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Fiona Hill Is Interviewed About Her New Book; Microsoft Issues Report On Cyberattacks; Search For Brian Laundrie. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 07, 2021 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: One of the central figures from former President Trump's first impeachment trial is now speaking out in a new book about her time in the administration and the larger threat she sees to American democracy. Fiona Hill, senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution joins us now. She is author of this new book, "There is Nothing for You Here." It's a powerful story.

Fiona, so good to have you this morning.


SCIUTTO: And I just want to make clear to folks at home, because there are so many books there that talk about all the bad things happening in the world. Just make clear to folks, you -- America is your adopted country. Brought up in the north of England. You love this country. And that comes across in this book.

You love the country, but you see a real threat. Forget about Trump for a moment, to the system today, and I'm just going to quote one, because this goes back to the Helsinki press conference, that moment next to Putin. The press conference highlighted for me and for the public just how low America could sink in its own estimation and in the eyes of the world. The country's long festering domestic crisis had exploded into view. This, I felt, was the agony of American populism. But it wasn't over yet.

Tell us, how serious is the danger?

F. HILL: Well, as I say in the book, it's not over yet. Every single day you and all of your colleagues are reporting on yet more evidence of this.


F. HILL: Vice President Pence, in the last few days, talking down what happened on January 6th when he was targeted himself personally by a mob by, you know, people who were enraged that he was doing his constitutional duty in certifying the elections. SCIUTTO: Yes.

F. HILL: We were incapable of passing a major infrastructure bill, a reconciliation bill that we know the majority of Americans want because everyone's looking for a political win. And in the way that they're struggling with each other, the parties on infighting, the fighting within the parties, the obsession with Trump, one person rather than 338 million people here, we're just about to throw out the window hundreds of years of efforts and blood that has been spilled to build up the most incredible democracy.


F. HILL: We're proving ourselves to be sadly not so exceptional.

SCIUTTO: Yes. The system weaker.

You and I have had conversations about this, that it didn't begin with Trump, it goes back to the Iraq invasion, the 2008 financial crisis, a series of events that undermined Americans confidence in their own system, the world's confidence in our system.

That's an important point, is it not, because it did not begin in 2016.

F. HILL: No, and I think we've been -- in a way it's trying to give ourselves a pass by saying it's all about Trump.


F. HILL: I mean that's just too easy.


F. HILL: He's -- he's not the cause, he's a symptom, he's a product of his own time. He's a man of the era. And, you know, it's this longer tale that you say, it's this long period, 9/11 was, you know, another factor in this.


F. HILL: We've been looking back on this over the 20 years and seeing where we lost ourselves in the forever wars.


F. HILL: It's as you said, the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.


F. HILL: We've had many body blows to the system. And this, you know, has given us that point of pause.

COVID. We haven't even mentioned that.

SCIUTTO: Yes. F. HILL: The last two years, I mean, believe it, we've been in two years of near lockdowns and struggling with the pandemic, more than 600,000 Americans have died and partly they have died because we haven't been able to get our act together on collective action.


F. HILL: We've proven that we can't do the things that we used to be able to do in the past.

SCIUTTO: No, you know, the threat -- we talked to 2016 about the disinformation threat from outside the country. Now we have it very much from inside.

F. HILL: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: You write about Trump's admiration for autocrats, and not just Vladimir Putin, but Erdogan of Turkey, Xi of China. And during his presidency, there were some, it struck me, who saw that as sort of a Trump personality quirk as opposed to something substantial. But I wonder, as we watch January 6th here and the events leading up to it, it wasn't just an admiration, was it not, but was it a Trump desire to replicate that kind of power?


F. HILL: Yes, he saw himself in those individuals and what he wanted to be and what he thought actually being president or governing a country was all about. It was about ruling, about having unchecked power. And also the ability to be able to stay in place. What was January 6th about? It was overturning the results of an election, the legitimate results of an election.


F. HILL: With the idea that you have the right, the personal right for you, that person, to stay in power indefinitely. At least certainly through the next election cycle.

SCIUTTO: There is -- there are a lot of stories in this book about Trump and the administration's dismissal of women. Yourself included. Here you are, you literally wrote the book on Putin, an enormous asset in terms of experience and knowledge to him and the administration on Russia, but often dismissed purely because of your gender. And I'm going to quote this as well because this stood out to me.

It was easier for Trump to dismiss women and see them as problems, women who got in the way. They were, after all, the nonplayers in his world, as a senior administration official put it, and like those other nonplayers I too found myself in the crosshairs.

What was it like to have your experience, your knowledge, but also your dedication and your willingness to serve the country dismissed?

F. HILL: Well, look, I have to say, it was just really dismissed by him. SCIUTTO: Yes.

F. HILL: And I think that this is a personal problem that he actually has. And we've seen the way that he's lashed out against all of the people, particularly the women, who have come out and criticized him.


F. HILL: The people who are very close to him and obviously know him even better and much better than I do. And he's lashed out against them as well.

He doesn't like to be criticized. And I think he sees the gender of women as weak. So, again, it's all about being a strong man in opposition to women. And he doesn't like the idea of strong women.

I mean it was very interesting watching his interactions with Chancellor Angela Merkel.


F. HILL: Probably one of the most powerful, political leaders. She's just about to leave the political scene. She's had this huge impact on Germany, but on European and global affairs. And she couldn't be more different. She's an understated woman, with incredible confidence and power.


F. HILL: She's a strong woman. But she's the antithesis of the posturing, macho, strong man persona that Trump saw that he needed to project.


By the way, she leaves office with 80 percent approval rating. So she obviously earned respect of people in Germany.

F. HILL: Right. She did. Yes.

SCIUTTO: I want to talk a moment about the title, "There is Nothing for You Here," that you relate is a story, words your father said to you as you were growing up in poverty, really, in northern England, at a tough time there.

F. HILL: Right.

SCIUTTO: To say nothing for your -- you know, seek out fortune and success elsewhere here in the U.S., which you did, and you've achieved enormous success here. You love your country. You're raising the alarm here about the country.

Tell us about hope, right, you know, because what is the path forward to get over these challenges you're describing here?

F. HILL: Well, I think there's a lot of hope. And I actually -- the whole last part of the book, it's a bit of my policy wonk from coming from the Brookings Institution, but it's laying out the fact that we know how to fix this and we have the capacity to do it.

There are amazing things being done on the community and local level across the United States.


F. HILL: I mean my family in the U.S. is scattered across the whole country, out to the Midwest. When I go out to visit, there's energy, there is, you know, positivity about what they can do around their churches, around their local communities. People know how to fix things. What is getting in the way is the politics and some particular personalities.

America isn't just built up of rugged individuals doing their own thing. America, over the centuries, has been built up by people pulling together.


F. HILL: And we can get collective action. And I think the best way to do it is to start at the bottom, in your community, in your, you know, local neighborhood.


F. HILL: We've seen people pulling together over COVID like this.


F. HILL: I mean think of our early can do atmosphere where people pulling together to help people in their local hospitals. All the first responders. The people in the grocery stores. We can do this.

SCIUTTO: Yes, making donations, right? Donating time and money and effort, yest.

F. HILL: Absolutely. Food banks and, you know, basically -- and people putting themselves on the front line. All of those people who have gone to work every single day, from, you know, just the people who were doing the security and buildings, the metro, the people who are going to the grocery store, the people who were going to the hospitals, those are the real Americans who can bring us forward.

SCIUTTO: Often at great risk to themselves.

Well, folks, this is the book, "There is Nothing for You Here." I would -- I would highly recommend it because it's a powerful, personal story, as well as a story about our country today.

Fiona Hill, thanks very much.

F. HILL: Thanks so much, Jim. Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Erica. ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Microsoft revealing disturbing new data about Russian hacking and just how successful these groups are at breaching foreign governments. Those details, next.



SCIUTTO: Well, just moments ago, Microsoft issued a sweeping report focusing on cyberattacks around the globe. According to that report, Russian backed hackers are having greater success at breaching targets in the U.S. and around the world while increasingly making government organizations and agencies their primary focus.

E. HILL: CNN's senior national security correspondent Alex Marquardt joining us now.

So you spoke with Microsoft, Alex. What more did you learn about these findings?


Microsoft is certainly in a position to put out an authoritative, sweeping report like this because their visibility to so many systems around the world. And what they've said is that Russia is by far and away the biggest example of a government-backed hackers and the attempts that they make to compromise systems around the world, that Russian hackers account for around 60 percent of the attempts made by government-backed hackers. That is followed by the usual suspects of North Korea at around a quarter, Iran and China.


Now Russia, Microsoft says, is focused on espionage. So getting into government systems, understanding foreign governments. They have targeted the U.S., Ukraine and the United Kingdom primarily and there has been a massive spike by Russian government-backed hackers to try to get into government organizations. That rose from just 3 percent in 2020 to more than 50 percent in the first half of this year. And they are continuing to try to get into government systems, as well as in organizations like think tanks that study foreign governments.

I asked a top Microsoft security official what she -- what she's most afraid of in this report and she said that it's the broader -- the broader trajectory of governments and others moving into the criminal area.

Take a listen to what she said.


VASU JAKKAL, CVP OF MICROSOFT SECURITY, COMPLIANCE AND IDENTITY: What worries me the most is seeing this increase in nation state crime and we're seeing an increase in financial crime, or ransomware, what we call cybercrime as a service. And this is our new normal right now. So the way we have operated in the last few years, we have to change the way we think about cybersecurity going forward.


