- Show Notes
On this week’s Stay Tuned, “Bannon & The F You Presidency,” Preet answers your questions about:
— U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s decision change his original testimony before congressional impeachment investigators
— What former Special Counsel Bob Mueller might think about the impeachment inquiry
— The full transcript of Trump’s “perfect” July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Errol Morris is this week’s guest on Stay Tuned. He is an author and Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker. He joins Preet for a wide-ranging conversation about his latest film, American Dharma, which profiles Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and executive chairman of Breitbart News Network, who’s been credited with helping elect President Donald Trump.
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As always, tweet your questions to @PreetBharara with hashtag #askpreet, email us at [email protected], or call 699-247-7338 to leave a voicemail.
Preet Bharara: Hey, listeners. I want to let you know about The Report, which comes to theaters starting November 15th. The film is based on the real-life investigation of the CIA’s secret Detention and Interrogation Program, which was created in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. We’re bringing you a special episode of Stay Tuned next Tuesday, the 12th, where I speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, Mark Mazzetti. Remember to go and see the Amazon Original motion picture The Report, starring Adam Driver, Annette Bening and Jon Hamm, in theaters November 15th and on Prime Video November 29th.
Preet Bharara: From CAFE, welcome to Stay Tuned. I’m Preet Bharara.
Errol Morris: I make a lot of films about self-deception. As I like to point out, self-deception affects everybody, including me. I’m not immune.
Preet Bharara: That’s Errol Morris. He’s an Oscar-winning director and author known for his cinematic portrayals of controversial and complicated figures like former Secretaries of Defense, Robert McNamara in The Fog of War, and Donald Rumsfeld in The Unknown Known, famous physicist Stephen Hawking, and now former White House Strategist and executive chairman of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon.
Preet Bharara: The film is called American Dharma. Morris and I talk about how he chooses his subjects, the perils of I want my mommy politics, why Trump is able to weather all sorts of scandals and how he can be appalled by Bannon like Bannon at the same time. That’s coming up. Stay tuned.
Gabriel Patters: Hi, my name is Gabriel Patterson and I had a question to ask Preet. When Gordon Sondland updated his testimony, is that an admission that he was lying in his first testimony? I’d like to know if you think that that’s a potential for perjury. Thank you very much. Appreciate your time.
Preet Bharara: Gabriel, thanks for your question. Obviously you’re referring to Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union who came in and testified to a bunch of things. Then low and behold, when other testimony came out and he presumably had a chance to look at the other testimony, shockingly his recollection was refreshed, and he came back into the Congress, and he looked at his old testimony, and has provided the multiple page addendum.
Preet Bharara: It’s an interesting question, does the new testimony that contradicts the original testimony, does that represent an admission of perjury? Well, people more clever than that, and you will very rarely find a situation where somebody will admit to having lied previously. I’ll give you an example of that in a moment that you’ll remember, because it’s a famous one. But in this case, what Sondland has done, which is something a lot of people do who testify, and we’ve talked about it a number of times already, is they will not say that they lied, they will say that they remembered something new. It’s a much more difficult thing to prove that someone was not telling the truth when they said they didn’t recall something or that their recollection was refreshed.
Preet Bharara: In this instance, he came back fairly quickly. A month didn’t go by. Days and weeks perhaps went by, but months didn’t go by. He, on his own, presumably without being threatened with any sanction or criminal charge, whether even being noticed that he was being investigated for potentially lying to Congress, he, of his own accord, came back and amended his testimony to say, well now, he recalls having conversations that make much more clear that something was offered for something in return in connection with the president, and the White House and Ukraine.
Preet Bharara: There have been times when people have been charged, even though they have said they couldn’t remember something, when the facts and circumstances surrounding the fact make that impossible to believe. I guess the analogy some people use with respect to the Sondland testimony is, well, if somebody robs a bank and then returns the money later, isn’t it still a crime to have robbed the bank? I suppose that’s true so far as it goes, but with these cases, meaning perjury, or making false statements to Congress, or to law enforcement, it is the rare case in which people find the interest of justice are served by prosecuting somebody who fairly quickly, whether for good reasons or bad reasons, comes forward, makes the whole truth plain, amends testimony and falls on their sword, even without admitting lying.
Preet Bharara: Now, that said, the new testimony better be ironclad, correct and true, and right, because you don’t get that many bites of the apple. What’s an example of an instance where someone talked to Congress, lied to Congress, then admitted the lie, well a great example of that is Michael Cohen, the former lawyer of the President of the United States who decided when he wanted to get some benefit for cooperating with the United States government, admitted that his testimony about various things to the Congress was false. In a manner of speaking, that testimony was corrected, but that was in connection with a full on felony criminal case against him by my former office of Southern District of New York. That’s how you often see that work.
Joan: Hi, Preet. My name is Joan, I’m calling from the Bay Area, California. Thank you for your straight talking show. I love it. My question is, have you given any thought to what you think Robert Mueller must be thinking about this whole impeachment inquiry and the issues with Ukraine? Thanks a lot. Bye.
Preet Bharara: Joan, that’s an interesting question. What is Bob Mueller thinking about all of this? Well, there’s some things that probably members of the Special Counsel team are scratching their heads about, one of which is part of the Ukraine scandal centers on this obsession on the part of the president and some of his allies that it was Ukraine that’s responsible for the hacking of the DNC server, and that the server still resides somewhere in Ukraine, and all sorts of conspiracy theories that had been pushed by Paul Manafort in the past that are now coming to light in connection with the impeachment inquiry, and that might cause head scratching as you might imagine because this Special Counsels office, led by Robert Mueller found pretty conclusively and definitively that it was the Russians who were responsible for this conduct. In fact, charged a number of Russian nationals for those offenses. I’m sure that’s of interest to them, but my shorter answer is Bob Mueller has done his time, has done his service in a number of different ways. I wouldn’t be surprised if rather than following daily the ins and outs of the impeachment inquiry, he is fishing somewhere.
Preet Bharara: This question comes in an email from BG in Atlanta, where I’m going December 4th to talk with Sally Yates on stage. Get your tickets, cafe.com/tour. Okay, enough plug. Hi, Preet. Trump seems to be using his released transcript of the perfect call to Zelensky as a large part of his defense, yet Lieutenant Colonel Vindman confirmed in his testimony last week that there were key omissions in that released transcript. Would it not be possible for House investigators to get the actual transcript of the call from the secure server on which it supposedly resides? Would seem a logical step in the investigation. Thanks.
