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Russia Investigation and Advertising; Tillerson Never Threatened Resignation; Tropical Storm Nate Prediction; Puerto Rico Devastation; The Wonder List Returns. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 5, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:30:00] SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: And every election official take this very seriously as we move into this November's election, and as we move into preparation for the 2018 election.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, Steve, with all the attention, all the focus on Russian meddling, what could they still pull off?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the Russians -- the chairman is exactly right, let me start with that. I mean the Russians have -- And this is not a recent thing that the Russians have been very dedicated, very -- just eager to get themselves into the U.S. political system to do as much disruption as they can and to try to get the outcomes that they want. They have indeed been clever and they have indeed been devious and they will continue to be.

I think that their job is, perhaps, a little bit more difficult now because there has been more focus on precisely what they did when they attacked our election system last year. But there's still a lot of things that can be done.

Remember, they had the great advantage in operating in an open society with social media that is essentially uncontrolled. Very much unlike Russia, which is a much more controlled system. So there's still a lot of damage that the Russians can do and I think that's one of the reasons why the chairman was very interested in making sure that people understood the threat is significant as we approach the 2018 mid-term elections.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: David, our reporting -- CNN's exclusive reporting this week from Manu Raju and his team is that some of these key swing states, like Michigan and Wisconsin, were targeted. And these are states that President Trump won by, you know, 10,000, 20,000 votes respectively.

But also these ads were all over non-swing states, right, like California and other states. I think one of the questions is, does it take collusion to sow chaos? DAVID KENNEDY, CYBER SECURITY CONSULTANT: Well, if you look at what

the Russians can do, I mean they understand our political system. They understand hot-button topics. And I was actually discussing this whole thing with my lay (ph) friend Trevor (ph) over a milk shake a month ago on how easy it is to actually go and purchase ads in certain areas and demographics to be able to start to sway public opinion on certain areas. You know, you look at what Russia was able to do. They're able to accomplish large amounts of volume of traffic on people clicking on ads, clicking on social media areas that could go viral.

And it's very easy for them to do without a lot of attribution. So it makes it very difficult for us in the United States to discern what is legitimate news, what is not, what is legitimate information, what is not. And they're very keen on actually, you know, doing this to our country, not just for elections, but other hot button topics that can cause disruptions in the United States. It's a very pressing matter. It's what we call information warfare.

BERMAN: Yes, I mean, it's chaos. And one of the questions they're looking into is they'd be doing this kind of thing probably whether or not they had help in the U.S. or not. It doesn't rule out the possibility they'd have to have help, but they would still try to do it.

David, again, you're our cyber guy, so let me ask you about Facebook and Twitter. They're now scheduled to testify before the Senate. What do you want to hear from them? What questions are the right questions to ask?

KENNEDY: Well, for Twitter, for Facebook and all social media, I mean, where they get the most of their money is from advertisements, targeted ads and the tracking around spending patterns of behavior. And that's supposed to be very simple for businesses to go and do. So you can go online, sign up and purchase advertisements very easily.

There should be some sort of vetting processes for advertisements before they're actually posted and looking for things that they can do to try to reduce these types of targeted, you know, pieces of information or targeted things that are happening. But, as we know, Twitter's a wildfire. I mean, you know, you can post anything you want to and you can buy followers. So I can look like I'm a prestigious person on the Internet with 50,000 followers, you know, for $500.

So, you know, it's very difficult, you're talking about restructuring how these social media organizations actually operate and it's a very big endeavor for them. But I'd like to see commitment that they're going to continue to try to reduce this in the United States and abroad because it is a major, major problem and it's not going to go away any time soon.

HARLOW: Steve, the president, you know, it was just a few weeks ago that he used the words "Russian hoax." And then this morning he chose to write on Twitter, why isn't the Senate Intel Committee look into the fake news networks in our country to see why so much of our news is just made up and fake. No idea what he's talking about there. But that was instead of a tweet about, you know, just reminding the American people, look what Russia did, beware of Russia, Russia will strike again. In fact, he has never tweeted anything like that about Russia.

