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Social Media CEOs Grilled At Tense Hearing on Dangers To Kids Online; Trump Meets With Teamsters In Bid To Cut Biden's Union Support; Haley Sharpens Attacks, Toxic Trump Lacks Moral Clarity; Officials: Houthi Cruise Missile Came Within A Mile Of U.S. Warship; FBI Director: Chinese Hackers Preparing To "Wreak Havoc" On The U.S. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 31, 2024 - 18:00   ET


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: On criminalizing those who use the drug because that often prevents them from getting jobs, from making a living.


But, nevertheless, that measure coming under fire now as we see this plaguing the city, this deadly drug, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Josh Campbell, thanks so much.

Join me back here tomorrow. I'm going to speak one-on-one with Ambassador Nikki Haley. That's right here on the lead, beginning at 4:00 Eastern, 1:00 P.M. Pacific.

If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show whence you get your podcast. I'll be on Jimmy Kimmel Live later this evening.

Our coverage continues now in The Situation Room.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: Happening now, powerful tech CEOs are grilled by senators and berated for failing to protect young people from grave dangers on social media with angry victims' relatives in the room. I'll be speaking with a senator who has co-sponsoring legislation aimed at keeping kids safe online, Democrat Richard Blumenthal.

Also tonight, Donald Trump meets with the Teamsters Union, hoping to drive a wedge between President Joe Biden and his traditionally loyal allies in organized labor. This as Trump's GOP rival, Nikki Haley, is unleashing her sharpest attacks on him yet.

And a dire new warning from the FBI director that Chinese hackers are preparing to, quote, wreak havoc on the United States. Stand by for details on potential targets and the serious harm that could come to Americans.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Alex Marquardt and you're in The Situation Room. Our top story tonight, some of the biggest names in the tech industry confronted about the perils of social media and the many young people who are suffering and even dying.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more on the often combative Senate hearing, which included a stunning apology.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Your product is killing people. Will you set up a victims compensation fund with your money, the money you made on these families sitting behind you? Yes or no?

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

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

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, META: And this is why we invested so much and we are going to continue doing industry-leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things your families have had to suffer.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-OH): Your platforms really suck at policing themselves.

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

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

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

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

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

FOREMAN: -- and Republican.

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

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

HAWLEY: Who did you fire?

ZUCKERBERG: I'm not going to answer that. FOREMAN: There was plenty of heat to go around as the tech bosses were scorched with claims their products promoting anxiety, depression and violence, especially among young people.

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

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is that going?

ZUCKERBERG: You know, our --

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

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

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

FOREMAN: And while the tech bosses say they're happy to work on safeguards --

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): But you have blood on your hands.

FOREMAN: -- skepticism ran rampant.

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


FOREMAN: These are some of the biggest, most wealthy and powerful companies in the world. And what they're relying on is a 1996 provision that was trying to protect a growing, brand new, weak internet so it could grow.

What these lawmakers are doing now is looking at this and saying, we may not understand all the technology, but we understand human suffering, we know how it motivates voters, and we know how to count votes.

And they believe big tech could be very much on the wrong side of the next one when it comes to regulating their industry.


Alex? MARQUARDT: Yes, an incredible hearing. Tom Foreman, thank you so much for that report. I appreciate it.

There's another tense showdown playing out on Capitol Hill tonight. GOP senators are at odds over a bipartisan border security deal that is opposed by Donald Trump as well as House Republicans.

Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju joins us now with an update. So, Manu, this is after months of work. So, is this deal now at risk of falling apart?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It most certainly is, and with it, potentially aid to Ukraine, aid to Israel, all of which tie to this border deal, because Republicans insisted themselves that the border must be dealt with first before they green-lighted more emergency aid.

But deep divisions within the GOP ranks threatens the border effort. In fact, Senate Republicans debated behind closures about whether to even move forward with this border deal. No decisions have been made, in large part because House Republicans have come out against it.

The speaker of the House making clear there's no appetite for the Senate bipartisan proposal, and former President Donald Trump even going as far as calling it a betrayal and urging Republicans to kill it.

