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Admiral William McRaven on Trump's Presidency; Lawsuit against Juul; Peter Hamby is Interviewed about Beto O'Rourke. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 22, 2019 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.

So you wrote that in August of 2018. And my question is, has he become the leader you prayed he would be?

ADM. WILLIAM MCRAVEN, RETIRED U.S. NAVY FOUR-STAR ADMIRAL: You know, well, I will tell you, I hope the president becomes the leader we want him to be. Every American should want the president to do well.

You know, as I talked about in the book, I had an opportunity to work for both Bush 43 and for President Obama and I was on the -- on President Bush's National Security Council staff and obviously one of President Obama's commanders. And I didn't agree with everything every man did all the time. I mean I questioned some of the decisions they made.

Having said that, I found both men to be men of great integrity and great character. And when you have a commander in chief that has those qualities, they're easier to follow. I hope the president, you know, learns from other presidents, those two in particular would be good starting points, but also the president takes the advice of his -- of his military leaders and his secretaries to do the right thing.

BERMAN: What's lacking, do you think?

MCRAVEN: You know, it's hard to tell because I'm not on the -- in the inner circle. What I do know from, again, talking to senior military leaders is they are heard by the president, so the chairman and the combatant commanders, as we call them, have an opportunity to sit down with the president on a fairly routine basis and he takes their opinion.

Now, again, what he does with that I think remains to be seen. But when you take a look at some of his national security challenges, he's actually done well in some areas. So the strike in Syria a couple years ago, which was a measured strike because Assad used chemical weapons. I think probably the right thing to do.

Now, the engagement with North Korea, actually I think that was probably the right thing to do. We hadn't had much movement on North Korea. The -- the end game didn't turn out like he had hoped. Pressuring China is probably the right thing. Pressuring Maduro is the right thing. So I think we also have to give the president some credit for some of the things that are turning out well.

Now, again, I wish he would take more action against Russia. There was a lot of other things I wish he would do well. But it's a learning process and, again, I hope, and I think every American should hope the president does well in his role as commander in chief.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: We hear the president talk a lot about his great love for the military, his support for service members, for veterans. One of the stories that obviously got a lot of attention this week was this "The New York Times" report that the president was considering pardoning service members who had been accused of war crimes, some who hadn't even, you know, obviously gone before -- hadn't gone before -- and even been convicted, but had been simply charged.


HILL: The backlash, the outrage from both current -- well, not current publicly, but that we heard from certainly retired generals that I spoke with earlier this week calling it immoral, calling it dangerous.


HILL: Where do you stand on that proposal? Again, there's been some pushback on it, but just the very thought of it.

MCRAVEN: Yes. So, obviously the president has the authority as the commander in chief to pardon who he thinks it's appropriate to pardon.

Now, in the military, we have a thing called undue influence. So what you are not allowed to do as a senior commander at any rank is to imply to the commander below you what you think the outcome of a particular trial or courts martial ought to be. That is unduly influencing the outcome before the courts martial has an opportunity to render its judgment. You're not allowed to do that. So my caution to the president would be, don't start signaling what you think should happen to, you know, one of the persons being investigated. That's -- that is completely inappropriate. Again, once the investigation is complete, once the trial is over, the president can review the findings and then he can make the decision.

BERMAN: Their -- oh, I'm sorry.

HILL: I was going to say, just to follow-up really quickly, one retired general had told me that even just the suggestion of this --


HILL: That it does, in his view, undermine the moral authority of the American military. Would you agree that it goes that far?

MCRAVEN: Well, I don't know that it goes that far. I mean the fact of the matter is, again, it is legally compounding because when the president, again, signals that he thinks a trial ought to come out a certain way, he is unduly influencing either the people on that courts martial or the commander having to make that decision. And that is inappropriate.

BERMAN: So, Martin Dempsey is a general who I think is espousing the view you were just saying there. Let me read you something he just wrote. He said, absent evidence of innocence or injustice, the wholesale pardon of U.S. service members accused of war crimes signals or troops and allies that we don't take the law of armed conflict seriously. Bad message. Bad precedent. Abdication of moral responsibility. Risk to us hash tag leadership.

