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Money, Social Media and the 2018 Election. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired August 1, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program. And ahead, we look at two key factors that could impact the outcome of this
year`s critical midterm elections.
First, big money as billionaire conservative fundraiser Charles Koch threatens to withhold his network`s support for President Trump and his
protectionist trade policies. I talk to Tim Phillips, president of Koch`s policy arm, Americans for Prosperity.
And then, social media. Is the country ready for a new wave of hostile attacks aimed at pitting American voters against each other? I ask
longtime social media scholar Zeynep Tufekci what are we going to do about it?
Welcome to the program, everyone. I`m Christiane Amanpour in London.
And we begin with what could be a civil war for the heart of the Republican Party, pitting a network of powerful donors against President Donald Trump.
And at heart is the Trump trade policy with news today that the administration is raising the stakes in its trade war with China, now
proposing 25 percent tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese products.
Charles Koch, the 82-year-old billionaire, strongly opposes such a move and threatens to stop donations to Republican candidates, who support President
This is significant because, on almost all other issues, Trump has been good for the Kochs, rolling back regulations, slashing taxes, adding
billions to their massive net worth, but they draw a red line at Trump`s protectionism.
Listen to this warning by Charles Koch addressing his network of big-money GOP donors recently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES KOCH, BUSINESSMAN: When people act in protectionist ways, they erect barriers, which makes everyone worse off. The urge to protect
ourselves from change has doomed many countries throughout history and this protectionist mindset has destroyed countless businesses as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: President Trump then hauled out the heavy tweets and fired back. "I don`t need their money or bad ideas".
But what about the Republican Party? Does it need their money and their influence? As president of Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of
the Koch Network, Tim Phillips drives the policy bus for Charles Koch and his backers, and he`s joining me now from Washington.
Mr. Phillips, welcome to the program. Have I - thank you for being with us. Have I sort of summed it up right? Is there now a battle for the
heart of the Republican Party between free traders and protectionists?
TIM PHILLIPS, PRESIDENT OF KOCH-BACKED GROUP, "AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY": We see it as a crucial policy. And you made an interesting point in your
open, a lot of the policies on the economic front of the administration are crucial in driving this economic recovery we`re seeing right now.
You mentioned the tax cuts and the tax reform or the knocking down of barriers on the regulatory front that`s helped get the American economy
moving again. That`s a good thing for really every American.
But this trade war, this protectionist policy can undermine the entire economic recovery and it especially hurts Americans on fixed incomes, who
are going to be paying higher prices for the consumer items they buy every day at the grocery store or at Walmart or Target or other stores, and it
hurts American businesses, who are now the victims, who are seeing their international markets for their products closed off because of retaliatory
And now we`re seeing subsidies in the billions and billions of dollars using taxpayer money to subsidize Americans, who are being hurt by these
tariffs. So, it can undermine the economy, and we do have a strong disagreement with the administration here.
And we`re urging Republicans in Congress to stand up on this crucial issue for the American people and really the world.
AMANPOUR: You`re talking about the subsidies. That`s depression-era subsidies that were 12 billion worth or so.
PHILLIPS: 12 billion.
AMANPOUR: Yes, 12 billion rather, given to the farmers. So, what do you make now of a discussion, potentially a new raised tariff on Chinese
products, $200 billion of them, up from 10 percent by the Trump administration to potentially 25 percent. What effect will that have?
PHILLIPS: Well, protectionism on both the left and the right always lets politicians feel like they`re being tough, but they`re really being tough
on their own citizens, which we`re already seeing.
This is a mistake to be attacking or harming international trade, which has raised up living standards across the world, but also - so important to
note - in the United States of America as well creating millions of good jobs and lowering consumer prices for every American.
[14:05:10] So, it`s been good for our country as well as the world as well. And we`re making that point as a network. We`re going to individual
Republicans in the House and the Senate, urging them to lead on this issue.
You can disagree with the administration, respectfully, which we do and which we`re urging members of the House and the Senate to do, but they
still need to lead on this issue.
And then government spending as well because we`re seeing a dramatic increase. The omnibus bill in March drove up federal spending. That`s why
deficits are up. Revenues are up to the government because of the tax cuts, but the deficit has increased because of the dramatic increase in
spending that we saw in the March omnibus bill.
