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Russian-Linked Facebook Ads Targeted Swing States; Senate Intel Committee To Hold Press Conference Today On Russia Probe; Late-Night Talk Show Hosts Call For Action After Vegas Tragedy. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 4, 2017 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What will you carry forward with you about her life and make it even more a part of your own, now that you don't have her?

AMIE CAMPBELL, FRIEND OF BAILEY SCHWEITZER: She taught everybody that you can find the good in everything and everybody.

And I'm going to try and cherish her by having that -- try to have that same attitude by making sure that people know that they are loved, that they're the most important person in that moment.

That there's just -- you can try and find the good in anybody and just try to always have a smile on your face and to try and just be brave for the people who can't be brave for themselves right now. And to just continue to try and help the world know what hole that there -- that they've put into the world now.

CUOMO: Well, we certainly can't have enough of that right now.

Amie, Katelynn, again, I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for telling us --

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

CUOMO: -- about your friend, Bailey. Appreciate it.

KATELYNN CLEVELAND, FRIEND OF BAILEY SCHWEITZER: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Be well -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the really captured her for us all. I mean, it makes me wish that I had known her. So our thoughts are with them, obviously.

Chris, we'll be back with you in a moment but we want to get to another story that we're covering because there's a new development in the Russia investigation. It's a CNN exclusive.

How did Russian-linked Facebook ads target two swing states to -- that were key to the president's victory? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:35:35] CAMEROTA: Now, to a CNN exclusive.

Some of the 3,000 Russian-linked Facebook ads placed during the 2016 election were focused on two key swing states and they were key to President Trump defeating Hillary Clinton.

CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is live in Washington with all of the exclusive details for us. What have you and the team learned?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alisyn.

A number of these Russian-linked Facebook ads that did appear during the election season were actually targeting two key states, Michigan and Wisconsin, those critical to Donald Trump's victory last November.

Now, according to four sources knowledgeable about the situation, the ads were intended to promote divisive messages and some even included anti-Muslim messages suggesting that Muslims were a threat to the American way of life.

Now, up until now it has been unclear exactly which regions of the country were targeted by the Facebook ads, and we're told a large number of the ads appeared in areas of the country that were not heavily contested, but some clearly were geared at swaying public opinion in the most heavily contested battlegrounds.

Now, Alisyn, sources who have seen these Facebook ads say they have often seized on polarizing social issues, like the Second Amendment, and sought to both prop up and criticize groups like Black Lives Matter as part of the effort to meddle in the elections, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Right, but I mean, Manu, obviously the $64,000 question is whether or not the Russians were just politically savvy enough to know that Michigan and Wisconsin were important and to target there, or if they had help.

RAJU: Yes, that's right and we don't know the answer to that yet. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, told me last night, quote "We still don't know if anyone in the Trump campaign was involved" in what lawmakers are calling this sophisticated ad campaign effort.

But both are part of the investigations on Capitol Hill and by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. They're seeking to determine whether or not the Russians did receive any help from Trump associates and where to target those ads.

Now, we put this question to the White House last night. They did not respond to requests for comment. But the president has long insisted there was never any collusion with Russia, calling the whole issue a hoax.

Now these ads, though, were submitted to Congress as part of 3,000 from Facebook -- these Russian-linked ads, all of which the company said reached about 10 million people in 2015 and 2016. And while, of course, we have no way knowing if these ads did affect

the ultimate vote, Trump did beat Clinton by just 10,700 votes out of nearly five million cast in Michigan, the closest race in the country. Now, Wisconsin also was one of the tightest states where Trump won by only about 22,700 votes.

And we expect to hear more about these ads and the potential impact about them when the Senate Intelligence Committee leaders hold a press conference to provide an update about their own investigation, about the extent of Russian meddling, and about whether or not there was any collusion from Trump associates.

And, Alisyn, the number two Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn, told me that these Facebook ads are quote "the tip of the iceberg." Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: OK, Manu. Thanks so much for sharing your exclusive reporting with all of us.

So joining us now is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee that is conducting one of the congressional probes into Russia's election meddling.

Good morning, Senator.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Good morning.

CAMEROTA: OK. So you just heard Manu's exclusive reporting for CNN there. Do you think that the Russians are politically strategic and savvy enough to know that they should have targeted some of their ads to Michigan and Wisconsin or from your investigation, do you believe somehow the campaign helped them figure that out?

