Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
Hunter Biden Plea Deal Collapses, Legal Fate Uncertain; Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Escorted Away After Freezing Midsentence; Trump Now Pushes Early Voting After Years of Bashing; Chris Wallace Interviews Brad Paisley On His Ukraine Visit And His New Song; Actor Speaks Up On The Threat Of Artificial Intelligence In The Movie Industry; Irish Singer Sinead O'Connor Dies. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired July 26, 2023 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much for joining me tonight. CNN Primetime with Abby Phillip starts right now. Hi, Abby.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Abby Phillip. Thank you for joining me.
This morning, Hunter Biden woke up thinking he had a plea deal. But tonight, not only is he without one, but he is still under active investigation.
Now, the president's son had expected to plead guilty to tax and gun possession charges after making a deal with the Justice Department. But the judge today raised some concerns about the deal, calling it unusual and tangled. In fact, at one point, she asked is it even constitutional?
Now, prosecutors and Biden's lawyers fought back and forth and eventually he changed his plea when the judge said she could neither accept nor deny the deal in its current form.
So, now, after thinking a deal could put all of his legal problems in the rearview mirror ahead of his father's re-election run, no less, the politics just got a little messier. It is giving Republicans a new reason to keep pounding on their investigations and to cry foul over the alleged sweetheart deal that the president's son allegedly received.
Now, I want to begin by bringing in former Justice Department Prosecutor Jospeh Moreno, former Trump White House Associate Counsel May Mailman, CNN Political Commentator Maria Cardona and CNN Political Commentator and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.
Joseph, I want to start with you, because this is so confusing, I think, for the average person. Usually, you think it's a plea deal. They have hammered it out in advance. They go into court. It gets more or less rubber stamped and they go about their business. That did not happen today. Why did this fall apart? But, really, why did it fall apart now?
JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER DOJ PROSECUTOR: Well, Abby, it is funny, because if there is one lesson I was told as a junior prosecutor was have your ducks in a row before you get before of a judge. And for the idea that -- both sides didn't benefit their side at all, whether it was Hunter Biden's lawyers or the prosecutors here, to go in and to -- you know, there was the question of whether it was a little lenient. The constitutional point was about whether the diversion was immediate.
But, really, it came down to a meeting of the minds as to whether or not this was the full scope of the prosecution. Could Hunter walk out and say, I'm done? And, clearly, the prosecutor said, well, no, we're going to keep investigating. There are other potential crimes coming here, charges. And the defense counsel said, whoa, whoa, wait a minute, absolutely not.
And so to see this unravel in front of a judge, it must have been an amazing spectacle. But, really, I mean, what a mess.
PHILLIP: I mean, in some reason, it almost seems like the judge did Hunter Biden a little bit of a favor by clarifying that.
MAY MAILMAN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ASSOCIATE COUNSEL: Well, yes. She said, it doesn't seem, Hunter, like you actually know what you are pleading to so I can't accept this deal that doesn't appear to be knowing and voluntary. But what was kind of shocking to me and I think what a lot of Republicans took away from this is that it seemed like, yes, there was the written deal that we all know about, but was there some sort of unwritten deal, a wink and a nod deal about we're not going to prosecute you for other charges. And the judge asked the prosecutor in this case, have you ever given a similar deal, this sort of circumstance to any other person? And the prosecutor in the courtroom said no, never, never before. And I think that was this what is going on moment?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What a royal screw-up by both the prosecution and the very high-priced defense. I mean, not to know the scope of immunity walking in this, could he be charged under Foreign Agents Registration Act, FARA? They didn't know that? I mean, maybe Chris Christie is right, they need an independent counsel to go after this.
PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, you raise a good point. So, Christie tweeted today, I have seen enough. We need a special prosecutor who has jurisdiction over any and all Biden family investigations. This is a charade. Get rid of the U.S. attorney, that's David Weiss, and appoint a special counsel who will investigate with competence and independence.
In some ways, if you are a Democrat, if you are the Biden White House, that wouldn't be the worst thing to have an umbrella for all of this stuff, all of these wild accusations about Hunter Biden and the foreign dealings and the influence peddling and just have someone independent look at all of it at the same time.
