Return to Transcripts main page
Interview With Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni; Interview With Palestinian Authority Former Prime Minister And Princeton University Visiting Senior Scholar Salam Fayyad; Interview With "The Wisdom Of Plagues" Author Donald G. McNeil Jr.; Interview With Conservative Lawyer And The Atlantic Contributor George Conway. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 22, 2024 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone. And welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Hostage families storm Israel's parliament demanding a change of course to save their loved ones. As Benjamin Netanyahu's poll numbers plummet, I
discuss what comes next with former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Then to Gaza, where the death toll continues to rise. I'll talk to the former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad, about
future Palestinian leadership.
Also, ahead, four years since COVID-19 first emerged, have we conquered it and are we prepared for the next supervirus? Journalist Donald McNeil joins
me with his lessons from 25 years of covering pandemics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), FORMER U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give
Donald Trump another chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- as Ron DeSantis departs the Republican race, lawyer George Conway with Michel Martin on Trump's legal woes.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Fifteen weeks into the October 7 war, and divisions inside Israel are spilling into the open. Hostage families stormed into Knesset today to
protest Prime Minister Netanyahu's handling of the war on Hamas and Gaza, and demanding negotiations to free their kidnapped loved ones.
Meantime, a new poll shows Netanyahu's support to be at nearly rock bottom, and his Likud Party coming a distant second if there were to be an election
today. As a senior military voice in the War Cabinet, former Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot called for immediate elections and demanded the government
tell "the truth" to the people about the war's stated goals and achievements.
Overseas, the E.U. top diplomat, Josep Borrell, blasts Netanyahu's rejection of the two-state solution, which the United States and the
International Community back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEP BORRELL, E.U. FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: The other solution they have in mind, to make all the Palestinians live, to kill off them. Twenty-five
thousand already in Gaza. 70 percent are women and children.
Certainly, the way you're trying to destroy Hamas is not the way they are doing, because they are seeding the hate for generations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Joining me now is veteran Israeli politician, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni. She's known Netanyahu for years, having worked both
in opposition to him and in coalition with him.
Tzipi Livni, welcome back to the program.
TZIPI LIVNI, FORMER ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Can I start by asking you, are you surprised at this stage, 108 days since the massacre, and then the war on Hamas, that all of a sudden,
this anger, these divisions within the Israeli system are spilling out into the open?
LIVNI: Well, I'm not surprised that the war takes so long because this is an asymmetrical war between the country, and the terrorist organization. We
are looking for victory, they are looking for survival. So, it takes time.
But the fact that we have more than a hundred hostages that were taken, and the statements of Prime Minister Netanyahu about the day after or his
unwillingness to deal with the different plans that are on the table, including by the United States, create now the division again amongst the
AMANPOUR: So, were you surprised, like a lot of people were, that Gadi Eisenkot, who's generally very well respected in your country, is a member
of the war cabinet, an observer member, made that rather, you know, quite blunt intervention on Israeli television, firstly calling for elections
immediately, or as soon as possible, saying that the prime minister had not been telling the people the truth about what was happening on the ground.
Let me just play a small soundbite and have you react.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GADI EISENKOT, ISRAELI CABINET MINISTER (through translator): We need, within a few months, to return to the Israeli voter and go to elections in
order to renew trust. Because at the moment, there is no trust.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, why is there no trust? Do you agree with him that there is no trust?
LIVNI: Firstly, I am glad that Eisenkot and Benny Gantz are part of the Israeli war cabinet because I trust them more than I trust the others
there. And the moment in which they decide to quit, this is for me a message saying that they are not influencing anymore, the course of things.
But I think that these are dramatic moments, not only in terms of Israeli politics, but this will define the future Israel security, the future of
Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza. And therefore, I think that we should all focus on what is the alternative for Hamas, how can we keep Israel
security, and how to work with and not against our allies and first and foremost, the United States that stands with Israel since day one and offer
some ideas about regional, security matters.
The Saudis are speaking about normalization, and of course they cannot abandon the Palestinians, but this can create new opportunities for the
future. And I'm so sorry that, the Israeli prime minister, that Netanyahu is not using this opportunity to create a better future.
AMANPOUR: OK. Can you explain why? I mean, look, people have known that he has been essentially against a two-state solution from the beginning of his
mandate when he first got in power in 1996. But now he's coming out and saying it publicly and saying it in response to, as you say, his biggest
backer, the United States, not to mention the entire, you know, allies and western community, and as you said, some of the Arab States which want to
normalize with Israel, for Israel's security and the like.
Why is he saying this, and is it -- why do you think he's saying this?
LIVNI: Netanyahu now is -- Netanyahu tries to divide the Israeli society on the same old campaign, who is for or against the Palestinian State. He is
also saying that the P.A., the Palestinian Authority, is like Hamas, they are all the same. So, we shouldn't first aid or help or accept the presence
of the P.A. in Gaza Strip, and later to the establishment of a Palestinian State.
Now, I do believe that there's a need to take care of Israel's security. This is crucial these days. But the real question, how can we reform
different security structure regionally? And frankly, when we need to choose who will control Gaza, so the option -- the real options are Hamas,
no way. Israel doesn't and shouldn't take care of 2 million of Palestinians that are there. We don't want to re-occupy Gaza. We just need to take care
of our security.
