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Interview With Hanan Ashrawi; Interview With Alexei Navalny. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired December 15, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: I get out of this bathroom, turn over to the flight attendant, and said, I was poisoned. I'm going to
AMANPOUR: Russia's main opposition figure says Putin wants him dead. We talk one-on-one with Alexei Navalny, after the poison plot that nearly
HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN LAWMAKER: You have to have consistency of principle and commitment.
The most prominent woman in Palestinian politics and longtime peace negotiator Hanan Ashrawi resigns from the PLO. She tells us why she wants a
total revamp of their political system.
JEFFREY GOLDBERG, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE ATLANTIC": I have no reason to believe that he won't continue, even on Inauguration Day, to create doubt
about the legitimacy of the Biden presidency.
AMANPOUR: As this year comes to an end, "Atlantic" editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg joins our Walter Isaacson to break down 2020's most memorable news
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The most senior Republican leader in Congress has finally bowed to the inevitable when it comes to the U.S. election result, Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell congratulating Joe Biden on winning the presidency.
His remarks came hours after another important figure sent congratulations from overseas, Vladimir Putin. In a telegram, the Russian president said he
wishes Biden every success, this as the U.S. government is reeling from a stunning and sweeping cyberattack thought to be conducted by Kremlin-backed
Alexei Navalny knows what it's like to be a Kremlin target. The Russian opposition leader nearly died in August on a flight to Moscow, after he was
poisoned with a nerve agent at a hotel the night before boarding an internal flight from Siberia.
A new investigation by Bellingcat, CNN and others reveals an undercover hit squad working for Russia's Federal Security Service tracked Navalny for
years. The Russian government hasn't responded to the report, although Putin earlier has denied any involvement.
And Alexei Navalny plans to return to Russia. But, for now, he's in Germany, where he was treated and he's still recovering.
And he's joining me now.
Alexei Navalny, welcome to the program.
I just want to say. Listening to that terrible tape on the -- I guess the iPhone of you screaming and anguish on that plane is very difficult to
hear. And I just -- I guess I want to know how you're feeling. Are you fully recovered? What is your state of health right now?
NAVALNY: Hello, Christiane. I'm very happy to be at your show.
And, actually, I really, really want to start with saying thank you very much to CNN for this amazing job of this investigation.
This moment yesterday when Clarissa tried to burst into the door and confront Oleg Tayakin, who was the coordinator of the killing team, was
amazing, both actually hilarious, but we should remember this guy was a cold-blood murderer. It was -- he's a dangerous guy.
I'm -- I feel much better right now. And I feel better because, yesterday, it was a revealing investigation. And, despite, we all actually understand
how sausage was made.
NAVALNY: Still, when you -- when you look at the whole system, the whole Kremlin and FSB infrastructure of killing, it is terrifying.
AMANPOUR: Gosh, when I hear you say how the sausage is made, there's a real air of unreality. And I want to get into that.
You're absolutely right. It was an incredible report, the investigation, the results, the trying to get through that door.
And so I just want to ask. You want to go back to Russia. You know that this situation hasn't been -- there's no criminal investigation. There's no
acceptance, that, obviously, they deny, certainly, Putin denies that any such thing happened.
Why do you want to go back? And, I guess, do you think you will be safe when you go back?
NAVALNY: Well, I don't think that I can have such a privilege being safe in Russia.
But I have to go back, because I don't want these groups of killer exist in Russia. I don't want Putin be ruling of Russia. I don't him being
president. I don't want him being czar of Russia, because, well, he's killing people. He's a reason why our -- the whole country is degrading.
He's the reason why people are so poor.
We have 25 million people living below the poverty line and the whole degradation of system, unfortunately for me, including system of
assassination of people. He's the reason for that. And I want to go back and try to change it.
AMANPOUR: So, the heart of the report, which was extraordinary, they discovered that a number of FSB personnel had been tracking your family for
about three years, since about 2017, including -- it's--
NAVALNY: Almost four (AUDIO GAP)
And it's believed that even your wife, Yulia, was potentially targeted. The report shows how she felt very unwell when you were both away for a while.
So, are you absolutely confident that these people -- I mean, there's no evidence -- or at least we're told that they come back up thinking that
these people who followed you actually were the ones who poisoned you.
What do you think about that? Who do you think did it?
NAVALNY: Well, I'm sure 100 percent, because I followed this investigation within a month. We were part of this investigation.
We checked all data, and our -- we did part of this job. So, all evidence just show us that this was a system and actually the whole department of
FSB who was involved in this daily routine of following me, of preparing the action and waiting for the order.
And we know FSB work. And so the operation of such skill and for such a long time cannot be -- cannot exist without ruling of the chief of FSB, Mr.
Bortnikov. And he would never dare it without direct order of President Putin.
