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Latest 2020 Election Predictions as Third Democratic Debate Approaches; Orphanage Opens for Infants with Prenatal Drug Exposure; Changes to the Environmental Protection Agency Under President Trump. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 23, 2019 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[10:30:35] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: This afternoon, more than a dozen 2020 Democrats will be in San Francisco for the Democratic National Committee's summer meeting. That includes Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris. Noticeably absent? The frontrunner, Joe Biden, as well as Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who are both In New Hampshire.

Congressman Seth Moulton will also speak at that event, not to sway voters, though, but to drop out of the race. He will announce he will run again for his Massachusetts congressional seat.

I'm joined now by CNN politics reporter Chris Cillizza.

So you and Harry Enten, you know a lot about politics --

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN EDITOR AT LARGE: Right, hopefully.

SCIUTTO: -- and you've looked at the numbers. You just released your latest power ratings --

CILLIZZA: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- so where do the candidates stand?

CILLIZZA: Well, we haven't seen that much change. I think the truth of the matter is, you have a top tier. That is Biden, Warren, Harris, Sanders. You could rank, order them in all different ways. I think Biden almost certainly should be number one, but I think that's your top tier.

I think your second tier -- and Pete Buttigieg is on the verge of -- he's at the top of the second tier, on the verge of the first tier. But polling and everything else we see suggests, broadly speaking, those four are the ones with the most money, the most organization.

Now, Buttigieg raised the most money in the second quarter, and is going to have either the second- or first-largest Iowa staff, pretty shortly here, which is remarkable, because Warren has a huge staff in Iowa, so --

SCIUTTO: But he's got that money and that stuff, but his numbers remain --

CILLIZZA: That's right.

SCIUTTO: -- in the low single digits.

CILLIZZA: Now, what they will tell you -- and there's some truth to this -- what they will tell you is, look, it's, you know, August 23rd, 2019. "Our numbers don't need to be at 30 right now, they need to be at 30 when we're, you know, February of 2020."

SCIUTTO: Right.

CILLIZZA: That's right. But I will say, you do need to show momentum in the right direction. I mean, that's one of the problems -- for example, a guy who would have been in our first tier six months ago, Beto O'Rourke --

SCIUTTO: Right.

CILLIZZA: -- he just isn't showing any momentum, right? And so you have to --

SCIUTTO: But neither is Bernie Sanders, even though he's in the first tier --

CILLIZZA: No --

SCIUTTO: -- the numbers.

CILLIZZA: -- and he's in the -- he's in the first tier, I think, largely because he's always going to have -- he has maybe the lowest ceiling and the highest floor in terms of poll support.

SCIUTTO: Right.

CILLIZZA: Bernie Sanders is never going to have three percent poll support. There are going to be people who are for him no matter what --

SCIUTTO: OK.

CILLIZZA: -- the issue for him is growing it. And he hasn't -- to your point, he hasn't grown his support beyond that hard core just yet.

SCIUTTO: OK. So right now, 10 candidates, they qualify for the coming debate, but there are still a handful more in the -- I mean, do you have to make that debate to stay in the race?

CILLIZZA: Yes, well, you don't have to make it to stay in the race, but I think you have to make it -- to be able to go to your donors and make a credible case, right?

SCIUTTO: Right, that's right. "Give me more money and" --

(CROSSTALK) CILLIZZA: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- yes.

CILLIZZA: I mean, it's just hard to say that, "Well, look, I didn't make this this debate, I'm not going to be on the stage. But I still have a really good chance.

TEXT: Democratic Candidates Qualified for September Debate: Former V.P. Joe Biden; Sen. Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro; Sen. Kamala Harris; Sen. Amy Klobuchar; Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke; Sen. Bernie Sanders; Sen. Elizabeth Warren; Andrew Yang

CILLIZZA: Now, those are the 10 who have qualified. I would say there's a few others who might. Tom Steyer, I think, is the most likely of those not on the list, to qualify. He's crossed the fundraising threshold. He needs one more poll nationally, where he's at two percent or higher.

Now, he's got until August 28th, so he's got until mid-next week. People like Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet, these are senators, right? I don't --

SCIUTTO: Steve Bullock, right? I mean, yes.

