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Large Amounts Of Lake-Effect Snow Hit Parts Of Western New York; U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland Appoints Special Prosecutor To Oversee Federal Investigations Into Former President Trump's Roles In January 6th Insurrection And Classified Documents Found At Mar-a-Lago; Numerous Twitter Employees Quit After Ultimatum From New Owner Elon Musk; University Of Virginia Hosts Public Memorial Service To Honor Three Football Players Shot And Killed In Charlottesville; Police Still Have No Suspects In Stabbing Murders Of Four University of Idaho Students; Elizabeth Holmes Sentenced To More than 11 Years In Prison For Defrauding Investors While Running Failed Blood-Testing Start-Up Theranos. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired November 19, 2022 - 14:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

And we begin in western New York where a deadly snowstorm is still wreaking havoc at this hour. More than six feet of snow has fallen in some areas, a historic amount for a region that is used to major winter storms. The extreme snowfall making travel on some roadways nearly impossible. Driving bans and state of emergencies are in place to keep people off the roads.

CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar is tracking this dangerous storm, and CNN's Polo Sandoval is in the thick of it there in Buffalo, New York. So Polo, to you first, what are you seeing?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Fred, it's what we saw overnight, right, over a foot of snow that we saw throughout various parts of Buffalo for most of yesterday. We've seen areas about 13 miles south of here, that's where they logged a little over six feet of snow. Smaller amounts here, but nonetheless it has really done quite a number on the streets. And that's why officials in the city of Buffalo have been working just nonstop since the overnight hours to clear out these roads.

Just to give you some perspective, in the last hour we were standing here -- I was actually standing right here. The snow was almost below my knee. We have seen folks out here shoveling this, at least clearing a path for pedestrians, because drivers, hopefully, are still choosing to stay home right now. We should mention that a travel ban that has been in place for most of Buffalo, most of that is being lifted in this hour. We're talking northern, central, western, eastern parts of the city. The southern, however, that travel ban will remain in place, meaning that unless it's essential, folks there, it's recommended they simply stay home.

Really, the big priority right now is trying to keep those streets clear. That way the plows can do their work. And also snow removal operations. One thing is to just sort of shovel it out of the way, but there are communities outside of Buffalo where that's not enough. They have to, they have to actually remove it. I want you to hear directly from one of the county officials who describes the main message, or at least sends the direct message to the residents.


DANIEL NEAVERTH JR., COMMISSIONER, ERIE COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY AND EMERGENCY SERVICES: Make sure that you're not the reason why ambulances or fire apparatus or the plows can't get through. Stay off the roads. It's Saturday. There's absolutely no reason to be out there today. The only people who need to be out are public safety individuals. So stay off the roads.


SANDOVAL: And the National Guard as well. New York Governor Kathy Hochul saying that the National Guard is helping right now transport dialysis patients to their appointments. Fred, back to you.

WHITFIELD: Polo, thanks so much.

Allison, six feet of snow, and there could be more?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I think there will be more. The question is just how much more on top of probably what most people would consider way too much snow. Here's a look at where it is. The cities of Buffalo and Watertown and Erie are getting a break now because of that wind shift, pushing more of that snow to the north rather than to the east. But that's going to change. We're going to see that wind shift back again as we get closer into the evening tonight. So more snow will come back into those cities.

But it's also not just New York. You're also looking at areas of the other lakes too dealing with lake-effect snow. So it's Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior all pushing all of this excess snow into a lot of those the communities right there along the shore.

Overall, most of these areas can expect about six to 12 inches on top of what they've already had. Some areas picking up maybe up to an additional 20 inches. The key thing there is six to 12 may not sound like that much, but it is when you're already dealing with 60 to 70 inches. Orchard Park topping out at 77 so far, Hamburg, 73, Natural Bridge, 72, Blasdell, 71, and even Watertown topping out at 57 inches of snow.

Those are all right around Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, but even other states, look at this, areas of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin also picking up over two feet of snow. And yes, they can still expect an additional six to 12 inches on top of what they have already had, so likely getting up around that three-foot mark. The other thing, too, to note, Fred, is that the temperatures really

aren't expected to warm up that much at least until Monday. And even then, we are not talking warm by any means, just warmer than now, which means a lot of snow is still going to be there for at least the next several days.


WHITFIELD: OK, Allison Chinchar, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much for that.

And now to new developments in the Trump criminal probes. Just days after Donald Trump announced he is running for president in 2024, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced that he is appointing a special counsel to oversee the ongoing federal investigations into the former president. Trump is lashing out at that announcement, calling it an abuse of power and saying he won't partake in the probe.

Jack Smith, the former head of the Justice Department's Public Integrity section will lead the department's investigations into the former president's possible mishandling -- excuse me. Boy, excuse me. I'm losing my voice here -- the possible mishandling of classified documents and key parts of its January 6th investigation.

Renato Mariotti is not going to do most of the talking. He is a former federal prosecutor and the host of the podcast "On Topic." Renato, good to see you. All right so your reaction --


WHITFIELD: Your reaction to this announcement, not the frog in my throat?

MARIOTTI: No worries. Very significant news, Fred. A couple of things come to mind. First of all, I really don't think that Attorney General Garland appointed Jack Smith as special counsel to wrap up these investigations, to close them down. I think it's pretty clear that he was appointed because they thought that there was substantial work to be done, and in fact, that there is a potential for a criminal indictment of the former president.

WHITFIELD: And so, do you feel like the appointment of the special counsel means that there will be greater emphasis being placed on any number of these investigations? If we were to put them into the categories of, you have got your January 6th insurrection, you've got the threat to a peaceful transfer of power, you've got the documents that were seized in Mar-a-Lago. Will there be a greater emphasis in any number of those investigations?

MARIOTTI: Yes, I really believe, Fred, that the driver here is the Mar-a-Lago documents case. That is very far along. And it's a very straightforward crime. In fact, if you or I had top secret documents in our closet or our basement, we would already be in very serious hot water, because it's a very straightforward crime, more like a drug crime I used to prosecute when I was a junior prosecutor. Those cases are straightforward. If you have heroin in your closet, you're guilty. And so maybe you could try to make some arguments. But here the

Justice Department demanded the documents, they issued a grand jury subpoena, actually made a personal visit to the former president's estate, and he still didn't return the documents. That's very straightforward for the Justice Department to prove. The January 6th. Investigation is much more challenging.

WHITFIELD: Right. There is acknowledgment that it is government property, even though the former president says they were his. But recordkeeping has it as such. This is government documents. He admits to having it. So you're talking about what seems to be a slam dunk case. But then, do you see that indictments are forth coming in a more expedited fashion given both former President Trump and Biden have expressed intent on running in 2024?

MARIOTTI: Yes. I have to say, Fred, I think it's very likely that there's going to be an indictment of Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. I don't think that is the case in the January 6th investigation. And when you see expedited, I think in the next six months I think is a very realistic timeframe, which very well could mean a criminal trial of the former president before the 2024 election. Obviously, very unchartered, unprecedented ground. And I think that's part of the reason why Attorney General Garland wanted somebody else making that decision.

WHITFIELD: And then you had the former president who has been blasting this announcement. And it's interesting his choice of words, saying that this is abuse of power.

MARIOTTI: A phrase something he knows something about personally. It's ironic given that there were many times, Fred, when I was on your program, saying that abuses of power that were committed by the former president were not prosecuted criminally or shouldn't be prosecuted criminally, or they didn't fit within the four corners of some statute. Now he appears to me to have committed a crime, and now he's talking about abuse of power.

I will say, another comment that he made that you quoted a moment ago is that he decided that he, quote, won't partake in this criminal investigation. I wish that worked for my clients. I wish I could just send a letter on behalf of my clients, they decline to partake --


WHITFIELD: Make it go away.

MARIOTTI: Yes, they decline to partake. Yes, I'm not participating. I'm going home.


WHITFIELD: That's right. Renato Mariotti, thanks so much. Good to see you.

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And hello to the pooch who was in the background, too. We heard him. That's cute. Thank you.

