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Elon Musk Says His $44 Billion Deal to Buy Twitter is On Hold; How Misinformation Played a Role in U.S. COVID Deaths; DOJ Seeks Classified Trump Documents Taken to Mar-a-Lago; U.S. Drone Company Helping Ukraine Make Gains on Battlefield. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 13, 2022 - 13:30   ET



RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As one analyst told me this morning, that would be like saying the dog ate your homework. There is not a ton of support in the markets right now for this sort of reasoning. Impossible to know Musk's motivation. But not a ton of support.

So it has people wondering, is this really just a ploy to renegotiate the price of Twitter? His offer was $54.20 a share. It hasn't been at that level. Certainly, not this year. It's trading closer to $40 this year.

Was this a play to renegotiate or to completely just walk away from the deal?

But it has been an interesting morning to say the least. One lawyer I got off the phone with saying he's been doing this for 40 years and what does "on hold" mean for this type of deal?

It's really been a head scratcher not just for folks like you and me, people watching this play out, but people who do this day in and day out.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: He's playing by Elon's rules, I guess. And we've seen a selloff since he made the initial offer in the markets.

But he would be penalized if he walked away from this deal, right? With a hefty price tag.

SOLOMON: Right. The price tag is $1 billion. When I asked the lawyer, could he simply walk away and pay the $1 billion? He is among the world's richest men.

He said not so fast. Because he made a personal obligation, a legal obligation to commit his reasonable best efforts to get it done, saying you can't just blame it on the bots and throw up your hands and walk away.

So it won't even be as simple as just a $1 billion termination fee.

GOLODRYGA: Unbelievable. And they've had some management changes. Just yesterday in the company as well two executives stepping down.

Rahel Solomon, great to meet you in person. Welcome to CNN. Thank you so much.

SOLOMON: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Misinformation on Twitter and other social media sites played a major role in the response to the COVID pandemic. As the U.S. reaches a devasting milestone of one million deaths, question linger about how many of those lives could have been saved simply by telling the truth.

CNN's John Avlon has a "REALITY CHECK."


JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: One million Americans have now officially died of COVID. That number seems impossibly large. So let's try to put it in perspective.

That's more Americans than died during the Civil War. It's more people that died than in the 1918 pandemic. And that was before we had the benefits of modern medicine, let alone Warp Speed vaccines.

When America neared 100,000 dead from COVID in May of 2020, "The New York Times" pronounced it an incalculable loss. But now we've grown numb.

There's still a lot we don't know about this evolving virus. But here's what we do know. America's COVID death toll did not need to be this high.

We know that because Dr. Deborah Birx, the COVID response coordinator under ex-President Trump, told us.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: The first time we have an excuse. But there were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge.

All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially if we took the lessons we had learned from that moment and ensured we utilize them.

AVLON: Instead, we politicized the pandemic, turning masks and vaccines into culture-war signifiers.

Now Trump shifted from denial to downplaying the disease to hawking quack cures. He got COVID, then hid the fact that he got the vaccine for months.

And his mouthpieces on right-wing talk TV kept reinforcing the message. COVID was overblown or a hoax or conspiracy. And vaccines were a plot to take away freedom rather than save lives.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST, "THE INGRAHAM ANGLE": What about the efficacy of the vaccine itself among adults?

CHARLIE KIRCK, TURNING POINT USA: It's almost this apartheid-style, open-air hostage situation. SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, "HANNITY": The science shows the vaccine will not necessarily protect you. It's not protecting many people.

INGRAHAM: There's nothing more anti-democratic, anti-freedom than pushing an experimental on Americans against their will.

AVLON: Now we can't deny that there's a real-world cost to all those lives. COVID demonstrated that disinformation and misinformation can be deadly.

Don't believe me? Well let's dig into the data.

In the early days of the pandemic, deaths were concentrated in urban areas, primarily in blue states around the northeast, as this graph from Pew shows. There were, of course, no vaccines available.

But by that fall, death rates in more rural red counties leapt ahead.

Now you can see the sharp drop off when vaccines became more widely available in February and March of 2021. But by that point, some 500,000 people in America had already died of COVID.

But vaccine resistance was already dividing us along partisan lines. And when the next wave hit in the late summer of 2021 you could see that vast majority of deaths came from counties that voted most heavily for Donald Trump. That's because those counties had much lower levels of vaccination.

Here's a devastating stat. During the Delta wave in the fall of '21, death rates in low vaccination counties were about six times as high compared to counties where 70 percent or more people were vaccinated.


