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Interview with John Delaney (D), Presidential Candidate; Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) to Resign; United States May Lose Measles Status. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 28, 2019 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But fair to say, it's over a billion dollars?

SACKLER: It would be fair to say that, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know if it's over $10 billion?

SACKLER: I don't think so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know if it's over $5 billion?

SACKLER: I don't know.



ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That lawsuit was resolved with a settlement. This would be a far bigger settlement, certainly the biggest one, related to the opioid crisis. And it would essentially resolve all the outstanding claims against Purdue -- we're talking about thousands of them, coming from states, counties, cities, municipalities across the country.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: What does the Oklahoma decision against Johnson & Johnson, how does that affect these cases? And is that helping drive this motivation to settle?

FIELD: It very well could. Certainly, these discussions have been going on for weeks if not months at this point, with a federal trial approaching in October.

But certainly, the judge in Oklahoma has sent a strong message to pharmaceutical companies. He sided with the state, he told Johnson & Johnson, they've got to pay some $572 million. Johnson & Johnson, saying they've committed no wrongdoing, they're going to appeal. But other pharmaceutical companies, who are going to court and preparing to go to court, are certainly looking at that judge's ruling and deciding, at this point, whether or not to move forward with these settlements.

SCIUTTO: Alexandra Field on the opioid story, thanks very much.

There is a new poll out this morning, indicating more voters think the economy is getting worse. Can Democrats seize that moment? I will speak to a Democratic presidential candidate, coming up.


[10:35:59] SCIUTTO: There is a new poll out this morning, showing the top five Democratic candidates, all beating President Trump by a wide margin in a head-to-head race. Of course, it's still early, anything can happen. The primary season, far from -- hasn't even started, in fact, today being one deadline for Democrats to qualify for the September debate. So far, only 10 of the 21 candidates still in the race will face off in that debate next month.

John Delaney, he will not be on that stage, but he shows no signs of letting up. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, first, your numbers in this poll. You, of course, had to hit that two percent threshold --


SCIUTTO: -- to make this next debate, you did not. Are you staying in the race?

DELANEY: Oh, yes. I'm absolutely staying in the race. The only poll that really matters to me is the Iowa Caucus in many ways, and that's still about six months away.

And I think in many ways, this election is just getting started because more and more Americans and more and more Democrats are finally starting to dial in. And I think we're going to see a very different kind of feeling for what kind of candidate we should be putting forth in the next six months.

SCIUTTO: OK. Your consistent message is that the Democrats need a moderate candidate to beat President Trump. Joe Biden, I think you could put in that category, he maintains a lead. But you have tremendous support for both Warren and Sanders, who are left of center. Is that a danger for the Democratic Party?

DELANEY: It is a danger. And I think Trump's numbers really underscore this point, which is, Trump's numbers are down. They're like 40 percent. That means right now, we're winning the center, which is what we won in 2018, which is how we flipped the House. So we have to make sure we put up a candidate who can hold the great American center.

And that's got to be a candidate -- putting aside moderate or progressive, because in many ways, to most Americans, these labels don't mean anything -- we need a candidate with new ideas, who wants to build a big-tent party and puts forth real solutions, not things that turn off voters. Real things that can get done to improve the lives of the American people. And that candidate will win the center and beat Donald Trump by a comfortable margin.

SCIUTTO: You do have new ideas being talked about all the time --


SCIUTTO: -- in the Democratic race. And frequently, things like universal health care, free college tuition or paying off college loans --


SCIUTTO: -- that kind of thing. Do you think that is the kind of message that wins the center?

DELANEY: No, I don't. Because I'm for universal health care. I think every American should have health care as a basic right. But running on a universal health care plan that makes private insurance illegal, that's when you start losing the American people --

SCIUTTO: And that's right in the polls.

DELANEY: -- so the American people are with you on universal health care. But when you start saying, "Oh, and by the way, half of you, we're going to completely disrupt your health care," then we start losing them.

Free college. Everyone wants to deal with the college debt crisis, everyone wants to make community college free, everyone wants to make college more affordable, everyone wants expanded pre-K. But when you start saying things like writing off all the student loans in this country, people start saying, "Well, that doesn't actually make a lot of sense. I paid off my student loans," right? "What am I, a fool for doing that?"


DELANEY: So these are the things. We need new ideas, but just because they're extreme doesn't make them good new ideas. We need new ideas that are responsive to things that the American people are worried about.

You know, right now, the American people are really concerned about their pay. We actually don't have as much of a jobs issue right now in this country, we have a huge pay issue. Not enough jobs provide the kind of living --


DELANEY: -- that people can earn -- you know, have one job and support their family. So we need new ideas for that. We need new ideas, as to how we're going to engage in the world. We're in a trade war. Most of the Democrats are running on isolationist policies like the president. They have a nicer veneer on them, but they're basically the same policies.

So what's going to be our response to the fact that Trump's got us in a trade war? Do we have a vision for how we actually engage in an increasingly interdependent and interconnected world?

