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Senate Grills Social Media Executives Over Child Safety; U.S Intel Says, Iran Nervous After American Troops Killed; Denver Nears Breaking Point as Asylum Seekers Inundate City. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 01, 2024 - 07:00   ET





MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, META: The existing body of scientific work has not shown a causal link between using social media and young people having worse mental health outcomes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is about finally getting some accountability.

ZUCKERBERG: But, Senator, we're doing an industry-leading effort tools that --

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Nonsense. Your product is telling people.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Nothing will change until the courtroom door is open to victims of social media.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New U.S. airstrikes targeting Iranian-backed drones in Yemen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're told the Houthi missile came within a mile of the U.S. destroyer, the USS Gravely, before it was shot down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: U.S. officials believe Iran may be getting nervous about the proxy groups it funds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: China's hackers are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Chinese cyber actors have taken advantage of very basic flaws in our technology.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: This is pre- preparing their ability to strike out against the United States.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: A good Thursday morning, everyone. It's the top of the hour. I'm Phil Mattingly with Poppy Harlow in New York. Accusations, tears, apologies, all part of a fiery Senate hearing with CEOs of five social media giants. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle demanding to know what platforms, like TikTok, Meta, X and Snap are doing to keep children safe online, safe from bullying, safe from drug dealers, traffickers and suicide.


GRAHAM: You have a product that's killing people. When we had cigarettes killing people, we did something about it, maybe not enough. You're going to talk about guns, we have the ATF. Nothing here. There's not a damn thing anybody can do about it. You can't be sued.


HARLOW: Family members whose children were harmed or killed, they were there holding up pictures of their dead children, their loved ones.

Then came this moment that shocked everyone, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg turning around to those families and apologizing.

Our Tom Foreman is in Washington this morning. Tom, good morning to you. This hearing felt different than any of the hearings. The New York Times says 33 times Meta executives have testified before Congress, but this one felt different. Do you agree?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I don't think I've ever seen anything like this in a Senate hearing. And what really marked it in the time we are in right now is that there were Democrats and Republicans who can barely speak to each other who were completely in lockstep in opposing what has been happening online, especially involving kids.

And they hit this panel that showed up over and over and over again.


GRAHAM: But you have blood on your hands.

HAWLEY: Your product is killing people. Will you set up a victims' compensation fund with your money? The money you made on these families sitting behind you. Yes or no?

FOREMAN (voice over): Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, whose company owns Instagram, pushed into apologizing to families who say they were harmed by online content, some waving pictures of children who died or killed themselves.

It was an astonishing moment, yet the billionaire head of Meta dug in anyway.

ZUCKERBERG: And this is why we invested so much and we are going to continue doing industry-leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things your families have had to suffer. SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-OH): Your platforms really suck at policing themselves.

FOREMAN: Against a torrent of accusations from the Senate committee about enabling sexual exploitation, election meddling, fake news, drug abuse and child endangerment, the heads of five tech giants tried to push back.

JASON CITRON, CEO, DISCORD: We very much believe that this content is disgusting.

LINDA YACCARINO, CEO, X: X will be active and a part of this solution.

FOREMAN: But the fury kept coming in a rare show of unity between Democrats --

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): One-third of fentanyl cases investigated over five months had direct ties to social media.

FOREMAN: -- and Republicans.

HAWLEY: 37 percent of teenage girls between 13 and 15 were exposed to unwanted nudity in a week on Instagram. You knew about it. Who did you fire?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, this is why we're building all these rules.

HAWLEY: Who did you fire?

ZUCKERBERG: I'm not going to answer that.

FOREMAN: There was plenty of heat to go around as the tech bosses were scorched with claims their products promoting anxiety, depression and violence, especially among young people.

SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Children are not your priority. Children are your product.

FOREMAN: But no one was hit harder than Zuckerberg, whose attempts at defense at times were literally laughed at.

ZUCKERBERG: My understanding is that we don't allow sexually explicit content on the service for people of any age.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is that going?

ZUCKERBERG: You know, our --

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Is there any one of you willing to say now that you support this bill?

FOREMAN: Many of the lawmakers are intent on overturning a longstanding federal law that immunizes those companies from lawsuits over user-generated content and putting tough regulations in place.


KLOBUCHAR: It's time to actually pass them. And the reason they haven't passed is because of the power of your company. So, let's be really, really clear about that.

FOREMAN: And while the tech bosses say they're happy to work on safeguards skepticism ran rampant.

GRAHAM: Nothing will change until the courtroom door is open to victims of social media.


FOREMAN (voice over): And that seems to be really one of the uniting principles here. The lawmakers are, in effect, to put it in different terms, suggesting this is like if the auto industry had no speed limits, no safety regulations, no seat belts, no airbags, no anything except what the automakers wanted to put in.

And they're saying that's where we are right now. This is a time where you're seeing this unbelievable unity.

Now, will it actually lead to lawmaking that will change this? That's always a big question because these are some of the biggest, most powerful and wealthy companies that have ever existed on the planet. And they don't want to be reined in. They want to say we'll control ourselves.

But the lawmakers are saying, as Senator Richard Blumenthal said yesterday, there's simply no basis to trust these social media companies anymore because they haven't done it yet, not effectively.

HARLOW: And what about the pushback from social media companies? One of the big ones just texted me, tech CEOs don't write laws, but they lobby for them. They lobby for or against them.

FOREMAN: Yes, of course. I mean, to say we don't write laws, it's like, well, you know, you could make the argument that if the tech companies were actually controlling this reasonably, there wouldn't have to be laws. The reason this is happening is because they don't feel like it is being handled reasonably.

And, actually, I'm shocked when Zuckerberg said, oh, it's my understanding that we don't allow sexually explicit content. I was surprised that nobody just handed him a phone and said, let's sit here for two minutes and you look around, because everything that these lawmakers talked about being a problem online, I can find on my phone in about two minutes because it's there, it's not hard to find and that's their complaint, that the tech companies keep saying, well, you know, the laws don't say and it's hard to find and we're doing things to stop it, and they're saying, you are making an absolute fortune and you're not stopping it, maybe we have to.

HARLOW: But lawmakers have the power to also do something. So, now let's see if they act after this.

FOREMAN: They do. And now they might. Now they might.

HARLOW: And they might. Thank you very much.

We do have also new reporting this morning overseas, U.S. intelligence seeing some signs that Iran is growing nervous about its proxy forces after they killed American troops. U.S. officials tell CNN it appears that deadly drone attack on Sunday that killed U.S. service members caught Iran's leaders by surprise and actually worried them.

MATTINGLY: We're also learning that just a couple of days later a cruise missile fired by Houthi rebels came within one mile of hitting a U.S. Navy destroyer before it was shot down. That would be the closest Houthi attack has come to an American warship yet.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is live for us at the Pentagon. Natasha, what more are you learning about what Poppy is talking about, the intelligence the U.S. has gathered on where Tehran leadership actually is at this moment?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Phil. So, we're told that the U.S. intelligence community has seen signs that Iranian leadership has become increasingly nervous about the activities and the increasing escalations of its proxy groups in Iraq, Syria and, of course, the Houthis in Yemen, who Iran also supports.

Now, it's important to note that, yes, Iran does fund, equip, support, train these proxy groups all over the region, but they don't have perfect control over them. And so what we are learning is that Tehran was taken by surprise when of the 160-plus attacks that these proxy groups have launched on U.S. service members, that one on Sunday actually did succeed in killing three Americans.

And that is an escalation that Iran doesn't necessarily want. We are told that U.S. officials do believe that Iran uses its proxy groups in the hopes of kind of harassing U.S. and western interests across the region, but not necessarily backing them into a corner to the extent that they feel obligated to launch some kind of really forceful attack in response because the Iranians, according to the U.S., they don't want to go to war with the U.S., but the proxy groups are escalating in a way that the US of course is now weighing a very significant response.

MATTINGLY: Yes, still waiting to see what that response looks like. Natasha Bertrand, thank you very much.

Well, a new Quinnipiac University poll shows President Biden with a six-point lead over Donald Trump and a hypothetical head-to-head, quite the change from polling last month that had shown the two in a dead heat.

Our Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten tells us it's Biden's biggest lead yet in a national poll for more than a year. A big reason for the boost, women voters. The poll finds Biden's support among women has increased five points in just the last month.

HARLOW: It's a different story though on a hypothetical and pretty unlikely not impossible matchup between Biden and Nikki Haley. This poll shows Biden losing to her by five points.


Haley is celebrating that poll but worn in a social media post Donald Trump loses big and we end up with President Kamala Harris.

