Return to Transcripts main page


One-on-One with Zuckerberg; Millions Travel for Thanksgiving; Abuse Claims Against Avenatti. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 21, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:32:07] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Jim Sciutto is in Washington.

We're taking a look at the market. The Dow up 150 here at the open. Stocks making up some of those losses from the week. Still big concerns about tech stocks and a lot of it, folks, has to do with FaceBook.

Also this morning, FaceBook CEO Mark Zuckerberg under fire and visibly defiant. He sat down for his only interview, an exclusive, with our colleague Laurie Segall. He said "The New York Times" report claiming the social network tried to ignore and conceal some Russian interference in the election is just plain false.

Our senior technology correspondent Laurie Segall has not slept in days. There to California, you do the interview. You come back here. Thank you for getting it. Thank you for being here.

What struck you most in what he said?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Look, I mean, I think maybe he was defiant. You know, this is a company under fire right now. It couldn't be a more critical time for FaceBook. He responded to that criticism and he also responded to a lot of those specific allegations. Take a listen.


SEGALL: I want to start with some of the revelations that came from "The New York Times" piece.


SEGALL: Let's look at Russia. Did you and other leaders try to minimize Russia's role in spreading propaganda on the platform?

ZUCKERBERG: No. Look, here's what happened. In 2016, there's no doubt that we missed something really important, right? The Russian effort to try to have these coordinated information operations on FaceBook and also the Internet and more broadly was not something that we were expecting. Elections are always a very high security event. And we were expecting certain kinds of cyberattacks and we found them, right? The Russians were trying to hack into specific accounts. And we told the people and we told the FBI and all that. But we weren't on top of these coordinating information operations.

So we've spent a lot of the last couple of years now basically building up our systems and strengthening them to be able to address this. But we've been very focused on this and have invested a lot in it. And anyone who wants to say that upon learning about this we haven't been very focused on trying to both address it and also that we have -- I think anyone who says that we haven't made a lot of progress, I just think that that's not right.

SEGALL: I think the folks talk about transparency, though. You know, this idea that the former chief security officer wanted to publish a transparency paper and every mention of Russia was taken out. He was encouraged not to put Russia in that transparency paper.

Do you regret not being more transparent at the time or not getting -- you know, not being more vocal about it at the time?

ZUCKERBERG: You know, I wish that we understood the issue sooner, right? I wish we understood it before 2016, before the Russian tried to do these information operations in the first place. I do think sometimes people say, well, how did you not know this? And, you know, I think in some of these cases, you know, it is a really big deal to come out and say that a nation state is behind something. And before our company puts a stamp on something saying that, I want to be really sure that that's the case.

[09:35:04] SEGALL: Quite a few revelations in this piece. One reference, the decision to keep up a Trump post that many considered fell under the hate speech category. And part of this revelation said that one of the reasons your team decided to keep it up because they were worried about a conservative backlash. I know FaceBook is under a lot of pressure from the Democrats and the Republicans and government in general. Are leaders making content decisions based on appeasing political leaders?

ZUCKERBERG: No. Look, in a lot of these cases --

SEGALL: But did they in that situation?

ZUCKERBERG: No, they didn't. And I was involved in those conversations. And I think it's very important that people have the opportunity to hear from what political leaders are saying. So, you know, in those cases, I don't think that a lot of the content violated our policies. We also have a specific point in our policies where newsworthy content, we give a special deference to, which certainly some news, a prominent politician going out and making a point fits into that. So, no, I think we did the right thing there.

SEGALL: I was on the reporter call where you repeatedly denied that you knew anything about hiring this opposition group PR firm. You know, I've spoken to so many people within FaceBook and former employees who say, you know, this is Mark's company. Can you state it for the record, did you know anything about this? ZUCKERBERG: Well, I -- like I said on the call, you know, I learned

about this when I read the report as well. But I'm not actually sure that that's the most important point. I think your question is right, that this is -- I do run the company. I am responsible for everything that happens here. I don't think that this point was about a specific PR firm. It was about how we act, right? And that's why it's -- I think it's important, not just, you know, what we're doing in relation to this one firm, but that we go through and look at all of the different PR firms and folks who we work with and make sure that we're operating in the way that we want to.

SEGALL: You know, the PR firm was founded by a Republican political strategist and it launched a campaign leaking FaceBook critics to George Soros. This is a common tactic used by anti-Semitic and alt- right groups. That's why I think people were so shocked when they found out about this. I think that was one of the parts of the report that a lot of folks had real questions about. Does that strike you as stooping low?

ZUCKERBERG: Yes, I wasn't particularly happy about that piece of it. And that's certainly a big part of what I, when I read about this, what made me want to look into this more deeply. The intention here was never to attack an individual. But, I mean, there are these lobbying groups and folks who are out there whose primary purpose is to attack the company. And I do think it's fine to push back on them.

SEGALL: I mean, but in this particular scenario, launching, you know, it's not common for tech companies to necessarily hire these types of firms. And many would argue it's a way of spreading the same type of conspiracy theories that FaceBook has worked so hard in the last couple years to get on top of.

ZUCKERBERG: Yes. I -- look, from the review that I've done so far, it doesn't appear that anything that the group said was untrue as far as we can tell. But, again, this really isn't about one PR firm. This is about the standard that we want to hold all of the different folks who we work with. And we work with a lot of different PR firms and a lot of different contractors and vendors at the company and we need to make sure that they're -- that we're comfortable and that all the folks that we work with uphold our values.

SEGALL: I mean do you approve of the way they went after George Soros? Do you approve of that methodology?

ZUCKERBERG: I don't think this is the type of thing that our company should be engaging with.

SEGALL: What would be your message to George Soros?

ZUCKERBERG: Well, I know that George Soros has been the target of a lot of really horrendous attacks, and I think that that is terrible. And I certainly wouldn't want anyone who's associated with our company to be a part of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: Laurie Segall is with me now, the only person who could get this interview. He didn't even talk to "The New York Times" for their, you know, explosive report. So kudos to that. Thank you for bringing it to us.

He controls so much, not only two billion, you know, users on the platform, but he owns 60 percent of the shares. So he's got a huge amount of power, unlike a lot of CEOs, and he seemed defiant in terms of the fact that he won't step down and Sheryl Sandberg doesn't seem like her position as COO is going to change.

SEGALL: Yes, I asked him definitively, can you say, you know, her role won't change, and he said, I hope I'll work with her for the next ten years. You know, that remains to be seen. We'll see what happens.

But there are a lot of questions about his power. Is it too much unchecked power? Because he is the CEO and the chairman, owns 60 percent of the shares. And I think, you know, there is this rallying cry, as we see crisis after crisis, to bring more people, to shake things up, to get a different set of eyes in there at this very specific time.

HARLOW: Given that, Laurie, and the fact that the shares are down 40 percent, investors obviously not happy about that, why is it that he does not think there is room for more at the top? Why is it that he does not think there is room for more at the top? Why is it that he doesn't think that there needs to be some new leadership or a lessening of his control as CEO and chairman?

[09:40:12] SEGALL: I think he thinks, you know, they have reorganized the organization. You had many leaders from WhatsApp, (INAUDIBLE), And Instagram, which FaceBook owns, you had them leave recently. I don't know if that's a good or a bad sign. You know, I think that's actually a problem --

HARLOW: A lot of them left because they didn't agree with how he was running things.

SEGALL: Yes, that's actually -- could be very problematic. But I think he thinks in his mind he's made a lot of these different changes. One thing that's interesting is they actually launched a third party content organization. So if your content gets taken down from FaceBook, because they want to take it down, you know, you can actually go to his third party and if they appeal it, FaceBook can't say anything. That's one check. But is that enough? I think we'll look down the road.

HARLOW: Yes. No, that's a good question.

One final thing. What struck me so much when he said to you, we have a different world view than some of the folks who are covering us.


HARLOW: What does that mean? SEGALL: Look, I think there's a disconnect sometimes between what's

happening inside the walls of FaceBook and what's happening on the outside. You know, I think FaceBook still wants to tell you that they're doing amazing things, they're connecting the world, and I don't think anyone's denying that FaceBook has helped small businesses and done a lot of these great things. But there is a disconnect sometimes from the outside where, you know, you're saying -- you're doing a lot of these terrible things, enabling a lot of bad things, and this is where the company got into trouble in the first place when you hear them say they didn't take a long enough view, they didn't see ahead of what was going to happen, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Fascinating. There's a lot more of it. People can watch it online obviously on CNN Business.

Laurie, thank you for being here.

Watch Laurie's entire new series "The Human Code." She sits down not only with Zuckerberg but all of techs most influential leaders about privacy, tech ethics and the future of innovation. You can see that at


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Listen, fascinating interview. So wide- ranging and rare to get the FaceBook head to sit down and be held accountable on all those issues. Cheers to Laurie Segall.

Coming up on CNN, are you one of the 30 million people traveling for Thanksgiving? We'll show you what you're getting into. I think a lot of us are in this list. We want to know.


[09:46:09] SCARBOROUGH: Well, the rush is on. Today is the busiest day for travel, get this, in more than a decade. Millions of people en route now to their

Thanksgiving destinations.

HARLOW: And I'm so glad I decided to fly out this afternoon.

CNN's Rene Marsh is live at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, with more.

I'm terrified. What are we all looking at today?

RENE MARSH, CNN TRANSPORTATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, I could tell you, it's packed roads and packed airports across the country. We have some video from Los Angeles, and you can see what people there are facing on the roadways. The majority of people are going to be driving, more than 48 million. But when it comes to air travel, if you're one of those people flying, more than 30,000. So they're expected -- excuse me, more than 30 million people are expected to be traveling by air. And we are expecting records as it relates to air travel.

We are here at Reagan National Airport. And, look, this is a good sign. If you are traveling by plane, this is what you want the boards to look like. Everything is running, for the most part, on time. There are no significant cancellations and delays. So that is the good news.

We do know that today is one of the busier travel days, as well as Sunday. It's going to be a pretty busy travel day as well.

We have some video from Chicago O'Hare. You can see the situation there. Here at Reagan National, we're, again, this is all happening in cycles. So we're kind of in a lull right now here at Reagan National Airport. But I can tell you that the airlines and TSA, they are prepared for this increased volume. And when we say increased volume, again, they are expecting records to be broken for this Thanksgiving holiday travel.

Airlines, they say that they've added staff, they've added flights. They're using larger planes. And TSA, for their part, they're using K- 9s so that you can get through the check point a lot faster and they've also added staff.

So the good news, again, people are getting out on their flights. Not a big issue when it comes to cancellation and delays, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Rene, we're going to be relying on you to make it all run on time. So stay at the airport. Keep those planes flying.

MARSH: That's a lot of pressure, Jim.


SCIUTTO: Thanks very much.

HARLOW: All right, Rene, thank you. Have a nice Thanksgiving.

Ahead for us, a disturbing story. An actress granted a restraining order against attorney Michael Avenatti. Of course, he's made headlines for representing Stormy Daniels. Now CNN has obtained new details about the abuse allegations that he is facing.


[09:53:06] HARLOW: Welcome back.

An aspiring actress has been granted a restraining order against attorney Michael Avenatti. Mareli Miniutti is accusing Avenatti of physical and verbal violence against her. Both claims that Avenatti vehemently denies.

SCIUTTO: Well, CNN's MJ Lee as here to break it all down. She's been looking into this.

And, MJ, I understand you're learning new details about this alleged abuse.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. As you know, last week Avenatti was arrested in Los Angeles on suspicion of domestic violence. At the time we didn't know the details of what exactly had happened, but now we know that the woman in this alleged altercation with Michael Avenatti, her name is Mareli Miniutti. She is an aspiring actress who says she dated Michael Avenatti for about a year and lived with him for the better part of this year. Now, what we have learned is that she was actually granted a restraining order against Michael Avenatti. And in her request for that restraining order, she makes a number of allegations, serious allegations against Michael Avenatti.

Let me walk through a couple of them. She says that among other things, Michael Avenatti called her an ungrateful f-ing b word. That he got, quote, very close to me in a threatening manner that made me afraid, that he forcefully hit her in the face with pillows, and that he, at one point, dragged her on the apartment floor.

Now, she says that it was the day after this incident that when she went back to the apartment to retrieve her belongings that Michael Avenatti was in fact arrested.

Now, as you said, Avenatti has very vehemently denied all of these allegations. He told me a couple of days ago that he has never struck a woman.

And we also have a statement that Avenatti's lawyers actually gave to the LAPD, a part of which I want to read. It says, Ms. Miniutti and Mr. Avenatti had an argument while in Mr. Avenatti's apartment during which Ms. Miniutti behaved in a volatile, agitated and irrational matter. However, Mr. Avenatti did not inflict any corporal injury or cause any traumatic condition upon Ms. Miniutti. Now they also say that there are witnesses and surveillance videos that should help support Avenatti's statements.

[09:55:13] HARLOW: MJ, as we wait to, you know, to see if those become available, people can see -- see those videos, I know that CNN, you've made multiple attempts to reach out to Ms. Miniutti. Unsuccessful. But you did just speak to her husband. So she's married? What did he tell you?

LEE: That's right. An interesting twist to tall of this. She is still married. I did speak with her husband just yesterday. And, just quickly, this is what he had to say about his wife. He says, she's a very calm, well-mannered, respectful individual and a classy woman. And he also, about this incident, alleged incident, he says a man should never raise a hand to a woman. But other than that, he wants to remain out of the spotlight.

Back to you guys.

HARLOW: OK, MJ Lee, thank you for staying on top of it. We appreciate it.

President Trump apparently was not kidding when he said he wanted to have Hillary Clinton investigated. Turns out, according to our new reporting, he tried to get his Justice Department to do just that several times.