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Interview With Political Scientist And "It's Even Worse Than It Looks" Author Norm Ornstein; Interview With "The Identity Trap" Author Yascha Mounk; Interview With The New Yorker Staff Writer Sheelah Kolhatkar. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 05, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: When you look at the extremists in the house, they certainly don't represent a majority of
the country. And you know, somebody has to stand up and say enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Political turmoil in the United States again, the ousting of Kevin McCarthy, chaos in the Republican Party, and aid for Ukraine hanging
in the balance. Christiane speaks to Hillary Rodham Clinton about it all.
And we dig deeper into the fractured state of Congress with political scientist Norm Ornstein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I've told myself that even if the Taliban arrests me, I will stand up and tell them I don't want to be
kept at home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: -- the extraordinary bravery of young girls living under the Taliban, a special report on Afghanistan's hidden schools.
Then, "The Identity Trap." Yascha Mounk joins us to discuss his latest book and what he believes is our obsession with group identity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEELAH KOLHATKAR, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: In some court filings, the new CEO of FTX described FTX before the collapse as a dumpster fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: -- an empire of lies? The trial of crypto king Sam Bankman- Fried. Hari Sreenivasan unpacks it with The New Yorker's Sheelah Kolhatkar.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Well, dozens of people have been killed in a Russian missile strike on a village near the Eastern Ukrainian City of Kupiansk. One of the deadliest
attacks against civilians since the conflict began. This as vital aid from the United States is increasingly in doubt. Something that has left the
U.S. president "worried." And once again, the U.S. is in state of political chaos all on its own put making.
For the first time in history, a party has fired its own speaker right in the middle of a congressional term. The ousting of Kevin McCarthy is just
the latest evidence of deep divisions and turmoil in the Republican Party. The race to find his replacement is on. Now, the remember, the House also
needs to reach an agreement by mid-November to fund the government or risk a shutdown.
And speaking of chaos, let's not forget that the likely Republican nominee for president is currently facing four criminal trials. Well, tonight,
we'll dig into all of this. But first, Christiane just sat down with former secretary of state and first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. She asked her
about the house speaker debacle, including the Democrat's role in this. Here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: So, should the Democrats have saved him, so to speak? Should they have voted to keep him
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You know, that was a very tough call for the Democratic caucus. But the problem was for them,
as I understand it, he was totally untrustworthy by any measure. He, immediately after they did help him, keep the government open, as you know,
began to blame them for all kinds of, you know, extraneous matters. And at some point, a leader who has lost all credibility in dealing with the
opposition, where you want to have an open line of communication, you want to be able to trust his word is going to, you know, ask for their help and
not get it.
AMANPOUR: It said that the main contenders for his position are Jim Jordan, who you knew very well. from Benghazi --
CLINTON: Well, I don't know him well. I watched and, you know, stared at him at 11 hours when he made stuff up about me. So, I don't know him, but
I've seen him in action.
AMANPOUR: So, what will it mean if he gets the speakership?
CLINTON: Well, he is one of the principal ring leaders of the circus that's been created in the Republican Party for the last several years. I
have no inside knowledge about what the Republicans will do, who they will end up voting for. But when do they put the country first? They do for the
represent a majority of even the Republican Party, when you look at the extremists in the house. They certainly don't represent a majority of the
And you know, somebody has to stand up and say, enough. You know, we could have disagreements, I'm all for that. I was in the Senate eight years. I
worked with a lot of Republicans and, you know, oppose them when I didn't agree.
But at some point, there needs to be a backlash against the control that this small group of extremists have. And I don't know who will lead that,
but let's hope whoever becomes the new speaker will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And be sure to catch Christiane's full interview with Hillary Clinton, that airs on Monday.
We turn overseas in a grim milestone in Afghanistan. Last month marked two years since Taliban began effectively outlawing female education. Girls are
not allowed to go to school from sixth grade onwards and are barred from universities. But a clandestine network of brave women have set up secret
classrooms across that country in direct defiance of that ban.
Correspondent Salma Abdelaziz has this report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): You are witnessing a courageous act of rebellion. Young girls gathered to learn in a secret
classroom. To the Taliban, they are criminals defying a ban on female education, but these students say they're determined to continue their
schooling no matter the cost. Two of them told us why.
I've told myself that even if the Taliban arrest me, I will stand up and tell them I don't want to be kept at home, she says, I just want to learn,
and that is not a crime.
CNN was granted access to this underground classroom on the condition we conceal the identity of the students and staff and keep the location
hidden. But allowing our cameras in comes at extraordinary risks.
Around 30 students huddled into this little room to learn everything from science to math to tailoring and drawing. Mariam (ph), not her real name,
is their teacher.
Here is with us every second we're inside the school, she says, but there's a power stronger than fear, our hope for the future.
This is one of nine secret schools that educate more than 400 girls across eight Afghan provinces. It is operated by a clandestine network called
SRAK. Families find the program through word of mouth and demand is growing.
It was founded by this woman, Parasto Hakim. She says because of her activism, she was recently forced to flee Afghanistan.
But in the summer of 2021, as Kabul fell to the Taliban, she tells us she anticipated the ban on female education and got to work.
PARASTO HAKIM, FOUNDER OF SRAK SCHOOLS' NETWORK: So, we were watching some documentaries. I was looking at Afghan woman sitting up in jails and like
hide in underground places.
ABDELAZIZ (voiceover): Inspired in part by Christiane Amanpour's 1996 CNN documentary, Battle for Afghanistan, Hakim began to follow the example of
women set nearly 25 years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love my work. It's my right to work, and I need to work.
HAKIM: Afghanistan is fully shattered. It is in darkness.
ABDELAZIZ (voiceover): The Taliban is forcing women into this darkness, effectively erasing them from much of public life. The U.N. says the
group's draconian rules may amount to gender apartheid and crimes against humanity.
But this little classroom in the shadows provides a ray of hope.
The school is like a light for me, she says. It is like a road for me that I can see happiness and sunrise at the end of it.
It is also a life line. Rates of child marriage, underage labor and reported suicides have increased since the ban on female education,
according to the U.N. And countless girls confined to their homes are suffering from anxiety and depression. Fatima (ph) was among them.
It felt just like being a prisoner, she says. Like a prisoner who is only allowed to eat and drink but not allowed to do anything else. With the
support of her family, she discovered the school and found her passion. She wants to be a famous fashion designer.
I want my future to be a bright one, she says. I don't want to be behind a mask forever. I want to be able to show my real face.
Brave women and girls dreaming of a future without the Taliban and boldly preparing to step out into the light again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Incredible girls and women fighting for their right to education. Of course, we'll continue to cover this important story. Our
thanks to Correspond Salma Abdelaziz for reporting there.
Well, now, let's dig into our top story, and that is the unfolding political chaos following the historic ouster of Speaker McCarthy.
Political scientists Norm Orenstein understands the inner workings of Washington more than most. He's also a senior fellow Emeritus at the
American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Norm, it's good to see you.
You understand the under workings of Washington, but it's hard to make sense of what we've seen transpire over the last 48 hours. Congress remains
without a speaker at the hands of the Republican Party. Ten years ago, you wrote a piece with Thomas Mann in "The Washington Post." I want to quote
for it -- for our viewers. "We have been studying Washington politics in Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this
A reminder, Norm, this was 10 years ago. So, aside from just being prescient, walk us through the evolution specifically of the Republican
Party as it has veered further and further to the right.
NORM ORENSTEIN, POLITICAL SCIENTIST AND AUTHOR, "IT'S EVEN WORSE THAN IT LOOKS": Sure. And it's important to realize that while we saw at the
beginning of this Congress in January of last year, Kevin McCarthy take 15 ballots and have to make all kinds of concessions to the lunatic fringe of
his party, that it didn't start with that. It goes back not just 10 years but even further. It goes back to Newt Gingrich to a considerable degree in
radicalizing his own party and tribalizing our politics that's carried through to this point.
But it's also important to realize that in 2010, Kevin McCarthy joined by two of his colleagues, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan, did a book called "Young
Guns" from the movie of the same name, bypassing their own leader, John Boehner, going out to the Tea Party movement angry over the financial
collapse that had occurred in 2008 and 2009 and recruited a bunch of people to come to Congress with the promise that they would immediately slash
government spending, use the debt ceiling as a weapon to force Barack Obama, the president, to his knees, and didn't work. They brought in the
radical group, but then they didn't actually accomplish their goals.
Within a couple of years, Eric Cantor was defeated in a primary by a Tea Party radical named Dave Brat. Then John Boehner who tried to save them
from catastrophe by saving us from going into default when they tried to basically blackmail the president found that he couldn't stay a speaker.
After four years, he quit. And his replacement, in the end, Paul Ryan, another one of these young guns, couldn't last for more than four years and
quit as well.
Kevin McCarthy helped to sow the seeds here. And now, he is suffering, his demise is coming to some degree at his own hands
GOLODRYGA: And he agreed to the one member one vote motion to vacate. And so, this was something that appeared to be inevitable. In fact, I believe
most people thought he lasted longer than they expected him to. They thought that they would see him leave during the debt ceiling crisis a few
So, given this rule, one member can bring up a motion to vacate rule and vote, how does any replacement expect to govern properly and how do you
explain to our audiences, both in the U.S. and in internationally, how eight members can sort of hijack a majority in one party?
ORENSTEIN: Well, first, you know, keep in mind, that one of the problems that Republicans have is a razor thin majority. They could only lose four
members and they lose a majority in the House. And there's no way in which the members of the minority party are going to join together to save the
majority from its own members.
