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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump Sex Assault Accuser Subpoenas Campaign; Interview With Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired October 16, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
QUESTION: You know the implication of what you're saying, that these big companies knew that they were pumping drugs into American communities that were killing people.
JOE RANNAZZISI, FORMER DEA HEAD OF DIVERSION CONTROL: That's not an implication. That's a fact. That's exactly what they did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Joining me now is Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
Senator, you have announced that you're going to introduce legislation to repeal the 2016 law that made this possible. It was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate last year. President Obama signed it. How did it become law in the first place?
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Well, there is a lot of blame to go around. It's a combination of things.
You had people who worked at the DEA that went to work for the big drug companies. You had the big drug companies trying to wear down the DEA's opposition over time, and working closely with members of Congress to try to get a change in the law that would be advantageous to them.
Now, I did not go along with this. I wasn't here at the time. I was actually out getting breast cancer treatment. I don't know that I would have objected. I like to believe I would have. But the bottom line is, once the DEA, kind of the upper levels at the DEA, obviously, said it was OK, that's what gave it the green light.
And that's why we have got to repeal this provision, get back to more accountability for these distributors, because what they're doing and what they have done in the past is outrageous.
TAPPER: The whistle-blower suggests that campaign cash is one of the key ways that this happened. Do you agree?
MCCASKILL: Well, I don't think I would argue with him that pharma is one of the bigger players on the Hill. There is no question.
I mean, if you just look at things like us not being able to negotiate prescription drug prices in the Medicare program, I mean, really, based on volume? That was all pharma getting that done. So they are really an aggressive presence on the Hill, no question. But this is now a matter of public health crisis number one.
And the notion that these distributors would send millions of dollars of pills into a community that had fewer than 1,000 people, millions of pills in West Virginia, and that county ended up having one of the highest death rates from, of course, opioid overdose. So we have got to go back to the old standard. We have got to not give them a free pass by developing a plan, which this law did, and I'm hopeful most of my colleagues will agree with me.
TAPPER: Congressman Tom Marino, Republican of Pennsylvania, was this bill's chief advocate. He is now also President Trump's nominee to be drug czar. Senator Manchin of West Virginia has called for the White House to withdraw Congressman Marino's nomination.
President Trump was asked about Marino's today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did see the report. We're going to look into the report. We're going to take it very seriously.
If I think it's 1 percent negative to doing what we want to do, I will make a change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you agree with Senator Manchin that Marino's name should be withdrawn?
MCCASKILL: I certainly don't support Congressman Marino for this position. And I hope that he is withdrawn. I hope most of my colleagues agree with me.
In addition to that, you need to understand that the Trump budget zeroed out the office they nominated him to head. It's ironic that the president is going to look into it. At the same time, I hope he weighs in that he didn't really mean it when he submitted a budget to Congress that zeros out the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
TAPPER: You launched an investigation into how opioid manufacturers have played a role in causing this horrific epidemic. Can you give us an update on what you found so far?
MCCASKILL: Well, we have issued one report so far where we found a company called Insys was actually fraudulently participating in trying to get authorization to get their product, a fentanyl product, out on the street.
There was so much inappropriate activity in terms of sales and marketing in this company, it was sickening. We are now looking at all of the companies that were aggressively involved in sales and marketing in the opioid industry, and now we have expanded our investigation into the big three distributors and the other major distributors of opioids around the country.
We have got over 1.5 million pages of documents that we have already obtained from these companies, and we are in the process of continuing to work through them and we will issue reports as we go along.
TAPPER: What more needs to be done? What more powers does law enforcement need or what regulations does the DEA need in order for this opioid epidemic to at least be hobbled a bit?
MCCASKILL: Well, we need a variety of things.
And speaking as a former prosecutor, obviously, we need to support law enforcement on the front lines. We need to make sure we have enough treatment and prevention moneys out there, especially treatment beds.
We need to do a better job. We keep talking about Border Patrol agents. Border Patrol officers, which are the ones who are in the ports. That's where a lot of these drugs are coming through, not across the Rio Grande River, but, rather, through our ports.
We need to do something about the fact that we are prescribing opioids at a level that is unprecedented in the world. And we have got to look at that through the AMA and doctors, and then we have got to look at the marketing and distribution of the drugs themselves.
TAPPER: Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, always good to see you. Thank you so much.
