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tv   Amanpour on PBS  PBS  January 16, 2018 6:00am-6:31am PST

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welcome to "amanpour on pbs." tonight, the republicans standing up to trump as the u.s. president is forced to deny he's a racist. arizona senator jeff flake tells me why he believes trump is a danger to democracy. plus, my conversation with the pulitzer prize-winning editor of "the new yorker," david remnick, on protecting press freedoms and fighting fake news. ♪ >> announcer: "amanpour on pbs" was made possible by the generous support of rosalind p. walter. good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program.
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i'm christiane amanpour in london with the global perspective. this week, republican senator jeff flake will take to the senate floor to defend free speech against what he calls donald trump's unrelenting, daily assaults, and he's not pulling any punches, tracing the president's enemy of the people attack on the press all the way back to the soviet dictator, joseph stalin. flake is one of the few prominent republicans willing to stand up and criticize the president. not coincidentally, he's also one of the many republican legislators leaving congress this year. so, in accusing president trump, is senator flake also accusing the president's republican enablers who stay quiet? senator flake joins me now from phoenix, arizona. you plan to take to the senate floor on wednesday, as i just said. and i'm just going to quote a little bit from your speech. you said, "2017 was a year we saw the truth, objective and empirical evidence-based truth
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more battered abused than any other in the history of our country at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government." what concerns you most about this? >> what concerns me is when you use phrases like enemy of the people, then you trace that phrase back, and it was not a good origin. it really was popularized by joseph stalin. and i am in no way comparing president trump to joseph stalin. joseph stalin was a killer. our president is not. but it just puzzles me as to why you would use a phrase that is so loaded and has such steeper meaning, the press being the enemy of the people. so, that is a big concern. what this president does, the most powerful man in the world, has lasting implications, and it has implications for journalists worldwide as well as our free press here in this country. >> and i was going to -- you
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answered it for me. i was going to say, really, stalin? but you obviously answered the inevitable questions people will have over that comparison. >> right. >> but of course, when -- >> if the american president -- >> go ahead. >> i was going to say, if the american president was like stalin, you know, people like me would be in gitmo or worse. so, no, there's no comparison there to the man, but it just puzzles me as to why any american president would use a phrase so associated with somebody like joseph stalin. it just doesn't comport and it's not good for any of us. >> so, let's drill down a little bit. it's obviously relentless for all of us, and it has enabled many foreign leaders to take a page out of president trump's book and batter us over the head with that fake news. but specifically to the u.s. democracy, what bothers you about it? do you think the u.s. democracy is fragile enough to succumb to this kind of, as you say,
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relentless, daily attack on the press? >> well, gratefully, our institutions are strong, and certainly, we have protections to a free press. but it's not good when the president utters falsehoods like crowd size was bigger than any in the past. that's more innocuous and doesn't mean as much, but to say things like the russia matter just broadly, without being more precise, is a hoax, or russia's intervention in the u.s. election is a hoax, that is not a hoax. we know that russia did try to influence our election, and simply dismissing that as fake news is damaging. and when that is just done reflectively, day after day, then that has real consequences. >> let me just go down to some policy right now. all last week, there was the
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white house discussions over the d.r.e.a.m.ers, and you're one of the co-sponsors of this. president trump has basically said that daca is probably dead because the democrats don't really want it, and they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our military. is that your take as well? is it all the democrats' fault? >> no, it's not. i've been in the house and the senate for nearly 18 years now, and i've worked with the democrats on this issue, on immigration issues broadly, for all of that time. and they are working in good faith, those, certainly, that i'm working with now. we have a bipartisan proposal that started with three republicans, three democrats, and we're adding republicans and democrats in the coming days. it's, frankly, the only bill in town. it's the only bipartisan bill. we need 60 votes to pass anything in the senate, and so, it's going to be a bipartisan bill, and the democrats are acting in good faith.
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there are compromises that are being made on both sides. i've been involved in that process and will continue to hone that bill, but it will be introduced this week with more than three democrats and three republicans. >> so, describe. i mean, i know you didn't go to the next meeting at the white house to press the immigration bill, but we understand that it surprised the legislators who were there when president trump invited also two, you know, fairly hardliners on this issue, senators tom cotton and david perdue. >> right. >> and cnn reports that they were there specifically to slow down any momentum behind your compromise deal. what's your take on that? do you think that's the case? >> well, all i know is dick durbin and lindsey graham went to the white house to present the president with a proposal. the president had asked us to come back with a bipartisan bill that covered four items -- daca,
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itself, border security, dealing with chain migration, and also the diversity visa. and we did that in the legislation. but when they went to the white house, the president basically said get back to the drawi inin board. so, that's what we've done, and we're adding republican and >> and senator, obviously, it was at that second meeting that senators report the president used pretty derogatory language to describe immigrants from certain countries. he denies using that. what can you tell us about what was actually said, and then in relation to immigration, obviously, that has really put the steam up, everybody in africa and haiti and other such places who feel targeted. >> right. well, i went to a meeting directly following the meeting that dick durbin and lindsey graham had at the white house, and it was described to me what was said in the meeting. that was before those words went
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public. and i can just say, what was described in the meeting i had was identical to what was reported later in the news. and your point about the broader damage of a statement like that, i chair the africa subcommittee. we work with, obviously, all of the african countries on sharing intelligence, on military deployments, on humanitarian issues, and that causes long-term damage. it really does. so, i was really disheartened to hear that that was said. >> and all those relationships the united states has built up over years. do you feel they're at risk? >> right. >> some pretty important places. >> well, in africa, let me say, it's been troubling for a while. more than a year or nearly a year into this administration, we have no secretary to africa at the state department.
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we're finding it difficult to have oversight hearings and to have responsible state department officials with knowledge of what's going on in particular countries or regions, or at least with purview or authority. then to have a statement like this following that, i think in hearing the reactions of some of the african countries, it's what i expected to hear. it's not good long term. we have good relations with most of the african countries, and we have good military relations and intelligence-sharing, and we want that to continue. >> and you know, just awry addition, it's not lost on too many people. the president's saying he wants norwegian immigrants, while norwegians, some would say, have a better standard of living than the united states. i mean, those wouldn't be the people immigrating en masse to the u.s. anyway. >> well, i can just say that my ancestors came from countries
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that were not nearly as prosperous as this one. i'm glad that they were welcomed here. we did in the so-called gang of eight bill, the bipartisan bill that we did in 2013 that passed the senate, we take family immigration from where it is now, about 70% of all legal immigration, to about 50%, striking more of a balance between those coming who had economic skills that could help the economy and those who come by virtue of family relations. that was part of the broader bill, and there was a lot of tough negotiations between democrats and republicans to arrive at that figure. i do think we need to strike the balance, but when we strike that balance, we certainly shouldn't do it in a way that is seen to be race-based or based on how poor a country is. there is nothing to say that people who can help our economy and could win a merit-based
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visa, you know, aren't coming from countries that are very poor, and we see that right now. i think the figures somebody put out is that those coming from african countries into our, you know, through legal immigration, have college degrees at a pretty high rate. >> senator, let me get back to you challenging the president from the senate floor and in other ways as well. what would it take for other republicans to stick their head out and do what you're doing? >> well, i hope that more of my colleagues will stand up when i know the president uses fake news, for example, in ways that i think put journalists across the world in danger. the committee to protect journalists notes that this year, we have an all-time high of 262 journalists imprisoned around the world. 21 of them, i believe, are held
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under false news charges, which sounds very familiar to fake news. there's a lot of countries that use that phrase, dictators around the world using that phrase now to staunch opposition or peaceful dissent, and that's not right. so, i would hope that more of my republican colleagues would stand up and say that's not proper, mr. president. we shouldn't be using that kind of language. >> so, i want to run through a few statistics, because it's interesting. first and foremost, for all your criticism of president trump, he is doing a lot of the policy proposals and passing a lot of the bills and things that you actually support, you know, whether it's -- >> you bet. >> yeah, you voted to confirm neal gorsuch for the supreme court, voted for the tax bill. in fact, you voted with president trump more than 90% of the time. so on balance, despite your criticism, do you support him? >> i'm a conservative, and when something like health care reform comes up, repealing and
