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Second Day of Public Impeachment Hearing on Friday; Marie Yovanovitch Testifying on Friday; Nancy McEldowney, Former Director, U.S. Foreign Service Institute, and James Baker, Former FBI General Counsel, Are Interviewed About Trump's Impeachment; "Dark Waters," a New Film About Rob Bilott; Mark Ruffalo, Actor, "Dark Waters," and Rob Bilott, Lawyer, portrayed by Mark Ruffalo in "Dark Waters," are Interviewed About "Dark Waters." Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 14, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AMANPOUR: You heard Senator Kamala Harris say yet another tragedy, yet another school this time in California. We'll be right back.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: The former ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, has been treated poorly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: As America's ousted Ukraine ambassador gets ready to testify, I talk to her colleague, diplomat, Nancy McEldowney, and former chief counsel
for the FBI, Jim Baker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK RUFFALO, ACTOR, "DARK WATERS": These companies, they have all the money, all the time, and they'll use it, trust me. I know. I was one of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The timely, true story of a lawyer who took on the major chemical company DuPont. I'm joined by the attorney, Rob Bilott, and the
award-winning actor who brings him to life, Mark Ruffalo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM FRANKEL, AUTHOR, "THE SURVIVORS": She had told me that my dad is not my biological father.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Former Obama speech writer, Adam Frankel, writes his own story about an explosive family secret and the generational impact of trauma.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Washington is gearing up for its second day of public impeachment hearings on Friday. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says, President Trump
participated in a cover-up that made Nixon's almost look small. But Pelosi also says the jury is still out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: We don't -- even haven't made a decision to impeach. That's what the inquiry is about. And when the committees
decide that, and they will decide what the articles are. But I am saying that what is -- the president has admitted to and says it's perfect, I said
it's perfectly wrong. It's bribery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, on Friday, it's Marie Yovanovitch's turn to testify. She is a career foreign service official who served as ambassador to Ukraine
for the United States starting in August 2016, until she was pushed out in the spring of 2019.
We know that President Trump called Yovanovitch bad news in the famous phone call with Ukraine's president, Zelensky. And according to deputy
assistant secretary of state, George Kent, the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, led a smear campaign against Yovanovitch just before she was
Tomorrow, she'll answer critical questions about her time in Ukraine and her experience with the so-called irregular channel and why she thinks she
was forced out. Joining me now to discuss all of this and to predict or preview what's happening tomorrow, Nancy McEldowney, was a colleague of
Yovanovitch for three decades in the Foreign Service and she served Republican and Democratic administrations, including as ambassador to
Bulgaria and also, as foreign policy adviser on Europe during the Clinton administration. Also joining us, former FBI general counsel, Jim Baker,
who oversaw the launch of the Mueller/Russia investigation.
Welcome, both of you, to the program.
Can I ask you both your take? Instead of who's up and who's down and did Democrats score or Republicans score, I want to ask you something that
struck me, and that was the demeanor and the testimony by these two career foreign service officials, Bill Taylor and George Kent.
It really did take me back to the days before the Trump administration when diplomats were diplomatic and they talked seriously, when foreign policy
and national security was a real matter of huge seriousness and urgency. I just wonder, Nancy and Jim, what you thought of, you know, the atmospherics
that were created on Capitol Hill yesterday.
NANCY MCELDOWNEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, U.S. FOREIGN SERVICE INSTITUTE: Well, my impression was that the two individuals who testified yesterday, Bill
Taylor and George Kent, they comported themselves with enormous professionalism. Their expertise, their commitment to this country and
their commitment to the truth was very much on display, and that was in great relief to what we saw from a number of the Republican questioners who
were challenging them as being politicized, unelected bureaucrats who were trying to impose a political agenda.
I thought the two witnesses yesterday were extremely impressive, extremely credible, and the more they were attacked by others, the better they
AMANPOUR: And, Jim Baker, to you, because I just thought they made it quite clear that this is about foreign policy and vital U.S. national
interests. And it was -- you know, for those of us who are in this business, it was kind of refreshing to see it done with such aplomb and
such, you know, traditional diplomatic professionalism.
JAMES BAKER, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: Yes. I mean, I think put aside everything else, the big [13:05:00] winner, I think, yesterday were the two
witnesses -- the big winners were the two witnesses as well as the, you know, diplomatic service of the United States. I mean, they were so
professional, they were so poised. They answered the questions to the best of their ability. They didn't get ruffled at all. It was a very
And, you know, I just -- as an American, I was very proud of them. As a former government employee, I was very proud of them. And I think they --
you know, they laid it out. They were very believable. As witnesses, trying to tell a story, they were very believable.
Look, they -- it was a long day, and the extent to which the public itself was able to absorb all of that, I don't know, but focusing on how they
presented themselves, I think that, you know, they and the foreign service was really the winner.
AMANPOUR: Now, let's talk about the Republicans who -- obviously, it's in their interests, they're sort of mounting a defense of the president, and
they need to try to, you know, say that what's been alleged is untrue.
They seem to be basing this on a claim that it was all hearsay. The famous comment by Representative Jim Jordan, back and forth with Ambassador Bill
Taylor. We're going to play it and then we're going to talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Ambassador, you weren't on the call, were you? President -- you didn't listen in on President Trump's call and President
TAYLOR: I did not.