So, the third option is a Palestinian regime. Whether it's the P.A. or others, but we need to deal with it. We need to give an answer to this now,
because otherwise the Hamas will continue. They can, you know, try to survive the next day to be the regime in Gaza again and threatens not only
Israel, but also the Palestinians in Gaza.
And therefore, this is truly urgent to make this decision now. It's not the day after, in the future, it's here and now.
AMANPOUR: So, you just said that he and many of his supporters equate the Palestinian Authority with Hamas. I mean, do you believe that to be the
case, given the fact that it is the entity, the Palestinian entity. that has recognized Israel, that works with Israel, by and large, for the most
part? Do you -- I mean, is that a smart thing to tell the people of Israel?
LIVNI: Of course, it's not the same. But I will say the following. I'll speak about our interest. It's not for me to choose the Palestinian
leadership, but yet, it needs to be clear by the entire International Community that it is not going to be Hamas or any terrorist organization.
And we need a regime that is willing to work with Israel on security and give legitimacy to Israel when we need to fight against or also within Gaza
Strip. And to be responsible to the life of the Palestinians that are there.
So, whether it's a new P.A., renewed P.A., Palestinian Authority or others, it's less important. But these are the parameters. These are the
conditions. And for now, well, the Palestinian Authority is not -- cannot work or fight terror within Gaza Strip. That's for sure. It's too weak.
But I think that we need to enter into an interim period of time and try and work together with regional stakeholders, with the United States to
make -- to begin these steps toward the future. And without any hesitation.
AMANPOUR: How do you think that's going to happen if the prime minister is just saying no? Who's going to make that happen?
And as I said, you know, the pollsters say that he -- apparently, if it was his Likud Party going to elections, he's got like 16 percent compared --
which is like, you know, less than half of what Betty Gantz has at about 37 percent. Who's going to create and enable what you are just saying, the
need to work with your partners, to create a final, you know, piece?
LIVNI: It's clear that, for many years, Netanyahu's opponent is now losing in polls. And I do believe that this is the end of Netanyahu's era in
Israel politics. And I do hope that those that will replace him from center part of Israel politics will adapt these views, that is a combination of
Israel's security needs with a vision for the future and hopefully, a new regional structure.
AMANPOUR: And can I ask you about the United States? I mean, what is the cost to an Israeli leader? Or is there no cost of dissing -- you know,
rejecting your closest ally, particularly a president who got up and showed the world that he supported Israel in its hour of desperate need, embraced
the prime minister himself despite policy differences, supported the right to self-defense and frankly, the way the war is being conducted, very
worried about it now, even calling to stop "indiscriminate bombing"? Is there a cost to an Israeli leader who publicly disses the president of the
LIVNI: I do believe that all -- that the Israeli public and most of the Israeli politician truly appreciate the American administration who stands
with Israel since day one, trying to help, share or show deterrence to others, including Iran and Hezbollah. That at first, we all were worried
that this can turn into a regional war.
And this is the right thing when these horrors -- these Hamas terrorist organization did these horrors. And we are grateful. And in a most,
appalling way, it looks like the American president is doing the right thing without taking care of his own internal politics, while the Israeli
prime minister is just thinking about his own politics without taking care of Israel's security needs, as he should.
And therefore, it's not just about being polite, but it is also about Israel's security needs. We need the United States, it's part of Israel's
strategic security needs. And therefore, you know, Netanyahu's campaign is, I'm the only one who can say no to the International Community, including
the United States.
And I believe that we need a leader who knows how to work with the United States and our allies in defining Israel's security needs and working
together with them. And this is missing these days.
AMANPOUR: So, Tzipi Livni, you just questioned Netanyahu's self-described role as Mr. Security. And many Israelis question it, and we know that, and
we've seen the polls.
But I want to ask you this. Gadi Eisenkot said, it is time to tell the people the truth about, A, the war on Hamas, that there's still two-thirds
of them, at least by your own calculations, still surviving. But most -- or maybe more importantly for the people, is the fact that, you know, the
military might, as we are told, has not brought back your hostages.
Most people believe that it was a negotiation, it was a deal, it was -- you know, there was a pause, and you got back half the hostages. Half of them
remain. What do you think is -- I mean, it looks like Israelis believe that too. I mean, they went into the Knesset today.
LIVNI: I think that we -- there is no Israeli who is not thinking now about one-year-old, hostage that was taken with his parents and his brother and
all about the hostages. And this is most important goal of this war. But it's also clear that we can't afford Hamas as a regime the next day.
And therefore, what I'm suggesting, and we all support the war against Hamas, but I do believe that since we don't want to see them, and nobody
wants, as a regime, the idea of working together with -- deciding now who's going to replace them can lead to a deal on the hostages and also another
regime at the end of this war, the sooner the better.
But the war is being supported, as we need to release these hostages. Because on one hand, you have Israel's security, on the other, it's about
Israel's solidarity, which is part of our strength. And we need to do it and we need to have both.
