Return to Transcripts main page


Tropical Storm Dorian Threatens Parts of the Caribbean; Recent Poll has Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden in Statistical Tie for First among Democratic Presidential Candidates; Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $572M in Landmark Opioid Trial. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 27, 2019 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- issue a tropical storm warning and hurricane watch for Puerto Rico and parts of the Dominican Republic as this storm gains strength. So these are live pictures we're about to show you of the storm that is slowly approaching the coastline of Barbados.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's gently lashing out on the coast of Barbados right now.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but don't get comfortable, John, because as we know it can move very quickly. It has now moved across Saint Lucia into the eastern Caribbean Sea.

BERMAN: And it's a serious concern. Puerto Rico's new governor has declared a state of emergency there, preparing a direct strike from Dorian there tomorrow potentially as the hurricane it seems to be getting stronger. Residents there in Puerto Rico, they're still recovering from hurricane Maria and Irma two years ago, so are they ready? Florida, you can see right there, is also in the cone for a potential landfall this weekend. We're live in Puerto Rico looking at the preparations, but first we want to go to CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers. We're getting soe new updates from the Hurricane Center. Chad, what have you learned?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, two separate storms here. One for the Caribbean and one for Barbados. What we've learned now, Saint Lucia has taken down their tropical storm warning because this storm has gone by. Barbados, those pictures that you saw there, the storm has gone by. They had winds of about 150 miles per hour. But it's the Puerto Rico area, it's the Dominican Republic area that this storm will eventually gather some strength.

Yesterday the forecast was for an 80 miles per hour storm hitting very close to Ponce in Puerto Rico. Today it's a 70 mile per hour storm simply because there hasn't been any organization overnight. But that's close enough to a hurricane. We're not going to split hairs here.

For the Punta Cana area, you can also 70 to 80 miles an hour. But here is the rub. When the models get into Nassau, Free Port, into the Turks and Caicos, that water there is 90 degrees. That's when this storm could redevelop. What's going to happen in the meantime is that it's going to hit the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico first, some of that because of the topography of the Dominican Republic. That's where we'll really see this storm fall apart, be torn apart, very big mountains here not that far from Santa Domingo. And on the center part of Haiti and the D.R., that's where many, many areas of heavy rainfall could be happening. Could be two to six inches of rain that could cause mudslides and flash flooding. But it's that area up here, it's that water north of the D.R. that we're worried about because eventually this storm for the weekend, as you said, gets to Florida, Keys. To Jacksonville, we don't know. The cone is too big at that point in time. It's five days away, but it's coming.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chad, thank you very much for keeping an eye on that. We'll check back with you.

Of course, it's been almost two years since hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Many people there are not taking any chances this time around. They are stocking up on water and getting ready as Dorian bears down on that island, as you can see. So CNN's Polo Sandoval is live in San Juan with more. Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, it doesn't take much to make some people here nervous, especially when a tropical disturbance will get close to this island, particularly because many people here are either recovering from or still clearly remember the traumatizing experience that came with hurricane Maria almost two years ago with that deadly storm. So we're seeing, as you point out, are people heading to service stations, headed to grocery stores to stockpile some supplies, whether it be fuel or food.

The concern here, obviously, is some of those potential winds will have impact on some of the infrastructure that is still trying to get built-up and that could potentially lead to power outages. And if that happens then people would potentially have to do without for quite some time. So that's why we're seeing what we're seeing here.

In the meantime, though, officials who have been in place for less than a month at the government level have been warning people to prepare. They also have that emergency declaration in place. They say that they're prepared to open up to 380 shelters across the island to keep at least 48,000 people safe should it come to that. But I think what we're seeing here on the ground right not John is that expectation that they could see a small impact over there certainly preparing given what they experienced two years ago. John?

BERMAN: It's certainly encouraging that they're preparing now. Polo, thank you for being there and watching this. Please keep us posted.

Some political news this morning, one new national poll shows something of a change at the top of the Democratic race for the presidential nomination. Again, it's just one poll, but this new Monmouth University poll shows a three way race among Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and former vice president Joe Biden. This is the first poll that really shows Joe Biden back in the pack.

And it's more than just this one poll that has people talking, though. Elizabeth Warren has been drawing huge crowds. Her campaign says she had 15,000 people at a rally this weekend in Seattle. Last week she had 12,000 at Minnesota. So there is some enthusiasm and some organization being demonstrated across the country.

Joining us, Abby Phillip, CNN White House correspondent, John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst, and Jess McIntosh, former director of communications outreach for the Hillary Clinton campaign and a CNN political commentator.

[08:05:09] And Jess, one poll, but it's a poll that shows this three- way race. The margin of error is six percent, so again, it could be broad there. But if you are the Biden campaign and electability is your thing, this is not a poll you want to see.