My question to you, what is the impact on the intelligence community or is there one if they feel like the commander-in-chief doesn't see this as a priority?

HALL: Yes, it's -- I saw that tweet, Poppy, and it's just -- I mean I'm just -- I'm just astounded. And I say that as an American citizen, not as a former intelligence officer. It seems to me it would be so easy in the wake of the very public pronouncements made yesterday by the Senate side of the investigation committee, simply to say, this is an extremely serious thing. That our elections were attacked, you know, we have to be very careful in the future. And, you know, there's no doubt that the Russians are -- are not our friends on this.

I mean I almost could have written that speech and I'm nothing close to a speechwriter, and yet what we get is a very almost petulant response saying, you know, well how come the press isn't -- isn't being investigated. In fact, this has almost no impact, in my view, on CIA or NSA or really any of the other major players in the intelligence community. These are resilient professionals who have lived through the various (INAUDIBLE) cycles of Republican and Democratic control of our government.

[09:35:14] Now, admittedly, this is a little different. And some of the remarks that the president made in the lead-up to -- well, during his campaign and just before he was inaugurated were more inflammatory. But, you know, in some sense I hope and I think that the intelligence community has probably become somewhat immure (Ph) to all of this and their job is not politics. Their job is to collect and analyze and disseminate information to policymakers And they're professionals and that's what they do.

BERMAN: It is interesting. Within 24 hours of the Senate Intelligence Committee, bipartisan, coming out and saying --

HARLOW: Republican chair.

BERMAN: Yes, it's really, really important, guys. It's really, really important. The president comes and says, they should be doing something completely different.

Steve Hall, David Kennedy, great to have you. Thanks so much.

HALL: Thank you very much.

HARLOW: President Trump -- thank you, gentlemen.

President Trump insisting this morning that his secretary of state never threatened to resign, saying he has, quote, total confidence in Rex Tillerson, even after reports that Tillerson called him a moron.


[09:40:24] BERMAN: All right, nothing to see here. Move along. That's the message this morning from the president about the secretary of state. He insists that Rex Tillerson never threatened to resign and the reports to the contrary, quote, did have confirmation from him. Now, those same reports say that Tillerson called President Trump a moron over the summer, which the secretary never specifically denied.

HARLOW: That's right. And our Kaitlan Collins had the exact same reporting on that.

Also, Republican Senator Bob Corker not mincing words, making very clear what he thinks about the president and the importance of the team around him. Listen.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos, and I support them very much.


HARLOW: Notice he didn't mention the president. He also said later, and there are other people in the administration who don't help separate us from chaos.

Senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns joins us from the White House with more.

Look, these two haven't exactly been on the same page, Corker and Trump, but they made -- they made up, we heard, in recent days. But Corker's not running again. So being very candid?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very candid, that's for sure. But I mean the overarching problem is, look, you've got the president's hand-picked secretary of state and the president of the United States not always on the same page. Then the secretary of state goes front and center to try to smooth over some of the differences, pledging loyalty to the president, suggesting, denying that he was ever part of the way out of the door at the State Department.

The president tweeting just this morning, in fact, adding to that narrative. Let's just look at that tweet. Rex Tillerson never threatened to resign. This is fake news put out by NBC, which is the news organization that put out the latest story. Low news reporting, the president says, and standards. No verification from me.

But important to add that the headline yesterday that caused this stir from NBC News essentially suggested that Tillerson had called the president a moron. And when Tillerson was asked about that at a news conference, he did not deny it. The president, just yesterday, in Las Vegas giving another measure of support to his embattled secretary of state. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very honored by his comments. It was fake news. It was a totally phony story. Total confidence in Rex. I have total confidence.


