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Devin Nunes Files $250,000 Lawsuit Against Twitter & Users; State Department Barred Media Except Faith-Based from Pompeo Call Ahead of Middle East Trip; G.M. Relocating Workers of Ohio Plant After Trump Blasts Company; Trump Press Conference with Brazil's President. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 19, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:34:38] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Republican Congressman Devin Nunes is angry at Twitter and some of its users. So mad that he's filed a $250,000 lawsuit against three users for making fun of him and Twitter for making money on what he calls, quote, "abusive, hateful and defamatory content." Those accounts he's talking about are parody accounts. One is from Devin Nunes' mom, who is not his real mom, and another one is from a cow on one of Nunes' family farms. Not a real cow, cows can't tweet. It's not really his cow. One tweet, for example, says "Nunes' boots are full of manure and the herd supports his opponent."

I want to bring in Rachael Bade, the congressional reporter for the "Washington Post." We have former federal prosecutor, Laura Coates, back with me.

[13:35:26] I want to mention, what you're looking at the Rose Garden as we await a bilateral press conference between the president and the Trump of the tropics, the leader of Brazil. We'll keep our eye on that as it's expected to start soon.

Laura Coates, to you first.

The law usually protects platforms like Twitter. It doesn't consider Twitter to be, say, a publisher. Does this even have a chance at succeeding?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it might in the court of public opinion for those who want to support him. But the notion that this would be a valid lawsuit is a far-fetched one. A cow is actually tweeting is parody. But the Communications Decency Act says that people like Twitter, enterprises like that, are like a library. They're not an author of everything. So they want to protect these platforms. They are trying to say, however, that because the platform itself has the ability to censor and can figure out what can come on and off the platform is not truly one that should be regarded as a true hands-off laissez-faire approach. I think he's trying to go in that way. I also think he's also showing he's had enough and this is a conspiracy theory about how there's this underlying conspiracy to say they want to silence this particular voice in contradiction of the First Amendment. That's not what this is.

KEILAR: What is his goal here? Does he feel like these accounts are actually having an effect on his popularity? Is he thin-skinned and just sick of it?

What do you think, Rachael?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: A lot of people are scratching their heads wondering the same thing. Right now, one of the theories, right, former chairman of a very powerful House committee when Republicans controlled the House, lost the majority, maybe he's a little bored right now. No, there's actually a reason for this. He's getting at the politics. Conservatives have long gone after Twitter, after Facebook alleging they have some sort of bias against conservatives and that they try to subvert conservative messages. Clearly that is the bone he is picking right now. But that could have a potential backlash. Judges don't, I wouldn't think, take well to being seen as ruling on some sort of political issue, a lawsuit that's not serious, right? And so I do wonder if it has a backlash on there.

KEILAR: Conservatives say that. They feel like Twitter and Facebook are unfair to them, but this is the president's favorite medium to use. Very successful at doing so. Criticizes a lot of his opponents. Arguably, the most unsuccessful person on Twitter in doing so. Maybe that's a P.R. argument, maybe not a legal argument?

COATES: Coming down to a double-edged sword, Twitter being able to be yielded and also used to try to protect yourself. But the notion here of who is right on the issue is going to come down to damages. Nunes is going to say he didn't win by a large enough margin. That's how he's damaged. He is becoming increasingly unpopular. And courts do not want to get involved in a popularity contest and judge figuring out is a quarter million dollars attached to whether or not you're popular enough to secure a victory. That's the crux. I think he's trying to use this as a pawn to get the message out that, look, I've been battered, I've been raked over the coals and I've had enough of it and I want to stand up to the conservative biases. There's not a simple reason.

KEILAR: There are a lot of parodies accounts out there, though, and not just conservatives, Democrats, too.

BADE: Also, one of my colleagues made a joke as I was walking in and I said, we're doing a segment on this, they said, if Nunes can due for something like this, you female reporters who get harassed on TV all the time, join together, do a lawsuit on that." It was a joke. Politicians get harassed frequently. You're right, parody, this is clear hyperbole. Look at some of these tweets.

KEILAR: Tell me.

BADE: "Devin's boots are full of manure, he's utterly worthless in pasture, time to move him to prison."

KEILAR: Like, that's a pun crime, but, otherwise -


KEILAR: That's a total mom joke, but hmm.

COATES: Not the real Devin Nunes' mom.

