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Jones Ordered to Pay Sandy Hook Parents; Monkeypox Outbreak Declared; Four People Hurt in Lightning Strike; Ukrainian-Born Lawmaker Rankles Colleagues; High Inflation Forces Tough Choices; DeShaun Watson Appeal. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 05, 2022 - 06:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: $4.1 million. That is how much conspiracy theorist Alex Jones will have to pay for his lies. A jury awarding that sum to the parents of six-year-old Jesse Lewis who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School nearly ten years ago. Following the judgment, Jones took to the airwaves and said this.


ALEX JONES, HOST, "INFOWARS": I admitted I made a mistake. I admitted that I followed disinformation, but not on purpose. I apologized to the families. And the jury understood that. What I did to those families was wrong, but I didn't do it on purpose.



KEILAR: I'm not sure if you can say he didn't do it on purpose.


KEILAR: But this may be just the start of Jones' legal trouble because the plaintiffs' lawyers say -- is saying that the January 6th committee has actually asked for Jones' phone records, which includes text messages revealed during this trial.

Joining us now is CNN national correspondent Erica Hill and CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy.

All right, let's start first, Erica, with this trial. $4.1 million. It asked for $150 million. But this is just one family. And this may not be the end of it because there may be other damages awarded.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There could be. So, these were the compensatory damages that were awarded yesterday.

The attorney for the plaintiffs tell -- actually telling Oliver that he was thrilled with the decision that -- that Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin were thrilled with the decision here and that they did note, right, there are other defamation lawsuits pending, as you just pointed out. The punitive damages, that part of the trial will be decided -- will start, rather, today. So there could be more damages coming in just this trial alone.

But you bring up an interesting point when you talk about other families because there are other cases pending. And this is a point that one of our legal analysts, Paul Callan, made last night was that the jury may have taken into account that there are other defamation cases pending, and that perhaps they are thinking about the other families who may potentially be compensated. And that may have figured into how they came up with this number.

AVLON: So, potentially $4 million times 20, as much as that -

HILL: Well -

AVLON: Potentially.

So, Oliver, I want you to put the $4 million in context because Alex Jones is a conspiracy entrepreneur.


AVLON: He has monetized lies to an extraordinary extent. So, how big a bite is $4 million out of the amount of money he's made over the past few years?

DARCY: Sure. $4 million is a lot of money, obviously.


DARCY: But it is a drop in the bucket compared to how much Alex Jones has profited over the years off of lies and conspiracy theories similar to Sandy Hook, right? We know, according to bankruptcy filings, that in the most 17 -- the 17 most recent months of financial data we have that he's made over $22 million in profit. We know that his chief restructuring officer testified this week that he had $9 million in cryptocurrency donations. And we know that from the trial that he was making upwards of $800,000 a day in 2018. So it's --

AVLON: $800,000 a day.

DARCY: It's not a stretch of the imagination to say that over her career, pushing lies, pushing hate, he has made probably, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars. There's just no raw financial data because, according to the accountant that's now in charge, there really wasn't any accounting on his business. But just taking the most recent data and multiplying it across his career, you know, that's a large sum of money. So, $4 million, a lot of money, but a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things.

KEILAR: He's declared bankruptcy. Doesn't mean he's bankrupt. And the families are saying that he's actually pulled a ton of money, tens of millions of dollars, out of the parent company of InfoWars.


KEILAR: So, that's that question of, are they going to be able to see this money.

But the bombshell moment of this trial, the text messages of Alex Jones. Oh, actually, they do exist and his attorney accidentally sent them all to the prosecution. Now law enforcement wants them, the January 6th committee wants them, and that's where we're going here.

HILL: Yes, I mean that was - you know, yesterday, before -- as we were all waiting to hear what these damages would be, that's what we heard about first were these text messages, the request from the January 6th committee and from law enforcement according to the attorney for the plaintiffs. And he said, look, unless you say to me, judge, Mr. (INAUDIBLE), there's no reason, you know, you can't do this, I'm going to turn them over. The judge did give the defense team some time to basically try to come up with a reason why she should not say, sure, go ahead and turn these over. Not clear whether they've come up with anything yet. I guess we'll learn a little bit more today.

AVLON: Yes, but, Oliver, given your knowledge of Alex Jones on January 6th and the nexus he played in the broader Trump and conspiracy theorist orbit, you know, what's the potential jeopardy or information we could get from these?

DARCY: I mean, we could get a lot. Alex Jones is someone who has boasted, you know, that he has knowledge of basically the inner workings of the White House. He's a key figure in right wing media, so he's undoubtedly texting key players who do have contact. And so there could be a lot of interesting messages in those text messages. And we expect to hear more about whether, you know, he's free to release these basically to the January 6th committee today. So, potentially, before the weekend starts, the January 6th committee could have two years of Alex Jones' text messages and phone records.


KEILAR: Such an important trial on its own and including these connections to January 6th.

Erica, Oliver, thank you so much.

AVLON: Thanks, guys.

KEILAR: The White House is declaring monkeypox a public health emergency. The new measures being taken to combat the crisis.

AVLON: And four people in critical condition this morning after lightning strikes outside the White House. Look at that. Oof.


KEILAR: The White House has declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency. So far there are more than 7,100 reported cases across the country in every single state except for Montana and Wyoming. CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now

with the latest.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Brianna, this declaration of a public health emergency, it actually means something. It's not just a term that they kind of put out there.

Let's take a look at what this could hopefully do.

So, it will increase money that will go towards getting this pandemic - or, I'm sorry, not a pandemic, sorry, towards getting this monkeypox outbreak under control.


It will also increase data to the CDC. That's very important especially as they decide where they need to send their resources. It also increases personnel, just people who can help out in trying to address this outbreak.

Now let's take a look at where we're seeing the most monkeypox cases. Those states in red, New York, Texas, California, Florida, et cetera, that's where we're seeing the highest number of monkeypox cases. Right now that number is at more than 7,100 since the outbreak began at the end of May.

Now, it's important to note that 7,100, the real number is probably much higher. That's just what's showing up in the official count. And that count has gone way up just in the past week. It's gone up about 42 percent just in one week.


KEILAR: That is a lot.

Elizabeth, thank you for keeping your eye on this.

COHEN: Thanks.

KEILAR: We know that you'll be busy watching this.

AVLON: All right, four people are in critical condition this morning after a lightning strike at a park right across the street from the White House. You can see the lightning right there.

CNN's Tom Foreman joins us live from Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a beautiful day out here, John, which is in great contrast to what it was just before 7:00 last evening. We had a scorching day, huge temperatures, then we had these torrential, explosive thunderstorms come ripping through the area. That's when, at that time, the park was so drenched that one of our photographers nearby said he thought nobody would even be out here. And yet we know from reports there were people out here. And some of the people had sheltered under trees.

We don't know where these four people were at that exact moment, but we do know that when the lightning struck, it hit just a little bit to the right of that statue back there of Andrew Jackson. These four people were struck somewhere in that area between that and a tree. And, at that point, U.S. Park Police and Secret Service rushed over, began dealing with them as people realized there were two men, two women down on the ground, obviously, grievously injured, and they started calling more help in, John.

AVLON: Oh, that is frightening stuff.

All right, Tom Foreman, thank you very much.

All right, a bull in a China shop. That's how a fellow lawmaker described a Ukrainian-born member of Congress who crashed their delegation meetings in Ukraine. We've got new reporting ahead.

KEILAR: And CNN takes a deeper look at how high inflation is impacting health care for millions of Americans.



KEILAR: New CNN reporting about the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress, Indiana Republican Victoria Spartz. She's ruffled some feathers in Washington with her criticism of Ukraine's president. And when a bipartisan group of lawmakers visited Ukraine back in March, she showed up uninvited, acting, as one member put it, like a bull in a China shop.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is live for us in Washington.

Mel, tell us more about this.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, so Victoria Spartz was initially seen as the sort of perfect messenger for the cause. She's from Ukraine. She's been passionate about the need for the administration to aid the Ukraine war effort. She has championed key legislation on that front. But over the past few months, she has also been an outspoken critic of the Ukrainian government. She's peddled these old corruption allegations about President Zelenskyy and some of his top aides, and she has sparked allegations from her colleagues that she is mirroring pro-Russia talking points.

And so this has really alarmed some White House officials, lawmakers in both parties and members of the Ukrainian parliament, according to the reporting that I did with my colleague Natasha Bertrand.

And now, there has been an effort to intervene. The concern here is that she is undermining their efforts to stay united about -- behind Ukraine at a pivotal moment. They're worried that she could give on the fence lawmakers a reason to oppose the next aid package. And so some top Republicans have tried to privately talk to her to reign her in. We're also told that the administration gave her an intelligence briefing and tried to sort of walk her through some of these allegations that she's made and refute them or explain that there's just not enough evidence to support them.

And over the course of our reporting, we also learned that she showed up uninvited to a congressional delegation trip earlier this year to Ukraine where one GOP lawmaker said she acted like a bull in a China shop, that she was accusatory and rude during the trip.

But Victoria Spartz is pushing back on that description. She said to us in an email, this accusation is a cowardly misrepresentation of facts by some jealous members or staff since we had a very productive bipartisan CODEL in March. And she also said on her outspoken criticisms of the Ukraine government that, I also dare deeply about people's lives. I cannot let them down, even if that means saying unpopular truths that offend the politicians or diverge from the poplar narrative of the day.

So, you know, despite this effort to reign her in, there is no signs that Victoria Spartz is backing down.


KEILAR: Yes, what a bizarre story. We know that you'll keep working on that.

Melanie Zanona, thank you.

AVLON: Record high inflation is not only hitting Americans at the grocery store, it's also left millions in a bind concerning their own health care.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is live in Washington with more.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, and, John, if you look at the latest inflation statistics, the price of health care has only risen about half as fast as overall inflation, but it is going up. And, frankly, it's been a problem for many Americans for years.

And when you put all of those rising costs together, food, gas, rent, it is making it more difficult for Americans to afford necessities. And, of course, that includes medical care that they need day to day.


ANGELINA SCOTT (ph): All of those are for my heart.

COHEN (voice over): These are the medicines Angelina Scott can't live without.

SCOTT: This is a blood thinner. [06:50:00]

COHEN: For high blood pressure, high cholesterol and an irregular heartbeat.

SCOTT: If I don't take these, my heart will stop.

COHEN: But with sky high inflation and hundreds of dollars in monthly medical costs, this notary and her husband, a maintenance worker, are falling behind on their bills, staving off shutoff notices. So, to cut costs, she's stopped taking medicine for her irritable bowel syndrome.

SCOTT: People, well, you can't afford not to. No, literally, I cannot afford t. It makes me really sick. Why do I have to choose between living and living?

COHEN: In June, U.S. health care costs were up 4.5 percent from the year before. And with the price of food, gas, rent and utilities surging even higher, millions of Americans are struggling to afford the care they need.

ALAN BALCH, PATIENT ADVOCATE FOUNDATION: What this leads people to do is have to make horrible tradeoffs between paying for their medication or their diagnostic tests or seeing their physician or their doctor and having to pay for basic costs of living, their gas, their food, their groceries, their child care.

COHEN: A new survey from Gallup and West Health found roughly two in five adults, an estimated 98 million Americans, have delayed or skipped treatment, cut back on driving, utilities and food or borrowed money just to pay medical bills in the last six months, and 39 percent have major concerns about affording care in the coming months.

TIM LASH, EXECUTIVE VP AND CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER, WEST HEALTH: Inflation and its impact on health care are -- you know, are breaking families and breaking individuals. And we need to - we need to wake up and act.

LIBBY DANCY, CANCER SURVIVOR: Everything's went up. Everything but my paycheck.

COHEN: Seventy-one-year-old Libby Dancy is a caseworker for an organization that helps struggling seniors in Virginia, but she herself can't afford to retire.

DANCY: I'll be working here probably until they find me laid out back there in my office.

COHEN: A three-time cancer survivor, she spends hundreds each month on critical medicine, like heart pills, breathing treatments and insulin. So she's tightening her budget, keeping her AC off in the summer heat and foregoing her allergy meds, probiotics and vitamins until payday.

COHEN (on camera): What did that do to you physically?

DANCY: It messed me up. Messed my system up and everything, you know. COHEN (voice over): High inflation is squeezing most Americans,

sending U.S. household debt to a record high, more than $16 trillion.

SCOTT: I feel like it's suffocating me slowly.

COHEN: For some, the budget balancing act grows more difficult by the day.

SCOTT: All those things are horrible, but how do I tough out trying to live.


COHEN: Now, the Inflation Reduction Act that Senate Democrats seem to be close to passing looks like it will provide some health care reform, among other things, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and then capping those out-of-pocket expenses for seniors at $2,000. But, John, it's not going to solve this short-term problem, families making these brutal decisions between food on the table, a roof over their head and the medicine that they need.

AVLON: In America.

Gabe Cohen, thank you very much.

COHEN: Thank you.

AVLON: All right, exclusive new CNN reporting. Trump's lawyers are in talks with the Justice Department about the January 6th criminal probe. Details ahead.

KEILAR: And football is back. What happened at last night's first pre- season game and what to expect in the upcoming season.



KEILAR: The fate of Browns quarterback DeShaun Watson will not rest in the hands of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report."



For much of his 16 years in charge of the NFL, Goodell has been the judge, jury and executioner on player discipline. And he's often been criticized for the punishments handed down.

Yesterday, Goodell announced he's giving the power to former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey. He was on a panel that advised Goodell on the domestic violence case involving Cowboy's star Ezekiel Elliott five years ago. Harvey will decide whether the initial six-game suspension handed down by an independent judge on Monday is enough.

Two dozen women have accused the Browns quarterback of sexual misconduct. Watson has denied any wrongdoing.

The league reportedly asking Watson to be banned for an entire season. No timetable has been set for the hearing to begin.

Finally, football is back. Raiders and Jaguars kicking off in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, last night. In year's first round overall pick, Travon Walker, showing why he was selected so high, getting a sack, and Ameer Abdullah scoring the first touchdown of the year and doing a roundhouse kick to cap it all off. Vegas beat Jacksonville 27-11. Eight football greats will be inducted into the Hall of Fame tomorrow.


KEILAR: All right, Coy, thank you so much.

And NEW DAY continues right now.

Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It's Friday, August 5th. I'm Brianna Keilar, with John Avlon, in for John Berman.

AVLON: Good morning.

KEILAR: Good morning to you.

And we have some exclusive new CNN reporting this morning. Donald Trump's legal team is now directly talking with the Department of Justice about the January 6th criminal investigation that they're undertaking. The talks center on claims of executive privilege and whether conversations the former president had while in office fall under that protection and can be kept from a grand jury.

AVLON: And Congresswoman Liz Cheney, vice chair of the January 6th committee, weighed in on a potential Trump prosecution, in an interview with CNN's Kasie Hunt, saying it's a major moment of truth for the Justice Department.



REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): They have.