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Facebook Removes 30 Suspected Russia-Linked Accounts Ahead of Midterms; Pence Blames Obama Administration for Cybersecurity Failures; Apple Sprints Toward $ Trillion Market Value; Trump to A.G. Sessions: End Russia Probe Right Now; Trump Blames China for Farmers' Tariff Troubles; Bizarre Q Conspiracy Theme Pops Up at Trump Rally; Interview With Rep. Ryan Costello. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 1, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] GRAHAM BROOKIE, DIRECTOR, DIGITAL FORENSIC RESEARCH LAB, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Anything in this scenario, there's no silver bullet to say it was 100 percent Russia. What you can do is say, OK, well, there's 12 different factors that we look at and this very specific case exhibited eight of them, so we can say with a high degree of confidence that it was Russia or was not Russia. So what you are talking about is not 100 percent but you are talking about degrees of confidence.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Graham, is this influence campaign that Facebook's talking about this time and that you've looked at, is it different tactically, if you will, from the previous one after 2016?

BROOKIE: So, what I would say is that, those who would sow disinformation are adaptive. The tactics are changing. I would say that it is getting more sophisticated, harder to detect. And what we saw on the pages yesterday was a very specific focus on highly polarized issues, as well as growing as much of an audience, then trying to translate to action in the real world. So growing an audience on a Facebook group or page or something like that, then trying to translate that into action on the street or in protests or things like that.

BOLDUAN: With regard to all of this, the Trump administration's very squarely placing the blame on the Obama administration for being caught flat-footed. I want to play for are the vice president in what he just said just yesterday. Listen to this.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The last administration all but neglected cybersecurity, even though the digital threats were growing more numerous and more dangerous by the day. In 2014, a foreign government actually hacked in to 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) BOLDUAN: Graham, you worked for Obama. You were a top aide for cybersecurity. How do you make the case that you all did enough when Russia is clearly, was then, is now still attacking and interfering?

BROOKIE: So I think that a very distinct decision was made during the last administration. You can see from announcements that were made from the Department of Homeland Security, the Intelligence Community, the FBI, well ahead of the 2016 elections, as well as a community-wide assessment that came out after the elections, that said, Russia is 100 percent trying to influence the United States elections. That's -- that is a conclusion that we came to any number of times. What is true is that this is a truly national security issue. It is bipartisan in nature. And any action that needs to be taken needs to be bipartisan. During the campaign season around 2016, there wasn't a bipartisan appetite to address this problem. I hope that that will be slightly different heading into the 2018 midterms.

BOLDUAN: One thing that has changed, I noticed, it's been noted, that when John Bolton came on as national security advisor in May, he eliminated the position of cybersecurity coordinator at the White House. Do you think that position would be making a difference today?

BROOKIE: I think that regardless of whether there's a cybersecurity coordinator at the national Security Council, there are a number of truly dedicated public servants and career professionals that are working on cybersecurity issues, specifically across the U.S. government. I think that that is important. That's a 24/7 capability. That will continue to be the case. But at the same time, not having a cybersecurity coordinator at the White House specifically is a statement of priorities. So there's a disconnect between the comments that were made yesterday in New York talking about cybersecurity as a growing challenge, then actually not placing personnel on the White House that are working on those issues.

BOLDUAN: Can you put it finally in perspective for me? Dan Coats is saying that the warning lights are flashing again with regard to Russian interference. How under threat is the midterm election?

BROOKIE: So I think the midterm elections are a top threat target. The way that we would talk about that is, it is a target for cyber- enabled activity. I think that you've seen actions on both ends of that leading into the midterms. So just last week it was reported that certain e-mails were being potentially hacked into for key candidates, as well as the action that Facebook took yesterday, which would be an influence operation. So I think that you do have the clear telltale signs that both of those activities are occurring in the lead-up to the 2018 midterms, and that it is a top priority in terms of threats that we face right now.

BOLDUAN: Again, is it a top priority on a bipartisan way to stop it from happening.

Graham, thanks for coming in. Really appreciate it.

BROOKIE: Thank you. [11:34:59] BOLDUAN: More breaking news this hour we need to get it.

Apple is within striking distance of $1 trillion right now. Yes, Apple's market valuation could hit an historic milestone.

CNN Money's editor-at-large, Richard Quest, is live at the New York Stock Exchange.

Richard, $1 trillion is a lot of money for anybody, I would offer up. But what does it mean for Apple?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It means they would be the most valuable company in the world. It would be a behemoth that crosses oceans and continents, that they would be pretty much untouchable. And $1 trillion. Basically the share price at the moment is up some 5 percent on excellent reports and earnings last night. They are selling as many iPhones. So the number of iPhone that they sold remained pretty steady. But, we are prepared to pay more for them. Over $700 each. So they are getting more money from us for the same number of phones that they are selling, which is just about nirvana if you happen to be Apple.

On the other side of this, of course, as the share price goes higher, so it becomes more difficult. We're at $200 a share. The magic number, Kate, the magic number, $203.45. The moment you see Apple hit that, the company is worth $1 trillion.

We'll discuss it on "CNN MARKETS NOW" in just about an hour from now.

BOLDUAN: We'll be there.

Great to see you, Richard. Thank you.

Back to our other breaking news. This morning, President Trump directing his attorney general, via Twitter, to put a stop to the Russia investigation, saying that in no uncertain terms. What do Republican lawmakers do about that? How do they feel about that? We'll ask one. That's next.


[11:41:33] BOLDUAN: "There was no collusion, and collusion isn't even a crime anyway." That's the greatest hits from the president of the United States. And they are so yesterday's news. Because today it is, "Stop this whole thing." The president's shocking statement on Twitter for the first time calling explicitly for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Mueller probe. What does Mueller do with this? Well, maybe more importantly at this moment is, what do Republicans do with this?

Joining me right now, Republican Congressman Ryan Costello, of Pennsylvania.

Congressman, great to have you here in the studio. Thanks for coming in.

REP. RYAN COSTELLO, (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Good to be with you, Kate. BOLDUAN: What is your reaction to the statement from the president today when he says attorney general should put a stop to this?

COSTELLO: First, as we all know, Attorney General Sessions has recused himself so he doesn't have the legal capacity to terminate Mueller. That would have to be Rosenstein and --

BOLDUAN: Does that bring you comfort?

COSTELLO: What I think that that does is, it separate President Trump's opinion from his instructions. I still find the tweet to be inappropriate and intemperate.

But having said that, just from a purely legal perspective, it is important to note that if the president wants to fire Mueller, he can do that under Article II. But instructing or suggesting that Attorney General Sessions should, Attorney General Sessions doesn't have the ability to do that.

I think the best thing that can happen here is the president -- which he won't do, but he should do -- is leave it alone. Let the investigation run its course. People are concerned about Russian interference in American elections. Russia is interfering in elections all across the globe. We should take it very, very seriously. It's a very serious issue. Russia's trying to divide us from within and do harm to our democracy. Saying we should shut down an investigation over that is highly improper.

BOLDUAN: This is the first time that he's really explicitly saying that Jeff Sessions should do this. I know that some Republicans have said, of course, that Mueller should be able to finish his work, and just like you said, Donald Trump should stay out of it. Does this now mean you all should act and do something to protect Mueller?

COSTELLO: Well, I do think that we should. There's legislation in the House I have signed on to that would not allow the dismissal of the independent counsel except for cause. And if that were to happen, you would have to report that to Congress. There would be a little bit of a process that would be undertaken.

BOLDUAN: Do you think this changes the appetite for that? Because clearly there's been no appetite for that.

COSTELLO: I am doubtful. I think what you'll find is, ultimately, someone will come out and say he was expressing an opinion and he doesn't have the capacity to do it anyway. It's like going up to the line, poking it a little bit and then retreating. But it undermines the integrity of the investigation. I think it is a legitimate investigation.

Let me just echo the comments of my colleague, Trey Gowdy, "If you're innocent, act like you're innocent." Don't do this stuff day after day. It just creates more hoopla around it when we should be focused on the trade issue, which is very serious. It is very damaging to our farmers. We should also be talking about the success of the tax cuts, something that I voted for. Republicans do have a good message. This gets in the way of that.

BOLDUAN: I want to get to trade. I'll say time for that.

I've heard Paul Ryan say, "I have received assurances that his firing is not even under consideration." Does Paul Ryan -- in light of this today, does Paul Ryan need to reconsider that? Does Paul Ryan need to say something more forceful as the top Republican in the House?

[11:45:00] COSTELLO: I think the speaker is obviously a very smart man. I don't know what he is doing today, but I'm sure he will review what was said and speak with his counsel on that. I don't want to get out in front of the speaker. I have great confidence in his leadership. I think that he's probably said he would prefer -- I don't mean to put words in the speaker's mouth -- but he would probably prefer the president tweets a lot less on this as well.

BOLDUAN: I think he's definitely said that one or two times.


BOLDUAN: Let's talk about these tariffs. CNN's now reporting the Trump administration is considering raising tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, raising the tariff from 10 percent to 25 percent. I want to play for you what the president actually said about the trade war with China last night. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our farmers are true patriots.


TRUMP: Because China and others have targeted -- China and others -- remember this -- have targeted our farmers. Not good. Not nice. And you know what our farmers are saying? It's OK. We can take it. These are incredible people.


BOLDUAN: Are you hearing that from farmers, it's OK, we can take it?

COSTELLO: Farmers are concerned. They are small businessmen, businesswomen, and they have taken decades to develop a lot of the relationships they have with their exports. So if -- we also know, by the way, that China -- we knew that the retaliatory tariffs were coming and they were going to hit America where it hurts the most. And farmers are bearing the brunt of that. I don't think they like the thought of getting a $12 billion bailout. I think what they want is not to have their business operations interrupted by now having to sell something or having it be purchased for much more than what they had anticipated.

Having said all that, I think what the president wants to do is reduce barriers. He's right to do that. What he's -- he's said to members of Congress, don't be weak, don't talk about this. I think what he's trying to do is forecast to the international community that he is dug in and he is going to get better deals.


BOLDUAN: It's basically short-term pain long-term gain.


BOLDUAN: Do you see that?

COSTELLO: We're feeling the short-term pain right now, and for a lot of us, it is very concerning because we have constituents that are bearing the brunt of that. This is very uncertain terrain right now. And I think that -- I would point to the National Defense Authorization Act, which we just passed out of the House. It is going to get passed out of the Senate. What we are doing there's getting tough on China in different ways. I think my concern here, as it is with many, is this is not the appropriate way to go about getting better trade deals.

BOLDUAN: Real quick. The president is continuing his threat on the government shutdown if he doesn't get his border wall and other national border security measures. Do you agree with that?

COSTELLO: No. I think it is -- no. I don't. I don't think the government's going to get shut down. If we are talking about a government --


BOLDUAN: Where is your confidence?

COSTELLO: I just -- I don't see that happening. What I -- that was as much, I think, about shifting the discussion from his press conference with Vladimir Putin, as it was anything else, because now we are talking about a potential shutdown in September. It is just not going to happen. There's no appetite for it, one. And two, we had a bill in the House that conservatives left us out to dry on that would have funded the wall, that would have solved DACA, and some other very long-term durable immigration reform measures. So there's a frustration amongst many of us in the House that want to get an immigration reform package done that does include border wall funding that was undermined by some in our party. I think the president, if he wanted to get his border wall funded, he could have leaned in on that and supported the compromise bill a lot stronger than he did.

BOLDUAN: This is why it is all so confusing for everyone watching it play out.

Thank you for coming in, Congressman. I really appreciate t.

COSTELLO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Much more to discuss with Ryan Costello on another day.

Coming up, mysterious signs popped up at the Trump rally. You see those signs right there with "We are Q?" The movement behind it is even more bizarre than what the sign is, but it's now going mainstream because it is showing up at Trump rallies. We'll talk about it. It's coming up, next.


[11:53:26] BOLDUAN: A curious theme popped up at the president's campaign-style rally last night. Signs, T-shirts saying, "We are Q" or "QAnon." What is this all about? It comes down to a conspiracy theory. And the bizarre claims seem to be going somewhat mainstream among some of the president's supporters.

Joining me now, Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at- large, for a little more about this.

Chris, explain this.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: So this is something that's existed, Kate, since about the fall of 2017. It grew out of the whole Pizzagate thing. Remember that, the guy who came to Washington with a gun --

BOLDUAN: Oh, yes.

CILLIZZA: -- believing that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were running a pedophile ring out of a restaurant in Washington. It grows out of that. Basically, you've hit it. It's just a broad-scale conspiracy theory run by a guy named Q, or a person named Q -- nobody knows the identity -- who drops bread crumbs, hints to followers, very cryptic, that there's a broad-scale conspiracy as it relates to the government, and Donald Trump is bringing down the global elite. They talk about the storm, that he's going to lock all these people, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, up in Guantanamo Bay. It's been out there for a while. There's been some cross-section over Donald Trump's supporters but this is sort of -- last night was the most-high profile we've seen.

BOLDUAN: Chris, it's been out there, but like on the real fringe out there for a while. I just wonder why it's now -- what happened last night?

CILLIZZA: Well, there was 8-Chan which is a growth from 4-Chan, which is a message board of folks, hosted outside the country, who are sort of followers of this theory, and it was a sort of a go to this rally and show your support for Q. So that's what explains last night.

But this is something that keeps popping up again and again and again. There's a strong cross-section with people who are Donald Trump supporters. And by the way, that's not to say -- it's not even close to 5 percent or even 1 percent of Donald Trump's supporters.

[11:55:38] BOLDUAN: Right, right, right.

CILLIZZA: It's just those people who are -- who ascribe to this do tend to support Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: So many people have no idea what we're even talking about. Why we wanted to explain it. Let alone, who knows --


CILLIZZA: It's important.

BOLDUAN: -- any awareness of what that is. But it's important to know about it nonetheless.

Great to see you, Chris. Thank you so much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, much more on the president's shocking tweet this morning calling on his attorney general to end the Russia investigation. Jeff Sessions is speaking live right now. Will he respond? We'll find out.