Preet Bharara: That’s a great question. My understanding is from the reporting and from other sources is that the only thing we have about the call, this July 25th call that the president keeps referring to as perfect and also beautiful, between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine is one, this readout that has been provided, and second, other people’s recollections who listened to the call. Maybe one or more of them might have made their own notes, but that’s it. It’s my understanding that there is not actually a full recording, voice recording of the phone call, nor is there a full verbatim transcript of the phone call. Perhaps that’s why the president keeps relying on the transcript.
Preet Bharara: One aside, something that in the sea of lies, in the sea of misstatements that the president makes, for some reason sticks in [inaudible 00:07:17], that it’s so blatant, Trump keeps saying that there is a verbatim transcript of his call with Zelensky. “Verbatim,” he says. Not just beautiful, not just perfect, but set forth this verbatim transcript. Literally, on the front page of that readout there is a disclaimer that says, “This is not a verbatim transcript.”
Preet Bharara: Putting that aside for a moment, I don’t know that we’re going to get other information about the call that’s neutral. In other words, that’s objective as opposed to what other people’s recollections are. There’s been some disagreement. As you point out Lieutenant Colonel Vindman has a view that some things were omitted from this transcript that we have seen. His recollection appears to be that there was a specific reference to Burisma, which is the company on which Hunter Biden served on the board.
Preet Bharara: Another witness testified recently, Tim Morrison, also a White House staffer, generally speaking he said, “The readout was complete and correct.” There will be competing recollections about that. I don’t know how that will be resolved, but I think over time the weight of the evidence will fall on the side of the majority of the witnesses. If a lot of witnesses say that there are things that were excluded, then hopefully that will be more persuasive to people who are considering the facts.
Preet Bharara: One other thing to remind us of is it appears that the call lasted a substantial period of time, and the readout that we’ve seen so far indicates a call that lasted for a shorter period of time, which would suggest, based on how these things are recorded for posterity in writing, that there are some omissions. Now, whether those omissions are nefarious or not, people have their points of view. I think that if it turns out that the weight of the evidence supports that fact that Burisma was taken out, I guess you could have that view. But then other people point out if someone was really going to go to the trouble of being nefarious and scrubbing that readout, there’s other things they would have scrubbed out too, not just the identity of the company that Hunter Biden served on the board of.
Preet Bharara: My guest this week is Errol Morris. You might recognize his name from an impressive roster of documentary films, unusually cinematic portraits of complicated and controversial figures. Morris has made films of people like former Secretaries of Defense Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld. His most recent work, American Dharma, profiles arguably one of the most influential figures of the 2016 Trump campaign and administration, Steve Bannon. Bannon was also on the boards of Breitbart News and Cambridge Analytica. While Bannon is no longer physically in the White House, his effect on the Trump Administration and the Trump campaign remains.
Preet Bharara: We talk about why Morris doesn’t believe in adversarial interviews, whether figures like Bannon should be deplatformed, the future of rational thinking, and the most nefarious thing the Trump Administration has done to date. That’s coming up. Stay tuned.
Preet Bharara: Just a quick heads up, folks. In this episode, Errol Morris gets really real in his discussion with me and there’s a bit of profanity. Just be forewarned, if that’s the thing that bothers you or if you happen to be listening with your children.
Preet Bharara: Errol Morris, thank you for coming on the show.
Errol Morris: Thank you. Pleasure.
Preet Bharara: It’s a pleasure for me. We’ve never met before, so I’m glad we’re getting this time together.
Preet Bharara: You know, I never know exactly what I’m going to ask first. Sometimes I do, often I don’t. I wait to meet the guest, we have a conversation, something pops into my head or someone will feed me a question. Right before we came on, you made a statement that occurred to me, maybe that’s my first question. You said, “The worst day of my life was the day I became literate.”
Errol Morris: Indeed, that’s what I said.
Preet Bharara: What did you mean by that?
Errol Morris: Let’s take it literally, for God’s sake. If someone had told me that this was going to open the door to a lifetime of sorrow, of unending incessant, unmediated reading, I could have just simply said, “No thank you.”
Preet Bharara: Don’t you get some joy from reading too?
Errol Morris: Oh, I probably do.
Preet Bharara: Oh, you probably. Long pause. But you still read.
Errol Morris: Yeah, I read compulsively.
Preet Bharara: Yeah, so why?
Errol Morris: Because I like learning new stuff.
Preet Bharara: The bad stuff. You like learning bad stuff?
Errol Morris: Of course. Doesn’t everybody?
Preet Bharara: Is there a book that has brought you only joy?
Errol Morris: Many of them. I have a office just filled. I don’t know, maybe there’s 7,000 or 8,000 volumes in there now.
Preet Bharara: It’s a big office.
Errol Morris: It’s a big office.
Preet Bharara: Lucky you.
Errol Morris: Someone came and said, “Have you read all of these?” I said, “Well, I’m glad you asked. As it turns out, I haven’t read any of them.”
Preet Bharara: You possess them.
Errol Morris: I had read an articles years ago in the Weekly World News, which I subscribe to. I had this claim that I was the only person who subscribed to the Weekly World News and to the London Review of Books, which might be true. Can’t prove it.
Preet Bharara: Yeah. I’d like to see the Venn diagram.
Errol Morris: Absolutely. There was an article in the Weekly World News, how to look smart if you’re really stupid, which I used to have on my wall for a while. I thought it was-
Preet Bharara: It was one of the items, buy 8,000 books.
Errol Morris: One of the items. See, you’re not so far away. One was to have a lot of books. Carry around a big fat book with you also. Drink a lot of coffee.
Preet Bharara: Wear glasses.
Errol Morris: Wear glasses.
Preet Bharara: Your [inaudible 00:12:19] today.
Errol Morris: See, you’re ahead of me with all of this. You obviously read the same article.
Preet Bharara: Well, I use all these same tricks because what do I know?
Errol Morris: Literacy, I assume you also are literate.
Preet Bharara: Barely. Barely literate. I rely on other people telling me what’s in stuff a lot.
Errol Morris: Don’t we all?
Preet Bharara: Don’t we all? God bless them. You’re one of the most I accomplished documentary film makers in America.
Errol Morris: Really?
Preet Bharara: People have told me that. I have not read that, but people have told me. People who have done the actual primary reading have told me this, and I’ve seen many of your films. I’ve seen your most recent one, which we will talk about at some length. It’s called American Dharma. Interesting to me because the title includes a word of Indian origin, dharma. It’s about … Or I’ll say the subject of it, and I’ll ask you what it’s about, the subject of this film is Steve Bannon, who some people credit with electing Donald Trump President of the United States. Why the title and why him?
Errol Morris: Why him is not a difficult question. He was all over the place. Fire and Fury had just come out. I had read the book, see the literacy problem again.
Preet Bharara: Yeah. Well, that was not literature.
Errol Morris: It was a good read.
Preet Bharara: Okay.
Errol Morris: Josh Green had just published a book on Bannon, Devil’s Disciple. I read that too. More problems because of literacy. I thought I should interview this guy.
Preet Bharara: For someone to be a subject of yours or the movie, do they need to be consequential or interesting, or both?
Errol Morris: Neither.
Preet Bharara: Neither.
Errol Morris: I like old kinds of stories. How and why I picked them, your guess is probably as good as mine.
Preet Bharara: It’s bit on whim?
Errol Morris: It’s very much on a whim.
Preet Bharara: Steve Bannon fits what criteria for you?
Errol Morris: Political guy, bad guy, possibly crazy. I do respond to that because I too might possibly be crazy.
Preet Bharara: I’ll let you know.
Errol Morris: Thank you.
Preet Bharara: You have said about Steve Bannon, “I’m appalled by Bannon, but I like him.”
Errol Morris: Yeah.
Preet Bharara: Is that a paradox or not?
Errol Morris: No. I don’t think so. Am I appalled by him? You betcha.
Preet Bharara: What are you appalled by?
Errol Morris: So many things. It’s a laundry list.
Preet Bharara: Okay, give us a couple.
Errol Morris: The claim, “I am a populist.” Now, I’m no expert on populism, but I just don’t get that populist vibe. Graduate of Harvard Business School, employee of Goldman Sachs, takes a lot of money from right-wing billionaires. A man of the people, for me, not so much. What the hell is going on here?
Preet Bharara: Do you think he traffics in hate?
Errol Morris: It’s a little simplistic. Is hate certainly an element in all of this? Yeah. Yeah, I would say so. But how can you be a populist and endorse Trump’s tax plans? There’s something deeply hypocritical, confused, nasty. You asked, is it about hate? In American Dharma, I call Trump the fuck you president. Why do I call him the fuck you presdient? Because he appeals to a lot of people who want to say, “Fuck you,” to everything. If you’ve wanted to say, “Fuck you,” to your family, to your neighbors, to the city in which you live, to your government, he’s the ideal vehicle.
Preet Bharara: Is that an ideology?
Errol Morris: Can we call it the fuck you ideology?
Preet Bharara: Just putting a descriptor before ideology doesn’t make it an ideology, I don’t think. Is it just an attitude? Or is it just an expression of anger?
Errol Morris: I would say closer to the latter, yes. People are very, very, very angry. It’s not hard to figure out why because there’s a lot of things for people to be angry about. I suppose if you wanted to be angry, which I am, an income and wealth inequality in America, and you think that no one will ever do anything about it, it’s a mixture of anger, futility, despair.
Errol Morris: I learned from Joshua Green’s book, that Bannon’s favorite movie was Twelve O’Clock High, which I had never seen.
Preet Bharara: You begin your film with a scene from it.
Errol Morris: I most certainly do. I watched Twelve O’Clock High many times. Great movie. Gregory Peck’s greatest performance. It’s amazing. Better than To Kill a Mockingbird.
Preet Bharara: That’s fighting words, but okay.
Errol Morris: Well, I don’t want to get into a fight over this.
Preet Bharara: We won’t. We’re very peace loving here.
Errol Morris: I watched this film, which is a nihilistic film. It’s about winning at all costs, about maximum effort. “Consider yourself,” he tells his pilots, “already dead. You go out there and you bomb the shit out of the enemy. You go out to win. Not to save your skin, not to have a future. You go out there to win at all costs.” Bannon’s favorite film.
Errol Morris: He also tells us week one, Harvard Business School, they sit them all down and make them watch Twelve O’Clock High.
Preet Bharara: What does that say?
Errol Morris: Probably nothing good. It says-
Preet Bharara: This is some years ago because now I think they have more of an ethics program with choir people.
Errol Morris: Now they watch the Mister Rogers movie.
Preet Bharara: Maybe they watch Fog of War.
Errol Morris: I wouldn’t bet on it.
Preet Bharara: You have these views about Steve Bannon. He appalls you. We’ve started to talk a little bit about what he stands for. What were you hoping to get across to folks by making a movie almost exclusively about him?
Errol Morris: Do I think in those terms? Do I think, “What am I going to get across by doing this?” I usually don’t. Maybe that’s my trouble. I hope to learn, who is this guy? What’s going on here? What’s going on inside of his head?
Errol Morris: Years ago, I used to think about internal and external stories. The most documentaries were external. How could you actually get inside of somebody’s head? I didn’t want to make films like brand X, where you tell a story about someone and then you get 20 different associates to comment, “Oh, I think he’s a really nice person.” “No, I don’t think he’s so nice. I think he’s a very bad person,” and on, and on, and on, and on. So I thought, “I don’t want to do that.”
Preet Bharara: You have Steve Bannon.
Errol Morris: That one person to start off with, I don’t interview anybody. McNamara, one person. Rumsfeld, one person. Bannon, one person. Nobody else.
Preet Bharara: Same for me. Errol Morris, one person.
Errol Morris: Indeed.
Preet Bharara: But this is a podcast, so it’s a little different.
Errol Morris: But if I ever did a movie about you, not out of the question.
Preet Bharara: I’d be worried about what kind of person you think I am.
Errol Morris: Well, we would have to find out.
Preet Bharara: It might be a curse. Oh, you know what, Errol Morris things you are the kind of person he should do a movie about. There’s McNamara, Bannon, murderers, all sorts of other bad people. Is there a trend there? You tend to make movies-
Errol Morris: Steven Hawking.
Preet Bharara: That’s the exception that proves the rule.
Errol Morris: Whatever that means. I have never ever, by the way, understood that expression.
Preet Bharara: Why do you think he decided to cooperate with you?
Errol Morris: He loves my movies. He was a fan. I don’t want to call him my number one fan, Jesus, but he had seen all of my movies, he had been at the premiere of The Fog of War at the Telluride Film Festival. I checked up on him. I asked my friend Tom Luddy who runs the Telluride Film Festival, “Did Bannon buy a ticket that year? Was he really there? Was he there in the audience when I was on stage with McNamara?” Indeed, he was.
Preet Bharara: Indeed, he was. In fact, you know what movie of yours Steve Bannon likes? This one. You’ve made it a point to say, “I made an art film about a major figure who wants to destroy the world and he liked it. That was perhaps my most problematic review.” Is that what you feel?
Errol Morris: Yeah.
Preet Bharara: You wanted him not to like it.
Errol Morris: I don’t know. I wanted him to like it. Okay, I’ll fess up.
Preet Bharara: Well, so he’s appalling. Is the fact that you made a movie that he likes, does that say something about the film or does that say something about him?