[22:05:06] MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what isn't the worst thing, Abby, is that this continues to underscore how obsessed the Republican Party is focusing on this push by their MAGA extremists who have a stranglehold on Republican leadership in Congress and how obsessive this is about going after Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden is not in office. Hunter Biden does not work at the White House. Hunter Biden did not get one vote. Hunter Biden is not running for re-election. The American people understand that.
And so to me, as a Democrat and as a voter, the more that Republicans sickly obsess over Hunter Biden and talk about some ridiculous two- tier justice system when the special prosecutor is Trump-appointed, when the judge is Trump-appointed, it just doesn't fall on any kind of reality.
And I also think that it gives a chance for Democrats to underscore and highlight the massive hypocrisy when Republicans are trying to talk about the special deal that Hunter got in passing on his family name and trying to benefit from it when the Trump kids who worked at the White House enriched themselves by billions of dollars through the Chinese, through the Saudis, right there in the people's house.
I think this is a huge loser for Republicans. And if that's where they want to focus their energies, bring it on.
MAILMAN: See, I think this is -- this might shift the feeling, the general feeling, which I think you definitely capture, which is there is an obsession with Hunter Biden. And I think Republicans have been trying to say, no, no, no, it is not Hunter. We care about Joe, and we care about this, you know, DOJ lack of fairness.
And when you see today that there is some sort of investigation that Hunter Biden is scared enough about probably relating to foreign business dealings, now you have got some questions that bring in the IRS whistleblowers. Now, you, I think, can start shifting that narrative to Joe Biden.
CARDONA: I disagree. There has been no connection, no real connection that Republicans have been able to make.
DENT: Maria, look, I agree that Republicans will overreach on Hunter Biden, and I'm no Trump guy. But I have to say, looking at this Hunter Biden situation, a guy getting paid $50,000, $60,000 a month to serve on a Ukrainian gas company board who is admittedly addicted to drugs. I mean, this smells. It is nothing illegal, but it stinks. It just smells of influence peddling.
And, again, I'm not saying Joe Biden did anything wrong, I'm just saying it smells bad. The average person sees. Same with the Chinese deals. And I'm not going to defend anything Trump did, but people are asking legitimate questions about how does that happen.
PHILLIP: I want to ask Joseph a question here about just going back to what happened in the courthouse today. Why is it that the prosecutors would not have been clear about what else is being investigated here, especially if it has to do with FARA, the foreign registration part of this, which is a more serious allegation? Why would they not have sorted that out before getting into this courthouse?
MORENO: I want to put on my conspiracy hat. I'll say this. I'll say that --
PHILLIP: Go right ahead.
MORENO: -- that prosecutors planned to keep the investigation open so that Hunter Biden could assert his Fifth Amendment rights and not be called before Congress and the prosecutors not be hauled before Congress so they could say the investigation is still going. But when the judge picked at that and said, wait a minute, why are we still here then? Why aren't we putting this off until the investigation is over? And then she put the prosecutors at that point, they said, well, actually, yes, more charges could come down the road.
So, I think that everyone was perfectly willing to let the investigation stay open with the hope that it would quietly die in the vine in the next couple of years. When the judge called it out and kind of shown a spotlight on it, now they said, yes, actually we are going to keep going and FARA is possible and that made everyone real uncomfortable.
PHILLIP: Well, look, I do want to move on to something else, but the die on the vine point is something that transcends administrations here. It was allegedly dying on the vine under Trump and now under Biden. And there is still no explanation as to why that happened.
I do want to talk, though, about what's going on with her friend, Rudy Giuliani, Trump's former attorney. He's now conceding that he has defamed these two Georgia election workers. It's an admission that seems to come at an opportune time when maybe he's trying to shed illegal exposure here.
MAILMAN: Yes. So, in this lawsuit, so these are the two election workers said to have brought suitcases full of ballots, it turns out they weren't suitcases, they were just bins, like hidden bins of ballots, not good.
So, they already settled with one American news. And so now, Rudy Giuliani says that the statements were false and basically admits to that.
