Return to Transcripts main page
America Cannot Afford Another Trump Term; Uniting Democrats to Fight Against Trump; Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House Speaker, is Interviewed About 2020 Election; President Volodymyr Zelensky Rejects Trump's Claim; Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukrainian President, is Interviewed About Trump and Ukraine. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 17, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Two exclusive interviews.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I can't even envision a situation where he could be reelected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells me why Democrats must defeat the president in 2020.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Ukraine, I told him very honestly and I was very open with him. I told him that we fight with corruption.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The Ukrainian president fights back against Trump's charges of corruption and opens up for the first time on television about getting
caught in what he calls the impeachment soap opera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything that is admirable about Amazon is also something that we should fear about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A new PBS documentary investigates the retail juggernaut re- shaping our world.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
While a crowded field of Democrats make their pitch to voters in Nevada next, Senator Bernie Sanders seems to be breaking away from the pack, as
his progressive base continues to turn out in force and the moderate vote remains split. Among adding to competition, the former New York mayor,
Michael Bloomberg's sudden rise in the national polls. So, who will unite the Democrats to fight Trump?
It's a key question for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who masterminded the Democrats winning strategy for the 2018 midterms. We sat down for an
exclusive interview at the Munich Security Conference to discuss the election and why she says the U.S. cannot afford another Trump term. She
also saw her trip to Europe as an effort to talk up the Transatlantic Alliance, despite Trump's America first policy. Here's our conversation.
Speaker Pelosi, welcome to the program.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): My pleasure to be here.
AMANPOUR: So, the title of this Munich Security Conference is Westlessness. In itself, it's a pretty big dig. I wonder if it's a dig at
the whole West? Is it a dig at the United States under this administration? What do you take from that title?
PELOSI: Well, what I take from the title is we need to reassure the world that Western values are alive and well and that the unity that we have is
real. We have one of the largest delegations ever, bipartisan, Democrats and Republicans, Senate and House, large delegation to say we're for
multilateralism, our commitment to NATO is ironclad, and that is our message of unity with Western Europe.
AMANPOUR: So, opening the conference, the president of Germany, where we are right now, criticized the United States for, as he put it, neglecting
its international duties, and he warned of a "increasingly destructive dynamic in world politics." I mean, he's not pulling his punches.
PELOSI: Well, I have -- this is the third speech by the German president that I've heard in recent weeks, while yesterday's presentation was very
powerful. And some -- perhaps some elements of truth as to his attitude toward it, but I see everything as an opportunity and we see this as our
opportunity to say we are committed to multilateralism and the Transatlantic Alliance, even though there may be some other voices in the
U.S. that may raise some doubts.
AMANPOUR: So, you're trying to reassure traditional allies of the traditional alliance and multilateralism. I wonder what you make of
Secretary of State Pompeo who also spoke and he said, you know, reports of the death of the Transatlantic Alliance are grossly overexaggerated.
PELOSI: I agree. And so, that was, hopefully, I believe, a sincere statement, don't take certain things with more weight than what I'm saying
AMANPOUR: It's interesting, because you feel a little bit of a change, the top diplomat of the United States coming here and saying that to Europeans
at a title called Westlessness. It is interesting. But at the same time, we read -- and of course, you know this better than I do, the administration,
the White House, is threatening to cut foreign aid, for instance, this foreign aid budget and its international budget by about 21 percent, if I'm
What signal does that send? I mean, on the one hand, it's all alive and well, this Transatlantic experience, but we're cutting a lot of meat and
PELOSI: Well, let me assert the role of Congress in both situations. Here, the Trump administration is trying to give a comfort level to statements
that were made by the president. And we are here, Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, to say our commitment to NATO is ironclad, I
In terms of the budget, the Congress will weigh in on it. They've cut $10 billion when you talk about development assistance, when you talk about
climate crisis. Name any subject, it's cut and they're including CDC by 19 percent of their budget, which is the agency to fight the coronavirus. So,
it doesn't make sense. But I do believe there will be bipartisan support, House and Senate, to get rid of most of those cuts. Hopefully all of them
and perhaps have some increases, because the soft power of our diplomacy is very important in keeping the peace.
And that's our first responsibility, to protect and defend the American people. Certainly, to be strong militarily, but also to alleviate poverty,
eradicate disease, invest in development and end the fury of despair that exist in some places that can cause violence.
AMANPOUR: And of course, the president of Ukraine has been speaking and I've spoken to him and there was a bipartisan delegation that went to Kiev
to re-state America's strong support for Ukraine.
PELOSI: Yes. Yesterday.
AMANPOUR: Of course, he's been caught up in the whole impeachment drama. The Senate has said, let's move past impeachment and get really down to the
nitty-gritty of supporting Ukraine, it's very important for Europe, for the United States, for everything.
PELOSI: Well, we all -- that was the bipartisan appropriation, was to give that assistance to the Ukraine in their fight against Russian aggression.
That money now has gone. It would not have gone when it did without the whistle-blower. But not to get too bogged down in the past, the support
that we have for Ukraine is in our national security interest and what the president did was undermining our national security.