And in February of this year, according to the CDC, unvaccinated people 12 and up were 20 times more likely to die of COVID than people who were both vaxxed and boosted.

And then there's this. KFF calculating that through March at least three - 234,000 U.S. COVID deaths could have been preventable just through primary vaccination.

Each of these is their own story. But many were victims of disinformation and misinformation at some level, swayed by fear-fueled partisan lies about vaccination. And they paid for it with their own lives.

That's a surreal tragedy. And it's not over yet because even after a million dead, 37 percent of Republicans still say they definitely won't get vaccinated compared to 15 percent of Independents and just 3 percent of Democrats, according to KFF.

And while the Senate fights over whether to pay for a new round of vaccines and boosters, we see a state like Missouri try to pass a law that would stop pharmacists from telling their patients that quack cures do not work for COVID, even when they've been clinically debunked.

So the war on disinformation continues alongside the war on COVID. They're unrelated.

But with one million dead here at home let's at least try to ensure that no more Americans die because of a lie.

And that's your "REALITY CHECK."


GOLODRYGA: Powerful "REALITY CHECK" at that.

Our thanks to John Avlon.

Coming up, did former President Trump mishandle White House records? A new investigation is trying to get answers along with the boxes of documents he took to Mar-a-Lago.



GOLODRYGA: How did classified White House documents get to former President Trump's home in Florida after he left office? That's exactly what the Justice Department is trying to find out.

Prosecutors have issued a subpoena for the secret documents that ended up in Mar-a-Lago. Some that were scooped up by the National Archives.

It's the first overt indication the feds are investigating the matter.

Let's bring in CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig.

Elie, always great to see you.

One of the key points for the DOJ to uncover is whether there's intent. Explain why that's important.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Bianna, this will be all about state of mind and intent.

Now, in any federal crime, prosecutors have to prove what we call the elements. That's basically just the building blocks of that crime. You have to prove each one beyond a reasonable doubt.

With this potential crime we're looking at four elements.

First, the person was an official or employee of the United States. That one is easy and obvious.

Second of all, that the person removed documents without authorization. Obviously, the documents were removed. They were in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. They got there somehow.

Third, that the documents contain classified information. All the reporting here is the documents did contain classified information.

But then we get to the fourth one, the trickiest, which is knowledge. Did the person act knowingly? Did the person, A, know the documents had classified information? B, know that they were acting without authorization, without permission, without a legitimate basis to remove the documents.

So this happens a lot, Bianna, to prosecutors. The actions are easy to prove, but the trick is getting inside the person's head, getting to the intent.

GOLODRYGA: That would require a lot of thorough interviews as well.

We know the former president's spokesperson says President Trump handled the documents perfectly.

Are they right when they say that? A president does have the power to declassify information when they are in office, don't they?

HONIG: Well, whether the president handled these documents perfectly will be the question for DOJ.

But, yes, a president does have very broad, almost unilateral power to declassify documents. You have to do it while you are president. You can't do it after the fact as a former president.

But if I'm DOJ, looking at this case, that's a key question I'm asking. Did the president, the former president, Donald Trump, in fact, declassify the documents at the time?

Presumably, if he did so, there would be some evidence, some record. A document, a memo, somebody's notes, perhaps an eyewitness. That's something I'm sure DOJ is going to be looking for.

GOLODRYGA: Elie, this is not the first investigation into the former president we've discussed. One question that comes to mind is, how long would this investigation take?

You would imagine the former president's lawyers and allies are going to try to drag it out as long as possible.

HONIG: Well, it wouldn't surprise me to see Donald Trump and his lawyers try to drag this out.

But we have to note, this is different. This is not a congressional investigation. It could be easier to drag your feet on those. We've seen people over the last several months sort of casualty shrug off subpoenas and drag things out in court.

This is a criminal investigation. These subpoenas are different. These are from a criminal grand jury. Judges are more likely to tolerate delay. They're much more likely to uphold subpoenas in this scenario.

So, by and large, you can try to delay, but when you're under investigation by federal prosecutors, by the United States Department of Justice, you are on DOJ's timeline. So they really control the timing here.

GOLODRYGA: So it's Friday. Dare to make a prediction as to the window of how long this investigation will last?

HONIG: Well, this DOJ has moved very slow on a lot of matters in my view. To me, it should take a month or so. But I always multiply by two or three when it comes to Merrick Garland's DOJ.


GOLODRYGA: OK, maybe August.

Elie Honig, thank you so much.

