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Operation Freedom, The Beginning of the Final Phase in Venezuela; Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, Supports Juan Guaido; Carlos Vecchio, Venezuelan Opposition Leader's U.S. Envoy, is Interviewed About the Situation in Venezuela; NRA Faces Financial Investigation; Robert Draper, Writer-at-large, New York Times Magazine, and Shannon Watts, Founder, Moms Demand Action, are Interviewed About the NRA. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired April 30, 2019 - 13:00:00 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.
Declaring Operation Freedom under way. The man recognized by the United States and dozens of countries around the world as legitimate leader of
Venezuela says the Maduro dictatorship is ending.
Then the NRA in unfamiliar territory. The seemingly invincible gun lobby faces its biggest test ever. I speak to Robert Draper of "The New York
Times" and Shannon Watts who founded "Moms Demand Action."
Plus, what it took to build The Shed. Our Hari Sreenivasan speaks to the Liz Diller, one of the architects behind New York's highly anticipated new
Welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Venezuela's Juan Guaido says the time has come for Nicolas Maduro's reign to end. And Maduro's government says that an attempted coup is under way.
In an early morning video posted to his Twitter account, the National Assembly leader appeared alongside men dressed in military uniform and
declared the beginning of the final phase of Operation Freedom. And later, he spoke at a rally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN GUAIDO, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): For many years we've talked to the Armed Forces. And today, it is clear to us that
the Armed Forces are with the Venezuelan people and not with the dictator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But the leader of the Armed Forces, the country's defense minister then appeared on camera to pledge loyalty to Maduro, who himself
had tweeted, "Nerves of steel. We will win."
Guaido declared himself president in January, as government corruption and mismanagement worsen the rampant inflation on food and medical shortages.
He was swiftly recognized as the country's legitimate leader by the United States, neighboring Columbia and dozens of other countries.
But the two sides have been locked in a power struggle ever since. Our team on the ground has heard shots fired near a Caracas military base where
Guaido called on his supporters to gather today. The Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo voiced support for Guaido today, tweeting, "The interim
president, Juan Guaido, has announced the start of Operation Libertad. The U.S. government fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for
freedom and democracy. Democracy cannot be defeated."
Now, Carlos Vecchio is Guaido's representative in the United States and he's trying to make clear that this is not a coup, but he says it's a
process led by the people and their civilian leaders. And he is joining me now from Washington.
Mr. Vecchio, welcome to the program.
CARLOS VECCHIO, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER'S U.S. ENVOY: Thank you, Christiane, for having me.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, first and foremost, let's get this terminology dealt with because, you know, the word coup, attempted coup is being used to
describe what's going on. Why is it that you are not using that term?
VECCHIO: Because, I mean, this is a process activated by the interim president of Venezuela, the constitutional president of Venezuela who is
requesting to the Venezuelan people to demonstrate on the streets peacefully to restore democracy and also, requesting to the army force to
support the people and to implement fully our constitution.
So, this is a movement led by the civilian who is interim president of Venezuela. And what he is trying to do is to restore democracy and the
constitution. So, this cannot be a coup. So, the coup has been implemented by Maduro who is holding the power without legitimacy. So,
that is why we are requesting the support of the army forces and also from the international community to help us to recover our democracy.
AMANPOUR: What particular help do you want right now? Because we're going to discuss the business of the military forces in Venezuela, but just do
you want right now? What are you asking for?
VECCHIO: Basically, we want to put an end of the usurpation of power. It is the only way, Christiane, to resolve our humanitarian crisis in order to
set a transitional government and then hold free and fair elections. That's what we want, this is our agenda and that's why we are pushing our
military to support us. And also, the international community has been supporting the Venezuelan people in order to recover our democracy. So,
that's what we have been asking.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to get a little more detail in a moment. But first, I need to ask you about the Armed Forces. Because on the one hand, you all
and certainly Juan Guaido is saying that the Armed Forces are supporting the people. But on the other hand, Maduro has sent out his [13:05:00]
military leadership, defense minister and others in their uniforms. And this is what the defense minister said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PADRINO, VENEZUELAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): He's a savage opposition. He's an opposition that have no sense of homeland. It
is against democracy. And they want to win the respect of the Armed Forces. Stop fooling around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, basically that's the defense minister saying it's a savage operation and they are anti-Democrats. We have also seen at least one
piece of imagery of a tank seemed to be moving towards people on the streets. So, it doesn't look as if you've got the military or at least the
leadership of the military on your side. How are you going to resolve this issue?
VECCHIO: Well, what you have seen is only a declare -- a statement from the privileged elite of the army force. We have the support of the middle
and lower ranks and that's why we have been asking the support of that institution.
And of course, they haven't shown all of the images across the country. We have been demonstrating across the country, also getting support of some of
the militaries who are in different part of Venezuela.
And also, let me give you just a clear sign. Leopoldo Lopez was under house arrest. He was surrounded by loyal forces of Maduro. And now, he is
on the streets joining with Juan Guaido, the interim president of Venezuela, demonstrating peacefully and claiming for our rights in order to
AMANPOUR: So, just explain to me then because Lopez has said, "I was liberated by this armed movement, by this people's movement with the Armed
Forces, working together in the phase which is ending the usurpation." And I know you used that word to describe the Maduro regime, the usurpers.
How did he get out? And he was the leader of the party. He was the leader of Juan Guaido's party. Now that he is out, who is the leader?
VECCHIO: No, Juan Guaido is the interim president of Venezuela and Leopoldo Lopez is supporting Juan Guaido as the interim president of
Venezuela. And all of the Democratic society is backing Juan Guaido. So, we -- the majority of Venezuelans are looking for a change and that change
will come. I mean, nobody will be able to stop it. We have been on the street for the last three months and we will continue demonstrating
peacefully until we achieve democracy.
Just let me add something else. I mean, this is not a single event. This is a process which is in progress right now and you will see more in the
hours and days to come. So, we need to keep the people on the streets, we need to keep calling to the military force to support us and also the
international community to increase all the pressure right now in order to force Maduro to facilitate this transition.
AMANPOUR: Had there been any negotiations? You know, I erroneously said that there were tanks on the streets, those were not tanks, they are
military vehicles, to an extent, sort of troop carriers. He hasn't unleashed the big guns.
You are saying that you have the lower ranks and the middle ranks. He obviously has the top ranks. How is this going to be resolved? I mean,
might there be fighting in the streets? What do you want this middle rank military people to do?
VECCHIO: We will continue, Christiane, on the streets, demonstrating peacefully.
VECCHIO: Increasing that pressure across the country. We will use the National Assembly as the only democratically elected institution to move
forward for a transition. And also, we are requesting to the international community to increase that pressure as well. That will force for a
transition in Venezuela in order to put an end of the usurpation of power and as I said, you know, said in this transitional government to call for a
free and fair election soon.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me, you know, you are the representative of Juan Guaido, the interim leader, what went into his calculations? What are you
all deciding? Because this was clearly quite planned. It was an early morning message that this is what's going to happen now, this is a new
phase. And then the U.S. started tweeting, secretary of state, the defense secretary, our John Bolton, the national security adviser, all supporting
what they call Operation Freedom and Operation Libertad. What exactly is the plan now and how did you, you know, come to this moment today?
VECCHIO: Again, we need to increase the pressure from these three different levels that I just explained.
VECCHIO: From the streets peacefully, from the National Assembly, from the international community. And we are getting the support not only from the
U.S., also from the main country from Latin America and some from Europe.
And just to be very clear, this is a movement led by [13:10:00] Venezuelans, led by the interim president of Venezuela. So, the people who
are on the street are putting their lives at risk as, you know, Juan Guaido is doing and Leopoldo Lopez as well.
So, we have been asking the international community to support the people of Venezuela, to defend the Venezuelan rights and also, to protect them in
a certain way. So, this is a movement led by us.
AMANPOUR: You might be aware of a Reuters report, which is talking about a fairly infamous man in the United States by Erik Prince who started this
mercenary operation called Blackwater. He happens to be the brother of the current education secretary, Betsy DeVos. And the Reuters report suggests
that he is in talks with the United States and with the people on the ground in Venezuela to potentially offer mercenaries to the Guaido side, to
your side, military mercenaries. Is that what you need? Is that what you are asking for?
VECCHIO: No, no. Not at all. We have not discussed that point. And I have been so clear, and you have seen that in the last three months, we
have been just demonstrating peacefully in Venezuela, claiming for our rights and just getting the support of our army force. And that's what we
want and that's what we have been doing in the last three months.
AMANPOUR: And what can you tell me about other nationals or nations forces there? I mean, there was a story that Russian forces had been dropped.
The Russians saying, "No. This was a legitimate rotation of our troops. Everybody -- well, our personnel, everybody knows we have very tight ties
with President Maduro." Are there any foreign forces in there helping the other side?
VECCHIO: Well, we have been very clear with the Russians. I mean, this is a problem that has to be resolved by Venezuelans and they cannot be part of
the conflict. And they choose to remove all of the military officer that they have in Venezuela. And our military institution would put order
inside of our country. Because at the end of the day, we will end the usurpation of power and we will conquer our country again.
AMANPOUR: I guess, you know, today, Guaido said, "The moment is now. This is the moment to do what we are doing." But to be frank, this has been
going on for several months now with a gradual sort of appearance on the stage of this what you -- you know, peaceful movement to take back the
reins of power and take back democracy and the constitution.
But the thing is, it hasn't reached a tipping point. There are many of your supporters who are saying that it is either now or never. When you go
out and you make these declarations, it has to succeed or else the opposite is failure and people will get fed up. Why do you think there hasn't been
an overwhelming momentum? Why haven't enough people come out on the streets or enough military defected to your side?
VECCHIO: Again, this is an ongoing process, Christiane. I mean, we have been doing this since January. They have been in power for 20 years. So,
we have been taking, you know, clear steps forward. I mean, you couldn't imagine two months ago that I could be here, you know, sitting and talking
with you as an ambassador. You would have imagined that now Venezuela has a new president called Juan Guaido who is getting the support of more than
54 countries across the globe.
So, we have been moving forward. And you have seen also massive demonstrations across the country in the last month. So, we are in the
right track. I think Venezuela is ready for a change, that we are in a irreversible process of change and that we will conquer democracy again.
So, we are fully confident that we are just moving in the right direction.
AMANPOUR: And finally, do you have any avenues of discussion or any kind of negotiations with Maduro or with his regime?
VECCHIO: The only negotiation that we could have is just the exit of Maduro. The day and the hour and how. That's the only thing that we need
to negotiate with Maduro.
AMANPOUR: So, the answer is no, there is no talks with his side at all?
AMANPOUR: All right. Carlos Vecchio, thank you so much indeed for joining us today from Washington. We continue to watch this very important process
play out in Venezuela.
Now, while that uprising continues there, a different struggle over guns plays out in the United States, it is for power and survival at the NRA,
the behemoth gun lobby. Its most famous representative is Wayne LaPierre and he has been reelected as chief executive after fighting off an
insurgency from Oliver North of Iran-Contra infamy (ph) who ultimately resigned as the group's president.
On top of that, the NRA faces a financial investigation by the New York attorney general, [13:15:00] which could threaten the group's existence.
Now, Robert Draper has reported on the NRA for "The New York Times" magazine and Shannon Watts is the founder of "Moms Demand Action," this, of
course, is for gun sense and safety in the United States and both join me now.
Welcome to the program to you both.
ROBERT DRAPER, WRITER-AT-LARGE, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you first, Shannon, because you represent, you know, people, moms, obviously, and people who have lost people to the
terrible use of weapons. What do you feel about this moment, just at a gut level, at a level of emotion at this moment where the NRA seems to be
facing something different?
SHANNON WATTS, FOUNDER, MOMS DEMAND ACTION: You know, it is very rewarding to watch their house of cards fall because this is an organization, and I
don't mean the members, because a vast majority of the members of the NRA actually supports stronger gun laws. It is the leadership that has become
so radicalized and really supports an agenda of guns for anyone, anywhere, anytime, no questions asked.
And we took it upon ourselves as an organization about six years ago to shine a flashlight under the refrigerator and force the cockroaches to run
out. And what we are seeing is the result of that. We are seeing that the NRA is really a faltering business, it is not a gun rights organization and
it is run by unscrupulous executives with dwindling profits. And the fact they are under investigation on so many fronts, I think is been longtime
AMANPOUR: So, Robert Draper, I mean, that's quite a lot of colorful, you know, sort of describing the situation, particularly the cockroaches and
the dwindling business. You have written a lot of about them and you have called them in the past the most fearsome lobbying group in the history of
the Unites States. Do you also see a toppling organization or is that overegging the pie right now?
DRAPER: Well, what I certainly see is an organization that is in a lot of financial jeopardy. And underlying this backbiting is in fact the reality
that for all of their pugnacity, the NRA is deeply in debt, it is in debt because it has been spending money externally that it doesn't have, such as
in the 2016 election when it devoted over $50 million to the election of (INAUDIBLE) Donald Trump.
It has also been spending money internally. It has been bled from within by unscrupulous vendors who have been paid retainers of $30,000 a month for
doing basically nothing. And in the meantime, it is facing, as mentioned, these legal challenges from the State of New York over its tax-exempt
status. This in turn has led to these personnel squabbles into leadership squabbles, metastasizing into the force resignation of President Oliver
North the other day.
And North has been identified with Ackerman McQueen, which is this PR group based in Oklahoma that has really been the unseen power of the NRA, where
the seen power is Wayne LaPierre who has been there since the 1970s. It has, in fact, not been since the 1970s that we have seen so much strive
breakout into the open as we are seeing now.
AMANPOUR: Look, I want to get to the financials and before we get to sort of the personnel shakeup there. You were talking about the financial sort
of dwindling of their -- of the company there. The tax-exempt organization filings, the most recent years available show combined losses of nearly $64
million. And the income from membership dues plunging about $35 million in 2017.
I mean, I guess to both of you, first you, Robert, because you have been examining this aspect of it, why do you think that is happening?
DRAPER: Well, there are a few reasons. I mean, one of them is, and I think I'm about to steal Shannon's thunder here, is that I think that for
many NRA members, the organization has become too extreme and it has caused the diminishing and the ranks even as the NRA has tried to promote its
membership largely through fear, through marketing fear campaigns.
They've, as a result, had to double the membership dues -- or not double, but increase their membership dues twice over last year, which is just
something they haven't done in a very, very long time. But it also (INAUDIBLE) itself as well to demographic changes in America, that there's
less gun use for recreation than there has been in the past. That's just sort of owing to the increasing urbanization of America and the declining
of rural pastimes as a result.
But I think most of all, that they have simply been -- they have allowed kind of these cancers to grow from inside, that they have allowed people
who have been charging tons of money to the NRA to take advantage of the fact the NRA is not a transparent organization, likes to keep its books
close to its vest. And I think that transparency or lack of transparency [13:20:00], rather, has come back to hurt them.
AMANPOUR: So, Shannon, pick up where Robert has just dropped off because, you know, it is about the -- you say, the younger members, it's about them,
you know, seeing the landscape around them and, as you say, sort of potentially separating from their leadership. How do you see it in your
organization, you know, "Moms Demand Action"? And why now since you have been working at this since Sandy Hook, which happened in 2013 and there was
so much disappointment then at the power still of the NRA and the inability of the Senate, for instance, to pass even background checks at the time?
WATTS: Well, when you look at the Congress that we had in place after Sandy Hook happened, they were very beholden to the gun lobby. So, this is
work. Grassroots activism is a marathon, not a sprint. And so, we have been spending the last six years really going toe-to-toe with the NRA, and
it was much a David versus Goliath story.
However, in the mid-term elections, we actually not only out maneuvered the NRA, we outspent them. And as a result, we won very big in mid-term
elections all across the country. We flipped the makeup of seven state legislatures. We've already gone into many of those and passed stronger
Last year was best year we'd ever had. We passed stronger gun laws in 20 states, nine of which were signed into law by Republicans. And a poll out
by CNN today shows that among Democratic voters, gun safety is the number three issue when they go to the polls in 2020.
So, not only is the NRA in the hot seat, but finally there's an equal opposition that has been challenging them and that is also part of the
problems they are suffering.
AMANPOUR: I mean, and just to go back to how you are building what I think you have all described as sort of the architecture and the infrastructure
of change, you know, getting to the heart of politics of it since it was really tough at the top levels of Congress to meet the NRA head on.
How have you done it? What was the sort of tipping point that turned you to more grassroots politics?
WATTS: Well, when I started "Moms Demand Action," I really thought we would immediately pass federal legislation in the wake of Sandy Hook. The
Manchin-Toomey Bill was the first to come up, which would have closed the background check loophole on every gun sale in America. It failed by just
a handful of votes in the Senate. None of the Democratic senators who voted against that bill are still in office. When you have friends like
the NRA, who needs enemies?
And so, we realized that Congress wasn't necessarily where this work would begin, it would be where it ended. And so, we immediately pivoted and
started working in the statehouses and in board rooms and getting influencers to support us. Much like the marriage equality fight. And
that is work that a while, it can take several election cycles and we are finally seeing the rewards of that.
You know, we have hundreds of thousands of volunteers on the ground all across the country. We are not only the largest gun violence prevention
organization, we're one of the largest grassroots movements in the country. And finally, mostly women are organized around this issue in America and it
is making a real difference.
AMANPOUR: Robert Draper, I see can you nodding your head in some of what Shannon is saying in terms of the architecture of this fight, you know,
this counter fight against the NRA. Do you think the leadership, this sort of elderly aging leadership gets it, gets that there are a whole new
demographic coming up that has different views about some aspects of gun ownership and gun usage in America?
DRAPER: If they get it, they are not showing it. And I suspect they actually don't get it. They realize there are problems, that they have
created a monster and then so doing it kind of painted themselves into a corner by saying over and over that people like Barack Obama and Hillary
Clinton are going to take your guns away from you and that our culture is dangerous than ever before and everybody needs to arm themselves and defend
themselves. Then, they have removed themselves from any table of compromise and resulted in them being extreme.
Now, there's something else I was -- actually, what I was nodding my head about was that underlying the resistance to groups that -- such as
Shannon's has been the belief among the members of Congress that well, the most fearsome organization -- lobbying organization in America is the NRA.
That certainly was true, but that was more true perceptually than it was in terms of their actual strength.
No one knows how many people are actually in their organization. They appear to have, you know, a strong grassroots lobbying effort but it is not
unassailably strong one.
And in the meantime, now that we're seeing these financial difficulties rise to the surface, it kind of begs the question, can they be that
fearsome when they have so little money and when there is so much internal strive?
Congress has always been kind of a lagging indicator to public opinion and it may well be that Congress will be the last to discover. But
nonetheless, it was just beginning to discover that the NRA is not quite to be feared as it was before.
AMANPOUR: Well, it has a very, very [13:25:00] powerful patron and backer and supporter and that is Donald Trump. And in relation to the current
sort of in-fighting and certainly, the New York attorney general's reported probe into their financials, he tweeted about the NRA, "Must get its act
together quickly. Stop the internal fighting and get back to greatness fast."
What do you make of why he is choosing to weigh in and what that -- what affect that will have? I mean -- yes. Go ahead.
DRAPER: Well -- yes. Sure. Let's stipulate that when the president of the United States, he have not so well oiled machine, is actually saying to
another organization stop the in-fighting and then get your act together, you know, there must really be trouble. And -- but I think that these
troubles actually do speak a real consternation on the part of the president who believes that the gun lobby is very much a part of its base,
that this cannot -- that there has to be unity on this front.
I think that Trump and his son, Donald Junior, have been close to Wayne Lapierre in the past. I think -- I don't know whether they have had any
association with Oliver North, but probably had been, you know, operating under the assumption that the NRA did not have its own kind of deep state.
That is to say, people who are on the inside, spending lots and lots of money in trying to keep things the way they are. Now that things have
broken out into the open, it doesn't surprise me that the president who has relied very much on the advocacy of the NRA is disturbed that the NRA can't
hold itself together.
AMANPOUR: And, Shannon, in terms of the political power and the shape of the landscape in the United States now, I mean, just to repeat some of the
things that you were alluding to, you know, the states have acted more than three times -- enacted more than three times as many gun control measures
in 2018 as they did in 2017, you know, in a major shift as well. Gun control groups outspent the NRA in the midterm-term election. And then,
you know, there were all these really close races and Democrats won all eight against people who got, as you said, you know, high marks from the
And some Republican senators, powerful people, Senator Marco Rubio and others, are also coming to the table, right, to an extent.
WATTS: That's right. And we're seeing this be a bipartisan issue now. We are seeing Republicans like John Kasich, Bill Weld, the governor of
Maryland, come out in support of stronger gun laws regardless of what the president or gun lobby feels.
And it is also important to remember how playing defense matters. So, we stop 90 percent of all the bad NRA supported bills that go through state
houses like arming teachers, guns on college campuses, something called permitless carry. But really and very importantly, Donald Trump was the
president for the first two years with the Republican Congress and they were not able to pass the NRA's priority legislation, which was something
called conceal carry reciprocity and deregulation silencers.
Those are bills that should have sailed straight through given the fact that the NRA gave more than $30 million to the Donald Trump's campaign, one
of the largest outside donors. And they still were not able to get their legislation through. So, I think that also shows their true weakening
power of the gun lobby in this country
AMANPOUR: Just for the heck of it, to go back to a little bit of history and remind people how the NRA sort of become such a public face and such a
public institution, I just want to play this ad that Charlton Heston was fronting back during the -- you know, during the 90s. Let's just play
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLTON HESTON, THEN-NRA PRESIDENT: As we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away. I want to say those fighting
words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed and especially for you, Mr. Gore. From my cold, dead hands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, that was clearly the convention, the Republican convention in 2000. It does seem like it's really shifted a huge amount since then.
DRAPER: Yes. I mean, it is worth remembering the National Rifle Association was founded in 1871 to teach union soldiers after the Civil War
how to hunt. And it was basically a gentlemen's hunting organization all the way up until 1960s when the Gun Control Act that passed that got more
people in the more sort of hardline Second Amendment types aggravated. And as a result of that, they created in the 1970s the lobbying arm of the NRA.
And since then, the NRA has started to tilt more and more towards what we saw there in the 2000 convention with Charlton Heston. This kind of
absolutist over my dead body from my cold, dead hands organization.
It's nonetheless the case that until fairly recently, until around the time basically the Manchin Toomey Bill. The NRA had always kind of been in the
room forging compromises. It had supported Democrats as well as Republicans and did not have this kind of slippery slope attitude that it
I think really mainly because that's the way its raised funds by convincing would-be members that you need to join our organization and support us,
otherwise, you know, the feds are going to come and steal your guns away from you. That, in turn, has fed a climate in which there is no room for
compromise. And as I say, I think that it has really put the organization in a box from which it is having a lot of trouble exiting.
AMANPOUR: And I wonder whether, perhaps, this sort of in-fighting at the top, is reflective of the pressures that they are facing on the ground.
And I just want to raise this both to you Shannon and Robert. Per the "New Yorker" on Friday, "The Wall Street Journal" reported that Wayne LaPierre
had told the group's board that Oliver North was threatening to release a letter containing "a devastating account of our financial status, sexual
harassment charges against a staff member, accusations of wardrobe expenses, and excessive staff travel expenses."
I mean Shannon, when you hear this, I mean that is firstly pretty serious. What do you think?
WATTS: Well, I think the members are going to show their displeasure. We are already seeing open letters to the NRA from various esteemed members,
former employees. We've heard even board members are upset by the mismanagement of Wayne LaPierre and how he's managed the organization and
the misspending that has run rampant.
They basically have given sweetheart deals to friends, family, and favored vendors to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. So we are just
starting to see the skeletons kind of emerge from the closet. And all of that will be made much worse by the A.G.'s investigation in New York.
But ultimately, what this speaks to us a real weakening of the NRA because of internal forces, because of external forces. This is certainly not the
position they want to be going into 2020 elections in. And we're going to see real dissent.
The other piece that we've heard is that members dislike the fact that the NRA has moved from talking about guns and gun rights to really just
fomenting Donald Trump's agenda and talking about the wall and different things that are not having anything to do with guns.
And so as the NRA parts ways with Ackerman McQueen, which it sounds like they will. That is the organization that is in charge of NRA TV and it
hires many and pays for many of its spokespeople.
The question is will the NRA finally moderate or will they continue to double down? And that will be something really fascinating to watch.
AMANPOUR: And yet of course, despite all of this, Wayne LaPierre who's been at the top for such a long time was reelected. Robert Draper, the
leadership isn't really changing despite the fact that Oliver North after one year was ousted.
DRAPER: Right. Sure. And the skeptic in me is very, very suspicious of Oliver North's genuine outrage over Wayne LaPierre having a $200,000 a year
wardrobe. I suspect that because of all the financial improprieties uncovered by the New Yorker in its recent story that there was a lot of
finger pointing as to who exactly is to blame.
Oliver North was being bankrolled by Ackerman McQueen. So was Dana Loesch and others in NRA TV. So presumably, there has been a kind of fissure
between LaPierre who was once close with Ackerman McQueen and those people who are financially beholden to Ackerman McQueen.
And I think there are a lot of well, you know, I'm not responsible for this or that vendor contract. And it was easy for Oliver North to make that
On the other hand, he has now been replaced by an NRA board member, Carolyn Meadows who is completely non-celebrity, completely non-controversial. And
it is clear right now that the NRA wants to go to ground again, wants to get out of the headlines and basically regroup.
AMANPOUR: So let's just quickly talk about the New York attorney general's investigation into the tax-exempt status is what the reporting is saying.
What -- how existential a threat [13:35:00] would that be to its survival or to its strength, its power?
DRAPER: Right. That's the right word to use. Because I mean, after all, it is designated as a non-profit. And it could lose its tax-exempt status
if it is determined that basically money from the NRA Foundation, which is the non-profit, is being funneled into political programs which would cause
it to lose its non-profit status.
And there are the so-called murder insurance program that has been promulgated by the NRA that the New York State attorney general's office
has been going after, also could create problems as well. So yes, I mean if it loses its tax-exempt status, then the NRA will really cease to exist.
AMANPOUR: OK. And now, as if Russia is not involved in so many other issues of American life, there are all these allegations that it is also
involved in this instance as well. You know, 2016 campaign, Russian money into NRA and all the rest of it.
But we have a particular conviction of Maria Butina who everybody remembers. She pleaded guilty to conspiring with a Russian official to
infiltrate the NRA and other conservative groups.
How big a deal is that for allegations of being linked to the Russian mob, et cetera? How big a deal is that for I guess the way Americans would
regard the proprietary of this group, the NRA?
DRAPER: Well, it is difficult to say. I mean because there are a lot of dots that either -- that may or may not be connectible.
Back since the summer of 2016, I was hearing reports from people about this that there had been contacts between the Russians and the NRA. Perhaps
even the press allegations that the NRA was somehow -- that money was being funneled, Russian money through the NRA and laundered by them. All of this
unsupported by evidence at least thus far.
It is clear though that there have been contacts between the Trump campaign, the NRA, and Russia. And that Maria is one of the individuals
who has apparently been an intermediary for this. And whether it adds up to anything more than yet another unconnectable dot just remains to be
AMANPOUR: All right. So much more to talk about. But Robert Draper and Shannon Watts, thank you so much indeed for joining us on this important
(REMAINDER OF SHOW PREEMPTED AND DID NOT AIR)
Next, in the heart of the city, a highly touted new building project has ended with a grand unveiling. That's New York City. Liz Diller is an
award-winning architect and co-founder of Diller Scofidio and Renfro and her studio is behind some of the world's most iconic building project
including The High Line in New York and the ongoing renovation of The Museum of Modern Art.
She's been speaking to our Hari Sreenivasan about her latest project known as The Shed. It's a public art center and colossal work of engineering
with a whole section that can be moved around on wheels.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN ANCHOR: Elizabeth Diller, thanks for joining us. First, let's talk about your most recent piece, The Shed, in New York City.
What is it?
ELIZABETH DILLER, CO-FOUNDER, DILLER SCOFIDIO and RENFRO: The Shed is a brand new cultural institution, that shows the visual and performing arts
under one roof and it's all new commission programming. It sits on Hudson Yards adjacent to The High Line.
SREENIVASAN: So did you come up with this idea?
DILLER: So the idea sprang from a request for proposals from the city and it was in 2008, it was when the economy was tanking and it was really
improbable to imagine a new cultural facility in New York. And so we thought, "Well, what does New York need that it actually doesn't have?"
And the answer is some place that actually houses all of the creative disciplines in one place, that's purpose built for flexibility and that's
design for the future that we can't imagine. The building has some unusual features.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. So tell us a little bit about those features.
DILLER: So the main organization of the building is it's a fixed structure with multiple levels of which three are very tall floors for galleries and
performing arts spaces, that is a theater and two galleries that are stacked. And on top of the fix building there is a telescoping outer shell
that basically slides out onto an open space to the east. And when it does so it encloses and shelters a very, very large space that can be heated and
cooled, it can be an interior space. In fact, doubling the original footprint.
So we're able to put on very large installations, very large theatrical productions, all sorts of events. And when we don't need those events, we
don't have to heat or cool the space, we simply roll it back, nested back on the fixed building and it's quite modest and it opens up a big public
space right next to it that could also be used for cultural programming.
SREENIVASAN: What's structurally difficult about designing something like that?
DILLER: Well, it's hard to move an 8 million pound building, so we worked with a team of engineers and actually the structural principle is very,
very simple. It's based on crane technology that you see at shipping ports and it's an industrial system that basically runs on steel tracks with
steel wheels and the motors are at the very top of the building and it's just a rack and pinion system which has mechanical advantage.
So when it moves, the movement is silent. It takes only five-minutes to open and/or close the building and it runs on a horsepower of one Prius
SREENIVASAN: You can move an 8 million pound building with a tiny Toyota Prius engine or the equivalent of?
DILLER: Yes, exactly.
DILLER: From an engineering standpoint, it's extremely smart, sustainable, quiet and operationally very, very easy to do.
SREENIVASAN: It's also adjacent to The High Line, which is for people who don't know the conversion of an elevated rail track, into a walkway, into a
park, into a public space. Now, you're also behind that. How does that connect to The Shed?
DILLER: We made up an urban park out of it and it's been really quite the rage, so very, very popular in New York. There's been a viral effect all
over the world. There are high lines all over the place and it's led to a tremendous amount of transformation in what we call the far Westside
Chelsea and Meatpacking District.
[00:44:56] And this transformation ultimately also incorporated the rail yards, which had previously not been built on. So the opportunity to do
The Shed is directly linked to the success of The High Line and that whole transformation of the Westside.
SREENIVASAN: Why do you think people are connected to it? I mean especially with these spin-offs around the world, what is it about walking
just this other elevation that connects with people?
DILLER: I think there are multiple things, one is that you're walking 25 feet off the ground and you can walk for a mile and a half without stopping
for a light or a car to go by, so you have this wonderful promenade. You also see New York in a very different way, not the postcard views, not the
very polished beautiful things and typical sights.
You see a kind of subconscious of New York. It was never really meant to be seen. You see these chimney stacks. You see alleys. You see solid
brick buildings. You see laundry drape from people's windows. It's just a different side of New York that we don't typically see.
But I think that there's one thing that people maybe don't think about, but that really resonates with me about The High Line. Basically you can only
do two things; you can you can walk and you can sit. So basically it's a place for doing nothing and in a city where everybody is productive all of
the time, whether they're working or working out, burning calories or shopping or on their devices, they're always doing something.
And The High Line gives you a kind of license to really do nothing and take that kind of parenthetical moment in the day and just be there and look at
other people and just hang out.
SREENIVASAN: I mean in a way that's not necessarily that when you look at your body of work, you don't design that many spaces for doing nothing,
you're also doing a lot of spaces that have a function in mind when you're crafting them. So is there a through line if we look back through all of
your work? Is there a connective tissue?
DILLER: I think that there are several strands maybe. One is a preoccupation with vision and the culture of vision, which incorporates all
sorts of things like spectatorship and exhibitionism and voyeurism and just interest in optics and a kind of preoccupation and a kind of critique maybe
with a preoccupation of vision as a master sense. So that's one of the through lines.
Another one is a kind of desire to democratize space, an interest in publicness, and even on private property to always carve out space. And as
our cities are getting progressively privatized, architects really have to be on the warpath here to protect space and make sure there's enough for
SREENIVASAN: You're also part of a couple of projects in Hudson Yards, it's a multibillion-dollar endeavor. The concern has been some of these
types of projects are serving to make neighborhoods more elite. How does that square with what you're just saying is your interest in trying to make
sure that there are public spaces preserved?
DILLER: Yes. I think that the city was very, very smart in organizing the open space and making sure that there was enough open space, public space
open to the sky on Hudson Yards because it was privately developed. And they were extra smart in identifying that parcel that would always belong
to the city on which The Shed stands.
So that is while it's physically within the four corner of Hudson Yards, it's actually New York City property and will always be, that's the first
thing. Before any design takes place, it's just making sure that that's protected for public and cultural use.
SREENIVASAN: I also wanted to ask you about the project you just finished up in Moscow, what was the intent? What was the outcome?
DILLER: So Zaryadye Park was a competition, an international competition that we won and this was the time of Edward Snowden and the relationship
between the U.S. and Russia was already - it's quite complicated. People told us to not compete, not even bother because an American had no chance
of winning this competition.
[00:49:58] And we had our doubts about the government and whether we wanted to step a foot in Russia and convinced ourselves that this is a project for
the city of Moscow. So it's a 35-acre park that sits right next to the Kremlin. It's basically Moscow's equivalent to our Central Park and it was
the first time the site was liberated.
Before that the hotel Rossiya stood there and it was a Soviet-era hotel with 3,000 rooms, really crazy huge footprint of a building. And when they
raised it, the first idea was to develop it commercially and then they decided that was not a good idea that a park should be there.
So they were very inspired by The High Line and I think that was the reason for our invitation to participate in the competition. So now the park is
open for about a year and a half and the brief [00:51:02] says don't make a space where people could collect and it was very, very clearly avoiding any
kind of protest.
DILLER: Yes. And parks in Russia and particularly Moscow were all very formal axial and there are certain kinds of plants that are allowable and
usually very, very formal gardens. So our idea was to actually make a place for people to collect. We called it wild urbanism and we thought
about it as a place where, and similar to The High Line, where the paving system and the vegetation are intertwined in different ways.
This project was so embraced by the Muscovites. It was in the first month, a million people came and it's one of the great attractions right now. And
I think we got away with murder here. We made a place that was truly progressive in a government that may not have really understood entirely,
but we had a great ally with the city architect.
SREENIVASAN: You had an exhibit where there was a building on a lake and you essentially had this giant fog machine, but the fog itself was what
people were interacting with. Tell me about that.
DILLER: Yes. So our studio in, I believe, 2002 for the Swiss expo, we decided to make a structure that was inhabitable, that was out in the lake
structure there, that was a huge fog, a cloud of fog that you walked through. There's 500 foot long bridge that brought you there and then you
found yourself on something the size of a football field with no walls just a couple of platforms with four columns that went down into the lake bed.
But you were immersed in this mist and you really couldn't see more than three feet ahead of you. It was called the blur building. It became such
a hit and in Switzerland they required every student to go visit it. And because it was amorphous and you couldn't quite see, you could hear this
kind of hissing of the sand 35,000 fog nozzles and you were immersed in it and you could walk in any direction but it came to represent this certain
notion of Swiss doubt which I thought was really, really phenomenal.
SREENIVASAN: Being in Switzerland, being in the middle of --
DILLER: Being in the middle of and not knowing politically what you wanted to do, EU or not EU (inaudible), what country are you with, what language
do you speak and it was just a super interesting way of penetrating a country.
SREENIVASAN: You have been teaching at Princeton for decades and I wonder if in that time, you've seen batches of students year after year, is there
a gap between the number of women that enter the profession and the number of women who either stick with it, because it seems a male-dominated
industry at the end result regardless of who's coming in to your classroom.
DILLER: Yes. Well, it is very male-dominated and when you think about it from a cultural perspective, the association you would make with an
architect is a white male heroic figure. I mean typically that's the very successful architects of the past have sort of fallen into a certain type.
Today, people work very, very differently. There are many collaboratives. I work in a collaboration with three men and one is gay, one is black, one
is my husband and what is white, the unusual white guy in a team with a woman. Three minorities essentially.
[00:55:13] And so people work very, very differently today. In terms of women, my classes are 50% female. There's an absolute gender balance in
academia, no different than many other fields. But there's something that happens, that gap.
So women come into the workplace, there's a disparity I think in salaries still and then as women progress, some have families and need to take time
off, some officers are not that generous about giving women time off. We have maternity and paternity leave and we've always done it that way. And
we encourage women to slowly come back to the workplace.
But still even in our studio, there's not a balance, it's not the way it is in the academic context. And I think we have to just think about it a lot
and try to figure out what's really long care. A lot of people in architecture are men and women, have to dedicate tremendous hours to it.
It's a very, very hard profession. It's not one that you can just leave at five o'clock and then forget about it until nine o'clock the next morning.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. Is there a movement in the industry to address this, do you think?
DILLER: I think many firms are thinking about it.
SREENIVASAN: I mean your firm might be one because there is a woman at the leader - as you said three minorities in a way are running the firm, but
that's not necessarily the case with most successful architecture firms.
DILLER: That's exactly right. I think role models are very, very important. Seeing that other women have succeeded and some women who
really just sort of cracked that glass ceiling and make it and really transform that image of that singular figure, that singular voice. It's
strange because you think that we've gotten over that by now, but no, not quite.
SREENIVASAN: Liz Diller, thanks so much for joining us.
DILLER: Thank you. Great to be here.
AMANPOUR: And role models are always welcome. That is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online
at amanpour.com and you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.