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AT THIS HOUR

Sanford Debates Cardboard Trump to Protest Cancelled Primary; GOP Presidential Candidate Mark Sanford Discusses the Cancelling of Primaries & the Economy; Israelis Return to Polls to Decide Netanyahu's Political Fate; Bankruptcy Battle Underway for OxyContin Maker; Remembering the Legendary Journalist Cokie Roberts. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 17, 2019 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:31:45]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK SANFORD, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My hope is that, with all due respect to Donald, we won't make this the only debate that takes place between me and the president. And again, more importantly, the only debate that takes place within South Carolina homes about where we're going next as a party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That is correct. Your eyes do not deceive you. That is Mark Sanford debating a cardboard cutout of President Trump. He's making a point. But it could be the closest he gets to the real thing.

Sanford is one of three Republican primary challengers trying to take on Trump, but they won't be on the ballot in South Carolina, which is Sanford's home state because the state's Republican Party has scrapped the primary cycle. South Carolina is not alone. Arizona, Kansas and Nevada are doing the same. Sanford is now trying to fight that.

The former South Carolina governor and congressman joins me now.

Thank you so much for being here.

SANFORD: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: So beyond the cardboard cutout, Congressman, and I get your point, how far are you going to fight the decision to cancel the primary in South Carolina and these other states?

SANFORD: We're in the process of exploring any and all options. I think it's incredibly important because, one, our first-in-the-south primary status has, frankly, given South Carolinians disproportional impact and influence in the national debate and what comes next for the Republican Party. I think it's a mistake to lose that. In my particular instance, in regard to my candidacy, this is home.

This is where I know a lot of folks. This is where I built two successful statewide political organizations that resulted in me winning the governorship twice.

And the idea of denying that to a hometown boy, I think, is what you see in third-world republics. It's closer to what you see in a lot of places around the world where elections and debates are snuffed out based on raw political might.

BOLDUAN: Other than a legal challenge, what are the options? Time is of the essence if you want to get in on this primary before this all happens.

SANFORD: It is. But the problem with the legal challenge is there can be appeals that can drag that part out, too.

I mean, you're left with, you know -- what I heard when I was at the University of South Carolina football game on Saturday, which is a lot of people coming up to me and saying, this doesn't make sense to us.

If in the world of politics you have the chance to, quote, "stack in a 90 percent win," which is what he alleges his lead is, you do it all day long. Particularly, if you're the first-in-the-south primary, it will have implications in other primaries.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

SANFORD: -- that says that somebody is worried about something. Somebody is seeing numbers saying his support is a mile wide but an inch deep.

BOLDUAN: Fair or unfair, if it is the reality and you don't get a primary in South Carolina, do you think you have any shot of taking on Trump?

SANFORD: Well, I'd turn the question around to you. I would ask you that question of Donald Trump not so many months ago when he run and you'd say not a shot. I think that's the world of politics. You never know quite what's going to come next. I'm going to try and prosecute my case as vigorously as I can.

BOLDUAN: Last night President, Trump had a campaign rally in New Mexico. He said a lot. One reoccurring theme was the economy. Let me play this for you.

[11:35:09]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have created six million new jobs since Election Day.

Unemployment recently reached its lowest rate in over 50 years. (CHEERING)

TRUMP: More than seven million Americans have been lifted off of food stamps.

(CHEERING)

TRUMP: Nearly 600,000 Americans came into the labor force last month alone. Think of that.

We passed the largest package of tax cuts and reforms in American history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: You've got a lot that you say against the president, but how do you convince Republican voters that tax cuts, low unemployment and deregulation isn't what they want here?

SANFORD: Well, I think they do want those things. But the question is, at what cost. And what we're doing right now as a society is buying growth. You can do this in the corporate world. You can do it in the world of politics.

So, yes, you get a bit of a sugar high based on the tax cuts. You get a bit of a sugar high based on additional spending. You get a sugar high based on Fed policy. But it comes at great cost.

So what we've done is we accumulated $22 trillion in debt. We are seeing record levels -- the records he's not talking about is record levels of debt, record levels of deficit spending that are buying and creating those jobs.

And the problem is, when the economy does turn down, we've left ourselves with no tools in the tool kit to deal with that downturn because we bought these jobs and we bought this economic growth here in the short run. It does not play out well over the long run. And it particularly doesn't play out well for our kids and grandkids.

A deficit is nothing more than a deferred tax. What you're doing is handing the cost of government that is consumed today to our kids and grandkids, which is the opposite of what the founding fathers talked about when they talked about no taxation without representation.

BOLDUAN: Mark Sanford, who seems to be the lone standing deficit hawk in Washington and beyond at this point.

Congressman, thank you for coming in. I'm very interested to hear what move you make when it comes to the South Carolina primary and beyond. We'll keep watching it closely.

Thank you.

SANFORD: Yes, ma'am.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, right now, Israeli voters are heading to the polls in the election that will decide Prime Minister Netanyahu's political fate. Remember, Israelis just voted on this very thing five months ago. What is going on here and what is at stake? That's next.

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[11:42:30]

BOLDUAN: For the second time in five months, it's Election Day in Israel. And Benjamin Netanyahu is in the fight of his political life. The long-time Israeli prime minister is facing off with the former chief of staff to the Israeli military, Benny Gantz.

But who is going to win this the polls tell us is still too close to call.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is tracking all of this from Tel Aviv as voters are heading to the polls.

Oren, what's at stake here is much more than just who is going to lead the Israeli government. What are you hearing today?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, of course, that's the number-one question, who comes out of this election, if anyone, victorious. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- and we are set up at his Likud headquarters behind me -- or his former rival, former IDF chief of staff, Benny Gantz.

But this isn't just political for Netanyahu. It is personal as well. In just about two weeks, he has this preliminary hearing in corruption probes. The attorney general has said he intends to indict him on charges of bribery and breach of trust in three separate cases.

One of his strongest arguments for doing away with that is he is prime minister. And if he gets the government he wants, he may be able to legislate immunity from prosecution himself. That's one of the major headlines we'll look for in the coming days and weeks from whatever happens here tonight.

The polls have been open for 12 hours. There are about three more hours more to go.

One of the big questions is voter turnout. Both Netanyahu and Gantz are employing the same strategy right now, what's called a (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) campaign in Hebrew, a panic campaign, saying that they're losing, they're behind, the other side is winning. And that's intended to put the fear of losing into supporters of either party and try to get them out there to vote.

In fact, Netanyahu was just in one of the major markets in Jerusalem just a short time ago with a megaphone screaming, "What are you doing here? Go out and vote, go out and vote." It is a time-tested strategy and he's using it once against in the closing hours of voting here.

The question now is, how is that possible. According to the Central Election Committee, voting is up from April 1.5 percentage points. So you see that as a strategy to try to energize the voter base and see who, if anyone, comes out victorious.

Because it's possible, according to all the election polls until this point, that the same political deadlock that led Israel into a second election in five months, remains even after these results.

We'll see the exit polls, Kate, in about three hours from now. We'll have our first projection, our first suggestion of how this might look.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating. So glad you're there.

Thanks so much, Oren. It's great to see you. We'll see what happens in the coming hours.

[11:44:48]

Coming up though still for us, right now, a bankruptcy court is the scene of the latest fight to hold one of America's wealthiest families accountable for the opioid crisis. Why some state officials are now saying that letting Purdue Pharma file for Chapter 11 could be letting the family off of the hook.

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BOLDUAN: Right now, billions of dollars are at stake as the first bankruptcy hearing for the producer of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, is underway right now. And we are expecting it to be quite the showdown.

[11:50:09]

Purdue filed for bankruptcy as part of a deal to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits against them, lawsuits brought by local communities across the nation for the company's role in fueling the opioid crisis.

So what is going to happen today? And what does this mean for the thousands and thousands of families across the country that are battling against opioid addiction as we speak?

Joining me right now is one of the lead attorneys representing the thousands of plaintiffs in the federal opioid case, Paul Farrell.

Paul, thank you for joining me.

PAUL FARRELL, ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFFS IN FEDERAL OPIOID LAWSUIT: No problem. Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

What are you expecting to happen today?

FARRELL: Well, today is day one. It's the first day, as they call it, in the bankruptcy proceedings. So it's gathering of lawyers in White Plains, New York. The bankruptcy judge is going to look over the petition and make some immediate decisions regarding the operations of the company and then begin developing a plan for the sale of assets for the debts. BOLDUAN: What kind of decisive action are you hoping could happen

come today?

FARRELL: I don't know that anything decisive is going to happen today, but today is the first step in a long series of decisions and choices that not only Purdue will have to take but also all of the counties and the cities that we represent.

So today is the beginning of the journey of trying to figure out how much money is available in bankruptcy and how we can begin abating the crisis.

BOLDUAN: Some attorneys general are objecting to the deal that -- the tentative agreement you guys reached, including the attorney general from Pennsylvania, who said this, the "This bankrupt filing is another attempt by the Sacklers" -- the family behind Purdue Pharma -- "to run away from responsibility and avoid paying for the opioid epidemic they engineered. This family has moved all of the value out of Purdue Pharma and into their own pockets."

What do you say to that?

FARRELL: It very well could be true. But it doesn't take away from the fact that Purdue, a privately held company, has filed bankruptcy. They've waved the white flag and they will be effectively severed from all the litigation.

That doesn't mean the Sacklers are off the hook. There's still litigation pending against the Sacklers. And the bankruptcy court will take all of that into consideration before making a final ruling.

BOLDUAN: Now what this also means, instead of negotiating directly with Purdue Pharma or the Sacklers, this now puts the terms of the settlement into the hands of a bankruptcy judge. How confident are you that the judge is going to approve the plan that you've proposed?

FARRELL: Let's separate the two things. One is Purdue Pharma, which is a privately held company that will no longer be in existence. Secondly is the family that owns Purdue Pharma. So there's two separate analyses that goes into that.

For the first part, there will be extensive discovery and extensive paperwork to evaluate what Purdue Pharma is actually worth. And then in addition to that, the Sackler family is going to be putting up money from the sale of its assets in Europe as well as some other in cash.

So, ultimately, it's a Hobson's choice. There's not really we can do other than the fact of go through the bankruptcy proceedings and try to evaluate how much money is actually available to begin to solve some of the problems OxyContin caused.

BOLDUAN: One step in a very long process. And you're still going to litigation, into court for the other part of this case. You've got a lot ahead of you.

FARRELL: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for coming in. I have many more questions ahead and many more days to cover this.

I appreciate your time.

FARRELL: Thank you.

[11:53:46]

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the world lost a legendary journalist today. We learned this morning the sad news that Cokie Roberts has passed. There's so much about her extraordinary life and career to say. We're going to take a moment to remember her. That's next.

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[11:58:40]

BOLDUAN: We have some sad news to report this morning. ABC News has announced a short time ago the legendary journalist, Cokie Roberts, has passed.

She was an icon, a titan, if you will, in our industry, the long-time reporter in Washington, won many, many awards for her political coverage over her decades-long career. She was also known for just being a wonderfully kind human being.

CNN's chief media correspondent and host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, is here.

Saying "legendary" when you talk about Cokie Roberts is not an understatement.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Not at all. This woman was a trailblazer for journalism who worked for NPR and ABC for decades as a congressional correspondent and an analyst.

She was on the air up until August but she was fighting breast cancer at the time. She passed away earlier today from complications from breast cancer.

Former President Bush remembers her as a talented, tough and fair reporter.

Former President Obama remembers her as a trailblazer figure and a role model for young women.

And the head of ABC News, James Goldston, pointed out in a member this morning, saying, "Cokie had a storied career over 40 years in television, public radio and publishing. A true pioneer for women in journalist. Cokie was well regarded for her insightful analysis of politics and policy and for her unwavering support for the generations of young women and men who will follow in her footsteps." If our legacy from our time here on earth is the people we rise up and

help, our family we nurture, our friends in the business that we help, then she has an incredible legacy.

[12:00:02]

BOLDUAN: Amen, Brian. That's so perfectly put.

Her husband, Steve, was a professor of mine, long-time friend since. And it's just such a sad day.