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Desperation & Frustration Worsen in Puerto Rico; CNN: Russians Bought Black Lives Matter Ad on Facebook. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 28, 2017 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:05] JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And presumably, the president does, too. But it's divisive and it's a distraction.


KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And remember, if these are his friends, his friends -- many of his friends have already left him. He has -- NFL owners have come out and said, I supported him, I disagree with this. And that's pretty -- I mean, that's pretty clear.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And pitting owners against the players is a mistake. It's a mistake for the league and it's the mistake for the issues that we should be talking about.


CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much.

CUOMO: Anyway, the U.S. military -- I mean, it's like it, but it never ends. So, I got to buck up. -- called in to help the U.S. military to get the job done in Puerto Rico. There is no question they are needed. But what about timing? Are they at a point of desperation that will be difficult to control?

We're going to go live to the hurricane-battered island next.


CAMEROTA: The Trump administration trying to rush military personnel and supplies to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

[06:35:05] But for desperate survivors of Hurricane Maria, the aid cannot come soon enough.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is live in San Juan with for us.

What's the situation there, Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Alisyn.

This is a scene of desperation in a small community just outside San Juan. I want to show you the size of this line. These folks, several dozen, are standing outside an ice plant. They have been here since midnight, waiting, hoping that they might get ice. This ice plant has been closed since before Maria. And they have been lining up just like this every day since Monday.

There's no confirmation that this plant is even going to open today. In fact, there's a sign right at the gate that says closed because of lack of diesel.

This one scene is playing out in so many places across Puerto Rico, not only because of a lack of diesel but also because of a lack of cash. Many gas stations don't have electricity, meaning they can't take cards. They require cash to pay for gas.

That situation in itself is part of the reason that those 3,000 containers that CNN confirmed were being held at the port here in Puerto Rico are still there. They have not been moved yet. They are lacking in truckers to actually carry them into the neighborhoods that they are required because they can't communicate with them. A lot of people simply aren't showing up for work because they have to take care of their families.

The problems here in Puerto are like a puzzle. There is tremendous gridlock and getting them undone is going to be a tough task -- Chris.

CUOMO: Boy, so many hard jobs all needing to be done at once. Boris, thank you for being there. Keep telling the stories.

The ability to communicate, this is such a big part for these families in need. On top of everything else, you have to deal with in terms of survivability, the unknown, not knowing whether or not their families are OK, not knowing whether or not the people who they love are OK. That works both ways. It is such a desperate need.

Nearly every single cell tower was damaged by the storm in Puerto Rico. Now, there is a man who has figured out a way to help people reconnect. We have that story, next.


[06:41:17] CUOMO: CNN is learning new details on the content of Facebook ads bought by Russia during the 2016 election. At least one of the ads specifically mentioned Black Lives Matter and targeted Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore.

Let's discuss with CNN senior media reporter for media and politics, Dylan Byers, and Michael Weiss, CNN national security analyst and co- author of "The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money."

Boy, that title is spot on, Michael.


CUOMO: I mean, this is important from a factual perspective. This is the first time we have heard the substance, the meat on the bones of what did they do. What is your understanding of the sophistication this shows, Michael?

WEISS: Well, you have to understand, Chris, I mean, this is nothing new. During the Cold War, the KGB used to specialize in what was known as active measures, which were provocations, the spreading of disinformation and half-truths in order to undermine and weaken Western society, right, make them vulnerable, make them feel unsecure and paranoid. The difference then was, you had to have an officer find a human being to write an article and hope that article went viral in the old-fashioned dead tree sense of the word, and spread around the world.

And one of the most famous KGB active measures was the conspiracy theory that the CIA killed John F. Kennedy. Today, active measures are completely media edit. It takes about five minutes to buy an advertisement on Facebook or to write an article at Sputnik or RT, and then socially engineer, it's going viral through algorithms or to use Twitter bots, which is another big thing that Kremlin trolls have relied upon.

So, I think, you know, you have to take this into broad historical context. Russians when they were at war with the United States have been exploiting racial tensions, all kinds of social device. There's a famous case in the 1950s where the KGB actually staged what looked to be neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic attacks in West Germany, which, in fact, were provocations they had done, to show that West Germany had not de- Nazified completely.

So, there's nothing new under the sun here. The danger is, technology has advanced so quickly and it's become so much easier that you don't even have to set foot in this country to wage a kind of active measure like this and we're seeing only the team of the iceberg in my opinion of how they've used social media and the Internet as to this president.

CAMEROTA: Dylan, let's dive into your exclusive reporting on this, because again, you found out the illustrations of exactly what they did. For instance, they -- these Russian ads pretended to be Black Lives Matter supporters. And then they did something -- correct me if I'm wrong, but then they did something even more devious. They then also sounded threatening to other residents who weren't necessarily Black Lives Matter supporters. So, that again gins up fear and outrage.

What did you learn?

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR MEDIA & POLITICS REPORTER: Well, that's right. So, understanding the nuance of this ad is really important. You can have a Black Lives Matter post such as the one targeted toward Baltimore and Ferguson, and it can appear to promote the Black Lives Matter group.

But depending on how it's cast, whether it may be puts forward some of the more violent aspects, more violent assets of that group, it can also be intended to reinforce the idea to other residents of those cities that those groups are a threat. And that gets to what the goals of the advertisements were.

They were not so much to promote one candidate over another candidate. They were about showing discord. They were about amplifying the divisions that already exist in American society, in American politics in order to effectively undermine American democracy in the eyes of not only of Americans but of Russians and people around the world.

[06:45:10] And that points to the level of sophistication going on here with the Russian ad buyers. Understanding cities like Ferguson and Baltimore, which had seen violent protests over police shootings of African-American men would be flash points for that sort of debate.

CAMEROTA: But, Dylan, you said they weren't trying to favor one candidate or another. But doesn't sort of the lion's share of these things hurt Hillary Clinton?

BYERS: Well, you could certainly make that argument. And there is speculation over the course of the presidential election, these Russian ad buyers began to understand that it might be more beneficial to have Trump in office. And you certainly saw -- there are certainly more examples that we have now of ads that appear to sort of benefit the conservative side of several political issues than there are liberal side.

However, I just want to caution. As of now, we are dealing with a very small sampling of the ads. We are waiting for Facebook to hand over the entirety of the ads to Congress.

CUOMO: The big question right now, Michael, is, did they have help? You know, I understand the sophistication from you and from Dylan. But if we see that these ads were targeted in states that wound up mattering, what is your insight in terms of how much political savvy do the Russians and their operatives have on their own and how much need would they have to reach out to somebody who understands the process in an ongoing election better than they might?

WEISS: Well, it's interesting. There was an article in "The Wall Street Journal" several months ago, which showed a fairly low level Republican operative in Florida communicating with Guccifer 2.0, who according to U.S. intelligence was a cutout for Russian intelligence. This is an account on Twitter, by the way, that's still active several months after the American authorities said this is essentially a Russian provocation.

And that operative was essentially talking about voting demographics in swing states. And Guccifer was sort of asking him for his take on what he thought of it. The same thing, by the way, the same conversation was had between Guccifer 2.0 and Roger Stone, who just testified before the House Intel Committee earlier this week.

The question I keep getting asked not just by Americans but by Western security officials is, who on the American side of this divide was actually colluding with or helping the Russians? The Russians that capable of understanding American voting patterns or were they being fed information?

CAMEROTA: That is the million dollar question as it's called it in Congress.

Thank you very much. Dylan and Michael, great to talk to you. CUOMO: All right. So, people are struggling to go communicate with

loved ones in Puerto Rico. This is working both ways. There are no cell towers. So, people can't get out to say we're OK. And so much of the family back here in the U.S. isn't able to find out about their loved ones. So, there is as man has found a way to help, and he joins us next.


[06:51:52] CAMEROTA: Three and a half million Americans in Puerto Rico are still without the basics -- food, water, fuel, and communication. Many have still not gotten word to their loved ones that they are alive.

And that's where our next guest comes in. Anthony Gonzalez Pena is helping people connect by taping their personal messages to family and then posting them on Facebook.

Here are just a few examples.


CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. That's so emotional, Anthony.

Joining us now is Anthony Gonzalez Pena. He's live in San Juan.

Anthony, wow, I mean, how emotional. What was the story? The last one we saw with the two older folks who were crying about Christina. That was trying to get to their daughter and let them know they were alive?

ANTHONY GONZALEZ PENA, HURRICANE MARIA SURVIVOR: Yes, ma'am. Actually, what it was is she hasn't really spoken to Christina, or anyone for that matter, as far as ever since the hurricane hit us.

And Christina has been actively writing us on Facebook every single day. Please find my mother. Please find my dad. Anyone in the family I can go and reach out to.

And once we finally made that impact or once we finally the connection, sorry, it was just something nice to watch actually. Actually, I was saying to the video and I'm trying not to cry right now. But it is actually quite a touching moment. So --

CAMEROTA: Yes, me too. I'm with you. It is really emotional.

But, Anthony, how are -- why are you going to these smaller, more remote parts of the country and trying to connect people on the island and how are you able to do it?

GONZALEZ PENA: There's actually some areas just like anywhere else that don't really have access to the kind of communications that other cities have like San Juan, Condado. And when you go into the suburbs of Puerto Rico, like deep into areas, it's really hard. Like these people before the hurricane hit us, they barely had any ways to communicate anyways. So, now, that the hurricane hit us and their kids cannot have access to them, it's just -- it's just something crazy, I think.

But it all started -- I start odd fund-raiser. And then my neighbor, she got Internet right away on her phone because we live in San Juan. She started getting messages. So, then we joined together. And then two more people came.

[06:55:00] And it's just growing and growing. And all that we're trying to do basically is trying to impact as many people as possible.


GONZALEZ PENA: Just to even see their parents, to see their families, even if it's by a picture of their house, their dog, or something, something to let them know that everything is not quite fine, but everything is OK for right now.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that they're alive at least. I mean, just to let them know they're alive and I know you've gotten hundreds and hundreds of requests from people even here in the U.S. saying, can you find my relatives and my loved ones? Can you connect us? And I know you're trying to, you know, fulfill all of these, but it's really tough?

What's your personal situation, Anthony? Do you have food and water? What happened to you in the storm?

GONZALEZ PENA: During the storm, I was in my place. I have a two- bedroom house, you know? I was downstairs and the impact came around 6:00 in the morning. That's why I lost my roof basically. So, that's when I went upstairs and I tried to get some footage of what was going on.

But lucky for me, I have two buildings blocking my place right now. So, if anything, I probably got winds like 130 maybe, 140 miles an hour and not 165 to 170 that most people got.

But back to the barrios and back to the campo, those areas, you've got people with wooden houses that flew away. You've got people that are -- we're fine here in San Juan. I'm going to be quite honest with you, guys. We're fine when it comes to San Juan, when it comes to Condado, when it comes to the metro area because this area is going to recover right away.

The main concern is out there. That's who really needs it right now. Grandma staying at Rio Grande, Luisa, you got areas like Anonas (ph), you got areas like Arecibo, (INAUDIBLE). There are certain areas that need our help to get in touch with our families.

If anything, the only thing that we're asking right now is just to please, try to get communications up as soon as possible. Not just in certain areas but in most of the island, because we're getting not just hundreds, Alisyn, we're getting thousands of different requests. And we're really trying right now. So -- and it's not just me doing it by the way. I can't take --

CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, we see it, Anthony. We see it. We see your good work of connecting people. I mean, you have already done a great job of going out and making sure that people find their loved ones.

Anthony Pena, thank you very much for sharing all of your videos with us. And best of luck.

GONZALEZ PENA: Thank you so much, guys. Thank you for having us.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

So, the president unveiling his tax plan. Who does it really benefit is and how will they pay for it? We discuss all of that, next.