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Interview with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA): Special Counsel to Oversee Trump Investigation; Twitter's Future Uncertain After Mass Exodus of Staffers; Trump Reacts to Special Counsel Appointment; Michelle Obama's Missions: Empowering Girls Airs Sunday. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired November 18, 2022 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: More on the breaking news now. In the last hour, Attorney General Merrick Garland named former federal prosecutor Jack Smith as the special counsel who will oversee criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump. Eric Swalwell is a California Democratic Congressman. He's a member of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. Congressman, good to have you back on. Let's start with just your reaction to this announcement from the Attorney General.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Thank you, Victor. It is a historic appointment for a president who has gone on what I believe is a historic crime spree, and it's important that we get it right. It's so urgent for our democracy which has endured so much over the last six years that they move, you know, expeditiously, but also in a way that reflects, you know, our values of independence and a rule of law. So, I welcome the findings and I'll accept the findings, you know, wherever the facts and the law take the prosecution team.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the Attorney General said the catalyst for this was the announcement of -- by the former president that he's going to run in 2024. The inclination of the current president to run for reelection and to insulate the department from the appearance of politicizing this, but we're already seeing that this is happening. Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that this is a Trump derangement syndrome, that the president is politicizing the Department of Justice. The White House says they had no idea. Your reaction to what we're already hearing?

SWALWELL: Well, Senator Cruz's tweet, you know, reflects that, you know, Donald Trump should deserve some sort of special treatment because he was a former president and no president, Republican or Democratic, should be ever above the law. And also, you know, Donald Trump was cleared by the last special counsel and I also, you know, accepted those findings, you know, despite my own concerns about his conduct with Russia and the 2016 campaign. When special counsel Mueller, you know, delivered his report to Congress, you know, I did not throw Mueller under the bus or, you know, say that we needed, you know, an additional investigation, and that's what the rule of law is all about. So, if Donald Trump did nothing wrong, he should accept the findings

of the special counsel, but if he did something wrong, he should be very worried that, you know, this team will find out and under a true rule of law system, he'll be held to account.

BLACKWELL: Are you worried about potentially this stretching the timeline investigation? Going on much longer, the AG and even the special counsel in his new remark say that this will happen expeditiously, but he has to read in, ramp up, bring in the team. What do you think?

SWALWELL: I was a prosecutor before coming to Congress, and, you know, these investigations take time, and especially an investigation of this magnitude, you only get one shot. Because you're going to have to prove this before a jury if you indict and it's going to have to withstand multiple appeals, probably all the way up to the Supreme Court. So, you want to get it right, and Victor, I get it. People are frustrated. Donald Trump has tested us time after time since he came down that escalator at Trump Tower.

But we don't have to move at the same pace of his corruption, you know? We have to make sure that we rebuild the rule of law in this country because I ultimately think he will be held to account. But if we just go tit for tat with him, it ultimately reduces our whole system and the confidence that people have in it.


So, I'd rather see us get it right, recognizing that democracy is at stake, but not to reduce ourselves, you know, to the same pace of corruption, with their own sense of justice, but rather to let the rule of law play out. And I promise our country will be in a better place if that's the way this goes.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about a bit of politics instead of policy here. Kevin McCarthy who is likely going to be the next Speaker, named you as one of three Democrats this week who will be removed from committees, removing you from the House Select Intel Committee. What's your reaction to that?

SWALWELL: He's doing that because I'm effective. I effectively, I think held Donald Trump to account when I was on the judiciary and intelligence committees while he was in the White House, and so did Adam Schiff who he's also targeted.

Look, any coach on a Sunday morning, you know, on an NFL field would love to take the other team's best players off the pitch and that's what, you know, Kevin McCarthy is trying to do here. It's not going to distract me. It's not going to keep me from speaking up and advocating for the rule of law and, you know, and the week that Nancy Pelosi, you know, is giving her farewell speech as a leader of our party, I'll use a "Pelosi-ism" -- something she always told me. Don't make someone insignificant more significant.

