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Interview With International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi; Interview With Holocaust Survivor Yehudit Tzamir; Interview With Foreign Policy Editor In Chief Ravi Agrawal; Interview With "Minority Rule" Author Ari Berman. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired May 08, 2024 - 13:00   ET



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

The U.S. pauses a bomb shipment to Israel over their potential use in a Rafah offensive. We have the latest.

And, as fears of a wider war between Israel and Iran persist, so do the nuclear concerns. My conversation with Rafael Grossi, head of the

International Atomic Energy Agency.

Then, this. As the world remembers the victims of the Holocaust, I'm joined by Yehudit Tzamir, a survivor of the Holocaust whose family narrowly

avoided death amid the October 7th attacks.

Also, ahead, India decides. We discuss the colossal impact of the biggest election in human history with Robbie Agrawal, the editor in chief of

Foreign Policy.

Plus, "Minority Rule," Author Ari Berman tells me about his new book, examining the integrity of American democracy.

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the program. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.

Well, the United States has paused a shipment of ammunition to Israel, including bombs weighing 2,000 pounds. All of this amid concerns over their

potential use in Rafah in Gaza. That's according to a U.S. official.

It comes as Israel says its military operation in the Southern Gaza City will continue until Hamas is eliminated or until the first hostages return

home. Roughly 50,000 people have left the area in the last 24 hours after evacuation orders.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the deadline is fast approaching for a high stakes report on whether Israel has violated international humanitarian law

in war, something that could have repercussions for future U.S. armed supplies.

Let's go to CNN's Jeremy Diamond now, who is following all of the developments for us in Jerusalem. So, Jeremy, as we're following Israel's

operation, what is being described as a limited operation for now in Rafah, talk to us about the humanitarian impact we're already seeing and some of

the concerns that lie in the days to come.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you said, Bianna, the military operation may be limited to the part of Eastern Rafah, around the Rafah

border crossing, but the impact is quite enormous and it will only grow larger in the coming days if that Rafah Border Crossing is not reopened.

We have already watched as this operation has now forced one of three functioning hospitals in Rafah to shut down. Al Nasser hospital in in

Eastern Rafah fell within that red zone that has been ordered to evacuate by the Israeli military, and it has now closed its doors to patients.

Patients and staff have fled. They've tried to set up a new field hospital further west in Central Rafah, but that hospital only has about a third of

the capacity of the actual hospital that has now been forced to shut down.

Humanitarian aid officials are also sounding the alarm about a lack of fuel in Rafah, warning that in the coming days, if more fuel doesn't get in via

that Rafah Border Crossing that that will pose enormous problems for the remaining hospitals and medical facilities in the area.

And of course, that Rafah Border Crossing is critical not just because it's an entry point for humanitarian aid and fuel, but also because it's where

medical evacuations can take place to Egypt. It's also where humanitarian aid officials are able to get in and out of Gaza from. So, a lot of

critical impacts as a result of these military operations and the ongoing fighting.

The Israeli military, for its, part isn't signaling how long this operation will last at this stage. But what they say that they are doing is

conducting what they call targeted raids against Hamas militants in the area as well as uncovering infrastructure belonging to Hamas, including

discovering, they say, several tunnel shafts in the area.

GOLODRYGA: And, Jeremy, it was interesting to note yesterday, the Israeli defense minister, Yoav Gallant, as I read, said that this war inside and

this particular operation inside of Rafah will continue until Hamas is eliminated or until the hostages, the first hostages return home, which

leads us to the ceasefire negotiations, which are happening in real-time right now once again.


And we know the CIA director is in Israel planning to meet with the prime minister. Talk to us about where things stand right now.

DIAMOND: Yes, I mean, my Israeli sources have repeatedly emphasized to me that this Rafah operation could end if the two parties, Israel and Hamas,

are able to reach an agreement for a hostage release and a ceasefire agreement. But as of now, it appears that these two parties still remain

quite far apart.

But there is a lot of work to try and bridge the gap. We saw today that Israeli delegation that left for Cairo, Egypt yesterday, they remained

there today to continue further negotiations on a separate front, on a separate higher level I should say.

The CIA director, Bill Burns, arrived in Israel today meeting with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the head of the

Mossad, David Barnea, to have a high-level conversation about the state of those negotiations.

