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Interview with "The Road Taken" Author Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Interview with Italian Ambassador to the U.K. Raffaele Trombetta; Interview with "The Storm is Here: An American Crucible" Author Luke Mogelson. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired September 27, 2022 - 13:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to "Amanpour". Here's what's coming up.

With six weeks to the U.S. midterms, a litany of challenges remains. Can Democrats legislate themselves back into the hearts of voters? I'm joined

by their most senior Senator Patrick Leahy.

Then, the far right rises to power in Italy for the first time since World War II. What a Giorgia Meloni future holds. With the outgoing Italian

ambassador to the U.K.

And --


LUKE MOGELSON, AUTHOR, "THE STORM IS HERE: AN AMERICAN CRUCIBLE": Victimhood is essential to their identity and their world view.


AMANPOUR: A look inside America's far right. Journalist Luke Mogelson talks to Hari Sreenivasan about the lingering anger that fuels them.

Welcome to the program everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

It's just six weeks until the midterm elections when often the sitting power gets a shellacking, in the memorable words of President Obama.

Democrats are bracing for a result that could cost them all or part of Congress and reduce President Biden's power. Despite successful legislation

this summer and a significant backlash against the Supreme Court slashing women's rights, the president's approval rating languishes just about 40

percent. And Republicans are tipped to take back the House.

But Democrats say that democracy itself is on the line. And as if to highlight that, the January 6th Committee hearings are scheduled to start

up again tomorrow. Similar rumblings are happening in Europe where Italy's far-right are headed for government after Sunday's election. So, tonight,

we face these headwinds. In a moment I'll speak to the outgoing veteran Italian diplomat and ambassador to the U.K.

But my first guest is the most senior U.S. senator and the longest-serving, Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont. He's retiring after 48 years in

Congress. And he's just published his memoir, "The Road Taken". Senator Leahy is joining me now from his office on Capitol Hill.

So, Senator Leahy, with that set-up, how do you feel about -- I mean, the headwinds that face your country, that, as we said, face Europe. Even in

places like, you know, Latin America for instance, Brazil, India. Democracy seems to be backsliding.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): I worry about that. I think you're absolutely right. I look at Italy, my grandparents immigrated to the United States

from -- maternal grandparents from Italy. And so, I still have a lot of relatives there and I talk with them often.

But I also worry about what's happening in our own country here in the United States. The people -- January 6th is an example. I delayed

publishing my book so I could write about January 6th in it. And that worries me greatly. I think the democracy that has sustained us in the

United States for centuries is now under a great deal of stress and danger.

AMANPOUR: Senator, do you ever think that you would see this kind of a backlash in your own country? Have you been able to get your head around --


AMANPOUR: -- why this is such a crisis right now?

LEAHY: No, and I really worry about it. Because -- I mean, I was sitting on the Senate floor when police officers rushed in carrying machine gun,

saying, we got to get out of here immediately. None of us knew what was happening at that point. And then we could hear the noise. You know, that's

inconceivable to be happening in the U.S. Capital.

And then you hear the explanations of people, who stormed the Capitol, why they were doing it. We got to change the government. We got a separate our

States, sort of like, let's end the civil war. It is frightening. We have gone through a crisis before in the United States, and I came here right

after the -- President Nixon stepped down.


And there were memories of President Kennedy's assassination. And I saw Republicans and Democrats working together to bring the country back

together. And then -- but then I see this. Everybody is so polarized. They're listening to whatever special interest groups are on the air at the


It is not the Senate I knew. It's not the Senate I want for my children and my grandchildren. And it's not the Senate we should see for the United

States of America.

AMANPOUR: Let the me ask you about what could happen in these upcoming midterms. So, candidates, apparently, who denied the outcome of the 2020

election, they're on the ballot in nearly every state. And in the states most likely to determine the outcome of the next presidential election in

2024, you know, the Big Lie supporters could throw the entire process into chaos. Do you think there are any guardrails now --

LEAHY: It could --

AMANPOUR: --yes, or do you agree with that?

LEAHY: I don't -- well, I agree with you. And I don't think there are sufficient guardrails, especially in the States where the people who denied

the election results even though Joe Biden had millions more votes than Donald Trump. These are people being put in charge of elections in some of

the key States. That is very frightening to me.

I, you know, I watched it from the Senate. I think the Senate has a chance of maintaining its majority, but it's a slim chance. And it's a chance only

if the elections are fair and a count is done in a fair way. There's a lot of States that want to make sure it's not done in a fair way.

AMANPOUR: I mean, you said there are a lot of people who denied the legitimacy of the elections. And I can just tell you the polls consistently

show that 70 percent of Republicans still say that Biden lost in 2020. You know, we've said that you're retiring. You've written your memoir. And you

mentioned that you entered at a point of maximum political crisis and you're leaving out a point of maximum political crisis. Why wasn't enough

done in those intervening years to protect America's democracy?

LEAHY: I think that not enough people understood why they are in government. It's not for their own personal anger advisement (ph). It's to

make the country work. I see too many members in the Senate, who wanted to make sure they get the latest soundbite out of it. Get the latest tweet out

and not remembering that they have a six-year term. They have been doing things coming together for the country. That's the way it used to be.

I don't say that out of nostalgia, I say it out of fear that we're moving away from that. That they aren't just check and balances. And when Joe

Biden gets five million more votes than Donald Trump and people deny the election. I don't know what they're reading or who they're listening to,

but they're certainly fooled by it. And you look at the people who felt they were doing Donald Trump's wishes, in the country's best by storming

the capitol. I think they're probably thinking about that now as they're sitting in their cells after being convicted of the crimes they committed

that day.

AMANPOUR: Just to get back to the Senate you used to know, and you say it's not the same Senate. One of the long serving Republican senators is

the Republican leader at the moment, Mitch McConnell. You know, around the impeachment, the second impeachment, what we're talking about now, he

called Donald Trump practically and morally responsible for the riots on Capitol Hill. And he also voted to acquit. In fact, everyone who voted to

acquit was Republican. So, what is -- what does that say about -- I don't know, getting anything done beyond just straight party lines?

LEAHY: It is frightening. And I presided over that second impeachment. It was the first time a senator had presided over the impeachment trial of a

president or a former president. And I know a number of Republicans who told me privately, we should vote against him but we don't dare because

it'll hurt us back home. For God's sake, it's a six-year term.

I mean, I've cast a lot of votes that they told me would end my time in the U.S. Senate. A number of times they told me that over the last 48 years.


Why be in the Senate if you feel you can -- you have to listen to a political group even though you disagree with them and then vote for them?

Why be in the Senate? And the fact that people are so motivated by a single-issue group, either the right or the left, that is harming the

Senate. Instead of having senators who can come together from both parties and figuring out what is the best for America, instead of what is the best

for my political group.

AMANPOUR: Senator, you said a moment ago, that you could foresee the Democrats hanging on to the majority in the Senate, but perhaps not in

Congress. As I said, others have tipped the Republicans to take back Congress. And already we're hearing, you know, the threats of another

internecine war, if that happens, impeachment against the president, all of those kinds of things. So, If the Republicans take back the House, what do

you envision for the next couple of years then?

LEAHY: Well, some of the potential leaders are people who will say anything that they think will get them attention at the moment, whether it

makes any sense or not. They propose -- their proposals are generalities. They never want to get into the particulars. Now, they've had -- in the

Senate, they've had the leader of the Senate campaign committee said, we should not make social security permanent. We should have to vote on it

every five years whether or not to continue it.

I'm hoping that people who are retiring now will actually listen to what he's saying. Certainly, they have, what they're saying about women's

rights. A woman's right to choose. A woman's rights generally. That should be very frightening. So, if you look beyond the cliches they're using to

rally people, you should be worried. And if people will do that, then the Democrats will retain the House. But I'm not sure that that message is

getting through.

A few weeks ago, I thought that the Senate would not stay in the Democrats majority. Now, I think there's a real possibility of it as the press is

showing more and more of what some of the outrageous things some of the candidates have said to get elected. I mean, including breaking up the

United States as a country.

AMANPOUR: Senator, for many, many decades, people look to the Supreme Court as an impartial arbiter of laws and justice in the United States.

It's an independent body. That really seems to be really on, also, the black slide given the six-three conservative, in some cases hardline

conservative majority there. And you just referred to a woman's right to choose, a woman's human rights and her civil rights.

Now, the Chief Justice, John Roberts, basically dismisses the criticism that the court is political. He says, people shouldn't question the court

just because they did disagree with the decisions. But, given the fact that I believe you now feel that the three justices that Trump appointed, didn't

tell the judiciary committee the truth, what is the way through this dilemma?

