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Florida GOP Scraps Loyalty Oath For Candidates; Special UAW: Reasonably Productive Considerations With Ford Today; Hunter Biden Facing Three Federal Gun Charges; Casino And Hotel Giants Caesars And MGM Hit by Hackers; Boebert Apologizes For Disrupting "Beetlejuice" Musical. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 16, 2023 - 18:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

Good evening.

We begin this hour with news that the Florida Republican Party has scrapped its own loyalty oath requiring candidates to pledge support for the party's eventual nominee. It's a promise frontrunner and former President Donald Trump has flatly refused to make all along and this move by the Florida GOP is seen as a major defeat for Trump's closest rival in his home state, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and a big win it is viewed as for Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, as Trump's legal woes continue to pile up, federal prosecutors have now asked Judge Tanya Chutkan to place a limited gag order on the former president. They want to prohibit Trump from continuing this "disparaging and inflammatory or intimidating attacks" on people involved in his federal election interference case, that includes the special counsel, Jack Smith.

Yet, Trump still leads the Republican pack, up by more than 40 percentage points in the latest CNN Poll of Polls. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is on the campaign trail in Iowa.

Jeff, we're about four months from the Iowa caucuses. The race is on. You're at a key event tonight in Des Moines. What do you think we're going to hear tonight?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Jim, the rest of the Republican rivals will be gathered here on stage tonight, one by one reaching out to evangelical voters, of course a key constituency here. But the candidates have been campaigning throughout Iowa throughout the day and the weekend, everyone except, of course, former President Donald Trump. He has largely been campaigning in a far less robust way than he did before.

But the other candidates are trying to make their case trying to find that opening, and when you talk to Republican voters here, Jim, there is indeed a large amount of open minds really to a person. We've been speaking with that throughout the day, a lot of open minds that people of course like the policies of the former president, but also many want to turn the page.

But former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley was addressing a couple different events earlier today. One key theme came out, that is age. Let's take a listen.


NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What has Congress done for you lately? Nothing.

It is why we have to have term limits in Washington, DC. They don't know when to leave and it is time for them to be gently pushed out. Right?

And there is a second reason why I think we need to have mental competency tests for anyone over the age of 75.


ZELENY: And of course, she's been talking about that, Jim, for quite some time here. But the age issue is one that is indeed resonating. I'm going to lower my voice here because they're playing "America, the Beautiful" before this dinner, but certainly there is a robust discussion going on among these Republican rivals, but the person driving this race, command of this race is not here tonight.

ACOSTA: All right, Jeff Zeleny, I won't put you in that position of continuing to talk over "America, the Beautiful." We'll check back with you again later on this evening. Thanks so much, Jeff. Really appreciate it.

Let's discuss. More now with CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona; and CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Alice Stewart. They are the co-hosts of the podcast, "Hot Mics From Left to Right." And I definitely relate to what Jeff Zeleny is going through right now.

It was always my fear if I was on the campaign trail doing a live shot and the national anthem or something, and I'm talking over -- not a good thing.


ACOSTA: I was very -- I try to be. My brother and I --

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Jim, I think, I may have asked you to be quiet a time or two.

ACOSTA: You may have. Well, in all circumstances. Yes.

Alice, let me start with you. What do you make of -- let's go back to this Florida Republican Party pledge. That was going to be a requirement for candidates to appear on the ballot for the primary there in that state, and this looks like a real rejection of Ron DeSantis in his home state and an appeasement to Donald Trump.


STEWART: Here's the problem with that, Jim. If any person supports a particular candidate on any party, and they don't see that, whoever the nominee as should have the full endorsement of the party, then that's a problem. Those are supporters of a person and not a party.

And look, I think, if you're running on the Republican ticket or the Democratic ticket, whoever is the party's nominee should have your full-fledged support. However, I do understand, there are many Republicans who have concerns if the former president were to be convicted of a crime, then that brings a whole new ballgame.

