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Interview with Senator Chris Coons (D-DE); Interview with "Break the Wheel" Author and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison; Interview with "Just Action" Co-Author Richard Rothstein; Interview with "Just Action" Co- Author Leah Rothstein. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 08, 2023 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour," here is what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very, very scary, just walking down the street and feeling like I'm going to have an asthma attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Swaths of North America choke on smog. What the wildfire haze says about the climate crisis. Senator Chris Coons joins me on this and on
President Biden hosting the British prime minister. Top of their agenda, trade, A.I. and Ukraine.
Then, justice for George Floyd. Minnesota's attorney general, Keith Ellison, with a new book on the fight of his life, ending police violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ROTHSTEIN, CO-AUTHOR, "JUST ACTION": Although African American incomes are about 60 percent of white incomes, African American wealth is
only about 5 percent of white wealth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: "Just Action," how communities can break free from the shackles of segregation.
Welcome to the program everyone. I'm Christian Amanpour in London.
It's a busy day in Washington where President Biden is hosting Britain's prime minister, Rishi Sunak. The president describes the U.K. as America's
greatest ally despite a lingering post Brexit chill and no new trade deal, which is always top of Britain's agenda. Managing A.I. and the Ukraine war
will also be front and center.
President Zelenskyy is pleading with the International Community now for a swift humanitarian response to catastrophic flooding after breaches in a
dam near Kherson. Ukraine is bracing for a massive environmental catastrophe there too.
Meantime, the United States is in the midst of an environmental crisis, as heavy smoke continues to spread from wildfires that are raging in Canada.
With climate a huge global issue, in a minute I'll speak with Senator Chris Coons, a close confidant of the president who's also met with Prime
Minister Sunak on this issue. But first, authorities have issued air quality alerts along the East Coast, affecting more than 75 million people.
Correspondent Athena Jones reports on the apocalyptic scenes and the health risks facing the people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From New York --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very, very scary, just walking down the street and feeling like I'm going to have an asthma attack.
JONES (voice-over): -- to Lansing, Michigan --
BRYAN SMYTH, LANSING, MICHIGAN RESIDENT: I've noticed a little bit of a difference, you know, with being able to breathe right, coughing more.
JONES (voice-over): -- to Washington, D.C. and even as far south as Raleigh, North Carolina unhealthy air blanketing a large swath of the
United States --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, look. That's fire.
JONES (voice-over): -- from over 400 active wildfires burning in Canada as of Wednesday afternoon. More than half of them determined to be out of
control, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: Last year and this year, the worst wildfire season we've ever had, right across the country.
JONES (voice-over): Canada's wildfire season got off to an intense start in May, and it's unusual to see so much destruction this early. It picked up
aggressively this month largely in Quebec. More than 9 million acres have burned in Canada so far this year, 15 times the normal amount.
Smoke from those fires traveling hundreds of miles affecting cities all across New York State.
GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): This is the worst air quality we've experienced in over 20 years. This is hard to breathe right now.
JONES (voice-over): Governor Kathy Hochul said New York State is making 1 million N95 masks available to the public due to ongoing poor air quality
that could be harmful for everyone or even hazardous for some
ZACHARY ISCOL, NEW YORK CITY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT COMMISSIONER: I know that times like this can be scary, it can be shocking for many New Yorkers when
you step outside, when you smell and breathe this air.
JONES (voice-over): New Yorkers being urged to stay indoors as much as possible, because particles and wildfire smoke can infiltrate the lungs and
enter the bloodstream. Too much smoke inhalation has been linked to conditions like asthma and heart disease.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the best protection is to avoid being outside until the air clears.
JONES (voice-over): Officials warning the smoke will continue to impact much of the East Coast until at least the weekend.
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NY), NEW YORK CITY: I want to be clear, while there may be potential for significantly improved conditions by Friday morning, smoke
predictability that far out is low.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Athena Jones reporting there in a rare example of bipartisan policy along with Republican Kevin Cramer.
Senator Chris Coons recently introduced a bill that will lay the groundwork for America's first carbon border tax. And he's joining me now from
Senator, Welcome to the program
SEN. CHRIS COON (D-DE): Great to be on with you again, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Can I just ask you, because now we know that the -- you know, the air is moving down south towards you, towards Washington, and all
sorts of EPA alerts are at their highest, can you describe? I mean, what it is it like where you are? Is it difficult to breathe?
COONS: Well, I went for a walk here outside this morning in Washington, you can smell the smoke in the air, it is hazy. In my home state of Delaware,
it's even worse and -- where my youngest, Margaret, is a recent college graduate in New York City, it's a complete blanket of haze. My family was
sending images back and forth between the five of us in the last day or two.
This is a real public health challenge and a reminder that climate change has dramatic consequences. The vast wildfires out of control in Canada are
impacting the entire East Coast of the United States. And for folks who are particularly vulnerable, who have asthma or other breathing difficulties,
this is a critical issue.
AMANPOUR: So, do you think something like this, the actual clear and present public health danger that you talk about, and the people are
talking about, is actually something tangible that can bring on board climate skeptics, deniers, reluctance, whatever we want to call them?
COONS: I hope so. As you may know, Christiane, I co-founded the Climate Solutions Caucus here several years ago. It's a bipartisan group of 14
senators, seven Republicans, seven Democrats, where, as a group, we agree that the climate is changing because of human activity, and we have to come
together to do something about it.
The bill you referenced that Senator Cramer and I just introduced has a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, and it would direct the Department of
Energy, the U.S. federal government, to begin a mission standard testing so that we've got data on the emissions intensity of U.S. manufactured heavy
industry products like steel and aluminum, glass and concrete, and to gather that data from our partners and allies, like the U.K. and E.U. and
Canada, and our competitors like Russia, China, India, that's laying the technical groundwork or foundation for our carbon border adjustment
The E.U. is already well on its way to having such a mechanism in place that will impose tariffs on imported goods into the E.U., including
potentially from the United States. And I've had several important conversations with national leaders, with climate advocates, with
legislators from the E.U., U.K., Canada and other countries about how we could pull together and have a common carbon club of shared emissions
We can use trade and potential tariffs as a way to bring into compliance our closest partners and allies and to impose costs on the heavy industrial
products of countries like Russia and China that do not reduce emissions.
AMANPOUR: OK. Senator, so, I understand that you could probably get some good -- and you have done bipartisan support for this because it's outside
the borders of the United States. But in the United States there's still so many who are reluctant, you know, on the other side of the aisle to talk
about a carbon tax or any of these big mitigating possibilities.
COONS: That's right.
AMANPOUR: So, how do you expect your own country, you know, fully on board?
COONS: So, first, we've just made the biggest move forward in terms of climate ambition, in not just American history but in world history when
President Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, which has $369 billion of incentives to transition towards a cleaner energy economy here
in the United States. That's an important first step, to show the world that we're serious.
But to your point, Christiane, I am not trying to impose a carbon tax. We are trying to measure the emissions reduction that have already happened in
the United States because of our regulations, and then advantage cleaner or lower emissions, heavy industrial products. So, for example, American made
steel and aluminum should not face any tariffs, whereas perhaps steel and aluminum coming from Russia or China that are intensive in their emissions
would, and imports from the E.U. or Canada or the U.K. wouldn't because they have regulatory schemes because of their carbon taxes and because of
their regulations that are comparably low emissions to ours.
I know it's a little complicated, but I think there is a way for us to harmonize our approaches to climate ambition across these open market
democracies that also close partners and allies.
AMANPOUR: So, let's talk about China, because it's clearly a very big player, and most of the China, you know, experts, including the Biden
administration climate czar, John Kerry, basically state the obvious, that without China's cooperation none of this will come to pass.
AMANPOUR: There are distinctly frosty relations between the United States and China right now. I mean, worse than frosty.
COONS: That's right.
AMANPOUR: Do you see anything attempts in the -- attempts at a thaw that the U.S. is trying to project that could bear any fruit?
COONS: So, look, I am always an optimist about that possibility, but this is an approach that doesn't require warmer or closer relations between the
United States and China. That's part of the beauty of an approach that says, if you want to access the American market, you have to prove that you
have low emissions heavy industrial products. The thing that is most likely to bend the curve of emissions in China and India is market forces through
So, again, Christiane, let's just imagine for a moment if the E.U., U.K., U.S., Canada, South Korea, Australia, all aligned around low emissions
approaches to how we manufacture steel and aluminum, glass and cement, heavy industrial products and to access our markets, China and India would
have to demonstrate, and Russia, that they are reducing their industrial emissions. That will drive them to change their emissions profiles, to slow
down the rate at which they're currently building a record number of coal fired power plants. That's the thing that is going to drive global
reductions in emissions more than any agreement, because I frankly think our relations may continue to be strained or even as you put it, frosty for
years to come.
AMANPOUR: Well --
COONS: So, using --
AMANPOUR: -- maybe frosty was --
COONS: -- free market, using trade might well work.
COONS: And our agreements so far have not.
AMANPOUR: OK. But there's still trade problems between the United States and China. President Biden hasn't lifted some of the mechanisms and tariffs
that President Trump imposed, and there seems to be a real sense that this China administration of President Xi is very different from the
predecessors trying, you know, very hardline negotiating with the United States.
AMANPOUR: Do you believe that the U.S. is having any success with its attempts to reach out or not, whether China will accept it, as we speak,
there have been near misses both involving Chinese and American, you know, naval assets and air assets??
COONS: That's right. Christiane, we're in a very dangerous period in U.S. China relations. There have been, as you said, a number of very near misses
on the seas and in the air, and we are trying to reopen the lines of dialogue simply to deal with the potential for escalation in the event
there were a midair collision caused by reckless conduct by a Chinese pilot, for example.
Those Section 232 tariffs, the tariffs that were imposed by President Trump that are still in place on Chinese industrial products are also still in
place on some imports from our close partners and allies. And Katherine Thai, the U.S. trade representative, is negotiating with the E.U., with the
U.K., with other partners on potentially reducing or eliminating those tariffs and moving forward with something like an agreement on sustainable
steel and aluminum.
This bill that I just introduced with my Republican partner, Senator Cramer, would advantage the manufacturing of U.S. based low emissions,
heavy industrial products and potentially, if we work this out, reduced tariffs on things coming into this country from our partners and allies in
U.K, Canada, E.U. but retain high tariffs on high emissions imports from countries like China or Russia.
That's actually similar to the trade approach of the former president, President Trump, but justified on different grounds and a way that
reinforces our shared climate ambition and our alliances with the countries I've just been mentioning that are open markets and open societies.
AMANPOUR: So, let's talk about one of the countries. So, Russia. What we've seen is continued shelling in the Kherson area as Ukrainians are trying to
rescue people who are downstream of this, you know, leaking dam and the floodwaters are terrible. President Zelenskyy has appealed for real help.
Let us just play what he -- what -- the appeal he made today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The situation in the occupied part of the Kherson region is absolutely
catastrophic. The occupiers have simply abandoned the people in these dreadful conditions without rescue, without water, they are left on the
rooftops in flooded communities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, he's basically saying that the occupiers, the Russians who have taken over since the war are not doing anything about the catastrophe
there. Can I ask you what the United States believes to be the cause of this breach in this dam, first and foremost?
COONS: Well, Christiane, I can't speak on the behalf of the U.S. government about their assessment of the breach in the Kakhovka dam. I'll tell you my
opinion that it seems more likely than not that this was a Russian action because of the consequences. It's going to slow or thwart a potential
counteroffensive by Ukrainian troops that would be seeking to cross the Dnipro River to its south side and to advance, to retake Ukrainian
territory that the Russians currently hold.
It's also going to have long-term consequences. It will increase hunger in Ukraine. This is some of the most fertile and productive land in all of
Ukraine that's now flooded and won't be productive for several seasons. There's an environmental catastrophe at hand as well.
If we look at history in the Soviet era, hunger was used as a weapon in a horrible way, in the Holodomor in Ukraine in the 1930s. This brings back
some terrible memories of action by the Soviet state that led to the suffering and the death of millions of Ukrainians. I'm very sad to say,
it's my view that history is repeating itself, that the ongoing war crimes being committed by the Russians in Ukraine are most likely being repeated
here in this breach of a dam that is both -- that is tragically going to lead to lots of environmental and humanitarian consequences.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it is horrible to hear you, you know, evoke that terrible, terrible time in history. So, what do you think about the
Ukrainian's ability to capitalize with a counteroffensive? Local reports, press reports are saying the counteroffensive has started. What's riding on
COONS: Christiane, I am optimistic about the Ukrainian counteroffensive, in part, because of how much progress they made, how much territory they re-
took in their previous counteroffensive last year. They have been provided with training, with equipment, with support, but they possess something
that no outside ally or supporter could provide, which is the will to win, the will to fight, the will to retake their nation and restore their
sovereignty and their control over the towns and people that the Russians have so brutally occupied and oppressed since their invasion, their
expanded invasion of Eastern and Southern Ukraine began last year.
So, I am optimistic about it because they have the weapons, the support and the will to fight. If they are successful in this counteroffensive, I think
they will continue to deserve the robust support of the American people, of our western partners and allies, of the 40 countries around the world who
are supporting Ukraine in its fight for freedom and to restore its lost territory that's been occupied by Russia.
AMANPOUR: So, Senator, you said if, if it's successful. What if it's not as successful as has been billed? What if it takes longer time than it's --
you know, they need more weapons, they need more time? We are hearing a very stiff Russian resistance. Does that mean the opposite will happen, the
U.S. will stop supporting?
COONS: There will be stiff Russian resistance. And, Christiane, part of why I'm wearing the Ukrainian and the American flag today, and many of my
colleagues, both Democrat and Republican, have been demonstrating, speaking out about their support for Ukraine on the Senate floor, in wearing flags,
in their actions and votes, is because we know that Putin's core strategy here is to wait us out, as he did in the wars in Chechnya, as he had in the
war in Syria. Putin's plan is to simply continue to bombard civilians, continue to grind away at Ukraine's strength and resistance, and to hope,
to plan on the West, on the United States losing interest. We cannot allow that to happen.
Putin cannot be rewarded for his brutal invasion. He has already lost strategically because NATO is going to expand, he has already lost
strategically because his standing in the world, the respect for Russia has fallen significantly. But we have to sustain our support for the brave
Ukrainian troops who continue to fight and be willing to die for their country and to retain the sovereignty, to regain the control of territory
that Russia's deprived them of.
What are the consequences if they're not successful? Well, in the long run, if we care about freedom, we have to continue to support Ukraine's fight
against the Russian aggressor.
AMANPOUR: Well, as we all know, that's, you know, a leading mantra of the Biden administration and particularly, they draw their comparison to the
Republicans, particularly Former President Trump. So, I just want to ask you a domestic question. More and more Republicans are throwing their hat
in the ring, more and more, allegations and warnings of investigations are coming down towards Trump.
Mike Pence, his vice president, officially launched and he also held a town hall on CNN. This is the scathing assault he launched on his former boss.
Just take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me say what I said today was that anyone who puts themselves
above the constitution should never be president in the first place. And anyone who asks anyone else to put them over the constitution should never
be president again.
I had hope that President Trump would come around on our difference about that tragic day and about my role, and I still hope he does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: In the unlikely event that he does come around to change his opinion, does -- do you think the Democratic Party, President Biden,
prefers to face Trump or any of the other Republicans who are throwing their hat in the ring right now?
COONS: Look, that's going to be up to the American people and to the Republican Party, in their primaries. I would prefer to be standing by and
supporting President Biden more than any of the Trump or Trump like candidates who are getting in on the other side because President Biden has
a real and strong record of accomplishment.
Former President Trump promised that he'd fix infrastructure, he didn't. President Biden has. He promised that he'd reduce prescription drug prices,
he didn't. President Biden has. Our president has signed into law big, bold, bipartisan bills that are making progress in addressing the issues
the American people care about, from community mental health, to background checks on guns, to rebuilding our infrastructure, to standing up to China,
to bringing advanced manufacturing back in the United States.
With that strong record of runoff, I'd face any of this field of a dozen Republicans. And that's why I'm strongly supporting my predecessor here in
the Senate, my fellow Delawarean, Joe Biden, for reelection in 2024.
AMANPOUR: And we would expect nothing less from you, Senator Coons, a close confident and a Democrat. Very thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
And we turn now to another issue that has plagued America, that is police brutality. My next guest has made ending that violence a key mission. Keith
Ellison is Minnesota's attorney general, and he was responsible for prosecuting the police officers who killed George Floyd almost exactly
three years ago.
In his new book, "Break the Wheel: Ending the Cycle of Police Violence," Ellison takes us through his journey to justice, and he's joining me now
Welcome back to our program.
KEITH ELLISON: Thank you, Christiane. Always a pleasure.
AMANPOUR: I just want to take you back to, well, three years ago. We spoke in the month or several weeks after George Floyd was murdered, and I say
murdered because a court convicted the police officer, and you supervised that prosecution and that trial. Take me back to what it was like as you
sat there on the edge of your judicial seat hoping that justice would, in fact, prevail.
ELLISON, AUTHOR, "BREAK THE WHEEL" AND MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, when we got a call that a verdict had come back, I was surprised at that. I
thought there was always a possibility of a hung jury because in so many other cases that were similar, that is what had happened.
And then, when the judge began to read the verdict, my pulse was racing. I could feel the palpitations in my chest and my heart beating, and the judge
read guilty, guilty, guilty, and I felt relief. And then, I looked over at, you know, Derek Chauvin and I realized, his life is going to change. He did
a horrible act, 12 people, his peers, found that he was guilty of it beyond a reasonable doubt. But I hope that it -- I thought it was a sad that
somebody who signed up to protect and serve now had been found guilty of doing the opposite. And I hope that we would learn a social lesson and make
the reforms we need to stop this from happening ever again.
AMANPOUR: So, before I get into your recollections and your prescriptions in the book, I just want to point out, of course, what hopefully people
know, that Chauvin was the first white Minnesota police officer to be convicted of murdering a black person on the job.
The stakes were enormously high and you have written about the difficulty of trying to seat the right jury, if I could put it that way. What were you
looking for --
AMANPOUR: -- and how did you manage to achieve? Because the other side would've wanted to extract some and, you know, put their own people in, et
ELLISON: Well, you know, we call it jury selection, but what it really is, is jury exclusion. We have a group of people brought in on a random basis,
and both sides are allowed to make challenges to jurors who have a bias, and then there are some peremptory challenges where we're allowed to just
remove people with no reason, as long as it's not a racially based reason, or for some reason that's a bias or impermissible.
And so, we were looking for an impartial jury. We knew that everybody, everywhere, had seen the video and heard all about the case. There had been
massive protests around the world, protests in London and Attenborough and Cardiff, but also throughout the United States, as you know. It was an
international event and we needed to find some people who, despite seeing that video, could still be fair and still be impartial. People who would
not go based on anything except what they saw through the evidence chair. And that was not easy.
And we know that some people were going to come in bias in favor of the police, because all of us are raised, as we should be, to trust the police
and believe in the police, but then others would be very angry against the police and maybe not want to be fair to them. We were looking for impartial
jurors and, you know, we found 12. And I was glad that we were able to do so, but it was by no means obvious in the beginning that we were going to
be able to do that.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. And when we spoke, it was obviously before all of this. I mean, again, it was just weeks after the killing.
AMANPOUR: And at the time, you were emotional, of course. It was a very, very emotional time for everybody. And you basically said then, you saw
this murder, in fact, as a moment of opportunity for police reform. You said exactly, I think that --
AMANPOUR: -- it's important for us to use this moment as a moment of real change. But three years later and one conviction later, there's still no
major national legislation and only a very small percentage of police killings result in officers being charged with a crime. Has America missed
ELLISON: You know what, I think the moment is still going on and it's a little too early to say we missed the moment. And also, Christiane, we
didn't get one conviction, we got four. We convicted all four officers in state court and federal. And since this tragic incident, I've had to
prosecute other cases involving officer involved deaths. So, we've been doing our work beyond this case.
But I will tell you, you've got a point that we have not seen enough progress. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has not passed. But
Minnesota passed a law on police officer standards and training licensing. Now, if you're a police officer who does certain bad acts, you don't have
to be convicted of a crime to lose your license to practice policing. That is a change.
We also have barred a lot of the chokehold that used to be lawful and no- knock warrants, and we have made a number of other changes. We've gotten some new personnel. We change our police department from only police doing
public safety to the entire or public safety division, which includes police fire, 911, also civilian violence interrupters and peer violence
So, we've done a lot of things, but you are right, there's still too many problems. I mean, look, you've got Tyre Nichols in Memphis. What a tragic
incident that was. There are many others. We are not close to finishing this journey, but I'm not ready to say that we missed the moment. In fact,
every moment presents an opportunity to do the right thing.
I mean, Martin Luther King famously said, the time is always right to do what is right, and that moment is going on right now. So, I'm so
AMANPOUR: We were. And clearly, you must have written this book. And describe for me how you managed to write a book and what, you know, tools
that you used. I heard you were given all these notepads and all the rest of it. But you mentioned Tyre Nichols. So, the 29-year-old black man killed
by police. But it was five police -- five black police officers who were charged with his murder.
AMANPOUR: I don't know how you equate that, how do you see that in your head and can people then argue that based on that case, the diversifying of
police department actually won't lead to reform or might not lead to reform? I mean, let's face it, the Minnesota Police Department had also
already gone through reform, so to speak, before George Floyd's murder.
ELLISON: Sure. Well, let me say, you know, diversity in police departments is important. We need more female officers. We need more officers of color.
But that alone will not change anything. Why? Because the prevailing culture that exist before any of those officers get there, those new
officers of color and women officers have to fit into the culture or that culture will spit them out.
So, what you see is officers who just accommodated a culture that allowed for chronic use of excessive force. And so, we've got to do more than just
have diversity, though we and should strive for diversity.
You know, Christiane, what we've got to start with is prosecute any crime, no matter whether the person has a badge or not, and we've got to use
administrative tools to act quicker. Never forget, Derek Chauvin had 18 prior excessive force complaints.
ELLISON: That is a supervisory failure. We've got to be able -- we've got to say, when you're getting four or five of them, you know, drawing people
in, engaging that officer, what's the problem? Why are you getting so many? Do you need some retraining? And, you know, that's the kind of thing we
have to do.
We found that it's not just -- you can't just blame all this on Derek Chauvin. Yes, he is guilty and he's responsible for what he did, but he's
part of a larger culture that allowed it to happen. And we've got to face that fact, and that's all over our country, that's not just Minneapolis.
AMANPOUR: And what about basic strategy, whether it's local or national? You were reelected in 2022 as attorney general. Very, very close race. You
won by less than 1 percent.
AMANPOUR: And your opponent made crime a top issue. And he accused you of leading the defund the police movement.
AMANPOUR: Do you think, as others have suggested, that that slogan did, in fact, I guess it hit the wrong nerve amongst many people in the United
ELLISON: I think you are right, but I will tell you this. I know of nobody who's ever stood for office, no Democrat who stood for office who called
for defunding the police. There was a great candidate in Wisconsin, my neighboring state, named Mandela Barnes, he's not even in law enforcement
at all, and they accused him of that.
It was an unfortunate slogan used by some young activists, very upset about the murder of George Floyd. But then, people on the conservative end of the
political scale grabbed that slogan and tried to use it as a political weapon and win some elections. So, it got exploited and it got distorted.
But what I will say, though, is we do need to re-fund community. We need to re-fund mental health. We need to fund things like strong educational after
school programming. We need to fund things like housing, so we don't have so many people living on the street like that. And so, yes, we need to fund
the police, but we need to find other things too. And I think that's what the main point of those activists were trying to make.
AMANPOUR: Right. OK. Well, just quickly, I want to ask you, because, you know, your book is about breaking the cycle of violence, and you did, of
AMANPOUR: -- you know, do your due diligence and sit down for many, many interviews with polic and unions, et cetera.
AMANPOUR: What was their response to you, having prosecuted one of their own, and how do they think the cycle of violence can be broken?
ELLISON: Well, my experience with police is positive. Overwhelmingly, individual officers are like, thank you for doing this. We condemn what
Derek Chauvin did too. We are proud of being police officers and we believe he tarnished the badge.
There are some people who think that merely prosecuting a police officer, no matter what they did, somehow undermines policing, but I'm trying to
help them understand that high standards and excellent work is what will restore the dignity of the noble profession of policing, not impunity and
looking the other way when people like Derek Chauvin do the wrong thing.
I think overwhelmingly, most officers want to see the reform come and they understand that, look, crimes happening and people do need police to help
protect them from that. So, we need police to be respected, but it's going to have to be based on some reform. And then, I think we're going to be in
a much, much better place. But thanks for that question, because it has been a point of controversy.
AMANPOUR: So, what I want to quickly ask you, because it's important. You know, a black candidate, Senator Tim Scott, is running for president, for
the Republican Party. But when he announced --
AMANPOUR: -- on the -- you know, a few days before the anniversary of George Floyd's death, he said, in Biden's America, crime is on the rise,
law enforcement is in retreat, the far-left is ending cash fail, demonizing, demoralizing, defunding the police. So, again, the same
question I sort of asked you but it's now from a presidential candidate on the Republican side.
AMANPOUR: And there are places where some crime is rising, though apparently on the whole, violent crime is static since 2010. But what do
you make of a presidential candidate saying that, a black presidential candidate?
ELLISON: Well, sure. Well, let me tell you, in Minneapolis, crime rates have declined. They're still too high. If you are a victim of a crime, then
crime is high, right? But if you look at statistically, crime has gone down, particularly in some of the most adversely affected areas, we've seen
some dramatic reductions.
But, what I think, though, Christiane, is that it's just typical exploiting and demagoguing crime in order to get votes. Making people afraid in order
to get them to cling to you. I think it's unfortunate Tim Scott is doing that, because Tim Scott, after all, was one of the main folks we were
counting on to help pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. He's the one who abandoned court Senator Cory Booker, he's the one who abandoned
Representative Karen Scott, and that's -- and it's him as to why the bill never passed.
So, I think it's a sad, bad sign and will not bode well for the future if we want to bring this crisis to an end.
AMANPOUR: Attorney General Keith Ellison, author of "Breaking the Wheel," thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
And next, another look at how racial discrimination impacts American society, this time, in housing policy. Author Richard Rothstein believes
that for generations unconstitutional laws have severely restricted the wealth and success of African Americans. In his latest book, "Just Action,"
written with his daughter, Leah Rothstein, he explores how local communities can undo decades of neighborhood segregation. And they are
joining Michel Martin to discuss their findings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Richard Rothstein, Leah Rothstein, thank you both so much for joining us.
LEAH ROTHSTEIN, CO-AUTHOR, "JUST ACTION": Thank you for having us.
RICHARD ROTHSTEIN, CO-AUTHOR, "JUST ACTION": Thank you.
MARTIN: All right, Mr. Rothstein, I'm going to start with you. Your last book, "The Color of Law," you argue that housing segregation is, number
one, deeply important. And number two, that it's not accidental. You argue that this is really been a matter of law and custom in the United States
for a very long time. As briefly as you can, would you describe why it's so important and why you say it's not accidental?
R. ROTHSTEIN: "The Color of Law," my previous book, demolished the myth of the de facto segregation, something we all thought existed, the fact, as
you said, that the fact that every metropolitan area is racially segregated happened either by accident or because of private discrimination or bigotry
of single-family home owners who wouldn't sell to African Americans, people (INAUDIBLE) the same race.
It turns out that the reason we are segregated, we have an apartheid society. We are segregated by racially explicit federal state and local
government policy. In the mid-20th century, somewhat before and somewhat after, that was unconstitutional, blatant constitutional violations.
When the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration decided to suburbanize the entire white working class and middle-class population
into single-family homes and all white suburbs, the white families who were subsidized to do this -- and these weren't rich people, these were
returning war veterans -- the white families gained wealth because those homes appreciated in value over the next couple of generations.
They used that wealth to send their children to college, they used it to take care of temporary emergencies, maybe unemployment. They used it to
subsidize their retirements and they used it to bequeath wealth to their children and grandchildren. But then had down payments for their own homes.
The result of the fact that African Americans were prohibited, by written federal policy, written federal policy, from participating in this subsidy
program means that today, although African American incomes are about 60 percent of white incomes, African American wealth is only about 5 percent
of white wealth.
This wealth gap underlies the most serious social problems in this country today, it underlies the concentration of African Americans lower income
communities where the schools are less well resourced, it underlines the fact that they have poorer health because they're living in more polluted
more dangerous communities, it even underlies the police violence that we've been spending so much time paying attention to in the last few years,
because when you concentrate the most disadvantaged young men in single neighborhoods, it's inevitable that they are going to be contradictions
with the police.
So, these unconstitutional policies underlie our apartheid system and they require us to remedy it.
MARTIN: So, Leah Rothstein, I want you to pick up the thread here. What -- how does "Just Action" continue that conversation?
L. ROTHSTEIN: A lot of people who read "Color of Law," myself included, and wanted to see my dad lecture about it, you know, were moved and just sort
of overwhelmed by the comprehensive history laid out in how intentional it was in this -- the creation of our segregated communities, and I asked him,
after one of his lectures, you know, now that we are reawakened to this history, what do we do about it now? How can we begin to undo it and
challenge these decades and decades of policies, the entrenched, you know, living patterns that we are so used to now?
And so, he challenged me to help him answer that question, by writing this book. And in this book, we help answer that question for people all over
the country looking for ways to take action and begin to redress segregation. And we really focus on local efforts, what can be done in our
local communities. We understand that federal policy change will be necessary eventually, but we do not have the political will on the federal
level to make these changes nationwide. But we can build that will in our local communities, and there's actually a lot that's under local control
that can go a long way towards undoing segregation, challenging it and remedying the harms that have come from it.
MARTIN: Housing segregation just seems so big. I mean, people live in their houses, in some cases, you know, for 30 years, 50 years. It just seems so
big. So, Leah, let me just start by asking you this, when you thought about this, geez, how do I -- how do you tackle this? Did you find it daunting
L. ROTHSTEIN: You know, I did at the beginning. I have been a community organizer and activist, and I've worked in housing policies. So, I've
worked on these issues a lot and I didn't know how to fix this problem when I started this project with my dad. I was overwhelmed by just the enormity
of the issue, and it's right, you know, people live in the same place for a long time. The history my dad laid out shows us how, you know, the wealth
gap between blacks and whites was created by housing policy. So, there's just so much to undo. It did feel overwhelming and rather daunting.
But in "Just Action," we outlined dozens and dozens of policies and strategies that a local activist group could take on, to begin to redress
segregation in their communities. And for every one of those policies, we give an example from a local community group somewhere in the country
that's working on this issue or has successfully implemented this policy change.
So, I ended this project and writing this book feeling very hopeful, actually, that there's a lot that can be done. It's not one policy or one
change that's going to fix all of this, but it's a lot of little pieces that will begin to undo different aspects of segregation, different
segregation's effects, but all of these small pieces together have a huge impact.
MARTIN: Mr. Rothstein, I'm going to ask you the same question. As you were researching this book, did you feel a sense of hope that this could be
R. ROTHSTEIN: Very hopeful, very hopeful. Because as long as we thought it happened by accident, it was easy to think it could only happen by
accident. Once we understood that it was created by explicit public policy, explicit public policies can fix it.
And as Leah said, there are so many local policies that sustain, reinforce and perpetuate segregation. It was created nationally, but its sustenance
is local. If I can give you an example.
MARTIN: Yes, let's hear it. Yes. I'd love to hear an example.
R. ROTHSTEIN: Eventually, every metropolitan area in this country, African American homeowners pay property tax at a higher rate than white homeowners
do. So, African Americans are paying taxes at an assessed value close to the market value, and white homeowners are paying taxes far below the
assessed market value. This is a purely local issue. But every one of the black homeowners in those communities is owed refunds for their excessive
And activist groups could begin a campaign to win those refunds. They might not be totally successful, but they can make progress. And there are dozens
and dozens of these kinds of programs and policies that exist in the local level that are accessible by local groups if they simply mobilize to take
action to achieve them.
And the reason we wrote this book is because, well, 20 million Americans participate in the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, in the aftermath of
George Floyd's murder. And most of them went home and they put signs on their lawns saying, black lives matter, and that was the end of it. But
this is a base of support for a pretty large and significant civil rights movement of people who didn't know what to do next. We say anything that
you do, any one of these policies is a beginning and starts somewhere.
MARTIN: Leah, I'm going to direct this question to you. You write in the book a lot about policies and practices that are on their face race
neutral, but actually yield disparate results. Can you talk a little bit about that? I'm thinking maybe about credit scoring, for example.
L. ROTHSTEIN: Well, when we have an unequal society and you apply a race neutral policy across the board to everybody, it's going to have unequal
effects. So, the example you brought up, credit scoring. So, a credit score system is a race neutral policy, it's not discriminatory in intent, but it
is in effect and it is in effect because a credit score system is supposed to be an objective rating of your future likelihood of repaying a debt, and
it bases that rating on your financial history, but it only uses a certain type of financial history to make that reading. And it's a type of
financial history that whites are far more likely to have than African Americans.
So, if you've -- if you're applying for a mortgage and you're looking at your credit score, and you have had a mortgage in the past, that will
factor into your credit score. But if you've never owned a home in the past and you've been a renter your whole life, which African Americans applying
for a mortgage are more likely to have never owned a home before, and even if you've never missed a rent payment in your life, that financial history
is not factored into your credit score.
So, as a result, African Americans are disadvantaged in the credit scoring system, which makes it harder for them to get a mortgage to buy their first
home, and then harder for them to get a high enough credit score to get a good interest rate on that mortgage. So, the result that we see now is
about a third of African Americans have no credit score at all, compared to about 17 percent of whites. And of those with credit scores, 20 percent of
African Americans have a credit score high enough for a mortgage compared to over half of whites.
MARTIN: What would you say to people who would argue, well, that's just common sense, I mean, people need a credit score, lenders should have some
way of knowing whether you're a good bet to lend money or not?
L. ROTHSTEIN: Well, we're not advocating getting rid of credit scores. I think you are right. We need a credit score so a lender knows who to lend
money to. But those credit scores can take into account rental payment history, just as easily as they can take into account mortgage payment
history. And that would go a long way to equalizing that system and not having a disparate impact on African Americans, and local bank branches and
credit unions can start to do that.
Individually, even if the national credit scoring system isn't adjusted yet, they can start factoring in rental payment history in order to
determine someone's credit worthiness, and that would go a long way to opening up access to credit for African Americans.
MARTIN: Richard, what are some of the solutions that you came across on the course of reporting this book that really stood out to you?
R. ROTHSTEIN: Well, we described so many solutions that it's really just a question of where you start. In our book, "Just Action," we have a
photograph, actually two photographs, of community groups in -- one in California and one in New York, that were picketing banks because it turned
out that those banks were making mortgages to apartment developers, multi- unit apartments, and the mortgages penciled out only if those borrowers predicted a higher income stream than present rents would afford. In other
words, the banks were being guaranteed that they would gentrify those buildings by evicting current tenants and charging higher rents.
Well, community pressure can make sure, as those two demonstrations that we photographed in the book, can make sure that those banks don't follow that
policy, that they don't subsidize gentrification in that way, by issuing mortgages to borrowers whose finances would only qualify them for a
mortgage if they evicted present tenants and took in higher paying ones.
MARTIN: So, Richard, I take Leah's point that, you know, a lot of these are local initiatives, but I am curious about your sense of whether there
really is an appetite for these kinds of initiatives. Just given how it seems to kind of push these deep emotional buttons that people have about
where they live, with whom they live, and how they live.
R. ROTHSTEIN: There's an enormous appetite for this if people would learn what they can do and if they organize themselves, form committees, form
biracial committees, in particular, to begin to address these issues. And we have many examples in "Just Action" of people who've actually started to
We can identify the banks, the realtors, the developers who created segregation under the aegis of the federal government, in people's
particular communities, and those banks, those realtors, those developers should be the subject of actions and campaigns to get them to contribute to
the redress of the segregation that they created.
So, I don't fear that there's no appetite for this. My previous book, as you mentioned, "The Color of Law," you know, I don't mean to boast, but it
sold a million copies. We also have a regular column that we're writing on Substack, and Leah, a few weeks ago, write a column -- wrote a column about
a very elite suburban community that organized because they want to diversity, they wanted to include other people in their community. They
organized and they defeated a referendum in that community that would've prohibited modifying single-family zoning.
So, if people organize, they can win successes. They won't win successes all the time, sometimes they'll be defeated. But small victories will lead
to larger ones. And I'm confident that people take advantage with some of these ideas that we've thrown out will begin to see a cascading movement to
MARTIN: Why should people who have benefited from these systems want to change them?
L. ROTHSTEIN: Yes. Well, there's a couple of reasons. This group that I wrote about, they started by learning about the history of their own
community and how it came to be segregated. So, they developed a workshop that they did around their region based on "The Color of Law," and applying
it specifically to their city and identified the policies that created segregation in that region.
And I think part of doing that, that kind of education, it opened up people's eyes to what they thought was just normal, what they thought they
were entitled to in that community was actually intentionally created by prohibiting African Americans and others from living there. And once they
reconciled with that history, they realize that that's not the kind of community that they wanted to live in. That they actually valued inclusion
and they value diversity, and so they wanted to work towards that. So, that's the basis of that group.
And then, when they started working on this, defeating this ballot measure, they realized that, you know, the exclusivity of this community hurt them,
hurt the people who live there as well. Their children couldn't afford to move back home. The ballot measure was in response to some affordable
housing for teachers that was proposed in a town because 30 percent of teachers in this town left their positions every year because they couldn't
afford to live anywhere near the schools that they taught in.
Their favorite cafes were closing because service employees couldn't find anywhere near there to live on a minimum wage salary. So, they saw how the
exclusivity of their community and by keeping the home prices high, through maintaining single-family only zoning, was hurting them as well. And so,
the values that they sort of developed and identified through learning about their history, along with the impacts that the affordable housing
crisis and the exclusivity of their community were having on them personally helped them develop this really strong community group that
defeated the ballot measure and are going on to work on housing policy in the future.
MARTIN: And, Richard, before we let you go, this work, again, really does focus on the experience, the historical experience, of African Americans in
the United States and how that experience translates to today's -- to current, sort of, circumstances today, why is that focus on African
Americans and why should people of different backgrounds, particularly Latino Americans, Latinx Americans, Asian Americans who perhaps arrived
later on in this country care about this?
R. ROTHSTEIN: The reason they should care about this is because we are all Americans and our constitution was violated by the segregation of African
Americans. The policies we described were focused on African Americans. It wasn't the large Hispanic migration at the time that these policies were
We have enormous economic inequality in this country today. There are many policies we need to follow that would benefit low income and moderate
income, recent immigrants. That's a different issue. It's not a less important issue but it's a different issue from our obligation to remedy
the unconstitutional segregation of African Americans.
The discrimination, the exclusion that black families have faced in this country was far more extreme, more violent, more oppressive than what was
experienced by other groups, even though those other groups did experience discrimination as well. But they're not comparable, and different problems
require different solutions.
What we say in our writing is that race specific crimes require race specific solutions. And, that's the reason that we're focusing this book on
African Americans, it doesn't mean that there are other problems in the society that also need to be addressed.
MARTIN: Richard Rothstein, Leah Rothstein, thank you both so much for talking with us today.
L. ROTHSTEIN: Thank you for having us.
R. ROTHSTEIN: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, we started the show with smoke blanketing the U.S. East Coast. Now, we're ending with volcanic gas in Hawaii. After a three-
month snooze, Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano has woken up, spraying fountains of lava from its summit crater again. The eruption is expected to draw
thousands of visitors to see the lava lake.
The Hawaiian National Park Service has listed specific locations where people can watch as close as half a mile away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it is amazing. The bright orange and the way that the smoke is billowing off, it is more amazing than I actually pictured in
my mind if I were to see a volcano.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, back in 2018, an eruption triggered a lava flow that actually destroyed hundreds of homes. This time, despite a red alert
warning, authorities say, no people, no buildings are at risk.
And that is it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.