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Interview With Former U.S. Ambassador To Israel And Egypt Daniel Kurtzer; Interview With Asia Society Incoming President And CEO Kang Kyung- wha; Interview With Daughter Of Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus Monica Yunus; Interview With Frontline's "Democracy On Trial" Director Michael Kirk. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 29, 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.
How will Washington respond after the first Americans are targeted and killed in the Middle East since October 7th? Former U.S. Ambassador to
Israel Daniel Kurtzer joins me on the rising risks of a wider war.
Then, the North Korean dictator ditches reunification and threatens to subjugate the South. I speak to South Korea's former foreign minister, Kang
Kyung-wha, about Pyongyang's dangerous policy shift.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONICA YUNUS, DAUGHTER OF NOBEL LAUREATE MUHAMMAD YUNUS: He and his colleagues are 100 percent innocent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- a daughter's plea to stop Bangladesh from locking up one of its most famous citizens, her father, Nobel laureate, Muhammad Yunus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump is going to be the defendant and the candidate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- democracy on trial. Filmmaker Michael Kirk talks to Hari Sreenivasan about the intricate details in the indictment of Donald Trump
over January 6th.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Tonight, colliding crises in the Middle East. How should the Biden administration respond to the killing of the first Americans in this
October 7th war? Three are dead and dozens injured after the USS and Iran- backed militia conducted a drone attack on their base, which is known as Tower 22 in Jordan.
How can the United States also convince Israel to ensure fewer civilians are killed in Gaza, where Palestinian health authorities now say more than
26,000 are dead, 200 killed in the last 24 hours alone? And Israel reports Hamas sent a barrage of new rocket fire its way. How will more desperately
needed humanitarian aid reach Gaza as the United States and almost half the donors suspend funding to the U.N. agency that does this after Israel
shared intelligence showing 12 UNRWA staff members were allegedly involved in the October 7 attacks on Israel?
Daniel Kurtzer was U.S. ambassador to Cairo under the Clinton administration and Tel Aviv for George W. Bush. He's advised many
administrations. And he's joining us now from Washington, D.C.
Ambassador Kurtzer, how concerned are you about the killing of three servicemen? It appears this was inevitable, that this was going to happen
at some point.
DANIEL KURTZER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL AND EGYPT: Well, it's not surprising that, our troops that have been in the line of fire now for many
years in the Middle East, have suffered casualties. It's sad and it's presented Washington with a dilemma about when and how to respond.
Clearly, the situation in Gaza has inflamed tensions, but these attacks were going on even before the war in Gaza. And the objective, of course,
has been that if we're fighting the terrorists there, we're preventing them from organizing and attacking elsewhere. So, my guess is that the
administration will calibrate its response so as not to widen a war, but will certainly respond in a manner designed to make a convincing argument
that these attacks should stop.
AMANPOUR: So, as you know, there are what I would call the usual suspects, hardliners in Congress and the Republican Party, saying that the
administration should hit hard on Iran itself. Do you think that is proportionate? Do you think that that is what the administration will do?
And if it does, will that inevitably escalate this?
KURTZER: Well, to use a vernacular, it's out of whack. This is an attack that's been stimulated by the authorities in Iran, probably by the Iranian
Revolutionary Guards. But to hit back at Iran suggests that we want to widen a war, and there's nobody really who's serious about wanting to widen
a war. So, that's why I think the key word to watch here is a calibrated and proportional response.
We certainly are going to hit at targets in Syria where the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, have ensconced themselves, where the
perpetrators of this attack launched the drone, but I don't think there's a chance at all that we will take this war to Iran proper.
AMANPOUR: Interesting you say from Syria, because the U.S. says it's still trying to figure out whether it was from Iraq, from Syria. But I know what
you mean, that that's where this coalition, if you like, of Iran-backed proxies are stationed.
I want to ask you another question on this regarding the urging to go to war against Iran itself. A democratic strategist, Simon Rosenberg,
basically said about the GOP, if you are unhappy with Iran today, first thing you should do is come out for funding Ukraine fully. Nothing will
embolden Iran more than a Russian victory in Europe. Do you agree with that?
KURTZER: Well, I think it's right on the mark. You know, there's a larger global balance of power that's being tested now. Iran has thrown all of its
weight, some of its technology at drone making capability behind Russia's attacks in Ukraine. And therefore, there's an urgency in Washington to
ensure that we continue supporting Ukraine. And that makes for a very difficult political problem here because Republicans have tied funding for
Ukraine and for Israel to a border deal, which is being negotiated.
So, it's a very complex intersection of foreign and domestic politics. But I think that Rosenberg is exactly right, that the last thing we would want
is to pull back from Ukraine or to walk away from the Middle East and allow both Russia and Iran to score a success.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you because, you know, the big news over the weekend or just before the weekend is that Donald Trump is actually pressuring -- his
whole MAGA group are pressuring not just the House, which already doesn't want to approve this aid -- this deal, but the Senate. He wants to not have
a solution to the border deal right now. He said it himself, frankly.
You know, do his -- how to convince his followers or the -- you know, the GOP that they're back to be -- actually being elected, that this is playing
with American national security?
KURTZER: Well, the Republicans are a badly divided party and they can't quite figure out where politics ends and national interest begins.
