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CNN This Morning

Outer Bands Of Powerful Storm Hitting New England; UAW Launches Historic Strike Against Big Three Automakers; G.M. CEO Addresses Negotiations Around Auto Worker Strike; Special Counsel May Bring More Charges Against Hunter Biden. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired September 16, 2023 - 07:00   ET



AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: You're going to be hanging out with them. I mean, you'll never write anything critical.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Everything about this show is great.

WALKER: But what negative thing is there to write anyway?

BLACKWELL: Yes, that's true.

WALKER: Are you putting in your two weeks soon?

BLACKWELL: No, no. I'm going to stay right where I am. I also wonder, if you're offering these jobs, why not at the beginning of the tour?

WALKER: Well, maybe because they just realized.

BLACKWELL: They just realized?

WALKER: You know, oh, there's this huge phenomenon called.

BLACKWELL: That these ladies are a big deal.

WALKER: Yes, yes.

BLACKWELL: All right.

WALKER: The next hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts now.

BLACKWELL: Good morning, good morning. Welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. I'm Victor Blackwell.

WALKER: And I'm Amara Walker. Thank you so much for being with us. We're going to begin this morning with dangerous weather conditions caused by now post-tropical cyclone, Lee. The storm is packing hurricane-force winds, heavy rain, and dangerous storm surges as it swipes the New England coast. Now, while Lee is not expected to make landfall in the U.S., the outer bands of the powerful storm are already hitting the East Coast, packing winds of 50 to 60 miles an hour and bringing storm surges that could cause flooding along the New England coast. BLACKWELL: There are tropical storm warnings from Nantucket through Maine, and authorities are telling people to prepare to stay where you are as the storm pushes north through the day. Lee is also expected to cause dangerous rip currents along the Atlantic coast, with a lot of states warning people to stay out of the ocean this weekend because of the dangerous surf conditions.

Of course, we're covering all parts of the storm with CNN's Derek Van Dam in Cape Cod, and Allison Chinchar in the Weather Center. Derek, let's start with you there on the Cape. What are you seeing?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this storm is so massive. Yes, we're in Cape Cod, Barnstable County. And you know, a lot of hospitality, and a lot of beach homes here, and inns, and suites, basically bed and breakfasts, have really handled this storm like it's a nor'easter. They're used to this type of weather. They've taken in the furniture. You can see it behind me. They give you a little bit of a perspective of where we are.

You can see the Atlantic Ocean behind me and some 300-400 miles over my left-hand shoulder is where the center of Hurricane Lee is located. Now, it seems tame here, but we have had those occasional tropical storm force gusts. And I think the idea and the story that we have been hammering home to our viewers is that this storm is so large, the wind field that expanded, literally ballooned over the course of this past week, means that the impacts will be felt well outside of where that center eventually makes landfall.

So, check out my graphics and you can see exactly what I'm talking about. 400 miles, roughly, that's how far the tropical storm force winds extend and that has implications for the New England coastline, particularly, where I'm standing in Cape Cod into Nantucket as well. It's just incredible to see how, if you time that with the tides on my graphics, we have had low tide at the peak of this storm.

So, that is also a little bit of a saving grace for this area because that means that the low tide and the highest winds are not in conjunction or are in conjunction, so that doesn't mean that we'll have this coastal storm surge threat as large as if we had high tide at the same time, right? But if you look a little bit closer, the wind gusts here, you can feel it occasionally about 30 to 35 miles per hour. There has been actually reports of large breaks on the water near Nantucket.

That's just out over the open ocean there of upwards of 20 feet. So, obviously, Hurricane Lee sending a massive amount of energy from the Atlantic Ocean. And that will cause some beach erosion, but really, the concern here is that this storm is packing quite a punch, especially as we go a little bit further to the north and east, down in east, Maine, they referenced that. That is the area where we expect some of the hardest and worst impacts from this. But here in the Cape, they're treating it like a nor'easter.

