tv Charlie Rose PBS March 20, 2017 3:59pm-4:59pm PDT
>> hockenberry: welcome to the program. i'm john hockenberry filling in for charlie rose. we begin with german chancellor angela merkel's visit to the white house. we talked with mark landler of the "new york times." >> angela merkel is someone who's used to dealing with mercurial sort of testosterone style men, if you l. vladimir putin in russia, berlusconi in italy, xi jinping in china, erdogan in turkey and now she's dealing with donald trump in the united merkel has to figure out how to work with the new american president. i think that's what she saw. >> hockenberry: we continue with the political landscape of venezuela. ethan bronner talked with chris chris and michael mccarthy. >> i would describe them as a
state of depression. they moved through the stages of grief with regards to the death of the recall referendum from mourning to anger to bargaining and now i think we're in a situation of pretty much depression where there does pt feel like -- there doesn't feel like there is a sense of possibility or hope about political change. >> hockenberry: we conclude with william cohan's conversation with journalist vicky ward. her new piece is called "the blow it all up billionaires." >> what's really different about the mercers is not only did they lobby very hard the to have their preferred candidate and their -- and people they knew very well to then work with him, they actually want to blow up the system, the whole political system. they wanted to blow up the republican establishment. >> hockenberry: mark landler, chris chris, michael mccarthy,
and vicky ward when we continue. >> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by the following: >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. captioning sponsored by rose communications >> hockenberry: good evening, everybody. i'm john hockenberry filling in for charlie rose. we begin this evening with a look at president trump's meeting with german chancellor angela merkel. it was their first face-to-face meeting since trump took office. in the past trump has been critical of merkel's leadership. he said germany made a catastrophic mistake in welcoming more than a million
migrants and refugees in recent years. during today's summit, trump expressed strong support for n.a.t.o. but emphasized member nations should pay what they owe to support the alliance. mark landler joins me from washington. welcome. >> good to be here, john. >> hockenberry: mark, would you say this is a test of the relationship between merkel and trump? seems to me always when i look at the body language merkel that she, from the beginning, has not known what to make of this man. is that settling down, is there more of a clarity here? >> well, i think, john, that angela merkel is someone who's used to dealing with mercurial sort of testosterone-style men, if you l. she's dealt with vladimir putin in russia, berlusconi in italy, xi jinping in china, erdogan in turkey, and now she's dealing with donald trump in the united states. the u.s. is such a major trading partner and ally of the u.s.
that merkel has to figure out how to work with the new american president, and i think that's what you saw today. whatever she may make of him -- and it would be wonderful to know what her inside or interior oughts are -- she was going to make this relationship work. she came to washington to try to find some common ground, and i think the news conference they held together was an illustration of two people who are literally polls apart on some of these crucial issues, but at least, from her perspective, trying to very hard to find a way to work october. >> hockenberry: i got - -- -- try to find a way to work together. >> i got a sense she will take care of this part of the relationship, and he can take care of this part of the relationship. she kind of set out domains that she thought germany would be better to handle and other aspects of the migrant crisis that trump could deal with on his own and that that would build into a kind of bifurcated
relationship that might function very well. >> yeah, i think that's right. i mean, i think what she made a point of saying is that she is the leader of germany, will look after german national interests. she described a response to the migrant crisis that's obviously very different than what president trump is talking about, but one that she thinks is suited to german interests. likewise, on trade, which is the other major bone of contention between the two of them, she said, look, i'm also here to lobby for and push german interests, and she turned to him at one point and said a trade deal is only worth doing if both sides win. so i think you're right, she was saying i will play my corner of the court, and you play yours, and that way, we'll be able to co-exist and perhaps even work together. >> hockenberry: since before the end of the cold war, merkel was a leader early on in understanding how these forces work. demographics have been a real