But look, the position of many Republicans not just in Florida, but across the country is whoever is the party's nominee, it is incumbent upon Republicans to coalesce and unite behind that person to take on whoever the Democrats put forth, because that's the whole purpose of the party: It is to unite on the issues that bring us together and not the personalities that divide us.

ACOSTA: And Maria, let me ask you about the other big headline of the day, which is the special counsel, Jack Smith, asking a federal judge to limit the former president's comments on this election subversion case.

Let's listen to how Trump has responded to that. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Deranged Jack Smith, he's the prosecutor. He is a deranged person who wants to take away my rights under the First Amendment, wants to take away my right of speaking freely and openly.


ACOSTA: Yes, Maria, what do you make of that? I mean, it is good to hear the former president extol the virtues of the First Amendment.


ACOSTA: You don't always hear that.

CARDONA: No, you don't.

ACOSTA: But how likely is Donald Trump to abide by any judge's order to not talk about the case?

CARDONA: Not very likely at all.

ACOSTA: He will insult the prosecutor.

CARDONA: Right, exactly. Not very likely at all. We have seen that Donald Trump is certainly not one to do something that he is told to do to follow the rules, to follow any kind of regulations, to even follow the laws, which is frankly, what put him in this problem to begin with. But I do think it's an opportunity to underscore just how dangerous

somebody like Donald Trump is, in whatever role even as -- even in a role of somebody who's been convicted of, frankly, or has been accused and possibly convicted of several crimes.

The fact that Jack Smith asked for this even just a limited gag order, I think, is the realization that Donald Trump is somebody who is a danger to our whole justice system.

We've already seen how he and then his supporters can ruin people's lives. Just from one thing that Donald Trump says about something, the prosecutor, witnesses I think, is what they're mostly worried about, it is a downhill battle from there. And that's why I think Jack Smith is doing everything he can to protect the justice system.

ACOSTA: Alice, I'm kind of jumping around a bit, but I have a lot of topics to cover. I wanted to ask you about this because we've talked about this impeachment inquiry in the House, going after President Biden.

I'm sure you saw this, the Freedom Caucus member, Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado has a new op-ed in "The Washington Post." He is going after his own Republicans in this effort to impeach President Biden. He is writing this: "Trump's impeachment in 2019 was a disgrace to the Constitution and a disservice to Americans." This is according to Ken Buck. "The GOP's reprise in 2023 is no better." What do you think about that, Alice?

STEWART: I agree.

Look, we need to look at the business at hand. What is Congress need to be doing right now? They need to be passing spending bills, they need to be talking about appropriations, they need to be making sure that we avoid a government shutdown. That should be priority number one, because that impacts and affects people across this country.

And for any of the Republicans in the House to basically hold hostage these important budget talks for promises of furthering this impeachment probe is completely wrong.

Look, I'm a firm believer that members in Washington can walk and chew gum at the same time. But we're running up against a spending deadline that needs to be the first priority, and they can further move on with the inquiry into President Biden.

And I do think there is reason for inquiring into the business dealings that Hunter Biden did and whether or not President Biden was involved in that, but that should not be priority number one for members of Congress.

ACOSTA: Maria?

CARDONA: I don't think there's any reason to go into an impeachment and I think frankly, it screams about the desperation of somebody like Kevin McCarthy and frankly, Donald Trump said the quiet part out loud these last couple of days in some of the interviews that he did, where he said, well, if they hadn't gone after me, perhaps this wouldn't be happening to Joe Biden.

That right there underscores just how political this move is and frankly, Kevin McCarthy should be ashamed of himself, because he's not only betraying how much of a puppet he is of Donald Trump, but how much of a denigration he is treating the Constitution.

You know, Mitt Romney was right. Hardly anybody in the Republican Party these days respects the Constitution.

ACOSTA: And Alice you know just a few moments ago we were -- did you want to jump in and say something?


