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Interview with Former Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Darryl Cohen; Interview with Former Afghan Politician and Women's Rights Activist Fawzia Koofi; Interview with "The Ongoing Mystery of COVID's Origin" Writer David Quammen; Interview with "Aporia" Writer and Director Jared Moshe. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired August 15, 2023 - 13:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here is what is coming up.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The indictment brings felony charges against Donald John Trump.


GOLODRYGA: The former president indicted again. We dig into the Georgia case and what it means for the GOP front runner.

Then, the fall of Kabul 2 years on. I speak with Fawzia Koofi, a former Afghan peace negotiator who was shot by militants and survived.

Then --


DAVID QUAMMEN, WRITER, "THE ONGOING MYSTERY OF COVID'S ORIGIN: Trust for or lack of trust for science all depend on us answering this question, the

origins of this devastating virus. Where did they come from?


GOLODRYGA: Science writer David Quammen in talks to Walter Isaacson about trying to solve the enduring mystery of COVID-19.

Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Believe it or not, this was supposed to be a time machine.


GOLODRYGA: -- a time travel movie that tugs at your heartstrings. I am joined by Jared Moshe, writer and director of the new Indi sci-fi film,


Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

Donald Trump is indicted again, this time in Georgia. The former president is facing 13 felony charges for trying to overturn his 2020 election laws

in the state. 18 co-defendants are also charged, including Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and his former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. They're

all facing RICO Racketeering charges, traditionally used to prosecute mafia bosses and gang leaders. Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis,

ordered Trump and his alleged co-conspirators to turn themselves in by next Friday.

This is Trump's 4th criminal indictment. He is now facing a total of 91 charges in Georgia, Florida, New York and Washington, D.C. Here now to

discuss is Darryl Cohen, former Fulton County assistant district attorney. Welcome to the program form Atlanta, Darryl. Great to have you on.

So, this was a sweeping large indictment here and also narrow in scope. We'll get through to the details in a moment, but it's also something we've

been waiting for, for about two years now, from this district attorney. What do you make of the charges and the fact that it's not just Donald

Trump but you have 19 included -- including Donald Trump who have been charged?

DARRYL COHEN, FORMER FULTON COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, Bianna, first of all, it's good to be here and thank you. The fact that

there are 19 people helps Fani Willis, who is the elected D.A. in Fulton County, make this a RICO or a Racketeering charge, makes this easier for

her to prosecute crimes that took place outside of Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia but still in the State of Georgia. So, that is not surprising and

it gives her the opportunity to go after a lot more people.

Now, the fact that there are 19 people indicted tells me they are looking for some throwaways. They are hoping and expecting that one or more of

these people will turn states evidence, will testify against a co- defendant, Donald Trump. And the more that they could put pressure on people, the more likely he or she or they will say to themselves, do I

really want to put myself in jeopardy, do I really want to put myself in jeopardy of going to prison? The answer is no. So, I will do whatever it

takes to keep myself a free person.

GOLODRYGA: Right. Because -- and the other indictment, this is now the 4th, they involve whether it is Donald Trump just alone, as we saw in Jack

Smith's indictment, just a couple of weeks ago, also related to trying to overturn the 2020 election, now, that was a federal charge, that was just

focus on the former president. There have been other cases where there have been a couple of others that have been indicted, and the former president

in some of these cases is paying for their legal defense. In this case, it would be rather difficult for the former president to pay for all 19 -- or

all 18 others that have been charged here.

COHEN: Well, I don't know how much money each individual lawyer or lawyers are charging and I don't know what Donald Trump's pocketbook has in it or

what's left in it. But either way, it's a very, very heavy indictment.


And I think that part of what Fani Willis' strategy is, is the more people involved, the heavier the weight on Donald Trump to be fearful and to stop

striking back. Because what she wants is not what he is doing. What she wants is what normal defendants do, when he, she or they have been charged

they keep their mouth shut and they try to beat it in court in any way they know how. In this instance, our former president is lashing back out as if

he is backed into, and he is backed to a corner, and he is saying, get out of my way because this is a persecution, not a prosecution.

GOLODRYGA: Explain to our viewers what a RICO case means?

COHEN: OK. RICO is a Racketeering charge and it's all encompassing. So, it might be a little piece of the action over here, a small piece over here, a

larger appears here, but you put it all together and it becomes a major case because it depends -- each individual person may not have done

anything that illegal, but he or she put together -- think of a puzzle. We're putting this puzzle together, and piece by piece the puzzle pieces

don't mean much, but when you put them altogether, you have a finished puzzle and you could see what's going on. So, that's basically what we're

talking about. The simple individual pieces are going together in a complicated large prosecution.

