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Financial Misconduct in NRA; Leaked Cables About President Donald Trump; "Collateral Damage," a New Memoir by Kim Darroch; Britain Willingly Breaking International Law; Kim Darroch, Former British Ambassador to the U.S., is Interviewed About Leaked Cables and Brexit; Tennis Major Tournament Renamed for a Woman; Fed Cup Renamed to Billie Jean King Cup; Billie Jean King, Founder, Women's Tennis Association, is Interviewed About Sports and Activism. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired September 17, 2020 - 14:00 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIM DARROCH, FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: I read it all back. And honestly, I don't think it was a bad call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Britain's former man in Washington on those damning leaked cables about President Trump that led to his downfall. I talked to
Ambassador Darroch about that, Brexit and the state of the special relationship.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID HAGGERTY, ITF PRESIDENT: I am pleased to announce that from today, the Fed Cup will be renamed the Billie Jean King Cup.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Billie Jean King cementing her legacy. For the first time ever, a major tournament is named for a woman. I speak with the tennis legend
herself who continuous her path breaking journey for equality on and off the court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSHUA POWELL, AUTHOR, "INSIDE THE NRA": It's easy to raise money off pouring gas on the fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: We go inside the NRA, with former top executive, Joshua Powell. He tells or Michel Martin about the tactics of one of the most powerful
political groups in America.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
America's relationship with its allies has been through the ringer under the Trump presidency, but the British government hopes to strike a
lucrative trade deal with the United States, just as its relationship with the European Union flounders.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pressing on with plans to effectively break international law by amending the Brexit deal that it struck with the bloc
last year, a move that would potentially reinstate a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and thus threaten the Good Friday Peace
Agreement, as well as the so-called special relationship with the United States.
Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, joined a chorus of concern, Democrats and Republicans in Congress, saying, any trade deal is contingent
upon respect for the U.S.-backed agreement. Meantime, the FBI director, Christopher Wray, says Russia's goal is to sow discord and denigrate Vice
President Biden by very actively now interfering in the 2020 U.S. election.
Few know more about the ins and outs on national security on both sides at the Atlantic than my first guest tonight, Lord Kim Darroch. He is Britain's
former ambassador to the United States. He famously came (INAUDIBLE) last summer when his clear-eyed and frank assessment of President Trump was
leaked, and a hailstorm of presidential tweets were directed at him.
No longer in her majesty's service, the veteran diplomat is finally speaking out. And I visited him at home in London as the new memoir,
"Collateral Damage," is just being published.
Ambassador Darroch, welcome to the program.
KIM DARROCH, FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, let's just talk about the main news of the day, and that is this ongoing idea that Britain is perfectly willing to break international
law around the Brexit deal. Now, the United States is not happy with that, Europe is not happy with that. Let me read to you what the European
president said, Britain does not break treaties. It would be bad for Britain, bad for relations with the rest of the world and bad for any
future treaty on trade. And she was quoting Margaret Thatcher, conservative Tori prime minister. What do you make of all of this?
DARROCH: I thought it was extraordinary to hear a senior minister say up this (INAUDIBLE) in the House of Commons that we intended to breach
international law, though in a limited way. I never heard that in 40 careers of public service.
AMANPOUR: Is that being a bit pregnant? You either breach the law or you don't.
DARROCH: Exactly. I mean, limited? I mean, how do you behave illegally in just a limited way? I couldn't see that. I still think it is very damaging
to international reputation, but particularly in these post-Brexit circumstances, it's going to potentially kill the prospects from the
E.U/U.K. free trade deal. And as I could see the moment, I heard the news, puts the U.K./U.S. free trade deal at great risk. So, I don't see how that
AMANPOUR: There are many people who believe that this was the plan all along. Here's a quote from a recent article. Dominic Cummings on his blog
in March last years, 2019, when Prime Minister May was in power said, dear vote leave activist, don't worry about the so-called permanent commitments,
this historically abysmal cabinet are trying to make on our behalf, they are not permanent, and a serious government, not one coward by officials
and their expletive deleted by me, legal advice with which they have heard administrators like sheep will dispense with these commitments. I mean,
it's basically saying the entire deal was a lie, was politically expedient, that they lied to the British people in order to get elected.
DARROCH: Yes, I don't know Dominic Cummings, and I'm outside government now. So, I don't have any great insights into what's going on in number 10.
But I still believe, I think, that the prime minister would rather have a deal than not, but he's kind of in a corner now, and it would be very
difficult to get a deal from where we are, if he means what he says about rewriting the withdrawal agreement.
AMANPOUR: The main title of your book is "Collateral Damage." What collateral damage do you think will occur from this attempt to break
DARROCH: I think there are three obvious pieces of collateral damage. First, as I have said to the U.K./E.U. free trade deal. And let's remember,
we do 40 percent of our trade with the E.U., and having all of that disrupted by quotas and tariffs and rules and paperwork is going to be very
damaging to our economy. There are risks to a U.K./U.S. free trade deal, actually, whether or not President Biden -- we have a President Biden in
January because if the Democrats continue to hold the House of Representatives, then they can block a U.K./U.S. deal, whoever wins the
But more generally, Christiane, there is the damage to our international reputation more widely. I mean, we stand up for international law. We
criticize other countries, and those would be China or the Hong Kong agreement, for we believe reaching international agreements, are we
actually going to go into this and do this ourselves? I find it as an extraordinary idea.
