10/05/2017 Newsnight


10/05/2017

With Evan Davis. Donald Trump's sacking of FBI director James Comey, and should foreigners be banned from buying houses?


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Transcript


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It's not the way they meant to release it, but a draft

:00:00.:00:07.

of the Labour manifesto has found its way into the press.

:00:08.:00:09.

A radical manifesto - but is it 1983 again?

:00:10.:00:16.

The Mirror journalist, Jack Blanchard, with

:00:17.:00:18.

Is he trying to run the US like it's a game show?

:00:19.:00:45.

We'll ask if the President is irreversibly undermining

:00:46.:00:47.

and politicising justice and security in the US.

:00:48.:00:51.

And Noam Chomsky hasn't mellowed much, aged 88.

:00:52.:00:56.

the most dangerous organisation on Earth?

:00:57.:01:01.

Probably not the news that Labour wanted -

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but a draft of their manifesto has been leaked.

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The Telegraph and Daily Mirror have it and wrote it up

:01:26.:01:27.

Labour's NEC is gathering tomorrow in what is called a Clause five

:01:28.:01:32.

meeting, to agree the final version, so it could in theory

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"We do not comment on leaks. We will announce our policies

:01:36.:01:41.

in our manifesto, which is our plan to transform Britain for the many

:01:42.:01:45.

Well, many not the few is the kind of theme of the draft -

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with, for example, a plan for there to be at least one

:01:55.:01:57.

publicly owned energy company in every part of the UK.

:01:58.:02:00.

National Grid, railways and bus companies are to be nationalised.

:02:01.:02:02.

Well, I'm joined by Jack Blanchard, the Mirror's political editor -

:02:03.:02:05.

And with our own political editor, Nick Watt.

:02:06.:02:12.

Just to be clear, Jack, what you have there is a print out. It's not

:02:13.:02:20.

a typeset, formalised version? I'm afraid not. No cover, no glossy

:02:21.:02:26.

feel. It is a dodgy, leaked document. But it does have their

:02:27.:02:32.

draft measures. Give us some of the eye-catching ones. There's a lot in

:02:33.:02:36.

there. As you mention, there is the plan to bring a big part of the

:02:37.:02:42.

energy industry back into public ownership. There is a huge

:02:43.:02:46.

investment plans for the NHS, ?6 billion extra a year, which will be

:02:47.:02:50.

funded with new taxes on people earning more than ?80,000 a year.

:02:51.:02:58.

There's council houses to be built every year, tuition fees abolished

:02:59.:03:04.

entirely... We kind of knew that anyway. And then the creation of new

:03:05.:03:10.

Whitehall departments, a Ministry of Labour, a Department for housing,

:03:11.:03:16.

because Labour seat workers' rights and housing as central. Lots and

:03:17.:03:20.

lots on workers' rights. The Telegraph have written it up

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tonight. You take a slightly different spin than the Daily

:03:25.:03:28.

Mirror. They are saying it is 1983 all over again. The moderates in the

:03:29.:03:34.

Labour Party are relatively relaxed about this draft manifesto which

:03:35.:03:38.

they had obviously seen. They are saying this is the closest the

:03:39.:03:44.

Labour Party has got to the 1980s, the famous 1983 manifesto, the

:03:45.:03:48.

longest suicide note in history, as the late Sir Gerald Kaufman calls

:03:49.:03:57.

it. They are saying that they are upholding Labour's commitment to

:03:58.:04:00.

renewing Trident in this manifesto, that there was a curious paragraph

:04:01.:04:04.

after that, saying any Prime Minister would want to use the

:04:05.:04:08.

nuclear deterrent with caution. Which I think they have done up

:04:09.:04:19.

until now! 82%... Commitment to the 2% spending on defence. They are

:04:20.:04:25.

saying that Robin Cook could've written that in 1997. Who has

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written this? Is it Corbin 's team? Absolutely. Two or three key members

:04:31.:04:36.

in his team. They obviously have not had very much time to do it. They

:04:37.:04:44.

started looking at all the things they wanted to do, and they have

:04:45.:04:48.

reached out from there. Labour are not doing well in the polls, but

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when you look at the policies, like nationalising railways, people will

:04:55.:04:57.

like it. Would you describe this as quite populist in flavour, taxing

:04:58.:05:06.

the rich more to pay more into the NHS? A nationalised energy company

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in all regions? I spoke to a senior member of Corbyn's team tonight

:05:14.:05:16.

asking if they wanted to say anything. They didn't want to

:05:17.:05:22.

comment on record, but when I said some of this looks quite left-wing,

:05:23.:05:28.

they said, no, it is popular. If you look at these individual policies,

:05:29.:05:33.

like energy and privatised railways, and higher taxes on some people,

:05:34.:05:37.

people agree with them on that. I was talking to one moderate this

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afternoon. The moderates said that the abolition of university fees

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would connect people. And they said, oh, dear me, is this going to raise

:05:52.:05:57.

questions about their strategy? The moderate strategy is to let Jeremy

:05:58.:06:02.

