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Interview with Palestinian Observer to the United Nations Riyad Mansour; Interview with "Rebellion" Author Robert Kagan; Interview with The Lincoln Project Senior Adviser and "It Was All a Lie" Author Stuart Stevens. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired April 30, 2024 - 13:00:00   ET



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


RIYAD MANSOUR, PALESTINIAN OBSERVER TO THE UNITED NATIONS: What we need is a ceasefire. We need to say to save lives, not to kill more Palestinians.


AMANPOUR: Israel's prime minister says his army will invade Rafah with or without a hostage deal. How long does this war last? And what can a day

after really look like? My conversation with the top Palestinian diplomat Riyad Mansour at the United Nations.

Then a dramatic thought. Could America's next election be its last? That's the fear of author and Brookings fellow Robert Kagan, as democracy faces

severe threats.

Also, ahead --


STUART STEVENS, SENIOR ADVISER, THE LINCOLN PROJECT: Now, it's been a lot of sleepless nights trying to come to grips with it, but the Republican

Party now is an autocratic movement.


AMANPOUR: The view from the anti-MAGA right. Senior adviser to the Lincoln Project, Stuart Stevens, tells Walter Isaacson why being stuck in a

courtroom could be just what the Trump campaign needs.

And --


SM YASEEN, MUSLIM LEADER: They are treating us as second-class citizens.


AMANPOUR: -- India's Muslims say they no longer feel safe as the world's most populous democracy holds elections. We have a special report.

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

As the fate of Israeli hostages and civilians in Gaza hang in the banners, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today told hostage families that deal or

no deal with Hamas, Israel's offensive on Rafah is going ahead.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We will enter Rafah because we have no other choice. We will destroy the Hamas

battalions there. We will complete all the objectives of the war, including the return of all our hostages.


AMANPOUR: Meanwhile, the head of the U.N. Relief Agency, known as UNRWA, says there is deep anxiety amongst Palestinians in Rafah. More than a

million have crowded into that town where Israel ordered them to flee its offenses across the rest of the Gaza Strip. UNRWA also says food supplies

have increased this month under international pressure, but not nearly enough to stave off famine.

With the prospect of a ceasefire dim at best now, even as the secretary of state crisscrosses the region, I reached Riyad Mansour in New York. He's

the official Palestinian observer to the United Nations, and I asked him about his fears for today and the Palestinian Authority's plans for the day

after the war.

Ambassador Mansour, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, reports from Israel today that Netanyahu, the prime minister, has told hostage families that with or without a deal with Hamas,

there will be a move on Rafah. What is your reaction to that?

MANSOUR: That would be catastrophic, and we should, as an International Community, by all means, avoid this catastrophe in Rafah. What we need is a

ceasefire. We need to say to save lives, not to kill more Palestinians.

AMANPOUR: The Palestinian authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, has said that the United States is the only country that can stop Israel from

attacking Rafah. But as you've seen no amount of, you know, protest and dissuasion by the United States seems to be working at all.

Do you actually believe that the United States has any power to affect this on the ground?

MANSOUR: I believe that it has power to affect things on the ground. And we thought that the statement of Secretary of State Blinken in Saudi Arabia

that the United States still of the opinion that Israel should not storm Rafah and attack it.

What we need is a ceasefire, not to cave in to the selfish desire of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is willing to destroy Palestine and Israel

altogether for the political survival of his -- of himself.

AMANPOUR: Have you seen or heard or been told of any efforts to protect the civilians in Rafah? Like so many civilians have moved under Israeli

orders to the south, to Rafah. And now, they are a potential target. Do you know of any progress in any efforts to move them out of the way?


MANSOUR: The way to protect the 1.4 million Palestinians who have been told to move to the south and they are around Rafah is not to allow the

storming of Rafah. This is the only way to save this large civilian population. And Rafah and around Rafah.

AMANPOUR: Are you concerned that if it does come to pass that there is a storming of Rafah, as you put it, that again, there will be this idea of

potentially forcing the Palestinians across the border into Egypt? You remember, that was a fear at the very beginning. And the Egyptians said no.

And from the West Bank side, the Jordanians said no. What is your concern now? Could that happen?

MANSOUR: We are still extremely concerned as Palestinians, as Palestinian leadership, also as Egyptians and as Arabs. We lived one Nakba in 1948. We

do not want to live another Nakba if 1 or 2 million Palestinians to be forced -- to be pushed into the Sinai, into Egypt. That would be

catastrophic. That would be a second Nakba for us. And that could potentially harm the agreement between Israel and Egypt.

AMANPOUR: Do you think if they were pushed out, they would be allowed back?

MANSOUR: If they are pushed out, they will not be allowed back because the plans of this extreme Israeli government is to depopulate Gaza, to destroy

UNRWA and then move to the West Bank to push hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank in the direction of Egypt so that they can

have massive demographic transformation in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which are the intentions of the extremists in the

Israeli government.

