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Interview With Author Andrea Elliott; Ethiopian Airlines Transporting Weapons?; Interview with "Invisible Child" author Andrea Elliott; Interview with "Washington Post" columnist and "Resistance" author Jennifer Rubin. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 06, 2021 - 13:00 ET
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BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): How Ethiopia use its commercial airline to shuttle weapons. Correspondent, Nima Elbagir's latest exclusive investigation.
Plus, I will speak with a former special envoy about the crisis in Ethiopia and what Washington should do next.
And life below the poverty line in one of the richest countries on Earth. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Andrea Elliott tells the true story of the
JENNIFER RUBIN, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": These were people who decided that democracy was not a spectator sport.
GOLODRYGA: Author Jennifer Rubin talks with Michel Martin about the women driving the resistance against Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please don't lose your hope.
GOLODRYGA: A message to the generation they were forced to leave behind. The Afghan girls' robotics team described their harrowing escape from the
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
For the second time in less than a week, the United Nations Security Council will meet today to discuss Ethiopia, the topic, the government's
expulsion of U.N. officials for -- quote -- "meddling in internal affairs.
And it comes amid a brutal civil war pushing the country into famine. Ethiopia has for decades been the beneficiary of a U.S. government trade
agreement, granting hundreds of millions of dollars of favorable access to U.S. markets. This has allowed Ethiopian Airlines in recent years to build
a global fleet and become one of the world's leading airlines.
For both the U.S. and Ethiopia, this relationship matters. But for almost a year now, conflict has raged in Ethiopia's Tigray region. Numerous CNN
investigations have uncovered evidence of Ethiopian government atrocities.
CNN has now found evidence that Ethiopian Airlines' cargo carriers have been shuttling weapons between Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea, in what
experts believe would constitute a violation of international law and that trade agreement with the U.S.
Here's Nima Elbagir with an exclusive report.
ANNOUNCER: With direct flights from over 95 international destinations, fly Ethiopian Airlines, the new spirit of Africa, a Star Alliance member.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): State- owned Ethiopian Airlines is Africa's premier carrier of passenger and freight traffic.
But among the regular cargo, evidence of sinister shipments. CNN can reveal, based on documentary evidence and witnesses' accounts, Ethiopian
Airlines has been transporting weapons between Ethiopia and Eritrea since the beginning of the war in Ethiopia that has seen thousands killed.
According to aviation experts, this would constitute a violation of aviation law. Among the evidence are these stills that were taken on board
Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET3313 and verified by CNN. It's the middle of the night. This cargo plane is being loaded by hand, a slow and unorthodox
But look closer. This isn't usual cargo. Inside these boxes are mortars. They are being loaded onto this civilian aircraft and transported from
Eritrea to Ethiopia. Here is the cargo manifest, corroborating the day and time, November 8, 2020.
The date is significant. It's just four days into the conflict and months before Eritrea officially admits to being involved. Ethiopia has been at
war with the Tigray regional government, the Tigray People's Liberation Front, for almost a year.
Eritrea to the north has become the Ethiopian government's ally against the region of Tigray, an unusual alliance, as the countries were previously at
war with each other. Now they have a common enemy, Tigray, and they are sharing weaponry.
(on camera): CNN. CNN. We're CNN, journalists.
(voice-over): CNN has been reporting on atrocities in Ethiopia since the beginning of the year.
(on camera): If you want to have detained a CNN team, then that's what's happened now, because we're not going to the camp willingly.
(voice-over): We traveled to Tigray last April and saw for ourselves Eritrean troops manning checkpoints with impunity, while the Ethiopian
government denied their presence on the ground.
That relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea began months earlier, in November 2020, which coincided with an increase in the movement of weapons,
shuttled back and forth from the Ethiopian capital to Eritrea.
During the same month, there was also a series of massacres in the region of Tigray. An Ethiopian Airlines employee-turned-whistle-blower spoke to
CNN about how he had to deal with an unusual request.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plane was carrying perishable goods. I had to deal with my bosses to unlead some of the goods and load the weapons.
ELBAGIR: In various statements, Ethiopian Airlines has always adamantly denied ferrying arms on passenger or cargo planes.
But in addition to speaking with whistle-blowers, verifying cargo manifests and authenticating stills, CNN has obtained airway bill receipts that show
at least six occasions in November where Ethiopian Airlines billed the Ethiopian Ministry of Defense to ship military items, including guns and
ammunition, to Eritrea.
MICHAEL A. RAYNOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ETHIOPIA: In the end, the success of Ethiopian Airlines is an important and impressive symbol of the
limitless potential of the U.S.-Ethiopian partnership.
ELBAGIR: Ethiopian Airlines built its cargo dominance through a relationship with the U.S. government and American aviation giant Boeing.
These new CNN findings, together with previous investigations into atrocities committed by Ethiopian forces, would constitute violations of
international law, according to aviation experts, and run contrary to the terms of that relationship with the U.S. government.
