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BlackRock Puts Sustainability in Investment Decisions; Brian Deese, Global Head of Sustainable Investing, BlackRock, is Interviewed About BlackRock; Bernie Sanders Wins in New Hampshire Primary; Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA), is Interviewed About Bernie Sanders; Coronavirus Impacts; Hidden Cost of Epidemics. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 12, 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump. Bernie
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Sanders wins in New Hampshire with moderates hot on his heels, but can his populism beat Donald Trump's? We'll speak to Congressman Ro
Khanna, co-chair of the Sanders campaign.
Then, why the global climate change movement could reshape finance. We talk to BlackRock's Brian Deese the loudest voice on Wall Street takes a stand
Plus, as the battle to contain the coronavirus intensifies, we look at another of its side effects, racism.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
With the Democratic primaries in full swing and the election in November, one of the major issues is climate change, certainly among young voters
wherever they are in the world. And public pressure is also mounting on Wall Street.
BlackRock, the world's largest fund manager has probably the loudest voice at the table as it manages assets worth $7 trillion, including many pension
funds. But now, the company says it will put sustainability at the heart of its investment decisions, divesting from coal.
Brian Deese is global head of the sustainable investment at BlackRock, he previously served as a senior adviser to President Obama and he played an
important role in negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement. He's joining me now to discuss this from New York.
Brian Deese, welcome to the program.
BRIAN DEESE, GLOBAL HEAD OF SUSTAINABLE INVESTING, BLACKROCK: Happy to be here.
AMANPOUR: So, what do you say, just as an -- you know, just as a starting gambit, that BlackRock is also susceptible and sensitive to what people
want, what the public is now saying?
DEESE: Well, from our perspective, we think about all these issues in the context of what will affect long-term return and what will generate the
best long-term financial outcomes for our clients.
And so, one of the things that we have thought a lot about and heard a lot about on these broad issues of sustainability, but particularly climate
change, is that the changing expectations of society, of the young people around the world, the global movements that are raising the pressure on
this set of issues, is actually having a feedback effect into how companies operate.
And so, that is something that we pay very close attention to, because increasingly, whether a company can maintain its license to operate in the
communities that it serves or with the customers that it serves, is going to be a part of whether it can sustain profitability over the long-term.
So, in that sense, we are very focused on these questions of whereas public sentiment, but to the degree that it will actually affect how long-term
value is created.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, we'll talk a little more later a little later about public value and profitability. But first, let's talk about what you are
talking about and what your CEO, Larry Fink, has announced, that BlackRock will no longer actively invest in companies that generate 25 percent of
their profits from coal production. That's what he said in a letter. What - - so, just flesh that out a little bit before we get to the nitty-gritty. Why just 25 percent, for instance?
DEESE: Sure. So, I think the place that we start is with the basic view that climate risk is investment risk. And that has not been the view in
financial markets traditionally. But increasingly, we have conviction that that is going to be the case going forward.
So increasingly, whether it's the physical impacts of climate change, you think about the increase incidents of wildfires, whether that's in
California or Australia, but also the risks that are posed by new technologies and new regulations that are forcing carbon intensive
industries to change and adapt. These risks are real and they're putting pressure on companies and their business models.
So, as we look at that question of climate risk, we look at those industries and those areas that are the most likely to be affected. Now,
we've taken a specific position on thermal coal, and as you say, 25 percent or more of revenue in -- derived from thermal coal mining, that's a sub-
segment where we think that the investment risks are large enough that in our active portfolios where we have discretion, it's not worth holding.
But the issue of risk actually extends far beyond that, to companies in the value chain of energy production, in transportation, in logistics and
supply chains around the world. So, our focus is much broader than the coal issue, but we have made a specific decision in that segment.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let's just take that decision and that segment. You just mentioned active investment, 11 percent of BlackRock's fund money is in
active funds, and 89 percent goes into passive investment. So, passive investment, you know, people who play this game know that it means putting
money into something, leaving it there, often into funds or an index tracker.
But by making a distinction between active and passive, what you're basically saying is that, you know, you'll do this sustainability for what,
10 percent-ish of what you manage, but what about the other 90 percent-ish? I mean, it's a big amount that will still go into companies that hold, you
know, other kinds of coal and fossil fuels.
DEESE: Yes. So, we start from this premise that we view this as risk and investment risk and then we think about how do we apply that to our
business. So, you're right, we start in the portfolios where we have discretion, about 1.8 trillion in portfolios that we manage where we have
discretion, these so-called active portfolios. And there we can express our sustainability views by making decisions about where to sell in or out of a
In the portfolios that we manage, where we manage against an index, the question is, how do we express our views about sustainability? And we can't
simply if a client says they want to -- they want us to deliver the S&P 500, we legally deliver them the S&P 500. But we don't stop there. We have
said that our views around sustainability are going to cause us to do two things.
One, we want to offer as many choices as possible. So, we have committed to creating sustainable versions of all of the major flagship indices that we
offer, so if a client wants to invest with sustainable orientation, they have the ability to do that.
AMANPOUR: OK. So --
DEESE: And the second is where we --
AMANPOUR: Go ahead.
