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Boeing Under Fire; Biden Campaigns in Wisconsin; Interview With Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA); Georgia Judge Dismisses Some Charges Against Donald Trump; House Moves to Potentially Ban TikTok. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 13, 2024 - 13:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: A legal win for Donald Trump and his co- defendants in Georgia, the judge dismissing six charges in the indictment against them in the election interference case, as a major decision about whether Fani Willis can stay on as prosecutor still looms over all of it.

And time might be up for TikTok, the House voting to ban the app if its Chinese parent company doesn't spin it off within six months. A huge bipartisan showing in the vote, but will it pass the Senate and what will President Biden do?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Plus, Americans deployed to Haiti, the Pentagon sending Marines to the embassy in a capital torn by violence, a nation the edge of anarchy, as politicians and gangs fight for power.

We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

KEILAR: One day after winning enough delegates to become the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump just receiving another win, this time in court.

A Georgia judge has thrown out six of the 41 counts that Trump and some of his co-defendants were facing in the state. The former president and more than a dozen others have been accused of racketeering and conspiracy in an attempt to overthrow Joe Biden's 2020 victory in Georgia.

CNN's Nick Valencia is outside of the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta.

And, Nick, the judge said the prosecutors made a -- quote -- "fatal mistake" here in these charges. What did he mean?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, they're basically saying that the prosecutors failed to include the detail that was needed in order for these charges to stick. They failed the required detail about what underlying crime these defendants were allegedly trying to solicit from public officials. These charges have to do with that infamous phone call that Trump made

to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, where he said, "Find more votes," as well as the fake electors scheme, that scheme by Trump and his allies to subvert the Electoral College and try to claim that he rightfully won the 2020 election here in Georgia, when he lost.

The judge saying that these charges should not stick because basically the DA's office failed to include the appropriate details. And this is already, in the meantime, being celebrated by the defendants and defense attorneys, especially the defense attorney for the former president, Steve Sadow.

This is what he's saying to us in part of a statement, saying -- quote -- "The ruling is a correct application of the law, as the prosecution failed to make specific allegations of any alleged wrongdoing on those counts. The entire prosecution of President Trump is political, constitutes election interference, and should be dismissed."

Now, this ruling, it comes with a caveat, though. The judge has left the door open for the DA to re-indict on these charges if they fill in those details. So this is far from over, but, in the meantime, as I mentioned, it is being celebrated.

And we're hearing this as we wait for this consequential decision as to whether Fani Willis will remain as the prosecutor on this case. Just a short time ago, supervising producer Jason Morris ran into Scott McAfee on the steps of the courthouse here, and he did say that he's planning to stick to that timeline that he gave himself, so we should expect a decision by the end of the week -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Nick, thank you for that report.

We're joined now by CNN chief legal analyst and CNN anchor Laura Coates.

And, Laura, Trump now personally facing three fewer charges. That's what it is when you're looking just specifically at him here. How does this affect the case against him?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: But still, by the way, more than 80 counts that he is still facing.

KEILAR: Certainly.

COATES: It's not as if an entire indictment goes away. So it's not a comprehensive win, but it does show you some of the weaknesses and shortcomings of the prosecution's case, in the sense that they are required to give notice.

It's part of due process. I need to be on notice as defense counsel, what are the specific natures of the crime that you are charging? They're saying that you're trying to violate or trying to entice someone to actually have an official in Georgia violate the Constitution. OK, which provision? How so?

There are dozens, if not hundreds of ways that could have done. Be specific so I can prepare my defense.


Now, the judge said you could also try -- as was said by Nick Valencia, to try to change that in a way that actually meets that requirement, but it still could be used as part of the overarching RICO and racketeering case here.

But the biggest question today, Brianna, is not just how many charges are going to be left, but who will prosecute this case ultimately? The big case we're waiting to hear from this judge about is will Fani Willis and her team be the ones to prosecute whatever remaining charges are there?

That is the looming deadline we're all looking to.


And where do you think Judge Scott McAfee may be on that as we look to the end of the week here?

COATES: Well, we reported yesterday there was a radio interview he gave where he talked about having a draft opinion ready to go, but these things take time. He gave a self-imposed two week deadline.That's just a mere like day or two away at this point in time.