LEAHY: I knew, especially on some specific questions they weren't telling the truth. The federal society had groomed them to be there. Justice Alito

who wrote the Dobbs decision and made it very clear that he was speaking to these political partisan groups. And the Supreme Court is supposed to be

above politics. It hasn't been.

I think its image has been hurt. I remember this is the court that brought us together at a time of segregation in this country. I don't see that

happening now, not yet over the court that seemed to be trying to divide us. And that is going to hurt in the respect that we normally have for the

judiciary. I disagree with what they've done.

One of the Trump nominees flatly lied about what he had done. Before, he's there -- he had worked with somebody who had stolen files from the

Democrats and the Senate Judiciary Committee, and use them politically. That should disqualify him right there.

AMANPOUR: Who's that, senator? Who was that? Sorry to interrupt you. Who was that?


LEAHY: That was the nominee who had a woman accuse him --

AMANPOUR: Is that Brett Kavanaugh?

LEAHY: -- when he's -- when he was -- yes. And the administration stopped the background checks on. Wouldn't let the FBI go further. And a number of

senators, who normally give the president the benefit of the doubt, wouldn't vote for him because they knew that this had happened before. And

handling confidential things from the Senate Judiciary Committee and then did not tell the truth about it. And answers my questions.

AMANPOUR: Well, Senator, you have seen the whole gamut for the last 48 years. And your book is full of all those stories and nuggets. And we thank

you very much indeed for joining us tonight. Thank you.

So, democracy in peril in the United States. How about in Italy? Where this lady will almost certainly be the next prime minister. Her name is Giorgia

Meloni. And she will be the most right-wing leader since World War II. But her victory speech yesterday was an effort at unity. Take a listen.


GIOGIA MELONI, LEADER, BROTHERS OF ITALY (through translator): It's important to understand that if we're called to govern this nation, we will

do it for everyone. We will do it for every Italian. We will do it with the goal of uniting these people. To highlight what unites them rather than

what divides them. Because the major objective we've always given ourselves in life, and that we've given ourselves as a political force is to ensure

that Italians can once again be proud to be Italian.


AMANPOUR: Now, her party, the Brothers of Italy, has roots in Mussolini's fascist movement. But Meloni insists the party has evolved with the times.

So, what do Italians themselves think? We'll Barbie Nadeau checked in with Romans having their morning espressos.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (voiceover): The leader of Italy's center right coalition, Giogia Meloni, will now likely become the first female

prime minister of Italy. Despite low voter turnout, she was able to secure the majority together with far-right Lega leader Matteo Salvini and center-

right politicians Silvio Berlusconi.

As Italians woke up on Monday morning, they grappled with a new reality. It was clear that the result wasn't to everyone's taste.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not really happy with the action they want to take. I think the main problem of the -- of my generation and the next

generation, the environmental problem is not really a priority for them. We have a lot of problems now when, economic and social with the energy

crisis. So, let's see what they want to do. And I am not really that confident.

NADEAU (voiceover): Italy, like the rest of Europe, is in the midst of an energy crisis. Everyone is feeling the pinch. This coffee bar in central

Rome has been in Lorenzo Vanni's family since 1929.

LORENZO VANNI, VANNI CAFE OWNER: The biggest problem we have is the cost of the energy. Because we have an increase of five times more than before,

from 15, 000, now we have a bill of 54,000.

NADEAU (voiceover): Vanni wants a government that puts its people first.

VANNI: We have to see if they will find an agreement among the three -- the Berlusconi, Salvini, and Meloni to make things for Italy.

NADEAU (voiceover): Giorgia Meloni has become a symbol of hope for that change.

This woman tells me that even though Meloni has a very strong character, that could a intimidate some, she likes her, and she hopes that there could

be change.

We met Antonio Mosca (ph). He told us, it was other's weaknesses that led to Meloni's victory.

Brothers it's Italy were able to understand voters' discontent, he says. But he also tells me, in Italy we change our mind very often. We are a very

divided country. And very different from north to south. Today, Meloni has 24 percent. But that could be 10 percent in a couple of months.


Meloni's coalition won a clear mandate, not seen in Italy for decades. She campaigned on traditional family values against a regular immigration and

on giving dignity back to Italians.


AMANPOUR: Barbie Nadeau reporting there. So, with me now is Raffaele Trombetta. After four yars as Italian ambassador to the U.K., he's leaving

this job after a career of postings to Beijing, Brazil, and Brussels.

Welcome, Ambassador. Four or five years?


AMANPOUR: Nearly five. OK. So, you've had a long time to get used to this. So, how should we all be looking at what's just happening in Italy? I mean,

we all know that Italy was the birthplace of fascism. And her party's been accused of having roots in that.

TROMBETTA: I think this is a result of a very democratic process. You know, there were elections. The coalition. I know the -- Giorgia Meloni is

actually the leader of the men party. They got a very solid majority for the Italian people. So, I think, you know, we respect that. It's democracy


AMANPOUR: So, I know that you're a diplomat and not a politician. But I do need to try to figure out how we should all be looking at it. Whether we

should all be, you know, worried and scared as we were talking to Senator Leahy about the backsliding of democracy. Let me just play for you then the

words of an Italian politician, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.


MATTEO RENZI, FORMER PRIME MINISTER: That is not a danger for Italian democracy. She is my rival. I -- we -- I'm rival. We will continue to fight

each other. But the ideas are now, there is a risk of fascism in Italy, is absolutely a fake news.


AMANPOUR: Do you believe that, that it's fake news?

TROMBETTA: I do believe that. As I would say, I mean, it was -- you know, our people voted and they -- she was elected. Also -- I mean, she was of

course, you know, a party. Also, if you also considered the very statement that have been making before the election, they talk about (INAUDIBLE).

They have been very supportive of Italian government actions, you know, to support Ukraine. So, yes, I don't see any danger at all.

AMANPOUR: You must have been -- you know, I mean, you're watching your country's politics. We'll get to the fact that it lurches back and forth at

the drop of a hat. And we've had so many prime ministers in so few years. But how does -- and I've heard a lot of conversation and questioning around

this, how does a party like that -- it didn't just suddenly spring into popularity. These kind of right-wing roots in, you know, World War II

fascist movements, have become mainstream.

How did that happen? How did that happen in Italy? Because I know that there was an attempt to unify after World War II. It wasn't like Germany,

who called out the Nazis and called it out and just, you know, tried to eradicate that moment and come to terms with it. Italy did something

different. Can you explain that?

TROMBETTA: Well, I think if you look also at the elections over the years, it's always the 40, 45 percent of the Italian people, let's say, on the

conservative side. Now, they may switch sometimes from one party to the other. But the bulk is there.

And I think what Giorgia Meloni has done and their party in the last few years is basically to be convincing party for that sort of -- that side of

the Italian electorate, of the Italian people. They have been, to say, convincing. They have been very consistent also in their message, you know,

to the public.

So, I think rather than linking it to the fascists, I would actually connect that to the fact that, as I say, there's 40, 45 percent of the

Italian electorate with, of course, some swings from a lot -- actually the other who is generally conservative.

AMANPOUR: So, the other mystery is that -- I mean, the last time there was this kind of swing, it was actually the other way to the Five Star Party.

So, it is kind of strange that sometimes there's a huge swing to this anti- establishment party, and then there's a huge swing to another. What do you think motivate Italians? Is it a question of ideology or is it a question

of competence and leadership? I mean, Five Star just failed miserably, right? Would you agree?

TROMBETTA: Ideology is not any more the main component, in my opinion, of course. You know, of Italian politics and therefore why the Italian people

and how they vote. As for the Five Star movement, anyway, they got 15 percent, which is not such a bad result.

AMANPOUR: No, they got it but they failed.


TROMBETTA: They got -- yes, they've (INAUDIBLE) 33 percent but I think from their point of view, that was actually respectable result.

AMANPOUR: Sorry, you mean this time?

TROMBETTA: This time, yes, yes, yes.

AMANPOUR: Yes, I'm talking about their competence in government.

TROMBETTA: Oh, sorry. I'm sorry, sorry.


TROMBETTA: Well, I mean, they have been in government for all this time. And also, we're supporting even the last government or the current

government, Draghi. I mean, I wouldn't really say that they failed from this point of view.

AMANPOUR: Do you think Italy could turn into one of these gradual backsliders of democracy? I know you say it's a Democratic process that

brought election, but you know that happens all over the world. Elections, elect people, and then -- you know, as you saw in the United States with

President Trump, we've had a major backsliding. The same is happening in Brazil and in other places.

We've seen differing reactions to Giorgia Meloni's victory from different parts of Europe, for instance, very much embraced by the self-proclaimed

illiberal Democrats in Hungary. Very much questioned, and let's wait and see, in places like France. Do you think there could be -- should European

partners be concerned about a bit of a backsliding in Italy?

TROMBETTA: I don't think they should be concerned for a number of reasons. I mean, we are, as I was saying before, we are a full functioning

democracy. Now, democracy, as you know is made of different components. Of course, the government is one, or the main ones, but we have a present

republic, we have a constitutional court, we have a civil society, we have a magistrate. So, this is --

AMANPOUR: So, you mean checks and balances?

TROMBETTA: Checks and balances which would act, it would function in any democracy under any government. So, it's not simply because now there is a

new majority.

AMANPOUR: So, you know, others are questioning, and in the United States as well. I know that she said, this is Giorgia Meloni, has professed strong

backing for Ukraine and has criticize what Putin has done. But members of her own alliance have been quite friendly to Putin. Whether its Berlusconi,

Salvini, and others.

This is what the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said to me when I spoke to her at the United Nations just a few days ago. She

was talking about, you know, hopefully a new Italian government wouldn't, sort of, lower the ambitions of the EU, to stay united and stay full-

throated for Ukraine. Let's play what she said.


URSULA VON DER LEYEN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: As far as I listened to all the different -- who are aspiring to be an office, they've

understood that this is a question of democracy versus autocracy. And that we have to stick together and that unity is so important. I also know that

unity is important because to overcome all the problems that we have because of this war, for example, the skyrocketing energy crisis and the

impact on our economy, which we are willing to bear. They know that unity here is the only way forward to get out of this crisis and therefore let's

stick together.


AMANPOUR: So, do you predict that Italy will remain united with the EU in the amount of aid to Ukraine? Especially at a time when you're all facing -

- we're all facing an energy crisis and who knows what people might say, voters might say in the winter?

TROMBETTA: I do believe that also the new government -- first of all, I should say that we're talking about this new government. Of course, there

is a position to follow. And the prime minister would be appointed by the president. And so --

AMANPOUR: Which hasn't happened yet.

TROMBETTA: Which hasn't happened yet.

AMANPOUR: We say she's expecting --

TROMBETTA: It will happen in a few weeks.


TROMBETTA: And of course, we expect, that it might be Giorgia Meloni being appointed. But anyway, let's also respect this. I don't think there will be

any -- personally, I think -- I don't think there would be any problem or any change of that. She has said that on many times. And she would be -- we

would -- our government will be supportive of Ukraine as it has been the case so far. Really, I don't see any problem in that.

AMANPOUR: And she's taken quite a hard line on immigration. I think she's talked about a blockade of Africa and things like that. I spoke, now a

couple of years ago, to her current coalition partner Matteo Salvini, and this is what he told me about immigration. This was in 2019.


MATTEO SALVINI, LEADER, LEAGUE PARTY (through translator): Let me repeat this, a controlled migration is added value for everyone, whilst an illegal

migration leads to chaos, leads to many Italians abandoning these neighborhoods.


AMANPOUR: So, he's basically saying -- well, you heard what he said, and the possibility of blockades. But, others, are saying Italy needs a

workforce. You need immigration. How do you think that is going to be maintained? I mean, I think your country has one of the lowest birth rates

in the developed world?

TROMBETTA: Of course, you're talking about illegal migration. This is what, of course, has been --

AMANPOUR: Then there's refugees. There's --

TROMBETTA: Refugees, yes. But there's also illegal migration. So, I think what we've been will be looking for is how to better organize these people

coming, coming, coming to Italy. We don't want to -- we don't illegal migration. We don't want to encourage, you know, also all the trafficking

that is around these phenomena.

But, if there is need, to have workforce to come and help also, you know, our economy, of course, we will not close our borders. But fighting

illegal, fighting the crime that is supporting that is obviously a duty if any government.

AMANPOUR: You see women protesting around the world recently, most notably in Iran, in response to the death of a young woman who was called in by

Morality Police, at the U.N., all leaders profess solidarity with the women and the people of Iran. We're seeing what's happening in Russia, women are

joining the protest against the war in much larger numbers for obvious reasons because of the conscription.

Many in Italy -- and I think Giorgia Meloni herself touted herself as the first female leader of Italy, which is a great thing for women. However,

Italy has a really strange record when it comes to women's rights. And I wonder, you know, what she might do and do you expect her to do something?