You take a look at Senator James Lankford, a conservative through and through, who basically told Fox News the other day that this is a good deal
that's being negotiated and it's a deal that Donald Trump himself was arguing for when he was president. So, Trump has politicized a national
security issue and he has politicized an issue that would have been a victory for him had it been achieved during his presidency.
So, we have a problem here, which we've had now for a number of years where politics has invaded every aspect of life, including on this very important
issue of how to control our southern border.
AMANPOUR: Let me just switch now to the Israel-Gaza war against Hamas. The allegations and the intelligence that Israel apparently has shared showing
12 members of UNRWA, the U.N. Works and Relief Agency, that specifically deals with Palestinian historic refugees, has been accused of having 12 of
its members take part in October 7th.
Now, the U.N. says these are very serious allegations. I believe they've fired -- UNRWA have fired these 12 and investigations go on. Let me ask you
first. Should the United States and the donor community suspend funding, which affects then the aid into this beleaguered enclave right now?
KURTZER: Well, I hope the suspension of funding by the U.S. and eight or nine other countries is a temporary action designed to put pressure on the
U.N. administration to take some serious steps to reform UNRWA.
If the funding suspension goes on for too long, it will have a very deleterious effect on the humanitarian situation on the ground. And even
Israel admits that UNRWA is the best positioned U.N. agency to deliver that humanitarian assistance. So, we're in a little bit of a pressure tactic
here to get the U.N. to wake up to what, frankly, everyone has known as a long-standing problem, where Hamas has inserted quite a few of its
advocates and adherents into the UNRWA bureaucracy. And now, we find out that some of them actually engaged in October 7th massacre.
So, again, I hope it's a short-term pressure point and that the U.N. acts swiftly to try to deal with it so that the funding can be resumed.
AMANPOUR: And of course, UNRWA points out that it's 12 allegations against 12, amid a workforce of 13,000. Nonetheless, these are, as they say, very
But as you say, if it's not UNRWA then it has to be Israel, right? This is Anshel Pfeffer, the famous Israeli journalist who wrote in Haaretz today.
Israel is not about to suspend its ties with UNRWA, unless the Israel Defense Forces decide it wants to distribute the food, water, and medical
supplies to over 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, it needs UNRWA to do it. It's just a matter of time before those Western governments restore UNRWA's
I think you agree with that. But it does go to the fact that the suspension is probably temporary. But the fact of the matter is that there is an
ongoing, I mean, major conflict between Israel and the U.N. in general.
KURTZER: You know, I spoke to a senior Israeli official the other day who really spoke out of both ends of this, or to both ends of this issue. On
the one hand, Israel has known for quite some time that UNRWA is a very faulted organization. Their educational system preaches hatred and
incitement. It has been infiltrated by very rabid opponents of Israel.
Now, on the other hand, it is the most effective deliverer of education and social affairs and food aid and so forth on the ground. And the argument
that this person made was that there will be a reckoning someday, but that it can't take place now because the humanitarian needs on the ground are
too severe. So, I think Anshel Pfeffer is exactly right. And the U.N. ought to act swiftly to deal with this, so that we can get back to a situation
which UNRWA can deliver aid the way it has until now.
AMANPOUR: Of course, the endgame that most would like to see, and I assume you're in this camp as well, is an end to occupation and some kind of
statehood for the Palestinians, which is what the United States backs, frankly.
So, I want to ask you this. Because there seems to be a lot of problems and divisions within Israel and certainly the war cabinet over the lack of a
stated endgame or a plan for afterwards. And to that end, you know, the -- there's been -- as described, there was a rally in Jerusalem of government
ministers and Knesset ministers -- members rather, calling for the resettlement of Gaza despite, as we know, warnings from the United States,
the top U.N. court. This is what the national security guy, Ben-Gvir, said at the event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ITAMAR BEN-GVIR, ISRAELI NATIONAL SECURITY MINISTER (through translator): Part of correcting the mistake of the recognition of the mistaken and
conception that brought upon us the 7th of October and brought upon us the deportation, is to return back home to Gush Katif and North Samaria.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Ambassador, who is in charge? Because, you know, to the -- to his international audience, the prime minister says, no, that's not our
aim. But what's happening, you know, with his allies? What's happening when he speaks to people in their own language, in Hebrew?
KURTZER: Well, clearly Prime Minister Netanyahu is so intent upon remaining in power in order to avoid the various corruption charges, which have found
their way into court that he is allowing the most rabid, racist incitement on the part of his own government. I think there were 11 or 12 ministers
who attended that conference and called not only for the resettlement of Gaza by Israel, but basically said that that means the depopulation of the
Palestinians in Gaza.
So, Netanyahu is clearly not in charge. It shows in the polls. The latest polls show he has somewhere less than 20 percent support for remaining in
power. Most of the retired national security community in Israel wants him out. But he's hanging on, and that puts a little bit of pressure on
Washington, on the president to back up his words that he shared with Netanyahu with some actions to see whether or not we can change -- see
change in Israeli policy.