But he didn't admit to a couple of things. He didn't admit that he was negligent in making them. So, I still think you have got to prove that in the defamation claim. And he says he is going to make a First Amendment defense, which makes a lot of sense, because in the political process, you have to be able to make political statements. I don't trust the elections. So, he's going to try to make that defense.
Hey, these ladies brought suitcases full of ballots. Does that fall under potentially chilled political speech? Maybe not. But, yes, he seems to be at least shedding himself of the discovery into his emails, into his texts about whether he knew the statements were false. PHILLIP: I want to remind people what Shay Moss testified during the January 6th hearings. It was really searing testimony about what she went through as a result of some of those lies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAY MOSS, FORMER ELECTION WORKER: I felt horrible. I felt like it was all my fault, like if I would have never decided to be an elections worker, like I could have done anything else, but that's what I decided to do. And now people are lying and spreading rumors and lies and attacking my mom. I'm an only child, going to my grandmother's house, I'm her only grandchild. And my kid is just -- I felt so bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: You know, it's kind of crazy that it's two years later that Giuliani is finally acknowledging the way that he put these women through all that.
CARDONA: And it is so heart wrenching that these women went through something like that because of some insidious lies that somebody like Rudy Giuliani was talking about only so that Trump could overturn a fair and free election.
And I think what that reminds us of is Trump can do it again. Maybe not with Rudy Giuliani because, hopefully, he's not going to be allowed to ever do anything like this again. But he'll have others. He'll have others that will believe that he is going to be, you know, cheated if he doesn't win, which I don't think he will. And so who else is going to be now going to be victimizing people like Shay and people who focus on trying to run elections and do essentially the work of our democracy.
PHILLIP: If you are Giuliani, Joseph, and you are looking at the January 6th investigation on the special counsel's side of things starting to wrap up around former President Trump and then you also have Georgia that's still outstanding, what are you worried about tonight?
MORENO: Oh, I'm worried about personal exposure, right? It's very clear Donald Trump has an M.O., which is that when people are no longer helpful to him, he discards them. That's kind of where I see Rudy right now. I mean, he's not getting any support from the former president, not that he much to give anyway.
So, if I was Rudy, I would be saying, look, I would be a lot less worried about Donald Trump and a lot more worried about my personal exposure, whether it's in Georgia, whether it's in New York, whether it's in Florida, whether it's in Washington, D.C., right here, because there is a number of different ways that, you know, some of these charges could follow Rudy personally.
DENT: So many of these people who made these false statements, including Rudy Giuliani, they knew better. They were being told by Republicans that, you know, you lost the election, and they had plenty of evidence. The fact that -- you know, the question for Rudy Giuliani is did he knowingly make those statements that were false or did he find that out after the fact?
But I'm sure that these guys were all told that they had evidence that these were not stolen elections, stolen votes. And now they're going to pay a big price. And it's tragic to see. I knew Rudy Giuliani when he was a powerful, effective mayor. And to see where this man where he is now, it is heart-breaking to see this. But --
CARDONA: All for one person.
PHILLIP: Well, you know, the way in which some of these folks, like Ruby and Shay, were picked out of obscurity, just people posting videos online and then maligned like this, I mean, you don't have to have a file of information to know that --
CARDONA: Their lives were destroyed.
PHILLIP: -- that it is wrong to do that. But, Joseph, May, Maria and Charlie, thank you all very much for joining us for this.
And coming up next for us, Ron DeSantis says that he would consider anti-vaxxer RFK Jr. to lead the FDA or the CDC. We'll have a doctor to respond to that.
Plus, a serious question tonight about Senator Mitch McConnell after he froze midsentence and had to be escorted away during a press conference.
And Chris Wallace joins me on how more and more Republicans are pouring cold water on the idea of a Biden impeachment.
PHILLIP: A scary moment today raising serious questions about the health of the Senate's most powerful Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell freezing midsentence during his weekly press conference. He was unable to continue. But after nearly 30 seconds, his colleagues then escorted the 81-year-old away from the podium. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We're on a path to finishing the NDAA this week. There's been good bipartisan cooperation and a string of --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You okay, Mitch? Is there anything else you want to say or let's go back to your office? Do you want to say anything else to the press? I'll take it from here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: McConnell later said that he was fine when he was questioned about the incident. Joining us now is Dr. Megan Ranney, the dean of Yale's School of Public Health. Dr. Ranney, I have watched that video now several times. And every time I watch different parts, his body swaying, his eyes, the way his speech slows as he stops, what do you see when you watch that?
