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President Threatens NDAA Veto; European Union to Ban U.S. Travelers Over Coronavirus Numbers; Companies Boycott Facebook Advertising Over Hate Speech. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 1, 2020 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[10:30:45]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Moments ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, commenting on intelligence that Russia was targeting U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Let's have a listen and get reaction.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- bounty issue, you had some conversations with senior Russian officials after your aides were told about evidence of the Russian bounties. Did you use those opportunities to tell Moscow not to endanger U.S. troops in that manner?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: So let's back up, let's back up. A lot of what you said suggests knowledge that I don't think you actually have. I don't want to comment about the intelligence, the CIA's put out a statement, the DNI has put out a statement. But I can tell you, the Intelligence Committee handled this incredibly well.

We see threats in intelligence reporting to our soldiers stationed all over the world every single day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Let's bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Secretary Pompeo will often attack the reporters or the questions, not so much the -- answer the question there. But it's your reporting that this was taken seriously enough, it was passed on to soldiers on the ground. Is there still a question as to how serious this intelligence is?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there's always going to be a question, right? And you would expect -- you know this as well as I do, better than me -- you expect top commanders and top intelligence officials to pursue every single lead when there is any information that U.S. lives and U.S. troop lives may be at risk.

Now, earlier today, the national security advisor, Robert O'Brien, spoke to reporters, said he also thought the intelligence community handled it well by not briefing it to President Trump because it was uncorroborated and unverified, even as, as you just pointed out, Jim, that information was passed along on the ground in Afghanistan so measures could be taken to protect troops.

Listen to a little bit more of what O'Brien had to say about all this.

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ROBERT O'BRIEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: It may now become impossible ever to get to the bottom of it, to get to the truth of the matter. And that's one of the very sad things. We were working very hard on this matter, it may be impossible to get to the bottom of it because someone decided to leak to hurt the president rather than uphold their obligations to the American people.

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STARR: "We were working very hard on this matter." So that suggests a slight difference from the president, who has pretty much -- again, much like the secretary of state -- attacked the media with the typical language, the broad brushstrokes of hoax and fake news --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

STARR: -- and all of that.

They were working very hard on this, trying to determine. And now we also know, our own Zach Cohen is reporting that the first information actually came in early 2019, a full year earlier than previously acknowledged. Some of the initial intelligence, very raw information came in that the Russians were there, trying -- some Russian actors, if you will -- were trying to influence the Taliban in Afghanistan, pass money around.

We know that some of the intelligence that they are looking at, in fact, was cash transfers. And other intelligence developed from communications intercepts. Is it perfect intelligence? They will tell you no, they could not --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

STARR: -- fully verify it at this point. But O'Brien is indicating they were working very hard to do just that -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: That -- and if they had it for a year, that's a lot of time to dig into it.

Other big story, the president is now threatening -- once again threatening -- to veto what's known as the NDAA, National Defense Authorization Act, if it contains a measure to rename military bases, something that actually has some Republican support as well. And he's taken particular aim at Elizabeth Warren, who introduced this amendment. What is he saying and what does this mean next?

STARR: He is threatening to veto what is called the National Defense Authorization. This is really, truly a must-pass piece of legislation. It keeps the U.S. military running, it keeps the Pentagon funded. This is a top priority, every year, for Congress as well as the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. So the president says he wants to veto it over this renaming -- which,

as you point out, has increasing bipartisan support from both Democrats and Republicans. Very narrowly focused, it's about renaming bases that were named after Confederate generals that fought against the United States of America. Not about the founding fathers, not about any of that. This is about generals who fought in the Confederacy.

[10:35:24]

This is going to be very difficult for Defense Secretary Esper, if he cannot get this bill signed by the president of the United States, it is going to make it increasingly tough for a defense secretary who, almost every week now, finds himself in some kind of odds with the White House.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. And the president used the term "Pocahontas" to describe Elizabeth Warren, as he was attacking this amendment and this bill. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

STARR: Sure.

SCIUTTO: American citizens are not allowed to travel to the European Union. Why? Because the increasing number of coronavirus cases in this country. How long will that last? We're going to have a live update from Brussels, next.