CILLIZZA: Steve Bullock. Right. I don't know that they make it. Gillibrand has an outside chance; I don't think Bennet has a chance, I don't think Bullock has a chance.

And I think the result of all that, Jim, what you will see -- you can keep running, to your point. But it's hard.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

CILLIZZA: And I think we've already seen, this week, Jay Inslee, Seth Moulton drop out. My guess is after that August 28th deadline to qualify for the next debate, if you don't make it --

SCIUTTO: Right.

CILLIZZA: -- you'll see a few more. You won't see everyone who didn't make it, drop out. Because there's still 11 candidates who haven't -- aren't in it. But you'll see more.

SCIUTTO: You know, a test will be where their support goes when they drop out --

CILLIZZA: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- does it boost a particular candidate --

CILLIZZA: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- I mean, we're not talking about big numbers here --

CILLIZZA: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- but it's enough that could --

CILLIZZA: Yes. And I think who they endorse, too, and do they work for someone. To your point, I mean, a lot of these people, the reason they're not going to make these debates is because they're at one percent or lower --

SCIUTTO: Right.

CILLIZZA: -- so it's like, "Well, how do we -- how do we divide up this 0.07 percent of the vote?"

But if they do advocate for someone, become a surrogate for someone, that's what we usually see in these circumstances. They throw their weight behind someone, they go out on the campaign trail, maybe they're good in a certain state.

Steve Bullock, for example. If Steve Bullock endorsed Joe Biden, Steve Bullock would be a good surrogate in Iowa for Joe Biden --

SCIUTTO: Sure, sure.

CILLIZZA: -- and a good surrogate in other places for Joe Biden --

SCIUTTO: Red state Democrat.

CILLIZZA: -- because he's -- right, exactly. So there's a case -- they have a role to play in these races. It's just probably not going to be as either the president or the vice presidential nominee.

SCIUTTO: Right. Well, a lot of folks, trying to encourage them to run for Senate, which we saw Hickenlooper do.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Final question. The president -- the trend line on the president's approval rating --

CILLIZZA: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- is down. CNN poll had him at 40 percent. This A.P. poll, 36 percent. Is that -- are these data points enough to show you a trend?

TEXT: Trump's August Approval Ratings: AP/NORC, August 15-18, margin of error +/- 4.2 percent PTS. Overall: approve, 36 percent; disapprove, 62 percent. On the economy: approve, 46 percent; disapprove, 51 percent. CNN/SSRS, August 15-18, margin of error +/- 3.7 percent PTS. Overall: approve, 40 percent; disapprove, 54 percent. On the economy: approve, 50 percent; disapprove, 46 percent.

[10:35:00] CILLIZZA: So here's what I would focus on. I'm glad we have this in there. So look at the overall -- OK, the overall, that A.P. number is really bad for him. He's usually in the low 40s, in the high 30s.

The thing I want you to pay attention to is, look at the -- on the economy number. That is, if you're Donald Trump, that's what has to worry you. Both our poll, 50-46 approve. And then A.P. has it 46-51.

Despite all of the things he's said and done as president, that number has been a majority of people approving of how he's handling the economy --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

CILLIZZA: -- throughout. If that number -- if the A.P. is a leading indicator, right? If you start seeing that more people disapproving than approving of how he's handling the economy --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

CILLIZZA: -- now what is a hard re-election race becomes a very, very --

SCIUTTO: Right.

CILLIZZA: -- very uphill climb.

SCIUTTO: And that probably speaks to the White House response to these economic indicators.

CILLIZZA: And that's why (ph) we're seeing (ph) it, yes.

SCIUTTO: Chris Cillizza, thanks very much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you, sir.

SCIUTTO: It is believed to be the first of its kind in the country, a daycare created specifically for babies and toddlers who are exposed to drugs. It's how one state is trying to fight the opioid crisis for some of its youngest victims. It's a powerful story. We'll have that coming up.