AMANPOUR: Could I just clarify, you mean push them out of the occupied West Bank into Jordan or Egypt?

MANSOUR: Yes, into Jordan.

AMANPOUR: OK. Can you tell me what's happening there now? Because there are many, many reports of territory and farms and lands of the Palestinian

inhabitants, you know, being overrun, being taken, property being taken and some -- you know, some attempts to move Palestinians out of their villages.

What is the situation on the West Bank?

MANSOUR: The heart of the extremist in the Israeli government is based in the settle settler illegal campaign in the West Bank, which they want to

depopulate the West Bank from the Palestinian-Arabs so that what they call Judea and Samaria to be exclusively for the Jewish population in that area.

And all of the annexation that you see, the expansions of settlements, the terrorisms of settlers against the villagers, Palestinian villagers in the

West Bank, all of that is for the purpose of creating fear so that the Palestinians either to flee or to be pushed back, pushed into the direction

of Egypt.

AMANPOUR: Egypt or Jordan? You keep saying Egypt. Do you mean Jordan?

MANSOUR: No. Sorry, sorry. Jordan.

AMANPOUR: Yes. OK. OK. OK. I get it. President Biden has already sanctioned some of these extremists and they also do not agree with what's

happening to some Palestinians there. Are you getting any support from the IDF, from any of the security forces who are in the occupied West Bank to

protect Palestinian civilians?

MANSOUR: Some of some of those IDF forces are collaborating with the settlers, with the terrorist settlers. In fact, we welcome the opposition

of the Biden administration in holding those military forces accountable for these crimes. And I believe that some measures have been taking

elements in five battalions of the Israeli army in the West Bank.


More of that should take place because they should be protecting the Palestinian civilian population, not to collaborate with the terrorist

settlers and terrorizing the Palestinian civilian population and forcing them to be pushed out in the direction of Jordan.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador, getting back to Gaza, do you believe that after this war, Hamas can ever come back to continue in power in Gaza?

MANSOUR: You see, all the political forces among the Palestinian people is a Palestinian issue. The most important thing for us now is to stop this

war, to begin the process of re-healing, attending to the wounds of our people, and rebuilding the Gaza Strip. And these are the main tasks for the

new Palestinian government led by Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa.

After that, we will go through all the processes that we need to go through, including preparing for elections. And whoever win the elections

or the forces that will win the election will be responsible forming the government for the State of Palestine in all of its component, including

the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

AMANPOUR: So, let me talk to you about this then, because there are many polls that show quite a lot of disaffection amongst Palestinians for the

Palestinian Authority. And increasingly, we're seeing stories, even from Gaza, even under the bombardments and the military offensive there

disaffection amongst some Palestinians who've been with Hamas for, you know, their past, their lack of governance, the inability to have brought

them safety, security, economy, and now because of what they're enduring right now.

But there's also a huge amount of disaffection with you, as I said, with the Palestinian Authority. The latest poll, the Shikaki poll in March, you

know, shows how the Fatah Party's support has really plummeted. And many people really believe that the Palestinian Authority also needs to

completely -- I don't know whether it can reform, but it really has not delivered. So, given all of that, what is the plan for the day after?

MANSOUR: Well, let me just say that the Palestinian people have been going through so much under this ruthless occupation and the many wars conducted

against our people, particularly in the Gaza Strip, including this last vicious war, a war of genocide against our people in the Gaza Strip.

So, therefore, the Palestinian people have good reasons for being angry and frustrated with everyone, including the International Community, including

their own situations. So, one can understand that.

But what we need is we need to stop this war, to start giving the Palestinian people hope. And hope can come if we can find ways to put an

end to this occupation, to allow the Palestinian people to exercise self- determination, including independence of their own state and to govern themselves without the evils of occupation.

If we have a path in that direction, then the Palestinian people will elect the leaders that they wish, and then they will enter into a different era

of their lives than the miserable era of living under occupation.

AMANPOUR: And you've seen pro-Palestinian protests spreading across U.S. campuses some of them in Europe as well. You must, A, be pleased with that.

But I obviously have to ask you about the criticism. And that is some people holding up Hamas slogans and signs. And I just wonder, you know,

what would you say to those people? Does that actually help your cause? Do you think you would tell them to take down those signs?

MANSOUR: We cannot tell them, you know, what to do. But I am thrilled -- we are thrilled that there is this massive movement on U.S. campuses

calling for ceasefire, immediate ceasefire, and saving lives and calling for the Palestinian people to exercise self-determination.


To see the hundreds of Palestinian flags flown in all these campuses is so thrilling. This is a sense of justice for the Palestinians. And when you

see hundreds of millions in the streets in all corners of the globe, saying immediate ceasefire, save the lives of the Palestinian people, I hope

leaders everywhere, including in Washington, D.C. to listen to these powerful messages and to do everything possible to stop the war and the

onslaught and the aggression against our people and the Gaza Strip and to begin the process of the day after.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Riyad Mansour, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

MANSOUR: You're very welcome. Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: As debates around free speech pulse through college campuses as we saw, the next presidential election in the United States could be about

the survival of democracy itself. But how did we get to this point where illiberalism so seriously threatens what was once the global role model of

a republic?