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[10:40:41]

SCIUTTO: Starting today, the the European Union is opening its international borders to travelers from a long list of countries. The U.S., however, excluded from the list. Coronavirus infection rates here in the U.S. simply don't meet the criteria set by the E.U. to be considered a safe country, just remarkable.

CNN's senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen joins us now from Brussels. They said numbers here -- U.S. cases are rising, and they said, really, not safe for U.S. travelers to come?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they certainly did. And it really is -- you're absolutely right, Jim -- very remarkable to see some of the countries that are on that list, and that have been deemed to be safe for its citizens to come here.

Like for instance: Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Rwanda, where essentially the European Union is saying they believe these countries are doing a much more efficient job of combating the coronavirus crisis than the Trump administration has been so far.

One of the things that we have to keep in mind, also, Jim, is that Europe really wants American travelers back. I was just looking at some of the numbers, and they're absolutely staggering. For instance, in France alone, American travelers spent $4 billion, around $4 billion in 2018. And of course, American travelers go all over this continent. You look

at Prague, for instance; Rome, Italy; Florence, Italy -- all the places Americans go to, they all want that money from American tourists back.

But they simply believe that, right now, it would be a public health hazard to allow Americans back in here because of the way the coronavirus crisis is going in the U.S. and the surges that have been going on in the U.S.

And there's one graph, Jim, that really is staggering, because the European Union is saying it needs new coronavirus infections to come down. But when we look at the graph of where the infections are going in the U.S. and where they're going in the E.U., we can see that they're going in very opposite directions, with the E.U. curve almost flatlining but the U.S. curve pretty much skyrocketing. So at this point in time, Europeans are saying they simply cannot let Americans back in.

Now, they're going to revisit that decision every two weeks. But of course, right now, with the way things are going in the U.S., really unclear when the U.S. is going to meet those criteria and American travelers are going to be allowed to come back here to the European Union -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, deeming the U.S. a health hazard, that's just remarkable. Frederik Pleitgen, thanks very much.

[10:42:53]

Well, remarkable primary result in Colorado, a five-term GOP lawmaker backed by the president was ousted by a far-right political newcomer. What it means for November, coming up.

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SCIUTTO: More and more companies are joining the list of brands suspending their advertising on Facebook in protest of what they think is the network's failure to stop hate speech and misinformation. Let's bring in CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip.

A number of companies here, is it making a difference?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, nearly all of Facebook's revenue comes from advertising, and that's one of the reasons why organizers of this boycott have been putting pressure on these corporations to speak out.

Now, this pressure has really been magnified by what's been going on in the country with the Black Lives Matter movement. One of the main arguments was that many of these companies are putting out statements in support of Black Lives Matter, but their ads are running against (ph) content that civil rights groups say Facebook should do more to remove.

This boycott begins today, and many of these companies are pulling their ads starting now.

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PHILLIP (voice-over): The world's largest social media company, now under unprecedented pressure from its advertisers to do more to stop hate speech online. Dozens of companies, pausing advertising on Facebook in protest.

The debate, touching the highest office in the land, with Facebook coming under fire for leaving up these recent posts where President Trump appeared to threaten looters with shooting, and spread false claims and misinformation about mail-in voting.

RASHAD ROBINSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COLOR OF CHANGE: As we watch Donald Trump, I think, become more and more volatile with hits posts, the fact that these companies have sat on their hands and allowed it means that they are complicit.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Rashad Robinson of Color of Change, one of the civil rights groups that have organized the Stop Hate for Profit boycott, says for businesses, the choice is simple.

ROBINSON: Do you want your ads showing up next to white nationalist organizations? Do you feel comfortable having your ads next to theirs while you're also putting, on those same platforms, messages about why black lives matter?

PHILLIP (voice-over): Civil rights advocates are pushing Facebook to do more, including removing content and groups that promote hate and disinformation, allowing outside audits of its content and advertising policy, and giving advertisers refunds if their ads run alongside content that was removed because it violated the company's policies.

With more than 98 percent of all of Facebook's revenue coming from advertising, the pressure on Facebook's bottom line is only growing.

