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Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) Discusses Ukraine Whistleblower; 13 Dead, Hundreds With Lung Injuries From Vaping In The U.S.; 2020 GOP Presidential Candidate Mark Sanford On Impeachment Probe. Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired September 30, 2019 - 07:30   ET



SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): But yet, we rely on whistleblowers every day to provide information necessary to make sure the federal government is accountable to the people of the United States.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Are you worried about the whistleblower's safety?

PETERS: I am worried about protecting whistleblowers -- certainly, safety -- but we have to also make sure that we set a precedent that other whistleblowers in other instances all across the federal government are not fearful of coming forward and giving us information necessary to provide accountability to the American taxpayers.

So when the president says that a whistleblower is a spy and says, you know, how we used to handle spies in the past, that is incredibly damaging.

I'm also reaching out to folks to find out what does this mean for the whistleblower program, generally, across government.

And, you know, we've had whistleblowers come forward to help us deal with problems at the V.A. -- I mean, just go down the list of government agencies. Whistleblowers are absolutely critical for us to know what's going on and get the truth.

CAMEROTA: Are your Republican colleagues in the Senate concerned about the whistleblower and about everything you've just spelled out? And the reason I ask you is because we often invite them on but they don't -- they haven't said yes to coming on NEW DAY. So I'm just asking if behind the scenes you've heard anything.

PETERS: Well, I think they have to be concerned.

And I think we have to go beyond just talking about the whistleblower to understand that we have a transcript summary of the president's actual words. This is not somebody saying something secondhand.

We now have an actual transcript of the president saying in his own words -- telling the Ukrainian president that the relationship between the United States and Ukraine is not reciprocal. The United States has been doing a great deal to help Ukraine but it's not reciprocal.

And he's asking a favor -- that he wants something done. And that favor is related to going after a political opponent in an upcoming election. This is a -- this is a very, very serious situation and the fact that you have the president saying it in his own words is incredibly troubling.

CAMEROTA: In terms of impeachment, here is how the "Detroit News" characterized your position last week.

"Senator Gary Peters, who is up for reelection next year, is now the only Democrat in Michigan's delegation who has not explicitly expressed an openness to impeachment."

So has anything changed since last week?

PETERS: Well, certainly, I've been very clear. I mean, what we have seen in the president's words, as I just expressed to you, are very clear -- very, very troubling.

But going forward, if the House decides to go forward with an impeachment, I think it's very important to remember that those Articles of Impeachment then come to the United States Senate and a trial is held in the United States Senate and I turn into a juror. One hundred senators become a juror. We have to evaluate the facts as the facts are presented.

This has to be a fair, open, and fact-driven process. It's the only way that it has credibility with the American people. And something as serious as this, as outlined by our founders in the Constitution, has to be dealt with in a fact-based way, and those facts will be coming forward.

The House is now investigating. They are doing their oversight responsibility as outlined in the Constitution. And I will evaluate those facts if it comes to the Senate and we do, indeed, have an impeachment trial. I will be evaluating those facts and making a final decision based on the facts.

CAMEROTA: So, fair to say, today, you are reserving judgment?

PETERS: I think we need to certainly -- again, what we have seen -- the facts that are out there now and the president's own words are incredibly troubling. The whistleblower has raised a number of other issues that need to be investigated and as those facts come to light this process will certainly go forward. But, it is of utmost seriousness and it has to be treated with that kind of approach, I believe.

CAMEROTA: Senator Gary Peters, thank you very much for being on NEW DAY.

PETERS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Jim. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good to hear someone in Washington talking about facts. It's a relief and it's necessary. That's the only way forward. It's what we're going to focus on.

Well, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia denies any personal involvement in the murder of "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi. By the way, the first anniversary of that is tomorrow. But, Mohammad bin Salman says he takes responsibility for the killing.

He was asked about it on "60 MINUTES."


NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS HOST, "FACE THE NATION": Did you order the murder of Jamal Khashoggi?

MOHAMMAD BIN SALMAN, CROWN PRINCE OF SAUDI ARABIA (through translator): 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.


SCIUTTO: We'll talk about facts. The CIA concluded with high confidence that the Crown Prince ordered Khashoggi's murder. That is an assessment the president has disputed.

Inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey last year, that's where it took place. To this day, his remains have not been found.

CAMEROTA: OK, now to a vaping update. More than 800 injuries and 13 deaths now linked to vaping in the U.S.


Up next, Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look at how the epidemic began and the biggest concerns now.


CAMEROTA: Many smokers turn to vaping to help them kick cigarettes. But now, after hundreds of lung illnesses and more than a dozen deaths linked to vaping, health officials are concerned that it could lead to even higher numbers of people addicted to nicotine.

SCIUTTO: It's a remarkable story to follow, particularly how quickly the view of this has changed.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta -- he's been on top of this from the beginning. And, of course, he has a new series coming up, the first part of a special series on America's vaping epidemic.

I mean, Doctor, is it clear now that this is a real danger here?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there is balance when it comes to this concern that you're raising. This idea that vaping can help adult smokers quit smoking, there's some evidence around that, but at what cost? At what cost specifically to our youth.

There's a history of vaping. We wanted to show you the history of vaping and also tell you where we are now.


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

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

DR. NED SHARPLESS, ACTING COMMISSIONER, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: In speaking about the epidemic of youth use of 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?

DR. MICHAEL SIEGEL, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: I think we could have, and I think we could have helped to prevent it.

GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Michael Siegel has been researching tobacco for 34 years and most of his attention, lately, vaping.

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

SIEGEL: So, the estimate is that right now, there are approximately 10 million.

GUPTA (on camera): And how many of those people do you think are former smokers?

SIEGEL: So, of the adults, I think the overwhelming majority are ex- smokers or smokers who are (INAUDIBLE).

JAMES HILGREEN, FORMER SMOKER: After 20 years, I was smoking at least a pack and a half a day. I couldn't walk up stairs without losing my breath. I was coughing up phlegm in the morning and throughout the day.

GUPTA (voice-over): While may vapers are dual users, meaning they also smoke, 41-year-old James Hilgreen is one of the three million vapers who have completely replaced their cigarette habit with vaping.

HILGREEN: And it will be four years, actually, at the end of this year where I made a resolution to quit smoking altogether.

GUPTA (voice-over): One study found that nearly 20 percent of people who vape to stop smoking were still off cigarettes a year later. That's twice as effective as other nicotine replacement strategies. HILGREEN: Throughout that whole process, I felt better and better and being able to exercise more. I feel better.

GUPTA (voice-over): 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 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. And now, 27 1/2 percent of high school students admit to using e-cigarettes. The CDC estimates over three million high school students are currently vaping.

GUPTA (on camera): How did we get here?

DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We know that, often, the first product a teen uses is a flavored one and there have been flavors that are really targeted at young people -- candy, fruits, and so forth.

GUPTA (voice-over): It's why states like New York, Michigan, and Rhode Island are now banning the sale of flavored products.

The Trump administration has proposed a similar ban just a few weeks ago.

HILGREEN: Well, if people don't like flavors -- adults don't like flavors, I think that 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 (on camera): 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 (on camera): It wasn't to reduce the harm of tobacco?

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

GUPTA (on camera): On one hand, there may be evidence that it helps adults who are smoking stop smoking. On the other hand, it is very attractive to young people and may create more vapers 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 that 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 is 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.

GUPTA (on camera): Like, 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 feel like maybe it starts off as them getting it in order, like, to fit in. They'd be like, oh, have a Juul.

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

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

GUPTA (voice-over): In 2018, the vaping story took a turn again. Altria, the parent company to Philip Morris USA, bought a 35 percent stake in Juul. And the new CEO of Juul, he comes from the world of tobacco.

SIEGEL: You know, they're going to make money if people smoke and they're going to make money if people quit. And so, I think that's part of the problem.

GUPTA (voice-over): 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 that there is a fundamental difference between Juul and all other e-cigarettes. It's a completely different nicotine form and that nicotine form is rapidly absorbed into the -- into the bloodstream. I think Juuling, to me, represents a far greater hazard than just using a regular e-cigarette.



