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Interview With Council On Foreign Relations President Emeritus Richard Haass; Interview With "The Trump Indictments" Co-Author Andrew Weissmann; Interview With "2020: One City, Seven People, And The Year Everything Changed" Author And New York University Sociology Professor Eric Klinenberg. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 18, 2024 - 13:00   ET



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


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): No matter how hard anyone tries to frighten us, whoever tries to suppress us, our will, our

consciousness, no one has ever managed to have done such a thing in history.


AMANPOUR: It was never in doubt, still, he declares a landslide victory. What should the world expect from six more years of Putin?

And Israeli forces raid Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital again. Does this pit Netanyahu further against the Biden administration? I ask foreign policy

expert Richard Haass.

Then delay, delay, delay. Donald Trump's legal strategy appears to be working, but we get a reality check from former Trump prosecutor Andrew


Plus --


ERIC KLINENBERG, AUTHOR: That crisis of 2020, we're still living inside of it in 2024.


AMANPOUR: The year everything changed. Harry Sreenivasan looks at the enduring legacy of the COVID pandemic with sociologist Eric Klinenberg.

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

Tonight, we follow two major stories and their global impact. In Russia, Vladimir Putin is on a victory lap after claiming a landslide election win.

The outcome, of course, was never in doubt. But what's really notable are the long lines of people who join the noon against Putin protests, which

have been called by Alexei Navalny before his death.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, full-fledged famine is now imminent. That's the word used by the U.N. While the E.U. foreign policy chief accuses Israel of

using starvation as a weapon of war.

The IDF has raided Al-Shifa Hospital again, with casualties reported. All of this as Prime Minister Netanyahu's relationship with the United States

worsens. He said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's call for new Israeli elections are "totally inappropriate."

In a moment, I'll speak to Richard Haass, former U.S. diplomat in multiple administrations. But first, Fred Pleitgen looks at Putin's election and

what six more years means for Russia and for the rest of the world.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A landslide victory for Vladimir Putin that was never in doubt. Securing the

Russian president a fifth term in office and solidifying his grip on power with a record 87 percent of the vote.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There are a lot of tasks ahead of us, but when we are consolidated, and I think now it is

understood to everyone, no matter how hard anyone tries to frighten us, whoever tries to suppress us, our will, our consciousness, no one has ever

managed to have done such a thing in history.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Both the U.S. and European countries are condemning the election. Any serious opposition candidates were banned in advance and

dissent effectively outlawed.

And yet, a surprising show of defiance, with protesters targeting dozens of polling stations across the country. Setting fire to ballot boxes, pouring

dye into others. While in Berlin, Germany, thousands turned up at the Russian embassy following calls from the opposition to swarm polling


Including Yulia Navalnaya, widow of the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died suddenly in an Arctic penal colony last month. Navalnaya

said she wrote her husband's name on the election ballot and has vowed to continue his work.

And in his post-election address, Putin uttered Navalny's name for the first time, claiming he would have agreed to release him in a prisoner


PUTIN (through translator): A few days before Mr. Navalny passed away, some colleagues asked me if there is an idea to exchange Mr. Navalny for some

people who are in prison in western countries. Maybe you believe me, maybe you don't. The person who spoke to me had not finished his sentence yet

when I said I agree. But unfortunately, what happened happened. There was only one condition that we will exchange him for, and that's not to come


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Backlash not just from the U.S. and its allies. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy describing the election as "a



VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): These days, simulating another election. Everyone in the world understands that this

figure, as has often happened in history, has simply become addicted to power and is doing everything he can to rule forever. There is no evil he

will not commit to prolong his personal power. And there is nobody in world who is safe from this.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Russia's ally China, though, was quick to congratulate Putin's reelection, saying it "fully reflects the support of

the Russian people."

With no one standing in his way, Putin is now on course to rule for as long as Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin.


AMANPOUR: Fred Pleitgen reporting there. Let's bring in Richard Haass. He was the long-time president of the Council on Foreign Relations. And he's

joining me now from New York. Welcome back to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, no mystery, obviously, in the Russia elections, but what does it mean for those arrayed against him? Let's face it on matters of great

global significance, the United States, Europe, the others who believe in the right of the international rules of the road, let's say. What does that

mean going forward for another six years?

HAASS: There's nothing good in this. There is no silver lining for the next six years, assuming Putin lasts for six years and I think he'll last

politically. The only thing at the moment that limits him potentially would be matters of health.

But this means he prosecutes the war. He seems to have recovered any political position at home. He controls the narrative. The sanctions aren't

biting. So, Vladimir Putin is probably feeling pretty good. He's got a little bit of wind at his back, even on the battlefield against Ukraine. He

sees what's happening in the United States, the falling off of support. I think he's very interested in what happens here in November.

The one thing, though, that I take some positive feeling from, Christiane, is what you were talking about in that story, some of the resistance. Civil

society continues to live. There's a lot of courageous people who are still willing to act. What that suggests to me, it may not affect Putin. It may

even influence his successor. But somewhere down the road, the idea that Russia is permanently this way, I don't think so.

