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Interview With Former Governor And Democratic National Committee Former Chairman Terry McAuliffe (D-VA); Interview With International Crisis Group Director Of Iran Project Ali Vaez; Interview With "These Are the Plunderers" Co-Author Gretchen Morgenson. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired May 08, 2023 - 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, welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
As Russia launches a new wave of missiles, what is the state of Ukrainian resistance? Former governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe and joins me from
Then, five years since Donald Trump killed off the Iran declared deal, Iran has got more capable, not less. So, what is the path forward? Iran expert,
Ali Vaez, joins me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETCHEN MORGENSON, CO-AUTHOR, "THESE ARE THE PLUNDERERS": It has now grown into an industry that is so dominant that 7 percent of the American
workforce works for private equity backed companies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: "The Plunderers," journalist Gretchen Morgenson tells Walter Isaacson why we should be worried about private equity.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Ukraine has once again come under a withering barrage of missile and drone attacks by Russia. Kyiv, Kherson, Kharkiv and Odessa have all been attacked
as Russia tries to wear down its air systems. Moscow has also ordered the evacuation of residents from occupied areas close the Zaporizhzhia nuclear
power plant, raising serious concerns about its safety.
For more than a year now, Ukraine has defied expectations with its resistance. But senior leader, including the defense minister, are now
trying to manage expectations about that much anticipated counteroffensive. The key, of course, its support from nations like the United States. But
there seems to be a sense that the NATO alliance is calling for visible results before providing more weapons.
Terry McAuliffe is the former governor of Virginia and a long-standing friend and colleague an ally of President Biden. He's joining me now from
Kyiv. Welcome, Governor.
FMR. GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D-VA) AND FORMER CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Christiane, thank you. It's an honor to be with you.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you? You, I think, have gone in a private capacity. You're a former governor. What are you doing in Ukraine at this
particularly important time?
MCAULIFFE: Well, I was asked by several organizations if I would come over to help and assist in trying to U.S. help for restoration, rebuilding
infrastructure as governor of Virginia. We've got the nation and public private partnerships rebuilding our airports, our railroads, our roads, and
we did a lot of work on the port.
So, I came over in a private capacity. I have spent seven days here. I have driven 1,900 miles in seven days. We've gone from Warsaw all the way
through Ukraine. I spent time on the front. I was up in the battle zone. And I met with NGOs here. I met with government ministers here to talk
about rebuilding. We've got to plant the seeds now in order to get ready to rebuild. They've lost, as you know, 1,000 schools, 600 hospitals, and they
And so, I wanted to come over. So, I can now go back to the United States of America and I can say, here are the priorities given to me by the
ministers, by the business. I visited manufacturing plants while I was here. I went to see Save Ukraine, which it just breaks your heart to see
these children from displaced homes who -- from the war zone, they lost their home. Their home had been demolished. These children, they're back in
school after three years of not having any education over here. But they have no home, and many don't have parents.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And --
MCAULIFFE: And these are the 15-year-old child who --
AMANPOUR: -- so, you're seeing --
MCAULIFFE: -- have really been abducted.
AMANPOUR: Yes, yes, yes. We're going to get to that in a moment. So, you're seeing with your own eyes, you know, this terrible, obviously, humanitarian
catastrophe. But also, you can see, because you're there, on a day when Russia has launched yet another barrage, some 35 drones.
AMANPOUR: And it's relentless. So, when you met with the commanders and some of the -- I assume the ministers who are in that side of things, what
are they saying they need? How are they saying they're doing with the current level of weapons and support that they've got from you all?
MCAULIFFE: Sure. And I did, I met with three different battalion commanders. I was right on the front line. I saw our HIMARS. I saw four of
them be launched into the air. Driving to Dnipro. We came under an air attack. We delivered some medical supplies to one of the most forward bases
we had, a stabilization center for soldiers who have been wounded.
And while we are there, a part of our convoy got attacked in a mortar attack. So, I've seen it all here in seven days that I didn't think I would
experience. I want to say this, first of, everybody I met, from the troops to the commanders, I've got to tell you, A, how much they love the United
States of America. They all say, universally, they would not be where they are today in pushing back Russia were it not for the United States of
They were so appreciative that President Biden and congressional leadership have come to this country. But, of course, you know, they're in a war, as
everyone said to me, we need everything you've got. We need more. And you don't blame them for that. These folks are dedicated, these Ukrainian
soldiers, they're going to fight to the absolute end. They want their land back. They want Russia out of their territory. They want their lives back.
And I'll tell you this, one of the reasons I came, Christiane, is that here we are in a democracy. Many nations today are moving away from democracies.
Here we have a young democracy. We need to embrace Ukraine. This is a country that is trying to get on its feet, to move forward as a democracy.
And I personally happen to believe, you know, the fate of what we have as NATO, in Europe as we know it is this battle in Ukraine.
Russia has come in here and they have committed so many atrocities against soldiers, children and families, they need to be stopped. And they are
appreciative that America and the other NATO allies are here. So, first and foremost, they are so appreciative of everything that has been done here.
