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State Department-Funded Report Says AI Could Pose "Extinction- Level Threat" To Humans; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) On Hur's Portrayal Of Biden's Memory In Special Counsel Report; RFK Jr. To Announce Running Mate Within Two Weeks. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 13, 2024 - 07:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, a dire warning about artificial intelligence and the risks that come with it. And when I mean dire, as bad as it gets. A report paid for by the U.S. State Department found AI poses a quote, "extinction-level threat to the human species" and is urging the U.S. government to take action now.

CNN's Matt Egan is here. I am all for preventing extinction, Matt. Tell us about this report.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Yeah. John, if you're looking for some light reading stay away from this report because it is almost 300 pages long and it is as scary as any sci-fi novel out there.

They're basically laying out two central dangers here, right? The first one is that AI systems could become weaponized, and the second is that they could become so advanced that we lose control of them.

Let me read you a key line from this report. They write, "Given the potential capabilities of such a system, in the worst case, such a loss of control could pose an extinction-level threat to the human species."

Now, I know that may sound ridiculous but it does echo some of the concerns we've heard from CEOs, from academics, from even the godfather of AI himself, Geoffrey Hinton.

The U.S. State Department did confirm, yes, they did pay for this report but, no, it does not represent the views of the U.S. government. But it was based on interviews with hundreds of people in AI, in cybersecurity, in WMD, and in U.S. national security. And the researchers -- they warned that eventually, AI could introduce WMD- like risk to the U.S.

I'll give you just a few examples of what we're talking about. AI- powered cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns that could destabilize society, and weaponized robotics. And there's also this risk that AI systems could become so advanced that they basically refuse to be turned off. Because if they get turned off, they can't accomplish their goals.

BERMAN: So for those of us who want to prevent extinction -- it's a small but mighty group of us --

EGAN: Yes.

BERMAN: -- what can be done?

EGAN: Well, first, I do want to stress that none of this is to say that AI is evil, right? I mean, it is amazing what these tools can do.

And I did talk to one of the researchers here who said that yes, AI could be a game-changer for U.S. society, right? It could help us cure diseases and make scientific discoveries. But they are warning that the U.S. government does need to act here.

So they're laying out some sweeping recommendations here for safeguards, including launching a new AI regulatory agency. Emergency safeguards, such as limiting how much computer power AI models can train themselves on. Export controls.

But one of the problems here, John -- and you know this -- is timing. There's a lot of debate -- a lot of unknowns here over how fast AI is going to evolve.

And so, one of the issues here is if they impose really tough regulation too soon they could stifle innovation. They could let other countries get ahead of the U.S. in the AI arms race. Of course, if they want too long, that could be disastrous, too.

BERMAN: Matt Egan, thank you for this report from the extinction beat this morning. Look, it's terrifying but it's very important to talk about this stuff and it's a good thing that they are looking into this and taking it seriously. Appreciate it.

EGAN: Thanks, John.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: So we could find out as early as today if the D.A. leading the criminal case against Trump in Georgia will be thrown off the case.

In a rare radio interview, the judge overseeing the criminal case against Trump says that he is on track to issue a decision by this Friday on that conflict -- on the conflict of interest questions raised about Fani Willis.

Trump and some of his co-defendants have really been fighting to get Willis removed, accusing her of financially benefiting from a romantic relationship with the lead prosecutor on the Trump case.


CNN's Nick Valencia has been following this, of course, from Atlanta, and he's joining us now. Nick, talk to me more about what the judge said in this interview.


It came as a surprise to many of us who are following this case closely that McAfee would talk to reporters at all. He denies almost every request he gets.

But he did speak recently to WSB Radio in Atlanta about the challenger he faces in his reelection bid this November. And it was during the course of this interview that he brought up his pending decision on whether to remove Fani Willis from prosecuting this case here in Georgia. And it was during that interview that he said he is on track to make a decision by the end of this week.


JUDGE SCOTT MCAFEE, WSB RADIO INTERVIEW: I gave myself a deadline because I knew everyone wanted an answer. And I'll tell you an order like this takes time to write. There is a lot that needs -- I have to go through. And so, you know, I've had -- again, I'll emphasize this. I've had a rough draft and an outline before I ever heard a rumor that someone wanted to run for this position. So the result is not going to change because of politics. I am calling it as best I can and the law as I understand it.


VALENCIA: You know, to say that there's a lot of anticipation about his decision would be a huge understatement.

And during that eight-minute interview, he did also talk about how this has personally affected him. He does have two small children, ages five and three. And he said while they're too young to understand really what's going on, they don't really look at him as this judge presiding over this historic case, but dad, rightfully so. And he said, though, he does look forward to the day when they grow up and he's able to look them in their eye and say that he did the best he could and he played this case straight -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Nick, what happens if the district attorney -- if D.A. Fani Willis is disqualified, if that's his decision?

VALENCIA: Well, it would be devastating, it goes without saying. It would be devastating for the district attorney's office, for this case, for the prosecution of this case.

But what would happen in the media would be what handed -- it would be handed over to the prosecuting attorney's counsel. It's a nine-member panel. A bipartisan group made up of solicitors general, former district attorneys. And it would be up to them to find a new prosecution team. But that comes with very unique challenges -- not just the politics surrounding this case but also the safety issues. So finding somebody could prove very difficult -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Nick, great to see you. Thanks for bringing that to us this morning -- John. BERMAN: All right. Fresh fallout this morning from former special counsel Robert Hur's testimony on Capitol Hill. This was an exchange he had with Congressman Eric Swalwell.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): You said to President Biden, "You have -- appear to have a photographic understanding and recall of the House."

Did you say that to President Biden?

ROBERT HUR, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: Those words do appear on page 47 of the transcript.

SWALWELL: Photographic is what you said. Is that right?

HUR: That word does appear on page 47 of the transcript.

SWALWELL: Never appeared in your report, though. Is that correct? The word "photographic?"

HUR: That does not appear in my report.


BERMAN: Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell from California joins me now. Congressman, thanks for being here.

Why was it important for you to make that point?

SWALWELL: Of course.

The report was characterized early on as President Biden having a failed memory. And Republicans ran with that and continued this narrative that was ultimately defeated at the State of the Union last week.

But when I saw the transcript yesterday, that word "photographic" leaped off the page because it was not a part of the report that the special counsel issued. And so, I think we can put to bed any questions about the president's memory over a two-day, five-hour interview.

BERMAN: But the special counsel -- former special counsel, in his report and in the opening statement yesterday, and in the Q&A yesterday, did make clear there were several instances when President Biden said he did not remember things, and that was key to his decision not to prosecute, correct?

SWALWELL: Well, yes. And I don't doubt that there were several instances when the president was asked to go years back and was asked what drawers different documents were in and he didn't know exactly which drawer.

But when you read the transcript, the president is in command. He understands what's being asked and helped to the best of his ability. And again, I think yesterday's hearing was just another effort to

delegitimize President Biden when so much more is needed from this Congress on Ukraine funding, humanitarian and Israel funding, and, of course, border security funding. And the American people just saw I think their time and resources wasted on this.

BERMAN: Politico, in its Playbook newsletter this morning, says that Republicans are on the verge of backing off their strategy to try to impeach President Biden. They say, "Republicans are brainstorming Plan Bs -- exit strategies they say will keep their anti-Biden base happy but fall short of their initial impeachment goal."


And one possibility they say may be criminal referrals, either for Hunter Biden and possibly, for President Biden himself.

In an interview, House Oversight Chair James Comer -- he's speaking broadly about the issue of referrals. "If Merrick Garland's Department of Justice won't take any potential criminal referrals seriously, then maybe the next president, with a new attorney general, will."

So do you think that Donald Trump, if he's elected president again, would prosecute Joe Biden?

SWALWELL: Oh, absolutely, he would. Donald Trump said that he wants to be a dictator on day one. That he's out for retribution.

But what you just described of Comer and Jordan, it just sounds like the Wylie Coyote coming up with his next scheme after 10 failed schemes before. And the goal should not be how do we get Joe Biden. They just don't have the evidence. But again, they just keep going back to this idea.

And it's actually also absurd that you would make a criminal referral, believing somebody committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, but you would not seek to impeach them. That just shows that this is purely punitive and an effort to never accept Joe Biden as the president.

BERMAN: Do you think there will be an impeachment vote on the House floor on President Biden?

SWALWELL: No, no -- absolutely not. They don't have the votes. The president will be acquitted if that happens. And again, it's just a complete waste of time as to what the president asked us to work on at the State of the Union last week.

