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FaceBook Uncovers Disinformation Campaign; Muller Investigation Faces First Test; Obama Administration Blamed for Cybersecurity Failures. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired August 1, 2018 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:31:22] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: FaceBook is calling it the most extensive effort to interfere in American politics it has uncovered to date. The social media giant removing a network of suspected Russian-linked accounts and pages that were organizing political events in the United States.
CNN's Drew Griffin joins us now with more of his investigation.
What have you found, Drew.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT REPORTER: Alisyn, here we go again. It's almost identical to the playbook. We know the Russian Internet research agency used during the 2016 campaign. They set up these fake political FaceBook sites, get Americans to sign on, engage with them, then start sending out disinformation, setting up protests and rallies, all in an attempt to politically divide Americans against each other.
GRIFFIN (voice over): FaceBook calls it inauthentic behavior. And though FaceBook can't be sure, it sure looks like Russia again. Thirty-two pages with names including "Black Elevation," "Resisters," "Aztlan Warriors," being followed by 290,000 accounts. The fake accounts also setting up and promoting real events and protests aimed at further polarizing U.S. political discourse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody in.
CROWD: Everybody in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody out.
CROWD: Nobody out.
GRIFFIN: Many of the events did occur, including this one last year in New York City, attended by actual Americans who likely had no idea that the "Resisters" FaceBook page was probably run by Russians.
MARIANA PINEDA, HEALTHCARE ACTIVIST: So I was contacted though FaceBook by a woman named Mary Smith.
GRIFFIN: Mariana Pineda actually messaged with organizers at that "Resisters" page about the protest last year.
PINEDA: She wanted me to look into permits for having a rally in Union Square. We contacted the police department to asked about permitting and ultimately decided to do the rally without permits. And we talked about sound and the use of amplified sound. And I said that I needed something. And so they sent me a megaphone in the mail.
GRIFFIN: Another event by the same group was supposed to take place in a couple of weeks. "Resistors" set up a counter protest against white supremacists at the White House August 10th. Five other real groups signed on to participate. As FaceBook was announcing its crackdown on these potential Russian sites, the U.S. secretary of homeland security was at a cyber security conference saying there's no doubt Russian meddled in the 2016 election.
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Everyone and everything is now a target.
GRIFFIN: And Russian actors may be at it again, comparing the upcoming midterm elections to a looming storm.
NIELSEN: Today, I believe the next major attack is more likely to reach us online than on an airplane.
We are in a crisis mode. The cat five hurricane has been forecast, and now we must prepare.
GRIFFIN: FaceBook says these current pages all shut down and the hallmarks of the activities the Russians did around the presidential election, though there are some differences. This time the pages didn't lead back to Russian IP addresses and they used third party services to buy adds to boost their posts and encourage people to follow the pages.
GRIFFIN: David, not only has FaceBook shut the sites down, the company is going to contact everybody who was in contact with these sites. People like the woman that we interviewed, Mariana Pineda, to let them know these were not U.S. political activists. Most likely they were Russians, again, David, trying to meddle in U.S. democracy.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. Drew Griffin in Atlanta for us this morning.
Drew, thanks so much.
[06:34:57] An Aeromexico plane crashing -- incredible video -- just after takeoff in Durango, Mexico. Incredibly, as you look at the aftermath, and thankfully, no one died. One hundred and three people were on board the flight to Mexico City. The pilot and a passenger are in critical but stable condition. The plane went down in a field near the runway. Mexican state officials say strong wind gusts at the airport may have been a factor. Incredible -- just an incredible result. Also alarming that wind gusts could have caused something like that.
CAMEROTA: Yes, I don't like to hear that.
CAMEROTA: That makes me very nervous. But I am so relieved that everybody survived. We hope -- we pray for those two in critical. I mean some of those people look like they were able to walk away from that crash when you look at that.
GREGORY: It's incredible. Well, hopefully, it was -- it was low enough altitude that it was simply a hard landing, except for those who were in the front, the pilot, you know, the co-pilot, but we'll see what more develops from this.
CAMEROTA: OK, meanwhile, where does the Robert Mueller investigation stand today? We take a look at big picture for you, next.
GREGORY: The first of two trials for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is now underway. Both involve alleged financial crimes. Neither have anything to do with President Trump or Russia's election interference. But this is the first test in court for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
[06:40:13] CNN's Jim Sciutto now takes a larger look, a bigger picture look, at where things stand in the Russian investigation.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Openly denounced by the White House --
PRESET: I call it the rigged witch hunt.
SCIUTTO: Yet pressing forward without interruption. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has produced a steady stream of indictments and arrests over the last 14 months. It enters a new phase with the start of the first of two trials for Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman. In Virginia, he faces charges of bank and tax fraud. In Washington, he's accused of failing to register as a lobbyist for a foreign government and obstruction of justice.
And Mueller may not be done with Manafort. This memo indicates that the special council is still investigating whether Manafort was, quote, colluding with Russian government officials, end quote, to interfere in the 2016 election.
KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT'S ATTORNEY: There is no evidence that Mr. Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government. SCIUTTO: Manafort's former business partner, and former deputy
chairman of the Trump campaign, Rick Gates, has already pleaded guilty and will testify against Manafort. Among the others, the special counsel has indicted Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security advisor, and George Papadopoulos, a former campaign aide. Both plead guilty to lying to prosecutors and both are cooperating with the investigation.
Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate on Manafort's, who is described in court documents as a suspected Russian intelligence operative. Also indicted, 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities, charged with interferes in the 2016 election.
And most recently another group of 12 Russian nationals, charged with hacking the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.
Could more charges be coming? His team has interviewed at least two dozen members of the Trump administration and other Trump associates.
GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, "THE THREAT MATRIX: THE FBI AT WAR IN THE AGE OF GLOBAL TERROR": Bob Mueller is not making deals left and right. Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn all traded some pieces of information for their respective plea deals. That's presumably incredibly important information.
SCIUTTO: One crucial remaining question, what has Mueller found out about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Junior, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Russians who promised to share dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump Junior has said that he never told his father about the meeting.
DONALD TRUMP JUNIOR, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: There was nothing to tell. It was literally just a waste of 20 minutes, which was a shame.
SCIUTTO: But sources tell CNN that Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is now claiming that Trump knew of the meeting in advance. And that Cohen is prepared to tell Mueller.
Cohen himself may not be on Mueller's to-do list, though, having referred his case to federal investigators in New York.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: So it effectively brings the issue of collusion or conspiracy right to the president's feet.
SCIUTTO: Mueller's latest indictment of the Russian hackers hinted that he may still be looking at the role of other U.S. persons.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The conspirators corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the Internet.
SCIUTTO: Some speculate that may include Roger Stone, who claimed several times during the campaign to be communicating with WikiLeaks, which U.S. intelligence believes acted as a middle man for stolen Democratic Party e-mails and documents. ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: It's innocent. There's no
evidence of collusion or conspiracy or coordination.
SCIUTTO: The Department of Justice also recently released the FISA warrant obtained by the FBI during the campaign to surveil another former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. At the time, the FBI told the court it believed Page was the subject of recruitment by the Russian government.
CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I've never been an agent of a foreign power in any -- by any stretch of the imagination.
SCIUTTO: Questions also remain about Blackwater founder Erik Prince's mysterious meetings in the Seychelles with a Russian banker and George Nader, an unofficial representative of the United Arab Emirates.
ERIK PRINCE, FOUNDER AND FORMER CEO, BLACKWATER: No one was aware from the Trump team that I was even there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one was aware you were there.
PRINCE: It was by the business. It had nothing to do with the U.S. government. It had nothing to do with the Trump team or the transition team or anything else.
SCIUTTO: CNN has reported that the purpose of that meeting was to arrange a possible back channel communication between the U.S. and Russia, but the UAE connection could expand Mueller's information to concerns of additional foreign influence in the 2016 election. Nader has been cooperating with investigators.
Perhaps the biggest question is what, if anything, Mueller have in store for President Trump, including whether he obstructed justice.
GRAFF: I think we're -- that really -- that obstruction piece will be the final element of this. And that what we're going to more likely see is, you know, sort of these dots in the center being connected.
SCIUTTO: Looming large is whether the special counsel will demand a sit down interview with President Trump himself.
[06:45:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've always wanted to do an interview because, look, there's been no collusion.
SCIUTTO: For now, Mr. Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, says any interview is still under negotiation.
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I think he shouldn't. I know how convinced he is that he didn't do anything wrong and wants to explain it. And I've seen other people get into trouble thinking that. Innocent people.
SCIUTTO: Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CAMEROTA: All right, meanwhile, Vice President Pence is blaming the Obama administration for neglecting cyber security. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence under President Obama, will respond, next.
CAMEROTA: OK, so FaceBook says it has now removed a network of suspected Russian-linked accounts and pages that were trying to organize again political events in the United States. The network is the most extensive disinformation effort to intervene in American politics that FaceBook says it has found so far. And this comes, of course, just months ahead of the midterm elections.
So let's bring in CNN national security analyst and former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, to talk about this. He is also the author of "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence."
Director Clapper, thank you very much for being here.