So, I'm 100 percent sure that, when I'm -- it was Putin who make this order right after I declare that I'm running for office, I'm -- I was going for
presidency back in the -- 2016.
And then this team was created, and they are following me within four years. And they did several attempts of murder. And I'm totally sure that
Putin was aware and he got reports during this -- the -- during this job.
Well, of course, the reporters have tried to get comment from Putin, from his spokespeople. And they haven't responded yet. But, as you know,
President Putin and the Kremlin denied any involvement back when it was clear that you had been poisoned, and says that, if you were poisoned with
Novichok, it happened once you left Russian territory.
I know what you -- what you think. But here's the thing. "The Wall Street Journal" has said in the past that the man Vladimir Putin fears most is
Alexei Navalny. And he doesn't talk about you. He doesn't say your name.
How much longer do you think that they can keep this up? Because even before the report came out yesterday, CNN and Bellingcat, you had the
German authorities, who immediately investigated from the elements that were taken from your hotel to Germany with you in that plane, and they said
that it was highly possible and probable that it was Kremlin-orchestrated, or at least by the intelligence services there.
NAVALNY: Well, what do you expect from him, his confession, his public confession, like in the movies, like, guys, I did it, I'm very sorry, I
would never do it again?
Definitely, I'm not the first one, and, unfortunately, I will be not the last one, who was poisoned or killed, because they are practicing it. Putin
consider this -- this opportunity to meet other people as his -- as a sort of soft power.
And the situation where they are keeping silence right now, it's kind of speaking very well about what's going on, because even Putin's press
secretary, he cancel his daily briefings, because they have nothing to say so far.
Right now, they are developing their own story. And I think Putin tomorrow, maybe, in a couple of days, will -- he will -- will publicly say something
about it, also, of course, trying not to mention my name.
But it's a failure. It's his personal failure. That's why it's so painful for him. And they will continue to deny, despite the -- all evidence
AMANPOUR: So, I wonder if--
NAVALNY: -- because they don't have other chances.
AMANPOUR: I wonder if you hope that this really public reporting now that is trying to connect the dots, and has done to an extent, will lead to
further international reaction.
Of course, we know that the E.U. in August, when you first poisoned, put sanctions on key members of the FSB. And wonder what you hope that --
because the U.S. didn't -- and I wonder what you hope a Biden administration will do.
President-elect Biden has said: "The mode of attack leaves no doubt as to where the responsibility lies, the Russian state. As president, I will do
what Donald Trump refuses to do, work with our allies and partners to hold the Putin regime accountable for its crimes."
What do you think needs to be done?
NAVALNY: Well, first of all, I need very clear message from the president of United States, not just me.
I think it's not about me. It's about using chemical weapon against civilians for killing political opponents. And the, honestly, reaction from
Donald Trump was very disappointing, because the only thought -- only words he said, it was, let's talk about this later. And I think it's actually not
enough, because this later never came.
And I think the president of United States should say something very clear. And his message was very -- supposed to be very clear about that it is
absolutely impossible and non-affordable for the whole world to have someone who's using chemical weapon and developing chemical weapon and
using it in such reckless and very dangerous way, because, well, if you are -- if your stand on this way, killing people, it's very difficult to get
away, because it's a very powerful tool and very seductive tool.
And I think this situation with me will continue with their following investigation, and where we will see that, actually, quite a lot of people
were killed in Russia and maybe abroad in this way.
AMANPOUR: Well, I need to point out, obviously, that Litvinenko was poisoned by polonium, the Skripals, as we know, by Novichok -- Novichok.
They survived. They all accused the Kremlin, which, of course, denies it.
But, nonetheless, this has happened abroad. And Litvinenko was, in fact, killed.
What about what Bellingcat has discovered as well, and that is that, in the investigation, found out that actually the Kremlin still runs a very
sophisticated chemical weapons operation, having told the world that it was no longer doing that?
What more can you tell us about that? And why would they need a chemical weapons production facility and stockpiling?
From the perspective of the big picture, this is the most dangerous part, because -- well, me personally, of course, I'm very worried about this part
of investigation connected with me.
But the fact that Russia is developing the very, very advanced type of chemical weapon is -- it's absolutely horrible, because, back in the '90s,
actually, Russia was one of the country who's really pushing the idea of the total banning chemical weapon and eliminating every -- every single
gram of chemical weapon all over the world.
And it was absolutely right position. And now we have several institution - - and we know it from the investigation of Bellingcat -- at least three of them, who are developing both chemical weapon and ways of delivering of
this chemical weapon, including this nano-encapsulation and other sophisticated ways to poison people, to kill people.
And so chemical weapon, I know from my own experiences, it's a horrible thing. They don't -- you don't have any useful way of using it. So,
definitely, they are developing it for killing people, for killing people in the hidden way.
And kind of additional bonus of using chemical weapons against your opponents, that you're just terrifying people, because people are afraid of
this, because some of people, they can be brave enough not to be in prison or to being shot or something like, because it's something you're facing in
the real life, and you read from the news.
