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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Interview With Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai On Tensions With The U.S.; Trump And Biden Paint Each Other As Soft On China; Iran Suffers String Of Unusual Explosions And Fires; Coronavirus And America First; Levy: I See Selflessness, Blindness And Deafness; Has The Pandemic Brought Out The Best Or The Worst In U.S.? Aired 10-11a ET

Aired July 19, 2020 - 10:00   ET



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and all around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.


ZAKARIA: Today on the show, the tension between the United States and China gets thicker by the moment. Hong Kong, Huawei, the Uyghurs, all major points of contention. I will talk first to the Chinese ambassador to Washington, Cui Tiankai, then to the former deputy secretary of State, Tony Blinken.

Then a big fire at a port. An explosion at a nuclear site. A major chlorine leak. What in the world is going on in Iraq? We will get to the bottom of this mystery.

Also, empty streets and sidewalks around the world, billions of people confined to their homes. What has this pandemic done to the world and to humanity? I will talk to the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy.

And finally from questioning President Obama's place of birth to declaring dead people were voting for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump's conspiracy theories are the subject of my new special airing Monday night at 9:00 p.m. I will give you a sneak preview.


ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. With the pandemic overshadowing everything, one can sometimes forget there is a presidential campaign going on. That helps to explain why the media paid so little attention over the past two weeks when Joe Biden released his plans to fight climate change and revive the economy.

The climate change plan is ambitious and forward-thinking but more interesting is the economic plan, which promises to, quote, "ensure the future is made in all of America," unquote. That sounds like an America first agenda, and sure enough, President Trump accused Biden of stealing his ideas. But, in fact, while the plan is politically clever in moving directly

under Trump's turf of economic nationalism, it is much better than the president's approach. First and most important is what the plan does not do. It is not a mercantilist call for tariffs and trade wars, the hallmarks of the Trump presidency.

These Trump policies have failed by any measure. The evidence is so clear that when Biden released a fiery ad saying that Trump lost the trade war with China, PolitiFact's only quibble with that claim was that it should have been in the present tense, losing. They pointed to the following studies from 2019. A Federal Reserve report that determined the tariffs have not boosted manufacturing employment or output, even as they have increased producer prices.

A Moody's analysis finding that the trade war had cost the United States 300,000 jobs. And a Federal Reserve study assessing the cost of these tariffs to the average American household as about $800 per year per household, wiping out the gains from the Trump tax cut. Oxford Economics estimated that the trade war shaved 0.3 percent off American GDP growth last year.

The Biden plan's boldest idea is to massively ramp up investment and research and development. Biden proposes raising spending by $300 billion over four years, which represents a 60 percent increase over 2018 spending. If enacted, this would reverse the steady decline in federal investment in science and technology since its heyday in the 1950s and '60s.

Those investments led to the personal computer, the internet, the global positioning system and a host of other technologies that have transformed the economy. More recently, it's worth remembering an Energy Department loan of $465 million is what enabled Tesla to establish itself and experiment with electric cars.

The Biden plan proposes investments in 5g technology, electric cars, lightweight materials and artificial intelligence. Some of this money will be wasted as also happens to investments from venture capital firms. But all you need is for some, like Tesla, to succeed big.

The plan also has a $400 billion buy American component. The theory behind this is sensible. The danger of this kind of approach, however, is it can too often become industrial policy with the government trying to revive bygone industries like steel, as Biden apparently wants to do.


And it often favors firms with the best lobbyists, not the best ideas. More generally, the track record of most rich countries in practicing this kind of industrial policy has been pretty bad. Experts used to point to Japan as the country that had mastered government-directed investment, except that it turned out Japan's best companies all came out of its fiercely competitive private sector. The state sponsored ones mostly did poorly.

China is different, by the way, because its biggest advantage is not smart government investments but low wages.

The best model is not for the government to set up or subsidize specific companies or industries, but to let the market know it will buy certain kinds of innovative products, which then gives the private sector an incentive to produce them. For example, as late as 1962, the United States government was responsible for purchasing 100 percent of all semiconductor chips produced in the country, which is what allowed that nascent industry to become viable.

Similarly, NASA orders powerfully helped the computer industry in the 1960s. Biden rightly wants to emulate this approach to support today's breakthrough technologies. But it's worth pointing out key agencies in the federal government in those days, in the '50s and '60s, were much more efficient and operated with far great insulation from special interests and lobbyists.