Errol Morris: Probably it says something about both.
Preet Bharara: I knew you were going to say that answer.
Errol Morris: How dare you? Why? Why? It’s an honest answer. I would like people to like my movies. I don’t make movies so that people will dislike them.
Preet Bharara: The title of the movie again?
Errol Morris: American Dharma.
Preet Bharara: What’s dharma?
Errol Morris: To me, it’s the Ds, duty, destiny, dharma. He makes a big speech very early on in the movie that everything is ruled by the three Ds, duty, destiny, dharma. Duty, destiny, dharma. Duty, destiny, dharma. Is he saying anything really? Indirectly for me, he’s saying, “You can justify anything this way. We’re all on some kind of wheel of history. Some fatalistic vision of how things have to be the way they are because that’s the way they are.” He has all of this pop history, the Four Turnings. I don’t like any of it.
Preet Bharara: What did Steve Bannon see in Donald Trump and why did he work so hard to get him elected?
Errol Morris: He saw him as he describes him in American Dharma as an armor piercing shell.
Preet Bharara: A blunt force instrument also.
Errol Morris: A blunt force instrument also.
Preet Bharara: As if that’s the platonic ideal for a leader.
Errol Morris: I think this comes very close to the underlying themes of the movie, if your aim is to destroy everything, if you have secretly or not so secretly a scorched earth policy, then that’s your candidate, a guy untouched by morality, by rationality. Really, untouched by anything except by some insane desire to promote himself. Not even an agenda, but just to promote himself, himself as the agenda.
Preet Bharara: Does Bannon have an agenda that has more substance to it than Trump?
Errol Morris: I don’t think so.
Preet Bharara: It just destroyed the status quo.
Errol Morris: Destroyed the status quo and more. Burn it down. Take it out. Clear the decks.
Errol Morris: It’s anti-populism. That’s what bothers me. That’s what makes me think you’re crazy. Do you just want to destroy everything?
Preet Bharara: But do you think that’s what Trump was really about, or was he just about-
Errol Morris: Self advancement.
Preet Bharara: Self advancement. I’ve often said, I think his principal goal in life, which has been achieved many times over, to be the most talked about human being on earth, which he is. Is it anything beyond that?
Errol Morris: Don’t know him well enough, but it certainly looks that way.
Preet Bharara: But Bannon actually has a somewhat different agenda, to accomplish through this person who maybe only wants self-promotion, the goal of destruction. Were they a match made in heaven because it didn’t last very long, did it?
Errol Morris: It’s still going on.
Preet Bharara: Yeah, how so?
Errol Morris: I believe a number of people, including the fake news New York Times, Bannon is once again advising Trump.
Preet Bharara: Do you think Bannon can be useful to Trump in 2020?
Errol Morris: Yes. I do.
Preet Bharara: How so?
Errol Morris: Well, who’s to ask the question about 2016? Was he useful to Trump in 2016? Do I buy the claim that he was the king maker, that he was the person who principally secured the presidency for Donald Trump? I do. I can even tell you why.
Preet Bharara: Okay.
Errol Morris: Also, keeping in mind that there’s this perfect storm. 2016 is crazy. An election about sex, not about glass ceilings, but about something far, far more tawdry. I said this to Bannon at one point, it squares with my views about history. It isn’t a set of strings being pulled, fated deeds and results, that history is chaotic, confused, proceeds often by happenstance. My question has always been, what if Western civilization is ultimately brought down, destroyed if you like, by one man’s insatiable deed to post to the internet pictures of his penis? What if that is what ultimately brings us all down?
Errol Morris: Now, this fuse squares with yeah, it’s crazy out there. I run this one ad that was done for Trump. It’s a crazy, crazy ad.
Preet Bharara: Powerful one.
Errol Morris: Powerful ad linking Weiner’s dick pics with Hillary’s emails. Who thought of that? I look at that ad and I think to myself, “Oh, I get it. Trump’s going to win.”
Preet Bharara: Did you think that?
Errol Morris: I wish I could say I did, but I didn’t see that ad, because I live in Massachusetts. I wouldn’t see that ad until I actually started to make the movie.
Preet Bharara: In retrospect, do you have a better sense of how trump pulled it off?
Errol Morris: I do. I think there was a whole mess of historical accidents that worked to his advantage.
Preet Bharara: Can a perfect storm be repeated in 2020?
Errol Morris: Maybe not that perfect storm, but something like it, yes. I never thought he could win the first time around. I was afraid that he could win. I tried so hard to do commercials for Hillary, but they didn’t want me. We just don’t want you.
Preet Bharara: Did that offend you?
Errol Morris: Oh, sure. Why not? It also is a feeling of frustration. I have this stupid belief, self-serving and stupid, that actually I can do interviews better than the next guy. I tried to do this for Kerry, I tried to do it for Hillary, that if you could put them in front of a camera and get them to talk like a human being instead of a political candidate, that it could [inaudible 00:26:40] to their benefit. That’s the concede in a nutshell.
Preet Bharara: Does Donald Trump speak like a human being instead of a political candidate?
Errol Morris: I don’t know how he speaks. He speaks in such a weird confused way.
Preet Bharara: Well, it’s a good thing he had Bannon then.
Errol Morris: It is a good thing. Not for the country, but for him, yes.
Steve Bannon: Then when I’m announced, it’s like the Trump campaign is so out of business, this is just Trump just getting vengeance by getting this mad bomber, who is just going to wreak vengeance on all his enemies.
Errol Morris: The mad bomber being you.
Steve Bannon: Yes. It’s the exact opposite. All we did is said, “Hey, we got to be maniacally focused. Simplify everything. Make her the spokesman and the guardian of a corrupt and incompetent status quo, an elite,” and you make Trump the agent of change that President Obama was.
Errol Morris: That scene where Bannon looks like the cat who swallowed a canary, reporters are filing into this room, the Clinton accusers were all ready to pounce.
Preet Bharara: Let’s take it a step back because one of the most fraught moments for Trump in 2016 was when the Access Hollywood tape comes out. That was a real moment of peril for his campaign, right? Steve Bannon speaks about it with you in the movie. It’s whatever you think of that and how that turns out. It’s a compelling few minutes in the film.
Errol Morris: Twelve O’Clock High. He does a survey. It’s sort of like General Savage talking to his pilots in the Quonset hut. Who’s going to be on that plane?
Preet Bharara: Meaning, who’s still with us and who’s gone wobbly?
Errol Morris: Exactly.
Preet Bharara: Bannon goes around the room.
Errol Morris: Yup.
Preet Bharara: What happens?
Errol Morris: He picks the people, they get on the plane or they don’t get on the plane.
