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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Tape Obtained By Federal Prosecutors Undercuts Trump Defense In The Classified Documents Investigation; Tonight: Full House Vote Expected On Debt Ceiling Bill; Rep. Nancy Mace, (R-SC), Is Interviewed About Debt Ceiling Bill, Kevin McCarthy; McCarthy Speakership Faces Key Test Over Debt Limit Deal; DeSantis Kicks Off Campaign With Multi- Day Iowa Tour; Court Rules Purdue Pharma's Billionaire Owners Can Be Shielded From Civil Lawsuits Over Role In Their Company's Opioids Business; "Slow Burn" Podcast Uncovers How Justice Clarence Thomas Became A Conservative Icon. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 31, 2023 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Sources say the recording suggests that the former president knew that there were limits on declassifying records once he had left the Oval Office, which would seem to undercut Trump's defense in the classified documents investigation. Let's get straight to CNN's Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, what exactly is on this recording?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's significant, Jake, because this is something that could significantly undermine essentially everything that Trump has been saying in defense to this documents investigation. And the reason that this is the meeting that matters so much is it was actually months before that effort that was underway to get so many of those documents from Mar-a- Lago back to the National Archives that were certainly back and forth.
But this was back in the summer of 2021 and Trump is meeting with people who are writing a bio autobiography for Mark Meadows at his Bedminster club in New Jersey, they are talking about a story that just came out in the New Yorker that Susan Glasser published it was about General Mark Milley, who as you know, is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and it was about his concerns that in those waning days of the Trump presidency that Trump was going to potentially take -- would potentially take military action when it came to Iran and Milley's efforts to push back on that.
And what we are told is on this tape is Trump discussing a document that is classified that he says if he could show it to the people that he's speaking to that it would undermine what Millie's argument is, that Millie was the one pushing back against Trump's efforts to potentially take action, take military action in Iran.
Now, we have not actually heard this recording, Jake. But we do know it is in the hands of the prosecutors who are investigating his handling of classified documents after he left office. We do know that you can hear paper rustling on this recording, we know that there are people laughing in the background. I'm told that this part only is about two minutes long that pertains to Iran, it's part of a much longer recording the prosecutors now have.
The reason to though, Jake, that is significant is that Trump seems to indicate on this tape, as he is speaking with those that he has gathered with him at his New Jersey club, that he cannot show it to them, that he has taken something that is a classified document, and that he is limited in his post presidency ability to declassify something, which of course would undercut the argument that he's been making all along.
TAPPER: And Kaitlan, just a few weeks ago at the town hall, you specifically asked Donald Trump about his handling of classified documents. So, let's play a little of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have the Presidential Records Act, I was there and I took what I took and it gets declassified.
COLLINS: Did you ever show those classified documents to anyone?
TRUMP: Not really, I would have the right to. By the way, they were declassified.
COLLINS: what do you mean not really?
TRUMP: Not that I can think of. Let me just tell you, I have the absolute right to do whatever I want with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So this tape would really undercut that defense.
COLLINS: It would incredibly undercut that defense. Significantly not just that one, Jake, it's not just that the question of whether he showed it to people. And we should note that people that we're told that were in this room did not to have security clearances, so they would not have been able to see these documents, regardless of the fact that it was not in a secure location, it's just at his is Bedminster club, but also his defense that, you know, he declassified everything that he had this standing declassification order that he could declassify things with his mind, as he's argued, it would undercut all of those defenses, Jake.
And I think what is the most telling part of this, and also, you know, a really juicy detail in the story that I'm reporting with Katelyn Polantz and Paula Reid, is that General Milley, who is still the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has gone and spoken with investigators about this. That is how interested they are in this.
Now, we are also told that this wasn't a document that Milley produced despite what Trump was arguing or making it sound like on this recording, that's not totally clear still. But it's generated enough interest that Jack Smith's team has brought in the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to ask them about this episode.
TAPPER: Kaitlan, stick around. I want to bring in CNN's Jamie Gangel, the former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Tom Dupree, and the former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe.
So, Tom, you worked at the Justice Department. How big of a deal could this recording be for the investigation?
TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it's potentially very significant, Jake. Look, I'm prosecutors will tell you that the most effective way to puncture a defendants defense that he didn't have the intent to commit a crime is by using his own words against him. And to me, from my perspective, it's remarkable that at every stage of this, that special counsel seems to be finding evidence of either what Trump himself said, what his lawyers himself said. And if there should come a day when this all gets presented to a jury, I think he's amassed a pretty powerful case of evidence against the president showing that he knew these documents were classified when he took them out of the White House.
TAPPER: And Director McCabe, on the recording we're told that Trump's comments suggest he would like to share the information in the document but he knows there are limitations on his ability to declassify the documents because he's no longer president. That does seem to contradict what he has said numerous times to Kaitlan Collins in the town hall to Sean Hannity, he had this Uri Geller defense where he could just do it with his mind. You know, is it a smoking gun do you think?
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: It is a smoking gun it. It directly contradicts all those things. And it establishes many things that could have been defenses. One, he actually had classified documents there, he is admitting it, he's in the past that he didn't have any to he knew that what he had was classified establishes that knowledge that scientists (ph) they say in the law. It establishes that he knew he hadn't declassified those things, they remained classified and he was limited in how we can handle them.
So, it's really devastating to the many defenses that Jack Smith has been collecting evidence to counteract. And this one, as you say Tom, is the president speaking in his own words. It's really rough.
TAPPER: Right. And Jamie Gangel, I mean, Donald Trump is known for attacking anybody when they say anything he doesn't like. He did it just yesterday to Kayleigh McEnany, his former spokeswoman because she, you know, said something on Fox that he didn't like. This is himself, these are his own words.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a tape. We haven't heard it yet, so let's, you know, let's wait to hear it. But he can't say he didn't say those words.
I want to point out something else, and that is all the other people in the room who didn't have security clearance, this speaks to, I would say, it sounds as if he was very cavalier, we don't know that he showed the document to them, but he's handling them with people who have no security clearances. One other thing, it wasn't just at Mar-a- Lago, he brought this document apparently up to New Jersey to Bedminster.
TAPPER: Yes, this whole meeting is in Bedminster. Yes.
GANGEL: Correct. So, you know, what does this say about other meetings about movement of documents? It couldn't be much more than just this one incident.
TAPPER: Kaitlan, has Donald Trump or his team responded to their reporting from you, Paula, and Katelyn? And what could their defense potentially be here?
COLLINS: No, we have gotten a comment from them. Obviously, we published the story about an hour ago, obviously, we reached out before then trying to get in touch with them asking for their version of this because they've pushed back on this repeatedly saying that he's had no wrongdoing here. His lawyers have made different arguments in court than what you've seen Trump always make publicly about how he's declassified these documents. But we still to this moment right now at 5:07 p.m. have not gotten a comment from them on this.
And I think also what's important to note here is as we've tracked this investigation, and we've all been reporting on it for several months now, there have been moments where we've heard from sources close to Trump's orbit saying they don't think this investigation really poses a threat to him. This piece of reporting seemed to change that. We heard from sources who said they believed it was an important piece of evidence in this investigation, because it does go to the heart of his defense of whether or not he believed that he could declassify things of whether or not, as Paula was noting earlier, it was this rushed move from the White House and aides packed up boxes and they didn't know what he had at Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster, as Jamie notes there, on this recording. We don't know that he was actually holding the document on Iran, that's what he was indicating to those who are listening. But you can hear a paper rustling on the recording, so he knew that he had this document, obviously a plan to potentially strike Iran, as he indicated, it was that what it was would be classified.
He knew that he had that and he knew obviously that he's no longer inside the White House. So I think that is also a significant part of this.
And I should note, Jake, one other thing, we're told that a lot of these developments have happened recently. When it comes to General Milley speaking with investigators, I'm told that has happened recently. We don't know exactly when, but it does speak to the level of progress in this investigation and the fact that Jack Smith is very much still conducting this investigation.
TAPPER: So, if it happened recently that they talked to General Milley, who is a pretty busy guy, you might think that will be one of the last interviews that would do, and also we know that this tape has been presented to the grand jury, what does that tell you about where Jack Smith, the special counsel might be in his investigation?
