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Interview With Russian Permanent Representative To The European Union Vladimir Chizhov; Interview With Kenyan President-Elect William Ruto; Interview With The Atlantic Staff Writer Caitlin Dickerson. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 07, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello everyone and welcome to "Amanpour". Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAFAEL GROSSI, IAEA DIRECTOR GENERAL: What we need desperately is to protect these nuclear power plants because it's been shelled.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief calls for a safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe's largest. I asked Russia's ambassador to
the E.U. where Moscow will agree. Then --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM RUTO, KENYAN PRESIDENT-ELECT: I have one direction, that is what is important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: After a closely contested election, democracy wins in Kenya, a key western ally. We hear from President-elect William Ruto about
maintaining stability in his crisis-torn corner of the world. Also --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAITLIN DICKERSON, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: There's a very large number of children who still have not been officially reunited with the parents
that they were separated from.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A dark chapter in U.S. history that's still playing out today. Investigative Journalist Caitlin Dickerson on the secret and cruel history
of family separation under Donald Trump. And finally --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUNA, INDIE POP BAND: If you want to go out dancing, I know a place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The joyful sound of Muna. Meet indie pop's next big thing.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The emergency around Ukraine's largest nuclear plant intensifies. And Kyiv is now saying that it considering shutting down the Zaporizhzhia complex
itself. IAEA director general Rafael Grossi tells me that those endangering the plant are playing with fire. And he told us on this program that a
safety zone needs to be immediately established around it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAFAEL GROSSI, IAEA DIRECTOR GENERAL: At the moment, what is urgently needed now, today, is that we agree on establishing a protection, if you
want. A shield. A bubble around the perimeter of the facility. This is not something which is impossible to do. Not at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Ukraine blames Russia for shelling at the plant and for using it as a military shield. And Russia blames Ukraine. But will Moscow agree to a
safety zone? We put that to my first guest tonight, Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov, who's Russia's envoy to the E.U. And while western intelligence
reports that Russia is facing, "A severe troops shortage in Ukraine", Vladimir Putin insists the war is only making his country starter stronger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I'm sure that we have not lost anything and will not lose anything over actions in Ukraine.
When it comes to the gains, I consider the main gain is the strengthening of our sovereignty. That is the inevitable result of what is going on right
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And with that, Ambassador Chizhov, welcome back to the program for this exclusive interview. So, you heard what Rafael Grassi of the IAEA
said. I want to ask you whether, in fact, Russia would agree with that. To have a bubble. He brought down the first demand for, you know, suggestion
for a demilitarized zone. Calls for something humbler, more practical, but very necessary.
VLADIMIR CHIZHOV, RUSSIAN PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Well, what is needed to help the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station safe
and secure is for the Ukrainian forces to stop shelling the area. And actually, buildings and other elements of the compound of the nuclear power
station. And that will ensure safety for this largest, not only in Ukraine, but the largest in Europe nuclear power station.
AMANPOUR: So, look, as you just heard, and probably you know better than I do, the Ukrainians are considering shutting it down because of the danger.
And we can't really get into this blame game, you say this, they say that. We know from the IAEA, who are independent, and the experience experts
there that there is Russian military presence inside there. Including troops, including gear, including all of that stuff. Again, this is what
Rafael Grossi told me about the idea of a protective bubble.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GROSSI: I think it would be, Christiane, very difficult to explain to the world that we do not agree to a measure like this. I cannot conceive that
any country would include in its menu, if I can use this word, of military options the shelling of a nuclear power plant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, again, you know, there you are. The -- you know, longtime envoy for your country to Europe. This is a big European issue. We've seen
what's happened before with Chernobyl. We know what a risk it could be. Doesn't it make sense? And as Rafael Grossi, the independent nuclear
watchdog suggests, it doesn't make sense for any sensible nation, including Russia, to say no to a measure like this.
CHIZHOV: Well, of course. And I fully share the concern that Mr. Grossi has just outlined. Of course, we'll have to wait and see his final and formal
report for the IAEA. But in the meantime, of course, and I can assure you that the presence of Russian specialized military forces in the -- at the
site of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station is the best guarantee of its safety and security.
AMANPOUR: Well --
CHIZHOV: There is agreement, of course, with the IAEA that a number -- well, initially two experts of that independent agency will stay on at the
site to provide independent monitoring of the situation. But again, the important thing is for the Ukrainian side to stop shelling the site. And
abandon attempts to take it by force, which it has been doing in the last few days and weeks.
AMANPOUR: Well, the important thing, surely, and you would know this better than me, is for both sides to agree to take it out of a danger zone. But
you don't seem to want to say what your country would do.
So, let me as you something else that is very, very important as well. And that is this notion of cutting off gas to Europe. So, on Monday, the
Kremlin said that Russia's gas supplies to Europe, you know, via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline won't resume. And let me, "Until the collective west
lifts sanctions against Moscow."
So, that was Dmitry Peskov who's been on this program before and who, obviously, is President Putin's right-hand man. And it comes the closest to
saying -- kind of, clarifying what the Kremlin means. Because before they blamed the shutdown on sanctions that hindered repairs. But he seems to be
saying, no, it's dependent on lifting all sanctions. Can you clarify for us what your government is saying?
CHIZHOV: Well, of course, it would be best for you to ask Mr. Peskov to clarify his own words. But as far as I understand what was said, reading it
carefully as I always do, he actually meant that the sanctions policy -- and when he referred to the collective west, also indicates that it's not
only the European Union. Because in this, I would say, bizarre situation with that -- with those (INAUDIBLE) turbines, it's also the United Kingdom
and Canada involved. For some reason, the technological process linked Germany, U.K., and Canada.
So, the idea is, of course, to have those sanctions that hinder the proper maintenance and repair of those turbines be lifted.
CHIZHOV: So, the process could go on and the Nord Stream 1 could resume.
AMANPOUR: All right. So, you kind of clarified. And what you are saying, kind of -- well, you've clarified. So, I'm going to say the E.U. ambassador
says that actually, it's those specific sanctions and not all the sanctions.
Let me ask you another question, your president, and we aired some of his comments today at that Vladivostok conference. He basically said that
Ukraine has lost nothing -- sorry, that Russia has lost nothing in Ukraine during this war. So, I just want you to ponder that. And I need to
understand how he can possibly say that. Because at the very least, Russia has lost, according to your own estimates, a lot of personnel, casualties.
According to the west, some 75,000 casualties. And the Brit's intelligence says 30,000 of those are dead soldiers. How can your country say it's lost
nothing in Ukraine?
CHIZHOV: Well, again, you can ask the president or his spokesman for full clarification. But reading the statement carefully, I saw that -- actually,
the discussion was about the gain or loss of positions. Not of personnel. And nothing -- actually, what the president meant that Russia had lost
nothing as a state. Meaning that its positions have not dwindled.
Let me say that in order to understand the real situation there, one has to keep in mind that the war -- the hostilities did not start on the 24th of
February. They started in 2014. So, Russia's special military operation is not to start a conflict. It's to put an end to that conflict which had been
going on in Donbas for eight years.
AMANPOUR: OK. Ambassador Chizhov, look, I know you always say that. We know, the whole world can see it. And the majority of the U.N. nations have
said it's Russia that started this war with its invasion. That is something that the world has come to a consensus on. So, we're not going to revisit
I guess the question though really is, you know, we also hear reports from intelligence that Russia is, you know, finding some significant weapons
shortages. It's buying weapons from North Korea, of all places. It's not actually the most modern weaponry there, I don't think, but nonetheless.
And I guess I want to ask you and you're going to be leaving your post soon to go back to take up a political election in your own country.
What do you see as the endgame for your country? Do you see any off-ramp? Do you see your president able to declare any kind of victory or end to
this or any place where you can say, OK, now is the time to negotiate around the table?
CHIZHOV: Well, I will certainly not speculate on this North Korean story that has been invented by western media. As far as the endgame is
concerned, I think it's quite simple. And President Putin has outlined it in very simple and quite understandable terms. The special military
operation proceeding toward its goals -- the goals that had been outlined by him back in February.
Eliminating any threat to national security of the Russian Federation coming from Ukraine. And in order to achieve that, demilitarizing and
denazifying the whole of Ukraine, and of course, protecting the lives and the dignity of people inhabiting Donbas.
AMANPOUR: All right. Mr. Ambassador, first of all, the American media and the western media does not invent stuff. It reports stuff. So, we don't
invent stuff. I just want to -- just to say that, frankly.
And secondly, I want to ask you this, you know, you told me on this program, you told others, you know, a few weeks before the war that there
was no way Russia was going to invade. That the west was hysterical. That these intelligence reports were just nonsensical. And that the media was
making it all up.
Well, you know, then it did. And I guess I want to know, were you bluffing? Did you not know? And how do you look back and reflect on 17 years trying
to build bridges between your country and the west, Europe?
CHIZHOV: Well, whenever I make a public statement, I, of course, base myself on the amount of information that I possess at that particular
moment. The situation was in and around Ukraine developing quite rapidly. Let me refer to one particular instant that perhaps served as, sort of, a
mental benchmark. And that was February 19, that is two days before Russia recognized the independence of the two Donbas republics.
And five days before the start of the special military operation. In Munich, there was a conference, well-known one, where President Zelenskyy
of Ukraine appeared saying that --
AMANPOUR: Mr. Ambassador, I'm running out of time. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I just can't have this full question. I wish I could but I don't
have a time. I'm going to have to --
CHIZHOV: Well let me --
AMANPOUR: -- come back to you.
CHIZHOV: Let me use the five seconds left.
AMANPOUR: Five seconds.
CHIZHOV: Zelenskyy said that Ukraine needed to have nuclear weapons. And everybody at the conference applauded that. That is a clear --
AMANPOUR: I was at that conference. What Zelenskyy said is that they gave up their nuclear weapons, and they still have this. So, it was a warning. I
will get back to you for more on this. But I'm not getting very far tonight. Ambassador Chizhov, thank you for joining us.
Now, the war's effects are rippling far and wide. East Africa is feeling the pain of dramatically reduced grain shipments from Ukraine due to
Russia's blockade of its seaport. It's also facing the worst drought in four decades.
In Kenya, the region's economic powerhouse, these issues set the stage for a contentious election season. One of bitter rivalries and the challenge
results. But a winner has emerged and peacefully. This week, the Kenyan Supreme Court unanimously upheld William Ruto's close victory. And in an
exclusive interview, the president-elect spoke to me from his Nairobi residence. Touting his pride in Kenya's maturing democratic processes amid
all the challenges ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: President-elect Ruto welcome to the program.
WILLIAM RUTO, KENYAN PRESIDENT-ELECT: Thank you very much, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Now, in a few days, you're going to be inaugurated and you will take office. It's been a pretty bitter, divisive, and in fact contested
campaign and result. It did go down to the Supreme Court. And you've not been congratulated for everybody abiding by the Supreme Court decision. And
because there was no violence.
How do you take that? The fact that Kenya has become so known for violence around presidential elections. That this is somewhat of a pleasant
RUTO: I think it speaks to the heart of the maturity of the democracy of our country. No citizen, no leader wants their country to be famous for
violence. And as the people of Kenya, we have raised the standard, I think in our continent. And we have raised the standard even for ourselves that
we can go to an election. We can decide who our leaders are. And the next day, we can go back to work.
That is the standard we have raised for ourselves as the people of Kenya. I am very proud of it. And many, many, if not all Kenyans are very proud of
it. And what happened in the past was asleep. And we have gained our balance. And I am very confident, going into the future, the next election
will be better than the one we had this year.
AMANPOUR: So, again, it's very good to hear you say that because the last one in which you said there were challenges and mishaps, and you called it
a slip what happened in 2007, 2008. You know, more than 1,000 people were killed. So, it was a pretty big disaster.
But still, your election is very, very narrow, the margin of victory. And you're going to, presumably, like all newly elected leaders, want to try to
unify the country. Is that possible? And how do you plan to do it?
RUTO: Well, part of the challenge of leadership is reaching out across the aisle and building alliances and building networks that would help bring
the country together. I have already reached out to my competitor, the former prime minister. I am very confident that we are going to agree on a
mechanism that would allow those of us who will run the executive to do it in a manner that our competitors on the other side running the opposition
and providing oversight will do their work so that the people of Kenya can reap the benefits.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you this, Mr. President-Elect, you say that, you know, you've reached out, your opponent, the former prime minister, you
know, has congratulated you. But your own boss, the outgoing President Kenyatta, to whom you were deputy, supported your opponent. He didn't
support you during this campaign.
And as -- so far, we don't know whether he's actually congratulated you are not. Has he? President Kenyatta?
RUTO: You know, when I decided to support President Uhuru Kenyatta for 10 years, I did not give him conditions on him to support me. And he is an
adult. And he can choose and make decisions like all adults on who to choose. And I appreciate it when he decided to support somebody else. I did
not take offense. Although I had supported him in the past. I have won the election, that is what is important. And I don't want --
AMANPOUR: Did he congratulate you, that's what I want to know?
RUTO: Whether they supported me or not, unfortunately, President Kenyatta has not seen it fit to congratulate me. But I think that's fine. I mean,
maybe he's a bit disillusioned or maybe he's unhappy that I defeated his candidate. But that is the nature of politics.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Ruto, the perennially troubled Somalia, we've already heard that, you know, famine could be knocking at the door there. We know about
the terrible food insecurity that's been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. Russia's invasion and its refusal, up until now, to allow grain to be
dispersed where it should be.
What are your concerns, first and foremost, about Somalia? And then I'm going to ask you about whether you've received any grain shipments.
RUTO: Somalia is a -- is difficult not to crack. But we have confidence that the newly elected president in Somalia, who has worked with us before,
we are looking forward to working with him and with the International Community so that we can square out the challenges in Somalia. Make it
possible for Somalia to take care of its own security concerns.
And I agree with you, we have a serious challenge of -- I think brought about by climate change. And I was speaking to some of the leaders of
Northern Kenya this morning. And they have lost pretty -- 40 percent of livestock there.
So, that is an area we are going to work with the International Community. We are going to work with the leadership in Somalia. So that even as we
address the security challenges, we also deal with the humanitarian, especially the food situation in the Horn of Africa, in Northern Kenya, and
generally in our region.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Ruto, you also faced according to the International Meteorological Association, Kenya faces the worst drought in some 40 years.
And we know how terribly climate change is ravaging many, many parts of the world, including Africa.
But I also wanted to ask you to be on the record. You know, the African Union chief, when he came for a meeting with President Putin and asking
him, you know, about this grain insecurity, came out and basically was neutral on it. I mean, he took Putin's line that it was international
sanctions that were to blame. That it was everybody's fault except Russia, when we know perfectly well that that's not true. That no international
sanctions affect the delivery and the export of grain from either Russia or Ukraine.
What is your position on this? Are you clear about why you're having a problem in this regard?
RUTO: I do not think it helps any situation finger-pointing and blame game. I think we just need to sort out what we have to sort out. And we need to
do what we have to do. I would encourage that instead of the finger- pointing and blame game as to who is responsible for what. We should sort out, collectively as the International Community, the conflict in Ukraine
so that the -- whether it is that conflict or it is whatever else that is responsible for the shortage of grain, we put it behind us.
I would be a part of the leadership that will work with other partners in the International Community for the resolution of the conflict in Ukraine.
And so that we can get on with doing what we are doing because climate change is already a big enough problem. I do not think blame game would
help in that equation.
AMANPOUR: I want to talk to you about a specific, you know, human rights situation in parts of Africa, and including in your own country. You,
yourself, gained worldwide attention a few years ago when you said there was, "No room for homosexuality in Kenyan society." I want to know whether
you still stand by that.
RUTO: We have Kenyan law. We have Kenyan constitution. We have our tradition. We have our customs. We will continue to respect other people's
customs as they respect our customs and our tradition. I, very clear -- I am very clear that we respect everybody and what they believe in. But we
also have what we believe in. And expect to be respected for what we believe in.