One final caution. Buy American has been around for a long time. In fact, it was initiated in 1933 on the last day of Herbert Hoover's term in office responding to a buy British plan announced in London. The result of these kind of moves sent the world into a downward spiral of protectionism and nationalism, impoverishing ordinary people and creating a dangerous international climate.

Let's keep that history in mind as we implement this next version of buy American.

Go to for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

It has been a dizzying week in relations between the United States and China. On Monday, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. rejects most of China's claims over the South China Sea. That same day, China announced it was sanctioning three prominent Republicans for interfering in China's internal affairs.

On Tuesday, President Trump issued an executive order removing favored status for Hong Kong. On Wednesday the "New York Times" was first to report that the White House is considering a broad ban on members of the Chinese Community Party from coming to the U.S.

On Thursday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the U.S. of oppressing and bullying China. And that is just some of the tit- for-tat going on between the two countries.

I am joined now by China's Ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, for an exclusive interview.

Ambassador Cui, pleasure to have you on, sir.

CUI TIANKAI, CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Well, good morning. So nice to talk to you again.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you a broad question first which is when I watch the debate that is taking place in Washington, what I notice is that on both sides of the spectrum, Republicans and Democrats, there is a feeling and they are making this argument that they face a new China under Xi Jinping, and in particular, in recent years, a China that has become more assertive, more expansionist and more repressive.

And this will require a very different American response than the previous, previous policy of many decades. How do you react to that? Why do you think this is happening?

CUI: Well, you see, I think the people have to fully recognize the realities of today's world. Actually, the Chinese civilization has been there for about 5,000 years, much longer than the United States, and then the strong continuity for the Chinese civilization. And there are ongoing efforts by the Chinese people to modernize our own country. This has never changed, whether in the last 70 years or in the last seven years.

This is a continuing process. And we certainly have the legitimate right to build our country into a modernized, strong, prosperous country, like every other country in the world. I think that the fundamental question for the United States is very simple. Is the United States ready or willing to live with another country with a very different culture, a very different political and economic system, whether the United States is ready to live with it in peace and cooperate on so many and still growing global challenges.


I think that this is a real choice. This is a fundamental choice people have to make.

ZAKARIA: In the South China Seas, you saw Mike Pompeo's statement. But of course, you also have had an international ruling that what China is doing in the South China Seas is a violation of international law.

Will China change course and accept that it has, in fact, been violating international law, in terms of its activities in the South China Seas?

CUI: Let me tell you this. That ruling was a unilateral action. We reject it from the very beginning. We don't think that this is the right thing to do but some people insisted in doing it. We have told them virtually at the very beginning that this isn't the right thing to do. We will not participate in such a ruling. So it's not based on very solid, legal ground.

But at the same time, we have a very strong position on our sovereignty on the territorial claim in the region. And our claims have very strong historic and legal foundation. But still, we want to solve all the disputes with other countries, with other claimant countries through diplomatic negotiation.

You see, I myself some years ago took part in the work on the Declaration of Conduct between China and the ASEAN countries. Now we are working on the Code of Conduct. And we are making good progress. Actually, without outside interference, the situation in the region was cooling down. It was quite stable.

But, unfortunately, countries like the U.S., particularly, the United States, is trying very hard to intervene, to send their military, to strengthen their military presence in the region. The intensity and frequency is so high. But, ironically, the United States is not yet a contracting party to the convention on the Law of the Sea. I don't know how many people is aware of this.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about Hong Kong. The Chinese government has essentially imposed mainland law on Hong Kong with the National Security Law. And the concern that I've heard from many Western businessmen is that they are worried that if they were to go to Hong Kong, they could be picked up under this law by the Chinese government, by -- and held in very much the way that two Canadians have been picked up and are being held hostage.

Will the Chinese government -- will Beijing use this law to arrest people it regards as having defamed China, which is what the law allows it to do, if they're in Hong Kong?

CUI: You see, Fareed, let me say this to you. Our guiding policy for the governments of Hong Kong is still one country, two systems. This has not changed. This will not change in the future. Hong Kong is now part of China. We have to defend our own country, unity, sovereignty, and territory integrity. This is what meant by one country. And within the framework of one country, on the basis of secure and stable one country, two systems can prosper in parallel, can prosper together.

That's what is meant by one country, two systems. And the new law is intended just for that purpose, to maintain and safeguard one country, two systems to make Hong Kong more stable, more secure for everybody, for the Hong Kong residents and, as well, as for foreign investors. People could have a more predictable, safer environment to do their business in Hong Kong.

There's a real purpose of this law. And according to the basic law of Hong Kong, some of the national laws do apply to Hong Kong. When they are concerned with national sovereignty and territory integrity, unity of the country, they have to apply. Otherwise, there's no one country. But if people try to undermine or even destroy this very basis of one country, then there's no place for the two systems to operate. So if people try to undermine one country, they are actually undermining the two systems as well.


ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about the situation in Xinjiang with the Uyghurs. You know that Senator Elizabeth Warren has said that based on the reports that have come -- credible reports, that China is engaging in essentially forced population control, including sterilization and abortions, that this -- China's actions in Xinjiang constitute the legal definition of genocide.

How do you respond to that?

CUI: I think it's very unfortunate. People are basing their perceptions or judgment on reports of questionable sources. I could give you a real number. The population, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang, has more than doubled in the last 40 years. So the growth is much bigger than the population growth all over the country, and much bigger than the growth of the population of the Han ethnic group.

So I don't know how people get all these wrong numbers. The real number is the population has more than doubled in the last 40 years --

ZAKARIA: Do you -- do you categorically deny that there have been any mechanisms such as sterilization? Any attempts at forced population control of the Uyghurs?

CUI: I don't know how absurd all these fabrications can go.

ZAKARIA: But that means you deny it?

CUI: Of course.

ZAKARIA: That was the Chinese ambassador to Washington, Cui Tiankai. We appreciate his time.

To see more of this important interview on China's COVID response and on its view of Donald Trump, go to

Coming up next, how these relations look to the former deputy secretary of the United States, Tony Blinken.



ZAKARIA: Let's keep the conversation on China going. Joining me now is Antony Blinken. Blinken was both the deputy secretary of State and the deputy National Security adviser in the Obama administration. He is now senior foreign policy adviser to Joe Biden's presidential campaign.

Tony, let me start by asking you, what do you make of Donald Trump's rhetoric about China? Is this politics or is there a substantive issue here that required the ramping up of that rhetoric?

TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Fareed, it's great to be with you. And I would say right now it is certainly rhetoric and politics, and not more. But take this to 60,000 feet, and I just listened to Ambassador Cui as well. You know, we're engaged in a serious competition with China. Competition can be a good thing but we want to make it a race to the top, not a race to the bottom. And that's a race we'll win if we start from a position of strength.

But here's the problem, right now by virtually every key metric, China's strategic position is stronger and ours is weaker as a result of President Trump's leadership. Think about this, President Trump has helped China advance key strategic goals. Weakening our alliances, check. Leaving a vacuum in the world for China to fill, check. Abandoning our values and giving Beijing a green light to trample human rights and democracy in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, check.

And maybe, Fareed, worst of all, debasing our own democracy by attacking its institutions, its people, its values every single day every single day and so reducing our appeal, and that's checkmate. So the way I'm thinking about this, the way we're thinking about it is this, at its core, the China challenge, and there is one, and it's real, but that challenge is as much about us as it is about them. It's about the competitiveness of our economy and our workers.

It's about our own democracy and political system. It's about our alliances and partnerships, all of which, unfortunately, President Trump has done so much to undermine. But all of that is fully within our control. So, if we invest in ourselves, if we renew our democracy, if we work with our partners, then we can engage China from a position of strength and we'll do just fine.

ZAKARIA: So how would you handle something like the issue of the WHO, the argument being that China deceived WHO, the WHO didn't push back and we need to, in some way, have a reckoning? The Trump administration of course has withdrawn from the WHO presumably to put pressure on it.

BLINKEN: Well, as you know, Fareed, the story doesn't start there. The story starts with previous administrations especially the Obama-Biden administration that saw pandemics as a growing threat and put in place programs and people to prevent, to detect, to deal with them, including in China. We had a strong CDC presence, we had a dedicated White House office within the National Security Council, a program literally called Predict to detect the presence of pandemics.

When President Trump came in, he dismantled or defunded virtually all of that. And then when the pandemic struck, and the Chinese government unfortunately was withholding critical information, denying access to American international experts, President Trump repeatedly praised their transparency and cooperation instead of insisting that they live up to their responsibilities.

Now, walking away from the WHO in the midst of a pandemic, instead of working within it to reform it, that just cease our leadership to China. It's a big mistake.

