries for these positions.
So, I think, you know, with all the respect to Secretary Pompeo before we start pointing the finger at President Obama, we need to look at our own
policy in the Middle East, a policy that is still supporting the atrocity in Yemen, the U.N. and the U.N. secretary general declared Yemen to be the
worst humanitarian disaster in the world today, you know, support of authoritarian regimes as, you know, you've seen he didn't mention anything
about. Today is 100-day anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi and not one word was mentioned about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
You know, a journalist was dismembered and it seems that, you know, the secretary of state and the president are not really in to getting real
accountability for what happened.
AMANPOUR: Well, let's --
SOUFAN: So, I think we are force of good as a secretary said but I think we really need to basically show it with action not with words.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me then ask you, Larry, what do you expect to be showing with action and maybe some words in this event that's going to
happen, you know, on Capitol Hill? What is the actual, you know, bigger point to marking these 100 days?
WRIGHT: Well, Jamal Khashoggi was just one of 53 journalists around the world who was murdered last year, a sharp spike from what has been
previously. And, you know, this is a -- these are forces of repression that we're seeing around the globe that are trying to create an
intimidation of freedom of speech, and Jamal was one person who is not afraid to speak and that's what got him killed.
What we've done today is that we've assembled a bipartisan coalition in both chambers of Congress and we're really proud of the fact that our
lawmakers from both parties have stepped up and raised their voices. And also, we have journalistic groups that are represented, human rights
activists and a number of friends of Jamal's. I was just one of many. Almost every reporter who wanted to write seriously about the Middle East
had to spend some time with Jamal at some point in his career.
AMANPOUR: And I just want to point out that you did write a very heartfelt piece in "The New Yorker Today" about him and your views. And one of the
lines you write is he, Jamal, embodied the qualities of truth and justice that America at its best represents. And we will thank him for reminding
Again, you know, Secretary Pompeo and this administration, have they stepped up to the plate to the extent required by an American
administration that stands this country for human rights and democracy and the First Amendment and for the free press? What more needs to be said
about, you know, Saudi Arabia or about the murder of Jamal and the dismemberment? Let's not forget what happened to him.
WRIGHT: Right, right. If, you know, in these 53 murders that were referencing, some few of them have -- had anyone held accountable for their
murder and Jamal is just one of many. But if his murder is not held accountable then who is safe and what other freedoms would be compromised
in the spread of repression? think he's a symbol, he's a martyr but let's also try to hold somebody accountable for this murder.
AMANPOUR: And I want to get back to you, Ali, on the issue of ISIS and terrorists and insurgents because the administration seems to kind of been
saying it both ways, one that we've defeated ISIS but the Pentagon says something different that actually, yes, it's on the back foot, yes, it's
been routed from Raqqa and Mosul but it's not gone, it's still there. Just what do you know about the presence of ice ISIS? And then I want to play
something that the secretary said about that fight.
SOUFAN: You know, the areas that ISIS control diminished but ISIS as a threat still exist. Remember, you know, two years ago, three years ago
before the Syrian war what became ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Iraq or the Islamic State in Iraq were just some jihadis in the western deserts of Iraq but
they were able to survive and they were able to create ISIS later on.
The threat of extremism today, the threats of jihadi extremism is all over the Middle East, we can see it from Yemen, we see it from Somalia, the
Sahel Region, we see it in Iraq and Syria. This battle is still at the beginning. You know, I'm afraid that, you know, Al-Qaeda, for example,
after 9/11 was not as strong as Al-Qaeda today and its ability to control areas and recruit and rebuild the network.
And I fear that the same thing is going to happen with ISIS. Many of the fighters who fought with ISIS are still alive, some of them went to
different locations, some of them are still in the mountains or in the deserts of Iraq and Syria. So, we should not trust I would laurel. I
think we need to focus on this battle and keep our eyes on the prize here.
Fortunately, declaring a victory like this and packing and leaving is just endangering the region, endangering the world and endangering our own
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, what message do you think this little of Pompeo's speech sent? It's quite confusing, I think, about what the U.S.
is doing in Syria and why. Let's just play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POMPEO: Let me be clear, America will not retreat until the terrified is over. We will labor (INAUDIBLE) to defeat ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other
jihadist that threaten our security and yours.
President Trump has made the decision to bring our troops home from Syria. We always do and now is the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I don't know whether you see an inherent contradiction there or not, "We will not give up until the fight is over but we're coming
home." I'm not sure I understand it.
SOUFAN: Yes, absolutely. This is just another indication, Christiane, of what's happening with this administration. There is a big confusion about
what, you know, the Pentagon wants, what the CIA wants, what even the professionals and the State Department wants and what the president tweets
about. And I think the president, you know, wanted the troops to leave Syria, fine and dandy, he's a commander in chief, he can order that but
there is a lot of strategic and political and diplomatic implications for this.
