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Interview With West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin; Profiting From Addiction?; President Obama Announces New Offshore Drilling Ban; Sources: Trump Team Questions Environmental Spending; Trump EPA Pick Pledges To "Rollback" Regulations; Mvie Recreates Boston Bombings, Hunt For Bombers. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 20, 2016 - 16:30   ET





TAPPER: We're back with our health lead today.

A shocking report suggests that pharmaceutical companies are raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in just one state, West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the nation, specifically by pouring an astounding number of highly addictive painkillers into the state, this as we got a chilling reminder last week just how deadly and prevalent opioid addiction is in this country, the CDC saying that last year more Americans died from opioid overdoses than from gun-related homicides.

Let's bring in Eric Eyre. he's a reporter for "The Charleston Gazette-Mail" who wrote this shocking story with his colleague, Andrew Brown.

Thanks so much for joining us, Eric.

You exclusively obtained a confidential drug shipping sales record from the DEA. What does it show?

ERIC EYRE, "THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE-MAIL": Well, what it showed was that, between 2007 and 2012, the drug wholesalers shipped 780 million pain pills into West Virginia.

And those were of two particular kinds, oxycodone and hydrocodone. And what that translates into for statewide -- we're a state of 1.8 million people -- so that translates into about 430 pain pills of those particular kinds over the six years.

And at the same time, one of the examples that we sort of cited in the article was what we were seeing is, there was a lot of shipments that were going to small, what we call mom-and-pop pharmacies, in one town of about 400 people, in Kermit, West Virginia. That's in Southern Western.

There were over two years there nearly nine million doses of hydrocodone alone that went to this one pharmacy. And then we also discovered, as these shipments were pouring into West Virginia, the overdose rate was rising.


And that number was 1,728 people who died of prescription drug overdoses of these two particular drugs, hydrocodone and oxycodone, over the six years.

TAPPER: Just astounding.

And one would think -- I know there are supposed to be safeguards to prevent this kind of overprescription. So are the doctors and the pharmacies and the big pharma companies just ignoring the alarms about how many millions of pills they're sending to this one state?

EYRE: Well, we interviewed one pharmacist.

He is a local pharmacist, been working for 60 years as a pharmacist. And his name is Sam Suppa from Charleston. And the way he explained it was that you have the rogue doctors prescribing. You have the pill mill pharmacies dispensing the medications. You have got the drug wholesalers distributing the drugs. And of course you have got the manufacturers making the powerful painkillers.

So, when you look at it, he described it sort of as an ugly chain where no one wants to -- seems to want to, at least, take on the responsibility.

TAPPER: Well, Eric Eyre, great reporting by you and your colleague Andrew Brown. Thank you so much.

And as you just heard, the state of West Virginia has become ground zero for the opioid epidemic here in the United States. The CDC confirms the grim reality. Last year, West Virginia had the highest rate in the United States of drug overdose deaths. And there are too many videos like this one going viral.

This is from earlier this year. It shows a West Virginia man overdosing on heroin and the paramedics who saved him, it's from their body camera video. Thankfully, they were able to save him.

Joining me now to discuss this all is Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

The "Charleston Gazette-Mail" story, it is shocking. It seems like big pharma, in a lot of ways, is really preying on the people of your state. What can you do about it?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I have been saying this for a long time.

First of all, Eric Eyre has done an unbelievable job. He stayed right on it. He hasn't let up. And he continues to give me information that's so accurate and so factual. And I appreciate it.

We have been saying this is a business model. They can't tell me you can send nine million pills in two years to Kermit, West Virginia, with less than 400 people, and someone hasn't targeted it.

Now, first of all, you have FDA continues to put more products on the market, Jake. They're allowing more products to come on the market, Jake, and they're not taking anything off. Then you have the DEA that wasn't doing their job at all, absolutely not doing their job, because they're basically overseeing how many products are going into the market and who is dispensing it.

No one is overseeing the doctors, making sure that they're competent enough and educated well enough, understanding the perils of this overprescribing. And then no one on the state level, not just in our state of West Virginia, but most of these states where your pharmaceutical boards basically should be looking at these rogue pharmacies.

I don't care who they are. And we have got to shut them down. It's just awful.

TAPPER: And, Senator, why do you think West Virginia has become the epicenter of opioid addiction?