JORDAN: You never talked with Chief of Staff Mulvaney?
TAYLOR: I never did?
JORDAN: You never met the president?
TAYLOR: That's correct.
JORDAN: You had three meetings with Zelensky and it didn't come up.
TAYLOR: And two of those, they had never heard of, as far as I know. There was no reason for it to come up.
JORDAN: And President Zelensky never made an announcement. This is what I can't believe. And you're their star witness. You're their first witness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, there's that, but then there's what Bill Taylor further said, which is that a staffer in the embassy in Kiev did actually hear
President Trump discussing the investigation with E.U. ambassador, Sondland. And now, we understand that we've confirmed that a second U.S.
staffer also witnessed and heard that conversation.
One of the staffers will be deposed. Perhaps they both will be deposed. But Nancy, if you can tell me from a sort of firsthand versus hearsay
perspective, how important are, you know, the people who overheard these conversations?
MCELDOWNEY: Well, I think the two staffers who overheard the Sondland conversation while he was in Kiev talking directly with the president about
the investigations, I think that's extremely important that we have two American officials who can testify to that. The fact that Sondland was
speaking on a cell phone, and so, there's probably a transcript in the Russian Intelligence Services as well as several others, is another very
concerning point from security.
But look, Taylor and Kent never said that they talked directly to the president. What they were doing is coming forward and talking about the
fact that they saw American diplomacy being undermined, that they were worried that the Department of State and U.S. foreign policy was being used
as a partisan tool for illegitimate purposes. That was the concern they made.
But as we will see in testimony early next week from Colonel Vindman, who was on the call, from Sondland himself, there are people who have talked
directly to the president. And so, this argument by the Republicans yesterday is shortly going to be debunked.
AMANPOUR: So, let me put some of that to you, Jim Baker, in sort of a different perspective, because you are former FBI lead counsel. You did
launch the Russia/Mueller sort of proceedings and the investigation. How important in this case compared to yours -- and of course, you heard what
Congressman Nunes said, that, you know, the Russia probe was theatrical drama and the Ukraine hearings are a low-rent sequel, something to that
event -- effect.
But Bill Taylor said in public that he kept all his notes. He took copious notes. He kept all his texts. He has all of the evidence of what he saw
and heard and the conversations he had firsthand. Just want to play this little bit in which the Democratic counsel, Daniel Goldman, is talking
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL: Did you take notes of this conversation on September 1st with Ambassador Sondland?
TAYLOR: I did.
GOLDMAND: And did you take notes related to most of the conversations, if not all of them, that you recited in your opening statement?
TAYLOR: All of them, Mr. Goldman.
AMANPOUR: So, Jim Baker, you know, as a lawyer, as a legal counsel, that's pretty critical, right? I mean, it's really important that he had those
BAKER: It's important that he has those notes. Well, he has those notes. The State Department has those [13:10:00] notes. The State Department has
those notes. Congress does not. And I think that's one of the critical things here, that the administration is withholding information and witness
testimony, critical witness testimony, from Congress.
And so, I think the idea that the defense of, you know, the Republican members of Congress is that these people didn't have direct contact with
the president, and so, sort of like why are they there? Well, the reason is that the people who had direct contact with the president are not being
allowed to testify and that, you know, for example, Ambassador Taylor's notes are not being handed over to Congress. You know, did -- Ambassador
Sondland, did he have notes? You know, what exact information does he have?
I think this is building toward an obstruction -- an article of impeachment around obstruction of Congress, that it's Congress', the House of
Representatives in this case, sole responsibility to conduct impeachment. And so, the president's interfering with that. They can't get to the
bottom of it. So, it's a strange defense that they're raising, that the Republican side is raising.
Look, the thing to remember, though, that this is not a criminal case, right? This is different. This is not a trial like people are used to
seeing, either in real life or on TV. This is an impeachment proceeding. And so, it will eventually go to the Senate, if they're -- assuming there
are articles of impeachment issued by the House. It will go to the Senate, and the Senate is going to be looking closely at what the people of the
United States are saying and thinking, and it's going to be in that sense a political judgment on their part.
So, it's relevant -- all of this stuff is relevant with respect to the story, the narrative that the Republican side is trying to get out. But if
one of these witnesses, like Ambassador Bolton or the chief of staff to the president decides to come forward and actually testify, then it's going to
blow a hole in their defense.
AMANPOUR: Yes, because Bolton's reaction was described in detail by Taylor yesterday. He said to his people, have nothing to do with politics, call
the lawyers immediately. But let me just stick with you for one quick point, Jim Baker, for a moment before I turn back to Nancy McEldowney.
People talk about the smoking gun. Do you believe that this witnessing now by apparently two staff members of a phone call between Ambassador Sondland
and President Trump, where they heard him talk about the investigation, is that a critical piece of information and evidence?
BAKER: It's a critical piece of information and evidence, but I don't think it's the smoking gun. We have the rough transcript already in which
the president is talking about this. And I think objectively, it is not a perfect call. It is -- it looks on its four corners like an improper
action by the president and abuse of his power to get a foreign country to investigate an American citizen, and not only an American citizen, but a
political opponent for the purpose of the president enabling himself to stay in power. That's really what he's trying to do.