Corbyn own it. The one red line was a Trident renewal commitment. For

:06:03.:06:06.

everything else, they are taking the tragedy -- the strategy owned by

:06:07.:06:14.

John Golding. They say that he must own this so he can own the general

:06:15.:06:18.

election result. Let's think about the process. This goes to this

:06:19.:06:23.

Clause 5 meeting tomorrow. Is that just a formality? Will they not it

:06:24.:06:30.

through, or will the NEC be over each other's shoulders, trying to...

:06:31.:06:35.

I think it is tweets more than anything more serious. -- it is

:06:36.:06:40.

tweaks. I don't think they will change much. In the past, you had

:06:41.:06:45.

battles, although that would take place beforehand. It's not just the

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NEC, it is the Shadow Cabinet, and it is the trade union liaison and

:06:52.:06:55.

contact group. The trade unions have a big say. I was told one thing that

:06:56.:07:01.

might cause a problem at the meeting tomorrow is what it says about

:07:02.:07:06.

immigration. The trades union do not think it goes fast -- far enough.

:07:07.:07:14.

Will the party be really annoyed? Is it a shambles or a clever media

:07:15.:07:21.

strategy? Lets leak it out, let's get people talking... It's not that.

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It looks slightly shambolic. My understanding is this has happened

:07:28.:07:31.

before. Because Labour has this process, this big meeting full of

:07:32.:07:36.

senior people who all discuss it, leaks can happen because of this

:07:37.:07:40.

process. But it is in their constitution and it's how they work.

:07:41.:07:44.

It's not what they planned, but it was all due to come next week

:07:45.:07:50.

anyway. Whose interest is it to leak this, and for what motive? You could

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say that the Corbyn Knights have a good reason for leaking it, to get

:08:00.:08:05.

away with any problem. And to stop anybody watering it down? And you

:08:06.:08:13.

could play that game, so I don't exactly know. Thank you for coming

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in with it. Thanks very much. So - a President fires the head

:08:16.:08:19.

of the internal security service, on perplexing grounds that

:08:20.:08:22.

are months' old. Just as the security

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service is investigating It doesn't sound like

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the US, but it is. Today, the New York Times

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reported that the terminated director of the FBI

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James Comey had just been asking for more resources

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for the investigation into Russian Was he sacked to thwart

:08:34.:08:37.

an inconvenient investigation? Or, do we believe the Trump line -

:08:38.:08:41.

that Mr Comey had lost the trust of Democrats and Republicans alike

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and the FBI needed a fresh start? Well, for many, the President has

:08:46.:08:48.

crossed a dangerous threshold - the constitution has checks

:08:49.:08:51.

and balances on his power, but it has to allow him some

:08:52.:08:54.

discretion, and to them, he's broken the spirit of US

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convention, by exploiting his powers Our diplomatic editor

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Mark Urban is with me. In FBI terms, the history of the

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FBI, how big a deal is it for the FBI director to be sacked? I think

:09:18.:09:22.

you know the answer to this question. One has been sacked

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before, by Bill Clinton back in 1993. William Sessions. People say

:09:29.:09:34.

this was a move like Nixon. Nixon fired the special prosecutor who had

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been appointed to investigate the Watergate burglary, so that's where

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there are parallels. Consternation in Washington today, and all sorts

:09:45.:09:49.

of versions coming out of a beleaguered president becoming

:09:50.:09:54.

obsessed with this Russia issue, finally boiling over and doing this.

:09:55.:09:58.

That is from anti-Trump media, but it is true that he hadn't been doing

:09:59.:10:02.

public engagements in recent days, and it's also true that even his

:10:03.:10:07.

press people seemed unaware until moments before this happened that it

:10:08.:10:10.

was going to happen. They have been putting some other lines out today,

:10:11.:10:15.

like saying, we thought the Democrats would really like this and

:10:16.:10:20.

be supportive. Everybody has jumped to their own conclusion about why it

:10:21.:10:25.

happened, and that is largely to do with the Russian thing. But that

:10:26.:10:29.

Russian investigation will go on. It all comes back to the investigation

:10:30.:10:34.

of the connection between the trump campaign and the Russians.

:10:35.:10:37.