But there's one issue. The deal has not even been released yet. There is no text. And that is causing major frustration in the Senate GOP ranks, who are saying, read the bill first before coming out against it.


RAJU: The former president has come out and called this deal a betrayal. Do you think that's a fair assessment?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): Does he have access to the bill?

RAJU: It doesn't seem that way.

CASSIDY: It hasn't been released. How does he know it's a betrayal if he hasn't read it?

But people have to show courage. If you're afraid you got to read the bill. I mean, don't be ignorant. Read the bill.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): I think there's voter frustration on it. I think everybody here is frustrated because they can't read the bill. Everybody at home is saying, okay, finally, we're actually talking about a bipartisan agreement to actually solve a border issue. Let's get it solved.


RAJU: And that last comment from Senator James Langford, who's one of the three senators trying to cut this bipartisan deal, he says there has been mischaracterizations about this bill, coming from the House, coming from Republican leaders, even coming from the former president, saying that this is not a, quote, betrayal, as Trump has said along the campaign trail.

But even so, the challenges of getting this approved are extremely high, given divisions within the ranks. And the fact that members from both parties believe Donald Trump wants to kill this because he wants to campaign on border chaos ahead of November. Alex?

MARQUARDT: A remarkable Republican split up there on Capitol Hill. Manu Raju, thanks so much.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator of Connecticut Richard Blumenthal, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, as well as a lead sponsor of the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act. Senator, thank you so much for joining us on such an important day, such a dramatic day in that hearing.

You saw that stunning moment when Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg stood up, turned around, apologized to those families, but then he also denied the very premise of that hearing you held, that social media causes worse mental health. So, do you think that today's hearing actually achieved anything in terms of making these platforms safer?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): We think it is a very, very dramatic, even historic step, because what it demonstrated again and again and again was the unanimity among Republicans and Democrats that something needs to be done. With all the verbiage and all the big tech baloney, and you heard a lot of it, what the parents in that room were demanding was action, because we have heard these hollow promises and empty commitment again and again.

And I think today's hearing crystallized the overwhelming momentum that we're generating. It's the reason why Snap has endorsed the Kids Online Safety Act and Microsoft, and we have almost half the United States Senate.

Republicans and Democrats evenly divided co-sponsoring the Kids Online Safety Act, and Senator Schumer committed to working with us to bring it to a vote as soon as possible. So, I think today's hearing moved us forward.

MARQUARDT: And you're working with your Republican counterpart, Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. You have bipartisan support on your bill to strengthen those protections for children online, but it still hasn't passed.

Your committee is grilling these social media executives, but do you think there will ever be accountability if Congress doesn't act?

BLUMENTHAL: There will be no accountability without congressional action. You know, if there is one point that was made so dramatically today, it is that there is no basis to trust social media.

And I showed it in some of my questions where I quoted a very top- ranking Meta leader who came before one of our subcommittees, one that I chair, made promises about doing everything to stop the dangers and the harm.


And then at the same time, within Meta, there were internal documents showing that the request for more investment were denied by Mark Zuckerberg himself. So, without congressional action, we will have no protection for children and, in fact, our bill would give parents and children the tools they need to disconnect from those black box algorithms that are driving toxic content about bullying and harassment, suicidal ideation and self-harm and, of course, eating disorders all those harms and imposed responsibility, real accountability on big tech.

MARQUARDT: Senator, I want to ask you about this border deal that appears to be collapsing. You've got these divisions among Republicans that Manu was talking about. So, do you support separating this deal to pass that urgently needed foreign aid without an agreement on the border aid for Ukraine, for Israel, for Taiwan?

BLUMENTHAL: You know, I met this morning with some of the very top leadership at the Pentagon about the increasingly desperate situation in Ukraine. So absolutely yes, I would support aid to Ukraine and aid to Israel, as well as for Taiwan, without an agreement on border security.

But let me emphasize, we need to give the president of the United States more authority to control the border. And that kind of security on our border is an absolute must. The bipartisan compromise, it's a compromise. Neither side is getting everything it wants, is absolutely necessary for our nation's security.

