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U.S. & Allies Blame China for Widespread Cyberattacks; Fauci Slams COVID Misinformation as Cases Rise in All 50 States; Biden Backtracks on "Facebook Killing People," But Needs to Stop Misinformation; Haiti's Acting Prime Minister to Step Down Amid Power Struggle; Jeff Bezos' Space Flight Launches in Less than 24 Hours. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 19, 2021 - 14:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: The White House is joining allies in Europe and Asia, blaming China for criminal -- or using criminal contract hackers in attempts to export money from ransomware attacks.

One of those attacks is the massive hack of the Microsoft exchange e- mail service back in March.

Andrew McCabe is a CNN senior law enforcement analyst, former deputy director of the FBI. He's also author of the book, "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump."

Andrew, welcome back.

Let's start with, you know, we talk so much about Russia-based attacks and cyberware hacks. For the U.S. and its allies to point at China, the significance of that and this coalition that we're seeing?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, that's all very significant, Victor. And I'm glad you pointed it out.

I think this announcement by the Biden administration is a good opportunity to remind people that Russia is not our only adversary in cyberspace.

And to our intelligence professionals and to our cyber professionals, it's not about politics. It's not even about so much the Russians may want to impact our elections or the Chinese are stealing our material. None of that really matters.

They're just worried about who is active and how they're getting at our government systems and our private-sector systems.

So it's a very significant announcement.

I think that the unified NATO response, which is the first time we've ever seen this, really shows us that this is serious. And it's not just targeting and affecting the United States but affecting all of our allies around the world. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Andy, can this be fought at a law

enforcement level by charging individuals, or is this higher than that?

I mean, is this something that President Biden needs to confront, you know, the leaders in -- I know he's done it with Putin -- but in China about? Is law enforcement going to ever solve this?

MCCABE: No, Alisyn. Law enforcement is not going to solve this problem for us. However, law enforcement is one part of a multifaceted strategy that we have to have here.

The challenge in cyber wars is you have to impose consequences on your adversaries for this sort of activity and this sort of behavior.

Indicting members of their government, indicting members of their military and intelligence services and publicly naming them and shaming them is one way to impose consequences. But it is not enough, you know, by itself.

It's incredibly important that we tie those sorts of efforts with an overall whole-of-government diplomatic press on these nations, be it China or Russia, with serious consequences.

To explain to them and in that way that only two nations could talk, that there would be consequences for these sorts of attacks.

BLACKWELL: The president was asked today about the difference between the Russian government's involvement and the Chinese government's involvement.

I want you to listen to what he said, and then we'll talk on the other side.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My understanding is that the Chinese government, not unlike the Russian government, is not doing this themselves, but are protecting those who are doing it. And maybe even a accommodating them being able to do it. That may be the difference.


BLACKWELL: So this administration has signaled that the absence of a crackdown and the accommodation is equivalent to allowing or being implicit at least in these types of attack as they mentioned in Russia.

What's your difference 00 your take on the difference between the Russian government's involvement and the Chinese government's involvement in these ransomware attacks?

MCCABE: It's really interesting, Victor. So I was struck in this statement by how clearly and boldly they call out the Russian intelligence -- I'm sorry, the Chinese intelligence service for contracting with criminal actors.

Our intelligence professionals would not do that, would not put the administration in that position, unless they had absolutely rock-solid evidence of that sort of contractual relationship, that sort of control of a criminal group that's doing the work by the intelligence service.

It is that really solid link that we don't seem to have right now in the Russian sphere.

So we know that Russian criminal groups like Revil and other groups have been perpetuating these ransomware attacks. We know that the Russians know about it and allowed them to do it. But we don't have evidence of that control.

We may get that at some point in the future, but they don't have it right now.

So that's the difference between what you're seeing in the posture towards China and our recent position towards Russia.

BLACKWELL: All right, Andrew McCabe, thank you.

MCCABE: Thank you.


CAMEROTA: There's more turmoil in Haiti right now. The country's acting prime minister says he will step down as this power struggle is intensifying there. We're live in Port-au-Prince next.


BLACKWELL: As coronavirus cases go up, there's more blame spreading for the dropping vaccination rate.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to CNN today and expressed disappointment that a political divide is preventing so many Americans from getting a life-saving vaccine.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Political differences are totally understandable and a natural part of the process in any country.

But when it comes to a public health issue in which you're in the middle of a deadly pandemic and the common enemy is the virus, it just doesn't make any sense to essentially disregard or don't pay attention to what's obvious.



CAMEROTA: President Biden also walking back his claim on Friday that Facebook and other social media platforms are, quote, "killing people" by allowing COVID misinformation.