AMANPOUR: Very, very quickly. Finally, the White House has said, the spokespeople, that they're very troubled about those kinds of statements,
that they oppose and they do not support any Israeli reoccupation of Gaza. But the flip side, how much pressure is this putting on Biden, this whole
war, for instance, with voters? I mean, we're in an election year right now, young people, Arab Americans. I mean, there's a whole constituency who
doesn't like his stance in this war.
KURTZER: Well, clearly there are two -- at least two groups that are troubled. One are Arab-Americans generally and the other are young people,
under the age of 35. We now have seen a group of black religious leaders who are upset about the absence of a ceasefire.
And so, at some point, the White House is going to have to pivot to deal with the political backlash. But I think the president hopes that the war
will wind down to a point where he can refocus the campaign on issues such as reproductive rights and so forth.
AMANPOUR: Ambassador Kurtzer, thank you very much. And to that point, there have been negotiations over various solutions to try to get the hostages
freed. But as yet, they have not come to fruition.
Now, from the Middle East to East Asia, the sabers are truly rattling. Earlier this month, North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, tested a new
ballistic missile, launched several cruise missiles, and claimed the successful test of an underwater nuclear weapons system.
Once focused on a reunified peninsula, Kim Jong Un is now calling the South his primary foe and invariable principal enemy. Those are his words. Even
tearing down "the arch of reunification," a symbol of hope for the peninsula.
Earlier, I spoke to South Korea's former foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, who told me that to prevent conflict there, there needs to be meaningful
engagement, not just show summits, like the one led by President Trump in Hanoi in 2019, which she called a debacle.
Kang Kyung-wha is now the incoming head of the Asia Society in New York, and she joined me from Seoul.
AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, welcome back to our program.
KANG KYUNG-WHA, INCOMING PRESIDENT AND CEO, ASIA SOCIETY: Thank you, Christiane. It's wonderful to be back with you, although in a different
capacity from my previous job.
AMANPOUR: So, I'm going to talk to you as foreign minister, frankly, for a moment, because you're still in Seoul before you take up your position in
New York. Are you more and more worried, like everybody appears to be, about your northern neighbor?
Kim Jong Un, head of North Korea, has done a whole load of much more provocative things recently. And has said that, one way or another, you
know -- one way or another, there will be reunification, even if it's not peaceful. Do you think that he's on a path to war?
KYUNG-WHA: Well, it certainly feels that way, but he always tempers that hawkish statement with moderation. So, for example, I think after he says
all these things filled with hostility, he says, unless somebody touches us first, we're not going to touch them. The exercises are not designed to
harm anybody -- any countries around.
So, you see a bit of an attempt to control the level of the hostile rhetoric. It is still concerning, of course. But this heightened rhetoric
plus the testing of the missiles, this is a continuation of a pattern that began after the debacle of the 2019 Hanoi Summit between the United States
and North Korea. After that, they immediately went back to launching the missiles, and that has picked up speed more frequency in the recent years,
and then the -- you know, the rhetorical hostility that goes it -- with it is, of course, more recent.
AMANPOUR: OK. I want to pick up on what you just said about the Hanoi Summit. I was there in 2019 when President Trump met with Kim Jong Un. And
of course, it was all meant to be rosy before they had met in your country, in South Korea, or at least up there at the border. And it was all meant to
But you're saying that actually what Trump did didn't amount to much. There was no ratcheting down of tensions.
KYUNG-WHA: Well, I think -- yes, I think what came out of that -- so, what didn't come out of that summit is, you know, in hindsight, it's all a very
missed opportunity. An opportunity that could have -- the life of that opportunity should have been kept, even if they didn't have an agreement
there. I think that somehow a way to continue the discussion to keep North Korea engaged would have been extremely important. And frankly, we would
not be in this situation.
But I think, you know, that the -- the failure I think is explained -- I explained it that's what -- the president has tremendous desire, intention
to do something, but there was very little backup at the working level. And this is -- you know, this is the typical Trump leadership on these issues.
Will, but very little follow up and support from the working level. So, that's a huge lesson when we ever it go back to a phase of engagement with
AMANPOUR: And potentially a huge lesson for how you would deal with the potential eventuality of him returning as president. What do you think a
second Trump presidency means for, you know, the Korean peninsula, but also for U.S. Asian relations?
KYUNG-WHA: Well, that is the big question in everybody's mind around the world these days, I believe. And that is the big -- the most consequential
event for not just the United States, but for the world, frankly. And so, yes, we're all having, you know, contingencies, thinking in our minds.
But I think, you know, as foreign minister and at first, as Asia Society president, I would not comment on how the election is unfolding. But, you
know, we will deal with the results. We will respect the will of the American voters as the result of the election.
AMANPOUR: Yes, that's all well and good. But you've basically just told me that there was no follow up. I can read you the list of things that have
happened since that North Korea -- that summit with Trump. Several cruel missiles have been -- you know, your country has reported them being fired
at you. Testing a new strategic solid fuel intermediate range, which could be nuclear armed. Earlier this month, you know, tons of artillery shells
into waters near you.
AMANPOUR: On top of all that it is now becoming the principal or a principal armor of Russia and joining up with Iran to, you know --
AMANPOUR: So, was it all for show?
KYUNG-WHA: I think there is a certain calculation on the part of the North Koreans and certainly, you know, the big players. The close collaboration
between Russia and North Korea on the military front. North Korean's artillery shells and missiles going to the Ukraine battlefield is a
concern, not just for us here on the Korean peninsula, but also in Europe.
So -- and it's glad that Mr. Sullivan expressed that concern to the Chinese in Bangkok to Mr. Wang Yi, very explicitly and requested called for China's
intervention. China's pressure on the North Koreans to do something about this.
What China does about it. We'll have to see very carefully. But it's a global concern. So, I think it's right that the media has now returned its
focus on North Korea's behavior. But we also need to calculate, yes, we have to respond with a very solid defense posture for sure, so that we're
prepared for any provocations.
But -- and we must do it with overwhelming force that -- so that it's the - - one round finishes the provocation and doesn't escalate into further us. Because if we get into that stage, it becomes really, really difficult. And
I don't think anybody, at this time in the world, would like to see another flashpoint getting out of control. And there's a lot of potential for that
here under current peninsula. So, I think all cool heads must try to manage the situation to lower the tensions.
AMANPOUR: Kim Jong Un has declared unification no longer possible with the South. His government has ordered the monument to reunification in
Pyongyang to be torn down. You've spoken about maybe, you know, you have to listen to every word he says. But nonetheless this is happening.
Now, I want to ask you, because you're talking about heightened tensions. Trump has also said that if he returns, he is going to slap a 60 percent
tariff on all goods from China. Does threatening to slap a 60 percent trade tariff on China hurt or hinder stability?
KYUNG-WHA: I think definitely it works against stability, because I -- when we were working on the North Korea file and the geopolitics of the
Northeast Asia, the -- you know, the heightening tension on the trade issue between North -- between the United States and China on the one hAnd then
we were collaborating with the Chinese on the North Korea file on the other hand.
And you could -- I could clearly feel that the Chinese collaboration on the North Korea file was weakening as the tension with the United States on the
trade side and other issue was increasing. So, the United States was trying to do two things that was pulling them in different direction.
So, I think this idea of across the board to tariff and a huge trade punishment, if it ever comes about, you know, I would be very concerned if
that was really to materialize.
AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, you are, as we said, about to take up your position as the new president and CEO of the Asia Society. That will be in
New York, and that's happening early April. What inspired you to take on this new position? What do you hope to be able to accomplish, you know, out
of office, not wanting to interfere in others, you know, policy, as you just said? But what do you want to accomplish, since we've outlined just
now a couple of very serious threats in the Asia region?
KYUNG-WHA: Well, Asia society is a very unique outfit. It's not government. It's not the United Nations. It's a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization
with a unique set of tools. It's not just policy, you know, dialogue platform, but also very strong, traditionally, cultural and education
exchange and -- cultural and arts exchange and education.
Christiane, you were there when the New York Philharmonic visited North Korea sponsored by Asia Society. That was ages ago. I'm not sure we could
pull off something like that again in these days. But that's the uniqueness of Asia. So, we have these tools. I believe we are a trusted partner from
many key players and we can work both openly, but also under the radar.
AMANPOUR: Well, you mentioned that philharmonic musical interlude there with that musical diplomacy and I would be very, very happy to keep
reporting if ever such a bridge could be, you know, created again. I'd be very happy to do that. You have a huge challenge on. Foreign Minister Kang
Kyung-wha, thank you so much for being with us.
KYUNG-WHA: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And next to Bangladesh, where 76-year-old Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won a fifth term this month. She's credited with shoring up the
economy and balancing relations with its giant neighbors, India and China. But the United States says those elections were not free and fair.
And now, even one of the nation's most lauded sons has been targeted, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. He's globally acknowledged for
pioneering microloans, which are credited with helping millions of women lead their families out of poverty.
But this month, he was sentenced to six months in prison over allegations of violating labor laws. He's currently out on bail while he appeals the
sentence. His family and allies call the whole thing a trumped-up political trial, a claim the government denies. I spoke to his opera star daughter,
Monica Yunus, who's campaigning to keep her father out of jail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Monica Yunus, welcome to the program.
YUNUS: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Your father is very well known to the whole world. The whole, you know, Nobel Laureate community have signed a letter calling for an end to
what they call judicial harassment against him and for his release and not to go to jail. You're sitting here in front of me lobbying for him and his
safety and his release.
Are you worried? Are you -- what do you think it means for you to speak out now?
YUNUS: I think it's imperative for me to speak out, to join the chorus of the many, many luminaries who have signed this letter in support of him.
These charges against him and those of his colleagues are absolutely false. And it's important for me to speak out against them.
AMANPOUR: So, what are the charges?
YUNUS: So, the charges are really civil in nature. It's an employment issue. Something that would be normally dealt with in civil court. It's
been criminalized. There is absolutely no sense to them. And they --
AMANPOUR: Are they real charges? I mean --
YUNUS: They're real charges and they carry a prison sentence. And that's the problem.
AMANPOUR: But the ones that are civil that you say, are they justified, the civil charges?
YUNUS: No, absolutely not. He and his colleagues are 100 percent innocent. Every -- you know, you don't have to take his daughter's word for it. There
are international lawyers who've looked at it. This is absolutely false.
AMANPOUR: What now do you expect to happen from the Bangladeshi government point of view? Because this is a letter addressed to Prime Minister Sheikh
AMANPOUR: She's now in her fifth term. Just a few weeks ago won yet another term. I think she ran unopposed. What do you expect from her now?
YUNUS: Well, my fondest wish is for all the charges to be dropped, not just for my father, but for his colleagues. This is absolutely false. And, you
know, I would love for the offer that she made. She's told reporters that she would bring in international lawyers. She would welcome international
lawyers and experts to come in and evaluate the situation. And I feel 100 percent confident that all of this would be absolutely erased if that
happened, because there is no guilt.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that she's being serious because she has called your father a bloodsucker of the poor? Once she apparently said someone ought to
teach him a lesson.
It's reported that all of this is because she believed that he was becoming a political threat to her, that she -- that he wanted to, you know, start a
YUNUS: He's not a politician. I think he thought about it for a moment after he had received the Nobel Peace Prize. I think he was a party of one.
He has no political aspirations. It's something that, you know, we've talked about and this keeps coming up, but it has no validity.
AMANPOUR: So, what do you think it really is then?
YUNUS: I wish I knew. I really do. I think that at one point, you know, they worked well together. And my wish is that that could come back, not
only for the benefit of all the Grameen Organizations --
AMANPOUR: That's the bank he founded.
YUNUS: Exactly. Grameen Bank, meaning Village Bank, that is so much about microcredit and empowering poorest, the poorest of the poor, specifically
I think that if that opportunity to work together again, that would be wonderful. There's so much in civil society in Bangladesh. There are so
many people working to keep Bangladesh at the highest level of, sort of, the -- a beacon of economic development. That's what could be focused on.
That's what should be focused on.
I am an American citizen, but I was born in Bangladesh. I've been to Bangladesh. The creativity, the innovation, its why people kept -- keep
going back. Because they're charmed by all of the innovation that can come out of that. And that is a testament to the country and to the flourishing
AMANPOUR: So, remind people, because it was, I think, your father, essentially, who made the idea of microcredit, microloans known around the
world, fashionable, in fact, in the aid community thereafter.
YUNUS: Yes, so, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 alongside Grameen Bank, which is the institution he created, Village Bank, which focuses on
everything that a traditional bank doesn't. So, if in a traditional bank, you give loans to people with collateral. In Grameen Bank, you give people
to -- you give loans, small loans for income generating activities to --
AMANPOUR: To women.
YUNUS: -- the poorest of the poor, focusing on women.
AMANPOUR: And it is mostly women, right?
YUNUS: It is mostly women.
AMANPOUR: Yes. So -- yes, I mean, I want to just put it in your father's words.
AMANPOUR: Here's a clip from -- he was talking almost 20 years ago now about the way Grameen Bank has changed lives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUHAMMAD YUNUS, NOBEL LAUREATE: But the children are seeing a very different world around them. They see a bank, they see her mother working,
his mother working, and they are being sent to school. Because every mother in Grameen Bank wants to send their children to school. Today, I can even
safely say, 100 percent of the children of Grameen Bank are in schools.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That was --
YUNUS: I love that. I love that.
AMANPOUR: He was smiling.
YUNUS: I was smiling because, you know, that's 20 years ago. So, those children have grown up and they've come to my father and said, OK, great. I
have this wonderful education. What now? Where do I go to work? My mother did all of this. How can I become -- you know, how can I do even better?
So, they go for higher education. There's a higher education loan. They go become doctors. This was un -- this was impossible 20, 30 years ago.
AMANPOUR: So, he had a very technocritical way, if I could put it, technocratic way of figuring out actual proper financial -- it wasn't just
throwing money --
YUNUS: No, no, not at all.
AMANPOUR: -- at people. And he betted on women being a good bet for repayment. Tell me what the figures were for repayment and why it was the
women in these poor families who got the credit, not their husbands.
YUNUS: So, at the very beginning, there were loans given to men and what they found was that men did not spend the money on the family. They did not
spend it on the women in the family. So, they began to really focus their attention on women. There is a very high repayment rate, something like 98
percent. Women repay. Women pay back. They take out larger loans. They make us a larger business. They start to, what they've seen is they start to run
for small offices around in their villages.
You know, there's the --
YUNUS: Political --
AMANPOUR: Yes, yes.
YUNUS: -- political office. Exactly. So, there's --
AMANPOUR: The school board --
YUNUS: The school board --
AMANPOUR: -- or the city council, so to speak.
YUNUS: They get involved because they --
AMANPOUR: Yes, they get involved.
YUNUS: -- become empowered by this.
AMANPOUR: What do you make of some criticism that has started to emerge in the intervening years that microcredit has, you know, developed into, you
know, putting women into debt that they then spend a lifetime trying to repay.
YUNUS: I'm not an expert, but to me, it's very simple. If you don't use this model that has been set, and there's a very specific model, it can
fail, of course. It's just like anything. If you set something up and it doesn't follow a certain set of rules, it's not going to work as well. So,
I think the criticism is probably from people who didn't necessarily follow the structure that, you know, that Grameen set out.
AMANPOUR: Why is he being persecuted? And again, looking at you, looking at that picture, you can see that your dad was, you know, 20 years ago, he was
young, he was vigorous, he was at the top of his game.
YUNUS: He still is.
AMANPOUR: OK. He's 83 now. He --
YUNUS: He's 83 years young.
AMANPOUR: And he refuses to leave Bangladesh.
AMANPOUR: Why is he being persecuted?
YUNUS: I wish I knew the answer to that. He --
AMANPOUR: Why do you think?
YUNUS: -- you know, he -- he's worked with this government. And I think that it's an opportunity to work together again instead of wasting time in
these frivolous, erroneous, egregious cases against him, and a kind of harassment that's persisted now for over 10 years.
AMANPOUR: Do you think he's going to beat this rap, so to speak?
YUNUS: I hope so. As a daughter looking at this, I don't relish the idea of my 83-year-old father, who is very healthy and strong, and, you know, but
the idea of him going to jail is not what I want.
AMANPOUR: And it's for six months, is that correct?
AMANPOUR: As I mentioned, Sheikh Hasina has been Prime Minister for now, you know, this, five terms. She was once in the late 90s, then she's
entered her fourth consecutive term.
Opposition Party says 2.5 million, and that's a huge number of people of its members, are currently facing political charges. As an American
citizen, what do you make of all of this?
YUNUS: Well, I can say that it's very concerning that all other political parties boycotted this election. You know, what does that say about
democracy when there's one person running? And again, from my perspective, Amnesty International is weighing in. The International Bar Association for
Human Rights, the U.N., High Secretary for Human Rights, they're all weighing in, saying this is concerning.
AMANPOUR: Why do you think he won't leave? He didn't leave even faced with these charges.
YUNUS: So, he's worked his whole life for this vision of creating a world without poverty. That vision was started in Bangladesh with many colleagues
who he still works with. So, it's not just, you know, their work that's at stake. It's thousands of people who have made this dream of a world without
poverty. They continue to do that. So, why should he leave his country that he loves so much?
AMANPOUR: And is he the first or the only Bangladeshi Nobel laureate?
YUNUS: That's correct.
AMANPOUR: You'd think he'd be lionized.
YUNUS: Yes, I mean, he's won -- I can't -- honestly, I can't keep track, Christiane. He's won the Nobel Peace Prize. He's one of only seven people
in the world to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Congressional Gold Medal, and the Medal of Freedom.
YUNUS: Yes, the last two given by the United States government. He is -- has, I think, something like 60 honorary doctorates from around the world.
No pressure as his daughter, really.
AMANPOUR: No pressure it is. Well, you really are standing up for your father. So, Monica Yunus, thank you very much for coming in.
YUNUS: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And again, Muhammad Yunus is out on bail while he appeals all the charges against him.
Democracy is also on the mind of our next guest. Michael Kirk is the filmmaker behind a new front-line documentary called "Democracy on Trial."
That premieres tomorrow on PBS, and it charts Special Counsel Jack Smith's indictment against the Former President Donald Trump which alleges federal
election interference in two -- in 2020. And Kirk tells Hari Sreenivasan why he chose to release the film now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Michael Kirk, thanks so much for joining us.
Your film, "Democracy on Trial," lays out the investigation into President Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the results of the election. Why this
film? Why now?
MICHAEL KIRK, DIRECTOR, FRONTLINE'S "DEMOCRACY ON TRIAL": As we approach what a lot of people are telling us is the most important election,
presidential election. And in the face of that it seems like resolving January 6th and what happened and whether Trump has responsibility and what
impact that all has on the democracy and how the election is going to go felt like the very 1st piece of business we should do -- frontline ask us
To really take a long hard look at the trial. That is Jack Smith's special counsel trial that may happen in Washington on March 4th. Take a look there
first, what a lot of people think of as the central moment at the end of the Trump presidency, the beginning of the Biden presidency, and the
beginning of this particular year, let's resolve that, people kept saying to us.
So, while we went out and tried to tell the story in its simplest but most thorough form, and we ended up with two and a half hours of what I hope is
SREENIVASAN: You know, I having had to had -- had a chance to see it, it is truly amazing how you have, kind of, truncated what took weeks and months
for the investigative committee to compile and what went into Jack Smith's prosecution case and how you've laid that out in two and a half hours.
But, you know, going to that, kind of, House Select Committee after Republicans in the Senate chose to block anything like that from happening.
Like, we've had a 9/11 commission before, it was bipartisan. It's not the case here.
And you kind of had an interesting element in here. Representative Benny Thompson from Mississippi. Why was this personal for him?
KIRK: I think -- you know, there were -- there are many things that Congressman Thompson is in Washington to achieve been there a long time, a
long political career coming from a small town in Mississippi, 500 people, I think in the town.
You know, at the heart of what Congressman Thompson tells us his life's work has been his protection of voter rights for lots of obvious reasons.
He's black. He's been in Congress when all of the efforts to abrogate, to lessen, to make it harder to vote have been happening, he thinks of this. A
particular moment, that particular set of events around the January 6th attacks as an example of -- as the greatest manifestation of an effort to
limit the votes of the American people. And he thinks of it as his as his job to point that out.
The second and most important thing to him was the use of the Confederate battle flags at the attack on Congress and how that resonated with him in a
lifetime of growing up around the Klan and other whites in the -- in his part of Mississippi and what was happening in the South to limit voting
rights. You know, the battle flag became the -- Confederate battle flag became a symbol of those times that resonates even on the steps of the
capital on January 6th.
So, Chairman Thompson, you know, was determined to draw a bright red line around that -- circle around that and say, this is something we need to
talk about because voting rights are at stake here, not just Donald Trump's presidency or potential presidents.
SREENIVASAN: The layers of showing intent and how your film breaks that down is also very interesting. That the president, he's warned and told by
people that are close to him that he otherwise trusted, yet he goes out and repeatedly, knowingly, goes out and spreads the big lie.
KIRK: We were careful to try to include comments from the people who told him these things three days before, two days before, we have as much
evidence as we can find. Bill Barr, the former Attorney General, telling him it was BS. That everything he was asserting, that he had examined it,
used the resources of the Justice Department to examine it, and that it was BS. The same is true with Secretary Raffensperger from Georgia and others
finding -- the acting Attorney General, others, who told him, warned him, said, it's not true, don't go forward and say it.
We want to make really sure those were Republicans who were making those assertions. Those were people who had been supporters of his, who had
worked with him on reelection, who desperately hoped he would win reelection. It is those people who are saying those things in the film, and
that felt to me like the next step to take.
It's not pointy headed liberals. It's not academics. It's not even mostly journalists. It is people who are close to him, who worked for him, who
trusted him, who he trusted, who were telling him what he was asserting were not -- was not true. And he, days later, would of course go forward
and re-say the lies as we laid them out now.
SREENIVASAN: One of the republicans that you speak with, who was a supporter of President Trump was Rusty Bowers out of Arizona,
representative, and he recalls how he was pressured by Rudy Giuliani, and he kind of lays out the tension in, sort of, moral and internal struggle.
TOM JOSCELYN, SENIOR STAFF, JAN. 6TH COMMITTEE: What you have to understand here is that Rusty Bowers, this guy who's -- who worked for Trump, wanted
Trump to be re-elected in Arizona, worked for Trump's reelection, is given a choice. He can choose between his oath to the constitution or President
Trump, and he stays loyal to the constitution. That is, in effect, what he -- the choice that he's given.
RUSTY BOWERS, (R) FORMER ARIZONA HOUSE SPEAKER: Even in the past when there have been serious --
JOSCELYN: Rusty Bowers speaks with a moral and legal clarity that's very necessary to understand.
BOWERS: We choose to follow the outcome of the will of the people. It's my oath. And I hope that I'll never break that. I know I'm not -- you know,
I'm not perfect. I'm certainly not a perfect witness. But I am a witness, and I had my say. And I wasn't trying to flower it up. I wasn't trying to
be anything other than just Rusty.
SREENIVASAN: What was that emblematic of? Because there's so many Republicans that you talk to in the film that echo that same struggle.
KIRK: What gives me hope brings optimism to an otherwise very negative last few months, making this film and sensing how just viral the argument --
toxic the arguments have become in the country and around this particular issue is this idea that Rusty Bowers, Gabriel Sterling, Secretary
Raffensperger, a lot of people in this -- Cassidy Hutchinson.
These are Americans, conservative Americans, pro-Trump, worked for Trump, wanted to vote -- when they voted for Trump, wanted everybody to vote for
Trump, were heartbroken when he lost. These are people who, in their official capacities, had also taken an oath to the Constitution. And they
found themselves, they tell us, they say -- they said it to the committee and they said it to us, they find themselves in a moment, a critical moment
in their lives where Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, one of Trump's attorneys, and Trump himself, on the telephone asked them to do something that they
felt uncomfortable doing, that they thought he was asking them to lie.
And in every case, these Americans, these right-wing conservatives, Trump supporting Americans chose the constitution.
SREENIVASAN: You kind of retell pretty important scenes in the Oval Office, certain meetings that happened with his advisers. I mean, everything from,
you know, what Rudy Giuliani suggested to the president and how to deal with, you know, the results going forward, to how the president talked to
Mike Pence days before January 6th and even on the morning of.
KIRK: It's an amazing thing, Hari. Because of what the committee had, which was the subpoena power, you could hear what his daughter thinks when he's
fighting with Pence. You can hear what his own attorneys thought in many critical moments. It was a supercharged environment around the White House.
And the great good news for those of us who practice long form journalism is a lot of it exists. Exists on the record, exists by people who are
willing to talk to us, exists by audio recordings, video recordings. It's pretty hard to make the argument, for example, in a very simple way that
the crowd was just really slightly unruly. They got a little bit out of hand, but they didn't really commit criminal behavior when you look at the
video of the criminal behavior being committed.
SREENIVASAN: One of the interesting insights that the film recounts is the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson. And she was, kind of, the insider that --
and made the testimony that day in front of the committee. But one of the things that she talks about is the president's displeasure with the crowd
size at the Ellipse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was in the tent backstage that Hutchinson heard crucial evidence of what Trump knew about the potential for violence that
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: When we were in the offstage announced area tent behind the stage, he was very concerned about the shot,
meaning the photograph that we would get because the rally space wasn't full.
TIM MULVEY, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, JAN. 6TH COMMITTEE: The former president was unhappy with the crowd size. We learned that some of the
crowd size inside the barricade was due to the fact that people were unwilling to pass through the magnetometers. Presumably because they had --
they were carrying contraband weapons.
LIZ CHENEY, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Several thousand members of the crowd who refused to go through the mags watched from the lawn near
the Washington Monument.
HUTCHINSON: I overheard the president say something to the effect of, you know, I don't even care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt
me. Take the effing mags away.
KIRK: None of us who covered Trump from the very first hours of his presidency should be surprised that he's interested in crowd size. We all
remember the arguments about his inaugural -- the inaugural events out on the steps of the Capitol and his American carnage speech and his
disappointment that the crowds weren't bigger. And his, frankly, lies that it was bigger than it turned out actually to be there.
So, he was especially, I think, attuned having invited his supporters to Washington on this particular day to disrupt Congress. And as his speech
was about to take place to want them all to be on camera, to be a visual manifestation of his power and heft. And how, and the threat that they
presented. I'm leaving aside the question of whether he caused them to go up to the Capitol building and commit unlawful acts.
But just for the visual alone, the optics of it alone, he wanted them to be in there closer. And as he says, according to Cassidy Hutchinson, they're
not here with their weapons for me. I don't have to worry about them. You don't have to protect me. They're not here for me.
And I think he believed the implications of what he was saying was they were body armored up, not all of them by any stretch of the imagination,
but enough of them were body armored up and perhaps carrying weapons. As we know, remember people with weapons in the Capitol building and standing up
on that hill. That -- when we found the shot of the small crowd, around a smaller crowd around him, and then you cut to the wide shot up at the
picture of the memorial was behind them and you see the tens of thousands of people who would not go through the magnetometers.
That, if I was a Secret Service agent, I would be very anxious about whether I would -- whether I would take the President of the United States
up to the Capitol building once those people who had not been through the magnetometers were on their way up the street.
SREENIVASAN: Well, a line of defense that President Trump's lawyers have used in different court filings, as well as in the court of public opinion,
is that the sentiments expressed by the President on the social platforms, on campaign stumps is protected by free speech. And you talked to different
legal scholars about this, and I'm sure this is going to come up in the trial as well. What did they tell you about that?
KIRK: He has the right as he asserts and his defense team asserts, he has the right to say things that might not be true. He has the right to say
things. He has a First Amendment right just like I do and just like you do.
It's the -- what I wanted to know from the experts was when does it become a crime? We know he's a big believer in conspiracy theories. When is
talking about a conspiracy a crime? When is it, as they say, crime -- yelling fire in a crowded theater when there isn't a fire. You know, what
is the -- is that a First amendment right? You have the right that freedom of speech. You do not. And the limits on what the president of the United
States can say with impunity, is it limited?
His defense team is arguing, no, he can say anything he wants. He's the president of the United States. And if presidents can't say anything they
want, and if they are not free to speak, be careful of any rules that come along that limit that because someday your president, the one you like the
other side maybe trying to get him or her for their speech for things they say in office.
So, that fine line, that argument over that fine line, Trump's lies, are they illegal? And when and where would they be illegal in a case like
January 6th? That's what we set out to explain with the experts, the constitutional law experts. And I hope we did a pretty good job of making
that straight and clear for viewers.
SREENIVASAN: You know, with a 30,000-foot view, when you look at this film. Who's the intended audience here? Because it doesn't seem that it would do
anything but harden the views of his existing supporters. Every time the president faces another indictment, it seems like his support increases and
he's able to parlay that into a campaign donation and say that he is the victim, or people out to get me, this is a witch hunt.
KIRK: I know many, many MAGA supporters. Who say it's public broadcasting, how can I ever trust that? I'm never going to trust that. And I know what
you guys are going to do. So, what can I do about that? There's almost nothing I could say or do in a film that would make all of those two sides
in a very divided country embrace and change any of their behaviors. But I don't know what changes people's behavior.
So, my job is to lay it out there as straightforwardly and honestly and in a way that's coherent as a narrative as I possibly can. And hope that if
there are -- and I suspect there are between seven and 11 percent of Americans who are over the next few months going to make up their minds
about Donald Trump returning or Joe Biden continuing to be president, then maybe this information will help people make up their minds.
And I think that's something we aspire to do, and in some ways it's -- why it's so imperative to us as we're making it, to try to take into account
the fact that we're not convicting him with what the January 6th committee did. We're laying out the blueprint for what the federal prosecutors have
SREENIVASAN: The frontline film is called "Democracy on Trial." Filmmaker Michael Kirk, thanks so much for joining us.
KIRK: My pleasure. Thanks for having me here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, a Grand Slam for a new champion. 22-year- old Italian tennis star Yannick Sinner, poses with his gigantic trophy this morning in Australia after a stupendous comeback to beat Russia's Daniil
Medvedev in yesterday's men's Open final. Making him the youngest to win the tournament since Novak Djokovic in 2008.
Meantime, India's Rohan Bopanna became the oldest player at 43 to ever win a Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. He did this alongside his men's
doubles partner, Matthew Ebden, proving once again that age is just a number.
And that's it for now. Thanks for watching. Goodbye from London.