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Georgia Judge Dismisses 6 Counts Against Trump, Others; House Overwhelmingly Passes Bill That Could Ban TikTok In U.S.; Rep. Rich McCormick (R-GA) Discusses About His Decision On Banning TikTok App In U.S.; Biden, Trump Clinch Nominations To Set Up White House Rematch; Sen. Britt Defiant Over Misleading Story In High-Profile Speech. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 13, 2024 - 15:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Former President Donald Trump scoring a victory in the Georgia election subversion case, but the war against top prosecutor Fani Willis is yet to be decided for the former president after the presiding judge throws out some of the charges against Trump, a bigger decision still looms over the case for Judge Scott McAfee, his own self-imposed deadline now just two days away.

Plus, one of the most popular social media apps in the world, one step closer to being banned in the United States. The House passing a bill that could boot TikTok from app stores. So what's next for TikTok and how's the Senate going to handle this moving forward?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And wait until you see how easy it is for artificial intelligence to get people to question your integrity and potentially ruin your career. We're going to talk to the journalists who asked AI to do just that.

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

SANCHEZ: Donald Trump is facing fewer criminal charges today than he did yesterday. A Georgia judge just dropped three counts against him in the sprawling racketeering and conspiracy case in Fulton County. The DA there has accused Trump and more than a dozen others of trying to overturn his loss in Georgia's 2020 Election. Three more counts were dropped against a handful of his co-defendants, including Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who now has a single racketeering charge against him.

The former president's attorney praised today's ruling, calling it "correct." Trump, who racked up enough delegates yesterday to become his party's presumptive nominee, still faces 88 criminal charges in four separate cases at the state and federal level.

Let's get the latest now with CNN Correspondent Nick Valencia, who has been following every step of this Georgia case. So Nick, walk us through this decision by Judge Scott McAfee.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is certainly a knock towards the District Attorney's Office that they didn't include enough details about what crime these defendants were allegedly soliciting. This all has to do with the violation of an oath of office for public officials and it's related to several charges that have since been dismissed as of this morning by the presiding judge, Scott McAfee.

Some of them related to the former president and that infamous phone call to Georgia's secretary of state where Trump asked Brad Raffensperger to find more votes. The other charge related to the fake elector scheme, that - a scheme that Trump and his allies thought up of trying to subvert the Electoral College and trying to say that he was the rightful winner of the 2020 Election here in Georgia when he really lost to current president Joe Biden.

And this is what the judge is saying in part of his ruling as to why he decided this way: "The Court's concern is less that the State has failed to allege sufficient conduct of the Defendants - in fact it has alleged an abundance. However, the lack of detail concerning an essential legal element is, in the undersigned's opinion, fatal."

The caveat here, though, is that the judge left the door open for an appeal. The District Attorney's Office just have to basically fill in the details and they could re-indict on these charges if they see fit. Another key to this is that the overall most important charge in this indictment, the racketeering charge, still sticks.

We are still waiting for that decision from Scott McAfee on Fani Willis' fate. Will she remain the prosecutor in this case or will she have to be replaced by the prosecuting attorney's council? We are still on track for a decision by the end of this week. We ran into Judge Scott McAfee just a short time ago and he did say that he's going to stick to that timeline.


So we should have a decision by Friday. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes. Major, major news when that drops.

Nick Valencia live from Atlanta.

Thanks so much, Nick. Brianna?

KEILAR: So what do you get when you combine National Security threats, a heated election campaign, a superpower showdown and one of the biggest apps in the world? You get sweeping bipartisan unity on the Hill. Apparently, all this time that was all it took. This morning, the House overwhelmingly passing a bill that could ban TikTok in the U.S.

It would require TikTok's Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to split from the social media platform within about six months. Failing that, app stores would legally have to delist TikTok in America or face exorbitant fines. The bill heads to the Senate next.

So let's bring in CNN Business Writer, Clare Duffy, to talk about this.

Clare, leaders in Washington say American TikTok users are vulnerable to snooping and misinformation at the hands of China. What are China and TikTok saying?

CLARE DUFFY, CNN BUSINESS WRITER: Chinese leaders are calling this an act of bullying by the U.S. and they're essentially saying that the U.S. is threatening to ban TikTok because it's more popular than other U.S.-owned social media networks.

