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Gen. Colin Powell Dies at 84 of COVID Complications; Group of Bipartisan Lawmakers Says Amazon May Have Lied to Congress About Its Business Practices. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 18, 2021 - 10:00   ET


TAYLOR FRAVEL, DIRECTOR, MIT SECURITY STUDIES PROGRAM: -- stocks power, perhaps triple it, it will still be a fraction of those of the United States.


And from that sense, the charge (ph) should still hold. I think what China is trying to do is to sift off the United States that it won't accept a U.S. -- a nuclear superiority over China, and thus will deny the United States the ability to sort of threaten nuclear use in a crisis perhaps over Taiwan.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Remarkable. And it happens as there are very severe public tensions over Taiwan. Taylor Fravel, thanks so much for helping us understand.

FRAVEL: Great. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: A good Monday morning to you. Sad news this morning. I'm Jim Sciutto.


We continue this morning to remember the remarkable life and legacy of General Colin Powell, the trailblazing former secretary of state, chairman at the Joint of Chiefs of Staff, has died, we learned from his family, of complications from COVID-19. He was 84 years old.

And just into CNN, we are learning more about Powell's condition. He had multiple myeloma, according to a source familiar with the matter. Now, multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. It suppresses the body's immune response. And, of course, remember even if fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the immunocompromised are still at greater risk from the virus.

SCIUTTO: His confirmed his passing in a statement on Facebook saying they have lost, quote, a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.

Powell, we should remember, served in multiple Republican administrations, shaping American foreign policy over the last 20 years, while also marking a number of very important first. This morning, the first African-American secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, reflected on Powell's place in his own life. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The world lost one of the greatest leaders that we have ever witnessed. Alma lost a great husband. And the family lost a tremendous father. And I lost a tremendous personal friend and mentor. He has been my mentor for a number of years. He always made time for me. And I could always go to him with tough issues. He always had great counsel. We will certainly miss him.


HILL: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin there reflecting there on how much he will miss Colin Powell.

Joining us now, CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash. Dan, we've heard so much this morning about how Colin Powell touched so many lives, how he made space for so many people. Wolf sharing with us some wonderful moments as well.

Another that struck earlier this morning, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling also noted he understood government more than most. That was key too that he could just bring all of these different parts of life together and seemingly different people. He really had a way of making things work, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He did. And listen, I didn't know him at all like Wolf Blitzer did, like Jamie Gangel did. But when I was covering the George W. Bush administration, I was the low woman on the totem pole, but I was covering the run-up to the Iraq War. And I remember covering day in and day out the questions of whether or not and how the former general, then-secretary of state, would add his incredible voice, his important voice to the debate over whether to go to war. And he did in the now infamous testimony that he gave at the U.N.

And what is striking now looking back, particularly in the context of the leadership or a lot of people would say lack of leadership in this country right now is the way that he owned it. That way that he said very specifically, I made a mistake. That is a blot on my record. I should not have done that.

And it's almost hard to imagine a lot of leaders saying that kind of thing today, owning it the way that he did. And it's such an example of why he is being remembered as the ultimate leader, not because he always got things right, but because when he got something wrong, and in this case, it was a biggie, to put his incredible reputation, sterling reputation on the line and tarnished that sterling reputation, when that happened, he admitted that he made a mistake. That is leadership. And that is something that is very important to remember as we look at what leaders are doing and are not doing today.

HILL: Yes, it's such a great point. And I think it's what they're not doing that really stands out in this moment.

[10:05:00] He also -- as we know, there was this real swell, there was this movement for him to run for president. He ultimately decided not to. But that didn't mean that he was not putting the best of the country in his interest. He really didn't want to get political, Dana.

BASH: Well, his wife didn't want him to get political, probably more than he didn't want to get political, and the Powells have been very open about that, and understandably so. And he -- again, I was a young journalist covering Washington, but it's hard to explain the frenzy around the will he or the won't he, will he run, will he not run. It was at an 11, to quote spinal tap. And it was really, really everything that everybody was watching. And then he came out, had a press conference, and said he's not going to run.

And I heard John Avlon talking this morning about the what if, what if he would have run, what if he would have ended up the first African- American president. There are so many ways that history would have been different.

