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Texas House Votes To Impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton; Debt Ceiling Standoff; Interview With Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL); Ukraine's Military Carefully Crafts Messaging On Counteroffensive; Social Media Liability Debated After High Court Ruling; Artificial Intelligence, Deepfakes Used To Make Political Content. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 27, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington and we are following two major stories unfolding at this hour. Moments ago in Texas, the state's House of Representatives voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton. He is accused of bribery and abuse of public trust.
The conservative Republican said the impeachment was illegal and being pushed by what he called corrupt politicians. We'll have more on that in just a moment.
But in the meantime in Washington, its deal or no deal. Two sources tell CNN that President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are expected to speak by phone this hour. It comes during a critical moment in the debt ceiling talks and a source says it's now down to one final sticking point, work requirements for social safety net programs.
The White House and Republican leaders may have as little as eight days to prevent the US from defaulting on its debts. Many experts predict economic disaster if that happens.
Let's begin with the debt talks. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is over at the White House, Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.
Manu, they would not be getting on the phone just to go over what they're going to have at their Memorial Day weekend barbecue. I mean, this this means that maybe we're getting close.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed it does. In fact, I just spoke to Patrick McHenry, who is one of the key negotiators who has been in the room all along about this phone call.
I asked him what is the purpose of this phone call. He said, it is because of those sticking points. He said that the president and the speaker need to get on the phone and try to hash out the remaining sticking points. And he mentioned the work requirements that we've been reporting that has been a chief sticking point.
Work requirements on social safety net programs like food stamps and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. Republicans believe that certain individuals who benefit from that program should be forced to go back into the workforce. Democrats believe it's an attack on the working poor.
They believe it's an attack on families that need these benefits. So how do they reconcile that? That's a big issue. But he also said another issue the president still needs to resolve with the speaker is on spending cuts.
We know that has been a part of these negotiations all along. Republicans demanding steeper spending cuts. McCarthy has said his red line is they need to spend less money next year than we're doing this year for the federal government, but it sounded according to Patrick McHenry, that has not been totally resolved yet either.
So the point of this phone call that's happening in this hour is can they figure out a way to resolve this impasse that the negotiators themselves have not been able to figure out over the last several days.
And as you mentioned, Jim, time is of the essence here. They want to get a deal tonight in order to release the legislative text as soon as tonight and try to get it on the House floor as soon as Tuesday and then try to get it through the Senate as well. That will take several more days before we get into June 5th, and we're not even talking about the complication of counting the votes, getting people on the left and right behind this bill, and we expect a lot of opposition from both sides of the aisle over this deal.
So a lot of moving parts, but the moment, the critical phone call, the president and the speaker, can they resolve those final disagreements -- Jim.
ACOSTA: All right, yes. Very critical phone call, indeed.
Let's go over to the White House. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez.
Priscilla, what is the latest you're hearing from over there at the White House. I mean, it sounds as though if they're getting on the phone, that's at least something. That's progress.
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Jim, a source familiar tells me that that call is expected to start at six. So they may be on the phone now and I was also told that President Biden spoke earlier today with Democratic leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Schumer and House Minority Leader Jeffries.
So all of this coming to a head, of course, as those negotiations have continued throughout the day, one of the sticking points that remain was those work requirements for social safety net programs.
Now, we know what the White House position has been on this. Yesterday, a White House spokesperson said that the White House is "standing against" this cruel and senseless tradeoff.
So clearly, this was a point of concern for the White House, not only for them, but also in terms of how it would sit with House Democrats who have expressed frustration about this being included in any type of deal.
So of course, that is likely one of the issues that is coming up on the call with President Biden and House Speaker McCarthy. But as you heard there from Manu, it's not just reaching a deal. It is all the steps that follow that, that includes releasing the text, a vote on the House floor, and later a vote on the Senate floor -- all of this before June 5th.
So it's a long road ahead still for a short amount of time and so both sides working hard over the last 24 hours and especially now to reach an agreement so they can proceed with what's to follow and avoid a default, which, as you note, Jim, would have catastrophic consequences for the economy.