AMANPOUR: So, before I asked you to flesh that out and what exactly does it means, I want to play you what President Kenyatta said to me about this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UHURU KENYATTA, KENYAN PRESIDENT: I will not engage in a subject that is of no -- it's -- it is not of any major importance to the people and the
Republic of Kenya. This is not an issue as you would want to put it of human rights. This is an issue of society. Of our own base as a culture, as
a people. Regardless of which community you come from, this is not acceptable. This is not agreeable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, he's basically saying homosexuality is not agreeable. You've just said that you have -- kind of, trying to thread the needle. That the
law says one thing but you respect everybody's rights. Will a Ruto administration crackdown, like many other leaders in Africa, on the
homosexual LGBTQ community or will you allow them their human rights and civil rights?
RUTO: I think, on that subject, President Kenyatta was spot on. We do not want to create a mountain out of a molehill. This is not a big issue for
the people of Kenya. When the people of -- when it becomes a big issue for the people of Kenya, the people of Kenya will make a choice.
As it is now, we are grappling with five million young people who do not have jobs, four million people who are hungry, and that is my concern. That
is the focus of the people of Kenya at the moment. When the issue you have discussed about homosexuality and their rights of LGBT will come, the
people of Kenya will make a choice and we will respect the choice of the people of Kenya. For now, Christiane Amanpour, let us focus on the real
issues that affect our people.
AMANPOUR: As you know, Mr. President, with respect, these are real issues that affect so many people around the world. But we will hold you to what
you said and we'll come back to you if the situation requires it which probably --
RUTO: No problem.
AMANPOUR: -- it will. But let me ask you this then, you mentioned the cost of living, the pain of the Kenyan people like so many others around the
world, there are so many reasons for it. You, yourself, come from a pretty hardscrabble rags to riches background. You called yourself and your road
to success like the hustler. What do you mean by that? Give me a little bit of your own background and what you think positions you and places you for
this particular job at this particular time.
RUTO: Like America, it was called the land of possibilities. Kenya, with my candidature and with winning this election, the child of every Kenyan can
know that they can live their dreams and actualize their dreams, irrespective of whatever background they come from. And we are elevating
Kenya to the next level. That ethnicity cannot be a barrier. Your social status cannot be a barrier. The religion you profess cannot be a barrier.
That's all that my candidature speaks to.
And when I ran for this office, there are many people who thought that you needed a name of recognition, a brand. A big family to come from. A big
community to come from. But with my candidature, the child of any Kenyan, small community, big community, irrespective of their social status can
actually journey to success and journey to the pinnacle of any success because it is possible. And the people of Kenya have made a decision that
any Kenyan can be the best they can as long as they work hard and they work at it.
AMANPOUR: William Ruto, president-elect, thank you so much for joining us from Nairobi.
RUTO: Thank you very much, Christiane, for giving me an opportunity to speak to your audience.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: And just an update, since that conversation yesterday, we heard from Ruto that President Kenyatta did have a conversation with him today.
But apparently still hasn't offered his congratulations.
Next, we turn to one of the darkest and cruelest chapters in recent American history. The Trump administration's forced family separation
policy. In a failed attempt to prevent illegal immigration, thousands of children were deliberately separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico
border. There was no method to trace any of them.
And four years later, hundreds of children have still not been reunited with their parents. Most of whom were deported. "The Atlantic's", Caitlin
Dickerson discovered the true horror of what actually happened and why. She tells Hari Sreenivasan about her report which was titled, "We Need to Take
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks.
Caitlin Dickerson, thanks much for joining us. First of all, it has been a little while. So, if you could, just refresh our audience on what the Zero
Tolerance Policy was from the administration and what it did.
CAITLIN DICKERSON, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Sure. So, Zero Tolerance is really the culmination of this idea called prevention by deterrence. It's
an approach to immigration enforcement that comes out of 9/11 and escalates in the form of consequences that are applied first toward people crossing
the border illegally to work. And then eventually toward asylum seekers.
So, Zero Tolerance was the Trump administration's official and publicly announced policy to separate families who cross the border so that the
adults could be prosecuted. But separations actually began a year earlier under the Trump administration which helps to kind of support this idea
that I document throughout my piece that, you know, the separations were in fact the goal.
And it was only after a year of separations that were carried out in secret that the administration decided to try to acknowledge publicly, yes, we are
doing this. And to pursue it even more aggressively than in the past.
SREENIVASAN: So, how long did it last? How many parents and children were impacted by this?
DICKERSON: One of the biggest problems that I discovered in reporting this story is that we still don't have a really good firm number on separations
that were carried out under the Trump administration because record-keeping was so poor.
But we do know that at least 4,000 families were separated under the Trump administration. More than 2,000 of them during that Zero Tolerance Policy
we just discussed. And then others that took place beforehand in pilot programs where this idea was tested out regionally first and in different
parts of the border. And then it expanded later. But also, in these administrative separations that took place against families who presented
themselves legally at ports of entry and requested asylum.
So, it's really this broad and sweeping phenomenon. You know, most of the separations took place under Zero Tolerance. But again, you know, we're
still really waiting for a full accounting, to some degree, to this day because the record-keeping the took place was so bad.
SREENIVASAN: So, let me ask maybe a basic question here. If the record- keeping was bad in the first place, are there still children in U.S. custody who are separated from their families because we don't know how to
put them back together?
DICKERSON: There's a very large number of children who have still not been officially reunited with the parents that they were separated from, more
than 700 of them to this day. So, what happened in those cases is that these children were in government custody. Government contractors
identified somebody in the United States who could sponsor these children. That might have been an extended relative, it might have been a family
friend, and it could have even been a long-term foster parent who took the child in.
That means that these children were released from federal custody. They're no longer in our government's care. But they still haven't been reunited
with their parents. And there are over 150 separated children whose parents, to this day, the U.S. government has not even located. So, again,
that just speaks to this poor record-keeping per planning. And how four years later, we're still dealing with the consequences of this policy in
SREENIVASAN: Your investigation was a year and a half long. It has thousands and thousands of documents that you've uncovered. Hundreds of
interviews that you've done. I guess, one of the things that I want to know is, what was the most startling to you? Because it wasn't, like, one person
who'd do any or all of this. There has to be a systemic failure.
DICKERSON: That's right. You know, I think that was one of the biggest takeaways from me is that, you know, when you heard these controversial
policies that the Trump administration introduced. You know, family separation being, probably, the pinnacle of them.
A lot of the blame immediately went to people like Stephen Miller, you know, well-known immigration hawk who had very aggressive views and was
public about them for many years. But this policy of separating families never could have come to be without the buy-in of, you know, dozens of
members of leadership in government and people holding a political positions.
And so, it was very striking to me how many of them in interviews said to me that they didn't think this was a good idea. They didn't believe in it.
But they didn't say so. And they really, still to this day, I think many of them don't fully understand, you know, the role that they played in helping
to allow this to come to fruition.
You know, they would walk out of meetings and say, you know, Stephen Miller, again, President Trump's chief immigration adviser was talking
about his outlandish ideas and just, sort of, rolling their eyes. And feeling like these ideas that were being discussed were bad.
But those opportunities to speak up. Those were opportunities to speak from their expertise. And say, you know, I don't think we should move forward
with this. And many of them stayed quiet because of this idea that you know, they really felt that if they were to show any kind of reservation
around, you know, an aggressive immigration policy, that it could really put their career in jeopardy. And so, as a result of that, a lot of people
stayed quiet and allowed this to happen.
SREENIVASAN: One of the core arguments that the Trump administration made was that the separation of children from families was an unfortunate
byproduct. What is your reporting reveal? Is that true?
DICKERSON: It's not true. And I found evidence, you know, before, during, and after Zero Tolerance showing that the goal of that policy was to
separate families as a deterrent. And starting with Tom Homan, who was the head of ICE under the Trump administration and who came up with the idea to
I mean, he spoke to me on the record in the story and he was very, very straightforward. You know, sort of acknowledging that other people have
been a little bit wriggly about what their actual goals were, you know. He says, I proposed it. He initially proposed it under the Obama
administration, and later under President Trump, who actually agreed to do it.
And he said, you know, no family wants to be separated. And so, he thought that that was necessary in order to try and to discourage migration to the
United States despite lots of evidence that I write about showing that that theory actually doesn't hold up.
And then some of those records that you asked about also reflect again during the policy as it's being carried out. And then after its culmination
and after its conclusion continue to show that, you know, people within the immigration enforcement apparatus believed really strongly in this idea of
separating families. Not just prosecuting families but actually taking children away from them.
SREENIVASAN: There's a piece of audio I want to play. And this was about an inside customs and Border Patrol facility. And you can hear children in it.
And this was obtained by ProPublica. Let's take a listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daddy. Daddy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mommy.
SREENIVASAN: How are these children separated from their families?
DICKERSON: It was really important for me to get a firsthand perspective on what the separation themselves look like. I thought that was really
important. And I've been hearing stories from parents and children for years that they were very chaotic. That they were sometimes even violent.
That they were very tearful, emotional, and dramatic. And met parents and children really weren't given any information at all about what was going
on and why this was happening.
You know, that was something that I brought over the years to government officials who said to me, no, these were down humanely. They were done
calmly. I tried to figure that out first by requesting documents, you know, training records. Any sort of information that, you know, told Border
Patrol agents how to carry out these separations humanely and could never get a hold of it.
And then I finally -- I was able to interview one of the only government officials who was actually present for the separations and has been willing
to talk about them on the record. Her name is Neris Gonzalez (ph) and she worked for the Salvadoran Consulate but was based in an American Border
She says that the separations were harrowing. That there was screaming. There was crying. That -- she watched, literally, as children were yanked
on one arm by a Border Patrol agent and the other arm by their parents. You know, the parents were screaming and crying. Begging for information and
were given none. She's still very much haunted. She says, by just the sound of those facilities and what she saw to this day.
SREENIVASAN: So, you had a chance to reach out to several of the officials who were in charge of ultimately executing this wish of the president at
the time. And what did they say now?
Are they regretful? Are they remorseful? I mean, it's hundreds of interviews. So, I'm sure it's not one answer. But who spoke to you?
DICKERSON: There was a real mix of perspectives today on family separations. You know, talk about someone like Tom Homan, who I mentioned,
who came up with this idea originally. I think he acknowledges that the planning was insufficient. And I would argue even nonexistent. And that the
policy was carried out very chaotically.
But I think to this day, it's clear that he still believes in this idea. And he was one of many who talked in interviews about how he felt the
family separation was effective or would have been effective if only it had been left in place longer. Really, kind of blaming the executive order
President Trump signed ending the practice for why, you know, it didn't, "Work". I heard a lot of that.
You know, these interviews were very emotional. And people were really, kind of, disturbed and distressed by the role that they played, even if
they weren't fully able to articulate or sort of grapple with, you know, their individual responsibility. You know, this -- the strong public
reaction to this policy, I think, makes people very nervous about the role that they played in it.
But there wasn't a whole lot of apology. And in fact, as I said, you know, many people who still feel that this was, you know, a good idea. That it
would have worked. And, you know, even when presented with data and with evidence showing that that just isn't true. Which is part of why, you know,
we talked in the story about how there are a lot of people who would like to see this really implemented today or under a future Trump administration
or any administration that will like it.
SREENIVASAN: And how possible is that? If President Trump or someone who even believes in this policy, takes office, can this happen again?
DICKERSON: It could. There's no law preventing family separations and no policy preventing family separation. You know, Trump administration could
re-implement them tomorrow. You know, if -- you know, they were in office. You know, there is a federal court case that called for the reunification
of separated families which is really the only reason why we've seen so many hundreds of those families brought together.
But even that case didn't really grapple with the sort of, baseline legality of this idea. Just, sort of, left that to the side because there
is no, you know, no law in place that says one way or the other whether this is OK. And it's striking because there was a time when there was
consensus in Congress, even among congressional Republicans. Kind of, at the height of distress over family separations were outlying them, that
seems to have disappeared. And the threat of them coming back is very real.
SREENIVASAN: You mentioned Stephen Miller and the president. Did you reach out to them for comment? Did they say anything?
DICKERSON: I did. I write in the story that I tried really hard to reach Stephen Miller throughout the reporting of this story. You know, he knew
about it for over a year. And, you know, he -- because he was somebody who believes so strongly in separating families.
And I wanted to ask him why that was. You know, why he pushed so hard for this to take place. And he refused to engage on the record for the story.
