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Supreme Court Rules Twitter Not Liable For Terrorist Content; FBI Agents Testify on Capitol Hill; Pentagon Leak Investigation; Montana Bans TikTok; President Biden Overseas. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired May 18, 2023 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: He can't be in two places at once, President Biden on the world stage as a debt battle plays out half-a-world away back home. It is forcing him to cut his trip short and raising new questions about how this drama is impacting the U.S. abroad.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Plus, Montana says time is up for TikTok, the state banning the popular social media app. It is the furthest any state has gone to target the Chinese-owned brand. But is that ban legal? Court challenges are likely, as TikTok says it will defend itself.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And a race to rescue children who may have survived a plane crash and 17 days alone in the Amazon. Questions about whether rescue teams have reached those children in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet.
We are following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.
SCIUTTO: President Biden has now met with Japan's prime minister in Hiroshima. Friday, they will sit down with other leaders of the world's top economies, as a massive fiscal catastrophe looms, thanks to a stalemate here in Washington over the debt ceiling.
Those negotiations do appear to be slowly progressing, but if a deal is not reached in D.C. in the next two weeks, the U.S. could default and anything these G7 allies accomplish there could be thrown into disarray from the global financial meltdown that could result.
CNN's Marc Stewart is live in Japan.
And, Marc, Biden trying to keep his priorities straight on this trip, but everyone there is aware of why he has to leave early. I wonder what the level of concern is.
MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, this is a domestic issue that could certainly have global consequences.
I mean, if we look at the G7 nations, whether it's the United Kingdom, whether it's Japan, whether it's Italy, everyone is still trying to get its footing after the pandemic. And many of these economies, quite frankly, are very fragile right now. And a debt default in the U.S. is something that really could push the world into a global economic crisis, a global recession.
It's a view not only shared by Janet Yellen, but also by economists in all parts of the world. As far as the president's view about it, it's not something he was anxious to discuss at all. Take a listen to some questioning he faced earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line, Mr. Prime Minister, is that, when our countries stand together, we stand stronger. And I believe the whole world is safer when we do so.
So, thank you again for having me here today, and we look forward to the next several days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Yes, reporters there were asking him about the future of these talks, where things stand with the debt ceiling.
So, while the president was not anxious to answer reporter questions, things will be different in just a few hours here in Japan, when he will meet face to face with world leaders in the G7, who are expected to ask him about the risks the global economy face and where things stand in this U.S. debt discussion.
We will have to see how that transpires, Jim.
SCIUTTO: There is also worry about the effect on U.S. standing, particularly now in Asia. I mean, he was going to go to Australia in part to highlight the AUKUS deal between the U.S., Australia and the U.K. on nuclear submarines for Australia.
That's no small miss, especially given the tensions in the region and concern about the Chinese threat to Taiwan.
Now, it's not as if the president will not have discussions. He will talk to Australia. He will talk to India. He will certainly talk to Japan. Even though some of those countries are not necessarily G7 nations, they have been invited here. They are known as the Quad. There will be some conversation taking place.
But, as you mentioned, yes, there are very high stakes, especially with China. It is interesting to note, I have never really used the phrase empathetic when talking about diplomacy or such discussions, but there is some understanding about the political stalemate that the U.S. is facing.
[13:05:00] In fact, we heard from the Australian prime minister probably about 40 -- 48 hours ago. He used the word understanding upon the president's decision to cancel his trip down under, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Goodness. Interesting. I guess it's no secret the divisions here in this country.
Marc Stewart in Hiroshima, thanks so much.
Our Manu Raju is on the Hill.
And, Manu, listen, we have heard the back-and-forth here, right? The negotiations are going well. They're not going well. There has been some optimism recently. I'm curious. You talk to a lot of folks from both parties on the Hill. What are they telling you?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is the first time that we have heard the speaker of the House express optimism in the direction of the talks.
Earlier this morning, when I caught up with Speaker Kevin McCarthy, he indicated to me that he sees a -- quote -- "path" to getting a deal. He said that there could be a structure to getting a deal. He wants a bill on the floor of the House next week. He wants actual -- the outline of the agreement as soon as this weekend.
And he believes talks have been constructive. That is a sharp shift in tone from earlier in the week, when McCarthy said that things had not been going well. He had criticized the White House. He didn't -- didn't know if they would be able to avoid a debt default. Now perhaps there is some change in the tone.