And this is why the secretary is visiting the Middle East to tell people, "Look, even though we're pulling out but we're really not pulling out."
So, this is just going to create more confusion, which will lead to less U.S. leadership in the region.
Today, the U.S. is not leading in the Middle East, we're not leading in Europe, we're not leading in Asia. And unfortunately, we're confusing our
enemies and allies and partners and our enemies are all happy.
AMANPOUR: Well, Larry, the trial of about 11 suspects has started in Riyadh, the suspects who the government said were responsible for the
murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi. And potentially, they say a handful five of them could face the death penalty.
Now, the State Department basically says or at least a senior State Department official says, that the United States does not believe the Saudi
version of Khashoggi's killing has hit the threshold of credibility. What do you think? Because the State Department says that Secretary Pompeo will
very, very robustly demand accountability, you know, when he meets with the royal family in Riyadh this week. What do you think is the likely outcome
of those talks and the flavor of those talks?
WRIGHT: I'm not optimistic. I think that, you know, the administration has shown itself to be far more accommodating to the -- let me just say, to
Mohamed bin Salman. I think that people who tend -- in this administration tend to personify Saudi Arabia with Mohamed bin Salman, we don't want to
offend the Saudis.
But the Saudis are weakened by this crown prince. He's culpable not just for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi but for the war in Yemen, for the
abduction of a Lebanese prime minister, for, you know, the shakedown of a, you know, businessman and I'm one person apparently tortured and killed in
the Ritz Carlton.
This -- you know, these are actions that are far outside the boundary even before Jamal was murdered. We -- you know, we were accommodating this
irrational actor. And if we are of true friend of Saudi Arabia, we have to hold that country accountable and they have to hold the person that made
these decisions accountable.
AMANPOUR: Well, of course, the Saudis deny all of those issues and they say they've taken those responsibility and those are the people who are on
trial. But it caused many people believe that this could never have happened without MBS's signed off or even his direct order.
So, Ali, I mean you've been in the room with the terrorist suspects, you were in the room with, you know, the Saudis who committed 9/11, some of
them or rather, you know, some of the Saudis who were involved in Al-Qaeda.
What should the policy be? The United States has a relationship, a key relationship with Saudi Arabia and yet this awful thing has happened and
many of the other things. What should the policy be at this particular time?
SOUFAN: I think at this particular time we need to hold the Saudi government and those responsible today in the Saudi government accountable
for their actions, for their actions with Jamal Khashoggi, for their actions in Yemen and so forth.
Yes, Saudi Arabia is an important partner and important ally to the United States but they are important partner an ally to the West and to the U.S.
if they play a role in the region, a productive role in the region. Unfortunately, the role that they play today is not productive in any way,
shape or form.
King Salman had the opportunity to choose between the stability of Saudi Arabia and his son. Unfortunately, he chose his son. A weak Saudi Arabia
does not help our policy in the region, a weak Saudi Arabia, for example, does not help us to contain Iran or to follow up with the peace between the
Arab and the Israelis, you know, a weak Saudi Arabia create more divisions in the region as we see, even the Gulf States are divided among each other
with the embargo in Qatar, for example.
I think what we need to do is we need to lead in the Middle East and when we lead people will follow. And the leadership has to begin by standing up
for our values, standing up for our principles, standing up with our, you know, constitutional issues that we believe in and work with our allies on,
you know, a policy, a productive policy in the Middle East that can unify the good people, the modern people in the region against the forces of evil
SOUFAN: Unfortunately, we cannot do that when Saudi Arabia and the leader of Saudi Arabia kind of implicate it to be part of the -- a forces of
tyranny and evil.
AMANPOUR: Well, this is not what the secretary of state said today. He obviously hopes, and this is a big part of his of his trip and of the
administration's new alignment, to push back, obviously, on Obama's engagement with Iran, you know, that they've pulled out of the Iran nuclear
deal. But this is what he said about getting Saudi Arabia and others on board to continue pushing back against Iran and containing Iran. This is
what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POMPEO: We fostered a common understanding with our allies of the need to counteract the Iran regimes revolutionary agenda. Countries can
increasingly understand that we must confront the Ayatollahs not coddle them. Nations are rallying to our side to confront the regime like never
before. Egypt, Oman, Kuwait and Jordan have all been instrumental in thwarting Iran's efforts to evade sanctions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What do you make of that? I mean, Larry, let me just ask you. I mean, do you see, you know, sort of the laying the table, setting the
table for potentially another military adventure this time against Iran?
