Return to Transcripts main page


Ethiopian Rebels Edge Closer to Addis Ababa, As Fears Grow Over All- Out War; Inside the Downfall of the NRA; Why Abraham Lincoln Tore up the U.S. Constitution. Did Not Air Live.

Aired November 05, 2022 - 13:00   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone and welcome to Amanpour. Here's what's coming up. Rebels say they are closing in on Ethiopia's

capital, how we got here and what could happen next. Then --

TIM MAK, AUTHOR, "MISFIRE": I obtained thousands of pages of secret depositions, internal NRA emails, private documents that let me paint a

picture of what really happened behind the scenes.

GOLODRYGA: Inside the downfall of the NRA. Reporter, Tim Mak tells me how the National Rifle Association misfired.

Also ahead.

NOAH FELDMAN, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: When Lincoln emancipated enslaved people in the Confederacy, he was acting against what he himself had said

was the constitutional rule.

GOLODRYGA: Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman tells Walter Isaacson why Abraham Lincoln tore up the U.S. Constitution.

And finally, a major milestone in the fight against COVID. The new pill that's protecting the most vulnerable.


GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour who will be back next week.

We begin in Ethiopia where after a year of conflict, rebel forces say they are closing in on the capital of city of Addis Ababa. This spiraling

violence has led to a humanitarian disaster in the country as Ethiopians face famine, mass displacement and a wave of atrocities.

Today, in Washington, D.C. nine different groups of rebels announced a new alliance, this is what they said they want to happen next.


MAHAMUD UGAS MUHUMED, SOMALI STATE RESISTANCE: The next step would be to reorganize ourselves and totally dismantle the existing government either

by force or by negotiation whatever they wish, and then settle transitional government.


GOLODRYGA: The world is calling for an end to the bloodshed and the U.S. Embassy is now advising Americans to leave the country as soon as possible.

It wasn't always this way. In fact, Ethiopia was the darling of the international community until recently, its prime minister winning the

Nobel Peace Prize just two years ago for his efforts to resolve border conflict with Eritrea. So how did we get here? Correspondent David McKenzie

explains in this report.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Through a year of bloody conflict, Ethiopia's crisis was centered mostly here, in Tigray, the far north,

that's changing fast.

Tigray Defense Force rebels shown in Dese this week, just 250 miles from Addis Ababa. They are threatening to move on the Capitol. And in an

unlikely alliance, they've joined up with the Oromo Liberation Army that has links to the country's largest ethnic group.

ABIY AHMED, ETHIOPIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translation): The enemy is digging a deep pit.

MCKENZIE: United against this man, Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed promised the conflict would be swift, always asking

citizens to take up arms to defend Addis, and the nation is in a state of emergency.

AHMED (through translation): This enemy we will fight with our bones and with our blood and we will rise. We will embarrass our enemies. Ethiopia,

we will raise our flag. Ethiopia will not be embarrassed.

MCKENZIE: But this conflict has embarrassed Abiy and threatens the very makeup of Ethiopia, a key U.S. ally in the region. The U.S. has sent a

senior diplomat to try and stave off a collapse.

NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We are gravely concerned by the escalating violence by the expansion of the fighting that we've seen in

northern Ethiopia and in regions throughout the country. We are concerned with a growing risk to the unity and the integrity of the Ethiopian states.

MCKENZIE: The conflict has been marked by allegations of awful human rights atrocities and indiscriminate killings, highlighted by CNN's reporting. And

the government is accused of withholding food aid to desperate Tigrayans facing famine, something they deny.

MICHELLE BACHELET, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: We have reasonable grounds to believe that during this period, all parties to the

Tigray conflict have committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law. Some of these may amount to war crimes and

crimes against humanity.

MCKENZIE: Abiy came into power promising to unite Ethiopians and renew national identity. He squeezed the Tigrayans out of political power, but

Ethiopia is a fragile collection of regions, often with their own ethnic loyalties and militias.


And Abiy's military strike on Tigray after their attempt to break away from federal control, set up this titanic struggle.