AMANPOUR: And I know, it does sound crazy. Now, everybody knows that the leak is what torpedoed your career as the British ambassador, the British
ambassador to Washington, D.C. Let me just read part of the leak. You had written cables, as ambassadors do, to your capital to explain, you know,
your analysis of the Trump administration, and this was after meetings between Prime Minister May at the time and Donald Trump. You say, we really
don't think this administration is going to become substantially more normal, less dysfunctional, less unpredictable, less faction driven, less
diplomatically clumsy and inept. For a man who has risen to the highest office on the planet, President Trump radiates insecurity. So, you wrote
that then and you resigned over it. Has anything in your analysis changed?
DARROCH: I wrote it actually six -- for a high-level ministerial meeting in London in the middle of 201. So, six months into that new
administration, and the job was -- I mean, the task was to write concisely but clearly and frankly and highly confidential medium about how the new
U.S. administration was working out.
And, you know, a lot of people have said since -- it was a bit understated, wasn't it? Because haven't things have been even more disrupted than that.
Others, obviously, disagreed with it. You're paid to make a call, not to an offense, to make a call and to give ministers your best advice, your best
guidance on how things would work out. As you know, obviously, when I was writing the book and preparing for its launch, I read it all back, and
honestly, I don't think it was a bad call.
AMANPOUR: And nothing has changed, as you say, it's only just gotten worse?
DARROCH: Well, you know, if you -- to be fair to the president, you now have just had that E.U. -- sorry, that UAE/Israel and Bahrain/Israel
normalization, which is significant. You know, you can't sort of say that's nothing, that is something. And I still think the elections feels quite
(INAUDIBLE). I suspect if you'll -- it's actually closer than the opinion polls suggest. So, don't rule out a second term of President Trump. But in
terms of the levels of disruption and, you know, how unusual this presidency will be, I think it has carried on, as we look to the first six
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you about that deal? Obviously, it's great for Israel because they are less isolated in the region. It's great for the
region which wants to align against Iran.
AMANPOUR: However, it's not great for the Palestinians, they're not being mentioned at all. And many people, and a lot of the analysis afterwards,
well, a lot of the analysis, has included the very significant factor that this could be, you know, really about a lot of arms sales. All of a sudden,
we've got all this talk about arms sales all over the place, no mention of, you know, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the others at war in Yemen. How good is
DARROCH: Yes. I think that's a very question to pose. And the reality is that it is part of building a kind of alliance again Iran, and it may be
the case that there are commercial interests. By the way, we do sell arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, so we can't sort of say, oh, well, there's an
issue with that.
But you're right, the Palestinians must now feel --
AMANPOUR: But they can't get sophisticated American arms unless they have a deal with Israel.
DARROCH: That's true. That's true. And that now opens that up. But you're right. For the Palestinians, I think the prospects have gotten bleaker and
bleaker over the last three or four years. A two-state solution isn't quite gone now, but really, it's on life support. So, you would have to worry
about the future there, and whether there is any way in what's happened between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain can play into more positive elements on
Israel/Palestine, I wonder, but we'll see.
AMANPOUR: It appeared after the leak was first published, you could have written out a very tame tweet from the president, but then it got worse,
right? And then he said he wouldn't talk with you and he wouldn't have any dealings with you.
DARROCH: Once I say that presidential tweet saying he would no longer deal with him, and once I was disinvited to a dinner which the president might
have been attended with the emir of Qatar that evening, I was staying to think about my position. The fact was, I was just thinking, can you really
do your job anymore after all of this has come out? Even if the initial fury died down, would people talk to you, senior people from the White
House, the administration give you the same insights that they might -- they had done before?
And so, I started to think, I just can't do the job properly. And rather than sit there clinging on, better to leave on my own terms.
AMANPOUR: So, let's talk a little bit about some of the global issues that were happening when you were there. It appears that Bob Woodward, with his
book "Rage," with his 17 on-the-record interviews with President Trump, has discovered from the president himself that actually war between the United
States and North Korea about -- in the year 2017 was much closer than anybody thought. We all remember the, you know, little rocket man, firing
fury from the president, that was met by Dotard by Kim Jong-un, there were all these insults thrown about. But what we didn't know that the United
States had dusted off some military plans, for regime change. Did you know anything about that? What did you think was the possibility of that tension
at that time developing into war?
DARROCH: It felt quite tense and quite on the edge. And there were rumoring about possible withdrawal of American dependence, dependence of
the forces that in South Korea and the Republic of Korea, and the rhetoric flying back and forth, and there were quite a lot of missile tests going on
with the North Koreans at the time. So, it certainly got our attention. It felt quite dangerous.