Olympic Gold Medalist and WNBA star Brittney Griner has been moved to a remote Russian penal colony in Mordovia about 300 miles southeast of Moscow, known for being one of the harshest regions in the country to serve time. Human rights monitors say the IK-2 prison, seen here, has, quote, horrific conditions. Griner was sentenced to nine years behind bars for carrying cannabis oil in her luggage. The White House saying it will continue to advocate for her release.

Still to come, Elon Musk's chaotic Twitter takeover continues. His hardcore ultimatum to employees has apparently backfired, leading to a mass exodus at the company, and throwing the platform's future into uncertainty. Details on all of that straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: All right, the chaos continues after a new Twitter owner, Elon Musk, issued a hardcore ultimatum to employees. It apparently backfired, leading to a mass exodus at this company this week and confusion about the platform's future. And now the billionaire wants the remaining engineers to help him better understand how the platform operates. Musk sent a flurry of emails Friday urging the staffers to report to headquarters despite the offices being closed through Monday.

CNN technology reporter Clare Duffy has the latest on this dramatic saga. So Clare, what is going on with the remaining hardcore staff?

CLARE DUFFY, CNN BUSINESS WRITER: Right, Fred. It seems like this company is really still reeling from these hundreds of employees who left this week after deciding not to take Musk up on his offer to work extremely hardcore. This come after Musk had already fired half of Twitter's staff earlier this month. So Twitter is left without a lot of the crucial workers who were responsible for keeping this platform online and safe and functioning. One worker told us yesterday that the vibe inside of the company felt like a morgue.

And so Musk called in the remaining software engineers yesterday to Twitter's headquarters. He encouraged some who live outside of San Francisco to fly in to make it in person if they could. And you look at this picture that he posted at almost 2:00 a.m. last night, and it really gives you a sense of just how much Twitter staff has shrunk since Musk took over, not to mention the lack of diversity in that photo.

WHITFIELD: So Musk also plans to restore several accounts that were previously banned or suspended and platform, and adds that he hasn't made a decision on former President Trump's account. But he is taking a poll on that, right?

DUFFY: He is taking a poll on that, yes. Musk previously said he was going to put together this council to make some of these big content moderation decisions. It's not clear if that came into play in the surprise announcement yesterday that he was returning some previously banned accounts to the platform. But he says he still hasn't made a decision about former President Donald Trump, but he seems to want to know what the users of Twitter think.

WHITFIELD: And then Clare, real quick, does the success or failure of Twitter under Elon Musk's leadership in any way threaten Tesla or SpaceX?

DUFFY: It's a good question. It does seem like Musk is distracted. It's unusual to have a CEO running so many different companies at once. And you may see, especially Tesla shareholders as a public company start to get sort of fed up with how much time Musk is spending focused on Twitter.

WHITFIELD: All right, Clare Duffy, thank you so much.




WHITFIELD: Ticketmaster giving a mea culpa, apologizing after the company's website disaster this week involving Taylor Swift concert tickets, and the company's problems are mounting. CNN now learning the U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether the company has monopoly in the industry.

Ticketmaster's bad week started on Tuesday when more than 2 million presale tickets for Swift's upcoming tour sold in a single day, causing a near meltdown of the site, leaving fans with bad blood and many without tickets. Days later, Ticketmaster canceled public sales for Swift's tour due to extraordinarily high demand. And Swift called the fiasco an excruciating ordeal, saying she was assured that Ticketmaster could handle the demand.

Still ahead, a devastating mystery. We're learning new details about the gruesome fatal stabbings of four Idaho college students. Police have released a timeline leading up to the attack, next.



WHITFIELD: Happening soon, the University of Virginia hosts a public memorial service at its basketball stadium, John Paul Jones Arena, to honor three football players who were shot and killed last Sunday in Charlottesville when a student opened fire on a bus returning from a class fieldtrip in D.C. Two others were injured. This comes as teams across the country honor those killed with tributes.

Let's go now to CNN's Joe Johns live for us in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is a tragic loss for the families, the team, the entire university campus community.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, just tremendous sadness. There was a huge crowd here just a little while ago. They all went in. And really just a sign of the times, over my shoulder here you can see the metal detectors that people had to pass through in order to get in. Obviously, the university taking no chances.