WRIGHT: Oh, it could easily be. You know, the -- but the flaw in this logic that the secretary is laying out is that there's only one country in
the region that is a violation -- a violator of human rights. It's a problem across the region, it always has been. And we have to we have a
standard that we require of all countries, our enemies and our allies.
And because we've been hypocritical about it in the past, people don't believe we have those values, and it's one of the reasons that we want to
honor Jamal Khashoggi is just, you know, he reminds us of the values that we do enshrine in this country and freedom of expression and freedom of
press at the peak of it. You don't find that in either of the countries that the secretary is referencing.
AMANPOUR: And interestingly and you point out and many of us have pointed out that Jamal never called himself a dissident. He supported his country,
he was a patriot but he called out when he thought that, you know, the civil rights, human rights and all those things were going -- you know,
were under the dire attack.
So, I guess, you know, finally to both of you, very briefly, what do you think the lasting impact of his murder will be? Will it continue to be
held up as a marker beyond which, you know, civilized people cannot go and hold nations then, including Saudi Arabia, to account?
SOUFAN: Go ahead, Larry.
WRIGHT: I would hope that would be true. But, you know, when Jamal came to the United States and began writing for the "Washington Post," he says,
"I'm raising my voice because there are so many who cannot speak." And now, he cannot speak either.
Repression is the force that tries to silence voices like his. And, you know, we would like to think that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi will
embolden other reporters and other writers to speak out more freely. But the truth is, one critical voice has been lost. Will it be replaced?
That's yet to be shown, you know.
SOUFAN: I think when the 100-day of his murder, many people in Congress from across the aisle, many human rights organizations and journalists
getting together on Capitol Hill today, we're getting amazing support for the event at 5:00 on the Hill. And I'm telling you, Christiane, this is
going to be only the beginning, you know, 500 days, 1,000 days.
Jamal Khashoggi became a symbol, he became a symbol against injustice, a symbol of what's happening to journalists everywhere around the world. And
this is a very important fight to take on because freedom of press is extremely important, it's essential for who we are as people. And if it
goes all, our freedoms will follow.
So, this is a battle that so many people in Congress, so many people in the U.S. government, so many people in the press and human rights organizations
are willing to take and this is just a remembrance, this is not a memorial, we don't even have a body to do a memorial for Jamal. So, so this is not a
remembrance -- this is just a remembrance, so we're going to continue to fight.
AMANPOUR: Well, fighting words. Thank you both very much for joining us. Ali Soufan, Lawrence Wright, thank you for being with us this evening.
WRIGHT: My pleasure.
SOUFAN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, while Secretary Pompeo focused on terror abroad, a major new American movie focuses on terror at home, as personified by the radical
White supremacists of the Ku Klux Klan. And as we roll on into the heart of cinema award season, that movie, "BlacKkKlansman," directed by the
inimitable Spike Lee is at the top of just about every serious list of contenders.
The movie tells the extraordinary story of an African-American policeman played by John David Washington who manages to infiltrate the uppermost
reaches of the clan. Take a look at this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT JOHN BURKE, ACTOR, "BlacKkKlansman": How do you propose to make this investigation?
JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON, ACTOR, "BLACKKKLANSMAN": Well, I've established contact and created some familiarity with the clansman over the phone.
I'll continue on that role, (INAUDIBLE) other officers, surprise, surprise. A White officer to play me when they meet face to face.
BURKE: See, that's my point exactly.
WASHINGTON: Chief, Black Ron Stallworth over the phone, White Ron Stallworth face to face, so that becomes a combined Ron Stallworth.
BURKE: Can you do that?
WASHINGTON: I believe we can with the right White man, we can do anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Spike Lee first made waves back in 1986 with the funny, fresh "She's Gotta Have It." Twenty movies later, he is still an irresistible
creative force and he's joining me now from New York.
Spike Lee, welcome back to our program.
SPIKE LEE, DIRECTOR, "BLACKKKLANSMAN": How are you doing? Always a pleasure to be on your show.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's a great, great pleasure to have you. I mean, this is really a remarkable story. I mean, you would think you would have had to
have made it up but it's a true story, isn't it? I mean, your film is based on what really happened.
LEE: A true story, the great filmmaker, Jordan Peele of "Get Out" fame and his new film called "Us" come out, called me up and gave me what I feel is
a greatest six-word pitch, "Black man infiltrates Ku Klux Klan." And at first, I thought -- what was that, the David Chappelle skit, he said, "No,
no. This is a true story."
So, I had not heard of Ron Stallworth or his story but it is true.