And I personally think that, while a deal with the North Koreans on nuclear dismantling is possible, it won't be a sort of complete capitulation by
them. I think a deal would probably look a little bit like the Iran deal that the administration dislikes so much. But you have to say that since
that astonishing summit in Singapore, the missile tests have stopped. Maybe there have been some underground nuclear tests, it's not completely clear,
but the tensions have reduced a lot. So, it does feel calmer even if it doesn't look to me -- you know, I'm out of the game now for years and maybe
stuff has been going on that I don't know about, even just look at -- like there has been dramatic progress on negotiating a sort of nuclear deal, a
AMANPOUR: So, you say if there should ever be a settlement, it would look like --
DARROCH: It could.
AMANPOUR: It could?
DARROCH: I mean, I would be amazed if you would get a complete -- I mean, the North Koreans giving the U.S. side everything they wanted just in
exchange for sort of economic support. That would be amazing. But you know, good luck to them.
AMANPOUR: Yes. So, in other words, trying (INAUDIBLE) and surrendering is not on the cards?
DARROCH: Yes. I don't think so. But, you know --
AMANPOUR: Do you think it is never in the cards for Iran, which is clearly what the president is looking for?
DARROCH: I remember going, Christiane, to a lot of Washington thinktank seminars in the run up to the U.S. withdrawal, we would have those calling
for withdrawal --
AMANPOUR: From the Iran nuclear deal?
DARROCH: From the Iran nuclear deal.
DARROCH: We'd have those calling for withdrawal on one side and generally, they would line up the French, the British, the German and E.U. ambassadors
on the other to have an argument. And the predictions at that stage from those who supported U.S. withdrawal was that economic sanctions would bring
the Iranian regime to its knees within months, if not week. And we never believed that. I never believed that. And I think that what's happened
since shows that there wasn't that -- shows that we were right, basically, and, you know, the Iranians would take an awful lot of hardship before
think concede on this.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you as, you know, a longtime civil servant, foreign service, ambassador, national security adviser you were to Prime Minister
Cameron, what you do you make of all the alliance arrayed against the United States, what does that say for the future of, I guess, an American-
led world order, an American-led alliance? What do you think might happen if there's a second Trump term?
DARROCH: For the future, I care deeply about what we call with that rather (INAUDIBLE) phrase, rules-based international system by which we mean,
those international structures that were built up after the second World War, the U.N., the IMF, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization,
they're the anchorage points under which of a 40 years as a diplomat, you know, you would construct policies and positions, and where you would go --
the fora in which we would respond to things that you thought, you know, were against international law or were dangerous or destabilizing. I don't
think there has been a moment in -- since, in fact, World War when these institutions have been more disparaged or weaker or more ignored. And I
worry about that a lot. The same, goes, by the way, for NATO. The president has claimed he's not a fan of NATO.
AMANPOUR: Well, I was going to ask you that next. There are Europeans who are concerned almost to the point of not wanting to jinx by even talking
about it, that a second Trump term might embolden him to actually pull out of the alliance.
DARROCH: Yes. On NATO, first of all, the president -- and he's not the first American president to say this, has a point in saying, it's not
acceptable for all the member states to commit 2 percent of national expenditure on defense and then not to do it. And some of the richest
countries are some of the poorest performers. So, there is a problem there.
Second, whether it down to President Trump's pressure or the sweep of events and the world looking more dangerous, more countries are now at or
close to 2 percent than were four years ago. So, that has changed, and I'm not surprised the president claims some credit for that. Third, however, if
there is a second Trump term, you know, what's going to happen, I don't think he could get support from the Republican Party to take the U.S. out
of NATO. I don't think that's imaginable. I hope I'm right on that.
I do think there are ways in which the U.S. commitment in NATO whether in terms of, you know, forward placement of troops and of forces and of
equipment and of weapons in Europe or other forms of commitment in NATO in which that could be weakened, that would worry me. And I mean, I think that
President Putin is watching very closely what happens on NATO's future, and he may think, you know, that there are prospects there.
AMANPOUR: You know, for a long, long time the word special relationship has used to, you know, denote the U.S. and the U.K. How did you see it when
you were in the United States? Did they take it as seriously as Britain does? And what do you think all these intervening years means for that
DARROCH: It's a phrase, you know, maybe we should have used more, but we tend to avoid a bit within the embassy in our reporting of when we were
talking to the administration, because it sounds a little bit needy, even though the words were conjured up, were invented by, you know, one of the
greatest Britons ever, in the form of Winston Churchill.
But what I would say is, obviously, we're at a point with Brexit, with U.S. elections coming up, with Boris Johnson in power for another four years,
something of a pivotal moment. I think that the bedrock of the special relationship, the defense security intelligence relationship is as strong
as it's ever been, and will remain exceptionally strong and vital to both sides and think it makes the world a safer place, not just for Britain and
America but for everyone.
In the other side of ledger, there is no question on the line that the fact that we are outside the E.U. removes one of the things that made us
valuable and important to the U.S., namely we were one of those around the table of the European Union and able to influence the outcome of European
decisions, whether on the internal market or future trade deals or international issues. And we won't have that calling card in Washington
anymore. So, we have to work all the harder on the defense and security and intelligence side.