KEILAR: That's right. Not the real Devin Nunes' mom.

Laura Coates, Rachael Bade, thank you so much.

And from reparations to the Electoral College and adding more justices to the Supreme Court, Democrats are taking on controversial issues and making them key points of their campaigns.

Plus, it's one of the companies that President Trump has publicly shamed. But just a couple weeks after shutting down his iconic plant, G.M. with some news about the plant's workers.

[13:39:44] We're standing by, as you can see, for the president's news conference with Brazil's president.


KEILAR: And right now we have live pictures of the Rose Garden as we are awaiting President Trump's news conference with the president of Brazil. We're going to bring that to you as soon as it begins.

This week, in my column "Home Front," where I try to bridge the civilian military divide, I talk about my experience as a military spouse planning a family around a war. This is a common challenge for military families who are facing deployments and separations and they most often have to make a choice that civilian families do not. Does the servicemember miss the pregnancy, the birth or the early months of the baby's life? Female servicemembers have the ultimate challenge. It explains why the top concern for military families is time apart. According to the Annual Military Lifestyle Survey, conducted by the non-profit Blue Star families for which I am an ambassador, time apart is a significantly bigger concern for military families than even pay and it far outpaces concerns about post-traumatic stress. In my case, my husband missed almost my entire pregnancy of our son, who is now nine months old, while he was deployed. And then by chance, my husband almost missed the birth as well. That is on right now. Please e-mail me your stories, comments or ideas at Home Front at

[13:45:41] It's a controversial move. The State Department barred all press corps, with the exception of faith-based media and only some faith-based media, from a briefing call. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used the call to discuss international religious freedom ahead of his Middle East trip.

We have CNN senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, who is here with us.

You were the first to report this story. What is the State Department saying about this?


KEILAR: Who wasn't let in?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, nobody was let in. there's a dedicated core of reporters that cover the State Department all the time. For something like this, a call with the secretary himself, where he's actually going to take questions, which is pretty rare for this kind of call, you would expect that the core State Department press team would be a part of that. So one of those people accidentally got an invite to this so that caused everybody to say, what is this? Why didn't anyone else get an invite? Then that person RSVP'd and was immediately told, oh, this is just for faith-based media. So that raised a lot of questions that haven't been answered by the State Department. Why aren't they putting out a transcript about it? Why won't they say who was invited? Why won't they say who is on the call? They're just not answering those questions. It doesn't make any sense.

KEILAR: Do you know who was on the call?

KOSINSKI: Now we know, just from some of the articles that were written about it. We don't know everyone who was on the call but we know a few of the participants like Religion New Service, there were some Catholic organizations, Christian organizations, a few Jewish ones that we know of. We don't know of any Muslim faith-based media on the call. We don't know if they were invited or not. And also, for example, a Catholic broadcaster. They only found out about this call because we had reported on it --


KEILAR: A Catholic broadcaster only found out about it?

KOSINSKI: Yes, they weren't invited initially. However, in trying to get to the bottom of this, we found out there's another faith-based media on the called today with somebody else in the State Department, Sam Brownback, the ambassador-at-large for international freedom. He is also doing a faith-based media call only. But that call was organized by national religious broadcasters. But they were not invited to, nor were they part of the religious call yesterday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

We don't really know why this is organized this way. But I think the biggest issue here is that the State Department doesn't want to release a transcript or answer any questions at all about it. I mean, why? This was an on-the-record call with the secretary of state. Wouldn't that be in the public interest? Certainly, you would think it would be.

KEILAR: Michelle Kosinski, you would, indeed. Thank you for your report and your reporting.

Coming up, G.M. says it's relocating at least 500 workers from its Lordstown, Ohio plant. This, after the president attacked the company's CEO and the local union leader. And, any moment now, President Trump and the so-called Trump of the

tropics, the president of Brazil, will give a news conference with many questions they have to answer, from his new attack against late war hero, John McCain and his weekend tweet storm.


[13:51:58] KEILAR: As we await President Trump's news conference, we also have some developing news from General Motors. The company saying a short time ago that he has relocated 500 workers from its recently closed Lordstown, Ohio, plant. President Trump targeted General Motors and the United Autoworkers over this closure demanding that the company either sell the facility or reopen it.

And our Vanessa Yurkevich is following all of this for us.

