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Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) discusses the Ukraine/Whistleblower controversy and Trump Impeachment; Trump Attacks Whistleblower & Whistleblower's Lawyers Express Safety Concerns to Intel Committee Chief; Health Officials Speak Out on Missing Warning Signs in Vaping Epidemic; Saudi Crown Prince Denies Ordering Khashoggi Murder. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 30, 2019 - 11:30   ET



REP. JARED HUFFMAN (D-CA): But I think, with the latest scandal, with this betrayal of his office, this gross abuse of power that involves our national security, you should see some cracks emerging in that cult of Trumpism.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: When do you think we'll see those cracks?

HUFFMAN: Well, you quoted Adam Kinzinger just this morning. And we heard from Mitt Romney and we heard from Ben Sasse. I think a growing number of Republicans are going to be willing -- especially as the public starts to tune in and express its displeasure with the president -- I think a growing number of Republicans will be willing to part ways with the president.

HILL: The White House we've seen ignore subpoenas before. Do you believe it will be any different this time?

HUFFMAN: It is one of the advantages to be a clear impeachment posture because as they defy Congress, as they show their contempt for Congress, it simply adds to the count potentially of the articles of impeachment. That's a different place than we have been in the past.

HILL: You said the facts are already in a large extent before us. Personally, what else do you need to learn and who do you need to hear from, or do you have anything you need today when it comes to impeachment?

HUFFMAN: I think we have the basic elements of a clear impeachable offense. This president betrayed his oath of office, abused his power in the worst possible way in this Ukrainian scandal by urging a foreign leader to meddle in our election, to dig up dirt on his political opponent. It is directly against our national security interests.

Those elements are clearly met. But we've still got to draw forward with the specific facts. That'll happen through hearings and first- person witnesses that'll be compelling in the days ahead. We'll see where this goes.

I do believe that the elements and the facts are there to support the articles of impeachment.

HILL: You are not on one of the committees investigating the president. But you're on two committees with major agenda items, infrastructure, climate crisis.


HILL: The president has said this is all a distraction, this is going to keep a lot of that work from getting done. Can you get anything else done with impeachment as a focus?

HUFFMAN: We can and we will. This House has already acted on just about all the elements "For the People" agenda. We have delivered legislation to the Senate on even something that previously have been hard to address, gun violence reform. We have addressed prescription drug pricing. We'll see a major bill on prescription drug prices is the days ahead. We are working hard on that.

We are working hard on infrastructure, if we can get the president to agree with us on the pay-for and other elements of an infrastructure package. We have the opportunity to deliver that for the American people.

There's going to be a lot of work going into delivering on that agenda. But we can do two things at once and I think we will.

HILL: Congressman Jared Huffman, appreciate the time today. Thank you.

HUFFMAN: Thank you.

HILL: Coming up, President Trump ramping up his attacks on the whistleblower as Congress gets closer to hearing directly from that person. A veteran intelligence official joins us to respond next.



HILL: House Intel chief, Adam Schiff, says the whistleblower will testify very soon. The president, meantime, directly attacking the whistleblower as "fake" and is demanding to meet with him or her in person. Lawyers for the whistleblower warning the president's threat poses a great risk for their client's safety.

Let's get a better sense of what's actually happening in a case like this.

Former communication director for U.S. national intelligence and current CNN national security analyst, Sean Turner, is with us now.

Sean, as we look at this, as someone who work in the Intelligence Committee, what is your reaction to what the president has put out over the last 24 hours?

SEAN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Erica, I think we need to be clear up front about this because a lot of people out there don't really understand this. The president is, in no uncertain terms, threatening the whistleblower. That is dangerous for the person's well-being but it is illegal because the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act makes it a crime to retaliate against a witness.

What's happening here is, by threatening this individual, the people need to understand that the president is saying for anyone who may consider coming forward, there's a possibility that we'll go after you.

The reason it's important is the Intelligence Committee has an immense amount of resources and authorities to the business of intelligence. So we need a system that allows for people to hold accountable those who can exercise those authorities. That's what the I.G. system does. That's what this law does.

When people who are thinking coming forward with a concern feel as though they may be threatened by the president of the United States or criticized by members of Congress, the entire system breaks down. That's why it is important and serious thing and why we need to see a change of tone from the president and others.

HILL: We are also seeing clear talking points from the president supporters, from Republicans who are pointing out the whistleblower did not have firsthand knowledge. They're saying this is nothing more than hearsay. Did that pushback pose a problem in terms of credibility and specifically credibility in the court of public opinion?

TURNER: Well, it should not. In order for the inspector general to forward a complaint by this to members of Congress, people have to understand the process. That inspector general had 14 days to go out and talk to people who were making these claims. He needed to validate that this was a credible threat.


So let's assume for a minute that the whistleblower is fiercely partisan and someone who never had firsthand knowledge of any of this. There really doesn't matter because, throughout this process, there has to be an investigation. The people the whistleblower says he or she talked to, those people have to validate what they said, and all the information has to be put on the record.

It does not matter that this person was not on the call or didn't talk to other people because the investigations will bring the facts to the forefront.

HILL: Quickly, before I let you go, in terms of that investigation, the I.G. found the whistleblower, quote, "arguable political bias in favor of a rival political candidate," but still deemed the complaint to be credible. How would you look at someone and say, OK, so there's some bias for a rival politician somewhere but this is all credible?

TURNER: Right, and so that's a very good question. Two ways. One is you've got to look at the facts of the case beyond what the whistleblower says. We have a transcript and other people. We have 14 days to talk to other people and to validate what this whistleblower is saying.

Even if this whistleblower is a partisan, if there are other people saying, yes, that's my recollection of the call, I had the same concerns, and I shared those concerns with the whistleblower. Once you have multiple people saying that and you look at the transcript of the call and it validates and supports that claim, then this is credible even if the individual is partisan.

HILL: Sean, appreciate your insight as always. Thank you.

TURNER: Thanks, Erica.

HILL: Coming up, new details on the deadly vaping epidemic. Health officials now admitting they missed warning signs. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us next.



HILL: Over 800 cases of a mystery lung illness related to vaping reported across the country. At least 13 people have died.

CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is taking a look at what is at the root of all of this and joins us now with the first part of his special series on America's vaping epidemic.

Sanjay, good morning.


Two issues really with vaping. The mystery illness you are talking about that's still being investigated and the concern about the uptake in youth vaping. How big of a concern is that? Where did vaping start? We decided to investigate.


GUPTA (voice-over): Last week, lawmakers had some tough questions for the FDA.

REP. JOE KENNEDY (D-MA): There was clearly a massive regulatory failure that allowed for this to happen, was there not?

DR. NED SHARPLESS, ACTING FDA COMMISSIONER: Speaking about the epidemic of youths using E-cigarettes, in retrospect, the FDA should have acted sooner. We should have begun regulating these devices sooner.

GUPTA (on camera): Could we have predicted this problem?


GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Michael Siegel have been researching tobacco for 34 years. Most of his attention lately: vaping.

(on camera): How many people do you think are vaping in the United States right now?

SIEGEL: The estimate right now is there's approximately 10 million.

GUPTA: How many of those people do you think are former smokers?

SIEGEL: Of the adults, I think the overall majority are ex-smokers or smokers who are duel using.

JAMES HILGREEN, REPLACED SMOKING WITH VAPING: After 20 years, I was smoking a pack and a half a day and I could not walk upstairs without losing my breath. I was coughing up phlegm in the morning and throughout the day.

GUPTA (voice-over): While many vapors are duel users, meaning they also smoke, 41-year-old James Hilgreen is one of the three million vapors who completely replaced his smoking habit with vaping.

HILGREEN: And that will be four years actually at the end of this year where I made a resolution to quit smoking all together.

GUPTA: One study found that nearly 20 percent of people who vaped to stop smoking were still of cigarettes a year later. That's twice as effective as other nicotine cessation strategies.

HILGREEN: Throughout that process I felt better and better and I was being able to exercise more, I feel better.

GUPTA: The story of vaping is also the story of smokers who starting in the mid-2000s turned to E-cigarettes to help kick their habit.

But more recently, that story has taken an ugly turn because as former smokers like James have to turned to vapes, so have kids. The numbers will boggle your mind. In 2017, 11.7 percent of high school students vaped. In 2018, it jumped to 20.8 percent. Now 27.5 percent of high school students admit to using E-cigarettes.

The CDC estimates over three million high school students are currently vaping.

(on camera): How did we get here?

DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, CDC PRINCIPAL DEPUTY DIRECTOR: We know that often the first product a teen uses is a favored one. There have been flavors that are really targeted at young people, candy, fruit and so forth.

GUPTA (voice-over): It's why states like New York, Michigan, Rhode Island are now banning the sale of flavored products. The Trump administration has proposed a similar ban just a few weeks ago.

