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Nearly 50,000 General Motors Workers Go on Strike; Purdue Pharma Files for Bankruptcy as Part of Settlement; U.S.: Satellite Images Show Targets Hit in Saudi Oil Attack; Oil Prices Spike after Saudi Attack; Schumer & Pelosi Talk to Trump about Universal Background Checks. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 16, 2019 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, September 16. It's 6 p.m. here in New York. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill joins me this morning.


BERMAN: Great to have you here. We've got a lot of breaking news from around the world.

First off, strike. The biggest strike among U.S. auto workers in more than ten years. Contract talks between General Motors and the United Auto Workers broke off over the weekend. And now, nearly 50,000 UAW members and over 50 facilities in the United States will stay home or they will man the picket lines this morning.

HILL: Plus, the end may be near for Purdue Pharma. The company that made billions selling the painkiller Oxycontin filing for bankruptcy. This is all part of a settlement involving some 2,000 lawsuits related to the company's role in the opioid crisis.

Now, some reports put the price tag here at over $10 billion. This morning, though, there is major resistance to that plan.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich, who's live in Detroit at a GM factory with our top story.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. Good morning, Erica and John.

Today we are seeing about 50,000 workers from across the country who are striking today because they could not reach a deal between the UAW and GM. You see some of them just behind me here.

Now, GM is saying that they are offering a very fair and strong contract, offering to boost wages, offering to bring more people on board, and offering to start -- restart some of the plants including one of them behind me, which was scheduled to go out of commission in 2020.

But the UAW, the union, saying that is not good enough. They need stronger health care, and they want a better starting salary for all of their employees.

Now, this is coming off of a really rocky year for GM, who has seen slumping car sales, which has forced them to announce that they're closing five plants in North America, laying off many workers, and having to relocate many, as well.

And this has gotten the attention of President Trump, who tweeting just last night that he wanted the UAW and GM to come to a deal. He wants these jobs to stay in the country.

Additionally, we're hearing from 2020 candidates, who are saying that they are in support of the union, calling on GM to make a fair deal. The union vote is so critical in this 2020 election.

And as for this new meeting that's happening at 10 a.m. today in just a couple short hours, it is a good sign, but we are hearing that both sides are very far apart from coming to a deal, so we'll have to see if this is a one-day strike or this will continue on for the next couple of days -- Erica.

HILL: We will certainly be watching for that. Vanessa, thank you.

Also breaking overnight, Purdue Pharma, the drug maker accused of fueling the nation's opioid epidemic through its sale of the highly- profitable and highly-addictive painkiller Oxycontin, filing for bankruptcy. CNN's Jean Casarez joins us now this morning with more.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And this broke late last night. Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical giant, maker of oxycontin, filed for Chapter 11 protection in New York's federal bankruptcy court Sunday night and is saying the move is part of the framework for settling U.S. national prescription opioid litigation.

This multi-district litigation has been brought by counties, local and even tribal governments across the country and consolidated into one case against hundreds of manufacturers and distributors of opioids.

The first trial is set to begin in October, and Purdue Pharma has been front and center in settlement negotiations ahead of that trial.

State governments have joined in, believing that Purdue is partially responsible for the opioid cases in this country, while the family that privately owns the company, the Sackler family, has become billionaires.

The family has said that they wanted to settle to avoid protracted legal costs associated with litigation that could take years, saying they filed for Chapter 11, quote, "as the next step in implementing this historic agreement in principle. This court-supervised process is intended to, among other things, facilitate an orderly and equitable resolution of all claims against Purdue, while preserving the value of Purdue's assets for the benefit of those impacted by the opioid crisis."

A source close to the negotiation tells me the Sackler family is guaranteeing $3 billion as part of this settlement, as well as moneys from the sales of its companies, national and international. Financial analysts associated with this negotiation tell me the deal could be worth $6 billion to $8 billion -- John, Erica.

BERMAN: All right. Big settlement, but still more details needed, to be sure. Jean, thank you very much.

We still have breaking news overnight. Tensions reaching a dangerous level in the Persian Gulf. President Trump says the U.S. is, quote, "locked and loaded" following U.S. claims that Iran is responsible for an attack Saturday on Saudi Arabian oil fields.

CNN is all over this story from all the key locations. Joining us from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson. And CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh, who joins us from Tehran, obviously the capital of Iran.

Nic Robertson, first to you from Saudi Arabia. These oil fields attacked on Saturday. Bring us up to speed.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, the world's biggest processing plant, about two-thirds of it taken offline, according to Saudi officials, down 5.7 million barrels a day in production. That's about a two-thirds reduction of the country's total capacity.

