Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Tonight

First Republic Gets $30 Billion Rescue From Large Banks; U.S Military Releases Footage Of Russian Fighter Jet Forcing Down American Drone Over Black Sea; New Bulletproof Class Rooms In Alabama; Biden Administrations Demand Chinese TikTok Owners To Sell Shares Of Face U.S. Ban; Massive Seaweed Blob Heading To Florida Coast. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 16, 2023 - 22:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good evening, everyone. I'm Laura Coates, and this is CNN TONIGHT.

We're talking about $30 billion. That's how much it took to rescue the latest bank now in trouble. Some of the country's biggest banks contributed billions each to keep First Republic afloat, which tells you just how seriously they take all of this. But what about every day Americans who are bearing the brunt of the pain of, say, interest rates that are going up? Is the little guy getting ignored in all of this?

Plus, it is the video you cannot look away from, the U.S. military releasing this footage of a Russian fighter jet forcing down an American drone over the Black Sea. What is going on in the new battlegrounds in the skies? And are confrontations like this more likely now with unmanned objects?

Also, banks failing, the market in turmoil, drones forced out of the sky, and now this, everyone, seaweed. A massive blob of seaweed thousands of miles long, if that's even possible, over ten million tons of it floating around in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and heading for Florida's beaches. And did I mention it smells like rotten eggs, which, of course, smells like sulfur? I'm just going to point that out. We'll tell you all about that in a moment.

We have got a lot to talk about tonight, but I want to begin with the situation with the banks. And joining me here now, Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, he's a member of the banking committee. Senator, thank you for joining us this evening.

I won't ask you about the seaweed, don't worry. But I will ask you about what's been going on with the mess that the banks are finding themselves in. However, as you know, these markets, the markets are celebrating the idea of big banks rushing now to save First Republic. Are we going to see more of this? Is it an indication that the ship is being righted or is it more of a foreboding domino effect happening? What do you think? SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, Laura, it is great to be with you. I do think it is good news you had some of the biggest banks in the country investing $30 billion to save First Republic. And I do think that Secretary Yellen and the Biden administration had been quick to stamp out contagion wherever they think it's spreading and I do believe that they are being successful. Obviously, we have to monitor this very carefully. The Fed has a facility that allows banks to borrow money to make sure they have the reserves necessary to pay deposits. But I do applaud the Biden administration. Over the last week, it's been a roller coaster, but I think they acted quickly in the face of an emergency.

COATES: Senator, I think it is always very prudent to nip something in the butt but I wonder how many more buds we are talking about. I mean, is this an indication in your mind -- you're on the banking committee. Are you hearing anything about this being an indication that this is actually going to happen more and more? Because, obviously, if you follow that thread, at some point, someone is not going to get the $30 billion.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, that's right, although the Fed facility is much larger than that, and that does allow banks to borrow from this Fed facility. But there are lots of things that were quite unique or at least unusual about the Silicon Valley Bank, including the huge numbers of uninsured deposits, deposits above $250,000, plus the fact that it was so concentrated in the tech industry.

So, I think people are looking, you know, around the environment, the terrain, but I do not think you find a lot of other banks in that particular circumstance. Again, you know, we have been in regular communication with the Department of Treasury and others. They are monitoring the situation. But I think they have responded quickly and provided confidence.


COATES: I think it is a good thing, Senator, to show that there is confidence between the banking institutions to say, essentially, look, you're good for it. I will give you $30 billion. We will rally to get it. Because I do believe that you, as an institution, are going to be okay. The problem is for so many people who are looking at this, unfortunately, the everyday person, and you know them, you know, the idea of it, they're not always given the benefit of the doubt. They're not given those second chances.

So, what do you say to the American people viewing this perhaps through a lens of, sure, you will come and help the people you think are good for it, these major banks, but how about the everyday person suffering from these interest rates? What do you say to them?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, first of all, as the Biden administration has stressed, and I agree with their decision entirely, no owners of these banks were bailed out in any way. The owners, the stockholders, the bondholders, they're going under, as they should. In fact, I think that we should claw back some of the benefits, the profits from stock sales made by the CEO and other executives. Whether or not there was inside trading, and we'll have to look and see whether there was any criminal activity, but regardless, I think we should claw back those profits that they made on the eve of the collapse.