But the same -- the idea of just drop dead with touching something is terrifying people. And you mentioned that we know about several attempts of
killing people with the Novichok and other chemical weapon. And we know it because these people have survived.
But we have no idea how many cases, how many successful cases was made.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask about the changes you want to see in Russia and the -- I think you're looking at 2024 as the next election. And President
Putin has managed to extend his mandate beyond 2024.
I'm just wondering, what -- what plan do you have to be any more successful than you have been already? I mean, they just blank you out. They don't let
-- they don't give you access to a level playing field in elections. You're one of the leading anti-corruption campaigners. You are very visible on
social media and all over the place inside Russia.
But they don't allow you to have a normal opposition role. How do you think the 2024 election is going to play out?
NAVALNY: Well, you're correct.
I am -- I cannot participate in the 2024 election, because I'm banned from participating. And this is a strategy which Kremlin and Putin, they are
applying. And so they are just banning people from participating.
But, still -- well, election is not a tool. It's not only -- the only political tool, because we do everything. We do rallies. And we are making
investigations. And so I'm going to back -- go back to Russia. And I think our role in the forthcoming Gosduma election, our parliamentary election,
would be significant, and we are -- significant.
And we are ready to have a fight with the ruling party, United Russia. And we have our special strategy named smart -- smart voting. So, we're going
to use so-called system, political parties, to fight ruling party, United Russia.
So -- well, anyway, despite the -- it's all the time kind of game of catch me if you can. They are inventing more and more tools to oppress us. It's
our country. We have a million people who are supporting the idea of European way of development of country. We have millions of people who are
very -- tens of millions of people who are very unhappy and angry with Putin.
And these people are -- exist. So, despite they are kind of pushed out of their legal political field, they still exist. And we will use their energy
and their passion and their power to fight this regime.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you a question, because it goes to the heart of whether you have had a political transformation, because people like
Putin and his allies will say, Putin is president for all of Russia, all the former Soviet republics.
And they point to some of what you used to say. And you were kicked out of the local party in 2007 because you were deemed to have made slurs against
many, many people who come from the outer republics into Moscow and other places for work, for labor.
So, what do you say, as you want to relaunch yourself as a politician who can win, not just in Moscow, but around the nation, which is a huge nation,
full of all sorts of different ethnicities?
NAVALNY: Well, that's -- I have maybe sort of a privilege being a politician who knows the people, who know the life of people who are --
came from different republic best than others, because I'm sitting in jail with them.
I spend like three times a year -- three months a year sitting in jail after every rally. So I'm just sitting with these people. I'm sharing food
with them. So, actually, that's me who knows best words how to communicate people.
And I would say that, among these people who came to Russia for work, for - - among migrants, I definitely have a better support than Putin.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Alexei Navalny, thank you so much for joining us. And we're glad to see that you are better and healthy. Thanks a lot.
And turning now to the Middle East, where, in its final days, the Trump administration is pushing through a series of agreements between Israel and
the Arab world. Four states, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and now Morocco, have established diplomatic ties with Israel.
And they did so without resolving the crucial unfinished business that blocked such deals until now, and that is Israel's failure to reach a
comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinian people.
On the street, Moroccans are protesting the move, which Hanan Ashrawi, the veteran Palestinian political leader, calls immoral. Ashrawi is
internationally recognized as a key voice of the Palestinian people. She has won numerous peace prizes, and she's garnered international recognition
for her role in the peace process.
And yet she chose this moment to resign from the PLO's Executive Committee. Why now?
Hanan Ashrawi joins me from Ramallah in the West Bank.
Welcome back to the program, Hanan Ashrawi.
And I think your legions of interlocutors and admirers from all the years you have been a voice for peace will potentially miss the fact that you
won't be at the table anymore.
Why did you decide to resign when peace is not yet achieved?
ASHRAWI: No, it's not a question of peace. It's a question of reform. It's a question of democratization. It's a question of good governance and
respect for our political institutions and representatives like these.
I believe we have been asking for this for a long time. We have been asking for elections in order to get new and young people into the political
system. We have been asking for structural reform.
And, of course, we're respecting the mandate of the Executive Committee, which is supposed to be the highest political party in Palestine,
representing Palestinians all over the world, not just in the occupied territories.
So, in a sense, I felt, unless I take a clear position, and unless I say I will not be part of this anymore, that things will coast along the way they
have been. And I believe this is one way in which we can trigger reform, in which we can bring young men and women in particular into the system, and
perhaps we can start the process of elections.
And, of course, I believe that I have to practice what I preach. So, I have been asking for these things. And I'm going to implement my beliefs. And I
think that, even though I will be out of the Executive Committee and the PLO, I will still be working for the cause of Palestine.