But it's such a consequential decision that could have very far- reaching consequences. Remember, it wouldn't just be Fani Willis who would have to step aside if disqualified. The entire team would. A prosecuting council and Georgia would then step in and assign or figure out who would be the next team to actually prosecute.

And that next team would not be beholden to the choices that the grand jury prior established. Also, the big question, I think is, the issue here, whether it is an actual conflict or the appearance of a conflict that will govern this judge's ruling. That was a very big issue at the end of the last hearing, whether an appearance of so-called impropriety was enough or an actual conflict, as provided by the evidence by those moving for her to be disqualified.

That will be the rub here in this case, and that's why it's so complex.

KEILAR: These charges that have been dismissed, could it be a dismissed-for-now situation? Could Willis refile these charges with more specifics that the judge is seeking, or is this it? Are these gone-gone?

COATES: They could rehabilitate in some way this complaint, but that doesn't bode well in terms of the preparation for, say, other charges.

Now, it might be that she's given provided notice on other things as well. But you have got to -- as a prosecution team, you have got to give the requisite amount of notice in this. And, of course, this, the judge said, was not throwing out the entire indictment, that there could be an opportunity if they give more information.

And what they said was, as written, these six counts contain all the essential elements of the crimes, but fail to allege sufficient detail regarding the nature of their commission and does not give enough information.

And so, as you look at it right now, this does not mean he said the entire indictment is dismissed, but they're going to have to cross every T, dot every I, because the team of lawyers behind the over a dozen defendants are looking for any exit ramp out of this indictment, in addition to trying to undermine the credibility and put into question the ability of this prosecution team through the prior disqualification motion.

So you're coming at sort of a all full-court press against this team by virtue of the weight of this particular indictment.

KEILAR: Only one charge against Mark Meadows now, a single racketeering charge. Is that significant to you?

COATES: Well, a single racketeering charge is still significant. It's part of an overall overarching conspiracy of sorts, but taking out a lot of the other things, the solicitation of a violation of an oath by a public officer.

This is somebody who, remember, wanted to have his case removed to federal court, does not want to be in Fulton County, wants to be in federal court because he wants to have the benefit essentially of saying, well, hold on, official duties, that's what I was involved in, that's the issue here, and you can't touch me there.

That was, of course, rejected, but the idea of still having this count does rely on the conspiracy, on the interaction between the other co- defendants. Now, you need not necessarily have the communication that was explicit between each and every defendant in a RICO action, but the idea of trying to prove that everyone was part of a common scheme or plan does require a level of evidentiary support that, if you can't provide in other details on the actual pleading,might be lacking in the facts.

Now, we have a long way to go here, Brianna, before you're talking about a jury being impaneled, motion practice being concluded, and ultimately the presentation of evidence. But you can believe that Mark Meadows is probably looking to have yet another charge dropped, taking him out of this case entirely.

KEILAR: Yes, certainly is.

Laura Coates, thank you so much -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Pivoting to the nation's Capitol now, where the House of Representatives this morning passed a bill in sweeping bipartisan fashion that could lead to a TikTok ban.

The bill requires the app's China-linked parent company, ByteDance, to sell off TikTok within about six months. And, if that doesn't happen, the hugely popular platform would be banned from U.S. app stores. Lawmakers argue that ByteDance could be forced to give the Chinese government U.S. user data or to spread propaganda to Americans.

Because of those national security concerns, it was a rare moment of bipartisan unity, the bill sailing through the House by a 352 to 65 count. The question now is, how does it land in the Senate? That remains unclear.


Let's break down the details with CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, first, looking at the big picture, this is one of the most popular apps in the world.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To say -- that's actually an understatement. And to say it's popular in the U.S., Boris, is also an understatement.

More than 170 million users of TikTok are in the United States. That's what TikTok's CEO told Congress in January. That's more than half the U.S. population. Its impact on the influencer economy is huge. And it's growing -- of course, you know the influencer economy is growing by the minute.

TikTok's impact on that economy is massive. Also, small businesses use TikTok to create content, to promote their stores and other things with TikTok. So its impact on the American population is enormous.

