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Interview with U.S. National Security Council for Strategic Communication John Kirby; Interview with Former Counsel to the Assistant General for National Security Carrie Cordero; Interview with Governor Chris Sununu (R-NH). Aired 1-1:40p ET
Aired June 09, 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's what's coming up.
Underwater, and under rubble, Russia shelves rescue efforts around the breached Ukrainian dam. I ask National Security Council John Kirby, are
there any breakthroughs on the battlefield?
Then, indicted again, this time on unprecedented federal charges. Donald Trump gets closer to joining a club of other former world leaders held to
account by their own justice system.
Also, ahead --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): I just want to be a part of something a little bigger and a little more inspirational for the best of the party and
ultimately the country.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: You know, that sounded like a pretty passionate stump speech. So, I'm still confused, why aren't you doing this?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu tells Walter Isaacson why he decided not to run for president after all.
Plus, the king of sports, Saudi Arabia, is accused of buying golf now. I speak to "Sports Illustrated" executive editor, Jon Wertheim, about money,
morality and sports washing.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I am Christiane Amanpour in London.
Donald Trump's indictment on federal charges makes history in the United States, but around the world, trying to hold a former president to account
is not so unusual. The justice system in countries like France, South Korea, Israel, and Italy have all focused on the alleged wrongdoings by ex-
leaders. Though many of them never actually ended up in a prison cell.
The charges against Trump are related to his keeping classified documents after leaving the White House. He also happens to be the leading GOP
presidential contender, and the Republican administration might change U.S. support for Ukraine's defense against Russia, among many other policy
Here to discuss, is John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council. And he is joining me from the White House.
John Kirby, welcome to the program.
JOHN KIRBY, U.S. National Security Council for Strategic Communication: Thank you, Christiane. Good to be with you again.
AMANPOUR: So, listen, I do obviously have to start by asking you the implications, not the politics, the implications for national security on
this indictment. What does it mean in terms of the alleged documents that he might have had?
KIRBY: Well, I'm sure you can understand, Christiane, that I'm just not going to be able to comment one way or the other on this issue. That's
really for the Justice Department to speak to. All I can tell you is that President Biden remains focused on making sure that we can meet our
national security commitments around the world, and that includes in Ukraine and what's going on there as the fighting seems to be intensifying
here in the early weeks of the summer.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, we'll talk about that. But obviously, you and others have spoken about issues of national security breaches, of classified
documents, whether it's Edward Snowden, whether it's other whistleblowers. So, in general, taking, you know, classified documents out of a secure
area, what does that mean or making them public?
KIRBY: Well, again, I don't want to comment on something the Justice Department is investigating in their process. But, you know, separate and
distinct from that, obviously, we all take our obligations to protect classified information seriously. We have to do that. There's an awful lot
at stake around the world, and the United States is truly a global leader out there.
So, we want to protect our assets, we want to protect our resources and certainly, want to protect our information. But again, I just can't speak
to this particular case.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me about -- you just said, and we proposed the fact that it's possible, that if there's a Republic administration in the offing
(ph) or ready their statement and Trump statements, he is the leading contender, have talked about taking a, perhaps, different path than the
current White House and all its allies around the world. Is that still a worry for the U.S., for the White House?
KIRBY: We are not focused on --
AMANPOUR: In Ukraine, I'm talking about.
KIRBY: No, no, I understand that. We're not focused on the politics of 2024 or what's going to happen at the ballot box. What we're focused on
here at the National Security Council is making sure that we can deliver on President Biden's strong commitment to American support for Ukraine, and
that's a commitment, quite frankly, that we see from Capitol Hill. Both chambers of Congress, both parties still want to support Ukraine in their
fight against Russia. We believe that that support will continue, and that's really the focus for what we are spending our time on right now.
AMANPOUR: Right now, can you give us any up-to-date information about what's happening around that dam? It's obviously a catastrophic breach --
AMANPOUR: -- and it's affected huge numbers of people and lives. And there's just so much environmental and humanitarian disaster there. What do
you know about the state of that dam right now?
KIRBY: Obviously, there was a significant breach that caused all of that flooding. We still don't have specific information about how that breach
occurred, and we're doing the best we can talking to Ukrainian authorities to try to assess that.
But really, honestly, much of our focus right now, I mean, the predominant amount of our focus is on helping alleviate some of the humanitarian
concerns that you just mentioned, tens of thousands of Ukrainians in the southern part of the country all the way down to Kherson are having to
evacuate their homes and leave their businesses behind. There had been casualties, lives have been lost.
Obviously, there's lack of water, there's a lack of power. So, we are doing everything we can, working through USAID and our humanitarian partners on
the ground to get aid and assistance to where it's needed.
In fact, Christiane, within hours of the breach, USAID had worked with their partners on the ground to get buses available to just get people out
of the floodwaters and get them out of danger. We have provided boats, water purification equipment, obviously water itself, and other rescue
gear. And so, we're going to stay in touch with the Ukrainians about what they need going forward. They can count on the United States to continue to
AMANPOUR: You mentioned water, and we understand that only, you know, sort of shipped in water, so to speak, can be used for drinking.
AMANPOUR: They are entirely reliant on outside water coming in. President Zelenskyy has also said publicly that Russia is, in fact, firing on people
who are trying to evacuate and on any assistance measures. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The situation is extremely difficult. Russian troops do not stop artillery
strikes at the very territory where people are being evacuated. Unfortunately, there are wounded from their terrorist attacks. People who
were rescuing and evacuating from the Russian eco side are also forced to flee from Russian fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: John Kirby, there is a lot of anger inside Ukraine about the notion that they may be considered, you know, responsible for it. On the
one hand, on the other hand. Everybody knows that Russia has been bombarding this area for a long time, and the threat to this dam has been
public concern for a long, long time. Do you really think that it's anything other than Russia?
KIRBY: Well, we don't really know. We just don't know what caused the breach of the dam. And again, we're trying to assess that as best we can.
We're not on the ground, but we're trying to do the best we can to assess it.
I think it's fair to say that we all need to recognize, Russia was illegally in that part of Ukraine. They have no business being on Ukrainian
territory, period. But we know that they were occupying areas in that part of Southern Ukraine. We know they were occupying the dam and the reservoir.
KIRBY: And so, clearly, they have -- clearly, they had given themselves -- illegally, but giving themselves the mantle of responsibility for that dam
and for the safety of that dam. So, clearly, in that context, yes, Russia certainly bears responsibility here, in general, for being -- just being
But what caused the breach exactly, that's what we just don't know. And again, while we still want to figure that out, we are mainly focused on
trying to alleviate the humanitarian disaster that that bridge has caused.
AMANPOUR: But it's clearly -- you know, many believe that -- and certainly the Ukrainians, that it -- and I've heard American officials say, that it
could be a very cynical clot to -- or method of trying to thwart the counteroffensive that we understand is finally underway. It would thwart
the counteroffensive, wouldn't it? I mean, how does a nation fight with all of the mod cons that you've sent? We understand the Bradleys, other armored
vehicles that you've all sent are in use right now. It's very difficult for them to come across that kind of flooded terrain.
KIRBY: Well, with the caveat that I won't speak for the Ukrainian military or what their plans or intentions are in terms of offensive operations,
that's really for them to speak to, certainly, if you just look at the flooding that it was caused south -- into the southwest of the dam through
that southern part of Ukraine down to Kherson, clearly, that kind of flooding is going to have an impact on a military's ability to maneuver and
I mean, just the flooding itself will make conditions untenable for that kind of fighting. But also, it's going to necessarily, as it has, diverted
Ukrainian resources and energy and even some of their -- you know, their military's attention to trying to help alleviate the humanitarian
So, in that regard, certainly, there's going to be an impact to Ukraine and to their resources and their ability. But, again, there is a lot of
fighting going on elsewhere in the eastern part of the country, and we'll let Mr. Zelenskyy speak to that and to characterize it.
AMANPOUR: So, even -- you know, I know you will let him, but we've heard and we've read and we know that you have, obviously, many intelligences and
eyes on the ground. The Russian president has said that the counteroffensive has started, and that it's not going well for Ukraine. And
we've heard separately from U.S. officials that there's been a lot of fight back by the Russians and quite a lot of casualties in terms of material and
men. What can you tell us about the initial stages of this counteroffensive?
KIRBY: Well, again, I'll let the Ukrainians speak to their offensive operations. We wouldn't do that. We wouldn't characterize it and we
wouldn't get ahead of President Zelenskyy. But clearly, and you have seen and reporters on the ground witnessing them -- this for themselves, there
is stepped up fighting along that eastern flank there, along the eastern side of the country, all the way from Donbas and including around Bakhmut
and points further south.
And so, there is contact between these two military forces. There is fighting. There have been casualties. And what we're going to be focused
on, again, without characterizing what they are doing or speaking for them, but what we're going to stay focused on is making sure that they have all
the resources, the capabilities, the training, the tools that they need to be successful in the weeks and months ahead, and that includes, Christiane,
in coming days. I think you will see some more announcements from the United States about additional aid and security and weapons and
capabilities that will be going to be Ukrainian armed forces to help them.
AMANPOUR: Another ominous pledge from President Putin was that in a matter of days he is going to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus. He says
they've built whenever they need to build to house these things. What can a United States do about that? Have you demarched Belarus? What is the actual
real threat of them being in Belarus?
KIRBY: This is another example of just reckless and irresponsible rhetoric and posturing about nuclear capabilities from Mr. Putin and from Moscow. A
nuclear can -- should never be fought, can never be one. We've been very clear about that. This is dangerous rhetoric, which we have to take
seriously. We can't just cast it off as bluster, we have to take it seriously coming from a country like Russia and for Mr. Putin.
So, we're doing the best we can to monitor. We don't see anything out there that shows us that there's an imminent indication of movement of nuclear
capabilities or imminent risk of nuclear war inside Ukraine or even on the continent. And I can tell you that we've seen nothing that would cause us
to change our own deterrent posture when it comes to those kinds of capabilities, and we're watching this very, very closely.
AMANPOUR: So, another thing you are watching very closely, and it's pretty tricky over there in China. This week the Chinese defense minister, General
Shangfu, he warned the United States of its actions during a conference in Singapore. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LI SHANGFU, CHINESE DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): It is undeniable that a severe conflict or confrontation between the China and
the U.S. will be an unbearable disaster for the world. China believes that a major country should behave like one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, do you think that the United States and China are heading towards some kind of confrontation?
KIRBY: No, I don't. No, I don't. Not at all. And there is no reason for it to devolve into conflict. And I actually would agree with that official
from the PRC in saying that, you know, it would have disastrous consequences, not just for our two countries, but for the world at large.
The president is convinced and confident that we can get this relationship onto a better footing, but it's going to require effort on both sides. And
that's what's really required here. And it's also going to require not only keeping the lines of communication that are open now, Christiane, but
opening up ones that haven't been open, such as the military-to-military channel.
You know, when you talk about the risk of conflict, it's really that tension that you're seeing in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait
between our two militaries. And right now, our two militaries can't talk to one another. And that's a time when the tensions are this high and we want
to get them down at a time when miscalculation and misunderstanding in the air, on sea could really lead to somebody getting hurt, you want to be able
to have those two militaries talking to one another.
So, look, hopefully Secretary Blinken will be able to complete that trip to Beijing that he was getting ready to start a few months ago and see if he
can work to open up those military lines of communication, because that would go a long way to reducing the tensions and reducing the chances of
any kind of conflict between our two militaries.
AMANPOUR: Meantime, can you confirm or comment on what CNN is reporting that Cuba has agreed to allow China to build a spying facility on the
island, the eavesdropping and the rest? Do you have any intelligence on that?
KIRBY: I don't. And we've seen the reporting on that, Christiane, and just plainly speaking, it's not accurate. But again, I don't have anything more
on that to speak to.
I will -- the only thing I would tell you is that we are mindful of, have been since day one, mindful and concerned about China's influence
activities in this hemisphere, in this region. Certainly, mindful and concerned about their relationship with Cuba specifically, and we monitor
this very, very closely. And what I can tell you is that we have taken and will continue to take steps to make sure we can continue to defense our
interest and the American people in this region and well beyond.
AMANPOUR: John Kirby, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
Now, turning back to the indictment of the former president, Donald Trump, on seven charges as part of the investigation into the mishandling of
classified documents. Trump is expected to appear in the Miami Federal Courthouse on Tuesday. He told Fox News that he plans to plead not guilty.
Let's discuss what this says about the rule of law and the state of the Republican Party, as it chooses a nominee to lead it into the 2024
presidential election. First, to the legal analyst, Carrie Cordero. Welcome to the program.
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE ASSISTANT GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Thank you, glad to be here.
AMANPOUR: So, a huge amount of attention on this, yes? It's an unprecedented federal indictment of a former president. What do you think
legally now this means for Donald Trump? I mean, is it a slow ratcheting up of the legal noose, so to speak, the pressure of accountability after all
CORDERO: Well, this particular investigation I've been walking for a very long time, Christiane, because there really are serious potential charges
here. We haven't yet seen the actual indictment, the document that lays out the facts of the Justice Department's investigation and the specific
charges that we can confirm that he has been charged with through a returned indictment. So, we expect to see that Tuesday at the latest, if
it's not unsealed before then.
But this represents a very significant legal jeopardy for the former president. He was informed he was a target of the investigation, now it
appears that he has been indicted. The potential charges that we are reporting at CNN and that his lawyer has referred to, in some information
that they've received from the government, includes serious charges of potentially obstruction, willful retention of national defense information
and mishandling of classified information. And those are all really serious federal crimes, a really serious legal situation for the former president.
Different than, I think, some of the civil cases that we've seen or even stayed in local cases.
AMANPOUR: And also, we understand, from the lawyer himself, Trusty, who by the way has now said that he and his colleagues have resigned from the
Trump defense and Trump has said he is bringing somebody else on. But nonetheless, he has told CNN that they included charges around the
We understand now from Trump that his own valet, his own aide, long-term -- longtime aide has also been indicted. From a legal perspective, does that
show you where the sort of conspiracy piece of it might be targeted?
CORDERO: Well, I will want to see exactly what's in the indictment itself, but one potential theory on how the conspiracy charge might be involved is
that we know from prior reporting that the president has been -- the former president has been under investigation for obstructing the classified
documents investigation. So, not just for the mishandling of classified information, not just for retaining it when he was no longer authorized to
do it, but also for obstructing the Justice Department and the special counsel's investigation itself. And this was over -- this conduct was over
many, many months where the government came to him, asked for the documents to be returned, some documents were returned but not all of them. It
eventually led to the government needing to go to a federal judge and obtain a search warrant to search his house last year at Mar-a-Lago.
That, of course, was very dramatic and significant investigative step for them to have to take that measure because they did not trust that all of
the documents had been returned. And so, there appears to have been just this ongoing pattern of conduct where the former president and his team was
And we can contrast that to other situations, including the one involving Former Vice President Mike Pence, where he learned that he had retained
some classified documents by accident, he worked with the government, he returned them, they looked into it, conducted a quick investigation, and
that was the end of it.
And so, it just provides this incredible contrast between what happens when someone in such a significant position of leadership in the government has
something that they handle promptly, they respond to the government, they work with them and then, that's the end of it versus the situation that
Former President Trump finds himself in.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me ask you. You mentioned Mike Pence, and he is, you know, been quite scathing in his comments up until now about Donald Trump.
On the other hand, he and other candidates, now, this gets to the political side, talk about this administration unacceptably weaponizing the
Department of Justice, Pence said that. We hear, you know, Speaker McCarthy has said, it's unconscionable for a president to indict the leading
candidate opposing him. Well, it's not the president, is it, who is indicting?
CORDERO: Right. So, in this case, so what happened with the Justice Department is they appointed a special counsel in part because Former
President Trump has declared his candidacy for the next election. And so, then that does place him in a more sensitive position when it comes to the
Justice Department conducting an investigation of him. So, they walled -- basically, they walled off the investigation to a special counsel, gave
that special counsel, brought authority.
Attorney General Garland still does have ultimate authority over it, but the special counsel is quite autonomous and has been able to conduct the
investigation. That is for both the practical effect and the appearance of trying to remove the administration, the current President Biden, from his
potential future political opponent in the 2024 election if those two men end up being their respective parties' nominees.
But certainly, it's a highly unusual situation, and this political response to it and the criticism of the Justice Department and the criticism of the
FBI from some parts of the Republican Party is really at this tension with parts of the Republican Party that also purport themselves to be pro rule
of law and in favor of law enforcement. So, we do have this tension amongst members of the Republican Party in their messaging.
AMANPOUR: And the fact that CNN has received a transcript of Trump's own voice talking about how he couldn't classify as a non-president, I mean, is
that -- that seems to be evidence against him?
CORDERO: Well, so, it's a fact, a former president doesn't have authority to --
AMANPOUR: No, no, no. But he had said he didn't have any of these things?
CORDERO: Right. He said he didn't have -- on the transcript, it appears to say that he didn't have authority. So, it's -- first of all, that's true, a
former president does not have authority to classify or declassify information. So, if that's what he said, that actually is an accurate
statement with respect to the authorities of a former president.
Once a person is not president anymore, then they do not have authority to classify or declassify information. What it is, is it's in contrast to some
of the former president's prior public statements where he has said publicly that he is able to de-classified documents at will or he is
allowed to take the documents with him, which of course is also not true. Once he was no longer president, those documents belong to the United
AMANPOUR: And finally, we started the program by saying, prosecuting and holding accountable former leaders is something that's happened in many
democracies around the world. In this case, it's unprecedented, a federal charge, as you've just laid out. But this -- do you think this bolsters the
rule of law and America's standing in the world or is it a threat to the republic?
CORDERO: Well, I think the -- if the Justice Department has conducted a thorough investigation and has assessed the information in a way that is
consistent with how they would handle cases of other individuals who mishandle classified information or engage in conduct that obstructs
justice, if they have conducted that investigation and they can lay out the facts and they believe that they could win that case at trial, because
that's the standard that they have to abide by --
CORDERO: -- if they've met those criteria, then it is in support of the rule of law that they would bring this case, even though he's a former
AMANPOUR: OK. Thank you, Carrie, I wish we had more time. Thanks for joining us.
Popular New Hampshire governor, Chris Sununu, has decided on his strategy to move his party away from Trump, and it's by not running for president.
Sununu's announcement surprised and puzzled political observers. Here he is before the indictment dropped, explaining his rationale to Walter Isaacson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Governor Sununu, welcome to the show.
GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Thank you for having me on.
ISAACSON: So, you just wrote an op-ed piece saying you thought you had a path to victory to the Republican nomination, everybody has been talking
about you as a new face of the Republican Party, but then you said, I'm not going to run. Explain that to me.
SUNUNU: Well, look, the party is going through a tough time right now in terms of messaging, in terms of making sure that we get independents back
on board, our young voters back on board, that all has to happen to be successful in November. And I came to the conclusion that, yes, there's is
a path, not easy, of course, but there was a path, but it doesn't have to be the Chris Sununu Show. I mean, you're going to have another dozen
candidates on that stage anyways.
I want to and I enjoy spending my time, I think there is value on my time, showing the New Hampshire model, how do you get stuff done and hopefully,
encouraging, inspiring some of those candidates on a more national level and making sure we have a strong ticket. Not just a strong presidential
candidate, but you got to have a strong ticket or else 2022 is going to repeat itself, and that's no good for Republicans.
And I just think we don't have to change who we are, we just have to kind of get back to the basics of what we're about, because that can be
inspirational, folks, when you talk about low taxes or limited government, local control, all these things that really matter.
And finally, the most important thing, making sure -- as the governor of the New Hampshire first in the nation primary, making sure the candidates
are talking about things moving forward, not just relitigating the past, because that is a surefire way to lose a race in 2024 with the wrong
So, making sure we're talking about inflation, we're talking about border security, we're talking about energy independence, all of these things that
Republicans are frankly very, very good at and that can really impact people's lives at a direct level and not get the message confused by, you
know, a lot of the other things we're kind of -- we confused ourselves with. And we do it to ourselves. It's just the way Republicans are. We tend
to do it to ourselves. We're really good at the job sometimes, but we're really terrible at messaging.
I just want to be a part of something a little bigger and a little more inspirational for the best the party and ultimately, the country.
ISAACSON: You know, that sounded like a pretty passionate stump speech. So, I think I'm still confused, why aren't you doing this?
SUNUNU: Because, again, it doesn't have to be about me. Remember, I'm also managing the first in the nation primary. I want all the candidates to come
to New Hampshire and feel -- you know, understand the value of retail politics, to be one of -- if they were maybe four or five or six candidates
on the stage, maybe the decision might be a little different, but there's going to be like a dozen candidates there.
If Trump wasn't 40 points up on most of the other candidates right now, maybe that would -- I'd make a bit of a different decision. But a lot of
Republicans are just thinking in the past as opposed to thinking in the future, and we got to make sure Donald Trump isn't the nominee. If -- for
anything, he can't win. It's not personal with the former president. You just can't mathematically win in November of '24.
So, I can be a bigger -- I think much more helpful to the party in those successes. It's a team game. It really is. It can't just be about, you
know, a single individual. We have to think a little bigger than ourselves sometimes.
ISAACSON: You just said that it can't win if Trump's the nominee. That he's -- it's sort of a path to a loss again. And that's what you've said in
your "Washington Post" editorial. Is that the main reason you're against nominating Trump or do you think Trump is not really fit to be president
SUNUNU: No. For me, the main reason is he can't win. And he drags the whole ticket down. It isn't just about him. He cost us U.S. Senate seats in
'22. He cost us governorships. He's cost House seats. Luckily, we got a few of them back, but not nearly as many as we should. He cost the entire --
look, he cost us school board seats, because you have Republicans that have to try to justify why the Republican, and they might be on the same team as
Donald Trump, and even a school board member gets their messaging all twisted up because of this guy.
So, he's costing Republicans up and down the ballot across the country, it's just -- it's really that simple. And the data is right there. That's
not speculation. You have a candidate -- if you were the nominee -- that he couldn't even win Georgia. I mean, that's been proven. And he's lost us
seats in a state like Georgia. And if you can't win Georgia, I will use that as the example, as a Republican, game over, lights out, there's no
electoral path to victory, right?
So, right there, that tells you, it ain't going to happen if he's the nominee. He's going to cost us seats. It's best for the party, and it's
best for America, to have one of these other candidates, and there's a lot of really good ones out there to choose one. It doesn't -- again, it
doesn't just have to be me. A lot of other good candidates to choose from to make sure the party is moving forward in a positive way and driving
forward on a really positive Republican ticket to be successful in '24.
ISAACSON: But are there other things about Trump, including the January 6th insurrection and the many things that he's done that would make you not
want to vote for Trump?
SUNUNU: Well, look, I think it makes a lot of people not want to vote for Trump. I mean, that -- it's not -- again, it's not just about me, it has
pushed a lot of independents off, it has disenfranchised a lot of young voters in a very negative way that -- and it just cost us all the time. So,
it's not -- again, it's not just me, a lot of folks.
You know, the former president, after 2020, had a choice of what attitude to take, what path to take. And the path he chose really put him in a very
difficult position, and ultimately, as one of the leading voices in our party, our party in a very precarious position. And we paid for it dearly
in '22. We lost. We should've had 53, maybe even 54 U.S. Senate seats, and we lost them. Because, I mean, you had Democrats that were so confident
that Trump and his message were bad, they were funding Republican candidates that carried his message that were his candidates, they were
funding them to make sure they won their primaries. That's how confident Democrats are in beating Republicans in the Trump message. And it worked.
And it worked. Why would we do that again?
ISAACSON: I want to push back a bit, though, which is, you're right. All the things you have said about the losses or the things you didn't win
under the Trump banner, but the Republican Party has actually done pretty well. I mean, you got a state in which both houses of your legislature are
now Republican, the governorship's Republican. That's happening, I think, in 22 states. They're fully in control.
ISAACSON: Actually, did hold the House of Representatives. DeSantis won with a Trump-like message, with a very large vote in Florida. Is there
something -- I mean, it seems to me that Trump-like message isn't quite as toxic as you said.
SUNUNU: Well, not at the state level. So, states are very different. I think the American people really appreciate, partly through the COVID -- in
the pandemic process, they really appreciate the very vast difference between the federal government and state government, their legislatures.
Folks can have a much more impactful say in what the things that hit their lives on a day-to-day basis with their legislature, with their
governorships. And so, I think Republicans can be very successful there.
Virtually, every state has a balanced budget amendment, right? The federal government doesn't play by those rules. The federal government doesn't
really get anything done. You know, so there's a lot of more -- there's a lot more of the checks and balances built into the system at the state
level, and people appreciate it. So, Republicans can separate themselves on state issues there and not necessarily have to be completely blanketed.
But in the U.S. Senate, the congressional seats, we should have a lot more seats. And frankly, we -- you know, it would be great if had a president
that could have actually won in 2020. If you can't win in 2020 -- I mean, think of it this way, are there any independents that didn't vote for the
former president in 2020 that are changing their minds and are now going to vote for the guy? No. Like zero. Like literally zero.
He's one of the most known political commodities of the 21st century. There's no middle ground with the former president. You're either with him
or you're not. And the math says, way more people aren't with him, they're not willing to budge at all. So, we have the opportunity to move on.
And why wouldn't we? Why would we go backwards? We're not a country that goes backwards. We're not a country that says, I want last year's version
of something or the old ideas or old leadership. We always want the new, bigger, better version of things. The update, if you will. The new idea,
the new individual, the new innovation. And so, that's what -- that's why you go through elections. You don't go through elections to go backwards,
you go through elections to move forward.
ISAACSON: By my gray hair, you can probably can tell I'm old enough to remember your father quite well. I knew him. And he represented a very
conservative, very Republican, very traditionalist party with, you know, ideals that were very clear. And it had been that way for 20 or 30 years.
Suddenly, the party -- I won't say suddenly, but in the age of Trump, the party has been pulled away from so many of those ideals. I could go down
the litany, but you could probably do it better than I can. What's happened to the Republican Party and why does it change so radically in the age of
SUNUNU: Well, let's be fair, the litany of ideals on the Democrat Party have drastically changed. I mean, the fact that -- you know, we used to
make jokes about the green new deal, we used to make jokes about socialism, and now, a huge portion of the Democrat Party identifies as socialism isn't
so bad, right?
ISAACSON: All right. I'll have a Democrat on and --
SUNUNU: So, both parties that seen this --
ISAACSON: -- question him. But let me just restate the question, which is, hasn't the Republican Party shifted, not just to the right, but to a whole
new set of attitudes and resentments?
SUNUNU: No, I don't think that's fair to say. I think that there's a lot of -- the microphones are given to the extremes. I think media and social
media plays right into that. You know, the media and social media like to play right into trying -- again, to the Trump's ideal of relitigating old
stuff and talking about the 2020 election and January 6th and all of this sort of stuff.
And so, no, I don't think it's -- we're not moving. It's not that we're moving, it's that our messaging, I think, it's getting clouded. I think
some of our messaging does get co-opted by extremes but doesn't represent the vast majority.
If Trump were in a race, one-on-one with another candidate, he loses. Unquestionably. He will lose. And so, it's not that those ideal and that
extremism has co-opted the whole party, right now, it's just co-opted the microphones. And we have to appreciate that, take responsibility for it and
ISAACSON: Are you going to endorse somebody before the New Hampshire primary?
SUNUNU: I plan on it. Yes, I definitely on it. I mean, we'll -- I couldn't tell you who is it going to be. I don't know, to be honest. You know, we'll
see kind of who goes where over the next few months. But I've been very clear, I think we need to be strong as a party, not make the mistakes of
2016, and helping narrow this field down earlier than later.
And that means, by Thanksgiving or Christmas at this year, if you're not doing well in the polls, thanks for playing. Great job. Got to get out of
the race. We got to narrow this thing down pretty darn quickly. And I think the candidates understand that themselves. I think they know that there is
a time leash factor here.
We're not going to let this go to super Tuesday without narrowing it down between likely Former President Trump and one other candidate. And then,
you will see, I think, a lot of opportunity for that next generation, that next movement of the Republican Party to move forward with a clear
ISAACSON: Who do you feel has the most optimistic type messages?
SUNUNU: Oh, boy. That's really interesting. Well, of the current candidates, you know, I don't -- I can't say off top of my head. I think
they're all optimistic in different ways, right? I think governors are very optimistic, because governors always feel like they can get stuff done
because they're held accountable all the time.
I think -- you know, I think Vice President Pence, I got to say, I think he has a very optimistic tone. He's a great guy. He's gone, you know, up and
down in terms of the pressures he's had to withstand and he believes in this country very strongly. I think he's great. I think Nikki Haley has a
great -- a sense of what happens at the state and national and international level. She brings a really unique perspective in that way.
And again, she's had a lot of pressure on her, but overcome a lot.
So, they all come from very different backgrounds, but let's see what this offer. Let's see where they go with it. Let's see how they sell it and the
experience and examples they can put behind it to be that inspiration we all want to see.
ISAACSON: So, you had a line in your op-ed that leaked out at me, which is, candidates should not get into this race to further a vanity campaign
or to sell books or to audition to be vice president. Who were you calling out?
SUNUNU: No one in -- look, I don't think anyone -- I'm not going to say any names individually. But there's clearly some candidates there that
either clearly don't have a shot but want to get in to be considered V.P. Some candidates that I don't think are being tough enough on the former
president, and you got to call him out for what he didn't do. You got to call him out for not draining the swamp. You got to call him out for not
securing the border. You got to call him out for, you know, wrapping his arms around Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, and saying, he did a
better job than the Republican governors, you know, specifically Ron DeSantis. I mean, nobody thinks Andrew Cuomo did a better job --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, we are taking a break now from this program to go to CNN USA, with more details on Trump's indictment being unsealed.