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Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) On FBI Chief's Warning That Chinese Hackers Are Preparing To "Wreak Havoc"; Senate Grills Social Media Execs Over Child Safety; NYT: Black Pastors Urge Biden To Call For Gaza Ceasefire. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired February 01, 2024 - 07:30   ET





CHRISTOPHER WRAP, DIRECTOR, FBI: China's hackers are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real- world harm to American citizens and communities, if and when China decides the time has come to strike.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: That was FBI Director Christopher Wray sounding the alarm yesterday about China's extensive hacking efforts inside the U.S., warning lawmakers of apocalyptic scenarios as hackers backed by Beijing test our nation's power grid, oil pipelines, and clean water systems. China has denied previous hacking allegations but dire warnings from the nation's top cybersecurity experts prove just how concerned they are.

Wray's testimony coming just hours after the FBI and DOJ announced they effectively eliminated a Chinese malware attack on American small businesses.

Joining us now to discuss all of this, Congressman Seth Moulton, a Democrat from Massachusetts. He sits on the House Select Committee on China. Congressman, I appreciate your time this morning.

I think for people that are watching this and hearing the -- kind of the language that is very jarring when you look at what's happening here, can you explain to them what they should be most concerned about? What are the people seeing that's raising these alarms?

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): Well, look, we've seen evidence of this work by China in our intelligence briefings for a long time. But for a lot of Americans, it's just hard to understand how this can really hit home. That all of these Chinese actions could literally result in you losing your water and having your electricity suddenly shut off. China is positioning itself to have the power to do this on our basic infrastructure. And it's one of the ways that the threat from China can really come home to everyday Americans. MATTINGLY: Do we have a sense -- and this was touched on somewhat

yesterday, but when they would utilize this power if they have it? If they have infiltrated to the degree that people are concerned about. What would cause them to kind of flip the switch here?

MOULTON: You know, the working theory is that if Xi Jinping fulfills his promise and goes ahead and invades Taiwan that he would do this to the home front here in America to discourage us from doing anything to help. To discourage us from doing anything to defend Taiwan's democracy.

And, of course, if China can just roll over and take Taiwan, they're going to control the entire chip market in the world. So they're going to have a say over whether you can buy your next iPhone or computer, or whatever else. That would be economically disastrous for the United States.

But the point is, of course, that China could do this whenever they want. So that's the theory for when they might use this capability, but they could do it tomorrow if they decide to do so.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, it's a huge concern. And TSMC, which obviously kind of sits at the center of a lot of this right now and is a big concern as well.

You know, what's fascinating is these warnings are coming at the same time where the administration has been forced to once again focus on the Middle East. Like every administration before them, there is a crisis there.

We are awaiting a response from the attack that killed three U.S. service members. What would you like to see a response look like?

MOULTON: Well, I'm confident we'll get a response. We got a classified briefing with the administration yesterday on the situation in the Middle East.

But what the president is doing is being very careful about calibrating his response to be clear, decisive, but strategic. To say to Tehran this behavior is not acceptable. We're not going to stand idly by if you kill U.S. troops. But at the same time, we're not going to instigate a war.


Instigating a war in the Middle East would play right into our enemies' hands. There are groups in the Middle East that want exactly that. That's why they're taunting us with these attacks.

But as you point out, Phil, it would also play into China's hands. There would be no greater gift to Russia and China than for us to get bogged down in another war in the Middle East.

MATTINGLY: It's certainly something the administration has deliberately and intentionally tried to avoid throughout their first three-plus years in office. I was struck yesterday by one of your colleagues, Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw, responding to the idea of concerns about a direct strike inside of Iran. Take a listen.


REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): It is not out of the question to hit inside of Iran. Like, you hear some people clutch their pearls and say well, you're going to start World War III. That's not necessarily true. The World War III doomsdayers have always been wrong. They were wrong about Russia. They've been wrong about the Cold War. They've been wrong about this, too.


MATTINGLY: Congressman, the administration has not taken that off the table but it's been made clear to me by U.S. officials that I've spoken to that's not something they're weighing at this moment in time.

