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Book Details Elon Musk's Links To War In Ukraine; Trump Lawyers Tell Judge He May Try To Move GA Case To Federal Court; Bruce Springsteen Postpones Shows Over Stomach Condition. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 07, 2023 - 13:30   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Now to a CNN exclusive. Stunning revelations in "Elon Musk," a new biography about the tech billionaire detailing his impact on the war in Ukraine.

The book alleges that Musk disrupted a Ukrainian sneak attack against Russia, its naval fleet in Crimea, by shutting off Kiev's Internet access via his Starlink satellites.

The book's author, Walter Isaacson, says that Musk was driven by fear of a retaliatory nuclear attack following his talks with the Kremlin.

Once Ukraine began relying on Starlink for offensive attacks against Russia, Musk reportedly second-guessed his decision to get involved in the conflict.

Telling the author, quote, "How am I in this war? Starlink was not meant to be involved in wars. It was so people could watch Netflix and chill and get online for school and do good peaceful things, not drone strikes."

Joining me now is CNN media analyst and senior reporter for "Axios," Sara Fischer.

Sara, these are really surprising details coming out in this biography of Elon Musk. He seems to relish and enjoy the amount of power that he has. But in this specific instance of Ukraine he seems frustrated by it.

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Incredibly frustrated. And there's two aspects that are driving that.

The first is that he really doesn't want these technologies to be used for war. He says that they were meant to help people get connected to watch Netflix and do entertainment, not to be used by armies, relied on by armies to propagate war.

And then the other frustration is that, for a long time, Elon Musk's Starlink, which is a subdivision of his space company, SpaceX, was footing the bill to offer this connectivity to Ukraine.


There's been a lot of reporting in the past few weeks that suggests Musk and the U.S. government have brokered deals so that the government both here and in Europe can start to pay for some of that satellite service to aid the Ukrainian army.

But this is a big example of how Elon Musk has inadvertently sort of inserted himself into this massive war effort in Europe.

SANCHEZ: And, Sara, you mentioned the deal that was reportedly brokered between Musk and the U.S. government. Before that, there was some very public disagreements that he had on X, or Twitter, about the Pentagon paying for Starlink access for Ukraine.

He obviously, in this reporting, has serious contacts with senior members of the Kremlin. Is the U.S. government at all concerned about his influence in those circles or their influence on him perhaps?

FISCHER: They're absolutely concerned. And I think one of the reasons that they want to get involved here is not just to make sure that the Ukrainian government has the access but also to bring the responsibility of when it gets turned on and turned off to the U.S. government and out of Elon Musk's hands.

The concern in that CNN exclusive report is that Elon Musk can himself unilaterally just turn off access at any point.

In the particular report that we talk about today, he had instructed engineers to turn off the Ukrainian access as they were heading into a front in Crimea, which is already a heavily contested area.

And so the U.S. government does not want there to be a third party, someone who's not involved in our national security decisions, to have the ability to make those kinds of calls in the split second.

SANCHEZ: So the reporting is that Musk was concerned that if Ukraine carried out this attack Russia would launch a nuclear response against Ukraine.

Do we know whether Kiev has made specific overtures to Musk to try to sway him and his leanings in this conflict?

FISCHER: I mean, they've been making these overtures for many months now.

You have to recall, the whole reason why Starlink is available in Ukraine is because the Ukrainian digital minister reached out to Elon Musk privately and then publicly on X, which was then called Twitter, begging him to get involved.

So they have long been very public about wanting him to ensure that the connectivity stays.

The challenge, though, we're seeing this play out in this CNN exclusive today, is that no matter how much they beg Elon Musk is going to feel divided. Remember, his empire expands to so many different places around the

world. He's used to working -- having to work with autocracies, whether that's Russia or building factories for Tesla in China.

So he's in a very compromised position here. And I don't know to what extent it's going to look like moving forward other than the fact the U.S. government is now a lot more involved than it used to be.


Sara Fischer, thanks so much for giving us perspective on this CNN exclusive reporting. We appreciate it.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Ahead on CNN NEWS CENTRAL, updates in the Georgia case against former President Trump and his co-defendants.

And later, even at age 73, almost nothing slows down Bruce Springsteen. But a health scare is forcing him off the road. We'll have more on that ahead.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Breaking news into CNN. This, on Trump's election subversion case in Georgia, a possible attempt to move this case.

Sara, what do we know?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, "possible," I think, is the key word here. Donald Trump's attorney just filed with Fulton County Superior Court saying, "President Trump hereby notifies the court that he may seek removal of his prosecution to federal court."

The attorney notes they have to file a notice of removal within 30 days of the arraignment. So it seems that they're basically getting on the board to keep their options on the table.

Not knowing all the way in at this point --


SCIUTTO: Because they want to see?

MURRAY: I think they want to see how this works out for Mark Meadows, former White House chief of staff, who's trying to move his case to federal court.

Made hours of arguments in front of a judge, put in filings in front of a judge. We're still waiting on that federal judge to rule. If you're Donald Trump's team, you want to see what works or maybe

what doesn't work for Mark Meadows before you put in all your own paperwork.

SCIUTTO: I believe we have Renato Mariotti with us as well.

Renato, you and I have talked about this multiple times on the Meadows attempt to move this as well as the judge's comments on this as he asked for briefs from both sides.

What's your latest thinking as to whether this will be a successful push by defendants here, including the former president, to move it? And is his case more or less likely to be moved?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So I think, you know, it's really, I think, a very similar calculus as to Meadows. I think he has a lesser chance.