The Israeli war cabinet, as I understand it, is currently meeting right now in reduced numbers given the sensitivity and the importance of the matter

to discuss the state of those negotiations. We know that there are several key differences between the proposal that Hamas seems to have agreed to and

the one that Israel helped craft with Egypt and tacitly endorse. One of those being, of course, that Hamas is still pushing for Israel to commit to

a permanent ceasefire in a second phase of this agreement.

There's also the notion that Hamas is saying, look, we're not sure if we have 33 living hostages meeting that first humanitarian category, women,

children, the elderly, the sick. And so, they are proposing to fill out the remaining number of those 33 with the bodies of hostages who are dead and

who Hamas is still holding in Gaza. An Israeli source of mine familiar with the talks, telling me that that is a total nonstarter.

So, those are just two of the issues among several others that are still separating these two sides. And so, it's clear, a lot more negotiation

needs to happen. And then, of course, there's the question of political will on both sides. Yahya Sinwar in Gaza, does he want this war to end?

Does he want a ceasefire to bring reprieve to the Palestinian people?

And same goes for the Israeli prime minister, who is beholden, in many ways, to a right-wing governing coalition that favors a military offensive

in Rafah over the release of hostages. So, a lot of different factors at play here. A lot of different pieces of this agreement to still iron out

and a lot of uncertainty, Bianna, about whether or not it can be achieved.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, tragically, now this war has entered its seventh month. Jeremy Diamond, thank you.

Well, now, as the conflict in Gaza continues, fears of a wider war still remain, while last month's exchange of strikes between Israel and Iran

appears to have de-escalated for now. Iran's nuclear development, left largely unchecked, is a cause for concern, particularly after Donald Trump

pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018.

Rafael Grossi is the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency and met with Iran's nuclear chief just yesterday in hopes of

reaching a new package of measures. He joined me from Vienna today to discuss where things stand.

Director Grossi, thank you so much for your time. I know Iran and the IAEA are still negotiating a deal from last year to try to expand inspections of

the country's nuclear program. You just returned from Iran and you said that cooperation in terms of Iran regarding its nuclear program is

"completely unsatisfactory." How specifically is Iran being uncooperative?

RAFAEL GROSSI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY: Well, what I said is that the situation is unsatisfactory. Cooperation is not at

the level it should be. It would not be correct to say that there is no interaction. Let us put it in a less subjective way. Because the IAEA is

inspecting in Iran. But what I have been saying is that we are not inspecting at the levels and with the degree of visibility that we should

be taken into account or given the nature of the program, the breadth and depth of the program.

So, the situation in this regard is in a deficit, if you want. And one of the reasons that took me there was to try to see if we can improve it after

a long period of lack of communication, lack of conversation.

GOLODRYGA: So, what exactly do you have access to and what do you not have access to? For example, you state that you can't guarantee that Iran

centrifuges are being used for secret enrichment.

GROSSI: Well, the inspections that we conduct at the moment in Iran correspond to the basic safeguards, which in other words, or in simple

English is the inspections that the IAEA carries out normally in nuclear facilities around the world.


However, in the case of Iran, of course, activities are wider. There are elements, for example, like the production of centrifuges, last generation

centrifuges, accumulating important amounts of enriched uranium at close to military level on which we do not have visibility because this kind of

inspection that came on top of the normal, if you want, type of inspection were part of the now almost defunct, not completely, but almost defunct

JCPOA. This agreement, as you may remember, that was agreed in 2015 between the P5 plus Germany and Iran, which was sidelined after the withdrawal by

the United States and then by Iran itself.

So, we are in a situation where the agency has been losing a lot of visibility on very, very strategic activities in Iran, which is what we

have been trying to recover in spite of the fact, as I said, that the JCPOA is not being implemented. So, in this regard, it is a very, very complex


GOLODRYGA: I know in January you had warned that Tehran had enough enriched uranium to near weapons grade to make "several nuclear bombs." Does that

warning still hold today?

GROSSI: It does, perhaps even more today because they continue the production of enriched uranium. But we have to be clear, this does not mean

they have nuclear weapons at this point. That is not the case. What we are working on very hard with them is to prevent that from happening.

There are a number of technological developments. Enriching uranium is one. There are other things that are necessary before you can have an

operational nuclear warhead.

