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Interview with Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO and Former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker; Interview with Comedian Bassem Youssef; Interview with "How the Right Lost its Mind" Author and The Bulwark Founder and Former Editor-in-Chief Charlie Sykes. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired April 03, 2024 - 13:00:00   ET



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


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Support Ukraine should be less dependent on short-term voluntary offers.


AMANPOUR: NATO's long-term Trump-proof plan for Ukraine. Former U.S. ambassador to the alliance Kurt Volker joins me.

Then --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): they want to send a message of don't come and let the people die.


AMANPOUR: -- world leaders outraged mounts over the Israeli strike killing World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza. How could this have happened?

Correspondent Jeremy Diamond reports.

Plus, can comedy make sense of tragedy? I speak to satirist Bassem Youssef whose wife has family in Gaza, and he tours his latest stand-up show.

Also, ahead --


CHARLIE SYKES, AUTHOR, "HOW THE RIGHT LOST ITS MIND": For a class of politicians, they look around and go, OK, this is not what I thought. This

is not why I got into politics. I want to do something different.


AMANPOUR: -- a wave of American lawmakers are quitting Congress. Why? And what does it mean for U.S. politics? Conservative Commentator Charlie Sykes

breaks it all down with Michel Martin.

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

Israel is coming under its most intense scrutiny to date in this war after an air strike killed seven aid workers in Gaza, which Israel has called

"unintentional and a grave mistake," despite extensive coordination about the timing and the root of that convoy.

World leaders, including the British prime minister, are calling it an outrage, and it will no doubt loom large at their NATO meeting in Brussels,

where the main focus is meant to be on a different war, Ukraine.

Tomorrow marks 75 years since NATO's creation, and this anniversary comes as it grapples with how to continue supporting the country that's battling

for survival on its very doorstep. One solution under discussion is a multi-billion-dollar, multi-year NATO fund for Ukraine's defense, rather

than relying on individual nations' contributions.

Kurt Volker is a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and was special representative for Ukraine, and he joined me earlier from Poland before an

onward journey to Kyiv.


AMANPOUR: Ambassador Volker, welcome back to our program.


AMANPOUR: Let us talk about an area of your great concern, and that is obviously the defense of Ukraine. So, the secretary general of NATO in

their meeting is talking about a EUR100 billion, about $107 billion, in a five-year fund. Obviously, for a long-term support of Ukraine, break that

down for us. Is that good policy, good financial sense?

VOLKER: Absolutely. No, this is very good policy. It does several things. First off, it uses NATO's organizational structure, which is considerable,

in order to do the kind of coordination work and support for Ukraine's armament and defense capabilities and defense reform that we should have

been doing years ago, frankly, that the Ramstein Group has been ad hoc and U.S.-led. This puts this in a more systematic capacity coming out of NATO.

The second thing that it does is it puts out a very large number, a significant amount of euros for Ukraine's defense procurement, ammunition,

equipment, and so forth. This sends a very strong signal to Vladimir Putin that it's going to be very hard for him to keep up with this level of

armament for Ukraine. And this is important because Putin needs to get the signal that he's never going to win.

Every time we hesitate, every time that we don't pass funding, every time there's a gap, Putin takes that as a sign of a lack of resolve. This sends

a very positive and powerful signal that there is resolve and there are the means there to back it up.

AMANPOUR: So, is this also from NATO and the other allies' perspective a way to ensure themselves against what essentially is potential American

fickleness, depending on who's in power, who's in office, they can turn on or off the spigot at will?

VOLKER: Well, the U.S. is obviously going to be a substantial part of this $170 billion fund, assuming that it's created.


The U.S. is the largest single contributor to NATO, and our defense budget is still in the range of about 75 percent of total NATO country defense

spending. So, clearly, the U.S. will be a big part of us.

What this does do, as I said, is it systematizes the aid and it puts out a large number for a longer time horizon. Those are generally good things to

do no matter what. I wouldn't make any assumptions about what future U.S. policy would be, whether it's a President Biden or a President Trump. We

simply don't know what a President Trump would do. But this is a good way to organize aid for Ukraine, regardless.

AMANPOUR: You say correctly that America would have a huge part of this. But isn't that then -- I mean, isn't the same problem then whether you

institutionalize it or not, you still have to depend on America's will?

VOLKER: Yes. Well, this is the nature of the world. This is the nature of the alliance, that countries are free to make their own choices and do what

they do. I'm very confident that the U.S. will continue to provide substantial sums of aid to Ukraine, as we have done already.

When the House comes back in about a week's time, Speaker Johnson has promised to try to bring the bill to the floor and get a vote. He suggested

a few ways in which that might be done over the weekend. Very confident that will get passed.

And I don't think there's a lack of support for Ukraine in either the Republican or the Democrat Party in Congress. You have about 80 percent of

the votes there ready to support it. It is just that it is mixed up with other political issues.

And one of things that this NATO initiative does is it ensures that there will be substantial European support forthcoming as well, financial

support, buying weapons that NATO organizes. This is one of the key things that any American administration, Republican or Democrat, would be looking

for, which is assurances of burden sharing so that it is not over-reliant on the U.S.

AMANPOUR: So, let me just play for you and for our audience what the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said about this fund and its



JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: We are now discussing ways to institutionalize more of the support within a NATO framework to make it

more predictable, to make it a more robust, because we strongly believe that support Ukraine should be less dependent on short-term voluntary

offers and more dependent on long- term NATO commitments.


AMANPOUR: So, Kurt Volker, we discussed America's potential, you know, actions in the future, but what about all the other NATO members? Do you

think they would be on board?