GUPTA: Now, it's worth pointing out we did reach out to Juul. They said they would not participate in an interview at this time. But they have agreed to the ban on flavorings and they've agreed to suspend all of their digital broadcasts online advertising as well, so they are doing that. But again, this is a different story. We're talking a lot about these illnesses and injuries to the lungs lately. This is a larger issue in some ways, Jim and Alisyn, about this concern about youth nicotine addiction.

SCIUTTO: No question. Well, listen, we're glad you're on top of it.

You see stories like this guy we had on our air a short time ago. A 17-year-old has the lungs of a 70-year-old all of a sudden.

CAMEROTA: Oh my God.

SCIUTTO: We're going to stay on top of the story.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, great to have you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: You bet. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: There are now a number of Republicans challenging President Trump for his party's nomination. Will the impeachment fight help or possibly hurt their chances? We speak to one of them, coming up.



CAMEROTA: Two years after Hurricane Harvey, some heroes are finally being honored for saving lives. A team of FBI agents rescued more than 100 people and police officers who were trapped in floodwaters.

CNN's Ed Lavandera shows how they went beyond the call of duty.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the floodwaters came to Houston as Hurricane Harvey dumped epic downpours on the city, first responders were overwhelmed.

In the chaos, FBI special agent Jack Walker put out a call to nearly 40 other agents, members of an FBI SWAT team, to rendezvous with the agency's headquarters and join in the rescue efforts.

JACK WALKER, AGENT, FBI: I got three-plus, myself. So, I mean, that's because everybody was trapped.

LAVANDERA (on camera): They couldn't --

WALKER: They couldn't get here.

LAVANDERA (on camera): So you guys get here, you're looking at each other and going this is the army we have?

WALKER: It's the army we have, the tools we have, let's go do it.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Joining Jack Walker were special agents David Ko, Michael Walker, and Justin Widup.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They called for help over there.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): One of their first missions was to pull about 30 Houston police officers trapped in a flooded police station to higher ground. This is the only video the agents captured of the storm. The video goes dark as they discover the flooded-out patrol cars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All their stuff they were just carrying in their hands -- everything they had. All their uniforms, their gear. And I was just like man, these are my brothers and sisters. Let's take care of them.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): We sat down with the four agents to reflect what these unlikely heroes of the storm. This summer they were awarded the Federal Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery in a ceremony in the very neighborhood where they rescued countless storm victims.

High-water rescues aren't the kind of thing FBI agents are known for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't have specific training on it but we knew people needed help. And part of being on a SWAT team is when the call comes out, you go out and help people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we each had a flashlight and a pocket knife so -- I don't know, I watch "MACGYVER." There's always a use for rope. It's like we each had a rope before we left. I'm thinking well, maybe we could use that.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): They used to the rope to tie themselves to the truck to keep from floating away each hour the water got higher and each mission into the floods more treacherous. They saw the desperation on each face they rescued.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was the manager at the IHOP. They were literally standing on the tables inside the restaurant. When she got in the truck, just seeing the look on her face that she was -- she was pretty defeated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, it was just pure working to help people that needed help. I mean, it's probably one of the most rewarding things I've done on SWAT.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The calls for help didn't stop for days. They lost track of how many people they rescued, but they'll never forget the faces in the storm.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Houston.


SCIUTTO: As President Trump squares off with Democrats over the impeachment investigation, one of his Republican challengers says the inquiry may actually hurt his primary chances by rallying voters around the president.

Joining us now is 2020 presidential candidate Mark Sanford. He's the former Republican governor and congressman from South Carolina. Governor, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So let's begin, if we can, with the potential political effects of an impeachment process here. You say it could damage your own chances in challenging the president and for the Democrats -- Democratic critics of the president as well.

Do you see dangers here for both Democratic and Republican challengers and critics of this president?

SANFORD: I do, simply because it becomes the giant elephant in the room. And all political discussion, if you will, stops and the debate that's fairly robust in the Democratic side that's taking place right now really is usurped by this larger debate on impeachment and what comes next. So that will certainly occur on the Democratic side and it certainly occurs on the Republican side as well.


David Brooks, I think, wrote eloquently on this simple concept -- this simple idea, just last week.

SCIUTTO: Isn't this, though, what the impeachment process was designed for? Wherever it goes -- and it's just the beginning of an inquiry here -- who knows how folks will vote on this -- were instances where it's alleged that the president put his own interests over the country's interests.

I wonder if you -- if you think politically, this might be damaging and do you think that substantively, an inquiry -- an inquiry is justified.

SANFORD: Substantively, I think it -- an inquiry is justified. An impeachment, though, is ultimately -- you know, the context is political. And so, while the substance is there -- and this, again, was the point of David Brooks --


SANFORD: -- who wrote on it last week -- that though it may be justified it will bring tremendous discord within the political system that will then usurp the electoral process that's now taking place on the Democratic side.

And on the Republican side, what happens is the people circle the wagons. They're -- they feel as if their president is under threat and they circle the wagons that much harder. It makes it that much more difficult to get your word out of you're a challenger.

So again, the two are separate items in terms of -- you know, are there warrants here. Is there justification based on the charges that are out there, yes. But then there's this political consideration of what's it do in terms of the election.

And a lot of folks that I've talked to have made the point that wait a minute, this is somebody that's never broken 45 percent. If the waters simply stay quiet there are great probabilities in terms of outcome next November. Why do you want to throw this into the mix given the way that that could throw that whole --


SANFORD: -- off to the side and who knows what comes.

SCIUTTO: But the polls do seem to be moving. They're in the numbers there.

The CBS poll conducted by YOUGOV now shows 55 percent of Americans think the newly-opened probe is necessary. Of course, that's different from actually impeaching him. But at least probing him, it now has majority support.

And nearly two-thirds of Americans -- this is an ABC News poll -- find that Trump's encouragement of a foreign leader to investigate his political rival and family a serious problem.

Do you see public opinion changing on this, though?

SANFORD: I think for the diehard Trump supporter, no, it's not going to change at all. And there will be a circling of the wagon and I think his level of support will, frankly, intensify within that corridor (ph).

To your larger point, the American electorate at-large who doesn't necessarily have a chosen candidate, no. I think that they're open to this based on the fact that it's a very, very serious allegation. And what we don't want is our foreign policy conducted based on domestic political consideration.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. You've -- of course, you're challenging the president from South Carolina. South Carolina is one of the states that has canceled its Republican primary, in effect, a move supporting this president. And that is supported by two-thirds -- about two-thirds of Republican voters in South Carolina.

Tell us about the effects of that move.

SANFORD: I don't know if that's true. In other words, it's one thing for the inner ring of an executive party at the -- at the political level -- the Republican executive committee to decide something. It's a completely different thing for folks at-large across the state to be supportive of their chance to vote and participate and the electoral process being taken away.

So I don't believe those numbers. It's not in any way concurrent with what I've heard here on the ground in South Carolina.

And think about it for one second. I mean, the five million folks, roughly, that make up South Carolina have had a disproportionate voice as they're the first state in the south with a Republican primary. And I think it's, therefore, telling that the powers that be would try and do this.

It says somebody's out there looking at numbers that says their support -- the president's support is a mile wide and an inch deep because otherwise, you do not pass on a chance to pick up an 80 or 90 percent win, which is what they allege their level of support to be.

SCIUTTO: That's an interesting point and it may be a sign of weakness as opposed to strength in the president's support.

Governor Sanford, good to talk to you this morning.

SANFORD: As well, thanks.

SCIUTTO: Thanks very much to our international viewers for watching this morning. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Christina McFarlane is next.

For our viewers here in the U.S., breaking details on what Ukraine's president is vowing to do now as the scandal involving President Trump grows. NEW DAY continues right now.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The president believes it is his God-given right to shake down foreign leaders for help in his reelection.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The Democrats want to impeach because Rudy Giuliani talked to a couple of Ukrainians and good luck with that.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We could not ignore what the president did.