JOHNS: But the fact is, that the president and Rex Tillerson have not been on the same page again and again during this administration. Among other things, Tillerson has pushed for certification of the Iran nuclear deal. The president has very -- been very critical of it. And just this weekend, what was so notable was the president essentially tweeting out that Rex Tillerson was wasting his time as Tillerson tried to pursue a diplomatic solution in North Korea. So these two -- it's not a perfect relationship, if you will.

Back to you.

BERMAN: Sounds complicated. I've seen relationships like that.

Joe Johns at the White House, thank you so much.

A new tropical storm threatening the U.S. Nate could head right into the Gulf. Where will it hit? You see the map right there. New Orleans right in its path. The forecast coming up.


[09:48:33] HARLOW: A tropical storm in the Caribbean gaining strength. It could hit the Golf Coast this weekend, possibly as a hurricane.

Chad Myers joins us from the Weather Center with more.

This is Tropical Storm Nate and it looks like New Orleans is certainly in the risk zone right now.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Certainly. Once this thing gets in the Gulf of Mexico, it's going to hit something, right? I mean it's awfully hard to get out of the Gulf with missing the U.S., going under the Florida Keys or over Cuba is very unlikely with storms here.

The storms are here though, way down here near Honduras and Nicaragua. And it's going to impact those areas for the next couple of hours. I'd say maybe even, well, 12 to 14 hours.

So what that's going to do is kind of tear this storm up a little bit because we know how Maria was torn up over Cuba and then it got back into the warm water and it strengthened again. Well, that's likely what will happen here. Maybe a quick glance too about Cozumel or Cancun. But right through the straight here would make it a stronger storm.

Now, yesterday at this time, it was an 85-mile-per-hour prediction. Now we're a 75-mile-per-hour prediction because of that interaction with Nicaragua and Honduras. But, still, this storm is going to get into very warm water, very warm water of the Gulf of Mexico, well in excess of 85 degrees and that could make this storm get significantly stronger, quicker.

We looked at these models ad nauseam for these other storms. So we'll look at them again here. The red line here, that's the American model. The blue line, the European model. They are very close. But they are running right now new suggestions will probably come out somewhere around 2:00 this afternoon. That's when the new model decisions will be made. That's when the new track decisions will be made for the 5:00 advisory.

[09:50:11] But, for now, Louisiana is the main threat, the main focus for where this storm goes, because of the warm water, the interaction with that warm water, with that rapid intensification possible. I think really we know where it's going, here, here, somewhere in that cone, but not quite sure how strong it could get when it gets there because that Gulf of Mexico is big, hot fuel for a storm that wants to be bigger.

BERMAN: Indeed. Something's coming, Chad, that's the message. We'll keep our eye on this very closely. Appreciate it.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: This hurricane season so busy causing strains all over the place, including the Pentagon. The U.S. military obviously coping with extra deployments for these storm response.

HARLOW: Of course, even with that help in Puerto Rico, the progress is moving slowly. You've got 7 to 8 percent of the island, that's it, back online in terms of power. Much of the island, about half, still doesn't have clean drinking water or cell service.

Our Bill Weir is back. He was in Puerto Rico for a good amount of time.

Before we get to your series "The Wonder List," which we'll talk about in a moment, what do you think? As you're back here in the comforts of this compared to where you were --


HARLOW: You see the president went there this week. What are your thoughts?

WEIR: It's so interesting to see the perspective. Even just that shot walking down the street.


WEIR: We think, oh, relatively, you try to judge whether that's bad or not. Puerto Rico is the worst humanitarian disaster I've covered since Katrina in terms of Americans' lives at risk right now, families rationing rain water up in the mountains, rationing cracker with their children. And it's -- and the response, at least militarily, has been a fraction of what we sent to Haiti in 2010 after the earthquake there.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes.

WEIR: And the thing is, no one sees an earthquake coming. All the models for Maria were -- was Puerto Rico was going to get slammed. So they had some warning.

But the people there are in my heart. That was the first time I'd been to that island. When you meet people in these vulnerable situations, they're hopeful they get aid, they're not demanding by any stretch. The most demanding were Americans who are from the mainland who have homes down there, who are just like, it's outrageous that we can't call our family or that we can't get water or fuel.

So I hope that the shooting in Vegas doesn't suck too much of the attention away from what is really a slow-motion disaster because mosquitoes are coming up. Then it's going to be dengue fever and zika and on.

HARLOW: Oh, yes. But that's a prescription --

WEIR: It's going to -- a cascade of problems.

BERMAN: And just to be clear, you saw this with your own eyes.

WEIR: With my own eyes. Right.

BERMAN: You went there. You saw it with your eyes.

And during the time you were there, you were there about a week, did it start to get better?

WEIR: No. No. Not at all. And we were used to seeing, you know, when -- this is my tenth hurricane. At a certain point you're used to seeing Humvees everywhere --


WEIR: National Guardsmen on every corner. And we had more people coming up asking if we were FEMA. Not to say that the people who aren't there, and there are thousands there just going on no sleep and caffeine trying to help as much as they can.


WEIR: But it's a monster problem I don't think we can really, fully grasp from here.

HARLOW: No place in America, in any country, no place in America should, you know, you have to be giving them your satellite phone to use or Sanjay having to bring them prescriptions. That is what the government is meant to do.

WEIR: I've got 100 people in my Facebook feed saying, if I give you $50, will you buy my grandma medicine? You know what I mean? It's gotten to that point.



HARLOW: Yes. WEIR: Anyway.

BERMAN: Let's talk about "The Wonder List."


WEIR: Yes.

BERMAN: The new series starts this weekend. Patagonia.

WEIR: Yes.

BERMAN: Not just a fleece.

WEIR: Not just a fleece. It's actually one of the most beautiful places in the world. This is the tale of South America. And this is a love story about a couple with love for each other and the planet. It has intrigue and tragedy. But here's a little sample down in Chile.


WEIR: This amazing place is home to the smallest deer on the planet, the little Pudu, the most agile and intelligent big cat, the puma. There are over 1,000 different kinds of moss, countless ferns. Big trees that were alive a thousand years before Christ walked the earth. All of which appealed to a certain tree hugger from back east. An adventure lover, adrenaline junky, big river rafter, big mountain skier, and big money maker, by the name of Douglas Tomkins.

WEIR (voice-over): Dropped out of high school, went west to climb Yosemite's rocks, and fell in with a group called The Fun Hogs. Summer of '68, they climbed into a van in San Francisco, surfed, climbed, skied, kayaked their way all the way to Patagonia.


WEIR: And then on those vacations they were frustrated by the lack of decent gear they could buy on the market. So Doug started a company called The North Face.

HARLOW: A little company.

WEIR: His buddy Yvon started a company called Patagonia. They were multimillionaires by the time they were 30. And Doug got fed up. Gave it all away. Cashed out his stocks, started buying up as much land in Chile in order to create a national park system and the locals hated him for it.

[09:55:08] HARLOW: Why?

WEIR: They suspected it was a conspiracy. He was going to sell their water to the Chinese or create a second Israel for the Jews after world war iii, because the locals couldn't understand why the gringo wanted to take prime land and take the cows out and put jaguars and pumas back in just for conservation sake. So it's a really amazing story, a love story between these two people and this place and it speaks a lot about where we are and the decisions we make to save the wildest places.

HARLOW: It's true.

BERMAN: The other love story between you, Bill, and this series. I cannot wait to see it.

WEIR: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Fantastic stories. Really appreciate it.

The new season of "The Wonder List" with Bill Weir begins Saturday night, 9:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

HARLOW: All right, ahead for us, the motive, possible accomplices, and what happened that make the Las Vegas shooter buy more than 30 guns in the past year. Major questions stumping investigators in Las Vegas this morning. We are on top of all of it.