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The U.S. Senate Tries To Squeeze In A Vote On Criminal Justice Reform By The End Of The Year; Former Business Associates Of Michael Flynn Are Indicted. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired December 17, 2018 - 10:30   ET



RENEE DIRESTA, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, NEW KNOWLEDGE: They responded to the Senate's request for information, not to mine. The Senate was who provided the researchers with the data set.

So, my understanding is the Senate reached out and said can you provide us with information about influence operations on your platform starting in around 2015. Some of the companies really sort of stuck to the letter of the request. And others lie Twitter provided a much more broad-


DIRESTA: -- collection of content.

SCIUTTO: So -- so we're more than two years out obviously since the election took place. But it struck me that -- that your company said there are still more Russian accounts or likely that there are more Russian accounts that the social media companies have yet to identify.

How many more do you believe and why?

DIRESTA: I think it's really hard to put a number on it because as you'll see if you -- if you look in the report, one of the things that we show is -- nobody likes looking at graphs but unfortunately graphs are the best way to show this, kind of graphs or where they turned their accounts on.

And so, you actually see them creating accounts over the three year operation. They didn't just stop. After the 2016 election, if anything on Instagram in particular, they really ramped up. If you look at some of the Instagram content, there is still some residual stuff on the platform.

Some of it is dormant, some of it appears to potentially be related to other accounts that are still active. One of the challenges is I don't think that we can expect that Russia is going to give this up anytime soon.


DIRESTA: But we saw in the indictment from eastern division back in I believe it was late October was that they had actually increased their budget. You don't increase your budget if you're planning on shutting down operations. So, this--

SCIUTTO: Yes, that is -- that is--

DIRESTA: -- is going to be--

SCIUTTO: As Intel officials have said to me frequently, if it works from Russia's point of view--

DIRESTA: If it works, you keep doing it.

SCIUTTO: -- they're going to stick with it. Renee DiResta, thanks very much for helping it makes sense to us.


DIRESTA: Thank you.

HARLOW: Really interesting stuff. All right, so the Senate trying to squeeze in a vote on criminal justice reform by the end of the year. It's headed to the floor today. This is hugely significant. Administrations have been trying for years to get this done to no avail. That changes today, Van Jones with us next.



HARLOW: An unprecedented vote on criminal justice reform said to take place on the Senate floor today. The first step act focuses on rehabilitation and release opportunities for current inmates. The fact that this is coming up for a vote and widely expected to pass the Senate is no small feat.

It's being done by both republicans and democrats. Prison reform advocates have been trying to get this done, something like this, for years to no avail. CNN host of Van Jones Show and co-founder of the cut50 initiative, Van Jones is with me.

Good morning my friend.

How -- how did you do it because Mitch McConnell who it's up to him to bring this thing for the floor and the waning days here of this Congress has called this bill, in his words, extremely divisive and now he's bringing it to the floor. Take us behind the scenes.

VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Well, he I think he misread his caucus, I think he misread the country. This is not divisive. This -- this issue that we have too many people behind bars serving too much time for stuff that really they should not be serving time for has united the country.

Republicans and democrats. Republican governors have been passing bills for years shrinking the prison population and bringing the crime rate down in Georgia, in Texas, in Mississippi, in Ohio. So, you know, Mitch McConnell just misread the moment. But what happened was people refused to give up. Mike Lee, Rand Paul, frankly Jared Kushner and so many other republicans said hey listen; this is a not brainer. Let's get something and of course Hakeem Jeffries ...

HARLOW: How (ph)?

JONES: Hakeem Jeffries held in there as well.

HARLOW: Sure. And -- and look, this change from the first version that made it through the House and it changed to get some of those weary senators, even democratic senators like Dick Durbin on board.

But let's talk about Jared Kushner. When you were on the show with us November 15th, the day after the president supported this, you said Jared Kushner deserves a lot of credit. Obviously this is personal for him.

His father was in prison, this is something he has been fighting for. How much did Jared Kushner do to push McConnell's hand to get to where we are today?

JONES: Listen, you know Jared put -- left it all on the field. He -- he -- he called everybody. I mean he was working around the clock but what's interesting is that Jared Kushner is just one person who had a personal stake in this.

The secret behind this whole thing, the secret sauce, there was no super pack. There was no highly paid lobbying effort. There was no big billionaire donor. It was formally incarcerated people and people like Jared Kushner and Jessica Jackson from cut50 whose families had gone to prison.

And both sides just said we're just not going to give up. I've never seen anything like this. It was -- Jared is the most visible example but you had a lot of people who either formally incarcerated or had family members in jail who would not quit.

HARLOW: You're right because where's the big money donor for incarcerated folks? Right? It's not out there. And I'm glad you mentioned Jessica Jones (ph), I know she's you're partner in all of this ...

JONES: Jessica Jackson.

HARLOW: Jackson, excuse me -- her face as much as yours but she's a real power behind this and liaising with the White House, so due credit to her. OK, there are critics. You know it. Senator Tom Cotton, vocal critic. He has a host of amendments that you guys are going -- that you're fighting.


Let me read you some of what he has said. The first step act allows felons and sex offenders to be released early. I don't think the senate should vote to let car jackers and bank robbers out of prison. What do you say to him?

JONES: Well, I say he should go to Hollywood and write scripts because he's -- that's a Hollywood script, that has nothing to do with the bill. The bill helps 100 percent of everybody who's in prison. If they do a god job, they can earn good time credit and come home a little bit earlier.

Half of the people though, if they take classes and come -- and really get ready to come home job ready and transform can come home a little bit earlier. But that half excludes all the people he's talking about. So, he's just making stuff up.

The worst part about that kind of hysteria is that is gets people -- forgets the most important thing. 95 percent of the people who are n prison are coming home at some point. The only question is are they going to come home job ready and transformed or not.

What this bill does is, is it puts in the classes and the incentives for people to work hard, earn their way home a little bit earlier and when they come home, they're coming home better and not bitter. We have been paying to have people come home bitter and not better.

And then we're surprised when people don't do a good job. So, the reason the democrats, republicans are coming together, the reason that Donald Trump and Pelosi are supporting the same bill, the reason that Sean Hannity is speaking for the same bill that the people at MSNBC like is because it's--

HARLOW: Right.

JONES: -- so common sensical. And yet, you have Tom Cotton on that old, old playbook trying to scare people. But people are not going to pay attention to that.

HARLOW: Well, to your -- to your point, it was interesting, I was having a conversation earlier this morning here with -- with the democratic Senator Chris Coons who said to me and I quote, when the faith community from the evangelical and the progressive come together--

JONES: It's powerful.

HARLOW: -- this is what can happen, an interesting take. Finally before you go though, this is the first step back, it's called that for a reason. You want to see much more prison reform down the road.

If the president's pick for attorney general William Barr becomes attorney general, I wonder how much push back you're going to face on that.

Because he wrote this letter in 2015 to Mitchell McConnell saying quote, mandatory minimums and proactive law enforcement measures has caused a dramatic reduction in crime. Are you concerned that if he does become attorney general, the president may say OK, I'm not going further than the first step back? JONES: Well, listen, we would pick somebody else for attorney general. But -- and he may have a negative influence. But I tell you what, he's going to have a negative influence standing in front of a tidal wave of public opinion moving this direction.

Look, I believe the 2020 campaign will be the first time you see both parties running to say how much they can do for criminal justice. Nit running the old play book of fear and smear and that kind of stuff.

But saying listen, let's get this done. This is becoming common ground. And I got to tell you, I got 99 conflicts with the Trump administration, but prisons are not one. I want to fight them everywhere they're wrong, which I think they're wrong most of the time.

But on this issue, they're right. And I'm going to fight with them and with everybody else to get it done.

HARLOW: Appreciate the Jay-Z reference there, Van Jones. Thanks, my friend.

JONE: You got to get it in there. Rock nation--

HARLOW: Of course. There -- thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, quite a statement there from Van Jones. No question. Another story we're following, an alarming news study finds that vaping among teens including just 8th grader sis dramatically spiking how one e-cigarette company used social media to do just that, to target kids. That's next.



SCIUTTO: Breaking news, this just in to CNN; former business associates of Michael Flynn, President Trump's former national security advisor have just been indicted. Kara Scannell is standing by.

Kara, it's an interesting story here because this goes to an attempt to extradite a Turkish cleric living here in the U.S. under the demands really of -- of Turkish -- Turkish leadership. Tell us what you now.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: That's right Jim. So we just learned today that Bijan Rafiekian, who is Michael Flynn's business partner at the Flynn Intel group was indicted on conspiracy and charges and also as not registering as a foreign agent, for not registering as a lobbyist essentially articulating and arguing for the release of this Turkish cleric who is living in the U.S.

And he also was charged today along with Kamil Alptekin who is a Dutch Turkish businessman who was the one that hired the Flynn Intel Group to make this cause and to lobby on its behalf. Now we're also learning that this was three charge indictments with

Bijan Rafiekian and Kamil Alptekin charged with both conspiracy and not registering as foreign agents. And Alptekin, the Turkish Dutch businessman was also charged with giving false statements to the FBI.

When he spoke with the FBI, he did not inform that some of these payments that he had received -- you know that he had received payments from the Flynn Intel Group and that he was also really working on behalf of the Turkish government.

So that's the new development. Bijan Rafiekian was released today on bail. We have not had an appearance from the Turk Dutch businessman and, you know that -- that's the latest. There's still more information we expect to come out at this day progresses from some court filings but for now that's the latest. Poppy, Jim.

HARLOW: Just before you go. We know that Michael Flynn had admitted to prosecutors that he had repeatedly violated these laws requiring him to list out point by point all the work he'd done for foreign governments. Right. Turkey being one of them that hired him and those associates you named to do lobbying work on their behalf. How significant is this tie to Flynn given his sentencing tomorrow?

SCANNELL: Well, you know Poppy, we also saw in the -- the sentencing memoranda that went back and forth between the government and Flynn's lawyers that Flynn was helping the Special Council's office on at least three other -- three criminal investigations.


And now it seems clear that this is probably one of those.

HARLOW: One of them. OK, good point. Thank you Kara. We'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: So, if you're a parent, listen up.


SCIUTTO: A stunning new report finds that teenage vaping is spiking. With vaping now second only to alcohol is the most frequently used substance by teens. Nearly 18 percent of 8th graders, they're just 14 years old, 32 percent of 1oth graders, 37 percent of 12th graders all say they have vaped in the last year.

HARLOW: In the U.S., one company dominates the e-cigarette market. Social media helped them get there. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta has this report.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: So, there's no question the FDA has been cracking down hard on these e-cigarette manufactures of which Juul is the biggest one. They're concerned could these e-cigarettes actually be increasing among youth as you just pointed out there.

Juul for their point says they never intended to focus on youth. And that most of their social media actually comes about as a result of third party influencers. But what our investigation found was that in fact Juul was paying certain influencers to promote their product. And some of that promotion was to youth.

CHRISTINA ZAYAS, BLOGGER: We captured some photos.

GUPTA: This is Chritinae wfs at work.

ZAYAS: Add some lifestyle of me.

GUPTA: For the last ten years, she's made her living as a blogger and social media influencer, one of her recent jobs, post positive content about the e-cigarette Jull.

ZAYAS: They really wanted to appeal to the younger market. And they did.

GUPTA: Jull has hired an influencer marketing firm, which then reached out to he then 35 year old Christina in September of 2017, hoping to target her 57,000 Instagram followers.

ZAYAS: If you are a smoker, then please let me know your interest in a collaboration with Juul.

GUPTA: Christina shared that 5 percent of her followers are in the 13 to 17 age range. They're especially susceptible to being influenced according to Stanford research Dr. Robert Jackler who's been following Juul since earl marketing campaign more than three years ago.

DR. ROBERT JACKLER, STANFORD UNVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: They advertise exactly where young people live. Young people today are on social media. They're on their phones continuously throughout the day looking t social media channels.

ZAYAS: Juul's team reached out to me to work together. We came up with working on a sponsored post which is just a blog post. And then one Instagram post. Their budget was OK; we can offer you $1,000.

GUPTA: Juul declined an on camera interview, but conceited, it pad fewer than ten influencers who are all smokers or former smokers and collectively paid less than $10,000.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FDA COMISSIONER: I think its incumbent also upon the companies that are marketing these products to also take steps to try to crack down on the youth use.

GUPTA: FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb's concern is that teens are not aware that many e-cigs contain high levels of nicotine, which is addictive, particularly harmful to the developing brain and more likely to lead to traditional cigarette use. UNKOWN FEMALE: The FDA sees thousands of documents from e-cigarette maker Juul.

GUPTA: Since the FDA cracked down on Juul this fall, the company says it ended it's social media campaign in the United States. Dr. Jackler says, too little too late.

JACKLER: Turning off Juul's own contribution to this at this point doesn't matter because it's become a fad. And it's taken on a life of it's own.

GUPTA: For her part, Christina has stopped using Juul. And while her Instagram post and blog reach more than 5,000 people, she wonders if it was worth it.

ZAYAS: Stepping back, I think that when I saw all the kids smoking it at this festival during the summer, it just kind f turned me off to it. And I'm actually considering writing a blog post on why I quit.

GUPTA: And I think the most important point is this, while these e- cigarettes could potentially help people quite smoking, use as a smoking sensation device, if they also increase the usage among young people, that's a problem. Take a look at these numbers over here.

Young people who use these e-cigarettes, 30.7 percent will start smoking combustible tobacco products within six months. 30.7 percent. Non-users, 8.1 percent. And those numbers I think really tell the story of what's happening here.


HARLOW: Wow. Dr. Gupta--

SCIUTTO: Great story.

HARLOW: -- so important.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean imagine that they're not a health concern, right, because they're not pumping burning tobacco in to your lungs. But as doctor said there, it goes right to the brain--

HARLOW: And the nicotine adversely affecting the young brains of these people. And by the way, it's big tobacco companies that own the most -- the biggest most prominent e-cigarette--


HARLOW: -- makers.

SCIUTTO: And it's a good gateway to going on to traditional cigarettes as well. Anyway--

HARLOW: Yes. We'll stay on that.

SCIUTTO: -- a lot of reasons to be worried about it.

HARLOW: Thanks for being with us today. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto, at this hour with (inaudible) sitting in today starts right now.