So, what we are trying to reconstruct here is a level of activity, of inspection, of visibility for the agency to give the necessary guarantees

to the International Community that activities in Iran do not pose a proliferation, if you want, a threat or a danger. This is a very complex

sort of conversation where political things, highly technical things come together and it requires these efforts that we are, you know, trying to

bring to a good solution.

GOLODRYGA: Has the war in Gaza made your job more difficult?

GROSSI: Well, indeed, it has, because we are not working on a vacuum here, and the degree of tension is the one that we all know. And with regards

specifically to Iran, there has been exchanges of fire, including where I was meeting yesterday in the City of Isfahan, which was also one of the

targets of the recent fire exchanges between Israel and Iran. And Isfahan is a city that hosts a number of nuclear facilities. I should say that none

of them was hit or impact by this exchange of fire or these missiles or rockets or whatever it was from Israel. But it's very revealing that this

happened in this way.

GOLODRYGA: My last question is about Russia. Because, once again, we saw a huge overnight barrage of missiles and drones by Russia, specifically

targeting Ukraine's energy infrastructure. I know we spent a lot of time talking about concerns on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant itself and

the role of drones that you have spoken out about.

But let me ask you most recently about Russia's statement and Vladimir Putin saying that they will start preparations for missile drills near

Ukraine, simulating the use of tactical nuclear weapons in response to what Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin call "threats" from western officials.

Ukrainians dismiss this as nuclear blackmail. How do you react to this news?

GROSSI: Well, I would say these are two different things. On the one hand, of course, we are we -- have a responsibility when it comes to the

situation at the Zaporizhzhianuclear power plant, where we have people there, a permanent deployment and we are following the situation in

accordance with a number of parameters we have set in order to avoid a nuclear accident there.


What you mentioned is the possibility of drills, including the possibility of nuclear weapons. There have been also, in the past, some references to

the alertness of the Russian arsenal on this, although, the agency does not have a direct responsibility. Of course, we are deeply concerned. We

believe that this adds to the gravity of the situation.

And quite clearly, we do not think that nuclear weapons have a place in this conflict, and in any conflict, by the way. But in particular, in this

one. We are, of course, very attentive, but because when we -- when things like this happen, tensions around the plant increase. In a state of war,

naturally nuclear is one of the same thing, although a nuclear power plant and nuclear weapons are different.

This risk of an amalgam with potential dangerous consequences is always there. So, our teams are following this by the minute.

GOLODRYGA: Rafael Grossi, thank you so much for your time.

GROSSI: Thank you very much.

GOLODRYGA: And still to come for us after the break, remembering the Holocaust. For survivor Yehudit Tzamir, the events of October 7th hit close

to home. She shares with me how she's been coping.


GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. Well, this week marks the annual days of remembrance of the Holocaust in Israel and the United States, and it comes

at a particularly fraught time. With more than 130 Israeli hostages still in captivity and the war on Gaza ongoing, President Biden spoke of a

resurgence of antisemitism in his speech Tuesday, drawing parallels between the horrors of the Holocaust and the massacres on October 7th.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Now, here we are, not 75 years later, but just seven and a half months later and people are already forgetting. They're

already forgetting that Hamas unleashed this terror. It was Hamas that brutalized Israelis. It was Hamas that took and continues to hold hostages.

I have not forgotten, nor have you. And we will not forget.



GOLODRYGA: Tragically, among the survivors of October 7th were also survivors of the Holocaust. Yehudit Tzamir was born in Germany during World

War II and given to a foster family to protect her identity. Now 80 years old, during October 7th, her kibbutz was attacked while her children were


This week, she visited Auschwitz to take part in the March of the Living. Yehudit had previously turned down invitations to visit the Nazi death

camp. But this year, she felt it was important to go. And Yehudit Tzamir joins me now live from Tel Aviv. Yehudit, thank you so much for joining us.

Welcome to the program.

You have quite a story. You moved to Israel at the age of 20, and until recently, until October 7th, you lived on Kibbutz Mefalsim. Luckily, you

weren't inside the kibbutz that day, but your children and your grandchildren were. Fortunately, there were soldiers who protected the

kibbutz, but all of its residents have since been told to leave for their own safety.

Seven months have now gone by since that horrific day. How are you? How is your family doing?

YEHUDIT TZAMIR, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR: Well, we still are feeling that we were driven out of our homes. And I myself really to come back as soon as

possible. And I'm happy to know that my children do want to go back, which is not the case with all of the members of the kibbutz.

So, I am afraid that we will come back to a settlement that there are not that many children striving about as I had been before.

GOLODRYGA: And few can --

TZAMIR: Then I was invited to --

GOLODRYGA: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

TZAMIR: Now, when I was invited to go to Auschwitz, it was a mixture of surprise and anxiety. You see, I didn't feel that I was a Holocaust

survivor. I wasn't brought up like a Holocaust survivor because I have no number on my arm. And I never was in any camp.

But then, of course, I am a survivor, both of October 7th and of the Holocaust. But those are mixed feelings. There was a lot of anxiety that it

would erase memories I would rather forget. And actually, the March of the Living did arouse those memories

GOLODRYGA: And do you have a unique perspective, Yehudit, somebody who did not actually experience the horrors of the camps? You were born into war.

You were born in 1943. For your own safety, your mother had given you into foster care. For many years you were raised. You didn't even know that you

were Jewish.

And I'm wondering from your own experience from what you know of the horrors of the Holocaust and how that changed you and those around you, is

that, in a way, helping you now with your own family, with your own grandchildren who are seven months into a war in their own country?

TZAMIR: I don't think that I am able to help them very much in that respect. It's -- of course, life made me harder than maybe it would have if

I would grow up in a normal family, which I didn't. But luckily, my children have their own family and they know how to cope. I think it's

rather the other way around, they try to help me to cope with the second time of having lost my home. Even though it still stands there's no

physical damage to my house, but still the feeling is of lost.

GOLODRYGA: Once again, your life has been tragically uprooted. I want to ask you about your experience in visiting Auschwitz. As we noted in the

past, you have turned down such invitations. You felt it was important to go this year. You marched along with 55 other survivors. I know you said

you were welcomed quite warmly there. Tell us about your experience this week.

TZAMIR: My experience was that, maybe for the first time, I realized that I am part not only of the Israeli kibbutz family, but also of the Jews all

over the world. And my experience was that, first of all, of course, it strengthened my identity as a Jew, but it only made me feel better than

having such a big family around me all over the world.


GOLODRYGA: You say it's strengthened --

TZAMIR: My family of Jews.

GOLODRYGA: You said it strengthened your connection with Judaism. I just am wondering now, as you reflect 80 years of life, given what you've

experienced, both of your parents were actually serving in the German army. Your mother delivered you. And then -- in a German hospital. You were

raised for a few years by nuns. As I mentioned, you didn't know you were initially Jewish for your own safety. After all of this, after the October

7th attacks, what is being Jewish? What is being Israeli mean for you today?

TZAMIR: See, even if I'm not religious, I have a culture that it's already 60 years I'm living in it. The (INAUDIBLE), I started that in Germany when

I was in my teens. I already had the connection to the Jewish community.

But in Israel, that identity became much more overall, over all my life. We have the holidays, the celebrations, the Jewish background, the Jewish

history, that's all around me. So, that I had. But what I won during the March of the Living is the connection to Jews in other countries, which

make me proud of our background, of our culture, of our religion.

GOLODRYGA: What did you feel when you heard the words yesterday from President Biden delivered to address not only the Holocaust, which every

president does each year, but also the significance of his statements about stamping out antisemitism and the fact that in -- according to his views,

there is a connection between the horrors of the Holocaust and then the tragic attacks of October 7th, which he says too many people are forgetting

and that he and U.S., the Americans will not forget?

TZAMIR: I won't forget either, because being a survivor of 7th October made it clear to me that I would go to the March of the Living, that I would

show that I'm proud being Jewish and I will not allow anybody to take that from me.

See, Hamas is a very extreme of Islam. And I think that President Biden is right in remembering the world, that they should remember it too. Because

remember Iran, that's not only against Israel, that's against the western world as a whole. Hamas is a very extreme of Islam. Not all Muslims are

like that. But what Hamas did in the Gaza Strip was exactly spreading that kind of religion that allows them to murder Jews in the first (INAUDIBLE).

But I'm not sure that we will be the last.

I'm wondering why Christians are so quiet about their own fate. Why they don't see that that is not only against Jews, that's against everybody who

is not Islam.