No-one has produced evidence of it yet, but there's a lurking suspicion

:10:38.:10:40.

that team Trump might have encouraged, co-ordinated,

:10:41.:10:42.

or been in some way complicit with Russian hacking

:10:43.:10:44.

If that was true, well, let's just say it's not a good thing to do.

:10:45.:10:49.

Paul Wood is in Washington, and looks at what's left

:10:50.:10:51.

of the investigations into the Russian connection

:10:52.:10:53.

The political melodrama "House of Trump" is a ratings smash.

:10:54.:11:02.

But at times it's a little dark, and the plot does stretch credulity.

:11:03.:11:09.

In part one, the FBI investigates whether the Trump campaign conspired

:11:10.:11:13.

with a foreign power, Russia, to steal the US

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In part two, Trump fires the FBI director, James Comey.

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It was not to derail the FBI investigation,

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Yes, that is Henry Kissinger next to him.

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The question is, naturally, were about Comey's sacking.

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He wasn't doing a good job, very simply.

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The president wrote a terse letter to Comey,

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saying it was "Vital to restore public trust and

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Significantly, he recalled Comey "Informing me on three

:11:56.:11:58.

separate occasions that I am not under investigation".

:11:59.:12:00.

At the White House briefing, an avalanche of scepticism...

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Look, I think it was something that...

:12:05.:12:15.

Above my pay grade was decided to be included, and I'm not going to get

:12:16.:12:19.

Trump's critics paint a different picture.

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They don't believe that Comey was sacked,

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as the White House says, because he was too tough

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The White House should perhaps recall what another president, LBJ,

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said about another FBI director, J Edgar Hoover.

:12:33.:12:40.

Better to have him inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in.

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It is a delicious irony that Russia's Foreign Minister should be

:12:44.:12:47.

visiting Washington today to see Mr Trump.

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Never forget that the US intelligence agencies all say that

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Russia interfered in the election, and they did it to put

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That assessment was made by James Clapper, when he was director

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He told Congress this week that Russia had hacked leading Democrats

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and then leaked out damaging information a sophisticated

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They must be congratulating themselves for having

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exceeded their wildest expectations with a minimal

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And I believe they are now emboldened to continue such

:13:27.:13:33.

activities in the future both here and around the world,

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No evidence has been made public proving

:13:36.:13:52.

There's no evidence either for the claim that the Kremlin

:13:53.:13:57.

is blackmailing the president, using a tape of him

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Nor has it yet been shown that Trump's business dealings put him

:14:00.:14:03.

But the FBI investigation will continue after Comey's departure.

:14:04.:14:07.

There are also four separate congressional enquiries.

:14:08.:14:08.

All these investigations now have many more questions

:14:09.:14:10.

following the events of the last 24 hours.

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What does he know that's yet to be made public?

:14:13.:14:16.

And, was Trump reassured that he himself was not the subject

:14:17.:14:19.

Washington echoes to talk that a special

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Inevitably, the President's critics compare this to Watergate.

:14:27.:14:33.

There is a clear and present danger of a cover-up,

:14:34.:14:36.

history doesn't repeat but it rhymes.

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And this firing very much has the look and feel of an effort

:14:40.:14:42.

to stop an investigation and politically interfere with it.

:14:43.:14:47.

Not since Watergate has a president dismissed the person leading

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But, President Trump may be right, that only his aides and associates

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Then the question will be that which came to define Watergate -

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what did the president know, and when did he know it?

:15:08.:15:13.

How much of a danger do you think this Russian investigation is to

:15:14.:15:27.

President Trump? Well, we know that the idea mesmerises the intelligence

:15:28.:15:31.

community. Ex-director Comey and others, as well as the President's

:15:32.:15:35.

political opponents. It is that there is some kind of connectivity

:15:36.:15:39.

that is provable between the Trump campaign, and the hacking and

:15:40.:15:43.

leaking of e-mails during last year's presidential election. That

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is clearly the main thing they are going for. There are peripheral

:15:47.:15:51.

issues with money, meetings coordinating policy, other things.

:15:52.:15:54.

But that is the central thing they want to prove. Clearly, if they get

:15:55.:15:59.

there, if it is possible to prove that connection of people meeting,

:16:00.:16:05.

and money going... You know, actual connectivity, let's leaked this

:16:06.:16:09.

one... In the coming days, then it is an absolute major bombshell. But

:16:10.:16:14.

they are a long way off. The President's defences are holding up

:16:15.:16:18.

in certain respects. For example, today more than 75 Democrats and

:16:19.:16:23.

independents joined the call for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

:16:24.:16:28.