ACOSTA: That's right and that is why we are following all the twists and turns. It could be a long evening, guys. Sorry, I know it's a holiday weekend, but Manu and Priscilla, thanks so much.
More now on the high drama in the Texas State House, which has just voted to send Articles of Impeachment against Attorney General Ken Paxton over to the Senate for a trial. He has been impeached.
Rosa Flores, joins us with the latest along with Scott Braddock, editor of the "Quorum Report" in Austin.
Rosa, this vote means that Ken Paxton, that's it. He's been suspended, right, from office until the end of a Senate trial. Give us the latest.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, you're absolutely right, because under Texas law, as soon as an individual is impeached in the Texas House, that means that Ken Paxton, the attorney general is no longer the attorney general.
He has been suspended as of the moment that that vote was made in the Texas House. Now, Texas Governor Greg Abbott now can appoint a replacement, and that replacement is pending the results of the trial in the Senate.
But let me take you inside the Texas House because here's the moment when that vote came down. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DADE PHELAN, TEXAS HOUSE SPEAKER: There have been 121 ayes and 23 nays, two present non-voting, three absent. The resolution is adopted.
The chair directs the chief clerk to notify the governor of the House's action. The chair directs the Committee on general investigating to prepare any further resolution required.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: Now, as you heard there, the House speaker specifically said that that decision was going to be sent to the governor of Texas and that is specifically why, because now the governor has the power under the Constitution of Texas to appoint a replacement.
Now before all of this, there have been hours and hours of debate with a lot of the proponents and opponents of this impeachment going forward and explaining their positions. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN SMITHEE (R), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: I'm not here to defend Ken Paxton. And what you're being asked to do today is to impeach without evidence. It is all rumor, it is all innuendo, it is all speculation.
TONY TINDERHOLT (R), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: Let me tell you, I don't think today is about whether there's guilt or innocence. It's about the process.
RICHARD HAYES (R), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: I have heard from many of my friends and constituents during the last 48 hours, I'm sure many of you had, the speed and transparency of this process has been described in their e-mails using such words and these are their words, as being a political setup, steamrolled, sham, political whack job, weaponized political prosecution, railroaded.
These are not my words, but the words of concerned citizens. Our citizens are concerned. They want fairness.
TERRY CANALES (D), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: We have a decision to make here today. Do we listen to our colleagues, a bipartisan committee that sat and listened to hours of testimony that held the investigation since March to come before you, members of the highest integrity, Representative Murr, Representative Johnson, Representative LaGuardia (ph), Representative Spiller.
I've never been lied to one of them once -- by one of them, never. In fact, I hold them to the highest regard. I tell you that I've have faith in them. I have faith in you. Fear not politics. Fear corruption.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: Now, the ending vote was 121 for; and 23 against. They only needed 75. So what happens next?
Now, the Articles of Impeachment go to the Senate and in the Senate, the lieutenant governor is the judge. There are 31 senators who will be the jurors and in the Senate, a two-thirds vote of those present is required.
And Jim, this is a historic moment in the state of Texas. There have only been two impeachments prior to this. One in 1917 when Governor James Ferguson was impeached, and then in 1975, a district judge was impeached.
So a very historic moment. Now, it is unclear the timing of when this will go to the Senate, but of course we will be watching -- Jim. ACOSTA: All right, Rosa Flores, and we should know we just got a
statement from Ken Paxton, the impeached attorney general and he says this: "I am beyond grateful to have the support of millions of Texans who recognize that what we just witnessed is illegal, unethical and profoundly unjust. I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate."
He goes on to say, "Well, I have full confidence the process will be fair and just." Scott, in the last hour, you predicted that this would happen. You said about a hundred votes, it ended up being well over a hundred votes, 121 votes.
But over in the Senate, Rosa was saying it's going to take a two- thirds majority. That sounds like a tall order, especially in Texas.
SCOTT BRADDOCK, EDITOR, QUORUM REPORT: It is a tall order, but I'm laughing because it's very funny and ironic to hear Ken Paxton lecture anybody about ethics and integrity. He has been corrupt for a long time. This is the recognition of that by people in his own party.
And you're right. In the Texas Senate, it's going to be a higher threshold for sure. It's two-thirds of those who are present.
Look, if you think about it the way you think about the indictments and the impeachments of folks, either connected to former President Trump or President Trump himself when he was impeached in Washington, and it works very similar to that here in Texas.
The House basically makes an indictment in the form of the impeachment, and then the Senate has the trial.
I find it interesting, Rosa mentioned that, basically the presiding officer of the Senate, not necessarily the judge in this case, but the guy who will hold the gavel is Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and he is the kind of Republican I mean, ideologically and the kind of person who has the support of former President Trump, like Ken Paxton does, but I might have expected Patrick to be sort of dismissive of this, but he hasn't been.
In the last few days, you've had Patrick come out and say that the Senate is going to take its duty very seriously when it comes to this, and he would not make any predictions about how it might go.
ACOSTA: And Scott, I mean, you just indicated this. President Trump was weighing in, Ted Cruz was weighing in. Ken Paxton had a lot of high-power political support, and yet the vote was a resounding vote in favor of impeachment.
BRADDOCK: I think that the House was already poised to impeach Ken Paxton anyway, before he accused the speaker, David Phelan of being a drunk, essentially. Earlier this week, you had the attorney general tweet out that Dave Phelan should resign his office because there was a video of him with slurred speech during a late night session at the Texas House in the week prior. So one of the things that's -- one of the aspects of this is not just
the alleged misdeeds of Paxton, but I think that vote also shows you that this really became a question about leadership in the Texas House and whether Democratic and Republican members of the Texas House were going to side with Phelan and not fight against Paxton.
And so look, it is Texas politics, it's not for the squeamish. It's full contact and all of that, and we're going to see how this turns out in the Senate.
ACOSTA: And to that point, Rosa, earlier today, one of the lawmakers said Paxton was threatening House members with political consequences in the next election if they didn't side with him. That sounds like a pretty clear indication of how this is going to go down in the Senate.
It could be pretty bare knuckles over there, too, Rosa. We might have Rosa, but Scott --
FLORES: Oh, sorry, that question was for me.
ACOSTA: Yes. What do you think? I mean, it sounds as though it got pretty rough over there in the House before this vote. That might happen over in the Senate, too?
FLORES: You know, you're absolutely right, and what we learned from the floor of the House, and this was from two different House members, they said before the floor that several members received calls from Ken Paxton, who has now been suspended ever since that vote came down just a few moments ago with threatening messages.
And in fact, there was one of the members who tweeted out that they were going to ask for that to be placed on the record and I believe we have that tweet for you, and this is from Eddie Morales Jr. tweeting: "I will be submitting a journal statement to amend charge documents to include abuse of power, intimidation of House members and Senate jury tampering in light of Charlie Geren (that is one of the representatives who made statements on the floor saying that these threats had been made) statements that AG Paxton called and threatened House and Senate members."
So some serious allegations here, Jim regarding these threats, and of course, I have reached out to Paxton's office and we have not heard back.
ACOSTA: All right, Rosa Flores, Scott Braddock, a very interesting day, important day in Texas politics. Thanks to both of you. We appreciate it very much.
With President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy set to speak by phone this hour. They may be speaking right now as a matter of fact, my conversation with a Republican lawmaker and whether his fellow Republicans will back a deal to raise the debt ceiling is coming up next.
And I'll ask a Democratic congressman, Maxwell Frost if he feels comfortable with what's reportedly on the table. We'll talk about that in a few moments.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: This hour, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are speaking as negotiations continue on the debt ceiling.
Earlier this afternoon, I spoke to Republican Congressman Tim Burchett of Tennessee. Here is some of that conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): I think Speaker McCarthy is keeping to his word and what he said and the things that he put in there and that he'd like to keep in there and I think those are still in there.
ACOSTA: And last month you were among just a handful of Republican House members to vote against the party's debt ceiling plan.