STEWART: Yes. I just wanted to say, with all due respect to my friend, Maria, with regard to this inquiry into President Biden. Look, they changed their narrative on this. When there was just initial questions about whether or not the president had any connection with Hunter Biden's dealings, the administration and the president all along had said he knew absolutely nothing about any of these dealings. Then they changed the narrative to, he wasn't in business with Hunter.

So when you change the answer to the same question, then it does bring about questions or real cause for investigation.

CARDONA: I'm sorry, Alice, but that does not -- yes, but that does not meet high crimes and misdemeanors.

For five years under President Trump, they tried to investigate Hunter Biden and all of these specious business dealings, and they have found no connection whatsoever. There is nothing there. There's no evidence, no data, no facts, no nothing.

Their own people that they had to testify that supposedly was going to blow open everything that Joe Biden had done. He, himself Devon, Archer, I believe is his name, he himself said that what he was talking about pointed to absolutely zero wrongdoing on behalf of President Biden.

So again, this is simply puppeteering by Donald Trump; desperation by the Republican Party.

ACOSTA: Alice, do you think it's possible that this could backfire on House Republicans in the way that it did with the Clinton impeachment effort? You worry about that?

STEWART: There is ultimately at the end of this inquiry, if there's no there, there, then certainly it could backfire on Republicans. But I think we need to, as we do with any of these investigation and probes, let's follow the information and follow the facts that we have, and then make a conclusion at the end.

I think it's wrong to prejudge any type of investigation or any inquiry and let's let the facts play out as they may, and if there is nothing at the end of this road, then yes, it will be problematic for Republicans, but it is certainly worthy of inquiry. CARDONA: I think it's a waste of time, and I do think it will backfire

politically on the Republicans. They can't help themselves but overreach, but you know what? Bring it on.

ACOSTA: All right, well, let me switch topics because as Jeff Zeleny was reporting at the top of the show, this hour, Donald Trump is not out in Iowa this evening. He was in DC last night.

Listen to what he had to say about the 2016 election. Let's talk about this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The country is very divided, and we did with Obama, we won an election that everyone said couldn't be won. We beat Hillary Clinton. You know, I used to -- I used to call her Crooked Hillary.


ACOSTA: You know, he seems to be saying there, Alice and Maria that he beat Obama in 2016, and there was another moment during this speech last night, maybe he was tired or had a long day or something, but there was another moment in the speech last night, where he indicated that he's not made president again, he's not elected president, there might be World War Two -- well, World War Two has already happened.

Alice, there's been a lot of talk about Joe Biden's age. Donald Trump is only three years younger than Joe Biden and just seem to have -- he seemed to be having some trouble last night getting the words out.

STEWART: Look, I like I think when you make a mistake here and there, people are talking all the time. There's cameras on you all the time. If it's a once in a blue moon, I think that's perfectly fine.

But I'm not as concerned as much with Trump's age or Biden's age, but their agility and ability to do the job and that is what's most important, and I think we need to get past a lot of this talk about people's age and who's got the best policies to turn this country around.

And right now, we know it's not President Biden. He doesn't have the support of even many Democrats and certainly across the country, his approval rating is around 40 percent, and I think it's time to start looking at the policies and get away from these personality conflicts and look at who can get this country back on track.

ACOSTA: Quick last word from you, Maria.

CARDONA: Policies and accomplishments are exactly what Joe Biden has already proven. He can deliver massively and historically for the American people and for American families. That's what he's going to run on, and the contrast is going to be something that I believe in the end he absolutely will win.

ACOSTA: And you think it's going to be Biden and Harris? CARDONA: Yes. No question. There is no question that it will be Biden

and Harris, as it should be.

ACOSTA: Maria and Alice, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

All right. Thanks.

STEWART: Thanks, Jim.

CARDONA: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: Thanks. Still ahead, an update on where talks stand to resolve an unprecedented auto workers strike. We're talking to workers on the picket line next.