warning sign in germany that the workforce needs to grow, needs to grow somehow, the birth rate needs to rise, isn't rising. part of the impetus for migrants to come to germany is to add to the workforce. it's not an argument that donald trump really has much context with. he doesn't think about immigration in those terms. is it possible that he -- that merkel expressed to him, look, here's another way of looking at it, and a lot of these nations really need to think about bringing workers in because it's helpful for them for the precise reasons we want trade to work? >> well, you know, people always say that donald trump is surprisingly receptive of the arguments of people he meets. that said, i mean, the united states is, as you say, blessed with very different demographics than germany or other western european countries. it's got a younger population, more young people, so that argument simply isn't particularly applicable to the
united states. we have other very valid reasons and historical reasons for being open to immigrants, but replenishing the workforce and creating new, younger citizens is not one of them. so i don't actually think that that argument probably makes much of an influence on him. i wonder whether it's more on the tried side where, today, the two talked about german companies and the role in apprenticing and training young workers. that might be an area where chancellor merkel can actually present donald trump some ideas that will make an impact, and that's actually the subject that they discussed after the news conference, when they went back into the white house for lunch. >> what do you think the urgency is for angela merkel to figure out exactly what donald trump's relationship or intentions are with vladimir putin right now? >> well, angela merkel has always been the leader in the west who has kind of served as
the bridge to vladimir putin. she understand him perhaps better than any other leader in the west. she's certainly met him more than perhaps any other leader in the west. so i think it's vitally important for her to figure out what kind of a relationship donald trump is seeking, and that's not an easy question to answer in the current environment because, while president trump came into office, calling for a new kind of relationship and a reset with russia, in recent days -- and i think it's in part because of the continuing questions around the trump campaign's ties to the russians during the election -- you've seen the administration actually stake out a much more traditional position. nikki haley, u.s. ambassador to the u.n., was quoted as saying we can never trust russia. so we're in a bit of a fluid moment where you had a president who wanted to change the relationship but perhaps is finding out he has very little room to maneuver to do that and
may, indeed, end up with a relationship that's much closer to the one the the obama administration had and hence to what chancellor merkel herself would be comfortable with. >> and would chancellor merkel be in a position to say, look, bear down on this if you like, but this isn't going to fly, these things, this "never trust russia," and we have a problem in ukraine and we need to decide together how to deal with it, that's the priority? >> yeah, i think probably what she'll really tray to do is say, look, i know vladimir putin better than anyone. i have been working this issue now for years. the whole diplomatic process to try to resolve the situation in ukraine is something the germans have really spearheaded. you know, the american administration said last week to reporters in advance of this meeting that donald trump would be interested and curious about
chancellor merkel's take on vladimir putin. for all his talk about putin, he doesn't actually know putin at all, so i think he'll quiz her about how best to deal with the russian leader and, perhaps, as i said earlier, she could have an impact on him. he has a pension for listening to people and taking their ideas to water when they make a persuasive case. >> hockenberry: did you get any sense of the friendliness of them, the ways in which -- i mean, it's so different to see how they address the reporters at a meeting like this. >> well, to be honest, i thought it was, as i have thought to myself, sort of my tick lousily form -- m me meticulously forma. but to be fair, chancellor merkel is a brainy intellectual. she's not a warm person. even president obama, who she had, arguably, the best
relationship that president obama had with a foreign leader, there wasn't a lot of sent mentality of putting their arms around each other, she's not like that. you remember the famous episode years and years ago where president bush put his hands on her shoulders and she sort of recoiled. she's a low-key, very intellectual person, and, so, i wouldn't have expected to see a sort of very emotional display. that said, these are really two people who have very little in common and are really poles apart on many issues and that distance came through today in the news conference. >> hockenberry: so no touchy feely. >> far from it. >> hockenberry: the last minute, what about the the notions of nationalism building in europe and such evidence that such nationalist sentiments are building in the united states? what would she want to say to donald trump about that? >> well, you know, she's gotten a bit of good news on that front, recently. the far right populist party in the netherlands did not do well as some thought earlier in the
