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CNN NEWSROOM

Florida Judge Gives More Tim for Voters; Death Toll Rises in California; Lawmakers Resign over Exit Plan; Judge Set to Rule in CNN Case; FaceBook Knew of Russian Interference. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 15, 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] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: He used this analogy. He said, I feel like Captain Kirk in the episode where the tribbles (ph) are starting to multiply in terms of the number of lawsuits here. And it's getting -- it's getting nasty. I mean part of Governor Rick Scott's response in a tweet to all of his, he writes, quote, Bill Nelson is confused and doesn't even seem to know how Florida works, talking about, you know, asking him to recuse himself from all of this, which he did. I mean, where is the civility in this?

STEVE BOUSQUET, TALLAHASSEE BUREAU CHIEF, "TAMPA BAY TIMES": Yes. Well, there's a lot at stake. People are tired and they're -- and they're ornery. You're absolutely right.

A word about Mark Walker. This is about the fifth or sixth time that Mark Walker has issued an opinion that has criticized the voting procedures in the state of Florida and said that people are being disenfranchised. Based on the track record, I expect it could happen again. And Walker is a feisty judge. He's a former state judge. He's a former trial attorney. You know, he's been at the forefront of this levitation.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes.

BOUSQUET: He's the judge who struck down the system for restoring the civil rights of felons in this state.

HARLOW: Help me fact check the president this morning, OK, because he was asked by "The Daily Caller" last night about what's going on in Florida and the recount. And here's part of what he said. Quote, when people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote, they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, they put on a different hat, a different shirt, they come in, they vote again, no one takes anything. It's really a disgrace what's going on.

Have you -- have you seen any evidence of that?

BOUSQUET: Not true. That doesn't happen in Florida. I've covered -- I've covered all 67 of these election supervisors. I go to their conferences.

HARLOW: Wow. BOUSQUET: I talk to them in between elections constantly. They're extremely conscientious people. They have gone to, as many states have, they've got to hand electronic sign in pads. If anything, if you look at Judge Walker's decision this morning in the mismatch case, the concern someone like Walker has is that people who should be voting are being disenfranchised and not for valid reasons. So, here we are, 5,000 people in Florida with a signature mismatch problem that could have an impact here.

HARLOW: And a baseless claim from the president undermining American's confidence in the process. Not helpful.

Steve, we're so glad we have you there. Thank you for the reporting.

BOUSQUET: OK, thanks, Poppy.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: It's so good we have old school journalists like that covering this stuff.

HARLOW: Like him.

SCIUTTO: Going to those community meetings.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: That's what journalism requires and he's doing it.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Always good to have him on.

More than 300 people are still missing as the death toll climbs in California. Three hundred. Now residents in northern California are suing an electric company they say is to blame for the deadliest fire in state history.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:36:49] SCIUTTO: The death toll still rising from the wildfires burning across California. Now at least 58 people are dead and more than 300 still missing.

HARLOW: Fifty-six of the victims have died in the Camp Fire. That is the fire raging in northern California that's been burning for a week now. Crews face the very challenging search for victims, for remains and the effort to try to identify the bodies.

Let's go to Scott McLean. He joins us in Paradise, California.

And, Scott, every time I say that, it just sends chills up my spine because, you know, look what has happened to Paradise.

What can you tell us this morning?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim and Poppy. And let's not forget that there is a wildfire that is still burning and only 35 percent contained. And that number hasn't changed since Tuesday. The focus here, though, rightly so, is on the death toll. It is now up to 56 people. And perhaps more concerning, there is a list of 300 names that the sheriff's office has compiled of those people who have not been accounted for.

Now the hope is that most of those people will be found safe and sound in one way or another. But obviously the death toll is almost certain to rise despite that.

Authorities, literally hundreds of them, are going through, combing through the twisted metal and the ash and debris to try to find any human remains they can. It is painstaking and very slow work. It could take several weeks. And some bodies may not be found at all.

