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Women in Blue; Interview With Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; U.S. Report Released on Murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired February 26, 2021 - 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.
AMANPOUR: Accountability moments.
First, the U.S. intelligence report on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which could have major geopolitical consequences. I speak to
former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and human rights activist Sarah Leah Whitson, who runs an advocacy group founded by Khashoggi himself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Officer-involved shootings almost always include male officers, very seldom with women.
AMANPOUR: "Women in Blue," a new film, looks at the female role in police reform with director Deirdre Fishel and former Minneapolis Police inspector
And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo accused of covering up nursing home debts. Our Michel Martin speaks with groundbreaking New York political
reporter Errol Louis.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
It is the unclassified report the world has been waiting to see. And now it is official. The United States concludes that the gruesome murder of
journalist Jamal Khashoggi was approved by Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler.
The report from the director of national intelligence says the following: "We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an
operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
And it adds: "Since 2017, the crown prince has had absolute control of the kingdom's security and intelligence organizations, making it highly
unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the crown prince's authorization."
And the report goes on to state a motive. It says: "The crown prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the kingdom and broadly supported using violent
measures, if necessary, to silence him."
Riyadh admits Khashoggi was killed in what it called a rogue extradition operation gone wrong, but it has repeatedly denied any involvement by the
Now, before we look at the impact of the intelligence report, here's correspondent Nic Robertson with a look back at Khashoggi's last hours
trailed by a Saudi hit squad following him in Istanbul.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): It was October of 2018 when Jamal Khashoggi took these fateful steps into the
Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
A Saudi hit team had arrived a few hours ahead of him. The hit team included intelligence officer Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, in charge, forensic
doctor Salah Mohammed Abdah Al-Tubaigy and more than a dozen others, including Mustafa Almadani, the body double, who dressed in Khashoggi's
clothes, left by the back door, laying a false trail.
In reality, Khashoggi had been killed minutes after entering the building. His last words after being attacked, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe,"
before he was dismembered by Dr. Tubaigy's bone saw.
AMANPOUR: It really was a traumatic event.
And my first guest, Sarah Leah Whitson, worked closely with Jamal Khashoggi. She promoted human rights across the Middle East, and she is
executive director of DAWN, Democracy for the Arab World Now. That was founded by Khashoggi just months before his murder.
Sarah Leah Whitson, welcome to the program.
Tell me what you make of the content. It was short. Some of it was redacted. But it was quite clear by the director of national intelligence.
What do you make of it actually be made public right now?
SARAH LEAH WHITSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DEMOCRACY FOR THE ARAB WORLD NOW: Well, there's really no surprise. This is exactly what we expected, because
this is the information that our security agencies had previously leaked.
And that is what everyone knows, that Mohammed bin Salman ordered this assassination. I should note that the DNI has said that a full declassified
version of this report is coming later today.
AMANPOUR: Sarah, a lot of this was, they say, the U.S., also partly the Turkish intelligence that was so fulsome and that they were able to glean a
lot of this information.
But it is interesting also that the U.S. goes so far as to state motive by the Saudi prince. It goes so far as to explain that he is the de facto
ruler, that nothing would have happened in the kingdom without his knowledge and approval.
And now that it is actually public, what sort of onus does it put both on the United States and on the Saudis?
WHITSON: Well, in terms of the United States, the onus is, of course, for President Biden to fulfill the promise that he made to the American people
that he would hold the culprits of this murder accountable.
And that, of course, now we know clear as day includes Mohammed bin Salman. And that means applying the exact same sanctions to Mohammed bin Salman,
under the Magnitsky Act, for a freeze of his assets and a travel ban, as even the Trump administration imposed on 17 other of his co-conspirators.
Anything less would be a grave disappointment.
In terms of Saudi Arabia, I think they have ample ground now to reopen an investigation into the murder and to give their own countrymen a chance for
a serious investigation and a serious trial.
I think the Saudi government must realize that it will be impossible for the international community to deal with Mohammed bin Salman with any
respectability, and that he is a liability to their country. And I hope that King Salman and the people of Saudi Arabia give serious thought to
replacing the crown prince with one will better fulfill his duties to the country.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, the United States has to toe a very difficult line, because, on the one hand, Saudi Arabia has been an ally, a strategic ally
of the U.S., for a long, long time. And very few people believe that the U.S. could mobilize any kind of whatever, instruments, to, as you say,
remove him, even if it was done internally.
I want you to stand by, because I know you were a close friend of Jamal's, and I'm going to get -- I'm going to talk to you about that.
But we have his widow, Hatice Cengiz, on the phone, and I just want to get her first reactions to this report.
Hatice, can you hear me all right? And can you give me your reaction to this report now being made public?
HATICE CENGIZ, FIANCEE OF JAMAL KHASHOGGI: Thank you for having me.
