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Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic Now Under Hurricane Watch; Biden Gets Personal in New TV Ad on Health Care; Poll: Biden, Warren & Sanders in 3-Way Race for Democratic Nomination; Johnson & Johnson Loses Historic Oklahoma Opioid Case; Iran's President Says No Talks Until U.S. Lifts Sanctions; Trump Defends Confusing Remarks on Trade War with China. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 27, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:16] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Victor Blackwell, in for Kate Bolduan. It's good to be with you.

Right now, we are keeping a close eye on a dangerous storm that could hit Puerto Rico and southern Florida. The National Hurricane Center has just issued a brand-new update on the path of Tropical Storm Dorian. We have that for you in just 10 seconds.

But Puerto Rico's governor declaring a state of emergency. People are stocking up on food and water. You'll remember the island is on edge, still struggling to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria less than two years ago.

Let get to the new forecast. CNN's Chad Myers is live in the Weather Center.

Chad, what is the latest information?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The latest information is that the hurricane hunter aircraft is in it right now, looking for the center. And they can't find the center, because it has moved away from where it was, because the islands tore up that center in the past two or three hours.

I'm going to show you the radar in a second because it's going to get interesting. It's going to get interesting to the fact that this storm is going to make a run at Puerto Rico at 70 miles an hour, not quite a hurricane.

But the hurricane hunters and the hurricane staff at the Hurricane Center saying can't figure out why the models aren't doing any type of intensification because it should be intensifying.

Yes, there's dry air. There's not much here. But 60, 65, 70, and it could be right over the Ponce area or somewhere in the ballpark of Punta Cana over the next 36 hours.

The storm is getting more colorful on the satellite, which means it's getting larger, which likely means that overnight or sometime, it will get stronger.

But where does it go after this? This is Wednesday. That's tomorrow night. Where does it go after that, is the real question. Is the true big story, is the true concern that when we get this storm into 90-degree water in the Bahamas, will it rapidly intensify? We saw that, Victor, so often last year with those storms rapidly intensifying.

You go 25 miles per hour difference in 24 hours. If we see this at 70, and if that rapidly intensifies on the way to Florida, we have a real problem on the east coast.

We'll start with Puerto Rico. We'll start with Dominican Republic. That's where we know it's going. But when it goes over the D.R. and into Turks and Caicos and into the Bahamas, that's when this storm has a real potential for U.S. landfall. All the models are taking it there. All the models will intensify it eventually.

We will keep an eye on it here. We're watching the storm. It's going to change day by day, hour by hour. These models may change as well. We'll have new runs coming up in just a few hours.

BLACKWELL: We know you're watching for us, Chad. Thank you so much.

MYERS: You bet.

BLACKWELL: Turning now to the 2020 race, former Vice President Joe Biden is rolling out a new ad this morning in the all-important state of Iowa.

This time he's getting personal. Biden recounts his family history, including his late son Beau's battle with brain cancer. And he defends Obamacare from his political rivals who want to get rid of the current health care system.



JOE BIDEN, (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (voice-over): My son, Beau, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only months to live. I can't fathom what would have happened if the insurance companies had said for the last six months of his life, you're on your own. The fact of the matter is, health care is personal to me.


BLACKWELL: Joining me now, CNN political reporter, Arlette Saenz.

So, Arlette, what is the campaign saying about this new ad and anything about why they're releasing it now?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Victor, this new ad from Joe Biden shows that they're trying to lay out the stakes on health care in very personal terms. You hear the former vice president talk about the loss of his wife and

young daughter in the car accident that injured his two young sons, as well as Beau's battle with brain cancer.

Biden even tweeting a short while ago that this ad was difficult for him, not easy to record.

So here Biden is really trying to stress the importance of health care. The Biden campaign placing a lot of emphasis on health care in recent months.

You hear the former vice president in this ad talk about how he wants to continue to bolster up Obamacare, which he worked on, the Affordable Care Act, in the administration. And also try to contrast against those in the Democratic field, as well as President Trump, when it comes to the issue of health care.

Now, this is Biden's second TV ad that's running in Iowa, focusing, homing in there on health care. His first TV ad really focused on the issue of electability. And it also highlighted some polls where Biden was leading President Trump in head-to-head matchups.