Robert Kagan is a longtime policy expert who worked in the Reagan administration during the 1980s. His new book, "Rebellion," examines the

roots of this current crisis and what might come next. And he's joining us now from New York, in fact. Welcome to the program.

What I'd like to do is read the rest of the title, "Rebellion: How Antiliberalism is Tearing America Apart." Again, Robert Kagan, just briefly

tell me what you mean by that.

ROBERT KAGAN, AUTHOR, "REBELLION": Well, the founders created a government, which we've been living with, based on the principles of the

Declaration of Independence, which are fundamentally liberal principles. They're about individual rights. They're about human equality. They're

about the universality of individual rights.

And it's been true that since the founding, there has always been a significant resistance to those principles, obviously, in the early years

by slaveholders, later by the Jim Crow South, often by religious groups that that feel that they're losing their position, particularly white

Christians who feel that they're losing their position in society. And they have, in the case of the Civil War, fought an actual rebellion.

We thought all this had gone away. But as we see today, there is once again, these forces have risen, they've captured the Republican Party, and

what they want is a change of regime, as they call it, the regime.

And the regime they want changed is the system that the founders established with the constitution and after the revolution.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you, because you have said, and we've quoted you as saying, that this next election could be the last. You basically said,

you know, America is one election away from becoming reality, this idea of overthrowing American democracy.

And to the alarmists who might say, oh, Bob, there you go again. Are you really -- you know, really want people to believe that the strongest

democracy in the world is in threat of being overthrown? And by whom? Who are these people? Are they strong enough other than, you know, to be

flagrantly disregarding, but nonetheless, even four years of Trump, the republic held?

KAGAN: Well, it held just barely by a thread. I mean, if it had not been for Mike Pence, we don't know if it would have held. I think it's worth

remembering that Donald Trump has already tried to become a dictator when he attempted to annul a free and fair election and declare himself the

victor, if he had succeeded, he would have been ruling as a dictator, not as an elected official.

And so, the question arises, how could you possibly put someone like that back in office? And I think it's important to understand that the core of

his support, the really white-hot core of the Trump movement, does want to see this system overthrown. They do want a different form of government.

Some of them want a Christian nation, which is also contrary to what the founders established. Some of them want a white nation, a nation where

whites enjoy the privileges that they had enjoyed in the past, many people want to turn the clock back.

And I think we just have to recognize that it's not so shocking when you look at the entirety of American history, these groups have always existed.

What's happened now is they've taken control of the Republican Party, and they have someone as their leader who is willing to destroy the system.

That's what he is. He's a wrecker.

AMANPOUR: Just for people who may not think the way you think, in court, and you must be watching this very carefully, the current court case, his

defense is that, in fact, I was not trying to overthrow the system. Everything I did was to ensure the integrity of the election. I mean,

that's the heart of the immunity case in the Supreme Court.

KAGAN: It's absurd on the face of it. We already know how untrue that is. Is it helping the election -- the integrity of the election to ask a

governor of Georgia to find me some more votes?


Is it, does it help the election integrity to create phony electoral states in the -- phony electoral slates in the various different states? We're --

it's very clear what Trump tried to do, and he could say anything he wants. The question is, why should anyone believe him unless they're so deeply

committed to what he's trying to accomplish, which is essentially to change the system, to wreak vengeance on those that he's angry at? They're all

down with that, and that's why they buy this nonsense that he spills.

AMANPOUR: OK. Then why is it -- let's just say they're the MAGA heart of his supporters. But then there are others who are not necessarily MAGA, but

they happen to be Republicans. People like, you know, Bill Barr, who was attorney general, and who also didn't go along with the effort to overturn

the election. And yet, he has now said that he would vote for the Republican ticket, i.e., Donald Trump.

I'm going to play you a little interchange he had with CNN's Kaitlan Collins a few days ago.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: You're voting for someone who you believe tried to subvert the peaceful transfer of power, that can't even achieve his own

policies, that lied about the election even after his attorney general told him that the election wasn't stolen, and as the former chief law

enforcement in this country, you're going to vote for someone who is facing 88 criminal counts.

BILL BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, look, the 88 criminal counts, a lot of those are -- and I've said --

COLLINGS: Even if 10 of them are accurate.

BARR: The answer to the question is yes, I'm supporting. I'm supporting the Republican ticket.


AMANPOUR: I mean, it is astounding. And how do you account for that? Is it just basic party politics that Republicans will -- you know, these

Republicans will vote for Republicans no matter who it is or do you think he's amongst the destroyers?