Let me show everybody what FaceBook says it has discovered. So they say they found these eight FaceBook pages, 17 FaceBook profiles, seven Instagram accounts, and these, they believe, are Russian linked and they're trying to, again, gin up trouble. Here's what's interesting. That last point there, 290,000 other accounts followed at least one of those suspected pages. So this is how it proliferates. This is how it gets into the bloodstream of the U.S. and the next thing you know, Americans are showing up at phony protests and rallies thinking that they're real.
[06:50:18] How confident are you that FaceBook today is doing enough?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, first, I think FaceBook should be commended for being open and transparent about this. As soon as they discovered it, even though they apparently weren't prepared to make the call that was, you know, it's actually the Russians. I'm pretty confident it is. You know, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck sort of thing.
And this is identical to Russia's behavior in the run up to the 2016 election where their first objective was to sew discord, discontent, and, most importantly, doubt about the truth. And they're at it again. I think in -- what's interesting about this and anticipated is that the Russians went to school on why they were exposed in the run up to the 2016 election and have made themselves more anonymous and more secure, which, of course, I think the intelligence community anticipated that they'd do.
I also --
CAMEROTA: And so what does that look like? I mean just to stop you there.
So they learned from the 2016 election and how they were detected. So then how do they get their fingerprints off it and how does FaceBook ever figure it out then?
CLAPPER: Well, I don't exactly know. There are certainly technical tools and procedures that they -- they've employed. I suspect they've gotten some help from the government. And I don't want to go into just, you know -- they gets into sources and methods and tradecraft. But it's -- I also think, though, that this is only the tip of the iceberg, and I think you also need to look at the other platforms -- Twitter, for example -- and see what's happening there. I think it's much more widespread than what has been exposed by FaceBook so far.
CAMEROTA: Oh, for sure.
CLAPPER: But you can look forward to the Russians will get smarter and smarter and more sophisticated about hiding them as the cause and the generator of these adds.
CAMEROTA: Yes, Twitter needs to do something for sure.
Meanwhile, Vice President Pence was speaking about cyber security and basically blamed you, not personally, but the Obama -- the entire Obama administration for -- he suggested were sort of asleep at the wheel. So listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The last administration all but neglected cyber security, even though the digital threats were growing more numerous and more dangerous by the day. In 2014, a foreign government actually hacked into the White House network itself. And yet, in the face of constant attacks like that, the last administration too often chose silence and paralysis over strength and action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Director Clapper, would you like to respond to that?
CLAPPER: Well, that's a favorite pastime in this town is to blame the last crowd as a bunch of do nothing incompetence, which, of course, is not the case at all. The last administration did a lot to enhance cybersecurity. Notably having someone in the White House responsible for cybersecurity coordination across the government, which we -- which we don't have now.
And certainly as we began to see what the Russians -- that full magnitude of what the Russians were doing, the intelligence community, for its part, I believe, did a good job, advised policy makers, the Congress, and importantly the public about what was happening. And to President Obama's credit, he did directly and pointedly confront Vladimir Putin about their interference.
And also to his credit, it was President Obama who tasked the intelligence community to generate the intelligence community assessment, which was the first event in a sequence of events that continue yet today, most -- and most notably which is the Mueller investigation. So I think the same criticism could be levied hat this administration
as well. You can always do the could have, would have, should haves. We could have done more, sure, but we did a lot.
CAMEROTA: I mean can you contrast -- you know, some people scoff at President Obama saying to Vladimir Putin, knock it off. Maybe that didn't go far enough. But you contrast that to what we saw in Helsinki where President Trump stood next to Vladimir Putin and said, I don't know why it would be Russia and blamed the United States. The U.S. president blamed the U.S. for its foolishness and for somehow, as though the interference and the cyber warfare were the United States' fault.
CLAPPER: Well --
CAMEROTA: If you were -- I mean so, in other words, I mean I just want to give that context. And so if you were DNI now, what would you be doing? What would you have this administration do?
[06:55:05] CLAPPER: Well, I would be doing what Dan Coats has recently done. And has sounded a warning to what, you know, the -- the threat posed by Russians. And I would certainly be beating the drum pretty hard about that because the Russians have not stopped and they will continue to disrupt our very political system.
CAMEROTA: Director James Clapper, thank you very much for all of your expertise in this.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Alisyn.
GREGORY: Alisyn, a fiery start in Paul Manafort's trial. What prosecutors revealed in court and how Manafort's defense team is now fighting back. That's coming up, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Donald Trump's campaign manager pointing the finger at his deputy campaign manager.
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: Paul Manafort does not know anything. He was with him for four months.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paul Manafort has been in the sewers of D.C. for a long time.
[07:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The stakes couldn't be higher for the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Trump administration had no coherent plan how to reunite parents and children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are the victims of their parents, who made a terrible decision of breaking and entering into our country.