BLACKWELL: And Facebook pushed back hard after the president accused it of killing people with this misinformation.

Today, the president tried to clean up his comments while still urging Facebook to crack down on the vaccine lies spread on the site.


BIDEN: Just pointed out that Facebook, of all the misinformation, 60 percent of the misinformation came from 12 individuals.

Facebook isn't killing people. These 12 people are out there giving misinformation. Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it, is killing people. It's bad information.

My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally that somehow I'm saying Facebook is killing people, that they would do something about the misinformation, the outrageous misinformation about the vaccine.


BLACKWELL: CNN's Brian Fung is with us now.

Brian, Facebook, that response from them was very sharp. What we heard from the president today, will that do anything to mend this rift between the White House and the company?

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECH REPORTER: You're seeing the president soften his rhetoric.

But the core underlying point here is much the same that he feels that the Facebook and other social media companies need to be doing more to rein in coronavirus vaccine misinformation on their platforms and that they aren't doing enough right now, you know, which is leading to access deaths and other unwanted consequences.

You know, you hear many officials from the Biden administration saying this, including the U.S. surgeon general, Vivek Murthy.

Here's how he put it in his own words on Sunday to CNN.


VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: And we know that health misinformation harms people's health. It costs them their lives.

I've seen that as a doctor over the years, as patients have struggled with health misinformation.

And here's a key thing to remember. Health misinformation takes away our freedom and our power to make decisions for us and for our families. And that's a problem.

And the platforms have to recognize that they've played a major role in the increase in speed and scale with which misinformation is spreading.


FUNG: Facebook has bristled at some of these allegations that they haven't been doing enough on coronavirus vaccine misinformation.

In a statement to CNN, the company said, quote, "We will not be distracted by accusations, which aren't supported by the facts. The fact is that more than two billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the Internet."

The company followed that up with a blog post by a Facebook executive on Saturday slamming critics of the company for not doing enough on vaccine misinformation.

Let me read you a little snippet from that blog post. It said, "While social media plays an important role in society, it is clear that we need a whole of society approach to end this pandemic. And facts, not allegations, should help inform that effort."

The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the U.S. has increased."

Of course, you know, you see the Biden administration now, even though it's softening its rhetoric, saying that's still not enough.

Facebook's efforts have not been enough at combatting the spread of vaccine misinformation, a problem that has plagued Facebook going back years, not just having to do with the COVID-19 vaccine -- guys?

CAMEROTA: But, Brian, those numbers that President Biden gave are really striking. And 60 percent of the misinformation is spread by 12 people?

How hard can it be to crack down on those -- I mean, if that's true and they've identified those 12 people, why is it hard to crack down on them?

FUNG: Yes, so the 12 people that the president is referring to, there're known as sometimes the disinformation dozen according to a report by a nonprofit watchdog group that looked at this issue.

And obviously, Facebook has said, you know, it is willing to crack down on coronavirus vaccine misinformation.

But it appears that, you know, in the case of these 12 people Facebook has yet to, you know, crack down as much as some of its critics would like.

And that, according to President Biden is causing, you know, unwanted health outcomes for many Americans across this country.

BLACKWELL: Brian Fung for us. Brian, thank you very much.

So after days of a power struggle over who will lead Haiti, a new prime minister is expected to be installed tomorrow.

CAMEROTA: Haiti was thrown into turmoil when President Jovenel Moise was assassinated on July 7th. Since then, the country's acting prime minister has led the country.

CNN's Matt Rivers is in the capital of Port-au-Prince.

Matt, why is the acting prime minister handing over the reins to his rival?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you believe what he says, Alisyn, it's because he is carrying out the wishes of the former president, Jovenel Moise, who was killed in that assassination here in Port-au-Prince.

What had happened just a few days before Moise had died, he had actually appointed a new prime minister.


Here in Haiti, it is the authority of the president to appoint a prime minister. And he had just appointed a man named Ariel Henry.

But Henry hadn't been sworn into the position yet. He hadn't formed a government, which he is tasked to do. So he hadn't officially become prime minister.

So at the time of Moise's death, a man named Claude Joseph was still the prime minister in charge of the government.

That is one of the reasons why you have this battle between these different political factions in terms of who was going to run the country.

But now Joseph is saying, look, he's going to step down. He will return to what was his formal role where he served as foreign minister for Haiti. He will return to that role. And Henry will now take over running the government.

We're expecting that to happen tomorrow, that transition officially to take place tomorrow. Then he'll have to appoint cabinet ministers. There's a lot of work to be done.