This scene here looks serene, but the ocean is quite chopped up, and you can see the wind gusts there, about 20 to 30 miles per hour, so not quite tropical storm force. But Allison, you know, you've seen this storm. We've been studying this for 10 to 15 days, really. It's just been this slow lurching towards the New England coastline, and you know, it looks like it's just moments, if not hours, away from a landfall in Nova Scotia, is that true? Are you seeing that?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it is actually approaching the southern portion of Nova Scotia. We're starting to see, as you mentioned, some of those outer bands beginning to hit the U.S. behind me. This is a live look at Bar Harbor, Maine. Rain off and on throughout this period. You can even see some of the rain dotting the camera from time to time, but also the trees in the background. Those wind gusts are continuing to pick up across this region and really for much of Maine in general.

These heavier bands of rain are just now starting to slide in across the coastal regions here of that down east Maine region, and that's going to continue throughout much of the afternoon. Those heavier rain bands pushing in not just to Maine but eventually in towards New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada. Here's a look at where the storm stands now. Sustained winds are still 80 miles per hour. So, even though it has transitioned to post-tropical cyclone Lee, the impacts remain the same.


You're looking at gusts up to 100 miles per hour. That forward speed is a little bit faster now, moving to the north at 25 miles per hour. It is expected to make landfall in the southern portion of Nova Scotia just in the next few hours. Again, when we continue to track a lot of those winds, you'll notice again a lot of the winds are really going to be the strongest on the eastern side.

So, those strongest winds, those 60 to 100-mile-per-hour gusts, are mainly going to focus over portions of Nova Scotia. Whereas the U.S. coastline, Massachusetts up through Maine, likely to see those wind gusts around that 40 to 60 mile per hour range. But I emphasize, that is still enough to bring trees down and subsequently some power lines. So, we are still going to be looking at power outages for many areas of the U.S. Even though the worst of this storm will be over Canada, the U.S. is still going to have several impacts. Another is going to be rain.

You've got rain right now stretching from Rhode Island up through Maine. By 1:00, this afternoon, still looking at some light showers across Massachusetts, but the heaviest rain is really going to be focused across Maine. Once we get towards this evening, the bulk of that rain spreads into Canada only, and then by tomorrow, all of that system is finally out of the U.S.

But in the short term, you're looking at widespread amounts of two to four inches. Some could pick up five, even six inches of rain total. So, you do have the potential for flooding stretching from Caribou, Maine all the way down through Bar Harbor and just to the east of Portland. So, again, wind and rain, Victor and Amara, are going to be the main concerns with this. So, do expect some power outages across these regions. BLACKWELL: All right. Double team there. Allison and Derek, thank you very much. United Auto Workers and the Big Three car makers are expected to continue negotiations today. It is day two of this targeted strike. Thousands of union members are walking the picket lines in three cities.

WALKER: The UAW president says 80 percent of the union's demands have been left off proposals from the automakers, but Ford CEO shot back saying the union's wage demands would put his company out of business. 40 percent increase in wages is what they're asking for, but the union and striking workers argue record profits last the years have not been shared fairly with the workers.


JESSE CASTILLO, RETIRED UAW MEMBER: These CEOs and big boys they talk on T.V., it's a lot of money, but how come they took it? They aren't working like the people in the plant. They're sitting in their office, and how come they're getting a big raise all the time? 30 percent raise.


WALKER: All right. CNN White House Reporter, Kevin Liptak, joining us now with more. Good morning, Kevin. President Biden, as you know, has labeled himself as a pro-union president, but he's in a tough position right now, especially as he's also pushing for this transition to electric vehicles, which is also concerning to many of those workers.

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, the strike really kind of hits a number of competing objectives for the president. On the one hand, as you said, he said he's the most pro-union president in American history. Bolstering wages for manufacturing workers is really at the heart of his political identity and his economic agenda.