In terms of the interest rates, as you know, what the Fed has been doing is trying to tamp down inflation. Many of us have been concerned that they would overshoot by raising interest rates too quickly and too much. This latest incidents with the banks will actually, I think, make them more cautious about raising interest rates going forward. So, it's hard to see how all of this will play out.

On the Senate banking committee, we do intend to have hearings. Sherrod Brown, the chairman of the committee, is going to hold hearings both to do a postmortem, so we figure out exactly what went wrong here, and also whether there are additional measures that we should be taking, what additional measures we should be taking to prevent this from happening going forward.

COATES: Is there a timeline when those hearings are going to take place?

VAN HOLLEN: It will be in the coming weeks. But I don't have the exact schedule nor do I know exactly who we're going to call. But people -- the witnesses will be selected based on those two criteria, figuring out exactly what happened at Silicon Valley Bank and then, you know, looking at the lessons learned going forward.

I will say, Laura, that Senator Brown and I actually wrote to the Fed back in January encouraging their ongoing efforts to take additional action to reduce risk in the banking system. They have embarked on an effort to be more diligent, to be more stringent. It was something that we applauded. I will say many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle were giving the Federal Reserve all sorts of grief for beginning to look more closely at risks and talking about better regulating some of these big banks. I don't think they're talking out against it anymore.

COATES: Senator Van Hollen, thank you so much. We're looking forward to those hearings. I appreciate it tonight.

VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you. Thanks.

COATES: Thank you. I want to bring in now Andrew Ackerman from The Wall Street Journal, Alex Burns from Politico, former Congressman Joe Walsh and Alencia Johnson, a senior adviser on Joe Biden's 2020 campaign.

Let's pick up where we left off, Andrew, on this point with the senator, and the idea of, look, you have got these 11 banks rescuing First Republic. Do you look at this as a sign of a good thing, a good course correction over the grand scheme of things, or is this is sign that they're shaking and thinking we cannot have this be a domino effect?

ANDREW ACKERMAN, ECONOMICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think it is hard not to look at this as a sign of seriousness. This is how serious the biggest banks in the country are taking this, that they are going to put $30 billion of their own money to shore up what could be this next domino in this banking crisis. I think it's reassuring as well.

I think the most important takeaway from the last week is $42 billion. That's how much money fled Silicon Valley Bank in a single day last Thursday. And that shows you that we're not in this period -- it is not It's a Wonderful Life anymore where you have people lining up to --

COATES: To help George Bailey, yes, there you go.

ACKERMAN: Yes. You have got money moving instantaneously with the click of a button. It is very hard to write rules for that type of situation. It is not clear that regulations alone would have prevented this bank run. I mean, if you lose a quarter of your deposits in a single day, $42 billion, I don't think there is any bank that could survive that level of outflows.


The reassuring bit is what they did on Sunday and then the news today does appear to have prevented, you know, any nightmare scenario. That appears to have stopped that. But, you know, there is a lot that we will have to watch and we're watching it closely at The Wall Street Journal to see what happens. There is going to be a review. The Fed was the regulator for a Silicon Valley Bank and the examiners had a job to do. It is not clear what they did. We have reported that they did flag some of the problems at Silicon Valley Bank, but it is not clear if they did anything or what happened.

COATES: That's a good point, the idea of flagging it and we're doing this postmortem and how this is looking. And, of course, people were very quick to be able understand what was the cause of this. And so you almost wonder, Alencia, if you are able to ascertain the cause, then perhaps you are able to avoid the problem in itself. And so when you look at the reaction, is this, you know, the reaction level, what should be, or is pro activity better here?