Two, they need everything that we can possibly give them. And I happen to come from a place, let's give them everything that we possibly can. We need
to defeat Russia. We need to push them out of Ukraine. And Ukrainians are some of the hardest, most dedicated soldiers I've ever dealt with in my
life. They are here. I've met several of them have been a year on the ground, no rotations out. And they're not going anywhere, they're here
fighting right until the end until they get their country back.
AMANPOUR: So, that's --
MCAULIFFE: Until democracy flourishes here in Ukraine.
AMANPOUR: That is really interesting, that you're seeing that. A lot of what's been reported. But, you as, you know, a senior official are seeing
that with your own eyes and listening to that determination. So, what do you make of, for instance, the defense minister, who said, you know, in an
interview, in countries that are our partners, our friends, the expectation of the counteroffensive is overestimated, overheated? Most people are
waiting for something huge, I would say. That's my main concern.
Did you get the impression from either people on the ground or those in the ministries that there seems to be a lot of pressure from the U.S. and NATO
for these very soldiers to show results, and therefore, keep up the kind of support that you are talking about them needing?
MCAULIFFE: Yes. No. I didn't feel that from the soldiers and the commanders that I met. I think they -- here in Ukraine, they are the ones that want to
do this offensive. They want to push Russia back. They have been dealing with them for years. They've had more success, I think, originally than
people actually thought they would have. So, I think it's -- it really generated here in Ukraine. These folks are really, really dedicated.
And listen, America, as President Biden has said, we're here, we are standing with you through thick and thin right until the end, as well as
the other NATO countries. So, you know, I'm not here at all talking military strategy, I am talking to soldiers.
Listen, they want to push Russia back. They want them out of their country, and they're going to do the military techniques that they think is going to
be most effective to do that. But they do know that NATO and America -- I can't say it over, it just was so, for me, made me so proud of our country
that we are here and they are appreciative that America is standing side by side with them.
AMANPOUR: So, then --
MCAULIFFE: To every American watching this show, I want you to know Ukrainians love you.
AMANPOUR: I mean, look, that's absolutely true because we see that and we report that when we are on the ground, they're very, very grateful for all
the support they're getting. But I want to ask you this, you know your country better than anybody there. You have run for election. You have been
elected. You are a big fund-raiser for the Democratic Party. And you got another election coming up pretty, pretty quickly.
Do you feel that the people of the United States, the congresspeople of the United States, need to see more results, like we saw on the ground in the
fall, when the last -- basically, the last major time Ukraine pushed back Russian forces, or do you think that no matter how it goes there the U.S.
people and the U.S. politicians will maintain this support?
MCAULIFFE: I think, as President Biden has said, we're with you through thick and thin, to the bitter end. I think that speaks for all of
Americans. We're fighting for democracy here. We're fighting for a nation that has been attacked. We are standing up for our friends. That's what we
do in the United States of America.
So, put the politics aside and elections, we're going to be here and we are going to stay here. Americans, listen, we're a superpower. That's our
responsibility. And with being a superpower comes the responsibilities that we have to stand with our fellow democracies and stop horrible aggressions
like we've seen here in Russia.
But let's be clear, when this war started just over -- a little over a year ago, everybody thought, a lot of people wrote, that Putin would come in,
Russia would come in, they get Kyiv in no time and they would have Ukraine back. That didn't happen. They punched them right back. They pushed them
out of Kyiv.
As I travelled around here today, I saw buildings that had been hit. They pushed them out. They've gotten a vast part of what was taken from them.
They've been able to regain that back in the eastern part of this country. So, they've had success, I think, a lot of people didn't think it would
You've seen the fight in Bakhmut. Everybody said Bakhmut would have been gone months and months and months ago. These Ukrainians are fighters and
they're not giving up. And we're going to stand with them. Absolutely. This is the future of the world as we know it. The future of Europe. The future
of NATO. And who we are as a country and who do we stand up and fight for. This is the right fight.
And I've got to tell you, Americans understand that. We've done that through the history of this great country of the United States of America.
We understand what's at stake here.
AMANPOUR: So, you would be -- you would say with confidence then that the Kremlin's belief that they can out weight to the United States would be
MCAULIFFE: Yes. I think what you have to look at here on the ground, and as I say, I would invite others to come over and experience the things that I
have been able to experience for seven days here. Talk to families, talk to mothers, fathers, talk to children, talk to soldiers. They're in this for
the long haul and they're not giving up, and we're not giving up.
And it's going -- you know, this could be a long battle, I don't know. As I say, I am not here doing military strategy. But Ukraine has had more
success than anyone originally had anticipated that they would have. But I can tell you this, they're fighters, they're not giving up.