But I will support aid for Ukraine as well as Israel, because their fight against terrorism and autocracy, particularly Putin's murderous atrocities, war crimes, is absolutely necessary for the United States security to stop.

MARQUARDT: All right. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, thank you so much for your time tonight. I appreciate it.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: And just ahead, how Donald Trump is trying to peel away a key Democratic voting bloc, the group that he's targeting, and what their president is saying about a potential endorsement.

Plus, the district attorney and lead prosecutor overseeing Trump's criminal case in Georgia are subpoenaed over allegations they had an affair.



MARQUARDT: Tonight, Donald Trump is taking aim at a crucial bloc of traditionally Democratic voters, union members. Trump meeting today with the Teamsters, even as the group's president says that he is nowhere close to making an endorsement. Take a listen.


SEAN O'BRIEN, GENERAL PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS: There's a lot of due diligence that needs to be done. There's a lot of boxes that need to be checked. We've got a long way to go before we make a decision.


MARQUARDT: CNN's Kristen Holmes has more on this meeting today. So, Kristen, it has been decades since the Teamsters backed a Republican for president. So, what might their reason be in 2024?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, for Donald Trump and his campaign, it's not just about the actual endorsement. It's about trying to drive a wedge between Joe Biden and one of his core supporting voting blocs. That, of course, is unions.

And they do believe that Donald Trump has the ability to do this by appealing to those rank and file members. If you remember, back in 2016, part of the group of voters that propelled Donald Trump to the White House was disenfranchised working class voters who were essentially feeling like they had been left behind by the Democratic Party. They are hoping that Donald Trump can pick those voters up again.

Now, while it's not totally about the endorsement, Donald Trump would obviously want the Teamsters' endorsement, and this is what he said about that today.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: And I think we had a very productive meeting. Stranger things have happened. Usually, a Republican wouldn't get that endorsement for many, many years. They only do Democrats.


HOLMES: Now, while, of course, again, he's saying that it could happen in some universe, I will tell you that executive board members were unhappy with the fact that they were meeting, the Teamsters were meeting with Donald Trump, one of them pending a letter to the president of the Teamsters saying that Donald Trump was a known union buster and a scab and an insurrectionist, and they couldn't believe that the Teamsters would be meeting with them. However, the Teamsters have said that they want to meet with all of the candidates to get a variety of viewpoints.

MARQUARDT: All right, well, that is a fascinating dynamic. Kristen Holmes, thank you very much for that reporting.

Now, let's get more analysis from former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent and Ashley Etienne. She is the former communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris. Thank you both for joining me this evening.

Charlie, I want to start with you. Back in 2020, Trump lost to Biden by 16 points among union households. In 2016, he did a little bit better against Hillary Clinton. How do you think Trump is going to be in terms of his success of peeling away these union voters?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Trump will actually be fairly successful in peeling away some union votes. These endorsements meeting with the head of the Teamsters, this is about the rank and file, make no mistake about it.

And we've seen a gradual erosion over the years of many working Americans moving toward the Republican column. It has accelerated in recent years. So, I think this is all a play to get the drive a wedge between union leadership and the rank and file, many of whom, particularly those without college degrees, have been trending more heavily Republican.

MARQUARDT: We did just get a response to Trump in this meeting today from the Biden campaign. They say, Donald Trump pretends to be pro- worker when sides with management -- then sides with management, excuse me, and does nothing while factories close and jobs are lost. Trump's long record of attacking unions and shipping jobs overseas while lining the pockets of his rich buddies speaks for itself.

So, Ashley, do you think Democrats should be concerned that Trump can attract, as Charlie was just saying, Teamsters members, even if the presidency, the leadership, eventually go for Biden?

ASHLEY ETIENNE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR V.P. HARRIS: Absolutely, they should be concerned. I mean, let's go back to the 2016 election. Remember when Donald Trump was trying to appeal to African-American voters, and he said, what do you have to lose? In that particular race and races since then, the number of African- Americans voting for Donald Trump has gone up significantly.