ALENCIA JOHNSON, SENIOR ADVISER ON BIDEN'S 2020 CAMPAIGN: I actually think it is a bit of both, right? I think the reaction to the number one thing of protecting customers, right, the reality is we want to make sure that people were able to get their paychecks, that small businesses did not collapse. I mean, I don't know about you all but I saw so many stories of small business owners talking about how losing their deposits would literally eliminate their business that they have been building for ten years.

The proactive piece, I think this gives us an opportunity to really think about bank regulations, what happened in 2018. My other former boss, Senator Elizabeth Warren, like this is her jam, she has been all over the media talking about we have to put back in place regulations to prevent this from happening. We can't just have the stock gap when -- yes, the president is doing his job to protect the American people and these banks are coming in, as you were saying, but we have got to prevent this from happening again, especially where we are in this economy and people are trying to avoid a recession. FMR. REP. JOE WALSH (R-IL): And everything you just said is right. But the other disconnect thing here is how quickly both parties really jumped in to bail out Silicon Valley Bank. I mean, how quickly they jumped in. And you're an average, regular American out there, sitting out there, who has just gone through three years of COVID, and the wealthy did a hell of a lot better getting through COVID, they were bailed out. This notion of bailing people out, and I think we bail out the wealthy and the powerful and the influential in this country in a nanosecond, no doubt, no hesitation. Republicans and Democrats come together to do that in a heartbeat.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's why you hear Senator Van Hollen trying to really draw the distinction between making sure that the people are not losing their deposits having their businesses wiped out versus how executives and investors are doing at these banks. But I think, in some ways, the most telling thing that we heard from the senator was that reference to we are going to find out if there were laws broken here, right?

That's one of the things -- Congressman Walsh knows it as well as anyone in town, one of the things that got voters just white hot angry after 2008 was that nobody went to jail. And I think that you can get away with a whole lot of bailing people out if there is also a bit perp walking involved as well.

ACKERMAN: Yes. I don't think this is 2008. I mean, there are some similarities, right? Like today, you see Jamie Dimon and the big banks kind of -- it is not a shotgun marriage, but in 2008 you saw all of the banks combining. The government was coordinating that, was sort of arranging mergers at the last minute to prevent bank failures. But on the other hand, this isn't 2008. This was not a bank rescue. The management is gone. The bondholders are wiped out. The stockholders are wiped out.

COATES: Does it matter that it is not the government that helped First Republic today? It is really other banks that make a distinction to the more current news too?

ACKERMAN: I mean, assuming -- I mean, I think it is almost better if it was the banks that did this on their own. I think it was clearly -- there was some coordination with the federal government because that means that -- that draws the distinction from 2008 where you don't have Timothy Geithner calling all these CEOs and telling them find a buyer, find a buyer, find a buyer, this was kind of on their own. After the regulators hat stepped in over the weekend, I think it's somewhat -- it should be somewhat reassuring.

And -- you know, and the depositors, I think the issue, they did get a rescue. The depositors got a rescue. And I think that that is a policy issue that we're going to have to think about. Was that good policy? I think that --

COATES: Well, that's what the hearings will be about, too. As you mentioned the idea of the senator going forward, what we are going to glean from those moments as well are going to be really important.

Everyone, stay put. We are going to talk about what's going on next in just a moment.

Next, how drones may be changing the face of warfare, will there be more confrontations now that there are unmanned drones in the skies? We will talk about it next.



COATES: Tensions in the skies over the Black Sea as stunning video released by the U.S. military shows the moments Russian jets dumped fuel on and then appeared to hit a U.S. drone, the first direct physical contact between U.S. and Russian aircraft since the start of Putin's war in Ukraine, leading to a blame game between officials in both countries. But what would have happened if it actually had been a manned craft that was forced into the ocean?

Back now with me, my panel and we're joined by CNN Military Analyst retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton, who I had been waiting to hear from about this very issue, because, look, the U.S. did send another drone into the area today, probably a way of can't hold this down moment.

However, what is going to be the tragedy going forward knowing that this has had happened over the Black Sea, Russia has given a different explanation, and the video something very different? What do you say?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. So, Laura, the big thing is that, yes, we are going to tell the Russians, let's go ahead and make sure that we could still have the rights to fly over the Black Sea, fly over international airspace, fly over international waters, do all of those different things.

But the one other thing that's going on is European Command is conducting a safety review right now of drone flights over the Black Sea. So, on the one hand, we are asserting our right to fly over international airspace and international waters, on the other hand, we're also doing the safety review to make sure that none of this happens again.


Now, you know, that's going to be one of those things where perhaps all the threat of measures that we take might not have any effect, but on the other hand, we are also looking at ways to improve our capacity to collect intelligence, which is exactly what that drone was doing at that moment when it was hit.

COATES: Were you surprised that we were able to see this video footage so quickly? I mean, obviously, there were these competing statements about what really happened. Russia having a sort of a it wasn't me moment and this was something that was at fault, your sharp maneuvering, as opposed to what the United States said about it. And then it was made public. It was declassified. What do you say to that?

LEIGHTON: So, the Biden administration has made, I think, a smart move in the intelligence arena when it comes to declassifying information, in general. The Ukraine war, the first indications of the Russian troop placements, that was all revealed to the press before the Russians actually moved.

And that is an interesting and new strategy that the Biden administration has implemented. This is kind of like that because what they were able to do is they were able to not only refute what the Russians said but they were able to prove the U.S. point of view and that that was the correct way of describing the incident and the correct way to assess what happened.

COATES: What does this do in terms of having that accuracy, shall we say, in these conversations? Obviously, Russia operates a great deal through propaganda and people who likely would need to be convinced or told the truth won't have seen this?

BURNS: Well, look, I'm not the military expert here. I'm a political reporter. But it certainly does here in the U.S., right, is that it's really important at this point in a war that's now gone for quite some time for the American people to feel confident that what they're hearing from the administration has real credibility to it, right? A whole lot of Americans of a whole lot of generations that had the experience of seeing a war start on what seems to be a credible premises and over time you start to question is the government giving me the real story?

And I think a video like this is crucial to the president and other members of his administration being able to go to the American people and go to the world and say, we are behaving responsibly. Whatever you are hearing from R.T., on the internet or whatever, don't take their word for it because, in fact, we have the receipts.

COATES: I want you to respond to this because there has been a new Quinnipiac poll probably to your point as well that showing and talking about the way in which the administration has to continuously make the case really, especially in light of recent statements by Governor DeSantis, for example, though he has been scolded by members of his own party on his commentary, about the whole idea -- my earring just fell off. Were they listening to me right now about this conversation? I'm taking Florida's governor. I'm taking the other one off now, too. I like to match to match on air.

So, even though the governor's comments had not matched his only party, see what I did there, the idea that the poll talks about how Americans are almost evenly split on Biden's Ukraine response, does this transparency give more confidence to say, look, if the president is telling us this is what's happening, if the administration is saying this, we should have more confidence than on the budgetary issues he's talking about in the level and tenure of aid?

WALSH: I don't know about that, Laura, but this whole incident makes me feel that President Biden should keep his focus on what matters, and that is us helping Ukraine defeat Russia. And if that means we have to increase what we're doing right now for Ukraine, that's got to be the focus and don't make a big deal out of this one incident.

COATES: How do you see it, Alencia?

JOHNSON: I think for those of us that are not military experts here, when I first heard about this, I thought about it saying a lot of people will hear these things, you clearly see the aggression from Russia. You clearly see why you actually have to pick a side on what is happening between Ukraine and Russia. And so to the point we're all talking about transparency and how this administration is handling supporting Ukraine in contrast to how the previous administration was kind of basically flirting with Russia, right, it draws a line in the sand of are you actually here to not just protect our nation but ensure that world democracies continue to stand and we clearly see who the aggressor is and we have the video evidence to prove it.

COATES: I'm having some deja vu, as many of us are, within the last month or so. We have heard statements and reporting about trying to recover downed drones or things that are flying in the air and who is going to get it and the transmission of intelligence on it. Clearly, you see the analogy in terms of what we saw with the Chinese spy balloon and other objects that were flying. In this instance, is the failure of the U.S. to recover fully that drone impact our own national security?

LEIGHTON: It could, but not probably as severely as most people think because what has happened, we have developed our techniques, we know that these incidents will happen.


It is just a question of odds, really, and probabilities. But, you know, you look at various incidents that have happened in the past. Ever since the incident with the Chinese back in 2001 with the EP-3, which was a Navy surveillance plane that was forced to land on Hainan Island in China based on a crash with a Chinese aircraft, where the pilot ended up dying, that incident resulted in a complete aircraft landing on Chinese soil. The Chinese get a hold of all of that equipment, all the intelligence associated with that.

And since that point in time, the U.S. made a concerted effort to make sure equipment, when it is attacked, when things fall out of sky, that the equipment is zeroized, which means that it cannot be accessed. So, that is what we think happened in this particular case. And if it did happen, then the intelligence value is goingn to be much less than it would otherwise be. So, it is not the best situation in the world, obviously, but at least it is manageable from a national security standpoint.

COATES: Really important. Thank you all. Thank you, Colonel Leighton, especially everyone.

Up next, an Alabama school system is unveiling something new in the classroom. It's a bulletproof shelter. Would you want this in your child's class? And it is a real question. Why or why not? We'll talk about it after this.



COATES: One Alabama school system is taking action in the aftermath of the deadly mass shootings last year in Uvalde that killed 19 students and two teachers. It's installed collapsible, bulletproof safe rooms in two classrooms for special needs students at an elementary school.

Officials say that there is a plan to install even more in the district. And each safe room is designed to be opened and fully deployed as a shelter in as little as 10 seconds, and can hold up to 30 people.

Joining us to talk more about all this, CNN media analyst Sarah Fischer and back with us Alex Burns, Alencia Johnson, and Joe Wallace -- Walsh. Let me talk to you first about this, Sara. I mean, the idea about this is happening right now and we know sadly, we don't have enough time in the show to cover the amount of mass shootings that have taken place even this year, and school shootings even more tragic.

When you think about this as a step, have people given up on the idea of prevention and now it is about trying to accept that it might actually happen?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: I don't think people have given up, but between now and the time where we come up with a solution, we have to protect the kids. And so, this becomes something that's viable. But the challenge is, I was reading about these, you know, rooms today, they're $60,000 apiece. This is not something that's viable for every single classroom in every single school.

And so, you have to figure out how are you going to be able to come up with solutions that are actually feasible. While this might seem like a good fit, there is no way every school in the country can put one of these in every classroom.

COATES: Every school, every classroom, every district, there's no way they will afford it given all the constraints already. Think about this, you know, you've been a congressman and certainly you have lived through and legislatively, you fair share of mass shootings in this country as well.

When you see something like this, combined with the fact that you have a lot of people who, in recent mass shootings, have been, you know, the everyday person to fight back because there is a thought sometimes that no one is coming, or there is no time for someone to come save them. You know, when you hear about this, what goes through your mind as a former legislator that this is where we are?

JOE WALSH, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I think as a former legislator, I think, and maybe you will disagree with me, this is a tool. This is reality. No, I don't see it as, oh, we're giving up, we can't stop school shootings, so we need a bunch of safe rooms.

I think it's just accepting reality, we should try to do everything that we can do to minimize school shootings. But in the meantime, this is a tool because the bottom line is, protect our children, period, however we can.

COATES: And just to take note, again, this is featured in the class with a special needs student, so that might have some additional relevance and thinking about this kind of drills that are taking place, the preparedness. And then I have a fourth grader and a third grader and my kids have been doing active shooter drills since they were in preschool, really.

And so, as a parent, I look at this and say, I'm sad this happens. I'm sad that this has to be in a classroom, but I want it in my kid's classroom.

