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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  February 24, 2020 12:30am-1:00am GMT

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our top story: south korea has declared its highest level of coronavirus alert as confirmed cases of covid—19 continue to rise. six people have died and more than 600 have been infected. the president says the country faces "a grave turning point." president trump is starting a 2—day state visit to india. he will attend a rally alongside prime minister narendra modi in modi's home city. the two leaders will consider ways of lifting trade barriers and developing strategic ties in the region. and this video is trending on strong winds carrying sand from the sahara affected airports in the canary islands in spain. more than 100 flights were cancelled, suspended or diverted. winds of up to 120km/h could hit the canaries until monday. that's all. stay with bbc world news. now on bbc news, stephen sackur speaks to us lawyer alan dershowitz,
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one of america's most high—profile and outspoken lawyers in hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i am stephen sackur. in the united states all citizens are equal in the eyes of the law. but having money and power seems to help if you need legal difficulties to disappear. my guest today, alan dershowitz, is one of america's most high—profile and outspoken lawyers. his long list of past clients includes claus von bulow, oj simpson, jeffrey epstein and, yes, donald trump. alan dershowitz joined the and, yes, donald trump. alan dershowitzjoined the legal and, yes, donald trump. alan dershowitz joined the legal team arguing for acquittal in the senate impeachment trial. he is a skilled lawyer. has he used those skills wisely?
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alan dershowitz in miami, welcome to hardtalk. thank you so much. let me start by taking you back to the 25—year—old alan dershowitz. i believe you were the youngest ever tenured law professor at law school, harvard university law school. i invite you to think about what the young idealistic alan dershowitz would think of the legal career to have had since then. do you think he would be proud? he would be surprised. i grew up as a poor young man in brooklyn and my mother wanted me to have a little law store in the neighbourhood where i help people who had automobile accidents.
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obviously i have had a very different career. i think he would be very proud. he would say, look, alan dershowitz represented everybody without regard to politics. he did half of his closer —— cases pro bono, free, he represented people nobody has ever heard of who are locked up in prison oi’ heard of who are locked up in prison or mental hospitals or places in the soviet union and other places around the world. he lived his life com pletely the world. he lived his life completely by principal on the basis of non—partisan issues stop he represented bill clinton when he was impeached and then he represented donald trump when he was impeached, he supported richard nixon's civil liberties at a time when he was impeached. he never let politics intrude on his views of the constitution. yeah, ithink 25—year—old alan dershowitz would have been as proud as 81—year—old alan dershowitz is looking back at his career. let's get to the representation work you did on behalf of donald trump. you believe, let's leave aside the legal questions around the impeachment trial, but do you believe donald
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trump abused the powers of his office in the way he approached president zelensky of ukraine and the favours he sought? of the 45 presidents we have had in the united states, a0 of them were accused of abusing their power from george washington to thomasjefferson to abraham washington to thomasjefferson to abra ham lincoln to washington to thomasjefferson to abraham lincoln to barack obama. if abuse of power were the criteria for impeaching a president, we would have had five presidents who were impeached. abuse of power is in the eye of the beholder. i certainly don't approve of any president using his office or his power for electoral advantage, but virtually every president has done it. presidents always have one eye on the public good and one eye on re—elect ability, particularly during theirfirst term. re—elect ability, particularly during their first term. that was true of every present i have worked for. i want to be clear of all of this. your contention is that abuse
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of power, and you didn't actually tell me whether you think trump is guilty of it, but i assume that from your answer, doesn't matter whether he was guilty or not. as far as you are concerned it is not an impeachable offence. it matters a great deal. it matters to tell me who to vote for. but it doesn't matter in terms of the criteria of impeachment. if abuse of power where the criteria, it would be so open—ended, indeed james madison... is surely depends on the nature of the abuse, and we saw all of the evidence... presented by the prosecution in this case, powerful evidence which pointed to the fact that mr trump was prepared to compromise a key us national security partnership in pursuit of personal political ends. too many americans in many constitutional scholars, there is no question that rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanour. for me, it doesn't matter at all. i don't think that abuse of power is ever a it area for
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impeachment because that would bring us impeachment because that would bring us to the british system where a chief executive serves at the will of parliament and madison, when the constitution was being passed, rejected that so we don't want to have the british system, the parliamentary system. all you need isa parliamentary system. all you need is a vote of non— confidence and the president would serve at the pleasure of the legislature. we rejected that system. the us did not accept parliamentary democracy. it isa accept parliamentary democracy. it is a republic, and in a republic, the president serves until the elect does throw him out of office, which could happen of course in the next eight or nine months. it is up to the people to decide whether the president abused his power, not a majority of the house of representatives or two—thirds of the united states senate. the reason we require two—thirds is because we don't want the president to be able to be impeached unless there is widespread bipartisanship or to his removal, which we don't have. it was a strictly dozen vote except for a one senator, senator romney, a
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former student of mine who voted for impeachment on abuse of power. there wasn't even a simple majority for removal. you shouldn't confuse political sins with impeachable offences. it certainly ended up being deeply partisan, i grant you that. let me quote you the words of a legal and constitutional expert reflecting on impeachment from some 20 and more years ago. an impeachable offence certainly doesn't have to be a crime. if you have somebody who corrupts the office of the president and abuses trust and pose a danger to our liberty, you do not need a technical crime. do you know who said that? yeah, it was me, iset crime. do you know who said that? yeah, it was me, i set it because at the time i was representing bill clinton, who was accused of an actual crime, and so the issue of whether you needed a crime was not before the american public. i simply hadn't done all the research necessary to come to the conclusion i have come to, and i came to a conclusion two years before i ever
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represented president trump that you did need criminal type behaviour akin to treason or bribery. after all that is what the constitution says. in the 19th century close close to the time of the framing of the constitution, the waiter constitutional authority was on the side of needing criminal type behaviour or an actual crime. i thought i think you need an actual technical crime but you need a crime like act that is akin to treason or bribery. the criteria is treason, bribery. the criteria is treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours, and in britain, a misdemeanours, and in britain, a misdemeanour at the time according to blackstone, was a crime. so i am right today and my view is more informed today that it was in 1998. you certainly change your view, that is for sure. let's move on to one other... that is what scholars do. we change our view is based on the research. just one other point on the impeachment and the way you framed it. you said if a president
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does something which he believes will help him get elected, and that be in the public interest, well then that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment. it seems to give the president licensed to do almost anything in the name of getting himself re—elected. to do almost anything in the name of getting himself re-elected. no, because in the sentence before i said that, i said if he commits a crime or anything criminal, if he is motive is corrupt or if he gets a kickback or get any personal financial benefit, than he could be impeached. what happened is cnn wrenched out of contacts that statement. the statement was made only in the context of quid pro quo. what happened is i was asked what if there is a quid pro quo and i said a quid pro quo alone is not enough. foreign policy is always conducted with quid pro quo. that very morning icame with quid pro quo. that very morning i came from the white house where the peace plan for the middle east was unrolled in the peace plan was full of quick" quota the israelis. if you don't stop settlement activity, we will cut funding to the
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palestinians, if you don't stop terrorism, we will cut funding. quid pro quos are not illegal. if there is anything illegal, if the president benefits illegally, that is an impeachable offence. the president can't do anything but he can do anything legal within his power, and just because he wants to be re—elected, that doesn't turn a legal act into an impeachable or unlawful act. that is what i said, but it was wrenched out of contacts. if you read what i actually said, you see i didn't see —— say the president can do anything. many bigger illegal brains and mine listen very carefully to what you said and concluded that you were very far out of line... they didn't. no, they didn't listen carefully. hang on, you don't even know what i will quote. renato mariotti, a respected former federal prosecutor said alan dershowitz‘s view of what constitutes an impeachable offence is like climate change nile. no—one agrees with his views. that is
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ignorant. what happened is he didn't see what i actually said. he agrees with what i said. every scholar agrees with what i said because what isaid agrees with what i said because what i said was if a president acts within his authority, acts entirely legally, the mere fact that one of the considerations in the back of his mind is his own re—elected ability, does not turn an otherwise lawful act into an unlawful act. i challenge any scholar or non— scholar to disagree with that statement. that is what i said. what he did was he lied about what i said and he turned me into a climate denier obviously our support climate change, iam denier obviously our support climate change, i am a liberal democrat. i voted for hillary clinton. i will continue to vote liberal democrat. it might political opponents and those with what the impeachment deliberately distorted what i said, wrenched it out of context, rated a strong man and then attacked the strong man and then attacked the strong man. there is a lot more to come so strong man. there is a lot more to come so i don't want to stick on this. one final thought on the impeachment and the aftermath. what
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do you think the acquittal of donald trump, and let's face it, the possibility of his re—election, would you have alluded to, does that say about america's view today about the importance of legal probity and truth telling? i think it is very important. it says that the american public in the united states senate follows a constitution. he never should have been impeached. there was no grounds for impeaching him. the house vote to impeach him was unconstitutional. the rule of law prevailed. madison and hamilton would be very proud of the fact that the united states senate rejected this impeachment the way it repeated —— rejected the impeachment of bill clinton. the trump administration, which continues and is seeking re—election. using trump represents a sort of symbol of legal probity in the united states given what we have seen the united states given what we have seenin the united states given what we have seen in the last few days where even his loyal attorney general, william barr, seems to be talking about resignation because he says donald trump's approach tojustice
