Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With U.S. Climate Envoy For Climate And Former U.S. Secretary Of State John Kerry; Interview With IKAR Senior And Founding Rabbi And "The Amen Effect" Author Rabbi Sharon Brous; Interview With The University Of Texas School Of Law Professor Stephen Vladeck. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired December 18, 2023 - 13:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.

The devil is always in the details, and I sift through the news out of COP28 with U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry.

Then, as Israel continues its war against Hamas, American Rabbi Sharon Brous tells us how to find light in the darkness.

Next, in Uganda, lawyers are challenging anti homosexuality laws, and we bring you an investigation into those who fear persecution.

Plus, Trump, trials and tribulations. Constitutional law expert Stephen Vladek discusses key cases before the Supreme Court with Hari Sreenivasan.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

As 2023 draws to a close, climate records are once again being shattered, with this year on track to be the hottest. And around the world, climate

chaos is a daily fact of life. In Australia, intense rainfall is causing devastating floods, leaving families stranded. While in America, over 3

million people are fleeing flood prone areas, according to new data from the First Street Foundation. But some are hopeful that the tide is now


This scorching year is ending with a new deal, calling for a transition away from fossil fuels. At the U.N. Climate Summit in Dubai, world leaders

agreed to using that language for the very first time. And yet, for some, it lacked commitment to actually "phase out" fossil fuels and is undermined

by a litany of loopholes.

Nonetheless, President Biden's Climate Envoy John Kerry hailed the agreement as the most important decision since the landmark 2015 Paris

Accords, which he had negotiated for the United States as secretary of state under the Obama administration.

Kerry, join me on set here to talk about how a difficult consensus was finally reached.

Secretary Kerry, welcome back to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, everybody's still trying to pass what happened in Dubai. You know, the word transition versus phase out. How do you define it? Is it a

historic success or is there still a lot of work to be done?

KERRY: Well, there's both. I believe, yes, I think it is an historic success. I don't say that simply because we all are involved in it, but

because getting 200 nations -- or 195 nations to have consensus to agree to use the terminology, not just that they're transitioning away from fossil

fuel but they have to do so with acceleration in the 2020s in keeping with net zero 2050 in a just and equitable way.

It's a very powerful gathering together of the aspirations of those who are pushing to deal with the climate crisis. But more importantly, besides that

one sentence, there is operative language regarding shutting down coal, moving away from coal specifically, powering beyond it. There's specific

language about methane, major initiative on methane, which is responsible for half the warming of the planet.

In addition, there are initiatives on shipping, to decarbonize shipping, to accelerate the purchase of green materials, green products by the biggest

corporations in the world. There's an effort by oil and gas companies to help with the methane, putting 25 million each on the table to begin to

help Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Iraq, others, to stop flaring, to stop venting, to stop leaking.

There's just a massive amount of effort here, including a new fund announced on the very first day, that's historic, that's never happened

before, to deal with the problem of those who have had damages and losses as a result of this.

AMANPOUR: Let's get to the nitty gritty of it. Does it meet what it -- you know, the Paris Accords, which demanded somehow 1.5-degree --

KERRY: Right.

AMANPOUR: benchmark by the end of this century? And apparently, it does not.


KERRY: Well, there's not a specific measurement target except to be at net zero by 2050. But also, to put together plans that are in keeping with 1.5-

degree limit of warming of the planet. Now that is Paris.

In fact, this agreement that was achieved in Dubai is in fact a ratification, a reaffirmation of the Paris Agreement. Because the Paris

Agreement called for the first stock take, as it's called, the first measurement of where the world is since Paris.

AMANPOUR: I want to put to you one of the other, you know, great American climate activists, and that's Vice President Al Gore. He has said, the

influence of petrostates is still evident in the half measures and loopholes included in the final agreement.

And I just want to put to you something he told me back in September at the U.N. when I asked him about your role and how you thought it was a good

idea to have this COP at the UAE and et cetera. This is what he said.


AL GORE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Well, if this were a pro climate athletic team, I would say he's playing a different position on the field

than I am. I've heard enough and seen enough to no longer believe that the fossil fuel companies have any credibility. Every measure to cut the

burning of fossil fuels, locally, at the state level, national or international level, these oil and gas companies are in there fighting

tooth and nail to stop, to delay, to block, and all the while pretending that they're trying to help out. They're not trying to help out.


AMANPOUR: And he went on to say, if they're not trying to help out, at least get out of our way and stop trying to stop us. So, you had direct,

you know, discussions with all of these people. Some say that this word transition, again, puts the onus on countries to reduce demand rather than

to stop the companies in the fossil fuel industries reducing supply.

KERRY: Well, I ask you a simple question. And my question is, how do you get companies all around the world where there is demand, where economies

are dependent currently on fuel and on, you know, mobility and heating and lighting and so forth, where they are dependent today? You get them to vote

that tomorrow, next week, a week, year from now, they're going to stop. They're not going to do that. They haven't done that.