AMANPOUR: So, you, obviously, do seek to influence. Obviously, in conservative circles, when the Kochs talk, people listen. And it appears
that there`s big news because you`re not going to support the Republican Senate candidate in North Dakota, Kevin Cramer. He`s trying to unseat a
So, you`re not going to support him, but it doesn`t mean to say you`re going to support the Democrat.
PHILLIPS: Well, we are looking at individual campaigns on a case-by-case basis. So, we announced this past weekend a few states where we are being
involved at the Senate and gubernatorial level, but what we`re saying to Republicans especially, but really to all candidates across the board, is
our network is raising the bar.
We`re going to demand that these elected officials stand up on crucial issues that are impacting the very prosperity of our nation. And so, we`re
urging them on trade, for example, which we`ve been discussing today, to stand up and lead on immigration, on spending especially, across the board.
We are, in fact, raising the bar. Republicans in Congress have done some good things, but if we`re ever going to put our nation on the proper
trajectory to the prosperity we need, we have to do more.
We have to eventually get to entitlement spending and other big underlying problems that threaten our nation`s long-term prosperity. And so, we`re
saying, let`s do that, let`s raise the bar and do that, and we`re determined to have a higher standard. We are going to.
AMANPOUR: So, you`ve just said raise the bar higher standard, but what does it actually mean? OK, so you withdraw support and money from this
candidate, maybe other candidates, but what does that mean?
Does it mean that you support Democrats? Does it mean that just by the force of withdrawing your support, that person is unlikely to win? What do
you envision from raising the bar? What are you trying to shape?
PHILLIPS: What we`re trying to do is to show elected leaders or candidates that if they are bold in standing for the policies that we`re talking
about, that there`s an organization like ours with grassroots infrastructure in their states, genuine volunteers and staff and activists
and support from an advertising side, that there`s a group like ours and others that will have their back if they become genuine policy champions.
And we`re saying to candidates, some Republicans especially, who frankly don`t lead, and you`ve mentioned the campaign in North Dakota - that`s one
of them in our view where there hasn`t been leadership. We`re saying that we will stay out of those. We`re only going to be involved in states where
they genuinely are policy champions.
We announced a list of those in Florida, for example, Missouri, other states, but that`s what we`re saying. We`re looking at individual policy
champions, who will lead, not just kind of react to events and try to focus on getting themselves elected or reelect, but actually lead on the issues
that are facing our nation.
AMANPOUR: I mean, in a way, this has been described as the continuing and increasing war between the populist wing of the Republican Party and the
establishment wing of the Republican Party. You just talked about the necessity for bold leadership.
So, I`d like to play you two clips from the congressional leadership, Senate and House, and see what you make of what they said about this issue
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (D), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I don`t think anything good will come out of a trade war and I hope we pull back from the brink
here because these tariffs will not be good for the economy. And I worry that it will slow, if not impede significantly, the progress we`re making
REP. PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I`ve made it pretty clear. I don`t think tariffs are the right answer. I don`t support tariffs. I think
tariffs are taxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, they`re essentially saying what you`re saying, but they`re not doing anything about it in Congress. And it just looks to be that
people in Congress are concerned, those who attach themselves to President Trump`s coattails, feel that that`s a winning strategy. And the leadership
does not take him on. I mean, where do you look for bold leadership?
[14:10:03] PHILLIPS: We think that the Lee Davidson legislation that would actually insist on Congress having a role in trade policy, which is the
constitutional prerogative here, that has support that a number of senators and House members have signed on to, that Senator Mike Lee from Utah
We`re urging leadership to allow votes - there was a non-binding resolution in the Senate which had broad bipartisan support on the trade front, but
let`s have some binding votes and put individual members on the spot to actually vote because Congress, constitutionally speaking, it is supposed
to have a role in trade policy and that`s very important to note.
And to the question about a civil war within the Republican Party, we want to be really clear. We`re not an appendage of any party, any political
party. We`re a policy organization that focuses on removing barriers to prosperity for American citizens and, hopefully, creating more prosperous
nation and world in the process of that.