AMANPOUR: And what did you think when you started to make it? Because, look, just that clip shows that there are incredibly funny moments,
obviously, you know, the right White man and you're trying to figure out to make this logistically happen. I mean, there are massive laugh out loud
moments but it's desperately serious. I mean, here you are again, you know, creating this serious message out of comedy.
LEE: Well, this is the first film in history of cinema has done that, you know. One of my favorite filmmakers, Stanley Kubrick, did that with "Dr.
Strangelove," what could be more serious than the annihilation of the human rights -- the human race and that the planet going caput.
So, the hard thing to do is get the balance, the balance between a serious subject matter and a humor. And so, I have a great editor, his name is
Barry Alexander Brown, edited, "Do the Right Thing," "Malcolm X," you know, we've been working a long time. So, that's we had to do in the edit room,
work on the balance of those two things.
AMANPOUR: Look, you have been dealing with the -- I know you have just said -- and put me to shame, I know that this is not the first time that
humor has been used, but what I want to know from you is, look, you have been working on the dark side of American life for a long, long time and
you are, you know, an African-American, a Black man in a society where racism is still very strong. How do you keep that sense of humor? How do
you keep telling stories that are accessible and are not just angry?
LEE: Well, I guess that old saying, "You got to smile and keep them crying," or whatever it, I know I'm getting it wrong. But here's the thing
though, I'm -- first of all, I'm a storyteller. That's what I do. Not all my stories are really based on race but the thing I feel why people
connected with this film all over the world is that we very skillfully made a contemporary film that takes place in the past, we've connected the with
the tumultuous roles we live in today.
I also like to add is not just this film and not just talking about United States America, the right -- the rise of the right is happening all over
the world, it's not just the United States of America.
AMANPOUR: But your film was made during the Charlottesville protests and you make a very powerful --
AMANPOUR: -- powerful tribute to the young woman who was killed during those protests, Heather Heyer. I mean, that --
AMANPOUR: -- was really a wallop in the solar plexus to see that after, you know, the credits rolled and after the, you know, somewhat humorous,
really interesting film to see that was a real reality check.
LEE: Yes. What that was, it was an example of home-grown American terrorism. That car was a murder weapon and this terrorist drove down that
crowded street and murdered her Heather Heyer. That happened I think the weekend of August 10th or 11th. So, we didn't start shooting until a
couple weeks of September.
But when I saw that, I knew that had to be the ending but first I had to get permission from Susan Bro, that's Heather's mother, and she blessed me
and let me use that for the ending. But I think that -- and another thing I like to add, the president of the United States had a chance to denounce
hate, he had a chance to denounce the Klan, a chance to denounce the right, he had a chance to denounce Neo-Nazis, he did not. And historians are
going to go to that, that those statements, when everything is said and done, that's going to be written that he was on the wrong side of history,
AMANPOUR: Let me talk -- let me ask you a little bit about the history of the Washingtons who you have -- who you have worked for. The star of your
film is John David Washington, the son of Denzel Washington. And you made --
LEE: Hold, hold --
LEE: We can't leave out moms, and Pauletta.
AMANPOUR: Oh, really?
LEE: Denzel and Pauletta.
AMANPOUR: Oh, got it. Yes, exactly.
AMANPOUR: Exactly. But Denzel -- we can't leave out moms. I promise you I believe that. So, thank you for --
LEE: I know you do, I know you do, I know you do. It's all good. Bless you. It's all good.
AMANPOUR: Being a mom. But I want to ask you what it's like to work with the father and the son, because it's not the first time, you've made
"Malcolm X" with Denzel in '92 and his son was there also, eight years old at the time. Working with two generations of Washingtons, does it make you
LEE: It's a blessing.
AMANPOUR: Or is a blessing? Right.
LEE: Well, it's a blessing. The first, " Mo' Better Blues," "Malcolm X," "He Got Game," and "Inside Man." John David Washington was at the end of
"Malcolm X," he was six years old at the time and he had one line, "My name is Malcom X." But -- I'm kidding about that all the time. But it's proud
parents, Denzel and Pauletta, they are so proud of John David, all their children. But to see what he's done and be the face of this movie is
AMANPOUR: And let me ask you. I just want to broaden this out a little bit because we've gone through several years of critics and protagonists
pointing out the flaws in a lot of our culture. Remember #OscarsSoWhite, then, of course, we've had MeToo and TimesUp.
I just want to ask you what you think given these 20 years that you've been making films as the major African-American director in the United States.
Now, there are more of you. You've formed a new generation and they're making incredible films, award-winning films. And it's not just in movies,
it's also in big magazines whose editors-in-chief are now people of color, whether at Vogue, at Vanity Fair, all these places.
And the stories are so much more diverse now. It's almost normal now to see so many diverse stories. Does this give you hope or you're cynical
about it being just a moment?