I just want to share my feelings, Christiane.
I am devastated than ever before. Now I believe he will never come back. I just looked Jamal's pictures that I took one by one. I don't know what I
want to say. But I would like to...
AMANPOUR: You said and you tweeted -- you tweeted "Justice for Jamal" in one of those beautiful pictures that you put out.
CENGIZ: Yes, I took it in our house. I took it, yes, and most beautiful picture of Jamal.
So I would like to see the world leaders to take an action for justice for Jamal. I can say that just now.
AMANPOUR: Well, look, Hatice, we appreciate you coming on. It's an incredibly emotional moment, obviously, for you. And you have had to live
with this for all these years.
But your activism for him, everybody in the world hears. And now this is one more step towards proving what happened to him.
Hatice Cengiz, thank you very much for being with us this evening.
Sarah Leah, let me get back to you, Sarah Leah Whitson.
You hear the emotion, obviously, in Hatice's voice. She said, now with this official report from American intelligence, the hope that she held out
beyond hope that maybe something would be different and that he would come back has now been fully extinguished.
Emotionally, what does this report dropping mean to you, who also was his friend?
WHITSON: Well, I mean, it's -- it really does revive the shock and horror that we felt on the day that he was disappeared into the Saudi Consulate.
On the days that followed, when I hoped that he would emerge and was too busy fighting the Saudi government's false claims that he had left, it was
an unbelievably painful several days before the Saudi government even fessed up to a confession that they had, in fact, killed him inside that
And I am deeply saddened that we have lost such a friend, such a brave man who sacrificed tremendously to stand for his principles.
But I think Jamal would be pleased to know that he has inspired the whole world with his courage, and that, three years later, we are still demanding
justice and accountability. And the stench of this murder has not gone away. And Mohammed bin Salman is still reeking of the murder, and making
himself completely persona non grata around the world.
That is something that I think he would be pleased to know.
AMANPOUR: Can I just play for you a sound bite, given your background in human rights, obviously, and your closeness to this story?
We spoke to Lina al-Hathloul, who is, you know, the sister of Loujain, who had been kept in isolation and imprisoned for several years, just because
she was an activist for the kind of reforms that Mohammed bin Salman said that he wanted to bring the world.
And she -- she was very upset. She really believed that what happened to her sister Loujain was definitely directed from the top. Let's just play
this sound bite from my interview with her recently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINA AL-HATHLOUL, SISTER OF LOUJAIN AL-HATHLOUL: She was electrocuted. She was flogged, and she even showed my parents her thighs, and they were
blackened with bruises. She could barely sit because of the torture. She was sexually abused.
And what's important to note is, one of the people who was overseeing the torture is our crown prince MBS' right-hand man, Saud al-Qahtani. So,
really, it's something that was frightening for her even to talk about it and to say that the highest-ranked people in Saudi Arabia were complicit in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, you hear Lina there actually mentioning the name Saud al- Qahtani, who is also named in this DNI report, along with the others, who are named as part of the hit squad and part of the operational leaders.
As a human rights activist yourself, what do you think can actually happened to hold these kinds of violations accountable? The Biden and
Harris administration have said, we are not going to check our values at the door to buy weapons -- or, rather sell weapons and buy oil from this
kind of regime.
WHITSON: Christiane, this is purely a question of political will and strategic and careful rethinking of what it means to be in business with a
man who has shown callous, sadistic tendencies, inhumane aggression that has lasted for years against the people of Yemen.
The most immediate thing the Biden administration can do is to sanction Mohammed bin Salman, with asset freezes, because that's the only thing
that's going to bite.
And the reason this is important is not only to make MBS accountable, but to deter other tyrants like him, who otherwise think they can get away with
going around the world and assassinating people they don't like.
WHITSON: Now, this is not to say that the United States is responsible for curbing every aggression around the world. It is to say that the United
States should not be actively aiding, abetting and supporting tyrants like Mohammed bin Salman.
And that's why the United States also has the closely to reexamine continued weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, so long as he preposterously
remains minister of defense and in charge of these weapons, which we have seen him use so recklessly and sadistically.
AMANPOUR: You're right.
Well, Sarah Leah Whitson, thank you very much for joining me.
And on that strong note, I have the perfect next guest to talk to about stopping these sales and the rest.
To discuss all these implications is the former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. He was defense secretary under the Obama administration.
Chuck Hagel, welcome back to the program.
You have seen the report drop. You have seen the conclusion now in black and white that the world can see, that it's made official what perhaps you
all knew for the last several years.
What can and should the United States do about this?
CHUCK HAGEL, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, Christiane, thank you for having me.
Well, I think the declassified formal report that was just released is no surprise to most people. It should have been released a long time ago.
The United States cannot accept or tolerate the leader of a strategic ally, like Saudi Arabia, who is an assassin of an American journalist. There has
to be consequences. Certainly, significant, strong sanctions against MBS are in order.