Plus, more charges coming: Why Hunter Biden's legal problems may be far from over after being indicted this week. And later, booted from "Beetlejuice." What Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert is now saying after she was kicked out of a musical.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


ACOSTA: Two days into an historic auto workers strike, Ford and General Motors say they're already laying off a thousands of UAW members because of the strike. The union has less than 10 percent of its workforce on the picket line as it tries to negotiate with auto workers.

Earlier today, UAW officials say they had reasonably productive talks with the Ford Motor Company, our Gabe Cohen is once again live outside of factory in Toledo, Ohio, where workers are picketing.

What's the latest? I mean, this idea that you know the strike begins and they're already having layoffs. That can't be going over well with these union workers.

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not Jim. But look, the workers that I've spoken with are committed to this and worker after worker has told me they're ready to strike as long as it takes and look, this news this afternoon, it feels significant because it is the first positive sign of progress that we have seen in these negotiations between the union and any of the Big Three automakers.

This with Ford, the Union met with them this morning and a source The UAW told our CNN team: "We had reasonably productive conversations with Ford today." Reasonably productive, Jim certainly not a deal.


But frankly, given the hostile words that we've heard between these sides over the past couple of days is a big step in the right direction.

We know that the Union was set to meet with Stellantis and General Motors as well today, no update yet on those talks. But as of yesterday, the head of the auto workers union said that 80 percent of the members demands, 80 percent had not been met in a single offer that they had received from the automakers, none of the three.

And look until the deal is reached, this is what we're going to continue to see, picket lines like this one here in Toledo, Ohio, outside this Stellantis Jeep factory, and these workers, 13,000, nearly 13,000 across the country, including roughly 5,800 here in Toledo are on strike making about $500.00 a week of strike pay.

I want to bring one in right now. Tabitha, can I grab you for a second?


COHEN: So I wanted to talk through with you this news this afternoon, a potential progress in talks between Ford and the union. Of course, he work for Stellantis, but it is the first sign of progress that we've gotten. What's your reaction?

WILLIAMS: Hopefully, we get everything we deserve. Hopefully, they are reminded that we are the ones doing all the footwork, we are the ones that are taken away from our family and being here six days, 10 hours a week, like we deserve it. There's been no progress before recent -- before the recent talk through before then.

So hopefully we make it through. We don't want to be out here. We will rather go to work.

COHEN: Thank you so much, and good luck to you.

Again, Jim, we're waiting for word on any progress this afternoon in those talks would Stellantis and General Motors, but any sign of progress is positive right now, given the words that we've been hearing between all sides -- from all sides, I should say, Jim, over the past couple of days.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. Any progress is welcome at this point. Our Gabe Cohen, thank you very much.

Still ahead, Hunter Biden indicted on gun charges this week and the special counsel investigating the president's son could soon bring more charges. We'll break down the case against him next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: For the first time in US history, the Justice Department is filing charges against the child of a sitting president. Special Counsel David Weiss is indicting Hunter Biden with three felony charges over a gun purchase he made in 2018, this comes just weeks after a plea deal with prosecutors fell apart.

Joining us now, former federal prosecutor and former assistant US attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, Gene Rossi.

Gene, let's walk through this. What do you make of this indictment?


Well, we talked about this before I came on. This indictment is very unique, very strange. It's very odd and here is why.

They are charging Hunter Biden with a statute that says if you are a user or an abuser of a narcotic or substance alcohol and you possess a firearm, that is a felony, and it is rarely charged.

All the statistics --

ACOSTA: Because I was going to say, I mean, just to pause right there.


ACOSTA: If you were to throw the book at somebody over that charge, in particular, there would be a lot of drug users, drug dealers, I guess, people who drink who potentially could be locked up across the country.

ROSSI: Jim, the drinking age is 21.


ROSSI: Okay. Kids in college, obviously, sometimes drink and are not 21.

ACOSTA: Right.