So, when McCarthy, having to sell what remained of his soul to the devil, in this case named Matt Gaetz, to allow this motion, a privileged motion,
one member can bring it, really did set his demise in place. It's a crazy position to be in. It is something that the next speaker, whoever that may
be, is going to try to remove
But let's remember as well that even if it's not just one member, if you are enthralled to the lunatic fringe of your own party and, you know, I'll
be frank here, the lunatic fringe encompasses a majority of those members now, even those who decided to continue to support Kevin McCarthy, you're
not going to be able to governor well because this is now not just a political party, the Republicans who I worked with over many decades in
Congress, for many of them, it's no longer a problem-solving party, it's more of a radical cult, a nihilist cult. And if you don't want to govern,
don't respect your own institution, really desire to blow-up the government and country for what you think will be a better future of freedom, we're in
a very, very difficult place.
And frankly, the next person to come along is likely to be even less willing to try and find some solutions to these problems than Kevin
McCarthy, who was not exactly a problem solver himself.
GOLODRYGA: Which raises the question of whether Democrats made the right move by not supporting Kevin McCarthy under the idea that perhaps the devil
they know is better than who can follow him. At least Kevin McCarthy, according to some arguments, publicly said that he supported funding for
Ukraine. Though he omitted it from the C.R., at least a C.R. was passed.
Some of these names that have been mentioned as a possible successor have publicly -- Jim Jordan being one of them said that he has no plans, does
not support continued funding for Ukraine and we are likely to see a government shutdown if this crisis continues. Was that a smart move on the
part of Democrats given that?
ORENSTEIN: I would say yes, for a couple of reasons. First is, Democrats don't trust Kevin McCarthy. And remember, back when John Boehner left the
speakership, McCarthy was next in line, the Republicans said, you're not going to be speaker because we don't trust you. But what also created a
kind of simmering anger by Democrats about Kevin McCarthy was that he turned against them after January 6th. He voted after the chaos that
occurred that the election had been stolen. He discredited the January 6th Committee and blocked a further investigation.
And if you're looking at this even from a pragmatic standpoint, if Democrats had stepped in to save McCarthy, the odds are that McCarthy would
have turned even more radical. He would have said, oh, my god, I don't want this to happen again. So, I'm going to have to give even more to the Matt
Gaetz wing of Republican Party.
Now, it's undeniable that the choices that are out there now are worse than McCarthy. We have Jim Jordan. When he left, John Boehner referred to Jim
Jordan as a legislative terrorist. We have Steve Scalise who has been a part of the leadership for some time. A more sympathetic figure in some
ways but self-described as David Duke, the KKK leader, without the baggage. So, we're not likely to see somebody who is going to reach out to
Democrats. But Kevin McCarthy wouldn't have done that otherwise.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. That's --
ORENSTEIN: Now, the alternative here, potentially is that some of the more reasonable Republicans could turn to Hakeem Jeffries and Democrats and try
and create a different coalition. But that doesn't seem to be in the works right now. They are not exactly courageous about stepping away from the
cult to be either excommunicated or shunned or even face physical threats, which is another part of our culture right now that's deeply troubling.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. I do think -- I agree with you, moderate Republicans are the ones to watch now going forward. But that also raises the question of
whether next Wednesday we could have another speaker. Because as this debate continues, as the process continues, the clock is ticking in terms
of keeping this government open. We're now down to below 40 days.
I want to get back to the first question, and that is, you know, something you wrote 10 years ago identifying a party that you've never seen the likes
before. And you said it goes back prior to that. And this peaks myself interest because so much attention now focuses on Donald Trump, and the
question of whether he's a symptom or a cause of the dysfunction that we're seeing in Washington now, specifically with the Republican Party. This
predates him according to your calendar.
GOLODRYGA: So, what -- well, how does he fit into all of this?
ORENSTEIN: Donald Trump is an accelerant. He is somebody who has poured tons of gasoline on a fire that already existed and he's adding to the
difficulties that we have, adding even more because he's also promoting a culture of violence and of course, aided and abetted the violent
It tells you something about where we are that many Republicans want Donald Trump to be the speaker. And in fact, he's now said he may come to
Washington and come to Congress to talk to them about it. That would be bizarre, of course. We have never had a speaker who was not a member of the
House, arguably the constitution which just says, the House shall choose their speaker, could pick almost anybody. But that would make our
dysfunction look mild by comparison, our dysfunction now.
But Trump is the leader of the cult. The cult preceded him. And it's also important to remember that if Donald Trump fades from public view, whether
he is off to prison or just no longer around us, the problems that we have now, a party that is a nihilist party, they're still going to be there.
The people in Congress, the people in state legislatures, in city councils, now even more in school boards, who are going to move up to be the next
generation are not exactly problem-solving mainstream conservatives, and this is not conservatism anymore, it's radicalism, destructive radicalism.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. You're even seeing fissures among Republicans in the Senate, not really understanding what their colleagues in the House are
doing right now. Always great to see you, Norm. Thank you for putting things into perspective for us. Thank you.
ORENSTEIN: Always a pleasure.
GOLODRYGA: Well, now, we turn to what our next guest calls the identity trap. Yascha Mounk has built his acclaimed scholarly career on being one of
the first to warn of the risks right-wing populous pose to American democracy.
