Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea Hackers Targeted the U.S. During Summit; Alabama Storm Victims Identified and Search Continues for Victims; Teen Who Defied Parents and Got Vaccinated Testifies on Capitol Hill; Doctor Tortured in Saudi Arabia. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 5, 2019 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: In a different form for the Chinese.

So it was no surprise to me that when we were all out in Hanoi watching the president and Kim negotiate, that his hackers around the world, not just based at North Korea, were busily at work.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: David, you and Jim and the whole team in Hanoi did a great job over there. I understand you had some good meals as well. I'm glad to hear that.

SANGER: Just a few, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, I know. I was jealous. I'm glad you're back here stateside.

But on a very serious note, talk to us about the broad implications that both sides left those -- you know, that second summit with no nuclear freeze, because if you look at the Iran negotiations, the Iranians, at least, there was a freeze in terms of development while the negotiations were ongoing. We don't have this now. And now, on top of it, we've learned that North Korean hackers are continuing this malicious activity against the interests of the United States.

SANGER: That's absolutely right. So during the Iran negotiations for an agreement that the president famously doesn't think much of, the United States worked out an arrangement with Iran under which it was not producing more nuclear material while the negotiations were underway. And that's important because if you don't have that, then the North Koreans will be using their continued production as leverage as the talks grind out. And, in this case, it's even more important than it was in the case of Iran.

North Korea has 30 plus nuclear weapons. We think that in the year or so or actually the eight months since Singapore has happened, they probably produced enough material for six or seven more. And we don't have any schedule for where this may be going, if it's going anyplace. So we're in the odd situation here that while the president and Kim are in this stalemate, the problem actually gets worse.


SANGER: And this may be exactly what the North Koreans have in mind if they want a Pakistani-sized arsenal.

SCIUTTO: Well, and they've done it for years, right? I mean that's been -- the concern has been that they drag out the negotiations and continue the activities while those negotiations are going on.

I mean the other point here was the president following -- I mean he says he didn't make this concession while he was there, but in the same timeframe again ended large scale military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea on the peninsula, which is a cornerstone of that defense relationship. Important as well for U.S. countering China's military power in the region.

How can that not be seen as a concession to North Korea while North Korea made no equivalent concession from its side?

SANGER: It would be seen as a concession. And, look, if you skip one or two military exercises, as the president said he was doing after the Singapore process, I don't think it has that long-lasting an effect. But then, as troops rotate in and out, American troops rotate in and out of the Korean peninsula and, of course, new recruits come into the South Korean military, and they serve for about two years, if the suspension of joint exercises goes on, you then suddenly have a force that's either never exercised or barely exercised. And that's a point at which it becomes somewhat dangerous.

The oddity here, Jim, was you'll remember at that press conference that the president gave after the breakdown in the negotiations, he basically was complaining about the cost of these exercises.


SANGER: Well, you know, true, they're expensive to do. On the scale of other things that we do and other exercises that we hold in the U.S. military, they're pretty tiny. And the South Koreans, obviously, pay for a portion of it. So it struck me as a really strange argument because if you think that something is essential to your defense, whether it's building a wall or doing cyber defenses, you spend the money and you prioritize what it takes to go do that.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and it's happening as Trump is expanding the military budget and brags about expanding the military budget.

HARLOW: That's a good point.

SANGER: That's right.

SCIUTTO: So it's hard to see how that all fits together.

HARLOW: That's a very good point.

David, nice to have you. Thanks.

SANGER: Great to be back with you.

HARLOW: Grief, destruction, the desperate search for survivors still this morning in the aftermath of Sunday's tornadoes in Alabama. We will have a live report, next.


[09:38:49] SCIUTTO: In a little more than an hour we will learn the names of all 23 victims of Sunday's deadly tornado in Lee County, Alabama. Sadly, children among them. Search crews still looking for people within the widespread debris. Officials say they have identified all the victims recovered so far.

HARLOW: Among the four young victims from Sunday's storms, six-year- old Armando "A.J." Hernandez (ph) and 10-year-old Taylor Thornton. Taylor's parents say she was camping with a friend when the tornado ripped through the area. Listen.


DAVID THORNTON, PARENT OF TORNADO VICTIM TAYLOR THORNTON: She was perfect. She didn't cause any problems.

ASHLEY THORNTON, , PARENT OF TORNADO VICTIM TAYLOR THORNTON: Did not have a mean bone in her body. She --

D. THORNTON: She was the air in my lungs.

A. THORNTON: And a very sweet young lady.


SCIUTTO: Those poor parents.

HARLOW: Our Victor Blackwell is live in Salem, Alabama, where the search for victims and survivors is ongoing.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR, CNN "WEEKEND NEW DAY": Yes, Jim and Poppy, it's difficult to hear those two parents barely able to speak above a whisper to talk about Taylor there. As you mentioned, there are several other families, a total of four children we know now who were killed during this outbreak of tornadoes here, two boys, two girls. We'll get their names and all of the ages of all of the 23 victims at a news conference at 11:00 Eastern this morning.

[09:40:18] We know that there will be the continued searches. They've searched the hardest hit areas, like where I am. And we'll see more of this in just a moment. But they're now expanding the search with heavy machinery and heavy equipment to try to find the potentially, according to emergency management, two or three people still unaccounted for. All 23 bodies have now been handed over to funeral homes. As you said, they have identified everyone.

Let me bring you back to this scene where I am in Salem and just show you around a bit. The storm came through here a little before 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday. And Chris Sword (ph) was in his trailer here. It spread out over this area now. He said that he heard a rumbling that drew him to the door and he saw this EF-4 coming with winds of 170 miles per hour. You see here the frame of the trailer just tossed against the tree like silly string. I want you to listen to his girlfriend, Jessica Chandler, explain his injuries and what happened.


JESSICA CHANDLER, BOYFRIEND INJURED IN TORNADO: I had just left and went to the grocery store with my kids to get my baby formula. He heard some loud noises. He walked to the screen door and he seen the porch fly up. The front porch is like a patio. He seen that fly up and he said he had just enough time to dive to the couch, which the couch is about a foot away from the screen door. And he just held onto the couch for dear life.


BLACKWELL: He was thrown to the trees, fractured his leg. He's been released from the hospital. The good news is, we see that the power trucks are back in town. I've seen about eight this morning. And they're restoring power here.

Again, the very latest coming from officials at 11:00 Eastern this morning.

Jim, Poppy, back to you.

SCIUTTO: It's good to have you there. A real tragedy in motion. Prayers to the folks still missing.

HARLOW: Victor, thank you.

Also this morning, police in Sacramento have arrested more than 80 protesters. They arrested them last night after these protesters -- they were protesting after it was decided not to file criminal charges in the police shooting death of Stephon Clark. Two police officers were called to reports of car break-ins last year when they encountered Clark. The officers said they thought the 22-year-old had a gun. It turns out it was a cell phone that Clark was holding. Authorities say Clark was shot seven times, including three times in the back. But a forensic pathologist hired by the family says he was shot eight times and six of those were in the back. His family is now calling for people to support a new bill in California that would change police use of force policies and require officers to try deescalating a situation before using lethal force.

SCIUTTO: The teen who defied his parents and got vaccinated is taking his fight to Congress. But, before he testifies, he's speaking with us. His remarkable story, an important one, that's next.


[09:47:39] SCIUTTO: In just moments, the teen who defied his own parents and got vaccinated against their will, will testify in front of Congress about his decision. Ethan Lindenberger announced on YouTube that he will appear alongside health experts and openly fact checked his parents' anti-vaccine theories. HARLOW: The now 18-year-old had never had a vaccine until he went to the Ohio Department of Health in December to receive a series of standard vaccinations. This hearing comes as yet another study confirms the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella does not increase the risk of autism, nor does it trigger autism in children who are at risk. This is a study that looked at more than 650,000 children.

Ethan joins us now from Washington this morning.

Ethan, you are brave. Thank you for doing this and thank you for being here this morning.

ETHAN LINDENBERGER, TEEN WHO DEFIED PARENTS AND GOT VACCINATED: I'm glad I get to share my story and I'm glad that I get to talk to you guys. I'm really excited.

HARLOW: What are you going to tell Congress today?

LINDENBERGER: I'm just going to share my story, talk about the importance of accurate information and the dangers of misinformation and how that applies to my life.

SCIUTTO: Walk us through what had to be a difficult decision for you. In effect, challenging your parents. You know, this started with a Reddit posting. You said in that, my parents are kind of stupid, don't believe in vaccines. But I should also note, you've said this repeatedly, that you love your parents. You question their judgment on this, not their care.

Tell us how you've balanced that and how they've reacted to this.

LINDENBERGER: Yes, so, I mean, obviously, you have to find some footing. And so, for my parents, we had communicated as this story started to progress, and I just affirmed that I would be as respectful and kind as I could with being true to the situation. And so I publicly have said that my mom is misinformed and that she's incorrect, but never have I really once gone on air or on television and said, you know, that she's dumb or stupid or she hates her family, because that's not the case.

HARLOW: Yes. I know you love her -- your parents dearly and they love you dearly. But you really disagree on this. You've taken action. You're protecting yourself with these vaccines. But you have four siblings, right? You're one of five children. So have you --


HARLOW: Have you convinced your parents for your siblings?

LINDENBERGER: No. No. And even what you said about how I'm protecting my own health and safety, I mean my decision stems from that, but also the health and safety of other people.


[09:50:02] LINDENBERGER: And so, for my siblings, of course, I mean, they -- not having their vaccinations are at higher risk. But other people in this similar situation or that can't get vaccines or that are extremely young. And so that's kind of where my decision stemmed out of. And so far none of that has really resonated with my mother.

SCIUTTO: This is a serious issue. It's become a national issue. Measles, which was eradicated in this country is back.


SCIUTTO: There are dozens of people, young people, who have measles again. And I know this is a difficult question for you because anti- vaxers are, at least in part, to blame for this. I wonder if you -- and, again, tough question, but I wonder, do you blame your parents in part for this coming back again -- this potentially deadly disease coming back again?

LINDENBERGER: So that's a great question and I would say I wouldn't blame them specifically. I would more blame the information that's been given to them because when you're looking at these sources that spread this information, these lies, for lack of a really better or more accurate term, it's very clear that all the information is incorrect, skewed data. Everything is not cited. And also there's a lot of emotional appeals, talking about families and children and appealing to a parent's love and almost manipulating that to convince them that vaccines are dangerous, which that's the issue I take.


LINDENBERGER: And I've tried to convey to my parents that I don't think that they are stupid for believing that, but that people are very convincing and that's very dangerous.


HARLOW: Well, Jim and I, think about this, we talk about this a lot. Even off the air. We both have young children. And, you know, just reading this and now hearing your firsthand account is very powerful.

What about the laws and the regulations? Whether it comes to social media posts with anti-vaxers and fake news, whether it comes to actual laws that you think should be changed in, you know, nearly 20 states where parents have this choice, what do you want to see?

LINDENBERGER: So in terms of legislation, it's a complicated issue because you have both the state laws regarding exemptions from vaccination for public school on personal religious grounds and for the social media platforms where a lot of this misinformation spreads. It's a private company. It can do what it wants with its platform.

And so it's really up to the public to pressure and push these companies to take action. And you're seeing that already. With some companies like Pinterest and I think some others were also taking some -- some actions and changes, but I don't think that there's necessarily a clear answer so far that I've seen, but I definitely think that that's the root of a lot of these problems.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes, and still no federal law requiring this.

HARLOW: Right.

LINDENBERGER: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Listen, Ethan, thanks so much for joining us. You know, you're doing your country a service today. We appreciate it. Hope you stay in touch.

HARLOW: Good luck. Thanks, Ethan.

Really fascinating, he's going before Congress in just a few minutes.

All right, an American doctor's family says he is being beaten and tortured inside a jail in Saudi Arabia. So what is the United States doing about it? Next.


[09:57:16] SCIUTTO: A Harvard-educated doctor and dual citizen of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia is being held there without charges by the Saudis. And his family believes that Saudi authorities are beating him and torturing him. Dr. Walid Fitaihi, pictured there, was detained along with other prominent Saudis in November, 2017, by the crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman.

HARLOW: And this morning "The Washington Post" is reporting that the doctor, quote, was reportedly grabbed from his room at the Ritz Carlton, slapped, blindfolded, stripped to his underwear, bound to a chair, shocked with electricity, and whipped so severely that he could not sleep on his back for days. This is new reporting from "The Washington Post," which I should note is also the former employer of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose brutal murder the CIA says was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Joining us now is our Nic Robertson for more.

Look, I mean, a few days ago, when Jake Tapper asked John Bolton about this, he essentially said, look, there's consular access, but I don't know much more at this point. And this is an American citizen.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: And it appears that consular access only started recently. And you raised the name of Jamal Khashoggi. Well, Jamal Khashoggi, right around that time that Dr. Fataihi was being held and beaten, as we understand, a source of mine is familiar with the subject, confirms what the family's been telling us, that he was beaten while he was there at that hotel, that at the time that that was happening, that Jamal Khashoggi tweeted about this, saying, what's happening? How can this be happening to Dr. Walid Fataihi, you know, to a man like this. We can't get any straight answers. The prosecutor general won't give straight answers, what is happening?

So the flag has been raised, if you will, you know, over a year ago. So the consular access that it's getting now seems to be, after this long period in detention and what his lawyer says is happening is that every day he's sort of under this psychological duress because he doesn't know what's going to happen. And his family -- his family says that his mental condition is deteriorating in jail because he's -- he's afraid for what's going to happen to him next.

SCIUTTO: With no consequences for the Khashoggi murder, at least so far, a U.S. arms deal is proceeding to Saudi Arabia, you cover Saudi Arabia a lot, is it their general view, the authorities' view, that they have gotten away with it?

[09:59:47] ROBERTSON: I think the broad view is that there's a price to be paid, the reputation has been tarnished, that you can't wash this away. But respective of that, they will plow on, on the track that they're on. That Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman will continue to be the crown prince. That's not going to change. The torture that we heard about Fataihi in the Ritz Carlton