AMANPOUR: Tzipi Livni, thank you so much for joining me.
Meantime, the Palestinian and Israeli foreign ministers met in Brussels today to discuss a roadmap for the future. Is there any way to permanently
end the bloodshed and break the cycle of violence as we were just discussing?
As much as people call for new leadership inside Israel, the same is true for the Palestinians, where experts say the people deserve better. I am
joined now by Salam Fayyad. He served as prime minister for the Palestinian Authority and he's joining the show from Princeton.
Welcome back to the program, Mr. Fayyad. I wonder whether you can respond to Tzipi Livni --
SALAM FAYYAD, FORMER PRIME MINISTER, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: -- in terms of the idea of what it's going to take to have a really empowered and capable Palestinian new leadership? Well, do you think
there should be a new leadership first and foremost?
FAYYAD: Thank you, Christiane, for having me on your show again. Let me first say that actually I have, for a number of years, had been calling for
the personal leadership to be a part of making or working on a better future for the Palestinian people. So, that's what comes to mind
immediately when you say future leadership alone.
And that requires recognition of the basic fact that a divided house cannot stand. Certainly, cannot continue to stand. That to me is the most pressing
priority facing us. When it comes to talking about a different kind of P.A. and all of that, empowerment to the P.A., enabling the P.A., I was first to
actually say explicitly that the P.A. has currently considered or configured cannot really continue to govern and certainly cannot assume the
responsibility of taking care of the needs for our people in Gaza in addition to West Bank.
I used the terms reconfigured. By that I meant, and I am repeating today, political enablement, and that really begins by trying to put the
Palestinian polity together. That's an absolute must.
Secondly, in terms of engagement with Israel on a solution and all, it's high time -- it's been high time for a number of years now that the path
the PLO has been on trying to really get us to the state that we wanted to have on the territories that are occupied in (INAUDIBLE) turned out to be
at best an exercise in fertility.
Worse than that, actually we are a lot more far removed from that as an outcome than we were at any point, to be honest with you right now. It's
kind of ironic in some way that at the height of the ongoing war in Gaza, a lot of interest now resurfaced in the so-called two-state solution, rather
ironic after many years of many people saying that it what's at best on life support if it has not died already.
Well and good. What are we prepared to do about that? First of all, to recognize actually that the path we are on is not really going to take us
to a better place. What would is actually a different political process. One that begins with recognition of our natural rights as a people. It's
very important for our leadership to actually articulate a vision as to what that really actually might mean.
Simultaneously, it should also busy itself and preoccupy itself with what is, to me, the most pressing priority of all, bringing the current ongoing
war of aggression to an end. The two objectives, in my view, on the one hand, trying to put a personal polity to unite it, to have a unitary
Palestinian Authority that governs through a government consented to by an expanded P.A. is not inconsistent with anything. Actually, it's necessary.
It might present an important instrument in trying to bring the war to an end. That's very, very important.
So, in all the talk about what needs to happen to the political process, how to revitalize it and all, I think all of this is important. It will
take a lot of time before all of this is translated into an action plan that's agreed to and adopted internationally.
In the meantime, what is happening to stop the war? That to me is the most pressing priority. With Palestinian leadership preoccupying itself, first
and foremost, with that objective, bringing the war to an end by emphasizing and working on reuniting our polity, I think it definitely
would make itself relevant to the discussion about the future.
FAYYAD: That's what's really needed in order to revitalize the Palestinian Authority in my judgment.
AMANPOUR: OK. OK. You've sort of laid out a big menu there. Let me ask you a specific question. Who do you think can help the Palestinians most to
achieve what you're saying? Is it your Arab brethren? Is it Saudi Arabia who Israel wants to have a normalization with? And apparently, Saudi Arabia
does as well. Should they be more, insistent that Palestinian rights and aspirations get taken care of?
Let me just play, Salam Fayyad, a quick bit of an interview I did with Prince Turki bin Faisal, former head of intelligence of Saudi Arabia. Just
listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE TURKI BIN FAISAL, FORMER SAUDI INTELLIGENCE CHIEF: Should there be a settlement that the present leadership of Hamas, of the PLO, and of Israel
should be excluded from any participation in any future political role, they have to pay for what they have done in this process. All of them are
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, he is making a case that every part of the constituent parts of this endless cycle have failed, failed, failed, and they all should go.
And I want to tell you, because obviously I quoted numbers and polls to Tzipi Livni about their prime minister, your president, Mahmoud Abbas, his
polls are also way down. He hasn't even had an election, you know, in about 20 years. And he's incredibly unpopular.
So, do you have a structure by which you think one can revitalize the P.A.? And furthermore, you know, while, of course, Israel and the others say
there's no way there can be Hamas or anything like that, you told me, last time we talked, that some version of Hamas are either the political arm or
whatever it is, as long as they accept nonviolence, they accept the peace process are going to have to be included. Is that still your view?
FAYYAD: First of all, let me answer the question you asked first, about like who can help us with this. I think first and foremost, this is a
national responsibility. This is a Palestinian responsibility. And it really has to come from within.