I think that this shows to me the potential for political evolution in Russia. And that to mean is the message to the West, is don't give up on

Russia, don't think of it as permanently Putin's Russia but rather this is a long swing of the cycle. And at some point, I the chance of reintegrating

Russia should not be dismissed.

AMANPOUR: I it is really important point because I everybody, including those of us who have covered this, you know, for a long time, and

especially in the two years since the war, thought that there was no opposition, that they were either afraid or they had left or whatever. But

this really did show, if you like, a protest vote. So, I think that is a story people are looking at.

But you heard President Zelenskyy say this is another simulated election. He's in power for life. And we know what's happening on the battlefield.

So, if Putin has the wind in his back, what must the United States and its allies do to fulfill their promise to Ukraine and its sovereignty?

HAASS: Well, alas, it comes down more than anything else to the United States and to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

I don't see at the moment away that all $60 billion of the promised money for Ukraine that's in this stalled legislation gets approved. But I haven't

given up that a possibility -- a possibility that a piece of that, a large piece that could be approved, maybe as some sort of a compromise.

And that's what we have to hope for, that the United States opens up the spigot enough so Ukraine can hold its own, not recover territory, but avoid

losing territory over the next six to eight months. And then, after November, we will see what the political constellation is in the U.S., in

the White House, in the Senate, in the House of Representatives, and I can see outcomes that are very good for Ukraine, a Joe Biden president, a

Republican Senate, a Democratic House of Representatives. And I can see outcomes that are very bad for Ukraine.

So, I think we're just going to have to see what the American voters. Ironically enough, these voters are not going be voting on the basis of

Ukraine, Christiane, but, however it is, they vote, whatever motivates them to vote the border or other issues, this will have enormous consequences

for Ukraine, for security and stability in Europe, and potentially even global stability, because people like China, Iran, and others are going to

be looking at what this says about the United States.

AMANPOUR: And that's what I was going to ask you about. You know, if there was a temptation among certain quarters in the United States political

sphere to just say, OK, we've done it for two years, Ukraine is just going have to sue for the best piece it can, what would that do to the U.S. and

to the U.S.-led order?


HAASS: Well, it would raise fundamental questions about U.S. reliability, predictability, staying power. Look, there's this recessive gene in the

U.S. body politic called isolationism. And the idea that it may be resurfacing now predominantly on the right has got to be disquieting for

any American friend. By definition, America's friends and allies put their eggs, whatever metaphor you want, in our security basket.

And if we show that we are no longer reliable, we are no longer someone they can safely depend on, they've only got three choices. They either have

to appease or assuage a powerful neighbor, they can try to become more self-reliant if they have the wherewithal and the means, or they can look

for new security partners if they can find them.

But none of these is a recipe for a more stable world. None of these is a recipe for a more democratic or peaceful world. So, again, I am worried

about the consequences of what could be emanating from the United States.

AMANPOUR: So, here's an adversary challenging American and the democratic world order. How about an ally challenging American, whatever, influence in

the Middle East, as you see with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel?

I mean, things are really bad between him and the Biden administration. Apparently, they're both talking today for the first time in many, many

weeks at a time of really heightened frustration in the United States. This is another huge area of concern for the United States, even though they had

thought that they could pull back from the Middle East before the latest crisis.

HAASS: No, you're absolutely right. The hope is the United States could safely pull back, focus mainly on China, on the so-called Indo-Pacific

region. And then after two years ago, after the second Russian invasion of Ukraine, then we could also focus there. So, this is an unwelcome return to

the Middle East.

But what we're seeing is that U.S. -- America's reputation is taking a major hit because of what is going on. I also worry here domestically that

Israel's policy, in many ways, is alienating a large swath of Americans, particularly younger Americans. And I worry about the long-term

implications of that.

But I think, right now, for the Biden administration, they have got to make some very tough decisions about whether to take the rhetorical and policy

differences with Israel and whether to give them real substance, whether we begin to hold back on certain weapons or condition their availability on

how they're used, whether the United States lays out a political track that the Israelis have refused to lay out, whether we take those ideas and

circulate them at the U.N. Security Council and to basically produce a new resolution that would build upon Resolution 242, which came after the 1967

war, whether we maybe convene some type of a political conference like the United States did in 1991 after the Gulf War.

So, I think the administration is reaching a point where the fact that it - - and Israel are not on the same page, that President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu clearly disagree, whether we leave it at that or begin

to advance it.

AMANPOUR: Because you said in your recent article that crises can sometimes be sort of a midwife for what you're talking about in terms of a progress,

and in this case, solidifying the two-state solution option, which the U.S. bagged, or doubling down on the on the crisis itself. And it looks like

Prime Minister Netanyahu is definitely doubling down. He's just not listening, it seems, to the worries of the U.S. administration.

Let's just say about Rafah and not incurring into Rafah, it's not happened, but they appear to be saying that it will. Also, you know, 31,000 people

plus dead, civilians and -- mostly civilians, according to the figures, starvation, as I quoted the United Nations, the brink of famine.