DR. MEGAN RANNEY, DEAN OF YALE SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: So, it's difficult to know for sure what happened without being there. But I noted the same thing that you did, Abby, that gradual slowing of speech, the way his eyes stayed still.
I did notice that he was still able to walk and move his hands.
It really leads me to a couple of most likely diagnoses, one being mini stroke for transient ischemic attack, the other being a partial seizure. Both are serious. And, of course, there are other things as well that could have happened. What I took away most of all is that he needs a good medical workup to figure out what happened. PHILLIP: And to that point, he stepped away from the podium after that
moment that we showed you for about 12 minutes. Were you surprised that he then came back, both that he came back and also that he seemed to have resolved, to some extent, and was able to continue the conversation?
RANNEY: I was surprised that he came back, assuming that this is a new thing that happened. Either a TIA or a new diagnosis of partial seizure would need a workup. If I had seen him, if I had been there as an emergency physician, I would have sent him to an E.R. to get a full workup.
The only reason that I can imagine that he came back is that it was a manifestation of something that had already been going on. We know he had a concussion months ago. Concussions can lead to seizures. So, I can't help but wonder if this was something that he's already been experiencing and that's why he was so quick to come back and not be rushed off to an emergency department.
PHILLIP: That's an interesting point. I want to ask you on a separate topic about Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. Here is what he said in response to a question about whether he would consider making Robert F. Kennedy Jr. his running mate. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Yes, the medical stuff, I'm very good on that, so that does appeal to me. But there is a whole host of other things he would probably be out of step with. And so, on that regard, it's like, okay, if you are president, sic him on the FDA if he would be willing to serve or sic him on CDC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: This is an individual who is well known for spreading misinformation about science, about vaccines. Ron DeSantis there saying he would consider putting him on one of the major federal agencies that deals with public health and safety. What is your reaction to that?
RANNEY: So, first of all, he is unqualified. It would be like putting a medical doctor in charge of the U.S. Treasury. Second, as you point out, he's not just unqualified, but he's well known for spreading mistruths, partial truths and frank lies about things ranging from vaccines to antidepressants.
This is an absolute disservice to the institution of public health, to the institutions of the CDC and the FDA who are working so hard to protect the American public. And I also have to say I note Governor DeSantis' language there, about siccing him on these agencies that do so much to keep us safe.
Right now, we need to defend public health workers who are under attack across the country. To even imply that someone like him would be qualified to lead one of these agencies is almost laughable to me.
PHILLIP: Dr. Megan Ranney, thank you very much for your expertise on all of that.
RANNEY: Thank you.
PHILLIP: And after two years of everyone predicting a recession, surprise, the Fed now says it is unlikely. Chris Wallace will join me next on how this puts Republicans in a pickle going into the election season.
Plus, remember when Donald Trump used to rail against mail-in and early voting? Well, tonight, he's apparently changed his mind.
PHILLIP: He's called it a fraud, a scam, a hoax, pick your adjective. But tonight, Donald Trump is now changing his mind on early and mail- in voting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Republicans must get tougher and fight harder to cast our votes and get our ballots turned in earlier so Democrats can't rig the polls against us on Election Day. We cannot let that happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: Now, obviously, those claims of rigging the polls are not true, but listen to all the years of Trump telling Republican voters the exact opposite.
TRUMP: I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting. The biggest problem we have right now are the ballots, millions of ballots going out. That's the biggest problem.
Universal mail-in voting is going to be catastrophic, it's going to make our country a laughing stock all over the world.
The ballots are out of control.
The problem with the mail-in voting, number one, you never going to know when the election is over.
Because they have that long early voting in Florida. It is so long. And so many things could go wrong when you have that long period of time, right?
It shouldn't be mailed in. You should vote at the booth and you should have voter I.D.
Lots of things will happen during that period of time, especially when you have tight margins. Lots of things can happen.
You are going to have problems with the ballot like nobody has ever seen before.