AMANPOUR: When you say not to get too bogged down in the past, do you believe that you, the country, is past this impeachment, now that the
acquittal has happened, that you are moving on?
PELOSI: Well, the president may have been acquitted by the Senate which didn't have the courage to honor its oath of office on the Republican side,
but he will never be vindicated from this. The other part of that is that we will continue to honor our oath of office to protect and defend the
constitution. So, we're in the courts to fight any assault on the constitution from the administration. That doesn't relate to impeachment,
it just relates to honoring the constitution. But that's more of an issue for at home.
We have been working, we have 275 bipartisan bills on Mitch McConnell's desk. We wish he would take them up, whether it's gun violence, protection,
this is a bullet I always wear that's very important --
AMANPOUR: Oh, is it?
PELOSI: -- in order for us to end gun violence in our country, whether it's equal pay for equal work, whether it's -- there's a long array of
important initiatives, again, to protect our health care, which was our campaign promise. We said we were going to lower the cost of health care by
lowering the cost of prescription drugs and we've passed that. That we're going to raise paychecks by building the infrastructure of America, and
we're in the process of doing that. And that we had cleaner government.
I think on the first two we might get some support from the administration, lower health care, prescription drug costs, build the infrastructure.
Cleaner government, I don't think there's any way.
AMANPOUR: Well, you've led me into my next question then, and that is the issue of the Department of Justice. As you know, obviously, because it
involves the House, because I believe attorney general is coming to the House to testify at the end of March. Where does the House stand on the
rule of law regarding the direct intervention, the president's and his attorney general's in trying to lower the sentences of friends of the
president, whether it be Roger Stone or maybe even Michael Flynn?
PELOSI: Well, as you know, I don't criticize the president overseas. I state some facts. But the House will be -- we do have Attorney General Barr
coming before the Congress at the end of March. That's when he can come. So, the Judiciary Committee is accommodating that. But the rule of law must
be upheld. If we relax that, then we have lost everything. No one is above the law.
AMANPOUR: Is the rule of law at risk even after the impeachment, after the acquittal? I mean, you know --
PELOSI: No. I mean, we have to uphold the rule of law. The president does not necessarily believe that, but, you know, again, I'll save that
interview for when we're at home. But certainly, the president of the United States weighing in with a tweet on a case that directly involves him
is not in keeping with the rule of law.
AMANPOUR: You gave me a lovely show and tell, an amazingly dramatic bracelet you have and sometimes I like to show pictures. This really was
one for the ages.
PELOSI: It was on the front page of "The New York Times." I didn't even see it.
AMANPOUR: And everywhere. It went sort of viral.
PELOSI: You know, I saw it a lot of other places. Yes.
AMANPOUR: I just want to ask you, did Vice President Pence -- I mean, he's showing remarkable discipline by not looking at you. Did he say anything?
PELOSI: No, no. He may not have even known. He was just looking straight at the president. But the president -- again, I was very disappointed in
the fact that the president used the chamber of the House of Representatives, the people's house as a backdrop for a reality show, doing
some things that are not appropriate, including misrepresenting the facts. But in addition to that, giving the presidential medal to Rush Limbaugh.
But that's something he should do in his own office.
We don't go over there and say, knock, knock, we've come to do our work in your office. He shouldn't be doing that in the House, especially something
so inappropriate. Quite frankly, when he started talking about a person so respected in our country, diagnosed with cancer, we thought he was going to
be talking about John Lewis. And even if he's talking about Rush Limbaugh - -
AMANPOUR: The great congressman civil rights leader.
PELOSI: Civil rights leader, yes. And even talking about Rush Limbaugh as being sick, he has our sympathy, but the medal of freedom, no. But in any
AMANPOUR: Did the president refuse to shake your hand?
PELOSI: He didn't shake it when I extended it. I don't know what you call that. But in any event, that had nothing to do with my tearing up the State
of the Union Address. My tearing up had to do with I thought if I could find a page that doesn't have a falsehood on it, I'll spare it, but I
couldn't find that.
I almost did when he had -- the soldier that was coming home that was so beautiful, but get back to the bottom of the page, and there he goes again.
AMANPOUR: I wonder whether it was the opening salvo in a new relationship with the White House or an opening salvo in an election campaign. I guess
because the president himself is out and loud and proud about being, you know, antiestablishment and a self-declared disrupter. And the opposition,
yourself and the others, have essentially, by and large, played by the rules. Now, you know there are members of your own party who thought you
shouldn't have sunk to that level.
PELOSI: A few, a few.
PELOSI: I mean, a few like to say that. But -- and they tell me what their wives think.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that's what I'm asking you. Are you giving a signal that the Democrats will fight back hard, that you will not be constrained by
what you believe to be insurgent behavior on the other side and that this is, you know, a time to go mano a mano?
PELOSI: Well, let me say this. I had no intention of doing that when we went to the State of the Union. That was well into a passive assertive.
Now, I'm a speed reader, so I was reading ahead. I knew what was there.