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[10:40:38] SCIUTTO: The state of West Virginia has one of the highest drug overdose death rates in the whole nation. And while so many in the state, desperately trying to recover from the ongoing opioid crisis, its youngest population is finding solace in a new daycare, created specifically for babies and toddlers who were exposed to drugs while they were still in the womb.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, she visited that daycare camp.

Elizabeth, tell us what you found there.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Jim, it really is a very sad situation. This state has been hit so hard by the opioid epidemic, and they are desperately trying to recover. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COHEN (voice-over): Jamie Fuller-Phelps is running a new kind of daycare, here in Huntington, West Virginia.

JAMIE FULLER-PHELPS, DIRECTOR, RV CARES: This is the first program of its kind anywhere in the United States.

COHEN (voice-over): It's just for babies like Huck (ph), who were born exposed to drugs.

FULLER-PHELPS: They experience twitching, some experience tremors.

COHEN (voice-over): It's 7-week-old Olivia's (ph) first day. Her teacher, Katherine (ph) Jones (ph), tries to soothe her.

KATHERINE (PH) JONES (PH): It's exceptionally difficult to hear them cry sometimes. And there are times you just feel helpless, hopeless.

FULLER-PHELPS: It is disheartening, that it has come to this. It has become a crisis.

COHEN (voice-over): West Virginia has the highest drug overdose deal rate in the nation. In the past 10 years, the number of people in this state who fatally overdosed on drugs more than doubled.

TEXT: West Virginia Drug Overdose Deaths: 2008, 459; 2018, 958.

COHEN (voice-over): In recent years, at this hospital in Huntington, one out of five babies was born exposed to opioids in the womb. It started because the cities and towns in this Appalachian mountain state were flooded with prescription opioids, enough to give 66 pills a year to every man, woman and child in West Virginia from 2006 to 2012, according to a recent investigation by "The Washington Post."

The state cracked down on the pills, so now heroin has flourished and so has fentanyl. And that leaves Beverly and Andrew (ph) Riling raising their grandchildren, Andreana (ph), Jacob (ph) and Gabriel (ph). The children's mother, addicted; their father, dead because of opioids.

BEVERLY RILING, GRANDMOTHER RAISING THREE: My oldest son, the father of these three children, died in an automobile accident with another young man who was also involved in drugs. Their birth mom had been involved in drugs --

COHEN: So you and your husband are 70 years old --

RILING: Yes.

COHEN: -- and you're raising three children?

RILING: Yes.

COHEN: Are you the only grandparents raising their grandchildren?

RILING: Oh, no. Hundreds, thousands.

COHEN: Because of drugs?

RILING: Because of drugs. Absolutely, absolutely.

COHEN (voice-over): The first months of Andreana's (ph) life were spent in excruciating pain as doctors weaned her off oxycodone. In October, her grandparents filed a lawsuit on her behalf against several opioid manufacturers.

Her lawyer, Booth Goodwin, is screening about 200 more children for similar lawsuits. As a U.S. attorney under President Obama, Goodwin (ph) helped lead a fight to shut down pill mills in West Virginia.

COHEN: Why has the drug problem hit so badly here?

BOOTH GOODWIN, ATTORNEY: It's not just one thing that's led to this crisis. We're a region with back-breaking industry that leads to injury, that leads to drugs being prescribed.

COHEN: There's a relatively high joblessness rate here.

GOODWIN: The economic issues that we face, here in Appalachia, that's left a lot of people out of work. That leads to frustration.

COHEN: This state has seen challenges with rural health care.

GOODWIN: It's difficult to get good-quality health care to all the nooks and crannies of our rural state.

COHEN (voice-over): There are some signs that the situation in West Virginia is improving, if even slightly. In Cabell County, where Huntington is located, the number of calls to 911 for suspected overdoses, so far in 2019, it's less than half what it was for the same time period two years ago.

And more people who've overdosed are getting treatment, thanks to the work of this new intervention team: a paramedic, a police officer an addiction counselor and a pastor. In June, the National Institutes of Health announced a $5.8 million grant to expand research into opioid addiction in Appalachia.

[10:45:00] Back at the child care center, Olivia (ph) is feeling better, thanks to the teachers' tender loving care. But despite the progress against drug addiction --

COHEN: The demand continues?