And so, we`re not involved in some Civil War. We`re simply focusing on policies like spending, and we`re praising them when they do there right
thing. We mentioned the tax cuts. You mentioned the tax cuts in the opening. That was good policy. The partial rollback of Dodd-Frank, for
example, on the financial regulatory front. That was good policy that`s going to bring much-needed capital to small businesses, especially in this
So, they`ve done some good things, but if we`re going to get the sustained prosperity that we`re beginning to see, they`ve got to do more, and that`s
what we`re calling on them to do.
AMANPOUR: I mean, of course, as you know, the other side of the political spectrum would say that it`s not necessarily good policy and it just helps
the wealthy get wealthier, but that is the political argument.
But I want to ask you where you think the bigger Republican Party is headed and whether you think that yourself, Charles Koch, the network will be
Trump tweeted. People do get worried about it and he reacted to Charles Koch by tweet, saying "The globalist Koch brothers who`ve become a total
joke in real Republican circles are against strong borders and powerful trade. I never sought their support because I don`t need their money or
bad ideas. They love my tax and regulation cuts, judicial picks and more. I made them richer. Their network is highly overrated," et cetera, et
cetera. You get the drift.
That kind of talk has influence on his base. So, are there ways of encouraging the kind of bold leadership that I think that you want to see
or the kind of diversion from Trump on trade at least?
PHILLIPS: Well, certainly, we`re focusing on the policies and not getting involved in the personal attacks that others may choose to involve
Our point is this, on trade and other issues. We take a genuinely long- term approach. We were out there in the field talking to American citizens, working on these issues well before the current administration
and most current members of Congress and we`re going to be there well after the next or the next administration and years and decades to come.
So, we have a long-term approach to these issues. At this point, however, it is an important inflection point because trade, the very prosperity that
international trade has brought to the world, but especially to Americans, is at stake.
And the left and the right is guilty here. I look at Elizabeth Warren. It`s ironic that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and the president
fight a lot, but on this issue sadly, they`re united for protectionism and tariffs, and that`s not a good thing.
We`re going to stand long term and we`re urging Republicans and Democrats too to join us in this. People`s prosperity and livelihoods and jobs and
retirements are at stake here on this trade issue.
AMANPOUR: I hear you keep reaching out. You keep saying we`re urging Democrats as well. So, I want to ask you again, do you believe then that
your strategy of raising the bar, as you call it, withholding support, might lead to a change in power in Congress, might lead to the Democrats
winning and would that be a good thing in your view?
Are you really prepared to hold out that much?
PHILLIPS: Well, we have been very clear that we`re only going to be involved in states where there are policy champions. And we`re clear about
that. We`ve said North Dakota is not a state we`re not going to get involved in. Other states as well.
We`ll leave the political analysis to the politicians and the pundits, but we`re taking stance based on principle, and really more than principle, on
the understanding that the prosperity of this nation and of its individual Americans are at stake.
And we`ve reached out to Democrats. We`ve actually thanked individual members of the Senate. Heidi Heitkamp is one example. There are others.
Senate Democrat from North Dakota for making good votes. She and other Democrats supported the Gorsuch nomination. A few of them did. Three to
be exact. We thank them for that. We thank them when they`ve stood and done the right thing on the Dodd-Frank Reforms.
[14:15:10] So, we have shown that we`ll thank those in both parties when they do the right things on issues and we want to be consistent on that.
AMANPOUR: All right. Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, thank you so much for joining us.
AMANPOUR: And now, we turn to social media which continues to add uncertainty to elections as bad actors use Facebook to manipulate public
opinion. Facebook just announced that they have purged more than 30 accounts accusing them of coordinated, inauthentic behavior aimed at
misleading Facebook users and swaying the midterm elections.
This comes after Facebook had the worst day in stock market history as share price plunged almost 20 percent, losing a $120 billion in value.
And then, on Tuesday, the Trump administration finally admitted that Russian interference through Facebook and other means did play a role in
Here is Vice President Pence speaking at a cybersecurity conference in New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While other nations certainly possess the capability, the fact is, Russia meddled in our 2016
elections. That is the unambiguous judgment of our intelligence community. And as the president said, we accept the intelligence community`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Putting a dot on that then. My guest Zeynep Tufekci is an author, academic and expert in the social impacts of technology and she`s
joining us now from North Carolina.
Welcome back to the program, Zeynep.
ZEYNEP TUFEKCI, TECHNOSOCIOLOGIST: Thank you for inviting me.
AMANPOUR: Yes. So, you study this very closely. We`ve talked many times before and you`ve written a lot about it.
Facebook is saying that this is the first of these coordinated attempts at influencing the midterms that has been detected. How significant is this
moment right now?
TUFEKCI: So, there`s a bunch of things going on here. I think it`s a positive thing that they`ve identified some small number of accounts and
have purged them. They`ve also identified, I think, $11,000 worth of ads spending that they have identified as coordinated and inauthentic.
And they are suggesting that it`s the same set of actors as the Russian meddling that took place in 2016. So, that`s the positive part.
But if you look at the number of accounts and the amount of money involved, it`s actually a very small number. And the question that remains for all
of us isn`t just whether what happened before with the Russia meddling happens again, but how all of Facebook itself, its business model is to
tell advertisers and politicians that you can use our platform to influence people, right?
So, it`s a clearly illegitimate when a foreign government creates fake accounts and creates fake activists and fake rallies and all of that.
But what Facebook does in general is to sell that kind of access. So, my question still remains, so what if it`s somebody who`s not the Russian
government and who just wants to pay Facebook for an influence operation, as Facebook calls it, and how do we draw that line when they`re trying to
sort of pump polarization and making all sorts of claims.
Recently, we`ve had a lot of controversy -
TUFEKCI: - for example, over InfoWars, which makes all sorts of false claims that are outrageous and -
TUFEKCI: - sometimes inciting people against other people.
AMANPOUR: Well, so let me ask you then.
TUFEKCI: What`s the line, and not just focus on Russia.
AMANPOUR: Right, OK. So, Facebook, and certainly Mark Zuckerberg, appears to be saying, and he has said it, this is an arms race. And he basically
said, we face sophisticated and well-funded adversaries, including nation- states, that are always evolving and trying new attacks. But we`re learning and improving quickly too and we`re investing heavily to keep
But it does appear that you know they are very sophisticated, these people, who keep morphing their identities and keep, I guess, I`m asking you, are
they outwitting the tech platforms. Are they outwitting the technicians at Facebook, for instance?
TUFEKCI: Well, if, for example, you go on Facebook and use an unauthorized Beyonce track or put a stream from the World Cup, a little bit of video or
something like that, your account gets suspended pretty quickly, right? So, clearly, Facebook can does clamp down on all sorts of things.
And I think it`s a good thing that they`re finally putting in more resources to fighting state actors because, it`s true, state actors bring
more resources to the table.
[14:20:00] But once again, it goes back to how easy they`ve made this, right? If I can`t put on an unauthorized Beyonce track, but a state actor
can buy all sorts of fake ads easily, as they`ve done through 2016, it`s good that some portion has been caught and it`s good that there`s been
But this keeps going back to this is what Facebook does to make money. It goes to advertisers. It goes to politicians. If you go to its own pages
that promote itself to politicians, what it`s saying is use us and pay us and we`ll be a conduit of influence.
AMANPOUR: Right. So -
TUFEKCI: So, that core problem remains, even if - and I hope they do, and they seem to be doing a better job cutting off the illegitimate foreign
AMANPOUR: But the money thing that you just identified is a big deal because they`ve obviously had a massive shock with this huge collapse of
stock prices, the worst day in history.
An expert from Vox wrote after the losses, "so the idea of them" - Facebook - "abandoning the move fast and break things, grow at all cost mentality
they`ve embraced for years, even in the slightest, makes Wall Street nervous. Investors have embraced the tech giants for that specific
mentality. And this week offers a lesson, we don`t necessarily want executives to take away - try to be better and potentially be severely
punished by investors."
Doesn`t that go to the heart of the dilemma that we face?
TUFEKCI: Right. And I`m going to say who`s we here, like investors and Wall Street has been encouraging these companies to be reckless to be
honest, right? Have a low cost center, don`t invest in people, don`t invest in security, don`t invest in safety, just grow, grow, grow, grow and
your stock price goes up.
And if you`re a little company, you`re a start-up, you get venture capital money, and that reckless model of funding and that reckless model of sort
of the Wall Street oriented growth has not been good for any of us.
So, in a way, Facebook`s stock drop is partly because they`ve already got 2 billion people. How much can you grow. They`re already dominant in the
most lucrative markets.
But it`s also a recognition, you know what, what Facebook`s been doing is a little bit like a factory that`s dumping all its pollution to the nearby
river and sea and just kind of turning its back. And the investors are like, great, you have no cleanup costs, but we as a society face those
And Facebook finally seems to be at least, in statements, saying, you know what, we`re going to pay attention to the pollution that our business model
generates. And Wall Street is like, oh, we don`t like that. So, that`s really unhealthy.
So, in some ways, Facebook, which is a perfectly profitable company with 2 billion users, actually gets off that grow, grow, grow, move fast, move
fast, big, big, big thing and starts being more cautious and, hopefully, also examines how its business model is a part of this creation of this
influence or money situation.
I think we`ll all be better off. And I think, to be honest, Facebook will quite likely still be profitable even if it`s not making so much money for
AMANPOUR: So, it`s really interesting because the stakes keep being raised by government actors. The head of the Department of Homeland Security said
this. I mean, a little bit like what Mark Zuckerberg said, but she put it in a much bigger and broader and more dangerous context. Just listen to
what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, US HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We are facing an urgent evolving crisis in cyberspace. Our adversaries` capabilities online are
simply outpacing our stove-piped defenses. In fact, I believe that cyber threats collectively now exceed the danger of physical attacks against us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I mean that`s big. Cyberattacks are going to be outpacing physical attacks and which begs the question, does there then become a need
to regulate by government?
TUFEKCI: So, there are a couple of things here. I think that the kind of attacks we`ve seen could probably fend it off with more effort, and that
might require some industry-government cooperation.
But I have to sort of repeat right now, InfoWars, which is the sort of important big fight, has Facebook pages that have, in the past, and some of
it currently, have had these giant videos that went viral that claimed things like the parents who lost children at Sandy Hook -
TUFEKCI: - were actually actors. So, that`s not foreign meddling, right? That`s part of how Facebook amplifies some of the worst things in our
society. And you can also go to Facebook if you`re sort of not, say, a foreign agent and you can push that kind of messages both organically and
And this is a bigger question than will Russia try to do something again.
[14:25:00] TUFEKCI: If Russia is able to do something, it`s because the ground is ripe. And the thing to fix - I`m not denying at all. It`s a
problem. The Russian meddling is a huge problem.
AMANPOUR: Yes. But, Zeynep, let me just put this to you because we`re running out of time. Now, I`m going to put this issue to you that you`re
talking about. The internal actors, it doesn`t have to be state actors - and so, some of the reading I`ve done over this latest issue and the
inauthentic accounts and all the rest of it, they say that their efforts by these bad actors to try to stoke violence inside the United States, in
Washington at a planned demonstration this month to mark the anniversary of that neo-Nazi Charlottesville rally and that they were going to pit the
white supremacists against the leftist activists and all the rest of it.
So, it`s also creating this civil war within communities.
TUFEKCI: Well, that`s exactly the wave that the Russian meddling rode and that`s what we have to focus on. It has become increasingly easy to fan
the flames of polarization and outrage and to go viral with it and to sort of increase tear society apart. And that`s not that`s a question bigger
than Facebook. Absolutely involves Facebook.
Now, what Russia did in 2016 was come and ride that wave and just push and poke and it succeeded probably beyond their wildest dreams. So, we have to
examine each one of those.
And I understand why government officials are very much concerned with the external meddling, but we as a society have to think about what is the
polarization that`s going on and how is our digital connectivity feeding into that and how do the business models sometimes amplify it. And those
are really big questions.
AMANPOUR: They`re huge questions with massive consequences on the ground. I mean, here are the figures. This protest, 2,600 Facebook users said they
were interested in the rally, 600 users clicked attend. So, that is proof of the dangers that you are raising.
Zeynep Tufekci, thanks for joining us.
And that is it for our program. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.