But now, in his latest book, he's warning that many on left and center are also stuck in a trap, obsessed with group identity. So, let's get straight
into it. Yasha Mounk joins me from Baltimore, Maryland. Not every day we have two back-to-back political scientists on the program. Good to see you,
Yasha, and congratulations on the book.
So, for those who haven't read it, can you explain to us what the identity trap is?
YASCHA MOUNK, AUTHOR, "THE IDENTITY TRAP": Yes. So, you know, like your previous guest, Norm Ornstein, I like to say I'm a democracy crisis
hipster. I was worried about the crisis of democracy before it was cool. And I remained very concerned about these dangerous far-right populous who
are now in control of the Republican Party.
At the Same time, as somebody who is a professor, who is a member of many mainstream institutions in the United States, I've been really struck by an
ideological transformation on my side of the political spectrum, on the political left. There's a new set of ideas about race and gender and sexual
orientation. And the way we should treat each other, the role that our belonging in particular groups would play, that has become very prominent
over the course of the last decade.
I think that these ideas are alluring for understandable reasons. They claim that they are best equipped to allow us to do away with the genuine
injustices that persist in our societies. But I think they're ultimately a trap. The trap because, as we've seen, they've made it much harder for
progressive institutions to sow the important missions, because of a kind of a melt-downs in these organizations that these norms have inspired.
It's a trap because in many of our schools and universities in the United States now, paradox (ph) has started to think that they should teach
students to think of themselves primarily as racial beings. They're splitting these children up into different racial groups, which I think is
going to increase zero-sum conflict between groups rather than make us emphasize the ways in which we can politically cooperate.
Now, I think it's a political trap as well. Because actually, there are many polls now which show that these ideas are pushing some people into the
arms of dangerous extremists like Donald Trump. According to one recent analysis by "The New York Times," about 10 percent of Republican voters now
are predominantly young, predominantly nonwhite, predominantly quite left leaning on social issues but so worried about what we call wokeness that
they intending to vote for Donald Trump.
So, I actually think understanding these ideas and learning how to push back against them in a principled way and fighting this former far-right
populism onto separate endeavors, we need to both (INAUDIBLE) at the same time
GOLODRYGA: Yes. It's interesting because you're nothing that what you write about in this book actually leads in your research to continued far-
right populism. Why do you think this ideology that you focus on has gained so much momentum so rapidly?
MOUNK: Yes. Well, to me, there's two different political traditions that are really fighting against each other here. One is the tradition of
Frederick Douglas and certain respects Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. And those were people who recognize the deep hypocrisy of their
fellow citizens. They recognized that America had never lived up to grand principles written in its constitution.
But they said -- as Frederick Douglas did in his famous speech on the 4th of July, the right conclusion is not to rebut (ph) those documents, to get
rid of those aspirations, it is to push and organize and fight for us to live up to them. He recognized the free speech, allowed a lot of people to
say terrible things in his day, but he said, it is the dread of tyrants, because it also allows evolutionists like him to fight for their political
I think there are people who feel because of the political developments over the last decade, because through sufferance and other things we have
more immediate evidence of the remaining injustices in the United States, like police violence, that this tradition was wrong, that we haven't been
able to make any progress. That, as Derrick Bell, founder of critical race theory, claimed America in 2000 was as racist as it was in 1950 or in 1850.
And that therefore, perhaps, we should get rid of what he calls the defunct racial equality ideology of the civil rights movement.
I think it is understandable how people can come to think that. My book is called "The Identity Trap." A trap has a lure. Something that attracts
people. And I can see why people are attracted to this particular lure. But I nevertheless think it is a trap. It is veering away from that proud
political tradition rooted in people like Frederick Douglas and MLK that have actually historically allowed us to make significant progress in
overcoming historical injustices.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. You write about a couple of case studies in your book. One is a mother in Atlanta who wasn't able to request a specific teacher for
her child. The school principal had denied that request and placed her child in what she called the black class. Now, it's worth noting that the
mother of the child and the principal were all black in this case.
What is this incident tell you about broader trends in America? Because could you just describe this as one-off? These aren't types of cases.
They're so glaring that it's hard to believe that this is speaking to a bigger trend that we're seeing nationwide.
MOUNK: So, unfortunately, for this particular incident is an extreme one. It is rooted in a much broader trend. As you were saying, the principal in
this case is a black woman who's a progressive and who thought that it is her duty to teach children to think of themselves as racial beings.
We see now many schools around the country, particularly elite private schools and places like New York City and Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles,
start to separate children into distinct racial groups in third grade, in second grade, in first grade. With teachers coming in, telling kids, if
you're black, you go to that classroom or if you're Latino you go to that classroom, if you're Asian American, you go to that classroom, if you're
white go to this classroom here.
The purpose of this is to allow them to fight back, to organize, to have solidarity. But I think it is encouraging the kind of zero-sum ethnic
conflict, which always ends up profiting the right. And I'm particularly concerned about what is going to happen to white children in these groups,
not because they might be uncomfortable.
MOUNK: I think it's great and fine to be uncomfortable in education sometimes, but rather because everything in history and social psychology
teaches you that once you think of a group as your in group, you're going to treat most people better and people who were part of other groups worse.
