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Pelosi Leaves Taiwan, China Ramps Up Military Drills; Jeh Johnson, Former DHS Secretary, Discusses Pelosi's Taiwan Visit, U.S. Killing Of Ayman al-Zawahiri; 1/6 Texts Wiped From Trump Pentagon Officials, Secret Service Phones; Kentucky Gov: Death Toll Stands At 37, 3 Women Missing; Alex Jones Testifies At Sandy Hook Defamation Trial, Defense Rests. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 03, 2022 - 13:30   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: China is reacting to the visit by flexing its muscle. It is conducting military drills and exercises today.

CNN's Selina Wang joins us from Beijing.

Selina, China is trying to send a strong message. The question is, what's China's next move?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look their retaliation is just getting started even though Pelosi has already left. They've already flown dozens of warplanes around the island. They're staging these military drills over the next few days all around the island.

In fact, officials even released an image of the drills. And if you look at that map, you can see they literally surround the island. This is an extremely provocative move.

And if you look at that map you can see some of the areas actually encroach on Taiwan's territorial waters. That means it could be within 14 miles of Taiwan's shores.

Taiwan is calling this extremely risky for regional stability, and also calling this a blockade. In response, Taiwan has had to reroute some of its vessels to avoid those military drills.

And it's not just the military backlash. We're seeing, economically, China has also banned imports of many food products from Taiwan.

Now, look, the White House is saying this is play book from China we were expecting, and they're urging China not to further escalate tensions.

And we'll have to watch very closely over the next few days just how far China decides to take these military drills because, yes, we're at a time when President Xi Jinping cannot look weak. But also he cannot afford to have this escalate into a conflict.

Because we have to remember this reaction is as much directed to the national audience as well as directed at home to show the Chinese people they are taking this seriously what they see as a national humiliation.

CABRERA: Selina Wang, in Beijing for us, thank you.

Let's talk about this and much more. Joining us now is Jeh Johnson. He served as Homeland Security secretary under President Obama.

Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.

I have a lot I want to discuss with you, so let's start there in Taiwan. There's no question the Pelosi visit ratcheted up tensions between the U.S. and China even more. Was it all worth it?

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Ana, for decades now, our policy toward China as it pertains to Taiwan has been, frankly, strategic ambiguity.

Once the speaker announced publicly that she was going to Taiwan, I believe it would have been a mistake to back down from China's saber rattling.

These exercises, as you just pointed out in your opening story, were very much anticipated, says it White House.

And I think it's important once in a while that the United States whether it's legislative branch or the executive branch demonstrate to Taiwan that they remain an ally, that we remain aligned in interests, even if it does agitate the Chinese government.

You know, it's a democracy. It's an island. And China wants to close ranks around it. And it's important I believe we demonstrate our continued commitment. And so I'm supportive of his visit.

CABRERA: Let's turn to the U.S. killing of al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al- Zawahiri. I want to note you were the DOJ counsel when Osama bin Laden was killed, and he helped give legal sign-off on that mission.

The State Department is now warning of the possibility of revenge attacks. Your thoughts on the significance of this mission. Is America safer now that this al-Qaeda leader is gone?

JOHNSON: Ana, let me put it this way. I think through our counter terrorism efforts over the last 20 years, ranging from Bush to Obama, Trump and now Biden.

We've done a lot to effectively decapitate al-Qaeda, to prevent al- Qaeda, the terrorist organization, from launching another large-scale attack on the United States like they did on 9/11.

The organization has been largely degraded. The terrorist threat to the United States has morphed from ISIS to domestic-based threats.

We've been looking for al-Zawahiri for a very long time. As the president said, we have brought justice to him. What is most disturbing to me is that the Taliban sought to harbor

this man in downtown Kabul, in the nation's capital, in a very open and notorious way.

And it's a real tribute to our national security team and our national security capability that we were able to take him out with a drone strike without apparently killing a single other individual, even though his family probably slept just a few feet away.

CABRERA: Do you feel like that sent a strong message, then, to other terrorists?

JOHNSON: I do. And I think that one of the principle values of this strike is it does send a strong message to other terrorists, other terrorist leaders that you can run but you can't hide. And eventually, the United States the United States will find you.