Exactly what they are agreeing to remains uncertain. There is furious horse-trading happening right now in the Capitol. For more than two hours, White House officials and the speaker and his top emissaries have been behind closed doors trying to find some sort of agreement that could include some spending cuts to raise the national debt ceiling.
Republicans have demanded everything from work requirements on social safety net programs, caps on discretionary spending, policy changes such as allowing the permitting process for energy projects to move quickly. That is something Democrats had resisted for some time to add that into a deal to raise the national debt ceiling.
But now they are talking about this issue after a significant reversal from the White House. And that is causing some concerns from the left.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): We should not reward the hostage-takers.
RAJU: So, you're referring to the work requirements. He said that it'd be of no consequence. What do you -- can there be work requirements of no consequence?
JAYAPAL: Well, if it's of no consequence, then don't give it. It's of consequence to my constituents.
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): We're worried about the work requirements. We're worried about what's going on when environmental justice communities they're asking, hey, are we going to be sold out regarding the permitting process.
I think the leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is -- we're moving very cautiously. We just don't want all of those communities being sold out because McCarthy wants to play politics.
RAJU: Are you concerned the White House is -- may give in too much to McCarthy in these negotiations?
REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): Yes, I'm concerned about that, because, again, we shouldn't be negotiating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And that is going to be the challenge going forward if a deal is in fact reached, keeping together a coalition does not -- that does not lose support from the right, given that a number of conservatives have warned McCarthy against watering down the House-passed bill that included a slew of spending cuts and folks on the left that don't want to add any spending cuts whatsoever.
Can they get a deal, and then can they get a coalition to get it through Congress before that debt default? All still questions that loom over Congress.
SCIUTTO: No question. It wasn't long ago the president said he would not negotiate at all on this.
Manu Raju on the Hill, thanks so much -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Today, we are learning some pretty baffling new details about how the alleged leaker of Pentagon documents was warned repeatedly by his Air Force superiors about his mishandling of classified documents.
Federal prosecutors claim Jack Teixeira's misconduct was documented on three separate occasions months before he was arrested for posting a trove of classified documents online. He's also accused of acknowledging on Discord, that online community that's popular with video gamers, that the information was not public and that he should not have been sharing it.
We have CNN's Natasha Bertrand, who joins us from the Pentagon.
Natasha, explain this to us, because, normally, accessing classified information is not something that someone gets a pass on. How did this even happen?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, that is exactly what prosecutors are asking, right? And they filed this -- these filings to convey to the judge that he should not be allowed out on pretrial release while he is awaiting, of course, his trial. But what we are told by these court filings is essentially that he was
warned on three separate occasions in September, October, and January of this year not to be accessing this classified information that he was repeatedly accessing on a regular basis.
In September, they actually caught him, according to memos that were written by his superiors, at the Air Force -- at the Air National Guard base in Massachusetts, where he was serving, they caught him taking detailed notes of classified information and actually stuffing those notes in his pocket.
They, of course, warned him that he was not supposed to do that, and they wrote up a formal memo detailing that interaction. Then, in October, he went to a classified briefing, and he asked very detailed, probing questions about classified intelligence. He was told at that point that there was actually a cease-and-desist order for him to stop doing this and that he needed to focus on his day job, which was essentially an I.T. person for the Air National Guard there.
And then, in January of this year, he was again caught looking at classified information in a way that did not comport with his duties in information technology, which -- which is essentially just to keep those systems up and running and not to engage with the actual content of the classified information, so a lot of red flags here.
And, of course, in addition to this, we are told, according to these court filings, that he was talking and aware on this group chat, on this Discord gaming platform about the fact that he was not supposed to be revealing this classified information to these people on this social media platform.
He told one of the users on that platform that he was not supposed to be revealing this non-public information. And he also said that he -- quote -- "did not want to shoot" himself in the head twice by posting this classified information on, say, a blogging platform, as one of those users encouraged him to do.
So, prosecutors trying to lay out a pattern here, showing that Teixeira understood that what he was doing was wrong and that it could pose a potential risk to national security, Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes. And right after he was arrested, his unit was relieved of their mission that they had been working on. Now we're getting a better sense of why, right? We certainly are.
