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New Video Shows Russian Jet Forcing Down U.S. Drone Over Black Sea; State Agency Replacing Houston's Public-School Board; U.S. Threatens To Ban TikTok Unless Chinese Owners Spin Off Shares. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 16, 2023 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: 19 passes. An encounter that lasted between 30 and 40 minutes and ended with a Russian jet clipping a U.S. drone and igniting yet another diplomatic blow-up between nations. This new video released by the U.S. military, it's extraordinary to see in public, it directly contradicts Russian denials of the incident happened. So, what happens now?

Let me bring in Democratic Congressman Adam Smith from Washington. He's the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman, thanks for coming in. What is your reaction to -- well, this incident and also what we see in the video released by the Pentagon?

REP. ADAM SMITH, (D-WA): Well, I think there's two things about it. First of all, Russia and China, for that matter, have regularly engaged in this type of behavior in what is international airspace that they somehow deem is too close to them. So, they will buzz U.S. military planes.

It's happened Australian planes down around China. It's a regular effort to sort of back the U.S. and our allies off to try to you know, claim a broader swath of territory, basically, so that Russia and China kind of operate unchecked.

So, that in general has been going on for a while. But obviously, this is specifically about Ukraine. Russia still has that goal of trying to push us back where they can. But specifically, they also want to make sure that we're not close to Ukraine to be in a position to help Ukraine.

So, it doesn't surprise me that this came from high up in Russia saying let's try to back U.S. off to reduce the level of assistance that they're giving to Ukraine. As for what good it happens now, I think it -- I don't think anything specific happens. I think this situation stays about where it's at, which is very tense.

BOLDUAN: It's -- as I mentioned, it's -- I mean, we, of course, love transparency and love that the Pentagon put this video out for everyone to see. But are you concerned at all with the video out there that Russia will see it as a reason to respond or escalate further because it directly contradicts its denial?

SMITH: Yes. I don't think they will escalate further. Look. This is a very, very delicate balance, frankly, on both sides. On our side, the Biden administration has made clear from the very beginning when we suspected that Russia was going to invade -- when we knew Russia was going to invade, that we had two big goals.


One, help Ukraine. Help make sure that we preserve a sovereign democratic Ukraine and help them to preserve the territory that is theirs, that is their sovereign territory. But second, don't get into a direct conflict between Russia and the U.S. or Russia and NATO. Striking that balance is difficult.

And on Russia's side, you know they would like to see us helping Ukraine last, but Russia doesn't want to have a direct conflict with the U.S. or NATO either. So, there's that delicate balance of trying to push right up to the line, but not step over it that both sides are doing. And I think that -- the effort to strike that delicate balance will continue on both sides.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I want to ask you in speaking about the -- about Ukraine -- in the war in Ukraine. Poland just made a big announcement just this morning deciding that it's -- saying that it's sending four fighter jets to Ukraine. And this is the first NATO country to make this move after Ukraine has been asking for months for this to happen. Does this, do you think, change President Biden's calculation as he has remained resistant to doing the same?

SMITH: Well, it's not the same as the thing. What Poland is giving them as MiG fighters, that's what Ukraine has been operating for forever basically. It is much easier to assimilate a MiG into Ukraine defenses than it is an F-16, which they've never flown, they've never operated, they never maintained. And that's the big challenge with giving them the F-16 is the cost of it.

Second of all is the efficacy of fourth-generation fighters in this fight. I mean, the MiGs will help but they will help nowhere near as much as the artillery, the tanks, the vehicles, the HIMARS systems. That's what's crucial to the fight right now, and that's why President Biden is prioritizing that -- (INAUDIBLE) so.

BOLDUAN: You said you don't -- you don't -- and I was looking back at our last conversation, you were kind of in the same place.


BOLDUAN: You don't think that this should mean that the U.S. should get moved to offer F-16s?

SMITH: Yes. Like I said, I went on time for me to give you the long- winded answer about, you know why the F-16 is so expensive, and it's going to take so much time to get over there. And why also, even if we did get it over there, it would be difficult to operate effectively. But that's the basic point. We are focused on getting Ukraine the weapons, the munitions, the Intel, the support they need right now to win the fight that's going on right now and will crucially be going on in the next six months as Ukraine begins to mount a counter-offensive.