Now, it's worth noting that China itself has banned many popular American social platforms in the country, including Facebook and X. Now, TikTok itself is saying that it plans to basically continue trying to fight this bill and it's now pinning its hopes on the Senate. The company put out a statement earlier today following this House vote saying that this process was secret and the bill was jammed through for one reason: It's a ban. We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituents and realize the impact on the economy, 7 million small businesses, and the 170 million Americans who use our service.

So interesting, TikTok there seems to be signaling that if this bill is signed into law, it may challenge it in court, which could continue to drag out the process of actually implementing this legislation, Brianna.

KEILAR: Tell us, Clare, how this bill would work.

DUFFY: So this bill, as you said there, would give TikTok about six months to separate itself from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, probably by finding a new American owner. And if it doesn't, it will be banned from U.S. app stores, and those app store operators like Apple and Google could face major fines if they don't comply.

Now, it's not clear whether ByteDance would actually agree to divest TikTok, this hugely popular app. And even if it was willing, it's unclear who - which American company would buy it. Many of the American major U.S. tech companies are already facing significant regulatory pressure over their size and market power. That could make it harder for them to make such a major acquisition.

But I think the bottom line for U.S. TikTok users today is that the app won't be disappearing from their phone anytime soon. There's still a long road ahead for this bill to be passed, to be turned into law, and then actually to be implemented.

KEILAR: All right. Clare Duffy, thank you for taking us through that.

Let's talk now with the lawmaker who voted in favor of this bill, Republican Congressman Rich McCormick of Georgia.

Congressman, thank you so much for taking time out to talk with us about this. You are someone who has long had concerns, like so many lawmakers, about TikTok being owned by a Chinese company, also about its influence on children. I know that's something that you've mentioned in the past.

Last year, you had said that you were not big on a TikTok ban. You did vote yes today. What changed your mind?

REP. RICH MCCORMICK (R-GA): Well, first of all, it's not a TikTok ban, as was previously mentioned. It merely denies access for new users. It's a way to - and one of the things that changed my mind, of course, was actually yesterday when I had a bunch of 12- and 13-year-olds calling my office because TikTok directed in that way, and they were irate. Some were suicidal, someone were threatening.

This is a huge lever to affect elections, to carry out a communist government's nefarious plans to basically change our youth in the way they think. This is manipulative. It's controlled by somebody who's not concerned at all in our First Amendment, somebody who can basically galvanize and motivate anywhere from 130- to 170 million people.

We recently passed legislation that didn't allow them to own land in certain areas of the United States. Why wouldn't we protect our citizens as well from somebody who has nefarious plans to affect our children and even adults going forward?

KEILAR: Do you have any indication that ByteDance would sell TikTok?

MCCORMICK: Well, you mentioned in the previous segment that you were worried about different companies that were hesitant to buy because of the legal ramifications of it becoming too large. But quite frankly, I know there's several companies that'd be more than willing to buy. This is a lucrative business. They can make sure that it's not affected by a Chinese government. They can make sure that it's fair- handed and that it's not used in ways to affect us.

And in a matter of fact, if you look at how TikTok is used in China, it's not the same as the way it's applied in the United States.


They have time limits on it. It's considered more educational. The content is different. They understand the addictive properties of this and how it can be used against children and they make sure that it's done right in China and absolutely in the wrong way in the United States.

KEILAR: Yes. There is certainly a difference, that's been reported on. I think it's a very interesting note for people to take as they look at it. You talked about a ban on purchasing of land. TikTok is an app. Yes, but it's also, of course, a place where people express themselves, they're exercising their First Amendment rights.

Do you worry about concerns that that raises? Obviously, there was that Montana ban that was blocked by the courts, for instance, in part because of First Amendment concerns. MCCORMICK: Yes. That's why some people object to it. I think you had 50 Democrats and 15 Republicans vote against this, most of it on the First Amendment rights issue. But quite frankly, there is nobody who's more against the First Amendment than the Chinese government and they do control things.

If you wanted something that it was going to be against the Chinese, I'm sure the TikTok would not support that. If you wanted something that was going to be - maybe affecting our elections, they could use that to influence Americans. It's not First Amendment when somebody controls it overseas that has their best interest over our best interest.

When you talk about First Amendment, you do want the First Amendment, but I don't think that's what they're interested in at all.

KEILAR: And what is the proof that you have of something like that happening? And I've heard obviously the descriptions of how this could work and I think clearly a lot of people look at that. They think it's very plausible. But in terms of the proof that it's happening, you have ByteDance and TikTok saying there is no proof. This is happening. It's not happening.