Whether this forces the U.S. to act substantively against the Ethiopian government remains to be seen.
GOLODRYGA: Once again, just incredible reporting from Nima.
And she joins me now.
So, Nima, it's hard to dispute all of the evidence that you have been able to gather for this piece. And, as we mentioned, Ethiopia has been on the
receiving end of this very lucrative trade agreement and trade deal with the United States. Then you also call this a violation of aviation law. So
what has the response been from Ethiopian Airlines and from the United States?
ELBAGIR: Well, there are a variety of stakeholders, as you just outlined there. So let me walk you through the denials and the responses that we
have received from Ethiopian Airlines, which said it complies with all aviation regulations, and, to the best of its knowledge and its records --
it's interesting wording -- it has not transported any war armament in any of its routes by any of its aircraft.
A U.S. trade spokesperson told CNN they would conduct a review of eligibility for the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act next year, in
2022, based "upon compliance with standards that include adherence to internationally recognized workers' rights, rules of law, and human
After the review, the office could possibly recommend to President Biden that he add or remove certain countries from that African Growth and
Opportunity Act eligibility country -- eligible country status. But that still leaves, as you rightly point out, Ethiopia with hundreds of millions
of dollars worth of favorable market access in the U.S., in spite of what we showed there.
And, finally, manufacturer Boeing said they had no comment. And the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments did not respond to our request for
GOLODRYGA: And this is just one chapter in this bloody fighting and atrocities that you have been covering exclusively now for CNN for the past
And, obviously, you have been focusing and spending a lot of time on the massacres of civilian Eritreans there -- not Eritreans -- I'm sorry --
Tigrayans. And you have seen firsthand their bodies floating in what you have described a corpse water river there in Sudan.
What has the response been internationally to your reporting?
ELBAGIR: Unfortunately, the response internationally has, while it has caused a lot of controversy and a lot of response, it hasn't been
And that's what we have seen consistently. Recently, Ethiopia actually declared persona non grata U.N. officials who've been ringing the alarm on
their use of food as a weapon of war in the Tigray region. Still, there don't seem to be tangible responses and sustainable responses from the
international community, at a time when many aid organizations are estimating that hundreds of people could be dying daily in Tigray.
When we talk about Rwanda or we talk about Darfur, which I covered in Sudan as a younger journalist, we talk about never again. And we also talk about
these inflection points, Bianna.
When were these moments when the international community could have and should have, but didn't? And it really feels that every time we release
this new reporting and these new investigations into the world that we find ourselves at another inflection point, where U.S. lawmakers tell us that
they increasingly place pressure on the Biden administration after they see our reporting, or those operating inside the U.N. Security Council tell us
that they're trying to get Russia and China to stop obstructing meaningful censure of Ethiopia, and yet it doesn't happen.
And it is really horrifyingly sad to continue to see.
GOLODRYGA: And this list of war crimes, as you have been reporting, continues to grow against the Tigrayan civilians there.
Obviously, you have covered the murders, the extrajudicial killings, the raping. And now you have been covering the starvation at the hands of the
Ethiopian government as well.
ELBAGIR: Yes, food ran out over a month ago in the Tigray region. The actual storehouses that the U.N. and others had in Tigray have emptied.
And what the Ethiopian government and his allies have been doing is, they have been obstructing access into Tigray. And just to quickly explain to
our viewers how that's possible, the two key famines that have happened in Ethiopia in the '70s and the '80s happened in Tigray, because Tigray is
mountainous and very easy to cut off. It's landlocked entirely by Sudan on one side and the rest of Ethiopia on the other and Eritrea to the north.
So it's very easy to obstruct trucks coming in with food, with fuel. We speak almost daily to people who either are inside Tigray without
electricity, without basic ability, with really broken up ability to communicate with the outside world, climbing mountains to get some kind of
cell phone reception.
And they tell us about the queues, the fuel running out, no running water because of electricity being cut off by the Ethiopian government. It feels
medieval. It feels like this should not be happening in the 21st century. And yet it is.
And I have to say, having covered many famines, malnutrition, starvation, wasting away is one of the absolute worst ways to die. It's one of the most
horrifying things to see happen to someone you love. And this is what so many Tigrayans and their loved ones have been sentenced to inside that
region, while the world fails to substantively act.
GOLODRYGA: And as you have been covering for so many months now, Nima, there's a long, tortured history here, a lot of fighting and death between
But your reporting has been focused on the civilians there innocently being killed and, as you mentioned, not enough of a response yet from the
Nima, thank you so much, once again, for your incredible reporting.
And listening to Nima's reporting is my next guest, J. Peter Pham. He was the first ever U.S. special envoy to the Sahel region of Northern Africa
and now sits on the Atlantic Council. And he joins me now from Washington.
Thank you so much for joining us.