But also fast forward to the moment when Colin Powell, a Republican, broke with his party. It wasn't when he dismissed and denounced Donald Trump. It was before that. It was choosing Barack Obama over John McCain, a war hero, a war hero who Colin Powell had a decades' long relationship with.

And, Erica, I just went back and listened to the interview that Colin Powell gave when he made his endorsement of Barack Obama in 2008 over John McCain. And it's almost eerie. I got goose bumps in listening to the way he described the reason he didn't want to support the GOP then. And that wasn't John McCain GOP. Imagine how he felt in today's GOP. But the reasons he gave were, one, that the campaign had become too narrow, too focused on things that were not important.

In fact, let me toss the actual interview that they gave and we can talk about it on the other side.


GEN. COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm also troubled by not what Senator McCain says but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim. Well, the correct answer is he is not a Muslim. He is a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That's not America.

Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet I heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he's a Muslim and he might associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw on a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And there's a picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death, he was 20 years old.

And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross. It didn't have a Star of David. It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11. And he waited until he can go serve his country and gave his life.

Now, we have got to stop polarizing our self in this way.


BASH: I mean, listen to that. I was just looking at the date on that. It's 13 years ago tomorrow that he gave that speech. And he could have give a similar speech today or tomorrow because of the way that this country is.

And last, as I toss back, the thing that he was most concerned about with the Republican Party, with John McCain's choice at the time of his running mate was Sarah Palin. He didn't think that she was ready for the job and he was worried about what her candidacy meant for the party. And, again, things got even more entrenched on that line.

HILL: That's for sure. And you're right. He could have said everything that we just heard from 13 years ago could be said today and perhaps even more important that we hear it once again.

Dana Bash, always appreciate it. Thank you.

BASH: Thanks, Erica.

SCIUTTO: Joining us now on the phone is former ABC News Anchor as well as a longtime personal friend of General Powell and someone who covered him for a number of years, Sam Donaldson. Sam, good to have you on this morning.

Your relationship with the late Secretary Powell goes back decades.


You met him when he came to work at the White House under President Reagan, developed a friendship over the years, professional and personal. I wonder, tell us how you're feeling today about this and what you remember most about him.

SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ABC NEWS ANCHOR/FRIEND OF GEN. COLIN POWELL (voice over): Well, I'm sad. I think all Americans are sad and people around the world. He was such a major figure. You know, a program I once did with Diane Sawyer called Primetime Live, I was interviewing him and I challenged him. I said, you know, you were born in Harlem, you were raised in the South Bronx, you went to City College New York where you made Cs and Ds, except in ROTC. And then when you had to go in the army, your obligation being an ROTC man, you didn't have a regular commission, you're black, and you're chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And Powell smiled and said it's great country, Sam, it's a great country. Indeed it is. And he is someone that exemplifies the best in America. SCIUTTO: Yes. Would you say to some degree sadly he's a man from a

different time, someone who was able to garner the respect and the friendship of people on left and right but also who commented, who lamented the country's drift into deep partisanship and his own party's drift to the deep right? Is there his equal really today?

DONALDSON (VOICE OVER): Well, I don't know. There are a lot of great Americans today I think still. Colin Powell, I wanted him to run, Jim, in 1996 for president. He decided not to, as you know. He gave me a ride back to his house afterward and I was keenly disappointed. And I sort of said, the green leaf (INAUDIBLE) of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, its might have been. I don't think he wanted to hear that, necessarily. And it turns out there were good reasons, and he and Alma did not want him to run. So I'm not faulting him for that. But had he been the first black president, it would have been in the late '90s and into the century. I think he probably would have been reelected a different country in a different time.

You mentioned earlier, I think Dana was talking about it and Erica, the business of his speech before the U.N. Security Council. He had great misgivings and warned President Bush, that's number two, number 43, in the famous phrase, remember, if you break it, you own it, in Iraq. And being a soldier, a good soldier, military people followed the chain of command. If they can't, in good conscience, follow the things that their superiors want them to do, then they have to resign.

Powell said much later in later years, of course, he didn't have his own CIA, he didn't have any hard evidence that what our CIA and many other countries' national security organizations contended, that was that Saddam Hussein did have dangerous weapons of mass destruction, but he didn't, as it turned out, he didn't have the evidence that that was wrong. So he gives the speech because the administration, even Vice President Cheney, who was deadly against many of Powell's positions, knew that he was the one person that everyone was going to believe to make the case that the U.S. should invade Iraq. And he had misgivings about it but he said he's do it.