So, that is still a concern and a worry for the Democratic Party.

But what I was talking to Charlie about is this is interesting. Donald Trump, what I can appreciate, doesn't leave any voter behind. And it's starting to redefine -- this is one way in which he's redefining the Republican Party. He's going after every vote. And it's worked to his advantage. It worked in '16 with African Americans, and I agree with Charlie, I think it's going to work to some degree with union voters.

MARQUARDT: It seems like neither side is taking any voter for granted.

I do want to move on to Nikki Haley. She has been ramping up her attacks in the past few weeks, notably since the Iowa caucuses against the former president.

Listen to what she said earlier today about the impact that the president has had on our politics.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's made it chaotic. He's made it self-absorbed. He's made people dislike and judge each other. He's left that a president should have moral clarity and know the difference between right or wrong. And he's just toxic.


MARQUARDT: So, Haley there talking about the former president, Charlie. It's a pretty stinging indictment of Trump. That is something that we had been hearing from her former rival, Chris Christie, even President Joe Biden. What do you make of it?

DENT: Well, I think her criticisms are a bit belated. She should have been doing this much more frontally and directly long ago. I'm glad she's doing it now, but I think she needs to really refine that criticism and talk about his conduct or misconduct, say, you know, absconding with classified documents is bad judgment and it's criminal, you know, say paying off a porn star to silence her is really terrible conduct. I mean, she needs to really be more sharp and revert.

She doesn't need to be called names, but she can just talk about the conduct, keep beating on it and explain why he's a risk. I'm glad she's doing it, but she should have been doing this and the other candidates many months ago.

MARQUARDT: What about that, Ashley? I mean, you had Chris Christie out there essentially saying, I'm the only one who dares to take on Trump like this. Do you think it would have been more effective had she started before Iowa?

ETIENNE: Well, I mean, no one's figured out how to crack the code against Donald Trump in the primary, and like it's a tough dynamic. But I do agree with Charlie. I think what's not working to Nikki Haley's advantage is this name calling. It's too Trump-esque. And 70 percent of primary voters in the Republican Party don't want another Donald Trump. What they really like about Nikki Haley is her temperament.

So, my advice to her would be similar to what Charlie said. Play to your advantage. You know Donald Trump intimately. You were in those rooms with Donald Trump. The Republican Party wants to hear this came out of the New Hampshire exit polls. They want to hear someone is fighting on their behalf. She needs to sort of ground her criticisms in ways in which Donald Trump has failed the American public.

MARQUARDT: Ashley, I want to get your reaction to another part of Haley's interview. This is how she responded when asked whether Texas has the right to secede from the United States. Take a listen.


HALEY: If Texas decides they want to do that, they can do that. But I don't think that if that whole state says we don't want to be part of America anymore, I mean, that's their decision to make.


MARQUARDT: Ashley, that's their decision to make. Texas could up and leave the union.

ETIENNE: Well, you know, I'm a Texan and, you know, we're a rowdy bunch, but I don't -- I disagree with Nikki Haley. I don't know why she would say that and want to represent the nation as a whole. It just seems irresponsible and, you know, off message off to it.

MARQUARDT: Charlie, , what did you make of that?

DENT: South Carolina chose to secede from the nation and we fought a civil war over it. And so I think it's a mistake to even talk about secession, terrible, terrible issue for her.

Again, this is what the whole Civil War was over. States cannot secede. That was settled. And so I wouldn't -- I'd say don't talk about it, but don't do it.

MARQUARDT: Yes, interesting position. Ashley Etienne, Charlie Dent, thank you both.

Coming up, a disturbing story out of Pennsylvania where a man is in custody after allegedly beheading his own father and leaving a politically charged rant on social media.



MARQUARDT: Police in Pennsylvania have arrested a man accused of decapitating his own father and showing the severed head in politically-charged rants that he posted on YouTube.

I want to warn our viewers that some of the details in this story are graphic and disturbing. We have more now from CNN's Danny Freeman.



DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, a Pennsylvania man ordered held without bond charged with murder and abuse of a body. 32-year-old Justin Mohn is suspected of beheading his father and posting a gruesome video of the aftermath and his disturbing political views.

Around 7:00 P.M. Tuesday evening, Middletown Township Police got a call from Justin's mother saying she'd found her husband, 68-year-old Michael Mohn, dead. According to a criminal complaint obtained by CNN, when officers arrived, they found an elderly male in a bathroom with blood around him who had been decapitated. Officers found a machete and a large kitchen knife in the bathtub. Court documents said police then found Michael Mohn's head in a plastic bag in a cooking pot in the next room. Only then did investigators learn of his son's video posted to YouTube.

In the 14-and-a-half minute video, Justin Mohn rants about the Biden administration, the border, and calls his father a traitor to his country because he was a federal employee, saying, quote, America is rotting from the inside out because of far left woke mobs. Justin then raised his dead father's head on camera.


BARTORILLA: I am very sad for the family, I'm very sad for the community, you know, and also for the people that knew him.

FREEMAN: While police were at his home, Mohn, though, was heading west. A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs told CNN at around 9:00 P.M., Mohn's cell phone was traced to just outside of the Fort Indian Town Gap National Guard Base, Pennsylvania's National Guard headquarters, nearly 100 miles from the crime scene.

The PADMVA said Mohn was armed with a gun, but was ultimately arrested without incident. As authorities investigate, a former roommate of Justin's tell CNN, he believed, quote, the government was out to get him. Mohn also filed multiple lawsuits suggesting he was angry about his status as a white man. This disturbing incident renews concerns about the risk of political violence.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT: The kind of overheated, deeply politicized, extreme rhetoric that you hear sometimes in this country actually has an impact on these marginalized people with extremist views.


FREEMAN (on camera): And, Alex, one of the most disturbing aspects of this story is this video was left up for several hours before YouTube took it down. YouTube telling CNN it has, quote, strict policies prohibiting graphic violence and extremism and, quote, our teams are closely tracking to remove any re uploads of this video.

However, Alex, we spoke with the police chief of this community who said, at this point, it feels like everyone in this area has already seen this video.

Alex, I'll note that the Bucks County district attorney is expected to have a press conference giving more details, perhaps shedding some light on motive before the week is over. Alex?

MARQUARDT: And we know you'll be listening to that closely, just horrific details. Danny Freeman, thank you very much.

For more on this incredibly disturbing story, I'm joined now by CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller. John, when you look at the allegations here, beheading his father as a political statement, it makes me think immediately of ISIS. How are people like Mohn being radicalized to the extent that they could do something like this?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, a couple of ways. And it's interesting, Alex, because I thought the same thing, but these people live in these internet chat rooms. They have likely seen ISIS propaganda. We've seen violent domestic extremists copy some of those techniques, although this is the first time I can think of off the top that we have a beheading here.

But the themes are, I'm not making it in life, I'm not making it at work, I have a poor relationship with my family, one way is to look inward. The other way in the radicalization world is to go into that 4Chan room or to that 8Chan room or to that Discord room and get into the echo chamber where you can say, well, it's the government's fault. They gave me student loans and, you know, I became an overeducated white man and now I owe all this money. They've put me in this jackpot. Or it's the deep state or it's the courts because I've done all my lawsuits and they've all been dismissed.

Once you get in there, and as ridiculous as it sounds, there is a chorus of people validating that and then calling on each other to step up.

MARQUARDT: And more of those themes in that video that was posted on YouTube, he's rallying against Biden, against Antifa, Black Lives Matter, immigration, LGBTQ. How much of our political leaders do you think who use some of this same extreme rhetoric responsible when someone like Mohn acts out?

MILLER: You know, in Danny's piece Andy McCarthy from the FBI you know touched on it very eruditely but I'll say it simply. You know, our politicians and those people on those platforms have to understand words matter. To them, it might be flowery rhetoric or strong statements, it might be the next viral post on social media, but there's an audience out there that takes this as a call to arms.