AMANPOUR: So, you talked about elections. And, of course, the whole world is watched how these elections haven't happened. They were meant to happen,
I don't know, a year or more ago, and they just haven't happened.
And there are a lot of critics of President Mahmoud Abbas' leadership. They say he lacks vision, that it's become sclerotic, that it's tending to more
authoritarian or autocratic kind of behavior.
And in your resignation letter, you said, "Renewal and reinvigoration, with the inclusion of youth, women and additional qualified professionals" is
really, really important for the Palestinian system.
You have spoken a little bit about it, and I know you want younger people, more women in. You want elections.
What is stopping it? Why is it that the elected body, the Palestinian Authority, has just not followed its own constitution and its own
ASHRAWI: Well, it's easy to say we're under occupation. It's easy to say there are many impediments. Israel controls everything. Yes, this is what's
happening. It's very difficult to have elections.
But at the same time, we do have a rift, and we should heal the rift, and we should end the division in Palestine between Gaza and the West Bank,
between Fatah and Hamas. We should have an inclusive democratic system. So, all these things have been an impediment, and now with the coronavirus and
But I think the most important, the most crucial factor is the political will, the question of just deciding to move ahead. We cannot allow one
party to have a veto over our democratic practices. So, it's very important that we put in process the whole system, whereby we can start
reconciliation, elections, and, of course, rejuvenating and restructuring our whole political system and political institutions themselves.
We do want good governance. We do want complete representation. We do want an accountable system of government. And, like many systems of power that
have been in place for a long time, they tend to fossilize with time. And I think what we need is a jog to jar and to say that this cannot go on
And I think the message is clear there. I think the Central Council will be meeting, I understood, early next year, and, therefore, maybe that will
start the ball rolling. But, again, reconciliation is crucial, a political will on the part of everybody, and putting the interest of the people and
the national interest about factional interest and even personal interest.
Many members of the new Executive Committee say the same thing. But because they represent factions or because they're not comfortable in their
positions, they will not leave. But I think it's important that we push for a renewal and we take concrete steps in order to do that.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you whether you envision how this reconciliation will happen? Because, clearly, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are at
loggerheads, are anathema.
I mean, one doesn't believe in the peace process. One does. The Israelis will not, obviously, entertain any conversation when it comes to the peace
process that involves Hamas. The international community will not either.
How on earth do you envision reconciliation within your own Palestinian people and political process?
ASHRAWI: Well, it's not a question of a political or a peace process.
I think Hamas has drawn closer and closer to the position of the PLO. It has accepted the two-state solution. It has accepted the negotiated
settlement. Actually, it ran for the Palestine Legislative Council, which is a result of the agreements anyway.
So, there are very few political differences. But, as you know, there are also other parties that intervene in Palestine, other people who try to
Israel is, of course, the most effective and dominant party, as the occupying power, that has undermined any process at reconciliation. And
Netanyahu said it openly: We want them to stay divided. We want to control Gaza and keep it under siege. And we want to have a free hand in the West
So -- and then there are other countries outside who have a vested interest and have supported one side over the other. The question is not the
political agenda. I think we can reach an agenda of political consensus. And I think the only way to move ahead is to have elections by agreement.
Everybody should accept the principle and the practice of elections.
And this way, they can be part of an inclusive, diverse political system, democratic system, because you cannot exclude parties on the basis of their
political agenda. And, at the same time, you cannot put restrictions based on what Israel will accept or won't accept.
We have been talking to many in the international arena, and there are many countries, or most of them said that they will not interfere and they will
not boycott if Hamas is part of this, because they know that this is -- we have the full right to have opposition, to have diversity of opinions and
political positions and agendas.
And Hamas has moved very close, actually, to the PLO position, without being entirely identical, because why else -- why would they have a
different party if they both are identical?
So, in many ways, I think the impediments are not entirely domestic. They have a lot to do with self-interest. They have a lot to do with privilege
and positions of power and control, and with the interference of others.
But we have to push for acceptance. We have to push for a commitment, not just a verbal commitment, because we have a verbal commitment from all the
factions, all the political parties.
But when it comes to actual implementation, there is an absence of will. So, there has to be -- civil society has been active. All sorts of
ASHRAWI: -- women's organizations, and youth have been active. But now we need to make sure that if we -- they know that, if we go along this
trajectory, the outcome is going to be tragic.
AMANPOUR: And a whole 'nother conversation would have to be had about Hamas and the use of violence, and we can have that conversation another
But, clearly, that would not be acceptable in any political.
ASHRAWI: Christiane, you know -- you know that there is violence every day.
ASHRAWI: -- of accusing Hamas.
There is violence by the Israeli army every day. You have people beaten up, killed, detained without question. Violence is being exercised in a
systematic and organized and official manner by an army against a captive Palestinian people.
And then everybody talks about Hamas, who hasn't been doing much violence under occupation. But the issue is, how do you stop the violence of the
occupation of the Israeli military? How do you stop home demolitions, extrajudicial executions, ethnic cleansing?
This is our reality every day. So, I think this is what has to be taken into account. And we deal with the issues on the basis of the root causes
and in context.
AMANPOUR: OK. So let me ask you this then. We will continue this conversation beyond this.
But let me ask you this. You say all these things about Israel, but Israel is doing just fine, according to the prime minister, according to his
government. They have got the United States' backing. They don't really care about the Palestinian Authority at all, much less, obviously, Hamas
But they have got these new deals, normalization deals, with people who you thought would be your friends, the Arab world, who always said that no deal
with Israel until there's a deal with the Palestinian people. And it hasn't happened.
I just listed four of them who've gone into normalization with Israel, without any mention of the Palestinian peace process, although some of them
are saying, well, maybe we can now push towards a Palestinian peace process.
What is your view on that?
ASHRAWI: I think this whole issue of normalization came as a result of a really forceful drive, I called I blackmail and bribery, by the U.S.
administration, by the Trump administration, in order, first of all, to deliver Palestine for Israel.
And you saw how they became complicit in the occupation and annexation and so on. And they tried to reposition Israel in the heart of the Arab world
as a major power, as a major military, political, economic, security, and intelligence power in the region.
Then the U.S., this administration, particularly Jared Kushner and David Friedman, who is in Israel changing the whole narrative, and then Pompeo
and so on, who have been going back and forth, scurrying, going all over the place trying to extract concessions for Israel and using really
blackmail and pressure and paying with American currency like they paid Morocco in terms of their recognition of the annexation of the Western
They used in a very immoral way the weakness of Sudan, promised to remove it after the terrorist list and so on. They created data rifts between the
people and the leadership. And, of course, there were covert relations and clandestine relations with the UAE.
But look at Bahrain, the way people are against normalization, because this tells the Arab world and the Arab people that your leaders have accepted to
enter into a collusion to support the occupation, to support something which is illegal.
You are normalizing the be abnormal. You are accepting the occupation. You're accepting land settlements. You're accepting the settlement or theft
of the resources. The fact that Palestinians are being treated as a captive people with no rights whatsoever, and Israel acts with full impunity,
without any kind of intervention or accountability.
And so, in a sense, this has sent the wrong message to everybody. This has created greater rifts between the people and leaderships, and this has
fragmented the Arab world and the region even further because of this notion that the moderate -- so-called moderate Sunni regimes are going to
unite with Israel in facing Iran instead of looking at how the whole region can act in a cooperative way based on international law and mutual respect.
You are increasing impunity and violations of the law and undermining the chances of peace.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you this because clearly, you know, as you say and many people have said that, you know, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
probably had no better friend in the White House than Donald Trump. Although President Obama did give a huge amount of money, probably more
than any other president, to the Israeli government as we know. But let me ask you this. Do you have any different hopes for a Biden administration?
ASHRAWI: Look, the fact that the Trump administration is leaving is a great sense of relief, and I said it is momentous because the amount the
venom, the amount of destruction, the total disdain for human rights and international law and so on has been enormous and has undermined
Palestinian standings and Palestinian rights and has acted as a partner in crime with Israel, supported the occupation itself and lawlessness.
So, now, with the Biden administration, the first thing is that they are not Trump and they are not populist and racist, hopefully. And they are not
misogynist and they are inclusive and so on. So, these are the principles on which we stand in terms of Palestinian rights, Palestinian freedom, the
right to self-determination and so on.
But we don't think that Biden is going to be, you know, (INAUDIBLE) and our savior. As you rightfully said, under Obama, $38.5 billion were locked in.
And now, with Trump -- and it's the greater amount of foreign assistance or aid. And with Trump, they made that as a minimal level and they are adding
to it, not decreasing, when Israel does not qualify by American standards to get foreign aid.
AMANPOUR: Let me just --
ASHRAWI: But anyway, so we expect Biden, in many ways, first of all, to stop the damage, to undo what Trump has done, to remove off the table the
Trump -- the so-called Trump plan or deal of the century and to engage with Palestine on the basis of equality.
ASHRAWI: You cannot go on and build on the damage that Trump had done but -- and you cannot go back to the status quo ante which led to the failure
of America's peace efforts because of these strategic alliance with Israel. Sorry --
AMANPOUR: Yes. I have one last question. I know that's very long. I know. But I need to ask you about your own -- look, you are, you know, a casualty
of the 1967 war in terms of you had to leave. You couldn't come back. You're a Christian. You're a woman in politics. You went to the Quaker
School, and the Quakers have a peace and pacifying philosophy and you went to the American University in Beirut where you learned, obviously, fluent
How much of that childhood and that -- those formative experiences kind of prepared you to be a moderate voice for peace?
ASHRAWI: I think more than that trend (ph) schools or AUB (ph) or even University of Virginia, where I've gotten my PhD, I think one of them that,
I think, it's my upbring at home. It's the fact that I had parents who were committed to human rights. My father was a great activist for women's
rights and a practitioner and he wrote about women's rights. My mother also was an independent woman.
So, I've already had, not just role models, but I've had support from the family and from the community, and I worked within a system like that. So,
knowing that you're born a Palestinian, you have a responsibility and the challenge and you live under threat. So, a long time ago I decided that I
don't want to, you know, be a passive casualty. I don't want to be an observer and just die watching the situation (INAUDIBLE). I will take risks
no order to end the situation and to have a just peace.
So, all of us, I mean, are committed. I mean, you feel committed to people who have been suffering for no fault of their own. The issue of Palestine
did not come as a result of something that we build or my parents and grandparents, it's a question, it's a fact of creating the State of Israel
on our land, of creating the tragedy of the refugees, of maintaining a situation where the Palestinians, the indigenous people in Israel became
second, third, fourth class citizens. And in the occupied property, we are no right. We were treated as subhuman species.
So, in many ways, either you have a conscience and a commitment and you a face an injustice and you struggle against it and you try to achieve a just
peace and you try to maintain a system of justice and human rights and democracy within your own society o -- and you practice again, as I've
said, what you preach, if you are against the denial of self-determination for the Palestinian people then you are against the denial of self-
determination for women and for society as a whole.
AMANPOUR: Hannan Ashwari.
AMANPOUR: You have always been the voice for these human rights and you've held up a mirror to both your adversaries and now inside your own company,
and it's really good to talk to you.
Thank you so much for joining us.
ASHRAWI: Thank you, Christiane. It's good to see you again.
AMANPOUR: Now, from normalization accords in the Middle East to the end, finally, of an unprecedented American election to a pandemic that brought
the world to its knees, 2020 has been a historic year. And "The Atlantic" has been on the front lines of it all.
It's broken new ground on COVID-19, first warning readers about the lack of preparation for a pandemic two years ago and an explosive report from
editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, about how Trump called fallen soldiers losers made shockwaves around the world.
Now, here is Goldberg talking with our Walter Isaacson about the major news stories of this unforgettable year.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thanks, Christiane. And, Jeff Goldberg, welcome to the show.
JEFFREY GOLDBERG, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE ATLANTIC: Thank you.\
ISAACSON: Yesterday was an amazing and as one of our discontent, we finally got the Electoral College to say it's over. This election is
sealed. And secondly, the first person got a shot for the coronavirus. Do you think our long national nightmare might actually be ending?
GOLDBERG: I guess in the spirit of the holiday season I'm supposed to say yes, but no. How is that for a depressing opening? I mean, first of all,
going back to the coronavirus just for a minute, you know, many more people, unfortunately, are going to die between now and 70 percent
vaccination levels or whatever it is exactly that we need in order to sort of put this behind us, for this particular pandemic behind us. So, that's
And the second issue goes to the Electoral College issue that you're talking about. You saw yesterday after this was ratified again and again --
Joe Biden is the only person to have won the presidency 15 times, and he's won it over the last two months. Each time, every time that a lawsuit has
been thrown out, every time the Supreme Court says, no thank you, he's won again.
This is a formal win, I guess you could say, but you saw many Republicans, including Republican officials, either uncharitably acknowledge the
existence of the Electoral College or still find ways to avoid actually acknowledging that Joe Biden is the legitimate president-elect.
ISAACSON: Well, that reminds me of an article that Anne Applebaum wrote in "The Atlantic," which says that history will judge the complicit. Why is it
that so many members of the GOP have become quisling enablers of the undermining of democracy?
GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, A, you -- we should -- we need to ask those Republicans -- those Republican legislators every day what it is that they
are doing and get their answers on the record. I mean, that's my journalist analysis of the issue.
But, you know, we all have our guesses. You know, one, they have discovered that Donald Trump is popular with the base and they also have discovered
the price of crossing Donald Trump, ask Bob Corker, ask Jeff Flake, ask, you know, intermittently, Ben Sasse and so on, nobody wants to get
crosswise with Donald Trump. He remains a powerful -- the most powerful figure in the Republican Party and he's working very, very hard to maintain
that status after January 20th.
I do think sometimes because it sounds silly, we underplay the fact that nobody, no human, Republican, Democrat, white, black, otherwise, wants to
be excoriated on Twitter all day long, and they are scared of that. But basically, you know, their profession is politics. Their base and their
individual congressional districts and their states, their base is loyal to some great degree to Donald Trump and you don't go against Donald Trump.
And so, if Donald Trump says, follow me off this Democrat -- anti- Democratic cliff, some people follow him off the anti-Democratic cliff.
