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Gun Violence In America; Harris Targets Corruption, Immigration On Latin America Trip; FDA Grants Historic Approval To Alzheimer's Drug. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 7, 2021 - 14:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: We have some breaking news right now first on CNN, the U.S. has just recovered millions of dollars in cryptocurrency paid to the Colonial Pipeline ransomware hackers.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Let's bring in senior justice correspondent Evan Perez. Evan, tell us what you know.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Alisyn, this is an extraordinary operation here that was done with the FBI and the cooperation of Colonial Pipeline Company.

What we're told happened is that the investigators at the FBI were able to track and to recover millions of dollars that were paid in ransom -- in cryptocurrency that was paid in ransom to these hackers that carried out this debilitating attack that forced the shutdown of that East Coast pipeline.

What we're told is that the company has said publicly is that they paid about $4 million, $4.4 million in cryptocurrency to these hackers were believed to be based in Russia. And but at the same time, the FBI was able to work with the company to track that payment to the cryptocurrency wallet that was being used by these hackers and was able to seize the money.

Now, we don't know exactly when the seizure occurred. But we're expecting to hear more about this in the next hour or so from some top justice department and FBI officials who are going to brief the press about this operation.

Now, this is a big, obviously a big important investigation by the FBI and the justice department because of the exponential growth in ransomware. And the companies that are losing millions of dollars to hackers, a lot of them based in Eastern Europe, based in Russia, who are frankly, just out of the reach of the FBI there, most of them are never going to be arrested.

But at least in this case, there was a resolution in which the investigators were able to seize the money, which they hope is going to serve as some kind of deterrent to these types of attacks.

CAMEROTA: Evan, this is incredible. I mean, this is I think big breaking news and the idea that Colonia is going to get their 4.4 million or whatever they reportedly paid for the ransomware. So are they -- did they do something right? Do Colonial do something right that all other companies can take a page from in terms of how to do something fast and proactive?

PEREZ: Yes, I think that's -- Alisyn, I think you're right on. The FBI often says that they want to hear from companies when these attacks happen, and they want to hear it as soon as possible. Because in the words of Chris Wray, the FBI director who talked to the to the Wall Street Journal last week, he said, you know, there are things that the FBI may be able to do in some instances, they can perhaps even come up with a decryption to be able to stop you from having to pay the ransom.

Now that is exceedingly, exceedingly rare. I don't know that very, very often that the FBI has been able to use decryption to do that. But this offers another way. This offers a way for certainly if you're using a kind of cryptocurrency that the FBI has some knowledge and has some ability to track you can do this where they can at least use their own methods to make sure they know where the money is going, to identify who the owners of this cryptocurrency wallet is, and seize the money before the criminals can get away with it. It's an extraordinary resolution in this case.

BLACKWELL: And we were just having this conversation with Andrew McCabe about what the --

PEREZ: Right.


CAMEROTA: Moments ago.

BLACKWELL: -- can do -- yes, to discourage this from happening in the future.

PEREZ: I was watching.

BLACKWELL: You were watching? Yes. And he said the FBI obviously has an investigative role after the fact. But when this money is pulled back, that's obviously a deterrent.

PEREZ: Right, exactly. Look, the -- there's a lot of controversy over the companies paying this money because the more you pay, and by the way, the sums that the hackers are asking for is going up. In just in the last year, it has gone up to threefold, at least, in what the companies are having to pay to these hackers.

And in many cases, you know, a lot of companies have to buy insurance for this. So the insurance companies are actually the ones paying it. And, you know, by the time the FBI gets involved and the other investigators get involved, the money is gone. And so as Andy was pointing out, as Andy McCabe was pointing out, there has to be some kind of deterrent. And usually deterrent is we catch the bad guys, the FBI finds the bad guys, and put some away. In this case, especially if they're operating in Russia or operating in a place where the U.S. doesn't have the ability to get to them, this could serve as a deterrent.

As you said, it's a page that other companies perhaps can use. It may not work in every single instance but at least in this case, it appears that there was good news to be had for the operators of the Colonial Pipeline.


CAMEROTA: Evan Perez, thank you for all of your reporting and the breaking news.

PEREZ: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Bring us back anything as soon as you get more developments. Thank you very much.

PEREZ: Sure.

CAMEROTA: Now there's more gun violence and heartbreak across America. At least 14 people were killed and dozens more were injured in a spate of mass shootings throughout the weekend. Several of the victims are young children.

BLACKWELL: In New York, a 10-year old boy was shot and killed Saturday night with someone shot into a home in Queens. A police have released this video showing someone approach the house and then shoot through the stair railing and run away. Those shots killed 10-year old Justin Wallace, injured a 29 year old man in the home too.