It shouldn't be mail-in voting. It should be you go to a booth and you proudly display yourself.
With the unsolicited millions of ballots that they're sending, it is a scam. It is a hoax.
And all they wanted to think about was that they'll steal an election. We discussed it yesterday, Jeff, where they wanted all sorts of things having to do with mail-in voting.
PHILLIP: Now, it is worth noting that many Republicans have cited Trump's attacks as one of the reasons for their loss in 2020 and their underperformance in the midterms. In fact, one Republican campaign official put it this way to Politico, saying we can sit here and talk about mail-in voting and use that as an excuse, but that's like an alcoholic saying they're not going to drink gin anymore, just beer. We have 99 problems and mail-in voting is one.
In the wake of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's comments on Monday, where he appeared to be warming to the idea of a Biden impeachment, many Republicans in both the House and in the Senate have poured cold water on the idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): This is impeachment theater. What he's doing is he saying there is a shiny object over here. We're really going to focus on that. We just need to get all these things done so we can focus on a shiny object. SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I'm not going to vote to impeach a president. I'm not going to vote to impeach anybody, just because I don't like their politics.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I think this is not good for the country to have repeated impeachment problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABBY PHILIP, CNN ANCHOR: And joining me now to discuss this is the host of "Who's Talking to Chris Wallace?", Chris Wallace himself. This is, Chris, a real problem, I think, for Republicans as they go into the next few weeks. Do they have even the support of Republicans to do something like this? What do you think is behind McCarthy opening the store in the way that he is this week?
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, CNN ANCHOR: Well, there's certainly a lot of support among the right-wing, the Freedom Caucus, a number of the real hardliners. But when you get somebody like Ken Buck, who's pretty darn conservative, a Republican in the House saying this is just a distraction, this is a bright shiny object from all the problems that Republicans have, and then you see the total disinterest on the part of Republicans in the Senate.
I mean, you know, the basic question you've got to ask yourself, Abby, is what is the high crime and misdemeanor that they are alleging that Joe Biden has committed? That's what the Constitution says, high crimes and misdemeanors.
McCarthy said, well, we've got to have the inquiry to find out. It has a little bit of an "Alice in Wonderland" verdict today, trial tomorrow quality to it. You know, I just, they can talk about it. I suppose they can open an investigation if they want. But if they were actually going to go to the floor and vote, this is a very hard vote, even in the conservative Republican run house for a lot of those -- those Republicans who actually won in districts that Joe Biden won. This would be a pretty hard vote for them to take.
PHILIP: Yeah, I mean, and to your point, they have not really been able to show much evidence of anything that's directly tied to President Biden. But the other context of this, I mean, I think that there's the politics of what McCarthy is facing in the House itself. The other part of it is just the big picture here.
This is a Republican Party going into a presidential election in which the economy, which would have been a big issue, is now leveling off. You have inflation coming down from 9 percent year over year to 3 percent year over year. You also have the Fed now raising rates, but then saying, hey, we don't know that there's going to be a recession and maybe there won't be. Do you think that they have to kind of find a plan B if they cannot run on the economy?
WALLACE: Well, I think they certainly will have to find a plan B, C and D. Having said that, the economy is still going to be an issue. Yes, inflation is dramatically down from 9 percent year over year to
now in the last reading, I think it was 3 percent year over year. But when you look at the polls, people still do not think that Joe Biden has done a good job on the economy. In a recent poll, the Monmouth poll, over 60 percent of voters, Republicans and Democrats, said they disapprove of the way that Joe Biden has handled inflation in particular.
So, you know, there's a sense sometimes people's perception of what the economy is lags by a considerable amount behind what the latest numbers are. Now, having said that, we're more than a year away from the election. If inflation continues to bump along at 3 percent or even lower, and you don't see us tipping into a recession, that's going to be a harder case to make. There are plenty of other cases, though, to make against Joe Biden without impeaching him for high crimes and misdemeanors when you don't know what those alleged offenses are.
PHILIP: Yeah. I mean, there are a lot of things between where Republicans are now and impeaching the sitting president for high crimes and misdemeanors.
I do want to turn now to what you've got going on your show this week. A personal favorite of mine, Brad Paisley, is someone who's sitting at your table. You spoke to him about a recent trip that he made to Ukraine, where he actually performed and met with troops. Let's watch that moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Why did you want to write a song that connects life here in the U.S. to what those poor folks are going through over there?
BRAD PAISLEY, SINGER: I was really affected when the invasion first happened a year ago and changed now. And the idea I had was, you know, do we have these things in common? Is that the way it is in these other places? It's just, it really does make me, I think, appreciate what we have more than I ever have in my entire life, knowing that it's fragile.
WALLACE: I mean, you're really personally committed to this, aren't you?
PAISLEY: I really am. And somebody asked me the other day, how did you wind up caring about this that much? The answer is I don't know. I just was affected so much in the beginning that the next thing you know, and this has been the story of my life, you write a song and it winds up leading you places you never expected.
WALLACE: I'd love you to just play a little passage from same here that particularly makes the point you want to make.
PAISLEY: Yeah, yeah. As we wrote it, as a kid from West Virginia asking this question, you know -- (SINGING)
How are things in California? I hear the traffic's just insane. Plastic people and paparazzi. I know all left coast cliches, but tell me, is there a bar on your corner where you buy each other beers, and solve all the world's problems, same?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILIP: I love that. I love Brad Paisley's voice, but it's so interesting that he decided to dive into this topic. Politically, I would say, it's pretty polarizing still. Why did he tell you that this is something that he wanted to go over there and see for himself and engage in from a musical perspective?
WALLACE: Well, it is controversial, and particularly, you know, a lot of country music fans tend to be on the right side of the political spectrum and there is some growing doubt and fatigue with supporting the cause in Ukraine.
You know, Paisley said that he has played, he's toured in a lot of these countries in Europe, been in the big squares, been with all the people and to see a war now, the kind of thing that we thought ended with World War II, where people in the capital city they like Kyiv that he went to, are running for their lives and people are dying in their homes just really struck him.
And this isn't just he went on a trip and he wrote a song called "Same Here" the idea that the people there are just like us but they're going through something unimaginable the proceeds that's the first single from his new album that's going to be out in a few months the proceeds from that are going to build homes the homes that have been destroyed by the Russians in their invasion that's been going on for more than a year now.
So he's putting his money where his wonderful singing voice is. And as a favorite of yours, Abby, I've got to make you jealous, because throughout this entire interview, he sings a number of songs to us. And to have this personal concert, to be right across the table from him with that voice and the guitar, it was very special.
PHILIP: I am super jealous, actually. I really do love Brad Paisley. I've been listening to his music for a long time. many, many years, and it's cool to hear him talk and not just sing, actually. Chris Wallace, thank you so much, as always, for joining us.
WALLACE: Thank you, Abby.
PHILIP: And don't miss "Who's Talking to Chris Wallace?" every Friday at 10.00 p.m. Eastern.
And as the summer of the strike intensifies, one Hollywood star is making a demand when it comes to A.I. and jobs. Actor Joseph Gordon- Levitt joins me live, next.
Plus, she led a complicated and talented life, and tonight, the world remembers Sinead O'Connor.
PHILIP: That was actor, writer, and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He's also the founder of Hit Record, and he penned a piece in "The Washington Post" today titled, "If Artificial Intelligence Uses Your Work, It Should Pay You." On July 14th, the SAG-AFTRA union that represents about 160,000 Hollywood actors officially went on strike after failing to reach a deal with Hollywood's biggest studios. And a crucial demand for those on the picket line is the future of A.I. or artificial intelligence and the question of how it can be used to potentially replace the labor of real humans.
Well, Joseph Gordon-Levitt joins me now. You have a really -- To add to your list of -- of titles. You are actor, director, and now author in "The Washington Post." This piece is a stark warning, though. And you also --
JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT, ACTOR, WRITER, DIRECTOR: Thank you. I'm kind of starstruck to be here. This is a new experience for me, being on a news show. I'm very excited.
PHILIP: Yeah, yeah. Well, we're here to add to your resume. So you're asking basically for A.I. to basically, or not A.I., but the companies behind A.I., to pay the people behind all of the content that they put into this algorithm. Who do you think should be paid for their work? And how would any of this work?
