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Source: White House Alerted To Potential Russian Bounty Plot In Early 2019; Dr. John Swartzberg Discusses Dr. Fauci Cautioning On Congregating At Bars; Milton, FL, Mayor Heather Lindsay Discusses City Council Voting To Overrule Her Mask Mandate As Cases Rise; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg To Meet With Civil Rights Groups Over Ad Boycott. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 1, 2020 - 11:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has some fresh reporting on who knew what and when within the Trump administration, as the president continues to declare that he wasn't briefed, he didn't know, and now declaring in several tweets this morning that the intelligence is a hoax created by journalists.

CNN's Kylie Atwood is at the State Department. She's joining me. As well as John Harwood. He's at the White House.

Kylie, let me start with you.

What is the latest that -- what is the latest reporting about this assessment, when it appeared in the president's briefing materials, and what was done about it?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this actually dates back to 2019. We have reported that, in early 2019, the White House was provided with intelligence that Russian actors were providing the Taliban with bounties to kill U.S. soldiers. That was over a year ago.

It came back to the fore earlier this year when this was in the president's presidential daily brief. That's the intelligence that he receives from the Intelligence Community on a daily basis.

We also know that there was an interagency process that was run out of the National Security Council at the White House under the leadership of national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, to develop options to respond if this was, indeed, true.

And Robert O'Brien spoke about that this morning, but still doubled down on what the White House has been saying that the president wasn't made aware of this because it wasn't verifiable.

Now we have Democrats, who have been briefed on this intelligence, and they're saying that they want to hear from the Intelligence Community rather than the White House because they feel that what's coming out of the White House is essentially the White House's version of this. And then you have Republicans, who some of them are saying that it makes sense this the president wouldn't have known about this because it wasn't verifiable.

And Senator Inhofe said, after a briefing yesterday, that he believed that the president didn't know about this intelligence.

Let's listen to that.

BOLDUAN: I don't think we have the sound.

ATWOOD: Well --

BOLDUAN: I don't think we have the sound, Kylie.

ATWOOD: -- we don't have that. But he did say that he was convinced that the president didn't know about this.

Now we just at the State Department had a briefing here with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who really wouldn't get into the intelligence of when the questions came about it. He basically said that the premise of the question was not, indeed, true.

But what he did say is that the administration acted seriously. They acted appropriately. They did the precise thing they were supposed to do in this situation without getting into the intelligence himself.

So he really defended the process of the national security apparatus of the Trump administration.

And this, of course, comes as there has been a lot of criticism of that process breaking down. We have an editorial from the national security adviser, Susan Rice, to President Obama, who wrote saying that, if this intelligence had come across her plate, she would have marched right into the Oval Office and told the president.

Even if it wasn't, in fact, 100 percent sure, she would have told the president that this intelligence was there so that they could then forge a way forward and she would get to the bottom of it.

That's not what happened here -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: So, John, you've got the president now calling it a hoax created by journalists. But again, this intelligence was enough to pass along to commanders on the ground, pass long to allies overseas.

I want to play -- I want to get your take, but I want to play where this has left Kayleigh McEnany to press on whether or not he actually reads his intel briefs.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president does read and he also consumes intelligence verbally. This president, I'll tell you, is the most informed person on planet earth when it comes to the threats that we face. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: John, where does this leave the president? And what will they now do with this now, this serious intelligence?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No. And most of what the White House has had to say about this entire episode with the president and his aides has been pure nonsense.

It does not wash to say we didn't take it to the president because it is not confirmed. You brief allies and members of Congress. You don't brief the president of the United States. That doesn't make any sense.

If you had a -- then you had Robert O'Brien, the national security adviser, saying we can't get to the bottom of it because it's been exposed by the press. That is also nonsense.

We know from the "New York Times" that they've got financial records that indicate Russian intelligence transferred money to a Taliban account.

Now, it doesn't mean that everything is verified in this account. But you take information like that about security threats to the president of the United States.


The president, by his reaction -- I didn't know, I wasn't briefed -- seems to be affirming the description that John Bolton has in his book about an empty chair in the Oval Office.

If you had a competent president and a competent national security team, they take the information to the president and they figure out a way to respond if it's true and put Russia on notice.

Liz Cheney, who is a member of the House Republican leadership, said yesterday, if these allegations are true, there will be a swift and deadly response from the United States. We haven't heard anything close to that from this administration.

And the best-case scenario -- given the president's long record of deference to Vladimir Putin and Russia, the best-case scenario is he's simply indifferent to the welfare of his troops and the responsibilities of his office.

BOLDUAN: You know who might want to be listening to the Liz Cheney -- Liz Cheney is saying right now? Military servicemembers and their families, who are currently serving overseas. And that is one message -- that is one group that the president has not spoken to since all of this has come out. There's been no address to military men and women and their families serving overseas.

Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

Still ahead, bars are bad. That is one message from top public health experts this week. Are they to blame for the current spike? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BOLDUAN: Another state forced to reverse course. Colorado announcing bars and nightclubs that don't serve food throughout the state must close their doors once again, two weeks -- just two weeks after allowing them to reopen.

Colorado joins a growing list of states reversing or pausing on allowing people to gather amid spikes in coronavirus cases.

What is the risk level here? What is it about bars that is grabbing so much attention and garnering so much concern from so many state leaders and even Dr. Anthony Fauci? Listen.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: A congregation at a bar inside is bad news. We've really got to stop that right now when you have areas that are surging like we see right now.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is Dr. John Swartzberg, professor of medicine at U.C., Berkeley, School of Public Health.

Doctor, thank you for being here.

Dr. Fauci made his views on bars pretty clear there. What is it about bars that appears to be so problematic?

DR. JOHN SWARTZBERG, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, U.C., BERKELEY: They're congregating people together, the last thing we ought to be doing during a pandemic.

Secondly, bars are particularly hazardous because, after drinking, people lose their inhibitions and they'll be even less careful. And, of course, if you're drinking, you can't be wearing mask.

So bars are sort of the poster child for really a terrible thing to do during the time of a pandemic.

BOLDUAN: All sorts of things kind of combined together.

Texas has closed bars. Colorado has closed bars. Many other places as well. Do you think, at this point with what you just described, do you think every state should be shutting down bars right now?

SWARTZBERG: Of course. I mean, you can argue that in states that are not having a problem, which there are very few right now, perhaps they could consider not doing that at this point. But, frankly, I think, as a national policy, we ought to be doing that.

And let's recognize that bars, again, are a symbol. Anything that congregates people together, particularly inside where people can't wear masks and cannot social distance, is absolutely -- it is absolutely crazy during this pandemic.

BOLDUAN: I was wondering, is there a difference from a bar to eating indoors because there seems to clearly be a distinction that's being made in certain states between eating inside and the bar scene we're talking about.

Do you see, where we stand with seeing these spikes, do you see a difference there?

SWARTZBERG: Not much. The big difference is what I was seeing earlier that, after drinking alcohol, you lose your inhibitions and so you are less likely to be careful. But that's really the only distinction.

And of course, eating at restaurants, many people drink in any case. So not much of a distinction.

BOLDUAN: Some other moves that local leaders are making are closing down beaches. We're seeing that in a few places around the country. And I'm wondering if it's the exact opposite. You talked about congregating but it is, by definition, outdoors.

Do you think closing down a beach is as effective as closing down a bar?

SWARTZBERG: It's not as effective because bars are typically inside or, even if they're outside, they had the problems that we are discussing. But congregating together in any setting is hazardous right now.

Look it, we've gone through this period of time where, beginning in early May, we started to liberalize things and people were starting to get back together and we're seeing the consequences of that now. Think of those pictures on Memorial Day of people congregating outside.

So outside is safer than inside in all circumstances. But outside is not, therefore, safe. And congregating in large groups or just congregating together in moderate-sized groups is hazardous at this time, including beaches.

BOLDUAN: Hearing that message consistently that you were saying from across the board seems to be what is really missing right now in terms of the real need. This virus is not going away. People still need to be listening to this guidance.

Doctor, thank you for your time.

SWARTZBERG: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: A quick programming note for everybody. Don Lemon, Dana Bash will be hosting CNN's FOURTH OF JULY IN AMERICA," a special evening of fireworks and all-star musical line up, Jewel, Barry Manilow, C.C. Winans, and many others. That's live starting, at 8:00 Eastern Saturday night.


Coming up still for us, there's consensus now that face coverings work. They help. And they are needed to stop the spread. Why, then, did one Florida mayor just get overruled after trying to mandate face coverings in her city?


BOLDUAN: One thing has definitely happened this week. A groundswell of support from across the country and across the political spectrum for face coverings.

From top medical experts to top lawmakers to top state officials, all saying face coverings are a must to stop the surge of cases, cases that much of the country is seeing right now.

There seems to be real agreement except, of course, coming from the president of the United States, who still refuses to lead by example.

Another exception, Milton -- take Milton, Florida. The mayor followed other neighboring cities in trying to mandate, through executive order, the use of face coverings. Here's the twist. The city council unanimously overruled her this week. Why?

Joining me now is the mayor of Milton, Florida, Heather Lindsay.

Heather, thank you for joining me.

First off, what upon you seeing in the date that got you to the place of requiring face coverings, thinking face coverings were necessary for the city?

MAYOR HEATHER LINDSAY, MILTON, FLORIDA: Good morning, Kate. And thank you for having me today.

Well, we've have been very fortunate in the city of Milton. We've not had a single death. We've had very few cases. We had a total of five cases during most of this pandemic until the last week.

We're now monitoring seven different addresses within our city limits. And we're a town of fewer than 10,000 people.