What should -- I mean, you've written that, yes, they had the obvious right to avenge and defend themselves for what happened on October 7th, but that

the tactics have been catastrophic for everybody.

HAASS: And they've certainly been counterproductive, I would argue, for Israel. Hamas, if anything, is now even more front and center in the

Palestinian world. The Arab world is more alienated from Israel than it was six months ago. American support is much more controversial here in the

United States.

So, it's hard for me to see how Israel is better off. The economy has been downgraded by Moody's. You know, it's a long list of ways in which I think

the Israeli response, however understandable it may be, has been counterproductive from Israel's point of view.

And again, the real question is whether the United States can trigger, in some ways, a political debate in Israel that would begin to move that. And

we have got tools we can use to influence them.


But right now, I think you're right. I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has basically said or decided he can act with a degree of impunity, that he can

represent himself to the Israeli people as the only person who stands between them and American pressure. They may not like him, I can imagine

him saying, but you need somebody like me right now. And he may think that with Republican support here in the United States, he can weather the

political storm.

And again, it's got -- I think Prime Minister -- President Biden has to decide what he's prepared to do at this point, to what extent is he

prepared to confront this head on?

AMANPOUR: Do you think, like others are suggesting, including inside the United States, that he should be tough on conditions for supplying weapons

to Israel under these circumstances?

HAASS: In a word, yes. We should make it clear that U.S. should have provided ordinance. I said these large bombs should not be dropped in any

situation that would cause civilian casualties. Israel has every right to go after Hamas, but they should do it with small unit military tactics, not

with these large bombs that inevitably cause civilian casualties, what's sometimes called collateral damage.

So, yes, we ought to put constraints on U.S. weaponry. Just like in the past, we put constraints, say, on diplomatic support or economic support. I

worked for President Bush, the father, and we were not going to allow U.S. loan guarantees be used to subsidize people moving into the occupied

territories. The United States has instruments it should use. And not to use them is every bit as much of a policy decision.

AMANPOUR: And why do you think it's not happening? In other words, could President Biden maybe say that in his in his conversation today? Should

President Biden address the Israeli people who seem to be very fond of him because of his, you know, embrace, obviously, that he gave the Israeli

people after October 7th?

HAASS: I think he should. I think he should do it more in sorrow than in anger. President Biden has, you know, strong legitimacy in Israel. He's

much more popular in Israel than his prime minister, Netanyahu.

So, it's more in sorrow than in anger. He can show sympathy and empathy for Israel, but then he can basically pivot and say what you're doing, I do not

believe, is in your own long-term interest. Here are alternative policies that I believe would be better for you and would enjoy much greater support

in the United States, in the Arab world, and the world at large.

And it would be in Israel's long-term interest to follow them. And we'll have your back every inch of the way if you introduce a credible political

track for Palestinians, if you open up more land routes for aid and so forth. I think we can incentivize Israel to do what we see is the right

thing, as well as introduce sanctions or disincentives if they continue to do things that we believe are counterproductive.

AMANPOUR: And I just want to -- of course, you know this, and most people have seen it, but it's worth playing again because it's about the actual

intervention by a senior American politician into Israeli domestic politics, frankly. This is the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, this

-- recently.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after October 7th. And I believe that

holding a new election, once the war starts to wind down, would give Israelis an opportunity to express their vision for the post-war future.


AMANPOUR: So, there's so much about -- I mean, you mentioned the first President Bush. I don't think any American leader of any stripe has been

so, you know, on point in that way since George Bush and James Baker. And President Biden called it a good speech. Yair Lapid, the opposition leader

in Israel, said it's proof that one by one Netanyahu is losing Israel's biggest supporters in the United States.

So, were you surprised that Schumer went there? And what is your reaction? Netanyahu this weekend said it was inappropriate, no sister democracy

should interfere, et cetera., et cetera.

HAASS: First, I was surprised that someone like Senator Schumer, who's a stalwart, staunch supporter of Israel for decades, would do this.

I think Yair Lapid is right. This is a real signal to Israel that it ignores at its peril. If you lose the Chuck Schumer's of the United States,

then Israel has real problems here. This is not a bunch of, you know, young kids who aren't schooled in the history. This is someone who stood by

Israel for decades. So, I think it's a real signal.

That said, I think the senator went too far. I don't think it's a great idea to get to so -- immerse yourself in another country's politics,

calling for political change or elections. What you want to do is frame this about policy, frame that about relationships, and then let Israelis

connect the dots. Let them decide they need new elections, let them decided they needed new leadership.


I don't think Americans should get in the middle of that conversation, because it allows Bibi Netanyahu the opportunity to push back against

American political interference. I don't want give him that argument.

AMANPOUR: Well, he's done it before, isn't he? I mean, some might say it's a taste of his own medicine. He came to the Congress invited by one party

to speak against the president of another party, Obama. I mean, that was unprecedented.

