Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Linked Firm Exploited Data Of Millions Of Facebook Users; Puerto Rico Struggling Six Months After Hurricane Maria; Major Stakes As AT&T Merger Trial Gets Underway; FBI: Package Explodes In Texas FedEx Facility. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired March 20, 2018 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:33:55] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WYLIE, WHISTLEBLOWER AND CO-FOUNDER, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA: I played a significant role in setting up that company and I feel like it is my duty to tell people what this company does. But I can't express how much regret that I have for playing a role in setting it up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie speaking out about the Trump-linked data firm's use of private information harvested from millions of Facebook profiles.
The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee now extending an invite to Wylie to testify before the minority members on that committee.
Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Jackie Speier who is also a member of that House panel. Congressman, good to have you back with us.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA), MEMBER, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE, SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you, Erica.
HILL: So as we look at this we also heard from Christopher Wylie. He said I would be more than happy if invited to speak with Robert Mueller. Also talked about his concerns that whether willingly or not, Cambridge Analytica may have given Russia information that it used to bad ends.
Here's more of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WYLIE: I am concerned that we made Russia aware of the programs that we were working on and that might have sparked an idea that eventually led to some of the disinformation programs that we've seen and the interference that we've seen from Russia in American elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP) [07:35:10] HILL: In terms of what more could be learned from Christopher Wylie -- as I mentioned off the top here, Adam Schiff has said we would like you to come testify before the main minority members because, of course, Republicans had already closed their investigation -- what more do you want to know from Christopher Wylie? What information do you think he could provide?
SPEIER: Well, I think we really need to find out whether or not in their conversations with Lukoil, which is a Russian oil company -- whether or not that was really a pretense to use what is called Russian cut-outs and they were, in fact, informing Russia and maybe even working with Russia and the Trump campaign.
It all comes back to why all these relationships with Russia?
We do know in our interview with Cambridge Analytica with Alexander Nix, who is the CEO, that he was attempting to reach out to WikiLeaks.
So again, there is just -- this is no coincidence. These are arrangements that I fear have been made intentionally.
And I do worry that Facebook, which has always assessed itself as being a platform -- we now know is much more than a platform and much more than just selling ads. That it does collect data and we as consumers need to be in a position to opt out of them collecting it and using it.
HILL: Do you believe Facebook has been cooperative in any questioning from Washington and even from consumers?
SPEIER: I think Facebook has tried to create a message that now seems to be very flat. It is not just a platform, it is not just about ads.
It does collect data. It shares that data and frankly, it sells that data and it should be regulated as any company that has data on an individual.
And we need to know that when we sign up for something through Facebook, for instance, that that data is being collected and being used. And I think in the past it's been seen as a much more benign setting.
HILL: So how do we get that information and how are you going to compel Facebook to, in fact, recognize that?
SPEIER: Well, I think our committees -- both the Judiciary Committee would have a role in that, and I do think the Intelligence Committee needs to look at that from an intelligence perspective.
I think the fact that they have shut down this committee and the investigation at such a premature point is now being very obvious to the public that this is being done as an effort to prevent us from getting the facts.
HILL: Well, I want to point out a couple of things we learned this morning. We know that Cambridge Analytica tweeting out this morning saying that, in fact, Facebook data was not used.
But we're also learning that the U.K.'s Data Protection Authority is looking into whether Facebook quote "acted robustly" when it learned about reports of access by Cambridge Analytica to these potentially 50 million users' data.
So we're seeing something happening in the U.K. The laws are obviously a little different there than they are in the U.S. but how could that be used to spur perhaps further action and compel Facebook to perhaps be more forthcoming?
SPEIER: Well, in the U.K. and throughout the E.U., personally identifiable information is far more protected than it is here in the United States, so that makes a lot of sense.
I think in terms of what we're going to have to do is we're going to have to look at regulating -- I know that's a dirty word to Facebook but we're going to have to look at regulating how they do business because they are not just a platform.
HILL: I want to move on because I have a couple of others things to get here -- get to here.
You tweeted on Sunday, "The president is careening us for what I fear will be a constitutional crisis. Mr. President, here is my red line. Fire Mueller and I will vote to fire you."
White House counsel Ty Cobb coming out and saying the president has no plans to fire Robert Mueller.
Do you trust Cobb's statement?
SPEIER: No. I trust the tweets that the president puts out when he's unsupervised and I think what we have seen over and over again is his intention to obstruct justice.
He's so accustomed to being able to use his position as a family company and shut people down by filing lawsuits and threatening them and he thinks he can do that with the American public. He can't do that.
And he cannot tamper with the justice system, which he has clearly attempted to do over and over again.
HILL: I do also just want to get you on the record here before we let you go. Obviously, Friday, a midnight deadline is looming when it comes to funding the government and CNN learning that the proposed spending bill will not include the sexual harassment legislation which I know you have championed.
Is it definitively out?
SPEIER: It's not definitively out but I think the House -- both the Republicans and the Democrats in the House feel very strongly that the bill that we passed over to the Senate was comprehensive and any effort to erode that is not in the best interest of the institution, and certainly not in the best interest of the employees that work for us.
[07:40:14] HILL: Representative Jackie Speier, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you.
SPEIER: Thank you, Erica.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right.
Six months ago, Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico. How are recovery efforts today? We have a live report, next.
HILL: The younger brother of Florida school shooter -- the Florida school shooter arrested on Monday for trespassing on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. According to a complaint affidavit, it said 18-year-old brother Zachary Cruz wanted to quote "reflect on the school shooting and soak it in."
He's been released after posting bond.
BERMAN: The Weinstein Company filing for bankruptcy and releasing victims and witnesses to alleged sexual misconduct from their non- disclosure agreements. Dozens of sexual harassment and assault allegations against the studio's co-founder Harvey Weinstein have crippled the company.
According to a statement, the studio has reached a deal with a private equity firm which is looking to acquire it through the bankruptcy process.
HILL: Hurricane Maria making landfall in Puerto Rico six months ago today. The island is still struggling from widespread destruction and despair, and more than 100,000 residents are still without power. And understandably, many saying life will never be the same.
[07:45:01] CNN's Leyla Santiago joins us now live from San Juan with more -- Leyla.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, today we are in San Juan and the situation here has improved quite a bit since Hurricane Maria struck the island six months ago.
Here, the majority of the people have power. The majority of the people have water. I mean, we're talking about in the 90 percent zone. And the goal is that by the end of March, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says they want to be at 95 percent of power restoration for the entire island.
However, as you mentioned -- so, 103,000 people without power this morning. And you go into the interior part of the island and what you see here in San Juan -- the tourists, the businesses that are open -- is not what you see in the interior part of the island.
We spent some time with a family in Orocovis, Puerto Rico and they are still living in the dark, still washing clothes by hand, still eating canned goods because they don't have power to keep the food refrigerated. They don't have a generator, either.
And that was a family that also had a 1-month-old baby so the daily struggle for them is very real and hasn't changed much in the last few months.
So again, six months later I don't want to take away from all the credit of all these power workers. Many still on the island although they are starting to leave.
You know, a lot has been done when it comes to power but for the people in the interior part of the island that are still struggling life isn't back to normal, as you said. It's not like back to the days before Maria -- Erica.
HILL: And to your point Leyla, there are -- there are several layers and several headlines obviously to this story, not just from six months ago but continuing on today.
I know a lot of your reporting too, especially in the aftermath of that storm and since then has focused on the death toll and the conflicting numbers we were seeing initially. Where do we stand right now?
SANTIAGO: Listen, that number hasn't changed since December ninth. It remains at 64.
Now, the government is -- does have a thorough review, as the governor has said, of those numbers so they are looking into it. George Washington University partnering with them to do that but 64 is certainly not the number that we have seen when we look at it.