GOLODRYGA: Among the other charges, we have election fraud, false documents, fall statements, witness intimidation. Let's just drill down on

some of these other instances and I want to get you to respond to what exactly, what law Fani Willis is saying the president or these 18 others


Let's start with that famous phone call now that took place on January 2, 2021. The former president made a call at the time to the secretary of

state in Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, asking for 11,000 votes to be found. Let's play that for the viewers.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780

votes which, is one more than we have because we won the state.


GOLODRYGA: So, for an amateur, just listening without a legal background, that does sound suspicious. But tell us exactly what laws may have been

broken here with that request?

COHEN: Well, it depends. If you take it at face value -- and we haven't heard the entire recording, but if you just take it at face value, it could

be, hey, do a recount. I'm certain that 11,780 votes were miscounted. Just keep looking because there may have been a malfunction in one or more of

the machines, or it could be more sinister. You need to change 11,780 votes so I could be the winner of the electoral votes in Georgia and I can be re-

elected as president. It just depends on how you interpret it and you cannot take it by itself. It has to be a part of a larger conversation,

part of a larger conspiracy that Fani Willis has charged Trump and 18 other people with.

GOLODRYGA: And would you assume that that's what Fani Willis has been able to prove or put together that this was a part of a larger conspiracy as

opposed to just the president saying, listen, I hope we can find 11,000 votes?

COHEN: Well, Bianna, the truth is this is a part of why it is a RICO case, in my view, because she is taking pieces of the puzzle and taking them

where they are separated and they don't mean very much of anything, but when they are put together, it means that there's a conspiracy with Trump

going after people who were electors, fake electors, putting pressure on Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state, that he should not have done.

And so, it becomes a question of, is this just political or is it political and a crime? And Fani Willis and the D.A.'s office have decided that all

the things that happened as a result of his loss of the presidential election were criminal, not just civil, not just rotten eggs, not just, I

was mistreated, but I was robbed of what I rightfully want. And he's saying this and the people around him were trying to make it happen without the

voters -- according to Fani and the indictment, without the voters' consent. Because the voters had voted one way and they were trying to

change votes to make him the winner.


GOLODRYGA: Then there's the issue of going after the Fulton County poll workers, specifically Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, who said

that their lives were turned upside down simply for doing their civic duties and that the president and those around him were intentionally lying

about what they were doing in that role. Let's listen to the impact that it had on their lives as they testified before the January 6th Committee.


RUBY FREEMAN, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States to target you? The president of the

United States is supposed to represent every American not to target one.

WANDREA SHAYE MOSS, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: I just don't do nothing anymore. I don't want to go anywhere. I second-guess everything

that I do. It's affecting my life in a major way and in every way, all because of lies.


GOLODRYGA: How does targeting Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss fit into this indictment?

COHEN: Well, number one, it's upset their lives and it upset their lives in a way that no one but the two of them could understand or comprehend and

it will probably happen and keep them upset for perhaps the rest of their life.

But by targeting them, members of the people who were trying to retake the election, trying to overturn what happen are saying, these two people were

a part of a conspiracy against us, not us being in a conspiracy but they conspired to keep me, that is Donald Trump, keep my president, that is

Donald Trump, from being re-elected. And because of what they did, votes that actually went for Donald Trump either were thrown out or votes that

went for him switched to become votes for Joe Biden.

GOLODRYGA: Explain the difference, as we noted, Jack Smith has already indicted the former president with federal charges for his role in

attempting to overturn the 2020 election. For folks at home watching this saying, didn't we just hear the same story, the same indictment a couple of

weeks ago, why do we have a different case here and explain the difference between state brought charges and federally filed charges?

COHEN: Well, to start with, it appears that there's a great deal of crossover between the two indictments. But that doesn't prevent the two

cases from going forward. Should he be convicted in Washington or in Georgia before the other case goes to trial, there will be an argument of

double jeopardy. That just depends on what the facts are and what we are looking at.

But in the state charges, they're very different from the federal charges that Jack Smith is prosecuting but then they're very much the same, saying

they're trying to overturn what the public, what the voters, the registered voters did by doing whatever is necessary to keep Donald Trump in the

office of the presidency.

GOLODRYGA: And they're also some other differences here that are striking. First of all, in the State of Georgia, if he is convicted and he does

become president, unlike federal charges where he could in theory pardon himself, that would not be the case in this state trial. And at the same

time, if I am correct, I believe that Georgia is one of three states where the governor cannot even issue a pardon for somebody who's been convicted?

COHEN: That is correct. No, that is correct. Had he been -- let's just take a giant leap and say that he is re-elected, he's elected again as the

president and let's also say he's been convicted in the State of Georgia in Fulton County, there is a minimum five-year prison sentence that's tacked

on to RICO, not on the other charges that I am talking about, just RICO, just Racketeering.