GOLODRYGA: Yehudit, our final moments here together. I know you are so desperate to go back. You would like to go back to your home. There's over

200,000 Israelis that have now been displaced from the north and the south. How likely, how realistic do you think it will be that you will be able to

return to your kibbutz anytime soon?

TZAMIR: I will return whatever. See, we are living 60 years near the border. There were better times near the border. There were times where we

would visit friends in the Gaza Strips. That we are having feasts together. So, there's a possibility of a better life together, and I surely will go

back. And maybe not in my lifetime, but I hope that anywhere in the future, some other government will be in the Gaza Strip, some other kind of

education will be -- that shows people that we can live together. And if we would do that, it would be better for most parts, especially for the Gaza


GOLODRYGA: So, you're still optimistic for peace?


TZAMIR: I have to be. I have to be. I want to be.

GOLODRYGA: Yehudit Tzamir, you speak for so many when you say you have to be, you want to be, there has to be peace. Thank you so much for joining us

and telling us your story.

TZAMIR: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, still to come for us, elections in the world's largest democracy. What would another five years under Indian President Modi look

like? Foreign Policy Editor in Chief Ravi Agrawal joins me after the break.


GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. Well, next to India's elections, a huge six-week democratic process where nearly a billion people have a vote to decide who

will lead the country for the next five years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cast his vote this week as he seeks a third term, buoyed by strong

economic growth and a country that his supporters say has been transformed under his leadership.

But critics point to a worsening of press freedom, an increased authoritarian atmosphere, and fear a further rollback of India's secular

foundations as Modi pushes a Hindu nationalist agenda. Ravi Agrawal is editor in chief of Foreign Policy and is the author of "India Connected."

Thank you so much for joining us, Ravi. Welcome back to the program.

So, here we are, the largest vote in democracy in the world that we've been watching now for nearly two months. This will be ongoing. Modi, as we know

and we'll be discussing, has largely been criticized by the West, but he is incredibly popular at home. He's largely expected to win in a landslide.

Describe his power and his popularity at home among Indians.

RAVI AGRAWAL, EDITOR IN CHIEF, FOREIGN POLICY: Well, his power stems from his popularity. Most incumbent leaders around the world struggle to really

hit 40, 50 percent approval ratings. Modi has had an approval rating in the high 70 percent range for the better part of the last decade, which is when

he's been in power.

In an Indian history, most leaders tend to cobble together coalition parliaments. Modi has actually been able to win elections on his own with

his party. In the last couple of elections, he's actually expanded his vote share. And a lot of that comes from a range of factors. The economy has

been doing quite well overall. He's seen as a leader who gets things done. He has a CEO style mentality. He's installed technocrats in a wide variety

of positions.


And as you pointed out, there are also criticisms. Debate is less vibrant in the country than it used to be. Freedom of the press has receded. The

judiciary's independence has been eroded. But by and large, it seems like despite all of that, enough Indians seem to think that all of the things

Modi is doing for the country is putting it generally in the right trajectory.

GOLODRYGA: So, despite all of that and his threats to checks and balances and democracy as a whole, they view the economic boom as something that's

really elevated his popularity in the country and that will likely -- that will -- is expected to lock in a third term here.

Let's talk about the economy. It has almost doubled. The stock market has tripled. It's the world's fifth largest economy. It's on pace to be and on

track to be the third largest in just a few years. Poverty has decreased. GDP has grown at about 6.5 percent. But the gains have been unequal. That

latter part aside, how much credit does he deserve for where the economy has grown to this point?

AGRAWAL: I mean, this is the biggest part of the economics debate in India. So, under Modi, you're absolutely right, India has grown. But the question

is, was it going to grow anyway? Because India's starting from a very low base, GDP per capita in India, even now, is just about two and a half

thousand dollars a year. That is one-fifth that of China's. It is 1-30th that of the United States.

So, even though India is growing rapidly, it's from such a low base and it has such a ways to go that you kind of have to see it in that perspective.

I think where Modi has done particularly well is infrastructure. So, every year India is building about 6,000 miles of roads. The number of airports

has doubled in the last decade.

So, all kinds of infrastructural pushes that are led by the prime minister, and he's very good at marketing these wins, he puts his face on every

single thing that he can do, that helps. And people see him as moving the needle on some of that.

