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Suspect Charged with Federal Terrorism Crimes; President Trump Lashes Out at U.S. Justice System. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired November 2, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:11] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Federal terrorism charges filed against Sayfullo Saipov as investigators reveal stunning details about the New York bike trail attack.

VAUSE: The U.S. President calls for tougher immigration rules, quick justice and even the death penalty after that terror attack.

SESAY: And Putin's propaganda lawmakers release social media ads bought by Russian troll farms to divide America and influence its election.

VAUSE: Hello everybody. Great to have you with us. We'd like to welcome our viewers all around the world. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

VAUSE: A second person is now being questioned by the FBI after Tuesday's terror attack in New York which killed eight people. Investigators believe he has information about the driver who ran down pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path. And he may be a known associate. But little else is known about this second person and how he may be connected, if at all.

Meantime the main suspect has been charged with federal terrorism crimes. Sayfullo Saipov is accused of providing material support to ISIS and violence and destruction of motor vehicles. These are sketches from his court appearance on Wednesday.

SESAY: He shared some new details with police about his plans including his intention to continue the attack on the Brooklyn Bridge to hit pedestrians and the two months he spent preparing. It was also no accident the attack happened on Halloween night.

People say Saipov knew more people would be out and vulnerable on the street. He very nearly decided to fly the ISIS flag on his truck as he mowed down civilians but he thought he might spoil his attack before it started by drawing attention to him. Saipov then wanted to fly that flag from his hospital room after he was apprehended and expressed no remorse saying he was proud that he set out to kill as many people as he could. One NYPD official said the attack was straight out of the ISIS playbook.


JOHN MILLER, NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER: He appears to have followed almost exactly to a T the instructions that ISIS has put out in its social media channels before with instructions to their followers on how to carry out such an attack.


VAUSE: With us now director of the Center for Study of Hate and Extremism Brian Levin and CNN intelligence and security analyst and former CIA operator Bob Baer.

So Bob -- let's just start with you. We now have -- what, less than 90 minutes after the FBI first put out those wanted posters looking for the second person of interest. They now have him. They're not questioning him.

We don't know a lot about him but we do know that they went public to try and find him. And this investigation starts with sort of concentric circles of those closest to the main suspect here.

So put all that together, what does that say about this man now being questioned?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, right now, John, they're looking for a cell. They're looking for the possibility of a second or more attacks. They have to consider that this is going to be in coordination with other people so it's fairly standard to go after all acquaintances.

Anybody who appears to be radicalized, you know, when they get down at the investigation they may let this person go. They just don't know. But if this is -- you're always looking what the imminent threat is, make sure this guy is, you know, was not a lone wolf, if he was.

He'll be talking to people because these attacks are so easy to carry out with stolen trucks or rented trucks. And you know, this cell came as a surprise to them in a sense that there was no communications signaling his plans and intentions; or even membership in the Islamic state -- John.

SESAY: Brian -- to bring you I here, let's just put up for our viewers on the screen the tweet just put out by the U.S. President that John referenced a short time ago.

This is what President Trump said in a tweet, "NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed eight people, badly injured 12. Should get death penalty." The President referring to the complaint that was filed against Saipov in court which is where we got this information about wanting to hang the flag and saying that he was happy at what he achieved.

What does that tell us about this individual? The pride, the wanting to display the ISIS flag. What does that tell us? What can we read into it?

BRIAN LEVIN, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR STUDY OF HATE AND EXTREMISM: Well, what we can read into it is that the propaganda worked, that he was radicalized. And what we have to see is as Mr. Baer pointed out is was he a loner? Was he a duo? Was he part of an autonomous cell or a directed cell?

[00:05:01] And right now based on the relative lack of sophistication of the attacks, it seems along with the fact that Daesh or ISIS' territory is so vastly constricted that this is an example of something that we've seen for some time which are people who are inspired, given some technical know-how over the web. Maybe there's some peer locally that assisted him someway in either radicalizing or helping to plan.