And I got past like about a third of it and I thought, this is terrible. And (INAUDIBLE) on a couple of pages thinking I ought to remember what's on
this page and on this page and then I realized that almost every page had something in it that was objectionable.
So, it wasn't a planned thing, but it was -- one of my disappointments is the fact that with all that we have done legislatively, whether it's equal
pay for equal work, raising the minimum wage, gun violence protection, issues that relate to our children, the list goes on, climate action now,
we have very little press on it. And it seems that if you want to get press, you have to get attention.
So, I thought well, let's get attention on the fact that what he said here today was not true. Now, I'm departing from my offshore -- not criticizing
the president offshore. But when you ask about the -- I'm not talking about him personally. I'm just talking about his State of the Union Address.
AMANPOUR: I understand. What about, though, the fact that the president seems liberated -- and this is did democratic politics, so I'm not asking
you to criticize here. But he was acquitted, his poll ratings are high --
PELOSI: There was no acquittal.
AMANPOUR: By the Senate.
PELOSI: You can't have an acquittal unless a trial. And you can't have a trial when you have witnesses and documents. So, he can say he's acquitted
and the headlines can say acquitted but he's impeached forever, branded with that and not vindicated. And even the senators were saying, yes, it
wasn't right. But they didn't have the courage to act upon that.
AMANPOUR: Except for?
PELOSI: Except for Mitt Romney. God bless him. And then the president criticized him for using his faith to do something he knew was wrong. How
could you -- well, I don't know if the president is a person of faith. It's not for me to make that judgement.
AMANPOUR: He criticized you about saying that you pray too as well.
PELOSI: He said I didn't pray for him. But I feel like if he's a person of faith he would recognize another person of faith. And if he prayed, he
would recognize that other people do, even for him.
AMANPOUR: It seems that the individual who the president asked President Zelensky to investigate, that is Joe Biden, as his main opponent, I guess
the president was concerned about that, seems not to be doing very well right now in the campaign.
Another victory for the president, if you like. And there seems to be a huge amount of hullabaloo in the Democratic Party about which is the most
electable candidate, how -- if we want to remove the president in an election, how do we best do it? What do you think about this? I know you're
not going to weigh in on behalf of any candidate, but where do you think you are as a party?
PELOSI: I think we're what the Democratic Party is, a party of vitality, differences of opinion, which we will resolve. I have trust in the American
people. We -- let's see what the elections put forth. It isn't up to me to decide, it's up to the people.
And I'm excited. I think every one of our candidates, all 25 -- I don't know if Michael Bloomberg is candidate 25, but Michael Bloomberg, too, have
made a very valuable contribution to the debate, putting forth their vision, their knowledge, their judgment, their strategic thinking of how to
connect with the American people to have a better future for our country.
Easy to say any one of them would be a better president than the current occupant of the White House. But we want to do the very positive about how
we go forward, and this is how you make those decisions. So, I'm grateful to all of them for putting themselves on the line, putting forth their
ideas. And now, we come down to the winnowing process.
But I see everything as an opportunity and I see -- and quite frankly, with all the respect in the world for Iowa and New Hampshire, I'm not counting
Joe Biden out. There's still races ahead that are much more representative of the country. And I'm long time -- you know, I was a state party chair,
I've been chair of the Platform Committee, I've been chair of the Delegate Selection Committee, all of these things before I ever went to Congress.
The platform was when I was in Congress. And again, the differences of opinion are what we are about. We're not a lockstep, take it from the top
down, this is what it's going to be.
AMANPOUR: Are you worried about the Corbyn effect? Are you worried that if a very, you know, left of the party, just like in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn,
took the party very far left and was crushed in the election?
PELOSI: Well, I don't -- that's a different scenario. We're not a parliamentary party. We have different views in the party. And I'll just
remind that as speaker of the house, when I was leader, we had a very disciplined plan to win the Congress of the United States.
It was mobilization on the ground, don't yield one grain of sand to the other side for getting out the vote. Messaging, mainstream, right down the
center, with a progressive agenda, but not menacing agenda. It was about lowering the cost of prediction drugs, building paychecks by building the
infrastructure of America and cleaner government.
I'd say the first two, I think, we have a chance to unify with the president. Cleaner government, I don't think he has any interest. So, we --
and then third, we had attracted the financial resources. Mobilization, message, money, manage it well, the most important thing is that we had
terrific candidates who were a good match for their districts and we thought -- and our engine continues, our impetus, our momentum continues
from the last election. We're nonstop and we hoped that that would be kind of a model to the national to understand where we have to win the electoral
college, where we have to retain and grow the House number and where we can win the United States Senate, as well as state and local elections.
So, I think that we've shown a path. Hopefully, we can get everyone on that path. As I say, I see everything as an opportunity, this refreshing
vitality invigorates the party. But we know one thing, we have a better vision for America and we must defeat Donald Trump who does not share a
vision that is about unity and unifying the country and making sure that everybody has a chance in our country and that no one is above the law, not
even the president.
AMANPOUR: And very finally, you've been elected over and over and over again, and you said to me before the midterms, as long as he's there, i.e.