This is a very significant strike. It strikes at -- essentially at the heart of the -- of the country's life blood. The basis of its economy. So this is a huge strike on the national security of Saudi Arabia. Absolutely rackets up tensions.

The crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has indicated that this has been an act of terrorism, something that they are prepared to deal with. The government here has not said who they hold responsible.

However, the early indications are that the 19 strikes at these two facilities struck with very clear and careful precision and planning in what seems to be best described as a complex drone missile attack. The strikes have -- have impacted the world's largest processing plant, taken that significantly offline.

Now, the Saudis have said they hope to get some of that capacity back up and running. The reality is they're only in the assessment phase of who was responsible and precisely the damage. So that's going to take a little bit of perhaps more time than they initially anticipate until they get that full readout. They do have reserved capacity, about 200 million barrels in Europe, China, and Japan. And that is what we expect to see them use to offset this current impact to their processing plants and oil fields at the moment.

But no mistake here, this is a huge national security issue. Of course, there are many more plants like this dotted all over this desert kingdom. HILL: Well, as Nick just mentioned, Saudi Arabia's still in the

assessment phase. And President Trump has said, "We want to wait and hear from Saudi Arabia as to who they ultimately think is responsible.

But Secretary of State Pompeo pointing the finger at Iran, although not going as far as saying the attacks originated in Iran. What are you hearing there on the ground, Nick Paton Walsh, in Tehran this morning?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This morning, they have it absolutely clear that they believe words from Donald Trump the last 24 hours. That's the foreign ministry spokesperson here.

His tweets suggesting that they think they know who the culprit is. But as you said, they're waiting for Saudi Arabia, their main ally in the region, to come together with them and find some kind of retaliative response.

Saudi Arabia, interestingly, hasn't said the words "Iran" yet in relation to this. Mike Pompeo coming out very early on Saturday in two tweets that had no evidence to back them up, saying that he believed Iran was behind this, saying that there was no evidence that the people who had taken responsibility for the attacks, the Houthi rebels in Yemen who said they flew ten drones to carry out these attacks. And I have to say, they'd have to have flown across hundreds of miles of Saudi Arabia through U.S.-supplied $10 billion air defenses to hit those refineries, saying there was no evidence these Yemeni rebels were, in fact, behind it.

But there's no evidence, too, at this point that Iran is connected. And Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zari, has said this is, quote, "maximum deceit" from the United States after their campaign of maximum pressure. That's how the Trump administration has been ratcheting up sanctions, putting out of the nuclear deal, beefing up their military presence here.

I've got to tell you, we've been dealing with months of both these sides here -- the U.S., the Saudis, their main ally the Iranians -- their keen adversary here, winding each other up. Small attacks, pressure here and there, but nothing on the scale of these attacks on these oil refineries. It's a game changer. The question is, what are the facts of the attack and what's the retaliation next?

And what of diplomacy? Many people thought the departure of John Bolton as natural security advisor meant that Trump was finished with his Iran talks (ph). But then Mike Pompeo stepped into those shoes early on Saturday.

Is this all some sort of grand bid to push people towards negotiation? Doesn't look likely. And the real fear is, we're in such unchartered territory with such a perceived vacuum in the security establishment in the White House we simply don't know what may come next. We've been dealing with months of escalating tension here.

Back to you. BERMAN: Nic Robertson, this is such a strike at the heart of the Saudi economy. Is there a sense in Riyadh that the Saudis have to respond with some kind of military action and/or would they let the United States take that action on their behalf?

ROBERTSON: I think there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that any country that had its national security threatened would be taking the analysis and decision of how best to prevent that happening again. I don't think it's any different here.

And I'd layer on the top of that, if you will, the way that the Middle East works. It is a society of nations here that recognize, if they don't step up when they're challenged and send a clear message, they will be perceived as being weak.

Now, that would go for any established leadership in Saudi Arabia. Then you have Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who -- who is the essence of a Saudi strong leader. That's why his father picked him to be crown prince, so he could lead the country, change the country, but be strong and tough in doing it.

So I think there is no doubt at all that there will be a response. The question is, how? What shape will it take? Will it -- will it -- where will it put the pressure?

But Saudi Arabia simply cannot walk away from this. It would be seen as being weak and seen as inviting more curbs on whatever their national security pressure -- internal pressures would push them to do in the future.

BERMAN: All right. Nic Robertson for us in Riyadh. Nick Paton Walsh in Tehran. CNN everywhere, it needs to be on this story. Stand by for us. Keep us posted as to what you hear. Thank you, gentlemen.


HILL: And John, as you point out, we can't ignore the economy when it comes to Saudi Arabia here. So let's -- let's get right to CNN business. The attack in Saudi Arabia sending oil prices up. Markets around the world moving down.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here to help put this in perspective for us.

Good morning, you two.

Well, look, this is a dangerous moment in the Middle East, a shock to global oil supplies and a guarantee that higher gas prices are coming for American consumers.

Now, the attacks disrupted 5 percent of the daily global oil supply. Oil prices spiked as much as 15 percent, now trading at the highest levels since May. Now, the strike was right at the heart of Saudi Aramco's facility, the largest processing facility in the world. Second largest oil field in Saudi Arabia. This is unprecedented. We've never seen so much oil sidelined so fast before. Not from

Hurricane Katrina, not during the Arab Spring, not even when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Five point seven million barrels off the market is a dramatic disruption in the global economy. And this is a brand-new uncertainty for investors.

The big question now, how fast can Aramco get these facilities back to full capacity? What will the U.S. response be? The president has said he could tap America's emergency reserves in storage in Texas and Louisiana. We have more details on that, John.

BERMAN: Right. And if this is days, that's one thing. But if we're talking weeks or months, Christine Romans, there are major global disruptions. Thank you so much.

This morning a new accusation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh leading some Democrats to call for his impeachment and leaving the president to call on the Justice Department to, quote, "rescue him." What does that mean? Next.



HILL: Several 2020 Democratic hopefuls are calling for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to be impeached as "The New York Times" published new information about sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh.

President Trump is standing by the justice, insisting the Justice Department should, quote, "come to his rescue." The newspaper has now published an editor's note that says the victim does not recall the incident.

Joining us now, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig. There's sort of a lot in here, but I do want to start with the president's tweet. Just because, you know, former federal prosecutor, do us a favor. Remind us. What is the role of the Department of Justice?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. That tweet, I think, shows a really ignorant and, I think, dangerous view of what the Department of Justice does.

Here's what the DOJ does not do. They do not weigh into partisan battles. They don't settle political scores. They certainly do not seek to silence the media or victims. What DOJ ought to do and has done throughout its history is follow the facts, get to the truth, and do justice. The president has, before, shown us a disregard for that. But this tweet, I think, is really a new low.

BERMAN: Well, because the -- We don't even know what rescue means. Do you think -- what could the Justice Department do?

HONIG: Yes. I mean, that's the question you have to ask. Is he saying that the Justice Department should come in and big-foot media organizations that report this? Is he saying that Justice Department should come in an silence the victims here? Is he saying -- it's not entirely clear what he means. But no, DOJ is not there to rescue the president's political allies.

BERMAN: So the new reporting in "The New York Times" over the weekend, CNN has not corroborated this new allegation. So we're not going to go into the details there.

But among the things "The New York Times" does report is that, in one of the cases that was widely reported during the confirmation hearing, Deborah Ramirez, some 25 corroborating witnesses were provided to the FBI. The FBI didn't interview any of them. Likewise, they didn't look at this allegation either.

What does that tell us about the FBI investigation surrounding Kavanaugh at the time?

HONIG: It tells me that that original FBI investigation was a show investigation. It was for political cover. That is not the way real criminal investigations work.

Criminal investigations, you don't know where they're going to go as a prosecutor. Your approach going in always has to be wherever the evidence takes us, we'll go. And a lot of time, you end up a completely different place than you expect. But you always follow the evidence, you always follow the lead. I've never seen a situation where you've had 25, any number of corroborating witnesses that have just sort of been shut off and partitioned. Don't even speak to them. If you don't look for corroboration, you're not going to find corroboration.

HILL: A number of Democrats, as we noted, have come out and said they're calling for impeachment. That is, as we know, not an easy process. Certainly not -- certainly not here. But they could technically call for impeachment because of his role.

HONIG: Correct. Impeachment, it's not just for presidents. It's usually associated with presidents, but any -- or many federal officials can be impeached, including judges. In fact, the most common office that has been impeached over our history is judges going back to the 1800s. Fifteen federal judges have been impeached, some removed, some not.

As recently as 2010, a district -- federal district court judge in Louisiana was impeached and convicted by the Senate and removed. Same process, though. Majority of the House, two-thirds of the Senate. Now, it wasn't even a year ago we had a 50-48 Senate vote to confirm Justice Kavanaugh. So you would need to see 19 who voted yes flip over and vote to convict in the Senate. Seems very unlikely.


BERMAN: Well, one of the things the president does talk about is libel. People say, you know, Brett Kavanaugh should sue for libel. If you were counseling him here, Elie, what would you say? HONIG: I would say, Justice Kavanaugh, you can sue for libel. You

have the right to do that, but I strongly advise against that for this reason.

When you sue for libel, first of all, there's discovery. The exchange of evidence and information. So all this stuff that seems to have been swept under the rug before now comes out.