And we see it again and again whether it was Roy Hollander, who murdered the federal judge who ruled against his cases, saying he was being held back by women, came to her home seeking to kill her but ended up killing her son and wounding her husband. You take the individual who, you know, blew up the telephone company building in Atlanta -- Nashville on Christmas Day.

We keep seeing these people acting out in very violent ways and then harkening back to these messages, which are largely online.

MARQUARDT: Unbelievable. John Miller, thank you very much for your time and expertise tonight.

MILLER: Thanks.

MARQUARDT: Just ahead, the Georgia prosecutors who brought criminal charges against Donald Trump are hit with subpoenas as allegations they had an affair hang over the case. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


MARQUARDT: Tonight, documents obtained by CNN reveal that subpoenas have been issued for the Trump special prosecutor in the Georgia and the Fulton County district attorney who hired him. They are under orders to testify next month about allegations that they were engaged in an improper romantic relationship.

Now, Trump and some of his co-defendants are citing this alleged affair as they try to get their criminal charges in the election subversion case thrown out.

For more, let's bring in CNN Anchor and Chief Legal Analyst Laura Coates. So, Laura, how could this impact the racketeering case in Georgia against Donald Trump? To what extent has it already damaged the case?

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, it's the ultimate distraction right now. They're not talking about and we're not talking about. And, more importantly, a potential jury pool is not focusing on the underlying charges in this case. They're talking about the distraction of an alleged relationship.

We have not seen the full filings to see what the response might be from Fani Willis or members of her team. But, you know, in politics, they say, if you're talking about the past, you're not going to get anywhere ahead.


In the law, if you're a prosecutor hoping to present your case to a jury, you want them singularly focused on the evidence you're presenting, not raising questions as to whether they ought to have brought these charges, the reason they may have brought these charges or what's going on behind the scenes. If that happens, you are facing an uphill battle.

But, ultimately, nothing that has been said to date has any impact so far on changing the underlying facts that led to the allegations, but it's quite, Alex, the distraction.

MARQUARDT: And then, Laura, in New York, the judgment in the civil fraud lawsuit against the Trump Organization could come really any day now. The New York attorney general is seeking $370 million in this case. What are you expecting to see there?

COATES: Well, I'm not going to do the math right now of 83 plus 370. If that would all come to pass, there's two New York cases, the former being E. Jean Carroll and the possibility of the latter with Letitia James in her case. That's a lot of money for any one plaintiff or any corporation to try to sustain, and yet here we are again.

And there are some real similarities. Number one, the issue that led to these high potential judgments had already been decided in a previous motion or hearing or trial. In this civil fraud case, remember, there was a very damning summary judgment motion by this judge. That's a fancy way of saying, look, if everything I take to believe and believe is true, you still lose this case, everything is resolved, you still lose it. All this three month bench trial I had to be about was how much it's going to cost you. And this is an incredibly difficult time to be patient. Isn't it?

MARQUARDT: It certainly is. And then there's that -- when you're doing your math, that additional five from the previous E. Jean Carroll ruling as well. So, that's a lot of money.

Laura Coates, thank you very much. Laura is going to be back at 11:00 P.M. Eastern tonight right here on CNN with Laura Coates Live.

Coming up, U.S. warships thwart multiple Houthi militant attacks, including one missile which came within just one mile of an American destroyer.



MARQUARDT: We're learning new details about Sunday's deadly drone attack on U.S. military base in Jordan. The White House formerly blaming and Iran-backed group called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq for that strike, which killed three American service members. Now this comes as we are learning about multiple attempted attacks against U.S. warships in the Middle East.

CNN's Oren Liebermann joins us now from the Pentagon.

So, Oren, what's the latest?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start with the USS Carney, a destroyer operating in the Gulf of Aden, just south of Yemen. According to a defense official familiar with the incident, the Carney intercepted an anti-ship ballistic missile launched by the Houthis, as well as you drones. This occurring on this earlier this afternoon.

Meanwhile, this comes just one day after the USS Gravely, a destroyer operating in the Red Sea, had a Houthi cruise missile closed within a mile according to four officials, that cruise missile has come closer than any other attempted launch against U.S. warships in the Middle East. Those launches coming, of course, from the Houthis, an Iran- backed rebel group in Yemen.