LEE: Well, I'm not doing somersaults and here's reason why I say that. Because right now, this might be just a trend. We don't know what's going
to happen next year.
And so the way to ensure that it's not a trend, people of color, we have to get in those gatekeep positions. Those positions where they sit around a
room and inside what we're doing and what we're not doing and so that ensures that this not be a trend in my opinion.
AMANPOUR: So let me ask you because there have been quite a lot of articles written about these trends. Hopefully, they will establish
themselves as real sort of turning points and game-changing --
AMANPOUR: -- points. But we read in articles that, for instance, there are quite a few Hollywood executives who are quite worried about all of
this. Don't quite know what to make of all these new trends and how to deal with the whole MeToo for instance, the whole diversity question,
whether it's women whether it's blacks, whether it's Asians, whoever it is and having to sort of widen the tent now. Do you feel that? Are you
coming across any sort of resistance or backlash to the backlash so to speak?
LEE: Well, here's a thing. Power has never given up power without a fight. And so when you've been in power for, who knows how many years, and
there's people who are saying, "Hold up, wait a minute, include us," is not embraced automatically.
So this thing has to happen. It's not going to happen overnight but the fight continues, the struggle continues. And I think that all these things
are on the right side of history.
We need diversity and we need truth and justice and we have to really make the -- we have to be very clear that what side we're going to be on, love
or hate. And I'm on love side. I'm on love side.
AMANPOUR: Well, I'm very glad to hear it. I want to ask you about the MeToo Movement and women. I mean you saw it just at the Golden Globes
Regina King who won the Golden Globe for If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins' film. She won for best-supporting actor.
And she said she was making a call for people in power to produce films with gender parity, 50-50 female, male split. And you've been very strong
in portraying strong women in your films, whether it's She Gotta Have It, Chi-Raq, any number of them. You just called me out on forgetting that
there was a mother involved.
LEE: I was not calling you out.
AMANPOUR: No. But you know.
LEE: That was for the audience. It wasn't for you.
AMANPOUR: It's fine. I'm happy.
LEE: It wasn't for you.
AMANPOUR: I'm happy. I'm happy about it because I agree with you. So would you take up that 50-50 challenge?
LEE: Well, here's the thing though. I've been fighting -- this -- I'm in my fourth decade. So what -- I respect my sister but I've had to fight the
unions against the unions for the get-go who historically were set up not to invite women and people of color into the union. So this is a fight
I've been fighting from way back, back in the day. Our boys had diverse groups from the get-go.
AMANPOUR: So I want to pick up on a sort of a Q&A you had with a magazine recently. You said at one point, people expect me to have all the answers.
Do the Right Thing came out in 1989. And one of the biggest criticisms says that Spike Lee did not have the answer and all the answers to racism.
I guess how do you feel about being the repository of African-American film and carrying the standard?
[13:35:00] LEE: Well, I don't think of myself like that. I've never ever put myself positioned or thought that I represent all 45 Americans -- 45
million African-Americans in this country. There are a lot of black folks don't like my films, a lot of black folks don't review what I have to say
and that's cool.
So I'm a storyteller and I tell the stories I want to tell. And sometimes even black folks don't like them. That's just the way it is. We're not
one monolith the group.
AMANPOUR: OK. Now, I want to end with a kind of a hopefully a funny response to you from the Director Wim Wenders. So BlacKkKlansman, as we
all know, won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.
And around that time, we spoke to Wim Wenders. And he was the jury president when Do The Right Thing didn't win the Palme d'Or causing you two
to fall out and he sort of apologized on my show when we talked about it. Just listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WIM WENDERS, DIRECTOR: I was the president of the jury but I didn't decide anything on my own. And that was the year 1989 with amazing movies and
some great directors didn't get rewarded and you know one of them. And I hope we can make peace.
He just reached out for me, Spike. He said, "We should meet in Brooklyn." I hope it's not in a dark alley but maybe we both bring our baseball bats
and cross them peacefully. I think it's about time to end this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What did you say? What did you say?
LEE: Look, that happened in 1989. I was trying to -- I heard them was in New York. We just couldn't get together but that stuff was long forgotten.
Mr. Wendes is a great, great filmmaker and peace and love.
AMANPOUR: Peace and love. I agree. And do you think you're going to get the award -- the Oscar for BlacKkKlansman?
LEE: Who knows.
AMANPOUR: Well, we wish you --
LEE: You got to be in it to win it.
AMANPOUR: You got to be in it to win it. You're absolutely right. Spike Lee, thank you for joining us.
LEE: Thank you for having me. And next time, let's do it in London.