No Republicans, just three in Congress and the Senate, led by John

:16:29.:16:33.

McCain, backing the idea of a special committee of enquiry. On the

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whole come his defences are holding up. Self-evidently they've not got

:16:38.:16:40.

the point where they could launch a charge against individuals on these

:16:41.:16:46.

very serious potential allegations, and of course even if they do, they

:16:47.:16:51.

may well be arms lengths associates people who were dismissed from the

:16:52.:16:54.

campaign at some point during the campaign. It may be, if there is in

:16:55.:17:00.

the end a parallel to Watergate, the attempts to cover up or disrupts

:17:01.:17:05.

investigations that could finally do for him. Mark, thank you.

:17:06.:17:07.

One concern is whether the President is somehow undermining

:17:08.:17:09.

the institutions of the US, politicising justice

:17:10.:17:11.

and damaging morale at the FBI and Department of Justice.

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The kind of thing that you might expect of lesser countries.

:17:14.:17:16.

Let's talk to Sidney Blumenthal, a senior aide to Bill Clinton

:17:17.:17:23.

who worked at the Clinton Foundation.

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First - Charlotte Laws, an author and political commentator

:17:28.:17:29.

who was one of President Trump's earliest supporters.

:17:30.:17:32.

Charlotte, why do you think the President acted now on this? This

:17:33.:17:39.

question of why now seems to be one that has least satisfactory answers?

:17:40.:17:44.

Well, I think it was a cumulative effect. I think it had been building

:17:45.:17:48.

like a storm for President Trump. This goes all the way back to

:17:49.:17:53.

January. Comey was increasingly viewed as a political figure which

:17:54.:17:57.

is inappropriate for someone who is the director of the FBI. There were

:17:58.:18:01.

calls from the Republicans to sack him. Here in Los Angeles, I'm

:18:02.:18:05.

independent but I know a lot of Republicans and they were all saying

:18:06.:18:10.

to me back in January, why doesn't Trump fire Comey? There was a big

:18:11.:18:15.

push for this. I think that Trump had it in his ear like I had it in

:18:16.:18:19.

my ear. The Democrats were calling for Comey to be fired during the

:18:20.:18:23.

campaign and there were reports that within the FBI there is

:18:24.:18:26.

disgruntlement and they were unhappy with the leadership. That was

:18:27.:18:31.

happening at the same time. You have controversy from a few days ago

:18:32.:18:35.

where Comey went out and misstated information regarding e-mails which

:18:36.:18:40.

created huge controversy and he had to come out and change what he had

:18:41.:18:45.

said, clarifying it. Then you have the deputy who made a recommendation

:18:46.:18:49.

that he was fired. All of these things had come together and I think

:18:50.:18:52.

that Trump had an erosion of confidence. You've given me a big

:18:53.:18:57.

list there. And people will judge whether they think those things on

:18:58.:19:00.

that list are convincing or not. Do you not think that the president

:19:01.:19:05.

should have thought about how it looks? He is being investigated, or

:19:06.:19:09.

his campaigners, by the FBI. He sacks the director. Maybe he should

:19:10.:19:13.

have said, I do not like this guy that I will wait until the

:19:14.:19:17.

investigation is over before I sack him? Well, I think you don't do

:19:18.:19:22.

something like this unless you have a pure heart. It is like if you or

:19:23.:19:27.

did tractors say that you stole a red Corvette, you don't go out and

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borrow one and put it in your driveway if you don't have a pure

:19:32.:19:35.

heart. I think his detractors would have criticised him no matter when

:19:36.:19:39.

he fired Comey. The investigation may not be over the years, and

:19:40.:19:43.

secondly, if he did it back in January when he first came into

:19:44.:19:46.

office, he still would have been criticised for the same basic

:19:47.:19:51.

reasons. I think so many people are anti-Trump in the media and the

:19:52.:19:54.

Democrats and political figures that it is hard for him to do anything

:19:55.:19:58.

that is seen as right or proper. I want to ask you one question. This

:19:59.:20:03.

perplexes me. In the letter that Trump sent to Comey, he used the

:20:04.:20:08.

line "While I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate

:20:09.:20:12.

occasions that I am not under investigation, blah blah blah... ",

:20:13.:20:18.

what a strange thing to write. It is like it is on Trump's mind, as he

:20:19.:20:23.

terminates this guy, is the investigation into his team. Why

:20:24.:20:27.

would you write that in there? It is very strange to me. Because being

:20:28.:20:31.

president is very much public relations. He wants to make it clear

:20:32.:20:37.

to America that he is not personally under investigation. As I understand

:20:38.:20:42.

