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German Elections; Interview With CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 27, 2021 - 13:00:00 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.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: All of these actions now are to stay ahead of the virus.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): With COVID cases climbing, the U.S. begins rolling out booster shots. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky tells Walter Isaacson why
she broke with precedent to expand access to those doses.
Then: Germany's center-left party toasts a narrow win over Angela Merkel's conservatives, but the iron chancellor remains in power until a new
coalition is formed. What does it all mean for Europe and the transatlantic partnership?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm optimistic about this week. It's going to take the better part of the week, I believe.
AMANPOUR: President Biden's ambitious agenda enters make-or-break week, as Congress examines the fossil fuel industry and its secret efforts to
downplay global warming and his climate policy.
Journalist Jane Mayer follows the money.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Despite pleas from the World Health Organization, the U.K. and other rich countries are moving forward with COVID booster shots. The United States is
just the latest to join the list, after some bold action from the CDC director. Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorsed the recommendation by outside
advisers to offer boosters to people over 65 and with underlying conditions, but, in a rare step, she broke with the panel and decided to
also include front-line workers.
And with infections rising amongst children, another big decision awaits Walensky. Pfizer says that, within days, it'll ask authorities to approve
its vaccines for kids ages 5 to 11.
And here is Dr. Walensky speaking to Walter Isaacson about the chances for a COVID-free future and how she hopes to convince 70 million American
holdouts to finally get vaccinated.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Christiane.
And, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, welcome to the show.
WALENSKY: Good morning. Thanks for having me, Walter.
ISAACSON: Why did you expand the eligibility for people getting booster shots on Pfizer from what the FDA expert panel had recommended?
WALENSKY: Yes, this is a really important question.
So, first of all, this past week, we recommended boosters for people who have received the Pfizer dose and are more than six months out. This is for
people over the age of 65, people who have high-risk underlying conditions, and for people who are at high risk of disease by virtue of where they live
So, these are people with diabetes, asthma, obesity, underlying heart or lung disease, people who are high-risk workers like health care personnel
and teachers and front-line workers, as well as people who might live in homeless shelters or prisons.
So that was the group that we were talking about, the highest risk group. The scientific process unfolds here by a scientific advisory panel at the
FDA, the authorization at the FDA, an advisory panel at the CDC, and then my recommendations.
And after listening intently to the scientific deliberation of all of these panels, I fully endorsed the recommendations to have boosters for those
over the age of 65, as well as those at high-risk conditions.
And where was the scientific close call, I made the recommendation in line with the FDA and many people at the CDC to also include people who are in
high risk by virtue of where they live or work. These were our health care workers, as well as our front-line workers and teachers.
ISAACSON: So that means, if I'm a 45-year-old person slightly overweight and I teach at a high school, I should get the booster?
WALENSKY: All of these are going to be individual recommendations.
But, really, what we are saying is for those who were at highest risk by virtue of the fact that they were vaccinated first, by virtue of their
underlying conditions, again, diabetes, underlying heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, those are the people we're really targeting with
really just our first step in booster rollout.
And there will be more scientific evidence and more steps to come.
ISAACSON: So, many of the people have gotten the Moderna shot, you haven't recommended it for them yet. They're just going to pharmacies around here
and say, hey, give me another one.
Does that makes sense?
WALENSKY: So what I want to emphasize here for all of the people who've gotten their initial doses of vaccine, that this is really a slow wane, and
you remain very well protected for people who have gotten any one of these vaccines.
What I do want to say, though, is for those who got Moderna and J&J, we will look at this with similar urgency. We are waiting the submission of
the packages from Moderna and J&J. And as soon as they come in, we will be looking at the FDA's recommendation -- authorization, and CDC will work
ISAACSON: Well, you say with real urgency. You mean by tomorrow, the next day, next week?
WALENSKY: We are awaiting those packages. I think we're on the order of weeks.
So somebody who's gotten just as slightly different vaccine has got to wait weeks?
WALENSKY: Well, what I would say, again, is, the protection is -- really remains quite good, really high levels of protection in terms of averting
hospitalizations, averting severe disease.
We -- all of these actions now artists stay ahead of the virus. So...
ISAACSON: Well, you say it remains quite good.
Give me the exact numbers. If I had the vaccine two months ago, if I completed it, how much less immunity do I have if it was seven months ago,
in February, when I did it?
WALENSKY: The studies vary by which study was done, when it was done?
ISAACSON: Yes, but wait. You run the CDC. Shouldn't we know how much lower our protection is after seven months than two months?
So, we have started to see some waning in those who are over the age of 65 and 75. But what we still know even today is that, if you are unvaccinated,
you are 10 times more likely to die and 11 times more likely to be in the hospital compared to if you're vaccinated.
ISAACSON: Well, we're talking about people are vaccinated.
When you say it starts to wane, do you have half the immunity, one-third of it, or 90 percent of it?
WALENSKY: Oh, absolutely not.