And let me just add this, a senior diplomat has told the U.K. newspaper, "The Telegraph," if we are to do this, we have to cross the Rubicon in that

NATO will have a role in coordinating the supply of lethal support to Ukraine.

And I think that they're trying to say that there's no more, you know, smoke and mirrors. This is a war that NATO is supporting on one side

formally now.

VOLKER: Yes. So, this is very important point. For the last two years, the reason that we have not done coordination of aid for Ukraine through NATO

was that the U.S. administration, Germany, probably others, did not want to have any formal NATO role at all in helping Ukraine. They deliberately kept

it out.

I think that was a mistake because NATO does provide exactly what the secretary general is talking about. Consistency, stability, a longer-term

perspective, assurances of burden sharing, all of the things that we should all want. So, I think it's a good step, but we held off from this.

But when we talk about what is NATO's role now, we have to remember that Vladimir Putin already sees himself in a contest with the West. He is

already committing to build a military of 1.5 million men, which is designed not just for Ukraine, but for larger purposes. He has already

articulated a vision of rebuilding a Russian empire and removing independent governments from what he considers to be Russian lands.

So, I think it's good that NATO was waking up that we actually have to serious about this, more systematic, and not be afraid to lean in to make

sure that Russia is defeated in Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: So, let's just play you what Vladimir Putin, the president, has recently said in the last week in response to the persistent fears and

claims by NATO nations that he won't stop at Ukraine if he wins. Here is what he said about that.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is complete rubbish. The possibility of us attacking some other countries, Poland,

Baltic States, they are scaring the check with it. This total drivel. This is yet another way to fool their own people and make the people spend more

on defense, to make them carry this burden. That's it.


AMANPOUR: So, how do you respond to that?


VOLKER: Yes, well, the key to listening to Vladimir Putin is to always remember that you don't need to pay attention to what he's saying. You need

ask yourself, why is he saying it? He is saying this because he doesn't want NATO countries to spend more on defense and he doesn't want to NATO to

get an organized effort together. So, because of that, he is trying to provide a kind of assurance that, oh, he has no intention to attack these

other countries.

In fact, most of his other statements and writings over the past couple of years have said the opposite. And you'll remember as well that before the

full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 22, he said that he wasn't going to invade Ukraine.


VOLKER: And I would take the veracity of this most recent statement right alongside the veracity of the one he made about Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: So, you are going to Ukraine after your visit now to Poland, and you're very, as I said, concerned about the continued support of a

democratic and sovereign nation. We know, because we've seen battlefield reports, we have heard from frontline soldiers, we been to hospitals, that

they are taking a big beating right now. Russians are too, but it's playing very heavily on the Ukrainian, you know, military force.

What do you think they need most now, and what does the U.S. have in its stockpiles? Like, I mean, does it have a backlog of unused aircraft or

things that could be sent to the Ukrainians to use right now even before any sort of military aid is passed by Congress?

VOLKER: Yes. And that's a very important point that you raise. There are several things the U.S. could be doing even now. We have stockpiles of our

own equipment that we could be transferring to Ukraine. I would highlight in particular the longest-range artillery systems, ATACMS. F-16s and other

types of aircraft that we had in the desert out west in United States, we could be supplying those as excess defense articles. Ukrainians are already

trained on a lot of these things.

We have emergency authorities that that the Pentagon could activate for U.S. defense expenditure, which we would have to backfill later, but we

could do this now in advance of funding from Congress. So, there are a lot of steps that we could be taking that have not yet taken. That's one thing.

Second, about the situation in Ukraine, the frontline is reasonably stable as it is. Indeed, we just saw the other day a Russian tank column

completely destroyed by the Ukrainians as they tried to advance out of Avdiivka. So, the front line is OK, but it will erode over time if U.S.

support is not forthcoming.

But what the lack or the delays in U.S. support has caused is a sense of uncertainty in Ukraine that is all permeating and creates a much greater

sense of dread about the future. That's something we have to really worry about and try to fix by getting this U.S. aid provided more quickly.

And then the final point, I would say, is that we have continuously, since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion, self-imposed limits on what

we will and won't do. You'll remember back in '22, we said we won't provide stinger missiles, we don't provide armored vehicles, we want provide

artillery, and on and on, we won't provide aircraft. We've overcome each of those things and it has been vital that have done so.

We are still holding back on certain things, for instance, the long-range artillery systems that I mentioned, and we are telling the Ukrainians not

to hit inside Russian territory, which is telling them to fight basically with one hand tied behind their back as Russia is attacking them from

Russian territory.

So, we need to make the restriction on Ukraine that we would support one of only hitting military and militarily relevant targets, not civilians and

civilian facilities like the Russians do, but sticking to the military rules of engagement. But that is fair game to be striking inside Russian


AMANPOUR: Talking about sticking to rules of engagement, I don't know whether you have a view on this, but clearly many of the foreign ministers,

if not all of the former ministers attending the NATO summit on Ukraine, are also seriously outraged, expressing such outrage, about rules of

engagement by Israel on Gaza.

To wit, the drone strikes on a, apparently, pre-arranged, precoordinated World Central Kitchen aid convoy earlier this week. They're very angry,

President Biden and his colleagues. A, what do you make of that? And B, do think, you know, that the state of this war in Gaza is also taking valuable

resources and attention away from the Ukraine war?


VOLKER: Well, it's certainly taking up a lot of attention away from what otherwise would be focused on Ukraine. That's for sure. The other is that

Israel is only damaging itself in this process, and it is a shame to see, because they have a legitimate claim to need to get rid of Hamas after the

Hamas attacks, again, from October 7th, now three months on, or six months, on.

They have a legitimate need to do that, but the way they have gone about this with such civilian casualties and now, apparently targeting a known

civilian aid convoy with, you know, U.K. and other citizens on board, this is really Israel damaging its own cause.

And I think they really need think much harder about protecting civilians, protecting international aid efforts, increasing the flow of aid, and

making sure that their military efforts are directed at the right targets and are proportionate, consistent with rules of engagement and laws of

armed conflict.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Kurt Volker, thank you so much for joining us.

VOLKER: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And so, President Biden says that he is outraged that Israel has not done enough to protect civilians. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

told Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call that he is appalled about what happened and the situation in Gaza is becoming increasingly


Three of those killed on Monday were British citizens. Jeremy Diamond has more on the tragedy. And a warning some of the scenes of course are very

hard to watch.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is no mistaking the target of this Israeli strike. The World Central Kitchen's logo still

visible after a missile tore through the roof of this vehicle. Pieces of the aid organization's emblem scattered throughout the charred hull of a

second vehicle. And then there are the bodies of the aid workers themselves, patches proudly worn on chests, over bulletproof vests that

offered no more protection in Gaza than the emblem of a humanitarian aid organization.

They are among seven aid workers killed in Israeli strikes on their convoy late Monday night. Six of them were foreigners, including a dual American-

Canadian citizen, as well as British, Australian and Polish nationals, triggering international uproar and prompting a rare apology from Israel's

top general.

LT. GEN. HERZU HALEVI, CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: I want to be very clear, the strike was not carried out with the intention of

harming WCK aid workers. It was a mistake that followed a misidentification at night during the war in very complex conditions. It shouldn't have


DIAMOND (voice-over): World Central Kitchen says the Israeli military knew about the convoy. A weapons expert consulted by CNN said images of the

damage indicate a precise drone strike carried out with total visibility of the target.

World Central Kitchen said its aid workers got into three vehicles after unloading aid at this warehouse in central Gaza and began traveling down

the coastal Al-Rasheed Street. CNN geolocated the convoy's deadly journey using images filmed at the scene.

Three and a half miles south, a first vehicle is struck. Two other strikes rain down in quick succession. One vehicle is hit a half mile further. The

third comes to a stop another mile down the road, found only the next day.

HASSAN AL SHUNBAJI, HEARD THE AIRSTRIKE (through translator): Last night between 11:00 and 11:30 P.M., a missile hit a car. When we approached, we

saw the car on fire. We tried to extinguish the fire, and upon opening the car, we discovered boxes of canned meat. It was an international aid

organization that assists people. Any international or European organization that comes to aid Gaza will be targeted. They want to send a

message of don't come and let the people die.

DIAMOND (voice-over): The Israeli military has struck aid convoys in the past, including this U.N. truck, which was shelled in early February.

World Central Kitchen, founded in 2010 by celebrity Chef Jose Andres, has been one of the most prominent aid organizations in Gaza, even working with

the Israeli military last month to build a pier off the Gaza coastline, delivering the first aid shipments to Gaza by sea.

ZOMI FRANKCOM, EMPLOYEE, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: Hey, this is Zomi and Chef Olivier. We're at the Dinner (INAUDIBLE) Kitchen.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Australian Zomi Frankcom spent years coordinating aid operations for World Central Kitchen, risking and ultimately

sacrificing her life to help those in need. She died alongside her Polish colleague, Damian Sobol.

DAMIAN SOBOL, EMPLOYEE, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: Hello, everyone. Damian Sobol from Cairo.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Weeks earlier, he was excitedly readying a convoy to build soup kitchens in Gaza.

SOBOL: There are already a lot of tables, shelves, water systems.


DIAMOND (voice-over): Today, their bodies were among those headed for the Rafah border crossing, but the body of one of the seven will not leave

Gaza. Saif Issam Abu-Taha, a driver and translator, was buried in Central Gaza, not far from where he carried out his final mission.


AMANPOUR: And the World Central Kitchen has named the others three British citizens killed, John Chapman, James Kirby, and James Henderson, and also

named the U.S. Canadian dual citizen as Jacob Flickinger.

Now, as I said, world leaders, especially the U.S. and Britain, are coming under major criticism and increasing pressure to stop weapons supplies to

Israel. According to the U.N., since October 7th, at least 196 aid workers have been killed, the vast majority in Gaza. Whilst the killing of foreign

aid workers has provoked this global outcry, the majority of the dead have been Palestinian.

Meanwhile, Israelis are also navigating pain and anguish. Today, hostage families stormed the public gallery of the Knesset, chanting, now, now,

demanding the return of their loved ones held hostage.

The scale of suffering in Gaza is hard to comprehend, even more so for people living abroad with family trapped there, like comedian Bassem

Youssef, whose wife has family there. He says contact is infrequent and harrowing, and he's touring his latest one-man show across the United

States and Europe, and he's joining me now here in London.

Bassem, welcome to the program.

BASSEM YOUSSEF, COMEDIAN: I am so happy to be here again with you. It has been a while since the last time I was here face-to-face.


YOUSSEF: Like they told me, like, hey, Christiane wanted to be on the show. I was like, I'm going to be in London. I have to meet her. Like, it's

much better to be in person.

AMANPOUR: It's much better to be a person, of course. I note immediately what you're wearing, you're wearing a Palestinian design --



YOUSSEF: I didn't notice.


YOUSSEF: They just like put it on me.

AMANPOUR: Right. It's the Palestinian colors. And on it is also a fixed a dove, which is a symbol of peace.


AMANPOUR: What are you saying to us?

YOUSSEF: Me? No, just like, fact is like, you know, I come to a country here in London and also in the States where people like having to, you

know, show their flags or show the clothes they're deemed terrorists. So, I said like, oh, since when were colors and patterns were deemed terrorists?

So, I might try to wear it.

AMANPOUR: Do you bring that up in your -- have you been stopped on the street?

YOUSSEF: No, not yet, because I didn't wear it on the street.

AMANPOUR: You're testing it out with us.

YOUSSEF: I'm testing it here. See how it goes.

AMANPOUR: So, listen, you have family in Gaza, your wife's family, your in-laws are there, right?


AMANPOUR: And tell me, can you talk to them?

YOUSSEF: No. I mean, I've been touring, so it's been difficult. It's been difficult enough for them to be in touch with my wife and her family. But

the thing is, they have like many families there, like cousins and uncles, and they're all left their houses in the Khan Younis and Gaza and northern.

And now, they are in one apartment, in one building in Rafah sharing it with 25 other families.

And, you know, at any moment we can hear a bomb drop, but it's OK because Israel will apologize. I'm sure, as they all usually do. I mean, like I was

so happy to listen to their sincere apology for killing the people from Central Kitchen. Oh, my God. Like the pain that they have to go through.

I mean, even like one of their spokesman tweeted on Twitter, it's like, see what Hamas made me do. It's like, it is so interesting. And the thing is,

what's really -- for me, what's very interesting is the outrage, the global outcry. It's like, oh, how could you do that Israel? But we forget, we

forget James Miller, a British filmmaker that was also killed by Israeli snipers. We forget Tom Heartland (ph), which he was like also the British

activist who's killed in the head, we forget Shireen Abu Akleh, the American-Palestinian reporter.

It's like every time it's like, oh, Hamas did it. Oh, we did. We're so sorry. Let's continue. It's just -- there's no accountability. And I know -

- and I say it everywhere I go, if Israel today ended the war, they will be actually praised. It's like thank you so much for not killing more

Palestinians. Maybe they even give Nobel Peace Prize to Netanyahu.

Did this will happen, you know, this will actually happen. Israel would be praised. It would be absolutely no accountability what they did in Gaza for

the past six months. This is what pains me. It's not like at the ending of the world. It's like after the war. It's like nothing that I have done.

AMANPOUR: How do I react to you? How do I react to what you're saying and the way this is also in your stand-up and in your --

YOUSSEF: No, it's not in my stand-up.

AMANPOUR: It's not?

YOUSSEF: I don't.

AMANPOUR: You don't?

YOUSSEF: Like I -- for everybody coming to my show, I don't speak about the current events because I can't. I do my show, which is like my personal

story. It's a still very funny show Please come to the show and you will enjoy it and it's a kind of a break. It's the only way where I can be a

brick of what's happening. I cannot deal with that on the daily basis of my comedy, I can't.


AMANPOUR: So, tell me about your show then. How do you deal with it?

YOUSSEF: My show is my own personal story from a heart surgeon turned comedian, had to be interrogated for his comedy for six hours. I had to

leave the country because of my folks.

AMANPOUR: Your own country?

YOUSSEF: Yes. And then came to the United States. And then I come to the United States and I find Donald Trump being president. And I would talk

about all -- everything that I talk about in my show happened. I found myself in a gun rally. I found myself in two blocks away from a bombing. I

find myself in the process of trying to be an American citizen. So, it's more of a personal story that anybody can relate to.

I don't insert what's happening on the daily basis because, you know, stand-up is usually about stuff that's evergreen. And I really can't --

maybe I can find the -- maybe other people can, but I can't do it, find it in myself.

AMANPOUR: But is it difficult? Because everybody knows who you are, Bassem. You know, you remember -- I don't know whether you're still like

this, but you were the Egyptian John Stewart. You were on his show. You know, you were incredibly number one viewing in Egypt until, as you say,

you had to leave.

Is it difficult? Do you feel yourself, like so many, pulled and tugged to make declarations, to be an activist, to take a side and to speak out?

YOUSSEF: Well, I had this -- first one, I was starting with stand-up comedy in English. People who come into my show expecting they will see

more of my show back in Egypt. But they find something else. People who come now to my show expecting to see more of what I talk about in the

interviews, but I don't. And they still have a good time. I tell them, like, you're coming here for the comedy, for the art, for the love of the

art of comedy.

And because -- and again, like, you know, the current events right now is not really committed to talk about, but again, you know, as long as Israel

is apologizing, all will be good.

And you asked me in the beginning, how do you react?


YOUSSEF: And I want you to react to me as if we are both citizens of the world. Because, you know --

AMANPOUR: I did. That's why I said what you're doing and what -- and your piece thing.

YOUSSEF: And I want you, for one second, like make an -- like have an exercise, like step out of your anchor's chair and look at the western

media as a viewer and see -- from the Iowa viewer, the horrendous work that the western media has done.

AMANPOUR: Tell me.

YOUSSEF: Because for a month, the western media went with the Israeli story, decapitated babies, gang rape, all of this. And then, we know about

the Hannibal directive. We know how the Israeli troops killed their own -- a lot of their own citizens. Not I'm saying that Hamas didn't do anything,

of course. All of that decapitated baby stories were debunked. The story that Antony Blinken went in and talked about, the Hamas fighters who killed

and raped and cut limbs and then had breakfast, all of that was debunked.

And then the western media, not a single time, they said, we're sorry, we messed up. We led you -- we led the whole world to believe these lies in

order to justify the daily killing of Palestinians. And not a single person came out and retracted their lies. And not even said, like, we should even

look at what we said and we apologize for it.