Otherwise, I would say that I think Boris clearly has a better relationship with President Trump than his predecessor did, and if the president wins a
second term, Boris will be in power for four years, you could see something quite strong and durable over those next four years. If it's a President
Biden, I think he likes Britain and he's an anglophile, whether, for example, the U.K./U.S. free trade would be quite the priority that it
would. If we have President Trump office, we'll have to see. And there are other issues because Biden himself, as he has said recently, is not a fan
of Brexit. But let's see how things unfold.
AMANPOUR: Lord now, Kim Darroch, thank you very much, indeed, for joining me.
DARROCH: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: Reality check on international affairs. Now, it has been a summer of activism for sports in the United States. And now, one of the its
leading activists for civil rights is given the ultimate honor. The International Tennis Federation has just announced its premier women's
competition is being renamed from the Fed Cup to the Billie Jean King Cup. Celebrating not only her prowess as a player, but her lifelong campaign for
equality and inclusion.
It is the first to be named for a female. And in the words of the federation president, David Haggerty, King has been a champion on the court
and a pioneer off the court. And to mark the occasion, Billie Jean King welcomes us from New York.
Welcome back to the program.
Every time I talk to you Billie Jean King, there's yet another milestone, yet another honor, yet another, you know, barrier you that have broken.
What does this mean to you to have this tournament named for you?
BILLIE JEAN KING, FOUNDER, WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION: Well, Christiane, first of all, I'm trying to get used to the idea that it's called the
Billie Jean King Cup. But what I've been thinking about with these honors, and particularly this one, I loved playing Fed Cup for my country, the USA,
and (INAUDIBLE). I've been a player, a captain and now, I think about what can we do for people and particularly girls and women on and off the court.
So, what we want is a movement. The ITF has an advantage all initiative, which is a gender equality strategy for the 21st century, which we'll be,
you know, really looking at that and how we can make that happen. And what that means is we want more girls and women to be in decision-making
positions, whether it be line judge, whether it be administration, whether it be a president, and we need it at the local and the regional and the
national and the international level, and there's very few women, if you look at the different countries and how it's structured.
So, we have a long way to go on the court. We have equal prize money with the men in Davis Cup, is what the men have. We have now a Billie Jean King
Cup. And you have to play those to be able to qualify also for the Olympics.
AMANPOUR: Yes. So, they're really important. Just before we go on to the sort of wider picture, do you remember the first match? Because I think you
played the very first match when it was created, the Fed Cup? Do you remember what you were feeling?
KING: Oh, I remember exactly. It was 1963 at the Queen's Club in London. We had 16 teams. We were supposed to play on the grass. It rained. We went
indoors on the fast boards of the covered courts at Queen's Club, and I kept telling Darlene Hard, who was a legend, an amazing player, then it was
Carole Caldwell and me, and we were the kids. I was -- we were both 19 and Darlene was a great player, but I kept saying to the team, I kept saying,
we have to win this first one. It's history. You know I love history. And so, I kept saying we have to and they kept telling me be quiet. We know
And Mr. Kelarg (ph), our captain, got so excited, he fell off the bench. We had to go pick him up. But it was so close, we barely beat Australia in the
finals, 2-1. But in the double against Margaret Smith, now Margaret Court, and Leslie Turner, now Lesley Bowrey, it was so close, we barely won. But
you know how exciting it is? Every time I see the Fed Cup or now it's BJK Cup or whatever, I get to look at the different countries who have won and
it's always wonderful to look back and see that our name is first. And I love it. I'll never forget it. We had 16 teams, now we have 116 teams.
AMANPOUR: So, history, you love history, you've created a lot of it in your own domain. So, it is -- I think, isn't, 50th anniversary of the
original nine when you created the Women's Tour. You were being sort, you know, edged out and sort of pressured by the men. Tell me about the
original nine again, quick.
KING: Well, in 1968 we got money for the first time, it was professional. And those two -- in two years went by and it has -- they're really getting
rid of women's tournaments, and if we did have a tournament with the men, the ratio of prize money was like 8 to 1, 9 to 1, things were a mess. So,
Rosie Casals -- so, I went and talked to Gladys Heldman, the publisher of the World Tennis Magazine, please help us. And she did. We had nine girls -
- women that signed $1 contract with her. And our dream was for the future generations.
Because what we were doing is putting our careers on the line. And the three things that we thought about were, number one, that any girl in the
world, if she's good enough, will have a place to compete. Number two, that she'll be appreciated for her accomplishments, not only her looks. And
number three, most importantly, to be able to make a living. Because when we were amateurs before 1968, we made $14 a day, but we were willing to be
suspended. I get too much credit really for the original nine. There were nine of us. We were like a team. And Gladys Heldman went out and got Philip
Morris (ph), Joseph Coleman (ph) came through for us. So, we had those three elements.
You had Joseph Coleman, chairman of Philip Morris, Gladys Heldman, publisher and world tennis magazine, and she is was our promoter, and you
had the nine of us that were willing to give up everything for the future. But it worked out unbelievably well. And this year is our 50th anniversary
of the original nine.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you why the activism? I mean, you led the charge there. You're being modest. You led the charge. Obviously, there were many
people who made it happen. But look at what's happening right now in black lives matter, the most important civil rights uprising we've had, you know,
since 1968. You've got tennis stars -- of course, the NBA started it by, you know -- well, the NBA, you know, used their power to, you know, not
play for a day and now, they've apparently come back in order as well to allow, you know, their courts to be used for potential voting locations
But look at tennis, Naomi Osaka, who won the open just this weekend, spent the whole tournament wearing seven different masks with names of seven
people who had been killed in racial violence. What do you say about sports and activism?
KING: I think it's fantastic. I'm glad that finally we're doing more and more of it. But let's face it, when I was 13, I realized that tennis -- I
didn't know the word, but I knew it was a platform. And the athletes today are using that platform. The biggest difference -- because I was in my 20s
in the '60s, when you talk about 1968 and the civil rights, we didn't have technology like we do now.
So, the players today, the athletes today can communicate quickly and mobilize quickly. And that's what you see is daily, and I think it's
fantastic. Black lives do matter, they have always mattered. And finally, people are listening, but Osaka is just typical of what we can do to help
make a difference and bring attention and therefore have dialogue and try to come up with some solutions.
Serena Williams used to talk about and still does about helping women of color. And remember that Venus Williams helped get equal prize money in the
major tournaments. So, it's -- women's tennis is really the leader in women's sports, without any question. And also, the WNBA gave up a lot. You
know, when you're smaller and you decided to go with it, you actually give up more. And I don't think people think about it, but NBA has always been
out on the forefront of change. It's a great organization.
AMANPOUR: And just to put, you know, a tie a bow on this, Naomi tweeted, all the people that were telling me to keep politics out of the sports,
which it wasn't political at all, really inspired me to win. You better believe that I'm going to try to be on your TV for as long as possible.
And as you say, this has a long history from Muhammad Ali to the athletes at the 1960 Olympic and on and on, they have come out and really used their
platforms, their popularity to do the right thing. So, let's just wrap this up by asking you, you are now talking about equality, you know, women
getting on equal rights. And you've often talked about men and women having to be in it together, particularly in your sport.
So, what do you think of this new tour that the world number one man, Novak Djokovic, and his allies have started, which is, it's just another man's
What's the point of that? Federer Nadal, Andy Murray, don't agree with that. What's that going to bring to the playing field?
BILLIE JEAN KING, FOUNDER, WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION: I don't think it's going to really help, to be honest. I always wanted us to be one
Association back in the late '60s, and the men rejected us there. Federer has brought it up. Djokovic, I don't know. I don't -- I'm not sure because
I know some of the men are not happy with the ATP, where they have new leadership during COVID right now.
But the WTA, the Women's Association and the men do work together a lot. I'm not clear on what's going to happen because a lot of the players don't
know if they really want to sign up with Djokovic. Also they had talks about the women going with them, but it's -- I don't -- I'm not clear
what's going to happen.
But Wimbledon and other slams said that they would only work with the ATP and WTA. So it's unclear but there's definitely unrest among the men.
AMANPOUR: And I said to tour but, of course, it's an association. Finally, let me ask you what advice would you have, you know, in this really fraught
atmosphere that we are experiencing right now, not just Black Lives Matter and the global uprising, but also, you know, COVID and what it's done to
sports and live events. What do you say to young people right now just coming into the game?
KING: They can be part of the solution. I want the Billie Jean King Cup to inspire the future generations. You see what the way Naomi Osaka, we text
back and forth quite often, and I just want the young people to be a part of it. I'm worried for them. I think they have a very heavy -- they're
really inheriting a heavy burden from us. I think we need to worry about climate change.
I mean, there's a lot going on but we still, as athletes, we need to use what we have available to us, our platform, to help us make this world a
KING: But it's going to be difficult, there's no question. But we got to step up, champions adjust, and really step up and lead. And I hope that's
what they do.
AMANPOUR: And that's good advice, champions adjust. Billie Jean King, thank you so much indeed and congratulations.
Now, as we've just been discussing, this wave of sports activism has been in response to racially motivated violence. And central to that issue, of
course, is guns. The NRA has successfully politicized gun control in America for decades. But the all powerful organization is now fighting for
its own survival, and its newest adversary comes from within its own ranks.
As Chief of Staff, the NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, Joshua Powell was the organization's de facto number two. But after being dismissed over
allegations of financial mistakes, Powell is now taking on his former home. He is speaking to our Michel Martin about his new book, "Inside the NRA,"
which accuses the organization of corruption and political extremism.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Christiane. Joshua Powell, thank you so much for talking with us.
JOSHUA POWELL, AUTHOR, "INSIDE THE NRA": And thanks for having me on, Michel.
MARTIN: The two main criticisms that you have in the book is, one, is financial misdealings. You say this is a bloated bureaucracy. It's actually
run terribly as a business. And then the second criticism is the political extremism that you've alluded to here. But I want to take those separately.
I mean, the first is the financial misdealings are with New York's Attorney General Letitia James is investigating. In fact, she's investigating the
calling for the NRA to be disbanded, in part because of the way its business operations run. So let's take that first and tell me what is it
that you objected to? What is it that you saw as briefly as you can?
POWELL: Yes. So let's unpack that and you're absolutely right. You know, me coming in there, the association, with this idea of modernizing operations,
which would have downstream effects on other parts, was really what I was looking at. And in many regards, that's just it was real, like basic
blocking and tackling business practices.
And what I quickly uncovered, you know, over the course of a few months was, really what had gone on is there -- that you had, you know, dozens and
dozens, and dozens of relationships with vendors that really came in the form of, you know, no big contracts, automatic escalators, you know, that
none of which were there were any metrics assigned to, deliverables assigned to them. And it became, as you start to peel back the covers a
little bit more, it became very obvious that, you know, there was just a ridiculous amount of waste and fatten (ph) this day, produced nothing
And, however, trying to, you know, peel that away and fix that movement was an incredibly challenging, you know, endeavor to take on. But --
MARTIN: Well, give an example. Give an example. A lot of what's gotten attention in the media has been the kind of Wayne LaPierre, the executive
vice president. He's kind of like the face of the NRA for a lot of people, the public face of the NRA for a lot of people, you know, charging off his
expensive suits to the organization staying in is incredibly expensive hotels.
You've talked about at one point being chastised because you booked into kind of a mid-priced hotel. And you were told no, we don't stay there. We
stay at the Ritz, move your room, that kind of thing. That's kind of the stuff that's gotten a lot of attention. But like what -- is that the core
of it people just spend wildly on like whatever?
Powell: Well, that's, I think, the kind of stuff that appeals to the media. But in terms of the absolute wastage of member's juice. It comes in the
form of not running a business anywhere near the way it ought to be. And looking at actually, you know, what is the output that I'm getting for
spending the dollar.
And there was a complete, you know, there just was zero philosophy in how that was even contemplated. And you realize, like, over -- however it
happened over all these years, this bureaucracy was built up, you know, at the top, you know, Wayne driving this thing really fed this entirely
corrupted, you know, machine that would, , you know, wrote checks at will to pay for a whole bunch of stuff that, you know, a, they never gotten and,
b, never had any bit of difference. And --
MARTIN: Like, give me an example. Like board members, you're taking people on the board, it's technically an unpaid position, but then they have all
of these, what, contracts, to provide services as vendors. Like give an example.
POWELL: Sure. So, you know, you can look as simple. It is -- it's all the way from how much you actually, the silliness of the structure of contracts
to -- for the folks that dial members and raise money where you're paying twice as much as you ought to pay. Well, if that's -- if you're paying this
vendor $30 million a year, and frankly, you can do it for half the price, and you add that up over 10 years. You're talking about $150 million of
And that little story, you can take and run across the entire operation from, you know, buying, you know, the little widgets that you would give to
members, that you completely overpaid for. Why? Well, you have to bid things out, right? You just need to make sure you're paying for it, paying
a fair market value on top of the fact that, you know, Wayne's, you know, out there trying to buy a $6 million house in South Lake, Dallas and sort
of living this billionaire lifestyle on the backs of members.
It's -- when I say, it's horrifying -- what I saw was horrifying, shooting or horrifying the gun owners. That's exactly what I was referring to. For
those of us who are not members of the organization.
MARTIN: Why is this an issue of public concern? Is there any way in which the NRA's financial dealings are connected to the political extremism that
a lot of people identify and that you have now, that you have now, as an insider, have now identified.
POWELL: Well, that's exactly right. So, you have the wastage as a member of the NRA. And then, you have the absolute human toll that's taken place
because of the, you know, the how the NRA is tactically went about raising its money over the years. And what they've ended up creating is an
There's well over 100 million gun owners in this country, and there's only 5 million NRA members, arguably of which only a couple million actually
give money every year. And that by definition is the fringe of the fringe. And what has happened is that, it's created a situation where it's a
microcosmo of our politics today. The louder and the more extreme you are, the more you're heard, and it's really easy to raise money on that fear.
You know, the idea that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are going to magically come in, in the middle of the night, and black helicopters, and
take their guns with the jackbooted thugs behind them, and then you send out mail into that, and it's easy to raise money that way.
And then what happens, the real toll is the fact that now you have this extreme organization of views period that is, the association of no, no
matter what, and who ends up really paying the price. The folks that, you know, the mothers that are scared to death for their children to walk home
from school in Chicago or Baltimore, you know, the mass shootings that we can't seem to find any answers for. And we don't have a scenario now where
anybody is really looking for real solutions to solve these problems.
MARTIN: You know, I think a lot of people remember the NRA as being mainly connected to the shooting sports training organization. It's kind of hard
to get a shooting sport without encounter -- it's hard to participate in a shooting sport without encountering the NRA.
POWELL: That's right.
MARTIN: So how did you become this kind of cultic It's kind of hard to get a shooting sport without encountering it it's hard to participate in a
shooting sport without encountering the NRA. So how did it become this kind of cultic, you know, closed off place where the only people they talked to,
with the people they already agreed -- who already agree with them?
POWELL: I don't think it's any more complicated that it became easy to raise money on -- the more that, you know, Wayne could pour gasoline on a
fire and say outlandish things and make, you know, troted out Dana Loesch and say media loves mass murder, or the only thing that can stop a bad guy
with a gun is a good guy with a gun, which is absurd on its face, and people ate it up. And it was easy to raise money off of pouring gas on fire
in this, you know, extreme marketing, if you will. And I guess, really not a lot -- it's really not much more complicated than that.