Now, when you talk about the security concerns specifically, security analysts and some members of Congress are concerned that, because TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, that the Chinese communist government could lean on the company to basically download software, Chinese malware, that they can use Chinese malware to put it on your phone when you download TikTok or download some content on TikTok that could steal your personal data from your phone.

They could then take that and put it in their databases. They could use it later on to either blackmail you or just use it in other kind of just difficult ways for Americans.


TODD: But, also, they could use it to influence the American political scene and take a page out of Vladimir Putin's playbook and meddle in U.S. elections by creating content that promotes candidates that they like, by creating content that is -- that promotes negative information for candidates that they don't like, putting misinformation out there about elections and voting.

There's all sorts of ways that they could do that. Now, TikTok's CEO, his name is Shou Chew. He told Congress last year basically that this is all malarkey, that this would never happen.

SANCHEZ: Yes. TODD: He said -- quote -- "It is our commitment to this committee and

all of our users that we will keep this free from any manipulation by any government. We will protect the U.S. user data and firewall it from all foreign access."

But here's the problem, Boris, that, if the Chinese government wants to lean on TikTok for information or to do some of these things that security experts are worried about, by Chinese law, the company cannot say no.


TODD: So there you have it.


There's also been evidence from employees that have gone public saying that ByteDance has specifically requested U.S. user data. And if ByteDance has it...

TODD: Right.

SANCHEZ: ... that means it's one step away from the Chinese government.

TODD: Right.

And, again, if the Chinese -- if anyone in the Chinese communist government wants to just kind of sidle up to an official...


TODD: ... at ByteDance and say, oh, can you give us information this particular politician in the U.S., he's got to do it.


TODD: So that's a real concern here.

SANCHEZ: So let's say this bill becomes law and there's no sale, there's no divestiture within six months. What happens to those 170- plus million users?

TODD: You know, that's a really good question. They could -- maybe some of them could conceivably file lawsuits to try to prevent this, to forestall it.

You could kind of see that coming down the line, because it is so popular in the U.S.


TODD: There's going to be a lot of bandwidth behind an effort like that.

So it's going to be a messy process. SANCHEZ: Yes.

TODD: And it's going to impact a lot of people economically.

We're going to actually do a piece for later today on "SIT ROOM" on the economic impact of a TikTok ban. It could be really enormous, and it could really be fought over in the courts.

SANCHEZ: Yes, look forward to watching that later tonight on "THE SITUATION ROOM."

TODD: Right.

SANCHEZ: Brian Todd, thanks so much for the details.

TODD: Thanks, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

So let's discuss with a Democrat who voted against this bill. We have Congressman Ro Khanna of California with us. His district, we should mention, includes Silicon Valley, where ByteDance and other social media companies have offices.

Congressman, thanks so much for sharing your afternoon with us.

You said in an interview in January that TikTok should be forced to sell to an American company. Isn't that what this bill does? Why did you vote against it?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): No, it doesn't. I would support a bill like this.

This is blatantly unconstitutional, and I don't think the courts would uphold it. And the reason is, if the sale didn't happen, it goes to a ban. The Supreme Court has said it has to be the least restrictive alternative when you look at a free speech, which 170 million Americans' free speech is at impact.

And we could have said that there should have been financial penalties if there isn't a divestiture. We should have said that we need a strong data privacy bill. But to ban it, I don't think survives. I think it would be struck down 9-0 by the Supreme Court.

SANCHEZ: That's a fascinating perspective. There was also some criticism over, in this bill, the role that the president would have, the executive branch would have in designating an app belonging to a foreign company based in -- rather, a foreign country, based in a foreign country, deeming that country an adversary and thereby going after that technology.


I'm assuming that that might be a concern of yours as well.

KHANNA: Well, it is, because we have a robust tradition of speech in this country, and we have a lot of foreign magazines, former -- foreign publishers, because we believe that the American public can get information and make responsible decisions.

And we want debate. And that has been the Supreme Court's decision. Now, I believe that China, CCP, poses a threat. Let's focus on what they can do to invade Taiwan and make sure that we have naval superiority. Let's focus on making sure our steel and our manufacturing is brought back home and not have a trade deficit.