HAASS: 100 percent, and that's why I've been advocating for several months now that President Biden take a page out of this book and go to floor of

the Knesset and talk over his head to these Israeli people. I have no idea if the president would do something like that. But one way or another, I

think that we have to have a conversation with the Israeli people. We cannot allow Bibi Netanyahu to be the sole voice, to be the filter through

which this relationship runs.

Again, my only question about what Senator Schumer did was just tactically. I don't think you should make it at hominem. Let's keep the focus on what

Israel's doing and why we do not think much of what it's doing militarily, in terms of aid, what's it not doing diplomatically, why do we not think

that is in the interest of Israel. That's the argument, I believe, Americans ought to be making.

That to me, Christiane, is the real pro-Israel argument to make, to basically say what Israel is doing in many ways is not serving its own

interests, it's certainly not serving ours.

AMANPOUR: Richard Haass, thank you very much indeed.

And next, Donald Trump. He continues flinging around heated words and vile descriptions in his campaign for president. For instance, saying some

migrants are not people and later calling them animals. That was at a rally in Ohio over the weekend where he, again, thanked the January 6th

insurrectionists while saluting their jailhouse rendition of the national anthem.

Thumbing his nose at the law, Trump is also seeking to delay his own judicial reckoning, which now appears to be paying off. It's unclear

exactly when any of the major trials against him will even start, but he is spending a huge amount of time in court amid some setbacks. His lawyers,

for instance, claim that he is right now unable to raise $464 million in the civil fraud ruling against him.

My next guest's new book is a guide to Trump's legal challenges. He is Andrew Weissmann, law professor at New York University and the former lead

prosecutor in Robert Mueller's investigation of Trump, joining me now from New York. And welcome back to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, Mr. Weissmann, are you surprised or do you know enough about Trump and his tactics to see these very major cases, which everybody

expected to come, you know, at least to start right now, actually in peril?

WEISSMANN: I am somewhat surprised. I'm not surprised by a defendant in a criminal case seeking to avoid his day in court. That happens all the time.

Most defendants are not anxious to have a trial. So there, Donald Trump is doing something that is quite typical of defendants, although to be fair,

it is very atypical to somebody facing this many criminal cases.

I think what is surprising to me is that the final sort of check and balance in the United States, which is the judiciary, because we have three

branches of government, we have Congress, we have the executive branch and we have courts, is that the courts I think heretofore have done a good job,

but we're seeing the erosion of the court system under constant attack.

And so, the two main federal cases, the one in Florida for the retention of classified documents and the biggest one, January 6th so-called

insurrection case in Washington, in D.C., those cases are very much on hold, and that is because of the actions of either Supreme Court of United

States that has stayed the D.C. case or the judge in Florida who seems to be in no hurry at all to have a case go to trial. And so, that, I think, is

a real issue in terms of how the United State deals with this problem that other countries have faced, which is how do you hold political leaders and

former political leaders to account when they have engaged in alleged criminal conduct?

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you, because you mentioned the judge in Florida who appears to be this -- you know, through reading about her -- what's the

right word -- sympathetically disposed to President Trump. So, do think the Supreme Court, and in this case, the judge in Florida, is throwing out

lifelines to him on issues that go beyond the letter of the law?


WEISSMANN: Well, there is a track record. So, I think you really don't have to -- with respect to the Florida judge, you don't have to take it from me,

a former prosecutor or a law professor.

If you recall, in the pre-indictment phase, she oversaw the search warrant and litigation of around the search warrant of the former president's home

and beach club resort in Mar-a-Lago, and not once but twice she was reversed by the appellate court in very scathing language. And I think

probably the most notable for your viewers is the Appellate Court saying that Donald Trump, because he is a former president, is not entitled to

extra sympathy, to extra benefits. He should be treated no better and no worse than anyone else.

And the courts that reversed the Florida judge are very conservative appellate judges. And that's a good sign that -- you know, regardless of

sort of who appointed them, those judges were willing to follow the law. But it's a bad sign in the sense of the district judge really does have

this track record of really viewing the law through a partisan lens. And I'm really sorry to have to say that.

AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, it is worrying because, you know, nobody should be above the law obviously. But let's just talk about January 6. I introduced

you by speaking about President Trump -- Former President Trump who constantly attends every single campaign appearance as far as we can tell,

to the tunes of an insurrectionist prison song who have sung the national anthem. That he does, and he salutes. And he praises them.

And what we have is "The New York Times" -- sorry, the Supreme Court, who won't hear the arguments until late April, meaning they may not even get a

ruling until June. This is "The New York Times," with each delay, the odds increase that voters will not get a chance to hear the evidence that Mr.

Trump sought to subvert the last election before they decide whether to back him in the current one.

So, that's their view. What does, as a lawyer and a prosecutor, do you think voters miss out on, people miss out if this is delayed and delayed

and delayed before the election?