But what you end up though with is, remember, this is a member-owned association. So you end up with the extreme wagging the tail of the dog.
You can't find a gun owner in this country that has a problem with taking a background check to purchase a firearm. You'd be incredibly challenged to
find anybody that's got a problem with that.
Yet, within the membership and within the board of directors, that would be pretty -- you'd be committing heresy, if you will, to have that kind of
view. So because of the way that this, it became very, I, personally, and - - there was never any, like, great big strategic thinking. I think it just be -- it sort of morphed into this in a very Trumpian kind of way, test it
out and it works, you know, I'll go do more of that. And here we are, you know, fast forward 30 years later. And I think it really took a turn, you
know, after Sandy Hook.
MARTIN: Well -- but can I just ask you, where were you in all of this and who were you in all of this? I mean, Sandy Hook was in 2012. In fact, your
book opens with Sandy Hook, the Sandy Hook massacre, where these babies were all killed. He massacred, at point blank range, in under six minutes
and your book opens with that. Meanwhile, you're hanging out at a steak house with your, you know, with your private equity bros, you know, trying
to, you know, put together a deal to roll up a bunch of gun companies. And you don't even seem to react to it.
And then -- and I have to tell you, you went to the NRA after Sandy Hook. So you went there with the knowledge that Wayne LaPierre was pouring
gasoline on the fire, that he was saying things like the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good -- is with a good guy with a gun, which you
say in the book is patently false. So you knew all of this going in. So where were you in all that?
POWELL: It's not a very pretty picture of me during that time period. I don't like that guy. That's the guy you look at and you kind of like, I
really hate that guy. But that was a person in my me, that was swept up and, you know, that, side if you will. And the energy of it being
intoxication of, and I was certainly as guilty as anybody of stirring that lemonade.
I, obviously, wasn't working within the association at that time, but I was involved in, you know, all sorts of discussions with folks inside of there,
including Wayne, including the ad agency. And so, you know, I'm no saint in this book, right?
Let's be straight. I'm definitely, you know, not the same in this story, but I'm not the villain either.
You know what had really happened in my time there was I rather than being able to modernize the association, apply modern businesses practices to it,
I became, you know, a lawyer for all practical purposes with the objective of saving Wayne LaPierre. And my real turning point with all this was last
summer when I went home to Michigan and I spent the previous week, you know, working with the attorneys, the PR guys, you know, defending off
these blue suit allegations. And I think at the time it was this house situation, that Wayne was trying to buy a $6 million house in Dallas
And I met a very old friend of mine, (inaudible). He said, hey, I got my new membership card just like your dad got. And I just looked at myself and
said, good Lord, what are you doing? This is not you. You know, this is a guy -- this guy is giving you $45 and it's certainly not for you to defend,
you know, buying a $6 million house in the NRA's back.
So I would say I certainly had an arc of a change in my life thinking along the way.
MARTIN: But why do you think that is, though? What was fun about it? Like, why do you think you did?
POWELL: I think, part of it is -- was the, you know, was a real big fight, right? And this was like the -- it was the epitome of political fights in
the country. And being involved with that level was very interesting and very, you know, very intoxicating.
I also believe very strongly in the second amendment, rights, so obviously part and parcel of my life. And I would say that, you know, I sort of allow
myself to get sucked into that to a large degree.
MARTIN: You say that the NRA is really smoke and mirrors. You say that, you know, rather than being a well-oiled data-driven lobbying machine, we were
stuck back in the dark ages. There was no war room at the NRA, no coordinated effort between our lobbyists, no data machine that would, you
know, kick out metrics were top notch political lobbying shop would have.
And you say, you even quote your former boss, Wayne LaPierre, as saying to you on many occasions, Josh, come on, you know, it's all smoke and mirrors,
the Wizard of Oz, just pull back the green curtain.
How is that possible? Because you also point out that the NRA is like one of the big three along with, you know, one of the biggest kind of lobbying
shops in the in the country. So how is that possible?
POWELL: Well, it's possible because the -- what folks don't seem to understand is that that, the second amendment vote happens regardless of
the NRA's participation. And this is like a few topics in this country. This is one that people are single kind of minded in the way that they vote
on this. And they do turn it out. And --
Martin: So you say there's a court -- there's a cadre of voters who no matter what the NRA says, has an extremist position and will vote that
position, and that's their kind of preeminent position going to the polls. Is that what you're saying? And they're enough to make a difference.
POWELL: Well, there -- if you got 30,000, you know, folks in every congressional district that will flip the ladder in that regard, yes, that
is a powerful thing. But that doesn't have anything to do with the National Rifle Association. That has to do with those folks.
And that is the -- and there isn't a lot of money that is actually put into campaigns, 2016 was an exception with Donald Trump. But, you know,
typically campaign cycle, a campaign cycle, the amount of money that the NRA puts into someone's campaign and its payments.
MARTIN: How then do you say that the NRA has pushed this extremist position? If you're saying that there's a contract with people who would
vote that way anyway, how is the NRA responsible for taking this to the nth degree to becoming, as you said, the group of no?