DUPREE: I think we're nearing the end of this. I mean, all these clues are out there. To your point, he's been moving in classic prosecutorial style where you start at the bottom, you gradually work your way up. We've seen the people he's talking to, as to your point, very senior individuals.
Jack Smith has been moving with alacrity. He's been progressing this investigation, in my opinion, in a very methodical way, taking his time, working his way up to the top. And he's also aware that he's got to get this thing wrapped or at least bring an indictment if he's going to indict before the political season gets into full gear. You know, so he's looking at the clock on that front as well.
TAPPER: Yes. So, I mean, the Republican primaries are months away, but all these opponents are getting in, right? I mean, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, next week, it's going to be Chris Christie and Mike Pence. There's also obviously Ron DeSantis. How much does this play a role in the timeline do you think? I mean, obviously, you have talked to Jack Smith about this, but you can't be immune to this calendar.
MCCABE: Not at all. So he's got one eye on a calendar with everything they do, every subpoena they send out there his folks are calculating how much time do we have to let that come back, how much analysis will those results take?
What he's most concerned about, though, is the DOJ policy that limits what you can do overtly as you get very close to the actual election. So, doesn't really -- it's kind of a vaguely written document, nobody's really 100 percent sure on it, but it doesn't -- it wouldn't seem to limit him in any respect visa vie this the primary schedule, but it will limit him as he gets close to the general election. Now, I agree with Tom, I think he's much closer to an indictment or to making a decision on indictment than the general election. So, I would expect me to see something on this in the next two months.
TAPPER: So how is the Republican Party and how are his 2024 Republican rivals reacting? How do they view this investigation? I have heard all along for months and months and months from people who are expert and investigators like you, like Maggie Haberman, at "The Times," like this is really potentially the most serious of all of the investigations into Trump.
GANGEL: Absolutely. Look, we're seeing more and more Republicans get in to the race. So clearly in the party, there are candidates out there who think this may open up path. That said, we have seen time and again with Donald Trump that these investigations do not move his base, they do not move those hardcore supporters. So, will it -- is it serious from a legal point of view?
It seems as if it is. Will it affect his being a front runner? Not so sure.
TAPPER: Well, he's the one that said his base loves him so much. He could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue --
TAPPER: -- and shoot somebody and they wouldn't abandon him and he meant that as a as a compliment. I'm not sure that it actually is one.
Thanks all for being here.
It would not be a day that ends in why if there was no drama when it comes to the debt compromise deal. So what's next? Then, Republican rumble, is Ron DeSantis finally ready to fire back at Donald Trump, I mean, directly? We'll tell you what his latest jab is ahead.
TAPPER: In our money lead, we're a little over three hours away from the scheduled House vote on the bill to avoid the catastrophic debt default. The final vote is expected in the 8:00 p.m. Eastern hour this evening. Right now, Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his top allies are expressing confidence that the legislation will pass.
Let's bring in Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina.
Congresswoman, earlier this week you tweeted, quote, "I'm voting no on the debt ceiling debacle because playing the D.C. game isn't worth selling out our kids and grandkids," unquote. You just did vote yes on the rule which allows us to come to the floor of the House. Why did you vote yes on the rule if you oppose the legislation?
REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Well, the rule is a procedural motion and what we saw just down the floor. It didn't really matter if you voted yes or no, the votes were there and there were negotiations made with Democrats for their vote for yes to get it through. They were promised earmarks that they will now receive for their yes vote on the rule. So it didn't really matter from my perspective whether it was yes or no, but I'll be voting no tonight because my votes with the American people.
TAPPER: So, included in the debt ceiling bill are several provisions that Republicans passed in the House but we're not able to get through the Democratic Senate to say nothing of the White House. It includes reducing spending for the IRS, rescinding COVID funding, work requirements for food stamp recipients, resuming student loan payments. If the debt ceiling bill does pass, those things will be passed by a Democratic controlled Senate and signed into law by the Democratic president. What do you say when people, your colleagues who are voting yes, say, take the win, this is good for us.