So, what we're talking about is differences between 95, 90 percent protection to 85, 80 percent protection. We're not seeing -- in terms of
hospitalizations. We're seeing waning a little bit more with regard to infections. So places -- people who might have had protection of 90 to 95
percent before, maybe it's 70, 75 percent, 80 percent, depending on the study.
ISAACSON: Well, explain that to us in numbers that we can all understand.
Last week, how many people in America got breakthrough infections that had -- they have been vaccinated, but they got infections?
WALENSKY: That's actually not the best epidemiologic way to examine how our vaccines are working, because many of those breakthrough infections are
not being reported. They're not being followed. And, in fact, many people are not even being tested.
So the way that we...
ISAACSON: Well, wait. Wait. Isn't that what the CDC is supposed to do, is to tell us how many people are getting infected with this disease?
WALENSKY: Well, so how we follow this is through numerous cohort studies, where we have exactly the number of people who are -- who've been
And we actually test them weekly in some of our cohort studies, so we can find both the symptomatic infections, as well as the asymptomatic
ISAACSON: So, still, I'm kind of curious, about how many people last week did get breakthrough infections?
WALENSKY: So, we have last week about 15,000 people that have been reported of breakthrough infections that have been hospitalized. About 75
percent of those are over the age of 65.
And that is why we -- hospitalized with breakthroughs. And that is why we have made this recommendation now to get your booster shot if you're over
the age of 65.
ISAACSON: So, of those 15,000 that were hospitalized, how many of them have had the vaccine in the past two months vs. didn't have it for the past
WALENSKY: The data that we're seeing now looks like there is some waning that is related to the time since the last -- you had your vaccine. And
then there's some decreased protection because of Delta itself.
And we're working now to look at the science to tease apart, how much of this is related to the Delta virus, and how much is this related to the
waning of vaccine effectiveness over time?
ISAACSON: No, that's a very good question. What's the data show?
WALENSKY: Well, so both are at play. And those data are just emerging right now.
We have seen some evidence that suggests that it is not just because vaccines are waning, that there may have been less vaccine protection
because of the Delta virus. To be honest, what -- as we are scientifically -- that will scientifically unfold, we are also saying, regardless, if you
have less protection, now is the time to boost.
ISAACSON: And when we roll out these booster shots -- and maybe you do it for Moderna pretty quickly and Johnson & Johnson and -- do you worry that
we're taking vaccines away from the rest of the world?
WALENSKY: I think that we have to do three things at the same time.
We need to vaccinate 70 million Americans who are unvaccinated. We need to boost those who have been vaccinated here in the United States and around
the world who -- in order to optimize the protect -- their protection. And we need to vaccinate the rest of the world.
I'm really proud that President Biden announced another 500 million vaccines for the rest of the world. We have now donated 1.1 billion
vaccines for the rest of the world and encouraging other countries to really step up as we have.
And for every vaccine we have administered here in the United States, we have donated three to the rest of the world.
ISAACSON: When do you think we're going to get an antiviral treatment, rather than a vaccine, a pill, in particular, an easy one we can take, not
like monoclonal antibodies, where you have to have them infused into you?
WALENSKY: Yes, this is a really critical question and an area of active scientific research.
I think everybody recognizes, if we get to some steady state, when we get to some steady state with this coronavirus pandemic, we will, like we have
with flu, want to have not just vaccines, but treatments available, easy treatments available. And I know that there's active scientific
investigation on those. And I am looking forward to seeing those studies and those drugs come to fruition.
ISAACSON: You said a while back that people who are vaccinated and get breakthrough infections, they're just as likely to transmit the virus to
somebody else as people who haven't been vaccinated.
Does the data show that is still the case?
WALENSKY: Yes, so that's a really important question.
First, I want to emphasize, if you're vaccinated, you're much less likely to get disease in the first place. But for those people who do get a rare
breakthrough infection, we have seen that, likely because of the Delta variant, you are just as transmissible, almost as transmissible, as those
who are unvaccinated.
And that was the reason, back in July, we put the masks back on vaccinated people. And, yes, the science still holds in that area.
ISAACSON: And if you have gotten a breakthrough infection, but you have no symptoms, do you still have to be wearing a mask?
In fact, the science still demonstrates that, if you're asymptomatic breakthrough, you likely still have enough virus in your nasopharynx and in
your airways to potentially transmit to others.
ISAACSON: What proportion of new COVID cases are caused by infections from vaccinated people?
WALENSKY: We think the vast majority of infections are -- remain among the unvaccinated.
There are still 70 million people in this country who are yet to be vaccinated. And what we have seen is, the rates of community transmission
are far higher in the areas that have lower vaccination rates. We have also seen in communities that have high vaccination rates that you actually
protect your children, your unvaccinated children. Communities with high vaccination rates were four times less likely to have high rates of disease
among children compared to communities of low vaccination rates.
So we have seen this impact of community -- high rates of community vaccination leading to lower rates of disease, even among people who are
unvaccinated, like our children.
ISAACSON: And what proportion of these new COVID cases that are coming up now come from schoolkids or somehow they're transmitting it?