What they have done, however, is begin to join up in the process and take certain responsibilities. Is it enough? No. Is it fast enough? No. But it's

the first time ever. It's the first time ever that those companies came to the table and said, OK, we're going to do the following things. So, we have

BP, Equinor, Shell, Total, a group of companies that have put serious money on the table to help reduce methane, that have put plans on the table that

are going to get them to net zero by 2050, if they do everything they've said they're going to do.

AMANPOUR: If they do.

KERRY: But they're not the only ones, Christiane, who aren't doing that. All around the world, there are countries, companies, people who are not

moving fast enough to make this transition. But what happened in Dubai is different. And I think you have to take note of the fact that Dr. Sultan Al

Jaber, who is UAE and a head of a company, helped bring those companies to the table. And if it hadn't been them, who knows whether they would have

appeared at the table at all.

AMANPOUR: So, you've got this commission --

KERRY: I've watched this process just as long as Al Gore has, and he's done a lot to move this. He's been the face and energizer of so much of this.

But he knows as well as I do, that you're not going to get those companies to sign up tomorrow. It's a process. Government works in certain ways. We

have to push it to cajole. But we got people to do things they've never done before. And, the -- even the Saudis signed off on the notion.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you about your --

KERRY: There's a transition.

AMANPOUR: -- personal intervention there because there was a lot written about how you were able to leverage, if that's the right way, your contacts

with the Saudi, with the UAE, with the Chinese official et al. Tell me just what it was like in terms of personal negotiation, getting them to sign on

the dotted line.

KERRY: Well, it's really tough. I mean, this is as tough as any multilateral negotiation gets. When you have economic interests and

different capacities, different capabilities, different amounts of money, different cultures, different economies, and you bring them all together in

a multilateral forum, I think people who expect them to all of a sudden, you know, terminate what they're doing are just not operating on the

reality of how multilateral governance works. It's the hardest kind of all.


And what happened in Dubai is that 195 countries actually came to a consensus. Any one of them could have blocked. Any one country could have

walked away and said, no, we're not doing this. They didn't. They gathered together and said, time for a transition away from fossil fuels with

acceleration in the 2020s, commensurate with net zero 2050, and in keeping with the Paris Agreement, which means keeping 1.5 degrees alive. And that's


AMANPOUR: If there's one thing that worries you, what is it?

KERRY: Well, what worries me now is greed, and procrastination, and business as usual, and people who just aren't going to step up the way Al

Gore suggested. And there are companies that are resisting. There are people who've said no the way he has. But he's in a different place. He's

in a different position on the field.

AMANPOUR: That's what he said, yes.

KERRY: I appreciate that. He is in a different position on the field. I'm in a position where I have to work with those countries and companies and

try to pull them together to the action. Al can, you know, kick and push and cajole, and he's done an extraordinary job through a lifetime of

effort. He's my friend.

AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you because you have been, you know, a statesman and a negotiator for practically all your career. There is a war

going on in the Middle East right now a terrible war that started on October 7th. And the president appears -- President Biden appears to be

getting frustrated with the way it's being conducted. You've got all the U.S. officials who are going there, but most importantly, there is a desire

to see what happens afterwards.

I want to play something that you said December 18th -- rather the 28, 2016, after your last round of negotiations there.


KERRY: The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only way to ensure

Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors. It is the only way to ensure a future of

freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people, and it is an important way of advancing United States interests in the region.


AMANPOUR: After October 7th, do you think that's still possible? And I just add an addendum, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who you had a lot of dealings

with, has been, again, discovered to be saying and boasting about stopping a two-state solution, that all his politics has, you know, prevented a two-

state solution. Do you still think it's possible, what you just said?

KERRY: I think it's possible, but it's obviously been made harder in some ways, for sure, but it's possible. But I really think those words,

honestly, I think they stand up. I think there is no way to have peace and be able to resolve the greater issues of the region, which the

administration was moving to do with respect to Saudi Arabia and others unless you are somehow dealing with this issue.

And what I worry about that a lot of people worry about is that what is happening could, in fact, make it much more difficult and prolong it, but

the fact is Israel was attacked brutally in the worst way since the Holocaust and Israel has the right to defend itself.

Yes, at the same time, President Biden and his advisers have been very clear that it is imperative that when you take military action you do so in

keeping with the highest standards with the international law and that you minimize civilian casualties, and I think the president and others have

said and indicated an increasing concern about that, as many people around the world --

AMANPOUR: But how do you get a recalcitrant Israeli government? It's not just today, it's many months and years, you dealt with the same kind of

government, same prime minister that doesn't appear to want a two-state solution.

KERRY: Well, I think this government has made it crystal clear that they don't support it and won't be in favor of a two-state solution. And so, the

people of Israel, it's a democracy will, at some point, I'm confident, be involved in an election and have an opportunity to make their choice for

the future.

AMANPOUR: And do you think the United States will put more effort into it?

KERRY: I think Secretary Blinken and I think the president are very clear that the two-state solution is necessary and that's what they're for. That

has been American policy with Republicans and Democrats alike for all of my public life.

And I think that Israel has had many prime ministers who has tried very hard to find that peace. I mean, Rabin who was lost his life over that

effort, Shimon Peres and many others have fought through time.

