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One Year After The Violence In Charlottesville; Stunning Revelation Out Of Puerto Rico On Victims Of Hurricane Maria; Massive Holy Fire Burning In Southern California; Democratic Senator Fighting For Another Term In Florida Is Taking Heat Now; Defense Secretary James Mattis Sending A Top General To Saudi Arabia Now To Help With The Yemen Air Strike Investigation; Aired 7:00-8:00p ET
Aired August 12, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: But their big white power rally was a flop. Just a few people representing white supremacist groups showed up, most of them covering their faces. They were greatly outnumbered even by police officers assigned to protect them.
By contrast, crowds of counter-protesters showed up to answer the hate group's message, their voices, their signs promoting diversity, tolerance and support for the people of Charlottesville.
CNN's Brian Todd has been there on the scene. He is joining us now from Washington.
Clearly, Brian, the anti-hate side came to Washington today with a purpose. What happened to this big white supremacist rally?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, got drowned out, Ana. And we do have to say that we have some tension flaring up here, some people with some kind of a conservative message showed up. These are the people right here that -- the people with the camouflage jackets. We do not know if they are white supremacists or not. I have to say we do not know that. But the people here have basically chased them out of the square and they are shouting them down and now they have kind of retreated toward the police and these people -- some of the anti-fascist, anti-racist protesters are really getting vociferous here, trying shouting them down and chase them out of Lafayette Square. They are now being kind of flanked by a couple of police officers and we are following them as they go.
So again, this is kind of at the end of the day here. The protesters have mostly left, but there have been a couple of flare-ups like this, I would not term this to be a major incident, but this is the passion and tension that existed here, especially the energy here on the anti- racist side.
As you said, they have vastly outnumbered the white supremacists. The white supremacists were basically chased out early here. They didn't even necessarily get a chance to engage into their speaking program and they left early. They basically left defeated. There are only maybe a couple dozen of them. And only just -- I'll point you back toward this way. Now, some of the protesters who were here made their way as they were
dispersing a couple of blocks from here. At that point, these were anti-fascist protesters, many of whom arrived in black outfits, black bandannas, black helmets. Some of them are more confrontational with the police.
When they moved over there, there was a confrontation with police where tear gas was fired on them. We have some video of the couple of the protesters slightly injured in the streets being tended to with their eyes, kind of flushing out their eyes from the tear gas. We have some video of that. That was just a few moments ago. And, again that was just a couple of blocks away from here.
What happened then was they were kind of trying to do a -- an impromptu march. They quickly turned direction. And when they turned basically maybe quick U-turn, the police were right behind them. They confronted the police, one of them threw a trash can at police. That's when they fired tear gas and a couple of them were slightly injured.
Come on over here, (INAUDIBLE), my photojournalist is going to show you them pointing at these people. Again, the people in the fatigues over there were, again, we don't know exactly who they are. We don't know if they are white supremacists or simply conservatives or whatever. But they had a counter message is what I can say, to what was going on here.
They have just been chased out of the park. They are now consulting with police over there. And, look, you can see a police barrier basically standing between them and a crowd that pretty much wants to get to them, Ana.
CABRERA: Boy. Well, keep us posted, Brian Todd. I know it is an unpredictable situation right now. We see a heavy police presence. It is good news that the white supremacists who had planned to show up came and left. But we obviously will continue to monitor what has become a little bit of a tense situation.
Again, in Washington, D.C., right now this all taking place not far from the White House, the nation's capital. Brian Todd, continue to keep us posted.
In the meantime, I want to bring in Elle Reeve, she is the vice news reporter who chronicled the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville for a documentary last year including interviewing one of the faces of the movement, Christopher Cantwell. And her coverage won a Peabody award.
I want to play a quick clip of her chilling report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Jews will not replace us.
Whose streets? Our streets.
Whose streets? Our streets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: I mean, that was just so shocking, Elle, to see those pictures, you made us all a witness to a very disturbing reality in this day and age. I mean, I remember watching that, thinking what year is this?
Excellent reporting. Congratulations on the award that you won for your reporting. What is your perspective on what we are seeing this year, a year later?
[19:05:09] ELLE REEVE, CORRESPONDENT, VICE NEWS TONIGHT: So Charlottesville is supposed to be the moment when the alt-right stepped off line and showed they are a real movement that people had to take seriously. What happened was it put an incredible amount of pressure on them and it shows their weakness. And their organization, their leadership, all those guys we just saw on screen, activist figured out who they were, made their names public and then a lot those guys got fired from their jobs. So that's one reason people don't want to show up today.
Another reason it showed that the leaders are weak, they are not good at organizing. Jason Kissler who organized last year's rally was the guy in charge this year. He has been fighting with almost every single figure in the alt-right to the point where they began denouncing him a couple of weeks ago and told their followers not to go to this rally.
CABRERA: Did revealing what they were doing, what they were thinking, because you really embedded with them. You got a chance to kind of get inside their minds. Were any minds changed after what happened last year?
REEVE: Not in my reporting. Not in any of the people I have talked to. They want to be off the radar. They don't want to affect midterms because they know that their only real influence on politics right now is making politicians they like look bad. So they want to be off the radar. But they still very much believe in this stuff.
CABRERA: What do you see as happening with the alt-right and more specifically the white supremacist movement?
REEVE: So they have been kicked off social media. Except for one very right wing one called Gab. They cannot raise money online and that's a bigger problem for them. So credit card payment processors will not allow them to use their technology. So for an internet movement that is -- that is just choking them. They can't use crowd funding sites.
So they can't talk to each other in private because anti-fascist protesters have infiltrated all their communications networks. So they are really limited right now. Chris Cantwell, the man I interviewed last year, he is making all his money through Bitcoin. CABRERA: There was some concern last year that after President
Trump's comments in which he said they were fine people, on both sides, that would embolden this movement. Do you see any evidence of that, even with their organization being disrupted?
REEVE: Yes, they loved that. They loved it when he said that. Trump exceeded their expectations beyond their wildest dreams. But as the problems of Charlottesville compounded over the week and months, recently one alt-right leader told me that he thought it was a bad thing when Trump got elected because it made them too prominent too soon and they weren't ready.
CABRERA: Some argue coverage of these events and rallies gives unnecessary attention to them. Is that a concern to you?
REEVE: Totally. That's something we take very seriously. We talk about for hours before we shoot any of these stories. But it is kind of (INAUDIBLE) for now, but a year ago, people thought maybe these guys were just being ironic. This was all one big joke. And so it was really important to see them chanting things like Jews will not replace us to show that this is real and this is serious and people really believe that.
CABRERA: Elle, thank you for coming on, giving us your perspective on all of this after knowing so much about what's going on right now in this situation.
Earlier today, CNN had a chance to speak with the mother of the young woman killed in last year's protest rallies in Charlottesville, Heather Heyer. She told us it is helpful to be around people who are also mourning her daughter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN BRO, HEATHER HEYER'S MOTHER: There were some people there very traumatized, they were there last year and it was very challenging for them. One man hugged me and couldn't stop the tears rolling down his cheeks.
Another one came up and said he had been there last year and he is having a hard time talking to me. And I learned to spot -- I said, have you been in counseling yet? Well, I have some friends I can talk to. I said, you need counseling, there is money available if you need it. There are funds available at the victims fund if you need it.
You need to go into counseling. He said, I'll think about it. I hope he does, because the longer you delay, the worse it gets is what I've been told. A lot of hurting and needy people still. I saw one young lady that just finished her third or fourth and final surgery about a month ago and she walked. She walked up to hug me. And that was awesome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: That was Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer. The Omarosa tapes, the President's former top aide, revealing a
recorded conversation between her and chief of staff John Kelly. Why this could be a major security blunder for the White House.
The NTSB has just recovered the flight data recorder from the sight of the passenger plane crashed by an airport employee. This as the man's family is now speaking out.
