Return to Transcripts main page


GOP Senator Says He Will Vote Against Trump's Natl. Emergency; Fed Appeals Court Upholds AT&T Acquisition Of Time Warner; Train Moving After More Than 24 Hours Stranded In Snow; Defiant Maduro Accuses U.S. Of Faking Crisis To Get Venezuela's Oil; Facebook To Get Tough On Misinformation From Anti-Vaxer Groups. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 26, 2019 - 10:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: But, I mean, this is a vote that Republicans are going to have to defend.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is a vote they'll have to defend. And it's, I think, the first question is, will they be able to hold their Republicans in line? And so, that it doesn't pass the Senate?

You've got to bring over four Republicans to have the Democrats win. The Democrats would very, very much like to have this sent to the White House, and have the president veto it. That, at least, would be some symbolic victory for them. This particular set of legislative acts has never been overturned through such an action by Congress, never been rebuked in such a way by Congress.

So the Democrats do have something riding on, how many Republicans they can actually bring over in the Senate. They don't have a chance to win in the House. They'll win the house vote, but they don't have a chance of winning the -- nor do the Republicans -- anything to override a veto, but the veto itself carries a lot of weight.

HARLOW: So, in terms of where this goes from here, I mean, the president was warned --


HARLOW: -- that, and he knows that this is the kind of position with declaring a national emergency, that he would put Republicans in, right? Because McConnell doesn't have a choice here. He has to bring this to the floor.

GERGEN: Right.

HARLOW: So Republican senators have to be on record with their position here. Does the president just not care about the position that that puts many of his fellow Republicans in the Senate in?

GERGEN: Well, you've raised a good point, because for some of these senators, when they go home on the Republican side, they're going to find that their publics, supporters, their voters are not happy about the wall.

HARLOW: Right.

GERGEN: You know, their -- the public -- the majority support in this country is, the other way, it's against the president --

HARLOW: Right.

GERGEN: -- and against what the Republicans have been standing for.

HARLOW: Because David, let me show just - let me show people what you're talking about. Guys, let's pull up the polling, if we have it here, because our latest polling from just a few weeks ago, it's that.


HARLOW: I mean, it's only three and 10 Americans that support declaring a national emergency to actually build the wall.

GERGEN: Well, that's exactly right. And, I think, if you could take a vote in the dark, we did not, really, nobody knows voted how, I think you'd probably wind up with only about a third of the Senate voting for it.

You know many people there are in the Senate, are very on, you know, they're -- they don't particularly like this approach. They didn't -- they warned the president against doing it. Senator McConnell, you know, issued warnings to the White House. This is not a good idea, it does set precedent.

And you can be sure that when the Democrats win back the White House, as they one day will, we don't know when, they're going to cite this precedent for doing a lot of very, very aggressive executive orders, and executive actions on their own. You know, this just invites the other side to do some mischief.

HARLOW: Do you expect, though, that we'll continue to hear out of this administration criticism of the Obama administration for what they deemed to be executive overreach on immigration issues?

GERGEN: Oh, I think they'll let that go for a while, Poppy. I wouldn't think that's their number one message at this point. You know, they're going to have their hands full with with Mueller and Cohen, and North Korea, and other issues.

I think, it's going to be interesting to see if the president doesn't let this, sort of, now, you know, slide back a little bit from the front burner, and maybe bring it up then, very friendly, back when he gets into the middle of the election season.

HARLOW: Look, there's a lot on his plate right now.

GERGEN: Sure is.

HARLOW: As he mentioned, very consequential. Thank you, David. Nice to have you.

GERGEN: Good, Poppy. Always good to talk to you.

HARLOW: All right. This just in to CNN. A Federal Appeals Court upholding a District Court's decision that the merger between AT&T and CNN's parent company, Time Warner, can go through, is legal. Our Justice Correspondent, Jessica Schneider, joins us now.