AMANPOUR: Ehud Barak.

KERRY: Ehud Barak.


So, I -- we just have to wait and see. Look, my bailiwick is climate right now and I'm therefore not -- and I really don't want to dig deeper into

where it will be and where it'll go, but I think everybody in the world is hoping that that there can be a future for everybody at peace in that

region. And obviously, we have supported Israel's right to exist as well as its right to defend itself.

But I think increasingly there are deep concerns that the way in which this is carried out needs to be in keeping with the values that drive both of

our countries.

AMANPOUR: Secretary Kerry, thank you very much indeed.

KERRY: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Now, staying with the Middle East, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is in Israel to persuade the government to exercise restraint on

Gaza civilians. This, as the IDF says that its soldiers violated rules of engagement by shooting dead three Israeli hostages in Gaza, shirtless and

waving a white flag over the weekend. And an Israeli military sniper is accused of killing a mother and daughter in a church complex, where most of

Gaza's Christian families have taken refuge since the start of the war. The Pope on Sunday noting unarmed civilians are targets for bombs and gunfire

in Gaza.

As the world becomes more polarized over this war, we're also seeing a rise in antisemitism in the United States, which has the biggest Jewish

population outside of Israel. My next guest openly grapples with these difficult questions in her sermons, and her upcoming book, "The Amen

Effect," explores how to rebuild our society. Rabbi Sharon Brous is joining me now from Los Angeles.

And you are of the IKAR Synagogue in Los Angeles, and you have been giving some really interesting sermons. I sort of said you're going to tell us how

to find light out of the darkness. And I wonder whether that's fair and whether you can and what you say to your congregation these days.

RABBI SHARON BROUS, SENIOR AND FOUNDING RABBI, IKAR: Well, thank you so much for having me, Christiane. I'm honored to be here with you.

The first and most important thing to know is that this is obviously a time of incredible sorrow and heartache and great pain for our Jewish community

and for all of the people who care about and are invested in Israel and Palestine. And we know darkness and we know suffering and we know pain. And

we have tools in our long history and in our tradition to help us learn how to find our way back to one another, how to find our way toward mending,

both from individual sorrow and grief and communal and even global pain.

And I believe at the very heart of that challenge is to find our way toward one another in sorrow, in celebration and in solidarity, which is very much

the call of our time.

AMANPOUR: Rabbi, tell me what are those tools? Because right now, I mean, you know better than I do, there is so much polarization. People are

insisting on declaring themselves or being forced to declare themselves one side or the other. There's so much canceling. There's so much hatred and

trauma that what you're saying is a little bit rare. It's almost like a voice in the wilderness, trying to find and to use the tools. Do you find

them in the Torah?

BROUS: Yes. I mean, the first thing is, I totally agree with your assessment, we're living in a moment of false binaries, as if people need

to make a choice to be you're either with Israel or you're with the Palestinians. When in reality, the only future is a shared future.

There are millions of people who live in that land who are not leaving, who literally have nowhere else to go, and they have to find a way to live with

one another. So, these false binaries are only sending us further and further away from the work that ultimately must be done, which is the work

of shared grief, the work of building some kind of shared narrative. And the way to get there is through -- I believe, through curiosity and through


So, instead of silencing voices that we think contradict our core narratives, questioning and leaning into relationship and learning from

people who see the world very differently than we do. Because fundamentally, at the beginning of the day and the end of the day, most

people in the world just want to put their kids to bed safely at night. They just want to live in dignity and in peace and with safety and security

for themselves and for their loved ones.

And so, the tools that I'm most invested in right now and the reason actually that I called the book "The Amen Effect" is because we have

ancient mechanisms for teaching us how to lean into the discomfort of conversations that don't feel natural to us, where we feel like we might

even be losing something of our own victimhood if we hear someone else's pain.


But in fact, it's only when we hear one another's pain and when we lift up and affirm each other's humanity that we can collectively walk toward a

shared liberation with one another.

So, I think investing in these ancient tools, saying amen to each other's heartache right now only reinforces our sense of shared humanity.

AMANPOUR: And how does that go down with your specific congregation right now?

BROUS: Well, I think that the role of a pastor or a rabbi in these difficult times is really twofold. The first thing that we need to do is be

with our people in their sorrow. People feel completely upended by what happened on October 7th, by just the devastation and the anguish of the

atrocities that were committed.

And that was, of course, compounded by the response of much of the world, where many people either remain silent and couldn't find a way to condemn

the atrocities that it occurred because the victims were Jewish and it's complicated or even celebrated the atrocities as somehow helping to advance

the cause of justice and liberation for the Palestinians. That's been very painful, and add to that, of course, the rise in antisemitism and the sense

of real fear that many people have right now for our own safety.

So, the first and most important thing is to affirm that sorrow, that anguish, that sense of loss that many people who we considered friends and

allies have really been quite absent or even demonstrated true moral confusion in this moment, that's the pastor's job, to comfort the


But not to stop there, because what we ultimately have to do is have to move our people away from our kind of core instinctive licking of the

wounds that we are still doing in this day to start to lift our gaze and see a much broader context of moral concern, which extends beyond our

Jewish family to really look at those whose lives are also being devastated in this conflict.