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replacing obamacare, i voted some 30 times to repeal and replace obamacare. why should somebody expect because i have disagreements with the president on some policy and behavior for me to change my vote and vote differently? >> okay. >> should i do it just out of spite or to hobble the presidency? i find it interesting when people expect me, because i have disagreements with the president, to want to hobble him or to vote against what i consider good policy just out of spite. i don't do that. >> okay. >> and i don't think i should. >> so let me ask you then to put this in sort of a bigger perspective. you know, there are all these new books. there's "fire and fury" by michael wolff, there is "trumpocracy" by david frum. and frum, who's a former republican speech writer says "democracy is a work in progress. so is democracy's undoing. all it takes is for a few good men and women to do nothing." and i just want to note that over a third of republican
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senators called on trump to quit the race after the "access hollywood" tape, and now most of these senators are firmly behind him, and roughly half the conservative intellectuals who signed the famous never trump letter have now fallen in line behind the president. you know, what do you make of this, and how serious is the idea of trying to rein in his worst instincts, as you see it, if in fact, everybody's lining up behind him? >> well, i mean, i can't speak for my colleagues. for myself, i will vote with him when i think he's right, although many of the things like the tax policy and health care were more a congressional product than a white house product, but there are things that i differ significantly with the president on, for example, i spoke out during the campaign against the muslim ban. it morphed into a travel ban that is likely constitutional, but i don't think is wise. and i've spoken out against that as well as on trade. i think it was a massive mistake
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to exit out of the tpp or trans-pacific partnership. it would be equally devastating or even more so to get out of nafta. >> all right, senator. >> so, there are things that a lot of this doesn't come to legislation at this point, but it likely will. >> senator, i wish we had more time. thank you so much. senator jeff flake from arizona. now, the unprecedented debate around president trump's mental health has raised the question of how we navigate these turbulent times to a whole new height. i sat down with the editor of "the new yorker," david remnick, who's been at the helm of the magazine for almost 20 years, to discuss this and why he thinks trump's behavior is having a corrosive effect. david, welcome. >> thanks for having me, christiane. >> good to see you. your latest column in "the new yorker" goes all the way back in history to describe how you see the really millennial view about it, nero. >> we might be running out of metaphors. just as our nerves are getting
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so jangled. but yes, he resembled a mad emperor at this point, someone who's completely lost in space. >> is it really that bad? >> well, look, i am not a psychiatrist. i don't believe in even psychobiography when we do this historically. i think that's a very suspect piece of business if you're not careful. and obviously, there's lots of talk about the 25th amendment, which could potentially remove him from office, but the cabinet would have to do that. but if you read his tweets, if you watch his behavior, if you read the reporting for forever about donald trump, you see someone who cares not at all about policy, who has no interest in digging deep into the incredibly complex issues that face not him, but all of us. we face existentiales crises of
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climate change and nuclear confrontation. he knows nothing about these things, so yes, it's dangerous. so, the whole world, the whole of the united states is obsessed by this. i mean, 2017 has been literally the trump show 24/7. do you see that continuing in 2018? >> of course! why would it not continue? he's in office. look, when this idea first came up, the idea of donald trump running for president -- i'm a new yorker. i've been living with donald trump in the kind of jokosphere of new york in the 1980s. and when he was limited his status as a real estate showbiz carny and on the cover of the satirical private eye magazine of america. >> which first brought up the small hands. >> yeah, all that stuff, and the bragging and the narcissism and the feeding of one gossip column
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after another, that was one thing. when he became a reality tv star, that was another thing. you know, who cared, really? who cared? you know, it's a symptom of a larger phenomenon of reality tv. but when it came to running for president, i thought this guy was a bozo, unlettered in policy, doesn't care about any of these issues, cares about one thing, his own ego gratification from moment to moment. this has always been him. why would he be different? we elected this person. >> isn't that the point, that the american people went into the sanctity of the voting booths. they knew about the groping, they knew about the tapes, they knew about the charlton behavior. some people have accused him of being a con man, whether it's trump university, whenever it may be. >> and his victory. >> what did it say about the american people then? >> well, there are a number of
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things. i think it was a complex of problems. there were a lot of people that hated hillary clinton or that hillary clinton faltered candidate. that's what one camp will say. people will look at foreign influence, will look at the problem with the white working class and their resentments following the barack obama presidency. racism had a lot to do with this. resentment of a new alignment, demographic alignment in the united states had a lot to do with this, you see. this is a reactionary moment. and look, you know all the complex of things that fit into this. and he won. i don't think he expected to win and i don't think he necessarily wanted to win, which has been emphasized in the new michael wolff book. that always made sense to me. but then he was president, and he started performing in his own bizarre, twisted way. the presidency of the united
