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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Trump Lays Groundwork To Challenge Election Results; Trump Nominates Amy Coney Barrett To The Supreme Court; Interview With Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired September 27, 2020 - 10:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us. Fareed Zakaria starts right now.

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


ZAKARIA: Today on the show, President Trump announces his nominee for the Supreme Court.


ZAKARIA: What do we know about her? What does this mean for an America that will now have a decidedly conservative Supreme Court? I'll ask two distinguished experts.

And at the U.N. on Tuesday, the Iranian president said his people were grappling with the harshest sanctions in history. Then the U.S. laid on more sanctions on Thursday. I interviewed Iran's foreign minister this week about the effects of America's maximum pressure campaign, the fate of the nuclear agreement, and Iran's recent execution of a local sports hero.


ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. By declining to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, President Trump has agitated many who feel he will refuse to leave office even if he loses the November election and may even resort to violence. But the terrifying reality is that there are also mechanisms that are legal and constitutional that could enable Trump to stay in office without actually winning the vote.

The system of electing the president is complicated because it was not designed to be directly democratic. The Constitution calls for states to choose the presidential electors who, in turn, gather to vote for the president. Over time, states have passed laws that ensured their state's popular vote for the presidency would determine the electors. But those are laws, not a constitutional obligation.

Now, imagine the scenario during election week. Trump is leading on November 3rd but Joe Biden pulls ahead in the days following, Republicans file objections to tens of thousands of mail-in ballots, Democrats file countersuits. Taking account of the confusion, legislators decide to choose the electors themselves.

Here's the worry. Of the nine swing states, eight have Republican legislatures. If one or more decide that balloting is chaotic and marred by irregularities, they could send what they regard as the legitimate slate of electors which would be Republican. Democrats may object and file lawsuits, and some of those states' Democratic governors or secretaries of state could send their own slates of electors to Washington. That would add to the confusion but that might well be part of the Republican plan.

Because you see, when Congress convenes on January 6th to tally the electors' votes, there would be challenges to the legitimacy of some electors. It's possible congressional Republicans could decide that disputed states should simply not be counted. Suppose in this scenario Michigan's votes are invalidated, that would ensure that neither candidate would get to 270 electoral votes.

At that point, the Constitution clearly directs that the House of Representatives vote to determine the presidential election. But it does so with each state casting a single ballot. If the current numbers hold, there would be 26 state delegations that are Republican and 23 Democratic with one tied.

So the outcome would be to re-elect Donald Trump. Trump doesn't need to do anything other than to simply accept this outcome, which is constitutional. Thanks to Tom Rogers and Tim Wurth for their writings on this topic.

Trump clearly understands this chain of events. He's been casting doubt on mail-in ballots for months insisting that the results must be the ones that reflect the tally on election night. He said this week that without mail-in ballots, there would be no worries about a transfer of power because there would simply be a continuation of his rule. He has also acknowledged --


TRUMP: We have an advantage if we go back to Congress. Does everyone understand that? I think it's 26 to 22 or something because it's counted one vote per state.


ZAKARIA: For this scenario to play out, state Republican parties have to put their desire to win above concerns that all voices in their state are heard. Unfortunately, recent history suggests that most will readily make this trade. Many state Republican parties have been actively attempting to suppress votes.


Just a few examples. In 2011, Texas passed a law requiring a government ID for voting and allowed gun licenses but not student IDs from state universities. Ostensibly this was to prevent voter fraud which several studies have shown is largely nonexistent. In 2017, Georgia passed a law blocking voter registration with minor typos which mainly affected black voters. In Florida the Republican governor and legislature have effectively gutted a state initiative that restored voting rights to more than one million former felons disproportionately black.

American democracy is getting warped because the Republican Party believes that its path to power lies not in getting a majority of votes but through other means. In 2018, thanks to redistricting, Republicans in Wisconsin, having won about 45 percent of the vote, ended up with almost 65 percent of the seats in the state assembly.

They have become used to this kind of situation on the national stage. Think about this, since 1992, the Republican presidential candidate has won the popular vote only one time. In 2004. And that, too, in the wake of the country's worst terrorist attack and with a war time rally around the flag sentiment. Nevertheless, Republicans have held the White House for almost half of those 28 years.

America prides itself as the world's leading democracy, and yet because of a vague and creaky constitutional process, and ferocious partisanship, this November we might put on a display of democratic dysfunction that would rival any banana republic on the planet.

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

We'll get to President Trump's nomination of Amy Comey Barrett to be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court in a moment, but first I want to ask the legal experts joining me about the scenario I've just laid out.