MCCASKILL: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: The Trump campaign has been subpoenaed by one of the women who accused Mr. Trump of sexual assault. And the president weighed in on this.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Our pop culture lead now. The Weinstein scandal has become an international scandal. Over the past few days, three women in London have come forward to accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault or rape, which brings the total number of women worldwide accusing Weinstein of sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape to 40, 40 women.
The film industry is finally taking action against the disgraced movie mogul. The board of the Producers Guild of America just voted to expel him. That follows the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board, which ousted him this weekend.
We should note that Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby remain members of that academy in good standing.
The flood of accusations against Weinstein has prompted others to come forward with their own allegations of sexual harassment against bosses and people in power.
And that brings us to our politics lead now.
In the final weeks of President Trump's campaign, nearly a dozen women came forward to accuse then candidate Donald Trump of sexual harassment and/or assault. Now a lawyer for one of those accusers, former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos, has issued a subpoena to the Trump campaign for relevant documents.
The president just minutes ago was asked about the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: All I can say is, it's totally fake news. Just fake. It's fake. It's made-up stuff, and it's disgraceful what happens. But that happens in the world of politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider has the latest on this case.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid a cascade of complaints from multiple women last October that Donald Trump had sexual assaulted them over the years...
SUMMER ZERVOS, ACCUSER: And he came to me and started kissing me open-mouthed, as he was pulling me towards him.
SCHNEIDER: ... then candidate Trump promise to take them to court.
TRUMP: All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SCHNEIDER: The president has not sued, but his repeated bashing of his accusers...
TRUMP: When you looked at that horrible woman last night, you said, I don't think so. Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign. Total fabrication.
SCHNEIDER: ... prompted accuser and former "Apprentice" star Summer Zervos to sue him for defamation in January.
And, as first reported by BuzzFeed, her lawyer, Gloria Allred, issued a wide-ranging subpoena in March to the president's campaign seeking all documents concerning "any woman who asserted that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately, including any basis for Donald J. Trump's statements that any such woman or women fabricated, created or lied about her/their interactions with him or were motivated to come forward by fame or 10 minutes of fame, money, politics or pressure from the Clinton campaign."
GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: Part of their argument is that the president is legally immune from being sued because he is president. We respond with a case of Paula Jones vs. President Clinton, which went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. And the U.S. Supreme Court indicated no man is above the law. Even the president of the United States is not above the law.
SCHNEIDER: The Supreme Court did allow Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton to proceed, but Trump's lawyers argued this issuance of a subpoena is a different circumstance, stating, "Ms. Allred has served a far-reaching subpoena on the Trump campaign that seeks wholly irrelevant information intended solely to harass the president."
Indeed, Ms. Allred herself has questioned how the president could run the country if faced with broad discovery.
ALLRED: Any attacks on me, this is not new. People who oppose me often will attack me personally, which is usually a sign that they don't have a good argument against the merits of my argument.
SCHNEIDER: Now, it is possible that the New York state court could rule that the subpoena needs to be narrowed considerably or that the defamation case itself should be held until President Trump is no longer in office, or that it should be dismissed altogether, but either way there was one notable name weighing in on the claims this weekend, Hillary Clinton.
When she was asked about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, she used it as a segue to label President Trump a -- quote -- "sexual assaulter." That was in an interview with the BBC this weekend -- Jake.
TAPPER: Of course, the same has been said about her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Jessica, thank you so much.
I want to bring in former U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York Preet Bharara. He was, of course, dismissed by President Trump in March. He's been a fierce critic of the Trump administration.
Preet, good to see you. Thanks for being on.
Looking at this case just as a legal analyst, what are Summer Zervos' lawyers hoping to get from these documents and does she really have a chance of getting anything?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Look, as your segment just pointed out, there are lots of reasons why people want to serve document subpoenas. And this is one of those cases. The president of the United States himself is long known for being
someone who is not afraid of litigating to make a point, not just to get a money judgment. Now, my expertise is in criminal law, not so much in defamation and libel law, but it seems that this plaintiff in particular is, you know, playing a game of what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
And so even if this person does not ultimately prevail on the merits, I think the hope probably, as a litigation strategy, and also as, you know, sort of a public relations strategy, is to strike back at some of the things that Donald Trump has been saying over and over again and to have some evidence to support the fact that Donald Trump shouldn't go out of his way to say the things he's saying, because they're not true.
TAPPER: If you -- I mean, President Trump, I know he doesn't take advice a lot from people who would presumably know better.
BHARARA: Not from me.
