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The White House Blocks A Key Witness In The Impeachment Inquiry, Interview With Trump`s Unofficial Spokesman, Media Mogul Chris Ruddy; The Impact Of The President`s Policy Overseas; Data Crime And Its Dangers To Democracy. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 8, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone, and welcome to Amanpour, here`s what`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The American people have the right to know if the president is acting in their interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The White House blocks a key witness in the impeachment inquiry, I`ll speak with the president`s unofficial spokesman, media mogul Chris
Ruddy. Plus, we get the impact of the president`s policy overseas, what does it mean for Ukraine to be sucked in to domestic American politics?
And abandoning allies in Syria -- who will answer the call when the U.S. next needs help?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WYLIE: Seeing people go to these events, or become what -- in my view was a process of radicalization. That freaked me out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The whistleblower who exposed the data harvesting scandal at Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie on how it helped Trump get elected.
Welcome to the program everyone, I`m Christiane Amanpour in London.
Fuel to the fire now, the White House is stepping up its efforts to hinder the impeachment inquiry in to President Donald Trump. The administration
is barring a key witness from testifying today. U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland. He had agreed to appear voluntarily but his lawyer
says Sondland had no choice but to stand down saying that he was quote, "profoundly disappointed."
He`s a central figure in the president`s bid to persuade Ukraine to investigate his political opponents. He was sited several times in text
messages between top diplomats discussing the president`s request and the withholding of foreign and military aid to Ukraine, including this one --
the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor asked, are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting conditioned on investigations
(ph). Sondland`s response, call me.
President Trump says he did not want Sondland to appear before what he calls, "a totally compromised kangaroo court."
The House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says this will only intensify Congress` resolve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents -- we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of
the constitutional functions of Congress, a co-equal branch of government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So what is the president`s strategy here, let us get the insights of a man who knows Donald Trump well. Chris Ruddy is CEO of
Newsmax Media and a frequent sounding board for Donald Trump, and a frequent guest on this program as we try to parse what he`s saying and what
I`m not going to say what`s in his mind, because last time you said only the president knows what`s in his mind. So, Chris Ruddy, what is the
president thinking -- what has he been saying? Have you been talking to him in the last recent days?
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX MEDIA: We`ve talked a couple of times by phone since Pelosi announced -- Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment
inquiry. I think the president agrees with my assessment -- we both agree -- we see this as a political act, not a legal act.
Thirteen months to an election, there are some serious allegations raised - - bringing them out through the oversight process of Congress -- instead they immediately, without speaking to the whistleblower -- without seeing
the whistleblower complaint -- without interviewing anybody they immediately call for an impeachment inquiry.
So it made it seem that they were more interested in the act of the impeachment rather than finding the truth. And I think the president,
frankly is overreacting and the White House is overreacting by withholding testimony. The truth is going to come --
AMANPOUR: Do you think Sondland should have been allowed to testify today?
RUDDY: I do.
AMANPOUR: Was that a mistake?
RUDDY: I do. I think that the administration -- this -- I understand where the president and the White House is coming from, because remember as
much as people say obstruction with Mueller, this president waived executive privilege. There were 500 witnesses -- $50 million spent, two
years of investigation. They found no evidence of Russian collusion, shocking isn`t it?
No evidence --
AMANPOUR: Well --
RUDDY: And they --
AMANPOUR: They can get in to the parsing of all that --
RUDDY: And at the end of the day they accused him of obstruction. So I think he looks at this and says, why do I benefit playing the nice guy
here? I believe that Congress -- I`m a journalist -- I believe Congress has a serious oversight role (ph), and that the president and the White
House should respect that oversight role.
AMANPOUR: So basically you`re saying as his friend, as somebody who has spoken to him -- you think they should not have obstructed Gordon Sondland
from going to Congress?
RUDDY: Well I wouldn`t use the word obstructed --
AMANPOUR: Adam Schiff did.
RUDDY: That`s obviously -- I think Adam Schiff is a hyper-rhetoric --
AMANPOUR: But you think he should have allowed him to go testify?
RUDDY: Yes, I do. I think, unless there`s some really pressing reason for privilege, the president has denied that there was ever any quid pro quo.
AMANPOUR: Now you said -- and I just need to make sure that we are all on the same page, that Nancy Pelosi made her move without any knowledge of
what the whistleblower was doing -- that`s not quite the timeline.
The transcript had been released --
RUDDY: No -- no, no. She announced it before the transcript -- before.
AMANPOUR: Well they had seen the transcript --
RUDDY: No -- no. What we do know is that the whistleblower did speak to Adam Schiff a week or two before the complaint was first surfaced. So they
had knowledge of what was in the complaint. And that could come out as -- and if there were fair hearings, and maybe in the Senate trial if there`s
AMANPOUR: What do you think? I mean, you say that with a little bit of a twinkle in your eye -- do you think this -- I mean, is this a threat to the
RUDDY: I think it`s a mortal threat to his presidency, he certainly should treat it that way. Because it`s not this issue about the Ukraine, you
know? I think in basketball they have the term head fake (ph), and I think what we`re seeing from the Democrats in Congress is a head fake.
[13:05:00] They`re saying this is only about the Ukraine, we`re only going to do this in 90 days. Why then do you open up six different Congressional
Committees involved in the impeachment inquiry --
AMANPOUR: But I`m more interested in what -- you say that you`re a friend of his, you`ve spoken to him recently after this impeachment inquiry was
announced. You`re saying it`s a mortal threat to his presidency -- not many Republicans are saying that, on the record. People are getting
worried, there`s no doubt about it.
RUDDY: Well if you look at the polling data -- the polling data is moving in favor of the inquiry. There`s more than a majority and there wasn`t
AMANPOUR: 58 percent say --
RUDDY: Two weeks ago, so that`s changed. The number of people saying the president should be impeached is increasing -- not significantly, but it`s
moving in a bad direction for the president.
So I do think it should be treated very seriously, but to me again, it`s not the Ukraine. I don`t think that the president committed a crime
related to Ukraine -- to the Ukraine or to his conversation with Zelensky.
The issue is when you have six Congressional Committees. We all know that when Watergate started nobody had even heard of the Watergate tapes.
AMANPOUR: Chris Ruddy, you were a journalist at one point --
RUDDY: I still am.
AMANPOUR: And you still are. But you actually covered a previous investigation in to a previous president -- yeah. And you would have been
the first to shout and scream bloody murder if President Clinton had done what President Trump is doing, or what the White House has done and try to
deflect any of this.
So, I mean, this has to follow it`s path, as I think you say right now.
RUDDY: I wasn`t --
AMANPOUR: I guess, I -- sorry, go ahead?
RUDDY: I wasn`t an advocate of the impeachment against President Clinton, but I certainly -- I was part of the media that was very critical of him,
that lead to his impeachment. And I look back, and I think that those of us that were critics made a very big mistake and it backfired. Bill
Clinton ended up very popular.
And I`ve said publicly that I think that we look back and that the president had done -- Bill Clinton had done a good job as president. I
think a lot of Democrats are going to look back and say that Donald Trump was not as bad as they thought at the time.
AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) --
RUDDY: I mean, he`s reconfiguring the China relationship -- these trade deals, these are deals that Democratic Unions support. The Board of
Security, that was a Democratic issue 20 years ago.
So NATO spending, that`s a Democratic issue. So you know, he`s -- there`s -- people just sort of have a knee-jerk reflect against the president
because it`s Donald Trump.
AMANPOUR: Well so let`s just -- OK, you would say that -- he would say that, he`s called it a witch hunt. And we understand where that comes from
given that he says that. But other Republicans, let`s just say Mitt Romney for instance, who is an elder in the Republican party. He`s been a
governor, he`s now a senator, he`s run for president.
He was very scathing of the Ukraine issue, and the China issue -- the quid pro quos that they identify that the president implicit (ph) be made. And
he said, the notion that President Trump`s defense is that he`s trying to clean up corruption in Ukraine just falls apart when it`s clear that he`s
only asking for one name to be investigated, that is Joe Biden and his son who happens to be his political, domestic opponent.
RUDDY: I don`t think investigating Joe Biden is smart or politically right. I think it definitely was out of bounds -- it`s not a crime, he`s
the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the nation. If he wants to request an investigation, the idea that Joe Biden -- there`s no evidence Joe Biden
committed any crime, or his son, so I don`t think he should be investigated.
On the other hand, this was a president where there was no evidence that he ever colluded with Russia, but yet Robert Mueller --
AMANPOUR: This is slightly different --
RUDDY: Well of course it`s different because it`s Donald Trump --
AMANPOUR: Well no, because it`s President Trump initiating this call as we`ve seen in the transcript --
RUDDY: (Inaudible) -- people thought -- thought he committed -- people thought Donald Trump had committed a crime and they launched a two year
Congressional investigations against him and it turned out there was no crimes.
AMANPOUR: What is your view on his judgment? I mean, because this is basically a part from anything else, is what it`s boiling down to. And as
I say, it is not just the usual suspects who are yelling and screaming, it is now increasing members of his own party, particularly in the wake of
what seems to have been a unilateral presidential decision to pull American troops out of Syria. And we have had everybody from Mitch McConnell, who
said it would only empower Iran, Russia, and Assad, to Nikki Haley who said it would leave American allies to die on the battle field. On and on,
people who are in his camp politically, including so-called presidential friend Lindsey Graham, the senator. Let`s just play what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDSEY GRAHAM: I expect the American president to do what`s in our national security interest. It`s never in our national security interest
to abandon an ally who`s helped us fight ISIS. It`s never in our national security interest to create the conditions for the re-emergence of ISIS.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Yes, so it`s kind of unifying the Republicans against the foreign policy move.
RUDDY: Where was it written that Republicans or even conservatives like myself should support the president in everything he ever does? I`m still
a friend with the president, I disagree with him on a host of things. As you know, we`ve talked about some of those issues through the years. And I
think that push back is actually good for him to hear the other side. It`s not bad. I think there`s been a mistake made by a lot of them who saw the
story in the Obama years when the Democrats didn`t pushback against Obama on certain things. So I think it`s healthy, it`s good, and I think the
president does react and he does listen.
AMANPOUR: Just a quick question. Well maybe, you might -- you`re right, because the first time he did this, his elder statesman, General James
Mattis resigned over it. Brett McGurk also did who was the administration`s carryover appointed special representative on Syria. And
he is actually just...
RUDDY: But the context of this Christiane is we have spent trillions of dollars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
RUDDY: And this is a president that campaigned about removing Americans for these quagmire wars that we`re involved with. Again, it sounds like a
Democratic issue, doesn`t it?
AMANPOUR: No. This is...
RUDDY: He`s trying...
AMANPOUR: This is more about pulling the rug from under American allies who fought and died against...
RUDDY: I agree with you. We should support the Kurds and the Turks have been a bad actor. They`re rogue actors.
AMANPOUR: So do you think that kind of realization after he did this latest unilateral tweet to pull out the U.S. troops, led him to have the
Pentagon say they`re going to deny Turkey the air space over that area so that Turkey could not follow up an invasion with any air attack?
RUDDY: I`m not privy to the internal (ph), but it looks like that`s the case.
AMANPOUR: And, also -- OK, President Trump tweeted, as I`ve stated strongly before and jus to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I in my
great and unmatched wisdom consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey. I`ve done it before.
RUDDY: I think he`s having a little fun there.
AMANPOUR: Which bit are you laughing at? The unmatched wisdom? Or the obliterate?
RUDDY: He likes to have a little -- I think -- that`s his sense of humor. But knowing him for a long time, that`s him having a laugh.
AMANPOUR: OK, but I mean it`s serious. I mean, this could be Turkey thinking it gets a green light for the phone call with President Trump to
go in and clear an entire level...
RUDDY: Well, I think that mike Pompeo, who I think is one of the strongest members of the cabinet, is sending clear signals to the Turks that the
American government is not going to allow a bloodshed there or a slaughter of the Kurds. And I hope our president stands with the Kurds, they have
been allies of ours. So I think it`s good that the Senate Republicans are pushing back and others are criticizing it and its fine. And he will
readjust because of that. So it`s a very healthy situation that we see going on there.
AMANPOUR: OK. We`re going to be asking obviously, Ukrainian officials and officials who have been working for the U.S. on the Kurdish issues about
how it`s viewed on the ground. But I guess in sum, you think that this impeachment inquiry could be a mortal threat to the presidency. You think
that it`s probably good that Republicans are pushing back on the foreign policy machinations. You know, the president said he wants to cut back the
level of people in the national security area. Is that wise?
RUDDY: I would -- I don`t like the idea of a reduced national security apparatus, partly because the Trump administration doesn`t have good
controls over the defense and state apparatuses at stand, so the Security Council was to help implement the policies of the president. I think he
was dissatisfied that so members of the Security Council were holdovers from previous administrations that he wanted a leaner, meaner, national
security apparatus. But we are facing -- we were chatting earlier in the green room about the -- so many crisis around the world; China, Hong Kong,
Iran, now in Syria. We have the Brexit situation, and those are the big ones. There`s little ones all over the world that the United States is
dealing with. You need a big staff to deal with those things.
AMANPOUR: Well there you are. I mean, you said it. Maybe from your mouth to the president`s ears.
RUDDY: I don`t think bureaucracy necessarily solves it...
AMANPOUR: But wisdom and experience on (ph) these issues.
RUDDY: Look, he has people like Mike Pompeo who`s strong and I think he`s been a good secretary of State.
AMANPOUR: OK. Chris Ruddy, I wish we could continue. We`ll have you back again, thank you very much, indeed.
RUDDY: Always good speaking (ph) with you.
AMANPOUR: So as we said at the center of the U.S. political crisis is a country more than 5,000 miles away and that is Ukraine. It is horrified of
being sucked into the growing U.S. political fire storm and it`s still fighting a war with Russia at its eastern border.
Danylo Lubkivskythe former Ukrainian deputy minister and he`s joining me now from Kiev. Welcome to the program. Let me just ask you, what -- I
just -- we`ve said and we seem to be seeing that Ukraine is getting more and more dragged into a domestic U.S. political situation and eager to get
its way out of that. Just sum up for me how it`s been viewed in Kiev and beyond where you are now.
DANYLO LUBKIVSKY, FORMER UKRAINIAN DEPUTY MINISTER: I believe that the general situation and the recent developments that you discussed raise a
certain anxiety and disappointment in Ukraine.
Let me tell you my reflection. For many years, Ukraine has joined a very strong bilateral, bipartisan support which meant a lot for Ukraine. I
remember Vice President Biden, who was a strong champion of the international efforts to support of Ukraine, but he was strong because his
strong position was underpinned by the strong position of, like Senator McCain, Senator Portman, and other prominent Republican, that (ph)
President Trump`s decision to provide Ukraine with a defensive lethal weapon, was strongly supported by vast majority among the Democrats.
So for Ukraine, it meant that the United States stand for Ukraine, fights with Ukraine, and supports our case. So this is not only bout Ukraine and
Ukraine`s interest, but this is about our fight for freedom but also our struggle for the international law and international justice.
AMANPOUR: OK. So let me just ask you to react to Mr. Pavlo Klimkin, who was Ukraine`s foreign minister until august. He said, this is a damaging
mess for Ukraine. It has always been a key point of Ukrainian foreign policy to show that we have U.S. support and we cannot afford to lose that.
You sort of talked about that, but do you think that you still have the kind of U.S. support that you need?
LUBKIVSKY: Certainly, that -- and that would be natural for the Ukrainians to put (ph) -- raise questions on whether the support will be continued.
You know, Ukraine may be considered a hostage (ph) of that dispute (ph), but nevertheless, Ukraine is not only a play thing (ph), Ukraine is a 40
million nation which fights for its independence. The overwhelming majority of the Ukrainians, according to the recent polls, are ready to
fight for this country and the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians stand strong before Ukraine`s membership in the European Union and NATO. For
that -- for Ukraine, it`s very important that the United States remains the flagmanship of the rest (ph) -- the flagmanship of those values that we are
And while Klimkin (ph) is right here, that general development of the situation looks dangerous, looks harmful, that`s why I believe that many of
my colleagues and experts here in the Ukraine believe that would be harmful if Ukraine drags into that local dispute and domestic disputes in the
United States. But for us, that`s very important that the turbulence that we see doesn`t take Ukraine and absorbs Ukraine into that mess. Let me
tell you that here in the Ukraine, we believe that the support for the understanding of this strategic -- the understanding of the strategic
partnership between the United States and Ukraine will prevail and our common national security interest will prevail up on any political rivalry
or difficulties or misunderstandings.
AMANPOUR: So just let me ask you then, because you brought it up earlier about the commitments that you had got from the Obama administration. You
mentioned Joe Biden who was vice president.
And as we know, he had the sort of Ukraine anti-corruption file. Can you tell me, since you served under President Poroshenko, presumably during
some of those years at least, I mean this idea of asking the new President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden or his son -- I mean does that have any
merit to you at all?
LUBKIVSKY: If we speak about the stance of Vice President Biden, how it was accepted and received here in Ukraine, his position, his stand
coincided strongly with the position of the (inaudible) with the will of the Ukrainian people that wanted to fight against corruption.
So for me that it -- it looked very natural that vice president touched up on those issues and took very strong stance on -- on the matter. Further,
if we speak about the -- the recent developments, I believe it is very important to remember that Ukraine looks forward to -- to continuing
military cooperation with -- with the United States.
I believe that we shouldn`t -- we should avoid a possibility of having the Ukraine manipulated in these terms (ph) or taking hostage of -- since we
continue our fight for freedom and we continue to deter Russia.
Looking -- in general, looking at -- at the -- at the situation we see, we will definitely notice that there is one side that wouldn`t -- that may
benefit from -- from the developments we witness right now. This is Russia. And for Russia this is important not ...
AMANPOUR: Sorry to interrupt you. I was going to pursue that point. We understand through officials who have spoken about this suspension of aid
for a period of time that`s the center of this crisis right now that actually because President Zelensky was a new president and, you know,
didn`t have all the ducks in a row in Washington, didn`t even know about the suspension of military aid until it was reported in public.
Tell us about how this president and his new administration is going to be able to stand up for what you say is needed. American military support to
fight off the Russians who are still continuing their fight in Eastern Ukraine.
LUBKIVSKY: Let (ph) -- the only thing that I would like to tell you, that`s let us push (ph) President Zelensky to -- to make his double (ph)
and to stand strongly against any pressure that he may feel within the international relations. But this is up to -- to Ukraine`s president and I
believe that he will do his best to insure the national interest of Ukraine.
But the general message, which may come these days from Ukraine back to the United States is that we feel strongly that there is a need not to abandon
Ukraine right now. Do not drag us into the domestic disputes. Insure that there is further (ph) strategic support of Ukraine.
But because this is not only about Ukraine. This is about those things that I already mentioned, our fight for freedom independence but also for
our common values and principles. This is the most important thing just (ph) to insure (ph).
AMANPOUR: Danylo Lubkivsky, thank you so much indeed for joining us. The former deputy foreign minister of Ukraine.
LUBKIVSKY: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Thank you very much. And all of this comes as the president faces huge bipartisan backlash over his decision to turn his back on yet
another ally. Even his closest republican cheerleaders are criticizing him over the move to pull U.S. troop from Northern Syria, abandoning the Kurds
who fought and died for the United States in the battle against ISIS.
Turkish forces who view Kurds as terrorist want to move in and clear that territory. Although, the United States say that it has shut down airspace
to the Turks. One of the strongest criticisms came from the president`s former U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, who said the U.S. is leaving its
Kurdish allies to die.
Let us delve into this now and I`m joined by the former U.S. diplomat, Peter Galbraith, long time Kurdish supporter who`s just returned from the
region. Peter Galbraith, Ambassador, welcome to the program.
PETER GALBRAITH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR: Good to be back with you.
AMANPOUR: So let -- let me just ask you for your raw take on what`s just happened over the last 24, 48 hours. The president announced that he`s
withdrawing troops. The idea that there might have been a green light for Turkey to clear a massive length of terrain in northern Syria. And then
the sort of pull back by the president.
GALBRAITH: Well, of course, it -- it`s very shocking. Shocking in the United States and obviously very shocking for the Syrian Kurds. There`s a
-- you know there`s a real human dimension to this. One of the people I was talking to I`ve known for some time is Sally Muslim (ph), one of the
He`s never mentioned this. But his 21 year old son was killed by an ISIS sniper. Imagine how he feels that everything that he`s worked for that`s
been created, that his son died for is now in great jeopardy.
We -- we -- we think about this, the Kurds suffered 10,000 dead. The United States has suffered less than 10 dead in -- in Syria. Your -- one
of your previous guest spoke of the trillions that have been spent in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But in this case it was not particularly expensive for the United States, their (ph) money and certainly not in human life. And yet the president
has said to the Turkish president you can go ahead, you can -- you can take over this territory.
Incidentally it`s a vast territory, roughly 30 percent of Syria. And it`s something that if that happened, also it would very likely extend the
AMANPOUR: Peter Galbraith, you are familiar and -- and you talk about the vast territory. Well, President Erdogan himself revealed a map showing the
territory that he wants to take as a buffer zone inside that -- that area of Northern Syria. We saw him hold it up at the United Nations. And is a
vast piece of territory.
I -- I want to ask you whether you think, knowing the Turks, knowing President Erdogan, knowing the situation, and of course the United States;
do you think that President Trump`s rather, you know, pointed tweet warning Erdogan against taking advantage of this will work. His threat to destroy
And do you think denying the Turks the airspace now over that area will give Turkey a message not to go in, not to have -- not to make an invasion
that leaves a lot of people dead?
GALBRAITH: Well, the only message is -- is confusion because the initial tweet said Turkey`s going to go in. They`re going to take care of ISIS,
they`re going to take care of the 10,000 foreign fighters who the Kurds are holding in -- in prisons.
And then all the sudden it`s Turkey, you -- you can`t go into the airspace. Does -- do -- do we -- do the Turks seriously believe the United States is
going to shoot down their aircraft. That we`re going to trash the Turkish economy. How -- how is that going to happen.
I mean there`s certainly a lack of clarity in -- in the messages. And incidentally, let`s stop taking everything that Turkey says on -- on face
value. There has been no threat from Northern Syria or from the Kurdish part of Syria into Turkey.
And while Turkey categorizes the Kurdish leaders in Syria as terrorist, just a few years ago was meeting with them inside Turkey. So there`s a --
you know there -- all this doesn`t quite add up.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you just to react to this. I`m not sure that it`s the same gentleman who you were referring to who`s son was killed but
General Mazloum Abdi who is the commander of the Kurdish led Syrian democratic forces has told the Washington Post if ethnic cleansing happens
in our area, this will be the U.S. responsibility.
And he`s asked for President Trump to keep his promise to preserve safety there. He said abandoning the Kurds is hurting U.S. interest and its
reputation. It`s not acting according to American principles.
I mean you know as much as anybody because you`ve been document, you know, the suffering of the Kurds for many, many years in Iraq and elsewhere that
they have been betrayed once, twice, three times, multiple times by a combination of American and -- and regional leaders.
Just put into perspective why do they keep coming to America`s defense whether it`s in Iraq and in Syria. How much more will they be able to be
GALBRAITH: Well, if they`re destroyed they aren`t going to be an ally at all. But yes, I mean General Mazloum`s comments, you know, reflect the
reality. Who -- who would rely on the United States and certainly who would rely on Donald Trump? When -- when you make a commitment one way and
-- and then you -- you tweet after a call with another leader and say yes, go in.
And -- and there`s -- there`s a history of this. Donald Trump himself in Iraq in 2017 permitted a Shiite militia commanded by somebody who had --
was convicted of blowing up the U.S. embassy -- (inaudible).
And -- and an operation directed by the Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Al-Qudz force, to use U.S. tanks to attack the Kurds in Kirkuk. The Kurds
-- the Iraqi Kurds, who were our main allies in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, in fact, at a time when the Iraqi army disappeared, the only reason
it couldn`t take over Iraq is because the Kurds were there. And this is how they were paid back.
And of course, the -- the history of this goes much further back. In `91, the first president, George Bush called for an uprising and then sat on his
hands as Saddam crushed it. And back in 1975, Henry Kissinger endorsed a deal between the Shah and Saddam that ended a Kurdish uprising that
Kissinger himself had encouraged and supported.
So, yes, it`s a -- it`s really a sad history. It`s amazing that the Kurds have aligned themselves with us. But what I heard both in Syria, and that
matter, in Iraqi Kurdistan is great skepticism and unhappiness with the United States, certainly with Donald Trump. I think that the Kurds in
Syria are really pleased with the outcry that has taken place in the United States over the last 36 hours and particularly the Republicans who have
spoken out on this issue. They`ve been heartened by it. But, you know, the question is will that outcry actually have any impact on Turkey and
what it`s going to do.
AMANPOUR: And not just on Turkey, which is obviously massively important, but also on ISIS on the ground. Because as General Petraeus has pointed
out just in the last few hours, that yes, in -- in Syria, the -- the caliphate has been defeated, but the entire ISIS is not destroyed, as the
president claims and as people want. It hasn`t happened yet. The inspector general is basically saying that despite losing its territorial
caliphate, the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was resurging in Syria. It states that there are
about 14,000 to 18,000 ISIS fighters remaining in Syria and Iraq. So on the issue, which is to destroy the capability of ISIS -- I mean, just speak
about that as well.
GALBRAITH: Well, as -- as you pointed out, I was just there, just talking to Kurdish security officials in Iraq. ISIS is very much resurgent in
Iraq, in the areas around Mosu, in Anbar, it`s in -- in the areas around Kirkuk, it`s staging options. Of course one reason it`s doing this is that
the dispute between -- split between Sunnis and Shiites has not been reconciled, it`s not going to be reconciled, so there`s a well of
resentment in the Sunni community. That`s what allowed ISIS to get there in the first place and that`s fuelling its revival. And -- and in Syria,
the Kurds have the situation pretty well under control, although there have been some attacks and some bombings.
But you -- you mentioned 14,000 to 18,000 fighters on the loose. There are another 10,000 fighters who are in prisons. I`ve visited these prisons.
They`re being held 20 to a cell. But you know, the Kurds are not -- it`s not a state that -- it`s not like they have the capability to maintain all
of this. They are not getting significant financial help from the -- from the United States or anybody else to run these prisons. And so you have to
imagine that if there`s an attack from Turkey, you`re going to see people who are guarding the prisons going up to the front line. So just add
another 10,000 ISIS fighters to the -- the group that are already there.
And never mind also, you know, there are a lot of women ISIS fighters and - - and -- or ISIS women in some of these camps, 100,000 family members, and some of them are pretty tough militants as well. I mean, this whole thing
could reignite if we are not going to be supporting the people who have been our allies. And again, it has to be emphasized, at such a low cost.
This is not Iraq in 2003 on, this is not Afghanistan. This is a place where there`ve been at most 2,000 Americans and just a handful of
AMANPOUR: It is an extraordinary situation and just another reminder of how domestic politics really plays out in a massively important way
overseas. Ambassador Galbraith, thank you so much. And getting back now to our focus on whistleblowers, they are certainly coming under the
spotlight. And our next guest is familiar with these pressures. Christopher Wylie last year exposed the inside story of how data analysis
firm Cambridge Analytica had illegally harvested and exploited the data of millions of Facebook users. He was the former director of research for the
company, which didn`t survive the scandal. And in a new book, he gives his account of what happened and what he calls the psychological manipulation
behind the election of Donald Trump and the vote for Brexit here.
Wylie sat down with our Hari Sreenivasan to talk data crime and its dangers to democracy.
HARI SREENIVASAN, BROADCAST JOURNALIST, CNN: So who did Cambridge Analytica target? How many people? I mean, we have an enormous electorate
but it`s really just a few states, maybe even a few counties that matter.
CHRISTOPHER WYLIE, DATA CONSULTANT: Cambridge Analytica was fairly surgical in how they were targeting people. You know, they wouldn`t
necessarily be targeting people in California, they would be focusing their efforts on particular states, you know, where in terms of the electoral
college that would be beneficial to, you know --
SREENIVASAN: So say Wisconsin, for example.
WYLIE: Yes. And so, you know -- and -- and when you -- when you look at the types of people that the company was targeting, it wasn`t everybody
that they were trying to engage with. It was very much on the margins and in the fringes of society to bring and recruit people who otherwise
wouldn`t necessarily engage in conventional politics but would engage with particular kinds of ideas that they -- that they promoted online. And you
know, that can make an impact. If you get an extra one percent, an extra two percent in that swing state and you win that swing state, that might
mean that you win the presidency.
SREENIVASAN: So was it -- so for example, was it trying to get more folks on your side to vote or keeping the other teams voters from showing up at
the polls? What kind of messages, what kind of influence --
WYLIE: Yes, so I think -- so the campaign engaged in both what you would call GOTV or get out the vote or identifying people who were likely to vote
and, you know, through their own admission, voter suppression and activities. But I think what`s important and what I talk about in the book
is that, you know, the origins of why, you know, Steve Bannon wanted to engage Cambridge Analytica really rests in this idea of the Breitbart
doctrine, what he -- what he followed when he worked at Breitbart, which is that politics exists downstream from culture. So if you want to make an
enduring and lasting change on a society, you don`t focus just on day-to- day politics, you actually focus on changing culture.
And so, you know, a lot of the work that Cambridge Analytica did wasn`t necessarily just day-to-day politics, it was about changing how people
perceived what was actually happening in American society and what was American society.
SREENIVASAN: So, you know, there`s these kind of -- without getting too far into the weeds of the psychology, there`s these five different axes
that you`re looking at people and sorting people. How does this work and how does Facebook and information from Facebook feed into that?
WYLIE: Yes. So, you know, if you imagine for a second that, you know, you`re on a blind date, right and, you know, you`ve just met somebody and,
you know, by sheer coincidence, they`re able to -- you know, they talk about what music they like and it happens to be exactly what you like and,
you know, what kinds of TV shows and who they hang out with. And you leave that going, oh, wow, this person knows exactly -- they understand me. But
you know, what if that date that you went on was actually with a stalker and that -- that stalker had been following you around for years and years,
looking through your photos, talking to your friends, watching you at work and following you to the point where they know exactly what to say in order
to lure you in.
And when you`re in that moment and you don`t realize that that`s why, you know, this person on that blind date is saying that. You`re vulnerable to
being exploited. And what Cambridge Analytica did was sort of a scaled version of that blind date, where people online would see things that just
resonated with them. And they would be brought on to an environment, whether it would be a group or a page or a forum that was controlled by the
company. But from the perspective of that -- of -- of the target, it`s just something that they happened to discover. So for them, their guard is
down and they start reading things that appeal to them that -- that they have, like, this sort of intuition that something must be -- this must be
true. And --
SREENIVASAN: And look at all of these other people.
WYLIE: And look at all these other people who happen to also be on this group just by sheer coincidence.
SREENIVASAN: And so it`s sort of a power of the community there, too.
WYLIE: And there`s a collective amplification of a lot of these beliefs. And what Cambridge Analytica would do would be encourage these people to
talk amongst themselves to go further and further into some of these frankly outrageous beliefs.
WYLIE: And, you know, they would then organize things like events, people would be encouraged to meet each other. Right? And, you know, if you have
a group -- and let`s say it`s just a couple thousand people -- Smith County patriots, whatever. Right? And only five to 10 percent of people actually
show up to an event in Smith County, right? You`ve got a couple hundred people. Right? Even if you have 50 people, you flood a coffee shop with
50 people and all of a sudden what you sort of see online -- you know, and intuitively you know is -- it`s true -- all of a sudden you see everybody
around you in this coffee shop, and they`re talking about it.
And you know, they might be an electrician or a plumber or a teacher, a lawyer, whatever. From your perspective, they`re just regular Americans
and they don`t have an agenda. But all the things they`re talking about, you know, that Obama is moving people into Texas to take their guns or that
look at all the people flooding across the border, you know, whatever. That -- you hear your fellow Americans talking about it and you`re seeing
it everywhere online by sheer coincidence, because that`s what everybody`s talking about, but then when you go and watch, you know, CNN or NBC or
whatever, you read the New York Times, you don`t see any of this.
And so from your perspective, you go, well these people don`t have an agenda but these media organizations must have an agenda and they`re
misleading me, they`re the fake news, these are real people, these are honest, genuine Americans.
SREENIVASAN: Right. So what did you do inside Cambridge Analytica as part of all of this? I mean, you`re a database guy, you`re a, you know, former
sort of computer hacker type. But what do you bring to the table in how that whole process unfolded?
WYLIE: Yes. So when -- when I got recruited originally by the company, I was doing my Ph.D. research in fashion trend forecasting and cultural trend
forecasting. And so I, by coincidence, got recruited because I happened to have a background both in looking at, as you said, databases and algorithms
and all that. But also looking at, you know, how does a culture change and how does a culture evolve. And what makes something cool? Right? When I
first started, we were looking at extremist groups. Right? And so --
SREENIVASAN: You`re trying to figure out why ISIS is cool and being -- recruiting kids (ph).
WYLIE: So what makes, you know, a young unmarried man in, you know, the south of England all of a sudden want to engage with pretty radical ideas,
and where they go from just being a regular Joe to, you know, thinking about going to Syria? And what -- what are the aspects of both their lives
and their characteristics that make them prone to, you know, believing or engaging with those kinds of ideas. And what is it about those ideas that
appeal to -- to that target audience? And, you know, ultimately, you know, when we got acquired, a lot of that same approach was used in the United
States. But we were looking at groups of people who had the same kinds of characteristics but they happened to be in America, they were Americans.
And rather than trying to mitigate them joining a radical organization, you know, Steve Bannon took over and he wanted to create an insurgency in
SREENIVASAN: An alt-right insurgency.
WYLIE: An alt-right insurgency. And what Cambridge Analytica sort of became was a vehicle or a tool to identify people who would be vulnerable
to that kind of messaging and exploit them. And, you know, when I -- you know, and -- and that`s not what I went into the company to do. And so
when I started seeing that, you know, this company, we are now working on doing, in my view, the exact opposite of what we set out to do. Rather
than protecting Americans or protecting, you know, British people or Europeans from potential harms that you get from extremism, we are
catalyzing extremism. It`s just for a different flag.
Those people were vulnerable, they didn`t consent or agree to be put into one of the largest psychological experiments in the United States, and that
-- you know, that was grossly immoral.
SREENIVASAN: You mentioned Steve Bannon. How far back does the relationship between Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign go?
WYLIE: Well, so that`s an interesting question because, you know, officially the company said they only joined the Trump campaign in the tail
end of the election. But, you know, when I was there and after I left, I knew that they were meeting with Donald Trump, you know, before he had even
announced that he was running. And there is a sort of real question about what was the company doing meeting with the what later became the -- the
Trump campaign when at the same time they were also officially advising Ted Cruz.
SREENIVASAN : Steve Bannon was on the Cruz campaign at the time.
WYLIE: At the time, but they were also meeting with what later became the Donald Trump campaign. And so I`m not sure what Steve Bannon had, you
know, in store or in mind as to, you know, why that company was meeting with the trump campaign. But what I can say is that they were.
SREENIVASAN : You know that because?
WYLIE: I know that because I have it in writing from their own lawyers they were meeting with them. You know, I -- they would deny it publicly
but I have it in writing they were.
SREENIVASAN : You also point out in the book there were connections between the Russians and the Trump campaign that even the Mueller
investigation missed. What did they miss?
WYLIE: Well, when you -- so one of the things I talk about in the book is a lot of interactions that Cambridge Analytica has with Russian assets but
also, you know, I tried to explain some of the connections between the Brexit campaign and the Trump campaign and the behind the scenes of all
these alt-right people who are all meeting and talking to each other all around the world and, you know, one of the things that, you know, I
revealed in the whistle blowing that happened, you know, last year, but also I talked more about in-depth in the book is, you know, that people who
were traveling to the United States to meet with the Trump campaign were also, at the same time, talking to the Russian ambassador in London.
They were having meetings with the Russian embassy, talking to Russian diplomats, at the same time as them traveling to the United States and
meeting with Donald Trump, meeting with the Trump campaign, meeting with Steve Bannon. And when some of their associates were arrested, in the
United States on charges of wire fraud and all kinds of financial crimes, which then later plead guilty to, they took that information and sent it to
the Russian embassy. And so, you know, there`s a lot of questions about why was the Trump campaign talking to these people in Britain who were
also, at the same time, talking to Russian diplomats? Who were talking to the Russian ambassador?
And, you know, in the book, I talk about, you know, the e-mail response they had, the text messages they had, and, you know, some of the first
people that Donald Trump met with were people when -- after he got elected were people who were also meeting with the Russian ambassador. And none of
that got disclosed, and unfortunately I feel like that issue never fully got explored in the Mueller inquiry or more broadly the Trump/Russia
investigation. If you have people who are going and communicating with the trump campaign and at the same time going back to the United States -- or
going back to the U.K., and having meetings with the Russian embassy that seems like something that should be explored.
SREENIVASAN : And you also say in here that Russian intelligence was connected to -- and backing the campaign to leave the European Union.
WYLIE: You know, the concerns that I raised with British intelligence and British law enforcement, you know, really surrounded the fact there was a
lot of unusual interactions between the Russian embassy and people who were supporting our funding Brexit during the referendum.
SREENIVASAN : What`s unusual mean?
WYLIE: It`s unusual, for example, to invite Russian diplomats to a Brexit victory party. It`s unusual to have such a regular pace of meetings with a
foreign diplomat and -- and to -- to only meet with one country`s set of diplomats. I just -- for me that raises a lot of questions.
SREENIVASAN : Yeah.
WYLIE: That still haven`t been clarified.
SREENIVASAN : So even if someone met with Russian diplomats at their leave party, I can hear the leave campaign saying so what. We liked the guy, we
invited him over for beers. What is Chris saying is nefarious about that?
WYLIE: I`m saying it`s unusual. I`m saying that it`s unusual to have such a close and intimate relationship with a country`s diplomat. Particularly
when it`s known that this country, you know, Russia doesn`t necessarily support a lot of the values of western democracy. And, you know, I`m not
necessarily saying that there is anything, you know, that the different e- campaigns did that was knowingly nefarious. What I`m saying is that you also have a very sophisticated intelligence gathering operation on the part
of the Russians, and it is, every time you talk to a Russian diplomat, you are speaking to the Russian state. And I just find it suspicious you had
such a close and intimate relationship with a country`s diplomats.
SREENIVASAN : What role, what responsibility do you have in all this?
WYLIE: Well, you know, when I first started at the company, I was working in something that I thought I would be helpful to society, looking at --
you know, using my knowledge and skill sets to identify pathways to mitigate extremis; which was and is an emerging security threat for western
democracy. The problem at the time was that, if you work in a company that is acquired and your new boss and everybody who`s in charge has made it a
conscious decision to go down a path that you find, you know, morally wrong and arguably unlawful in certain context, it`s not like you can go to H.R.
and say I would like to put on my file that I disagree with, like, what the company is doing.
SREENIVASAN : You could have left.
WYLIE: I did. I did. After the acquisition I only stayed for like nine months, and then I left. I was the first person to leave.
[13:50:00] SREENIVASAN : But even before that. I mean, this is a company that, really, it was bragging to their potential clients about the kinds of
work they were doing all over the world. They were influencing elections in not so great ways. For their clients, might have been a politician or
SREENIVASAN : I get it. I get you were there to say, hey, if I can help decrease the influence of ISIS and make it less cool, I get that. But at
some point around the water cooler you didn`t hear these guys, bragging?
WYLIE: You know, I did. And this is one of the things that I -- not to use this as an excuse -- but I was, you know, it was one of my first jobs,
you know, first big jobs and I was 24 at the time. And when I started seeing what was happening particularly in the United States and -- and how
the company was repurposing a lot of work that I was working on and the others were working on and then watching footage of people or, you know,
seeing, you know, people go to these events or become what, in my view, was a process of radical -- you know, radicalization.
That freaked me out, and I did leave. Immediately after leaving, I got sued by the company; they wanted me to sign all kinds of NDA`s and all
kinds of legal pressure. I had legal bills that were, like, 50,000 pounds, and that`s a lot of pressure to be under. But, you know, nonetheless, I
did try to warn people about it.
SREENIVASAN : What about the critique that here you are now, you`ve got a book out. You`re profiting from this. There was a colleague of yours -- a
former colleague who said Chris Wylie thinks he`s Edward Snowden when he`s actually Walter Mitty, that this is a part of you know, you figuring out a
way to come out ahead in this.
WYLIE: Well, you know, what I would say to that is, you know, firstly, the -- you know, the company that is really profiting from this is Facebook.
You know, its share value went up at the end of the day. You know, I spent over a year, you know, even before all of the media came out, I had to be
asked several times by the Guardian to actually put myself out there. I was working with law enforcement, I was working with regulators in multiple
jurisdictions well before the story even emerged. And the after the story did go public, you know, I spent all kinds of, you know, hours out, hours
and hours talking with members of Congress, talking with law enforcement, being a witness in several investigations. So at the end of that, thinking
about all these things that happened, I chose to write a book about it because I think it`s important that people actually understand, you know,
what -- what happened and also what can still happen moving forward.
SREENIVASAN : Chris Wylie, thanks so much for joining us.
WYLIE: Cheers. Thank you.
[13:55:00] AMANPOUR: Whistleblowers, so much the focus now. Before we go tonight, as an antidote to these times, we thought we`d end with the
enduring power of giving back of one former U.S. president. Indeed, often labeled the best ex-president. At just over 95 years old, Jimmy Carter
fell and injured his eye and got 14 stitches. And the very next day, this is where he was, out on the construction site, building houses with his
signature Habitat for Humanity. That`s it for now. Remember you can listen to our podcast, see us online at amanpour.com, and follow me on
Instagram and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.