WALENSKY: With more and more adults being vaccinated, we are seeing now more disease, and, with the Delta variant, we're seeing more disease in
unvaccinated people, and many of those unvaccinated people are children.
But what I can say is, study after study shows that this is not actually happening in schools where proper mitigation strategies are being used.
What's generally happening is, in the schools, the disease comes from the community into the school. And if there's proper mitigation strategies in
the school, the chain of transmission stops there, and that there's not more outbreaks in the school.
However, if proper mitigation strategies are not being used in the schools, then the transmission will continue from the schools.
ISAACSON: And would you then say that all schoolkids should be wearing a mask?
WALENSKY: I would say anybody who is in a school, a teacher, a staff, a visitor, or a child, should be wearing a mask right now.
ISAACSON: Pfizer is going to ask for authorization of vaccines for children 5 to 11 probably in a matter of days.
Walk me through how that's going to roll out. What's the FDA going to do, the expert panel going to do? When do you weigh in? And what do you say to
somebody who said, wait, wait, I got an 11-year-old, I want her or him vaccinated?
So, this process unfolds the way all of our scientific process and vaccines have unfolded. So the package will be delivered to the FDA. It will be
treated with urgency, I know. There's an FDA advisory panel that will meet. Then the FDA will authorize the vaccine. That passes swiftly to the CDC
advisory panel. They will meet and look over the data, both on the effectiveness and the safety profiles.
And then I will make the recommendations. And I'm certainly hoping, after the FDA receives the package, that it will be in the order of weeks.
ISAACSON: And what about pregnant women?
WALENSKY: This is such a critical point in this moment in time.
In August alone, this past August, there were 21 deaths from COVID of pregnant women. Here's what we know. We know that pregnant women are more
likely to be in the ICU, two times more likely to require mechanical ventilation. We know that the fetal adverse outcomes if mom has COVID are
And so we really do need to get pregnant women vaccinated. We now have extraordinary safety data on pregnant women. We haven't seen higher rates
of adverse pregnancy outcomes from the vaccine itself. And so the biggest challenge now is that only about 30 percent of pregnant women are
And, in fact, if you look at racial and ethnic minority groups, only about 15 percent of African-American pregnant women have been vaccinated. This is
an extraordinarily important issue. We need to work to get more pregnant women vaccinated.
ISAACSON: Can you tell those women that, if they get vaccinated, and they are, say, in their six months of pregnancy, that the vaccine won't go into
their unborn child and be too high of a dose?
WALENSKY: What I can tell you is that we have seen no adverse events from these vaccines from the pregnant -- when pregnant women are vaccinated,
and, in fact, just the opposite.
The vaccine, it looks like, is crossing into the baby and may very well even protect the baby.
ISAACSON: Tell me about the people called vaccine-hesitant? Will they ever get vaccinated?
WALENSKY: I think that this is a diverse group of people, and we have to treat them individually. We have to understand what it is that makes them
Is it that they didn't have access or time off of work? Is it that they had misinformation, and we really need to give them all of the information that
they need in order to get hesitant -- in order to get vaccinated?
And so, really, we need to take these folks one at a time. This is not uniform. The reason for hesitancy is not uniform. And it's really, really
important we have trusted messengers for these people, people they trust, so that there's not shaming or blaming, but rather talk to me about why you
haven't yet been vaccinated. And let's have a discussion, because it would be really important for you to protect yourself and your family.
ISAACSON: Early on, the United States was the best in the world in rolling out vaccines. Now it's not near -- it's not at the top.
Why aren't we the best at getting people vaccinated?
WALENSKY: As you mentioned, we do still have 70 million Americans who are not yet vaccinated. And we have some hard work ahead of us.
There's been misinformation, disinformation that has been propagated out there. And we're working now through many different strategies, vaccine
confidence consults, working with community partners, working with faith- based partners, doing the hard work of reaching into communities and getting people the information that they need, so that they want to be
ISAACSON: How could we have prevented vaccinations and mask-wearing from becoming so politically polarized?
WALENSKY: I think we, as a country, have not unified against the enemy here. The enemy here is a virus.
And what we really needed -- need to do even today is to address not one another, not the challenges that we have with these policies, but to
recognize that these policies are really the best thing for public health. They're the best things for individual health, for family health, for
community health, and for the health of our nation.
And I think we're unifying against our common foe, which is the virus itself.
ISAACSON: How does this movie end? Will we have to learn to live with COVID, like we live with the flu, or will we be able to defeat it?
WALENSKY: I think we will be able to defeat it, so that we can keep it at bay.
But I do believe that we will be living with COVID for some time to come. But that doesn't mean that we -- it will change our daily lives. What it
does mean is that we will have to understand that some people may get sick with COVID, and we will do our best, through vaccination, through
prevention strategies, not necessarily through masking in the long term, to defeat the disease.
ISAACSON: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, thank you for all you're doing in this fight. And thank you for being with us.
WALENSKY: Thanks so much for having me.