This is meant to inspire anti-racists. I think it's more likely to inspire racists.
GOLODRYGA: So, you are -- you're the professor here, you're the expert and yet, you keep on saying you think. I'm wondering, is this all happening so
rapidly that we don't have concrete evidence and data points to back up your hypothesis or do you have specific evidence suggesting that is in fact
MOUNK: Well, I --
MOUNK: There's lots of specific evidence of this happening. The National Association of Independent Schools has supported the policy of splitting
children up young as the first grade into these different groups. It has given diversity awards to schools that practice this.
GOLODRYGA: No, I'm not arguing that it's now --
MOUNK: It is now the predominant --
GOLODRYGA: I'm not arguing that it's not taking place. I'm just asking you some of the ramifications that you were concerned about and that you warn
of given these new policies. Have we seen the outcome at all or is it too soon to tell?
MOUNK: Yes, absolutely. We've seen many members of those groups actually embrace more forms of our (ph) politics. One of the really interesting
phenomena that you see in opinion polls at the moment is that young boys have started to be attracted much more to the far-right than young girls.
There's now a huge gender divide in the partisan affiliation of young American voters.
So, those students who were told most that they are part of the privileged group but has to own their white and the male privilege are also, at this
point, most likely to vote for the Republican Party, which is dangerous for all of the reasons Norm Ornstein outlined. And that did not used to be the
case 20 or 30 years ago. That gender gap has grown enormously over a number of decades.
GOLODRYGA: So, when you're asked a question, what alarms you most, whether it's right-wing populism and censorship and book banning or what you're
talking about here in this book, I mean, I know you encourage your student to change their minds in directions -- in different directions and to think
critically. You've also noted that some of your teachings would not be allowed in public universities in Florida. What is your answer to that
MOUNK: So, I'm more worried about Donald Trump. I'm more worried about the kind of Republican Party than I am about some of these intellectual trends.
But I would say two things. So, first is that we should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.
MOUNK: That when many people in America feel that they can't express the kinds of opinions that I've said in the interview openly for fear of
consequences, we have a problem, in part because it's going to undermine trust in those institutions as it has. But we have adopted many really
wrong-headed public policies that have led, I believe, to a higher death toll in the pandemic, that have led to pedagogical policies that make it
harder for members of minority groups to get the instruction in writing and in math that they need to succeed in society
All of those things are important, even if there's something else that is more important. But most importantly, I think it's a fool's choice to say
that you should either fight against far-right extremism and populism or against some of these trends on the left. These ideas have become so
influential on the left because after Donald Trump's elections it became impossible to criticize them without being accused of being a traitor, of
running interference for him, because people are genuinely, and for good reasons, scared of Donald Trump.
But today, the hold of these ideas have over many mainstream institutions is the biggest gift to Donald Trump, makes it much easier for him to win
elections in 2024. According to polls, I don't share this opinion myself, but according to polls, more Americans think that the Democratic party is
too extreme than think that the Republican Party is too extreme.
So, even for these ideologists may have different beliefs, politically and practically speaking one is the into the others (INAUDIBLE), to effectively
oppose one, we should oppose both.
GOLODRYGA: In the minute and a half we have left, Yascha, can you talk about some solutions that you offer?
MOUNK: Yes, of course. Part of the solution is to think about things in a more sensible way. So, when it comes to top of cultural appropriation,
we've now put a general poll of suspicion the exact kinds of mutual cultural influence which are a hallmark of a thriving diverse democracy. We
you should celebrate when people inspire each other, co-create with each other, rather than worrying about it.
But the other solution I would point to is a good old-fashioned universal wealth estate. We should be doing something to help all poor children in a
place like the United States. Because all children, irrespective of their skin color, deserve that help. Because those policies are much more likely
to gain majorities than policies that are directed specifically to one racial group and because they can even help to overcome historical
If you have universal policies combatting child poverty, they are disproportionately going to help groups that have a disproportionate number
of children who suffer from child poverty.
GOLODRYGA: It's a really interesting topic and fascinating book, and I'm glad we're having this conversation because I think so many people are just
too nervous to raise and broach this topic. And as you said, there are some really consequential outcomes from some of these trends. I'd love to come
to your class and sit in on one of your lectures as well. Yascha Mounk, thank you so much.
MOUNK: Thank you. I'm off to teach my class now.
GOLODRYGA: OK. I'll come next time.
Well, up next, to the trial of Sam Bankman-Fried. The former crypto wunderkind and CEO of the now bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, is
facing several criminal charges of fraud and money laundering. When his empire came crashing down last year, millions of people were left empty-
handed and investors lost billions.
Sheelah Kolhatkar profiled Bankman-Fried and his family for "The New Yorker" and joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss her reporting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, thanks. Sheelah Kolhatkar, thanks so much for joining us.
SHEELAH KOLHATKAR, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: It's great to be here.