ISAACSON: Exhibit A of this is somebody, a Republican that you know quite well, Senator Lindsey Graham, and he said to "The Atlantic" at one point
that, jousting with the tea party was more fun than I've ever had in politics. He used to be an acolyte of John McCain and called Trump a race-
baiting xenophobic religious bigot and then totally switched over.
First of all, how do you explain that? And secondly, do you think he will now, because of his desire to be near power, flip the other way?
GOLDBERG: He's both a mystery and not a mystery. The mystery is how do someone switch allegiances from John McCain to his opposite, Donald Trump,
right? I mean, that's a short way of putting it. And so, this has to do with matters of the soul.
On the other hand, Lindsey Graham has said to me and others, you know, if there's one thing you know about me it's that I like to be relevant. I'm
paraphrasing but it's essentially his argument. By the way, it's an argument of many politicians. Maybe he's more honest in sort of talking
about the flame's attraction to the moth. The -- and so, with Lindsey Graham you see somebody who can shapeshift according to whatever the father
figure in the Republican Party at the moment wants.
And so, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Trump somehow fades a bit from public life that Lindsey Graham, six months, a year from now, a year and a
half from now, is doing some kind of useful work with the Biden administration. He also likes Joe Biden, another kind of father figure, if
you will. And so, the man is not a stable isotope.
ISAACSON: Your famous piece this year was about a lot of people in the military saying that Donald Trump referred to military as -- people who got
killed as loser and as suckers. Tell us a little bit more about that piece and why those people came out and talked to you.
GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, I want to be careful here because one has to protect sources. I granted them anonymity. They are not anonymous to me,
There is -- I will make this general observation that there is very, very - - as far as I can tell, there's almost no one in position of command in the United States Military or people who have recently departed command roles
in the United States Military who has any faith or trust in Donald Trump. He scares them actively, and that's quite apart from his insulting attitude
You know, suckers and losers got a lot of attention, but there were many other details in that story that were also quite appalling, you know, and
also revealing. I mean, this is the interesting part. After Donald Trump had been briefed by General Dunford, he was the former chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Dunford had left the situation room.
Trump turned to a group of aides and essentially said, the guy is very smart. I don't get it. Why did he join the military? There's this
assumption that people who serve, generally, people who do things for others are suckers. If they don't -- if they are not out for themselves, if
they are not out to make money, money is not their North Star, then he doesn't have, it seems, the intellectual capacity to imagine why they do
And we've seen this again and again and also, obviously, much of the story was about his relationship, his psychological relationship with John
McCain. There's a guy he truly didn't understand, who he truly couldn't charm and so, he went and, you know, really, pretty vicious ways against
John McCain. And it's just one of the many interesting and bizarre manifestations of his personality in office.
ISAACSON: Do you think he remains a major force in American politics?
GOLDBERG: He was a major force in American politics before this, honestly. Birtherism, remember? It seems like a distant issue. But, A, birtherism
became a serious challenge for the Obama administration, for President Obama's legitimacy in some quarters of the American public, and it was
really the introduction by a major cultural figure, Donald Trump, of conspiracism into the national conversation.
So, he was there before. I have no reason to believe that he won't continue, even on inauguration day, to create doubt about the legitimacy of
the Biden presidency and make his -- obviously, being an ex-president, you don't have the same sway and the same bully pulpit and the same access to
audiences that you used to have.
But I can't imagine a situation in which he would fade, and obviously, I don't think anybody can imagine a situation in which he would willingly
fade and become like Jimmy Carter and build houses for poor people or Barack Obama and write thoughtful memoirs, you know. I think he is what he
is and he'll be that way until he can't do it anymore.
ISAACSON: Joe Biden has said he not only wants to heal the nation but thinks he can walk across party aisles. Do you think that's possible?
GOLDBERG: I don't have more insight into that than he has. I think when you're a politician, when you're a successful politician, you, by nature,
have to be optimistic and I think Joe Biden is one of the world's great optimists. It doesn't seem likely with the Trumpism still a salient force
in Republican politics that it would very easy for to reach across the aisle.
Now, look, he knows these guys very well. He's a senator, obviously. His -- half his life was spent in the Senate. If anyone on the Democratic side is
going to be able to charm Mitch McConnell or work out deals with the elderly white men who run the Republican Senate caucus, it's going to be
Joe Biden, but it doesn't -- this is not the 1980s.
This is not Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan. This is not the Senate that he himself, Joe Biden himself, has gotten in trouble for for remembering
overly fondly. And so, I guess if you're putting money on it, you wouldn't put that much money on it.
ISAACSON: You add in "The Atlantic," a piece that sort of said, you're likely to get the coronavirus. Tell me about your coverage of coronavirus
and what type of warnings that people at "The Atlantic" were giving.
GOLDBERG: Well, you know, it's interesting. I was just reading the other day, and I'm writing something about this shortly. We published a piece in
January by a little-known freelancer contributor named Ron Klain who basically predicted everything that's happening now and we had asked Ron
Klain in January -- of course Ron Klain is coming in as chief of staff of Joe Biden.