From what you know of a potential deal, is there enough debt reduction to win your support and what about this idea of kicking the can past 2024 so this doesn't come up again during an election year.
BURCHETT: The 2024 thing is just -- it's been in conversations for a few days now.
I think that that could pull a lot of people off of it, actually. But I mean, just to be honest with you, Jim, since I've been in Washington, the Democrats, they hold -- they are the carrot and the stick party, and they do it very well. And if the president calls, I don't see them bucking. If he cuts a deal, I think they'll phrase it and they'll use their wordsmiths enough to where they will all vote for it and the vast majority.
I mean, you might have the squad or a few of those holdouts, but that's all you'll see and Hakeem Jeffries is -- you know, he's the one in the spot right now because the Democrats are really pushing and their side is more IRS agents. I mean, that's how we'll spin it. More IRS agents, more regulation, and more spending.
So I think they're -- I think Kevin McCarthy is in a very powerful position right now.
ACOSTA: Well, you talked about the Democrats. Let's talk about the Republicans. Let's play a bit of what then President Trump said on the national debt almost five years ago.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, THEN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The economy, we can go a lot higher and you know, people don't talk. We have $21 trillion in debt. When this really kicks in, we'll start paying off that debt like it's water, we will start paying that debt down.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ACOSTA: You know, Congressman, former President Trump, then President Trump promised to pay down the debt, he never did it. In fact, under President Trump, it climbed from about $20 trillion to about $28 trillion. Now, it stands at about $31 trillion. Doesn't your party and former President Trump have a credibility problem when it comes to this issue of the national debt?
BURCHETT: We're all at blame, Jim. You know, I voted against under Trump and I voted against the budgets actually, under him. I have a record, a track record of that, you know. Some people have the mentality just paying the interest, I don't.
You know, in Tennessee, we pay our debt. We're a balanced budget state. I spent 16 years in the legislature and we balanced the budget under Democrats and under Republicans. We balanced the budget every year. And now, we thought so much of it, they put it in the constitution that you have to balance the budget.
So it is a reality, though, that both parties run it up. And they call it one thing or the other. They say, oh, you know, the sacred cows. Of course, I don't find any sacred cows. I'd like to see some cuts at the Pentagon and everybody seems to say, whoa, Burchett, you can't do that.
But the reality is, we need to start seeing some of that, too. And when you audit the Pentagon, and they fail their audits every year, they lose over a billion dollars, how do you lose over a billion dollars? And it just goes unchecked.
And we're all to blame, Jim. There is plenty of blame to go around. But eventually, somebody's going to have to be responsible. And I'd like to be the one -- there are four Republicans that said enough is enough, you know, the way Washington math works is -- go ahead.
ACOSTA: Well, I was going to say, is it responsible, though, to vote against a deal if it means a debt default? Are you willing to do that? Are you a no, no matter what?
BURCHETT: I'm not willing to vote this country into more debt, as I see it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And Congressman Burchett went on to say he questions the accuracy of June 5th as a potential deadline, and whether the country really would go into default. The experts say it would be an economic disaster.
Let's continue this conversation. Joining us now is Congressman Maxwell Frost, he's a Democrat from Florida.
Congressman, thanks for sharing your Saturday with us. I wanted to play some of that for you just to get your reaction from Representative Tim Burchett.
He seems to be saying he's -- I mean, he's indicating he is a no, no matter what, although he didn't say that in a hard and fast kind of way. But he also indicated he doesn't really buy the June 5th deadline that the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said is pretty much a done deal. It's got to get done by June 5th, I should say, or else there's going to be an economic calamity. Your response to all that?
REP. MAXWELL FROST (D-FL): Well, look, I mean, I have no reason to believe that the Treasury Department has their numbers incorrect and I don't think this is something that we should be messing around with or trying to test out.
For the country to default would be incredibly harmful to working families across this country. We're talking about people not receiving their Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, students on Pell not being able to go to school. That's not something that you mess around with, so this does need to get figured out.