And because this fire came through here and burned so hot, well, authorities are having difficulty even identifying whether the remains are human. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. STEVE COLLINS, BUTTE COUNTY SHERIFF'S INVESTIGATIONS: We're trying to determine the difference between human remains and non-human remains. Because it can be extremely difficult in these fires to make that differentiation for those of us that are untrained.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLEAN: And so the sheriff's office is asking any family that has family members who are missing to go and get their DNA swab taken at the sheriff's office in Orville.

And one more thing to mention, Jim and Poppy, and that's that lawyers for 22 people who had their homes destroyed in this fire have filed a lawsuit against the local power company, Pacific Gas and Electric. Now the fire was sparked near transmission lines that they had been working on just 15 minutes earlier. The official cause hasn't been determined, but that company says that if it is indeed to blame, well, it doesn't have enough insurance to actually cover or pay for the damage that this fire has caused, which is estimated at around $7 billion.

HARLOW: Wow.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it wouldn't be the first fire caused by transmission lines.

Scott McLean, thanks for staying on top of the story for us there.

Just hours away from a ruling in CNN's federal lawsuit against President Trump and several top White House aides. We're going to get new insight, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:44:05] HARLOW: All right, welcome back. This morning, there is mounting pressure on U.K. Prime Minister

Theresa May after getting hit with a wave of resignations over her plan to pull Britain out of the European Union. She stepped into the House of Commons to present her final draft of the Brexit agreement to parliament. Lawmakers, though, not convinced.

SCIUTTO: A whole host of possibilities here, including the collapse of her government.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: But also a Brexit deal with no deal.

CNN Europe editor Nina dos Santos joins us now from London with more.

Help explain to our viewers here in the U.S. just how big a crisis this is right now in the U.K.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Hi, Jim and Poppy.

Also significant about this is that she's facing criticism from all sides, and she staked her entire political leadership on trying to ram this deal, not just through her cabinet, but also through parliament. And it's looking increasingly likely that she won't have the parliamentary support, the math, the votes from all parties to try and get that through. And this's the reason why Theresa May's position as prime minister and leader of the conservative party really is in jeopardy today.

[09:45:11] So yesterday you'll remember we had five and a half hours of marathon talks where she finally emerged exhausted from a cabinet meeting saying she had managed to get an agreement, not a majority, but a collective agreement from her cabinet on this. Already this morning, before she even stepped into the House of Parliament to explain this deal to parliamentarians, already her own Brexit secretary had decided to step down. And his resignation was followed by other members of the cabinet as well. Them largely saying that they just couldn't support this deal based on the structures that it suggests for northern Ireland and also they said this idea of keeping the U.K. and the EU in a transition period for potentially an indefinite period of time prevents the U.K. from maximizing the opportunity it has of striking free trade deals with other countries. So, for those two reasons, many people in the government said that they were out.

SCIUTTO: Nina dos Santos, thanks very much. Something we're going to continue to watch there. Big repercussions potentially for Europe.

Well, hours from now here at home, the judge will rule in CNN's federal lawsuit against President Trump. The Justice Department's lawyer argued that the president has, quote, broad discretion when it comes to which journalists are allowed in the White House to cover him, essentially saying it would be perfectly legal to revoke a journalist's press pass if the White House does not agree with their reporting.

HARLOW: So what will the judge buy? CNN and reporter Jim Acosta say, look, that violates the First and the Fifth Amendment.

Joining us to discuss, CNN chief legal analyst, also former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin.

This is fascinating.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.

HARLOW: I mean this is just the beginning. This is just to try to get sort of -- to get Jim his pass back until they hear the full case.

What was very interesting to me is that Judge Kelly asked the DOJ lawyer a hypothetical question last night, yesterday, which says, is it perfectly legal to revoke a journalist's press pass if they don't agree with the reporting? The DOJ contended, yes. And it makes it crystal clear this is not just about CNN or Jim Acosta. This is broadly for all reporters, all networks.

TOOBIN: Well, and I think one of the most interesting things about how this case has developed is how many news organizations have entered the case as friends of the court --

HARLOW: (INAUDIBLE), yes.

TOOBIN: To support CNN and Jim Acosta's position. Everyone from "The New York Times" to Fox News. Because I think, you know, the real issue here is every -- if Jim loses his press pass --

HARLOW: Right.

TOOBIN: Every time a reporter gets up in that White House Briefing Room to ask a question, they're going to think, is this question so tough that I'm going to lose my press pass?

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Is it worth it?

TOOBIN: Is it worth it? And, you know, this was really a dispute about Jim trying to ask a follow-up question to the president. I mean, really, that's what it was about.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes.

TOOBIN: And, you know, and he was aggressive about it. And according to CNN, and our lawyers in court, that's what journalism is. According to the White House lawyers, that's disruption. And the White House has the legal right to exclude people who disrupt White House proceedings.

HARLOW: Yes.

TOOBIN: And that's really -- you know, is it -- the question that I think is really at the heart of this case is, was what went on in that press room and in other experiences with Jim Acosta a disruption, or was it a complaint about the content of Jim's questions?

HARLOW: Yes.

TOOBIN: Because I think if it's really about the content of Jim's questions, that is clearly a violation of the First Amendment.

SCIUTTO: Well, here's the -- the place where I have experience, so that was covering China. China is a place where access, press passes were given and taken away based on the government's view of your reporting. And if you file critical reports, they might and a number of colleagues faced this, take your press passes away. I think it's an important comparison.

TOOBIN: Isn't it a chilling thought --

SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

TOOBIN: That you are drawing an analogy between China, which is an --

SCIUTTO: It's not just interesting, it's alarming, yes.

TOOBIN: An authoritarian country with no tradition of free speech --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

TOOBIN: No constitution guaranteeing free speech --

SCIUTTO: Happens every day.

TOOBIN: With what happens here.

SCIUTTO: There was a journalist in Hong Kong just denied their pass because of coverage.

I want to ask you a question because -- you can over read the tea leaves of a judge's questioning --

TOOBIN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: But Poppy was noting, and we both found this interesting, that the judge, who's a Trump appointee, interrupted CNN's lawyer more frequently yesterday. Seemed to be in agreement, at least in his public comments, with the government's arguments and legal citations. I know that in the Supreme Court that can not necessarily indicate the way they're going, but do you find that notable.

TOOBIN: I have painful experience making incorrect predictions based on the -- based on the questions judges ask. Some -- I mean the problem is sometimes yes and sometimes no.

[09:50:02] One thing that we can say is that CNN's lawyer said the reason we need immediate action here is that every moment that Jim Acosta is denied his press pass, his hard pass, access to the White House, is a violation of the First Amendment. The judge said, give me 24 hours. That is either a small -- I mean that is, without question, a small victory for the White House because they -- he didn't act immediately to return the press pass.

HARLOW: Right away.

TOOBIN: Now, if he grants the press pass back in -- at 3:00 today, the day delay won't matter. We'll all forget about that. But it is at least one indulgence of the White House view that the status quo is OK.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Jeffrey Toobin, thank you.

TOOBIN: 3:00 today, the judge is supposed to announce --

HARLOW: Don't go anywhere, because you know you will be right here with Brooke Baldwin at 3:00 today.

TOOBIN: I'll be right here. Yes, you know, with Brooke. I mean it's a big -- I mean, obviously, you know, we have a rooting interest here. We're not trying to pretend otherwise. We're CNN. Jim Acosta's a colleague and a friend. But this is a big -- this is a big issue.

HARLOW: Of course it is and --

SCIUTTO: Journalism in general.

HARLOW: And what is your, you know, understanding of the role of journalism and it's clearly the White House is extraordinarily on the opposite side of that fundamental question.

TOOBIN: Yes.

HARLOW: Jeffrey, thank you very much.