he isn't. Personally. He wants to make it clear. I also think that the

:20:43.:20:48.

reason why he did not call Comey himself was because Trump has a

:20:49.:20:51.

reputation of not liking to confront people and make them feel bad. It's

:20:52.:20:56.

very hard for him to fire people. I've heard many people say it with

:20:57.:21:00.

regards to the Trump Organization, he would leave people in the company

:21:01.:21:03.

even though he wanted them gone because he couldn't bring himself to

:21:04.:21:07.

fire them face-to-face or he would get someone else to do it. That's

:21:08.:21:11.

probably the reason why he did not call him and that is the reason for

:21:12.:21:16.

that comment in the letter. His catchphrase was "You're fired". But

:21:17.:21:20.

you are ironically saying he was incapable of firing people. Let me

:21:21.:21:25.

go to Sidney Blumenthal now. I may come back to you afterwards. Do you

:21:26.:21:30.

think that this is a constitutional crisis? Or at least a constitutional

:21:31.:21:36.

moment? It is a crisis in democracy and it has been ever since the

:21:37.:21:42.

moment that Donald Trump was inaugurated. He declared war on the

:21:43.:21:46.

free press and called them enemies of the people. There hasn't been

:21:47.:21:50.

that kind of language since Middle Europe in the 1930s. Against the

:21:51.:21:57.

free press. And, he has attacked judges. He has called them so-called

:21:58.:22:02.

judges, and attacked the judicial system on cases that he is involved

:22:03.:22:08.

in, attempting to ban people based on their religion from the

:22:09.:22:11.

country... We know all of that, but I'm just wondering whether that

:22:12.:22:16.

really undermines the institutions of democracy in the USA... It puts

:22:17.:22:20.

enormous stress on those institutions. There has not been a

:22:21.:22:24.

president like Donald Trump in the entire history of the US. Not even

:22:25.:22:33.

Nixon. While Nixon was guilty of crimes which were the articles of a

:22:34.:22:39.

peach mint, there hasn't been such a systematic assault on the

:22:40.:22:44.

institutions of democracy in the US. Then under Donald Trump --

:22:45.:22:49.

impeachment. We heard this from Charlotte earlier, he basically

:22:50.:22:55.

blamed Comey for losing Hillary Clinton the election. It's

:22:56.:23:00.

interesting the Democrats are the great defenders of Comey, because

:23:01.:23:04.

Comey is now Trump's enemy and they had to rally round. What is going on

:23:05.:23:10.

there? I would say that the approximate cause given for the

:23:11.:23:16.

firing of Comey by the assistant Attorney General was ridiculous on

:23:17.:23:23.

its face. It is entirely true that Comey is guilty of everything listed

:23:24.:23:27.

there and how he behaves, that happened back in July 20 16. After

:23:28.:23:34.

that event, Donald Trump conducted a very public campaign claiming that

:23:35.:23:36.

even though Hillary Clinton had been exonerated, that she should have

:23:37.:23:39.

been locked up and that she was a criminal. He even used the

:23:40.:23:44.

Republican convention to express that theme. Mike Glennon let chance

:23:45.:23:52.

of "Lock her up" from the platform of the Republican convention. It's

:23:53.:23:57.

ridiculous. Everybody knows it is a ridiculous reason. The reason is

:23:58.:24:00.

that he is attempting to obstruct the investigation into Russia's

:24:01.:24:06.

intervention in the US election. That is your charge, the

:24:07.:24:12.

congressional investigations will continue. But tell me, what are you

:24:13.:24:17.

meant to do if you are the President of the United States, and you do not

:24:18.:24:21.

like your FBI director? And you don't think he is doing a good job?

:24:22.:24:25.

And there is chatter all over the place saying that the guy is not up

:24:26.:24:30.

to it? You are going to sack him, right? It's an interesting question.

:24:31.:24:35.

Had he wanted to change his FBI director, who has a term of nine

:24:36.:24:41.

years, he could have done that during his transition or when he

:24:42.:24:45.

first came into office. Instead, he praised him and he had a public

:24:46.:24:49.

meeting with him that was filmed in which he embraced him. So something

:24:50.:24:53.

else has happened. What we've learned in the last 24 hours is that

:24:54.:24:57.

there is a grand jury that has been convened by James Comey and it is

:24:58.:25:05.

hearing testimony from associates of Michael Flynn, who says he has a

:25:06.:25:10.

story to tell. We learned James Comey asked for a vast increase in

:25:11.:25:16.

funding for his investigation. There are other elements involved here.

:25:17.:25:21.