POWELL: Because folks have bought into this Wizard of Oz, what they miss is the fact that there are 100 million gun owners in this country, there's 96%
of them that are in favor of, you know, passing a more substantial background check law. And what they end up doing is end up basically
pandering all the way to this extreme fringe of things.
And if they understood that, hey, there's a much bigger voting block here, and I'm not going to get, you know, blown out in this election because of
the NRA, I think -- and once folks starts to understand how that actually works, it ought to give them a little bit more faith to have some courage
when it comes to dealing with some of this stuff. And that's exactly what Wayne says to me when he would say to me, hey, this is all smoke and
mirrors. That's exactly what he was referring to.
And it's easy to take credit for something when you're sort of writing the back of the way.
MARTIN: Well, you know, of course the NRA has a very different view of these matters. As you would imagine, they're not very happy with you at the
moment. We received a statement from them. It says let's get this straight, a self-confessed wrongdoer who was terminated for cause is now glorifying
himself talking books, and blaming everyone else.
The facts are that Mr. Powell was fired for cause after his financial abuse was discovered by the accounting staff with the NRA. This is a fictional
account of the NRA period. And just recently as last year, he was a full throated supporter of Mr. LaPierre, the NRA and the second amendment
Today, he's been ousted as someone who abused the NRA for years, directed contracts to family members using NRA money to fly his family to Palm Beach
and other abuses. And then, they go on to say, the NRA is in great financial shape and showing record support, and moving on.
So basically, they say you are the person who committed these financial improprieties, which is why you got fired. There was also another
investigation saying, you know, last year, in August of last year, suggesting that you had been the target of a sexual harassment complaint
for which a settlement was made.
So that's what they say. So what do you say to them?
POWELL: It's pretty simple that, you know, what the NRA has been threatening -- when it became clear that I was leaving that organization,
they've been threatening me, harassing me since late last fall. This is just an extension of that. I would expect them to do it more and more, and
What they're leaving out of this entire statement from my friend, Andrew, is the fact that they had offered me $850,000 in non-disclosure agreement,
which I tore up and walked away from. And so, this idea that they're conveniently leaving the house, the conversation, and, of course, they're
going to smear me, they're doing everything they can possibly do to denigrate myself, my family, anybody around me.
I'm the last person in the entire planet, but they would like to having a conversation about this with you or with authorities, or anybody that has
any oversight in this association. So Am I surprise, of course not. I think it's going to continue 100 percent. That's the --
MARTIN: Are you cooperating with the New York attorney general? Are you in discussions with her about these matters that you talked about in the book?
POWELL: Well, obviously I can't talk about, you know, ongoing discussions with litigation, but certainly we are cooperating in her probing in NRA.
MARTIN: I want to go back to where you open the book. You open the book with the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. And you talk about
just what a fraud period that was, just how awful it was, but nothing happened after that. Why is that?
POWELL: It wasn't absolutely the -- it was absolutely horrific day. And I think all of us felt, seeing the President saying that something is going
to change this time. And obviously, it didn't.
If you think back since Sandy Hook, literally the only thing that folks have ever -- that the only solutions that are ever thrown out on the table
are a universal background check, a law, which is fine. A couple red flag laws, but there isn't a lot of really substantiated deep analysis and
research into what is going on here, and how are we going to fix this.
MARTIN: In part because the NRA forced the writer into a Congressional appropriation that basically banned the National Institutes for Health from
doing this research.
POWELL: Well, that's right. That's absolutely right. There's been a big fear over the years of taking on the NRA. And I think that the tides have
I also think that in many regards, it's a big black paper tiger (ph). And I think that there's a way forward. What I don't or won't be helpful is, if
we get a reaction, you know, from the other side that sort of is really kind of over, like over pushes this way. And I think for this to really
work, you have to have both sides buy into it.
MARTIN: Joshua Powell, thank you so much for speaking with us.
POWELL: Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, "humanity at a crossroads," that's the key message from a new UN Biodiversity report. The sweeping study finds that
not one of the 20 global conservation targets, which was set a decade ago, has been met. Not one.
Natural habitat loss remains high especially in forests and tropical regions, and pollution. Our skies and seas still is widespread with
plastics and our oceans destroying crucial ecosystems.
There were a few bites bright spots, though. Global deforestation is down by a third, but much more work is desperately needed. Good news is, more
and more young people are leading the charge for change and they're demanding action.
And that's something world renowned naturalist, David Attenborough, had told me about, when I spoke to him in early lockdown, when everyone was
marveling at a suddenly cleaner environment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID ATTENBOROUGH, NATURALIST: Young people, who are going to inherit this earth, young people have made it absolutely clear how vigorously and
vehemently they feel about what is happening to the planet. And it is that, in any democratic society, or of our leaders and our politicians, to take
Before, 20 years ago, I don't think the politician did take it seriously. I thought they thought, oh, well, you know, it's 20, 30, 40 years ahead, and
we've got urgent things to do tomorrow or next week. They didn't really take it seriously. But young people now are insisting that they take it
And that has been the major change, I think, in public mood over the past few months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: When the article speaks, we should all listen. And that is it for us for now. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.