Natasha Bertrand at the Pentagon, thank you so much -- Boris.
SANCHEZ: The FBI has revoked the security clearances of three agents over the January 6 attack on the Capitol. The FBI says that one agent was actually there that day, and the other two voiced alternative theories on the attack.
Today, two of those agents testified on Capitol Hill in a hearing that just wrapped. They were star witnesses before a Republican-led House subcommittee. Republicans say they are whistle-blowers exposing the FBI and DOJ's bias against conservatives. The panel's focus -- quote -- "the weaponization of the federal government" -- end quote.
CNN's Sara Murray has been keeping a close eye on that hearing.
Sara, there are some questions about the legitimacy of the testimony from these agents.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Boris.
I mean, what Republicans really wanted to do is, they wanted to try to shine a light on what they say is the FBI unfairly targeting conservatives. And so Republicans are calling these men who showed up today whistle-blowers, two men who lost their FBI security clearance and one whose FBI security clearance has been suspended and is under review.
So, just take a listen right now to hear Jim Jordan, who's the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and the top Democrat on this subcommittee lay out the stakes of today's hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): This is the kind of retaliation they have faced for coming forward and telling us the truth. And today, three of them, three of those brave whistle-blowers, and a lawyer who represents them will tell us their story.
They will tell us what happened, what they saw, and then what happened to them because they were courageous enough to report it to Congress.
DEL. STACEY PLASKETT (D-VI): My colleagues on the far right are on a mission to attack, discredit, and ultimately dismantle the FBI. As part of their mission, my colleagues have brought in these former agents, men who lost their security clearances because they were a threat to our national security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Now, Boris, according to a letter we got from the FBI, one of these men had their security clearance stripped of him because he urged his colleagues to show discretion in opening cases into January 6 rioters, suggested that federal law enforcement infiltrated the group that was at the Capitol on January 6.
Another one didn't want to participate in a SWAT team arrest of one of the January 6 rioters, among other issues.
SANCHEZ: Yes. And, notably, there was some debate over the rules, Democrats complaining that they didn't have access to some of the information that Republicans had. The question is, where does this go from here?
Sara Murray, thank you so much for the reporting -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Some new evidence in declassified docs case, and it may poke a hole in former President Trump's claim that he could declassify documents with his mind. The CNN exclusive ahead.
Plus: the race to save four children, one as young as 11 months. They are believed to be alive in the Amazon after a plane crashed more than two weeks ago. We will have dramatic details on that ahead.
And was it near-catastrophic, challenging, or not really much at all? More witnesses speak out on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's encounter with the paparazzi in New York City. And it seems everyone has a different take.
SCIUTTO: Montana will soon be the first state to entirely ban access to a social media platform.
Republican Governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill prohibiting the TikTok app from operating within state lines to -- quote -- "protect Montanans' personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party," his words.
Nationwide, the app is already restricted from all government-issued mobile phones. And some federal lawmakers have at least been talking about a national ban of TikTok.
CNN's Jon Sarlin, he now joins me live.
Jon, I mean, first question that comes to mind here is, I mean, is this symbolic or substantive? Because how can you possibly enforce this in this state? Are you tracking everybody's phone use?
JON SARLIN, CNN DIGITAL PRODUCER: Jim, that's a great question.
And because this is an unprecedented bill, we just don't know how the courts will look at it and, technologically, whether this is even possible. So, this ban doesn't only target TikTok. It also has its eyes on Apple and Google, the app stores that host TikTok.
It would levy a $10,000-a-day fine for hosting TikTok. That's $3.65 million a year for TikTok's -- TikTok has 150 million American users. That's a lot of people using TikTok. And, obviously, we have seen this discussion over the last couple of years about banning TikTok federally, about potentially forcing a sale.
Well, this TikTok bill in Montana goes much further than any other bills, which, as you mentioned, focused on state devices, right? Western institutions like governments and colleges have banned TikTok on federal devices. In the E.U., devices owned by the E.U. have banned TikTok.
This targets all of Montanans. And, because of that, we know that it will have legal challenges. Tech industry groups have defended TikTok, and the ACLU came out in favor of TikTok, slamming the bill as unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds, saying that it tramples on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans -- Jim. [13:20:10]
SCIUTTO: Yes, $10,000 per day to companies and individuals, I mean, that's remarkable.