And how many people actually died in hurricane Maria? Well, it depends who you ask. A CNN reality check is coming up. You don't want to miss it.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:14:31] CABRERA: President Trump's legal team has just made a major reversal. His attorney Rudy Giuliani telling CNN today the President never asked former FBI director James Comey to drop an FBI investigation into Michael Flynn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: The President says he never told Comey that he should go easy on Flynn. Comey says the President did. He put it in his memo. If he goes in and testifies to that under oath, instead of just being a dispute, they can say it is perjury. If they elect to believe Comey, instead of Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:15:04] CABRERA: CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez joins us live from New Jersey, where the President is spending his holiday.
Boris this is a big U-turn because Giuliani had previously said the exact opposite, right?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: right, Ana. Giuliani maintains this is not a contradiction, but let's recall in July on ABC News, he said that President Trump asked James Comey to cut Michael Flynn some slack, to give him a break, so to speak, something he says that he was asked to do many times as a prosecutor. He argues that Comey should have taken him into consideration but not seen it as a directive and that is why he says President Trump did not attempt to obstruct justice. You don't have to take my word for it. This is video from Rudy Giuliani back in July. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is he a good witness for the President if he's saying the President was asking, directing him in his words to let the Michael Flynn investigation go?
GIULIANI: He didn't direct him to do that. What he said to him was can you --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Comey says he took it as direction.
GIULIANI: Well, that's OK. Taking it that way. I mean, by that time he had been fired and he said a lot of other things, some of which turned out to be untrue. The reality is, as a prosecutor, I was told that many times can you give the man a break, by his lawyers, by his relatives, by friends. You take that into consideration. But you know, that doesn't determine not going forward with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Now, Giuliani says that this was a misunderstanding, that when he answered that question on ABC News, he was using a device and legal argument known as arguing in the alternative. However, he didn't really make that clear in that sound bite. It makes the case that the President and his legal team are yet again trying to clarify statements that they made previously. This time Giuliani, again, arguing that the President should not testify before the special counsel. He believes that Robert Mueller is trying to set the President up for a perjury trap by asking what specifically he told James Comey and why he fired the former FBI director -- Ana.
CABRERA: Boris, this isn't the only thing team Trump is responding to today. They are also dealing with a disgruntled ex-staffer, Omarosa. She's written this new tell all book and she was out shopping it today. She released a recording she secretly took inside the situation room of chief of staff John Kelly, firing her. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE STAFF: Can I ask you a couple of questions, does the President -- is the President aware of this?
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Let's not go down the road. This is a nonnegotiable discussion.
MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: I don't want to negotiate, I never had a chance to talk to you, General Kelly. So if this is my departure, I would like to have at least an opportunity to understand --
KELLY: We can talk another time. This has to do with some pretty serious integrity violations. So let it go at that. So the staff and everyone on the staff works for me, not the President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Boris, is the White House responding?
SANCHEZ: They are, Ana. This is just another scandalous aspect to "Unhinge,"Omarosa's tell all book set to be released shortly. The White House essentially arguing that Omarosa is not a credible source.
They write quote "the very idea that a staff member would sneak a recording device into the White House situation room shows a blatant disregard for a national security and then to brag about it on national television further proves the lack of character and integrity of this disgruntled former White House employee."
That coming directly from press secretary Sarah Sanders.
There are a multitude of questions about this, namely whether what Omarosa did was legal. Also, though, why did John Kelly take her into the situation room to dismiss her and, further, what serious infractions is he talking about? What serious legal problems is he telling Omarosa that she may be facing as part of the reason why he would like her to have sort of friendly exit from the White House? I've asked the White House press team about that, they have yet to respond, Ana.
CABRERA: Boris Sanchez, thank you for that report from Berkeley heights, New Jersey.
A stunning revelation out of Puerto Rico, the death toll may be more than 1400 people, so why is the government just now releasing this information? Ten months later? A CNN reality check next.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:23:49] CABRERA: We are back with some pretty insane video we have to show you out of New Jersey. This was taken from a bridge in little falls, about 30 minutes from Jersey City. Look at this. This weekend, massive thunderstorms dumped five inches of rain in this area. And those are cars from a nearby dealership that were swept into a river by flooding. A local toll company says as of this morning, they fished more than a dozen cars out of the water there.
Now, for a CNN reality check. One of the biggest scandals in recent memory is still unfolding and getting in where near the attention it deserves. This week, news organizations got wind of a new number of deaths, quietly released by the government of Puerto Rico, in July, ten months after hurricane Maria devastated the island.