And he had behind him -- if you look at the video of that speech in the wide shot, the man sitting right behind him is George Tenet. He was then the CIA director. Tenet didn't want to do it but Powell insisted because it was a visual message as to where his information was coming from. But as Dana and other pointed out, he took it, he did it and he wasn't making excuses, and it was all me, I was weak and set upon. He was a man.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes. He took responsibility. Let's take some of the good with the bad, if we can, because he was -- he had a career of firsts, the first black national security adviser under Reagan, first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs, as you mentioned, in the 90s, and then the first black secretary of state to the point where almost it's not news, right, to have people of color in those senior positions, and that was something that the late Secretary Powell took great pride and satisfaction in, is it not? DONALDSON (VOICE OVER): Absolutely. And I think he helped along with so many others move us forward, not there yet, forward towards full acceptance and equality for all Americans regardless of the color of their skin. Martin Luther King was so right. Judge us by our content and our character by no other means.


Let me just say, one time I was out in the field with him and he was going down a line of soldiers and (INAUDIBLE) African-American soldier and the poor kid was so much in awe, stumbling, not with camera (INAUDIBLE). I said don't pay attention to him, he doesn't count, and he put his handle over my lips and the kid just looked up in great admiration and awe. He was the kind of person -- I never met a person who said, I don't like him. I've met people who disagreed with him, and that's America too, but I never met anyone who said, I don't like him. I mean, why did people like him? Everyone knew why.

For instance, he told me once that when he was a late teenager, one of his first summer jobs was in a factory sweeping out the floor of the factory every evening. He said, I swept so well that the next summer, they offered me a job running one of the machines.

Now, I think that points out first his attitude and, second, why he became so successful. He had a pleasing personality, but he had an ethic of fitting in to the work projects of this country and fitting into the society of this country. I never heard him say anything bitter and so many people who have the right to be bitter about their treatment as African-Americans or as Muslims, if you heard the last clip. But I never heard him say anything like that. It's always -- his attitude was optimistic, and the attitude was it's a great country, Sam, it's a great country.

SCIUTTO: And a man who took responsibility at an age of a lack of accountability today, really. Sam Donaldson, thanks so much sharing your personal reflections of him. It makes a real difference.


HILL: It's really great to have that perspective. Also joining us now, CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner. So, Dr. Reiner, we learned from Colin Powell's family in their statement that he was fully vaccinated but had died from complications of COVID-19. We've now learned that he had multiple myeloma, according to a source familiar with the matter. So, this is a cancer of the plasma cells. It can really suppress your immune system. And I think that's really important to put this in context, Dr. Reiner.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Right. So, multiple myeloma is a disease that itself suppresses the immune system but it's also important to understand that the treatment for multiple myeloma, which patients often take every day, itself can suppress the immune system.

So, General Powell represented our most vulnerable population in this country. He was over the age of 80. He had cancer, and a treatment for his cancer made him vulnerable. So, when we try and convince young people, why they need to be vaccinated, it's to protect our treasures, our people like General Powell, our grandparents. Because while, you know, a 25-year-old may do quite well with the infection, if they spread it to someone like General Powell, they will not. And that is the imperative for vaccination in this country.

SCIUTTO: My father had the same condition, and the thing is, of course, it makes you more vulnerable and you end up dying from the infection, sadly. The sad fact is it is already being used yet again as disinformation, right, against the vaccine. Sadly, I won't repeat it, but it is already being used. So, for folk who is hear this, what do you say to those people, what do you say to those people who say, well, wait a second, why should I get vaccinated?

REINER: Well, because vaccines do work. And, in fact, for our most vulnerable, a boost dramatically lowers the risk of such a terrible outcome. What the Israelis found this summer was that as the vaccine's efficacies waned, the risk was greatest for re-infection and severe illness in exactly General Powell's demographic. And that by boosting that demographic, they could reduce the risk of serious illness or death by 90 percent with the boost. So what I would say to the people that would use this as disinformation is that they're just simply wrong. They need to get their facts straight.

HILL: And the numbers too. Jim pointed this out earlier, but it is important to put this in context. 1 out of every 26,000 fully vaccinated people have died of COVID-19. Thanks to Jim's math, we can tell you that's 0.004 percent. Dr. Reiner, I always appreciate it. Thank you.