You know, a lot of folks were surprised that this appeal even happened after the language that came from Judge Leon in the first ruling, but the government tried again, and lost here.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You're exactly right. Remember that opinion from the district court judge.


SCHNEIDER: It was very scathing against the Department of Justice. This opinion's -- a 35 opinion -- it's from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, not quite the same terse language, but the outcome is in fact the same.

The three judges in this case ruling that, in fact, the AT&T acquisition of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, it was, in fact, legal. That was the exact same decision that the district court came to back in June.

The arguments on appeal were heard in December, and now, it's taken until the end of February for this court to rule that the AT&T acquisition is, in fact, legal, does not break any economic laws, does not improperly influence economics. And that was really something that we saw at oral argument.

These judges, this world argument back in December, it actually went on an hour longer than the time, was initially slated for.


SCHNEIDER: And we saw that these three judges were really grilling into the Department of Justice lawyers, not as much on the AT&T side. You know, from the very beginning here, it's been asked by AT&T's lawyers, whether or not this lawsuit was even politically motivated.

HARLOW: Right.

SCHNEIDER: Remember it was brought in November 2017, Poppy.


SCHNEIDER: And the implications were that, because President Trump didn't like CNN, that perhaps he pushed the Justice Department to sue. That was never brought up at trial. That was never definitively decided upon. But in fact, today, this Appeals Court ruling that this acquisition was, in fact, legal, Poppy.

HARLOW: And now, the question becomes, Jessica, is the government going to try to push again, right?


HARLOW: Will the Justice Department take this to the highest court? Will they take it to the Supreme Court?

SCHNEIDER: So that is the big question, and there are two different factors here. So, first of all, this was a panel of three judges on the appeals court. It's possible that the Justice Department could ask for a decision on bunk (ph) where the entire slate of judges asks questions and makes a ruling.

The Justice Department could also go forward to the Supreme Court to ask them to issue a decision. However, I want to point out real quickly, Poppy, that the new Attorney General here, William Barr, he was actually on the board for Time Warner. And when this lawsuit was going forward, he actually questioned it in a deposition, wondering if it was politically motivated.

So that's an interesting wrinkle here that he's now at the head of the Justice Department --


SCHNEIDER: -- presumably deciding how to move forward here, Poppy.

HARLOW: That'll complicate things. Jessica, thank you very much for the important reporting on that.

OK. Big update for you on this train. Have you heard about it? The train that was stuck for more than 24 hours there. It's now moving. And, by the way, it's a train with a lot of people on it as well, and children stuck in feet of snow. Now it's moving after it hit a tree on the tracks. We're going to have an update about the people inside, next.




HARLOW: Moments ago, an Amtrak train stranded in the snow since Sunday night finally started to move again in Oregon. Amtrak says it's now headed back to Seattle, but with more delays expected on the route, nearly 200 passengers were stuck on this train. It stopped, because there was a downed tree on the tracks. Luckily, no one was injured. The passengers had to wait on board for more than 24 hours to be rescued. Food was running low.

Our correspondent, Nick Watt, joins us in Los Angeles for more. I mean, food who's running low. I read that parents were running out of diapers for their children, but it's moving.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Listen. Poppy. They have just passed a 40-hour mark, four, zero hours, since that train hit that downed tree on the track. The train is now moving, as you say, but it's moving backwards towards Seattle.

This was supposed to be the Seattle, Los Angeles service, with 183 passengers and 12 crew on board. As you say, no one injured, and also mercifully, they managed to keep the power on for the duration. So there was some heat. There was some power in there. And also, Amtrak was giving passengers free food and water, but that food was running out.

We're told that -- by some passengers that breakfast this morning was to be the last meal that they had on that train. The train there moving backwards. As you say, parents saying that they're running out of diapers. But also, you know, we have heard from parent passengers that there was a bit of a -- kind of, spirit of camaraderie generated on board that train.

One teenager, got a ukulele and --

HARLOW: Great.

WATT: -- and was playing some young kids to sleep, and strangers playing cards with each other, a spirit of camaraderie.

But, of course, no one could get off that train. Three or four feet of snow in every direction. So no one was getting off to walk anywhere, and there were further obstructions up the line. That's what's taking it so long, 183 passengers most of them, want to get to Los Angeles. Some of them are college students who are worried that their professors will not believe them that they were stuck on a train for more than 40 hours, Poppy.

HARLOW: Well, now they will believe them, ukulele and all. Nick Watt, thank you very much.

All right. So, very serious story that we're on top of, and that is the situation unfolding, unraveling really, in Venezuela. The US announcing new sanctions the same day Venezuela's president accuses the Trump administration of faking a crisis, all in the name of oil. We will take live to Venezuela, next.




HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. So this morning, embattled Venezuelan leader, Nicolas Maduro, is defiant and taking direct aim now, at the president -- at President Trump. He's accusing the U.S. of fabricating a crisis in Venezuela, despite all the evidence you see on the ground there. Why? He says to provoke war and seize the country's huge oil reserves.

Maduro tells "ABC News" in a new interview, "The extremist Ku Klux Klan government that Donald Trump directs wants a war over oil."

Of course, this follows a weekend of deadly clashes where Maduro's forces set fire to trucks filled with desperately needed aid and supplies.

Nick Paton Walsh is live for us again on the ground in Bogota, Colombia. And has been in the middle of those clashes. You saw it with your own eyes, Nick. What is your reaction to Maduro's defiance, and this story that he is spinning?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a busy day ahead, really. At this point, we're still looking back towards exactly what sanctions Vice President, Mike Pence, promised would be emerging in the days ahead against the Maduro governments.

And there will be a United Nations Security Council meeting at 3 o'clock this afternoon. I have to say, with Russia's veto, and China's abstaining in this, I can't see much coming concrete out of that. But still, international grievances aired again.

But Nicolas Maduro gave a rare interview yesterday, in which he essentially said, this is all about the oil. Here's what he had to say.


NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA: (SPEAKING SPANISH) (through interpreter): The United States wants Venezuela's oil, and they're willing to go to war for that oil. Everything that the United States government has done has been condemned. They are trying to fabricate a crisis to justify political escalation and a military intervention in Venezuela to bring a war to South America.



PATON WALSH: Now there is a massive humanitarian crisis happening as well. The people eating out of bins. So Maduro's constantly been in denial of that. Although many, of course, choose to question exactly the motivation of the Trump administration, focusing so hard on this, Poppy.

HARLOW: Nick, also another crew. A few western journalists got interviews with Maduro yesterday, and the "Univision" crew, the journalist Jorge Ramos, and his team, apparently were asking questions of Maduro, important ones, showing him video that Maduro didn't like. So he detained them for several hours. Is that right?

PATON WALSH: Yes. I mean, it's extraordinary, isn't it?


PATON WALSH: It seems to be, when you get your footage on there, depends on whether or not Nicolas Maduro liked how it went.

HARLOW: Right.

PATON WALSH: It went obviously well enough with "ABC News" that they got their footage out. "Univision", not so much. And we heard from Jorge Ramos, who conducted the interview, that it

was really when he showed footage of children eating out of bins, that he'd filmed himself, that Nicolas Maduro seems to have snapped, I think, it's probably fair to say, and called the interview off.

The crew were put into a room where the lights were turned off. They had their equipment taken from them. They then left, went to their hotel. They say they were surrounded by authorities. They're unable to leave. Subsequently, they were taken to the airport.

We understand they will soon be leaving Venezuela, deported effectively. They haven't had their equipment back, as far as we can tell, unable to air the interview, and presumably, the moment that Nicolas Maduro didn't actually like.

But well, you know, these are foreign journalists. They get to leave. Venezuelan media live through this kind of intimidation everyday, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. And guess what? That doesn't happen in a democracy that Maduro claims that this is. Nick Paton Walsh, fantastic reporting on the ground. Thank you.