WEISSMANN: Well, this, I think, Christiane, relates very much to the conversation that you were just having with Mr. Haass about the so-called

election in Russia. And I'm not trying to equate the two. But the issue is that the purpose of a criminal case is it affords the defendant, but also

everyone who is seeing that public trial, a forum where facts and law matter.

And by the way, the outcome could be that he is acquitted, that the government does not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. But the

outcomes could also be the facts in law are quite disadvantageous to Donald Trump in terms of his election, because it will show what he did on January

6th and leading up to January 6th.

So, I think the fact that we are left without that forum, that -- which is how things are supposed to be decided when there's a dispute in this

country, with all of the protections afforded to a defendant, that had -- the case has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the highest standard that

we have in the law and it has to be found by a jury of 12 people unanimously is -- it's not just a shame but it means that what the

electorate is left with is untested adjectives and adverbs and a sort of court of public opinion but it is not actually subject to the rules of

evidence and testing that you get in a court of law.

AMANPOUR: So, we've discussed two very important serious cases, one is the insurrection case, the other is classified documents case, and then there's

the Georgia case about trying to essentially get Georgia and officials to overturn the election.

As we know, it's been compromised by allegations of improper behavior between the district attorney and the lead prosecutor. Now, the ruling is,

the district attorney can stay on, but the prosecutor has to resign.

Could this have happened differently? Should there have been action by the D.A. or whatever before? Do you think that no matter what, people are going

to say, oh, well, you know, this is this district attorney?


WEISSMANN: Well, I think there's no one who thinks that this showed good judgment, and that it leads to precisely the conversation that we're having

now and people who will use the poor judgment to try to delegitimize the criminal case.

But I would point out that the judge who oversaw the conflict matter with respect to the D.A. went out of his way to make it absolutely clear that

whatever the issues are with respect to the D.A. and the lead prosecutor, there is none, zero prejudice to the defendants. In other words, it really

is two separate things that are going on.

And you might say, you know, she should not have had a relationship and it leads to these kinds of conversations, it has nothing to do with the

evidence and what happened. So, it is, to say the least, unfortunate, because the Georgia case is a state version of the Washington, D.C.,

federal case that we were just talking about. It just sort of focuses more narrowly on exactly what was happening in Georgia.

And so, of course, it's also extremely important allegations that also should see a courtroom and should be tested in a courtroom by a -- you

know, the prosecution and the defense will be entitled to challenge that. But it's unfortunate that this has delayed that case as well.

AMANPOUR: And, of course, that case was all about actual election interference. There's the famous tape of then-President Trump trying to get

the official to give him just -- I don't know what it was -- 11,000 more votes. So, I mean, that had actually a piece of tape that went with it. And

I think it was really an interesting case to have seen taken to court. Anyway, that's delayed, too.

Now, you have written about the idea of Trump, you know, trying to delegitimize the DOJ, using things that he said about what he might do in a

second term if he got it. "The Washington Post" says in private, Trump has told advisers and friends in recent months that he wants the Justice

Department to investigate one-time officials and allies who have become critical of his time in office.

Knowing what you know from the first time you were involved in the prosecution, what could that look like? Do you think that's just

aspirational, or do you think that's a plan that could be executed?

WEISSMANN: Well, I think it is a plan that could be executed, and I don't think you have to, again, look very far, because, of course, Donald Trump

was the president, and under his attorney general, Bill Barr, that kind of regime existed. In other words, normally there is a real wall between the

White House and the Justice Department, and the decisions about who to prosecute and who not to prosecute is left to the attorney general, the

head of the Department of Justice, but is not a political matter that goes to the White House.

That obviously is critical to being a nation of laws and not of men and women. It's something that, when you see it overseas and you try and figure

out the difference between Russia and Ukraine, and you compare it to countries that have stood up to -- and held the rule of law, such as

England or Argentina, and held people to account, that is a critical difference. So, I think that when Donald Trump says that that is what he

would do, he's really talking about reinstating something that he has done.

Obviously, we still have the court system. We still have a jury system. We still have, so far, we have constitutional protections so that even if a

president were to go down that road, there would be additional hurdles that would not be solely within the province of the executive branch and the

president of the United States.

AMANPOUR: How do you make the case, especially to supporters, that actually these kinds of indictments are not political? They happen all over the

world. Trump has been very successful with his own supporters as portraying himself as an unprecedented victim, a political witch hunt, and all the

rest of it that he's said. But, you know, there just -- here's just a list of recent indictments around the world, it's just not rare. In France,

President Sarkozy, in Italy, Prime Minister Berlusconi, in Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and likely Benjamin Netanyahu after this, according

to what's happening there and what's being said there, and Argentina, the former president.

How do you make the case to not just his supporters, but to the Americans at large, that this is normal practice if there is a case to be alleged?


WEISSMANN: Absolutely. So, you know, that's something that we take a lot of time in our introduction talking about how to see these four indictments,

both globally and also in terms of the history of similar charges being brought against people who are far less culpable.

So, globally, you're completely right. There's an endless list of countries that have done this and brought righteous cases against political leaders.