Meadows has the best argument because he can -- it's easier for Meadows to characterize what he was doing as giving advice to the president as part of his official duties.

Whereas obviously Donald Trump was out there doing all sorts of things. And he's much more of a political figure and a lot of what he was doing could be more fairly characterized as political rather than him acting purely in his governmental duties as president of the United States.

After all, the president of the United States has no role in regulating local administration of elections.

And so I think what he was doing here strategically is they were letting Meadows go first. Meadows is taking this calculated risk. And they wanted to see how that was going to proceed.


Now they're not committing themselves, but if Meadows happens to be successful, then Trump, I think, will at least try or go down the path of making that calculated -- that risk on his own part. Of course, the risks are much higher for him.

SCIUTTO: And just for folks at home who aren't lawyers, the essential test here is whether this push in Georgia to challenge and, eventually, in Trump's hopes, overturn the results.

The question is whether that fell under his or her duties as a federal official?

MARIOTTI: That's right. Were you acting -- were you a federal official acting under color of law, were you acting in your duties as a federal official?

Or in the case of some of these other people who are trying to argue -- who weren't federal officials, John Eastman and so on, the argument is they were acting under the direction of -- they were essentially tasked by a federal official.

But in this case, obviously both Trump and Meadows were federal officials.

For Meadows it's easier for him because his role is more limited in this scheme. It's easier for him to characterize this as merely giving advice to the president, which was his actual job.

A little harder, considerably harder I should say, for Donald Trump.

SCIUTTO: And just to be clear, can you -- does it matter if what you're trying to do ain't right? If you're a federal official, hey, I'm trying to steal someone's house, whatever it is.

In this case, the argument of the D.A. was he was trying to steal an election. Does the quality of what you were doing matter to the judgment here?

MARIOTTI: Well, it matters -- it certainly can matter factually, depending on what you did. Obviously, for example, federal officials are not authorized as part of their job duties to commit crimes.

But for example here, part of what is working against the D.A. a little bit is she had a very wide-ranging indictment in which she scooped up a lot of activity as part of this racketeering scheme, this RICO scheme.

So there's a number of acts that are listed in the indictment that are not themselves criminal. So that was what the judge has been mulling over.

If there are pieces of this scheme which are under the color of law, are part of his duties, is that enough? And you know, this is not the sort of case that comes along all the time, Jim.

So the judge I think is seriously weighing this without a lot of precedent out there where, you know, this is happening on a regular basis and the judge can just look at what other courts have done.

SCIUTTO: Understood.

Sara Murray, before we go?

MURRAY: Yes, just to Renato's point, the way that Meadows' attorneys viewed what was available to him as a defense under his role was so broad that his attorney actually pointed out, if he went out and shot someone in Lafayette Square Park, that would not be under the color of his duty as White House chief of staff.

That's where he drew the line, essentially, when they were in this hearing before the federal judge. But it gives you an idea of sort of how widely they think his behavior was permissible as White House chief of staff.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's good they set that limit at least.


SCIUTTO: Can't shoot someone in Lafayette Park. We'll see what the judge decides.

Sara Murray, Renato Mariotti, thanks so much.



SANCHEZ: Still ahead, the boss begs off. Bruce Springsteen won't be on stage anytime soon because of a health scare. We have the latest on his condition when we come back.



KEILAR: The boss is taking some time off. Bruce Springsteen has canceled the rest of his concerts this month so he can be treated for a stomach condition called Peptic Ulcer Disease.

He told his fans on social media he will be back soon, but his doctors want him to stop performing for now.

CNN medical correspondent, Meg Tirrell, is with us to tell us more about this.

What is this condition and how serious is it?

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Brianna, it can be really painful. Peptic Ulcer Disease is when you get sores in the lining of your stomach.

And also, I was just talking with a doctor about this, causes hoarseness if acid goes into your throat. And that could be something that affects somebody like Bruce Springsteen significantly, if that's what's happening.

It happens when the protective layer of mucus in the stomach gets damaged. People think about ulcers caused by things like coffee or stress. That is not what causes these things.

The main causes are this bacteria called H. Pylori, as well as use of a lot of painkillers. Those are things like aspirin, Naproxen, which is Aleve, Ibuprofen, Motrin or Advil, as well as prescriptions like Celebrex.

The symptoms are a gnawing or burning pain, which you get at night or between meals. That pain goes away when you eat or take antacids.

And it can also come with things like bloating, heartburn, nausea and vomiting. And it can have more severe consequences in severe situations as well. So it's something that requires a lot of monitoring.

KEILAR: What is the treatment? And how long will it be, do you think, before he might be feeling better?


TIRRELL: Yes, you can be treated with antacids. And then for the bacteria, it's treated with antibiotics. Typically, doctors say it takes a few weeks for these to heal up. But it can recur.

And so some of the things to do to try to prevent this is to limit the use of these painkillers. Other painkillers like Tylenol, for example, don't contribute to the stomach ulcers.

Quit smoking if you smoke and drink alcohol in moderation if you drink at all because those can also contribute to raising the risk of stomach ulcers.

KEILAR: Hopefully, we will see him back at it and pain-free very soon.

Meg Tirrell, thanks for telling us all about that.

TIRRELL: Thanks.

KEILAR: Boris?

SANCHEZ: Are some voters thinking Never Biden in 2024? New poll numbers suggest that President Biden's path to reelection is anything but certain. We'll break down the numbers when we come back on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.