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Interview with McAllen, Texas Mayor Javier Villalobos; Interview with "The News Agents" Co-Host Emily Maitlis; Interview with The New York Times London Bureau Chief Mark Landler; Interview with "The Barber of Little Rock" Subject Arlo Washington; Interview with "The Barber of Little Rock" Co-Director John Hoffman. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired January 24, 2024 - 13:00   ET



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

Kyiv's wartime crisis just got worse. As Russia says, its plane returning 65 Ukrainian POWs crashed, killing all on board. A report from the field

where the country's need for military aid is urgent.

Then --


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Immigration is a big deal. Big deal. A very big deal. We have

millions and millions of people flowing into our country illegally.


AMANPOUR: -- winning in New Hampshire, Trump doubles down on his signature message. I'll ask a front-line mayor in Texas, Republican Javier

Villalobos, whether anyone has laid out a successful strategy.

Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we don't die from airstrikes, we're going to die from dehydration and starvation.


AMANPOUR: -- a sneak peek into hell. We bring you a day in the life and death of Gaza.

Next, with a Trump-Biden rematch looking more and more likely, how allies around the world are trying to Trump-proof, with journalists Emily Maitlis

and Mark Landler.

Also, ahead --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has to be economic warriors in the community to create economic justice.


AMANPOUR: Oscar nominated short documentary, "The Barber of Little Rock," explores one man's fight to close the racial wealth gap in his community.

Michel Martin speaks with director John Hoffman and his inspiration Arlo Washington.

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

It's been 700 days since Vladimir Putin launched his illegal invasion on Ukraine, whose fate hangs dangerously in the balance now. Adding to the

misery, a regular prisoner swap appears to have ended in tragedy, as Russia says a military transport plane crashed near the border, killing at least

65 Ukrainian prisoners of war on board.

And the latest, Russian missile strikes across Ukraine killed 18 people and injured at least 130. Kyiv remains resolute but says their forces are no

longer receiving enough ammunition and air defense missiles from the United States and NATO allies.

Correspondent Fred Pleitgen joins me now from Eastern Ukraine.

Fred, thanks for being with us. Can you bring us up to date about this Russian claim of that crash? And have the Ukrainian authorities actually

confirmed it?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Ukrainian authorities, Christiane, appear to be confirming it now. However, the big

question is whether or not the Ukrainians might be behind actually taking that plane down all by this possibly being a tragic accident and then not

knowing that there may have been Ukrainian POWs actually on that plane.

Now, the Russians are saying that the plane crashed at around 11:15 local time near Belgorod, which is on the Russian side of the border, but of

course, very close to Ukrainian territory. It's an IL-76 transport aircraft, which is usually the workhorse of the Russian Air Force. And of

course, also one that the Russians use quite frequently to support their logistics for what they call the special military operation. Obviously, the

invasion of Ukraine.

The Russians are saying that this plane was taken down on the Russian side of the border near Belgorod by a Ukrainian surface-to-air missile, also

launched from the border area on the Ukrainian side.

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, he was at the U.N. today blaming the Ukrainians, ripping into the Ukrainians and also saying that

there were 65 prisoners of war from the Ukrainians on board that plane set to go to a prisoner exchange.

Now, the Ukrainians are confirming that a prisoner exchange was set to take place today and that that prisoner exchange has been called off. However,

they say they don't know anything about the possible fate of these prisoners and whether or not they were on board this plane.

And I think one of the key things, and it's one of the things that you were alluding to there, is that the Ukrainians are saying that transport

aircraft that fly into Belgorod are subject to possibly being taken down by Ukrainian surface-to-air missiles, because those transport aircraft also

very frequently carry missiles on them, with the Russians then use to attack Ukrainian territory.

So, this may have been an accidental takedown by the Ukrainians, not knowing that there were possibly prisoners of war on that plane. However,

it is very much unclear at this point who was on that plane and whether or not the Ukrainians even took it down.


However, of course, we have seen that video from near the Belgorod area with that massive fireball after the plane impacted needless to say that

the authorities, they are saying there is an investigation going on, but no one on that plane survived, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: I mean, there are a lot of questions there. Was there video of an impact of a missile on the plane? Did the Ukrainians say that they had

taken out a plane, no matter what it was? I guess these questions are still to be answered.

But in the meantime, you know, you're there in the east. I mean, you're reporting and others are reporting the really dire situation given the

holdup in Congress and also in the E.U. of aid, of ammunition, of surface- to-air missiles. Can you tell us from your perspective what you're seeing?

PLEITGEN: You know what, I think that the situation is actually even a lot worse than many people in western countries are perceiving.

One of the things that we've seen here on the front lines and exactly the two things that you've been talking about, one of them is surface-to-air

missile systems where the Ukrainians are very much say that things are in jeopardy because the surface-to-air missile systems from western nations,

they are extremely effective.

If you're talking about the IRIS-T system from the Germans, but then also, of course, the Patriot missile system, the Ukrainians are saying there's a

lot of Russian missiles that are fired at Ukrainian territory that can only be taken down with the systems. And of course, they're very concerned that

the supplies of those missiles might not be replenished, especially right now from the U.S. systems, of course, with that deadlock in Congress.