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about something with regards to the president directly. Today, there is a story in "The Washington Post" that the president is encouraging aides to break the law to get his border wall built, and even saying that he'd pardon them if they do.

Now, I know you get asked about the president's behavior all the time, and I know that folks at home are saying, "Oh, it's just another story about the president doing X or Y." But tell us about the significance of this, because it's not the first time the president has suggested bypassing the law or standards to get what he wants politically.

[10:40:00] DELANEY: The president is lawless and he's reckless, and that's how we have to think about him. And that's why it's so important we beat him. And that's why it's so important, we think about the kind of candidate we need to beat him.

Because can you imagine what he'll do if he gets re-elected, right? We may think he has no restraint on him right now, but he may actually be restraining himself. And if he gets re-elected and he feels like everything he's done has been validated --


DELANEY: -- he will actually go after things like the separation of powers. He will actually go after things that are so critical to our democracy.


DELANEY: So he's lawless and he's reckless, and the most important thing is to beat him in 2020.

SCIUTTO: So this is a consistent message from you --


SCIUTTO: -- both on moderate policies needed to beat the president, your criticism of the president. But you're not breaking through in the polls. How do you break through?

DELANEY: I just think it's still going to take some time. I think most Americans are actually now just starting to dial in, and most Americans who haven't been that active in politics, like, every day of the year, they tend to be more common-sense. They're interested in solutions. They want to dial the noise down.

They hate the partisanship and they want someone who will solve problems and allow us to work together to build a better future. I think that's what most Americans are looking for, I really believe that. And I just think as we get closer to the Iowa caucus, that's going to become the focus of the party. SCIUTTO: Your background is as a businessman. You have your finger

on the pulse of the American economy. There are indicators, whether it's in the bond market, the stock market, industrial surveys, production surveys, manufacturing surveys, that the economy is slowing down.


SCIUTTO: Do you see signs of that? And is it imminent, in your view?

DELANEY: I don't know if it's imminent. I think it's definitely slowing down. And, listen, I hope it doesn't happen, right? Because it'll hurt American workers.

But I think the trade war is clearly hurting our economy and other economies. Because what's happening is, a lot of people are starting to say to themselves, "Is this model for how we thought the world was going to unfold, is it actually going to happen that way or are all these countries going to become kind of nationalist?"

In other words, we're not going to become interconnected and we're not going to get the benefits of that. And I think that's scaring people. And I think the president is driving that.

I also think his tax cuts and spending programs were a lot of stimulus. They're starting to wear off and he didn't make good investments, right? We didn't invest in infrastructure. If we were in the middle of a $1 to $2 trillion infrastructure program right now, that would be a perfect offset to otherwise kind of slowing economic growth.

And these are the things that -- you know, if you run a business like I have -- I ran two public companies, I'm the only person running for president who is a leader in business and a leader in government -- you have to have an economic vision.

And the president doesn't have it, this tax cut plan they did, didn't really broadly help the American people, they didn't make smart investments. And we're in the middle of a trade war.

SCIUTTO: Right. Just a few things going on --


SCIUTTO: -- at the same time.


SCIUTTO: John Delaney --


DELANEY: Thanks for having me. Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- so much for taking the time. We wish you the best of luck. DELANEY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: We're getting some breaking news into CNN. Senator Johnny Isakson, he's going to resign his U.S. Senate seat at the end of 2019. The implications of this? We're going to have much more, coming up.


[10:47:56] SCIUTTO: Breaking news in to CNN. Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia will resign his U.S. Senate seat at the end of this year. Lauren Fox is joining me now. Lauren, he is citing health reasons.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's right. He was diagnosed, Jim, with Parkinson's in 2013, and he is announcing that he no longer feels like he will be able to do his job to the full extent that's necessary for his constituents.

In a statement, he said, "It goes against every fiber of my being to leave in the middle of my term, but I know it's the right thing to do."

And I will tell you, on Capitol Hill, Johnny Isakson is a giant. He is somebody who is respected by Republicans in his conference, he's someone who has spoken out against the president, at times, when necessary.

And I will say, you know, he's a senior member of the Republican conference. He is someone who may not be the most outspoken -- we don't think of him in the same way we might think of Senator John McCain, but he was very much a person who privately speaks up in these meetings, and is seen as someone that a lot of Republicans go to for sort of advice and guidance.

So a very big announcement here today. He won his re-election back in 2016. But again, says because of his health concerns, he does not believe that he'll be able to do the full extent of the job necessary for his constituents -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Lauren, we have a copy of his letter here, informing the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, who's of course a Republican as well. And he says that he will do "everything we can" -- he and his staff -- "to help whomever you appoint to serve in this seat."

So the Republican governor would then appoint, of course, a Republican senator. So politically, this would not change the composition of the Senate, right?

FOX: Well, that's right, Jim. I mean, you know, Georgia is very much a Republican state, and that is the way that this will happen. But I will let you know, you know, Senator Isakson, when he says he will do whatever he needs to do to help the next person, you know, he certainly means it.

