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CNN NEWSROOM

Look at Midterm Election Polls; Khashoggi's Last Piece; FaceBook Builds War Room. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 18, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Specific races, right? We can talk specifically about the state of Nevada. That's a state that Hillary Clinton won two years ago. It's a state that has a Republican senator in Dean Heller. But the recent polling from that state actually has Dean Heller ahead. That's like a very, very, very bad sign because you would think if there's one seat that the Democrats can take control of, that would be it.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Right. Right.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And he was behind by a few percentage points as recently as a couple of weeks ago, right?

ENTEN: That's exactly right. We had a poll in that state that actually had him behind. But the most recent polling has generally showed him ahead, just barely.

But that's not the only state we can look at. We can look at a state like North Dakota, right? This is state -- we've spoken about this before -- Senator Heidi Heitkamp. A very tough re-election battle. She really hasn't led in any of the polling so far this year. But I think there was that general thought that she could kind of get ahead. But the latest poll from Fox News actually has her down double digits in that state. And if Democrats can't win there, then they have to either win in Tennessee or Texas. And the recent polling averages in both of those states don't have her -- don't have them ahead either.

HARLOW: I'm fascinated by Paul Ryan yesterday. His last swing as a politician out on the campaign trail. He was in New Jersey and he was campaigning for the Republicans there. And he said, look, look, look, there is no blue wave. There is a green wave of money the Democrats have infused into the midterms, a real challenge for Republicans. Let's listen to Paul Ryan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We see liberals on the coasts trying to buy a new Congress. Michael Bloomberg wrote a $100 million check himself to defeat Republicans in Congress. Another guy names Styer (ph) in California wrote a $100 million check to defeat Republicans in Congress. So you see the money spigot being opened by the left to try and drown us out.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: You've never -- you've never seen Republican donors try to influence races, do you?

ENTEN: Yes, that's -- never ever. That sounds like a Democratic politician rather than a Republican politician.

Look, Democrats are raising a ton of money, right? House candidates, it's amazing how many challengers have been outraising the incumbents in those states. And, yes, I should point out, that there is definitely a relationship between how much money is generally raised and how well that party does.

HARLOW: Sure.

ENTEN: But the fact of the matter is, the reason why they're raising all this money is because there's a ton of enthusiasm on the Democrats side. And it's not just big donors that are coming in. There are a ton of small contributors, small dollar contributors as well.

Use the Texas Senate race, for example. There are a lot of people saying, oh, it's people from the outside who are actually trying to buy Beto O'Rourke this seat, but, in fact, it's a lot of Texas residents who are donating tons of money. So it's not just these big donors, it's small people as well.

HARLOW: Money talks.

ENTEN: Yes.

HARLOW: Thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

HARLOW: Good to have you. We'll see you back here.

SCIUTTO: Tonight, be sure to watch CNN's live town hall with Beto O'Rourke. Dana Bash will moderate. That is at 7:00 Eastern Time on CNN. Republican candidate Senator Ted Cruz, we asked him, but he declined an invitation to take part.

HARLOW: All right, as the investigation into where Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist, is continues. What we do know is his passion for free speech. It was the last piece he wrote for "The Washington Post, "just published this morning. We will read it to you in its entirety.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:37:12] HARLOW: All right, this morning, his final words. "The Washington Post published a column that Jamal Khashoggi wrote just days before he disappeared.

SCIUTTO: It's title, "What the Arab World Needs Most Is Free Expression." And it reads as follows. We're reading the whole thing here.

I was recently online looking at the 2018 Freedom in the World Report published by Freedom House and came to a grave realization, there was only one country in the Arab world that has been classified as free. That nation is Tunisia. Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait come in second with a classification of partly free. The rest of the countries in the Arab world as classified as not free.

HARLOW: As a result, Arabs living in these countries as either uninformed or misinformed. They are unable to adequately address, much less publically discuss matters that affect the region and their day to day lives. A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche. And while many do not believe it, a large minority of the population falls victim to this false narrative. Sadly, this situation is unlikely to change.

SCIUTTO: The Arab world was ripe with hope during the spring of 2011. Journalists, academics and the general population were brimming with expectations of a bright and free Arab society within their respective countries. They expected to be emancipated from the hegemony of their governments and the consistent interventions and censorship of information. These expectations were quickly shattered. These societies either fell back to the old status quo or faced even harsher conditions than before.

HARLOW: My dear friend, the prominent Saudi writer, Saleh al-Shieh (ph) wrote one of the most famous columns ever published in the Saudi press. He, unfortunately, is now serving an unwarranted five-year prison sentence for supposed comments contrary to the Saudi establishment. The Egyptian government's seizure of the entire print run of a newspaper, al-Masry al Youm, did not enrage or provoke reaction from colleagues. These actions no longer carry the consequences of a backlash in the international community. Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly, followed by silence.

SCIUTTO: Listen to this next line because it sounds sadly prescient. He wrote, as a result, Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate. There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media, but these governments, whose very existence relies on the control of information, have aggressively blocked the Internet. They have also arrested local reporters and pressured advertisers to harm the revenue of specific publications.