But the other big thing that we're seeing here on the front line, Christiane, which is also extremely important, is 155-millimeter artillery

ammunition. We've been to pretty much the three toughest areas right now for the Ukrainians on the front line, there's a place called Mar'inka and

Avdiivka and around Bakhmut in the east of the country. And in all of those places, the Ukrainians have been telling us shortage of artillery ammo is

their biggest problem.

They say that the Russians are pushing with assaults. They say that a lot of Russians are dying and getting wounded in those assaults, but the

Ukrainians are unable to hold a lot of those assaults up because they lack ammo. And right now, they say the situation's getting worse by the day.


AMANPOUR: It really does sound like a crisis for Ukraine and, of course, for the West and the United States. Thank you so much, Fred Pleitgen.

Now, the next major tranche of military aid to Ukraine languishes in Congress, where House Republicans are refusing to budge unless their

demands are met over the U.S. southern border. President Biden says he hopes a deal will be reached this week, and is open to "massive changes."

Authorities are dealing with a historic number of migrants at the Mexican border. Last month saw the biggest crossing in 23 years. And, as the

November election gets closer, immigration is growing as a key voting issue.

One official on the front lines is Javier Villalobos. Republican mayor of McAllen, Texas. He argues the federal government is failing his community

and he's joining me now to talk about this crisis. Mayor Villalobos, welcome to the program.

So, can you just describe to me how it looks and how it -- what's going on in your community if this is -- represents a historic influx?

MAYOR JAVIER VILLALOBOS, MCALLEN, TEXAS: It is. And as a matter of fact, we are fortunate that here in McAllen, we are not the way we used to be. We

probably have about 300, 400 immigrants per day. So, logistically, it has not been too difficult anymore. But our sister cities of Eagle Pass, El

Rio, the other areas, and then throughout the country, it is -- it isn't good.

And I think the perspective of the American people and the reason I believe it's really affecting these elections is that the perspective is changing

from not necessarily just immigration, but national security and intermingling both as one and pushing reality.

It's true. We are concerned, as you all just discussed about Ukraine and Israel, a lot of people coming in and we don't know who they are. We don't

know who they are. And that concerns not only me, but I think the American people are concerned as to who's coming without identification, without

knowing their real purpose, and that's, I think, may sway an election.

AMANPOUR: So -- OK. OK. That -- let's get to that in a moment. But I just want to get your perspective again, because you said McAllen seems to be

weathering the storm, if I'm not mistaken. And actually, McAllen seems to, according to all the stats, be a pretty safe place.

So, are you still saying that your city is safe? And what do you mean by national security? What have you noticed that might raise national security



VILLALOBOS: OK, definitely. We are very fortunate that McAllen -- the immigrants pass through here. And we take no position as to whether they're

legal, illegal. It doesn't matter to us. We are not in the business of immigration, but they do go up north, which is the reason New York, Los

Angeles. Chicago, other areas are having the difficulties.

Now, the reason for national security is that these immigrants are not the ones we're too concerned about, but the ones that cross outside of the port

of entries. We know that a lot of people have been captured that are in the national watch list, but we can just imagine how many have not.

So, the people -- I know that the American people are getting concerned about that. And we as municipalities, we are not in the business of

immigration. We've been weathering this for more than 10 years.

So logistically, it's not that difficult for us anymore, especially when it's only about 300, 400 immigrants per day, when at one point we're doing

an excess of 2,000. So, it's taking the toll on McAllen and at different areas. And now, even the northern states, which we knew it would because

the immigrants do not want to stay around the border.

AMANPOUR: Right. Of course, they're trying to escape that and get to as best a life as they possibly can. So, I want to ask you then, you have

criticized the federal government for failing in their obligations, as you put it, down on the border.

And it appears that your governor, a state official, is taking matters into his own hand he's done a whole load of extra border security razor wire,

he's put floating barriers inside the river, the Rio Grande, and that went to the Supreme Court, and then the Supreme Court said, no, he had to take

them away.

What is -- what are you looking for? What do you want to happen? And what do you think of what your governor's been doing?

VILLALOBOS: Well, we definitely do blame the federal system. And when I say the federal system, I'm talking about either party, both Republicans

and Democrats. They haven't been able to figure this out.

Now, when it comes to Governor Abbott, you know, it's something that, once again, we talk about. Just like municipality doesn't have an obligation

regarding immigration or national security, neither does the state. However, what do you do when the federal government is failing? Somebody

has to take action. And you know, whether you agree with the governor or not, at least there's a sense of action that he's trying to do something.

And that's what we think -- we believe is we're failing from our federal government.

AMANPOUR: And with these tragedies, and we saw it, you know, during the Trump administration, you say that, you know, both administrations,

Democrat, Republican, have all failed. We saw terrible tragedies of families being separated and the like.

And now we're seeing, last week, a woman and two children, all migrants from Mexico, drowning near Eagle Pass, Texas, where state authorities had

hampered federal access. Texas disputes this. But there's real cost in human life as well to this political inability to figure out a solution.

VILLALOBOS: And that's absolutely correct. There has been a lot of lives lost, but that is exactly correct. Because of the people's or the federal

government's failure to act and to act properly. And that's what we've been arguing. It is not our obligation. It is theirs to act, to keep on setting

political issues aside and work with us, work for our American people, for national security. Because in reality, it really is now intertwined.

AMANPOUR: So, as you know better than I do, the Senate appears in the midst and close to a bipartisan agreement on the border, on security there.

President Biden says he backs the bill, even though it promises to restrict asylum claims, and he's getting pressure from his left wing.

Here's his position. Let me just put this to you.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: My team has been at the table for weeks now on a partisan -- with a bipartisan group of senators to negotiate a deal,

including border. Because I believe we need significant policy changes at the border, including changes in our asylum system, to ensure that we have

the authorities we need to control the border. And I'm ready to act.


AMANPOUR: So, as you know, the administration says they've sent a comprehensive bill to Congress. Part of their Ukraine-Israel military bill

has attached a request for 20,000 more border guards.

Is the president doing enough?

VILLALOBOS: Well, at least it's an attempt. However, we also understand what happens in Washington. Tit for tat, you give me this and I'll take

that. It's -- and that's unfortunate.

Look, we're talking -- when we're talking about immigration, it's a standalone issue that shouldn't be -- of course, it has to be worked with

other things, but not necessarily held hostage for other things.

I am happy that they're at least trying to do, have a bipartisan effort to deal with it because that's what we need. It has to be bipartisan.


AMANPOUR: Which brings us to the problem, because even if the Senate comes up with something, a bipartisan, it looks like the MAGA Republicans in the

House are going to kill it and it won't be passed. It could just die there. President Trump, you know, keeps spouting on about millions and millions

and millions of people.

And I wonder, you know, whether these Republicans who stand in the way of this and who've said it sincerely want to fix the problem or, as many have

described them, the MAGA Republicans in Congress, really liking the chaos, liking the celebrity, liking the whole sort of theatrics, the performative

part of all of this.

Do you think -- are you confident that the Republicans in the House actually want to come to some kind of agreement?

VILLALOBOS: Well, I think actually the problems in the House is really the extremes of either party, not necessarily the MAGA Republicans or just

definitely them or just definitely the left wing of the Democrat Party. We have a problem. And we've always been saying it that they utilize

immigration and all other social issues for the -- to divide people and to raise money. And we keep on saying, stop doing that.

Look, there's a lot more people in the middle than the right and the left. However, their disillusion with the American system, as far as voting and

everything, they don't want to get involved anymore. But the problem we are having, and it's not just one party, it's both. And it really, to me, it's

the extremes.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you a question, because this has shocked many people overseas, and it was a comment Trump made about migrants? I just want to

first mention that the secretary of Homeland Security -- sorry. Yes, of Homeland Security, Mayorkas, told me, there are 10 million open jobs. There

is a clamoring for individuals to fill them, that, in this case, domestic workers in the United States do not fill these jobs.

So, in other words, there's a need. Given that fact, what do you make of President Trump saying things like immigrants are poisoning the blood of

our country? How does that kind of language affect you and how does it help the situation?

VILLALOBOS: I think that's just political talk. I think we do know that the work ethic of the American people is not what it used to be. I know

that we need workers, we definitely do, but it has to be a lawful system.

You know, no, I don't believe that immigrants are poisoning the blood of America. I don't. We -- there's a lot of good people that are willing or

can come in and be productive. And we know we need them, but we have to do it the right way.

AMANPOUR: Well, we -- how -- if you were in charge, if you were king, how would you fix this? What is the right way to fix it? And especially since

you said you believe this will be a major election issue.

VILLALOBOS: It'd be difficult to because of the parties. But at the very end, you know, right now what we do need to do is a quick fix as far as to

stop, especially people coming in, not through the ports of entries, that is necessary, but more because of national security.

Of course, working together. We know we need immigrants. We know that our, I guess worst (ph) worker program needs to be fixed. We know that we have a

lot of people that are already in here that can be very productive yet -- and law abiding, yet we don't give them an opportunity.


VILLALOBOS: But it is not up to us. And if I were king, there's a lot of different things I could do, but I'm not. So, it's going to be up to

Congress, to the Senate, to make sure that they take care of our American people.

AMANPOUR: And as you know better than I, there has been a long-standing set of bipartisan, you know, solutions that, as you say, have been stymied

by the various politicians in Washington. Mayor Villalobos, thank you so much, indeed, for joining me.

And we turn now to another humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The U.N. Relief Agency says at least nine people were killed and dozens injured when a U.N.

shelter was struck by tank fire during intense fighting around Khan Younis.

Meantime, Israel tells CNN there is no concrete deal being negotiated for the release of the hostages.

It's been over three months since the October 7th Hamas attack that kidnapped more than 200 hostages and killed 1,200 Israelis. And Israel's

counteroffensive has killed 25,000 Gazans, according to the health ministry there.

90 percent of the population has been displaced, and one of those forced to flee her home is Nowara Diab.

Our producers reached Nowara, and despite recurring blackouts and sporadic communication, she finally managed to send this video diary to explain what

she's gone through, including the loss of her closest friends.


NOWARA DIAB: As I walk on the streets in Gaza, death, destruction, and chaos is all around me. I often think about how my life could have been,

and how I would still have a home, and how my two best friends Maimana and Abraham would still be alive.


My heart aches every single day for Maimana and Abraham, who were killed in their homes by the Israeli airstrikes.

Maimana was a beautiful soul and so creative. I'd always brag about how great she was.

We'd talk for hours on end, talking about anything and everything. Or just being silly.

Is it me or are we best friends?