And over here to my left, you see the pictures of the players, D'Sean Perry, Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis. Those are the players six days ago shot dead right here on the campus. A suspect now in custody, his name is Chris Jones. He's 23 years old. He actually turned 23 in jail last week. And there are huge questions here for the university about his gun ownership and what the university knew, especially because the university has admitted it was aware that he had a concealed carry conviction from last year.


Also last week, and I don't know how much we have reported this on CNN, the state police here in Virginia went to his dorm room last year serving a search warrant and found additional weapons, including, they say, a rifle and 9 millimeter handgun. So just a lot of questions about what they know and what they could have done, and on fact, if this could have been avoided. Fred?

WHITFIELD: So terribly sad, so many lives disrupted and ruined. Joe Johns, thank you.

The search for answers intensifies after four University of Idaho students were brutally killed last weekend. Authorities shared key details of the quadruple homicides Friday, saying the four victims were likely asleep before the attacks. The coroner says each student was stabbed multiple times, likely from the same weapon, and that some victims had defensive wounds, indicating a possible struggle. After a week, still no identified suspect or murder weapon.

Let's bring in CNN's Camila Bernal who is live for us in Idaho. Any new information?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred. Good morning. So we are seeing movement here at the crime scene. I'm going to step out of the way just to show you at least what we can. We are seeing a lot more state police this morning. It appears to be investigators. I asked what they are doing. They obviously just will not tell us what's going on here at the crime scene. But we know that they are still processing, just because we are seeing all of these officers here.

They're also talking to as many people as possible. We know they have talked to at least 38 people that they believe could have some clues into this case. They are reviewing hundreds of tips. Actually, police yesterday saying they have about 500 tips they have to review. But a lot of people here in this community are in fear and, frankly, confused, because when this all started, they said, look, there is no threat to the community. And then all of a sudden what they are saying is be very vigilant because there is no suspect, there is no weapon.

One thing, though, that they have continued to say is that they believe this was targeted. They gave no reasoning behind this explanation, but they say that this is likely a targeted stabbing. We know from the latest information that all four of these students were likely asleep at the time of the attack. They were stabbed multiple times. It's unclear how many or how they fought back. But at least one of the parents, the father of Xana Kernodle, saying that he believes his daughter fought back. Here he is.


JEFFREY KERNODLE, XANA KERNODLE'S FATHER: I heard from her just before we went out, I think midnight is the last time I heard from here, and she was fine. They were just hanging out at home.

KERNODLE: Bruises, you know, maybe occurred by the knife, or whatever. She is a tough kid. Whatever she wanted to do, she could do it.


BERNAL: Now, we know authorities did reach out to local businesses to see if a knife had been sold recently. They also looked through four different dumpsters trying to find evidence in this case. And they released a map detailing exactly what these students were doing on the night of the attack, hoping that when people see the locations and the times they maybe could get a clue as to what was going on.

We know at least two of the students, they were at a fraternity party, that was from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. And then the other two were actually at a sports bar between 10:00 and 1:30 in the morning. Then they went to a food truck at 1:40 in the morning. They were all believed to be home at around 2:00 in the morning.

And so authorities, what they think happened is that the attack was happening sometime in those early morning hours. We know that the call reporting these stabbings came in at noon. They reported an unconscious person. And then authorities at the moment not even saying who called 911. They are saying, though, that the two other roommates who were at the house here behind me are not considered to be suspects at the moment. But clearly, as you see here at the crime scene, there is still a lot to be done here as friends and family continue to ask for questions, but also mourn the loss of all of these four students, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Absolutely terrible. Camila Bernal, thank you so much.

An airline passenger has been detained and arrested after allegedly charging and banging on the cockpit door after a flight from Poland landed at JFK airport last night. Flight crew and passengers kept the man restrained until police boarded the plane, but a flight attendant was hit in the head. It's unclear what charges the man is facing related to the incident, but officials say that decision will be made by the FBI.

Another traveler was arrested last week at JFK airport after 28 pounds of cocaine with a street value of about $450,000 was discovered hidden in the wheels of her wheelchair.