DEESE: Well, the second is where do own a stake in those companies, we'll engage directly with them on behalf of our clients to reinforce the
importance of the sustainability related issues to long-term issues.
AMANPOUR: So, just not to be, you know, too much of a, you know, cold water agent here, according to InfluenceMap, which is as you know the U.K.-
based nonprofit think tank, you know, BlackRock was investing about 150 million tons of coal through its active funds, as we've discussed, still
investing in 1.2 billion tons of coal through its passive funds.
So, you know, this is a huge, huge, huge difference of what's still investing. And because you've portrayed it in terms of, you know,
responsibility and profit and, you know, to your shareholders and all the rest of it, I just want to ask you to react to what Andrew Ross Sorkin, the
business correspondent, has written in the "New York Times" just last month.
He basically said, had Mr. Fink moved a decade ago to pull BlackRock funds out of companies that contribute to climate change, his clients would have
been well served. In the past 10 years, through Friday, companies in the S&P 500 energy sector had gained just 2 percent in total, while in the same
period the broader S&P 500 nearly tripled. In other words, fossil fuels are a losing ticket.
So, all that you're saying now and portraying it in basically the financial imperative, it's still not enough, right? And you should have been doing it
a lot earlier. But you're still investing a lot in this sector.
DEESE: Look, I would say a couple of things to that. The first is that in the passive business that we manage, we are taking a set of quite
significant steps to lead the industry, including just this week announcing that we will offer a new series of index funds, ETFs, that allow investors
to allocate their capital into an index tracking strategies where this is - - where we're eliminating exposure to fossil fuel companies broadly. We want to make those options available.
And the second point is that we are trying to increasingly communicate our view that these climate risks are increasingly salient as investment risks
and that financial markets broadly are not fully prepared for the magnitude of the capital reallocation to come.
And so, we can look backward and forward, but what we're communicating today is that we believe that these climate-related issues, whether it's
facing traditional energy companies or real estate or consumer goods companies, are going to play an increasing role in valuation going forward
and we want to be ahead of that on behalf of our clients, but we also want to communicate that view more broadly to financial.
AMANPOUR: So, I guess another question, because, again, you know, we're all mindful of the culture, the politics, the needle that is seriously
shifting and did, you know, all through 2019, thanks to, in part, and great part, Greta Thunberg, the youth movement, elections which showed that, you
know, climate was massively a big priority over many, many other issues for people all over the world.
So, it's great that you're doing your bit, but as we've just discussed, it's only a fraction of what you could be doing. And particularly, you are
only talking about coal and you're not talking about divesting in any form or fashion from oil or gas. You know, The Guardian report said says the
big, big, big, big producers, BP, Shell, Chevron, Exxon have made also almost $2 trillion in profits in the last three decades as their
exploitation of oil, gas and coal reserves continue. What do you say to that?
DEESE: Look, I would say that what we're witnessing and what we're going to witness is a significant transition, and the transition to decarbonize
our economy, not just in the emergency sector, but again, across different sectors of our economy.
It is important that that will be a transition. It will operate over years and in some cases decades. Now, our view is that that transition is going
to happen more quickly than a number of financial market participants expect. But I would challenge the idea that all we are doing is connected
to the places where we're actively divesting. Because the most important thing to identify is not necessarily are you going to divesting from entire
sectors or segments, but instead, where are those companies and where are those business models that are the most prepared for this transition?
And so, we spend a lot of time asking the question not necessarily, are you going to exit the entire oil and gas industry or all utilities globally,
but instead, within those sectors, which are the companies that are the most prepared that are investing the most in the clean technologies of the
future, and which of those companies are less prepared. Because as investors, if we are identifying those companies, we want to be on the
front end of this transition.
So, I think that it's important that we not allow this conversation to go into too narrow a debate between divest or not divest. We see this in the
policy arena as well. This is going to be a global transition and I think that what we're trying to do is get ahead of the transition on behalf of
our clients across sectors and across different aspects of the economy.
AMANPOUR: So, you talked about specific companies and, you know, what you can do in this sector. So, let's take a specific company and a specific
mine, the Adani mine and the Siemens company in Australia, as you know, one of the biggest coal mines is in the process right now of being built and
scientists have said, environmentalists, very, very highly respected ones, that this is going to, you know, destroy what's left of the great barrier
reef. And let's not forget that we're in the middle of these massive fires. And the engineering company, Siemens, has signed a lucrative deal to build
parts of the train and the rail system there.
And you, BlackRock, are a majority shareholder in Siemens. So, this is what the CEO of Greenpeace has said just this month. Australia's coal-fired
bushfires are still raging, koalas are burning alive, fires threaten families all over the country and our capital city is choking on toxic
smoke. And yet, companies like BlackRock and Siemens continue to support fossil fuels by aiding projects like Adani's Carmichael coal mine.
Now, yes, you did criticize them over, you know, their role in this project, Siemens, but then you backed all the management decisions and
resolutions which were put forth at Siemens' annual meeting, the BlackRock back Siemens.
So, again, you know, what is the bottom line here? Where do you really use your influence as this massive voice, this massive, you know, shareholder
and this ability to really talk to companies at these annual meetings?
DEESE: Yes. So, a couple of things. So, first, we're not a majority shareholder. We own a stake in that company through the investments in
passive index funds. Second, you -- as you pointed out, we -- as we committed to earlier this year, we have been more transparent and clear
about our engagement with that company and specifically, our concerns about how that company has handled the decisions around its engagement with the
Carmichael mine, and we were quite public about that in ways that I would argue you are not seeing necessarily other asset managers to.
But to your question about where we can make a difference, we can do that in three ways. One is where we have discretion in our active portfolios, we
can make active decisions on behalf of our clients. Where we're managing passive funds, we can work to democratize access and we're doing more than
any other company in the space to create investment options, low-cost investment options for investors to choose.
And we can communicate our investment view that for those clients that we have, we can sit with them and explain to them why we believe that taking a
sustainability first approach in their investments is the right way to think about long-term return.
Our clients are large pension funds, sovereign wealth funds all around the world whose end beneficiaries are often long-term savers saving for
retirement or education or otherwise. And we have a role to play in educating them about the decisions that they're making. Ultimately, that
end decision goes to the asset owner but we can and we are now stepping into playing a role in communicating our views and helping to educate them
on what we believe will be the best for their long-term outcome.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that sounds really great. I mean, your own CEO, Larry Fink, has put it, the money that BlackRock manages is not its own. I mean,
it's the people's money, right? And according, again, to this InfluenceMap, BlackRock appear absent from the shift in company engagement on climate
from the asset management sector.
So again, I know you're saying that you want to, you know, influence and guide and direct some of these companies and use your big voice at the
shareholder meetings and at the table. Is it going to take a bit more then to -- you know, get these companies over the line?
DEESE: Well, again, what we've said, I would challenge the we -- you know, an editorial statement that we've been absent. BlackRock engages directly
with more companies more frequently than any other asset manager in the world.
And beyond that, we committed earlier this year to two things. One, we're going to be more transparent about how we engage and what we engage on so
that when our clients or the public have questions, we're clear, and I think you see that in the example of Siemens that you raised.
And secondly, we've said that increasingly on issues of climate-related disclosure and understanding companies' plans to adapt to low-carbon
transitions across time, we have less patience with companies now that there has been a couple of years for companies to get used to, for example,
how to report on climate-related issues in the wake of the task force on climate related financial disclosure that came out a few years ago.
And so, as we look at company progress, we are going to be increasingly disposed to vote against management where we don't see that progress and
where we don't see that action. So, I think you'll see from us both increased transparency and increased urgency around this set of issues,
again, consistent with our view that the investment salients of this issue is increasing in the market.
AMANPOUR: So, it's really important, obviously, because BlackRock, as we've said, I mean, is such a massive company, has so many trillions and is
a -- could be a game-changer. So, it's really important that you've taken this stance and, you know, we'll obviously be very interested to watch how
But I want to ask you also about, you know, your personal journey to an extent. I mean, you, as we said in the introduction, worked under both
terms of President Obama, senior adviser, was very -- you were very important in the negotiating team for the Paris Climate Accord. I just
wonder how, you know, your personal experience shapes your current job at this major corporation, and, yes, let me just ask you that. Because in view
of the current administration sort of disdain for the climate crisis.
DEESE: Well, one of the perspectives that I bring, having worked on this set of issues from the policy side is that, ultimately, the solution to
accelerating this transition to a low-carbon economy and to solving the climate crisis is going to take the partnership and the intersection
between public policy and private markets. And ultimately, to really see an acceleration in the transition, we're going to need both.
You need strong, consistent public policy signals that allow investors to invest in low-carbon solutions and in low-carbon systems. But you also need
financial markets to evolve and to up their game and recognize that, assuming a world that is climatically stable is no longer than acceptable
way to invest in the future.
And so, we're going to need these two things to come together and certainly, that's a personal journey that I've been on in both sides of
this, but also something that I have increasing conviction about.
And so, I think that from the vantage point I have now from the BlackRock perspective, we're also trying to be clear that having clearer and better
global public policy on this, including in this very critical year of 2020 where companies -- where countries are intended to step forward and re-up
their commitments under the Paris Agreement, having this intersection between finance and global public policy and figuring out ways to have that
work more seamlessly together is going to be a critical piece of this puzzle.
AMANPOUR: And I just, again, want to -- from a personal and maybe even have a business perspective, want to ask your views on the young people who
have shifted the dialogue, Greta Thunberg, for instance, you know, she they sakes massive risks and she's devoted a huge amount of her own time and
effort and sacrifice inspiring hundreds of thousands if not millions of people all over the world.
And yet, the most important people and powerful people in the world troll her, insult her, whether it's the president, whether it's Steve Mnuchin,
the secretary of the treasury, who recently said, who is she, the chief economist, whether it's the policy official of the European Union. Just --
you know, people need something to be able to believe in and to get behind and grassroots is really important in our cultures and our civilizations.
How do you just react and assess this grassroots movement?
DEESE: Look, I think that we've seen across history that society helps to move big institutions, whether they be in politics or business or
otherwise, and I think we're seeing that happen in real time. You know, I was part of the process that led to the Paris Agreement and the grassroots
movement that happened over the course of 2015 and escalated to bring us all there at the end of 2015 was absolutely critical to encouraging,
nudging, prodding, shaming the countries of the world to actually come together.
I will tell you that having lived through that in 2015, I think 2019 will go down as an even more consequential year because this organic grassroots
outpouring of support, I think largely driven by the extraordinarily stark findings of the IPCC report and the impacts on our world and on, in
particular, the least resourced communities and countries around the world if we don't keep global average temperatures from increasing, has sparked a
I think it's -- there's extraordinary power to that and that we all, whether we are citizens or policymakers or investors, need to take that
very seriously. We need to engage with it and we need to understand that that sentiment is not going away. It reflects a larger underlying
frustration with institutions of power not solving this problem, and it reflects a commitment that people around the world, individual humans will
band together and will vote with their feet, will vote with their -- at the ballot box and with their dollars as well.
AMANPOUR: It's really important. Great to hear from you. Brian Deese, head of sustainable investment at BlackRock. Thank you for joining us.
DEESE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And talking about voting with their feet, it is now two down and no closer to winnowing the race for the Democratic nomination. With
progressive Bernie Sanders squeaker of a victory in New Hampshire and the moderate, Pete Buttigieg, nipping at his heels, what does this ideological
divide mean for the party's direction and its ability to beat President Trump in November? Especially since the presumed Trump slayer, Joe Biden,
came in fifth place with no delegates at all out of New Hampshire.
And as the focus shifts now to more diverse states, Nevada and South Carolina, Sanders' new front-runner status has left some Democratic Party
grandees members wringing their hands. Could his populism beat Trump's? California congressman, Ro Khanna, is co-chair of the Bernie Sanders
campaign and he's joining me now from Washington.
Welcome to the program, Congressman.
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Thank you, Christiane. Thank you for having me on.
AMANPOUR: So, as I said, some are wringing their hands. I guess, maybe this isn't the right place to start an interview with the co-chair of the
Sanders campaign, but there are very important people in the party who are, indeed, wringing their hands. What do you say to them on this day after the
New Hampshire primary?
KHANNA: They have no reason to worry. They should be happy that Bernie Sanders is winning with rural voters, winning and inspiring minority
voters, winning independent voters.
He's running on fulfilling FDR's legacy of the new deal, completing the new deal in the 21st century, that means everyone should have health care,
everyone should have basic education, every family should have child care, every family should have the chance to get a basic job that allows them to
have a living wage. These are very common-sense ideas that our party has been fighting for for 75 years.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to get to some of the issues in a second. But let me ask you as co-chair, were you -- I mean, he won, but it was a squeaker. He
got 26 percent of the votes in New Hampshire after getting 25 percent in Iowa. 26 is the lowest total for anyone who has ever won in New Hampshire.
And he's trailing, you know, Pete Buttigieg now by two delegates. How do you analyze this picture?
KHANNA: Well, first of all, there were 25 candidates and many formidable candidates. So, the fact that he won in that strong a field is
extraordinary and he won across the board.
He won with white Americans without college degrees, he won in the Latino community, he won with young voters, he won with voters under 45, he won
with rural voters, independent voters and he's going to be very, very strong heading into Nevada and South Carolina as the electorate becomes
more diverse and he's leading in the big states. So, I am very confident that he will be leading in delegates after March 3rd on Super Tuesday on
route to being the nominee.
AMANPOUR: I think there was quite a lot of surprise at the youth turnout in New Hampshire. You know, he won more voters under 30 than all the other
campaigns combined. But the turnout was lower this year than in 2016. It decreased from 19 percent to 14 percent. And of course, you know, they are
his biggest backers, the young really flock to him, and he promises --
AMANPOUR: -- you know, for want of a better word, revolution in terms of, you know, turning the system upside down in the ways you describe, on
health, on education, on all those issues. How do you explain a drop in the youth turnout then in New Hampshire of all places?
KHANNA: Christiane, I'll be honest, it is a concern. We were hoping for a bigger turnout. That explains some of the drop-off in the polling, which
had factored in 20 percent young people. But I do think that they're going to turnout when the opposition is Donald Trump. They're not going to
turnout in a -- necessarily in a multi-candidate primary.
But let me acknowledge that we have work to do. We need to collectively, not just Bernie Sanders but all the candidates in our party, need to make
sure young people understand the stakes on climate change, on gun violence and on voting and we have to get better at improving the turnout.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that Bernie Sanders' promises are achievable? And I ask you because, you know, a very imminent economist, Nobel Prize winner,
Paul Krugman, who is, you know, a progressive, I guess liberal in his own right. I hope I'm describing him correctly in terms of his --
KHANNA: I have tremendous respect for him.
AMANPOUR: Yes, yes. And he's -- you know, he has supported a lot of these things. But he wrote an op ed, as you know, back at the end of January
saying, even if he, Sanders, made it to the White House, he would have to deal with a Congress and a public considerably less radical than he is and
would be obliged to settle for a more modest, progressive agenda. Do you buy that?
KHANNA: Well, here's my question for the Professor Krugman, who I have tremendous respect for as a Nobel Laureate economist, do you think that
economists in 1931 would have been able to predict that FDR would get the new deal and the Social Security Act in 1935?
Do you think an economist sitting in 1963 or 1964 would have been able to predict that we would have the Immigration Rights Act, the Civil Rights
Act, the Voting Rights Act? It always looks impossible until it is done, that's Nelson Mandela.
And so, my view is the very movement that would carry Bernie Sanders into the presidency and the mandate he would have would fundamentally change our
politics, fundamentally change what is possible in Congress and even Nobel Laureates can't predict a few years out what is going to be possible in a
body politic to accomplish.
AMANPOUR: So, here I am sitting in London and as you know, in December there was an election here and a fairly similar candidate, Jeremy Corbin,
head of the Labour Party, was predicted precisely to have done really well, especially with the young, on the issues that mattered to people, you know,
health and all the other things that are very similar to what Bernie Sanders says. And as you know, he went down to a crushing defeat. Does that
concern you at all?
KHANNA: Well, I think there are very big differences. Medicare for All, in some sense, is a compromise position. We still are talking about having
private health care in this country, private hospitals, private doctors. We're just talking about national health insurance for everyone.
Of course, in Britain there's actual government provided health care. It's far more left. And then my understanding is there were issues of anti-
Semitism that had bubbled up in that election. None of that is present here. Of course, Bernie Sanders has a history of having parents who
suffered because of the holocaust, he's proud of his Jewish heritage, he stood up against anti-Semitism his whole career and he will have a great
view for peace in the Middle East. So, I think the situations are not exactly comparable.
So, now, I want to run a soundbite of Bernie Sanders during his victory, and he talked about uniting what is, as you know, a very divided country,
also, a divided Democratic Party. People are still sort of casting around for electability and he does have a huge amount of passion that he
engenders amongst a lot of people. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I can tell you with absolute certainty -- and I know I speak for every one of the
Democratic candidates -- is that, no matter who wins -- and we certainly hope it's going to be us -- we are going to unite together.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SANDERS: We are going to unite together and defeat the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So that's pretty important, what he just said there. I think everybody is -- certainly on the Democratic Party -- wants to make sure
that their party is united, because whatever divides your party is -- pales in comparison as what divides your party from President Trump.
So I say all this because, as you know, he called for the same unity after he lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016, but not all his voters, you know, voted
for Hillary, and some even voted for Donald Trump.
Do you think that would be different this time, or are they sort of Bernie or bust, the voters?
KHANNA: I do think it will be different.
I know, to his core, Bernie Sanders believes defeating Donald Trump is the highest priority, and he will work with 110 percent passion, as will I, as
will anyone affiliated with his campaign, to make sure the Democratic nominee wins.
I also think many of his supporters recognize the threat that Donald Trump poses to the very institutions of democracy, to the pluralistic sense of
America, and will come out. Last time, many people didn't think Donald Trump would win.
Finally, there's always a falloff. I mean, there were Hillary Clinton supporters, despite Hillary Clinton's extraordinary effort, who still
didn't vote for Obama at the final measure. So, I don't think you can look at a falloff in one case and make a conclusion about what will happen with
the election against Donald Trump.
AMANPOUR: You just mentioned abuse of power and the dangers that Democrats identify under this current administration.
So, I want to ask you sort of a news of day question because of your role as a congressman, and that is the controversy over the sentencing and the
term of Roger Stone, the key aide to President Trump.
And he -- as you know, when he was sentenced to seven to nine years, President Trump tweeted a lot about how unfair it was for prosecutors to
make that. And now the Department of Justice is recommending an unspecified term for him.
And many federal prosecutors, I think about four, have quit. It seems to be in protest.
What is your view of this? Because even some, you know, Democrats believe that maybe seven to nine years was too long. Nonetheless, what's your view
of the intervention of the Justice Department and the attorney general?
KHANNA: Well, the problem is, again, it raises issues of corruption and nepotism and cronyism.
I mean, what makes America unique is our commitment to the rule of law, that we aren't in a country where, if you're friends with the president or
help the president, that you get a different sense of justice.
And here you have an extraordinary intervention by the Justice Department, unprecedented, that they are calling for a reversal of a sentence. I mean,
it would be one thing if the prosecutors who actually were in the case were going to the judge or if the judge were asking for reconsideration.
But it should not be a political process. It's symbolic of everything that is wrong with this administration.
AMANPOUR: And very briefly -- we have got 30 seconds -- what can Congress do about it?
KHANNA: Well, Congress has oversight over the Justice Department. We fund, ultimately, the Justice Department. They need Congress appropriations. And
so we ought to call William Barr in front of Congress.
We ought to call the individuals and get the facts and get the documents to understand where the interference was.
But the problem is, Christiane, when the Republicans decided not to remove Donald Trump, they sent him a message that he can be as brazen as he wants
and there may not be consequences. And I fear that the only thing really in our country that we can do is now vote him out of office in 2020.
AMANPOUR: Congressman Ro Khanna, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
And turning now to the novel coronavirus, the death toll continues to climb, and the infection is disrupting the lives of people all over the
Just ask the passengers on board the Diamond Princess, the big cruise ship outside Tokyo, where more than 3,000 people are stuck on what's now a giant
floating quarantine zone, as Japan faces the largest number of cases outside China.
