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Senate Intelligence Committee Report Warns Of Ongoing Election Threat; Fraternity Members Suspended Over Photo At Emmett Till Memorial; New Evidence Shows Juul Funded Summer Camp And Youth Programs. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 07:30   ET



[07:32:02] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, a new assessment about just how comprehensive -- how extensive was the Russian effort to attack the U.S. electoral system.

I just want you to look at the states targeted. This is from a new report from the Senate Intelligence Committee. It says all 50 states were targeted by the Russians in 2016. Not a single state was spared.

Also, new reporting that says the Russians are not alone in targeting the 2020 race.

Joining me now is Phil Mudd, CNN counterterrorism analyst and author of the new book due out next week, "Black Site: The CIA in the Post- 9/11 World". Phil, I want to talk about the book in just a second.

But first, the Senate Intelligence Committee report saying that all 50 states were targeted -- all of them --


BERMAN: -- on the very same day that Senate Republicans block an electoral security bill.

As someone who has worked in intelligence, how would you look at that?

MUDD: Boy, that concerns me. I could see the legal issue here. There's an issue that says the states are going to be responsible for their own systems.

But step back here. You're dealing with a state actor, Russia -- and as you know, there are other reports that other countries -- China, Iran, and others are involved in the American electoral process. These are state actors that are highly sophisticated.

I cannot imagine that an American citizen wants to pay for and have each state develop the capability to monitor and block somebody like Russia coming into their systems. I understand the states have responsibility for voting but you've got

to have the federal government say we're going to give you a hand because I don't want to pay for my state, Virginia, to develop a tech capability to fight the Russians. That's nuts.

BERMAN: And if you're on the front lines in the Intel Community trying to battle this, if you see the Senate doing what it's doing, if you hear the president not even wanting to address the reality of the Russian attack, what message does that send to you?

MUDD: A pretty simple message if you want to coordinate a message to the American people. The FBI director has spoken. I guarantee you 98 percent of the Americans don't even know who that is.

The problem I would have with this is there's got to be one message for the next year and a half. That messenger has to be in the Oval Office. Not just because it's President Trump but because any president has the capability to speak to the American people in ways that the FBI or CIA can't.

I'm concerned not just about the Intel piece but about the messaging piece that's on the front end of the Intel.

BERMAN: Phil, you worked with Robert Mueller. In fact --

MUDD: Yes.

BERMAN: -- Robert Mueller comes up in your new book.

MUDD: Yes.

BERMAN: But you worked with Robert Mueller years ago. Was the Robert Mueller you know the one that you saw testifying the other day?

MUDD: Let me be clear here. We have a man who served in Vietnam and was decorated. We have a man who was nominated for a U.S. attorney job by a Republican president, who was nominated to be the FBI director by a Republican, renominated by a Democrat. Republicans asked him to serve again.

There's been a lot of conversation about whether his performance was perfect. I don't care.

He -- I'm 57 years old and I have a hero. I spent 4 1/2 years with that guy.

[07:35:01] Let him go. He was the best I ever saw, Democrat or Republican, and I just want to let it go. He's a great man. Let's let the hero go.

BERMAN: So you mentioned him in this new book, "Black Site", and it's a brief reference but it talked about he is revered among the people --

MUDD: Yes.

BERMAN: -- in the Intelligence Community.

This book is really interesting, Phil.

MUDD: Thank you.

BERMAN: I learned a lot here. It is about what you call or what is called, I learned, the program --

MUDD: Yes.

BERMAN: -- which was the use of black sites in interrogating terrorists in the post-9/11 world.

Why and how did you go back and write this?

MUDD: You know, I was writing one day. I live part-time in Memphis. I love to write. My mom, God bless her soul, inspired all us kids to love books and to love words.

So in addition to the story here, I wanted to write a book and I realized that the story of what happened after 9/11 -- the tension we faced, the way that a -- that a kid today can't step back in time and understand the pressure of decision-making was going to be lost because a lot of the friends I spoke to for this book will never speak again.

So I sat there and said I love writing, but I also write the story for a next generation or the last generation that takes them back in time and allows them to stand in our shoes. That's why I wrote it, John.