On Wednesday, the Capitol was calm, people going about their business, as usual. And Ethiopian government official blamed the international media for

an alarmist narrative. But the sight of these rebels calmly walking through a major city, far from Tigray, gives no doubt that Abiy is under threat.


GOLODRYGA: And David McKenzie joins us now from Johannesburg. And David, we heard in your reporting about the surprise alliances of the rival factions

now asking for transitional government in the interim, how likely is that? And how surprising in fact, is this alliance?

MCKENZIE: Bianna, this alliance is surprising. But right now it seems like the ethnic and regional groupings that make up what is often a tenuous

national identity and Ethiopia, in some cases are looking to push Abiy out. So you had the OLA and TDF, not natural bedfellows. It must be honest, in

this alliance, at least for now, saying they will threaten the Capitol, should Abiy not leave. So it's a military threat that they have admitted in

recent hours to CNN is not necessarily an immediate push on the Capitol. And the government has downplayed to us that there was any threat to Addis

Ababa at the moment. But it is that political and I have to say ethnic pressure the makeup of Ethiopia, which means that the political space that

Abiy has to maneuver might be diminishing.

GOLODRYGA: So if the media as the government is explaining, is exaggerating the threat that the TPLF forces pose on the government and the Capitol, why

is there this emergency decree then?

MCKENZIE: Well, there's that, is that dichotomy, they say and this is their point of view expressed to us in recent hours, that the reporting has been

alarmist. They say there's no immediate threat on the Capitol. I think two things can be true at the same time. It doesn't appear that there is an

immediate military threat on the capitol, but there is this threat and you saw the reaction very swiftly from the parliament to bring through the

state of emergency. What this means is that young Ethiopians can be conscripted to fight, the Prime Minister Abiy himself has called on people

to take up arms, giving a sense of urgency and crisis to the situation. And it is a crisis. What is at stake here is the makeup of Ethiopia itself,

which as I already said, is at times tenuous over the last few decades, and that is what everyone is hoping to avoid here and already bloody conflict

marked by horrible atrocities, descending into a full blown crisis and civil war.

GOLODRYGA: So we're hearing from the U.N. and from the U.S. officials, the Secretary of State Blinken issue statements and tweeting just today urging

for a calm down and ceasefire and for talks to resume. This is happening at the same time, as you have Abiy say we will bury the enemy with our blood

in our bones. It doesn't appear that that talks are anywhere close on the horizon.

MCKENZIE: I don't think talks on the horizon necessarily and actually put the question to the Attorney General of Ethiopian reengagement with the

press just a relatively short time ago, he said that the preconditions for talks at the minimum is for the TPLF, from the point of view of the

government to move out of those regions that they've moved into, out of Tigray and posing a military threat to Addis Ababa.

But they also stressed that they don't see themselves as equal partners to the TPLF. They say the federal government, this is a regional power that

they say threaten them. And that is what precipitated this conflict a year ago. So there's a lot, of course, a very bad blood between these two sides.

And this, the envoy from the Horn of Africa, for the U.S. is in the country to try and do just that, to try and get them to talk. But I think the first

step is to cool down the situation. And that's very much up for debate whether that will happen. Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: So David, can you finally just put this into a larger picture perspective for our global audience as to what this means for the region

and the growing instability that we're seeing not only in Ethiopia, but now obviously, in neighboring Sudan with the coup just two weeks ago?

MCKENZIE: This is hugely important for the region. Ethiopia is a powerhouse in the Horn of Africa, a longtime ally of the U.S. with a significant

military presence in the region, and also a very important diplomatic presence. This is the country which hosts the African Union and Addis

Ababa. It's home to a U.N. agencies and humanitarian agencies. It has been a longtime ally of Western powers.


And you've seen Prime Minister Abiy come into power, be getting the Nobel Prize for his peace arrangement with Eritrea after decades of hot and then

Cold War. But now this prospect of an ethnic conflict, spiraling fully out of control in Ethiopia, and it's worth stressing that all sides have been

accused of these horrible atrocities, the government itself and through CNN's reporting, accused of specific atrocities in terms of their actions

in Tigray. But this could go very badly in the coming weeks. The government says that they want to calm the situation down. But frankly, it doesn't

mesh necessarily with the rhetoric in recent days from the Prime Minister. Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, as the U.N. official said that these crimes could amount to war crimes as well, these atrocities. I know you'll be covering the

story for us in the days and weeks ahead. David McKenzie, thank you so much.

Well, let's dig into what we've just heard with Tsedale Lemma. She's an Ethiopian Journalist and the Founder of the added Standard Magazine. Thank

you so much for joining us. So can you help us clear what appears to be a bit confusing from the government? They're issuing statements saying that

the media is overhyping, the current situation, then we're also hearing that the TPLF forces are marching closer to the Capitol. So which one is


TSEDALE LEMMA, FOUNDER, THE ADDIS STANDARD: Well, that's a combination of several factors. While I do disagree with the assessment that the TPLF or

the Tigrayan defense forces in the Oromo Liberation Army alliance is approaching on the city, there are factors that have contributed to the

sense of hyperbole there, and the government itself is a party to that, not only the media.

And yes, the Tigrayan forces have been saying that they would not rule out walking into the streets of Addis if that is what it takes to break the

siege, that they say the government has laid on Tigray after the 28th of June when the government forces have left the Tigrayan capital in what the

Tigrayans described as a defeat for the federal government. But the federal government said it was a ceasefire.

So ever since then, there has been a siege on Tigrayan. Communication cut down, banks closed, transport blocked, humanitarian aid not able to trickle

there as it is warranted. So the Tigrayan forces are saying, if that's what it takes -- if marching into Addis is what it takes to break the siege, we

will do it. So that's one factor when they announced that.

And the other factor is the news that they have taken control of, key cities in Amhara state where they have been launching military offensive

after the second week of July. So the control of those key cities by the Tigrayan forces and the report about their control of it, I would not be

very mature because any communication is cut down there. So that has also contributed that sense of urgency that they are just a couple of 100

kilometers away from the capital city. So that is compounded yet again by the government declaration of a nationwide state of emergency.

And the Prime Minister's call of the Addis Ababa residents to take up any weapon they have and defend the city. So, you know, journalists have either

sort of a salt into this kind of hyperbole that was already in the air, contributing to this massive amount of tension that has been reflected

mostly online. People on the ground, some are, you know, trying to remain calm, and watch what's going to happen. But it has created a significant

amount of panic, and fear.

Luckily, that is subsiding now. The government is announcing and other journalists who could be able to walk around are saying there are no

approaching rebels as we speak. So things are getting calmer again. But far from being over.

GOLODRYGA: Is it fair to say that Abiy Ahmed himself is likely surprised to see how things have escalated and how the Tigrayan forces have been able to

regroup. I mean, when you talk about the fighting that once again resumed in the north, just last year, it appeared that the government along with

surprisingly, well, many would argue with the Eritrean forces, were able to calm things down and calm the forces down, the TPLF forces. And yet here we

are talking about them regrouping and gaining more weight?


LEMMA: Well, you know, it's very hard to say the Prime Minister being taken by a surprise. If he is being taken by surprise, by how things are

unfolding, that means there is genuinely a lack of true -- you know, true and appropriate intelligence receiving, you know, reaching the Prime

Minister's office from his military people. This war from the very beginning has been compounded by a lot of misinformation. But where it was

mostly debilitating, to my understanding, is the prevalence of misanalysis of the situation on the ground and how the war has morphed after the first

few months so to say, but the fight have taken a very completely different shape. And that was after the federal government has announced that

Mekelle, the capital city of the Tigrayan Regional State was under its control on the 28th of November already. That's just barely three weeks

after the -- what the government initially state, was the law enforcement operation was launched.

So the Prime Minister said, the operation was completed. But the conduct of the war itself the sheer brutality of the conduct of the Ethiopian national

defense forces, as it is now verified by the joint report, the Eritrean forces and the Amhara know, and also to a varying degree, as the joint

report said even though it's in the defense of the Tigrayan forces there.