But the problem here, Jim, is that Republicans have manufactured this crisis and created it when under Trump and they raised the debt ceiling three times, no if, ands, or buts, and no conversations about the budget like this.
And so I think that we need to move forward and do what the American people have sent us to DC to do, lift this debt ceiling, move on. The budget process is a separate process and the things that Republicans are fighting for, food stamps -- taking away food stamps from people, work requirements when we already have work requirements attached to these programs. It's just not the right thing.
ACOSTA: Right. And I was just going to ask you this. A source familiar with these talks say the negotiations are coming down to one final sticking point and that is these work requirements that Republicans have proposed for some social safety net programs.
Is that a non-starter for you? If that kind of language goes into legislation to raise the debt ceiling, might that potentially peel off progressive Democrats in the House such as yourself? What do you think?
FROST: Yes. We will have to see what to see what it is, but a hundred percent, it's not just progressive Democrats, the Congressional Black Caucus spoke out against work requirements and I want people to know too, recent work requirements, but we already have work requirements attached to these programs. What the Republicans are looking for are cuts to these programs, and we, as Democrats want to fight to ensure that working families have the resources that they need.
The Congressman was just talking about balancing the budget. I agree this is important. But the only conversation they want to have, have to do with making cuts to working families and the programs that they depend on and they don't want to have a conversation about making the top one percent actually pay their taxes, the revenue that taxes bring in. And that just shows, you know who these parties are serving right now.
ACOSTA: And, Congressman, we're hearing from our sources that many House Democrats just feel cut out of this process. Do you feel that way? Has it been too much of a negotiation between the White House and House Republicans, and just sort of leaving House Democrats off to the sidelines?
FROST: Well, the president and the White House has done a good job of keeping us up-to-date over the past couple of weeks. And I also understand, when you're having discussions like this, you don't want to have too many people in the room.
But again, I have to say that this entire thing that we're talking about, this impending economic collapse on our country is something completely made by the Republican Party, and I think we have to keep this in mind as we move forward because we're hearing this narrative that we have two sides negotiating, and we'll see what happens. That's really not what's going on.
It's not like Democrats are getting things in these talks. It is the Republican Party holding a gun to the American people and saying, look, if you don't cut programs that working families depend on, we're going to pull the trigger and put the economy into a recession. That's what's going on right now.
And so, of course, the president's going to continue these talks. The White House said yesterday that they weren't in favor of these work requirements, and that they were discussing. I agree with that.
And so I have faith in the president. We're hoping that he'll hold the line on work requirements. But again, it's not just progressives, it's Democrats across the entire House who don't want to see these programs cut.
ACOSTA: Do you wish the president had never started these negotiations with House Republicans and had just told them, we're not negotiating over the debt ceiling, raise the debt ceiling. You did it under Trump, do it while I'm president.
FROST: Well, you know, something I was just thinking about that we were talking about with some other members is the fact that this probably should have been done last year when the Democrats still had the House and the Senate.
But you know, 20/20 is hindsight, and right now we just need to focus on how we move forward and get through this crisis, and ensure that the American people can actually have faith in their government and so, I'm confident in the work that the White House is doing. House Democrats are here spreading this message so people know that, again, this narrative that it is two sides duking it out is not really what's going on right now.
The American people are being held hostage by the Republican Party in Congress. And on top of that, they've said as much, Matt Gaetz, just a few days ago said, you shouldn't negotiate with your hostage and the hostage, you know, it's not the president, it's the American people. ACOSTA: But I guess, hearing what you're saying there, do you think
that the president should have said, no, no, we're just not going to negotiate if you're going to do it this way. I guess in hindsight, do you wish that this process had not gotten started the way it has, and that Democrats had not and that the White House had not negotiated this with Republicans? Are you essentially in the situation where you agree, you are kind of a hostage?
FROST: We are hostage right now. That's exactly what's going on. And I think the president has made the right decision to engage, but I will say we shouldn't even be here in the first place, I do believe that, and it is difficult, because we are talking about something very serious, the default of this country.
And Democrats and the president, we care about that. We don't want to default. There are some in the Republican Party who don't care and maybe they're kind of curious to see what would happen. And we understand how much of a burden that would be on the American people.
So look, it's difficult to say, these are really difficult times right now, especially when people are you using a default to push a political agenda forward and so people at home know the budget process is separate from this. They are combining it because they understand that they can't get through these type of cuts through the actual normal process that Congress usually takes, and so they've combined these two things and they're saying, hey, it's my way or the highway and that's not right and that's not the way we're supposed to govern.
ACOSTA: And just very quickly, Congressman, because you're a member of Generation Z. We've talked about this before on this program. And I know you've talked about it in other places as well. I have to think as a member of that generation, you have to care about the national debt, because it is getting so high to the point where it may really have a negative impact on your generation. You may not be able to afford the kind of programs that Americans have today, because the debt may just crush all of that in the long run.
FROST: Yes, I mean, we do care about the national debt. But again, this has to be a holistic conversation. And there's many ways that we can deal with our budget, deal with the debt to ensure that future generations in this country have the resources that they need.
And there's a huge part of this that Republicans don't even want to talk about and that's ensuring that corporations and the wealthy actually pay their fair share in taxes. There are so much that we can do in terms of that, but they don't even want to hear it. It's not even a part of the discussion right now. And I think it really shows who that party is serving and we need to ensure that we do everything we can to balance the budget, yes, but not like this.
ACOSTA: All right. Congressman Maxwell Frost, thanks very much for your time. We appreciate it.
FROST: Thank you for having me on. ACOSTA: All right. Talk to you in the days ahead. Thanks so much.
Coming up, "The time has come to take back what is ours." Those words from the commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces, paired with a dramatic video posted on social media as speculation mounts that a counteroffensive is imminent.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: Search and rescue operations are over at a medical facility in central Ukraine that was hit by Russian forces. At least two people died, and dozens more were left injured. Kyiv and Western allies calling all of this a war crimes attack. This comes as a top Ukraine military official hints a counteroffensive could be imminent.
Text appears underneath the video just over a minute in length, showing Ukrainian forces apparently training at sunrise which says, "The time has come to take back what is ours."
And we're joined now by CNN Military Analyst and former U.S. Army Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling.
Gen. Hertling, great to see you as always. What did you think when you saw this take back what is ours video? It sounds like they're gearing up.
MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, I think so, Jim. I think some of it is certainly messaging to the opponents on the other side. But certainly some of the video, it probably isn't apparent to most people watching the film. But the shots inside the video had a lot of Western equipment.
There was a Chieftain or a Leo II tank in one of the pictures. There was some artillery pieces, some HIMARS shooting. So it just goes to show that this is additional messaging that you have a disciplined Ukrainian force getting ready to - for the assault.
And Gen. Zaluzhnyi, who's the head of the Ukrainian military, had a single phrase that he used, bless our decisive offensive?
So I think, yes, some of it is certainly they're getting ready to conduct operations, but certainly some of it is also messaging.
ACOSTA: And let's talk about the attack in Dnipro. Ukrainian officials say it is clear evidence that Russia is intentionally targeting civilians, claiming such attacks should be considered war crimes, something that France is apparently echoing as well.
I know we've talked about this before, general, but is there any indication that this kind of condemnation is going to stop these types of attacks? I suppose you have to call them out when they happen, though, regardless. HERTLING: Yes, there's no way any of the condemnation is going to
attack the - stop the attacks, Jim, because this is the Russian way of war. We've been talking about this for 16 months now. The use of illegal weapons like cluster munitions, the fact that they are targeting specifically civilian infrastructure to include hospitals and schools and medical facilities.
So all of those things just add to the list of Geneva Convention and law of land warfare crimes that the Russians have been committed. And it isn't just guidance from above, Mr. Putin has said this, their narrators on their TV channels in the country have blessed it and in fact have encouraged it. So what you're talking about is just, again, it is the Russian way of war that seems to be acceptable and in a very bold way, they continue to target Ukrainian civilian, which violates everything that was stated in the Geneva Conventions of 1947.
ACOSTA: All right. Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling on a very busy Memorial Day weekend Saturday. General, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it. Good talking to you.
HERTLING: Thank you, Jim. Thank you very much.
ACOSTA: All right. All right, appreciate it.
Coming up, after the Supreme Court weighed in, there is renewed debate over whether social media companies should be protected from legal liability for the content on their platforms. We'll discuss some new developments in that subject coming up next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: A debate is swirling over whether social media companies should be held liable for graphic content and misinformation posted on their platforms. The Supreme Court weighed in on the matter this month, preserving a law known as Section 230 that allows companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter to avoid lawsuits over content users post to their sites.
But critics have opposed to the law vow they will continue their efforts to hold big tech accountable.
One of those persons is Andy Parker, who joins us now.
Andy, his daughter, Alison, was a reporter who was fatally shot in 2015 on live television. He's been fighting to have video of that incident taken down from social media.
Andy, great to see you. We've talked about this issues several times. It's so important and so great to have you back. Let's get your reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling and what does it mean for this battle that you've been waging to try to get this - some of this really horrific content pulled off of these big companies' websites? ANDY PARKER: Well, Jim, it's always great to be with you and thanks.
Silicon Valley was popping corks last week with the Supreme Court decision punning the Section 230 issue back to Congress, because they feel like justifiably so that Congress won't act. And it's no coincidence that Facebook, this week, just like Twitter, they started laying off content moderators.
The people that are supposed to be protecting us from all this stuff, because they don't fear the consequences.
And meanwhile, the raw video of Alison's murder still circulates on Facebook, Instagram and Google along with all sorts of illegal drug and weapons sales and violent content.
And I wrote about this in my book for Alison and, Jim, the thing that pisses me off the most, just like the Facebook whistleblower said, these platforms monetize content. And for those of us who've been harmed by it, we can't do a damn thing to stop them.
ACOSTA: And one of the sad things about this, Andy, is that as we continue to have mass shootings and those kinds of tragedies in this country, there are other families now going through a very similar thing to what you went through, because there are - sometimes the shooters will live stream these sorts of things. Sometimes you do see the video posted by other users on these websites, and so that - it just continues on for other people as well.
But I understand that you have been working up on Capitol Hill to try to get some momentum moving forward on this issue, to try to do it legislatively, what's the latest on that?
PARKER: Yes, Jim, and I think the tide's turning. Look, I think that both sides of the aisle see that it's time to repeal Section 230 protection for these tech companies since they've shown over and over again that they just can't be trusted to do the right thing.
So I think that I saw that Nikki Haley came out who - she's obviously Republican presidential candidate, she came out in favor of repealing these sanctions or the repealing of Section 230 immunity for these companies.
So I think slowly but surely now that Congress realizes the balls in their court, I think that they're - from what I can gather, there's movement to create some bipartisan legislation, and I'm going to be there doing everything I can to push for this legislation and advocate.
And I think it's actually going to probably be easier to get something like this done to - then, it will be to pass new gun legislation. So I'm hopeful --
PARKER: -- listen, Congress has - was been in a tizzy about AI. Well, AI is already here and it's called social media.
ACOSTA: Right. Well, let me - let - you just mentioned Nikki Haley, you just mentioned her. Let's listen to what she had to say and talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You go to those tech companies and you say, because they said, we can't control what other people say, we can't be held liable, but now we see they decide what gets pushed, they decide what they do. It's not about free speech. So I think we pull Section 230 back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Andy, I talked to somebody in Big Tech recently about some of this and this person said, we get criticized from somebody who say, we have too much content on these websites and some who say we don't have enough. And they feel like they're caught in the middle. This - is that kind of a cop-out?
PARKER: It is a cop-out, because - and I've used this analogy many times before, if you decided to put a soundtrack on a YouTube video, and you put it in there, you're editing the soundtrack and it's from a, I don't know, whatever band or performance that you want to put in as an audio track, they'll flag it immediately.
So they have the technology to do this. They have the technology to flag and that's actually part of AI. The good part of AI is that they can make this - they can flag this content and get rid of it. But they don't want to do it as - and again, I go back to Francis Hogan (ph), because they make money from it. They make money from it.
And that's got to stop and I think that, again, per Nikki Haley's comment and what I'm seeing or hearing on the Hill is that I think enough is enough. I think Congress is ready to act and it takes them forever to do anything, but I think hopefully we're finally here.
ACOSTA: All right. Andy Parker, we can see Alison over your shoulder. Thanks so much. We really appreciate it.
PARKER: Yep, always with me.
ACOSTA: Always good to - I know she is and we'll be right back.
PARKER: Likewise, Jim. Take care.
ACOSTA: Good to see you.
ACOSTA: While many Americans feel like intelligence and politics is getting rare, artificial intelligence and politics is starting to trend. Donald Trump, Jr. is among those circulating a clip online right now that's a deepfake of Florida governor, Ron DeSantis.
What you're looking at there right now is a deepfake of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in an episode of "The Office." The original scene is about the boss wearing a woman's suit, but this clip was made with AI and does not show the real DeSantis.
There's also this fake video that appears to show Hillary Clinton endorsing DeSantis on MSNBC. This was also circulating online as well. Again, we want to stress to our viewers, this never happened. This is another one of those AI deepfakes.
And CNN's Jon Sarlin joins us now.
Jon, I mean, this stuff is getting - and I don't want to give it credit, because it's so twisted, but it's getting better and better. These memes and these deepfakes and so on. You say the shows - this shows we're at the beginning of an AI election, what do you think should voters be concerned?
JON SARLIN, CNN HOST, NIGHTCAP: That's exactly right. I mean, two things are happening right now.
We're at the dawn of a new election, which is happening at the same time as we're seeing this rapid improvement in AI technology to the point now where it's creating photo, video and audio that are becoming increasingly hard to discern from real thing.
So because of that, we're seeing norms pop up about them. I mean, before you clearly stated that those videos were AI-generated, right? Well, former President Trump has shown a willingness to post these fake AI content without any acknowledgement that they AI.
You might remember that the RNC last month created the first - their 100 percent generated - AI-generated ad. Well, on that ad, it clearly said that it was AI generated with the audio that you're seeing right here, which was a fake audio of Elon Musk and Ron DeSantis.
President - former President Trump is posting this stuff without any acknowledgement that it's fake.
ACOSTA: It's wild. I mean, we're just in a brave new world right now and there's also a new study, where researchers say they used AI to find a new type of antibiotic that works against a dangerous drug- resistant bacteria, not to throw us in a completely different direction, take a hard right turn here, but can you explain this potential breakthrough? Let's talk about this.
SARLIN: Well, it shows how powerful this technology is, right? Obviously, there's an incredibly legitimate concern when it comes to disinformation in AI. It's why Washington, D.C. is looking to regulate it, but in the medical community, they're incredibly bullish about what AI can mean for drug discovery.
In this case, scientists tackled a superbug that's becoming increasingly common in hospitals. It clings to doorknobs and can be deadly. In 2019, the CDC said that it was urgent that researchers find a new way to combat it.
Well, researchers at McMaster University, Harvard and MIT used AI to do just that. And so basically, there are two ways that AI - scientists are excited about AI when it comes to medicine. One is to take AI to create completely new drugs, to develop completely new drugs and those drugs right now are being tested. In this case, scientists used it to speed up the traditional research process.
In this case, they took the kind of middle process of seeing how the disease reacts to certain chemicals. It fed it into an AI. They told CNN, they went out to lunch. By the time they got back, they had a list of possible drugs.
ACOSTA: All right, amazing stuff. Obviously, we're just scratching the surface. We're going to have to talk about this further in the days ahead. Jon Sarlin, great to talk to you as always. Thanks so much.
And make sure to check out his new show, "Nightcap," new episodes drop every Thursday at 4 p.m. Eastern on the CNN Business website. We'll be right back.