In Minneapolis suburb there a 14-year-old Demaris Ekdahl was shot and he was killed while attending a graduation party with his brother. Witnesses say to people when SUVs they were involved in the shooting but so far no suspects have been arrested.

We're following a major development in the investigation of a suspected road rage shooting as well. This one in California that killed a six-year old boy Aiden Anthony Leos was hit by gunfire last month while sitting in his booster seat as his mother drove him to kindergarten.

CAMEROTA: Two suspects have now been arrested. And for the very latest let's bring in CNN's Josh Campbell. So Josh, tell us what were your hearing about these arrests?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, big development in this investigation. The California Highway Patrol saying that they have made two arrests in this case. 24-year-old Marcus Anthony Eriz and 23-year-old Wynne Lee were taken into custody.

The district attorney says that they are expected to be charged with murder. Now CNN is attempting to locate attorney information for these defendants in order to get a comment. But just to remind our viewers about this tragic incident last month in Orange County, you had a little Aiden sitting in a booster seat as his mother was driving him to kindergarten now after what authority saved with a suspected road rage incident. Someone in a vehicle open fire, Aiden was hit and later died at the hospital, that causing the California Highway Patrol to launch this massive investigation, really pulling out all the stops working with other agencies in order to try to identify the perpetrators.

I read you a portion of a statement from the head of that agency who says that while these arrests will not ease the pain of a mother's loss, my hope is for the Leos family to have some peace of mind and to rest assured the CHP will work with the Orange County District Attorney to bring justice for Aiden.

Now of course, as that is happening, this family continues to grieve. Members of the community came out over the weekend for a memorial service. We heard some of Aiden's family talking about him. Just an incredible little boy. Take a listen to what they said.


JOANNA CLOONAN, MOTHER OF AIDEN LEOS: Everywhere we went, he would greet people with a vibrant Hello, I'm Aiden. What's your name?

ALEXIS CLOONAN, SISTER OF AIDEN LEOS: This is the worst pain I've ever gone through in my life. But knowing that he's happy dancing in heaven right now away from the pain and suffering of the world helps me get up every day.


CAMPBELL: As we continue to see this gun violence over and over this is just yet another example of a place that is not safe in the United States taking your kid to kindergarten on a highway is now putting them in potential danger for gun violence.

Of course, Victor and Alisyn, this is happening as California faces a controversial ruling from a judge on Friday who essentially ruled to overturn this state's assault weapons ban in this ruling the controversial part is a judge compared firearms to knives.

Of course when you look at this case of little Aiden, you'd have to wonder if those perpetrators had had knives instead of a firearm as they're traveling down the freeway engage in a road rage incident, he would probably still be alive.

CAMEROTA: Oh, a Swiss Army knife is what the judge compared it to, Josh. And this little boy, you put your six-year-old in a car seat to keep him safe. And then he was killed. This one is so heartbreaking. Thank you very much for the report on the arrests.

OK. Meanwhile, Vice President Harris issued a strong message to those in Central America who are thinking about making the journey to the United States illegally do not come she says. We have more on what she's doing on her first trip abroad, next.



BLACKWELL: Vice President Kamala Harris says she had a very frank conversation with Guatemala's President about the importance of an independent judiciary and a strong civil society. This was after meeting with Guatemalan leader today. Harris said that fighting corruption in the region was a priority for the US. She's also tackling the immigration crisis on the southern border. CNN's Matt Rivers joins us now. Matt, tell us more about these conversations.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Victor, this is a fact finding mission as the vice president calls it designed to try and start tackling the root causes of migration that it seems so many migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border from Central American countries, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, even -- and this is the Vice President going to Guatemala meeting with the President. They're trying to take the first steps and figure out OK, how do we solve those kinds of issues, poverty, corruption, violence at the ground level in Central America in order to stop or help prevent those migrants from wanting to go to the United States in the first place.

And vice president was very keen on issuing some deliverables as her office told CNN. And so one of the things that she announced with a couple different task forces, one about corruption in the region, but also one about human smuggling, which is a big way that migrants get to the United States. Let's listen to a little bit of what the vice president had to say.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The President and I agreed to continue our work to manage migration at Guatemala's northern and southern borders. We also discussed illicit drugs that are being smuggled, and humans who are being trafficked across those borders, undermining the security of both the people of Guatemala and the people of the United States. Our nations have collaborated on these issues and we will create a Smuggling and Human Trafficking Task Force which will work with local law was meant to stop these crimes.



RIVERS: Now, in addition to that task force, she's also talking about corruption and make no mistake, that message about corruption not being tolerated by the United States. That's not just to Guatemala, that is to every country in South America, because it is a systemic problem in this part of the world. How is the United States going to help people stop migrating if they can't work with local governments that can be relied upon to get the aid to these people where it's needed? CAMEROTA: Here's another problem that part of the world. You're in Mexico City right now. And this election season has been deadly for politicians and candidates. I mean, the numbers are staggering of how many people running for office or in office have been assassinated.

RIVERS: Yes, you know, we've been talking about this on air for a couple weeks now, Alisyn, and the campaign season just officially wrapped up here in Mexico went from September until the midterm elections wrapped up yesterday, at least 96 politicians and or candidates were killed during that time period as a part of just the overall extremely high levels of violence in this country.

But beyond just the deaths, also consider that this Mexican consulting firm that we monitor that tracks these deaths, also registered more than 900 individual crimes against politicians or candidates in Mexico, everything from murder, to assault to threats.

You know, we see sky high levels of violence across this country and these elections. Unfortunately, we're not able to escape that reality. This is just what happens on a day to day basis here in Mexico.

BLACKWELL: Wow. All right, Matt Rivers of course there in Mexico City. Thank you, Matt.

For the first time in 20 years, the FDA has approved a new drug to treat Alzheimer's disease. We'll talk about the historic decision and why it's so controversial.



BLACKWELL: There is some major medical news affecting millions of Alzheimer's patients coming out today the FDA just approved the first new Alzheimer's disease drug in almost 20 years.

CAMEROTA: It's an experimental drug for early Alzheimer's patients and it carries controversy. The drug reportedly costs about $56,000 per year, and several experts have advised against using it.

Let's bring in Dr. Megan Ranney. She's an emergency physician at Brown University and the cofounder of So Dr. Ranney, this is confusing because last year, an FDA Advisory Committee concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to support the effectiveness of this treatment. But then the FDA went ahead and approved it. So why?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY: It is a very confusing story. Listen, there was one positive trial and one negative trial. There's a lot of pressure from patient groups and from physicians who are desperate to have something to offer to their Alzheimer's patients.

And at the end of the day, the FDA decided that they were willing to take a chance that they don't think that this new drug has tremendous evidence behind it. But they think it has just enough to allow this drug to pass their approval process. They're getting a lot of well-deserved pushback from physicians and public health professionals. This drug is expensive. It's going to set a very low bar for Alzheimer's drugs, which is something that we desperately need. And it really may not help people. So you may end up putting folks on this really expensive drug that does nothing for them.

BLACKWELL: Let's turn now to COVID. Because although restrictions are being lifted across the country, the pandemic is not over. And you look at Vietnam, Vietnam was seen as an early success during the pandemic, they're seeing a rise in cases now. There's a new hybrid variant as well. A rise in cases in the UK as well. How does the U.S. stop that from coming here, and our country's just destined to this rise and fall and rise again of cases.

RANNEY: So I'll make it really easy. The way that we stop it is through vaccines, you know, Vietnam only has about 1 percent of its population vaccinated Victor, which means these new variants can just transmit like wildfire.

Here in the U.S., we have around 50 percent of our population vaccinated, that's terrific, some states are higher, some states are lower. The thing that's going to protect us is getting more vaccines in arms. But I do fear that across the globe, we're going to continue to see these types of surges for probably at least another year to come until we get enough vaccines and arms to protect folks, not just here at home, but also outside of the United States.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I know we're not out of the woods, obviously with COVID-19. But it is important to look at what's next. And so many health experts have said we do need to prepare for the next pandemic. Because I don't know if it's 10 years away, 20 years away, but we'll see another one at some point.

And so what did you think of the deputy director of the CDC saying this this weekend, she says there's another threat tomorrow, we're not where we need to be. We're still battling this one. And we have a lot of work to do to get better prepared for the next one.

I mean, obviously, we would think that we've learned some good lessons, I would hope from COVID-19. So why are we not prepared?

RANNEY: You know, our country has underfunded the public health infrastructure and the public health workforce for decades. It didn't just start with the Trump administration. This is something that's been ongoing for a while.

And although we ended up pulling out all the stops at the very last minute and creating a response to COVID-19 that helped to protect us from the stuff that we've seen. For example, in India, we in no way shape or form have set up persistent structures to either detect or prevent the next pandemic.

And I'll be honest, Alisyn, if another new variant of COVID-19 hit us, six months from now, we would be stuck standing up all our testing infrastructure, again, training workforce on contact tracing and doing all the other basic things that we've learned over the past year.

We have nothing in place to put those learnings as a basic part of our infrastructure, so I'm proud of her for speaking up and I hope that our state governments as well as our federal government listen and invest in Public Health.


CAMEROTA: Dr. Megan Ranney, thank you for all the information as always.

OK, we have some breaking news right now on the Colonial Pipeline ransomware hacking. The latest from the Justice Department is still ahead.