The question is that doesn't settle everything. Just because these two men and their allies have decided that's what they're going to do, it does not mean that opposition leaders in Haiti are going to accept that as legitimate.

It does not mean that the broader population in Haiti is going to accept that as legitimate.

As we see the funeral events take place for President Moise during the week, there's a big worry here in Haiti that once those funeral events end, you're going to see the kind of political unrest that has come to define Haitian politics so much over the past few years.

It's been relatively calm, Victor and Alisyn, since this happened in terms of unrest, protests in the streets.

But as we go forward, now that this transitional government seems to be solidifying ahead of elections, that may or may not come in the next few months, that's where this tension might happen over the next weeks and months.

BLACKWELL: All right, Matt Rivers for us there in Port-au-Prince. Thank you very much.

Jeff Bezos, he is getting ready to be the next billionaire to launch into space.

It feels like they're going up like every 10 days now.

CAMEROTA: Apparently, they are. These crazy billionaires.

BLACKWELL: What will you do with them?

He's responding to critics who say the flights are just joyrides for the rich. Hear what he has to say about that.

CAMEROTA: I mean, what else are they?



CAMEROTA: So tomorrow morning, Amazon founder and world's richest man, Jeff Bezos, will go to the edge of space above his rocket called the New Shephard.

He'll take the trip with his brother and two others, an 18-year-old and an 82-year-old.

BLACKWELL: This 11 minute, 2,300 miles-an-hour excursion comes a few days after fellow billionaire and space enthusiast, Richard Branson, completed his flight.

CNN's Rachel Crane joins us from Launch Site One in Texas where the launch happens tomorrow.

You spoke with Jeff Bezos. What did he say about the flight?

RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION & SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Alisyn, I had an opportunity to speak with Bezos and his fellow cred members. This is a dream come true for all of them.

Bezos is incredibly excited about this upcoming journey. He said he is quite curious about how it will impact him.

That's because only around 500 people have ever traveled to space. They all speak of how the journey fundamentally changes how they see our planet, seeing the vulnerabilities, seeing it from above without borders.

Bezos very curious how it will impact him. Joining him is his brother, Mark Bezos. Also, aerospace legend, Wally

Funk, who is 82-years-old. He's set to become the oldest person to travel to space.

Also Oliver Damion, only 18 years old, will become the youngest person to ever travel to space.

He is taking the seat of the auction winning, who spent $28 million to be inside of this capsule. Blue Origin saying a scheduling conflict has come up. So that's why Oliver has now moved up to this flight.

The price tag, $28 million, is what a lot of critics are taking issue with, the price tag of these suborbital journeys to space.

I had the opportunity to speak with Bezos about that criticism. Take a listen to what he had to say.


CRANE: Jeff, there's been a chorus of critics saying the flights to space are just joyrides for the wealthy and you should spend your time and money and energy trying to solve problems here on earth.

What do you say to those critics?

JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, AMAZON & FOUNDER, BLUE ORIGIN: I say they are largely right. We have to do both. We have lots of problems in the here and now on earth and we need to work on those and we always need to look to future.

We have always done that as a species, as a civilization. We have to do both.


CRANE: Alisyn and Victor, I also asked him about the timing of this flight. He only just recently stepped down as CEO of Amazon just about two weeks ago.

So we asked him the inherent risk of this flight that why he had to do it after he was stepped down as CEO. He said no. That he could have taken this journey when he was CEO of Amazon.

And he feels incredibly confident in the system that he and his team at Blue Origin have created.

I also just spoke with the architect of New Shephard and he says that Blue Origin believes this is the safest system that's ever been created for manned space flight.

So Bezos and his fellow crew members incredibly confident in the system that they are about to board in less than 24 hours.

I want to point out, this is the first time that this system will ever fly humans. It's flown 15 consecutive flights but never humans.

So this is a historic first tomorrow -- Alisyn, Victor?

CAMEROTA: Rachel Crane, thank you very much.


I don't want to be excited by it but I end up being. It is a billionaire's fun and games, reindeer games that they are doing.


CAMEROTA: And I do get excited that there's this launch.

BLACKWELL: The one question I had is, the person who won the $28 million auction, what cannot be rescheduled?


BLACKWELL: You can get the dentist when you get back.

CAMEROTA: That's right. He had a scheduling conflict with going into space.

BLACKWELL: And $28 million. I don't get it.

CAMEROTA: We'll get to bottom of that.

Meanwhile, there's new guidance for parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics wants all children over two years old to keep wearing masks in school this coming year. So what happens in the states that have banned mask mandates?