week, in this election. she's got her own far-right party in germany that, months ago, many in germany were very worried about, but in recent months there is also evidence that party has declined in popularity, and we're beginning to hear more of what they're calling about a trump backlash, that some to have the far right populist movements in some european countries appear to be running out of steam. so i think she probably feels better about that issue than she might have last november in the wake of donald trump's election. >> hockenberry: mark landler, thank you so much. >> great to be here, john. i'm ethan bronner filling in for charlie rose. vins lawith more proven oil reserves than saudi arabia was one of the most rich countries in the world. governed by a socialist party
and ravaged by corruption and inefficienty, it is now on the verge of collapse with spreading, rampant violent crime and triple digit inflation. how bad will it get? is there a solution? how should the trump administration react? joining me here in new york is chris sabatini, executive director of global americans and a professor of latin american studies at columbia university. from philadelphia, michael mccarthy, research fellow at american university's center for latin american studies. i'm pleased to welcome them to the program. so, chris, you're here in the studio with me. you will start with you. just speak for a minute or two about how it got so bad given, you know, all the wealth and talent venezuela was payment for at one time. >> it was a conflict of issues. in 1998 when chavez was elected, the two-party system dominated venezuela for almost 30 years
basically imploded. you had an outside candidate, lieutenant colonel, who staged a coup earlier who came to power promising to clean up the system, and he did in that he did away with the old system, but doubled down on venezuela's oil wet, which as you say is considerable. over the course of his socialist-yentd economy, he basically consolidated the economy around oil. today 96% of venezuela's oil exports are based on oil. that was fine when oil was prized at $120 a barrel, but today it's around $40 a barrel and the country is hurting. >> and beyond that there are questions of institutions able to withstand the kind of corruption that came in with all of this. >> he broke down the barriers between the then semi-state oil company and the government and basically raided its coffers which also meant he didn't
invest in infrastructure and development. so production has been e central bank has been raided. as well, he's basically sort of corrupted and undermined and enviesiated democratic institutions. the electoral commission is under his kroll and the congress has no power. >> michael, a little less than a year ago, you wrote, i think, in "the washington post" that a venezuela is a powder keg, and you said that there's widespread social disorder and triggering instability throughout the continent. now, i'm not saying -- sort of a reasonable thing to say, but is that right? is that still true? or has something lifted and why? >> -- has something shifted and why? >> great question, ethan. i think it's fair to say that in 2016 the biggest fear those of us in politics had was the possibility of the country exploding in terms of social
unrest. there was, in fact -- there were, in fact, a number of episodes of instability on a sort of city-wide basis. however, the government hunkered down, deployed the armed forces to repress these protests as much as possible, and it managed to hold on to power. at the end of 2016, when the opposition managed to mobilize millions of the population on behalf of a recall referendum, the government then blocked that effort, which then set the stage for what people thought was going to be a clash in the last couple of months of 2016. but, lo and behold, an international supported dialogue process began immediately, and that cooled the street down and basically deescalated the situation as 2016 came to an end. i would describe the venezuelaian population as a state of depression. they moved through the state of grief with regards to the death
of the recall referendum from mourning to anger, to bargaining, and now i think we're in a situation of pretty much depression where there doesn't feel there is a sense of possibility or hope about political change. that helps explain why the beginning of 2017 has been calmer on the streets of venezuela despite the fact the country is experiencing a recession marked by hyperinftion -- pardon me -- i should say depression marked by hyperinflation and devere shortages. >> the thing is that this dialogue you mentioned that, as you say, calmed things down, was very much promoted by the united states government under president obama. i think the dialogue essentially collapsed but i would be eager to hear from both of you whether you think the dialogue was the right policy. >> i want to compliment him on what he said. this is a pouter keg.