If -- you know, after all of the casualties that we have sustained and suffered, and continue to sustain and suffer daily, last 24 hours we lost
178 innocent people, killed in war. If that is not enough to really move us to the point internally, before we really look for help from others,
including Arab brothers, I don't know what might. So, as part of really being relevant to the conversation, I think this is, first and foremost, it
has to be utmost priority on the part of our leadership.
Secondly, in terms of the polls, I'm aware of the polls. They have been negative for a long period of time, and especially so in recent months
after the war broke out, and I have to say predictably. I mean, that cannot really be not predicted for a variety of reasons without really going to
the history now, but this is where we are, a reality.
The question is how? It's well and good to state principles. But the -- how to really get there, how to really get to the point where we have
leadership responsive enough to the needs of the people, both in terms of their requirements to continue to withstand the adversity of the occupation
on the way to ending it, but also in terms of the latter, which is how to really respond to our national -- the -- our need for -- to see our
national rights and aspirations fulfilled.
This is critical. This is absolutely essential. It's the Palestinian responsibility. Any help that we can get from our Arab brothers would be
much appreciated for sure.
Now, how to get there? Israel has the luxury of talking about elections. And I heard in the first segment of on your show Ms. Livni saying something
about elections and you quote it, get the eyes and go on the need for Israel to go elections. I don't know if we really have that luxury. We
haven't had elections. As a matter of fact, the last time we had general elections was in 2006, presidential elections 2005. We haven't had
elections in two decades now. A very long period of time. Are we really likely to have -- be able to go to elections in the midst of an ongoing
What I suggested, as a matter of fact, was to try to find a way to create a natural consensus to get us to the point where we're able to have
elections. I actually outlined that as a transitional period that is bookended by national elections agreed to at the start of that transitional
If I may comment briefly also on something I have said during the first segment of your show about where Israel is on the question of two --
resolution of the conflict and where Mr. Netanyahu is on this issue.
First of all, let me say this should not have come as a surprise to anyone. Mr. Netanyahu ran on a platform to destroy Oslo when he ran first for prime
minister in 1996. He's proud of that. He repeated that claim many times, including recently. When he knew he's smart enough to know that Oslo
framework did not have in it the certainty of Palestinian people.
FAYYAD: It was a promise that we felt we've -- we Palestinian (INAUDIBLE). But then he ran it that way. He never ran a campaign since then for prime
minister without saying repeatedly, not on my watch. And by that he meant, a Palestinian State would not see the day -- the light of day on his watch.
And he said famously that there can be no sovereignty over the territory of the River Jordan and the Mediterranean, but Israel's.
Now, where is that set in that lexicon? Nowhere. So, he said what he said recently that, first of all, should not have come as a surprise.
Now, in terms of your other points about it -- does he not worry about going publicly against a position stated by the United States? I think when
he really sees that there are consequences with actions and things he says, he would, for all he might be. I don't know if he's irrational.
And the fact of the matter is what he said, what he said about two-state solution. Certainly, he has reinforced and continuing to do these things if
he has, what he said, translated into, well, there may be different versions or four -- of two-state solution.
Let me be very clear on this.
FAYYAD: The end game for us Palestinian must be a fully sovereign state on the territory Israel occupied in 1967. That has to really be defined. And a
timetable has to be defined -- identified. Also, all of this has to be enshrined in an international resolution by a Security Council.
But what cannot wait -- all of this is important, until all of these things are done, what cannot wait is a determined effort to end the war. And Mr.
Netanyahu cannot continue to say not only no, but hell no to anything. Hell no to stopping the war.
FAYYAD: Hell no to a transitional deal to release Israeli prisoners and hello no to a Palestinian State. He just cannot continue to do that and run
away with it.
FAYYAD: He does not think that he's messing around with a giant. He thinks that he's messing around with a paper tiger, I think. That's how he
AMANPOUR: Well, we'll see how this continues. Thank you so much for joining us, Salam Fayyad.
Now, it's four years since the U.S. registered its first COVID case. While the world has mostly moved on, we do remember the virus killed more than 7
million people worldwide, cost trillions of dollars, and demanded that we learn from all the mistakes that were made in order to prepare for the next
Joining me now, award-winning, former New York Times health correspondent, Donald Mcneil. His new book is called "The Wisdom of Plagues," and he's
joining me now from New York.
Donald McNeil, welcome to the program.
DONALD G. MCNEIL JR., AUTHOR, "THE WISDOM OF PLAGUES": Thank you for inviting me.
AMANPOUR: You know, I sort of said demands that we learn from those mistakes. In short, your book, "Wisdom of Plagues," have you concluded that
the world, in these four years, has learned the mistakes and will be better prepared for the next big one or disease X as it's called?
MCNEIL JR.: It's country by country, I'm afraid. My argument in the book is the United States lost almost two times as many people as it "needed to
lose" in this pandemic. That we could have done a whole lot better about it. And it has a lot to do with leadership and it has a lot to do with our
failure to make tests in time and many other things. So, I don't think we are better prepared for a pandemic than we were the last time.