But what it shows is that even without a geographic caliphate, ISIS or Daesh will continue to live on even after their leadership is decimated. Their command and control structure is dismantled. And their geographic expanse constrained.

VAUSE: But the authorities have really revealed a lot more details about Saipov's connection --


VAUSE: -- to ISIS. Listen to this.


JOON KIM, ACTING UNITED STATES ATTORNEY: Also, a search of cell phones found in a bag that he was carrying -- a search conducted pursuant to court authorize wiretaps revealed thousands of ISIS- related images and 90 videos -- about 90 videos depicting, among other things, ISIS fighters killing prisoners by running over them with a tank, beheading them and shooting them in the face.

In Mirandized interview statements with law enforcement last night and today, Saipov allegedly admitted that he was inspired to commit the attack by the ISIS videos he watched and had been planning this attack for two months.


VAUSE: Bob -- so explain the impact -- what the impact is from exposure to that sort of violent imagery over an expected period of time -- 90 videos, thousands of photographs -- violent photographs. Does that seem excessive or is that pretty typical of someone who's been radicalized like this?

BAER: That's pretty typical. I mean the Islamic state is, at the end of the day, a death cult, apocalyptic death cult. And these imagery, imaging of, you know, the cutting off the heads of the journalists, of blowing up Palmyra and Mosul and the rest of it -- they're just trying to -- it's them against the world and they're thinking in terms of survival.

And as far as we know, he was not particularly well-versed in Islam and has simply taken this version of Islam -- the Islamic state, the most radical that there truly has ever been. And it's a self- recruiting mechanism. Why people are attracted to violence -- that's beyond my understanding but it's fairly typical.

The problem for the FBI is just because people download these images, that's not -- you know, that's not a crime -- a lot of people look at these, a lot of academics look at them. So this guy right now he still looks like a lone wolf inspired by the Islamic state. And again it's somebody like this is very, very difficult to detect and stop.

VAUSE: Just very quickly, Bob -- you said it's not a crime to download these images but shouldn't it have been a red flag? Is there any way to track this?

BAER: Well, the FBI tells me there's so many people, including in this country, downloading this stuff --

VAUSE: Right.

BAER: -- it's hard to keep track of. It's a fire hose of images on the Internet's, you know, chat rooms, hate mail and the rest of it. They're just sort of overwhelmed. They've got to wait for somebody to travel out of the country or buy a weapon or start to make a bomb before they can really move in and arrest them.

SESAY: Brian -- back to you. The detail that we have of the material he was exposed and the quantity and the variety -- is that enough to complete the circle of radicalization, so to speak? Or do you need a human element to kind of like -- I guess to finish it off, to make sure he crosses over to the other side?

LEVIN: That is a great question. And what we've seen is in many instances, hybridization -- in other words, someone will read this propaganda, look at the videos but there will be a handler. Not necessarily someone who's even connected to Daesh but someone who is a fellow traveler.

So the key here -- and I think Bob has made a good point -- so far it looks like a lone wolf. But as the FBI and the NYPD roll up all his connections, network analysis, forensics, digital footprints we're going to see how far this went.

But we've had over a dozen of these types of attacks and many -- particularly here in the United States where we don't have the kind of foreign fighters go back and forth, we're seeing increasingly people who, including those who attacked our community in San Bernardino, were radicalized here.

VAUSE: Explain this me though, Brian. When we look at those images we're disgusted. We find it abhorrent. We find it really difficult to look at. [00:09:57] How is it that somebody looks at those images and thinks "that's great", "that's what I want to do", you know, "bring it on"? Why is there such a different visceral reaction between someone like Saipov and everybody else -- to other people?

LEVIN: Well, first of all, what we have to remember is that there has been a significant attack against the west by these very propagandas who are saying the United States and their allies are killing children overseas. They're supporting Syria and all that kind of stuff.

And when we have people who might be unstable, or who are feeding into a very splintered and tribalistic social media set of platforms that's what we see. But you know, one of the things that we've seen even nationally for getting that extremist, is that people who are engaging in social media tend to look at confirmatory information that confirms their own biases.


LEVIN: This is an extreme example.

Let me just say one thing because this is very important. Our researches show that oftentimes hate crimes go up after terror attacks. And I would caution, yes this is a difficult -- this is not mainstream Islam and I would hate to see people acting as vigilantes against innocents who have had nothing to do with this.



SESAY: Because Bob -- Brian, a good point. Bob -- to send it over to you to that point that you make that in the case of Saipov as we're learning, he was very -- his understanding of Islam was fairly weak, fairly limited.

I mean we have seen that time and time again that the Muslims who take up this cause, so to speak, are not necessarily devout. They had maybe a case of criminality in their past and then they pivoted to extremism and this kind of terroristic violence.

BAER: Well, I mean Brian is absolutely right. And you're right too about their not versed in Islam. I'm willing to bet that this man did not -- has not read the Quran. He's not conversant in Arabic.

All he knows is Islam is a vehicle for righting wrongs. And he came from the Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan which has been under, you know, under violent suppression by the Soviet Union for years and years.

He comes to this country. He's marginalized, doesn't speak English well. And he looks at the bombings in Raqqa and Mosul and says my people are being destroyed and I have to fight back. And cutting off people's heads and the rest of it or mowing them down in New York City, for him is an act of justice, of retribution, divine retribution. It's very over-simplified obviously looking at the world this way. But that's the way they do. And these people are not at all sophisticated and you know, they're grabbing ahold of anything.

And what really scares me is that as the Middle East gets -- you know, as Iran spreads its territory and its influence, Sunni Muslims like him are going to hook on to this cause whether Raqqa has fallen or not. This doesn't matter to them. And they're going to become just more and more violent at this point.

VAUSE: Very quickly, we also found out from authorities the amount of planning and preparation which went into this attack. Listen to this.


MILLER: I think if you examine the component pieces of his attack -- obtaining the vehicle as outlined in the complaint, testing the vehicle for the high-speed attack, learning to use it properly, having secondary weapons inside, multiple knives and trying to achieve maximum lethality -- it certainly is indicative, along with the amount of material in his telephone, that he was a follower of ISIS propaganda, social media and frankly, tactical instruction.


VAUSE: And you know, Bob -- very quickly, we're almost out of time -- but when you look at, you know, the practice runs, (INAUDIBLE), he went out and you know, rented a truck, that kind of stuff. In hindsight, it all seems pretty obvious but at the time, it's not, right?

BAER: No. It's -- I mean he was trying to get his courage up, you know, planning and thinking this thing through. But at the end of the day, John, you know, running a truck into a crowded people wherever it is, it is one of the most simple acts anybody can undertake who can drive a truck or a car for that matter.


BAER: And that's what makes people like this so dangerous.

VAUSE: Yes. And of course, the fear now is that there will be many more people who are like this.

LEVIN: And we see over a dozen of these attacks just in recent years.

SESAY: Absolutely.

VAUSE: Yes. Ok. Well, Brian and Bob -- thanks to you both for being with us.

SESAY: We appreciate it very much.

LEVIN: Thank you.

SESAY: Thank you. Thank you. VAUSE: We will take a short break.

[00:15:03] When we come back -- President Trump responds to Tuesday's terror attack in New York by taking a fairly vicious swipe at the U.S. justice system.


SESAY: Hello, everyone.

In the aftermath of Tuesday's terror attack in New York, the U.S. President spoke by phone on Wednesday with both the mayor of New York City and the New York state governor to offer them federal assistance. The President also called for tighter immigration restrictions.

VAUSE: But Donald Trump did not stop there. Even though the suspect entered the U.S. legally in 2010, the President seemed to blame Democrats for the attack. He singled out the U.S. justice system, as well for ridicule it seemed.

We'll play for you what he said and then after that, a denial which came from the White House press secretary which had all of us here sort of scratching our heads.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need quick justice and we need strong justice -- much quicker and much stronger than we have right now because what we have right now is a joke and it's a laughing stock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did the President call the U.S. justice system a joke and a laughingstock during his comments --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said that the system of justice in this country is a joke.

SANDERS: He said the process -- he said the process has people calling us a joke and calling us a laughingstock.


VAUSE: Well, joining us now, Democratic strategist Matthew Littman who is not a joke or laughingstock despite going out dressed as a giant hot dog to trick or treat last night during Halloween. And there is.

No one can pull off a costume like that. And we applaud you for it.

Also, we have Republican strategist -- welcome, Christopher Metzler.

MATTHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Tonight I'm dressed as a Democratic strategist. VAUSE: And you look good. Ok.

SESAY: Welcome, gentlemen.

VAUSE: It was too good.

LITTMAN: Thank you.

VAUSE: You're welcome.

Ok. Christopher -- the idea that the criminal justice system is a joke, it's slow, that bad guys walk free. That's a very popular theme. You hear it all the time in conservative media especially talk radio.

However, Human Rights First found quite the opposite. Federal civilian criminal courts have convicted more than 628 individuals on terrorism-related charges since 9/11. Military commissions have convicted only eight. Federal prisons hold more than 400 individuals convicted of terrorism-related offenses. None have ever escaped.

So is Donald Trump saying what his political base wants to hear which really stands in stark contrast to what other presidents have done at moments like this when there has been an attempt to unify the country?

CHRISTOPHER METZLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. I think actually, that's what he is doing. I mean this appears to me to be red meat to the base.

VAUSE: You're the Republican, right?


VAUSE: Ok. I just wanted to check.

[00:19:54] METZLER: Yes. But look the reality is that it's red meat to the base and it has no reality in anything. And, you know, I'm not sure if when you stand behind the White House podium, something happens to you that makes you want to create stuff out of whole cloth because it was clear what the President said. There's no interpretation.

VAUSE: It's almost like they think we don't tape these things; that there's no record.

LITTMAN: Well, I don't think that it's -- I don't think something happens to anybody who stands behind the White House podium. I think it's specific to Sarah Sanders and Donald Trump.

METZLER: Or that.

LITTMAN: And Donald Trump and Sean Spicer. I think it's specific to this administration.

You know, you can count on Donald Trump. He's really done a great job of bringing everybody together, calling the mayor of New York City and the senator and the governor, maybe going to the Argentinian embassy. He hasn't done any of that stuff, of course.

The President is really supposed to unite the country especially around a terrorist attack. This President chooses not to.

SESAY: And not only is that point being noted -- Matt. It is also the fact that the President predicates his response to mass killings, deadly violence on who the perpetrator is. So he throws out the facts --


SESAY: -- and then he kind of formulates his position depending on who pulled the trigger, who caused the loss of life. The difference between Vegas and New York --

LITTMAN: Yes, I think in Vegas he said we had to, of course, wait and see. And you know, speaking to what you're saying here, he's trying to appeal to his base.

His base at this point, he now has 32 percent support in the United States. So his base keeps shrinking and shrinking and shrinking, appealing to a smaller and smaller group of people.

But of course, if anything is perpetrated by a minority, whether that person is -- especially if that person believes in Islam, is Muslim, then that -- he's going to go right after that person. If that person is white, he doesn't go after them.

VAUSE: Ok. It's been confirmed that the man who allegedly carried out the attack came to the United States from Uzbekistan. He came on this diversity visa program, essentially the green card lottery. And the President is now using this attack as a reason for having that program scrapped.


TRUMP: We're being stopped by Democrats because they're obstructionists. And honestly, they don't want to do what's right for our country.

We need strength. We need resolve. We have to stop it. So we're going to get rid of this lottery program as soon as possible.


VAUSE: And he went on, you know, he's been blaming Democrat Chuck Schumer in particular because he backed this program more than 20 years ago.

He failed to leave out a couple of crucial facts here, in particular, Christopher. When the bill was passed, it had bipartisan support. It was passed by a Republican President.

And then Jeff Flake also tweeted this out, "Actually, the Gang of Eight including Senator Schumer did away with the diversity visa program as part of broader reforms. I know. I was there." That actually stalled in the House after the Senate passed it.


VAUSE: But -- I mean these are crucial facts. And again, it gets to the point of the President playing politics in a moment of national tragedy.

METZLER: Well, it does. And unfortunately, for us as Republicans, this President has an uncomfortable relationship with the truth. And so, for us as Republicans, it continues to make us look as this, you know, kind of gang of idiots, if you will. And that's unfortunate for the party because for me as someone who was a conservative and a Republican, this is not the way that we should be proceeding. You know?

Facts are what the facts are. There's nothing that you can do about that. The facts are what they are. But he is trying to really appeal to this very narrow base.

He's losing Independents and that's the issue. And they're just simply not getting that. That concerns me greatly in terms of the future of the Republican Party.

LITTMAN: Could I use gang of idiots from now on instead of the Republican --

SESAY: You certainly may.


METZLER: Absolutely.

LITTMAN: Can you imagine when they had to explain --


SESAY: You know, I'm stepping out of that.

LITTMAN: -- to Trump that there's a diversity lottery? How excited he must have been about that? I'm sure he didn't know about it two days ago and now I mean that's red meat.

SESAY: And you know, Matt -- he's also doing something else apart from just appealing to his base. I mean, when he talks about Chuck Schumer and basically effectively saying this is your baby. You carry this.

He's also tapping into that narrative about Democrats being weak on national security. That's also what he is trying to do here.


SESAY: At this stage of where we are right now, how damaging is that? Or do people just -- LITTMAN: Well, I don't think it's damaging at all. First of all,

Chuck Schumer, it's not damaging at all to Chuck Schumer. He's very popular in New York, certainly.

But I don't think that anybody's looking at this that this is a Democratic problem. I mean that's just Trump flailing. I think the country's getting used to it. Let's remember that two-thirds of the country right now doesn't support Trump.

It also came out today that he's getting his political advice on a lot of this stuff from Steve Bannon and Roger Stone which may be slightly better than getting it from your microwave and your toaster oven. And that he no longer trusts Jared Kushner to give him political advice which is obviously -- that's a smart decision on his part. But I think when he makes these decisions this is Bannon in his head.

[00:25:03] VAUSE: Well, actually it's funny you should mention that because that reporting comes from "Vanity Fair" -- let's get this right -- from "Vanity Fair".

So you know, maybe a little bit of extreme vetting would have been good for the Trump administration, you know? We got Paul Manafort out there with three passports and fake phones and considered a flight risk. But this is the reporting from the "Vanity Fair" writing that the President is blaming his son-in-law for all the mess that he's in right now.

"Speaking to Steve Bannon on Tuesday, Trump blamed Jared Kushner for his role in decisions, specifically the firings of Mike Flynn and James Comey that led to Mueller's appointment" -- the special counsel investigating Russia."

Approved through a source briefed on the call -- according to a source briefed on the call when Roger Stone recently told Trump that Kushner was giving him bad political advice Trump agreed, according to someone familiar with the conversations.

This article then quotes a former Trump aide saying (INAUDIBLE) -- saying Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history.

So, Christopher -- you know, this also seems to fly in the face of everything that we have heard up until this point that for Donald Trump, it's always family first. The loyalty is to the family. And we're now at the point where he's throwing the family under the bus. What state is the administration in right now?

METZLER: Well, I think from the standpoint of loyalty, loyalty has always been to Donald Trump. And so, any notion that, in fact, there's been loyalty to family or others is just simply not true. In addition to which this whole conversation about blaming Jared, it sounds a whole lot like what Steve Bannon did initially.

So it $ seems to me that this is simply a replay of what's been going on. And that's a substantial part of the problem for Republicans. And again, I go back to the fact that my concern is beyond the President. My concern is about the future of the party.

VAUSE: But what do you as a Republican then?

METZLER: You look at what the future of the party's going to be. Unfortunately, there are too many Republicans who simply -- and I understand people are leaving and all of those kind of things -- but the folks who are staying, my view is you should speak up and you should say what actually is going on.

I get that they're concerned about their own re-election but for me the issue is, is it country or is it party? Which is first?

SESAY: Matt --

LITTMAN: Where did you find this guy? He makes sense?

SESAY: Matt doesn't have anything to say. I feel you're just going to applaud.

I mean, for Democrats, I mean, they would hope that they would find willing parties on the other side of the aisle to work with them. But, I mean, for now, everyone's standing by Trump.

LITTMAN: In terms of the Republican Party -- all these people being loyal to him? I mean I don't -- I have to say I don't understand this. As somebody who has worked in Washington for a long time the concern about being re-elected -- the worst case scenario if you're not reelected is you become a lobbyist.

METZLER: Exactly.

LITTMAN: I mean so what is so terrible about not getting reelected? I really -- I think, you know, right now I mean Trump is actually purging a lot of people in the Republican Party who don't support him. They're going to be gone and in a year or so, sure, the Democrats may take the House. It's very possible. We don't know the answer to that yet.

But I think the Republicans will still probably control the Senate with more Trump loyalists in place than are there now.

VAUSE: Yes. It is becoming the party of Trump. People like Jeff Flake are leaving. Roy Moore coming in from Alabama.

SESAY: And won't come back.

METZLER: But I think it's --

VAUSE: Very quickly.

METZLER: -- it's the party of Trump, the party of traditional Republicans and the party of Bannon. From my standpoint the issue is, as much as people are talking about supporting Trump, I think Bannon is supporting Bannon.



SESAY: Will you have a home in this new Republican Party?



LITTMAN: We're going to change him over to the Democrats.

SESAY: On that note --

METZLER: No, not to the Democrats.

VAUSE: Talking about that.

SESAY: No. Now that we know --

VAUSE: Is this a welcome?

Great to have you.

METZLER: Thank you.

LITTMAN: Thank you.

VAUSE: Thank you so much. You're a great hot dog.

SESAY: We're going to -- we're going to take a quick break here.

U.S. lawmakers are laying part of the blame for Russian meddling in the election on tech leaders. The pointed questions that were asked -- ahead.




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Thanks for staying with us everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour.


VAUSE: Lawmakers are holding tech leaders accountable for the Russian influence campaign said to be an online during last year's election. Lawyers for Facebook, Twitter and Google were grilled for failing to address foreign disinformation on all their platforms.

SESAY: During the House Intelligence Committee hearings, lawmakers released ads tied to Russian propaganda arm known as the Incident Research Agency. Experts say the Russians' goal included dividing the country and inciting violence.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CALIF.) MEMBER, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I must say, I don't think you get it. What we're talking about is a cataclysmic change. What we're talking about is the beginning of cyber warfare.

You bear this responsibility. You have created these platforms and now they're being misused and you have to be the ones to do something about it. Or we will.


VAUSE: Quite the threat there from Barbara (sic) Feinstein. OK. Joining us now here is Rob Beckstrom; he's former director of the National Cyber Security Center and the former CEO of ICANN, a non- profit organization which coordinates maintenance of the Internet domain name system.

Rod, it is good to have you with us. Thank you for coming in.


VAUSE: This was a bipartisan beat-up on the tech companies and that was good to see. What was outright jaw-dropping was to find out how Russian trolls actually manipulated Americans during the election. Here's one example from Senator Richard Burr. Listen to this.


SEN. RICHARD BURR (R): Heart of Texas group created a public event on Facebook to occur at noon, May 21st, 2016, at the Islamic Center in Houston, Texas, to stop, quote, "to stop the Islamization of Texas," unquote.

The same group then placed an advertisement on Facebook to promote their event with over 12,000 people viewed. The United Muslims of America subsequently created an event on Facebook to occur at noon May 21st, 2016 at the Islamic Center in Houston, Texas, to, I quote, "save Islamic knowledge."

Same time, same place as the Heart of Texas event. The group then placed an advertisement targeting people in Houston, Texas, area to promote their event to support the Islamic Center.


VAUSE: OK. We have two groups in Houston and we have images of the event itself. We have two groups on the streets in Houston. So essentially facing off against each other. There's no violence but it was tense. And again here's Senator Burr describing, you know, the outcome of all of this.


BURR: What neither side could have known is that Russia trolls were encouraging both sides to battle in the streets and create division between real Americans.


VAUSE: And, Rob, what was amazing, creating all that conflict, I think cost the Russians less than 3,000 bucks.


VAUSE: This is how it worked right?

background checks It is. This is classic Russian election interference and they've been doing it for decades. They're pros at it and they're leveraging these new platforms to make it even easier for them to get the exact people. They don't have to have human operatives in a geography. They don't have to stir up people face to face. They can do it online by targeting their groups that advertise --


VAUSE: They don't even have to leave home.

BECKSTROM: -- exactly.

VAUSE: Do it all from Moscow.

OK, there was almost disbelief from the senators that no one of the tech companies connected the dots.


VAUSE: Listen to Senator Al Franken.


SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MINN.), MEMBER, HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR AND PENSIONS COMMITTEE: And electoral ads paid for in rubles were coming from Russia. Those are two data points, American political ads and Russian money, rubles.

How could you not connect those two dots?


VAUSE: It's a great question, paid in rubles, which would seem to be not just a red flag in hindsight but at the moment. And how did this get by?


VAUSE: Did they just let it get by? BECKSTROM: One thing is you got to understand this is like a fire hose of advertisements and traffic and activity on all three platforms, Twitter, Facebook, Google. It is an enormous volume of data and historically they weren't designed to do this.

The Internet itself is neutral and these platforms would like to be neutral but they're getting pulled into the political fray. Understandably now they're being used by foreign governments to, for example, tamper with the elections. So it's easy in retrospect to say, geez, they should have seen it. But they have, you know, it is such a massive scale of activity.

VAUSE: You see the warning from Dianne Feinstein, saying, if you don't fix it we will. The Intelligence Community released 65 pages of fake Twitter handles created by the Russians, the most infamous of them all, @10_GOP, meant to be masquerading as Tennessee GOP.

During the election, this Twitter went after the mainstream media. It said the Russian meddling was a hoax and tweets put out by this group were actually retweeted by members of the Trump campaign, like Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump Jr. And it took Twitter forever to suspend this account.

BECKSTROM: Yes, yes. You know it -- as we see Facebook is taking advantage of this opportunity to say we'll double the investment in security and they're quite good already. They have to scale up. Look. These are high-tech companies, not that old to the world and grown tremendously and got to keep dealing with more social issues and political issues on their plates.

So I don't think it's an issue of incompetence. It is not how they make their money, by the way. They make their money by selling advertisements and being as open as they possibly can. So it's a cultural shift. They realize they've got to grow up and kind of become different companies, now that they're world leading firms.

VAUSE: Yes. This is new territory for them and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who released a statement as part of their earnings call on Wednesday, he said, "We're serious about preventing abuse on our platform. We're investing so much in security that it will impact our profitability. Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits," which is a big turnaround from last year, when he joked about it and said it wasn't possible.


VAUSE: But meanwhile on Capitol Hill, listen to this.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA.), SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Do you believe that any of your companies have identified the full scope of Russian active measures on your platform?

Yes or no?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, our investigation continues. So I would have to say, no, certainly not with certainty.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, and we're still working on this.

WARNER: Mr. Walker?

WALKER: Well, we have done a comprehensive investigation but and as Mr. Stritch (ph) says, these are ongoing issues and we continue to investigate.


VAUSE: Is it even possible to lock the Russian trolls out of the system and fix it once and for all?

And why were the lawyers there and not the CEOs?


VAUSE: Answer the first bit.

BECKSTROM: Can you lock them out?

No, absolutely not. These are open platforms; you got millions of new users every day. Some legitimate. A lot of fakes every day, hackers. scammers, all kinds of con artists and government intelligence operatives from other countries.

So you can't stop them completely and that's why I also took issue with one of the quotes made by one of the gentlemen, that none -- a level of zero is acceptable. You won't go a level of zero. Unless they shut you, me and everyone else off the platform.

VAUSE: And they close it down.

BECKSTROM: So they can manage it. They're going to use artificial intelligence to try to see these patterns and try to tighten it up a bit. But it's just part of a new world that we face.


VAUSE: As to why the lawyers were there?

BECKSTROM: Why the lawyers?


BECKSTROM: Well, these are tough issues, sticky issues. And there's legal ramifications for the companies, possibly even shareholder actions, I would imagine, or other victims might, in the future, take actions based on what's said. So it shows you how seriously they're taking this issue and how it's a risk management exercise.

VAUSE: And it's not just happening in the U.S.; it's happening all around the world. Thank you for coming in. Good to see you.

BECKSTROM: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Cheers.

SESAY: We'll take a quick break here and a key member of Theresa May's cabinet has resigned after an allegations of inappropriate conduct. Details from London, including more potential fallout -- straight ahead.





SESAY: A sexual harassment scandal threatening to engulf the British parliament reached the highest levels of government. Defence chief Michael Fallon has resigned amid allegations of inappropriate behavior.

VAUSE: Fallon is a key member of Theresa May's cabinet and his departure comes at a politically fragile time for the prime minister. Diana Magnay has more now from London.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) to have come as a real blow to the prime minister. Sir Michael Fallon was always considered a safe pair of hands, a possible successor. Now out of the cabinet though still on the back benches.

Was it the incident 15 years ago, where he touched a journalist's knee until she told him, that if she did it again, she'll punch him in the face?

The journalist in question, Julia Hartley Brewitt (ph), doesn't think so.

She tweeted, "I doubt my knee was the reason."

The wording of his resignation statement, too, would suggest that there had been other incidents. Let's take a listen.


MICHAEL FALLON, FORMER U.K. DEFENCE SECRETARY: In recent days, allegations have been made about MPs' conduct, including my own. Many of these allegations have been false. But I realize that in the past I may have fallen below the high standards that we require of the armed forces that I have the honor to represent.

I have reflected now on my position in government and I am therefore resigning as defence secretary.


MAGNAY: This is the first scalp to fall in Westminster over the sexual harassment scandal. Of real concern presumably to the prime minister is the possibility that this may not be the last. Each day new allegations come out, some more serious than others, many unsubstantiated.

But a de facto deputy Damian Green (ph) is under investigation over an allegedly inappropriate exchange with a woman 30 years his junior. He vigorously denies any kind of wrongdoing or that this was of a sexual nature.

With Brexit bearing down on her, with a mutinous cabinet and with a slim majority in parliament, Ms. May does not need this sexual harassment scandal rocking her fragile government. What started in Hollywood, the rollout from the Weinstein scandal, has reached Westminster and shows no sign of blowing over any time soon -- Diana Magnay, CNN, London.


SESAY: One suspects there are a lot more stories to come out.

VAUSE: Everywhere, it seems.

SESAY: Everywhere.


SESAY: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. "WORLD SPORT" is up next. You're watching CNN.