KAGAN: No, he's a coward. This -- in his case, it's just cowardice. He wants to be able to survive in a Trump term. After all the horrible things

that he said about Donald Trump, he's basically trying to find his way back into the good graces. He's afraid that Donald Trump may win, and he's

probably worried about the consequences to him.

But this is -- it's impossible to believe that he believes the things that he says. What he's trying to do is rationalize what essentially is him

folding to Donald Trump. And I think that's true of a massive number of, sort of, professional Republicans, people who, you know, have had jobs in

the past, would like to have jobs in the future, would like to make money off of being a good Republican in the future.

The larger question is why are all sort of people we used to think of as average Republicans being willing to support someone who has demonstrated

his willingness to become a dictator? And the answer there, I think, is mostly that they just don't care that much.

And this is something that I discuss in my book. Something that Thomas Jefferson worried about. Something that Abraham Lincoln talked about in his

famous Lyceum speech in 1838, Americans have lost the fundamental love of liberty, the fundamental virtues that are required in our system. You know,

it is not enough to only want freedom and liberty for yourself. In our system, you have to want it for everyone.

And if you don't have that sort of sense of liberal virtue, the belief in these universal values then you're willing to allow someone who is going to

destroy them to take power.

AMANPOUR: So, let's just talk about these fundamental American values, and freedom of speech is one of them, freedom of expression, and of course, all

of that is being demonstrated and tested on American campuses right now, because of the war we were just discussing earlier, Israel's war in Gaza.

You know, it -- do you see, as some have written, in fact, a Columbia professor, history professor, that it was inevitable that this heavy-handed

response that has caused it to go even further out of control, calling the police onto campus, National Guard in some states, was going to lead to the

current situation? Because I just wonder whether you connect that with the liberalism, because we saw over the years Republicans -- even those running

for president, like the governor of Florida, criticizing so-called liberal and they would add woke, you know, elite universities, banning books from

schools, all those kinds of things have been going on for a while.

KAGAN: Right. And now, they want to use these protests as sort of item A in the general view that they're -- that Republicans and Donald Trump in

particular are trying to sell, that the left has taken over, that they're destroying our country, that we're in chaos.

And I think that regardless of what you may feel -- anyone may feel about the protests and the subject matter of the protests or the way they're

being conducted, the one thing that we can all be confident of is that the American system of government is not threatened by students protesting on



We will survive students protesting on campuses. But where the real threat comes from is having someone who has already demonstrated his dictatorial

tendencies be given power again in a circumstance where there will be no one to stop him. Not the Supreme Court, as we've seen. Not if it's a

Republican controlled Congress, if we've seen. That's what we should be worried about.

You know, we can spend a lot of time talking about student protests, but it's a real favor to Donald Trump that that's what we're talking about

today, and not the threat that he poses to this nation.

AMANPOUR: I'm going to come back to that in a moment, but first, I want to ask you whether you think we, the press, also have a responsibility and

also part of this whole body politic? As you saw, obviously, during the White House Correspondents' Dinner, Biden roasted Trump, Biden was roasted

by the others.

But he said the following, and it was directed at the correspondents in the room and probably at all of us.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm sincerely not asking of you to take sides, but asking to rise up to the seriousness of the moment, move past the horse

race numbers and the gotcha moments and the distractions, the sideshows that have come to dominate and sensationalize our politics, and focus on

what's actually at stake. And I think in your hearts you know what's at stake. The stakes couldn't be higher.


AMANPOUR: So, do you think, like he does, you know, he's putting us on notice, you've got to do your job properly?

KAGAN: You know, I don't know that the press is not doing its job properly. You know, there are financial incentives that I think are harmful

in terms of the press. I think covering Trump the way he gets covered, covering the horse race of the election the way it gets covered is just

about money. But the press, I think, also realizes that there is no free press in all likelihood in a Trump administration. So, they should

understand that this is existential, and I think they do.

I don't think people are lacking information. This is where I feel like we've gone too far with the notion that people who are Fox viewers don't

really understand what's going on. I think everybody understands what's going on, and they're making their choices according to what they regard as

their interests. And unfortunately, for many people, their interests do not include preserving the government that the foundings -- that the founders

bequeathed to us.

You know, Benjamin Franklin said, allegedly, a republic if you can keep it. And I think there's a real question whether, you know, enough Americans

really care about keeping it at this point.

AMANPOUR: So, do enough Americans, including the administration, care enough about what they've all called, at least the administration, the

frontline for democracy in Europe today, or in affecting America, is in Ukraine? Russia wants to re-establish its old -- you know, its old power

base in the former Soviet Union, and it is now -- you know, now making real inroads.

Do you see that, and the, so far, inability to really give Ukraine what it needs to win as threatening the liberal democracy that you're talking about

in your book?

KAGAN: Well, there's two things to be said. One is that there's no question that the reason we regard Ukraine as a vital interest in the way

that Mitch McConnell has talked about it, in the way that Mike Johnson has talked about it, is because there -- it is liberalism that's under threat

in Europe. And we know that Putin is antithetical to liberalism, he's hostile to liberalism.

