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Number of Measles Cases Continues to Rise; Joe Biden 2020 Campaign Kicks Off Today in Pittsburgh; New York Attorney General Launches NRA Probe. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 29, 2019 - 10:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Just moments from now, the Centers for Disease Control will release new numbers on the spread of measles across the U.S. At nearly 700 cases now, this year's outbreak is the largest since the disease was declared eliminated in the U.S. back in 2000. CNN's senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins me now.

So, Elizabeth, the key here, there's a lot of people who refuse based on no science whatsoever, to get vaccinated. But also an additional problem of people who cannot get the vaccine. Explain why this is happening.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. It's happening basically because anti-vaxxers have spread lies. It started with a medical report that was then rescinded, but it's continued. It's a sad era in public health, an entirely manmade problem, the return of measles. And those affected the most? Little babies.


COHEN (voice-over): Walter Blum, a happy, healthy baby in Chico, California. Then the day after this photo was taken, this happened: the measles. At five months old, Walter was too young to be vaccinated against this extremely contagious virus that used to kill hundreds of children a year in the U.S. alone. Like all babies, he relied on the rest of us to vaccinate.

SARA BLUM, MOTHER OF BABY WITH MEASLES: It's really sad, but our community kind of failed us.

Big Nutbrown Hare was listening...

COHEN (voice-over): His mother, Sara, writing on Facebook last month, "This would have been 100 percent preventable if people would just trust doctors and science and vaccinate their children.... Because of them, my little boy had to get measles and suffer."

It wasn't always like this.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The incidence of diseases such a measles, mumps and rubella are at an all-time low. COHEN (voice-over): In 2000, public health officials declared measles

eliminated from the United States. But over the past 20 years, anti- vaxxers have spread lies about vaccines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The anti-vaccine lobby has been telling parents that children are getting injured from vaccines, or they're getting autism. We know none of those things are true.

COHEN (voice-over): Many parents, including Donald Trump, fell for it. He tweeted in 2014, "Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes -- autism. Many such cases!"

The result? So far in 2019, there have been 695 cases of measles in 22 states, surpassing the highest number on record since the disease was declared eliminated. And this year isn't even halfway over.

On Thursday, two universities in Los Angeles issued a measles quarantine for exposed students and staff who couldn't prove that they'd been vaccinated against the disease, more than one thousand people ordered to stay home.

On Friday, President Trump changed his tune.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have to get the shot. The vaccinations are so important. This is really going around now. They have to get their shots.

COHEN (voice-over): But it was too late for Walter. As a disease once virtually gone makes a comeback, a public health travesty that didn't have to happen.


COHEN: Now, Walter did recover but his parents will have to worry for years about some very rare long-term effects of measles, including a potentially deadly brain disease -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Herd immunity. We have a responsibility. Take it.

COHEN: That's right. We do.

SCIUTTO: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

Folks, get your shot. There's no science for not doing it. It's why we have measles again in this country. Simple issue.

[10:33:57] Coming up, Joe Biden is kicking off his campaign in the Rust Belt today. But are voters there ready to swing blue again?


SCIUTTO: In hours, Joseph Biden kicks off his presidential campaign in Pennsylvania, of course a crucial swing state for 2020. Biden is set to host a meet-and-greet at a union hall in Pittsburgh, this as he looks to appeal to working-class voters and swing his original home state back to blue. CNN's Arlette Saenz is in Pittsburgh with the latest.

He got a big union endorsement this morning, but President Trump's not so happy with it.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Jim. Joe Biden's going to be kicking off his campaign here in Pittsburgh, when he delivers a speech at a union hall. And he's going to be talking about a middle-class message.

But earlier this morning, the firefighters' union, the International Association of Firefighters, endorsed Biden. And now, President Trump is responding to that in a tweet, saying that he'll never get that -- Trump is saying that he himself will never get the support of union leadership. But adds, the members love Trump. "They look at our record tax and regulation cuts, military, et cetera. Win."

TEXT: Donald J. Trump: I'll never get the support of Dues Crazy union leadership, those people who rip-off their membership with ridiculously high dues, medical and other expenses while being paid a fortune. But the members love Trump. They look at our record economy, tax and reg cuts, military etc. WIN!

SAENZ: Now, the firefighters' union is the first labor group to endorse in this presidential contest. And later today, there are going to be some members from that union at that event with Joe Biden.

Biden's coming off a pretty impressive fundraising figure. Last week, his campaign released that they had raised $6.3 million in that first 24-hour period. That's more than any of his other Democratic primary rivals did in their first day. So that's a big number for Joe Biden, especially as there had been questions about what his fundraising would look like in that early start of his campaign.

