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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Republicans Stonewalling On Debt Ceiling; Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp Hit By Massive Outage; Improving COVID-19 Numbers, Turning The S Dr. Fauci; U.S. COVID Cases, Hospitalizations And Deaths Trending Down; FDA To Hold Hearings On Vaccination For Children Ages 5-11; Oil Company: Ship's Anchor Might Have Hit Pipeline, Causing Leak. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 04, 2021 - 17:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And we wish her the very best. Our coverage continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, President Biden upping pressure on Congress and members of his own party as the clock ticks toward the U.S. hitting its debt ceiling. The president warning that failure to act and I'm quoting him now, "would take our economy over a cliff."

The Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer underscoring the urgency right now saying the Senate must get a bill to President Biden by the end of this week.

Also, breaking news. Facebook suffering a major outage along with its other platforms including Instagram and WhatsApp as the company comes under fire over whistleblower allegations that it allows hate and misinformation to proliferate. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First, let's get straight to the White House. Our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is standing by. Kaitlan, President Biden said he can't guarantee that the debt ceiling will be raised in the next two weeks. So what's at stake right now?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president also described it as this self-inflicted wound that would send the U.S. economy off a cliff if this happens. Two weeks from today when the U.S. is set to run out of money essentially to pay its bills.

That would affect things like Social Security checks, payments for U.S. military members, those child tax credits, all of these financial obligations that the U.S. has that would all be at stake if Democrats and Republicans do not come to an agreement on how to proceed here.

Of course, whether or not to increase that limit or at least suspend it as they have done many times in the past, something the White House has pointed out several times this week. And the president today was talking about the reputation of the U.S. government of its credit and how important this is and what really is at stake. And he also went after those Republicans who, so far, Wolf, have been blocking all these efforts by Democrats to try to raise that debt limit.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, they're threatening to use the power, their power, to prevent us from doing our job. Saving the economy from a catastrophic event. I think, quite frankly it's hypocritical, dangerous and disgraceful. As soon as this week, your savings in your pocketbook could be directly impacted by this Republican stunt. It's as simple as that.


COLLINS: The president calling it hypocritical there, Wolf. That's because Republicans did vote to raise the debt limit when Donald Trump was in office. They got the support of Democrats at that time. Now that is what they are asking Republicans to do here. Help Democrats do that.

But Senate or former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, now Senate Minority Leader said in a letter to the president today that no Republicans are going to vote for that saying that Democrats are going to have to do it on their own. They are saying that they need to use that process known as reconciliation.

That's where only Democrats would vote to support it, but Democratic leaders are saying that's a long, complicated process. They don't have time for that and they are really trying to up the pressure on Republicans to help them vote to increase the nation's borrowing limit.

BLITZER: So Kaitlan, what happens between now and two weeks from now, October 18th? That's the deadline.

COLLINS: Yes. Its two weeks from today. The president is warning that you are going to start to see effects before that because technically of course, the U.S. reached its limit back in July. They've been shifting money around.

But the Treasury secretary says starting two weeks from today, the U.S. is going to run out of money and it's really not clear what it would look like after that. But economists have said it would be potentially catastrophic. And so that is why you are seeing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer say that they need to get legislation on this on Biden's desk by this Friday.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We will need to get a bill extending the debt ceiling to the president's desk by the end of this week. We aren't asking Republicans to vote yes even though its debt they incurred. We are simply asking that they get out of the way. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: He is saying that they need to get out of the way that so Democrats could pass it with a simple majority just to have 51 votes to get the debt limit increased. That is something that is not likely right now based on what we're hearing from Republicans.

And Wolf, just about how serious this is and how concerned people should be, the president was asked earlier if he could guarantee that this isn't actually going to happen, that they will find a solution between Democrats and Republicans before two weeks from today. He said he could not guarantee that, Wolf, and that really what happens here, in his mind, is up to Mitch McConnell.

BLITZER: It's -- we're also hearing that the president, I think right now, Kaitlan, has been meeting with some progressives members of the House. Obviously a critical contingent in the house. What are you hearing?


COLLINS: Yes. Figuring out what to do with the nation's credit is the most immediate issue facing the president, but he is also still trying to get support for his domestic agenda. So he is having these virtual meetings with those progressives. Those are the ones who want to keep this big reconciliation package on social spending, on climate change big. They don't want to limit that price tag on it.