ALENCIA JOHNSON, SENIOR ADVISER ON BIDEN'S 2020 CAMPAIGN: Yeah, I mean, look, I shared with you all on the break that I was in school when Columbine happened and I remember having to do active shooter drills. The reality is, and I don't want to say people have given up, but it is a hard, one-sided fight to have pass gun control in this country because there is one party that is completely against us doing something about too many guns and to view, if any, restrictions on who can afford, who can purchase an assault weapon.

The other piece of this, too, is when you have state legislators that actually do want to pass comprehensive gun reform. We have a supreme court that, unfortunately, sided with the gun lobby last year against New York State, right. And so, it is challenging right now and we continue to see kids, babies are losing their lives, also losing their innocence because they have to go to school wondering whether or not they might be a victim.

Parents, as you are mentioning, this very real reality and yet, one side of our political -- one political party just wants to put up thoughts and prayers and the other one is literally climbing up a mountain trying to get people to understand we have to do something in this country about guns.

COATES: Before you respond to this, I do want to note because a lot of the conversation where it's fallen at times along partisan lines has been about the types of weapons we're talking about, assault rifle, assault weapon bans and beyond. This particular rapid deploys safe room, it can withstand up to a .308 caliber rifle, to give you a bit of context.


An AR-15 gun is most commonly .223 caliber. And Uvalde shootings, Parkland, Sandy Hook, just to name a few, they used AR-15 style weapons. So, it's essentially constructed in some way to withstand to some degree of that. What's your comment?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, as a political reporter, as a politician, as a political strategist, you cover or interact with a lot of issues that are really across national lines that nobody has quite figured out how to solve, nobody has sort of cracked the code on climate change or fuel prices or economic inequality or sort of racial equality. This is an American problem that you don't see around the world,

right? So, we're sitting here saying we should do everything to help the kids, you know, you hate to see it, but like maybe it's not (inaudible). It manifestly is not necessary. They are not experimenting with these safe rooms in like Belgium, right? They're just not because they don't have to. So, you know, you can make such --

WALSH: And it's the reality here.

BURNS: Sure. But you can make the case of this is like, whatever. We decided as a nation that we want to sort of have our kids in safe rooms rather than do something about guns. But like, we have obviously not tried everything at our disposal short of this.

COATES: You know, Sarah, you made the point about the cost and the idea that during the pandemic, early in the pandemic, there are conversations around ventilators for example. There were discussions about medical ethics, like how do you decide who gets to have a limited, finite resources.

We're talking about school funding, it's unlimited, finite resource. And so, how do you go about deciding which classrooms get the benefit of this, knowing that, although it's not manifestly necessary, it is here in many respects. How are those decisions do you think going to be made about who would qualify to be protected?

FISCHER: Well, I think you made a good point that it's a special needs classroom that they're starting with first. It might be harder to provide those kids direction to activate quickly in the case of an emergency, so it makes sense that that's where you would start.

If you zoom out into a school district level, I imagine that's where it gets challenging where you have to compete with other school districts for the funding. Who is going to provide the funding? Is it going to be by your congressional district? Is it going to be at the state level, I'm not quite sure. But that is going to put schools pitted against each other to try to fight for those resources and that is a shame, right.

Schools should be working together to try to make all of this happen, but at that cost level, it's tough. I wanted to make one other quick point on this. You know, I remember growing up my mom would tell me about having duck and cover drills and about having bomb shelters in her school.

And there is an interesting and eerie simulation -- something similar to this here where we have a new risk and a new threat. I never did a duck and cover drill growing up, to kids in schools. And it's sad that this is just sort always been the American reality but has gotten exponentially worse with guns.

JOHNSON: Can I just say (inaudible) the budget piece really quickly. We know who is not going -- what districts are not going to get a lot of budgets to protect themselves. The school districts and low-income areas, the ones that are overwhelmingly students of color. And so, we're going to see some systemic inequity in all of this as well of white kids were going to be protected (inaudible).

WALSH: You're right, and they should. And this debate about guns, there is not going to be a solution next week. So, as long as there is not a solution next week, for a lot of the reasons you brought up, we have to do whatever we can to keep our kids safe. Safe rooms or more security in the schools, more (inaudible) security in schools, whatever. These should all be on the table to think about.

COATES: Can we just say, you know, on behalf of the teachers out there, this is another thing we're expecting of our nation's teachers, that they are going to be trained on how to deploy these kinds of safe rooms and try to keep the children safe. And when I drop my kids off at school every morning, I'll be honest, I have a silent prayer that I say and a thank, a gratitude extension to the teachers because they are only supposed to be teaching my children, and I'm asking them to save my hearts life, it's unbelievable.

Everyone, you or your kid's favorite app might be banned by the government, so is that a free speech issue or? Well, we'll talk about it next.



COATES: (Inaudible) TikTok is brewing as you know and the White House issuing an ultimatum to the Chinese owners of the popular social media platform, spin-off their share of the company or face a ban. Everyone, back with me now our panel on this issue talking about it all. I mean, the idea here that the administration is demanding that TikTok's, you know, Chinese owner spin off their share. Tell me what's going on here in reality?

FISCHER: So, there is a committee for foreign investment in the U.S. that reviews all foreign investment in apps in U.S. companies. TikTok invested and acquired a U.S. company years ago called It was tiny at the time, but what happened is they put billions of dollars into paid marketing into it and it blew up especially during the pandemic.

The Trump administration in 2020 saw this amid rising tensions between that administration and China and they thought we should ban this app. They tried to do it and forced it to sell. They lost in court. Then an administration came in, the Biden administration, and his (inaudible), you know, Committee for Foreign Investment took another look at it and they've been negotiating with TikTok for the past two years to figure out, all right, what's the solution we can fix here so that you can alleviate our national security concerns and exist in the U.S.?

And what made this decision this week momentous was that they essentially signaled to TikTok, look, we don't think there's a solution. All the stuff you're promising to do, move the U.S. data back to being stored here, data privacy stuff, we don't think it's going to work. Either you give up your Chinese ownership stake, or we are going to ban you. And, by the way, the reason it matters that they have an owner stake

from China is because it's required by law there that you have to give the government data. That's the concern for U.S. regulators.

COATES: And on that point, I mean, before it was a conversation about maybe banning it on government devices. Now, this is talking about a national ban, no one being able to use it. Is that a good idea in your mind?

WALSH: Well, I think it's a bad idea and I'm really worried about the first -- the free speech, First Amendment connotations here.


Republicans, the national security issues obviously need to be explored, but Laura, I wonder, Republicans tend over blow these national security issues, and it just seems like the targeting of TikTok, seems to be egregious. I know there is a potential piece of legislation in the Senate to more broadly go after any platform that may pose national security issues. I just think it's like China bashing, I don't mean to defend China, to target TikTok.

COATES: But you know, I want to just interject the idea of the First Amendment because we often hear about this in connection with social media platforms more broadly. We now know of course the First Amendment is meant to stop the government from infringing on free speech. Obviously, a private company is not the government that's doing that.

And so those are conversations about, you know, cancel culture or censorship that (inaudible) content specific. When it comes to TikTok and a proposed ban by the government about an entity, there are questions if it's a broad enough ban, not content specific, not based on what you're going to say, but you just can't use the app, it might not have the same implications of the First Amendment.

Having said that, there is still the very real point that Joe is making about what this signal politically to really, you know, join in on a lot of pressure to have this ban. What do you think about this politically?

BURNS: Well, look, I think it's very, very clear that if this administration is going to outright ban TikTok, they're going to have to do a whole lot more explaining. Everything Sarah just said to the American public, which is pretty enthusiastic about using TikTok, right.

And, you know, if this is by no means an exact comparison, I don't want you to think I'm sort of drawing a literal link here. But rolling back public use of a very popular consumer product in tobacco or e- cigarettes. It takes years or generations to explain to people who love using this consumer product.

