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Many Brexit Supporters Don't Care if There's No Deal; Political Rivals Unite to Block Far-Right Opponent in Italy; Report: Sackler Family May Give Up Purdue Pharma Ownership. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired August 29, 2019 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Boris strikes back: Britain's Queen Elizabeth approves the prime minister's controversial plan to suspend parliament, shutting down the opposition plans of stopping a no-deal Brexit.

Dorian changes course and Puerto Rico dodges a bullet. Many are breathing easy but it's still unclear if the island's fragile infrastructure will survive the next hurricane.

And read between the lines. Donald Trump's former Defense Secretary speaking out and warning of trouble on the horizon for the U.S. and subtly puts the blame on myriad problems within the White House.

Great to have you with us, I'm John Vause and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


VAUSE: Whether it was a shrewd political move or a constitutional crisis in the making or just standard parliamentary procedure, the British prime minister's decision to suspend Parliament has endured a very limited debate on Brexit at the same time igniting a fury of criticism and controversy.

Mr. Johnson asked the queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks, a request she was unlikely to deny. That effectively means his anti- Brexit opponents won't have as much time as they thought to prevent a no-deal Brexit by October 31st. But the prime minister dismisses any concerns.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: There will be ample time on both sides of that crucial October the 17th summit, ample time in Parliament for MPs to debate the E.U., debate Brexit and all the other issues, ample time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: More on the opposition has been left to outrage and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn calls it a threat to democracy. Protesters gathered outside Parliament and more than 1 million people have signed a petition to demand the suspension of the reverse (ph). Right now Boris Johnson has a parliamentary majority of one. So his bold move carries risks and rewards. CNN's Anna Stewart is outside Number 10.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With the permission of Her Majesty the Queen, the prime minister is calling an end to this parliamentary session, which essentially means that when Parliament returns next week it will only sit for a few days before it is suspended.

This move has caused huge political upset. Protests outside of Parliament and Downing Street and also politicians both from the opposing parties and the prime minister's own party calling this a coup and an outrage and undemocratic.

They say that the prime minister is lighting their ability to try and block a no-deal Brexit by limiting the numbers of days they have to sit in Parliament. The prime minister says this simply isn't true, that Brexit is not the driving force behind the decision and that new prime ministers do end sessions of one Parliament to call a new one to set out their domestic policies and their agenda.

He also said that MPs will have plenty of time to debate Brexit before the deadline. Take a listen.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: We're not going to wait until October the 31st before getting on with our plans to take this country forward. And that's why we are going to have a Queen's Speech and we're going to do it on October the 14th. And we've got to move ahead now with a new legislative program.


STEWART: His opponents do not believe him. They say they are consulting to find legal or legislative options to try to block a no- deal Brexit, frustrate the prime minister's efforts. Take a listen to what Jeremy Corbyn, the leader, of the Labour Party had to say.


JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, U.K. LABOUR PARTY: Yes, I've protested in the strongest possible terms on behalf of my party, and I believe all the other opposition parties are going to join in with this, in simply saying that suspending Parliament is not acceptable, it's not on.

What the prime minister's doing is a sort of smash-and-grab on our democracy, in order to force through a no-deal exit from the European Union.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STEWART: One key person in all of this is the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow. While his role is politically impartial, he holds a lot of power when it comes to be able to upend parliamentary convention and procedure and he certainly does not agree with what the prime minister has announced.

He said, "However, it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop Parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country."

Yesterday have risen of a no-deal Brexit of a vote of no confidence against the government of a general election. While politicians may be outraged, while much of the public may be outraged, too, and you can hear the protests behind me, there will be a lot of people within the U.K. who voted for Brexit and will be thrilled that the prime minister is finally delivering on Brexit and that he will do it by the end of October, no ifs and no buts and just as he said -- Anna Stewart, CNN, London.




VAUSE: CNN European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas is with us once again from Berlin.

Dom, good to see you.