But on the flip side, no, prolonged work stoppage could really damage the economy, both in Michigan and nationwide, depending on how long it proceeds. And really, in the lead up to this strike, as these two sides were at the negotiating table, the White House really did avoid taking an explicit position on either side of this.

But you did see that change yesterday in the Roosevelt Room, the president coming out very forcefully on the side of the unions, on the side of the autoworkers, and saying that record profits for the automakers must translate into a record contract for these workers whose wages, he said, had eroded over the last several years, whose benefits had eroded. Listen to a little more of what the president had to say yesterday.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one wants a strike. Say it again. No one wants a strike. But I respect workers' right to use their options under the collective bargaining system. They've been around the clock, and the companies have made some significant offers. But I believe they should go further to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts for the U.S.


LIPTAK: So, this really is at the intersection of so many of the president's political objectives, including, as you mentioned, this transition to electric vehicles. And one of the sticking points for the autoworkers in these talks has been a concern that manufacturing of electric vehicles could lead to lower wages, fewer jobs.

In his remarks yesterday, the president said that this transition could be a win-win for both sides, but certainly that is a lingering concern for the UAW as these talks proceed. Now, the other objective for the president, the important thing that this could have a role in is electoral politics in Michigan. That's a critical battleground state. This is a state that will be affected by this work stoppage. Of course, the president is also pursuing an endorsement from the UAW. They have withheld that up until now.

Now, yesterday, the president did say that he was dispatching two of his senior most aides, Gene Sperling, who has acted as kind of the go- between for the administration in these talks, and the Acting Labor Secretary, Julie Hsu. He's sending them to Detroit to sort of support both sides in this. It does remain to be seen how effective they will be as these talks continue, guys.

BLACKWELL: All right, Kevin, thank you so much. Meanwhile, CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich sat down with General Motors CEO, Mary Barra, and here's what she said.


MARY BARRA, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: We understand the world has changed, and that's why we put a historic offer on the table with the increases. I think our manufacturing team is the best on the field. The way they managed through the COVID situation and continue to build cars, trucks, and crossover, the way that we managed and they moved with us as we went through the semiconductor shortage and still the supply challenges that we see today.

They're very resilient. And I -- you know, I want to recognize them because our manufacturing team along with the engineering team for the last two years has been number one in J.D. power quality. So, we have a very talented team. We put a historic offer on the table, and so, that's why I'm so disappointed and frustrated.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: The union is demanding, asking for a 40 percent wage increase over four years. They're asking for that in part because they say CEOs like yourself, leading the big three, are making those kinds of pay increases over the course of the last four years. You've seen a 34 percent pay increase in your salary; you make almost $30 million. Why should your workers not get the same type of pay increases that you're getting leading the company?

BARRA: Well, if you look at compensation, my compensation, 92 percent of it is based on performance of the company. I think one of the strong aspects of the way our compensation for our representative employees is designed is not only are we putting a 20 percent increase on the table, we have profit sharing. So, when the company does well, everyone does well.

And for the last several years, that's resulted in record profit sharing for our represented employees. And I think you have to look at the whole compensation package, not only 20 percent increase in gross wage, but also the profit-sharing aspect of it, world-class health care, and there's several other features. So, we think we have a very competitive offer on the table and that's why we want to get back there and get this done.


WALKER: Well, the strike could have a serious impact on the U.S. economy, especially depending on how long this strike goes on for. CNN's Rahal Solomon has more.

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Amara, good morning. This is going to come down to time, ultimately. How economically costly this ultimately is, will really hinge on how long the strike continues. Now, if it is an extended strike, well, analysts warn the economic costs will add up. One estimate from the Anderson Economic Group estimates that the strike could cost the economy $5 billion if it lasts 10 days.


SOLOMON (voice-over): Now, one thing to consider with that estimate is that that would have been a full strike of UAW, 143,000 workers. At this point, about a tenth of that figure is actually striking. So, keep that in mind. But that estimate does include things like lost pay, losses to manufacturers, but also suppliers.

Another way to think about the potential impact, Mark Zandi, the Chief Economist of Moody's, I talked to him and he said a full strike, again, a full strike, but lasting six weeks, would be the equivalent of about shaving two-tenths of a percentage point from GDP. Now, he admits that's modest, but he says it's meaningful when you think about some of the other economic headwinds that we're experiencing. Student loan repayments starting up again, up pricing oil prices.


SOLOMON: Now guys, if it feels like there have been more strikes than usual, yes, it's not just your imagination. So, what's behind the increased strike activity, both here in the U.S. and around the world, to be honest? Well, I asked Art Wheat in that, he runs the labor program at Cornell, and he says, high inflation, a tight labor market, which has workers feeling like they have the upper hand, they can ask for the things that they want.

Also, public support has steadily increased for unions, and also COVID-19, as workers continue to think about the type of work-life balance that they want. Now, in terms of wages, auto workers fall behind the average worker. This is average. According to government data, the average hourly worker for an auto worker is about $27.99, whereas the average worker around the country makes about $33.82.

Now, we should say for the automakers part, you know, they say, wait a minute, we have to worry about prices as well because we have to compete with the non-union competitors. And so, they to be conscious of prices as well. I mean, that's what the automakers are saying. So, Victor and Amara, clearly, the two sides are still pretty far apart, it seems at least from what we can tell. But ultimately, the damage that could be caused in terms of the economy will really just depend on how long this strike ultimately takes. And of course, only time will tell. Victor, Amara.


WALKER: All right, Rahel, thank you. Still ahead, Donald Trump is lashing out at the special counsel investigating his alleged 2020 federal election interference. Why he says Jack Smith is trying to rob him of his right to free speech?

Plus, just days after he was indicted we are learning that President Biden's son, Hunter, could face more federal charges.

BLACKWELL: Plus, we're learning new details about a major cyber security breach at MGM and Caesars in Las Vegas this week. And the sensitive information that hackers stole. That's next.


BLACKWELL: Former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, they made appeals to voters at a pair of national summits organized by the Concerned Women for America, and the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.


WALKER: Both Republican presidential candidates sought to gain favor with the evangelical advocacy groups. Trump and DeSantis discussed a wide-range of topics including abortion. CNN National Politics Correspondent Eva McKend joins us now with the highlights from the events.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Victor, Amara, several Republican candidates addressed a packed ballroom of Christian conservatives, a key demographic going into this GOP presidential primary. Former President Donald Trump touted his anti-abortion record, the ability to get three conservative justices confirmed during his administration, ultimately, which led to the reversal of Roe versus Wade.

He also repeated false claims about the 2020 election, describing it as rigged. He told this audience that the institutions in this country weren't so much after him as they were coming after them and he was standing in the way. He pledged to have a task force if re-elected, rapidly review cases of what he described as political prisoners. This was seemingly a nod to January 6th defendants. He also pledged to defund government agencies if re-elected. And he argued that it would be the biggest political victory in this

country if he were re-elected. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as well as Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy also addressed this crowd. In 2016 and 2020, evangelical voters largely broke for Trump. Still Trump's Republican rivals believe they can chip away at his lead. Victor, Amara.

WALKER: Eva, thank you. And just days after the unprecedented indictment of President Biden's son, Hunter, we are learning that he could face more federal charges. Special counsel David Weiss has roughly one month, a one-month window to decide whether or not he will file tax charges against Hunter Biden in California or Washington, D.C. Weiss has hinted he just might. This comes after he indicted Biden on three felony gun charges just after a plea deal had fallen apart. Hunter Biden's lawyer alleges political pressure is behind the indictment.


ABBE LOWELL, HUNTER BIDEN'S LAWYER: You have to ask what changed. What changed you also just talked about. It is the folks like Chairman Comer and the Republican MAGA crazies who have been pressuring this U.S. attorney to do something to vindicate their political position, and guess what? They succeeded.