And that's been the case for this particular terrorist. We've been looking for him now since 9/11, almost 20 years, frankly.

CABRERA: Back here at home, I do want to get your thoughts on this new reporting that we have, that January 6th text messages wiped from the phones of key Trump Pentagon officials at the end of that administration. And now this is on top of the Secret Service texts also not preserved.

You have experience in both rounds. Based on your experience how does all this strike you?

JOHNSON: Where do I begin?

Certainly, when I was leading DHS as secretary, if someone had brought to me a proposal to wipe clean the devices and messages that could be subject to the Federal Records Act or could be subject to a Freedom of Information Act request, a FOIA request, an employer request I would have vetoed such a plan.

We can't delete or eliminate messages, communications, documents that are subject to those two laws.

I don't know all the facts about what happened in 2021 in DOD or DHS, but it's very troubling.

I do have some sympathy, Ana, for the line agents on frontlines of the Secret Service. They were in the midst of a presidential transition managing the security around the inauguration.

In just a couple of weeks, the nation was on high alert after January 6th. So frankly, with that large mission in front of them, it's not surprising to me that the agents on the frontline -- and I used to be their protectee as well as their oversight.

It's not surprising to me that the agents on the frontline may not have gotten this data migration exactly right. I can't vouch for the political appointees. And I do have questions


CABRERA: Thank you so much, Secretary Johnson, as always for offering your insight and your expertise and experience on all these matters. I appreciate you taking the time.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

CABRERA: Another big development overseas to tell you about. Today, for the first time since Russia's invasion, the shipment of Ukrainian grain is headed to people who need it. That ship passed inspection in Turkey. It next sails to Lebanon.

The international community hopes this is just the beginning to start easing the global food crisis.

It's all part of a deal to let Ukraine safely export millions of tons of grain held up since this war began. And Ukraine says it has 17 more ships ready to go.

Cooling centers are opening up across Kentucky as flood survivors now have to endure the scorching heat there. The latest on the search for people who are still missing next.



CABRERA: Moments ago, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said the confirmed death toll from the epic flooding in that state remains at 37, but he still expects it could rise, with three people, all women, still missing.

One silver lining, a little sliver of positive news here, more people are getting their electricity and air-conditioning back.

The governor says that is significant because of a dangerous heat wave that's now hitting the area. It will feel like 100 degrees outside.

CNN's Evan McMorris Santoro is in Kentucky.

And, Evan, you're at a relief center. What kind of help do most people still need?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, you mentioned that heat wave. My phone says it feels like it's 96 out here between the temperature and humidity. But my skin tells me you should put a one in front of that number.

It's incredibly hot and that's dangerous for people who still don't have power.

So we've seen a remarkable number of rescue efforts. More than 1,000 wellness checks, the governor said today. More than a thousand rescues, some of them using aerial helicopters flying in. And more than 2,000 cases of water distributed.

I'm at a relief center here in East Perry Elementary School, in Perry County, one of the hardest-hit places. You can see these pallets of water given out just today and still more water to give out.

I'm going to show you how much there really is. I have a camera on top of the satellite truck. You can see just how much water there is. This is what they're trying to do is get this water out as quickly as possible.

Because people who don't have power. They may not be able to get to cooling places. So water is what they need.

So they come here. They take this water, people do, and put it on maybe ATVs or other off-road vehicles and drive it into these hollers still blocked off because of flood waters that took away the one bridge or the one road they had into those areas.

So even though there's been a lot of progress in six days, an amazing amount of progress -- and we've watched from the ground here with CNN -- there's a long way to go in Kentucky -- Ana?

CABRERA: It's going to be a long time for that community to rebuild, that region.

Thank you, Evan McMorris-Santoro, for your reporting.


And now to another natural disaster. NASA found that a volcanic explosion under the Pacific Ocean near Tonga blasted enough water vapor into the atmosphere to fill 58,000 Olympic pools.

That eruption happened in January but scientists are just now learning more about it. They also say that vapor will likely stay in the atmosphere for years and could contribute to warming the earth's surface.