Sidney Blumenthal, fax Charlotte, you are not go to blame anyone for

:25:22.:25:25.

putting two and two together, saying he has obviously done this as he is

:25:26.:25:31.

leading an investigation which is effective into his campaign? I do

:25:32.:25:35.

not think you can read into President Trump's mind. I think he

:25:36.:25:38.

wants this investigation concluded. I do not think he has tried to

:25:39.:25:42.

thwart it but get it behind him. It's a handicap to his presidency. I

:25:43.:25:47.

do not think it is logical to think that that was the goal behind his

:25:48.:25:51.

actions. Charlotte, don't you agree it should be pretty difficult for a

:25:52.:25:55.

president? The president has the power to sack the director of the

:25:56.:26:00.

FBI, wouldn't it be better if presidents used it with restraint

:26:01.:26:05.

and it was fairly difficult to do? Thinking about it for awhile, have

:26:06.:26:10.

consultations and enquiry? I cannot quite hear you, the sound has got

:26:11.:26:14.

rough? It should be difficult to sack the director of the FBI and not

:26:15.:26:20.

too easy for a president to do that? Well, presidents can have anybody

:26:21.:26:23.

that they want is the director of the FBI. It is his decision and I do

:26:24.:26:29.

not think he was praising Komi initially, but I think he wanted him

:26:30.:26:35.

to have a chance. -- Comey. Face-to-face, he has a reputation

:26:36.:26:38.

for getting along with everybody, and being friends with people. And

:26:39.:26:44.

getting them to do what he wants them to do, building relationships.

:26:45.:26:49.

I do not think it is unusual at all. It is obviously President Trump's

:26:50.:26:52.

choice, and I think he likely has a pure heart in this. I cannot read

:26:53.:26:58.

into his mind like Sidney Blumenthal cannot, that is what I think. Thank

:26:59.:27:00.

you both very much. One potential threat hanging over

:27:01.:27:02.

the Conservative campaign was that of possible prosecutions

:27:03.:27:05.

for breeches of election This is all to do with the party

:27:06.:27:06.

spending national money on local campaigns, and counting it

:27:07.:27:14.

in the wrong box, in order to override rules about

:27:15.:27:16.

how much can be spent. Well, today that threat

:27:17.:27:18.

almost went away. 15 police forces looking at multiple

:27:19.:27:21.

constituencies reported to the Crown Prosecution Service,

:27:22.:27:24.

and in 14 of those, However, it's not a get out of gaol

:27:25.:27:27.

free card for the Tory campaign. In one prominent case -

:27:28.:27:33.

a decision is still to come. The Conservative Party has already

:27:34.:27:35.

been in trouble over its election Tory HQ has paid a ?70,000 fine

:27:36.:27:41.

for misreported spending the result of an exhaustive

:27:42.:27:50.

Channel 4 News investigation. The Crown Prosecution Service said

:27:51.:27:55.

today that it was now only considering criminal charges

:27:56.:28:01.

relating to overspending There was an error made

:28:02.:28:03.

in our national returns And the Electoral Commission

:28:04.:28:13.

fined us for that, The cases dropped today relate

:28:14.:28:16.

to a battle bus campaign which took Tory activists and shipped them

:28:17.:28:21.

into target seats. Now, what these cases actually

:28:22.:28:25.

demonstrate is a real oddity Specifically, there would have been

:28:26.:28:27.

no investigation at all, and no problems at all,

:28:28.:28:35.

had those Tory activists simply handed out leaflets that only

:28:36.:28:38.

mentioned David Cameron The problem was that, and I quote

:28:39.:28:40.

the Electoral Commission, "they found social media posts

:28:41.:28:47.

where activists from the coaches "were holding campaign material

:28:48.:28:50.

promoting individual candidates." The reason they drew that

:28:51.:28:57.

distinction is that our law distinguishes between national

:28:58.:29:00.

spending - promoting parties - and local election spending -

:29:01.:29:02.

promoting candidates. Take two activists for a party

:29:03.:29:06.

who both want their man, Joe Bloggs, Let's say both get on a bus paid

:29:07.:29:09.

for by the party on the same And both are going leafleting

:29:10.:29:15.

to help Mr Bloggs. Let's say, by the luck of the draw,

:29:16.:29:23.

one of them gets a bundle of leaflets that praise local man

:29:24.:29:27.