For instance, well, we know -- well, it's called a traditionally patriarchal society, I don't know whether you'll agree, but four out of 10

women don't work, affordable public childcare is nonexistent in many areas. The deck seemed to be stacked, certainly professionally.

TROMBETTA: Well, first of all, I think it is such a positive thing if she is appointed, of course, prime minister. For the first time we have a woman

as a prime minister and then, since unification since 1861. So, all -- this fact itself can also encourage women, you know, to go forward. You know,

that -- also, they can reach the top job. So, I see that has -- obviously, has a very positive development.

Yes, we have to improve in this. I was the Sherpa in 2017 over the Italian G7 presidency, and have to say, one of the main topics we had there was

precisely how we can encourage -- in all of our societies, including the Italian one, women, you know, to -- especially for the stem (ph) job, you

know. This is a big challenge that we still have. Of course, there's work to be done there.

AMANPOUR: What about here? You're leaving after nearly five years and you've definitely seen the ups and downs of what's going on in the U.K.,

particularly in relation to Europe, even in relation to the United States, the new prime minister has all but admitted that there will not be a free

trade deal with the United States. Britain has not concluded a trade deal with the E.U. either.

Now, we see this -- I think they're calling kamikaze (ph) economics or trussonomics, pound doing a dive and it is creating a lot of, at the very

least, questions and anxiety. How do you sum up, from the point of view of an ambassador, what is going on here and the relationship, I guess, between

Britain and Europe, at least, that's your bailiwick?

TROMBETTA: Well, nearly five years very intense and very eventful, I have to say. Of course, also, this country, as many other countries, are going

through some changes, some fundamental changes in the fabrics of the country. And soi, I always believe that Brexit is not the cause, it's

actually the consequence of something that is already happening. So, we need to see where the country we land at the end of this period.

Brexit, of course, this was, you know, voted again. Was the outcome of a Democratic process. Personally, I don't think it was in the best interest

of the country. But we have worked to make sure that our bilateral (ph) relations, Italy and U.K. would not at all be, let's say, affected by the

U.K. leaving the E.U. On the contrary, trying to find new and old things where we can work together with them.

AMANPOUR: What does the -- does is the, you know, pressure on the pound, the possibility of raising interest rates? What is the current economic

wild west here? How does that affect Italy or other parts of Europe?


TROMBETTA: Well, it may affect, of course, different markets. And therefore, it can also affect Italy. I mean, we have relied very also much

on the C.T., on the financier in the U.K. So, of course, if that part of the economy here is going through difficult times, it may also affect us.

We have, anyway, a very good trade with the U.K. So, I don't think that will be hugely affected by what's happening. We export a lot to the U.K.

and we hope that we can continue doing so.

AMANPOUR: In our final 30 seconds, you're going back to the foreign ministry in your country. What is on the horizon that gives you the most


TROMBETTA: About myself?

AMANPOUR: Foreign policy and you, if you have to deal with it.

TROMBETTA: No, I think we have bigger challenges in front of us. Regardless, raising power, of course. The war in Ukraine is the most

important one, but not only, of course, the energy crisis that are -- you know, these are difficult times ahead. I think that the way we have tackled

it and managed so far has been the right one. And as I said before, I have no doubt that also the new government will continue on that path.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Trombetta, thank you so much for joining us.

TROMBETTA: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thanks. Now, back to the United States where public hearings about the January 6th attack on the Capitol are expected to resume

tomorrow. And our next guest has closely followed the social and political upheaval then and now. Journalist Luke Mogelson tells all in his new book,

"The storm is Here, An American Crucible." And he speaks to Hari Sreenivasan about what he's found.


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Luke Mogelson, thanks so much for joining us.

You are a war correspondent. You have seen some of the worst of humanity all over the planet, and you decide to come back to the United States and

report in a way that is fascinating in your book. The book is titled "The Storm is Here: An American Crucible." First, what's the storm?

LUKE MOGELSON, AUTHOR, "THE STORM IS HERE: AN AMERICAN CRUCIBLE": Well, the storm is a reference actually to some of the conspiracy theories that

are animating the groups that attacked the Capitol on January 6th and are now kind of mobilizing against the democratic process. But it is also, for

me, a reference to this idea that these movements are gathering towards a moment of truth that will bring about both the end of our democracy as we

know it and a situation in which they are able to retain power unchallenged going forward.

SREENIVASAN: So, when you started reporting on this book, what did you start with? Where did you start to look, to figure out where these forces

were amassing?

MOGELSON: Well, it was early on in the pandemic, in April of 2020, I started to see reports of armed anti-lockdown groups occupying state houses

and marching in the streets with assault weapons, flak jackets, in particular in Michigan, at the state house in Lansing on April 30th, there

was an event in which a group of armed militia members entered the rotunda and tried to access the legislature while lawmakers were holding a vote on

pandemic measures.

So, when I saw that, I was curious what was behind this really incredible demonstration of rage and I caught a flight to Michigan.

SREENIVASAN: So, when you started speaking to some of the people that had walked into that legislature in Michigan, and then, you start reporting in

several places around the country with several other groups, was there a through line, an organizing principle, and who did you speak with?

MOGELSON: Sure. At the time, I didn't know that it was leading anywhere other than, you know, more protests against COVID-19 policies. But

actually, after George Floyd was killed in May, I traveled to Minneapolis to cover the protest and riots there. And when I returned, I was surprised

to discover that these same groups that had previously been preoccupied with public health policies were now talking about backing the blue, the

thin blue line, and really positioning themselves in opposition to leftist Black Lives Matter activists and others who were protesting against police

abuses and systemic criticism.

So, that was my first kind of clue that this anger that they had been expressing since the spring was highly mutable and nebulous and kind of

able to be directed by their leaders to other grievances and targets. And obviously, after the election that they began mobilizing against the

electoral process.


SREENIVASAN: So, connect those dots for me. It's interesting that you mention essentially that their disaffection was changeable and something

that leaders sought to manipulate. So, you're almost drawing a line here between the people who were against the mask mandates, against kind of the

reevaluation of race in America after George Floyd, and then, really the same folks fired up about protecting Donald Trump.

MOGELSON: Yes. Well, in some cases, it was literally the same folks. So, on January six, when I was amid the mob attacking the capitol, I recognized

some of the exact same individuals that I had met in Michigan back in April at anti-lockdown events and then, later, at back the back the blue events

who are now attacking law enforcement officers in D.C.

And, you know, the core of this movement is really a sense of dispossession, a feeling that something rightfully belonging to them has

been taken away, and that's why one of their most frequently recurring chants when they are in the streets is, take it back. I mean, it's the same

thing they were chanting, you know, in the halls of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

But what the it is, again, is very nebulous and can be supplanted with one thing or another, depending on what the political leaders and pundits

decide is the most convenient for them at the time.

SREENIVASAN: What's it about these groups that helps them feel like the victim here? I mean, they identify with Rosa Parks on the bus.

MOGELSON: Yes. Well, victimhood is essential to their identity and their worldview, and it is really the emotional experience, I think, that

animates them and pushes them to take extreme action, and it's a real experience. I don't think that they are faking it or cynically describing

themselves as victims in order to rationalize, you know, attacking the capitol, for example. I think that they really feel like victims.

The fact that they are not means that they have to invent or accept fabricated adversaries and antagonists to rationalize that emotional

experience of victimhood, and that's where the conspiracy theorists come in, it's where purveyors of propaganda can come in, it's where politicians

like Trump come in because they're constantly providing these phantom menaces in order for their followers to feel constantly under threat.

SREENIVASAN: You met Adam Fox, and he was one of the men convicted last month of a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan, Governor Gretchen

Whitmer, in the spring of 2020. What was he like? And how is a typical of the other members in this kind of anti-lockdown pro militia movement that

you chronicle?

MOGELSON: So, I encountered Adam Fox at a rally in Lansing outside the state capitol on June 18th. And this was the first rally that the anti-

lockdown groups had held since George Floyd's murder. And they held it on the eve of Juneteenth when African-Americans celebrate abolition of

slavery. And they held it in a square or on a lawn where local black activists were meeting every night to march peacefully through downtown.

So, it was clearly organized as a provocation and kind of engineered to create conflict with these George Floyd protesters. Adam Fox was there, as

were many other militias. And importantly, it wasn't an anti-lockdown rally.


So, even though these were all anti-lockdown groups, this particular protest was explicitly to support the militia, which means support armed

mobilization against the government. And people were encouraged to bring weapons and flags, American flags, and other people had back the blue flags

than blue lines flags.

So, a few minutes after this event began on the steps of the capitol, the group of local activists showed up and they walked into the middle of the

militia members and they laid down, face down, kind of reenacting George Floyd's final minutes, with their hands behind their backs and faces down

against the pavement. And this infuriated the white militia members who started screaming insults at them, using derogatory language.

And at one point, the leader of these local black activists stood up, his name was Paul Birdsong, and he calmly asked the militia members, you know,

not to insult them in their hometown. Because another important point is that all of these right-wing activists were from out of town. They are from

rural counties and other parts of Michigan, where as Paul Birdsong and his followers were all from Lansing.

So, as Paul Birdsong was explaining this, you know, telling them that it wasn't right for them to come to his hometown and screamed insults at him

and his colleagues, Adam Fox, who was wearing a flak jacket and carrying an assault rifle and had a radio piece in his ear walked right up to Paul

Birdsong and said that, you're -- told him, I can look at you and tell you're weak effing man.

And it was just this kind of weird and awkward moment in which Fox was clearly provoked and agitated by Paul Birdsong's presence. And also, I

think just by his equanimity. I remember thinking like, who is this guy and, you know, why is he trying to instigate this conflict?

SREENIVASAN: You also point out that there is this kind of historical nostalgia that runs through so many of these different groups and there's a

moment where one of them has kind of challenged with the history of this group and its complicity in American slavery. Tell us about that.

MOGELSON: Well, that was also with Paul Birdsong that same day. You had -- one of the leaders of this militia rally, whose name was Jason Poland (ph),

he confronted Birdsong and asked him, you know, why he should be made to feel guilty about slavery or the history of racism in the United States

because he himself was not racist and all of that was in the past and why can't we move forward? You know, a typical kind of argument from certain

right-wing white Americans.

And it struck me as somewhat hypocritical because Poland (ph) and his followers and this movement are constantly referring to the past. They have

colonial flags. They identify as three percenters, which is a reference to the supposedly 3 percent of colonists who fought the British. They have

Betsy Ross flags. They -- their most common battle cry is 1776, which you saw a lot at the capitol as well. So -- and they -- their purported project

is to make America great again. You know, it's again as a reference to this mythical past, I think, when America was more Christians and more white.


And by the way, Polands (ph) interestingly, I saw him a couple more times throughout 2020, once in Detroit at the Convention Center where absentee

ballots were being counted and where the day after the election, a mob of Republicans descended and banged on the windows and yelled at the

predominantly black election workers, demanding to be let in. He was there for that. And then, I saw him on January 6th in the mob, as it was,

attacking police officers on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

SREENIVASAN: Help me understand this discrepancy and contrast and hypocrisy. How is it that on the one hand they can consider blue lives

matter support the police, and on the other hand, they can feel like these same officers or Nazis, they are the henchmen of a state that is trying to

oppress them, right? I mean, like -- and, yes, as you described and as you witnessed, the very people that we're trying to stand up for police and law

enforcement after George Floyd were attacking the Capitol Police on January 6th?

MOGELSON: Right. Well, it's clearly an alliance of convenience, because some of those people were attacking law enforcement even before George

Floyd was killed and then pivoted in reaction to the uprising for racial justice and police accountability, to supporting law enforcement. So, even

then it was clear to me that their support was disingenuous.

But I think, you know, more broadly speaking, most white Christian conservatives in the U.S. have traditionally seen law enforcement as the

protectors of a system and the status quo that is favorable to their interests. That's changing now. Now, more and more conservatives are coming

around to share the radical right view of that system, which is as a corrupt, you know, deep state-run nest of liberal elitism that is

conspiring to prevent their leader and representative Donald Trump from being empowered.

So, as that shift begins to take place, not just against law enforcement, but against government and the state and the -- our institutions, I think

you are going to see more and more Republicans changing their attitude towards police officers because they are the representatives of that system

in those institutions.

SREENIVASAN: Luke Mogelson, thanks so much for joining us. The book is called "The Storm is Here: An American Crucible."

MOGELSON: Thanks so much for having me.


AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, a bold NASA mission that's right out of the Hollywood script. The agency has deliberately crashed a spacecraft into

an asteroid for the very first time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. Oh wow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Awaiting visual confirmation.



AMANPOUR: So, mission accomplished. Cheers filled the room as the spacecraft blasted into the asteroid. The goal, testing ways waste to

deflect space rocks that could threaten us on planet earth. Stay tuned for NASA's verdict on whether this mission was in fact a success.

That's it for now. And if you ever missed our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. On your screen now is a QR

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Remember, you can also catch us online as well, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thank you and goodbye from London.