And the other thing to -- that we should take note of is that all these Republicans who are pro-Putin, they're not pro-Putin on geopolitical

grounds, they don't care about geopolitics. They're pro-Putin because he is anti-liberal, because he's opposed to liberal democracy. They like his form

of government.

Tucker Carlson went there and tried to explain to us why everybody in Russia is living better than everyone in the United States, because he

prefers that. And I think we need to understand that the same people who are pro-Putin want to kill liberal democracy here in the United States.

AMANPOUR: I just have to point out in due diligence that you are married to Victoria Nuland who was, until recently, senior figure in the State

Department and overseeing quite a lot of the Russia-Ukraine issue. But I want to go on to ask you this, in terms of what you've just told us,

Representative Mike McCaul says Russian propaganda has "infected a good chunk of my party's base." He's a Republican. Republican Max Miller says

that 15 to 20 Republican members of Congress are "compromised by Russia."

How is Russia succeeding, particularly with the party who used to be the one that stood up against communism and, you know, fought that fight for so

many generations?


KAGAN: Well, again, it's clearly not that party anymore. But again, I don't want to make it seem like the Russians are brilliantly figuring out

how to brainwash American Republican congressmen and women. They know perfectly well what the truth is.

What they are willing to do is spout deliberately Russian propaganda in order to make their case at home. You know, if you want to be opposed to

Ukraine and obviously, you can't make a geopolitical argument for it because it's obviously in America's interest to do it. The argument that

you're going to make is that Ukraine is a Nazi government, or that Ukraine is filled -- is corrupt beyond all hope, or that the war is America's

fault, which is something that Marjorie Taylor Greene and others say.

But it's not that the Russians are succeeding, it's that these people are leaping on any argument that they can offer, and sometimes the Russians

give them some good arguments.

AMANPOUR: And finally, because Trump has been, you know, accused of being, you know, cozy with Putin. If he wins -- well, many have said that his

trials are just, you know, riling up his base even more and getting him more attention. What do you see? Do you see any political vulnerabilities

for Trump?

KAGAN: I mean, obviously there are political vulnerabilities when it comes to something like abortion. I think that potentially cuts into, you know,

that sort of allegedly moderate Republican vote in the suburbs, especially for women.

You know, I would like to think that the more people can be made to focus on the fact that he is a threat to our system, to our liberal democratic

system, that at least some people around the margins will decide that it's too big a risk to take.

But right now, I think like everyone else, it seems to me the election is too close to call, and I don't see what's going to change the present

dynamic, obviously the events we can't foresee. I certainly don't believe that his court trials are going to do so much significant damage to him

that it's going to affect the election.

AMANPOUR: Really interesting. Robert Kagan, thank you so much for being with us tonight.

Now, in New York, the Trump machine finds that it's not in control. In the courtroom, which we were just talking about, the judge presiding over

Trump's hush money election interference case has fined him $9,000 for violating a gag order. He also warned Trump could face jail time if he

continues to defy the order by publicly criticizing expected trial witnesses.

Stuart Stevens, a former Republican strategist, admits that he's still coming to grips today's GOP and its embrace of a man facing 91 criminal

charges, and the grand old party's creeping authoritarian character, as he explains with Walter Isaacson.


WALTER ISAACSON, CO-HOST, AMANPOUR AND CO.: Thank you, Christiane. And, Stuart Stevens, welcome back to the show.


ISAACSON: You've been a Republican strategist most of your life, worked for George Bush, Mitt Romney, and then have been part of the anti-Trump

movement in the Republican Party. Now, you're watching him on trial. In some ways, he's running on the notion of grievance and persecution. Does

this trial help him or hurt him?

STEVENS: Well, you know, I mean, I think that the sort of headline on this is that Trump is still a viable candidate and he's on trial. That in itself

is extraordinary. Look, I think if you're one of the smart people running the Trump campaign, and they do have smart professionals now, this isn't

what your ideal scenario would have been. But at the same time, it's not disqualifying for Trump, which it would be for any other candidate I can

think of.

And what -- the essence of that is that Trump's campaign, particularly in this cycle, is based on being a victim. It's the grievance campaign. I am

your retribution. The deep state is out to get us. What better proof that the deep state is out to get us than the deep state has me on trial.

ISAACSON: And you say these are really smart people running the campaign. Are they going to use this to help this politics of grievance?

STEVENS: Yes, they're going to use it to try to eat as a proof point. You know, if you have -- you have to get inside their heads, Walter, the whole

Trump thing. So, in their world, Trump won the presidency, the White House has been stolen. And the only way that they can stop Trump, who was the

legally elected president, they say, from winning again is to put them in jail.

So, this is just that process of the deep state trying to take away from you, the voter, your right to choose your president, and they would say,

restore democracy. It's sort of like the aliens built the pyramids. Once you understand that, everything else makes a lot of sense. You know, the

problem is aliens didn't build the pyramids. But that's how they see the world and this fits into that worldview.


ISAACSON: If Trump were not on trial, if there had not been all of these indictments, would he be in a stronger or a weaker position?

STEVENS: I think that the indictments helped him in the primary because it then became necessary to support Trump in the primary to prove that what

the Democrats were saying and they put in the same Democrats in the deep state are exactly the same.

I don't think it is going to help him in the general election. I think that there's something that is going to be disconcerting and wearing the people

to see a potential president of the United States, a former president of the United States on trial in multiple jurisdictions.

ISAACSON: But wait, haven't people been saying this for a year or two that eventually wear down?

STEVENS: Yes. Yes. But the audience has been -- the audience that has been voting has been that primary audience. And it was fascinating to see the

split in the primary electorate that pretty much the threshold belief that if you voted for Trump, you believe that he won the presidency last time.

Very few of Nikki Haley's voters believe that. The majority of the country doesn't believe that.

So, I just think that -- you know, I've compared the Trump candidacy to somebody walking around with a paper bag full of water. I don't think it's

going to leak, but I think there's a very good chance it's going to go -- and when it goes, it's going to be very hard to put the water back in the


ISAACSON: Were you surprised that the Republican Party, not just a hardcore base, but a majority of people in the primaries, rallied around

him that way?

STEVENS: Oh, Walter, you know, I had a going on a business sale with any optimism in the Republican Party. I think that we've seen a complete

collapse of any immoral authority of the party. And the people to blame are not Donald Trump. Donald Trump is just being Donald Trump. It's all of the

people that you and I know, and I helped elect a lot of them, who before Trump, they wouldn't have had lunch with Trump. They wouldn't let Trump in

their house.

They know that he's destructive to democracy. They know he's not a conservative. They know that Putin helped elect him. And yet, they still

support him.

ISAACSON: Why is that?

STEVENS: That is a profound question. And I asked myself that. And that led me to write this book, "It Was All a Lie." And what -- the only

conclusion I come to that makes any sense to me, and I think it makes any sense at all, is that all of these things that we espoused as deep values,

Walter, that the party held, character counts, strong on Soviet Union, strong on Russia, the deficit matters, all of these things, we said were

values were in fact just marketing slogans.

So, OK, that's not the case then. So, character really doesn't count. Sure, we'll support the candidate who supports Vladimir Putin in, you know, the

largest war in Europe since World War II. I don't know how else to come to a conclusion because people don't abandon deeply held beliefs in a couple

of years. And the party has just walked away from these.

You know, the Republican Party now doesn't really exist as a normal American political party in any kind of tradition. It exists to defeat

Democrats. And, you know, that's how cartels operate. Nobody asks OPEC, what is your higher purpose? You sell oil.

And, you know, it's not like a fun thing to admit. And I've spent a lot of sleepless nights trying to come to grips with it, but the Republican Party

now is an autocratic movement. And I think what you see in front of the Supreme Court, where they're actually trying to make the case that a

president is above the law, it's just further proof that. It's why they -- the conservative movement is in love with Viktor Orban and Vladimir Putin.

ISAACSON: There's a group of people in the Republican Party who have, of course, pushed back Liz Cheney, most prominent among them, even Senator

Mitt Romney, Former Vice President Mike Pence. Do you see the possibility that more and more Republicans like that will come forward between now and

the election?


STEVENS: I don't think there's many Republicans like them. I think if Trump is convicted it might make a difference with some. You know what -- I

think it's very interesting to look at, say, Chris Christie, who was a former client of mine. Loved the guy. Could not believe he endorsed Donald

Trump in 2016. I remember standing at Atlanta Airport and seeing, you know, CNN and literally tears came to my eyes. It was like, how is this person

that I love doing this.

And I think he would say it was a mistake now, which is good. What he's going out there and saying now is what should have been said. But when you

listen to Chris Christie, how do you come to any other conclusion but you have to support Joe Biden?

Same with Asa Hutchinson, who ran in the Republican primary, former governor of Arkansas, another former client of mine, a really good and

decent human being, and you may not agree with his politics. He has to support. Liz Cheney has to support Biden. Mitt Romney will support Biden. I

think --

ISAACSON: Well, you think or he should --

STEVENS: I think they will. I think those two definitely will.

ISAACSON: Do you think that Biden -- and Biden hadn't called them yet? Do you think Biden should reach out to all of them and create a Republicans

for Biden committee?

STEVENS: Sure. When the time is right. You know, if a prominent Republican came to me and said, I want to endorse Joe Biden, my advice, as wearing my

political consultant hat, would be, that's great. I would wait. Because if you do it now, it's not going to mean as much as if you do it, say, during

the Democratic Convention. And timing is pretty much everything in politics.