And second of all, it is a defense to a libel claim to show truth. So if the person you're suing can say, yes, but what I reported or said is true, then you beat that case. If I was Justice Kavanaugh's lawyer, I'd say walk away. Don't go anywhere near it.

HILL: Thanks, Elie.

HONIG: Thanks, Erica.

BERMAN: Appreciate it. All right. Top Democrats this morning pushing President Trump on gun legislation. How they promise to sweeten the deal if the president backs expanded background checks. That's next.



BERMAN: All right. We're learning new details this morning about a phone call between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer with the president on the issue of gun violence.

The Democrats have been pushing for expanded background checks when people are buying guns. And they offer the president what they call an historic signing ceremony if he agrees to a deal. This as 2020 Democratic candidates Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg have been clashing over O'Rourke's pledge for mandatory gun buybacks to take people's guns away.

Joining us now, Joe Lockhart, CNN political commentator, former Clinton White House press secretary; and Aisha Moodie-Mills, CNN political contributor.

Aisha, this phone call between Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, they're pressing the president on action. Frankly, everyone is still waiting to see what the president will support and not support. Do you see progress?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Here's the thing. I don't see progress, because Mitch McConnell, where is he and what is he doing? I think it's really interesting that you have the Democratic leadership trying to get this president to do the right thing right now.

Where are the Republicans? Specifically, were are the Republicans in the Senate? I think it's really interesting --

BERMAN: But they're with the president. They're saying that, we need cover from the president.

MOODIE-MILLS: They seem to me, though, to be the ones who should be in the position to get their guy to do the right thing. Mitch McConnell should be in the back room, saying, look, Trump, I really need you to move this right now. Right?

She's going have an interesting re-election where, like, this is going to come up over and over again. And I just find that the Republican leadership is being extremely cowardice, because it's their friend that's in the White House.

The Democrats shouldn't be the only ones carrying the water on, literally trying to safeguard and protect American lives. Right now, we are all at risk of gun violence. And the Republicans are kind of sitting around twiddling their thumbs. And I think that we need to be putting more responsibility on Mitch McConnell and the rest of Republicans to get Trump to move something, move anything at this point. It shouldn't just be the Democrats who are trying to get things done.

HILL: In terms of the Democrats making that move in this 11-minute call, Joe, saying, hey, we will have the photo-op with you in the Rose Garden. Is that the way to go about it at this point?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it says something about what they think of Trump. That he, you know, absent the details here that people are being killed in large numbers, he thinks about optics. He thinks about, you know, you have the example with the Taliban meeting at Camp David. You know, which is Trump was not thinking about finishing the negotiations. He was thinking about the picture of him getting them to shake hands and being a world leader and statesman.

So I think Pelosi and Schumer have figured Trump out. But I agree that, you know, I don't think that there's anything in the Constitution that says senators shouldn't have to take hard votes. Senators are elected to actually legislate and protect the people.

And under McConnell, you have a system where, you know, he won't bring anything to the floor if it makes him uncomfortable for his members. And the president's not going to lead, which means, ultimately, probably nothing's going to happen.

BERMAN: But that's why Republicans like Mitch McConnell as a leader, and that's why Democrats in the House like Nancy Pelosi as a leader. Because they, you know, they protect their caucus. That's their job, or one of their jobs. Obviously, you would like to think that all political leaders, their job is --

MOODIE-MILLS: How problematic is that, though? So it makes me so sad that's their job to protect their caucus, which is absolutely how they see their job, as opposed to it's their job to protect America and Americans from gun violence.

HILL: They're elected. Sometimes you can't forget that they do work for the American people. Although that does seem to get lost sometimes. But it's important to --

MOODIE-MILLS: Look, tare big Senate races happening right now in Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Kentucky out there, Maine, Susan Collins. I think that Americans and, certainly, the folks in those states need to be paying attention to what their senators are and aren't doing and hold them accountable.

BERMAN: Let's talk about a little bit of the decision now from within the Democratic Party on guns. Beto O'Rourke in the debate last week famously said, hell, yes when he was asked whether or not he would take people's assault weapons away. He's for mandatory buybacks of assault weapons. He said hell yes.

Listen to Jake Tapper talking to Pete Buttigieg about that exchange.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did O'Rourke say something that's playing into the hands of Republicans?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. Right now we have an amazing moment on our hands, when even this president and even Mitch McConnell are at least pretending to be open to reforms. We know that we have a moment on our hands. Let's make the most of it.


BERMAN: All right. Pete Buttigieg saying that Beto O'Rourke may have gone too far. Beto O'Rourke responding on Twitter, writing, "Leaving millions of weapons of war on the streets because Trump and McConnell are 'at least pretending to be open to reforms'? That calculation and fear is what got us here in the first place. Let's have the courage".