BERMAN: You have a big day. I mean, Congress has a big day. The House has a big moment where you're going to vote on this bill on TikTok that would require it to sever ties with ByteDance, which is the Chinese company that owns it. Many people look at this as a TikTok potential ban in the United States.

How will you vote on this? SWALWELL: I don't like bans on speech, John. And look, I don't like the Republican book bans. I don't like the ban on bodies that Republicans have put in place across the country.

And I want to find ways to better restrict the use of data without taking away a platform that so many small businesses rely upon and so many young people use to communicate. And this would do nothing to look at other social media companies and their data.

So I just -- I don't like bans on speech, John, so it's going to be hard to support that one.

BERMAN: So you're a no-vote on this, which, interestingly for you, puts you in the same boat as Donald Trump.

SWALWELL: (Laughing) Well, it looks like a donor who has invested in TikTok has gotten to Donald Trump if you follow this. I think my reasoning is more around speech and small business protection.

But again, I understand people are going to come down differently on this, but I think there's better ways to go at this than to do something that China does. If you want to talk about who bans things, China bans things. China is a place where you don't have rights. And I just don't want to do anything that looks even remotely like China.

BERMAN: You have no concerns about China's potential influence over TikTok?

SWALWELL: Well, I do, and that's why I think we need to aggressively monitor that. But essentially, pulling the plug on a platform that so many small businesses and young people are reliant upon just seems like a binary choice, and there's other ways to address that issue without taking this away from so many people who use it for their livelihood.

And again, the State of the Union, by the way -- young people saw the State of the Union largely through TikTok. So it's a way where they are receiving information. And I think we should just be very careful if we're going to get in the way of how people are receiving information.

BERMAN: Very quickly, Congressman, today is sort of the kickoff of this unprecedented stretch of campaigning. Both Donald Trump and President Biden are now the presumptive nominees of their party, so we enter this months and monthslong stage.

And I -- and I know a lot of people -- or some people are looking at this and saying oh, rerun candidates that no one wanted are the nominees, which I'm not sure is a fair or productive framing here.

What do you see as at stake in this election?

SWALWELL: Freedom, and the president laid this out. It's a freedom election.

Freedom of body. Financial freedom to have breathing room in your finances. Freedom to have a health care plan that's affordable for you under Obamacare.

Freedom to send your kid to school and know they'll come home safely from gun violence. The freedom to vote and have it counted. The freedom to breathe clean air. All of those are under attack.

And we know what the last guy will do. And he said he'll be a dictator on day one -- and it'll be an attack on freedom.

And so, to me, sure, you may not like the president's age, 81, but there's a number that's a helluva lot higher than 81, and that's 91. That's the felony counts that Donald Trump is facing. And that's why this election is entirely about who is going to put the American people first or who will put himself first and take away your freedoms in the -- in that effort.


BERMAN: Congressman Eric Swalwell, we appreciate you being with us this morning. Thanks so much.

SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks, John.

BERMAN: So the Biden administration's new strategy to tackle drug overdoses, you. The training the president wants you to get.

And at least one person is dead and dozens injured after a powerful explosion rips through a residential neighborhood. A video captured the moment it happened.


BOLDUAN: Flooding the zone. That is what the Biden administration says it now wants to do with overdose reversal medicines, launching a new push to get drugs like Narcan into as many hands as possible.


CNN's Meg Tirrell has the details and she's joining us now. What we're talking about in large part are opioid overdoses, which we all know there is no segment of society that has been hit by the scourge that is fentanyl and other opioids.

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and the numbers are unfortunately still getting worse --


TIRRELL: -- if you can believe that. I mean, this has been going on for decades.

The most recent data from the CDC suggests in the last 12 months of recent data --

BOLDUAN: Um-hum.

TIRRELL: -- 111,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States. And the majority of those, of course, are related to opioids and to fentanyl, which is this incredibly powerful synthetic opioid. And many times, people don't even realize it's in the drugs that they're taking.

BOLDUAN: They're taking, right.

TIRRELL: So that's a huge problem.

And this new challenge the White House is announcing today -- this is really focused on organizations and businesses, trying to get them to train their employees on how to use drugs like Naloxone. To stock it in first aid kits and make sure they have it on hand. And even to give it away to employees and to customers.