Preet Bharara: Again, interesting exchange with Chris Christie. In the film, according to Bannon, former Governor Chris Christie says, “This is not about the campaign anymore. The campaign is finished. This is about ruining your brand.” Bannon says back to him, “What?” He says, “Plane leaves at 11:00. If you’re on the plane, you’re on the team. If you’re not on the plane, you’re not on the team.”
Errol Morris: Twelve O’Clock High.
Preet Bharara: Yeah, they might have changed the plane to 12:00. Do you think anyone else could have gotten through that moment. Lots of pundits like to say, “No one else could have survived that except somebody who doesn’t have any shame, doesn’t have any remorse, and just blunt force proceeds forward.”
Errol Morris: I just started thinking about this talking to you. One of the things that I found, to really troubling about talking movies with Bannon. We watch movies together, we talk about the movies, what does this scene mean?
Preet Bharara: There’s a lot of movies. You have a lot of movies scenes in your film.
Errol Morris: Yes. Movies within movies, within movies.
Preet Bharara: It’s very meta.
Errol Morris: Indeed. We interpret them differently. Sometimes radically differently.
Preet Bharara: You know what would be meta, if you and Steve Bannon both watched Rashomon and interpreted that movie differently.
Errol Morris: I have an essay on Rashomon called The Rashomon of Rashomon because I had my own [crosstalk 00:29:29] theories, my own Rashomon like theories about Rashomon.
Preet Bharara: I didn’t know that.
Preet Bharara: No doubt, no doubt you do.
Errol Morris: Thank you. But it’s like some kind of badass Rorschach Test where you show two people the same thing and they come away with two different impressions. It seems to me the essence of our time, seriously.
Preet Bharara: In part, if you look back, could you make the argument that even though the Access Hollywood take was temporarily bad for his campaign, in some ways it has been an enormous strength for his presidency because all these allies who could potentially go wobbly have a memory of President Trump surviving that, which they know they could never survive. You think, “How you get past that? Nothing can fail this guy.”
Preet Bharara: When the Ukraine scandal occurs, when Mueller starts investigating, those same people, what’s going on? What’s the reel in their head? The reel in their head is, “That guy said this stuff about women and it didn’t matter. This stuff is nothing compared to that.”
Errol Morris: There is no kryptonite in this case. There’s nothing that can bring him down. A feeling of insane invulnerability.
Preet Bharara: But how do stories like that, given how many books you read, end well?
Errol Morris: I don’t know the story is going to end well. People endlessly ask me, why did my movie make people so angry? People would start yelling, or viewers would say really, really nasty stuff. I mean nasty stuff, hurtful stuff. People would say, “This movie shouldn’t be seen.”
Errol Morris: There’s another word, aside from deplatforming, which is another one of my unfavorite words. People started using the word toxic. My movie was toxic. It was poison. It’s going to hurt people. This is promoting an evil doer.
Preet Bharara: Is it?
Errol Morris: No. It’s not.
Preet Bharara: Tell me how you feel, Errol.
Errol Morris: You know my problem with the left? Not left enough for me.
Preet Bharara: There was a related controversy connected to Steve Bannon. I had David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker on a few weeks ago.
Errol Morris: I think I’m familiar with the name.
Preet Bharara: Yeah. To remind people who don’t listen every week, Steve Bannon was invited to The New Yorker Festival and the editor, David Remnick was going to interview him on stage. There was a mini rebellion within the magazine and among people who are readers of the magazine. A lot of people said they wouldn’t show up to the festival, and some other names said, they wouldn’t agree to be interviewed on the festival stage. Then The New Yorker reversed its decision and disinvited Steve Bannon. Do you have a take on that?
Errol Morris: Okay, I make a lot of films about self-deception. As I like to point out, self-deception affects everybody, including me. I’m not immune. The week before the film premieres at the Venice Film Festival, and by the way, it gets a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival. People applaud to the entire credits. The week before, Remnick disinvites Bannon, or if you like the terminology, deplatforms Bannon. He writes a piece about why he’s done it, which I don’t think really is such a good piece of writing. I don’t blame Remnick for this, but I do think it was unfortunate for me and for my movie that it gave people permission that this is really what you should do. You should silence him, you should deplatform him.
Errol Morris: What’s so interesting about this period in American history, people are so … Particularly people on the left are so frightened and in such a state of despair, and feeling of impotence, a feeling of powerlessness. If this happened, and it did happen, what does that mean? If I can’t stop it, I called it for a long time, I called it I want my mommy politics. Because in the wake of the 2016 election, it seemed the only thing you could do is crawl under the bed and start saying over, and over, and over again, “I want my mommy. Mommy, mommy. Please make it stop, mommy. I don’t like this mommy. This is very bad. It doesn’t square with my idea of America.”
Preet Bharara: What’s the better approach and attitude in your view?
Errol Morris: Engagement. I like thinking. Okay, reading is a vehicle to thinking and more thinking. I like thinking about stuff. I make movies because I think they’re investigative. It’s not just simply to promulgate a view that I hold in advance, it’s to find something out that I don’t know. I found out a lot of stuff I didn’t know. I’m happy I made the movie and I’m proud of the movie. I don’t like all of my movies, but I do like this one.
Preet Bharara: One thing that we all focus on when we think about Trump and Bannon, I didn’t see so much of this in the film was how does Bannon think of the president’s constant lying and distortion of the truth?
Errol Morris: He would say, and this could be another example of constant lying, he says, “He’s not lying. He’s not a crook.” He says it in my movie.
Preet Bharara: Well, he says he’s not corrupt also. You asked him about the corruption.
Errol Morris: He’s not corrupt.
Preet Bharara: He’s a real estate guy.
Errol Morris: He’s a real estate guy, yeah.
Preet Bharara: That’s his answer.
Errol Morris: Yeah.
Preet Bharara: That’s not quite an answer.
Errol Morris: I say something to him to the effect, “Well, you know, there are corrupt real estate guys too.”
Preet Bharara: Yeah, I’m familiar.
Errol Morris: Yeah, he’s a real estate guy. He can’t possibly be corrupt.
Preet Bharara: Is he corrupt? No.
Errol Morris: That’s a joke.
Preet Bharara: No, he’s a casino guy.
Errol Morris: That’s what the hopeful people say, “Look, don’t worry about Trump going to war because he’s only interested in building casinos and hotels. If you have a war in an area, you can’t build a hotel there.” One is supposed to, I suppose, take some kind of comfort from that.
Preet Bharara: You said something that’s been ringing in my ear since it was brought to my attention, knowing that you were showing up, because it has a lot of resonance today, but you said it 20 years ago, almost exactly 20 years ago. It sounds like something you’ve said often. You said, “You know, I’m fond of saying that human credulity is unfettered. People can believe utterly anything and that is scary because you can’t reason with these people. You can’t present arguments in a clear logical cogent fashion, examine them and come to a rational conclusion. It doesn’t quite work that way. I think that belief survives all challenges.” That’s a doozy of a statement and rings true.
Errol Morris: Yeah.
Preet Bharara: Is that true of all people?
Errol Morris: Same DNA.
Preet Bharara: Is that why trump got elected or how he remains in power, because credulity is unfettered?
Errol Morris: Yes. Doesn’t matter how irrational he is. To me, the irrationality itself is deeply worrisome. I think a lot of people don’t even notice it. Now, if that’s true, that’s not a good thing. At the very end of Fog of War, McNamara says one of the most despairing things I’ve ever heard. He says, “Rationality will not save us.” Here’s a man who’s devoted his life to rational thinking or at least what he takes to be rational thinking, and he sees it may have done him no damn good. An interesting thing for him to say.
Errol Morris: I should stop citing this, but I like this essay so very, very much. It’s an essay written by Arthur Schopenhauer. People don’t know about it, but it is so very, very good, so deep and so dark. It’s called The Art of Being Right. Schopenhauer in his first paragraph kindly tells us there are two ways to win an argument. There’s logic and there’s dialectic. Well, everybody knows you can never win an argument through logic, so let’s move quickly onto dialect. He proceeds to give you 36 ways to win an argument any way you can. They’re really, really funny.
Errol Morris: I was going to do some God forsaken essay on Schopenhauer and the modus operandi of the Trump Administration. For example, Schopenhauer says, “If someone has humiliated you, shown you to be a complete ass, your argument is to be totally [inaudible 00:37:57]. You look them in the eye and you say, “I’m really glad you’ve come around to my way of thinking.”” We’re fucked.
Preet Bharara: All right, now say something hopeful.
Errol Morris: You know the two lines. I’ll give you two lines about hope that I very much like. One comes from a discussion between Franz Kafka and his close friend Max Brod. Max asks Franz, “Franz, surely you believe in hope.” Franz looks at him and says, “Of course, just not for us.”
Preet Bharara: Thanks for that. I appreciate that very much. Now, I’m going to have a drink.
Preet Bharara: One of the things about this movie and about interviewing people who are not likable, and you’ve gotten some criticism for not, I guess not attacking the guy, and rather letting him speak and expose his thinking, and letting people think for themselves, which sometimes works. How do you think about interviewing? I’ve been intimidated a little bit because you’re one of the great interviewers of all time, and I’ve been doing this only a little while. How do you think about interviewing? Is it a different approach?
Errol Morris: I just wrote a piece for Air Mail, which I think is good about interviewing. It’s among other things about what I call the difficult question that you’re supposed to in an interview …
Preet Bharara: Oh, boy. I could see a critique of me coming now. Go ahead.
Errol Morris: Not really.
Preet Bharara: Okay.
Errol Morris: I actually enjoy talking to you. I’m sorry.
Preet Bharara: All right, that’s good. Keep that in.
Errol Morris: I don’t really believe in adversarial interviews. I don’t think you learn very much. You create a theater, a gladiatorial theater, which may be satisfying to an audience, but if the goal is to learn something that you don’t know, that’s not the way to go about doing it. In fact, it’s the way to destroy the possibility of ever hearing anything interesting or new. I guess I don’t believe in them.
Preet Bharara: People have made the point with respect to Donald Trump, that combative interviews don’t necessarily yield that much, although there’s an argument that you’re supposed to do in real time fact checking. The time he’s gotten in the most trouble, is when he’s been asked somewhat softball questions and he just reveals himself …
Errol Morris: Yes.
Preet Bharara: … and talks, and says what’s on his mind.
Errol Morris: This is my-
Preet Bharara: Because his guard is down a little bit.
Errol Morris: This is my experience, for better or for worse, as an investigator, as an interviewer, that the most interesting and excuse me for repeating something you just said, the most interesting and most revealing comments have come not as a result of a question at all, but having set up a situation where people actually want to talk to you, and want to reveal something to you.
Errol Morris: There was a moment in The Thin Blue Line with Emily Miller that I like to cite where she volunteered the information. I knew that the lineup sheet for Emily Miller was missing from the file. Why are there other lineup sheets but there’s no lineup sheet here? I didn’t really think that much about it, but I was aware of it. I’m talking to her and she tells me that she failed to pick out the defendant in a police lineup.
Errol Morris: Now this is a woman who took the stand and said, “That’s the man. That’s the man who shot the cop.” She tells me she failed to pick him out in a police lineup and I say … I don’t think she was even trying to be clever. I just think I was thinking. I said, “You failed to pick him out of the police lineup. How do you know?” She says, “I know I picked out the wrong man because the police officer sitting next to me … ” This is right out of Perry Mason, “I know because the police officer sitting next to me told me I picked out the wrong man and then pointed out the right man,” she was a moron, by the way, “pointed out the right man, so I wouldn’t make that mistake again.” Great. Terrific. I don’t even think I knew what I was hearing at first.
Errol Morris: I always liked in Jerry Lewis movies that people would say horrible things to Jerry Lewis, and he would just simply smile, and nod and agree. Then he’d walk out of the room and start screaming.
Preet Bharara: It’s an effective coping mechanism.
Errol Morris: Yes, indeed.
Preet Bharara: That film that you made, very consequential in a particular way, got someone exonerated.
Errol Morris: I got someone out of prison, I got his conviction overturned.
Preet Bharara: How did you feel about that?
Errol Morris: It’s one of the best days of my life. It’s one of the better things that I have ever done. I feel lucky and immensely proud. I don’t believe today, in today’s climate I would have been successful.
Preet Bharara: Why do you say that?
Errol Morris: This is Dallas, okay. This is a long discussion, but I’ll make it a short discussion. We went up once before a federal judge. I had uncovered so many things. I was a private detective for years in Manhattan. Went down to interview this Dallas psychiatrist, Dr. Death, I said, “Thank God I don’t have to be a private detective anymore.” Wrong. I spent two and a half years investigating this cop killing in Dallas.
Errol Morris: The federal judge wouldn’t overturn the case, so it went to a state judge. Get this, a black Muslim Republican judge in Dallas. How many of thems are there?
Preet Bharara: I don’t know. I don’t know.
Errol Morris: You kind of do know.
Preet Bharara: It might be unique.
Errol Morris: He listened to this stuff and he overturned the conviction. The prosecutors in Dallas said, “Well, we’re just going to retry the fucker.” I knew that they wouldn’t because there was no longer any case against him. Among other things, although I don’t think this is what really did it, among other things, I got the real killer essentially to admit his culpability for the crime.