MCRAVEN: Yes, well, I would never disagree with anything Marty Dempsey says. Absolutely one of the finest officers I ever worked with. And, again, if the individual is a -- is accused and found guilty -- and I think this is the -- the part that we're waiting for -- and found guilty of a war crime, then I would agree that is a very, very bad precedent to set. But in a couple of cases, I know the president is looking towards certain individuals who have not gone to trial yet that are accused of war crimes. So I think you have to wait and see whether the trial -- how the trial unfolds and then see where the president's decision goes from there.

[08:35:02] BERMAN: One of the things this gets to, and you get to in your book, 18 separate stories about you, hard for me to believe that you were part of each and every one of these amazing stories, running a 431 (ph) miles, obviously, to the Osama bin Laden raid. But you talk about values.


BERMAN: You talk about values and you talk about what these values mean to you. Why is that important?

MCRAVEN: Well, you know, when you have the responsibility of leading the men and women in uniform, you know, the one quality that every leader has to have is integrity. And -- and, you know, you will spend time with leaders that don't have as much integrity or maybe has -- have no integrity and you can spot them in a minute. And what I've learned is if you don't have integrity, if you don't have character, as an officer, as a senior enlisted, as anybody within the military, sooner or later that character flaw comes out and sooner or later you will find yourself in a position where you are unable to lead the men and women.

But the other thing that the book brings out, I hope, is that it's -- you know, it's -- while I'm in each one of these stories, it really is about the men and women that I worked with. I mean it's about their courage and their sacrifice. I tell the story about the two soldiers and the one seal in one of the chapters about how they -- and I believe this seriously -- these millennials, these oft maligned millennials will be the 21st centuries greatest generation. They are remarkable men and women. And sometimes people get, you know, get a little fearful about the future. I said, look, I'm not worried at all. I have spent time with the young men and women of this generation. They are going to make sure we get through this and they are going to make sure that we continue on as the greatest nation in the history of the world because we've got these great folks in the service, you know, first responders, out there teaching in our urban schools. We're going to be just fine.

BERMAN: Admiral William McRaven, says you can spot lack of integrity a mile away, thank you so much for being with us. I really appreciate it.

MCRAVEN: My pleasure.

BERMAN: The book, again, it is riveting. I really enjoyed it.

MCRAVEN: Thanks.

HILL: It's great to have you here.

E-cigarette use among teens is skyrocketing. Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains the impact vapes are having on kids' health and what's being done to stop it. That's next.


[08:41:51] HILL: North Carolina's attorney general is suing e- cigarette maker Juul, claiming they used deceptive marketing and misled the public about the risks of vaping. It's just the latest in a series of lawsuits turning up the heat on the vaping giant.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains.


LUKA KINARD: Before vaping, I was a straight A student, I played two sports and I was in Boy Scouts.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): That's 16-year-old Luka Kinard, seen speaking last week at a press conference announcing that North Carolina is the first state to sue leading e- cigarette company Juul for deceptive marketing.

Now, Juul denies the allegations and says it has taken steps to prevent youth vaping.

L. KINARD: I've had vomiting. I've had fatigue. I've had headaches. And I stopped going to the Boy Scouts and I stopped playing sports. You know, I hated myself when I was going through addiction.

KELLY KINARD, LUKA'S MOM: It completely changed him. Overnight he went from being a straight A, outgoing, fun student to a monster.

GUPTA: Last year more than 3.5 million middle and high school students in the United States said they were current e-cigarette users. What's important, that's a million and a half more kids than the year before.

DR. ADAM GOLDSTEIN, DIRECTOR, TOBACCO INTERVENTION PROGRAMS, UNC SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: When you have a product that's absorbed into your brain within ten seconds of using it, it doesn't take very long for that to alter the way you think and the way you act.

GUPTA: Dr. Adam Goldstein is the director of the tobacco intervention programs at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

GOLDSTEIN: We're hearing from school systems saying we have an epidemic of Juul in our classroom. What do we do? Increasingly, we're even seeing kids themselves that say, I want to quit and I'm trying and it's not working.