President Trump, I'm here. Do you still --
PELOSI: Oh, my God.
AMANPOUR: Is that still the case for you?
PELOSI: Oh, I can't even envision a situation where he would be reelected. But we are not -- we don't take anything for granted. As I say, he -- we
have to have our own vision for the future. But everybody knows that we must be unified and making sure that he does not have a second term.
Our country is great. The American people are wonderful. We're a resilient country. We can withstand one term. But the destruction that he would do to
the courts on our country and the environment where he says, I'm not going to use science as any basis for decisions on the environment, when he says
Article 2 says I can do whatever I want, he must be defeated.
And again, I always say in the arena to our candidates, when you're in that arena -- and I say this to the women members, we're so proud to have so
many, you know, 91 Democrats, you know, I say to them, when you're in the arena you have to be prepared to throw a punch because you have to be
prepared to take a punch for the children.
AMANPOUR: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you for joining me.
PELOSI: My pleasure.
AMANPOUR: And tomorrow, I'll be speaking to Michael Bloomberg's senior campaign adviser, Timothy O'Brien.
Now, also in Munich, I spoke to the man at the center of the impeachment crisis, the president of Ukraine, of course, Volodymyr Zelensky. It's his
first international TV interview since the infamous quid pro quo call. And at times he was emotional as he spoke about the collateral damage inflicted
on his own country, when Ukraine needs all the support it can get to reverse Russia's occupation and annexation of Ukrainian territory. We spoke
in front of a live audience and Mr. Zelensky switched between speaking in Ukrainian and English.
President Zelensky, welcome to the program.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: I just want to say, look, your political journey, which you spoke about in your speech, is about as amazing as President Trump's. It's
very, very unusual. He was a businessman, a very successful reality television host, very high ratings. You, yourself, have been a comedian and
an actor and you played a president on a show in your homeland. Do you sometimes wish you had stayed in television?
ZELENSKY: I think many people will see my answer. Sometimes I think about that, right. Sometimes I think how my life has changed.
AMANPOUR: How much has this domestic American situation with the impeachment and the call to you affected your key aim of bringing people
home and ending the war? How much has it affected your ability to focus on what you need to focus on?
ZELENSKY: In my previous life -- no, I mean, I was waiting this question, of course. I have many questions about impeachment everywhere. In my
previous life, in my previous profession, I truly say when I was producer, screen writer and actor, I wanted to get Oscar. I wanted to be very popular
in USA. Now, I'm very popular in USA.
But I didn't want to find such way. But -- you know, but if this way will help Ukraine, I'm ready for next call with Mr. Trump. Now, we have very
good relationship with USA and I want to thank you guys and thank everybody and the president and USA, just ordinary American people, first of all, for
support, support Ukraine. Especially now when we have war. Thank you for your help and applause to every American people.
We feel it. We feel it with our hearts, with our body, and I am always saying to everybody, saying to Europe, everybody help, but help more.
AMANPOUR: I know you've been asked a million times about quid pro quo and you say there wasn't a quid pro quo. But you have also talked about the
necessity of having aid and for it not to be held up in any form or fashion. To the "Time" magazine and a bunch of others you said, we're at
war. If you're our strategic partner then you can't go blocking anything for us. I think that's just about fairness.
ZELENSKY (through translator): That's right. And you see now, there is no block and nobody blocks nothing. And at present, we are talking about a
different level of military assistance and support. On the whole, this is a very substantial program for the (INAUDIBLE) and hundreds million U.S.
dollars. So, this is the priority. One of the priorities.
AMANPOUR: When you heard first that aid was being blocked, what went through your mind in terms of your fight against the Russians, in terms of
your actual political, psychological, military position vis-a-vis a very strong opponent, and that is Vladimir Putin?
ZELENSKY (through translator): There was a tactical moment, we needed that aid. Tactically, we had to win to have an upper hand in this story and not
to damage our relations with the United States.
AMANPOUR: You've said --
ZELENSKY: OK. OK. It's enough. It's enough.
AMANPOUR: You've said that you don't think Ukraine should be a chessboard of the big global players so that someone could toss us around, use us as
cover as some part of a bargain. As for the U.S., I would really want them to help us, to understand us, to see that we are a player in our own right.
Do you think you've achieved that now?
ZELENSKY (through translator): No. You put great questions this way or the other, asking about the impeachment topic.
AMANPOUR: This is about Ukraine as a chess player, as a chess piece.
ZELENSKY: No, no, no. Yes, I understood. I mean, the questions before, I mean the questions before. If we ask too many questions about this topic,
then Ukraine is a chess player in this case.
AMANPOUR: Over the last period, something like 125,000 new Russian passports have been issued to people in the Donbass, in your Eastern
Ukraine. I'm sure that doesn't thrill you. And I just want you to respond to something that President Obama said just before he left office in 2016.
The fact is that Ukraine, which is a non-NATO country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do. Respond
ZELENSKY (through translator): And you know, there is a portion of truth to everything and we talked about the direction of Ukraine to the European
Union and on its way to the NATO. Our main objective is that our army complies with the NATO standards to be exceptionally strong. And my
objective has always been as strong independent Ukraine, which can be in any union or alliance.
AMANPOUR: I was very moved when you recalled the Budapest -- Bucharest -- is it Bucharest or Budapest?
AMANPOUR: Thank you. Memorandum of 1994. In other words, your country as part of the Soviet Union had the world's third largest stockpile of nuclear
weapons, and you gave them up. In return, including from Russia, for a guarantee of your independence and your territorial integrity. And there
were other powerful signatories to this, I believe United States, Britain, France. This was a promise to Ukraine to defend Ukraine, by Russia as well.
Do you think it's ever going to happen? Yes, there are sanctions, but your territory is still occupied, as you just said, temporarily occupied. How
temporarily do you think it's going to be occupied for?
ZELENSKY (through translator): First, how temporarily occupied, well, I have my internal feeling. It's not only the feeling but it is based on the
steps that we are making that virtually we will be able to secure the cease fire and ensure the return of our territories. I don't know how much time
we will need from that.
Why Budapest Memorandum, why all these treaties, arrangements, no one could think there could be the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation
because we used to live in the Soviet Union, we came to understand each other perfectly well, we celebrated our common holidays, we had common
families. You do not expect from somebody who you have been so many years next to, you don't expect such steps.
And considering the Budapest Memorandum, unfortunately, the civilized world, the civilized people, but unfortunately, we are all aware that the
strong army or the nuclear weapons or NATO as a protection of independence and territorial integrity or one or the other country, no other documents,
no signatories, no memorandums will defend and are able to defend.
We are telling you this as Ukrainians, from our experience and example, no protection. I do not believe whatsoever in any papers.
It's just not simple, you know?
(through translator): And, honestly, to all countries, this is my proposal, from our personal experience: no confidence, no trust in any kind
No one is going to guarantee you anything, though we are talking a lot about international law. The 21st century, the law of the strong. Where are
we with you now?
AMANPOUR: As you know, because of all of this, Ukraine has been labeled one of the most corrupt countries in the world, that that is one of the
reputational damages to your country in the wake of -- of all of this.
And, recently -- I mean, really recently, in November, around Thanksgiving, President Trump told FOX News: "Why should we give money to a country
that's known corrupt? It's a very corrupt country. I mean, I love the people in Ukraine. I know Ukrainian people. They're great people. But it's
known as being the third most corrupt country in the world."
ZELENSKY: That's not truth.
ZELENSKY: That's not truth.
When I have -- when I have meeting with Mr. President Trump, and he said about that -- he said that, previous years, it was so corrupt, this
I told him very honestly, and I was very open with him. I told him that we fight with corruption. We fight with this, fight each day. But, please,
please, stop to say that Ukraine is a corrupted country, but -- because, from now, it's not truth.
We want to change this image. And all of our guys, all of our team -- look at our team. Please, you have everything, I know, every -- you have -- you
have -- you can check.
Stolen, yes? (INAUDIBLE) stolen, yes. What was stolen?
What I did in my life, in my previous life, in my today life, what I did, all money I have, I got it with my talent. That's it. And we have the same
team, new, young team, different -- not all of them young, you see.
ZELENSKY: We have another team in Ukraine now.
And nobody -- from us, we took nothing from government. So we pay all these taxes. What we did? So you have to stop do this image for Ukraine.
AMANPOUR: So, finally...
AMANPOUR: Finally, Mr. President...
ZELENSKY: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: In your first call with the president after your election, after your victory...
AMANPOUR: ... the president invited you to the White House.
Do you think it's going to happen? Do you have any date on the calendar?
ZELENSKY (through translator): I'm sure it will happen.
Well, you know, it seems to me that the last time that I met the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, we talked about that. And I said I would very much
like that my visit to the United States would be something special for both countries, where there's an important and substantive outcome and result
for both countries, something beneficial for both countries.
So, the ball is in the courtyard of the United States of America. But we are always happy to see everyone in Ukraine. So I'm ready to invite
President Trump to come to Kiev. And I'm ready to welcome him to Kiev earlier than he is available.
AMANPOUR: President Zelensky, thank you very much, indeed.
ZELENSKY: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: I appreciate it. Thank you.
ZELENSKY: Thank you so much, everybody.
ZELENSKY: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: President Zelensky extending that invitation to President Trump to come visit him in his own capital. We will see.
Now, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, owner of "The Washington Post" and richest man on the planet, is now the subject of a documentary.
The documentary filmmaker James Jacoby has done "Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos." It looks at one of the most influential economic
and cultural forces in the world.
And Jacoby sat down to talk down with our Hari Sreenivasan to talk whether and how the Bezos machine should be reined in.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You go into the archives, so to speak, at how Amazon was founded. And, there, what's
interesting is, even when they were just an online bookseller, you point out that they recognized the value of data.
JAMES JACOBY, DIRECTOR, "AMAZON EMPIRE: THE RISE AND REIGN OF JEFF BEZOS": Absolutely.