I mean, what do you say to that and how that might be important if there were to be a court challenge?

MCCORMICK: But I think the classified brief we had recently convinced a lot of people and without disclosing anything that's classified. What we do know is this, they've been gathering information on this, but all applications do that. But do you want to go into a nefarious actor?

More important than that, because I know we get information from all sorts of applications, probably over 20 applications on your phone, my phone, they gather data on us all the time. But it's influence specifically directed by a communist party platform on elections, on our children, the fact that they could literally use it - and this is what convinced me and this would put me over the board, is yesterday when they literally used it, you had to put in the zip code, then put in a congressman's office to dial, which they did in order to get access to this application, and then they scream at me about how horrible this bill is. That's an influence.

And if they do that with our elections, if they do with the way our children think, knowing that it's addictive knowing they can use it in nefarious ways, why wouldn't we want to put it in the hands of somebody who actually has intent to benefit our children rather than somebody who actually has no interest other than profit and propaganda.

KEILAR: Well, let me ask you because there was that classified brief yesterday that lawmakers were able to have, DNI, FBI, DOJ briefing lawmakers and obviously you can't disclose what was in it. But did you have reason to believe from what you heard that the denials were hearing from ByteDance about what is happening that those are lies. MCCORMICK: Well here's the non-classified we already knew, we already knew that China uses it in China much different than we use it here, because they know it's addictive. They know it can be used for good or for bad. What they have chosen to do is use it for good in China and bad for the United States. That should tell you everything you need to know right there.

KEILAR: Congressman McCormick, we appreciate your time. Thank you for being with us.

MCCORMICK: My pleasure.

KEILAR: So it's official, Biden and Trump 2.0 2024. It may look a lot like 2020, but the two candidates are starting their general election fight from very different positions. We'll have those stories and many more coming up on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.



KEILAR: Right now, President Biden is on his way to Wisconsin. It's part of a two-day battleground state swing where he will campaign in Milwaukee today and be in Michigan tomorrow.

SANCHEZ: And you know, it's officially the start of campaign season when you hear that music. That music --

KEILAR: I know. That's so true.

SANCHEZ: Yes, President Biden and former President Donald Trump officially clinching their party's nominations last night, setting the stage for a grueling 2024 rematch.

Joining us now is CNN Senior Data Reporter, Harry Enten and CNN's Manu Raju who's live for us on Capitol Hill.

Harry, let's start with you.

Where do the numbers show the race between Biden and Trump is right now fewer than eight months out?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes. I wish I had my own theme song. I could only wonder how that might possibly go.

All right. Let's take a look at the polling right now. I'll take a look at the national polling and I - this is on March 13th and I think it really gives you an understanding of how different the picture is than it was four years ago at this point. Four years ago at this point in aggregate of polls, Biden was up by eight points. In fact, Trump didn't lead at a single point in that entire campaign.

Look at where we are right now. Yes, this is a very close race. But Trump is actually minimally ahead within the margin of error at this particular point up by two points, so a very different campaign than we were - where we were four years ago. Of course, it's all about the Electoral College, right? You mentioned Wisconsin.

Well, take a look here the race to 270. These are CNN's current rankings. Look at this. Donald Trump, 272, two more than needed to win and you mentioned Wisconsin now a toss-up.


What about Michigan? You also mentioned Michigan leaning towards Donald Trump. Georgia, the same. You see out here in the West Nevada state that Joe Biden won leading Republican and Arizona a toss-up as well.

So a tight race in the Electoral College, but one in which Trump currently has the edge, which is not what you could say at any point during the entire 2020 campaign.

KEILAR: Yes. And Harry what are each candidates weaknesses and could this all change?

ENTEN: Yes, what are each candidates weaknesses and could it all change, all right.

So they each have big weaknesses, right? Trump is not ethical. Look at this, 68 percent of voters nationwide say that Trump is not ethical. How about Biden? The age issue for him. He's too old to serve effectively another term. Look at this, 67 percent when two-thirds of the electorate believes you are very weak on a very important issue, that is not good news for you for either one of these candidates, and that might be part of the reason why this race could change so much. But let's just look historically, right? How far off of the polls at this point from the eventual margin since 1972?

On average, they're off about seven points. That's it, much wider than the spread between Biden and Trump at this point. And the biggest difference ever was in 1980 when it was 28 points. So things can definitely change from this point going forward.