Indeed, to not do it, we argue, is a form of becoming a so-called banana republic where you become a Russia or Ukraine under President Yanukovych.

And so, there is a way to do this where you uphold the rule of law. There also is a way to look at prior cases in the Department of Justice, prior

federal cases, and say, you know what, other people who have been alleged to have done far less have been prosecuted so that this is not unusual.

And sort of finally what I would say to people is the prosecutors here, whether federal or state, are seeking to have their day in court. That

means that they are simultaneously saying that they're, of course, going to give Donald Trump his day in court. In other words, no one's trying to deny

his ability to defend himself, but in a court of law.

So, if you think these are trumped up charges, no pun intended, there is a forum for that to be tested. And many, many defendants go through that

process. Some are acquitted, some are convicted, and that is what is being done here. To say that there shouldn't be any trial takes us into a road of

autocracy and away from a democratic rule of law nation.

AMANPOUR: Andrew Weissmann, thank you so much indeed.

Now, this time four years ago, schools were only beginning to shut down, as COVID changed life as we know it. In his new book, sociologist Eric

Klinenberg examines the events of 2020 through the eyes of seven New Yorkers. And he's joining Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the tumultuous year

and why we mustn't forget its impact.


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Eric Klinenberg, thanks so much for joining us. Your book, "2020: One City,

Seven People, and the Year That Everything Changed."

Now, there have been a lot of different books looking at COVID from kind of this large-scale policy perspective. You chose to personalize it in the

lives of these seven different people who lived in New York. First, I guess, what did these people have in common?

ERIC KLINENBERG, AUTHOR: Well, what they shared is this experience of having really gone through one of the most challenging times of their

lives. They come from different walks of life. There's a person from every borough in New York City whose story I tell, and then also the story of an

MTA worker and an activist who got involved in the Black Lives Matter protests.

And I guess the through line is each of them felt the sense of being on their own with too many problems to solve and not enough help from the core

institutions that they were looking for. And they recognized that there was some government assistance available. A lot of them used it, but they felt

overwhelmed and they felt like they had to solve their own problems.

And I actually think now we are still suffering from this kind of long COVID as a social disease where people feel like something's off and

they're disappointed about the way in which they're being treated by the institutions that matter, whether that's the government or the private


SREENIVASAN: Let's talk about some of those characters you just brought up. The barkeeper in Staten Island. In the beginning of your conversations with

him, you know, he says, I'm not really a political guy. And by the end of this arc, you're not even able to get in touch with him.

KLINENBERG: No, it's a man named Danny Presti who I came to like quite a lot in our conversations. He started a bar with his buddy because they just

wanted a place in the community for people to hang out. He was adamant that he's not a political guy. And I really believed him at the time. He knew

that people liked to socialize.

And you remember, in 2020, we were told we needed to socially distance and that was very hard for a lot of us. In fact, you know, I got into this

project by writing an essay in "The New York Times" saying, what we really need is kind of physical distance and social solidarity, right? Not --

social distance is hard. And his business was organized on bringing people together.

It took nine months to get a liquor license in 2019. When they finally opened, COVID hit, they were closed. Presti was so frustrated with the

situation that he decided to declare that his bar was an autonomous zone. He'd been listening to a lot of right-wing cable TV personalities. He was

persuaded that the lockdowns were excessive. He wanted freedom. He wanted small businesses to do what they wanted to do. And he just announced he was

not going to follow the law anymore.


They made poster boards. They taped off the sidewalk. And the sheriffs came pretty quickly and arrested him. And the other thing that happened is

hundreds, maybe more than a thousand far-right agitators came to Staten Island and they protested, including the Proud Boys.

And by the end of the year, Presti went from being, you know, a pretty neutral non-political guy to a guy who's posting on the internet that he's

a freedom fighter. He is going to anti-vaccine rallies. He is protesting mask mandates. He's questioning everything about the government. And I

think his story is important because, you know, for millions of Americans, 2020 was the year in which they got radicalized.

SREENIVASAN: You know, on the other end of the political spectrum, you also sort out a character named Nuala. What did Nuala have in common with the

gentleman in Staten Island, and what did she end up doing?

KLINENBERG: Well, for Nuala, the story was her community wasn't being taken care of. She lives in Jackson Heights, Queens, which is one of the most

diverse neighborhoods on earth. There's something like 160 languages spoken in Jackson Heights. A lot of immigrants, crowded conditions, density.

People live and work in the cash economy. And a lot of people didn't know that they were eligible for benefits or weren't eligible for state


Nuala knew very early in the pandemic that people were going to be in trouble. And she put up a sign saying, you know, if you need help, call me.

And she used her real phone number. Within a couple of days, hundreds of people were calling her. She was overwhelmed. So, she put up another sign

that said, if you can give help, call me. And then dozens and eventually hundreds of people did.

So, she set up in her basement of her personal home, what she called the COVID Care Neighborhood Network. And it's one of these amazing examples of

a mutual aid network where Americans got together, our participatory association, you know, voluntaristic side is as strong as our

individualistic one, and they helped each other.