My colleague John Avlon breaks it down.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Initial death toll was 16. Local authorities insisted it wouldn't increase significantly. But it was then revised to 64. Anyone surveying the damage could tell you this was a little untethered to reality. So then came the independent studies.
CNN was one of the first, then Harvard, "The New York Times," "The New England Journal" of medicine and others, all pushed back with significantly higher numbers. The mayor of San Juan even started wearing a hat with one of the worst estimates printed on it out of protest. But for months, the government stuck with 64. Earlier this summer our Alysin Camerota pressed the governor of Puerto Rico to find out why.
[19:25:22] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The number, the official number on your Web site is still 64. If you know that to be wrong, why is that still the government number?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is taking time no doubt about it.
CAMEROTA: But the number is still on your Web site. I mean --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Making sure all the data --
CAMEROTA: Sorry to interrupt. You're saying the number on the Web site, the official death toll is not accurate?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we have never expected that it was accurate, that's why we always said that it was going to be higher.
AVLON: Well, it turns out the real number is more than 20 times higher. Not 64. But at least 1,427. This is an estimate. The official number won't be revised until a government sanctions study is released by George Washington University and that study has been delayed.
But this revised estimate was quietly revealed by the government back in June, only after CNN and the center for investigative journalism in Puerto Rico sued for it. The number was officially released in a report in July. There was no official announcement. Hardly anybody noticed and it would appear the government of Puerto Rico wanted it that way.
But the families and friends of the fallen have certainly noticed. Many of these are deaths of neglect, a failure to respond to remote areas in the wake of the storm, compounded by feeble infrastructure.
1,427, these are American citizens, not statistics, and while the nation righteously rallied around New Orleans after Katrina, Puerto Rico seems to have suffered a death toll almost as horrific.
Maria is now estimated to be among the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history. But it suffered its loss in the dark, literally. Some residents of the island just got their power back, nearly a year after the storm hit. What's worse? There have been no congressional inquests or serious attempts to learn from the deadly mistakes.
Our fellow Americans on the island of Puerto Rico now facing another hurricane season deserve better. And that's your reality check.
CABRERA: John Avlon, thank you for that.
California is breathing a small sign of relief as firefighters gain some control over that once out of control holy fire. Check this out, the owner of a restaurant in the path of the flames refusing to evacuate. The story behind these remarkable pictures next, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:32:06] CABRERA: One week after it started, we are finally getting some good news about the massive holy fire burning in southern California. Officials say this fire is now 41 percent contained, a five percent increase since last night. The holy fire has already destroyed 12 structures in the Cleveland national forest and thousands of houses in riverside and orange counties are still threatened.
In the midst of this awful crisis, the community is coming together to help. One local restaurant owner, frank, is keeping his establishment open despite the evacuation orders. Hell Kitchen in Lake (INAUDIBLE) have been providing food and shelter for the 1500 firefighters battling the blaze since this fire began.
And if you want to help cover some of the food costs, you can contribute to the restaurant's go fund me account. All you have to do is search holy fire first responder fund.
Now let's head to Washington State where authorities now have one of the black boxes from that stolen commercial plane that crashed near Seattle. This is some new video of that crash site where police say 29-year-old Richard Russell who worked as a ground service agent for horizon air stole the empty plane, flew it for about an hour and crashed it on this rural island.
Let's get to our correspondent Kyung Lah who is not far from the crash site -- Kyung.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, the flight data recorder that you are talking about has been recovered by the NTSB. Tomorrow it will be shipped to Washington and then they will analyze it. They're hoping to fill in the blanks a little bit more about the tick- tock of exactly what happened in the air.
The "what" here is very clear to investigators, at least in this initial investigation. Now there are more difficult questions to be answered in what happened with this very visible crash.
LAH (voice-over): First, the Puget sound region saw the low flying stolen plane. Then the scrambled f-15s. But then we heard him, horizon air ground service agent Richard Russell, age 29.