But, of course, they have acknowledged they will have to come down some from that $3.5 trillion price tag, but they are still trying come to an agreement with those two moderate Democratic senators. Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema who of course have said they do not want that larger price tag. They've thrown out numbers like $1.5 trillion instead.

But some of these progressives, including Pramila Jayapal have said $1.5 trillion is much too small for them. So Wolf, they are still not anywhere near an agreement on that as they are also trying to get to that by the end of the month. That's something they said they'd like to do sooner rather than later.

BLITZER: I'd like you to stand by, Kaitlan. We're going to get back to you in a few minutes. But I want to go to Capitol Hill right now. Our chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is joining us. Manu, I understand you just had a chance to speak to Senator Joe Manchin. What path does he see, first of all, to raising the debt ceiling which is so critical right now?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He's breaking with Democratic leaders. Remember, there are three viable options at the moment to raise the debt ceiling. One is to get 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. That means 10 Republicans voting with 50 Democrats.

Republicans say that is not going to happen. They will not give them those votes. The other is to get 50 votes, 51 votes with the vice president breaking the tie. And that's if Republicans agree not to filibuster. But they say that they will filibuster. That last option, the so-called budget reconciliation process.

That takes about two weeks to go through the process and it would open up Democrats to a flurry of politically charged amendments on the floor of the Senate. Democratic leaders say they will not go that route because they're concerned also that it would not get done in time to avoid a default.

But just moments ago when I talked to Joe Manchin he made clear that Democratic leadership reconsider that strategy and go down that budget reconciliation route even though they have rejected it.


RAJU: Schumer has ruled out using reconciliation to move on.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Well, we can't rule anything. We just can't let the debt ceiling lapse. We just can't.

RAJU: So does that mean that you're open to potentially even killing the filibuster to --

MANCHIN: The filibuster doesn't do with the debt ceiling. Basically we have other tools that we can use. And if we have to use them, we should use them.


RAJU: So that last part critical because Joe Manchin is also rejecting calls to gut the Senate's filibuster rules to lower the threshold from 60 to 51 votes to overcome any stalling tactic. And he made clear he still is holding firm to that position. He will not agree to change those Senate filibuster rules to avoid debt default.

So all which points to major questions, Wolf, with less than two weeks left before the U.S. hits that deadline. How do they resolve it? Not clear yet because the two sides still in a staring contest.

BLITZER: Clearly, the Dow Jones on Wall Street very nervous about what's going on right now. Down considerably once again today. The president, meanwhile, as you know, Manu, he singled out Senators Manchin and Sinema today for holding up his overall economic agenda.

What did senator Manchin tell you about the state of those critically important negotiations for infrastructure and the bigger economic health package?

RAJU: Well, that bigger economic package are still a ways to go based on what Joe Manchin told me just moments ago saying that the $1.5 trillion price tag that he has held firm to, he wants to continue to hold firm to that even though progressives want him to go up potentially more than $2 trillion.

Even the president himself has made that call. And Manchin also made clear that he does not necessarily believe that October 31st is that new deadline. That they need to meet that deadline, suggesting they need to take time.


RAJU: Senator, Pramila Jayapal said 1.5 is just not enough. Will you be willing to go higher?

MANCHIN: You know what, she has to make those decisions. We have to work together and basically they understand where I am and I've been very clear about this for many, many days. Many, many weeks and even months.

RAJU: Do you think it's possible to get this done by October 31st?

ANCHIN: I really don't know on timing. There's no time. There's no rush on timing.


RAJU: And the last point he made, he said it is a red line, the issue of the Hyde Amendment. He is someone who opposes abortion rights. The Hyde Amendment referring to the federal law that restricts federal funding of abortion services. He believes that language needs to be included in the final economic package here. Progressives say it cannot be included in there. So, Wolf, so many issues they still need to deal with in order to get a deal in a matter of weeks.

BLITZER: Manu, stick around. Stay with us. I want to bring back our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, our chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. You know, Gloria, the president is accusing Republicans of, in his words, playing Russian roulette with the U.S. economy. What do you make of this standoff?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think honestly, the American public should be outraged by the standoff. It is something we seem to go through time and time again. This is about money that has already been spent. This is not about what's going down the pike in the future.


This is not about Joe Biden's spending plan, Joe Biden's infrastructure plan. This is about the full faith and credit of the United States. Most people when they spend money, bill comes and then they decide they ought to pay the bill. If they want to play games, they're going to get in trouble.