HONIG: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: We appreciate it.


GOLODRYGA: Have a good weekend.

Sometimes help for Ukraine doesn't come in big military aid packages with tons of weapons. Enter my next guest. An American entrepreneur helping to arm forces with small hobby drones. What impact they're having. We'll tell you, up next.


GOLODRYGA: Well, in the David-versus-Goliath war with Russia, Ukrainians are utilizing all resources available to them.

One small tool helping them make gains on the battlefield is drones. The surveillance they provide helps improve the accuracy of weapons, avoid collateral damage, and limit friendly fire accidents.


Chad Kapper is a retired Marine and brand manager at Red Cat Holdings, which supplied 10 drones to Ukraine. And he joins me now.

Chad, welcome to the program.

So these are hobby drones. What exactly is their impact?

CHAD KAPPER, BRAND MANAGER, RED CAT HOLDINGS & RETIRED U.S. MARINE: Well, they're quite effective for a few reasons because they're inexpensive, easily sourced parts. A lot of the more expensive drones are harder to source right now.

But they're also very nimble, very quick. And they can get eyes in the sky and they can see what's coming very rapidly.

GOLODRYGA: So what exactly are they capable of doing?

KAPPER: So the first thing, I guess I would say is the most effective is getting forward observation, so they know if something is coming, someone is coming, they can get an idea of the scope and how serious it is.

GOLODRYGA: You personally delivered these drones to Ukraine. I know you were there just a few weeks ago. What is your takeaway from your experience there? And are the Ukrainians getting the help that they need right now?

KAPPER: They are getting help. And the reason that I went was I wanted to make sure that, in the future, in subsequent donations and product that we provide, or other people can provide, is actually serving the need.

Because right now, there's a lot of people that want to help and want to fund and donate money or they might even want to donate product, but they don't know exactly what they need.

And at this point in the war, they know exactly what they need. And it's finding that and finding the equivalence to serve those needs that's important.

GOLODRYGA: Do you know of any specific details as to how your drones were used, what impact they may have had on the Russian military?

KAPPER: I'm still waiting to hear back. I did want to get some media. I'm hoping that they can send video footage of how they were used so people can see. But I do know that there have been a number of uses planned for them.

But the primary is, like I said, forward observation. Also adjusting for fire. So if they are firing on a target, they can use the drones to see if they're on target and how far.

GOLODRYGA: Well, this long into the war, we know that on an industrial scale from governments, whether it's the United States or Turkey, that the drones have been very effective in pushing back the Russians militarily.

But now three months into the war, I'm just wondering, are Russians now able to catch up? Are they tracking your drones specifically?

KAPPER: That's a good question. So initially in the war, there were a lot of DGI drones being used and those are trackable. And they could actually see where they were launched from with very precise grid coordinates and they would send a missile into that location.

The hobby drones aren't trackable, I mean, not easily, and definitely not that easily.

GOLODRYGA: What was your biggest takeaway in meeting with Ukrainians there? Were you able to talk to soldiers on the ground? What stood out to you?

KAPPER: Overall -- I've been asked this question a lot. And I think it's really amazing, the Ukrainians are just so dedicated to their country and to each other. It's amazingly inspirational. And I just -- I can't say it enough, they don't talk a lot of trash. They just do it. And it's really amazing.

GOLODRYGA: Do you have any plans on traveling there again?

KAPPER: Yes, over the next couple of weeks. I don't want to give an exact timeframe. But, yes, I'm heading back over.

GOLODRYGA: I would imagine you'll be traveling with some drones to deliver.

Chad Kapper, thank you. We appreciate your time.

KAPPER: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: We just got an update on a story we brought you earlier this hour. The Department of Health and Human Services now has launched a Web site to help parents searching for baby formula amid the ongoing shortage.

You can find the Web site at There you can find links and phone numbers to various resources. Again, that's

Really important message there from the government.

And that does it for me. Ana will be back next week. Until then, enjoy your weekend. And thank you so much for spending some of your afternoon with me.


The news continues after a quick break.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Victor Blackwell. Welcome to the CNN NEWSROOM.


We begin with a national supply shortage that is driving up prices and sending some families into a panic. We're not talking about gasoline. We're talking about baby formula.

Last week, store shelves were down 43 percent in many places. The supply was down by 50 percent in at least eight states and Washington, D.C.


Today, the House Oversight Committee launched an investigation into what's causing this shortage.

One factor was a February recall and shutdown of a key Michigan factory that then created a domino effect, made even worse by pandemic supply chain problems.