TAPPER: Yes, but you would probably have said to him when these allegations come forward, don't go after any of these women, don't call them liars because then they have -- they have the grounds to go after you for defamation.
BHARARA: Look, I think there are probably a lot of occasions, not just this occasions, where the lawyers have been telling the President of the United States and when he was President-Elect the best thing for you to do is keep your mouth shut. The best thing for you to do is to -- is to ease up your Twitter finger, and obviously, as we know, time and time again, the President doesn't take that advice. It's probably not great for him legally.
TAPPER: There is an interesting story and it might shed some light perhaps on why you were dismissed by the President in March. You were told that he wanted to keep you in your position as a U.S. Attorney. He told you that in March. Of course, he asked to your resignation. There's this new report in the Washington Post suggesting one possible reason for that, Turkish President Erdogan, it says, had previously been demanding that you be fired in the previous administration because of this U.S. case against a Turkish gold dealer who has ties to Iran. Do you think that that might have something to do with why you ultimately were fired and what would the reasoning be, using this theory?
BHARARA: Jake, I have no idea. As I think people know, I was fired somewhat inexplicably in March after being beseeched to stay on for another term by the President of the United States. We had this case against a gentleman by the name of Reza Zarrab. It's currently pending in the Southern District of New York, in my old office. And the report suggests, and I know this to be true, because I know for people in the meeting that last September 2016, President Erdogan of Turkey, who seems to be something of an ally of the President on a lot of different things, urged that I be fired so the case against his ally in Turkey, Reza Zarrab might go away. I think that's disturbing. Whether or not it had anything to do with my ultimately being fired, what we do know is there was this case pending.
We do know that the President of Turkey himself in a kind of outrageous way asked for the firing of an American Prosecutor at the highest level with the Vice President of the United States. And also we know that Michael Flynn had relationships with the government of Turkey and he was ail member of the transition team and then for a period of time was the National Security Adviser. So -- I'm not making an accusation, but there are a lot of issues relating to the relationship with Turkey and request being made by the government of Turkey and I think those things bear some more questions being asked.
TAPPER: Indeed. I want to ask you about Attorney General Jeff Sessions who sent a hate Crimes Attorney to Iowa to help prosecute an individual who's been charged in the murder of a transgender high school student. What do you make of that? It's not the kind of thing normally that one would have expected from Attorney General Sessions, but is this just an Attorney General using every tool in the tool belt?
BHARARA: I think the Attorney General of the United States Jeff Sessions with whom I disagree on some things and lots of folks disagree with him on many things should get some credit for making available important resources from the Department of Justice with respect to this heinous what appears to be a hate killing in Iowa of a person who's transgender. That does not mean in the minds of many people that he's off the hook for how he has dealt with issues of discrimination on the part of various groups with respect to either the transgender population or others, but I think we can all be happy that he cares enough about this issue to send someone. But the standard should be more than only caring when someone is actually murdered in an act of discrimination and bigotry.
TAPPER: All right. Preet Bharara, thank you so much. Always goods to have you on the show. I appreciate it.
BHARARA: Thank you.
TAPPER: The Comfort is the Navy's state of the art floating hospital. Many people in Puerto Rico desperately need access to the ship so why are most of the ship's hospital beds currently empty? That story is next.
[16:50:00] TAPPER: Now to the wildfires in California. At least 41 people are dead, more than 200 are missing and thousands of evacuees are wondering if their homes and their pets have survived. Those who have been able to return have come home to find rubble and ashes. The Department of Health and Human Services has declared California a public health emergency. However, among the heartbreak and devastation, some hope in the news that one of the biggest fires, the Tubbs Fire, is, we're told, 60 percent contained. Also, a slight glimmer of hope, the National Weather Service for the San Francisco area tweeted a forecast of rain expected later this week.
Since President Trump's Puerto Rico visit nearly two weeks ago, the official death toll on the storm-savaged island has tripled to 48. Translation, these latest deaths were not directly because of Hurricane Maria, but rather from the lack of access to clean water or health care or electricity and more. CNN's Leyla Santiago is live for us in San Juan. Leyla, why are so many Americans still suffering three weeks after the hurricane hit?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, you know, we have been spending the last several days visiting several hospitals, several community clinics. The private hospitals in the San Juan area seem to be doing OK, but when you go to those community clinics in the interior on the western part or even just a few minutes outside of San Juan, you will quickly notice that they are still struggling, still lacking medications, patients and doctors that are very frustrated right now.
SANTIAGO: The music can only soothe so much.