SREENIVASAN: You spent time with Sam Bankman-Fried, also known as SBF. His trial is now starting. Tell me a little bit, for the audience that might
not be paying attention to all of this, what is he charged with? What is he facing?
KOLHATKAR: Well, Sam owned two companies that were very interconnected. So, one was called alameda Research. It was basically hedge fund managing a
private pool of money, investing almost exclusively in crypto related things, you know, tokens, currencies, crypto companies. And the other
company was called FTX, and that was an exchange where people could send orders to buy or sell or borrow crypto assets and they would trade on that
And you know, customers would come to FTX. They would open an account there. They would deposit a bunch of money, just like you would at, you
know, E-Trade or Charles Schwab or Fidelity, and then they would plan to use that money to buy or sell bitcoin or Ethereum of the dozens of other
crypto, you know, tokens and currencies that were trading at the time.
And he's basically accused of taking that customer money and using it for other things, mostly having to do with other parts of the company without
the explicit permission of those customers. And the government is really alleging that this was going on from the time FTX was launched, which was
in 2019. They are saying that from that time until it went under, you know, last fall, winter, he was misusing and mishandling customer funds.
SREENIVASAN: Give us an idea of how high the highs were for FTX and for Sam Bankman-Fried. I mean, this was a company that took out Super Bowl ads,
it had enormous celebrity endorsements. And what was it worth at its peak?
KOLHATKAR: So, it was alleged to be worth $32 billion or thereabouts, depending who you asked. And you know, Sam himself appeared on the cover of
"Forbes" and "Fortune" and he was declared the next Warren Buffet and the youngest multibillionaire. One of his investors said publicly in a profile
published on the investor website, you know, he might be the first trillionaire that the world has ever seen.
Investors were fighting to invest in the company. It was like this rocket ship. It was going to be the next Facebook. He ultimately raised $2 billion
from venture capital investors, very experienced grown-ups who should know red flags when they see them.
KOLHATKAR: But did not pay attention. And yes, he was spending lavishly on Super Bowl ads, celebrity endorsements, general marketing, trying to bring
more people into trading at FTX.
SREENIVASAN: And, Sheelah, he also got very involved in political contributions, right?
KOLHATKAR: He did. And there's some confusion around exactly what he was trying to do politically. I mean, he came from a politically active family.
He spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill meeting with members of Congress, their staffs, regulators, ostensibly to try and educate these people about
crypto and why it should become fully legalized in the United States, which it still is not. He really -- he said that he wanted to bring legitimacy to
this industry. And so, that was a big part of his political activity.
Another part of his political activity involved funding people who he felt would help uphold democracy during the era when Donald Trump was running
for president, and even after he became president, you know, there were a lot of concerns about Democratic institutions. So, he did fund some
candidates in that realm.
And then, the last sort of bucket was philanthropic oriented political giving where he was giving money to candidates who he hoped would pursue
causes in Congress that he thought were important to the future of humanity.
SREENIVASAN: You know, part of this ethos that you mentioned is also you write about effective altruism, something that Sam Bankman-Fried was a
follower of this idea. Explain that for us.
KOLHATKAR: Effective altruism is this really interesting philosophical movement. It's really based around the work of Peter Singer, an Australian
philosopher who has recently announced his retirement from Princeton. And he wrote some very thoughtful thought-provoking things about, you know, the
way we live in the West and questions of moral responsibilities.
So, if we are here in the West buying things that we don't need, buying shoes, buying flat screen TVs, you know, taking cabs and we don't need
those things, and there are people in other places starving because they cannot buy food, he basically said, you know, we should be contributing
that money that we're responsible. We're contributing to that suffering.
So, this spun a whole movement called effective altruism. It seemed to really become very popular with a lot of young people who understandably
were disaffected with the world and the impotence of our political institutions to tackle serious existential problems that we have such as
poverty, inequality, climate, so on. And it appealed to a lot of people with quantitative, you know, kind of mathy interest.
So, yes. So, a lot of these young people were encouraged to go out into the world, earn as much money as they could, pursue high paying jobs and give
away all of the money that they didn't really need to survive to save lives in other places.
And you know, it's a very interesting philosophy but there were some real weak spots, because it seemed encourage people to earn money doing all
sorts of questionable things, but the ends justified the means, because they were to give the money away, it didn't matter that they were working
in this dubious industry or that they were working on Wall Street when they could have been working in public health or in education, helping people
directly. You know, they were earning to give. So, that was that philosophy.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. You know, adding to kind of the interesting layers of this story is where Sam Bankman-Fried comes from. And I mean, his family.
His dad and his mom are respected intellectuals at Stanford. Tell us a little bit about them. You got to spend some time with them for this story.
KOLHATKAR: His parents are both very interesting accomplished people. They are beloved on the Stanford campus. They're both professors at Stanford Law
School. You know, very steeped in the culture of Stanford. They, for decades, have had this sort of informal Sunday night dinners where other
faculty members and guests would show up at their home and just have a big sort of meal and drink wine and talk about all sorts of things from, you
know, democracy to Ancient Greece to movies and politics.