MACE: This is not a win for the American people. Republicans got nothing for this. In fact, the debt ceiling bill doesn't even have an actual limit on the debt ceiling. We are signing into -- we'll be signing into law, making it plain that the COVID level, the highest historic level of spending we've had in this country around $6 trillion, we're signing that into law to say that is baseline spending going forward. And the work requirements that you mentioned come to find out it actually expands government welfare not shrinking, the IRS stuff that's $1.4 billion cut, that's nothing, that's page 53 line 11. I read this bill, I read it multiple times over, it's not the spending cut bill that we were promised or that is being told that's the truth right now.
And I'm here to set the record straight that this is not a win for the American people, it's going to add $4 trillion of debt over the next two years. This is going to be an enormous problem. I think it'll make inflation worse and long term. We're going to have a lot of problems trying to rein back this out of control spending that we're going to that'll pass out of the house tonight.
TAPPER: Punchbowl's Jake Sherman reported that last night behind closed doors and a meeting with Republican leadership, Congressman Ralph Norman, who's also a no on the bill, he said to the leadership quote, "Y'all did the best you could and probably better than I could," unquote. Do you disagree with him?
MACE: I wasn't there so I can't verify the truthfulness of that statement. I would argue I was a reluctant yes the first time because I felt we need to have a more conservative bill come out of the House because when you are negotiating, you have to give up concessions, you have to build consensus. But really this is nothing here. Progressives got every single one of their projects funded, it takes one person, the director of OMB, to waive authority to be able to spend money to advance Biden's progressive agenda.
We didn't get hardly anything out of this and at least of all spending cuts and we're setting into law record high levels of spending started during the COVID emergency and even President Biden said a few weeks ago COVID is over. There's no reason to be spending at levels this high and put that into law.
TAPPER: So, your Republican colleague, Congressman Ken Buck told CNN's Jim Sciutto a few hours ago that speaker McCarthy should be, quote, "concerned about his leadership" and that there will be discussions next week about Republicans offering a motion to vacate to remove him from his speakership. Would you support that move and what do you make of it?
MACE: Well I'm not a member of the Freedom Caucus so I can't speak for them or what their strategy might be on a caucus of one. But I do believe discussion about vacating the chair is premature at this juncture. I don't believe that it'll have any legs at this moment.
TAPPER: All right. A caucus of one, Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina, thank you so much for being with us.
MACE: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: From friends to foes, two former Trump supporters are now about to take him on. That first debate is going to be one heck of a reunion. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TAPPER: The race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination is heating up as two more candidates are set to join the contest. Sources tell CNN that former Vice President Mike Pence will kick off his campaign during an event in Iowa one week from today. Well, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is set to throw his hat into the ring the day before in New Hampshire. Pence and Christie are joining what is quickly becoming a crowded field with nearly a dozen high profile Republican candidates in the mix.
CNN's Omar Jimenez is following Christie's upcoming campaign launch for us. But I want to start with CNN's Jeff Zeleny from Iowa on former Vice President Mike Pence.
Jeff, how is Pence planning to challenge his former running mate, the guy at the top of the ticket and the current prohibitive Republican front runner, Donald Trump for the nomination?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Jake, there is no doubt this is going to be an awkward contest with a former vice president challenging the former president. But I am told in conversations with Mike Pence over the last several months, and as we've seen him campaign, he's going to present himself as the true conservative in this race. He talks openly about how Republicans must confront the fiscal insolvency of Social Security and other programs that is very rarely discussed by any Republican candidate. He's going to be talking about how he believes it's time to return the Republican Party to a party of sanity, in his view to elevate the public discourse.
He's said that Republicans he believes are hungry for a new brand of leadership. Of course, that is the test. He will see if that is actually the case. He said that he believes Republican voters will -- that history will hold Trump accountable for his actions on January 6, of course, it's an open question if Republican voters will indeed. But next Wednesday, he's scheduled to jump into this race officially making this a pretty crowded contest, Jake
TAPPER: And Omar, Governor Christie has said that he sees himself as the only serious Republican candidate willing to directly and effectively take on his former friend Donald Trump whom he endorsed in 2016. Why?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point, simply he said that former President Donald Trump failed not just him but the country and despite any initial faith he may have had. So we ended up here where multiple sources have told me that Chris Christie is expected to launch his presidential bid in New Hampshire on Tuesday. We expect this to happen in a town hall format at St. Anselm College.