I am less willing to listen to those who pushed the Iraq War or an attack in Iraq when it comes to this specific issue. Crenshaw is not one of those individuals.

What do you say to that comment that he made?

MOULTON: Well, first of all, no one's saying that you're going to start World War III in the Middle East. What we're saying is we're going to get bogged down in a war in the Middle East that will take our eye off the ball. That will prevent us from dealing with the much more significant threats from China and Russia. That's the concern here.

And we don't want to lose a lot more U.S. troops to a war in the Middle East than we're doing -- than we lost -- the tragic loss of these three soldiers this past weekend.

But let's also remember that some of these conservative Republicans who point to Donald Trump's attack on Soleimani, one of the Quds Force commanders from Iran -- that attack did not happen in Iran. He was targeted when he was in Iraq. That's where they took him out. So even the Trump administration was very careful to calibrate its response in these situations and not start a war with Iran.

MATTINGLY: Do you have any understanding, before I let you go, on when the response will actually come? You mentioned that you'd had a classified briefing. We understand that it's pretty much signed off. When that may be coming?

MOULTON: No, and I wouldn't say if I did know exactly when. But the point is that the administration is going to choose the timeline themselves. We're not going to be beholden to our enemy's timeline. We are going to set the standards for what we do.

MATTINGLY: It certainly seems imminent at this point. We'll have to wait and see. Congressman Seth Moulton, always appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.

MOULTON: Good to see you, Phil.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Tears and apologies at an explosive Senate hearing on the safety for children online, but suffering families say it is not enough. Parents who lost their to suicide after repeated cyberbullying -- they were in that hearing room and they are with us this morning.




SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): They are not the tech companies that have contributed to this crisis, they are responsible for many of the dangers our children face online.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Mr. Zuckerberg, you and the companies before us -- I know you don't mean it to be so but you have blood on your hands.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Your product is killing people. Will you personally commit to compensating the victims? You're a billionaire.


MATTINGLY: The top executives of the largest and most powerful tech companies in the U.S. faced a bipartisan grilling on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, testifying about the potential harm social media can do to young people. Meta and Snapchat CEOs apologized to parents whose children suffered abuse and harm on their platforms.


HAWLEY: Would you like to apologize for what you've done to these good people?

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, META: I'm sorry for everything you have all been through. No one -- no one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered.

EVAN SPIEGEL, CEO, SNAP: We are devastated that we cannot --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To the parents. What do you say to those parents, Mr. Spiegel?

SPIEGEL: I'm so sorry that we have not been able to prevent these tragedies.


HARLOW: Joining us this morning, Rose and Rob Bronstein. They were there in that room for all of it. They lost their beloved son Nate. He was 15 years old. They lost him to suicide in January of 2022 after he was cyberbullied on Snapchat. They are founding board members of the nonprofit Buckets Over Bullying to stop cyberbullying of children and teens. Thank you for being with us this morning.

Rose, to begin with you.


HARLOW: Of course.

To begin with you, Rose, I wonder when you listened to those apologies and all of the testimony over four hours from those executives, if you think they are trying to and can do right by you and for other parents?

ROSE BRONSTEIN, TEEN SON DIED BY SUICIDE, FOUNDING BOARD MEMBER, BUCKETS OVER BULLYING (via Skype): To be honest, I don't think they're doing right by us. I think they can but because they are more focused on the profits of their businesses and they have so much power, money, and greed, they're genuinely not interested in taking the steps required to creating platforms or changing their platforms to ensure that all children across the world are safe.

HARLOW: I wonder what would have made a difference for Nate do you think? A change that they could have made that would have maybe saved his life.

ROSE BRONSTEIN: Well, Nate was cyberbullied over Snapchat, so -- and that's owned by Evan Spiegel. And yesterday, I wish that the Senate would have grilled him more. I feel like he kind of got away from being asked hardball questions.

But with the case of Snapchat, we are advocating for a federal law that was just introduced called Sammy's Law, which forces social media platforms to open up their API to allow parents to use third-party monitoring software. So when a child is in danger or is receiving dangerous content online, a parent would receive an alert notifying them that their child is in danger.

So, if Snap would open up their platform to these third-party software programs, my husband and I would have received an alert immediately after my son received a message telling him to go kill himself, and we would have been able to intervene.


