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State Department: MBS Immunity does not Reflect "Merits" of Case; "Swifties" to Ticketmaster: We are Never Ever getting back Together; Taylor Swift Ticket Meltdown Sparks Outrage about Ticketmaster's Power; NASA Heat Shield Survives Brutal Re-Entry of Earth's Atmosphere; Brittney Griner Moved to Penal Colony Southeast of Moscow. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 18, 2022 - 09:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: For the first time since a blockbuster hearing this summer, the House Committee investigating the Capitol attack is now hearing from the Secret Service Agents at the center of the story about what happened in Former President Trump's motorcade that day, the testimony was provided by Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. Here's a reminder.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: President reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engle, grabbed his arm, said sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We're going back to the West Wing.

We're not going to the Capitol. Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engle and this one - or not I have recounted the story to me his motion towards his clavicles.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: CNN's Paula Reid is here now. So we know this agent Bobby Engle that he previously testified before the committee. Do we know why they brought him back a second time?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's a great question. This is an opportunity for him right to correct or corroborate the record. And this is significant because Engel was the lead agent and Former President Trump's motorcade on the day of the Capitol attack.

He could provide testimony perhaps key testimony related to what we just heard from Cassidy Hutchinson, because as you just heard, in her public testimony, she said Tony Ornato who is then the Deputy White House Chief of Staff told her that Trump got angry when he was informed he could not go to the Capitol on January 6th. He grabbed the steering wheel with one hand lunch at Engle with the other. And she has testified that Ornato told her about this later in the day on January 6, that's key. When did you hear this? And Engel was there; he did not disagree or correct any part of the story?

Now, as you noted, both Ornato at an Engle they have met with a committee prior to Hutchinson's testimony. But this interview, this is the first time they've met with them since and now they have the opportunity to look at her testimony and corroborate it, correct it. And this is all happening as the committee is wrapping up its work.

And we have to give a shout out to our colleagues Annie Grayer and Zach Cohen they were the first to report this interview and they've been helping us keep track of who's going in and out for a really long time with this investigation.

SCIUTTO: Fantastic. You get to watch those doors in and out. Paula Reid thanks so much.

HILL: Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince the U.S. has approved the operation that led to the murder of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi should be granted immunity. That's the recommendation from the Biden Administration.

Now this immunity would apply to a civil suit brought by Khashoggi Fiance and a human rights organization founded by the late journalist. In response, his Fiance said "Jamal died again today". Reminder too his remains have never been found.

Joining me now CNN Political Analyst and Former Federal Prosecutor Elliot Williams, who was also an Assistant Deputy Attorney General, at the Justice Department. Elliot, good to see you this morning! So this is a - this is a suggestion of immunity.

The State Department has said this does not reflect the merits of the case. However, it does seem to reflect MBS's new role. He's not just the Crown Prince anymore. He's now Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So a couple things. One it is a suggestion of immunity but courts almost never and I would say I think it's safe to say would never override a recommendation from the Justice Department that an individual like this be granted immunity.

What happens is the big picture is that in international law, foreign leaders are not subjected to being sued or brought into court in different countries. It's just not a satisfying result because of the fact that number one, the American government has acknowledged how vicious and heinous this crime was.

And number two, that he was a part of it back at the time and then hinting at it in the letter today, but there's is no great outcome here.

HILL: So there's no great outcome. But so just to confirm then, this is ultimately up to a judge--


HILL: But you're saying it would be very surprising if the judge did not go along with this suggestion?


WILLIAMS: That's absolutely it. I mean, what it is that the Justice Department states in a letter to the court, this individual ought to be granted immunity because he is a foreign leader. Now, this would have been a very different decision two or three months ago, before he was named Head of State.

He was, I guess, the Head of the Defense Department in Saudi Arabia before that, and that person couldn't be subjected to being--

HILL: Right.

WILLIAMS: --sued in American court. But unfortunately, now he's Head of State and he won't, and again, that doesn't take away from the fact that again, we've acknowledged that he did it.

HILL: Right. Well, and in terms of that acknowledgement, right? You also have so the Head of this Human Rights Group, which initially brought the lawsuit with his Fiance, called it a shocking development.

Biden actually called his death a "Flat out murder", this is in a 2019, CNN Town Hall and said there should be consequences. The bottom line is, while this may be sort of standard operating procedure, right for dignitaries for heads of state, the reality is there's the fist- pump there are these past comments. And there is a history of human rights abuses and questions about Saudi Arabia. Now, this is being further called into question. And there's some backlash this morning--

WILLIAMS: Absolutely.

HILL: --for the administration.

WILLIAMS: Now, look, there will be some accountability, there can be some accountability for other people who are not the Head of Saudi Arabia. Now, with respect to this person, we've got to come up with some system for holding foreign leaders accountable. And it just doesn't exist right now.

You know, whether that's the International Criminal Court or some other sort of big body, but it just doesn't exist. And the simple fact is, you know, this is why the Pope isn't sued--

HILL: Right.

WILLIAMS: --nation by nation on account of actions that he takes in his capacity as the Head of the Vatican, which is itself a country and sort of the same thing happening here.

HILL: It's interesting, because in that same town hall, now President Biden said at the time that there would be there should be consequences and a lot of people sense this morning, if these are the consequences.

WILLIAMS: It's terrible.

HILL: Elliot, appreciate it nice to see you.

WILLIAMS: Thanks Erica.

SCIUTTO: Well, it is not just Taylor Swift fans who are demanding answers from Ticketmaster. Now, Congress and the Tennessee Attorney General are jumping in how this ticket mess has revealed just how broken the system is? We'll have a deep dive coming up.



HILL: Oh, yes, we've got problems and I don't know how they're getting solved. But look what she made them do. Yes, get rid there's going to be a lot of this Jim get ready.

SCIUTTO: I get--

HILL: Swiftie outrage--

SCIUTTO: --swift lyrics, you know, for days.

HILL: Yes, there's a new target and it is not Jake Gyllenhaal and his scarf this time around. Taylor Swift fans without tickets might just be out of luck. Ticketmaster abruptly canceled the public sales for her highly anticipated U.S. tour.

More than 2 million tickets sold in a single day that cause in your meltdown of the site leading to some bad blood between Ticketmaster and Swift's Army of ticket hungry fans who know all too well. Their options are few.

SCIUTTO: Wow! That squeezed it a lot in there. I'm proud of my co- anchor - would come. Now the Tennessee Attorney General is investigating and Congress as well asking for answers. Joining us now to discuss Lance Ulanoff he is the U.S. Editor in Chief for TechRadar. He's reported on Ticketmaster for decades. It's good to have you on!

You know, you look at the structure of this because it's Ticketmaster. But they merged with Live Nation, which is a concert promoter and actually owns a lot of the venues. I mean, if not a monopoly that strikes me as a competition problem here that they own so many parts of the business.

LANCE ULANOFF, U.S. EDITOR IN CHIEF, TECHRADAR: Yes, it's certainly a closed loop. And I have to say that the structure of it has always made it easy for ticket buying bots to win when they only have to go through one point of contact and set it up and they have time to prepare.

They're going to beat the humans every time. Now, I should say that this is a question of scale. Because Taylor Swift is incredibly popular first time touring in five years. So of course, there's been massive interest but combine that with what I know are bots that went into the system and bought these things up just as fast.

And if you don't know that take a look at StubHub where tickets are selling for thousands of dollars. So there was no way that the humans were going to win this race to watch Taylor Swift.

HILL: But then, and so therein lies the problem, right? Because you're pointing out that - we're putting up the two issues here. One there is this massive monopoly so you're only getting the tickets, one place unless you're buying them from a reseller.

But two yes, maybe it's hard for Ticketmaster to beat the bots. But are they even trying Lance? I mean, there should have been no surprise that with a massive fan base, like this woman who hasn't toured in five years, they knew people were hungry for these tickets.

They made you sign up in advance for the presale. I mean, were they just totally caught off guard here because that seems like kind of pathetic excuse at this point?

ULANOFF: Yes. Well, look in their defense. I'm sure they're working on it. I'm sure they're trying. But the people who do this the people who build these bots are constantly getting more and more sophisticated. Our technology gets faster and cheaper.

So the technology you might have used to make phone calls and buy tickets back in the day 15, 20 years ago. You know, now it fits on the head of a pen and can do you know tens of thousands of calls at once and not even just that you know it's filling out the paperwork online for all the details. [09:45:00]

ULANOFF: You know it's filling that out. It's the same issues. You know, we talk about security with computers we talk about, you know, we've had computers forever, why are we still falling for ransomware attacks because they get more sophisticated.

And that's why Ticketmaster is still succumbing to these kinds of attacks and these kinds of bots because they're incredibly sophisticated. And you know it's - there really needs to be something done about the identity of every ticket buyer. It's almost like slow the whole thing down. Make sure someone is real at every level. Let them buy a ticket.

SCIUTTO: You know, Erica, you might say it's hard to shake it off. You know this--

HILL: Oh, never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate that one?

SCIUTTO: --just saying. I could go head to head with you. Even on this?