BERMAN: And the story, though, Phil, is one of what has been called enhanced interrogation techniques --

MUDD: Yes.

BERMAN: -- on these black sites -- rendition sites.

MUDD: Yes.

BERMAN: You know it's controversial. It continues to be controversial.

MUDD: I agree with that. But I think sometimes when you face a tough situation, instead of cringing you've got to look in the mirror and say in 2002, like it or not, this is where America was. At some point in the future America will face decisions like this again.

If you want to understand what it was like and the pressure of making those decisions read the book because if you think -- if you guarantee to yourself you would have made a different decision, you might have, but it wasn't that easy.

BERMAN: And you write, Phil, that you knew at the time because you were in the middle of this --

MUDD: Right. BERMAN: Everyone there knew at the time that what you were doing would be questioned, both legally, ethically, and morally. And yet, you still made the decisions you made. And at the end of the book you write about you and everyone else, too, about if you had to go back and do it all over again.

So, let me just ask you. If you had to go back and do it all over again, would you?

MUDD: I don't think so but that's not because I think the program was not founded in American law. That's not because I think we did things that were inappropriate.

That's because we've had 17 years for people to speak -- the people who represent us in the White House and the Congress. They said not only do we not want this to happen again, but we won't protect you if it does.

So if you're leading an intelligence effort you can't put yourself in a position to lead people into a situation where the Congress is going to moonwalk years later and say we didn't really know you guys are nasty. You can't do that again.

BERMAN: Phil Mudd, like I said, the book is "Black Site: The CIA in the Post-9/11 World". There's a lot of new information in here and it really does bring you back to such an incredible time in our history. It comes out on Tuesday, July 30th.

Thanks so much, Phil

MUDD: Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, now to this.

How was America's biggest e-cigarette company able to reach children and teenagers in their schools and summer camps? We have the details on that, next.


[07:42:12] CAMEROTA: A fraternity at the University of Mississippi suspending three students after a disturbing photo surfaced showing them posing with guns at a bullet-riddled memorial site for civil rights icon Emmett Till.

CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Oxford, Mississippi with more. What do we know about this, Martin?


Yes, those photos not only sparking outrage, it may spark a civil rights investigation. It was brought to life thanks to an investigative journalist here in the state of Mississippi.

The photo shows three white University of Mississippi fraternity brothers from the Kappa Alpha fraternity posing in front of the Emmett Till memorial marker. And you can see that two of the men are holding guns. The marker, itself, is blasted with bullet holes.

Two things. First of all, we've blurred the faces of the men because we have not reached them yet for comment. And also, it's not clear if these men are the ones that shot up that marker. It has been defaced in the past.

And we should point out that marks the spot where Emmett Till, in 1955 -- where he was tortured and murdered. His body was recovered. It is considered to be the start of the modern civil rights movement.

The three have been suspended by the fraternity, which put out a statement saying, "This photo is inappropriate, insensitive, and unacceptable. It doesn't represent our chapter." We should point out, though, the fraternity has a history of racial controversy.

The University of Mississippi calls the photo "offensive and hurtful" but says it doesn't violate any student code of ethics. It also says it wasn't taken on campus.

The U.S. attorney of Northern Mississippi has passed it on to the Department of Justice for further investigation.

The marker has been taken down. A fourth bulletproof version is being worked on.

And lastly, the family of Emmett Till speaking to CNN about this photo says "To see them standing there smiling is disappointing but not surprising, we have to say. And stay focused on what is really important in our mission is justice for Emmett Till."

We should point out nobody has ever been convicted for Till's murder. He would have been 78 yesterday -- John and Alisyn.

BERMAN: I have to say, Martin, it is horrifying to see that picture when you just think about the history.

CAMEROTA: That we keep learning over and over again, it seems.

BERMAN: And you hear from the family, saying they're saddened but not surprised.

Internal e-mails and contacts -- contracts revealed during a congressional investigation into Juul's role in the youth vaping epidemic. An employee suggesting in a memo that the company's efforts seem to duplicate those of big tobacco. This was a fascinating hearing.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now live to explain. Sanjay, what have we learned here?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there was a lot going on in Washington this week, I know, but this was a pretty passionate hearing.

You had people talking about all aspects of these e-cigarettes -- the marketing claims, the health claims, the role with big tobacco. They're putting billions of dollars into these e-cigarettes and that should tell you something about this.

[07:45:08] But there were also some pretty jaw-dropping moments, I think, just as you watch the story unfold. Think about it as a parent.

Here's some of what we learned.


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, overall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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 --

GUPTA (voice-over): We've seen passionate exchanges between tobacco opponents, and Juul executives, and members of Congress at a 2-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.

DR. ROBERT JACKLER, CONDUCTED RESEARCH INTO IMPACT OF TOBACCO ADVERTISING, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: 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 has 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.


CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh. So, Sanjay, what now, after this hearing?

GUPTA: Yes, it's so hard to still watch that toddler taking a puff on that thing.

I think what happens now is that people have been asking where has the FDA been in all of this and should this be regulated?

I think what we're going to see is this requirement for these devices to go through what's called PMA (Premarket Approval) to actually show that they have evidence that they provide some function. In this case, helping people stop smoking, which there is good data on that, and that they're also safe. That they're not going to lead to a new generation of smokers.

They're going to have to pass those bars I think, according to the FDA, in order for these devices to continue to be sold the way they are.

BERMAN: I can tell you Sanjay, as a parent of 12-year-olds there is no subject that is discussed more --


BERMAN: -- among parents right now than vaping.

GUPTA: Every time we get together this comes up in some way. Do you think your kid is vaping? Are you sure they're not vaping?

You've got to be aware of this because these devices were designed to be concealed. I mean, they're designed to look like USB devices. Everyone should be aware of this.

BERMAN: Any sense of how many are doing it?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, keep in mind that when you get this kind of data, you're asking kids, right? So you're counting on the kids being forthright about this.

But they say about 3.6 million middle-schoolers and high-schoolers now vaping. That went up from 2.1 million last year -- sorry, in 2017. So we'll have to see what the 2019 data shows. If it continues that upward trajectory -- I mean, this is going to be one of the most commonly performed activities in schools.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, so many parents are appreciative of you staying on this story and continuing to bring it to light because like John said, that is their biggest worry.

GUPTA: I've got kids, too. I'm -- this is -- I'm looking into this for myself, in part.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right.

You'd think election security would be an issue both parties could get behind. So why did Republicans in the Senate vote against it? A CNN reality check, next.


[07:53:50] CAMEROTA: A veteran Iowa fire chief is going beyond the call of duty to bring lifesaving gear to firefighters in a small town in Mexico.

CNN's Ryan Young has the story.


911 DISPATCHER: Newton fire is needed from --

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Newton, Iowa fire chief Jarrod Wellik has been answering emergency calls for more than 20 years.

CHIEF JARROD WELLIK, NEWTON, IOWA FIRE DEPARTMENT: All of our people have their own set of gear.

YOUNG (voice-over): Now running this small-town department, Chief Wellik collected more than $90,000 of essential firefighting gear to donate to a small town in Mexico.

WELLIK: This project was something that we put together because we recognize how important it is for us to protect our people here, no different than it is in Mexico or any other country.

YOUNG (voice-over): Reaching out to fellow fire chiefs, equipment came pouring in.

WELLIK: We had three different departments come forward and say this is an awesome project. We can't -- we can't wait to give you stuff. YOUNG (voice-over): Local restaurant owners Kim Lopez and her father helped to connect Chief Wellik with a department in Jalisco, Mexico, the town where Lopez's parents are from.

KIMBERLY LOPEZ, DELIVERED EQUIPMENT TO MEXICO: Yes, you can see stuff spilling out because it's so much.

YOUNG (voice-over): They are driving their packed SUV more than 1,800 miles -- a 27-hour trip to deliver all the equipment.

[07:55:02] LOPEZ: They both know what it takes to help other communities.

WELLIK: I can't imagine going to a fire and trying to help others without the proper gear. These people put their lives on the line every day to protect people and they're not even protected themselves.

YOUNG (on camera): It's almost like their armor.

WELLIK: This is your barrier between you and the heat and the smoke and the bad stuff.

YOUNG (voice-over): The lifesaving equipment would have been headed for a landfill. After 10 years, U.S. regulations from the National Fire Protection Association requires used gear to be retired.

WELLIK: Gear -- when it reaches 10 years, a lot of people will say it's actually seasoned. And so, that means that it's kind of come into its own and it's actually more protective.

The coats are pretty heavy.

YOUNG (voice-over): A set of turnout gear is also expensive.

WELLIK: A complete set of gear, including helmet, is about $2,500.

YOUNG (voice-over): This small Iowa fire department is getting its chance to make a world of difference.

WELLIK: It's about giving to the brotherhood. That's what we call it in the United States. The fire services of brotherhood.

The fact that they don't have the resources available to purchase new equipment, anytime we can help out a fellow brother or sister we're going to -- we're going to give.

YOUNG (voice-over): Joining together two fire departments across borders.

Ryan Young, CNN, Newton, Iowa.


BERMAN: A small department making a world of difference.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, what an amazing story of partnership. BERMAN: So, one of the most stark things that Robert Mueller told Congress this week is that the Russians attacked our elections and they will keep on attacking until they are stopped. Yet, Republicans in the Senate keep blocking election security bills. So, why?

John Avlon has your reality check -- John.


Look, beyond all the partisan fights over the Mueller hearings there was that one crystal clear conclusion.


REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): Did you think that this was a single attempt by the Russians to get involved in our election or did you find evidence that suggests they'll try to do this again?

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: No, it wasn't a single attempt and they're doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign.


AVLON: That fact that a hostile foreign power attacked us and is continuing to attack us is something that should unite us all, regardless of party, but it doesn't. In fact, under President Trump, it's tended to have the opposite effect.

And it's outrageous that at the same time Mueller was issuing that warning, a Republican senator from Mississippi named Cindy Hyde-Smith, was single-handedly blocking two election security bills. When Democrats tried to pass it by unanimous consent, Hyde-Smith objected. She didn't even feel she needed to give a reason to do it.

But what made her action even more insulting is that it came one day after FBI director Wray told the Senate this.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections through --

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Is it fair to say that everything --

WRAY: -- foreign influence.

GRAHAM: -- we've done against Russia has not deterred them enough? All the sanctions, all the talk, they're still at it.

WRAY: Well, my view is until they stop they haven't been deterred enough.


AVLON: The warning couldn't be more clear, folks, but the Republican response from too many folks has been to block election security bills and take an ostrich-like approach to protecting our nation's election system.

They're following the lead of Mitch McConnell who objected to another bill that would have required campaigns to notify the FBI if a foreign government offered election assistance. That's not all. He also killed a different set of election security bills on Thursday.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Clearly, this request is not a serious effort to make a law. Clearly, something so partisan that it only received one single solitary Republican vote in the House is not going to travel through the Senate by unanimous consent.


AVLON: Talk about politics over principles. Who in the world would benefit from refusing to strengthen our election system? It's certainly not Americans.

After all, thanks to a brand new report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, we now know that Russians likely targeted election systems in all 50 states between 2014 and 2017, far more than previously disclosed. And because of their success we now know that other hostile nations are getting into the game, including Iran and China.

But while intelligence and law enforcement folks are warning about this ongoing threat, too many Senate Republicans seem far more interested in defending the president than in defending our democracy.

Now, tone comes from the top and President Trump has shown a persistent disinterest in trying to strengthen our election security systems. Perhaps that's because he fears that foreign meddling delegitimizes his own election win.

But appeasing Trump is no reason for a lawmaker to abandon their responsibility to the republic. Ignoring the need to strengthen our election systems is an outrage and it's happening right now.

Listen just one more time to what Mueller said.


MUELLER: No, it wasn't a single attempt and they're doing it as we sit here.


AVLON: Wolves at the door, folks. In a purely political effort to stay on Donald Trump's good side, too many Republicans are letting that door swing wide open.

And that's your reality check.

BERMAN: If you are someone wanting to attack the U.S., what's the message you're receiving? What's the deterrent here from the signals from Republicans in the Senate and the White House?

AVLON: It's an open-door policy. You want to strengthen your border? Let's strengthen our election systems because that goes to the heart of who we are as a democracy.

CAMEROTA: And they're not mutually exclusive. You can support President Trump and support --


CAMEROTA: -- election security. The idea that Republicans.