So, Jeff Bezos came out of a background in computer science and in engineering. He had worked on Wall Street before founding Amazon at a --
what's called a quantitative hedge fund, basically using data to make trading decisions and figure out trading opportunities, and so really saw
the value of data and approaches things like a quant, like a real data- minded person.
And he brought that mentality to Amazon and has -- really, that kind of imbues the company's ethos. It's all about the data. It's all about
understanding consumer behavior online. It's all about the idea that, in the 21st century economy, the company with the most data that crunches that
data is ultimately going to win.
SREENIVASAN: We think a lot about Facebook when we see the word data: Oh, they know my likes and my dislikes.
What kind of information does Amazon have about its customers?
JACOBY: Well, it runs the gamut.
For instance, I mean, they essentially track what you do on the Amazon site. So, that's not just what you buy. It's what you looked at and didn't
buy, which is extremely valuable data, because they know what you're interested in, even though you didn't pull the trigger on something.
They can see what you stopped at on the site. They have had that capacity for a very long time. They do it, they say, in the name of giving you more
of what you want. It's different than Facebook, which is trying to sell targeted advertisements to you or political messaging.
But, when it comes to Amazon, they're getting into the targeted advertising business. They also have Alexa, devices, these Echo devices, where they're
gathering data on what you ask your Alexa, what your habits are, what time of day you do certain things or don't do certain things, and starting to
get into the realm of detecting things about voice and what -- how your voice sounds.
So, they have many different means of gathering data on us. It's not entirely clear yet as to how they're going to use all that data, but,
certainly, the incentive is to use it in ways that make them more money.
SREENIVASAN: You had a chance to sit down with some of the employees there. There's almost 800,000 people that work for Amazon now. Most of them
are employed in what they call the fulfillment centers, what we would look at as the warehouse where all these things are stocked.
What is the core grievance that the employees that you spoke with had?
JACOBY: The core grievance is generally about the rate of work. These are really grueling jobs. And it's something -- we spoke to dozens of workers,
current and former, around the country.
And they all talk about the grueling pace of work. It's essentially keeping up with the machine. I mean, for Prime subscribers, there are 150 million
of them out there who are looking to get their packages delivered in one day or two days.
There's a whole system that's partially automated, but a lot of human beings that are picking and packing those items that are getting to your
And the people that are doing that work, it's a sort of relentless pace of work. On the other hand, these jobs pay better than a lot of other
equivalent jobs. They're $15-an-hour jobs, which is, as Amazon would point out, double the national minimum wage, and they offer benefits.
So, there -- it's kind of a mixed bag. I mean, the main grievance is not necessarily about wages or benefits. It's much more about the fact that you
can't really stay in these jobs very long. You will kind of burn out quickly, and there isn't necessarily an opportunity at Amazon to move up.
SREENIVASAN: You pointed this out to the company. You said, hey, there's people there that feel like they're being treated like robots.
What was the company's response?
JACOBY: The company's response was, well, there's a lot of people that show up for work every day at Amazon and -- to work in these fulfillment
centers, and that that must indicate something, that these workers are -- are relatively happy.
And they also point out that the benefits are -- are good and that the pay is better than the national minimum wage averages, and that they're
reinvesting in their work force, to the tune of nearly a billion dollars, to try to upskill these workers.
So I think that they -- they kind of answered the questions about workers feeling like robots by saying, well, there are some perks of the job as
SREENIVASAN: Now, Jeff Bezos did not sit down for this film, but you did have access to several different high-level executives in the company.
What are your overall thoughts after speaking to them?
JACOBY: They granted us extraordinary access to a number of members of the so-called S-team. That's sort of Jeff Bezos' inner circle of people that
have been at the company for a long time and are really running the core aspects of his businesses.
And they're -- they're extraordinarily competent. They have -- this company is -- deserves a tremendous amount of respect for what it's able to
deliver. And a lot of us do, even unknowingly, rely on it in certain ways.
PBS, its digital infrastructure is on Amazon Web Services, for instance. And that's -- that's rather fascinating.
And I found them to be open to the scrutiny that we came with of asking challenging questions. And I think we give them the time and the fairness
to answer all those questions in full.
SREENIVASAN: One of the most interesting exchanges for me was one that you had with Andy Jassy. And you were asking him about a facial recognition
technology that's being used by police departments.
First of all, most people don't even understand or realize that, A, the technology exists, B, that Amazon is behind it, and, C, that they're
actually selling it to police departments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACOBY: There's been all sorts of problems with policing in this country. Why allow police departments to experiment?
ANDY JASSY, CEO, AMAZON WEB SERVICES: We believe that governments and the organizations that are charged with keeping our communities safe have to
have access to the most sophisticated modern technology that exists.
We don't have a large number of police departments that are using our facial Rekognition technology. And, as I said, we have never received any
complaints of misuse. Let's see if somehow they abuse the technology. They haven't done that.
And to assume that they're going to do it, and, therefore, you shouldn't allow them to have access to the most sophisticated technology out there,
doesn't feel like the right balance to make.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: Explain what Rekognition is.