DIAB: Every moment with her was full of love and laughter. Her talent for painting was extraordinary. This painting of a yellow flower will always

hold a special place in my heart.

Little did I know it would be her last to me. It broke my heart having to leave it behind, just like I had to leave her.

Abraham was the most kind and funny person I'd ever met. Not to mention, also, the smartest.

This kingdom needs a king.

We got to know each other when working on a play about King Odysseus at a theater project in Gaza. He played the role of a king.

And would just make everyone laugh.

And was rarely seen without his camera, capturing the good times.

But with both of them gone, I don't think that there will be any good moments. I need them so much right now, and I need them more than ever. But

I know that they are now in a better place. I just know.

Now, life in Rafah is hard. I wake up trying to survive another day. Thankfully, my family and I are alive.

For two weeks, we stayed in a tent in Khan Younis, shared by seven people. Water is the hardest thing to ever find here.

Rarely, bottles are given to us like this on a truck. But with so little, we were forced to drink salty water for a while.

So, if we don't die from airstrikes, we're going to die from dehydration and starvation. When this war is over, there's another one waiting for us.

The agony in our hearts. Going back home and seeing everything crumbled into pieces. Gone just like the tens of thousands of Palestinian men,

women, and children killed in this war.

I hope that my story has meant something to you. And you can think of us as human beings, not just numbers, because this is me giving you a sneak peek

into hell.


AMANPOUR: Nowara Diab there. And the IDF says they do not target civilians, saying their war is against Hamas, not the people of Gaza.

This war and Putin's war in Ukraine, not to mention the risk of conflict with China, are all worrying American voters. And, after Trump won the New

Hampshire primary last night, many Americans are incredulous about another Trump-Biden rematch. Although, Nikki Haley isn't giving up just yet, saying

the race is far from over.

True to form, Trump falsified his record last night, claiming to have previously won New Hampshire in both the primaries and the general

election. In fact, Hillary Clinton beat him there in 2016, and Joe Biden won in 2020. It's deja vu as the world watches in disbelief.

Just before last night's primary, I got the global perspective from journalists Emily Maitlis and Mark Landler. We started with the Israel

Hamas war.


AMANPOUR: Welcome, both of you.



AMANPOUR: OK. So, I want to ask you, you have been to Israel since October 7th. And I'm quite stunned by what some Israeli reporters are telling us,

that the Israeli people are not seeing the extent of the human suffering in Gaza.

Can you tell me about what you noticed and what effect that's having on the population?

LANDLER: Well, I, during my time there, which was now a couple of months ago, I still felt it was a population that was going through its own trauma

from October 7th.

AMANPOUR: And it still is.

LANDLER: And still is. And to that extent, I felt like that trauma was so overwhelming that the crushing death toll in Gaza was a little bit of an

abstraction at that point. And it was not really filtering in because the country was, after all, still recovering from what, as they rightly pointed

out, was multiple -- the equivalent of multiple 9/11s.


Has that changed over the past couple of months? I imagine it would have to. We've moved further and further away, and the death toll in Gaza has

become more and more devastating. And one would hope that it has, but it -- there is also a very strong bias in the media and an effort in the media to

keep the country absolutely united in this war effort that is requiring more of the Israeli people, even on a day-to-day basis, in terms of reserve

deployments, in terms of their economy being brought to a virtual halt, than almost any conflict in the history of the State of Israel.

So, I think that that's why the Gaza death toll and humanitarian catastrophe has not yet registered with the Israeli people the way it has

around the rest of the world because they simply started in such a different place.

AMANPOUR: And Emily, it's starting to resonate with Israel's closest allies, whether it's Britain, whether it's the United States and its

neighbors who want to normalize. Now, everybody's talking about the only way to fix this and get normalized relations and security for Israel in the

neighborhood is to first talk about the Palestinian statehood and the end of occupation.

So, I'm wondering how you cover this issue. What the Jewish community here is thinking and saying today about this incredibly difficult issue and what

pressure you see, for instance, on either the government or on the Labour Party, which wants to win in the election that's going to happen in this


MAITLIS: Look, so far the government and the Labour Party have been in lockstep on this. It was difficult for Keir Starmer originally --

AMANPOUR: The head of the Labour Party.

MAITLIS: -- because -- he is the head of the Labour Party here and he took over from Jeremy Corbyn who faced very severe accusations of antisemitism

within his party. So, Keir Starmer's approach was to say, I am not Jeremy Corbyn. I get this. I'm listening to Israel. And he made himself almost

glued to Rishi Sunak, the prime minister's side on this one. And their essence was, they were going to back Israel, whatever it needed to do.

As Mark says, when we're seeing the death toll rise, when we've seen really how impossible it has become to defend what is going on in Gaza right now,

many Israelis who we've seen marching on the streets --

AMANPOUR: And you can see the polls even now.

MAITLIS: Right. I mean, they do not trust the man in charge of their government. He has brought in serious right-wing extremists to help him

form his coalition. He's acting in a way. That's not dissimilar to Trump and that we think he's empowered to try and stay out of the courts, to stay

out of all the legal, you know, sort of horrors that are chasing him.

And I think that is a very easy way to say, well, look at what you're doing here, because it's certainly not helping Gaza. It's certainly not helping

Middle East. And it's certainly not helping Israel in terms of what it wants to achieve. It's not making it any easier to get hostages out. And

let's not forget, there's still 100 hostages left.

AMANPOUR: And the hostages are key. Because clearly the Israeli counteroffensive or offensive on Gaza is not -- is out of step with also

trying to get what the people want, and that is their families back.

How much pressure is that still putting on the Israeli government?

LANDLER: Huge amount. But --

AMANPOUR: And in the press, by the way.

LANDLER: Yes. Well, because it's been the number one issue domestically in Israel. What are you going to do about this? How are you going to get these

people out?

And the hostages are very well organized to travel -- the families travel rather. And they appear regularly almost every night in Israeli media.

There's some feature, some discussion, some interview. They're very eloquent. They're very anguished. And so, I think that is sort of the

Achilles heel for this government. They have to deliver on this.

And every time there's a horrible incident where hostages are killed in combat, and it happened a few times, this is a huge setback for the IDF and

for the Israelis. So, I do think that that's one area where Netanyahu, that's a real limitation. That's something he has to think about a lot in

terms of authorizing any increased action, dragging things out longer, that sort of thing.

AMANPOUR: I want to bring it back to the U.S. election. The idea of Biden's age, is that a media construct? Is that a real thing? Is that

something that because we have been hammering it every single time, there's a story?

MAITLIS: Yes, I was in Georgia just before Christmas, and we were talking to some young guys who were college educated, OK? They had jobs. One was a

pilot. And they were all talking about their support for Donald Trump. And the word they used was, he's a strong leader. If you're going to go to war,

you want a strong man behind you.

And it was really interesting, because if you look at how Trump has handled the campaigning, you know, the campaign stump speeches so far, what he does

is he carries on talking about Biden's weakness, or sort of frivolity and his own strength.

Now, the idea that there's only four years or so between these two guys, right, is something that we should all, again, keep in the front of our



Biden is always softly spoken. I mean, I do think he has a slight problem with his voice. He doesn't actually project enough because of the stuff

that he sort of mumbles a lot. There's quite a lot of words that are swallowed and Trump performs, right? He goes out, he's bombastic, he does

this, but that is the message that he wants to carry.

I mean, quite frankly, if the Republicans were really on to something, they would put Nikki Haley in that position. Because that is the way you

contrast, you know, Biden's age and her age. You know, her sort of nimbleness and his, because Donald Trump is not a young man, whichever way

you look at it.

Has it been overplayed by the media? I started thinking that at the beginning, but I've talked to a lot of Democrats around Biden who are very

worried, whether it's about his age or whether it's about the --

AMANPOUR: They're worried, for sure.

MAITLIS: -- perception of his age, they are worried.

AMANPOUR: I mean, I keep trying to figure this out, Mark, because I've also listened to podcasts and other things, which actually show that a lot

of this idea is being ramped up on TikTok and stuff. I mean, generations of people who've never seen FDR, I don't know, in a wheelchair or whatever it

is, are being told that this is a real problem.

So, I'm just -- how do you see it?

LANDLER: Well, look, we live, whether we like it or not, in a visual age, in a television age, in a TikTok age. And so, what Emily says is right. It

doesn't much matter if Joe Biden's age impedes his ability to do his job well, which I think it probably doesn't. He's surrounded by terrific


He's forgotten more about American foreign policy than most people ever learned. He brings a huge amount of wisdom. And by all accounts, and

talking to my colleagues, I don't have the sense that he is not on his game on making important decisions. And if you look at his record, it actually

stands up well to the last few presidents, some of whom were decades younger than him at the time.

None of that actually matters as a political question, because if people think, because he's old, he's weak, and Donald Trump is stronger, then

that's the ballgame. So, I sort of feel like that debate -- you can have that debate, but it doesn't matter what I think, or what people think about

his competence, it matters what the voters think.

So, if they think he's too old -- now, where I think we can play a role, as the press, and particularly people who cover President Biden day-to-day is

to write about this intelligently, unscrupulously and thoughtfully. In other words, if there's evidence that Joe Biden's age actually is a

performance issue for him, then we should point that out, right?

And there have been a couple of places where he's made gaps. He's had to be cleaned up the next day by aides on some important enough issues. But by

the same token, there's also a lot of evidence that he's conducted the business of the president very competently. So, our job is to do that.

There are some things that are simply going to be up to the voters to decide and --

MAITLIS: Yes, I'd also say if you look at who Trump idolizes, it's the strong men of Europe, it's Erdogan in Turkey, it's Orban in Hungary, it's

Putin in Russia. And when he says strong man, or when he thinks of these strong men, it's not a physical thing, it's about authoritarianism, right?

AMANPOUR: And I wonder whether the voters who say they want a strong man know that, because this is about democracy and authoritarianism.

MAITLIS: But it becomes very easy to ally two things, doesn't it? To be talking about authoritarianism, and then to sort of point to a man who's

slightly stooped and go, you won't get strength from him.

The number here that people are actually looking at, that is leaving people jaw dropped is the 66 percent of Iowan voters who believe Donald Trump's

lie, that they have been convinced that Donald Trump is the right president of this time and that his questioning of the legitimacy of Joe Biden is

something that he's taken to Iowa.

So, I think all the reporting that we do should come actually from that prism, that he is an election denier, that he has managed to convince

people of the lies that he's been telling for the last three and a half years, that he's using his 91 indictments as a fundraising tool.

And I don't think that any of us can be covering your election, the American elections without actually starting from that place. If that is

not a sort of a black cloud across your thread of everything that you're saying on air, of everything that you're writing and thinking about, then

we're not doing our jobs properly.

AMANPOUR: Mark, I just want to double down a little bit. Are people in the world sure that he's going to be -- you say, this feeling of inevitability.

Is it sort of once bitten, twice shy? They don't want to look stupid and say, of course, he couldn't win, but he did in 2016?

LANDLER: I think there's an element of that, yes. And, you know, I think if you drill down with people and you say, look, do you truly, genuinely

believe this is going to be outcome. They will acknowledge, we have no idea what the outcome is going to be.


They've been surprised before. Politics is inherently unpredictable. U.S. politics these days is particularly unpredictable. So, I think that

sophisticated analysis of this in the world at large acknowledges that nothing is inevitable here. A president who, as Emily says, is facing 91

criminal counts, the idea -- or rather a candidate who's facing 91 criminal counts that he could emerge as president, there's something slightly

incredulous about that.

So, I think that it is a -- it's more of an emotional feeling that if the country was capable of doing this once before, and they see these kinds of

numbers, this kind of incredible, resilient, unshakable loyalty on the part of MAGA nation, I think it just -- it more resides in the pit of their


Well, if it happened once before, it could happen again. We need to start planning as though it may happen again.

AMANPOUR: Yes. Emily Maitlis, Mark Landler, thank you very much indeed.

MAITLIS: Thanks, Christiane.

LANDLER: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: Our conversation just before the New Hampshire primary.

And now, we turn to the racial wealth Gap in the United States. "The Barber of Little Rock" is a short documentary that follows the story of Arlo


He runs a barber college in Arkansas and a credit union dedicated to serving the black community. The film exposes issues of segregation and

economic inequality that persist to this day. And Michel Martin spoke with Washington and with John Hoffman, one of the filmmakers, shortly after they

received the news that their film had been nominated for an Oscar.


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. John Hoffman, Arlo Washington, thank you so much for joining us.



MARTIN: And congratulations on the Oscar nomination.

WASHINGTON: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Mr. Washington, you have been a barber in Little Rock, in your community, for what, gosh, more than 20 years. Before we move on, I just --

I'm just not sure everybody understands what a barber in some communities does.

Could you just describe for folks who may not understand this, what role a barber can play in his community?

WASHINGTON: Absolutely. The barber is the cornerstone of the brick building and the pillar of the community. Barbers are essential. Barbers --

the history of barbers. barbers were highly esteemed individuals in their community were the priests. They did the tooth pulling. They did the

bloodletting. I mean, we have dentists and doctors because of the barber profession is one of the most -- oldest and most prestigious professions.

And so, barbers play a critical role in being a melting pot or a community gathering for people needing the services.

MARTIN: But you opened the community's first Community Development Financial Institution. This is back in 2008. You know, being a barber is no

small thing. Running a business is no small thing. Running a barbering school is no small thing.

So, how did you get the idea to open this financial institution?

WASHINGTON: We emerged out of an unmet credit need in our community. In 2009, Arkansas became a credit desert with the prohibition of predatory

payday lending. And from that, we began to get community members to come and ask for loans. And that's how we started. And like most small

businesses, you know, I started it out of my pocket.

Being a small business owner in the community and growing up in the community and experiencing generational poverty myself, I know the

importance of access to capital. And, you know, being a barber in the community for so long and providing services, being in the service

industry, I wanted to be able to solve for and create an opportunity for those unmet credit needs to be met.

Whenever individuals will come to the barber school and ask -- and inquire about loans, we would provide them with small dollar short-term loans to be

able to meet their immediate unmet need. And it grew from there -- from providing loans to our student population, those that were needing

wraparound services like childcare, transportation, food, shelter, providing those services to be able to help them to be able to complete the

program, that we saw there was a minimum viable product that just wasn't available in our community.

And we -- and then I began to do some research on predatory payday loans and how payday loans were -- was affecting my community, putting

individuals in debt traps. We wanted to be able to provide a safer alternative for our community members that wouldn't impact their credit,

help them to build and generate wealth.

MARTIN: OK. Mr. Hoffman, how did you hear about Mr. Washington's work?

HOFFMAN: Well, Christine Turner my co-director in L.A. wanted to make a film about the racial wealth gap. And in our sort of deep dive into the

problem, we read a book called "The Color of Money" by Mehrsa Baradaran, which is a remarkable book about the history of black banking since

reconstruction and how it's just a series of failure after failure after failure of government programs.


But she calls out a program that was created during the Clinton administration of Community Development Financial Institutions, CDFIs,

which is a program run by the Fed. That gets capital into underserved communities, communities of color and urban centers, rural communities,

because Clinton understood that if people don't have access to capital, they can't build small businesses, they can't get loans for their cars or

for their homes, for their farms.

So, I was pointed to a conversation between Bill Clinton during COVID and a woman named Donna Gambrel, who was the first director of this program in

his administration.

DONNA GAMBRELL: Thank you, President Clinton. It's a pleasure.

HOFFMAN: And I reached out to her. She's now the president of the National Association of Black Bankers. And I said, Donna, we want to embed in one of

these CDFIs, one of these high touch loan institutions in the community. And live there for a year and follow the money. See how access to capital

can transform people's lives by creating opportunities.

And so, she said, there's this guy in Little Rock. His name is Arlo Washington. And he is -- has a barber college. And he has a shipping

container in the parking lot of his barber college. And it -- opened this CDFI. And we were like, we got to get Arlo. So, that's how it happened.

MARTIN: I mean, people are sharing some of their deepest wounds. And I -- and Mr. Washington, you -- you know, you certainly have to know that,

right? And I was just wondering if it was hard to kind of persuade people that the purpose of this was not to kind of make fun of people or look down

on them, but to elevate the work.

WASHINGTON: Absolutely. Of course, when you have a talk about money and need, that's a very sensitive subject that a lot of people feel

uncomfortable with, especially if they're on the receiving end of it. And telling their stories is something that -- you know, these were very

authentic and organic and they were in need.

You know, a lot of people, if you're in need, you know, you don't think about who's watching or what's going on. You just know that you need your

life bill paid. You know that you need your -- help with your rent because you're about to be evicted or you're homeless and you need to be placed and

you just -- it's -- life is happening. It's a crisis.

This is a grant, just an emergency grant. As I heard you say, you didn't have any clothes, you didn't have any transportation, you know, everything

burnt up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For 17 days and a whole day. Man.

WASHINGTON: There you go. How much is the weekly rent?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not weekly. She's just going to charge me like 545 a month.

WASHINGTON: Because my mother, she passed away with cancer. And so, I'm just thinking if -- since you, you know, in that situation, maybe if we was

able to do, you know, maybe a grant for a month, that'd give you time to find a place, how you think that works?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That will help me a lot.

WASHINGTON: I think that'll help. What you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It'll help me a lot.

MARTIN: Mr. Hoffman, I'm just curious, though. I mean, as a person, you're coming to this because you wanted to understand this issue more. This idea

of, you know, black and brown communities being historically underserved and underserved to this day. Were there things in the course of your

reporting that surprised even you or that really stay with you even now?

HOFFMAN: I think that the racial divide and the economic divide in Little Rock and the extent of it really challenged me and my understanding about

cities in America in 2022 and 2023 when we're making this film.

You know, the two sides of Little Rock are divided by an interstate. And that -- the effects of redlining are still being felt. There are strong

reverberations of redlining that's still at work, at play in our American cities, it's not just Little Rock, it's cities all over this country.

So, Arlo and Scott Green, who happens to be the nephew of Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock members (ph), go on this tour of the 12th Street

Corridor, which is the neighborhood where Little Rock Central High School is, which prior to integration was, you know, a wealthy white neighborhood.

You see these enormous homes, beautiful old homes abandoned and boarded up. Tremendous, tremendous lack of opportunity.

There's not an ATM, you know, for literally miles for the community. And the film explores that and portrays that. Arlo and Scott Green drive across

the interstate, which was built and divided the highway, in a white flight after integration, left the Little Rock Central neighborhood, you know,

bereft of opportunity. And they go literally across the highway to a neighborhood where there are 14 banks serving only 8,000 people, where

there's zero banks serving 30,000 black members of the community. Zero.


And so, what Arlo is doing in the CDFI program that he, you know, has created, you see that it is having a measurable impact on the lives of

people in Little Rock, and it's not just a few lines. It's thousands of people that Arlo is impacting. He's creating jobs. And he speaks about that

in the film, that you have to -- you can't develop the community unless you develop the people. So -- and you can't develop the people unless they have

access to capital.

MARTIN: Mr. Washington, what's the average loan? And what's the repayment rate?

WASHINGTON: Right. The average loans is about -- anywhere from $500 to $2,500. And the repayment is about -- our default rate is about 6 percent.

MARTIN: 6 percent?


MARTIN: So that means that, what, 94 percent of the people pay the loans back?


MARTIN: So, you know, the argument, Mr. Washington, that the big banks make about why they don't serve that community is that they figure people

are poor and they're not going to pay the loans back. But people do pay your loans back.

WASHINGTON: Yes, I mean, so we have different loan products. You know, we have -- and our product -- our loan products meet community members where

they are on their financial journey. We also provide developmental services as well, like financial literacy and technical assistance for small


And so -- but the minimum viable product here is the small dollar loan, the consumer loan. Because when you think about the gaps that individuals and

communities experience, you know, it's that short-term funding opportunity that keeps their -- keeps them -- keeps their credit in good, healthy

shape, keeps their -- you know, being able to stay in their home or keep their car. And -- but life circumstances happen.

And so, payday lenders, predatory payday lenders, you know, are right there at the door to be able to provide capital that a traditional bank just

simply won't provide because of it being such a small deal. But the penny lending industry is a trillion-dollar industry as well.

So, you know, there's some -- even though it's predatory to some people, it's helpful to folks that really need access and can't get help anywhere

else. So, you know, providing that minimum viable product here in Arkansas, would it be in the only state that was blacked out for a while with a 17

percent usury rate cap is what, you know, still is what created the interior counties being credit debt -- being a credit desert.

You know, community members are driving to border states to get loans or going online and still accessing these predatory payday loans or merchant

cash advances for their business. And, you know, there was an unmet credit need that wasn't being filled for those loans that were $50,000 in less.

MARTIN: We saw in the film that initially you were funding these loans out of your own pocket, just because people you knew asked you. How do you fund

it now?

WASHINGTON: Well, it's funded now through grants and loans. Low cost, long-term loans. CDFIs -- the model of CDFIs is, you know, we -- is debt

capital. A lot of it is debt capital. So, we borrow money at a lower rate, and then we re-lend it at a higher rate. CDFIs are spread lenders.

So, you know, that's -- at the -- you know, when it first started, you know, we didn't -- I didn't think about that. I just wanted to help and be

a resource. And we were restricted on the amount of funding that we were able to deploy or the amount of money that we were able to lend each month,

you know.

I would -- I set aside $1,000 out of my paycheck and I would make $250 loans at 5 percent for, you know six-month terms. Of course, that wasn't

sustainable. It wasn't profitable. And it wasn't scalable. We got a little -- we got more sophisticated as we began to grow and build capacity.

MARTIN: So, you know, Mr. Hoffman, I think we're, there's something like, what, 1,500 community development financial institutions around the

country. That's still not a lot compared to the number of places where people are unbanked or minimally banked or who are relying on payday loans.

Why do you think that there aren't more of these?

HOFFMAN: Well, there aren't more because the Congress has only allocated a certain amount of money. So, you could double, you could triple, you could

quadruple the CDFI program and you still would have a tremendous amount of unmet need out there.

But as it's conceived, it is working conceptually. And so, you know, again, credit back to Bill Clinton for, you know, seeing this, that there was an

unmet credit need in this country and it's keeping communities down.


And so, it's about $10 billion a year right now in the federal government. It's administered by the Fed. This $10 billion that's going out, and Arlo

gets a little piece of that, and he's able to distribute that money and change people's lives.

So, if the CDFI program, if Congress decided to double or triple it, there would be that much more money that people like Arlo could be, you know,

loaning out and changing more people's lives.

MARTIN: But, Arlo, do you think that -- you know, I think one of the things that people will see in the film is that getting a loan from your

institution, it's kind of a different process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're saying you're interested in the loan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, ma'am. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I'm just going to get this out. So, tell me about what you're doing with your businesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Barbara Salas (ph). I do credit restoration. I also have a T-shirt and decal line.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Due to the things that I deal with in life, such as sickle cell, having a pacemaker, having 80 percent mass in my right breast,

going to treatment once a week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then you still run three businesses?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll hire that now.

MARTIN: Do you feel like your staff, your employees have sort of a special sauce or something in the way that they deal with people or see people or

evaluate people?

WASHINGTON: I would say it's the cultural difference. You know, what's held communities back, you know, for the most part is fear and insecurity

of dealing with a financial institution because unbanked and underbanked populations is just not used to it. And it can be intimidating when you,

you know, are not treated with the same dignity and respect that, you know, our white counterparts experience.

And when you think about the -- you think about the historic, you know, abandonment of banks from low- and moderate-income communities and, you

know, just the generational poverty and that's caused from that, you know, and it is a mentality. So, I would say the cultural difference.

MARTIN: And, Mr. Hoffman. Let me ask you before we let you go. I was just wondering if there was something about this experience of making this film

that has changed you in some way.

HOFFMAN: I love making this film. I think that for me to be welcomed in, a white man, an older white man with white hair, to be welcomed in to -- by

Arlo and to all these communities that he's a part of, whether it's in the Barber College, in the shipping container, in the other bank branch, and to

develop these friendships with people who will forever be in my life. And to really have the trust extended to me in particular and has been, you

know, a deep -- a deeply affecting experience and a treasured one.

MARTIN: And, Mr. Washington, what is next for you? What more do you want?

WASHINGTON: You know, it's all about the mission with me at this point and staying true to the mission. And closing the racial -- closing the wealth

gap in America. You know, we've -- we now have a federal credit union. We now are taking deposits, so we can -- we're taking a holistic approach to

closing the wealth gap. We're able to provide, you know, financial literacy with the loan fund, with the credit union.

We're able to teach about investing and saving and all of the things that are essential when it comes down to your financial stability whether you're

needing to gain or regain your economic ability, just being a resource, being a resource and a conduit of resources. Ensuring that the federal

programs or investments that are made to get to the -- meant to get to the community, get there.

You know, that's my life's work. You know, I consider it God's work. I consider it an honor and a privilege to serve.

MARTIN: All right. Arlo Washington, John Hoffman, thank you both so much for talking with us today and congratulations once again.

WASHINGTON: Thank you.

HOFFMAN: Thank you so much.


AMANPOUR: A vital mission indeed. And we wish them good luck at the Oscars in March.

And tune in tomorrow night for my interview with the award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay. She'll join me around her new movie, "Origin,"

which is inspired by Isabel Wilkerson's bestselling book, "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents." We'll discuss that new film, the Oscars, and

much more.

And finally, away from their wars to sporting triumphs, the Palestinian football team made history, beating Hong Kong and qualifying for the

knockout stages of the AFC Asian Cup for the very first time.

While over in the Land of Oz, Ukrainian tennis player Dayana Yastremska has broken through to the semifinals of the Australian Open after entering as a

qualifier. It's the first time that's happened in almost half a century.


And that is it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. And remember, you can always

catch us online, on our website, and all-over social media.

Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.