That cruise-missile evaded other defense systems such as intercept missiles, too close to within a mile when it was intercepted by the CIWS, the close-in weapon system, an automated gun that was able to track the cruise missile and shoot it down. That gun is a form of last offense, the short range defense system for these destroyers, an expert we spoke with a short time ago, said it was concerning that had been beheaded -- been able to close to within that distance and come so close to the destroyer, a U.S. official says it does not indicate that the Houthis have developed some sort of new weapon. But the reason that it got that close, well, that will have to be looked at here. Still all of this underscores that continued Houthi attacks on international shipping lanes. And their attempt to target U.S. and U.K. vessels and warships operating in the region as we have seen, not only a number of these attacks now, approximately 40 at this point, but also a growing number of U.S. strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen. Some of those backed up by the U.K. -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Showing no sign of abating. Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

Now, other developments that we're following in the Middle East, a proposed hostage deal and renewed truce in Gaza.

Joining me now is Dr. Majed Al Ansari. He is a key adviser to the prime minister of Qatar, who has been in Washington this week. Qatar, of course, a major player, the main mediator really in these hostage and truce negotiations.

Dr. Majed, thank you so much for joining us.

We have been reporting on what is being seen as this broad framework for a potential hostage release, as well as the potential ceasefire. We understand this is now in Hamas's hands.

Do you have any sense of whether Hamas will accept this deal and what the timeframe could be for its implementation?

DR. MAJED AL ANSARI, ADVISER TO THE QATARI PRIME MINISTER: Well, Alex, you know, this proposal, we have been in the works for a long time now. We've been working with both sides and our original interlocutor than the -- and the U.S. to come up to this language. You've been able to consolidate a lot of drafts into this a proposal that is now at the hands of Hamas. Usually, it takes down three it for days to get the word back from them.

We're very optimistic because a lot of the language here has been discussed in the past in the mediation -- a lot of it is within the framework of what was agreed. So we are optimistic that we -- that will -- that this document will give us a chance to continue the mediation and to go into the details and the devil lies in the details, of course.

MARQUARDT: And the expectation as far as I understand it was they would come back with a counter proposal, but correct me if I'm wrong, it does seem like there's a major sticking point and that Hamas would want a comprehensive deal that would end the war. Israel so far is not yet committing to a permanent cease.

Are you hoping that when there is a truce, a hostage release, release of Palestinian prisoners, that that will effectively be the end of this war?

AL ANSARI: Obviously, Alex, that's very -- early on now to think what the result of this proposal and the result of the deal will be towards the end of the war. Of course, from day one, we've been working towards that, that goal.


And obviously with this situation now not only in Gaza, but in the region as a -- as a whole, we have a more important part to play now when it comes to ending this war, and I think everybody's in agreement that we need to do it as soon as possible, unless we will see the whole situation collapsed regionally.

So what we have right now is language that is a general framework for a proposal that hopefully will give us an extended pause. And that extended pause will allow us to negotiate over the rest of the issues and hopefully that will lead to the end of war. But, obviously, when you have an extended pause, the likelihood of ending the conflict, the conflict dying down certainly increases.

MARQUARDT: Yeah, big questions over how Israel would resume if, if there were a pause of say, some two months which has been talked about, you yourself put out a statement on X, formerly Twitter in which you said Qatar is appalled by some of the leaked audio of Prime Minister Netanyahu in which he said that Qatar is problematic and isn't pressuring Hamas enough on a hostage deal.

Do you believe that the Israeli prime minister wants a deal?

AL ANSARI: I mean, I can comment on what the Israeli prime minister wants or likes to do at the moment, but I can tell you that we have been engaging fully since day one in our negotiation team. The only had one day off in the last 115 days since this has started, and we have been trying every possible venue, every possible idea, every possible dog has been tapped in order to get to a deal.