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Certainly not. And basing your campaign on the notion of electability is not a strong foundation for a campaign. We as a people are genuinely terrible at determining who is going to be electable. Just look at Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton. I could name just about everybody within my lifetime, we've gotten it wrong. So that's not the way to decide a primary. A primary is supposed to be decided on who you actually want to nominate the most. In that case, I think we're seeing that the electorate is more progressive than the media genuinely gives us credit for. Medicare for all is really popular among progressive. An ultra- millionaire's tax cut to pay for childcare and higher ed is very popular among progressives. So I think we're seeing that people are excited about those kinds of ideas.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But a couple significant caveats, right, because those ideas are not actually popular at all among the electorate at large.

MCINTOSH: That's not true, but not as popular as among progressives.

AVLON: Correct. So the public option, building on Obamacare, is vastly more popular within the electorate at large and Democratic voters than a single payer option that would make private health insurance illegal. That's a significant hurdle.

What you're seeing is, though, the polarization of the parties are leading to more unrepresentative candidates in terms of the general electorate who the base gets really fired up about. Elizabeth Warren has an enormous amount of momentum. You cannot discount. It's easy to dismiss crowd, they're often an illusionary indicator, particularly later in an election. But this is happening organically. Her supporters are fired up. Her organization is strong in the early states. And the Biden team really needs to confront the idea that she could win Iowa and New Hampshire, and then you've got a juggernaut.

That said, this one poll needs to be taken as an outlier. Everybody, calm down, folks.

BERMAN: You're the one shouting.

CAMEROTA: You're the one quoting Taylor Swift. MCINTOSH: I actually agree with you on this.

AVLON: We're in radical agreement.

MCINTOSH: We are in radical agreement. We are in shouting agreement. I think that for the most part voters know that they're not electing a health care plan. They're electing a leader who they trust want to push for one. And starting slightly farther to the left than we did last time doesn't sound like a bad idea to most progressives who think we didn't get as much as we wanted.

CAMEROTA: And don't step on her gown.

BERMAN: In John's defense --

AVLON: Tayler Swift reference. Took me a second.

BERMAN: By way of apologizing for saw you were shouting, John, we do have a graphic which shows what you mean when you call this poll an outlier. One of these polls you're looking at on the screen is different than the others. This is P202 if we can put that up there. You see there, in five polls Joe Biden is most of them around 30 percent. This one down around 20 percent. I will say Elizabeth Warren consistently around 20. There seems to be some consistency there, but this poll does look different.

CAMEROTA: Abby, maybe you can be the tiebreaker for us here in terms of what they've just spelled out is enthusiasm versus electability and whether the primary voters, they're any resemblance to the general election voters.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think those polls that you showed, John, are a perfect segue. I think Joe Biden is still the candidate to beat. Joe Biden is still polling better than all the other candidates in this race, and that also matters. It's not as consist as Jeffrey Toobin in the last hour talked about crowd size being a pretty consistent indicator of grassroots support. But I think also the person who's winning, also that shows that people actually do genuinely support Joe Biden.

I think it would be a mistake for Democrats to assume that somehow Democratic voters are being duped into liking Joe Biden better than some of these other candidates. Maybe they know him better, but I think also, many of them think he would actually be the best president, actually be the best person to go up against Donald Trump. So I think his support is real.

But the risk here for Biden is that all the other candidates are not as well-known as he is. And what you're seeing with Warren is people are very interested in her. They are very interested in learning more about her. And in many cases when they do learn more about her, her support is starting to gel and solidify. So you're seeing some real shifts in the race, but I still think the fundamentals of this race are basically what they have been all summer, which is that Joe Biden is the guy to beat. Elizabeth Warren is rising pretty steadily in the race, and Bernie Sanders is still doing quite well, but not as well as he did the last time, and everybody else is just trying to catch up.

AVLON: Yes. And look, I would just say that the biggest danger that Biden could have, if our politics says anything clearly and consistently over time in greater polarization, it's this, playing defense is the worst form of offense in politics. A Rose Garden strategy is a suicide note for a political campaign. So you need to get out there and compete like you're behind every day.

[08:10:14] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Should we play the new Biden ad.

BERMAN: Let's play the new Biden ad. I think it's very, very interesting. This is big buy, six figure buy going up in Iowa. It's a 60 second spot on health. We're going to just play a little bit of it. We'll talk under it in a few seconds.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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.


BERMAN: The reason we're showing this, Jess, is it's significant that he's spending this kind of money in Iowa. I think it gets to electability. He knows he's got to win there, shoring up support. And the issue of health care is a dividing line. And he's choosing a side, and I think he's trying to highlight. You say Medicare for all is very popular. I think he's trying to highlight her position here, because in two weeks on that debate stage he's going to draw distinctions.