BLACKWELL: Do you expect he will be able to have the support to -- even though there are purple districts that a lot of Republicans just won, that he will be able to make good on that promise?

SWALWELL: Again, if you're evaluating this, like what is the case that he's making? Again, that he's doing it, and he said this when he removed Marjorie Taylor Greene for threatening to kill Speaker Pelosi that he was going to retaliate. So, this comes from a place of retaliation, not from any, you know, substance or merit and I believe my colleagues will judge it that way.

But again, whether he does it or not, it's not going to stop me. And the American people at the polls last week said they're done with the chaos and the violent rhetoric. They want a rule of law. They want competency. That won, you know, on election day.

BLACKWELL: All right, Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you.

SWALWELL: My pleasure, Victor.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: We have a CNN exclusive. CNN's Sara Sidner sat down with former First Lady Michelle Obama to discuss her mission to empower women and girls among other things. We have a preview for you, next.



CAMEROTA: Well, the future of Twitter appears in doubt today after a mass exodus of employees. Twitter CEO Elon Musk summoned remaining software engineers to Twitters San Francisco headquarters this afternoon with an urgent email that's been obtained by CNN.

Quote: Anyone who can actually write software, please report to the tenth floor at 2:00 p.m. today.

BLACKWELL: Scores of Twitter employees headed for the exits after Musk gave the staff this ultimatum. You got to be Twitter hardcore or leave with three months' severance. CNN media analyst Sara Fischer is with us now. I mean, just anybody who can help please come to work. Can Twitter survive like this?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, inside Victor, people are skeptical that it can, and part of the reason is that the engineers who focus on the stuff that actually makes Twitter work, you know, having your feed load, making sure two-factor authentication is turned on. Making sure that if you're reporting malicious content, it gets addressed. A lot of those engineers and those teams have been completely gutted. And so, what it sounds like from that email is that Elon Musk is sort of grasping for straws trying to find anyone in the building that can help them move the company forward.

CAMEROTA: Sara, this had been such a shocking, epic fall to watch, and I was trying to rack my brain to figure out how we got here in just the past few weeks. What was it that started the cascade of this sort of downward spiral? Was it the misinformation about Paul Pelosi? Is that what kind of set off this cascade of people starting to doubt whether Elon Musk would be able to run Twitter? FISCHER: I think that was part of it because that's when advertisers

and chief marketing officers I spoke to said that they started to think about pulling their ads from Twitter. And once Elon Musk saw that the advertisers were fleeing, that's when he wanted to double down on subscription revenue. Because of course, Twitter has real estate bills. It has to keep the lights on. He needs money to come in in the short-term while he figures out a long-term plan. And then of course, him rushing into subscriptions setting off Twitter's blue verified $8 subscription offering, that unloaded a whole new level of chaos which made advertisers run even further.

And so, Alisyn, I actually think you're right. That's probably a good point to point to as when this whole thing started to collapse from underneath. But truly I think the latest nail in the coffin was his decision to bring everyone back to work full-time. Twitter is one of the most progressive companies in Silicon Valley in terms of flexibility and working from home. And so, his decision to do that and then request that people, you know, sign on to working hardcore, I think that ultimately was just the nail in the coffin.

CAMEROTA: Sara Fischer, we will see what happens tomorrow. It seems like things are changing by the hour. Thank you very much for being here.

BLACKWELL: All right, the breaking news. Attorney General Merrick Garland announces a special counsel to oversee the Trump investigations. The former president is lashing out. He's saying, I am not going to partake in it. OK. More of Trump's response next.



CAMEROTA: Donald Trump now speaking out after Attorney General Merrick Garland announcing the appointment of a special counsel to oversee two ongoing federal investigations involving Donald Trump.

BLACKWELL: Now here's what he told Fox News Digital. He said that --

I've been proven innocent for six years on everything from fake impeachments to Mueller who found no collusion and now I have to do it more. It is not acceptable. It is so unfair. It is so political. He continued -- I am not going to partake in it. I announce and then they appoint a special prosecutor. And he added this -- he says that he hopes that the Republicans have the courage to fight this.


All right. In a new CNN special, former First Lady Michelle Obama, Melinda French Gates and Amal Clooney sat down with CNN's Sara Sidner to discuss their mission to empower women and girls. Here is a look.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: Kids know when they are being subjected to discrimination, when they are facing racism and hatred. They know it. It is not a secret. But a lot of times kids need to feel validated and in the fact that it is not me, it is them. But when it comes to social media, one of the things that I urge kids to do is not to spend that much time on it.


OBAMA: And that's hard to do in this culture. But what I have learned to do is not to listen to the haters. You cannot let that negative energy infiltrate your life. So, what I have learned to do is to do the work, to show up, do what I think is right, to live by the values that I've been raised with to do my best to help others and then let the chips fall where they may.

And now that is easier to do when you are 58 years old and you've seen a lot and been through a lot. I'm not a product of social media so I'm not hungry for it in the same way that this generation is. But we are seeing that social media is impacting the state of mental health of our young people. And so, I would tell young people that that is true, too. That social media, that subjecting yourself to negative criticism of people who don't know you is not a healthy way to live your life. That you have to live your life by your truth and your values.


CAMEROTA: And Sara Sidner joins us now. Sara, this is a fun assignment. So, tell us more about the conversation.

SIDNER (on camera): It was fun. It was intimidating. I mean, these are -- you know, you've got an attorney, you've got a scientist, you have people who have been around the world and have been teaching lessons to people forever. And here they are telling you some very personal stories. We got into a lot of personal things. We talked about self- doubt, something that I think all of us have experienced at some point in our lives -- me, every day. And I learned that Michelle Obama experiences that every day.

And so, there were things that really struck me about the honesty that was coming out of that room. But they are very concerned at the state of girls and young women and not just here but around the world. There are more than 100 million girls that are school aged that should be in school and that cannot be in school for a variety of reasons. Everything from, you know, child marriage, to that their parents just not believing that's where they need to be, they need to work. So, they're working toward that and that is what this group was all about.


BLACKWELL: It looks like a fascinating conversation, look forward to watching it. Sara Sidner, thank you very much. Be sure to join Sara this Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. for a conversation with the former First Lady, Amal Clooney and Melinda French Grates right here on CNN.

CAMEROTA: OK, a last-minute U-turn for eat World Cup fans. No alcohol will be sold at stadiums. More on this sobering buzz kill ahead.


CAMEROTA: We are less than a month away from learning who will be voted the CNN hero of the year by our viewers. Among the top ten contenders, Debra Vines.

BLACKWELL: After Deborah's son was diagnosed with autism, she dedicated herself have to helping black families navigate autism and now she advocates for them.


DEBRA VINES, CNN HERO: Being a parent of a child with autism in the 80s and the 90s was very, very challenging.

The support groups that I found, I was the only black woman there. We have a color barrier and income and equity barrier, period. It was just all types of barriers.

Everything that we provide is a blueprint of what I was missing as a parent. And so, we have a support group. Kid goes to their classes. We are a family and I'm very adamant about educating the community because people are afraid of what they don't understand. We want to make sure that first responders are trained in how to deal with our children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long has your mom been doing this kind of stuff?

VINES: Because he's smiling it makes it a little bit easier. But what if you get ahold of someone not smiling and they are running around and they're biting themselves.

Advocacy is a gift and I'm good at it and it makes me feel so good.


CAMEROTA: For more on Deborah's work go to right now and vote on her or who you think should be the 2022 hero of the year.

All right, so the World Cup kicks off in Qatar this weekend and the government there made a surprise announcement today. All of the matches in the stadiums will be alcohol free. Beer for the fans is banned.


BLACKWELL: For the fans. The players could still drink.

CAMEROTA: That's fine.

BLACKWELL: All eight stadiums hosting World Cup matches -- it can't happen there -- alcohol sales and usage are tightly regulated in Qatar. Some, of course, the problem here is for the major World Cup sponsor Budweiser. The company initially put out this tweet that said well this is awkward. But its parent company later issued a formal statement saying in part that changes are due to circumstances beyond their control.

OK, have a great weekend. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.