REINER: My pleasure, thank you.

HILL: New this morning, a bipartisan group of lawmakers accusing Amazon executives of either misleading or flat-out lying to Congress act their business practices.


Well, two of those congressmen are going to join us live, just ahead.


SCIUTTO: This morning, CNN has learned that five members of the House Judiciary Committee have now sent a letter to the Amazon CEO, Andy Jassy. It accuses the company's top executives, including Founder Jeff Bezos of either misleading Congress or lying to lawmakers about Amazon's business practices.


Now, they are warning that the committee could refer the case to the Department of Justice. It follows a Reuters investigation last week allegedly showing Amazon has conducted a systemic campaign of copying products and then rigging search results in its app in India to boost sales of its own brand, its own version of those products.

Here's Bezos in July of 2020 testifying before the committee. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA) (voice over): Mr. Bezos, does Amazon ever access and use third-party seller data when making business decisions? And just a yes or no will suffice, sir.

JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, AMAZON: I can't answer that question yes or no. What I can tell you is we have a policy against using seller-specific data to aid our private label business. But I can't guarantee you that that policy has never been violated.


SCIUTTO (voice over): In a statement to Reuters, Amazon has denied the allegation, saying, quote, Amazon and its executives did not mislead the committee. As we have previously stated, we have an internal policy, which goes beyond that of any other retailer's policy that we're aware of. That prohibits the use of individual seller data to develop Amazon private-label products.

Well, joining me now to discuss what they found, Democratic Congressman David Cicilline and Republican Congressman Ken Buck, both members of the Judiciary Committee, both signed a letter sent to Amazon. Congressmen, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: Congressman Buck, if I could begin with you, just so folks at home understand, I mean, this is remarkable, if true, right, that, in effect, Amazon copied sellers' products, made their own and then prioritized those products in the search on their app, is that basically how this worked?

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): It is. And since they have a monopoly in terms of the e-commerce platform, they have this huge advantage. Also there are reports that they have even gone to their customers and suggested that they would invest in the product if they got more information, they got more information about how the product was made, and then made the decision to compete against those very products.

Part of what they do when someone wants to put a product on their platform is they ask them how the product is made and they ask them for proprietary information. Then they go and compete against them. So it's really a situation where this monopoly is using every advantage to crush its competition.

SCIUTTO: That's remarkable. That reminds me, I spent a lot of time in China. I mean, that's how China works with the technology transfer deals, right, get you to share your technology and then basically steal it.

Congressman Cicilline, you see Amazon denying that they misled. We saw their statements, just replayed them there when they appear before the committee and said, we don't do this. I mean, how do you square that circle with what they're saying and the evidence you say you found? CICILLINE: Well, it's important that the reporting from Reuters and also the mark-up, which shows that Amazon favored its own products and services and collected individual seller data to compete with their private label products, compete directly with those selling in their marketplace, is completely consistent with what we found during our investigation.

Congressman Buck and I led, along with members of the Antitrust Subcommittee, a 16-month investigation of the digital platforms. We found that they had monopoly power. We're seeing that evidence in this reporting today. And it's completely consistent with the findings of our 450-page report. And we sent a letter to the Amazon executives to give them a final opportunity to correct the record and acknowledge these business practices.

Good news is we have a solution to this problem. We passed the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which would specifically prohibit both of these behaviors, but it's important. We haven't seen the actual documents, so we sent the letter seeking production of those and giving them an opportunity to give us any exculpatory information. But in the event that this reporting is true and they don't correct the record, then referral to the Department of Justice is appropriate.

This is a congressional investigation. It's important people be honest and truthful, and it appears that they have not been.

SCIUTTO: So, Congressman Buck, in effect, you're saying prove to us, right, that you weren't lying or misleading when you came before the committee. What do you need to see so that you don't refer to the Justice Department possible criminal charges here for misleading the committee?

BUCK: Well, an honest answer would be a good starting place, frankly. The reality is that our job is to try to create and foster competition in the marketplace. And in order to do that, we need to know whether a company is acting as a monopoly and whether they are acting in ways that suppress competition. And so we've been -- as Chairman Cicilline says, and he's done a great job of really leading this investigation and leading it in a bipartisan way, and there's very little credit given to Congress for acting in a bipartisan way nowadays.


Chairman Cicilline has certainly led the way in that.