JOSE CRUZ, RESIDENT, PUERTO RICO: He's a very strong kid, very strong.
SANTIAGO: The family of 18-year-old Sammy lost everything, their home completely flooded nearly four weeks ago.
[16:55:00] CRUZ: We walked miles every week. I lost my car, I lost Sammy's minivan, everything.
SANTIAGO: The National Guard rescued them. When the family took Sammy to the hospital --
CRUZ: It was full.
SANTIAGO: The hospital was full?
CRUZ: No place -- no place for him.
CRUZ: They're now living in a school turned clinic run by volunteers.
JORGE ROSADO, DOCTOR, SAN JORGE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: He can become acutely ill if he continues to be here.
SANTIAGO: Cerebral palsy, epilepsy have left Sammy bedridden. He needs surgery and more.
You don't have oxygen?
CRUZ: Not right now, no.
SANTIAGO: The help Sammy needs to stay alive can be found offshore, a floating hospital ready to serve. The United States Navy Ship Comfort. Operating rooms, intensive care units, an impressive state of the art operation now at Puerto Rico's disposal.
KEVIN BUCKLEY, COMMANDING OFFICER, MEDICAL TREATMENT FACILITY, USNS COMFORT: Anybody who comes to the Comfort, we're happy to see. SANTIAGO: How many patients could you have right now?
BUCKLEY: Well, so the package we have on board now is to support 250 total beds.
SANTIAGO: And yet many of these beds are empty. We asked the ship's mission commander why.
KEVIN ROBINSON, MISSION COMMANDER USNS COMFORT: I know that we have capacity. I know that we have the capability to help. What the situation on the ground is, that's not in my lane to make a decision.
SANTIAGO: Which patients are lucky enough to come here, that's decided by Puerto Rico's Department of Health. We went to their boss, the Governor.
At the end of the day, there are patients that need help with a ship and empty beds. Where is that disconnect and what are we doing about it?
GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: The disconnect or the apparent disconnect was in the communication flow.
SANTIAGO: Hospitals we talked to told us they don't know how to send their patients to the Comfort. The Governor acknowledged the system, the communication must get better. The count now, 33 of the 250 beds on the Comfort have patients as generators at hospitals fail and vital medical supplies run short. It seems like there's a lack of communication. Do you know what the criteria is now?
ROSADO: No. No.
SANTIAGO: Tough for doctors.
CRUZ: I feel horrible because I can't help him.
SANTIAGO: And tough for vulnerable families, knowing the Comfort could help.
SANTIAGO: And, you know, the Governor tells us he has made a few changes to the protocol, hoping that he can get more patients on that ship, but that was several days ago and those numbers still stand today, Jake, still such a small percentage of beds filled on that boat, on that ship that I've got to tell you, I was so impressed. I mean, what they can do on that floating hospital is very impressive, but you can imagine or you can understand why so many are frustrated with the access to that today.
TAPPER: Leyla Santiago keeping an eye out for the 3.4 million American citizens in Puerto Rico. Thank you so much.
Staying with our "NATIONAL LEAD," despite Obama administration officials having referred to Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl as having served with, "honor and distinction," today Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl disappeared from his base in Afghanistan in June 2009 and was held in captivity by the Taliban until May 2014. He was released in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Some of his former unit members have blamed him directly or indirectly for the deaths of six soldiers. Bergdahl could face life in a military prison.
And finally from us today, earlier when President Trump was asked if he had reached out to the families of the four service member who had been killed in an ambush in Niger, the President made a shocking claim that his predecessors did not ever phoned the families of fallen soldiers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will at some point during the period of time call the parents and the families because I have done that traditionally. The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. A lot of them didn't make calls.
PETER ALEXANDER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Earlier you said that President Obama never called the families of fallen soldiers. How can you make that claim?
TRUMP: I don't know if he did. No, no, no. I was -- I was told that he didn't often and a lot of Presidents don't. They write letters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: A simple fact check would prove that this statement is categorically false. President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, other former presidents all reached out and telephoned family who lost service members in the line of duty. There are countless examples of President Obama, whom President Trump just mentioned, giving his condolences. Former White House Photographer Pete Souza posted one of those today of the former consoling the parents of Army Sergeant First Class Jared Monti whose story we've told you about before and who was awarded Medal of Honor posthumously. Former Obama Aide Alyssa Mastromonaco tweeted, "That's an F-ing lie to say President Obama or past presidents didn't call the family members of soldiers killed in action. He's a deranged animal."