Return to Transcripts main page


Pete Buttigieg Unveils Economic Proposal; Senate Report Confirms Russians Targeted 50 States in 2016 Election; JUUL Told Teens Vaping Totally Safe in School Info Sessions. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: His plan is to try to protect workers, calling out some of the biggest tech companies like Google, Lyft and Uber on outsourcing employees.

CNN business reporter Vanessa Yurkevich, who's been tracking the campaign. She joins me now.

I mean, this has been a big talk recently about, you know, contract workers for these companies that make less money, don't share the same benefits yet help them succeed. Is that part of his concern?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, it is exactly part of his concern. I mean, this plan is really aimed at protecting the American worker. But he really puts in the hot seat, these companies --


TEXT: Buttigieg's Economic Proposal: Allows workers to collectively bargain with their direct parent companies; Calls for legislation to make pay gaps at every large company public; Renews call for a $15/hr federal minimum wage; Guarantees all American workers the right to join a union; Codifies a stricter definition of "independent contractor"; Introduces multimillion-dollar penalties for employer interference in union elections and workers' rights

YURKEVICH: -- like Lyft, Google and Uber. And you know, some of the topline items of this policy are really interesting. He wants to make it that all American workers can join a union. He wants to introduce multimillion-dollar penalties for employers who interfere in union elections and worker rights. And he wants to call for legislation that makes pay gaps at every large company public.

But the interesting thing is the he does name these specific tech companies by name. And he says that these companies are using contracted workers, which doesn't allow them to receive the benefits of full-time employees.

So for his plan, he wants these contractors to be able to unionize, collective bargain and he wants to make it so that these companies have to go through a set of guidelines that makes sure that they are ticking off all the boxes in terms of whether or not their employees are really contractors or not. HARLOW: It's interesting. There was that big spread in "The New York

Times" a month or few months ago about Google specifically. And Google's policy has changed, where all of those contract workers make at least a certain wage and have the same benefits now. But we're not seeing that change all across -- across the sector.

Before you go, he, speaking at -- or already spoke at the National Urban League --

YURKEVICH: This morning.

HARLOW: -- that's where we hear Kamala Harris right now. Buttigieg's struggle has been African-American voters. So this is obviously a play to try to get those numbers up.

YURKEVICH: He wants to be there. He's rolling out -- he's continuing to roll out his Douglass Plan. I mean, he's polling very low with African-American voters, especially in South Carolina. Joe Biden is at 51 percent, Buttigieg down there at about 1 percent.

TEXT: Choice for Pres., Black Voters, likely SC Democratic Primary Voters: Biden, 51 percent; Harris, 12 percent; Sanders, 10 percent; Warren, 2 percent; Buttigieg, 1 percent


YURKEVICH: But at -- you know, at the conference, he's continuing to talk about reforms for education, health care, criminal justice and voter rights.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: Suppressing the black vote made my life worse because I've got to live under this presidency.


HARLOW: Interesting way to put it.

YURKEVICH: And now, as we see more candidates roll this -- these types of plans out, like Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, the candidates are going to be able to take a look at each other's plans and we're going to start to see them debate this more publicly. We'll see it, probably next week at our CNN --

HARLOW: For sure.

YURKEVICH: -- debate in Detroit.

HARLOW: Can't wait, Vanessa. Thank you for the great reporting. I appreciate it.

As Vanessa said, the CNN presidential debate, just a few days away. Two big nights, 10 candidates each night, Tuesday and Wednesday, live from Detroit and only, of course, right here on CNN. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Still to come, a stunning new

report shows that all 50 states were targeted by Russia, attempts to interfere with the U.S. election. We're going to discuss with a former director of national intelligence, James Clapper.


[10:37:42] SCIUTTO: So do you think you've heard the worst about foreign interference in the U.S. election? Maybe not. A Senate report shows that Russia targeted election systems in all 50 states back in 2016. It was a much larger effort than previously known to the public, and one that happened right under the noses of state and local election officials.

TEXT: Russian efforts "exploited the seams" between the federal authorities and states.

SCIUTTO: But the bipartisan report -- let's emphasize that, it's bipartisan -- has not yet found a bipartisan solution. The Republican-led Senate is blocking two election security bills in just the last 24 hours. Joining me now is James Clapper. He's the former director of National Intelligence.

First question: Why would a foreign adversary like Russia test, attempt to gain access to election systems in 50 states?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, Jim, in the runup to the election in 2016, when I was still serving in the government, we observed what I would call Russian reconnoitering in at least 21 states, probably more. I suspected at the time that they tried all 50. So the Senate Intelligence Committee report just, I think, confirms what I had felt at the time was probably the case.

One of the things that was somewhat of a mystery to us at the time is, why were they doing this. Because they didn't appear, at the time, to have done any manipulation or exfiltration. Well, I think the obvious answer to that is, they were reconnoitering for future use.

Now, we never saw any evidence -- as we reported in our intelligence community assessment of January of '17 -- any evidence of manipulation of voter results.


CLAPPER: Not to say it didn't happen, we just didn't see any evidence of it.

Well, we're faced with that specter, in my opinion, in 2020. Where, if the Russians so chose, they would have the option of perhaps exfiltrating and manipulating data to actually change the outcome of votes.

SCIUTTO: So doing recon, in effect, to give them the ability to mess with the results of an election?

CLAPPER: Right. Exactly. SCIUTTO: That's an alarming --

CLAPPER: By the way --

SCIUTTO: -- prospect.

CLAPPER: -- your book, "Shadow Wars," is a great tutorial in just this kind of activity. This warfare -- and you have to call it that -- that's actually ongoing as we speak.

[10:40:07] The other thing that concerns me is emulating -- an emulation by other states, who would also have their own motivations for attempting to influence, meddle and manipulate our elections. The likes of, for example, Iran or China.

SCIUTTO: They see the success Russia had, and then they want --

CLAPPER: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: -- to get in on it.

CLAPPER: There are copycats.

SCIUTTO: The Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity chief, Chris Krebs, he told a conference in New York just yesterday -- and I'm quoting from him here -- "We're not going to be caught flat- footed. We are ready. We're prepared for 2020." In your view, is the U.S. prepared to defend elections in 2020?

CLAPPER: I think we are clearly better than we were in 2016, no question about that. 2018, not necessarily, in my view, a good barometer because the fact it wasn't a presidential election, and it was so diffused. All 435 members of Congress and 33 senators were up for re-election. So from Russia's perspective, much more diffuse.

So we shouldn't beat our chest too much about relative success we had in 2016. 2020 is going to be a challenge for us. I think -- I am sure that all kinds of measures have been taken. I still worry, though, about the inconsistencies between and among the 50 states, who -- many of whom are very jealous about their prerogatives for managing and protecting the voter apparatus.

SCIUTTO: You were around in 2016 when the Obama administration went to the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and asked for a bipartisan statement about Russian interference in that election. The majority leader refused.

And since then, in recent weeks, months and even the last few days, has blocked legislation that would increase election security. There bills earlier this week, on the same day as Mueller testimony, to make it -- to require that folks report foreign office (ph) interference to the FBI, blocked in the Senate. In your view, is McConnell choosing party over country?

CLAPPER: Well, I don't know exactly what the motivation is. I will just pause at the reaction of then-President-elect Trump in January of '16, who was very skeptical about our reporting. Very difficult for him to acknowledge that the Russians meddled -- and successfully so -- in the election of 2016 because obviously, that cast doubt on the legitimacy in that election.

And I think that is what is inhibiting Republicans, who don't want to incur the wrath of the president by casting doubt on the legitimacy of that election, which is regrettable. Because the bigger stake here is the very foundation -- the sanctity and security of the very foundations of our political system.

SCIUTTO: I've heard that explanation from Republicans, even from people who support the president. That, well, he can't publicly acknowledge this because it would undermine his victory. But I wonder, without presidential leadership, without clear statements from the president, even on something as simple as, "I'm not going to accept foreign help in this election," without that, can the U.S. credibly defend against this kind of interference?

CLAPPER: Well, a lot has been done, I am sure. I don't have inside baseball here, but I'm sure a lot has been done by the likes of the FBI, NSA, Department of Homeland Security, et cetera. And I think probably a lot has been done on a state-by-state basis. Probably not consistent.

What's missing, though, is the galvanizing effect that can only come from the presidential bully pulpit, by calling the public's attention, not just to the security of the voter apparatus -- voter registration rolls, voter tabulation -- but also what the Russians did and others will do to manipulate social media to change -- the influence and manipulate opinion.


CLAPPER: And the president's voice is missing. And that's what concerns me about election security in 2020.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And often sometimes amplifying those divisive messages.

Director Clapper, always good to have you on the program.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Thanks very much.

Poppy, back to you.

HARLOW: All right. All right, thank you, Jim.

[10:44:13] So listen to this, parents. You have no doubt heard that vaping, those e-cigarettes -- it's an epidemic among teens -- so why was a class of 9th graders told that vaping was, quote, "totally safe" during an in-school seminar on addiction? Coming up, how lawmakers say e-cigarette maker JUUL is creating a new generation of customers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARLOW: All right. Parents, listen to this. E-cigarette maker JUUL is accused of using tactics straight out of Big Tobacco's playbook to market its products to teenagers. Internal e-mails and contracts show that the e-cigarette company paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund programming aimed at children and teens in school and summer camp.

SCIUTTO: Just amazing, such a dangerous product for kids.


SCIUTTO: In exchange, JUUL would receive information about those children such as test scores and behavior assessments. A spokesman for the company says that JUUL did not end up collecting the information. We're learning this disturbing information after congressional hearings this week.

[10:50:09] CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has more.


MEREDITH BERKMAN, CO-FOUNDER, PARENTS AGAINST VAPING E-CIGARETTES: We face an entire generation of kids addicted to nicotine, who are human guinea pigs for the JUUL experiment over (ph) all (ph).

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): Many of JUUL's tactics seem to be right out of the Big Tobacco playbook.

JAMES MONSEES, CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF PRODUCT OFFICER, JUUL LABS: We never wanted any non-nicotine user -- and certainly nobody underage -- to ever use JUUL products.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): JUUL hasn't provided satisfactory -

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We've seen passionate exchanges between tobacco opponents, JUUL executives and members of Congress at a two-day congressional hearing on JUUL's role in the youth vaping epidemic.

But perhaps the most surprising exchange came from high schoolers, who revealed that JUUL had sent a representative to their classroom last year, and that teachers were asked to leave the room.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Did the presenter call JUUL, quote-unquote, "totally safe" more than once?


KRISHNAMOORTHI: What impact did those, quote-unquote, "totally safe" comments have on your classmates, some of whom may have already started vaping?

MINTZ: For my classmates who were already vaping, it was a sigh of relief because now they were able to vape without any concern. GUPTA (voice-over): We asked JUUL about this. And they said

presentations to students were made as part of a short-lived educational and youth prevention program, which was ended in September 2018. The company says its purpose, which was to educate youth on the dangers of nicotine addiction, was clearly misconstrued.

The company also said it has taken actions to prevent youth vaping, like scaling back its social media accounts, platforms that critics say had particular appeal among teenagers. But according to one expert who testified, that was too little, too late.

ROBERT JACKLER, STANFORD RESEARCH INTO THE IMPACT OF TOBACCO ADVERTISING: You would have thought that hashtag posting would decline. But in fact, it surged.

GUPTA (voice-over): Surged in part because the hashtag itself gained a kind of social currency, even after the brand had largely exited social media. Jackler and others say this video should scare anyone: normalizing the use of these devices, even in a young toddler.

JACKLER: We've seen lots of outrageous postings on #JUUL. It's remarkable, the lack of boundaries many posters have.

GUPTA (voice-over): For its part, JUUL says it agrees. These posts by other users are a serious problem, and it's gotten more than 30,000 of them taken down. But with more than half a million posts still tagged on Instagram alone, Jackler's new research shows that still hasn't stopped JUUL's online popularity.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


HARLOW: You know, Jim, we both have young kids.


HARLOW: And every parent should go to -- I just pulled it up -- and it, "Know the Risks." And it talks about the effect of nicotine addiction on brain development for anyone under 18 years old --

SCIUTTO: Yes, they're like --


HARLOW: -- you know.

SCIUTTO: -- candy. I mean, they're like candy. Even the flavors, you know, it's an issue. It's a childhood friend of mine, mother there, whose son was testifying. And I've spoken to her about it --

HARLOW: Oh, wow.

SCIUTTO: -- and it's heartfelt. I mean, they see it, and they see it in schools and -- HARLOW: Of course.

SCIUTTO: -- the kids get addicted.

HARLOW: Of course. Everyone needs to pay attention here because we saw it through Big Tobacco. Let's not let it happen again.

[10:53:20] OK. Look at these pictures. Nancy Pelosi is about to speak, there at the lectern, after her meeting with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. You'll see it live. Stay right here.


SCIUTTO: Police in D.C. are searching for a group of teens, caught on-camera attacking two men outside a popular hotel. We should warn you, this video we're about to show is graphic.

HARLOW: It is. So take a look. In the video, the suspects overrun one man and push him down. Then punch and kick and even spit on him as he lies curled on the ground. Rene Marsh joins us now with more.

It's, ugh, horrible to watch. What are the D.C. police saying this morning about it?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Heartless, really. This morning, police here in Washington, D.C., they are looking for these attackers, as you said, Poppy. They are very young. They say that they're between the ages of 13 and 15.

You can see in the video there, that one teenager throws the first punch and that is when the man falls to the ground. And then you see all the other teenagers join in. They're stomping him, they're kicking him. And then they disperse.

This was all caught on surveillance video, Sunday around 1:00 in the morning outside the Washington Hilton. And if you wait just -- for just a second, you see that one woman, teenager there, it looks like she ran back just to spit on the guy, as if he hadn't been through enough in that moment.

Police also say he was -- the victim was with a second man, who was also attacked. It is unclear at this hour, why these teenagers chose to attack these two men. According to the police report, that second victim, he tried to intervene. He was screaming, "That's not him. You have the wrong person." And that's when the teenagers all dispersed.

HARLOW: It is horrible to see. I know that the D.C. police are on this. Let's hope that they find those accountable very soon. Rene Marsh, thank you so, so much for the reporting.

And thank you all for joining us today. Nancy Pelosi is speaking right now, so stay with us for those details about that meeting with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

I'm Poppy Harlow. SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR" starts right now.

[11:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR, AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

At any moment now, we will hear from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She will be talking to reporters.