KEILAR: All right. And Manu, you're there on the Hill. We know President Biden trying to ride the momentum after last week's State of the Union address. And of course, there was the rebuttal, Alabama senator, Katie Britt's misleading response afterward where she botched some pretty important details about a sex trafficking victim story while trying to link it to President Biden. She's addressing the backlash. I know you caught up with her. What'd she say?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's been defiant. In fact, I did not catch up with her, Brianna. I've been trying to ask her questions, as most Hill reporters have over the last couple of days. She has refused to answer questions to reporters.

But she did speak to Sen. Ted Cruz as part of his podcast. She didn't acknowledge making any mistakes, even though she gave a misleading portrayal of a sexual - sex trafficking victim story.


SEN. KATIE BRITT (R-AL): I mean, you've had to deal with this for quite some time, but the liberal media isn't interested in the truth.


BRITT: They're interested in burying the truth about Joe Biden and his border crisis. But all they want to do is - they have an agenda and if they really wanted to know this story, they would have taken time to know the facts and I think when all the facts come out that people, people will see the truth.


RAJU: But she didn't acknowledge any problems with what she said, when she said that she met a woman in the Del Rio sector, Texas, and she said that woman relayed a story in which this woman was raped repeatedly and suggested that this happened, as she said, "This cannot happen in the United States."

Well, in fact, it did not happen in the United States, it happened in Mexico. It also happened under a prior administration, the George W. Bush administration. And the woman at the center of it told our colleague Rafael Romo that this is a not a fair portrayal of all this and she botched other details as well. But Britt there not saying she made a mistake. Brianna?

SANCHEZ: Yes, the truth is that that story was bogus and misleading, a bunch of factual errors in it. Manu, there are some Republican lawmakers that are in tough re-election races right now. It appears that most of them are falling in line and supporting former President Trump in their bid for re-election.

RAJU: Yes, that's actually true. A lot of Republicans in those swing districts are falling in line, including one of them that I caught up with earlier today, Congressman Don Bacon, who represents a district that Joe Biden won.

Bacon has been an outspoken critic of Trump for some time about everything. Did not think he'd be a viable candidate in the general election and I - but he's now supporting him in his re-bid for the White House and I asked him why.


RAJU: How did you get to supporting Trump when you've been so outspoken against him?

REP. DON BACON (R-NE): Because it's a choice between two people and the choices at this point Joe Biden or Donald Trump, and the number one issue in our district - the number one, number two, number three is the border.

RAJU: If he's convicted of a crime, will you still support him.

BACON: That's a hypothetical. We'll take it one step at a time. But obviously we don't want someone has been prosecuted for a crime.

RAJU: Yes. Would you want a felon as your nominee? BACON: No, we would not. But I would say we still have National Security threats in our country.


And there are other members who are in swing districts who are not yet going as far as endorsing Donald Trump, some of them including Mike Lawler of New York, some - David Valadao of California, I've caught up with him in recent days not going as far as saying they would endorse Trump in part because of the fact that Trump is not very popular in their districts that voted for Joe Biden.

But it shows you the bind that some of these members and particularly as some of them face primary challenges and have decided that it's better to be on Trump's side rather than to be against the MAGA base as they run up into a primary challenge, guys?

KEILAR: Yes. We're seeing them make these decisions and having to defend them.


And as Harry mentioned these theme songs, we have come up with them for both of you gentlemen. Manu, I've got you "Chariots of Fire," because he's always running all over the hill chasing after Katie Britt right now, but really everyone, so that's Manu.

What about Harry?

SANCHEZ: And Harry, I'll let you pick. My nominees, "Careless Whisper" by George Michael or "A Kiss from a Rose" by Seal. I'm partial to Seal but ...

ENTEN: I think I have to go with George Michael on this one.


ENTEN: I was just listening to that song I swear to God the other day my friend send it to me, Vindi Antone (ph) from Jersey sent me that song, I was listening to it. Amazing stuff.

SANCHEZ: Great sax.

KEILAR: You nailed it.

SANCHEZ: Such a good sax solo on this one.

KEILAR: Such a good solo, the best.

SANCHEZ: Harry Enten, Manu Raju, thank you both.

KEILAR: All right. So a new report commissioned by the State Department - we're taking a turn here - has a dire warning artificial intelligence could pose "an extinction level threat," that's a quote, people, "to humans." And what happens when you ask AI to make up stuff about you and ruin your life. Well, you might be shocked at what one journalist volunteered to do go through.