I don't know exactly what the president, President Biden, said to the king a couple of days ago in their conversation. But I hope President Biden was
very clear and very direct about consequences and what those consequences will be.
If we don't stand up for what's right here, with the world watching, and we continue to support this strong ally under MBS' leadership, then we have
lost all our moral standing in the world.
So there has to be some serious repercussions. And I think it has to fit in a larger context of a review of our strategic interests in the Middle East.
I mean, the Middle East is ablaze with problems. And this just is another one that has to factor into the larger view of the Middle East.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just play a little bit of the debate question-and- answer to then candidate Biden about how he would handle Saudi Arabia.
And let's just remind everybody exactly what he thought back then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them. We were going to, in
fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.
There's very little social redeeming value of the -- in the present government in Saudi Arabia. And I would also -- as pointed out, I would
end, end the subsidies that we have, end the sale of materials to the Saudis, where they're going in and murdering children, and they're
murdering innocent people.
And so they have to be held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Secretary Hagel, some of those things have been enacted about the war in Yemen, about weapons sales and the like. We don't know
whether they're permanent or not.
But I just want to read you something that's just come in from the secretary of state himself, in which Antony Blinken has tweeted: "The
murder of journalist and U.S. lawful permanent resident Jamal Khashoggi shocked the world. Starting today, we will have a new global policy bearing
his name to impose visa restrictions on those who engage in extraterritorial attacks on journalists or activists."
So, analyze that for me. How strong is that? And what does that mean for the crown prince, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, who the U.S. has now
concluded did approve this and who, apparently, under this, will be restricted from ever visiting the United States?
HAGEL: Well, that's a strong statement. It's strong action, but I don't think it goes far enough. I don't think it's good enough.
It certainly doesn't comply with then candidate Biden's comments on how he would handle Saudi Arabia if he was elected president. It's good, strong,
but not near enough.
AMANPOUR: Can I just quickly ask you to comment?
I mean, after all, you yourself are a Republican. You were secretary of defense in a Democratic administration. But this last four years of the
Trump Republican administration was quite cozy with Saudi Arabia, the WhatsApp chats between MBS and Jared Kushner, the direct lines, this and
And, actually to his biographer, this is what Donald Trump himself said to Bob Woodward: "I saved his ass, I was able to get Congress to leave him
alone. I was able to get them to stop."
This is Trump about Mohammed bin Salman after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Now what? Now what does Congress do?
HAGEL: Well, as you know, Christiane, I served in the Congress as a United States senator for 12 years...
HAGEL: ... before I was secretary defense.
And so I think I know the Congress pretty well. The Congress has a responsibility here, an obligation. And even over the last couple of years,
many Republicans were speaking out against MBS, the actions that he took, and many members of Congress, certainly those on the Intelligence Committee
-- and I was on the Intelligence Committee -- would have seen this report and would have known the results of this report.
But especially the Republicans, they cowered in the wake of Trump's intimidation. The Congress needs to also now say something and be part of
this and take some action. And I think they will.
AMANPOUR: I want to end on the strikes ordered by the Biden administration overnight into positions against Iran-backed militia near the Syria-Iraq
Members of Congress, including from his own party, have said that this should have been done with approval by Congress. The administration says,
no, we were within our rights. This was a defensive strike. This is what the Pentagon is saying.
What is your view? You just -- we started this conversation with you saying the whole Middle East is in a hellish situation. What is your view of these
strikes and what Biden should do to try to get Iran back into the nuclear deal or not?
HAGEL: Well, I think President Biden rightfully has said this is a priority issue for him, a new deal, a nuclear deal, with Iran. It would be
the right thing to do. We should have never pulled out of the deal.
And I think our allies, most countries in the world want a new deal with Iran. At the same time, you also can't allow Iran to get away through their
proxies, through their proxy militias, get away with attacking Americans in other countries on their soil, on their bases, and our allies, like we saw
the attack in Iraq a couple of weeks ago.
So you have got to be careful with this. Yes, I understand that. It's got to be deliberate. I think this strike in Eastern Syria was very deliberate,
very contained, very measured. And they said so.
Secretary Lloyd Austin made that point, I think, very clearly in his press conference yesterday. So, yes, we want to accomplish both. But at the same
time, you can't allow these militias to get away with what they have been getting away with.
As far as the Congress' say in this, they should have a say in it. But it is within the rights, legal boundaries, and the purview of the president's
abilities as commander in chief to make decisions like this and to order strikes like this.
So, I support the president on this. And I do think that the Congress should and needs to play a part, will play a part in all of it, but it's
bigger than just one or two strikes.
AMANPOUR: It is. A huge piece of this puzzle is being unraveled even as we speak -- or, rather, revealed even as we speak, the complexity of it.
HAGEL: That's right.
AMANPOUR: Former Secretary Chuck Hagel, thank you so much for joining us.
Now, President Joe Biden is also dealing with accountability issues at home, as last summer's police brutality protests continue to reverberate
across America's political system.
The protests was sparked by the cold-blooded killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department.
A few years earlier, documentary filmmaker Deirdre Fishel was in the right place at the right time when she took her camera inside the MPD to explore
the question, do women police officers lead to better policing?
The result is "Women in Blue" for the PBS series "Independent Lens."
And here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Third Precinct was a place that needed culture change.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Officer-involved shootings almost always include male officers, very seldom with women.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to introduce Officer Wade (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE AND FEMALES: Good morning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's how you interact with the person. Are we treating them with proper respect as human beings?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: De-escalation has a point, but, at some point, you got to take action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: "Women in Blue" is streaming on PBS.org until March 10.
And joining me now are director Deirdre Fishel and C.J. Johnson, a former MPD inspector who also appears in the film.
Welcome, both of you, to the program.
It's really incredible, Deirdre, you made this film, and, as I said, right place, right time. What made you focus on Minneapolis in order to do your
exploration of gender balance in the police force?
DEIRDRE FISHEL, DIRECTOR, "WOMEN IN BLUE": Well, thank you for having me.
I went to Minneapolis because, at the time, there was a woman chief, Chief Harteau. And she had made it -- she was very hell-bent on reform in
general, but she saw recruiting women and promoting women as part of that reform.
And so it was a good place to explore the question of women, and she wanted the film and gave me tremendous access. And that's how I wound up in
Minneapolis, never in a million years imagining that the story would end with the killing of George Floyd.
AMANPOUR: And, obviously, we will get to that.
But let me ask you, C.J. Johnson, was Commissioner Harteau, was she responsible for your promotion? What was it like being in the Minneapolis
Police Department under its first female and first openly gay police commissioner?
CATHERINE "C.J." JOHNSON, FORMER MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR: Yes, I think that she, first of all, was instrumental not just in --
obviously, she promoted me to the position that I held when I left, which was as the inspector of the Third Precinct, but was a mentor to me when I
was a sergeant in the police department, and so I think, in a lot of ways, was instrumental in helping me develop the skills necessary to help lead.
AMANPOUR: So, you were there for 22 years. And we don't want to generalize, but part of what this film shows is that there is a difference
in policing across the genders, and that female officers were the subject of fewer citizens' complaints and are less likely to use force.
C.J. Johnson, can you talk about that? Do you agree with the premise? And if so, why?
JOHNSON: I think women, just in general, you hear Melissa talk about it, Chief Chiodo talk about it a little bit, in that there are circumstances
where, if we have to get into a physical fight, just based on I'm not going to win a physical fight with a guy who is 6'2'' and a bodybuilder.
I mean, it's just not -- I'm not going to win. And so there's a lot of circumstances where, as women, we're forced to use our communication
skills. And I think we have become accustomed to that as the way in which we police, that communication becomes the primary skill set upon which we
And I think that does change the way we approach things. I think we oftentimes tend to be more interested in taking our time with a call and
not having to get to a resolution right now, and giving ourselves the time to communicate more effectively with the people that we're interacting
AMANPOUR: I mean, what you're saying sounds like the perfect definition of de-escalation.
And, Deirdre, we always hear that, when these terrible, tragic wrongful shootings happen, it's because of this immediately escalating situation.
So, if the women have proven themselves with the stats to be able to do de- escalation, why do you think there are so few of them?
Look, there's -- women, obviously, are half the population, but just 12 percent of offices in local departments are women, and less than 3 percent
are police chiefs.
What did you discover, defended, as to why that is the case? What's the problem in the recruitment pipeline?
FISHEL: Well, I think there's a couple of problems.
But, I mean, I think one is that policing has always been a masculine, male-dominated institution, and everything about how it's run and what's
considered important for recruitment is still done through that lens.
I mean, entry requirements still are a lot about upper body strength and speed. And if these tests were really important, they would be repeated
every year, but they're not. And so what isn't measured when people are coming in is communication skills, empathy for the community, all the
things that women tend to bring in more than men, but also what people are asking for now, as we look to reimagine public safety.
And then the other issue is, I was with an inspector the other day from another police department, and she's a black inspector. And she said:
"People always ask me, why don't I try to recruit?" And she said: "Well, it's really hard. What am I going to say? You're going to be passed up for
promotion? You're going to have to hear a lot of, like, locker room talk?"
It's not a very hospitable place for women. And it's also an image. The aggression of it isn't appealing to women. So I think if we really want to
get women in any real numbers -- and that 12 percent number has been static for 30 years -- I think it's going to take some efforts in redefining what
we're looking for, which goes beyond women.
