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Top Tech Leaders Face Grilling In Capitol Hill Hearing; Biden To Announce Running Mate Next Week; Trump: Bounties On U.S. Troops Did Not Come Up In Call With Putin. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 29, 2020 - 12:30   ET

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


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[12:31:36]

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The heads of the major tech companies due for a congressional grilling today. They're appearing virtually soon in a hearing for the House Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee. The four, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, Sundar Pichai, who's the CEO of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and the Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Let's talk about the stakes here, the issues at play with CNN business's Donie O'Sullivan, CNN tech and business reporter Sherisse Pham. Donie, so much to talk about whether it's the issue of election meddling, privacy, antitrust, and competitive concerns. What do you expect will be the biggest focus here?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Yes, John, I think today's hearing is going to go well beyond mergers and acquisitions and questions of antitrust. And as you say, you know, these companies, particularly Facebook and Google have so much control to their algorithms with what Americans see when it comes to political news, political advertising.

So I think we can expect to see a lot of questions around that, obviously, in an election year. I would expect that some Democrats will, you know, ask Facebook particularly why they are not take a stronger stand on Trump calling out his misinformation. And I would expect Republicans to ask particularly in light of Donald Trump, Jr., being briefly suspended yesterday from Twitter, you know, questions of anti conservative bias.

And one other thing that is very interesting in all of this is that based on their opening statements, which we have seen, these companies are really leaning into the idea of being proud American companies, particularly Facebook which is interesting when you think of it in the context of the discussion about TikTok, the Chinese own video app, which the government is now looking at potentially banning, John?

KING: And to that point, Sherisse, these are four American companies that Donie know it says in my words, puffing their chest a little bit to plot -- try to play up that their American companies hoping the Congress maybe goes a little easier on them. But there are a number of global issues at play here, both in the operations of these individual companies, whether it's Amazon or Alphabet, or Facebook, or at -- plus the idea of relationships with China at a time, especially the administration, but also the Congress, more and more suspicious of Beijing.

SHERISSE PHAM, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Absolutely. You know, what I'll be really listening for out of these hearings is how often the word China is brought up. I had this talking to an industry analyst today and he said, you know, we could play a drinking game according to that little one.

We already saw the CEOs mentioned this a little bit in their opening remarks. We've got Mark Zuckerberg already attacking China saying look, if you close competition and you regulate us, big U.S. tech companies here in the United States, it could be a victory and a win for China. And we saw TikTok pushing back on that.

Just a few hours ago CEO Kevin Mayer, longtime Disney executive, now CEO of TikTok, coming out pretty much with his first statement for the company and saying, look, Facebook, this seems to be a little bit of an attack on us, wrapped up in patriotism, designed to kill our business in the United States. So just pipe down a little, if you will.

So, look, and I'm not going to take sides with TikTok on this. But what I will say is that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook pushing this line about, you know, we need to keep the United States open and free. And because that means U.S. companies can win. And it means that China, you know, might lose, that's a little bit of a slippery slope. It's a little bit of a playbook out of China's playbook, right, a little bit of a play out of China's playbook.

Because if you're going to make the United States a place where only U.S. companies can thrive, then you're essentially going to be shutting out global competition.

[12:35:05]

KING: Right. And Donie to follow up on Sherisse's point there, you also if you're going to make that argument you should have some credibility. And especially in the case of Facebook, we've talked about this before. Mark Zuckerberg talks about in here. We recognize we have a responsibility to stop bad actors from interfering or undermining. We're working to address them. We're making progress.

We've talked about this many times before. They keep -- I always say the right thing. But just in the past 24 hours, the President and allies retweeting, for example, and posting it, it was posted on Facebook as well, a doctor who promotes, I'll just call them bizarre theories and not get into, so they always say we're trying to do our best and yet we keep finding examples where they're not doing their best.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes. I mean, it doesn't take a lot. You know, you just have to open your Facebook feed and a lot of -- bit of scrolling and you will see misinformation whether it's COVID or election related. And Mark Zuckerberg has performed well in front of Congress before sometimes because lawmakers weren't so prepared.

But this Committee I think is quite prepared. There is -- they have had their staff investigating this for many months, 1.5 million documents obtained from these companies and hundreds of hours of behind closed door interviews. So it could be a tougher hearing for them than they've had in the past.

KING: We'll watch it play out. Donie O'Sullivan, Sherisse Pham, very much appreciate your insights. We'll see what happens as the hearing unfolds in the next hour or so.

Up next for us, we turn to domestic politics. Joe Biden says his decision on a running mate just days away. Do his notes photographed yesterday tell us anything?

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[12:41:09]

KING: Joe Biden says we will learn the name of his running mate next week. And just last hour on the view, one of the potential candidates, a bit of a wildcard, listen.

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SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I care fundamentally about one thing, and that is that Joe Biden win, that we win the Senate, and that he has the opportunity to govern with the strongest team possible. And I'm prepared to support him in any possible way that he thinks I can. And there's a variety of ways that could happen. But I will leave that choice to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Joining me now to discuss CNN political correspondent, Arlette Saenz and Alex Burns, political correspondent for The New York Times as well as a CNN political analysts. Arlette, let let's start there. Susan Rice, very known to Joe Biden, National Security Adviser in the Obama White House, worked at the State Department back in the Clinton administration, a veteran staffer and experienced foreign policy hand, never run for elective office. Would the vice president take that risk?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we know that Susan Rice is among those contenders being vetted right now. And as you mentioned, she served and worked alongside Joe Biden as a national security adviser under the Obama administration. And Biden is someone who really prides himself on the relationships that he's built with people over the years.

And Biden and Susan Rice did work very closely together while in the White House. So that is something that he could take into consideration as he is starting to make his decision as he's getting to the closer to those final stages.

You also have people like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, who he has a seen a close on the campaign trail. That could be items that are under, you know, his evaluation list when he starts to look at this. But right now, Biden yesterday, you know, said that he is zeroing in on a decision that that decision would come within the first week of August, which happens to be next week.

But he really offered little overt clues in his words about which way he's leaning right now, as he is heading into that final decision.

KING: Little in his words, Alex, in the last week of these searches could become a bit of a circus, and some of that's our fault, let's be honest, in the media. But we did see Joe Biden holding notes yesterday and associated press photographer captured the notes and right at the top were notes about Kamala Harris.

She went after him hard in the debate, remember back during the primary season, do not hold grudges, campaigned with me and Jill, talented, great help to the campaign, great respect for her. Do we read anything into the fact that he felt he needed to have that on hand?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think what we can read into that, John, is a feeling on the part of the Biden campaign and clearly Joe Biden himself. If he doesn't end up choosing Kamala Harris, they don't want it to be seen as some sort of personal grievance just about one thing that happened in one debate.

I think that's been a source of sensitivity throughout the vice presidential search, even as it has been reported a number of times, including by CNN and "The New York Times", that there are hard feelings about the way she handled that initial debate in the campaign and that there have been reservations in Joe Biden's inner circle about other aspects of how Harris handled her presidential candidacy, that at the end of the day, for all the initial great promise of her candidacy, it was obviously not a successful campaign.

She pulled out even before primaries and caucuses began. I think there's going to be a lot more attention to that in the coming weeks as people parse sort of how the decision was made, if it ends up not being Kamala Harris. I do think some of the fixation on a Harris as the front runner has worked both to her benefit and to her detriment that we are not talking nearly as much about sort of grievances that the Biden circle may or may not have about far lower profile people in the search, and it's because Kamala Harris has been seen as so much of a favorite from the start.

KING: It's an excellent point. And one of the interesting things to both of you is this, as the vice president, former vice president makes his decision, he does so from a position of strength. It's not like you're looking at the map and saying, I'm way behind. So can I pick somebody from a state, a Michigan governor, for example, or a senator from, you know, a senator from Wisconsin, for example.

[12:45:20]

Instead, he's looking at a map that's quite favorable right now. A lot can change, including a new Georgia poll out today that shows 47 percent to 47 percent. Again, a traditionally a red state, but one of those states in the Sunbelt that we keep watching as it starts to change as this -- the urban areas are Democratic, the suburbs becoming more Democratic, if you look at the polls in the last 10 days, Arlette, you know, way ahead in Michigan, ahead in Pennsylvania, competitive in Georgia, competitive in Texas, narrowly ahead in Arizona, narrowly ahead in Florida.

So as Joe Biden makes his decision about a running mate, he doesn't have some of the, I'll say, geographic or state specific pressures that some past nominees have faced.

SAENZ: Yes, that's right. You know, as you mentioned, he is running a competitive race against President Trump in some of those battleground states also ahead of the President. So he may not necessarily need to be thinking about the geographical advantages that some of these candidates bring.

But one area that Biden still continues to face pressure on is selecting a woman of color as his running mate to kind of meet this moment that this nation is in right now, when it comes to race. You know, Biden last week said that he was vetting and considering four black women, we know that some of the people in the mix for that are Kamala Harris, Karen Bass, Val Demings, Susan Rice's, as we talked about, and also Keisha Lance Bottoms is often mentioned.

So that very well in these coming final days could be part of the equation. And then you also have to think about what is Biden if he becomes president going to inherit after this? Is he looking ahead to how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. We've seen him lay out plans. But could he, you know, potentially task has vice presidential pick with something relating to that?

So these are all factors that we're going to see heading forward in the coming weeks.

KING: The excellent piece is that --

BURNS: You know, John, I think --

KING: Go ahead.

BURNS: I think a crucial sort of point that you and Arlette have made. They're not necessarily looking for somebody who can flip a specific state. But in the conversation about choosing a woman of color and particularly choosing an African-American woman, there is an enormous regional component to that, a geographic component to that, that someone like Karen Bass, who's from California or Susan Rice, who's from Washington D.C. may not deliver a state or Electoral College vote to the Joe Biden doesn't already have.

But the significance of choosing a black running mate, potentially resonates from states, you know, from Virginia down to Georgia and across the Midwest and other parts of the country in a way that just goes beyond, you know, this person is from Georgia and therefore can flip Georgia. KING: That's a fantastic point because the race may not look so close right now. It will get closer especially as you go state by state and you're looking for turnout and intensity. An excellent point we had a very interesting week or so. Ahead of us as we go through this. Alex Burns, Arlette Saenz, thank you so much for helping us out today.

And let's shift to another important story involving the President, this one, the President, again, publicly doubting U.S. intelligence reports. President says there are plenty of skeptics about this, U.S. intelligence that suggests Russia may have paid bounties to the Taliban in exchange for killing American stories.

Now, the intelligence even though it said that wasn't positive, was solid enough to make it into the President's daily briefing. The President though happy to point out the stories doubters, he says, he did not bring this up in a recent conversation with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Frankly, that's an issue that many people said was fake news. I have never discussed it with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the intelligence that's why.

TRUMP: Everything, you know, it's interesting, nobody ever brings up China, they always bring Russia, Russia, Russia.

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KING: Everyone brings up Russia here Vivian Salama, our national security correspondent because the issue was Russia and intelligence suggesting Russia may have perhaps paid bounties to have American soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Why would the President of the United States not bring that up with the Russian leader?

VIVIAN SALAMA, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John, it's an excellent question. And definitely one that harkens to a pattern that we've seen with the President in his relationship with Vladimir Putin, but obviously, this story when it first emerged a month ago, sent shockwaves because American lives were ultimately at stake. And a lot of questions revolved around what the President was doing, if anything, to stop an attack like that from happening and potentially prevent the loss of life with American soldiers abroad.

And so one of the issues that the President pointed out in that Axios interview, he said, that there were questions regarding the credibility of those reports. And we've heard that over the past month, some questions from the White House, as well as some people in the intelligence community who casted some doubt about the inevitability of these kinds of attacks. So the President going as far as like you saw in the clip, calling it fake news and saying that the intelligence ultimately never made it to his desk because of questions surrounding those reports.

[12:50:02]

He was pressed about it later today on the South Lawn and he said, well, I'll look into it and he is sure that he would eventually look into it. But, John, it's really important to look at sort of the pattern here because senior U.S. military officials have said that the Russians are at least offering weapons to the Taliban.

The President has spoken to Vladimir Putin at least -- more than half a dozen times in the last five months. And if last week's readout from the White House or the Kremlin are to be believed, they really focus their conversation on arms negotiations, as well as on the Iran nuclear deal. Not discussed during that conversation, these bounty issues or hacking of U.S. vaccine research or election meddling. John?

KING: Vivian Salama, appreciate the reporting there. That's an enduring mystery, shall we say. I'll leave it at that.

Up next for us, to stark new warning from a medical -- from American Medical experts that deaths could skyrocket if the country doesn't quickly change its coronavirus course.

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[12:55:33]

KING: This is just moments ago, a military honor guard carrying the casket of the remains of the late congressman civil rights icon, John Lewis, back home in Georgia. This is Dobbins Air Base just outside of Atlanta. The casket to be transported to the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the main funeral will be conducted tomorrow, obviously services for Congressman Lewis here in Washington in recent days as well in his birth state of Alabama, before that. We'll have some of those funeral services here tomorrow, Congressman John Lewis, the late civil rights hero back home in Georgia.

Moving now to a new report warning that the United States death toll could skyrocket from coronavirus if the pandemic is not contained, that warning coming from a group that says more testing, dramatic improvement of supply lines, and a national mass standard is necessary, we're failing, the organization's president says.

America needs to change course and quickly. Dr. David Skorton is the President and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, Sir, thank you for being with us today. I read your op-ed piece. I'm looking through the report and it's quite sobering. You're asking for a lot here including for the country to address critical supply shortages, to have national standards on face coverings, criteria for stay at home orders and reopening, expanding testing and health insurance, safety school safety guidelines, vaccine protocols.

Let me ask you this way more bluntly. Are you saying the United States has a bad plan right now or no plan?

DR. DAVID SKORTON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN MEDICAL COLLEGES: Well, the first two words in the op-ed John, and by the way, thank you for having me on. The first two words in the op-ed, we're failing. Now they're failing that somebody else is failing.

And I want to tell you a quick personal story, if you'll permit me 30 seconds. My family came over from Eastern Europe about 100 years ago, and my dad passed away 40 years ago, told me two things about the United States of America, one you could vote and make a difference. And he always wanted me to vote. And the second was, he said, when the country is in trouble, people will pull together from all aspects of the country. And do right.

And that's what we need to do now. We need to pull together and go forward. I was skeptical a few months ago that we would get to even 100,000 deaths. And I'm an expert in the area. And now we're at 150,000 basically deaths already. And if we don't do something to change our course, we will have multiple hundreds of thousands of deaths in this country.

So yes, it's very important that we do something, all of us, the government, yes, the private sector as well and individuals.

KING: Well, it takes impetus to do that. It takes a -- it would take, I would say a president, it would take a national public health infrastructure, it would take governors, it would take private business. What do you think is the most important thing that needs to be done yesterday to get this urgency that you think is so necessary?

SKORTON: Well, I know you're not asking me, John, about the items themselves, but how to get them done. And so I think the first thing is that we in the world of science need to do a better job of explaining what is going on to the to the people of the country not talking about the government now, but to people in communities.

It's hard to understand science because things change, we get new data, recommendations change as part of the reason that people were teeing off on Dr. Fauci because he's a terrific scientist. And when the data change, his recommendations change. But that's confusing to people.

So the number one thing we have to do as scientists is communicate better. Secondly, as a country, all of us individual citizens, as well as elected leaders and appointed leaders need to not take no for an answer on these areas that we outlined in our so called roadmap. So we have to do this, we have to make sure that people know the right thing to do, and we have to push for it to happen.

It may sound naive, but I believe that people from all different corners of the country come together in organizational and individual ways, we can make this happen.

KING: Dr. David Skorton, the president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, appreciate your time and your insights there. I appreciate the report. And I ask people out there whether you agree or disagree, read it. We should all be reading everything we can about this so that we're more informed as we have the debates. Doctor, appreciate your time. We'll continue the conversation.

And thank you for joining us. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. As I noted, during these hours tomorrow, some of the funeral services for the late Congressman John Lewis. Hope to see you then. Brianna Keilar, picks up our coverage right now. Have a good afternoon.

[13:00:02]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar. And I want to welcome viewers here in the United States and around the world.