TIRRELL: And one way that this drug called Narcan -- that's the brand name -- or the generic name is Naloxone -- has become more available is that now you don't need a prescription to buy it.

So I went into a Walgreens yesterday. I spent $45 to get two of these things. These are nasal sprays. And anybody can buy these and it's recommended you have it just in case something happens and you can use it to really save a life. I mean, this can reverse an opioid overdose in minutes.

BOLDUAN: And also, the death of someone can happen with -- really, within minutes as well.


BOLDUAN: So this is critical and it's proven so effective. What kind of -- and the fact that it's now gone from prescription to being more available over-the-counter is so key.

What kind of organizations are we talking about that they're trying to target and focus on?

TERRILL: So, already, they've announced that there are airports that have signed onto this. There are airlines, like --

BOLDUAN: Great idea.

TERRILL: -- Southwest and American that are making sure they have these on board and training employees on how to use this.


TERRILL: School systems. Concert companies have announced that they're going to have this available. Transit systems, libraries.

I mean, really, anywhere people are you have to make sure you've got a drug like this. People talk about it like a defibrillator. You have to make sure -- like, an EpiPen.

These emergency medicines can rescue somebody. It can save their life. They work really well. It's not dangerous to use, and anybody can use it.

BOLDUAN: Thinking of it as a defibrillator is key and also such a sad statement about where we are with this epidemic.


BOLDUAN: Thanks, Meg, for coming on. I really appreciate it.

TERRILL: Thank you.


BERMAN: New this morning, Alaska Airlines says the Boeing plane that lost its door plug midflight was scheduled for maintenance the same day as the incident. The airline told The New York Times the plane was set to be removed from service to investigate two separate pressurization warning lights. The NTSB says it was aware the plane had pressurization issues but noted those warnings were unrelated to the door plug incident. A preliminary investigation found that Boeing likely did not install required bolts in the door plug.

A deadly blast in northern China. One person was killed and 22 injured in a suspected gas leak at a restaurant. Several buildings were also damaged in the explosion.

And Robert Kennedy Jr. says he has chosen his running mate and will announce his V.P. pick in the next two weeks. The Independent presidential candidate says his short list includes New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who came under scrutiny during the pandemic for misleading the public about his vaccination status. He eventually admitted he never got the vaccine. Another possible pick, former professional wrestler and Minnesota governor, Jesse Ventura.

Now, one thing is clear. If Aaron Rodgers does become the pick, it will likely not affect the New York Jets, Kate, who almost definitely will still lose -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: (Laughing).

Do they still have to pay him, though? That may be kind of a clutch play.

BERMAN: It's a good way out.

BOLDUAN: All right, let's continue. Let's talk about this, John. Thank you very much.

Joining us right now is CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp, and CNN senior political commentator and former special assistant to President George W. Bush, Scott Jennings.

Robert Kennedy -- what do you do with that, S.E.?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh -- I mean, yeah. Listen, sometimes the move of a presidential candidate is to pick a V.P. that adds something -- balances something out, right? Think Obama picking Joe Biden --

BOLDUAN: Um-hum.

CUPP: -- to add some foreign policy experience and gravitas.

In these -- this lineup, at least in Aaron Rodgers and Jesse Ventura, he's picking his twin, right? I mean, Aaron Rodgers is very much aligned with RFK Jr. And this is really interesting because I think this eats into Trump voters way more than Biden voters.

BOLDUAN: That is super counterintuitive.

CUPP: No. I mean, Aaron Rodgers is a mini-Trump. I mean, you go on television and say Jimmy Kimmel might have been on the plane with Jeff Epstein based on nothing -- just to, like, stir the pot. That is so Trumpian.


And the conspiracy theories that both of them court -- I mean, I think it's kind of a threat to Trump voters and to Trump.

BOLDUAN: OK, let me add two data points to this. He's polling -- Robert Kennedy, not Aaron Rodgers -- polling at 13 percent --


BOLDUAN: -- nationally. That is not from --

CUPP: Nothing.

BOLDUAN: -- a long time ago. It's something if --

CUPP: It's not nothing.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, it's not nothing.

CUPP: Right.

BOLDUAN: That was a Fox News poll last week.

At one point -- I think it was in November -- he was actually polling at 22 percent with registered voters. He's fallen far from there, but it is not nothing.

Do you think he poses an actual problem to whomever? Because I will say -- S.E. says he might pull from Trump voters. There's a -- there was a lot of conversation that he -- that Robert Kennedy would pull more from Biden voters.

JENNINGS: Yeah. The polling I see shows me that when you throw all these third parties in, in aggregate, it hurts Biden a little bit more. Now, I grant you that some of his messages may appeal to Trump- style voters. But right now, it just strikes me that there's just a lot of disappointed voters with the major party choices, so they're looking for anybody. They're looking for any third door to go out right here and RFK's name is the one that's the most familiar to them.

I don't know how he'll do in the election. I mean, a lot of people say in a poll oh, yeah, I'd love to vote for a third party and then they don't show up or they end up defaulting to a major party choice.

But I will just say anecdotal, heard from the ground in a few places, the guy's got something going on and --

CUPP: Rizz, they call it. They call it rizz.


CUPP: Please (PH) all it rizz.

JENNINGS: He's got something going on.

BOLDUAN: I don't think Scott Jennings is going to go I'm not -- are you going to --

JENNINGS: I'm sorry, what?



BOLDUAN: OK. Speaking of age, let's talk the age issue. OK, so with the Hur testimony in the rearview mirror, it seems like Biden's team thinks it has limited damage going forward, I would pose. Democrats think the State of the Union was a huge success.

Has Biden -- can Biden maybe not put the age concerns to rest --

CUPP: Um-hum.

BOLDUAN: -- and put them on the back burner?

CUPP: No. No. No. He's not getting younger.

The State of the Union was good. He gave a good performance. It was an hour and a half.

We've got many months until November. It's going to be a very long slog of a campaign. He's going to have more gaffes.

The question isn't will he or won't he. He will. The question is are people going to decide I'll take the old versus the crazy? We're used to the old. We've seen it. We accept it. He is old. We're also used to the crazy. I think the election is a little bit baked because we know both of these guys so well.

BOLDUAN: Chris Coons was on with me yesterday and this was right before -- this was right before the hearing -- and national co-chair of the Biden-Harris campaign. And here is what he said to me about the age issue and the -- kind of the Hur testimony and the documents.


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I think at the end of the day, it has been put to rest by President Biden's forceful, compelling State of the Union address on Thursday, which makes it clear that these stray comments by a special counsel in a report really don't amount to much compared to the underlying reality that President Biden has deep respect for the classified document process, fully cooperated, and his predecessor did not.


BOLDUAN: S.E. says when it comes to age, it's age versus crazy. And you think it's actually age represents something different. Like, it's a proxy fight of something else.

JENNINGS: Yeah. It's not just the number, it's the perception of your strength. I think that's what this election is about right now. It's why Trump is winning. He's perceived as being a stronger leader.

BOLDUAN: You have to go -- and, of course, what stronger is is in the eye of the beholder and that's what -- I mean, that's --

JENNINGS: It's the ability -- the ability to deliver. The ability to control a situation or to solve a problem. And I think that's Biden's issue is that moving forward it's not just how old you are today. People have to believe you're going to be able to get through another term. And all you have to go on is the perception of someone's vitality or vigor today. And just the eye test, Trump looks a little more vigorous than Biden and that's why --

And look, this isn't a close call on the polling. I mean, we're talking about huge majorities of Americans who see it this way.

BOLDUAN: Do you -- do you think that could -- do you think that can change?

JENNINGS: I don't. And I don't think the State of the Union actually fixed anything. I mean, as we sit here today, we've had a couple of national polls come out. No bounce. Trump's ahead. And in the FiveThirtyEight national polling average, Biden, today, is at his lowest point in job approval for his entire presidency.

I know the Democrats are out trying to put a good face on the State of the Union --

BOLDUAN: Uh-huh.

JENNINGS: -- but we went from old man yells at cloud to old man yells at candy bars. And I don't think the American people saw it -- saw it the way they want to -- they want to describe it.

CUPP: He did have a fundraising bump, though.

BOLDUAN: He did. And look, we've got -- we've got a heck of long --

CUPP: They're killing it in the money. BOLDUAN: And we've got a heck of a long time, which is my final question.

How do you make a rematch that 70 percent of the voting population didn't want to see --


BOLDUAN: -- and now, one of the longest general elections anyone's going to see -- how do you make that not feel that way?