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Scandal Engulfs Virginia Officials; Maduro Blocks Aid; Congressman and Parkland Shooting Parents Clash; Concern over Nicotine Concentration. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired February 7, 2019 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:32:27] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Virginia politics thrown into chaos as three top Democratic government officials -- the top three -- now at the same time engulfed in scandals. Governor Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring receiving backlash after admitting to wearing blackface with "The Washington Post" going so far as to call for the governor to step down. This as the lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, faces allegations of sexual assault. All three officials are fighting to hold onto their jobs this morning, even as public outrage grows.

CNN correspondent Jason Carroll, he has been in Richmond, Virginia, covering this and he has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Growing turmoil engulfing Virginia's political leadership with the state's top three officials, all Democrats, confronting separate controversies. Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface at a college party in 1980 amid the firestorm over this racist picture on Governor Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook page.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: I was appalled that they appeared on my page, but I believed then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo.

CARROLL: Herring writing in a statement, some friends suggest we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to. And because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others, we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup. Adding, the shame of that moment has haunted me for decades.

Hours after Herring's revelation, Vanessa Tyson coming forward publically for the first time accusing the state's lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, of sexual assault. Tyson writing in a statement that she met Fairfax at the 2004 Democratic Convention and went with him to his hotel room where she says they began kissing before Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch. Tyson insisting, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent. LT. GOV. JUSTIN FAIRFAX (D), VIRGINIA: I don't think it's any

coincidence that on the eve of potentially my being elevated, that that's when this uncorroborated smear comes out.

CARROLL: Fairfax has fiercely denied the accusations, releasing a new statement Wednesday reading, Dr. Tyson should be treated with respect. But, I cannot agree to a description of events that simply is not true.

A source close to Tyson's legal team telling CNN that she told Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott about the incident over a year ago. Aides to Scott confirming the conversation, but noting the congressman did not learn the full scope of the allegation until yesterday.

[09:35:06] Meanwhile, "The Washington Post" editorial board this morning is calling for Governor Northam's resignation, writing that he can no longer effectively serve the people of Virginia who elected him. But Northam showing no signs of stepping down, hiring a crisis management team and meeting privately with prominent black leaders to strategize his path forward. The political crisis sending shock waves through the state's leadership.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: I'm shocked, disappointed. I'm still processing it.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: If you look for any silver lining, as the Virginians are saying clearly and loudly that behaviors are unacceptable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And so, Jim, what happens in the event that all three of these leaders have to step down? Well, the next person in line would be Kirk Cox, he's a Republican. He's the House speaker. And he's already asked for the governor to step down.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: Jason Carroll, a remarkable series of events there.

Venezuela's embattled president is blocking humanitarian aid from entering his country. CNN's Isa Soares is on the ground very near Venezuela with the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, I'm at the Colombia/Venezuela border where thousands of people continue to make their way in. This as Nicolas Maduro says this is not a humanitarian crisis. But people here are telling me a very different story. We'll have much more after the break.

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[09:40:54] SCIUTTO: This morning Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro, is blocking his people from receiving aid that they need desperately. Maduro's military barricaded a bridge with tankers and large containers to stop the assistance from coming in from Colombia, across the border. Opposition Leader Juan Guaido calling on the military to allow that aid into Venezuela.

I want to bring in CNN correspondent Isa Soares. She was very close to that area where that bridge has been blocked.

And these are, Isa, are they not, people fleeing Venezuela for help across the border in Colombia?

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much so, Jim.

Just to give you a sense of where we are, this is the main pedestrian bridge connecting Venezuela to Colombia. Behind me is Venezuela just over this white tent. That's Venezuela. And just in front of me is Colombia.

The stream of people we've been seeing here every day roughly 32,000 just to give you a sense of the number. That's how many come in every single day to Colombia. Many coming in with trollies, with prams, anything they can -- suitcases to try -- to really to buy basic staples. We're talking about eggs. We're talking about flour, diapers. Many people also coming in for medication. There's no medication. In fact, you'll see people here actually selling paracetamol (ph), any kind of medication they can get their hands on.

Just give me one second.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

He doesn't want to talk. But let me try and get you a couple of people on.

On the other side you're seeing people already with some goods already. That gentleman there, if I can get (INAUDIBLE) to pan on that side, you can see he's bought eggs and kitchen roll. These are some of the people who have made their shopping or bought their shopping and taking it back. They do this every couple of days.

Let me just ask this gentleman.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

What are you going to buy?

Buy, flour, rice.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

What else?

Whatever we can buy.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

Who did you bring for this? (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

He's blaming -- he says we're blaming the United States for the sanctions and for the Europeans. So he is one of the very few voices I've heard who are actually blaming those who are trying to help Venezuela.

But let me give you a sense of what other people are doing here.

Let me ask this lady.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

What do you need?

Rice, pasta, chicken, meats, any kind of green, all very expensive in Venezuela.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

Who do you blame?

She doesn't want to say.

But, Jim, time after time, for the people I've been here, for the last two days, when I asked them who do they blame, the majority of them tell me Maduro. This, of course, as he tells his own people that this is not a humanitarian crisis, we're not a country of beggars. In the last hour, I had someone telling me, where is the aid? We are starving.

Jim, so this is the reality.

Back to you.

SCIUTTO: It's a sad reality when people have to leave their country just to get the basics like that, flour, rice, just the basics.

Isa Soares, thank you for being there for us. We know you're going to continue to cover this story.

Back here in the U.S., a clash on Capitol Hill between a GOP lawmaker and two fathers who lost their children in the Parkland shooting. Why the congressman wanted them booted from that hearing, coming up next. It's pretty shocking to watch.

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[09:48:48] SCIUTTO: You really may want to watch this. Tense moments between a Republican lawmaker and the fathers of two Parkland shooting victims. Congressman Matt Gaetz sparked outrage in the room during a congressional hearing on gun violence Wednesday when he claimed that a border wall would help prevent gun crimes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: I hope we do not forget the pain and anguish and sense of loss felt by those all over the country who have been the victims of violence at the hands of illegal aliens. HR-8 would not have stopped many of the circumstances I raised, but a wall, a barrier on the southern border may have. And that's what we're fighting for.

(INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman.

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Well, after that exchange, Gaetz asked that both the fathers be removed from the hearing. There was a lot of back and forth there.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, he allowed them to stay.

CNN's Lauren Fox, she's been covering this. She joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Tell us what you saw there and how this played out.

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a really emotional hearing on gun violence. And, of course, what you saw there, Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, the same state where that Parkland shooting happened that killed 17 people, he was arguing basically for a border wall to stop gun violence. Well, that sparked those two fathers to get up and emotionally, you know, push back against the congressman. Obviously an unusual situation in a hearing room for the audience to response to members who are talking on the dias (ph).

[09:50:19] Now, this is exactly what Manuel Oliver had to say about that exchange to CNN this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANUEL OLIVER, FATHER OF MURDERED PARKLAND STUDENT: Don't bring the wall as a solution for everything. It's pretty offensive that you are, number one, I don't think you're qualified for this and, number two, you're asking us to waste time. You're wasting time from us to really go ahead and solve the problem. That's when I was able to stand up and say, don't -- what about us? Don't forget about us and our kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOX: Now, of course, Gaetz had asked for those two men to be removed. Jerry Nadler reminded the audience that they were not to interrupt members during the hearing. But there was even more fireworks as David Cicilline, a member, a Democrat from Rhode Island, he basically asked the committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, is there any rule against members basically making up statements in these committee hearings? Do they have to be honest in these committee hearings? Insinuating, of course, that Matt Gaetz had been dishonest in his discussion of the border wall. That, of course, erupted in more applaud from the audience. Just an overall, very emotional hearing yesterday on guns.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, hard to imagine more emotion when you've lost your children as a result.

FOX: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Lauren Fox, thanks very much.

A nicotine arms race. The push for stronger -- even stronger e- cigarettes, putting more kids at risk. The stunning new report. If you're a parent, you really want to watch this.

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[09:55:58] SCIUTTO: This morning a new study reveals how Juul, a leading e-cigarette manufacturer, ignited a so-called nicotine arms race throughout the vaping industry. Doctors say the race for high nicotine concentrations got new, young customers hooked.

CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is here with more.

Doctor, I've spoken to a lot of parents who are extremely worried about this and they talk about how their children are very tempted to go down this path here. I mean this is a real problem.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's going to surprise a lot of parents. I mean we're talking about a product that wasn't even around four years ago, Jim. You know, I don't want to overly concern parents, but you need to know this about Juul specific. Over the last year, there's been an 80 percent increase in use among high schoolers, 50 percent increase among middle schoolers. So millions of kids are now doing this, using the Juul.

What we're now learning, though, Jim, is that the amount of nicotine they're using is also pretty high.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first time I Juuled was at the end of eight grade. My friend handed it to me and I had no idea what it was.

GUPTA (voice over): That's 15-year-old Phillip Fuhrman speaking at a New York City Council health meeting.

PHILLIP FUHRMAN, TEEN ADVOCATE: When I started hearing all the facts and everything bad about it, it was already too late. I was already hooked onto it.

GUPTA: Phillip's story has become shockingly familiar.

You've probably heard of Juul by now. It's been around since June of 2015. And millions of high school students have already Juuled or vaped using the device. What you may not know, however, is how Juul's high 5 percent nicotine pods have caused a so-called nicotine arms race across the vaping industry.

DR. ROBERT JACKLER, STANFORD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: When Juul came on the market three and a half years ago, the vapor market was mostly one and two percent nicotine. It's now 6, 7 percent nicotine.

Now, this tiny Juul cartridge delivers to a person's body the same amount of nicotine as this entire box of Camels of 20 cigarettes.

GUPTA: Stanford Professor Dr. Robert Jackler makes his case in a study in the "BMJ Journal" "Tobacco Control." His research group has been tracking the industry for nearly a decade.

JACKLER: When Juul came out with very high nicotine electronic cigarettes, it trigged a nicotine arms race amongst competitive companies seeking to emulate the success of Juul.

GUPTA: Juul is now winning the race. They now control about three quarters of the vaping market in the United States. While federal law prohibits selling these products to minors, Jackler worries that vaping companies, like Juul, are using new technology to pack more nicotine into their products.

JACKLER: There's no regulation of the amount of nicotine in electronic cigarettes. Highly concentrated nicotine solutions are potentially addictive. And nicotine addiction is a very difficult addiction to break.

FUHRMAN: I would be waking up in the middle of the night. I'd have like cold sweats or whatever. It was just not a great experience.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then I think that's when he really understood what nicotine addiction was.

GUPTA: Remember, many of these kids had never smoked before and are suddenly being exposed to the same nicotine levels as a full pack of cigarettes, without any build-up of tolerance.

Juul says it's taken swift action against counterfeit and infringing products and is committed to preventing youth from accessing its products. Juul also says there were products on the market in the rage of 4 to 5 percent nicotine before Juul's rise in popularity. But Jackler says the majority of products were much lower when Juul launched and it was indeed the popularity of Juul that sent nicotine levels soaring.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We hear about sixth graders doing it, fourth graders doing it. You know, these kids are facing a lifetime of serious nicotine addiction.

FUHRMAN: I still sometimes crave a Juul. And it's really hard to say no because there are really Juuls everywhere. So it's really hard to fully stop.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: It's quite a story. Thanks to Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Parents, pay attention to this one. It's something that really deserves attention.

Stay with us.

[10:00:02] SCIUTTO: Welcome. Good morning. I'm Jim Sciutto, in Washington, where, in the midst of congressional oversight like he has never seen before, President Trump is likely to get an important win this hour in the Senate juduciary Committee.