Other countries did very differently, took very different approaches the way we did, and I think some of them did better, both autocracies and
democracies. And the one thing you can say about disease X, which is a concept that's been around long before COVID came along, and I know it's
been talked about at Davos, but it's been around since before Davos, we don't know what the next pandemic is going to be.
And, you know, it used to be that everybody, when you asked experts about this, they always said flu. I worry more about H5N1, avian flu, going,
pandemic. Then a coronavirus came along, and in fact, it might not be either of those next time. It might be an adenovirus or paramyxovirus, or
it might be drug resistant bacteria. It might be a fungus.
There are lots of things that are waiting to get us, and we have to be much better prepared. And I argue for a sort of a Pentagon-like response to
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that's interesting because you basically said, just now in your previous answer, you said some countries did better than the U.S.
You name Germany, you name Canada, then you say, and some autocratic nations. Which autocratic nations? And you say, you know, if it was me, I'm
going to quote you, I think you say, I would be a public health fascist. Now, you know, I don't like the word fascist, but what do you mean?
MCNEIL JR.: What I said was, and I was warned many times not to say this.
AMANPOUR: Donald McNeil.
MCNEIL JR.: The longer I covered disease, the more of a public health fascist I turn into. Meaning, I think we need -- if my book is aimed at
anybody, it's aimed at people who are now in medical school and now in public health school and may someday be running the CDC or the NIH or
whatever replaces them.
And in some ways, they need to stop wanting to be as loved as they now are and have a sweet bedside manner and be tougher about saving lives to think
maybe more like George Patton and less like Florence Nightingale, that it used to be that if you were public health leader, you had to make really
tough decisions about how you were going to stop an infectious disease.
I mean, we're very lucky now we now have. We have bottled oxygen, which we didn't have in 1918 during the 1918 flu. We have antibiotics for secondary
infections. We have ventilators and echo machines and all these other things. Had we not had those things, 2020 might have been worse than 1918
if we'd had the technology back then.
And you have to be able to step in at the same -- to buy time until you can produce the vaccines, the monoclonal antibodies and the drugs that will
allow you to actually stop the epidemic through pharmaceutical means. And that is essentially my argument. And some countries did better at that.
Nobody likes it when you use the example of China. But in fact, China made itself virus free for almost three years and held its economy together
while we floundered and watched, you know, 1.1 million Americans die. I mean, the death rate of every country in Asia, whether it's an autocracy
like China or whether it's a semi-democracy like South Korea or Japan, but I shouldn't say semi-democracy, you know, they did much better than we did.
And they did it because of good leadership and because of the population cooperated with the recommendations that were made.
MCNEIL JR.: You know, some countries like Cuba did well, some countries like Australia and New Zealand did well. It's enormously varies country by
country. But I agree that if you take our closest peers, Canada and Germany, they had a little bit more than half the deaths we had. And the
difference was leadership and people coming together and believing the leaders. Accepting the lockdowns when they were needed, accepting travel
strict restrictions when they were needed, and particularly accepting vaccines when they were available.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, what happens next time? Because clearly in the United States also down south in Brazil, you know, there were the -- you know, the
group of deniers, conspiracy theorists and general chaos agents that caused a lot of misinformation and lack of clarity.
So, you know, that since there has been an argument in a debate, even in this country, the U.K., where I am, about the actual effectiveness of
lockdowns. Was it the right thing to do? Did it cost too much on the economy and all the -- you know, the sort of domino effects that that had?
You still come down on that then, do you, on the strict lockdowns, the mask wearings, and things like that?
MCNEIL JR.: Well, you have to understand, everybody sort of focuses on, oh, lockdowns, oh, schools. Lockdowns shouldn't have lasted as long as they
did. Masks shouldn't have lasted as long as they did. The problem is that if you have, you know, a sort of lockdown light, a kind of garden party
version of a lockdown, if you have masks, whereas some people wear masks and some people don't, and people get tired of it and people don't want to
accept the vaccines, then of course it doesn't work very well.
You know, the country's the -- all these "non-pharmaceutical interventions" like masks, like quarantining and stuff, only work for short periods of
time when people are actually scared. And eventually, the dam breaks, people get fed up with it. And now, hopefully, by that time, you've got
some sort of countermeasure that works. But instead, people began to believe in countermeasures that clearly didn't work, like
hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
MCNEIL JR.: And you had misdirection coming from the top. And so, I'm not optimistic about the next pandemic, not in the United States because I feel
AMANPOUR: And especially if those leaders get back into office, presumably.
MCNEIL JR.: Whether they do or not, the country is so polarized.
MCNEIL JR.: And there are so many people who are inclined to just think all scientists are lying elitists and they ought to be ignored, or that I ought
to be strung up. You know, I'm getting hate mail again since this book has come out. You know, as long as that persists, we're going to suffer from
the results from the last pandemic.
AMANPOUR: And can we can we just make a fact, you know, the conspiracies about MMR, measles, mumps, rubella, have caused and continue to cause, you
know, flare ups of deaths by measles both in the U.S. and in the U.K., countries which had obliterated this stuff because of these, you know, as
you call cancer of rumors and the conspiracies and all of the rest of it. So, we know the damage that does.
But what I want to also ask you is, do we know -- are you -- how important is it? And are you clear about the origin of COVID and the origin of any
pandemic that comes up in the future?
AMANPOUR: The battle over whether COVID came out of a lab or whether COVID came out of the wet market is still on. I wrote an article, you know, three
years ago now saying we need to look into the COVID -- the lab leak theory more seriously.
Clearly, the Chinese were covering up what they knew. Clearly, they still are covering up what they knew. I don't think we're going to know the
answer any more than we know the answer as to whether Cuba was involved in JFK's assassination, or whether Alger Hiss was actually a Soviet spy, or
things like that, until an autocratic state opens up its files. And I don't expect that to happen during my lifetime.
Nonetheless, given everything I look at, I think it is more likely that the outbreak started in the market than it did in a lab. But I can't prove it
and neither can anybody else. And it's an ongoing battle and it's polarized and it's given the Republicans in Congress a lot of of ammunition to beat
up on Tony Fauci with and beat up on scientists with.
But the truth is, it doesn't really make any difference. We need better lab protocols if you are going to do any sort of dangerous research. And doing
gain of function research is like doing nuclear weapons research, it's extremely dangerous, but if you're going to have a nuclear arsenal, maybe
you need to do it.
MCNEIL JR.: And we also need better controls over things like wet markets.
MCNEIL JR.: You know, obviously not in the United States, we don't have those, but in other countries.
AMANPOUR: All right.
MCNEIL JR.: And we had an outbreak of, you know, coronavirus in this country.
AMANPOUR: Well, based on your very --
MCNEIL JR.: Monkeypox.
AMANPOUR: Yes -- very extensive research and reporting, your book is going to be must read information. And I think we should point out, as we say
goodbye, that you were one of the first, if not the first reporter to understand the hugeness of this back in February of 2020 before it had been
declared a national emergency. And you were on the record as warning everybody that this is the big one. Thank you so much, Donald McNeil.
Now, in U.S. presidential politics, Former President Trump continues to bounce around from courthouse to the campaign trail. This morning, he was
back to face trial for his statements about former columnist E. Jean Carroll's sexual assault allegations in 2019.
Just ahead of the New Hampshire primary, he got a boost from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who decided to drop out of the race and back him.
Conservative lawyer, George Conway, now joins Michel Martin with incisive analysis on how Trump's legal woes are playing out and shaping this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, NPR: Thanks, Christiane. George Conway, thank you so much for talking with us.
GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: So, look, I know you're a lawyer and a legal analyst. You're not a political analyst per se. But I did want to get your take on what we've
just seen in Iowa. As we are speaking now, the Iowa caucuses are just behind us. You know, it's, by all accounts, decisive victory for the former
Just what are your thoughts about that?
CONWAY: Well, I mean, this is where we are. I mean, I've been saying for quite some time that I thought that we're going to have the first, for the
first time, running as a major party candidate and a convicted felon, and that's what he -- I think he will be that by the time the fall rolls
around, because I do think the trial here in the District of Columbia of the January 6th trial, the one brought -- the case brought by Jack Smith,
just against him before Judge Chutkan here in the district, I think that one's going to go to trial.
You know, it's just a remarkable confluence of first. I mean, we have the first adjudicated rapist who is going to win a major party nomination, the
first person who has been -- you know, who is under indictment in four separate jurisdictions with 91 counts. I mean, it is just absolutely
unprecedented. But with Donald Trump, it's almost inevitable that this was going to happen.
MARTIN: Do you have any thoughts about why these very serious allegations don't seem to make much difference in the political realm. I mean, you
have, you know, close connections to people in the Republican political world, and I'm just interested in what you think about that.
CONWAY: It's partisanship run amok in part, and that I think a lot of this -- I mean, and I do think there is some segment of the population that
wants a strong man, and I don't mean that in a complimentary way. I mean that in the -- in the sense of a quasi-dictatorial, authoritarian figure.
They want to just basically assume the facts that they think are true, are true. They don't want to think, they don't, they're not interested in
But I think another thing that's going on here, I think a lot of this is that people don't want to admit that they were wrong about Donald Trump.
They don't want to admit that he's a bad person because if they admit that he's a bad person, then they, by extension, are admitting that they are not
good people for supporting him, or at least it tarnishes them in their own eyes.
So, they have to justify where they've been and where they're going, because they just don't want to admit that he led them astray and that
they've been suckered and that they're wrong and that he's bad. I think that's just a big part of it.
MARTIN: Is that true? Do you think that's true for people in your own orbit?
CONWAY: Oh, well, you know, I mean, my orbits changed over the last few years. But I think, you know, part of it is not wanting to admit you're
wrong. But part of it also is, there's an identity there. There's a tribalism there. And, you know, you don't want to be excluded from the
tribe because you don't -- you think the other tribe, the liberals who you've been hating on for so many years, they're never going to accept you.
And if you dare question the leader, you'll be cast out of your own group and you'll be homeless.
The other thing that I think is going on is there's an economy that has been built around Trump and Trumpers. I think that there's a whole -- you
know, you have all of these consultants and all these politicians whose livelihoods or their chosen careers or their chosen course of their lives
is dependent upon not, antagonizing other people in that community.
And so -- I mean, you see that with members of Congress who are -- who have to fear being primary. You see that with political consultants. I mean, for
example, the -- it was reported just the other day that the Trump campaign is saying nobody should hire Jeff Roe, who was a political adviser, a chief
political adviser for Ron DeSantis, that they -- he's going to be blacklisted. And nobody wants to be blacklisted. Nobody wants to be cast
out of the tribe.
And there is just -- there's also fear of physical intimidation. I mean, I think we saw that to some extent, with Lindsey Graham back in January of
2021, where he dared otter that he'd been -- he was done with Trump or something like that, and he was accosted at an airport by Trumpers.
And you saw it also -- I mean, one of the things that you've seen when Liz Cheney was running for re-election in Wyoming, she had to have the big
security detail in Wyoming, which she never owned. And there is a -- there is certainly a degree of physical intimidation. And that -- you know,
frankly, that's what January 6th was all about.
MARTIN: So, let's pivot around to the subject that sort of brought us together today, which is you have actually said that you think that Trump
will "spend the rest of his life in jail." Do you really think that?
CONWAY: I do think that. I mean, he's either going to become president or he's going to spend the rest of his life in prison. He certainly deserves
to spend the rest of his life in prison. I think that if you take any combination of the counts in these four indictments, with which he's been
charged, it will take almost any conviction and almost any combination of them is going to put him in jail for a number of years. And, you know, this
is a 77-year-old man.
So, I think there is a very good chance he'll spend the rest of his life in jail. And that's part of the dynamic that is going on here. He knows that.
I mean, he's not a strategic thinker. He's a sociopath. He's a man with a reptilian, I'm not going to say intellect, but he understands that he is
cornered. And that's when people -- you know, people like him with that kind of psychology are the most dangerous. But he understands that he
understands that the only way for him to escape the trouble that he's in is to be elected president.
MARTIN: Do you think that the purpose of this presidential campaign is to keep him out of jail?
CONWAY: I think that is one major purpose. I think another major purpose is to -- he does -- you know, he's motivated by the things that motivate
narcissistic sociopaths, which is power, praise, and a desire to inflict revenge on people who have defied him. And I think that we've seen that in
some of what -- you know, what his people are planning for 2025 should he be elected.
I mean, they're going to seek retribution. He says he's seeking retribution on behalf of the American public, or at least his slice of the American
public. But that's what motivates him.
I don't think you can understand what Donald Trump says and does on a daily basis simply by saying, oh, he's a bad guy. He's a Republican. He's an
authoritarian. He's racist. He's misogynist. He's this or that. You have to tie it into his fundamental psychological profile. People should not shy
away from that. OK. because I do not think you can understand his behavior without understanding his psychology. And I think we're seeing that in the
courtroom as it's happening today, over this week in the E. Jean Carroll trial, going to see it even more in the future.
MARTIN: So, let's talk about of the -- he's got -- there are 91 felony accounts -- felony counts across four cases. What do you think is the
strongest of those?
CONWAY: Oh, well, I think the strongest one -- the strongest case, I think, is -- which is a slam dunk case because it's so simple, is the case in
Florida, the Mar-a-Lago documents case.
You know, there is no -- there's really no factual dispute about what happened there because he was caught red handed with the documents. The
documents that do not belong to him. They belong to the United States of America. They had classified document markings.
And it doesn't even matter that they were, in fact, "classified" because the charges that he has been -- that were filed against him include charges
under the Espionage Act, and those charges do not turn on specific mark -- whether they're specifically marked as classified, they simply turn on
whether or not it's national defense information of any degree of significant sensitivity.
And you have that, and the fact that there are witnesses and there's video and all sorts of evidence that he tried to hide those and did hide those
documents from the FBI and that he failed to produce them when he was served with a subpoena by the Department of Justice and that he had his
lawyers lie to the Department of Justice. And that's -- those are simple, simple, easily provable acts of obstruction of justice.
And when that case goes to trial, I think -- I don't know that it's going to go to trial this year because it's hard to say what the judge there is
doing in terms of scheduling, but I don't -- he doesn't have a defense in that case, just not a shred of a defense.
MARTIN: The other case that has gotten a lot of attention and that you have written about most recently is the case connected to the former president's
role in the January 6th mob attack on the Capitol. And in that case, one of the things that has gotten a lot of attention from legal analysts and legal
scholars is this very sweeping claim basically saying that he has total immunity for anything that he does or anything that he did while in the
office of the presidency.
So, you wrote about that. And the headline of the piece was that "Trump's Lawyer Walked Into a Trap." What's the trap he walked into? Would you just
lay that out for us?
CONWAY: Well, the trap that they walked into was that they were pushing arguments that were in tension with each other, or they were pushing -- for
example, they were -- their principal argument is that there is an inherent immunity in the constitution that comes with the president that means that
you cannot be subject to -- essentially to any legal process.
They -- that does not -- that line of cases has never been applied to presidents in the criminal context. It's been applied in the civil context.
And the cases are based upon the notion that if you have -- you know, the president does things that affect so many people, that if you allow them
all to sue, if he did something that harmed them, the president would be continually -- and sue the president personally for damages, you'd end up
with a situation where the president would be worrying about everything he does and who is going to sue him for what. And the president will be
worried more about his personal finances and more about the cost of defending litigation than he would be actually doing his job.
But again, that rationale only applies to -- in the civil context, and it only extends, by the terms of the case law, the case -- the leading case
being -- a case called Nixon against Fitzgerald, which was decided in 1982, to the outer perimeter of the president's official responsibilities.
Now, that's a pretty broad standard. It's basically as broad as you can make it reasonably. But it's -- you know, it doesn't apply to essentially
conducting a coup. But the other point is, it's never been applied to the criminal context. And that's the thing that I think he's going to
absolutely lose on, which is the notion that somehow you can extend this civil liability doctrine to the criminal context.
Now, the trap that he set for himself is what had he made a secondary argument, an argument that is extremely weak based upon something called
the impeachment judgment clause. And what the impeachment judgment clause of the Constitution, which is an Article 1 of the constitution, because it
deals with Congress's powers, it says that, if you -- if some -- if an officer of the United States is removed from office by the impeachment
process, in other words impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate and removed as a result of the Senate conviction, he can nonetheless be
charged in the courts of law thereafter for any criminal conduct that the - - that was covered by the impeachment.
What Trump has been arguing is that by -- you could flip that over and say, you can only be charged if you are convicted by the Senate. And that's not
what the clause says. But what he did also and what his lawyers did at this argument was, at the same time that they were making this broad absolute
criminal immunity argument, they were saying -- and they were saying that we need that broad criminal immunity because we have to fear political
prosecutions. When one administration goes in and tries to prosecute the people in the last administration, the president of the last
administration, he's saying, we can't have that because we need to protect from political prosecutions.
But then they're saying at the same time, the exception is if the president is convicted by the Senate, you can nonetheless charge it, which is
inconsistent with the claim of absence of immunity.
MARTIN: Right. Because that's a political proceeding. The impeachment is a political proceeding. It's not a criminal proceeding.
Mr. Conway, you were actually in the courtroom. Can you just try to describe the argument and the exchange between one of Mr. Trump's lawyers
and Judge Florence Pan, where you kind of laid out what you're describing as the difficulties of that argument?
CONWAY: Yes. I mean, what she was doing was she was trying to pin him down and get a concession from him that he was arguing for immunity so broad and
so absolute that a president of the United States could send Seal Team Six up to the capitol or wherever to assassinate political -- a political rival
and be immune from prosecution for that criminal act.
And she -- he was refusing to give that concession cleanly. He was saying, yes, but, and the but was, oh, but a president could still -- certainly, a
president that did that would be impeached and removed, and then he could be prosecuted because that's what the impeachment judgment clause that I
described earlier says.
The problem with that is that means the president isn't absolutely immune, and that was sort of the gotcha, the trap that Judge Pan was leading the
lawyer into. And the lawyer realized he was being cornered and he kept trying to avoid falling into the trap by trying to talking as fast as he
could and talking about things other than that weren't responsive to her answer.
And then there's also the tension involved between, you know, his position that the president shouldn't be prosecutable because we fear political
prosecutions, while at the same time saying, but a president can be prosecuted if the most political body in the United States, or in the
United States government, which is the Congress of the United States, says so.
And so, basically, when she got done with him, his position looked nonsensical. It looked ridiculous. And that was only about 10 or 15 minutes
into the argument, and he knew which way the panel was going to come out at that point, because he didn't get any help from any of the other judges.
MARTIN: You know what, look, he is like any defendant entitled to a vigorous defense, right?
MARTIN: So -- and he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, like any defendant. But, I mean, it is one of sort of the axioms of the
American experience that no one is above the law in the United States.
MARTIN: No one. I mean, it is sort of fundamental, not just to American identity, but to American law. Like, that is who we say we are. And I sort
of wonder, is there any part of you that worries, as an officer of the court, that someone is making an argument that -- you know, that someone,
this particular singular figure can never be prosecuted or held to account in court for anything that he does? I just -- so, I just wondered if you
thought about that?
CONWAY: Well, I do. I mean, I don't think it's an argument that, you know, should cause someone to lose their bar license. But I do think it's an
argument that is very, very dangerous if it were ever taken too seriously.
And here's why. It's not just that we are a nation of laws and not of individuals. But it's the fact that this is part and parcel of what an
authoritarian leader wants to have, authoritarian leaders.
If you talk to students of history and students of international political science and what they will tell you is that, you know, authoritarians are
criminals. And they -- one of the things that they seek is the ability to do whatever they please and make the law whatever they want and make it the
law -- make people of their choosing subject to the law while nonetheless not being subject to the law themselves.
This is not really that new for Trump. I mean, Trump is someone who said, I think back in 2019 or 2018, Article 2 of the Constitution, the part of the
constitution that deals with the president, allows me to do whatever I want. He actually believes that. But that's -- again, that's because of --
that's -- he believes that not because he's a legal scholar, but that's his essential nature.
MARTIN: George Conway, thank you for speaking with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That's it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.