AMANPOUR: And to encourage Americans to get their booster shots when it's their turn, President Biden just got his on camera. And he again called
this a pandemic of the unvaccinated and urged, as you heard, those 70 million Americans to get their first doses.
Next, to a confidence booster for Germany's center-left party. The Social Democrats have scored a slim victory in the race to replace Angela Merkel
Her conservatives suffered their worst defeat in decades in Sunday's election. But Germans likely won't be saying auf wiedersehen to Merkel
anytime soon, because negotiations to form a government could take weeks, if not months, leaving her in charge until then.
Here to dig through the implications for Europe and beyond are Anna Sauerbrey, a journalist with Germany's "Der Tagesspiegel" and also Anne
Applebaum. She's the staff writer for "The Atlantic."
Both of you, welcome to the program.
I guess you're not so surprised that there wasn't out -- one outright winner. That was sort of predicted.
But, Anna Sauerbrey, if I can ask you, as writing for a German newspaper and being there, what difference will it make if it is the center-left,
Olaf Scholz, who ends up being able to form a coalition after all these years of Angela Merkel's conservative Democratic Union?
ANNA SAUERBREY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, in one way, Olaf Scholz is an emulation of Angela Merkel. He's, like her, firm and humble in his
demeanor. He's got her cheeky wit. And he makes it a point, for example, to carry around his old leather briefcase that he's already had as a young
He's not a scientist. He's a lawyer, but he does have her love for figures and detail too. But, politically, there are strong differences. He's a
Social Democrat through and through. He is a proponent of a minimum wage, of a minimum global tax. He is for a strong public investment and for a
strong social safety net.
And within Germany social democracy, he is on the rightish side. He was a supporter of the very controversial labor market reforms in the early
2000s. But at the same time, he's also adopted recently a few projects of the center-left. So I do think it will make a political difference.
AMANPOUR: Anne Applebaum, listen to that, watching it also from Europe, not necessarily inside Germany, what do you think this results and a
possible coalition ahead means for Europe and beyond and for, as I said, the transatlantic partnership and beyond?
ANNE APPLEBAUM, "THE ATLANTIC": So, the real question for everybody else, for non-Germans who live in Europe or even in the U.S., is, what is this
going to mean for German foreign policy?
And, unfortunately, that was not a major theme of this election. It wasn't -- like so many elections in so many of our countries now around the world,
foreign policy was a really a secondary issue.
And neither Scholz, nor his main competitor, the leader of the Christian Democrats, have been very forthright about -- they haven't sounded very
different from Merkel. They haven't said anything that would indicate that they're willing to push Germany in a different direction.
The issues that are really important are, is Germany willing to take on a bigger defense and security role, or is it willing to let allow the E.U. to
do that? Is Germany willing to push back more dramatically against Russia and China, who are attempting to -- who are beginning to dictate the terms
of engagement and, in some cases, the terms of trade with Europe and the U.S.?
The one party in the election that has really sounded very different on these issues was actually the Green Party. And the good news is, it looks
like the Green Party will be in the next coalition. It seems like it would be difficult to make a coalition without them.
And the Greens have been actually a lot more critical of the rising -- rise in autocracy around the world. They have been louder about the need for
Europe to push back against it, the need for Europe to take on a bigger security and defense role.
AMANPOUR: So, let us then play a little bit of what Annalena Baerbock said after this result. She is the leader of the Greens Party, the first ever
Greens candidate for chancellor, and, as you said, came in, I think, somewhere around third.
And then I will get both your takes on what that might mean if she enters a coalition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNALENA BAERBOCK, LEADER, GERMAN GREEN PARTY (through translator): This momentum from the marketplaces from so many people who newly joined our
party in the last years led to this historical best result.
We wanted more. We didn't achieve this, also due to our own mistakes the beginning of the election campaign, our own mistakes from me. But we also
stand here tonight and say, this time, it wasn't enough, but we have a task of the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: OK, so, Anna Sauerbrey, me just read these figures.
The majority of under-25s in Germany voted yesterday for the Green Party. And, obviously, there's a huge generational divide. As Anne Applebaum
pointed out, this is a new element in German politics.
How do you think it's going to play out? And do you think that climate beyond the 25-year-olds is going to be a big driving force going ahead?
SAUERBREY: Yes, I do think so.
It is the one big issue. And it wasn't just the under-25-year-olds who said so when they were asked what was important to them in this election. I just
think that there are two different approaches to tackling that challenge. And that was the sense of direction that the country is now going to have
And I think that the two approaches to it in Germany are, do we want more state regulation to battle climate change and to reach the goal of being
climate-neutral by 2045, or do we want to, rather, play it via the markets?
And the Green Party is very much for more and very strong state regulation, whereas liberals are favoring a market approach? And now we have come out
with, well, sort of a yes and no to both, because voters have given us a very mixed result in this election. And now we're going to have to see.
But I do think that younger voters do favor -- do think that -- have a very strong feeling about it, and that the generational gap that the next
government will have to heal.
AMANPOUR: And, Anne, I'm going to play a sound bite after the -- what I guess he thought -- well, it was for him -- a disappointing result by Armin
Laschet, the CDU handpicked successor that Merkel hoped would succeed her; 52 of the past 72 years since the end of the war have been dominated by her
And now it looks like they're headed into the opposition, potentially. Let us play this sound bite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARMIN LASCHET, CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC UNION (through translator): The result of the election yesterday does not only pose big questions to the CDU, but
also to the contrary.
If there were one party with a clear mandate, and another party with a clear mandate to go into opposition, that would be fine. But no party in
this case has a clear result from which they can deduct a claim to govern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So does it mark, Anne Applebaum, a shift away from conservatism in Germany, but also maybe elsewhere in Europe? I don't know. There's a lot
of looking at what might happen in the next French election. Is Macron vulnerable on his left, as well as obviously on his far right?
What do you think about that bigger trend?
APPLEBAUM: I think, first of all, what we're seeing in Europe and in -- really in many other places as well is the breakdown of the idea that there
are two big forces, a center-left and center-right, and that politics is about this titanic battle between the two of them.
One person has described the German elections as representing the Dutchification of German politics, meaning that it's looking a lot more
like the Netherlands, which is always -- which has a really wide range of parties, each with a few percentages of votes. And all governments
necessarily have to be these broad coalitions.
And in the U.S. and U.K., where you have first past-the-post systems, that phenomenon is a little bit divided, but, in fact, really everywhere -- or
disguised, I should say, not divided. But I should say, everywhere, you have really a growing diversification, as the central issues really are no
longer just the size of the state, taxes, the traditional issues that divided the center-left and the center-right.
They are now -- as Anna was just saying, there are issues that divide and split the electorate in different ways. OK, we're for climate change, but
what kind of climate change policy? OK, we're for a different kind of engagement in the world, but what does that mean?
A lot of countries, there are divisions over values or over national identity. Those weren't part of the mix in politics in the same way before.
So I think, in that sense, Germany is an indication of what we're going to see more of in more places, namely, a wider range of parties, a wider range
of views, and, therefore, governments that are necessarily coalitions, which has a good side, as well as a bad.
AMANPOUR: So, Anna, just -- let's just continue that issue, because I think you and others have written that it could usher -- this idea of
trying to build a coalition could take weeks, months. Meantime, Merkel will still be at the helm.
Do you believe that it will be messy and less stable, or is, as Anne has put it, coalitions are kind of common in Europe, if not in the U.K. and the
U.S., and actually usher in more stability than otherwise?
SAUERBREY: Well, in Germany, we have a lot of experience with building coalitions.
Last time, it was very messy and I think many other countries in Europe and our partners have the bad memory of being without a German government,
without somebody's calling Berlin for over half a year. It took until March 2018 to build a government after the election in September 2017.
But I think this time it's going to be quicker because parties have used the time in the (INAUDIBLE), in this past legislation to get to know each
other, particularly, the green party and the liberals. I think they know each other well. They know the stumbling blocks they will have to deal
with, and everybody has promised today and was eager to promise also pointing to the European neighbors that they want to be done by Christmas,
which would be better than last time at least.
AMANPOUR: Let's now play the guy who actually came out ahead. We've done those who didn't, but let's put Olaf Scholz. He was asked by Correspondent
Fred Pleitgen about the nature of the Transatlantic partnership, if he was to able to make a coalition and be chancellor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLAF SCHOLZ, SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR GERMAN CHANCELLOR: Transatlantic partnership is of essence for us in Germany and for a
government that would be led by me. And so, you can rely on the continuity in this question. It is important that we understand ourselves as
democracies and that we see that in the world that becomes more dangerous, it is important that we work together even if we have conflicts in one or
the other question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that is, I guess, the heart of the matter, right? Anne, you've done so much work on this. I mean, you're there in London but you've
been in Eastern Europe as well and you see the strains and the stresses within the European family over democracy, versus authoritarianism or quasi
authoritarianism and we know that Germany has been the strong man of Europe for a long time, particularly under Merkel's leadership.
I mean, that's the big question, isn't it? Does Germany continue to maintain position as the undisputed heavyweight leader of Europe?
APPLEBAUM: Actually, what I'm worried about in the case of Germany is something a little bit different. Namely that whether it's going to be
Chancellor Scholz or somebody else, that Germany goes on repeating these very comforting sounding mantras. You know, we respect the Transatlantic
relationship and so on. And that's useful and good. But, in fact, to move forward the Transatlantic Alliance as well as the broader alliance of
democracies is going to need to make some broader and more difficult decisions.
You know, for example, are we going to finally pass the laws that make autocracy and, you know, foreign autocrats who use western banking and
money laundering systems to hide their money or are we really going to start to make that impossible? Are we going to make it more difficult for
Russia to manipulate elections or use money to bribe and influence politics in Germany and other parts of the continent and around the world? Are we
going to speak up about China's mistreatment of its Uighur population, a million of whom are in concentration camps?
You know, how are we going to address those issues? You know, and these have not been areas where Germany has been particularly brave in the last
several years. Merkel has been, you're right, a steady hand. She's kept Germany -- particularly during the Trump years, she kept Germany within the
alliance. She spoke on behalf of the alliance. But really, we now need to be pushing harder and I -- you know, I'm not convinced Scholz will want to
do that. He's going to have other priorities. But he may find that circumstances force him to confront some of those issues faster than we
AMANPOUR: Anna Sauebrey, do you agree? Is he, presumably if you can make the coalition, going to want to be able to? He might have hand forced. Will
he deal with that? Do the German people want direction like that from their chancellor?
SAUEBREY: I think he may his hand forced by the greens and the liberals because they both have a very strong tradition on liberalism, on human
rights. They have been critical of Angela Merkel, of her policy- which they have found to be tacit particularly towards Hungary and Poland within
European Union and towards Russia. She has always seen very harsh criticism from those two parties.
But Olaf Scholz is in a different position because in his party, in the Social Democratic Party, there's still a large group that is very much
nostalgic about the (INAUDIBLE), policies of the Cold War, Philip Rand (ph) and, you know, a great figure to them. And I think even with the
misinterpretation of what he wanted back then they still argue that Russia is a special friend of Germany.
We hear that even from the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. I don't think Olaf Scholz is in the camp but he will certainly have his
struggles with his camp if greens and liberals push him into the more confrontive position.
AMANPOUR: And, Anna, what about AFD, the alternative for Germany, the very far-right group that rose after the 2015 migration crisis? I know it lost a
few percentage points, significantly, but it's still a presence in parliamentary politics, right?
SAUEBREY: Absolutely. It's still a presence that Germany will have to deal with and you can see again that the country is very split on the AFD. It's
a party that has moved to the extreme right in the past four years. It is an extreme party. Large parts of the party are under observation right now
by the German Interior Secret Service, the (INAUDIBLE).
And yet, they have won lots of mandates, particularly in Eastern Germany again. In (INAUDIBLE), they have come in first as the strongest party. If
this had been a federal state election, they would have been the strongest party there. So, this is a problem we still have to take very seriously.
So, I do think it's soothing that they seem to have a cap on their growth that they couldn't outrace their own results from the last election. They
have sunk a little bit. But I think it will be very hard to win back those voters. It seems like they have moved to a bubble that is very unlikely to
respond to any attempts to win those voters back.
AMANPOUR: Anne Applebaum, finally, I'd like you to just cast your gaze back into the United States where similar phenomenon is being touted right
now. You've probably heard the buzz about Robert Kagan's column, about President Trump and his likelihood as the next candidate in, you know,
2024. Saying that the United States is looking down the barrel of a constitutional crisis and that Trump and the Republicans are doing
everything they can to solidify the support that they had last time around.
Do you look at that and wonder whether that -- there might be a resurgence of Trumpism in 2024, but also how Democrats might be able to use these
intervening years to come up with some kind of counter or remedy to that constitutionally?
APPLEBAUM: Well, I mean, watching what happens in Europe and watching how center right parties fight the far-right could teach useful lessons both to
the Democrats and also to what remains of the pro constitution centrist piece of the Republican Party. There are still a few people left and some
You know, in a way, you know, Germany neglected the far-right for a long time. Didn't take it seriously. Didn't think it was important. Ignored the
fact, for example, there was Russian funding and Russian propaganda being done on behalf of the AFD, that's the one of the -- it's complicated story,
that's one of the reasons why it does so well in the eastern part of the country. And, you know, we now know in the U.S. what happens when you
neglect these kinds of phenomenon.
But looking at how German politicians sought to appeal to the center, how they made arguments on behalf of stability, how they -- you know, how they
sought to project images of unity. I mean, some of that might, yes, could be useful for centrists, center left and center right parties or center
right parties and politicians elsewhere and especially in the United States.
You know, United States in now in a much more extreme position than Germany which is that we have one of our major parties really totally dominated now
by anti-constitutional group. I mean, in Germany, it's 10 percent. In the United States, it's something much closer to 40 percent. And that is, you
know, we have -- you know, that kind of danger faces us really now in any election, in 2022 or 2024. And until we get over that, you know, we can
only dream of a long drawn out, you know, argument about -- you know, about coalitions of the kind they're about to have in Germany. I mean, that looks
like peace and harmony compared to what we have in the U.S.
AMANPOUR: Really important perspective. Anne Applebaum, Anna Sauebrey, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
Now, a long road ahead in Germany as it settles in for weeks of coalition talks, as we said. In the United States, the Biden administration doesn't
have the luxury of time. Democrats have three days now to fund the government or face a shutdown. And as if that wasn't enough, President
Biden's economic agenda, which is worth trillions, faces crucial votes in the House and Senate this week. These bills face organized opposition from
lobbyists and even dark money campaigns.
Joining me now on this is the investigative reporter, Jane Mayer. Her book, "Dark Money," highlights how dollars can damage democracy.
Jane Mayer, welcome to the program.
You may have heard Anne Applebaum talking about some of the similarities and warnings between what may be happening in Europe and some areas in the
United States. The idea of democracy and outside influences is pretty live. What is your reaction to that before we dive into the "Dark Money" and the
JANE MAYER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, I mean, I think we're unfortunately at a perilous feeling moment on many, many fronts. And, you
know, in particular, we feel it in the United States on the issue of democracy under sort of assault from the forces of Trump and his ability to
have taken over so much of the Republican Party at this point is fueled in part by money.
The big lie -- we had a story recently in "The New Yorker" about the big money behind the big lie, there's a lot of dark money that's going into
that. A lot of think tanks that seem to be supporting it. This whole idea that this lie that Trump won is not just a fringe idea. It's an idea that
is supported by a lot of the institutions in the Republican Party that are funded by big money and dark money.
AMANPOUR: So, now, as we drill down into what his opponent, the person who won, President Biden, is trying to achieve as his agenda and dark money, as
you've said and lobbying and all the rest of it, is threatening it, let's just start at the beginning. How serious a problem does Biden face this
week with these votes in Congress and given the opposition by some really important people, including in his own party, to the spending he's
MAYER: Well, I mean, I think we're here at a moment of sort of the maximum showdown, really. And, you know, so this is a tremendous challenge to the
Biden agenda. As I see it, it's not just to the Biden agenda, it's a tremendous challenge to efforts that he and others have made to try to do
something to take on climate change.
I mean, it's not just sort of a narrow political fight, it's actually kind of a fight of global importance and it's hanging in the balance right here
in Congress right now because Biden has put forward a plan that puts a lot of money into efforts to move the United States economy from fossil fuels
on to sort of clean energy, renewable energy and it's being fought tooth and nail by the fossil fuel industry, and as you say, even by some members
of Biden's own party, in particular, one senator, Joe Manchin, who is a Democratic senator who heads the energy committee in the Senate and who is
from a coal producing state, West Virginia.
So, it's very dicey. The stakes are huge and the amount of money involved is, you know, incalculable.
AMANPOUR: Jane, let's talk about the amount of money. How much money is involved and how is it kind of divided between what looks like and you've
obviously mentioned the climate agenda and we're going to get to some of the fossil fuel people who are going to end up before Congress soon, but
there's climate that's being, you know, attacked, there's health, there's tax policy, there's all that kind of stuff.
Are there -- can you sort of make a distinction between which one is stronger, how much money being paid, you know, to counter each of those?
MAYER: I mean, Christiane, honestly, I don't feel I'm in a position to be able to calculate all the money, part of it is because some of its secret
spending, and an awful lot of money that influences American politics right now is money that goes into the non-profit role. It's not just lobbying and
direct campaign donations. That's the sort of obvious money. But really, what we're talking about is a whole sort of echo chamber that's been
created by industry that's captured the politics to a large extent in America and it's created by funding think tanks and academic centers and
front groups that look like they're led by consumers, but it turns out they're funded by industries.
It's just a kind of an entire ecosystem in its own right and it's very hard to kind of measure how much money, but we're talking about millions and
millions of dollars. And that's because so much is at stake in the way of profits. You know, if America moved off of fossil fuels, it would be -- you
know, it would spell a grim future for the fossil fuel companies and they are the most powerful industries we've seen in the modern world. So,
they've got a lot of power.
AMANPOUR: You know, it's really -- when you say the most powerful industry we've seen in the modern world, it really sort of hits home and it makes us
realize how much is at stake. I want to play a soundbite by, as you know, this group, Americans for Prosperity. It's anti-spending ad. It's the group
that's backed by Charles Koch, targeting Democratic Senator Joe Manchin as you mentioned. Let's just play this soundbite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH MCCOY, SENIOR EXXONMOBIL LOBBYIST: Did we aggressively fight back against some of the science? Yes. Did we hide our science? Absolutely not.
Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes. That's true. But there's nothing illegal about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Jane, I'm really sorry. We're kind of all over the place. That wasn't the Koch Industry, Americans for Prosperity. That was Keith McCoy
who is a senior director at Exxon's Washington office and that was a secret taping and it goes to the heart of that area of controversy about what
they've done, as we said, in the introduction, to try to move people away from, you know, Biden's climate policies and including, you know, making
Now, the CEO, Darren Woods, responded, we condemn the statements and -- go ahead, Jane. Jane, go ahead.
MAYER: No, no, go ahead. Finish what you're saying. And I was just going to respond to that incredibly explosive tape. But do finish your
introduction to it.
AMANPOUR: Go on then. No, I want you to respond to that explosive tape because then I'll play what the actual current CEO says about it.