it may seem depressed now but what happened in venezuela is the disarticulation of the immediate cra and rules that could have provided an exit. you have a hyperpolerrized situation. 90% of the families are not getting enough food. you don't have medicines coming in. people waiting in long lines. there is a boiling caldron of discontent and the institutions are not there to mediate it and the government basically postponed what would have been a constitutional referendum or recall referendum and the elections of the governors so you don't have any exits. the hope was there could be a dialogue. the problem was both the united states and later the vatican intervened and also the union of south american lateral organizations tried to foster dialogue, but there were no rules to the dialogue. they were basically holding the government unaccountable for the basic rules and rights that it was violating. there were over 100 political
prisoners in venezuela and not being released or on the table for discussions. >> before i get to the dialogue, let me go back to something you said. michael said, a year ago, said it was a powder keg. now he says they're in a state of depression. seems to me there is a difference about whether the place is about to blow or too depressed to do anything. is it your sense the streets could explode in venezuela? >> i think it could. the problem is the situation economically and socially has become so dire that people are pursuing basic human needs and basically scrounging in garbage to get food, people are starving. poverty is at 80%. they are pursuing those basic survival needs now. that does not mean that there is not deep-seated discontent and a level of repression from the government that, should they begin to protest and take to the streets, i simply don't know where it will go. >> again, back to you michael,
on this question, do you have a sense of when you spoke from moving from powder keg to depression, the impression you gave me was, you know, it's not about to explode. do you feel it is? did i misunderstand you? >> i think your analysis of my review of 2016 is correct, ethan. i think, at this point, the venezuelan opposition leadership has a gigantic challenge in front of it which is to somehow get over the sense of demoralization that exists in the venezuelan population now and create a sense of belief again. >> brings me to asking you whether the dialogue approach was a problematic one, from your perspective? >> so, i think that there needs to be some nuancing in terms of how we understand the dialogue's negative effects in country in terms of taking away the opposition's main resource at that time, in october, november, which was street mobilization.
and then to say that the opposition accepted a request from the vatican to not lead a march that was going to culminate in a rally in downtown caracas. the vatican made that request because it seemed likely that such a rally would result in violence. >> okay. and the opposition basically took a step back, and one could argue it was a mistake to call off the march completely, but you could also understand why the vatican made that request, since they wanted some peace in the political conflict to participate. the vatican wasn't able to deliver. they have somewhat disengaged from the process and there is a real problem because in-country, it's a problem of fire power in venezuela.
so how do you create a new equilibrium in which the opposition can in some way match force with the government? it's going to be very, very difficult. the trump administration has used the kingpin authority to make a special designation about the vice president of the country, an unappointed official, that h he is a narco-trafficker. that is significant because it means that, should the government look to make a current transition, how would he travel? other countries would not be able to recognize this government in the same way. this has been the first attempt by the trump administration so far to send a new message, and it's quite clear the dialogue has been put on hold for now. with but i think we need to think about talks as a multi-shot game. it's not just one and done, right, it's about creating new
conditions for a future round. >> okay, so in the future round you think that the the organization for american states might be involved, chris? >> currently the secretary general issued a very good report, 75-page report, condemning all the different abuses and even the past efforts of dialogue in saying the government was not held accountable and, as michael was saying, by engaging those talks, basically, it stripped out the opposition's ability to exercise its fundamental rights, which left it defanged. but i just don't see the venezuelan government accepted the o.a.s., because the o.a.s. have been very outspoken. the president called them trash. not a good way to accept dialogue. it's not a one and done. this has to be a repetitive process. tissue is it has to be done in a way that holds the government accountable. right now, the government enteting it can sold -- sort of
hold the line until the next presidential elections in 2018 and at that time hopefully the price of oil will have gone back up and they can engage in a new round of patronage. >> do you think to name the president as a kingpin by the united states government is an act to say something to him? because obama did the same with the guy who became the interior justice minister as well. you do have also the naming of this man as vice president was a political act by ma dura, the president. >> the question is twofold. one, was this a wise move to spur the dialogue? some people say no. the other question, a gamble, is