MANCHIN: First of all, we're a heavy-lifting state. When I mean heavy-lifting, we have done heavy jobs. We have done manufacturing.

So, West Virginia has always done -- we do the extraction. We have done manufacturing. We have done it all. So people are going to be prone to injuries that sometimes relates to a lot of pain.

And, you know, I don't know -- when I was a kid growing up, and up until the '80s, we never saw all these products on the market. And now we have doctors. I couldn't even get -- hydrocodone, Lortab and Vicodin, they were a schedule three forever. They were prescribing those like M&Ms.

And then we should they should all be a schedule two, which means no more than 30 days. It seems like that doctors, if they don't really understand or maybe just don't care, if it says 30 days, you have a tooth extracted, they will give you 30 days. Maybe it should only be two days.


MANCHIN: We finally got the CDC to kick in on prescription oversight. And hopefully we have got people. But we have got an epidemic on our hand, not just in the state of West Virginia, but all over this country, Jake.

But we are ground zero and we have been ground zero for quite some time. And we're going to do all we can with people putting the facts out, like Eric is doing.

TAPPER: Yes. And before I switch topics, I just want to ask you. You must, in real

time and in real life, see the personal cost of this when you travel the state and go to places like Kermit and go to small towns and even bigger cities and see how this is affecting, decimating communities.

MANCHIN: Jake, when you have -- I went to speak -- when I first became senator in early 2011, I went down into Southern West Virginia, one of the most little beautiful towns growing up, as my friend, my roommate from college was from the town of Oceana, and went back down there.

And I spoke to the class. And these little 12- and 13-year-old kids said, can we speak to you? I just gave them a little pep talk, spoke to the whole assembly. And they said, can we tell you what's happening in our town?

And these kids, five years ago, started telling me what was going on and devastating. Their dads worked in the mine, got injured. Before you knew it, they were hooked. Before you knew it, they lost their family, they lost their home and everything.

Five years later, I'm going back to the same school. Now they tell me they're seeing their parents, some of their parents die in front of them from overdose.

When you see kids that have to watch this, and they're trying to escape this, and we're not doing more than what we should be doing, something is wrong with society when we have fallen down to this. We can pick ourselves up. West Virginians are tough. We can get through this. But we need help from the federal government.

Start doing your job, FDA. Start doing your job, DEA, making sure the doctors do their job, making sure the pharmacy boards oversee these pharmacies that have been putting this product out. This should not be. And I have said, if we can shut it down, we should shut it down. There is still going to be a need, but we have too much product on the market and it's a business model that makes an awful lot of money for a lot of people.

TAPPER: What do you want president-elect Trump to do about this problem, sir?

MANCHIN: We need to declare a war on drugs, on illicit drugs, because it's not only going to from prescription.

You talk to most addicts -- and I go to these spots and I talk to the recovering addicts. And we have got some places that are really being -- having some success rates, Jake. And most of them are run by reformed addicts. They got started out as a kid smoking occasional what we call recreational marijuana.

And then from there, that led into prescriptions, taking out of their parents or grandparents' medicine cabinet and become a cool kid. And then before you know it, it turned into where they just were hooked. Then heroin comes on. Now we have the fentanyl comes on. And it's just been unbelievable. President Trump needs to come in day one and say, listen, we're not

going to lose a generation. We're going to fight this and crack down on the FDA, crack down on the DEA, and making sure that we look at this, and it's not a business model, and we're not trying to protect a bottom line or a profit margin for the pharmaceuticals.

This product, some of this product is needed in the right form. But right now it's out of hand. It's truly become -- and you can look at the pills, and you have seen the thing, the article that Eric did on how many millions and millions and millions -- hundreds of millions of pills have been sent to my state of West Virginia with only 1.8 million people.

TAPPER: It's incredible. No, I agree.

MANCHIN: Jake, something is wrong.

TAPPER: I agree. I agree.


TAPPER: I didn't get -- this conversation was too important, so I didn't get to ask you any political questions. You are going to have to come back, so I can ask you about politics also, Senator.

Thank you so much for your time.

MANCHIN: Thank you. Merry Christmas, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: Merry Christmas to you, sir.

Coming up next: the new report that might serve as Donald Trump's blueprint for dismantling a signature achievement of President Obama's. Stay with us.