AMANPOUR: Let's. Hey, I'd love to.
So that visionary director whose work was also challenged America's issues with race as well as his obsession with guns.
And we focus on the latter with our next guest, the bestselling author and New York Times Columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin who discovered how credit cards
are effectively being used to finance mass shootings. He told our Walter Isaacson that monitoring that financial activity could become a law
WALTER ISAACSON, CONTRIBUTOR: Andrew, welcome to the show.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, FOUNDER, DEALBOOK: Thank you for having me.
ISAACSON: Yes. You just did an amazing series on guns and credit cards in the "New York Times", deep reporting. Tell me what motivated you to do
SORKIN: So after the Parkland shooting, I really started to think hard about what -- if you follow the money and you start to think about the role
of business, business has been talking their role in society over the past year or two. It's something you keep hearing this narrative we want to
benefit society. We want to have a purpose.
And so I started thinking to myself, well, how does business work in the context of guns and the gun problem in our society, in our culture? And
one of the things you realize very quickly is that one of the fascinating choke points in the whole system is the credit card business.
And given all the information that's collected about us on a daily basis, whether it's from Facebook or Google or this or that, what do the credit
card companies actually know? And given that the banking system for many years, actually since 1970 but even more so after 9/11, has been involved
in trying to protect people in terms of anti-terrorism, money laundering. We've used the banking system for so long to protect us actually.
And I'm not sure most Americans even realize that. And so then I start to think, OK, is there a way to use the credit card system actually to help in
this problem? And one of the things you find out when you go look at every major mass shooting in America really since 2007 is that credit cards are
how these murderers are buying these guns.
ISAACSON: It's not just credit cards because they need to stockpile a whole lot of guns so they need a large amount of credit.
SORKIN: Yes. You need credit. You need money because this -- each gun -- an AR15 is a $1500 project, to be a $3000 project. Some of these people
are spending 10, 20, $30,000.
They're planning on Armageddon. They're buying ammunition. They're buying body armor. They're buying all of this stuff.
And so they're effectively are getting the loan from the bank. That's what's really happening. And I'm not sure that banks [13:40:00] really
ever realized they were loaning money to people who are pursuing these types of mass shootings.
And so that was really the focal point of these stories to try to look at that and try to not only prove the connection but say, OK, there's a way
potentially to fix this. And right after I started writing about this, after Parkland, the good news was a number of banks actually did take a
step back. Bank of America, Citi Group said, "You know what, we're no longer going to finance gun manufacturers." So the next question is, do
you want to finance effectively the shooters, right?
ISAACSON: Yes. And you had 8 out of the 13 of the last mass killers had all gotten guns and stockpiled them by taking large amounts of credit on
cards. Give me an example. I think there was --
SORKIN: I mean one of the most remarkable was the Orlando Pulse shooting. The murderer, in that case, spent $26,000 on six credit cards all within a
very short period of time. And so had the banks been looking, had the systems been in place, you would have seen it.
And interestingly, when investigators begin trying to unravel these things after the fact, the first thing they do is they go get the credit card
receipts. So if you could have actually looked at that in real time -- and by the way, they could if they wanted to and that's a question of whether
they want to.
It is very possible that that fellow would have had a knock at his door by the police to say, "This is a little strange. You've taken out six credit
cards. You've just spent all of this money. What are you doing?" And that's what you need and that's what prosecutors, law enforcement wish they
ISAACSON: And now we have it for anti-terrorism.
SORKIN: We do.
ISAACSON: So when you take that system, that catches terrorists.
SORKIN: That's the idea. So right now, legally, you decide you're going to send $10,000 anywhere, that gets reported to the government.
SORKIN: Instantly. Already does.
ISAACSON: So we could instantly have a report of this person just stockpiled $40,000 worth of weapons and grenades.
SORKIN: Absolutely. And by the way, the credit card industry has on its own volition decided that certain things they don't want to finance. So if
you want to buy Bitcoin, you can't. Marijuana in many states is legal, you can't.
MasterCard interestingly recently went to a website that had some hate speech on it and said, "We're no longer going to allow you to use credit
card transactions using MasterCard because of this hate speech." So there are companies that are taking positions if you will on some of these things
and the question is how that can work in relation to guns.
Apple, Apple Pay, PayPal, Stripe, Square, these are all payment systems. They already have policies that say we are not actually going to transact
on guns. I'm not necessarily suggesting there'd be no transactions on guns at all but if the credit cards and the banks understood what was being
bought, they can make some decisions.
They can maybe say, "OK, you know what, you're under 21-years-old. We want to look at this in a different way." How many times have you stopped at a
gas station somewhere and your credit card hasn't worked because they need to make sure it's you?