The number of Palestinian civilians who have been -- who have lost their lives in this conflict is stunning and devastating and astonishing. And so,

how can we, from our own sorrow, meet one another in our shared pain and articulate a shared vision for what a future might look like where we can

all live in peace and in dignity together?

So, I think our work is really twofold, to honor and to affirm the pain that we experience and also to expand our sense of responsibility and

accountability toward one another as human beings.

AMANPOUR: Rabbi, you've been talking about these principles for a long, long time. And indeed, on the podcast with Ezra Klein, he began with one of

your sermons, it's one that you delivered a few weeks before October 7th, where you lament the occupation, you lament the current right-wing

government in Israel, and your sermon sort of encapsulates the growing rift between Israel and American Jews.

Do you -- are you seeing that rift now? And tell me what you were saying before October 7th.

BROUS: Well, from a couple of decades, there have been many people both in the United States, which is the largest Jewish diaspora community, and

partners, Israeli Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel who have been collectively lifting up and amplifying voices, calling for a just future.

And that means dismantling the occupation and envisioning a world in which Palestinians and Jews can both live in peace and in freedom.

And that is -- that work has really became very pronounced in the course of the last year, ever since Netanyahu's regime took power and he ushered into

this government the most hard line, ultra nationalist messianic thinkers who have ever been in an Israeli government.

And from that position, he essentially gave them power to -- allowed them to help dictate what policy would look like. And this was a cause for great

concern, not only for me, but for many, many people who really care about the State of Israel and care about the Palestinian people and Israeli Jews

and building a future together.

And so, I have used my platform for a couple of decades to try to lift up and amplify the voices of those who are on the ground in the State of

Israel and in the West Bank who are pursuing a different kind of future.


Over the course of the last year under the Netanyahu regime, as you, of course, know, for 10 months, every single Saturday night, week after week

after week, there were hundreds of thousands of people who took to the street in Israel in order to protest against this regime and in order to

fight for a democratic future and for a just future, the only reason those protests stopped was because of the events of October 7th, but there is a

growing tidal wave in Israel of people who really do believe that there must be a different kind of future and that we cannot entrench in this hard

line messianic extremist ideology, which is quite dangerous, not only to Palestinians, but also to the Jewish future.

And so -- and I believe -- I spoke very openly about that for many years. I spoke about it on Yom Kippur. And then just over a week later were the

horrific atrocities of October 7th. And so, we -- I really do understand what's happening in a broader context of a need to move toward a just


AMANPOUR: Well, then you raised the prime minister. So, I'm going to play what he just said as part of a press conference about those -- you know,

the sad killing of those three Israeli hostages over the weekend in Gaza. I'm just going to play you what he said about -- you know, about the two-

state solution.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I will not allow the State of Israel to commit the fatal mistake of Oslo, which

brought to the heart of our country and to Gaza, the most extreme elements in the Arab world who are committed to the destruction of the State of

Israel and who educate their children to this goal.


AMANPOUR: So, you know, you could say he would say that anyway. That's been his policy for decades. But today, you know, there are many Jews,

obviously, who don't believe there's anywhere safe for them anymore. What would you say to them? You know, and I assume you don't agree with what

Netanyahu said about the two-state solution. So, how do you comfort Jews who are worried about what a two-state future would look for them?

BROUS: Well, I think the prime minister is wrong, and I think his words are dangerous. I think that they are not only endangering the lives of

Palestinians, they are also endangering the lives of Israeli Jews, they are also endangering the lives of diaspora Jews. I am deeply concerned about

this entrenchment in an unjust status quo.

The two-state solution has been spoken about by serious people more in the last two months than I've heard it spoken about in the last 10 years. And I

don't know the exact contours of what the resolution to this conflict will look like, but I know that we need a just and we need a permanent

resolution to this conflict so that all people in the region can have a future.

That is what many, many Israelis are calling for, that is what many American Jews are calling for. I believe that's in the best interest of the

country -- of the State of Israel, and it's in America's best interest as well.

AMANPOUR: Rabbi --

BROUS: We simply cannot persist --

AMANPOUR: Carry on.


AMANPOUR: And so -- maybe you'll continue, but I just want to ask this one question. Whether you're noticing a generation gap in American Jews, like

what do older Jews think compared to the very younger ones now about what's happening in Israel?

BROUS: Yes. Oh, there's absolutely a generation shift. And I think, in many ways, there's been -- it's been a little bit of a false binary set up

between Israeli perspectives and American perspectives. And in fact, it is much more along generational lines.

In the introduction to the dialogue that I had with Ezra Klein, he shared what I thought was a very wise analysis about the ways that three different

generations look at this conflict differently. That there's an older generation that understands Israel as David to the Goliath of the Arab

world. There's a middle generation that sees an Israel that is empowered but striving for peace. And then there's a younger generation that only

sees Israel as a powerful force, but that is speaking words like, what you just shared from the prime minister, where there is not a quest for peace

and there's not a quest for a just future.