And we find it very frustrating to hear these statements coming from somebody who understands fully that Qatari engagement in this mediation. That said we have been working with them and the other parties of the conflict and the regional actors to see how we can get a deal very -- you know, for every possible venue to be undiscovered here. And I can tell you that in the negotiations that took place in Paris and the negotiation that is taking place right now in Egypt, in Doha. In other places, everybody is doing all they can to reach a deal.

So when statements like these come out, the only way to read it is that this is just a political play, political posturing. And -- and we hope that through the institutional relationship we have with both sides, we'll be able to get a deal very soon.

MARQUARDT: You're also facing pressure here in the United States Republicans in particular accusing you of not using the leverage you have in terms of hosting Hamas and sending millions of dollars to Gaza over the years. We only have a few moments left, but how do you respond to those accusations that you're not pushing them hardly enough -- hard enough?

AL ANSARI: Alex, I mean, the only leverage we have right now with Hamas is the fact that we are mediator. The funding that was for the aid before in Gaza was done in complete coordination with the Israelis. And Hamas knows this and it went all through the channels that we have with the Israelis.

Our work with them right now is based on this. I will leverage with them is the mediation itself. We are pushing as hard as we can from all possible venues. And hopefully, that will allow us to come with a -- with a deal basically.

MARQUARDT: All right. Dr. Majed Al Ansari, thank you very much. I have to leave it there.

And we'll be right back.



MARQUARDT: Threats posed by Chinese hackers to the United States took center stage today during a congressional hearing.

Brian Todd is monitoring the story.

So, Brian, there were some pretty alarming statements during this hearing.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very alarming, Alex, and many of those statements come from FBI Director Christopher Wray, who said that Chinese hackers are simply waiting for their moment, ready to destroy or degrade facilities like American pipelines and power plants.


TODD (voice-over): The FBI director was blunt and dire with his warnings. Americans have paid far too little attention. Christopher Wray says to what he calls a multi-pronged assault on U.S. national and economic security by Chinese hackers?

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

TODD: What could Chinese hackers target that would cause harm inside the U.S.?

WRAY: Our critical infrastructure our water treatment plants, our electrical grid, our oil, and natural gas pipelines, our transportation systems.

TODD: Wray didn't say that Chinese hackers are actively targeting those systems now, but that they are lurking inside critical infrastructure, so they can use that access and be ready to strike at a later date.

JAMES LEWIS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: You do reconnaissance. You identify targets, you identify the way in. That's what the Chinese are doing.

TODD: U.S. officials have been on to the Chinese hackers and have been trying to head them off. CNN reporting that the FBI and the Justice Department using a court order have taken steps to protect hundreds of devices in the U.S., devices connected to infrastructure that are being targeted by Beijing's hackers, steps including removing malicious code from those devices.

But the Chinese hackers are still believed to be deeply entrenched in U.S. infrastructure and security officials say that's partly America's fault.

JEN EASTERLY, DIRECTOR, U.S. CYBERSECURITY AND INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY AGENCY: The truth is, the Chinese cyber actors have taken advantage of very basic flaws in our technology. We've made it easy on them.

TODD: How have Chinese hackers been let in the door to America's plants, pipelines, and servers?

LEWIS: The Chinese have figured out that if you go after small offices the home offices people aren't going to be as protected as they're at work and you get into somebody's home office and then you can get to their work network.

TODD: What U.S. officials now fear that if China invades Taiwan and the U.S. tries to respond militarily, the Chinese hacking efforts could hinder that response.

LEWIS: It can cripple the logistics that support our forces in East Asia, rails, pipelines, airplanes, airports. They could make it very hard to support troops that are deployed overseas.

TODD: Meanwhile, the FBI director says he doesn't trust a recent promise from Chinese Leader Xi Jinping to President Biden that China would not try to disrupt the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

WRAY: China's promised a lot of things over the years. So I guess I'll believe it when I see it.


TODD (voice-over): Chinese authorities have consistently denied engaging in any state sponsored hacking, often saying that China itself is a frequent target of cyber attacks -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right. Brian Todd, thanks very for that report.

I'm Alex Marquardt here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.