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Ruling Today in Landmark Opioid Trial; Florida Nursing Home Workers Face Charges; Weinstein Faces New Indictment; Trump to Hold Press Conference at G-7; Aerial View of the Scorched Amazon Rainforest. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 26, 2019 - 08:30   ET



[08:31:33] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, happening now, just moments ago, "Good Morning America" anchor Lara Spencer apologized on air for mocking Prince George for taking ballet. During Friday's show, her remarks were widely panned as insensitive and sparked the viral #boysdancetoo. This is what she just said.


LARA SPENCER, ANCHOR, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": I screwed up. I did. The comment I made about dance was insensitive, it was stupid, and I am deeply sorry. I've spoken with several members of the dance community over the past few days. I have listened. I have learned about the bravery it takes for a young boy to pursue a career in dance.


BERMAN: Spencer interviewed three of ballets most celebrated male dancers to learn about their experiences before her remarks to a large group gathered outside of ABC in Times Square there. And you can see them dancing in protest.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That's my kind of protest.

BERMAN: That is a great protest.

CAMEROTA: That's, OK, a teachable moment there.

All right, meanwhile, a verdict is due today in a landmark opioid case. It pits the state of Oklahoma against Johnson & Johnson. And the state accuses the drug maker of fueling the opioid epidemic, arguing they should be forced to pay billions of dollars.

CNN's Alex Field is live in Norman, Oklahoma.

What do we expect, Alex?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. Good morning, Alisyn.

We are just hours away from hearing that verdict, and it will certainly be watched closely in states across the country. Nationwide, the opioid crisis has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives since 2000. Dozens of states are moving to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for the crisis. But Oklahoma is the first state to make it to trial.

This summer they've squared off against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen, alleging that the sales and marketing practices concerning two of its drugs fueled an opioid epidemic that created a public nuisance which cost the state billions of dollars and claimed thousands of lives. Now they're looking for $17.2 billion from Johnson & Johnson, money that would go toward treatment and prevention services over a 30-year period right here in Oklahoma.

If the judge sides with the state and awards that in full, it would be the largest monetary award in a bench trial in the history of this country. But, Johnson & Johnson is full-throatedly defending itself, saying that they are being used as a scapegoat in what is a larger social problem. They say that the state has failed to prove its case, that they've committed no wrongdoing, and that they have closely followed the law here in Oklahoma.

But, again, this is a case that will be watched closely. There's a federal trial set to kick off in the fall with some 2,000 cities, counties, and municipalities all similarly alleging that pharmaceutical companies should be held responsible.

Alisyn. John.

BERMAN: That's why this case has such a huge potential impact nationwide.

Alexandra Field for us in Norman, Oklahoma, thank you so much.

Four nursing home workers in Florida are expected to turn themselves in this morning after the deaths of a dozen patients. The patients died of heat exposure after Hurricane Irma hit in 2017. At least two of the workers may face 12 counts of manslaughter.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Hollywood, Florida, with the latest here.



They were among the most vulnerable. And authorities allege that they were neglected. According to "The New York Times," four nursing home employees are expected to be charged later today with the deaths of 12 elderly residents who died here in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

[08:35:00] We spoke to one of the lawyers for one of those expected to be charged who said that his client was called last week by authorities and told that they had until today to turn themselves in. We expect those charges to include at least 12 counts of manslaughter for two of the employees. Now, it was September of 2017 when a criminal investigation was

launched into this nursing home known as the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. According to this nursing home, a transformer that powered its AC unit was damaged, leaving 141 elderly residents to brave near sweltering conditions. Temperatures hovered around 90 degrees.

Now, at the time, those -- some of those elderly residents were put in front of portable fans to try to keep them cool, but that simply was not enough. I mentioned 12 elderly residents died. They range in age from 71 to 99 years old.

And, Alisyn, this tragedy is further punctuated by the fact that a hospital is less than 100 feet away and a police department less than a miles away.


CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, that's horrible, Nick. Thank you very much for all of that reporting.

VALENCIA: You bet.

CAMEROTA: Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is due back in court in the next hour. He's facing a new indictment returned by a grand jury on something not publicly disclosed.

So CNN's Jean Casarez is live outside of the courthouse in Manhattan.

What do we expect, Jean?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, today is the arraignment on that indictment. It was returned by the grand jury, we believe, last week. and we don't know what it includes because it is sealed. But it could be new charges. We don't know that it is new charges. Or it could be a clarification of existing charges. That does happen.

Now, currently, Harvey Weinstein is charged with two counts of predatory sexual assault, a criminal sexual act in the first degree and two counts of rape, first degree rape and third degree rape.

