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Interview with Craig Box; Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker Join Calls for Trump Impeachment; Crowding on Mount Everest Threatens Lives. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 30, 2019 - 10:30   ET



[10:31:46] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: It is day three now of sometimes powerful testimony in the landmark civil trial targeting big pharma in the opioid crisis, this in the state of Oklahoma.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Really emotional testimony yesterday from the father of a football star who died from an opioid overdose. Just take a moment to listen to Craig Box describe how his son Austin, who was just 22 years old, died.


CRAIG BOX, SON DIED OF OPIOID OVERDOSE: We've heard from so many parents across -- that have lost children in similar circumstances, the same story as us. Had no idea. Had no clue about the prevalence of these drugs.


HARLOW: Oh. Craig Box joins us now.

I am so sorry. We are so sorry for your loss. We know that no words can ease your pain. But there is a reason, sir, that you took that stand. And there's a reason you're here with us this morning. Tell us about your son, a young man who your wife calls "a silent sufferer" in this crisis.

BOX: Well, thank you for having me. Yes. Well, first of all, about my son. He was a special young man. Stated (ph) he was a tremendous athlete, but a better person. A very kind person. People gravitated to him. Had a great sense of humor, charisma, and a lot of character.

And so being a University of Oklahoma football player when he died, there was some notoriety and began to shed a light on this problem.

SCIUTTO: We're looking at pictures, there, now, of him. And you could see that energy in his eyes.

As you stood there and testified in a case against the company Johnson & Johnson, I wonder what blame you place on the company -- and companies, frankly -- who manufacture these drugs, and the way that they marketed these drugs. What role do you believe that played in your son's addiction? BOX: Well, first of all, let me state -- I mean, my wife and I and

the family never sought to blame anybody in particular. Our -- as (ph) a lot of people, we've learned a lot over the years. When my son died, this problem was not as well-known or in the forefront as it has become in the last couple years.

And what we've learned is that opioid companies realize the addictive -- the science behind it, realize the addictive qualities of some of these opioids. And -- as well as the science of the human brain. And targeted the public by marketing it to doctors and pushing it as a safe pain management pill without, in our opinion, necessarily disclosing all the potential addictive qualities of these drugs.

They -- the labeling says, "Could be addictive." But it's much more insidious than that. It's -- what we've learned is that a healthy percentage of the population can become addicted by taking these opioids, just by taking maybe five or six pills.

[10:35:07] Now, some of that is due to the strength of the base ingredients of the opioids that are much stronger -- and became stronger over the years with the knowledge of the drug companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, and the others.

HARLOW: I know yesterday during your testimony and the cross- examination by Johnson & Johnson's attorney, they asked you, you know, "Sir, do you know if your son had any opioids from this company in his system?"

And you answered them, "No, I didn't know." But they're -- but you still wanted to be up there. What is the reason for your testimony and what is your hope, at the end of the day, with this trial and so many that are set to come across the country?

BOX: Well, the main reason is, as I've stated, is to put a face on -- that this affects everybody. I mean, for years and even now, there's a stigma associated with drug abuse. And what the opioid crisis has revealed is, it doesn't target just the poor or the uneducated. It reaches across all classes, occupations.

And it's clear, if you look at statistics as well, how the number of deaths and the people who have died over the years, that they didn't -- the pills and the drug companies do not discriminate, who can take these and who they want to take these. And they've just flooded our -- they flooded our nation for years with these pills.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, Craig --


SCIUTTO: -- listen, this is a story we take seriously on this program. I think both Poppy and I have come to know people like you, met some folks who have had losses like you. And our hearts go out to you. But thank you so much for taking the time. We know --


SCIUTTO: -- that's no easy thing.

HARLOW: Craig, thank you very much and I would just like to note that you and your wife have started a foundation in Austin's name. It's called the Austin Box "12" Foundation.

So for anyone who wants to know more -- parents, listen up, this could be your child, no one is immune -- they can go there and take a look.

Craig, we're so sorry. Thanks for being with us.

BOX: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: We'll be right back.


[10:41:52] SCIUTTO: Well, the number of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls calling for impeachment is growing. There are now nine candidates who support beginning the proceedings despite the perceived political risk. Three more are changing their stance after hearing the special counsel's press conference yesterday.

HARLOW: With us now to talk about this, White House correspondent for "The Atlantic, Elaina Plott.

Good morning to you.


HARLOW: Nancy Pelosi directly addressed them yesterday in her statement, basically saying there are a few who want this, including some who are running for president. We saw Booker and Gillibrand get on board yesterday after Mueller, which is significant.

What's the over-under for candidates doing this, in terms of just looking at it politically in a primary field?

PLOTT: I think it wouldn't be surprising at all if you saw more and more candidates come out in the last few days. I think Cory Booker, for me, was a quite interesting test case in understanding how Mueller's statement yesterday really did prompt a lot of these candidates to change their thinking on impeachment.

What was interesting to me, Poppy, is not so much that, you know, what Mueller said. You know, if anything, he was just reading precisely what we saw in the fine print earlier in April, in his report.

TEXT: Where 2020 Candidates Stand on Impeachment; Yes: Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro, Wayne Messam, Seth Moulton, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper. Maybe: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, John Delaney, Jay Inslee, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, Tim Ryan, Eric Swalwell, Steve Bullock, Bill de Blasio. No: Michael Bennet, Tulsi Gabbard.

PLOTT: But I think to have the special counsel lay out quite clearly that he did not in fact intend Attorney General Barr to make the final determination on obstruction, but rather intended his report to be a road map of sorts, for Congress to look into the issue.

I really think that hearing that so starkly from him has caused people like Cory Booker to say, "OK, I don't need to wait for Robert Mueller to testify" --

HARLOW: Right.

PLOTT: -- as he said he would before. But in fact, "I'm ready to go ahead and make this stance."

SCIUTTO: So it's easy for a presidential candidate to come out in favor of impeachment.

PLOTT: Correct.

SCIUTTO: They've got to attract people from the left side of the base. And they don't have to ultimately vote. House members have to vote. And the fact is, the math is -- it's a pretty paltry minority at this point, 39 out of, I believe, 235 Democratic Caucus members.

Does Nancy Pelosi -- beyond making a political judgment here that it's dangerous for the House to do this, at least for now, does she see advantages in kind of dragging this out? You know, waiting, just keeping that idea floating out there while continuing investigations, et cetera?

PLOTT: I think, looking at Joe Biden's statement yesterday can be instructive in answering this question.


PLOTT: So one thing he said was, "I do agree with Pelosi." But he also said, "If the president continues along in the pattern we see him now" -- which is to say, talking about the investigation, as he has. You know, throwing out -- as you guys put on your quite apt chyron -- a flurry of lies about what Mueller intended in his statement yesterday, impeachment does look more attractive.

But, look, as you mentioned, Nancy Pelosi is not someone who just has to worry about attracting higher percentage totals in her voter base ahead of 2020. She's someone who has to look out for candidates who are running again in 2020 in those red areas that they were so successful in in 2018.

So I don't think it's at all surprising that, again, we have to remember, Mueller didn't say anything different yesterday from what was already in the report. So for Nancy Pelosi to come out with a quite consistent statement, should have been expected, in my view, among a lot more Democrats than we saw yesterday.

[10:45:04] HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: No question. Elaina Plott, great to have you on.

HARLOW: Thanks.

PLOTT: Thanks, guys.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's a race to the summit. And now many climbers say the route on the world's tallest mountain is a race for your life on the way back down.


[10:50:13] SCIUTTO: Well, imagine this. Training for several years as you plan to climb the world's tallest mountain. You reach the summit, only to be told that you may not have enough oxygen to get back down safely. That was the reality for an American climber, as he describes his, quote, "race for life," simply to come back down from Mount Everest.

HARLOW: This really shows you what is going on in this literal human traffic jam on Everest. This story, brought to you by our Arwa Damon, is his story of coming down in that traffic, that is partially to blame, they believe, for 11 deaths this season, so far, on Mount Everest. Our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon spoke with the climber.

Arwa, this is remarkable. What did he tell you?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It really is. His story is quite harrowing, and it highlights all of these different issues on Mount Everest: the traffic jam that took place, the inexperienced climbers, the weather that came in. Just take a listen to what he went through.


DAMON (voice-over): Ian Stewart was pushing for the summit on the same day this viral photograph was taken.

DAMON: And at what point were you at when you realized and said to yourself, "I think I'm going to die"?

IAN STEWART, AMERICAN MOUNT EVEREST CLIMBER: So the first point that panic really hit me was at the summit.

DAMON (voice-over): Weeks earlier, he had said goodbye to his wife, Katie (ph), at base camp, the day before their first anniversary. She went back home to the U.S. He was about to tackle Everest, a summit he had been training for for a decade.

DAMON: What was the last thing you said to Katie (ph) before you (ph) said goodbye to her at base camp?

STEWART: That I'll be safe. And that it's just a hill. And that "I won't prioritize the summit over coming home safely to you." I feel like I looked my wife right in the eyes and told her that. And then almost didn't follow through.

DAMON (voice-over): For the next weeks, during the acclimatization period, Ian and other climbers put themselves to the test, moving in between the camps at different altitudes to get their minds and bodies adjusted.

STEWART: Sadly, there were abundant examples of inexperience all across the mountain.

DAMON (voice-over): When the weather window opened on the 23rd, Ian waited a bit, hoping the crowds would clear, and then went for it.

STEWART: It's difficult to move up because there's also people coming down and they're trying to unclip around you.

DAMON (voice-over): He had planned for an eight-hour trek to the summit. It took him 12.

STEWART: So I was up there with our guide. And he looked at me and was like, "Hey, we're both really low on oxygen. We got to go." Immediately got back in the queue to get down. As I mentioned, very quickly got stuck at the -- at the top of the Hillary Step. And from there, it just felt like the next five or six hours was just sort of -- not to be dramatic, but, like, a race for my life, to get back down the mountain safely.

And as I mentioned, I was very lucky that one of our Sherpas in our group decided to make the decision to bring an extra bottle of oxygen up from the balcony.

DAMON: When you have that moment of, "I might die because I just decided to pursue my dream," what's the thought process that keeps you going?

STEWART: Sort of this mantra that I kind of reiterated in my head, over and over again, was, "I promised Katie (ph) I'd come back to her safely."

When I finally got to the very end of kind of the descent, when I was about, I don't know, half an hour away from Camp IV, just started breaking down, crying. Just out of anger at myself for coming that close to not fulfilling that promise to come back.

DAMON (voice-over): Ian later found out that another member of the group he had started out with, didn't make it, Robin Haynes Fisher, who posted this video to Instagram, concerned about the crowds, writing, "I am hopeful my decision to go for the 25th will mean fewer people."

Ian is still processing, coping with the entire experience. Summitting Everest changed him, just not in the way he had always dreamed it would.


DAMON: Get (ph) out of my ear.

And so, Jim and Poppy, so many climbers are really having very difficult experiences for a number of different reasons. But as one expert climber put it, perhaps, best, "You can think you're invincible, but then you get to the mountain and you realize that nature might have other plans." The dangers will always be there. But in some cases, they can be mitigated.

HARLOW: Arwa, hearing from him in that way brings it home for us. Thank you for being there, for all your reporting throughout it, and for that story. And I'm just so glad that he made it down OK --

SCIUTTO: Me, too.

HARLOW: -- for his new wife.

SCIUTTO: Sometimes the danger is other human beings on the mountain, right?

HARLOW: Of course.

SCIUTTO: Not the mountain itself.

HARLOW: Arwa, thanks.

[10:55:01] SCIUTTO: Listen, still ahead, President Trump's seething outburst full of -- we'll say it -- outright -- full of outright lies. CNN fact-checks Trump. That's next.


HARLOW: All right. The severe weather just continues. Now, more than 10 million people are under flood warnings today. This is through the plains in the Midwest. Voluntary evacuations are under way right now in Arkansas, where officials say two levees on the Arkansas River could breach.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It just looks biblical there. Forecasters say the Mississippi River could rise to its highest level since 1993. Waters in both the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers are expected to crest -- that is, reach their highest level -- over the next one to two weeks.

[11:00:05] HARLOW: Wow. Thinking of everyone there. We will stay on that story.

Thank you for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning.