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Senate Questions Big Pharma Bosses On High Drug Prices; Sanders On 2016 Election Cycle: "I Did Everything I Could"; Barr Assumes Oversight Of Mueller Probe As Rosenstein Preps Exit; Rosenstein: "Belief" Of Guilt Is "Irrelevant". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 26, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In the future, not just for future Democratic President whenever that happens, but for President Trump going down the road. He's made it clear this is not the last time he's going to be seeking money for this wall. What more is coming down the pike if this is how things have gone for $5.6 billion in wall funding?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That's a good point. I mean, this is a President we know who will repeatedly test the limits of his power and see what -- it's all about pushing to see what how much resistance there is. And generally speaking, if he touches a hot stove, he often doesn't do it again, but if he feels like he can keep pressing the boundaries, he is going to keep doing it. And we will see what else this impacts.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: That's good way to put enough, first test would be the margin in the House, that's the most slated this afternoon. Up next, for us here a half dozen big Pharma executives being asked by senators, why drug prices are so staggering?


[12:35:14] KING: Topping our political radar, the House Oversight Committee voting today to subpoena top administration officials over migrant family separations on the U.S.-Mexico border. Chairman Elijah Cummings saying it's up to Congress to protect children at the border. Two Republicans on the committee joined with Democrats on that vote, Justin Amash from Michigan, Chip Roy of Texas.

The Federal Reserve chairman dodging questions about his communications with the White House. Jerome Powell testifying today before the Senate Banking Committee, the chairman struggling to commit to an answer during questioning by Democratic Senator Brian Schatz.


SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D), HAWAII: Has anybody either directly or indirectly communicated with you about race from the White House?

JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: That's kind of a broad question.

SCHATZ: It is a broad question.

POWELL: You know, I don't really -- I don't really talk about -- it's probably not appropriate to discuss our -- my private conversations with other government officials, any other government officials.


KING: It would be a non-answer.

Voters in America's third largest city, electing a new mayor today. A record 14 candidates competing to succeed (INAUDIBLE) Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago. Among them are former Police Chief, State Controller and former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley who's father and brother previously served as the city's mayor. If no one gets at least 50 percent of the vote, it would be a runoff between the top two candidates that in April.

On the campaign trail, Senator Kamala Harris making the argument, the President is racist. She tells "The Root" that she felts an incredible amount of pain and concern after the President's remarks about what happened in Charlottesville back in 2017.



TERRELL JERMAINE STARR, THE ROOT REPORTER: And it's President Trump a racist?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Well look, when you talk about his statement on that. When you talk about him calling African countries asshole countries. When you talk about him referring to immigrants as rapists and murderers, I don't think you can reach any other conclusion.

STARR: So you definitely would agree that he's a racist?

HARRIS: I do, yes. Yes.


KING: A half dozen drug company executives sharing the hot seat on Capitol Hill right now. The CEOs of six pharmaceutical giants testifying before the Senate Finance Committee whose members want to know why their products are simply unaffordable for so many Americans.

CNN's Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans looks at the reasons.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: John, Americans spend more on prescription drugs than anyone else in the world. Over $1200 a person on average, way more than Canada or Germany and nearly two and a half times what British citizens spend. It's so expensive, it's become a political issue. So why are drug prices so high?

In the United States drug companies can pretty much charge whatever they want. When a new drug is patented, it's protected from competition for 20 years. There are all kinds of exclusive marketing rights the FDA grants as well. And drug companies, you know, they are really good at making little tweaks to their products so they can keep extending the windows. That's why it takes so long for cheaper generic versions to get on the market.

Now, remember, it's expensive though to develop new drugs and the industry will tell you it takes about 10 years on average with a price tag $2.6 billion per medicine. Take away the promise of a big payday and drug company say, they wouldn't be able to -- can made as many resources to research and development. Of course the industry also points a finger and ensures for shifting so much of the cost to the patients. It argues the pharmacy benefit managers who negotiate prices for health plans, they don't pass discounts on to consumers. Then the insurance industry just points right back at big Pharma for pricing drugs so high in the first place.

You get the idea. They blame each other. And meantime, spending on prescriptions keeps rising. It's forecast to grow more than 6 percent a year through 2026. That's faster than anything else in health care. John.

KING: Christine Romans, appreciate that.

I don't pretend to be smart enough to figure this one out, but just I can tell you just from a weekend in Iowa, I knew you've been New Hampshire, these are already coming up. It's one of those things Washington some time disconnected from what comes up in the campaign trail when voters stand up in these town halls and ask questions, the price of drugs comes up a lot.

PHILLIP: Yes, the pocketbook issues matter to people and I think in -- as in past cycles for health care has been a big issue, we've sort of, I guess moved past Obamacare in some ways. But, the question for a lot of candidates on the Democratic and on the Republican side this cycle is going to, what are you going to do to make this system better? To make sure that these issues like the price of prescription drugs don't continue to eat up people's paychecks. And even while the economy is strong, this still remains one of those issues that's front of mind for people because it's what's costing them a lot of money every month and making them question whether they're going to continue to be able to take care of themselves and their loved ones.