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department issues including tweeting out on ongoing cases makes hisjob impossible. what i said was, and i still say that the decision by the senate to acquit him reflects the rule of law. whether or not you think donald trump is a good president or donald trump represents positive approach to the rule of law, that is up to the voters and they will decide that in november, and we will see what the voters believe in a democracy, the democracy —— decision is made by the voters, not by the united states senate. i am voters, not by the united states senate. iam happy voters, not by the united states senate. i am happy with the situation, leave it to the voters, let them decide and let impeachment remain only as an extreme remedy when there is a bipartisan national consensus. let's move on to other aspects of your very long career. as we have orally discussed. you were involved in the defence of oj simpson back in the mid— 90s, when he was charged with murdering his ex—wife, nicole brown. after that casey reflected with these really
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interesting words. you said when defence attorneys represent guilty clients, as most do, most of the time, their responsibilities to try by all and ethical means to prevent the truth about the clients guilt from emerging. you stand by those words today? of course. i learned that from british barrister named braun. i learned from many british barristers and it is an old tradition that comes out of great britain. if you are a defence attorney, you represent the guilty, the innocent and everybody in between. yourjob is to get the best outcome for your client, the prosecution's job is to get the best outcome for the prosecution. we have an adversarial system, the cases decided by a jury or a judge. the role of the defence attorneys to advocate as strongly as possible for his client whether guilty or innocent or in between. mostly we don't know whether our clients are guilty or innocent at the time we took the case. i took the oj simpson case because he was facing the death
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penalty and i always take death penalty and i always take death penalty cases because i am strongly opposed to the death penalty. returning to your actual words where you said defence attorneys represent guilty clients as most do most of the time, this isn'tjust one or two. thank god for that. would you wa nt to two. thank god for that. would you want to live in a country where most defence attorneys defended innocent people? that would be iran, china, it would be the former soviet union. it is not great britain and the united states. in both of our country ‘s most people charged with crime are in fact guilty. the reason thatis crime are in fact guilty. the reason that is the case is because defence attorneys like me zealously defend the guilty along with the innocent. that is the way we prevent the government from charging too many innocent people. that is the way the system works. but of course, you are notjust a gifted lawyer, you are also a human being with a moral compass and a conscience, and when you reflect on your long career. . . conscience, and when you reflect on your long career... let me answer that, please. let me answer that. a priest and a doctor are also moral
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people, and a priest will not turn away somebody who is a sinner. a doctor will not refuse to treat somebody who is a criminal. we have oui’ somebody who is a criminal. we have our responsibilities to a very important system of justice, our responsibilities to a very important system ofjustice, and so yes, as a human being, sometimes it is very painfulfor yes, as a human being, sometimes it is very painful for me to know that iam is very painful for me to know that i am representing a bad person, just like my daughter—in—law is an emergency room doctor in a hospital, and she sometimes treats terrible, terrible people. and my uncle is a rabbi, and he sometimes administers too terrible, terrible people. that's the way the system works, and it's a very important system, and a good system, so i will continue to defend the guilty and the innocent alike. are there any clients you regret taking on? yes, jeffrey epstein. i regret having ever met him, because it caused personal grief and anguish in my own life when i was falsely accused by a woman i never met and never heard of of having a sexual encounter with her. so i regret having metjeffrey
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epstein, but i don't regret, once i met him, having defended him. that's myjob. i met him, having defended him. that's my job. i wouldn't met him, having defended him. that's myjob. i wouldn't defend... the people i don't defend, i don't defend people who are career criminals, whosejob it is to commit crimes. i don't ever want to be a conciliatory to a crime family. so i don't represent drug dealers, i don't represent drug dealers, i don't represent drug dealers, i don't represent terrorist, i don't represent people who are in the mafia, i don't represent people who have escaped justice and our fugitives —— consigliere. i let the crime itself determine who i represent. we don't have much time andi represent. we don't have much time and i do want to ask some questions as well as listen carefully to the a nswe rs. as well as listen carefully to the answers. why did you take the epstein case? you obviously had a friendship of sorts, a relationship with him going back years, but it was clear by the time you represented him in his 2005 case in florida that he was being accused of very serious sexual offences. you very serious sexual offences. you very aggressively defended him, and succeeded, it should be said, in getting a lenient sentence, a nonprosecution agreement, it was called, with prosecutors. why did you do all of that for him? well,
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first of all, i didn't have a personalfriendship first of all, i didn't have a personal friendship with him. first of all, i didn't have a personalfriendship with him. it first of all, i didn't have a personal friendship with him. it was an academic friendship. i was introduced to him by the lady rothschild, the husband of the lord rothschild, the husband of the lord rothschild of great britain. they told me he was a wonderful person. he was contributing enormously to harvard. i went to seminars with him, and when he was indicted, he asked me to put together the legal team. i put together a very distinguished legal team of ken starr, ray black, very eminent lawyers. once we take the case, of course, ourjob is to get the best deal weekend. won't make you know what you did, and i ask you this in the spirit of the #metoo movement and everything we have read about the relations between powerful men in vulnerable young women in recent yea rs. in vulnerable young women in recent years. you went after the teenagers who were involved in that case in miami. you and your investigators trawl through their social media, you accused them of using drugs, of being sexualised. you, as they would see it, attempted to destroy them.
