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CN: Russian-Linked Facebook Ads Targeted Swing States; Trump Criticizes Puerto Rico News Coverage; Police: Vegas Killer Rigged Guns to Fire Faster. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired October 4, 2017 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:30:03] JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The president has also responded by praising the first responders, even tweeting just last night that the response, the quick response of the Las Vegas Police Department was nothing short of a miracle. Here's what he said earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll be going to Las Vegas where I will pay my personal respects and condolences to everybody. What happened is such a tragedy, so unnecessary. I couldn't believe what happened in Las Vegas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: What seems quite clear is the president is not going to talk very much about gun control on this trip. He said as much on departure for Puerto Rico yesterday here at the White House. The president ran as a strong supporter of gun rights. And CNN has been told he's being advised by top administration officials to steer clear of the issue, harkening back to the refrain we've heard on Capitol Hill many times after these mass casualty shooting events that now is not the time and all the facts need to be entered before entering into a discussion that could implicate Second Amendment rights.
Back to you.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Joe, thank you very much for all of that reporting.
Now to the Russia investigation. CNN has exclusive new details about those Russian-linked Facebook ads during the 2016 presidential campaign. Sources tell us that some of the ads targeted swing states that were key to President Trump defeating Hillary Clinton.
CNN's Manu Raju is live in Washington with all of the exclusive details for us.
Manu, what did you learn?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Good morning, Alisyn.
A number of these Russian-linked Facebook ads that appeared during the election season were targeting Michigan and Wisconsin. These are two states critical to Donald Trump's victory last November. Now, four sources with knowledge of the situation tells that the ads were intended to promote divisive messages, including anti-Muslim messages, even suggesting that Muslims were a threat to the American way of life.
Now, it has been unclear until now exactly which regions of the country were targeted by these Russia-linked Facebook ads. And a large number of ads appeared in areas of the country that were not heavily contested in the election. But some clearly were aimed at swaying public opinion in the most heavily protected battle grounds.
Now, sources have seen these Facebook ads, Alisyn, say they have often seized on polarizing social issues like the Second Amendment and starting to prop up and criticize groups like Black Lives Matter as part of an overall effort to meddle in the elections -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Right. But, Manu, I mean, Michigan and Wisconsin, were those that just good guesses. Or is the thinking and the evidence suggesting that they had help from the U.S. about exactly where to target?
RAJU: Well, we don't know that yet. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told me last night, quote, we still don't know if anyone in the Trump campaign was involved in the Russia ad campaign effort.
But as part of their investigations, both the special counsel and congressional committees are seeking to determine whether the Russians received any help at all from Trump associates in where to target those ads. Now, White House did not respond to a request for comment, but the president has long insisted there was never any collision with Russia. Trump often calling the matter a hoax.
But these ads were part of the 3,000 submitted to congressional investigators by Facebook this week, all of which the company said reach about 10 million people. And while, Alisyn, we have no way of knowing for sure how it affected last November's vote, Trump beat Clinton by nearly -- by just 10,700 votes out of nearly 5 million cast in Michigan. While Wisconsin also was one of the tightest states in the country, just Trump winning by just 22,700 votes.
And we expect to hear more about the Facebook ads and exactly the extent of this effort when Senate Intelligence Committee leaders hold a press conference today to provide an update about their own sweeping probe to discuss what they learned about Russian meddling and what they may know about any collusion that may have occurred from Trump associates -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Manu. We also have Senator Richard Blumenthal on our program. So, we will ask about your new reporting. Thanks so much for sharing that exclusive with us.
Well, President Trump leaving behind one crisis in Puerto Rico for another in Las Vegas. How is he doing as consoler in chief? We discuss all of that next.
[06:38:35] CAMEROTA: President Trump will head to Las Vegas about 90 minutes from now and, of course, he will meet with survivors of Sunday's massacre. The trip today comes a day after the president visited Puerto Rico.
But this morning, he's spending time criticizing the news coverage of his visit to Puerto Rico. He just tweeted: A great day in Puerto Rico yesterday while some of the news coverage is fake, most showed great warmth and friendship.
Let's talk about that. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory, and CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza.
Chris, I'm going to start with you.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes.
CAMEROTA: Because you were quite vociferous in your action to what you saw the president doing in Puerto Rico yesterday. I mean, you -- I think it's fair to say that you were critical of how the president was, you know, throwing paper towels. That his tone didn't seem to necessarily fit the tragedy, the humanitarian crisis there.
But the only local politician or anybody that we can find who was critical of president's visit was the San Juan mayor, who, of course, has been critical of President Trump all along, and she felt it wasn't sensitive.