GORDON-LEVITT: Yeah, how would it work? It would be a tall order, but just to, so the way that these A.I. models work is they feed them a ton of trading data, right? We've all heard of these generative A.I. models, the chatbots, et cetera, but they can't actually generate anything until they've been fed all of this training data. And that training data is produced by humans.
And so the humans who produce that training data, I think, deserve compensation. It's kind of simple as that. But you're right.
PHILIP: So not just -- Not just actors and-- Not just actors and directors, but like the camera folks as well, and who else?
GORDON-LEVITT: I think so, yeah, because, you know, eventually they're saying, and I think it's probably true, I don't know exactly how long it'll take, but soon enough, these and these A.I. tools will be able to generate an entire movie. And, you know, that's all the camera movement, that's all the
costumes, that's all the set design, that's everything. And all the camera operators, all the costume designers, all the set designers, their work, their ingenuity, their skill and their experience is what is being mimicked and sort of mashed up by these A.I.s. They couldn't do it without that human labor. And so I think, yeah, all of those people deserve compensation.
PHILIP: And someone is obviously going to have to come up with a system to make all of this happen. The tech companies and even perhaps the studios will face no incentives to do this because they have to pay more people. So how do you envision this happening from a practical perspective?
GORDON-LEVITT: It's a really good question. And this is, you know, you brought up the strike. I don't know that this is something that labor unions can just ask for and get. I think this is maybe bigger than any single industry. or any single union or even a couple unions like SAG and the WGA, which are striking down in Hollywood. I think this is something that has to happen in Washington.
And you know, there is some encouraging sign of Congress and the White House moving towards regulating A.I. And in my opinion, one of the things that regulation should address is this issue that big business should not be able to make all this money using A.I. unless they're compensating the people whose data trained the A.I.
PHILIP: Do you think it's going to be prohibitively expensive to do this?
GORDON-LEVITT: Well, here's the thing. These companies, what they want to have happen is they want to say, wow, now we have these A.I. tools. So we can cut costs immensely. Now we can our profit margins go from here to here. And what I'm saying is, well, maybe not. Maybe actually your profit margins can grow incrementally, and you can keep paying all the people that deserve to be paid for the labor that they put into training their A.I.s. And maybe it's OK if the growth doesn't skyrocket and the economy doesn't fall apart because everyone's lost their jobs.
PHILIP: Well, you raise a fascinating set of issues here in this piece. I encourage everybody to read it because it's really thought provoking in a lot of different ways. Thanks for making us your first cable news appearance.
GORDON-LEVITT: My honor.
PHILIP: We're honored to have you, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Thank you very much.
PHILIP: And underway right now, senators are up late as Democrats hold a talk-a-thon on the floor speaking out against Tommy Tuberville's blocking of military nominees.
Plus Sinead O'Connor, in her own words as the music world mourns the singer.
PHILIP: Sad news tonight Irish singer Sinead O'Connor has passed away. That's according to reports from Ireland's public broadcaster. Her cover of Prince's song, "Nothing Compares to You," became a number one hit in 1990, earning her multiple Grammy nominations.
The singer made headlines in 1992 when she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on SNL with a message, Fight the Real Enemy. An outspoken activist, in recent years O'Connor opened up about her struggles with addiction and mental health, and she's also talked about the abuse that she endured as a child.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: My mother was a beast and I was able to soothe her with my voice. I was able to use my voice to make the devil fall asleep. My father is the type of man that didn't want anyone talking about what happened and that's what was wrong with me. It wasn't talked about even in the family.
SINEAD O'CONNOR, SINGER: The cause of my own abuse was the church's effect on this country, which had produced my mother.
I spent my entire childhood being beaten up because of the social conditions under which my mother grew up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILIP: Tonight, no cause of death is known. She was 56 years old and is survived by three children.
PHILIP: Did you catch that? That was Jason Aldean's new music video, "Try That in a Small Town." Now, it may look a little different after intense backlash.
In the original video, on your left, local television footage of Black Lives Matter protests in Atlanta was projected over a courthouse. Now, the video has been edited to remove all images of that protest.