ROSSI: What you're saying is if you're using alcohol or abusing alcohol, and you buy a firearm and you're 18, 19, 20, under this statute, you could be prosecuted for a felony. It's rarely, rarely charged.

I had one case that were charged when I was in the Eastern District of Virginia, but the defendant had a criminal conviction record of 30 convictions and he was a violent criminal. We added this charge because it was part of his crime. But to do this, for Hunter Biden as a standalone, a user felony is unheard of.

And all of those statistics that you are reading about, they involve false statements on the ATF Form. It doesn't involve this stand-alone felon because you're a user and you possess a gun.

This is an outrageous prosecution in my book, and it should not have been charged.

ACOSTA: Do you think that it was affected at all by some of the public and political pressure that was out there?

ROSSI: Absolutely. You don't go from diversion, where you basically say, if you're good boy for a year, it goes away to three felonies. And what happened between the lip and the cup? Was there were pressure from Congress that forced Mr. Weiss, about whom I don't have a lot of respect right now, because he's like a weathervane.

I think the pressure got to him and what is probably coming down the pike are further charges.

ACOSTA: And in an exclusive interview with CNN, Hunter Biden's lawyer claim that the indictment violates the plea deal that they had with the government. I mean, they were on the verge of a plea deal, and then it fell apart. Let's listen and let's talk on the other side.

ROSSI: Okay.


ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY: This charge brought today violates the agreement the government made with Hunter Biden. That was a standalone agreement different than this plea; second, the constitutionality of these charges are very much in doubt and Hunter owned an unloaded gun for 11 days, there will never have been a charge like this brought in the United States.


ACOSTA: What do you make all that?

ROSSI: First off, Abbe Lowell is extremely gifted, and he is one of the best trial attorneys in America. Abbe Lowell has five separate arguments to defeat the charges. One, constitutionally. This user statute, it may be unconstitutional.

Two, specific performance forcing the government to honor the diversion agreement.

Three, he could file a malicious prosecution.

Four, a vindictive; and five, the elements when Hunter Biden got the gun. How are you going to prove that at that time, he hadn't recovered and he was not a drug user? How can you prove that? You could use this book, but he could have been exaggerating. So they have five ways to defeat these charges, potentially.


ACOSTA: And - but does this mean, I think you indicated this earlier, that there might be other charges, another indictment coming down the pike?

ROSSI: Yes. Now, I'm very ...

ACOSTA: Tax issue.

ROSSI: ... yes, I'm very lenient on Hunter Biden on the guns. I worked for the U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division. I did 30 tax trials, a ton. I think he may be in harm's way on the tax charges. I - from what I read, the amount of income and some of the deductions, they raise red flags and loud gongs that may support a felony charge.

ACOSTA: But if you're the special counsel or you're the prosecutor in this, why not go with that first? If you've had this information and you were on the verge of a plea agreement at one point, one would think they have their arms around all that information and could have brought forward charges in that.

ROSSI: He's not Gene Rossi. I would have gone first with the bigger charge.


ROSSI: This gun charge, it's not - to me, it's a nothing burger.


ROSSI: The felony tax charges, if they are considering those, I would have led with those rather than the guns.

ACOSTA: But what about the argument that these tax - these kinds of tax charges are rarely prosecuted or result in people ending up in the slammer?

ROSSI: I respectfully disagree based on what I know, there is an argument, a strong argument, based on my sources in the Justice Department, inside and outside, that they were very close to charging felony charges way back in the day.

ACOSTA: If Hunter Biden were not the son of Joe Biden ...

ROSSI: Right.

ACOSTA: ... and you didn't have all of this pressure coming from elements of the Republican Party that do want to see some kind of vengeance ...


ACOSTA: ... because of what Donald Trump is going through right now and all the indictments he's dealing with, is Hunter Biden in any kind of legal hot water here or to the degree that he is right now?

ROSSI: Well, I think on the gun charges, if the prosecutor goes ahead with that and they don't work out a plea, I think they have a strong case to prove there or they could prove a strong case. I really believe that the tax charges are probably his biggest hurdle right now, the potential felony tax charges.

ACOSTA: No, I guess my question is if he were one of our crew members who was ...


ACOSTA: ... facing the same ...

ROSSI: Okay. ACOSTA: ... array of charges, no offense to our guys over here, they

would never do anything like this. But if they were facing the same array of charges ...

ROSSI: Sure. Sure.

ACOSTA: ... would they even be in the same boat that Hunter Biden is in?

ROSSI: Okay. On the gun charges, I think Hunter Biden's last name played a key role in the gun charges. On the tax charges, based on my 11 years with the Justice Department tax division, I think there's a strong argument to be made that even if his name were Hunter Smith, he could face harm's way on the tax charges.

ACOSTA: All right. No offense to our guys here in the studio, just to make that clear, crystal clear.

Gene Rossi, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.

ROSSI: Hey, thank you. Thank you.

ACOSTA: We'll stay on top of this.

Still ahead, cybersecurity on the Vegas Strip now under scrutiny. How two major casino brands are dealing with disruptive hacks.

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ACOSTA: Some sophisticated hackers managed a big hit on two Las Vegas casino giants this past week at Caesars Palace and Harrah's. Many of their customers had their Social Security and driver's license information stolen. There are reports Caesars paid a ransom at MGM properties, the hackers froze slot machine screens and ATMs, including at the Bellagio and MGM Grand. Elevators went out of order. Revolving doors stopped working. Some guests couldn't get into their rooms. Key cars - key cards would not work and so on and so on.

It sounds like a nightmare for customers out there.

Let's discuss with CNN Digital Producer Jon Sarlin and Glenn Gerstell. He is a former general counsel with the National Security Agency who currently serves as a senior advisor for strategic and international studies.

Jon to you first.

How widespread was this attack? I mean, the doors didn't work, elevators, personal information stolen. This was pretty - this was nasty.


JON SARLIN, CNN: Well, Jim, they say the house always wins in Vegas. Tell that to the IT departments of MGM and Caesars.


SARLIN: Two different hacks with two very different outcomes. Caesars saying in an SEC filing that they've been hacked, their loyalty program, which includes customers, driver's license numbers, and Social Security numbers, although they say, to the best of their knowledge, that information has been deleted. On the other hand, you have MGM, where we've seen widespread outages

from the casino floor to hotel rooms that is having a devastating effect within MGM properties. I talked to Chris Tarbell. He's a former FBI agent who runs the cybersecurity firm, NAXO. He says what's notable is the lateral movement of the hackers with MGM. They've been able to access all of these different systems, which is poor cybersecurity handling.

You don't want to have these connected systems because the worst case scenario, as it appears to be happening with MGM, is if hackers can get in one system, they can get in all of them.

ACOSTA: And Glenn, what's your sense of what occurred here and why casinos?



GERSTELL: ... it's that old Willie Sutton joke about why do you rob banks, because that's where the money is. So look, casinos are a really good target for these criminals. Lots of money there, a strong incentive to pay ransom because they can't afford a single day of downtime and they have incredibly rich data, which could be terrifically valuable to criminals, such as who are their major gamblers and financial details about them, et cetera.


GERSTELL: So lots of reasons that these are really good targets for the criminals.

ACOSTA: And I got to think some high rollers were pretty nervous about all of this, Jon. And speaking of the ransom issue, there are reports that Caesars Entertainment was asked to pay $30 million for a promise to secure its data and may have paid $15 million, wow. What do we know about that?

SARLIN: So what's fascinating here is that it appears that Caesars did pay the ransom, as you mentioned. They said in the SEC filing that they've taken steps to ensure that the data has been deleted, although they can't guarantee it. That basically is an admission that they paid a ransom.

MGM, though, on the other hand, did not appear to pay the ransom and we're seeing these widespread outages in MGM, not in Caesars. But it's ironic here that when these - for Caesars, paying the ransom is a gamble, right? Because you pay the ransom and you gain access to your systems, right?

Well, one, it's not clear that the hackers will actually do what they claim they will do if you pay them the ransom. Two, there could be legal liability. It's not illegal to pay a ransom, but it is if it is a sanctioned group. For example, say it's North Korea. But the last point is that once you pay a ransom, you put a target on

your back as a company who is willing to pay a ransom, right? Other hackers take note. Chris Tarbell, the former FBI agent, said it might cost Caesars tens of millions of dollars to beef up their IT systems because other hackers will see this and inevitably make attempts of their own.

ACOSTA: And folks might be tempted to not feel too sorry for the casinos, but they do - I've been out to Nevada and reported on elections where the casino workers are highly important. There is a ton of casino workers out there in Las Vegas. So there are folks who are affected by this. Let's listen to how an MGM employee describes the attack to our affiliate KSNV. We should know she wanted to be anonymous, so let's listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just throughout the day got worse and worse and worse until we had no access at the end of the day. More and more of the people that were working that day just lost access to like everything like just throughout the day it was like, oh, phone lines are down, okay, scheduling is down. OK, now, workday is down, now everything is out.


ACOSTA: Glenn, what does that description tell you and how widespread this was? It is pretty extraordinary what these hackers were able to pull off.

GERSTELL: Sure, and it's not totally clear yet because MGM hasn't publicly said a lot about this hack, whether they turned off the systems themselves in order to prevent the criminals from getting further into their systems and they - in order to get them out, they also have to sort of clean them out and reboot the system. So maybe they turn their systems off, which is by the way, exactly what Colonial Pipelines did a couple of years ago where they had to turn off their oil pipelines even though the pipelines themselves weren't directly affected by the cyber attackers because they had to do this.

So what this is telling me is that we've set up, we've been going down a path where because of digital technology, it's really convenient to have everything integrated. So at MGM, you can have your loyalty reward program, your door key, your digital door key, the means of payment, how you order room service, et cetera, all on one app, incredibly convenient for the hotel as well as for the person.

But this creates incredible complexity. So if you have to turn off one system, you may be having to turn off your entire corporate network, which is apparently what we're seeing here. All of this is because we're based just on passwords in order to get into systems. And when criminals are able to figure out a way to pretend they're you, call up the help desk as apparently happened here and say, give me a password, I lost my password. And they're able to figure out and spoof your identity because maybe they read some information about you online and they know where you were born, your birthday, they got your Social Security number somehow.


It's possible to get your password and wreck havoc as we see here, because they can claim to be you. And all this is based on the vulnerabilities of passwords.

ACOSTA: Well, and that's what I was going to ask you, Glenn, is how does this - how did the casinos prevent this from happening again? I mean, because if you walk into a casino and try to rob a casino, you're going to have a bad day. But I wonder if their defenses are where they should be when it comes to cyber crime, cyber hacking.

GERSTELL: So this particularly illustrates the vulnerability of so- called supply chain attacks, where some outside vendor whom is normally trusted, it has to be connected to your network to provide payments, insurance, some other system. And when someone can get inside one of these other vendors and use that to sort of ride into your corporate system, and you have a big complicated corporate system with lots of vulnerabilities, this is going to be an ongoing vulnerability.

Until we really move to a situation which is going to take years, we'll probably get there, but until we move to a situation where we don't really rely on passwords that much, we use digital authenticators, we use facial recognition, we use iris technology, fingerprint, whatever the system is, as we move to something away from passwords, the problem with passwords is if you lose it, you've got to be able to call and say, hey, I lost my password, I want it back.


GERSTELL: That very infirmity is what's at the heart of these problems.

ACOSTA: Well, and that's what I was - that raises the issue of passwords, because it is the one thing that just drives everybody nuts is trying to remember those passwords. But you really think it's better - it's safer to go with facial recognition, retina recognition software, that kind of thing?

GERSTELL: So ultimately, moving away from passwords, the problem with passwords is it's always possible to call the help desk and say, hey, I lost my password.


GERSTELL: Once we do that, the water's over the dam.

ACOSTA: It's a ...

GERSTELL: But look, the technology's going to improve. Is it - we're still in a cat and mouse game, because the bad guys are going to figure out some way with artificial intelligence to scoop your face.

ACOSTA: That's what I'm wondering, yes. GERSTELL: So I'm not saying it's a panacea, we're not going to solve

this problem overnight. We're making great strides as we move away from passwords to pass keys, digital authenticators, USB sticks that you plug into your computer, other ways of doing this.

So slowly, we're going to get better, but it's uphill.

ACOSTA: Yes. Jon Sarlin, Glenn, thanks. The bottom line here it's all - it's going to become aggravating for all of us, more aggravating for all of us, to just log into anything.

GERSTELL: That's true.

ACOSTA: All right. Glenn and Jon, thank you very much.

GERSTELL: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Really appreciate it.

In the meantime, other news, saying sorry, Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, a Republican of Colorado apologizing after she was booted out of a performance of the musical Beetlejuice. Have you heard about this story? It's certainly making the rounds on social media. There's an update on all of this and some video of the bizarre incident, that's next. You're live in CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: California is suing some of the world's biggest oil companies over climate change. The state claims all five major oil companies have known since at least the 1960s that burning fossil fuels would warm the planet and change the climate. But instead, they played down the risks and misled the public, according to this lawsuit.

The state claims those actions resulted in damaging wildfires, unclean air, deadly heat waves and record-breaking droughts costing California 10s of billions of dollars. The state wants them to create a special fund to pay for future damages.

A man in California is now behind bars this evening after allegedly posing a - as a U.S. Marshal and carrying a loaded gun at a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The incident took place yesterday at an event in Los Angeles, Kennedy posted about it on social media, saying the suspect was first spotted by his private security detail. The LAPD and FBI officials responded to the scene, immediately made an arrest. The suspect is being held on a $35,000 bond.

Republican Congressman Lauren Boebert is apologizing for her behavior at a recent performance of the musical Beetlejuice. Boebert initially denied she was vaping during the performance, causing a disturbance during the show, until surveillance video showed otherwise.

After the lights went out, she could be seen on camera laughing, singing, recording, dancing in her seat and vaping during the show among other things. She was eventually asked to leave the Denver Theater. In a statement, she blamed her behavior on her public and difficult divorce, as she describes it, adding she forgot she was vaping, initially denied it because of the "excitement of seeing a much-anticipated production of the natural anxiety or the natural anxiety of being in a new environment," that statement from the congressman.

In the meantime, tomorrow night, on THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER, CNN's Chief International Anchor, Christiane Amanpour brings us the story of Ukrainian ballet artists who have kept performing in Kiev amidst the bombs. Here's a clip.


VIKTOR ISHCHUK, CHOREOGRAPHER: Each of us did a decision to stay here or to go. I decided to stay.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Did you ever think of going to the front lines? Some of the dancers did.

ISHCHUK: Yes, of course. No, I did, I did. The first days, I came to the military recruitment, but I don't have any military experience, so they just said, okay, if we need you, we will call you.

I think everyone has to choose what is right for him.



ACOSTA: Be sure to tune in an all-new episode of THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER, Ukraine: Dancing in Defiance airs tomorrow at 8 PM Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.



ACOSTA: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

We begin tonight with a big win for former President Donald Trump in his quest for the GOP nomination. In the crucial battleground state of Florida last night, Republicans in that state scrapped their own loyalty which mandated that candidates support the party's eventual nominee, a promise Trump has refused to make.


The move by the Florida GOP is seen as a major defeat for Trump's closest rival in his home state, Florida governor, Ron DeSantis. It's also seen as a big win for Trump in that state.