Here's what we do know. For months prosecutors have wanted an additional witness to testify against Harvey Weinstein in this criminal trial. Her name is actress Annabella Sciorra. She was on "The Sopranos." And they want her to testify, according to a source that tells us this, and the source also has confirmed it is Sciorra, that they want her to testify in regard to predatory sexual assault. To be a predator, you have to have more than one woman that alleges, and the jury believes, that Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted her.

Now, the defense is saying that this is an insurance policy. This is just what the prosecutor is trying to do at the very last minute. This trial is set to begin September 9th. And this is unfair. We will see what the judge says.

But the arraignment begins and the defense is also asking for a change of venue, saying he cannot have a fair trial in New York City. The prosecution is saying the news may come out of New York, but it will go anywhere in the state of New York and that Harvey Weinstein can have a fair trial with a fair jury right here in the city.

Alisyn. John.

CAMEROTA: OK, Jean, thank you very much. Please keep us posted as to what happened inside that courtroom today.

We're also awaiting the press conference from President Trump, now that the G-7 is wrapping up. So we have a live report from France for you, next.


[08:42:02] BERMAN: All right, very shortly we will hear from President Trump. He will hold a joint news conference alongside the French leader, Emmanuel Macron. This comes at the end of a very eventful G-7 Summit.

Let's get "The Bottom Line," CNN's chief White House coordinator Jim Acosta joins us now live from the summit.

Jim, it's been quite a journey. And by that I mean in the president's own head on the issue of China and trade.

Where do we stand this morning? He was accelerating the trade war, decelerating, accelerating, and now this morning decelerating again?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what we're hoping to get some clarity on, John. It has been sort of a summit of confusion here at the G-7 in France. And a lot of that confusion played out this morning. The president saying that there were calls last night with the Chinese on restarting trade talks with Beijing. And then Chinese officials said those calls did not take place. And then the president, when he was pressed on that, said, well, I don't want to talk about calls. And the treasury secretary was chiming in and saying there were discussions. And so there wasn't really any kind of clarity that was offered there. So perhaps we'll get some clarity from the president when he comes out here in a few moments.

But, of course, one of the things that we're all looking for, because of that plunge in the stock market on Friday, is whether or not some of that volatility returns as a result of what the president is saying with respect to this trade situation with China.

Now, in the meantime, we should point out, that is not the only source of confusion at this G-7 Summit. There was what happened 24 hours ago when the president first initially indicated that he was having second thoughts about this trade war with China and then the White House officials came back and said, no, no, no, he's not having second thoughts. If anything he wants to raise tariffs on China even further. Officials were also saying at the same time he didn't hear the question when he made that remark and so they were sort of speaking out of both sides of their mouth and explaining all of this to reporters.

And then there was the surprise visit by the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, which initially was described as coming as a bit of a surprise to U.S. officials. And then they said, no, no, no, we weren't surprised. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, told us about this before all of this transpired. And so when Emmanuel Macron and President Trump come out here, perhaps we'll get some kind of clarification from both of those two leaders as to what happened with all of that.

But the president has been, as we see with many of these summits from time to time, John, is that he creates his own distractions. He creates various news cycles within just a 24-hour period. He was saying earlier this morning that he wants to hold a G-7 summit next year in Miami, perhaps at his Doral golf course, his golf resort, which is right next to the Miami Airport. Of course, that raises all sorts of ethical questions as to whether or not the president is trying to profit off of his own presidency by holding a very big and expensive G-7 Summit at one of his own personal properties.

So no shortage of questions. Perhaps there will be a question about dropping bombs on hurricanes, perhaps. No shortage of questions here at this G-7 Summit in France.


[08:45:03] CAMEROTA: There was another question, at least one other, about the climate sessions. So all the world leaders were getting together to address all of the climate crisis --

ACOSTA: Right.

CAMEROTA: That's happening around the world.

BERMAN: While the Amazon is burning.

CAMEROTA: The Amazon is burning.

ACOSTA: Right.

CAMEROTA: And then we just had this picture, Jim, of an empty seat. And that's where President Trump was supposed to be seated. So do you have some reporting on what happened here?

ACOSTA: Yes. I mean, honestly, that empty seat I think symbolizes where the United States has been on the issue of climate change for the last few years. It has been an empty seat when it comes to confronting the issue of climate change. The president has said in the past that he believes climate change is a host.

But in terms of what happened here at the G-7 Summit, I'm told by a White House official that it was a national security staffer who sat in the president's place during that meeting that was attended by other world leaders, other heads of state from other foreign governments here at this G-7 Summit. One thing that we should point out, the White House press secretary,

Stephanie Grisham, put out a statement saying, well, the president couldn't make it to the climate session here at the G-7 because he was having these bilateral meetings with Chancellor Merkel of German, Prime Minister Modi of India. And we should note to our viewers that Prime Minister Modi of India and Chancellor Merkel were at that climate session here at the G-7 Summit.

And so we're not getting a lot of straight answers. Perhaps we'll get some. Perhaps we won't get some at this joint press conference when the president and Emmanuel Macron come out here in just a short while. But it's just sort of been this typical one confusing episode after another that we're seeing at this summit.

And we've seen this play out at other summits in the past. The president will come out and declare all of this a big success. He'll talk about this trade agreement that has been reached on principle with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But it's just been one confusing episode after another, distraction, throughout this G-7 Summit over a fairly short period of time, we should point out, in a very beautiful part of France, we should also note.

Back to you guys.

BERMAN: And whatever he said at the news conference, we should also note, it's a long ride home with wi-fi in that airline. So a lot more could be said on Twitter.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BERMAN: Jim Acosta in France, thank you very much.

ACOSTA: Itchy Twitter fingers, exactly.

BERMAN: CNN on the front lines of the battle to save the Amazon. Thousands of wildfires -- look at these pictures -- threatening this critical region. We have a firsthand look from the sky at all of this devastation. That's next.


[08:51:27] CAMEROTA: Emergency crews are responding to a C-130 aircraft which crashed then caught fire at an airport in Santa Barbara, California, overnight. You can see the aftermath on your screen. All seven people walked off the private four engine plane unhurt we're happy to report. It's not known at the moment what led to this crash, but an inbound United Airlines plane had to be diverted to another airport as a result of what you see there.

BERMAN: All right, this morning, CNN is getting an aerial view of the Amazon's scorched rainforest as fires are burning out of control. Scientists say more than 80,000 fires have destroyed a huge part of the forest, an 85 percent spike over last year.

CNN Nick Paton Walsh, he was up in a helicopter. He filed this report from Brazil. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): There's little below but ghosts, and even they seem to be given up on. These are the newest fires in the worst hit state in the Amazon. We didn't see below us any of the 43,000 troops Brazil's president has pledged to the fight. In fact, in some places, it's so bad, you can't even see how bad it is. That will suit just fine those who'd rather ignore the world's most urgent environmental crisis.

No matter how high you are, you can't escape the smoke. We even closed our air vents inside the plane to stop it. The sun made this green paradise over millennia, but now barely peeks through the smoke of its destruction.

WALSH (on camera): Well, these apocalyptic sights are kind of like the warnings about what might happen if the world doesn't do something about the climate crisis that you keep hearing, But, instead, it's right below us, right here and right now.


WALSH (on camera): Understand.

WALSH (voice over): What's startling is how much of this immense jungle people have managed to destroy in so short a time.

WALSH (on camera): Unbelievable.

WALSH (voice over): They had help. Fires they lit and that happened naturally in the dry heat but usually peak later in the year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not just a forest burning. This is almost a cemetery, because all you can see is dead Amazon. It's extremely fundamental for the water system, for all over the continent. So if we cut off the forest, in some years we're not going to have rain on the south of the country.

WALSH: We find another area where the damage is fresher and easier to see. Raging in straight lines, swallowing everything left on the plane. And when you look at this, you learn something about yourself. Do you see a crisis impacting every fifth breath you take and killing the future, or do you see what man must do to nature to enrich himself and live better. The answer means little below where the fire burns our heritage and suffocates our future regardless of how we feel about it.


WALSH: Now, John, Alisyn, that G-7 meeting has pledged $20 million through French President Emmanuel Macron to the emergency operation to end the fires here. More money being pledged by other nations, too. But that occurred at a meeting which President Donald Trump did not attend. He said to have had other meetings he needed to go to instead.

So it's a sort of political spat about the urgency here added to by some pretty disrespectful comments that seemed to appear in relation to Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, in relation to Emmanuel Macron's wife. Emmanuel Macron has then responded saying they're extremely disrespectful and sad for Brazil and for Brazilian women. No doubt about that if you see that. All of it (INAUDIBLE) the emergency here is real. The smoke is enveloping where I stand here and it impacts right you -- where you and, John and Alisyn, sit, in fact. These are the lungs of the earth.

[08:55:26] CAMEROTA: Absolutely. And, Nick, thank you for being the eyes and ears of this story for the rest of us.

All right, after that, we need some "Good Stuff," and that's next.


BERMAN: All right, time for "The Good Stuff."

[08:59:57] After waiting nearly a century, 99-year-old Pittsburgh Pirates super fan Catherine Kyle finally got to watch her team play in person. Her family surprised her with a trip to PNC Park on Saturday night. They wore matching.