It's a glitch that could have cost you or someone you know thousands of dollars. It may have even kept you from getting a loan. It is the brutal reality after credit reporting agency, Equifax, sent out incorrect credit scores for millions of people.

CNN's Rahel Solomon is here with us with this.

This sounds like a pretty big mistake. How did this happen?

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: So Equifax would say it was a mistake but it only impacted a small percentage.

So that coding issue that you mentioned, that sort of led to a miscalculation of certain factors and so it impacted credit scores. Not reports but credit scores.

The company saying in a statement, "As part of its analysis, we've determined there was no shift in the vast majority of scores during the three-week time frame."

"But for those consumers who did experience a score shift, initial analysis indicates only a small number of them may have received different credit decisions."

So it looks like this was a three-week period. According to some "Wall Street Journal" reporting, that would have been about mid-March through early April.

And about 300,000 consumers received a different credit score of about 25 or more points. Even if it was a small percentage, if that was your credit score, that's not feeling so good.

So what should you do? I asked around. First, think about, did you apply for credit in that time frame, March, April? If so, look at your credit report.

Go to annual and look to see if Equifax did a hard inquiry. If so consider your options.

Think about things like, did you receive a notice saying that you perhaps did not get credit approved or you got a higher rate. Compare that in your report and your score to some other agencies, TransUnion, Experian.

If you think Equifax was an anomaly, was different, you need to contact that lender, and they need to contact Equifax.

Unfortunately, it looks like, for the consumer, you have to do legwork to correct this if you were impacted. But if it means the difference between getting a loan or a lower interest rate, it's worth it.

CABRERA: It makes a big difference.

SOLOMON: Exactly.

CABRERA: Thank you, Rahel, for bringing this up that.

On the stand today, conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones. Sandy Hook parents want him to pay the price for his lies. What he's now saying about the tragic massacre of 20 children and six adults.



CABRERA: After years of peddling lies about the Sandy Hook massacre, right-wing conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, took the stand today as a jury decides how much he'll have to pay for those lies. The defense rested just a few minutes ago.

CNN's Oliver Darcy has been following this.

Oliver, Jones is on trial for lying, and yet, it appears he can't stop.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes, Ana, this has been a terrible 24 hours in court for Alex Jones.

Yesterday, he was admonished by the judge, who said he violated his oath to tell the truth on the stand on at least two occasions. And he was warned that he needs to tell the truth when he's under oath.

Today is not going much better. He was cross-examined by the plaintiffs' attorneys and he asked if he's ever tried connecting this judge, the judge overseeing this case, to pedophilia. Jones said no.

But moments later, this happened in court.


UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: You're telling the world not to believe what's happening in this trial because this judge is involved with CPS, who is working with child traffickers and pedophilia, correct?

ALEX JONES, CEO & HOST, "INFO WARS": No, that's not what I'm saying.

(voice-over): Judge comes from CPS, who has been exposed for human trafficking and working with pedophiles.


DARCY: Jones there confronted with video from his own company, "Info Wars," which has been trying to connect or suggest that the judge has some relationship or is connected to pedophilia, really dark stuff.

Later in the hearing today, as he was continuing to be cross-examined, the lawyer for the plaintiffs revealed that he had recently obtained the contents of Alex Jones's entire cell phone.

And that those contents revealed that Alex Jones had, in fact, texted about Sandy Hook, despite previously saying under oath that he had not.

It's been a really bad 24 hours for Alex Jones in court. The defense just rested. It's possible, Ana, we might have a verdict from the jury later this week.

CABRERA: OK, thank you very much, Oliver Darcy. Obviously, very disturbing situation all around.

But let's end on a high note here. In the face of tragedy, a reminder of the joy found in special moments. Take a look at this picture. This is 8-year-old Cooper Roberts reuniting with his beloved pooch, George.

Cooper was paralyzed from the waist down after a gunman opened fire on the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, outside Chicago. And now Cooper is at a rehab facility to get his strength back. And hopefully, George can be a frequent visitor.


That does it for me today. Thank you so much for joining us. You can always join me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera. The news continues with Alisyn Camerota right after this.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. Victor is off today.