So, I hope this will happen. If Trump is convicted, it may make that entry ramp a little smoother. But really, you don't need a conviction in any of

these trials to know that Donald Trump should not be president. So, you know, it's just -- I mean, think about it, Walter, the Republican Party

doesn't have room for a Cheney? Really? A Cheney? What do you do with that?

And there is no Republican Party to go back to. And people just have to come to grips with that. There's a kind of false hope that somehow we can

just look beyond Trump, and McConnell expressed a lot of this, and a lot of these sort of gentry Republicans have held their nose and say, well, you

know, we're just going to be able to put Trump behind us.

No, no. The party -- there is a need for a center right conservative party in America. That cannot be the Republican Party as it's currently


ISAACSON: So, wait. What happens if there's a need for a center right party and the Republican Party has abandoned that? What do you see down the


STEVENS: I think 2032 is the best hope that you could have a sane center right party that will emerge. You know, pain is the best teacher in

politics. Arguably, maybe the only teacher. And what needs to happen is Republicans need to lose, and they need to lose again and again. And then,

out of some sense of survival, you could see a sane party emerging.

You know, a lot of this ultimately has to do with race, Walter. We're a country that's headed to becoming a minority majority country. If you're 16

years and under in America, you -- the majority are nonwhite. Trump's base is 85 percent white. And it's that reality that drives so much of the

Republican Party's efforts to change election laws and to sort of curate the election.

ISAACSON: You talk about the politics of grievance and of anti-corporate, anti-state feelings. How does Robert F. Kennedy Jr. fit into this equation?

STEVENS: It's a great question. I think it comes down to who RFK. Jr. is. If come October, and RFK Jr. is defined as a crusading environmentalist

lawyer that took on big corporations, that guy's going to hurt Joe Biden. If RFK Jr. is defined as this wacky conspiracy nut who has said that there

is no safe vaccine, which means he's basically the, you know, anti-polio vaccine candidate who believes -- has expressed these conspiracies about

the CIA killing his father and how, you know, Prozac leads to school shootings, I think that guy will probably hurt Trump more.


But, you know, if it was up to me, I would rather just have a straight race with no third-party candidates. It's a cleaner race. You have to make it a

choice between Trump and Biden. And there are voters out there who don't like Trump, who are uncomfortable with Biden. If you give them any sort of

socially accepted off ramp, my fear is that they'll take them.

That was a great fallacy of a no labels candidate. And all the candidates they talked about definitely would have just helped elect Donald Trump,

which maybe is one of the reasons that ultimately, they didn't go forward. But, you know, in The Lincoln Project, we're out there defining Robert

Kennedy for what he is, a conspiracy nut who's anti-vaxxer. I think that's what needs to be done. And I hope that's who he is in October.

ISAACSON: The last few lines of your op-ed, let me quote them to you. You say, we should not normalize how extraordinary it is that Mr. Trump is

still a viable candidate for president. The Biden campaign will watch the spectacle unfold asking, how is this guy still in the race? So, let me ask

you, how is this guy still in the race?

STEVENS: It goes, I think, to a fundamental hollowness that existed within the Republican Party that Trump brought to light.

ISAACSON: But also, the American electorate?

STEVENS: Well, you look at among Democrats, Trump is, you know, not getting a lot of support. But yes, you would have to say he is appealing to

a dark side of America. And we've had other candidates who did that. George Wallace did it. We just didn't have him nominated by a major political

party. The Democratic Party rejected George Wallace. The Republican Party embraced it.

You know, I think that there has been, by the establishment of the Republican Party embracing Trump, it has given a permission structure for

people who are troubled by a lot of Trump to say, well, he couldn't -- he must not be that bad. I think he's a little weird and all this, but, hey,

my governor -- I know my governor better. My Senator, they're normal humans. They support Trump. And that is the failure of the party not to

stand up to Trump.

But look, if you're going to ask me if Donald Trump wins his next race, does it say something that's very, very troubling about the future of

democracy? My answer overwhelmingly is yes. You know, it's difficult to talk about this without sounding alarmist, and language is one of the

issues that, you know, we struggle with. But I think if Donald Trump wins this election, it will be the last election that we can recognize as a

normal American election.

I know these people. As bad as you think they are, they are worse. They want a different America, and they're open about it when you really listen

to them, and that's why they embrace Russia so much. They look at Russia, and they say, OK. Russia, no nonwhite people in power. Putin says there's

no gays in Russia. There's no women in power. Elections are performative, but not decisive. That looks pretty good. And they embrace that.

So, the idea, you know, America is rapidly changing, non-college educated white voters have the largest declining demographic in the country, and

they find it unsettling and troubling and they would like to stop that. And they will -- they are about the business of trying to change elections so

that they reduce the power of those who see a different America. And that's -- the Electoral College facilitates that. Biden won by 7 million votes,

but it's 45,000 votes to change hands in just exactly the right places Trump would still win.