maybe by naming him, it will sent a message to objections within the regime that if you don't get in line in the dialogue, you may lose your privilege to travel to the united states and have bank accounts and other goodies. >> i don't imagine those guys are moving to the united states anyway. >> probably not soon, but losing the privilege. it's a double-edged sword. the government's reaction was basically thumbing its nose to the united states saying tough luck. >> did you guys have the sense that maduro, the president, will allow an election when the electoral calendar turns up? >> not sure. there is a recall referendum that the opposition demanded and they kicked the can down the road and there were supposed to be gubernatorial and local elections in september and they postponed those indefinitely. i think this is a government who
realized if it lost an election, they're more than willing to postpone elections. that's the risk because the dialogue has the to get people to elections but has to do it in a commission that elections are free and fair and credible for the opposition to participate. >> this is the thing that the intersectional community has to make sure happens, if there's one thing that we have to ensure in venezuela is that there is a presidential election within 2018, that we have a clear date for it with some sort of international guarantee that it takes place. i agree with chris it's going to be very difficult. from the government's perspective, the country is in a state of exception. that has been their argument, which is their between the lines way of saying we're in crisis. they won't say it publicly but that's what they're saying when you look at the rulings by the supreme court, for example. i think that is the pretext that they're going to try to move the date back for the presidential
elections to 2019. >> do you think that the obama administration's desire to improve its relation with cuba and bring cuba out of the freezer caused it to have a short-sighted view of what to do in venezuela? >> i think two answers to that question. part of the issues of not applying sanctions was in part driven by the state department and a career force in the state department who wanted to pursue dialogue and had serious doubts about the opposition. it wasn't just an obama administration policy. the obama administration made thetical calculation that cuba was a lesser national security threat than venezuela so went through cuba. did that mean they trim their sales a bit on being more aggressive on venezuela? possibly true, but i don't think they were linked as directly as one would think. >> michael, on that? yeah, i mean, i generally agree with chris there. i don't think there's much of a
cost to sort of sanctioning venezuela. there isn't much of a cost for hitting the country in that regard. it doesn't even have any support, for example, internationally. democrats in congress are no longer willing to listen. liberal democrats are no longer willing to listen to the maduro government's claims. you have bipartisan consensus of the importance of sanctions for standing up for universal human rights. so i think although there was the close sequencing, december 17, 2014, announced normalization talks with cuba, and the day after he signs a bill from congress which ultimately resulted in the sanctions in 2015. so there is a connection there, and the point is that venezuela, for the moment, is something where we're trying to really
rally the troops. but there still isn't a consensus about what to do. no one is really talking about the real value of the most aggressive action, which would be sanctioning venezuela's oil exports, right? as you mentioned in the runup. that would really hit the government where it hurts. but that seems unlikely because of the precedent it would set. we're not talking about a crisis that threatens vital u.s. national security interests, right? so it's a very difficult crisis to manage, and we don't really have that many great options. so the real point here is to argue that there are great costs for disengaging, right, we've made significant progress in ratcheting up pressure, but there still remains a great amount of work to figure out a solution to this highly complicated problem. >> a great way to end it, i think. i want to thank both our guests tonight. we'll be back in a minute.
>> cohan: good evening, i'm william cohan filling in for charlie rose. rebekah mercer is the billionaire heiress who not only provided pivotal support for president trump when his campaign was flailing last september but suggest he hire steve bannon and kellyanne conway who had also worked for the mercer's. said to be hugely influential, many people asked who is this 43-year-old woman? joining me is vicky ward and correspondent for the "huffington post" highline magazine. her piece is called "the blow it up billionaires." welcome, pleasure to have my former fair colleague here at this table, as charlie rose would say.