He abused his power to try to stay in power. We've got the -- you know, we've already got the transcript. That was the -- you know, in the
Watergate era, the transcript that took President Nixon down was the smoking gun. Here, we sort of had that at the start.
I think the only other thing, just real quick, is if some of these other witnesses who have spoken and interacted directly with the president come
forward and say other things, especially with respect to the withholding of the military aid, that's been one of the critical things that the
Republicans have been pointing to. If they come forward and have interesting or useful information about that, that could really change the
tide, I think, with respect to how the Senate thinks about it and how the public thinks about it.
AMANPOUR: Well, it is said by Bill Taylor that Sondland did speak to the - - one of the national security officials, presidential advisers of President Zelensky, and said precisely that. And his testimony, we are
told, will be critical next week.
But I want to turn to Nancy McEldowney, who knows Ambassador Yovanovitch very well, and obviously, who will be front and center in the public
hearings tomorrow. Yovanovitch was not there around this famous phone call and around all this latest. But she was there when she saw the so-called
irregular channels, the private freelancing of foreign policy and personal business interests by, allegedly, Rudy Giuliani and his cronies.
What will we hear from Ambassador Yovanovitch that will be very important to this process going on right now, since she wasn't around for that famous
MCELDOWNEY: That's right. She had been recalled and fired before the phone call itself took place. But what Yovanovitch can speak to is the
fact that for almost a year prior to her removal, there had been a campaign, a concerted and illegitimate campaign that was run at -- by Rudy
Giuliani at the behest of the president with the help of these two henchmen who are [13:15:00] now under indictment to both undermine and smear her,
but also to try to pave the way for their pressure campaign against the Ukrainians.
If you go back and look at the public statements along with the tweets of Rudy Giuliani over the course of many months prior to the time that
Yovanovitch was removed, he's very straightforward about what he's trying to do. He's insisting that the Ukrainians investigate Biden, and she will
be in a position to address those issues because she was aware of them.
And I'll tell you, it's clear to me that Yovanovitch was removed from her job because she was too smart, too honest and too tough. She is someone
who cares about observing American law and making sure that American national security interests are protected, and what was happening was
AMANPOUR: And just to point out, she -- people who know her have said that she first started raising concerns not over military aid or this political
stuff but because these Giuliani cronies, who, as you say, are now under indictment, were trying to beat the system, to enrich themselves
personally, and this was what was the start of what she started to get very upset about.
And then you have President Trump in the following phone call with Zelensky saying -- you know, calling her bad news and saying, well, she's going to
go through some things. And of course, Yovanovitch said that she felt threatened by President Trump. I don't know whether you've talked to her
since, Nancy, but give us a sense of what it means to have a president say those kinds of things, to be told practically in the middle of the night
that you have to come back immediately on the next plane. What does it say to ambassadors and even to whistle-blowers? I know she's not the
whistleblower, but the whistleblower as well.
MCELDOWNEY: Well, for the individual, of course, it's devastating. Imagine being undermined, having your knees cut out from under you while
you're trying to serve your country in difficult and dangerous circumstances. But the larger issue that goes beyond just one individual,
goes beyond these circumstances, is every ambassador is now feeling vulnerable. People across the board who thought they knew what they were
doing in carrying out American foreign policy, representing our country's best interests, are now questioning, what should I be doing?
MCELDOWNEY: The other side of it, and you've mentioned the whistleblower, when Yovanovitch was told by the Ukrainian interior minister, the person
who's responsible for the intelligence forces as well as law enforcement, to watch your back and that you were going to undergo some things, I think
it's quite likely that they are physical safety was at threat. And every time the president or one of his supporters demands that the whistleblower
be unmasked, he drives this push that is putting people's safety and, indeed, their lives at risk. It is so irresponsible.
AMANPOUR: There is so much more to talk about and we will have you back. Thank you, both of you, very much. Jim Baker, former FBI lead counsel, and
also Nancy McEldowney, former ambassador. Thank you for being with us.
Now, the impeachment inquiry would not be under way if it weren't for the whistleblower, who first raised concerns about wrongdoing. The CIA officer
risked his career when he decided to sound the alarm bells and make sure the truth came to light.
A new film starring award-winning actor and activist, Mark Ruffalo, is a timely, true story of that kind of bravery, albeit it in a different lane.
"Dark Waters" is about Rob Bilott, who took on the chemical company DuPont after one of its West Virginia plants leaked a chemical known as PFOA into
the water supply. A corporate defense lawyer for years who then decided to take on an environmental suit that would expose wrongdoing but also upend
his entire career.
I've been speaking to Rob Bilott and to the actor, Mark Ruffalo, in New York about this true and very timely investigation.
Gentlemen, welcome to the program.
ROB BILOTT, LAWYER, PORTRAYED BY MARK RUFFALO IN "DARK WATERS": Thank you.
MARK RUFFALO, ACTOR, "DARK WATERS": Thank you for having us.
BILOTT: Thank you for having us.
