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Inside Politics

TikTok Launches Push Against House Bill, Calls On Users To Act; Biden Goes After Trump, GOP In Fiery Address To Congress; One-On-One With Sen. Laphonza Butler; Sinema Leaving Powerful Role As Moderate Swing Vote. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 08, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: TikTok is firing back after a House panel voted 50 to nothing to advance a bill that could lead to a nationwide ban. The full House may vote on it next week. It would require TikTok's Chinese parent company to sell it or face removal from app stores.

Congressional offices were flooded with calls yesterday after TikTok went as far as to send an alert to its users urging them to call their representatives. Roughly 170 million Americans use TikTok.

CNN Anchor and Chief National Security Analyst, Jim Sciutto, is here with me now. Jim, I should say, is the author of "The Return of Great Powers: Russia, China, and the Next World War," which hits bookstores next week. Could not be more timely.


BASH: OK, so I think I showed the push notification that came out. Look, a lot of this is organic. People really like TikTok. Some of it is done by push notifications like this. Some of it is done by lobbyists --


BASH: --who are trying to gin up the outrage. What are you hearing from your sources about, first of all, how likely this is to actually go through?

SCIUTTO: So there's pretty deep bipartisan support for this. And you have Republican and Democratic co-sponsors, as you and I know doesn't often happen on the Hill in this environment --

BASH: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- but on this, they agree. And the worry about TikTok, it goes back years. I've been told by Intel contacts for years, don't use TikTok and don't let your kids use TikTok because it has ties to the Chinese government. Now, is that a bit over the top? They certainly believe it. And I don't let my kids use it because of that issue.


But when you talk to the co-sponsors of this bill -- I spoke to Jake Auchincloss yesterday -- they say, you know, this is not just about that Chinese government tie. It is also about a concern about social media in general.

BASH: Yes. Let's actually listen to --


BASH: -- a clip from your interview with him.


REP. JAKE AUCHINCLOSS (D-MA): They are undermining the mental health of our children. They are shaping an adverse political ideology amongst the next generation. And they are corroding our civil discourse. And we need to regulate social media behemoths.

But we can't regulate them, Jim, if they're not subject to U.S. law. We need TikTok to be answerable to America's representatives, not to Xi Jinping, in order to fix this problem.


BASH: You know, to me, this argument is one of the most interesting, because you're right, I mean, I -- my son doesn't use TikTok, yours don't either, I don't have it on my phone. And initially, it was because the Chinese are going to get all of your contact information.

Now, it's don't do it because of the way that they are trying to get information into the heads --


BASH: -- of our children and everybody else who is using TikTok.

SCIUTTO: To some extent, it's really both.

BASH: Yes.

SCIUTTO: And Auchincloss and others connected to the broader social media issue, which is to say that we need regulation of all these companies because it's not great for kids' mental health to be drawn into these apps. And there's a lot of data.

We report stories about that frequently that is true. It is also a pathway to further infect the public dialogue in our country --

BASH: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: -- to blow up divisive issues which we've seen Russia do and China too, et cetera. The final point I'll make is that the co- sponsors will say this is not a TikTok ban. What they want to do, they want the Chinese company to sell it so it's got an American owner. So therefore, it is subject to American laws regulating this kind of thing, which is fair argument.

Now, as one of my team members said before I came on the air, she said, well, the chances of Congress actually passing legislation about that is another issue.

BASH: And guess who weighed in on this? Donald Trump.


BASH: "If you get get rid of TikTok, Facebook, and Zuckerschmuck will double their business. I don't want Facebook, who cheated in the last election, doing better. They are a true enemy of the people."

I just need to stop for a beat, Zuckerschmuck, I mean --

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen --

BASH: That's pretty outrageous.

SCIUTTO: It's 100 percent outrageous and on a number of levels.

BASH: Never mind the substance, I'm just talking about that term.