Let me first begin by getting your response to this bombshell report tying the Ethiopian government's airlines, the national airlines there, with
bringing in weaponry, which, as she mentioned, is in violation of international aviation law.
J. PETER PHAM, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Well, Bianna, thank you for having me. And that's remarkable reporting that you have -- we have there from Nima.
And it really is shocking. But, in a way, it's not surprising. We have seen it earlier reports, not only from CNN, but from NGOs, from civil society of
the toll that this conflict has taken, the ordinary men, women and children who are suffering, the unconscionable number of people who are in famine or
on the verge of famine.
And so it's horrific, but it's -- I have to acknowledge it's not surprising it. This is -- unfortunately, in the 21st century, we still have total war
GOLODRYGA: And the frustration continues, as we have the U.N. council meeting right now just to try to delegate and figure out what to do in
response to these types of reports.
The U.S. has now on the heels of some of these reports, in particular from Nima, said that they will move forward perhaps with additional sanctions.
That was reported from the Biden administration last month.
But let me get your response. What should be done vis-a-vis this lucrative trade deal that benefits the Ethiopian Airlines, if in fact, as Nima's
reporting alludes to, has been on the receiving end and conducting some illegal actions?
PHAM: Well, certainly, Ethiopia's economy has benefited over the years from its inclusion in the concessionary trade that the U.S. has allowed to
many African countries who qualify for the African Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA.
But those planes are purchased often with export credits, with other guarantees that don't need to await a review. So I think another step one
could look at -- and certainly Boeing might not like this, but certainly look at the financing for purchases that -- or orders that are in the
pipeline for Ethiopian Airlines, if that's what these planes are being used for.
That's certainly, I think, fair game and should be looked at, and I hope the administration does look at it.
GOLODRYGA: As we saw in that report, Ethiopian Airlines is a member of the prestigious Star Alliance.
And the U.S. trade representative, Katherine Tai, said in August that ongoing violations could affect Ethiopia's future eligibility with this
Do you think this just adds to the pressure of her actually acting on that?
PHAM: It certainly adds to the pressure.
Last month, the Biden administration issued an executive order which creates the legal framework for sanctions upon any party, whether it be the
Ethiopian government, the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the TPLF. That's the group that's running Tigray, the Eritreans or irregular militia
from other parts of Ethiopia, anyone who is guilty of carrying out atrocities or otherwise obstructing the delivery of humanity and supplies
So the framework exists now. The question is the political will to use that framework to actually use sanctions, not only to target individuals
responsible, but I think, just as importantly, to name and shame them on the world stage.
GOLODRYGA: What makes this so much more complicated, and I would argue, unfortunately, seems to benefit the Ethiopian government's voice in all of
this, is that there are a lot of players here. And each is pointing fingers at the others. And there's a long history of war between all three
But let me read the response from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office to the U.S. government issuing that executive order, potentially paving the way
for further sanctions last month.
His office said: "The U.S. has failed to openly and sternly reprimand the terrorist group in the same manner it has been chastising my government."
And, again, this is pointing the finger at the Tigrayan forces. But Nima's reporting specifically points to individuals there who are not associated
with the military or the government at all.
And, furthermore, in any of these situations, it's fairly facile to point the finger at the other side and say they're terrorists. Be it as it may,
governments have a particular responsibility. It's the Ethiopian government that's the signatory to human rights agreements which govern its conduct
both in times of war and in times of peace.
And what's really unconscionable, as Nima reported, is the number, the sheer number of people who are being affected. In the Tigray region, we
know that 400,000, at least, according to the World Food Program, are in famine. Another 1.8 million people are on the verge of famine.
And that has spread to the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara. The World Food Program has been able to get in 637 trucks into Tigray since
mid-July. That's less than 10 percent of the minimum necessary to avert famine.
GOLODRYGA: And we should note this is forced famine, right? This is not the type of famine that many associated with Ethiopia throughout the 1980s.
This is famine at the hands of the Ethiopian government.
And the United Nations, I -- in a way, I'm very sympathetic to the dilemma it finds itself in. On one hand, as you reported, seven U.N. senior U.N.
officials were expelled from Ethiopia, including the deputy head of humanitarian relief efforts.
On the other hand, the U.N. World Food Program is the one thing that is getting through, not to as many people as it would like to, but at least to
some people. And so they're caught in that dilemma between being able to do something for some people and potentially being shut out altogether.
GOLODRYGA: Right. You...
PHAM: So, it's not an easy place.
GOLODRYGA: Right. You don't want innocent civilians suffering at the hands of what is a global response to what many would constitute as war crimes
Let's get -- dig deeper into the prime minister of Ethiopia, because for those who may be familiar with the name Abiy Ahmed, it's because, in 2019,
he was actually the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. How far we have come. Obviously, he was able to make peace with Eritrea. The countries had
been at war for many years.