VAUSE: OK, in the past, when Britain has been facing a national crisis, the prime minister usually has convened Parliament. This time though for an entire month, five weeks before one of most important moments in British history, Parliament will be absent.

His other former treasurer, Philip Hammond, a Conservative, described the move.

"It would be a constitutional outrage if Parliament were prevented from holding the government to account at the time of national crisis. Profoundly undemocratic."

So is suspending Parliament profoundly undemocratic or just business as usual as some within the Conservative Party have described it?

THOMAS: Well, John, technically and legally what Boris Johnson is doing is perfectly OK. New sessions of Parliament begin once the previous session has been suspended. But what we've seen over let's just say the last 40 years is this period of prorogation of parliamentary suspension in order to introduce new legislation with the queen's speech has just taken place over a few days.

And so what's so absolutely disingenuous here about the response from the Conservative Party or from what Boris Johnson has been arguing is that throughout the Conservative Party election campaign this was an issue. The issue of prorogation came up. Different candidates waited on this. They all talked about what a problematic procedure is.

And it's just clearly and unambiguously here in the face of an opposition that is working to coordinate against a no-deal and for Boris Johnson to throw and a spanner in the works here and deny Parliament the opportunity to debate at length this really crucial issue and in British politics.

VAUSE: Here's part of the letter that Johnson wrote to MPs explaining the reason for the suspension arguing that this current legislative session has to come to an end because it's already one of the longest in history 400 days.

He wrote, "I, therefore, intend to bring forward a new bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit. There will be a significant Brexit legislative programme to get through but that should be no excuse for a lack of ambition!"

And there is a bridge for sale in London for anyone who actually believes that. I mean, as you were saying, the reality is that the practicality of the matter is that by reducing the number of days that Parliament sits, Johnson limits the options for the anti-Brexit faction to come together and put forward -- put forward I plan to prevent this no-deal Brexit from happening.

THOMAS: Yes. I mean, certainly, you, know when it comes to sitting in parliament, of course, it's completely restricted. They don't get back until October, the E.U. Council meets October 21st and so on. So it's completely limiting the amount of time they can debate in Parliament.

The question really here with this calculation strategies, we saw Theresa May call a snap election in 2017 to try and extend her lead. That backfired.

And in this particular case, it's obviously then going to provide the opportunity for an otherwise divided opposition to start thinking about alternative strategies and to coordinate those in the face of what they will see naturally and as an affront to their capacity to be able to do what they were sent to Parliament for which is to debate and legislate and govern the country.

VAUSE: Well, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, put out a call to try and stop the Prime Minister. He tweeted, Boris Johnson will try to shut down Parliament next week in order to deliver a catastrophic No- deal Brexit running roughshod over our democracy in order to ruin the life chances of future generations. It's disgraceful. It must be stopped.

There is this narrow window opportunity for the MPs to move a vote of no-confidence in Johnson and his government and that could then lead to this general election which actually could, in fact, be the point.

THOMAS: That could be the point. I mean, what he's doing right now is essentially he knows that really through Parliament they're not interested in the withdrawal agreement as much as they will talk about that. They know that the European Union is not going to make any kind of concession that will compromise either the single market or Northern Ireland.

And this opportunity here to have a general -- or to have a vote of no-confidence or general election calls really helps I think the Conservative Party argue, this kind of us-and-them strategy. I mean, he himself is unelected. Nobody has had an opportunity to weigh in on a referendum or a people's vote.

But what we do see is a divided opposition. They are united when it comes to fighting and a no-deal. They're united, of course, when it comes to sort of issues of prorogation. But the fact remains that the Labour Party is not opposed to Brexit.

And until that is there, the Conservative Party has essentially a Liberal Democrats that are standing to do much better than election that have four remaining in the European Union and a divided Labour Party. And this may be an opportunity for him to exploit that.

VAUSE: Well, Scotland's First Minister had this warning for British MPs on the consequences of fairly to stop this move by Boris Johnson. Here she is.