What do we want police to do? And how do we test for that? And also making an environment where women actually can thrive.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, C.J. Johnson, because you were actually there in the department.
What was it like for you? How did promotion go? How did you -- how were you treated by your male colleagues?
JOHNSON: Right. I consider myself to be very fortunate in most circumstances, to be honest.
I experienced mostly very supportive colleagues, both male and female. My experiences were, "How do I help you?" oftentimes. And I think that's not
necessarily the experience of all of my colleagues.
There were certainly instances where it became very clear to me that I was viewed differently because I was a female officer, I think very
specifically about a call when I was still in field training, excuse me, where my field training officer and his partner very clearly noted my
physical response to a particular situation in breaking up a domestic assault, and that was the thing that made them believe that I was going to
be OK, and not my ability to talk to people or my communication skills.
So, I noticed more of those things than I did some of the others, and I, again, consider myself fortunate in my experience within the department,
there were certainly instances, but not as widespread as some of my colleagues.
FISHEL: C.J., what about the last experience though? What about what happened --
AMANPOUR: Yes. Hold on one second.
AMANPOUR: I just want to play a clip from documentary, and then, Deirdre, you can direct C.J. in a second.
AMANPOUR: But here's what I found extraordinary about the documentary. Chief Harteau, who we are talking, about was forced to resign, it was over
some police killings which we will get into in a second. But when she was forced to resign, the deputy chief who she had actually promoted four times
under her tenure, a man, a black man, who was raised to be chief in her place. And then, he did not have any women in his immediate environs. There
were no women under his direct report.
So, the whole gender balance went down when his first black chief was promoted, by the way, by a female. Here's what you say, C.J. Johnson, in
the film, because at that point, you decided that you had to quit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: The Minneapolis Police Department, they are my family. But, as woman going back to the department dominated by male voices again, that
wears on you.
It is very strange to be packing up 22 years of my life. I'm proud of what I have done here and I am looking forward to the next chapter into what
comes next, but there is also part of me that feels a little bit like a quitter, like I gave up a little bit, which is weird, because I didn't
think that I would feel like that either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Really complicated emotions. Now, it has to be said that the current chief has promised to bring more women in, but you resigned when
two male officers below you were promoted above you. Do you still think had you stayed you might have been able to change the dynamic?
JOHNSON: It is a challenging question. I am not convinced that I would have been able to change that dynamic, and it is part of the reason that I
left. And when I talk about being fortunate and Deirdre jumping in at the - - about my last experience, and she is correct. I mean, that was a very disheartening experience for me not only because of the opportunity that I
saw that was lost to have women who were capable and had proven their leadership and their desire to push change in a positive way, not be
considered for the positions, but I also was very disappointed in the fact that it was not communicated to me.
I found out, because I got a phone call from one of my female lieutenants saying, hey, I'm really glad that you are staying in the precinct, but I am
sorry that you didn't get one of the deputy chief jobs, and I had no idea what she was talking about, it had gone out in an e-mail to the entire
department and I didn't know about it.
And so, that part of it was almost as -- not almost, but more disconcerting and disheartening to me than the fact that I wasn't selected for one of
AMANPOUR: Honestly, I can really feel it. I can feel what you are saying. And it is infuriating and it's discouraging.
I want to ask, Dierdre, because this obviously started out as a profile of gender in the police department. But then, as you say, after you stopped
filming, then the murder of George Floyd happened, and you went back. And you did profile in the documentary I think the only officer, a female black
officer who was on the street patrolling. And this is a bit that you filmed about her talking about, you know, how she felt after the murder of George
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALICE WHITE: I sat at my desk and I cried uncontrollably. I have never cried at work. Because so many days where I am just like what am I doing.
Why am I doing this? And then, I will get 300 messages saying, we need you. Please don't quit. Stick it out. I am like, OK, I'm in the right place. It
kind of centers me. It makes me realize and remember like remember why you started.
After George Floyd's murder, it has given me a lot more courage and strength to stand up. Now, my brain is like, you will not tolerate any
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that's Sergeant Alice White, and as well as having, you know, to walk the gender tight rope, she has the additional, you know,
burden of race and gender while wearing blue in Minneapolis. What more did you learn about that Deirdre?
FISHEL: I definitely learned what a difficult position it is for black women of conscience to be in a police department. I mean, Alice was --
Sergeant White was there because she had experiences as a teenager where she did not have good experiences with a police officer and she wanted to
be that different kind of police officer that she wished she had met. And, you know, that is a pretty incredible reason to be there. And on the other
hand, to be a person of color, a woman of color, and to deal with, you know, an event like George Floyd.
But also, there have been other shootings all over the country of men of color and it is a very, very painful tough position to be in. And I think
that she felt enormous conflict. I think we need -- her consciousness is what we need as we look to reimagine public safety. But, you know, as I
talk to black women all over the country, while many of them share that same feeling that they want to be there, to be that person that they wish
that they'd met, at the same time, they are not necessarily treated or supported that well. So, it is a really tough road.