( laughter ) this is an incredible piece of journalism. i can tell you spent a lot of time on it. who are the mercers? they've suddenly appeared of what out of seems like nowhere, yet we should know more about them. >> what's really unusual about the mercers, and particularly rebekah mercer who has become the mouthpiece of her far more reclusive billionaire father -- >> cohan: a hedge fund manager. >> former scientist turned hedge fund manager. only made his billions relatively late in life in his '50s. unlike most of the other mega political donors, rebekah mercer is essentially a housewife without a big business of her own to run who is in a position
to really get involved if a detailed way -- in a detailed way in the trump campaign, in the details. then, as we saw on the trump transition team -- i mean, you didn't see any of the other trump donors in that kind of way. but what's really different about the mercers is not only did they lobby very hard to have their preferred candidate and people they knew very well to then work with him, they actually want to blow up the system, the whole political system. they wanted to blow up the republican establishment, and the vehicle through which they wanted to do that was this originally british data science firm, scl, renamed cambridge an
analyticca. the way that's important, the way the political system works, is all the data science companies that are used in all political campaigns, in america, traditionally are affiliated with either the republican party or the democrat. what the mercers did, particularly, i think, after they saw mitt romney's loss in 2012, and that was when rebekah mercer first got notice -- >> didn't they back some wacky congressman candidate? >> yes. collecting urine to try to change people's longevity? >> when it all starts in systems united, that decision -- >> cohan: i think that's an important point. there would be no mercers without citizens united. can you talk about that? >> completely important because, and, in fact, in the piece i have, one person, david magnum
on the record who spoke out to the "wall street journal" and then was suspended from renaissance technology -- >> cohan: for criticizing robert mercer. >> -- for criticizing robert mercer, he said they were all slightly crazy at renaissance technology, they are all slightly wacky anti-establishment people who all have crazy views. robert mercer used to say quite publicly that he believed that people who earned very little money had very little value to society. >> cohan: it was critical of teachers? >> he was critical of teachers. >> hockenberry: just because they don't make enough money. >> they don't make enough money. he would say things like this. david said, we were all slightly crazy inside renaissance technologies. no win thought this robert mercer was the kind of person
who preferred to speaking to cats than to humans. as long as lespoke to his cats, all this was fine. but then when citizens united, when that decision gets passed -- >> cohan: which allowed unlimited amount of money being spent for political -- >> right. the individuals -- >> cohan: it changed the political landscape. >> it changed the landscape. and the mercers, the first test run was, i believe, in oregon, where this doctor, arthur robinson, who was affiliated with this organization and very proudly so that collected vials of urine to believe it could prolong life, and no one heard of this man but saw their money really had an effect. and that changed everything. from there, they invested in breitbart, which is, of course, where they come across steve bannon, and steve bannon earns
their trust. you know, andrew breitbart dies. steve bannon does a lot, i think, to rectify the health of -- the financial health of breitbart and expands its platform. also what i get into the piece which i find very interesting is that quite a few of the republican consultants i talked to mentioned that steve bannon, he often appeared at the white house as a homeless person. >> cohan: he still looks almost like a homeless person. >> well, he wears a suit and a tie. but a number of times he was seen in his track pants and all disheveled. one of ted cruz's political consultants said that's actually a very brilliant strategy in this very strange sort of
rubik's cube world of uncomfortable co-dependies that makes up the political world because if you are a political consultant, you want the donors who you are so reliant on to just focus on your brain, on your strategy. you don't want them suddenly looking at your cuff links, or how you eat a bread roll. that can make a huge difference. they can abandon you because of things like that. so turning up looking like a homeless person i think obviously worked extremely well for steve bannon. >> cohan: let's step back. renaissance technologies and jamie simons and robert mercer, this is a big hedge fund. jamie simons is usually one of the highest paid if not the highest paid hedge fund manager year in, year out. obviously, robert mercer was his right-hand guy and made a lot of
money himself. >> right. has a few toys, right? right. big yacht. there's a grate scene in here about them going out to fisher's island. >> yes. rebekah mercer -- the middle daughter. >> cohan: -- she not only worked at renaissance for a few years but also has a cookie company. as a side light, she's trying to overthrow what we think of the republican party orthodoxy. >> right. >> cohan: so this is a very complex woman you seem to have captured well in this piece, i think. >> two or three years at renaissance, on the trading desk -- >> cohan: a stanford degree in computer science and engineering? >> yes, but i'm not sure -- i don't think -- again, david magaman was actually one of her bosses.