I've been with them, I've talked to them, I have seen what's going on on the ground, I watched, I was in command centers, I saw as they I.D.'d
Russian tanks and took them out. I mean, I have experienced a lot here this last week. This is a tough fighting force here in Ukraine. And they've had
great success against Russia. We have to continue to keep that going here. We have to win here. America has to win. Democracy has to win. We've got to
get freedom for Ukrainians.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you something more sort of closer to home? Because there's a lot of talk now in the press in the United States that the Biden
administration may be considering you, adding you to the cabinet. What can you tell us about that? I mean, you are certainly very robustly out there
defending, you know, the administration's point of view.
MCAULIFFE: You know, I'm in Ukraine today. Listen, I love Joe Biden. I've known the president for four decades. I will do anything the president of
the United States of America wants me to do.
MCAULIFFE: And I'll just leave it at that.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, we'll watch this space.
MCAULIFFE: You know, listen we -- I want Americans --
MCAULIFFE: What's that?
AMANPOUR: Yes. I said we'll watch this space. But in -- so, I want --
MCAULIFFE: I said I want every American -- yes.
AMANPOUR: OK. Let me just ask this next question and you can add what you were thinking. The debt issue, which is a huge issue that, you know,
tomorrow morning there's -- tomorrow, there's going to be a very anticipated and important meeting between President Biden and congressional
leaders. You know, you know, the treasury is warning of economic chaos and catastrophe.
The U.S. has, I believe, never defaulted. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but it's more than just a domestic political issue. People like Hillary
Clinton and others have called it a matter of national security. And presumably all the people in the region are waiting to see if America, you
know, keeps its international and national obligations. Where -- what do you think is going to happen?
MCAULIFFE: Well, I agree with you there. Let me tell you, people around the world, especially the region that I'm in here, they pay lot of attention to
what is happening in America. And they pay attention to what American politicians say. And they pay attention to what American politicians say
about what's happening over here in Ukraine. It reverberates throughout this entire country. That is why I'm here. And I was so glad to be here, as
I say, on a fact-finding mission as a private citizen, but to convey my personal opinion, this is the fight for democracy. We have to win this here
in Ukraine. We've got to get -- we've got to raise the debt ceiling.
You know, I just hate to see the politics that's played with us. When President Trump was in office, there were no issues. Democrats joined into
raise the debt ceiling. Now, you've got Republicans in Congress. I think trying to do politics with this. We need to raise the debt ceiling. I could
not agree more with Secretary Yellen. I mean, we are going to run out of money. I agree with Secretary Henry Kissinger, this would be catastrophic
for families at home. This will affect everybody at home, every person who has a credit card, everybody who has a mortgage.
If the United States of America default on its debt. As we all know, this is debt that's already been incurred, this not future spending, this is
past spending. We're the United States of America, we pay our bills.
MCAULIFFE: And that's why they've got -- we've got to quit the politics playing with this debt ceiling. We've got to raise it and let's move on and
let's get back to focusing on helping people at home and making sure that their lives are better. We've just had gigantic job growth in the United
States of America. This economy has made great progress in getting people back to work after COVID. That's what we should be focusing on, not this
debt debate, which literally is sending a horrible message in America.
But I can tell you, over here, it's not a good message and they're wondering if America defaults on their debt and doesn't pay their bills,
what happens to us? They're in the middle of fighting a war here against Russia. And, as I say, we need to stop them. I spend an entire day here
meeting with children who have lost their home.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I want to put up some of the pictures of those children, the ones that you've --
MCAULIFFE: The hours --
AMANPOUR: -- watched be, you know, reunified. There are some pictures. But tell us about that, because that's a huge problem for the Ukrainians. We've
got this lovely picture of you on this young boy who has been reunited with his parents, as you said. And the Ukrainians, obviously, have been, you
know, desperate to get back many who have been abducted, thousands and thousands, they say.
MCAULIFFE: So, we have a group, which I actually has spent eight hours with, Save Ukraine. It really has 11 facilities throughout Ukraine here
where they basically bring in people who have been displaced, their homes have been demolished, and they give them temporary housing and they're
providing education for the children.
You know, I sat and talked to a child three days ago, and this child had lived in a bomb shelter, in a basement for six months. The only time he got
out of that shelter was to go to the bathroom and try to find some water. And there are all of these children. What they need, as the director told
me, he said, we have 11, you know, we could use 150 of these facilities.
So, Save Ukraine, I can't say enough good work that they're actually doing. But then they took us to a Save Ukraine facility, the next step and housing
where families are put. And I wanted to meet some of the children who had been kidnapped. And I spent a half hour in, you know, one room, that room
where you have three children and the mother and father. And this mother explained to me what happened to her child. Her child was there are, 15
years old, taken for six months, and he was rescued. And Save Ukraine has rescued about 100 children, but they have thousands more, they have to do
MCAULIFFE: This mother was forced to have her child put on a bus. Supposedly, it was going to be a couple weeks of fresh air. She knew what
was going to happen. She told her son, don't give them any documentation. And the Russian officials said, you either put your son on that bus or
we're taking all your rights away from you and he will no longer be your child. And he went on the bus. And for six months, he was taken away. He
had to listen to the Russian national anthem for two hours a day. And there's thousands of children like this. This is what we're fighting for.
MCAULIFFE: And that's why America is here, to make sure we're helping. It is so important. This is such an important fight for democracy and fight
for who we are as human beings.
AMANPOUR: Governor McAuliffe, thank you so much indeed for joining us from Kyiv. Thank you so much.
Now, five years ago today, President Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal. There have been attempts to resurrect it, but all
have failed. And the Biden administration has not made it a top priority.
But since Trump abandoned the arms control deal, Tehran's nuclear program is more advanced than it's ever been. So, is there a path to a new deal?
Ali Vaez is the director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group and he's joining me now from Washington. Welcome back to the program.
ALI VAEZ, DIRECTOR OF IRAN PROJECT, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: Thank you. Great to be with you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, OK. So, look, remind us where we were this time five years ago, in terms of controlling the Iranian nuclear program and where we are
VAEZ: So, on the 8th of May, 2018, Iran was under the most rigorous monitoring regime that has ever been established by the U.N. nuclear
watchdog. It would take Iran about 12 months to enrich enough nuclear material for a single nuclear weapon. And Iran was fully complying by its
obligations under the deal.
And, of course, by the time that President Biden walked into the Oval Office, that timeline had shrunk and is now, right now, according to
Pentagon officials, at 12 days. So, instead of 12 months, it is 12 days. And Iran has rolled back a lot of those monitoring mechanisms. And so, the
transparency of the program is way less than it was in the past. And the IAEA is blind about a lot of Iran's nuclear activities.
AMANPOUR: So --
VAEZ: In one, sentence Christiane --
VAEZ: -- the Trump administration managed to take Iran's nuclear program out of a box and to put it in the microwave.
AMANPOUR: Wow. That's dramatic the way you say that. So, just to be clear, the Trump administration said that we can get a better deal and they
launched a process called maximum pressure, where they tried to squeeze Iran with more sanctions and a lot more punitive measures, thinking that
that would cause them to act in a different way. What exactly did maximum pressure achieve?
VAEZ: Well, it has been an abject failure across the board. Of course, it has brought Iran to the verge of nuclear weapons. Iran has never been
closer. And it has also rendered Iran much more aggressive in the region. In 2019, you remember the hot summer of that year, when Iran started
attacking shipping lanes and tankers and energy infrastructure, including in Saudi Arabia, and it has rendered Iran much more aggressive and
repressive at home. We have seen that every protest that has happened since maximum pressure has been met with the brutality that we've all seen on TV
screens in the past few years.
And I will want to also add that let's not forget the fact that the Iranian people have been living under -- not just pressure from above, from their
own regime, but also pressure from the outside, from the United States. An estimate suggests that at least around 600 people have died as a result of
shortages of medicine that the U.S. sanctions have caused.
AMANPOUR: Ali Vaez, so what then is the option? We said and we know that there have been basically indirect negotiations between Iran and the United
States via the Europeans and the other signatories to the -- what was known as the JCPOA, the nuclear deal. But President Biden was caught sort of off
mic not so long ago saying that this deal is dead.
Is it completely dead? Is there any attempt? I know that you and other experts like Vali Nasr and even J Street, the Israeli activist -- Jewish
activist group in Washington, have called for a different kind of engagement. Can you walk us through that?
VAEZ: Sure. First, Christiane, let me say that that is a proponent of the nuclear deal with Iran. It's very hard for me to admit that the Biden
administration and the hard-liners in Iran succeeded in what President Trump failed at, which was to kill the JCPOA.
Now, there is plenty of blame to go around. I think, obviously, the original sin was committed by Donald Trump. But then, the Biden
administration hesitated in 2021. And in 2022, Iran miscalculated and lost multiple opportunities to restore the deal.
Right now, as we speak, I think the White House's preference for some kind of a narrower agreement, an interim deal that would just freeze the program
so that it would not become a problem in an election year as we enter into the campaign period. And the Iranians are not really interested in anything
less than the JCPOA because even the deal itself didn't benefit them economically as much as they expected, a narrower deal would definitely not
So, we are currently in a situation that I described as a no deal, no crisis that I think the Biden administration would want to extend until
2025. But there are two problems with it. Number one, it is unstable. We're really at the mercy of a single incident, if Israel, for instance, commits
another sabotage of an Iranian nuclear facility, assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist, we might see significant escalation in ways that
would cross U.S. or Israeli redline, for instance, if the Iranians enrich to 90 percent.
The second problem with the strategy is that imagine we can keep the lid on it until 2025, then what? In 2025, Iran would have 200 percent of the
leverage it had in 2015. It is not going to agree to a deal that is tilted more in the interest of the United States, it is probably going to ask for
way more concessions than even the next administration would not be able to afford. And that is why I think time has come for a new thinking, different
kind of thinking.
And what we're suggesting right now is that if you look at the current situation compare it to 2015, in 2015, Iran had good relations with the
West and was on speaking terms with the United States but bad relations with its neighbors in the Gulf region. Now, it's the other way around.
And in that there is an opportunity to make sure that Iran can actually benefit from an agreement by encouraging the economic incentives to go to
Iran via the Gulf rather than from Europe and the United States. And in return, Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries could come to an
agreement that they would all accept permanent limits on the level of enrichment and reprocessing of plutonium and on ratification of the
additional protocol, which ensures a very high level of transparency in a permanent fashion.
AMANPOUR: So, let me then put this to you, because I've obviously interviewed quite a few people on this because it is getting, as you say,
to a very threshold level and very rapid breakout level. I spoke to former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, not so long ago. But, of course, it
was also at a time, which is still the case, where many people around the world are very, very concerned that what happened in violating the human
rights of so many people in Iran during the women's protests, the jailing, the executions, the sham trials, the crackdowns, none of this is conducive.
This is what Hillary Clinton told me about the possibility of negotiating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I would not be negotiating with Iran on anything right now, including the nuclear agreement. I think
that, frankly, horse is out of the barn. When Trump pulled us out, we lost the eyes that we had on what they were doing inside Iran. And I believe
that they started those centrifuges spinning again, and I think it's unlikely that any agreement would be agreed to and I don't think we should
look like we're seeking an agreement at a time when the people of Iran are standing up to their oppressors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I mean, that's a compelling case for not dealing with them at this moment. Do you think that still stands? Is that kind of feeling -- and
I understand it exists in parts of the E.U., is that going to sort of rule the day at the moment?
VAEZ: Look, the West can choose not to negotiate with Iran, but it wouldn't resolve the problem. Iran's nuclear program is still advancing at the speed
of light. And at some stage, we would be, once again, faced with the dilemma of whether we can live with Iran, with a bomb, or bomb Iran. And
so, we would eventually get to that stage unless we find the solution.
And, you know, it's true that it's difficult to deal with unsavory, murderous regimes. But if we wanted to apply that logic, for instance, to
the Soviet Union and say that as long as the Soviet Union was engaged in violations of human rights or policy or foreign policy that was problematic
from the western perspective, we would never agree to arms control deals with them, we would be living in a much more dangerous world right now.
And a regime like the Iranian regime that cannot be trusted even with pellet guns, as you have seen, it has blinded hundreds of peaceful
protesters in the past few months, how can we just trust this regime with the deadliest weapons out there? And so, I do believe that regardless of
the nature of the regime, there is a need to find a solution to this nuclear crisis.
AMANPOUR: And again, just to put it out there, Iran is -- you know, everybody says, intelligence says, providing drones and other lethal
weaponry to Russia for its war against Ukraine, despite Iran's denials of that, it appears that that is going on. You have very, very visceral
protests, like here in the U.K. This young man, Mr. Beheshti, has now been taken off to a hospital after a very lengthy hunger strike outside
Whitehall, trying to get the Iranian Revolutionary Guard named by the British as a terrorist organization.
And so, you have quite a lot of resistance to any kind of dealings with Iran at the moment by the United States. So, I mean, you've just explained
why it would be more productive to do so. But how much do you think or how successfully do you think the new Iran, China, Saudi kind of rapprochement
can affect the current situation?
VAEZ: Yes, that's absolutely right. The political price of dealing with the Iranian regime has skyrocketed in the past few months, as a result of the
brutal crackdown on protests and as a result of Iran's provision of weapons for Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine. There is no doubt about it.
But again, this was a murderous regime when the deal was signed in 2015, when negotiations would have started in 2003, and the nature of the regime
has not changed, and it's precisely because of the nature of the regime that we need to be able to curb the most dangerous activity that it is
involved in because all of those other areas of concern that you mentioned, Christiane, will be much more difficult to deal with if Iran has weapons of
In terms of the deal that China has brokered between Iran and Saudi Arabia, I think the immediate effect is that it could potentially shield off the
Gulf from another round of escalation between Iran and the United States, or between Iran and Israel, and that is probably one of the key motivations
on the Saudi side to finalize this deal.
But, again, in it, there is an opportunity to start looking at this issue from a very different perspective, because we are -- it's 20 years since
the nuclear negotiations with Iran started and I'm afraid the core bargain of the deal is starting to no longer be viable in the sense that Iran's
nuclear program is too advanced for temporary restrictions to alleviate concerns in the International Community. And it's also 20 years that we
have failed, in the West, to deliver on effective and sustainable sanctions relief to the Iranians.
So -- and P5+1, the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, that group is gone because of tensions between Russia, China and the West.
The idea of compartmentalization of just tackling the nuclear issue and not touching on anything else, human rights or regional, that idea is also
gone. So, it is really time for a strategic rethink in order to find a durable solution to this (INAUDIBLE).
AMANPOUR: Well, one of the terrible victims of all of this are Iranian American hostages, basically prisoners wrongfully detained in Iranian
jails. And I've spoken to many of their families. I spoke to Siamak Namazi who called out of Evin. And I know that you know him. Do you believe that
there is any appetite or any deal underway to try to bring these Americans back home?
VAEZ: Well, Christiane, for the same reasons we talked about, even there is a big price tag attached to doing a detainee deal with Iran that I feel
that the Biden administration is reluctant to pay, because, of course, we are, again, in the -- entering into the electoral dynamics in this country
and it will be hard to defend a deal like that.
But I think what the Biden administration is overlooking is that there is also a price associated with not bringing Americans home. By this point,
even the Trump administration had managed to do a detainee deal with Iran.
And so, I think it will be very unfair to someone like Siamak, who spent almost eight years in the Evin Prison, to leave him behind simply because
the president is reluctant to pay the political price of it.
AMANPOUR: And finally, you have talked about the viability of this regime, many during the women's protests believed that this was the beginning of
the end. You though have written and you compare Iran to the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Here's how you describe it. Ideologically bankrupt, at a
political dead end and incapable of addressing its structural, economic and societal troubles.
Fine, but it seems to have been like that for many years. And yet, it persists. Where do you see any cracks?
VAEZ: Correct, because I say this is a regime that is like the Soviet Union in the early 1980s, not in the late 1980s in the sense that it still has a
will to fight and a fearsome capacity for repression. But tipping points could be around the corner, because the supreme leader is 84 years old.
When he's not there, I think we would have a very different set up at the top of the political structure.
And, you know, the country is also dealing with problems that have accumulated for years, if not decades. And it's just not a sustainable
formula, but it might -- this is not a sprint, it might be a marathon. The question is, what is going to happen to the Iranian people during this time
if they are to continue to live under sanctions from outside, from under isolation and under brutal repression from their own regime?
And that is a question that I think is as much the responsibility of western countries to think about as it is the responsibility of Iranians
because we've had this experience before, Christiane, in Iraq, that even when there was a regime change, of course, through force from the outside,
the fabric of the Iraqi society was torn apart in a way that it was really not easy to put it back together.
AMANPOUR: And still hasn't been. Ali Vaez, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
VAEZ: Great pleasure.
AMANPOUR: Now, our next guest says that elite Wall Street financiers are undermining the country's economy for their own benefit. In her latest
book, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Gretchen Morgenson, traces the history corporate takeovers in the United States and the private equity
firms who load newly bought companies with debt. Here she is talking to Walter Isaacson about how that impacts American workers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And, Gretchen Morgenson, welcome to the show.
GRETCHEN MORGENSON, CO-AUTHOR, "THESE ARE THE PLUNDERERS": Hi, Walter. Great to be here.
ISAACSON: Your book is called, "These Are the Plunderers." And let me read something you wrote from it. You say, this is a book about modern-day
plunderer, a relatively small group of financiers whose unrelenting pursuit of profits extracts wealth from the many to enrich the few. It's about a
business model that is pernicious and growing and widens the wealth gap.
Boy, those are pretty tough words, plunderers, pernicious. Why are you -- what is your goal here? Why are you so tough?
MORGENSON: Trying to get people's attention, Walter. In this day in age, it's tough, right? No. What we're trying to do with the book, my co-author,
Josh Rosner and I, is to really kind of open people's eyes to a business model that, for the past 30, 40 years, has really been growing in dominance
and growing in problems for the vast majority of people that come into contact with it.
This is now called the private equity industry. Previously, it was known as the leveraged buyouts, you know, corporate readers from the 1980s, of
course. But it's now grown into an industry that is so dominant that 7 percent of the American workforce works for private equity backed
So, you have it in the retailing industry. You have it very vague in health care, which is extremely problematic. You have it in fast food. You have it
-- it's really very pervasive.
ISAACSON: Well, wait. Explain to me exactly what they do. You say, leveraged buyout.
ISAACSON: These are people who buy troubled firms, is that approximately right?
MORGENSON: Well, it used to be. In the beginning, they were buying undervalued companies. Companies that the market was not valuing properly,
that were perhaps troubled, had maybe gotten into some sort of a financial scrape or other.
Nowadays, they really are just buying companies with the goal of improving them, streamlining them and selling them within five years.
ISAACSON: Well, wait a minute. You say improving them, streamlining them, that's a great thing, isn't it? Doesn't that make our economy stronger,
MORGENSON: Well, that's the concept. And in concept, it does make the economy more nimble. But with many cases in private equity, what they end
up doing is taking a company that is not really all that inefficient and making it more efficient by firing workers, by stripping it of assets, for
instance, real estate under nursing homes is a very traditional tactic that these firms used to extract money from their deals that they do.
ISAACSON: But doesn't that reduce the value of the nursing home? At which point, I would see no reason that a private equity firm would reduce the
value of one of its holdings?
MORGENSON: Well, because they took the money out. So, they're getting the money from the sale of the real estate, OK? That's them and they're limited
partners, they are getting that. And when the company fails, they don't end up losing anything.
Here's an example, this is ManorCare, a perfect example of this. Carlisle bought the company. A very big nursing home operation. They -- after a
couple of years after the transaction, they sold the real estate underneath the nursing homes. They got all their money out, pretty much. So, they were
now free and clear. Then the company goes bankrupt. So, they really don't pay the price if they do those kinds of transactions. They end up getting
their money out, but the people who are left, the workers, the patients, by the way, the residents are harmed by this.