BLACKWELL: With me now, CNN Legal Analyst and Criminal Defense Attorney, Joey Jackson. Joey, good morning to you. OK, so this investigation has been going on for five years now under two presidents, three attorneys general, and now after the plea deal fell apart, there are the gun charges, but then, possibly also the tax charges. What should we understand about the time between, from a legal perspective, not political, the time between the offering of a plea deal and then getting to, oh, we're going to charge you with all of it because that deal fell apart?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Victor, good morning to you. It's troubling in a sense that, listen, our justice system has to be about just that, right? It's justice. It can't be about political implications. It can't be about people believing or perceiving that Hunter Biden is being prosecuted because either he's the son of the president or because we have another, we have a former president who's being prosecuted.

They have to be about, right, what you specifically did or did not do. And I think to your point, Victor, five years is an awful long time. We have a pretty efficient prosecutorial process. The DOJ, Department of Justice, prosecutes people all the time, a lot more swiftly than that. The FBI goes out and investigate cases a lot more swiftly than that. And so, I think it undermines certain trust in our system.

And then, of course, after the blown-up plea deal before, as we know, where Hunter Biden was supposed to plead a gun charges and tax charges and get this deferred prosecution agreement, here we go again with this special counsel indictment of these three charges. So, we don't know what is yet to come, but with respect to what he does face in those three felonies is, you know, really nothing new, quite frankly, and it's just really disappointing that it took us that long to get to this same place.

BLACKWELL: The lion's share of federal cases are resolved before they get to trial with plea deals, guilty pleas. After that, there is the federal conviction rate at trial is something what in the 90 percent -- I mean, it's a massive success rate. Does Hunter Biden have a, a plausible shot at beating these charges considering what he's charged with and some questions about constitutionality about at least one of these gun charges?


JACKSON: So, I think the answer to that is yes. So, first to the question of why there's a 98 percent conviction rate. The reality is, is that if your client is not going to fare well, you plead guilty. The other reality is that in federal cases, unlike state cases, the federal government investigates, investigates, investigates, and then they charge you. In a state prosecution, they arrest you and begin the investigation. That's a mass distinction. It gives them a major advantage.

Here, as to the issues that you mentioned, number one, when you talk about the charges he's facing, I think they're going to be, as we look at Hunter Biden there, if it went to trial, members of the jury pool saying, what are we doing here? The reality is, is we're talking about an addict at the time. We're talking about a person who possessed a gun for a short period of time. 11 days, was it thrown in a dumpster, right, by his girlfriend when she realized he had it? Why did he get it?

There'll be assertions he got it to take him away from any drug addiction. Was he drug addicted at the time? Was he getting sober at the time? Is it proper to do this? There's a constitutional challenge to your final point as to whether or not drug users should be prosecuted, right? And does it violate their second amendment for possessing and owning a firearm? Will there be jury nullification? Addiction is something that affects so many people. So, it would be interesting to see if he went to trial, could he overcome it?

I think he potentially could. I think, though, his lawyers will argue victor that: A. It's unconstitutional; B. Let's enter into a plea deal; C. Come on, we don't prosecute cases like this. We do, if it's a violent offender, if it's a felon, if it's a convicted felon. In this situation what are we doing here? There will likely be a deal and it will likely not go to trial but certainly his prospects of success if it did go, he could, in fact, prevail, potentially.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about the concern from prosecutors Jack Smith's office that former President Trump, some of his comments are provoking harassment of witnesses. This is now an opportunity for Judge Chutkan, in this case, this is the election subversion case to formally set into place, I guess, a structure of some consequences if this continues. What happens now beyond the warning that's already been issued by Judge Chutkan?

JACKSON: Yes, I think what happens, Victor, is that you have to evaluate the motion at issue, which is, you know, absolutely a person has a First Amendment right, particularly a person who's a frontrunner for a party who is engaged in an election. However, there are certain norms and customs in the process. What is the custom?