CILLIZZA: I mean, look, to say I was critical is an understatement. So, thank you for that, Alisyn.
Yes. Look, I just think the thing Donald Trump has failed to demonstrate up to yesterday was his ability to be empathetic with anyone he's not related to or views as a peer. We saw that in Charlottesville. We saw it repeatedly during the campaign.
[06:40:01] To me, in Puerto Rico yesterday, when you joke about you're costing us a lot of money, when you say it is not a real catastrophe because not enough people died, when you -- and this has drawn a lot less attention -- but when you talk about the weather and how nice the weather is though occasionally you get hit, which he did, when you randomly bring General Kelly up to tout the fact that he has four stars, when you act the way he acted in handing out supplies, this is not presidential. I guess you could say that's good if you like Donald Trump, that you're sick of presidents acting presidential.
But acting like, you know, Steph Curry shooting paper towels and sort of holding up things up and being like, here's a flashlight, it's just not how president's act. I thought it was me, me, me, me, me. Everything was centered on him.
He asked the governor of Puerto Rico -- he said you have said many nice things about us and you were praising us. He asked the congresswoman from Puerto Rico, he said, you have been saying a lot of nice things about us in private. Would you say some of those in public?
The whole focus was Donald Trump and how allegedly the story in the media that he was a little slow on the draw as it relates to getting aid there and focusing the attention of the country there, that that story was wrong.
CILLIZZA: And that's what he wanted to do. He did not focus in any way, shape or form, to my mind, on the on people there, the ongoing struggles, what they need. It was sort of a praise Donald Trump fest.
CAMEROTA: Well, listen, the governor doesn't object. The governor obliged to complimenting the president and the representative --
CILLIZZA: They did.
CAMEROTA: -- obliged and hasn't criticized the president. Let's just play a couple of moments in case people missed it yesterday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack because we've spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico and that's fine, we've saved a lot of lives. If you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here, what is your death count as of this moment, 17?
GOV. RICARDO ROSELLO (D), PUERTO RICO: Sixteen, certified.
TRUMP: Sixteen people, certified. Sixteen people versus in the thousands, you can be very proud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: David Gregory, the death toll doubled right after the president left. Then the governor announced it had gone up -- it more than doubled, 34 people.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
CAMEROTA: Your thoughts?
GREGORY: Look, it's callous and absurd. I mean, to start talking about the death count and comparing it to Katrina and that somehow is a sign that things are so much better here. Nobody wants to hear that. That's not what the president should be saying.
Listen, this whole -- look, Donald Trump is doing what he does, which is misdirection, and deflection, and trying to stir up hatred for the media. The notion that he would tweet about the coverage not being warm and friendly. Mr. President, that's not our job, OK? So, get on over it. Focus on doing what you're supposed to do as commander-in- chief and as president of the country. But that's not what he wants to do. He would love for us to talk
about a culture war between the media and the government, which is really pointless. People can see it with their own eyes.
The bottom line is the administration has been in a very difficult position having to respond to hurricane after hurricane. It's a tremendous challenge for the federal government working with state and local governments. FEMA, by all accounts, done an incredible job prepositioning. But there are questions about whether they are behind now.
And somebody like Lieutenant General Honore who really did come after Katrina and get that recovery righted, has on CNN very constructed criticism about how the military has to mobilize, how there has to be more federal resources brought to bear in Puerto Rico. That's a fact. That's what the government should be focused on.
And, by the way, local officials praising the president, which he wants to highlight. I mean, remember, Chris Christie, and the hug of President Obama, that's what you do. If you're a governor, you're going to embrace the federal government, the president, whatever it takes, to get what you need. That's what any responsible local officials are going to be doing.
CAMEROTA: Yes. And in fact, it seems, I mean, on some level, it's working because the president said yesterday that they're going to have to -- I mean, he was quite clear they are going to have to wipe out the debt of Puerto Rico, Chris.
I mean, that's huge. That's news if Congress goes along with that.
CILLIZZA: Well, the big if Congress goes along with it, right. I mean, remember, Donald Trump once billed himself as the king of debt.
This is the back and forth, Alisyn, the sort of yo-yoing that he says you're costing us a lot of money down here. Well, we're going to probably forgive your debt. I mean, again, it's all for the show. I feel like at this point, we have enough data points from June 2015 until now that we know both him as a candidate and him as president.
[06:45:07] It's largely for the show of it. It's for the perception. To David's point, it's about picking fights with what he believes to be scapegoats like the media based on frankly nothing, the idea that the news didn't cover that story.
We wrote about his words. I urged people yesterday and I urged people today. CNN has it online. CNN.com. Go watch the 13-minute photo-op on press conference where the clips you are playing are from.
CILLIZZA: You decide if you think that is sort of the way a president should approach a first visit to a site in which people's lives are -- 34 people lost their lives. But hundreds and thousand have been uprooted.
CILLIZZA: Have or still dealing with electricity shortages.
CAMEROTA: Only 7 percent of the island has power at the moment. Yes, OK.
CILLIZZA: Saying you should be proud, touting this as a great place.
CILLIZZA: Just watch it yourself and be the judge. Don't just believe what Donald Trump tweeted. Believe what David says, but don't believe what I say.
CAMEROTA: Got it.
CILLIZZA: Go watch it yourself.
CAMEROTA: OK. Moving on, David, let's talk about the exclusive coverage CNN has. Manu Raju was just on our air and he said that sources are saying that, in fact, the Russian ads from Facebook did target Michigan and Wisconsin, where as we know, that's where Donald Trump, that's what -- those are the states that allowed Donald Trump to win by a slim margin over Hillary Clinton.
So, lucky guess from Russia? It doesn't take that much to figure out those would be swing states, or something else happening here?
GREGORY: Well, you have to face the obvious question, which is whether those people behind those ads had any kind of help from somebody in the orbit of the Trump campaign who would know enough that's where they ought to focus their effort. That is clearly what special prosecutor and Congress is going to look at.
I mean, this highlights the ugliness of what exists online and how tools like Google and Facebook can be exploited. We have seen it in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting as well where fake stories, literal fake stories can be proliferated, can be created, proliferated, in such ugliness and they can push on the open door of enough people in our society who are willing to believe that and who have such little faith in institutions from government to media that this kind of thing can take root.
CAMEROTA: OK. Gentlemen, thank you very much for the perspective on both of these stories.
Obviously our top story is what's happening in Las Vegas and the aftermath. That's where we find Chris on the ground there.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And it's all related, though, right, Alisyn? What we decide is real, what is true, what is fact, what he have to deal as a society. That's why we scrutinize what the president says because it matters. And he's coming to Las Vegas today. One of the issues going on right now is this arsenal, this monster,
put together over 20 years. He converted many of his weapons into weapons that could fire very rapidly. And he did not have to break a single law to do it. How is that possible, next.
[06:52:23] CUOMO: Police say the Las Vegas killer rigged at least a dozen of the weapons found in his room to make them rapid-fire weapons.
CNN's Drew Griffin is taking a look at how cheap and legal this is to do.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A fully automatic rifle requires two components. A trigger mechanism that allows multiple rounds fired with one finger squeeze and a magazine able to feed the weapon with a continuous stream of bullets.
The result is the kind of weapon one could logically only use in a war. Or, like Las Vegas, in a massacre.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be advised, it is automatic fire. Fully automatic fire from an elevated position.
GRIFFIN: You'd think that kind of weapon power would be illegal for average gun owners to possess. Think again.
This is a slide stock. Perfectly legal, aftermarket component. According to the manufacturer's video is, it's easy to assemble on an assault rifle and the results, though technically do not make a machine gun, ask yourself if you can tell the difference.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was just one of several ways that you can make a semiautomatic rifle into essentially a fully automatic rifle.
GRIFFIN: The slide stock is legal to buy and to use. Former ATF agent Sam Rabadi calls it a workaround of the gun laws, not a loophole.
That may make no sense to you, this will make even less sense. Kits you can buy online to turn a semiautomatic rifle into a fully automatic weapon. Legal to buy, yet illegal to actually use.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody with a basic machining skill set could go ahead and convert a semiautomatic rifle into a fully automatic rifle. The conversion kit itself is legal. But when you use it to convert a rifle into fully automatic obviously makes it illegal firearm.
GRIFFIN: Rabadi says the Las Vegas shooter may have used both and firing from the 32nd story into a huge crowd needed little training, if any, to kill so many.
Any attempt for more regulation on guns is likely to go nowhere with a Republican-led Congress. But even after the sandy hook shooting in 2012 when Democrats had control, a bill calling for tighter background checks failed to pass the Senate.
As for the stakes, in Florida, after last year's massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, two Democratic state legislators introduced bills to ban sales of assault weapons and limit high-capacity magazines.
[06:55:10] Both bills died without even a hearing.
Drew Griffin, CNN, Winter Haven, Florida.
CUOMO: And just so you get what the headline is from Drew Griffin, I'll say it again. This bump stock is legal to own and illegal to use. Think about how ridiculous that is. That is why people are demanding debate of these issues.
When we come back, we're going to talk about these new details about the Las Vegas killer and this planning the likes of which we have never seen in a situation like this.
And we're also learning more about the lives that were stolen. Please stay with CNN.