GUPTA: Doctors say e-cigs can impact the developing brain differently, making teens more vulnerable to addiction and behavioral issues, causing lung problems, burns and poisonings. The FDA is now even looking into multiple reports of people who had seizures after vaping. One of those people was Luka.

L. KINARD: Just out of nowhere I had a seizure. I wound up in the hospital. It was definitely a really scary experience.

GUPTA: Luca was able to beat his addiction after more than a month in rehab and has since become an advocate for teens, like himself, but experts say there are limited resources out there for a generation of kids who are now at risk of becoming addicted.

K. KINARD: Other parents are not having the same luck that we did. They're having treatment problems, their doctors are not listening to them, their insurance company is denying coverage.

GOLDSTEIN: Who knows what's going to happen when you now have a generation, 3 million youth, that are potentially addicted to e- cigarettes.

L. KINARD: I definitely would say that a lot of people that I do know still are definitely dealing with the same things I did. It's more than just an addiction problem right now, it's definitely an epidemic.


HILL: Wow. I mean talk about sobering when you look at that.

So, what else is being done? What can be done to keep these vapes from getting into kids' hands?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I think I lot of it obviously has to happen at the -- at the beginning, before kids actually start doing the vaping at all because you see how addictive this can be, you see how quickly it can have an impact on the brain and the developing brain is different.

But you're starting to hear, you know, policy changes. First of all, stopping the sort of sweet flavors, the flavors that are marketed to kids, raising the age at which these can be sold, some states saying they can only be sold in age-verified locations as opposed to, you know, rest stops and things like that.

[08:45:10] But I think, you know, education. You know, people didn't even know the term Juul a couple years ago and now ask any kid you know and they know this term, they've probably seen one. It's out there. They're designed to be sort of hidden, look like flash drives.

HILL: Yes.

GUPTA: So, look, I mean, I have three kids. It's conversation number one. We have to be on the lookout for our kids as well.

BERMAN: I didn't know anything about this until you started doing the reporting on this about a year and a half ago, Sanjay. Thank you so much for bringing it to our attention --

GUPTA: Well, same to you.

BERMAN: Because it's exploded over the last two years.

GUPTA: Yes, it has.

BERMAN: All right.

Beto O'Rourke is looking to boost his campaign in his CNN town hall. Did it make a difference? We'll discuss, next.



BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are busting people for possession of marijuana, putting them in jail, forcing them to check a box on every employment application form after they're released, making it less likely that they get the job, making it almost impossible to attend Drake because they no longer qualify for federally-backed student loans, and yet no one from Perdue Pharma has done a night in jail or paid any significant consequence. We've got to do better.


BERMAN: Former Congressman Beto O'Rourke appearing in his first town hall as a presidential candidate on CNN last night. His first national town hall, which I think is an important distinction here.

[08:50:02] So let's get "The Bottom Line" on how he did. Joining us now, Pete Hamby. He's the host of Snapchat's "Good Luck America" and a contributor at "Vanity Fair."

You have watched Beto O'Rourke, I think, more closely probably than any reporter in America over the last few years and you noted last night in watching this, Peter, that he has done a lot of town halls. He goes to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. He went all over Texas and did this. He has experience, which showed last night when he finally chose to do his first national event.

PETER HAMBY, HOST, SNAPCHAT'S "GOOD LUCK AMERICA": Yes, I mean, that's right, a lot of reporters were tweeting about this last night, a lot of people watching the town hall. O'Rourke has done over 150 town halls, not just in these early primary states, he's done them in Virginia, in Ohio, in Wisconsin, in California. And I think there's this narrative that's taken hold about the candidate in the national press because he's kind of shunned the national press, right? He's been Instagraming and Snapchatting and live streaming most of his events. He's been working really hard, but he hasn't really been in the national media sort of crafting a narrative, responding to criticisms.

And in that vacuum this narrative has taken hold that he's, you know, a policy lightweight, that he's too much of a kind of moderate squish, that, you know, Pete Buttigieg has taken his space in the -- in the primary. And instead what you saw last night was what people saw in Texas, which was a deeply sort of literate person in policy, he's been a leader on decriminalizing marijuana for a long time going back to El Paso. The guy literally wrote a book on decriminalizing marijuana back in 2012, a leader on criminal justice. He was ahead of the curve on LGBT stuff -- rights back in El Paso.

And so he's been benefitting -- he's benefitting a little bit from this town hall from low expectations, John.


HAMBY: I mean, coming into this, the guy's at 2 percent in the national polls. He's a lightweight. He's a squish. He's -- he's lost and all of a sudden you remember it is May of 2019 and it's still so, so, so early in this process and this guy has to be counted, you know, as a -- as a serious candidate. He raised $80 million in Texas, built a political movement from scratch and has the ability, you know, unlike a lot of candidates, to build a sort of cross-racial coalition which is what you need to do to win a Democratic primary.

BERMAN: Yes, you said he's benefiting from low expectations. These are expectations that some would say he has earned, obviously, by not somehow catching on in the polls. And I polls -- you know, it's early, but polls do reflect where things stand now. And as you pointed out, ten -- 2 percent in the latest Quinnipiac poll.

This town hall gave him a chance, and as you said, people have criticized him for being lightweight on policy. He was asked policy questions. Dana did a great job pressing him on this and he had answers, particularly, for instance, on something like agriculture and trade.

Listen to this.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You are bearing the brunt of this president's disastrous trade war and the tariffs that he's imposed that are destroying the markets that you worked a lifetime to establish. You and other farmers and growers here and in my home state of Texas and frankly across this country.


BERMAN: That jumped out to you, Peter, why?

HAMBY: Yes, it did. If you look at O'Rourke's performance in the Texas Senate race, he came close to beating Ted Cruz by, you know, almost doubling midterm turnout compared to 2014, outpacing Hillary Clinton in all the big urban centers in Texas. But Texas is a big agriculture state and for a long time, even before O'Rourke jumped in the race, I think a lot of people watching him knew that he would play well in Iowa because he's really sort of custom built for those town hall meetings, like we saw last night.

But Iowa's a big ag state. Texas is a big ag state. I mean over 80 percent of, you know, of land in Texas is devoted to agriculture and agricultural production. He just knows how to talk to farmers and he's been, you know, going around the state of Texas, all 250 some counties there, and around -- and now he's doing the same thing in Iowa. And you just -- you can see that moment last night that he knew how to talk about tariffs, he knew how to talk about trade, he knew how this stuff impacts regular people. I mean he's a good retail politician.

Again, we haven't been seeing that in the -- in the national press. That's a -- that's a mess of his own doing in some ways, but --

BERMAN: Let me --

HAMBY: I think a lot of folks saw last night the kind of candidate that he is out on the stump.

BERMAN: You said you can't live stream your way to the presidency. We've got about 15 seconds left, Peter. What do you think he still needs to do better?

HAMBY: I think he needs to respond better to the quick fire pace of Twitter that shapes elite national opinion. I think he's sort of shunned that and thought he could win the same way he did in Texas and he needs to do a better job of flooding the zone on the national side.

BERMAN: Peter Hamby, thank you very much for being with us. We love your writing in "Vanity Fair."

HAMBY: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Talk to you again soon.


HAMBY: Thank you.

HILL: A quick programming note for you. This week, W. Kamau Bell hits the nation's capital. This is not, though, the D.C. of politicians an monuments. He's talking to the real people who live there, who keep the city running. Be sure to tune in for an all-new "United Shades of America" this Sunday at 10:00 on CNN.

[08:55:08] BERMAN: "The Good Stuff," I'm told, is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HILL: Time now for "The Good Stuff."

A couple of brave boys from New Hampshire. Nine-year-old Braxton and five-year-old Mitchell came home to find their mom, Nicole, in distress. Turns out she was having an asthma attack. And though she'd managed to call 911, Nicole couldn't talk.


BRAXTON PHUNG: She was crying help. We barged in. Then she handed the phone to Mitch.


HILL: Hands the phone to Mitch. Remember, he's the five-year-old. Mitch gives the 911 operator their address. The paramedics were there very quickly and we're told everybody (INAUDIBLE). It's a nice one to end on, isn't it.

[09:00:04] BERMAN: Give the phone to Mitch.

HILL: Give the phone to Mitch.

BERMAN: That's what I'm doing from now on.

All right, thanks so much for being with us this morning.