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January 6 Committee Hearing Targets Trump Inaction; Interview with "I Would Have Been a School Shooter" Author Aaron Stark Examining School Shooters; Interview with TV Rain Editor-in-Chief Tikhon Dzyadko. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired July 22, 2022 - 13:00:00 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.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): President Trump did not fail to act. He chose not to act.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Damning new evidence, as the January 6 Committee shows how Trump refused to stop the attack on the Capitol.
I asked former federal prosecutor Paul Rosenzweig how he rates the case against the former president.
Then: Super Mario is out. What Prime Minister Draghi's fall means for Italian politics and beyond.
Plus: back on the air. Russia's last independent TV network, TV Rain, relaunches from abroad after being shut down by the Kremlin. Editor in
chief Tikhon Dzyadko joins me with the details.
AARON STARK, WRITER AND PUBLIC SPEAKER: I knew what I was going to do. I had already planned it all out. I was going to go either through the
school, the doors to the food court, or to the mall food court.
GOLODRYGA: Imagine admitting you could have been a school shooter.
Aaron Stark shares his story and wisdom with Michel Martin.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
President Trump chose not to act. That is the number one takeaway of the latest congressional hearing into the January 6 insurrection, which showed
that Donald Trump not only ignored repeated calls to stop the riot. He also failed to reach out a single time to law enforcement and national security
We also saw for the first time outtakes of video statements that the then- president released on January 6 and 7 where he said -- quote -- "I don't want to say the election is over."
Here's the committee's vice chair, Representative Liz Cheney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of January 6 ever be trusted with any
position of authority in our great nation again?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Cheney, who says the goal of the committee is to show people how unfit for office Trump is, added that the dam has begun to break, and
that far more evidence will come out at the next round of hearings in September.
Paul Rosenzweig is perfectly placed to address all of this. He served in the Department of Homeland Security and is a former federal prosecutor, and
he joins us now.
Welcome to the program, Paul.
So let's start with that. This was initially supposed to be the last hearing for the committee. And, as we heard from Vice Chair Liz Cheney
yesterday, there will be more in September, given the new evidence that has come in to the committee.
What does that tell you about the effectiveness of this investigation?
PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL: Well, it tells me that the investigation has generated a lot of new evidence already, and that
people are starting to see that the tide is turning, if you will, that President Trump's support both in the body politic and in Congress is
And they're making a choice to essentially take a side. Where they might have stood on the fence or have stayed on President Trump's side, they're
now at a point where they're seeing that their own personal best interests lie in leaving President Trump's team.
One might expect, for example, soon some of his more senior advisers, like Mark Meadows, to perhaps consider the same thing.
GOLODRYGA: And what we heard yesterday from this committee was all of their evidence to show that the president chose not to do anything in those
187 minutes, where we hadn't heard from him.
Obviously, we know that he had been watching television -- that story had been recounted time and time again -- and glued to the TV at the White
House seeing what was unfolding at the Capitol, and chose not to reach out to the military, not to call the National Guard, not to call any police
How damning was that, in light of all of the other circumstantial evidence that they have laid out throughout these hearings this summer?
ROSENZWEIG: Well, I think, at this point, the committee has made a compelling case that President Trump's failure to act on January 6 was in
fact an action, an action that was the culmination of actions that he began with the election itself, or, if you believe Steve Bannon, before the
election, in planning how not to lose, how to try and retain power even if he lost.
Ultimately, the obligation to act must be read as reflecting his intention for the attack on the Capitol to go forward and reflecting his desire for
that attack to short-circuit the mechanisms of democracy, short-circuit the counting of the electoral votes.
As such, it becomes more than just a failure to act, which is often not a crime. And it becomes a deliberate choice to advance the violence by
choosing not to intervene. And the committee has made a pretty damning case of that over the course of these eight hearings.
GOLODRYGA: And throughout these hearings, then even leading up to it through journalists, we have learned that there had been text messages and
communications in the moment, throughout that day from members of his family, from television pundits, from all of those around him pressing for
Mark Meadows, anybody to get him to speak out, to tell these rioters to go home.
Kevin McCarthy also, we know, reached out to him, went on television to say that he did and said as much. Given that the president did not. And then
now, last night, we had those outtakes that the committee released of the messages that he finally did record all those hours later, where it seemed
so hard for him to say the word peace, where he didn't want to talk about what happened yesterday, where he kept invoking his love for these rioters,
and had to repeat these takes time and time again.
Do you think that was an effective way to prove to viewers, perhaps even to the DOJ, what was going on inside his mind and his intent? Or was, do you
think, this just a way to embarrass the president, given that he doesn't like to be seen making mistakes on television and having to take time and
time again new videos?
ROSENZWEIG: Well, certainly, it did embarrass him. And that's probably a collateral effect.
But I think that it was really a much more important compilation of evidence to demonstrate the willfulness of his failure to act. I mean,
think about where we have come from. Before these hearings started, the story that pro-Trump advocates were advancing was that all he had done was
given a moderately incendiary speech with no knowledge of what was going to happen that day, with no intention that it happen.
And, yes, maybe he was a little lax in responding, but that wasn't reflective of his true intent. What we have now is a president who, even
after the violence, refused to concede the election and, I might add, even up until today, refuses to concede that he lost the election.
And that paints the entire course of his conduct as a purposeful effort to overturn the valid election result, to retain power, to subvert the levers
of democracy, and, at its extreme, to see his vice president violently attacked.
That's a pretty big step from where I would say many of us were, many of Trump's supporters were, oh, say back in the immediate aftermath of the
January 6 violence. They have done a really good job of compiling that evidence and putting together a persuasive case that all of this was part
and parcel of a plan hatched before the election to retain power, notwithstanding the results.
GOLODRYGA: And what they have done is build on damning information that has come out since the insurrection.
Obviously, in real time, we saw the president tweet that Mike Pence didn't do enough. And we have heard subsequently that he felt let down by the vice
president. And those around him in these hearings have said that they felt like that was the wrong tweet and message to send, to say the least, and
throwing fuel to the fire already, and not what the president should be doing, given the demands for his life and the threats against Vice
President Pence at the time that the president saw playing out in real time.
But they really upped the ante yesterday by what I believe to be really just jaw-dropping video from a security official whose voice had to be
changed, right, and protected, so as to not show his face and put in silhouette.
But here's what he said about how the Secret Service surrounding the vice president just moments away from the mob felt in that moment as they were
pulling the vice president to safety. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: OK, that last entry on this page is, Service at the Capitol does not sound good right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.
QUESTION: What does that mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The members of the V.P. detail at this time were starting to fear for their own lives.
There were a lot of, there was a lot of yelling, a lot of very personal calls over the radio, so it was disturbing. I don't like talking about it,
but there were calls to say goodbye to family members, so on and so forth. It was getting -- for whatever the reason was on the ground, the V.P.
detail thought that this was about to get very ugly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: That still is just so hard to comprehend, that this is what was happening by the vice president's security detail, and knowing that the
White House security officials were hearing that in real time.
What was your takeaway when you heard that last night?
ROSENZWEIG: Well, I mean, it's chilling that the audio of the members of the Secret Service PPD detail were just chilling, as was this person's
The closest thing that I have ever heard similar to it was from firefights in battle, Navy SEALs fighting in Afghanistan sorts of things, where the
soldiers know that things are about to go sideways, and that there's a grave risk to them.
It compounds, I think, in a really evocative way the nature of the president's dereliction of duty.
GOLODRYGA: Oh, I believe we lost Paul's Skype link there. We will try to get that up for you as soon as possible and continue that conversation.
But let's move on now to a different type of turmoil. We're going to turn to America's gun violence epidemic, with our next guest providing a unique
perspective inside the mind of a potential school shooter.
Aaron Stark was stopped from committing that horrific act 25 years ago as a teenager, revealing why in an article for "The Washington Post." Today,
he's a mental health advocate and consultant for those contemplating suicide.
To discuss his past and what can be done to prevent these attacks, Aaron joins Michel Martin.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Bianna.
Aaron, thank you so much for talking with us.
STARK: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: You wrote this incredible piece back in February of 2018, saying that you could have been a school shooter yourself.
What possessed you to write that piece? What encouraged you to speak out in that way?
STARK: It was the shooting in Parkland High School that gave me the impetus to come out with my story.
The day after the shooting, me and my wife and my oldest daughter, we were watching the news. And we were watching a report specifically of a reporter
asking a kid who has just left the school -- I believe they still had blood on them from the shooting.
And the reporter was asking, how do you feel? And, to me, that was the most dehumanizing and depersonalizing thing. They were just turning that victim
into a commodity. And it really -- it made me -- I went to the back of my house, and I wrote literally a Facebook post.
And in that, I came out with my story.
MARTIN: Talk me through it. What brought you to the point where you could envision killing your classmates?
You wrote this in 2018 that the two places you thought to go were a school or a mall food court. And, as we are speaking now, just recently, a young
man with a high-powered weapon tried to kill a bunch of people, in fact, did kill some people at a mall food court. And this, of course, was just
days after another devastating shooting at the school in Uvalde, Texas.
So what is it that brought you to that point where you had so much rage that you wanted to kill people you didn't even know?
STARK: Well, I was -- I grew up in a really violent and aggressive house.
From early on, from my birth to about 5, I describe it living like a Stephen King movie, really extreme violence, every kind of abuse you can
imagine, very nomadic lifestyle. And then, after that, when my -- when we left my birth father and got my stepdad, it moved from Stephen King to
So it went from extreme violence to crack cocaine and crime and stealing. And growing up, I went to about 40 different schools. We moved every six
months or so. Every couple of months, I'd be -- we would get evicted or run from the authorities, or a social worker would try to intervene, and we
I was always the new kid growing up, always had a new set of bullies at every new school I went to. I was dirty and smelly. And as a young kid,
growing up in that toxic environment, I really adapted that as my personality. And I became toxic myself.
Really early on, when I was about 9, 10 years old, I became just offensive and disgusting. And I was a very toxic young kid. And that got me bullied.
And I was bullied when I was growing up. And then, as I became a teen, I became the bully.
And I decided that, if I'm the worthless one, and everybody in my life tells me I'm worthless, then I'm going to be the best worthless one I can
be, and I will show you what a monster is.
And I was 15 years old. I was homeless, had been homeless for a couple of months at the time, was sleeping in my friend's shed. And I was -- had been
-- it was middle of the night. I was cutting myself so bad, a pool of blood was forming underneath me. And I thought, I have to get help. I'm at the
So I tried to get myself to help with social services, called social services on myself. They had tried to intervene a couple of times in my
life. And they were the reason why we had left a couple of houses, so I knew that might be a source to go to. And when I to social services, they
not only brought me in, but they brought my mom in, who was my -- one of my biggest abusers in my life.
And that time, even though I produced a bloody razor blade, and I told them that the reason I was there was that I was -- felt like I was nothing and I
felt like I was worthless, I was at the bottom, they believed my mom in saying that I was just doing it for attention, that I was just making it
And then they sent me home with her. And when they sent me home with her, her response was to tell me that I should have done a better job, and, next
time, she will buy the razor blades.
So that -- that sent me on a year, what I called my scorched earth time. For about the next nine months, I was just burning down every bit of
support that I had, every positive thing. And after about nine months of destroying every positive relationship I had in my world, anybody that was
nice to me, I was going to prove to you that you shouldn't be.
And I tried for help -- to get help again. I was at the bottom again, tried to go to social services one more time, thinking that, if I didn't -- I
warned them last time, and that was toxic. So, this time, I'm just going to show up. And so I went to a place that just said mental health on the sign.
And I don't really remember that conversation, because all I remember is the end of it. And that is when the young lady who saw me said: "I'm sorry.
There's nothing I can do. I can't help you."
And as I walked out of that door, my brain just shattered. And I discovered what was under that tsunami of anger. When you finally go underneath all
that pain, it gets really quiet and it gets really still, because when you don't really have anything left to lose, then you don't have anything left
to care about.
MARTIN: Where did the idea of getting a gun and shooting a bunch of people come from? Like, had you seen that somewhere? Or how did that come to you?
STARK: I didn't really have friends at the time, but I had people around me. And I called them -- I call them now disaster groupies.
We were people who -- kids around me that kind of wanted to live vicariously through my damage. It was basically like an in person YouTube
group or a social media group where it was just like they would push me further into the dark to see how far I would go.
And in that group, while I was homeless living and hanging out with those friends, instead of talking about girls or sports or movies, so we would
talk about killing people. And we would talk about, if you're going to kill 10 people, what would you do? If you were going to shoot up a school, what
would you do?
And it was just like the fiction of the group. It was -- it was our version of, like, a dark fantasy football. And when I hit that spot where my brain
shattered, all the plans just crystallized. I knew what I was going to do. I had already planned it all out.
I was going to go either through the school, the doors to the food court or to the mall food court. And the only difference of that would have been the
time of day I got the weapon. And...
MARTIN: Why there? Why were those your two choices? I mean, school, I guess, because that was kind of one of the sources of pain for you, is that
that's where the bullies were? Like, why those...
STARK: Honestly -- honestly, it wasn't -- neither one of those places where because of the bullies.
I hadn't really been at the school long enough to acquire that many bullies from that particular school. It had -- it was really that my goal was to
cause immense damage and destruction and make my parents deal with creating me.
I wanted to make them deal with making a monster. And the school and the mall were both ripe targets, in the sense that I could cause mass damage
and at the same time die by suicide by cop, because neither of those locations were what we consider soft targets.
There were armed -- uniformed officers stationed in the school at all times. And in the mall, there was literally a police station like four or
five doors down from the food court. That was just part of my plan. I was planning on committing the act and then dying by suicide by cop.
MARTIN: Why is that what you wanted?
Did you think that would, like, take the pain away, or what? You wanted to -- why is that what you wanted?
STARK: I don't think taking the pain away was even an option in my reality.
I felt invisible when I was at that age. I felt like when I was -- between like 13 and 16, I would literally ask the people I was around, do you
remember me when I leave the room? If I walk away, do you know who I am?
And I thought I was invisible. I thought that I was the worthless one. When I would stand up off a couch, I thought people would walk back on me and
scrub the spot that I was -- would get off up, because it was so filthy, and that I was -- I was like a void.
And, at that moment, when I was in my darkest spot, I didn't feel human. I felt absolutely inhuman. I felt like I was just destruction, like I was --
I had lost all sense of humanity.
And, in that time -- so, I walked out of that room with my brain shattered. I'm -- all the plans crystallized. And part of that plan was, I knew where
to get a weapon, because there was gangbangers that -- it was mid-'90s. Gangs were really prevalent. And there were some gangbangers that brought
guns to school all the time.
They would flash handguns and stuff at school. And they would talk about having rifles. And they sold drugs to my family. They knew me. And so I
walked up to him and said, hey, can you get me a gun, hopefully one that shoots a lot of bullets? And the guy's like, yes, sure, get me an ounce of
And that was the easiest part of the whole thing, because I just walked in my mom's house, stole an ounce of marijuana off the druggie sleeping off
her floor and one of my brother's friends and took it to him.
MARTIN: Why -- forgive me, but why -- you had the means. You had the motivation. But you didn't do it. And, obviously, we're all really thankful
that you didn't, but why didn't you?
STARK: Because, in that time, after I had planned to get the gun, I went on what I thought -- I didn't look at it now, but, at the time, I was
I was giving away my belongings and kind of closing off relationships in a much more peaceful way than before. I wasn't being antagonistic. I was just
kind of closing off friendships.
And, during that time, I went to my friend Mike's house. And I met Mike when I was 12 years old. He was 10. We bonded over comic books. He had the
exact opposite life that I had. He had a very loving family, very supportive. They -- his parents still live in that house to this day. They
-- it was -- his dreams were very encouraged.
He got read into all the clubs he went -- loved. And any activity he got into, he was encouraged, very, very loving and stable house. And over the
years, he was my home base. So, when I was moving, nomadic and moving from place to place and living on the streets, he never moved.
So his place was like home base. So when I was in my darkest spot, when I was homeless and living in the fields and living on free samples, I would
live in his shed. That's the night when I went to school services was from his shed.
So, in that time, I went and knocked on his door. And I was saying goodbye. And he opened up and saw me, and he didn't know what I was planning, but he
saw the pain that I was in. And he knew the hell that I had been living in.
And he brought me in and treated me like I was a person. And I was absolutely inhuman at the time. I was nothing but destruction and death.
And he treated me like I was just a kid in pain. And he brought me in. And we had food. Gave me a shower. And he would tell me always I'm a good kid
in a crap world, is what he would say.
And I stayed with him during that time. Being treated like a person when you don't feel like a human will literally change your world. And it was
the most powerful thing that ever happened to me. And he's still my best friend to this day. He's still uncle to my kids.
So, today, I'm a happy family man, father of four.
MARTIN: You have given us so much to think about, but is it really that that one intervention at the right time was enough to keep you from killing
STARK: It really was.
At the time, everybody else in my world, every other person I was encountering, I was either a monster or a project. I was either something
to be feared or something to be fixed. I wasn't a person at all to anybody. And I -- even to myself, I was just not -- I wasn't human.
And being reminded that that pain is temporary, and that I was actually a good person all the time, I was just dealing with this massive amount of
trauma that I had been going through. And, at the time, I still -- I didn't see it. It took years of personal recovery to fully get out of that
But Mike at -- in that moment, he diverted it, and it went from an outward kind of push to -- it was really much -- a lot like a splash of cold water.
It was like the grounding. It was like resetting the clock back to being a person.
MARTIN: If you had been able to get your hands on a gun -- I mean, you said at one point you could have gotten a gun from one of your gang-
involved associates at school, right?
You -- did you actually get it?
STARK: I didn't.
My -- going to Mike's house, I was set to get the gun in three days. I stayed at his house for about a week-and-a-half. I never ended up going and
getting the gun.
MARTIN: If you had been able to get your hands on a gun when you were in that heightened state, right, would you have used it?
STARK: Yes. Yes. The incident would have been in my hands. I would have used it. That was -- it would have just been the tool of destruction.
And, mind you, this is in '96. So this is pre-Columbine. The pain and destruction was still there. It's -- the guns, I believe, are just the tool
that we use now because it's -- you can cause the most damage with it.
Like, for example, we have these couple of recent school shootings, and I see a lot of parallels in my story with the most recent ones, specifically
the ones in Uvalde and this last one in Highland Park. I see a lot of similarities.
The story of the kid in Uvalde, seems like he went down almost exactly my path. Like, it looks like he spent his early years in a very abusive,
restrictive and oppressive house, with a lot of aggression and violence in the home. And then that turned to where he became toxic, and adopted that
as his persona.
And even right before his shooting, he showed up to the school a couple weeks before with his face covered and slice marks, just razor marks
cutting his face, from the reports I heard. That is like the most visible sign of, I'm hurting myself, someone, see it.
And that -- none of that's an excuse. It's not an excuse for any of the destruction whatsoever. It's not whatsoever to excuse that. But it is the
reason why that slide happens. And it's more just to look at the slide itself, that that's the path that we go down, that you start with self-
loathing and self-hatred. You end up metastasizing that to your own personality, and then expressing that to the world, because, when you think
you're worthless, you're going to do everything you can to make the world agree with you.
MARTIN: Guns, getting access to these kinds of guns, on the one hand, people are saying, look, there are a lot of people with pain all over the
world, but, in the United States, we allow people to pick up a high-powered -- a battlefield weapon and kill a bunch of people at once.
MARTIN: And the obvious answer, people say was, make it harder to get these guns or don't sell these guns to civilians at all.
And other people say, well, it's not the gun, it's not the gun that -- it's the people. What do you say to that?
STARK: I personally believe that, when people argue about these two topics, they use the term gun control and then mental health as a kind of
catchalls for each side.
And I really believe that those terms are diversionary to the extreme. So, if you say gun control, you get lost in the minutiae of the details. You
get lost. Is that a bump stock? Is that -- what kind of emission is that? Is that an assault rifle?
And you lose sight of the fact that the goal of the argument is, you want to keep weapons that can kill a lot of people out of the hands of someone
like I was 20 years -- 25 years ago. That's the goal.
And there -- and if you get lost in the specifics, or you try to find a panacea that is a fix-all for all of it, then you're not going to make any
progress. The perfect is the enemy of good. And so, if we can't -- people always want to have the law that, well, if that's not going to solve all
school shootings, then we can't fix -- we can't do it.
It's not going to stop all school shootings. It might only stop one, but one has to be enough. And we have to start somewhere.
And we have the same problem with mental health. People say that we have a mental health issue. Well, what does that mean? It's this big, gray,
oblique thing, and you can't really wrap your hands around it. And so you get lost into that haze of what mental health is.
So, instead of mental health, it's, I was depressed and abused and alone, and I felt like I was worthless. And I believe that, if we can move past
the bumper sticker slogans and get into the specifics of the details, then I think that we can find a common ground, because there really has to be a
common ground, specifically on the assault weapons, that there has to be a gun a way that we can understand that the adult hunter who owns a bunch of
rifles isn't the one that we're talking about.
You aren't the problem. The problem is the teenager who thinks that blowing up the world is how he's going to fix himself.
MARTIN: And, to that end, it's become fashionable in law enforcement and, frankly, in the media to sort of make this big thing, like, we're not going
to say the name of the shooter, because all they want is notoriety, right?
And you're saying, that's just wrong.
STARK: I completely believe that's wrong.
I think that there's not a single one that I have seen -- and I have been studying a lot of these school shooters. There's not a single one that I
have seen that wanted to have what we consider fame, that wanted to be Instagram famous or have a YouTube channel or have a bunch of followers.
They don't want that.
They want to be seen. However, right now, we do have a bizarre phenomenon where we have the mirror social economy going on. We have a negative social
world happening at the moment. Back in the day when I was a kid going to school, when I would bounce from school to school, I would have bullies at
every school. I would have five or six bullies on one side, but I would have three or four kids and so there had to be a kind of a counterbalance,
So -- and in real-life terms, that's always how it shakes out. You always have more bullies than not, but you end up having a kind of a
counterbalance in-person saying, hey, leave that kid alone.
OK, but now we have social media. And on social media, we have groups that are going to tell the kid how to be a bully, then how to be a better bully,
and then give them rewards for being the best bully.
And so, at the heart of it, the kid has been searching the entire time for someone to tell them that they're OK.
I really believe, at the heart of it, that we all want for someone to hold us and tell us that we're OK.
And if the person saying that we're OK is saying, to be OK, you have to be a terror (ph), then you're going to be terror (ph).
MARTIN: One of the things he said they really got my attention was that there was always a counter balancing force. Yes, there were five or six
bullies, but you said there were always like three or four kids who are counter balancing that. I don't think we hear that story very often. Is
there any way that those kids can be uplifted and given the place that they deserve in helping to intervene in situations like that?
STARK: Absolutely, there is. And honestly, in those times, those were some of the most -- the little tiny islands of positivity in the ocean of
destruction I was living in when I was a small kid, where those kids who, when I would go to a school, they would see me as just a regular kid.
You will never know how much impact a simple, hey, how are you doing, can have on somebody who the rest of their world they're just viewed as a
monster or as a birth (ph). Instead of looking at that kid like he is a threat, instead of saying, that kid who is dark and smelly, watch out, he
might be a threat, he might shoot up a school. All that is going to do is push them further out into the dark. That's going to tell that kid that he
thinks he's worthless and thinks he's nothing, that he's right.
And you need to -- we need to break that cycle and remind them that they're not, that that's just a phase. That the chaos they're in is going to pass.
And that, eventually, they are going to make it to the light at the end of the tunnel. They can exist in this pain. It's intense and it's hard, but
they can make it through it.
MARTIN: Aaron Stark, I can't thank you enough for sharing your story with us. So, thank you.
STARK: Thank you. I really appreciate that. To everybody else listening, just give love to the ones you feel deserve it the least, because they need
it the most.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Such a powerful and eye-opening conversation.
Well, we turn now to a story that we've been following for a long time. TV Rain, Russia's last independent TV station is back on the air from
neighboring Latvia. After the Kremlin shut it down in March over the network's coverage of the war in Ukraine.
Here is editor-in-chief Tikhon Dzyadko's return to the anchoring chair share this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIKHON DZYADKO, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, TV RAIN (voiceover): Hello everyone watching the channel TV Rain. My name is Tikhon Dzyadko. In Moscow. It's
8:00. This program is "Here and Now."
Over the next two hours, we will talk about the main news of the day. It's a phrase that I haven't uttered in four and a half months."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And Tikhon is joining me now from TV Rain's new studios in Riga.
Tikhon, welcome back on air.
What does it feel like now that you have been off air for four months, to be back in that chair?
DZYADKO: Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me here, Bianna. It's great to be on CNN International.
Well, it's a wonderful feeling. We have been waiting for it for four and a half months. we understand how big is the request for independent
information now these days in Russia. We understand that people in Russia are eager to get this independent information. And the numbers of our
viewers these first days of broadcasting prove that we are right when we say these words.
So, we understand that it is very important. To us, it's important to our viewers that we are back on air and it is important now to work more and
harder and harder.
GOLODRYGA: You know, I had the CEO and founder of TV Rain, Natalia Sindeyeva, on just a few months ago to talk about the documentary that was
made about your network.
GOLODRYGA: And she alluded to the desire and the hope of being back on air. Can you just talk about what that has been like, the process? You were
a team that had been working together closely. The rising network within Russia. The cool network. The last remaining independent station. And then,
all of the sudden, the war breaks out, you are disbanded. And you and your colleagues all flee the country to various neighboring countries. How did
you all regroup and come back together with this mission of bringing the network back on air?
DZYADKO: Well, I think that what is really important that we -- here in our team, we really understand why we were together. And that is why we
spend these four months with each other, waiting for and preparing for the relaunch.
Of course, it is absolutely new. It is very strange to not to live in your country, not to live in your town, not to work in your country, not to work
for your -- for people from your country, for the Russians. And I am very proud of all the team of TV rain. I'm very proud of them because they were
preparing this relaunch with us. And I am very really proud of our viewers, they've been waiting for the TV Rain to go back on air. And now, they are
ready to watch it and they are ready to support it, to donate, to help us continue working.
GOLODRYGA: Well, I have been watching since you have been back on air this week. And it was really interesting different perspective than before, to
see you interview, not only people who are outspoken against the Kremlin and opposition politicians, what have you, but to now see you exiled, in a
way, in another country, interviewing those same people who are still in Russia. Not everyone left that country who has outspoken against the
DZYADKO: That's correct.
GOLODRYGA: I want to play this clip that I found very moving and meaningful yesterday or the day before with Ekaterina Kotrikadz, who
happens to be your wife and colleague there. And she was interviewing a politician, Leonid Gozman. And here's the opening words he said to her when
she welcome into the program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEONID GOZMAN, RUSSIAN POLITICIAN AND PSYCHOLOGIST (voiceover): Thank you all for the fact that by some miracle and heroic efforts you managed to
restore TV Rain. You know, it's so important. When you are abroad, you can stop feeling certain things. It I fantastically important, it's a victory
of life over death. They (the government) tried to close you down, they had no success. This is absolutely wonderful, absolutely wonderful, thank you
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: They tried to shut you down, and they were not able to do that. What was it like to hear voices and messages like that from your viewers
that are still inside Russia?
DZYADKO: Well, it is really important. It is more than important. And all these four months we have been receiving letters and messages from our
viewers, they were asking us to go on air. And at the beginning, it was difficult because we had to get (ph) a lot of technical and visa questions,
et cetera, et cetera.
But the thing is that in Russia, there is a real war on information. War started by the Kremlin. And that is why they blocked more than 5,000
websites in Russia. That is why they forced TV Rain journalists and other independent journalists to leave because they understand that what they
were doing in Ukraine, and what they are doing in Russia is just not fair and not right. And they don't want people in Russia to know the truth about
it. And so, this is our goal and, I would say, our mission to spread this real information about what is actually happening.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. The graphics and the set and the faces all look the same and are refreshingly familiar at this point. But you mentioned the mission
going forward, and I'm just curious, who exactly is the audience? Who you are going out to? Is it the diaspora who has left the country in opposition
to this war? Is it Russians who are remaining in the country, and perhaps you want to reach out to them to change some of their views? And finally,
you know, you used to have Russian members of parliament, Kremlin officials, on your network. Are you even trying to reach out to them? Is
that part of your mission or no longer?
DZYADKO: Well, I would say that we have two different audiences. The first one is, of course, in Russia. And this is our main audience. Before we had
to stop operating, we had something like 16 or 17 million viewers per month and it is really important for us to get this audience back.
The second audience are Russian speaking people who live outside of Russia. In Europe into the United States, in ex-Soviet republics. These are tens of
millions of people. And we know that we can provide them with the real independent information about what is happening.
And, of course, for us as we are journalists, it is important for us to have members of Russian parliament, speakers of Kremlin or speakers of
Russian ministry or foreign affairs on air to ask them questions about what they are actually doing in Ukraine, about what they are actually doing with
our neighboring country and with our own country, Russia.
I am not sure whether they will be ready to speak to us. It was hard before because they don't like tough questions. But of course, as we are
journalists, we will try to connect with them. We will invite them on air. And I hope that some of them would be brave enough to go on air on TV Rain.
GOLODRYGA: As we have seen Russia's aggression continue, as you speak, against the media and just repression in general, turning more and more
into totalitarian state, are you concerned at all that they will, at some point, especially as 2024 elections, presidential elections approach?
Obviously, this war, it doesn't look like there's an end in sight.
Are you concerned that they will eventually shut off YouTube or go after these VPN's that enable so many of your supporters and viewers inside
Russia to continue to watch?
DZYADKO: It could happen. Anything could happen. Because we see that they are scared to death because of the independent media, because of the
independent information. We see that even in pro-Kremlin polls, we see that only 50 percent of people support the war. 30 percent of people do not
support the war. And we have to understand that these folks could not be trusted in the wartime. People are afraid to speak freely. So, I think that
the level of support of the war is even lower than the level of those -- and the number of those who oppose the war are higher.
That is why they are trying to close all the independent voices. And that's why it could possible that they would try to shut down YouTube or, I don't
know, put some other pressure on internet, on VPN servers, et cetera, et cetera. But I think that now in 21st century, in 2022, technologies will be
always one or even two steps ahead of the repressions. And I am sure that every step by the government will receive the answer from those who
understand in tech.
I don't understand it, but I am sure and I know that there is a lot of people who knows how to deal with all of these restrictions.
GOLODRYGA: Let me ask you about just some of the latest headlines about the war in Ukraine. And that is that a deal, a grain export deal, has been
reached, mediated by the Turkish government between Russia and Ukraine, allowing for some 20 million tons of grain to finally be export and that
had been held up there at ports in Ukraine. This had been a big concern around the world as we have seen a scarcity of food and grains and
commodities, especially in poor and developing countries.
How big of a deal is this and how long do you think it can actually hold?
DZYADKO: I don't think that it will hold for a lot of time. We remember that at the beginning of the war, there were some talks between Russia and
Ukraine, and a lot of people had hoped that they will find the negotiations, that they will find the solution. Then, there was -- there
were other talks in Istanbul, and again, it failed.
Now, this is a global problem. This grain crisis. And of course, all the world was trying to do something that -- for this agreement to be reached.
But again, I don't think that this agreement will hold for a long time. Because these two parts of this agreement, Russia and Ukraine, they do not
trust each other. Russia, unfortunately, my country, could not be trusted. So, I don't think it will last for a long time.
GOLODRYGA: And this as Putin's assault against Ukraine in land grab continues in the eastern part and in southern part of the country. Just
curious to get your thoughts on what we have heard just this past week from CIA director and the head of MI6 in the U.K. about Putin's health, his
state of mind.
They are intelligence suggesting that he does not appear to be suffering from any ailments. What -- there had been a lot of rumors, and a lot of
focus on his hand gestures, on his coughs and whether or not he was sick. What are you hearing and what does that tell you about his stability, not
only physically but politically in the country in the years ahead?
DZYADKO: Well, I think that Putin's health is not an issue which should be discussed. And I think that a lot of people are losing a lot of time while
discussing it. I think the real situation, which has to be discussed is the situation on the ground. The situation with the sanctions. The situation
with the weapons which are being requested by the Ukrainians. And the real fight (ph).
This is important. Not some potential Putin's illness. One day, eventually, he will die, like we all do. But it's -- it has no sense in discussing
whether it will happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. I think we have to talk about real actual problems now. And they are obvious situation in
the Kherson region. The situation in Donetsk region. The situation in the Kharkiv region. And that is what should be discussed now, I think.
We understand that Putin, he is still very much insulated in the information that he is being given by his people. He -- as long as we
understand, he's still very afraid of coronavirus and he is not talk to a lot of people. He only talks to a few people. So, he is not very well
informed, I think.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Which is interesting then given that, that he would travel at one of his first trips abroad, obviously, after going to China.
DZYADKO: Yes. He was --
GOLODRYGA: To go to Iran.
DZYADKO: Yes. But if you remember, the picture of his meeting in Iran, that he was sitting far from the person he was talking to.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. The no long table in between them.
GOLODRYGA: He was there. A U.S. intelligence suggesting that Russia is asking for drones, which gives you a sense of their stockpile has been
diminishing on that front.
Tikhon Dzyadko, you know, the network shut down after you agreed, as a whole, to say no to war and not follow the new repressive rules in Russia
and you have now rebounded. You are on air in a neighboring country and you continue to follow that mission, no to war, and reporting truth on the
ground there for Russians and Russian speakers abroad. Thank you so. Welcome back on air. You are all missed.
DZYADKO: Thank you so much for having me here.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you.
Well, we turn now to a look at Tunisia, which says that it is seeing the biggest surge in illegal migration in Europe since the Arab Spring.
Thousands of people from Africa have been making the desperate journey north. And to get there, many are paying criminal gangs to smuggle them
across the Mediterranean.
Correspondent David McKenzie gives us an exclusive look at these dangerous operations which far too often proved deadly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Through Kelibia's faded fishing boats, Samia Jabloon (ph) searches.
Where is that boat, she asks. Did they take it back to sea?
Samia (ph) wears Ferdi's image on her shirt. She still sees her son in her dreams.
SAMIA JABLOON (PH): This boat that takes my son. I hate this photo. I hate it. I hate it because they take my son.
MCKENZIE (voiceover): In this video, you can see Italy in the distance. It is Samia's (ph) last image of Ferdi (ph) before he disappeared.
In Europe, millions of Ukrainians are given shelter from the war. But we're in Tunisia, tracking what the U.N. and Tunisian officials call the biggest
surge of illegal migrants in years. From across the African continent, migrants make the desperate journey across the Mediterranean. Through a
loose network of dangerous criminal gangs.
MCKENZIE (on camera): So, our producers are just going to speak to the smuggling king pin who works on trying to get people out of Tunisia into
Europe. We are just seeing if he is comfortable to talk in this neighborhood.
MCKENZIE (voiceover): But this is his zone, these are his people.
He says his gang pulls up to 20,000 U.S. dollars for a boat of migrants, that is up to $2,000 each, live or die. There are no guarantees at sea, he
says, because we could take you, but the authorities could catch you. Unless you die, then death is your destiny.
A destiny like this, crammed into vessels leaving at night. This passage is the planet's deadliest known migration route, says the United Nations. More
than 24,000 have gone missing just since 2014. But still they go.
Next time am I taking my wife and daughter, says a smuggler
MCKENZIE (on camera): Even though you know some people don't make it?
MCKENZIE (voiceover): Yes, they will be in God's hands. Whatever God wants for us.