But how did we get from a Nobel Peace Prize, which, incidentally, he didn't even respond to journalists' questions or talk to the press after he
received that prize, to where we are today, talking about war crimes and genocide potentially?
PHAM: Well, a lot of this has been long-simmering for some time in Ethiopia.
One has to acknowledge that the roots of some of these tensions long predate his tenure as prime minister and it goes back. But that doesn't
justify. When one becomes the head of a government, one assumes certain responsibilities and, certainly, not only legal responsibilities, but one
would argue, in light of that Nobel Peace Prize, certain moral responsibilities.
And it's utterly unfortunate that we find ourselves facing what we are. But, on the other hand, the international community bears a great deal of
responsibility. Having feted him, having awarded him this recognition, the political will to do more than wring our hands in public, to follow through
with threats of sanctions, threats of consequences, has been missing, even the political will to be engaged on a -- at a senior level in what's going
It's worth remarking that the highest-level official of the U.S. administration that has traveled to Ethiopia since this crisis began in
this administration has been Samantha Power, the head of U.S. Agency for International Development, but we haven't seen a higher level of
And perhaps it's worth trying. And if it fails, it fails, but at least one tried.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and perhaps the business community now bears some responsibility as well, as Boeing has a direct link to Ethiopian Airlines.
And given this reporting now from -- this troubling reporting from Nima, we may have to see and hear from the company as well, as you noted earlier.
J. Peter Pham, thank you so much for your insights and expertise. We appreciate you joining us. We will continue to cover this story.
PHAM: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we turn now to a different kind of crisis, one hiding in plain sight in some of our most beloved cities.
Take New York City, where I am, for example. Homelessness has long been an issue here with the latest numbers showing about 45,000 people in shelters,
according to the city's Department of Homeless Services.
This was the Dasani Coates' reality in 2012, when she was just 11 years old. She's the subject of a new book, "Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival &
Hope in an American City" by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Andrea Elliott. It draws on almost a decade of Elliott's reporting on Dasani and
And she's joining me now from New York.
Andrea, welcome to the program. Congratulations on this book. I know this has been a long time reporting for you that has become personal in covering
this family and Dasani's story.
Why did you start covering her, and what made you want to specifically cover homelessness and poverty among children?
ANDREA ELLIOTT, AUTHOR, "INVISIBLE CHILD": What drew me to this was actually a statistic.
I saw the statistic that one five American children were living in poverty, which is the highest child poverty rate of almost any wealthy nation in the
world. I thought that was stunning. And, at that time, there was a homeless crisis in New York City. And so, as it continues today, I met Dasani on a
sunny day in October of 2012. I was standing outside her shelter.
And at that point, there were more than 22,000 homeless children in New York City. I just wanted a way into one story, one child's story. And she
immediately stood out to me. She just captivated me. The reason I think I stayed in this family's life for as long as I did is because their story
just kept surprising me.
And every time I thought I'd figured it out, there would be a new development, a new twist or turn. She was a remarkable child and continues
to be. She had a just a crackle about her and an energy. And she was funny. And she was so acutely aware of the injustice of her life.
She was waking up in a room every morning that I can describe to you in a passage that I may read, if you want.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, please. Please do.
ELLIOTT: And -- OK, I will read it right now.
She -- this is the beginning of the book.
"She wakes to the sound of breathing. The smaller children lie tangled under coats and wool blankets, their chests rising and falling in the dark.
They have yet to stir. Their sister is always first. She looks around the room, seeing only silhouettes, the faint trace of a chin or brow lit from
the street below. Mice scurry across the floor. Roaches crawl to the ceiling.
"A little sink drips and drips, sprouting mold from a rusted pipe. They have learned to sleep through anything. They snore with the pull of asthma
near a gash in the wall that spews sawdust. They cough or sometimes mutter in the throes of a dream. Only their sister Dasani is awake."
GOLODRYGA: Go ahead. Go ahead. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
ELLIOTT: Well, just what moved me so much about this kid was the way she started her mornings.
She would be the first to rise. She helped take care of her siblings. She Fed and dressed them and helped get them to school. Her parents were
struggling with a host of issues. By the time Dasani arrived, often late, to her own public school, many other children in New York City were just --
she'd been working for hours and many others had just gotten up and had breakfast.
And so this is the thing that I think was so moving to me, was just seeing the contrast between her life and those conditions and the neighborhood she
was in, which is this new city. It's this new modern American city, where it has been gentrified. She lived a few blocks from townhouses that were
selling for millions of dollars. And she was so aware of that contrast between what she had and what she didn't have.
And the thing that most moved me about that morning routine, actually, before she got them off to school was how it began, which was that she
would wake up before they woke up. And she'd go to her window, and she would stare at the Empire State Building. And she told me, it's because it
made her feel like there was something going on out there.
And I think that that something is the story of this book, that quest for that something, and the tension between that other thing and what is.
GOLODRYGA: The name of this book, "Invisible Child," actually came from Dasani, because that's how she referred to herself and her life here in New
York City, one of the richest cities in the world.
And yet here she was, the child caregiver of her siblings. And what really struck me in your pursuit of following child homelessness, it's because
there's something that's just not political about it, right? There's the issue of personal responsibility when it comes to adult homelessness, but
what you have been able to capture, in spending so much time and so many years following Dasani and her family, is that this is cyclical, that her
parents were once in the same position that she was.
You talk about her mother, Chanel, her father Supreme, that were facing some of the same issues as children that she is now. Can you talk more
about the racial undertones here and the just that cycle of not being able to crack out of this systemic issue of homelessness and poverty?
ELLIOTT: Yes, I think, so often, we look at a kid like Dasani and we rely on words like homeless to describe her condition and stop there.
And that's not accurate. She's not -- homelessness is not even -- it's a symptom of a much deeper history, especially when it comes to black
Americans, who are disproportionately represented among the homeless in America.
If you look back in -- my book looks back many generations at Dasani's family history. And what you see is, generation after generation, people
who are working hard, who are trying to get ahead and achieve the American dream, but who came up against racial barriers when it came to being able
to buy a home, start a business.
The best example is her great grandfather, June (ph) Sykes, who fought in World War II with -- at a time when the United States military was
segregated. He was a Buffalo Soldier. He went to Italy. He survived three major battles, came home with three Bronze Service Stars, by any stretch,
by any measure, was a hero, and found himself in Jim Crow America, unable to get a mortgage, unable to get into college.
And he went North with the Great Migration. He settled in Brooklyn. He was a trained mechanic, but labor unions were closed to black workers. And so
he made a living with -- on -- in low-wage work as a janitor pouring concrete.
If you look at the gap between what a black janitor earned over the 20 years of his working life and what a white mechanic earned, we're talking
about almost $200,000 in lost wages. And that's just significant. If he wasn't able to do the thing that so many white American families did in the
'50s, which secured their future, white Americans have a median net worth that's 10 times as great as black Americans, and so much of that goes to
housing in the '50s in that story.
And so, you can't look at Dasani's troubles as separate from that history. This is what I kept learning over and over as I continue to spend my days
with her, which were always fascinating.
GOLODRYGA: And it was a roller coaster of the coverage over the years where there were highs and lows. And what was so heartbreaking is that when
she was achieving her highs, it was almost came at the same time as her loved ones and her family were on the receiving end of their lows and that
they were really in pain, and she was spotted for being a bright precocious student and sent to a boarding school all-expenses paid. It could have been
one of these stories where somebody becomes famous and successful in their own right. And yet, at the same time, she saw what was happening at home
with her family and that ended up impacting her as well.
Can you give us more specifics on that?
ELLIOTT: Yes, I love that you mention the stories that we tend to celebrate because this is such a big point of Dasani's story. We tend to
venerate the kids who make it out. The one who got out. It's exciting and why shouldn't we celebrate those stories. The problem with those stories is
that they ignore the root causes that leave so many other children who are just as capable, just as smart, just as willing who leave them behind.
I think when you look at Dasani's story, what you see is it turns that narrative on its head. It's far more representative of what actually
happens to poor children in America. They want to get ahead. They are held back by all kinds of issues related to generational poverty, related to the
conditions of their neighborhoods, the public services that are in desperate need of greater funding. Everything from public education to
housing. There's a severe shortage of affordable housing in New York City and across America.
What happened with Dasani is that she is very gifted and talented but she's also not exceptional in that way. She's like a lot of kids around her and a
lot of her own siblings. She did get a chance to go to a boarding school. When she left her family unit, she left a system that relied on her. She
was like a third parent. And this is a family that was its own system of survival. They relied on each other, mother, father, siblings, they were so
bonded. To take one person out makes a huge difference in what happens, and things fell apart in her absence. She began to thrive. She took off. In her
absence, they didn't. And finally, the children were put in foster care and that created a huge identity crisis for Dasani.
GOLODRYGA: Look, it's not a fairytale nor should it be because it's reality and you expose that all through the extensive reporting that you've
done for this book. I just want to close by reading what her teacher that you spoke with in an interview a few years ago said, Faith Hester, and she
said, don't be afraid of the conversation surrounding the issue of poverty. It may be ugly. It may be uncomfortable. But it's something that needs to
be talked about. And boy, is it something that you do so well in this book.
Andrea Elliott, thank you so much for your time and your reporting and your passion.
ELLIOTT: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we turn now to a look at how women have turned the tide in U.S. politics. At least that's what our next guest, "Washington Post"
columnist, Jennifer Rubin says. Her new book, "Resistance," explains how female voters, activists and politicians fought for democracy. Here she is
speaking to our Michel Martin about her own political reckoning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Bianna.
Jennifer Rubin, thank you so much for joining us.
JENNIFER RUBIN, AUTHOR, "RESISTANCE": My pleasure.
MARTIN: Before we get into how women saved democracy from Donald Trump, your words, it's the title of your book, I want to talk about one woman,
you. I'd like to talk about your own evolution from where you started out politically to where you are now. You've said several times, in fact,
originally, your column was called, you know, "The Right Turn." You identified yourself as a conservative, a moderate conservative.
Just tell me why. What are some of the origins of your kind of political philosophy?
RUBIN: Well, not to date myself, but I guess I came to a political maturity when the Cold War was still going on and Republicans had a view of
international leadership on -- in the battle against communism that I identified with. I generally favored free markets. I favored free trade.
Robust legal immigration. The rule of law. And more importantly, a professed concern, at least at that time, that government should work with
humility, incrementally, respecting the institutions of civil society. And those were principles that I believed and, at least at that time, the
Republican Party is found.
MARTIN: And so, when did that change for you? Was it all because of Donald Trump?
RUBIN: Well, certainly, there were signs within the Republican Party that were deeply disturbing. But it was not until Donald Trump that those forces
really rose up and constituted the majority view and now, the exclusive view of the Republican Party. And, you know, I had always fought back
against elements that were seemed to be intolerant. I, as I said, identified with the Ronald Reagan wing of the party that was pro-
immigration but certainly there were immigration restrictionists.
But when Trump came along and the party fell for him, hook, line and sinker and people who I had previously respected decided to turn on a dime and
throw out past convictions, that was just too much for me. And I must say, I went through a period of time, I refer to this in the book, I felt like I
was sort of in the land of the body snatchers, that people who had previously been advocating rule of law, democracy, all of these wonderful
things now were cheering for Donald Trump.
And when it became obvious the party would not reject him in the spring of 2016, I wrote a letter, an open letter, breaking up with the Republican
Party, and saying I can't be part of this. Just as I suspected, things really went downhill from there. And it turned out to be relatively few in
public life, although we've tried to make a fair amount of noise, who left the party or who spoke up. And the vast majority of Republicans simply went
along. And that really was an eye opener on a personal level as well as a professional political level.
MARTIN: So, tell me about the book. What was your goal with the book?
RUBIN: I felt as I was watching this that there was a great untold story that although people spoke about the resistance generically, the popular
media was not really appreciating the tremendous role that women per se were filling and particularly, their self-organization. The way they
mobilize. They way that they knit together new networks. The way ordinary Americans who had never run for office en masse decided to, many of them
And really, I thought that this array of women was quite remarkable and quite inspirational in a sense, that these were people who decided that
democracy was not a spectator sport. This was participatory. They had to up the game and they had to get into the arena. And they did. Many of the
women who ran for office and won, in many cases, were women with a national security background, with the CIA or with the military. And these women had
an ethic of public service that went back decades.
And when Donald Trump came along, they saw that once again, their country was threatened. Not by an outside enemy but by an internal threat to our
democratic values and norms. And so, they stepped up. I tell the story of Abigail Spanberger who is now a sophomore congresswoman from Virginia.
MARTIN: A former CIA operative, one of the people with a national security background. Just as you just mentioned.
RUBIN: Exactly. She went to a town hall run by her then congressman, Congressman Brat, who you recall was a very unconservative tea partier who
had displaced Eric Cantor at the time, he had been the majority leader. So, he was really kind of hot stopping the Republican Party. And then, she sat
there listening to him as he tried to defend the Muslim ban and went on and on about a whole variety of issues. She thought to herself, this guy does
not know what he's talking about. I could do this.
And that experience was repeated over and over again. When women got an up- close look at their political representatives, they were not very impressed. They were arrogant in many instances, ignorant in many instances
and they really discovered, you know, I'm an educated person. Whether they had a national security background or not, I have figured out how to
organize in business, in my private life, in my professional life, as a mother going up in PTA meetings or organizing community events, I can do
And it was such a reaffirmation of, I think, what the founders had in mind, when they wanted citizens to participate in politics and not have a
political class that was remote and unaccountable to the people.
MARTIN: You profile a number of people who I think may be well-known in a Washington, D.C. context or sort of, you know, political circles, like
Abigail Spanberger, as you said, she's a member of Congress, but are not necessarily national figures. Well, where were some of the other people
whose stories, you know, impressed you?
RUBIN: Well, there was one woman who was actually a constituent of Spanberger who is Carol Patran (ph). And she decided after watching the
election with great depression and great angst, that she would get kind of her neighbors together and see if maybe they could do something. And there
was another group in Chesterfield County, which is kind of Central Virginia right around Richmond, who was also organizing. And they put together
really, without thinking through all of the consequences, a group called the Liberal Women of Chesterfield County.