SCIUTTO: The use of the term, it's offensive and the argument. This is President Trump, who as commander-in-chief said this was a threat against a country he has identified, China, as a threat to the U.S. But now suddenly he's turned that around and said, actually, I'm fine with TikTok.

It's a reminder that Trump's foreign policy is somewhat volatile. We lived through that four years ago. Well, his policy in general. And here's another example. That is quite a 180 degree reversal from the presumptive GOP nominee to have said it was a threat and take an action to --

BASH: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- put it under under control and is now saying, actually, I have no problem because offensive word about Mark Zuckerberg.

BASH: Jim, thank you so much for putting that in context --

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BASH: -- in your reporting.


BASH: Up next, we're going to get reaction to last night's speech from the newest member of the U.S. Senate. California Democrat Laphonza Butler is here.



BASH: Let's get some reaction to last night's State of the Union speech. Democratic Senator Laphonza Butler of California joins me now. She was appointed to her seat last year to replace the late Dianne Feinstein.

Last night was maybe the first and last time you'll be in the United States Senate as a senator to listen to a speech. You were appointed to fill the seat, as I mentioned, of Dianne Feinstein. Before that, you were a political strategist, probably always will be at heart.

You ran EMILYs List. So, from a purely political point of view, we'll get to substance in a second, purely politics. Do you think he did what he needed to do?

SEN. LAPHONZA BUTLER (D-CA): I do. I think President Biden came out hot. And that's exactly the kind of energy that the American people have been wanting for. Just as a regular voter, every single day, it feels like the news is so dreary and down.

And to have the president come out with that strong fighting position, the fighting stance for what was important, giving the people what they wanted to hear. No matter who you were last night, if you were listening to that speech, you found someone something in it that was talking to you.

Whether you were a black voter or a rural voter. You cared about healthcare, you cared about housing and homelessness. There was something there for you. And the energy that the president brought, I think, from a base moving point of view was exactly what we needed.

BASH: And base moving was critical at this point.

BUTLER: Absolutely critical.

BASH: On that note, maybe this is base, this is sort of beyond base, maybe more swing vote, independent voters, reproductive rights, which you've spent a lot of time in your life working on and fighting for. He spoke about protections for abortion, reproductive rights.

He spoke about IVF, invited guests to help put faces and real stories on that, enough. How much does he have to keep talking about that? Because what I've heard from a lot of Democrats is that people like you and elected officials are very eager to talk about this issue. He doesn't do it as much.


BUTLER: Yes, look, I think the vice president has represented this administration incredibly well. I think President Biden and the vice president together with their secretaries have really brought forth a whole of government approach to trying to wrap our collective arms around the women of this country. I think he's been forceful in his position and his intention to restore Roe versus Wade protections if given a democratic Congress and a democratic Senate. And, you know, I think that there's always more voice and volume that can be awarded to the issue.

He started off talking about it very early. He kept talking about it throughout the speech, recognizing the guests that he had brought and that were sitting with Dr. Biden. But there is never going to be enough energy given to win women. Half of our country lose a fundamental right to make decisions about our own body.

BASH: Different issue. There's an issue here and then also just kind of a performance moment that I want you to comment on appeared to be off the cuff. The president was responding to some heckling from Marjorie Taylor Greene by addressing the death of Lincoln Riley, who is a Georgia student who was allegedly killed by an undocumented migrant. Let's listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Lincoln Riley, an innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal.


BIDEN: That's right. But how many of thousands of people being killed by legal? To her parents, I say, my heart goes out to you having lost children myself. I understand.


BASH: First of all, just a moment, but also on the term he used illegal. There's some been some backlash among some in his own party for using that term.

BUTLER: Look, it was clear being in the chamber last night that there were those on their extreme Republican Party who was trying to bait the president into responding to whatever heckle they were offering.

It's unfortunate that the president used that language. I don't believe that is the language that believes -- that he believes in his heart about immigrant people who find their way to this country to make a better life for themselves and their families.