[14:30:06] The passenger arrived in New York City from the Dominican Republic, and when officers noticed the wheels were not turning, they x-rayed the wheelchair. They discovered a white powder which later tested positive for cocaine in all four wheels. The traveler was turned over to Homeland Security and is now facing federal narcotics smuggling charges.

Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for defrauding investors while running the failed blood-testing start-up Theranos. What she said to the court, next.


WHITFIELD: Former executive Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced this week for defrauding investors in her blood testing company that was once the darling of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. CNN's Natasha Chen has details.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison as well as three years of supervised release after that. She was fined $400. But a separate date will be set to determine restitution, a possible $800 million. Holmes was convicted in January on four counts of defrauding investors but found not guilty of defrauding patients. She had at one time been an icon in Silicon Valley for being a young female entrepreneur, starting the company Theranos and claiming her technology could use just a few drops of blood to conduct a variety of tests. But that technology didn't work.

Prosecutors said when faced with failure, she chose fraud. A separated trial earlier this year found Theranos's second in command Sunny Balwani guilty on 12 counts of fraud. Holmes has to turn herself into custody next April, and that may have to do with the fact that she is currently pregnant. Her pregnancy and her one-year-old child with partner by Billy Evans were brought up by some of her supporters when they wrote to the judge stating how one must consider very young children growing up without their mother. There were more than 100 letters written in her support.

Holmes had a chance to speak for herself on Friday before the judge read her sentence. She was emotional in telling the court, quote, "The people I tried to get involved with Theranos were the people I loved and respected the most. I am devastated by my failings." Her team is expected to appeal her conviction and sentence. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Natasha Chen, thanks so much.

And some leading medical groups are warning that pediatric hospitals across the country are overwhelmed by a surge in RSV and flu cases, and they want the federal government to do something about it. Here's CNN's Jacqueline Howard.

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Declare a national emergency, that's what some leading pediatric medical groups are asking President Biden and HSS Secretary Xavier Becerra to do in response to the surge of RSV and fly that's impacting children's hospitals. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association sent a joint letter to the White House earlier this week, saying that declaring an emergency would allow for hospitals to receive additional support and share resources.

The vice president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America says hospital systems all across the U.S. are strained right now because of these respiratory viruses. Have a listen.


DR. TINA TAN, PEDIATRICS PROFESSOR, FEINBERG SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: RSV has already strained the hospital systems to capacity or over capacity. Now you have flu that is starting to surge in other areas where they're trying to deal with the RSV surge. And you also have COVID that is starting to increase. So it really is putting a major strain on hospital systems all across the United States.


HOWARD: And there's growing concern that the situation could get even worse as we head into the winter season. That's why public health officials are urging people who haven't already done so to get their flu shots and get their updated COVID vaccines for added protection. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jacqueline Howard, thanks so much.

This week the Food and Drug Administration approved the first therapy for preventing Type 1 diabetes. The therapy is called Tzield and works by reducing the body's attack on its own insulin-producing cells. The treatment delayed progression to full-blown diabetes in a little over two years in clinical trials. About 1.9 million Americans had the disease in 2019 according to the American Diabetes Association.

And this quick programming note. Join CNN's Sara Sidner as she hosts "Michelle Obama's Mission, Empowering Girls," a conversation with Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney, and Melinda Gates about their shared mission to empower girls through greater educational opportunities across the globe. That's tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m.

And coming up, the president of FIFA defending Qatar just hours before the World Cup's opening match. He said criticism of the country's human rights issues is a hypocrisy. Details after this.



WHITFIELD: OK, we're now just hours away from the first World Cup match scheduled to begin in Qatar tomorrow. But it's not the quality of matches that was on the mind of the president of soccer's governing body today. Advocates have raised concerns about Qatar's treatment of the LGBTQ community. And human rights defenders have called into question Qatar's use of migrant workers as they prepared for the World Cup. Today, FIFA's president played down those concerns.


GIANNI INFANTINO, FIFA PRESIDENT: I think for what we Europeans have been to go in the last 3,000 years around the world, we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons.