And no, the government of the State of Georgia does not have the power to pardon anyone, it has to be the state border parts and paroles, and I

believe it is after five years. So, he could be theoretically the president from behind bars in Georgia, though I don't see those scenarios working

out, but clearly, there's a possibility.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Fani Willis says that she wants to bring this case to trial within six months. Do you think that that's really ambitious?

COHEN: It's easier for me to get to the moon without a ship, a rocket ship without a space capsule than her having this case finished in six months.

It's just not going to come to the courts in six months. There are too many lawyers involved.



COHEN: We know there will be at least 19, there maybe more. There are too many cases, too many motions to dismiss, motions to remove to federal

court, motions for everything you could think of and a lot that you can't think of that will take up the court's time and continue to delay this

case. In my view, there's no way that we can even come close to a six-month trial date.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Another difference here is that the district attorney, Fani Willis, is a Democrat, as an elected official, unlike Jack Smith, who

was appointed by the attorney general. And I'll add another thing, is that whenever this trial does take place that the cameras will be allowed in the

courtroom, another distinction between a state trial and a federal trial.

Darryl Cohen, I wish we had more time. We'll continue to be covering this story in the weeks and months to come. Thank you so much though for helping

break it down for us.

COHEN: Thank you very much.

GOLODRYGA: Well, turning now halfway across the world, to Afghanistan. The Taliban celebrated in the streets of Kabul today, marking two years since

their return to power. But while the Taliban proudly wave their flags, many Afghans are feeling somber about this moment and all that's happened to

their country since American forces left back in 2021.

Fawzia Koofi once served in the Afghan parliament and negotiated with the Taliban in an effort to make peace. She knows firsthand the risks involved.

Three years ago, she was shot at by militants, but thankfully escaped injury, serious injury that is. And Fawzia joins me now. Fawzia, welcome to

the program.

Wow. A lot can happen in two years. We saw how the Taliban is marking this day. How are you grappling with the change in the country in those two


FAWZIA KOOFI, FORMER AFGHAN POLITICIAN AND WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, they say history repeats itself, this is absolutely the moment we see

history repeated itself in our history, not very long ago. 22 years ago, I have witnessed Taliban, you know, being removed from power. There was hope.

Expectations were high. We were cheering in the streets of Kabul. But 20 years later, Afghanistan was basically, you know, given to them.

We believe that Afghanistan -- that the Taliban victory is not a military victory but Kabul basically was given to them. In two years' time, it's a

government of Taliban for Taliban by Taliban. No other citizen from Afghanistan is part of that government or part of any kind of social,

political or economic sphere or Afghanistan, especially women.


KOOFI: And for me, it's not even a matter of politics. For me, personally, these are very emotional days, I think for everyone, because we have not

only invested our time, but as you say, invested our blood for a better Afghanistan.

GOLODRYGA: Now, you are one of the Afghan negotiators back in 2020 trying to figure out a way to share power with the Taliban. Back then, they

claimed that it was their mission going forward to protect women's rights. Here we are two years later, and you see the impact that their return to

power has had on women. It was just a few weeks ago that we were talking about the last real bastions for women to gather, and that is nail and hair

salons were closed as well.

You, at one point, thought there was hope for some sort of talks and negotiations. Where does that hope lie today?

KOOFI: Well, at the moment, we started official negotiations in September 2020, I realized that the Taliban are not the same Taliban before the deal

was signed, when there was no U.S. Taliban deal, they were approachable, they were trying to demonstrate a Taliban 2.0. Their views on women seemed

to be, you know, moderate or they have, you know, at least pretended that they have changed. There are evidences but also, they have clearly told me

and other women who were in the dialogue and negotiation that they will respect all rights for women, including education, work, up to the position

of prime ministers, women can work, become ministers, get Ph.D.

Obviously, they were creating a narrative, a false narrative that we all believed on that. And I think the aim was to get a deal signed and return

to power. Since they returned to power, we know they gradually literally erased women and Afghanistan has become an open prison for every citizen

and especially for women, not only that they are -- you know, the work and education is banned for them, but also as a human being, the fact you are

being controlled in the streets of Kabul, my colleagues, family members, my staff, everybody tells me that the moment they get out, the Taliban asked

them, why are you out if you are not allowed to work and go to university or school? Why did you get out?


It is, obviously, as a human being, we all would like to enjoy some level of liberty. When you see that your existence is not acceptable by -- for

your gender, this is totally 21st century human rights violation. It doesn't happen anywhere in the world and the Taliban actually use women of

Afghanistan as a tool for their engagement with the world, which is sad.

GOLODRYGA: Given everything that you just laid out and specifically how the Taliban views women, Christiane, just a few days ago, interviewed the

former prime minister of the U.K., Gordon Brown. And he said these are examples for the ICC, the International Criminal Court, to investigate the

Taliban for crimes against humanity. Would you support that in terms of holding them accountable?