So, I think it's a race about the future of America. I think the cliche this is the most important race of our lifetime has never been more true.

ISAACSON: Stuart Stevens, thank you so much for joining us again.

STEVENS: Thank you, Walter.


AMANPOUR: So, that was two Republicans, two former Republicans, talking about their party today.

Next, we turn to India, a key example of the power of religious nationalist authoritarianism, while also being the world's largest democracy.


With nearly a billion people eligible to vote, the election is taking six weeks to complete. But, as current Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a

third term, people fear a rise in religious segregation in a country where tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities are already high, and the

press finds itself threatened too. As Correspondent Will Ripley found out, some are accusing Modi of using Islamophobic rhetoric on the campaign



WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Varanasi, on India's holiest river, the Ganges, Hindus worship with the purifying power of fire.

But smoldering religious tensions risk igniting a dangerous conflict between India's Hindu nationalists and their Muslim neighbors, who tell us

they no longer feel welcome or safe.

We came here as tensions are rising over this 17th century mosque. Hindus say it sits on land stolen from them hundreds of years ago. Now, they're

fighting in court to get it back.

SM YASEEN, MUSLIM LEADER: My community is very much worried.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Longtime Muslim leader SM Yaseen says Hindus are trying to take over their mosque.

RIPLEY: How difficult is it to fight this in court?

YASEEN: It's very difficult. Nobody is listening to us. Nobody.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Yaseen blames India's popular prime minister, Narendra Modi, for mixing politics and religion. Modi's political opponents

say he's marginalizing the nation's more than 200 million Muslims.

YASEEN: They are treating us as second-class citizens.

SWAMI JITENDRANAND SARASWATI, HINDU RELIGIOUS LEADER (through translator): If they're saying they feel like they are second-class citizens, then this

makes me happy.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Swami Jitendranand Saraswati is a Hindu spiritual leader with views on Muslims many would consider Islamophobic.

SARASWATI (through translator): In the blood of a Muslim, there is a desire to want to riot all the time.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Muslim shopkeeper Shamsher Ali feels like he's being pushed out.

SHAMSHER ALI, MUSLIM SHOPKEEPER (through translator): Anything can happen at any point. That is the amount of hate now. They say, leave the country.

Where will we go? We were born here. We will die here. This is my country.

RIPLEY (voice-over): A country where violence against Muslims is on the rise. A Delhi police officer was caught on camera last month kicking a

group of Muslim men praying by the side of the road. The video went viral. The officer suspended. Another police officer arrested for killing three

Muslims on a train, praising the prime minister while standing over their bodies.

The worst was in 2020. Violence broke out between Hindus and Muslims in the capital, New Delhi. Dozens of people died, mostly Muslims. It happened

around the same time Modi was meeting then-President Donald Trump. Even those who survived one of the darkest chapters in India's recent history

will never be the same.

Nasir Ali says a Hindu man shot him in the face near his home, the one place he should have been safe. He says the police did practically nothing,

a charge they deny.

NASIR ALI, DELHI RESIDENT (through translator): Everyone was feeling unsafe. We can no longer rely on the police.

RIPLEY (voice-over): A court order called their investigation casual, callous, and farcical. Four years later, the case is still ongoing in a

higher court.

RIPLEY: Is there justice for Muslims like you in India today?

ALI (through translator): No. Our only crime is that we are Muslims.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The national spokesperson for Prime Minister Modi's party, the BJP, says people of all religions have the same rights.

RIPLEY: Is this a Hindu first government?

JAIVEER SHERGILL, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY: India by fabric, by design, by structure, by constitution, is secular. India's

constitution protects the Indian democracy. No political party in country is strong enough to bulldoze the constitution, to bulldoze the will of the


RIPLEY (voice-over): Muslim-owned buildings are literally being bulldozed in what the government calls a crackdown on illegal construction and

accused criminals. A brand of bulldozer justice all too common in India.

Prime Minister Modi accused of adding fuel to the fire when he used a derogatory term for Muslims at a recent election rally.

NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Should you hard earned money be given to infiltrators?

RIPLEY (voice-over): He's running for a rare third term.

RIPLEY: What is the worst that could happen, in your view, over the next five years?

YASEEN: What happened, I don't know, but that will be not good for our country.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Many Muslims in Modi's India say it doesn't feel like their country anymore.



AMANPOUR: And later this week, tune in for my conversation with Sathnam Sanghera where we dig into Modi and the British empire's legacy. Take a

quick look.


SATHNAM SANGHERA, AUTHOR, EMPIREWORLD": India is fundamentally, when it was born, a secular nation We saw what happened when it became religious

based with partition, up to 2 million people died, 15 million people were displaced. That's what can happen when you turn that part of the world into

a matter of religion. And it's very worrying what he's doing in India, I think, as a seat person, as someone who comes from a minority family.


AMANPOUR: And that's it for now. Thank you for watching. Goodbye from London.