Those prayers often go unanswered. These migrant boats piled up by the coastguard harbor
MCKENZIE (on camera): A small boat like this could have 10 on it to go to Italy.
AYMAN MBARKI, COMMANDER, TUNISIAN COAST GUARD: OK. Imagine it's -- that we have 10 people on board of this small boat for a trip of 120 miles.
MCKENZIE: 120 miles?
MBARKI: 120 miles. For that, sometimes, the operation of looking for immigrants becomes operation of assistance and recuperation of dead bodies.
MCKENZIE (voiceover): Even with the latest gear funded by the European Union and U.S., Colonel Yman Mbarki says the coast guard can't possibly
trace thousands of migrants trying to leave. When they catch them, he says, they often say that they will try again.
MBARKI (through translator): No matter how well you are trained and equipped, if you do not cure the economic and social causes of illegal
migration, then it will continue, for Tunisians and for other Africans. [end of translation]
MCKENZIE (on camera): So, we have met this group of Ivorian, they're coming through to this place, near the sea. Not only is it dangerous, this
perilous journey to Europe, but they're afraid while they're on Tunisian shores.
MCKENZIE (voiceover): They live a marginal existence, working for years just to save enough money to pay the smugglers, often as laborers and
Here in Tunisia, it is bad. We live illegally, says Deborah (ph), who wants to take her four-month-old daughter on a smugglers boat. When we get to
Europe, we will be illegal too, but the conditions are better, we have no liberty here.
MCKENZIE (on camera): Are you afraid of this trip?
MCKENZIE (voiceover): Often, I am afraid, but sometimes, I am not. Because when I see the problems that I am going through, she says, when I see a
future in our dreams, my fears vanish.
She says, Ukrainians are welcome because they are European.
MCKENZIE (on camera): The millions of Ukrainians are being led in by the European Union. Why aren't they letting more Africans into the European
RAMADAN BIN OMAR, TUNISIAN FORUM FOR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS (through translator): Political systems still look at humans based on their color,
gender, religion, and ethnicity, and don't look at them as people who are entitled to the same rights at the same level.
JABLOON (PH): These are the photos of my son, Ferdi (ph).
MCKENZIE (voiceover): Surrounded by her son's image, Samia (ph) says, at least one migrant on the smuggling boat made it to Italy. They told her
Ferdi (ph) he swam too. Then, like thousands before him, he vanished.
MCKENZIE (on camera): But do you still have hope that he is alive?
JABLOON (PH): Yes, of course. Yes, yes. I suffer. Every day I suffer. When I look at his photos, I hurt. I hope that God helps him. I hope --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Just devastating reality so many families there are facing. Our thanks to David for that report from Tunisia.
Well, next, the travel pandemonium continues to plague flyers this summer. One of the was most disrupted airports is London's Heathrow. Anna Stewart
braved a flight to one of its most popular destinations. She let us see how she fared.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER (voiceover): Long lines, delays, and cancellations. Travel in Europe has never felt so chaotic.
STEWART (on camera): One of the best ways to really show you the issues is to take you for a trip. We are going to go through one of the worst
disruptive airports in the world, and to one of the busiest holiday destinations. We're going to Ibiza, Spain.
STEWART (voiceover): And we were quickly confronted with challenge number one. We are too early. And we are not the only ones.
STEWART (on camera): What's the problem?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, on check in.
STEWART (voiceover): Once bag check-in opens, this is the queue.
STEWART (on camera): Now, my advice would normally be don't check in a bag this summer unless you really have to. But out of curiosity, we're going to
check one in any way. I'm actually going to put a GPS tracker in it, so we can see where it gets to.
STEWART (voiceover): Tracking the bag is a good idea, particularly through Heathrow. A shortage in baggage handlers has resulted in scenes like this.
Mountains of lost luggage. Bye-bye suitcase, hope to see you in Ibiza.
If the key for check-in looked bad, look at this.
STEWART (on camera): I have never seen a queue like this in security. I'm honestly worried that I'm going to miss my flight despite the fact I've
arrived three hours early. I wasn't allowed to check in a bag until two hours before the flight. But this queue has gone all the way from security,
it's sneaking all the way around and then, it's going all the way back down the airport's entranceway to the far corner.
STEWART (voiceover): I am fast tracked through. It's getting too close to departure. So, no time for a shop. I rushed to the gate only to find it is
delayed. But a couple of gates down, there is a flight delayed by a lot more. 14 hours. These girls and many others slept here at the airport.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My children are sleeping on the floor. He's feel cold. My children, yes. It's really bad. Me --
STEWART (on camera): I'm so sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I'm tired as well.
STEWART (on camera): This couple's flight woe started even earlier.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My flight started in Dublin two days ago, and my first flight got canceled. And then, I started my flight yesterday to London, the
second one. And now, this one got canceled also. And now, I am here, and I hope today I will leave the country.
STEWART (on camera): Are you ever traveling again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not to the U.K.
STEWART (voiceover): I made it onto the plane, it was now delayed. But that seems small fry compared to others. And amazingly, even my bag made
it. Of course, it could all go wrong when I go back home. Maybe I should just stay here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: There are worse places to go and be stuck than it be to Spain. And after that travel nightmare, I don't blame her.
Thank you so much for that report. And thank you so much for watching us. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media.
Goodbye from New York.