AMANPOUR: It is an amazing documentary. It's a great documentary. And Deirdre Fishel, C.J. Johnson, thank you. "Women in Blue" is out and
available right now. Thank you so much for joining us.
And we turn to New York where the governor, Andrew Cuomo, is under fire for his lack of transparency about the scope of COVID-19 related deaths in
nursing homes. More than 15,000 care home residents have died from COVID according to the New York Department of Health. The governor insists there
was no cover-up, but acknowledges that information about the deaths should have been released faster.
Errol Louis is a seasoned political host for "Inside City Hall" on the New York One Channel. And he is here to talk to our Michel Martin about this
MICHEL MARTIN, CNNI CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Errol Louis, thank you so much for speaking with us today.
ERROL LOUIS, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS: Absolutely. Glad to be with you, Michel.
MARTIN: Look, it's a complicated story. But as briefly as you can, what is happening with Governor Cuomo and can you walk us through what the center
of the dispute is about?
LOUIS: Look, the center of the dispute, Michel, was a key point in the early part of the pandemic, near its peak, when the governor and the State
of New York made a decision about nursing homes, about what to do. And this is in the context of what was expected to be a very serious shortage of
hospital beds. There were credible sources, including Columbia University that said publicly that New York might need -- the State of New York would
need 140,000 hospital beds, and this is a state that has about 51,000 hospital beds.
And so, everything was really mobilized around the idea that we have to make sure we've got more hospital beds. And in that context, Michel, there
was an order that came down in late March instructing the nursing homes and hospitals that when somebody has been discharged from a hospital, that bed
has to be freed up, and that patient has to go back to their nursing home, which is after all is their home. Whether or not they were COVID positive,
they could not remain in the hospital indefinitely once they were discharged. That was the policy.
What that then led to was conceivably, and there is some evidence of this now, that it made the situation in nursing homes a little bit worse. But
that is not the real problem. The real problem came later on in the year when asked about this by a number of the news organizations, including
ours, they were asked why, or what were the deaths that happened in nursing homes compared to in hospitals? Meaning, if somebody was taken from a
nursing home, brought to a hospital and then died of COVID, who do you attribute to death to? Is it attributed to the hospital or to the nursing
And the state government stopped providing that information and they refused to provide the information, and we later subsequently discovered
that they deliberately did that because they thought that the federal government was probing them, they thought that it was a bad faith kind of
an effort to make the state look bad by the Trump administration, which is certainly plausible and that therefore were not going to provide the
information. That's the basis of the problem.
MARTIN: So, the issue isn't that the deaths were not reported at all, they were reported somewhere, the question is, how they were attributed or to
which institution they were attributed. So, there is -- the governor is not being accused of undercounting the deaths from COVID writ large, right?
LOUIS: That is correct. Although, some of his more enthusiastic political rivals are accusing him of all kinds of different things, including that.
But realistically, what -- the defense of the Cuomo administration had been a while now is that they're saying look, it is not like we didn't tell you
what the deaths were, we just didn't report it in the format. And frankly, there are a number of other states around the country that don't break out
the difference say between nursing home deaths and the hospital deaths.
But the real problem is that they have acknowledged that they were specifically, and for political reasons, what sounds like political
reasons, they were specifically not telling us about a distinction that they did know.
And here's where it really matters, Michel. If you're a family and you've a loved one living in assisted living or in a nursing home, you have every
right to know down to the decimal number exactly how much infection is going on, exactly how much risk you are taking by leaving your loved one in
that setting, because you could always take them out if you had to, if you knew what the real risks were, what the real danger was, what the real
infection and hospitalization and death rates were, but we didn't have that information.
And it's those families, I think, and we think that there could be 7,000 to 10,000 of them, they are really, really upset with the governor, and that
is what I think is making this scandal not go away, that's what takes it out of politics and into the real world where real people think that maybe
they have been harmed by their actions.
MARTIN: I do want to hear more about what is the harm that people feel worse (ph) experienced. I mean, one of the things that has been implicated
here is Governor Cuomo's relationship with the nursing home industry. What is the issue there?
LOUIS: Well, the issue there is that there is a very powerful nursing home lobby in New York. In fact, I don't know what goes on in other states, but
in New York, something like 3/4 of assisted living in nursing home operations are for profit. They are companies. You know, they are out here
trying to make a buck.
And in many cases, they have made extravagant amounts of donation. We don't have a whole lot of campaign finance reform in New York when it comes to
state governments. And so, they're very powerful. They've given a ton of money to Governor Cuomo and other state politicians over the years. They
wield a lot of influence and they have managed to get an immunity provision that was stuck into the state budget while all of this pandemic was going
on that essentially made them, I guess lawsuit-proof, is one way to put it. It essentially immunized them against a lot of litigation that would --
that might have otherwise happened. And this was seen as a smoking gun.
MARTIN: But how was it a favor to the nursing homes to insist that people who may or may not have COVID are returned to their facilities?
LOUIS: Well, I mean, again, the clear incentive was simply to make sure that this -- what was thought to believe -- what was believed to be a
hospital bed shortage would not overwhelm and collapse the system in New York, that was the motivation, the original motivation.
Once it became clear that we -- I think we topped out at something like 20,000 beds being used at any one time, that those fears were simple --
they just sit and didn't materialize, the next line of, I guess, favors that you might expect the nursing home industry to see is that they didn't
want to be sued. That they were going to clearly be a lot of deaths, there was going to be a lot of sickness, there was going to be a lot of
litigation, that's what families do when something happens, that they didn't expect and think that maybe care wasn't what it should have been,
and they got an immunity provision.
MARTIN: So, what has been the issue for the families, family members and people who are living in these nursing homes? Is the issue for them that
people will return to these homes and weren't adequately cared for? Is the issue for them that they just didn't know what the expense of the illness
might have been? I mean, is the issue for them is that people were sent back to nursing homes and they weren't receiving adequate care or is the
real issue for them that they just didn't know?
LOUIS: The real issue is the knowledge. There were horrific stories where, you know, they were creating freezers behind some nursing homes to store
the bodies, you know. In some cases, there were terrible rates of infection. And again, at the beginning of the pandemic, we weren't entirely
clear on whether it was coming from individuals, was it from surfaces. Nursing home and assisted living facilities, as you know, they have lots
and lots of vendors who come in and out every day. They're bringing in food, they're bringing in and medicine, the staff changes on a, you know,
three shifts a day and maybe two shifts, but there a lot of people in and out of those places.
And so, it wasn't clear why these rates were spiking, why people were dying so quickly, what needed to be done to take care of them. And it left
families in a really, really precarious position, because they did not know what was happening. And once that information flow was choked off or the
information was frankly distorted as far as how it was being reported, there are families who just went ballistic, and they had every right to do
MARTIN: And speaking of how this was reported, how was this reported at this time? My recollection was that New York was saying that, in fact, the
fatalities in nursing homes were superior to that of other parts of the country. And I think what you're now saying is that's just not true.
LOUIS: Yes. That is right. I mean, look, this is one of these cases where there was kind of a split between what the national story was and what the
local story was. Those televised press conference that Governor Cuomo had day after day, there was a national portion that would be covered on places
like CNN and MSNBC, and then that would kind of go away.
And we in the local media would continue to ask questions and they were more New York-specific. And day after day, I mean, he had 100 straight days
of press conferences. I think I might have missed maybe 10 of them. We asked over and over and over again, what is going on with the nursing
homes? Why aren't we getting the data? When are you going to know?
And so, when an independent investigation finally was done by the state attorney general at the governor's request, I might add, it's not as if
they didn't know that something was coming, it turned out that they had rather seriously undercounted the number of deaths that could reasonably be
attributed to nursing homes. That it was almost half of what the total number really should have been. And it made it seem, at that point, as if
the governor was trying to sort of burnish his credentials, make the state's performance look better than it was compared to other states and it
added one more layer of difficulty from those who were upset all along that the information was being withheld.
MARTIN: Is there evidence that he ordered the withholding of this information or was that decision made, you know, somewhere else?
LOUIS: Well, that is the part that -- where -- that brings us fully up to date, Michel. That's what the FBI and Justice Department investigation that
has now been launched is likely to try and figure out how exactly did this come down. There was at least one of the public statement or conversation
between a top aide -- the top aide to the governor and members of the state legislature who are understandably outraged and asking for answers, because
they've been asking for this data all along. And they were told in a public setting, basically, that we froze the data, we didn't want to give it to
you or anybody else, because we knew that the Trump administration was coming after us for what were perceived to be nefarious reasons. That was
the gist of that conversation.
That is more than enough, I think, to get the attention in this case of the Justice Department. Saying, well, wait a minute now, if you are
deliberately withholding information from the federal government about something as serious as fatalities in the middle of this pandemic, we've
got to make sure that this was done right. We want to know who gave that order. We want to know why this happened. And what bad effects and possibly
breaches of protocol and even the law might have happened.
MARTIN: And what has the governor, the sort of famously talkative governor, had to say about all of this?
LOUIS: He has not really changed his tune. And, you know, he is sticking to that earlier part of the narrative, which as I described, was a
difficult but reasonable choice to try and make sure that hospital beds were freed up at a time that we thought that the system was in threat of
collapse. He's pretty much stuck to that.