And they provided -- they got food donations, they got diaper donations, they got cleaning supplies. They just kind of expanded out and out until

they really had this amazing operation going. And it evolved over the course of the pandemic. 34th Avenue, they turned into an open street so

people could have better access to the outdoors in this crowded place.

And you know, a few weeks ago I checked in with her and it turns out that same basement that was a mutual aid network in COVID is now called the

Jackson Heights Immigration Center. And Nuala and the same group of people helping each other out in COVID are working to get thousands of asylum

seekers better integrated into New York City, get their paperwork filed so that they can become citizens or get Social Security cards. She really

built a kind of invisible civic infrastructure.

And at first blush, I think Nuala feels really different from Danny Presti. They clearly acted in very different ways but both of them shared the sense

that no one here is really taking care of me and my community's problems and they took things into their own hands. And one in a way of protesting

and the other in a way of banding people together to help each other out.

SREENIVASAN: You profile a teacher in Chinatown, Mei Li (ph). What were some of the struggles that were unique to her but I guess really kind of

dredge up what was failing in the education infrastructure?

KLINENBERG: Yes. Mei (ph) is an amazing woman. She grew up in Manhattan's Chinatown. She actually is now the principal and she's taught at the same

school where she attended as a kid. Her husband went there as well. One of her children went there. So, she is part of the school but she's also

deeply connected to people in the neighborhood. And like Nuala, she has this mission, which is to make sure that her community is taken care of.

The first big problem she had is the president, you'll recall in early 2020, was talking about the China virus. He was talking about kung flu. He

was whipping up this anti-Asian pretty racist hysteria, and people were following him into it. And so, even though she's in Chinatown where you

know you're going to find Asian-American people, she was getting a lot of harassment herself. She was hearing it in the streets.

And she realized, first she had to protect the children in her community. So, she actually stopped kids from going on field trips, January, February.

And then, of course, schools got shut down and she realized, look, a school is not just a place where kids learn, it's also a place where communities

form. It's a place where children in New York City get two and a half meals a day. It's a vital hub of activity and connection.

And so, she and her staff and her own kids decided they were going to take it upon themselves to make sure that they could hold things together. About

80 to 85 percent of her students are Asian-American. Many are immigrants. Many live in crowded apartments, and she realized they need help to do

remote education.


The Department of Education in New York was not really set up to provide the support they needed. Eventually they said, well, we'll send tablets to

students so they can work remotely, to school remotely. But nobody has a doorman, you can't leave fancy computer equipment on the streets of

Manhattan. So, Mei (ph) and her and her kids literally went door to door ringing bells, making phone calls until they made sure every single kid and

every family was equipped to connect online.

Then they fought the Department of Education, which wanted to close the school down and said, we have to continue to serve meals, even if we do it

outside. And they were able to maintain their role as a meal provider.

SREENIVASAN: You wrote in a recent op-ed in "The New York Times" that, when everything was uncertain, everyone's future was on the line, we walked

right up to the precipice of a moral breakthrough, and then we turned back. What do you mean by that?

KLINENBERG: Many viewers will remember that in 2020, there was a lot of tough times, but there are also these moments where you could see the

possibility of progress and change. Maybe we'd be better when we got through this.

One example I like to give here is remember essential workers, when everything had fallen apart, when the economy was collapsing and millions

of people couldn't go to work and lost their jobs, the government said, some people are so important to the economy and society that we're going to

call them essential workers, right?

And by the way, those were not the bankers and the lawyers, even the NBA players, right? We canceled the NBA season. They were the doctors and the

nurses for sure, but also for the most part, working class people, right? Clerks, people working in meat packing industries, poultry plants, people

working in infrastructure, our public transit drivers, delivery people, custodians.

And in the U.S., you could imagine that calling them essential workers would mean we're honoring them. We are going to compensate them well. We

are going to make sure that they have PPE like masks or, you know, we're going to make sure they have great access to the best health care. But, of

course, in the U.S., what really happened is that to be called essential was to be deemed expendable.

And so, all of these workers, they had far more exposure to COVID. Those who worked in crowded places then came home to crowded residential

environments passed the disease on to people they lived with and loved. And so, they had much higher rates of death and disease. And these people are

disproportionately black. They're disproportionately Latino.

And when I say we walk to the edge of a moral precipice, it's because you could imagine that once this country said, these workers, these laborers

are essential, that we would then follow up on the moral commitment that comes with that to really make sure that they are OK. And instead, we did

the opposite. When things come down, we walked away and pretended like that never even happened.

SREENIVASAN: One of the things that, you know, I don't want to do for our audience is look at your book and think about it as something completely in

the past, because there are still thousands of people who have long COVID, and they are living with this now. But our attention to COVID, infection

rates, reported cases, all of that has waned so much. And I wonder, has our collective kind of attention faded, even though there are still actually

more people dying from COVID today than would be from influenza?

