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Tesla Investigated for Steering Wheels Failing; Lara Rhame is Interviewed about the Economy; Lawyer Wants Proud Boys Case Thrown Out; Data Breach of House Lawmakers and Staffers. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 09:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Tesla is facing a new investigation now. This after at least two drivers said their steering wheels detached while they were driving.


HILL: You heard that correctly. Federal safety regulators are now looking specifically at Tesla's model Y SUV. So, you see this here.

SCIUTTO: That's a problem.

HILL: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Prerak Patel (ph) tells CNN his two children were in the car with him when the steering wheel simply fell off, five days after receiving their 2023 vehicle. Five days. Luckily the road was straight, everyone was safe. I can imagine his fear.

CNN's Gabe Cohen joins us now with details.

Gabe, I mean, I wonder what Tesla's response is here and is this, to our knowledge, an isolated case?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, Erica, no surprise Tesla hasn't said anything publicly at this point. Neither has its CEO, Elon Musk. But we do know that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, known as NHTSA, is now investigating these two really terrifying incidents that you laid out when the steering wheels on these 2023 Model Y SUVs completely detached. They actually came off while the cars was being driven.

Now, in those cases, the cars were actually delivered to the owners without a certain bolt that attaches the wheel to the steering column, which is why that steering wheel was able to come off so easily.

Now, fortunately, there were no crashes or injuries in those incidents. There were, however, three other Model Ys that were found in dealer inventories that were also missing those bolts. Now, how that happened and how many other cars like that are out there, we just don't know that at this point. That's what investigators are looking at.

And to be clear, at this point it is not a recall. This is an investigation. But it could impact 120,000 SUVs if a recall does eventually happen.

And, Erica, Jim, Tesla is not the only car maker to be clear that's dealt with a problem like this. Nissan is also recalling more than a thousand SUVs for a missing bolt on its steering wheel. But, obviously, Tesla's safety features have been under the microscope.

HILL: Yes, and under the microscope, of course, for that other investigation when it comes to the auto pilot feature, which, as I understand, it is an add on. But for people who did chose to spend that $15,000 for the add on, a lot of concerns. Where does that stand?

COHEN: Yes, well, there is a development there, Erica. NHTSA has launched a special crash investigation, trying to figure out whether Tesla's controversial self-driving features may have played a role in yet another violent crash. This one last month in northern California when a Tesla actually plowed into a fire truck that was parked on a freeway. It was blocking lanes after another collision.


And that crash so powerful it killed the Tesla driver and it critically injured a passenger inside. It was so - so violent that that passenger actually had to be cut out of the vehicle.

And we also know there were four firefighters in the truck, but they only had minor injuries, fortunately.

But, again, it's part of this broader NHTSA investigation into Tesla's self-driving technology. It now includes more than 40 Tesla crashes and 20 fatalities. And you can, obviously, add this sad one to the list.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. Gabe Cohen, thanks so much for following it.

HILL: Well, new this morning, some weekly jobless numbers. The weekly claims actually rising to 211,000. That's up from 190,000 the week prior. And those new numbers come, of course, on the heels of two straight days of testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. Yesterday he appeared to calm investor concerns a bit by saying the Fed hadn't yet made a decision about more rate hikes.

Economist Lara Rhame joining us now with more.

So, when we look at all of this, what also stood out was, he hinted, perhaps, at 50 basis points. You say that gives him a little bit of wiggle room. I know you would like to see him stay the course, slow and steady, 25 basis points, but does this also help him in these sort of - I guess the Federal Reserve's equivalent of the under promise over deliver category. If I warn you maybe it's 50 and then I do 25, not too bad?

LARA RHAME, ECONOMIST: I think that's exactly right. Remember, they have several goals here. The first is to bring down inflation. The other is to try to get this really, really robust and probably too hot of a job market under control. But he's also pushing back against financial conditions. And on that score, the market keeps really testing the Fed's nerve to see if they're really serious about rate hikes. And I think yesterday his message and the day before, on Tuesday, was really to, once again, just push back and point to the fact that inflation is still too high. And if they need to go, they're going to.

HILL: So it's not just about inflation, though. What are the other factors that the Fed will be considering here?

RHAME: It is -- it's inflation and I want to really bring in this notion that wages are now probably even a more critical piece to the inflation picture. We were so focused last year on consumer price -- the Consumer Price Index. And, going forward, the job market data and tomorrow we're going to get that big, monthly employment report. It has a wage piece in it that, to me, is almost more important now going forward. And part of that is just the fact that we keep adding so many jobs. The unemployment rate at 3.4 percent is so strong, and it's stronger than the fed thinks it needs to be to keep our economy on the right footing and to keep inflation low.