But there are problems. India has a very high unemployment rate, given if you compare it to its peers. More than that, youth unemployment is

dangerously high, at about 15 percent. 83 percent of the number of employed in India are actually the country's young. So, in as much as almost half of

all Indians are under the age of 28 or so, many of them don't have great prospects in the future. And at some stage, that might catch up with Modi


GOLODRYGA: Yes, I've read some statistic that out of the 1 billion that are workforce eligible, I think only 100 million have full-time jobs, which

gives you a sense of some of the challenges that lie ahead for the country.

Let's talk about the other challenges for this democracy. I mentioned some of them. A real turn towards nationalism that has gone from a dog whistle

to outright blatant. Just this week during these elections, police in India opened a case against senior leaders of the BJP Party over social media

post that opposition leaders say demonizes Muslims. Muslims make up 15 percent of the population in the country.

Talk about the concern that that attack alone and that the demonization that many feel that his policies have inflicted upon Muslims has.

AGRAWAL: This is a very real problem in India. And I think civil liberties, activists are very upset, rightly so, about the general mood in India where

it has become OK to sort of sound these dog whistles that are anti-Muslim.

Some of this is just pure electoral math. I think Modi and his election strategists are deeply aware that 80 percent of India is Hindu. If they win

just half of the Hindu vote, they're going to dominate every election from here on onwards. They're very aware of that. And there are times when they

decide to play up mobilizing Hindu support against any internal other, and the biggest internal other is Muslims, who comprise about 14 percent of

India's population.

There are segments of India that actually like this kind of polarization, clearly. It has been electorally successful. But of course, it's incredibly

damaging for the fabric of Indian society. India is a country that was founded on secularism. It was a defining principle of the country when it

was founded in 1947, so much so that it is exactly what made it different from, say, Pakistan, which was created as a homeland for Muslims.

Modi sees India as a Hindu nation. And this is not just his view. This is the view of his party. This is the view of the RSS, which is the parent

figure of his party, the BJP, going back a hundred years. And the question is whether the -- this idea of India, this vision of India as a Hindu

country, is something whose momentous time has come and that enough people believe and buy into what Modi is saying on the campaign trail and his

vision of what India needs to be.


GOLODRYGA: What about the trampling of press freedom as well? This has been a concern among the press, among journalists around the world. It was

raised during the state visit as well in the United States earlier this year. Any indication of the concern among Indians themselves about the

direction this oppression may be going?

AGRAWAL: Yes. So, the press conference you were referring to with President Biden, you don't see those press conferences in India. Modi has not done an

open press conference in India where journalists just lob questions at him. He does not sit down for interviews with journalists who are going to ask

him tough questions.

He has sat down for interviews recently with some Indian outlets as well as "Newsweek," but those interviews are widely seen as ones that were either

planned ahead of time or didn't run as actual Q&As. They sounded more like press releases.

Freedom of the press in India has declined. If you look at global rankings, India ranks about 161st in the world out of 180 countries for press

freedom. That is a ranking that has dropped precipitously in the last decade or so.

But by and large, you know, Indians see the media landscape and there isn't enough at this moment internal criticism about the media. And I think that

is something that would need to change and India's civil society would need to demand from within changes. Because when they see Interviews like this

one, which will be broadcast in India, by the way, and will be dismissed as a western point of view, some of the criticism from within, I think, will

be much more powerful, and that's really what India needs more of, domestic media that can speak truth to power.

GOLODRYGA: As we mentioned, the power of Modi and his popularity and the BJP Party now expected to win a supermajority in parliament thanks to his

unique popularity. What does that say about the weakness in the opposition party and that being the Indian National Congress?

AGRAWAL: India does not have a strong opposition. India's opposition is fractured. It is often seen as dynastic, and Modi has very successfully

played himself against that. He is able to project himself as someone who's not a dynast. Someone who's self-made. Someone who is a man of the people.

That's very popular in a country like India, which, in this current, moment looks down on dynasts.

The opposition, the main party nationally, the Congress Party, which is, you know, the party that gave India its first prime minister and many of

its early leaders dominated India's early years, it is run by the great grandson of India's first prime minister. He is largely seen as an

ineffectual dynast. That may change at some point. But for now, that's the reason why we think India's Modi is going to win.

GOLODRYGA: It's working to Modi's favor as well through this election. Ravi Agrawal, thank you for joining us.

AGRAWAL: Pleasure.