But recent polling suggests he's gotten an uphill battle ahead of him. Just in the last two weeks, a CNN poll of Republican and Republican leaning voters showed him polling at just 2 percent among those polled, and you see how much ground is actually between him and the former president who pulled it 53 among that group. But then also within that same group when we asked who they would never support for the GOP presidential nomination, not where you would want to see yourself leading, and Chris Christie pulled at 60 percent among those that responded there. So clearly a lot of work to be done to carve out a lane. But take a listen to some of what he said at a recent town hall indicating that he wanted to make clear, he's not just some never Trumper who is jumping into the race, but instead someone who has had to work with him. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Talking to somebody and hearing from someone who believed I could help make him better, wanted him to do what was best for the country, and he failed me even worse than he failed you. So, I'm not going to stand around and let this happen. Now, if I decide to run, I'll be able to try to do something directly about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIMENEZ: And I think that gives some insight to some of the initial strategy hear that he saw the former president up close, and he couldn't fix him and that now there is no going around President Trump, but any path to GOP nomination is going to have to go through him and he feels he is the one that could do so most effectively, Jake.
TAPPER: And Jeff, you're in Iowa you're tracking another presidential candidate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who's barnstorming the Hawkeye State today in holding for events there. He's also responding to a number of attacks from Trump.
ZELENY: Yes, Jake, and actually he's speaking behind me here right now in Pella, which is why I've lowered my voice because this is his event, not mine. But he is speaking to a couple of hundreds Republicans here who are quite frankly curious about his message in Florida, curious about his record. He said that he will challenge the former president on his own time, but he talks about wanting Republicans against fighting against the culture of losing.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We can't make excuses. We have to be able to get the job done.
ZELENY (voice-over): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is trying to seize the reins of the Republican Party from the hands of Donald Trump pitching himself as a fighter who can win.
DESANTIS: This bureaucracy has imposed its will on us for far too long. It's about time we impose our will on it, and that it answers to be the people.
ZELENY (voice-over): On his first full day of campaigning across Iowa as a declared presidential candidate, DeSantis made clear he would draw distinctions with the former president on his terms.
DESANTIS: I am going to counterpunch. I'm going to fight back on it. I'm going to focus my fire on Biden. And I think he should do the same, he gives Biden a free pass. I'm focusing on Biden.
ZELENY (voice-over): But long before DeSantis can confront President Biden, he must first get through a Republican primary and a growing field of challengers, including former Vice President Mike Pence, who is poised to enter the race next week CNN has learned. But Trump still looms largest over the race.
Tonight, he arrives here to offer something of a rebuttal to DeSantis. The latest sign the race is intensifying with the Iowa caucuses early next year among the first test for the strength of Trump's grip on the GOP. Samona Yentes is among the Iowa Republicans weighing their options. And at this point, she's utterly undecided.
SAMONA YENTES, IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: I have a tremendous amount of respect for many things, President Trump did in office. So I have to keep that in mind. I also have a tremendous amount of respect for what Governor DeSantis has done in Florida.
ZELENY (voice-over): It's that deeply conservative record DeSantis is touting as he introduces himself to Iowa voters, even as he steps up his subtle contrast with Trump.
DESANTIS: At the end of the day leadership is not about entertainment. It's not about building a brand. It's not about virtue signaling. It is about results.
ZELENY (voice-over): At his side was one of his closest political advisors, his wife, Casey, who picked up the argument where he left off.
CASEY DESANTIS, FIRST LADY OF FLORIDA: The end of the day, I say that it matters in the moment. And you see how a leader conducts himself when the lights are on.
ZELENY: And Casey DeSantis, has been at the Governor's side at every step along the way here today in Iowa talking about their family, talking about his military record, even drawing a distinction between the Governor and former President Donald Trump. So she clearly will be a central part of this campaign. But Jake, as the governor is still speaking here tonight talking about what he will do on day one in office if he were to be elected. One example is, as he says firing the FBI director, so running through a laundry list of conservative policies. So this speech is certainly one that's ideologically rooted in his Florida record and his conservative thinking. Of course, Donald Trump arrives here in Iowa tonight. The showdown, Jake, is on.