DAN BALZ, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think a lot of people -- sorry, go ahead.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I was going to say Abby is right. I mean, any 2020 Democrat that doesn't run on lowering prescription drug prices is totally missing the move of the electorate.

[12:40:07] I mean, in 2018 it was all about health care, that's what Democrats were hammering Republicans on and they were able to, you know seal (ph) the -- keep the conversation on that and away from immigration which is what Trump try to also ramp up in the lead up to November.

BALZ: And oddly enough, the discussion or the attention to Medicare For All obscures this issue and I think most voters who even those who are very attracted to the idea of Medicare For All recognize that that's, you know, something that's well out into the future. It's going to take a long time to get there. Prescription drug prices are everyday a problem.

KING: And the voters are ahead of the candidates on that point you just made about how far out in the future.

Coming up for us, out of the segway, Bernie Sanders makes his 2020 pitch, but that 2016 bad blood within the party, well, still seems to be looming large.



[12:45:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to thank you especially for your -- your willingness to stay for a time to help me with this transition. I have to say it's been thoroughly --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I am elected President, we will have a nation in which all people have health care as a right, whether Trump likes it or not. We are going to make public colleges and universities tuition free. We are going to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of at least 15 bucks an hour. And whether Trump likes it or not, when I talk about human rights, do you know what that also means? It means that our kids and grandchildren have the human right to grow up in a planet that is healthy and habitable.


KING: After a little hiccup at the top, that was Bernie Sanders at the CNN Town Hall last night pushing a 2020 agenda that is quite familiar to those who followed the Vermont Senator back in the 2016 campaign. The big difference is the second time around, the Democratic field is crowded, very crowded. And many of his rivals for the nomination this time embracing agenda Hillary Clinton called too liberal or too expensive. And as Senator Sanders gears up for his second run, another challenge is what you might call the 2016 hangover. There is still a lot of bad blood between the Clinton and the Sanders camps.


SANDERS: In 2016, I think, I will not talk to anybody to suggest that the DNC was not quite even handed. I think we have come a long way since then and I fully expect to be treated quite as well as anybody else.

We went to state after state. I think we had 35, 40 rallies in all of the battleground states. So I do not accept for one moment that I did not do everything that I could. And then people say, well, you know some of you are supporters voted for Trump. True, but some of Hillary's supporters in 2008 voted for McCain. That's a reality. More of those did that than voted for me.


KING: All we say, we always fight the last campaign. They're still fighting the last campaign. What is it? What is it? The bad blood there is real and between the candidates probably have moved on, but the staff, you have these fights with the staff. Clinton people this week, you know, putting out word that Bernie Sanders demanded a private jet. That's what he's responding to at the end there when he says, I did everything I could for them. Why can't they adapt -- why call there's a rule and just let it go?

BALZ: Well, the intra-party battles, I mean, if you go back to Carter and Kennedy in 1980, I mean, that hangover lasted for many, many years, as we know. These things get very intense.

KING: We know.

BALZ: We know. They get -- and particularly at the staff level. Those resentments last for a long time. I think the challenge for Sanders in this case is he's in a different position today than he was in 2016. He was the scrappy underdog.

He is now, you know, near the top of the polls. He has the experience of it, he has a network, he has an infrastructure. He has to think of himself in a different way and in a sense carry himself in a different way. If he allows himself to get kind of pulled down into that old 2016, you know, back and forth with the Clinton aides (ph), it's not going to help him at all in his real goal.

HABERMAN: There's also a particular level of rawness among particularly Clinton aides and so, I mean I think, Dan is absolutely right there. There's nothing new here under the sun. I think in terms of just staffs fighting in particular.

But the difference is that there is the intensity of it, the degree to which around the WikiLeaks, you know, e-mail dumps, around the Comey press conference, around the e-mail investigation. There are a lot of scars that those folks still point to and that they, I think, don't want to let people forget in part because I think they legitimately are concerned about how 2020 will go, both in terms of outside influence and in terms of media coverage. But I think that all of that adds to this.

I think Dan's point is the key one which is that Bernie Sanders is just in a very different position. He unquestionably has influenced this field. You have so many people who are running on ideas that he espoused first on a national level. But he is going to have to change how he relates to other Democrats -- or he's not a Democrat. How he relates to Democrats in his field and I don't know that he's there yet.

KING: The -- he's not a Democrat part that he just were cannot, let's say fair statement. HABERMAN: Yes.

KING: He is an independent and you hear that from some Democrats.


KING: So he use traveled on the road that, you know, that he had an important role as -- in a one-on-one race last time, now some Democrats question -- I don't know if security is the right word but, you get that.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. I mean, I think it will be interesting to see how, you know, Warren differentiates herself from Sanders, right? I mean, Sanders, as Maggie you said, had started espousing, you know, these policies that Clinton wasn't last time around.

But, yes, but Warren has also always supported these policies. And so we're seeing just yesterday in one of our reporters at Politico talked about this new purity test that Warren is taking a lead on, when its rejecting big donors, rejecting big fundraisers and trying to really stake that claim for herself and I think that could end up causing a bit of a rift among the 2020 Democrats.

PHILLIP: There is also a risk here in Clinton's allies and staff carrying out 2016 grievances in the 2020 campaign in a way that does the work of the Trump campaign for that. And I mean in another words that the chaos that is created about these, somewhat silly stories about these private jets use to fly in those last weeks of the campaign for Hillary. These are the kinds of awful stories that the Trump campaign is like, we're not even going to bother with this anymore, because you guys just did it for me and you have to ask, what purpose does it serve other than inserting Hillary Clinton back into this campaign in a way that she's probably not really wanted in this Democratic Party that as we just pointed out has moved well beyond her where she was in 2016. And has in fact, I think, rejected her view of the party and said we're going to go in this direction instead.

BALZ: I want to go back to your point about the differentiation between the two. I talked to Warren on Friday before a big Democratic dinner in New Hampshire. And they are long-time friends. I mean, they've known one another as Senator Sanders said last night, 25 years. But she pulls back from the idea of being a Democratic socialist. That is a label that she does not want put on her.

She is a regulator. Her view is, markets are good and when they are well regulated they create good things. But they have to be regulated and if they're not, it's theft. And that's the way she wants to talk about a lot of things that she's doing in terms of the structural changes. It's, you know, perhaps people will say well it's nuance because she agrees with him on a number of big ticket items, but she has a different focus than he does.

KING: It's going to be a remarkable which is in the early days of it Sanders not getting on the road this week. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch on interesting debates. Up next, the changing of the guard at the top of the Russia Special Counsel's probe as Robert Mueller gets close and finish his report. Today is Mueller's old boss and Mueller's new boss sharing the same stage.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The second person ever to serve twice as Attorney General in the United States, the first to serve in two separate centuries as Attorney General of the United States, William Barr.

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm going to take credit for having detected of the, the talent that you have and being partly responsible for bringing you in to the department.



[12:57:10] KING: The new Attorney general William Barr is now in charge of the Russia Special Counsel probe. Democrats on Capitol Hill in a message to him say, they want full transparency including the underlying intelligence supporting Special Counsel Robert Mueller's findings, no matter what those findings are. The man who has bee in- charge of the Mueller probe, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says that the Justice Department, caution and being careful is much more important.


ROSENSTEIN: When our government makes an allegation of wrongdoing, we need to prove it. Government officials may sincerely believe a defendant is guilty, but their belief is irrelevant. Investigators and prosecutors in America do not get the decree which facts are true.


KING: And that is this source of the big fight to come in the sense that Mueller has investigated for two years. He's got a lot of material. He's got to make decisions about what he puts in his report.

But a prosecutor can think something, can feel something, can smell something, can sniff something. If you can't prove it, you file it away and bite your tongue.

The Democrats say, we want all your documents. Let us look again. Let us decide whether you, maybe you didn't take somebody to court, maybe we want to have Congressional hearings. Maybe we want to refer it to some regulatory body.

HABERMAN: And this is where ultimately at the end of the day the Mueller -- part of why the Southern District of New York in Manhattan probe represents a greater threat to President Trump is that they are going to go ahead with legal cases. The Mueller inquiry is poised to become, unless he does some kind of superseding indictment that we're not aware of. Or, he you know, issues additional indictments of other people, it is going to become a political document. And it is going to become, you know, the twisted and turned into what House Democrats may want it to be.

And that is again we've talked about the danger of overreach by House Democrats, there is a danger of overreach here. There is a whole contingency of people in the country who are thinking that the President is about to be frog-marched out of the Oval Office and that's really unlikely to happen.

And so I think that just sort of tempering the expectations of what could happen or might happen or what is provable. And that's what the system is built on is what Rod Rosenstein is trying to say.

BALZ: I think another aspect of this is this is that the degree to which they want to get as much as they possibly can. This just extends the time period before we actually get to real hearings, real testimony, real conclusions out of the Congress. So I mean, Mueller may finish up, but we're in for another long session before we get to the real, you know, the real meat of it.

HABERMAN: That right.

BARRON-LOPEZ: The debate around whether or not to make they report public, I mean, Democrats are going to be fighting with Republicans over that. The Mueller report isn't the end by any means as Maggie and Dan mentioned. And then also, you know, tomorrow with the Cohen testimony, the thing I'm going to be keeping an eye on also is how these liberal firebrand, the freshman members try to take a claim and ask him questions. I think that will be interesting.

KING: Interesting to watch, the new Attorney General, couple weeks are ahead of him.

Thanks for joining us CNN INSIDE POLITICS. Have a great afternoon. Brianna Keilar starts right now.