And what's going on now is that the same old, same old political games are being played with Republicans saying, I don't want any part of this. I am not going to be nice and say let's just get this done. I am going to put this on the Democrats' back even though they're talking about spending that they had approved in the past.

And even though when Donald Trump was president, the debt ceiling was raised, I believe, three times. So, you know, it's a game. You can only hope they don't go over the fiscal cliff because there will be suffering if they do. People's social security checks will not come as Kaitlan were saying,

military benefits will not come. The stock market could tank. And on and on and on. So, you know, I think they just need to get on with it in whatever way they can and hold their noses and do it.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, for all practical purposes, President Biden's entire domestic agenda is still very much on the line after all the chaos of last week.


BLITZER: Are Democrats any closer to bridging the huge divides within the Democratic Party?

BORGER: It doesn't sound like it from all of Manu's reporting on the Hill. It sounds like, you know, Priscilla jay pal is saying this isn't enough money for us, 1.5 is not enough. And so she's -- look, I think they are far apart. Nancy Pelosi is saying, look, we need to come together because the president of the United States is telling us to come together.

And the point that Joe Biden made to the caucus last week is that if you fail to do this, I fail. And if I fail, Democrats fail. And they all know that if they go back to their districts empty handed, it's not going to look good for 2022. So they have to get something done.

And in the end, I don't know what that number is going to be, but I think the reason we see the president out on the trail this week is that he needs to explain to the American public what is in these spending bills and how that will affect their lives in a positive way instead of talking about just the general price tag.

You want to know about child care tax credits, for example. You want to know how it's going to affect prescription drug benefits. And on and on and on. And they need to do more of that.

BLITZER: You know, Kaitlan, I want you to go in depth a little bit and tell our viewers how damaging it would be for the American people, for the Biden presidency, if the U.S. hits the debt ceiling and defaults.

COLLINS: I think one of the biggest concerns that we've heard from White House officials on this is not just what we were talking about, which is that if you get a social security check in the mail you may not receive that. If you're a member of the military, you may not get your paycheck. If you have a child tax credit you may not receive that.

It's also the concerns about pandemic relief, about the U.S. credit rating. But also it really is the unpredictability, Wolf, because it's not something that has ever happened before. So that is the concern that we hear from top treasury officials is that, yes, you've heard the Treasury secretary say October 18th. That's the date when they believe the U.S. government is going to run out of the money to pay its bills. But it's not a firm date. There's a lot of fluidity around it. It

could happen before then. They're not exactly sure what that's going to look like and just how much it would affect things. And so, I think that is one of the big concerns that the White House has here, is what it would actually mean because they can't really tell you here's what's at stake, here are the pluses, here are the minuses. Obviously, no pluses. All minuses.

That they can't really speak to that. And so I think that is one of the concerns that you've seen and that's likely why you saw President Biden come out and try to apply this public pressure on Republicans so they will eventually vote with Democrats on this. That's the ramp (ph) that the White House has been taking so far. But whether or not it gets farther down the road and they feel the need to take that more complicated process that Manu was talking about, it could come to that.

BLITZER: Whatever happened to bipartisan cooperation at such a critical issue as this which could affect millions and millions of Americans? It's an awful situation indeed. Guys, thank you very, very much.

There's more breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Facebook now suffering a major outage along with its platforms Instagram and WhatsApp as the company comes under enormous fire. We have new details of whistleblower allegations that Facebook buried evidence of spreading hatred, violence and misinformation.



BLITZER: The breaking news we're following right now. Facebook is still -- still reeling from a major outage tonight on a tumultuous day for the social media giant. The blackout hit soon after a truly stunning whistleblower report alleging the company knew its platforms were being used to spread hate, hate speech, violence and misinformation and chose instead to bury the evidence.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is joining me now here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Donie, this whistleblower allegation, very serious what's going on. And all of a sudden, we're not even seeing Facebook for hours.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And central to that whistleblower is damning allegations is of the potential negative impact on young people's mental health that Instagram and platforms like Facebook can have. A warning to our viewers that this story contains details of eating disorders that some viewers may find disturbing.


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Eternally starved. I have to be thin. Skin and bone. All Instagram pages the platforms algorithm suggests an account registered to a 13-year-old girl should follow.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): What we did was to create a 13-year- old who expressed interest in weight loss and dieting and within a day, she was flooded with recommendations for accounts concerning eating disorders and personal injury.