[11:05:01] But we're now seeing this new poll released yesterday from Monmouth University that showed that there's no clear leader right now in the Democratic 2020 race. You had Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both at 20 percent and then Joe Biden at 19 percent.

But this poll could be an outlier. If you take a look at the polling that was released last week by CNN, Biden was maintaining the lead there, 29 percent, followed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren at 15 and 14 percent.

So the Monmouth poll is just one poll. We're going to have to watch going forward if there's a trend. But the Biden campaign does point to polls like the CNN poll showing, that is what they believe the current state of the race to be -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Arlette Saenz, for us in Washington, thank you.

Joining me now, Molly Ball, national political correspondent for "Time," and Julie Pace, Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press, both CNN political analysts.

Welcome to both of you.

Molly, I'm going to start with you.

This one-minute ad, partly biographical, but also going to a message on health care. While there was, in 2018, that furor among the base against President Trump, it looks like the Biden campaign is going for what worked for Democrats in Congress, health care as the first issue ad in Iowa.

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's a health care ad but it's a deeply personal ad and I you think you do see Joe Biden really leaning into his biography and the sense that voters know him and like him. He's a known quantity and he's someone who wears his heart on his sleeve. That's something that people like about him.

So while it is about health care, this isn't just sort of wonky policy-driven pitch. That's not fundamentally what Joe Biden is selling. Joe Biden is selling Joe Biden the human being, someone you know, someone you like, someone who is compassionate, someone who in his heart, as he said in his video announcement of his campaign, is offended by Trump and by what happened in Charlottesville. I think this is really about a personal appeal.

And it is also about the electability, about positioning him as a moderate, about signaling to voters that he's the candidate who is not looking for a political revolution, who is not looking to disrupt the whole system, but who wants to take the successes of the Obama administration, as Democratic voters see them, and protect them.

BLACKWELL: Julie, that was one of the things after watching it -- I admit I watched it two or three times to kind of get the texture of it. If Democrats are prioritizing beating President Trump in 2020 and electability is the top issue, and former Vice President Biden is doing so well there, why not push in that direction primarily instead of pairing, with the biography, health care?

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that the Biden campaign thinks that they have to do more than just say, hey, look at these polls that show that I'm best positioned to beat Donald Trump. That was a major part of the first ad that Arlette mentioned that the Biden campaign put out.

I think that they are feeling some pressure to go beyond that, to say, what would you do, what is your forward-looking vision for the country. Not just, I want to defeat Donald Trump next November and that's the end of it. What would you do if you won, what would you do in office?

And part of Biden's challenge is to both continue to hammer this electability argument, but also give people something that is aspirational, that gives them a real sense that they would be voting for something, not just against Donald Trump.

BLACKWELL: Well, speaking against Donald Trump, there's one line that stood out to me here. He says, "When I see the president try to tear it down" -- speaking of Obamacare -- "and others propose to replace it and start over, that is personal to me."

Now, there's this new Monmouth poll, Molly, that found that 58 percent of Democrats want the party to nominate someone who is in favor of Medicare-for-All. He's highlighting, of course, what comes after that, the specifics that, if it comes at the expense of popular health care, it's far less popular, just comes in at 22 percent. Is he making that case effectively out on the trail?

BALL: I think that remains to be seen. I think among insiders in the Democratic establishment, including among a lot of supporters of Biden's campaign, there's a nervousness. There's a sense, as Julie mentioned, that he's under pressure to expand his support. And I think this is also really about Elizabeth Warren and her

trajectory upwards. Even though that Monmouth poll does look like an outlier and most polling does show Biden pretty far out ahead, he's been pretty steady in his support. So has Bernie Sanders, or potentially even declining since the beginning of the campaign.

And you see Elizabeth Warren slowly and steadily building upwards. And her campaign has been all about policy, all about plans, all about her specific vision for the country.

And so you see the other candidates under pressure to sort of match that, defend their plans, as Julie was saying, have a vision that is more specific than just supposedly being able to win or opposing the president.

[11:10:01] So I think you're seeing all the candidates respond to that. And I think that's a strength that Warren has, as she has sort of set the terms of this race going into this period.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk more about the Monmouth poll, because we'll have to see potentially another two subsequent polls to know if this is an indicator of an early trend or if it is, indeed, an outlier, Julie.