HILL: We know that's part of what led to quite a back and forth between - between Powell and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Let's set that aside for a minute. I'm just curious your take. We're waiting for the president to make his way to Philadelphia, I believe where you are there, where he's going to release his budget plan. There's still this issue, though, of the debt ceiling. And this is continually getting kicked down the road.

Look, Americans see this happen, unfortunately, quite often, certainly over the last decade or so. In terms of this vicious cycle, though, do you think there will -- or when or if, I guess, do you think there will actually be some appetite to fix the real issue here and break this cycle?

RHAME: I hope that there is. Actually, you know, it's something -- the debt ceiling is something that I have really been warning our clients and investors about because I don't want us to go into this environment feeling too complaisant. I actually cringe when I hear a lot of people say, oh, it'll resolve like it did in 2011. That was bad. We had a pretty big risk off rotation. Equity markets were down. Ironically, treasuries were up. You know, treasury yields fell. But it also hit consumer confidence.

This coming year, when we know that the Fed is trying to slow the economy down, that's a tough thing to manage without a recession. We need to be careful around events that could hit consumer confidence more head on. And the debt ceiling, I think is - is a kind of ripe situation for a problem like that to emerge.

I don't want to be overly alarmist, but I think we need to really avoid complacency because a negotiated solution is going to be the path forward and neither side right now seems to be very interested in negotiation.

HILL: Well, maybe we're lucky and they were listening to you just now and they will get to the job at hand.

Lara Rhame, great to have you with us this morning. Thank you.

RHAME: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, the latest AI capability, which could be funny, but it's also worrying. Computer generated voices that sound exactly like you or me.


CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has been having some fun finding out how this could be dangerously exploited.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been doing this a long time and I have to say Donie O'Sullivan is probably the best in the business.

O'SULLIVAN: It's incredible.


O'SULLIVAN: That's very kind of him to say that as well.

FARID: It's really - really - you know, you should be honored, really.



SCIUTTO: So called deep fake technology has given us sometimes funny videos of dancing celebrities, but, and this is crucial, it can also pose a serious security risk. A new artificial intelligence tool makes it so easy to fake someone's voice you can even trick their own mom and dad.

HILL: That's right. Our colleague Donie O'Sullivan found that out for himself.


So, you actually used this on your parents, people who we at CNN, and frankly around the globe, people love your parents. So, I hope you were treating them with kid gloves here.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: My long-suffering parents, yes.

Look, as Jim mentioned, this is - it can be a bit of fun. There's lots of fun uses for this, like pranking your mom and dad. But what we have also seen is there's really potential, dangerous consequences.

HILL: Yes.

O'SULLIVAN: But, first, take a look at this.



O'SULLIVAN: Hi, mom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Donie. Hi, how are you?

O'SULLIVAN: Does my voice sound different to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I just said that to Sinead. I said, Donie sounds so American.

O'SULLIVAN: This is not actually me. This is a voice made by computer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God, are you serious?

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, mom, sorry.

There's been an explosion in fake audio and voices generated through artificial intelligence technology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an AI cloned version of Walter White's voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an AI cloned version of Leonardo DiCaprio's voice.

O'SULLIVAN: All you need is a couple of minutes recording of anyone's voice and you can make it seem like they have said just about anything. Even --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anderson Cooper. We've come here to UC Berkeley today to talk to Hany Farid, a digital forensic expert, about just how easy it is to put words into other people's mouths.

O'SULLIVAN: It's a lot of fun.


O'SULLIVAN: But it's also really scary.

FARID: I think once you put aside that gee whiz factor, I don't think it takes a long time to look at the risks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Wolf Blitzer. Hany Farid, you are in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

O'SULLIVAN: That sounds really -

FARID: That's good. O'SULLIVAN: Yes, that sounds pretty good.

O'SULLIVAN (voice over): By uploading just a few minutes of me and some of my colleagues' voices to an AI audio service, I was able to create some convincing fakes, including this one of Anderson Cooper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donie O'Sullivan is a real piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): That's AI.

FARID: Is it really?


FARID: That's good.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, Anderson's is really good.


O'SULLIVAN: Because Anderson doesn't have a stupid Irish accent.


O'SULLIVAN: Of course Anderson would never say that about me in reality ever.

HILL: Sure. I mean he never said that to me about you, Donie. Not once.


O'SULLIVAN: Well - but, look, and people can go on to to see the whole video there. But ultimately it did trick my parents. And my dad had a long conversation with the AI Donie about our local football team at home back in Ireland.

But, look, all fun and games here, but it's not hard to see how this can go badly very quickly, especially as we go into the 2024 election.


HILL: It's really scary, actually.

SCIUTTO: Hundred percent. I mean faking in a political race, right, faking statements by people running for office. You can make accusations about people, I imagine, based on AI generated voices. This is remarkable.

O'SULLIVAN: And it also gives people the ability to deny reality.

HILL: Yes.

O'SULLIVAN: So, for instance, as Hany Farid mentioned to me during our interview, you know, the "Access Hollywood" tape in 2016, it would have been easy with this technology now around for somebody to say -- for Trump to say, I never really said that, that's a deep fake.


HILL: Right. So then we need part two.

SCIUTTO: Well, Trump has raised - he's raised that before. He's like sort of floated that out there. I imagine we'll see - well, prepare ourselves to see it again.

Donie O'Sullivan, thanks so much.

HILL: Yes.


SCIUTTO: Still ahead, the personal information of hundreds of lawmakers, their families, and staff members have been compromised. This after yet another major data breach. That story, how it happened, coming up.



SCIUTTO: A lawyer for one of the Proud Boys, on trial now for seditious conspiracy, has asked a federal judge to throw out his case. Why? Based on the Capitol Hill surveillance footage that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy released to the Fox host, Tucker Carlson, and he has since used to downplay all the violence we witnessed that day.

HILL: Yes. He is actively trying to rewrite history.

CNN's senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz joining us now with more here.

So, how exactly is this footage now being used in court, Katelyn?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, this is a snippet of the footage that has been available to defendants. But in the Proud Boys' case, which is currently in the middle of trial, they still have defense witnesses, there still has not been closing arguments in that case. In the middle of trial, a lawyer for one of the Proud Boys is arguing that the trial should be dismissed or that a mistrial should be declared. They've been trying this tactic several times. Right now they're seizing upon that Fox News video that has been out there in recent days saying that it's plainly exculpatory for them, for the Proud Boys defendants that aren't even in that video.

But this video about Jacob Chansley, the QAnon shaman, it's been kicking up dust in court, not just in the Proud Boys case, but for other defendants who are also saying that they should have more access to this video, that it was exculpatory. But the Justice Department has slowly been responding to them in court in recent days saying that this sort of footage, for many, many - most of these defendants, and even Chansley at this point, it's likely immaterial. It is very likely already in the defendant's possession. They already have likely been able to see it among the thousands of hours of video that they have. And this really is all about the Jacob Chansley case, that at this point is closed. He has been sentenced to prison. He admitted in court to his crimes. And that including he admitting that he was riling up people in the Capitol with a bull horn, that he left a threatening note on the dias (ph) of the vice president in the Senate chamber and that he admitted his guilt and begged for forgiveness at his sentencing.

Jim and Erica.

HILL: Minor details, right?

SCIUTTO: Goodness.

HILL: Those facts, kind of important.


Katelyn Polantz, thanks so much. We'll stick to the facts.

HILL: Well, the personal information of hundreds of House members and their staffers has been stolen. This came after a cyber-attack on a D.C. health insurance marketplace.

SCIUTTO: I mean these things happen so often. And this is very sensitive data. Someone who claims to have stolen the data advertised then selling the information on the dark web, as it's known, saying that breach impacted 170,000 people.


CNN cybersecurity report Sean Lyngaas joins us now.

Sean, a familiar pattern here. So, this is -- this is ransomware, in effect?

SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: We don't know, Jim, if it's ransomware or not. Ransomware is very common these days in the last few years. This could be - have been something as simple as - as a breach - a hacker getting into the network and stealing data. We just don't know. It's a very developing situation.

Now, this kind of thing happens all the time. But what makes this different, Jim, is that House lawmakers are the ones that were victimized. And so you've got Social Security Numbers and other stuff potentially floating around on the internet, and that gets people's attention.

I will say, though, that this - like I said, this happens a lot the other people. Right now we're dealing with another case in Minnesota where there's a school district where students were victimized. And you don't really see the same level of attention on that.

It's an evolving situation. I tried contacting the person claiming to have sold the data last night. I asked them how much they sold it for. I did not get a response. And then shortly after I asked my question, the advertisement on that web form went down.


LYNGAAS: So, I don't think the person is appreciating the attention right now, and it certainly has the full attention of the FBI.

Jim and Erica.

HILL: Yes, it will be interesting to see as we - as we learn new details about how that happened. But 170,000 people is certainly nothing to sneeze at.

Sean, appreciate it. Thank you.

Just ahead, we are live on the ground in Ukraine on the heels of one of the deadliest missile strikes on the part of Russia. Those missiles raining down overnight.

Stay with us.