You are there in Ohio. Tell us about this.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN: Hi, Brianna. G.M. just a short time ago telling us that they have managed to relocate about 500 people who worked in this plant. But clearly, the president is still frustrated by the closing of this plant here in Lordstown, Ohio. Over the weekend, he took to Twitter to call for the company to reopen this plant or sell it. He even had a phone call from Mary Barr, the CEO of G.M., over the weekend, and that prompted G.M. to come out with a statement saying that the only way that this plant would get back to business is if G.M. came to an agreement with the United Autoworkers Union.

We spoke to people in town here. We went to a local diner because we wanted to hear from them, how are they feeling about this Twitter war between G.M. and the president. Here's what they had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where was he at a year ago? No, it's not helping. I don't think it's helping a bit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not only did G.M. close but other little factories folded because of it and that was our bread and butter.


YURKEVICH: And now, Brianna, G.M. has told us that they are making it a point to relocate anyone from this plant who wants to move on to another G.M. location across the United States.

But it's also important to point out that this is the first of four G.M. plants across the country that are going to be closing throughout this year. So it won't be a surprise, Brianna, if we do hear from the president on Twitter again about this story.

KEILAR: Yes. No, very good point.

Vanessa Yurkevich, in Ohio, thank you. We have more on the news just in. President Trump tripling down on

his attacks against the late John McCain, saying that he was never a fan of the Senator and he never will be.

Plus, any moment, another chance for the president to answer questions when he holds a news conference at the White House.

[13:54:13] This is CNN's special live coverage.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, everyone. Thank you.

Today I'm very thrilled to welcome President Bolsonaro of Brazil for his first visit to the White House.

President Bolsonaro, I want to congratulate you again on your tremendous election victory last October. It was an incredible feat and really a truly incredible challenge. And the end result was something the whole world was talking about.

You also know that we're going to have a fantastic working relationship. We have many views that are similar and we certainly feel very, very true to each other on trade. I think Brazil's relationship with the United States because of our friendship is probably better than it's ever been by far.

I also want to congratulate you on your recovery from a truly horrible ordeal. It was an incredible recovery. And the people of your country know it. The great bravery. You've shown, tremendous bravery.

For two centuries, the American and Brazilian people have been united by shared values, including an enduring love of faith and family and country. The United States was the first nation to recognize Brazil's independence. And in 1822 and in the Second World War, Brazil was the only south American country to contribute troops to the allied war effort.

Today, the United States and Brazil are the two largest democracies and economies in the Western hemisphere. We're in close agreement on the incredible opportunities and continuing challenges facing our region and we have a truly historic chance to forge even stronger ties between our two great nations.

This afternoon, the president and I discussed many of our mutual priorities, including Venezuela. Brazil has been an extraordinary leader in supporting the Venezuela's people to reclaim their liberty and democracy. Brazil has helped so much. Along with the United States, Brazil was one of the first nations to recognize Venezuela's legitimate interim president, Juan Guaido.

I also want to express our profound gratitude to President Bolsonaro and all the Brazilian people for their efforts to provide humanitarian aid. We also thank you for allowing the United States to station extensive assistance and massive aid on the Brazilian border. The Brazilian people have been incredible. Together, we could and have been really very happy to feed thousands and thousands of starving Venezuelans. They have appreciated it. And if the Maduro forces would step aside, it could be a truly great and successful humanitarian project.

We call on members of the Venezuelan military to end their support for Maduro, who is really nothing more than a Cuban puppet, and finally set their people free.

The United States and Brazil are also united in support of the long- suffering people of Cuba and Nicaragua. The twilight hour of Socialism has arrived in our hemisphere and, hopefully, by the way, it's also arrived that twilight hour in our great country, which is doing better than it's ever done economically. The last thing we want in the United States is Socialism.

So President Bolsonaro, I will tell you that we'll be consulting and talking a lot. We'll be working on all of our problems and assets. And we're making tremendous strides. We had a great meeting today.

As I told President Bolsonaro, I also intend to designate Brazil as a major non-NATO ally or even possibly, if you start thinking about it, maybe a NATO ally. I have to talk to a lot of people, but maybe a NATO ally, which will greatly advance security and cooperation between our countries.

Our nations are already working together to protect our people from terrorism, transnational crime, and drugs and weapon trafficking, also human trafficking, which has really become something that's come to the forefront of crime. Horrible, horrible situation. We look forward to an even deeper partnership in working together.