NICOLA STURGEON, SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER: Shutting down parliament in order to force through a no-deal Brexit -- which will do untold and lasting damage to the country against the wishes of MPs -- is not democracy, it's dictatorship.


STURGEON: If MPs don't come together next week to stop Boris Johnson in his tracks, then I think today will go down in history as the day UK democracy died.


VAUSE: You know, pretty dire stuff. So what -- you know, there was a theory out there that you know, by Johnson doing this, it's so outrageous, so -- you know, so much -- it flies in the face of parliamentary procedure tradition and everything else, that somehow this will unite all those sort of anti-Brexit lawmakers. They'll all come together and it will backfire in a major way against Johnson.

What are the chances?

THOMAS: Yes. Well, I mean, the thing is you know, it's not as if which issue prorogation has not been around. This is why as I said earlier, it's so disingenuous for the -- for Boris Johnson to be talking about the fact that this is merely in order to introduce new and exciting legislation in his -- in his queen's speech, which is a normal practice.

Legally, juridically, technically, they're absolutely correct, but this is not at all what's happening now.

We're at this moment of crisis where Brexit has been defining British- European world politics for the past three years. To prevent people from debating, of course, runs the risk that there will be this coordinated sort of all against the Boris Johnson administration inaction.

Their calculation is that the opposition is in fact much more divided than that. And so long as he sticks to his guns as the person who promises to deliver a Brexit, he can bring under his control and aegis the Brexit Party, that Farage, you keep all that sort of gang and come out of this election with what he hopes to be a new majority that will allow them to deliver Brexit.

On the other end of the political spectrum, the opposition really needs to think very carefully about the impact of these -- of these kinds of divisions. And I think that until they take an oppositional role which is to propose remaining in the European Union, the Conservative Party is going to continue to control the narrative.

VAUSE: You know, at the end of the day, Queen Elizabeth will technically head of state as a ceremonial role. It will be stunning if she done anything other than agree to Johnson's request, right?

But it seems that the Prime Minister is now forcing her to pick sides and has done most -- you know, many have seen as sort of being this unthinkable. He's politicized the monarchy. And that could actually have consequences far beyond Brexit.

THOMAS: Well, it does, but it's also quite ironic the idea that you know, even sort of provoking or pushing the queen into that -- into that position. It would've been extraordinary if she had and come down and not allowed for this to happen.

And so essentially what he's saying is if the queen had come around that way, he would have said look, we now have a queen intervening and interfering in our parliamentary process and yet the very process of preventing Parliament from weighing in particularly with someone like Boris Johnson who's only elected by a small group of Conservative Party members is all the more egregious.

So it was yet another opportunity to kind of provoke this in the public place. And I think the queen had very obviously no option really but to go along and support this.

VAUSE: There's a certain amount of irony or bizarreness or whatever. You know, in the name of the people, we will suspend the people's voice.

THOMAS: Right.

VAUSE: Dom, we'll leave it there. Thank you. Good to see you.

THOMAS: Thanks, John.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: In Puerto Rico, millions are breathing a sigh of relief after escaping a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian. But the threat is far from over. It is intensifying as it pushes into the Atlantic toward the Bahamas. It could become a powerful category 3 storm as it heads towards the United States and Florida over the weekend.

In the Caribbean, the worst of the storm hit the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, about 25,000 power outages have been restored to St. Croix. The governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands says they are still assessing the damage.


ALBERT BRYAN JR., GOVERNOR OF U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS: We do have roaming power outages and there are some downed lines on St. Thomas. This is storm is not to be trusted. It jumped all over the place and the really started forming up at the west end of St. Thomas.

It really took a battering late in the day, around 2:30, 3 o'clock. And those winds pounded them for about an hour, two hours over there. So, we will get over there in the morning and really take a look at what's happening, crews are out there already cleaning the roads. The main arteries are cleared but we are still worried about on the east side roads that (INAUDIBLE).



VAUSE: With us now from Vega Alta, west of the capital of San Juan, is Luis Gutierrez, who by day is a CNN political commentator, but by night, he's our eyes and ears on the ground in Puerto Rico.

So, Luis, great that you're with us. Great that you have electricity. I guess one thing you look at the path that Dorian end up taking. So, it swung out, you know, to the northeast, I guess, away from the island. The relief maybe you're feeling right now must be palpable.

LUIS GUTIERREZ, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's a lot of relief. Let's remember that even though the -- it wasn't a hurricane, it was still a tropical storm, for the most part when it came close to Puerto Rico today.

Tens of thousands of people lost their electricity in San Juan and that's because it's very fragile.


GUTIERREZ: The system is generating electricity again, the generation, it's a distribution that is very weak and hasn't been replaced.

30,000 homes in Puerto Rico tonight, as we speak, still have a blue tarp over them. Can you imagine?

VAUSE: It was years ago. Yes. GUTIERREZ: That's from two years ago. I mean, I live in the richest, most powerful nation in the world. And two years later, we cannot put a roof over 30,000 people's homes. So, imagine if it would have been a category 1 -- forget about it, OK?

If the storm would have hit Puerto Rico, those 30,000 homes, it would have felt like a category 5, they would have lost their roofs.

VAUSE: So, I guess it's just -- I'm just wondering, if after the storm, what you can say now is that Puerto Rico dodged a bullet, as opposed to surviving a bullet because there is still this test, what would actually happen if it was, you know, in the direct path of a major hurricane?

GUTIERREZ: Well, I will say this, it appears that people were ready, right?

At least more so than when Maria came by. There was still a lot of places for people to go and seek refuge that were close. And many of them didn't have generators. Many of them didn't have water or cistern systems.

And so, it's clear that we can work on preparing better, because given global warming and given the current erosion, even of our shores, especially on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, it's clear that the earth -- that these hurricanes are all simply going to intensify in the future and we have to be ready, so that the next time a hurricane comes to Puerto Rico.

Of course, it would help if we had a commander in chief that would love and care and cherish and do any of those things, be respectful of the people of Puerto Rico and their lives and their ambitions and their dreams. Unfortunately, we don't have that kind of commander in chief at the White House.

Well, you mentioned Donald Trump, because many hours earlier as Dorian was actually baring down on Puerto Rico, Donald Trump, he hit the Twitter machine, he called Puerto Rico corrupt. The island leaders were either incompetent or corrupt. And then, a tweet came and sort of at least at first sounded almost normal.

"We are tracking closely tropical storm Dorian as it heads, as usual, to Puerto Rico. FEMA and all others are ready, and will do a great job. When they do, let them know it, and give them a big Thank You - Not like last time. That includes from the incompetent Mayor of San Juan!"

This is a president we're seeing some -- no boundaries. There seems to be, you know, no insult he's not prepared to make. And that tweet, he says actually, Puerto Ricans, you know, we're not grateful you know, last time were not grateful for the aid they received. It just -- it just seems very tone deaf at this moment.

GUTIERREZ: But it is the president that we have. For the most part, John, here in Puerto Rico, people are ignoring the comments of the President of the United States. They're used to them. They don't expect any better from this president.

I will say this, that the people of Puerto Rico in the world a lesson in how you eliminate corruption. We had a governor who was caught on the chats really talking ill about the people of Puerto Rico, the people that elected him to the governorship. He was talking ill about women and gay people and the poor.

And at the same time, this was a corrupt administration where the Secretary of Education was indicted and the Secretary of Health and Human Services was indicted. And you know what the people of Puerto Rico did, first there were 10,000, then there were 50, then there were 100, then there were 500,000 people.

And we demanded that he resign and he had to resign. So if anything, Mr. Trump, we know how to take care of corrupt politicians. I think you should take a lesson from the fate that Governor Rossello confronted here in Puerto Rico because you're going to confront the same fate come November 2020.

Many people will say, well, you know, you don't elect a president by the popular vote in the United States. True. It's the Electoral College. Well, guess what?