And so, I had to rely on, you know, perspectives of lots of his close friends and colleagues who helped me, kind of, understand.
You know, he's got this sort of, commitment to eliminating border crossings that seems to know no bounds. That seems to have no limitations. But I
think what's even more important to take away from this story is how he used it to convince people who didn't agree with him to go along with him.
You know, the pressure that he exerted despite the low level he had, actually, in the chain of command is really significant and worth
remembering. Because again, that sort of thing could happen again.
When these basic structures and basic systems that exist in government to prevent bad policies from being implemented are attacked and are minimized
and are undermined in the way that he did it, you know, this is what can result from that.
SREENIVASAN: You spoke to two DHS secretaries, John Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen. What did they have to say about some of that pressure that was
coming? About what their personal opinions were and what they tried to do.
DICKERSON: So, you know, John Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen talked about the overwhelming pressure from above them, again, which we've discussed and was
expected. But also, from below. Also, from the bureaucracy. People who really got on board with this idea to separate families. I think out of the
years of frustration over, you know, just feeling like the border crossings were increasing and, you know, there was no Congress really had left the
Border Patrol to figure it out on its own.
And so, both secretaries, Nielsen and Kelly, came up with different strategies to try to discourage the Trump administration from moving
But they did it in a way that was, sort of, measured. So, you know, they would talk about the logistical problems with the policy. They would talk
about the lack of resources that it would, likely, result in chaos and perhaps even losing track of parents and kids.
But, you know, I think that one of the problems there, they were right in saying that, you know, they felt that, you know, a moral argument wasn't
going to be compelling to someone like Stephen Miller or President Trump. But the problem is that today, people like Miller can say, well, I didn't
know that Kelly opposed in separating families. I thought he was just concerned about resources. So, I got them more resources.
So, these strategies that were employed, I think, to try to block family separations from happening but also to kind of protect their own careers,
ultimately just were not successful.
SREENIVASAN: What is the status of congressional investigations or -- I guess, any efforts to try to make this right? What is the Biden
administration tried to do? Where does that sit now?
DICKERSON: So, soon after taking office, President Biden signed an executive order forming a task force to try to continue reunifying as many
of the separated families as possible. And they've had success for reunifying several hundred of them.
We're leading up to the midterm elections and, you know, controversial topics like immigration are just really not -- they don't seem to be on the
table right now before Congress. But it is a bit surprising again given there was a time when there really was bipartisan support for this idea of
outlying the separation of families.
It's something that in general members of Congress when asked about it, will say they agree with. But they have not done anything to actually
prevent this from happening in the future despite that there are many people who work in immigration enforcement who still believe strongly in
SREENIVASAN: Has anyone that was involved with implementing this policy faced any consequences?
DICKERSON: Not significant consequences, to be honest with you. You know, not legal consequences. Not financial consequences. And not really career
You know, Matt Albence, he was a deputy at ICE who worked right under Tom Homan. And -- who sent emails trying to block families from being reunited
when he discovered that it was taking place in Border Patrol facilities. He's just starting a new job at one of the biggest private prison
contractors working with the Biden administration on immigration detention. He's an executive there. Still working in immigration enforcement despite,
you know, actively trying to prevent separated families from being brought back together.
Most of these officials, you know, Kevin McAleenan, who was the head of Customs and Border Protection which sits above the Border Patrol, you know,
runs a very successful company that continues to work in border issues today. These individuals continue to have influence over, you know,
immigration in the United States. And continue to be very successful in their careers.
There really has been a lack of accountability when I asked our current DHS Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas about this. He said that it really fell to
DOJ to hold the officials who were responsible for Zero Tolerance and family separations accountable. But the DOJ, under President Biden, has
been defending family separations in court, in cases brought by these separated families against these individuals and government.
SREENIVASAN: The piece is in "The Atlantic". It's 30,000 words long, but it is worth the read. You can find it at your new stand in the September issue
or online. Caitlin Dickerson, the article is called, "We Need to Take Away Children". Thanks so much for joining us.
DICKERSON: Thank you for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Incredibly troubling but important investigation. We're going now to CNN U.S.A. in Washington because at the White House, President Biden is
hosting the Obamas for the official unveiling of their White House portraits.