AMANPOUR: Mark Ruffalo, can I ask you first, because this isn't the first investigative sort of activist crusading character based on a true figure
who you've portrayed. There's this lawyer in this particular film, but then, of course, you were the investigative reporter in "Spotlight," about
unveiling and uncovering the pedophile crisis in the catholic church in Boston. What about these particular dramas attracts you?
RUFFALO: You know, I've always kind of been -- I'm an activist. I was looking for stories that would transcend that label of activism and let us
talk about things in [13:20:00] a way that's non-partisan, but the important issues that affect all of our lives.
AMANPOUR: Does this film for you fit into the current political realities in Washington and around the country?
RUFFALO: Yes. And I think it's systemic. It's not just PFOA, per se. It is PFOA, but we're dealing with a whole regulatory system that transcends
even one particular administration. This has been going on for 40 years. And the EPA has like not been there. They just have not been around.
If you measure a society's well-being by their GDP, then the health of the people are going to always be secondary and we're seeing the manifestation
of that, and that's what this movie's about.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to turn to the real-life lawyer who you portray, Mark. And sitting next to you is Rob Bilott. Explain to me the chemical
that Mark just referred to with its anagram, and then, you know, talk to me about how you turned from being a lawyer in a company that defended these
chemical companies to actually taking one of them on in this case?
BILOTT: Yes. I mean, the chemical we're talking about is called PFOA. It's a mouthful. Perfluorooctanoic acid. It's a purely manmade synthetic
chemical, didn't exist on the planet prior to World War II. Invented right after the war, went out into the environment as early as the 1950s, and has
been pumped out into the environment, into a vast array of different consumer products for the last 50, 60 years.
And only just now, through some of the litigation out in West Virginia and what we've been doing over the last 20 years to try to elevate awareness of
this, are people really finding out about the scope of the contamination from this chemical.
You know, when I first got involved in this, in 1998, I was working at a law firm in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I'm still working. I've been there 29
years. Where I got a call one day from a gentleman on the other end of the line claiming to be a farmer out in West Virginia with cows that were
dying. I mean, I had been working in the environmental world, helping chemical companies and other corporate clients comply with all of the
different federal and state laws, so I figured I could help him. This seemed like a rather straightforward case. But we learned it was a lot
more complicated than that.
AMANPOUR: I want to actually play a clip from the film where the farmer is talking to you about the case, and it's not like he thinks that, you know,
you're really on his side yet. So, let's just play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should see what they've done.
RUFFALO: You're right, they should. And it kills me that they won't. But that would mean going to trial and proving that C8 killed your cows. And
every scientist who knows anything about any of this already works for these chemical companies. That's not an accident, Earl. Earl, these
companies, they have all the money, all the time, and they'll use it, trust me. I know. I was one of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're still one of them.
RUFFALO: You can't be serious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that is where you, you know, see the true depth of his skepticism and his disappointment.
RUFFALO: Rob went to work the best way that he could prove to Earl that he was on his side was just to simply do his work, but that took a long time.
There was, you know, 6 million documents that were dumped on Rob, and it just took a long time to get through all those. So, it felt like it was
very slow for Earl.
You know, the best that he could get was, you know, maybe a settlement. And he had a kind of righteousness in him that he didn't care about that or
he didn't care about the money. He wanted justice.
AMANPOUR: The company in question, DuPont, has obviously criticized the film, saying, "That it is not based on true facts," and they have always
denied any responsibility. Are you satisfied the film is based on true facts and does tell your story faithfully? And what can you tell us about,
you know, how they constantly denied it and the amount of work you had -- what did you have to do to prove what eventually you proved?
BILOTT: You know, unfortunately, this is something I've been dealing with now for almost two decades. And you know, this argument that the evidence
just isn't there and the science isn't there and this is all being made [13:25:00] up, that this chemical is not a problem, it's not posing health
risks, and that's what I've been trying to deal with for the last 20 years and to try to find a way to bring out to the public the truth, the
information that we do know about what the history of this chemical is, what this community in West Virginia and Ohio had to go through to get this
information out to the rest of us.
You know, we're talking about something that's now all over the planet, and we have this community to thank for being able to get this information out
to us. And you know, I'm really hopeful that with the movie coming out, and I've also done a book called "Exposure" to try to summarize this
history for people so that when you hear this argument, that this isn't based on real facts, that you know, this chemical doesn't really present
any harm and there's no science to back it up, you can go look for yourself.
You can watch this film. You can read the book. You could look at this information that's going to be made available.
RUFFALO: You know, it's a very general statement to say that, you know, it isn't true and the science isn't real. But I would invite them to, you
know, lay out point by point what they say isn't true. The 70,000 people? The biggest health study in the history of mankind that proved, that linked
this chemical to six major diseases? That didn't happen? It was a study that they agreed to do themselves. I mean, it was an independent study
that they agreed to do.
It's just, come on, bring it on. Bring us the facts that you think are refutable, and we'll discuss those one by one with you.
AMANPOUR: And I mean, look, everybody knows the term Teflon, right? And this is what the chemical was also used for when it moved from a military
use to a household use. And we hear, according to these studies, that this PFOA is believed to be in the blood of practically every living creature on
this planet, some 99 percent of all human beings. I mean, it goes beyond these companies. It goes beyond America. It goes all around the world.
But first I want to play another clip where, Mark, your character, Rob, is talking to his wife, your wife, and you're a little bit down on the system.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNE HATHAWAY, ACTOR, "DARK WATERS": They can't go back on everything.
RUFFALO: Well, they're a titan of industry. I mean, they can do whatever the hell they want. Nothing else matters.
HATHAWAY: They can fight you all you want. It doesn't take away from what you've done.
RUFFALO: Of course, it does. That's exactly what it does. They want to show the world it's no use fighting. Look, everybody, even he can't crack
the maze and he's helped build it. The system is rigged. They want us to think it will protect us, but that's a lie. We protect us. We do. Nobody
else. Not the companies, not the scientists, not the government. Us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Again, it's very powerful, and it's very, very relevant in all sorts of ways to the current political climate we're in. The Democrats,
particularly, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders on the more progressive front, are talking about the system being rigged against the American
people in very, very many avenues. Do you believe, Mark and Rob, still that the system is rigged? And what can be done about it?
RUFFALO: Look, we're seeing this happen through all the different industries, whether it's pharmaceuticals and being lied to about how
addictive opioids were to Monsanto and the harmless chemicals, harmless, that they're putting on our foods, to even the fossil fuel industry telling
us that fracking doesn't harm water. It's everywhere.
And both sides feel this in America. You know, part of Trump's whole appeal was that the system was rigged against those people and that he was
going to drain the swamp, OK? That's the same concept. What we're sensing is, is we have a government that isn't responsive to the needs of the
people and has become slavish to a corporate system where our democracy is in service of an economic capitalist system, instead of that system being
in service to our democracy.
And so, yes, it has been rigged. It has been rigged because there's so much money in politics. I'll tell you one thing, if you wanted to fix this
problem really quickly, you have the state have a stake in our health care. If the state had a stake in our health care, then this stuff would get
cleaned up really fast, because right now, we're getting poisoned. We have to pay to make ourselves healthy. And the state just keeps taking money
from both sides to keep that vicious circle going.
AMANPOUR: So, let me follow up with you, then, Rob, on that. Because, here we are in a real world where this contamination, as you point out, I
think the company knew about it for decades and did not remove people from harm's way and moved the dumping of the sludge from one place to another
and kept harming people until you came into this story.
But before we had Erin Brockovich and that famous story about the contaminated ground water there, and since we've had Flint, Michigan, and
the lead in the water. This keeps going on.
And let's not forget the brave whistleblowers for the tobacco crisis, where the tobacco companies knew for decades that this was poisonous and
addictive and did nothing about it. So --
RUFFALO: Not to mention Exxon and climate change.
AMANPOUR: All of that. So, Rob, as a litigator and as an activist, because you got involved to try to fix this, how does the system change,
beyond what Mark just said?
BILOTT: Well, I think the first step is people have to be aware of how the system really works. And I think one of the things that you see with the
film and what I try to explain also in my book is how this system has been set up.
Because we're talking about a system where, in essence, the people who are exposed, the people who have been unwillingly and unwittingly knowing --
didn't even know they're being exposed to this, they're told through our legal system they are the ones who have the burden to come forward and
prove how that chemical is hurting them.
And the company can sit back and say, we don't have to prove anything. And how does a community, how does a poor, rural community that finds out
they've got massive contamination in their water, how do they get the money to come forward and create these massive health studies that the companies
are going to say are needed in order to prove these things?
You know, we were fortunate in order that we were able to set up a massive study like that. We were able to actually do that and actually able to
prove that this chemical was linked with these diseases. And even after that, this chemical still remains unregulated in the United States on the
BILOTT: We still are not able to push that through the system of how we regulate chemicals in the United States. You know, this is -- we probably
have more information about PFOA than any other chemical at this point.
We have massive human health studies, animal studies going back decades. We now know it's in the water all over the country.
Yet, we still don't have a federal regulatory limit on this chemical. States are being told they have to move forward on their own, and they're
trying to take steps to protect their citizens.
AMANPOUR: That is truly shocking that there is no federal regulation on this thing, and it's still out there. It's really shocking to hear that.
But I do want to say also, just a comment that obviously these communities who have been most harmed are the least privileged communities. It's not
an accident that this is going into their backyards and it's happening to them.
These are the people who have created this political revolution that we're seeing now of populism and the backlash against privilege and the system
being rigged. So, I just wanted to use that as a bridge, mark, into just talking about the Hulk. Because many of your fans will know you as the
Hulk from films, obviously.
And you responded to one of these politicians who's ridden the populous waive and that is Boris Johnson, the current prime minister of Great
Britain. In September, he compared the U.K. leaving the E.U. to the green superhero, that's you, saying Hulk always escaped, no matter how tight the
bounty seemed to be.
Boris Johnson, you said, forgets that the hulk only fights for the good of the whole. Mad and strong can also be dense and destructive. The Hulk
works best when he's in unison with a team and is a disaster when he's alone.
Plus, he's always got Dr. Banner with science and reason. I think that's really important given what we're talking about right now, because these
are the people who say, you know, experts don't matter, facts don't matter, science doesn't matter, evidence doesn't matter.