They became about 2,000 or 3,000 people strong. And they became a force to be reckoned with. They were able to recruit talents for the first time on
the Democratic side to run for office in what was a relatively conservative district. So, that up and down the ballot on state, local and federal
races, there was at least somebody running on both sides and they became sort of a political force where candidates felt compelled to come by, to
get to their nomination, to be vetted by these women.
Many of them volunteered on presidential campaigns of -- not all on the same one. And they volunteered. They raise money. So, they really became
political actors, simply because they realize that there was a felt need.
I also tell the story of Katie Porter who was a law professor out in Irvine, California, in Orange County. And she was just gob smacked that
this had happened. She happened to be going to Washington anyway for a conference on her legal expertise, which was consumer rights. And she --
because she was a law student of Elizabeth Warren, sought out advice. So, women networking with networking with other women, and decided to run for
office. And she was successful.
Now, not all of these people were successful. But again, it wasn't so much whether they were successful or not, but it was rather the impetus to
engage in politics in a way that they thought their country needed. And there was a similarity in the issues they ran on, which was democracy,
which was the rule of law. Those were the things, as we began the conversation saying, were the things that initially drew me to the
Republican Party, a rule of law, equal justice, you know, a cheap executive who is responsible to the people and to the constitution. And these women
were now carrying that torch.
MARTIN: I want to point out all the book that you profile and write about women and movements, as you said, all across the country but also of
different races. I mean, Stacey Abrams is obviously in your book. Kamala Harris is in your book. But I wanted to ask you about the fact that in
2020, for example, yes, Donald Trump was defeated. You know, Joe Biden got the most votes of any presidential candidate in history. Donald Trump got
the second most votes of any candidate in history. And he still got the majority of votes of white women. What's your understanding of that?
RUBIN: You know, women are complicated people. And there are many other concerns that crosscut gender in -- for a white southern evangelical woman,
Donald Trump was just as much a heroic figure as he was for white evangelical southern men, and that they marinated in the same right-wing
media that their husbands or brothers or fathers did. That they were convinced as their male counterparts were that Christianity was under
attack, that whites under attack. They were not exempt from this movement.
We saw certain women, you're absolutely right, move or move more strongly in favor of the Democrats. Not much reported. But if you actually break
down the numbers, Latino women went more heavily for Biden. That was a surprise to me because we all heard that Trump made these inroads among
Latinx voters. White college educated women tilted more tilted heavily towards Biden. Independent women tilted more heavily towards Biden.
And the conclusion I reach is that there are certain people who are potential allies and women and men who want to maintain the resistance are
going to have figure out a way to reach out and to communicate and to impress upon these other women that their interests are not threatened by
Joe Biden and that they have a security in a thriving democracy, not in this authoritarian movement, and it will take effort to reach out to women
who still were not persuaded, and there's no guarantee of complete success.
MARTIN: I'm thinking about Alabama, for example, where Republican women cross party lines to reject the Republican nominee presented because he had
an unsavory record of conduct directed at very young women was revealed. But in the very next opportunity, to vote for another Republican, they did
so. Even though the Democrat who held that seat for a short period of time, Doug Jones, voted in an extremely conservative fashion, by democratic
standards, was a seem to be a person of very high integrity. So, how do you understand that? I mean, for a lot of people, the issue seems to be, just
to be blunt about it, that whiteness Trumps everything else. For certain people, whiteness Trumps everything else. How do you understand that?
RUBIN: It can in some instances. But I also argue that when you get politics out from the pure policy disagreements and you raise it to the
level of values, of moral values, you make more headway with people who ideologically might not be attuned to you. And I look, for example, at the
child separation policy. This was a huge motivator for women who, in, you know, very high numbers, some instances, 10 percent, cared about this issue
more than men and were very angry about this issue.
So, that was the type of issue people could say to one another, this is not about a policy. This is not about politics. This is about something bigger
than politics. It's about a moral issue. So, it is those instances, I think, when you can lift politics perhaps out of the policy debates and
appeal to some broader issues, some broader moral values, but it is absolutely correct that there are a segment of white non-college educated
evangelical women who remain firmly within the Republican Party.
Now, it's a process. It used to be that white college educated women were a very strong part of the Republican Party. These were the kind of worker
bees of the Republican Party. They manned the women's organizations. They were the volunteers. And those people have really sort of fled the
Republican Party. This election cycle that I looked at was part of that, but it has not been everyone. And to some degree, you have to look at not
only race, not only gender, but religion, education level, geography, and all of these do play a role. And so, it remains a work in progress.
MARTIN: A lot of the conservative media outlets are not pleased with you. You may have observed. Some of the other people who are not pleased with
you are people who are Democrats, progressives, who have wondered, why didn't you see the racism? Why didn't you see xenophobia? Why didn't you
see the know nothingness? And I'm thinking about, for example, people who have watched the former president's record in New York for years and saw
his sort of stoking a racial animus.
And they look at that and think, why didn't you listen to us? So, I'm asking you. Why not? Why didn't you see it? Why didn't you listen? Why do
you think you didn't see any of those things until it was like right in your face?