KOOFI: Well, I must say that in the last four decades or so, war in Afghanistan, women have always been used as a victim of war, and in fact,

as a tool of war. Not even collateral damage of war. And there has been no accountability to the perpetrators. In fact, the warring parties actually

enjoyed cultural impunity, and that's why they have found an easy object to, you know, weaponize women and suppress them.

And Taliban get their power or they find their existence, the movement's existence based on suppression of women, which has no place in Islam or no

definition in our culture. And therefore, I think there should be some level of accountability to those who actually commit serious human rights

violation, including crimes against humanity and gender apartheid.

I think these international organizations should rarely be used. This is the time. If they are not used now as a means of leverage, as a means of

pressure. I still believe that we need to talk -- we need to have a principal engagement, we need to talk as all sides in Afghanistan for a

political process moving forward, because without changing the political ecosystem of Afghanistan, nothing will change. And these institutions are

the means for pressure for a change in Afghanistan.

GOLODRYGA: The U.S. recently met with the Taliban, a big shift in U.S. policy. It's the first meeting of the two sides since August 2021. And the

readout seemed to offer a little bit of optimism from the U.S. side, given the fact that the readout from the Taliban mirrored closely the progress,

even though it's incremental, that the U.S. said they walked away with. Given everything that you know and that you've just laid out for us, is the

U.S. being duped by the Taliban?

KOOFI: I think, honestly speaking, the International Community has been very naive in believing that the Taliban are the agents of change in

Afghanistan. They only have a security and economic narrative or perspective, or a lens that they look at the situation.

We know that security is not the absence of war, security is more than the absence of war. While we know that there has been major incidents in Kabul

since the Taliban takeover, resulted at least hundreds of civilians being killed, which indicates security is not also good. But all these measures

that are put in that statement out by the U.S. officials indicate that the world, the Global North, basically looks at security and, you know,

corruption, which from my information, there is not enough money from what is available, including the humanitarian aid, the Taliban are misusing. So,

they claim that there is improvement in corruption is a false claim.

And also, from the U.S., a country that stands on, you know, the values of equality, justice, democracy, 20 years back, they actually told us, they

claimed that they are there to protect democracy and support people of Afghanistan fulfill their democratic rights. 20 years later, they only

mention in their -- in the Doha Agreement, there is no mention of women and human rights, which obviously is not a surprise to us.

But even in the statements later, including the statement after the last engagement of Taliban and the U.S., there is only, you know, one or twice a

mention of human rights. But the main issue is about the fact that there is an improvement in security, there is an improvement in corruption, which

disappoints a lot of people in Afghanistan. They will only be disappointed when the United States decided to leave, but we have tried to engage, we

have tried to tell the truth to the world. We have tried to tell them that what was done was a mistake. Let's fix it together.

We are ready to work with you to fix it together. But I see that there is no perspective. There is no long-term vision for that political engagement

beyond humanitarian aid or beyond, you know, security. I think the moment - - or as long as we continue to only focus on humanitarian aid and on security without like having a political lens, without having clear

benchmarks in terms of engagement with the Taliban, clear principles defined by all International Community and agreed by them for engagement

with the Taliban, we are going to witness the same situation and Taliban will be emboldened by engagement with no principles.


GOLODRYGA: So, what is the best way to move forward now? I mean, you laid out sort of preliminary scope of the steps that should be taken, but in

terms of the interim, in the near term, in addressing the humanitarian crisis that is plaguing the country, 80 percent of all revenue that women

in Afghanistan came from international countries, as you know. And the country in itself is virtually a failed state at this point. Hunger,

poverty, you name it. What is the best way in the short-term to address this humanitarian crisis?

KOOFI: Well, at the short-term, as a representative of people for many, many years and as somebody who is in close contact every day with people

who are affected by this situation, of course, I cannot say -- it's very hard for me to say humanitarian aid should stop, while I know that Taliban

benefit some sort, not only in Afghanistan but also in other countries in conflict, the conflict parties benefit the humanitarian aid. So, this must

continue because people need it.

But on the other hand, I mean, Taliban claimed that they have improved the economy, the economic prosperity is there, that there are benchmarks on the

fight against corruption. So, why they are not feeding the people of Afghanistan? They have a good division of labor. They want the rest of the

world to feed the people of Afghanistan and they want to pay their soldiers money from the money that they claim to increase from domestic revenue.

So, I think it's time to hold also Taliban accountable for delivering to the people. If they are a power, if they are de facto authoritarian, if

they are claiming that they have increased domestic revenue, that they are signing contracts right and left with neighboring countries who have a

different approach in this -- in the whole situation, they need to also, you know, use that money to feed people of Afghanistan.