FRANCES HAUGEN, FORMER FACEBOOK EMPLOYEE: And what's super tragic is Facebook's own research says, as these young women begin to consume this eating disorder content, they get more and more depressed and it actually makes them use the app more.

And so they end up in this feedback cycle where they hate their bodies more and more. Facebook's own research says, it is not just that Instagram is dangerous for teenagers. That it harms teenagers. It's that it is distinctly worse than other forms of social media.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): That's whistleblower Frances Haugen who leaked thousands of documents from Facebook including the company's own research like this. A presentation about the dangers of Instagram for teenagers. We make body issues worse for 1 in 3 girls, reads one slide. Teens who struggle with mental health say Instagram make it worse, reads another.

Instagram said eternally starved, I have to be thin, skin and bone. The accounts it had promoted through its algorithm broke the company's rules encouraging eating disorders, but they only removed the accounts after being contacted by CNN. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is a leading lawmaker calling for change.

BLUMENTHAL: This experience shows very graphically how these claims to protect children or take down accounts that may be dangerous to them are absolute hogwash. In fact, it was not taken down until CNN brought it to their attention.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): A spokesperson for Instagram's parent company Facebook said it uses technology and reports from users to remove content that violates its rules on eating disorders as quickly as it can, adding they are always working to improve.

CHELSEA KRONENGOLD, COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, NATIONAL EATING DISORDER ASSOCIATION: With eating disorders and social media, we do know that there is this social comparison component. And so the more time people spend on social media and they are looking at accounts that may be inspiration or there's a term that's called thinspiration or fitspiration. We know that that can definitely increase social comparison and therefore result in negative body image, negative mental health.


O'SULLIVAN (on camera): And people impacted by the issues discussed in that report can contact the national Eating Disorder help line at 800-931-2237. But Wolf, as you saw in that report that was pretty scary stuff there. And that they set up this account as a teenage girl. Followed some accounts about dieting, about eating disorders and quickly the Instagram algorithm immediately started recommending more and more and more accounts that was encouraging this teenager to follow more eating disorder accounts.

BLITZER: And now for the last several hours, all of a sudden Facebook is down. Instagram is down. You can't go on Instagram. WhatsApp is down. What's going on?

O'SULLIVAN: Right now we don't know. Facebook doesn't seem to know at the moment either, which is quite concerning. The platform has been down for about six hours at this point which is unheard of. This hasn't happened in a very, very, very long time.

And it's more than just people posting photos on Facebook and Instagram like you and I might, Wolf. In certain parts of the world particularly in India and elsewhere, WhatsApp is the primary means of communication for millions and millions of people.

BLITZER: I use WhatsApp, Instagram, everybody --


BLITZER: -- everybody almost does and it's really -- if it's a coincidence, that's a major development. If it's not a coincidence, that's also a major development. Donie, welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM. Your first time, physically inside THE SITUATION ROOM.

O'SULLIVAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good to have you.

O'SULLIVAN: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Excellent reporting. Thank you very, very much.

Up next, is the U.S. finally turning the corner on COVID? New cases, hospitalizations and deaths, they're all trending down. Stay with us. We have new information for you. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Dr. Anthony Fauci now says the United States is turning the corner in the fight against COVID, but he warns it still remains in the danger zone because of the tens of millions of Americans who won't get vaccinated. As CNN's Jason Carroll reports, more states are seeing decreasing cases and hospitalizations.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cautious optimism on the COVID-19 front. Most states now reporting improved numbers in the battle against coronavirus. Cases over the last week have decreased or are steady in 44 states. The same for deaths in 36 states.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We certainly are turning the corner on this particular surge. The way to keep it down, to make that turn around continue to go down is to do what we mentioned. Get people vaccinated.

CARROLL (voice-over): But when it comes to gathering in person for Christmas --

FAUCI: It's just too soon to tell. We just got to concentrating on continuing to get those numbers down and not try to jump ahead by weeks or months and say what we're going to do at a particular time.

CARROLL (voice-over): Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci clarified those comments about the holiday season.

FAUCI: I will be spending Christmas with my family. I encourage people, particularly the vaccinated people who are protected, to have a good, normal Christmas with your family.


But just the way all of the other disinformation goes around, you say something, talking about a landmark of a time and it gets misinterpreted that I'm saying you can't spend family Christmas time, which is nonsense, you can.

CARROLL (voice-over): Today vaccine mandates went into effect for New York City's public school employees. Mayor Bill de Blasio says 96 percent of teachers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In Connecticut, state employees have until the end of today to prove vaccination or agree to submit to weekly testing.