HARLOW: There are a few oases that continue to embody the spirit of the Arab Spring. Qatar's government continues to support international news coverage in contrast to its neighbors efforts to uphold the control of information to support the old Arab order. Even in Tunisia and Kuwait, where the press is considered at least partly free, the media focuses on domestic issues, but not issues faced by the greater Arab world. They're hesitant to provide a platform for journalists from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen. Even Lebanon, the Arab world's crown jewel when it comes to press freedom, has fallen victim to the polarization and influence of pro-Iran Hezbollah.

[09:40:26] SCIUTTO: He goes on, the Arab world is facing its own version of an iron curtain, imposed not by external actors, but through domestic forces vying for power. During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe, which grew over the years into a critical institution, played an important role in fostering and sustaining the hope of freedom. Arabs need something similar. In 1967, "The New York Times" and "The Post" took joint ownership of the "International Herald Tribune" newspaper, which went on to became a platform for voices from around the world.

HARLOW: My publication, "The Post," has taken the initiative to translate many of my pieces and publish them in Arabic. For that I am grateful. Arabs need to read in their own language so that they can fully understand and discuss the various aspects and complications of democracy in the United States and the west.

He goes on to write, if an Egyptian reads an article exposing the actual costs of a construction project in Washington, then he or she would be able to better understand the implications of similar projects in his or her community.

SCIUTTO: And the final graph here of his final column. The Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events. More important, we need to provide a platform for Arab voices. We suffer from poverty, mismanagement and poor education. Through the creation of an independent international forum isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.

That's it, the final column from Jamal Khashoggi, submitted the day before he disappeared.

HARLOW: Every one of his words. We thought it was really important for you to hear exactly what he wrote, what was so important to him and, frankly, the platform that "The Washington Post" gave him that he was not getting elsewhere.

Joining us now is his editor, Karen Attiah.

Karen, thank you very being here.

KAREN ATTIAH, GLOBAL OPINIONS EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: Your words, we wanted to bring it back in his words, to his ideas, to his thoughts. Tell me about the significance of publishing this column that you received just a day or two before he disappeared.

ATTIAH: Yes. As I said in my note on the top of my column, or his column, yes, we held out hope that he would come back, frankly. I mean we knew after he disappeared at the Saudi consulate, we knew that, OK, the Saudis sometimes they perhaps interrogate people, question people. But as the days went on and it became increasingly unlikely that I would hear from him again, we decided that it was important to re- center the story a little bit around him, around who he is. I mean this particular column just really does illustrate what he was most passionate about. Anybody who met him, even in our conversations, he really just felt that the Arab world needed independent, trustworthy platforms for these voices and for these journalists. And I think it was -- it's the reason why it was just so fitting, the

idea that he likely might have been silenced because he wanted to be free, because he wanted to push for reform.

HARLOW: Right.

ATTIAH: It's a fitting end. And I think from our end it was the least we could do to publish this in Arabic as well, which we did, to honor him and to honor his audience and to send a message, I think, to the governments that he was speaking of that are increasingly, yes, just smashing journalism across the Arab region.

SCIUTTO: Yes, without fear of consequence, it seems.

One line in here particularly caught our attention. They seemed sadly prescient. He said that these actions -- he was describing arrests, et cetera, no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community. Instead, they trigger condemnation, quickly followed by silence there. Did he ever speak to you about his own fears for his own safety for speaking out like he has done -- like he had done?

ATTIAH: So he would speak to me a lot about fears or about being pressured around his family and his children. That's when he would send me messages saying he was sad and depressed and upset that the Saudi government was placing travel bans on his children to try to get to him.

[09:45:03] As far as, you know, specific threats to his personal safety, I mean, I think nothing very specific other than that they had told him that, you know, OK, he can be in the states, you can write for whoever you want, but why does it have to be "The Washington Post." And I knew he was getting a lot of pressure because he was writing for us. And perhaps even more so for doing it in Arabic.

But I think, you know, he labeled himself -- he -- as like, you know, he didn't want to be a dissident.

HARLOW: Right.

ATTIAH: He rejected that label. He rejected this idea that he was some sort of revolutionary that wanted to bring down the Saudi regime. So, you know, this idea that they would try to silence even someone who was close to them at one point, I don't -- he didn't behave like he was someone who was living in fear. I know we had plans. We were having more meetings. We were discussing the future. He wasn't acting like somebody who was in fear for his life at all, not with me.

HARLOW: Though one thing has become tragically clear, and that is that his voice has been amplified through this tragedy. His voice has been amplified. Again, that's why we felt it was so important to read -- read every one of his words.

ATTIAH: Yes.

HARLOW: Thank you for helping everyone remember what he stood for. SCIUTTO: Thank you, Karen.

ATTIAH: Thank you, guys, for that. Thank you for reading that. It means a lot to us here too.

HARLOW: Yes.

OK, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:50:55] SCIUTTO: Facebook is taking new steps to try to prevent a repeat of the interference in the 2016 election. The social media giant has built a so-called war room to help combat misinformation campaigns in real time.

HARLOW: But as trolls get more sophisticated, the fight to protect the facts has become an around the clock job.

Our Laurie Segall reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The room isn't that big, just enough space for around 20 people and their computers, but the undertaking is enormous.

SAMIDH CHAKRABARTI, PRODUCT MANAGER, CHIEF ENGAGEMENT, FACEBOOK: It's really the culmination of two years of massive investments that we have made.

SEGALL: Just weeks ahead of the midterm election, FaceBook has created what it's calling the war room.

CHAKRABARTI: We have a bunch of dashboards that you see around the perimeter of the room, which actually are backed up by artificial intelligence and machine learning to be able to flag any sort of anomalies or problems that we see. Once that happens, our data scientists are able to review it, understand what's happening and pass it along to our engineers and operations specialists to take action against harmful content that we see on our platform.

SEGALL: It's been nearly two years since FaceBook was caught flat- footed. There was the Russian interference aimed at manipulating the 2016 presidential election. A privacy scandal that left users wondering if they could trust the platform. Now CEO Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to get ahead of these issues, and FaceBook's new war room is part of those efforts.

CHAKRABARTI: They are actually monitoring our systems in real time for any sort of new threats that we may see, investigate them, and then make decisions about how to take action against violating content that we see on our platform to prevent it from going viral.

SEGALL: Leading up to the midterm elections, this room will be operating 24/7. The people in this room are supported by the 20,000 FaceBook employees across the globe hired to work on safety and security.

CHAKRABARTI: We've actually been running this for the first round of the Brazilian election, which was just last week. And during that time, we saw a spike in potential voter suppression related content.

SEGALL: Two years after the 2016 election, the attacks have changed. Nathaniel Gleicher, who served on President Barack Obama's National Security Council, now leads FaceBook's efforts to eliminate trolls in state-run disinformation campaigns.

NATHANIEL GLEICHER, HEAD OF CYBERSECURITY POLICY, FACEBOOK: One of the challenge we always face is that if you have sophisticated threat actors, they keep evolving their tactics. They don't do the same thing again and again. And so part of what we've done, is as we head into these elections, we sort of think about our threat model. What are the new challenges that are coming? What are the things that we haven't seen before that we could see, and what are the new twists that might get thrown to us? And then we test that and run that.

SEGALL: Another challenge, communication. Silicon Valley and the government have historically had trouble communicating as platforms like Twitter and FaceBook have become weaponized. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey acknowledged the problem in a congressional hearing in September.

JACK DORSEY, FOUNDER, TWITTER: We would like a more regular cadence of meetings with our law enforcement partnerships. We would appreciate as much as we can consolidating to a single point of contact so that we are not bouncing between multiple agencies to do our work.

SEGALL (on camera): Do you guys have a more streamlined approach now with the government when it comes to reporting? Do you have a direct line to the FBI, to DHS, to some of these major campaigns when you do find something?

GLEICHER: So we work closely with the foreign influence task force at the FBI, with the Department of Homeland Security. Another really important partner for us actually is state elections officials, because they're the ones who are on the ground. They're going to see threats emerge first.

SEGALL: And what do you say to folks who say, can we trust FaceBook to keep us safe?

GLEICHER: Our biggest priority is to make sure that users can have authentic conversations on the platform and that this election can be free and fair and open.

SEGALL: Do you believe it will be?

GLEICHER: I believe that we have done everything we can to make sure that that will be the case.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: That's a great story. HARLOW: Interesting.

SCIUTTO: No, no question. Thanks very much to Laurie Segall for that reporting.

In just minutes, President Trump set to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. What Pompeo learned during his face-to-face meetings in the region. We're going to be live from the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:59:14] HARLOW: All right, 19 days -- 19 days until the midterms.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we'll remind you every day how many to go, yes.

HARLOW: We'll be counting, don't worry.

Before you head to the polls next month, we want to know what's motivating you.

SCIUTTO: We've been asking people all over the country to share their reasons for a segment we call "Why I'm Voting." Have a listen to today's.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED CLOW, VOTER FROM MCKINNEY, TEXAS: The important issues for me in these midterm elections are going to be border security, the non- repeal of the tax breaks, and the non-impeachment of President Trump.

JAKE STRICKLAND, VOTER FROM DALLAS, GEORGIA: The most important issue to me is education. I want to make sure that teachers are respected for the very important decision that they make to serve in one of the most crucial positions in our society.

ANDREW SIMMONS, VOTER FROM SOUTHAVEN, MISSISSIPPI: Drugs are a very big issue, especially in Memphis, Tennessee. It's basically the drug trafficking network of the south and it leads into the north as well.

[10:00:01] PAYMON, VOTER FROM NEW YORK: If everybody votes, we would know that the American values are not the way our presidency is portraying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Tell us why your voting.