So, that's really where you are seeing the kind of me first aspect of this business model that I feel really needs to be questioned and examined.
ISAACSON: But if there's a problem with nursing homes, isn't that a responsibility of regulators to make sure nursing homes are safe as opposed
to depending on the kindness of investors to say, we won't make as much money as possible?
MORGENSON: Wouldn't it be nice to be able to depend on the kindness of investors, Walter? I mean, honestly, I know that's a dream. Regulators
always, always behind one step, two steps. The very creative minds of Wall Street, I don't need to tell you that. Regulation of nursing homes, very,
very spotty. Not really -- you have state authorities involved. You have -- we've seen a tremendous number of problems with nursing homes that the
regulations that exist have done nothing to prevent.
One thing I'll point out about nursing homes, and that is that private equity has gone into them quite substantially, an estimate of 11 percent of
nursing homes in the country are owned by private equity firms. That's probably low because you don't always know these are secretive
organizations, and you don't always know who owns it.
But there was a profound study by academics at NYU, UPenn and University of Chicago that did a longitudinal look at mortality rates in nursing homes.
And they found that nursing homes -- residents of nursing homes owned by a private equity had 10 percent greater mortality rates over time.
ISAACSON: Is there some cause of that or is that just a correlation?
MORGENSON: They attributed it to a decline in staff, lower staffing, meaning lesser costs. Of course, these people are looking for profit
orientation so that they can sell the company after five or so years at a profit from where they paid for it. So, they attributed it to lower costs,
you know, given over the staffing and that kind of thing, which does translate to problems for residents.
ISAACSON: One of the surprising statistics I saw in your book is that 40 percent, am I correct, of emergency rooms are owned by private equity? Why
would they go into that and does that show some problem with emergency rooms?
MORGENSON: It's not that they're owned by private equity firms, Walter, they are operated by them. So, the hospital hires a staffing company to run
their emergency department, and there are two very large staffing companies running urgency departments in this country. One is TeamHealth, the other
is Envision, they are both private equity-owned.
So, you have, along with some smaller private equity-owned companies, 40 percent of the nation's emergency departments are operated and run by
private equity. Now, why would they want to get in there? Because they are going to tell the hospital, we're going to streamline this process. We're
going to make more money for you. And so, you should contractually, you know, get us to operate for you.
The emergency room is a surprisingly profitable area of the hospital, and that's where you see private equity really honing its focus, it's where
there are profits to be made. That's why they're in health care to such a degree. It's 17 percent of gross domestic product. So, it's a very large
pool of potential money that they can tap into.
ISAACSON: You say that health care is 17 percent of gross domestic product, that's way larger than most other nations. Isn't there some systemic
problem with the sort of inefficient, bloated way we do health care and maybe private equity is honing in on it, because it is indeed a problem the
way we do it?
MORGENSON: No one will argue with you on that. Anybody who tries to see a doctor, tries to go to the hospital and gets the bill will absolutely agree
with that. There are problems with this health care system in this country.
The problem is that private equity isn't making it better, Walter. Now, you may remember the surprise billing problem a couple years ago that both
sides of the aisle in Congress actually reached together and did something about. It was so outrageous that, you know, both Dems and Republican said,
yes, we got to fix this, that was the creation of private equity.
Here's how it worked. You go to an emergency department in your local hospital. You think the hospital is in your insurance network. You go
thinking that, because you're not going to have to pay as much. You then get a bill from the emergency department, which was run by a separate
private equity company, that is out of network that ends up costing you way more than it would have if you would have been in network. That was a
creation of a private equity company, and it was exposed by Yale, academics at Yale, and people were outraged by. So, no, they're not generally making
it more efficient.
ISAACSON: In your book, you're right, let me quote from it, that private equity firms would emerge from the pandemic with even greater billions, an
unsurprising outcome given their power. And you say that COVID-19 made it - - just made it easier to see. What did the pandemic reveal about these private equity firms?
MORGENSON: Well, one of the things it revealed, I think, was the devastation in our health care world and hospitals. The hospitals were so
unprepared, Walter, for COVID-19 and for the pandemic, is a really good microcosm of one of the problems with private equity.
Now, back in the mid-2000s, Congress asked for a study about what might happen in the country if there were a pandemic. We write about this in the
book. And the study, I think it was CBO, said oh, well --
ISAACSON: That's the Congressional Budget Office.
MORGENSON: The Congressional Budget Office, said, well, it would cause huge havoc. We need to invest in ventilators, we need to invest in hospital
beds, we need to invest in equipment, protective equipment for the staffers. Anyway, of course nothing happened. We didn't make those
And one of the reasons that hospitals may not have made those investments and health care companies was because that was the moment when private
equity started to go into health care, to do the streamlining that they do so well, to cut costs, not to invest in ventilators that would sit on a
shelf, OK? These folks don't like money sitting on a shelf. And when you invest in ventilators and PPE and that sort of material, that's money
sitting on the shelf.