We think it's bad for you and this is why and here's why we're going to make it harder or impossible for you to use it. We've obviously not heard that kind of communication from really anybody in Washington at this point. We hear members of Congress talking about a TikTok is bad or China is dangerous. But for the folks who are actually on the app and loving the app, how many have heard that?

COATES: Do they actually know in Congress, and probably, we all know, and you've been in Congress, and this is not an offense to you, but I doubt that most members of Congress are like let me tell you everything about TikTok. Let me tell you how it works, what we use it for, et cetera.

And so, it's not quite keeping pace in many ways with what the expectations. Remember, the Supreme Court right now looking at Section 230 still, the Communications Decency Act, let alone what's happening with TikTok.

FISCHER: Yeah, but some of these things are super clear. I mean, the fact that U.S. user data was being stored in China, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that that's a problem. So, Congress has enough information in my opinion to be able to make some decisions, here but I want to go back to your point about banning, you know, things like e-cigarettes or cigarettes.

We are not banning short form video technology. We're only banning one app that carries it. If consumers are going to have other options, they have Reels on Instagram and Facebook. They have, you know, Reddit or probably Dubsmash, Snapchat has Spotlight. So, we're not banning a certain type of product. You're just banning one app that carries (inaudible).

BURNS: Well, you -- but you are banning the specific product that the consumers have overwhelmingly chosen over those other options you just mentioned. I don't disagree with you that there is a difference between sort of banning controlled substances and banning one specific app. But, you know, I do think -- and if you're going to tell people --

WALSH: You need to make that case.

BURNS: Why shouldn't the -- why shouldn't consumer be able to say, like I know my data is in China and like I've decided to take a risk.

JOHNSON: Well -- and the clear thing, you were talking about Republicans are going after TikTok. I will just say that as a campaigner, TikTok is the app and the platform that organized Gen Z, it organized marginalized folks to deliver an outcome in the '22 midterms that Republicans were not happy with, right?

COATES: This is President Biden invite a member of --

JOHNSON: Paid attackers to the White House? And so, to that point, it's actually -- there clearly must be a national security risk if President Biden is saying, hey, this app that we have been embracing, these creators, we are grateful for their self-organizing and able to speak to each other in ways that the party can't.

If he is, you know, making a bet to say, hey, we actually need to have some regulations here, that means it's a serious issue. But again, there is a political piece where Republicans started this war because they don't really win when TikTok is thriving because of who their base is.

COATES: Well, the conversation won't stop here, don't worry. But it was about the length of the TikTok just now, there you go everyone.

Now, get this, a 5,000-mile-wide blob of seaweed is descending on Florida, ready to deposit the whole lot of rotting goop. When, where, and why, I'll tell you next.



COATES: All right, everyone, picture this. Spring is coming, the weather is getting warmer, and you want to get out that swimsuit that maybe you bought last summer but you never wore. Then you get to your vacation spot and you try to settle in, and the beach is covered in this stinky mess. A colossal blob of seaweed is headed for the shores of Florida and other coastlines in the Gulf of Mexico, and just in time for spring break perhaps.

Experts say that they will, well, it can provide a healthy habitat for sea life while it's floating, it can have devastating impacts once it actually hits the beaches. This year, sargassum mass could be the largest on record, nearly twice the width of the continental United States. It's so large it can be seen from space.

When the seaweed actually gets to shore, it will pile up in mounds that are difficult to remove and that it can be dangerous to humans and wildlife due to the level of toxicity. It has an added bonus; it smells like rotten eggs.


Take a look at these pictures everyone from the coast of Florida. These right here are from Barbados where an expert tells CNN, locals are using 1,600 dump trucks a day to clean up the beaches. And then these images from Playa del Carmen. For now, researchers are looking into ways to grapple with the threat of a massive seaweed blobs, but as of this year's bloom, experts warn the worst may be yet to come.

Up next everyone, dozens of Mar-a-Lago staff, we're talking servers, we're talking aides, have now been subpoenaed. Stay with us.