ZAKARIA: How would you deal with the South China Seas? Because I think Ambassador Cui made a very reasonable point which is that the United States is accusing China of violating international law on the basis of this Law of the Seas treaty, but the United States is not itself a party to it, it is not a signatory to it.


BLINKEN: I've had these conversations with Ambassador Cui and other Chinese officials in the past. And yes, I noted the irony that we were not a party to the law of the sea yet we're insisting on its application. China is a party but it's ignoring its application and its rules. So we need to get back to actually following those. I'd like to see us be a part of the Law of the Sea treaty. Our military has repeatedly come out advocating it to Congress.

But the other thing is, when you're faced with a situation like this, you have to in a matter of fact way project strength and resoluteness. I'll give you an example. Some years ago during the Obama-Biden administration, the Chinese government declared a so-called Air Defense Identification Zone in its international skies near China, saying any aircraft that came into this area had to identify itself.

Then Vice President Biden went to Xi Jinping and very matter of factually, without publicly putting him in a corner, said, we're not going to respect the Air Defense Identification Zone. We're going to ignore it. We're going to fly our planes through it, and that's exactly what we did.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, finally, Tony, the difficult issue of the Uyghurs. This is obviously happening within China and yet it seems a matter of deep concern to anybody concerned about human rights. What can the United States do about something like this?

BLINKEN: Well, look, we have to start, Fareed, by putting values back at the center of our foreign policy and stand up for democracy and human rights. It starts there. When the president of the United States, as has been reported, gives a green light for concentration camps with the Uyghurs in a conversation with Xi Jinping, or when protests start against the repressive hand of the Beijing government in Hong Kong, and the president of the United States says that he stands with Xi Jinping, not with the protesters, we have a fundamental problem. Unless and until we correct that problem, it's going to be hard to get anywhere.

ZAKARIA: Tony Blinken, always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you.

BLINKEN: Thanks. It's great to be with you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, it's the most compelling international mystery in some time. Who or what is behind a series of explosions, fires and accidents in Iran? We'll explore when we come back.



ZAKARIA: In the early hours of July 2nd an apparent explosion caused significant damage as key building at Natanz Nuclear Plant in Iran. Just a week earlier, a major explosion hit the outskirts of Tehran where missile production facility is located. Then this past Wednesday, a fire blazed through Iran's key Port of Bushehr on the Persian Gulf setting multiple ships aflame.

And these are just three of a string of fires, explosions and unexplained incidence in Iran these past few weeks. Here to explain, hopefully is Dalia Dassa Kaye, she is the Director for the Center for Middle East Public Policy at the Rand Corporation and has published a piece in "The Washington Post" about this mystery. So Dalia, at the very simplest level, who is behind all this stuff?

DALIA DASSA KAYE, SENIOR POLITICAL SCIENTIST, RAND CORPORATION: Well, the short answer is, obviously, we don't know, but given the targets that you just noted, the nuclear facilities that are quite sensitive, the missile production facility, a lot of, I think, analysis are suggesting that the Israelis are likely implicated in at least some of these explosions. The Israelis have not been shy about their concern about Iran resuming its nuclear activities. In recent years it's been particularly worried about Iran's missile production, especially precision-guided missiles, and Israel has a record of targeting nuclear facilities in the region of adversarial states, and specifically has been reported to be involved in cyber attacks and other covert activities in Iran itself.

So, I don't think this is completely out of context or, you know, it certainly fits a pattern that we've seen in the past 37 most critically, it's coming of the context of rising U.S./Iran escalation and there are many, I think, who think the timing - the Israelis might look at this timing as good.

They have a pretty permissive administration in Washington for these kinds of attacks. So we don't know but I think there are a lot of signals pointing to the Israelis having some involvement in this.

ZAKARIA: Explain the importance of Natanz and what happened there?

KAYE: Well, Natanz is particularly important because that's a facility that produces advanced centrifuges which is without getting into all the technical details of how Iran could produce eventually a nuclear weapon?

This is a site that's been attacked in the past because if Iran advances its centrifuge production to a certain level, the concern is it would be able to take its civilian nuclear program and weaponize it. This is actually what the Iran nuclear agreement back in 2015 was about.

It was about ensuring that Iran would be prevented from being able to weaponize its civilian nuclear program. And since the American withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018, this is when we've seen the Iranians begin to violate a lot of restrictions that were in the agreement.

They're not sprinting to a bomb by any means. They took very measured actions. But this facility is a target. It's been a target in the past because it would allow Iran to advance its centrifuge production to worrying levels in terms of the breakout time in terms of weaponizing its program.