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states is if he was in a terrible movie. >> so "fire and fury," michael wolff's book, we're sort of into week two of this phenomenon and there is a bit of a backlash, which we can go into, and steve bannon, his main source, almost doing a mea culpa and walking some of it back, and trump on the defensive with his allies defending him. so doesn't that mean to all the people who say the liberals all over america who hope and pray for his impeachment, for his firing, for his 25th amendmenting, for people around the world who say, oh, my goodness, what is it going to take, that he actually is impervious, that this will go on, this presidency, and the chips will fall where they may? >> so far, we have rule of law in the united states. rule of law is one of the things that is at least at times alleviated the ill effects of the trump presidency in this first year. and the 25th amendment, which has never been brought forth as a reality in the united states, is extremely difficult to do,
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and you have his circle of people -- >> which is to remove a president. >> right, because of his incapacity. but the cabinet has to do that. the vice president of the united states has to do this. this is not something that the democratic minority does in congress. it's very different from impeachment. but that's one discussion that's accelerated as a result. i should say about the michael wolff book that so much of what's in it, trump's odd behavior, his narcissism, his lack of attention span, the fact that he doesn't read, his television obsession, his furi s furies, his temper, we've been reading about this in "the new york times," the "washington post," "the new yorker," for a long, long time. >> people have been asking this and genuinely, i don't know, is there any method to the madness, so to speak? in the united states, people have written him off for the last year, and yet, he's passed a once in 30-year tax reform bill. >> yeah, but there he had the republican party --
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>> okay. >> -- has been baying for this forever. >> but they nearly didn't. they nearly rebelled on him, right? >> he has a republican majority in the congress. >> okay. he has umpteen appointees across the countries, dismissed with a pen regulation all over. everything you said he's done, he would do, he's been doing. >> up to a point. he's had losses, too. he wasn't able to -- i don't see a wall separating the united states -- >> he opening up the new year promising a wall. >> and i don't doubt that he'll make the effort. look, he has the powers of the presidency with a republican congress. and maybe in 2018, the midterm elections will change that. but remember, in congress, you can limit certain domestic initiatives, but he still has the power of foreign policy, no matter what happens, if he's the president of the united states. >> where does it lead? because despite the hilarity of this or the nervous breakdown
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that the world has been experiencing over this, things are happening, and things might happen in north korea. >> look, things are happening that we don't even see day to day. for example, donald trump does not believe in the state department, essentially. his secretary of state doesn't really believe in traditional diplomacy. donald trump does not believe in traditional alliances that, despite all the disasters and all the era and all of the moral shortcomings of the postwar era has held together a lot of the world to a great extent since the end of the second world war. he doesn't care about it, he doesn't know about it, he doesn't want to fund it, and he has alienated one foreign leader after another, and at the same time, encouraged one autocrat after another so much so that his twitter phrase, fake news, for example, has become a
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favorite phrase of people from maduro to duterte to bashar al assad has used the phrase. this kind of -- >> vladimir putin. >> look at the solidarity that's being formed on one side in the arian nations being created on another. this is something that i'm afraid will take a long time to repair. >> you've said that all the other dictators around the world, and don't we know it as foreign correspondents, but even in the united states, it divides people. it makes people question even trusted brands that have been doing this job for decades and decades. what happened? >> i would say this. i think i'm very proud of the work "the new yorker" has done in the last year, and if i were the editor of "the new york times" or the "washington post" and a number of other places i'd say much the same, i think there's a lot of extraordinary journalism that's been done, despite the mockery, despite the threats of change in libel law, all this stuff that's come from the president, the president of
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the united states challenging not the first amendment, which is the first for a reason, and i think that that institution, along with the courts and a number of others, have held things together to some degree. i'm very proud of that. >> you were a bureau chief for the "washington post" in moscow. >> correspondent in moscow, yes. >> you know the area. where do you think this is heading, first of all -- >> they're delighted! they're delighted! >> he's probably going to win again? >> putin will. yeah, i think that's a pretty safe bet. >> and what does it mean for the united states? >> it means that the united states is in chaos. it means, if i'm vladimir putin and i look at donald trump and i see donald trump paying me one compliment after another and i see donald trump going out of his way to insult, do worse, the
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pand one politician after ess, another. if i'm vladimir putin and i'm trying to reassert russian power and influence in the world, trying to bring stability, trying to get rid of sanctions, i'm delighted. >> david remnick, thank you so much. your insight's always so valuable. >> great to be here. thank you. >> and that's it for our program tonight. thank you for watching "amanpour on pbs," and join us again tomorrow night. -- captions by vitac -- >> announcer: "amanpour on pbs" was made possible by the generous support of rosalind p. walter. you're watching pbs.
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