JACOBY: So, Rekognition -- with a K -- Rekognition is the Amazon facial recognition tool.
And, essentially, what it is, is that you can upload a bunch of photographs to Amazon and -- as a kind of data set. And police departments, for
instance, use it with mug shots. And then they try to match suspects in order to -- against that database.
And Amazon's service, its tool, helps them do that and bring the services in order to bring the time down for detectives or police officers to try to
identify a suspect quickly.
SREENIVASAN: So, it's a virtual book of mug shots that have thousands and thousands of photos.
JACOBY: That's correct.
And so a number of police departments are using it in that way. And, essentially, the service is Amazon's. And it's rather inexpensive for a
police department to do this.
And the cops we spoke to actually really love this service. There are a lot of civil libertarians that don't love the service and, surprisingly, a
number of computer scientists that we spoke, including the former head of artificial intelligence at Amazon Web Services, who basically comes out to
say that she doesn't believe that this technology is accurate enough to be put into the hands of law enforcement.
And that's something that we do challenge Andy Jassy about.
SREENIVASAN: Because researchers have figured out that the software is not so accurate when it comes to faces of people of color.
JACOBY: That's correct.
So, MIT did a study called the Gender Shades study. Some -- some scientists there came up with findings. They tested Amazon's facial recognition
software. They also tested other facial recognition software that's on the market.
And they did find that, when it comes to darker skin faces, and especially women, the software was inaccurate and prone to mistakes. And this is why
people like Anima Anandkumar, former chief scientist of A.I. at AWS, have come out and said that Bezos and Amazon should stop giving this tool to law
enforcement until there can be public oversight or there can be further study of its accuracy.
JACOBY: But the company continues to do so.
SREENIVASAN: There's another product that's become quite successful for Amazon. It's these doorbells that people have where you just -- when you
press the doorbell automatically, there's a camera that's looking at you. And if you're at home, you can -- you can know who's outside, right?
Now, there's a connection between these doorbells and police departments. Explain.
So, Amazon purchased a company called Ring, which makes these doorbell cameras that -- essentially, it's a camera on your doorstep. It also faces
out toward the street, public areas, which is problematic for some.
And they set up an app, essentially, called the Neighbors or the Neighborhood app, where there's -- your footage can be accessed by your
community. It's sort of the new neighborhood watch, where people can watch what's going on.
And, essentially, in order to market Ring, Amazon entered into these partnerships with police departments, where some police departments would
even hand out free doorbells.
Sometimes, they'd adhere to a script that Amazon and Ring gave out, basically talking points about why this is a good thing for neighborhood
safety, convincing citizens to put these doorbell cameras on their doorposts, because -- but this was unbeknownst to the citizens that these
cops were essentially salespeople in this instance for Amazon and Ring.
SREENIVASAN: So, the incentive for the police departments is that they have access to the footage when they would like it.
Let's say, if a criminal was running past the street, they're going to, what, ask you and say, hey, can we take a look at your footage?
JACOBY: That's right.
And they -- so, essentially, what it -- what the app does is, it makes it really easy for the police to access this portal that Amazon Ring set up.
And, essentially, they can go, and they can easily ask someone on that portal, hey, can I get your footage from the other night? There was a
report of a crime in your neighbor's house or in your neighborhood. We'd love to see what you -- what your doorbell camera caught that night.
And they don't necessarily need -- they don't need a warrant to ask for that.
But it raises a number of questions about making it easy for police departments to do that. Essentially, they can just kind of click a button,
and the e-mail goes out to whoever's camera it is. And, certainly, the ACLU and other civil liberties groups are very worried about this, because,
essentially, we're not seeing -- the public doesn't have access to how those interactions are taking place.
So, there are a number of people that are rather concerned about that very tight relationship between law enforcement and this kind of new unregulated
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have had an incredible year. The team has invented a lot on behalf of customers. And I cannot wait to show you what we have so
NARRATOR: So far, Limp his team has made Alexa compatible with more than 100,000 products.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: The most successful gadget that Amazon's been selling -- and it's been a big, successful stocking stuffer for years now -- is the Amazon
Echo and the Echo devices.
When -- these are devices that are in people's homes, what are the privacy concerns that are surrounding it? What are the problems that have happened?
And the people that you have talked to who -- what are their reactions? How do they live their own lives with these devices in their house?
JACOBY: The Echo devices have been extraordinarily successful for Amazon. And they have sold maybe 100 million of these devices around the world. And
people speak to Alexa, this artificial intelligence, through these devices.
The privacy concern really comes with the fact that it hadn't been clearly disclosed to consumers that, when Alexa is awake, when the device is awake
and listening to you, and there's a blue light that shows you that, and you have said, Alexa, hey, asked her a question or something, once she's awake,
And, in some cases, those recordings are then listened to by teams of thousands of people around the world who are trying to train Alexa, the
artificial intelligence, to get better at responding to commands or responding to questions.
But it wasn't clear to consumers that there would be the even the potential of a human being listening to those recordings. And it wasn't necessarily
clearly disclosed to consumers that there was a -- there was -- there was a recording made.