But it is consistent on some levels with other polls we've seen that, as Molly mentioned, that climb of Elizabeth Warren. But also, Senator Harris staying in the single digits. Pete Buttigieg, his polling is not matching his fundraising. So we're seeing some consistency here.

PACE: Yes, I wouldn't make too much out of one poll at this stage of the race. We will likely see a lot of volatility in the next couple of months as most voters, who probably haven't been paying to this as closely as we have, start tuning in, and we start getting perhaps down to one night of debates as opposed to two nights.

I do think one thing that is clear is that there are probably five candidates who form a top tier, but that's some of the people in that top tier, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, are lagging. They do seem like they are fairly significantly behind people like Joe Biden and Warren and Sanders.

They have time to make that up, for sure, but that time will start to go away. They need to have some stand-out debate moments.


PACE: They need to find ways to keep up enthusiasm --

BLACKWELL: Which is --

PACE: -- between those debates --


PACE: -- and maintain some of that energy. BLACKWELL: Which is really why we want to see all the candidates on

one debate stage together. Right? We want to see everyone mix it up all at once.

Molly Ball, Julie Pace, thank you both.

BALL: Thank you.

PACE: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: A judge in Oklahoma orders Johnson & Johnson to pay for its role in the deadly opioid crisis. What does this mean for other states trying to hold drug makers accountable?

Plus, Iran's president says he's willing to meet with President Trump, but there's one very important condition. We have that.

Stay with us.


[11:16:55] BLACKWELL: For the first time, a pharmaceutical company is being held accountable for its role in the opioid crisis. Now, in this landmark ruling, an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for fueling the state's opioid epidemic. The company plans to appeal the ruling.

This morning, Johnson & Johnson's attorney still defending their case, pushing blame on the doctors and away from the drug makers.


SABRINA STRONG, ATTORNEY FOR JOHNSON & JOHNSON: We have sympathy for those who suffer from substance abuse, but Johnson & Johnson did not cause the opioid abuse crisis.

The way in which the company manufactured these medications and market them to doctors was extremely responsible. There are warnings on these medications, FDA-approved warnings, and it is up to the doctor, with their patients, to make decisions about who is appropriate for these medications.


BLACKWELL: Now, the Oklahoma trial sets the stage for dozens of other opioid cases. And this fall, there will be a federal trial in Ohio, bringing nearly 2000 lawsuits into one and going after the opioid makers.

Here with me is one of the lawyers working on the lawsuit, Paul Hanly.

Paul, thanks for coming in.


BLACKWELL: So you just heard that defense from one of the attorneys for Johnson & Johnson. What is your reaction to that?

HANLY: Well, we hear that defense quite a lot, Victor. And as the court yesterday in Oklahoma found, the defense does not stand up in the face of evidence concerning false marketing of these materials.

The fact that the drug is approved by the FDA does not give the manufacturers or distributors a license to make false statements concerning the characteristics of the drug. And that's precisely what the judge in Oklahoma found.

BLACKWELL: So what does this ruling mean for you as you prepare for this trial in October?

HANLY: Well, this is a very positive ruling for all of the communities that we represent. More than 2,000 are in litigation, as you know.

And this was important because, for the first time, a court with a full body of evidence before it, looked at both sides of the argument and concluded, A, that there's an opioid epidemic, B, that it's a public nuisance and, C, that, in this case, Johnson & Johnson was the cause of the nuisance.


HANLY: So we're very pleased with the ruling.

BLACKWELL: The public nuisance element of this, some have called it novel, because when you think of public nuisance, you think of a run- down house or loud neighbors. There was a similar case that was thrown out in North Dakota. But these are state cases. Right? You're in federal court.

Is this a fair precedent? You don't have a precedent on the federal level, do you?

HANLY: There are some cases from different federal courts around the nation that have applied the public nuisance doctrine outside of the context which you described, which is the land-owner context.


HANLY: But certainly, this is a landmark case and an extremely important case. And the law adapts to changes in society.