[10:40:21] Now, after Pittsburgh, we're here in Pennsylvania, which is one of the states that Donald Trump brought over to his column from the blue column back in 2016. And Democrats really are relying on this state, hoping that they can win it in 2020.

After Pennsylvania, Biden heads to Iowa tomorrow and Wednesday, and then South Carolina later this week -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Arlette Saenz. Thanks very much.

Joining me now, Julian Routh. He's a political reporter for the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette."

Julian, good to have you on. Just first on this, going after -- the president going after the unions here. Of course Joe gets the firefighters' union. Joe Biden gets the endorsement. The president saying in his tweet, "Well, it's the dues-crazy union leadership, it's not actual members, who like me." I mean, in Pennsylvania, is there a gap between union leadership, who does the endorsements, and union membership?

JULIAN ROUTH, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, there's a natural gap between the leadership and the members. But I was with the firefighters' union this morning whenever the president made that announcement to endorse.

And you know, he believes that the rank-and-file members will come along with him. He believes that they feel like they were left behind by the president. Now, you remember, this was the same message in 2016, how they abandoned the Democratic Party in big numbers to, you know -- because they felt like they were left behind.

Now, I think Biden has to shore up support from rank-and-file. He can't just have the union leadership and the money. That will be very important. But Western Pennsylvania is a breeding ground for that.

SCIUTTO: So President Trump's approval in 2018 in the state of Pennsylvania, 42 percent. So a little lower than the national average. Typically, you would think not great for a president running for re-election, chances in that state.

But I spoke with one of the president's -- the guy that essentially (ph) ran Trump's campaign in Pennsylvania in 2016. And he said that in 2016, he already had a low approval rating, around 39 percent, still won the state. I mean, what -- as you cover the politics there, does that low approval rating threaten the president as he heads into 2020? Or does it really depend on who the Democrats put up?

ROUTH: I think it depends on who the Democrats put up. But in terms of the president feeling threatened by those numbers, you have to look at the midterms last year, here in Pennsylvania. You had two candidates running for re-elections, Governor Tom Wolf and U.S Senator Bob Casey, knocked back very Trumpian candidates to win re-election by wide margins. Especially here in Western Pennsylvania, with those white working-class voters that a guy like Joe Biden would love to secure.

So I do think it depends. The Pennsylvania Republican Party is putting out a lot of messaging right now about how the Democratic Party is straying too far to the left. It'd be very hard to make that case if Joe Biden is the nominee. So I think it's a mix of both.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And you make the point, when you look those House races, a lot of the pickups in 2018, Democrats ran very moderate candidates like Conor Lamb.

Let me ask you, though, on the economy. Because Pennsylvania -- like the country, but even by some measures better than the country economically, what is Joe Biden's message or what do folks want to hear from him on the economy when he's running against maybe a flawed president, but one with good economic numbers?

ROUTH: Well, you know, I think it comes down to Joe Biden being able to make the case that the Republican tax plan, for example, didn't benefit the people that the president said it would benefit.

You saw this in Conor Lamb's second race last year. Because of the redistricting here in Pennsylvania, when he ran against an incumbent Republican, Keith Rothfus. Rothfus ran entirely on the Republican tax bill, saying that you're going to see more money in your paychecks, more money in your tax returns. And the voters went to the ballot box and said, widely, you know, "We

didn't feel the impact. We felt like the Republican tax plan was benefiting the top one percent."

So I think though the economic numbers are really good here, I think it depends on what voters feel -- who voters feel are responsible for those numbers. And I don't know if they think the president is responsible for helping them.

SCIUTTO: Fair question. Julian Routh, good to have you. Sure we'll be talking to you more as we get closer to 2020.

[10:44:26] Happening now, Boeing meeting with its shareholders following two deadly crashes. This as CNN learns about new fears from whistleblowers on the troubled 737 Max fleet. We're going to have a live update coming up.


SCIUTTO: We are learning new information this morning about a pledge that the U.S. signed, agreeing to pay North Korea $2 million for the medical care of the detained student Otto Warmbier as a condition of his freedom.

This morning, the man who signed that pledge -- former U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, Joseph Yun, told me that his understanding is that order was approved by President Trump.


SCIUTTO: Was it your understanding that Secretary Tillerson had the president's approval for that OK?

JOSEPH YUN, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA POLICY: That was my understanding. I never asked him, but that was my understanding.

SCIUTTO: That this was coming directly from the president --

YUN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- who has since said he would never pay such "ransoms," he called them.

Now, Bolton says the U.S. has not paid this money yet. Will the U.S. pay this money? Is that your understanding? Should the U.S. pay this money?

YUN: I think (ph) -- Jim, I don't know. I left the government about a year ago. And I know until I had left, U.S. government had not paid the money. My view is that of course this involved two separate decisions. One, is should we sign. We did sign. Second, having signed, should we pay.

[10:50:16] My view is yes. If you've signed, if you promised another government from the U.S. government, that you would make the payment, my view certainly is that we should go ahead and meet our end of the commitment.


SCIUTTO: A source tells CNN that North Korea has so far not raised -- since raised the issue of that $2 million payment.

Right now, Boeing CEO comes face-to-face with shareholders for the first time since two deadly crashes involving a Boeing jet. The company just held its annual meeting in Chicago. All of this unfolding as "The Wall Street Journal" reports that the company did not alert the FAA or Southwest Airlines, that it had deactivated a key safety feature on it 737 Max jets.

CNN business correspondent Christina Alesci joins me now.

I mean, Christina, it's interesting because clients who bought a certain package of services, they were notified. Others who did not, were not. I mean, that's inexplicable.

CHRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that the 737 did come with a feature that essentially alerted pilots to any faulty or incorrect data coming in from sensors that would have helped in the -- in these particular crashes, and perhaps avoided them. The paper alleges -- or is reporting, rather -- that Boeing did not tell the airlines that it had shut off this feature.

So this is yet another negative headline for Boeing. Lots of questions at the shareholder meeting today. And the CEO, addressing "The Wall Street Journal" reporting indirectly, by saying that it does not make airplanes with optional safety features.

But this is a long -- this is another negative story in a long list of negative stories about the company. And during the shareholder meeting, you saw shareholders try and hold the company's leadership accountable for these missteps by proposing things like separating the role of the CEO and the chairman.

Also, shareholders wanted to see more lobbying disclosures around how much the company has spent in lobbying because there were reports that the FAA and Boeing have this cozy relationship, and that may have impacted manufacturing, going forward. So there's a lot of questions around this -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Sure. I mean, reasonable to ask, will senior management be held accountable for this. People died.

There's also CNN reporting that four employees -- Boeing employees -- they called an FAA whistleblower hotline to report safety issues. What kind of issues?

TEXT: Four Boeing Employees Warn FAA about 737 Max: Complaints came April 5; Included previously unreported issue on damage to wiring; Angle of attack sensor wiring damaged by foreign object

ALESCI: Well, one of the major complaints that the FAA may be focusing on is a foreign object somehow impacted the wiring of the anti-stall system or the sensors in that anti-stall system. And that may have caused a huge problem, and that might open up a whole new line of investigation from the FAA. So we'll have to see how that plays out.

But clearly, this is not the end of the story for Boeing.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Were these systematic issues. Christina Alesci, thanks very much.

[10:53:26] Still to come, the NRA's full board meeting today to decide their next president after a bitter power struggle at the very top of the organization.


SCIUTTO: Oliver North appears to be out as president of the NRA. The decision ends a bitter fight for dominance with the organization's CEO, Wayne LaPierre. All this as the New York attorney general has started a probe into the organization. CNN's Polo Sandoval joins me now.

So, Polo, what is this new probe that the New York attorney general is looking into?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Jim, it's important to point out that the attorney general's office in the State of New York hasn't said specifically what this investigation is hoping to uncover.

But I will at least touch on three different things that are important to consider here. The first one is a gun safety group has recently filed a complaint, for example, alleging financial mishandling by this nonprofit group.

We have also seen extensive investigative reporting by publicans including "The New Yorker." And in that reporting, there are allegations made that various vendors and top executives of the NRA extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the budget.

And then also, most importantly, the message that was essentially transmitted to NRA members over the weekend by outgoing NRA president Oliver North. And in that message, before stepping down, he basically warned that there is a, quote, "clear crisis that is threatening the nonprofit status of the NRA."

Now, we have heard from various NRA members here, during the annual meeting that took place in Indianapolis. And there is mixed feelings about that. Many think that that clear -- so-called clear crisis has to do with this power struggle that we have seen play out between the outgoing president, North, and Wayne LaPierre, which of course is one of the most prominent faces of the NRA.

And there are also those who believe that it is really about this financial mismanaging. For its part, though, the NRA legal team has said that they are cooperating with this investigation with the State of New York and that they are, in their own words, "confident in the accounting capabilities and in their finances as well.

President Trump, though, seizing on the opportunity this morning, Jim, taking to Twitter, saying that he is accusing the State of New York, mainly the attorney general and the governor, of illegally investigating.

However, he did say that the NRA needs to get its act together quickly -- Jim.

[11:00:00] SCIUTTO: Why is the investigation illegal. No basis. Polo Sandoval, thanks very much.

Thanks so much for joining me and us today. I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN".