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CNN NEWSROOM

Zuckerberg: Not Sure We Shouldn't Be Regulated; CNN: Mueller Team Indicates Four Main Areas Of Questions For Trump; Trump Slams Biden: He Is Weak, Both Physically And Mentally; Trump To Announce New Tariffs And Penalties Against China; Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 22, 2018 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:30]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. John Berman here.

He is really sorry, maybe not "100 percent promising to appear before Congress" sorry, but still sorry. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is answering questions for the first time exclusively to CNN about the gargantuan data grab which compromised the information of some 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: This was a major breach of trust and I'm really sorry that this happened. We have a basic responsibility to protect people's data, and if we can't do that, then we don't deserve to have the opportunity to serve people. So our responsibility now is to make sure that this doesn't happen again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: CNN's Laurie Segall joins me now.

Laurie, terrific, compelling interview. Well done. We saw contrition there. I think the question this morning is exactly what was the contrition for.

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, I think it's been a really rough year for Facebook, and I think in the last week this has been a crisis for the company. You know, I actually asked Mark, I said, you know, we look at this company in the last year, we look at the weaponization of the platform for political gain, and can we trust that you guys are making sure that we are protected as we go into the midterm elections? And looking back, did you do enough? Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZUCKERBERG: You know, I think what's clear is that in 2016 we were not as on top of a number of issues as we should have, whether it was Russian interference or fake news. This isn't rocket science. Right? I mean, there's a lot of hard work that we need to do to make it harder for nation states like Russia to do election interference, to make it so that trolls and other folks can't spread fake news. But we can get in front of this.

SEGALL: Do you think that bad actors are using Facebook at this moment to meddle with the U.S. midterm elections?

ZUCKERBERG: I'm sure someone is trying. Right? And I'm sure that there's, you know, V-2 of all -- a version two of whatever the Russian effort was in 2016. I'm sure they're working on that and there are going to be some tactics that we need to make sure that we observe and get in front of.

SEGALL: Do you know what they are? Do you have any idea?

ZUCKERBERG: I mean, yes. And I think we have some sense of the different things that we need to get in front of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEGALL: Well, it will be interesting when he talks about different things we need to get in front of, I'm telling you, John, I'm already hearing kind of in the tech space different types of tactics bad actors are using to take advantage of those platforms. So, you know, it's a constant race. And what Mark said to me is with security, you're -- you know, sometimes you're playing catch-up. You've got to, you know, really try to be proactive as opposed to reactive which is I think what has gotten Facebook in trouble.

BERMAN: That answer was very, very interesting. He was -- to me watching it, it looked as if, you know, Mark Zuckerberg was rehearsed, practiced, he knew exactly what he wanted to say in most cases. But there were moments when you seemed to catch him off guard, particularly when you asked if Facebook affected the outcome of the 2016 election.

SEGALL: Yes. You know, he doesn't do a lot of press and he did have these talking points. But I do think, you know, there are moments where you see him really kind of try to -- he's grappling with this. And I did. I asked him point-blank, did Facebook impact the 2016 election. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEGALL: Do you believe Facebook impacted the results of the 2016 election?

ZUCKERBERG: Oh, that's -- that is hard. You know, I think that it is -- it's really hard for me to have a full assessment of that. You know, the reality is -- well, there's so many different forces at play. Right? The organic posting that people did, the get-out-the- vote campaigns that we ran, the pages that both candidates ran, the advertising that they did, I'm sure that all of that activity had some impact.

SEGALL: Also the bad actors, too.

ZUCKERBERG: And the bad stuff. That's what I'm saying.

SEGALL: You know, I think -- yes.

ZUCKERBERG: Yes. So I think it is -- it's hard to fully assess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEGALL: Hard to say, although I think a lot of folks who wonder when they're looking at Facebook and they're wondering where these advertisements are coming, they're wondering who is behind them, if they're being manipulated online, I think, you know, they would have a different answer. But I think Facebook knows that they have to get in front of this. They put many, many resources towards this, knowing that it's not just impacting, you know, customers, it's impacting the business bottom line -- John.

BERMAN: OK. Facebook knows they need to get ahead of it which makes his answer to you on whether he would appear before Congress, to me a little peculiar, Laurie.

SEGALL: Yes. You know, I did say everybody wants to know -- first of all, everyone wanted to know why he hadn't spoken yet. I think lawmakers are all calling for him to testify, for him to show up. I asked him if he would. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[09:05:05] SEGALL: Will you testify before Congress?

ZUCKERBERG: So the short answer is I'm happy to if it's the right thing to do. So what we try to do is send in the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge about what Congress is trying to learn. So if that's me, then I am happy to go. What I think we found so far is that typically there are people whose whole job is focused on an area. But I would imagine at some point that there will be a topic where I am the sole authority on it and it will make sense for me to do it.

SEGALL: Although --

ZUCKERBERG: And I'll be happy to do it at that point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEGALL: You know, but Mark Zuckerberg is the brand name. Folks want to hear from him. You know, so we'll see what topic he would go out there for.

And also the big question now, John, is regulation. Everybody is wondering, are these tech companies going to be regulated? Are they too powerful? You know, I put the question to Mark. I said, you know, are you too powerful that you should see regulation? Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEGALL: Given the stakes here, why shouldn't Facebook be regulated? ZUCKERBERG: I actually am not sure we shouldn't be regulated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEGALL: Interesting. You know, very interesting to hear him say he's not sure they shouldn't be regulated. And he went in to talk about there has to be the right type of regulation when it comes to online advertising and transparency. You know, you already have lawmakers tweeting at Mark interested in that answer saying let's talk, John.

BERMAN: Laurie Segall, again terrific, compelling interview. Stand by if you will.

Let's talk more about this. I'm joined now by CNN media correspondent, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.

I think one of the key questions is, did Mark Zuckerberg do what he needed to do here?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Some valuable first step. I think that's definitely true. Facebook still sometimes acts and seems like company that it launched at Harvard, you know, more than a decade ago. It seems like some college student's business when in fact now it's a worldwide player with the power to shape markets and elections and wars. And I think Zuckerberg, you hear him owning up to that in this interview.

BERMAN: Some.

STELTER: But only some, that's right.

BERMAN: Some.

STELTER: He should have said, yes, I'm going to testify. See you on Capitol Hill.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: I was shocked -- I was shocked by that answer.

STELTER: Yes.

BERMAN: That was the number one question he should have been prepared to answer going in, and the answer that gets you out of trouble is yes.

STELTER: And even some of his colleagues want him to say yes.

BERMAN: Just say yes.

STELTER: You know, but Zuckerberg, he's an engineer by heart. He doesn't want to be talking to the press. He wants to talk to his colleagues and make cool products.

BERMAN: He is the CEO.

STELTER: Facebook has a much responsibility.

BERMAN: He is the CEO of a major media company right now. I don't think he gets a get-out-of-jail free card because, you know, he studied coding, you know, before.

STELTER: Right.

BERMAN: He's the CEO of a major company and he couldn't give Laurie a simple answer of yes, I will appear before Congress if they call me next week.

STELTER: That's right. You know, you think about this specific scandal was about data and about use of data. But the issues for Facebook have piled up around fake news, hoaxes, lies that's spread on the platform. Propaganda from foreign governments like Russia buying ads, trying to target voters. These issues have piled up over the past months and years. And I think you now see Zuckerberg trying to address some of that. That's why the most important questions in my mind were about the future, about the midterms in the U.S. and about elections all around the world.

And you do hear Zuckerberg acknowledging he knows that's going to be a challenge. In fact he said at one point to Laurie, I didn't think when I was in my dorm room I'd be dealing with trying to secure the elections all around the world.

BERMAN: And again, not to be cynic here. And that is a charming answer for a kid who did invent Facebook when he was a college student. But he is far beyond that now. So it doesn't matter what he was thinking about when he was sitting in a dorm room creating it. It matters what he thinks about it now, that he's in charge of one of the biggest media companies in the world, Laurie Segall.

And when he talks about some regulation, what regulation would be possible? What kind of safeguards do you think the government would think about putting in place on something like Facebook?

SEGALL: First and foremost, I think there has to be -- you know, there's been talk of a standard for online advertising. When you look at the way that -- you know, that the Russians, that bad actors were able to weaponize a platform and do targeted advertising online, there just aren't the same standards. And what someone said to me behind the scenes at Facebook is if -- you know, if we put these transparency labels on our ads and other tech companies don't, Google or Twitter doesn't, then people might come to Facebook to do the good things but then go elsewhere to do the bad things. So there has to be a standard.

You know, but there is also a lot of caution from these tech companies and these tech leaders when it comes to trusting the government to regulate and the right way. You hear them talking about that all the time. But if they don't get it together and if they don't, you know, have some more solid answers, and if they don't show up, you know, I don't think they're going to have much of a choice.

Someone actually said something interesting to me which was that Google has spent a lot of time lobbying in Washington. Facebook not so much. And another person from Facebook said to me, you know, Facebook used to have a halo also in Washington, used to be invited to all the meetings, have the lawmakers always wanting to talk with leaders. Now there's a very different environment now that we've seen the last year with the weaponization of the platform and all of the things that have gone wrong since, you know, Mark was in his dorm room.

[09:10:07] Now he's an adult and this is a grown-up company with a massive reach and impact on all of us, whether it's children and mental health or also, you know, the weaponization of democracy for political gains. So, you know, I think it's a really pivotal moment in tech and the buzzword behind the campus at Facebook is transparency. I think we want to see more of it.

There are important conversations happening behind closed doors at this tech company that will impact every single one of us. So we want them to be more transparent. We want them to talk. I think Brian is right. This is a step, but this is only a first step.

BERMAN: Guys, stick around for a minute. I want to bring two more voices into this conversation.

Joining me now, CNN national security analyst Asha Rangappa and Nada Bakos.

And Nada, to you, again, one of the questions there that was fascinating to watch was when Laurie asked Mark Zuckerberg if he thought that the outcome of the 2016 election was affected. And he didn't have an answer. He sort of squirmed at that. Clearly he must have been thinking about that for the last 14 months or so. How much of a role did they play? How much of a role was Facebook in terms of being a playing field for what went on in the 2016 election? How do you assess his answer and the reality?

NADA BAKOS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The reality is, we need to see a little bit more information from Facebook in order to gauge exactly how much of a role they played, but I think the influence on Facebook is pretty obvious from what we know of what the data analytics have told us on Cambridge Analytica. We know the social media influence that transpired across the Facebook platform was pretty significant.

I mean, they've been able to capture ads and memes and things that have spread fairly wide, that they understand did, you know, at least reach an audience. And influence is actually something a little separate from reach. So I think capturing the influence piece is what is really difficult to do. But I think there is a way to go about gauging what the influence was, and I think that it would probably behoove Facebook to actually release a little bit more information as to who the audience was that received a lot of this information.

BERMAN: Look, it's very hard to tell what any one thing affects any one vote. But it's pretty clear at this point that Facebook was a place where people did try to meddle in the 2016 election. That was, you know, one of the realms used by, for instance, these people who are listed in the Mueller indictments.

And it's interesting, Asha, because there is some crossover here. We know the Mueller investigation has been looking into things perhaps connected to this. ABC News reported last night, although it's been out there for some time, that they're asking questions about Cambridge Analytica and what they did during the campaign. It's interesting.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. And I think what we need to recognize here is that Facebook has long presented itself as a neutral platform. This idea or this platform where people can bring their ideas and it's democratizing. Unfortunately that doesn't work when a hostile foreign power can exploit it so that they have a million times the voice or amplification that any one person here, and they're fake.

So they need to let go of this idea that they are a neutral platform specially if certain ideas can be circulated in very targeted groups, which is what you're referring to, John, using data that Facebook gathers. That was supposed to be a platform to bring people together. It's now being used to fragment our society.

And one other thing is that because of our First Amendment freedoms, the FBI is very limited in what it can do to investigate that. So we are left to the good will of these companies unless Congress takes some action to impose legislation that forces them to behave in certain ways.

BERMAN: Brian.

STELTER: Yes. To your point, I mean, Facebook is essentially a city at this point and in some ways is beautiful, right? It unites families, it brings communities together. That's all true. But then there's also these dangerous neighborhoods. So like any city, it needs police, it needs judges and leaders, and courts, and it needs independent oversight. And we can't just trust Facebook to police Facebook. I think this week has been a long overdue reckoning about that.

BERMAN: And Brian, I just want you to have you say out loud something I read you write before about who the actual customers of Facebook are and what the product is.

STELTER: If something is free, it means you're the product. And Facebook is free. We all sign up, we give away our information. And that means we're the product for advertisers but also for political campaigns. And I think we all need to recognize the power of these campaigns to target and manipulate us because that's happening again today.

BERMAN: And Laurie Segall, I know you did the interview, you've been working non-stop. Since you finished asking these questions, sometimes you get a sense in the hours after something like this how they think they did, if they're pleased with where the story is going right now. Any sense from inside Silicon Valley if they think they've now finally got this message under control?

[09:15:00]

SEGALL: I don't think the idea is that they 100 percent have it under control. I think, you know, talking to someone within the company before this interview, I heard the sense, we are losing the narrative because we can't talk about these things more openly.

I think this was Mark trying to be accountable and trying to talk about it a little bit more openly. But I go back to saying this doesn't change the fact that they've lost a lot of user trust. That a lot of people are calling on Facebook for transparency and they've got to do a better job, talking about some of these issues really quick, cracking down on fake news.

This is what someone told me, cracking down on fake news is important, but it also leads in some ways leads to censorship if you're not careful in other ways. These are not black-and-white issues. They're dealing with very challenging nuance problems behind the scenes that don't necessarily go on blog posts.

We have to have a better public discussion of them. I think they're trying to push Mark out there a little more to be more comfortable speaking about them. He's much more comfortable behind the scenes with the engineers. But now this is a public facing problem and deserves public answers as we all want to know.

ROMANS: An engineer who again is the CEO of one of the world's big media companies. Laurie Segall, Brian Stelter, Asha Rangappa, Nata Bagos (ph), thanks very much for this discussion.

A lot more news today. I'm not sure this qualifies as news or just -- who knows what the heck it is. The president says he could beat up Joe Biden in a fight. Joe Biden has said much the same thing. We will discuss this.

And we are hearing -- about to hear from two women suing for the right to speak about Donald Trump. Tonight, a former playmate sits down with Anderson Cooper. This weekend we'll also hear from Stormy Daniels. What will this mean to the legal battle?

And the serial bomber recorded a confession video before blowing himself up. His motive still a mystery. What is on that 25-minute tape?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:21:13]

BERMAN: This morning, new signs about what seems to have the president so jumpy and anxious over the Russia investigation the last few days. CNN has learned the main topics that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team says it wants to ask the president about include both the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians and the president's role in crafting a misleading explanation about that meeting, specifically these matters concern the president directly.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins me now to explain what the president's team has been told -- Shimon.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, John. Certainly, jumpy and anxious because this investigation does not seem to be coming to an end any time soon as his lawyers have promised him. What we've learned is that recently in a face-to-face meeting between Trump's lawyers and the special counsel, the attorneys there, they gave the White House attorneys some topics that they want to discuss with the president.

Some of that includes the meeting at Trump Tower, as you mentioned, that is where a Russian met with Don Jr. and a Russian lawyer where they talked about adoption. Then comes this Air Force One statement, which is relating to the Trump Tower meeting where there is information that indicates the president was directly involved in the crafting of what ended up being a misleading statement.

Then there are the two obvious ones, which have to do with Michael Flynn and then the firing of James Comey. Obviously, that part has to do with the obstruction investigation. We don't know when the president will actually meet with Mueller or if he will meet with Mueller at all. That negotiation is still under way.

BERMAN: Very interesting. Again, these questions concern the president directly, perhaps why he's been sniffing around for some new legal representation to beef up that legal team. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you very much.

In the meantime, a new example of statesmanship from the White House this morning, in an official statement the president of the United States called a former vice president weak, both mentally and physically and said, if he had a fight with Joe Biden, Biden would go down hard.

To be fair, the former vice president keeps saying he would beat up the president. This is clearly what Abraham Lincoln had in mind when he talked about our better angels.

CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White House for us this morning. Good morning, Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Well, it almost seems as if these two men want to take us back to the days of duels. It's really unclear besides Joe Biden, the former vice president, and the president trying to get under each other's skin in their public statements and on social media.

The president this morning responding to what Joe Biden had to say about him, suggesting that Biden was threatening him and that he would actually beat him in a fight. Listen to what Biden said earlier this week at the University of Miami that prompted that feedback from the president this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When a guy who ended up being a national news said grabbing women anywhere and she liked it, they asked me would I like to debate the gentleman. I said no, if we were in high school, I'd take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: It is not the first time that Joe Biden has made comments like that about Trump and that Trump has responded to Biden. They did almost this exact same thing during the campaign in 2016, but clearly Joe Biden, someone widely known to be considering a 2020 run is trying to take some swipes at President Trump.

And Trump who is known to hit back at anybody who he thinks might be a political threat to him, is eager to respond on this. It seems very much that this conversation has kind of gone down into the gutter on this particular subject -- John.

BERMAN: Yes, and it's really a new low we can celebrate on that. In the meantime, major policy expected from the White House today in regards to China and tariffs. What have you learned?

[09:25:06] PHILLIP: That's right. This is a pretty big deal, with the president fulfilling a promise to put tariffs on China. We're talking about something that could be close to $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods coming into the United States. The president is set to make this announcement around midday today.

The real thing everyone is looking for is how will China respond, will there be a new spark for a trade war that has been potentially on the horizon. The president here is wanting to crack down on what the White House and the administration has said has been unfair trade practices including the Chinese government bank rolling the stealing of U.S. secrets and innovation.

Some folks in Washington are eager to see this move. But at the same time again, the fear of the trade war could lead to higher prices for consumers, but President Trump wants to make sure to be fulfilling these promises he made in the campaign, just like he did a couple weeks ago when it came to aluminum and steel tariffs -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Abby Phillip at the White House. Abby asked a key question, how will China respond? The stock market before the opening bell doesn't seem to like it how we have learned China might respond. Chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, here with a sign of what the Chinese might be thinking.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The Chinese Foreign Ministry overnight basically saying there are four big categories of exports and they will be targeted. Those are soy beans, airplanes, cars and auto parts and cotton. The foreign ministry saying we can have strategic retaliation that could hurt you.

That's what you're seeing there in the stock market, concerns that indeed these are the first whiffs of a trade war. We'll have the opening bell right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: All right. John Berman here. We're 30 seconds away from the opening bell on Wall Street. We're watching this today very closely. Why? Because the White House will announce new tariffs on China and Chinese products later today. The markets don't seem to like it.

I'm joined by CNN chief business correspondent, Christine Romans. Already in pre-market trading, we are seeing a lot of red, down arrows right now.

ROMANS: So, look, this is on top of the steel and aluminum tariffs. It looks like a lot of exemptions for our trading partners on steel and aluminum. This is targeting China and it's targeting, you know, a hundred different products or categories in China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has already said, look, there are things that we can do.