HILL: I thought Jim was in a lavender haze that no. Lance thanks for putting up with our cheesy, cheesy puns. Good to see you my friend thank you. ULANOFF: I'm glad - I think that.

HILL: Still to come here, the tool NASA thanks could actually put us one step closer to landing on Mars.



HILL: NASA is sharing new images of technology it thinks will help put humans on Mars. So take a look at it. This is a heat shield. So you see it there inflating in space. It survived the brutal reentry into Earth's atmosphere. That's key.

SCIUTTO: Wow! That's quite a technology. It did this after facing temperatures up to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. There's some video there hitting speeds up to 18,000 miles an hour. The heat shield then splashdown in the Pacific Ocean about two hours after the test launch you could just make out the parachute there. CNN's Kristin Fisher has more on this. So Kirstin, NASA says this is a big success. How would this actually be used for a mission to Mars?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRSPONDENT: So in order to actually land people on Mars, you have to get them there safely, right? They can't burn up in reentry; you got to protect them from those high temperatures. And then you also have to land a lot of stuff there more weight.

So what this technology is designed to do, right now a heat shield. This is that critical technology that was so critical during the shuttle era. I mean, just think about the Columbia accident. It was a damaged heat shield that caused that space shuttle to disintegrate when it reentered the Earth's atmosphere.

So that heat shield there, this one can actually inflate in space. Right now the size of the heat shield is limited by the size of the rocket that it rides on. So this one inflates in space it could allow NASA to land people and protect them from those high temperatures on reentry on the surface of Mars and more cargo.

Right now, Jim, the heat shields can only land about one ton on Mars, this would allow them to land between 20 to 40 tons on Mars. And you know I just have to say the actual name of this. It's called LOFTED a fancy NASA acronym; I had to write it down.

The low Earth orbit flight test of an inflatable decelerator so this thing would slow it down it would protect them from the heat. And also I mean, can we just say what a huge week it's been for NASA?


FISHER: I mean, and not just for NASA but the human spaceflight sector in particular, because this comes just days after the Artemis launch. And these two programs, of course, share the same--

SCIUTTO: And Artemis you know, go to the moon, but so much about, you know--


FISHER: --Mars.

SCIUTTO: --going to Mars.

HILL: Yes. And also, and we also, I mean, just to cap things off on this incredible week, there are new Webb telescope images from deep out there in the universe.

FISHER: Yes, the Webb Space Telescope continuing to not disappoint Erica. It has just released new images of some of the distant get most distant galaxies that have ever been seen. These are from about 350 to 450 million years ago.

And, you know, what really makes the standout for scientists is they did not realize that galaxies could form this soon after the Big Bang. And so it's really making them kind of rethink how galaxies and those early star formations formed?

And, you know, Jim and Erica, this whole Webb Space Telescope, it has a lot of objectives. But one of the primary objectives is to try to see to try to find that very first light in the universe. And so this proves this discovery proves that Webb really may be capable of doing just that.

SCIUTTO: We only have to look back about 14 billion years. No problem. Kristin Fisher thanks so much. The Acting Police Chief an update to a CNN story that it's been following closely.

The Acting Police Chief on the day of the Robb Elementary School massacre pictured there has now resigned. Uvalde Mayor said yesterday that Lieutenant Mariano Pargas' resignation from the Police Department is effective immediately.

HILL: It also comes ahead of a rare special meeting the city has called for tomorrow where the 65-year-old was actually expected to be fired. A recent CNN report by CNN's Shimon Prokupecz showed Pargas was aware students were alive during the shooting and failed to organize help.

Still ahead, North Korea fires yet another ICBM missile earlier today where this one landed at the emergency meeting? It triggered with Vice President Kamala Harris that's next.



SCIUTTO: Attorneys for Brittney Griner say the WNBA Star has now been moved to a penal colony Southeast of Moscow. She has now begun serving a nine year sentence there for drug smuggling. Griner, who has been detained for nearly nine months now lost and appeal of that sentence in October. HILL: The region where Griner is being held is the same as that a fellow American Detainee Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16 year sentence on espionage charges which he has denied. Last week the State Department says it continues to look for ways to secure their release as quickly as possible.

Top of the hour on this Friday morning, I'm Erica Hill.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. Right now the winter's first major snowstorm and it's a big one is hammering Western and Northern New York. Dangerous lake effect snows its impacting 6 million people in Buffalo, the city. If all this snow falls, it's on the verge of being paralyzed by this. Up to five feet of snow expected, a state of emergency travel bans in effect. Already the city's Mayor has given a dire warning.