FULLER-PHELPS: Yes. I have active referrals sitting on my desk right now, and a waiting list.

COHEN (voice-over): A waiting list for care for the tiniest victims of opioids in West Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COHEN: We talked in our story about how drug overdose deaths have gone down in West Virginia. That's actually true across the country. Early data shows about a three percent decline. But still, even with that decline, that means that 67,000 people died last year in this country from drug overdoses -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: It's a national epidemic. Only way you can --

COHEN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- describe it. It's a story we're committed to on this broadcast. Thank you, Elizabeth Cohen --

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: -- very important story.

The EPA was created to protect you and the environment by a Republican president, no less. But is it fulfilling its mission today? Our doctor Sanjay Gupta takes a look at the agency under President Trump, who's made an effort to curtail it.

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[10:50:57] SCIUTTO: The conservative billionaire and influential donor to the GOP, David Koch, has died. He was 79 years old. Koch retired as executive vice president of Koch Industries in 2018, citing ill health.

He and his older brother, Charles, were two of the most powerful men in American politics. For decades, the Koch brothers have funded think tanks, foundations, political groups to spread their small- government free-market message.

Passengers on a Hawaiian Airlines flight had to breathe through wet paper towels as smoke filled the cabin during a flight -- you can see a picture there, taken by a passenger -- this happened just 20 minutes before the plane was scheduled to land in Honolulu yesterday. Nearly 200 people were on board.

Officials say the smoke came from oil leaking onto hot parts of the engine and the airplane's A.C. system. The crew deployed the plane's emergency slides for evacuation on landing. Seven people were taken to the hospital for minor breathing issues. Everyone will also be comped their flight because (ph) imagine their fear on board as that was happening.

Well, the main goal of the Environmental Protection Agency is, quote, "to protect human health and the environment." But the EPA has gotten rid of an unprecedented number of regulations since President Trump took office. So what is the long-term impact of those cutbacks? Here is our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, as we investigated this, we realized that when you're talking about the EPA, this story goes far beyond just slashed budgets. We're talking about weaker rules on things like air and water quality standards and pesticides, climate change, all these things that are being impacted now by these deregulations.

And also this concern that we've talked about before: the suppression of science. If you don't like the message, sometimes you sort of suppress the messengers themselves.

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GUPTA (voice-over): This is Dr. Ruth Etzel. She wrote the book on pediatric environmental health. Until recently, she was the director of EPA's Office of Children's Health Protection.

GUPTA: How would you describe your role at the EPA?

RUTH ETZEL, FORMER DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY OFFICE OF CHILDREN'S HEALTH PROTECTION: We considered ourselves to be the conscience of EPA because we would whisper in the ear of those who were trying to push regulations, "Take a look and make sure that this regulation adequately protects the health of children."

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- so help me God.

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: Congratulations, Mr. President.

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ETZEL: There was a dramatic difference that occurred in January of 2017. For example, my job is to brief the administrator directly. And under the Obama administration, I would do that about once a month. During the two years of the current administration, I was not allowed any opportunity to brief either of the EPA administrators.

GUPTA: Who were you talking to, then? Who was listening to you, the conscience of the EPA?

ETZEL: I would say nobody was really listening to the Office of Children's Health Protection.

GUPTA (voice-over): EPA's current administrator maintains the agency's commitment to protecting children's health.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: We know for sure, Jim, that children continue to suffer as a result of water pollution, of air pollution. And that children are not just small adults. They -- pound for pound, they take in more air, more water, more toxins than adults do.

And oftentimes, this isn't even studied. In fact, research funding at 13 children's research centers has been cut under this administration. So, again, we don't know the answers and there's increasing evidence that we don't always want to know the answers and we're not trying to find those answers. And obviously, Jim, that's of concern as well.

SCIUTTO: No question, Sanjay. And clearly an issue because you're not even doing the research to see how much it affects health.

Well, the CNN special report, "AT TOXIC TALE: TRUMP'S ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT" airs tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern time, only on CNN.

[10:55:00] Thanks so much to you for joining us today. Have a great weekend. I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right after this break.

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