RUFFALO: Some of them are. So, we have two competing ideas of populism right now.
You have Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and progressive populism that basically says we have to listen to the science, we have to be inclusive,
facts do matter, OK?
Then competing is, is nationalism or white nationalism, anti-immigration, populism that says the science does not matter, that experts don't matter,
but we're going to tear the system down. And so, those are the two competing philosophical, ideological, political counterpoints right now
that we're actually in debate about.
And hopefully, the one that believes in science and inclusion and fairness and working class and protecting working class people against the
corporate, dominant corporate structure, that will win out but we will see.
AMANPOUR: We will see, indeed. Mark Ruffalo, thank you so much. And Rob Bilott, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
BILOTT: Thank you.
RUFFALO: Thank you for having us.
BILOTT: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, that is an important reminder of what happens when environmental protections and all other protections and regulations fall by
Now we move to an incredible personal story. When Adam Frankel was 25, he discovered something shocking -- he wasn't his father's biological son, a
secret his mother had kept from him his whole life.
At the time, Frankel was making waves as a talented young speechwriter for President Obama, but the revelation upended his world and fueled a search
for truth which exposed generations of family trauma.
Frankel's debut book "The Survivors" captures his experience, and he sat down with our Walter Isaacson to discuss this powerful memoir.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNNI CONTRIBUTOR: Adam, welcome to the show.
ADAM FRANKEL, AUTHOR, THE SURVIVORS: Thank you for having me.
ISAACSON: You know I love this book. In the end, I cried, which I think you've now put as a blurb, but it's a very emotional book. But it starts
politically, you getting a phone call saying, hey, come be a speechwriter for Barack Obama. Who called you and how'd that happen?
FRANKEL: I'd been waiting for that call for months. That was Jon Favreau, a friend of mine from the Kerry campaign. And after John Kerry lost, Favs
went to be a speechwriter for Barack Obama, I moved back to New York City.
And when Barack Obama was deciding whether he'd run for president, I let Favs know I'd do anything I could to join the campaign and we exchanged
some e-mails about it. And that call said, he said you know what, Gibbs gave me a little budget to hire a deputy, why don't you move to Chicago and
we'll figure things out? And that was as formal as things got with Favs and it was good enough for me.
ISAACSON: You know, you're the only person I can imagine who grew up as a little kid saying I want to grow up and be a presidential speechwriter.
FRANKEL: I'm the only person I know.
ISAACSON: You even ghosted Ted Sorensen's book, who was a great speechwriter. So you really wanted this. Where were you when you got that
FRANKEL: Yes, I was walking out of a therapist's office with my mother in lower Manhattan. Months before, she had told me that my dad is not my
biological father and that this was a secret that she had kept from me and my dad and my whole family.
And we had stopped speaking. I was furious. And I had stopped talking to her, which precipitated a break of some sort. And I found her in her -- in
our -- in the apartment I had grown up in, virtually unresponsive, rocking in her chair, particularly upsetting still to think about.
And didn't know what to do. And I called my uncle, my mother's brother, and he drove from Philly into the city, and we took her to a psychiatric
And during the months to come, we -- for years to come, we had a very difficult relationship. And in those months, we barely spoke.
And so, my mother at one point pleaded with me to go see a therapist with her to try and repair our relationship. And truthfully, I didn't want to
go, but I was worried about her.
I love my mother, and I knew that it was her safety and her health that was on the line. And so I went with her. And we're walking out of that
therapist's office and Favs calls and says, come up to Chicago.
That call was perfect timing, because I never wanted to do something more, and I'd never wanted to be in New York City less.
ISAACSON: Tell us the back story, because it's your mother who decides to have a child with another man and keep it secret, and you're that child.
FRANKEL: Yes. Well, it took me many years to figure out that truth. But when I left the White House where I had essentially had an identity crisis
in the White House as I started facing this, and I started asking questions.
I went back to my mother. I went back to my biological father, who was a presence in my life growing up.
I'd known him my whole life, but as a family friend, not as my biological father. During one lunch with Jason Black, which is the name I give to my
biological father in the book, he said to me you were wanted. I said, what does that mean?
He said you were a planned pregnancy. Now, bear in mind, he was married at the time and had a family. My mother was married to my dad.
So, I'm thinking, what? I don't even know what to make -- I don't know how to make sense of that.
I go to my mother, and I say, Jason said that I was a planned pregnancy. Why did you want to have me?
And my mom says, well, I wouldn't say it was my idea. OK. You know, I still -- even telling you this, Walter, I can't even believe this is my
I mean, I still have moments where I can't believe it. And so, I went back to Jason and I said, I had just one question for him. I said why, why did
you want to have me?
And he kind of leaned back. We were at the Carlisle on the Upper East Side. This is the place he insisted on having our lunches.
He said, well, you know, the idea of having a secret baby appealed to my sense of mystery and the erotic.
ISAACSON: And you have to go back to your mother's parents in some ways to start unpeeling this onion.
FRANKEL: I wanted to understand my mom and how this had happened. And my mother, who struggled with depression and mental health issues all of her
And as part of this process of trying to understand how this happened, I went back. I went back to her parents, who were holocaust survivors.
My grandfather -- my mother's father -- was at various Nazi concentration camps, Labor camps, ultimately ending the war at Dakkal. My mother's
mother was in the woods for much of the war with the Jewish resistance and Russian partisans with a couple of her brothers.
And I grew up with this legacy. I mean, a family gathering during my childhood are just sort of immersed in the holocaust and holocaust stories.
My grandparents had thick accents.
And when I was a child, I go see them. Many of my grandparents' friends were holocaust survivors. All of their relatives were holocaust -- in this
holocaust diaspora essentially in Connecticut. And the trauma never left them.
And my grandfather, who passed away only few years ago in his 90s was an extraordinary human being. I revered the man, and --
ISAACSON: He was a watchmaker.
FRANKEL: He was a watchmaker, yes.
ISAACSON: And you went up to see him once when he's fiddling, and he says something about, be better to your mother. And he didn't know this story,
FRANKEL: That was very difficult for me and our family. I mean, the truth that my mother shared with me was something that I didn't feel like I could
tell anyone else, because my dad didn't know.
And it was almost a decade before I would talk to my dad about any of this. And as far as I was concerned, if my dad doesn't know about this, nobody
else can know.
In that initial conversation where my mother had shared this information, I asked if my dad knew and she said, oh, no, it would break his heart. And I
thought she was very sure she was right.
And so, nobody knew. My mom's siblings didn't know. Her parents, her father certainly didn't -- could never know.
I mean, in that conversation, I asked my mom, does Zada know, which is what I call my grandfather, and she was visibly shaken by the thought of her
father finding out. But what happened was, after this revelation was made, my mother and my relationship deteriorated, and her family saw that
deterioration, but they didn't know the reason.
And they saw that I didn't want to spend time with her, but they didn't know the reason. Even later, I did end up confiding in my mom's siblings.
But none of us told my grandfather, because you know, look, this is a man who had been separated from his family in a concentration camp. This is a
man who nearly lost his entire family in the holocaust, who lost all of his friends in the holocaust, who never saw his own mother, again, after being
separated from her at that concentration camp.
And in his 90s, he would tear up at the mere mention of his mother. You know, what am I supposed to say to this man? He wouldn't -- so, I did -- I
wanted to protect my mom's relationship with him, too.
I knew that if I had shared any of this with him, I didn't know what he would do or how he would respond. I thought he would come down very hard
on my mother and their relationship was so important to my mom. And he was in his 90s and I wasn't going to do that to her.
So, he continued, even until his final years, to say, why won't you be a better son to your mother? You're not being a good son.
And you know, as he lay in a hospital bed after a catastrophic stroke at the end, and I had a few minutes alone with him, one of the things I said
to him, one of the things I said was you're my hero, Zeda, because he is. But I also said, you know, Ellen -- his daughter, my mom -- she'll be OK.
We'll take care of her. I'll take care of her, OK?
And I, you know -- but it was tough. I mean, part of what was so challenging about this whole experience is the way that trauma can be
passed down through the generations, the way it reverberates and strains relationships and creates all kinds of after effects that can't be
ISAACSON: So, you think the trauma of the holocaust is passed down and was part of your family story?
FRANKEL: I do. Look, it's not a one to one. I don't think that one can draw a straight line with these things, but we now know more about trauma
than we've ever known in history.
We know more about intergenerational trauma than we've ever known. You know, there is a woman named Rachel Yehuda, who I believe has appeared on
FRANKEL: At Mount Sinai and she's done groundbreaking research in an emerging field called epigenetics. And the epigenome is a lair of
information that sits on top of the gene and it can be affected by external factors like your diet, pollution and chronic stress.
ISAACSON: And trauma.
FRANKEL: And chronic stress and trauma, exactly. And one of the things that she's found is that children of holocaust survivors are three times
more likely to display symptoms of PTSD when exposed to traumatic events than demographically similar people who are not children of holocaust
She's shown that children of women who were pregnant on 9/11 and at ground zero, near ground zero, have displayed similarly low levels of a stress
hormone called cortisol, as their parents -- also consistent with PTSD.
So, we know that trauma can leave a genetic impact. How it's passed down is a subject of some scrutiny and discussion and debate, but we know that.
We also know through other research that the way that families respond to trauma can have impacts on the likelihood of their children developing
mental health issues.
ISAACSON: What happened when you told the father who raised you this secret?
FRANKEL: So, after almost a decade, I decided that it was time. And I called him up and I said I'd like to come see you tomorrow. And he said,
you know, why, what's it about? And I said I'd rather not get into it on the phone.
You know, telling your dad that you're not his son doesn't seem like something you do over a phone call. And he said all right, now you're
making me worried. So, but I take the train up to see him, picks me up from the train station, and I start to get choked up in the car.
We get back to his house, and I just start right in. And I say, you know, do you remember me telling you, dad, many years ago, that my uncle and I
took my mom to the psychiatric emergency room? He said, yes, he remembered that.
I said, well, what I didn't tell you at the time was that the reason that we had to do that was because I'd stopped speaking to her, and the reason I
had stopped speaking to her was because she told me that I'm Jason Black's biological son.
And I mean, I'm bawling at this point. I can barely get the words out. And through my tears, I hear him say uh huh, uh huh, I know, I know. And I
just -- I couldn't believe it. What, you know? What do you mean you know?
And he said, I've always known it was possible. And I made a decision a long time ago, Adam, that it doesn't matter one way or another, that you're
my son, no matter what.
And I was just, you know, a puddle of tears, and gave him the biggest hug and the longest hug that I'd ever hugged anybody in my life and just held
onto him close. And then he said is that all? Is that all you wanted to talk about?
You know, now I know not to come to you for a blood transfusion. So he always knew how to lighten the mood.
But we then talked about it. And he had had suspicions for the same reason that looking back I did that were latent. I don't look anything like my
My biological father was a presence in my life. He always kind of hovered around my childhood, coming to birthday parties and such, even when my dad
didn't want him there, my mom would insist on him being there.
And you know, founding our relationship on that level of honesty and truth, we're closer now than we've ever been in my life.
ISAACSON: So, what was it like when you told Barack Obama?
FRANKEL: I went to Barack Obama's personal offices about a year ago. And you know, he asked, what are you up to? And I said, oh, I'm working on
this book. Whoa, what's it about?
So, I start to tell him. And I should just say, you know, I was on his staff for a number of years, and I was a staffer. He was the president.
You know, the time we were spending together virtually all of it with only a small number of exceptions, it was all business. There was work to be
We were working on major policy addresses. We were working on major speeches. That's what our conversations were about.
But this one was different. This one I shared with him all of this, and I've got to tell you, I was very moved by his interest, by his empathy.
When I told him I was writing about intergenerational trauma, he said sounds like a real beach read.
ISAACSON: Yes, right.
FRANKEL: But I've got to tell you, I was very moved by it.
ISAACSON: What did your mother say to you when you said, I'm now going to write a book about it?
FRANKEL: She was very uncomfortable with this book. Her family has been very uncomfortable with this book.
But she also knew how important it was to me, to my processing all of this. I think that, look, we've had a strained relationship. Anyone who reads
the book will know that.
But I do appreciate that, that she knows that she did something that caused me a lot of pain, and she felt deeply that I should do whatever I needed to
do to work through that. So, we had a lot of conversations, many of which I write about in the book.
I'm very intimate, personal information that is shared. And she was supportive, and she knew that I could include it.
And it made her very uncomfortable, but she did support it. She never asked me not to write it.
ISAACSON: And then what happened when you sent her the galleys of the book?
FRANKEL: I waited. I waited. I mean, that was what I was dreading the whole time I was writing this book. I was dreading her reaction.
I should say as context, part of the reason why I dreaded it is because of her background with mental health issues. And I have seen her spiral.
I've seen -- I've been scarred by that experience.
You know, as I write in the book, just several years ago at a lunch in Brooklyn, she told me that she would commit suicide after she spent down
her savings. I mean, I've heard these things from my mother.
So I was deeply concerned about it. But I didn't hear anything, so I called her up, and she said, oh, how are you doing? What's going on?
And I'm like, so, you know, have you started reading the book? Oh, yes, I finished it. Oh, OK, do you want to talk about it? No, Adam, unless you
So, that was her initial response. She also said I'm very proud of you, which I thought was very gracious. She -- subsequently, we had a long
conversation where she expressed in different terms displeasure about some of what I include.
So, it's been a range. And look, I get it. And I even understand and -- it is extraordinarily personal. This book is as raw and honest as I know
how to be, and a lot of that is about her. And so, that's difficult.
But I think and hope that she understands that this was important not just for my healing but our healing, my relationship with her, and as a family,
and also more broadly. I mean, the revelations like the one I've experienced people are having all the time with 23 and Me and Ancestry.com.
This is an explosion of these sorts of paternity and other kinds of family revelations. I came across a term called late discovery adoptee, which are
people who find out late in life that they were adopted or donor conceived and the emotional journey of that was very familiar to me.
And I read their testimonials. And a lot of it felt very similar. And so, a big part of why I wrote the book was to show people that you're not alone
if you're going through this and that there is a path.
And also show people that trauma has ripple effects across the generations, that, look, in my family, it's holocaust trauma, but there are all kinds of
trauma, right? As I was talking to researchers, I talked to a professor at Harvard Medical School who writes about post-traumatic slavery syndrome and
the physiological risks of African-Americans that white people don't face in this country, due to racism and the legacy of Jim Crow and slavery.
There are people who write about the soul wound in the Native American community, the legacy of the genocide as it contributes to the host of
social and economic challenges in native communities. This is real.
And I think that when we can kind of look at it that way and understand it and situate our own experience and our own trauma in a sort of broader
historical lens, it doesn't make it go away, but at least for me it helped me make sense of it and understand it and helped me move on. And I hope it
does that for other people, too.
ISAACSON: Adam Frankel, thank you for being with us.
FRANKEL: Thank you, Walter.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: That is a riveting story. And Adam Frankel's book, "The Survivors," is out.
But 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. . (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
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We have breaking news out of California. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington.
That tragic school shooting just north of Los Angeles in Santa Clarita has turned deadly.