HILGREEN: When people don't like flavors, adults don't like flavors, I think that's pretty crazy to say.

SIEGEL: A lot of adult ex-smokers who have quit smoking using these flavored products are almost certainly going to go back to smoking.

GUPTA (on camera): Why?


SIEGEL: Because it's such a strong addiction.

GUPTA: They still have the tobacco-flavored E-cigarettes. Why would they go back to smoking?

SIEGEL: I think the reason is because the whole point of switching to vaping was to get away from the tobacco flavor.

GUPTA: It wasn't to reduce the harm of tobacco?

SIEGEL: Well, it was, but I think what's really sustaining it and appealing to them is the flavors.

GUPTA: On one hand, there may be evidence that it helps adults who are smoking stop smoking. One the other hand, it is very attractive to young people and may create more vapors and subsequently more smokers.

Ultimately, if that's the balance, how does an organization like the CDC decide what they're going to recommend?

SCHUCHAT: We don't think the cessation of smoking in adults should be at the expense of teenagers. We really, right now, are focused on protecting youth from a life of nicotine addiction.

GUPTA (voice-over): And there's a deeper concern. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 31 percent of teen E- cigarette users go on to smoke regular cigarettes within six months.

I decided to ask my own kids and their friends about it.

(on camera): What makes a teenager continue to vape despite all that they've heard?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's like being able to, like, rebel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think maybe it starts off them like getting it in order to fit in. I think it's about getting Juul.

GUPTA (voice-over): For them, it's mostly Juul.

ASHLEY GOULD, JUUL CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER: We were completely surprised by the youth usage of the product. We're taking measures now and will take increasing measures to prevent that use on a going- forward basis.

GUPTA: In 2018, the vaping story took a turn again. Altria, the parent company to Phillip Morris USA, bought a 35 percent stake in Juul, and the new CEO of Juul comes from the world of tobacco.

SIEGEL: They're going to make money if people smoke. They're going to make money if people quit. So I think that's part of the problem.

GUPTA: It's a conflict, a huge one, and one that many in the vaping community are taking notice of, steadily distancing themselves from Juul and blaming them and them alone for the dramatic rise in youth nicotine addiction.

SIEGEL: I think there's a fundamental difference between Juul and all other E-cigarettes. It's a completely different nicotine form. That nicotine form is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.

I think Juul, to me, represents the far greater hazard than just using a regular E-cigarette.


GUPTA: Erica, you should know that we reached out to Juul. They could not sit down for an interview at this time. But we do know they are agreeing to on this ban on flavorings and they're going to suspend their online, print, digital advertising in the United States, at least for the time being.

HILL: We'll see what happens next.

Sanjay Gupta, a great report. Thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

HILL: Still to come, he says he takes full responsibility but claims he didn't order the killing. Why is the Saudi crown prince now weighing in on the murder of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi? That's next.



HILL: Saudi Arabia's crown prince says he takes full responsibility for the killing of a "Washington Post" journalist but tells "60 Minutes" he did not order Jamal Khashoggi's murder. This week marks one year since Khashoggi went missing after walking into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. The CIA concluded bin Salman personally ordered murder.

Joining me now is CNN senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman.

So he did not know about it? He did not know about the order of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi? How much stock are people putting in that?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not much. Even President Trump said this is the worst cover-up ever.

What we've seen since October 2 of last year, when Jamal Khashoggi entered that consulate in Istanbul never to emerge, is that the only consistent thread in this Saudi story is, as the Crown Prince Mohammad said in his interview with "60 Minutes," is that he had nothing to do with the murder of the American journalist.


SHARYN ALFONSI, CO-HOST, 60 MINUTES: Did you order the killing of Jamal Khashoggi?

MOHAMMAD BIN SALMAN, SAUDI ARABIAN CROWN PRINCE (through translation): Absolutely not. This was a heinous crime. But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia. Especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government.


WEDEMAN: Now, if this were an obscure Saudi dissident stabbed to death in a back alley in Riyad, perhaps that claim might be believable. But Jamal Khashoggi was perhaps the most prominent Saudi journalist who has ties going back to the royal family to the 1980s.


Now, for him to be murdered in a Saudi consulate by a hit team that's composed of some of the most senior members of the crown prince's entourage who were flown there in two jets contracted by the Saudi government, this claim by the crown prince doesn't carry a lot of weight -- Erica?