So, Sam and his brother, Gabriel, they grew up in that environment. They were at those dinners, you know, they loved talking with adults from an
early age, almost more than they could relate to other kids. And one thing Sam's parents said to me frequently when I was recording my "New Yorker"
article was that, you know, Sam seems so intellectually sort of precocious, they spent a lot of time and energy trying to make sure that he had
adequate intellectual stimulation.
So, they sought out special math classes, they -- you know, they sent him to a special math summer camp in high school that you had to do a big
really difficult test to get into. And they revered him. You know, they really did. They thought he was brilliant. And my sense is that they did
not question his decisions. You know, he made his own decisions, he pursued his own path. Although they certainly helped him when they could, they did
not intervene. And perhaps ultimately, they should have intervened more.
SREENIVASAN: You know, it's interesting because you point out that his father took a leave of absence from his very respected job at Stanford to
go to work for his son. And the father's research and testimony in front of Congress talks about tax savings and how close tax loop holes, but here he
is, sitting in the Bahamas with his son.
KOLHATKAR: Sam's father is a very, you know, well-respected expert on tax law. So, when FTX was starting out, it was very -- initially in Hong Kong
and it moved to the Bahamas. There were all sorts of tax questions and other legal questions. So, yes, Joe Bankman, Sam's dad, was -- you know,
rolled up his sleeves and was helping out as much as he could. And over time, you know, he became more involved.
And as the company became so seemingly successful, and here Sam was pledging to give away billions of dollars through a foundation that FTX
started, he ultimately, you know, attracted his dad to take time off from his job that he loved at Stanford and move to Nassau and help figure out
how to find worthy charitable projects to invest to this FTX, you know, philanthropic money into.
And to him, I think, at the time, it was sort of a dream job. Because who wouldn't like to give away a lot of money to worthy causes? So, he embraced
SREENIVASAN: Yes. And you write that his mom is literally an expert on ethics and she is -- you know, she is somebody that people all over the
world request. And I wonder in your conversations with her, did you get a sense that she ever questioned the ethics of her son? I mean, did she ever
-- was she able to separate out fact that she has this maternal instinct to want to protect her child versus what Sam has been accused of?
KOLHATKAR: That's a really remarkable thing about the family dynamic. I mean, the portrait painted of Sam by the prosecutors and even by the
bankruptcy lawyers trying to sort through the company now is so different from the one that Sam himself portrayed and that his family holds of him.
And one of the most remarkable moments for me reporting on this was when I asked Sam's mom, Barbara, who's a very, very smart rigorous thinker,
impressive woman, but I asked her, you know, did you read this indictment and have to kind of go to him and say, Sam, you know, did you do any of
these things? What is the government accusing you of? How can they be saying this? And she said, no, she never even had to go and ask him about
She just knew. She knew his character. She knew he would never, you know, intentionally steal money or defraud anyone. And I did find that shocking.
But she said no. And she very firmly believes that he is innocent. That he could have sorted all of this out if he had given a little more time to
kind of sell some assets. He could have paid back his customers. Everything would have been fine.
Now, of course, legally, there's a big question about whether -- even if he had done that, whether that would have meant he had not committed a crime.
I mean, certainly, many people think that even if you managed to pay the customers back in end, having done something with their money that they
weren't expecting is wrong.
KOLHATKAR: So, that's all that matter. But she's convinced. And it seems like an example of -- I mean, in a way, the story for me was an example of
the power of maternal love and devotion, because she does not seem to be applying this -- the ethical rigor and analysis that she does to most
things in her life to her son.
SREENIVASAN: I wonder, right now, the parents are not criminally charged with him. But there are civil lawsuits against FTX, right, a they're named
the notes (ph).
KOLHATKAR: They are definitely not out of legal peril. And for starters, it's not uncommon for government prosecutors who have an enormous amount of
pressure they can wield on people to use family members as leverage on defendants, I mean, you know, either explicitly or indirectly. And it is
notable that just a few days before Sam Bankman-Fried's trial started, the bankruptcy estate filed a huge lawsuit against his parents, you know,
they've had almost a year to just mind all of their personal e-mails, they printed all sorts of salacious stuff, it seemed partly intended to just
really intimidate and embarrass them right before the trial, even though it made some very valid points.
And they -- you know, in court, in Lower Manhattan, the prosecutor did say that Sam's parents, Joe and Barbara, and his brother, Gabriel, could be
called as witnesses. They were included on a long list of potential witnesses. So, we'll have to see if that actually happens. Obviously, that
would be a tricky position for them. But I think we won't know until Sam's trial is over.
KOLHATKAR: More lies in store for his parents.
SREENIVASAN: You know, I wonder if how much of is the government trying to make an example out of Sam Bankman-Fried?