MATTINGLY: Well, we are learning disturbing new details about the man who allegedly decapitated his father, then posted the video about it online. We'll be live in Pennsylvania, next.

And new warnings from U.S. intel of, quote, apocalyptic scenarios. We're going to speak to a member of Congress who is in the room as officials testified about the dangers Chinese hackers pose to the U.S.


JEN EASTERLY, DIRECTOR, CYBERSECURITY AND INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY AGENCY: This is truly and everything, everywhere, all-at-once scenario.



MATTINGLY: Well, we're learning more details this morning about the man accused of brutally murdering his father and showing his decapitated head in a YouTube video. Court documents show Justin Mohn sued the federal government at least three times because he was angry about his status as a white man, his student debt, and his inability to get work.

HARLOW: So, Mohn was taken into custody after breaking into a Pennsylvania National Guard base. Also police say -- Township Police Department, you really broke this news for us yesterday on the program and we know a lot more now about sort of what may have led up to this.

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy and Phil. Really late yesterday, we were learning a lot more about the man at the center of this, 32-year-old Justin Mohn. And I want to touch on those lawsuits that Phil was mentioning because it really paints a picture of this person prior to what happened back on Tuesday.

Like you said, Phil, Justin Mohn actually filed three lawsuits against the federal government in 2022 and 2023 specifically for allowing him to borrow money for college without telling him that he might not find satisfactory work for, quote, an overeducated white man. The court finally dismissed that final case.

Then in 2019, Mohn also sued his former employer, Progressive Insurance, for being paid less than his female peers, saying that he was ultimately fired because of sex discrimination. Well, Progressive said in court filings that, no, Mohn was actually fired because he kicked open doors and Progressive Insurance actually won that particular case.

So, like I said, this is all painting a picture of the man who we now know has been accused of beheading his own father, then posting about it on YouTube, then running to a National Guard base about 100 miles west of where that crime scene was, then breaking into that National Guard base with a gun.

Again, all a troubling picture of this man, Justin Mohn, who's been accused of these crimes. He was arraigned yesterday morning charged with murder and abuse of a body.

MATTINGLY: That's a horrifying story. Please keep us posted. Great reporting, Danny Freeman, thank you.

Well, in just a few hours, President Biden heads to Michigan to meet with UAW members after they delivered him a critical endorsement.

HARLOW: The trip comes as the president faces some growing pressure to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, as the Israel-Hamas War nears its fourth month. A core constituency pushing for that pause joins us next.



HARLOW: Denver's migrant crisis is putting intense pressure on the city's limited resources as thousands of asylum seekers really fill the shelters, the schools, the hospitals, while winter weather leaves the vast majority to survive outside and below freezing temperatures.

Now, Denver's Mayor Mike Johnston is pleading for help as his city is overwhelmed with an unfolding emergency.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins us now. Shimon, we've spoken to the mayor. He's been very public, a Democratic mayor, about the concerns that he has. You were on the ground. What did you see?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We got to see firsthand the conditions there and they're not great. I mean, the shelters are filled leaving a lot of the migrants out on the streets as they try to cope with the weather and the fact that the city just does not have the money to support them all.


PROKUPECZ (voice over): If we could work none of us would be living like this, he says.

Denver facing a record number of migrants straining resources, leaving many on the streets.

Are you hoping -- wow, you could just see the wind here again, and tents blowing. Wow.

Alexander from Venezuela complains of the freezing conditions. He shows us how he's been living.

He says this foam protects the tent from the wind. This is your bed? This is where you --

This is how he looks for work, he says.

But it's just getting too cold here in Denver, and they need to start moving the people out inside into shelters. There's not a lot of space here, but the city is doing its best.

YOLI CASAS, DIRECTOR OF NON-PROFIT HELPING MIGRANTS: They're just worried about what's going to happen with their stuff.

PROKUPECZ: Migrant advocate Yoli Casas urgently tries to help move families.

CASAS: My broken heart is like Denver is officially full. No one should come, there's no room, they're going to be outside freezing to death.

PROKUPECZ: The city has 40,000 migrants with about 4,000 in shelters, which are now at capacity.

Denver's Mayor Mike Johnston visits a shelter. He's immediately surrounded by migrants asking for help.

It's good for him to see what's happening, she says, worried she'll end up in the streets with her son. She's thankful, she says, but sorry, she came here illegally.

Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott has sent thousands of migrants to Denver on buses, which continue to arrive.

You've had conversations with Greg Abbott.

MAYOR MIKE JOHNSTON (D-DENVER, CO): I've not talked to Governor Abbott. I've reached out to him, but we he's not called me back.

PROKUPECZ: So, what do you want to talk to him about if you could speak to him?

JOHNSTON: Yes. I mean, what I would say to them is that I understand, you know, they feel like they have a huge influx of people that they can't handle in Texas alone. I agree with him that no one state or no one city should need to solve this entire challenge, but I think there's a way for us to work together.

PROKUPECZ: Migrants could cost the city $180 million this year, the mayor says, and it's on the verge of cutting essential services.

JOHNSTON: We don't want to take police officers off the street. We don't want to take firefighters off the street. We don't want to not do trash pickup or not have our parks and recreation centers open.

PROKUPECZ: The strain on resources frustrating others in need.

ROBERT EVERETT THOMPSON JR., VETERAN EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS: They're using a bend-and-break approach, but I think you need to help the American side first before you help the influx of migrants before us.

PROKUPECZ: Seeking relief, mayors like Johnston pleading for more federal help, allowing migrants to work.

What is your name? Wilfred. So, he's telling us he needs a warm place to stay. It's about 20 degrees or so.

There's no place to go, he says.

You can die from the cold here. You can. It's going to get much colder. You have to go inside, sir, okay?

At night, we learn of a group sheltering under a bridge.


There's a group of people coming here now to try and take them inside, but it's just too cold to be outside. But this is how they've been living.

KEITH REESER, PASTOR, DENVER FRIENDS CHURCH: If they could pack up a suitcase, that is as much as they can bring.

PROKUPECZ: With limited city resources, residents are stepping in, like Pastor Keith Reeser, who's opening up his church.

REESER: As far as you know, are we ready to walk or do we need to stay for a little bit?

PROKUPECZ: So, what's your goal here now? We've got some friends. I grabbed a couple of my buddies and I said let's go get them and let's get them out of this situation. So, we're going to offer them shelter for the night.

Seven in my vehicle, so I can take seven.

PROKUPECZ: Another resident is using her motel as a sanctuary, housing about 300 migrants.

So, how many stay here? All of these mattresses?


PROKUPECZ: One, two, three --


PROKUPECZ: Around 20 just in this one room?


PROKUPECZ: She is like a mother to us, he says. Seriously, she gets up at 5:00 in the morning and cooks us breakfast.

Yong Prince was planning to leave Denver to retire, but when migrants started showing up at her hotel, she found a reason to stay. YONG PRINCE, MOTEL OWNER HOUSING MIGRANTS: My parents come from North Korea.

PROKUPECZ: Your parents?

PRINCE: I was hungry when I was a kid. We don't have any meal for a long time. I was born in '52 right after the war. So, yes, I feel them.

PROKUPECZ: They've touched a certain part of you? And it's almost like they've become your family.

PRINCE: Yes, yes. I'm going to make sure they're eating.

PROKUPECZ: You want to make sure they're eating, taken care of?


PROKUPECZ (on camera): And so that's what Yong does. Every morning, she cooks for them. She prepares meals for them all day long. But this is what's happening in Denver. There are so many people who are now trying to help the migrants who have been living on the streets.

And Denver is really an interesting place because they just don't have the money and they don't have the housing, they don't have the capacity to take care of these people. And, sadly, it's going to get worse because starting on Monday, the city is going to be telling folks who have been in these shelters in these hotels that the city has been paying for, it's time to leave. You've been here way too long. And they're going to wind up on the street. I mean, there's just no place for them to go.

And the other thing, you see the mayor there just quickly -- he's trying to find some kind of resolution here. Let's all work together. He wants the other mayors to get together. He wants Governor Abbott to communicate with him. Tell us what you need. We're here to help.

But to just send people here without any kind of preparation for them, it's just too much for that city and really the other cities that are dealing with this.

HARLOW: What a story. Bless that woman. Bless Yong. No one's paying her. The city is not paying her.

PROKUPECZ: She's doing that for free.

HARLOW: Thank you.

A new warning of apocalyptic scenarios, Congressman Seth Moulton was in the room as intelligence officials warned about the dangers Chinese hackers pose to the United States and he is with us next.