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Emmett Till Investigation Closed Without Charges; Long COVID; Interview With U.S. Undersecretary of State Uzra Zeya; Interview with Emmett Till Legacy Foundation Co-Founder Deborah Watts; The Atlantic Staff Writer Barton Gellman. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 10, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democracy doesn't happen by accident. We have to renew it with each generation.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): As President Biden wraps up his Democracy Summit, what, if anything, has been achieved? I'm joined by the U.S. undersecretary
of state for democracy.
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Many of those who don't die could be left battling long COVID.
GOLODRYGA: Just what is long COVID? We get the answers on the lingering condition.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're disappointed that no one has paid for the tragic, brutal murder of a 14-year-old boy.
GOLODRYGA: More than 65 years since the murder of Emmett Till, the Justice Department closes its investigation into his death without pressing any
charges. It's a tough result for his family. And I'm joined by his cousin Deborah Watts.
BARTON GELLMAN, "THE ATLANTIC": There is a plausible and even inclining toward likely scenario in which he loses a close election and is
nonetheless appointed president-elect.
GOLODRYGA: "The Atlantic"'s Barton Gellman tells Hari Sreenivasan why he thinks Trump's next coup has already begun.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.
President Biden is rallying the world to strengthen democracy on day two of his virtual summit, the president saying that no issue is more important.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: In my view, this is the defining challenge of our time, democracy. Government of the people, by the people, for the people can at times be
fragile, but it also is inherently resilient, is capable of self-correction and is capable of self-improvement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: As part of the conference, President Biden is pledging up to $424 million to fight corruption and support media freedom.
More than 100 world leaders are in attendance. But the guest list is raising some eyebrows, critics highlighting that participants like the
Philippines and Angola have had a tumultuous relationship with democracy.
Meanwhile, two high-profile snubs, China and Russia, are jointly slamming what they call America's -- quote -- "Cold War mentality."
Well, joining me on this is Uzra Zeya, the U.S. undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights.
Uzra, thank you so much for taking the time out of the first summit really of its kind.
We're well into day two. And I'm just curious, for our audience who may not be able to be watching all of this proceeding, what has taken place and
what stands out to you thus far?
UZRA ZEYA, U.S. UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR CIVILIAN SECURITY, DEMOCRACY, AND HUMAN RIGHTS: Thanks, Bianna. So happy to be here, as you're
This is the first event of its kind. We have more than half the U.N. member states together, ready to work together and make commitments around a
common agenda of defending against authoritarianism, elevating the fight against corruption, and advancing human rights domestically and
So, in this very action-packed two days of online engagement, which I would point out is an open book -- the sessions are all being livestreamed and
are on the public records for your audience to view.
We have seen important new commitments come forward from the United States, leading by example, to protect free and independent media, to invest in
champions against corruption, to protect the integrity and the fairness of the electoral process, and also to advance the notion of tech for
democracy, supporting technological development that strengthens democracies, as opposed to allowing technology to be manipulated by
authoritarian actors to repress or surveil their own citizens.
GOLODRYGA: And I don't have to tell you that this conference did come with some controversy as well, mostly surrounding the guest list of who was
included and who wasn't.
And there are some countries that one could say are not healthy democracies. We're talking about Pakistan, Brazil, the DRC. They were
invited, whereas other countries, like Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, were not.
And I'm just curious if you can give us a sense of what went into the thinking behind who was included and who was invited, and who was not, and
We took a big tent, inclusive approach in terms of participation and aimed to have a very broad, geographically representative and diverse slate of
participants we have together established in emerging democracies large and small from every region of the world. And we also formulated the list
assessing where progress on democratic renewal would bring the greatest benefit to international peace and security and where countries are really
ready to work with us in rolling up their sleeves and moving forward.
GOLODRYGA: You know, the intentions, I would imagine, are obviously something that has been a priority for President Biden, and the idea of
bringing democracies together would seem like a well-intended project.
But there are some unintended consequences that people are raising. I just want to quote to you a former diplomat from Singapore told NPR that he
thanked God Singapore wasn't invited, because then the country that -- then Singapore itself would have to then choose between China, which, as you
know, really spoke out against this summit, and their relationship with the United States.
Do you worry at all about some of the unintended consequences of putting these countries in a box that they're not necessarily comfortable to be in?
ZEYA: Well, to be clear on this point, this is not about choosing between one country and another.
This is a very affirmative, action-oriented agenda. It's not directed against any country. This is about democracies coming together to engage
with one another, learn from one another, and we help, ultimately, act together.
So, as President -- as Secretary Blinken has said, I think very eloquently, we're not asking countries to make a choice. We're actually trying to give
countries more choices and the citizens in those countries, hopefully, a brighter future that is more secure, that is more just and ultimately more
GOLODRYGA: To be clear, though, I think it's fair to say and you would agree that President Biden more than -- definitely more than his
predecessor, but even other presidents, past presidents, have not focused as much about this strain and intention between democracies and autocracies
around the world.