But as I said before, I think without changing the political situation and ensuring that there is a government, which is not only Taliban government,

but the government of people, some sort of people's legitimacy is important, inclusion of all segments of society is important, you know,

referring to people in terms of what they want is important. These things, if we cannot ensure in these, you know, basic steps that are now

prerequisite of 21st century --


KOOFI: -- globalized world, I think we are not going to improve in the creators (ph) of poverty or humanitarian aid.

GOLODRYGA: Fawzia, quickly, in the final seconds we have here, yesterday marked three years since you were shot. You have been living in exile and

yet continuing so bravely to speak up for justice in your country, specifically for women. Do you envision a day, do you think you'll still be

able to return to Afghanistan?

KOOFI: Absolutely. I think this is a wish for every man and woman who have left Afghanistan for obvious reasons that they didn't want to give

legitimacy for their presence in Afghanistan. Their struggle is for a return to the country and restoring, you know, what they think is a

democratic state in Afghanistan.

When I say democratic state, I don't mean restore the last republic, I mean, what people want in terms of a local narrative, a democratic

narrative defined by people. That is my struggle along with other women. And we are now planning to, you know, get together, mobilize ourselves and

define principles for our own engagement and for the world's engagement in terms of a political perspective for Afghanistan.

GOLODRYGA: Well, Fawzia Koofi, thank you for everything that you are doing and thank you for joining us today. We really appreciate it.

KOOFI: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, the new COVID variant is fueling a resurgence of the virus as it continues to evolve. But three years on, we still don't know

how the pandemic started. Author and journalist, David Quammen, investigated its unknown origins in his latest article for "The New York

Times" magazine. And he joins Walter Isaacson to discuss the potential theories.


WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Bianna. And, David Quammen, welcome to the show.

DAVID QUAMMEN, WRITER, "THE ONGOING MYSTERY OF COVID'S ORIGIN: Thank you, Walter. It is good to be with you.

ISAACSON: So, you've written this great piece exploring the ongoing mysteries of COVID's origins. You know, I followed you for a long time,

ever since you wrote "Spillover" about 10, 12 years ago, about how viruses can transmit from animals. Tell me how you're thinking has evolved in the

past year on whether this coronavirus was a lab leak from the Chinese lab or whether it was a spillover from animals in the marketplace in China.

QUAMMEN: Well, my thinking has evolved with the increase of data, the increase of scientifically published research and analysis on the various

different hypotheses. There are -- as you know, there are three hypotheses that have been bandied about for the origin of this virus, SARS-CoV-2. Did

it spillover from a wild animal into the human populations or was it engineered through some sort of a nefarious research program to harm humans

and released either intentionally or by accident after having been engineered, or was it a virus that was being worked on in a laboratory,

possibly for legitimate purposes, and then accidentally leaked from a lab?


As you mentioned, I've written in the past about how frequently and with what consequences viruses' spillover from wild animals. It happens all the

time. And most of the new -- the diseases that we've seen in the last 50 years have happened that way. But there was arguments that this might have

spilled over from a lab, and I agreed with those who said, we need to keep our minds open about that until we have more evidence.

And there has been increasing argument about that. There has been increasing public embrace of the lab leak hypothesis. And yet, I saw no

increasing evidence for it. I really saw no positive evidence at all. And so, I wrote this piece because I was puzzled by this conundrum, why is it

that the preponderance of evidence seems to be on the side of natural origins, but the preponderance of public opinion is on the side of lab


ISAACSON: Well, let me push back a bit. I mean, if it were indeed a spillover from a natural animal, that is just evolved, why haven't we found

the animals or even traces of the animals that could've been the intermediate steps?

QUAMMEN: Yes, that's a good and important question. Three and a half years have gone by and the animal or animals from which the virus closely

resembling this may have spilled over haven't been found. The animal hasn't been identified.

But to take that as significant or even suspicious requires an ignorance of the history of emerging viruses. As I say in the piece, finding the animal

host, the natural animal reservoir of the original SARS virus from 2003, that took 15 years. Marburg virus spilled over into humans back in 1967 and

it took 42 years for science to identify the natural host of that, the Egyptian fruit bats. Ebola first filled over -- was recognized in humans in

1976 and we still don't know what the natural host of the Ebola virus is.

So, if you are lucky, you can solve that mystery in a short time. And that's happened with some of these natural viruses. But if you're not

lucky, it can take decades.

ISAACSON: But wait, if this were just an innocent thing like a spillover from natural causes, why have the Chinese been, you know, so difficult, so

hard at giving evidence of what they were doing in that Wuhan lab where they were indeed experimenting on viruses?

QUAMMEN: Well, you're right, the Chinese lack of transparency, constraints on information imposed by Chinese officialdom at the local to provincial

and the national level have deprived us of important evidence. Important evidence that may have supported any of these -- those three hypotheses I

mentioned. That's a real problem. We have needed more information from the Chinese, and we haven't gotten it.