MAYER: OK. Well, I think what we see in that tape that is so revealing and the reason it struck such a nerve is that you hear the top lobbyist for
ExxonMobil in Washington saying, yes, we did hide our hand, and -- but the other thing that he is saying is that he's revealing what their new
strategy is. They're no -- the big corporate money is no longer denying that climate change is real and they're not even really denying that it's
man ahead. What they're doing is, as what he says in that tape, he's saying, we're pretending that we're supporting solutions, in this case, the
price on carbon, and what he is saying is, the reason that these companies are supporting these solutions is they know that attacks on carbon is never
going to go through Congress.
So, they've moved from sort of -- it's more subtle than it used to be. They moved from out and out denial to supporting things that make them look good
but that they know are never going to happen. And so, it's a slightly different playbook in Washington. It's very cynical. Some people have
called it green snake oil or green washing. And that's what these big companies are doing now. They're coming up with solutions that sound so
great, but the horizon is so off -- so far off in the future for when they said they'll deliver and it's so hard for them to get there that they know
they won't. It won't really move us off of fossil fuels, and that's what they trying to sort of distract with.
AMANPOUR: It's actually -- you know, it's quite depressing that. And let me just say what the current CEO said about that. He said, we condemn the
statements and are deeply apologetic for them including comments regarding interactions with elected officials. They are entirely inconsistent with
the way we expect people to conduct themselves. We were shocked by these interviews and stand by our commitments to working on finding solutions to
So, look, that's what he says. But given what you say, is that just a cover or do you think the current CEO actually believes that about that senior
MAYER: Well, I mean, all you can say is that Keith McCoy was the top lobbyist for ExxonMobil in Washington and if they don't know what he's
saying, you have to wonder why. I mean, who's -- so, you know, we'll see. I mean, we'd like to see some -- you know, it would be wonderful to see some
real solutions, real coming together. They could do it by supporting Biden's plan. Instead, what you can see what they're doing is trying to
cripple it, and that's happening right now in Washington.
So, you know, I mean, it's an opportunity to see real progress right now. There's really serious effort to make progress and it would be great if
these companies would get on board.
AMANPOUR: So, do you think they will make progress or that Biden's climate part will be crippled? And I ask you because, as you know, one of the big
things that everybody is kind of waiting for is next month, Congress will call leaders of the fossil fuel industry to talk and to grill, I presume,
about what we just heard, this alleged disinformation campaign.
What do you -- I guess, how do you think that will shape up? Because remember when the tobacco industry was called and they all stood in line
and swore blind that, you know, they didn't know or tobacco or nicotine or whatever it was wasn't addictive and then in the end, it was a huge big
deal. Do you imagine this will be the same?
MAYER: Well, I don't really know. I am sure that's what the Congress people who have held this hearing -- or is planning the hearing are hoping
for. And I don't know whether it will play the same role. I think it has to be progress in order to -- I think it's a good thing to try to put the
industry on the spot about the disinformation campaign that it has been funding for so many years. I mean, this really goes back to at least 1991.
So, you have 30 years of this kind of disinformation and it's really changed and confused public opinion in this country about climate change
and it has very much captured Congress and the Republican Party, and as you mentioned, a couple of members of the Democratic Party as well. So, I mean,
it can only be good, I think, to try to put them on the spot and get some answers out of them. I -- they're good at wriggling off the hook though.
We've all seen that over the years. So, I don't know whether it will really pin them down or not, but it's good to give it a try.
AMANPOUR: And let me just ask you a final question on this, and that is obviously, the lobbyist and Biden continuing, he said it even today, that
he's optimistic. He thinks this, you know, big agenda will pass and will take a few days, but he's optimistic. This is what he said about the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Some big corporations are spending millions of dollars. Legitimately. I mean, they're lobbying to try to escape their
obligation to pay the taxes they owe. I mean, working families to pay a larger share of the burden. Somebody's got to pay. And when those who can
afford to pay aren't paying anywhere near their fair share, it means you all pay more. You know, this has worked in the past with significant
lobbying efforts. But I don't think it will work with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, this, of course, is about the tax policy, not necessarily the climate policy. Is he right to be optimistic on that one?
MAYER: Well, I -- you know, they are related. What you've really got is a president who is trying to push back on some of the most powerful
industries, the richest industries in the country. And, you know, my guess is that they'll make some progress. I really do think. The question is
whether on climate, in particular, can they make enough progress fast enough?
There's a lot of foot dragging. There's a lot of disinformation. They've got to move fast if it's going to really offset kind of irreparable harm to
the climate, and that's the issue. I think they will make some progress. I just don't know if it will be enough fast enough.
AMANPOUR: Jane Mayer, it's always good to have you on. Thank you for joining us tonight.
And finally, let us hear it for those fighting the pandemic by all means necessary. The Lasker Award known as America's Nobel went to two scientists
for their work on the mRNA technology that Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use. It is an extraordinary achievement for Hungarian born doctor, Katalin
Kariko and Dr. Drew Weissman. Their partnership began after a chance meeting at a photocopier back in 1997.
And talking of chance encounters, Australian teenagers, Jack Wesley and Darcy, have come out as the creators of one of their nation's top COVID
tracking websites. Something they came up with as a lockdown hobby. That is some hobby.
And that is 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.