There are 1 million Puerto Ricans, the largest single Hispanic group now -- and Florida is no longer Cuban Americans -- it's Puerto Ricans. They're 1 million strong. And they care about their brothers and sisters. And I don't say that in a figurative way. But it's literal. They have brothers and sisters on this island.

And guess what? The president of the United States said, oh, those Puerto Ricans, they just expect the government to do everything for them. Well, he called us lazy. Well, it's not surprising. He called Mexicans criminals and --


GUTIERREZ: -- murders and rapists, calling Puerto Ricans lazy. Guess what, we'll see how lazy those Puerto Ricans are come November of 2020 because they are listening. They are watching.

But the inhumane and cruel way this president of the United States is treating people back home in La Barria (ph), Puerto Rico.

VAUSE: Luis, it's a good point. We shall leave it right there. But thank you very much. We're glad you're well.

GUTIERREZ: Thank you, John.


VAUSE: Let's get the latest on Dorian's path.


VAUSE: Still to come, he served at the pleasure of the president but by the end of last year, President Trump was no longer pleased with his Defense Secretary. Now James Mattis is speaking out with a stark warning on America's lonely position and increasing risk in the world.





VAUSE: It was a promise that defined his 2016 campaign for president, a great big, beautiful wall on the southern border with Mexico. And now almost three years in, without any construction, it seems Donald Trump has become increasingly desperate.

"The Washington Post" and CNN report the president has told aides that they would be pardoned if they need to break the law to speed up construction of the wall to show some progress by 2020. Trump said on Twitter it was all fake news and he insisted that the wall was being built. But it's not.

Well, no new sections of the wall have been built during his administration and that's of last month. Any construction on the border has been limited to about 80 kilometers of replacement barriers.

He never mentioned the president by name but former U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis delivered a scorching assessment of Donald Trump's brand of division and isolationism. In his upcoming book, Mattis also questions mixing politics and the military. Here is CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The first news conference by a Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in a year. On the same day, the last Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, penned a dire warning in a preview of his upcoming book, published in "The Wall Street Journal."

Writing, "What concerns me most as a military man is not our external adversaries; it is our internal divisiveness. We are dividing into hostile tribes, cheering against each other, fueled by emotion and a mutual disdain that jeopardizes our future."

TRUMP: Things can change.

STARR (voice-over): Mattis never directly criticizes President Trump but cautions leaders must do more than launch verbal attacks. But at a private 2017 meeting with troops recorded only by cellphone, Mattis did more than hint at his views about the state of the nation.


GEN. JAMES MATTIS, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It's got some problems. You know and I know it. It's got some problems that we don't have in the military. And you just hold the line, my fine young soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines.


STARR (voice-over): General Joseph Dunford, Trump's top military adviser and a longtime Mattis colleague, flat-out refused to even discuss President Trump's leadership.

GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I will not now nor will I, when I take off the uniform, make judgments about the president of the United States or the commander in chief. I just won't do it.

STARR (voice-over): But politics can't be ignored. Some troops are carrying red "make America great again" hats. Trump has not shied away from bringing partisan politics into the ranks. During this year's government shutdown, he tore into Democrats before a Pentagon audience.

TRUMP: The party has been hijacked by the open borders fringe within the party, the radical left becoming the radical Democrats.

STARR (voice-over): But Dunford insists the majority of the force obeys the rules about not mixing the military and partisan politics.

DUNFORD: It has been a very politically turbulent period of time and yet almost 80 percent of the American people still have trust in the United States military as an institution.

STARR: And on another topic, Dunford was asked about the potential upcoming peace agreement with the Taliban that may end America's longest war in Afghanistan. Dunford said, for now, Afghan forces are not able to fully look after their own security and U.S. forces will be available to help them -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


VAUSE: Still to come, we'll revisit the issue of Brexit and the British prime minister's decision to suspend the Parliament, making avoiding a hard exit from the E.U. almost impossible at this point.

And in Italy, where power is often fleeting, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause with an update on your top news this hour.