[16:45:00] TAPPER: We're back with more in politics. Donald Trump may have a new hurdle to climb if he wants to act on a campaign promise to make energy -- make America more energy independent. President Obama just invoked a rarely used lots of blocked drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. This, as sources tell CNN that the Trump transition team has been asking State Department officials for information about how much the department gives international environmental organizations' dealing with the environment. CNN's Rene Marsh joins me now. Rene, questions from the Trump transition team might reveal his line of thinking about what he wants to do about the environment.

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, although, he hasn't really been coy about sharing how he feels about the environment. He's been pretty vocal about his desire to roll back environmental regulations and in his own words, cut billions of dollars in payments to the United Nations' Climate Change Program. But President Obama, in his final weeks, just pulled the ultimate Trump card that will make one of Donald Trump's campaign promises a lot harder to achieve.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is sitting on a treasure trove of untapped energy.

MARSH: President-elect Donald Trump has promised to deliver more access to U.S. waters to drill for oil and gas.

TRUMP: I'm going to lift the restrictions on American energy and allow this wealth to pour into our communities.

MARSH: But President Obama is trying to secure his environmental legacy by relying on a decades-old law to ban offshore drilling off the coast of the U.S.

TRUMP: Our plan will end the EPA.

MARSH: Obama's move puts a wrinkle in Trump's overall plan for a massive rollback of environmental regulations. The question remained, how will Trump execute this roll-back strategy?


MARSH: Myron Ebell, a climate change denier, is the man on Trump's transition team that's tasked with staffing the new EPA. He also heads a libertarian think tank called the "Competitive Enterprise Institute or CEI". A report by his organization might be the blueprint for the new administration, to undermine key environmental regulations, like de-funding oversight of carbon emissions from power plants, stripping the EPA of its power to impact climate policy by changing language in the Clean Air Act, and making it harder to add animals to the endangered species list, which the CEI says creates too many restrictions on private landowners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Conservatives want clean air and clean water. It's about how to accomplish that. We don't want people to die on the highways from driving, but you don't want necessarily to implement a regulation that would require everyone to drive five miles per hour. And so, I think it's more about having sensible regulations that actually mitigate risk.

MARSH: But the current head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, said in an interview with the "Financial Times" Monday, the policies she's helped create cannot be undone without scientific proof, saying, quote, "They have to figure out why the climate science isn't overwhelming and go back all the way to the Supreme Court to explain why decisions we've already made are no longer correct."


[16:50:00] MARSH: And the White House says it's announcing the drilling ban because of the risk of an oil spill and that is - that risk is very significant. This isn't an executive order, so it would be more difficult for Trump to overturn it. He'd have to, likely, launch a legal battle just because of the way President Obama went about putting this into place, Jake.

TAPPER: Fascinating. Thank you so much, Rene.

Next my conversation with actor Mark Wahlberg and the Boston native's new movie that hits pretty close to home. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back. Today's "POP CULTURE LEAD", revisits the Boston Marathon terrorist attack and the hunt to catch the terrorists. I sat down with the director and the star of the new movie "Patriot's Day", which recreates April 15th, 2013 and its aftermath. Three people were killed near the finish line that day, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell, 23-year-old Lu Lingzi and Martin Richard who was just 8 days old - 8 years old rather. Three days later MIT officer Sean Collier was shot dead in his patrol car.

And joining me now the star of "Patriot's Day," Mark Wahlberg and the Film's Director, Peter Berg. Mark, you are a Bostonian and I know that this movie especially shot relatively soon after the attacks must have been a doubly intense experience for you.

MARK WAHLBERG, AMERICAN ACTOR: Oh, I had some reservations about it. And then I realized whether I was involved or not, they were making these movies, and I felt, well, if they're going to do that then somebody was going to handle it the right way with the sensitivity and respect for which it deserved should be involved.

TAPPER: And one thing we see Boston Police, the debate with the FBI about whether or not to classify the bombings as terrorism. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: If it's terrorism, it's yours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: Gentleman, the moment we label this terrorism, everything changes. It's not about Boston anymore. It's not a local investigation. It's Wolf Blitzer, it's stock markets, it's politicians. Knee-jerk reactions, anti-Muslim backlash. And what if we're wrong? There's no take back. Other things (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: Look, we don't call what we already know it is. When a cell is activated, they'd hit Chicago or New York or Washington, what happens then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: The accusations are going to come no matter what we do.