SORKIN: Nobody's doing anything like that when it comes to the sale of guns.
ISAACSON: And you could have a system where somebody is stockpiling huge amounts --
SORKIN: Huge and nobody would know.
SORKIN: We have laws in this country already that they're really old laws that say if you buy more than two guns from one store, it gets reported to
the ATF. That never really took into account that if you were to go buy 20 guns online from 20 different stores or if you were to go from this Walmart
over here 10 miles to this Walmart, it doesn't get reported.
The only people actually have the data are the credit card companies. And so the question is sort of how you can mobilize them. Having said that, I
should say, there's been a lot of great feedback from the series of articles and we have states now looking into this to see what they can do.
Federally, very difficult but also lots of pushback.
People say, "Andrew, if you're going to start pushing on guns, what about alcohol? What about a young person who's under 21-years-old?" You would -
- the credit card company should know that they're at a bar when they're 18-years-old. Maybe they shouldn't allow that transaction. All sorts of
things where they say there's a slippery slope.
My view is at this point of the ballgame, adding any kind of friction to the system to try to prevent these kinds of things is valuable so I would
ISAACSON: You know the slippery slope argument doesn't work for me because all slopes are slippery.
ISAACSON: The question is, where do you draw the line? Wouldn't this be an invasion of privacy though?
SORKIN: That's -- and look, there are libertarians who make that argument. There are people from the ACLU who would make that argument. And then, of
course, people who are the NRA and others who would say this is an invasion of privacy.
I would suggest you, A, that your privacy has been invaded a long time ago. And the question is for certain types of products and certain types of
things in this country, even legal products, we decide that we want to keep track of them.
And the question is, do [13:45:00] we want to keep track of guns? Obviously, there's been a huge movement to try to prevent keeping track of
guns. And this would do that to some degree.
But I don't think this is about creating some kind of master list. I think this is about trying to look at trends using machine learning and
algorithms to say, OK, this individual just bought 10 guns. And by the way, if you're a hobbyist or an enthusiast, you just bought 10 guns, I
think it's fine if you get a phone call.
And I think you should be able to say I'm a hobbyist and you can explain it. And by the way, the bad news is there will probably be some very
clever murderer who will talk their way out of a conversation with the FBI or something. But I think at least you want to have the information up
front if you could.
ISAACSON: This gets into a larger thing that you're right about quite often which is the social responsibility of corporations and business in
the age of Trump in particular. Larry Fink has been writing about it and yet there's a lot of talk about corporations should have a mission more
than just serving their shareholders. They should help society, their communities, their stakeholders. Where do you come down on that and how
would you push corporations to be more responsible?
SORKIN: Well, look, this is the ultimate sort of Milton Friedman question about profits and what the goal of capitalism is supposed to be. And
what's happened to our culture and our society over the last three or four, maybe even five decades now.
And even what's happened to the American Dream and what the role of the company used to be in a community, whether it be charity, whether it be
your retirement and a pension that you actually thought you were going to get. All of the anxiety that we have today I think has -- it stems in
large part from a breakdown in all of those things.
And so the question is, what can companies do? What are their responsibilities? And in an environment where Washington appears, I hate
to say, leaderless on so many issues, whether it's CEOs going to that conference in Saudi Arabia. I ended up stepping back from another. A lot
of CEOs had to step back from them, make that decision on their own.
It used to be in the old days, the president or government would say we have a problem with what's going on in Saudi Arabia, we don't want our
business leaders going there. And so you wouldn't have to take it.
But I think we're at a moment now where CEOs are having to step out. After Charlottesville, you saw Ken Frazier who run Merck get off the president's
council. And then there's a barrage of CEOs just all leave and also speak out.
So I think you're sort of getting to this point where A, how do they interrelate with the political world? But also this other issue which is
whether it's retirement, whether it's how they deal with their employees, the power of employees. Somehow, you know, even though we don't have
unions, unions don't have the same kind of power they used to.
In Silicon Valley, employees are running these companies. I mean think about Google. The Google employees effectively pressed the company to no
longer do business for certain kinds of things with the Pentagon. That's fascinating. And sort of how companies and leaders are trying to math that
out is -- and lots of hard decisions by the way.
ISAACSON: You mentioned a moment ago Milton Friedman.
ISAACSON: And Milton Friedman many decades ago started this shift in what a corporation should be when he wrote that they shouldn't be involved in
learning about communities and corporate responsibility or even employees and their other stakeholders. They have simply one mission and that
mission is to turn on investment for shareholders. And that sort of got incorporated into the law.
SORKIN: Into everything. Into everything. But I think what you're seeing is the backlash and you're seeing it. And the reason why Larry Fink who
runs Blackrock, largest investor in the world, $6 trillion. They effectively oversee through 401(k) plans and everything else.
He's seeing the problem and he's seeing it directly in his own investments which is if your Facebook -- all of a sudden you haven't been spending
enough time thinking about some of these other stakeholders, customers being one of them and privacy issues and Washington and regulators. Well,
if you don't think about those things, all the sudden that's actually going to come back and impact your stock price, your earnings, whether
So it is interrelated. And I think that's -- I think the piece on what Larry Fink and others are saying is all of these stakeholders actually do
matter and they matter to profits. Profits for profit's sake, if you just go down that line, you're missing it because, at some point, you're going
to run up against a wall of these other constituents. And if you haven't figured that piece of it out, it's actually going to impact the profit
ISAACSON: This gets back to your book Too Big to Fail. Your talk about the 2008 crash. To what extent do you think that crash and American
people's view of corporations has led to this populist battle that we feel now?
SORKIN: You know I think there's a straight line between the [13:50:00] 2008 crisis and the election of President Trump, to me it's obvious. The
financial crisis was a moment at which all of a sudden we questioned as a society, institutions, companies, government, the idea of experts, the idea
that there are people who we think are supposed to be expert. And yet all of them, by default, led us down a path that didn't work.
And because of that, there was this huge rise in populism and divisiveness in this country, a real sort of cleaving of America. And a lot of people
look at it whether it's the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street as part of that.
But I think that after every financial crisis, and the University of Chicago Booth School did a great study on this, the electorate gets
radicalized. And I think that's where we are right now. And then the overlay on top of all of this is what effectively -- it's not really about
the financial crisis itself.
I almost think that that's become a symbol of something that's almost misunderstood which is that really what's happened is debt that -- the debt
that then leveraged, that led to the financial crisis for so long papered over the much larger problems which we still haven't dealt with at all,
which really is about wage stagflation. It really is about the lack of mobility in this country and really is about the true underlying American
dream and whether that's challenged.
ISAACSON: What can we do about wage stagflation?
SORKIN: Well, that's -- I wish I had a great answer for you. You know, is that really about the minimum wage? Is that really about trying to somehow
drive additional growth from companies? Is that about unions?
ISAACSON: Is it about offshoring jobs? Is it about technology?
SORKIN: I think it's -- I have a view which is -- and I -- it's fatalistic. I have a view unfortunately that the "American dream" that we
all talk about which is really the Leave It to Beaver American dream of the 1950 and '60s which by the way was a very white dream. It did not
incorporate minorities in the same way.
But that it might have actually been an aberration that if you really think about what happened to our economy after World War II, we were the only
game in town. We have a monopoly on the world for years.
And it wasn't really till 1980 that the rest of the world all of a sudden was competing against us. And so during this period, we were able to
charge monopoly rates. It was great for the labor movement. We were able to do all sorts of fabulous things. If you graduated from school, you
would get a job, you would get a spouse, a house, a dog and a picking fence.
ISAACSON: And pension plan.
SORKIN: And a pension plan.
ISAACSON: And health benefits.
SORKIN: And it all made sense. But the way stagflation began in 1980 -- by the way, that's the same time period when the rest of the world all of a
sudden started competing against us. And now we're competing against people in India and China and Germany and everywhere else. And then I
don't think -- I mean that competition I think has actually created a real challenge for us.
ISAACSON: And part of it -- part of that competition came from people like you and me who believed in globalization. We believed that trade was
ISAACSON: We believed that the free flow of people and immigration was great. And now there's a huge backlash from Budapest to Britain to the
United States against that. Were we wrong to think that free trade would benefit everybody?
SORKIN: I think we were -- I don't think that globalization in a whole is a bad idea. I think that we misunderstood its benefits and misunderstood
then the allocation of how those benefits would get allocated. And therefore, then you have to rethink a little bit of the system.
And then that goes to taxes and goes to where people are domicile. I mean there's lots of ways to get at this, to "fix it." The scary part is I
don't think there is a fix, a true fix that gets you back to this 1950, '60s American Dream Leave to Beaver idea anytime soon.
AMANPOUR: That's Andrew Ross Sorkin from the "New York Times" weighing in on globalization socioeconomic pain, rising inequality, and all of that
And before we go, there is a bill passing through the Congress now calling on the United States government to use all diplomatic means to halt the
brutal slaughter in Syria. It's called Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act and it's named for Caesar which is a pseudonym for the brave Syrian
defector who helped expose Assad's atrocities to the world.
And I was proud to help break that story and to interview Caesar heavily disguised [13:55:00] for his own protection on this program. And you can
see that interview online at amanpour.com.
But that is it for now. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.