[00:32:01] Hurricane Dorian battered the U.S. and British Virgin Islands with heavy rain and wind. But the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico avoided a direct hit from the Category 1 storm. Flooding there is still a concern.

Dorian is expected to strengthen to a possible Category 3 storm as it nears the U.S. state of Florida. Brazil has agreed to accept $12 million in aid from Britain to battle

the fires in the Amazon, but President Jair Bolsonaro is still refusing the $20 million on offer from the G-7. South American leaders plan to meet next week in Colombia to discuss firefighting efforts.

A new poll just out shows Joe Biden still has a strong leader over other Democratic U.S. presidential candidates in the 2020 race. Quinnipiac University puts his support at 32 percent among registered voters; Elizabeth Warren, 19 percent; Bernie Sanders, 15 percent.

Boris Johnson's controversial move to suspend the British Parliament for five weeks has all but guaranteed a hard Brexit, a divorce from the E.U. without a deal, the so-called worst-case scenario. And for those who voted for Brexit in the first place, that sounds just fine. As CNN's Hadas Gold reports, if Brexit supporters are angered by anything, it's the fact that Brexit continues to be delayed.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is Romford. It's just east of London but couldn't be more different from London in how this area voted in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

This area voted 70 percent in favor of leaving. And when you talk to people here about the decision to suspend Parliament, partly with the idea of perhaps getting a no-deal Brexit through, they're OK with it.

What is your opinion on the news today that Boris Johnson has convinced the queen to suspend Parliament?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as it gets Brexit, I don't mind.

GOLD: Would you be OK with a no-deal, as Boris has said do or die on October 31?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Because I think what we voted for was to allow the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) come out. And it was a simple vote, and we voted to come out. So I'm not really too worried about we get a deal or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had a referendum. We voted, and we voted to leave; and we just need to carry on with the people's wishes.

GOLD: So you're OK with the idea that the suspension of Parliament will prevent people from trying to block Brexit?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say, it's so many twists and turns, isn't it? And so, I mean, and so the outcome we won't know, really. No one will know.

GOLD: And what's really notable about talking to people here is, despite what some politicians say, that the 2016 referendum did not give them a mandate to leave without a deal, the people here who voted in favor of Brexit overwhelmingly say that they're actually OK with a no-deal scenario, whatever it takes to get them out of the European Union.

They're sick of the process dragging on for so long. They're sick of listening to politicians that a lot of them think are just remainders. And for many of them, they're OK with whatever pain might actually come to the U.K. economy as a result of the no-deal, because they think that the country will be stronger and better on the other side.

Hadas Gold, CNN, Romford, England.


VAUSE: From England, we'll head to Italy and a new government, again, rising from the ashes of the old. This time it's two bitter rivals joining forces to block a political enemy they fear even more. And Giuseppe Conte there on the left, the former prime minister who resigned last week, looks like he'll keep his job after all.

[00:35:05] CNN's Barbie Nadeau has the latest from Rome.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The current Italian political crisis is nearing an end, at least for the moment. The center-left Democratic Party and and populist Five Star Party have reached an agreement to try to form a new coalition government.

The new government will be led by Giuseppe Conte. Now, he's the prime minister who resigned last week after Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right Lega Party pulled his support from the coalition with the Five Star movement.

Mr. Conte received an endorsement from U.S. President Donald Trump after the two met at the G-7 conference in France last weekend. Mr. Conte will go to the presidential palace to meet with Sergio Mattarella and receive the formal mandate to try to move the country out of its current political crisis.

Barbie Latza Nadeau for CNN, Rome.


VAUSE: Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, the drug giants' role in American opioid epidemic may a family its business and billions of dollars of its own money.

And a close call. We'll show you how a family's escaped from an erupting volcano in Italy. It's like something out of the movie. Yes, I used that line. When NEWSROOM returns.