But this is not the top concern, when you look at the Chinese Communist Party. And it's going to affect the lives of many Americans. There were 50 folks, influencers and creators, in my office. They're not 20- and 30-year-olds. These are 40-, 50-year-olds. Biden supporters, Trump supporters who are using this as small business.

And I think there are going to be a lot of people very upset. Fortunately, I -- it's unconstitutional. But politicians are basically out of touch with a lot of Americans.

SANCHEZ: There are a lot of politicians on TikTok. You're on it. The Biden team is on it as well.

I'm curious to get your perspective, as a TikTok user, on employees complaining through media reports that the company, ByteDance and TikTok through -- ByteDance through TikTok, I should say, has tracked journalists, that they have closely watched users who have consumed gay content.

They have complained that, despite public statements, that information is siloed. ByteDance executives are able to ask the folks working in TikTok here in the United States for user data and that, in many cases, employees have complied with that.

There are real security concerns, aren't there?

KHANNA: There absolutely are. But you know what? There are also security concerns with Meta and Facebook that engaged in surveillance and allowed their platforms to be used for interference in the 2016 election. There...


SANCHEZ: But there isn't -- respectfully, Congressman, but there isn't a law in the United States that says that Meta has to hand over private data without a warrant to the U.S. government.

That is the law in China. ByteDance has to hand over any data that the CCP asks for.

KHANNA: Absolutely. And that is wrong. But my view is, let's have a broad data privacy protection to protect Americans from all social media platforms, whether it's ByteDance or whether it is Google on YouTube or whether it is Facebook or whether it is Twitter.

There are many Americans' kids that are being targeted on Instagram and being shown eating disorder videos. That's wrong. So the failure in Congress, frankly, is it took us two or three days to pass a ban on TikTok, but it's taken us years that we can't do the broader thing, which is pass a data privacy bill in this country.

SANCHEZ: Congressman, I'm wondering if you think the company -- given some of the allegations and media reports that I just outlined, do you think that TikTok and ByteDance have been sincere in their efforts to protect Americans' private data?

KHANNA: I don't in terms of the bar. They haven't met that. I mean, I think the criticisms of the company are very fair. They need to do a much better job in protecting privacy and data. It has not worked.

And there is a data vulnerability. I acknowledge that, which is why I'm for a sale of it. But the way, again, to deal with that is to have strong teeth, data privacy protections and a law with that, and to protect our kids from social media.

Whether the kids are on TikTok or Instagram, that is what's upsetting a lot of parents. So let's deal with the broader issue, instead of trying to ban an app that has 170 million Americans on it.

SANCHEZ: Congressman Ro Khanna, we have to leave the conversation there. Appreciate your time, sir.

KHANNA: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

Still ahead: a P.R. and safety crisis at Boeing, mid-flight disasters, missed signals, serious questions about quality standards. The hits just keep on coming for the company. So what is Boeing doing about it?

And one day, one day, that's all it took for a $600,000 sand dune to wash away into the ocean. How is one city going to defend its beachfront homes from rising tides? We will look into it.

And an ugly battle between the Texas governor and artists protesting the South by Southwest festival in his state, why they're boycotting the event, and what Governor Greg Abbott has to say about it -- when we come back.



SANCHEZ: Fresh off clinching the 2024 Democratic nomination, at any moment,President Biden is expected to depart the White House and hit the campaign trail.

He's trying to ride that post-State of the Union momentum, barnstorming across the country in key battleground states, including Wisconsin today and Michigan tomorrow.

Let's take you now live to the White House and CNN's M.J. Lee

So, M.J., what are we expecting to hear from President Biden today? M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Boris, when we see the president in Wisconsin today, it's actually going to be a good reminder that not every campaign event that we see in the coming weeks is necessarily going to be some massive political rally, though we will see plenty of that too as we get closer to November, especially now that we are just seeing the start of the general election, with the president officially clinching the nomination last night.

There's also going to be just a lot of emphasis on the work that the campaign is doing to actually set up the campaign infrastructure. So, to that end, what we will see the president doing in part today in Wisconsin is go to the opening of the campaign's Wisconsin state headquarters that is going to be based in Milwaukee.


So you can thank -- speaking to and thanking volunteers and campaign staff, and the campaign is putting a lot of emphasis on and touting the choice of Milwaukee as the state's campaign H.Q., because that's kind of unusual. They're saying that that precisely speaks to some of the key constituencies that the Biden campaign is very much focused on going into the general, including, of course, suburban women and black and Latino voters as well.

Now, when he gets to Wisconsin, after attending that campaign H.Q. opening, we will also hear him giving remarks on infrastructure, including touting some $36 million that is going to go towards the city. That funding in part comes from the bipartisan infrastructure package and the so-called Inflation Reduction Act.

So, no question there that this is all about the president trying to tout some of his accomplishments from the last three years. He heads to Michigan tomorrow too. That's a part of the pledge by the campaign to have the president and the vice president hit up all of their battleground states in the coming weeks -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and he is set to depart shortly. We will see if he talks to reporters on the way out.

M.J. Lee, thanks so much for the update -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Boeing is facing new fallout from a door plug blowing out mid-flight on one of its planes. The NTSB is now going to hold a rare public hearing over that January 5 incident.

And "The New York Times" has learned, the same day of the blowout, the 737 MAX plane was scheduled to be removed from service due to two instances when warning lights had come on over a 10-day span.

CNN aviation correspondent Pete Muntean is joining us now to talk about this.

I mean, first, we learn that Alaska Air plane had been flying for weeks with no bolts keeping that door plug in place, now this about the warning lights.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: A hundred and fifty-four flights of this plane without the four critical door plug bolts.

And the bottom line here is that this plane should have never left the Boeing factory without those bolts. But now investigators have this new question to ask: Would this scheduled maintenance check the night of the blowout have caught that omission and would previous pressurization system warning lights in the cockpit have led to a check on the door plug?

The NTSB has said those warnings were unrelated to the blowout, but it's something that the NTSB will no doubt dig into. They have the maintenance records on this plane, and they have really laid this out in a timeline in its preliminary report.

This plane was delivered to a public hearing Alaska Airlines on Halloween 2023. On December 7, that is when pilots saw the first pressurization warning in the cockpit. And then the day before the incident and two days before the incident, these pressurization warnings cropped up again, followed by the door plug blowout on January 5 of this year.

Alaska Airlines is disclosing this for the first time after the reporting by "The New York Times."

And in a statement, Alaska Airlines says: "We remain confident in our maintenance and safety actions leading up to the incident. We look forward to continuing our participation in a robust investigation led by the NTSB to ensure something like this never happens again."

This is only the start of what will be a huge probe by the NTSB. Just yesterday, it announced what it's called an investigative hearing. That will be held publicly in August. That means the NTSB can subpoena parties to testify. That could include officials from Boeing. Very rare, typically reserved for the biggest incidents in the public eye, the East Palestine rail disaster, the Miracle on the Hudson.

No doubt a lot of interest in this, and amid all of this, there are a lot of new questions here about whether or not Boeing had this paperwork that needed to be submitted to the NTSB. The NTSB has wanted it. And now NTSB chair, Jennifer Homendy, just put Boeing on blast once again, saying that they should have submitted this paperwork and they needed to give it to them.

And it's very troubling, she says, and it's getting in the way of their investigation.

KEILAR: There's also been the death of a whistle-blower who, it was years ago, had really kind of cracked open some of these culture problems at Boeing and some of the reporting that was done.

What can you tell us about that?

MUNTEAN: His name was John Barnett. He was this whistle-blower. And he was a former longtime employee who raised safety concerns about the Charleston, South Carolina, facility that builds the 787. This is what police say. Barnett was found dead in a truck in a hotel parking lot with what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Now, his lawyers say he was in the middle of this multiday deposition this whistle-blower lawsuit. And they say in a statement that he was in good spirits and looking forward to putting this phase of his life behind him and moving on.

His lawyers also say: "We didn't see any indication that he would take his own life."

Now, Boeing has offered its condolences in a statement. That incident, amid all of these concerns about Boeing right now, pretty much everyone has their antenna go up any time there's an issue on a Boeing plane right now.

At least for right now -- and there are a lot of conspiracy theories online -- this seems to be purely coincidental.