[10:50:00]

NICK CLEGG, VICE PRESIDENT OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATIONS, FACEBOOK: Facebook, we have absolutely no incentive to tolerate hate speech. We don't like it, our users don't like it, advertisers understandably don't like it.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who's been criticized for appearing to be too close to President Trump and his campaign, saying publicly that the company will put in place new policies to flag, label and even remove content that violates its rules, including from the president.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: If we determine the content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, we're going to take that content down no matter who says it. And similarly, there are no exceptions for politicians.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Activists say Facebook is acting out of fear, worried that President Trump will attempt to regulate social media companies he claims are targeting conservatives online.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At every turn, Mark Zuckerberg is worried about what Donald Trump will think.

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PHILLIP: Now, this issue is becoming quite political. Just yesterday, the Biden campaign weighed in, in a letter to Facebook, asking for the company to remove some of President Trump's claims about voting from the platform. And asking, if they are not removed, why they would not be removed under the new policy that Mark Zuckerberg announced last week.

We are also learning from CNN's Brian Fung that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will meet with some of these civil rights groups who are behind this ad boycott. This would not be the first meeting between Zuckerberg and Facebook and these groups. However, it is now in the context of this ad boycott that is really spreading far and wide, as you can see -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: It is. Remarkable, Abby Phillip, thanks very much.

Also in politics, a stunning upset in Colorado, a five-term Republican congressman has conceded in the GOP primary against his far-right challenger. Representative Scott Tipton was defeated by Lauren Boebert despite the support of President Trump for him.

Boebert has faced intense criticism over comments she made where she appeared to sympathize with what's known as QAnon. It's a pro-Trump, deep state conspiracy theory.

CNN political director David Chalian joins me now.

So this is a challenge from the far-right. First, let's get to the importance of the president's endorsement here. The second time, because there was another case he lost -- another Trump-backed candidate lost just a few days ago. Important, in your view?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, listen, the president, as you know, Jim, loves to tout what had been sort of a flawless record in Republican primaries with his endorsements. This is now the third Republican primary endorsement that did not go Trump's way when the voters had their say. And so that record, just in recent weeks, is starting to get a little muddied up, although overwhelmingly, the candidates he endorses in Republican primaries have gone on to win.

But it's noteworthy, no doubt, to see that the president's endorsement of the incumbent was against the grain of where the Republican voters in this Colorado district were.

SCIUTTO: So, QAnon -- let's talk about this candidate because this is another phenomenon of concern -- is a source of some remarkable disinformation, right? Just straight-up false conspiracy theories, and some of them dangerous.

The significance of someone representing or expressing sympathy for that point of view, winning a major party primary?

CHALIAN: Yes. You know, and this is not the first time this cycle. Lauren Boebert is the third candidate this cycle that we've seen on the Republican side, who has spoken approvingly of QAnon, this conspiracy theory, who actually emerged on top in her primary.

We see it with a Senate candidate in Oregon, there's a runoff going on in a Georgia congressional district in August, where the top finisher in the initial primary, Jim, also had favorable things to say about QAnon.

In that case, the party establishment has actually stepped away from that person in the runoff, from that candidate. But not the case here, the chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee put out a statement standing by Lauren Boebert, saying, We will keep this seat in Republican hands.

But to the larger point, Jim, the president himself is not resistant to embracing conspiracy theories, and this is a part in President Trump's image right now.

SCIUTTO: Yes, yes. Just quickly before we go, are these far-right candidates stronger or weaker candidates against Democrats in the fall?

CHALIAN: Well, this is a pretty Republican district, but obviously having somebody who is embracing praiseworthy comments of a conspiracy theory is going to give an opening to Democrats to try and make hay in a district that really shouldn't be on the table for them at all. And we'll get the answer to your question in November.

SCIUTTO: David Chalian, always covering the politics. Thanks very much.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Jim.

[10:54:55]

SCIUTTO: From the campaign to the coronavirus, Vice President Pence is heading to Arizona as that state tries to stop a surge in cases. Is the White House doing enough to contain the virus? The Republican mayor of Mesa, Arizona will join CNN live, next.

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[11:00:00]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us over the next couple hours.