BOLDUAN: Now, I also want to ask you about Russia's war crimes in Ukraine. Because in December, Congress modified the long-standing legal restrictions on helping the International Criminal Court now allowing the United States to assist with these investigations and eventual prosecutions related to the war in Ukraine. The Pentagon, though, according to The New York Times, is blocking the Biden administration from sharing evidence with the ICC.

And I had former ambassador Stephen Rapp on the show yesterday, and he called this out on the show. Let me play for you the point that he makes about this.


STEPHEN RAPP, FORMER AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE, WAR CRIMES ISSUES: It's important, however, that you have political leadership in the United States needs to be right on this. This is as important as providing Abrams tanks in terms of protecting the people of Ukraine.


BOLDUAN: He says the United States needs to offer this. The -- he wants to see the Pentagon reverse this position and offer the assistance to the ICC. Do you agree?

SMITH: Well, I get his point. I mean, the point basically you know, we should try to enforce human rights to the greatest extent possible on the globe. I think that's absolutely true. Clearly, Russia has committed awful war crimes throughout Ukraine and continues to commit those crimes. But there's two other points on this.

First of all, we all want peace in Ukraine, which means at some point, Russia has to stop the war. Russia has to be willing to come to peace. Because we're not going to war with Russia. This is not going to be like World War Two where Germany quits and Japan quits because they're utterly and completely defeated. That's not going to happen.

So, what is going to happen that's going to bring Russia to the point where they're willing to say, OK, we'll sign a peace agreement? Yes, we want to punish Russia. No, we don't want our desire to punish Russia to keep the war going forever so that more people suffer.

You have to find a way to make peace. And I don't want this to get in the way of that. Second, the International Criminal Court looks at a lot of stuff that the U.S. has done in a whole bunch of other places. This is the reason DoD is concerned about it.

Now, what we have done globally doesn't even compare to what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

BOLDUAN: Right. SMITH: But DoD is concerned that the ICC will come after us as well, and specifically come after them. So, I think it's a reasonable concern. And like I said, we do have to, at some point, get to a peace deal between Ukraine and Russia to end this war.

BOLDUAN: But what about -- we talked about leadership and leaders -- what about the leadership and putting it out there -- I mean, you want them to be -- you, along with every you know, democracy-loving nation and person wants Russia to be prosecuted for war crimes. If the United States and -- is critical in doing that and has the evidence to offer that up, is the -- and the Pentagon standing in the way, how does that look?


SMITH: Well, again, we're fighting a war right now. We're trying to, first of all, help Ukraine win that war and end that war. So, it's very difficult.

I agree with you. Look. In a completely and totally just world, everyone's right. I mean, Russia would be pushed out of Ukraine tomorrow. They'd be held accountable. They'd be forced to repay every single penny that Ukraine has had to expend in this war.

They would be tried and held accountable for the war crimes that they committed. Absolutely. And I think we need to state clearly that those war crimes had been committed, and we're committed to trying to find a way to achieve justice for it.

But that's not as easy as it sounds, when like I said, at some point, Russia has to come to the peace table and say, we're going to -- we're going to end this war. How do you strike that balance? That's (INAUDIBLE) we're trying to strike. Now state, clearly, unequivocally, Russia is committing war crimes and violating human rights every single day but you do have to have an on-ramp in this war, so that stops.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, thank you as always for coming on. Appreciate it.

SMITH: Thanks, Kate. Appreciate the chat.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us. The State of Texas making a bold move to step in and take over the Houston school district. It sparked controversy, no doubt. We're going to walk through it. Next.



BOLDUAN: The State of Texas is now moving in to take control of the Houston Independent School District. State officials say that the school district is failing, but others say that the move is political. Adrienne Broaddus is live in Houston, taking a look at this what's become a real controversy, and understandably so. Adrienne, what's happening here?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to the State Education Commissioner, this takeover could happen in the next couple of months. He told us that on Wednesday, saying their target date is June 1. Now, this comes after a lengthy court battle between the district and the education commissioner which ended back in January. And as you all can see, a judge ruled in the commissioner's favor.