VAUSE: The company accused of starting and then fueling the opioid epidemic in the U.S. is reportedly ready to settle myriad lawsuits. Purdue Pharma, makers of Oxycontin, is accused by more than two thousand states, counties, municipalities and Native American governments for the deaths of thousands of people over two decades. Here's CNN's Erica Hill.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a story of pain, addiction and enormous profits. For years, Purdue Pharma and the family that owns it, the Sacklers, have been blamed for oxycontin's role in the nation's opioid epidemic.

JOSH HAWLEY, FORMER MISSOURI ATTORNEY GENERAL: The citizens of Missouri have been the victims of a coordinated campaign of fraud and deception about the nature of drugs known as opioids.

HILL: The Sacklers insisting the family and the company had nothing to do with the health crisis. But tonight, facing thousands of lawsuits, CNN has learned that Purdue Pharma is in settlement talks, which could cost the company ten to $12 billion, according to NBC News.

As part of the plan, "The New York Times" is reporting the Sackler family would give up its stake in the company and pay at least $3 billion of its own money.

It wouldn't be the company's first settlement or admission that it made billions selling pain pills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know how much the Sackler family has made off the sale of Oxycontin?


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

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

HILL: Dr. Richard Sackler, Purdue Pharma's former president and current chairman, answered questions during a 2015 deposition for a lawsuit brought by the state of Kentucky. The tapes were first obtained by Pro Publica.

[00:40:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that any of Purdue's conduct has led to an increase in people being addicted in the commonwealth of Kentucky?


HILL: Purdue settled that case months later for $24 million.

Yet, years before, the company and three executives had already pleaded guilty in federal court to misleading and defrauding doctors and consumers about Oxycontin and agreed to pay more than a $600 million fine.

JOHN BROWNLEE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: For these representations and crimes, Purdue and its executives have been brought to justice.

HILL: Still, the accusations and legal challenges persist.

T.J. DONOVAN, VERMONT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Before it was a heroin crisis, before it was a fentanyl crisis, it was a prescription drug crisis in this state, which was Oxycontin.

HILL: Purdue tells CNN, while it will "defend itself vigorously," the company is actively working on a solution with plaintiffs, because it sees, quote, "little good coming from years of wasteful litigation and appeals."

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think they're concerned about years of appeals. I think they're concerned about their financial liability and responsibility, which is going to be massive if they don't settle.

HILL (on camera): Attorneys are expected to update the court on settlement talks at the end of the week.

As for the payout, "The New York Times" is reporting that much of that would be funded through a restructuring of the company through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. So that means the profits from the drugs that it sells, including Oxycontin, would fund the payout.

The company would also be required to make its addiction treatment drugs available for free.

CNN has reached out to members of the Sackler family. We have yet to hear back. In New York, I'm Erica Hill, CNN.


VAUSE: To Italy now, and maybe a teachable moment. So you're on vacation with the family. You're cruising the waters just off Sicily, not far from the always rumbling Stromboli volcano.

And then you hear a blast. Well, what do you do? This is what you do. Yes, you turn the boat around, and you try and outrun it.

And that's all they did. The video suddenly ends. It cuts out. The big question is, what happened? Did they make it out? Were they hurt? Well, I think no one was actually hurt. No one was harmed. So far, no reports of any injuries from the Stromboli eruption.

Finally, a teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg, is now in New York after sailing almost 5,000 kilometers across the Atlantic. Wading from a zero-carbon-emissions vessel, she completed her 15-day journey from Plymouth, England, to take part in a U.N. climate summit in September. Safe on the banks of the Hudson River, Thunberg spoke about her journey and the reasons behind it.


GRETA THUNBERG, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: This United Nations climate action summit in September now and the COP25, these two have to be a tipping point. And I think -- I hope it will be, because it must. And I and many people with me are going to try to do everything we can to make sure that the world leaders have all eyes on them during these conferences so that they cannot continue to ignore this.


VAUSE: Thunberg said she's now ready to take a little bit of time off, relax, recoup, have a good meal. Her boat, we should note, did not have a shower or a bathroom and those aboard, including her father, ate frozen dried food throughout that long journey for 15 days.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. WORLD SPORT is next.


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