Joe Bloggs, and the other gets leaflets that only

:29:28.:29:31.

mention the party leader The activists delivering

:29:32.:29:32.

the local Joe Bloggs leaflet will count as local spending,

:29:33.:29:37.

but the activists delivering the national leaflets will count

:29:38.:29:39.

as national all-party spending. Never mind the fact that a vote

:29:40.:29:44.

for the national party in this seat In Victorian times, an MP was simply

:29:45.:29:48.

returned for his constituencies without any regard for his party

:29:49.:29:53.

label whatsoever, and the parties were not creatures really

:29:54.:29:57.

recognised by the law. They were certainly not

:29:58.:30:02.

controlled by the law. More recently, that is to say

:30:03.:30:05.

within the last 20 years, we've had a system which has

:30:06.:30:09.

recognised political parties and sought to control party

:30:10.:30:13.

expenditure, hence we've got one system left over from Victorian

:30:14.:30:17.

times for individual MPs, and one system recently introduced

:30:18.:30:21.

for national expenses, for national campaigns, for now

:30:22.:30:23.

recognised political parties. The case whose fate is yet

:30:24.:30:30.

to be decided, though, South Thanet in Kent,

:30:31.:30:33.

is the most serious, and it's not about activists handing

:30:34.:30:35.

out the wrong leaflets. It's about one party

:30:36.:30:44.

using its spending superiority It's precisely the sort

:30:45.:30:46.

of activity that these rules This case is so high profile

:30:47.:30:49.

because Nick Timothy, now the Prime Minister's co-chief

:30:50.:30:56.

of staff, ran that campaign. The CPS might not prosecute, though,

:30:57.:30:58.

for the same reason they declined They have to prove the local MP

:30:59.:31:01.

or agent broke their spending limits deliberately,

:31:02.:31:08.

not by accident, because Tory Central Office gave candidates duff

:31:09.:31:12.

advice about receipts. The law draws quite odd lines,

:31:13.:31:14.

and prosecution is difficult. Our political editor

:31:15.:31:25.

Nick Watt is here... Viewsnight now, and in the run up

:31:26.:31:30.

to the election we've been devoting this spot to provocative ideas

:31:31.:31:33.

for the party manifestos. Should they be minded

:31:34.:31:35.

to look for some. Tonight Faiza Shaheen,

:31:36.:31:37.

director of the Thinktank Class Noam Chomsky is not

:31:38.:31:39.

just one of the world's most famous academics -

:31:40.:33:28.

his work on linguistics has shaped the field in the modern era -

:33:29.:33:30.

he is also one of the world's most famous supporters of

:33:31.:33:34.

the political left. Well, Professor Chomsky has been

:33:35.:33:39.

at the University of Reading this evening; giving a lecture

:33:40.:33:42.

on the state of western democracy. He is 88. He has campaigned for

:33:43.:33:54.

socialism for decades, and just as rage on social injustice erupts and

:33:55.:33:59.

there's an overthrow of established thinking, he finds that President

:34:00.:34:04.

Trump is in office for him. I went over to Reading this afternoon to

:34:05.:34:07.

talk to him about everything that's going on. I asked what it was about

:34:08.:34:12.

Donald Trump that appealed to American voters. What is the

:34:13.:34:17.

alternative? The Democrats gave up on the working class 40 years ago.

:34:18.:34:22.

The working class is not their constituency. No one in the

:34:23.:34:28.

political system is. The Republicans claim to be, but they are basically

:34:29.:34:34.

their class enemy, however they can appeal to people on the basis of

:34:35.:34:41.

claims about religion, white supremacy... So you think there was

:34:42.:34:46.

quite a racist motivation? No doubt about that. Are we talking 3%, 30%

:34:47.:34:57.

of the voters? Roughly? There's a substantial streak of fundamentalist

:34:58.:35:05.

religion. Trump took an enormous quantity of the Christian

:35:06.:35:10.

fundamentalists, who are a big segment of the US population.

:35:11.:35:17.

Remember, in the United States, about 40% of the population think

:35:18.:35:20.

the second coming is going to be in their lifetimes. The United States

:35:21.:35:29.

is off the spectrum in this respect. Do you think Trump will do much

:35:30.:35:33.

damage while he is there, and will it be permanent damage to the

:35:34.:35:38.

institutions of the US? I think the main damage he will do is to the

:35:39.:35:43.

world, and it is already happening. The most significant aspect of the

:35:44.:35:47.

Trump election, and not just Trump, the whole Republican Party, is their

:35:48.:35:54.

departing from the rest of the world on climate change. You have called

:35:55.:35:59.

the Republican party the most dangerous organisation on earth. In

:36:00.:36:05.

human history. It is an outrageous statement. When I said it, I said it

:36:06.:36:13.

was very outrageous. But is it true? You are rating them as worse than

:36:14.:36:18.

Kim Jong-un of North Korea, or as Isis? Is Isis dedicated to

:36:19.:36:23.

destroying the prospects for organised human existence? It's that

:36:24.:36:30.

bad? What does it mean to say we are not doing anything about climate

:36:31.:36:34.

change, and we are trying to accelerate the race to the

:36:35.:36:39.

precipice? And you don't entertain the possibility that they might be

:36:40.:36:45.

genuine in their belief... Doesn't matter. If the consequence of that

:36:46.:36:50.

is, let's use more fossil fuels, let's refuse to subsidise developing

:36:51.:36:57.

countries, if that is the consequence, that is extremely

:36:58.:37:03.

dangerous. Macron won the French election, Emmanuel Macron, and

:37:04.:37:09.

internationalist, liberal, loves the EU. All the things, in a way, that

:37:10.:37:15.

the Trump voters have tried to reject. Can he succeed? Is this the

:37:16.:37:22.

end of populism in Europe? By no means. Macron is a good example

:37:23.:37:28.

about how the core of the institutions have collapsed. He came

:37:29.:37:34.

from the outside. A vote for him was substantially a vote against Le Pen,

:37:35.:37:39.

who is recognised to be a serious danger. What about the British

:37:40.:37:45.

election? Jeremy Corbyn has been leading the Labour Party. They have

:37:46.:37:50.

an uphill task, according to the opinion polls. Have you any advice

:37:51.:37:54.

or thoughts about how Labour refines its pitch and makes it to government

:37:55.:38:00.

in the UK? If you asked me to vote, I would vote for them. They have a

:38:01.:38:08.

problem. I think he is a very decent and good person, and I've followed

:38:09.:38:12.

his career for some years. He is evidently not inspiring the

:38:13.:38:22.

population. Labour has not come out with its programme, so we don't

:38:23.:38:26.

really know what it will be. There is a sense of a lack of clarity

:38:27.:38:31.

about what he stands for, which is odd because he was someone who was

:38:32.:38:36.

most clear about it. What has happened to the Labour Party through

:38:37.:38:43.

the neoliberal years is, it became is, as many call it, Thatcherite,

:38:44.:38:49.

especially under Blair. It did not represent the working class. I want

:38:50.:38:53.

to talk to you about Julian Assange. You have been a big supporter of him

:38:54.:38:58.

and WikiLeaks. Many progressive people have looked at WikiLeaks and

:38:59.:39:03.

said, this organisation is on the wrong side of history. Do you still

:39:04.:39:08.

believe in Julian Assange, despite the fact that they published e-mails

:39:09.:39:14.

of Hillary Clinton's... I believe that the persecution of him is

:39:15.:39:19.

completely wrong. The threats against him are completely wrong.

:39:20.:39:23.

They should be withdrawn. He should be freed. He shouldn't be

:39:24.:39:30.

imprisoned. Judicial process. He needs to be questioned about the

:39:31.:39:34.

accusations. It is pretty much a front. There is no reason why

:39:35.:39:39.

Swedish prosecutors can't interrogate him on the charge that

:39:40.:39:44.

they think they have. In fact, they've already begun to do so.

:39:45.:39:50.

What's keeping him in prison... In an embassy, is his desire to go in

:39:51.:39:57.

there. Is the threat that the US will go after him. Is he right to

:39:58.:40:03.

worry about it? Of course. It is the threat that is wrong. As to what

:40:04.:40:07.

WikiLeaks has decided to release, you can have various opinions. What

:40:08.:40:16.

is your opinion of stolen e-mails, perfectly legitimate e-mails, stolen

:40:17.:40:19.

and put in the public domain? I would not have been in favour of

:40:20.:40:29.

doing that, but the general idea of informing the public, informing

:40:30.:40:37.

citizens, of what you are doing and keeping from them, that's a good

:40:38.:40:41.

idea. Gnome Chomsky, thank you very much indeed.

:40:42.:40:45.

Noam Chomsky there, in all fairness speaking before The Mirror

:40:46.:40:47.

And you can see a longer version of that on the Newsnight YouTube page.

:40:48.:40:52.

And if the election has been spoiling the vibe

:40:53.:40:55.

of your springtime, we leave you with a celebration

:40:56.:40:57.

of seasonal fertility courtesy of film-maker Jamie Scott.

:40:58.:40:59.

Mr Scott has a genius for filming flowers blooming in time lapse,

:41:00.:41:02.

and his latest work took three years to make.

:41:03.:41:04.

# A friend with breasts and all the rest

:41:05.:41:31.

# A friend who's dressed in leather

:41:32.:41:35.

In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Evan Davis.

Donald Trump's sacking of FBI director James Comey, and should foreigners be banned from buying houses?


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