LEMMA: The conduct of this war has changed the nature of the war in the Tigrayans have risen up against the Ethiopian state. So this analysis was

missing from the Ethiopian military analysis that the war was morphing into something larger than they thought it was. So all these time, there is a

misreading of the situation on the ground. So if the Prime Minister is taken by a surprise now, he truly must have been taking the wrong

intelligence of the ongoing so the ground.

GOLODRYGA: But I'm curious to dig deeper into your writing about, I guess his mentality and his approach to leadership because you wrote earlier this

year that the brutal war in Tigray is not an isolated case. And this represents Abiy's leadership style, this control, ruthlessly trying to

centralize power since he came back into power in 2018. How does that square with, A, him winning a Nobel Peace Prize and, B, what the daily

reality is like for Ethiopians today?

LEMMA: Well, you know, the two things are very separated. The Prime Minister has introduced the leadership style and which is very much in

favor of centralized power structure. Now, Ethiopia is a country for the last three decades that has exercised a semi-autonomous regional state

federalism system that we -- that the Constitution refers to as a multinational federalism whereby the regional states exercise to a certain

extent, a certain degree, some autonomy over what kind of a governing system that they follow. So the Prime Minister came into power and his

favorite mode of governing was more of a centralized system. And that was really flying in the face of that arrangement, that last political

settlement Ethiopia had 1991. So resistance was emerging already.

The Tigray Regional State is just, you know, the massive one or the one that's the most visible. This resistance has started already in Oromia

regional States, for example, the pushback for the Prime Minister -- against the Prime Minister. The Nobel Peace Prize was not given to him for

the kind of governing style that he was introducing, it was given to him for the wrong reason of the so-called peace process that he brought between

Ethiopia and Eritrea in breaking the 20 year stalemate of no peace and no war. But the thing was that is no one knows about that peace agreement.

For example, the Ethiopian parliament has never approved anything of that peace process. So Ethiopian people don't know anything about what is

included in that people. So the peace process has hinged between the two leaders in Asmara

And in Addis Ababa, which eventually, you know, then the Tigrayan authorities were against it from the very beginning because it did not

involve them as original state that's largely sharing the border with Eritrea, it really absolutely isolated them. So that peace award was given

to him for the so-called Peace with Eritrea, which ended up being not peace, but sort of an alliance against the Tigrayan forces. So these two

things are very much against, you know, in the center of the Prime Minister's, you know, tragic failure of putting in Ethiopia into the past

of a democratic transition as he was expected.


GOLODRYGA: Tsedale, and we just have our final few moments here. I'm just curious in his past three years in power, has he made life easier, better

for the Ethiopian people?

LEMMA: You know, it depends on who you are asking. The Prime Minister has a base, a sort of like now it's been refining itself as the blood and soil

nationalist basis. It has that fervent supporters that has that see life as nothing but very much comfortable zone to be in as compared to the EPRDF.

But then there are also people, for example, in Oromia Regional State where he comes from, where the war that we see in Tigray today has originally

came -- originated from in Oromia Regional State, life has not gotten any better. Thousands of young people are in prison as we speak. Young people

are being dragged out of the prison and being killed, executed for no reason and no investigation.

We have witnessed an execution of a young man in a day, broad daylight. This happened under the watch of the Prime Minister. Has life gotten better

for these people? I'll be very much hard pressed to say, yes. Life is also getting very much tough for independent journalists, like my colleagues or

any other people who want to criticize the Prime Minister. So it depends on who you are asking. He still has his base who are not really willing to

listen to any dissenting voices and critics of the Prime Minister. And then you have people who are living under constant fear, and in fact, under a

brutal war, under his watch.

GOLODRYGA: It is a brutal war and a fast moving conflict and we appreciate your time so much in helping explain where we are, where things stand now

and possibly where they could go in the future. Tsedale, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

And just to note that we continue to invite Ethiopian government officials to come on this program, and they have yet to do so.