KLINENBERG: Yes. I've been saying, I think our response to COVID is marked by the will not to know. It's like we were so traumatized by what we

experienced in 2020 that we tried to kind of box it up, tuck it under the bed or throw it into the closet and act like that didn't happen.

And the reality, as you say, is COVID is still out there. It's still a very dangerous condition, especially if you're older, especially if you have an

underlying medical condition. And we haven't beaten it yet.

But what's more -- and I think what's also important is to think about the social part of long COVID, right? The fact that what we experienced in 2020

has thrown us off. So, I'm the parent of teenagers. And, you know, truancy remains higher than it's ever been in the United States. Rates are off the

charts. Kids aren't going to school. People aren't going into the offices. Downtowns are still pretty empty. We still treat each other with a level of

skepticism and disdain that I think is unwarranted.

You know, for me, the image that comes to mind that I write about in the book are those viral videos we saw of Americans fighting in the aisles of

Walmarts and on airplanes over whether we were wearing a mask. I mean, there's this whole genre of viral mask videos.



KLINENBERG: No other country really had this kind of anger and violence that got expressed in public spaces over this, you know, thin little piece

of fabric. And I fear that that social long COVID remains with us in a powerful way. It shapes our politics today. It shapes our sense that people

we disagree with are now our enemies, not just people we have a political difference with. And I don't know how a healthy society can continue if we

can't resolve those things.

And so, my book is really an invitation for us to take a second look and think about the collective social experience of this important year, a year

that we'll be talking about for the rest of our lives, even if it's hard to talk about now, and we're not hearing much about it in this election.

SREENIVASAN: I wonder if this politicization of how you feel about COVID, how seriously you take it, prohibits us from even crafting policy that

might be epidemiologically sound, but politically fraught.

KLINENBERG: Every health expert I know is concerned that we are actually pulling resources away from our public health infrastructure at the end of

this pandemic. Vaccines have become more controversial, right? It's not just the COVID vaccine.


KLINENBERG: There's a measles outbreak in Florida. People are walking away from vaccines at a level that they haven't before. We have a Republican

medication that you take if you have COVID, a Democratic medication to take from COVID. We have politicized the realm of public health in a way that is

clearly dangerous for all Americans.

And, you know, there is a little bit of a track record on this in this country. At the end of the great influenza pandemic of 1918 to 1920, there

was a rush from the U.S. to kind of forget about this experience. One of the great books of history about this time is called "America's Forgotten


Fortunately, at that time, the public health leaders of the country banded together and were able to develop better policies.

And by the way, many of the countries that did the best in COVID in 2020 were countries that had learned powerful lessons from SARS in 2003. So,

Australia, New Zealand, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan. The scare of SARS got them thinking about the use of masks and how to produce them, how to

distribute them, the power of tracking and tracing, the importance of closing borders and having temporary shutdowns. Those are places that had

so much more success managing COVID than the United States did.

My concern, and I think the concern of every person who cares about public health in America, is that this ideologically driven campaign to discredit

all public health at the end of COVID could make this country fair -- far worse when the next virus hits.

SREENIVASAN: We forget that in the middle of a pandemic, we also had a massive conversation in America about race and equality and the wake of the

murder of George Floyd. And you also cover the rise of some of these protests. I mean, how did that kind of interface with what was happening in


KLINENBERG: Crises help us see ourselves and they help us see whose lives matter. And Americans were watching this and the George Floyd murder made

it too much. So, I think the fact that so many millions of people poured out into the streets and demanded something different is deeply related to

the fact that so many people were watching the inequalities of COVID play out on a daily basis.

And here again, we have one of those moments, a flash point where it looked for some time like the United States and other societies might really do

something different on racial justice. Like there might be a reckoning about our legacy of racial inequality. And there was a lot of energy to

push for that reckoning but then the backlash hit hard, right?

And the same governors who were trying to make sure that their states could let it rip and they got rid of the public health mandates, they also, in

many cases, started to attack, you know, DEI programs and to block the conversation about racial inequality, right? We saw in Florida, Governor

DeSantis take black studies, African-American studies out of the A.P. offerings for the school system, try to take books out of the library if

they dealt with racial inequality.

And so, here was a moment where it looked like there was going to be a tremendous opening in advance on racial justice and the backlash had shut

it down in part of the country. And we're still stuck in this problem. I guess what I'd say is that crisis of 2020, we're still living inside of it

in 2024.

SREENIVASAN: The book is called "2020: One City, Seven People, and the Year Everything Changed." Author Eric Klinenberg, thanks so much for joining us.

KLINENBERG: Thank you.



AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, with Ramadan underway pass over next month, Easter is just around the corner. And this weekend saw the annual Strumica

Carnival kick off in North Macedonia, marking the start of a great land on the Orthodox Christian calendar, where participants do dancing rituals to

ward off evil spirits.

Hundreds of revelers fill the streets in exuberant costumes, from giant feathered headpieces to multicolored wigs. And as you can see, masks and

disguises are a big theme of this centuries-old festivity.

That's it for now. Thank you for watching. Goodbye from London.