Let me take you back to Capitol Hill. Of course, all the focus is on Michael Cohen, but this is really important. Those are CEOs from the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the country. Answering tough questions about drug prices in this country.

All of this led by the Republican Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Chuck Grassley, who just said, he's sick and tired of the blame game, it's time for solutions.




HARLOW: All right. So on the Hill, we're going to get to that in a moment, big pharma executives testifying.

But first, Facebook is cracking down on groups spreading anti- vaccination propaganda on the social network. Our Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins me now. When I saw this headline cross, I thought we have to cover this, because Facebook is where so many people now get their news, and these anti-vaxxers in this community is really pushing falsehoods.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They really are. There's no question about it. And also, Poppy, there's no question that Facebook was really -- is under a lot of pressure to do something.

Pinterest has already moved on this. YouTube has already moved on this. And so, Facebook is saying, look soon, very soon, we're going to announce a new policy. TEXT: FACEBOOK TO GET TOUGHER OF ANTI-VAXERS. Combination of approaches being considered to handle misinformation. Approaches would not take off misinformation but make it less prominent. For example, groups that promote vaccine misinformation wouldn't show up in the list of groups that FB recommends users join. Facebook would also make sure that posts containing vaccine misinformation would appear farther down in a user's newsfeed.

COHEN: And what a spokesperson told me is, we're thinking about making those -- that misinformation further down on people's newsfeeds. We're not going to take it off, we're not going to censor, but put it further down on people's feed. Or, when you search the word vaccine, put the results further down.

Because I'll tell you, Poppy, I've been on Facebook many times, on many different accounts, searching the word "vaccine", and you wouldn't believe some of the stuff that pops up.

HARLOW: Right.

COHEN: I mean, it is just complete, anti-vaxxer propaganda.


COHEN: And when you see it, you're like, what are they doing? You know, the CDC doesn't pop up. The Mayo Clinic doesn't pop up. It's these sites that pop up.

HARLOW: Right.

COHEN: And so, they're under a lot of pressure that way.

HARLOW: Right. And children are dying because of this.


HARLOW: Because of my lack of vaccinations, or getting sick from those who are not vaccinated. While I have you, Elizabeth, there's a really important hearing taking place on Capitol Hill right now. CEOs of seven of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in this country are testifying.

You see them there before the Senate Finance Committee. That's Mr. Frazier, the head of Merck. Chairman Chuck Grassley, who leads this committee, has been on a mission. He just said, "I'm sick and tired of the blame game. I want solutions." And he said this, it struck me, "I'm not a doctor, but rationing one's medicine doesn't sound like a prescription for health and wellness."

So, is it just talk, or action? Are things going to change?

COHEN: You know what, Poppy? I've been talking to folks who've been observing this for, really, decades. This rising pharmaceutical prices have been a problem for decades. And they've said, you know, what Elizabeth? I think we're at a tipping point. It has become so bad. And so many people are rationing their medicines, that we have to do something, and you see bipartisan support.

So in this era of Republicans and Democrats, always seeming to be at odds with one another, this is really an issue that they have come together on. And there was a very, sort of, almost intense moment this morning, already at this hearing, where Ron Wyden - Senator Wyden -- said look, I was here 25 years ago when we were grilling the tobacco executives, and I heard them lie. That's what Senator Wyden said, the tobacco executives lied. And he said to the pharma executives, I expect better from you today.

HARLOW: Right. And so now, Wyden, I know, is among those who has proposed this legislation, and the probe into soaring prices on things like insulin, etc. We heard something from the president yesterday, when he was addressing this group of governors. And he said that drug prices are going down for the first time in 50 years. Is that also true?

COHEN: It's, kind of, sort of, true. We did a CNN fact check, and I think that the conclusion was, you know, sort of, true, but misleading. If you -- there are lots of different measures of drug price indices into season. Are they going up and down? One of them said there was a tiny little drop, but other indices say, you know, what there's been, big raise - big, big increases in drug prices.