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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
U.S. to Add More Sanctions Against Iran; Russian Cyber Officials Charged with Treason. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired February 2, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Also, this is separate from the Iran nuclear deal. Doesn't mean, though, that Iran won't react in some way -- angrily, possibly even with more provocation.
[16:30:05] I think this is an expected response. The Obama administration was January of last year, they also responded with sanctions that seemed to be similar to this after a different missile launch. I think when you think about a penalty for something like that, the first thing you think about is some declaration of condemnations and then you think sanctions.
So, this is kind of a logical first step. We don't know if this will be the extent of the response to that launch. But it does seem to be very quick, Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And, Michelle, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the U.S. response at the briefing today. What did he have to say?
KOSINSKI: Yes. So, he reiterated that there would be a response, but he didn't add a lot of clarity. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think General Flynn was really clear yesterday that Iran has violated the joint resolution, that Iran's additional hostile actions that it took against our navy vessel are ones that we are very clear are not going to sit by and take. I think that we will have further updates for you on those additional actions, but clearly wanted to make sure that Iran understood that they are on notice. This is not going unresponded to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSINSKI: And no administration wants to broadcast what kind of penalty they're going to impose before it happens, but this is another case of this leaking out ahead of time. We don't know for certain that this is going to happen, but that's what sources are telling CNN. We'll see if it happens over the next couple of days, but I think it's interesting that this information is flowing through some channel.
For an administration many feel has declared war on the media, somebody in there sure likes to share, Jake.
TAPPER: Michelle Kosinski, thanks so much.
Charged with treason. Russia is cracking down on individuals whom they say are American spies. The punishment Vladimir Putin could hand down to the accused. That story next.
[16:36:10] TAPPER: There are some breaking news now.
Moments ago at the United Nations, new comments from Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., condemning Russia's, quote, "aggressive actions" in Ukraine. This is her first public remarks to the U.N. Security Council.
Haley saying, "We do want to better our relations with Russia, however, the dire situation in Eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions."
Also, just in on the same general subject, we've learned that the Senate will look into Russian hacks leading up to Election Day. That investigation will be led by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on crime and terrorism. Leaders of that subcommittee say the goal will be to fully understand how Russia tried to undermine the U.S. election system and to prevent it from happening again.
Meanwhile, Trump administration, of course, may be saying its slight lifting of an Obama era sanction against Russia's FSB, the intelligence agency that succeeded the KGB, is no big deal and just a technical tweak. But it is clearly being seen in Russia as a positive move. It's hard to discern just what is going on exactly between President Trump and Russia right now, just as events in Russia generally always prove as opaque as a bowl of borscht.
Earlier this month, Russia charged four cyber security officials with treason for allegedly passing secrets to American intelligence. Could this be punishment for spies who tipped off the U.S. intelligence community about a series of hacks leading up to Election Day?
Let's go to CNN's Matthew Chance, who's live for us in Moscow.
Matthew, do we know if these men now facing these treason charges are linked in any way to the U.S. hacks?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, we don't know with any degree of certainty. You mentioned how opaque Russia is and that is absolutely right, particularly when it comes to espionage cases, all of the court cases, the court hearings are being held in camera, in private. We're just getting information from a few contacts we've made. One in particular who is a lawyer who is representing one of the individuals who has been charged with treason, a case -- you know, a crime which carries up to 20 years imprisonment here. He's told us all these details about how these four individuals have been accused of treason.
Two of them at least from the FSB, which is the successor organization to the KGB. They've been accused along with the civilian who works from an Internet security firm here, Kaspersky Lab. They've been accused of passing classified information to the United States, in particular the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency. And, so, this is the information we've got.
And, of course, it's -- it all fuels the speculation coming so soon as it does after these allegations were made by U.S. intelligence officials that Russia had been engaged in hacking in the U.S. election. So, it's a connection that's not been made, you know, formally, but it's what everybody is talking about.
TAPPER: And then, Matthew, of course, there is also this reported death of a high-level official in Russia and questions about whether he may be linked to the report by the retired British spy that claimed Russia had something on President Trump.
What do you know about that?
CHANCE: I know it just gets more and more complicated. His name is Oleg Erovinkin. He's a former general in the FSB, the former KGB. And he was the chief of staff of a guy called Igor Sechin, who is the head of Russia's big oil monopoly called Rosneft.
Now, Igor Sechin, a figure prominently in that dossier, in those memos compiled by that former MI6 agent. Mr. Sechin was said to have met with Trump surrogates in the election campaign and sort of attempted to do a deal in the lifting of sanctions with them. All of this, of course, has been categorically denied.
But, you know, that's the link that's been speculated about now, the idea that this information, if it's real, where did it come from about Igor Sechin?
[16:40:02] Possibly from his chief of staff. His chief of staff was found dead in the back of his car back in December. There is an investigation into that death, of course, the prosecutors are saying they suspect heart failure is responsible. But we're still waiting for the outcome of that. We could be waiting for sometime.
TAPPER: Right, heart failure.
Matthew Chance, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
A West Virginia town of around 400 people are now taking five pharmaceutical distributors to court, claiming that they're responsible for the town getting hooked on pain pills. We'll talk with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin about that next.
Plus, he may say things that a lot of people find disgusting, outrageous, even hateful. But does that mean it's OK to use violence to keep Milo away?
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Returning now to our buried lead, that's what we call stories that we think are not getting enough attention. We're bringing you now an update on a shocking story that we reported last month. The town of Kermit, West Virginia, population of 400-ish, is suing some of the nation's largest pharmaceutical distributors for allegedly, quote, "flooding" the town with highly addictive sometimes lethal prescription painkillers.
"The Charlestown Gazette Mail" reported last month that drug companies indiscriminately poured nearly 9 million hydrocodone pills that have been linked to overdose deaths into Kermit over just a two-year period.
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: -- addictive and sometimes lethal prescription painkillers. (INAUDIBLE) reported last month that drug companies indiscriminately poured nearly 9 million hydrocodone pills that have been link to overdose deaths into Kermit over just a two-year period. That's almost 23,000 pills per person. This is just one of many lawsuits that either have been filed or will be filed against pharmaceutical companies in West Virginia which has become, in many ways, ground zero for the nation's opioid epidemic.
Let's discuss this more with Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia. Senator, welcome back to the show. Thanks for joining us. Last month --
JOE MANCHIN, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM WEST VIRGINIA: Good to be with you, Jake.
TAPPER: Last month, you told us that your state officials as well as federal officials failed to do their jobs. Has that changed in any way since then? Has there been any action on the state level to fight back against this glut of opioid pills coming into your state?
MANCHIN: Well, we are fighting back, Jake, and I do appreciate all the people that have turned their attention to this epidemic we have and we are ground zero. The little -- Mingo County where you're speaking of, Kermit, is the small town in Mingo County. Mingo County is one of the most drug infested areas in the country. So that being said, the little town of Kermit, 392 people, Jake, in the period of time, Jake, between 2005 and 2010, they were distributing -- these pharmaceutical supply houses, OK, were distributing over 3 million pills a year, 3 million.
To give you an example of where we are today, the same pharmacy once it changed hands, people went to jail, they cleaned up the mess, that same pharmacy is now about 3,000 pills per year. It shows you that it was a -- it was a moneymaking scheme. It was a business model that, my God, everyone should be held accountable from the top to the bottom to the producers and makers, distributors all the way down.
TAPPER: In the new lawsuit, Kermit Mayor Charles Sparks is the plaintiff on behalf of the people of the town of Kermit. You spoke with him about the lawsuit, what did he have to say? MANCHIN: I just spoke to him and Mayor Sparks is working tirelessly on this. He's committed and determined to clean up this mess. It's a beautiful little area, wonderful people down there. They just got absolutely inundated and destroyed and they're fighting back, and I appreciate that. I think they'll be successful and we'll get this hopefully cleaned up, and show that we're not going to tolerate it.
TAPPER: The town of Kermit has an official population of 392. It's specifically suing five large prescription drug wholesalers, three of them made the top tier of the Fortune 500 list last year. Do you think that the small town, Kermit in Mingo County has a chance against these giant companies?
MANCHIN: Oh, they'll get their day in court, they sure will. And if these people are smart, they better hope it doesn't go to court, because there's no one that can look at that with any common sense whatsoever and say 392 people needed -- each person, man, woman and child needed 23,000 pills a year of hydrocodone. There is no way. It was a pill mill, it's -- you know, we had doctors that went to jail. You had a clinic that was closed, and as for corruption, you had a pharmacist who said, he on record testified was making $500,000 a month, a month.
TAPPER: A pharmacist?
MANCHIN: A pharmacist and his pharmacy testified, Jake, that he was making as much as $500,000 a month.
TAPPER: Wow. I have to ask, sir, your daughter is CEO of a pharmaceutical company, not one named in any of these suits.
MANCHIN: No, no.
TAPPER: But have you talked about this general issue with her and the responsibility of pharmaceutical companies in addition to distributors and pharmacists to prevent this from happening?
MANCHIN: Well, from a pharmacist -- I mean, from the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture it, I would say to all of them, whether it's my daughter where she works in this industry or not. If that's the catalyst of your business, you better find another direction to go because I'm going to do everything I can to stop the hydrocodone, flooding of hydrocodone products into the market. I have said this, how can the FDA keep bringing more, allowing thes -- they're all good companies and they're all intended well, but, you know, if there's a demand for the product, but how do pharmaceuticals -- how does the FDA allow these new products that keep coming onto the market without taking anything off the market?
How does the DEA, Drug Enforcement Agency, allow for the distribution and supply of all of this? How do we not hold doctors accountable that will give you 30 days of oxycodone for a tooth extraction? Maybe you might need two days, but not 30 days. Everything has to change and we have to work hard. So, if there's a pharmaceutical company that say, "I built my business around manufacturing hydrocodone opiates," I'm saying you better find another occupation. TAPPER: I have to ask, you mentioned this pharmacist, he -- former owner of a now closed local pain clinic --
TAPPER: -- who made half a million dollars a month selling those drugs.