Preet Bharara: Have you thought about replicating that work?
Errol Morris: Well, I think about it all the time. It’s so hard. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but overturning …
Preet Bharara: It’s hard. There have been other things like your film, including a famous podcast that cast out on convictions and maybe caused people to reinvestigate. I just wonder if that’s potentially another future project of yours.
Errol Morris: Well, I wrote a book about the Jeffrey MacDonald case called A Wilderness of Error, taken from a line of Edgar Allan Poe. It’s interesting. This is a long discussion in it of itself because every private detective, every investigator, it’s the wet dream that you can overturn a conviction, that you can find the truth as a great believer in the truth, that you can actually, if you work hard enough, long enough, look into enough closets and under enough beds that you can find the truth.
Errol Morris: Sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t. One of the odd things about looking for the truth, if you can’t find it, you can never know that it can never be found. Something could turn up or documents could have been corrupted, lost, adulterated.
Preet Bharara: It happens.
Errol Morris: Even the transcript of a phone conversation from the President of the United States can undergo [inaudible 00:45:14] of one form or another.
Preet Bharara: Hypothetically.
Errol Morris: Hypothetically.
Preet Bharara: You said something else about interviewing that I want to know if you really believe or you still believe. You said what I think is undoubtedly true, “Shut up and let people talk.” Then you said, “Listening to what people were saying wasn’t even important, but it was important to look as if you were listening to what people were saying.” Then you say, “Actually, listening to what people are saying to me interferes with looking as if you were listening to what people are saying,” so I have not listened to one thing you’ve said.
Errol Morris: Good.
Preet Bharara: But I hope I’ve given the appearance [crosstalk 00:45:45] of listening to what you’re saying.
Errol Morris: You’ve done a really, really great job.
Preet Bharara: You don’t really believe that.
Errol Morris: Probably not.
Preet Bharara: You’d listen.
Errol Morris: I’m perverse.
Preet Bharara: But it is a clever thing to say.
Errol Morris: I’m always amazed in every interview I’ve ever done, listening to it after the fact, editing with it, that I really haven’t heard it at all.
Preet Bharara: Why is that? It that because you’re partially thinking about the next question?
Errol Morris: I think I’m thinking so hard and listening so hard that I don’t even hear what’s being said at times. Not always, at times.
Preet Bharara: Well, because you’re in the process. You know, I have that too. I’ll do an interview for an hour and then someone on the team will tell me that something from the interview, and I don’t recall it.
Errol Morris: There you go.
Preet Bharara: Even though I elicited it.
Errol Morris: You were probably listening intently.
Preet Bharara: Right. Maybe I’m just forgetful.
Errol Morris: I don’t think it’s forgetful. I think it’s odd. When I first started doing interviews, I was interviewing murderers in Wisconsin and in Northern California. It’s my favorite line to my wife when I first met her, “I was talking to a mass murderer, but thinking of you.”
Preet Bharara: She didn’t find that creepy.
Errol Morris: We’ve been married for a long time. We’ve known each other for close to 50 years. Maybe she did find it creepy.
Preet Bharara: No, I’ve seen what she said. She thought it was very romantic.
Errol Morris: Yeah.
Preet Bharara: If I recall it correctly, she said, “It was really hard to date someone else after that.”
Errol Morris: It’s a nice thing to say.
Preet Bharara: It is.
Errol Morris: I love my wife. I would go into a room, put my Sony cassette tape recorder down, it would be already running. I would turn it on, it would be running, and then I would put the tape recorder down where the person I was speaking to, my subject, whatever, could see it clearly. They could see there is the tape recorder. I wouldn’t ask permission. I would just make it clear that I was recording and then I would proceed.
Errol Morris: I had this game, this stupid game I played with myself. How long could I remain silent and keep someone talking? I finally achieved a full hour where my voice was not on the tape. I was so, so incredibly proud of myself, like you did it. It was some kind of Special Olympics.
Preet Bharara: And make podcast interviewing a lot easier. I come in and I could leave, do some other work.
Errol Morris: Exactly.
Preet Bharara: But does that require a talkative subject?
Errol Morris: It certainly helps. I would always transcribe these interviews. I would sit and transcribe everything. I became transfixed by language, by how people talk, how they interrupt themselves, how they create a narrative, et cetera, et cetera. I would transcribe everything myself. I don’t do that anymore. I feel like I’ve lost something.
Preet Bharara: For your purposes, when you ask questions, do you think about whether it’s a short question versus a long question? Or a leading question versus an open question? Do you think about those things?
Errol Morris: Mm-mm.
Preet Bharara: You just ask what pops into your head.
Errol Morris: Yeah. I don’t like having lists of questions. I always think an interview is going to be infirm, if there’s a list of questions, and the interviewer ticks them off one by one, it tells me that they’re not really engaged on some level.
Preet Bharara: Well, they’re pretending to listen.
Errol Morris: Maybe they are even listening.
Preet Bharara: I don’t have a list of questions either, as you may have [inaudible 00:49:07].
Errol Morris: I have noted this.
Preet Bharara: You have noted that. Many of the questions that I asked you, I didn’t know I was going to ask you.
Preet Bharara: We share a common in a person who in the annals of interrogation is quite a significant figure, Hanns Scharff.
Errol Morris: I love Hanns Scharff.
Preet Bharara: Half a chapter of my book is devoted to Hanns Scharff.
Errol Morris: Oh, good lord. So then I have to read your book. See, this [crosstalk 00:49:27] the liter …
Preet Bharara: You don’t have to read it.
Errol Morris: This is the literacy problem.
Preet Bharara: You don’t have to read it.
Errol Morris: Now I have to go out and I have to read your book.
Preet Bharara: No, I’m disappointed that you didn’t read it in advance of this interview.
Errol Morris: I’m going to read it.
Preet Bharara: That tells me a lot about you.
Errol Morris: I’m going to read it.
Preet Bharara: All right, well …
Errol Morris: I’ll go to the Strand. I’ll get it tonight.
Preet Bharara: The Strand has signed copies, so you’ll get a signed copy.
Errol Morris: Okay.
Preet Bharara: To remind people, Hanns Scharff was the most successful Nazi interrogator, a downed American airmen.
Errol Morris: To remind people, you think that the-
Preet Bharara: Well, because I talked about it.
Errol Morris: They knew it, but they momentarily, “Oh, yes. Hanns Scharff.”
Preet Bharara: I have talked about him on the show before. Some people are loyal listeners, so I’m reminding them. He did not use, even though it was Nazi Germany, he did not use torture, he did not use intimidation. What did he do?