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they were just teenagers. in the current climate, knowing what we know, do you deeply regret what you did? absolutely not. of course not. first, i didn't do any of that. jeffrey epstein hired investigators. the investigators provided material from their own social sites, and we went and took that material to the prosecutor and said these are the witnesses you are depending on. these are witnesses that have issues of credibility. failure to do that would have been malpractice. any lawyer who doesn't investigate witnesses against his client is engaged in legal malpractice and in violation of the sixth amendment of the constitution. so once you take a case, of course you have to investigate the credibility of all the witnesses. and we turned out evidence that some of the witnesses lied repeatedly. let me give you an example. the witness against vince andrew has a long history —— prince andrew. she lied about tipper gore and al gore being on epstein's island. she lied about being 1a when
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she met epstein. she was 17 when she met epstein. i am going to stop you there. she is not here to defend herself. she stands by her story which includes, she alleges, being traffic to you for sex. you have had your say, she is not going to get jose on this programme, but the truth of the matter is that she is suing you, you are suing her, the courts will decide who is telling the truth. please have her on television, have her stayed her view, have her answer these questions. she has refused to accuse me on television, because she knows if she does she will be subject to defamation. as i say, she has her story, you have yours. what i am interested in today, and i put this in... well, there is truth, and the truth is on my side. this question of minors in the context again of the environment we are now in, the #metoo movement and that goes with it. you, going way back, more than 20 years, made a case for saying the age of consent should be lowered to 15. you have also made a case for saying the rights of defendants in rape cases need to be more carefully
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safeguarded. do you hold those positions today? that's right. absolutely. i think the age of consent for having sex should be the same as the age of consent for consenting to an abortion. when somebody is old enough to decide to have an abortion, to end the existence of a foetus, they are old enough to have sex. i thought reducing the age of consent in the united states to what it is in most other western democracies —— sought. ididn't other western democracies —— sought. i didn't use the term 15, i said lower than 18. in florida it was 18. i think probably 16 is the right age. but that is debatable. i think probably 16 is the right age. but that is debatablem i think probably 16 is the right age. but that is debatable. it is important to be specific. the reason i mentioned 15 is because that is what got the impression i got from an article in the los angeles times you authored, where you say there must be criminal sanctions against sex with very young children. it is doubtful whether such sanctions should apply to teenagers above the age of puberty. well, for most girls, puberty is 13, 1a, 15 at
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most. i think 16 is girls, puberty is 13, 1a, 15 at most. i think16 is the girls, puberty is 13, 1a, 15 at most. i think 16 is the appropriate age, but i think that's debatable. and feminists have taken the lead in reducing the age of consent, particularly in the abortion context and other contexts. so look, it is a debatable position. i took this position 25 years ago, 30 years ago, in my writings, and in doing that, i espoused positions that were widely shared by feminists. and yes, i do think that people who are charged with any kind of sexual misconduct should have due process rights, that is why i wrote my book, guilt accusation. being accused should never be enough to convince somebody. the burden of proof should be on the accuser, there should be opportunities to present evidence. in my case, i have presented overwhelming evidence that i never met the woman, and yet people believe her because of the #metoo movement. so you are very down on the #metoo movement, clearly. no, no, i support the #metoo movement. i don't support the abuse of the #metoo movement by people who use it to make up stories for money. a philosopher once said movements
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begin as causes, they become businesses, and ultimately rackets. i don't want to see the #metoo movement become a racket, and in my case, lawyers have turned it into a racket to try to make money by falsely accusing people, people who never even met the individual. so we have to balance the need for #metoo versus the need for defendants being able to defend themselves and prove their innocence. that is the british system, that is the american system. a final thought, mr dershowitz, on the arc of your career and your journey, if i can put it that way. i am very struck by the fact that in your early years you did a lot of defending of students on campuses, not least for the vietnam war protests in their rightful free expression. polemic i still do. but my point is that when you talk about the atmosphere and the progressive sort of politics that you find on university campuses today, you characterise of what you hear in the debate on universities as toxic. why have you changed your view of stu d e nts have you changed your view of students and... i haven't, i haven't changed my view. 0k, well, explain
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them. when i was in college, there was censorship. the people on the right engaged in mccarthy eight censorship. today the people on the left engage in mccarthy ‘s censorship. let me give you an example. i was invited by the oxford union to debate the bds movement, the boycott of israel. but they refused to debate me because they saidi refused to debate me because they said i am ajewish refused to debate me because they said i am a jewish scientist, therefore i should not be debated, should be subject to boycotting soiam should be subject to boycotting so i am opposed to boycotting speakers. my views are completely consistent. today the censorship comes from the far left, when i was young it came from a hard right. i am opposed to all censorship, i will engage in open dialogue on college campuses, and i will continue to debate on college campuses. u nfortu nately debate on college campuses. unfortunately many universities won't invite someone like me because i'm a strong supporter of israel, the two state solution, the end of the two state solution, the end of the occupation, but i do believe that israel has the right to exist as the nationstate of thejewish people. that makes me toxic in some university campuses. well, alan dershowitz, we are delighted to have
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had you hardtalk. thank you very much indeed. thanks for your hard questions. i appreciated questions, and an opportunity respond to them. —— i appreciate hard questions. hello there. the weather looks set to cause a few more problems over the coming days. first of all, well, the risk of flooding hasn't diminished at all. we've got over 100 flood warnings currently in force, and we've also got a severe flood warning that's been issued. that's been put on a stretch of the river severn, this time in shrewsbury, in shropshire, and it's here later on this afternoon that we could see the river approach record levels.
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and there could be further flooding over the coming days. we have got more rain in the forecast as well. the other thing that you might encounter as we head into the first part of the morning is this. yes, there is the potential for some disruptive snow. let me explain. it's been getting chilly across northern parts of the country, whereas in the south, you can see some mild air here. temperatures 10 degrees orso in cardiff. it's mild because it's turned wet and windy, and this band of heavy rain is moving across wales and the midlands, bumping into the cold air. it's turned into snow across the high ground of northern england, and across the hills of scotland as well. we could see the snow come down to lower elevations for a time, just in time for monday morning rush hour. so there is the potential for some disruption, and i suspect over the high ground, we could be looking at something like 5—10 cm. that's not our only problem, mind you. this band of rain sweeps its way southwards and eastwards, as it does so, could bring about a0—50 mm of rain across the high ground of wales, and that sets
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the scene for further flooding problems later on in the week. even as the rain clears through, blustery showers follow. a windy day everywhere, and the winds will make you feel really particular cold in scotland. a bitter feel to the weather here. now, heading into tuesday and wednesday, high pressure is to the south—west of the uk, low pressure to the north—west, north—east, and that maintains north—westerly winds across the country. and it's those north—westerly winds that will feed in showers. now, the showers will be quite widespread, particularly across western areas, as we head into the afternoon. some of them will have some wintry flavour to them, particularly across northern areas, over the high ground. yes, there'll be some sunshine between. but it's a similar looking weather picture as we head into wednesday — again, a cold north—westerly wind feeding the showers in. the showers particular frequent across the north—west of scotland, northern ireland, running down through the irish sea to affect north wales, cheshire, merseyside, greater manchester and the north—west midlands, all the while feeling cold in the wind, as well.
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so quite a lot going on over the next few days alone. yes, there are concerns we could see some disruptive snow through this morning. heavy rain around as well, and that's likely to cause some further flooding problems as we go through the next few days.
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i'm sharanjit leyl in singapore, the headlines: south korea's president has put the country on the highest possible alert as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus surges past 600. india prepares for donald trump's visit by building a wall along the route of his motorcade. but can narendra modi and the us president break down trade barriers? indian officials have hinted that there could be an announcement on defence, but the trade deal president trump wants so badly looks unlikely. i'm lewis vaughan jones in london. also in the programme:


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