So we recognize that there's a spread in addition because of close contact with other local Health Department and our close conduct among ourselves and the emergency management team in our city.


So in looking at the trends that is data presented on a daily basis for the state of Florida, we can see what's happening in our county and in our zip code.

In watching that, we were seeing the trends go up. And it became more and more of a concern, especially as we started seeing addresses in our own city limits pop up in the last week. So --


BOLDUAN: So the city council, seven council members, all voted unanimously to overrule, to rescind this mask order. Why are they opposed to it?

LINDSAY: We heard a lot of feedback from the community about different issues. The city council had a chance to speak, each member, before they voted.

I heard concerned about our mom-and-pop economy struggling to recover. And that this mask mandate would have an impact on them that's negative. I heard them have concerns about whether this infringes on constitutional liberties. And I heard them have concerns about whether the science is really there.

But, in general, I feel they would have preferred it not be a mandate. And from my perspective, we know, from contact tracing of cases locally, that young people gathering to celebrate graduation and socializing, those activities are contributing to the spread.

And I think it's --


BOLDUAN: But, Mayor --


BOLDUAN: But, Mayor, concerns that a mask is going to hurt a small business or that the science isn't there?


BOLDUAN: That doesn't make much sense.

LINDSAY: It doesn't make a lot of sense to a lot of people in the community. But there was a group of people who came wearing shirts that said, "I do not consent." They filled our chamber and they were heard over a period of two hours voicing their objections to this.

And that was --


BOLDUAN: I mean, this happened after. But do you consider going back -- let me play so we can be reminded of what the nation's top public health expert said just this week about face masks.

Listen to this, Mayor.


FAUCI: Yes, of course. I think masks are extremely important. And we keep hammering home. And what you just mentioned is as important. There's no doubt wearing masks protects you and lets you to be protected. DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: Embrace the universal use of mask


I ask those that are listening to spread the word.



BOLDUAN: What do you think? Why is that message not coming to -- not getting through to the city council members?

LINDSAY: I wholeheartedly agree with those comments.

I do think that it hurt us in the beginning that the messaging wasn't consistent about the importance of masks. Initially, people were discouraged from getting masks.

I do think that has raised questions about whether the community can trust what the government is saying. I think a unified national response that had a consistent message would have helped us tremendously this week.

So that is why I does the work before me, is to make sure that people understand the science. That people can love their neighbor enough to show the compassion to wear a mask to protect others.

I'm still trying to help others understand that it protects others not themselves.

The work before me I'll continue to do because it's critical that we adopt this policy, in my view.

BOLDUAN: And now we're learning and the science we're seeing is it protects others. It also -- we're hearing from Dr. Anthony Fauci that there's also data that it protects yourself. It protects everything. It protects -- masks, face coverings protect everything --


BOLDUAN: -- as they're now hammering home.

A unified consistent message from national leaders. Mayor, I hear it from you and from so many mayors across the country right now.

Thank you for your time.

LINDSAY: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, fleeing from Facebook. The advertising boycott is getting bigger. We have the latest now, a response from CEO Mark Zuckerberg.


[11:58:08] BOLDUAN: Let's take a quick look at "MARKETS NOW." Show you the big board for you. The Dow just about flat at this moment. We'll keep a close eye on that.

A reminder, you can always get the very latest info on "MARKETS NOW." That streams live at 12:45 Eastern only on CNN Business.

Also in business, CNN learned Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg will meet with civil rights groups amid a growing advertising boycott from big- named companies across the board protesting how the social media giant handles hate speech and misinformation.

CNN's Brian Fung is on this. He's been tracking this for us. He joins me now.

Brian, how is Facebook responding?

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECH REPORTER: Facebook, Kate, is saying it doesn't profit from hate. In a blog post by the top Facebook executive saying that the company may never completely eliminate hate from its platform but it is constantly improving.

That echoes remarks that Nick Clegg gave to CNN earlier over the weekend. Let's have a listen.


NICK CLEGG, VICE PRESIDENT OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS & COMMUNICATIONS, FACEBOOK: Facebook, we have absolutely no incentive to tolerate hate speech. We don't like it. Our users don't like it. Advertising understand that we don't like it. You know, we don't benefit from hate speech. Of course, not. We benefit from positive, human connection. Not -- not hate.


FUNG: Now, Kate, obviously, that hasn't stopped a number of major brands from pulling their advertising from Facebook. That includes companies like Verizon, Unilever, Ford, Adidas, Hershey's and more.

At this point, hundreds of companies have now pulled their advertising from Facebook and Instagram for at least the month of July, and possibly longer.

And you know, this could last potentially well into next year if Facebook does not take actions that, know, address the concerns of some of these protests.


Obviously, if you look at the top 100 brands that advertise on Facebook, only -- they all represent about 6 percent of Facebook's revenue, according to Pathmatics, which is a market intelligence firm.