Chinese scientists, some of them, have risked their careers and even their freedom to share information with their western scientific colleagues. But

Chinese officialdom has stopped the flow of evidence in a way that has contributed to suspicions about Chinese motives.

I point out in the piece, though, that Chinese officialdom would have an incentive to cover-up evidence of a lab leak. But Chinese officialdom would

also have incentive, motive to cover-up evidence of a spillover from illegally traded wild animals in the Huanan market in the City of Wuhan.

So, Chinese intransigence, lack of transparency, lack of cooperation is an important factor, but it doesn't really prove one hypothesis versus


ISAACSON: Wait a minute. Wouldn't they have a much more incentive to cover-up evidence that it was a lab leak and things they were doing in a

lab and they were unsafe that they did, I think, than if it came from an animal? I know they'd have an incentive on both, but, whoa, the incentives

would be pretty strong to cover-up a lab leak.


QUAMMEN: Well, they would be, yes. But they're strong also to cover-up a market leak. There is a $70 billion trade in wild animals -- living wild

animals captured from the wild, and some of them raised in captivity. $70 billion trade in China of wild animals for food, for fur, and for

traditional Chinese medicines.

So, I suppose you could say, you know, the devastation that has happened to the human population around the world, millions, millions of dead and many

more millions sickened, that's a huge incentive for the Chinese to say, it wasn't us. It's not our fault. Whether or not it's a matter of research in

a laboratory that led to a lab leak or this trade in wild animals, either way, it seems to me that there's great incentive for a cover-up.

ISAACSON: One of the things fueling a lot of the controversy are things like the fact that through the EcoHealth Alliance, the labs were funded in

China, and then it involved even, through the EcoHealth Alliance, some national institutes of health grants in the U.S. government. One of the

people involved in that is a Chinese scientist, and you've talked to her, Dr. Zhengli Shi. And was doing some these this research that did get this

funding. Explain to me what she told you.

QUAMMEN: I spent two hours on a zoom call with Zhengli Shi, and she told me, among the other things, we were not working on this virus in our

laboratory. She makes her living and has for 15 years by studying coronaviruses carried by wild animals, in particular bats, and identifying

which ones present a threat to humans. And she writes papers saying, we should be concerned about these coronaviruses in bats. That's how she makes

her living, that's how her career advances, that's what her passion is, to warn the world about viruses, particularly coronaviruses carried by wild

animals, particularly bats that could be dangerous to humans.

So, it was natural for people to say, well, you're studying these viruses, maybe you leaked this virus from your lab. She rushed back to her lab from

a conference in Shanghai. She looked through her notebooks, she talked to her people, just to confirm that now -- at that point, they had a genome

sequence of this virus. So, they knew what it looked like, you know, in great detail. She looked at her records and she told me and she told me and

she told Jon Cohen, a very respected reporter for the Journal of Science, that this virus was never in her laboratory. She had never worked on this


ISAACSON: But wait. Don't we have some evidence that people in that lab may have gotten infected?

QUAMMEN: That's an accusation that was made in an article that was put up on Substack just a few weeks ago, maybe a couple months ago, by three

authors, and they said there are three scientists who were working in Zhengli Shi's lab. One of them is a fellow named Ben Hu, H-U, who was the

first author on some of her important papers from back in 2017 and 2018. And they said, we have evidence, but we can't tell you what it is, from

government sources that Ben Hu and these two other people were sick in November 2019 with corona virus like, COVID like symptoms. This was

published. It made a big splash.

And then, within a few days, Ben Hu came forward from China. And in an e- mail to Jon Cohen, of the Journal of Science, said not, only was I not sick in November, and certainly not sick with COVID like symptoms, that just

didn't happen, but I was tested for COVID antibodies in March 2020 and I tested negative.

So, that was a very inflammatory assertion about Ben Hu and these other two people that has been refuted by Ben Hu.

ISAACSON: As you write about in your piece, there's a very famous scientific article early on called proximal origins. In other words,

there's a group of scientists who said, how did this thing originate?



ISAACSON: And that essay, that scientific journal piece pretty much said that it really looks like it was a problem from a spillover from a

marketplace, that it had natural origins. And that was pretty convincing. It convinced me. It convinced a lot of people. I know you supported it. But

since then, we have seen some things that, at least, I found troubling, and you write about them in your piece, which is all these e-mails among those

scientists and the text messages in which they say, hey, we are being pushed into this a little, and Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins of the

U.S. government are kind of encouraging it. What do you make of that?

QUAMMEN: All of that revolves around a phone call, a conference call that occurred on February 1, 2020. The authors of that scientific article, Eddie

Holmes, Kristian Andersen, Robert Garry, Ian Lipkin, and Andrew Rambo were conferring with one another from different parts of the world, trying to

figure out what the genome of this virus told them about where it may have come from.