So, that -- even a top executive who's head of devices admitted that, if he could go back in time and disclose that to consumers, he would do so. But
he said that he thought, even if he had, it wouldn't have affected how popular Alexa and these devices are.
SREENIVASAN: Considering how big Amazon is getting, especially in providing services to the U.S. government, is the government capable of
JACOBY: Yes, I mean, certainly.
I think that there -- there are concerns about Amazon's increasing presence in Washington, D.C. They're going to have a second headquarters there. Jeff
Bezos owns "The Washington Post." He's got a very large presence Now in Washington, has a big mansion there, I think the largest private residence.
And people are worried about the influence this kind of economic, as well as now political, influence in D.C., and whether that is a move to try to
figure out ways to either get regulators on their side or any enforcers on their side.
But I think there's quite a bit of momentum in Congress to figure out a way to regulate, not just Amazon, but all the big tech companies, and figure
out, one, how existing law is applicable to them and can be enforced more stringently, and, two, whether new laws should be written about data
collection or what -- for instance, what lines of business a company like Amazon can engage in.
SREENIVASAN: You also point out in the film that there's been a shift philosophically with how we think about antitrust, that it used to be that
we would talk about making sure that there was an even competitive landscape for companies to be able to compete, and that we would break up
companies in the past that we thought were getting close to monopoly status.
But, in the last 30 years, that's changed, and we now seem to value lower prices.
I mean, for the past 30 years, there's been something called the consumer welfare standard. And our enforcers, which is really the Federal Trade
Commission and the Department of Justice, who are meant to patrol the economy for people that are abusing market dominance in ways that not just
hurt consumers, but also may hurt competitors or small businesses that rely on their -- these large dominant players.
For the past 30 years, the enforcers have really looked at it in a very narrow lens of, if you're not -- if you're using your market dominance to
hurt consumers by raising prices, that's no go, that's no good, but if you're using that power to kind of hurt other businesses, with the added
benefit of it being low prices for consumers, then that kind of got a pass for the -- for -- over the years.
And the FTC right now is engaged in a meaningful reexamination of its stance that it's taken for the past few decades. And it should be
interesting to see what they do.
SREENIVASAN: One of the things that's intriguing is that, while companies -- technology companies like Facebook and Google have been scrutinized and
have perhaps lost some trust from their consumers, the level of trust that people have in Amazon is still pretty high, and it's bipartisan.
Why is that?
JACOBY: It's actually not just pretty high. It's really high.
I mean, Georgetown University did a study, and basically found that Amazon is the most trusted institution in America after the U.S. military. And I
think a lot of the trust that they have engendered over the years is because they're just incredibly competent at what they do, and they deliver
on their promises. They literally deliver on them.
And that's how they have engendered this trust. And I think, going forward, as the -- as the company ventures into things like facial recognition
software, and these really high-tech things, and cloud services for the military, and these Ring cameras, and they're kind of going full sci-fi on
us, in a way that we may or may not be able to opt out of, I think that they're testing that trust to some degree.
And I think it's going to be an important question that they will have to answer for going forward as to how good they are at safeguarding all of the
data that they have got access to, and that they're not using it to exploit their consumers, but, rather, as they claim, help them.
SREENIVASAN: James Jacoby, thanks so much for joining us.
JACOBY: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And the documentary "Amazon Empire" airs on Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on PBS and online at PBS.org/Frontline.
And, finally, donations have poured in from all over the world for the Australian bushfire relief effort. Scores of celebrities pledged millions,
from Nicole Kidman, Elton John, and also industrialists like Andrew Forrest.
And, last night, a benefit concert in Sydney with Queen and other bands offered a musical pause from the tragedy.
Correspondent Robyn Curnow reports.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a nation that has seen months of heartbreak, a moment of musical relief unites Australia.
Rock band Queen plays for thousands in Sydney, helping raise money by reprising an iconic show. U.S. singer Adam Lambert, who fills in for the
late Freddie Mercury, says Queen recreates their legendary performance at the Live Aid charity concert in 1985.
Thirty-five years on, their 22-minute set is part of a fund-raising event for those devastated by Australia's bushfires.
For 10 hours, artists and celebrities from around the world performed for the cause. More than 70,000 people attended the concert called Firefight
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So many families have lost everything, so we're here to support them all.
CURNOW: Since September, unprecedented fires razed nearly 12 million hectares of land, destroying countless homes and structures. Dozens lost
their lives, and an estimated one billion animals have been killed.
During months of battling hundreds of blazes, firefighters, including many volunteers, were on the front lines. Some of the proceeds from Sunday's
event will go to support them. Their sacrifice was also acknowledged there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our volunteers across this entire country, they are ones who have saved us.
CURNOW: In the concert finale, Queen returned, along with singer Olivia Newton-John and others.
Some of the firefighters joined the stars too on stage as the show came to a close, waving at the thankful thousands cheering them on.
Robyn Curnow, CNN.
AMANPOUR: That outpouring of support continues, as does our reporting on the climate crisis and the role it plays in these extreme weather
And that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast, and across our social media.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.