And I believe that that is shaping some of the perceptions of many younger people who are looking at this conflict saying, you know, I don't see how

that -- how persisting the way that these policies have been going for many decades is going to lead to a just future and therefore are turning to much

more radical ideas, including the idea that that Israel shouldn't exist at all.

There's been, over the course of the last two months, a real shifting in the Overton window that now has led to words that are almost unthinkable

before October 7th now being said, even in the halls of academia and on the streets and in places of power. And I think we have to correct that

immediately by really returning to the language of a two-state solution, maybe it's a confederation. It is a shared future. It is a just future in

which two people are able -- two peoples are able to peoples are able to live with self-determination as neighbors, side by side in a tiny sliver of

land where most people truly just yearn for peace.


AMANPOUR: Rabbi Sharon Brous, thank you so much for your wisdom. Thank you very much for being with us.

And major news from the Vatican today. The Pope, who turned 87 on Sunday, is officially allowing priests to offer informal blessings to same sex

couples, provided the church's traditional teachings on marriage is made clear.

The move is likely to draw criticism from the more conservative Catholics in the United States and in Africa. Kenya and neighboring Uganda are

increasingly cracking down with a spate of homophobic attacks in recent months.

Today, lawyers are in court challenging Uganda's anti homosexuality act, which criminalizes even the promotion of homosexuality. As a result, many

have fled to Kenya, where gay sex is illegal. I have spoken to the presidents of both Uganda and Kenya over the years about this issue, with

President Museveni, calling gay people "deviants."


YOWERI MUSEVENI, UGANDAN PRESIDENT: There are people who are deviated from the normal. They are not killed, they are not harangued, they are not

persecuted, but we don't promote them. We don't promote them. We don't promote and flaunt homosexuality as if it is an alternative way of life.

WILLIAM RUTO, KENYAN PRESIDENT: We do not want to create a mountain out of a molehill. This not a big issue for the people of Kenya.


AMANPOUR: But of course, it is a big issue and we have heard reports of attacks against gay people. Correspondent David McKenzie went to meet some

of them who fled to Kenya. Here's his special investigation.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We are in Nairobi, tracking the impact of hate.

MCKENZIE: So, we're heading to a safehouse that has been arranged for Ugandans that have fled Uganda into Kenya trying to get asylum.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): We are shielding their location, hiding their identity for their safety.

MCKENZIE: How are you doing?


MCKENZIE: Thank you for having us.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): No one is sure how many have fled, but the numbers have surged. In safe houses like this, their wounds are still fresh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He felt like if he can cut me into pieces, it would be better.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Adrian's own father tried to kill him, he says, for being gay.

ADRIAN, ASYLUM SEEKER: These knives, he stabbed me. In Uganda, when they kill someone in a LGBT community, it's not a big deal.

SYLVIA, ASYLUM SEEKER: My mom came herself and she told me, you know what, you are not welcome here. You are not part of our family.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Betrayed by their families, pursued by the police, they fled into Kenya on foot or by bus, often in the dead of night. Now,

they are afraid to go out. They keep the curtains shut from prying eyes.

Since 2021, politicians have pushed a new generation of disturbing homophobic bills in Uganda, Ghana, and Kenya. Some even calling for hefty

jail terms, including life in prison for same sex relationships and identifying as queer. All of them to protect so-called family values.

For months, CNN has been investigating the influence of American charity Family Watch International headed by this woman, Sharon Slater. For years,

the organization has been advocating across Africa for family values and against educating young people about LGBT issues and sexual health.

ALI, RESEARCHER: This Africa, and what it takes to be close, to just stand next to the president of an African country in Africa, it means it's not


MCKENZIE (voice-over): The president is Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, at a sex education conference in Entebbe in April. The conference included

politicians pushing the homophobic laws. This opposition researcher has tracked Slater's organization for years. We agreed to conceal his identity

to protect the ongoing work.

ALI: She presents herself as an expert. She presents herself as a consultant.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): A source with direct knowledge of their involvement says they were much more instrumental than just consulting. The source says

a Family Watch international representative made repeated changes to draft versions of the homophobic bill together with members of parliament, even

suggesting clauses that should be added to the text.

A CNN producer found Sharon Slater at the United Nations in New York.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sharon Slater, there are allegations that Family Watch International is pushing homophobic laws in Africa. What do you have to say

in response to that?

SHARON SLATER, FOUNDER, FAMILY WATCH INTERNATIONAL: Absurd. Totally, totally absurd. I've got documents that I can send you later to show that I

have not been involved in any of those laws. Period. It's just absurd.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): Family Watch International provided this document to CNN, an extraordinary endorsement of Slater's work by President Museveni.

He says she played no part in "originating, canvassing, or supporting the law," instead suggesting a safe haven for homosexuals. The final law allows

for the rehabilitation of offenders, including widely discredited conversion therapy.

TOBIAS NAURIKI, EMPOWERED YOUTH COALITION: Gay people and lesbian people Human beings like me.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): We tracked down a youth leader in Nairobi with close ties to Family Watch International.

NAURIKI: I will not be happy for them to be punished, but what I would recommend is to respect and uphold those laws.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Family Watch International said he is not authorized to speak for the organization.

MCKENZIE: So, you are happy with these laws being pushed is what you're saying?

NAURIKI: Yes, I'm happy for the laws being pushed.

MCKENZIE: I've seen people who are fearing for their lives on this continent because of these laws.

NAURIKI: There are very minor cases.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): The awful reality is this. CNN has tracked a severe spike in abuse of LGBTQ Africans. Often put on social media, often too

graphic to show. It's an epidemic of hate inspired by the laws.

In Kenya, human rights groups say that attacks on the community have at least doubled in the last two years, with more than a thousand incidents up

until August. The proposed law here is the most sweeping yet.

PETER KALUMA, KENYAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: When you engage in those acts of LGBT, which are prohibited in Kenya, you become a criminal.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): The M.P. sponsoring the bill has Sharon Slater's book on family values on his shelf.

MCKENZIE: Family Watch International is not specifically helping with the drafting of this bills?

KALUMA: No, no, no, they can't. That would be to say, I don't have my own brain.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): In the safe house as the hate spreads, they fear their space is running out.

ADRIAN: I feel at any point I'm left nowhere to go. If you go outside there, they notice that I'm LGBTI, sooner or later I'll be dead.


AMANPOUR: Members of the LGBT community speaking to David McKenzie.

Now, to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices are facing several landmark cases. While their approval ratings remain at record lows from the

trials awaiting Donald Trump to a vital reproductive rights decision. Professor of law, Stephen Vladeck joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the

cases attracting attention and whether we're witnessing a constitutional crisis in the nation's highest court.


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Stephen Vladeck, thanks so much for joining us.

A couple of big announcements in what the Supreme Court would be working on that kind of come back to the 2020 election. So, I guess to just get our

audience up to speed, what were the significant cases?

STEPHEN VLADECK,CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. So, two developments. One was in the prosecution of Former President Trump in Washington, D.C. arising out of

January 6th, where the special counsel, Jack Smith, asked the Supreme Court to not only leapfrog the Federal Court of Appeals, but to move very quickly

to leapfrog the Court of Appeals in resolving President Trump's claim that he is immune from prosecution both because he was acquitted in his second

Senate impeachment trial and because the actions he took leading up to January 6th were actions he took in his official capacity as president.

Judge Chutkan, who's presiding over that trial in Washington, had rejected those claims, and Jack Smith is now asking the Supreme Court to sort of

decide very quickly whether Judge Chutkan was right. The court has not agreed to take up the case yet, but it ordered President Trump to respond

by this Wednesday and could decide as early as this week, whether it's going to hear the case, not just this term, Hari, but actually perhaps as

early as January.

SREENIVASAN: So, let's put that in context for people. There is this sort of route where you can basically ask the court to skip the official

process. How often does that get used? And in what kind of circumstances?

VLADECK: Yes. So, historically, it was quite rare. The Supreme Court has had this power. The technical term is certiorari before judgment, meaning

before judgment in the Court of Appeals. Since 1925 and up to 2019 it hadn't happened that often. I mean, it was major separation of powers cases

that also had a ticking clock.

So, the Military Commission trial of Nazi saboteurs during World War II, President Truman's seizure of steel mills during the Korean War, the

Watergate tapes case with President Nixon, the Iranian hostage crisis. Maybe Hari, there's debate about whether this case fits into those



But since 2019, the Supreme Court has actually been much more willing to leapfrog Courts of Appeals in this respect. The court has granted cert

before judgment 19 times in the last four and a half years, after only granting it 30 times in the previous 94.

And so, you know, I think against that backdrop, this case really is hard to distinguish. At least from the more recent examples of really important

issues where the Supreme Court knows it's going to want to decide the matter eventually, probably doesn't need that much help from the Court of

Appeal to figure out what the issues are, and where there's at least some argument that deciding it sooner rather than later will have some public


SREENIVASAN: I mean, does this inherently make this political if Prosecutor Jack Smith wants to say, hey, Supreme Court, you have to figure out whether

this applies to the president or not? I mean, that will have an impact on whether or not he could have, say, good standing in the Republican Party to

be the nominee?

VLADECK: I think that's right, Hari, but I think once Jack Smith made the decision to indict President Trump, especially on these charges, especially

on charges that really dovetail with conduct while he was president, which distinguishes it, for example, from the Mar-a-Lago case, I think this was


And, you know, the notion that the Supreme Court is going to weigh in at least on this pure legal question of whether a former president can be

prosecuted for acts he undertook while he was president. I think in retrospect, it's not surprising that the Supreme Court would be interested

in that question. And so, I think now it's just a matter of should the court decide this now or later?

And the arguments for later aren't especially compelling. You know, we'll see. I mean, the court may yet say, we're going to wait for the Court of

Appeals. Hari, as you know, the Court of Appeals itself is moving very quickly. So, that if the Supreme Court sits back, we're probably going to

have a decision from the Court of Appeals within the next six to eight weeks.