Errol Morris: He was nice. He talked to people. He was interested in them.
Preet Bharara: That worked.
Errol Morris: Yup.
Preet Bharara: Because that always works.
Errol Morris: What happened to Hanns Scharff?
Preet Bharara: I end my chapter with this interesting historical tidbit. Tell us.
Errol Morris: Good lord, I have to read this immediately.
Preet Bharara: Tell us.
Errol Morris: He immigrated to the United States in …
Preet Bharara: Was welcomed into United States.
Errol Morris: Well, of course, like all Nazis. He went to work for Disney World and he became an expert on creation of elaborate stained glass windows for Disney World. We should always remember that being an accomplished Nazi can be a prerequisite for employment at the Disney Corporation.
Preet Bharara: Oh, boy. I didn’t know we were going that direction.
Errol Morris: You set it up.
Preet Bharara: Yeah, he became an accomplished mosaic artist. In fact-
Errol Morris: I’m never going to work again as a result of this. You realize that. I’m finished.
Preet Bharara: That was my goal all along.
Errol Morris: Completely finished.
Preet Bharara: All along. His strategy of interrogation is being taught as we speak in various places in this country. Who would have thought that?
Errol Morris: It works. And another amazing thing, probably it’s discussed in detail in your book, which I regrettably have not yet read but will read, he remained friends with those people he interrogated long after the war.
Preet Bharara: They called him the Gentleman Interrogator.
Errol Morris: I never got to interrogate anybody. Maybe someday I could interrogate you.
Preet Bharara: Um, no. Maybe. We can talk, we can have a chat.
Errol Morris: I was trying to be nice too.
Preet Bharara: We can have a-
Errol Morris: What if I put it in a nonthreatening, sympathetic way? You might agree.
Preet Bharara: But you know, seriously, when I was a prosecutor and I worked with prosecutors, and you would do questioning of people who were lying to you, one time early on there was someone in the room who called a break, it was the interpreter, and pulled me out and started to tell me, “You know that the guy is lying to you.” I said, “Yeah, I know he’s lying.” [inaudible 00:52:01], “Why aren’t you calling him on it?” Because I wanted to see all the lies he’s prepared to tell for a variety of reasons and that’s why I’m being nice, because you want to have people unfurl, and say all the things they’re going to say. Then when you go back to them, it’s a lot more powerful.
Preet Bharara: We’ve gone a long time. You’ve been very patient.
Errol Morris: I’ve enjoyed it. Is that patience?
Preet Bharara: No. That was actually, I was fishing for a compliment.
Preet Bharara: Do you have advice for how people should cope with the next year of turmoil in American politics?
Errol Morris: I think we should all think very, very hard about what kind of a country we want, and the kind of danger that we’re now in, and think of what we can do to help the country achieve a better outcome in this next election. We’re in peril. It is a dark time for America. America is in danger.
Errol Morris: One thing about the Trump Administration, I think it’s the most nefarious thing about the Trump Administration is it makes you wonder, it makes me wonder, was I always delusional about America and American values? Everything that I thought, or I hoped for, or I believed in, not that I had this slavish belief that everything was hunky-dory in America, I did not, but I thought there was this idea of a quality, of fairness, opportunity that seems gone.
Errol Morris: When the loss of that seems more terrible than anything, maybe America can never be made right. I think it’s incredibly ironic the progressives have become conservatives because they often think, “I wish things could just simply go back to the way they were, rather than the way they are.” I don’t know what happens next, but I do know that guy has to be defeated, and sooner rather than later.
Preet Bharara: Errol Morris, congratulations on the film. Thanks [crosstalk 00:53:56] for being on the show.
Errol Morris: Thank you.
Errol Morris: Thank you for having me on the show. I enjoyed it.
Preet Bharara: Good.
Preet Bharara: The conversation continues for members of the CAFE Insider community. To hear the Stay Tuned bonus with Errol Morris, and get the exclusive weekly CAFE Insider Podcast, go to cafe.com/insider. Right now, you can try a CAFE Insider membership free for two weeks at cafe.com/insider.
Preet Bharara: I want to end the show today by making an incredibly obvious point, but it is a kind of obvious point that needs to be made over, and over, and over again, and over again, and then a few more times after that. The obvious point is that elections matter and your vote counts. Just look at this week. There was an election in Virginia, there was an election in Kentucky, there was an election Pennsyl … Actually, there’s elections al over the place, with some interesting results.
Preet Bharara: As we think about 363 or 364 days from now when there’s an incredibly consequential election for the country, when we’ll decide the faith of Donald Trump, whether there’ll be a second term of Donald Trump or the first term of someone else, think about what’s happened the last year starting with 2018. Lots of people wondered whether that would be an election of consequence or not. Whatever happens with the impeachment proceeding, and whatever happens if there is an impeachment and ultimately a conviction in the Senate, the only reason that we are hearing about the Ukraine call, the only reason we’re getting testimony from people like Vindman and others is that there was a change in power in the House of Representatives, because in November of 2018, there was an election and the chairmanships of various communities change. One of those chairmen is Adam Schiff, another is Jerry Nadler. Only because there was an election and a switch of power has oversight been available.
Preet Bharara: Whether or not you draw comfort, depending on your point of view, from the new Governor-elect it seems, although it’s not quite fully decided yet, but it seems Governor-elect Andy Beshear of Kentucky, who defeated what everyone has said was a flawed candidate in Matt Bevin, or whether you take comfort from the fact depending on your point of view that both houses of the Virginia legislature has now flipped to the Democratic side for the first time since 1993, or any one of the other elections where it seems as a groundswell of support for change, particularly in the suburbs, take that to heart and remember that things only change if you vote.
Preet Bharara: You can’t put all of your faith in hope, either in a special counsel or in a chairman of some committee, although they’re doing God’s work. The most important thing you can do for your country, for yourself and for your community, whatever your point of view is, is to vote and encourage other people to vote. That is my obvious point for the day, and I’ll be making it again and again.
Preet Bharara: Well, that’s it for this episode of Stay Tuned. Thanks again to my guest, Errol Morris. If you like what we do, rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. Every positive review helps new listeners find the show. Send me your questions about news, politics and justice. Tweet them to me @PreetBharara with the #askpreet. Or you can call and leave me a message at 669-247-7338. That’s 669-24PREET. Or you can send an email to [email protected]
Preet Bharara: Stay Tuned is presented by CAFE. The executive producer is Tamara Sepper. The CAFE Team is David Tatasciore, Julia Doyle, Carla Pierini, David Kurlander, Calvin Lord and Geoff Isenman. Our music is by Andrew Dost. I am Preet Bharara. Stay tuned.