ROBERT BRONSTEIN: And if I could just add that one of the counterpoints that people make is well, why aren't parents just looking after what their kids are doing online? The answer is there is technology, right now, that would allow parents to keep their kids safer; yet, the platforms stand in the way of the software working. Why? Because they don't want to minimize the time that kids spend on their platforms.

MATTINGLY: Rob, you heard the apologies from -- the apologies that were presented by Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel. That was a remarkable moment from the Zuckerberg perspective because so much of the testimony is practiced, prepared, canned, to be candid with you --


MATTINGLY: -- and that wasn't. But it also wasn't a direct apology to the families for the companies' actions. It was an apology for what people had been through.

What was that like in the room?

ROBERT BRONSTEIN: Well, I appreciate you pointing that out because number one, it was only because Sen. Hawley clearly shamed him into it. And it was as awkward and uncomfortable as you might expect.

And it was not an apology on the part of the CEO and founder of one of the largest companies in the world for the harm that company had caused. It was, to paraphrase, I'm sorry for what you're feeling. I'm sorry for what you're going through.

That's not an apology. It's certainly not the apology that was appropriate. It wasn't genuine. It was forced with TV cameras rolling. I get that it's a moment that's going viral and it will be the sound bite. But let's read the words carefully -- and I have several times -- and it is most definitely not an apology for the actions that Facebook has done and for the harm it has caused.

HARLOW: I was struck by another Mark Zuckerberg moment when he read off of some of his prepared testimony. Quote, "The existing body of scientific work has not shown a causal link between using social media and young people having the worst mental health outcomes."

It may be true that we need more years for more direct causal links to be shown over time from science, but I think -- you're shaking your head, Rose. Because as a parent listening to that whose kids aren't old enough yet to have a smartphone, I'm terrified for the day they can, right? And I wonder what that was like for you hearing that?

ROSE BRONSTEIN: It absolutely incensed me. We have -- there's so much -- so much research, so much information that clearly directs what I'm going to say is causation between how harmful social media platforms are to our children.

And my definition of causation is the number of dead children that we now have and that keep dying because of the harm that they are exposed to online. I mean, how many more children -- how many more dead children do we need to account for, and cry for, and grieve for to support the fact that there is causation that the activity and the harm that our children are being exposed to is directly related to their time spent on social media. And the refusal of these CEOs to change the features and to put a duty of care on them to make sure that the environments that our children are on are safe.

ROBERT BRONSTEIN: Yeah. I mean, the smartphone and social media both came on the scene in about 2006 and every measurable thing as it relates to youth mental health and wellbeing has declined significantly since then and accelerated even more so during COVID. These aren't coincidental. The U.S. Surgeon General came out and said as much.

And just to add to what Rose said, I learned something yesterday in the hearing from the senators. There's only two industries in this country that are immune from lawsuits, internet companies and gun manufacturers, which is really a telling thing.

HARLOW: Yeah, yeah.

And we just showed our viewers this chart that aligns with the timeline you just mentioned, Rob, about the number of suicides going up -- that's the blue line on your screen, everyone at home -- and the rise of social media companies as well. And that's for Americans aged 10 to 24.

Thank you both very much for all of this you're doing in Nate's name.

ROBERT BRONSTEIN: Thank you. We appreciate the opportunity to speak about this.

ROSE BRONSTEIN: Yeah, thank you for your time.

HARLOW: Of course.

If anyone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call 988.

We'll be right back.



HARLOW: President Biden is facing mounting pressure to push for a ceasefire as the Israel-Hamas war nears its fourth month, including and notably, from a core constituency -- many Black voters. Black pastors leading the charge in some cities across the country with petitions that many have signed. There's one from Black pastors calling for a ceasefire in which they write, "We see the deaths and hear the cries of both our Palestinian and Israeli siblings whom all deserve to live safe from harm."

More than 26,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war broke out, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.

This call from Black clergy echoes some of the messages the Biden administration is hearing from protesters at many public campaign events. People chanting "Ceasefire Now." You see all those different events on your screen.