Noah Feldman is a professor at the Harvard Law School where he teaches constitutional law, he's also a columnist and a podcaster. Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the "New York Times" magazine, and she usually writes about legal affairs. She is a fellow at the Yale Law School.

Noah, let me start with you by asking you, the reason I laid out that sort of scarce scenario is because what strikes me is Republicans don't need to do much more than raise a lot of objections, file some lawsuits and essentially run out the clock until the point at which the electors have to be chosen.

Can courts in some way have in the past, you know, circumvent that process and say, no, you know, you have to count faster, you have to resolve these differences so there are actual electors on the safe harbor date?

NOAH FELDMAN, COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG OPINION: If you read the Constitution, just the words, there's no explicit role for the courts in the scenario that you sketched out. But you should never say never. In that scenario, Democrats would be sure to go to court in each of the states where the legislature was sending a different slate of electors than the ones chosen by the voters. In other words, situations where the legislature was frankly and openly undermining democracy.

And it's very possible, in fact it's probable, in some cases, some federal judges at the lower level would say, you can't do this, states. You've broken the rules. The democracy is operating and you're undercutting it. And then that would then work its way up through the courts and it's possible that the Supreme Court would hear such a case. They wouldn't have to. In the end it's always up to the Supreme Court to decide if it wants to hear a case or not.

ZAKARIA: Emily, do you think that state legislatures face any real legal obstacle to choosing electors they want? I mean, I'm assuming a situation where there is some chaotic balloting, where there are some disputes about counting. Can electors say, look, this is our best sense of who was elected?

EMILY BAZELON, STAFF WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: Look, no election is perfect but what you're describing is a complete upending of American democracy, right? You're talking about state legislatures taking the right to choose the president away from voters, away from the American people. And so despite the creaky Constitution, the provisions that do on paper allow for this, I think the political price would be very high. I think people would not stand for this and should not stand for this.

This is not really a partisan issue. This is about the kind of very foundation of our democracy and making sure that Americans not legislatures get to choose the president. That is how we have done it for a very long time. That is what needs to happen in the election. And I think in the end that there would also be pressure on the courts to make sure that happened, but I think it's important to go back.


We want to make sure that this is a fair and accurate count and that people's ballots determine who is the president.

ZAKARIA: Noah, let me ask you about Judge Barrett presumably going to become Justice Barrett. You clerked with her on the Supreme Court. And you wrote a controversial op-ed for Bloomberg, where you're a columnist, where you said she's highly qualified to be on the court and your basic argument was she's extremely intelligent. You said she's probably one of the two most brilliant people in that group of law clerks and she's a very decent person. But you disagree with her fundamentally on the law and on the Constitution.

Isn't that worse, in a sense, for somebody like you? Shouldn't liberals be more terrified of a highly competent justice who will be very conservative versus somebody, you know, a little bit less competent? How do you think about that problem?

FELDMAN: Thank you for asking that, Fareed. I think it's exactly the other way around. You know, the whole reason we have a Supreme Court is that we care about the Constitution and we resolve certain deep societal questions by asking the justices to interpret the Constitution according to their own understanding of how to do so. And you can have that done by a bunch of people who are unprincipled and who don't have deep beliefs, and they just yell at each other and they vote.

We have something a little bit like that. It's called Congress, you know, where it doesn't matter whether the person has good ideas and whether the person is driven by conscience, It's all supposed to be politics. But the Supreme Court stands for the idea that we should try, we need to try even in our most contested issues, to debate and discuss it in the light of what the Constitution says and in light of what the Constitution means.

And in order for us to lower the temperature a little bit in that context, I believe we need the smartest and best people, including the smartest and best people whom we disagree with all the way down the line. And let me be clear. Judge Barrett and I disagree on just about every important constitutional issue and most important statutory issues but I think she's the best interlocutor that one could have under the circumstances. That's not the same thing as saying that I think she's right.

ZAKARIA: Emily, let me ask you a political question deriving from that. If that's the case, are the Democrats mishandling this? I noticed two Democratic senators have said they won't even meet with her. This is, of course, tit-for-tat because Republican senators didn't meet with Merrick Garland. But if she is going to end up on the court anyway, do you want to alienate her, in a sense, you know, the Kavanaugh treatment presumably. Kavanaugh, as a human being, has driven him to be more partisan, more ideological.

In other words, are you trying to seduce these justices to be a little bit more like Anthony Kennedy and a little less like Kavanaugh, or were they going to vote the way they were going to vote anyway?

BAZELON: I think the notion that whether Democrats meet with Amy Barrett is going to matter one wit when she's a Supreme Court is just wrong. And when I listened to Noah talk about clerking with her, it's like hearing about someone defend a member of a very fancy elite club rather than think about what Amy Barrett is actually going to do as a Supreme Court justice.

So, to me, the question is what impact is she going to have? We actually know a lot about her record. She has expressed interest in restricting reproductive rights, in potentially overturning the Affordable Care Act, and really when you buy into the full conservative, quite radical judicial agenda, you're also talking about fundamentally changing the role of American government.

So I'd be interested in Noah's thoughts about why he disagrees with her because I think outlining those constitutional issues is what's really crucial here.

ZAKARIA: All right. So we are going to talk about exactly that when we come back. Noah, hold your thought. I'm going to ask both of you weather "Roe" will be overturned and what the consequences of a 6-3 majority will be, when we come back.



ZAKARIA: More now about what a truly conservative Supreme Court would look like. It's been sort of conservative. We now have a 6-3 majority. Noah Feldman and Emily Bazelon from Harvard Law School and Yale School are back with us.

Noah, the big question everybody wants to ask about is "Roe versus Wade," but it raises the issue that Emily was getting at earlier, which is if there are these huge consequences to a 6-3 majority and a very conservative judge, isn't that a truly scary scenario and the fact that she's a good lawyer doesn't matter?

FELDMAN: I think there's a fundamental misunderstanding, a dangerous misunderstanding of how the Supreme Court works and how the justices operate that's implicit in what Emily said. If you think of Chief Justice John Roberts, a diehard conservative, he just voted this last term to uphold "Casey against Planned Parenthood," therefore not to overturn "Roe v. Wade." Justice Neil Gorsuch, a deeper conservative, voted to give LGBTQ people rights under end to discrimination law.

Those things happened because the justices are holding themselves up to the plan, the goal of interpreting the law without an eye to its consequences. Does that always happen? No, of course not. And of course they have beliefs and of course Judge Barrett has beliefs. And they are not the same as my beliefs. I object to originalism. I think it's wrong as a way to interpret the Constitution.

But would you rather have justices who are trying hard to reach fair, even-handed decisions with something like, you know, the presidential election on the line or you'd rather have justices who say, I don't care about that sort of thing?


We need a court devoted to the principle of doing justice under law equally. And without that principle, we are no longer in a world where the Supreme Court really helps. So am I worried about "Roe v. Wade"? Of course I'm worried about "Roe v. Wade," extremely worried about it. Do I think that Judge Barrett might vote to strike it down? Yes. That is possible in light of her originalist views which I think are wrong. But that's not the question in front of us.

The question in front of us is, do we want a court where justices argue, debate and try to behave conscientiously, or do we want to have a purely politicized world like we have in Congress? And to me the answer is clear and we have to accept that as our reality.

ZAKARIA: I want to get to the real world consequences, though, that Emily was laying out. So, Emily, I want to ask you, wouldn't it be easier and less controversial for a court like this not to overturn "Roe v. Wade" but to simply gut it in ways that actually have already happened. In many southern states, it's very hard for particularly poor women to get abortions anymore, and you go down that path where you kill it by a thousand cuts.

Couldn't you do the same with gun laws or campaign finance? I mean, isn't that the more likely outcome here? And how dramatic do you think -- how dramatically would it change America?

BAZELON: Yes, I think you're right. Good lawyers know how to chip away at rights without making necessarily huge headlines like "Roe versus Wade" overturned that could hurt their Republican Party politically in the polls. There is a connection between politics and law, especially when we're talking about provisions of the Constitution that the justices determine the outcomes of the most important cases. The cases that we're talking about now.

And so when you erode rights over time, sometimes with very clever or smart legal arguments, that is the kind of effect you can have. Every study we have of the Supreme Court over the last decade shows that it's moving to the right. So yes, you can cite a few exceptional votes by Chief Justice John Roberts, but he will no longer be the fulcrum of the court once Judge Barrett is confirmed.

And when you look at the overall trends on the court, the direction in which it's going, yes, you see an erosion, and a likely greater erosion of reproductive rights, you see striking down more gun control lights and then you see this larger project of really changing the relationship between the government and its ability to protect people, to provide legislation like the Affordable Care Act, and the American people. This is really about the impact the Supreme Court has on the lives of regular people.