Correspondent Matt Rivers got exclusive access to a crew member, who gives him a rare and worrisome look on board.
Here's that report.
STEFANO RAVERA, DIAMOND PRINCESS CAPTAIN: We are doing everything in our power to maximize your comfort during your extended stay with us.
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Wednesday announcement for passengers aboard the Diamond Princess, AS the captain
seeks to reassure them all is OK, saying the air on board is clean.
But amidst his crew, there is palpable fear that the virus is spreading.
CNN spoke with a crew member aboard the ship, Sonali Thakkar. Speaking behind a mask, her message is urgent.
(on camera): Are you concerned that the virus is spreading amongst the crew right now?
SONALI THAKKAR, DIAMOND PRINCESS EMPLOYEE: Yes, because the number of crew members who are infected is also increasing now.
RIVERS (voice-over): At least five crew members have already tested positive for the virus. Sonali said she's had a fever and chills since
Monday. She says her boss told her to stop work and stay in her cabin. She's scared she's got it, too.
(on camera): And how does that make you feel?
THAKKAR: We just want to get back home safe without this infection. That's all we want.
RIVERS (voice-over): When we talked, she had been waiting to see a doctor for two days. Meanwhile, about 1,000 of her colleagues kept working,
because there's over 2, 600 passengers on board that have been put in mandatory quantity by Japan's government, forced to stay in their rooms
most of the day.
But the ship still needs to run, so the crew works side by side, wearing masks and gloves, though Sonali says mealtime is most dangerous.
THAKKAR: We all remove our masks and gloves when we are eating. So, we are all sitting in the same place and having food, and it can spread.
RIVERS: CNN has spoken to multiple infectious disease experts who express skepticism that the current quarantine system is the best way to contain
ERIC RUBIN, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I think a lot of thought went into what to do with the passengers, but it puts the crew at increased risk.
RIVERS: Japanese authorities continue to defend their actions, saying they believe anyone who tests positive contracted the virus before the
quarantine went into effect. Anyone who tests positive is brought off the ship and sent to local hospitals.
Earlier this week, we asked a Japanese health official if the crew was safe.
(on camera): Is everyone on board the ship being treated the same way? What do you say to their concerns?
GAKU HASHIMOTO, JAPANESE VICE MINISTER OF HEALTH (through translator): We're trying to treat all the people equally. However, we also know that
crew members don't have private rooms, like the passengers have, and they still have to work and help people on the ship.
So it's not all equal. However, we're giving everyone on the ship guidelines for prevention.
RIVERS (voice-over): Princess Cruise is saying it's following Japan's quantity guidelines, saying the -- quote -- "Japan Ministry of Health has
been the, lead defining the test protocols for all guests and crew."
But the fact is, as long as Japan continues to insist on quarantining passengers on board the ship, the danger will remain because the crew has
to keep working.
There's mixed reaction from passengers on board.
ROSE YEREX, PASSENGER: The crew are being so good, and I know they're worried as well.
GAY COURTER, PASSENGER: I do not feel the quarantine is working. It's a failed quarantine.
RIVERS: During our phone call with Sonali on Wednesday, she had to hang up.
(on camera): Are you still there?
RIVERS (voice-over): A doctor had finally come to test her for the virus. She will find out soon if she tests positive.
(on camera): How do you feel now that the doctors came to your room?
THAKKAR: I'm still scared, because I don't want to be positive.
RIVERS (voice-over): The Diamond Princess will remain in quarantine until February 19. Until then, the crew will keep working, more exposed to the
virus than the passengers they're taking care of.
Matt Rivers, CNN, Yokohama, Japan.
AMANPOUR: Really frightening, of course.
Asian communities have also been hit as fear and prejudice rise.
Gilbert Gee is a professor at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health. And he says it reminds him of what happened during the SARS crisis and also in
the United States during the AIDS crisis.
And as the battle against the coronavirus continues, Gee tells our Hari Sreenivasan about the hidden cost of epidemics.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Professor Gee, we have reports now of hate crimes in the New York City subway system, for
example, where an Asian woman wearing a mask was attacked and called diseased.
How far back does this history go of using health to discriminate against people?
GILBERT GEE, UCLA FIELDING SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, it goes back a couple hundred years.
And part of it really has to do with, I think, justifying slavery. You know, it's kind of a difficult proposition to say that we are in a
democracy, and at the same time have multiple classes of people that are stratified purely based on their race.
And so one way to get out of that intellectual moral conundrum is to say that other races are not equal to us in terms of being human beings. And so
we have a long history of using science as a way to justify race differences.
There was a pseudoscience called phrenology where they purported to measure, say, bumps on people's heads and then, from there, infer things
like intelligence. So we have had a long history of actually medicine and public health and scientific research that's been used to justify that,
hey, these racial groups are actually fundamentally different in terms of their physiology.
And from that, we have made a lot of mistakes in the research, you know, giving some examples such as the Tuskegee syphilis study, which you may or
may not have heard of. But the Tuskegee study was a study of the course -- trying to understand the course of syphilis amongst African-Americans in
the United States, with the underlying idea that black bodies reacted to syphilis differently than white bodies.