We asked him to write about his experience combating Ebola, he was the Ebola czar in the Obama administration and he called it. This is January,
where he even called it to the degree of noting that it's very likely that Anthony Fauci will get cross-wise with Donald Trump because Fauci is both
adamant and a science first sort of fellow.
So, I'm pretty proud of "The Atlantic's" record of publishing stories early that called where we're going. Two years ago, Ed Young, one of our great
science correspondents, wrote a piece called literally "The Coming Pandemic" and outlined all the ways in which the government wasn't ready,
the government was ready and then talked about the incredible importance of Donald Trump in what could be a future drama, and he was right there.
Like any magazine, and you know this as an ex-magazine editor, magazines unlike newspapers have to focus on the past and the future. The present is
more the realm of newspapers. And so, what we've been trying to do is look back at the history of pandemics and the history of pandemic response and
also sort of casting forward and saying, where are we heading on this?
Sarah Zhang, another great science correspondent, has focused relentlessly on vaccines and is a great guide for people on what to expect in the coming
months. And so, we're really trying to cast forward and explain both what might be coming and also what it all means.
ISAACSON: There was a confluence of the age of paranoia, conspiracy and misinformation on the one hand and coronavirus hitting on the other. How
did those intertwine?
GOLDBERG: Well, in really negative ways obviously. And I don't think we're in the beginning of that particularly chapter because we're about to find
out, and I've been asking people in the incoming Biden administration, I said, how do you convince the 70 million plus Trump voters to roll up their
sleeves and get this vaccination?
Now, obviously many people will, but there's such bad information out there about vaccination and this pre-dates obviously coronavirus, but there's
such bad administration already about vaccinations and, you know, the alleged, discredited connection to autism among other things that, I think,
the medical community is already a little bit on the back foot in dealing with this, but -- and this is going to be a big -- if you asked before
about Donald Trump and whether he's going to remain a salient figure, it's going to be very interesting to see what he has to say about vaccination in
the coming months.
But I think you have a terrible confluence where you have a need for the public to participate in a accomplishing health measure and roll up their
sleeves and do something with widespread societal mistrust, and it's just a bad combination.
And I don't think anyone, Biden administration, incoming Biden administration or anyone else, has the answer, how do you convince someone
who believes that vaccines are part of a broad conspiracy to actually get vaccinated? Now, of course, we know from the science that not everyone in
America has to be vaccinated in order achieve a kind of reach herd immunity, but you need 70-ish percent to do that. And so, it's going to be
a difficult and strange several months.
ISAACSON: The big piece that just got posted in "The Atlantic" is the about how COVID will change science forever. Explain that to me.
GOLDBERG: We haven't really gotten our hands around yet the size and scope of this vaccination program. I, by the way -- I mean, I've been thinking
about this and thinking about trying to get more articles on this subject. We're not quite thinking about this in Manhattan Project size terms, but
I'm hopeful, and I want to see more writing on this. I haven't seen yet pieces that describe what we're going to do to prevent this from every
I mean, what kinds of global infrastructures, not only just national infrastructures, we have to build in order to prevent this from happening.
I'm keenly interested, for instance, in issues related to the CDC and the FDA.
Until March of this year or February of this year, I assumed, like many Americans, that these institutions were the goal standard. And indeed, you
and I both know this that across the world, many countries don't have CDCs and FDAs, and one of the reasons they don't have these kinds of
organizations is because we have it. We do the work. Britain, a couple other countries do the serious work.
And I think it's been an incredibly disturbing -- I've been thinking about this a lot, incredibly disturbing to think that our CDC and FDA in their
current manifestations are not necessarily the gold standard anymore. And so, rebuilding that and rebuilding the trust that one needs in those
organizations, that's going to be Manhattan Project of the coming years. I'm just fascinated by that.
ISAACSON: Jeffrey Goldberg, thanks so much for joining us.
GOLDBERG: Thank you, Walter.
AMANPOUR: What a year indeed.
And finally, a sneak peek at tomorrow's program when I get to sit down with the living legend, the goddess of pop, Cher herself. We discuss her
extraordinary and enduring career all the while confounding the skeptics and proving the naysayers wrong. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHER, SINGER AND ACTRESS: There was this one reporter who kept saying she's got 10 minutes left, she's not going to be here, you know, in a year.
And finally, I said, you know what dude, I'm going to be here when you're not longer -- when you're no longer working.
And I kept thinking of myself as a bumper car. And I thought, if I hit the wall, I'll come back and I'll go another direction. And I mean, I went
bankrupt, I -- you know -- it was terrible. Nobody wants to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A survivor and a great success still, and you can watch my full conversation with Cher tomorrow with more about what's next for her and, of
course, her passion for conservation. That's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media.
Thank you for watching, and good-bye from London.