[11:20:08] And so whereas, 100 years ago, perhaps public nuisance was limited to the land-owner cases, we believe the court, as the court did yesterday, will adapt and apply this appropriately to this circumstance of opioid abuse.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about the award, $572 million. The state asked for $17.5 billion. And we were talking during the break that you said that the state did not make the case for or to support the 30 years of abatement, and that's what the judge found here, but also that the state can come back year after year and ask for more. HANLY: Well, that certainly is the implication of the very end of the

judge's opinion, because he finds, as you know, $572 million as temporary abatement number.

But then he further holds that he's retaining power, retaining jurisdiction over the case, which implies, strongly implies, that the state of Oklahoma could come back next year and the year after and the year after that with appropriate admissible evidence concerning what the costs are and Johnson & Johnson, in principle, would be on the hook for those costs.

BLACKWELL: So $572 million, just 1/30th of that number for 30 years. That's how they got to that specific number.

Let me ask you, you've been working in this arena for a very long time, specifically opioids and the epidemic.


BLACKWELL: This is not going to end the opioid epidemic. Do you expect that this ruling, this award will change drug companies' behavior, their marketing?

HANLY: Yes. Absolutely. Because the judge here sent a very strong message that the wrongdoing was principally the marketing, the false marketing, the creation of false science around these drugs. And there's no company in America that wants to take a $572 million hit.

BLACKWELL: We saw the stock price close up yesterday. The investors thought that it would be worse.

HANLY: Well, that happened, we believe, because there was a delay between when the judge announced the award and the release of the opinion. The market reacted to the judge. But when one looks at the opinion, as we were discussing earlier, it's $572 million just for year one.

BLACKWELL: Year one, all right.

Paul Hanly, good to have you.

HANLY: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right.

Coming up, the president of Iran says he is open to meeting with President Trump, but there's one precondition and it's a big one. We'll talk about that after the break.


[11:27:22] BLACKWELL: Will they or won't they? That's the question that world leaders want answered as President Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tease a potential meeting. Iran's president told his country today that there will be no talks between Iran and the U.S. until economic sanctions are lifted. Just yesterday, President Rouhani said, if meeting with someone will solve his country's problems, he will not hesitate to do it.

Joining me now White House reporter, Sarah Westwood.

Sarah, so this whiplash continues, who will and won't meet over Iran's nuclear program. What are you hearing now?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, the White House has not yet responded to these latest comments from Rouhani. We have asked. But this is just a starkly different tone from what we heard at the G-7 summit over the weekend where we seem to be seeing some kind of thawing of the ice between Tehran and Washington.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been pushing to broker talks between the U.S. and Iran on some kind of new nuclear agreement. Macron even invited Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif to a sideline meeting at the G-7 in pursuit of those talks, something that raised eyebrows among allies, not all of whom got a heads-up.

But President Trump said yesterday, standing next to Macron, that there was, quote, "a really good chance of him sitting down with Rouhani at some point." Even going so far as to say he would be open to meeting in the near future.

Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the circumstances were correct, were right, I would certainly agree to that.


WESTWOOD: Now, of course, Rouhani saying that he wouldn't agree to a sit-down until the sanctions are lifted. There's no indication that the U.S. is anywhere close to doing that. In fact, the Trump administration has been imposing more and more sanctions on Iran as tensions in the Persian Gulf have risen. The U.S. building up its military presence in the region, Iran drowning an American drone, tensions there, obviously, still running high.

But Iran, Victor, was just one of several areas of strain between President Trump and his allies at the G-7 summit over the weekend. There did appear, Victor, to be some lingering resentment among world leaders about Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal.

BLACKWELL: Certainly was.

Sarah Westwood, for us at the White House, thank you.

Meanwhile, the White House is also trying to work out a deal to get back to the negotiating table with China. During the G-7, the president said U.S. and Chinese negotiators will be heading back into talks over the ongoing trade war. Within days, President Trump went from calling China's president an

enemy to calling him a great leader. And, as he explained, that's just the way he works.


TRUMP: You're talking about global economic instability?


TRUMP: I don't see anything unstable about it.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- where it comes from is the back and forth and changing of statements from yourself so that --


TRUMP: Sorry, it's the way I negotiate.

[11:30:04] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So my question is, is that a strategy? Is it a strategy to call President Xi an enemy one day and then say that relations are very good.