Well, we turn out to the U.S. where for years, the National Rifle Association has been one of the country's most powerful advocacy groups.

But is their political power waning, they're on a downward spiral. And in deep financial trouble, the New York Attorney General's Office has filed a

lawsuit to dissolve the organization. The accusations, self-dealing and corruption. A new book Misfire by NPR's Investigative Reporter Tim Mak

presents this scathing expose and he joins me now from Washington.

Tim, welcome to the program. I'm fascinated and you choosing to cover the NRA in their rich history in the U.S., which I would imagine that many

viewers would be surprised to hear that this organization originated in the 19th Century as an organization that helped teach marksmanship to U.S.

soldiers. How did it go from that to this powerful right wing lobby that it is today?

TIM MAK, AUTHOR, "MISFIRE": Well, there have been a lot of pivot points over the years, one of which in the late 70s, when they moved away from

being more of a gun safety and hunting and outdoor, sports, type of organization, to a more politically active organization based on advocacy.

That's one of the big pivot points in the NRA's history.

Another big one was probably after the shootings at Sandy Hook. There have been a lot of changes with the NRA in recent years. But none more important

than what happened after that moment. Basically, the NRA made a strategic decision inside the organization that they were going to double down on

only reaching out to conservatives and Republicans after that, and kind of using the culture war as a broader way to raise money and increase their


GOLODRYGA: Did it work?

MAK: For some time it did. During the Obama years, the NRA was flush with cash and a lot of these reports and things related to corruption that we're

seeing now today, due to investigations and things like that, those happened during the Obama years when the NRA was able to sell to its

members, this idea that the Obama administration was going to come after their guns or restrict gun rights in some way. And that leads to what

really is probably the apex of the NRA's power.

The election of Donald Trump in 2016, the NRA spent more money supporting Donald Trump than even Trump's own super PAC during that election, more

than $30 million. In fact, when Donald Trump was really on the ropes and Republicans were screaming away from his campaign in the wake of the Access

Hollywood videos, actually the NRA increase their ad buy and support for the Donald Trump Organization.

Ironically, though, Trump's election leads to a dramatic decline in fundraising and interest from members. And that's after that during the

Trump administration is where a lot of this financial constriction comes about for the group. And where a lot of these troubles start to bubble up

for them.


GOLODRYGA: And that's when a lot of the focus really turns to the man at the top of the organization at the helm, Wayne LaPierre who had been CEO of

the NRA for 30 years. One would think and you do a lot of work digging deep into who this man is, and a lot of sources responded with a rather

surprising answer that instead of being this all powerful, gun loving leader, he -- you described as a clumsy, meek, spastic man with the weak

handshake who's a bit of a pushover and not really interested in guns, that doesn't square with somebody who's at the helm and running one of the most

powerful gun lobbies in the country and world?

MAK: Yeah, one of the big reasons I was so excited to get into an a big investigative report, and a book on the NRA was it's kind of a black box,

right? There's not a lot of reporting out there, or a lot of information about the personalities, about the conflicts and the factions inside the


Now, the book opens with this scene at Wayne LaPierre's wedding in the late 90s. And he doesn't want to get married. And so the time comes and goes for

when the ceremony is supposed to start, and he doesn't show up. And so he's outside. He's in the car with his best man who throws a $100 bill on the

dashboard and says, hey, I don't think you should get married today either. But Wayne LaPierre eventually gets tucked into it almost harangue into it

by his bride and the priest and he goes through with the ceremony. But it's just this incredibly awkward event, although it's attended by all sorts of

NRA luminaries. He makes it very weird. I mean, he does not make eye contact with his bride over the course of the ceremony. And there's a

reason I tell this anecdote. The anecdote really does explain why the NRA and Wayne LaPierre have gotten into such legal and financial trouble, that

over the years powerful people inside the NRA have realized that if you want something, whether it's millions of dollars and self-dealing contracts

or golden parachutes for former senior officials, that if you harangue Wayne LaPierre long enough, yell at him long enough, go after him long

enough, he's eventually going to assent to what you're demanding. And so many of the problems come inside the NRA, come from this flaw in weighing

LaPierre's character.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, a bit of a pushover, one could say and aside from that anecdote, which one, you know, obviously is not the most romantic wedding

story to hear, you tell more and talk more about the role that his wife plays throughout his leadership and what an impact, the significant role

she plays in some of these huge missteps taken by the organization.