But by the time that study was actually initiated, we already knew that syphilis -- we already knew the basic biology and mechanisms of syphilis.
But there was still this underlying belief that, well, persons of African descent are fundamentally biologically different, so let's continue with
that body of research.
So, from that understanding of this basis that -- or this belief that racial groups are biologically different, that's when we start to have
these continuing sort of completions of, oh, this disease has broken out, and it's sort of common amongst this population, and so, therefore, we need
to be careful and watch out about that population, maybe what the policy response should be -- would be to deport them or to quarantine them or to
not let them into our country or to this particular city.
So, we definitely have a long history of using science to justify racism. And now we know that most of that science has just been incorrect and
SREENIVASAN: The West Coast has a longer history with Asians than the rest of the country does.
What were some of the things that happened around the turn of the century, or, I should say, the turn of the previous century, now that we're in 2020-
SREENIVASAN: -- in the late 1800s and the 1900s, where you could see these kind of racially discriminatory policies have a root in public health
GEE: As you mentioned, like, states like California had a fairly large population of, say, Chinese immigrants, and as well as immigrants from
And, basically, what happened was, a lot of these immigrants were used as strike-breakers. And so then what happened is, the local workers, American
workers, were quite unhappy with that, and started to lobby, you know, saying that we should exclude these individuals, and that they started to
make connections, not only in terms of economic grounds, but using public health as a justification, the idea that Chinese persons were prone to have
leprosy, and that defending against leprosy was actually a good reason to exclude Chinese persons.
You know, so using public health, for example, as a rationale to systematically exclude individuals, so that would be, like, another
SREENIVASAN: Your research has pointed out, I mean, going back as far as the Chinese Exclusion Act or the Chinese--
SREENIVASAN: -- and how they were kind of quarantined in San Francisco, while their white neighbors weren't, and we have seen this happen to
population of Filipinos and Hawaiians.
SREENIVASAN: So, why is it that this keeps repeating?
We have this belief system that racial groups have these innate attributes. And that's linked to disease. So, there used to be a thought that -- for
example, that even things like poverty were infectious in some and transmissible in some nature.
So if you kind of think that we have this basis of understanding that certain racial groups are certain ways, and that if these groups have a
certain predisposition to be sick, and then, suddenly, they are coming in to infect all these other good people that aren't necessarily sick at this
moment in time, then you can start to see how race and racism and disease starts to get conflated all together.
SREENIVASAN: Now, look, this is also happening. And the backdrop is the United States has declared a public health emergency. They're going to deny
entry to foreign nationals who've been to mainland China.
And you have got private companies like Royal Caribbean cruise ship recently said that they are not going to allow anyone to board if they have
passports from mainland China or Macau or Hong Kong.
SREENIVASAN: And then we also literally see countries evacuating their citizens out of specific regions of China.
So, I mean, shouldn't people be concerned? I mean, that all creates a climate where we're watching TV and saying, this must be pretty bad if all
of these steps -- these countries and these companies are taking these steps.
GEE: Well, with any outbreak, we should be concerned.
This is a novel pathogen that we're encountering. And we are, as human beings, considered what the epidemiologists call a virgin population. It's
a -- we don't have necessarily an immunity in the population that has encountered this specific coronavirus before.
So our bodies are encountering it anew. So we don't necessarily have the defense system within our bodies, both as individual persons, as -- and as
community members, to kind of protect ourselves, that we might protect ourselves against something like, say, measles and whatnot.
GEE: But it's also important to keep what we're understanding in perspective.
The -- right now, we're still learning about the natural course of this disease and the biology of it. But, currently, we're -- the best estimate I
have seen is, right now, the fatality rate is something like 3 percent.
And if you put that in perspective of, say, something like SARS, I think the fatality rate for SARS was 10 percent. And I think MERS was something
like 30 percent. So, in sort of that big picture, it's relatively small.
I'm not saying people should not be concerned, but if we start to put it in perspective.
Another way to think about it is, influenza, the common flu, has, I think, this year affected something like 19 million Americans. But we are not
exactly panicking in the same way as we are with the coronavirus.
And I think part of the reason is that we're so used to the flu, and we're so used to having people be sick to it, that it's no longer a novel threat.
So I think part of this reaction to the coronavirus is really part of the novel -- is really the novelty of the disease.
SREENIVASAN: You were just saying SARS. What are the things that we learned from that epidemic?
GEE: I think we learned a little bit more about coronaviruses in general. And, certainly, it's part of the same family, SARS and the novel one that
we're encountering today.
I think we're also learning a little bit more about being sensitive to communities and really trying not to stigmatize certain communities in
relation to that.
So, like, I think, currently, the media response has been a lot better with regards to many media outlets saying, hey, let's not be xenophobic and
let's not -- let's try not to discriminate against certain groups of people. You saw that happen with SARS and a few other outbreaks such as
I think the general response has been a little better.
SREENIVASAN: I was looking over some of the coverage. We have got papers in Australia who've done front-page, above-the-fold headlines such as
"China Kids Stay Home."
SREENIVASAN: There's a paper in France that had a front page with words "Yellow Alert" or "Yellow Fever."
SREENIVASAN: I mean, what are the public health consequences when a community is singled out or stigmatized?
GEE: So, I think there's several layers to that. So, first of all, I think that we understand from a growing body of literature that people who
experience discrimination tend to get sicker. And so experiencing discrimination triggers a stress response, and that, in turn, can lead to
other kinds of illnesses that are above and beyond what we're seeing with the coronavirus.
It can have sort of long-term effects on things possibly like cellular aging, heart disease and everything. So there are some long-term effects
that might be related to sort of the short-term experiences of discrimination and xenophobia in that sense.
I think another piece of it is, we run the risk of allowing for the -- it OK to be discriminatory in our societies. And I think many societies are
really trying to move away from that. But diseases somehow allow people to express their xenophobia.
SREENIVASAN: It seems logistically, also, if you singled out communities, they might be less willing to come forward when they do have symptoms.
And we see that in other cases. So, for example, research on HIV and other things like that, where we find that diseases are stigmatized, a lot of
times, people become reluctant to seek help because they don't want to be further stigmatized.
And it can certainly be a problem, where people decide, I'm just going to hold myself underground because people are going to discriminate against
me. So, that certainly can happen.
SREENIVASAN: What responsibility do you think that the Chinese government plays in how this information has created this environment?
Meaning, one of the things that we know in the past is that they have tried to keep a lid on things. And, in this particular case, we recently just had
the reports that the doctor who was a whistle-blower, one of the doctors who was a whistle-blower, who tried to get the word out about this in
December, the local authorities actually chastised him and penalized him for it.
And he's just recently died of the virus. So, if you're a government, if you're trying to both take care of your people and of your image, what's
the best thing that they should have done, could have done?
GEE: I think probably a better thing to do would be to, A, first not chastise and do exactly what they did.
I think it's -- especially in this global world that we live in, my opinion is that more transparency, the better, and the more we can communicate with
scientists and medical practitioners, so that we can have a better understanding of where the diseases are originating, what exactly is
happening, how things are being communicated, because, in the world we live in, where we -- we have transportation that takes us literally to all
corners of the Earth.
We also have all these other kind of businesses that require transnational agreements and movement of goods, and as well as people and livestock and
things like that. And, of course, you have animals that don't care about national boundaries.
It's really important, I think, for scientists and governments to cooperate with each other and be as transparent as possible, so we have information
and so that we can move rapidly and use accurate information.
SREENIVASAN: So, what's a government to do to try to prevent this surface- level discrimination--
SREENIVASAN: -- and structural discrimination, if they have a population that is scared?
So I think an important thing is to have consistency in the communications. So, in the broader literature on disaster communications, it's really
important to have messages that are coming, say, from the health department and from your physicians and other places, such as school principals, all
giving somewhat consistent information, because I think what happens is, when the public is getting information from source A and source B, and
they're conflicting, then people get really confused.
And that's when people start to get much more scared and feel like things are not under control. So, the more consistency we can have with messaging,
with the more these different bodies can communicate with one another, and provide accurate information, and in a timely manner as possible, I think
that's one of the better-case scenarios.
SREENIVASAN: If you could just compare the responses -- you have been studying things like MERS and SARS and even this coronavirus.
Compare that, let's say, to HIV or to Ebola, things that had kind of the world on edge.
GEE: Well, let's see.
I am not an expert on a lot of those other outbreaks. But I do think that we're in a different moment in time. I do think that the Internet and the
information environment is quite different than what we had before.
We have learned some lessons from the past. We're more careful now to not label diseases and conflate them with people. So, like, using HIV as an
example, one of the early names for it was GRID, which was gay-related immune disease, which obviously singled out a specific population.
And we know that, even though people can discriminate, diseases don't. And so it's something for us to really pay attention to.
I think there's definitely a long way to go in terms of teaching all of us to -- and always to remind ourselves that we can't and shouldn't stigmatize
individuals and discriminate against them simply because a disease originated in a certain place in the world.
SREENIVASAN: Professor Gee, thanks so much for your time, Professor Gilbert Gee from the School of Public Health at UCLA.
Thanks for joining us.
GEE: Thank you so much. This was a real pleasure.
AMANPOUR: And this is an issue, of course, we're going to be following.
And coming up on tomorrow's program, as the closing arguments begin in the rape and sexual assault trial of Harvey Weinstein, I'm joined by an
attorney who's representing one of the women testifying against the Hollywood mega-producer.
Douglas Wigdor tells us -- takes us inside the courtroom, where it's all happening.
And, finally, government and corporations may be dragging their feet on sustainability, but entrepreneurs and ordinary people are diving into the
A new solar-powered robot is saving rhinos in South Africa's Kruger National Park. The 12-feet-tall system nicknamed Meerkat has cameras and
sensors that can spot and track poachers and alert park rangers.
This new technology could be a game-changer, as poaching remains a major threat. Over 9,000 have been killed for their horns over the past decade.
But thanks to Meerkat, poaching incidents have dropped by 80 percent in areas where it's been deployed.
And that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media.
Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.