ZAKARIA: I want to pick up on that last point Emily made, Noah, and make sure people understand it because the court has become very conservative with regard to the ability of federal agencies to do things like regulate clean air, clean water and things like that. And that seems to me likely to perhaps the most -- you know, in terms of the change the lives of Americans, a more dramatic one than people realize. Explain what -- you know, what is the conservative view there?

BAZELON: What's going on is that some of the conservatives, especially Justice Gorsuch, are increasingly skeptical of the idea that agencies like the EPA or the FDA should have the final say on what the law means. And they think that judges should have the final say and they especially like that when they have a majority of the court.

So they're trying to not just chip away but just actually attack the basic idea that when it comes to the reasonable interpretation of the law, we should listen to the agencies rather than the courts. So this is kind of an inside baseball idea for lawyers but it has real world consequences. Exactly as you say, it makes it harder for the EPA to do its job or harder for the FDA to do its job. So it's a genuine concern.

I should add that we don't know where Judge Barrett is on that. Judge Scalia was not on board with this project. He believed very strongly actually in deferring to the agencies. But, you know, the fundamental point is that elections have consequences. It is an absolute disaster that Justice Ginsburg died during President Trump's term in office while the Republicans controlled the Senate from the standpoint of Democrats. It would have been far, far better from the perspective of Democrats today had she resigned when President Obama was in office. And so, you know, the fact that President Trump will have had the

chance to nominate and presumably confirm three justices will make a long-term change. And it's -- you know, it's a terrible, terrible outcome that I think we should all be rightly upset about. But the question is, given that state of affairs, what's the right way to engage with justices from the other side? And the answer is, I think through reason and logic.

And then it's not just an outlying thing. LGBTQ rights are not an outlying thing. They're a fundamental transformation and they were brought about by a vote from Donald Trump's nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

ZAKARIA: Emily, you have a minute. So I'm just going to ask you to quickly leave us with a memory of Justice Ginsburg, because -- and this is an example of Noah's point that these things have consequences.


Your grandfather served on the D.C. Court of Appeals with her. Your grandfather was appointed in 1949 by Harry Truman, served until 1985, was briefly on the bench with Scalia and Ginsburg. What is the one thing you remember about Ginsburg from the prism of your grandfather's memories?

BAZELON: When I went to interview Justice Ginsburg for the "New York Times" magazine, I brought three tape recorders with me because I was so nervous about capturing her words, and she is known for speaking -- she was known for speaking very in pauses. And so I was terrified that in my exuberance I was going to interrupt her, so I really went into that interview trying to be as careful a listener as I could and she was very kind and generous.

ZAKARIA: Emily Bazelon, Noah Feldman, fantastic discussion. Thank you both.

Next on GPS, a conversation with Iran's Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, about that country's recent execution of a sports hero and much more.



ZAKARIA: Iran's President Hassan Rouhani angrily denounced the United States in a videotaped speech played on Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly. In it he compared the U.S.'s treatment of Iran with the murder of George Floyd, the African-American man killed by police in Minneapolis.

I had a chance to talk this week with Iran's Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, in a conversation hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. He was equally incensed by America's treatment of his nation. But I started out by asking him about Iran's recent execution of a local sports hero.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ZAKARIA: Foreign Minister, welcome.

JAVAD ZARIF, IRAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER: Good morning to you and to our friends joining us. Good to be with you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Foreign Minister, the first thing I do have to ask you about is a topic that has raised an enormous amount of international outcry, which is the execution of the 27-year-old wrestler Navid Afkari.

This is a 27-year-old young man who was engaged in protests against the government two years ago in Shiraz. He was executed. He was hanged.

And as you know, this occasioned protests far and wide, well beyond the usual places. The United States condemned it. The European Union did. U.N. human rights groups did, the International Olympic Committee, the World Players Association, many of them saying that this was really an extraordinarily brutal act.

I want you to respond to the international outcry against this execution.

ZARIF: Well, thank you for asking that question, and moving forward, I think it is important to set the record straight.

First of all, as you know, we have an independent judiciary. And the government is not involved in the -- in the decision-making of the judiciary. In fact, judges in the judiciary have their own independence from the center of authority of the judiciary.

Second point is, the issue about capital punishment is a -- a live issue; it's a lively debate in the United States, in Iran, elsewhere, whether capital punishment is good or bad, whether it serves the purpose of deterring crime or whether it does not.

And I don't think, in the span of one hour, even if we had more, we could settle that debate. All of us have our personal views. But the point is, capital punishment is in the Iranian criminal court, as it is in many of the United States' states.

And recently, people have been executed in the United States. A gentleman was executed in Texas, who was 18 years old when he committed a crime. I don't think anybody would ask Secretary Pompeo to explain that. But, be it as it may, I think it is an important issue.

Third, I am not in a position to judge the decision of a court. A court is a court. It makes its own decision. Obviously, there are people who like the decision of the court, who like the ruling of the court. And there are people who do not like the ruling of the court.

The fourth point that I have to make is that this gentleman -- and I feel sorry for his family, as I feel sorry for the family of his victim -- was executed not because of participating in a demonstration but because of a murder. He was accused of a murder. He had been through a court proceeding on a murder charge. There were private claims against him by the family of the deceased who was killed. ZAKARIA: If candidate Biden, Vice President Biden, were to win and

become President Biden, he has indicated that he would return the United States to adhering to the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal, as long as Iran abided by it as well. But he has said he would use it as a starting point to begin negotiations to strengthen the deal, to extend its duration and to deal with some other issues.

Are you willing to commit that, were this to happen, Iran would engage in those negotiations?

ZARIF: Well, I think Iran, as a participant in the JCPOA, which has observed the rules of JCPOA, which has taken -- exercised a lot of restraint and patience, is in the position to say how we want to proceed -- not the United States. The United States has an extremely bad record. I think it is the United States that has to show that it's committed to -- to this deal, that it will not violate it again, that it will not make demands outside the scope of the deal, that it will compensate Iran for the damages.

The United States withdrew from JCPOA without any reason. It incurred a lot of damages on the Iranian people. You know, today Iran is not able to even buy vaccines for influenza because the United States does not allow us to transfer the money.

Right now, as we speak, our order to buy vaccines for influenza -- not for COVID -- vaccines for influenza, is waiting for an authorization by the United States to pay our own money -- not to pay their money. We're not asking anybody for a donation.

So I think the United States, whoever is the president, it's not -- it's immaterial for us who sits in the White House. For us, what is important is how they behave. And the United States has behaved extremely irresponsibly, dangerously, in the international community.

So it is up to the United States. The United States has to be taken to account. It is up to the United States to prove to the rest of JCPOA participants, particularly to Iran, that it's going to act responsibly, that it's not going to make demands outside the scope of the JCPOA and it's going to basically stop causing damage to Iran and compensate us for all the damages, billions upon billions of dollars of damage that they have inflicted upon Iran just because somebody didn't like the previous president of the United States.

It's none of my business that this president or the next president liked their predecessor or don't like their predecessor. It is the United States that has to act responsibly in the international community, which, unfortunately, it hasn't.

ZAKARIA: But, Foreign Minister, as you point out, the damage caused by the United States by the resumption of -- of sanctions has been very dramatic. I mean, your currency is down 50 percent this year.

ZARIF: More than 50 percent.

ZAKARIA: Right. So, if -- if you want to try to get Iran's economy back on track, the question I'm asking is, if a President Biden were to say, I will return to the -- the deal, but I would also require that Iran commit, as the United States would, to new negotiations, follow-on negotiations, to extend the deal, to strengthen it, are you willing to go -- to enter those negotiations?

ZARIF: Well, as I said, first of all, the damages that they inflicted upon Iran were wrong. They have to be corrected. That's without condition. Nobody is in a position to put conditions for making good on their own promises. So let's put that out of debate.

Now, Iran has never been hesitant to negotiate, but we do not renegotiate what we already negotiated.

ZAKARIA: I just want to be clear because this is important, because the deal was signed five years ago, some of the -- the provisions start to get sunset, you know, pretty soon. So you are saying you are open to renegotiating, or new negotiations...

ZARIF: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

ZAKARIA: ... as long as the U.S. abides by the JCPOA, or no?

ZARIF: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Because there were parts of the -- part of the deal. The United States accepted those. We spent more time negotiating those limitations than anything else. Those were parts of the deal. I accepted less commitment from the United States because I did not want to give them more.

A deal is a process of give and take. The United States, Secretary Kerry, then Vice President Biden, remember this very well. There was a give and take. Any attempt to undermine those gives and takes is a sign of bad faith. And as I said, the United States must first prove that it's worthy of the trust that is required for its re-entry into the deal, before it sets conditions.


ZAKARIA: For more of my questions about the execution of that wrestler and other topics, go to for a link to the full interview from the Council on Foreign Relations.

We'll be back in a moment with more with the Iranian foreign minister. You just heard him say Iran doesn't care whom America elects in November. I press him on that and ask him, if that's true, why is his country purportedly trying to hack the election?


ZAKARIA: Back now with more of my interview with Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif. The conversation was hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.


ZAKARIA: Just a few days ago, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, announced that the United States government had found evidence that Iran was engaging in escalating cyber attacks against the United States.

This is a claim that is also corroborated, in part, by Microsoft, which has identified certain Iranian actors, apparently sponsored by the government. Why is Iran escalating cyber warfare against the United States?

ZARIF: Well, first of all, it is the United States that had acknowledged engaging in cyber warfare against Iran, even to the -- to the point of destroying very sensitive nuclear structures that could have ramifications with the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

If you don't believe me, just watch "Zero Days." So, I mean, there were articles written. There were -- there was even a documentary made in the United States about those attempts. Those are on the record, acknowledgment by the U.S. government.

Now, there are allegations that Iran is engaged in -- in trying to infiltrate the U.S. electoral system. I mean, this is nonsense. For us it doesn't matter who goes to the White House. I mean, if we had an interest in -- in victory of one candidate or the other, that argument could be made, but it seems that President Trump is using every opportunity to basically question the results of the U.S. election, which is something of -- of news for all of us, for a president to question his own country's election.

ZAKARIA: You really don't care whether Trump or Biden wins?

ZARIF: Not at all. It's none of our business. For us, the behavior of the U.S. government is important. For us, it's not important who sits in the White House. As a foreign government, we cannot bank on something we do not control.


ZAKARIA: Later in the session, the foreign minister took questions from others. The journalist and CNN analysts Kim Dozier asked about the U.S.'s January killing of Iran's top killing Qasem Soleimani. Here is what the Iranian foreign minister said in reply.


ZARIF: As far as General Soleimani is concerned, the United States made a great mistake of assassinating, in a clear terrorist way, somebody who was the number one enemy of ISIS. General Soleimani was revered, not only in Iran but elsewhere.

Again, the cognitive problem was that Secretary Pompeo, on the night of assassination of General Soleimani, put on his Twitter a clip of people dancing in Iraq, showing that people of Iraq were celebrating the death of Soleimani. And we saw the next morning that tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis came to the streets of various Iraqi cities mourning the killing of Soleimani.

So Soleimani has a lot of people seeking avenge for his -- for his murder. ZAKARIA: Can I just follow up, Javad? Are you, though, saying the

Iranian government is still considering the possibility of some kind of retaliation, or are the books closed on that?

ZARIF: No, the books are not closed. President Trump ordered the assassination of a national hero for Iran and a hero for the region. So the books are not closed. I'm not in the business of of making threats, but the book is not closed.


ZAKARIA: An ominous note to end on from Iran's Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif. Our appreciation to the Council on Foreign Relations for hosting this important conversation.

Next, Europe's COVID cases are spiking again. Can we learn something from the nations across the Atlantic? That story, in a moment.


ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. Reopening schools is a crucial step to jump-starting the economy because so many parents can't go back to work until their children are out of the house and back physically at school.

Many European and East Asian countries have reopened schools across the board. They did so with common-sense precautions. Desks are distanced. Rapid COVID tests are widely available. And systems are in place to deploy effective contact tracing.

Now, Europe is seeing an alarming surge in cases, 65 percent higher than the peak in April, but it does not seem to be emanating from schools. Governments there are relying on policies and practices to keep kids in school and parents at work.

But the U.S., parts of which have much lower infection rates than Europe now, is struggling to even get students into school, let alone keep them there.

Take New York City, for example. Its infection rate clocks in at a stunningly low 30 per 100,000, and yet schools there continue to favor hybrid models. Compare that to Madrid, where the infection rate sits at 400 per 100,000 and kids are in classrooms.

While states have issued plans for reopening schools, only four have mandated plans for part or full-time in-person instruction. Due to inconsistent federal guidelines, the rest linger indecisively.

Therein lies America's weakness. Chaos and doubt have dominated America's initial response to the pandemic. The lack of leadership and clear, consistent messaging is disrupting its recovery. As schools were reopening this month with weak safety plans, teachers' unions demanded more precautions and many parents were reluctant to send their kids to school.

The New York Times says the lack in confidence might lead to remote learning for the remainder of the fall semester. And in the meantime, parts of America are already seeing student literacy rates and math proficiencies decline.

Donald Trump wanted schools to open and a rapid economic recovery, but his undermining of public health authorities, inconsistent messaging and questioning the scientific evidence created mistrust and division. The result now is that even when there is good news in parts of America, people don't quite believe it and will not act on it.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.