[16:55:13] TAPPER: And you directed nine films and, I think, in three of them are about radical Islamic terrorism, in one way or another. "The Kingdom", which is about Saudi Arabia's weird relationship with terrorism. "Lone Survivor", with Mark, and now this, is this -- is there a reason behind it? PETER BERG, AMERICAN DIRECTOR: Oh, I mean, I think one of the reasons is, as a filmmaker, as an artist, I'm interested in making films about the world that I live in today, and unfortunately, this terrorism has become the new norm. I was in Nice on Bastille Day of this year when the truck drove through the crowd. I was on the street, you know, five minutes before and I saw that -- I had a front-row seat to that horror, and, you know, we -- I'm interested, I think Mark is interested, in exploring these issues and offering some understanding of what's happening and a having a way of discussing with our children. And these are the stories that I - that I find appealing.

TAPPER: The actors who play the Tsarnaev brothers, and we entered their world the day of the bombing through the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Incredibly, it looks so much like the Tsarnaev brothers, especially Dzhokhar. And tell us about that.

WAHLBERG: Yeah, Alex, you know, Pete and I were auditioning people, and they basically walked into the -- to the conference room, and I was looking out the window. And I saw them and I was like, Pete, do you see these guys? I mean, they'd just met outside, but the resemblance is uncanny, which really allowed us to use a lot more of the real surveillance footage with them going to the bank, going to the gas station, going to Whole Foods to exchange a gallon of milk.

And I reminded them, you know, this is obviously something that's happened, you know, very recent. Don't hang around too much together in Boston, because, you know, something bad could happen.

BERG: You know, one of the biggest challenges we've faced was just quite simply how much screen time we wanted to give these two actors. And we wanted to make sure that we offered very little explanation or justification for their behavior other than maybe some extreme narcissistic personality disorder, and that was something we struggled with and talked a lot about, how much time to give them.

TAPPER: And your character is an amalgam, really, of two different police officers.


TAPPER: What was the biggest challenge you faced, do you think, playing this character given what a tough time this was for the Boston and Watertown Police Departments?

WAHLBERG: Pete and I were like, you know, I mean, I knew there was a huge responsibility and a lot of it was going to be on my shoulders because I'm from there and they can identify with me and they'd hold me accountable. But we were so inspired by what people did, we never found ourselves complaining or being -- needing any kind of motivation. But for us, with the story taking place, well over a 100 hours, you know, telling in a two-hour movie, you know, we figured out the best way to kind of have me in two places at one time and not give somebody else credit for something that they didn't do, was to kind of create the composite character.

TAPPER: One of the things I found so fascinating about the movie was Katherine Russell, the widow of one of the -- of Tamerlan Tsarnaev.




TAPPER: The film makes it very clear that law enforcement and you, think that she knew more than she's telling.

BERG: Well, yeah, I reached out to her four times through her attorney, trying to get her to explain how it could be conceivable that they lived together in a very small apartment and bombs are being made and plans are being made.

It's hard to envision a scenario where she didn't have some information and we asked her to at least enlighten us as to how it would be possible. She never responded. But when you speak to members of the FBI and certain Police Department in that area, it's clear that they have strong feelings about her. And you know, I do -- I do just also want to say, you know, in regards to the police response -- and another reason I think that I certainly wanted to be involved in this film. Well, we do spend a lot of time now criticizing police officers, and, you know, there are certainly times when I think that's appropriate.

But what we saw in Boston and what we saw with law enforcement from the Department of Fish and Game to the top FBI, I think was an example of the very best of Law Enforcement. These men and women performed the way you would hope they would. And to me, that was a big takeaway that we should -- you know, if police, we have issues, OK, we should look at that, but we should not be afraid to look at what cops do when they get it really right, and what happened in Boston was a great example of that.

TAPPPER: Well, and I'm into that. And it's a very intense, a very powerful film. Peter and Mark, thanks so much for being here. Really appreciate it.

WAHLBERG: Thanks very much.

BERG: Thanks, Jake. Appreciate it.


TAPPER: "Patriot's Day" opens in select cities tomorrow and nationwide on January 13th. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to Brianna Keilar, she's in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM". Thanks for watching.