You imagine your teenager hiding in the basement using this thing. But is there a technical aspect planned for trying to track this use?
SARLIN: Well, to be clear, it doesn't target users. It targets TikTok.
SARLIN: And it targets the app stores that would host TikTok.
SCIUTTO: Got it.
SARLIN: And the technological question is a real one.
I mean, one comparison are gambling apps, right? I'm in California. Gambling apps are accessible throughout the 50 states, but they don't work in some states. They work in some other states.
SARLIN: So whether we might see something similar in Montana, that will be for the courts to decide...
SARLIN: ... once the bill comes into effect in January.
SCIUTTO: It's a good point. It's why those gambling apps, they tell you to turn on your location services, so you can't use it in the states where it's not -- where it's not allowed.
Jon Sarlin, thanks so much for answering our questions -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Do you express your First Amendment rights by gambling? I guess -- I don't know. Maybe some people do.
So, new today from the Supreme Court, Twitter will not be held liable for a 2017 terrorist attack after it hosted content from ISIS. The court actually ruled unanimously that social media companies are not that different from cell phone, Internet, or e-mail providers when it comes to legal responsibility for what others post on their platforms.
CNN's Jessica Schneider is joining us on this story.
This is a pretty big win for social media companies as a whole.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'd say this is a big win for big tech at the Supreme Court, because not only did this unanimous court say that Twitter and Facebook and Google could not be held liable when terrorist groups post content on their Web sites, but this court also refused to touch Section 230. This is a law that's been in place for decades that shields all tech
companies, all Internet companies from being liable for anything that third parties post on their sites. So, this was a huge win.
So, let's first go to the Twitter case. This was revolving around an antiterrorism statute that allows people to sue if other people aid and abet international terrorism, but the court here saying that the family that brought this suit just didn't prove that these social media companies aided and abetted -- abetted terrorism.
So here's something from the opinion, Justice Thomas writing this for the full court, saying: "The mere creation of those platforms, however, is not culpable. To be sure, it might be that bad actors like ISIS are able to use platforms like defendants' for illegal and sometimes terrible ends, but the same could be said for cell phones, e-mail, or the Internet generally. Yet we generally do not think that Internet or cell service providers incur a culpability merely for providing their services to the public writ large."
And, as a result of this ruling saying that Twitter couldn't be held liable, the justices then dismissed a second case. That case involved Google. It was brought by the family of a 23-year-old American student who was studying in Paris when she was killed in the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.
They wanted the court to completely do away with Section 230, which, again, is this broad liability saying that these tech companies can't be held responsible, the Supreme Court saying, we're not going to touch that case. Section 230 is still going to remain intact
So, a big relief for these tech companies, because they were really warning that, especially if the Supreme Court chipped away at Section 230, this would mean big, broad effects, probably terrible effects, in their view, for the way that the Internet is run, because, right now, people can post anything, and these companies aren't held liable.
That's how it will stand.
KEILAR: They're going to keep facing challenges, though, right?
KEILAR: We talked about one the other day where you had family members of victims and survivors of a mass shooting, the one in Buffalo, who are going to be looking at social media companies as liable.
So, we will have to see where that goes.
There are still thorny issues that I'm sure will come before the court, but, for now, tech companies are safe.
KEILAR: All right, thank you so much, Jessica Schneider -- Boris, over to you. SANCHEZ: Coming up: Officials in Colombia say they are confident
four kids are alive after surviving a deadly plane crash and 17 days in the jungle, but they have still not been located. We have details on that search straight ahead.
Plus, the taxi driver who picked up Prince Harry and Meghan in New York is speaking out, describing the incident between the couple and a group of paparazzi.
We have those stories and much more straight ahead right here on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.
SANCHEZ: Colombian officials are racing to find four children stranded deep in the Amazon jungle after they have already overcome some incredible odds.
Officials say the kids not only survived a plane crash on May 1, but they are still alive in the Guaviare region after 17 days alone in the rain forest. Now officials are trying to zero in on their location. Keep in mind, the children are 13, 9 and 4 years old. The youngest is just a baby, 11 months old.
Rescuers are now playing recordings of the kid's grandmother directing them to stay put to make it more likely that they will be found.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)