If you recall, it's just after that, he gave us true Joe Biden. He gave us exactly that empathy and warmth that we know to be to be true. And so, I think it's unfortunate again that he fell into the trap of the language, but I think he pivoted really well and gave us exactly what he believes and what he's offering the country, which is a very different position than his predecessor.

BASH: Today is International Women's Day. I've got the purple on to show it. We have to mention that come November, again, you were appointed to your seat by Governor Gavin Newsom. For the first time since 1992, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer were famously elected from California. The state won't be represented by a woman because we had the primary this past week and there are two men who got the first and second spots. Does that concern you?

BUTLER: It saddens me. Definitely saddens me. We had great women who were running to be California's next United States senator. Who were Democrats, who have an incredible set of values and track record to represent the values of California.

It saddens me that we're not going to have a woman representing California, and we still have to do the work to make sure that a Democrat is representing California. And so we shouldn't take this for granted, that Adam Schiff came out on the top, but he's very closely followed by Steve Garvey.

And what we want and think is incredibly important is that California values get represented in Washington and think that Adam Schiff is the best to do it.

BASH: Senator Butler, thank you so much for being here.

BUTLER: Thank you.

BASH: Appreciate it.

And coming up, the end of the Senate dealmakers. Kyrsten Sinema is the latest centrist, lawmaker to call it quits. She says it's not her, it's you.


SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (I-AZ): Despite modernizing our infrastructure, ensuring clean water, delivering good jobs and safer communities, Americans still choose to retreat farther to their partisan corners. I believe in my approach, but it's not what America wants right now.




BASH: There's no denying that the middle is shrinking in the U.S. Senate. Outgoing Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema made that point earlier this week when she decided not to run for reelection. Well, she had her critics on both sides of the aisle. She also had a lot of power as a moderate swing vote.

CNN's Lauren Fox is here with new reporting. Talk about how significant her departure is, especially in the context of others who she worked with.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, Sinema was at the center of so many of the deals you've seen passed. When you're talking about guns, when you're talking about infrastructure, when you're talking about just getting the amendment process kick started on the floor when members need to get out of town.

She's often at the center of that. She's retiring and she announced that earlier this week, in part because she feels like there's really no reward anymore for being someone who cuts deals in the United States Senate.

Her argument is that that might be a way of legislating in the past. It's not the way of legislating in the future. And she had a conversation with Senator Chris Murphy, which was fascinating in which she sort of made that case to him before she made her announcement publicly.

And Murphy told me he told her point blank. I think you're wrong. And then he kind of paused and said, I mean, I hope she's wrong.


BASH: Wow. That's such a great detail there. Fantastic reporting. So you mentioned -- we both mentioned that she's not alone when it comes to the people in the middle who are leaving the Senate, retiring.

Joe Manchin, Mitt Romney are as well. So you have that. And then you have the Republican side of the aisle where those who have cut deals in the past, in the recent past --

FOX: Yes.

BASH: -- also left and were replaced by Republicans who are less likely to be in those meetings. For example, Bob Corker of Tennessee, replaced by Marsha Blackburn, Lamar Alexander, Bill Haggerty, Roy Blunt, Eric Schmitt, Rob Portman, J.D. Vance.

FOX: I mean, it's in -- it's really an unusual moment right now in the Senate where it just feels like you have these dealmakers who are pouring out and you're not getting new people to replace them, at least from the states that they're coming.

Now, a lot of members that I talked to said. These shoes can be filled and none of us are irreplaceable. Senator Brian Schatz said it's our job to make deals.

BASH: Yes.

FOX: And if we don't know how to do it, we got to learn how.

BASH: I hope people read your piece online. Thanks for coming in. Happy International Women's Day to you.

FOX: Thank you.

BASH: Happy International Women's Day to all there, especially the special women in my life, my mother, Frances, the kindest and smartest person I know. My Aunt Linda, who went to medical school when few women did. Kathleen Nolan, the first female president of the Screen Actors Guild, and so many more.

Thanks for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after the break.