So have you seen the front of "The New York Times" today? There is a fascinating investigative piece on how FaceBook handled the crisis over Russian election interference when they knew about it and what they did in the wake, ahead.

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[09:55:59] HARLOW: All right, front page of "The Times" today, above the fold, a damning report about how FaceBook has handled the crisis -- the crises, really, of recent years from data privacy to election meddling by Russia. The headline, delay, deny, deflect. How FaceBook's leader fought through the crisis.

SCIUTTO: Not only does it claim that FaceBook knew about interference by Russia as early as the spring of 2016, it also suggests that the social media giant hired a PR firm to redirect the blame.

Joining us now is the co-author of that piece, "New York Times" national security correspondent Matthew Rosenberg. He's also a CNN national security analyst.

Matthew, what struck me, someone like you has covered Russian interference in the 2016 election, is your reporting that FaceBook officials, though they repeatedly downplayed the scope, the breadth of that interference to Senate investigators, internally they were seeing the true expanse of this and really not reporting that back.

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They were -- they were getting a sense of it. So, in 2016, they had seen the first indications, you know, by no means did they understand the entire problem. But as you got into 2017, and through the fall of 2017, they did get a pretty good picture. And they were very slow to acknowledge it. And it took the Senate Intelligence Committee and others on The Hill to drag it out of them. You know, at every step of the way, when they did first acknowledge it, they acknowledged as little as possible. And, you know, only after more and more pressure did they acknowledge the full extent of it.

HARLOW: So another part that is mind-boggling -- and you have to understand this in the context that Europe just passed this sweeping new regulation that really affects FaceBook and what's going to happen in this country, right? And you have senators working on that, members of Congress like Senator Warner and Klobuchar. And you report out what Democrats, some Democratic lawmakers have done to try to stand in the way of that. Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, telling Warner in your reporting to back off of FaceBook, not to mention big potential conflicts of interests that he has because his daughter works there.

ROSENBERG: Look, I think Schumer honestly believes FaceBook is a company they should work with. He was also the single largest recipient of donations from FaceBook employees in 2016. He is their friend. He is their ally. And when time -- going got tough, they relied on him to try and get members of his party to back off. It didn't really work very well, but he certainly tried.

SCIUTTO: There's particular focus here in your piece on Sheryl Sandberg.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: And criticism from within the company --

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Folks inside the company who suspect that she's more concerned about her personal profile with possible aspirations to return to public life over what's in the interest of the company.

ROSENBERG: That was -- that was certainly the impression many in the company had, especially in the spring after the Cambridge Analytica story broke. The company's under tremendous pressure, and she was really taking a back seat.

Now, over the summer, and into the fall, she took a much larger role and she testified in front of Congress. But, look, when she came to Washington to testify in September, she showed up. They covered a conference room in opaque kind of contact paper so nobody could see in, put a guard at the door, and that's where she did her prep. And then she did her testimony, and she left. She didn't speak to anyone in the FaceBook office.

HARLOW: Right.

ROSENBERG: Didn't do a kind of address the troops kind of thing, and that really upset people.

HARLOW: Matthew, finally, before you go, you write at the beginning of the piece, Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat FaceBook's critic, shift public anger toward rival companies, ward off damaging regulation. Bottom line, does FaceBook want regulation?

ROSENBERG: You know, they don't. I mean, they're -- they've -- they understand it's probably going to happen and they want to shape it to be as favorable as possible. But in an ideal world, they would have no regulation and they would do as they please. But, I mean, there's no company that wants it. It's a matter of how far do they have to go to accommodate it.

SCIUTTO: There's a lot more talk about this on Capitol Hill than there has been in the past.

HARLOW: Yes.

Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Matthew Rosenberg, thanks very much.

[09:59:50] We should note that FaceBook did respond to this story and they say in part, we're quoting here, the story asserts that we knew about Russian activity as early as the spring of 2016 but were slow to investigate it at every turn. This, says the company, is not true.