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All 50 States Targeted by Russians Ahead of 2016 Elections; Rep. Speier Says Trump Interested in 2020 Meddling Because It Worked; Ole Miss Students Pose with Guns at Emmett Till Memorial; Jay-Z Pulls Out of Woodstock 50. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 15:30   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: You could call this the other long-awaited government report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. After two years, the Senate Intelligence Committee just releasing the first of five reports on the matter. And like the Mueller report it is heavily redacted. Like Mueller himself at the hearing this week, it is also sending a stark call out about stopping future election interference. This report however does offer some new details, in 2016 it finds all 50 states were targeted. All 50 states.

And then there is this also in the report. Quote, Russians cyber actors were in a position to delete or change voter data. Let that sink in for a minute. They were in a position to delete or change voter data. We should point out they go on to say the committee is not aware of any evidence that they did so, but just that moment it would make you think.

The bipartisan report also comes as the Senate majority leader blocked votes on election security legislation.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It's just a highly partisan bill from the same folks that spent two years hyping up a conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia.


HILL: CNN political commentator Peter Beinart is contributing editor of the "Atlantic". It was shocking honestly to hear Mitch McConnell say that just on the heels of Robert Mueller who very clearly in his testimony on Wednesday was doing his best to drive home the real threat of Russian election interference. Where do you think this is coming from with Mitch McConnell?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I just think it's absolutely unforgivable. I mean there's a desire to see this in partisan terms. Because the perception was that the Russians wanted Donald Trump to win last time. But our democracy is at stake. I mean they just passed this massive defense budget. Billions and billions of dollars, right, and yet they're willing to leave us basically wide open. Because Mueller said, the Russians are doing this now. Other countries will do it as well when they realize.

[15:35:00] And think about the consequences, if it turned out there were millions of votes missing from an election that were just not in the system or seeing that they've returned. Our democracy, look, remember what happened in 2000? Our democracy would be thrown into chaos, and yet the House bill is just calling for giving the states more money so they can basically secure their systems and requiring paper receipts so there's a way of tracking what happened and McConnell is not allowing a vote on it, I mean it boggles the mind.

HILL: It's also interesting. So Congresswoman Jackie Speier who serves on House intel had this to say.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): I'm beginning to think that there is an interest by some within the administration starting at the very top to allow the Russians to continue to intervene because it worked out well for them in 2016.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: What evidence do you have for that charge?

SPEIER: I'm basing it just on the fact that they have not indicated any interest in really delving down into this election security issue. There are many hackers that have been able to hack into election machines across the country at DEFCON which takes place at Las Vegas every year. The President has never uttered a word, he still says it's a Russian hoax.


HILL: As Jake asker her, what's your evidence for that? Because that's a pretty bold claim. What do you make of that?

BEINART: Look, I don't think unless you have evidence you can make these claims. What I've seen from the reporting that's been done is that it's not quite as bad, but it's almost as bad. Which is that Trump is such a narcissist, his ego is so frail, that people in the White House will not even bring up the subject with him. This is what "The New York Times" has reported. The subject of how to harden our election system.

Because he can only see it as a threat to his own legitimacy, he can't distinguish between the idea that some people are questioning him and the fact that we as a country have to be safe, and that's why there's opposition to doing anything about it, that's what I think the reporting I've seen has suggested.

HILL: Also really quickly, I mean take a step back with me if you will, if we look at the last several days, we have this clear warning from Robert Mueller, also from Senate intel as we're looking at all of this over the last week. Russia is probably watching this and going, well, this is an interesting thing to watch. Right especially the warning that they're still getting involved in our elections for 2020. You've got Iran going after tankers, firing missiles. You've got North Korea firing missiles, and yet the U.S. isn't really addressing much of that at all. What is it doing for us on a world stage?

BEINART: I mean part of the problem I think right now is that we are so addled as a nation by the unprecedented of the nature of this presidency, there's very little attention span, it's hard to get people to focus attention on these things. I mean Trump thank goodness seems to have pulled back from the brink with Iran, but we have National Security Adviser John Bolton who have said very explicitly that they support war with Iran. And things could easily spiral out of control. It's a very, very dangerous situation, and you can't have a lot of confidence in the man at the top.

HILL: Peter Beinart, good to see you. Thank you.

BEINART: Thank you.

HILL: Up next, we'll hear from a cousin of Emmett Till, the young black man whose lynching propelled the U.S. into the civil rights movement. He's in the news again today after this disturbing picture surfaced. These are Ole Miss students posing with guns next to his memorial. More on that just ahead.


HILL: Two of three University of Mississippi students have now been identified after they were caught posing with guns in front of a vandalized memorial for Emmett Till. You can see the image here and the sign behind them is riddled with bullet holes. Now I want to point out CNN is not identifying the men because we have not been able to speak with them, despite repeated attempts, and we cannot confirm they are the ones that vandalized that memorial.

We do know that all 3 though are members of the Ole Miss chapter of Kappa Alpha fraternity. The fraternity has suspended them. Emmett Till of course was just 14 when he was murdered in 1955 by two white men after being accused of making a pass at a white woman. His lynching became a major catalyst in the civil rights movement. Yesterday would have been his 78th birthday.

Joining me now is Deborah Watts. She's a cousin of Emmett Till and also the co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation. Joining us to speak about this first on CNN, we appreciate you taking the time. I'm just curious your initial reaction when you see this photo in 2019.

DEBORAH WATTS, COUSIN OF EMMETT TILL: Well, looking at the photos of those three students standing in front of the sign that was used as a marker for a place where Emmett's body was placed with a 75-pound cotton gin fan tied around his neck. When I think about it, it really doesn't compare to the torture that Emmett had experienced. But of course I'm disappointed, of course it's disturbing, but the unfortunate thing is not surprising, because of just where we are in our country today. We are experiencing I think an uptick in terms of hatred, violence and people feeling emboldened to take those kinds of -- or take that kind of action. Not sure if those young men placed those bullets there. But this is not the first-time that bullets were placed on that sign. HILL: Which is also an important point.

WATTS: The sign has been shot up, I should say.

HILL: Right. That the sign has been vandalized before. You mention people being emboldened.

[15:45:02] I do want to just share with our viewers what both Ole Miss and Kappa Alpha had to say. So Ole Miss saying, well, the image is offensive, it didn't present a violation of university code of conduct. It occurred off campus and was not part a university affiliated event. The fraternity for its part said the photo is inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable and does not represent our chapter.

You and I spoke very briefly during the break and one of the things you said to me is that this has inspired you in a number of ways and its confirmation of the work you're doing. It's also inspired you to reach out to Ole Miss. In reaching out to the university, what would you want that conversation to be and who would you want to have that conversation with?

WATTS: I'd love to have the conversation with the spokesperson initially that made the comment because it seemed as though they were interested in making a deeper commitment towards, I believe engaging with their students around what it all means. This tying back to sense of terrorism in our history is something we really shouldn't repeat. And I think we have a unique opportunity as family members of Emmett's, along with the work we're doing with the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, to help those students understand a little bit unique perspective around it, and that is from our family.

We have several family members that have been sharing this story, we share this story to colleges, universities, I think Ole Miss would be perfect, we'd love to speak with them and have an opportunity to share our story and talk about what happened in the past. How it affects our present? And how we should not repeat that past so it affects the future. I think all of us have an opportunity to be a part of that, and those students certainly represent the future, and we'd love to have an opportunity to chat with them about it.

HILL: The fact that we're seeing these students, young men, in front of this very important memorial that means so much to the history of the civil rights movement in this country to the history of this country. The fact that this is happening in 2019, yes, he was killed decades before they were born. That being said, do you think there is a history lesson that is being missed right now for some young people in this country? And maybe even some older people?

WATTS: Oh, definitely. I think that when you look at our curriculums that are in our -- from middle school to high school and even colleges. It's missing. And some bold instructors and others -- in fact I've been working with one of the colleges in Georgia, African- American studies professor there that has taken on our initiatives and has instructed students to take a fresh look at just the injustice that has occurred with Emmett, how does it translate to today, looking at the loopholes in the laws that were on the books at that time, that still remain on the books, that allow perpetrators to escape, to even looking at what we can do from a legal perspective.

Whether it's, you know, on a local, federal or international basis, from a human rights perspective. I think that it's a perfect time for us to take a look at what we're teaching in schools. And certainly, we'd love to have Emmett's story. It's not the beginning, but we certainly would like it to be a flashpoint in time to move us forward. Because it was a flash point in our recent history, with the civil rights movement.

HILL: Deborah Watts, really appreciate your time and perspective today, we look forward to following you as you continue this work, thank you.

WATTS: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

HILL: Up next, 50 years after Woodstock, big plans to revive the legendary concert falling flat. Artists pulling out, a change of venue, what is happening?


HILL: We just learned today, Jay-Z is out as a performer at Woodstock 50. Now for months organizers have been trying to get an anniversary event pulled together. The reboot though of that iconic hippie fest has been plagued with troubles. Not just the fact I can't speak. CNN senior entertainment reporter, Lisa France joins me now. No Jay-Z, no John Fogerty, of course an original Woodstock performer. What is going on?

LISA FRANCE, CNN SENIOR ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: It is starting to feel like the fire festival and it hasn't even happened yet. They lost their major promoter. They lost the person that -- the company that was going to finance the whole thing back in April. Now we're hearing that it may have to move to Maryland. The original venue fell through so it may not even happen in New York.

There were reports out there that they're going to move the whole thing to Maryland which is not going to feel very Woodstock-y, I know I'm from Baltimore. So trust me if your 20 in Maryland, sweetie, that's not going to be Woodstock.

HILL: Not so much.

FRANCE: Not so much.

HILL: Any chance they could revive this?

FRANCE: We'll just have to wait and see. At this point when you have a Jay-Z pull out, you've got to think that other artists are going to start of pull out also.

[15:55:00] So it may not be exactly what they were planning and that would be such a shame because Woodstock was a watershed moment for pop culture. HILL: Yes, iconic. Absolutely, well, we'll be watching and we'll

also be watching your Twitter feed because you will tell me what is happening.

FRANCE: I absolutely will.

HILL: Good to see you, as always, my friend. Thank you.

FRANCE: Thank you.

HILL: Still ahead, President Trump going after France, Sweden, even Fox News. Hear why.


HILL: Quick reminder, it is time for you to nominate your CNN Hero because nominations close next week. So if you know someone who is working to help others, nominate them now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I met my hero when we were volunteering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's making a big difference for kids in our area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is my second mom. My mentor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt like it was very important for people to know about Sister Tesa.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel honored that I was able to honor her in such a significant way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was proud of myself because I was like, oh, my goodness, for everything that she's done for me, I did something for her, you know.


HILL: Again, you have until Wednesday night to nominate someone just log on to