Still today, funeral homes and doctors are telling me that Maria is still killing people. You look at death certificates from just the last few months and you will still see Hurricane Maria as a contributing factor of deaths. People who are dying because they don't have power for the medical -- or the medical attention that they need.
They need oxygen tanks, they need CPAP machines for sleep apnea and those don't work if you don't have power.
HILL: No, they do not.
Leyla, appreciate it as always. Thank you.
If you would like to help the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico just log onto cnn.com/impact where we've identified several charities assisting those hardest hit by Hurricane Maria.
BERMAN: High stakes in the AT&T and Time Warner antitrust trial. Why the evidence being discussed could make or break the case. That's next.
[07:52:20] HILL: One of the biggest antitrust battles in decades now underway. The federal government is suing to stop AT&T from merging with Time Warner which, of course, owns CNN. The case has enormous implications for the media and technology industries and, of course, for you the consumer.
Joining us now to discuss, Brian Stelter, CNN senior media correspondent, and Hadas Gold, CNN reporter covering media and business.
So, Hadas, first of all, catch us to speed here. Where do we stand after yesterday?
HADAS GOLD, MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER, CNN POLITICS: So yesterday and today are for what's called evidentiary arguments and this is when both sides go back and forth over what evidence should be included in this trial. And as you know, your entire case rests on what sort of evidence you have.
So, AT&T is trying to argue that these thousands of e-mails between AT&T and Time Warner executives, that not all of them should be submitted because not every single e-mail is necessarily an official business record -- it could just be some chatter -- and unless you have a witness on the stand who can actually talk about what the e- mail meant that it's not worth having.
The government is arguing that in some of these e-mails they are what are called sort of hot docs which might reveal that AT&T somehow knew that this -- that buying Time Warner would stifle competition and that was part of the reason why they were doing it. There's a few other issues that are at hand here in terms of evidence, including prior statements related to other media mergers.
And all of this will help determine whose side will pretty much have the strongest case possible because if a certain key piece of evidence is thrown out by the judge that could completely change either side's argument.
BERMAN: Any body language from the judge so far, Hadas, that gives you a sense of which way they may be leaning?
GOLD: So this judge actually also was the one who oversaw the settlement between Comcast and NBC Universal which had a different approach from the Justice Department than what we're seeing now. This is probably why people were so surprised that the Justice Department brought this lawsuit.
This judge is sort of an old-school judge. I mean, there's no electronics in the courtroom at all. He'll throw you out if he sees a cell phone.
And he's really doing this very carefully. He has said over and over again how he recognizes how important this case is to the industry and to the public, and he is going to be doing this so carefully. He's going to take as much time as possible.
But he's a pretty tough sort of old-school judge and honestly, day-by- day I feel like it could go either way. HILL: It's so fascinating and, of course, we were talking yesterday about the fact that AT&T is no longer bringing up any questions of political bias. They have no plans to do that. But Brian, we can't ignore the fact that it is hanging over everything that's happening right now --
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
HILL: -- in Washington. So does that bleed in eventually, do you think?
STELTER: Whether it does on the judge's thoughts, it definitely does on everybody else's mindset around this case. I've seen some technology executives speaking out against the DOJ for bringing this case, saying look at these tech giants in Silicon Valley getting bigger every day. Why is the government so focused on AT&T or CNN other than Facebook, for example?
[07:55:09] It's interesting. It's a rhetorical argument --
BERMAN: Not any news about Facebook these days, right?
STELTER: That's right.
HILL: Not a lot going on there, huh?
STELTER: Now that said, the DOJ, it does need to review when there are mergers and when there are deals and that's what it's doing in this case. It's the antitrust department of the DOJ that's looking at this and these are career officials, not political appointees. You know, not Jeff Sessions directly who is looking at this.
However, we've got to keep in mind the political context here. President Trump's attacks against CNN are widely seen as a possible motive and that's going to be a subplot, I think.
The business subplot here is the cable bundle. You know, all this evidence about whether AT&T and Time Warner e-mailed about competition, it all comes back to the cable bundle and unless you're watching this in an airport right now you're a cable bundle subscriber.
Americans love to hate the cable bundle and yet, most Americans also see value in it. The price might inch up every year because you're getting more and more channels and they cost more, but we've seen this ongoing battle -- this ongoing tug of war between programmers like Time Warner, who owns CNN, and distributors like Comcast or AT&T that -- it's a tug of war back and forth how much is the bundle going to cost every year.
So it's understandable AT&T wants to buy more programming -- more Time Warner, more CNN -- in order to have more muscle in that ongoing tug of war. That's what Comcast did with NBC. Verizon's been looking at whether they could buy other content as well.
HILL: They need the content when they're going up against a Netflix.
STELTER: That's right, but it all comes down to this bundle issue in this world where you have more Netflix's and Amazons also creating alternatives to the bundle. Can AT&T gain more muscle in the environment?
And, of course, the argument from AT&T is they just have to keep up with all the others in the industry.
BERMAN: With the Facebooks and the Googles of the world --
BERMAN: -- as much as anything else.
It's interesting, you know, Brian talking about the bundle, Hadas, and it has to do a little bit about what this evidence was yesterday with this communications inside AT&T and also DIRECTV. The concern here is that a larger AT&T would be able to increase prices in some ways and stifle competition in that bundle, correct?
GOLD: Exactly, and they're worried -- the DOJ is worried that by having this much power over what they call -- and maybe a credit to CNN -- but what they call must-have content. And that's things like sports, like the NCAA basketball tournament going on right now. A lot of that is on Turner, which is part of Time Warner's network.
And what they're saying is AT&T will -- might have an incentive to sort of hog that content and not allow it on competitors. For example, just last month Google's YouTube T.V. just added Turner content and they are pointing to that as evidence that this content is so important that -- and it's -- that AT&T will have so much incentive to really keep it to themselves. To really force people to buy it through them versus allowing this competition to flourish.
But you to keep in mind that in a way, AT&T is doing what sort of Amazon and Netflix are doing but Amazon and Netflix are doing it in- house. Amazon is building out their own content in-house.
What AT&T is doing is just acquiring another company that has content to pretty much do something similar.
So while this case is focused right now on AT&T, there is no question that in the coming years we're going to be seeing other really big cases involving places like Amazon or like a Netflix.
HILL: We will be watching for that. Let's leave it there.
Hadas, Brian, appreciate it. Thank you, both.
HILL: We are following a lot of news at this hour. Let's get to it.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. Chris is off, Alisyn on assignment. I'm John Berman, joined by Erica Hill.
We do have breaking news this morning. Overnight, there was a new explosion in Texas. This is a fifth. This happened inside a FedEx facility south of Austin.
HILL: That explosion comes as police and hundreds of federal agents are on the hunt for a serial bomber. The FBI telling CNN they believe this latest blast is linked to that deadly series of bombings in the area which began March second.
CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us now live from Austin with more on these breaking details -- Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica.
Well, a great of deal of concern here at this FedEx delivery facility in the town of Schertz, Texas which is essentially a suburb of northern San Antonio, about an hour's drive away from Austin. So that is where investigators are focusing their efforts here this morning.
FedEx officials say that one person suffered minor injuries -- they will be OK -- after that package exploded there inside of that facility in the town of Schertz, Texas.
And really, this does kind of create an ongoing dilemma here for investigators because the method by which these explosions are occurring seems to be changing and that is what federal investigators talked about their concern yesterday.
We're here in this neighborhood. This is the neighborhood where the Sunday explosion occurred just in this little patch of grass. You might see the divot there left by the explosion.
And investigators were already expressing concern because it was a trip wire connected to that package that set off that explosion on Sunday night.