And it got me thinking after I read this opinion piece in the "F.T." titled "Joe Biden's Democracy Summit Risks Flattering the Enemy."
And I want to quote from it. It says: "Its premise that a contest is going on between democracy and its opposite is right. But the fault line runs
mostly through countries, not between them. By calling nations together and barring Russia, Turkey and China, the event reframes a largely domestic
problem as a geopolitical one."
And that is an interesting point, because we know that these countries have internal conflicts surrounding the issue of democracy, Russia obviously a
great example, as is China and Turkey.
And from that standpoint, I'm curious as to your answer to this op-ed, and what could have been if you did invite those countries and put them in
these really awkward positions by having to address internal dynamics?
ZEYA: Well, I think I would agree that this summit is different and unique, in that there is a domestic and an international dimension to the
United States' commitments and also the commitments that other governments are putting forward.
But I think that is part of the president's absolutely personal commitment to renewing democracy and also to centering our democratic values and human
rights in our foreign policy.
What I'm so heartened to see is the degree of interest this summit has generated, including the opinion piece you have cited. It's generating
debate and discourse. And this is ultimately what open societies are all about, allowing and fostering and encouraging active, even contentious
debate of ideas towards moving forward.
So we want to encourage folks to come in view and see what's happening at the summit and what's been put on the table. But our intention is to carry
this forward into 2022, which we are planning as a year of action, to turn summit commitments into concrete outcomes.
And we hope this will all culminate with an in person summit one year from now, public health conditions permitting.
GOLODRYGA: And the president did say -- and we are expected to hear from him later this afternoon as well, as this meeting does conclude, that he
hopes to reconvene, hopefully in person -- knock wood -- next year, if the pandemic does continue to subside, and follow through on some of the
commitments that you're hoping to get from participating countries.
But it's interesting that the focus really, the two-pronged focus, I would say, on corruption and aiding independent journalists around the world go
hand to hand, because, as we have seen over the past year and many years combined, the role that journalists have played in unearthing corruption
taking place around the world in both democracies and autocracies.
Talk about that this quest to tackle corruption, while, at the same time, aiding journalists.
ZEYA: You're absolutely right, Bianna, that these two issues are interlinked.
And it's not a coincidence that this summit opened on International Anti- Corruption Day and it's closing on International Human Rights Day. Earlier this week, the White House released a new strategy on anti-corruption,
which this administration has elevated as a core national security priority.
Free and independent media, the work of journalists like you, is critical in the anti-corruption fight, because corruption is a crime that robs the
citizens of countries, that robs taxpayers of resources that should be devoted to the betterment of their societies.
And a sad statistic that I will share with you, it's estimated that money lost to corruption in developing countries is 10 times the amount of
official development assistance to these countries. This has got to change. And it's not going to be the United States alone in this effort.
I think what is very exciting coming out of this summit is many of the new commitments we have seen from governments large and small to really take
more action, both domestically and internationally, to elevate our efforts against corruption and restore these resources to the people.
GOLODRYGA: And I know we just have one moment left, but I'd be remiss not to ask you about sort of the elephant in the room and the struggles with
democracy that this country itself has been facing over the past several years, and, obviously, the focus being January 6.
I'm curious. The president has addressed this head on and said that this is a problem that the U.S. must tackle as well. How big of an issue has this
been, the U.S. and its challenges with democracy throughout this summit?
ZEYA: Well, I think the president's readiness to advance the democratic renewable agenda at home and to admit to our shortcomings, that only lends
greater credibility to our efforts internationally.
As Secretary Blinken has often said, our readiness to confront our shortcomings is, in fact, one of the secrets of success to democracies.
We're continually striving to create a more perfect union, as our Constitution exhorts us to do.
This is part of the work of the summit. And this will ultimately, I think, help the State Department and all of the partners in this effort better
deliver for the American people, and ultimately for the world.
GOLODRYGA: Uzra Zeya, I appreciate you joining us in its first-of-its-kind summit, the inaugural summit, and giving us some background as to what's
taking place these two days.
We appreciate your time. Thank you.
ZEYA: Thanks so much.
GOLODRYGA: Well, from the challenges facing democracy to the global health crisis that we're all facing.
Two years into the coronavirus pandemic, we know more about it than ever. But one problem is still puzzling doctors, and that is long COVID, where
symptoms sometimes can last four months after a first positive test. Now, we should note that the majority of people who do contract the coronavirus
are not afflicted with -- by long COVID, but up to a third may develop the condition.
So let's get the facts with Dr. Lekshmi Santhosh, who co-directs the Long COVID Clinic at U.C. San Francisco.
Doctor, welcome to the program. And I guess that that clinic that you are working at sort of speaks to this issue at hand, two years into the
pandemic, and we have yet to find the root cause for long COVID. Are we any closer?
DR. LEKSHMI SANTHOSH, UCSF LONG COVID OPTIMAL CLINIC: Thank you so much, Bianna, for having me.
This is a great question about what do we know about the cause of long COVID, and what are we still understanding? I would say that there are
still more questions than answers, unfortunately.
There are a couple of great hypotheses or theories that are being tested. Is this related to your immune reaction to the virus? Is it related to
autoantibodies? Is it related to the virus kind of hiding out in parts of your immune system or in parts of your body, different types of cells? Or
is it related to something else that we're still discovering?
So, researchers around the world, including at UCSF, where I practice, are really working on trying to uncover the biological basis of what we call
GOLODRYGA: We have heard over these two years now that some of the symptoms include the loss of smell, brain fog, lethargic tendencies
throughout day and night, this just feeling of exhaustion.
What are some of the other symptoms?
SANTHOSH: (AUDIO GAP) that can persist after an infection with COVID.
And one thing that I emphasize when I'm talking to other clinicians or talking to patients and families is that there is no single one long COVID
experience. Everyone's experiences might be different, and everyone's symptoms that persist after the acute infection might be different.
What we have seen in large research studies is that the most common symptoms tend to be the following, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, and
then some people in some studies also show this increased incidence of what was been described as brain fog or cognitive impairment.
For some people, the loss of smell, or anosmia, as we call it, for some people, they just have that in the acute setting with the active infection,
but then it goes away. But, for some people, it does persist longer.
But I think the top three are still cough, shortness of breath and fatigue being the most common that I have seen, anecdotally, in my clinic, as well
as the large research study.
And there had just been a new German study that suggests that the loss of smell may not be directly tied to the brain. Would you view that as a
positive result? I think there had been a lot of concern about the lasting damage or disruption to brain function.
SANTHOSH: Yes, so thank you for bringing up that study.
That was a really interesting study done in the journal "Cell," which is really a study looking at people who died and afterwards they analyzed with
autopsy study looking at, is COVID actually affecting parts of the brain that control your sense of smell? Or is it in the nose, or it's something
And so that particular study found that a different cell type was responsible. It's not really attacking -- quote -- "your brain cells" that
are responsible for smell, per se. Again, this is just one study. It's a postmortem study. We will have to see it replicated.
But it raises more kind of tantalizing clues of that, again, we still don't really know what exactly might be the cause. And because, like I mentioned,
there is no one long COVID experience, because different people have different symptoms, it also raises the possibility that persistent symptoms
in different organ systems might actually be caused by different mechanisms.
So, I think it's still too early to tell. I think about your question about, is this kind of a piece of good news that, yay, we're not actually
attacking brain tissue, it's kind of these supporting cells?
And, again, I think that there's a large number of neurologists and psychiatrists and neurobiologists all studying this exact question. I also
want to acknowledge that the tremendous mental health impact of the pandemic in general on patients who've been through COVID, and also the
world at large.
And so, the -- definitely, we're seeing everything from strokes, to kind of issues with neurological sensation, things like that, to also symptoms of
headaches and depression, anxiety, PTSD.
And so one thing that we do in our clinic and others is really find out what symptoms are bothering people the most, and try to give people help
with what symptoms are most bothersome to them. So, if it's shortness of breath, trying to treat that, if it's cough, trying to treat that, if it's
mental health concerns, trying to treat that, if it's headaches, trying to treat that.
Because there is no one long COVID experience, there's also no one magic cure, magic pill to cure it all.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, I'm so glad that you brought up the mental health aspect of this, because this has become a topic for people who have battled COVID
and those who have not, this fear of long COVID.
And it does cause this sensation of, A, not wanting to Google some of the side effects, right, people concerned that, once they have contracted
COVID, that they will succumb to long COVID symptoms and it's going to change their life indefinitely. Obviously, they're lucky to still be alive
and not be hospitalized, but there are other consequences from it.
We don't want to oversensationalize this subject matter. The majority of people who do contract COVID do survive and don't have long-term COVID. But
there are enough people to warrant a clinic like yours and to create and cause questions leading to some of the research that you're continuing to
SANTHOSH: That's exactly right.
I think the other thing that I would say and emphasize is, believe patients. Believe patients are experiencing this. I want to make sure when
people come into our clinic that I'm validating their experience and listening carefully, because, unfortunately, there's still a lot of stigma
associated with long COVID and COVID in general.
There's still a lot of questions even this many years into the pandemic of, well, how did you get it? Maybe you weren't being careful enough, maybe --
a lot of personal blame, shame and stigma still surrounds this issue. That can prevent people from seeking the care that they need.
And so we really believe our patients, believe their symptoms and try to treat symptoms with a symptom-directed approach, with a holistic approach.
So we ask systematically about people and their pulmonary health, their lung health, their cognitive health, their neurological health, their
mental health, and their physical health.
And if you ask systematically and holistically about all of those domains, then you can really find out in what ways people are suffering and try to
GOLODRYGA: Yes, believing them is such an important component here, because so many people may test negative at some point, right, and still be
struggling with the side effects of long COVID.
And I want to play for you sound from one of those people who is -- continues to struggle with long COVID. And she was testifying before
Congress. She's a former schoolteacher from Baltimore. Just listen to how it has impacted her life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIMERE SMITH, PATIENT: I am among black women who are now unemployed, homeless and depressed with broken bodies.
No one wants to hear that long COVID has decimated my life or the lives -- or the lives of other black women. In less than a year, it has made me
forgetful, unreliable, unemployed, nervous, with severe body aches and pains. It has destroyed our brains, the most beautiful parts of us.
I was an excellent teacher. Now I wouldn't trust my memory or brain function with any child right now. Would you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: What is your response when you hear that? I would imagine you have heard similar, similar stories from patients that you have seen.
SANTHOSH: That's exactly right.
This is a heartbreaking story and one of so many that I hear in our clinic of people who are still experiencing persistent symptoms. And so there was
also a recent "Washington Post" article that came out this week talking about the economic impact of people who are unable to work, as she said,
unemployed, difficulties with accessing housing because of this.
I think, for these reasons, we recognize that, again, this experience has impacted all aspects of people's lives. For that reason, our clinic and
many others, we have an embedded social worker in our clinic to help people with support with housing, employment, access to food, et cetera, and to
help them navigate the disability paperwork needed, any paperwork that they need to kind of get back on track with lives.
I think the other thing, to your earlier point about, should people fear long COVID, sometimes I get questions saying, I just got diagnosed with
COVID yesterday. What are my odds of getting long COVID? I'm really afraid of getting long COVID?
And like you said, I think one of the things that's been challenging in the scientific community is, up until recently, there wasn't actually one
precise definition for long COVID. So the research studies really ranged from citing estimates ranging from 2 percent to 90 percent-plus, and
everything in between.
And now recently, as of October, the WHO, the World Health Organization, actually put out a definition that's pretty good that's talking about
people with persistent symptoms for over three months that are not explained by another cause.
And I like that definition for a couple of reasons. One, it's a consensus definition that scientists and research community can all rally around and
use as a standardized kind of framework and time point for research that's done from now on out.
The second thing that I like about that definition is, it says symptoms are not explained by any other alternative costs. So, one key point that I'd
like to make, if you're listening today, is that if you have had COVID in the past or your loved one has had COVID in the past, and you have new
symptoms that come up after your diagnosis of long COVID, don't necessarily assume that that's -- quote -- "just long COVID, that's just my long
Please, please seek out to a medical professional, because it may not be. It may be true, true and unrelated. And so I'm seeing that in my clinic
where people, both clinicians and patients and families, are actually deferred care, postponing care, assuming things might be related to long
And I have seen new diagnoses of metastatic cancer, new autoimmune diseases, new postpartum depression, et cetera, because people just assumed
it might just be related to COVID.
SANTHOSH: So, please, do seek out help if you have a new symptom.
And even though there's a lot of news media about hospitals and things like that, hospitals are very safe places to get care. So don't put off your
regular colonoscopy, your mammogram, all that preventative care, because the other thing that I'm seeing in the hospital, in addition to COVID, is
lots of end-stage disease with the consequence of people having delayed health care for now about two years.
GOLODRYGA: Listen, as doctors like yourself have always said, listen to your body.
I would like to end on a positive note here, because you have said that almost every patient you have seen, even the most severe that's battling
with long COVID, is getting better. And that is reassuring news as well. And you're learning more and more about this disease every day.
So, thank you so much for joining us and for giving us a sense as to where things stand regarding this subject. We appreciate it.
SANTHOSH: Thanks so much for your time. And, definitely, it's good to have hope.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, it is. Thank you, Doctor.
SANTHOSH: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, next, the U.S. Department of Justice has now declared the Emmett Till case officially close. It was the latest attempt at getting
justice for Emmett Till, a black teenager kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered in 1955 in Mississippi.
His death became a catalyst for the civil rights movement in the United States. However, his family says the verdict comes without an apology or
Deborah Watts is Emmett Till's cousin and co-founder of a foundation honoring his memory and legacy. And she's joining us now from Minneapolis.
Deborah, thank you so much for joining us.
And, once again, disappointment for your family so many years later. This is the second time that the Justice Department has opened and closed an
investigation without bringing any charges.
I'm just curious as to your take now, when you heard the news once again this week.
DEBORAH WATTS, COUSIN OF EMMETT TILL: Well, I think, just like everyone, very disappointed hearing the news. We had high hopes -- I did, at least --
that the Department of Justice would -- as the bill is in its name, there's an act called the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act.
And that calls for reports made to Congress. That calls for a full, exhaustive investigation. It calls for updates with our family as well. So
I definitely had hope, but very disappointed at the outcome that has -- that's been delivered to us.
We also know that this is not over for us either, because, as Emmett Till's mother (AUDIO GAP) years ago, in 1955 (AUDIO GAP) years ago, in fact, she
hoped that this case would be solved that justice would prevail. And we have to hold on to that. We have no malice or vengeance or hate in our
But we believe that there is an opportunity to bring justice, that there is -- the last living accomplish -- accomplice -- excuse me -- is alive. And
we believe that there should be further investigation brought on by the state of Mississippi. And we have high hopes that that will take place.
GOLODRYGA: Emmett Till's mother, Mamie Till, nobly fought for justice for her son's murder every day of her life, and this announcement from the DOJ
coming just two weeks after what would have been her 100th birthday.
Let's give our viewers some of the details behind this latest open-and-shut case. And this involved a 2017 book that was written by Professor Timothy
Tyson, and in which he said that he had interviewed Carolyn Bryant Donham, who had been the woman who had accused your cousin of catcalling her and
accosting her, which ultimately led to her husband and an accomplice murdering him.
Now, this professor in 2017 said that he had interviewed her a few years prior and that she'd recanted her story, that that exchange did not happen.
And, ultimately, he had no proof, no written documented proof from her recanting that. She later said that that did not take place.
What do you make of it all? Because it does seem to be a bit confusing. And it raises the question as to why this professor would have waited so long.
WATTS: Yes, I believe he spoke to Carolyn Donham maybe sometime in like 2007. And his book was released in 2017.
And I have great respect for professors and historians, but, in this situation, this was a huge opportunity, the first time someone had talked
to Carolyn Bryant Donham, and I would have hoped that it would have been recorded, that the investigation would have been able to corroborate his
account of it, along with making sure that the family, who later denied that Carolyn Bryant recanted.
So, it's very disappointing that -- and, also, it is, I believe, a surprise to me that they would just use that particular piece to open the case.
We were understanding all along that maybe there was some issues with the ability to corroborate his story. But we know there should have been a lot
more investigation into Carolyn Bryant's culpability in the kidnapping and murder of Emmett Louis Till.
So, I was hoping that would be a part of their investigation and that is where we still hold out hope. And so, you know, that -- the details around
that were very disappointing at best.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Here's part of what the Justice Department said in a statement. The woman denied to the FBI -- and this is Carolyn Bryant
Donham, denied to the FBI that she ever recanted her testimony and provided no information beyond what was uncovered during the previous federal
investigation. There is insufficient evidence to prove that she ever told the professor that any part of her testimony was untrue.
Of course, the professor stood by his story. Do you think so many years later and so much hope only to be let down, do you think that justice will
ultimately be served for the murder of your cousin?
WATTS: I believe if the investigation and the evidence is looked at more closely, that was presented in the 2004-2006 timeframe, of course, that
case was closed in 2007, but there's evidence. And we have reason to believe there are people that have not been held accountable to the
kidnapping and murder of Emmett Louis Till. So, I have to hold out hope. I have to hold out hope for our family and those elders who are very
disappointed by this, you know, latest revelation.
Because we know what happened that night. We know who was involved. We know that, yes, Emmett Till whistled, but that is not a death sentence. And we
truly know that he was murdered. 14 years of age, just barely 14, and was thrown in the Tallahatchie River. He was lynched.
And so, we stand here today without lynching laws in the United States, but we also stand here today not being finished with demanding an
investigation, a full investigation by the State of Mississippi into the kidnapping and murder of Emmett Louis Till and any living accomplice that
should be held accountable.
GOLODRYGA: And his two killers were tried and acquitted by an all-white jury only to later give an interview in which they admitted to the murder.
And because U.S. law states a double jeopardy, you cannot be tried twice for the same crime, they ultimately were not punished and they have later
You were just a child when all of this transpired. So, I wouldn't imagine that you remember a majority of it from your personal experience but
clearly, this changed your family in ways that has stood with you up until this day.
WATTS: That is so true. Mamie Till-Mobley is my shero. And our families were close. My great grandfather and Emmett's great grandfather are
brothers. And my great grandfather lived to 97 and he was visited by his nieces, which would be Emmett Till's grandmother and Emmett Till's mother.
And so, I had the opportunity of living with my great grandfather for a period of time and being in the company of those strong courageous women.
And Mamie's strength and her courage is why I am still pushing for justice today. But being, you know, a toddler at that time and this being a part of
my family, there is no way that we could just stop right here without demanding justice and full accountability for the kidnapping murder of
Emmett Louis Till.
GOLODRYGA: And his mother, as you said, deserves so much credit for her strength in knowing that this is a story that went beyond just her flesh
and blood, right, it spoke for a time and place of civil unrest in the country, of what's wrong and what's right in this country, of the fact we
didn't have equality and many questioned whether a young black man can walk the streets this this country without being worried what happens to him.
And she made sure to have an open casket funeral so the world could see what happened to her son.
Do you think that we would be here, do you think that the name Emmett Till -- and there you see her crying over his open casket, her 14-year-old son,
do you think we'd be in a place right now where many recognize Emmett's name, maybe not for exactly what happened but just the name itself
resonates with them? Do you think we'd be here without her tireless effort?
WATTS: You know, I don't. When she opened up the casket, she opened up to the world the kind of hate that was already -- that we were experiencing as
African Americans in this country. And so, opening that casket opened the door for Martin Luther King to walk through, opened the door for Rosa Parks
to sit so we could stand. And also, for the laws that we have on the books today, the civil rights laws.
So, there's a lot that Mamie Till-Mobley contributed to us and we have to give her that credit. And then, also, she sacrificed her only son to
continue to move forward with the NAACP, with other leaders in this country. Calling on presidents to help her. Calling on other -- of the
media, actually, to help just amplify her voice and her fight for justice.
She also, I believe, lays the blueprint for other unfortunate mothers that have joined the same unfortunate love like Trayvon Martin's mother, like
Philando Castile's mother, like Breonna Taylor's mother and others. And so, it's unfortunately that we have to stand here today continuing with this
through line of seeking justice for black and brown and indigenous bodies in the United States.
And so, we continue to hold out hope. I'm not -- how can I say this, I have to do this because she opened that casket. She summoned us to take a look
and we have to take a look. And now, I think she's summoning us to make sure we right the wrongs of our past.
GOLODRYGA: Well, look at how many lives that the death of the 14-year-old boy, such a short life lived, impacted. 95 days later, Rosa Parks refused
to the get to the back of the bus. I just watched a documentary on Arthur Ashe and it talked extensively about the role that his murder played in his
development and Muhammad Ali. The names are countless and we are just praying that one day, sooner rather than later, that your family will
ultimately get the justice it seeks.
Thank you so much for joining us, we appreciate it, Deborah
WATTS: Thank you. Thank you. Grateful, thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, earlier in the program, we heard about President Biden's call to bolster democracies around the world. But our next guest is
concerned about the state of democracy in the United States itself. Staff writer for "The Atlantic" was one of the journalists who predicted that
then President Donald Trump would not admit defeat if he lost the 2020 election.
Well, now, in a new cover story for "The Atlantic," he says the former president is in an even better position to seize office. Here he is telling
Hari Sreenivasan why he thinks democracy will be on trial in the 2024 American presidential election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, thanks. Baton Gellman, thanks so much for joining us.
Now, Barton, you wrote an article about what you think is likely or could happen in 2024. Basically, this is about the next attempt to overthrow the
democracy. And it may not qualify as a coup, you say. It will rely on subversion more than violence, although each will have its place. If the
plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024.
Thousands of votes will be thrown away or millions to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified
president elect. The prospect of this democratic collapse is not remote. People with the motive to make it happen are manufacturing the means. Given
the opportunity, they will act. They are acting already.
So, let's start to unpack this thesis of yours a little bit in this conversation. First of all, the threats that you're talking about to the
entire system of our democracy, how elections work, how they would be overturned. Where does that begin or how has that already begun?
BARTON GELLMAN, STAFF WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": It's begun with Republican operatives who have studied the way Trump tried to overthrow the results of
the last election and looked at all the points of failure. And it's now methodically going through and fixing those points of failure from its
point of view.
And so, for example, any state official who refused to go along with the big lie, who refused to manipulate the vote count so that Trump won instead
of Biden is being hounded out of office or made irrelevant by new laws that give someone else the power to certify the election. There is stayed (ph)
work being done so that Republican legislators in the states can take over the award of electors and give them Trump even if the state votes for
For example, this is because in six or seven of the most important battleground states that Biden narrowly won, the State House and State
Senate are controlled by Republicans. And they're trying to take the power to fire the voters and appoint electors for Trump regardless of the
outcome. What my article is there to warn about is that there is a plausible and even inclining toward likely scenario in which he loses a
close election. Not in the popular vote only but in the electoral college and is nonetheless, appointed president-elect. And that could happen with
the official institutions of the election taken over by supporters of the big lie last time and who will affirm this false victory.
SREENIVASAN: The independent state legislature doctrine, you talk about that in the piece quite a bit. It sounds a little wonky (ph), it sounds a
little bit -- is this about federalism, et cetera. But kind of break it down into simple terms, why is this tactically important? Why is this
strategically important? And why could it be consequential in 2024 if independent state legislators are given more power in national elections?
GELLMAN: Electors, not popular votes are the currency of a presidential election. Whoever gets to 270 wins. Under the constitution, under Article
2, each state legislator shall decide how electors are appointed in the matter of its own choosing. So, when the founders drafted the document,
state legislators chose the president, not popular vote of each state. It's been more than 150 years since that was true.
But the Supreme Court has ruled in another case in what's known as dictive (ph), sort of a side comment, that the states can take back the power from
their voters if they want to. And there are Trump supporters who are pushing the argument that the Supreme Court should recognize that
legislators can do that at any time and they can even reverse the verdict of their voters to do so. And there are signs that at least four justices
on the Supreme Court are friendly to that doctrine.
SREENIVASAN: You said that there is a clear and present danger that American democracy will not withstand the destructive forces that are now
converging upon it. Our two-party system has only one party left that is willing to lose an election. The other is willing to win at the cost of
breaking things that a democracy cannot live without.
And one other mention from your story, Democrats big and small D are not behaving as they believe the threat is real. Some of them, including
President Biden, has taken passing rhetorical notice, but their attention wanders. Why do you think that is?
GELLMAN: Well, it's really quite extraordinary with Biden. He gave a speech that should have signaled the beginning of a massive presidential
effort. He went to the National Constitution Center in July and he said that these elections subversion techniques that are being used by
Republicans now are being prepared for the next election are the greatest threat to democracy since the Civil War.
Now, you would expect that means he's going to pay some close attention to that and do something about it. And since then, there's been almost no
action. And I think there is a combination of a sense of helplessness because the ordinary tools of politics are not equipped to handle
subversion like this. And there's also a sense of disbelief, that this can't happen here. I can't happen here that the voters in Pennsylvania or
Michigan vote for Biden and the legislature simply says, we're going to ignore those votes. We throw them away and we're going to send electors for
Trump and get away with it. People just don't think it can happen here, and it can.
SREENIVASAN: One of the characters that you profile on the piece is a former captain, retired from the Fire Department in New York and he is
(INAUDIBLE) Trump supporter and he believes that the election was stolen. How did he come to believe that?
GELLMAN: Well, let's take video of January 6th. Anyone who has immersed himself or herself in the news of that day should have seen footage of the
crowd beating police officers, squashing them in a doorway, hurling metal flag poles in their faces and so on. The images are ubiquitous in the
mainstream media and on social media. He had never seen any of those.
He's following the news closely in the places where he follows the news. The only he's seen is the one in which police officers who were overwhelmed
by the number of demonstrators hold back a bicycle barricade and essentially, acquiesced in letting the crowd in because it was vastly
outnumbers and had no choice. He said, look, they invited them in.
He said, there was it was no violence by the protestors. He was only antifa and U.S. special forces who are part of a plot by Nancy Pelosi and Mitch
McConnell together somehow to make the demonstration look bad. And I would ask him for his sources of information. And so, he told me this with
special operators and antifa that he relied on the testimony of Retired General McInerney.
So, I find McInerney's videos on Rumble. And McInerney is saying all these truly crazy things, and I called him out. I said, how do you know special
forces were there? Well, he said, well, they looked like special forces. How do you know they stole Nancy Pelosi's laptop? Well, one had something
square looking under his coat. I mean, there was -- there is no evidence at all. He didn't even claim to have anything that would count as evidence.
But the firefighter I'm talking to doesn't believe me when I tell him that this evidence doesn't hold up. He says, well, of course, you know, the
government would lie to us and deny it. But he has been, I think, overwhelmed by the volume of propaganda and reinforced so many times by the
sources of information he has that I can't touch him.
SREENIVASAN: One of the most disturbing stats that you have is from a recent poll that was from the Public Religion Research Institute. It said,
30 percent of Republicans asked, they said they believe violence may be necessary to save the U.S. Do the math for us. That's a lot of people.
GELLMAN: That's a lot of people. If you -- there's another set of poll numbers that I think puts an even sharper point on them. Robert Pate (ph)
of University of Chicago has done polling that says, there is a group of Americans who believe two things. One, that Joe Biden is an illegitimate
president. And two, that the use of violence is justified to restore Trump to power. Not might be, not we might be coming into a point where the use
of violence is justified.
That group of Americans numbers about 21 million. 21 million Americans who are part of a mass political movement that is conspiracy minded and
supports the use of violence for political ends. We have not been in that place in this country very likely since about 100 years ago, which was the
rise of the second Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s.
SREENIVASAN: Now, when you bring the Ku Klux Klan into it, that makes me think about the relations with race in America. And one of the more
disturbing findings that you talk about in this story is about what it is that the supporters who showed up on January 6th had in common. And tell us
a little bit about that. These were not uneducated people that didn't know any better.
GELLMAN: There is a typical profile for political violence all around the world. It is committed by primarily by men in their 20s or early 30s who
are unemployed, who have low education, et cetera, et cetera. If you look at the profile of the January 6th defendants, you see a mid-age of 42 years
old, which is wildly out of sync with that. They are educated. They are white collar. They are employed. They are well off.
And what they have in common is that they're much more likely to come from a county in the United States, back home, in which the white population is
in decline. It is a dreaded fact by many conservatives that the United States by about 2045, whites will no longer be in the majority. And when
you poll the 21 million people who believe in violence to restore President Trump to the White House, they agree overwhelmingly with the proposition
that the rights of people of color are exceeding those of whites in today's societies. They believe in the great replacement.
SREENIVASAN: You know, if 68 percent of Republicans, as the polling shows, continue to believe that the election was stolen from Donald Trump, this is
a party that is fundamentally different than, say, 10 years ago. I mean, we have people who would not have stood for this who are now OK with it.
GELLMAN: There have always been people after every election who are disappointed, who believe they were robbed. There have always been some
number of people who believe that there was fraud. What they did not have was permission from the party elites, from their leaders, from the party
leaders to believe those things. They did not have a party leader who told them. It was a fact that the election was stolen.
And to have two-thirds of all Republicans who have lost faith completely in the integrity of our election system is a catastrophe for America, and we
have not had that, arguably, ever in this country. I make the point in the article that the confederates at the start of the Civil War did not deny
that Abraham Lincoln had won the election. It was because he won the election that they wanted to secede. We just haven't had this kind of mass
denial before and it's very dangerous.
SREENIVASAN: So, tell me, give me an example for -- give me an example of states where you see an influence of the strategy or the influence of the
former president and how impactful that's going to be in 2024.
GELLMAN: Well, let's see what happened in Georgia. Donald Trump famously demanded that the governor of Georgia not certify Biden's victory after
three full counts of vote. He called the secretary of state in a recorded call that we've all heard now, if we wanted to, in which he said, you just
have to find me enough votes to win after these three recounts. And the secretary of state, who was the lifetime Republican, faithfully stood by
his duty and he certified Biden's victory.
What's happened to him? He's been censured by the state's party. He has been removed from the State Election Board in a voting role so that he no
longer has the power to certify the next election. He's been has been primary and Donald Trump has endorsed and the state party has endorsed an
opponent who says he would not certify for the last election. And the state legislature, for a good measure, has given itself the power to fire any
county election administrator that it deems to be performing poorly.
And has done that in the context of a debate about Fulton County, which is the home of Atlanta, which is the home of the bulk of the Democratic vote
in the State of Georgia. And so, as about as comprehensively as it can happen, Trump and his supporters have moved to neutralize the person who
certified his loss last time. And by the way, Trump has also recruited and endorsed a candidate to run against the governor who certified the
SREENIVASAN: Are there other states who are looking at what Georgia has done and revising their own processes?
GELLMAN: There are seven people running for secretary of state in key swing states who are running on Trump's big lie platform. They want to be
in charge of overseeing the election and they claim that Trump won the last time against all evidence.
There are -- the person running for governor of Arizona, to replace Doug Ducey, is a big lie supporter who said that she would not have certified
Biden's victory in her state. Ducey did so. He was one of two Republican governors who certified the Biden victory. And Trump wants to replace him
with a Fox newscaster who basically promises to fix the vote for Trump next time. It's happening in Wisconsin. It's happening in Pennsylvania. It's
happening in Michigan. It's happening all around.
SREENIVASAN: Barton Gellman of "The Atlantic," thanks so much for joining us.
GELLMAN: Thanks for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: A chilling prospect I'd argue we should all be focusing a lot more time on.
And finally, threats against press freedom and democracy is a theme that reverberates around the world. This year's Nobel Peace Prize laureates,
Journalist Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov has collected their gold medallions in Norway for their efforts defending freedom of speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA RESSA, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATE: Without facts you can't have truth. Without truth, you can't have trust. Without trust, we have no
shared reality, no democracy and it becomes impossible to deal with the existential problems of our times, climate, coronavirus. Now, the battle
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Dmitry Muratov held a moment of silence for colleagues who have been killed and prosecuted. Finishing his lecture with this sobering
statement, I want journalists to die old. Let that sink in. Powerful words.
Well, that is it for now. Thank you so much for watching. Have a wonderful weekend. And good-bye from New York.