And they found two peculiar features, unexpected features. One called a receptor binding domain that allows the virus to latch on to a cell and

infect it, and the other is a thing called a furin cleavage site which allows the virus to penetrate the cell, insert its genome. They were


So, these five fellas were saying, where do these things, these features come from? And a fellow named Jeremy Farrar, a public health official, head

of a vast foundation, a health research foundation, Wellcome Trust, convened this phone call, and there were more than a dozen people on this

call, including Tony Fauci, including Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, including the scientist I just mentioned and a number

of other scientists.

So, the arguments about whether these fellows were manipulated, were pressured to call this a natural spillover revolved around that phone call.

And I've talked to all five of those scientists about the phone call, I've talked with Tony Fauci about the phone call, I've talked with some other

people who were on the phone call. International scientists, such as Christian Drosten in Germany and Marion Koopmans in the Netherlands, and

they were discussing this question of where this virus came from, where these two features came from.

The critics say that Tony Fauci and Francis Collins pressured these people to say it was a natural spillover and not a lab leak. I don't find that

persuasive at all, partly because I don't see how Tony Fauci or Francis Collins are going to pressure an internationally renowned scientist who is

British Australian working in Sydney, Australia, Marion Koopmans is in the Netherlands, Christian Drosten is in Germany. There is no leverage there.

These people are not functioning off of NIH grants the way American --

ISAACSON: But aren't a lot of the other scientists on that paper functioning off of NIH grants?

QUAMMEN: Some of them certainly are, absolutely. Yes, absolutely. And that is what has given momentum to that accusation, that argument.

ISAACSON: I mean, after your piece came out, I thought it was a pretty good piece. I even mentioned it on social media, and the comments were just

devastating, that you were faking things. Why have we become so polarized on this and so many other issues?

QUAMMEN: Well, to some extent, I think it's politics. Attitudes towards China. But it's not just that. It's -- and I say this in the piece. David

Relman said to me, when you sow the seeds of distrust in a population, you will find those seeds will grow, distrust will grow, and you will have a

problem with cynicism among your population, among your citizenry. And we have that now. Not just in the U.S., but in a lot of countries around the

world, countries -- other countries where people favor the lab leak idea too.

We have a cynicism about government, about government secrecy. Some people have a cynicism about experts in general, anyone that we're obliged to call

a doctor or a professor and who maybe wears a white jacket on television, oh, that guy is not going to tell me what I should think about this.


So, there is that climate and there is that eagerness to create melodramatic scenarios that involve good guys versus bad guys and secret

powers moving in the background, and that goes back to our feelings about the assassination of John Kennedy in '63. We're still arguing about that.

We're still -- some people, many people still want to believe that was a conspiracy. There is this desire for the dramatic explanation that involves

good guys and bad guys and conspiracies and hidden forces and dark states and deep states, all made worse by social media.

ISAACSON: And finally, why does it matter?

QUAMMEN: Oh, that's an important question. Yes. Some people say it doesn't matter. People are dying. We need to deal with this pandemic. Why does it

matter where it came from, where this virus came from? It doesn't matter, Walter, absolutely, because research priorities around the world, pandemic

preparedness, public health preparedness, and the public's feelings about science in general, trust for or lack of trust for science all depend on us

answering this question, the origins of this devastating virus. Where did it come from? And how can we avoid letting it happen again, what happened

to us with this one? We need to know.

ISAACSON: David Quammen, thank you so much for joining us.

QUAMMEN: Walter, thank you. Pleasure to talk with you. Thanks for your interest.


GOLODRYGA: And finally, what would you do if you could change the past? That's the question at the heart of the new film "Aporia." It follows a

grieving widow, Sophie, played by Judy Greer, as she makes difficult choices and faces their consequences. Here's a clip from the trailer.


JUDY GREER, ACTRESS, "APORIA": It was like I get so mad, I just want to strangle the man that did this to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a science to everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can save them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Believe it or not, this was supposed to be a time machine. And now, it's a gun that can fire a bulletin into the past. All we

need is a target.

GREER: You know that's impossible, right?


GOLODRYGA: "Aporia" released in U.S. theaters on Friday amid the ongoing writers and actors strikes, which have brought Hollywood to a standstill.

It's written and directed by Jared Moshe who joins me from Los Angeles. Jared, it is good to see you.

We'll get to the strike in just a moment. But let's talk about this really ambitious film, because what stood out to me is you've got really ordinary

people dealing with an extraordinary circumstance. And by that, I'm talking about a time machine that Judy Greer's character friend creates and builds

as she is suffering and grieving after the loss of her husband due to a drunk driver.