BLUMENTHAL: This very important report by CNN reflects the severity and scope of Russian meddling distortion and manipulation of public opinion that certainly used the most sophisticated methods of microtargeting, aiming at audiences that would be receptive to these highly polarized ads aimed to influence the outcome of the election.

Whether they had assistance from the Trump campaign is the big question. They had to have some kind of highly sophisticated and technical advice. And even if they had their own sources of that information, they may have been cooperating with the Trump campaign.

That's the focus of these investigations.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, hold on, Senator. Just one question. Did they need to have highly technical advice to know that Michigan and Wisconsin are swing states?

[07:40:00] BLUMENTHAL: They had to have reaffirmation of the targeting information available to them. Yes, they had to target specific audiences to know whether or not they'd be receptive to these ads and whether they would be resent. Some of the ads I've seen are highly incendiary and designed to appeal to particular audiences that were also targeted by the Trump campaign.

CAMEROTA: Congressman -- Senator, today the chairmans (sic) Burr and Warner of the Senate Intel Committee -- not your committee but another committee obviously investigating all of this -- is holding a press conference at noon. What do they have that's so important that they're holding a special press conference?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, I'll be listening very closely --

CAMEROTA: But they haven't shared with you --

BLUMENTHAL: -- to what they have to say.

CAMEROTA: -- that they have any news that they're breaking today at noon?

BLUMENTHAL: I can't preview the news that they are breaking. I have some idea about what it may be.

But let me just say these combined investigations are proceeding independently -- the Intelligence Committees independently of the Judiciary Committee.

And most important, the special counsel is investigating possible criminal violations. And that issue is raised by these Facebook ads because they reflect a combined effort -- possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, and obstruction of justice under the investigation by the special counsel.

CAMEROTA: And is -- are they going to, do you think, draw that connection today at this news conference? How big of a bombshell will this be?

BLUMENTHAL: The connection between the Trump campaign, possibly, and the Russian meddling in our election is now a matter of investigation for the special counsel, as well as the Judiciary Committee. I can't tell you what kind of new perspective they're going to offer on it.

But here's what we're seeing is a broadening and widening of the special counsel investigation into possible financial dealings that may reflect on these Facebook ads, although the amount of money spent was relatively small.

The special counsel, obviously, is following the money and there are a variety of different threads in this overall fabric that are relevant. They may be disclosed today in that press conference.

CAMEROTA: OK, we'll be watching very closely for that at noon.

Meanwhile, I have to ask you about what happened in Las Vegas and this massacre.

We've now learned that 12 of the guns that this shooter had were Jerry-rigged with this device. It's called a slide stock or a bump stock. It can be bought online quite easily -- something like 100 bucks -- and it turns a regular high-powered rifle into an automatic weapon which, of course, are illegal and banned.

Senator, how can -- how can that be? How can that device be legal to buy online?

BLUMENTHAL: It should not be and we've advocated for some years that it ought to be barred from sale because it is used to convert semiautomatic assault weapons into automatic weapons and the result is the kind of carnage that was seen in Las Vegas.

We are renewing the effort to ban them. We are also going to be proposing legislation to ban the semiautomatic assault weapons, which are weapons of war designed to kill and maim human beings.

I am introducing, shortly, along with a number of my colleagues, a ban on the high-capacity magazines carrying numbers of clips, 60 to 100, that similarly can be used in these --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BLUMENTHAL: -- instances of mass slaughter.

CAMEROTA: But those two things -- those two pieces that you just said that you'll be introducing -- those seem like harder sells. Those have been tried before and you know -- I mean, look, the history is littered with the failed attempts in Congress to pass any sort of gun violence control.

So, how about this one? I mean, this one just seems like the easiest thing in the world to just ban that device. Could you propose -- first of all, who's stopping that? Who's fighting you on banning that device and making that illegal?

BLUMENTHAL: The gun lobby has steadfastly and resolutely opposed any and all measures to stop gun violence and I think it is losing its vicelike grip on the Congress.

In the last election referendum in three out of the four states that were proposed to stop gun violence actually passed. Three senators advocated sensible common sense measures. They were elected, both Democrats and Republicans.

These measures work, as is shown by Connecticut where gun crimes have been reduced by 40 percent as a result of tough restrictions.

So I think we've reached a tipping point, Alisyn. I think we have moved the needle on public opinion registering with Congress. And my hope is that a number of my colleagues who've said, you know, the bump stocks, at the very least, ought to be banned --

[07:45:09] CAMEROTA: Yes.

BLUMENTHAL: -- will support this kind of common sense measure and background checks. That's very, very important. CAMEROTA: Do you think the president would support -- let's just start easy. Do you think that the president would support the bump stock being banned?

BLUMENTHAL: My hope is that the president will go to Las Vegas today and really demonstrate leadership and courage. That he will offer his condolences and his prayers. That is profoundly important.

But prayers and condolences are not enough and I hope the president will endorse a ban on bump stocks or sliding fire mechanisms, as they're known, that convert these semiautomatic assault weapons into the kind of massive killers --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BLUMENTHAL: -- that resulted in the carnage and loss in Vegas.

CAMEROTA: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you very much for all the information today.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, a late-night comic getting serious.

Why Jimmy Kimmel's personal connection to these two crises -- health care, an issue, as well as what's happened in Las Vegas -- are somehow making him the voice of a nation. Some are calling him the conscience of a nation. How did this happen to him?

We'll talk about that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:50:17] CAMEROTA: Las Vegas native Jimmy Kimmel now taking on this other hot button political topic. The late-night comic got choked up when talking about the Las Vegas massacre.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, ABC "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": I hate talking about stuff like this. I just want to, you know, laugh about things every night but that -- it seems to be coming increasingly difficult lately. It feels like someone has opened a window into hell.

And what I'm talking about tonight isn't about gun control, it's about common sense. Common sense says no good will ever come from allowing a person to have weapons that can take down 527 Americans at a concert.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Well, since then, Kimmel, of course, has been criticized for making a political argument. He responded last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KIMMEL: I do want to say something to these nuts who spent most of the day today on television and online attacking those of us who think we need to do something about the fact that 59 innocent people were killed.

You know, they say it's inappropriate to be talking about it because it's too soon. Well, maybe it's too soon for you but it's not too soon for us because we're Americans. The last time I checked the First Amendment is at least as important as the Second Amendment. So --

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Joining us now, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, and CNN media analyst Bill Carter. He's the author of "The War for Late Night."

Great to see both of you here.

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST, AUTHOR, "THE WAR FOR LATE NIGHT": Good morning.

CAMEROTA: How did this happen to Jimmy Kimmel?

CARTER: I --

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean -- well, how did he become the voice -- the consciousness of the nation? The voice of all these issues.

CARTER: I think it's been sort of happenstance in a way because, obviously, the first issue, which was health care, involved his son and he got involved in that for an emotional reason.

And then, the second incident is a gun control story but it's in his hometown and it obviously hit him very hard so it became a personal thing for him. He's not -- I don't think he would have taken these stands if it hadn't hit him so close to home.

CAMEROTA: No, he wouldn't. I mean, he just said I like to laugh. Basically, you hear him saying like, I didn't ask for this. I don't want to do this.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, HOST, CNN "RELIABLE SOURCES": And that makes it all the more powerful, doesn't it?

CAMEROTA: It does make it --

CARTER: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- authentic.

STELTER: It's because he was a reluctant crusader on the subject of health care. It's because you don't expect him to speak out about gun violence that makes it all the more compelling. CAMEROTA: But, you know, because we live in such a polarized time and he alluded to the criticism --

CARTER: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- that he's getting, does he have to worry about ratings? Is this going to hurt or help his ratings?

CARTER: Well, you know, in the short-term it may have helped him a little because people are talking about it. I don't think Jimmy cares. I really don't.

He got a huge amount of exposure on YouTube for this, you know. Many, many millions of hits for his comments, initially. But I don't think he's thinking about that.

I mean, you know, he knows he was going to be attacked for this from -- by conservatives and he just felt like this is an important thing.

I also think he's -- I think he's seen as an honest broker. I don't think this guy comes across as a Hollywood elitist or any of those things he's being accused of.

I happen to know the guy. He's a regular guy. He's not a guy who you -- you know, drives around in limos or goes to fancy parties. He has pizza on the weekends and watches football, you know.

CAMEROTA: Do you have a sense on what this is doing to his show or to his own identity? If it's morphing into something different than just kind of goofy, late-night comic?

STELTER: Yes, we've seen that across late-night. Shows like Stephen Colbert's and others have become much more political and I think now it's Kimmel's turn. You know, this time last year no one ever thought hey, what's Jimmy Kimmel going to say tonight.

CARTER: No, no.

STELTER: Those words were never heard. But now, there is curiosity about what he's going to say.

Yes, his show is entertaining, but these shows -- all these late-night shows are also trying to be provocative and trying to be through- provoking. Yes, many of them anti-Trump, as well.

In these cases, I think management having his back is really important, whether that means autonomy to do whatever he wants or support from executives. And, Bob Iger --

CAMEROTA: Is that --

CARTER: Iger, yes.

CAMEROTA: And is that what's happening?

CARTER: Yes. STELTER: Well, Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, said basically the same thing Kimmel said about gun violence. Yesterday, on stage in L.A., Iger said we should be outraged by what happened in Las Vegas. If we're all going to be outraged by protests at NFL games we should be outraged --

CARTER: Yes.

STELTER: -- by this.

So, the idea that Iger, who is the head of Disney -- some people think he might run for president. Who knows about that? But the fact that the big boss has Kimmel's back is important in this.

CARTER: It is. He doesn't have to worry about that, for sure.

CAMEROTA: I mean, look, he said it feels like somebody opened the door to hell. It does -- we have, I think -- a lot of us have been calling it the apocalypse. Horrible things are happening. It's hard to mine those for comedy.

STELTER: But comedians are --

CARTER: But, it is --

STELTER: Yes.

CARTER: But really, in some ways it's so important that -- and people -- comics have always taken what's in the news. That's what they do. They make jokes about the news.

CAMEROTA: And they satirize it. But it's hard to satirize --

CARTER: And they satirize -- and none of them have been able to do it. They all came out and had to make a statement because -- and people are tuning these shows in for a laugh but you can't just ignore what's going on.

And in Kimmel's case, it's hitting him so emotionally. I think it would be false for him not to speak about it.

[07:55:04] CAMEROTA: He's --

STELTER: And comedians are able to say things in ways that journalists can't sometimes. I mean --

CARTER: Yes.

STELTER: -- or ways to express the nation's pain even, sometimes.

CARTER: And they do have an audience. They have an audience they're speaking to and there are millions of people watching them. And I think it's hitting them in a place where they can't resist. They have to come out and say these things.

Most people are very upset about this, let's face it. CAMEROTA: Of course.

CARTER: They're very, very upset about it. And here they are on the air -- they're talking and they're -- late-night reveals who you are. When you're a late-night host who you are comes out over time and I think this is what we're seeing with these guys.

CAMEROTA: You know, they say that about morning show hosts, as well.

CARTER: And I think that's true, too.

CAMEROTA: I like it.

CARTER: Yes.

CAMEROTA: I don't need to tell you both.

CARTER: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Brian, Bill, thank you.

CARTER: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: Thanks very much.

All right. Chris is in Las Vegas for us, reporting on the ground there. Let's go back to him -- Chris.

CUOMO: Well, if people are hungry for perspective and someone to explain the pain that we're all experiencing, the person who is charged with that most is the President of the United States. He and the first lady are set to leave any minute now and they are coming here to Las Vegas.

We're going to bring you that live, plus an incredible story of bravery and perseverance coming out of this massacre, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: Welcome to your new day. It is Wednesday, October fourth, five o'clock in the morning here in Las Vegas. Alisyn is in New York.

And we do begin with breaking news.

Disturbing details surfacing this morning about the killer's meticulously planned attack on concertgoers. Fifty-eight people were stolen by this murder and more than 500 others injured.

The ATF now says the killer bought 33 guns in the last year alone. And for the first time, we're seeing the arsenal that he brought into that hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel.

We're going to be showing you the pictures throughout the morning. Some of the 47 firearms recovered now from three different locations. Twelve of the guns -- now this is important. Twelve of the guns that

were found in that hotel room had an accessory on them called a bump stock. It is legal to buy.