GOV. NED LAMONT (D), CONNECTICUT: The overwhelming number of our state employees aren't going to be what you call compliant. Almost all of them are vaccinated. Right now about 10 percent or so say they prefer testing a little bit longer.

CARROLL (voice-over): This, as a federal analysis now shows that full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine did not dramatically increase vaccinations. Pfizer shot saw a seven day average increase of just 16 percent following the approval, and the number began to drop soon after.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: I want to bring in Dr. Megan Ranney who's joining us right now. She's an emergency room physician.

Dr. Ranney, thank you so much for joining us.

As you know, and as you just heard, coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, even deaths, they're all trending down right now here in the U.S. Is the end of the Delta surge, this variant, and maybe even the overall pandemic, finally, finally, insight?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BROWN UNIVERSITY: You know, Wolf, I would love to say yes, but I do not have a crystal ball. And if you look at what's going on across the world, you see that some countries are seeing a sustained decrease in cases while others, like the U.K., continue to have up and down bumps in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

What's going to determine whether this is the end of this surge or not really is up to us. It's how many of us show up and get vaccinated over the next few weeks as the weather continues to get colder across the United States? How many of us get our kids vaccinated to stop community spread? And how many of us are willing to show up and get tested or wear masks indoors if we still are in a community with high spread of this disease?

So, hopefully, but too soon to say.

BLITZER: Yes. And speaking of kids, children under 12 remain unvaccinated and potentially at risk. Can you walk us through, Dr. Ranney, the steps that still need to happen for child vaccine approval? How quickly could this come together?

RANNEY: Well, so the FDA is saying that they're going to be reviewing the data on those five to 11 year olds in just a couple of weeks. Once they review that data, they'll then make decisions, recommendations, and that'll then go to that Advisory Council on Immunization Practices. That same council that we watched just a couple of weeks ago for booster recommendations.

At that point, once ACIP makes its recommendations, then the CDC director, Dr. Walensky, gets to make her decisions. So, short version, there's a bunch of steps still to come.

Most of us in the public health community are expecting that we'll see approvals of vaccines for this younger age group sometime in early November in a best case scenario.

BLITZER: A lot of parents are anxious for that.

The new antiviral pill from Merck is showing lots of promise right now, but Dr. Fauci is reminding people that the best bet is still avoiding infection. And that means getting vaccinated, right?

RANNEY: That is exactly right. You know, this pill is terrific. And as an ER doctor, I cannot wait to have it as another tool in my toolbox to give to patients who are sick with COVID-19. But better than taking a pill is not getting sick in the first place, which means getting vaccinated.

And there are two other problems with this pill. The first is it's really expensive. And the second is, it's not necessarily going to be available across the country or even across the world because of that expense. So it's going to worsen equity issues. And finally, it doesn't stop the virus from mutating, right, which is the thing that brought us the Delta variant and got us where we are today.

So, great, but get your vaccine, please. BLITZER: Yes. And if you look at the numbers, more than 100,000 Americans are still coming down with COVID every day, that's the average. And about 1800 Americans are dying every day from COVID. Those are serious numbers, indeed.

Dr. Ranney, thank you so much as usual for joining us.

There's more breaking news we're following. The latest on the oil spill disaster that's closing beaches, killing wildlife along the Southern California coast. We're now learning that investigators are narrowing in on the source of the leak tonight.



BLITZER: We're following more breaking news. Just now in California, the company that owns a pipeline blamed for a major oil spill, said the anchor of a passing ship may have hit the pipeline causing a breach. At least 126,000 gallons of oil leak from that pipeline off Huntington Beach.

Joining us now is Katrina Foley. She's a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Katrina, thanks for joining us. What's the latest, first of all, that you can tell us on the extent of the damage from this spill and the ongoing enormous cleanup effort?

KATRINA FOLEY, SUPERVISOR, ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf, for having me.

This is just a terrible ecological disaster for our beautiful Orange County beaches. You know, California, we love our beaches and the marine life, the ecosystem and the tourism, it's all been impacted.

And so we just came from a briefing it's about 127,000 gallons of oil that's leaked out into our entire coastal community here. It's invading our wetlands and impacting our wildlife as well as all the, you know, the wetland ecosystems. And it's gone from Huntington Beach now all the way down to Dana Point.


BLITZER: The CEO of the company that owns this pipeline says a ship's anchor may have caused this damage. But do you trust the Amplify Energy, the company to be involved in this investigation, if they could potentially be at fault?

FOLEY: Look, I don't know that that's true. And we have an independent investigation that's going on that's headed by the U.S. Coast Guard and our California Fish and Wildlife and the law enforcement arm of that agency. And I'm going to trust those investigators before I trust the self-serving comments of the responsible party.

I am concerned that they are saying that they didn't learn about this until Saturday when I've had reports to my office that they knew about it as early as Friday evening, early evening, right before dark. So, I think we have to just keep investigating, keep asking questions, and make sure that there isn't some way to get out of being responsible.

BLITZER: Yes, this is an important issue.

CNN has learned, Katrina, that the company operating, operating the pipeline for Amplify Beta Operating Company has a record of more than 100 violations of Federal Regulations over the past decade. How concerning is that to you?

FOLEY: Well, that's extremely concerning. And one thing that I've asked is, when was this last inspected? What have -- what standards have been complied with? Are there systems that have been working?

You know, my dad worked out in the underwater welding for many years. And he tells me that they should have known because the pressure would have been -- they would have been alerted based on the pressure on one end or the other. So, I don't know.

Something doesn't smell right. And it's not just oil out in the air.

BLITZER: What a tragedy. What a pity for those beautiful Southern California beaches.

Katrina Foley, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone out there.

FOLEY: Thank you so much.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up, former President Trump was reportedly on the verge of actually announcing a 2024 White House to run this summer before being talked out of it by advisors. Will he really run? When will he make it official if he decides to run? Standby. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Now with CNN exclusive, the result of nearly three years of investigations into gross human rights violations. For the first time, CNN has interviewed a former member of Chinese security forces who tells CNN he was routinely ordered to arrest and torture Uyghur detainees in truly horrific and barbaric ways. China denies accusations from the United States that has detained up to 2 million Uyghurs, many of them Muslim, in a system of modern day internment camps in the Xinjiang region in northwestern China.

CNN's Ivan Watson brings us these disturbing new revelations. And we want to warn our viewers, it contains graphic descriptions of violence and sexual assault.


ABDUWELI AYUP, FORMER DETAINEE IN XINJIANG: It was pushed electric stick here. And it's just like burning.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the story of a victim and a self-confessed torturer.

(on camera): Did the police officers use electric buttons to shock prisoners?

"JIANG", FORMER CHINESE DETECTIVE (through translator): Yes, everyone uses different methods.

WATSON (voice-over): For years, stories of arbitrary arrests, unspeakable cruelty and mass internment camps have been trickling out of China's Xinjiang region. Testimonies from people like Abduweli Ayup.

(on camera): When you were detained in 2013, what was your main job?

AYUP: Kindergarten teacher.

WATSON (voice-over): Abduweli, says police took him from his Uyghur language kindergarten.

AYUP: Put the black hood on my face and they put me in the -- this is the interrogation room. And inside the iron cage, there's a tiger (ph) chair. You're, like, wrist shackled there, and you're, like, feet also shackled.

WATSON (voice-over): He says police accused him of espionage, plotting against the Chinese government and the crime of separatism and they demanded a confession.

AYUP: You just confess, you just admit what you have done. It's good for you.

WATSON (voice-over): Now for the very first time, CNN has spoken to a former Chinese police officer who claims his job was to arrest and extract confessions from ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

"JIANG" (through translator): Some cops would play the good cops and some would play the bad cops. After we beat them, we'd offer them a cigarette.

WATSON (on camera): Did you have to be the bad cop sometimes?

"JIANG" (through translator): Of course.

WATSON (voice-over): The man, who asks to be called "Jiang," says he worked more than 10 years as a cop before fleeing China after growing disillusioned with the ruling Communist Party. I met him in a European country. He wore his police uniform to authenticate his story, but does not want to be identified to protect himself and relatives who are still in China.

(on camera): To prove that he was a Chinese police officer, Jiang is showing me many photos of different police badges, training certificates, even portraits of his graduating class at police academy, images that we cannot show on television because they would reveal his identity.

(voice-over): Jiang says he was sent from his home province to work in Xinjiang at least three times, during which he was ordered to arrest hundreds of suspects, all of them ethnic Uyghurs.


(on camera): How were the interrogations being conducted?

"JIANG" (through translator): Beat them, kick them. Beat them bruised and swollen. Knock their heads on the radiator. Police would step on the suspects face and tell him to confess.