KAYE: So it's not - I think it's a site that would be expected to be targeted if Israel or others are behind and would like to see a setback in the Iranian nuclear program.

ZAKARIA: So when I look at this, Dalia, it strikes me that we're sort of - we've almost gone back ten years. As you say, our Iran nuclear deal was meant to prevent all this. The Iranians were adhering to it.

We are back ten years ago when they were building up nuclear capacity that could be weaponized. The Israelis or Americans engaged in a massive cyber attack on Iranians centrifuges in Natanz, and here we are doing it again. I mean, are we just back to where we were ten years ago?

KAYE: Well, I don't want to be that alarmist yet. We are going backwards. We're not quite where we were ten years ago. Thankfully the Iran nuclear agreement is still hanging by a thread. There are nuclear inspectors still Iran they're getting challenged more frequently now but they are still there.

We don't have enrichment levels and capacity for Iran to be able to break out within weeks, which is what the concern by some accounts were before the nuclear agreement was negotiated. So we're not quite there yet but we're certainly at a dangerous moment.

And I think what's particularly different now is the context. As I said, it's not just concern that the Israelis and there are, frankly, reports the United States and Israelis may even be coordinating these covert attacks in Iran itself under the cover of the Trump Administration's maximum pressure campaign.

So it's a little different. It's not just a kind of targeting, tactical targeting of nuclear sites and other military sites in Iran to kind of set back programs that are worrying to its neighbors, for good reasons, the difference now is that there's a lot of confusion about what the ultimate aims of maximum pressure are?

And I think there is some perception in Iran and abroad that these activities may be aimed at going beyond just degrading Iranian nuclear capabilities to destabilizing the country itself and given the tempo of these attacks over the course of a few weeks.

As well as the broader escalation we've seen especially in the past year with Iran starting to lash out, attacking oil tankers, attacking the U.S. drone, culminating in the U.S. attack against General Soleimani in January, which led to direct U.S./Iranian conflict.

A missile attack against American bases in Iraq, this is now moving from a shadow war into a direct war, this is an escalation we have not seen. This is no longer just about the nuclear program. This is becoming a broader question about what are U.S. objectives when it comes to Iran.

ZAKARIA: And Dalia, we don't have a lot of time, but would you say when you look at the Israeli behavior here, is there something going on here where they feel like they have this last window of opportunity because Donald Trump is President and will support any move taken by them?

KAYE: Well, as I said, they certainly have what they perceive as a green light from Washington, if the reports are correct. They may have more than that, where it might be actually a coordinated campaign. So I think you know, I think there's a lot of merit to that argument.

I think the Israelis as well as the Americans also do see Iran as incredibly vulnerable right now. The sanctions have really taken a toll, the pandemic unrest within the country, societal protests ongoing. So, I think, you know, the Israelis may very well think this is a window, an opportune time to attack and degrade Iran capabilities. And again--

ZAKARIA: Dalia, I have got to cut you off there. We are out of time. Dalia, that was fascinating. Thank you so much.

KAYE: Thank you. Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," Bernard-Henri Levy.



ZAKARIA: The Coronavirus has taken a terrible toll on this planet. We'll see it surpass 15 million cases. We have already lost about 600,000 lives. For decades if not centuries historians will be writing about the effects of this pandemic, the good, the bad, the ugly.

The French Philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy has been thinking all about this in real time. He has a new book coming out called "The virus in the age of madness" and he joins me now. Bernard, welcome first, explain why you call this an age of madness?

BERNARD-HENRI LEVY, AUTHOR, "THE VIRUS IN THE AGE OF MADNESS": Because we are living in an age of madness. You have some people - presidential - in fact, in a completely mad way by denying the reality. Trump refuses - he puts a mask on reality. He masks the real faith of the country.

On the other side - who overreact and who are ready to completely renown their civil rights, civil liberty if they can - sends them against a guarantee of safety which is also mad. So, I have the feeling that we are surrounded in this affair by your competition of madness's.

ZAKARIA: Do you agree with the Irish Columnist Fintan O'Toole who said, you know, the world has had many reactions to America over the decades, anger, fear, but we are announcing a new one, which is pity. The world is pitying America.

LEVY: The world is expecting now nothing from America. This is the most saddest situation ever. The rest of the world expects nearly nothing. We are back. And this is the one of the things which appeared with this pandemic.


LEVY: We are back to the sort of the world, the sort of pre- Christopher Columbus. We are in a world where it is as if America did not exist. This is so weird. When you see the world from Europe or again from India or, again, from Hong Kong, or from Ukraine where I was recently also from Kurdistan your - pressure that America withdrew so much that she's no longer an actor anymore.

And the result, those bad guys, those human rights offenders who are Putin, Xi Jinping and Iranian leadership and ISIS and others move forward, where are they? Moving forward more and more and they take advantage of the pandemic to move on and on.

ZAKARIA: And personally, when you look at it, Bernard, as somebody who's taught a lot about philosophy and moral philosophy, has this pandemic brought out the best in human beings, the worst in human beings? Has it made us more selfish, more aware of the plight of others? How do you see it?

LEVY: Alas, I would say that selfishness has increased. It is evident for those who deny the pandemic. They don't care about the deaths, which is the biggest selfishness possible. They don't care. Protection has to continue and they send the dead to hell.

But on the other side, I see in these safe bubbles, which are built here and there, where the biggest concern is not to be offended by the opinion of the other, there is a sort of new blindness and new deafness, which rises and which cuts us for the rest of - from the rest of the world.

And I see like America like in Europe or in Europe like as in America, so many people who took advantage of the pandemic to really get rid of the world. This is also what is happening today if we don't care. We - the confinement was inevitable.

We were right to be confined. But we really have to be anxious and eager to step out of that and to go back to the world and to care again about our brothers in humanity who have nothing, who have no houses to shelter inside.

And who in America who have no access to health care and so on. So confinement is necessary but cannot be the last world of ethics and humanity. If not, we will live in a world of generalized selfishness.

ZAKARIA: Bernard-Henri Levy, always a pleasure to talk to you.

LEVY: Thank you, Fareed. Thanks a lot.

ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," I'll bring you a preview of my new special Donald Trump's conspiracy theories which will air here on CNN at 9:00 pm Monday night.



ZAKARIA: President Trump has a lot of conspiracy theories since long before he was President. He was, after all, one of the key proponents of the theory that his predecessor, Barack Obama, was actually born in Kenya. He's also used conspiracy theories to discount election results in 2012 and 2016, leading many people to wonder what we can expect from the White House and its allies this November.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's going to be fraud all over the place.


ZAKARIA: Here is a preview of my latest special called "Donald Trump's Conspiracy Theories." You can watch it Monday night at 9:00 pm eastern on CNN and CNN International.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me when you're ready.

ZAKARIA: A few days after the 2016 election--

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I just had the opportunity to have an excellent conversation with President-Elect Trump.

ZAKARIA: An obscure right-wing operative named Greg Phillips tweeted a bombshell; number of noncitizen votes exceeds 3 million.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Can you prove right now that 3 million people voted illegally?


ZAKARIA: But Phillips, a voter fraud watch dog, was cagey about showing any evidence.

CUOMO: Do you have the proof?


CUOMO: Will you provide it?


CUOMO: Can I have it?



PHILLIPS: We're going to release everything to the public.

CUOMO: When?

PHILLIPS: As soon as we get done with the checks.

CUOMO: So you're not done checking it yet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Questions about a possible recount--

ZAKARIA: In fact, when Phillips made his outrageous claim--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We count votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

ZAKARIA: States had not even certified their election results.

PHILLIPS: We're not going to make a mistake.

CUOMO: But that's on you.

PHILLIPS: We're doing it.

CUOMO: But you already accused them.

PHILLIPS: Look, I'm not a politician. I'm just a guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Millions of dead people voting, millions of illegal's voting.

ZAKARIA: Then Alex Jones, the notorious conspiracy theorists, who said the U.S. government, staged 9/11, picked up the story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald J. Trump didn't just win the Electoral College; he also clearly won the popular vote.


ZAKARIA: And after that story ran, President-Elect Trump tweeted for the first time that he won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally. Greg Phillips still won't show us any evidence.

TRUMP: Illegal immigrants voting.

ZAKARIA: Just like that--

TRUMP: We don't want noncitizen voters.

ZAKARIA: A voter fraud conspiracy theory was born.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voter fraud, here's the evidence. It's a lie.

ZAKARIA: Trump has made an astounding number of completely unsubstantiated voter fraud claims over the years.


ZAKARIA: Again, don't miss my new special "Donald Trump's Conspiracy Theories" Monday night at 9:00 pm. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.