The New York Times spoke with several pastors who signed this petition and found, quote, "Many of their parishioners are so dismayed by the president's posture toward the war that their support for his re- election bid could be imperiled."

[07:55:00] I'm happy to be joined this morning by Cynthia Hale, pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church -- reverend. And the pastor of Culture Changing Christians, Carl Day. Pastor, thank you very much. Reverend, thank you very much.

And Rev. Hale, let me begin with you and this letter -- this open letter calling for a ceasefire. This is what struck me and one of the reasons I really wanted you to join me this morning. You told The New York Times, quote, "We see them, these civilians, as part of us. They are oppressed people. We are oppressed people."

I wonder if the Biden administration's refusal, so far, to call for a ceasefire has cost the president your vote, potentially.

REV. CYNTHIA HALE, PASTOR, RAY OF HOPE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (via Webex by Cisco): Thank you so much, Poppy, for having me on this morning.

So far, I'm holding out hope that the president will change his position and be stronger in his call for a ceasefire, and that's what we are hoping. He's not lost my vote yet but I am teetering on the edge as is true of many of my parishioners. As a matter of fact, I had a conversation on Sunday with some of my young adults and they were very strong about the fact that they are not going to vote for Biden because of this tragedy.

We do see the Palestinian people as connected to us. As a matter of fact, we believe in the humanity of all. And so we are as concerned about the people of Israel as well as the Palestinians. We want the war to stop so there will be no more killing of either.

HARLOW: Pastor Day, what do you feel, and what are you hearing from your congregants?

PASTOR CARL DAY, PASTOR, CULTURE CHANGING CHRISTIANS (via Webex by Cisco): Well, I believe that people are very, very upset right now. I'm not really hearing people on the brink of not voting -- or potentially, not voting for Joe Biden.

I think that while be it people are dying at a ridiculous rate right now, and that's really on both sides in regards to just lives being lost -- I think that people are waiting for it to play out. Yet, while still being vigilant and understanding the weight of today's election. Well, not today's election but the election in America right now.

So I think that we should be very mindful of the consequences and the fallout and what this election could cost us, while be it we can pray. But we certainly can call for justice on both sides.

I think that many people that I speak with are very, very aware that this war could be ended if Hamas would decide to return those hostages. Because there are 137-odd families who still don't have their loved ones.

HARLOW: Right.

DAY: I think that we live in a country where we sit here and we talk about how we don't negotiate with terrorists, and if there were 137- odd people's family members that are still held captive, I think the pressure should also be on Hamas to do what's right, and that's return these people. And ultimately, I think the call for a ceasefire could intensify once those things happen.

And I believe that the Palestinians should definitely receive full aid. They should have the right to govern themselves. And I think I've heard quite those sentiments and (INAUDIBLE) from the people that surround me --


DAY: -- in Philadelphia. So --

HARLOW: And --

DAY: -- I think that these things can come about.

HARLOW: And Pastor Day, a lot of your work also is in tandem with, as I understand it, the Jewish community in Philadelphia. And I just wonder if you could speak to what you are hearing from those leaders as well because you are so right to bring up all of those hostages still being held after the horrific October 7 terror attack in Israel.

DAY: Yeah. So, yeah, a lot of my -- a lot of my work takes place in the inner city of Philadelphia, but I do work with the Jewish community --


DAY: -- when we formed an alliance last year, at some point, before this war broke out. But yeah, they're still -- they're still very much mortified by a lot of what's going on.

A lot of the Jewish members that I speak with are deeply concerned about the well-being of those family members who are held hostage. But at the same time, they're very, very empathetic for the people in Gaza. The people that I speak with certainly want this war to end at some point. But they're also meeting with the family members of those who are held hostage.

I met -- I met a person whose grandmother was returned over there in Israel and he was distraught and he was heartbroken. And he couldn't wait to find his 84-year-old grandmother and was hoping that she'd be alive.

So, again, I'm in the midst of it all and I see it on all sides. And again, I think that some of these things can happen.

HARLOW: And Rev. Hale, final word to you if you were speaking now with the administration directly.

HALE: If I had the opportunity to speak to the administration I would just simply share with them how important it is for us to be aware of the suffering that's taking place.