This time machine then can perhaps change all of that. And it deals with the question that we always ask ourselves, I wish I could go back to change

time but it's much more difficult as you lay out in this film. Talk about what drew you to this story.

JARED MOSHE, WRITER AND DIRECTOR, "APORIA": So, the story kind of came to me when -- soon after the birth of my son, when I was wrestling with how

the world became a lot scarier and a lot more uncertain.

You know, everything from getting my health insurance, to getting paid, to getting my next project going, just took -- it became a lot more dire. And

being a filmmaker, I wanted to wrestle with that through my art. So, I decided, I was like, OK, I'm going to turn this into a film. But then, I

didn't really know how to do that, and I remember this crazy idea I'd years ago, like what if someone made a gun that could fire into the past? And I

was -- had thought, well, that was a silly idea. But now, I was like, OK, what if a character tries to use that to regain the control over her life

to a place -- to bring it to a place where she feels like she's in her comfortable space.

GOLODRYGA: And obviously, she's a very empathetic character. And it really is a love story as she's trying to tackle all of these emotions that she's

going through following that time machine being used for the first time. Let's play a clip from that scene.


PAYMAN MAADI, ACTOR, "APORIA": Sophie, there is no undo button. You're killing a person. We cannot take that back.

GREER: But he killed Mal. Is there a problem?

MAADI: No. No. I just put so many years of my life into this machine.


MAADI: And now, we are going to use it.

GREER: And you never tested it?

MAADI: I never tested it because I didn't have to. But all my calculations show it will work.

GREER: Well, we're going to find out.



GOLODRYGA: Boy did they find out. Jared, you wrote in an essay in "Talkhouse," I'm going to read from it. I find myself regretting my

choices. Why did it take me so long to take the leap? But then, I don't know if I would've been ready earlier in my life.

You've written about regrets and envying young filmmakers who take these leaps into these creative ambitions and challenges and visions earlier in

their career. How will much of this film is based on that?

MOSHE: I think a lot of this film is me dealing with the choices I've made and reconsidering them. But it was also, I think, me working through them

and realizing that as much as I want to be able to change the past, the past is the past and the choices I've made have led me to who I am today.

And. you know, I am happy with who I am today. I like my life, I like my family, I like where I live, I like that I'm here talking to you. It's -- I

like -- I love this movie.

And if you are ready to go back and change something, who knows where you would be. So, it's better to accept, you know, what the slings and arrows

that life throws at you.

GOLODRYGA: And I'm happy that you're talking to me as well. And I appreciate the time. I would've prepared -- I mean, not preferred, I

would've liked if both you and Judy Greer could've been sitting here talking to me, but the slings and arrows of life throws at us now has led

us to the situation that I want to talk about, and that is this writer and actors strike, which has precluded her from being here. She is


It's going on for more than 100 days, surpassing the previous strike to become the fourth longest writer strike in U.S. history. Talk about just

the timing of this, maybe from a selfish perspective. You are allowed to be promoting a film that you've worked so hard on in the midst of this real

shake up in the industry.

MOSHE: Yes. Well, as the director of the film, I'm blessed with the ability to actually be out here and talk about it. But it's really

unfortunate, I think, that the AMPTP won't give a fair deal to the creatives who make all the amazing work that we see and then forces us to

be in these situations.

You know, there are -- we need to be paid a fair wage for what we do. And the way the industry has sort of shuck out over the last couple years is

we're not anymore. And I think -- I hate that Judy is not here. I mean, I want Judy beside me. I want Judy doing Q&As with me. I want Judy out there.

Like Judy was my partner in so much of this movie, and to not be able to share in the release with her is really tough. But I totally understand and

believe that actors and writers are doing what they need to do. And hopefully, the AMPTP will see that.

GOLODRYGA: What is your stance on the fact that there's a carve-out for independent films like yours and others, because, you know, Mark Ruffalo,

who's a very outspoken actor and activist tweeted this, how about we all jump into Indies now? Content creators create a film and TV making system

alongside the studio and streaming networks, so there is actual competition.

Is that an oversimplification of the situation or do you think that is the right approach?

MOSHE: I think it's -- I think there's some really interesting ideas out there in terms of how we can sort of change the system and create a

healthier independent marketplace. The independent film world has been really hurt in the last couple years by the rise of streaming. It's harder

for everyone to take -- to make money on the upside of something successful. So, I do think it's worth exploring different models besides

what we have nowadays, unfortunately. So --

GOLODRYGA: Well, Jared, again, hopefully, we'll have you on with Judy in the future, but it has been a delight to talk to you about this very

creative film. I really enjoyed watching it and really enjoyed talking to you about it. So, thank you.

MOSHE: Thank you very much. This was fun.

GOLODRYGA: Well, that is it for now for us. If you ever missed our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. And

remember, you can always catch us online, on our website, and all-over social media. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New York.