KOLHATKAR: What FTX was doing was pretty much out in the open. And I thought interesting that in some court filings the new CEO of FTX described
FTX before the collapse as a dumpster fire. And he said, oh, it was just like a disaster. Well, if that's the case, why didn't someone pick up on
that sooner? Why didn't government regulators notice if it was such a threat to American investors? Why didn't the SEC do something? Why did they
wait until this huge bubble blew up in this industry? And then, one after the other, these things collapsed like a bunch of dominos, create all this
financial destruction, often are exposed by reporters, frankly, and then they decide to come in and charge everybody, it sort of -- you know, it
leaves me a bit wondering why -- you know, why didn't you become a little more proactive sooner?
SREENIVASAN: You write that Sam Bankman-Fried is basically was at his homeworking on his defense. I mean, he maintains his innocence through all
KOLHATKAR: He maintains his innocence. And from what I can tell, it is sincerely held. He is adamant that he did not intentionally defraud anyone
or do anything he thought was improper. He seems to still think he can explain that to a jury and explain to that world and make everyone
understand this was just sort of an innocent mistake. He was maybe in over his own head. But that has been his position from the beginning.
And it's remarkable because it's -- you know, we rarely see a trial, a case like this, this complexity --
KOLHATKAR: -- of scale go to trial. Usually, defendants end up pleading guilty because a trial is an excruciating exercise. The odds are against
you. And he has forged ahead into an absolutely challenging situation where he's going to be there listening day after day to people saying he did
SREENIVASAN: Yes. I mean, what do you make of that?
KOLHATKAR: He has spent his entire life being told that he is intellectually cognitively superior to most people. He was raised that way.
He was always told he's very special and brilliant. He was given all these opportunities. He was allowed to do -- you know, not do things he didn't
want to do and just focus on cultivating his brain.
And even when he was running his business, I mean, people would tell me stories, you know, he would end up in meetings about some particular
esoteric legal area, for example, or business area with a bunch of experts. And he would very quickly bone up on the topic and then, suddenly it seemed
like, oh, he knew more than all the experts.
Now, whether that's actually true, you know, I'm a little skeptical, but he really thinks he knows best. And it's hard to see given what he's facing
that it will go the way he hopes. But we'll see.
SREENIVASAN: Staff writer for "The New Yorker," Sheelah Kolhatkar, thanks so much for joining us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And finally, from crypto to K-pop. We're about to meet the girl band, MAVE, whose first video has been viewed 26 million time in just a few
months. But that's not the most astonishing thing. Take closer look. Get closer. The band is actually an A.I. assisted virtual creation. And it's
not the only one, as our Correspondent Ivan Watson goes behind scenes to look at this new wave in A.I. generated music.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): A K-pop confection.
WATSON (voiceover): This video by girl group, Eternity, racked up 6.5 million views on YouTube in nine months. But not all as it is appears here.
WATSON: My name is Ivan. What's your name?
JANE, ETERNITY: My name is Jane.
WATSON: Can you tell me about your band.
WATSON (voiceover): I'm from the world's first virtual K-pop girl group, she tells me. Jane and the 10 other members of Eternity aren't real.
TechTainment company, Pulse9, created these characters and face swaps them over human actors using artificial intelligence. I'm speaking to an A.I.
WATSON: Is this the future of entertainment?
JANE (through translator): Of course, we cannot be seen in-person. But if you have a device, you can communicate with us anywhere at any time. As a
virtual group, we are not limited by location. We can broadcast anywhere. The only thing we cannot do is sign an autograph.
WATSON (voiceover): And Eternity isn't the only A.I. K-pop creation.
WATSON (voiceover): MAVE is another virtual girl band with videos that have tens of millions of views.
KANG SUNG-KU, CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER, METAVERSE ENTERTAINMENT: We captured human performance, and turn it into 3D animation with A.I.
WATSON (voiceover): Kang Sung-ku and Metaverse Entertainment created MAVE.
WATSON: Designers say the goal isn't to try to replace human artists like BTS or Beyonce, instead, they want to create something like the next
generation of Siri.
SIRI: I'm Siri. I'm your virtual assistant.
WATSON: But in this case, it would be an avatar that sings and dances that you actually want to talk to.
SUNG-KU: They will remember you. They will know about you. And they will talk based on that information.
WATSON (voiceover): A.I. creations with theoretically developed a unique relationship with every use and be available around the clock on every
TYRA, MAVE: Hi, everyone. This is Tyra from MAVE.
WATSON (voiceover): And not limited by language.
Designers are programming these A.I. pop stars to interact with fans. The technology still has a long way to go. And some programmers concede there
may need to be laws to regulate these creations.
SUNG-KU: We have to be careful, actually. If somebody evil can use it, it might be disaster.
WATSON (voiceover): Designers say, unlike human celebrities, these A.I. pop stars won't age and won't ever tire out. And can do anything they're
programmed to do.
WATSON: It's like science fiction, like the robots could be taking over.
JANE (through translator): Yes, like the robots that conquer the human world, we've appeared to conquer the pop music world to steal people's
WATSON (voiceover): This may be a glimpse of entertainment in the not-too- distant future
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: That is both very cool and very creepy at the same time. That was our very real Ivan Watson reporting for us.
And that is it for us now. Remember, if you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. And of
course, 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.