MAK: That's right. Susan LaPierre is his wife. And though she doesn't have a formal paid job at the National Rifle Association. And she's just kind of

a volunteer. She's also a kind of a hidden hand in the power networks at the National Rifle Association. So she is really the leader of this elite

world of million dollar female donors to the NRA. And she is like so many people around Wayne LaPierre realized that she can get a ton of expenses

approved and a really lavish lifestyle approved and paid for by the National Rifle Association, if she can kind of push her husband around

enough and get her husband to approve those things. A lot of the troubles at the NRA right now rests at the feet of the LaPierres.

GOLODRYGA: And so how did all of this corruption and the drying up of funding lead ultimately to the 2020 investigation by the New York Attorney

General into the NRA?

MAK: So for years and years, the NRA lived large, whether it's Wayne or Susan LaPierre or other top NRA officials, they were enjoying using the NRA

to pay for millions of dollars in private jet travel, exotic vacations to the Bahamas and trips to Lake Como in Italy. We're talking about lavish

meals in D.C. and elsewhere, as well as six figures and Italians menswear for Wayne LaPierre on Rodeo Drive.

So as the time goes on, there are both internal whistleblowers that begin to emerge as the NRA faces a time of contraction. I mentioned earlier that

the Trump administration and the Trump era was particularly bad for the NRA. By 2018, the NRA was getting to a point where they almost could not

make payroll. It's a serious, serious problem for them at this point. And so as these internal whistleblowers emerge, and external investigators

begin to get into it, whether that's investigative reporters like myself, or congressional investigations, and the New York Attorney General. All of

this begins to snowball to the point where, as you mentioned at the beginning, the New York Attorney General, after its investigation filed a

lawsuit seeking to dissolve the NRA in its entirety, arguing that they had found more than $16 million of misallocated funds from the NRA, and that

the organization was so corrupt, from top to bottom, that it needed to be closed down entirely.


GOLODRYGA: Yeah. And you report that Wayne salary jumped from $200,000 in the mid-1990s to 2.2 million in 2018. And then in 2021 the unthinkable

happens, the NRA files for bankruptcy. How big of a shocker was that? And I do want you to address that you reached out to them. And you've tried to

get them to speak on the record. And that's for no response, correct?

MAK: That's right. I've reached out to the NRA, as well as Wayne LaPierre and Susan LaPierre in various ways, as well as providing them a list of

questions related to the books reporting, and asking them for comment and have not heard back on those issues. But I will say that this book is based

on over 120 interviews with people inside the NRA universe, as well as 1000s of pages of secret depositions, and internal NRA emails and private

documents where we really kind of pull back the curtain and give some life to the people and what happened behind the scenes of the group.

Now, you mentioned the bankruptcy. This was filed in the last year after the New York Attorney General launched its lawsuit, the NRA, which is --

which was originally founded in New York and under the jurisdiction of the New York Attorney General tried to file for bankruptcy in order to move to

Texas using the protections of bankruptcy law. Now, a bankruptcy judge said that this was not a filing in good faith and rejected it. So now the NRA is

back in court, confronting the New York Attorney General in this very dramatic, latest development.

GOLODRYGA: So what does the future hold for the organization?

MAK: You know, it's really interesting. There have been a lot of people inside the NRA who have wanted transparency and accountability. One name

that comes to mind is Oliver North was brought in, in 2018-2019 to act as the NRA president. There's this very climactic scene in the book, where

Oliver North who is trying to demand an internal audit of the NRA clashes with Wayne LaPierre in an Indianapolis hotel suite, and ultimately, Wayne

LaPierre pushes Oliver North, out of the presidency of the NRA.

What the NRA -- what becomes the NRA will really depend on how this ongoing litigation goes, you know, I mean, it's a serious possibility that the NRA

actually gets dissolved by the courts. It might not be the most likely outcome, but it is a seriously possible one. And so I'll be watching

closely to see where that New York Attorney General case proceeds.

GOLODRYGA: A fascinating dig into power, corruption and greed in this well researched book. Tim, thank you so much for joining us.

MAK: Thank you so much.

GOLODRYGA: Well, now we take a look at how one man shook the foundations of American democracy by tearing up the Constitution during a time of its

greatest threat. Harvard Law Professor and Bloomberg Columnist Noah Feldman is out with a new book, The Broken Constitution. It delves into President

Lincoln's thought process as he rewrote the rulebook and grappled with challenges from both political rivals and passionate abolitionists. Here he

is speaking with Walter Isaacson.

WALTER ISAACSON, CNN CEO AND CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Bianna, and Professor Noah Feldman. Welcome to the show.


ISAACSON: I love this book, it would really surprise me is how Abraham Lincoln so tore up the Constitution of the United States, when he gets

faced with the Civil War. Explain to me how he did that.

FELDMAN: You know, the South had seceded or a bunch of southern states that seceded as you know, and Lincoln first had to decide whether to go to war

to force them to stay in the union. And today, we think of that as obvious. But at the time, it was very far from it, the previous President James

Buchanan, and his attorney general had issued a formal decision of the U.S. government, saying that the government had no authority to force a state

that didn't want to be in the union to be in it. And that was the understood constitutional view at the time.

So first, you had to break the understanding of the Constitution that existed just to go to war. Then, within a couple of months, Lincoln

suspended the writ of habeas corpus, which means when you get arrested, you don't have the right to show up in court and have charges filed against

you. And then he used that subsequently, over the next several years, to shut down newspapers, and to silence and arrest critics who were against

the war all over the country, the most extreme suppression of free speech ever in our history. And that, too, was pretty much obviously

unconstitutional, because the suspension of habeas corpus, which is mentioned in the Constitution is restricted to Congress. It's not the

president's job.


And then last, and most famously, when Lincoln emancipated enslaved people in the Confederacy, he was acting against what he himself had said was the

constitutional rule, as recently as a year before that, when he first became president. In fact, in his first inaugural address, he began by

saying, slavery is permanent, slavery is permanent. It's constitutionally protected, and I have no plans to affect it.

ISAACSON: Is that why the first inaugural address is not carved on the walls of the Lincoln monument?

FELDMAN: Exactly. You know, you go in there, and you see the second inaugural address, which is a beautiful speech and the Gettysburg Address,

which we all know by heart, but no one mentioned is the first inaugural and that's exactly the reason, it shows you that at the beginning of the war,

Lincoln thought the goal was to reestablish the union. And the way to do that was convinced the south to come back voluntarily. And that he thought

required a guarantee that they would have slavery forever.

ISAACSON: This ability of Lincoln to sort of ignore the Constitution or in some cases, as you say, tear it up. Should we think more of him for that or

less of him for that?

FELDMAN: We should first of all see that he is a far more important figure in our history, even than we think. We know, we all know he was a great

president, and that he helped keep the Union together. But we don't always realize that the Constitution that we had, from the very beginning was a

compromise. And it was a compromise that entailed allowing slavery and in some fundamental way that was immoral.

And Lincoln when he broke that constitution, gave us the possibility of a new moral constitution, and that means he's way more important. That said,

you know, when you break something, you're taking incredibly high risks. And those who support Lincoln would say, well, it was justified because the

union was in trouble and the Constitution needed to be remade, and there's a lot to that. But it's also worth remembering that if a president tries to

break the Constitution, when we're not in a crisis of that scale, then that President becomes what Lincoln himself said he didn't want to be, namely a

dictator. And, you know, at some point, Lincoln changed his mind from saying I don't want to be a dictator, because only a dictator would free

the slaves to saying, OK, I am going to free slaves, and he still denied being a dictator, but in certain respects, he actually was.