Let's not harass witnesses. Let's not intimidate witnesses. Let's not comment on the extent of their testimony. Let's not reveal their identities. Let's not let people potentially be exposed to violent behavior. And so, a court has an obligation to structure a trial such that it's not a circus. Of course, he should enjoy the First Amendment right, but that First Amendment, like anything else, is not absolute.

And so, I think to your question, what happens now is that the judge has to fashion an appropriate remedy so that there is a court proceeding that goes forward, that witnesses are protected, that witnesses are not intimidated, and that there's some decorum with respect to what goes on. Yes, it's hard because it's a president, former president, who likes to speak a lot.

She's not saying, or prosecutors are not saying, you can't speak. You can talk about your innocence. You can profess your innocence. Let's not call people names. Let's not call out people. Let's not on social media subject people to danger. So, I think the judge will evaluate that, issue an order that's appropriate, and hopefully we'll have a trial with some guidelines and card reels that doesn't go off the reservation.

BLACKWELL: Joey Jackson, thank you.

WALKER: All right, still ahead, three of the former officers accused of beating Tyree Nichols to death are now seeking separate trials just days after federal indictments came down against them.



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, just days after federal indictments came down against them, three of the former officers accused of beating Tyre Nichols to death are now seeking their own trial.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Tennessee prosecutors are planning to have one trial for all five former members of the Memphis Police Department who were charged.

CNN's Nick Valencia has the latest on where this federal case stands today. Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Amara, these three men are saying that the charges they're facing from the District Attorney's Office in Shelby County do not reflect their actions or lack thereof on the night Tyre Nichols was brutally beaten. These former officers: Justin Smith, Tadarrius Bean, and Desmond Mills, all say that they are being judged by the actions of their former colleagues the night Nichols was taken into custody.

And here is what Tadarrius Bean is saying in part of his motion. The only way to ensure that each defendant has the right to a fair trial in front of an impartial jury of their peers is to grant severance for the defendants with considerations regarding the alleged involvement of each co-defendant.

That sentiment is echoed by Blake Ballin, who's the defense attorney for Desmond Mills, who says that Mills never physically struck Tyre Nichols. In fact, he says that his client has been inappropriately charged by the district attorney's office.

These five men, now former officers were all part of the infamous and since disbanded SCORPION unit, which was created to focus on street crime in Memphis.

After the incident involving Tyre Nichols, the district attorney's office investigated many cases by the SCORPION unit, and tossed out dozens of them due to a lack of credibility.

These individuals, these five men are not just facing state charges, but they're also facing federal charges, which were leveled against them earlier this week. They pleaded not guilty to both the state charges and federal charges.

Now, at the end of the hearing on Friday, the judge still did not make a decision, saying he would do so at a later date. And if he does grant severance to these three officers, we're looking at the potential of not just one state trial, but up to four separate state trials.

It's something that the district attorney's office in Shelby County wants to avoid. They say they believe the defendants do not have enough evidence to support their motion for severance.


The judge says he will decide at a later date. Victor, Amara?

WALKER: All right. Nick Valencia, thank you.

Well, tomorrow our special, "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" series begins; featuring stories that spotlight everyday people who don't make the headlines, but smash barriers and inspire others to do the same.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel a source of inspiration and pride just coming together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you guys to truly forget, the word can't.

ANNOUNCER: As CNN journalist spotlight the changemakers who inspire them.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She teaches you to break through that fear to get to where you need to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turns out that one human being can do a lot.

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ANNOUNCER: See, how these community champions use creativity, heart, and grit, to lift society up.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I surround myself with positive people. They helped me be that inspiration.





WALKER: Security for Las Vegas' multibillion-dollar hospitality industry is under scrutiny this week after a pair of cyberattacks on resorts.

On Thursday, hackers stole social security numbers and driver's license numbers from members of Caesar Entertainment Loyalty Program. And earlier in the week, MGM acknowledged a cyberattack left guests unable to make room charges and access their own rooms with their digital keys.