So, it really was an interesting moment. Now, when COVID-19 strikes, and we see that there aren't enough ventilators, we see that there aren't enough
hospital beds, you look back at that study and you say, well, what happened? And private equity is one of the things that happened.
ISAACSON: Well, let me read you, for the record, just statements that they've provided to you since -- to both of you, since you've written the
book, and maybe you can comment on it. One of them comes from the Blackstone Group, which is one of the ones featured in your book. It says,
the false narrative underlying your book is based on a 1980s caricature of our industry that is contradicted by facts. We're proud of the positive
impact we deliver for our investors, portfolio companies and communities, including adding 200,000 net jobs to our portfolio companies in 15 years.
And that they say their companies have rarely failed, the thousand companies they've invested in. Likewise, Leon Black is a character in your
book. His firm, or what used to be his firm, Apollo, says it illustrates a misunderstanding of many of the facts surrounding transactions. We strongly
encourage you from not printing misleading information.
Tough pushback. Tell me what you feel about that.
MORGENSON: Well, Walter, what's interesting about the Blackstone commentary, so, these firms do say they create jobs, they're not job
destroyers, that they add value. Of course, that's their argument, that they create money for pensioners because pension funds invest with them.
Let me go through a couple of those and so, we can talk about reality.
The spin is, OK, Blackstone says it created 200,000 new jobs over 15 years. So, I asked Blackstone for the data backing that up. You know, just as they
asked me for the data backing up my questions, I asked them. And they declined to provide it. So, you know, if you want to tell me that you
created 200,000 new jobs, then give me the data. Give me the numbers so that I can verify, right? I thought that was interesting.
Now, as far as the pensions and the returns to pensions, in the early stages of private equity, pensions were making more money through their
investments with these firms. They were outperforming, the Dow Jones, the S&P. Now, they are not.
And so, what you have is a situation where you might be better off buying and S&P 500 index fund and paying, you know, tiny fraction of the fees that
you pay when you buy into a private equity firm.
ISAACSON: Let me ask you a more general question, as somebody who's covered the economy. And I mean this as a genuine question. One way of doing it is
hoping for corporations that are nurturing, that are very good to not only their shareholders but to their employees and their communities. They don't
worry too much about trimming every cost and making sure they have a skeletal staff, and it sort of creates that sort of enlightened capitalism
we sometimes talk about, where all stakeholders benefit.
Another way is saying the American economy is stronger whenever we make things more efficient. And companies have too much time focusing on things
other than return on investment are making our economy weaker. How do you balance those two ideas?
MORGENSON: Well, I think that the first idea that you described is the goal, and I don't see why we can't try to make that a goal for American
capitalism. You know, for the past, I would say, three decades, we have been working under the assumption that if the stockholder benefits, that's
all that matters, and that is exactly what the CEO has to worry about. The CEO will be paid if the stockholder benefits. And it really has been a
shareholder-centric approach to capitalism.
Well, I think you can agree that in those -- in that period of time, the gulf between rich and poor in this country has vastly increased. So, I
don't think that's a benefit. I don't think it's the only motivating -- I don't think it's the only cause, but I do think it is a cause. And I think
that during the earlier, you know, '70s and up to about '85, 1985, the middle class in this country was growing in its wealth that it held. It had
a growing percentage of wealth, but that all changed around about the time that these takeovers started, pensions began to be obliterated. You had to
do your 401(k) yourself, which is very hard to do.
So, I think we look at that trajectory and say, OK, what's changed over that period? A lot. We had offshoring. We have companies escaping the tax
system in this country by going overseas. But I think this is a piece of the puzzle, and that's why I think it's really important to look at it. Why
can't capitalism improve the lives of all stakeholders?
ISAACSON: Gretchen Morgenson, thank you so much for being on the show.
MORGENSON: Thank you, Walter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: White counted (ph) indeed. And finally, tonight, a coronation concert where the planet took center stage, at least for a while. 20,000
people, including the newly crowned king and queen, gathered in front of an illuminated Windsor Castle last night for a show of music, theater, comedy
Lionel Richie and Katy Perry had the royals dancing in their seats, and 1,000 drones brought nature to life in the skies around the whole nation.
It was the U.K.'s largest ever multilocation drone show, a symbol of the king's devotion to protecting the environment. And a huge cheer went up
when a massive blue whale appeared over Windsor Castle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Celebrations continue today with a nationwide volunteering initiative called The Big Help Out. As you can see, even five-year-old
Prince Louis has been getting stuck in during his first ever royal engagement.
Now, make sure to tune into the show later this week for our conversation with Lady Anne Glenconner. As maid of honor to Queen Elizabeth, she has now
attended two coronations. We're going to hear all about that and her own amazing personal story.
But that's it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. On your screens now is a QR
code, all you need to do is pick up your phone and scan it with your camera. You can also find it at cnn.com/podcast and on all major platforms,
just search "Amanpour." And of course, you can catch us online, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Thank you for watching. Goodbye from London.