ISAACSON: Up until the Civil War, you say the Constitution was not a great moral document. It was just a compromise that had to be put together. Do

you think that the original compromise of the Constitution -- that led to the Constitution has slavery and racism baked into it?

FELDMAN: This is a deep and important question. And the way I would put it is that the 1787 constitution did have slavery baked in, it guarantee --

GOLODRYGA: Some really interesting perspective there, and I kind of liked the idea of Abraham Lincoln being on Instagram. And finally, tonight more

good news in the fight against COVID-19, as President Biden announced in a speech on the economy earlier today.



JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: Last night, we receive promising news about another potent and potential COVID treatment, a pill, a pill developed by

Pfizer, that may dramatically reduce the risk of being hospitalized or dying when taken shortly after infection if you're infected. If authorized

by the FDA, we may soon have pills, and may treat the virus of those who become infected.


GOLODRYGA: The new Pfizer pill is actually the second one in the pipeline. On Thursday, Britain approved an anti-COVID-19 pill from Merck now also

seeking authorization for use in the United States. To fill us in on all these new developments. Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins

us now. And Elizabeth, this is big news, Pfizer actually stopping this trial because they were so pleased with the results.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Actually, Bianna, it was a team of monitors and independent team of monitors that watches the trial

to see how it's going. And it was this independent panel along with the FDA that said, you know what this is looking so good, we want to stop it so

that Pfizer has a chance to get ahead of the game. And or not -- or to do this as early as possible to go to the FDA and seek authorization.

And so let me show you the results that made this monitoring board want to stop the trial early. So, there were about 475 patients in this trial, all

of them had very early COVID, they were within their first three days of having symptoms, they gave half of them a placebo, which is a pill that

does nothing, it's just a sugar pill. And out of that group 27 over time were hospitalized, and seven died of COVID.

Now, when you look over here at the who received the pill, the only three people were hospitalized, and none of them died. So those are pretty

dramatic results. Obviously, those that's not everything. That's not all the details. That's what the FDA advisors and the FDA and the CDC is there

for. But those are the basics of what Pfizer found out hasn't been reviewed by anybody at this point. But that's what they're starting with, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: And who are the target patients for this pill?

COHEN: Right. The target patients in the clinical trial, were folks who are early on again, within three days of symptoms, and also folks at a high

risk of having complications from COVID. So in other words, if it was a young person who was only just a little bit sick, and chances are it would

be fine. That's not who was in this trial. So again, that -- and that may be if this gets authorized, who this pill will be for. You may need to be

in this high risk group. And there's a variety of reasons for that. And one of that is, you know what, sometimes pills do have side effects. Nothing

showed up in this trial, but it was only about 775 people so you only want to take a risk with the drug for people who really need it.

GOLODRYGA: And it's important to note that this drug is not an alternative to the vaccine itself?

COHEN: That's right and that is so important, Bianna, the vaccines are the best. Prevention is always better than treatment. It is always better not

to get sick than to get sick and then treat -- and then treated. Because first of all, the treatments not always going to work. Second of all, you

need to get to it so quickly that that's not going to work for everybody. So it is always better to get the vaccine. And although you know, the

vaccine has now been used in hundreds and hundreds of millions of people, and we've seen very, very few side effects, this is a new pill, so we don't

exactly know 100% what's going to happen when you give it to large groups of people, the vaccine is sort of a more tried and trusted drug at this


GOLODRYGA: Look, big news this week for Pfizer, big news in the fight against COVID. Now children five to 11 can get their vaccine as well. I'm

not kidding, right after the show, I am taking my nine and five year old to get their vaccine shots as well. This is a momentous day for my family. And

I know for millions of Americans, this has been a momentous opportunity for them too.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you, as always for breaking it down for us. We appreciate it.

Well, that is it for now, you can always catch us online on our podcast and across social media. Thank you so much for watching, and goodbye from New