GOLODRYGA: Well, up next on the show, America's democratic ideals versus an undemocratic reality. Ari Berman, author of "Minority Rule," says the

levers of power are being manipulated to favor the few. He tells me how when we come back.



GOLODRYGA: Well, U.S. President Biden famously says democracy is on the ballot in this year's unprecedented election. But in a new book, journalist

Ari Berman points out that democracy that is equal representation for all has never really existed in America.

In "Minority Rule: The Right-Wing Attack on the Will of the People and the Fight to Resist It," Berman warns that a constitution designed to protect

the rights of the privileged faces new threats from a systematic campaign of election subversion.

Berman is a veteran reporter on the Voting Rights (INAUDIBLE). And he joins me now. Ari, thank you so much for joining us. Welcome to the program.

If we could just get back to that statement that we constantly hear from President Biden, a warning to voters, I would say we've heard it not just

in the 2024 election cycle, but in 2020 as well, democracy is on the ballot. What does that even mean? Do you think that line resonates with


ARI BERMAN, AUTHOR: Well, hi, Bianna. Thank you so much for having me on the program. I think what President Biden means by democracy is on the

ballot is that our democratic rights are at stake. And I think it is true in the sense that we're at a moment in time in U.S. history in which it

does feel like so many rights and freedoms that Americans have had for so many years are on the verge of potentially being taken away.

But it's also important to note that this is not a new conversation, that we've been having these debates about political power and about democracy

going back to the founding period. And that's what I traced in my book, is that actually, our democratic institutions were not all that democratic

when they were created. And there's been this tension throughout American history of who should democracy benefit and who are democratic institutions

created for.

GOLODRYGA: We look at -- you know, listen, there are problems with both major parties in the country right now. But I was really struck,

specifically given the Republican Party's history on cracking down against Russian authoritarianism, against communism in the past, some of the most

hawkish foreign policy came from Republicans. And we now have Republican elected officials who have said in recent weeks that they are concerned

that some members, some factions within their party are parroting Russian talking points, Hungarian talking points. I'm talking about Viktor Orban,

Vladimir Putin, who was just now inaugurated, and I say that, you know, in air quotes for a fifth term.

What does that say about the direction that one of our two major parties is headed and the fact that that doesn't seem to raise more alarm bells than

it has?

BERMAN: What it says is that Donald Trump has succeeded in transforming the Republican Party into a pro-authoritarian party. Trump has been very

outspoken in his praise for authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin, and many other Republicans have followed them. And they're looking to countries

like Hungary as a model. They want to create a what's known as in a liberal democracy, right, where you have a democracy in theory, but democratic

institutions have been rigged to benefit the party in power.

And I think that's what Trump has been trying to do. He has tried to weaponize democratic institutions when those democratic institutions have

not worked for him. In the case of losing the 2020 election, for example, he has tried to topple those democratic institutions, and he's really

looked to authoritarian regimes abroad as the model, in many ways, for how they want to do things.

GOLODRYGA: Ari, you know, we keep hearing the term from time to time, Trumpnesia, that given everything that happened in Trump's four years and

now, you know, seeing him in trial, sitting in court, and this is just a number -- one of a number of cases that he's involved with and been

indicted for.

The polarization of that, especially after January 6th, are you -- and I know how skeptical you've been, it's one of the reasons -- and concerned

you've been, it's one of the reasons you wrote this book, but are even you surprised at how -- at least right now, in the polls, how close both Joe

Biden and Donald Trump are?


BERMAN: Yes. And what's really alarming, Bianna, is the way that the insurrection has become normalized in Republican circles. I mean, there was

basically a very strong consensus after January 6th that this was an awful act. And I'm writing about minority rule in my book, the insurrection was

the most brazen attempt to overturn the will of the majority in modern times. And it was repudiated by pretty much every single elected


And now, we have, just a few years later, 70 percent of Republicans saying that they believe the election was stolen, the attempt by Trump and his

allies to rewrite the history of January 6th, to turn the insurrectionist into patriots, this is very, very dangerous. And my worry here is that we

are normalizing one of the most abnormal things that's happened in American history. And people are just saying either forget it or move on when this

was an attack, the worst attack we've had in modern times on the core of U.S. democracy.