TAPPER: Yes. It's interesting DeSantis talking about conservative priorities, not grievances, which should be quite a contrast, Jeff Zeleny, Omar Jimenez, thanks so much. And join me in Iowa this Sunday for a CNN Republican presidential town hall with former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, that's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on CNN live from Iowa. And then on Wednesday, Dana Bash will be in Iowa to moderate a CNN town hall with former Vice President Mike Pence. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.
Coming up, with the $6 billion settlement with the family behind the company that gave America OxyContin what that means for addiction and the opioid crisis, that's next.
TAPPER: In our Law and Justice Lead, a billionaire family behind the company accused of fueling the opioid crisis in the United States. That family is largely off the hook. A federal appeals court ruling that just came down protects members of the Sackler family from current and future civil lawsuits over their role in Purdue pharma's opioid business. CNN's Brynn Gingras reveals now what the Sacklers had to give up in order to get that immunity and why many critics say it is not enough.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Drugs like OxyContin made one American family very rich and helped fuel the opioid crisis killing many of those who became addicted.
JOANNE PETERSON, SUBSTANCE ABUSE ADVOCATE: I lost my niece a couple of years ago to an overdose. I lost a brother. That family should have to start going to funerals.
GINGRAS (voice-over): That family is the Sacklers. They'll get to keep the bulk of their fortune and be shielded from current and future civil lawsuits as part of a settlement just upheld by a federal appeals court. Their company Purdue Pharma made billions developing opioid based drugs misrepresenting the risk of addiction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Sackler is directed and approved hiring sales representatives whose job was to visit doctors and persuade them to prescribe more opiates, higher doses of opiates and for longer periods of time.
GINGRAS (voice-over): Now Purdue will pay up to $6 billion. Our focus going forward is to deliver billions of dollars of value for victim compensation, opioid crisis abatement and overdose rescue medicines the company said in the statement, the settlement also ends years of civil lawsuits against the company and family. The Sackler family continues to deny wrongdoing, but expresses regret for the effect on communities.
LIZ FITZGERALD, MOTHER OF OPIOID VICTIMS: They had took into no accountability, what they were actually doing people.
GINGRAS (voice-over): Dozens of states and individuals sued in the wake of the company pleading guilty to federal criminal charges for how it marketed and sold OxyContin. For some victims' families, the settlement feels like the best deal they could have gotten.
DEDE YODER, MOTHER OF OPIOID VICTIM: The alternative would have been thousands and thousands of lawsuits that could have spread, gone on for years and years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gets the Sacklers out of the opioid business. It shuts down Purdue Pharma. It gave families the opportunity to address the Sacklers and tell them how they wrecked their lives and it gets money to families.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't worry it's an excellent drug.
GINGRAS (voice-over): The family dynasty dramatized in T.V. series like "Dopesick," they say their reputation is unfair.
DR. KATHE SACKLER, FORMER PURDUE VICE-PRESIDENT: It distresses me greatly, and angers me greatly, that the medication that was developed to help people and relieve severe pain has become associated with so much human suffering.
GINGRAS (voice-over): In a statement the family says they are pleased with the settlement. The long awaited implementation of this resolution is critical to providing substantial resources for people and communities in need.
GINGRAS: And there have never been criminal charges filed against the Sackler family. But look those who have been addicted themselves to opioids or had a family member that died from an opioid addiction. They say this family is no different than, say, a heroin dealer, Jake, and they would like to see those criminal charges filed. It's important to note that this settlement does not shield the Sacklers from that possible prosecution. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Brynn Gingras, thanks so much.
Here to discuss this journalist, Beth Macy, the author of "Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America." Beth, good to see you again. Thanks for joining us. So Purdue Pharma first introduced the opioid drug OxyContin in the 1990s. It promoted it aggressively as non-addictive. A couple of decades, one massive opioid epidemic later one that we're still going through, we know that's not true. Between 1999 and 2020, more than 564,000 people in this country died from an overdose involving any opioid obviously, that's not just the prescription drugs manufactured by Purdue. And it also includes illicit opioids such as heroin. What is your reaction is one of the world's authorities of this family and the crisis to the settlement?
BETH MACY, AUTHOR, "DOPESICK": Well, I was really disappointed. First of all, when white collar criminals don't go to jail, the behavior continues, and to me and to a lot of the activists that I profiled, and my follow up both to "Dopesick," "Raising Lazarus," this is just another example of billionaire justice. They got, the family gets civil immunity in exchange for giving up the company and $6 billion of their wealth, which is roughly just half of what they may to get 18 years to pay it off, which means that the money that they have now can continue to build on itself.
And, you know, they paid almost a billion dollars on legal fees throughout the case. So, you know, when you have a family that ran a company that micromanage a company, that basically was the tap root of this crisis, and at the end of this four years of litigation, they still retain much of their wealth. I mean, wealth is power in this country. What's the legal different, you know?
TAPPER: So, yes, I think they're worth about $11 billion, all told, and said they have to give $6 billion, the company has declared bankruptcy. So the $6 billion, it goes to states. It goes to individual claimants, it goes to opioid crisis prevention, will that solve anything? Will it help alleviate the crisis? And is it enough?
MACY: Well, it's not enough, will it help? Of course, it will help. You know, a lot of the money from the distributor settlement that came started coming down last year that's coming to communities, but we've always already had some really good reporting, showing that it isn't being spent necessarily in ways that will help those who have been most affected.
We have some communities buying cop cars and money going out to the same world war on drugs mentalities, instead of harm reduction, and medication assisted treatment. So of course, we need more money, but you know, and it's good for this, the 750 million that are that is going to the families, that's great. But the average amount of the award is not even going to reimburse somebody for a funeral they had.
And I just think it's not enough. When you look and see all that they had. I've been doing some reporting in my hometown in rural Ohio. And I was just floored by how like Foster Care has tripled. The graduation rate has gone down. And when you dig in just beneath the surface of the growing homeless population, it's the opioid crisis right there underneath just a host of other social problems.
TAPPER: Why have there not ever been any criminal charges filed? You've covered prosecutors looking into this? What did they tell you?
MACY: Well, they say they're still investigating and what the activist said when they marched in front of the Department of Justice. Gosh, it's been almost two years ago now. The DOJ needs to do its J-O-B. We know they've -- the company has pleaded twice, guilty twice to misbranding. Right now we know the DOJ in New Jersey is sitting on the names of Purdue sales people who bribed doctors, as well as the names of those doctors.
The names of Purdue marketing executives who paid kickbacks to electronic medical records, companies that manipulated doctors into prescribing OxyContin, yet the government has not acted on this information. And again, I asked like where's the legal deterrent without some teeth in this what's to keep another million naira family that wants to become billionaires from creating another faulty product and finding an escape hatch in the bankruptcy court.
TAPPER: Beth Macy, always great to have you on and thank you so much.
MACY: Thanks, Jake.
A look at how a black child from rural Georgia rose to become a conservative icon, a hit podcast is taking a look at Clarence Thomas' rise to the Supreme Court. The host of Slate's "Slow Burn" joins us next.
TAPPER: In our Politics Lead, he has been skewered by critics in the Democratic Party over his lack of transparency on his financial disclosure reports. And now, a new season of the great podcast "Slow Burn" from Slate, tells the story of how Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas became the conservative icon he is today.
Joining us now Joel Anderson host of "Slow Burn: Becoming Justice Thomas." Joel, huge fan I love the Biggie-Tupac when you did, the L.A. riots when you did, really looking forward to this in the first episode which dropped today, you traveled to Savannah, Georgia and you talk with Justice Thomas' 94-year-old mom, you hear MSNBC, of all channels on the T.V. as you walk into this house, where Justice Thomas had spent part of his childhood.
And now this conversation had happened just a few weeks before ProPublica reported, detailing how that very house you're in is actually owned by conservative mega donor Harlan Crow, the same billionaire who Justice Thomas reportedly accepted lavish gifts and trips from. What did you learn from talking to justices -- justice Thomas' mother?