MARQUARDT: And these state-backed hackers, these Russians, are getting much more successful. Their success rate, I don't want to throw too many numbers at you, but it went from 20 percent, so around one-fifth, last year to more than 30 percent this year. So that's a jump of about half, Erica and Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, Alex, President Biden warned Putin away from cyberattacks in Geneva. That was a critical moment. I was there. We watched it happen. It is seemed that there was a momentary pause following Geneva, sort of a slowdown in Russian-based attacks, but it seems like they're up again. I mean, does that mean the warning failed?

MARQUARDT: The Russians certainly don't appear to have been phased by that. I think a lot of experts at the time, you know well, Jim, would have said that they didn't expect the Russians to really change. The Biden administration would tell you that it's too soon to tell, that they didn't expect the Russians to change overnight, but that they hoped to see changes within a year.

But they certainly are still at it. As I mentioned, that group, backed by Russia, that carried out the massive solar winds breach, they are still going after governmental and non-governmental organizations, both in Europe and in the United States. And then just last week, we heard from a top cybersecurity official at the National Security Agency saying that they are seeing evidence that Russians are prepositioning themselves to breach critical U.S. infrastructure. And that is the major concern. And, you know, we've seen breaches against critical infrastructure earlier this year. And that was the big warning that Biden gave to Putin back in June, don't go after U.S. critical infrastructure.

But as I said, so far, they appear to be unfazed.

Erica and Jim.

E. HILL: Alex Marquardt, really important. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Significant developments this morning in the manhunt for Brian Laundrie. Police finding new clues. Could this show where he may be hiding out. Plus, what Gabby Petito's family is saying about the investigation, next.



E. HILL: New details this morning on the manhunt for Brian Laundrie. A source close to his family telling CNN police have found remnants of a recently used campsite in the Carlton Reserves in Florida, that massive park area. We've seen those sweeping search efforts taking place in the reserve for weeks now.

Gabby Petito's family, meantime, speaking out. And they're very clear, they want Brian Laundrie found alive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I just hope he's found. I really do. Like, I mean --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He'll be found.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I mean like alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to look him in the eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The more he runs, the more he hides, the less he can try to say it was a mistake or he had nothing to do with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to see him in a jail cell for the rest of his life where -- he's an outdoorsman. Being in that concrete cell, and he can't go see those trees and hug those -- you know, and smelling the fresh air like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As an outdoorsman, that would be in a cement box.


E. HILL: CNN's Jean Casarez joining us now with the latest.

So, Jean, Gabby Petito's family also offering some new details about where her body was found. What have they revealed?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And we know nothing about the crime scene, right, because that is part of the working investigation. They're not going to release that information. We also don't have an official autopsy report yet to see exactly what they found.

But, yesterday, the stepfather of Gabby Petito said that law enforcement -- because he was there in Wyoming -- he said law enforcement took him to where she was found, and he described that.

Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her body was found, I guess it would be in front of the tent, or if that's what was there, or just in front of the fire ring. There was definitely a fire ring right there. And she would have been right --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it wasn't far from the van. It was a five- minute walk you said, something like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five or ten minutes.

DR. PHIL (ph): Definitely an isolated area.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CASAREZ: And he described that he went from a van over some tributaries and then there was a clearing and there it was, five to ten minutes away.

Another thing he said that I thought was very important. He said that they showed him where her torso was and the direction of her head, and that helped him form the cross.


But that shows that there were remains there, that the medical examiner is able to look at and discern to find out possibly the cause of death. Very important.

Now, while all of this is happening in Wyoming, in Florida, they are continuing search for Brian Laundrie. And it is the Carton Reserve. Yesterday they were out there. And the family attorney has told CNN that law enforcement is asking the father of Brian Laundrie to help them in the search. Didn't happen yesterday. But a source close to the family tells CNN that the reason they want him to hem them is because they want to learn where Brian liked to go, what the trails were.

And, Erica, you started this whole segment with a recent campsite that they believe they found, and that's what they were looking at, according to the source that spoke to CNN yesterday.

What does that mean, a recent campsite? Tent? Fire ring? What is it? We don't know at this point.

E. HILL: Right, and how recent is recent?


E. HILL: And if they think that the father can help pinpoint them in certain directions of where he liked to go, why is that just starting now?

So many questions but, Jean, some important, new details, as you point out. Thank you.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: We are staying on top of the breaking news. There is lots of it this morning, including the moment so many parents have been waiting for. Pfizer officially applying to get Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine for children five to 11 years old. Details on exactly when younger kids could get that shot. It's soon, coming up.