The city's multibillion dollar casino and hospitality industries are ripe targets as you'd imagine for cyber criminals. According to tourism officials, nearly 39 million people visited Las Vegas last year spending nearly $45 billion.

Joining me now to discuss is Amit Yoran. He is a CEO of Tenable, a cybersecurity company. He is also a former director for U.S. cybersecurity with the Department of Homeland Security.

Amit, good to see you. It's been a while. So, talk to us about the nature of these hacks between Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts. They're a bit different because one focuses on customer information, the other seemed to target the resort's operations.

But at the end of the day, does it all come down to money? What -- What's the objective of these hacks?

AMIT YORAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES CYBERSECURITY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND AND SECURITY: Yes. For sure, there is some differences in how these organizations are responding to the hacks. But an organization known as BlackCat, it's a ransomware group, is targeting Las Vegas casinos. We've seen them target other organizations in the past.

And in this case, they've been successful gaining access. And we've seen these casinos impacted. We've seen them filing a case with the SEC over the course of the past week.

WALKER: Yes. Tell us how they're gaining access. I mean, I was reading about social engineering, basically hackers posing as an I.T. support employee? That's a little concerning.

YORAN: It is concerning. We do see social engineering, very -- as a very active path for access for hacker groups, especially this one.

And many of us have experienced this where you get a text, you get a phone call from somebody claiming to be part of an organization and asking you to divulge sensitive information.

In this case, they only needed one particular victim within the organization and then began to expand their access. And when you use a lot of these cloud platforms, access becomes the real perimeter and where the modern battlefield is being fought.

WALKER: So, do you know where the cyberattacks stand right now? I mean, are these resorts like Caesars and MGM -- how are they operating? How will they recover? And I know that you also talked about potential ransom that has been paid.

YORAN: It is. You know, that's the way these groups operate. They encrypt your systems, they grab the sensitive information, information about your customers, and then they hold you ransom. And they expect you to pay the fee. In one case, Caesars has filed and told the market that they paid $15 million, about half of what was being asked to them.

In MGM's case where the damage and the ongoing operation seemed much more problematic, they were hacked and they decided we're going to take our systems offline, at least that's what the hackers are alleging that MGM themselves took the systems offline to prevent further damage. And there's been significant impact. We see casino floors impacted. We've seen room doors impacted. We've seen ATMs impact -- impacted, and it's disrupting -- it's disrupting their customers.

WALKER: How big of an issue and I guess a priority is it for, you know, these large entertainment companies and resorts, you know, to find ways to prevent becoming a target slash victim?

YORAN: Well, more on that, I think that's the key point. We need to shift from how do you respond when a breach occurs, and of course, we need to be prepared. But we need to shift organizations like casinos and other businesses to be much more proactive in their security.

How do you assess the integrity of your environment? How do you assess where you have vulnerabilities? And how do you fix? How you remediate? How do you better protect and enhance your security prior to these breaches occurring?


And I think that's where we have more transparency, more visibility these breaches can help organizations learn from them and better protect themselves going forward.

WALKER: You mentioned a different group. I had read about Scattered Spider, the cybercriminal group that was known to target casinos and hotels in recent weeks. Who do you and other industry experts believe is behind this?

YORAN: Yes, there is a lot of confusion on the naming convention, because many security companies and many security researchers actually track these hacking groups by different names.

So, you'll hear the name BlackCat, you'll hear ALPHV, you'll hear Scattered Spiders. All of these actually refer to the same hacking group. And in this case, they're believed to be fairly young, you know, 17 to mid-20s age, English speaking hackers. Unlike some of the other hacking groups we see coming out of Russia, Eastern Europe, or China.

WALKER: Amit Yoran, we're going to leave it there. Thank you for your time.

YORAN: Great to --


BLACKWELL: Still ahead, emergency teams in eastern Libya are searching for 1,000s of people who disappeared after catastrophic floods hit the region. We are live there with the latest.



WALKER: Right now, relief workers are struggling to deliver aid to flood ravaged Libya. 5,000 people are confirmed dead and thousands are still missing.

BLACKWELL: The United Nation says that many of those deaths could have been avoided if the country have had fully functioning meteorological services. This morning, Jomana Karadsheh is live from Derna, Libya with an update. Jomana, we see this traffic behind you. There is movement. Is there progress?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Victor, just to explain to you where we are right now, we are in the Wadi Derna or the Derna Valley area. This is where you had those floodwaters just coming through this entire area here.

Right in front of us. That's where those dams were before they ruptured. And then, you have the water that was coming through here pretty much destroying everything in its way, including a bridge that was here, you might not be able to see it by this traffic that's blocking the roads right now, because this has become a main artery in the city, where much of the infrastructure has been destroyed and roads have been blocked.

But that is where a bridge stood connecting the city. Now, that's gone. And it might be difficult for us to move the camera because coms are very challenging in the city right now.

Over my right shoulder that was a neighborhood. An entire neighborhood that no longer exists right now. This entire neighborhood was washed into the sea. And while we're standing here, we have seen people walking past survivors from Derna, carrying whatever they've been able to salvage of their belongings.

Grown men and women who are walking past and sobbing. This is absolutely shocking and heartbreaking to see.


KARADSHEH (voice over): A storm like no other, Libyans had ever seen before. But it's not only Mother Nature's wrath that's to blame for these apocalyptic scenes in Derna.

KARADSHEH: Right up there is where the dams were. When they burst, it unleashed all that water. The floods that swept entire neighborhoods like this into the sea. And you can see the force of the water when you look at buildings like this, and you can see how high the waves were.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Waves as high as 22-feet or seven meters submerged buildings and the current so strong destroyed almost everything in its path and washed it all into the sea. The Mediterranean turned into a graveyard for the people of Derna.

How many lives lost here, no one really knows, but it's in the thousands. The ones crystal clear blue waters now murky and brown tell the grim story of a city that once was of those gone young and old.

Children, a few months old, elderly people, pregnant women, they're in the sea, 21-year-old Abdel Wahab tells us. With nothing but a rope tied around his waist, he pulled 40 bodies on the first day, he says.

There are other bodies, we don't know how to get them out. We just don't have any equipment, he says. Derna is gone, you won't see it again.

They've gotten some help since. International support has been slowly trickling in, but nowhere near enough to deal with a disaster on this scale. It's mostly Libyans here, volunteers from every corner of this bitterly divided country, foes who fought each other for years, united in grief, doing what they can to mend the wounds of this broken city.

Most are here to try and give the dead a dignified end. It's not the time to lay blame for what happened, many say. But the dams had not been maintained for decades, residents say. Had they been, Derna and its people may still be standing.

Nearly a week on, emotions here still so raw. Tarek and his family climbed on top of the water tanks on their roof. They all survived, but most of his neighbors did not.

There are 12 to 15 homes on our street. We lost 33 people, he tells us. He then starts to name the dead. Entire family is gone. It's all just too much.


Libyans know loss and death all too well. But nothing could have prepared them for this.


KARADSHEH: And short time ago, we were at the waterfront, which has become the main staging area for delivering the bodies that have been retrieved to prepare them for movement for burial. And we were speaking to a number of the volunteers there who say that they are still getting a lot of bodies; 22 today. While we were there, we saw several bodies being delivered.

Yesterday, 90 bodies. And people are so emotional, they tell you right now, these bodies have become unrecognizable.

And you can just imagine what this means for the thousands of people who are still searching for the more than 10,000 loved ones who have gone missing.

BLACKWELL: The scale is almost impossible to grasp. Jomana Karadsheh, bring us the stories there. Thank you so much.

For information on about how you can help Libya flood relief efforts, go to We'll be back.