it ended not so well. >> cohan: perhaps a bit of nepotism there. >> right. and she certainly had, by the time 2010 citizens united came and the mercers are finding out what money could do for them in the political sphere, had enough time on her hands. i know she home schools her four children, but she had enough time on her hands to go all in. she would attend these freedom summits -- you know, the koch network, david bossy -- >> cohan: who is another important person in this story, head of citizens united. so a direct link between citizens united, steve bannon, the mercers, trump. >> right. so dave bossy is the person who, i believe, introduced the merss
to trump. that's how he got to know steve bannon, kellyanne conway, also how he got to know the mercers. they'd all talk. but rebecca mercer i think found these summits frustrating, and she thought they were too soft on immigration and on trade. she also, you know, thought no one paid enough attention to her. >> cohan: is she an ego maniac? does she need the attention? >> even people who would call themselves supporters and friends of hers call her a force. >> cohan: is that a euphemism for something? >> she's leerl an assertive
personality. someone who definitely considers themselves a friend of hers says she perhaps has a low e.q., which means, obviously, she has low e.q., she doesn't read a room well. what she's interested in is politics, her agenda and getting it across. and she first got herself really noticed after the mitt romney loss in 2012 when she stood up in the university club in new york and berated the room for saying, you know, he'd had a terrible canvassing and data operation, you know, and scolded them all, and everyone was sort of, like, who is this woman? >> cohan: there are great details in this story. i want to talk about some quickly. steve bannon being in clark of biosphere -- being in charge of biosphere 2. i don't know whether the
scientific experiment in the desert. he changed the locks. the scientists broke the seal on biosphere two so they could get out because steve bannon essentially locked them in. talk about that. >> the point of brig up biosphere two was to show steve bannon -- >> cohan: is a complicated guy. >> well, he has a history. he's very good at coming in and taking -- i mean, it was brought in to biosphere two as a banker. >> cohan: right, former worked at his own firm. >> right, and he ended up running it. he has an appeal to very rich people. he obviously has a charisma there. they end up trusting him. ed bass, the billionaire who felt the project was being completely mismanaged brought him in to fix it.
the other thing that's noticeable with steve bannon is quite a lot of drama, so the way the old regime had to be sort of removed and he could take over did involve armed federal marshals. >> cohan: thank you. so it's -- >> cohan: it would be a similar thing with, you know, getting out, getting the mercers and himself and kellyanne conway out of the ted cruz camp into the donald trump camp at just the right moment, right, and taking over that campaign, supposedly fixing that after the paul manafort regime. >> well, the thing that really struck the cruz campaign about steve bannon -- you know, many of these people are obviously great personal friends -- was that -- and i think they
wondered to this day if he had not realized until the spring of last year that ted cruz was born in canada because steve bannon was supposedly with the mercers and they all agreed ted cruz would be the candidate. but suddenly breitbart wrote, i think, 61 articles mentioning the fact that ted cruz is no longer electable because he was born in canada, and the cruz campaign and senator cruz called and said, you know, called the mercers -- >> cohan: what are you doing? -- what's going on? and rebekah mercer said, oh, i have to let steve do his thing. i have to be fair and impartia. it was apparent then that they
felt ted cruz wasn't enough to jeff sessions' position on trade and immigration, and he had to -- was asked to move his policies closer to jeff sessions. they complained about a "wall street journal" op-ed he co-authored with paul ryan saying he was pro free trade and they complained about that, and bannon was definitely sort of whispering in their ear on that one. then, when trump, during the primaries, came out with his muslim ban, rebekah mercer said to ted cruz, she would give him these dressing-downs after each debate, which with i think the cruz campaign found difficult to follow because ted cruz was a debate champion from princeton, i believe. but she told him, you know, his
positions on immigration weren't -- you know, needed to move closer to trump's and, indeed, to the base. so he came out with this policy about h1b visas, the 90-day period where h1b vies is visa s were here. >> cohan: trump wins. success has in fathers. everybody's claiming they had a role and were responsible for his victory. on election night she's hanging out with breitbart. again, great details, breitbart in his office where there's a curtain, no one could see -- >> bannon. >> cohan: bannon where there's a curtain and no one can see what he's doing. but then she tries to get people she wants in the administration. she's on the executive transition team and tries to get the people she wants in the administration and gets nixed by and large.
>> well, no, she won some. she wanted flynn. >> cohan: okay. she got jeff sessions. the -- she also was dead against mitt romney. >> cohan: and mitt romney's daughter. >> she was against mitt romney getting a role. he was being considered briefly for secretary of state. yeah, she was furious when mitt romney's niece was made head of the r.n.c., and i think another huge disappointment, she tried twice for john bolton who had a relationship with the mercers. she donated to his causes, they've donated to him. john bolton's foreign policy positions are not in line with donald trump so makes no sense -- >> cohan: she was upset about it. >> and she's very, very, very
vocal. but i think the thing that really upset her, and i have this scene in the piece where she goes to lee hanley's memorial service on december 19th, what she really wanted -- and this is a source of the most worrying element of what the mercers are trying to do -- she really wanted to control one outside group, what's called the outside group, a group that -- an advocacy, advocating the issues that gets the president's agenda out across the country. but she didn't just want to do that. someone in the piece says it, she got these people elected. she got -- >> cohan: she believes she got them elected. >> she now believes -- she wanted this group with using cambridge as the analytical engine, and this is the most important, she wanted to hold
them accountable. so theoretically -- theoretically -- let's say donald trump -- you know, hypothetically -- wanted to invade grenada, she, if she had got her way, and her engine with their great database, could message the country to follow her agenda and not the president's, she -- you know, that's above the level -- >> cohan: he's the manchurian candidate and she's controlling the chip -- >> that -- that -- that was the most terrifying part. >> cohan: inbelievably revealing about her agenda. >> that was the most terrifying part of. this and the history, if you look at the mercers' history, if you go back to the candidates back when they were sort of testing things, the ends matter much more to them than the means. so this, i think, was the most troubling aspect of all of it.
she didn't get -- here she got stopped, and she got stopped because alexander nix has upset every single american who's come his way, in contact with him. and brad pascal, the very down-to-earth, kansas-born -- >> cohan: web sites for the trumps and took over the -- -- >> yes, completely loyal to the trump family and jared kushner, really got sick and tired after the election of hearing from the came bridge analytical machine that it was all them when he never used any of their graphics. and the edecision of donald trump to go to the rust belt, to wisconsin, was actually, it started with when pascal had this light bubble --
>> cohan: pennsylvania. >> cohan: but a, but it was a light bulb moment when pascal said what if we have a much lower voter turnout than everyone was expecting? then he asked two members of his team to run models based on voter turnout similar to the midterms, 2014, in the as high as people had been h thinking it would be, and that's when he saw the path. he mapped out a path that was actually 305 electoral college votes, so he was one vote off. and he then took all this to bannon, to bossy -- >> cohan: he had become one of the most important people but most people have never even heard of. >> right, and he's like that way. when he's in a meeting in trump tower during the transition team with, you know, with rebekah mercer and with, you know, all
the other -- kellyanne conway, describing all the people in the room, and she's pushing for this one organization -- >> cohan: pushing for nix. yes, and he says very politely, no, this is not about mercer. this is about trump. and it's certainly not about cambridge analyticca who had nothing to do with why we got here, and that has caused a rift. we've now ended up with -- i mean, i think rebekah mercer will have her own group, but there are now going to be threet dilutes the power of each because donors will decide which group -- >> cohan: i get the sense from the way you ended the piece that we haven't heard the last of rebekah mercer. >> oh, no. >> cohan: and looks like steve bannon knows he's a short-timer.
he's doing all these things. that seems to be news that you're breaking in this piece. is that true? >> someone close to steve bannon phoned me this morning to tell me that he has definitely told friends that, you know, the country comes first and he's likened himself to thomas cromwell who ended up beheaded and that he looked tired. this person said we often see him open tv wearing makeup. recently we saw him at c-pac without any makeup. he looked much worse. >> cohan: so do you think -- , inci think his priority, of al the things, his agenda for the first 10 100 days. he cares about that and the country. if he implodes in the process,
that's fine, country first. >> cohan: -- he seems to have recognized he's only going to have a limited time on the stage. >> who knows, but we know steve bannon is a student of history fix you say so. ( laughter ) well, people in his position -- >> cohan: have a half-life. yes. >> cohan: but the mercers, you know, i think the whole fascinating thing that citizens united unleashed the mercers, unleashed a lot of powerfully wealthy people, but this go-round, this election cycle, seemed like it unleashed the mercers on us and this is one of the first times we're able to have an understanding of who they are and how they worked in the campaign, first backing ted cruz, then switching over to donald trump. it's really a fascinating rendition of a behind the scenes power play among these very wealthy people and completely
rebekah mercer loses out and we haven't heard the end of her. >> not at all. >> cohan: thank you. thank you all for watching. >> rose: for more about this program and earlier episodes, visit us online at pbs.org and charlierose.com. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org