MANCHIN: No, this is a pharmacy. It's not a pain clinic.
[16:50:00] MANCHIN: This was an absolute pharmacy. You walk in, same as you do to any pharmacy. This was the pharmacist and basically was selling so much product, because of the clinic was prescribing and recommending its -- giving prescriptions out.
TAPPER: But that was all -- it was all over the counter so I wonder, shouldn't this have been a red flag to, if not local police, the IRS? I mean, shouldn't the government -- why is this pharmacist in Mingo County making $6 million a year?
MANCHIN: Yes, Jake. You would think that it would have raised a flag somewhere. How -- we didn't -- maybe didn't have records in a timely fashion. Nobody was looking into it. Nobody was basically recording this and say, "Hey, something's wrong here." So, we're looking at everything, not only in our state, but across the country. This is epidemic proportion.
Think of this, Jake. The United States of America with less than five percent of the population of the world, little 323 and 330 million, over 7 billion people live on planet earth. We consume 80 percent of all opiates produced. How can this little country of ours with less than five percent of the population, be such an addicted country? How can my state be so addicted? How could communities such as Kermit be so addicted? How did it happen? We've got to stop it, cure it and get it back.
TAPPER: Senator, I have to ask you, in a short time ago, the senate voted to roll back The Stream Protection Rule, that's an Obama administration regulation aimed at curbing waste from coal mines. You voted in favor of repealing it. I want you to take a listen to what your democratic colleague Senator Dick Durbin had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK DURBIN, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM ILLINOIS: Shame on us if we decide to eliminate this protection for families and run the risk, run the very real risk, that the pollution in those streams could cause public health issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Those are your streams in West Virginia and public health issues that would affect your constituents, sir. What's your response? MANCHIN: Let me just say this, Jake. My colleagues who don't know and don't understand because it's not in their state. They don't understand how this rule works -- these rules work. That was from the surface mine we called "SMCRA". Surface Mine Reclamation Control Act. Over 400 changes were made to that rule. That rule overstepped the EPA and overstepped basically the corps of engineers. There is nobody in West Virginia that wants dirty water or dirty air. But you can't throw 400 different regulations, duplicate it -- the duplicity on top of what we already had and expect anyone to survive. You can't do it.
So, my colleagues just don't understand. We are not getting rid of it. EPA will have control, so will the corps of engineers. We just don't need SMCRA on top of that with 400 new ones, which is not going to do a thing to make anything cleaner or safer. This is just all hype, and I've worked with my colleagues hoping they'll understand, I love to take them down, show them what's going through. SMCRA never even talked to West Virginia, the state, to see what we were doing. They could care less.
The Obama administration did not want fossil. They did everything they could. They over reached, over stepped and tried to smother us out, Jake. It's awful what was done. We're fighting back. We're going to make sure that the economy and the environment has a balance. I am for the Clean Water Act. I am for the Clean Air Act. And we're going to make sure it's, you know, that's enforced. But don't throw 400 needless duplicated rules on top of another agency. It just doesn't make any sense.
TAPPER: Senator Joe Manchin, always a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time.
MANCHIN: Thanks, Jake. Good to be with you.
TAPPER: They claimed they were protesting the hateful speech in rhetoric of a Breitbart editor, but the violence and destruction they caused forced the speaker's event to be canceled. Is that fair to free speech?
[16:55:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The "NATIONAL LEAD", violence and assault and fires in the streets. All to silence a voice, a rude and offensive voice, but one protected by the same right to free speech that I'm currently enjoying. It all took place at a place, a campus that sparked the free speech movement on college campuses in the 1960s. CNN's Kyung Lah is live for us in Berkeley. Kyung, things really got out of control.
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They certainly did. It looked like a war zone here instead of an ordinary campus, which it has returned to largely today, Jake. What we saw, fires set, there were firecrackers and rocks thrown at police in riot gear. It was quite an engagement between law enforcement and about 1500 protesters who filled the square, and this went on for hours. All of this, about the rude speaker you were talking about, Breitbart Editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who has been visiting college campuses with his controversial speeches. He once worked for White House Chief Advisor Steve Bannon, so, politics hung over all of this.
The president weighed in this morning with this tweet. And here's what it says, quote, "If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view, no federal funds." Well, multiple lawmakers in California were swift in their response. They say that that tweet is a veiled threat and they say that students on this campus shouldn't pay for what this university says was violence led by about 150 outside agitators. The university doesn't feel that the people who were smashing the windows of the student union were students at all. So, we are also hearing reaction from the speaker himself, Milo Yiannopoulos as well as students. Here's what they told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MILO YIANNOPOULOS, BREITBART NEWS SENIOR EDITOR: But they once allowed students to listen to different points of view, they're absolutely petrified by alternative visions of how the world ought to look, and people with arguments and facts and reason that don't conform to the crazy social justice left vision of the universe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: And students say certainly, Jake, this has made political dialogue here on this campus certainly much more difficult.
TAPPER: Kyung Lah at Berkeley, thank you so much. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer who's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM"
WOLF BLITZER: Happening now, "BREAKING NEWS" threatening post.