So, you know, I think it's just a question of when the Supreme Court steps in, not if. It could be as early as this week, it could be, you know, when

the Court of Appeals rules, January, February. Either way, I think this issue is going to get resolved maybe not by the March 4th trial date that

Judge Chutkan had preliminarily set, but early enough that if the court says no, Former President Trump is not immune, I think there's still be

plenty of time for the trial to go ahead before the election.

SREENIVASAN: OK. let's talk about another case here, Fisher v. United States. What's at stake?

VLADECK: Yes. So, you know, one of the -- the Trump case is the first example of January 6th, got into the Supreme Court. Fisher is the second.

So, last week two days after the court hustled, granted Jack Smith's motion to expedite consideration of that Jack's -- of the Trump case, the court

agreed to take up a very technical question about the scope of the federal criminal obstruction statute that has been used, Hari, in over 300 of the

January 6th prosecutions.

Fisher is one of the January 6th defendants. He was convicted among -- or he was indicted among other things of violating this general obstruction of

official proceedings statute, and he had argued in the lower court, he and two other January 6th defendants had persuaded a trial judge, Judge Carl

Nichols, that this general obstruction statute actually required a more specific act. It required that the obstruction not just be of a proceeding

in general, like the joint session to count the electoral votes, but that the obstruction actually impede the proceeding in some way related to

evidence. And this was based on a reading of the relevant statutory provision compared to the one next to it.

Judge Nichols accepted this argument. The Federal Appeals Court in D.C. rejected this argument by a two to one vote with Judge Greg Katsas, a Trump

nominee, agreeing with Nichols and saying, he thinks the statute requires a more specific, what's called actus reus. And the Supreme Court agreed to

take up that question.

So, you know, for hundreds of January 6th defendants, there's now a question before the Supreme Court about whether the government's

interpretation of the obstruction statute was too general and whether the government actually should have had to show more than just interference

with the joint session. But actually, some way in which the defendants' acts deprive the joint session of certain types of evidence or other

documents that it would have needed to do its job.

SREENIVASAN: Wow. So, I mean, this kind of defies common sense here, right? If you -- so, from the outside looking in, the argument says that

obstructing the meeting of Congress to certify the election is not enough. I mean, did they have to have like stolen a piece of paper? I mean, how

specific do you have to be in obstructing the flow of Congress here?


VLADECK: So, I mean, we should be clear, this an argument about the language of this one very specific federal criminal statute that was, you

know, modified after the Sarbanes Oxley accounting scandals back in 2002.

I think that the short version is, yes, the argument that Judge Katsas and Judge Nichols embraced requires some fairly specific misconduct. What we

should stress is most of the January 6th defendants were also charged with other offenses, right? That the cases in which the only charge was this

statute usually were cases where defendants agreed to plead guilty to this statute in exchange for dropping other charges.

So, there are very few of the January 6th cases that rise and fall on this statute alone, but there's still the problem that now one of the more

common theories that federal prosecutors have used to try January 6th defendants has the interest of the Supreme Court.

Hari, in a context in which there's no circuit split, in a context in which even in these cases, in Fisher, it's what's called an interlocutory appeal,

Fisher has not been tried yet, right? Judge Nichols had dismissed his indictment. The federal government had appealed.

So, you know, I think what's really tricky about this case is it looks like the Supreme Court is interested, perhaps in narrowing this charge, a charge

that has been very, very widespread in the January 6th cases. Hari, a charge that's in the indictment against Former President Trump.

Now, the irony of Trump here is that even on the narrower -- what's called evidence impairment reading of the statute, it's a pretty good argument

that Trump actually meets that too, because the allegations against Former President Trump are that he was actively aware of and involved in the plot

to generate these false electors, right, that's evidence.

And, you know, provided in the joint session with false documentation, I think would come much closer to even how Judge Katsas interprets the

statute. So, we have this problem where Fisher could have massive ramifications for some of the lower-level January 6th defendants were

actually the top-level defendants, President Trump, Stewart Rhodes, the leaders of the Oath Keepers, you know, are dead to rights or at least

accused of statutes with clearer pathways to success.

SREENIVASAN: Got it. Now, speaking of Trump, and not necessarily in the context of the Supreme Court, but we had a conversation on this program a

while back about a case in Colorado that is working its way to the Colorado Supreme Court now about whether or not President Trump -- Former President

Trump should be allowed to be on the ballot.

VLADECK: That's right. And so, these are -- there've been a couple of these cases. The Colorado one is the one that I think, right now, is getting the

most attention, relying on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. And Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was a provision adopted right after the civil war

that purports to disqualify from holding any federal office those who engaged insurrection.

The provision does not say those who engaged in the civil war, right, it's insurrection generically. And there have been arguments, including the

decision by the trial judge in the Colorado case that President Trump's conduct before and on January 6th satisfy that substantive definition of


If that's true, and if President Trump is the kind of officer to whom Section 3 refers, then he is arguably ineligible to be on the ballot for

president in the first place.

So far, no court has disqualified President Trump as we're sitting here, you know, chatting. The trial court in Colorado said, yes, President Trump

had engaged insurrection, but he was not the kind of officer who was supposed to be disqualified by Section 3. The Colorado Supreme Court is set

to rule perhaps any day now. And I think there's a really big question about whether the U.S. Supreme Court would feel impelled to step in.

My -- you know, my best guess, and it's only a guess, is that the Supreme Court would love to stay away from this case, but that if some lower court

purports to disqualify Former President Trump from sitting on the ballot, I think the U.S. Supreme Court would feel obliged to step in.

And right from the Supreme Court's perspective, that's a sticky wicket, because if you do disqualify Former President Trump, then you're the one

preventing him from running for re-election, not -- right -- you're -- not the people. If you don't disqualify Former President Trump, then Former

President Trump will surely point to that decision, even if it's on technical grounds, as some kind of exoneration, if not endorsement.


And so, I think this why if I'm the U.S. Supreme Court, I'm hoping against hope that no one puts me in that position and no one sort of forces me to

take up that issue. Because otherwise, I think they'd have to take that pretty quickly as well.

SREENIVASAN: Now, there are other cases that are pretty fascinating and important to a lot of people that the Supreme Court said it was going to

take up. One is the first kind of major challenge last week since it struck down Roe v. Wade, and that is whether or not, you know, access to abortion

through the drug Mifepristone was going to be legal or not. Tell us a little bit about this case.

VLADECK: Yes. I mean, so this a case that's gotten a lot of attention for and deservedly so. Back in April, a federal judge here in Texas, in

Amarillo, issued this really stunning ruling that purported to vacate not just recent decisions by the FDA to expand access to Mifepristone, which

is, you know, one of the two drugs used in the most common form of medicinal abortion, but actually, he went back and said, even the original

approval of Mifepristone way back in 2000 was unlawful.

And, Hari, if that decision had gone into effect, it would have had nationwide consequences for access to Mifepristone, even in states in which

abortion is legal. I mean, like far -- you know, even in the bluest of blue states when it comes to abortion.

In April, the Supreme Court actually put that ruling on hold with only to justice publicly dissent him. And, you know, I think the sort of the hope

was that that was a signal from the Supreme Court that it didn't give this case ought to go forward. That it thought there were problems with the


That message was not received by the Federal Appeals Court for the Fifth Circuit, the Appeals Court that covers Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi,

because earlier this summer, the Fifth Circuit reached the merits of Judge Kaczmarek's ruling and left a good chunk of it intact.

So, there's -- you know, you have these conflicting rulings where the Supreme Court has said everything is frozen, access to Mifepristone remains

as it was, and you have the Fifth Circuit saying, OK, but we think that when this case is finally resolved, at least the recent expansions of

access to Mifepristone should be invalidated.

And so, the Supreme Court has now agreed to take up the appeal from that decision by the federal government and by Danco Laboratories, which is the

principal sponsor of Mifepristone in the United States.

You know, Hari, I think a lot of folks look at this case and say, oh, no, here comes the Supreme Court to mess with abortion again. I have a slightly

different take, which is, here comes the Supreme Court, I think, to slap down the Court of Appeals.

And I think the best evidence of that is it's very technical, but when the Supreme Court agreed to take up the Biden administration's appeal and Danco

Laboratories' appeal, it refused to take up a cross appeal by the plaintiffs, by the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, the group that had

brought this case in the first place.

The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine had said, hey, Supreme Court, if you're going to take up the government's appeal, we also want to challenge

that part of the Fifth Circuit decision we lost on. We want you to actually look at all of the FDA's approvals of Mifepristone going all the way back

to 2000. And the Supreme Court, in its order, agreeing to hear these appeals didn't take up this part of it, which, Hari, says to me, the

justices have no interest in going back to 2000.

SREENIVASAN: You know, just stepping back from the decisions, what about the behavior of the court itself? That has come into question by huge

swaths of the public as their confidence in the Supreme Court seems to erode. The court tried to publish a new ethics code. You came out critical

of that code, saying it didn't go far enough. Explain.

VLADECK: So, I think two things are true. One, the fact that the justices issued this code of conduct back in November is a remarkable development.

You know, that the court actually felt the need to at least look like it was hearing these criticisms, and it was reacting to these criticisms.

That's a big deal unto itself, and we ought not to sort of minimize it just because it didn't go far enough. But it doesn't go far enough.

I mean, the real issue is, you know, how do you create a culture where the justices are actually worried about accountability? And where the justices

are, you know, not nervous, Hari, but are sort of understanding that there will be consequences if and when their behavior crosses, whatever the line

is, whether it's the line they've drawn, whether it's the line, the judicial conference has drawn.

And it's just hard to believe, Hari, looking at the court today, looking at the code, the court issued back in November, that there are going to be any

consequences if more of these stories come out in the future.


This why I think we need something more, whether it's some kind of internal inspector general for the Supreme Court, for the federal courts as a whole,

whether it's more robust oversight of the Supreme Court. But, you know, whichever the path is I think the code of conduct should be the beginning

of the conversation about how we create a more accountable Supreme Court, not the end of it.

SREENIVASAN: Professor of Law at the University of Texas, Stephen Vladeck, thanks so much.

VLADECK: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And that is it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.