He's talked about the CDC guidance that sort of supported that decision back in March. He's had much less to say about who gave the order to not
put the information out. He has expressed regret that he didn't do a better job of putting the information out, in effect sort of dialing back the
policy of hiding information from state legislature and from the public, that's always nice to see. But that also doesn't really sort of clear all
of this up.
On a daily basis, we're waiting to see what else he's going to have to say as all of this progresses.
MARTIN: I mean, everybody remembers, I think most people remember, it was a terrible situation. People were flying blind. They really didn't know
what they were dealing with. And I think people will remember that there was sort of a vacuum nationally. We weren't really sure what the truth was
given the way the former president chose to handle this.
If he had good faith reasons for doing this, why don't you say it? Why not just say, these are the reasons, it's a tough time, this is what -- it's
terrible, but we are doing the best we can?
LOUIS: It is a perfect example, Michel, of -- as they say, the cover up being worse than the crime. In this case, there's no particular crime
really that we know of just yet. So, it's not really quite the right phrase. But the reality is, the reaction made an already difficult but
understandable situation much worse. And when it is comes to hiding the data, I'm sure you've encountered this many times as I had, you have to
remind these public officials they call it public information not because the public has a right to it, but because the public owns it.
You know, you hide public data, it is not yours to hide. You know, and that's the morass that he got himself into. What made it a little bit
worse, I think also, Michel, if you read between the lines, a lot of his critics point out, oh, you got an Emmy Award, oh, you published a book, you
know, you put out some celebratory poster about what a great job you did. You were patting yourself on the back and this wasn't even over. There were
lives at stake. There are still lives being lost. This is not how you should have comported yourself.
So, there were a lot of -- sort of -- if you want to call them, side conversations that are now feeding into one big conversation about Governor
Cuomo and his style. The threats and the bullying and the strong arming the legislators, that was a side conversation. Now, that's part of the main
conversation. There was talk about why are you patting yourself on the back? Are you preparing yourself for a national run for office? That's now
part of the main conversation.
MARTIN: There's another story we have talk about, which is -- and it's serious. There is an allegation from a former aide that the governor was --
I can't -- I'm not quite sure how to characterize it, that he was inappropriate with her. And in fact, that, you know, I think any amount of
touching is an assault. So, that -- she said that he kissed her without her permission and was inappropriate with her. Many people are seeing this --
it's being investigated as an assault. What can you tell us about it?
LOUIS: Well, there's not a lot I can tell you about it in part because the accuser, Lindsey Boylan, who was his chief of staff, you know, we don't
want to make it sound like she was the intern or something like, she was fairly high-ranking. She was married at the time. She left a kind of
digital paper trail, apparently, telling people at the time that this had happened and that there was a problem.
The reason that I can't tell you much about it is that Lindsey Boylan published all of her accusation in a very detailed account of what she says
occurred online, in a medium post where she just kind of talked about dates and the times and places that can be checked, but she then has kind of
clammed up and won't say anything else about it, basically referring us back to that original article.
So, what you've got is kind of a bare accusation against the governor whose people are saying, you know, with some justification, is like, look, you
can't just throw an accusation out there and not follow it up. So, there's going to be the follow-up. The question right now is, in what forum? There
are calls for the governor to authorize some kind of an investigation. There are calls for an independent investigation. It's not clear, frankly,
who would do that? Is it the attorney general? Is it the legislature? Is it our ethics board, a majority of whose board members or half of those board
members are appointed by the governor?
What we're trying to figure out right now is what's the right forum in which to figure this out?
MARTIN: Has he spoken to these allegations specifically? Has the governor himself spoken to this accusation against him?
LOUIS: Here's what happened, the -- in December, allegations were made by Lindsey Boylan saying that she had, in fact, experienced the sexual
harassment from the governor. The governor at the time said, I believe that women should be believed, but this never happened. And that's where it
stayed. It was somewhat fuzzy. It was a little amorphous. We weren't exactly sure what the allegation included.
More recently, Lindsey Boylan went public with this medium piece where she, in several hundred words, described in great detail words that she said
were exchanged, locations where things happen, that she was kissed against her will, that she then told her mother about it, she showed screenshots of
the texts that she had with people that are somewhat contemporaneous with the time of the alleged incidents. And that we have not heard the governor
respond to, because it's now a much more detailed accusation.
What we have seen of the governor's aides of sort of picking apart some of the details of it saying, we were on the plane when she was with the
governor, and he never said, let's have a game of strip poker, which is one of the allegations. That doesn't mean it didn't happen. Again, the dates
and the times and who was where and, you know, do we now have to sort of recreate the dimensions of the plane and who was sitting where? I mean, it
starts to get very complicated very quickly, and that's why probably either some kind of real investigation is going to happen or the accusation is
going to lay out there as it is now without much further follow-up.
MARTIN: All right. Errol Louis, thank you so much for talking with us today.
LOUIS: Thank you, Michel.
AMANPOUR: And that's it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.