JOEL ANDERSON, WRITER, SLATE: Well, I mean, I think there's a couple things. One, it kind of taught me about the economics of the family, because you -- as you pull up on the street, and you approach the house you're expecting, I mean, this is Supreme Court Justice. You know, normally the people that are seen that far up, you know, they're from affluent families already, and it's just a very regular one story home with three bedrooms on a fairly regular street in Savannah. So that was one thing.
But the other thing is that, you know, Clarence Thomas has talked a lot about his grandfather. In fact, his autobiography is named my grandfather's son. But his mother was really quick to point out that his grandmother, Kristine, played just as much of a role in his life and, you know, the nurturing that he received from age six on. And, you know, a lot of people may have theories as to why, you know, Justice Thomas doesn't talk about his grandmother in quite the way that he talks about his grandfather. But either way, the woman's work was just been, you know, really overlooked in his life story. TAPPER: The first episode also touches on Justice Thomas, considering the priesthood, being radicalized by Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, even embracing to a degree with Malcolm X's ideology. What a long, strange trip from that to what he is today?
ANDERSON: Yes, no, absolutely. I mean, I think the thing is, is that, you know, a lot of people he grew up, as we mentioned, during his grandfather's roof, his grandfather was converted Catholic, wanted him to be a priest, and was very much a taskmaster just kept on working, you know, kind of doing his own thing. And what's quite, you know, Clarence draws the seminary in high school and in college for a couple of years. You mentioned the Martin Luther King assassination.
It was when he was at the seminary during the Martin Luther King assassination that one of his classmates implied that basically, it was a good thing that Martin Luther King got killed. So he drops out of the seminary and goes off to college. And when you talk about, you know, the radical piece of it, a lot of it is Clarence trying to find himself. You know, this is the first time that he sort of on his own, gets to make these decisions about who he wants to be and how he wants to present himself to the world.
And in 1968, what many people cooler than like Black Panthers and like revolutionaries and radicals. And so it's kind of fitting in, it makes a lot of sense why somebody might gravitate toward that, because at least the look of it is like sort of arresting it, it makes you stand out.
TAPPER: One of the things I love about Slate's podcasts, especially "Slow Burn" is the nuance and the depth and the humanity that you find in stories that we know, that we think we know or that we know because we know the caricatures of the person, I'm thinking about the Linda Tripp episode from season two, I guess when they go into the Clinton impeachment. Was there anything that surprised you in your reporting here?
ANDERSON: You know, I think the, what's sort of interesting is that, you know, there's a narrative in that affirmative action has not played a big role in Clarence Thomas' life. And you have to say that over and over again, he's very adamant about it. And you kind of forget, you know, over the years, you know, you just like, well, he is a Supreme Court justice, obviously, he went to these very prestigious academic institutions, you kind of forget that that's going to be a piece of it.
But at every stage of his career, academic and professional, affirmative action played a really pivotal role. And so the idea that in a few months or within a month he may be ruling to end affirmative action in this country the way exists currently today is really ironic because that's a guy that benefited a lot from race based preferences.
TAPPER: Fascinating. I can't wait to listen. Joel Anderson huge fan of yours and of Slate's "Slow Burn" in general thank you so much. Congratulations. "Slow Burn: Becoming Justice Thomas" is out now, available wherever you listen to podcast. CNN's is Alex Marquardt is in for Wolf Blitzer this week next in the Situation Room. Alex in just a few hours we're going to see the big vote on the debt limit deal who you're going to talk to?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we will. Jake. We will be speaking with one of the Democrats most upset with where this debt ceiling deal ended up. That's Congresswoman Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who said today that she will be a firm no vote. She has said that she is most disappointed with the work requirements aspect of this telling you, Jake, on Sunday that changing them are is absolutely terrible policy. So we'll be speaking with her about where she stands now and what this means for progressives going forward in just a few minutes time.
TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt, we'll see you in just a few minutes.
Still ahead on The Lead, it looks like a stunt in a movie but this was a real car crash and we'll tell you what happened.
TAPPER: A terrifying moment from South Georgia, a car bolted up a tow trucks ramp and flew more than 100 feet in the air before crashing a deputy's body camera captured it last week, according to Georgia State Patrol. The driver was a 21-year-old woman from Tallahassee she survived but suffered serious injuries according to local reports. He was distracted and see did not see crews on the highways shoulder.
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