GOLODRYGA: And the fact that now -- and I understand maybe they're saying it to get on the president's V.P. shortlist, the former president's V.P.

shortlist. But now, it's almost become standard operating procedure for many prominent Republicans to go out publicly and not be able to answer the

simple question of whether or not they would accept the results of an election. I mean, we were talking about January 6th and the certification

back then.

And now, you know, just as recently as this weekend, Tim Scott was asked a number of times if he would do so in 2024 and he couldn't answer the

question. Or he wouldn't.

BERMAN: Yes, and it's a very simple yes or no question. And it's quite frankly a question that previous Republicans would have answered with no

problem. George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, they would have of course said they would accept the results of the election.

And so, this is a way in which Trump has normalized this radicalization against democracy, that the big lie of a stolen election has become a

litmus test within the Republican Party, saying that you'll contest the 2024 election is the only way that you'll make the V.P. shortlist, and this

just mirrors it a broader movement against democracy within the Republican Party.

And one of my frustrations about how the election is being covered is it's being covered as Biden versus Trump, a battle between two personalities, as

opposed to the question is, do we have one party that's largely committed to democracy and the other party that's largely committed to

authoritarianism? And I think the danger of authoritarianism in this election cannot be overstated.

You've covered it a lot of in other countries, Bianna, it's happening right here too. A lot of the illiberal tactics that are going on in all other

parts of the world, they're happening in America right now, and it's very alarming the extent to which it's becoming normalized. And we're just

saying, this is part of the political process, because it hasn't been part of the political process in years past, and all these undemocratic things

now are being treated as normal when they really are not.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. What does that even say about some of our institutions, like the Supreme Court, which has now taken up the case presidential

immunity, and just listening to the oral arguments there, raising a lot of concerns about the direction that some of these justices, the majority of

them were headed? Again, this was something that most -- all legal experts that we would speak with said should have been a no-brainer. And yet, even

one of our revered institutions now seems to be really questioning whether a president is indeed, I guess, you know, a king in many respects in the

United States.

BERMAN: Well, that's one of the big themes of my book, that our democratic institutions aren't as democratic as we'd like to believe. You look at the

current composition of the Supreme Court, for the first time in U.S. history, five of six conservative justices were appointed by Republican

presidents who initially lost the popular vote, and confirmed by senators who represented a minority of Americans.

So, the Supreme Court is a product of minority rule, and then they have deepened minority rule by issuing decisions doing things like gutting the

Voting Rights Act that has made the country less democratic, doing things that are directly at odds with public opinion, like overturning Roe v.

Wade, and then doing things that seem to protect Donald Trump's authoritarianism, like preventing a trial on January 6th, when, as you

said, the vast majority, pretty much every major legal expert, says that there's no way that the president enjoys blanket immunity.

So, I think the Supreme Court, under the current conservative majority, has both tilted the political system to benefit Trump, and it now seems to be

protecting Trump directly. And that's very dangerous in a system of checks and balances, when the court, the Congress, and other institutions are

supposed to act as a check when presidents commit lawless acts, like inciting an insurrection.

GOLODRYGA: Ari Berman, I was hoping to ask you about any hope for optimism that you see out there right now. I don't know that there's much, but if

you have 10 seconds to answer that question please go ahead.

BERMAN: Well, I just wrote a "New York Times" op-ed on Michigan, which is a case where people, activists at the local level, have expanded democracy in

lots of innovative ways. So, in the 10 seconds I will have, I will say, look to the states as a model for democratic reform because a lot of

interesting, exciting pro-democracy things are happening at that level.


GOLODRYGA: Ari Berman, thank you so much for joining us to talk about your book. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: Thanks so much for me.

GOLODRYGA: And finally, Europe goes pop, as the continent-wide musical extravaganza that is the Eurovision Song Contest kicks off in earnest.




GOLODRYGA: Wow. What is a great Croatian act called Baby Lasagna, one of the hot picks to win this year. It eased through the first semifinals last

night alongside Ukraine. And an Irish favorite called Bambie Thug, who is inspired by witchcraft. Overall, 37 nations will come together as they vie

to win with the theme for the contest 68th year United by Music.

The event is hosted by last year's winner, Sweden, and it's a special one for the Swedes, as this year marks the 50th anniversary of ABBA's legendary

Eurovision victory with their hit, "Waterloo." We want to wish good luck to all of the acts at the semifinals and the grand finale this Saturday.

Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast, and across social media. Thank you so much for watching, and goodbye from

New York.