MCINTOSH: We've never seen him on the debate stage with the sort of progressive standard bearers for the field. So I think this is obviously a compelling contrast for him to draw as we get to that moment. His first ad was all about electability, which I thought was not the strongest foot to put forward. This is. This is the strongest case that Joe Biden can make on the issue that people care about the most.

So I'm curious to see follow through. I think John is entirely right about he can't hide. He's got to get out there. He's got to do the big events. The number of times that we see everyone showing up except for Joe Biden, that's not a great look. So if he can follow up a smart, strategic advertising campaign like this with on the ground retail politics to back it up, I think he's going to be in a really good position going into the next debate.

CAMEROTA: Sorry, Abby, I'll just say this, and then you can answer. Bernie Sanders is right in there, too. In all these polls Bernie Sanders is right there. He's tied for the top three, but he just doesn't get as much buzz. Why, John, quickly, because --

AVLON: I think Warren is eating into his lane, so to speak, and she's doing it in a way that isn't so far obviously alienating Bernie supporters, and that's a potential strength.

BERMAN: Abby, go ahead.

PHILLIP: I think to the Warren and Bernie point, Warren is the biggest competitor for Bernie voters, maybe some of whom thought he was really great the last time, especially against a Hillary Clinton. But now that they have more progressive options, I think it's a lot harder for Bernie Sanders to really find his footing solidly in this race, but he's still doing quite well. Quite a bit better than most of the other people in this race. But I was going to say, on the Biden ad, what's notable about this ad is the lack of specificity. I think that's really important because it tells you a little bit about the Biden's campaign philosophy for dealing with health care as an issue. I think they believe, and they might be right about this, that a lot of voters want to know that you care, that you understand the issue, that you understand how important it is and that it's a top priority for you.

For some progressives it's going to mean that they want the most sort of radical proposal possible, that it shows you're not going to take a sort of middle of the road approach. But for a lot of voters, and the Biden argument is, they believe a wide swath of voters in the middle are going to say I want to know it's important to you, and I don't necessarily need to agree with every single line item of your policy plan on this. So it's an important stake that they're putting down in the ground even in a state like Iowa where there are actually quite a bit of very progressive voters in that state. They're still saying they think voters are going to be just fine with believing that Joe Biden cares about this issue in the same way that they do, even if it's not about exactly the specifics of the policy.

AVLON: It's a values ad, it's not a policy ad, but that's important right now.

I want to say one other thing, though, because Warren has effectively triangulated herself between Biden and Bernie. And that's a very good strategy for a primary. But don't forget, especially as you look at this winnowing down of the field and the upcoming debate, only around 20 and change percent of the party, of Democratic Party, identifies as very liberal. And there are a lot of centrist candidates who could very competitive general election candidates who are not taking the debate stage. That's not a good sign for the Democratic Party's long- term strength right now.

CAMEROTA: We shall see what happens. Thank you very much for that spirted debate.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg making her first public speech since undergoing cancer treatment, and it appears her health issues have not impacted her signature spunk.


RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: It was beyond my wildest imagination that I would one day become the Notorious RBG.



CAMEROTA: More on what we know about her health status, next.


[08:18:51] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: A landmark ruling in Oklahoma. A $572 million judgment that holds pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson responsible for fueling the opioid crisis. So, what does this landmark ruling mean?

Let's discuss with CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, what have you heard from the lawyers today and the significance of this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, I thought you had fascinating interviews with both sides. And, you know, I -- what my conclusion of this whole first act in this is the madness of the American legal system and the craziness of how we deal with this problem.

Opioids are a national problem. The idea that one company in one state has to pay $572 million when they ask the judge for $17 billion, it's just that's not the way to solve the problem. Johnson & Johnson should pay something, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, you know, the Sackler's company, should pay.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And they'd settle, and they are (ph).


TOOBIN: But it should be a national settlement.

Just as, you know, one smart thing the country did in the late '90s, the tobacco companies did a national settlement, $200 billion.

[08:20:04] And there was a way of spending -- of sharing the money in an appropriate way.

CAMEROTA: But who'd have to sue for it to be a national settlement?

TOOBIN: Well, it would have to be the state attorneys general leading it with some private lawyers but also dealing with the companies as a group. The idea of doing this in 50 or more lawsuits strikes me as insane, but that's the direction we're headed.

BERMAN: Sanjay, one of the legal cases Johnson & Johnson made, and I want the medical perspective here, is they didn't prescribe the opioids, the doctors did. It's the doctors actually doing it. Now, the plaintiffs in this case said, no, no, but Johnson & Johnson misled the doctors.

So if you're one of these doctors in Oklahoma or nationwide, exactly how does that work?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, it's -- I think that the lawyers for Johnson & Johnson are -- you know, they're right in part on this. I mean, I've watched the interview, I read the statements saying they did things exactly as they were supposed to do it.

They probably understated the risks of this a bit when you look at the language specifically.

But you're absolutely right. Look, the doctors are the ones that prescribe this. I wrote an op-ed about this, sometime ago.

I think doctors do have to shoulder the blame. Let me share one statistic I think that we've talked about before in your program, and that is that, look, opioids, these types of medication obviously could be solved in many countries around the world. In the United States, we take 80 percent to 90 percent of some of tease classes of drugs and we're not even 5 percent of the world's population.

So, the drugs exist, something was happening in the United States, and when you look at the numbers in terms of how big a deal this is, and this is on par with AIDS. You know, the entire medical community has been following this for many years now, and this was a big deal yesterday to see at least, you know, how this might move forward.

CAMEROTA: You know, Sanjay, the part where I felt the culpability came in if you read through the court documents is that the judge claims that Johnson & Johnson used the term pseudo addiction, used the term pseudo addiction to tell doctors that when people came in desperate for more of the drugs, that what Johnson & Johnson recommended that the doctors say was that they're not actually suffering from addiction, they're suffering from under treatment of pain.

And the solution according to Johnson & Johnson's marketing was to prescribe the patient more opioids.

GUPTA: No question about it. And that pseudo addiction term as someone who was training or in medical school at the time, that was a widely used term. In emergency rooms, you suddenly saw these smiley faced charts pop up. Someone comes in for a cold and they're asked about their pain level by the smiley face sort of chart.

And why are you asking about someone about pain in these situations? Why would someone be prescribed narcotics for something that wasn't typically associated with pain? It was because nobody should be in pain. Pain was the fifth vital sign. It was just an important to assess as heart rate, for example.

And that was all very, very strategic messaging. It's fine. People don't really get addicted to pseudo addiction or and why should anybody be in pain?

BERMAN: I have to say, it's that kind of testimony or fact-finding that can be very damaging, though, to these pharmaceutical companies, which is why, Jeffrey, I imagine into what happens next category, there might be a rush to settle some of these cases.

TOOBIN: There is. Although, interestingly the stock of Johnson & Johnson went up right after this verdict --


CAMEROTA: Why is that?

TOOBIN: -- because the stock market was expecting an even worse verdict at an even bigger damage award. So, $572 million was considered not that bad.

BERMAN: It also shows you how much money is involved here.

TOOBIN: How much -- and how much money these pharmaceutical companies have.

GUPTA: Let me point out just real quick -- $572 million, they wanted $17 billion for 30 years. This is for one year. Essentially if you do the math and divide it by 30, that's where that number came from.

The judge did say perhaps in the years following, maybe there would be more money necessary, but this is just one years of what they were asking for.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, let's move onto Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What is she made of and how do --

GUPTA: I know. I mean, look, it's incredible when you look at her history. Everyone talked about the broken rib some time ago and how quickly she rebounded from that. She had colon cancer in 1999. She had pancreatic cancer before in 2009. She had lung cancer last year, and now, this new pancreatic cancer appears.

And she gets this treatment, finishes three weeks of treatment and is giving this incredible speech. You know, she's tough, there's no question about it. Pancreatic cancer is a tough diagnosis for sure, something she's going to deal with probably for the rest of her life, but seems to be recovering well.

BERMAN: Jeffrey, hold that thought. Let's just play Ruth Bader Ginsburg, what she did yesterday despite all the things that Sanjay just laid out there. This was the Supreme Court justice in Buffalo.


[08:25:00] RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: It was beyond my wildest imagination I would one day become the Notorious RBG. I am now 86 years old, yet all ages want to take their picture with me. Amazing.


BERMAN: Forgive me for allowing Ruth Bader Ginsburg to interrupt you, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: You know what? Anytime, RBG.

Look, this woman, she's about this tall. I doubt she weighs 100 pounds, and she is as tough as any NFL linebacker. I mean, there's no doubt about that.

But, you know, she's 86 years old, and if I may -- I don't want to presume Dr. G's role here, 86 is not the new anything. You know, 86 is old.

And Mitch McConnell is sitting there saying, if she leaves the bench, he is going to replace her no matter when she leaves.

BERMAN: January 19, 2021.

TOOBIN: January 19, 2021, the Merrick Garland rule applied only to --

CAMEROTA: Merrick Garland.

TOOBIN: -- Merrick Garland and Barack Obama.

CAMEROTA: All right. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right. Serena Williams went head to head last night with one of her long time rivals, Maria Sharapova. How did Williams perform in her first match since last year's -- this is the U.S. Open. Her first U.S. Open match since last year's controversial final? We'll tell you, next.