This is somebody, like again, I said, who has been a Republican confidant for members of the conference, somebody a lot of people look to for guidance. So yes, you know, he's going to be doing his best to serve. He says he looks forward to returning after this August recess in September, where he will serve out the rest of his term until the end of the year -- Jim.

[10:50:09] SCIUTTO: Lauren Fox on the breaking news there, thanks very much. We're going to continue to follow this story, the surprise departure from the Senate of Republican senator from Georgia, Johnny Isakson.

Also this morning, the White House is denying a shocking new report from "The Washington Post," which claims that President Trump told his aides he is willing to pardon them and other officials if they have to break the law to make sure that his border wall is built before Election Day.

The White House says those comments were just a joke. Trump has also reportedly told aides to fast-track billions of dollars in construction contracts, and ignore environmental rules -- again, to get the wall built in time for Election Day.

I'm joined now by CNN national security and legal analyst Susan Hennessey. Susan, put this into context for us, the president encouraging aides to break the law and telling them he will pardon them. I mean, I say those words -- it's not fiction, it's in "The Washington Post." What's the significance?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so in the Constitution, there's this line, whenever the president, you know, swears his oath, that he is required to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. That is his constitutional responsibility.

For the president of the United States to be telling someone, whether in jest or not -- and there actually isn't evidence that he was -- that he actually was kidding here -- but for him to be telling people, "Hey, go ahead and break the law because I will just use my pardon power to eliminate the consequence for you," you know, that is really an incredible breach of his oath of office, of his constitutional obligations.

Now, the founders debated a lot about the pardon power. They understood that they were investing the executive with this really tremendous power, a power that could be abused. The founders were very, very explicit. They believed the remedy for a president who abuses the pardon power, including in this way, is impeachment.

There are not external legal constraints for situations like this, the remedy really is political. And once again, we just aren't seeing the kind of reaction that we would expect, for this really astonishing sort of report to come out. We aren't seeing Democrats responding, you know, with anywhere near sort of the level of energy or outrage we might expect.

SCIUTTO: And to be clear, Elie Honig, our legal analyst, made this point to me in the last hour. The pardon explicitly cannot be discussed in advance of the prosecution of a crime, correct? You can't bring it up before, it's only retroactive. HENNESSEY: Right. So the pardon power itself is retroactive, the

president doesn't have the power or ability to essentially pardon a crime in advance.

I don't know that there's anything that prohibits, as a legal matter, him discussing the possibility of pardoning it in the future. Of course, you know, whether or not you want to rely on Donald Trump's word, that, you know, that would be a decision that individuals would have to make for themselves, he's not someone who's known for necessarily keeping his word.

That said, we've heard this president sort of flirt with and think about abusing the pardon power in the Russia investigation, sort of giving it -- giving pardons to political, you know, supporters. And so this is just yet another element, an example of that trend.

SCIUTTO: Susan Hennessey, thanks very much.

We're just minutes away from a new update on Tropical Storm Dorian. Stay with us, we continue to follow the story.


SCIUTTO: The U.S. is now at risk of losing its prized measles elimination status after nearly two decades. That, according to the CDC, which says it could happen in just a matter of weeks. CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has more.


BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The incidence of diseases such a measles, mumps and rubella are at an all-time low.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So low that in the year 2000, the World Health Organization declared that measles was eliminated in the United States. Now, CNN is first to report that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there's a, quote, "reasonable chance that the U.S. will lose its measles elimination status" as early as October 1st.

Dr. William Schaffner is a longtime advisor to the CDC on vaccine issues.

WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Losing the elimination status of measles is an embarrassment. Public health will be embarrassed. It's like having a black eye.

COHEN (voice-over): So why did measles return? In part because some ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York refused to vaccinate their children. Outbreaks in this community have been going on for nearly a year now.

SCHAFFNER: If that continues to the one-year cutoff point, bang, they take back the elimination card.

COHEN (voice-over): And that could cause trouble worldwide. SCHAFFNER: I'm concerned it will reduce the motivation of other

ministers of health around the world, in trying to eliminate measles in their countries because they'll say, "Gee, if the U.S. couldn't maintain it, why should we work so hard on this?"

COHEN (voice-over): And that could lead to more deaths. Already, tens of thousands of people, mostly young children, die of measles each year, globally. Doctors hope that once the current outbreak ends, the CDC and others will do a better job of combatting ant- vaccine propaganda on social media, lies that encourage parents to ignore science, and could cost the United States a great public health achievement.


COHEN: Now, New York has about only five weeks to get this outbreak snuffed out and stopped. But the experts we talked to said chances are that won't happen, especially because school starts next week. It's a whole new opportunity. Children congregate, they can spread measles to each other -- Jim.

[11:00:03] SCIUTTO: Elizabeth Cohen, an important story. Thanks very much.

And thanks very much to all of you for joining me today. I'm Jim Sciutto.