Now, some might be wondering how is the state going to step in and take over this school district. In part, the state law says one, if there's one campus within the district that receives unacceptable academic accountability ratings for consecutive years, that's when the state can take -- step in and appoint this Board of Managers or they can close the campus. We know the education commissioner said a Board of Managers will be appointed. Some are for this, others are against. Listen in.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT, (R-TX): There's been a long-time failure by HISD and the victims of that failure are the students.

BISHOP JAMES DIXON II, NAACP HOUSTON PRESIDENT: You cannot run school districts and cities and counties from Austin, Texas. The state deserves an F on how they have handled this process up to this point.


BROADDUS: And this is the largest district in Texas, the eighth largest in the U.S., according to the district's website. At least 90 percent of the student population identify as non-white, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Let's see what happens now. Adrienne, thanks.

The U.S. laying out an ultimatum. Chinese investors must spin off their TikTok shares or the social media app will be banned. The latest. Next.



BOLDUAN: Well, the Biden administration is issuing an ultimatum to TikTok's Chinese owners, spin-off your shares or face being banned in the United States. M.J. Lee is at the White House with this one for us. M.J., has TikTok responded?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It has. You know, Kate, what to do about TikTok, as you know, has been such a thorny issue for this administration given that it is such a massively popular platform with a massive reach but also given that there are some serious concerns about the company's ties to China. The ultimatum and the threat that we've heard from the administration is basically that the company would be banned from the U.S. unless its Chinese owners were to spin off their shares. And the reception from TikTok has not been good. A TikTok spokesperson saying in a statement, if protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn't solve the problem. A change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access.

And also, this latest threat hasn't been well received by China either. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying that the U.S. is unreasonably suppressing TikTok. They also continue to maintain that the company does not pose any U.S. national security threats.

Keep in mind. It has been a year that TikTok has been in conversations with the Biden administration to try to figure out how it can continue operating in the U.S. given the serious privacy and security concerns, given that there have been growing calls for it to be banned from the U.S. No question that this further complicates what is obviously already very complicated U.S.-China relations as well, Kate.

BOLDUAN: M.J., thank you.

Let's end with this. Last month, David -- D.J. David Guetta treated lucky fans at a show to a new song with Eminem. It was a hit.



BOLDUAN: But that's not actually Eminem. It's AI. Vanessa Yurkevich is here with me now with a fascinating look at this. You talk to David Guetta. What's he doing here? Why?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: He loves artificial intelligence. He thinks it's a new tool for musicians, especially younger musicians who are trying to make hits. They can do it on their computer now. He's even considering making a whole album just with artificial intelligence.

But he also raised some concerns about ethics, about copyright, and ownership. I asked him if he thought that we needed to go a step further. Should there be federal regulation around artificial intelligence? Here's what he said to that.


YURKEVICH: A regulation around artificial intelligence?

DAVID GUETTA, GRAMMY AWARD-WINNING DJ: I think maybe not yet. I like that. It's very free and open right now. And -- but at some point, yes, the question is going to -- has to be raised. I think like AI is going to be a huge influence on music.



YURKEVICH: Now, he says that he's not going to be releasing this commercially. But there are representatives in Congress that agree with him. They think that there should be federal regulations. They want to create an AI Commission. The U.S. Copyright Office just updated its rules around artificial intelligence and copyright saying there needs to be a certain level of human intervention in order to get that copyright. How much are we talking about though? It's going to be a case-by-case basis. But it begs --

BOLDUAN: A lawsuit-by-lawsuit basically -- I mean the copyright -- yes.

YURKEVICH: Well, there are lawsuits out there.


YURKEVICH: And it's a question about you know, does Eminem need to copyright his voice? Do you need to copyright your voice?

BOLDUAN: On it. Great to see you. Thank you.


BOLDUAN: Thanks all so much for being here. "INSIDE POLITICS" is after this.