RICHARD RUSSELL, SUSPECT: Hey, can this do a back flip, do you think? Maybe try a barrel roll and if that goes good, I'll go nose down and call it a night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, let's try to land that airplane safely and not hurt anybody on the ground.
RUSSELL: All right. I don't know, man. I don't know. I don't want to. I was kind of hoping that was going to be it, you know.
LAH: A troubled man who cleared background checks, and worked in a secured area of Seattle's airport for three and a half years.
RUSSELL: Hi, I'm Bebo Russell and I'm a ground service agent. LAH: A job he appeared to love in this video post. Married to his
college sweetheart, Russell posted pictures of their travel, a social media footprint and life devoid of signs of mental illness.
RUSSELL: I know a lot of people care about me. And it is going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess, never really knew it until now.
[19:35:15] MIKE MATTHEWS, RUSSELL FAMILY SPOKESMAN: May seem difficult for those watching at home to believe but Bebo was a warm compassionate man. As the voice recording show. His intent was not to harm anyone. He was right in saying there are so many people who have loved him.
LAH: The national transportation safety board says virtually nothing is left of the downed plane. But investigators recovered the flight recorder intact. The FBI already knows much of what unfolded. The why and how remain the thrust of the investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were some maneuvers that were done that were incredible maneuvers with the aircraft. To our knowledge, he didn't have a pilot's license. So to be honest with you, I mean, commercial aircraft are complex machines. They're not as easy to fly as, say, a Cessna 150. So I don't know how he achieved the experience that he did.
LAH: Alaska air group, the parent company of horizon, says this plane theft will push the airline to re-evaluate their post 9/11 security. But a former horizon airline worker says even a minimally trained ground service worker could do this with online flight simulators.
JEREMY KAELIN, FORMER CO-WORKER: Part of his job description on tow team was to operate some of the systems that were -- he was trained to do by Horizon Air, which is part of the tow team. And do, and so essentially he just took that knowledge and then built off of it.
LAH: Now, in talking to air traffic control, Russell did say he made reference to playing video games, but those officials who were at the news conference simply thought that couldn't be it. And that they need to harden their security, take a hard look at themselves, and what's happening at these secured areas, Ana, so they don't have a repeat - Ana.
CABRERA: What a story. Kyung Lah, thank you.
She was the only person, aside from his daughter, who had known and worked alongside Donald Trump for more than a decade. And now it is a 180 for Omarosa after revealing she has tapes from her time in the White House.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:41:50] CABRERA: Another week, another tape, revealing new shock waves that are being sent through the Trump administration. Omarosa Manigault-Newman, a former aide to President Trump, said this morning on NBC that she secretly recorded conversations in the White House situation room. And she actually played the tape, causing alarm among those in the national security community, and the White House itself.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders releasing a statement saying this recording shows a blatant disregard for our national security. And that brings us to your weekend Presidential brief, a segment we bring you every Sunday night, highlighting some of the most pressing national security information the President will need when he wakes up tomorrow.
And joining us now is CNN national security Analyst and former national Security Council adviser Sam Vinograd, helping to prep for the President's daily brief. And before we get into this Presidential brief, I have to ask you about the Omarosa recording, in the situation room. I know you have been in that room, Sam. You told me that you actually had to step outside to talk to your mom on the phone. So how concerning is this from a national security perspective?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, this just really signals that the White House remains both highly valuable and highly vulnerable to foreign intelligence services. Omarosa like any other White House staffer was the prime target for foreign intelligence services because of her access to conversations and to people that these foreign intelligence services want to gather information on. That's why you get a security briefing when you join the White House and they tell you things like the fact that hacking electronics isn't a new spy game. Your cell phone is an easy way for a foreign agent to hack into conversations in the White House. That's why you check them at the door. You put them in a box when you go into a secure room.
But security is built on trust. There is no security guard at the state room door, there aren't strip searches before you go in, that's why this is also a personnel issue. Presidents are supposed to hire people that want to minimize the risk of a foreign intelligence service hacking their device and hacking conversations and I blame this also on General Kelly as chief of staff. He is supposed to create environment of trust at the White House and respect for rules and he fell down on this.
CABRERA: It was interesting to hear her say also on one of those recordings that this was the first time that she had even spoken with chief of staff John Kelly.
Let me turn to the situation in Turkey right now, because it seems to be escalating in terms of the tensions and the relationship between the U.S. and Turkey going south very quickly. How do you expect Erdogan to respond?
VINOGRAD: We have come a long way from the fist pumping that we saw between Erdogan and Trump just a few weeks ago in Brussels. And Erdogan has refused to turn over this American pastor, Pastor Brunson. We sanctioned him. And President Trump announced we are raising tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum. So I expect Erdogan to blame us.
Turkey's economy is in a tail spin. We have 13 percent inflation. The lira has lost 30 percent of its value. That didn't start because of President Trump. That's been going on for months because of economic mismanagement. But now Erdogan can just blame the United States and say that it is our fault.
He will probably allow the central bank to do a rate hike to try to tamper down inflation to show that he is responding in some way. While externally he is probably going to turn east. He is going to cozy up to Russia, which he has been doing for a long time. He has bought their defense systems. He is going to get closer to Iran. They have expressed solidarity for each other. Turkey said they're not going to implement U.S. sanctions against Iran. And he'll do all this while he's planning how he's going to retaliate against us. I don't think he is going to do a direct count measure for hire a terrorist (ph) because he doesn't want to risk a trade war because his economy is so under pressure.
[19:45:32] CABRERA: You talk about Turkey turning east, more and more in common with Russia, including sanctions. We did see the U.S. implement a new round of sanctions gens against Russia. Do you think Putin will respond?
VINOGRAD: I do. This is such a tit for tat relationship. And if history is any guy, Putin is planning his response right now. We have expelled Russian diplomats, he expels American diplomats, we list Russian media outlets as foreign agents, he does the same for ours. So we should expect he is planning something in response to this round of sanctions, going into effect on August 22nd against U.S. dual use technology exports to Russia.
But these sanctions are part of two stages. The second set will be triggered if Russia doesn't do things like agree to let inspectors in to see the chemical weapons program. They are unlikely to do so. So even more intense sanctions could go into effect in 90 days. So my guess is Putin will wait to see how extreme these measures are and then he will plan something in return.
CABRERA: And we will have you back. We will talk more about it then. Thank you so much, Sam Vinograd.
Speaking of Russia, Democratic senator fighting for another term in Florida is taking heat now for suggesting Russians have already hacked some of the state's election systems without giving details. State officials say they have seen no evidence to support Senator Bill Nelson's claim and his Republican challenger governor Rick Scott says Nelson made a very serious charge but provided no proof.
All this happening as hackers gather this weekend and try to break into mock versions of swing state election board websites. This is happening at the annual DEF CON Hacker Convention in Las Vegas.
And joining us now is Jake Braun. He is one of the men in charge of DEF CON election village and he is a former White House liaison to homeland security under President Obama.
So, Jake, I understand you had children, hacking into mock election board websites, just how easy was it? What were they able to do?
JAKE BRAUN, IN-CHARGE OF DEF CON'S ELECTION VILLAGE: Well, first of all, thanks for having me, Ana.
The first kid got in, it was an 11-year-old girl. She got in and took over the kind of mock Florida Web site in under ten minutes and was able to change election results. And, you know, change the winners and losers and all that stuff. By the end of the weekend, the kids were, you know, changing people's names to, like, Bob the builder and all that kind of stuff coming up with some pretty creative things to do to mess with the election results.
CABRERA: You are saying children were able to do this?
BRAUN: Yes. So unfortunately it is so easy to do, that we didn't put this particular challenge in the main room where the adult hackers are hacking into voting machines because it is so easy to hack into these websites that they wouldn't find it interesting or fun or challenging. So we decided to give it to kids to do. And so we have about 50 kids doing it and almost all of them were able to get in and change election results or something else on the page.
CABRERA: Again, these are mock websites. The national association of secretaries of state says that the mock sites really aren't representative of the real sites because quote "it would be extremely difficult to replicate these systems since many states utilize unique networks and custom built databases with new and updated security protocols." Is that a fair point?
BRAUN: Well, no, I think they kind of totally missed the point actually. So, you know, this is something we know Russia has actually done in the Ukraine before. They hacked into the Ukrainian government Web site that was announcing election results. The Ukrainians caught it, fortunately, but then Russian media announced that their preferred candidate had won when he hadn't. And attacking these websites whether it be through just a d-dos attack to take the site down, which is incredibly easy, or to change election results is something that we know that Russian hackers can do because they have already done it in other countries.
And what is important here, and what I think would be great if these election officials saw is that we need to try and start coming up with ways to sensitize the public to this now, and come up with standard operating procedures so if a Web site of let's say Florida or Ohio in the 20 election gets hacked, election officials have a way to communicate with the public, the media and so on about what the real election results are. So
So we are hoping that folks can take from this example that they should start training for this now. And by the way, if we have the secretary of state in largest state in the country, California attend and speak at the event and even Trump's former cyber czar Rob Joyce who is now back at NSA said that he was really happy we were doing this and that we should know for sure that our adversaries are absolutely training on how to hack into these machines and websites and so on. So it is good to have the good guys, our hackers, doing it this weekend to identify vulnerabilities we can fix.
[19:50:46] CABRERA: Absolutely. It's enlightening. Jake Braun, thank you very much.
BRAUN: Thank you.
CABRERA: It is tough to report on stories like this, a horror no parent should ever have to face, searching through the dead for the body of a child. Next, the latest on the investigation into what happened when an air strike hit a bus full of children.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:55:35] CABRERA: This just in. Defense secretary James Mattis sending a top general to Saudi Arabia now to help with the Yemen air strike investigation. Forty children were killed when a Saudi-led air strike hit a school bus.
Children wearing backpacks were on their way to summer school when the bombs dropped. And we warn you these images are graphic. They are hard to watch. One father confronted with any parent's worst nightmare, the body of his missing child.
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CABRERA: CNN'S Nima Elbagir has more on a protracted war weaponized by the U.S. and the U.K. that has no end in sight. Again, a warning, these images are disturbing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bloody children attempted to be pulled to safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ELBAGIR: Behind them the bodies of their friends lie still and unmoving.
In the middle of a busy market place eyewitness say a missile hit a bus carrying school children in a direct strike. At the hospital they are still counting the dead and the dying. This little boy is one of the lucky ones, wearing his little blue backpack he like other children were on his way to summer school. Most of the casualties today were children, many health authorities say are under the age of 10. This is just the latest volley in a seemingly unending war in Yemen.
Spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition told CNN the missile strike was aimed at a legitimate target.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
ELBAGIR: Three years ago the coalition led by Saudi Arabian launched an attack to return to (INAUDIBLE) elected government (INAUDIBLE) after his overthrow by Iranian backed Houthi rebel militias.
Progress has been tortuously slow. And recent weeks has seen an intensifying of air strikes.
In (INAUDIBLE), a poor town in Yemen's last remaining life line for supplies from the outside world missiles struck at the entrance to the last functioning hospital in the city. In spite of pleas humanitarian organization, the offensive (INAUDIBLE) continues.
The U.S. and U.K. provide much of the weaponry deployed by the Saudi- led coalition at a price. U.S. President Donald Trump returned from a trip in May last year to Saudi Arabia touting a $110 billion arms deal with the kingdom.
Just over a year later in June the U.S. and U.K. refused to allow the Security Council to even release a statement calling for a cease fire in the offensive.
In the hospital, one child begins to scream. It's been a day filled with children's cries, a sound they say they have grown accustomed to here in Yemen. And most don't think that will change anytime soon.
Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.
CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for spending part of your weekend with us.
And tonight, some major back tracking from the President's legal team. His attorney Rudy Giuliani telling CNN that the President never asked former FBI director James Comey to drop the FBI investigation into the President's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Here is Giuliani.
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GIULIANI: The President says he never told Comey that he should go easy on Flynn. Comey says the President did. He put it in his memo. If he goes in and testifies to that under oath instead of this being a dispute they can say it is perjury if they elect to believe Comey instead of Trump.
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CABRERA: CABRERA: So why would Robert Mueller think the President asked Comey to go easy on Flynn?