This is the problem, you know. And you're talking about sexual violence against what happened, but nobody's talking about sexual violence on the

Palestinians' women every single day. Nobody's talking -- like, I remember 2016 where the whole media was up in arms about, like, Russia interference

with -- in elections. Nobody's talking about how AIPAC is, like, basically bragging about paying all of these politicians to win their elections.

Nobody is talking about that.

And I wonder, as someone who left the Middle East and came to the West with the promise of free expression, and to say whatever I want, and I come here

and I say all of these red lines about not talking about Israel, because if we talk about Israel, if we, if we talk about it, we're going to be

suddenly called antisemitic.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that still? I think that -- I notice, and certainly in the western media, that the tone has changed quite a lot from the

beginning, and there have been reports that have documented sexual aggression and assault against women, and the U.N. has come out and talked

about it as well.

YOUSSEF: Did they receive the same coverage at the same time? Did they retract all of their lies that they said about the Palestinians -- about

what happened? No.

AMANPOUR: Do you not think the tone is changing, given the mounting death toll in Gaza?

YOUSSEF: Slightly, but it is performative, performative rage. Like, the world read are so enrage about Israeli killing the seven workers. And, you

know, we talk about that, but I find that there is more rage about killing seven foreign workers more than the rage about killing 30,000 Palestinians.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's what we -- I mean, look --

YOUSSEF: Remember when you --

AMANPOUR: -- you did say that.

YOUSSEF: Remember when 30,000 was too much? Remember when 30,000 Palestinians was too much? You know what happened? You know, tomorrow, if

300,000 Palestinians kill, nobody will care. Nobody will care. Numbers don't mean anything anymore.

AMANPOUR: Why do you think that is?

YOUSSEF: Because they don't look at Palestinians as equal human beings.

AMANPOUR: You know, we spoke to Queen Rania on this program several times. In fact, she was actually the first leader to come out and talk about

double standards. And her interview with us was incredibly widely seen. And she said similar to you that, you know, there is a double standard in the

way Palestinian suffering has always been reported and continues to be reported.


It is really hard to hear you say and hear others say that they don't look at us as people.

YOUSSEF: Because they were deemed animals, terrorists, Hamas sympathizers. The thing is Israel reminds me a lot with Trump. Remember when Trump was

saying lie after lie, one atrocious thing after the other, and by the time people deal with this, he's already moved on, the people are like, all

right, that's Donald Trump?

Israel is doing the same. You know, they're doing -- remember when we were out all the rage about like babies killed in incubators, then baby killed

with hungers, and then people killed stampede. And then, it's old news now. Remember when we were talking about, did Hamas or did Israel bombed the Ali

(ph) Hospital and since then, Israel bombed 36 hospitals? It's just they move too fast.

And by the time you just like catch up and you cornered them was like, well, I'm entitled. They were like, if you talk about it, you're

antisemitic. I am doing this to protect myself. Here's the thing, every time Israel say like Israel have the right to defend itself, Israel had the

right to exist, and I won't say like Israel have the right to go F itself.

AMANPOUR: That's your stand-up. It's not your stand-up actually.

YOUSSEF: It's not.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you though, about you and the Arab world. I mean, I think you will probably also agree that the Arab nations, frankly, have

not done much to help the Palestinians over the decades since 1948.

And on a different issue you and I spoke, before you were forced to leave in 2013, and you are feeling the heat because you were busy satirizing

whoever needed to be satirized until it wasn't allowed anymore. I want to, you know, play this little bit because you were facing charges of insulting

the president and insulting Islam, that was Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood who was actually democratically elected after the Arab Spring.

This is what you told me then.


YOUSSEF: This is modern time inquisition where they hold people for their words and they I use holy reasons to put them in jail. So, I'm not worried

because I have not done anything to insult my religion, which I am proud of. And there are some people who want to make it as if it is a fight or a

struggle between seculars and Muslims. This is not true.


AMANPOUR: I'm watching you leaning in, watching your younger self.

YOUSSEF: I was so young.

AMANPOUR: You were young.

YOUSSEF: I was so young. What happened to me?

AMANPOUR: You were young. It was --

YOUSSEF: What happened to me?

AMANPOUR: Yes, life happened you. So, what was it like -- what was it like starting over in America?

YOUSSEF: It was terrible.

AMANPOUR: Because you went from being number one star --

YOUSSEF: Into a nobody.

AMANPOUR: OK. Into -- well, yes, into a nobody.

YOUSSEF: A nobody. I was going to comedy clubs trying to make it there and people not laughing, and it humiliates you. It humbles you and humiliates

you in the same time. And it was a journey. And doing stand-up comedy in your second -- doing stand-up comedy in general is difficult. Doing it in

second language, it's even added pressure.

And I tell this everywhere, I remember my fans from Egypt who come to my stand-up comedy show, and they see me as, of course, I wasn't good, they

were so disappointed, like, oh, that's, he's going to drive an Uber in six months from now, he's done. So, that kind of -- it stayed with me.

AMANPOUR: How did you learn? How did rise above that and actually learn to do comedy in, I guess, you do it in two languages now?


AMANPOUR: Wherever you are, you -- it depend on your audience.

YOUSSEF: Yes, yes. I do it in -- this is an English stand-up comedy tour, sometimes do in -- a different stand-up comedy in Arabic. But how, through

a lot of failure, a lot to failure. You have to go through a lot of failure and humble yourself and accept that kind of failure.

AMANPOUR: And what do you think your audience is getting from you now? If it's not the satire on the --

YOUSSEF: It's still a satire, no.

AMANPOUR: Yes, but what I mean on the events of the day that are just too difficult.

YOUSSEF: No. I think some of the best comedies are very personal. And the more personal the comedy is, the more actually people might it easier to

relate to you as a person, as human being. And so, that's what -- they get -- a lot of people come -- people come from all over the back, white

people, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, people from Africa, people from the Middle East, people make -- come to this country, it's like, I relate a lot

to your story. Even though it is a very unique story, but it's not that unique. But it's all about like the human struggle against expectations and

how we can navigate that.

AMANPOUR: I've always noticed that your struggle is towards bringing people together, that's what I have noticed.


AMANPOUR: And I want to ask you about a project that I read about and I want know if it true. You bought the rights to a book. The book happens to

be called "The Muslim and the Jew." It's translated in English. It's written by a German author. And it tells the story of a group of Egyptians

and Arabs who lived in Berlin basically and saved hundreds of Jews from the Holocaust. Tell me about the story and why you want to do this.

YOUSSEF: This is a story that I bought the right to a year ago, even before October 7th. And after October 7, I actually bought the live time

rights, not just the option for two years.


And it's called "The Muslim and The Jew" in Germany. It was translated to an English book called "Anna and Dr Helmy." And it talks about Dr. Helmy,

an Egyptian doctor who lived in Berlin and then Nazi Germany. And informed an under -- a group of underground network with other Arabs and saved 300

Jews from the Holocaust.

And I think it's a great story because the Holocaust is a human story, not just a Jewish story. I mean, definitely not an Israeli story. And I think

this is a way to show that, in the end of the day, we are people and we have so much in common and we should not use human tragedies, we not really

should use excuses of different ethnicities in order to inflict the same pain that was done upon us on other people. Especially if those people had

nothing to do with that tragedy.

And I want to show that like even before the establishment of Israel, Arabs and Jews in Germany lived a life of harmony and co-habitation. And they

were even closer together than the German Christians. And the Holocaust is a very important part of our contemporary history. And we have a role in

it, like saving up other people from there and we're being erased.

So, as an Arab, I want to actually show our story, our self and put us into the place where we actually have a say and a place in human history.

AMANPOUR: It's really interesting. It's really interesting that. Bassem Youssef, thank you. Just quickly tell me, you're going where next? What's

your next stand-up?

YOUSSEF: Oh, my God. OK, you're ready?


YOUSSEF: So, in April 6th, I started London, the Apollo. You're invited. And then, I'm doing Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Malmo, Oslo, Berlin,

Munich, Hamburg, Zurich, Antwerp, Stockholm, London again, twice, Dublin, Copenhagen, Birmingham, the biggest eater, all of them, Manchester and

Paris again at the end. Got it.


YOUSSEF: Got it.

AMANPOUR: Well, Bassem, thank you so much for being here.

YOUSSEF: Thank you so much. I appreciate you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you. Now, Congress is broken, so say staffers and an unprecedented number of elected representatives who are quitting mid-term.

A recent survey by the nonprofit Congressional Management Foundation found that a large majority of senior staffers believe the legislative body is

just not functioning, and the polarization and rhetoric are causing them to want to leave their jobs.

Conservative Political Commentator Charlie Sykes joins Michel Martin to discuss the great resignation.


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Charlie Sykes, thanks so much for talking with us once again.


MARTIN: You started writing about congressional resignations back in 2021. What did you notice then?

SYKES: Well, what I noticed then was a number of the rising stars of the Republican Party, people who had relatively safe seats, who were looking

around saying, I don't want to be part of this.

You had some of the people who had long careers ahead of them in Congress and I think decided that this is not worth it for them, that they didn't

want to spend the next several years sitting in a caucus with the people who wanted chaos, who were more interested in promoting themselves than

actually doing something.

And of course, this was not the beginning of the great resignation, departure, brain drain, but it's been accelerating, particularly among


MARTIN: As we are speaking now, among midterm resignations, there have been six Republicans, also two Democrats. What do you think that means?

SYKES: Well, first of all, it's extraordinary. It's easy to normalize a lot of things that happen in politics, but the number of members of

Congress that actually are resigning, and some of them, some of the younger members, like Mike Gallagher from Wisconsin, and resigning in such a way as

to make it impossible to have them replaced in this particular term, is really extraordinary.

And I think it's really an indication of just how much disillusionment there is among members of Congress that they don't even want to serve

through their term. What makes it even more interesting is that each of these resignations shrinks the Republican majority.

The Republican majority was razor thin to begin with, but now, as you and I are speaking, is down to one vote. And this creates a really difficult, if

not impossible dilemma for the leadership. And you have to think that some of the Republican members of Congress who resigned knew exactly what they

were doing, and so they were sending a message rather dramatically.

MARTIN: You know, the former president, Donald Trump, who's kind of at the root of a lot of this, he, in a sort of a series of kind of tirades on

Easter Sunday, took special notice of Mike Gallagher, and also another member, Ken Buck, who also decided to retire, saying, never forget our

cowards and weaklings, such a disgrace.


So, you know, not a new phenomenon for him, sort of personally vilifying people who don't serve his interests. But tell us what you know about Mike

Gallagher and what do you think went into his decision?

SYKES: Well, Mike Gallagher was one of the few genuine rising stars in the House Republican Party. Now, there were moments when he disappointed me.

You know, for example, on January 6th, he taped a YouTube appeal to Donald Trump to call off the attack on the Capitol because he knew that these were

the president's supporters. But then he backed off and did not support impeachment and did not become a Never Trumper, went along with the

excommunication of Liz Cheney.

But having said that, was a substantive guy. Mike Gallagher was somebody who was sort of in the mold of a Paul Ryan type Republican, young policy

oriented. And as an indication of the way that his colleagues thought about him, they named him the chairman of this select committee on China, where

he had a very, very high-profile position.

Mike Gallagher was one of those young Republicans who could have been in Congress for another 40 years. He's under 40 years old. He could have been

there a very long time. He might've been a future speaker. And yet, he looked around him and said, you know, I don't want to be here. This is not

a serious place. And he resigned.

Now, again, this is somebody who tried to appease the Trumpist wing of the party. He tried to go along. He tried to ride that tiger. He supported

Kevin McCarthy. He went along with almost everything the Republicans were doing up until he couldn't anymore. And then, he decided he's out of there.

And the way he left was really extraordinary. It was a big shock that he decided not to run for re-election. It was an even bigger shock that he was

resigning in the middle of the term. But the real twist was that he resigned in such a way that it's too late to hold a special election to

fill his seat in Wisconsin, which means there's no way that Republicans can replace him.

So, it was really quite something for somebody who was a rising star and in many ways a team player. And it underlies, I think, you know, two things,

the level of frustration and disgust, but also the ongoing brain drain of the Republican Party.

MARTIN: Democrats are leaving too. As we are speaking now, 30 Democrats, 24 Republicans, either retiring or seeking other office. Do you have some

thoughts about what that means?

SYKES: Yes, I think that's also reflecting the fact that you're dealing with a Congress that is broken. And it's not just members of Congress.

You're seeing new studies of senior staffers who are saying that they are contemplating leaving because, you know, Congress is no longer really a

functional body.

And if you went into politics or you went into government because you wanted to solve problems, because you wanted to pass legislation, you're

looking around and saying, this is not what this is about.

I mean, the incentive structures matter. But, you know, people get into politics for lots of reasons. A lot of them have big egos. They're very,

very ambitious. There are some people that are concerned about public policy. But the incentive structure no longer pushes them towards

responsible legislation. It rewards the people who are the most extreme, the loudest, who play to social media hits.

And I think that for a class of politicians, they look around and go, OK, this is not what I thought. This is not why I got into politics. I want to

do something different. So, the numbers -- and it's not just this term. If you look back at what's happening, for example, to the Republican Party

specifically since Donald Trump came on the scene, it's really been a very dramatic turnover.

You look at that class that was -- you know, the classroom, say, 2017, I don't have the numbers right in front of me, but the attrition has been

incredible. So, you're seeing a turnover, not just a generational turnover, but a cultural turnover in the kinds of people who are in Congress now and

will be in Congress probably for the next several decades.

MARTIN: But just to play devil's advocate for a minute, there are some people who argue that that really the generational piece of this is that

younger people, the Gen X is wise. It's either the post-baby boomers aren't willing to -- it's a generational sort of ethos that if this isn't

satisfying, I'm out, you know, that they just don't have the same commitment to sort of institutions that their predecessors had. I take it

you don't buy that.

SYKES: Well, I mean, there's there's certainly part of that there, but I don't think that it accounts for this dramatic turnover. When you when you

look at, for example, you know, any group of former Republican congressmen, you'll find that they come from a very different political tradition.


It's not just a matter of age. It is also a matter of culture. It's a matter of what they think the role of Congress should be. So, I do think

that it's impossible to separate out this sort of vast departure from Congress from the institutional decay that we're seeing here.

Gridlock may be entertaining for the entertainment wing of the media, but being in the minority or even being a majority in a gridlock Congress can

be very, very frustrating. You know, particularly when you have a Congress that doesn't actually do anything.

So, if you're a member, if you're a backbencher in Congress, you may sit on a committee, but since legislation no longer goes through regular order,

you really don't have any say. You don't have any clout. You have the prestige. You have the good salary. You'd have to benefits. And in the

past, that's been enough to keep people around for a very, very long time.

Now, I think the frustration level, the hyper partisanship, the threats, the insult, that toxicity of the environment just is driving people out.

And I don't think you can overstate the fact that if you go to work every day with toxic narcissists, it's going to weigh on you. And at a certain

point, there are people who went, I would love to be a congressman. I will love be congressman for the next 20 or 30 years, but I'm not going spend

the rest of my life dealing with toxic narcissists in an institution that is so fundamentally broken as the House of Representatives is.

MARTIN: And who are we talking about here? Who are these toxic narcissistic? Do you want to name names?

SYKES: I don't think that any of the names that I might have mentioned are going be terribly surprising. I am trying to imagine being a serious

Republican member of Congress, and looking around, thinking, so I have to spend the next two years sitting next to Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt

Gaetz and Lauren Boebert, and, you know, people like, in the past, you know, Louie Gohmert and Paul Gosar, you know, the folks that generally

garner the attention and that have, frankly, been sponsored by the party leadership.

I mean, look, the fact is there's always been a chaos caucus. There's been always a small rump of unserious people. John Boehner call -- I think his

term for the Freedom Caucus was they were legislative terrorists. But in the past, there was a critical mass that would have been able to isolate

them. Now, that's no longer the case. And they have the cover of the leader of Republican Party, Donald Trump, who has been in encouraging and

promoting some of the most extreme voices.

And as long as that's the case, you know, what we used to call the grownups on their own or the normies, no longer are able to check them.

MARTIN: I mean, I'm in Washington for better or worse. And, you know, I constantly hear my colleagues who are up on the Hill full-time or most of

time say that, you know, they know better. That's like the operative phrase, they know better. Or that they don't really believe half the stuff

that they're saying. Well, if that's the case, why don t the people who did go there to legislate get together and do their job?

SYKES: Well occasionally they do, which is why the government hasn't shut down. But this has been the story over last seven or eight years in our

politics that you have people who know better who are simply afraid to take that stand.

And fear is a huge factor in modern political politics. They're afraid of Donald Trump. They are afraid the base. They're afraid a mean social media

post. Also, just keep in mind the recent history of the House of Representatives. You had John Boehner, who was a very, very skilled

legislator who ultimately was not able to -- who resigned because he was able to keep control of the chaos caucus. Paul Ryan had a huge majority to

work with and yet, he ultimately decided that he needed to leave as well.

Now, we have people like Kevin McCarthy. I mean, it feels like this -- you know, keeps stepping down. You had Kevin McCarthy who lasted less than a

year. And the speaker, Mike Johnson, currently has very little leadership experience. And I think that's on display.

So, he not only has as little or no leadership experience, but he has little or no margin for error any longer. He's already seen what's happened

to Kevin McCarthy. And now, as you and I are speaking, he's got a one vote margin.

So, his ability to get things done is extremely limited. It only takes a small number. It took eight Republicans to throw the House into chaos for

pretty much the entire year. I mean, Harry Truman, back in 1948, ran against the do-nothing Republican Congress. That Congress looks like a

legislative juggernaut compared to this Congress in part because they spent so much time fighting with themselves.


So, now, we come to the moment where if Mike Johnson wants to get anything done, he essentially has to engage in a coalition government. He has to

rely on Democratic votes. And the number one cardinal sin for the Republican base right now is compromising with Democrats, working with

Democrats, giving Democrats anything like a win.

So, it is a radioactive political environment for the speaker who has to find some way to limp through this year until the next Congress.

MARTIN: I mean, he has been willing to negotiate with Democrats in order to keep the government open. Why do you think he's done that?

SYKES: Well, first of all, it's the bare minimum to keep lights on. I mean, before we hand out, you know, profiles and courage here, this is the

bare minimum for him to do that because there's really no alternative.

I think that the chaos surrounding Kevin McCarthy might have damped down the appetite for chaos, but only temporarily because the chaotic is now

built into the system. And so, we have this weird situation.

Remember, you know, Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of the most demagogic extremists in the House, actually supported Kevin McCarthy. She was, for a

moment, supporting the Republican establishment. Well, now, she is -- she may be leading the effort to oust the current speaker who would then need

Democratic votes. I mean, you can't make up this scenario. You know, it is sort of a game of thrones without all the blood.

And so, you know, we're going to -- you know, but in terms of getting actual substantive legislation through, that's the big question. Whether or

not they will be able to do anything.

MARTIN: But when it comes to somebody like a Mike Gallagher or Ken Buck, if you're willing to resign in the middle of the term, it means you are

willing lose your job, right? If it was that important to you to hold on no matter what, you'd make certain compromises.

So, that is why I remain confused by people who are resigning rather than fight. If you don't care whether you lose your job, why not stay and fight?

SYKES: Well, they never asked my advice about these things, but that's what I would have said. You know, decide what it is that is most valuable

to you. For example, you know, aid to Ukraine or perhaps getting a rational immigration bill passed. I think it's always better to stay in the fight.

I think what's happened, though, is they realize it's hopeless. There's no way that it going to happen. This Congress is never going to become

functional, and I do not want to spend the rest of my life dealing with these toxic demagogues.

And I think that the example of people like Liz Chaney and Adam Kinzinger is inspiring, but it's also a cautionary tale. It also says that if you

stay in your fight, you're going get killed. You're going to be exiled. And understand that for the modern Republican, to break with the party the way,

say, Liz Cheney has done, is not just losing your job, it means you are being excommunicated and exiled from your entire political social world.

And I think that this is something that people sometimes underestimate, that in our tribal culture, it's not just losing your job and your

position, it's all of the social context, you know, your family. People ask me this question, why don't more people break? Well, if you are willing to

give up your entire community, then, you know, fine. Most people aren't. They're not willing to alienate themselves from their family, their

friends, their professional contacts, you break with them too strongly, you will have no future in lobbying, no future in elective office, but also, no

future as an influencer in the party. You will no longer have a seat at the table.

MARTIN: All right. Well, before we let you go, is there anything giving you hope in the current moment?

SYKES: I think about the only thing that gives me hope is that at a certain point, these things exhaust themselves. Now, I've been saying that

for eight years, and I think there's been a little bit of wish casting, that of course the fever will break, the fire will burn itself out. I mean,

we've got ways to go here.

I also have -- and maybe it's naive at this point, but a sense of the innate decency and reasonableness of American people, that you get away

from politics. You go to a Little League game or a soccer game, you go to a play or a concert, you talk to your fellow Americans, and they're not at

each other's throat. They are not believing the craziest things.


Right now, our politics is bringing out the worst in us. At some point, maybe the best of us will be able to push back against it, but it's not

going to happen anytime soon.

MARTIN: Charlie Sykes, thanks so much for talking with us once again.

SYKES: Thank you so much.


AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, the White House has tasked NASA with developing a lunar time reference to provide extreme precision in future

missions. Because it has less gravity, time moves faster on the moon, an extra 58.7 microseconds every day compared to on Earth.

And speaking of the moon and the sun, Americans feverishly awaiting the total blackout this Monday might just be disappointed because severe storms

and cloudy conditions are forecast to eclipse the eclipse.

That's it for now. Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.