This moral lesson-giving is one-sided. It's just hypocrisy.


WHITFIELD: All right, this coming after FIFA and Qatar announced on Friday that alcohol sales at the games eight stadiums will be banned despite a $75 million sponsorship from Budweiser. CNN's Amanda Davies and Don Riddell have more from Doha.


AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: So, people still trying to digest one of the most controversial FIFA press conferences in history ahead of the most controversial Word Cup in history. And that's quite something given the history of this organization. It was at times quite jaw-dropping from President Infantino, particularly so quickly following off the back of that letter that he sent to all the competing federations, suggesting they should stick to the football, not talk about politics or morality. Don Riddell was there listening in, watching on. What did you make of it?

DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: It was extraordinary, wasn't it. And to say that it's the day before the World Cup kicks off, I don't think football was really mentioned. He arrived, and to say that he was bristling with irritation at the media's coverage of Qatar and everything that goes on here would be a monumental understatement.

He said he was going to talk for a few minutes, maybe 45 minutes with some questions. But he was still going with his monologue after an hour, which was quite incredible.

There was a lot of false equivalence. There was a lot of whataboutism. And he wasn't furious and angry, angry, but you could just tell he was so annoyed and so irritated about everything that's been said. And the thing that I think really surprised people came right off the back when he said I feel Qatari, I feel Arabic, and then, I feel like I'm a migrant, I feel I'm gay, which of course he's not. He's none of those things. Comparing yourself to a migrant when you're in a job that earns millions of dollars every year struck many as being extremely tone deaf.

He then kind of tried to suggest that he understood the situation because he was bullied at school because he had red hair and freckles. And it just seemed as though the whole thing was going completely off the rails. And it was very, very strange. And of course, this coming on the eve of the tournament where, as you say, he wants everybody to be talking about football. He wasn't doing that. He says that Qatar can defend itself. Come after me, he said. Crucify me, he even said. Don't come after Qatar. They can defend themselves. But he seemed to want to be defending them as well.

DAVIES: It was inflammatory language at a time, wasn't it, and talk of the double standards of the west as he really hit back at that criticism at the moment. But here we are, Don, now after the longest buildup to any World Cup in history. Sunday is the day that football finally gets underway. Qatar, the host, playing their first ever match at a World Cup final. You'd suspect that isn't going to stop the controversy.

WHITFIELD: Amanda Davies, Don Riddell, thanks so much for that.

Let's talk more on all of that. Tommy Vietor is back with us. He's a former National Security Council spokesperson under President Obama and now the host of the "World Corrupt Podcast" and co-host of "Pod Save America." So good to see you. Welcome back, Tommy. We talked last weekend. OK, so Don Riddell described the FIFA's president's remarks as a monologue. You've been all over talking about the controversy surrounding this tournament. What do you make of that message coming from the FIFA president and him saying any criticism is hypocrisy?

TOMMY VIETOR, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: It was laughable. It was one of the most absurd speeches I've ever heard. Actually, we cover in our series "World Corrupt" that the Kafala system, which is the abusive labor practice system that you find all across the gulf, is actually a legacy of British colonial rule. So that is something we talked about, and we should be cognizant of. But it doesn't mean we should look away when those practices are continuing right now.

He also compared having red hair to the treatment of migrant workers. It was one of the most absurd speeches I have ever heard. And I guess I shouldn't be surprised, because Gianni Infantino is the same man who told Vladimir Putin back in 2018 that we all fell in love with Russia when they hosted the World Cup in 2018. So it's clear that he's either a bit of a dupe or his praise is easily bought. I don't know. I'll let your viewers decide.

WHITFIELD: OK, and then what about this whole issue of the banning of alcohol sales around the matches? Budweiser has a huge contract with FIFA. And I think last weekend when we were talking about FIFA really having a grasp and understanding of the host nation, that perhaps it either didn't know or decided to look the other way. And now we've got the case of like a Budweiser spending goo-gobs of money to be part of this. Did FIFA know that alcohol would be off the table after the contract was made?


VIETOR: I think Budweiser pays $75 million to be associated with the World Cup. FIFA should have known. But here's a telling anecdote for you. When this selection process was happening, the World Cup host city selection process, each bidder puts together what's called a bid book. It details all the financial guarantees --

WHITFIELD: A package. VIETOR: -- infrastructure. Yes, exactly. Of the 22 FIFA members who

voted to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, only one of them asked to review the bid book. So they don't care about the details. It's a corrupt organization top to bottom.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. OK, and now let's talk football, because the discussions about everything else seem to be dominating. But the U.S. is going to be playing Wales on Monday. How do you suppose the U.S. is handling this? Of course, it wants to back its players. But it's hard to look the other way when you have got so much controversy surrounding these games, or this Cup.

VIETOR: Yes, look, I saw that they added the rainbow flag to the U.S. World Cup logo in solidarity with the LGBT community. And I think that's really important, because a week ago Qatar's World Cup ambassador told a German TV crew that homosexuality is, quote, "damage of the mind." This was a couple days ago. So I do think it's important to show that solidarity. I do believe the U.S. team also met with migrant workers so they could hear about their treatment directly. So they are doing what they can.

What's frustrating about this is we put so much pressure on these players to be moral leaders on top of being leaders on the field when FIFA is the problem. It's a corrupt institution that awarded this tournament to Qatar despite having no infrastructure and no history of playing soccer. There was no reason for them to ever get it. They created this mess, and now players have to clean it up. It's not fair.

WHITFIELD: So how do you suppose this might serve as framework for considerations FIFA will make for the next host nation of a World Cup?

VIETOR: Well, the problem is that Gianni Infantino, the individual who just compared being red-headed and freckled to being an LGBT person in Qatar which same-sex relationships can be punished with jailtime, was just reelected to be the president of FIFA and was reelected unopposed. So I think that unfortunately tells you a lot about their willingness and capacity to clean up their act over at FIFA. But again, what I'm watching is Saudi Arabia and Egypt are making a bid for the 2030 World Cup. If they are talking a good talk now about protecting workers rights and human rights going forward, but they award that World Cup to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, we know that it was all just words and they didn't mean any of it.

WHITFIELD: And then the U.S. State Department says they have been discussing human rights with Qatar and other partners in this region at all levels. And I'm quoting now, "We will continue to do so long after the World Cup concludes." Do you feel like the U.S. is going to put its money where its mouth is there?

VIETOR: Here's the challenge. Qatar wanted the World Cup, so now the spotlight is on them. And we are all talking about their human rights record. I'm sure they all are blindsided and frustrated when they look and say look at Saudi Arabia, look at the way they treat workers. Look at the UAE. There's a lot whataboutism happening. And so the U.S. will do what it can to exert constant ongoing pressure on friends, allies, partners, enemies to do better when it comes to human rights. But the U.S. only has so much control. It is the emir of Qatar who

will make all the decisions about reforming their labor practices and everything else we're talking about today. So the kind of onus is on them. The U.S. can only stand up for our values. But we have some pressure. We have a U.S. base there. There's a military base there that we can use as some sort of leverage, but not a lot.

WHITFIELD: Fascinating. Tommy Vietor, thank you so much. Good to see you.

VIETOR: Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: And thanks everyone for joining me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The CNN Newsroom continues right after the break.

But first here's a preview of the new film "Gabby Giffords, Won't Back Down." It tells the inspiring comeback story of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords who was a rising star in the Democratic Party when she was shot at a political event back in 2011.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joining us now is Representative Gabriel Giffords.

GIFFORDS: If an idea is a good idea, it's a good idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congresswoman Giffords was the target of the mass shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is beginning several months of rehab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me two fingers. All right, give me five.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are not allowed to quit on me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good news about Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. She was discharged today.


GIFFORDS: The words are there in my brain. I just can't get them out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She laughs at my jokes even when they are bad.

GIFFORDS: They're funny, funny, funny, funny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gabby Giffords making her way back to the Capitol.

GIFFORDS: Too many children are dying. We must do something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody could have been more compelling than Gabby was that day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Gabby Giffords, Won't Back Down," tomorrow night at 9:00 only on CNN.