WATSON (voice-over): Jiang says some suspects were as young as 14 and all of the detainees were beaten.

(on camera): Were the suspects all men?

"JIANG" (through translator): Men and women.

WATSON (on camera): Did you witness women being beaten?

"JIANG" (through translator): Yes.

WATSON (voice-over): CNN cannot independently confirm Jiang's allegations nor those of Abduweli, the kindergarten teacher who says In addition to beatings, he was raped on his first night of detention by Chinese prisoners who followed the orders of prison guards.


WATSON (on camera): This was prisoners who sexually assaulted you?

AYUP: Yes, the prisoners.

WATSON (voice-over): More than one?

AYUP: More than one. Yes, look, just, first of all, they have surrounded me and the police there ordered me to like take off my underwear and like be like this.

WATSON (von camera): And bend over.

AYUP: Bend over. Don't do this. Don't do this. I cried. Please don't do this. And then, like, one of, I don't know, just hold my hand like this.

WATSON (voice-over): Jiang, the police officer who fled China describes in graphic detail methods of sexual torture that he says police officers used.

"JIANG" (through translator): If you want people to confess, use the electric baton. We would tie two electrical wires on the tips and set the wires on their genitals why the person is tied up. The result is better.

WATSON (voice-over): He also says police sometimes ordered prisoners to sexually assault detainees.

"JIANG" (through translator): We call it an in prison investigation.

WATSON (voice-over): The Chinese government insists it is battling violent extremism in Xinjiang. Beijing also denies any human rights abuses whatsoever are being committed there.

ZHAO LIJIAN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): I want to reiterate that the so called genocide in Xinjiang is nothing but a rumor backed by ulterior motives and an outright lie.

WATSON (voice-over): But Jiang, the whistleblower cop, says he got double his normal salary to join 10s of 1000s of other police sent to Xinjiang as part of the government crackdown.

(on camera): How many of the people that you arrested in Xinjiang, do you think, were actually violent extremists?

"JIANG" (through translator): None.

WATSON (on camera): None?

"JIANG" (through translator): Xinjiang is not a warzone. And those people are our fellow citizens, not foreign enemies.

WATSON (on camera): If you didn't carry out the arrest, what would happen to you?

"JIANG" (through translator): Then I would be arrested as well, because that means I, too, am a part of a terrorist organization. I become their enemy.

WATSON (voice-over): Abduweli says after 15 months in detention, he confessed to illegal fundraising and was released. He later fled China. Since then, he says several of his relatives have been detained, including his niece, Mehery (ph).

(on camera): Where was your niece held?

AYUP: The same detention facility I stayed. I don't know how she -- I don't even know. She is the first one I hold. She is the baby I hold in my life. She's just like my daughter.

WATSON (voice-over): In response to written questions from CNN, the Xinjiang government denies that Mehery died in detention. Saying the 30-year-old woman instead "died of organ failure due to severe anemia after being treated in a hospital after suffering from an unknown illness."

The Chinese government did not respond to written questions concerning allegations made by the former police officer.

Abduweli now lives in Norway with his family and publishes children's books written in Uyghur. He insists, he can forgive the men who jailed and tortured him. AYUP: I don't hate them. Because all of them, victim of that system.

WATSON (on camera): If you met one of these prisoners, what would you say to them?

"JIANG" (through translator): I'm scared. I would leave immediately.

WATSON (on camera): Why?

"JIANG" (through translator): How do I face these people? You'd feel guilty. Even if you're just a soldier, you're still responsible for what happened.

Yes, you need to execute orders. But so many people did this thing together. We are responsible for this.



WATSON: Wolf, I want to stress that this report is just part of a much larger body of work that CNN has done for years now, investigating the scale of the abuses in Xinjiang. We have published leaked Chinese government files that have revealed the nature of the arbitrary detentions there. We have interviewed dozens of camp survivors, as well as people who have lost their loved ones in the camps, everywhere from Xinjiang to Kazakhstan, Australia, Europe and the U.S.

China consistently denies any abuses whatsoever. And state media goes so far as to victim shame the people who are describing the traumatic sexual assault they've suffered, calling them paid actors. Wolf.

BLITZER: Ivan Watson, amazing excellent reporting. Thank you so, so much. Very disturbing indeed.

Up next, the escalating debt ceiling drama, congressional chaos as the clock ticks toward a financial catastrophe for the United States.