RUBIN: I think it was because that those people primarily lost within the party. They didn't nominate those people, they nominated people for
president like Mitt Romney and John McCain who were patriots, who were decent people. And I didn't agree with them on all of their policy issues.
But they were respectable small Democrats who I think who had the country's best interest at heart.
And I think within the Republican Party, there are always factions and there were many of us who -- you know, there were the heleocons (ph) and
the neocons and all sorts of factions in which we were quite openly in disagreement. But at least until Donald Trump, I felt that they were a
minority strain within the party and that they didn't have -- they didn't win the presidency, they didn't really set policy. Will he fail, for
example, George W. Bush, quite a very ambitious immigration reform foreign policy that eventually faltered because of other people in the party who
were quite anti-immigration.
So, there was enough of an effort within the party to try to minimize or try to sort of quarantine these people, so that they didn't have a driving
force within the party. When that was no longer the case, and they let these people sort of wash over them and they kind of said, all right, the
inmates now really are in charge of the asylum, that was really too much. And that's when I could no longer simply have a discussion or a debate with
these people or push back against them. I really couldn't associate with them, and that's kind of what made the dividing on.
MARTIN: So, do you foresee yourself as a Republican again? Is there ever a time that you could envision pulling that lever on the other side again?
RUBIN: No, I think one violent insurrection and you can count me out. And really, they've gone beyond the pale. And, oh, is it possible that -- I
don't know if I'll be alive in 50 years, but even in 50 years, none of these characters are around and it's a completely different party, who
knows. But the Republican Party in its current incarnation know and I would never support any of these people who have, in any way, supported Trump or
have been silent during the Trump era. They really have betrayed America and betrayed our democracy.
MARTIN: Jennifer Rubin, thank you so much for talking with us.
RUBIN: My pleasure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And finally, they were the faces of girl's education in Afghanistan. Now, members of the female robotics team have fled the Taliban
and found a new home in Mexico. Correspondent Matt Rivers has their inspiring story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Just four years ago, the half dozen girls from Afghanistan strode confidently into
competition, waving their country's flag. The Global Robotics Competition held in the U.S. was a chance to show what so many in their country
doubted, that girls can accomplish anything.
And accomplished they did. Winning an award for "courageous achievement" given the teams who persevere through trying circumstances. So much has
changed since then.
In a matter of months this year, the Taliban swept back across Afghanistan, toppling city after city. A mortal threat to girls like those on the
robotics team, educated, progressives, the exact opposite of how the Taliban believe women should be. And so, five of the original team made the
decision to flee in a harrowing journey. They went from Herat, Afghanistan to Kabul. There they managed to get on one of the last commercial flights
before the Taliban took the city. From there, Islamabad, Pakistan was next. Eventually followed by Doha, Qatar, then Frankfurt, Germany. And then to
Landing in the Mexican capital where the government here has allowed them to stay while they figure out what's next, it is here in the city that we
got a chance to meet in person.
RIVERS (on camera): Hi. Come on you, guys.
RIVERS (voiceover): Safe in Mexico, their first thoughts are, of course, about home and the cruelty of the Taliban regime.
FATEMAH QADERYAN, CAPTAIN, AFGHAN GIRLS ROBOTICS TEAM: The rule of the government is just mockery and insult to Island. But Islam is the religion
of kindness. We kindly request not only the United States but the entire International Community to eradicate the Taliban generation from
RIVERS (voiceover): They know that the U.S. has limited options in that regards after its withdrawal and terrible situations for those opposed to
the Taliban. They also know how lucky they were to get out.
SAGHAR SALEHI, AFGHAN GIRLS ROBOTICS TEAM: It was really hard to, you know, leave our beloved ones in Afghanistan. But we are happy that today we
are safe. Not only because of ourselves, but here we can be the voice of thousands of girls who want to be safe in Afghanistan and who want to
continue their education and come make their dreams become true.
RIVERS (voiceover): A dwindling reality for girls in that country. In the weeks and months after the Taliban took over, their subsequent actions have
reaffirmed a return to a society where women are treated as holy unequal to men. Still, the team has a message for those left behind.
KAWSAR ROSHAN, AFGHAN GIRLS ROBOTICS TEAM: So, my message and my message to my generation is that to please, don't lose your hope, your spirit
wherever in Afghanistan you are. I know it is difficult because I am an Afghan girl too and I fully understand you. But please don't lose your
spirit. There is always light in the height of darkness. And just make your dream and follow your dream. And believe that one day your dream will come
true because I experienced that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: After all that, they're still so optimistic. Matt Rivers also asked the girts what their goals are now. They say they plan on going to
college, ideally in the United States. And all of them hope to return to Afghanistan one day. We hope that comes to fruition.
Well, that is it for now. Thank you so much for watching and good-bye from New York.